The next chapter: June 2018 update

Hello all you writerly people!

I know I’ve said this often in recent months, but this past month has been a weird one.

It started off well, but in the first full week of June, I was asked to deliver training with just one week to prep in and amongst my other duties. We didn’t even have a proper participant list until the Thursday before the class was to start. At least no one had to travel.

So, a week of frantic prep and two weeks of training followed by five weeks of post-training monitoring (PTM). Yeah, I’m going to be busy through to August.

I’ve had another life lesson confirmed for me. I no longer have to deliver training away from home to feel exhausted by the activity. Introvert me has to be on all the time in front of a class. It really leaves me drained at the end of the day with little to nothing left for my creative pursuits. And what little energy I have is still focused on Torvi, who, while she is showing steady improvement as she grows older, is still a handful. More on the T sitch, later.

On Wednesday of the second week of training, our group was inducted into a new PTM pilot project. The first class and group of monitors was chosen to be the pilot in advance of that class. The participants, their team leaders, and the trainers and monitors were all provided with training and information prior to the class. In other words, they were well-prepared.

Following the training, we were scrambling to mark the final tests, create course summary reports, and my co-facilitator was the lead monitor for the transition week, essentially dedicated advice and guidance for the whole class of fifteen. Plus, we both had our own agents (three each) to take care of.

I won’t get into the details, or this will be a very long, ranty post. Needless to say, it was madness.

JuneProgress

Given the crazy, I think I did pretty good. I wrote more days than not, and I wrote less than I would have liked, but I wrote, and that was the biggest part of the battle. I only wrote 6,635 words of my 10K goal, or 66%.

This means that it will be one more month drafting Playing with Fire. I should, however, finish the draft by the end of July.

I wrote 3,363 words on this blog, or 129% of my 2,600-word goal, got my DIY MFA column in early at a honkin’ 2,141 words, or 241%, and assembled my last Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter at 4,072 words, or 102% of goal.

In all, I wrote 16,213 words in June, or 92% of my monthly writing goal. Not too shabby 🙂

I did nothing in terms of creative events this month, but I did have supper with a good friend the other night. We haven’t seen each other in forever and it was lovely to catch up.

This coming month, however, I’ll have a couple of events to share. I’ll be heading down to Ad Astra next weekend, and the Sudbury Writers’ Guild will be holding a workshop with Gail Anderson-Dargatz on the 28th.

I may have another critique group in the making. I’ll find out more tomorrow and be sure to fill you in when I compose next month’s update.

In other news …

Phil continues to trudge toward sanity at work. It’s still rough, but they’ve hired someone who’ll be able to ease some of Phil’s burden and who’ll be starting mid-month. There will be some training before the new hire is going to be able to take some of the workload off Phil’s shoulders, but it’s another small win.

Health-wise, I’m pretty much sorted. My doctor put me through a battery of blood screenings, and other tests, and all of the results came back showing that I’m in good health. The one issue I’d wanted to investigate turns out just to be age-related and manageable without medication. Oh, and I have fibroids, which I didn’t have a few months ago, but I haven’t experienced any problems as a result of them. Funny, I don’t feel old enough to have these problems …

And … five months after the ablation, I had my first non-period. It was essentially just prolonged spotting. I’m cautiously optimistic.

We have one class left in Torvi’s intermediate obedience. As I said above, she’s improving, but she’s still a handful. One bit of progress is that I was able to take her across town in the car—without meds (!) I think we’ll be able to stop using them soonish. She may never enjoy the car, and she’ll probably drool every time we take a ride, but she’s not really distressed, and she hasn’t thrown up.

I took her to get her nails trimmed and she was snappy with the groomer. They may have to muzzle her in the future 😦

Feisty pup is feisty.

Tomorrow, I’m going to introduce her to a beach and see if she’ll swim. If, as I suspect, she’s got a good bit of husky in her, she may not do more than wade in and get her belly wet. I’ll be instagramming the pics.

And that was a month in this writer’s life.

Until the next time I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

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The next chapter: May 2018 update

Hello, all you writerly people!

It’s time for my next chapter update for May 2018.

Looks like I’m finding my stride. Things were going so well with the drafting of Playing with Fire, that I actually decided to take a purposeful break to read the draft to date. The problem I was encountering is that it’s taken me so long, relatively speaking, to draft the darned thing that I started to forget what I’d written way back in November (or December, January, February, March, or April!).

