Jennifer Brozek | All posts tagged 'Misc'

"Benign"

Life has been interesting in the most complex sense of the word. The medical stuff I’ve been dealing with for the last six weeks has cumulated in the word: benign. It means, in a medical sense, “Not harmful in effect.”


Once you turn fifty, a whole lot of extra medical checks happen. This meant my body was looked at with more rigor…and will continue to be looked at for various and sundry things. (After this first set, I had to take a break. Did you know, after 50, all people should get a colonoscopy? Yeah.) The worst thing a doctor can say is, “Uh, that’s odd.”


That’s what happened to me in two places. Both required biopsies and needles. Breast and neck. Neither fun. But as I said, benign. Except there was still a suspect mass in my breast. That required surgery to remove—more in a preventative measure than not because abnormal and malignant cells have a higher tendency to grow in the type of mass I had. It was also benign.


The worst (then best) thing that happened was the thought that I would lose my thyroid. That was the initial recommendation. However, after the biopsies (needles in the neck) and “benign,” the doctor walked back her initial assessment and decided on a wait-and-see approach. Ultrasound in a year. No meds. No surgery. No nothing.


I’m really happy about this. Believe me, I am. However, I feel a bit like someone who has studied hard for a final only to discover that the professor cancelled it at the last minute. No one wants to do a final, but darn it, I did the work! I studied. (I mourned the potential loss of a part of me and worried about the future.) I did all the emotional investment.


Benign.


The more I think about it, the happier I get. Even if I feel like I got contracted to write a story, started it, then had the contract pulled for no fault of my own. The story’s not done. I still got the kill fee. Mildly incomplete but getting over it fast. That story may not be done but there are many other stories to write.


So, that’s been my last few weeks or so. There’s other stuff going on. Sad and scary and happy all at the same time. 2021 is not a year I will forget, but at least, for now, it is benign.

It's Not Ideal But It's Not Terrible

Generally, if I’m silent on my blog, it’s because something major is going on in my life and I am distracted by it. This is so true. Whoever is writing my life right now needs an editor, because if I wrote what I’m experiencing (many things, all bunching up—kinda like deadlines), my own editor would tell me to dial it back and spread the excitement out.

Some of it has been personal, some of it legal, some of it professional, some of it medical. I’m not going to go into detail on any of it. At least, not yet. The excitement that’s good is wonderful. Seriously. The excitement that is not good is…well, my sister and I have a saying these days: “It’s not ideal, but it’s not terrible.” This has been our mantra for 2021.

Aside: You know, I used to think 2020 was a bad year. It wasn’t. It was the equivalent of being grounded on date night—seems like the end of the world when you are experiencing it but in retrospect, it wasn’t. 2021 is a bad year. It’s been the equivalent of having your shins kicked while you’re already down. I don’t like it.

Much of the personal excitement is already done and over with or was a false start to begin with. Some of it I am now going through. Especially the medical. Nothing mortal, but nothing fun. I may end up with scars—emotional and physical. When it is all said and done, I’ll talk about it. What it does mean now is that my attention span is short and my thoughts are distracted.

In the meantime, I’m working on my newest Shadowrun novel: Elfin Black, starring Elfin John (from “Dark Side Matters”) and a previous protagonist, Imre Dahl (From Makeda Red). A couple of characters from my YA novellas will also be making an appearance. All of this is making me very happy. It’s nice to be distracted by a handsome pair of fictional characters who will get along like a house on fire once they meet up. Of course, I’ve had an inkling of what my next Shadowrun YA novella will be about. Thus, it is threatening to eat my brain while I work on Elfin Black. Isn’t it always the way?

Well Laid Plans and Empty Frames

I’ve been home from NC for a couple of days and I can feel a screaming hissy fit of grief just waiting in the wings for its time to come. Grief is hard. Grief is malleable. This grief is different from the grief I felt with my father. I got to say good-bye to Dad over Memorial Day weekend 2019 and though he didn’t die until Aug 19, 2019, I mourned my loss that whole time.

