Slow Blogging and Other Variations

Backlit keyboardSeveral years ago I read a humorous blog post by comedic mystery writer Anne R. Allen about “slow blogging.” I laughed and enjoyed it, but I was also relieved. Back in 2012, most successful bloggers were recommending that anyone who wrote a blog should post something new every day.

I’d never attempted that schedule. I knew I’d spend all my creative energy on my blog and have nothing left for writing my novels. But I worried about my choice to post something new only once a week.

Ms. Allen’s thoughts on slow blogging reassured me.

She listed eight benefits to less frequent blogging, some more serious than others, but the gist of it was that you’d probably have an active blog for many more years if you paced yourself, you wouldn’t overwhelm your blog readers, you’d enjoy it more, you’d have time and energy for writing novels, and that quality over quantity would draw an audience.

With Ms. Allen’s bolstering behind me, I carried on posting once a week, missing only a few times when a cold virus laid me low or a family emergency pulled me away.

Then, in the spring of 2015, I found myself head down in my doorstopper novel Fate’s Door. I had four other stories that I planned to publish on the same day that I released Fate, and it had been over a year since I released anything new.

I didn’t want to take any time away from the novel.

So I didn’t. My blog languished while I wrote 2,000 – 3,000 words a day of fiction. And I refused to feel guilty. Surely, when you were on a hot deadline, skipping the weekly blog post was the very essence of slow blogging.

I finished the novel at the end of July and sent it off to my first reader.

Then I returned to writing blog posts with what seemed pent up ideas and vigor. Not only did I write that week’s post, but I wrote extras to have ready when my first reader gave me her feedback and I dove back into the novel to revise it. I ended up with more than a dozen blog posts “in the bank” by the time I’d completed two revision passes on Fate, prepped all five books for release, and then clicked the publish buttons on Amazon.

I envisioned those extra blog posts as lasting through a good portion of the time it took me to get well started on my next novel. Especially since I felt moved to write a new addition to my banked posts every now and then.

We all know what happens when plans meet reality.

In my case, the retina of my left eye tore, taking me out of the writing game completely for a while. Then I discovered that my next novel required a lot more research and world building than I’d realized. And here I am, nearly 40,000 words into that novel (which feels great, btw) and every single one of those banked blog posts is up and live for you to read. 😀

(Except the one announcing the paperback edition of Fate’s Door, which (a) can’t be posted until that paperback is available – soon, and (b) probably won’t ever be posted, because I’d written of the the newly released novellas making good stocking stuffers and the new novels being great for under the tree. Yes, it was December then, while the Fate paperback will be released this June. I’ll need to draft a new announcement.)

My deadline for Tally the Betrayals is not nearly so pressing as the the one for Fate’s Door. But I’m totally immersed in the world – the Bronze Age of my North-lands – and I don’t want to take time away from Tally to research the blog posts I have swirling in the back of my mind.

Summer Landscape Telemark

I’ve already been a bit erratic in posting my last few posts, waiting until Saturday, or even the next Monday, before I clicked the “go live” button. I thought about skipping this week’s post altogether.

But then I realized I could give you all a head’s up. Tell you that I’m head down in Tally and that blog posts may be sporadic for a bit. I enjoy blogging a lot. But right now, Tally has me in its grip. 😀

ETA: In the comments below, Anne R. Allen – author of the post on slow blogging that I mention above – said: “I guess maybe it’s time I blog about blogging again.” While I was reading her blog a few days ago, I discovered that she’d made good on that promise. As usual, the post was excellent, I’ll share the link: What Should an Author Blog About?

For more about blogging from me:
Copyright Statement for My Website
Why Create a Site Map?
SPAM Deluge
New Home Page

 

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Getting Started with a Bullet Journal

I’ve kept a journal since 1980, and I’ve used to-do lists for longer. But both of those tools have evolved considerably over time.

row of journals

The journal was originally a way to think about my feelings, so that I could try to make sense of them. The to-do lists were written on loose scraps of paper, with the various items being crossed off as I did them or being transferred to fresh scraps of paper when the original one grew too crowded.

Those simple systems worked, although I always had a feeling that there might be a better way. (But not one of the myriad organizers available for purchase, which were far more complex than I needed.)

