Storm Shadow: 2002-2017

Today we had to say goodbye to Storm Shadow.

Storm_Shadow_Office Chair
Storm Shadow always won the war for the office chair.

I’ve been reticent when it comes to talking about his health publicly. In fact, at first, my husband and I spoke to practically no one save our employers (due to the multiple vet visits), because each day brought a whiplash of hope and despair, and we were still grappling with Storm Shadow’s sudden crash in health ourselves. Trying to understand how our mostly healthy cat had gone from normal to the brink of death in less than a week was impossible to wrap our heads around, let alone explain to other people. So we kept quiet. This was back in January.

Continue reading

I Feel Like October….

It was an odd morning: I slept in, something I do less and less as I get older, and I was attempting to respond to a text message with my left hand (the right was pinned down by Storm Shadow, my 17 lbs cat who thinks I’m his personal body pillow), when my husband came in the bedroom and asked, “You wanna help me wash my car?”

My response, after the word, “No,” was, “Are you crazy? It’s January.”

But the weather is warm today, and it’s not supposed to rain until the afternoon, and my husband said his car is filthy, so I grudgingly disturbed the cat and got out of bed to help. Helping means hose-duty, so while my husband was scrubbing, I stared out at the neighborhood and thought how it felt like October. The air, the car-wash itself. All that was missing was the warm, bright patches of colors decorating the trees and the scent of fall in the air.

Of course, the trees were bare. It’s January, and I’m standing outside in a Tennessee Titans sweatshirt, a pair of cargo pants, and a headband covering my ears, holding a wet water-hose with my bare, slightly numb fingers while water drips and drops and soaks me from my rain galoshes up to the cuffs of my pants.

The things we do for love.


Currently Writing: Codename: Magic Twins
Last night’s word count: 675 words
Total word count: 2,254 words
Storm Shadow helped me write last night. And by help, I mean he lay on the floor, looking adorable, and at opportune times would stretch out on his side, revealing the glorious white, furry belly of DOOM. And by doom, I mean this: How to Pet a Kitty by The Oatmeal, item #4. I rarely resist. But I also distract him with his Angry Bird catnip toys first, just to be safe. He adores those things.

Currently Reading: Carrie Vaughn’s Low Midnight
I think I’ll be able to finish this today. As mentioned yesterday, I’m really enjoying it, and damn, I never visualized Cormac as hot, especially with whole mustache thing going on, but I keep looking at the cover and changing my mind. Yes, I’m shallow.

Next up: In terms of house work, I’ve got sheets and blankets in the wash. I’m also slowly working my way through my TBR comics pile, and I hope that once I catch up, I can stay caught up, and maybe talk about comics and series I enjoy with a little more frequency. There shall be football tonight as well, and the hubby and I are also going to continue the Christopher Nolan Batman marathon with The Dark Knight.  I’ll have thoughts on this trilogy when we’re done with the re-watch, but I’m keeping them to myself for now.

I’m so glad the weekend is here.

Becoming Janus

Happy New Year’s Eve! It’s the time of year to sit down, reflect on what’s gone by, to look forward to the future, and to attempt to mold that future through a resolution or two. It sounds daunting because we’re talking about, yanno, a year, and it sounds daunting because we usually have BIG IDEAS and BIG PLANS for that year, and often, it’s easy to fall off the saddle before January has even wrapped up.

I have some friends who don’t do resolutions. Not just the ones who don’t do resolutions at all, but those who simply have a different approach. My friend Nu Yang names her years: she gives herself a theme and focuses each year to make sure everything she does is supporting that theme. I love that idea. It’s not one I can embrace for myself, because I need more direction, but I love it. However one approaches a new year, if it works, hats off to you!

As for me, it’s time to reflect: what happened, where I am now, and what I hope to maybe accomplish in 2015. If you’re interested, just click the cut. If you’re not, Happy New Year! May your 2015 be better than 2014.

I sure as hell hope mine is.

Continue reading

Week #2: NaNoWriMo and the Nope

Even if I wanted to, I can’t even begin to describe this week. I was talking to my grandmother last night, telling her about last week’s migraine, and the week before’s fighting of the cold, and combining that with THIS week, I feel like I should put on some umpire gear and yell, “Strike three! You’re out!” at whatever gnome or goblin that has jinxed me this week, last week, the week before, and this year over all.

