TOTAL BLOG EXCITEMENT!!!

OMGOMGOMG!!!!!

I just found out that one of my favorite websites, Offbeat Home & Life, is going to publish a blog post I wrote!!!!!!

I wrote the post a month or so after I got married back in 2012 and tucked it away.  A few days ago I found the post, thought it was awesome, and I polished it up and posted it here under the date when I originally wrote it.  It’s called “Stir Fridays, Wedding-Free Wednesdays, and Tasting Tuesdays.”  My favorite part about the post is that my husband and I still do Stir Fridays!!!  You guys, it’s been 3 years since we got married and we still do this habit we started in the year before that…  That’s amazing! That’s why I liked the post so much, because it made sense and was still working!  To be fair (and honest) we don’t do Stir Friday every week, but whenever we have stir fry, we call it that.  We still cook dinner together when we can and we still call a lot of our cooking experiences “Adventures in Cooking.”

We don’t generally go out to dinner on Tuesdays anymore either because our schedules have changed dramatically since I wrote the post.  We do keep a list of new restaurants to try and when neither of us has something specific in mind for dinner, we go to the list!  We moved about four months ago and although we’re only a few blocks from our old apartment we are technically in a new city.  We’ve been dutifully exploring new restaurants and delivery places.  We are still searching for a delicious pizza place but we found the most AMAZING sushi restaurant!

Wedding-Free Wednesdays has mostly faded from our routine… I think that using that rule/habit worked for us that we used until we didn’t need it anymore.  Perhaps our communication skills have gotten better and/or we just don’t have that kind of huge stressful event weighing down on us anymore.  While we don’t have a whole day set aside I think we are both good at communicating when we get overwhelmed and then we ease back off the topic or work to resolve the thing causing stress.

I’m so scared and excited!  Sending the post to Offbeat Home was a huge deal for me because:

1) I love that site and read it (seriously) every day,

2) I shared something I wrote with the intent to get it published, and

3) I linked the post to my blog.

I did a happy dance when I got the email and I ran around my house yelling about how excited I am!  Then, I made my husband dance with me and I read him the email (punctuated with lots of OMGs)… Now I figured I better post something with this year’s date on it so that if someone clicks the link to the blog they don’t think it’s a dead blog! Which leads me to…

A Little about the Blog

I have been posting on this blog for a couple of years now.  The way I usually post is to post things that I wrote in the past.  I like to do that because looking back I can add context to make the “old” stuff have more layers of meaning.  Like, the Stir Fridays thing… I posted it because it worked for us and is just a normal part of our lives now.  I love the before and after of the post. These days I try to post at least once a week.

I often consider posting about more recent events in my life but it’s complicated…  This is my “secret” blog.  I haven’t shared this blog with my family or friends because I wanted a place to share my writing without the anxiety of knowing everyone on my Facebook feed will be sent an update about it.  A lot of what I write about involves the people in my life and it’s not always comfortable to know that they’re going to read it.  (Since I stopped being friends with jerks I figure that if I told my friends I had a blog, they would probably read it.)   This blog started as a way for me to get more comfortable with sharing my writing.  (Seems like it’s working since I shared a post with a big website!)  Eventually I want to get comfortable enough that I will send my novel out into the world to try and find an editor and publisher.

There are a couple gaps when I stopped posting for a while… During one of these gaps I had a job where I didn’t feel comfortable having a “secret” blog because I was pretty sure it would get found, so I let it just hang out for a while.  After I changed jobs I picked the blog up again.  Then, last October I had some major medical issues to deal with (Downside, 3 major abdominal surgeries within 5 months. Brightside, not cancer! WOO!)   I’m actually still healing/recovering from these surgeries (nerve pain is a lingering, spiteful b**ch) but I’m getting better and that’s awesome! I’m working on a post about my advice on dealing with medical stuff when you have severe medical anxiety. I (perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not) have found a lot of success in dealing with medical-related things such as:

  • Scheduling appointments,
  • Actually going to medical appointments,
  • Having major surgeries,
  • Dealing with work after you’ve been injured and while you’re recovering,
  • Organizing medical bill and insurance statement mail,
  • Paying medical bills, and
  • Working with your partner throughout all that stuff above.

