Compassion Carries a Big Stick

My husband has been studying Buddhism for some time now, and he often reads passages to me from whatever text he’s into at the moment. I take these moments as they come, and absorb what resonated for him about the passage. But I don’t consider myself a Buddhist (he disagrees). I consider myself a Celtic polytheist who may or may not believe the gods are literally separate entities from ourselves.

He asked me if I have love and compassion for all living beings. I said no.

He then followed with a leading question (which irritated me to no end because I knew he was trying to be clever and “gotcha” which is so very much the opposite of Zen): So you wish harm to other people?

Of course not. I don’t wish harm to people, in general. I explained that, and qualified it: if someone is harming me or someone who cannot fight back, I will take steps to stop them, and it will probably cause them harm. I said I have no love for the person trying to kill me or assault little kids or kick puppies. No love at all. But, apparently, this is all right, because you can wish someone enlightenment with the help of a large club if need be and that is considered loving and compassionate. Er, okay then. It doesn’t sound loving to me.

But it was the language of the tradition, I think, that really got my hackles up and still does. Instead of saying our usual “good night, sweet dreams, I love you” before drifting off to sleep, he started saying things like: “I wish to remove your suffering.” “I have love for you and all living things.” “There is no happiness, only the diminishing of suffering.”

If you unpack those statements, there is nothing inherently wrong with them. However, it all sounds a little too “come to Christ” for me, even though I know, logically, that it has nothing at all to do with the Christian tradition. Perhaps my experiences with Evangelicalism have put me on guard for anything remotely resembling proselytizing. So I told him, during the course of our conversation (which he began as we were lying down for bed and I truly dislike when that happens because I’m there to sleep, not be kept up arguing over philosophy) that I do not wish to become a Buddhist. And this seemed to upset him, as if it were a judgement upon him, I suppose. He asked what exactly I do believe in, and I told him (not for the first time) that I have an eclectic spirituality based upon Celtic (small-p) paganism[1]. And then he asked the question I dread, because I am not a good explainer. Not verbally, on the spot without a “backspace” key at my disposal to make sure I lay my thoughts out clearly: He asked what my religion is about, and what it says about this moment[2].

And I tell you honestly, I did not have an answer for him. I didn’t have an answer for him because I am not part of an outlined tradition, and I tend to go on gut feelings more than anything, and I had not thought about that particular question before he asked it. That’s where “eclectic” comes in. Eclecticism “[…]can sometimes seem inelegant or lacking in simplicity, and eclectics are sometimes criticized for lack of consistency in their thinking.”

I am stubborn. I will be the first to admit it. My husband also says I’m “defensive”, which I suppose is a learned behaviour I have used to cope with a childhood filled with unfounded criticism and psychological abuse. Some people respond to such an environment by being submissive. I didn’t. It’s a hard habit to break. I tend to put my claws out first and ask questions later.

It was probably more out of tiredness than true self-control that I did not snap at him defensively when he asked me more and more questions. But instead of submitting and saying, okay, sure I’ll go down this Buddhist path with you, I realized that what needed to happen was more study of my own philosophical background, and a stronger theological base. I dug my heels in and backed away from this “system” that isn’t even a system so much as a malleable philosophy. I seem to have an allergy to “systems” of belief. I don’t like Dogma. Even if it’s as innocuous as “love and compassion for all living beings.”  I tried out Wicca early on in my studies (back when I first found books on the subject when I was about 15 or so), and continued to go back to it from time to time, to see if maybe *now* it seemed to fit. I don’t necessarily “celebrate” the Wheel of the Year. I acknowledge it, in the same way I acknowledge Easter and Christmas. Yet, every time I open up those books again, it still doesn’t fit. It’s still too much a “system.”

So where does that leave me? It leaves me without answers to questions of “what does your religion say about question x or y?” Or it leaves me making it up as I go along. Is it possible I just haven’t encountered the right “system” for me yet? My husband, who grew up Catholic, then eschewed religion altogether, then started finding spirituality when he met me and who has started studying Zen in recent years, he has found a “system” that works for him. He wants me to walk that path with him. And I find myself pulling back and not wanting to do so.

