Category Archives: Personal
As you may know, dear reader, I’m deep in the weeds of what is now known as perimenopause, that hilarious period of a woman’s life where she essentially goes through a second round of puberty, only this time various systems shut down instead of turn on. The amount of hormonal hijinks, however, are the same, and the effects of being on a hormonal rollercoaster can include brain fog, tiredness, bloating, hot flashes, night sweats, and a whole other passel of fascinating experiences (and yes, I am being as sarcastic as I can at the moment).
Now, I started getting hot flashes a couple of years ago, and they got to the point where I was getting them three times an hour or so. Imagine walking from a cool house into an absolutely sweltering day, plus you’ve just eaten ghost pepper chili. That is a fairly close description of what a hot flash is like. They also made me nauseous as hell, and since I hate throwing up I did some research and found out that OTC progesterone cream would help.
Lo, it did, and for the last two years I haven’t been bothered with hot flashes. But 2020 had an extra little rotten cherry to put on the shitpile of this year, and it was the return of the hot flashes. The progesterone cream wasn’t stopping them anymore, so I did some more research and came up with black cohosh. It is a herb native to North America that behaves much like estrogen in some women’s bodies and can help reduce or eliminate hot flashes (DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical doctor and am not dispensing medical advice, I’m simply relaying what I’ve learned and what works for me. Do your own research if you want to consider taking this, and speak with your physician before you start a new supplement).
Seeing as I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in about two weeks due to waking up at least twice a night feeling like I was on fire, I got up today and figured what the hell, I’d try the damned stuff and see if it worked.
But first, I had to take the Great Orange Lump in for his shots, then take him home, then go to the store and actually buy some black cohosh along with some other stuff (pro tip–you can usually find black cohosh in the vitamin aisle near the women’s vitamins and supplements), then stagger home, eat a belated breakfast, and take my new best friend (my life, you know you want it).
Then I went back to bed because, yeah, I needed it. Ramón pretty much patted me on the head as I staggered towards the bedroom and told me to have a nice nap, and 3/5ths of the J Crew joined me in bed.
People, I had the loveliest four-hour nap with NO HOT FLASHES. I even dreamed, and woke not wanting to kill people for the first time in two weeks. Once again, I refer you to the disclaimer above, but for me this stuff works.
One of the wonderful (and yes, I’m being sarcastic) things about being perimenopausal AND an insomniac under the best of situations is that I wake up multiple times during the night. Usually because I need to turn over, but sometimes I’m having a hot flash, or I have to pee, or whatever.
Getting back to sleep is a crap shoot––sometimes I’m tired enough to konk back out when I get into bed. Those are the good nights. Other times (like this morning) I wind up desperately trying to get my brain to shut up while it merrily skips across multiple topics of sheer fucking delight (e.g. I have nothing to look forward to except a lot of cleaning in order to get all the Christmas decorations up, I have a book to get out at the end of the month which will require me to write 65K in three weeks, I don’t have a choice because I put it up for pre-order, why aren’t people pre-ordering it, I need to do the shopping and will THIS be the time I catch COVID, I haven’t been outside in over a week and will the car even start, I need to get two of the cats in to get their shots before the end of the year, etc.).
All this, by the way, is going on while in the background there is this monotonous drone of BLAH. Grey, thick, gunky seas of jellied BLAH. My get up and go has got up and gone, and it is a fucking struggle to find the motivation to brush my teeth, much less write a book. I don’t know if this is hormones, the time of year, an oncoming sinus infection, plain old depression, or some combination thereof, but it blows great big donkey dick. I don’t ask for much out of life, I truly don’t, but I do need some sense of optimism, something to work towards instead of something to endure for yet another day.
My Twitter profile contains the phrase, “SF/fantasy/PN romance author and fu*king ray of sunshine in a dystopian hellscape.” But the sunshine has gone dim, and I really wish these damn clouds would get out of the way for a bit.
Everyone has coping mechanisms for stress, some of them healthier than others. I happen to have one of the more neurotic ones, where I clean. I think it’s because cleaning gives me control over my immediate environment when I don’t have control elsewhere. Well, it’s either that or day drinking.
As of Monday, I have:
- Scrubbed the toilets.
