So. That happened…

It’s been a while since I last posted… a year and nearly ten months, holy cow…but I have one hell of an excuse.

I think.  You be the judge:

If you haven’t read my last post or you don’t remember it, you might do that now.  I’ll wait.

Yeah, so it turns out that the pancreatitis thing wasn’t over yet. In fact, at my very next checkup, the doctor took one look at me and ordered me directly to the nearest ER. Who had me airlifted for emergency surgery to a hospital an hour away.

The surgeon, the incredible Dr. S, did her best to piece my insides back together–from what I was told later, it was a bit like tatting lace.  Things had melted to other things and had to be pried…well, never mind.

That was September 4th.

Since then, I’ve had five major surgeries (only three planned), about twelve procedures under general anesthesia, and countless adjustments, stitches, rebagging (think ileostomies and colostomies) and retubings. At one point, I was sporting approximately eight drains around my waist, a hula skirt from hell.

Coincidentally, my torso looks a bit like target practice for a small, hungry shark packing a twenty-two.

I spent around eight months in various hospitals, under various levels of sedation and the really good painkillers.* Not to mention various Dante-like circles of PT, learning to sit up and maybe do a little walking, as someone followed me with a wheelchair, just in case.

When I left the first hospital, for a specialty one nearer to home, the nurses and staff lined the corridor and gave me a standing ovation… because (i was told much later) most of them weren’t sure I would make it.

That changes a person, knowing that kind of thing, even more than the 140 pound weight loss (I didn’t eat anything by mouth for a long time), or my new 4-inch belly button. Or having to resign from my beloved job (who am I, if I’m not a librarian?)

I couldn’t write for the longest time, either, even after I came home, this time possibly for good, two months ago.  I was tired and empty and in quite a bit of pain.

But bit by bit, I’m getting stronger. I walk a little every day, sometimes without my walker.  20170202_090039I no longer have a stomach tube and am down to six medications, only one of which is longer than my thumbnail.

Money and insurance are worrisome, buy I’m working on applying for Medicaid and Social Security.  I’m also looking for a stay-at-home job that doesn’t involve stuffing envelopes or fraudulent practices.

And better yet, I have incredibly supportive friends who have stuck with me through all this mess (including those of you who keep asking me when I’ll be blogging again–this is all your fault!)

And I’m writing again. Maybe not well, but there are words now, and sentences, and maybe stories, too, however rusty and convoluted.

And I am here. Battered and bruised but not beaten.

How have y’all been?

________________________

*It is a terrible thing to put someone with a fraught imagination on heavy drugs when they have no outlet.  At one point, and I’m not kidding, I refused to wear my socks because I was convinced they were pregnant…and when they died in childbirth (because they aren’t built for it, obviously), I tried to convince the nurse to call a funeral home so they could have a decent burial.  She’ll be telling that story for decades; I should be getting royalties.

Priority Pie, with Bonus Balloons

True confession time:

The past few months, I’ve become nearly immobilized by my own expectations.

It’s as if I’ve been standing in the center of a room that’s slowly filling up with small balloons: blue wishes, pink desires, purple promises, yellow fears, orange assumptions, red determination, green guilt.

The pressure isn’t heavy, but it’s there and I’m surrounded, and I can’t move.

Not forward, not back.

But when I realized that I was the one blowing up all these balloons, I also realized that I was the one holding the hatpin.

So, I took last week off to figure things out.

And make pie charts.  Just because.

Why pie chart

 

First, I wrote down a list of things I want to do and have to do and don’t want to do and can’t do and have to do before I can do and do be do be do be do.

And then I wadded it up and threw it away, because I already know that even if I can, somehow, have it all, I’ll never be able to have it all at the same time.

So what are the daily essentials that I need to function?

 

Timepie

There’s some necessary overlap, because my family and friends and writing* can keep me sane, if they so choose, and I can’t spend time with them or write or work if I’m not healthy, and I don’t have health insurance without work . . . so it’s more of a Venn Pie.**

All I have to do is figure out how to balance the slices on a daily basis.

