Friday, February 23, 2018

Writing Advice: Find Your Own Dark Place In The Woods

My personal writing advice for aspiring authors: "Find your own dark place in the woods. Get lost in it. Bring the sacrifice for every full moon. Writhe, howl, and gibber before the glory of the muse. Then go home and put in the work to get your story in print."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Starting to recover...

So, February started with both my wife and I sick with the Flu (and possibly Strep as well, though our tests always come back negative for that). A day later, Secondborn was diagnosed with Strep but came back negative for Flu. And Firstborn was feeling pretty jazzed about his immune system until the following week, when he came down with the Flu as well. (And yeah, we did all get our vaccinations this year - and I'm pretty sure it helped, even if it's not an absolute guarantee that you won't get sick.)

Still, after two weeks of Tamiflu and antibiotics, I was starting to feel somewhat better. And then we had that whole thing with my dad in the hospital last week, and by the time Friday rolled around I was back to being barely on my feet. So I spent the entire weekend basically trying to be at least slightly useful, while shaking off the last vestiges of flu and a resurgent sinus/inner-ear infection.

I am finally, finally starting to feel like I'm really recovering - with the emphasis firmly on "starting to". I got up yesterday morning feeling quite a bit better, made breakfast for the boys, cleaned up the kitchen, and went to work... and then, three hours later, I felt completely drained all over again. I started in on a few outstanding projects and actually got some things done, but I had be pretty slow and careful about everything I was doing. It was too easy to lose track or make mistakes. It could have been worse, but it could have been a lot better, too.

Apparently flu leaves behind in its wake some damage to muscle tissue (which is why people are frequently sore) and to the lungs. Both are mainly because of the immune response, rather than the virus itself, but that doesn't change the results. And it's yet another reason why it takes $%^&*# long to get over the Flu. Personally, I'm midway through Week 4 and still not back to 100%, so it's definitely what they call "a process".

Meanwhile, life continues apace. It's going to be a long week with a lot of early bedtimes.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Traveling Companions

"I was just asking if I could keep you company on the road," said the young man.

"And I just said no," answered my father.

I was seventeen, and we were traveling again. We never much stayed in one place, and I was old enough that I was starting to realize -- and my father had to know already -- that we couldn't keep this up forever. The young man was older, but not too much older. Somewhere in his early twenties, I thought. He wore nice clothes and scholar's sword, and rode a fine horse.

"Perhaps your--" he hesitated, but only slightly, probably because neither my father nor I look as old as we actually are. "--daughter would appreciate having someone new to talk to. And I do know how to use this blade; we'd be safer together."

My father tilted his head, studying the young man for a long moment, then very deliberately turned to look at me.

I looked past him, up at the fine young man on his horse. "It's fine," I told him. "Find a bunk in the waystation if you like, and make a fire for your dinner. But my father is right: we don't need company."

The young man sighed and dismounted. The movement was graceful, and he didn't look back at us as he led his horse away. It took him a while to get settled, to unsaddle his mount and lead her down to the stream to drink, to curry her and tie her to one of the posts in front of the waystation. But once he was finished with all that, he came and sat beside our fire.

My father was small and lean, wiry musculature hidden beneath loose clothes, and he never carried weapons. I was armed, but even together we probably didn't look very threatening. "So you're determined to intrude," he observed.

"Don't you have the least regard for hospitality?" asked the young man. "Travelers should always share their fires. And while I'm not in any great hurry, I've been riding all day. I'm delivering a missive from Lady Auginia of Santimos to the Loklarian garrison at Riftside."

I was half-inclined to indulge him, myself. He seemed nice enough, and he was pretty to look at. And he probably was tired, and maybe somewhat lonely. But he was intruding on our fire, and our company, and he seemed vaguely offended that we didn't want him there.

"Hospitality," my father said slowly, "is something that should be offered -- not taken." He made a small gesture, and murdered the fire. I'd seen it before, but it was still startling. The night was abruptly dark, and much, much colder. Even the coals would be cold, now.

The young man scrambled clumsily to his feet. "What was-- what just happened?"

My father didn't answer him. He just stood up, turned his back, and walked into the waystation.

I decided that was probably a good example to follow, and did the same. Both of us could see in the dark, but unless the young man was particularly gifted I doubted that he could. Behind me, I heard him call: "Hello? Are you still here?"

Neither of us answered. My father was already spreading his blankets on one of the bunks when I unclipped mine from my pack and tossed them onto the bunk above his. The waystation was basically a small, square building -- a shed with a door and a couple of windows at the front, more windows at the back, and two sets of two bunks built out from either wall. It was designed to offer travelers a place to sleep out of weather, but nothing more.

After a few minutes I heard movements and some faint scuffling sounds, followed by a quick murmur that resulted in the warm glow of a lamp outside the door. Then there were more movements, and some whuffing from the horse. The last thing I heard was hooves moving away into the darkness; as far as I know, he never even looked inside the waystation.

To this day, I don't really know if he was actually dangerous, or just young and over-sure of his welcome. Either way, I can't really blame my father for sending him on his way. What I do know for certain is that my father has no patience for people who can't take "No" for an answer.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Long Week

I spent most of Monday with my father in the hospital. This wasn't because he was having a medical crisis, exactly; it was mainly to disseminate information and keep everyone else from panicking.