It doesn’t mean I intend *harm* to any living being. Just that I want the love and compassion I have inside me to come from my own personal empathy. Not be dictated by dogma. But is that enough? These are questions I plan to explore more in the coming weeks and months and years. Maybe it’s been far too long since I even considered it.


[1] I’ve not been using the label “Pagan” very much during the past year or so, other than the list of links on the right side of this page. I tend to lean toward “polytheistic” in describing my spiritual self. I don’t know why I made the decision at the time I did, but it has in fact started to fit.

[2] After a bit of back and forth, it became clear that he was referring to the Buddhist teaching / concept of “Being present in the moment” and not spending any energy on past experiences or thoughts of the future.

Posted in Spirituality Tagged , , ,

Ready for a New Chapter

Autumn always makes me ready for a change, a shift, a new chapter. Even though down here in the seventh level of Hell Texas, it is still in the 100’s every damn day, and even though astronomical autumn doesn’t begin for 2 1/2 weeks, I still think of the start of September as the start of fall. School buses are on the road again, crops are being harvested, the next big holiday is Halloween… Autumn also makes me short of breath. Allergies yanno. The first fall cold front is on its way, though, and everyone – especially the weather guys – are literally doing a count down until it arrives. We all feel it, that shift which signals a definite change in the air.

So what is next for me? I am nearly finished with physical therapy, and despite my initial skepticism, it actually has made a difference in my strength and range of motion, and also my residual pain levels (which are much more under control now without the constant need for narcotics). Therapy has also left me feeling more confident that I’m not going to break if I fall off my bike or try some interesting new yoga posture.[1]

Hubby and I are traveling back east at the end of September for a family thing (his folks got us plane tickets and a car rental). It’s been almost 3 years since we’ve been home, so it’ll be nice to visit; it will be much cooler there than here, and I look forward to needing a sweater in the evening. Then the week after we get home, we have to drive out to Houston for 2 days for my followups at MD Anderson. I’ll be meeting with a new surgeon, one of the fellows that assisted back in March (I’ve never met him while conscious) because my primary neurosurgeon moved back to Chicago to be near his family. But after that, I don’t think there’s much more a neuro can do. The MedOnc has scheduled a chest CT during that visit to followup on the activity in my lungs, and I meet with him the following Friday. But again, the last time I met with him, he told me there’s nothing they can do except watch for growth or increase in the number of lesions.[2]

So my husband and I talked a lot during this past 3-day weekend about our future. We just celebrated 15 years of marriage on the 30th. It seems like a sort of tradition for us to use the Labor Day weekend to take stock of things, reminisce about our years together and think about what’s in store for the future. We knew we were in a sort of holding pattern ever since my cancer came back and have been unsure whether we should make any future plans at all. Then something odd happened on Sunday morning that led us to start looking again, with seriousness, at the housing market in southeastern Pennsylvania: A woman knocked on our door and asked about the For Sale sign that has been planted in the front yard.[3] She turned out to be a Republican nominee for City Council, on the campaign trail and was likely wondering whether we were going to still be in her district this November, but she asked S “Where will you be going?” He was unprepared for the question, because we hadn’t decided yet what we would do if the house actually did sell, thinking it might takes years in this economy. But her inquiry made the possibility much more real. What if it did sell? We both suddenly had to ask ourselves, “Where ARE we going?”

Austin proper is getting far too expensive for our budget. And going the other direction (further into the country) would make my work commute ridiculous and not sustainable. We’ve known for some time now that we would like to get back home to PA one day soon, before we start getting too old to be considered in the job market. We both miss our home environment: the forests and the streams and the mountains and the rolling green hills. We’re not getting any younger, and neither are our parents. We’ve been watching from afar, unable to help while S’s parents manage taking care of his grandmother, while my parents help my younger brother try to take care of his daughter when his estranged wife goes psycho on him every other week. When I was in the hospital, S’s mom flew down to stay in our house, because we have no one here to help us in major catastrophic events. It has started to dawn on us that if anything else should happen to either of us in the future, we really would need to be near family and friends. We can’t keep doing it the way we’ve been.

