Current Status: Not Ready For Adulting

Today, I ventured beyond home for the first time since coming home after surgery.

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I had to go out today. There was sunshine. There were people. It was traumatic.

My driver’s license expires on Thursday, so my husband agreed to take me to the next town where I could get the photo taken, sign the form, and give a chunk of my cash to the government for a new one.

I did my hair, put on real clothes instead of pyjamas, and put on some makeup.
I thought I was doing okay for someone recovering from surgery, so I sent a snap to my best friend.

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Naturally, she was both encouraging and completely understanding of why I made the extra effort. She is consistently awesome like that.

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Let’s face it, you don’t want to be thinking “Oh yeah, that was that month where I spent two weeks nearly dying from a mystery chest infection and then ended up having spinal surgery after screaming non-stop for four days!” every time you look at your license photo for the next ten years, do you?

The drive to Camperdown wasn’t too bad. I had the seat reclined a fair way because I still can’t sit comfortably for more than about eight minutes, and my husband was pretty good at missing the worst of the bumps.

I walked from the car to the shire offices without too much trouble. I didn’t have to wait long, thankfully, and everything went smoothly so that the license renewal was taken care of in just a few minutes.

Then my husband suggested we call at the supermarket to pick up something for dinner. My approach to grocery shopping is quite pragmatic: get in, get what you need, and get out. I thought I could handle that, even at this stage of my recovery.

Of course, it’s never that simple when you really need it to be. I wasn’t two meters through the door of the store when an acquaintance stopped me for a chat. I had the cart to hold onto – what a clever disguise for an disability support walker that was! – and it was a very good thing, because just standing there, I could feel myself fading and the sweat breaking out on my skin as I tried to pretend there was nothing wrong. In the end, I told her I had to go and staggered off to find my husband, who had been gathering the things we needed and had his arms full of stuff. We went to find the last couple of things, and that was when he pointed out the Harry Potter Quidditch Match LEGO set.

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That may not seem significant to you, but Harry Potter and LEGO are both big-ticket items in my world. I didn’t have to rationalise anything. It was coming home with me. I left the set with Aragog behind, though, because while Hagrid may love giant spiders, I do not.

We got through the checkout and back to the car, and my lower back where I had the surgery last week was really starting to hurt.

The road seemed longer and much bumpier on the way home than it had on the way there. I was really thankful that I wasn’t sitting upright, and tried not to complain but couldn’t help making those awkward little little grunty noise that you make when something hurts and you try to just grit your teeth but the sound gets out anyway.

When we got home I had to take some ibuprofen and lie down. I didn’t even take a moment first to look at my new LEGO set. And once again, I am writing a blog post on my iPad while lying flat on my back.

The good thing is that my driver’s license is good for another ten years.
The not-so-good thing is that I know I am nowhere near ready to use it.

She’s Baaaaaaack!

Sometimes, fiction is only slightly more horrific than real life.

Yesterday I wrote something other than a blog post for the first time in a couple of weeks. After being ill, having surgery, and then finding myself entirely without focus, it felt so good to have the words flowing again. I knew it would happen; I just had to wait for my muse.

As it turns out, my muse has a very dark sense of humour. As I commented to my best friend this evening, “It’s a bit sad that a horror story can be so highly autobiographical.”

The story is one I started at some point during my illness, most likely when I had started to come back to life after failing to die at the hands of whatever disease it was that I had, although I don’t remember writing it then.

I’m not going to give any spoilers, but I will say that I love the opening line, and while I am confident that this gruesome little story does reflect my own experiences of the past three weeks, it also holds some twists that even surprised me as I was writing it.

After some sleep and a bit of thoughtful editing today, I have made ‘Contaminus’ available to read for free on WordyNerdBird Writes.

Horror Month and Halloween Treats.

Get into these great offers for Halloween!

I once said to a friend that if I can’t sell horror books in October, I’m doing something wrong.

