Category Archives: This writer’s life

Testing the new block editor tentatively

Water drops. Text: How to survive Boredom. Not very well. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

THEY TELL ME JUNE WILL FORCE USE OF THE NEW EDITOR

So I’ve decided to test it out while I still have room to run and scream if I don’t like it.

So far it seems very much like the old editor, except with new controls – which I don’t know yet.

I don’t even remember creating the graphic above, but it’s in my media file from my days in New Jersey, so I probably did.

I’m getting a bit more energy from my low-dose naltrexone.

ldn works differently from medicines.

It blocks opioid receptors in your brain for a couple of hours, during which your brain decides something’s wrong – and creates more of them.

This leads to more endorphins, and other things happen, so you find yourself dealing with generalized inflammation as well.

Some people even think it will help deal with the coronavirus; I’m not going to test that deliberately, and don’t know how I will tell that I have or haven’t, but it’s a good thought. Anything that helps.

I’m also getting, a lot of the time, less brain fog

This is the main reason I’m interested in it: in these thirty years I’ve had ME/CFS, I haven’t found anything I can DO to reduce brain fog, and have had to wait every day to see if my brain would kick on and be usable.

Then I’d have to make sure whatever functionality showed up that day wasn’t needed for something critical in life, which is why I did very little writing when we were moving and packing and sorting and dejunking and dealing with real estate agents (theirs) and lawyers (theirs) who didn’t do what they said they’d do or when they said they’d do it, even though the contract clearly said we could dump the whole idea if they didn’t.

My top level functionality hasn’t improved

but I think the bottom level may have come up a bit.

The most notable effect, after taking a year to slowly titrate the ldn up to the therapeutic dose, is that I seem to spend more time every day toward the higher end of the functionality my brain is capable of, and get more done in that time.

And it seems to come every day, which was something I couldn’t count on before.

In fact, I was doing prep work for today’s writing around midnight last night – something that, trust me, never happens. I’m usually dead by 8 or 9 pm, even though my brain refuses to admit it and allow sleep.

Objective measurements?

Four finished scenes in the last two weeks – absolutely unheard of.

It still takes a lot of time to do what I do, but I’m spending more time per day doing it, so it is taking fewer days to get in the necessary time.

As my friend MT would say, Woo hoo!

And other than finding it slightly annoying, I’m not having any trouble making the new block editor do exactly what the old editor did, which is a few headings, some paragraphs of text, and image or two, and

Wait a minute. Where did the categories and tags go?

There they are, under a tag ‘Document’ up at the top of the page.

So far it is twice as many steps to select a heading style for a block of text. Annoying.

There is still a link ‘Switch to Classic Editor,’ which I will use until it disappears, but this was not that hard to figure out – for my simple blogging needs.

Which I’m pretty sure won’t change until five years or so from now when they decide to edit the editor again.

Oops. WAIT. Where’s my horizontal separator line?


This exercise has taken me to the ONE UNFORGIVABLE SIN of an editor, eating my text.

The previous one SAVED everything as I wrote.

Now I have to do it manually.

VERY BAD EDITOR.


It’s a thermostat not a bank account

Skyport

THANKS FOR MAKING MY THERMOSTAT HACK-PROOF

Sometimes the modern world is just SILLY.

When we got our first wi-fi accessible thermostat, years ago in New Jersey, I thought the concept was silly. But the thing needed to be tweaked many times to keep us comfortable (okay, me comfortable – the husband doesn’t notice a range of temperature of at least 20°F), so I found it convenient to be able to do so from my office, without having to go down to the dining room, which was at the far end of the next floor down.

This was a time when I was often having to drawl back upstairs due to back problems, so the wi-fi enabled thermostat was a convenience.

But we’re in a two-bedroom, one-floor apartment now

and it is fewer than twenty steps from my desk to the thermostat by the kitchen.

Nevertheless, we got the wi-fi enabled thermostat because it was the only one available that would let us keep the apartment comfortable by allowing a RANGE of temperatures, instead of just cooling and heating settings.

Yup. We looked for a long time, and couldn’t find, in most thermostats, the most obvious necessity for a thermostat: the ability to go through a California day, heating in the morning, and cooling in the afternoon during the summer, without having to switch manually from heating to cooling or back. Every day.

So. We got the fancy one.

And it came with an app for the desktop (and one for the mobile phones – but that’s just ridiculous).

And it requires an account.

And a password.

Keep in mind that this is a SINGLE thermostat

for maintaining a SINGLE heating/air conditioning unit in a small apartment.

To keep me from walking fewer than twenty steps.

Because, even though it’s the fancy one which can maintain a RANGE, it still needs tweaking by a human, during the peak heating or air conditioning seasons, several times a day.

So I created an account, and a login, and a password – probably 6-8 characters.

And today I get this letter.

So I’m venting here about the ridiculousness of the whole concept of needing a 12-digit password and all this rigamarole for a THERMOSTAT for an apartment.

Because I doubt that if I write to the company they will take me seriously (and I’m not taking them and their 12-digit hack-resistant thermostat seriously).

And I cannot imagine why it is necessary, and I thought it would amuse my readers.

The thermostat can handle far more than our little apartment, and has settings for zones, and several stage AC units, etc., etc., etc.

And I still can’t imagine why it needs a non-hackable password.

Oh, well.


I should mention the thermostat does work, after I do all that tweaking, and that the tweaking is probably necessary because of the stupid place the thermostat temperature sensor was installed – probably right next to the thermostat – something over which we had NO control, but I know I will have to go through this procedure whenever they tell me to, and this is my revenge on people who waste my time.

And yes, I know I’m wasting more, but it makes me feel better about the future.

Plus I haven’t blogged for a couple of days from the inside of the CCRC in total lockdown, and small things can be annoying. Such as losing your 12-digit password.


 

Staying comfortable in the saddle again

Section of a side view of the Rose Garden at URC showing the side exit door and some of the path

Out door – but not in right now

UNEVEN SIDEWALKS AS A CHALLENGE TO CONFIDENCE

We are on lockdown, which currently means you can go out, but not in, through all the usual exit doors in our building.