That post is one I also plan on sending to Offbeat Home because I looked for advice on this sort of stuff and it was hard to find.  I’m also going to be continuing to post about my Study Abroad trip to Italy. In addition, I’ll be posting my favorite photos from National Geographic’s photo of the day, funny things from Pinterest, and lots of book-related posts.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and reading my stuff!  If you have requests for the type of posts you’d like to see more, please let me know if the comments below!

Ciao!

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Influential Book Challenge

I was challenged by my sister-in-law to do a list of 10 books that have impacted my life in some way. I went with nine fiction books that I’ve spent tremendous time thinking about after I read them and one poetry book which helped shape my love of poetry and here they are:

1. Wren to the Rescue (Really all three books from Wren’s War series) – Sherwood Smith – One of the books from my early life that taught me that girls can be powerful, save themselves, and don’t always need a prince or someone else to rescue them. I still find myself thinking about the characters from this series and wondering what happened to them after the series ended…

  1. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern – Captivating story and first book I read both before and after writing my first novel. I’d been worried about how the process of novel writing from an author’s perspective would change my perspective while reading, but it has enhanced my reading experiences. I notice things like point of view, where chapter breaks happen, etc. and how they affect the story and appreciate them even more than I did if/when I noticed them before.
  2. Arrows of the Queen (Really all three books of the Queens Own series) – Mercedes Lackey – I reread this book (and sometimes the other two as well) at least once every year (sometimes more often), especially if I want inspiration to keep moving forward through tough times.
  3. Lirael (Really all three books of the Abhorsen series) – Garth Nix – One of the first books that showed libraries the way I always imagined they could be- fierce, powerful, and full of magic! I adore this series!
  4. Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame – Charles Bukowski – First and favorite book I’ve read by Bukowski. He helped me find my poetic voice and hammered home numerous important and influential qualities such as: a) Great poetry can come from modern times b) Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme c) Poetry can be about everyday subjects d) It’s all about the endings
  5. Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Really all three of the Dragonlance Chronicles series) – Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – Longtime favorite series of mine… They were a gateway into the huge collection of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms novels which I devoured and reread throughout my formative teen and early twenties years.
  6. The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien – This is my favorite Tolkein story and was my introduction to Middle Earth, where I have often dwelled and left the cares of this world behind. (For the record: the new Hobbit films are Peter Jackson Fanfiction about the Hobbit, not a cinematic version of the Hobbit story.)
  7. Night Watch – Sir Terry Pratchett – First book I ready by Sir Terry Pratchett and was a wonderful introduction to Discworld. Discworld is full of humor and intelligence and has helped me through some of the toughest times in my life and kept me laughing during some of the best times in my life.
  8. The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch – One of the most interesting books I’ve read with one of the trickiest main characters… I can’t wait to see where this story goes…
  9. A Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss – Complex characters, massively detailed world, and a storyline that sucks you in and keeps you hungering for more… I loved Name of the Wind and it was one of the most original books I’d read in a while at the time when I found it… but then I read A Wise Man’s Fear and it blew my mind because I loved it even more than the Name of the Wind and I hadn’t thought that would be possible… I NEED to know what happens with these characters…

(I was going to put the Harry Potter series (because I have loved this series as a dear part of my childhood and adulthood and I’ve been to every midnight release for all the books that had one and all the movies) and A Song of Ice and Fire series (because my husband introduced me to this series before we even started dating and most of our road trips turn into discussions about who will win the game of thrones and why and how) but although these series deserve shout outs I decided against including them because to me they’re a series and you can’t really separate one book from the others.)

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

My dad has cancer.  Yesterday I spent 13 hours finding out my dad has cancer, waiting while he had a biopsy tumor extraction, and recovered from surgery.  Trying to process everything yesterday while trying to be strong, have courage, be brave, be a duck.  Water off a duck’s back, floating on the tumultuous surface, I don’t know. Trying to deal with it. Waiting. Waiting. Praying. Hoping. Coping.

 

Of all the things I’ve ever worried about in my entire life… my dad getting cancer did not make the list.  I am caught flat footed.  It takes the wind from my sails.  I am wholly unprepared for this.

