Trigeminal Neuralgia: 5-Year Update

Technically, February 3rd is the actual five-year anniversary, but close enough.

When I first began talking about my mysterious eye pain, I couldn’t handle the idea of having it for a month, let alone years. But apparently, fate had a different idea.

It’s been five very long years.

So…after a year pain free, I was plunged right back into my nightmare again. My neurologist and I are still trying to get a handle on the pain. It’s not constant anymore, which is a good thing, but I still have horrible pain attacks. I’ve had to spend less time on the computer, doing things I love, because the screen does make it worse sometimes. But one good thing has come of this. I have been able to tackle my extensive paperback/hardcover To Be Read pile.

Unfortunately, other things, like Guild Wars, have gone by the wayside. I am still hoping to get back into it at some point.

Writing-wise, I’m doing well. I can’t not write, pain or no pain. Been trying to get up the energy to dictate/transcribe so I don’t have to look at a screen all the time.

There may be a visit to a neurosurgeon in my future. I am scared, and worried, and not wanting to have surgery. There’s Gamma Knife, which isn’t invasive and uses radiation, but I’ve read that some people have worse pain afterward. Some are helped, but not forever. The pain always returns as the nerve regenerates. So…I just don’t know.

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Don’t Rely on the New Year

Happy January, friends! I have yet to buy a 2018 calendar, so I feel awash in time, like I’m unmoored just past the last buoy.

In early January, it always seems like everything is new, untouched, wide open with possibility. New Year’s resolutions have yet to be broken, the whole year looms ahead, and you can do anything you put your mind to!

Or can you?

The radio said something like 95% of New Year resolutions are broken before the end of January. I forget the exact psychology, but I read something once that said you should never try a new habit at an expected time, i.e., you shouldn’t say “I’ll start this in the new year” or even on a Monday. Something about giving yourself too much time to talk yourself out of it (or talk yourself into how you’ll fail again). Something about how it becomes too easy to give up the first time you fail.

I dunno. Not my area of expertise.

I’m not one for resolutions, which in some ways is a good thing. Because it seems like every few years, something comes along right at the new year that makes it hard to turn over new leaves.

This year I’m sick. And I’ve been sick for about three weeks now. Not dangerously sick, but lingering sick. I lost my voice for a week, which was not awesome, and rehearsal for a musical I’m supposed to be doing started this past Saturday, but I cannot currently …

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Writing Cycles

Happy 2018! I know a lot of you have had a tough year for various reasons. Here’s hoping that the new year will treat you, and the world in general, a million times better.

Personally, I think the best word for my 2017 was “hopeful”‘…

In May I wrote here about how I had beaten my months-long writer’s block. Points 4 and 5 were about two flash fiction pieces I’d written. Several months later, both of those pieces sold–my first sales to markets outside of our co-op publishing venture here at Turtleduck Press. Score!

I started a cycle: keep an eye on upcoming themed calls for submission (anthologies and the like), use the themes as inspiration, write a story, submit just before deadline, repeat. It worked really well for generating stories (though somewhat less well for selling them), and for a while I was on a roll.

In September I decided to finally see a health professional about wrist pain I’d been struggling with on and off for years. (Don’t shoot me! I kept thinking that I’d be fine if only I could do more exercise on my own, or find the right stretches…or if I did see someone, they might tell me to STOP WRITING.) I now have a diagnosis and exercises I would never have thought of on my own. Things aren’t at 100% yet, and they may never be–I’m still working on the right combination and frequency–but they are much better.

At the same time, I …

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What I Did (Planned to Do) On My Winter Vacation

With some thoughts, you know when you think them that it means you’re a grownup. When you would love to just go take a bath. When you wish you could take a nap–but you acknowledge that you can’t. When you look around your bedroom at the beginning of a week off for staycation and think, “I need to clean.”

It’s bad in here, y’all. I mean, of course there’s the Christmas clutter. My room is the only safe place for wrapping, and also to get that big ol’ tree in the living room, other stuff needed to be stuck out of the way. So there’s that. Boxes that need breaking down but the dumpster is already full. Wrapping paper odds and ends that I should just stick in the recycling, but I always think one day I’ll need that tiny odd-shaped piece. Need to put the rolls of wrapping paper away, get the bows and the boxes for lights stashed under the bed, make sure the ribbons are out of reach of the cat…

There’s also the new things. I got candles and movies and a book and yay! But all that stuff has to find a home now, and that’s not going to be easy. There was a lot of STUFF in here already.

Which brings me to the old things. Yesterday I spent a pleasant hour getting rid of things I haven’t touched all year (well, since unpacking after the move, and probably for the year or two …

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Tis the Season to Be Jolly

…Or something like that.

This year for my family, it’s a bit different. My mom is recovering from surgery, so we decided to make this a very low-key holiday. None of us felt up to the task of hauling our huge tree up from the basement, decorating it, and then taking it down at the end of the year. So we have a very small tree that my husband bought. We decorated it and put it in the kitchen, where the cat can’t get at it (that’s one thing I won’t miss this year — keeping the cat away from the tree). And while I will sort of miss Mom’s  beautiful tree, I will not miss the stress in getting it up and decorated.

Because technically, Christmas is not about the tree. The tree is important, yes, but it’s not everything. The most important thing to me is family. That’s right. We have traditions — Christmas Eve at my in-laws, unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, etc. — and those are the things that comfort me and make me feel good. I may not be employed full time yet, but that doesn’t even hit my radar (well, we did scale back on gifts a bit to compensate) because Christmas is not about grandiose gift giving gestures or fancy things. It’s about being with the people you love most in the world, the people that are, in essence, your world.

