Friday, December 30, 2005

Treading Water

I'm not sure how long this has been going on, if it started when I came back to the DDJ, or if it began a day or two before Christmas. I finally realized yesterday or perhaps Wendesday evening that my mind feels like an ocean at the moment. The resurgence of my dizziness this week certainly hasn't helped the sensation. I really want to write, I really want to read, I really want to focus on something for more than a few minutes and feel like it sticks with me. I'm treading water in the ocean of my mind, trying to toss my little life-saver-on-a-rope at the various flotsam bobbing nearby on the waves. The water is rather choppy, though, and one moment I can see something I want to snag, but then it disappears before my life saver can get there. Then something else will float into view, and it seems important too, and I toss out the saver--and come up empty. Meanwhile I tread water, expending nearly all my physical energy to keep from going under and using all my mental energy trying not to be bothered by the vastness of the ocean and the urgency of the situation (sooner or later, I won't be able to tread water and I'll have to use the life saver just to stay afloat instead of trying to grab something important). Sometimes I do just hang onto the saver and let the waves carry me along, studying the waters around me with each crest to see what else is in this ocean with me. I can see so much, but I can't reach it.

Ponderous, man, really ponderous.

Seriously, I can't seem to do much more than get through the day. I try to put my mind toward SoD or various other writing projects or just writing in general or even goals for 2006, but they seem to just slip through my grip. Putting this post together has been more difficult than I care to contemplate, and all I'm trying to do is describe my present inability to focus.

Maybe this is just a survival mechanism, keeping me from thinking too much about anything other than getting to the end of the day so I won't get upset about being back at the DDJ and being away from Drew. Maybe my muse needs time to recharge and has shut down more functions than necessary to keep herself sequestered. Maybe I just need to do some deep breathing and reflection to kick myself out of this. I don't know. All I do know is I'm ready to focus again, to ask myself a question and get a thorough answer, to write a chapter and feel immersed in it. I'm ready to snag a life boat so I can get out of the water and observe it and direct my path in it.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

I Deserve a Bonus

The DDJ recently went live with a website that was full of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. In five minutes, I found them all and forwarded them to my manager (sorry, my acting manager). I wonder if I can use this experience to make a case that I'd serve the company better doing technical writing or project management or ANYTHING other than faxing and filing. No, wait, I've already proven this point. It's why I'm doing tasks outside my job description on a regular basis. The company just refuses to officially acknowledge it.

*Looks at countdown at top of page* Only 197 more days!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Second Day is Harder

This is the closest Andrew gets to laying on his stomach. He only tolerates being on his stomach if he's at an angle. He'd much rather lay on his back and stare at his hands or a mobile or space. That was how I found him yesterday when I picked him up. On a play gym mat on his back, holding his hands out in front of him so he could study them and the dangling toys at the same time, grinning and cooing like he hadn't just been away from Momma all day long. I hugged him and hurried home so I could chat with him and grin with him for a bit until it was time to feed him and put him to bed. Then I finally had a chance to unpack. But, aside from some tears when we first dropped him off at daycare, yesterday went very well.

Today hasn't gone so well. No big sob fests, but reality has set in. Whatever parts of my mind were fooled into thinking that yesterday was just a one-time affair have realized that this is what Monday thru Friday will be like from now until July. Add to this the facts that the DDJ is kept at 75 degrees with little to no fresh air circulation, that I keep finding errors and mistakes in how my job was handled for the past twelve weeks, that no one knows anything about the raises except they're supposed to show up on our first paycheck in February, that a big contract is supposedly in the offing as is a round of new-hires and hiring from within but nothing's being done about it and the new contract is supposed to hit in a couple weeks, etc. Argh. Thank goodness the countdown has already passed 200 days.

Hour by hour, day by day, July 14th will come.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Gone...for Now

In this picture, I was trying to capture one of Drew's first real smiles. But the little stinker moved his hand at the last moment to block my shot. Since then, he's been a grinning fool and we've caught at least a dozen smiles. I still like this picture a lot because you can see the smile in his eyes and you know he's having a ball.

