The big two-oh

Twenty years ago (give or take a few days) a sixteen-year-old boy invited my sixteen-year-old self to go to a birthday party for his grandfather and cousin. We’d dated a few times before that, but this was the first time we held hands and the first time we were Going Out.

Twenty years later that same boy, now a wonderful man, is taking me out to dinner.

We’ve been together for more than half our lives, more than our entire adult lives, and all but three and a half years of my sister’s life. That’s a damn long time.

Our relationship is more hard work than luck, more stubbornness than providence. Still, I am grateful for the opportunity to be on this man’s arm, living this life, every day.

Quotes from Clan Gibson this evening

Setting: the couch. The Flyers are playing game 3 of the 2nd round of the playoffs against the Bruins. The Phillies are playing game 2 of a 3 game series against Washington. The Flyers are down 2 goals.

TV: Bruins score again.
Kirabug: Baseball now?
Nighthawk: Yes, baseball now.

Nighthawk changes the channel.
Phillies immediately score.

Kirabug: See? We’re not meant to watch the Flyers.
Nighthawk: It’s heading into first intermission anyway.

Nighthawk flips back to the Flyers game during a Phillies commercial break. The Bruins immediately score.

Kirabug: Would you knock that off?
Nighthawk: It was a commercial!

Nighthawk switches back to the Phillies.
Kirabug’s iPhone chirps.

Kirabug: Aaaand, as soon as you change it, Meszaros scores. We really can’t watch the game if we want the Flyers to have a chance.

Phillies announcers mention that Raul Ibanez was hitless for 13 games, and since yesterday is 4-for-5.

Nighthawk: For two weeks, he couldn’t buy a hit.
Kirabug: Apparently, the check cleared.

Nighthawk flips back to the Flyers game during a Phillies commercial break.

Kirabug: Are you trying to make the score worse?
Nighthawk: They’re not going to score just because I change the channel, despite what you and half the planet believe about sports.
Kirabug: I don’t believe that.
Nighthawk: Relax, they’re in intermission.
Kirabug: You watch, the Bruins will find a way to score during intermission because of you. And I am not going to be the one to explain that to Tim Panaccio when it happens.

Nighthawk returns from walking the dogs.

Nighthawk: How did we load the bases.
Kirabug (half-asleep): Umm…the guy. In the uniform? With the bat? He hit the ball.
Nighthawk: Schneider?
Kirabug: Yeah. His second hit of the game.
Nighthawk: You don’t know who hit, but you know how well they batted this game?
Kirabug: What? Don’t judge me.

Update in lieu of snoring

My body’s exhausted, but my brain’s wide awake, so you get a blog post.

Nighthawk is done the IVs, which is good. He’s still exhausted (mostly from the IVs) so is off the next two weeks to try to recharge. I can relate.

Today we watched the Phils play the Astros. I ate two hot dogs. I got a new heavier Phillies jacket to keep me warm. I watched the game unfold with Nighthawk at my side. We sat in the sun and lived like humans, with all the requisite doctor’s permission, of course. The boys of summer held up their end of the bargain and swept the ‘Stros.

Baseball fills me with joy like few other things, and even hours later, I am content.

Tomorrow is my last half-day, and is a big giant presentation I’ve had less than 25 hours to prepare for. And by “prepare” I mean “finish the prototypes” for. Going to be a rough one.

The rest of the week will wear me out but I finally think I can handle it (no really this time).

Of course, sleeping might help…

Not an improvement

This isn’t the way I wanted this winter to go.

The tonsillectomy I had on Valentine’s Day has finally healed up enough that I should b healthy enough to work. That’s not to say that I’m 100% – when I saw the doc Thursday he put me at about 80% healed but good enough that unless something goes wrong I don’t need to go back for a follow-up and I’m cleared to return to work.

When I return to work, I’ll have missed 4 weeks and a day. Close enough to a month that I refer to it as such. Not normal for a tonsillectomy, which means I’ve spent the last week just trying to get this insurance company to talk to that doctor and that medical staff to call this set of nurses, etc. etc. just to make sure I get paid.

