Sunday, October 26, 2014

Degrees of Separation: Ebola Version

The theory goes that any one person is six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, right? Somehow we all know someone who knows someone that in six easy steps will lead to the Footloose alum.

Well, currently, I'm two degrees of separation from people with ebola.

The root cause of this is the poor policy and lack of appropriate and effective guidelines from the US government.

Containment was an afterthought.

I don't know what the US government was thinking or why they decided doing nothing was a good idea, but they screwed up. Big time.

Also, you quickly do not give a shit about how many people die from the flu each year when you actually know people under quarantine through no fault of their own. They did nothing wrong and are paying for our government's mistakes.

Further, the number of people in Africa predicted to die from ebola this year is about the same number of deaths the US sees from the flu. Ebola is quite capable of giving flu death stats a run for their money. Something, the US government is, apparently, committed to testing for themselves in a real world scenario.

Again, I ask, what was the point of the flu comparison the media has been blathering on and on about? It's like a pop science distraction. A 'Xanax-ian' propaganda that folds under critical assessment.

The other bug up my butt about ebola is the 1% is being ignored. A 21 day quarantine does NOT catch all ebola cases, just most of them. Something like 2-3% of cases won't manifest until the 30 day mark or later. (I don't have have the source for this reference handy, but I'll try to come back and link it later.)

I've been the 1% exception a lot. And I do mean, A LOT. To the point where I think it's a form of insanity to discount those outliers. It's not that they don't exist, it's just that they're a minority. There is a difference!

But see, in medicine, the patients of the 1% are ghosts. They aren't counted in the treatment plan.

The same thing seems to be happening with ebola. The majority medicine paradigm is a big problem because it's blind, it can't see anything outside the norm.

Oh well, there's nothing I can do about any of it.  All I can say is we've been pretty damn lucky so far. Let's hope that luck holds, it's the only thing we've got going for us.

***

On to other things...

Got food poisoning from undercooked chicken which has, in turn, aggravated the SOD. So that's been fun.

I'm trying to ignore it, hoping it will go away but I probably need to switch to a biliary duct friendly diet of yogurt, followed by more yogurt with yogurt for dessert.

And when I get tired of yogurt, I can have...more yogurt. Blech.

***
Writing wise...

I've seen some decent recovery in my earnings. I still wouldn't recommend publishing just now as the holidays are about to hit. As a general rule, that's a very volatile time for book sales. It's not that you can't do well, just the odds are more against you than at other times of the year. Wait for more favorable conditions is my advice.

Plus, I wouldn't be surprised if my sales went right down the toilet again. Ha. I've worked through my bag of marketing tricks, released everything I'm going to publish this fall and don't really have anything else I can do to stimulate sales so I'm kind of stuck for now.

I'm going to hoard what I have ready and publish starting in January.

I will say, brand building is going well. I'm hitting my goals earlier than planned. Same goes for that business venture I started a few months ago.

So I'm positioned well. Just need to write more books, wait for the holidays to be over and then hit it hard.

***

Kiddo wise...

The homework abruptly became more difficult. Ha. That will teach me! I just wish the teacher would've given us all a heads up that this was a 'warm-up' period. I wasn't the only parent wondering if their kid had been placed at the right level.

Also, I went to an academic presentation on Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and I had to laugh as I spotted their perfectionist tendencies along with what I call the 'boredom of mastery' that often goes along with being gifted. The perfectionism was patently obvious in the things they wrote and said. If you know what it looks like, you can't miss it.

I had never thought of the great masters and geniuses of the past struggling with the pressure to be perfect, so the presentation gave me a new view of the world. It was interesting to see how the two artists' lives played out in an era where there was no advice on how to manage crippling anxieties or disinterest in mastered skills.

Da Vinci, in particular, actually painted very few works and was known for never finishing art projects. Woe to anyone who paid him before the work was done!  I suspect he found it dull. While his work was a revelation for others, Da Vinci wasn't dazzled. (Alternatively, he may have been tied in knots by perfectionism, but I suspect boredom is more likely as he had no problem finishing all sorts of gadgets.) He was much more interested in his inventions, he had a passion for them that drove him forward and nothing could stop him, not even the burden of perfectionism.

