It’s hard to “bleed on the page” when you’re actually bleeding

I don’t think physical pain has ever made me cry. Emotional pain, yes. And sure, when I was a little kid and fell off my bike, probably I cried. But I’ve had a lot of physical pain in my life since then and I can’t recall that it has ever made me cry. I’m not claiming to be tough. Total wimp, here. Pain just doesn’t provoke that response in me.

Which is sort of funny, if you know me well, because everything makes me cry. Those commercials where the Clydesdales unexpectedly come home from college with their renegade golden retriever puppy friends in tow and wake up their mom when they brew beer for their under-age siblings on Christmas morning and it’s snowing outside? Yep, total waterworks. My kids often joke that I’ll even cry over a bad weather forecast. I’m not quite that bad, but it’s close.

Well, it’s been several weeks, almost a month now since the knee replacement surgery, and I’ve had some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. Yes, the narcotic pain meds helped, a lot, but it’s been pretty bad.

Not once did it make me cry, or even want to cry. Instead, my reaction has been to shut down and withdraw, in every way possible. To build impenetrable walls. Dealing with this pain has required every molecule of my concentration and focus. The kind of focus where you don’t want anyone to even talk to you, lest it break the concentration needed to endure.

Giving myself a shot in the stomach (anti-coagulant) one a day for 14 days didn't help.

Giving myself a shot in the stomach (anti-coagulant) once a day for 14 days didn’t help.

But it’s not tears I’ve been holding back. It’s temper. Anger. An irrational welling of primal rage. Like a wounded animal with no capacity for reason, wanting to lash out at everyone and everything around me, never mind that they had no part in causing the pain, never mind that I signed up for this pain. But I’m not a snarling feral beast, so I’ve reined in even that strongest of emotions.

I suppose that sounds overly dramatic. Yeah, well, it has felt pretty dramatic around here at times.

The White Ninja, wondering whether she'll ever be allowed to sit in my lap again.

The White Ninja wondering whether she’ll ever be allowed to climb on my lap again.

There’s a saying attributed to military types that I’ve always disliked, because it’s utter fucking bullshit. Probably you know the one I mean: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” As if pain somehow makes a person stronger. No, the hell it does not.

But for the first time, I sort of understand where this saying comes from. Pain, extreme pain, makes you shut down your emotions. And it makes sense to me that military types equate emotion with weakness. So I can see how, from their perspective, getting rid of emotion is getting rid of weakness.

For a writer, though, emotions are strength. Facing emotion, exploring it, poking at and manipulating it, is a necessity. It requires extraordinary mental fortitude.

In his book, STEIN ON WRITING, Sol Stein says this about the difference between fiction and non-fiction:

“Let us state the difference in the simplest way.
Nonfiction conveys information.
Fiction evokes emotion.”

To me, this is a fundamental truth. People read and enjoy and, most importantly, remember great fiction because of how it makes them feel.

Sure, we can quibble over the black and white of this premise, that fiction can also impart information and do all sorts of things other than just evoke emotion. I won’t argue that point, because of course it does. But the primary purpose of storytelling is to evoke emotion. Different genres, different emotions; all the same purpose.

As a writer, I feel those emotions first. When I write a scene that I hope will make a reader feel sad or angry or afraid, I’m going to be crying or fuming or trembling while I write it. This is the reason certain parts of a book are so difficult to write. I’m putting my characters through an emotional wringer, but I’m right there with them.

I imagine there are writers who are more experienced or more talented than I am who can accomplish this in their work without feeling those emotions. Without feeling vulnerable. I wish it worked that way for me. It doesn’t.

So it’s a bit of a problem, as a writer, when you’re in pain and your emotions are locked down tighter than– a thing that is tight [this is my brain on drugs, kids]. In a first or even a second draft, this wouldn’t matter quite as much. For me, the early drafts are just putting characters where they’re supposed to be and seeing what happens. It’s very dialog driven. I make vague notes about internal stuff like what they’re thinking and how it probably makes them feel. I add that stuff in later, along with physical description.

