Empty Tubes and Tests for Days

Man, I tell you. Coming back from Santa Barbara was a great, big, freezing cold splash of reality. Wes had to leave on a series of business trips, which is normally the cue for both my kids to get all kinds of peeved about their father’s absence and take it out on me.

They did not disappoint.

Me in my giant scrubs, mere moments before yet another health professional jammed a needle into my poor knee.

Adding to the fun, I did another MRI with contrast to see why my knee continues to be a literal and figurative pain and lo and behold, it wasn’t all in my head (ha?). I have a flap of cartilage that’s collecting edema, and the microfractures I had done a couple years ago healed irregularly, which means things are all kinds of messed up in there.

Before I go in for (yet another) surgery, I’m going to get tested by a rheumatologist to see if it’s possible to determine why the cartilage in my knee is shredding like a nice mozzarella.

As if all that wasn’t enough, I’m currently undergoing testing from an endocrinologist to see whether he can figure out why I keep gaining weight despite healthy eating and exercise habits.

Just think blood tests. Blood tests for days. All the doctors are holding up empty tubes with my name on them.

It’s all stressful, and at times terrible, but I’m keeping my focus firmly on the things that are going right. Things like:

  • Wes is home from his business trips, and will be home for awhile.
  • I have friends and family who care about me and all my suddenly myriad health issues. My best friend, husband, and mother-in-law all collectively spent hours on the phone with me when I found out about my knee, just letting me feel sorry for myself and assuring me things would turn out ok. I’m inclined to believe them.
  • I’m free of deadlines for now and making progress on revisions for Bai Treason (book 3 of the Bai Hsu series). I love it as much now as I did when I wrote the first draft, which is always a good sign of a worthwhile story.
  • There’s a book blog tour of Bai Tide (book 1 of the Bai Hsu series) that’s happening now and the reviews are uniformly positive so far! Like this one, and this one. I’m always particularly gratified when people who don’t normally read my genre enjoy my books. It shows me I wrote a good story, not just a good spy story.
  • I might be getting LASIK soon because you know what? My knee may be FUBAR but damn it, there’s still hope for my eyes.

That just about brings you up to current. Rest assured, if I’m not blogging it’s probably because I’m hiding from my health woes by writing stories. Given all the feelings around here lately? Bai Treason is going to end up being a goooooooood book. Trust me on that one.

Edits, Revisions, and Babies

From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

This is going to be a fast, to-the-point blog post so strap in and hold on.

I’m in the thick of several things right now, which feels exactly like drowning if instead of water you substitute edits, revisions, and deadlines.

For some mysterious reason (read: because I’m a masochist who loves being busy and until I’m actually busy, at which time I regret all my life decisions) I signed on to participate in an anthology at the same time I was working on a full-length novel. As you can imagine, the revisions are all hitting the fan at the same time, and I’m under deadline for both, which means I have mountains of fun, engaging, excellent work to get through before the end of the month.

Now, to make things even more fun, I’m heading down to California on Saturday for a full week because my brother and his wife had their first baby last week and 1) I needs must hold my tiny nephew and 2) she’s going to need some help when my brother goes back to work.

This is a very good thing I’m excited to do, but it’s rather unexpected as her due date was not until April. So wish me luck this week, I’m going to need it. I have a month’s worth of work to do, and one week here, and another week there to do it.

Snow Thank You

My view from the treadmill at the gym. I’m working out in a Norman Rockwell painting. #pacificnorthwest

A post shared by Erika Mitchell (@parsingnonsense) on

Pretty picture, right? I tell you, there’s very little that awes my little former-Californian heart more than a bloody great deluge of snow. There’s something magical about fluffy little pieces of frozen water that are FALLING from the SKY.

It’s even more magical when it’s sneak-attack snow, like the kind we had yesterday in western Washington. TWICE. Let me explain.

I woke up Monday morning and opened my curtains as soon as I was out of bed because 1) It makes me feel like Julie Andrews when I do that and 2) I like to know what kind of weather I’m going to be dealing with while I shepherd children out to the bus stop. I blinked a few times in surprise and looked again, then reached for my glasses and fumbled them onto my face in the hopes that they might explain what my blurry vision had been trying to tell me.

It had snowed. A lot. Enough to obscure our grass, our shrubs, and, on further inspection, the road outside our house. Now, that last one is an important distinction because in Washington, snow doesn’t really cause much trouble unless it sticks to the roads and it very rarely ever does. Here in western Washington, we’re protected from the worst of the Arctic air by a crapton of mountains, so mostly we just get rain and very occasional flurries.

The last time we got snow of any note was in 2010. And before that? 2006.

This winter, though, we’ve had two big snowstorms. Weird, right? Well, it gets weirder, because yesterday we woke up to snow, had it melt in sunshine, had crazy-intense hailstorms, and then had more snow. A lot more snow. I’m guessing two inches in two hours?

In the midwest, two inches is laughable. “Ha ha!” they say to us. “Two inches of snow is bikini weather! Even for the men!”

What they lack that we don’t, however, is hills. Hills aplenty. It does not matter how many wheel drive your car has or how good your driving is, your car will slide out of control on a snow-covered and icy hill. Where I live in particular is just chock-a-block full of hills, so there were a lot of people parking on the side of the road last night.

My poor husband tried to leave early-ish last night to beat the snow home and it ended up taking him three hours to drive ten miles. Not because of the snow, mind you. The plows and salt trucks were out and the roads were fine. It was the people driving on the snow that were the problem. Traffic for no reason! So much fun.