Mom’s death was different. Yes, there were signs that she’d been slowing down since the beginning of the year—too tired to talk for long and arthritis preventing her from typing. But she had fifteen days from the time she told my sister she was in pain to the time of her death. In that fifteen days, she spent seven of them in the hospital, six of them at home, and then a final two days (really more like one-and-a-half) in the hospital. Hospice got mentioned, but before the morning came, Mom was gone.

As much as I miss my Mom, I am thankful she spent much less time in pain than my father did and she passed away peacefully in her sleep.

Now, we are left with Mom’s estate and all the responsibilities therein. All I can say is that I’m so grateful that my parents sat all the kids (no spouses) down at a reunion about ten years ago and told us what their end of life plans were. What they wanted, who the executor was, what they didn’t want, which funeral home they’d already bought a plan with for a cremation and ashes scattered. They had everything set up and laid out. Neither of them was sick or even hurting at the time, but both were in their mid-60s and had the lay of the land. And I am so thankful. There was no fighting amongst the siblings. All of us knew what was what because of this past conversation. It made one thing (in an ocean of things) easier.

But I’ve got to tell you, going through Mom’s house and trying to decide what to take and what to auction off was an emotional roller-coaster. How could saying “No” to something feel like a betrayal while at the same time, saying “Yes” to something else felt like stealing from my mother? And yet, both were true.


 

We made the family decision that family pictures not chosen by any of the family members were going to be destroyed. We did not want our personal memories turned into stock photos and idle curiosities for the future. That meant we had to take all the photos out of the frames in anticipation of the estate auctioneers who would be coming by the next week. What we were left with was the perfect metaphor for the holes in our lives now that both parents were gone. Yes, someday those holes will become windows to our memories but for now…they hurt.

There is so much left to do and most of it falls on my sister’s shoulders. She’s the executor and she lives in the area. The estate lawyer is good and kind (and was very surprised at my parents’ foresight and forethought, taking care of their own funeral plans), but it is all still very complicated. Even though my sister and I spent a concentrated 2.5 weeks back in November 2019 decluttering the house and then she spent much of 2020 continuing to help improve/paint/redecorate the house.

The most poignant for me was the guest room the Husband and I stayed in, She created that for me and my brother and our spouses. It was beautiful. I’m still so sad I wasn’t able to stay there while she was still alive.

I’m going to end this now because I’ve lost the thread of my thoughts just looking at that picture. That happens so often these days. Grief overwhelms and I lose myself to it. 

One Year Gone

A year ago today, I arrived home from the 2020 Rainforest Writers Retreat to discover that I had missed most of the texts the Husband had sent me about the sudden change in our immediate world. One of the benefits to the Rainforest Writers Retreat is it’s almost total lack of internet connection. It’s a wonderful writing retreat on the shores of Lake Quinault. Last year, there was even less internet than normal and my only warning that my world was about to change was a confusing message from the Husband that he needed to clean out his office frig.

Little did I know that that was the last writing related thing I was going to be able to do in the flesh until…well, who knows. By the time I got home, the Husband had been sent to “work from home until March 25th.” (They were so optimistic back then.) It’s been a year and every convention I am scheduled to be part of this year is already virtual (again) or is in the process of making that decision.

In the last year, I have not left the house except to grocery shop (ave of 2x/month), to see the two friends in my bubble (again, average of 2x/month), and once, in October, a socially distanced, quarantined trip to Lake Quinault for the Husband’s birthday where we brought all our food and stayed in a cabin in the woods. No eating out—then or this year. We have done our best to help local restaurants stay in business by ordering takeout and 90% of those, the Husband picked up. If I was there, I didn’t leave the car.

Sometimes we drive around just to see something new. We never leave the car. It’s not safe.

I own so many masks and so much sanitizer. I’ve been good about social distancing and masks. I’ve done everything we (all) were supposed to do. And even I wasn’t as strict as some of my immunocompromised friends. Some of them haven’t left their house at all, have had all their stuff delivered. And when people grumble about going “back” into lockdown quarantine, I realize that my version of lockdown quarantine has been VERY different than that of other people.