I suck at this, especially physical description. “They were in the woods. There were trees. Yeah, lots of trees. And stuff.”

Sigh.

Sadly, the two projects I’m working on are no longer at the draft stage where I can get away with saying, “And then there were emotions. And stuff.” They’re at the stage where I need to be vulnerable. That doesn’t come easily to me, even under the best circumstances. I need to be able to feel what the characters feel in order for it to have any hope of coming across as authentic to the reader. And I haven’t been able to do that. Honestly, I haven’t even tried in the past month. Actually, for longer than that, as I started to shut down emotionally even before surgery. In self-defense. Anticipating pain.

While there are still ups and downs, I’m finally getting to the point in recovery where the pain is no longer the all-consuming, steal-your-breath-away, hold-very-still-and-concentrate ordeal that it was the first few weeks. I’m also making good progress on weaning myself off the narcotic pain meds, which didn’t make me loopy after all. They just make me sleepy (and unable to come up with blog-appropriate similes). I’ve been taking all sorts of impromptu naps.

The really interesting part of recovery and physical therapy has been the insistence that I try things I don’t think I’m ready to try. Within hours after surgery, a pair of drill sergeants deceptively pleasant therapists came into my hospital room and said “we” were going to stand up and maybe walk a bit. I wanted to laugh and say, “Yeah, right. You’re welcome to try, but this ain’t gonna happen.” But I stood up and they shoved a walker in front of me and we by god walked right out of that room and down the hall to the window and back. Of course, I was still drugged to the gills and wouldn’t have felt any pain if they’d curled me up and rolled me down the hall like a bocce ball at the beach, but still. I did it.

They sent me home the day after surgery, which I still find a bit mind-boggling considering what they did to me. Below is a print out of the actual x-ray of my actual knee, two weeks post-surgery, moments after they removed 37 actual metal staples from the incision. That was fun. Apparently, HIPPA rules say I can’t take a picture of an x-ray, even if it’s of my own body part. Hence the print out.

That horizontal

That white horizontal line isn’t anything cool, like maybe a laser beam; it’s a fold in the paper.

Yes, I have pics of the incision at various stages. No, I’m not going to post them.

I was ready to stay in the hospital an entire week, simply because the food was that good. I’m not kidding. It was fantastic and I didn’t even have to clean up the kitchen afterward. But they said I’d made remarkable progress and was ready to go home. They were right.

Lunch:

Lunch: tender grilled chicken, herb roasted potatoes, steamed zucchini slices, fresh fruit (not shown)

The in-home PT has been more of the same. The woman I’ve been working with is tough and insistent, without being mean. There’s no way I could do that job. Not effectively. I’m full of admiration and gratitude. She, too, is amazed by my progress and has pushed me way past what I thought were my limits.

Two instances stand out. The first one was an exercise to strengthen my hamstring muscle. It’s something I simply couldn’t have done, pre-surgery, as damaged as my knees are. I’ve had ample experience with how much that particular movement hurts. The second was walking down a set of stairs, leading with my non-surgical still-messed-up leg and relying on the so-called strength of the one they’d sliced to bits, mere weeks ago. The one that was still hurting and not even close to being fully healed.

I gave the PT a dubious look, but not trying wasn’t even an option. I am nothing if not determined.

Both times, I braced myself physically and emotionally for what I was sure was going to be excruciating pain. Pain that I knew, from years and years of frustrating experience, was going to happen. Both times, no doubt in my mind, this was going to fucking hurt.

It didn’t.

And with that realization, both times, I fought back tears.

I think I’m almost ready to get back to writing.

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Filed under creativity, deep thoughts, health and well-being, writing

More than you ever wanted to know about: my knees

I have weird knees. I know, you’re thinking, meh, so what, everyone has weird knees. And you’re right. Knees are sort of universally weird. But mine . . . well, mine are weird in a bad way. In a fairly rare, bad way. A way that is extremely painful.

