Thursday, December 21st, 2017
May your next year be bright and happy and full of light and joy.
Art by Helen Suzanne
Wednesday, December 13th, 2017
Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy Day!
In honor of the season, I am going to giveaway a $50 Amazon card. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by December 31st.
Thank you all for your support and for reading my books. I’m so very grateful to have readers like you. I wish I could send all of you something. Wait! I can! Just for you, a short story that’s a little silly, but very fun.
Also, if you’re feeling generous and kind, please leave a review of any/all of my books on Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, or whichever other place you might be inclined to do.
ETA: I’ll announce the winner on my blog, on my FB page, on Twitter, and send out the newsletter. After I announce, you’ll have a week to respond, or I’ll have to choose another name. So check back here or keep your eye out. I will announce shortly after the New Years.
Tuesday, December 12th, 2017
I feel pretty good right now, except for being itchy. I’ve had some sort of allergic reaction and have hives on my stomach and sides and they itch like crazy. I also had a weird possible allergic, possible infection around all of my incisions. My doc put me on antibiotics, which has helped, or else the allergy is receding. Hard to say. I’ve also had a little bit of a skin yeast infection that doesn’t want to go away. I’m not sure why it’s happening, but it doesn’t want to leave, despite medication and various topical applications.
I’ve lost about 13 pounds in the last two weeks. It’s very strange. I eat about 500 calories a day, give or take. I’m usually not hungry. Tomorrow I’m hoping to get off the thick liquid diet and onto soft foods. I expect that’s what I’ll be doing. I’ve also been trying to get my exercise. Unfortunately, my knitting has given me ‘knitter’s elbow’ which is the same as tennis and golf elbows. I’m supposed to not knit and not use the elbow for awhile and ice. I still need to finish a few projects, but hopefully they’ll be quick to finish and then I’ll be able to rest it.
Overall feeling pretty good. Getting in all my protein and fluids, as I’m supposed to be at this stage. As my stomach heals inside, I’ll be able to eat a bigger variety and get back to salads, which I miss.
Finally getting around to watching Star Wars: Rogue One. Not far into it yet, but so far liking it. Next I have to watch the prequel to The Last Jedi, which is the Force Awakens. Yeah, I know. I’m way behind. Haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy 2, either.
I haven’t been as tired as I expected and as predicted post-surgery, but I haven’t been terribly focused either. Working on that. I managed to get some work done yesterday, though. That was good.
Tomorrow it’s off to the doctors for my second week checkup. Then hopefully get some final Xmas shopping done. My family still doesn’t want me driving. Hopefully I’m cleared for that tomorrow. My son has been chauffeuring me. He’s very sweet and doesn’t complain about it at all.
I read a really good book by Alysa Day that I need to review for you.
Sunday, December 10th, 2017
I’ve decided to publicly tell the story of my last job and how I was harassed on numerous occasions in numerous ways, and how I had to watch the harassment of colleagues. It’s a long story and there were multiple events, so this is a long post. I’ve debated for years about saying these things, since I still have ties to the university, but I’ve decided not speaking publicly about it is cowardice and it allows the harassment to continue. Silence is not the friend of the victim, but of the abuser.
In 1999, I graduated from my PhD program and also got an offer to teach in Montana, at the University of Montana, Western. I was so excited. It’s unheard of in the English world to get a job so fast out of college, but they really seemed to like me and I thought I was a perfect fit. I’d be teaching a variety of courses and getting to participate in a small department. Two men, two women (we had an open position) and then adjuncts. Everybody seemed so nice and welcoming, I couldn’t wait to get started.
Skip forward a few months. All was going well, except we had an adjunct teaching with us. She was petite and blond and smart as hell, but one of the department members insisted on making insinuations about dating her, about having sex with her, about her love life, and everything under the sun, but always revolving around her sex life. He seemed to think it was funny, but it was relentless. It happened during meetings nonstop. Almost every time he addressed her. I wanted to speak up, but I didn’t have tenure and I was afraid I’d lose my job. (And that fear is justified later). So I, I am very disappointed to say, stayed silent. She couldn’t speak up either, because she had no protections and needed the job. Complaining would only have resulted in getting fired. She and I both knew that.
S. continued facing that harrassment for as long as she remained. Eventually she got out because she couldn’t take it anymore. Jump forward to the next year. I got pregnant in my first year and my son was due in the beginning of my second year. I planned to take off two weeks. I didn’t think I could get away with more. My colleagues would have to cover my classes. L., an adjunct, volunteered to cover my two freshman writing classes. My two male tenured colleagues (one of whom had been the one to pursue S. so relentlessly) would take my other two. In an effort to make things easier, I planned everything out carefully and then provided assignments and everything else I could so they wouldn’t have to do much work. I didn’t want them angry with me for taking time off for having a kid.
