Advanced Germ Warfare

My husband travels a lot for work. I’d say, if pressed for an average frequency, that he’s gone for about one week out of every month. That’s a lot of restaurant food, a lot of time in airplanes, a lot of time in hospitals meeting with nurses and doctors (read: a whole hell of a lot of exposure to germs).

That he hasn’t brought something infectious home yet after almost two years of running this company is nothing short of remarkable now that I think about it.

Unfortunately, his lucky streak ran out last week. While on his way to Florida last Monday, a nasty pack of viruses found its way into his body, liked it there, and set up camp. Those viruses got busy and proliferated until poor Wes was as sick as I’ve ever seen him.

By the time he was flying home from Florida on Wednesday night, he was miserable and on his way to violently ill. When he got home, he was dehydrated, exhausted, and shaking from a decent fever.

Thursday is when things really got bad, though. His fever kept climbing, and he was visibly dehydrated, so he and I took a little trip to the emergency room where they plumped him up until his fingers were fat little sausages. Three bags of fluids and no small number of tests later, he was discharged with the vague diagnosis of, “Probably something viral.”

Now, I want you to remember that we have two small children at home. With the viruses Wes could have ranging from the dreaded Norovirus to the never-ending Rotavirus to the pernicious and difficult-to-kill C. Diff. (which isn’t a virus, but was mentioned as a possible diagnosis), you can imagine my frustration at not knowing exactly how to keep myself and my kids safe from this virulent pestilence.

I’m useless against some of the nastier viruses! 

For example, did you know that alcohol-based hand sanitizers (e.g. Purell) don’t kill Norovirus, but do work against Rotavirus? Or that Clorox and Lysol wipes will not kill either C. Diff. or Norovirus? Or that you’re contagious for three days after symptoms stop with Norovirus, but for WEEKS with C. Diff.?

After I got Wes home and comfortable from the hospital, I cleaned everything he’d touched with Lysol wipes, my standard go-to whenever anyone gets sick with something that causes a fever. When I finally sat down and put my aching leg up, I started some research into the various viruses and realized I needed to get some bleach spray and re-do everything I’d just done. Otherwise, my kids or myself might catch what Wes had and then we’d all end up in the emergency room.

(You know what’s fun? Reading that several of the possible viruses Wes might have are occasionally fatal to children because of how quickly and severely little kids can become dehydrated.)

So, despite the pain in my tired leg and the late hour, I ventured out to the store, procured bleach spray, and spent another hour sanitizing every surface of my house. Even the ones Wes never touched. I didn’t want anyone getting sick for two weeks because I forgot to wipe down the sides of the trash cans, you know?

I crawled to bed at midnight that night, and have continued my vigilance ever since. We’ve bleached and shelved all the hand towels and we’re going through paper towels like crazy. Wes is quarantined in our room, which gets bleached and wiped down every night before I go to bed. The kids are only allowed to talk to him from the door of our room, and he wears a clean pair of latex gloves every time he touches anything.

The three of us remain unscathed thanks to these efforts, but Wes is still waiting patiently for his immune system to finally give those viral squatters the boot. Pale from a week indoors, tired of drinking electrolyte solution, and longing for the life that’s waiting for him on the other side of this illness, he bides his time in his pillow prison and looks forward to the day he’s free to pass slowpokes in his Mustang again.

Let this be a lesson to you: Other human beings are gross. Wash your hands before you eat anything, and beware any food that’s been touched by bare hands. Trust ye not solely in Purell, because some viruses treat alcohol-based hand sanitizers like fun little pre-funks before they storm your proverbial castle.

Traditional New Year Post – 2018 Version

It’s been my tradition for many years to sum up the old year with a blog post and share my hopes for the new year. I’ve never been a resolutions person, but I love me some goals. It’s always a lot of fun to see how those goals have worked out at the end of the year. Some make it through to completion, others die on the vine. Life is one hell of a humbler.

As Wes and I hoisted flutes of champagne last night, we spent some time discussing 2017. In many ways, it was a challenging year. As far as we can tell, challenging years are hallmark of adulthood. That doesn’t make them bad, per se. Far from it! Rather, I think if you’re the kind of person who’s always striving toward something, challenges are what drive you. If there’s no windmill to tilt against, how are any of us supposed to pretend we’re quixotic?

In that vein, our biggest victories in 2017 were professional: I completed Bai Treason and the first draft of Tranquility Land. I attended ThrillerFest, and was offered several jobs due to my unusual tenacity in getting my cutting-edge surgery covered by my health insurance. Wesley defied the odds and kept his startup going, and he’s optimistic about the momentum they’ve built.

Our hopes for the new year are simple: That the work we put into building things in 2017 will come to fruition in 2018.

That’s it. Simple, but don’t let this statement fool you. 2018 is going to be a BIG year for us. My goal is to have a literary agent who believes in both me and my work by the end of the year. Wes’s goal is for his company to be going strong, which requires an unbelievable amount of hustle and determination. We’re going to start looking for a house to buy soon (we’ve been renting for seven years), and will hopefully find the perfect home for our family by the end of the summer. We want to adopt a puppy, we want to plant a garden, we want to take a great vacation to somewhere sunny.

We have goals for our children, of course, and they have goals of their own, but what it all boils down to is that we hope all the saving and waiting and sacrifices we’ve made to get here will pay off this year.

We’re dreaming big. We’re hoping for good things. We’re believing that when you work hard enough for something, the journey is worthwhile.

In that spirit, a very Happy New Year to you. Please feel free to share your hopes and goals so that I can join you in rooting for them!