I miss seeing that smile so many times during the day. He grins and coos like mad on the changing table. He'll strike up a conversation after a good meal while he sits in my lap or in his bouncy chair. And he loves to look up at the mobile over his bassinet. The only smiles I can see on demand now are ones that are frozen in time. I have to wait until I pick him up or the weekend. I can't just walk over to him and see what he's doing, see if he'll give me one of his amazing grins. I miss that.

Gone for now are the lazy mornings, when Mark and I could babble with our son whenever he woke up because only one of us had to get ready for work. Gone for now are the Momma-and-Drew special times, working our way together through a day, one nap to the next, one feeding to the next. Gone for now are the days of the SciFi marathons and Food Network background noises that kept both Momma and Drew entertained as they went through their day. I know that I'll have mornings and evenings and weekends to fit as much of the above in as I can. And I know that one day, I'll get it all back. But I miss that smile and the coo or laugh that accompanies it. The chance to get a Drew Smile and Coo Special has been keeping me going, one hour to the next, one task after another, closer to the end of the day.

Instead of sobbing because I'm missing more smiles, I'm rather upbeat and chipper because I know what's waiting for me at 5PM. Such positive thinking is remarkably unlike me in such big life-changing times. Guess the Boy brings out the best in his parents.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Christmas

My Christmas gift to my readers: more pictures of Drew! Just what you wanted, right? :) This picture is my favorite, even if it does make my son look like he's already balding. All that's missing is our other cat, and it would've been perfect.

Tomorrow Mark and I endeavor to take Drew to Arizona via air. Seeing as how the last time we took him out (yesterday) he was a bit of a pill, we're not sure how the Little Guy will take to Denver International Airport or the flight itself. It shall be interesting and hopefully not too loud. Keep your fingers crossed that he's passed out for much of the experience.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend. My next post will be about my first day back at work and without the boy. :(

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Proper Focus

At my critique group last night, I realized something about the opening pages of a book. In addition to introducing the setting, the characters, the plot, and all those important things, a reader should also have the proper focus in the opening pages, or else the book doesn't get read. And it's the job of the writer to provide scenes that are only open to one focus. Or at least one primary focus.

For example, in the beginning of SoD, I need readers to focus on the problems Loria faces, not her special history and powers. This is hard to do since Loria is an apprentice goddess and such a job is cool to find out about. My job is to write the scenes so the reader focuses on the problem an apprentice goddess faces and the way she can or can't solve it, while trusting me that all the cool stuff about such a person will be revealed in time. This is a tall order for one of my critiquers. Granted, if when the book is published, such necessary focus will be presented with the back cover blurb. But I can't rely on that in order to get published. The problem is in revealing backstory. Too much and you've given everything away, not to mention bored the reader. Too little and you've confused the reader by not providing any context, let alone the proper one.

I have a feeling I'm going to be struggling with this for a while. Once I figure out a method for addressing the issue, I'll be sure to share it. But that method is certainly eluding me at the moment. I'm just grateful that I've recognized the dilemma for what it is. Makes everything seem more manageable so I can believe that one day I will figure it out. One day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Fun with the DDJ in Absentia

Found out this morning that my manager's last day is tomorrow. He's moving on to another position with another company in another part of the country. No word on a replacement. No word on anything. I'm told our president refused to let my manager say word one about this until the Christmas party this past Saturday. Supposedly my manager is trying to get the paperwork and such for our raises finished before he leaves. Nice of him, isn't it? We're not even sure if our clients are aware of this development. Chances are they aren't since most of them are off this week and/or next for the holidays. And I get to go back to work a week from today. Joy. Have I mentioned lately how much I love my job? Time to go find that countdown code for the blog sidebar. I need it now. Really need it.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Mark and I went out on a date to celebrate the fifth anniversary of our first date, on which we also saw a movie at the same theater we went to last night. Five years ago we saw What Women Want, and I found it entertaining, however distracted I was by playing the Elbow Game on the armrest. Last night we saw Narnia, and the movie, while beautiful, did an excellent job of reminding me why I never liked the book in the first place. I was bored. A lot of things went without explanation that would've made for a richer movie, and a lot of time was spent on set up shots or detail shots and whatnot that again could've been sacrificed for more information. But, as I tried to keep reminding myself last night, that was the problem I had with the book. Not enough complexity. I'll have to watch the movie again to pinpoint the specific places where information that would've been fun to know was just glossed over. And Mark assures me that the sixth book in the series (or the first in its current release order) has all that worldbuilding and backstory info that I craved.