 

I don’t know what to do, what to think. My poetry brain has kicked in to try and cope.  No drinking, smoking, self harm, nonsense or shenanigans.  Healthy coping mechanisms.  Read. Write. Create poetry.  Meditate.  Count.  Breathe. Breathe.  Breathe.  Remind myself to breathe again. Keep breathing.  Make lists. Shove the feelings down deep.  No, try to feel.  Nope, too hard to feel.  Ok shove those feelings away.

Hands shaking, anxiety weighted in my chest.

 

Realize: He found out last Friday.  Told my mom Saturday night.  Mom told Husband Monday night.  I found out Tuesday morning.  Why am I the last person to find out?  Bad enough it’s happened.  Now the lies.  Betrayal.  As if dealing with the cancer was not bad enough now I deal with deceit as well.  What do  I do now?  How do I start to deal with all this?  How do I cope? What do I do now?

 

Will I ever escape the rage I feel inside?

Gorilla Adventures in Cubicle-Land

So the highlight of my month so far happened this past week:

The girl next to me and one of the guys were talking about being tan and he said he was more tan then she was.

She said, “no, you just have darker arm hair that’s not the same thing.”

A girl was walking by at the same time and overheard and said, “did you hear that?  She just said you were hairy!”

And he was like “Hairy?”

And the girl walking by was like, “yeah! Hairy like a gorilla!”

And the first girl goes “a gorilla! I never said that!”

and the hairy guy goes “gorilla!” and then does a gorilla impression by hunching over and hoping down the row of cubes with his arms up like a gorilla!

And another guy walks over because us girls are laughing so hard and asks “what’s so funny.”

So we tell him “that hairy guy just did a gorilla impression!”

And the new guy goes “oh? Like this?” and hunches over so his knuckles drag on the ground and slinks down the row of cubes grunting!

And we all laugh a lot and are like “no it was different”

and the hairy guy comes back and says “yeah like this!” and does his impression again but with more sound effects and then scratches his chest like a gorilla.

The other guy goes “no gorillas are like this” and proceeds to do his impression again.

So they are both doing gorilla impressions and I started laughing so hard I ended up wheezing and clapping like a retarded seal while the girl next to me laughs so hard she starts crying and has to pull out her inhaler.

And that is a true story and the highlight of my month!

The Case for Reading Bad Books

Go check out the following article:

The Case for Reading Bad Books by @rebeccaschinsky

 

This article was a good one that articulates an argument for finishing “bad” books even if you are normally a person who tends to not finish them.  I have only not finished maybe 10 books, ever.  If I pick something up and start to read it then I’ve already bought into it.

With the activity of my imagination I have to finish bad books because then I can let them go.  I can let the characters slip away into the humiliated dark shadows of regret.  I can let the setting fade away into a cliche fog.  If I don’t finish a book then it will keep cropping up like an unwanted Facebook status update from that whiny friend who complains every day.  If I don’t finish a book then I wonder about what happens next in the storyline.  Those poor characters… even the ones I didn’t like… did the author ever get their shit together and give them a real chance at an interesting story/developed plot/happy ending?  Ugh!

No it is better by far for me to plow through a bad book while railing against the injustice of books like these getting published while talented authors with more put together stories/more interesting characters/a good conflict all languish in the realm of unpublished and unfinished imaginationland.   I will finish a bad book in one sitting (if I can stomach it) and then reward myself with a rereading of one of my favorite books as a salve to my imagination.  It’s like here imagination… this is how the book should have gone down.  I’m sorry I put us through that… here’s some deliciously distracting Terry Pratchett as a pallet cleanser.

Neil Gaiman

Just met Neil Gaiman at a book signing!  When asked about his next medium he announced it to be interpretive dance! LoL He later said he was kidding but it was still amazing to hear him speak and read from his #1 Best Selling book The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

When we arrived to the school where the event was held we ran right into a giant crowd… we were not sure if it was the line or a mob… even in the midst of the line-mob it was unclear.  The line was like a study in human chaos theory.  I announced that the line was likely a trick played on the fans by Neil himself where the line circled in and around itself and through trees and over sidewalks with no clear beginning or ending and in fact was one continuous circular loop that represented the real world and the people who noticed and got out of line and went inside were the ones who had discovered the NeverWhere.

