3. Other Things Detours Writing Life

Wind & lightning & lack of sleep: a ramble

Two nights ago when I smelled woodsmoke on our evening walk I wondered who the hell was being irresponsible & lighting fires while we were under a hurricane-force wind warning.
The next morning I learned that I was smelling smoke from Plains region wildfires, blown all the way up here by those same winds.

Apparently Chicago area 911 dispatch & non-emergency fire department numbers were getting a LOT of worried calls.

Just lucky I did my into-the-city-to-meet-a-friend adventure on Monday, when it was clear and warm & still. The train home was full of jerks who pulled down their masks whenever the conductor wasn’t right in front of them, but at least the train car wasn’t being rocked by 60 mph gusts all the way home.

I did not sleep well. Fitbit claimed 5 & 1/2 much-interrupted hours from 4AM until 9:30 AM. Kinda figured that would be the case as soon as I saw the weather forecast. Windy weather always charges up my nerves & makes me antsy & energetic.

This was more, though. This was an “Am I about to be blown away into Oz?” kind of storm. Every time I dozed off, the wind shifted & something outside the house would rattle, crash, or clang, and *bloop* I was wide awake again.

No rain. Lots of lightning around 3 AM, so bright and so extensive I could see how fast the low, thick clouds were moving. I wish there’d been more rain. The garden needs moisture.

The power only went out once, briefly, just long enough to freak out our holiday lights timers & reset them for an extra 6 hours of festive lighting in the yard. Small favors. We have them set on steady, but they twinkle impressively when the bushes they’re on are swaying sideways in a gale.

Another thing I learned from that storm: the old-fashioned fan housings for the kitchen & first-floor bathroom fans make the weirdest noises when high winds catch them at the wrong angles. From previous storms, I knew they rattled a bit. These winds took the annoyance to new heights.

Big booming sounds Little booming sounds. Crackly snapping noises. Loud humming with tooth-aching harmonics. The WORKS.

The next day it was still windy. Not as windy as the peak hours last night, but still wild enough to keep me antsy and distracted. It’s hard to concentrate when the air is breathing low and loud and heavily, like it’s tired after running too fast for too long.

Things calmed down by evening, allowing us to go as planned to the Chicago Botanic Garden Lightscape. We oo’d and ah’d over the amazing displays with a good friend (HI DEB) & then caught up on all kinds of friend talk over a totally healthy late supper of hot dogs, burgers, & french fries.

Today was much more settled, weather-wise. Did I accomplish more? Yes, & no. I rested. That counts, especially in the middle of a week with lots of peopling in it like this one. Spouseman took care of some of my House Chores for me, and I used the extra time to sleep in & pay off some of my sleep debt.

And then I hung out with the cat & did Proper Tree Behavior lessons most of the afternoon while reading one of several awesome new Netgalley advance copies.

Because winter is good for reading.

And now, the cat tax plus a couple of blurry pics of the garden lights.

cat tax

That’s all for now. Until later!

Detours other things Writing Life

A Mistake of Misplaced Trust

November is NaNoWriMo. For me this is the second day of “finish my damned draft” month, but I’ve written less than a hundred words in that. I wrote this instead.

My mistake was looking away from the long scary needle carrying my second dose of Shingrix vaccine as soon as the nurse uncapped it.

I know, everybody looks away. But I am here to tell you: DON’T. If the person administering the shot is not sitting down too, and/or is aiming that needle at the TOP of your shoulder, object quickly and loudly. Before the needle goes in.

I forgot that advice, and now this vaccination is kicking my ass in ways that have pissed me off enough to file a CDC Vaccination Adverse Event Report online. (That’s pretty big. The VAERS process feels designed to make people decide “Eh, I’m feeling lousy, but not so bad that I’m willing to fill out this excruciatingly-detailed multipage form.”)

What happened? Welp, imma tell you.

It started with my long-delayed annual physical. The exam went fine. As part of it, the doctor went through my vaccination history with me. Annual flu done, COVID done, TDap up to date, only thing I needed was a 2nd dose of shingles vaccine, and my luck was in, they had doses on-hand!