For a very long time, years and years, none of the doctors I consulted had any idea how to fix my weird knees. They said the standard knee replacement wouldn’t solve my problem. In fact, an orthopedic PA told me that from time to time they’d take out my x-rays and look at them and just shake their heads. Like they couldn’t even believe I was walking around with knees that weird, in that much pain.

Want to see a picture? Of course you do.

WARNING: Graphic pictures of weird knees ahead.

For comparison, this is a normal knee. It’s actually my daughter’s knee. I got permission to post it over here. [That was an entertaining conversation: “Mom, this is weird even for you. And that’s saying something.”] See how the kneecap sits right there in the middle even when the leg is bent? Such a well behaved kneecap.

IMG_0779

This is my left knee. It’s neither normal nor well behaved. My finger is pointing at my kneecap. Really. When I bend my leg, the kneecap grinds a path over the bone and hangs out over there off the outside edge. Not occasionally. Not sometimes. Every time. It moves back when I straighten my leg. This hurts. A lot. My meniscus is long gone, a distant fond memory.

IMG_0105

 

This is different from dislocation, but my kneecaps have done that as well. Many times. So many I’ve lost count. At least four times each, probably more like five or six. That hurts a lot too. You do not want to see a picture of a dislocated knee.

Yes, I believed all those doctors when they said there was nothing they could do, other than occasional cortisone shots. I mean, why wouldn’t I? They were doctors, good ones. Sadly, they simply had no experience with my particular problem.

But I don’t want to dwell on that Dark Time, because I finally found a doctor who not only has seen weird knees like mine before, he knows how to fix them. And there was much rejoicing.

This fix, of course, involves surgery. And maybe also magic. So, this week I’m having magical knee replacement surgery. On just my left knee, for now, because apparently even magic has its limits when applied to weird knees. We’ll do the other one later (sooner, if I have anything to say about it).

This is what my knee will look like after surgery. Well, if you took away all the skin and tendons and blood and stuff. And, you know, if my bones were plastic.

IMG_0098

Pretty cool, huh? Once I get the other knee done, I’ll be starring in the next Avengers movie: Age(d) Knees of Titanium

You’ll notice there is no kneecap in that model. That’s not because they remove it. It’s because the kneecap is sort of a floating thing attached to tendons and that’s not what they’re trying to show in this model. My kneecap will still be there, with a layer of that flat white stuff attached to the underside.

WARNING: Graphic squicky descriptions ahead.

The term “knee replacement” is a bit of a misnomer. Contrary to popular belief, they do not replace the kneecap. What they do is slice off a layer of bone from the underside of the kneecap and chop off the ends of your femur and tibia (those are your big leg bones, for those who fell asleep in anatomy class). Then they attach the stuff you see in the model.

Okay, so “slice” and “chop” aren’t the words they use. They call it “shaving” the bone. Probably to reduce the incidence of patient hysteria.

Since my knees are weird, they’ll also do a bunch of other stuff that I understand but am not sure how to explain. It involves scaling a formidable ridge and releasing the kraken and muttering incantations. Or something. To quote my surgeon: “It’s a pain-in-the-ass surgery.” He said this with a quietly confident alpha hero smile, as if he relished the challenge. It was reassuring, that combination of blunt honesty and arrogance. [reassuring = are you fucking kidding me?]

As you might imagine, the aftermath of chopping off the ends of bones and then attaching stuff to them is painful. Or so they tell me. In fact, there have been Dire Warnings of Extreme Pain. I’m sure this is a good faith kind of thing. They want patients to be prepared for the worst, so they emphasize the pain thing.

