I Missed a Day

But I’m back now.

Why did I miss yesterday?

It was just a long day, I guess. I worked yesterday. . . . Oh! I tried to get to bed early last night because Evelyn and I were planning on going to the art museum today and so I wanted to get up pretty early so that I could have breakfast with my dad before going to the museum. So I ended up deciding to go to bed rather than staying up to write.

Apropos of nothing aside from my sleep habits, I dreamed about clothing. I dreamed that I was buying a lime-green sleeveless shirt with a collar, and a fuchsia sweater, and an electric blue shirt of some other style to go with a lime green, fuchsia, and electric blue plaid skirt.

And now that I’m awake, I think I actually did have a plaid skirt in similar colors. My mom and I bought coordinating outfits sometime in the 1980s. I got a blue and fuchsia plaid skirt (I don’t remember any lime green) and my mom got a skirt in the same style in blue. We got gauze shirts in the same style in colors that matched the skirts. I loved that outfit.

I am thinking more in fashiony terms these days. I have a pile of black knit pants in varying levels of fading that I wore as work pants for years and I’m thinking of turning them into half as many black skirts. What I’m thinking about doing is cutting the side seams of the legs of one pair, and then cutting the legs off of another pair, cutting the legs of that pair into four congruent triangles, sewing them into the place where the side seams used to be, and then hemming the whole mess at an attractive length.

Let’s call the four skirt sections A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H. I figure that if A, C, E, and G are one shade of black and B, D, F, and H are another, it should look intentional.

And if this works, rather than eight pairs of pants that I won’t wear, I’ll have four skirts that I will.

Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale. In the land of Danland, whenever the heir to the throne comes of age, the priests use divination to find which village the next queen will come from, and then they set up a school for the girls of that village. Usually, the purpose of the school is merely to teach etiquette and things to the girls so that whichever girl the heir chooses will know how to comport herself as queen. This time, however, the priests have said that the future queen lives in a small village where most of the population can’t even read or write. So this time the school will need to be a school in truth.

Tongue Update

I had my first post-surgery checkup today. Everything looks good; I’m healing well. Also, the pathology report came back and the spot that the doctor sent in for the biopsy was the scariest looking spot and, by golly, it was the most diseased spot as well.

The section he sent for the biopsy came back as “atypical,” which means that the cells have the potential to turn into cancer. The entire lesion came back as hyperkeratotic, which means that it’s thickened, but it was not atypical. This is a very good sign.

We’ll have to watch it to make sure it doesn’t come back. I’ll be going back for another followup in early July and at that time they’ll take a picture of the spot. I’ll get a copy of the picture and ask him to point out what I’m looking for. Then I’ll need to check it periodically. I will also need to come back for checkups every six months for the foreseeable future.

But ultimately, this will likely turn out to be a heartstoppingly exciting time in my life that I’ll be able to look back on in thirty years and say, “Wow! That was heartstoppingly exciting!”

Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is Dark Souls, by Paula Morris. Dark Souls is the story of Miranda, who was in a terrible car accident in which her best friend died. And that night, Miranda discovered that she can see ghosts. Her parents decide that they need to take a family trip to York, in the UK, where Miranda gets introduced to the ghosts of York. And, yes, the ghosts that Miranda sees check out in reality.

Being a Beginner

I read Chapter 4 of Pep Talks for Writers yesterday and. Wow.

The advice that Faulkner gives us is. . . kind of unnecessary for me? He advises the reader to let go of what we know and embrace what we don’t know. And I don’t know if the flip side of the Dunning-Kruger effect (a/k/a “Imposter Syndrome”) is at work here. I mean, isn’t the whole point of the Dunning-Kruger effect that you can’t observe yourself accurately?

I’ve gone through my whole life feeling like I don’t understand what’s going on. My brain is a treasure trove of useless trivia (often, at work someone will say, “Olivia, what do you call ____?” and I’ll have the answer right on the tip of my tongue), but as for job skills, erm. No.

I think that’s a big part of why I’ve ended up underemployed for my whole life. I have a hard time sounding like an expert because I don’t believe that I am in job interviews and so interviewers are, “Maybe you know something, but you don’t know enough to actually be useful.”

Every time I sit down to write, I’m terrified. I keep telling Alex just to write like he talks because he’s not a fantastic writer, but he’s really well spoken. I mean, writing seems like the easiest thing in the world and not a skill at all. Certainly not one I’m good at.

So. I guess that feeling like a beginner comes naturally to me. Maybe the concern is that I may some day decide that writing is not the easiest thing ever and that I have an actual skill. Will I begin to fail as a writer then, or will it be just the beginning?