Long tangential story. Shingles vaccination was first recommended 7 years ago. My insurance requires I get it from the doctor’s office. Six years in a row, they didn’t have any vaccinein the building. Six times I was told, “We get supplied on Mondays, keep calling every Monday and eventually you should get be able to get in.”

The first time, I believed them and tried several times before being defeated by the call system & app. Five times I replied, “That isn’t a good answer. I can’t call direct, so I would have to come here every Monday. I am not made of that kind of free time.” Last year was Pandemic Year One.

This summer I lucked into the first shot when I went in for a diagnosis on my eczema trifecta. That doctor entered my Covid vax info (yay!) saw I was 7 years past recommended age for getting a shingles shot, and asked if I was reluctant.

I explained. He tracked down the last dose in the building that day for me. I know this because the nurse who came in & sat down next to me mentioned that during the sleeve lifting & swabbing part of the process. I watched the first dose go right into my deltoid muscle where shots belong, nice & centered. WIN!

But I digress.

This time, the nurse came in after the doc and I finished, and some chat about scheduling my fasting blood test ensued. (Fun fact: I only need to fast 8 hrs now, not 12+!) That done, I lift my sleeve, swabbing ensues. Needle gets uncapped.

It’s been a rough few weeks. I’m not up to watching. I. Look. Away.

The shot went in with a deep stabbing pain. Yes, needle, pointy, but shots feel like a poke, not an alarming STAB. The only time I’ve felt pain like that has been during dental work, when the needle full of numbing agent hits or gets too close to a nerve.

So I said, “OW!” and also, “I’ve never had that happen from a regular shot.” The nurse shrugged it off with, “A lot of people say the 2ndshot hurts more.”

That’s when I noticed how much higher than me she was. She was either standing or sitting on the tall stool beside the exam table (I confess, I didn’t look at her feet to see which, I was too shocked by the OW.) I did have to look up and to the side to see her.

And that’s when the reality of my mistake sank in.

Pro tip: never accept a shot in the arm from someone who’s standing or sitting higher than you are. Want to know why? Do a search on SIRVA (Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration)

By then it was too late for me and not worth discussing with someone who had already dimissed my pain. I left the office, did the “use the arm as much as possible” routine and hoped for the best.

I’m still hoping, but I’m also ANGRY.

Most of my post-shot symptoms are on the “common” list: soreness in the injected arm, body aches, fatigue, lack of appetite & a pounding headache. All very ordinary viral vaccine reactions for me. All responding nicely to Advil & hydration.

But the sharp pain at the site hasn’t gone away, and tingling down my arm started within a few hours of the shot. Those aren’t normal post-vaxx symptoms. Waking up multiple times with a numb left arm all the way from shoulder to fingers? Definitely not the usual. Nothing worth the risks of an ER or urgent care, but no fun, lemmee tell ya.

I’ve had bursitis in enough other joints to recognize the pain & tingling from inflammation near a joint impinging on associated nerves– but I can’t know if this is a Major Situation Developing or only a Painful Hassle for at least a few days. The weird nerve effects could be caused by injection site swelling alone. Becuase it was done too high, and too close to the nerves. I hope that’s all it is, because damage caused by vaccine getting into the shoulder bursa could affect my left arm permanently.

Thus, I am pissed off. Partly at myself, but yes, partly at the nurse who stabbed my arm nearly 2 inches higher than she should’ve done. Because of that, I have to sit here not only hurting, but also worrying for several days.

My mistake wasn’t getting vaxxed. My mistake was forgetting the person doing the shot might not do it RIGHT.

And that is on me. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has bad days. I should’ve kept watching. Fingers crossed, a few days of pain and stress are all the price I pay for my error. You can bet I will NOT look away next time, and that I will insist on my health concerns being taken seriously.

I urge you to do the same. Do not look away. Advocate for your safe care better than I did for mine.

That would make me feel a little better about this wretched experience.

This was 1000 words and I’m counting it as writing.

That’s all for now. Until later.