Here’s the plan, so far:

Work:

Professional LibrarianI don’t have much leeway here, except for what I do on breaks, which usually involves a combination of the other parts of the Timepie.

But at least work is on a fixed, steady schedule:  I put in a solid eight hours a day, five days a week, work one night a month and every other Saturday.

So it’s easy to plan around—and three cheers for the aforementioned health insurance and timely mortgage payments.

Moving on.

 Health:

I like the idea of being healthy, I’m just not very good at following through.

I don’t sleep enough, I overwear my disposable contacts until my eyes hurt, all of my favorite activities are  sit-ivities, I’m a wee bit caffeine-addicted and consider the Comfort Food Diet a valid lifestyle choice. . . And while I’m not afraid of doctors, I don’t bother making appointments for myself unless I’m coughing up something disturbing or that nagging pain isn’t going away—or the stick tells me I’m up the duff without a GYN-OB.***

But it’s past time I make the time to make some changes, which includes consulting medical professionals who will help me figure out what changes to make.

Therefore, I’m declaring this the Year of Health, because the Year of Sarah Finally Accumulating Medical Charts in One Place After a Decade of ERs and Drop-In Clinics takes too long to say.

I’ve already started:  last week, I went to the dentist, who inspired me to hurry up and find a regular doctor by showing me a chart of my enamel-less teeth^ and asking me questions about acid reflux, sleep apnea, and tooth-grinding stress.

But scheduled doctor appointments, while occasionally problematic, aren’t as tough to fit in as the daily stuff.

The dietary improvements I’m trying out—I won’t bore us all explaining them—take no more time than my old habits, and neither does exercise, or what passes for it around here, which I’ve already been doing.  Mostly.

SleepHowever, there’s no question that I need more sleep. And to get more sleep . . . I have to sleep more.^^

And that takes time.  Which means I need to finish up the stuff I need/want/have to do in a timelier manner so I can go to bed earlier or get up later.

I mean, I could warp the space time continuum in order to add a few hours between 02:00 and 02:01. But since I’m trying to reduce the amount of caffeine in my system, I’m not going to challenge the Laws of Physics anytime soon.

At least, not without the okay from my doctor. When I get one.

So . . .where can I make room?

Family and Friends:

Nope.  Not budging.  Or if I am, it’ll be towards more, not less.

That I need family and friends time is a given.

But though I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with e-mails and texts and lunches (with friends) and driving and feeding and hugging (the kids), I’ve been shirking a lot of invitations to girls’ nights out (R movies and art shows and nice dinners) and girls’ nights in (G movies and fingerpainting and pizza) lately because there’s so many other things I think I should be doing, so even when I’m out (or in) with them, I’m not really present.

Green BalloonInstead, I’m off somewhere thinking about  all the other stuff I should/would/could have been doing, batting those balloons back and forth—supposing there’s room in my subconscious—and occasionally holding the rough twine tethering a floating ball of maroon resentment, which will turn the color of guilt about five minutes after I escape leave.

My family is the biggest source of those green balloons.^^^

Because as much as I complain, as much as I occasionally threaten to mail them all to my parents in a cardboard box (“Breathing holes are a privilege, kids, not a right.”), or secretly plan to run away from the circus, I kind of love these guys.  A lot.

I may kvetch (and blog) about interruptions and distractions, bad timing and my apparent ability to render all other adults in the house invisible, but at the end of the day—the end of all my days—I’ve do understand that I’ll never regret a single moment I’ve spent with them.°

And that pretty soon, the kids will stop asking for stories or attention or braids or even a Mom-shaped beanbag to lean against while they watch TV.°°  Better get in that quality time where and when I can.

I’ve already started working on this, too—and I found out that I’m not as resentful now that I’ve learned to ask for time back—three hours a week to run away from home.

Look!  That Sanity slice just got bigger!