- Gotten rid of all our recycling (including at least ten empty kitty litter boxes, buckets, and bottles) by taking them to the recycling center.
- Vacuumed and carpet cleaned the living room.
- Washed at least six loads of laundry, folded it all, and took it upstairs and put it away.
- Cleared out all of the stuff that’s been piling up on the dressers in the bedroom, including the remaining tools from last November when I put up the curtains and borked my knee. Assorted stuff has been put:
- In our closet.
- In the garage.
- In the linen closet downstairs.
- In the tool drawer in the kitchen.
- Dusted the worst of the bedroom surfaces, pending a full vacuum and polish.
- Washed the master bath mirror and counters.
- Sorted through all the mail, tossed junk mail, put recyclables in recycling, and batched all the (already paid) bills to be brought upstairs and filed.
I think subconsciously I’m trying to clear off all the surface mess (of which there is a lot, mainly due to the borked knee) so that I can then go room by room and give each one a good, solid deep clean before Thanksgiving, after which I can start the Christmas decorating. Ramón is watching all of this very nervously because his mom used to angry clean, and so when he sees me bustling around he subconsciously assumes I’m pissed about something (doesn’t help that I have RBF).
And yes, I’m writing as well–in fact, I’m thisclose to finishing the holiday novella and getting that off this weekend, then going back to work on Cross Current. Sorry, but I needed something light and fluffy to work on and Cross Current is going to have a fair amount of angst in it so I had to switch focus for my own mental health.
I also have my last PT visit this afternoon, and I’m going to have them measure my knee at full bend and extension so that I have an idea of how much I’ve improved since I started. I have my exercises, I have some tools to help with that and a yoga pad, and if I can get into the habit of doing them first thing in the morning after I get up and get them knocked out for the day, that would be grand.
So, what are you doing to stay calm while we wait for the election results?
Man, this month flew by. I don’t know if it’s the quarantine messing with my time sense or what, but in some ways this year is going faster than usual, and in others it’s dragging.
I didn’t work on Swan for the last three days because, well, Tuesday was my birthday, I spent most of Wednesday having a health televisit and working on a massive triple lemon layer cake as a belated birthday cake for Ramón and myself (and oh, it was lush — homemade lemon curd filling, lemon Genoise sponge, and lemon buttercream icing. My sponges rose! Since this is the first time I ever made a Genoise sponge, I lay all thanks at the feet of GBBO for teaching me the secrets of how to make one properly), and yesterday … hell, I don’t know what happened yesterday. I had to go out and hit multiple stores, and by the time I got back and disinfected everything I was tired and still had to make dinner.
But today, I have visited the vampires for my mid-year oil change, and as soon as Ramón finishes his lunch and heads back upstairs (he’s watching anime right now, which means I have my headphones on with Florence + the Machine) I’m opening the WIP and getting down to work. Knowing that I’m halfway through the book is a great feeling because everything’s pretty much downhill from here. Once that’s done, I return to King of Blades and get THAT puppy done, tra la.
So yesterday was my birthday, and while I wasn’t expecting fireworks and a marching band due to COVID, I did think we’d have a nice day with a nice cake and a nice dinner.
The day started out with Ramón presenting me with my present, a set of bread lames for cutting slits in bread loaves before baking so that they don’t rip. I was delighted and kissed him thoroughly, then got up and ran out to get the makings for a really great lemon cake with homemade lemon curd between the layers. Upon my return home I disinfected everything and showered as usual, at which point I saw a text message that a bouquet of flowers had been delivered and should be retrieved from the doorstep. I didn’t see any flowers on the way in, but I went out and double-checked the porch anyway. No flowers. Huh.
I then checked the text message a little closer and saw that the flowers had been delivered about five miles away to an address very similar to mine (same street number, slightly different street name). Since we get mail for these people at least three times a year, I wasn’t surprised but was somewhat miffed as I knew my sister was the one who sent the flowers. I replied with a text saying, “Yeah, you delivered them to the wrong address” in the hopes that the mistake would be rectified.