Why? So they can control who comes into our facility, and make sure they’re wearing a mask, and pass a quick health check, and I think take their temperature. Good precautions, and control of entrances is a part of that.

They’ve added a check station by the campus’ front entrance from the street, so cars and people coming in can be queried as to whether they are essential personnel, essential visitors, or not. A patrol car with a private security guy sits there, and some of our staff are in the little covered space to deal with contractors, delivery people, etc.

No enforcement possibility is necessary – it’s all voluntary, but family members are being turned away, even if they’re bringing something, most of the time.s-l500

Maggie2 is identical to Maggie

Both are black. Unobtrusive.

Maggie waits for me to find a part and a repair person.

But I found that after two months of not riding, I’ve lost confidence in my riding ability and Maggie2’s balancing ability, so I need to go out with some excuse to ride around a bit every couple of days.

Part of it is sidewalks and paths and curb cuts and cutouts: they make look smooth to an able-bodied walker with no balance problems, but they are neither truly flat nor even remotely smooth.

Sidewalks and paths are made a square or rectangle at a time, with gaps between them. When a repair is done, or a utility opening is created, the finished product is roughly smooth (an oxymoron).

I’m not a light-weight kid with the great balance of youth

There is a lot of me, and the Maggies cope, but I sometimes wonder how much of a strain it is, and how near the actual limits I might be, especially when riding outside, with up and down slopes. I don’t go near steep gradients any more, and plan my travels with slopes in mind.

But if I haven’t been in the saddle for even a couple of days, I’m ever so slightly nervous when I hop on board, such as to go down to get the mail. When trundling down the corridors, I’m conscious when I start that I’m a little unstable.

It’s like when I haven’t spoken Spanish for a while, and my sisters rattle off on the phone, and I’m expected to just jump in and participate – and I feel so awkward reaching for a noun or wondering if they still say things in a particular way.

So tonight I went for a little planned ride

Checked the battery – 3 out of 4 dots. Good.

Took the elevator down to the first floor (elevators are wobbly because they’re on cables), and headed toward the side door (in picture). Right now the entire first floor is being painted, the furniture changed, and the carpet replaced – and is covered with a layer of plastic that crinkles as we ride along.

Use the paper towel so I don’t touch any surfaces directly, from the elevator buttons to the door opening buttons first into the stairwell, and then out into the side Rose Garden.

Grit teeth – tell myself it isn’t that big of a slope out. It isn’t.

Say hello to other Resident who chooses this moment to come out with a large dog and a frisbee – and ask that they both be mindful of where I am, as I don’t want to be knocked down or startled off my perch by a vigorous dog which is aching to get some running and jumping and catching in.

Go down the path – and run into a moving van which has barely left enough room for Maggie and me to go down the sidewalk.

In through the front lobby – and check that I can get out of the building near the Skilled Nursing section. They say yes. But when I get down there, I find that the door opener doesn’t work after 5pm, but I can get out if I push the door. Push, hoping no alarms will go off.

Then around the north end of the building, in and out of the patio area, and back to the front entrance – all the while up and down slopes, on and off of sidewalks, around sharp corners (keeping the two of us in the center of the walk), around patio furniture piled willy-nilly, smelling some lovely roses, and up and down several curb cuts.

On our way back now

Check in, chat a moment, tell them the door doesn’t open automatically after 5pm., but you can still get out (front desk seems knowledgeable all the time, but the details sometimes escape them).

Chat with a few of the servers, both of us masked – we miss our dining room staff like crazy. One is excited they are moving toward reopening some of the dining venues. I tell him we are not: no cure, no treatment, no increased hospital capacity, no vaccine – and exhausted medical personnel. We’ll probably stay in much longer than strictly necessary.

Pick up the mail. Chat with another Resident (I have to keep backing up). She’s hoping the path from hospital (starting in December, not covid-19 related) to Skilled Nursing and now to Assisted Living is only temporary, and that she’ll be able to go back to her Independent Living unit. I tell her I hope so, and want to know – I will be resisting the Assisted Living part in a similar situation unless I’m sure it’s reversible if I can handle it.

Zoom up the corridors, reverse the elevator ride – and husband say: “That was a short ride!”

Decontaminate

Put mail away, put everything back in its place, being very conscious of what might have touched a surface outside the apartment, stabling Maggie2, and washing hands twice, thoroughly, during the process.

And we’re home!

I regained my comfort, mostly, with riding. I’m glad I included time outside and with challenges – they were a bit scary and got better on the circuit. Other people commented on how smoothly we move – and I didn’t disavow the prowess.

But I know.

And that’s all the excitement of the quarantine/isolation at the CCRC today. Absorbing, eh? And reset the brain by seeing other humans (I haven’t been out much otherwise), and talking to them.

Until next time.

Tomorrow is trike ride day.

These things seem and are trivial, but they’re also important to do for psychological welfare, especially since we’re going to be at this a long time.


Stay well.

Writing persists, though right now it seems to be taking me 5-6 hours to get that brain to come on every day. I am well into becoming Andrew to write the next scene, after days of gathering.

That’s all I ask for.

Hope everyone out there is staying safe. Or recovering. I know some are not, and still have trouble some days believing the whole disaster.

“Another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Yup. Part of the week’s research included watching that used in a whole bunch of their movies. And yes, that quote is accurate. Memory is funny.