It’s been niggling at me for a while, and sometimes, I’d just go back to the chapter I suspected contained the bit I was looking to be refreshed on, but that got cumbersome, particularly since, once there, I’d start tweaking …

K.M. Weiland has been mentioning how she does a periodic re-read of her WIP, and I decided to give it a try. It was a nice rest, and a great way to tighten some of my plot threads, especially since I didn’t have to time to do much of an outline for this novel before I started drafting.

MayProgress

Even with the break, about nine days, I still managed to surpass my 7,500-word writing goal. I wrote 8,302 words, or 111%.

I’m enjoying the break from weekend blogging as well, and though I adjusted my blogging goal to 3,000 words, even with just the curation posts going up, I managed to write 3,940 words on the blog, or 131% of my goal.

I met my DIY MFA deadline with a long column of 1,739 words, or 174% of my goal, and aggregated my penultimate Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter at 6,777 words, or 169% of that goal.

So, it’s been a good month, writing-wise.

The burnout thing

I promised to tell you how the whole burnout thing was going.

Well, after a lot of soul-searching, pondering, and some all-out navel-gazing, I’ve finally figured out why I’ve suffered such a protracted burnout in the past year. And, let’s be clear, I’ve been struggling since at least the beginning of 2017. It might, in fact, be longer than that.

Part of it is historical. It’s my writing wound, the lie I believe about myself as a creative person and about my work. If you’re ever curious and you have the time, you can read the posts in the category, My History as a So-called Writer. That will give you the low-down.

The short version is that my creative life has been full of threshold guardians (in hero’s journey terms), who’ve blocked me, stunted my growth, and betrayed me in various fashions. When I finally found my way back to a consistent writing practice in 2007, I thought I’d conquered those demons. In that version of victory, all the naysayers were wrong, and I was just going to do what I wanted. Screw them.

That, it turns out, was only half the battle. It’s the bitter legacy those experiences left me with that make me innately distrustful of handing my work off to anyone else, whether a friend, beta reader, editor, or … anyone. I don’t believe that the advice I receive is in the story’s best interest. Or mine. I always see it in terms of a personal attack, though unconsciously. I’m aware of it now but, in the moment, I often slip back into old ways of thinking.

While I’ve had some writing success, that lie has never left me. It’s made finding a critique group difficult. It makes working with editors a bit fraught. It also leaves me thinking that I’m not, at heart, a good writer (passable good, not even great) and that people are just humouring me. It’s not merely imposter syndrome. It’s a deep distrust of anyone else’s opinion of my work.

There’s been a lot of self-sabotage involved, mostly unconscious.

This is what I’m working to overcome now. It’s a process. It’s going to take time.

The next piece of the puzzle is that, in January of 2016, after decades of what we thought was good health, Phil went to the clinic thinking he might have shingles, and came home (well, there was some bloodwork in there) with multiple diagnoses: type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and possibly shingles.

He had no rash, though. Several months passed and the doctor said, fibromyalgia. Several more months passed, and they finally settled on widespread diabetic neuropathy. Until the doctor found the right combination of meds, there were some horrible times, but it all worked out. Eventually.

Two of the meds Phil was on were Lyrica (an antidepressant found to be effective for nerve pain) and Cymbalta (an anticonvulsant also found to be effective for nerve pain). Aside from managing his pain and elevating his mood (it has often been said of my husband that the inside of his skull is painted black), both medications increased the amount of melatonin in his system.

Phil, who had always been a night owl and considered sleep to be the enemy, was now getting the best sleep of his life. Things went well for a while.

Then, because he got a promotion that required occasional travel, Phil decided to stop both the Lyrica and Cymbalta. He couldn’t risk falling asleep at the wheel. Combine this with a progressively complex and worsening situation at his employer (ongoing) and things quickly went from bad to worse.

The health problems shook me, probably more than I’d care to admit. It was after Phil’s health situation resolved that I started to feel the real effects of the burnout.

But it was the work situation that broke the peace of our household. I was used to living with Mr. Grumpy Pants, but his problems at work followed him home and made everything more difficult. It was about that time that we brought Torvi home. The extra stress of bringing up puppy did not help.

Also in the mix was my great adventure of last year. Though Phil encouraged me to go, I felt horribly guilty about the expense. I’ll just be paying off the last of that debt this month.

Add to all that my own health problems. Though less life-threatening than Phil’s, they were affecting my quality of life. Now that most of them have been addressed, I’m in a much better place.

But every time I tried to dig myself out of the hole, emotionally speaking, in the last couple of years something popped up and dragged me back down. I’ve suffered several episodes of depression, panic attacks, and poor quality of sleep (resulting from the other two).

