“Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”
G. K. Chesterton

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

that nasty habit of unnecessary limping
Wed 2015-01-28 23:30:23 (single post)
  • 4,820 words (if poetry, lines) long

All right, it wasn't a full five hours today, but all the tasks got done. The next brick in the story-wall got mortared into place, exactly as I said it would. And I suppose I could stay up and put in some more time--but I am freakin' done with this up-til-four-aye-emm business. Especially considering I didn't sleep well between then and when I got up at ten thirty this morning. I'm exhausted, y'all. Time to shift my work days back to diurnal standard time.

I'm actually quite pleased. Getting to all my usual writing tasks, and my usual Wednesday tasks, and my unusual Wednesday-the-28th tasks (well, one task and one social outing), is kind of a feat. Go me.

Speaking of which: My first physical therapy appointment went well. For one thing, I have been commanded to stop limping, dammit. It's the two weeks of hobbling around and not using the knee's full range of motion that's got things all tight and grumpy around the patella. So I don't have to be quite so protective of the joint. I'm not to run, jump, or make lateral movements ("cuts"), but I've been encouraged, nay, urged to walk normally. And I've been reassured that it's perfectly safe to straighten out the leg, and have indeed been assigned to do so in the context of several exercises. The knee brace has been downgraded from "as much as possible" to "only for extra protection in uncontrolled environments"--crowds, walking on icy sidewalks, anywhere where I might unexpectedly slip or stumble.

I'm to apply compression so as to help the fluid work its way out of the joint. To that end, I'm wearing one of my 187 Killer Pads gaskets--the neoprene sleeves I wear under my knee pads when I skate--until I've got time to pick up an Ace bandage. It feels weirdly comforting to be wearing a piece of roller derby gear during my enforced off-skates recovery.

I've got loads of PT homework. Going off what I remember of each exercise's hold time, repetitions and sets, I estimate that I've been assigned somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour of exercise every day. I'll start on it tomorrow. Today was already full up. Plus the physical therapist worked my knee a good deal already. I'm exhausted. It's amazing how tired a body can get just lying down and being worked on; see also dental visits and MRI appointments.

Back to the writing for a moment. I've got further thoughts on Anti-BIC Week, flavors of writing advice, and possibilities for blending work with play, but, again, I'm exhausted. I'm doing all the item's on today's list (except, alas, for the one about five hours of writing), but at this point I'm taking as little time on each as possible.

So it's only a brief(ish) status report today. I'll make up for it tomorrow with a long-ass post full of philosophizing and woo. Whether that's a warning or a promise is up to you.

have investigated rabbit holes, have not fallen down any
Tue 2015-01-27 22:48:50 (single post)
  • 5,268 words (if poetry, lines) long

Day one of the Anti-BIC experiment is going well. I have all sorts of rabbit holes to report on. And I hit my next goal for the story revision--the one I was going to do Friday but didn't because, as usual, the Friday Fictionette release ran me out of time. One of these days I'll figure out how to make Fridays work.

My goal had been to take the first "brick" in the unmortared wall of rough-revised scene--that is, the first block of text in a revision that consisted of simply moving blocks of text around--and turn it into the opening of the new version of the story. But that opening would be polished. And so it is. And so I did.

Obviously, I can't hit my self-imposed deadline if I work in such small chunks every day. But my hypothesis is that if I make working on the story less scary, then every day I'll get a larger chunk done than the day before.

Now, I don't want to get ambitious and say "I'll finish the scene tomorrow!" Tomorrow I have a lot of non-writing stuff on the agenda. I have my usual Wednesday morning AINC remote reading shift. I have my semi-regular Wednesday night trivia with a fellow BCB skater in the evening. And in the afternoon I have my first physical therapy appointment, about which I'm pretty darn excited, let me tell you. Physical therapy means I get to do something more assertive than just wait for my ACL to heal.

Anyway, tomorrow's assignment on the story revision is simply going to be the next brick in the wall, which is the bit with the guys from Caroline's hunting club telling hilarious stories about the deceased. It's a slightly larger brick than today's brick, which was Demi feeling claustrophobic and the house failing to make it better.

As for rabbit holes, here's what I've got to report.