Birthday parties. Holiday parties. Football parties. Vacations to busy beaches or crowded attractions.

All the things I didn’t do because I complied. I would be irritated if it weren’t for the death of my Mom. Now, I’m angry. So very angry. It’s something I will never forget or forgive. I have lost faith in a lot of people.

One year gone and I have so much to mourn. Just like so many other people who lost friends, family, and co-workers to the pandemic. There are so many things I miss. Conventions, coffee shops, browsing at stores, walking by the lake without being concerned how close people are and whether or not they are wearing their masks properly (over your damn nose!).

Soon, I’m going to take a flight to bury my Mom and help my sister with as much as I can while I am there. She needs me and I need to be there. The Husband mentioned today that we both needed to be prepared to have to rush to a strange hospital, in another state, to get covid tests and if they come up positive for either of us, to remain in quarantine in my Mom’s house.

The thought upsets me. I was prepared to do a very hard lockdown for 14 days once we got home. We even packed the freezer full of food. I wasn’t prepared for that while traveling. Now I have to be. It’ll make packing a little more difficult. I was going to pack very light. Now, I have to consider what I will need to pack if I’m gone longer than expected. I’m still a freelancer and I have a job (or three) to do.

The only thing that I really am grateful for in this last year is my new appreciation of this house. The house is big enough that both the Husband and I have our own offices away from each other. Nothing is broken. Nothing is leaking. I have a lovely backyard. I have room. It’s more than many people have and I’m aware how lucky I am. We will never look at buying another house without considering what it would be like to live in lockdown within it.

One year gone. I hope to heaven that it’s not going to be two. If all goes well in my State, I will be eligible for the first round of vaccines in mid-April. I can’t wait.

RIP Sigrid Brozek

Mom died yesterday. Born: 3 Mar 1946. Died: 28 Feb 2021. She was almost 75 years old. She died from chronic and acute respiratory failure complicated by pneumonia and septic shock. It was a very quick decline. She was admitted to the hospital on Feb 13, stayed there for seven days, was home for six days where things continued to decline, and was admitted to the hospital on the 27th. She died in her sleep with my sister at her side on the 28th. It was as peaceful as it could be. Her heart slowed then stopped.

I am grateful my sister was there and was able to keep me and my brother informed. Grateful she was able to pass on our desperate “Tell Mom I love her”s. Grateful for the message back: “Mom said to say she loves you both as well.”

In truth, Mom has been declining since the new year. Hindsight is 20/20. She was more tired. Her arthritis prevented her from typing as much. Her calls were short and her DMs and emails shorter.  It’s just over 18 months since Dad died. Over and over, Mom said the second year after Dad’s death was not as painful, but it was harder. My sister and I believe it’s because she was less numb.

I’m sitting here with a mess of emotions. Gratitude wars with rage and which is winning depends on the wind and a blink of an eye. The ping-pong of grief is about the size of a beach ball.

I’m so grateful that I got to have a good last trip in Nov 2019. We spent a couple of weeks bonding and getting to know each other once more. But she wanted to see me and the Husband again in 2020, because she didn’t know the Husband as well as she’d like to. She even set up the backroom specifically so it would be comfortable for couples....

But I didn’t go because I was being good and staying home like I was supposed to during the pandemic…

And I’m so angry that all the while there were people still going on fucking vacation to Hawaii or Las Vegas or whatever. Still spreading CoVid. I didn’t get to have that one last good trip when my Mom wasn’t grieving so much at the loss of Dad. And now the Husband is grieving because he liked my Mom, but couldn’t make it out in 2019 and now he will never have that chance.

But I’m grateful Mom had a fast decline rather than suffering. Grateful for her and Shannon. Grateful it was painless and she died in her sleep with gentle dignity and great faith.

Lather, rinse, repeat. So much anger. So much more gratitude.

Now I will fly across the country, wearing a KN95 the whole way (like I wouldn’t do before) to bury my mother. I will spend time with my sister and do whatever I can to help her because she needs me. And I will continue to be both grateful and angry, and no, there is nothing anyone can do to help me.