 

Too tired to post about ME/CFS yesterday

Image may contain: possible text that says 'MYALGIC ENCEPHALOMYELITIS (ME) MILD ME 25% CAN WORK WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY AND AT LEAST 50% OF THEIR FUNCTIONALITY. MODERATE ME ARE HOUSEBOUND OFTEN REQUIRE A WHEELCHAIR OUTSIDE OF HOME. DAILY TASKS LIKE BATHING AND COOKING LARE A STRUGGLE. VERY SEVERE ME ARE TUBE FED, IN SEVERE PAIN, OXYGEN AND OFTEN CAN NOT SPEAK. SOME AWAY. THEY ARE SOME THE SICKEST PEOPLE ON EARTH. SEVERE ME BEDBOUND IN DARKEND ROOM ALMOST COMPLETELY DEPENDENT FOR ALL PERSONAL CARE. MEICFS AWARENESS @CHRONICALLYRISING'

MISSED EVEN WRITING A BASIC POST:

MAY 12th WAS INTERNATIONAL

ME/CFS AWARENESS DAY

So today, a day late and many dollars short, I’m boosting a post from @ChronicallyRising on Facebook, which will give you an idea of what I live with.

For over THIRTY YEARS now, I have been in the very badly mislabeled ‘moderate’ category – with occasional good days where I’m lucky if I have lost ONLY 50% of my functionality.

Because this is my daily reality, I don’t make a big deal about it.

I have used my experience with the disease

to write the on-going Pride’s Children trilogy, where I have gifted one of the main characters, Dr. Karenna (Kary) Elizabeth Ashe, with the ‘mild’ form – and explore how being chronically ill affects your whole life and all your choices.

When you lose your entire medical career, ‘mild’ is a misnomer.

Society writes you off; it did her.

She learned to write – something I’ve done. But I’ve given her a better experience and a traditional publisher in 2005. She’s turned into a reclusive but well-loved author of several historical novels, by spending ALL her energy on her work (since there is no way she can be a physician any more).

And living alone.

She is much younger than I am – in the ‘adult woman’ vague category.

And there’s nothing wrong with her – except disease and society’s expectations. And how much she gives in to them.

The world may find out

after covid-19 slams through its entire population, that the incidence of this kind of a post-viral, post-survival of the acute phase, syndrome, is far more common in the pandemic’s aftermath.

It is speculated that a large proportion of the survivors will have life-long problems. Numbers are not available this close to the outbreak.

Maybe my stories will help those who are ignored by the healthy, the researchers, and those who fund public health initiatives – until it happens to them.

We are all still people, still worthy, still capable of pain and loyalty and love.


 

My writing is a walk through a minefield

I AM ALWAYS MY OWN FIRST READER

One piece of advice to writers I’ve always followed is to “Write the book you want to read and that you can’t find.”

I guess as a writer I’m looking for the readers who FEEL the way I feel.

I’m having trouble finding more of them because WE tend to hide our feelings as too intense, too troubling, too deep – and are much less likely to discuss those feelings with other people as we recommend a book.

It is too close.

I am not my characters, and my characters are NOT me.

Because, if anything, there are significant parts of me I’ve consulted when writing all three of the main characters in Pride’s Children PURGATORY, and now Pride’s Children NETHERWORLD.

Readers know what it’s like to be inhabited by warring camps, typically portrayed in cartoons by a little angel over one shoulder, and a little devil over the other.

I contain multitudes.

But I AM an actor

The training, and the thinking, and the practice come in very handy when you have to split parts of yourself off for a character – and maintain some distance from your self.

I’m sure you can’t play Macbeth without finding justifications for killing your king.

So, before you go traipsing through one of my scenes, I have to do the hard work of feeling my way from the First Line to the Last Line, so that it is smooth and satisfying for a reader who goes that way but once.

It’s part of what makes me slow.

Adrenaline is hard for my body to process – and all hormones are big parts of the emotional states that accompany their surges through the bloodstreams of humans.

I have to feel more than usual, and have a smaller capacity for recovering from the emotional hormones, than most people.

You have to get very close to emotions to write them.

Yesterday, as research for the next chapter in NETHERWORLD, I had to go through, over and over, a part of life that, as a married woman who just celebrated 45 years with her first and only husband, was very far behind me.

No one knows the future – it could be useful in some cases, but I’m hoping I won’t need what I went through yesterday, because, as all important decisions, it was exhausting!

And I can’t stop writing these sections until I can recreate that on the page, in words, first in myself, and then, with some degree of certainty, in both men and women.

Models in literature

I had myself wondering today how close Margaret Mitchell got to Scarlett O’Hara, or Charlotte Brontë to her Jane.

I’m not sure Mitchell was fond of Scarlett – Scarlett and my Bianca have a lot in common – and Mitchell gave Scarlett no HEA: she prevailed, but her victory was Pyrrhic at best: never being hungry again is pretty low on the hierarchy of needs.

I take some of my examples from Dorothy L. Sayers, who at least left Harriet and Peter happy and married, but made them work very hard for that win: the hard work is, to me, essential to the outcome.

I don’t take shortcuts.

All of this may make more sense when the next book comes out, if you’re one of the clan.

I hope you are.

When this is all over, I’d love to talk about it. Right now I’m too raw.


If you haven’t read PURGATORY, and do so now, you’ll have a much better idea of what I’m talking about – as well as an appreciation for why it took so long. I had to learn to do the writing/feeling connection – and do it in EVERY scene.


Drop a line if you have any idea what I’m saying. It gets lonely out here.


 

Jeweled anniversary moments in the midst of pandemics

Trolley with white tablecloth displaying our anniversary dinner

Our 45th Anniversary Dinner – courtesy of dining staff

OUR GRATITUDE TO THE DINING STAFF

Before the pandemic, gracious living was the touchstone of the University Retirement Community we moved to as our forever home.

When the staff called a few days ago for an unrelated matter, it occurred to me to ask is there was anything they could do for our 45th Anniversary, as we wouldn’t be able to celebrate otherwise.

And this was their lovely response yesterday.

Chicken teriyaki and a special dessert enhanced by notes wishing us well from several of our staff.

A shoutout to those working behind the scenes, even now

It is not easy to bring dinner every night to the 250 Independent Living apartments (and three meals a day to those in higher levels of care).

The last time this was done, a norovirus had invaded, and the lockdown resolved the matter in less than two weeks – complete isolation and a prompt response does that.