Christmas Excuses

Oops. It’s been awhile since I posted. I have a legit excuse, I swear. You see, I was having major surgery on my knee. If you’ve never had major surgery (lucky you!), take my word for it that both preparing for it and then recovering from it takes a tremendous amount of both time and energy.

The surgery went well, though, and I’m healing well. I’m ordering ALL THE THINGS online for Christmas, and enjoying plenty of couch time with my family. Having kicked my hard narcotic painkillers, I’m clearheaded again and look forward to returning to writing soon.

If I don’t have a chance to blog again before the holidays begin in earnest, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Festivus, and Happy Holidays to you all. May your egg be nogged, your yule be logged, and your favorite holiday treats hogged (by you)!

Self-Improvement via Coercion

I’ve never been a person for whom moderation came naturally. Why stop at one thousand words a day when three thousand words a day will help me finish this novel three times as fast? If I cut out sugar, why not cut out bread, too, and then I’ll lose weight twice as fast. If exercise twice a week is good, then surely five times a week is better, right?

I wrote a few weeks ago about pushing myself really hard prior to surgery, and it both worked and didn’t. I cleared all my to do lists before surgery, which really helped during recovery because I didn’t feel as twitchy from my permanent spot on the couch. It did, however, make me feel like I was riding in a speeding car with no seat belt and someone slammed on the brakes.

Entropy after inertia is not an easy transition.

So now, two weeks after surgery and with four weeks to go until my next, much bigger, surgery, I’m in a strange limbo. Even though I feel like I should be relatively over it already, I’m still exhausted and my limits are set in stone. There’s really no sense pushing it at this point, because invariably my injury just pushes back.

I got really ambitious and walked around Target over the weekend and I was so tired afterward I had to come home, ice and elevate, and then take a nap. When I woke up, I realized it’s actually kind of stupid to walk more than I have to because hello, there’s a huge hole in my cartilage.

I feel pressure (from myself) to be back to normal, so for now life is a constant effort to reign in my Type-A Nutjob tendencies and remind myself that, unlike in mathematics sometimes, the limit does exist. Each day is a marathon, and if I sprint at any point, I might wind up with nothing left to get me over the finish line.

The same principle applies to my writing. In a fit of naivete a few weeks ago, I calculated that if I wrote a certain number of words every day of my recovery, I’d have the first draft finished by the time I went in for the second surgery.

That’s not going to happen.

I refuse to rush what is arguably my favorite part of the writing process, and I’m not going to do that to myself because some days I can hide on my couch and type. Some days, I have to go to appointments, ice and elevate a few times, or take my kids on field trips. Life happens, and I’m not going to short-change myself by trying to force all of it to happen in the narrow window between now and when everything stops again.

Writing will happen, because I’m disciplined enough to make sure it does, but first drafts, for me at least, are not the place for brute force. This is a time of discovery and finesse, and I’ll be damned if I don’t let myself enjoy that process.

So I guess I’ve finally learned some measure of moderation. Better late than never I suppose, and besides, what other choice do I have? Sometimes you have to become a more balanced, well-rounded person against your will. The universe drags you, kicking and screaming, toward progress, and then when you look back, you wonder why you put up such a fuss because really, this isn’t so bad after all.

Oh, I! I Did Survive!

Hello from the other side of surgery! As it says in the title, I survived. As surgeries go, this one was easy-peasy. Half the credit goes to my surgeon, who is awesome and in whom I trust without reservation. The other half of the credit goes to my anesthesiologist, who persuaded me to try the surgery awake but heavily sedated to avoid the horrible nausea I usually get when I wake up from general anesthesia.

True to his word, he gave me ALL THE VALIUM, so sorry to the other patients who needed it because it was all for meeeeeeee! I was aware of what they were doing to my knee, but I was so out of it I couldn’t even muster up the wherewithal to care. At one point, I felt the scope going into my knee and it freaked me out until my anesthesiologist gave me a little more something through my IV, after which I was like, “Meh. Scope in knee. Whatevs.”

And finally, half of the credit goes to the nurses who took care of me. They were on top of things and took such good care of me. I could not have asked for better care. The rest of the credit, like half of it, goes to my husband, who kept me calm and took the best care of me while balancing work, our kids, and a wife who couldn’t carry anything for herself.

Yes, I know that all adds up to more than 100%, but I don’t care. That should tell you how smooth this surgery was. Here’s what it looked like afterward:

You can’t see them through the bandages, but there are three laparoscopic scars held closed by black stitches hiding under there. I’ll get the stitches removed on Wednesday, after which I’ll hopefully be cleared to drive again and start physical therapy.

Seeing as this isn’t my first knee surgery rodeo, I’ve already begun working on my quad strength and range of motion. Breaking through scar tissue is never fun, but it gets harder the longer you wait so I’m gritting my teeth and getting on with it.

Now that I’m back on my feet without my crutches, life is just a healing and waiting game until we get word that my shiny new cartilage is ready to be installed. My surgeon says I’d scraped my cartilage down to the bone again, which is probably why I was in so much pain.

Now that I’m walking again, I’m kind of bummed that I’ll be on crutches for at least six weeks after Surgery Round Two. That’s six weeks of crutches completely non-weight bearing, mind you. To give you perspective on what that means, I lost an inch of muscle mass from my left leg in three days from non-use. Now imagine six weeks. My left leg will shrink despite my faithful application of PT strengthening exercises. My right foot will cramp up when I stand on it too long. I won’t see the upstairs of my house for almost two months as I continue to sleep in the dining room downstairs.

But all that’s in the future! For now, I’m recovering nicely from the first surgery and we’ve all agreed it was a good dry run for the big one next month. Until then? I will be gingerly walking as much as I can and doing my best to well and truly appreciate how marvelous it is to be able to use both hands to carry stuff.