As for my friends . . .  when I’m with them, I think I’ll let go of all the balloons and just be.

Balloon free

Sanity

This is gonna fluctuate with the ebb and flow and jostling of the other parts of the ‘pie.

But there’s a couple of solid changes I can make that may help—a few adjustments in, shall we say, medication.

We all have things we do, little rituals, little habits, that help us center ourselves.

One of mine is reading.  Always has been, always will be, not giving it up—though “existentially incapable of giving it up” is probably the correct way to put it.

Computer games are another habit of mine.  Specifically, Time Management games—probably because I can have as many do-overs as I want and there are cheats and walkthroughs, interesting storylines set to a snazzy soundtrack, and plentiful rewards and applause for a job well done.

Makes a fine change from reality.

But there’s centering, and there’s avoidance—and there’s ignoring all the other things I would/should/could be doing instead, in favor of yelling, “Five more minutes!  One more level!” ay myself, until my eyes burn, my mouse hand hurts, and I’m restocking grocery shelves or harvesting pumpkins or doling out playdough in my sleep, which began a lot later (or earlier, depending on your POV) than I’d intended.

It’s past time to put some parental controls on my inner child and try a little Real Life® Time Management.

I haven’t decided whether to limit myself to playing on the weekends, or try to earn screen time with wordcount/chapters/pages.

Or use the time to reacquaint myself with one of the hobbies I seem to have traded in for pixels and points.

But I set my alarm for an hour last night, tore myself away from The Beardless Wizard, and had an early bedtime.

Booyah.

Time Flies

So . . . what’s left?

Right.

Writing:

Writing Pie

I like writing fiction and I like blogging my version of reality.

Both of them are worthwhile, both are beneficial, both can be a blast.

But one of my goals is to be a published author. More to the point, I want to be a paid published author.

Which means I have to scale down the time I spend writing posts and boost the time I use on fiction, both the writing of and the querying of.

To this end, I’m going to be dropping one post a week, to start, and I won’t be working on posts until I produce pages.

That also means the timing of publication—which has been holding steady at Noon CST for a while—is going to be more random.

Like today, for example.

And none of them are going to be as crazy long as this one, believe me—you’re getting all of last week’s at once.

Talk about your time savers . . .

Toy Balloons

 

__________________________

*To be honest, I write interesting stuff when my sanity slips.  But I wouldn’t want to live in that headspace full-time, and my family also prefers that I’m here more than there. Maybe; I’m told I can be amusing while on bookbrain.

**Off-topic Inquiry:  Can a Venn Pie be a Real Thing?  Strawberry, Blueberry, and Cherry, for example? Would I need to invent a new pan or just make and freeze seven kinds of pie (yes, I drew a Three-Pie Venn and counted) and carefully reassemble?  Or have I just proven (proved? indy?) that the Sanity Slice is just wishful thinking?

***No, I’m not trying to tell you something. The equipment still works, but the factory is closed.

^No cavities, though.  Weird.

^^This would’ve probably dawned earlier on someone who isn’t as sleep deprived as I am.

^^^Any guilt my friends give me is the motivational kind and much appreciated.  Thank you.

°Even the two-kid-solo-parent clothes shopping trips. Stay tuned for that post; it’s a lulu.

°°But not money; we’ll always have my overdraft.

 

 

I’ll have the Liebster tale, a glass of Pinot Noir, and a bib.

Hey, I was nominated for a Liebster Blogger Award!

Liebster Award

See?

Naturally, I jumped at the chance to get my Tuesday post out of the way  was tickled, and diligently managed to fill most of the conditions of the award . . . before making the mistake of tracing back the origins of the Liebster, out of curiosity.

I really need to stop doing that, because, unfortunately—or maybe not—I discovered that according to the current rules on several sites,  I have too many followers to accept, even if I don’t count the businesses who are following me in the hopes that I’ll buy their aluminum siding or marketing tricks or whatever.*

I know.  It was a surprise to me, too.