This month, however, my focus has hardly been on selling books. Ten days with a deathly chest infection led to a ruptured disc in my back, followed by three days of screaming before emergency surgery to remove the shattered disc material, free the trapped nerve and restore my sanity took place last Friday. It’s certainly been a horror month, but not in the way I had envisaged.

I’m recovering, though, and it’s not too late to share with you some bookish Halloween goodies that are going on.

Dolly’s Giveaway

As a way of saying “thank you” to those who have bought my horror books, or who feel like picking some up so they can participate, I am offering a $10 Amazon gift card to a reader who shows me a picture of at least three of the specified books on my Facebook page.

I am doubling this special offer by running the same giveaway right here on my blog.

To enter:

Like this post

Share this post

Add a picture of three or more of my horror books on your device in the comments.

You may enter in both places. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced on October 31.

The Sparkly Badgers’ Ghost Hunt

A very special and sparkly group of dynamic and talented writers is hosting a Halloween Ghost Hunt in which every participant may claim a free book, but only one lucky ghost hunter will walk away with the prize swag of every book on offer.

Find every ghost, collect and arrange the letters, and submit the spooky phrase in order to be eligible to win a bunch of books, sweets and gifts.

The ghosts will look just like this one, each with a mystery letter instead of the question mark. .

Visit the event page on Facebook for all the details.

Book Squirrel’s Spooktober Reads

Book Squirrel goes nuts over a great creepy read, and has compiled a collection of great Halloween reads for you to peruse and enjoy.

You can find them all at Spooktober Reads.

Trick or Treat Thrillers – Best Paranormal 2018

A brilliant otherworldly collection for Halloween 2018!

27 excellent paranormal stories at a bargain price.

Get your copy at Amazon.

I’ve informed my family and friends that books are the new candy this year, and I’m stocking up on so,e fabulous treats for myself.

I hope you enjoy your Halloween as much as I intend to enjoy mine!

Post-Surgery Post

My life took a very painful turn this week – but I survived!

Well, what a week this has turned out to be.

After writing last week about the terrible infection I picked up while at the ER with my dad, I finally made it back to work on Tuesday.

It was during the lesson before lunch that things came unstuck again.

I had been struggling all morning with weakness and feeling as though i hadn’t really been ready to return to work. Toward the end of the lesson I emailed my boss no told her how terrible I was feeling, and we decided together that I should stay home on Wednesday and try to get stronger. Then, in one seemingly innocent moment of acting so as to not infect my students with any evil germs I might still be carrying, I turned away from them to cough.

That cough was violent, and I was gasping for air and hacking up a lung and the same time.

That was when I felt my back go.

I remember thinking “that’s not good” as the fireworks went off in my lower back. I have had a similar thing happen previously and it has always sorted itself after that initial flash of pain.

Not this time.

It was all I could do to maintain my composure. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t stand properly. The pain was immense. And for some reason, I kept thinking it would be okay on a few moments.

“Walking will help,” I said to myself as I dismissed the students and headed for my car.
It didn’t.
“It will settle as I relax,” I told myself as I started the car.
It didn’t.

By the time I was halfway home, I was in agony and had no choice but to keep going.
“Maybe I need to stretch it,” I thought. So I stopped each time the pain got too bad, stretched and walked a little, and kept going.

When I got home, I gave thanks that the trip was over and went to lie down for a while, reminding myself that quietness and rest had always brought relief in the past.

I don’t know whether I slept or if I passed out while lying there, but it was 5pm when my best friend woke me. I knew I was in trouble: I could t feel my right foot at all, but I could definitely feel the lightning-hot pain that extended from my pelvis to my right ankle.

My bestie took me to the ER, where the medical staff showed amazing patience and sympathy while I spent the next six hours screaming and moaning incoherently.

By midnight, I had been given the maximum dose of every pain-killer I could have, and I was still screaming, so they added Valium to the mix to try to relax my muscles.