3. Other Things Authoring Detours Writing Life

Reality Check 1:

Here I am, at my desk, staring at my blank screen, ready to enjoy some Writing Time. And here are the physical concerns gnawing at the edges of my attention. In order of me noticing them, not in order of significance.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on


My left thumb hurts. The skin is hardened and has split open to a deep fissure. My right thumb is threatening same, but it’s a smaller crack, so smaller aggravation. Right forefinger wants in on the action too. (Ever had your fingertips harden and split open, anyone? GOOD TIMES, even better than punctures or cuts) Anyway, that one hasn’t quite split. Yet.
Eczema. It sounds so minor, but it’s a royal freaking annoyance.


My squishy cartilage fails in my wrists more often than anywhere else except my hips. All use equals overuse, the wrists don’t have postural muscles constantly working like ankles do, and weather pressure changes wreak havoc. Carpal tunnel “ergonomic” aids make them hurt worse. The right one has been crankier than the left lately, but both of them are at max laxity and protest me doing hard work involving my hands. Hard work includes activities like tying shoelaces and holding cups.


My right hip joint is hating life, the universe, and specifically sitting. The seasonal shift from sandals to shoes always stirs it up, and my insistence on bending/crouching over things in the garden hasn’t helped. The cartilage & muscles that hold the femur in the socket are all jacked up. The joint is wobbly and slides around. And the left hip is threatening a sympathy strike.


Trapezius muscles and rhomboids are intent on achieving rock status. Lats are getting in on the action. Why? Hahahahaha. They don’t need reasons. The right side is worse thanks to a decades- old strain caused by seat belt trauma after the second of 2 car accidents in a month. The iliocostals are not pleased either. Did I sleep wrong? Or are they acting up because my hips are sucky? WHY NOT BOTH!?

Shifting my weight reminds me I’ve stressed some rib cartilage on my right side. How? Who knows? Historically it’s from leaning on my left elbow too long. Or picking up something heavy with only my right arm. I’m blaming the cat. (Fun fact: my initial benign hypermobility diagnosis came in college after I popped multiple ribs by carrying my backpack on my right shoulder.)


Today the right one is bugging me. Usually I notice the left one (the one with the misplaced cap bone caused by teenage-years dislocation) first. The right one tasks me because I carried a bucket of fruit fifty yards four years ago. I think it’s taking the lead today because it’s between the cranky shoulder and the cranky wrist and is getting referred pain from both sides, poor thing.

That’s it. Not a big list, for me. No sinus headache, no random nausea, no deep wholesale body pain (like last night) no foggy “I forgot to eat and now I can’t make a decision” general malaise. I even slept late this morning, so I feel rested and alert.

But there’s a difference between alert and “able to focus,” and, well, I’m fighting to stay on that second level. Full disclosure, I’ve been fighting to sit down and write anything all month.

Some great things have happened. All kinds of successful adulting has occurred. (Flu shot! Heater maintenance! Checkups scheduled! Books ordered & reservations made! Successful Socializing! The long-postponed landscaping project finally wrapped up. Spouseman bought & racked firewood for seasonal fun. We’ve been to MOVIES!

But. That isn’t the whole picture. It’s been an expensive month physically. And that has sucked.

To be honest, the last four years have been a neverending assault of minor unhealth, one issue after another. No flashy injuries or big illnesses, just sinus infection after ear infection, muscle pull after tendon strain, bruises after cuts after rashes, and so on. And my vision has been deteriorating too, an issue I am attempting to remediate, but with limited success.

It’s my habit to classify inability to keep my butt in my seat and write new fiction as a personal failure—laziness, lack of willpower, refusal to apply myself—all the usual suspects, amirite? I get angry at myself for letting myself down, I feel guilty because I’m wasting time I could be spending doing something I genuinely love.

It’s long past time to admit the role of physical discomfort. I’m not struggling with creative writing and hurting too. Sitting with a keyboard is a literal fight. I have limited endurance as well as limited focus. And when those conditions team up, it’s not me failing to write, it’s me sensibly retreating from a battle I can’t win to fight again another day. On an intellectual level, I know it’s okay to not be okay. It’s time to work harder on feeling that truth.

This post is my way of proving to myself that I am fighting a war and not a battle–and that right now, the campaign is taking a heavy toll on my creativity.