Most of these issues are resolving. I’ve had my ablation and other health issues are being investigated. I’ve lost about 25 pounds. I’ve gotten back to my regular writing practice and it’s feeling good. Torvi, at eight months and in her second obedience class, is becoming a good dog but, that too is a process.

Really, it’s just Phil’s work situation that’s the continuing problem but, though there’s still no end in sight, slow progress is being made. There’s hope that things might be largely sorted by the end of this year. We just have to hang in there.

I’m sure other world events have played their parts, but I’m actively seeking to minimize their effects on me.

I’ll keep you updated, for those who want to know.

My writerly event of the month

On May first (May Day, Beltaine—yes, I’m a paganish sort) I went to see the staged reading of the latest iteration of Kim Fahner’s play, Sparrows Over Slag. It was part of Play Smelter, which ran the rest of the week. It was fascinating to see the evolution of Kim’s play, of which I was privileged to read an early draft.

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She gave a lovely Q&A afterward that gave further insight into her process. Writing a play is a different beast than any other kind of writing, even screenplays.

Later that week, I had lunch with Kim, who was only in Sudbury for a couple of weeks around Play Smelter. She’s been in south western Ontario, working hard on her craft and trying to figure out her next steps, creatively.

Just chatting over lunch was a balm. We are soul sisters and that won’t change wherever she goes and whatever she chooses to do.

And that’s it for this month’s next chapter update.

Until the next time I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: February 2018 update

February was a short month. Even so, it seemed to fly by.

As I’ve mentioned in my weekly posts, I’m continuing to struggle. Rather, after February 10th, I stopped struggling and recognized the critical fact that I can’t do it all. I can’t work full time, come home and take care of the dog full time, and fit in blogging, newslettering, column writing and still have room left for my WIP (not to mention the rest of my life).

It sucks that, for now, I’ve decided that it’s the WIP that has to go. But, honestly, when I stopped writing, I was just too exhausted to even think about it. A couple of weeks in, my thoughts started to gravitate toward Playing with Fire again, and I see that as a good sign. I’m still going to let it sit for a while longer, to see if the other, more chaotic aspects of my life sort themselves out.

I think I have to simplify my life rather than complicating it.

FebruaryProgress

Not unsurprisingly, I only hit 24% of my 15,000-word writing goal on PwF.

I met my 5,600-word goal for the blog, came in at 72% of my goal for my DIY MFA column, and 140% of my 4,000-word goal for the SWG newsletter.

Overall, that works out to 60% of my writing goal for the month.

I realized, belatedly, that I’d put in short fiction goals for January and February that I didn’t even look at. Again, I didn’t have the energy or attention.

I’m going to wait until the end of March to see how I’ll be moving the goal posts.

In other news

It hasn’t rained/melted significantly since Phil made his initial repairs in the basement, so he hasn’t been able to test them. The spring forecast predicts a warmer than normal March with more rain and snow. Until we can be sure the problem is fixed, the basement is verboten to Torvi, which is sad.

Phil continues to struggle at work. More problems crop up. He deals with them to the best of his ability, but his employer’s solution will still be some time in the implementation. In the meantime, Phil returns home utterly spent and frustrated, and largely unable to deal with anything else.

My training duties at work are done for the time being, but I still have next week’s learning event to travel to and ongoing coaching and mentoring responsibilities. And there are still problems with our pay system which will mean at least one, and likely several, small to negligible pay periods in my future. I’m waiting for that shoe to drop, too.

Post-ablation life is kind of weird, but I’ve been told that ye olde pipes can sputter for three to six months, off and on, before my body finally settles into its new normal. Metaphorical fingers still crossed.

And now, I’m catching a cold 😦

Torvi will be spayed this month, as well as get chipped, and receive her final vaccination (rabies). After that, Phil and I are formally Torvi’s humans and I can feel more confident about taking her on longer walks, to places where she’ll meet other dogs, and to obedience training.

We really need the obedience training.

Honestly, Torvi’s not any more of a devil than any of our other dogs. She’s just so big, she’s super-strong, she doesn’t know her own strength, and her puppy enthusiasm can result in injury.

Here she is, napping with Phil. It’s a good thing we have a king-sized bed. She likes to streeeeetch out 🙂

We’ll see what the next month brings.

Until Tuesday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: January 2018 update

January was a good writing month. Considering my somewhat hectic schedule at the day job, my procedure, and everything else (AKA life), I did well.