Michelangelo, on the other hand, what he excelled at--art--was also his passion. He was lucky. Of course, he hated painting, but suffered through it for various patrons. His true love was sculpture. And he finished his work, which says to me he had developed some kind of coping skills to get him past the hump of his perfectionism.

Ultimately, I divined no solutions for our own little perfectionist from the presentation, more the reassurance that it will all be okay. Plus, the entertaining mental image of Leonardo and Michelangelo at my kiddo's age having an epic melt down of an intensity that only perfectionists can produce. I would pay good money to go back in time and talk to their mothers. They probably were bald from pulling their hair out.

(And no I am NOT saying my kiddo is equal to Da Vinci or Michelangelo. You don't have to be a super genius to have issues with perfectionism.)



Monday, October 20, 2014

The Latest

Not much going on over here, except for following the news on ebola. Other than that, I am boring. CT scan was fine, as I predicted. My only quibble is it would've been nice to do it when things were symptomatic.

But at least there are no tumors or anything hinky showing up.

I still have upper right quadrant tenderness. All the time. It hurts to even brush against that area. Very annoying.

I don't know if it's the biliary duct spasming at such a low level that I can't identify it as spasming or what.

Anyway, life is proceeding at a normal pace, unimpeded by my health, or lack thereof. This is about as good as it gets for me.

I do have a lot of spasms, though. I wonder if it is all related? Just the other day, I had a massive spasm over the right scapula that put my shoulder out of commission for the day. Then the arch of my left foot went nuts. For no reason I can discern. My shoulder started when I tried to reach something under my desk, so I at least know what the trigger was there (although not the why of it), but my foot? I have no idea.

Writing-wise...

Last project went really well. Three weeks on the bestseller lists. Overall, a great experience.

Authors continue to be whackadoo weirdos. I'm withdrawing more and more from any social networks I've built up. Too many copycats, users and abusers. Unfortunately, I like being social (online at least) with authors and will miss the interaction as well as the outlet for my ideas, but ultimately, it isn't good for me.

I have everything I need to be successful. I don't necessarily  need anyone in my corner. It's time to focus on writing more books faster and building on what I have.

Sales continue to be bad. Things are pretty apocalyptic. Aside from my one project doing well, everything else is failing pretty spectacularly. The paradigm of success is in flux. There's not much sustainability of sales anymore. It's peak and valley, crash and burn all the way.

If you're new, keep writing, but don't publish anything just yet. Work on figuring out the industry and take its pulse in January. Plus study marketing because you can control that. If you can't market, you will never do well in this business.

With regards to marketing, I see authors whine all the time about not being able to get reviews and I have to sit on my hands so I don't type anything that will get me in trouble. If you've written 5+ books and actually have sales and a mailing list, but still can't figure out reviews? You are never going to get where you want to be. You don't know marketing, which is a choice you made. Choose differently if you want better results. You're not helpless.

Hopefully the industry will improve by early 2015. If not, we'll be seeing very few authors making a living at this. It will become more like traditional publishing in that most of the money goes to the publisher/book seller platform.

Parenting wise...

Not much going on over here. Kiddo is doing well on all fronts. She's another year older now. OMG. This growing up thing is breaking my heart. I mean, I love watching her grow, but that means she's not my baby anymore. It's not fair.

We are heartily enjoying fall right now. Pumpkin patch visits. Roasting pumpkin seed. Pumpkin donuts (for her, not me as I am staying gluten free). Leaf crafts. Planting spring bulbs. We do a lot of family activities this time of year.

As for school, I'm trying to decide if she's fudged her abilities with her teacher as I don't know that her spelling and math homework are truly at her level. She does a week's worth of math homework in 15-20 minutes. Spelling is usually too easy with the occasional word she needs to work a little harder to learn.

At the same time, I'm not looking to make things harder as that risks triggering paralyzing perfectionism that makes everyone miserable. Plus, she's not complaining that she's bored like last year. So, perhaps I will just see if I can get the okay from the teacher to stop doing the spelling homework once she's mastered all the words. She doesn't really need 4 nights of spelling exercises and we could use the extra time for other things.

Aren't you glad I figured that out?




Friday, October 17, 2014

Rationalizing Ebola


People have very strange ways of rationalizing the risk of ebola. Some things I've heard and read that have made me a wee bit frothy...