SIDE NOTE: I am NOT soliciting advice on How To Deal and will likely respond impolitely if such advice is offered. I’ve had half a century to learn how to cope with this weird corpus and weirder brain of mine. It’s an ever-changing process, and This is part of my coping. When I need advice, I will ask, I promise.

That’s all I have to share right now. There’ll be more to my Reality Check series, on the Brains Are Sneaky side of things, but that’s another post. Until then, happy reading!

Detours Furbabies Writing Life

Not a good week, really.

It might be hard to tell, social media algorithms being what they are, but I’ve been pretty much checked-out for a few days. The reason? Merrykitten got his diagnosis, and I’m not dealing with it well. At. All.

It isn’t dire, but it’s bad. His specialty labwork ruled out liver issues and hypothyroid, which leaves only congenital megacolon as an explanation for his symptoms. Basically, due to birth defect or possibly pre-birth injury, (cause may forever be a mystery) Merry’s guts just aren’t ever going to work right. It’s technically the same condition a lot of middle-aged cats get, but cause matters.

(TMI bodily function warning)

Merry is 16 weeks old, and he has now been to the vet 5 times in 2 weeks for bowel cleanouts. He is getting 2 meds direct by mouth, one every 6 hours (which yes, means once at 2 AM) and one every 12 hrs. He’s now on prescription canned food, which he gets in spoonfuls every few hours because he’s ravenous all the time but can’t be allowed to gorge. Also I have to hide his brother’s kibble, because Merry’s guts can’t handle it, which means Pippin’s feeding has been thrown off, which is, y’know, the kind of thing that leads to minor kitty constipation which is…UGH ANXIETY-INDUCING FOR CATMOM.

And all this isn’t a “it’s hard, but it’s only while he’s sick” situation for Merry. It’s a forEVER thing. BEST case is that the meds start working at a dosage he can tolerate and things get moving so he’ll only need them every 8 hours along with the prescription canned food. Every day. Forever.

Well. Forever until he develops a tolerance to the meds and/or he manages to eat something/do something that throws off his gut and he locks up again. Then he would have to back to the vet for more enemas and med adjustment, and so on. Expensive (even with pet insurance) painful, frightening and confusing for him. Rinse and repeat.


There is a surgery option. But. JFC. If there’s no complications, recovery involves issues like “most cats have proper formed feces again within 6 weeks.” (Which means some don’t.) And persistent diarrhea is another outcome. AND the megacolon can still recur. Merry is only 4 months old. And he’s a cat. How much can we justify inflicting? I don’t know. Who would we be doing it for? Him, or us?

In case it isn’t clear between the lines, guilt is ripping me apart. I feel like I should be able to say, “he’s my beloved baby, I’ll do anything for him, at any price,” but I guess I am a monster, because I can’t. I can’t do litter box hypervigilance+prescription canned food+meds for 20 years. I did it for 3 with Scooter, and it nearly broke me. Other people do. Other, incredible, admirable people do much more. I respect the hell out of them. But I don’t have that in me, selfish monster, that I am.

So anyway, Spouseman & I are staring down hard choices. Not ones we have to make immediately. I hope. Fingers crossed Merry’s meds kick into gear this weekend. But even in the best case, his condition simply isn’t sustainable for us longterm, and I–I just don’t know how I’m going to deal.

And if he doesn’t stabilize soon, which is entirely possible–no. I can’t bear to look at that bridge yet, much less think about crossing it. Is pre-grief a real word? I think it should be.

We’ve had a good couple of days in episodes between my flakeout meltdowns. Both kitties are being spoiled rotten with all the petting, brushing, games of toy fetch and strategic napping. Did I sleep in the bathtub with Merry the night after his Really Bad vet day? Why, yes, I did. He was so sad and lonely, apart from his brother for the first time ever. And Spouseman slept on the couch with Pips. This week, kitties are back together in Big Kitty Safe Space overnight. Progress, of a sort.

Our furbabies are both precious and sweet and I am going to keep trying to focus on making good, sweet moments with them while I have them both and also do as much normal life stuff as I can while I do it.