But this time they have been working harder and longer, and we have lost the lovely daily interactions with staff which are so rewarding – finding out about their schooling and families is part of here, and there is a scholarship fund and an employee appreciation fund we contribute to (tipping is not allowed) to make our thanks patent.

We miss them like crazy.

They are doing a tough job, and any time we interact (rarely and in masks now), it is a pleasure to have the younger people on staff around.

Management has a different job

Keeping us safe and fed and supplied and from going bananas those of us who need help.

Keeping our campus safe and only open to essential personnel.

Figuring out what to do in the immediate and long-term future.

I wouldn’t want to be them right now – it must be scary, knowing how so many vulnerable people who will live many more years if the virus doesn’t get in here are in their care.

Easy to criticize, impossible to replace.

Yes, they might do it better, but I don’t think it’s pure luck that we’re still functioning, though it might be luck that we haven’t had a scare yet.

But I don’t want to neglect the bright spots

The gardens.

The ability to go out onto the greenway.

Their determination to follow ALL requirements of the various governmental agencies – and do whatever more can be done.

And the little happinesses like ours, yesterday.

Thank you, URC and PRS. We notice and are grateful.

PS The cake was really good.


 

Seniors afraid in lockdown without being consulted

NO ONE HAS ASKED FOR MY OPINION

Decisions are being made left and right about the people who are living in senior communities.

From Independent Living, to Assisted Living, to Memory Support units, to Skilled Nursing facilities, managers and administrative personnel, government officials and medical personnel are taking decisions without consulting those of us who live in these places.

Those who can’t make their own decisions

There are a certain percentage of us who will not be making decisions for themselves because their minds are failing, and they don’t understand what’s going on – or what the options for doing something about it might be.

Families and facilities will be making those decisions, and many in this group have been badly served in homes and in those facilities which were supposed to keep them safe. Many have died without a clue as to what was going on, and without having their loved ones with them.

And yes, they are living and dying afraid.

But some of us are perfectly coherent – and we are being ignored

There are many of us who need some physical caretaking, and others who have joined a facility like our Continuing Care Retirement Community are perfectly functional and coherent but getting older.

Management routinely ignores our expertise and refuses to take advantage of the fabulous array of powerful minds here.

It is a lack of respect.

It is being managed by people who have far less knowledge and experience, compared to the accumulation in our particular facility, than we do, and who act as if we were children looking for something entertaining to do with our time.

I admit we will all fail with time – and some will accept that more graciously than others – but it galls.

Even though I’m one of the people whose expertise doesn’t go to the public good, I recognize the people among us who have been and still are powerhouses – and it galls.

It is a form of gaslighting

If you treat people for long enough as not having competence, they will give up – and that’s not good for us.

The result is an unnecessarily exaggerated lockdown, partly due to those among us who are not capable any more of understanding the limitations, but applied to those of us who are, and it doesn’t make for happy compliance when those with opinions keep getting shot down.

It’s not a good time to leave.

We made our decision, highly based on the people who live here, and will probably stick it out unless one of our kids has extraordinary requirements, and possibly even then, because I am so physically limited I’m practically useless.

It could be, SHOULD BE different

But it could feel SO much more like a collaboration between those of us PAYING for services and those providing them.

Which would serve to allay the fear, and find safe ways around the restrictions such as people who moved here so a spouse could be in the Memory Support unit most of the time, but have some meals with spouse and other family members in the various dining facilities, could see that spouse.

I greatly fear that we have lost what makes this place special, and are too easily giving up what makes this place good for couples where one person deteriorates first.

I fear for the mental health of those completely isolated ‘for their own good,’ who can’t understand or remember the explanations – and have no family or friend able to supervise their care. It is well known that the one thing that keeps a facility on its toes is supervision – for the little things which don’t appear on the checklists.

And for those who need the facilities here to exist even slightly well, I think we are being so restrictive that they/I am in pain far more than necessary, and some may be losing the will to fight on.


Management shouldn’t be as overwhelmed as they are – the business efficiencies, unquestioned, add up to hardship.

The lack of transparency really hurts.

And the attitude is confrontational.


 

The physical cost of writing fiction

Rose bushes in a garden with shady trees.

The Rose Garden at University Retirement Community

I’M PLANNING TO WRITE A NOVEL SOME DAY…

Say many people. Most of them don’t.

I’M NOT DISCOURAGING ANYONE! But I haven’t cloned myself even once: when people expressed interest and I offered to point them in the right direction, none followed up.

My oldest is writing fiction – I get an occasional peek. That’s all.

Why? Because it’s a lot harder to do than most people realize. Lots of words, and they need to be in some kind of a comprehensible order.

It’s on the order of thinking you might be able to build a car because you’ve driven lots of different models. Or even because you’re actually a pretty good mechanic.

Different set of skills, and the finished product DOES NOT SHOW where the tools were applied.

I’ve produced two completed novels in two different series

but it is not likely that the first one (a mystery written before the turn of the century) will ever get the attention it needs to be turned into a finished product, given that I’ve learned a few things this century. Maybe, maybe not. The more I learn, the more I realize it need a lot of work. Great characters, I thought, and a good end and premise, but we’ll let it live peacefully for now. In the trunk.

The first one in the Pride’s Children trilogy took me 15 years, many of which were spent learning such things as how to write a full-length play (great for dialogue).

I’ve aged, and have not gotten well

Thirty years of ME/CFS is a long time, and during that time I’ve had at least the usual vicissitudes of aging, and probably even more than average because the energy to exercise, for example, isn’t there – thirty years of no real exercise (because we can’t go aerobic – our cells don’t produce energy fast enough) leaves you deconditioned, even if you’re diligent at doing what you can (bike/trike rides, pool exercises).

That’s one of the reasons it takes me so long to write: the energy has to come from somewhere, I’m chronically ultra-short of energy, and other things in Life have to be done, too.

I’ve pared away and given up almost everything. The pandemic is forcing me to relinquish even more: at the same time it is giving me a bit more time, it is increasing the stress – never helpful.

Most people don’t think of writing as requiring energy

They’re more likely to think it needs time, because how hard can something be that you do sitting down?