“Why didn’t you go to the emergency room in Warrnambool right after work?” the doctor asked me. I had no answer, except that I really did think it was a spasm and it would settle down. I believe now that the pain had already been messing with my grip on reality by the time I got out of the classroom, and I know how incredibly lucky I was to have made it home without killing or injuring myself or anyone else.

I had never experienced anything like this level of pain before. That’s a big statement for someone who has at different times endured bulging lower lumbar disjcs, a torn Achilles’ tendon, and the physical process of more than one miscarriage.

This was a stabbing pain in my back accompanied by what felt like the worst cramp imaginable stretching from my butt to my right heel, only set on fire at the same time.

Medical staff at Camperdown sent me to Warrnambool via ambulance for an MRI. By morning, the doctors had organised to transfer me to one of the “clever hospitals” in Melbourne where one of the “clever doctors” wanted to operate as soon as possible.

Holy Toledo. They were using words like “significant impairment” and “danger of permanent disability” as they talked.

As it turned out, my L5/S1 disc had not simply bulged a little more than before. That sucker had ruptured and became an “ex-disc”. A piece of disc debris was pressing on my nerve, and both of them were sandwiched firmly between two vertebrae that were locked in far too intimate an embrace.

By Thursday afternoon I was being transferred to a city hospital, scheduled for surgery by one of the top “clever doctors”, and on my way to Melbourne with my best friend as my carer/escort/chaperone/cheer squad.

I can’t really explain how I was feeling. I was terrified, but my brain was so jangled by pain and sleep deprivation that I couldn’t really feel the full impact of my fear. Whatever my fears, I didn’t have much of a choice. So, I just tried to focus on the blessings of being transferred and seen so quickly without wondering what danger I was in that had precipitated such haste.

Another sleepless night followed. The pain was such that I hadn’t slept the previous two nights, either. I cried a fair bit instead, which I think is fair enough, really.

Today I met the surgeon, the anaesthetist, had an ECG and bloods taken ahead of being wheeled down to the theatre for my surgery.

When I came out of the anaesthetic, I was, by all acccounts completely hilarious. The nurses told me a few of the things I said, but these were voted the favourites of the Recovery Room nurses::

Nurse: “You were asleep for a very long time!”
Me: *with only one eye open* “Yeah, I was polishing my tiara.”

Me: “Oh, that feels nice.”
Nurse: “Whar does?”
Me: “My legs.”
Nurse: “Oh, the massagers.”
Me: “They are caressing my calves like the sensuous fingers of an adoring lover.”
Nurse: “Wow!”
Me: “I write poetry.”
Another nurse: “Can you say it again? I want to write that down.”
Me: “Nope. It’s copyrighted.”

The best part of the whole thing, though, is that the pain in my right leg is gone. The incision in my back has anaesthetic in it, so I can’t feel it yet unless I move.

My surgeon came to see me tonight after my surgery, and I cried as I thanked him. What an amazing person to take enough of an interest in someone from hundreds of miles away and make such healing and restoration happen overnight.

So after a highly traumatic couple of weeks, I can lie here in my hospital bed, looking out the window at the city lights as the fancy machine continues to pleasure my lower legs, and give thanks for my blessings.

I am thankful that my agony has ended.
I am so thankful for both the talents and the kindness of my surgeon.
I am thankful for my best friend and my husband, both of whom dropped everything and everyone else to take care of me.
I am thankful for those close to me who have consistently encouraged and cheered me, especially when I was feeling very low.
I am thankful for every message of love, aencouragement, support, care, concern and prayers from friends in the hundreds of texts, Facebook messages, voice mails and emails.

I am thankful for so, so much else, too. How blessed I am to have such amazing people in my life.

My Near-Death Experience

When I say I have been deathly ill, I’m not exaggerating.

After following the ambulance to Camperdown and then to Warrnambool, I spent last Thursday night at the ER with my dad. Over the course of the night, his pain lessened and his condition improved. At 4am, I was allowed to take him home. We both slept all day, and I didn’t go anywhere else.

