Archive for March, 2010

One of the medications I take on occasion causes depression. It’s a unique kind of depression that I can feel in my head, almost like someone has soaked cotton balls in vinegar and then stuffed that sodden mess into all the nooks and crannies of my mind. I can feel the sour, musty thoughts press against my brain and the thick tearstuff pushing the back of my eyes. Over the years we’ve learned to identify this breed of black dog as coming from those particular pills, and it helps. If I can give the heartache a cause, I can treat it less like a barbed wire box and more like a psychic bruise that I know will fade in time.

The medicine that does this to me is one of the addictive ones, one of the pills that the pharmacists and nurses and interns always act like I’m headed for skid row whenever I just mention the prescription. If only they knew that I would rather eat ground glass than take this pill–and that I only take it when I feel like I’ve already eaten ground glass! At my last appointment the Rheumatologist encouraged me to take more pain medicine on a regular basis. At my last appointment the gynecologist offered to double my script for the pain meds he gives me. Neither man seemed to understand why I’d often rather put up with the ache in my joints and my groin. Bodily pain doesn’t always hurt as bad as the dark thoughts that come on the wings of opium.

What does all this have to do with blogging? Well, I feel better when I write. But I can always tell which writings are done under the influence of which drugs. So I daren’t do any fiction work when slogging through the aftereffects of the hydrocodone. (I can’t bring myself to call it “Vicodin”, because that’s a drug for TV junkies. I stick with the generic name to distance myself from Dr. House and Rush Limbaugh and the idiots on Nip/Tuck.) That leaves blogging.

And I don’t really have anything worthwhile to say about anything. I wish I had a carefully prepared set of opinions about a blogable topic like Health Care or Reality TV. I don’t. What thoughts I do have are ephemeral and fragmentary, like dandelion seeds. None of them makes for a whole post.

* I read the new Harlan Coben book, Caught. People are raving about it over at Goodreads. I personally feel like it was a 380 page episode of Law & Order:SVU. Or an afterschool special. The twist ending all those people seem to think so bloody special was really just him coming up with something utterly random.

* I watched 2 weeks worth of Lost tonight. The hour about Richard left me scratching my head. I love it when they turn 8 minutes of actual story into a whole episode. I find myself growing weary of the mythos, largely because we seem to still be dancing around the edge and flirting with poetic imagry. I am still afraid that instead of a map, the final work will be more of an inkblot and we’ll have to figure out what the story meant for ourselves.

* Friday night last, I had three of my female friends over to watch Twilight & New Moon with the Rifftrax guys. It was beyond wonderful to have company. I find myself getting lonely more often than I used to, and lonely for female company. We had the best time just talking and eating and laughing. We’re all devout Christians and there was so much joy for me in the pleasure of fellowship.

I’ve gone beyond my 500 words, and I feel part guilty, part rebellious. Most of all I feel victorious, because as usual the writing quieted the baying dog.

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Of course, the very title of this post makes ME a truculent Christian of sorts, and so I must be tired of myself. Which I am, so there. But setting that little irony aside…

Here we are, in the long shadow of yet another Christian Holy Day. Easter looms on the horizon, supposedly the zenith of our religious observances. It’s theoretically the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the propitiation of our sins and the new freedom we have to speak directly with God as God’s redeemed children, no longer fallen from Grace.

In practice it seems to have become yet another excuse for American Christians of a certain flavour to stomp about like spoiled children, demanding that everyone everywhere say “Easter” instead of “Spring”. Now, I admit that I understand part of where they’re coming from. I found this Christmas season slightly rankling in the marked absence of the word ‘Christmas’ and the overly pointed misuse of the word ‘holiday’.