But . . . there’s pain and then there’s pain. You know that scene in the movie Crocodile Dundee? They’re walking in the city at night and a guy threatens them with a knife and Dundee says, “That’s not a knife. This is a knife.” And then he pulls out a monster Bowie knife.

crocodile-dundee-knife2

Yeah. That scene. It goes through my head every time someone tells me to expect “extreme pain.” I think about the sadistic monster that has been living in my knees for so very long, years and years, and suspect the doctors and I define that term differently. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ll discover that my pain has been a paltry kitchen paring knife all along. But I doubt it.

Regardless, there will be narcotic pain meds involved. Two weeks of them, I’ve been told. I don’t like narcotic pain meds. I don’t like how they make me feel. This is why you won’t hear from me for a while. I mean, provided nothing goes horribly wrong, that will be the reason. I don’t have much of a filter on the crazy in my brain even while completely sober. You don’t want to know what I’m capable of in a state of spaced-out narcotic loopy-ness.

Speaking of the potential for things to go horribly wrong, this past week I had my attorney draft a new Will and various other legal documents. No, I don’t think anything is going to go horribly wrong. Not to that extent, anyway. But you never know.

[Creative types: You must go read Neil Gaiman’s post on this topic. My attorney had never before drafted a Will dealing with Creative Property and she used the language in the sample. Thank you, Neil.]

I had intended to do this pre-op legal overhaul all along. But I was prodded by my daughter, delicate flower that she is, who threatened that if I ended up in a vegetative state and attached to life-support because I didn’t make my wishes clear about that sort of thing, she’d come stand over my hospital bed every single day, forever, and yell at me for not having my affairs in order. I suspect the hospital might have something to say about that, but she had a point. She also knows how much I’d hate being hooked up to machines indefinitely.

In retaliation, I appointed her trustee of my Creative Property. She got a bit flustered until I explained that her job would basically be to say NO to anyone who wanted to do something with work of mine that wasn’t finished. Because I’d hate that. Not that I think this is going to happen either. But you never know.

“I’m really good at saying NO,” she assured me.

“I know you are. But if some of my Imaginary Friends really really REALLY wanted to read a story and didn’t care that it wasn’t finished, your job is to tell them NO.”

“I can handle that.”

“And if someone decided they wanted to buy an unfinished story and offered a lot of money, your job is to say NO.”

“Not a problem.”

“Even if they promise they’d have someone else finish it and it would sound just like my writing, your job–”

“Mom, I understand. I tell them NO.”

“People can be very persuasive.”

“Hey, I learned from the master of saying NO. I’ve got this.”

I have no idea what she’s even talking about.

So I’ve done all the research and asked all the medical questions and have all my legal affairs in order. I’ve done the laundry and emptied the dishwasher and cooked and frozen enough single-serving size meals to feed the entire 82nd Airborne. I’ve even packed an overnight bag. I am SO ready.

Now there’s nothing to do but wait. And write too-long over-sharing blog posts. Apparently.

I hate waiting. But I’ve been waiting for a very long time, years and years. I think I can endure a couple more days. And I’ll be back before you even miss me.

 

EDIT TO ADD: I’ll have my daughter give you all updates in the comments on this post. Provided I can convince her it’s not all that weird for her to talk to my Imaginary Friends. Not as weird as asking for a pic of her knee, anyway.

 

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Filed under health and well-being

When your karma needs a swift kick in the rear

A few days ago, I said something stupid and thoughtless and inconsiderate to a fellow writer on twitter, a writer whose work I admire greatly. I was trying to tell her how much I loved one of her books and instead . . . well, it was graceless to say the least. And I’m ashamed of myself. I know better than to try to say something complicated on twitter, let alone anything negative. Idiot. I considered deleting it, but it’s out there and I need to suck it up and own it. It’s not the first time and, knowing me, it won’t be the last. Nature of the beast.

But instead of dwelling on it, I decided maybe it’s time to remind myself to focus on the positive and recommend a few books I’ve read in the past several months and truly enjoyed. (Yes, that writer’s are among them.)