Slept until noon. Why did I felt the need to sleep until noon? What does sleeping until noon have to tell me? Well, for starters, it's telling me "Don't be up until 4 AM, dimwit." I kid. Sort of. Actually, what it's telling me is much more cheerful and encouraging than that. "It's OK to be up until 4 AM. Just remember that you still have to get enough sleep if you do. Aren't you glad you work from home on your own schedule?" Yes. Yes, I am.

An excessive amount of time playing Two Dots on Facebook, despite having already beat all the boards available to me. I'm actually just trying to raise my Level 73 score from two stars to three. When I realized I was dawdling this way, I investigated what Two Dots had to tell me. "Just connect the dots," it said, which is a reassuring way to look at big projects. "Realize that every action you take now plays a part in the choices available to you in the future," which is a bit of a reality check.

Waydaminnit. Wait a minute. "Trying to raise my Level 73 score from two stars to three." Today's small chunk of story revision included an emphatic narrative mention of how the house was used to accommodating three women, but now there were only two. Two where there should be three. Oh my. That's kind of neat. And also scary. (What, the synchronicity, or your pathological tendency to convince yourself that there are patterns everywhere?) Um. Well. Both?

*ahem* Anyway...

Yet another long Puzzle Pirates Examiner blog post, complete with slideshow. Again. Which, again, I did before the story revision. My instinct was to yell at myself and kick myself in the ass about it. "You know better. Why are you doing this first?" But, again, I'm trying to trust the rabbit holes. So. Investigating. Maybe I'm not putting off the story revision--I'm prepping for it. Something about the experience is part of essential preparation. Something about games and playing. "Remember, what you're about to do? It's not work. It's a form of play. Play hard!"

The urge to go to IHOP instead of home at 11 PM. On Tuesday nights my house is full of people. Happy people who are having fun! Which is lovely, but it is also loud. So I've begun taking my Tuesday night work down to the Remington Post Clubhouse, where it's dark and quiet and empty. So I wrapped up the Examiner post around eleven and realized I was hungry. I could have gone home, but home was still full of people. I could have gone home, grabbed some food, and come back, but that didn't sound appealing. It's kind of a long walk on this knee. So I gave into temptation and I went to IHOP. What's at IHOP? What has IHOP to say to me, to help me with my story revision? "It's about food and drink, and warmth, and creature comforts, and heart comforts. This story is about struggling from a world that's the wrong shape towards a world that's the right shape. Also, why is there no food in the last scene? There's food in the other two scenes. There should be food in the last scene."

And now I'm wrapping up at IHOP, having met all my writing goals for the day and brought my timesheet up past five hours. Day one is a success! I am well pleased. Let's see how the experiment continues tomorrow.

(Let's see first if I can get to bed sometime before 4 AM so I don't sleep until noon again.)

remove the thumbscrews, see what happens
Mon 2015-01-26 23:27:04 (single post)
  • 5,653 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm declaring this week to be Conscientious Anti-BIC week. It's my week for Active Emancipation from the Tyranny of Butt-In-Chair Philosophy.

It's an experiment. Hear me out.

I've stated my intent to have the short story revision done and submitted by the end of January. One week now remains to hit that self-imposed deadline. That's plenty time for the task at hand, if I use my time wisely and don't dawdle.

Which would lead one to believe that BIC would be the best strategy:

Pick two hours a day. It doesn't matter which two hours, but make them two hours that you can do every day.

For that two hours, you will sit in front of your typewriter or computer. You will have no distractions. You will write, or you will stare at the blank screen. There will be no other options.

Writing letters does not count. Reading does not count. Doing research does not count. Revising does not count. You will write new stuff, or you will stare at the screen... Fill the page or go mad.

...Your mind will rebel. You'll want to clean the toilet, change the cat box, mow the lawn. But you won't, because there are no excuses.

Isn't that logical? Doesn't it make sense? To get something done, you allot time in which to do it, and you damn well do it in that time. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Well... I have this brain, you see. A brain full of avoidance monsters.

It goes like this:

The closer I get to deadline, the scarier the project gets, the harder it is to make myself sit down and do the work.

The more work remains to do, the harder it looks to do it, the more I avoid doing it.