My two systems started to merge about 9 years ago. I’d scribble short lists on the edges of my journal pages, drawing a box around the list to make it easier to find when I needed to refer to it. I still wrote my feelings out – a good tool – but I didn’t need to do it as often. The contents of my journal tended to be ideas for my future combined with brainstorming and notes on whatever novel I was writing at the time.

When I wanted to refer to either my plans for the future or my story notes, it was a real pain to locate the right page with the right information. Often, I couldn’t find the information at all.

bullet journal, page label, 600 px

I started labeling pages that I knew I would want to refer to again, and drawing a box around the label, so that it didn’t fade into the wall of writing.

That helped a lot. I still had to flip through the pages, and sometimes I missed the label and had to flip through repeatedly. But generally I could find what I needed.

But I wished I could find it more efficiently.

(In the image above, the ideas for the Devouring Light sequels were farther down the page. That’s why the label does not match the text. I didn’t need to label my plans for the Fate’s Door cover, because I won’t need to refer to those thoughts later. I’m working on the cover revision right now!)

Then a friend suggested I type up a table of contents whenever I filled a blank book. I liked that idea and tried it, gluing the TOC into the flyleaf of the journal.

It was awesome! I could check the TOC and flip right to the pertinent info.

Except, it was a pain numbering all 254 pages in one go. Plus I had to actually create that TOC.

I learned to number the pages as I went, but I tended to drag my feet in typing up the TOC. It was such an unappealing chore. And then I needed to make sure I hadn’t run out of rubber cement to glue the dang thing in.

I loved the results of the TOC, but I often had two journals lingering without them. And, of course, it was the more recent journals – the ones missing TOCs – that I needed to access the most.

Such was the state of things when I stumbled across the concept of a “bullet journal”- so named for the bulleted lists that appear within it.

bullet journal, table of contents, 300 pxOne important element of a bullet journal is that the first few pages are left blank!

Why?

So that, as you write in your journal and realize you are writing something you’ll need to refer to again, you can write the page number (or numbers) and the topic on a line in those deliberately available first pages. You create the TOC as you go!

It seems like a perfectly obvious solution to my TOC problems, but I don’t know when (or if) I would have thought of it myself.

I jumped on it, even going so far as to type a TOC for the first 77 pages of the current journal and then add blank lines for future entries, so that I could start with the create-as-you-go TOC immediately. I didn’t want to wait until I started a fresh blank book. I’m glad I didn’t wait. It has been marvelous. I can find everything I need with no trouble, and jotting down the page number and topic is easy peasy.

The sample page above (that I scanned from my February – April, 2016 journal) has mostly entries for my novel-in-progress, Tally the Betrayals. Yes, I’m a little obsessed. 😀

It was the method of handling the TOC that thrilled me, but I’ve found some of the other bullet journal tools to be useful as well. Instead of scribbling my to-do lists in the margins, I allow them a more generous space. But I don’t feel compelled to set them at the beginning of an entry. Nor do I create one every day.

As I read what various bloggers had to say about bullet journals, it seemed clear that their number-one feature was their customizability. Everyone recommended using only those bullet journal tools that suited you.

bullet journal, to-do list, 600 px

So I adore the TOC, and I use it. I like to-do lists on busy days, but I don’t need them on days when all I do is write.

bullet journal symbols, 300 pxI like a small subset of the symbols developed for use in bullet journals. The empty box = something to do. The empty triangle = somewhere to be. The check mark means I got there or did it. A bullet = an idea, such as a new recipe I want to try. A line through an item means I decided I didn’t need (or want) to do it after all. And – my favorite – an arrow through a triangle or a box means I moved the task or the appointment to another day.

The fact is that some things are best done later or skipped altogether, and the bullet journal system plans for it. I love that! I might think I need to do laundry today, and sometimes I do. But if I’m exhausted when laundry time rolls around and everybody has clean clothes to wear tomorrow, it’s fine to push laundry until later.

bullet journal, future list, 300 pxThe other item I find helpful is the “future list” or “master list.” This consists of tasks and ideas that I’ll need or want to do in the future, but that are not right for today. For example, I write down ideas for blog posts on my list, as well as things such as a note to purchase Jutoh (software for creating epub ebook files).

If I eventually decide I don’t want to purchase and learn Jutoh after all, I can simply draw a line through it on my “long view” list, before it ever migrates to a to-do list.