They know it gets you tired – mentally tired – and that you need to keep your body in at least reasonable shape to support your brain’s work.

But beyond the obvious, most don’t realize that writing fiction is exhausting under the best circumstances. Physically exhausting.

I can’t, apparently, do two energy-sucking things in the same day

I can count as rarities the days when I do something physical first (like a trike ride, or even a trip to the front desk on Maggie a couple of times to get a package in the mail in the right sized container with the correct postage).

I used to get around this problem by doing my writing first, and then going for a ride in the late afternoon, or for a swim AFTER writing (since I never get anything done in the evening anyway).

But there’s no pool Yolo County is allowing us to use, and the days are now so hot (though not humid, bless California!) that I can’t afford to go out after a certain time. This is because California starts off cool, and then heats from the sun straight through the day. Without humidity most nights cool off, but on a day over 90° like today, if I don’t get out by noon it’s already too hot for me to be out.

My physical body is a real limitation

to my current writing. I just don’t get the hours of functioning usable brain that I need, and days will go by when no writing can get done.

I’m doing – and will continue to do – the best that I can.

That’s a given. Non-negotiable.

But I’m wondering exactly how low I can push ‘taking care of body’ vs. ‘using body to support brain.’

So the rest of you?

Maybe you should get started on that novel, and not depend on retirement, or ‘when you have more time,’ because I’m here to tell you the physical part of writing keeps getting harder every year.

And there’s NO guarantee something won’t come along and knock you clean off your pins (must look up that phrase), and you won’t be able to do it at all.

As for me

I keep trying to cheat, and figure out ways to NOT do things, so they won’t absorb the little energy I have.

My long-suffering husband keeps not complaining. He gets points.

The mess will have to wait some more.

I don’t know how long it will take – I hope days, rather than weeks or months – to get the next chapter through the last little bits (epigraphs and chapter title and a final round of AutoCrit). I only know that I keep inching forward, and I’m still excited about the story (this chapter was a doozy), and I hope I’m still around to finish this job (there’s a virus out there that eats older people and people with co-morbidities), because I still haven’t found anything I love as much as this little obsession of mine.

Thought I was improving a bit, but not really. Shrug. It won’t stop me, but it sure slows me down.

Oh. And I’m grateful. It could be a lot worse.


Stay well. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Etc.


 

The enervation of being unable to plan

IT FEELS LIKE A BLANKET OF LEAD

I signed up to refresh my French at Duolingo.

Every day they nag me to do the 5 minutes I signed up for.

I usually do more once I get there, but it is like lifting boulders to get myself over there and start.

Yes, I will look back when this is over (assuming I survive), and wish I had spent my time better, but…

But…

I will be better once my head clears.

Two days ago, I was struggling with a scene. This is normal for me: they don’t come easy, but I don’t care – it’s work I love.

Getting started writing every day requires a brain, and I struggle for hours most days trying to find something (other than time) which will encourage that brain to turn on.

And yes, I’ve tried writing when the brain isn’t on – pretty similar to making mudpies, for all the results.

Back to the point:

Two days ago I had a reasonable working day, got half the current scene into shape.

Yesterday, after two days of NOT riding the trike, I decided I had better get out there before I start making monkey noises, and went for a short trike ride around the greenway.

Except that we’re into a hot week, which means I can’t even go down to the garage to hop on the trike after about noon – because the garage is so hot I can’t function.

So it had to be in the morning.

And riding in the morning meant I was severely brain fogged the rest of the day, and could simply NOT focus.

I haven’t had carbs in days

Eating carbs usually results in me being brain fogged until the residue is out of my body, and I’m once more working on fat and protein. I haven’t been as strict with myself in the past, and it is REALLY hard not to have the only good dessert the dining staff sends in a week – after all, food is our only comfort provided by the facility now, and the lack of choice is getting me down.

But I’ve made the effort, and I can’t blame the current situation on carbs.

Today is merely the result of yesterday’s trike ride, as was all of yesterday afternoon and evening: having ME/CFS MEANS there is no way to get the energy back.

Not being able to do anything is also a sign of depression

in normal people.

We’re used to it, but I have to ask myself if I’ve let the situation and my limitations bump me into that territory.

And then I have a day in which no interruptions occur, and I keep my nose to the grindstone until it finally sharpens enough to write with, and I know it’s not discipline – it’s the disease.

What it is is a sign that I can’t expect to get a writing period on a day I go out for a mentally-necessary trike ride, which is in itself frustrating.

I can’t plan around it.

There is no plan C. I ride OR I write. And if I go longer than a day or two without writing, my brain seems to think we are doing something new, with all the Resistance to starting that comes with new things.

If you wonder why it takes me so long, that’s part of it.

The pandemic is just more of the same. A lot more.

Don’t worry about me, because I’m still doing this: there isn’t anything else.

But it gets pretty frustrating each day to have all this time – and not be able to plan or to count on myself. For purely physical reasons I can’t control.

I just hope I finish these books before the virus gets me.

Oh, and put on the list somewhere the end of the story – for those who might care – if I don’t make it.

Can’t plan that, either. Making it.


It’s hard writing one of the most emotionally powerful scenes in the novel from a place of such flat affect. The first half is great (IHNVHO), but I want the second half to hit you in the gut, too.

So no trike ride for me.


 

The tiny start of each new day

WE HAVE IT EVERY DAY

I realize it’s become a little routine, getting going in the mornings as efficiently as possible, so I’m recording it to laugh at in the future.

Mind, this is me ALWAYS – and has little or nothing to do with the coronavirus.

It might amuse you.