We have many bills, which makes me hesitant to just leave my job. S has an interview soon for a full-time job which will help a great deal, and help us start gaining instead of continually treading water (and sometimes going under and needing assistance). My health insurance is tied to my job as well, but the law as it stands now (unless someone else gets elected pres in November and decides to strip it away) says I can move to a health plan at a new employer and not be denied coverage just because I will have this pre-existing condition for the rest of my life. And to that end, on Tuesday I began investigating Memorial Sloan-Kettering in NYC, where I can just as easily be told there’s nothing to be done by a MedOnc there as I can from MD Anderson. But as it turns out, MSK is actually doing studies on drug treatments that MDACC is not. I would not have even thought to look at their site had we not started seriously discussing moving back east. I cannot begin to think it is only a coincidence.

Since we started talking about these ideas, it seems to be all S and I can talk about. Working at home as I tend to do a few days per week has been less than productive, since the chatting we normally do can so easily turn into falling down rabbit holes of “what if” and “just let me show you one more property listing”. I normally get agitated at the level of distraction is has caused, but I can’t feel frustration when I see him so excited about an idea, after being depressed and hopeless for so long. We’ve both been ready for a change for some time now. It just took a while to figure out what the catalyst would be. Here’s hoping we can maintain this level of enthusiasm and that the gods continue to point us in the right direction.

[1] One therapist actually assured me that there is so much metal in my neck, I could be hit by a truck and my neck would be fine. The rest of me would be broken, but my neck will be solid.
[2] i.e. cancer. I think they call it “lesions” because it just sounds less ominous and/or nasty than “tumors”.
[3] The house we are renting is for sale. Actually, the property is for sale and the house is just a victim in all this. The owner wants $700k for the 5 acre property, as it’s zoned commercial & the realtor thinks he can probably sell it for her, even at that insane price.

Posted in health, hometown Tagged , , ,

Time wasters (Or: Giving Myself [and Maybe a Few Others] a Good Talking To)

Here’s the thing…
Ask yourself this question: on your deathbed, as you recount your life’s accomplishments, or regrets, do you think you’ll find yourself saying “I wish I’d spent more time on Facebook/Twitter/watching sports on TV/being inflammatory to strangers on the Internet”?

Somehow I doubt the answer is yes. Somehow I think you, even now, realize that these things are time wasters. Time stealers. Beware the time stealers. And more importantly: steal that time back.

Entertain yourself, of course. We can’t be all go, go, go all the time. I am a human being, not a human doing. Just, beware the time stealers. Suddenly, popping in on Twitter “for just a moment” becomes “following every link everyone has posted in the past 24 hours” and the next thing you know, that rabbit hole has extended into hours, and that time you had planned on using to write that novel, research that paper, building a new suit of clothes, or maybe getting on the treadmill, has flitted away and it’s time for dinner or bed or heading to the day job.

Forget whatever the “Experts” tell you. Twitter is not important. Facebook is not important. These things are passing fads. Remember MySpace? Remember Friendster? People thought a presence on those services was important once too. And come to think of it, just reading everyone else’s boring report of what they’re doing/thinking right now =/= having a presence. You’re just a voyeur. Wasting time. Stop kidding yourself.

Drop and give me 2000 words.

Posted in tough love, writing Tagged ,

Embracing the Amateur

I had begun to compose a long, rambling blog entry (as opposed to my usual short, concise ones? it is to laugh…Smilie: ;) about embracing amateurism and how it is not actually this bad word that Americans seem to think it is. However, in the end, I was simply repeating bits of MAKE’s interview with Jack Hitt.

But that’s not the only thing I was doing. As I tried to rationalize my choice of embracing the label “amateur writer”, I realized that I was starting to sound a) like a dilettante, b) like I was making excuses, c) like I didn’t believe in myself or d) all of the above. Which is exactly the opposite of what I’d set out to accomplish in the first place.

Recently, I was thinking about being an amateur, and what that really means. Basically, it means “not a professional”. I am an “amateur writer”, because while I write stories all the time, I sure as hell am not making a living at it. I am not “amateur” because I’m bad at it; that word association is inaccurate and I’m not even sure when people started equating the two. I had started thinking of my acquaintances who are professional writers, and wondered “maybe, in all this social media that asks for a bio or a profile, I should be specifying that I’m not a professional writer?” I suppose this is where the distinction of “author” vs. “writer” comes in. And ultimately where people start making comments like “well, to me ‘author’ means someone who has been professionally published and blah blah blah” and then another person gets out their dictionary and informs them of the actual accepted definition of “author” (it’s basically the creator or originator of *anything*) and then there is an argument over evolution of words in the English language and eventually the commentary gets way off topic until there’s a wank-fest over Gatekeepers of Publishing and the High Price of E-books (this is not an invitation to start that topic, btw).