Keep in mind, these are NOT book reviews. I don’t do that anymore, partly because Amazon thinks writers shouldn’t be allowed to review books [really, Amazon? REALLY?], but also because on the rare occasions I’ve done a review over here I get a bunch of requests to do more. So please don’t ask me. I’m not a book reviewer. I’ll hate saying it, but the answer will be no.

I’ve been reading (and writing) a lot of romance lately, so these recommendations are all in that genre, although that might be the only similarity among them. Some are sweet romance and others are . . . a good bit darker. Or steamier. The links are all to Amazon but probably you could get these books elsewhere as well.

81HL-pHEgTL._SL1500_First is Jackie Ashenden’s TALKING DIRTY WITH THE BOSS. Don’t let the title fool you into thinking this book is about, y’know, talking dirty with the boss. Okay, fine, that’s part of it. But it’s so much more than that (hence my dislike for the title, but we just won’t talk about that) (any more). The hero has OCD issues, which is a spectrum and not the same for everyone, and Ashenden handles it so well and this guy comes across as troubled but also gruffly sweet and charming, and the relationship felt genuine. I loved this book and didn’t want it to end.

Besides being incredibly gracious when you say stupid things to her on twitter, Ashenden has become as close to an auto-buy as I get. I’ve purchased the first two books in her Nine Circles series — I loved the excerpts — and am saving them to read as a reward for finishing a project, but other books of hers I’ve read and would recommend are:

HAVING HER (Lies We Tell Book 2)
TAKING HIM (Lies We Tell Book 1)
NEVER SEDUCE A SHEIKH (International Bad Boys Book 2)
THE BILLIONAIRE’S CLUB: New York boxed set

Next up is Rebecca Zanetti. I read the first three in her Sin Brothers series and then pretty much gorged on her backlist while waiting for the fourth book, which recently came out. She writes the kind of ridiculously strong alpha male heroes that you’d want to strangle in real life and, if you like that (I love that), you probably can’t go wrong with any of her books. But this particular series is a “highly recommend” from me. It’s listed as paranormal, but it’s not your standard witches and vamps and were-things. It’s more that the heroes all have enhanced abilities (hearing, strength, etc).

FORGOTTEN SINS
SWEET REVENGE
BLIND FAITH
TOTAL SURRENDER

81WeEVt9H+L._SL1500_Carolyn Crane is another auto-buy for me. Just go to her Author Page and pick anything, but I especially love her Undercover Associates series. She also writes as Annika Martin and the book she co-wrote with Skye Warren, PRISONER, is one of the most disturbing yet well-written books I’ve read in a long time. But seriously, heed the warning about dubious (or complete lack of) consent. This book isn’t for everyone.

Let’s see, who else? I guess I’m really recommending writers more than particular books at this point, so I’ll just go ahead and link to their Author Page over at Amazon or I’ll be over here all day listing books.

Sarah Morgan is another auto-buy (the O’Neil Brothers trilogy is wonderful) and the first in her new Puffin Island series was delightful as well.

81NyUmbtEfL._SL1500_Victoria Dahl, of course. I’m a huge fan of her writing and, really, of everything she says on twitter (when she’s not taking an ill-advised well deserved extended break from it) (ahem). She has a new book coming out in July titled TAKING THE HEAT, which you can pre-order now (I sure did and I don’t even know, or care, what it’s about).

Oh, and Kelly Hunter is another terrific writer with an extensive backlist. She has recently started publishing with Tule (so have a bunch of other talented writers) and I’ve loved those books — SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL and THE HONEYMOON TRAP, for example — as well as the ones with Harlequin, especially the ones subtitled The Bennett Family (strong heroes, stronger heroines).

Kat Latham has become a favourite as well. I absolutely love her charming rugby players and have read all of her books, including her latest that just came out in May. So good.

I’m also really enjoying Laura Kaye’s HARD INK series, even though I’ve gotten a couple books behind. The ones I’ve read have been fantastic.

