Saturday, September 28, 2013

So This Happened

I thought I was having a rheumatoid arthritis flare up. I hadn't been feeling great for awhile, but I just figured it was due to the stress of the new job, school starting, and the whacky changes in the weather - we'd have really hot days, then cold days, and it sent my joints into a tailspin.

I woke up on Thursday morning of last week barely able to move. I also felt very feverish. "Well this isn't good," I thought. I took my daughter to school then seriously considered going to the ER. But I am one of those people who prides herself on being tough (though sometimes, this is sheer stupidity), and so I went home and figured I'd just sleep it off.

I woke up feeling a little better, but knew something wasn't right. And when I wasn't feeling better the next day and went to the doctor, she had no answers for me. "It's not the flu," she said, "and I don't think it's an RA flare." My temps kept spiking and there was really no good reason for it.

I figured I'd feel a lot better after the weekend was over, even though I was still feeling feverish (mostly when I woke up in the morning). I went to work on Monday and though the morning was difficult, I got through it, and I was actually feeling pretty darn good by the time bedtime rolled around. Whatever it was, I figured I was on the back end of it and I'd be back to normal soon.

Then Tuesday morning came. I woke up shivering and could not get warm. My body was now giving me flashing red lights, yelling WARNING, WARNING, and sending alarms off everywhere. I called my mom to take me to the ER where my temperature was 102.7. They started me on an IV, took lots of blood, and tried to get my temps down. I felt absolutely horrible.

Finally, my fever broke and I began to feel better, but the doctors were still puzzled. They decided to put me in the hospital for observation. I didn't argue. I was drained and just plain tired of not knowing what was wrong with me. So after chest x-rays and ultrasounds on my liver and spleen, they took me up to my room where I settled in to try and get some rest.

I didn't have any fevers the rest of the day, so I thought (turns out erroneously once more) that I was out of the woods. But at 4 a.m., BAM. Another temp of 102. My frustration was beginning to mount.

More bloodwork. More waiting on tests. They decided to dismiss me because really, other than keeping me hydrated and keeping my fevers down, there was not much they could do for me until the blood tests came back and they knew what they were dealing with.

I went home and got by as best as I could. I would have periods of feeling decent followed by periods of unbelievable fatigue and pain. I just felt awful. I researched my symptoms on the internet (isn't that we all do now?) and scared myself half to death a number of times.

Finally, I had the follow up appointment with my primary care physician. She had the lab results back and finally, FINALLY, had a diagnosis for me:

Mono.

Yes, that disease that in high school, they called "the kissing disease" because it was transmitted through saliva.

Except I hadn't been kissing anyone and my case was a very bad one.

I already missed over a week of work, and I will miss another week - doctor's orders. My doctor told me I won't begin to feel better for another 4-6 weeks and I believe her. I am unbelievably tired and there are times I feel so awful that I can barely stand it. But the only thing that will make me better is sleep, getting plenty of fluids, more sleep, and more sleep after that. There is no magic cure for this viral infection.

Where did I get it? That's a good question. But since I have RA, my immune system is already suppressed and is susceptible to a lot of stuff. I work right next to a college campus and park in a parking garage with lots of college kids, so maybe I somehow picked it up from a door handle or something. Who knows? I'm sure I never will.

At least I know what is wrong with me. Not knowing for over a week was really difficult to deal with. Now I just need to find the patience to rest as much as possible and recover. At this point, it's not a problem at all. I barely have any energy to get out of bed let alone do the dishes! I'm just so thankful that my family is rallying around me to help out. My husband and my daughter have been wonderful at supporting me through all this.

Thankfully, the fevers are very few and far between now. I haven't had any today and I hope that trend continues. They are miserable to deal with. And if I could just get some sort of an appetite back, that would be great, too. Baby steps...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ode to Autumn

It's autumn. Oh, that most glorious of seasons, with the hint of spice in the breeze, the promise of harvest, the tantalizing glimpses of chilly evenings snuggled under a blanket with a book and a cup of hot chocolate. I love the crispness in the air and how summer tries to keep its tentacles in us for just one.more.week, yet autumn will not allow it (thank goodness). The earth begins to settle, to realize that a good, long slumber awaits, that a time for nesting and cuddling and cozying lies ahead.

To celebrate the season, I put pumpkins on my front step tonight and put my autumn Snoopy flags up (yes, I have a Snoopy flag for every month!). I scattered acorns and leaves on living room surfaces, replaced old candles with new, and savored the cool breeze coming through the door as I worked.

Autumn is here.

This is when I, too, begin to get comfortable, to wrap the cocoon of introversion around me even tighter, and to savor my moments at home. I delve into my writing, connect with my words in a way that I just can't manage to do in the summer, and bask in how the season permeates everything around me. Yes, there is pumpkin-flavored everything, but there's also long, comfy sweaters, and worn jeans, and heavy socks and slippers.

Autumn is a season that embraces you. It tells you to slow down, to listen, to look, to savor, smell, and touch its every facet. Autumn encourages you to relax, to get comfortable, and enjoy all that life offers.