I had mentioned to my husband my recent attitude of being okay with just putting down writing for the moment. I started to tell him how it stressed me out to stare at the blank page (similar to how it stresses him to hit the red button on his recording programs or the multi-track recorder and then have no musical inspiration) and that led me to comment that perhaps I shouldn’t even bother with trying to write for the professional market, or at the least, not try to sell my work through traditional channels, but self-publish instead. After all, I know the odds of selling enough to make a living. I know how many authors have to work long, long days to meet short deadlines if they are fortunate enough to get multi-book contracts and I started to think there was no way my fucked up hands could manage writing 2-3 books in a year (I know lots of authors don’t have to meet such deadlines, but I also have seen the blog posts of several who DO and what they have to go through to meet that). It takes me hours to get through meeting minutes or a blog post. How could I manage entire novels with any sort of speed and/or typing accuracy?

And my husband told me that, basically, I should stop putting the cart before the horse.

I often shake my head at aspiring authors who worry about submissions and advances and book tours before they’ve figured out what’s happening in chapter 3 of their masterpiece. And here I was, doing the very same thing (in my own way).

I have not given up, and I still believe that there is an editor who will have an interest in what I write. I give props to those who circumvent that route and go solo, doing the copy-editing, artwork and formatting on their own, followed by intensely promoting their work so it actually gets eyeballs on it. But for now, it’s not my plan to go that route. I just have to get myself back into that mental space that allows creative writing to happen. I spent 2 days in Houston this week, for follow-up tests and a visit with my neurosurgeon, whose fellows agreed that my MRIs look clear so far. I still have disease in my lungs, with no treatment options as yet for that. But so far, the cancer isn’t growing in my spine. Just having that weight off, finding that I can now move forward somewhat gives me some peace of mind so that my mind can wander just a bit. And maybe invent some new stories worth reading.

Posted in health, writing Tagged

It’s come to this

For some reason, even though my deductible is $1000 (which I’ve met) and my maximum out-of-pocket is $3000 (which I’ve also met) I am staring at a bill from MD Anderson Cancer Center for more than $7000. Which I do not have. In addition to that, there are seperate bills for the day I spent at St. Luke’s and for some reason, the catheter placement. In addition to that, I still owe about $2000 to Texas Oncology from last year’s radiation therapy (the one that didn’t work) and another $2000 from the Austin Radiological Association for the numerous MRIs and CTs I’ve had since 2010 as they tried to figure out why I was in so much pain in the first place and then the follow-ups to my first surgery. I’m contacting the insurance to find out why exactly my bill from the hospital is several thousand dollars higher than my annual max out-of-pocket, but they are also the same insurance company that called me at 9pm one night after I came home from the hospital to ask if I by any chance had other insurance coverage to pick up some of the tab.

I don’t know if anything will come of this, but thought it might be worth a shot.

EDIT (1/15/13): Removed chip-in widget so it wouldn’t keep loading long after the campaign ended.

Posted in health

Creating Under Fire

I spend far too much time distracted by thoughts of fiber content and what pattern can best use up the stash of yarn I already own so I can justify buying more yarn. And my stash isn’t nearly as big as some people’s.

There was a post on a popular author’s (henceforth called PopAuth) blog some months ago – sort of a “nyah nyah” kind of post if I really think about it – that said “so and so is currently in radiation treatments and then he’s still working on his novel full-time, so if he can write, so can you!” Which is kind of a fallacy, and clearly spoken by someone who hasn’t the first idea what it’s like to go through radiation therapy, let alone while working full-time. The author in treatment (henceforth called AIT) was a) being treated for a head and neck cancer, which will have different results on the body than treatment for cancer of say, the colon, b) will likely have a different tolerance for treatment than someone else going through the very same thing (we all have a different tolerance/treatment intensity/length of treatment) and c) is just doing his full-time job like anyone else going through treatment who has to do the same. His upside is he works at home, which means lots of breaks, no doubt.

