The chaos dance

Two steps forward, one step back.

Nighthawk is home from the hospital. He came home last Friday, along with all the supplies necessary to do antibiotic IVs from home. It’s not an unusual step for the treatment of Cystic Fibrosis and it sure beats being cooped up in a hospital where you have no control of your schedule, or who handles your care, or any of the fun details like that. And we have vastly superior mattresses, pillows, blankets, televisions, computers, and food than the hospital could provide.

On the other hand, there’s a regimen and routine to hospital life that is easy to adjust to when you are too sick to function, which you lose when you get out. Now instead of someone waking you to start your IVs, you up have to wake yourself. Instead of someone bringing your inhaled medication to you pre-assembled, you have to get up and put things together yourself. Instead of the medical staff coming to you (albeit on a schedule you can’t control, and for maybe 5 minutes), you have to drive to their office yourself. You finally get to sleep as solid six hours without the patient in the next room coughing or screaming or machines beeping, but you use all the extra energy taking care of yourself when you are awake.

Two steps forward, one step back.

For me, last week was three trips to Philly, four (somewhat abbreviated) days of work, and a lot of just trying to get my head back in the game. An eight-hour day interacting with a couple dozen people at work, followed by a half dozen more after hours in the act of caring for my household is more talking than I did in three days at home. Even just the work of driving was new for me, since a month of drugs that prohibit the use of two-ton boxes of metal is enough time to forget how many of your senses have to stay in “full alert” mode when you’re in charge of the big metal box.

To paraphrase my uncle, my mouth was writing checks that my body couldn’t cash.

By the weekend, having picked Nighthawk up and gotten him settled in at home, straightened the house and generally improved everything, I was running low-grade fevers and getting winded just walking the dogs around the house. So my second week back at work started with a half day, and then a half day of doctor’s appointments, x-rays, and blood tests. And orders to take Tuesday off.

Two steps forward, one step back.

The diagnosis, when all was said and done, under the opinion of two different doctors, is exhaustion. Tonsillectomy, pneumonia, sick dogs, hospitalized huband, gee, I don’t know where that might be coming from. The treatment is “Eat more protein, take your mulit vitamin, and rest. If you have to go back to work, take it slow and start with half-days.”.

And this is where I struggle, because on one hand, the doctors want me to “rest” until I have energy enough to function. But the insurance company that ensures I get paid during this timeframe works in absolutes: rest for how many days? All day or half days? With what restrictions for returning to work? The doctors, trying to protect themselves and knowing they can’t predict how long it will take me to rest and heal, say it’s up to me.

And I don’t know. I confuse responsibility with health on a regular basis. The responsible thing to do is take care of my husband, and take care of the dogs, and take care of the bills and the house and all of those things. The responsible thing to do is go back to work and earn a paycheck and contribute to society. I’ve generally been a healthy person — or at least a person who, when I got sick, would bounce back in 24 hours. Napping and reading books and playing the occasional video game in the name of “rest” is so far down my list of responsibilities that medieval monks would need to go to the second scroll to find it.

I thought I was responsible enough to go back to work after the first two weeks, when I could barely talk, was still in significant pain, and running constant fevers instead of this off-and-on nonsense. (“Am I healthy enough?” never really entered my mind.) After the third week I thought I was responsible enough to go back, but my healing wasn’t where it was supposed to be and it was more responsible of me to follow the doctor’s orders. Last week responsibility to my husband and my paycheck won out over responsibility to my immune system and despite the fact that my throat and body are healing very well, I used up what few reserves I have left.

Two steps forward, one step back.

Having visited doctors and rested most of Tuesday, I went in yesterday feeling much better than I did over the weekend, and decided I didn’t need extra time off. I could persevere so long as I got to bed early every evening. I attended two meetings, ate lunch with and cheered up a good friend, cleaned out my email (again) got a two-weeks-overdue report out the door, and despite drinking copious amounts of caffeine, almost fell asleep at my desk.

(I really need to take away my mouth’s checkbook.)

I finally started to believe the doctors about this whole “rest” thing. (One of my docs had said “Now you understand why people die from pneumonia.”) I arranged for the paperwork necessary to go back for half-days for a week and a half (look, absolutes!), and planned to start them today.

Except that today, Nighthawk woke up as sick and exhausted as I’ve seen him since he went into the hospital. Even just trying to do his own medications was going to be a serious drain on him. And a visiting nurse is coming over today, which only adds to the chaos and disorder. So rather than work a half day, I’m at home taking care of him, and trying to grab some rest when he’s napping.

Tomorrow I’ll be healthy enough and responsible enough to go back to work for at least a half day.

Tomorrow, tomorrow.

Two steps forward, one step back.

Two steps forward, one step back.

Things that, given the opportunity, i will learn the hard way

If you know about thrush, you’ve seen your husband develop it, and you know it adds to the pain of mouth wounds as well as epic bad breath, you should probably ask ahead for the medication to treat it. And by “ask ahead” we mean on antibiotic change #2 in 3 days, not change #4 in 6.

The admitting doctor at the ER is probably not the one you want doing the discharge paperwork, especially if she’s shown no penchant for common sense throughout the rest of the stay.