This announcement earned me dark looks, laughs, and three new friends and we exchanged contact information as a result of our nerdy fandom! 🙂

When I finally met Neil I didn’t even Fangirl-Fail!  I didn’t cry or squeak or say anything stupid.  I just beamed a smile at him and thanked him for his writing and for having the tour somewhere I could get to!  It was an event worth traveling to and I’m thrilled I got to meet him!  He even smiled at me!  I almost fell off the stairs right after we got our books signed because I was recounting the events of the previous minute wherein I had a book signed and was also smiled at by one of my favorite authors on his last ever book tour to Husband (who also happened to have been a part of that last minute…) luckily I recovered and made it down the stairs without mishap.

Neil Gaiman

Book Signing for the #1 Best Seller

Now I am off to read!

After the Before

Author’s Note:  Let me preface this entire post with the knowledge that my mom is alive and well and cancer free.  (I hate it when awful stories get told only to find out after all the worrying for the characters that there is a happy ending after all.  I don’t mind those sorts of stories as long as I know they end happily, thus I’m sharing this ending.)  This blog post is a story I wrote my senior year of high school.  It is the only story I’ve ever written where I allowed myself to discuss my family’s battle with cancer. 

When I was about 2 my mom, 29 years old, was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in one of her breasts and the lymph nodes under her arm.  The doctors told her to make peace with the world and that she would not live to see me graduate college, get married, or even start Kindergarten.  My mom is a fighter and she fought her way into the case studies for Tamoxifen (now a standard part of breast cancer treatment) and had chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, and a mastectomy.  She had check ups twice a year for the next five years.  After five years she was pronounced cured.  She continued annual check ups at the cancer center.  After ten years she was pronounced really cured and at some point along the way her cancer was downgraded to a stage 3 (because she survived).  She continued yearly checkups because she had been in the case study.  At year eleven she was pronounced still cured.  Between year eleven and year twelve she didn’t notice but a lump the size of a pea grew under her armpit in one of her lymph nodes. 

At her yearly check up 12 years after she had first battled cancer, the cancer returned.  She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.  Once again the doctors told her to make peace with the world and that she would still not see me graduate high school, go off to college, or any of the things we had finally allowed ourselves to look forward to sharing together.  They said this cancer was tricky because it had been dormant for 12 years and then become very aggressive to have grown a lump so large in so short a time.  Again, my mom fought with all her strength.  She did more chemo and had more surgeries but this time there was no radiation because she had had the largest amount a person can have.  My freshman year of high school was her diagnosis.  My sophomore year of high school was her surgery.  My junior year of high school was her chemo.  My senior year of high school was the waiting and I graduated a semester early and went to community college- just in case. 

The doctors were wrong: she saw me off to formal dances, my first date, graduation, college, moving into a dorm, studying abroad, and recently getting married.  She is one of the success stories and I love sharing the hope that her double cure inspires.  But I don’t like talking about it, or thinking about it.  I still practice magical thinking… if I don’t talk about cancer or think about it then it won’t come back again…. Regardless of what will happen, right now she is happily living her life cancer free and my dad always tells her how she’s more lucky than cats who get nine lives and even more lucky than frogs who croak every night.  We all do the best we can to live life to the fullest because we know how short and precious it is.  Enough commentary. The story:

 

After the Before

***

After

 

My skin is very white.  When I get cold, my skin gets even whiter, except for the scars.  The scars are vivid, dark, and obvious.  They show up, slashing across my hand and wrist and itching in the cold.  They were not always there.  Before she got sick again, my hands were clean.  Now, they’re stained with my anger.  When we got back to our house, the sickness hovering over each of us, I went into my room, in the closet, and punched my hand through the wall.  Four times.  The plaster exploded around me and chunks of it stuck to the hair on my arm.  I broke two fingers and dislocated another.  I’m still not sure what exactly cut me, but something did.  I had three jagged tears above my wrist and my hand looked like I had lost a fight with a garbage disposal, or put it through a wall a couple of times, which I had.  My parents had to take me to the hospital.  Back to a hospital for more waiting.  The last place any of us wanted to go.  It is always cold in the waiting rooms of hospitals.