Oh, and a relatively new-to-me writer, Karyn Lawrence, has two books out, KEEP and STAY. I read and enjoyed both and it looks like a third, SURRENDER, is coming out later this month. There’s a good bit of violence, so be wary if that offends you. Although, thinking about it, that’s true of many of the books mentioned above.

I think that’s enough for now. Pretty sure I’ve included enough links that this will go directly into the spam folder of those subscribing by email. Ooops.

Mind you, these are just a handful of writers whose books I’ve enjoyed recently. No one paid me, or even asked me, to recommend these books and I didn’t get any of them for free. Well, unless it was a free-to-everyone kind of deal. That’s entirely possible. It’s not an exhaustive list of favourites or even of All-Time Best reads. I’d never be able to come up with such a list. There are just too many.

But don’t take my word for it. My reading preferences are pretty varied and just because you might like my writing* doesn’t mean you’re going to like everything I read. So read the description and sample pages, peruse the reviews, make up your own mind. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new favourite.

Got any recommendations of your own? Leave a title or a link in the comments, all genres welcome. I’m always looking for new ways to procrastinate good books to read. I read fast and devour a LOT of books when I’m not writing, or embarrassing myself on twitter. Which I will go back to doing now. The writing, not the other thing.

*Reminder: if you want me to send you an email when I have a new book available, sign up here for my mailing list.

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Filed under book reviews, twitter, writing

Does this insomnia make me look fat?

My son is getting married next weekend. This makes me so happy. Mostly because I absolutely love the woman he’s engaged to and they’re perfect for each other, but also because being the mother of the groom is way less work than it was being the mother of the bride. Pretty much all I have to do is show up. Well, that and dig out old pictures of my son, because what is a wedding without the parents embarrassing the bride and groom? I’ll scatter a few of them throughout this post. Spread the joy.

He was such a happy baby.

He was such a happy baby.

So, of course, my main concern has been trying to lose a bit of weight before some maniac with a camera tries to get within shooting distance of my personal space. Have I mentioned how much I hate having my picture taken? I’ve hated it all my life, even when I was oblivious of judgments. People hear this and invariably say some version of, “But you look good!” That has nothing to do with it. It’s a visceral aversion. I remember running away from my own father when he tried to make a home movie when I was a child. And my father was not a scary guy. Well, unless you tried to date one of his four daughters, I guess.

My parents and my children. See? Not scary at all.

My parents and my children. See? Not scary at all.

As an aside to those of you who might be interested in calorie tracker things, I recently discovered MyFitnessPal and I love it. It has been helpful and a real eye-opener to write down every single thing I eat each day, to see exactly what those foods contain in terms of calories, carbs, fat, protein, sugar, sodium. Plus, it’s free.

A boy and his best friend... until his sister came along.

A boy and his best friend, Baxter… until his sister came along.

But I digress. This isn’t a post about weight or even about torture-by-camera. It’s about sleep. Okay, it’s also about how sleep, or lack thereof, affects weight and my ability to snarl politely.

Ahem.

First of all, you should know that I’m pretty much nocturnal. I am certainly capable of waking up before noon, but I won’t be happy about it and probably I won’t be fully functional at that time of day. On the other hand, it’s no big deal at all for me to stay up all night writing. It’s just easier to focus when the rest of the world is dark and quiet.

The three of them were inseparable.

The three of them were inseparable.

My ideal schedule would be to go to sleep between 2 and 4 AM and sleep for eight hours and wake up between 10 AM and noon. Never mind that if you admit to sleeping until noon, people assume you’re being lazy. No, I’m getting eight hours of sleep.

The trouble is, I got into a routine earlier this year when I couldn’t fall asleep, no matter what time of day, or night, it was. And when I did sleep, it was only for a couple hours and then once I woke up I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Serious insomnia. It was horrible. It’s also a direct result of being deeply immersed in writing a story. My body gets tired, but my brain won’t shut down enough to sleep. It’s not the first time this has happened, but this time was lasting a lot longer than it ever had before.