By Saturday morning, I had a bad throat. As these things go, I figured it would be a croaky day or two, took some paracetamol, and tried not to think about it.

By the wee hours of Sunday morning I had no voice, a fever, cold sweats and a wracking cough. I was so dizzy that when I had to get out of bed, I had to hold onto the furniture to keep myself from falling over. I stayed in bed, made sure I drank plenty of water, and told my dad not to come near me.

By Monday, my lungs were rattling and squeaking. I could no longer lie flat, and sleep was out of the question. There were moments where I would have gladly accepted my fate if the Reaper had shown up.

I have been out of action ever since, and am still in quarantine. My doctors have me on two different antibiotics, cough syrup, Ventolin and pain meds. I haven’t felt so awful since I had Ross River Fever in 2011.

Today is the first day on which there has been any improvement. My cough is less frequent, although not less violent, and the rattle in my lungs sounds more like rice crispies than a chatty raccoon.

If I were you, I still wouldn’t come near me for a while yet.

It’s fair to say that I know why the person I got this disease from was at the hospital.

A Glimpse Into A Writer’s Mind.

Today’s instalment of ‘truth is stranger than fiction’.

When I was growing up, there was a girl with whom I was friends most of the time. Our parents were friends, too, which meant that we saw each other outside of school and church activities. She left school two years before I did, and I only saw her briefly a handful of times between then and when I left Sydney in 1989. We have some friends in common, but I haven’t ever pursued reconnecting in any way.

2016-02-11 21.54.33-1At 3.47am today, my brain woke me up to remind me that her birthday was March 2nd.

For Sale: Part Of My Soul

Why my writing matters.

Sometimes I wonder what people think when I say I write poetry.

Cute little greeting card verses? No.
Lofty, unintelligible, old-fashioned rhymes about flowers and oil paintings? No.
Trite rhymes that talk about love and sunshine? No.

I have to admit, I’m very tired of the “That’s nice, dear!” kind of responses.

I’m also more than weary of the sensation that I have to just about stand under a red light on a dimly lit street to get people to take my poetry seriously.

I’m not talking about my readers here. I’m talking about people I interact with in my daily life, be they co-workers, acquaintances, family members or friends. Other than a very small number of individuals within those circles – for whose support I am ever grateful – it feels like most people in my life prefer to pretend I’ve never written a word.

I know they’re not my main audience. I don’t expect them all to love everything I write. In all honesty, most of them have never even picked any of my work up to read it.

The question remains, though: Why aren’t they more willing to support me? Do I mean so little them that what matters to me is of no value, either?

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I have commented on numerous occasions that there is a part of my soul in every poem. My poems speak my pain, my love, my joy, my life lessons, my resolutions, my fears, my anger, my insomnia, my restlessness and my contentment. Some of them are the very essence of my desperation to survive and my will to live. Some of them could only be more “life and death” if they were actually written in my blood.

Do people not understand the bravery that it takes for an author to put their words on paper and unveil them in front of the whole world? That kind of vulnerability is, quite honestly, terrifying.

I experience this far more profoundly with my poetry than I do with my fiction. It’s far more personal, and it’s definitely more revealing of what’s in my own heart and mind than any of the stories I write. That’s why I am so committed to crafting each poem to say exactly what I want it to, in a way that is beautiful to read, and with careful attention to the music and structure of each poem. If I’m putting my soul out there for other people to read, it’s going to be the best that I can make it.

My readers tell me that my poems encourage and move them. The ultimate satisfaction as a poet is knowing that my words matter to the people who read them. They get it. And thank God they do, or else I’d be feeling more dejected than ever.

The other weirdly encouraging thing is that this isn’t something that only I experience. These are thoughts and feelings that are remarkably common among the writing community, and I have come to learn that they are common to all creative people, whatever medium they work in.

It’s why I am so thankful for my community of fellow authors and poets and other creative people who encourage and celebrate one another’s creativity and the courage that goes with it.