It's hard to believe I could find a book with so many cool elements boring, but I did, and the movie was the same for me. In fact, the White Witch was the most intriguing character to me, and I found myself cheering for her every now and then, especially when she displayed those kick ass fighting skills. Peter did that cute, wide-eyed, "I'm a boy trying to be a man" thing too often for me to cheer for him during the big battle. And then he had this smug "It's good to be king" expression during the coronation. For a two-hour movie, the main plot points and action sped by so fast, without a whole lot of pause for the audience to understand the whys and hows. And then we had like ten minutes of zooming into the front lines of the armies, and I was about ready to shout "Just kill each other already!"

But if you liked the book, I bet you'll like the movie. It seemed to be a well-done telling, with lots of beauty and good casting calls. If you didn't like the book, chances are you'll be able to appreciate the CGI, the casting, the cinematography, etc, but you'll be bored like I was.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Return of the DDJ

After Drew's nasty doctor appointment last week, we went to visit my fine co-workers at the DDJ. They oohed and aahed appropriately. Drew spent some time chatting with my supervisor, but mostly he was all tuckered from the immunizations and showed everyone how angelic he looks while zonked out. It was strange for me to be there. With everything that's happened since the beginning of October, I almost forgot I had a job to go back to. My life's been a series of hours stuck together that make it rather difficult to think too far in the future. But I got smacked with the reality of returning to the DDJ, and I suppose it was best to face it now then on the drive there my first day back when I'm also dealing with putting Drew in day care. I'm not looking forward to that drive to work. I think my vision may be hampered by a flood of tears.

I know the DDJ is temporary, and that the end is now clearly in sight. But it was rather depressing to visit and find out that nothing much has changed since I left. The work I left in the middle of for Drew's arrival is for the most part still waiting for me--even though it was supposedly urgent way back then. More people have left the company, and not all of them have been replaced. And the few replacements are either sub-par or have been given so little training that they may as well be sub-par. I think I may have to put a countdown somewhere on the blog so I can watch the days of the DDJ dwindle.

I'm just glad I was able to take the full 12 weeks that state law allows me. Not just for my health issues, but for my mother issues. Each day with this boy is a gift of firsts, of simple pleasures, of what's really important in life. It's hard to think how I'm going to have to pack all that into the evenings and weekends instead. And I don't want to think about missing his first word, his first crawl, his first rolling over, etc. But the chances of it happening as these few months of necessary day care roll by...ick.

I heard a Best Buy radio ad recently in which the woman said she was a working mom and off-handedly remarked how that was cliche. I was torn between whether such a comment was a victory for women's rights or proof of the double standard women face in the workplace. Would we ever call a "working dad" a cliche? Well, not for a long while yet since we don't even use that descriptor. It's assumed that the dad works, but it's a special thing if the mom works. But now it's also cliche, like so many women are doing this that it's become tired and overused? This strikes me as odd because I thought things like being a housewife or a soccer mom were cliche. So what does that leave women to do to be original? You know what, I don't want to answer that. And I don't want to be labeled a "working mom". I'm a woman with a job who also happens to have a child. Just like Mark is a man with a job who also happens to have a child. Or reverse that. We're parents who also happen to have jobs. That's putting things in the right perspective.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My Characters are Characters