But to me there is a difference, however subtle, between wistful mentioning and temper-fit throwing. And over in the world of Facebook I’m constantly being assaulted by temper-fits in forums and status updates. People are announcing their intentions to quit activities if Easter isn’t officially acknowledged, even though said activities are wholly secular in nature. Every three or four hours a status update comes along, belched from the bowels of whatever trollish creature makes up those annoying viral paragraphs. It says something along the lines of “I am [declarative statement of strident nature]. I [believe in or want] this particular thing that many of you do not find appropriate or appealing. Only 7% of people will keep this statement in their status for an hour. If you are one of those who agree with this statement, copy and post to your status.”

For awhile there, those statuses were innocuous about loving fathers or supporting cancer awareness. (It’s apparently now quasi-heroic to merely mention cancer to another person.) Now they’re all about not being afraid to say “Easter”.

Good for you. Easter Easter Easter Easter. Now how about you quit quibbling over other people’s word choice and start living your life as though you have the joy of salvation NOT the bitterness of your old self? Because your very truculence belies the point of this holiday.

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So I just finished reading The Lost City of Z.

And I’m going to spoil it for you if you a) haven’t read it or b) haven’t read any major archeological journals in the last 8 years or so.

The book ends with the recent discovery of the ruins of what is thought to have been a major metropolis in the deepest jungles of the Amazon. El Dorado. Z. The city of legend.

The author of the book then goes on to explain in great detail how the discovery of these ruins calls into question essentially everything we ‘knew’ about the settling of Homo Sapiens in the Americas.

So once again, we find information we didn’t have. And based on that information the ‘facts’ changed. Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. Corvis weren’t the earliest settlers.

Now, none of this would I mind if we hadn’t been taught WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY for years that these theories and suppositions were actual, provable fact.

Now, I don’t intend to get into the Intelligent Design/Evolution debate here–although one certainly could. There are just too many places in the sciences, origin theory being merely the most infamous, where people have repeated theories for so long that students begin to believe those theories are actually proven facts. When they aren’t.

Me, I like to learn things. And I like to ponder things…suppose things…imagine things. So I have no qualms about being taught suppositions, theories, hypotheses, etc. I just like for people to plainly state that these things they’re teaching are, in fact, not facts.

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“Rabbi, Is there a proper blessing for the Czar?” “A proper blessing for the Czar?!” “Yes. ‘May G-d bless and keep the Czar…far away from us.”

My first exposure to the term “Czar” (although it was then spelled ‘Tsar’) was as a five year old girl listening to the Original Broadway Cast recording of Fiddler On The Roof. Me being me, I asked my parents who ‘Tazarr’ was, assuming it was all one exotic name for a Russian monster.

Even though I’ve gotten over the Mondegreen, I’ve not quite lost the creeped-out feeling I get, the sense that a Czar is a type of dread monster. When George Bush created the first Czar position that I remember, I was upset. It seemed to be a gross misuse of government, naming an unelected person to an official position. I gather it’s well within the scope of the Executive Branch to do so, but it never seems to be more than a cronyist, figure-headish type of thing. Presidents have been creating and naming Czars forever–on both sides of the silly-headed seesaw of party politics. They never seem to accomplish much other than getting eased into the party machine, occasionally bending the president’s ear and making contacts for future employment at the upper echelon of the private sector.

That’s why this Czar cracks me up. We have someone in an insider, cronyist position sitting in judgement on…insider cronyist positions. It’s just weird.

I feel like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. The government owns private business now. And the government is setting pay scales for private business. When I was a kid that was Bolshevik-style operating. Now the Bolshies are kaput. But we’ve got The Czar who oversees the corporations.

It doesn’t sit well with me at all.

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I’ve finally gotten around to reading The Lost City of Z, several years after it was so highly acclaimed. I’m like one of those college students who goes to their cousin’s Senior Prom.

I’ve been very much incredibly down lately about the limitations of my illness and how much of a waste of a person it makes me. How it must mean I’m lazy and ineffectual.