It’s why I am doubly grateful for my “additional family” that are known as the Indie Fabs – they’re my posse, my constant encouragers, and my soft place to fall when things are hard.

It’s why I am doubly grateful for those few family members and friends who support everything I do, read everything I create, and cheer me on relentlessly.

It’s not overstating things to say that I am still here because of my writing, and I am still writing because of them.

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Joey'sMapleLeafTatt

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A One-Off Inscription.

There is more truth than most people realise in the jokes about authors killing people off in their books.

Yesterday I signed a paperback copy of my latest book for my best friend. I have written something personal and unique to her and our friendship in her copy of every one of my books.

Yesterday’s effort was by far my favourite.

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You should understand that this is not a promise I’m willing to make to just anyone. Anyone who has read ‘A Poet’s Curse’, for example, will have worked that out very quickly.

Jokes are frequently made about authors putting people in a book and killing them, but most don’t realise just how satisfying and therapeutic that can be.

Oh, we change the name and some minor details, but the important thing is that we know who we’re finishing off, even if the rest of the world doesn’t. And you know, it is important to conceal the true identities of our victims because, in the end, nobody wants it to backfire or get ugly.

I have, in fact, had a number of people ask me if a particular poem or story was about them. Rather than confirming or denying anything, I’ve gone the “self-examination” route. Each of them received the same answer: “If you think that’s a possibility, I suggest you to take a long, hard look at yourself and how you treat people. It might be time to do some repairs.

As an author, I can have my macabre little cake and eat it, too. And as an extra reward for good behaviour, I get to keep my best friend. Bonus!

Square Peg, Round Hole.

A response to intolerance.

I’ve never understood why people feel the need to pressure someone to conform. Why are they so intimidated by someone daring to think for themselves, pursue their own dreams and make choices according to their own preferences?

And what I really don’t get is how they can say they love someone and yet reject particular qualities that makes that person who they are.

These are the thoughts that have contributed to a poem I finished recently.

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The imagery is macabre and horrifying. The message is dark. None of that will surprise anyone who knows my writing.

I won’t discuss the details of the situations that led to it being written. Suffice to say that there are people in various “circles” in which I live and move who have, at one time or another, exerted significant pressure on me to be less individual and more compliant with the way they like or want things to be.

I have some bad news for them.

I will not submit to their peer pressure. As adults, they should know better.
I will not moderate my politics, my social conscience, or my rampant individuality for them.
I will not be submissive or silent in response to their bad behaviour, intolerance and hypocrisy.

If they don’t like it, they can go and boil their heads.

Of course, that’s all excellent news for me. In the immortal words of the Monty Python team, “I’m not dead yet!”

 

 

Joey'sMapleLeafTatt

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Ahoy!

HMS Pinafore is about to sail, and she is indeed “a saucy beauty”

“We sail the ocean blue,
And our saucy ship’s a beauty;
We’re sober men and true,
And attentive to our duty…”

It is aboard that trusty, much-loved vessel that I am about to embark on one of the busiest weeks of my school year. Its the week in which the the last fifteen months’ worth of planning, preparing, auditioning, casting, decision-making, organising myriad details, and the rehearsals of the past three months come together and appear on stage as the annual school musical.

This year we’re doing Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. We have a cast of about 45 students who range from 12 to 18 years old. Others of our students have been trained in sound and lighting, backstage management, while still others have helped to create and prepare the set.

It’s a wonderful show that tells a ridiculous story beautifully. I enjoy the moments of pathos, but also the delightful comic moments in which my actors really shine.

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The soloists are amazing, the chorus sounds fantastic, the dance moves are fabulous and the costumes are beautiful. The orchestra’s performance alone is worth more than the price of the ticket. When all of those amazing ingredients come together, the outcome is incredible.

I know this week will be exhausting, but it will also be exhilarating.

I’ll be back to my usual blogging and social media self after the week is done and I’ve had a good sleep. Until then, say a prayer for me. Or… just send coffee.