I’m not the only one who feels this way: 2014 has been full of suck.

It’s an interesting thing though: I know I haven’t talked specifics about my personal life, and there’s some things that, no matter how open I may get on this blog, that I’m just not going to air to the public. But those things that happened earlier have prepared me, I feel, for the here and now. I’m a different person now that I was back in February, when I felt my life was draining through my fingers. I’m a stronger person now, which is good, because the events of this week have required it, and it’s still not over.

I know, I know: don’t you hate it when someone writes something, asking for prayers or clearly bemoaning their life, clearly indicating something is wrong but not telling you what it is? It feels like a cry for help. It feels like begging for attention. I’m doing neither of these things, and I’m not keeping secrets either: the people in my life who need to know absolutely know.

But I’m writing this in vague terms to say I’ve officially thrown in the towel for NaNoWriMo. I’d contemplated it over the weekend, after the week-long migraine subsided and I could legitimately focus on writing again. Yet, I couldn’t focus. And then something completely different started brewing on Monday, not related to my health at all, but my family. Monday was the warning, Tuesday was the tornado, Wednesday was the calm before the storm, and then Thursday dropped a bomb so big I’m still reeling from it, and since then, while telling myself and others, “Take one day at a time,” I’ve been dreading what that next day would bring.

This year, more than anything, has been a year of transition. And not just that, it’s a year that’s defining me. It’s a year that’s forcing me to focus on my fears, face them, and accept the fallout, whatever that may be. It’s forcing me to step up and that’s a scary thing.

And to put things in more specific terms, what’s happened this week has absolutely killed the writing brain. Not for good, just for NaNoWriMo. I have some thoughts about the few days I actually participated, how I felt about having to write nearly 1,700 words per day versus the way I normally write, but that’s a post for another day.

So for now, I’m gracefully bowing out. The migraine was one thing. This week has been an entirely different beast, one that colors the rest of the month, let alone the rest of the year. Trying to write to a deadline is just not going to happen right now.

And I’m okay with that.

Week #1: NaNoWriMo and the Week That Wasn’t

It started innocently enough: Monday night writing session, sitting in a crap chair that encourages crap posture, a chair I’ve used since my freshman year of college 11 years ago and I’m surprised it hasn’t crippled me yet. That kind of crap chair.

On Tuesday, I felt the starting tension of a headache building at the base of my skull. Easy fix: grab a Coke, see if caffeine will knock it out. By time lunch was over, it was clear the full octane, liquid caffeine wouldn’t work, so I did the next best thing: took the generic form of Excedrin Tension Headache. Two pills.

Three hours pass and I arrive at my physical therapy session and the receptionist asks if I’m okay. I lie, say I’m fine, because it’s automatic and really, when someone asks you that question, they’re not really expecting a different answer, are they? Well, maybe in the medical and health-related field they actually do, but I keep the building headache to myself, get on the exercise bike, and work with my physical therapist and talk extensively about the crap chair and what to do about it.

Get to my car, take a prescription migraine pill. Generic form of Imitrex. One pill every two hours, maximum two pills a day. One pill should do it. Except it doesn’t. Driving home I realize I’m in a kind of trouble, because none, absolutely none of the medication I’ve taken that day has even come close to making a dent in this thing. I stop at a gas station, grab an emergency Coke, and when I get home, take my second and last dose in 24 hours of my prescription migraine medicine, hoping, just hoping, that this will do the trick.

I go to bed. Wake up at 4:30 am Wednesday. Still in pain.

Migraines used to be a different beast for me. Back in college, I would wake up with them, and I’d wake up vomiting. That particular migraine/trait/symptom is mostly history (used to be a monthly occurrence), and I get tiny headaches, the kind that lurk in the background and throb just enough to let you know they’re there, but not bad enough that you’re reaching for the first available pain medication. I also get bad headaches, the ones that make me debate between the Excedrin generics or the heavy-hitting prescriptions (it’s a debate, because I don’t want to starting overusing any one thing and make it less effective as a result). But by and large, if  headaches don’t make me vomit, I feel I’m functional.