The Shooting in Uvalde

Guns have always scared me. I’ll be up front about that.

My uncle was a police officer and he brought his gun to our house when he visited once. My aunt demanded he take it off. He put it on the floor of our living room, leaning up against the wall, and I went around the long way that whole day. I’d heard stories about guns going off spontaneously and, well, yeah.

Even with that, though, I don’t believe in taking guns from everyone everywhere. I mean, subsistence hunting is a thing. There’s wildlife population management hunting, where the natural predators aren’t able to keep up with prey populations and so the government allows hunting of the prey population to bring the numbers down. This makes the overall population of the prey healthier. I can see where that’s a good thing, too.

There’s target and skeet shooting, which are, like, actual sports. That’s a good thing, too, I guess.

But this proliferation of guns has got to stop. Even if the founders intended to let anyone buy any weapons they wanted whenever they wanted, they didn’t have anything like the kinds of guns we have now. They probably couldn’t even conceive of that kind of firepower.

It’s like that meme where someone asks the founders how congress will scale up, like what about when there’s 40 million people in California and the founder says, “How many people in where?” Found it!

I doubt that any of them could see just how huge and powerful and **dangerous** their little original 13 colonies would grow to be.

Having a rifleshotgun (rifles hadn’t been invented yet — that’s how far back we’re going here!) was probably just a fact of life for a lot of people (researching that in another window right now)* and the founders wanted, depending on which version of history you subscribe to, to either allow people to defend themselves from the English government or from slave uprisings. And it’s not impossible that they wanted both. And so, the “well regulated militia.”

But this is just a nightmare. I’ve heard the word “unfathomable” used by two different talking heads between yesterday and today, and I’m just listening from the other room. Oh. My. God. Do you even listen to yourself? Columbine was unfathomable. By Sandy Hook, it was just business as usual.

I just realized yesterday that one of my dreams of what to do with all of these guns was probably inspired by The Wheel of Time. Among the Aiel, when a Maiden of the Spear becomes a Wise One, her spears are melted down and made into things that aren’t weapons — toys, tools, etc.

And that’s what I want to see. Every gun used in a crime, however obtained, should be melted down and turned into something useful — rebar, maybe. Even if the criminal is never caught or is found not guilty, the gun is forfeit.

And even though the standard talk is that shooters in these situations aren’t mentally ill, maybe we should come up with a new mental illness, or an Axis II disorder (that’s where things like narcissism fit in). Or maybe it fits on Axis IV with psychosocial influences.

Mass shooters tend to have four things in common: Childhood trauma, a personal crisis or specific grievance, examples that validate that grievance, and access to firearms. It seems that if we beefed up mental health care in this country, maybe, just maybe, we’d catch some of these people before they go off.

As someone with a degree in education, I hesitate to put this on teachers. My educational psychology teacher gave us an introduction to something called “affective education,” which is where the students are educated on emotions, what they are, how to identify what you’re feeling, how to deal with your emotions in a healthy way, and so on.

I certainly wouldn’t stick that on the classroom teacher unless we can relieve them of some of this testing bullshit, but having the school counselor run a mandatory affective education program might be something we could do.

I wonder if we could extend the school day to coincide with the traditional 9-5 work day and the classroom teacher could have an hour of grading/planning time during the day when a counselor would do the affective education thing. Would that help these traumatized people learn to deal more effectively with their trauma and grievances and prevent mass shootings?

Hmm. . . .

*“Approximately 50-79% of itemized male inventories contained guns in all eight databases we discuss here . . . Guns are found in 6-38% of the female estates in each of the first four databases.”

I Used to Travel . . .

I said these words to a patient today. He is going to a major city on a different continent.

I really do miss traveling, but once Alex grew up, I wasn’t getting enough in income tax refunds to pay up front for travel, and I’d rather not travel than put it on a damn credit card.

I’d started saving up $5 here, $5 there. Back in the olden days, they recommended saving up for large purchases by putting a little money in envelopes earmarked for that purpose. I was doing the same thing, but in little savings accounts.

Then the ends of the lives of Phobos and Deimos ended up being very expensive, and cleaned out all of those little envelopes.

Then we had an expensive house repair, which took out a bunch of money from one of my investment accounts (out of four — I hide money from myself so that I won’t ever run out completely), and so I prioritized saving back the money I took out of those accounts.

The original plan for this blog was to earn enough money from it to fund future travel and maybe even to get to the point where I could write off my travel as business expenses. I mean, that’s kind of the dream come true, isn’t it?