And then I got a second text message — from the people at this other address. Apparently my phone number was on the message tag and they pinged me to say, “Yeah, we have your flowers, wanna come pick them up?” Oooookay. So I got dressed in my second set of clothing and mask for the day and headed out … only to realize as I pulled up in front of their house that 1) I have no idea what the viral load in their house is, and 2) I cannot disinfect a bouquet. Shit. I pulled my phone back out and told them to keep the bouquet with my compliments, then went home, whereupon I put the SECOND set of clothes and mask into the wash and cleaned up again.
By this point my knee had started complaining about the humidity, the amount of movement I have been engaging in, and to be quite frank my PMS kicked in with a vengeance. As I strongly suspected I would throw cake pans through the kitchen window at this point, I said “Fuck it” to making the cake, with plans to make it the next day.
At which point my sister called to find out what I thought about the bouquet. I explained the contretemps and thanked her for her thoughtfulness (it had balloons and everything, wah!), and she agreed that I should have left the bouquet with the other people since there was no way to bring it in safely. We had a nice chat and made tentative plans to get together in March or April next year.
By now my PMS had gotten worse, plus I was feeling hot and really tired. I slogged through making chicken Alfredo, wondering at the monster chicken breasts I wound up getting from Kroger. With dinner finished, I realized I wasn’t hungry at all and went upstairs to take a nap. Woke up at 9:30 PM feeling moderately better, as well as moderately hungry.
The Alfredo was not a culinary triumph. The chicken breasts turned out to be stringy and unpleasant-tasting, and I stopped eating after half a bowl, throwing out the rest of it. I’ve clearly been spoiled, getting chicken and other meat from a local butcher, but this meal confirms that getting our meat from there was a good choice. Consoling myself with a PB&J, I watched a couple of episodes of GBBO until bedtime, tossed and turned until 3 AM, got up to watch some Jack Whitehouse comedy specials, then went back to bed.
So, yeah, not the greatest of birthdays. But to be honest it’s hardly the worst, either. A couple of minor annoyances, unpleasant chicken, and a hormone storm, no biggie. And I did get a nifty set of bread lames, a pretty birthday bouquet (at a distance), and a slew of best wishes from people on social media, so that made the day great.
FB just reminded me of what I was doing on this day in 2014, so I thought I’d share it with you:
“Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Cleaning Mortar Chips Out Of a Swimming Pool! Tonight’s contestant is Nicola Cameron from Plano, Texas — let’s give her a big hand!
“Now, Ms. Cameron has spent the last two days removing old cement, mastic, and epoxy from her hot tub rim in preparation for re-cementing and mortaring the missing coping stones back into place, and a bunch of the debris has fallen into her pool as a result. Let’s see how she’s going to get it out.
“Ooh, she’s starting by trying to scoop up the biggest chunks with her skimmer. It’s not quite working as she’d hoped, I’m afraid — too bad, it was a good idea. She’s changing out the skimmer head for a brush head and brushing it all into a large pile — smart move! Now she’s getting out her vortex vacuum head and attaching it and the garden hose to suck that debris right up.
“Oh, no! The vortex caused by the hose isn’t quite enough to pick up the larger pieces. I haven’t heard cursing like that since I was in the Marines!
“On to Round Two — she’s brushing all the pieces into the shallow end and — wow, she’s getting her wet-dry shop vac out and sucking them up! Great move, Ms. Cameron!
“Wait a minute — the shop vac move worked with the small pieces, but the vac is too efficient and is filling almost immediately and there are still large shards at the bottom of her pool. Is she going to throw herself on the mercy of her pool cleaning service for help?
“NO! I cannot believe this, people — she is taking off her glasses, and — YES, yes, she is jumping fully clothed into the pool in her best impersonation of a pearl diver and collecting the shards manually. This woman is determined! Wait, I’m hearing her mutter something about shark week, prehensile toes and ‘See, Mom, I TOLD you they’d come in handy.’ And she’s gotten all of the debris out of the pool! Well done, Ms. Cameron!
“Well, this has been an amazing episode of Cleaning Mortar Chips Out Of a Swimming Pool! Tune in tomorrow when Ms. Cameron is going to don protective gear and use dilute muriatic acid to remove the mortar haze from her flagstones. Good night, everyone!”
In even more entertaining news, here’s another snippet from Shadow of the Swan:
Henry regretted the words the moment they left his mouth. Miss Wallingford recoiled as if slapped, and even Mwanda shifted against the door as if uncomfortable. “Really, Harry,” she muttered.