The depth of winter, those months after Christmas, turns us hard, makes us bitter in many ways, as we scoop snow or have our cheeks pelted with ice or wait for the car heater to just get warm already.

Spring encourages us to emerge and breathe, to open our arms and dance, to delight. To experience renewal.

Summer tells us to go faster, to do it all, cram in every last experience. Seize the moment. Summer is fleeting! Sail the boat, take the vacation, go camping, go swimming, have get-togethers, barbecue, again and again, and then once more because summer won't last forever! And it doesn't, and when it ends, we are exhausted.

And then comes autumn.

"Come," she says, her voice quiet and sure. "It is time for you to stop. To look. To really see."

You go to her, hesitant, unsure whether to leave the siren call of summer behind. But then, autumn smiles and throws a beautiful blend of all that encompasses her into the air where it shimmers and shines like fairy dust. It's a blend of apples and pumpkins and acorns, of scattering leaves and glowing candles, of brisk air and thick quilts, of love and softness and warmth and family.

Yes, you think. This is what you need, what you crave. You want to see.

And it is autumn that opens your eyes.







Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Celebrating Historical Romance

In the '80s and '90s, I read little else but historical romances. These were the times of Kathleen Woodiwiss and Celeste De Blasis, of Jude Deveraux and Roberta Gellis. I devoured these books and they largely contributed to my love for history.

While I don't read a lot of straight historical romances any longer, I *do* love historical fiction that has strong romantic elements - and that's what I write.

My friend Evangeline Holland, a writer who focuses on the Edwardian Era and World War I, has a great series this week on historical romance and I've added my thoughts on the subject. If you're so inclined, head on over to her site and check it out.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Long Road to Acceptance

I wish the title of this post referred to the long road to my novel being accepted for publication, but alas, that is not the case.

Instead, it refers to what so much of my posts lately have dealt with - my health.

After another unproductive writing weekend due to poor health, I had a startling and rather frightening epiphany: I can no longer do everything I once did.

This is a staggering realization in more ways than one. I've always loved to travel, but now, just making the trip home to western Nebraska results in a flare up. How am I going to go to all the places I long to see - Italy, Germany, France, Austria? Those trips involve a lot more than getting in the car and driving to my destination!

Then there's taking care of the house. I am very blessed to have a husband that helps with the laundry, the cooking, and the cleaning. He's always been that way. But I want to pull my fair share of the chores, too, and I'm realizing that it takes all my energy sometimes just to vacuum.

Of course, the biggest fear I have is not being able to write everything that I want to write. On one level, I accept that I'll never be able to tell all the stories I want to tell because there are simply far too many. But I'm struggling with the projects I already have on my plate. Months ago, I had more energy and more enthusiasm - but the rheumatoid arthritis ebbs and flows in intensity, and right now, it's been keeping me down for the count more often than not.

I'll get them done - there's no fear of that. It's just that my timeline will be slower than usual.

And that is what is hard for me to accept. A slower pace. A reduced work load. Days when I simply don't have the energy or stamina to do the work. But there is always a voice in the back of my head that reprimands me on these days. It says, "You're being lazy. Get tough." And since I battle procrastination, I wonder if I'm using my health as an excuse to procrastinate.

But I instinctively know this is not the case. It's not laziness - it's inability.

Accepting that it is inability is the hard thing.

I once read a blog post from someone who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis who talked about the grieving process over his disease. I didn't understand exactly what he meant by grieving. Now I do. I grieve my lost energy. I grieve my pain-free existence. I grieve the fact that I will always have this disease - it's never going away.

However...

There is a bright side to this.

My writing.

I always come back to my writing. Why? Because that's who I am and what I do. I explore and understand my world through words. This will only lead to a richer, deeper, more meaningful life. And what is bad about that? Absolutely nothing.

But that's not all. I want others to see that suffering from chronic illness isn't the huge obstacle it appears to be. It is a mountain that needs to be climbed, yes, but you are not alone in climbing it. Others are right there with you, ready to lend a helping hand, ready to cheer you on as you take that next step.

We all have obstacles in life. Every single one of us. How we choose to look at those obstacles and overcome them is what defines us and shapes us and makes us into the person we want to be.

I'm choosing not to be bitter. I'm choosing to be positive. Does this mean I won't have down days and days where I complain and whine? Not at all. I'm only human, after all.

Acceptance is an ongoing process. On days like today (when the pain is bad and I just want to sleep), it's easier because I'm right in the grip of my illness. I know I can't do it all. But on the days when I feel better, I forget about those bad days and charge full steam ahead. Then, when I initially get hit with a flare up, acceptance is so hard. I'm on a good run and then slam headfirst into a brick wall.

I need to find a happy medium!  But I'm working on it, and God is helping me through it. Trusting in Him is what I need to do. The peace I feel when I do that is immeasurable.



Sometimes I wonder if I should be this personal on my blog. But the answer always comes back to me as a resounding YES. If I can help even one person, if I can give them comfort or encouragement through my trials, then putting myself out there is worth it.

Onward!




Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Joy

Remarkable.

One day the skies fill with thick clouds, obscuring your vision of the future, keeping you trapped in the here and now, in a place you don't want to be. 