And the more I tell myself things like this:

Your body will rebel. You'll get headaches. You'll get colds. You aren't allowed a choice. You will sit in front of that screen even if your head is throbbing.

...the more those two hours begin to look like torture. Which doesn't exactly help with the avoidance monsters, you know?

Now, I'm not saying BIC is bad advice. There is a time for BIC. BIC is about getting from "thinking about the writing" to "actually writing." My daily timesheet, where I log time spent on writing and try to make it add up to five hours every work day, is all about BIC. But neither BIC nor any other piece of writing advice is the right advice for all occasions. I'm convinced that no writing advice is wrong, but any writing advice can be a bad match given a particular writer and a particular set of circumstances.

I'm experimenting with the idea that BIC is not entirely the right match for me right now.

Fast-approaching deadlines make the work look scary... so I need to work as if I had all the time in the world. Huge, overwhelming goals make the work look impossible... so I need to work with small, bite-sized, non-overwhelming goals. And the BIC philosophy makes the work look like a painful, horrible, absolutely unenjoyable ordeal... so I need to work in ways that don't hurt.

I hereby declare this week to be the Week of Following Rabbit Holes.

Following something that appears to be a distraction is not a waste of time, if ó and itís a big all-caps IF ó you can do it consciously....

You realize that you are not avoiding your project. You are investigating an aspect of it. Or learning something that will help you with it....

The outside culture says yell at yourself for following the urge to fold laundry instead of writing that proposal.

I say: find out what is waiting for you in the laundry.

Which isn't to say that the writing will magically get itself done for me while I go fold laundry, make dinner, stain a closet door, or just up and walking around the block. Rather, the thing that's got my writing stuck might go away while I do those things. This is the art of consciously following distractions, of deciding that the distraction wouldn't be there if it didn't have something to tell me. (If the writing were going well, would I be getting distracted in the first place?)

And if I give myself permission to dive down rabbit holes and see what's down there, the scary, threatening pressure of "two hours, butt in chair, doesn't matter if it hurts, just do it" ...dissolves away. The threat of pain dissolves away. The fear dissolves away. The avoidance dissolves away--why shouldn't it? There's nothing left to avoid.

And maybe instead of simply not avoiding the work, I might find myself looking forward to the work instead... because I've stopped making it look so much like work.

I'm also going to give myself permission not to keep "logging out" and "logging in" on my time sheet. Rabbit holes, followed consciously, count as part of the writing process. (Just like tea with my avoidance monsters.) If in the middle of the work I feel the urge to take a short walk and look for clues, I'll take that walk "on the clock."

I don't want to draw such bright glaring lines between "writing" and "not writing" right now. I want instead to write from a more holistic space, where all of the things surrounding the writing are part of the writing process.

Like I said, it's an experiment. One of many that I've proposed for myself, all of which address in one form or another the hypothesis, "If I am kinder to myself, I will write more and I will enjoy writing more."

Well, when you put it that way...

Today I learned how to use the GIMP's Fog filter. Also, click to view original empty office photo (license: CC BY-SA 2.0)
this fictionette is not safe for work. no, I mean dangerous
Fri 2015-01-23 23:12:55 (single post)
  • 1,122 words (if poetry, lines) long

It's Friday, so I have done my duty. Again, it is ridiculously late in the day. It almost isn't Friday at all. But the Fictionette is up, and you can see its stats at left and its cover image at right. Excerpt is here, downloadable PDF available to Patrons pledging $1/month is over here. It's horror again, but more of a lighthearted piece of horror than last week's Fictionette. Of course horror can be lighthearted. Think Good Omens and that gut-churning scene with the telemarketers. Well, I was thinking about it. It probably shows.

Yesterday I expressed a hope that my energy level would continue at yesterday's highly productive rate; it did not. Not that I was entirely unproductive, mind you. John and I met the realtor at a nearby property viewing--not because we seriously thought we might jump on something now, but to give the realtor more of an idea of what we liked and what we didn't and what we'd settle for and what were dealbreakers. It was pleasantly close to our current neighborhood, it was huge, it came with a lower H.O.A. fee that neveretheless covered more features, and it had a wood fireplace. These are pluses. On the minus side, it was expensive (as you might imagine, given the size), it was oriented for east/west light rather than north/south, and it had a rather claustrophobic if well furnished kitchen.