I have been plowing through fluff reading to escape reality (New Murderbot! Raybearer! A whole new mystery series!) Multiple readers have made a point of sharing kind things about my writing with me this week. (Why, yes, I am a shameless affirmation sponge, capable of soaking up praise even in the Worst Of Times ) I haven’t been able to write a word until this, right now, but I have done some graphics escapism and some convention prep and lots of plot-dreaming.

And I’ve been stress-cooking, so dinner last night was crockpot pulled-pork sliders on homemade rolls, & tonight there was marinated chicken on the grill with fresh cucumber salad. Life goes on when food goes on the table.

Next week, I’ll tackle the scary task of following up on multiple communications I have dropped, missed and/or didn’t have mental processing space available when I received them.

Anyway. Thanks for reading to the end of this update. I wish I had happier news to share.

Reward picture of the adorafloofs from earlier today:

Detours Furbabies Writing Life

Bathtime adventures with furbabies

Major Kitten Drama happened over the weekend.

We introduced a new room to the furbabies on Saturday to celebrate their first successful week with us. Okay, no, that’s a fib. We expanded their range by a room because I wanted to take a bath without hearing sad kittens howl their separation anxiety to the uncaring universe from behind their Kitty Safe Zone wall.

Sir Pippin BigFeels toured the new place, found it uninteresting, and decamped downstairs (galumph gaLUMph THUDthudthudthUDthud) to the basement to pester Spouseman, who was trying to play video games.

Master Merry Slippyfeet was similarly unimpressed. He wandered back to the kitchen to have a nosh and a drink. Me, I brought down my post-bath comfy clothes and started the bathwater. While I puttered about, setting out my fluffy towel and bath sundries, Merry returned to the scene, flopped onto the bathmat, and pretended to fall asleep.

I say pretended because the INSTANT my back was turned to pick out a bath fizzie, he jumped onto the tub ledge and–being nicknamed Slippyfeet for a reason–promptly fell into the half-full tub.

Now, this isn’t my first inadvertent dunking rescue. I’ve had cats most of my life, and several of them were NOT surefooted precision jumpers. It’s why I never add bath fizzies until I’m in the tub and thus obviously on-hand to intervene.

All that is to reassure you, dear reader, that Master Merry fell into clean water, not water full of soap and perfumes that would have to be laboriously rinsed off. Still, it was deeper than his little paws could touch bottom. Much frantic paddling, sneezing and crying ensued.

Like I said, not my first cat-dunking. I reacted fast. Maybe 3 seconds from first splash-and-squeal to scoop, scruff, and a swift water skim-down with both hands. The noise attracted an audience. Pippin arrived to supervise although he wisely watched all the action from the hallway. Spouseman helped by handing me extra towels and taking pictures.

Fluff soaks up water.

Then it was swoop into the big fluffy bath towel. I cuddled him and rubbed him dry for a minute or two, then let him loose when he was ready to attempt putting himself to rights.

Life is hard when you are smol and wet.

He was dry in 15 minutes and took a nap on a blanket with Pippin. And I admit it was nice seeing him Clean and Fluffy a few hours.

Since that exciting night the kittens have endured their first toenail trimming, suffered through a couple of personal hygiene wipedowns each, and enjoyed a visit from the air conditioning technician. Their Kitten Safe Space became VERY cold while many New and Mysterious Noises happened, but the whole time they were intrigued and curious, not scared. Brave boys, these two.

They’re growing like weeds, too. They were 3 lbs when they arrived, and now they’re both 3 lbs 12 oz +/- an ounce. It’s wild how fast they chow through kibble, and not as thrilling how quickly they produce waste for me to haul away, but that’s all part of the process. BUT THE CUTENESS!

New furry overlord hard at work growing big & strong.

Life has been mostly pets, purrs, cleanup, feeding and Creative Cardboard Construction since their arrival, BUT! I have added 1000 words to Ghost Town, so I don’t feel like I’m losing all forward momentum.

(But mostly pets and purrs. And watering the new plantings.)

Hm. I owe the blog an update about the yard. Perhaps next time. This is enough news for one post.

Oh, right–EXCEPT FOR THESE SHORT WORDS FROM OUR SPONSOR! (Me. It’s more words from me.)

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Until later!