But since I’m still flattered to be nominated—and by one of my favorite people, no less—and I’d already done the work, I decided to pretend I can accept, up to a point, and post this thing anyway.

The blog must be fed, people!

Onward:

_________________

To pseudoaccept the Liebster, I need to follow six semi-simple steps:

1.  Thank the person who nominated me and post a link to their blog.

Thanks, Downith!

2. Display the award on my blog.

See above.

(if I could truly accept, I’d be putting it in my sidebar, too)

3. Answer eleven questions about myself, provided by the person who nominated me.

Here goes:

Where do you usually write/create?

Officially, I have a desk in the corner of our bedroom and a laptop when I need a change of scenery and/or better coffee than I’m capable of making.

In reality, I write anywhere I happen to be when a story or plot point or bit of dialogue bites my ankle.  I carry a flash drive and a small bound scribble book wherever I go, and since I work in a library, I have a steady supply of research materials and scrap paper to make notes on.** Though I’ve been known to write stuff on the backs of envelopes or paper napkins, if I’m caught short.

___

Describe your ideal writing/making day.

I have every other Friday off from the library, and  my husband usually takes the kids to school.  I sleep in for an hour, hug everyone goodbye, have a shower and much coffee, and write until it’s time for my standing nail appointment, for which I’m not apologizing—besides the fact that typing is more fun with pretty fingers, it includes a hand-to-elbow pineapple oil massage that I’m convinced is keeping carpal tunnel at bay.  I come home and write until my husband comes home and reminds me it’s lunch time.

Since this is an IDEAL day I’m inventing describing here, I stay awake after lunch and write until the kids get home.***  After the kids go to bed, I write until its MY bedtime—or perhaps a tiny bit past it . . .

And again, since this is an ideal day, everything I write is amazing and clever and fits so perfectly with previous scenes that I don’t have to stick it any editing notes—and none of it will be thrown out in disgust the next day.

___

What are you really enjoying working on at the moment?

I’m working on two vastly different WIPS and a Fun Side Project.  The first two are described here.

The Fun Project is an anonymous writing exercise that’s acting as a sort of pump primer for the other two projects.  It gets the flow going—kind of like a paragraph Nano.  If it shapes itself into a Real Story, great.  If not, it’s still fun, and I won’t have to edit it.  Score!

I also like blogging.  But you probablyguessed that.

___

What, if anything, stops you from writing?

I have kids, a marriage, and a mortgage to pay.  Those are the priorities for now.

But nothing can stop me from thinking about a story.

___

If you could choose a writer to be your mentor (share work with, chat about the process) who would it be? 

I’m doing pretty well with the amazing writer-friends I have now, really.  If I ever get stuck, I’m only a whiny e-mail or two away from guidance, feedback, sympathy, and a well-aimed kick in the rear.

But if Terry Prachett, Neil Gaiman, Jennifer Cruisie, Joss Whedon, or Clark Gregg ever wanted to have coffee and talk about writing satire, magic, intelligent humor, comic books, and scripts, I wouldn’t say no.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to say anything for a couple of minutes, though I’d hope the high-pitched, sustained squeals and the death grip I’d have on the hand I was shaking might adequately convey my polite acceptance.

___

Do you believe in writer’s block? If you get it, how do you overcome it?

I don’t believe in writer’s block.  I believe in writer’s blah.

Sometimes, it’s caused by trying to write a project that isn’t ready yet, so I have to put it in my Someday folder.

Sometimes, it’s because I’m writing the right project,  but in the wrong way, so I have to stop slamming my head against a scene and pick another one that may actually fix the previous problem.

Sometimes I’m bored with what I’m working on, so I have to switch to another project for  a day, or even just a couple of paragraphs of nothing important (see third question above).

Sometimes, I’m overwhelmed at the workload and underwhelmed at my abilities, so I need to go kvetch at a friend for a while (see fifth question above).