I’ve not had a migraine that’s lasted longer than a day. Or, if I have, I’ve forgotten, and the circumstances were so completely different that it’s not even triggering the whole, “Oh, I’ve been here before,” feeling.

For the purpose of this entry, I’m blaming the craptastic chair. Truth be told, I honestly don’t know. In the past few weeks there’s been enough going on that’s different (I’ve made a list) that it could be any one of or any combination of those things.

In those wee hours of Wednesday morning, I gave up and took two generic Excedrin Migraines (only two in 24 hours allowed!). I feel asleep, and when I woke for work, the headache was on the way out. I grabbed my emergency Coke from the fridge, hoping the extra caffeine would drive it away completely, but I ended up taking a nap at lunch. When the timer went off and I was forced to return to a vertical position, I knew it was a very, very bad idea. But I did it anyway. After all, I only had four hours of work left. How bad could it be?

Bad enough that I finally gave up and went home at 3:15, after fighting to keep my head upright. Bad enough I called my doctor and asked for his advice on medication: I’d already taken my recommended dosage of the generic Imitrex. I’d already taken the recommended dosage of the generic Excedrin. What else could I do? He asked about my symptoms, the location of the pain, about what I’d taken and when, and called in two prescriptions: a new round of generic Imitrex (as the stuff I’d been taking had gone out of date in March. Ooops) for migraine, and generic Fioricet for tension headaches, which we both agreed was what this was. An aggressive, Hulk-sized tension headache, but a tension headache nonetheless.

I pick up the meds, get tips from the pharmacist on how to make those meds more effective (20 minutes soaking in a hot-as-humanly-tolerable bath with 4 lbs of Epsom salt). Pick up Thursday, until mid-afternoon, where I swear, in the span of 20 minutes, if left like someone grabbed the remote and turned up the pain levels back up to screaming. I wanted to pop my head like a zit. Powered through to 4:00, went home, made my list of WTF-is-causing-this-shit list, took my special bath, and then ended the night with the prescription dispersing in my system.

Today, Friday, was a day of goals: don’t ingest the things that might be exacerbating the pain (sugar, caffeine). Don’t take anything for the sinuses, even though the blockage is annoying as hell (and yet this isn’t a sinus headache). Keep taking the big guns through-out the day, because if the bugger comes roaring back like it has the past two days, it’s time to call the doctor and beg for a brain scan.

Fortunately, I did not have to call the doctor and beg for a brain scan. But headache’s still there. Lingering and waiting, shifting around and testing various locations in my head, like it’s trying to find a room just right. But because it’s Friday night, I’m debating taking another around of the big guns. I want to go to sleep, see what I wake up with, so I can get a feeling for how this sucker really operates, if it’s really on the way out like I hope. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I didn’t need to go home early today (stayed late, even!), and that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Writing-wise: Tuesday yielded nothing. Wednesday yielded a couple hundred words that knocked me over 10K. Thursday I didn’t quite make the daily word count, and today, Friday, well, I need to get started. While I’m not in bad shape for NaNoWriMo, I’m also not where I want to be either, and I’m hoping the weekend affords me some time to get ahead, really ahead. I’m also hoping that this migraine, this tension headache on steroids, goes the hell away and stays the hell away.

Because this bastard has been here since lunch on Tuesday. Not off and on, but on, brighter and sharper at some times and dimmer at others. Friday’s been the best day since this started, and I hope that’s a sign that Saturday and Sunday will get better and better. I’m tired of having to say, “I was migraining yesterday,” in order to explain a lapse in attention, a screw up at work, a bumbling of words, or a plain fuck up (leaving the garage door open, forgetting to feed the cat twice). I’ve had to say it two days in a row, and that’s more than enough.

So let’s be optimistic: here’s to a migraine/tension headache-free weekend. Here’s to writing my heart out, eating delicious Chinese food with friends, and being blown away by the glory of Interstellar on IMAX. Please be awesome, Interstellar. Please be awesome.