The cat's stopped hanging out on the changing table. Then she started cleeping in the crib. Once that stopped, she began to sleep in the stroller. Well, we now keep the stroller collapsed in the car so now she sleeps in the nursery rocking chair. And that would be fine, except that I've been sitting there a lot lately as Drew goes through a Momma's Boy phase where I either have to be in his direct line of sight, looking at him as well or I have to be holding him. Since I'm going back to work in less than two weeks (more on this later), I don't mind. And today I'm going to try to start sitting at my desk and writing--in the boy's line of sight of course--and see if that will work. That should make Addy happy. She seems to really like the rocking chair, and I'm very happy that she's not hanging out in the crib anymore.

But on to that writing stuff I hope to do. I was plugging along just fine in SoD until I brought the first ten pages to my critique group. Well, I have to be honest, I was coming up against a block in the new stuff too. The group gave me great comments, and I finally figured out how to adjust the opening to ease the reader into backstory and character introductions without a ton of confusion. So I wrote a new scene and now I need to rewrite one scene from another POV. Then I can get back to the brand new stuff. But in order to do the rewrite and move forward, I knew that I needed to get a better grip on my characters' motivations. That would help solidify their actions later in the book and just generally make me feel less like I was pulling everything from Drew's diaper pail.

I chose to unravel character motivations and a few pesky backstory questions by doing that "talk to your character" thing. I've never been good at this. In fact, it only really worked once for me while I was writing The Masque. In that case, I grilled my character as if I were a psychiatrist asking her why she had chosen to start a bar brawl. I decided to give it a try with my SoD POV characters and see what happened. I began each "session" with the quesiton "What do you want most in life?" And then each session took on its own flavor as the characters answered. I'm of two minds about the success of this. The first is a "yay me" attitude. I mean, I've obviously created some great characters if they actually answer me in their own voice and can influence the tenor of an exercise like this with their personality. The second is a profound desire to stay off the shrink's couch myself. Do I really want to know what the success of this sort of exercise means for my already questionable sanity?

Seriously, this was a great tool for me. I learned a lot about characters I already thought I had well pegged. I realized that I still have trouble delving into my heroes, but my heroines and villains are easy as pie. And I also figured out that my hero is going to be much easier to deal with once he meets the heroine. She's going to drive him so crazy, that he'll want someone to talk to. And I'll be waiting to catch every word. And it's OK until they meet because he's getting his ass chased all over the world by the bad guys, so he doesn't have much to do beyond react for the first part of the book. Plenty of conflict there, even if I don't know what makes him tick, or if I don't believe that he's as simple as he's telling me right now. I also got a better handle on later events with this exercise.

I've still got two more characters to put on the couch, and I'm looking forward to what they're going to tell me. And I'm going to conveniently forget any rational concerns about my mental well-being. I'll save that for my memoirs after I sell my fiftieth novel. :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Last Friday, Andrew got his first round of immunizations. This means three needle sticks, two very distraught parents, and one initially pissed off then just tired Little Guy. Needles have never been my favorite thing, and this year certainly didn't do anything to endear them to me, but I couldn't even look at the things knowing they were going to hurt my son. I'm so not looking forward to his first bump on the head or scraped knee. And I have no idea how I'll handle a broken bone since I've never broken one myself. I wonder if I'll ever stop cringing at every single owie my little boy gets. No, I'm sure I won't stop--I'll just get better at hiding it from everybody. An internal cringe or wince or wail. Again, I'm reminded how happy I am that he's been just fine and dandy this whole year. I'd gladly take the bruised hands and arms from blown needle sticks and the pain of an open abdominal wound and etc etc if it means he only has to deal with the occasional hunger pain or gas. I know that I can't protect him forever and that he'll run into pain and I won't be able to do anything to stop it. It's just nice that that day hasn't come yet.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

More Good News

(By the way, more pictures are up here, and more will be showing up in the near future, including one of Drew smiling.) The trip to the dentist went well. Once insurance approves the new dentist (the old one no longer taking my insurance), I'll get seated for the permanent crown, the cracked filling repaired, and the permanent crown put on. And then I'll be done with my teeth except for the regular cleanings. That also concludes the Maniacal Medical Issues of 2005. We really, really hope.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

One Down, One More to Go

The boy's beat. He's been carted around to the hospital and the doctor more times than he cares to think about. But at least he learned to enjoy the opportunity to check out some different scenery. And the trips are finishing up.