Many bullet journalers suggest putting the master list immediately after the TOC. I knew I would hate that. I allow 3 pages for my TOC. Flipping through them to get to the 4th page every time I want to check my master list would make me crazy. I put it on the very last page of the blank book. No flipping needed at all. I just open up the back cover.

Some bullet journalers create really decorative journals that rival scrapbooks. They use washi tape, draw sketches, and include photos. And I gather there are many more tools and systems than those I’ve discussed here. But simple, practical, and functional is what works for me.

About that to-do list I shared above…?

Here it is at the end of the day: a bunch of stuff done and checked off; two items moved to tomorrow. 😀

bullet journal, checked to-do list, 600 px

The bloggers whose info on bullet journals I found most helpful:
The Art of Simple
Carrie Willard
The Lazy Genius Collective

 

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When Scrolls Gave Way to Codices

I understand that this has been around for a while, but I just encountered it a few weeks ago. I laughed hard enough that I whimpered, so naturally I had to share it with you. Enjoy!

That was me when I was given my first iPod. “Where is the manual?” I asked. And was answered: “It’s online.”

Aaaaack! 😀

 

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Getting Started with the KonMari Technique

KonMari drawerMy mother once remarked that she’s amazed at the useful tidbits of information that I find online. I was surprised by her observation. I’m not particularly adept at search terms. Nor am I truly computer savvy. I manage. But when I thought about it, I realized we were both right.

While skill has little to do with my online efforts, serendipity has played a large part in leading me to water in the online world.

When I finished my novel Troll-magic, I discovered Dean Wesley Smith’s blog with all his marvelous information for the writer who wants to get her work out to readers.

When I was longing for a greener way to wrap gifts, I stumbled upon a video that showed how to wrap presents using cloth.

When I realized that our modern ideas about what comprises healthy eating were probably incorrect, I bumped into Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions.

There were more happy discoveries, but I’m not going to list them all now. 😀

So what’s my latest discovery?

The KonMari technique for tidying up.

I’ve always had a liking for books about organizing and de-cluttering. The first one I ever encountered remains one of my favorites: Clutter’s Last Stand by Don Aslett. It made me laugh out loud even while it inspired me. Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern was another good one. And Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui also had some good points, although I disagreed profoundly with some of the information presented.

With my penchant for books on de-cluttering, you might think I struggled with tidying and organizing, but for much of my adult life I didn’t. My home felt comfortable to me and not overburdened with things. I read the books for enjoyment and for inspiration when I embarked on one of my periodic pruning of the possessions.

But after my husband and I bought a house, the balance tipped. Our house had less storage than my previous living spaces. My parents asked me to take the boxes I’d been storing in their house. (They were generous to keep them for as long as they did.) And my book collection reached a size that overflowed our bookshelves.

Then we had kids. Then I experienced a long string of illnesses interspersed with injuries, during which housekeeping fell even further behind. And, and, and.

Twenty years down the pike, my home was cluttered, and even my own spaces within it were cluttered. Cluttered enough that I felt overwhelmed and stuck. I didn’t know where to start.

cluttered bureau surface

That was the unhappy state of Casa Ney-Grimm when I saw mention of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, on the monthly newsletter from LibraryThing. The title attracted me, and I poked around on the internet to learn more about it. I discovered oodles of videos while I waited for my turn at the copy in our local library. What I found inspired me.

I’d looked at a few new books on de-cluttering when I noticed how stuck I felt around the whole issue, but they seemed to merely re-hash all the stuff I already knew. I needed a fresh, new angle of approach to deal with my situation. Neither plain commonsense nor the old advice from experts was enough. Marie Kondo’s technique looked to be that new angle I needed. I decided to give it a try.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpWhat is Marie Kondo’s technique?

1 • Tidy by category, not by location
2 • Keep only those items which spark joy

I liked the first of those two instructions, because it was different from anything I’d heard before. And I needed something different. I’d always tidied and organized room by room. The bedroom. The living room. The kitchen. And so on. What might organizing by category be like? What categories would Kondo use?

The second instruction reminded me of the quote by William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I wasn’t convinced it would be helpful, but I was wrong. After I’d heard Marie Kondo speak (via a translator, since she is Japanese) and after I’d read her book, I realized that there was one detail that was critical to my success with instruction #2.