Sure, I didn’t work during my recent treatment. I couldn’t as I was in a city 4 hours away from home and there was a lot of travel time, plus, my treatment was frankly pretty damn intense. And thankfully was over in a week instead of 7 like the previous treatment (the one that didn’t work). But when I was in treatment for 7 weeks, I worked my full-time job as well. It wasn’t a picnic, but it wasn’t some major feat either. Now I don’t mean to diminish AIT’s struggle; he deserves kudos like any survivor. It just niggled me a bit that PopAuth clearly intended his message to be “all you people who think you don’t have time/energy to write can suck it.” Writing is a full-time job if you make a living doing it. So is ANY full-time job if it’s your living. I don’t see the difference.

Although… here’s another angle:

Being creative while under stress is not easy. Creating stories from whole cloth while your life is clearly in danger is really really not easy. People keep asking me if I have written anything lately. If it’s been a while since I spoke to them, well then I understand. But if it’s someone who’s in the know on my current state of health, I do have to take a breath before snapping at them, and then realize that they might not understand that writing has not happened because all I can think about when I go into that introspective creative space in my head is “OMG CANCER”. Writing to me is extremely introspective. Whatever I write, fictionally, comes from emotion. And my emotional state, lately, is frankly unstable. I mean, I think it’s fair to say that, right? Let’s not even talk about the effects on my head that the steroid treatment has had (Monday was my last dose, huzzah!). Case in point: the other day, I got into a shouting match with my husband over making eggs for breakfast. Eggs! So, no, not the most together girl, me.

So perhaps it’s saying something that AIT continued to produce his novel while undergoing treatment. And that what PopAuth was trying to get across was that if someone under HIS level of stress can do it, surely some of you lot can at least TRY without making excuses. Then again, I have read PopAuth’s blog for some time, and I still believe his approach was kinda of an asshole move. He frequently says things to get people wound up and while at first I found that endearing, over the last few months I find I don’t think it’s amusing anymore. It’s just page hits. Because the more people get wound up and comment, the more page views he gets.

Enough about that guy though. I have not been entirely uncreative. In fact, I feel like my creativity is simply manifesting elsewhere lately. Namely in fiber and tangible things made from it. A co-worker and I were discussing yesterday what an absolute JOY it is to complete a project – or a segment of a project – and hold it in your hands at the end of the day. To see the results of hours of crafting away and then in the end have something physical to show for it. So much of what we do these days is a bunch of electrons and light, that can disappear with a power surge. Blip and it’s gone. This seems to be at least part of what has been driving the recent arts & crafts revival over the last decade: this desire to have something tangible at the end of the day. And maybe for me, with all that’s been happening, I want something to show for all the hours I spend on things. Because life is short, and fragile. And I don’t wish to be embarrassed by what my creations might lack at the end of my life. I don’t want to regret the things I didn’t do. I have other thoughts about the nature of writing professionally, and embracing the term “amateur” as well, but I think I will save that for another day. Suffice to say, I have not given up on writing, but for the first time in years, I feel comfortable setting aside ideas of pursuing it as a career full-time, at least for now. Doing so has allowed me to relax about my current career, and all the things I’ve wanted to do with my time while I sat in front of a blank screen and beat myself up for not producing best sellers. For the first time in a long time, I am producing all sorts of physical, tangible creations, and it feels amazing.

Posted in crafts, health, writing

It’s about that Healthy GLOW

I was writing in ScribeFire, but it does some funky formatting tango to my posts without my telling it to, which leaves me having to remove a bunch of CSS I didn’t tell it to do, which is hardly the point of using a tool meant to streamline the process of writing a blog post, wouldn’t you agree? So, today I’m composing in Evernote, because I am used to the interface as I use it for note taking at work. It saves where I am no matter what. This post is in part a test to see whether I face the same formatting wackiness as with ScribeFire. (I should probably just stick with Scrivener for composing, but I do like being able to pick up from any computer. We shall see.)