Then we went to McGuckin for the polyurethane I need to put a sealant coat on the newly stained kitchen cabinets and panels. Then I went downtown to pick up the remainder of our MMLocal share. Then we came home and I put the final coat of paint on one of the office closet door bifolds.

So I guess it's OK that I fell over for a three-hour nap at that point.

I may have mentioned that I've purchased a destuckification product from The Fluent Self recently? Right. Well, the physical item has yet to come in the mail - it sounds like Havi had post office bureaucracy nightmares which I wouldn't wish on anyone - but I have received the ebook component. The ebook is her Book of Rally Keys (BORK) and I spent about an hour or two reading it last night when I should have gone to sleep already. It is getting into my brain in healthy ways.

One of the healthy ideas that BORK has put in my brain is the idea that naps aren't something to be ashamed of. They can be expressions of terrified avoidance, or they can be expressions of the need for replenishment; in either case, they're entirely natural and they indicate a need. I expect after yesterday and this afternoon my need was very great. So I'm practicing being gentle with myself and accepting my need to nap.

There was another BORK/Fluent Self idea I wanted to mention, but it escapes me at the moment. So I'll let it run free for now, trusting that it will come home again and let me turn it into a blog post sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I have just finished eating the entire jar of Pears With Rosemary, and, now that we're all going to bed and will therefore be unlikely to absentmindedly lean against various kitchen surfaces, I am going to paint polyurethane on various kitchen surfaces.

Not pictured here: The hinges, because they are filthy.
when cliched platitudes are startlingly spot on
Thu 2015-01-22 23:14:20 (single post)
  • 5,653 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm happy to report that I met today's small goal. I made a copy of the scene-to-be-rearranged, and I moved paragraphs around like Lego. Or, actually, more like wooden blocks; the bits aren't "snapped" together like Lego are. They're like a stack of bricks with no mortar. But that's OK. That stack of bricks was what I wanted to accomplish today.

Tomorrow's small goal is as follows: Take that first brick in the stack and turn it into a plausible story opening.

Meanwhile, today saw an upswing in the rate of home improvement projects. I realized all at once this morning that there's no reason not to run the various projects on parallel tracks. While waiting for stain or polycrylic to dry, why not get to work painting the office closet doors or re-staining and finishing the weathered kitchen cabinets?

Why not, indeed. The usual "why not" is an extremely limited energy budget. If I can manage to do one coat of stain on a closet door in a day that contains writing, roller derby, and volunteer reading, not to mention household chores and trips to the grocery, I'm doing good.

Then it occurred to me: I can't skate roller derby for at least a month, and my first physical therapy appointment isn't for a week. My schedule is miraculously clear right now. And for all I complain about the stairs, I'm reasonably able-bodied for an injured athlete. I can move around unassisted. I can sit, stand, kneel, or sit on the floor. I can paint and stain and sand and whatever. And now I have the time to do it in.

It's not just a platitude. This injury really was the Universe's way of telling me to slow down. The silver lining, it has been spotted.

The other thing holding me back was a mental block. I kept looking at the kitchen and all I could see was a fractally complex job involving bits and detail and impossibility. But today I gave it a shot. I removed one of the under-sink cabinet doors, the one with the worst staining and the most deteriorated finish, and I washed it off, and I sanded it some, and--with several prayers to any Gods that might be listening--applied Minwax wood stain.

This was nerve-wracking. For one thing, I knew that I hadn't removed all of the surviving finishing coat from the wood. I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to try. That level of comprehensive detail work would put the project way outside my ability, patience, and time frame. And if you don't get rid of all the previous paint and stain and finish, maybe the new stain doesn't sink in so good. Still, I reasoned that any place where finishing coat survived probably didn't need new stain anyway.

Secondly, matching stain colors is an iffy process. Even having brought one of the cabinet doors that was in like-new condition to the store with us, we weren't very confident that the tin of Minwax "Lt Pine" we'd chosen was going to be the right stain.

Turns out we'd chosen just the right stain. How do you know you've chosen the right stain? When you brush it on, you think, "Is there any color in this liquid, or did I get scammed into buying a tin of water?" Seriously, it just looked like I'd gotten the cabinet door wet.