Hold each item in my hands and notice how my body feels.

If my body feels energized and light, the item “sparks joy” in Kondo’s vocabulary. That item is a keeper.

If my body has that slight (or not so slight) sinking sensation, then the item does not “spark joy.” It needs to go elsewhere.

The first instruction – tidying by category – also possessed more to it than I’d initially realized. Kondo not only recommends tidying by category, but tackling the categories in a specific order, from easiest to hardest. That way, you train your ability to discern which items “spark joy” and which do not.

What is her order?

1 • Clothing
2 • Books
3 • Papers
4 • Miscellany
5 • Memorabilia

With that information, I dove into my clothing. It was time to stop thinking and pondering, time to start doing.

Kondo recommends finding absolutely everything in your house in each category, placing it on the floor of one room (or on your bed), and going through it in one fell swoop.

I can see why she does. Most people say: “Wow! I didn’t realize quite how many clothes I owned!” Plus comparing how each of two dozen tops makes your body feel makes it really obvious which ones “spark joy” and which do not.

But I’ll confess that I didn’t follow her instructions to the letter. I started with the clothes in my wardrobe and my chest of drawers. I didn’t pull out the dresses stashed in the back corner of my daughter’s closet. I didn’t pull out the trunk of clothes buried in the eaves under the roof. I knew that if I wanted to get started NOW – and I did – I needed to go with what could be accessed easily.

So I went through my clothes, and it was easy.

I discovered two consistent mistakes that I’d made all the other times I’d de-cluttered in my life. It hadn’t mattered when I was younger and didn’t have as much stuff. But it was a heavy contributor to the clutter that built up later.

I’d tended to get confused about useful things. Using the “spark joy” criterion cut through my confusion and showed me what was really useful and what was not. In the past, I been keeping at least a few things that might be useful, but were not truly so, because I never did actually use them.

I’d also kept things that were beautiful, but that I didn’t love. I’d never realized that just because I found something beautiful didn’t mean I loved it. I’d always assumed the two things went together. For me, they do not.

Getting rid of three gigantic leaf bags of clothing that didn’t “spark joy” felt wonderful. Of course, I’d felt that particular relief before, but this time there was something else that I’d never felt before. Kondo had mentioned it in her book, but I’d not truly realized what it would be like.

tidy wardrobeWhen I open my wardrobe now, I see only clothing that I love.

I’d never had that experience before. Never.

Always, until this month, my closet included a few (or more than a few) garments that I didn’t love. Opening the wardrobe doors onto only clothes that I love feels really different. It’s energizing. I begin to see why Kondo says her method is life-changing. Imagine if my whole house – not just my wardrobe – produced this feeling! I hope to find out!

I also discovered that I really did have enough clothes, even when I kept only those I loved.

I’d wondered about that, and apparently I’m not alone. Many of Kondo’s clients have wondered the same. What I learned is that the reason I’d felt like I didn’t have enough clothes before I got rid of so many was that the clothes I loved were hidden by all the clothes I’d grown to hate. It’s a paradox. Now, with fewer clothes, that “not enough” feeling is gone. I have enough.

Imagine that feeling multiplied through the whole house!

Kondo also recommends folding clothes into neat rectangles that can be placed in a drawer the way a book is placed in a bookshelf. This allows you to see everything in the drawer at a glance. It allows more items to fit in the drawer. And it prevents items at the bottom of stacks from getting crushed and creased, because there are no stacks. (The photo at the top of this post shows one of my drawers with the clothes folded and placed in this way.)

I was so energized with my experience of KonMari-ing my clothes, that I wanted to go on.

The next category should have been books. But I hated looking at the messy top of my chest of drawers, when the interior was so wonderful. And most of the clutter was paper generated by doctors’ offices during my last two illnesses. I didn’t want to wait until I’d finished books and started on papers. I decided to do a little location-based de-cluttering and tackled both the nightstand by my bed and the top of the chest.

I put the papers in a pile on my coffee table in the living room and went through them all in one swoop. Most could be discarded – either recycled or shredded. I placed them in the appropriate bins. A few went into a medical file folder.