Unfortunately, one of them decided that my preparations were an insult. That he knew damned well how to teach the class and he didn’t need anything from me to do it. At the end of my two weeks, I didn’t want to come back, but when I asked for another week, they said no. They would not continue. By law I could have had the time; by job standards, I’d be let go: non-renewed. Until I had tenure, they could just decide I wasn’t a good “fit” and I’d lose my job.
I came back, only to find nearly my entire class of students at my office door. They told me my syllabus was too hard, they shouldn’t be required to do that much, and I needed to change things. Of course, my disgruntled colleague had stirred them up and sent them to me en masse. I had to cave to them. I had no choice. I knew that my professional life was in the hands of my tenured colleagues. The two men ran the show. My female colleague did anything they told her to. She thought they they were amazing and wonderful and she’d do anything for them. I found out how much, when she pulled something highly illegal.
At the beginning of the next semester, she called me into her office. She said she’d reviewed my evaluations for the last semester and if I didn’t pull them up, they’d have to let me go. It was code for “don’t have any more kids on our time.” I got the message loud and clear. Now you might ask why was that illegal. At that university, chairs had no power. Not to hire and fire, not to evaluate anybody, not to assign courses, nothing. They were glorified secretaries, providing a conduit between the administration and the department for disseminating information, and for doing whatever scut work the admin decided to demand. They were uncompensated for the privilege. I refused to take the ‘honor’ because were the lowest paid teachers in the nation for comparative sized and degree-granting institutions. After fifteen years there and at full tenure, I was making 52K a year. As other colleagues in other universities will note, that’s tremendously low.
But to continue on with my story . . . . My female colleague, as chair, should never have even looked at my evaluations. This wasn’t legal. Nor should she have used them to threaten my career. But she did. And I took it to heart. The next time I got pregnant, I made sure to shoot for the summer window.
The next thing that happened was in the hiring of our next colleague. When he came in, the others embraced him. He was a man, and funny, and interesting, and British. I liked him, too. But when he came in, the others shunted me aside in every possible way. I had become supremely unimportant. It burned, but what could I do? It didn’t affect my relationship with my new colleague, who I still count as a friend, as well as his very talented wife.
I can’t remember how long it was before the honeymoon ended for M. He challenged the others in some way, differed from their ideas, or otherwise broke one of their silent commandments. That started a feud that was exacerbated by the huge popularity and success of both M. and his wife. Students adored them both–and for good reason. They inspired and they involved students in ways that I still find so amazing and admirable.
At one point, one of the senior men got into a public email argument with M’s wife in which he called her “Lady Macbeth.” At any rate, it wasn’t long before the senior members tell me that M. has been non-renewed, i.e. fired. They apparently had a meeting about it, and they told me, and I quote because I distinctly remember the conversation: “We didn’t invite you because we knew you would support him and we didn’t want you to risk your tenure.” Yes, a not so veiled threat. Toe the line or get fired. By that time, I’m the sole breadwinner for my family and I have two young children. I had no choice but to comply.
It happened again to another colleague, G., though that time my senior colleagues claimed the administration had made the decision without their input. But I knew better. The administration would never have done that. Another warning.
So I kept my head down until I got tenure. Then I got mouthy.
The first issue came when I suggested bringing a writer to campus. I’d planned to take charge and make all the arrangements and such, but a senior colleague decided he was the creative writer guest guy and he just took over. I was more than angry. I complained. So began months of nasty emails from him telling me that he was a senior member of the department, I was junior, and I should behave better and so on. I took his emails to the admin who eventually put us in mediation. My colleague was stunned to hear how I viewed his behavior and apologized. That surprised me, but the damage was done. I’d been looking for a job and had asked him to be a reference (before all this started and I’d applied to this job before the situation blew up). I’d had an interview in Colorado, and when they called him, he gave them an angry reference. The only reason I even know about that was because one of the search committee members told me. I did not get that job.
So because he was angry at my uppityness, he sabotaged my career. Would have I got the job without his negative input? I’ll never know. But I do know that he knew what he did would sabotage me and he did it anyhow.
