Tag Archives: health

My battle plan did not survive first contact with the enemy

As I mentioned at the start of the month, I thought breaking down my schedule into blocks of time and assigning them to different projects (e.g., eight units for Leaf, eight for Veterans Network articles, eight for the golem article). That way, when my schedule takes some kind of unexpected detour, I can make sure I’m still putting enough time on everything.

This week that did not work, though I think it’s less a flaw in the plan than just life. But then again, if the plan can’t cope with what life throws at me, it’s not much use. But really, this situation is exceptional. I have several projects due before the end of the month and I’m getting my second vaccine shot on April 27. If it leaves me feeling like crap I need to have all my essential projects done so I can just lie in misery. TYG is getting her shot around the same time (I really should have listened to her and gotten mine further apart, but when I saw an opening, I panicked and grabbed it) so even if I’m fine, she might be sick — and I know from experience that’s going to kill my productivity too. So the golem article and all my Veteran Network stuff has to be done by April 26.

Plus next week I have an Alexander Technique appointment, our dogs’ trip to the rehab vet and allergy shots for them. That’s going to eat up quite a bit of time.

So this week I wanted to work on veteran articles, Leaf pieces and the golem piece. I did well — the golem article is finally looking good — until yesterday. About 10:30 Wednesday night, Plushie became scared of the invisible monsters he’d spotted somewhere in the bedroom and insisted on climbing on me for safety, then licking my face for about 20 minutes. Finally he calmed down, but by that point I was completely awake. I got up, worked for a couple of hours, got ready to go back to bed … and Wisp meowed to come in and wanted attention for a little while.

I did get to sleep eventually but it didn’t help much. I finished an article on Agent Orange, and did a little work on Undead Sexist Cliches (final proof of Chapter Two. Looks good) — I’m actually quite impressed what I can do when my brain is utterly fried — but I didn’t get the golem article finished as I’d planned.

Last night I took an Ambien to ensure I’d get a decent night’s sleep. The price was waking up late, then Wisp came in, snuggled with me and fell asleep in my lap (it was cold outside).The result was that I never had the private time I need to get my head in the game. Today was not productive. If I didn’t have the deadlines and the possible sick days ahead, I’d have devoted it entirely to reading the remaining golem novels on my list.

I will try my plan again next month, but for the moment the onrushing deadlines render it moot.

Oh, I had Southern Discomfort come back from a publisher with some critical feedback. I’ll discuss what they said when I’ve had time to mull it over.

To end on an upbeat note, here’s Trixie sniffing a flower.#SFWApro.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Fauci ouchie #1 down!

Sunday morning I checked Walgreen’s locally and almost immediately got an appointment for Tuesday. Second one is later this month.

I didn’t realize quite how awesome it would feel. Not getting the shot but realizing that by May, life will be more or less back to normal for us. We can shop in stores. Eat in restaurants. Have housekeepers come in. Get out dogs professionally groomed.  Get myself professionally groomed instead of my current mad scientist hair. That was two months ago — by now I look ready to smite someone with the jawbone of an ass.I can make medical appointments. Give blood. Maybe before too long we can even travel.

Thank you to everyone in science, medicine and the government (excluding Trump, Jared and most of his administration) who made this possible so quickly.


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A Too Much Research Week, I guess

Reading a lot for my golem article.

Watching alien abduction films and Stephen Spielberg’s tedious miniseries Taken for Alien Visitors.

Extra time spent on research for my Veteran’s Network blog posts this week.

A shit ton of time spent planning and thinking. First, re-evaluating the work ahead for Alien Visitors and figuring out exactly what I’m doing in the months ahead. Second, I have an offer to edit a book, for pay, but they wanted me to give them a quote. That took a lot of number-crunching and guesstimating, but now it’s done, bid submitted. Worst case, they say no — or worst case, they make me a lower offer, I accept it and it turns out it wasn’t enough for the work involved. Hopefully my estimating skills are better than my doubts.

I did finish the redraft of Chapter Four of Undead Sexist Cliches though I still have to re-edit the footnotes as I rearranged the material so much (fortunately Chapter Five is much tighter organized). And I got an Atomic Junk Shop post up marveling that some people are apparently fine with all Superman’s absurdities but balk at the idea he can put a bun in Lois’s oven.

Then there was today. Wisp woke me up early and unlike some mornings she really, really wanted me to play the laser-pointer game with her. I didn’t quite have the time to do that — I’m not so coordinated I can flash the laser light and still do whatever else I’m doing — so she eventually left in a sulk. Then we got a thunderstorm which freaks Plush Dog out (“Sky noise! Loud evil sky noise!”) and he insisted on coming downstairs and cuddling with me (Trixie came too, inevitably). I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I couldn’t cuddle him and do any stretching or exercise, which left me feeling stiff all day. And with no time to myself in the morning, I never really got my head in the game for the day’s work. I wound up doing some extra work on Atomic Junk Shop posts, which I shouldn’t have been — blogging’s never supposed to take time from productive work — but my mind was balking even at more research reading. Finally this afternoon I found presence of mind for planning, but that was all.

