When you stare into the void

Nasa void Sounds pretentious, right?

After the hospital stay, I re-evaluated my eating habits. I found some cookbooks with kidney friendly recipes. What I did find was that there were a lot of contradictions going on. Some writers suggested dairy and some said dairy was a big no-no.

There were other inconsistencies. Some said to use nightshade plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants. I have been told to limit these vegetables because they were high in potassium.

I’ve been rubbing my forehead because after all of this research, I don’t think these “experts” really know what is good for someone with chronic kidney disease. I do know a few things about my my body. Even though I am on a low-protein diet, I do need protein to feel good enough to survive an entire day. Also nightshade vegetables give me “acid reflux.” I do enjoy my tomatoes. I could probably take them out of my diet if I could find a good substitute.

I discovered No-tomato sauce online. My objection is that it is made with beets. I can hardly stand the taste of beets. I can’t stand the smell of beets. It’s in the same category to my nose and taste buds as fecal matter. So that sauce is out. I did find that roasted red bell peppers are considered a good substitute for tomatoes in sauces.

I do like cream sauces. However, heavy cream, milk, and certain cheeses are out. I did find that ricotta cheese (considered a poor man’s cheese) can be used for creams. Even though I am on a low-dairy diet, ricotta cheese would be better than sour cream and heavy creams for my body.

After seeing the void again, I know that I have to cook more. I can’t depend on prepared food at the store. There is too much salt, too much HFCS, and too many preservatives. My kidneys cannot handle the poisons.

My personal void is kidney failure. I knew I was losing my kidneys when I was in the ICU recently. Thankfully the time-honored way of flushing the kidneys helped me this time. I can’t depend on medical intervention helping me again. The next time might be dialysis and the inevitable decline of the kidneys.

So what does it feel like when the kidneys go? When it starts there is pain in your entire body and every joint. After a while, the pain recedes and you feel like your body is stuffed with cotton. You can’t think or move. You drift. Something winks at you, and you know that you are going.

At this point I claw back to life.

 

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Stress, illness, and other matters

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Image from Pixabay

Once again I am recovering from a bout of illness. This time it was pneumonia. I am finally starting to feel better after three courses of Levaquin and a four day stint in the hospital’s ICU.

It started out as a high fever and headache. It wasn’t how I usually get colds so I thought that if I kept hydrated and slept that I would get well quickly. I was mistaken.

I went to a follow up appointment with my primary care doctor a week after coming home from the hospital. She did scold me. Apparently if I have a temperature over 100, I should go straight to the ER. I have done that before and didn’t receive the treatment that I needed. So I am wary. I am pretty sure I will try to do it myself once again for a couple of days before I give in.

What got my doctor upset is that she lost a family member at the age of 40 to pneumonia. I really do understand her concerns. I don’t enjoy going to the ER and having some ER doctor tell me that I came to the ER too early. Or even worse being treated with condescension. At least this time the doctor, and he was a VA doctor by the way, saw the danger to my kidneys immediately. He started appropriate measures while I was waiting in the ER.

I haven’t had too many good things to say about hospitalists, but the one that treated me recently at the Las Vegas VA Medical Center was smart and made sure I had good treatment. The nurses were also good.

This stint in the hospital reminded me that I am always on the edge. The stress I have been feeling hasn’t helped me to stay healthy. I have had personal stress due to illness and money. Plus yesterday when the world went crazy about Charlottesville and the two crazy groups clashing and hurting each other, I felt the stress. Plus in many ways these ideas of white privilege and white supremacy attack me and mine personally.

If you look at my family, we are quite diverse. I have full siblings that look Hispanic. One of my brothers  was in Saudi Arabia with work and he could pass as one of them. There are Native Americans in my family. So when I am told that I have “privilege” just because of my skin color, I laugh– I admit it is a bitter laugh.

I grew up in a cabin, sixty miles from the nearest town. My privilege included “no running water,” and “no electricity.” I’ve lived in a small trailer with nine other people before the birth of my youngest brothers. I have put ditch water in barrels, put alum over the top to settle the mud and dirt, then use the water to wash clothes by hand.

I have worked in a huge garden. We would grow enough food to feed us for the entire winter. Our growing season was about three-four months. I canned food for weeks. The work was brutal. I would sometimes light a candle so I could see what I was doing in the dark of night as I finished up the last of the canning on the gas stove.

I had to go into the military so that I would have the GI bill so that I could finish college. I received no scholarships and no loans. Still through shear stubbornness and grit, I received a college degree in English literature when I was 38 years old.

“Check your privilege,” I hear all the time on the ‘net. No, you check your privilege.

I didn’t have a TV until I left home. When we did have a telephone, it was on a party line. I bought my first computer in the early nineties and received my first cell phone in 2005.

My life hasn’t been easy.

We live in the richest era of all. We can buy our food and clothing. It is easy to get a place to live. We have computers and entertainment that fill our days. No matter our color or place in life, we have more now than in any time in history.

I am grateful for not having to make all my clothes, grow and can all my food, and wash my clothes by hand. I am grateful that there is medication that can keep my diseases under control. Fifty years ago any one of my conditions would have killed me by now.

