“Whatever you are, try to be a good one.”

“Whatever you are, try to be a good one.” – attr. William Makepeace Thackeray

Today is the first day I feel okayish after battling an ass-blasting case of food poisoning or some sort of stomach bug since Tuesday. I think I still need to take it slow today, but I can see the (non-poopy) future looming on the horizon.

Dave and I went to tour a house this past week. It was a strange experience. I shuffled through it, worried that I’d set off my sensitive gut. It was advertised as a fixer, and that was an understatement. It was thickly curtained and crowded with furniture and piles of old family photos. In the kitchen there was a wooden “Bless this Mess” sign and a picture of the Obamas taped on the wall. The back of the house was a bizarre warren of paths up and down to the shoddy addition, and an empty dog’s kennel.

What got me was the signs of life here. The house’s inhabitant was clearly old. He had died recently, and his heirs wanted to be quickly rid of the property–so much so that they wanted to get rid of the house as-is, with all the furniture and photos and dishes. There were broken eggshells in a little cup on the counter. The fridge was still humming, and there was food inside. An open bag of dog treats and a bottle of wine sat on the dining table. But–it was quiet, and no one lived here anymore.

After we left I told Dave that if I died first, he should hie over to a nursing home and sleep with as many women as he could. The odds are quite favorable for male seniors. Anyway, it was sad to think of a widower (I figured, based on the artifacts left scattered around the place) shuffling around the house and missing his wife. Her presence was everywhere, although as far as I could tell she’d died at least 3 years ago.

It’s been haunting me at night even before this but I think a lot these days about the kind of legacy I’ll leave. What kind of family we’ll raise, and what matters to me and us. I want to raise happy, whole people. Who will hold hands with me for a little while. Who will make me see things differently.

I want to write stories that will bring people satisfaction and happiness. A bit of escapism in the day–a pair of borrowed wings. I’ll glue the feathers to the frame.

By the numbers, for both pen names:
Royalties earned to date: $3395 (approx, including those owed)
Sales: 803 for sci-fi pen name only (I’ve stopped tracking romance)
Kindle Unlimited page reads: 186,880

I’ve broken even and a bit more! Now, if I can hit $5k by the end of the year, I’ll be chuffed. I’ve been accepted to a short-story anthology that involves some good number of well-known sci-fi Indies; and I’ve committed to writing a prequel with some other ranked sci-fi authors. I’m hopeful that this will be good exposure and link my books to bigger names. Substantial profit is not really in the cards for a year yet, I suspect.

Nothing like a memento mori to give one a real kick in the rear.


The worst week of my life

Cee was born on a Friday morning and spent the first weekend of her life in the NICU under the lights, being treated for a mild case of jaundice—she’s A+ like Carter while I’m O+, and was sluggish during her first night with us. As we were trying to sleep the pediatricians came in, looked at her, then took her to the nursery for some time in a bili blanket. Her levels didn’t go down; in the morning they said that out of caution they were putting her under the heavy-duty NICU lights, and supplementing her with formula since my milk hadn’t come in yet.

It was good in a way; I was able to rest and sleep and go up to the nursery to attempt breastfeeding every four hours or so. Three of my closest friends came to visit on Saturday and I escorted them up to meet her. My best friend burst into tears—good ones—at the sight of her. We stood in front of the incubator with our arms around each other and looked—just looked at her.

Carter went home to sleep on Saturday night, and I spent the night going up and down to and from the NICU. He came and brought food—sandwiches and smoothies from Whole Foods, Chinese takeout. Sunday they released her, and we put her in the carseat and drove home with Carter’s mother in tow. I had a feeling of mild unease when we went home; I knew that the real hard times were about to begin. Over the next few days my breasts became painfully engorged, my legs and ankles and feet swelled with fluids. I couldn’t fit in any of my shoes. The nights were murderously difficult as I tried to feed Cee with my minimal milk and then supplemented her with formula. I think I burst into tears on Tuesday night after Cee burst out of her ineffectual swaddle for the third time.

The engorgement slowly began to fade; by the weekend it seemed things were better. Sunday, however, Cee stopped eating. Her latch was terrible and then she began to refuse formula, which was a first. As she faded we panicked and went back to the ER; they admitted her to the NICU again. We hoped it was jaundice; it was not. The nurses and doctors had no idea what it was. They did every test they could think of over the next week: upper GI, head ultrasound, jaundice, electrolytes, blood cultures, spinal taps, everything. All was normal.

I became gradually more and more unhinged. I would go to the NICU and sit there with my floppy baby on my lap, sobbing over her. My milk production was low, and I spent hours tethered to the pump. I’ve never fallen apart like that before. I spent time furtively running searches on the internet about obscure medical conditions. I tried to bargain with God.