I placed all the items on my bed and then sorted them – holding each in my hands – into keep or toss (give away). Here is where my discernment of the difference between “might be useful” and “actually useful,” as well as the difference between “beautiful” and “loved,” made a huge difference. I tossed many useful and beautiful things and felt great about it, because I kept the things I really use and love.

KonMari keep & toss piles

I changed my mind about the fabric-covered box that I’d thought to keep. It was actually useful (to store my barrettes), but I didn’t love it. In fact, just looking at it produces that sinking feeling, so it definitely needs to go. I chose an old blue and white sugar bowl from the china closet to keep my barrettes instead.

I aimed for quick in my first stab at the KonMari technique, rather than perfect. I suspect I will need to fine-tune some of the work I’ve done. I know I’ll realize that some of the items I’ve kept really don’t “spark joy.” That’s okay. Kondo herself recommends doing it right and doing it once. But I’m comfortable with revisiting my work after I’ve done it. I don’t fear the dreaded “rebound.” Maybe because that doesn’t feel like my problem.

My problem has been getting out from under. And doing this quickly will get me out from under. Once I’m out from under, I won’t feel overwhelmed. I’ll be up for tackling a little fine-tuning and the correcting of any mistakes.

KonMari tidy bureau

My spot de-cluttering has worked so well, that I’m going to do a bit more. There’s a shelving unit in the living room that really belongs in the study. It’s slowly accumulated clutter while awaiting its transfer to the proper room. I’m going to de-clutter it next. It will surely need that before it can be moved anyway!

And then I’ll move on to books!

I plan to share how each of the different categories goes for me. Cheer me on! 😀

For more life-changers, see:
Writer’s Journey
Test First, Then Conclude!
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Great Soap & Etcetera Quest

 

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Why to Add a Lemon Rinse to Your Hair Care Routine

beautiful hairSome years ago I learned that the soaps and lotions and shampoos we moderns use can be nearly as harmful – over the long haul – as the cosmetics used by the ancient Egyptians or the Renaissance English and Europeans. I looked for safer alternatives. Finding them was quite a search. Many offered on the marketplace were just as bad or didn’t work or irritated my sensitive skin.

Eventually I found a handful of products that worked for me. (Discovering along the way that conventional products had been irritating my skin in a chronic, low level way that I thought was normal for me. It was not.)

But my hair was shorter then. As it’s grown to shoulder length, I’ve found myself wishing for some kind of conditioner. Not enough so as to take up another laborious search. More as a passing wish when I combed my hair.

I’m not really sure how I stumbled upon homemade lemon rinse. Something must have prompted me to do a little googling, but I no longer remember what it was. I bopped around a few websites, and what I learned made me decide to give it a try. Naturally I’m going to share my experience with you. 😀

First some basics.

A strand of hair has layers, sort of like an onion (or an ogre, if that ogre is Shrek). At the core is a pith or marrow that is light and airy. It occupies about one-third the diameter of the strand. Around it are rod-like bundles of keratin. And on the outside is the cuticle, a layer of flat, thin cells that overlap one another like roof shingles.

hair cross-section

Normal hair is somewhat acidic.

Substances that are acidic have a pH between 0 and 6.9. While those that are alkaline have a pH between 7.1 and 14. (A pH of 7 is neutral.) Human hair varies between 4.5 and 5.5.

This natural acidity of human hair prevents fungi and bacteria from growing on it. That’s critically important, obviously, but the acidity serves one other important function. When the hair strand has its proper acidity, the cells of its cuticle lie flat and tight, creating a smooth outer surface. When the hair is less acidic than it should be, the cuticle cells loosen and flap, creating a rough surface.

For this reason, a vinegar or lemon rinse serves as a beautiful conditioner.

Electron microscope scans of human hair

Reading about it, I wasn’t sure I believed it. It seemed to simple. Too easy. But I decided to try it.

I purchased some ReaLemon® juice and mixed 2 tablespoons of it with 1-1/2 cups water, and poured the solution into a ketchup dispenser.

homemade hair rinse(You need to dilute the lemon juice with water, because undiluted lemon juice is too acidic. You want a rinse that will put your hair right smack in the middle of its natural range.)

When I next washed my hair, after I’d rinsed out the hairwash under the shower, I poured my homemade lemon rinse over my tresses, gently working it into the strands and into my scalp (which should also be mildly acidic).

