Trigeminal Neuralgia: Two-Year Update

This is eerie, you guys. I posted my one-year update on June 21st of last year. And, like I said in that post, it was technically my eleven-month update, but one-year update sounded better. And kind of final. So this one is technically my one year, eleven month update. Close enough, right?

When I posted that glorious post, I had every reason to believe that while things may get bumpy here and there, I would remain pretty much pain free. I guess it was naive, and a lack of dealing in realism. I’ve always known that TN is a progressive condition and it gets worse over time. Most people end up having some sort of brain surgery done. Scary thing is, it’s not always successful. And that is scary in itself.

I guess I never wanted to truly believe that that would be me someday.

Today I have some crappy news.

My pain has returned to almost constant levels. I hit level 10 several times last week, and took four loopy pills (not all at once. One each day). I’ve been tracking everything since May 15th, in the hopes that I can figure out a pattern of some sort, and if my neurologist wants details. The problem with tracking is that you become so aware of the pain, more than ever.

Here’s a sample of one of my pain journal entries:

Eye pain level 5 at 2:14pm Duration: 2 hrs 45 mins
Left forehead pain level 4 at 4:55pm Duration: …

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I Really Just Want to Talk about Dinosaurs

I could write you an introspective post on creativity, friends, but that sounds boring, so I’m going to talk about dinosaurs instead.

For a reason that will go unmentioned, I’m spending all week at either the zoo or the museum. In a few weeks, the zoo is going to be opening an exhibit of animatronic dinosaurs throughout. They’ve had a Carnotaurus for a few months advertising this fact.

Dinosaur!

He’s pretty scary, as far as robot dinosaurs go. Sure, he mostly just moves his head and growls, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time watching children come to a dead stop and stare at him with utter terror.

I get it. You’re not expecting a 9-foot tall carnivore to suddenly rear up out of nowhere. (He’s kind of hidden around a corner, and now they’ve planted palm trees to screen him.) Especially not one that moves and growls. And even after they’ve realized it’s not real (or their parents have explained that dinosaurs are extinct and that this is a robot), the kids still are skeptical.

They keep their distance. If they do get up close, it’s to giggle and run away a moment later, as if they’ve done something very brave.

(My question is: who decided to design its arms so that they tuck up backwards against its …

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Imposter Syndrome Revisited

A couple of months ago, I blogged in this space about the “You Can’t Do It” voices (otherwise known as “imposter syndrome”). Things are looking up right now, so I wanted to share for posterity.

The Day Job

Four months ago, when I wrote the post linked above, I was temporarily covering for a retired co-worker. Now, a permanent replacement has been hired, and I’ve become a mentor figure to the new hire. Huh. I also have a new manager (the previous one retired), who seems to think I’m good at my job, including when I’m working with difficult people. I even keep getting compliments on my tact-over-email skills. Somehow I continue to be surprised by all these developments.

My Dance Community

In my dance community (contra dance), I’ve stood up in front of people to call a dance several times since I wrote this. Each time, it got easier. In fact, last time I had to deal with a hiccuping CD. This was bad because timing is very important in calling. But to my utter shock, it didn’t even faze me. (Though to be fair, it helped that the CD happened to be the same one I’d been practicing with!)

I’ve also started to see dances from an analytical perspective now that I’ve started calling them. As the volunteer newsletter writer for my community, I keep getting compliments on my writing skills (do I sense a pattern here?). And as a dancer, I’m polishing my spatial orientation skills …

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The Gift of Cash

I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. Giving cash (or often, gift cards) shows you don’t care. You don’t feel like taking the time or trouble to pick out a “real” gift.

Let me tell you a thing.

Once, years ago, a friend had been trying to find something to give me for Christmas. I was in rough financial straits at the time. It seemed silly to give me something useless. I had bunches of books and movies already, and also he didn’t know what I might want. (This was in the days before Amazon wishlists. Or at least, before I had one.) I had just moved from a good-sized house to a tiny apartment, so I had no room for anything more than I had anyway.

Anyway, as the situation dragged into January and he got to feeling worse and worse about it, he finally handed me $50. He told me I couldn’t spend it on bills–I had to get something I wanted.

Friends, I went to a discount home store and bought myself some curtains. My little white box of a living room got curtains, and my new place became much more homelike. My daughter’s room got purple sheer curtains, and I got to stop worrying about how she never remembered to close the blinds before changing. My bedroom got bright red blackout curtains–so I had a pop of color AND some additional darkness for days I got to sleep in. I even bought a little curtain for the …

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Soundtracks of My Life

Have you ever thought about if your life was set to music, what would that music be? Or if your life had a theme song?

I feel kinda unhinged talking about it, but things for me personally have been a bit weird lately, and I got thinking about it today. What songs would I choose and why?

Theme song: War of Change by Thousand Foot Krutch. My Google-fu says this band is a Christian band, but you wouldn’t know it. They’re hard rock, and this song impressed me so much that I went and bought the entire album. These lyrics specifically speak to me:

Wait, it’s just about break/ it’s more than I can take/ everything’s about to change
I feel it in my veins / it’s not going away / everything’s about to change

(I love this video because of all the b&w. But I’m not sure what they’re doing with all the dust and light bulbs.)

Adam Lambert’s “Ghost Town” deserves a mention. He’s said that the meaning behind the song (for him, at least) is “Life sucks. Let’s dance!” and if you watch the video, there’s a ton of dancing. (I love all things dance). And kudos to him for more b&w!

This next one has a special place in my heart. It’s from Queensryche’s first album with their new singer, Todd La Torre, and probably my favorite song off it. It’s called “In This Light.” (This is a live video, as there is …

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I Miss My Kitchen

Oh, friends. I have no kitchen. I have not had one for slightly over a month, and it is terrible.