Robin Williams: 1951-2014

My first R-rated movie in the theater was The Birdcage. The very first movie my husband and I saw together for a movie date was Patch Adams. We always think there’s something immortal about celebrities, especially those who play a part in our most prominent memories, and it’s terrifying to see them gone. It means that they’re only human, they’re fallible, and that one day they will fade. And it’s a terrible analogy to our own lives, on a host of levels. I know some people don’t get why there’s an outpouring of grief for one comedian when there’s so many terrible things happening in the world, but celebrities can represent so many parts of ourselves, and the good ones leave an indelible mark. Whatever Robin Williams meant to you in your life, in your memories, in your day-to-day, remember the most important lesson of all: Carpe diem. If he taught us anything, it’s that.


Becoming the person you never thought you’d be….

I admit: I’m quick to judge. Always have been. Time has taught me, however, to keep those judgments to myself, simply because I’m well aware that one day in the future, I might become the very thing I was judging all those years ago.

Case in point: when I attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop back in 2005, I was still very new to the SF/F/H genre of books and was ready to try anything that anyone said was any good. I felt that it was necessary, since as a reader, I wasn’t well-read in the genre, and also because as a writer, it was important to know what was being published.

So I boggled when some of my classmates admitted they didn’t read very many books a year, or that they rarely if ever read new-to-them authors, or that they only read their favorite authors, or that they could easily put a book down if it didn’t engage them.

Heresy! Don’t you know that every book, no matter how awful, can teach you something? How are you going to discover new and exciting voices and influences in fiction if you don’t try anyone new? How can you want to be a writer and not have your pulse on the industry?

Well, it’s safe to say, nearly ten years later, I get it.

It stated innocently enough: running my book blog meant I needed to keep a steady stream of book reviews available, and when I stumbled on something, — by that I mean something that bored me and/or was badly written, etc — I realized it was time to put the book aside so I could move onto bigger, better, more engaging books (and so I could keep reviewing at a regular pace).

But ever since closing the book blog last year, I’m surprised at how little time I have left for reading.

Sure, that time is taken up with other things: working out, writing (depending on the time of year and the project), and snuggling on the loveseat to catch up on must-see television shows/movies on Netflix/Hulu Plus/iTunes, hanging out with the husband, hanging out with family and friends. The drop in the number of books I read pre-closing versus post-closing was surprising, but that was last year.

This year, the drop is staggering. I went from reading 3-4 books per week during my reviewing days to 1-2 last year not reviewing to this year, where I’m lucky to finish a book I like by an author I adore in two weeks.

It’s staggering.

I know it’s because of this year. People who follow me on Facebook were startled when, two weeks ago, I posted:

Dear 2014: I’ve tried to take the high road and not say anything, but you’ve been a shitty year. Please, for the love of God, stop sucking, okay?

And I still mean that. It’s been the year of distractions, of stepping back and taking stock of my life: where it’s going, what I want, who I am, and who I want to be. I think I’m making progress, but there are those days that knock me so far back on my ass I’m wondering what the point of getting up is.

And there’s the bad news that keeps rolling in. People are dying who are too young to die. People who aren’t too young to die are dying and it still upsets me greatly. People are getting divorced, or having so much trouble in their marriage that it looks like divorce is just around the corner.

And that’s just the tip of an iceberg that’s made up of so much bad news from so many of my friends and family that I’m wondering what the hell is going on and when it’s going to stop.

Needless to say, I’ve not been in a good headspace. I’m having to re-teach myself to put aside time to read, because it’s something I enjoy. I’m having to reorder my brain and remind myself that I’m a writer with stories to tell and that sitting down to tell them is a good thing, and essential to my mental health. And yet all of that seems to clash with some of the other responsibilities thrust on me this year, and sometimes, it scares me.

But the point of this post isn’t begging for hugs or asking people to reach out or to make people wonder what’s wrong. Ultimately, what’s wrong is that the older you get, the more shit happens, and if not that, there’s still going to be more on your mental plate.