Sometimes, writing isn’t what I need to be doing and pushing it—because a Real Writer™ is supposed to work through the blahs like a literary Marine—will only make things worse.  So I take a day off and watch a movie or read all day or do anything but writing, but on purpose.

So far, so good.

___

Tell us a good thing that happened to you today.

I wrote/am writing most of this Sunday evening, so today I read Calvin & Hobbes with my six-year old, while my eleven-year old pretended she wasn’t listening, but couldn’t resist coming in on all the punch lines.  When Sunny couldn’t sound out a word, we substituted “penguin”.

We laughed like howler monkeys and then made popcorn.

___

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

Trip over the cat on the way to the bathroom.

___

What’s your most listened to song?

Every time I’ve turned the radio on in the car over the past three weeks, I’ve heard “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo at least once, but that’s probably not what’s being asked.

I did a post last week on the playlist I’m using for one of my current projects that’s probably a better answer.

But I’ve also been on an Apocalyptica kick lately—this one has been on constant replay.  Don’t ask me why.

___

Who would play you in the movie of your life? 

Janeane Garofalo, but only if I get to write the script.

If we’re working off reality someone else’s script, probably Fozzie Bear in drag.

Fozzie Bear

___

What would the title of your autobiography be?

“She Tested Well.. . “

_________________

4. Provide 11 random facts about myself .

Please pick eleven random posts from the archive.  That ought to do it.

5. Nominate a few of your favorite bloggers for the award and provide eleven questions for them to answer.

I figure I can’t nominate people for this award if I can’t actually accept it.

But if you’re interested in some great bloggers and writers, check out my blogroll—and also the list over at Weekend Writing Warriors.

And if any of you would like to give these questions a try, go for it and let me know, please.

6. List these rules in my post.

Done.

So . . . Was it good for you?

_____________________

*And I DO count them.  Heaven help me, I do.

**If you’re my boss, I only do this on breaks and lunch, cross my heart and hope to avoid a pink slip.

***Under normal circumstances, I wake up around three-thirty with pillow marks on my face.

Addictively Sweet?

addictive-blog

Downith over at writeitdown-ith was kind enough to nominate Earful of Cider for an Addictive Blog Award last week.

“Time Suck” is a serious compliment around here and being called “delightful” ” never fails to make my day,  which was, at that point, some assembly required with half the screws missing and no hex key, so I really can’t thank her enough.

Part of accepting this award—and  ego easily won over modesty because it’s had far more practice—is to nominate ten other blogs.

Which is when I realized that I’m a definite shoo-in for the Addicted Blogger Award, if there is such a thing, because it was tough to limit it to only ten—even when I reluctantly decided that I  couldn’t renominate Downith.

Admitting there’s a problem is the first step.

The second step was to list all the blogs I never miss, assign numbers, and run it all through a random generator.

Here are the first ten, in the order given back to me, so if you’re not on here and I comment on your blog, blame Skynet:

Murderati — Crime writers writing criminally excellent posts.

Heylookawriterfellow — Mike Allegra is a wild and crazily talented guy.

Lyrical Meanderings — Lyra  writes the kind of posts that are always relevant to what you’re going through at any given time.  It would be spooky if she weren’t such an amazing person.

Unnecessary Noise Prohibited (previously macdougalstreetbaby) — her images a worth more than a thousand words, and her words are amazing.

Fangs and Clause — snarky support and grammatical grace as given by a very independent clause

Semi-Educational Reviews — Jalisa Blackman is responsible for a third of my music collection and most of the recommendations I’ve made to the library’s YA selector.  She also makes me consider the roles of women and non-Caucasian ethnic groups in the books I read and the stories I write.

Taps and Ratamacues  — John is a terrific poet and a thoughtful blogger.  Good recipes, too.

Betsy Lerner’s Forest for the Trees —  I can’t say enough about Betsy or her blog—she’s built a real community over there that her current hiatus  has not dispelled.