Then I got to this paragraph in Lost City and felt like God was telegraphing me a little cheer-up message. Because the book is about the ‘golden age of exploration’ when people of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries set out to conquer the uncharted parts of the globe. That meant either trekking to the frozen barrenlands of the poles or enfolding oneself in the Green Hell of Amazonia. These people were of amazing constitution and did amazing things that would fell all but the bravest and most tenacious of souls. And one of these explorers left explicit instructions to his friends that they were to shoot him dead if he ever became chronically ill or was suffering from unremitting long-term pain.

That’s right. This man who was brave enough to tame the Amazon couldn’t summon the courage to deal with illness. To him, and to many others, chronic illness is the darkest jungle. I started to realise that God was showing me that this path I’ve been given requires a unique sort of bravery. Weakness of body does NOT mean weakness of mind or heart or spirit.

I don’t say this to imply that I’m better than others. I only say it to show that from this long-dead world traveller I am inferring that I am in no way worse.

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To pay for the changes, the legislation includes more than $400 billion in higher taxes over a decade, roughly half of it from a new Medicare payroll tax on individuals with incomes over $200,000 and couples over $250,000.

I’m not happy about the vote, obviously. I imagine that I’ll spend the next decade shaking my head and saying “I told you so” as various pro-bill friends whinge

— about the health insurance they’re forced to buy that doesn’t really cover what they need–so they’re forced to be out of pocket X dollars a month that they just can’t afford.

–about how much harder it is to get in to see the doctor.

–about how much more difficult it is to get basic tests run.

–about how the hospital kicks you out 12 hours after you deliver your baby.

–about how you have to carry your ADULT child on your health plan until he/she is 26 years old. TWENTY-SIX.

–about how your tax refund gets smaller every year. You used to be able to count on it to buy a TV or a Stereo. Five years from now you’ll be lucky if you can use it to pay one month of the mandated insurance premium.

–about how the government is letting Mr. Scary Example die a horrible, lingering death because they won’t approve some insurance charge for some treatment or another.

–about how long you have to wait to have basic surgery.

In short, what seems like a victory now to those of you who yearned for passage of this bill will in due time sink in as the very costly loss that it actually is.

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Never, ever, ever post on your blog that you might be getting better. Or that your new treatment regimen seems to be working.

Because when you do all of a sudden you will be facing the worst flare you have EVER had in the history of RA. Your joints will fill with shards of glass and hot lava. You will be tired beyond sleeping. You will vomit from the sheer pain of it all. And you will cry. And cry some more. You will not leave your bed for 16 hours straight, but your body will radiate so much heat from inflammation that your Tempurpedic mattress will be the consistancy of pudding.

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I don’t feel excessively wordy in non-fiction these days, having most of my steam poured into novel writing. One thing they don’t tell you about novelling is how exhausting it is. There is so much emotional energy poured into emoting a journey for people you’ve created out of whole cloth. It’s both cathartic and cumbersome, and in many ways the hardest “job” I’ve ever had. The only job that suits me wholly, though, so I hope I never get fired. Although many days I ponder quitting, and that’s the truth!

Anyway, I have random things I mean to shout from the rooftops and so I’m consolidating them here.

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel is now available on Kindle!  As are Winds of War & War and Remembrance. These were among the first ten titles I looked for when I opened that package eleven months ago.  Now that I’ve got them again, I’m immersed in jolly good thick tomes.   So if you follow me on Goodreads and wonder why I’m not reading anything, rest assured I am just sunk down in velvety goodness of one of these three masterpieces.   (I have been pestering the Goodreads people to make “currently re-reading” one of the top standard shelves.)
  • We’ve started watching Spartacus: Blood and Sand.   It’s a passable way to spend a few hours, but I really feel like they’re overusing one or two cool effects.   Every time I see the digitised blood fly in slow motion I feel like a person whose friend knows one card trick and keeps insisting that you let him perform it again.
  • I owe the world a LOST blog entry, but I don’t know that I’ll write one until after tonight’s episode.   Finding out last week that certain people cannot be easily disposed of was a galling thought.
  • I think we’ve found a treatment regimen that seems to be working.   Pain is better controlled, functionality is better and fatigue is better.   I’m still at sea on a leaky vessel but at least I don’t spend as much time in port.