2020 was a bastard of a year. I just didn’t realize how much until this week. These scars are going to last a long, long time.

 

Construction and Deconstruction

January was a month and a half. It felt a lot like the 13th month of 2020. Now that we’re into February, it’s starting to feel like 2021. Which is to say, time is moving again. Things are happening. While some of it is painful, all of it appears to be good.

Most of January was focused on slush reading and editing of 99 Tiny Terrors. Also on reading everything for The Reinvented Heart which I’m editing with Cat Rambo. On top of that, my house has been under construction.

We’ve had a gas fireplace that hasn’t really worked in two years. Since we did no travel last year, that money got earmarked for a new fireplace with updated tile and mantle. That was so (like the bathrooms) we can enjoy the home improvements before we (someday, projected to be 2025) sell this house since we know the things we’ve fixed/are fixing/will fix are things that need to be done to get the house sellable.

A simple renovation.

Nope. Cue: dry rot. Now, the Husband suspected some dry rot where the tile had been broken. He did not suspect half of the chimney had dry rot from blocked gutters that had been improperly replaced after the house was painted and thus tilted towards the chimney. So… I had holes in my house for days. It was most disturbing.

Things are better now. Not done. The week long reno has turned into two weeks, but the designer we hired has been awesome. He looked at the problem, worked on it, and had a solution and a plan within hours. We chose the right guy.

I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to having the house back. All of the dining room furniture is in the library nook or down in the family room. We’ve had to lock up the cats this whole time while the workers have been here—they are NOT pleased and have let us know this. Also, we’ve had to wear masks inside the house for everyone’s safety. None of this is fun, but we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

In the meantime, one of the shelves in the family room holding some game books and all my graphic novels gave up the ghost and collapsed. We can put the blame squarely on The Dark Tower omnibus set and all of the Sandman graphic novels I have. That was added excitement we did not need. New, stronger wall brackets are on the way and I need to declutter some of those books. Still, lemonade out of lemons: it amuses me that Stephen King and Neil Gaiman murdered my shelf bracket.

Looking forward, I’ll be shifting from mere editing to actual anthology construction. It’s one of my favorite parts of the process; seeing a project become more than the sum of its parts. Also, I have some cool news to share on the publishing front when the contracts are signed. Plus, there’s potential awesomeness on the horizon.

I have a lot to look forward to in the next couple of months.

Update on Fantasy Jenn Feb 2020

2020 is the year of attempting to turn Fantasy Jenn in to Reality Jenn. That means picking up habits, traits, and/or skills that I wish I could/would do. There’s two things I decided on for Jan/Feb: remember to take apple cider vinegar every day (for leg cramps and all the other health benefits) and no eating/drinking after 8pm (stomach reasons).

How’s it going?

Honestly, not bad. The ACV thing is nasty but helpful. There was a 10 day period where I didn’t have any ACV left and I was lazy/forgetful to get more. After 10 days, my toe/leg cramps at night came back. After one particularly unpleasant evening, I ordered some on Amazon and had it the next day. No more cramps. I have no idea why it works, I just know that it does.

As for not eating or drinking (even water) after 8pm, this has made a world of difference for my acid reflux. I think one time in the last two months, I ignored this. I was particularly thirsty and drank a cup of water after 9pm…and I regretted the crap out of that. Not drinking even water isn’t fun. I like to sip my drinks. I’m debating a 7:30 alarm to remind myself and drinking a cup of water then so I don’t get thirsty later. We’ll see if I add that to my routine.

What’s next?

The next two months is going to be focused on adding in more regular exercise and moving more in general. I do play Beat Saber on a semi-regular basis. I just need to make it more consistent. Along with taking a walk at least three times a week. Either on the treadmill or around the neighborhood. Finally, my niece is studying to become a physical therapist. She mentioned to my sister that all you need to do to is stretch 30 seconds a day to get more flexible. I think I’m going to add in daily stretching with the goal of being able to: first, touch my toes; second, touch my knuckles to the floor; third, palms on the floor.