QueryShark — I love both of Janet Reid’s blogs, but this is the one that the generator picked. If you’re considering sending your stuff out to an agent or editor, read through her archives first.

Averil Dean — her blog makes me think thinky thoughts—in a really good way.

Genevieve Valentine — She’s a terrific author, but I read her blog for the reviews of TV shows and movies—good and bad, new and old—which are intelligent and almost as snarky as her Red Carpet Rundowns, which consistently make my sides hurt laughing.

super-sweet-awardBut that’s not all.  After I’d finally completed this list, I checked my in-box and discovered that Jalisa up there had nominated me for the SuperSweet Blogger Award.

Seriously.

Sweet isn’t the usual adjective I get, but I’ll take it for the reasons stated above, and because I’m told by one of our earnest-faced, teenage, library pages that sweet has become synonymous with badass, which is, I’m sure, how Lisa meant it.

And also because there’s a list of questions to answer for this one, so at least I feel like I’m doing something to earn it:

1. Cookies or Cake?  Tough call.  But honestly . . . cake.  Any kind, any shape, Doughnuts, on a platter, or in cupcakes . . . good Lord, I’m waxing poetic.  Add a thick layer of white-hot sugar death frosting and throw in a couple of dubiously-colored roses and I’m all yours until the crash.

2. Chocolate or Vanilla? If I have to choose, vanilla.  Though chocolate makes a nice garnish or add-in for almost anything.

3. Favorite sweet treat?  Not to dis cake, but . . .  Jelly beans, because I can eat ’em and write at the same time without gumming up my keyboard.  The good ones,  mind, not the cheapo spicy ones.  And no licorice ones, because the flavor is way too strong and nothing you put in your mouth should make your tongue turn that color.  Nothing.

4. When do you crave sweet things the most? Early morning and early evening, unless I’m sleep deprived or dieting, in which case, batten down the hatches and lock up your buns . . .

If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be?  I plead the Fifth, and open it to the comments.

I’m supposed to nominate an additional baker’s dozen of sweet/badass bloggers, which pretty much put me right back where I started, but if I cross off the collective blogs and the few that I know don’t care for these kinds of awards or sweets, the list is as follows—and yeah, you’re going to see some repetition:

Mike Allegra

Lyra

MSB

independent clause

Downith

John S.

Averil Dean

Lisa Golden

Maddie Cochere

Sue Ann Bowling

Teri Carter

Bobbi French

Laura Maylene Walker

Whew!

O. Monday. G.

Mondays

Janie woke me up this morning by shaking my shoulder. “Mom?” she whispered. “Mom?”

I rolled over, pried open an eye, and saw from the hallway light  that she was fully dressed, including coat, earmuffs, and backpack.

“Oh no, am I that late?!”  I grabbed my bedside clock, knocking over the Leaning Tower of Read.

Four forty-five.

Thank God.  Fifteen more minutes before I had to get up.

I set down the clock and closed my eyes, willing my heart to slow down.

“Mom?”  Shake, shake.  “Mom?”

My husband grumbled and stuck his head under the pillow.

“Honey?” I mumbed.  “Why are you up so early?”

“Can we go to Dunkin Donuts?”

“Now?”

“Yes.  I’m ready. I even brushed my teeth.  You said if I got ready early, we could go.

“Um . . . gimme a minute . . .”

And that was pretty much the whole day—off balance and trying to catch up.  It was one of those days where I’d finish one thing, or half of one thing, and two more things would show up needing to be done.  Or re-done.

Good things happened*—but I couldn’t stop to savor them, or reply to half of them.

So I think I’ll stop now.

Forgive the short post—I’ll see you tomorrow.

__________________________________________________________________

*I received excellent advice—and quite a few corrections—-for a scene of Pigeon that worried me,  a specialist at the University of Chicago agreed to talk to me about sickle cell anemia, and my friend Grace is setting up a “Hollywood Hype” Book Club—read the book, watch the movie, compare and complain.