The hubby and I returned home late Friday night from Houston. The rental car we drove (my vehicle has been overheating on long trips and S’s pickup has no AC) had satellite radio which was amazing for making the trip go by while we focused on all the music choices we had to hand. While we were waiting for my 5:30pm radiation treatment, we had checked out of the hotel (the latest we could stay in the room was 2pm) but they have a lovely atrium and outside seating, plus there is a computer room where any guest can check their email or their MDACC schedule, and so on. I decided to check the schedule to see if it had changed, because it tends to do that without warning. And while my appointment for the afternoon was still at 5:30pm, I noted that the ones I’d had scheduled for 5/22-5/23 were moved to the end of June. And since I was right there in the lobby of the hotel we’d be staying in for that overnight, I was able to just turn around and talk to the desk guy and have him move the reservation right away. Because at this particular place, reservations in the early part of the week fill up quickly.

Which means I am HOME NOW. For quite some time, at last. The past several weeks has felt like a relentless schedule of driving to and from Houston. It has hardly allowed us time to keep up with our home life, take care of the garden, fix problems with the cars that have arisen, etc etc. I keep complaining that I want my life back. People keep telling me to concentrate on getting well. And I AM, but it’s hard to do that when I’m always on the damn road, sleeping in hotel rooms while the hospital crams my days full of tests and treatments and more tests. Blah.

So. Stereotactic Radiosurgery. It’s not surgery in the sense that there are knives and blood. The name speaks more to the precision and intensity with which the radiation is wielded. My RadOnc explained that usually, with this type of treatment, it’s fractioned into 1, 3 or 5 treatments. He said that in my case, 1 treatment would be too dangerous, because it takes the temperature of the spinal cord up way too high. Yet with 5 treatments, it’s not worth doing at all, because it wouldn’t be enough of a punch to the cancerous cells. (This is why the previous radiation treatment didn’t work – the cancer cells were too dominant, and the radiation too little, spread out over 7 weeks.) So, with 3 treatments, he felt the risk to benefit was the best. The cord temperature was taken up to about 900 C, which they tell me is more than safe. It sounds really hot to me, but there you have it. I’m still alive and still moving around. The thing about radiation is that it can take up to 10 or 12 months for all the side effects to manifest and/or wear off. Especially when in conjunction with neurological systems. But I’m feeling pretty good so far. A little burned on the skin, as was expected, and I’ve developed a cough, and dry sinuses. All expected side effects. I’m keeping myself moving to avoid fibrosis of the impacted muscles, which were already beat up from surgery to begin with. Now that my schedule has relented, I can get back on the treadmill and get back up to that 30-minute mile I had going before the myelogram mess.

And this week, I plan to go back to the office, half-days at first. I had intended to start back on Monday, but S is insisting I take a few more days to rest. I compromised and said I’ll work from home, as there are things that need my attention, and I will go back on Wednesday (after my birthday). I’ll go half-days for a week or two and then start driving myself in at my normal time. I think it’s highly important that I get back on the horse. S is always exceedingly protective whenever I talk about getting back to work, and sometimes I wonder if it’s just because he likes having me at home with him. But of course, he says it’s because my health is important. And I know it is important. Just, you know, I am sick of being sick. I want my life – and my autonomy – back. I really got lucky this time that I was not confined to a neck brace; when I had one last year, it was several months before I was even able to drive a car. At this point, I am fairly comfortable driving already. Yes, I’m stiff in those muscles, but it isn’t unsafe for me to be operating a car at least (well, no more than usual for me!).

In other things: I have almost completed sock #3, and will cast on sock #4 right away afterwards. Then I will take a small break from socks, I think. Just a small one, because all my friends and family should know by now that they are getting hand-knitted socks for Christmas. Heh. Anyway, I have some embroidery projects that are languishing in a basket – which do not travel well to doctor appointments – and I’d love to get back to them. Plus there is a bunch of sewing that has been piling up around room: curtains that need a hem, and some skirts that need repairs, plus a few alterations I had intended to do before all this stuff began. Oh yeah and there is that book(s) I was trying to write.

On reading, I’ve picked up a used copy of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings. I read his Mistborn trilogy, and liked it a lot, but I admit I am a bit confused already in this new series. However, it is a Really Long Book, so I imagine all will be explained. Oh and yes, I’m aware he finished Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and I could really care less. I gave up on that ham-fisted series years ago.