I want you to know that all of us are privileged to have what we have and to have the leisure time we have now. My challenge to you is to use it wisely. Quit the scuffling and name-calling. Take advantage of the opportunities.

And as Ellen DeGeneres says every day– “Be kind to others.”

Grace under pressure

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Since I was given my diagnosis of thyroid cancer (papillary thyroid carcinoma) on Tuesday, the stress has been building because I haven’t received any phone calls from the surgeon so that I can get an appointment. It blows my mind that the word “cancer” means something to me, but not to the doctors that should be treating me. Plus with the thyroid out-of-whack, the stress builds quicker and more forcefully.

I was thinking of how I should deal with the doctors when I remembered the few months we dealt with Otto’s diagnosis of cancer. At least in my case, we know where my cancer is located. I became more and more angry and he became more and more polite and kind to the nurses and doctors around him.

It was a scary time. I am now feeling some of the same pressures even though I have been assured by a couple of people including my primary care doctor that this is one of the most survivable cancers. It is also the easiest to treat. Except even with all this going for me, if I am not treated early, I end up like the five percent who don’t survive. What makes me anxious and ultimately angry is that I am seeing no forward momentum in eradicating this problem.

When I go to sleep at night, I feel this huge lump in my throat and I am now sleeping in a reclining position because I can’t swallow well while I am sleeping. Now that I know what is in that lump, I feel it every day. I felt it before, but I thought I could trust the doctors. If I hadn’t pitched a fit about not feeling good– and that I needed to be checked (I went to the ER, I had labs and fecal tests, and I had a sonogram). I would still have this thing in my neck, ready to spew cancer cells to other parts of my body.

It doesn’t help that my thyroid is releasing hormones erratically. It doesn’t help that I feel this lump whenever I swallow. It doesn’t help that I want to scream at someone–

So how did my late-husband stay kind under that kind of pressure. Part of it was that he really cared about my emotional state. He would diminish his pain a little so that I wouldn’t worry as much. Plus he was kind. He really was kind underneath.

I learned a lot of my coping skills from him. He used to tell me that I needed to hold a good memory close so that I could remember it when I was unhappy. Plus I needed to visualize it as clearly as I could. When he was close to dying and needed help to remember his good memory–I recreated the beach for him. I told him about the water washing up onto the sand. About the colorful fishes swimming around his feet. I described the women in bikinis walking hand in hand and splashing water.

I want to borrow his “grace.”

Essential Oils and Diamond Butterfly

img_0365 A couple of days ago, I was talking to a mental health professional about how I thought part of my problems with health was because of the underlying anxiety I feel all the time. While we were talking about my husband’s death (we were married on Feb 16th) and my chronic illnesses, she handed me a cotton ball, which she laced with a couple drops of peppermint oil.

The response was almost immediate. I could feel each muscle relax. But it went even farther than the skin, muscles, and organs. I could feel the relaxation go down into the cells of my body. I felt the electrons that had been spinning like crazy, start to drop to a slower frequency. When I left our meeting, I was even smiling and holding that cotton ball to my nose.

When I drove the forty minutes home, I had one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand was holding that cotton ball to my nose. I made it home without yelling at drivers, or giving them the one-fingered salute. I think there was a silly smile on my face when I walked into my apartment. Foxy jumped and gave me the chihuahua greeting, including the waving front paws.

When I think about it, smell is one of the most powerful of our five senses even though we use visual more often or think we do. Smell is the first sense we develop and the last sense we lose.

Cinnamon and peppermint are the two smells that remind me of Christmas and magic. So now I am trying out a few other oils. Orange is a great pick-me-up. I really need that one in the morning. I’m also looking into a few that can help dry skin and kidney function.

Peppermint is still my go-to when I lie down and my brain starts to roll and spark. It calms me down even quicker than lavender–maybe because it sparks a feeling of safety.

Now here is an excerpt from my current WIP Diamond Butterfly:

The snow came down wet and heavy as I trudged down a dirt road, marked by slashes on the trees. Without those slashes I couldn’t see the road, and I still had to hike a couple of miles before I made it to the cabin at the end of the road. My baby boy’s sleeping breath warmed my neck as I carried him on my back, wrapped in a blanket. With his weight on my back, I tested each footstep. If we fell in the snow, hypothermia could be a problem. I couldn’t fall.

I had been driving down that road like a demon with the snow hitting the windshield. I should have gotten new blades, hell, new tires when I realized that I was heading for the storm. The heater kept a small portion of my windshield clear. I might not have jerked and slid off the road, barely hitting a tree if I had seen the black creature earlier. Now I was walking in the storm and trying to keep my baby warm.

The snow dampened the sound around me. I could only hear the crunch of my own boots. Even the birds and smaller animals were hidden in burrows, snoring. I opened my mouth to taste the air. I couldn’t smell or taste anything around me, just wet and more wet.

I reached back and touched my boy’s small foot. It was soft and warm. I felt a quick relief. If I could just make it to the cabin soon without getting lost, we would be fine. I took a deep breath and followed the slashes, the loaded revolver heavy in my pocket.
How did I, Nova Tewa, obedient granddaughter, get into this predicament?

dragonboy2016

Don’t forget– Dragon Boy is my new release:

If you’re down on your luck, come to Hilda’s Inn for a game of dice and cheap ale. The hundred-year-stew has been stewing for a hundred years and the fire never burns out.