Oh well, as I’ve said before, sooner or later my schedule has to go kaput for a day; that’s just how life is. But only for a day — I have too much to do.

On the personal side, I did accomplish something, getting signed up with Duke as one of the Group Four (older, some health issues) vaccine recipients. Though as the governor’s declared that next month it’s open to anyone, that doesn’t make much of a difference — particularly as I haven’t found any appointments yet. TYG is planning to go out of town to find one (there are nearby communities with slots available), but I haven’t given up on locating something here. We’ll see if I’m right.

And one of my self-published books showed on Amazon, though as usual they haven’t made the data about which book or how many sales. That’s so annoying — if they’re paying me, they have to know — but the sale is great news.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

My instincts were, unfortunately, correct

While the rule of thumb is that we shouldn’t be visiting the doctor if it isn’t necessary my teeth need more care than they used to so I went to the dentist for a cleaning Tuesday. Turned out I was right to go: I have a cavity but we’ll be able to fill it before it decays all the way to the nerve. Phew! That said, not at all looking forward to going back in next week.

Despite the dental visit, I managed to put in a full week of work, so recalibrating my schedule is still working. A lot more of it was watching movies for Alien Visitors than I’d planned; I’ll have to watch for that in the future. But I did get other stuff done: proofing footnotes for Undead Sexist Cliches; making it halfway through the final proof of Questionable Minds, plus talking with my cover designer; Leaf articles; and writing more of the text for Alien Visitors.

I’d planned to concentrate my Alien Visitors work so that I’d be watching movies about kids and aliens in a clump, then ET superheroes, alien invasion films, etc. Unfortunately the Netflix DVDs that were supposed to arrive Monday never appeared (I’ve requested replacements) so that threw me off and my viewing was rather random. I could have viewed most of the films on Amazon but they were all for a fee so I chose to wait for Netflix. Perhaps that was an error.

Oh, and I sent in my sales tax for the previous quarter. Annoyingly, the sale of one Amazon print-on-demand copy translates into a $1.66 payment but the minimum fee for paying sales tax online is $2. I lose money. Still, I’d sooner have the sale.

One of our neighbors was out of town this week so TYG or I walked her dog at lunch (the puppy sitter has to work during the day). Wednesday I came across a vulture disputing the rights to roadkill with a couple of crows. The vulture won.


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Now THAT’S tragic

Last weekend, I made bread. Pane tuscan for TYG because she wanted a “rustic Italian bread” to eat with various soups and spreads.One of our neighbors brews bear and had spent grain left over, so I took some of it and made a spent grain bread. Moist and tasty — and then tragedy struck!I was a little frazzled after my medical checkup Tuesday (postponed from last month for quarantine reasons) and when I cut myself a slice of spent-grain bread I put it back in the bag without sealing it. When I moved to put it away, it fell and both loaves (okay, what remained of the loaves, I’d been digging into them) fell out and hit the floor. Goodbye bread!

No, the checkup wasn’t that awful. Higher cholesterol and blood pressure than usual, probably do to indulging in too much junk food (we’ll recheck in three months to see). Weight, surprisingly, is good. But I’m a little phobic about blood pressure (it’s the silent killer! What if it’s killing me right now?) and the appointment had been late in the day, which really threw off my schedule (and left me fasting until about 1:30 PM, plus I wanted to make dinner (spaghetti with veggies) and still make my writers’ group meeting (which I did). So throw it all together and I guess I felt distracted and rushed enough to screw up. Sigh.

Still I have some spent grain left, so I’ll make some more this weekend. And not drop it!


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Finding inspiration in a pandemic world

As I mentioned, so far I haven’t been getting much creative work done due to the pandemic distractions. I can understand if you out there aren’t either. However, I think COVID-19 is still a valuable learning experience, much as it’s a class I’d rather skip.

A week and a half ago I went into the grocery store to pick up some emergency supplies. I’d figured it would be early enough nobody would be there, but there was a big line and very few staffers, so the lines crawled. I was standing there, surrounded by people. No way out without just abandoning my purchases. Would one of them be the carrier who put me in the hospital?

I was, quite simply, terrified. I didn’t leave and got through the line, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a situation that scared me simply by having people around. Maybe not since dealing with bullies in junior high. And even then it was specific individuals, not just the idea of being out with people.