The next (or perhaps the day after the next day), those clouds disappear. The sun emerges and the serenity, the fulfillment and bliss of life, once more settles comfortably around your shoulders. You breathe a sigh of relief, for you were waiting to exhale (even though you never did like that movie) and your patience has been rewarded.

The joy has returned. Perhaps it's the cooler temps, the promise of autumn right around the corner, the burst of creativity in the novel, or the simple state of being alive, but the depression has fled into its dark corner.

Make no mistake, it will return. But thank the Lord it decided to only stay a short while this time, not even long enough to unpack a suitcase before happiness reappeared and kicked it's sorry behind to the curb.

On Sunday night, you were thinking, "It will get better." Today, you think, "It is better."






Sunday, September 08, 2013

Depression

There's a word for it that the psychologist and psychiatrists and therapists use - depression. But it's a word that doesn't quite encompass the feeling. There's more to it than that. Life is lackluster. There is no color. Everything is gray. Tears lodge in your throat and you have no idea what to even cry about. There is no reason. Why, life is good - a new job, new challenges, so many blessings to count that your heart is overflowing.

And yet.

It remains. It sneaks up on me, settling in my bones, a partner with the rheumatoid arthritis, sneaky little bastards they are, joining forces against me. I put up my defenses as best as I can. Take my meds. Read a book and lose myself in the story, forget the pain in my heart and in my joints. But the moment I look up from the book, the moment I recall my place in my reality, it comes back. All of it.

They say it's a chemical imbalance, they who know such things better than I do, and I believe them. Sometimes I don't want to think the reason for my heartache is a matter of brain chemicals that I have no control over. Go for a walk, they say, and get those endorphins going! Except I can't walk, not when my knees pop and crack, not when the exhaustion coating every single cell in my body refuses to let me do anything but stay in bed.

Write, I tell myself. Lose yourself in your story. So I open up the laptop, begin to write, let the words pour free, tell the inner editor to go stuff himself because I don't need any more criticism or negativity to hit me when I'm at a low point already. I write and I think that soon, there will be a day that I read this, a day where I am not depressed or hurting, a day when I will be smiling and enjoying life and the curl of my cat's paws as he moves in his sleep, or the feel of my husband's fingers curling around my own, or the wide smile my daughter gives me as she shares her heart with me.

But it's not today. Maybe it's tomorrow. Or the day after. There is always hope that this time, it will be short-lived, that it will not bring the suitcase with it and settle in the guest bedroom. I think of waking up in the morning and greeting the day with a yawn and the familiar grumble of morning activities, but then I will see the gorgeous blue sky and hear the birds chattering to each other and see the bustle of humans on their way to work and think, it truly is a wonderful world and glad I am to be a part of it today.

That is my hope.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Truth Revealed



I saw this on Pinterest today and I had to laugh:







Why did I laugh, you ask? Because this saying is true. Here's proof:

Yes, I bought a genuine, 1940s typewriter two years ago and it proudly sits in my office, reminding me of those first heady days when I wrote using my mother's manual typewriter.

I would buy more antique typewriters if I could, but alas, I haven't the money or the space for them, so I shall be content with this one for now.

One thing I will say, though. It is much easier to type on a keyboard than it is a typewriter!


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Got the Writing Ups and Downs? IWSG Post

I've been writing since the sixth grade. I set up my mom's manual typewriter on an old school desk that my dad salvaged from his country schoolhouse. I used to spend summer nights in the nice, cool basement, listening to the radio, and typing away on my stories. I look back on those days with absolute fondness that has nothing to do with rose-colored glasses. It was a good time. It was a marvelous, creative, inspiring time. I conjured characters and insane plots and typed them all, meticulously recording how many pages I'd written on a lined sheet of paper I stuck to the concrete walls with a piece of black electrical tape.

I still have that piece of paper.

But as I have grown older and wiser in this writing gig, I realize that those heady first days of writing were not the norm. The norm also wasn't those dark days of despair when I sat and stared at the keyboard and not one single good idea emerged.

So what is the norm?

Both.

There are heady days full of joy and wonder. There are dark days full of angst and hand-wringing.

Both are intrinsic to the writing life. It's something I'm coming to accept more and more. When I get into a slump, I try not to panic because I know this is part of the cycle. The good part of the cycle will come back around again - I just have to survive long enough for it to show up.

Would it be nice if every single day was a gift from the writing gods, where they sprinkled amazing ideas, beautiful phrases, and witty dialogue into your brain? Sure. But then, would we really recognize the magic of writing if it was magical each and every day? Wouldn't it start to get, well...stale? Boring? Wouldn't magic become just...ordinary?

This is why we need both the good and the bad writing days - to help us keep our perspective, to help us experience all that the writing life has to offer. How else can we translate that experience onto the page? Answer: we can't.

So accept those down days, those days when the writing is hard and you want to chuck your keyboard through the nearest window. Be grateful for them because they show you just how good this writing gig can be.

Embrace them. Learn from them. Use them.

This post is part of the Wednesday postings for the Insecure Writers' Support Group.



It's Time

I've had this blog for over 10 years. But I'm finding that I go to it less and less. Maybe it's the death of blogging that broug...