Long-term lack of sleep makes me snarly and crazy. I’m normally pretty even-tempered and have a very long fuse. It takes a LOT to make me angry. Unless I’m sleep deprived.

Yes, I tried all the usual “strategies” for easing into sleep, although I drew the line at warm milk. That’s just disgusting. Nothing worked. And I refuse to resort to sleeping pills.

The beach has always been his favourite place.

The beach has always been his favourite place.

Then my daughter mentioned that her husband the MD was having similar trouble sleeping during a stretch of weeks working the night shift. What he found that helped was taking melatonin. I was surprised because he’s even more opposed than I am to taking medicine — I know, irony, the doctor doesn’t want to be medicated — and this sounded to me an awful lot like taking sleeping pills. But my daughter said no, it’s just giving your body a natural substance that it probably isn’t producing enough of. So you could sleep.

I was skeptical. But I was also desperate. Experts claim that a good night’s sleep is critical to all sorts of things, including losing weight. Never mind that, I was starting to growl at inanimate objects that weren’t even cameras.

So I tried it.

The first time, it was 5:30 AM and I’d been tossing and turning for hours before I finally got fed up and took a pill. I’m not sure when, exactly, I fell asleep but I slept soundly and woke up at 3:30 PM and decided maybe melatonin worked a little too well.

The next night, I took it earlier, at maybe 3 AM, feeling like one of the three little pigs going to market earlier to avoid the big bad wolf. And again I slept soundly, waking up once to use the bathroom and then going right back to sleep. And woke up at 3:30 PM.

Sigh. That tactic didn’t work for the pigs either, if I recall correctly.

More sports. More smiles. I'm so lucky my kids like each other.

More sports. More smiles. I’m so lucky my kids like each other.

Don’t get me wrong, it felt awesome to sleep that soundly. It was such a huge relief. But I really did not enjoy waking up in the middle of the afternoon. Even I would categorize that as being a bit lazy.

Well, I’m nothing if not stubborn and I wasn’t ready to admit defeat. Plus, I’d been sleep deprived for weeks and weeks at this point and wasn’t willing to give up the bliss of somnolence, even if it was excessive. So I kept trying, taking it earlier and earlier, hoping once sleep became a regular occurrence rather than a rarity my body would adjust to normal. Well, normal for me. And it did.

I now take the melatonin sometime around midnight and fall asleep around 2 or 4 AM and sleep for eight (or seven, or nine) hours. It’s awesome. And the best part is that it hasn’t negatively affected my ability to write. I was worried about that. I was resigned to never sleeping well, ever again, if it messed with my writing.

So I’m back to feeling well rested and somewhat human again.

Unfortunately, I have not noticed a huge drop in weight as a result and I still want to gruesomely mutilate anyone who points a camera at me, but at least I no longer have the urge to throw a kitchen chair through the bay window every morning before caffeine.

I think this is my favourite picture of them, ever.

I think this is my favourite picture of him, ever.

I’m curious about what will happen if I stop taking it. I seriously doubt it’s habit-forming in a narcotic way, but perhaps it has the potential to become a psychological crutch. I wonder whether my body has adjusted well enough that I no longer need the supplement. I think I’ll hold off on that experiment until after the wedding. No need to test my capacity for sleep-deprived civility.

What about the rest of you? Are you nocturnal? Have you had similar trouble sleeping? Got any tried-and-true tips for conquering insomnia? What about tips on how to smile convincingly when it is the absolute last thing you want to do in that moment?

Scan 42

 

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Filed under health and well-being, parenting

Words, words every where, nor any post to link

Of all the April Fools jokes out there on the interwebs yesterday — well, of the limited number I saw, since I was mostly offline — I think the one by WordPress announcing AutoMatton was my favourite.