 

 ***

Before

It is always cold in the waiting rooms of hospitals.  We are waiting.  The walls are waiting, the uncomfortable chairs are waiting; the puzzle is waiting.  It has been the same puzzle for years.  We are all waiting.  The recycled air drifts around the families and patients too slowly to create a breeze.  The shifting of pain stiffened bodies; turning of outdated magazine pages, and the constant wheeze and coughs of people breathing the stale air are the sounds that fill the space between the floor and ceiling.  I think it is a requirement of working here to have noisy shoes.  Most of the men have tennis shoes that squeak at either the left or right toe.  The women have high heels that meticulously click-click-click their way into your brain behind your eyes.  The clicking is driving me mad.

I tap my foot in impatience.  I restlessly flip through an old cooking magazine without seeing the pictures, let alone the words.  My butt hurts from sitting for too long.  I wish my mom would be out soon so I could move around a little.  She doesn’t usually take so long.  I look at my dad to see if he’s as uncomfortable as I am.  He’s calmly flipping through a Time magazine from September (it’s December now) and has a scientific looking National Geographic waiting on the seat next to him.  I sigh as a squeaky-shoed-college-aged guy dressed in green scrubs hurries past.  He glances at me, keeps walking.  I throw my magazine on the table and stand up.  I restlessly move to the low rounded table with the magazines and grab some that look less painful then some others.

I hear the clicking of the woman who escorts patients to see the doctors.  She walks up, reads a name incorrectly off a metallic stern looking clipboard, walks a few clicks away and says the name again in the same nasal voice.  Some ancient looking, pain ridden patient is helped to their feet by a concerned family member.  They follow the clicking woman down the white hallways past cheerful portraits of wildflowers as the woman makes an effort to create conversation.  Not everything about this place is hopeless; don’t get me wrong.  Laughter sparks from hushed conversations among different people.

As a little child, I used to wander among the people waiting, offering to share my toys and asking if the patient had hair.  I would proudly tell them about my mom, who’s real hair is waiting until she gets better to come back, who has a very pretty collection of hats and a fake head to hold her pretend hair while she’s not wearing it.  I would tell them about how if I was good, I would get to borrow some hats.  I would smile and tell them about the secret stash of hot chocolate I could get from the nurses and offer to get them some.  Sometimes, I would bring water to my parents, and read a magazine with my dad while my mom was seeing the doctor.

There is hope to be found, if you look for it.  I didn’t notice as much while I grew up, as I do now.  Now, it seems much more important, not only to me, but to my family and to the families of other patients as well.  Without hope, there would be only sickness, and that is no way to live.

Besides hope, there is also tired and old and the waiting.  That was mostly what I noticed then.  Everyone who’s here, except for the workers, seems old.  I, at 17, am old.  I have been old since I started coming here with my family at 6 years of age.  The waiting has that effect on people.  As the minutes march into hours and the hours multiply, I begin to get nervous.  No, not nervous.  Anxious.

Anxiety.  It feels like it blasts from nowhere.  It tackles you.  Slam!  You’re floored.  There is a four hundred pound sumo wrestler sitting on your chest.  He’s sweating on you.  You can’t breathe.  You can’t move.  You’re stuck.  Your vision clouds with a black smoke of panic.  Your heart tries to beat its way out of your ribs.  Your hands tingle.  You’ve lost control.  Slam!

If that analogy does not work for you, imagine this one.  Picture a wicked May pole- something that can stand straight up with the support of tautly pulled strings.  Now, replace the May pole with a knife, a very sharp, very pointed knife with a very shiny, very black handle.  Attached to the handle are strings of barbed wire.  The knife is slammed into your breastbone hilt deep.  The barbed wire is injected into various places across your chest.  Now, as you become more anxious, the knife is twisted and pushed deeper into your chest.  The barbed wire is pulling parts of your chest towards your heart, while the knife is brutally twisted, making a tight circle in the bone and muscle.  Your world narrows to this pain.  There is no literal knife, so you can’t bleed.  Instead you sweat.  It’s as if you just washed your hands, but didn’t dry them and instead of water and soap, it’s salty sweat.  Your brain focuses only on the pain; it can’t control your vision, which quickly fades to black.  Rapidly you lose control of your hands.  They become a tingling sensation too far away to control.  This is anxiety.  This is what I feel.