In my excitement at how easy this turned out to be, I did the second under-sink cabinet door and the entire panel surrounding them. Pretty much the whole area bounded by the dishwasher, the sink, and the oven. It's the most important area, being fairly central, thus right where your eye first falls upon entering the kitchen.

The realtor came to visit today to help us get back on track for a mid-February listing. He looked at the cabinet work and pronounced it likely to "pop." That's realtor speak for "will give a potential buyer a great impression." He said that the refurbished and newly stained/finished living room closet doors also "pop." I'm pleased to hear it.

Between today's progress on the living room closet doors, the kitchen cabinets, and the office closet doors--not to mention today's work on the short story revision--I'm feeling pretty darn accomplished tonight. I just hope I can keep up this level of accomplishment for the next couple of weeks, is all.

doing more by expecting less
Wed 2015-01-21 23:40:43 (single post)
  • 5,300 words (if poetry, lines) long

When it comes to Great Big Tasks What I Am Avoiding Like Whoa, less is more. Small goals are less threatening than big goals. And giving big goals a less imposing deadline doesn't make them less scary; it just makes them loom from farther off.

Having big goals like "Make a first pass at a revision this week" or "Finish the revision by the end of the month and submit the story" is great if the aim is to make my stomach churn with acid and my brain churn with self-loathing. It's not so great if the aim is to revise and resubmit that story.

A smaller goal, like "Spent 15 minutes tonight making a list of elements to be retained from the scene to be deleted," is a lot less threatening and therefore a lot more doable.

By a striking coincidence, that's what I did today. I made that list.

But I didn't just make a list. Each list item got some babble about how that element might be repositioned in the new draft. And along the way I wound up reshaping the next scene in the story, putting the key incidents into a new order that made sense as a new home for the elements salvaged from the deleted scene.

Less really is more. When I set smaller goals, I feel freer to stretch a little past those goals. It's much easier to be an overachiever when expectations are human-sized. Also, smaller goals make it easier to just start already, and starting has a way of continuing. It's sort of the same principle whereby "Oh, no big deal, I'll just read through the story real quick" turns into an hour of almost compulsive line edits.

And smaller goals are a kindness. Big goals carry the weight of ultimatum: "Get this done or you're a failure!" "Get this done or you'll miss out!" Ultimatums are not kind--they're a kind of threat. Whereas small goals have kindness built in, and encouragement, and appreciation too--somewhere between "Could you do me a favor?" and "I bet you can do it. Give it a try, OK? For me? I knew you could!"

You can think of it as being gentle with the inner child, or encouraging Creative Brain to come out and play. Or, if that sounds a little too woo to you, you can think of it is "Be nice to yourself, all right? Who else can you count on to be nice to you, if not you?"

In the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut, "God damn it, you've got to be kind."

So I guess the small goal for tomorrow is... to take a copy of the second scene, reorder it according to today's idea, and then insert the elements from today's list. To be clear: I'm not expecting myself to rewrite the scene. I'm giving myself the purely mechanical task of block-cut-and-pasting paragraphs and then typing up notes in square brackets at the appropriate places.

I'm good at purely mechanical tasks. Purely mechanical tasks are not scary. Tab A into Slot B, fetch and carry, copy and paste. Moving things around. Genius isn't required. Perfection isn't the point. No need to get anything right, just get it done.

But if in the middle of that purely mechanical task I find myself moved to, oh, maybe perform a few line edits here, tidy up some dialog there, well, I'm not going to hold myself back or anything.

a bunch of lessons involving patience and time management
Tue 2015-01-20 23:22:37 (single post)

First thing I learned today was about my knee. There is good news and there is bad news about my knee.

The good news is that the MRI revealed nothing worse nor more than what the doctor suspected. It's either a grade 1 (strain) or grade 2 (partial tear) of the ACL. No other part of the knee has been damaged. The doctor was particularly pleased to see healthy meniscus tissues.