It’s no wonder I’m lacking the focus to read. Still, I can’t help but mourn, just a little, for that lost ability, especially in contrast to all the books in my physical TBR pile and on my wishlist that I want to read. But I do get it, now. Why people start getting pickier and pickier with the books they read, why they get more jaded. I’ve reached a point where I’m looking at the list of my favorite authors to note what they’re coming out with this year and realizing that I might have just reached the point where all I can read are the latest releases from the authors I love.

That’s amazing, in both a good and bad way. So here’s hoping I get my brain back.

2014 Needs a Reboot

I haven’t been blogging. This comes as no great surprise, I know. If I’m lucky, I put up my monthly “Culture Consumption” and that’s about it. This year, I thought I’d get in some writing updates, and to date, there is one. My brain has not been in a blogging frame of mind, for which there are lots of reasons.

I’m writing this on my new-to-me laptop. I convinced my husband he needed to upgrade HIS laptop and give me his old one, and I finally won. Since I’m attending a writer’s conference the end of March, I really wanted a laptop to take with me and work on. Also, I’ve been chomping at the bit to have one to do regular internet things, like Facebook and checking my sites and whatnot, so that when I sit down at the iMac (my regular computer), it’s for SERIOUS STUFF. Like writing. Balancing the checkbook, and doing taxes (which I really need to get started on).

So yay for that. But I have to say, to date, 2014 has been a drag. This time of year is always kind of gray for me mentally, and every year, I realize that S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) hits my psyche harder than I remember or even want to admit. But after years of going through this, especially after seeing my comments on my retired book blog about how I don’t feel like reading this time of year, I have to finally admit (and then promptly forget in the Spring), that this is a THING for me.

But it’s not been made any better by the events of this year. Sometimes you’re riding along life, thinking things are just peachy-keen, and life throws you such a fast and hard curveball that you’re left reeling, wondering if the curveball was really meant for you, what it means, and if it really exists and if it’ll just go away if you just focus on something else. My ability to focus has been fairly shattered, and more than anything, I’d like 2014 to start over and, armed with the knowledge I have now, I’d like to make sure this curveball doesn’t happen. I’d like the ability to stop it before it ever leaves the pitcher’s mound.

Of course, until time travel is invented or until parallel universes are discovered via Fringe style, I can’t do that, can I? I can’t change the past, and I can’t peak into a parallel universe to see what my life should or could be. After all, every curveball provides a crossroads, and those are a scary thing. I’d love to see what various opportunities are really afforded here. Who wouldn’t? Life doesn’t work that way, but because I’m a writer, my brain wants to explore all sorts of possibilities. In fiction, that’s great. It lets you look at story from all sorts of different angles and find the best one. In real life, there are no revisions, no do-overs, and no certainties. You just have to pick a path and throw yourself into it and hope and pray it’s the right decision, something you won’t know for sure until time has passed and perspective is provided. Perhaps, not even then.

I apologize for being vague and maudlin. To be honest, I don’t like talking about personal things, let alone talking about them online. I understand it’s unhealthy for me, because I need to be able to let things out, but I thoroughly dislike the idea of writing in a physical journal for anyone to pick up and read, and the idea of hiding something like I’m a teenager does not appeal. But 2014 is the kind of year that so far, I can’t be too specific, simply because I’m still processing and it’s sensitive, oh so very sensitive. But yet, I need to express. One thing that’s slowly getting reinforced as years go by is that I’m a writer, and I need to write. Journals or novels or stories or whatever, I need to let things out. Writing is easier than talking. Definitely more powerful, because I have the time to craft my words, make them weapons if need be. I don’t need weapons right now, but I do need release.

I need 2014 to start over so I can shape it into the year it needs to be.

Crazy Idea to End All Crazy Ideas

There are people in this world who adore working out. They’re the kind of people that can do a grueling workout or run and feel more energized afterwards than when they started. They’re full of energy and joy and happiness and do everything in their power to convert you to the Church of Workouts Are AWESOME.

I am not one of those people.

But I have been walking daily since the weather got warmer, and I’ve made a specific point to do so when my employer announced a fitness initiative that encouraged staffers to walk 10,000 steps a day. Pedometer provided, incentives every week, and I signed up, because it was just the thing I needed to make sure I didn’t put off the daily walk.

Well, now I’ve gotten a crazy idea: Continue reading