Even since I’ve been thinking of making this a book blog, I haven’t even gotten to the place where I can write off book purchases with the income from this blog. Or *a* book purchase.

I’m going to keep posting here, because maybe someday I’ll have enough traffic to attract some advertisers. Or maybe just getting in the habit of writing will get me to the point where I can sell some writing (travel? book reviews? fiction? all of the above?)

Or maybe it’ll just be nice on a psychological level to put these messages in a bottle for someone to find someday.

For today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link, we have Thirty Names of Night, by Zeyn Joukhadar. Thirty Names of Night is about searching. Our nameless protagonist, a Syrian trans boy, is searching for peace, searching for answers to what happened to an artist named Laila Z, and searching for his own identity.

Writing is Its Own Inspiration? Day 2

Welp. I don’t have much to say today, at least I don’t think so. Additionally, a storm is on the way, so I might want to write and post fast.

I’m saddened and angered by the shooting in Uvalde today. I definitely want to write about that once the storm is over and I’ve had a good night’s sleep. I have to be up in 7 hours and 45 minutes for work.

I have always planned to write about my thoughts about romance novels and love songs, and that’s something I definitely plan to do later. This will likely have a Germane Amazon Link.

I also have had something of a breakthrough on one of my fiction works, so I need to go into that.

Do I have a Gratuitous Amazon Link today? Why, I think I do. If memory serves, today’s book is Ruined, by Paula Morris. Ruined is the story of Rebecca, who is sent to live with a family friend in New Orleans, where she attends a snooty private school where she doesn’t fit in. Oh, and she befriends Lisette, the ghost of a slave. We get to learn how Lisette died, how that fits into the life of the family of “mean girl” bully Helena, and what that has to do with Rebecca.

Now I’m going to post this, then shut my computer down. Good night and I’ll see you tomorrow for my rant on what happened in Uvalde today.

What is Inspiration?

Chapter 3 of Pep Talks for Writers deals with inspiration and the idea of a “muse.” I’ve been carried away by inspiration in the past, largely during my fanfiction writing days, when the words just sort of come to me.

I had a dear friend (RIP, Janet) who had a form of aphantasia, I think. She couldn’t imagine characters in her own head, she had to have a physical image of the character. This is why she exclusively wrote fanfiction for television shows. Their faces were right there. She also didn’t understand what a writer means by a muse. She seemed to think that those writers were having hallucinations of an actual person telling them what to write. Several of us explained to her that, for most of us, “muse” is a metaphor for that “groove” you get into when the words just happen.

Not that every one of us have that experience. I’m sure that someone, somewhere, does experience a hallucination telling them what to write. But that’s never happened to me.

In Chapter 3, though, Faulkner tells us that most professional writers just show up and write. That sitting down at the keyboard, or with the pen and paper, or whatever, is inspiration enough.

And that is one thing I need to work on. The showing up part. Putting the words down and making them go by sheer force of my will, rather than by waiting for my “muse” to help me. I’m going to try to do that more often in the future.

I Had My Tongue Surgery on Wednesday

And I’m going back to work on Sunday. At least, I hope I am

Boy, does everything between my ears and my clavicles hurt, though. It’s no fun to eat. It’s no fun to swallow. I have had to let a bunch of saliva drip out of my mouth twice.

For pain medication, I have Tylenol #3 and 400-milligram ibuprofen pills. The surgeon said that I can take the ibuprofen every 3.5 hours instead of every four, and I may have to start doing that.

There’s not much to say about the actual procedure. I was out for most of it. The block they used to hold my mouth open tasted horrible. I remember that much.

So now we wait. We wait for my mouth to heal, and we wait for the pathologist report to come back and see if my margins are clear. It there is any dysplasia in the apparently clear area the surgeon took, I’ll have to go back for more surgery. Fun.

But when I’m 80 years old and looking back on this, I’ll be glad I did it.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time! I’ve read three books while convalescing, so I’m going to be able to get ahead a little on my Goodreads account. I’ve been kind of worried because I only have 366 read books, and there’s a bunch that I wouldn’t try to sell through Amazon Associates. Where did I leave off? Crap.

Okay. We were supposed to do the Monster High books by Lisi Harrison next, but it looks like they’re out of print, and not even available as Kindle books. So, onwards, to Dark Archives: A Librarian’s Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin, by Megan Rosenbloom, which is just like it says on the tin. Rosenbloom, a librarian, talks about the history of books bound in human skin, the rumors regarding them, actual examples of them, and the controversy regarding what to do with the books that they’ve identified (should they be rebound in ordinary bindings and bury the original bindings or left as-is or what?) A very interesting book demystifying a macabre topic.