(I am also aware that this is such a first world problem. I have had to wash the dishes BY HAND OH NO)

(But seriously, I hate doing the dishes even under ideal circumstances so this has been hell.)

We live in an early ’80s house, which is an interesting period architecturally in that it lacks the vintage chicness of older houses and the mod openness of newer houses. Also, sometimes they put carpet in bathrooms, because that makes logical sense somehow.

In an attempt to improve Feng shui or whatever, the previous owners of the house essentially removed all the cabinets from the kitchen. I mean, they were hideous; we saw another house of the same floorplan that had left them in. They stretched the entire length of the kitchen, leaving a weird foot-and-a-half gap between cabinet and counter where you could kind of see into the family room.

So removing the cabinets was a definite improvement, Feng shui wise. From a functional kitchen standpoint, it was less than ideal. So, for six years, we have had a single cabinet to store all our dishes, and apparently this was slowly driving my husband mad.

And now this madness has resulted in the complete redoing of the kitchen. And I do mean complete. We tore out the floor. The walls. The ridiculous drop ceiling. The wiring. The lights. The plumbing. …

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Beating Writer’s Block…Again

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m prone to long periods of not writing fiction. These tend to be accompanied by self-flagellation and an existential crisis: if I’m not writing, who am I? Then comes depression (or sometimes that happens first), which makes it even harder to write, and round and round I go.

The only way to break the cycle is to start putting down some words.

This, obviously, is easier said than done. It’s intimidating, especially if you’ve been away from the blank page for a while.

In the past I’ve tried fanfiction, though it’s not normally my thing, or played around with a completely different genre–not to try selling, just to play with. This time, since the beginning of the year, I’ve gone through several different stages. It’s working, so I thought I’d share…

1. First I resurrected my own blog. It’s not fiction, and doesn’t completely fill a need for me in the way writing fiction does. But I do blog with an audience in mind, and putting together coherent opinion pieces or travel posts is good practice in writing down the words, finishing a piece, and shipping.

2. Then I branched out from non-fiction and started writing the smallest possible thing every day. On some days, they were fragments of stories that didn’t and probably won’t go any further, but mostly they were haikus. I’m not trying to become a published poet, so I was writing …

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For the Feral Children

Two weeks ago it was National Library Week. Coincidentally, I was listening to Neil Gaiman’s “The View from the Cheap Seats” including a speech he gave to librarians.

Neil Gaiman describes himself as a “feral child who was raised in libraries.”* Though I was not lucky enough to get to the library very often as a child, the concept resonates with me. Especially since he also read and loved the Three Investigators series…

My first library, the Franklin Public Library, sounds much like his first favorite library—a large Victorian mansion, the entire first floor full of books. I don’t know about his, but mine was built in 1849, renovated in 1921 to house the library…

Red brick Victorian mansion three stories with multiple chimneys and green shutters

I remember my library card was blue. It had a tiny metal strip in it. My mother’s library card was brown. It meant she could get more books than I could, and from more than just the children’s section.

My mother always had to get some children’s books on her card, as the limit on my blue card was cruelly low.

Walking in the front door of the library, you had to go up three or four steps to get to the library floor. There were also stairs heading down. And a turn of steps going higher in the building. I never went up, but I just knew that wonders lay there. My mother said meeting …

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Revisiting Voice Recognition

As I prepare for Ever Touched’s release and what comes after (hint: a lot!), I’m pondering using voice recognition software to write again.

(Some of Ever Touched was written using Dragon Naturally Speaking when I found myself with a severe tendonitis flare up and no time to take off.)

I’m no stranger to Dragon. I started using it back in 2003 (version 6) when I thought I had carpal tunnel syndrome. Ergonomics wasn’t much of a thing back then; I wrote until my wrists damn near fell off. Oops? And it worked well — after I got past the whole “talk to write” idea and got into a groove. My intention was to do it all the time, but between the bulky headset that gave me headaches and a longing to just type, I ended up quitting, only using it when absolutely necessary. Which is fine…if I didn’t want to get more books out there which means faster drafting. Fast drafting (say, more than 1,000 words a day) is impossible due to my wrists. I barely finished my amended Nano goal in 2015 (30k) because typing 1,000 words a day for 30 days was hurting me (it’s cumulative).

(For the curious: I didn’t have carpal tunnel, just severe tendonitis that could turn into carpal tunnel. It was a wake up call. And I’m up to Dragon version 13 now. Every version gets better. They claim now it is something like 96% accurate without training.)

I’ve despaired forever over this. And I …

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Re-centering With Consistency

So, over at my blog, I’ve been doing some nonfiction series with the thought that the posts will be expanded into a series of books. (Well, actually, I plotted out the books two years ago–writing them has been another story, of course.) The most recent series has been about using consistency to build a writing habit, and, oddly enough, writing the series has done a huge amount to remind me how things are supposed to go.

So it’s been helpful for everyone! Yay me.

I think it’s easy to let your good habits falter without realizing you’re doing so. I think this can be especially true for writers because every step of the process and even every story works a bit differently, so it’s not a steady habit like “work out first thing when I get up” or “drink a glass of water with every meal.”

When I planned my series, I picked topics I felt I understood, that I felt I could help people with, so writing the consistency section has been an eye-opener, because despite my best intentions, I’ve let my consistency go lately as well.

So it’s been an exercise in practice what you preach. I’ve set myself some triggers (i.e., actions that symbolize it’s time to write) and have picked a daily time (first thing in the morning, getting up a little earlier) and it’s working really well for me. I’m finally making the progress that had been eluding me the past few months.

And I …

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