He cursed his own lack of tact. He could still taste Louisa Wallingford’s blood, its complex flavor lingering on his palate like the finest of wines, and it had the same effect as wine on a human. The bottled stuff couldn’t wash it away, much as he wished it would. Drinking directly from a human was a different matter entirely than drinking stored blood. He would now be able to sense Louisa Wallingford no matter where she was, divine her moods, even anticipate her actions once he got to know her better.
He had been able to ignore the humans he had drunk from in the past, block them from his awareness. But combined with his assignment, it would be impossible to ignore this bright, beautiful, and exasperating young woman. Even now he could feel her fear, combined with a half-angry curiosity as she digested the news he had dumped so gracelessly in her lap.
With care, he replaced the half-full bottle of blood on the table and leaned forward. “Miss Wallingford, you are a sensible young woman. It is not my intention to frighten you unnecessarily, but I would be remiss if I didn’t impress upon you the gravity of your situation. Your uncle has recruited not only the entirety of the ministry but her majesty the queen in order to protect you from this Fae noble. The best solution we have found is your marriage to Robert Bainbridge, which must take place as quickly as possible. Once you are married, you are no longer bound by the terms of this Fae contract and will be safe. That is why everything is happening at such an unusual pace.”
He wasn’t surprised when the young woman drained her glass of wine at a gulp. “What’s the name of my erstwhile suitor?”
He remembered she was an academic like her uncle. Information was what she needed at this moment to stay in control. “Avery, of House Eala. He rules over his own court within Faerie, and his formal title is the Swan King. If you want to know more about him, I would suggest asking your uncle when we return. He knows far more about the contract with your family than I do.”
“Listen to him, girl.” Mwanda came forward, silk swishing with the movement. The mocking expression was gone, replaced by grim seriousness. “The Fae are far more powerful than even the ministry likes to admit, and you don’t want to be in one’s power. If marrying this Bainbridge is the only way of getting away from them, do it tomorrow. Hire a carriage and take him up to Gretna Green, then tumble him immediately afterwards.”
The thought of Louisa Wallingford in bed with another man sent a unexpected surge of rage through him, and he had to will himself to stay calm. You’re blood-struck, that’s all. It’ll fade in time. “Mwanda,” he growled.
“This isn’t the time for prudery, Harry,” she shot back. “The girl needs to protect herself, and if some words before a priest and a bedding will do it, then that’s what she needs to do.”
“Enough.” Louisa held up a hand that only showed the faintest of tremors. “Please. Mr. Carstairs, may we return home? I need to speak with my uncle.”
He glanced at Mwanda, who shrugged. “The carriage should be here soon. I’ll see if Remy has that shirt for you yet.”
It happens. Sometimes you wake up and everything is firing on all cylinders. You crank out 5-6K without breaking a sweat, you bop through the cleaning and the working out, everyone in your house is getting along, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, Ryan Reynolds is bringing you a frosty martini made with Aviation Gin (Ryan, call me!), and all is right with the world.
And then there are days like this, where you wake up feeling like nothing is meshing correctly. You know you have stuff to mail, but convincing yourself to sit down, put things in packages, and haul your ass to the post office to mail them all off feels like climbing Everest. You’ve got a word quota to hit, but your characters have decided not to talk to you and putting something, anything on the page is like pulling teeth. And not only have the cats decided to be little assholes all day, but one of them has started leaving the foulest deuces in the breakfast nook litter box, which hotboxes the entire living room as a result.
It’s days like these that make day drinking so damn attractive. In fact, I think I may make myself an absinthe, take a shower, and go to bed early. Fuck it, I’m an adult, I can go to bed at 10 PM if I want.
That’s sad, isn’t it?
On the plus side, we finally got Ramón’s new passport pictures taken, so at least that’s a tick in the W column, but even that took all afternoon. The British passport office wanted digital pics taken against a light-colored wall. We do not have a single light-colored wall in this house, so we tried putting up foamboard, sheets, et al. The results were not good. Frustrated, he finally wound up going to Walgreens for a pro photo. The British passport portal rejected it because “his eyes weren’t level.” Oy. I finally hit on moving a mirror off a very narrow beigeish wall next to the front door, standing him in front of it, and taking a picture.