The bad news is that things are not better than what the doctor suspected, and I won't be back on skates for some four to six weeks. That sucks and makes me sad and frustrated about the timing of my injury. If I had not been injured, I would have participated in travel team try-outs this weekend; if I had participated, I'd have had at least a hope of making it onto the All Stars team this season; if I had made All Stars I'd have a chance of being rostered for the Dust Devil tournament in March. No guarantees, of course. Just chances. But being off-skates until March is a guaranteed no chance at all.

If I reel in my impatience, I can remind myself that there will still be lots of season left when I return to the track. Plenty of time for me to get in on the action no matter where I'm rostered. And I've been skating pretty much non-stop since my first season. Six weeks off is no tragedy, not really. And it could have been worse! It could have been a complete tear, requiring surgery and a much longer off-skates recovery time. But it wasn't, and it didn't, and March isn't all that far away.

Until then, I'm supposed to take it easy, let things heal, wear my brace when moving around, and attend my upcoming physical therapy appointments.

And be patient.

What else did I learn today?

I learned, or relearned, that oil-based wood stain takes more than four hours to dry. By the time I wanted to stain the second side of the door, the first side was still sticky, darn it. I suppose I'll either do it last thing tonight, or, more likely, first thing tomorrow. No need to hurry, that's what I keep telling myself.

(Maybe I'll come to believe it.)

I learned that you can't trust a Rocky Mountain front range wind to continue blowing in the same direction all afternoon long, which means you need to pause before brushing off your sanding surface each time to check the wind. That is, if you don't want to get sawdust all over your clothes and in your eyes.

(And all over your borrowed knee brace.)

And I learned, or relearned, that it's not worth it to spend three and a half hours on a Puzzle Pirates Examiner article and slideshow. I'd been meaning to talk about the Duty Navigation puzzle, yes, but I didn't need to go on that long. I should have split the dang thing into four posts once I saw how wordy everything was getting. But no, I kept it all in the same post and made five different images to upload--for probably less overall return than if I'd split it up and not bothered with slideshows, come to think of it.

And had no time left afterward for working on my short story revision. Dang it.

It's OK. Whatever I didn't get to today, I'll have time for tomorrow, just so long as I move it up to the top of tomorrow's priority queue. That's the theory, anyway. No need to shove every single thing in every single day, so long as everything gets to happen sometime.

I want wherever we move to have a garage. It started snowing on me before I was finished sanding this panel. I took it personally.
the low cost of entry for staircase resentment
Mon 2015-01-19 23:38:37 (single post)

Took me long enough, but today I finally got back to the Living Room Closet Door project.

John, to give credit where credit is due, has already gotten back to work on his portion of the home improvement projects, which is to say, repainting whatever still needs repainting. He's more or less finished the bathroom as of last week and plans to do the bathroom door tomorrow. But I didn't manage to bestir myself upon those closet doors until today.

When we left for New Orleans, I was working on the third of the four bi-folds. I'd finished stripping the paint off both panels, but I'd only half-sanded the one. This was disappointing; I'd wanted to get it done and reinstalled before we left. This became unfeasible, so I consoled myself with the intention to jump right back into it the moment we returned to Boulder.

Which didn't happen. Pretty much every day up to January 10 was filled up with preparations for Epic Derby Weekend. And pretty much everything since has been filled up with the aftermath of the left knee sprain/strain. Again, it could so easily have been worse--I'm grateful there were no broken bones nor surgery involved (knock on wood, spit three times)--as injuries go, this is peanuts--but even so, things have been exhausting. Making appointments, going to appointments, acquiring this borrowed brace and deciding when to wear it, getting used to wearing it, staying aware of the injury so I don't reinjure it--no wonder I've been sleeping late and napping heavily.

As anyone who's sustained an injury (or is otherwise disabled) knows, you have to develop strategies just for moving around your world. My mobility was noticeably limited on the day after the injury. At brunch, getting from our table to the bathroom was sort of serious business. Getting down the stairs to the car so we could go to brunch was kind of awful. Just putting on my shoes was demoralizing. I was able to do it myself--just--but there was a brief spell of tears and despair on my way there.

It's been a lot better since, to the point that I'm wearing the brace primarily to remind myself that I'm injured and need to take care. Nevertheless, certain maneuvers, such as stepping over the bi-fold panel propped up on its buckets, or sitting down on the floor to smear wood putty into the panel's munched-up corner, requires conscious planning on a limb-by-joint level.