MRI results confirmed that I just have a little bit of fat hanging on to my liver. No problems, no concerns, just harmless fat clinging to an organ. And the kidney stone isn't big enough to get stuck on the way out, so while it won't feel good if the thing decides to escape the confines of my kidney, it certainly won't remind me of labor.

With all this good news, I'm feeling very optimistic about my dental appointment tomorrow. And it's coming not a moment too soon as that temporary crown has worn down to the nub. I'm expecting a rather stern lecture from the tooth doctor. But at least I can defend myself with excellent brushing habits and an early New Year's Resolution to floss at least every other day if not every day.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Let's Hear It for the Boy

Andrew slept for seven hours straight last night! We have no idea when he'll accomplish such a feat again, but we sure appreciated it. It came at the best time, too, since I needed a lot of sleep to get the happy pills for the MRI out of my system. They made me very sleepy. And loopy, and all those good things that you need to be in order to deal with claustrophobia during and MRI.

The drugs almost weren't enough, mainly because I had spent the entire day getting worked up about what the MRI was going to find and because they had to go vein hunting again to hook up an IV for injecting some contrast for an image. So after they finally got the IV kind of in me (he got the vein, but not dead-on or deep enough to make anybody feel confident it was going to stay), I was NOT feeling the happy drugs. I had managed to put aside thoughts of cancerous tumors, but I was absorbed with thoughts of getting a few milliliters of contrast missing the vein and just pooling painfully under my skin instead. I managed to get just about all the way into the tube when I frantically started pressing that panic button. By then I was sobbing and hyper anxious over just about anything that crossed my mind.

I went back to the small private waiting area, got bundled up in warm blankets, got hugs and kisses from Mark and Drew, and tried to calm myself down. THAT'S when the happy pills finally kicked in. So I chilled for a half hour like that and they put me back in the tube, with headphones playing Enya and such. Everything was going fine until they gave me some funky breathing options for a few of the images. I could handle it when they told me to take a deep breath and hold it, but when they told me to take a deep breath, blow it all the way out, and refrain from breathing, that I couldn't do so well. Not sure what sort of impact holding all that glorious oxygen in my system versus expelling all the CO2 meant for the images, but one tech told me to hold my breath, and the other told me to blow it all out, so maybe it's just a personal preference. I do know that I had to have ruined at least two images because my lungs demanded I resume breathing.

And then there was the last image. The one that needed contrast. The injection started, and I promptly felt liquid spilling over my arm. I have no idea how much of the stuff actually got into my vein, but at least it didn't pool under my skin. Hopefully they got enough good images to see what they needed to see. I should hear about the results today or tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer, send happy thoughts. Between all the insanity of my health issues this year, my grandfather's struggle with lung cancer, my father's recent removal of a carcinoma on his cheek, and the loss of Little Quinn, I'm finding it hard to ignore my own mortality and remain optimistic--even despite the fact that every single doctor who's seen the initial CT image of the abnormality is damn near certain it's only a harmless fatty deposit.

But I did have a painless, problem-free eye exam this week. Healthy eyes, just getting a bit more nearsighted. So maybe I've turned the corner on the crazy medical stuff. Unfortunately, there is that dentist appointment looming next week. They'll take x-rays, the first I've had in two years. I already know I have a couple of cavaties in addition to that damn temporary crown. More crossed fingers, prayers, and happy thoughts, please, to ensure that they are ONLY cavaties and there's not need for another root canal due to the time those cavaties have had to set up shop.