Monday, February 22, 2016

Doctor, My Eyes!

Life is filled with scares. Big ones, small ones, imaginary ones, and those we ignore. Which brings me to the topic of my eyes. More specifically, my vision.

My eyes have been wonky for months. But in the way that women do, I made a whole list of excuses as to why the matter was no big deal. After all, life’s been hectic. Nobody’s got time for more problems. My brother passed away in October after a long and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer and I had been plodding away at a book for well over a year, taking breaks to tend to my emotional state, take care of my kids and be with family as necessary.

So between frequent bouts of tears and hours of staring at my laptop screen, I emerged from autumn with bloodshot, scratchy eyes that I attributed first to a reaction to new makeup, then to irritation from seasonal allergies and finally to a lack of sleep. Eventually, I caved in and decided to resolve the issue with Visine. Lots of it. And wearing my sunglasses practically all the time outdoors – even on overcast days – because my eyes had become that photosensitive. I teased my daughter that maybe I was turning into a vampire. Ha, ha.

Then I woke up one morning a few weeks ago feeling like there were tree branches under my eyelids trying to gouge out my eyeballs. It was that bad and not at all funny. Hours later, when the pain refused to relent despite warm towels, Visine and Motrin, I did what I should have done months before and made an appointment with my ophthalmologist. 

Turns out, I had something in my eye. Literally: A foreign object was embedded in my cornea. (Insert your favorite emoji here.) So the doctor numbed my eye, took a needle and removed it. No ouch, but much stomach churning. (Again, emoji welcome.) He couldn’t identify it and I had no idea how it found its way past my glasses and deep where it didn’t belong. The thought of the hair-slinging tarantula crossed my mind. While he assured me that a spider wasn’t the culprit, he told me that he thought there was something else going on. Oh.

When I returned a week later to be certain the antibiotics had worked and the cornea was healing, he confirmed his initial suspicions and referred me to a specialist. That guy was the funniest physician EVER, which made me feel a little better about having corneal dystrophy, the dot version specifically. (Here's a video for you visual people.) Turns out it’s possibly genetic, usually shows up between 30 and 70 years old, and most people never know they have it. It doesn’t lead to blindness and generally resolves itself – within a timeframe ranging anywhere from six months to six years.

In the span between that anguished morning of pain and the specialist’s diagnosis, I thought for a hot second about not seeing. What’s it like? I didn’t dwell at all on the “what if?” for myself in particular (because I do believe in speaking things into existence, both good and bad), but I allowed myself to visualize how a sight-challenged writer works. Learning braille to type, using transcription aids, trusting others to help where necessary. It was a fascinating, but brief, exploration that let my imagination explore someone else’s world and, in the end, give thanks for the blessing of good medical care and the ability to pay for all these eye drops I’ll be using until my “dots” go away.

The deep and ethereal edge of this post (since I feel obligated to provide one) would be about fears of the unknown we all face at times and the powerlessness those feelings spawn. Yet, in the end we can vanquish most of the darkness around us simply by turning on a light, so to speak, and taking action: telling someone NO, walking away instead of going the h**l off, or making a long overdue phone call. We don't always get the answers we want, but many times we can get words that make us stop standing around biting our nails and move forward instead.
My scare has passed, but not without granting me a much sharper appreciation for the words I watch coming out of my keyboard every day. The incident has made an indelible impression on my psyche. So, if you ever encounter a character in one of my stories who’s plagued by insect hairs or has issues with his/her vision, well, you’ll know what sparked the idea.


Liner notes: I like music in a variety of forms – old, new, hard, soft, edgy, classic – you get it. So, this  blog’s title is borrowed from the 1970s song (of the same title) by Jackson Browne. So much of that decade’s music was socially-conscious and world-scrutinizing. When you’re young, you can’t even pronounce half the lyrics you hear. Then you grow up and understand the sentiment. Too bad there weren’t music videos back then. Or maybe it’s best to leave pictures to these words up to the imagination.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Progress update: Butterflies in December

Well, I'm back to work in earnest. After this very difficult autumn, winter is a welcome relief. Cold is somehow cleansing, isn't it? You know, a chill to shake the brain awake or make you appreciate the warmth you left behind. Writing is such a personal thing and for some weeks after my brother passed I wasn't sure my words would return -- how soon or how quickly.

Every life milestone affects us differently. For some authors, writing is cathartic. I find that as well, but I took solace in writing about Joe and for him for awhile rather than drumming up imaginary scenarios for my WIP. His situation was far too real to spend time dabbling in fantasy. I thought. So returning to the work I love isn't cathartic, but it is a necessary and integral part of who I am. I guess I needed some time to be okay with that.

I missed my characters and the mess I got them into. So, the story's been re-read and edited. The first half of the pages have been sticky-tagged for tweaks, and I am on to the second half of the book. Progress continues. I'm about 75 percent of the way through the book with edits. When I finish this second half, I'll re-read and tag those pages. Then I'll re-read the entire book, say a prayer and send it off to my beta reader and my editor.

You can't see me shaking with nervous anticipation, but I am. Note to self: Butterflies are good, girlfriend. Butterflies are good.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New web site!

Can you do me a favor and take a peek at my revamped web site?

While anything involving the internet competes for the Biggest Time Suck trophy in this writer’s world, sometimes it’s a necessary evil. I can say that after getting two hours of sleep last night. I’m guesstimating I spent upwards of 20 hands-on hours over the weekend migrating my site to its new home at Weebly. This sister is tired, but satisfied.

I updated the look and feel last year, working with Norweigan graphic designer, Ida Jansson of Amygdala Design. For those who’ll ask why I didn’t use a local – or at least U.S. – designer, I’ll say it’s simply because after an exhaustive search of book covers and web sites, she had the design that spoke to me. And in this global technology world, I never would have known she wasn’t sitting right beside me through the whole process. It was that seamless.

So, I had the look, but over time, my site’s functionality has suffered under my personal know-how. I used to build web sites way back in the mid-90s when the World Wide Web was gaining marketing momentum. Those skills carried me during a time when most authors weren’t even thinking about having a site and gave me a promotional head start.

I’ve been able to depend on my own resources all these years, so the fact that Yahoo Sitebuilder was still using very old Java didn't bother me. Much. I’ll pay for design, but not site maintenance, since I could do it myself. (#frugalista) But like everything else, pricing and convenience have received a makeover thanks to technology. My original web site design cost me $300 in 2008 – and took weeks and weeks to complete. It was fun, but far less versatile than what I got for $125 last year – in about one week.

It’s now ditto for site creation itself. Though I’m still willing to spend an entire weekend moving a site, it only took a weekend. I've done overhauls that took me the better part of two weeks to complete with code and all. But this move was entirely WYSIWYG, I didn’t have to code a single item. My functionality has been boosted 300% and I’m paying a few bucks less than I’ve paid for the past five or six years.

I also changed my e-newsletter provider from Constant Contact to MailChimp. I was paying about $40 a month for my list of 500+ contacts. MailChimp is free for your first 2000 contacts. I know, right? I haven’t sent out any messages yet, but a newsletter’s coming.

Stop by if you get a chance. Leave me a note. Sign up for my newsletter. Buy a book. You know, all that stuff that convinces writers we’re not really crazy for making up stories and talking to imaginary people all day. I appreciate the reality check.
Meanwhile, I'm getting some sleep tonight.