The City & the City, by China Miéville

I loved this book.

I mean, I really loved it. Like, sometimes a strong ending can raise my impression of an otherwise lackluster book. But a little way in, I told a bookworm coworker, “I think I really am going to like this book.”

A while later, I told a bookworm friend, “This is turning out to be really good. You should check it out.”

Then, when the plot thickened, I told my coworker again, “Yes. This is great.”

And once I finished it, I told someone, “It’s a pity you aren’t a reader; you’re really missing out.”

So I think it’s safe to say that it was great all the way through.

It’s going to be a challenge to give a summary without spoiling too much, so maybe I’ll just talk about what I expected versus what we got?

Actually, first I’ll talk about the inspiration. Miéville’s mother was terminally ill, so she asked him to write a book for her. Most of his books are “speculative fiction,” an umbrella term that covers fantasy, science fiction, and some horror. This was not his mother’s interest, though. She preferred mystery and police procedurals.

And so, The City & The City (Germane Amazon Link!) was born. It is a tale about two cities occupying the same place geographically. I was expecting some kind of interdimensional shenanigans, but instead, they literally are geographically in the same place.

In our world, we have two towns, Baarle-Hertog, Belgium; and Baarle-Nassau, Netherlands*. These two towns are intertwined with one another in such a way that there’s a story (which I have yet to verify) that when they resurveyed the town, they discovered that the front door of a house, and thus the whole house, was in the wrong country. It would have been a bureaucratic mess to redo everything (I know the house would need a whole new address, because the street it was on has different names in each country, and I believe that the residents would even need to have changed their nationalities), so they just moved the front door to a different part of the house, where it would stay in the same country.

So. Think that, but larger. Much larger. Then to make things even weirder, the residents of and visitors to the two cities are not allowed to interact with the other city. They have to “unsee” the other city entirely. The only way to interact with the other city involves crossing the official border, at which point they can only interact with the city that they’re in after the crossing.

In the city of Besźel, Inspector Tyador Borlú is called to the location of a dead body. It turns out that the body was Mehalia Geary, a Ph.D student in the other city, Ul Qoma. Borlú has to investigate this murder without ever acknowledging the presence of the other city. He eventually has to go to Ul Qoma to assist in their investigation of the murder and that’s where an interesting book becomes really fascinating.

:chef’s kiss:

*Back in the days when I thought that Alex and I were going to be able to fly into Amsterdam, travel Germany in a big circle, then go back in through Belgium and back to Amsterdam, the Baarles (?) were on my list of things to visit. And maybe I will be able to do it someday.

Biopsy Results

Welp. It’s not the best news, but it could be worse.

I didn’t catch all of the words that the pathologist had in the report. In fact, the surgeon needed to call the pathologist to see exactly what’s going on in my mouth.

It’s not cancer. It’s not precancerous. It’s the stage before that. It’s something that, if we leave it alone long enough, could become cancer.

So we’re not going to leave it alone.

I’m scheduled to have it excised on May 18. Two weeks from today. Then we’ll have to watch it from then onwards until we’re sure it’s not coming back.

So. Like I said, not the best news, but it definitely could be worse.

I have to fast before the procedure, because they’ll be knocking me out for this. Thank God. The biopsy was unpleasant enough.

Then, since my job is almost all talking — answering phones, calling doctors, helping people at the register, etc. — I’m taking Thursday, Friday, and Saturday off and hope to basically not talk at all for those days, then when I go back to work, it’ll feel better.

I’ve also bought 32 single-serving things of baby food. Stage 2, so that it has a bit of texture. I’m also going to stock up on canned fruit, pouches of tuna, and other soft food as well. I’m also going to order a new cup for my blender, so that once I’ve had enough of tuna and pureed mango, I can cook and then mash it up real good and, well, make my own baby food.

I wonder how beef, tomatoes, cheese, and taco seasoning would work? I’m sure it would taste like a taco. But would the texture be edible?

Stay tuned for “Mashing up Food with Olivia,” here on To-Hither.com.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time! Today we have The Glass Sentence, the first book in the Mapmakers trilogy, by S.E. Grove. The Mapmakers trilogy is set in a world where something happened and different areas of the world ended up separated in time. You can travel from one to another, but what used to be southern Canada is now the ice-age Prehistoric Snows, a big chunk of Oceania is “the 40th Age,” etc. And no one can agree when it actually is. I have to admit I haven’t read the second two books in the trilogy (I visit my local Half-Price Books in hopes of finding it, but haven’t had any luck yet), but this book is fantastic.