I continued to draft Playing with Fire, the fourth book in my Ascension series. I didn’t quite do as much as I’d hoped, but mostly, it was due to Torvi. She still needs supervision/training/attention and Phil’s had his workload doubled at his day job, so all he wants to do when he gets home is sleep or hide.

It all depends on when Torvi decides to settle down. Often, I’m not free to write until after supper. Sometimes, the crazies last longer. She is getting better, but mostly, it’s a matter of patience and persistence. On both our parts.

JanuaryProgress

Reaching 73% of my drafting goal for PwF (10,992 word of 15,000) is respectable.

I blogged 87% of my 5,800-word goal (5,054), which I don’t mind.

I wrote and submitted two DIY MFA articles in January and blew away that goal, writing 3,027 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 303%.

And I’m now tracking my newsletter writing for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. January’s newsletter came in at 4,100 words of my 4,000-word goal, or 103%.

I missed some goals and owned others. It’s always a bit of give and take.

In February, I intend to continue drafting PwF, I have another DIY MFA article due, another newsletter, more blogging, and … I’ve become aware of a couple of short story opportunities that I want to submit to.

In other news

I seem to have had my first period since the ablation. I hadn’t stopped sloughing since the procedure itself, and it just got a little worse. As far as most of my periods go, it’s been a breeze, but since it ‘s happened so soon after the procedure, I don’t anticipate that I’ll be one of the lucky ones who experience complete cessation of menses. I wasn’t counting on it, so I’m good.

As mentioned above, Torvi’s coming along. Things are about what you’d expect for a four-month-old dog, but the problems are exaggerated by her size. It’s more difficult to calm her when she gets excited. It’s more of a challenge to tire her out when she gets playful. But it is what it is.

We’re looking forward to the day she becomes the good girl we know is in there 🙂

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Are we going to Grandma’s yet?

And she’s so beautiful. Golden undercoat, burnt tips. When she cuddles, she’s awesome. You may notice that most of the pictures I take of her are when she’s lying down. That’s the only time she’s not moving (!)

That’s it for January.

I’ll see you on Tipsday.

Until then, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

Muse-inks: Health and wellbeing

Trigger warning: I’m going to discuss feminine health in this post. If that makes you squeamish, you may want to skip this one.

So … I’ve been mentioning for a few weeks now that I had an upcoming procedure. Well, I had the procedure on Monday (Jan 22) and all went well.

The procedure was an ablation. I’ll let those of you who don’t know what that is look it up on your own.

I’m perimenopausal, and since I turned 40, my periods have been getting worse in terms of flow and pain. For the last three years, I’ve been anemic and on iron supplements. 2016 was a very bad year with one period (onset to onset) of 15 days. Yup. I think I stopped bleeding for two or three days before I started up again. That was followed by an epic 25-day bleed (35-day cycle) replete with three two-day episodes of what I’ve lovingly come to call endometrial slugs.

A friend of mine called them blood babies but … babies are cute. These things are not. I think endometrial slugs is a far more descriptive and apt phrase for them.

Hormones don’t work for me (believe me, I’ve tried them all) and so that wasn’t a solution. Being on the pill has generally worsened my mental health and that’s not something I’m willing to sacrifice for the sake of a “happy” period.

After that hellish end to 2016, I called my doctor, got an appointment, got a referral, and was put on the list for ablation as of March last year. Yes, it takes that long for surgeries considered elective to be scheduled, particularly when surgical times for gynecological procedures are cut. I still love our health care system, but there’s room for improvement.

Last weekend, I was nervous. I also have a condition called malignant hyperthermia. I’ll let you look that one up, too.

Suffice it to say, I can’t have regular anaesthetic. If I do, it could set off a hyperthermic reaction in my muscles, including my heart and intercostals, causing them to seize. MH is a fairly new condition and is thought to explain a lot of mysterious operating table deaths due to cardiac arrest in patients who were otherwise healthy.

Don’t worry, there are special anaesthetics they can use for me, but that means I have to be the first operation of the day because there can’t be a trace of other anaesthetics in the system. Everything must be flushed in preparation. It was a very early morning for this permanently exhausted pigeon.

But it all went well. Everyone was well-aware of my MH and every precaution was taken. They had to keep me for four hours post-operatively to be sure that my temperature wasn’t spiking. I’ve been feeling warm through the week, but not feverish. Though it’s been years since my last operation, I seem to remember that happening. Nothing unusual. But it’s good that I’ve had the week off work. Just to be sure.