1. The flu is more dangerous and kills more people, but millions don't get their flu shots so why are you worried about ebola?

I love this one. Let me type this slowly so maybe you can understand.

I. Got. The. Flu. Shot.

So has the rest of my family. You probably got it, too, right? I mean, you wouldn't run around frothing at the mouth about how dangerous the flu was and not get your shot, would you?

I'm sorry about the millions who can't or won't get the shot, but I can't fix them. I have controlled my risk and that of my family. Unlike, ebola, there are actual vaccines for the flu that mostly work. Most of us have the means to contain the flu that don't rely upon what anyone else does (or doesn't do).

And what does that have to do with the fact that ebola is now spreading and flying the friendly skies? Does that mean it's no longer deadly? That the CDC isn't screwing up constantly? That we don't have new cases? Are you saying an ebola patient could be my roomie and I wouldn't get sick? What?

Also, go get your damn flu shot already.

2.Ebola isn't airborne, so stop worrying.

Neither is norovirus and it shuts down entire cruise ships. I understand something like 15 million people a year get norovirus in the US.

So your point is...what? It's not contagious unless it's airborne? Do unicorns exist in your magical thinking land?

3.Only one person has died. Ebola is no big deal.

They probably said that about Typhoid Mary. I mean, look, if thinking like that makes you feel better, then go for it (unless you work at the CDC, in which case, you should resign). The metric I look at is the infection is spreading and we are failing to prevent it. At the rate we're going, one death is just the beginning.

What are you going to do when the next person dies? Pretend it didn't happen?

4.More people are overweight and suffering health complications from that than will ever have ebola. Why do we worry about ebola when we clearly don't care about our health?

Reasons for being concerned about ebola include:

1. If we are sick and fighting it within our borders, we aren't going to be able to help anyone else.

2. We don't have hospital beds, equipment or training to deal with a large scale outbreak. While it's true that we have more hospitals and doctors than Africa, we don't have large scale facilities or expertise that can handle lots of ebola patients. In that sense, we'll find dealing with an outbreak just as challenging as Africa has.

3. When ebola is prevalent, your lifestyle diseases will kill you because ebola will steal resources.

4. Ebola is a destabilizing geopolitical force. The bigger it gets, the worse the politics will be. Ebola will make Putin and ISIS look like frosted cupcakes. It's not ALL about your diabetes.

5. There is no curative treatment and the death rate is very high.The good news is you won't have to worry about any of those lifestyle diseases. You'll be dead!

6. The CDC response so far has been the equivalent of having a Walmart greeter perform brain surgery.

7.West Nile Virus heralds from Africa and is now endemic pretty much world wide. We should avoid that with ebola.

Now, if you feel inspired to tackle your health issues because of ebola, that's great, but it doesn't change any of the above. We could all become marathon running vegans tomorrow and it wouldn't make any difference to ebola.

That's why we care about ebola. We can't exercise or diet it away. Plus, it's probably not a bad thing to go into your ebola infection with a few extra pounds.


5. Ebola will never be a big problem here. We have much better health care and systems in place.

Hahahaha. I'll buy this one when people stop catching ebola and flying around on commercial airlines while they're coming down with it.

So now what? Do we panic? No, that serves no purpose. What do we do? I have no idea.

If I could, I would fire Dr. Freidan who runs the CDC along with whoever else is in management. That leaves the problem of identifying an appropriate replacement though, and I'm not sure we have anyone waiting in the wings who has the right skill set.

Somehow, we have to get to a point where the CDC isn't actually exposing or infecting people. How that happens, I can't tell you.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola Exposes the Reality of Patient Care

I've been popping my popcorn and watching as ebola is given every opportunity to gain a foothold in the United States. I wish I could say I was surprised at how poorly it has been managed, but I'm not. This is what healthcare looks like in the US.

Hmmm. Let's review, shall we?

1. Failed to properly identify the patient as at risk and sent them home.

Yep. Happens every day. Doesn't even have to be ebola.

2.Staff lacks education on diagnosis and training to properly deal with it.

Uh-huh. That's normal too. Welcome to healthcare in America!

3. Patient says exactly what would lead to a correct diagnosis and is ignored.

Happens ALL the time. Very typical.