I was astounded to notice that my hair did indeed feel slippery, just like with using a conventional conditioner, except without that super gooey, gunky feeling. My hair felt slippery, but still clean. Once I was out of the shower, dry, and in my robe, I took a comb to my hair. And was delighted to have the comb slide through the strands easily. Yay! Total success!

ETA: I did rinse the lemon rinse out of my hair after I’d worked it in. You don’t want to simply hop out of the shower leaving the lemon in. Let it do its work of making the hair strands properly acidic and then rinse the lemon away.

That experiment was 6 months ago, and I’ve continued to be very pleased with the results of my lemon rinse. It works. Simple as that.

I do have one caution, if you decide to make your own lemon rinse experiment.

I like to keep my rinse right in the shower with my hairwash and soap. I can do so when I use ReaLemon® as my source for lemon, because it has preservatives in it. But one time I ran out of ReaLemon® and couldn’t find it at the grocery store. I purchased the type of lemon juice that must be kept refrigerated. After 3 days of sitting in my bathroom, my rinse had a nasty coating of mold floating on the top, and I had to throw it away.

So, if you prefer to avoid the preservatives (and I do in the food I eat, but I’m willing to suffer them in my hair rinse for the sake of convenience), keep your lemon rinse in the fridge, pull it out for your hair washing, and put it back after. 😀

For more about my hunt for safe and effective soaps and shampoos, see:
Great Soap & Etcetera Quest
Facial Soap Eureka

For more info about alternative hair care, see:
Kanelstrand.com

 

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How Is My Torn Retina Doing?

bad floatersMore than a month ago, I blogged about my torn retina and its repair. In that blog post, I promised to report back when I had more news on the success the repair. Did it work? Did my retina rip again? Would I get to keep the vision in my left eye?

The short answers? Yes. No. And, so far, so good!

I saw my ophthalmologist two weeks ago, and he was really pleased. He said the cryo repair was one of the best looking he’d ever seen. He also said that the gas bubble (injected to stabilize the repair) was nearly gone, dissipating as expected. Which meant that I could sleep on either my left side or my right side. But not on my back.

If I slept on my back, the bubble would float up to bump my eye’s lens and damage it.

This was all fantastic news. The repair had “taken.” I’m still at an increased risk for another retinal tear, because once you’ve had one, having another is more likely. But it’s unlikely that the cryopexy itself would cause a tear. At this point, the eye simply needs to finish healing (which will take another couple of months), and all is well.

Being able to turn over was also fantastic news. It turns out that my body does not do well when it has to stay in one position all night long. I would wake up after about five hours of sleep with my left hip in agony. I simply had to change position.

Since I couldn’t turn over, I had to get up. Two months of only five hours of sleep each night meant I was very, very tired. And cranky. And grumpy. I couldn’t take naps because my hip joint needed a full day to recover, so that it wouldn’t still be hurting when it was time to go to sleep again. Being able to turn over helped. A lot. But not quite as much as I’d hoped.

Turns out I generally do a lot more sleeping on my back than I’d realized. Sleeping only on my left or right sides meant that my hip didn’t hurt as much and that I woke after six hours of sleep instead of five.

But about a week ago, the bubble in my eye, which had appeared as a round purple circle at the bottom of my vision, and which had been getting steadily smaller and smaller, disappeared altogether. It was gone! Which meant I could sleep however I wished.

That first night of sleeping freely was glorious! Glorious, I tell you! 😀

However, there remains one plaguing difficulty. All the spots of blood in my eye from the cryopexy have turned into floaters. The floaters from the original retinal tear no longer remained after the cryopexy. And the blood specks, while clearly visible, were tiny with lots of clear vision between them.

The current crop of floaters covers almost all of my central vision and is fairly dense. I can see through it. I have no problem walking around my house now. (I had been bumping into doorways when my left eye was too painful to open.) But I don’t think it would be a good idea to get behind the wheel of a car. And detail work is very challenging.

As you might guess from the photo at the beginning of this post, reading is a strain. I can and have been reading, but I have to blink a lot and squint.

I’ve also been working in Photoshop to create floor plans for the tower citadel in my work-in-progress, Tally the Betrayals. And, phew! Seeing the ruler markings at the edges of the Photoshop file is really hard.