This is close as I will ever come (at least I hope so) to that classic thriller situation where the guy is wandering through a crowd, conscious any one of them could be an assassin with a knife sent to eliminate him. If I were writing that situation, I’d use what I felt: the desperate desire to be somewhere safe with nobody around. The constant awareness of my surroundings. Second-guessing whether my decision to stay or go or to pick up X or Y is right.

Next, there’s fears about my health. I’ve had those before but constantly evaluating my coughs (is it mucusy? Yes? Phew!) or feeling relief because I just completed a workout and I’m not short of breath is new. If I had a character worried about this kind of issues, either serious or funny (obsessive hypochondriacs are a staple of humor) this would certainly give me fresh perspective. Hopefully the pandemic won’t show me personally what it’s like to actually have a serious illness.

Then there’s the general sense that we’re staring at a sea change in the world, not for the better, and having no idea how it’s going to play out. Will it be over in a year? Will the restaurant TYG and I were going to eat my birthday dinner at still be there? Will any of the non-chain restaurants around here survive? Can I honestly cope if this drags on for months? How can I help?

I’ve long been fascinated by the realization that people living through WW II had no idea how it would end. I used to read old issues of Time for that reason (my local library in Florida had them going back to the 1950s), to see what the world thought of events as they were occurring. You’d be amazed how often victory in Vietnam was imminent, for instance (Time in those days was conservative and anti-communist). And that by the mid-1960s, it was obvious students at American colleges had no interest in protesting or getting involved in politics — they were in it for education and career, nothing more!

Now I’m living in one of those events, along with everyone else. It gives me fresh appreciation for songs like When the Lights Go On Again, All Over the World or The Last Time I Saw Paris. Again, I don’t have anything that immediately gains from this insight, but hopefully it’ll come. I just have to remember the feelings … and somehow I don’t think that’ll be hard.

#SFWApro. Fear-filled cover image by Carmine Infantino, all rights remain with current holder.

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Love in a time of cholera? No, it’s a birthday in a time of pandemic!

And it’s kind of freaky.

I had a perfectly nice birthday. Lots of FB greetings. Spent the day reading bookmarked online articles I’d never gotten around to, some of which turned out to be quite useful in various ways. I took a walk, hung out with TYG and the dogs, bought stuff online with birthday gift certifocates and enjoyed a frozen pizza for dinner. I’d picked it up just for food, but in lieu of going out it made a nice birthday meal. I’d kicked myself earlier this year for not making any plans for a big party, but in hindsight, I’d have been bummed if I did.

But hanging over all that was the awareness of what I couldn’t do. No going out to eat. No going anywhere to shop. No going anywhere this current weekend. We’re both at high enough risk that social distancing isn’t only good for our community, it’s good for us. Mensa events: canceled. Writing group: canceled. Vegan potluck: canceled. We’re unlikely to make it to North Carolina Zoo before our membership (my anniversary gift last year) expires. Not going to movies. Not going to plays, even if they weren’t canceled or postponed. Not that I don’t have books and streaming shows to occupy me, but it’s pretty freaky.

And the year ahead? I got no idea what’s coming. I’m not sure anyone does. Who’ll be affected? How many? How long will we have to stay at a social distance? How much will it change society? A lot of the changes won’t even be visible: the people who stayed home and never met each other, or died younger than they would have, the kids who aren’t born to become the discoverer of cold fusion or the next Timothy McVeigh. Of course this could be true with any random decision people make, but somehow, when all of society is shaped by something, it feels bigger. This is the kind of event they write about in history books. I’m getting a crash course in wondering what it felt like to live through WW III or the Depression or AIDS in the gay community with no idea how things would end (I can safely say I do not like living in interesting times).

The economic ripple affects will shut businesses that would have thrived, and they’ll hammer even freelancers like me. As the economy slumps, fewer people buy books, magazine staffers get sick and issues don’t come out (had a couple of sales deep-sixed by that in the past) — it’s scary.

But so far, I’m in first-world problems stage. TYG and I can both work from home. We’re comfortable spending more time together (we don’t work in the same room but even so). We have the dogs. We have savings to draw on. And so far, no corona.

That makes me way better off than some of my friends who are jobless with no way to make up the shortfall (fingers crossed the government sends out some checks soon). If I were living alone, I’d be as shaken as Superman in Ernie Chan’s cover. Even in my 20s, when spending the day at home alone, watching videos and reading, was my idea of heaven, it was balanced by doing theater in the evenings.

For the coming year, most of my plans (travel, explore Durham more, have more people over) are deep-sixed. I’ll settle for staying healthy, finding ways to stay connected, writing more, and getting organized for the new normal (including exercise — it’s time to fight the “COVID 15” as my spouse puts it). And squeezing as much fun out of this strange situation as possible. And finding ways to help.