 

My mother-in-law (and now, mother) has a thing on her wall from …

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What Are Your Holiday Reading Traditions?

The end-of-year holidays are almost upon us! Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, or something else entirely, chances are pretty good that you’re looking forward to some days off work or school at the end of this month. (And if not, you’re probably doing a very important job, like working in a hospital, so my hat goes off to you.) If you’re in a part of the world where it’s cold, you’re probably looking forward to some cozy hibernating time. And that means…reading!

(Okay, who are we kidding? My fellow Turtleduckers and I were readers before we became writers. Everything leads back to reading.)

Last year, the word of the year seemed to be hygge, the Danish term for a feeling of cozy togetherness. This year, what I’m seeing everywhere is jólabókaflóðan Icelandic word meaning “Christmas book flood”. (Jola-boka-flod is how it breaks down.) It’s an Icelandic tradition where everyone gives each other books on Christmas Eve and then stays up all night reading them. (Note: All gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve, not just books, so there’s no danger of wakeful children spotting Santa overnight.) Which means most books are published in the months leading up to Christmas, but I digress. Like Neil Gaiman’s All Hallows Read, this is a tradition I can wholeheartedly endorse.

For me as a child, it was always exciting to spot a book-shaped package under the tree. And I look back with fondness at the Christmas books that only appeared …

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Remakes and Reboots and Flops, Oh My!

Like many, I have bemoaned the fact that Hollywood seems stuck in the past, refusing to look to the future. We need new ideas! We need new stories! I mean, who needs a Mad Max reboot?

…actually, no. Forget that. I do. I need Furiosa in my soul. She gives me such fierce joy. But seriously. Ghostbusters? That movie was practically perfect! Why would you–

Scratch that. Holtzmann is my happy place. Don’t touch.

Mine.

This is why Hollywood keeps doing it. Because we (or me, at least) keep buying! I loved Pacific Rim so much. But with that ending–I mean, come on. How are you going to make a sequel?

Spoiler alert–they made a sequel. And it looks bada##. You can bet my butt will be in a theater seat the first week it comes out, grinning at John Boyega as Stacker Pentecost’s son and squealing delight when my adored Mako Mori comes onscreen.

I thought Star Wars should have stopped at Return of the Jedi. As each prequel came out, I wished harder that they had just stopped at the original trilogy. But I had to see The Force Awakens, and now I love Rey, Finn, Poe–and you better believe there was some serious screaming at a certain point in the trailer for The Last Jedi, zomg…

Thor Ragnarok…well, everyone probably knew I was going to see that. It has Loki in it! I probably would have skipped The Dark World but for Loki, but I’m hearing such …

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I Write

Continuing with my theme of things I am thankful for, I want to talk about writing.

I realized today, as I was contemplating what I am thankful for this year, that I am thankful for the gift of words.

It’s not something I consciously think about much, because I have literally been writing my entire life. But it is a true gift, and I am thankful for it.

I’ve always said that I wanted to touch people with my words, be it poetry or novels. And I have, because people have told me.

When I was a member of Job’s Daughters, the youth group I was involved in from the time I was fifteen until I was twenty, I was promoted to the state chapter, which was a great honor. My job was to be a pen pal to the girls in Missouri (this was before the Internet. Wow, I am really showing my age!). So we wrote back and forth and sent each other stuff. For the big State convention, there was a contest to see who had the best depiction of their assigned state (and an essay). I made a cool map of Missouri and made it into a collage with all the stuff I got over the course of the year. And I wrote an awesome essay.

Well, I won. And was asked to stand up in front of hundreds of people and read it.

Apparently, I made some people cry. I had touched them that much.

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Adventures in Pencil

Hello! So, last month I talked about the drawing class I was taking. It’s over now, and I enjoyed it, though it wasn’t quite what I wanted, if such a thing even exists.

But I thought I’d share the end results with you.

Here’s our main project, the Escher hand:

You can see the remains of the grid. And my “interesting” shading. I was much faster than everyone else (probably because I couldn’t be bothered to be accurate with my shading) so I finished this after three classes.

The last class, one of the other people had also finished his drawing (he was working on it at home! lucky bastard has grown children who do not live at home) so he brought along a picture of some aspens he’d taken. We used the grid method on it again.

This took me about 3/4 of the class. Notice, again, my lack of patience with a gazillion little details and the switch to being more stylistic than realistic. (Though I do like the end product.)

And then, because I figured I should probably draw in drawing class, I found a photo of a grumpy owl on …

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Lessons in Letting Go

Last month, due to a file transfer glitch, I lost all my cell phone photos from the past year.

I had taken a lot of pictures–maybe three or four hundred. I tried troubleshooting, but as far as I could tell, they were just gone, vanished into the ether between the phone and the computer.

At first I was shaky and stunned. A whole year, gone.

I don’t usually take pictures of people, so I didn’t lose precious baby photos or anything like that, but I love shooting day-to-day photos around my city, my garden, architecture, and far-flung locations when we travel. (We’d gone on one international vacation in that year. It was the only time we brought our full-scale digital camera. So I didn’t lose all evidence of our trip.)

But by a few days later, I felt much calmer.

It’s true that not all the photos were exactly gone. I’m on Instagram and post often, so many of the photos survived there, though only in a low-res, square format.

It may also be true, as my spouse pointed out, that I took so many photos that no single one was particularly special to me.

But I think something else is going on.

Theory the first: I use photography as a form of mindfulness, to remind myself to look for moments of beauty in my not-particularly-beautiful urban life. It’s why I enjoy Instagram challenges, taking a photo roughly every day for a month. It’s a form of self-care. The …

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