After that, the friction rose and ebbed depending on the moods of my senior colleagues. We hired in more people as others retired or left, and these people were . . . unpleasant. I’m afraid that I have a lot of respect for all people, no matter whether they have an education or not, no matter they have a Ph.D. or not. These other colleagues did not. They targeted an adjunct professor because she was so popular and because they decided she wasn’t good enough because she “only” had an MFA and of course, she was a woman. The woman thing became obvious when they chose to strongly support a male PhD adjunct–with less seniority and he was more inclined to play their game–aka, kiss their asses. I don’t blame him in the slightest–they’d made it very clear how willing they were to destroy people to get their way.
But it wasn’t just my immediate colleagues. The Vice Provost didn’t like confrontation. At all. He also tended not to obey the policies of the student handbook and the faculty contract. So on more than one occasion, students complained about their grades to him, and he would call me in and make me justify them. This, first, was against policy and illegal according to the contract, but when I went to get help, I couldn’t get any support. The recommendation was to just let it go and do whatever. Why be bothered? It’s just easier than challenging him, so go along to get along. Basically they said that I hadn’t done anything wrong, so it wasn’t a big deal.
But it was. Because he didn’t do this to any of my male colleagues. But because I was a woman, and because I didn’t cause a public stir, he came after me. I remember one advanced fiction writing class, where I’d specified certain rules in the syllabus. Two students didn’t do as they were supposed to and I docked their grades as specified in the syllabus. One got a B+, the other a B. And they complained about their grades, accusing me of not actually grading properly and I didn’t even keep track of some things. Except I did. I produced my gradebook and all the documentation. The Vice Provost had nothing to say. Nothing he could say.
To be honest, this only happened about four times, but it didn’t happen to my male colleagues whatsoever, and I knew for a fact students had complained about them. They didn’t face the same “prove yourself to me” demands as I did.
I’d also decided that I would make every effort to protect the women adjuncts in my department. I became their voices. I refused to attend faculty meetings that they weren’t invited to (something the elitests decided to do). I refused to let them run those colleagues down in front of me. I was not well liked by certain colleagues for my actions. I do not regret it. I was able to protect these talented and hardworking women on some small level, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
These weren’t the only instances where my job was threatened, or harassment in the department, but these were the major ones for me.
To be fair, this wasn’t the only reason I left. Severe toxicity entered the campus during contract negotiations in the last years and collegiality failed. The Chancellor was absent most of the time–leadership was simply a black hole. Then during negotiations, a member of the admin repeatedly said that the faculty was dispensable, that we already got paid too much for what we did, and we should be grateful for whatever they gave us. It was frustrating and demoralizing, because the rest of the admin echoed that sentiment, even while telling students we were the best faculty ever and this school was only as good as it was because of its tremendous faculty.
There were other things too, like faculty misbehaving with impunity. After I left, one professor had a restraining order against another in his department and they had to have offices in separate buildings.
Anyhow, the first seven years of my journey in academics was an exercise in fearing for my job. I swore after that that I’d never not voice my thoughts and stick up for myself again. I would always demand fairness. That caused me some problems at another job, but I don’t regret it. I was polite, but insistent on answers and holding my superiors accountable for their actions.
Tuesday, December 5th, 2017
I ITCH!!! And I cannot scratch. Misery, thy name is itchiness. But it is a sign of healing.
I’ve been out walking today and I feel pretty good but for the itching.
Other than that, not a lot new to report. I have made some more progress on the new Horngate book. I’m enjoying it. I’ll give you a snippet soon.
I’m also hugely angry about the tax bill and about the GOP support of Roy Moore. I am so angry I don’t have any polite words right now to say anything about it. But on my FB page, I have been posting more stuff.
The family and I get to go see an pre-screening this Friday of Jumanji. I’m really excited. I love the actors and can’t wait to see them. I haven’t been into a movie theater in ages, so this will be fun as well. And this theater is one of those that serves food and such, so while I probably won’t be eating anything, the fam will be able to.
We’re also at the beginning of an extended sunny spell for the area. I’m excited because I’ll be able to get out and walk outside without rain. In my particular situation right now, that’s amazingly nice.
Now . . . back to work. And not to itch. No. No. No.
Sunday, December 3rd, 2017
It’s interesting what I’m discovering about my body and brain. I haven’t been actually hungry. I eat because it’s time and there are rules–specifically at least 60 grams of protein–and 64 oz of liquid. That’s for the first two weeks. No, that’s actually forever, but for the first two weeks, it’s where I need to concentrate, with liquid being the priority. Because my new stomach can take in only limited amounts at a time, catching up on hydration can be very difficult without an IV.