And since, as I mentioned, I do not have another appointment now for more than a month (yippee!) I suspect that this will be the last cancerous update of doom for a while. So there.

Posted in crafts, health, writing

“I grow weary of the journeying…”

Three and a half hours out, three and a half hours back. That’s what it is every time I have to go to Houston.

Surely all this mileage can be written off on my taxes?

The myelogram on Monday was successful. It did leave me with some annoying sciatic pain which took most of last week to abate. Friday was supposed to begin the first of three stereotactic radiosurgery treatments. I say “was supposed to” because apparently they changed it without calling me first, and the only reason I knew to cancel my hotel reservations before the 6pm deadline was because I happened to look at the schedule at 5:35. I swear to Lugh, this is a habit there, with the schedulers. They just change stuff and expect you to check online, repeatedly through the day. Sure, eventually one of the evening techs called me, but if I hadn’t seen the change myself, I would have been charged for a hotel room I wouldn’t be using. I feel like I should voice my displeasure at someone about this, but I don’t know who.

The hubby and I planned on staying the night only because we both have been having so much back trouble with all the driving, that going out for the hour-long session and then hopping back into the car seems like the last thing either of us wants to do. It gets too uncomfortable and we’re both squirming about an hour into the journey. I’d love to have a newer car with fancy seats that aren’t 15 years old and completely blown out from use, but that’s not in the cards. Unless of course the Universe wishes to gift me with one. I’d certainly accept. (One of the new Fiats would be nice.)

So as of now, I’m scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of this week, and will have to work hotel arrangements and being sure the kitties aren’t alone too long all around that. Next week (on my birthday) we’re there for another overnight stay to see my surgeon and get follow-up MRIs. I believe this time around they are checking my Borg Enhancements rods and screws to be sure nothing’s backing out, and also to check the rest of my spine to scout for other signs of disease. They haven’t found any to-date, so I’m imagining they won’t this time either. If all these dates sound dizzying to you, just imagine how I feel. I can hardly wait until I have a long stretch of boredom. Indeed, I find myself longing for the normalcy that is my office at work.

Onward, to other, non-cancerous things in my world!

I have finished a pair of wool socks, using Lion Brand sock ease in “toffy”.  I do not think the name accurately reflects the colorway, to be honest; it calls to mind more browns than is present and this colorway actually quite reminds me of candy corn. That has been strewn onto a dark grey background. Not that it is a bad colorway, per se, just not what I had in mind when I ordered it (which tells me I really should get sock yarn from the store and not trust what I see on the computer screen). I immediately cast on another sock upon finishing those, this time in the colorway “rock candy” which also doesn’t quite match what was on the screen, but it is better, at least. Anyway, it took several tries to get them made, but ultimately, I found myself “getting it” and now it’s like I actually know what I’m doing. And the first pair are vaguely the same size, so that’s a win in my book.

I’ve read two more Dresdon Files novels in the past week, and there is only one more in the series so far. I had to stop myself from running to the library to grab their copy of Ghost Story, because then I wouldn’t get anything done for another 3 days. I just can’t put them down; I don’t know what it is. I haven’t decided what to read next, despite what I have listed as started in my Goodreads queue. Mostly I find myself knitting instead of reading these last few days. 

I feel like I should share kitten pictures to round this out, but am unable to find the camera. I have memories of having used it recently, yet also fears of having left it somewhere like a hotel room or the hospital. I do hope there was nothing too risque on it. *grimace*

Posted in crafts, health

In Which I am Not an Expert, yet Quite Parenthetical

I begin this post with gratitude. While I was in the hospital, my husband brought me my “dumb phone”* so that I could make calls to family and send texts to some friends. It is also able to read my Twitter feed although sending a tweet is difficult to do for some reason. At any rate, I was able to see numerous @ replies regarding my request for energy and thoughts. It literally brought tears to my eyes, and the doctor doing rounds just as I was reading them became very worried about me until I explained that it was just tears of happiness that so many people cared. So I thank you all. Just when I start to think that humanity is made up of awfulness, the game changes and suprises me.