Carter’s mother came to help us, buying me flowers and cooking meals and staying up to keep me company. I tried to pump to bring in milk to the NICU—I didn’t manage to get much. Less than an ounce most of the time. Stress? I don’t know.

On Thursday the 7th, my mother-in-law and I got up to go to the NICU in the morning. When we arrived, the nurse told us that Cee had eaten 70 milliliters, and had been fussy. I high-fived her and promptly burst into tears. Now you’ve got me going, said my mother-in-law, and then she started to cry.

I leaned over her bed and kissed Cee on her forehead and promised her that I’d never complain about being woken up in the middle of the night again. All the while wiping my nose to avoid dripping tears and snot all over her.

I texted Carter that she’d eaten 70 milliliters!

I took her onto my lap and breastfed her, while my mother-in-law took a call from Carter. She handed the phone to me and I said yes, she’s eating, I’m nursing her right now. He told me he loved me.

That moment was like the laws of entropy had been reversed in the universe.

They kept her for a few more days to make sure she gained weight. I went home and pumped milk with a renewed determination. She came home the following Sunday morning. We were together again.

“Pain insists upon being attended to.”

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” -C.S. Lewis

Today’s pain is not so dramatic as what Lewis was alluding to, most likely, but boy is it insisting on my attention like a toddler wielding a hammer.

In the past week and a half or so pelvic pain has been creeping in on me, on that V shape made by the meeting of my hips and upper thighs. It feels like I’ve been doing squats in my sleep, and waking up to feel the effects–a consistent soreness that persists through the day. At first I did think I might have overexerted myself on a long walk, but it’s stuck around, making it clear that this is not something that will be resolved in a day or two. It must be everything loosening up for birth, which is a good thing, but getting my 10,000 steps in is suddenly that much more challenging. I’ve been slipping a bit. I’ve only surpassed 11k once in the past week.

And…after much joking and veiled warnings from Carter about flipflops during pregnancy, I took my first spill today on my way to the grocery store. (I was, in fact, wearing sneakers.) My left ankle rolled (probably due to my loosened ligaments) and the world went suddenly sideways, and I found myself on the ground, stunned.

I hauled myself up and made my way to the grocery store and wandered up and down the aisles, still rather out of it, and ended up only buying gummy bears and ground coffee instead of the 6 items on my list. It hurts to breathe deeply and sitting up and standing up sends shooting pains through my right side. I did a bit of googling and it turns out it doesn’t matter if it’s bruised, cracked, or broken–the treatment for all three is the same: rest. They can’t x-ray the area or splint a rib, after all.

4-6 weeks of rest. And I’m due in…4 weeks. How’m I going to push with a bum rib? Hopefully it’s a light bruise if anything and it will resolve by then.

The worst of it is: I’ve only finished one item on my list of 10 to-do’s. I can’t stand at the stove and cook, can’t lift things up and down in the baby’s room. All I can do is lie on the couch. This is what depresses me the most.

But, maybe it’s a mixed blessing. Maybe I’ll get some writing done, since more active to-do’s are simply off the menu at the moment.

“I can with one eye squinted take it all as a blessing.”

“I can with one eye squinted take it all as a blessing.” -Flannery O’Connor

As soon as I recovered from the miscarriage I came down with the flu. The succession of illness had a military precision to it: I was on my way to the obstetrician for the all-clear when I started to feel the first tinglings of dizziness. The flu faded but the dizziness stayed; I saw the ENT Friday who proclaimed that I had a weakness on my right side. It’s probably a viral infection of the inner ear (or a tumor or something else equally terrifying, thank you internet), and there may be an MRI or the like in the offing soon.

She administered the most peculiar test, where I marched in place for around 30 seconds with my eyes closed. She clomped in place nearby in her heels to help me keep pace. When I opened my eyes I had turned about 90 degrees to the right, which helped her diagnosed which side was affected. Thankfully she said that none of my symptoms worried her too much.

She urged me to stay active in order to recover sooner–the human balance system is an astonishing thing in that it learns how to compensate for damage and rebalances itself over time. While I wait, I stumble a bit. But at least I know what the cause likely is.

Dear dear body, let’s get back together sometime soon.

“Writing about my past is a kind of time travel.” -Lucy Knisley

IMG_20141231_170147642I drew this in my diary a few days before Christmas.

Serendipitously, Lucy Knisley posted a comic yesterday about her miscarriage on the same day that my miscarriage started to feel really intense. I knew that it’s common (30-50% of all pregnancies), but I didn’t expect to feel as emotional as I did. I’m fully aware that I am young and healthy and am likely to be able to carry a pregnancy in the future, but these rational facts did not seem to help me much. At least not yesterday.