There are many steps (beyond the obvious first one):

  1. Find brain – it’s in there somewhere
  2. Do anything that absolutely must be done before you even turn the computer on.
  3. Turn on the lamp in the corner from the switch by the door.
  4. Say my morning prayers – even though I rarely remember the promises I made.
  5. Turn the overhead light on from the control on desk I can reach from the bed.
  6. Move to the desk chair.
  7. Turn the big monitor on – and make sure the switch goes to blue (behind PostIt so it doesn’t affect my sleep by being too bright).
  8. Lift the lid to the Macbook. While waiting for the screens to come back,
  9. Reach for phone, and plug it into the charger (I don’t charge overnight because I need it for a clock in the middle of the night, and a flashlight)
  10. Critical: reach down and turn the power strip with the two bright green lights ON
  11. Now it’s okay to turn the desk lamp on (with a touch).
  12. Open the venetian blinds and the shade to let the light in.
  13. Pills: take morning ones, set the later ones out.
  14. Check the email.

The reason for waiting to do 11. until 10. is done is that I keep forgetting to do it – until my Macbook suddenly shuts itself off and goes blank.

And when I look, and the two green lights are NOT on, I realize I forgot – and the battery went to as close to zero as the Mac allows, and I DID IT AGAIN!

So I’ve linked them deliberately.

After that come the optionals:

  • Diet Coke #1.
  • Breakfast (but that can wait for hours if the brain is on and I want to try using it first).
  • Water and ice for the HydroFlask tumbler I sip from all day long. Cold!
  • Facebook, quick answers to anyone who seems to want one.
  • The Washington Post, and The New York Times – quick scan.
  • Load up a page of sudokus – hard – for when I block the internet.
  • Check the calendar.
  • Check the To Do list – maybe – not good with that; stuff gets done, but not in an organized manner. Occasionally, clean the list, remove stuff already done.
  • Extra Vitamin C? Extra painkillers? Extra liquid B12?
  • Checking if any books have sold on Amazon overnight, or the nice person who took it out of KU has read any more pages.
  • Check The Passive Voice and Writer Unboxed; comment if I feel like it.
  • Think whether it’s been long enough that I should consider watering the twin coffee plants and the flowery thing.
  • Open the living room blinds that let me see out from my office past the living room, somewhere into the distance.

And finally, if I have any energy left at this point,

think about what I might need to accomplish today.

Think about adding an energy-draining shower to the list for today.

Including whether I both need and can afford to take a short trike ride for mental health and a tiny bit of exercise, like today – if so, try to remember the ritual associated with that now – from taking the cellphone and the locator bracelet for emergencies, and the keys, and the backpack, and water…

There you have it – boring as all get out, so I try to do it quickly, so I can go on to procrastinating from writing by thinking about writing.

Oh, and worry about the coronavirus, COVID-19,

and whether we’re still going to be safe, here in our total lockdown at the CCRC.

But that one goes without saying.

All this is so I can get to the real reason for getting out of bed:

  • Working on the current/next scene in Pride’s Children NETHERWORLD.

Which is coming along very nicely.


Do you find yourself doing the same list of heuristics every morning in the same order and playing a game with yourself to see how fast you can get past it?


 

They’ve blocked off even the swings

img 1076

Sign on a park bench in a playground area

I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT SAYS – STAY OFF?

And I don’t know because this is as close as I could get to the bench with my iPhone while sitting on the trike – and I wasn’t about to get off and maybe accidentally touch something – out there.

It makes sense. You don’t want people touching surfaces other people have touched, and possibly infected, and no one is going to go through and clean every bench and every slide and every swing, so at least you can tell people they shouldn’t touch. Anyone sane, with the small children who usually use this playground equipment, isn’t going to want to touch things which might infect the kids.

Because there are two ways the coronavirus can get into YOU:

  1. Someone who is shedding the live virus coughs or breathes in your general direction – and YOU breathe in some of what came out of their respiratory system,
  2. You touch something that has the live virus on it, and bring it to YOUR T-zone on YOUR face (mouth, nose, eyes).

That’s it.

‘Live virus’ is a misnomer; viruses aren’t alive in the normal sense: they don’t eat, grow, reproduce, and die.

You could think of them as a little poison packet, capable of doing damage in the right circumstances.

But those are quibbles. They are little blobs of Something that can, under the right circumstances, both make copies of itself, and make you ill from having had your cells hijacked to make copies of the virus, and by circulating through your body in enough quantity to overwhelm your immune system, which normally has the job of killing invaders.

It is unfortunate if you get the virus the first way, stupid the second way.

So everything is closed, and that includes the swings.

Getting out is a privilege

One I hope they don’t have to remove due to the human inability to follow simple instructions such as distancing and washing hands.

But it is discouraging to see simple things like swings for kids and park benches for all blocked off as dangerous. I can understand the kid cautions. But find it hard to understand why you can’t sit on a park bench – and then, without touching your face, go home and wash your hands.


Thanks to the person who took Pride’s Children PURGATORY out of KU this week. Hope you enjoy it – and hope you think seriously about leaving a review. Reviews are amazingly encouraging to writers working on the next book.

Stay well, all. You know what to do.


 

Easter with bunnies but no peeps

A takeout container with a sugar cookie pink bunnie and a petit four with bunnie decorations

Bunnies!

OUR STAFF CONSIDER OTHER NEEDS THAN FOOD

This is a good place.

In ordinary times, every holiday gets celebrated – and there are special meals, special desserts, alcoholic beverages (Mimosas, anyone?) for holidays.

The rest of the time you may bring your own wine and beer, or purchase it by the bottle or glass. Very California wine country, our neighbors.

The decorations are wild. Staff wear special extras. It is so Christmassy at Christmas, that we don’t feel the need to decorate our own digs.

So tonight’s dinner – which I haven’t eaten yet because I had lunch and then went out for a trike ride before dark – came with extras.

Bunnies – 2 cookies, 2 petit fours

My very favoritist thing in the whole world is the tiny petit four.

The yellow bunny and the other petit four didn’t survive to be photographed. Then I thought maybe I’d take a picture and share.

Dinner was acceptable – ham and shrimp – unless you don’t eat those, and then there were other options.

But dessert came protected by its own recyclable (5 – so not very) container to protect the delicacies, at least until they got near the person who eats bunny ears.