Well, I kissed him first, because the picture he took at Walgreens made him look like he was about to break his foot off in someone’s ass. The portal accepted the second of my pictures, and his new passport will feature him with a serious expression but a twinkle in his eye, which is a huge improvement.
And I now have a brand-new gouge in my palm because Jasmine, She of the Skittiness, was resting her chin on my arm in her patented, “Pet me, please,” pose. When I did, she immediately started grumbling, got up and stepped on the laptop keyboard, then on my hand as I tried to get her off before she hosed this post. And she does not know when to keep her claws retracted, bless her idiotic little cat heart. Yeah, it’s time for alcohol and bed.
So I woke up this morning after a dream that was apparently inspired by elements of “Goodbye Earl” by the Chicks (no justified killing of an abusive husband, but I observed two couple’s arguments, spent some time in a really nice kitchen that overlooked a great apartment complex after one boyfriend decided to switch apartments with his old girlfriend and go move in with his new girlfriend, and wound up in the middle of what looked like Wisconsin, judging from the rolling hills and all of the silos, as part of a mass job interview for a tech writing position. Yeah, I don’t understand that last part, either).
And then it was 5 AM, and my brain said, “Okay, you went to sleep at midnight, that’s enough, we’re going to play “Goodbye Earl” on earworm loop until you get up.” Thanks, brain. So I’m here, having fed and watered the J Crew, and I figure I’ll get in maybe four hours of writing before that stupid mass in my skull gives up and I can go back to bed at 10 AM for three more hours of sleep.
And then I made the mistake of checking Twitter and found out that not only does DHS intend to take its cobbled-together SS shitshow in Portland nationwide, but John Lewis died this morning. The best way to pay tribute is to get into some good trouble.
Being a reasonable person who doesn’t want to catch the ‘rona, I try to plan meals in advance so that I can cut down on the number of store runs and still have everything I need on hand. Sometimes, however, you (and by you, I mean I) forget things, which throws a wrench into the meal planning procedure.
Such as today, when I had planned on making burgers and fries for dinner. Because I knew damn well I’d gotten ground beef the last time I went to the store, you know? Except that apparently my mind was playing stupid games for stupid prizes once again and I’d already used the ground beef (either that, or it fell out in the trunk of my car. The temps have been around the triple digit point here for the last few days. I’m dreading what I’m going to find when I go out there tomorrow and check).
So, sweet potato fries but no ground beef, and I don’t want to hazmat up and go out to the store just for protein. I check the freezer — tilapia (nice, but we don’t have any fresh veggies that Ramón can eat without extreme digestive unease), kielbasa, hot dogs, OOH. I still had a container of the homemade gyro meatball mix I’d made back in May.
Pulled that out and let it defrost while I continued my study of the fridge. Nope, no tzatziki sauce, but I did have light sour cream, minced garlic, and green onions. That mixed up into a lovely creamy sauce, and one of the white onions that are a staple here got chopped up for garnish. Ramón doesn’t like spinach so I couldn’t add any to his sandwich, but I was able to slather it on mine.
One last issue — bread. We didn’t have any pita bread, but I did buy some naan bread when it was on sale back in March and froze it. Pulled that out to defrost. (If worse came to worse I would’ve made biscuits and ladled everything over that, or taken a crack at making frybread. But the cooking gods were smiling on me for once.)
Et voila — homemade gyro meatballs on garlic naan bread topped with a sour cream sauce, onions, spinach, and sweet potato fries on the side. Turned out to be darn tasty, and I didn’t have to put on a bra. I call that a win.
You may remember this post on January 10th, where I mentioned that I was just getting over a rather nasty cold that I’d caught over New Year’s, and how it had produced the most amazing neon yellow mucus I had ever seen (a color that has never come out of my nose before, by the way).
There was a fairly significant gap between that post and the next post on March 16, and the truth of it was that I was sick as a freaking dog in January and February. My cold did finally end, but on January 15 I started coughing. The cough settled in my chest, and despite drinking lots of fluids and taking OTC cough meds it didn’t resolve, to the point where I assumed I had developed bronchitis. (Why assumed? Well, because our health insurance is the HDHP type that doesn’t pay for doctor’s visits, and I was damned if I was dragging my exhausted ass over to the doctor’s office to be told, “Yeah, you have bronchitis, go home and drink lots of fluids” and pay $181 for the privilege.)