I’ve been out of work so long that the sweaters I bought will almost be a moot point. (Thank goodness they keep the office at iceberg temperatures I guess.) I’ve lost so much weight I don’t know if any of my work pants are still going to fit.

The pneumonia is gone, as far as anyone can tell. There’s still a tiny wheeze in one of my lungs but it’s not the lung that had the pneumonia. The fever broke a little over a week ago. Compared to two weeks ago, I have boundless energy.

Except that I don’t. I have enough energy to get the chores around the house done, and make sure everyone’s fed. I’m no longer napping in the middle of the day just due to the exertion of taking the dogs out, two loads of laundry and unloading/reloading the dishwasher.

The dogs are both healthy again, though Chance took so long to get over the stomach bug that hospitalized Kaylee that I still haven’t moved them back to a mix of wet and dry food – it’s all dry until I’m sure he won’t get the runs immediately.

We’re having other related training issues with Chance that I won’t go into right now. Suffice it to say it won’t be long until I have a professional trainer come out to the house to show me where I’m going off-course.

And then there’s Nighthawk, who is currently sitting behind me at his desk doing therapy. He started feeling sick well before I had my tonsils out, complaining of an occasional sore throat that just might be the same bug that cause my pneumonia for all we know. (I filed to culture anything when I was in.) While I was sick and hospitalized and home sick again, he kept everything under control at home, took care of me and the dogs, and still managed to work more than a few days.

It cost him somewhere around 10-15% of his lung function, which is a lot when you’re not working with a healthy set of full airways to begin with. There was zero hesitation from the doctors last week. Nighthawk’s going into the hospital on Monday for at least a week and will be out of work for at least three.

So now we trade roles. Tomorrow I’ll take him down to the hospital in Philly (a new one – the CF clinic moved) and make sure he’s OK and talk to the doctors about the Plan. Then I’ll come home and get ready for my first day at work on Tuesday. I expect that to be overwhelming and tiring.

It’s a catch-22. If we weren’t hospitalizing Nighthawk I could probably handle going back to work, because I’d have him to support me while I continued to gain my strength. And I’m sure that the benefits company would say that if I’m healthy enough to drive back and forth to Philly every couple of days, then I must be healthy enough to work. (And if I’m not healthy enough to work, then I shouldn’t be driving back and forth to Philly.) But my situation isn’t either drive back and forth to the hospital or go to work. It’s do both or do neither. So I’ll be doing both.

(I might quickly decide I’m doing both with the assistance of some vacation days. But I have to get back before I can leave.)

I have a lot of support from my awesome family, and I couldn’t have gotten through the last month without them. (If Mom hadn’t dropped off delicious leftovers this morning I don’t know what or if we’d eaten dinner.)

I’m glad Nighthawk’s going into the hospital, because he’s sick and he needs the kind of care that they’re able to give him. I’m glad that he has a team of doctors that are all over the problems and care very deeply about improving his health. I’m confident that, barring some other unforeseen catastrophe, he’s going to improve in health. This will not be the trip that kills him.

I’m afraid of this week, though. When last Nighthawk was hospitalized, I was in tip-top shape physically, and the mental strain coupled with the driving and the running everything was enough to wear me down in a week. This week, I’m not going in at the top of my game.

I didn’t want this to happen.

This isn’t the way I wanted the winter to go.

More crazy nightmares

Holy crap my head.

First Penn from Penn and Teller knocked on our door, came in, and started telling Nighthawk all these wild stories about getting a hamburger, and a couple other things I can’t remember. I couldn’t hear most of the conversation because I was concentrating on a cardboard box full of games (which was sitting right next to them on the couch) that I thought had a Playstation 3 game in it I wanted to show Penn. I pulled all kinds of gadgets and books and magazines out of that box but not the missing game, and just as he was leaving I remembered that all the playstation 3 games were in a box behind me.

As he left I asked him why he’d decided to visit us and he gave me a huge loving hug and said, “Because you’re you!”

I pulled out my phone to tweet about it, but as usual for my dreams I could barely read the phone, forget type. All the keys had been rearranged so the backspace key was above the letter R, there were three different kinds of cancel keys depending on what you were trying to do… It was a nightmare and I remember thinking that it was some of the worst usability I’d ever seen. I also remember thinking that this had to be a dream for the keyboard to be so bad, but my dream-self remembered that the new phone OS had just dropped and this must be the new version.