The day was gorgeous

It got up to 73°F, and I went out for a nice slow trike ride – I’m managing a couple of rides a week since I don’t have to save energy for the pool days. It’ll do.

I’m never going to get that much exercise, as it is contraindicated (at least getting very much is – heart not supposed to go aerobic because it can’t sustain that).

But it’s beautiful out there in Davis right now.

img 1073

which I didn’t get off the trike to get close enough to identify, but might be bougainvillea or could possibly be crepe myrtle (ours in New Jersey was that color).

StreetsIMG_1046 are mostly deserted.

But riotous growth requiring significant pruning hasn’t occurred yet.

Not very exciting, but I recognize the need to get out of the building, and onto the greenway periodically, for mental health.

Family visits with the kids, and with my sisters in Mexico, made the holiday special – we’ve promised to do it often, now that w’ve all figured out Zoom (thanks for making it free for 40 min. ‘meetings’).

Keep celebrating, keep sane, keep doing something you love

This won’t last forever, and we’ll want to account to ourselves for what we did, read, ate, and wrote.

I’m writing – the second book in the Pride’s Children trilogy, NETHERWORLD (for the hell the characters must go through at times) – is coming along nicely.

It’s about time! I thought we’d never run out of things that absolutely had to be done before we could settle down into quarantine, and that required my attention personally, but it has happened.

None of it included organizing or cleaning – so I have little to show for it.

But today marked the completion of a scene started just a week ago, which I thought was going to be almost impossible to write, but when I settled down, followed my checklists and my process, and focused only on the piece at hand – it went as it always does, right down some path deep in my brain that I can’t anticipate exactly, but includes all the stuff loaded into the ‘must go in this scene’ list – and somehow makes sense.

Don’t ask questions of your muse, lest he or she decide you aren’t trusting enough!


Hope that, amid the chaos, there are things going well in your life, even if they aren’t any bigger than a pink sugar cookie bunny – or the picture of chocolate bunnies with face masks my husband forwarded this morning from wherever he found it.


 

Stress may make you very clumsy

Section of pristine-looking carpet with toes of two socks

I can’t see the stain; can you?

SOME THINGS WORK RIGHT

What is the significance of a photo of a section of carpet?

Lately I seem to be more clumsy, especially in the kitchen.

Because standing is painful, and awkward, AND I hurt my shoulder a week ago (it’s mending – slowly, as we ME/CFS types heal), I do a lot of my meal preparation sitting on the seat of my walker (Sylvia – yes, I name things, and she’s been with me over 15 years).

The walker seat has sides, and my arms and elbows sometimes run into its frame.

And for some reason (yes, I’m paying attention in case it is a real problem), I keep dropping things and bumping into things.

It is a small kitchen.

And the pullout cutting boards make very good food-preparation surfaces.

And I try to do everything I possibly can for myself – not wanting to overburden the spouse when we hope there will be many years ahead.

So, last night I heated my dinner…

Chicken with a cream sauce, and cottage cheese.

I set out for the living room where the husband was watching TV.

I got about three steps out of the kitchen when I used the ‘F’ word, very loudly.

Our nice lightweight plates have no friction with the walker seat on which my plate rested.

And I dumped a FULL serving of chicken, cream sauce, and cottage cheese – right in the middle of that space I photographed.

If I had been thinking of y’all, I would have photographed it BEFORE I cleaned it up.

I just want you to admire that job

I immediately rescued that which could be rescued.

Removed the rest of the larger bits with paper towels.

Fortunately, yesterday morning was housekeeping day – and everything had just been vacuumed (could have been – and was – FAR worse before they decided to give us housekeeping back).

Then I got out what our eldest has recommended, Woolite pet odors etc. + OXY, cleaner.

I sat down on the rug.

I followed instructions:

  • Spray, do not soak, do not scrub.
  • Let rest 5 minutes.
  • Blot with clean white towel.

Five minutes later, and I came back, did the blotting.

And took a picture, because I could not believe what a good job this stuff does, even though I’ve used it before, in NJ, on carpeting of that color – but with red wine or Birch Beer soda or spaghetti sauce, all red.

I think it’s the OXYgen. Good for organic spills.

And possibly that I attacked immediately.

You REALLY can’t tell.

And that’s the story of the photo.

The clumsiness I’ll have to watch.

It may be stress.

It may be the beginnings of something else.

Or it may just be that sitting to do things is awkward.


Dinner was delicious. Mostly cold. I didn’t care by then.

 

Don’t cancel old folks essential services

BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU ECONOMIZE

Management here at the CCRC sent out a memo that said they were reducing the every-other-week housekeeping services to each apartment – and that the ladies would come in and clean bathrooms and remove the trash ONLY.

I assume, since this was not covered in the memo, that they were diverting part of the time to public cleanings, such as the handrails that line our corridors, public areas, elevators…

To which a bunch of people replied, WTF?

So they came and did that the first week on quarantine, and left, and the memos to boneheaded management started flying back.

Not that big a deal? Sacrifice for the cause?

People around here haven’t done housework since they moved here – that’s one of the things we pay for. But the important part of that is that many people CAN’T do their own housework – they are physically incapable of it, don’t have the upper body strength, can’t stand long enough.

And can’t take prolonged exposure to cleaning products.

Management realized that this was a no go, and changed back to regular cleaning, on schedule (and they’ve never taken the trash out before – I wonder if they will continue to do that).

And the state of our kitchen, with just one missed housekeeping session, is exactly what you would have expected if no one did the floors or the appliances for a month. Gross.

The lovely husband keeps cooking areas clean, and we both keep dishes under control, but added to eating far more meals here than ever before, we have had the additional tasks of dealing with the takeout containers (which seem to be bought from a different manufacturer, and thus have different recycling/composting/trash requirements almost every day).

The residents have EXTRA work, too

It’s a small annoyance turned critical because we have to worry about whether those containers are safe to touch, and wash our hands many extra times around handling things.