In any case, that panel is sanded to my satisfaction now, and the wood putty is drying. Tomorrow I'll stain it, and over the next couple of days I'll coat it with polycrylic. If I can also sand the other panel tomorrow and get my writing done, that would be fantastic. I like to do the sanding outside in order to minimize the need to vacuum inside. But that requires good weather outside, and there's a chance of snow on Wednesday.

I'm really tired of being in this prolonged limbo between having put most of our belongings in storage in order to stage the condo unit for listing, but not having finished the home improvement projects needed before we can list. I want to get these closet doors done, all the doors repainted, the kitchen repainted, and everything else that needs doing done so we can sell the place already.

And this third-floor business is for the birds. I totally saw this coming, y'all. I was telling people last summer that one of my personal reasons for wanting us to move was "I skate roller derby. I risk injury on a weekly basis. I need to live somewhere accessible." And now I am injured. Again, it could be worse. Thank goodness I'm not on crutches or in a wheelchair. So many people have it so much worse than I! But it doesn't take that much of an injury to come to resent deeply those 28 steps I have to climb or descend just to leave or come home.

this fictionette got taken apart to see what its insides look like
Fri 2015-01-16 23:31:32 (single post)
  • 1,199 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today: The Friday Fictionette for January 16! Also, baby's first MRI, I think, and a brief rant about the politics surrounding women's reproductive care.

This week's Friday Fictionette (excerpt here) is a fantasy short-short that wandered into the horror zone. This happens sometimes. I actually do identify as a horror writer, which sometimes surprises people. "You? Write that? But you seem so sweet!" It's oddly similar to the reaction that some of my family and friends had when they found out I play roller derby. "You? I can't imagine you doing that..."

(My usual response is, "You don't have to imagine it! Read this short story! Come watch a bout!")

Thankfully, I'm more or less surrounded by people who are happy to adjust their mental image of me to accommodate new data. Not everyone is that lucky. I know... well, I'm sure I know one or two people who'd rather get me to adjust my life to conform to their mental image, but right now I can't think of who they are. I'm sure they're hugely outnumbered.

Speaking of roller derby, and why I haven't been skating this week, I had my MRI today. That was fun. I think it was my first time getting one--if not, it was my first time in about 10 years. I may have gotten MRI'd, or maybe CAT scanned, when I had that horrible migraine scare involving loss of peripheral vision and sudden unaccustomed klutziness. I think that's when I found out that the correct answers to "Are you claustrophobic? Would you like a Valium to help with that?" are no and also no, at least for me. What's worse than being scared of a medical procedure? Being scared and knowing that my body has been drugged into a sluggish dead weight, so I can't fight or run away! Not doing that shit ever again, thank you very much.

Anyway. Have you ever had an MRI done? It goes something like this.

First, they ask you a bunch of questions. Are you pregnant or do you think you might be pregnant? Do you have a pace maker? Have you any metal bits inside of you? Previous surgeries? Are you pregnant? History of kidney failure or kidney disease? History of cancer? Might you possibly be pregnant? What about--

Yes, I know I'm repeating the pregnancy thing. They repeat it a lot. They repeat it more than they repeat the other things. They even have a placard in the changing/locker room, "IF YOU THINK YOU MIGHT BE PREGNANT, TELL YOUR TECHNICIAN IMMEDIATELY." This is, of course, after you've filled out all the paperwork that asked all the questions. Basically, if you're a woman, you are presumed not to be able to answer this question honestly until it has been asked sixty gazillion times, by every person in the office as well as by the walls themseleves. Apparently, uterus-equipped humans are stupid and untrustworthy. "All right! All right. You got me. I was gonna just not say anything, because the condom broke last night, and coming in for an MRI seemed more convenient than the morning after pill, but since you asked me for the tenth time, I'll come clean."

I mean, seriously, they ask you about pace-makers all of twice: once on the phone when you make the appointment, and once on the paperwork you fill out in the office. Clearly the industry is a lot more concerned with the possibility of killing a fetus you may or may not know about and may not even want than they are with killing you. If you're able to get pregnant, that makes you everyone's property and everyone's business and everyone's responsibility, and also utterly incompetent as an adult. And also expendible as a life in your own right.