All this means I need to actually add stretching and exercise to my weekly schedule and not ignore it because I’m feeling lazy. Easier said than done. But, that’s what working on Fantasy Jenn is all about. 

Here's a picture of Isis. Just because.

 

 

The Case of the Mysterious Ottoman

I love the fact that I am often the person my friends think of first when they have something odd happen or a mystery occur. They know I make stories out of everything and appreciate it when they do the same. Thus, I present: The Case of the Mysterious Ottoman.

Friend: I have a mystery and it can only mean my life is about to become an action movie.

Me: Do tell!

Friend: Okay. So this is an ottoman. A designer one from what my googling has turned up. It arrived at my house today, addressed (correctly) to me. But I didn’t order it.

Me: Huh. If this were an action movie, the secret would be hidden inside.

Friend: A few years ago, I got a GoPro addressed to me. Turned out my card was used to buy it. So I checked all my accounts, but I didn’t find anything amiss. I do have a packing slip, again, with my name.

Me: I have heard that scammers will buy things on stolen credit cards and send things to people, then “return them” for cash or for payment on a different credit card. Have you checked your bank, your cards, and your Paypal?

Friend: Yes. This came via an import company in Florida.

Me: What about recent purchases on your Amazon account or Costco account? One of those could be compromised.

Friend: Hadn’t looked there. Just at my money places.

Me: BTW, very nice ottoman.

Friend: Is that sarcastic?

Me: No… it’s a very nice ottoman. Whoever did it has good taste. And makes me think it is a buy and return scam.

Friend: Yeah. I don’t know. Or…it’s packed with heroin or forged bonds or diamonds and someone will be by for it later.

Me: Did you check Amazon?

Friend: Yes. Not there.

Me: Right. I suppose you could ping your parents and find out if it is a gift.

Friend: Wasn’t them. Already called them. I found one website that listed a price and I don’t know anyone who would spend that much money on an unsolicited ottoman for me.

Me: How much?

Friend: $$$$.$$

Me: Damn. What does your husband think?

Friend: That it’s hideous. LOL. And that we have bullets if someone comes for it. I figure we can keep it for a couple of days in case the mystery is solved, but if you like it, you can have it if nobody claims it. We really don’t have room for it anywhere. BUT, I’m fully embracing the action movie explanation.

Me: Okay. I would like it. I’ve got the perfect place for it. But, once you give it to me, I become the protagonist…and you show the audience how good the assassin is.

Friend: Hahahaha. Anyway, I thought you’d enjoy the mystery, although I didn’t expect to find a home for the thing.

Me: I did enjoy it, and you’re welcome.

Friend: The fact that you’re so keen on getting it makes us suspicious that you’re after the diamonds.

Me: Maybe I’m just protecting you guys. Also, I’m so writing about this in a blog post.

I think the ottoman is very pretty, and it matches the curtains perfectly. I do have to cover it with a blanket or the cats will scratch it. For the record, I’ve picked the ottoman up and turned it over. I’ve discovered that the cover is velcro’d on and can be removed to be washed or changed out for a different cover. There were no diamonds. No noise when I moved it around and it is too light to have drugs. So, if there’s something hidden in it, it will stay hidden. 

But if me and the Husband disappear…look to the ottoman.

 

Author by the Sea

After my father’s illness and death and my stalling on my novel-in-progress, I decided I needed a personal writing retreat—both for the writing and the retreating from normal life. A reset point. I do my best recharging by the ocean. It fills me and lets me rest. I kept a journal while I was there.

Day 1: Thursday
This is the first time in my life I’ve taken a vacation by myself for myself. I’ve traveled alone before, but my destination always included meeting up with someone. Whether it was for a convention or a writing retreat, I was never actually alone. I feel a little weird about this. but not bad.

Now that I’ve given myself permission to grieve, to cry, I have no tears and I don’t know why not.

Wandering through a hotel in the middle of the week as the hotel transitions into the off-season reminds me of the Alhambra hotel from THE TALISMAN, the novel by King and Straub. There’s no one around, long empty corridors, and services are limited.