Dear America: How do you like your 'best healthcare in the world' now? Are you enjoying the preview of what's in store for you when you have your first big health issue?
 
Medicine is just as lethal as any disease. Ebola has found a new vector and it's our healthcare system.

I would like to think ebola will lead to heightened awareness of the many care failures patients deal with, but that's probably hoping for too much.

Healthcare is not perfect. Science isn't a magic wand. It's all fallible. It's just easier to ignore when it's not ebola. We have an opportunity here to see some hard truths, but I doubt we will take it.


Anyway, I'm surprised there have only been two infections in Texas. I expect we'll hear of more cases shortly.

                                                              

Monday, September 15, 2014

And then...I Drank Like a Vampire

Today had great potential to be nice, but then I went to the doctor. A CT scan more precisely. One where they made me drink a liter of blood colored fluid that was sickeningly sweet. On an empty stomach. Uck.

At least the Rad Tech was entertained by all my what-I-did-on-summer-vacation stories. I was quite chatty and started to feel bad about it, so I asked them if they were interested in the stuff I was talking about. Fortunately, we were a good personality match, so I nattered on and on while they stuck me with needles, filled me with drugs and took pics of my internal organs.

After that I went home and tried to decide if the way I felt meant I was going to puke a bunch of red fluid or if it was going to come out the other end. It all derailed my day sort of spectacularly. I've had CT scans before so I thought I knew what to expect, but the liter 'o 'blood' I had to slurp down was a yucky twist.

Fun times!

I imagine the scan will show nothing since things are not all that aggravated at the moment and I'm good with that. This is not the kind of stuff where you want them to find anything. I don't need an answer. I don't want a name. Weirdo-shit-that-only-your-body-does-and-it's-no-big-deal is what I'm hoping to hear. I'll even accept post-gallbladder removal adjustment syndrome< --- I made that one up, but it's a good one, don't you think?

Anyway, time for more school stories. The communication issues continue. I went to a meeting billed as an information session only to find out it was really a brawl between parents and the school board. Oy. I sat through two hours, trying to say as little as possible and wondering WTF I'd gotten myself into.

Sheesh. If they'd told me it was a 'tear down all processes, especially the ones parents like and reinvent all our wheels no matter what parents think' meeting I would have skipped it. I'm too new to be sucked into that shit. Way too new.

All of us new parents sort of huddled together in a protective circle, commiserating on all the WTFery.  But we all agreed, our kids are happy. Maybe there's hope for us to be happy too. Or at least not be in the middle of screaming matches between parents and the school.

Have you ever worked with someone who was obviously not in the right job? That's the deal with the school official who headed up the meeting. They're younger, not as experienced as the parents and not very organized. They may not know it yet, but that job is not a good fit. They need to move on. I hope they figure it out sooner as opposed to later.


On the positive, calling my friend and telling her all about the fucked up school meeting helped me drink the red goo drink without hurling. That last cup was a real bitch to get down. Ranting about that meeting had me so distracted, I didn't even taste it anymore.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Puttering

Doing okay over here. I can sleep on my right side with minimal aggravation of whatever is pissed off inside my gut. This is a rare thing and a real luxury.  Very few spasms. Little protest from my system when I eat.

Still feeling kind of tired and I'm not sure why (I've started the next pill pack which I thought would fix things). Season change maybe? Asthma flared a little bit yesterday, I assume due to the transition from summer to fall. We've had days where even my husband has a hard time breathing. Cool + high humidity = panting. At least for us anyway.

Latest book is doing well. Lots of reader response, which is an excellent sign. When people take the time to seek you out via email or friend you on FB just so they can send you a PM, you know your work is resonating. Good. Now I just need to write a million more books and publish them.

Exercise-wise, I've slowed down. I'm not doing a great job of switching up my routine to match the season. I think I'm pouting over the fact that I can't go swimming anymore.

At the same time, the fatigue is holding me back. Did a bike ride last night and just couldn't muster up the energy to go. I wasn't sore, my legs weren't tired, I just had no power. My energy is quite listless right now. My minutes-per-mile was slower than the last bike ride.