This is what I feel now.  Now is Friday afternoon at 4:00 on December 16th.  I am down in the city with my parents sitting in a section of the hospital.  The cancer ward.  I’m not sure that “ward” is the correct word, but it fits.  I watch my mother’s doctor stride by followed by a flurry of college students who wish they were her and had her job and are as good as she is.  It is almost funny to watch because they almost always tower over her.  She is tiny.

Everything about her is tiny; she is, after all, only five feet one inch tall.  She clicks her pen in time with her heels as she enters the room.  Her starched white doctor’s jacket hangs precisely to mid-thigh.  The long sleeves are rolled to create cuffs revealing a very expensive looking shiny gold watch on her left wrist.  The color nicely matches the gold of her wedding band as it reflects light off the diamond of her engagement ring.  Her pressed khaki pants have matching creases running up the sides of her legs.

Her hair is short; it balances upon the tops of her ears and carefully lay over the top of her forehead and plays with the collar of the jacket at the base of her neck.  Each piece seems to be hair sprayed in place to create the least possible disturbance to the patient while still managing to look styled.  Her thin steel framed glasses perch on the bridge of her tiny pointed nose.  Behind them, her eyes are tough and by looking into them you can tell she’s spent many years watching patients die.  Despite the hardness in them, there is also kindness.  She isn’t a touchy feely doctor who will hold hands in a circle with her patients and sing Kuhm By Ya.  She is a good doctor though.  The best.  That is one of the things I like about her.

Maybe I also like her because when I was a child I could look her in the eye.  She seemed to be on my level despite her constant shuffling through color coded pages on her clipboard to check and cross reference her ideas and comments, even though she was right.  She was always right.  Even with all her knowledge, she always had time for a child and that made her special.  I respect her more then any other doctor I’ve met, believe me, I’ve met a few.

 

 ***

Somewhere in Between

 

I knew something was wrong as my dad and I walked into the confines of the stark white walled room.  Even before Is aw my mom, I could tell she’d been crying.  The doctor’s face was grim.  I didn’t know what grim meant before I’d seen that face.  Grim.  The eyes were forcibly opened by sheer will, they were gleaming with unshed tears; the lips were pressed firmly together, perhaps to keep from speaking the truth and making it real.  The color was gone from her face and her hands were shaking.  I had never seen her like that.  She had always been cheerful and relaxed during the family information time of the checkups; then again, my mom had been healthy for the last twelve years.  I had seen at once that everything was wrong.  My anxiety tackled me again but this time I had to keep it in check because to be anxious was to admit something was wrong.  I had kept trying to tell myself everything was fine, even though I knew it wasn’t.  My whole world was collapsing.

Looking back I don’t remember the words.  The doctor drew an elaborate complicated drawing on the sanitary paper covering the examining table that we took home and explained to the relatives and friends while they tried not to sob.  I remember I knew everything was wrong.  The doctor’s eyes were crying, but she was not allowed to cry.  My dad became stoic and I could tell he was broken, but for my mom and me, and for himself, he had to remain strong.  I felt like my entire life had been in a shoebox and suddenly, for no reason I can understand, someone had taken the box, violently shaken it, and had tossed the contents out into a stream of whirling chaos.

The ceiling vaulted away from me, the walls leaned in to take its place.  Everything shrunk and expanded.  Reality was far away.  It was outside of us, outside the room, outside of the cancer ward, outside of the hospital.  Chaos remained.  Chaos with the name of cancer.

As we were leaving, the doctor walked us out.  My mom went to wait outside while my dad got the parking slip endorsed.  The doctor was talking with him.  As my dad started to leave I couldn’t move.  I had to hear it from her.  I had to understand.  I needed her to tell me it wasn’t real.

“So… so does this mean my mom’s cancer is back,” I asked.  I tried to look her in the eye but I couldn’t see through tears I refused to shed.

“Yes, I’m sorry.  It does.”