My coughing and general malaise got to the point where I had to tell my project manager, “Look, I know we’re on deadline but I am barely functional right now. So this is what I’m gonna do — I’ll get up, do some work for as long as I can, then go back to bed when I have to, then get back up and do some more work, and I’ll keep doing that around the clock until I have my deliverables done.” Yeah, I know — I’m insane. But it was only the two of us on this project and if I went to bed for a week there was simply no way she’d be able to get everything done, so I sucked it up. I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much of that week, but apparently I do good work even on autopilot.
I started feeling moderately functional after about ten days, but the cough never really stopped, and I never got “better.” Things would start to improve and I’d have hope, and then I’d feel like crap again and sleep the weekend away. This continued until the third week of February, which means I had five weeks of feeling like absolute garbage. I was hoping to hold out until my physical at the end of February because I wouldn’t have to pay for that, but after week five I gave up and headed into a local CareNow to see if they could help. The doctor listened to my symptoms, decided I had a sinus infection (which I assumed I had as well), prescribed me antibiotics and prednisone, and told me to go home and use saline sprays lavishly on my nasal mucosa. I did, and by the time my physical rolled around the next week I was feeling pretty okay thanks to the prednisone.
Two strange things happened at my physical, though. My blood pressure, which had been under control, had gone up again, to the point where my doctor increased my BP medicine. And my blood oxygen, measured by one of those pulse oximeters, was 96%. In all the time that I’ve had one of those things clipped to my finger during an exam, my blood oxygen level was almost always 99%. Once it dropped to 98%, but that was the lowest it had gone.
Now it was down to 96%, and my blood pressure was up. Right around this time, we started getting the first real warning signs that the US was going to be hit by COVID-19. That’s when I started doing incremental stockups at the store, in case one of us caught it and had to be quarantined for two weeks. But I wasn’t worried about what had just happened to me because everyone said that we hadn’t had any cases of COVID in the States yet, so it couldn’t have been that, right? It had just been a weird, nasty viral respiratory bug that had knocked me on my ass for five weeks, elevated my blood pressure, and reduced my blood oxygenation…
Except. The first laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 had been confirmed on January 20, 2020. So for me to have developed it on January 15 was not impossible.
Now, to answer the expected questions:
- How could I have caught it? Well, I had spent the time around NYE wandering around the DFW metroplex with my family and interacting with other people a lot more than I usually did. Also, Dallas is the American Airlines hub and we have people coming in from other countries all the damn time, so it was hardly unexpected that a virus that originated overseas would show up here.
- If I caught it, wouldn’t Ramón have caught it as well? Since he doesn’t have sick days, he isolated himself from me as soon as I got sick — he slept downstairs for a week and only saw me when he brought up food and meds. Even then, he did spend a number of weeks in February and March feeling like crap, but we assumed it was a milder case of what I had.
- Have I gone in for a COVID-19 test? Well, no, because they weren’t available here in February. By the time I realized there was a good chance I’d had it, I would have tested as negative.
- Antibody test? Those are now available, but as research is indicating that COVID-19 antibodies fade after 2-3 months and I’m well past that period now, there doesn’t seem much point to it.
- Why do I think I had it? Apart from the neon yellow mucus, the symptoms of that respiratory bug, and those weird readings at my physical, I have not felt *right* since December. My mental acuity and ability to focus have definitely gone down a couple of notches, I have to take naps now to get through the day, and I get winded vacuuming the living room.
- But you’ve been staying at home since March 13 — couldn’t some of those symptoms be related to staying inside for so long? Yeah, but I’m a writer — I’ve spent the last nine years inside. I never had to take naps before. And the reduction in my ability to focus is kind of telling.
So, that’s why you didn’t hear anything from me for almost two months. I’m talking about this now to explain why we’re being rigorous about masking, only going to the store, and disinfecting anything that comes in the house. If it is possible to catch COVID-19 multiple times, as research is beginning to indicate, I do NOT want that shit again and neither does Ramón. Once was more than enough.