Kiddo is cute. We have a wedding coming up so she needed a fancy party dress. OMG. Shopping for that was fun! We typically stick with soft knits as she's sensitive to seams and tags and tightness and phantom things that only she can feel. I was a little bit like that as a kid, but my daughter is a whole new level of 'things are boooooothering me.' As in, The Princess and the Pea was probably written about her.

So we had a lot of discussion about how fancy party clothes are tighter than other things she wears and how you have to just deal with it if you want to dress up. I think she's on board. She loves her dress which helps.  Let's hope it carries her through and that we don't have a meltdown on the dance floor at the reception.

School-wise, I'm very pleased at what I see going on. She's reading openly instead of insisting she can't read like she did last year (her rationale being her kindy peers couldn't read yet). The current book she's selected to read is at the 5th grade level. Less than a month in the right environment and she's 'smartening up' instead of 'dumbing down'. Fitting in is very important to her. In kindy that meant denying skills whereas this year, she has to use them if she doesn't want to stand out.

She's been so good at hiding the extent of her capabilities that I find I consistently underestimate her.  I've learned the hard way to hide my work screens if she comes into my office because she will read over my shoulder and then nonchalantly ask me about the content...which is sometimes not for little kids. Urk.

Anyways, we are on an interesting journey with her, one I could have never anticipated.

And now I am going to try to work.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Let Me Tell You

Right now, this very second, my GI system seems to be doing okay. I often feel like I'm being stabbed in the back and there's the occasional spasm in the bilary ducts, but mostly things are calm and functioning.

We will see how long that lasts.

And I still feel awful,but for completely different reasons. I'm delaying the start of my birth control pill so I can time everything for an OB/GYN appointment. It's my last pack and I won't be able to get anymore without seeing the OB/GYN. For some reason, I've returned to the pattern of feeling really horrible once the pill stops. Fatigue and sharp headaches are my plague now. It's not too bad when I can start the next pack as scheduled, but this prolonged gap has been particularly unpleasant.

Three more days and I will have some relief.

As a small mercy, I've given myself the week off from writing. Not work, I still have to work, but I'm not holding myself to any word count goals. I'm doing mostly admin stuff and gearing up for the launch of the next book which is done (hallelujah!).

                                                                             ***

Some mommy blogging....

Kiddo is doing great at her new school, but we have no clue what she does there. The school is awful with communication. I mean, really awful. It's making me twitch. Twice now, I've had to force myself to delete a line offering to copy edit the newsletters from my emails to the school trying to clarify various pieces of contradictory information.

Is the meeting the 8th or the 9th, because both dates are in the newsletter. On the PTA meeting, there's a date but no time or place. Where and when is that meeting?

This is not a good fit for my personality. I don't do well if I have to sit idle on the sidelines while the home team fucks everything up when I know I can fix it. While other parents may just roll with it, I'm over here frothing at the mouth and fighting not to say what I really think of all this poor communication. (The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg. OMG. How do these people run a school?!)

Eventually I WILL address it, but not until I have a better understanding of how the school works and I've developed some relationships with administration. Do you know they didn't even tell us what day school started? Or the time? I had to hunt someone down and make them tell me. At one point, I was reading through all of last year's newsletters trying to piece together the information I needed. Crazy.

And this is a gifted school...apparently run by not so gifted staff. Ha. Irony! No, the staff is fine, but there is room for process improvements. We are fortunate to be there. I think.  Time will tell and if my kiddo thrives there, we'll be around long enough for me to insert myself into the communication process so I can FIX IT ALREADY.

                                                                                    ***

On writing...

Here is a thought that occurred to me today: I'm never going to master this writing gig. I've written multiple novels now as well as novellas and short stories. I've moved 50,000 and 25,000 copies of things I've written and I still have no idea what the hell I am doing.

None.

Here's why: Once you start building up a body of work, you then have to work to not repeat yourself. You can't use the same plot twist in every book. You have to come up with new stuff. Characters need different flaws and strengths. And settings need to be different.

So, essentially, you are pretty much starting at zero. Every time.  You always have to stretch for the next book. You're never complete as a writer, not unless you actually want to rehash the same plot structures over and over again (which, no, I don't).

Maybe mastery kicks in at 30 novels or something. I don't know.

And now I have to go. Me and my fatigue with a side of headache have a business meeting with my admin. So no proofreading at all. Sorry if something doesn't make sense.