Except Hilda’s Inn is under new management, and Hilda is on the run with Davi, a dragonling. There will be dwarfs, ogres, dragons, and magical trinkets between Delhaven and Koenigstadt, the king’s city.

Don’t forget that the woods are not a safe place–the Draugr is lurking and
hungry. And, he has a taste for magic

Warm days and cold hands

img_0584 Foxy, my black chihuahua terrier mix, sits with me on my overstuffed rocking chair with the front door open. She sits on my lap and stretches like a flat fur rug. I know she is starting to get older because white is appearing on her muzzle and eyebrows. When I first got her over two years ago, except for her chest, she was black all over.

She is also getting more cuddly and less active. But then, with the problems I’ve had the last few weeks, I am also getting slower.

We don’t see too many clouds except in the spring and fall in Las Vegas. So I watch the clouds curl and flow. In the higher atmosphere the I see lenticular clouds. It would be long that this storm which left us only a few drops will be on its way to Utah and Colorado. I think it stops here to dry off a little and warm up before the big show.

My sleep schedule has been interrupted by my symptoms. My usual sleep schedule is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The prickling in my neck, plus the hot and cold sensations that seem to start at bedtime and keep me awake. I have been waking up at 4 hour intervals. So at 2 p.m. in the afternoon (sometimes earlier) I am so tired that I take a long nap. Needless to say these patterns make it hard for me to think and to write creatively.

Inside it feels like someone has put their foot on the pedal and is revving the engine.

So I am hoping that the sonogram biopsy will be the start to getting my engine to a low hum. This constant revving is tiring.

Now for a little promotion time.

Plus here is the first in the series, Hilda’s Inn for Retired Heroes:

How am I doing?

So last week derailed me somewhat. I didn’t do enough writing and every time I sat down on the chair, I suddenly had the need for lunch or for coffee. Also, I had this urge to walk the dog. I think that thought was being telepathically transmitted by Foxy. She loves her walks.

My goals for this week are in this order– run around Las Vegas and reach all of my appointments on time. Pick up a package and then spend a couple of days fixing errors in Dragon Boy.

Afterwards formatting and then publishing this book.

I am sure that I will have some time to write new words in between getting this book out.

In my other series, EJ Hunter, I have the second book written, but not edited. Also the third book in the series came to me in a meditation. So I know that I won’t be dropping that series. I won’t compare myself to another writer, but I realized yesterday that I am not writing enough.

When I am on a hot streak, I need to write until it is finished. When I am on a cold streak I need to write. I am a much happier person when I write.

I am a little behind in my goals. I’ve also been hit with things like jury duty– if I was in better health I wouldn’t be worried about it. But it is very strange that I have been called during flu season when my immune system is suppressed. I tried to talk to them about it, but I have to get a “doctor’s note.” They made me feel like an elementary child who lied all the time.

Thank you all for caring about the characters and caring about my health. Since the move, I have been healthier and I’ve been writing more.

So it is that time of year

I just drove a wooden stake in the heart of 2016. I hope this is not a pattern. 2014 was a very bad year for me. 2016 started out great in the writing arena and then I started to have problems around July. It wasn’t until last week that I was able to get the editing done on “Dragon Boy” and send it out.

I’m hoping that 2017 (odd year) will be my year for writing, editing, and publishing. So here are my plans for the next year:

Writing goals–

  1. 5,000 words a week minimum. I found out last year that I need at least one day a week to have a no writing day.
  2. Publish 2 novels minimum, but I really want to reach 4. I found last year that if there are significant problems i.e. a car accident or illness that four novels is not realistic for me.
  3. Write two-three posts here a week to show what I am doing and to keep me on track.

Health goals–

  1. I have something on the 3rd of January that will keep me out of the loop for at least two days.
  2. Take my pills on time. I will have to change my alarm again because it is so easy to ignore it. I have to take a certain amount of pills three times a day.
  3. Don’t short-change the dog on her walks or her me-time. I need the walks as much as she does.
  4. Plus I need to take a fitness class for once a week to keep me moving.

I learned something very important this year. I need face-to-face time with people other than myself. I need friends. Funny that I would admit that– I have lived in a very isolated bubble for years. Part of it was my temperament– I really do live in my head. Part of it was my disease. When the health professionals give you guidelines about what you can do and where you can go because you get sick easily, it does curtail activities.

It is similar to when I learned that even though I am in a salt-restricted diet, I need a certain amount of sodium or my muscles will cramp and stay locked.

So I have people I see during the week and they all know that if they are sick, I cannot help them. It is too big a risk. It doesn’t mean I am an inconsiderate jerk. It means I have a chronic illness.

Something else I learned is that asking for help does not mean you are weak. It was a painful lesson that I get to learn over and over.

On the other hand, my health has been stable. Foxy is still healthy even though she is prone to pancreatitis attacks.

With all my goals, I do wish for a healthy and happy year ahead for all of us.