So what happened? Well, sometime around Friday evening, he had a very minor stroke - so minor he didn't even notice it. Over the weekend, he reported that his balance was a little off, and that he was having a bit of numbness inside his right hand: his sense of touch was fine, but the hand kind of felt like he'd slept on it funny. Plus, he was having an odd bit of numbness inside his cheek, just at the base of his tongue. It wasn't until Monday morning that he connected the dots, and realized that the balance issue might have to do with reduced feedback sensitivity from his right leg, and that all three of these (fairly trivial) symptoms were on the right side of his body.

So, after a bit of internal debate, he decided to visit a hospital and get himself checked out. So he called up a family friend (one of my mother's oldest and most steadfast friends) and explained the situation and asked her to drive him to the hospital.

She promptly called me at work and said, "Your Dad had a stroke, meet at the emergency room at the hospital." This, while absolutely true, was perhaps not the most detailed or reassuring way to explain the situation.

But, okay: I drove down, met her in the emergency room, and spent the next eight hours sitting with my dad. Most of that time was spent waiting for the doctors to run tests, or to get back to us with the results of tests they'd already run. Once an hour or so, one of the nurses would come by and ask a lot of questions: Do you know who you are? Do you know where you are? Who's the president? Who was the president before him? What year is this? What's the date? Then they'd make him do things like lift one leg and hold it up, or push and pull with his arms.

Occasionally, when we actually got information, I'd text it to the immediate family and a couple of close friends. But mainly it was just sitting there, chatting and waiting.

The CAT scan revealed something that looked like some bleeding at the back of the skull, but the MRI (which gives a much more detailed picture but consequently takes much longer to read) showed that as a cluster of veins, and not as any sort of intracranial bleeding. The stroke itself was apparently visible - a tiny thing way down on the left side of the brain. They decided that they were definitely going to admit him to the hospital (all this was taking place in the emergency room, rather than the hospital proper) but then took several hours to find him a room. We were kind of expecting that; hospital visits almost always consist of a great deal of extended waiting, broken up by occasional periods of more waiting. And the staff was thoroughly professional and even quite nice.

There was some discussion of having him looked over by physical therapists and occupational therapists, but his symptoms were so minor that I doubt there's much they could do; I don't know if they ever actually came by. Dad was alert, perfectly well oriented, and quite capable of say, walking or feeding himself (when they finally let us order him some food) or drinking his tea (ditto). So, again, definitely a stroke, but just about as harmless as a stroke can ever possibly be.

And they didn't even find much in the way of probable causes or contributing factors. He doesn't smoke; he drinks, but very moderately; his blood pressure is fine. He had a heart bypass years ago, and some stents put in more recently, but they did an echocardiogram (I think? And I've probably mangled the spelling horribly...) and apparently didn't find any significant issues there.

So they released him yesterday, and I drove back down to the hospital and then drove him back to his house. He's due to go on a mission trip in two weeks (a medical mission, so he'll be in the company of doctors and dentists and suchlike, but also in the middle of nowhere) and the hospital-doctors didn't have any real objection to that. (We're still waiting to hear back from the going-on-the-mission-doctors, though.) They've upped his daily aspirin intake and the dosage on one of his anti-cholesterol/blood thinning medications, but that's about it.

You wouldn't think that sitting around for a day or two would be that tiring, but the whole thing has worn me out. I really want to just crawl into my bed and stay there for a day or two, but we're a bit shorthanded at work and I really can't. So I'm off, but I've promised myself that as soon as I get back home I am Going To Bed. And I hope the rest of you are taking good care of yourselves out there, too.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Through the Pillars

Devothin reined up outside the fortress-temple of Hoshamalis, watching riders and wagons bunch up ahead of him. After a moment, he gave up and dismounted. They weren't going to make the crossing any time soon, so he might as well spend some time with Timber.

The wolf was already pushing his forehead against Devothin's knee, so he knelt to greet Timber directly, half-petting and half-tussling with the heavy beast.

"You know we're going to die of disorganization," said Wilt, who had followed Devothin's example and swung down off his horse to reacquaint himself with his own wolf, Red. "If we get into the barrens and something goes wrong - and it will - we're going to end up standing around the wagons like a bunch of idiots while the twisted and the beasts rip us all apart."

Devothin nodded. He'd been thinking along similar lines. "Probably. Though we do have the elite troops of four different kingdoms here, and I imagine they can do some real damage to anybody who attacks. Mainly, though, we're going to be doing our best to make sure the expedition doesn't run into that sort of surprise."

Wilt nodded thoughtfully. "So we're the scouts for this-" He cut himself off, then finished with, "-expedition."

"Hey," said Devothin. "You can stand in the front line with the others if you want. I'm sure the Storm Knights would loan you some armor."

Wilt shuddered. "Have you seen that stuff? Too much metal for my old bones. If it comes to that, I'll stand on a wagon and loose arrows over their heads."

Devothin huffed. "There you go being sensible again." He had his fingers tangled in Timber's fur, and was feeling much the better for it. He didn't like being separated from the wolf -- not for too long, and not by too far -- but Moroleth had thought it better not to bring the hunting beasts into the High City, so Wilt had stayed with the pack in a woodlot half a mile out.

Isha whistled, and Devothin straightened. "They're actually moving," he said, surprised.

"Huh." Wilt looked thoughtful again. "This Captain Veritos is better than I thought."

Thursday, February 8, 2018