So my eye is healing well, but all is not yet heavenly at Casa Ney-Grimm. I am supremely grateful that I can see, but January and February have been hard. And, so far, March is not great either. I trust I shall make it through this siege, but any prayers or healing vibes or good wishes you can spare for me would be much appreciated!

 

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My Torn Retina

On a Thursday afternoon, I’d just arrived in northern Virginia to attend a memorial service. As I washed my hands in the restroom, I noticed three black dots floating along the upper left field of my vision.

What?

black lace scarf

For a moment I thought I’d moved the scarf of black lace from my neck to my head, and that the fringe of lace on the scarf’s edge had drooped too low. I touched my fingers to my collarbones. No, the scarf was at my neck.

What?

Human eye, cross-sectional view, grayscaleThen I knew. These were floaters: not the filmy gray spots that I’d occasionally experienced before, but more concentrated versions of the same thing. Floaters drift in the vitreous humour, the gel that fills the eye, and cast shadows on the retina, the part of the eye that transmits light signals to the brain.

The fact that these new ones were solid black, not gauzy gray, worried me. But I was a 2-hour drive from home and I had a service to attend. After making a commitment to see my optometrist first thing the next morning, I turned my attention to my immediate obligations.

The floaters did not worsen over the afternoon, and I arrived home safely at 7 in the evening.

Dusk had turned to night while I drove, and it was only when I stepped into the light of my living room that I saw I had a new symptom: a flashing light that varied in color, sometimes red, sometimes yellow, most often blue.

flashing lights

My heart started to thump with fear. I knew this was not a good development. I checked online. Yup. A sudden increase or change in floaters combined with flashing light was a potential sign of a torn or detached retina. It could lead to blindness in 2 or 3 days, and the online sites recommended that one treat it as an emergency.

I went to the emergency room.

There I was diagnosed with a torn vitreous in my left eye. I’m still not entirely sure what a torn vitreous is. They didn’t explain it well at the ER. But I gathered that it was expected to heal on its own and that it did not threaten blindness. Researching after the fact, I found that the National Eye Institute has this to say about it:

“Most of the eye’s interior is filled with vitreous, a gel-like substance that helps the eye maintain a round shape. There are millions of fine fibers intertwined within the vitreous that are attached to the surface of the retina, the eye’s light-sensitive tissue. As we age, the vitreous slowly shrinks, and these fine fibers pull on the retinal surface. Usually the fibers break, allowing the vitreous to separate and shrink from the retina. This is a vitreous detachment.

“In most cases, a vitreous detachment, also known as a posterior vitreous detachment, is not sight-threatening and requires no treatment.”

The only bad part? While my eye healed, I was at increased risk for a retinal tear.

Still, good news. I went home with instructions to come back if my symptoms worsened.

Of course, you know what happened.

All of Friday, my symptoms lessened. The three black spots grew smaller and then disappeared altogether. The flashing light flashed less often. I kept my fingers crossed. I really didn’t want anything bad to happen to my retina. My eyesight is absolutely precious to me. I didn’t want to be blind in one eye. Please, please, please!

Just before I went to bed in the wee smalls of Saturday (1 AM), a sudden cascade of floaters appeared in my left eye, more than I’d ever seen before. But they were gray, not black. So what did this mean? I’d already had one false alarm. Was this another? What should I do? Go to the ER again?

grey veil of floaters

I should have gone to the ER.

I didn’t.

When I woke up the next day, the veil of gray floaters remained, and the flashing lights had changed to a solid peninsula of dark gray that sometimes blinked out to a medium gray or a light gray.

flashing gray spot

Uh, oh!

I went to the ER, where they diagnosed me with a torn retina.

I had an immediate procedure to repair the tear: not surgery, but a cryofreeze “stitching” of the torn piece back onto the rest of the retina. It was painful, but I’d do it again if I had to, because this way I get two chances to keep the vision in my left eye. If the cryofreeze procedure fails, I still have the surgery option.

But… hoo boy!

I’d feared the numbing shot to my eye. Turns out that is nothing to worry about. They numb your eye first with very effective drops, and you look up when it’s time for the shot. The needle goes into the lower white of the eye where you can’t see it. And it feels like a momentary speck of dust in the eye. Not bad at all.