And then just when I thought I’d finally gotten the tweet written I tried to look up Penn’s Twitter handle and I couldn’t because a) I kept launching the picture-attacher accidentally and b) there were flowers growing out of my phone. Something akin to very small carnations, just big enough to block my view, were growing out of the phone. This was annoying, but somehow not unexpected.

Then I found out that Nighthawk had already tweeted about the experience for me, with pictures, which made me both happy and annoyed. He had also let Herbie and Basschica in the house. They were there to – ok I don’t know why they were there but they insisted on feeding the dogs, which Herbie had to learn how to do for some reason.

Once the dogs were fed (raw chicken is all we had, but it was in dog-sized portions) the conversation turned to what we wanted to eat. Magically my mom arrived and we all got in the car, following mom’s directions, and ended up at this old house (Victorian style) that used to sell crafts, but now sold seafood dinners, called “The crab tree” or something equally weird.

The restaurant had a large cement porch with a wooden roof, big enough to hold a couple of picnic tables and smaller bistro tables. We weren’t the only ones waiting for a table inside – there were other couples and families (all older than me but I think I was roughly 20 again) that were also waiting. After a short wait the restaurant staff gave up on seating us inside, and since it was a beautiful night they just started bringing out the food items of their choice, family style, and setting them on the table.

We had green beans in risotto, mashed cauliflower, mashed turnips, shrimp in a pasta, a different kind of shrimp with a spiny shell that was done in a garlic sauce, fried popcorn shrimp, and strange things. Strange things like live man-o-war babies (I could have my fish wrong. Round thing with a long tail, supposedly poisonous, had a shell covering one side. Maybe I invented it.) that were a bit scary to eat until my mother showed me how to pull them apart alive. (note: nothing like my mom to do such a thing.) Every table got different food so we spent a lot of time passing bowls back and forth and getting to know the folks we were sitting with.

Then things got weird again. I asked for something – or maybe they just recognized the name on our credit cards (Herbie and I were splitting the bill for father’s day) and we were ushered in this side door that looked like a closet, but had a door in the back, to see the rest of the building.

We discovered that this little house was just the tip of a much larger complex filled with science experiments being done regarding Jurassic, Cambrian, and pre-Cambrian era creatures. Even weirder, the were all kinds of robots and machines of a sentient nature in the complex, many of which appeared to be preparing for some kind of attack. It was like the TV show Sanctuary crossed with the comic Girl Genius crossed with a Discovery channel special on dinosaur-era sea creatures. Aunt G was showing us around and helping us get settled.

I knew somehow that my cousin Plantnerd was sleeping a few rooms away but I could see the shadow of someone sinister hovering over her bed wih a gun, so I sprinted through three or four doors in a hallway marked “no entry” until I reached her room. I found Plantnerd lying in bed half asleep with an IV in her arm and sugar around her lips. She’d had a sugar crash while on the tube (she lives in England) and the man at the foot of her bed had saved her and brought her back home.

Only it wasn’t really a sugar crash, it was a milk crash, because she required some kind of special sea cow milk, and the man wasn’t really a man… The best way to describe him would be take a leprechaun and cross him with a little grey alien, make him as tall as a short woman with normal eyes and a pasty face. He looked a bit like a sea creature himself.

We needed to go get something for Plantnerd but it was risky to get to and required crossing the loch in the back of the building. I didn’t even hesitate to do so, even though the only way to cross the loch was to jump from one tree root to another where they made a natural bridge down the center.

I don’t remember what I went to get. I do remember that the equipment rooms on the other side were full of robots hiding themselves so they’d be more effective if they needed to ambush the expected intruders. (I had been accepted by the system.) the was also a giant 6-tired amphibious vehicle that Aunt G showed me how to drive in case I needed it to escape.

When we returned to the loch, the water had risen and the roots were obscured. I knew that an amphibious creature that looked like a cross between the Loch Ness Monster and a rowboat lived in the water and was tame (and very smart). His name was Doodle (I think) and he very happily carried each of us across the pond. I remember being annoyed, though, because I expected to ride on his back and instead he’d only let me hold on to his neck.