What is it with me and sea analogies anyway?  I wrote a long email to two friends with a sea analogy and now I’m going around the house talking about bilges and tides like Pat Conroy on a bender.   It certainly doesn’t help that the main characters in Winds of War are naval officers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the conversation we had in that last post about Johnny Weir and how troubled I am that the word “queer” got tossed around here.  It upset me a great deal and I wanted the conversation over with.   But I still can’t stop thinking about it because NOWHERE in that post did I even mention Weir’s sexuality.  Because it doesn’t matter to me any more than his favourite food or television program.   Yet that was the first thing seized upon.   Which makes me wonder about the world.  I know I’m not a man, but the man who commented on that post NEVER comments here.  Yet something about male homosexuality compelled him to do so.   I think it is one of those facets of manhood that I am just not equipped to understand–that whole thing about the feeling of pressing danger from male homosexuality.   I’d love to have it explained to me.

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Johnny Weir

I have always liked figure skating–the watching, not the doing. My first remembered encounter with skating came from a novel. I first read it when I was 8, and had been prewarned that one of the sisters died. Then that wretched Amy with her pickled limes, clothespinned nose and novel-burning wicked self fell through the ice while skating. I was always disappointed that she wasn’t the sister who died. I was also thoroughly disappointed in Jo for dropping her anger at that little worm just because she narrowly escaped death. Ugh. But that sealed the deal for me–ever after, ice skating combined death and beauty in an eerie way.

Male figure skaters always seem more athletic to me than football or hockey players. Don’t even get me started on soccer and baseball. I love male figure skaters because they have power and stamina that they combine with artistic flair. Of course, the other men like to brush them off as less manly. And perhaps they are, if “manly” ‘manly’ means grunting and toppling and talking in a deep register.

And right now I have to confess that I have become enticed into Johnny Weir’s orbit. I don’t “love” him, the way you’d have a crush on an actor or singer. I wouldn’t even say I’m a fan. But I feel like I just appreciate him. I’m rooting for him. Because everything I’ve ever seen of him shows a person who is a PERSON. Who knows his own mind and isn’t afraid to speak it or live it, even if others don’t understand. I’m doubly impressed by him, because most other male figure skaters are so single-minded until about 26 or 27. They are all about the sport and the training regimen. Johnny is about the sport, but he also taught himself several languages, is interested in other cultures, in world history. He’s the kind of person they don’t seem to make a lot of, and I appreciate him for that.

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Erin Go Blah

Isn’t this a little like complaining about Santa Claus at Christmas, or pumpkins at Halloween? It’s St. Patrick’s Day. Not a holy religious experience.


The complaint was that all the drunk leprechauns in observance of St. Patrick’s Day was offensive. This was one of the responses. Really.

I had to resist the Teaching Moment and restrained myself from typing up a 1500 word essaylet on Roman Catholic observances and the significance of Saints’ Days, and the particular significance of this Saints’ Day to the Irish people. But I still had to point out to Sassy McIgnorant that it is INDEED a holy religious experience.

I’m more and more struck by the rudeness of people when it comes to religious holidays. Granted, I’m not Irish. Granted, the Irish in America–many of them, that is–sort of screwed themselves by dyeing rivers green and acting like drunk monkeys every 17 March.

But they came here because they were starving. And this country turned them into slave labourers and cannon fodder. But they worked against all that, moving up the social ranks, working hard and making a life here. It was hard work in often bleak places, but they did it and did it well. They worked hard enough to make over this country AND to buy the freedom of their homeland. You gotta respect that.

If they want to take a day to drink and have a wake for the Ireland That Is No More, then have it.

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