I eat (drink because that’s the diet for healing) on a schedule. But yesterday I found myself craving. This is mouth hunger/brain hunger, not real. It happened when everybody else was having dinner. I tried to figure out why and that’s when I realized that most of the protein I ate yesterday was not savory. I think I was craving salt/savory flavors. So today there’s going to be soup/broth on my menu. Plus I think I might make white chicken chile. I’ll make it a bit more ‘loose’ or liquidy than usual, so I can pull some of it off for myself and the fam can eat the rest.
I’ve lost weight since surgery–no surprise. But what’s amazing is that I haven’t been hungry. That is crazy. I found out that standing up too long is bad. I’m supposed to walk, which I am doing, but I have to go in shorter bursts because gravity pulls at the incisions and even with a binder for support, it gets to hurting. For the most part though, my incisions don’t hurt a lot and I’ve been using just Tylenol to keep the pain under control. Plus come ice. And of course dog love.
Believe it or not, I’ve also been plotting the next Horngate World book. I think I’ve got it sorted out and I’m really looking forward to getting started on it.
So that’s the update and now your gratuitous corgi pics:
Saturday, December 2nd, 2017
This recipe is obviously from a book, since I’m posting images of the pages. The book is amazing, and it looks like you can only get it used, but I recommend you get it if you can. It’s called, Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fate Desserts by Alice Medrich.
I’m posting jpegs of the ingredients followed by nutrition info, and then three pages of instructions. Keep in mind it’s not low sugar. To do that, you need to substitute. Also, when it says keep the food processor going on the cottage cheese for at least two minutes, do that. I’m serious.
The texture of this cheesecake wasn’t really like cheesecake. It’s more silky. And delightful.
So first, the ingredients list:
And the recipe:
Saturday, December 2nd, 2017
Three days ago I had a gastric sleeve surgery. What that means is that they take out part of your stomach. It also means not being able to eat much and figuring out the new signals from your body. But I digress.
The surgery itself went mostly well. The only hitch at all, in fact, was the first IV attempt didn’t go well. So anyhow, I came out and got into my room and was very sore, but it was manageable. My greatest issue was with having trouble with nausea, but mostly that was controlled with some drugs. I actually managed some sleep in the nighttime, but there were a lot of little alarms I managed to set off–accidentally calling the nurse, bending my elbow and kinking my IV, going to sleep and having my O2 go down.
So I was released the next day after doing all the required things in terms of body function, like drinking, ‘eating’ thick liquids, going to the bathroom, and walking around. The trip home was kind of miserable because we left the hospital at 4 and of course rush hour had already begun so the trip took longer. Oh, and I found out that every little bump made me hurt. But I got home and was so happy to see the kids, the dogs, and my own freaking bed.
The next day, yesterday, I felt a whole lot better. I did some walking as required (and because I wanted to), and then I managed to get down most of the protein I needed (the focus on eating is on protein), and I managed to get all my hydration in. All of these things were a bit of a triumph.
Today, I feel even better, though still sore and still figuring out how to eat. The doggies are delighted to snuggle up to me and in fact a couple of minutes ago (as I type this on my laptop on my couch with Voodoo fastened to my side and Viggo just on the other side of him), Voodoo has been giving his brother a little tiny low growl to tell him that he doesn’t like his brother invading his territory and taking mom’s attention. It’s really kind of funny because as soon as he does that, he then apologizes by licking Viggo’s face and ears. It’s cute.
I know from research (and now experience) that you end up with a lot of gas inside your chest cavity from the stuff they pump into you during the surgery, and gas in your stomach/intestines from the air they pump into your stomach. I had some pain, but mostly it felt like nausea and an aching in my chest. That has passed so I’m really happy.
In other news, we’re going to have to go on a road trip for Christmas. We’ll be going to California to visit family and help the Man’s dad with the Man’s uncle’s belongings (his uncle recently passed and his dad needs some help. The Man went down over Thanksgiving, but there’s still more to do). I should be well able to make the trip by then. Everybody down there is worried about what I’ll be able to eat and how much I’ll miss out on from not being able to eat and I’m totally not worried about it. I don’t know if that will change. I don’t know if I’ll end up missing foods hard, but right now, I’m not jonesing for anything and don’t anticipate it. I’m not worried about not being able to drink alcohol (I don’t drink much anyhow), and mostly I’m looking forward to seeing everybody and taking walks through the oak groves near my parents’ house.
One thing that’s odd is burps or the need to burp seems to signal a ‘stop eating now’ flashing sign. It means my stomach is too full and I need to wait to eat.