All that to say, I love the snow. It’s terribly pretty. I’d like it to stop now, though. Let’s keep the roads and schools open. Let’s keep commutes to reasonable lengths. And, for the love of cake, let’s get some freaking sunshine around here for awhile.

I wore shorts in California a couple weeks ago and my legs were so pale the sunlight reflecting off them nearly blinded some drivers. My paleness has become a safety issue, which is my annual indicator for when I’m ready for winter to be done. So ready? Set. SPRING.

I Got (a) Shot

Me when I need another knee injection.

Any week that starts with a big effing needle getting jammed into your knee is bound to be a weird one.

On the one hand, I’m lucky because I’ve been able to get my health insurance company to pay for the medication that comes with the big effing needle. For some reason, health insurance companies have all decided that patients with osteoarthritis in their knees can just deal with it because said companies are tired of paying for SynVisc injection for all of us gimpy freeloaders.

Every time I need a shot (which is roughly every six months), I have to go through round after round of appeals until a third-party reviewer takes a look at my file, tells my health insurance company that they’re being a bunch of tools, and makes them cover my shots. We go through this twice a year, which means I’ve gotten to be really good friends with the lady who handles my appeals.

So yes, I’m fortunate that I don’t have to pay $1,500 twice a year for the privilege of getting the medication I need to make sure my knee doesn’t grind itself to dust.

On the other hand, it’s never fun to get these shots. They hurt, and the needle has to stay in my knee for a long time (probably only fifteen seconds or so, but it always feels like a full minute at least), so it’s all just terribly discomfiting. Afterward, my knee gets all puffy and sore and achy and stays that way for three to four days. Fun stuff, right?

To add to the merriment, there was a staffing change at my orthopedic surgeon’s office. You see, I’ve had the same guy doing my knee injections for years at this point. He knows my shtick and has gotten pretty good at making small talk with me during the shot to distract me from what’s happening.

I’m not normally what I would consider a chill person. I talk fast, I work fast, I rarely stop moving. When I’m nervous, though? It’s like someone’s opened the tap on my brain and I can’t stop talking. It’s like a free association word flood, and it can be a lot to handle.

This poor new guy, I don’t think he was prepared for it. He handled it okay, though, so maybe next time he’ll be prepared and bring his earplugs.

Here’s hoping the rest of this week is a little less stressful. I’m frustrated to be gimpy and sore again. It’s like after recovering from the microfractures surgery in 2015, my brain figures I’ve paid my physical disability dues so the rest of my life should be smooth sailing. Every time I’m stuck on the couch with my feet up while stuff all around me needs doing, I get antsy and vaguely irritated. Haven’t I done this enough already?

Soon, I tell myself. This is the worst you’ll feel for awhile, and you’ll be even better tomorrow. And until then? Well, there are worse things to be than stuck on the couch for a few days.

The Earthquake Freak-Out of 2015

Early on in our marriage, Wes and I didn’t really have to be apart very much. Barring three weeks apart when my dad passed away, we were pretty much always together. Now that Wes is this big-time important software genius, though, he’s in demand. He has to take trips a few times a year to facilitate the projects he’s working on, which means I’m left to hold down the fort alone.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am an exceedingly capable person. I can run a household efficiently, teach my children to read, and do it all with a perpetually clean kitchen. I’m awesome at my job.

The thing is, though, I’m maybe a little too efficient. If Wes isn’t here to insist I settle down and relax, I end up doing overly ambitious things like mopping the garage after the kids go to bed (long story), yard work well past the point when I should stop, or vacuuming the stairs when my post op knee should be elevated and iced after a long day.

I can't imagine why a massive earthquake would terrify me so much. This isn't horrifying AT ALL.

I can’t imagine why a massive earthquake would terrify me so much. This isn’t horrifying AT ALL.

Perhaps the best example of the beneficial way Wes affects me is what I am heretofore referring to as the Earthquake Freak-Out of 2015.

Perhaps you read this article earlier in the week? Paraphrased, it basically says the pacific northwest is due for a massive earthquake that will essentially liquefy the ground we stand on and result in a tsunami that destroys everything west of I-5. Infrastructure will collapse! No water or food or shelter! Run for the hills, we’re all going to die!

Now, I am an anxious sort of person anyway. After reading this, I did what any reasonable person would do: I called my best friend and freaked her out, too. But after I did that, I brooded and fretted and ran through various emergency scenarios in my head. I made plans. I rearranged my pantry so bottles wouldn’t come crashing down. I read survival guides.

What I did not do, however, was call Wes, because he was busy and couldn’t break away long enough to talk me down.

For two days I lived like this, always on the alert for the tell-tale dog freak-out that would herald The Really Big One. Thankfully, some earthquake experts on Reddit did an AMA that was comforting, and later that night Wes finally called me. We spent half an hour discussing our emergency plan and deciding on which supplies to keep on hand. We designated our emergency out of state contact. We discussed contingencies. We picked emergency kits.

But seriously, it took Wes half an hour to talk me down to a calm, non-panicked state. Two days is a long time to spiral out in larger and greater concentric spheres of worry, and there was no one here to help me parse my crazy for me. As I said, it’s not so much that I can’t function without Wes than that I function maybe a little too well without him. Brain going a million miles an hour with nary a safeguard in place.

On the plus side, in the event of an emergency we’ll be equipped to survive for a week. Our kids will have food, water, and first aid supplies. Wes and I will be able to coordinate even if we’re in different places when the disaster happens. Providing none of us suffers substantial injuries, we’ll all likely make it out in one piece. So I guess you could say, the Earthquake Freak-Out of 2015 wasn’t an altogether waste of time.

Something good came out of it, and I don’t just mean an excuse to reorganize my pantry!