The first day you start to feel better (regardless of the injury or its cause) you will overexert yourself and feel like crap the next day – just in time to go home and overexert yourself again.

Talking, breathing, walking, and interacting require energy and should be respected. Anyone who says they’re struggling with any of those things should also be respected. A voice is a limited resource.

Just because you’re not in pain doesn’t mean you don’t still have some lingering symptoms of pneumonia. Slow down and take your time changing the sheets on the bed.

Despite belief to the contrary, you don’t actually want to see what the wounds look like, so stop looking.

It’s easy to pick right up with bad habits when you return home to your nice comfy husband, dogs, and bed. You’re still sick. Go to sleep, moron.

Needs, or, pruning in order to grow.

The world is trying to shake me at my roots, and I’ve been resisting.

I read an article years ago called The Sex & Cash Theory which says, in short, that if you want to be happy with your life you have to balance the things that pay the bills against the sexy, creative stuff. If you let your life swing one way or the other too far, chaos will ensue.

I’ve never had the problem of letting my life swing too far into the creative endeavors.

I get up, take care of the dogs, go to work, try to solve problems and occasionally create things that are useful. I sometimes feel like I’m genuinely making things better. Whether I succeed or not, it’s exhausting work of juggling competing priorities, competing egos, varying interpretations, and menacing deadlines.

When I’m done working, I come home, take care of the dogs if Nighthawk hasn’t beaten me to it (some days run, well, loooong….), source and prepare some sort of foodlike objects, and try to find something that will take my mind off of the work I left and the work I’m going back to the next day.

If I’m lucky, I get six hours of sleep. If I’m really lucky, it’s not filled with nightmares about work. Then it starts over.

(As an aside, have you ever tried to type around a dog? Chance says hello.)

Even as little as two years ago, I had the energy and drive to create after work. I drew a comic. I worked on the five novels I’ve got written in various pieces around my hard drive. I knit. I cooked crazy-ass things. (I’m pretty sure the peanutbutter fish story has never actually made it into this iteration of the blog. Someone remind me someday…)

But slowly those things have been sliding out of my life. The novel writing was displaced by the comic authoring (except for every other November). The comic was displaced by martial arts. That, in turn, has been forcibly displaced by injuries, health issues for Nighthawk, the holidays, more back issues, more health issues for Nighthawk, a conference, family vacation, and just when I thought I’d be going back, a strained shoulder. And a work deadline schedule that pushes and pushes and pushes. Oh, and more health issues for Nighthawk.

Slowly I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m not where I’m supposed to be, mentally, physically, or emotionally.

Nighthawk’s health has recently provided me with an extremely large burst of nervous energy. On May 12th he’s having oral surgery, but not like the nice friendly “let’s pull a tooth” surgery. More like the “let’s put the lung patient on a respirator, do all the work, take you off the respirator, and give you soft foods for at least a week while trying to keep your calorie count above 3000/day and your blood sugar normal” oral surgery. Not. My. Favorite. Kind.

What do you do with a nervous breakdown on the edge of your peripheral vision? Well, if you don’t have a creative outlet for it, you take it to work and try to get it to be useful. This is somewhat akin to putting a bellman’s uniform on the most violent rabid dog you can find, and chaining him up outside your cube, where he’s in charge of greeting everyone. Not necessarily successful, and generally requires a mop.

The universe has decided to combat this insanity by making April into “Kirabug reassesses her values” month.

The first shake-up came from the conference at the beginning of April. An Event Apart re-fired my desire to create, but not my ability to find an outlet. The inspiration-with-no-outlet problem made everything else worse.

The next shake-up came as a Studio Ghibli movie watched on my iPhone while I was feeling burnt out and sick and tired. Whisper of the Heart reminded me that creation is hard work, and you don’t get better from hiding from it.

When I started writing the thyroid cancer part of the comic, which Christ knows I’d never intended to write back in 2004 when I started the comic, it got hard. No, let me reword that. It got haaaaaaard. I lost the enjoyment of the craft because I was frustrated at my lack of skill. And I lost focus when a new sexy toy (martial arts) caught my attention.

But creating stories is what I was born to do. I create stories in the shower, on the way to work, in the comic. Some of my best web design was expressed in a comic strip, not a wireframe. New ideas are literally scrawled in every file and on every note of every piece of paper I get my hands on. I haven’t stopped creating stories, just because I lost time and motivation. I just started drowning them out in news feeds and bad TV and RSS feeds and comic strips and timewasters.

(By the way, Whisper of the Heart is my new favorite movie. It requires two things: one, that you remember how it felt to be sixteen. Two, that you forget how it feels to be your current age. If you get those two reversed you’ll think it’s horribly corny.)

So I threw out a bunch of distractions. I cut from 78 webcomics to comics folder to 36 core stories I’ve been following for years and still love. I threw out all but 15 RSS feeds (down from 50-ish.) Repeat ad nauseum through Twitter and Fark and Facebook ad nauseum.

Progress. Still, I felt lost, like I’m not sure what I’m creating for.