Here’s part of their pitch for this awesome new blogging tool:

Writer’s block? No problem! Announcing AutoMatton

As WordPress.com becomes easier to use, one piece of unanswered feedback keeps nagging at us: blogging is hard! Not only do you have to think of something worth saying, you have to take valuable time out of your day to write those things down in an appealing, easy-to-read way! Improvements to WordPress.com can speed up things like load times, but we simply couldn’t remove human nature from the equation… until now.

What is AutoMatton?

AutoMatton uses a simple machine learning algorithm to predict the posts that you will write, taking predictive text and auto-correct to the next level.

Yeah, they got me. It took me way too long to realize they were kidding. I tell myself this gullibility was because I was skimming through email not long after waking up and before a significant amount of caffeine had hit my bloodstream and I was still feeling pretty groggy . . .

But honestly? I really really wanted to believe this was an actual thing.

You see, I’m having a tough time coming up with appropriate blog posts. I’m not sure when, exactly, I started worrying about being all appropriate over here, and maybe I should knock it off, but every time lately I feel a thousand or so words bubbling up in my brain it’s usually about the drama du jour and . . . I just can’t make myself write the post.

It’s not that I don’t want to. Holy guacamole, do I want to. After all, I have Something To Say. I feel compelled to point out that People Are Missing The Point, Dammit. On all sorts of topics, Things I Feel Strongly About, including but not limited to:

  • Politics
  • Civics
  • Conformity
  • Decorum
  • Anonymity
  • Ethics
  • Pseudonyms
  • Hypocrisy
  • Courage
  • Privacy
  • Feminism
  • Religion
  • More Politics
  • More Civics
  • Common Fucking Decency

But then I stop and ask myself: do you really want to be that person? One of the usual suspects who weigh in on everydamnthing, who love the sound of their own voice above all others? One of those who jump in just to see how big a splash they can make? One who, be honest, has nothing new or interesting or enlightening to add other than their own ire or cynicism or questionable wisdom? Do you really want to get sucked into the latest internet quagmire?

And the answer lately has been, invariably, “no.”

Oh, look! Here’s a diversion picture of The White Ninja, nodding off to sleep on the back of my recliner.

A small break from her ninja activities

A small break from her ninja activities

 

But . . . but . . . I should write a new blog post and don’t know what to say! And WordPress’ AutoMatton would have made it all so easy! Just fill in a topic!

How is the content created?

AutoMatton’s job is to figure out the words that you would use given a specific topic to write about. It scours your existing words, fills in the blanks, and checks its own work. Each post AutoMatton writes is compared to your canon of work, old report card grades, everything written by Kurt Vonnegut, and Terms of Service documents from the top 500 most visited websites. AutoMatton then feeds this information back to itself to improve the accuracy of its predictions. It’s like magic.

Actually, the words aren’t the problem. I’m a writer. I can write any number of words, probably too many words, on any given topic, especially the ones listed above. The problem lately has been finding a topic. An appropriate topic.

All this self-restraint has been killing me, leaving me without words. You’d think I had killed an albatross.

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Oooh, and here’s another diversion a sign of Spring! My purple-leaf sand cherry tree blooming against a Carolina blue sky.

The honeybees love these flowers

The honeybees love these flowers

 

Whoops. That was from last week and already sadly outdated, not unlike the latest kerfuffle. Here’s one from yesterday afternoon: blooming redbud branches poking through the holly bushes and catching the last rays of sunset.

Yes, the redbud blossoms are purple, not red

Yes, redbud blossoms are purple, not red

 

It’s so much easier, and far less controversial, to just keep my head down and go back to writing stories. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Giving voice to things both great and small through fiction. Not sure how much longer I can maintain that ruse, but for now that’s my strategy.

What have the rest of you all been up to? Anything inappropriate you want to discuss? Anything untoward got you all hot under the collar?

Come sit over here by me and spill it. We’ll use our indoor voices.

 

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