But the cryofreezing involved the insertion of a probe between my eyeball and the eye socket. The probe was then pushed quite far in, which was uncomfortable and unnerving. Your body just knows that nothing belongs in that space but your eye! But the numbing drops and the numbing injection kept it from being acutely painful. It was bearable. Just.

Once the freeze was instituted on the probe though… ouch! Bearable, but only barely. If only my retina hadn’t needed so much “stitching.” The doctor must have inserted that probe thirty times or more, and with each insertion I tired a little more, lost my ability to bear up a little more. The last 6 insertions were almost unbearable.

I hope I don’t ever have to go through it again, because it would be a lot harder with foreknowledge. I would want to do it (if necessary) to save my vision. And I would dread the discomfort and pain.

By the time my doctor injected a bubble into my eye – to stabilize the “stitching” – I no longer cared about unnerving and uncomfortable experiences. This time the needle went straight into the seeing part of my eye, and I almost didn’t mind, because it didn’t hurt!

My ordeal wasn’t quite done. My eyeball had suffered an abrasion during the procedure. This is common, but a scratch on the eye is one of the most painful kinds of pain. I’m not sure why my doctor sent me home with instructions to take 2 tylenol. I landed in the ER one more time, because I couldn’t take the pain.

They tried to control the pain with oxycodon, which didn’t even touch it. A shot of morphine finally took my pain level down from a 10 out of 10 to a 7 out of 10.

Fortunately, abrasions on the eye heal quickly. The pain subsided rapidly, was well controlled at home with the prescribed pain meds, and was gone altogether 3 days later.

I learned how to sleep sitting up (necessary to keep the gas bubble positioned properly over the repair to my retina). I developed stamina for reading with one eye. (My sight in the left eye remains blurry as I type this post, and the eye itself is too sensitive to keep it open.)

My first check-up occurred 12 hours after the cryo-procedure, and my docotor decided to reinforce the cryo-stitching with a little laser-stitching, which was uncomfortable only because of that abrasion.

My second check-up 2 days later, and my third, a week later, showed the repair to be holding perfectly. Yay! I received permission to sleep lying down on my left side after the fourth check-up.

I got incredibly tired of sleeping sitting up, and I thought sleeping lying down on my left side would be wonderful. It wasn’t as great as I’d thought. I didn’t realize how much I changed position while sleeping. Keeping to one position while sleeping is uncomfortable, but I’m managing.

I even hope I might be able to resume work on Tally the Betrayals (a Lodestone Tale) next week. I want to! I miss writing! But the aftermath of the cryopexy (as I believe the procedure is called) is not for sissies! So… one day at a time.

I won’t be sure that my retina won’t rip (a risk of cryopexy) somewhere else until my fifth check-up, at the end of February, but I am cautiously optimistic.

If you’re the praying type, I’d appreciate your prayers. (Even a hint that I could be permanently blind in one eye scares me silly.) If you’re the type who sends healing vibes, I’d love those, too. And if you prefer to simply wish me well, I’m down for that also. 😀

I’ll report back after my next check up.

 

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A Question for International Visitors

I’ve started using a “universal” link for the Amazon store. When you click on the link, it will direct you to the Amazon store that serves the country where you live. In theory.

What I want to know is this: does it do so in practice?

NASA image of the world

Why did I make this change?

As time passes, readers in more and more countries are finding my books and buying them. I was providing links to the Amazon store in each country where readers were finding my work. When this was a matter of 4 or 5 or even 8 different store fronts, that method made sense.

But now that I need to include links for 10 of the 13 Amazon stores, I suspect that picking through the long list of links is a pain for anyone who uses an Amazon that isn’t the first one on the list (Amazon.com) or the last one (Amazon UK).

I want finding and clicking a link to be super easy.

BUT…if the universal link does not work properly, then it is no good at all.

I know it works beautifully in the US. That’s where I live, so I can test it.

But does it work in the UK? Does it work in France? What about Germany? Or Japan?

If you buy your books from an Amazon other than Amazon.com, I’d love it if you’d try out the universal Amazon link on one of my books, note whether or not it directs you to the correct store, and then post a comment here to tell me what happened.

(Or email me – j dot neygrimm at yahoo dot com.)

All the links in this post – except two – are universal links to my books, so you can just click one. 😉

I’ll be so very grateful!

😀

Thank you!

 

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