But tonight Nighthawk and I watched Train (or How I Dumped Electricity and Learned to Love Design. Now, Nighthawk turned me on to Brenda’s twitter feed months ago. He happens to know that I’ve wanted to write RPG video games ever since I discovered Final Fantasy in high school. And game design is a bit of a passion for him as well.

Brenda reminded me tonight that I create to grow. Not everything I create is going to be pretty. Not everything I create is going to be valued. Certainly not everything I create is going to be useful. But everything I create helps me step forward.

I have neglected the pruning. The grass has overrun the garden, and the important branches have been left to wither.

I need to walk away from martial arts. It’s a great experience I will return to, but I can’t fit martial arts, work, and my home life all in the same jar. I certainly can’t do all those things and add any other form of creativity into the jar.

I need to leave work at work.

I need to do hard things again, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

I need to reconnect with my characters and find out what they have to say, before I forget how to speak their language.

I need to give this nervous energy someone to chase that doesn’t wear a tie. Figments of my imagination are suitable candidates.

I need to listen to the earth, stop resisting who I am and what I do. At least for a little while.

It wouldn’t be home if it was calm.

Got home from Seattle veeeeeery late Thursday. By mid Friday my cousins had arrived from England. Friday night we grabbed some dinner and slept well.

This morning didn’t go nearly as smoothly. Almost immediately after waking up, Chance started coughing & reverse-sneezing.

Since the dogs were boarded Thursday night, a cough was good for an immediate trip to the vet for the boy. the diagnosis is, well, a cough — could be a virus, could be kennel cough (for which he got his booster a month ago, so that’s doubtful), could be canine influenza. We were told to expect that he’d get worse before he gets better, and given a prescription for a decongestant in case it gets bad over the weekend. Oh, and we can assume if Chance has it, Kaylee does too.

On the other hand, Chance has been coughing less and less throughout the course of the day, he’s alert, eating fine, and driving me crazy because he’s constantly got to be in my lap. So I’m not panicking yet.

The afternoon settled out with some chores and a nap, and then a big family dinner at my parents’ place, lots of stories, and lots of laughter.

Now we’re home again. My cousins have crashed for the night, and Nighthawk and I are watching the DVR of the Phillies game.

Tomorrow is more time with family and some shopping. I don’t go back to work until the cousins head back to England, so I’m taking time recharging, and I’ll be home more than usual, which is convenient for keeping an eye on the dogs.

So, you know, the usual calm weekend at home.

Bittersweet as always

To make it official: that cute little boy that’s been appearing in random places on the site is coming home tomorrow. His name is unofficially Chance Benedict Gibson, though I’m sure he’s got some really cool name like Dog Branch Farm’s Chance or something to indicate the awesome breeder he comes from, so that’s how I labeled him in today’s comic.

He’s got a sister of sorts (no blood relation) named Kaylee who comes home in the middle of August. At least, according to plan.

Folks who hear we’re adopting two terrier puppies generally consider us insane. And we are, but not because of the terriers. In fact, the “shorties” we’re adopting are calmer and more companion-like than your standard Parson Russell Terrier. We’re almost 100% sure that lazybutt the wonder dog was a shortie, now that we’ve seen more of them, and not the potential terrier/beagle/dachshund/corgi mix that we were wildly speculating. She sure has the described temperament, and she’s got a lot in common with Chance’s mama.

The fact is, Jess was lonely when we weren’t here. We can’t work from home every day. A dog shouldn’t have to be alone all day any more than a kid should. So by adopting two terrors, we’ll at least be ensuring they have someone to play with when we’re not home.

And hey, we live in a condo, so it’s not like they’ll be wrecking a great piece of architecture.

I miss Jessie. I miss her more tonight than I probably have in a month or two. Stuff that was hers today will be someone else’s tomorrow. Boundaries are being broken. I’d give up the opportunity two adopt a hundred puppies just to have her back with us for a few more years.

It’s supposed to be hard and it’s supposed to hurt because if it was easy and it didn’t hurt I’d have to question just how much I loved her. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.

But she’s still here, in our hearts and our photos and, well, right now her collar’s holding my drink…. And in the meantime, we’ve got enough room in those hearts and photo albums and the rest of our lives to accommodate two more furry children, so it’s time.

And tomorrow, we get a puppy!! :)

Neither of us has ever owned a male dog before, so this is bound to be interesting. We’ve got tons and tons of toys for him, and a whole variety of treats and stuff. It’s funny — the day we adopted Jess we woke up that morning, said “Hey, want to adopt a dog?”, drove to the SPCA, and had JessieDog home before dinnertime. This time we’ve literally spent months planning, and the entire last two weeks were dedicated to cleaning and reorganizing and shopping (oh the shopping) so that our little boy will have more going for him than the “Hey Dad, can I borrow a baby gate?” approach we took with Jess. Nighthawk has observed on multiple occasions that this feels like having a baby – albeit a much less expensive, already clothed, forever-two baby that doesn’t need a college fund.

And the double-bonus is that since we know we’re getting two pups we can buy ahead a little, so things should be even easier when Kaylee flies home in August.

Or so I say now…. we’ll see what I have to say as the next week or so passes.