Maybe it’s the wacky hormones, but I’m still not steady (yet).

I’d been skeptical from the beginning–this pregnancy surfaced quickly and unexpectedly and I had bleeding and spotting from the start. I was shocked at how stubbornly the pregnancy tests (15 of them over the whole month!) maintained I was pregnant while I kept second-guessing them. Other minor physical symptoms of pregnancy followed surely and I finally let myself be convinced by my doctor and the tests, and that’s when I really started to bleed. It’s almost funny.

As Lucy writes on her post, we don’t talk much about miscarriage. I don’t know why. It’s hard for me to want to tell anyone but on the other hand, it helps to know that it’s happened to other women (and quite a lot of women)!

I’m fortunate that this came relatively early. And as dismal and disappointing as all this is, I want to start the year off being grateful for all that I have. A kind husband. A soft, bewildered dog. The experience of knowing I carried life in me. That was really something.

“It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas…”

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.” -Raymond Chandler, Red Wind

In the past week, a strong dry wind has been blowing intermittently through San Francisco. It reminds me of the Santa Anas of my childhood in Orange County (and my early twenties in West Los Angeles). It made me feel a little wild, certainly reckless, on the edge. The Santa Anas were suggestive, and violent: when they descended on us from the high desert, I would fantasize that something was about to happen – whether it was going to be good or bad, who could guess? It was not uncommon for them to spark wildfires in the parched chaparral.

Where I live now, there is almost always a cold, wooly slab of fog that sits atop our roofs and pavement. If it’s not beading the windows with mist in the morning, it’s sure to be there when I return to the city at night, like a dog waiting faithfully at the door. This wind has driven it away; this wind is not our regular marine visitor. Twice this week I have left and come home to clear skies gowned in various degrees of blue.

It is beautiful, but off-kilter. The season feels all wrong. The day after Beast was injured, a woman died under a train at my transit station and a five alarm fire could be seen smoking the air not far off.

This week must be better.

“I hate those ebooks. They cannot be the future. I will be dead. I won’t give a shit.”

“Fuck them. I hate those ebooks. They cannot be the future. They may well be. I will be dead. I won’t give a shit.” Maurice Sendak on the Colbert Report

negative space drawing project. I think I did the inking wrong. Oops.

I actually disagree a smidge with the mighty Maurice Sendak regarding ebooks. Still, there is something irresistible about the feel and the texture and even the smell of a real book in your hands. Nothing will ever quite replace it. And as for picturebooks such as he produced, I feel that print is the only honest format. For the mass market paperback, though, I think an ebook is a perfect substitute.

The other reason I picked this Sendak quote is because today has been a doozy. I’ve had a number of work emergencies and family blowups (coupled with a flu shot and some other mild bodily ailments) that have made it one of the objectively worst in recent memory. I say “objectively” because I am oddly unaffected. I took care of the emergencies, went about my business, laughed with my coworkers, and ate and walked as usual.

Let me explain: I’ve never been the panicky sort. In fact, I think I thrive in emergencies; it forces me to focus, cut out excess, and get things done in a brutal and efficient manner. Having rather emotionally unstable family members has always made me the stable one; I always have contingency plan upon contingency plan, and very few things come out of left field at me. It’s when things are going well (for too long) that I get suspicious: something is going to happen and I have no idea what it’s going to be! How can things be going this smoothly? Do I have diabetes? Did I forget to turn off the stove? What if Carter turns out to be a space gremlin and has been fooling me THIS WHOLE TIME with a mind control device?! 

When bad things happen, then, I feel like things are, well, going as I’d expected. It’s perversely reassuring. I’ve thought about getting trained as a volunteer for the Red Cross, because I feel like I’m on good terms with disaster anyway, so…why not get some use out of it.

In the grand scheme of things I’m no pessimist, but I do understand how pessimists deal better with catastrophes than optimists. So, the Sendak quote felt right because it starts off with a negative sentiment, but then a realistic and sorta-optimistic caveat at the end about being dead.

Day to day I’m on a fairly even keel. I like being mellow and generally happy about things. I’m generally happy about things because a catastrophe hasn’t, and isn’t, happening. So what’s not to be pleased about? Then, once calamity strikes, ah, okay. Hello, I’ve been expecting you.

It’s perhaps a wee bit strange but it means that I’m mostly nonplussed and delighted that life is simple and intact, with the occasional stripes of the grimmer, c’est la vie variety of calm when the bad times roll through. I do feel mildly guilty about not feeling more hysterical/sad/passionate with feeling when bad things are happening (especially when it involves family members), but I can’t shake this blue calm. I end up being the rock. Always. Not much I can do to change myself that way.

Maybe it’s not normal, but there are worse frames of mind, I think.