Given the number of stressed-out posts I saw on FB just yesterday, that I did have a happy birthday makes me appreciate how lucky I really am.

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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And the Red Death shall hold dominion over all

Okay, not that bad. But COVID 19 did majorly disrupt my work week (which is, obviously, far from the worst thing about it. First world problems).

The big change was that TYG started working from home, which is great for her (more time to spend with Plushie) and fun for me, plus I get a bit more of a break from the dogs when she takes them upstairs. However it also changes the rhythm of the day — when she gets up, when the dogs come down for breakfast, when she or I walk them at lunch — and it throws me off. Sometimes I start work, then the dogs have breakfast a quarter-hour later and by the time they’re finished I’ve lost momentum.

It’s a fixable problem, but this week it threw me off. It was, after all, on top of the daylight savings time hour-ahead weekend, which always leaves me sleeping poorly and feeling a little groggy. And I’m way distracted by the pandemic we’re in. It was hard not to stop whatever I was doing and check FB every so often, or browse the news, or Tweet to President Tinybrain about how he’s being a coward and putting millions of Americans at risk. I did it even as I was typing this post.

So most of what I accomplished this week was Leaf. Actually more than my usual quota: they had so many interesting articles I wound up doing 14 rather than 10. I’ll cut back some next week to make up. I really dislike doing that — somehow I never recapture the time I wasn’t spending on my own projects — but then again, my mind was so fractured, I don’t know how much good I’d have done on my own stuff.

I did look over the story I hoped to redraft this month, now titled Laughter of the Dark. And I rewrote the next chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer, which went much easier than expected. I will be thrilled if the next chapter goes as well, as it’s a twist and a big reveal that I’ve been struggling with ever since I dropped the core of the original novel. I have no regrets about the change, but I am a little nervous that it won’t go well at all.

And that was pretty much it. I think I’ll do better next week. I may even skip working on the weekend, seeing as I’m not handling the dogs all day, and see if I can put in more hours Monday-Friday.

In the minor annoyance department, I tried renewing my prescriptions online today. Turns out that as our new health coverage has an entirely different mail-order pharmacy, all my prescriptions are effectively reset to zero. Fortunately I’ll be seeing my doctors before I need refills.

And now the weekend, when I shall endeavor to chill as much as possible.


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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

This week’s challenges: Sickness, snow and scheduling

The scheduling issue came up Sunday. I’ve been putting in three hours of writing on Sunday for a couple of months now as I get so wiped out at the end of the Monday-Friday work days. Three hours Sunday, I can stop earlier and give myself a little break before walking and feeding the dogs. But as my lunch breaks have been quite short this month — with Trixie’s leg, they aren’t getting long walks — so I figured I could skip Sunday, get my work done in the afternoons and still finish up before dinner walkies.

And I mostly did, but there much less of a break at the day’s end than I’d expected. Either Plush dog got a longer walk than usual or there was some other distraction I was dealing with on lunch hour. For example, Wisp demanding petting. Plus, I suspect the sickness that has me in its grip today was already dragging me down.Wisp, has by the way, been a constant companion on our short walks. I wish I could capture just snuggling with the dogs but Plushie sniffing her but is as close as I’ve managed so far.

Sickness has been a bigger problem. TYG caught a bug last week, probably by the usual transmission process of kids to parents, parents to coworkers, which means her. At first it didn’t seem like there’d be much of a problem, but the past couple of days I’ve had the inflammation and irritation in my throat I repeatedly get. I’m doing my best to stay relaxed not talk and talk all appropriate meds as I have some presentations to make at the end of next week (details will follow). I’d really, really like to be able to make them and losing my voice would make that impractical.

And of course, feeling sick does not do my writing any good. Today I just wiped out in the late morning, so I did this blog post and I’m calling it a day. Unless I revive in the afternoon; I’m not betting on it.

And then snow, of all things, descended on us (and the rest of Durham) yesterday. Given temperatures we thought it wouldn’t stick, but it has. Fortunately it looks like the roads are clear so we should be A-OK if we need to drive anywhere. And TYG picked up food Thursday morning, so that’s taken care of. As long as we take care walking the dogs, we should be fine.

Now as to work … I did my Leafs for the week, though in my depleted state they took much longer than they should have. I also drafted Impossible Takes a Little Longer up to Chapter 23, which was my goal for the month; I won’t have much time for fiction next week so that’s a win. I also worked on a first draft and got a big leap forward this morning when the bad guy finally emerged from my unconscious. I might have finished the draft today but … no. I might squeeze it in next week

I also tidied and footnoted the first section of Chapter Seven of Undead Sexist Cliches. It’s on sexual harassment so there’s no shortage of examples.

Wish me luck for a better next week. I have a lot I want to be in good health for.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book