Now in my recovery from surgery, I am relegated to my bed or a recliner chair for much of the day. I can walk, and am getting stronger at doing so each day. But it is tiring and it takes only a short amount of walking around for the muscles in my back and neck to start tightening and spasming. So, I sit. I sit and read, use my laptop to scroll on Pinterest or Twitter, I knit and stitch (my hands are shaky, and there’s some numbness, but they still move when I tell them to), I rest, I chat with my dear husband, cuddle the cats who fight for space on my lap, play games on my old PS2, and watch old shows on Netflix, (currently Star Trek: Voyager) in their entirety from beginning to end. Of course, now that it is getting easier to type (I am still slow, but improving) I will likely start getting back to working from home fairly soon. My sick time (and that of my generous co-workers) is limited.

I completed a warm scarf for my husband (just in time for the Texas heat to begin). One of my own design and only my second attempt at intarsia knitting. I didn’t look up the right way to do it, just added some thin wine-colored stripes to break up the solid black he’d asked for. It turns out there is a right way and a wrong way to carry the yarn from one row to the next, but I lucked out and instinctively did it the “right way”. In the most recent issue of MAKE (Volume 30: Smarter Homes), a reprint of Phillip Torrone’s blog post Zen and the Art of Making reminded me that it is perfectly okay to approach a project in this manner. Where an expert may concern herself with making sure it was being done correctly, the beginner often takes a chance and does what looks or feels like it makes sense to do so. My current handiwork is a stylized reindeer embroidered on linen. Yes, I know it’s not the holidays. It takes me ages to stitch a design (or it did when I wasn’t faced with a long stretch of being stuck in a recliner) and I started it before last Yule. It’s possible it will take me until December to complete to my satisfaction at any rate.

But none of that is relevant. What matters is, it’s being done in some chain stitch, some stem stitch and some satin stitching. I am definitely no expert in embroidery, apart from counted cross-stitching. It’s highly likely that I am doing much of it wrong – or at least doing it in a way that someone with more experience would cringe at. In fact, I recently came upon a blog post by a respected stitcher regarding satin stitch in which he explained that one really should only use one thread at a time, and I am currently using two. It covers the field more quickly. And I rather regret that I read that post, not because he’s wrong (he’s quite right), but because it put a bug in my ear that I may be “doing it wrong”. My satin stitched fields look just fine to me, of course, and the fact is that this piece is for me, my household and no one else. I’m enjoying the task and the exercise for my hands, and in the end there really is no “doing it wrong”. I’m always looking through the blogs of crafters and imagining myself reaching their level of skill and cleverness. But I pray that I never consider myself an expert in any particular craft. As Torrone says in his post “If you’re a self-proclaimed expert in something, you’ll end up defending your work from other experts.”  And I’d rather spend my time beginning new crafts.

 * – As opposed to a “smart phone”, I have a pre-paid utilitarian cell phone that, while it does have web capability, it hasn’t enough memory to actually use it. Twitter only works by virtue of the fact that their mobile site is designed to be very light.

Posted in crafts, health

My Upcoming Surgery schedule & a request for energy

On Monday, March 19, is my cerebral artery angiogram. The imaging shows shadows around one of those arteries, which could be scar tissue from the surgery in 2010, or it could be new tumor growth. They are worried it may have compromised the artery, in which case they would sever it (as long as they think it is safe to do so). I’d prefer to keep both arteries, so at 8am-9:30am CDT (1300 to 1430 UTC/GMT), please focus a thought during that period on the way being clear and uncompromised.

There is not a time listed on my schedule for the surgery, just a note that I’m being admitted on 3/20/12. I am thinking the actual admission time might be dependant on some other factors, but I ask that, if you will, please hold a thought for me on the day of Tuesday, March 20. That is the day they open my spine up again, and do things in there to get the tumor growth off completely. They may have to sacrifice one of the nerves that controls muscles in my right hand. It kinda sucks, but is preferable to doing this yet again in the future, or having it spread so far into the spinal canal that nothing can be done.

If you believe in gods or a God or the Beloved Goddess, send them a wish on my behalf. If you don’t, I am requesting just a thought, just holding a thought in your mind, for just a minute. Can you do that, for a friend or a stranger? I’m crowdsourcing energy and all the magic I can round up. I’ll be in Houston, TX, if that makes a difference in whatever it is you might do.

Thank you, brothers and sisters.

Posted in health