Do I sound bitter? I might just possibly be. I don't hold it against the specific place where I got my MRI, understand; it's just the prevailing social politics of women's medical care that I'm fed up with.


Once you answer all the questions satisfactorily, you divest yourself of all your metal objects. This done, you are ushered into the imaging lab, which looks like the docking station for a very small spaceship. They slide you into the very small spaceship. Then they give you a call button to push if you need someone, a set of noise-cancelling headphones, and the instruction to lie as still as you can for the next twenty minutes.

Then they leave the room. At which point you start hearing scary alarm noises, and you wonder if maybe you should have left the room too, because it is evidently on fire. Or maybe it's about to get bombed. Isn't that what air raid sirens sound like?

The noises soon change from "whoop! whoop! whoop!" to variations on "d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d," at which point you realize that although the machine looked like a small spaceship it was in actuality a gigantic dot matrix printer. Or maybe a Braille writer. Braille writers are louder.

(When they offered me the headphones, I asked them, "What're they playing?" They told me, "Anything you want! Right now it's James Brown." I'm glad they told me. Once the noises started up, there was no way I could have figured it out for myself.)

About five minutes into the process you realize that you don't actually like having your hands clasped over your belly. It seems to constrict your breathing. And your fingers are slipping. And your right shoulder doesn't feel entirely supported by the bed. How narrow is this bed, anyway? And the knee they're taking pictures of is kind of tired of being straight out. And you would like to scratch your nose. Can I move now, please? How about now?

(Given how twitchy I got today, I'm not sure how I got through LASIK without twitching anywhere above my neck. On the other hand, LASIK took only about five minutes per eye.)

Then at last you hear the "whoop! whoop! whoop!" siren again, and it's over. You get up, reclaim your things, go pay what you owe for the procedure (ouch), and receive a CD which you are to take to the doctor for your follow-up appointment. (Have we no email? Have we no FTP? Maybe this is a HIPAA security precaution, that they can't just send the digital images over to your doctor direct?) And then you're free! Free to go home and collapse in the bed, because lying still for a medical procedure is apparently exhausting as hell.

That was my adventure with magnetic imaging today. No answers regarding a recovery plan yet, however. I don't get to talk with my doctor about the results until Tuesday morning. Alas.

Until then, fingers crossed.

happiness subtraction and things that end in CL
Wed 2015-01-14 23:45:37 (single post)
  • 5,300 words (if poetry, lines) long

OK, so, the DIY Rally Kit hasn't arrived in the mail yet, my team did not do very well at trivia today, AND I AM NOT SKATING TOMORROW.


The doctor examined and palpitated and probed my knee and questioned me thoroughly about what hurts and what doesn't. "And you say this feels a lot like your injury two years ago? And that one was diagnosed as a hamstring sprain? Hmm." Because she doesn't think this is a sprained hamstring at all. She thinks it is at the very least a mildly strained ACL.


But only mildly strained! Probably! But there's nothing like misdiagnosis for encouraging yourself to make an injury worse. "I'm confident we'll get you back skating this season," she said, "but I don't want to get you back out on the track too soon and risk this turning into a complete ACL tear." So there will be an MRI as soon as we can schedule one. (And I will be grateful for our medical insurance and our savings account.) And then we will know enough to put together a recovery plan.

And for now, there will be no skating. There will hardly be any exercise. The doctor was ambivalent about letting me do any of my old PT exercises at all. "Just range of motion stuff," she said, "no strength building yet. Let the ACL heal and keep icing until we get the swelling down." There will be rest and icing and ibuprofen and there will be sadness.

(Apparently there's a faction that disrecommends icing, but I think there's a huge stretch from the studies they cite to the conclusion they're peddling. I'm going to listen to the doctor who actually looked at my knee before I listen to some article on the internet, especially one that's pushing an unhealthy dose of FUDS--fear, uncertainty, and doubt.)

So I'm wearing my borrowed brace, doing range-of-motion exercises gently and slowly, hobbling around, avoiding the ice on the ground wherever I can, and grumbling. A lot.

BRB, drowning my sorrows in short story rewrites and Examiner posts.

OK, yes, and in Puzzle Pirates.