The best outcome of ablation is the complete cessation of bleeding. This is what I hope for but am too realistic to expect. Any improvement will be welcome. I’m of an age where, by the time the beneficial effects of the ablation fade, I should be in full menopause.

I don’t want to be anemic, and therefore exhausted, anymore. I don’t want to take prescription medication to deal with the pain of menses. I don’t want to have to take days off work because, even with the most absorbent feminine protection, I still bleed through and ruin clothes.

I’m looking for an improvement in my quality of life.

Bonus pupdate

Torvi turned four months yesterday (Jan 26) and is now 35 pounds. She’s slowly coming around. Mornings are particularly good. She’s all cuddly and sweet when she’s sleepy 🙂

There’s still the odd accident in the house. Phil and I haven’t figured out her signals yet but, overall, Torvi’s doing as well as you’d expect a four-month-old puppy to do.

The shepherd “saddle” is becoming more pronounced, but her fur is still so soft. Some of her nails have grown in black (most are white) and her white socks are becoming speckled with brown. Her buttery puppy belly is slowly furring over.

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Last night the power went out three times. We had tuna sandwiches for our candlelit supper.

I’ve had to pause in writing this post twice to take Torvi out. The first time, thin cloud veiled the gibbous moon. The second time, the sky was clear, and I could see Orion hanging out just below the moon.

Overall, life is good.

Until my next blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Muse-inks

Sundog snippet: Pupdate

I promised a pupdate and here it is:

The bad news

When we went to see the vet last week on Tuesday, it was supposed to be for an ear flush.

This did not happen.

It turns out that Nuala’s ears are too far gone. Due to her allergies, the tissue in her ear has developed inflammatory polyps. This is not restricted to the external ear tissue, but extends right down the ear canal. What’s worse, her polyps were calcifying.

As a result, the vet could not flush her ears and when we saw him in the evening, he indicated that we should stop the topical antibiotic. The ear was so closed, there was no point. None of the medication could get to the source of the infection.

Though Nuala received her annual vaccinations, there really wasn’t much they could do that day.

The blood work we’d had done from our last visit was returned and showed that Nuala’s kidney and liver enzymes were still within normal ranges. Her liver enzymes had actually improved.

The recommended treatment, as the article linked above indicates, is ablation. This is a surgical procedure in which all the polyps are resected, and, because of the number of growths in the ear canal, removal of the canal altogether.

Unfortunately, there is no one in town that does these procedures on a regular basis. Once again, we’d have to travel a minimum of four hours away to get the surgery.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, this is not an option for Phil and me. We can’t just take vacation when we want and taking unpaid leave would be a hardship. Nu does not travel well, and would have to be sedated there and back. Plus, she’s officially a senior now, and the complications of surgery are increased.

Two other options were presented, cyclosporine and prednisone. The first was shown to be effective in a very small sample of canine patients. The second is effective, but would have an effect on her liver and kidneys. It would also cause an increase in her appetite and thirst, but Phil and I figured we’d be okay with this since Nu had lost so much weight recently.

Fortunately, prednisone would likely be a short term, or at worst, periodic treatment. That’s what we opted for and went home with a new, more powerful, oral antibiotic and enough prednisone for two weeks, at which time we have another follow up booked.

Oh, the vet said on the way out, you know she’s deaf now, right?

The good news

By the time we were on the second day of treatment, we noticed a marked improvement in Nuala. She was once again, behaving like her normal, healthy self and eating again.

Even my mom noticed a night and day difference in her behaviour.

Pus started running out of her right ear again, the one that was, by far, the worst. We’re just using the EDTA ear wash to keep her ears clean. We also noticed that she was not deaf, or at least not completely.

We reported this to the vet and he is sceptical, but when a sleeping dog in another room is summoned by the sound of the opened fridge door, she can hear.

Since then, her ears have continued to improve. The pus has stopped running, but we now figure that it’s the new antibiotic that’s provided relief. She’s no longer shaking her head or losing her balance. Her ears are perky again, with only the tips of them, where her aural haematomas are, folded over and malformed.

We have hope that by the time the two-week check up is due, her situation will improve enough for a flush (if that’s still indicated).

So, we’re happy with our decision and hopeful for the future health of our furbaby.

Nuala is notoriously camera-shy. When she sees me coming with the phone or camera, she turns in the other direction, which is why I generally only get pictures of her when she’s sleeping or has her back turned. I was able to manage this picture with the help of a biscuit.

Nuala

What’s that you got there, Mom?

Happy Nuala

Good biscuit! Can I have another?

Sundog snippet