Then I woke up.

The weird part of all this is how much of the loch felt familiar, like I’d seen and dreamed it before. I’ve been there before, to the loch, anyway, though the buildings and my family running things all felt new.

I slept for 11 hours last night. I’m still a little tired this morning, but it’s mostly because I’m dehydrated I think. The dream still feels like a real memory, and I’m a little afraid to go to sleep tonight for fear that I’ll land back in the same dream in time for the attack.

Now it’s time to start my day, and hope it’s less exciting.

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.


If you haven’t seen the first two-part episode of Stargate Universe and you are at all a sci/fi tv fan, you have roughly a day (if you’re lucky) to go watch it on Hulu. Get going!.

Now, that being said…

The week we moved into our first apartment, Nighthawk and I bought our bed, a dining room set, a recliner, and a sofa. That sofa was in pure sofa hell for quite a while, between JessieDog’s accidents, the puppies attempts to gut it, their accidents, spilled food, and any other number of messes. You’ll all be glad to know that the old sofa was sent out to pasture today, and we’ve got a brand new sofa-and-chaise sectional thingie in its place. For the first time in probably 5 years, I can invite people over and not cringe when offering them a seat.

Add to that the new TV and the new entertainment center, and this place looks like a whole new livingroom.

For those who are wondering what the dogs think of it, I’d let them tell you themselves, but they’re both out cold next to me on the sofa. I think they approve. They had quite the rough day, barking at the trash guys, then barking at the guys who picked up the old sofa, then barking at the sofa delivery guys, then barking at me….

Totally unrelated, it’s National Novel Writing Month and we’re 5 days in. I have written zero words. I could give you many excuses, such as:

  • The Phillies just played 6 games of a World Series that the morons at Fox insisted starting at 8pm. Since playoff baseball frequently runs to 4 hour games, that doesn’t leave much time for writing.
  • We’re (finally) housetraining the dogs properly – which among other adventures has meant I’ve been walking up to 3 miles a day, often in 5 minute intervals around our building. I’d kill for a yard right now. Anyway, it’s incredibly difficult to type while walking two dogs. (For those who wondered, the dogs are currently “housetrained” to use piddle pads, because you can’t expect a 10 lb dog under 2 years old to “hold it” for 9 hours while you’re at work. Piddle pads are great because they’re like diapers — you don’t have to go out in the cold, or the rain, or even really leave the sofa. They’re also horrible because they’re like diapers — they leak, they smell to high hell, and they do nothing worth a damn about poop.)
  • I was too busy over the weekend dying my hair blue, screaming my lungs out at Hershey Park with my sister, yelling at the Phillies, knitting, and generally having fun to think about it.
  • I was going to start writing Sunday morning but I discovered Scrivener and I got so wrapped up in organizing my two existing novel universes (consisting of three unfinished novels each) to start actually writing (though Scrivener is definitely going to be my tool of choice)

But the fact of the matter is that my creation energy is about tapped. I’m working on a huge project at work right now, and at least three to four hours of any (good) day consists of creating screens, justifying the elements within them, understanding how they work, and documenting them, and damn if that isn’t one of the most draining activities I’ve come across in a long time. It really does feel quite a bit like writing a novel. There’s the initial creation, the revision, the feedback, the more revision, the recognition that something that was an initial premise is horribly flawed and half of everything has to be ripped out and recreated, the desire to research, research, research, the recognition that the research alone could eat you alive, and an ever-present deadline.

Though I don’t spend quite as much time when I’m writing making Visio cry. Apparently that damned app gets grouchy once you cross the 50-page mark, regardless of how tightly you’ve grouped or limited your images.

Anyway, my current challenge is to decide which of the two novel universes I’m set in need work — I’m leaning toward Sarra, but I’m always leaning toward Sarra.

I’ve also got knitting to do, a comic to work on, and general life to keep up on. Would like to go drown some worms with Dad this weekend (that’s “fishing” for the uninitiated), play some Katamari Forever, and maybe kill some sims. Or maybe just lounge on this bigass couch with my dogs.