Day 2: Friday
I’ve learned that I need more than a view of the ocean. My dream oceanside home will be close to the shore or on the shore and up high (on a bluff/above the 6th floor of a condo building). I like the hotel I’m in but it’s not close enough to the shoreline for me.

I made the tactical error of not bringing a sweater. Always bring a sweater with you to the ocean. There is always a breeze and it’s usually cold.

Faced my fear and went out to have a meal at one of my favorite restaurants by myself. I was going to get it to go then decided it was silly to not eat there, enjoying the place. Facing one’s fear is hard.

Day 3: Saturday
The words are returning—slowly, haltingly, like learning to walk again. So are the random story ideas. Of course, this random story idea involves a haunted hotel, but not exactly in the normal way.

Another tactical error on my part was forgetting the binoculars. I’m too far away from the shoreline to really get a good look at the kites, flying go carts, and boats on the water. Must remember for next time.

Definitely the off-season now. Limited menus and no lunch service. Good thing I packed food for all breakfasts and lunches.

Day 4: Sunday
I’ve figured out that I can write or not-write just as well at home, but it’s the solitude I’ve needed. I’m not done crying, but I think the worst of it is over. I’ve now written more in the past 2 days than in the past 3 weeks.

I miss my Husband and kitties. I miss the Husband’s cooking. I miss my bed. I’m ready to be home.

Day 5: Monday
I’ve decided to go home a day early. I can write or not-write just as well at home, and I am writing again. So, mission accomplished.

6 days is too long. 5 is long enough. Controlled solitude is healing. I think this has been a good learning vacation. Maybe I’ll do one again next year. Just closer to the ocean shore.

 

Relearning the Same Lesson Over and Over

Back in August 2018, I decided to change my diet to see if everything I’d been hearing about wheat’s effect on joints and the stomach was true. I cut wheat from my diet. I tapered it off, then cut it out altogether. Much to my surprise, my knees stopped hurting when I took the stairs and my gastric reflux disappeared. I still have some acid tummy problems but nowhere near what it was. I also cut sugar from my diet because it gave me headaches.

For me, a lifestyle change means, “I don’t (usually) eat X.” If I really want it, I can have it, but it needs to be a special occasion or an unusual circumstance. For the first time in a long time, I really need to consider food on “indulgence” days because, now, if I eat wheat, my knees ache for 2-3 days after the indulgence and sugar headaches really depend on what else I’ve eaten.

I love bread and chocolate and ice cream, but they really need to be a rare thing. My sweet tooth is all but gone. I share sweet things because a little goes a LONG way. As for bread/wheat indulgences, I seem to need to relearn my lesson about once a month. “It isn’t that bad, is it?” Yes. Yes, it is. When standing up from a writing session hurts and my whole body is achy, I wonder why I need to relearn this lesson over and over. And part of me wonders if this is why I have had sore muscles and bad knees for most of my life.

It’s a hard lesson to learn that food I love the taste of hurts my body so much. I’m getting better at turning down pastries and, if I indulge, sticking to gluten-free options. Though, it is the choice of gluten free and an acid tummy, or sticking to my normal diet. I think I’m at about 50-50 right now and I just know to take something for my stomach in prep for the indulgence.

All this makes travel for conventions that much more exciting and inconvenient. I can’t just go get a burger and call it good. I need a burger without a bun and a way to eat it that doesn’t interfere with being on panels or at my dealers table. In general, we try to stick to gluten-free while traveling. Gluten won’t kill either of us, but it will make the Husband’s asthma act up and me hurt. Not something either of us wants while traveling. Family visits are less complex because both families have been informed of what we can and can’t eat.

Human bodies are complicated. Right now, I’m learning what that means and relearning lessons over and over. At least now, it’s like my parents taught me: Always consider whether or not the punishment is worth the crime. Critical thought is important. If you decide it is, then take your fate into your hands and go for it.

Just some thoughts I’ve been noodling over after date-night with the Husband. (And yes, it was so worth it.)