It occurs to me that since they no longer have service in the dining room, they are saving a bundle on those staffing requirements that take a lot of time – we get our own ice water, coffee (they don’t bring coffee with dinner), plates, dessert from the buffet, everything. Gracious dining takes effort.

The kitchen is set up, I assume again, on a much diminished menu (no choices), and a streamlined process by which food is put into containers, and bagged. Time and staff is saved there, too.

But the main reason we need housekeeping

was very evident: we, as a group, don’t see well enough to do a good job, and often don’t have the energy – one of the first things people are advised to look for when deciding to put mom and dad in a home is whether their parents’ housekeeping standards, always so high, are not being followed any more, and mom and dad’s once-lovely home is starting to not only look tacky, but require all of the offspring’s energy when they come to visit.

So that visits consist of overwhelmed children trying to do everything mom and dad no longer can. Instead of a nice visit.

It’s really hard to run a heavy vacuum cleaner when you’re in a wheelchair or use a walker. Dusting up-high surfaces you can’t even reach becomes optional, and they forgotten.

And the back of the handles on the refrigerator get awfully grotty.

Small things?

We’re in the vulnerable group: older, and often with more than one ‘condition’ which makes us think seriously about owning homes and living alone.

And most of all, being a burden to our children.

But precisely because of this, we’re spending all our time locked down in our own apartments.

Can you even imagine what the interiors of all the apartments would look like after many months – because it will be 12-18 months before a vaccine is developed, and it will likely NOT be offered to the old and sick first, because, hey, the young people have to restart the economy – of no one doing even minimum cleaning?

The sight is not one I, as a housekeeper, would like to have to come in and face a year from now. And have to start cleaning up.

This decision was definitely a step too far. We haven’t reached such dire situations here – yet.

And my thoughts and prayers and charitable dollars go to those folk around the world who have nothing, not even clean water. Nor a safe place to be locked down in.


Today’s tiny essay was brought to you courtesy of the lovely housekeeping ladies here at URC – who work very hard, and then go home to their families, worrying all the time about the same virus I can’t afford to get.

I can only tell you my tiny part of the story. Because that’s all I can see myself.


 

Sleeplessness is where coronavirus stress shows

I FEAR THE FEELING OF FALLING ASLEEP

I have to confess that I’m not normally an easy sleeper.

Partly because late evening I feel almost human (it’s not real – I don’t make good decisions then, and I can’t write then).

And partly because every single morning is a struggle to get myself into a state where I can function at all.

Here at the retirement community I’ve had the ability to sleep later in the morning, and to take naps whenever I need to (or should) take them, I have been able to compensate – and get enough total sleep during a day so that I’m not a complete zombie (there’s a reason sleep deprivation is literally torture).

But it’s mostly fear

I have learned, grudgingly, to give in to the sensation of losing control of my own mind – because I try to master my fears.

But I have never liked the loss, and I fight it – especially when I’m tired and my decision-making faculties are diminished – and I can literally force myself to stay awake if I think something bad is going to happen that needs me to be coherent to deal with it.

This is NOT improved when I wake up in the morning and something new hurts.

Or I find the body position I’m in has resulted in one ankle pressing the skin and flesh on the other ankle into something completely flat that aches and cramps as the blood returns, quite painfully.

Or the medicine that I took right before sleep has decided to dissolve in the back of my throat and wake me with uncomfortable pressure in the middle of the night.

If I could skip sleep

I would. Almost every night.

But I feel worse without it.

And I know intellectually that sleep is so critical that a form of torture is to not let people go to sleep.

I also take 3-5 half-hour naps during the day to rest my brain: if I haven’t had enough sleep the night before or days before, those naps can turn into deep sleep with nightmares during the day. Even with an alarm.

The lockdown and the coronavirus make it hard to let the day go

The tireder I get, the less I can use my mind to suppress the things that are worrying me – as they are worrying everyone on the planet right now: my personal situation re medical services, the lives and careers of my children, and of my family in Mexico. The uncertainty of tomorrow.

Knowing we haven’t had a case here (probably), and wondering if we will – given the news that the virus rips through senior communities leaving devastation in its path.

Since it’s a constantly changing situation, we can’t relax into a new routine, because nothing is routine now.

So I have trouble sleeping.

I’ve tried most ‘solutions’

But I either can’t take them (I tolerate very few meds) or they require me to do something at a time my brain isn’t capable of it.

And you can’t cure existential angst – it’s real.

Meanwhile, I brush my teeth, make sure I have something I can eat in the middle of the night, do my stretches for restless leg syndrome, say my prayers – so that when I reach that point every night where all of a sudden sleep is worse than continuing awake, all I need to do is lie down.

And the battle to stay asleep begins.

Because it’s never a one-time decision.

Things that keep me from staying asleep:

  • hunger
  • uncomfortable binding around any part of me
  • anything bumpy under me
  • pain
  • worry
  • a thought in the middle of the night that must be written down
  • sometimes (!) fiction
  • being too cold or too hot (repeat several times each night)
  • gut pressure (what the heck did I eat?)
  • thirst
  • the sound of the firetrucks and ambulances coming to the lobby
  • outside sounds (do they really have to do these things mid-night?)
  • rain
  • husband’s breathing
  • funny tastes
  • a muscle that twitches every ten seconds for hours
  • etc.

I can now consume cottage cheese in the middle of the night without waking – much. Which then requires that the next chunk of ‘sleep’ be done sitting up a bit.

If I’m desperate, I turn the computer on and play sudoku or something – after about an hour and a half (one sleep cycle), my body is given permission to try again.

And eventually it takes. And sometimes I can sleep enough into the morning to almost have a decent number of hours’ worth total sleep.

I don’t think it will get better for a long while – the world has turned and is now essentially unstable.

Who wants to go to sleep when it might be your last time awake?

Which is silly, because ‘going in my sleep’ is my preferred method of checking out!

Because I’m not ready. Honest. I’m in the middle of a novel, the middle of a trilogy, and finishing them is the plan.

Even if ‘plan’ has become a joke.

Hope y’all do better at this sleeping thing than I do.