Sunday, November 26th, 2017
About six months ago, my doctor recommended a gastric sleeve operation for me to lose weight and get my pre-diabetes under control. I totally said no and nearly had a tantrum. It seemed tantamount to saying that I’m lazy, that I can’t lose weight on my own. I started telling myself that if only I’d just exercise more and eat less I could keep the pounds off. My doctor talked me down, pointing out that I did exercise and eat pretty healthy and was still struggling. She convinced me to go to an information session. So I began my journey. I attended classes and met with nutritionists, physical therapists, a psychologist, a hematologist, the doctor, and many others. I’ve had a variety of tests and done a ton of research, joined online groups to talk to people who’ve been through the surgery, and discussed this with my family.
So six months later, I’m about to have surgery. What does this mean, you might ask. Well, it involves laproscopic surgery to cut out 70-80 % of my stomach. After, I won’t be able to eat that much. I’ll follow a diet for awhile of liquids, then soft foods, then add in regular foods until I’m back to eating normal food. But I won’t eat as much, and I’ll have to focus on healthy choices so that I get full nutrition. And it turns out that they remove the part of the stomach that produces the hunger hormone ghrelin, which will help keep hunger under control. This surgery reverses diabetes. I had gestational diabetes and my A1C is high. I also have peripheral artery disease. This surgery will help with both.
This means a huge change in my eating habits. I will not be drinking carbonated anything again. I will need to drink constantly to stay hydrated. I have to chew at least 20-30 times a bite, and I can’t drink a 1/2 hour before or after eating. I have to take my time because it will be easy to overfill my stomach. I’ll need to take vitamins. I’ll have to make sure I get enough protein. My hair is likely to fall out until my body gets used to the change. I’m likely to be very moody as my fat releases hormones. My hair will grow back out and my moods will stabilize. I will likely lose at least 60-70% of my excess weight. I’ll need to carry a protein snack and water with me everywhere.
I’ve had to lose some weight in order to have the surgery and I have lost around 20 lbs. It made me wonder if I should have this surgery or not–can’t I just keep doing this? But here’s the problem. I’ve lost this weight before. Several times. I always plateau, and then the weight creeps back on. What this surgery does is get the weight off without killing the metabolism. My body will reset and I will be able to maintain weightloss so long as I continue to eat properly. I’ve been exercising every day for the last seven month or more, with only about a week off the entire time. Still hasn’t done much in terms of weight. I’ve also been following the diet they ask me to follow to prepare for surgery.
Some people say this is an easy out. Ha. Well, I thought that at first too, especially since I’m not that heavy. Or rather, I don’t look that heavy, but trust me, I have a lot to lose. But healthwise, I need it. The fact is that I want to be around for my family and I want to have as healthy an old age as I can. In fact, I want to put off old age for as long as possible.
I’ve been keeping this a secret from a lot of people, mostly because I’ve been a little embarrassed. Back to that feeling of laziness and why can’t I do it on my own? But that’s an insult to me and an insult to all the others who’ve fought long and hard and come to this decision and then fought through the surgery, the recovery, and all the rest that comes with is. Trust me when I say it’s not an easy out. It is, however, usually very successful for losing weight and so I’m grateful it’s an option.
I will likely keep posting about the journey. It begins this Weds, the 29th.
Sunday, November 26th, 2017
I am knitting some of my Xmas presents. Unfortunately, I have done several projects, but am way behind. Stir in my wrist is hurting on one arm, and my “tennis” elbow is acting up on the other, and I’m going too slow. Still, I’ve done a few things and almost done with a couple others. Thinking of doing a crocheted afghan. Doesn’t take a whole long time, so we’ll see if I get it going.
The doggies are letting me work off my terrible crime of leaving them for long days during Orycon. I am forced to pet and scratch and rub and cuddle. It’s hard work. Viggo just poked his snozzle into my hand as I’m typing this. I have no got snot on my hand. And he’s giving me that big-eye look I can never resist. Now Voodoo has climbed up my legs and is holding me down so I can’t escape as he watches me with his big eyes.
Here they are in their condo (my footstool). Voodoo claims the top, and Viggo the bottom. Voodoo is laying on my legs. So I can’t go anywhere without him knowing about it.
I’m also doing writing work. Some is proofing. Some is new writing. I think you’ll like it. I have a short story I want to send out for Xmas celebration. I’ll probably attach it to my newsletter. Or maybe I’ll do something different. Not sure. Look for it though.
Looks like we’ll be traveling for Xmas. Didn’t want to, but it looks like we’ll do it anyhow.
Oh, Orycon was a good time. Got to see a lot of friends and meet new people. The Powell’s signing after was really good. As always. Pics below.
Did everybody have a nice Thanksgiving? Those who celebrate.