Friday, October 29, 2010

Two Birds--A bizness post

You may not know this about me, but I spend a LOT of time online.

Because this blog is in its infancy, I'm constantly searching for ways to meet other writers and build community. This is another way of saying that I spend way, way too much time playing Facebook games reading lots and lots of blogs.

Today I stumbled upon something that grabbed my attention. In her blog Rach Writes Rachael Harrie has begun a Writer's Platform-Building Crusade. This is a group of not-yet-published (I'm assuming--haven't checked everyone else out yet) wannabe authors who are trying to hone their craft, get word out, and each make the internet his or her own personal bi-atch.

(Is bi-atch a swear? If so, does anyone have a non-swear equivalent for this highly puritanical, Pharisaic, but otherwise generally awesome blogger? Skeleton in the closet: I used to be a cuss-box. Then I took Mrs. Lofgren's English class in 10th grade and instead decided to try to communicate the same ideas with advanced vocabulary.  It works.  Sometimes.  Except when it seems clear that you need to say bi-atch.

How about "...and each make the internet his or her own personal kartoffelpuffer." How's that?)

Anyway, so, I'ma hop aboard this train, y'all. And I think you should too. If you have a blog. And love to write. And care about reaching readers. And have a lot of time on your hands. And you are insane, like all writers seem to have to be. If this is you, then go here and join me under the grand umbrella of the Writer's Platform-Building Crusade!


Young boy sitting in red toy carrier, close-up, low section

This is a picture of me having jumped into this awesome bandwagon into which I also hope you jump, and which wagon looks strangely like a children's red wagon, but it's not, because as I said, it is a bandwagon. Stop judging me for not being able to afford real stock photos!


All joking aside, I think this is a brilliant idea, and I thank Ms. Rachael for paying it forward.

Also, I'm not only joining, but I'm participating in the second crusader challenge, which is my very first blogging contest thingie, and which involves following certain requirements in order to win (like including specific words seamlessly into this post--can you guess which ones??), and which I probably won't win because the due-date is today. But at least I'm trying!

Wanna see my one and only other post about writing even though this is ostensibly a blog about writing?

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reality Check! (or Parents Are Insane)

It just became infinitely clear what I've gotten myself into.

Our nightly bedtime routine has evolved over the course of our four years of parenting. It now contains more steps than the passage of complex bills by Congress.


Russian Revolution, October 1917. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (Ulyanov - 1870-1924) haranguing the deputies of the Second Soviet Congress in the Smolny Palace, St Petersburg.

Let's pretend this free, grainy depiction of the Russian Revolution is actually a picture of Congress instead of me paying for an actual picture of Congress.  Thanks.

First, we read scriptures and say a prayer together as a family (during which Anna, our oldest who is four, is usually paying decent attention and asking questions like "why did Moses talk to fire?" and Viva, who is two, is busy flitting around the room like a bat on crack knocking toys off shelves and grinding crayons into the carpet and also being adorable).  Then we do "clean-ups" where we pick up All The Toys (ever made?) and put them into the closet knowing full well that by 10:00am tomorrow they'll be strewn everywhere including the bathrooms once again, and will remain that way all day long.  (Parents are insane.) Then the girls get in their jammies which have to match in some way or Anna has a meltdown.  Then we do the Pajama Dance where the girls dance while Wife and I clap rhythmically and sing a song we made up. Then we brush and floss teethies, take flouride, and give hugs and kisses.  Finally, Wife and I each take one of the girls and put her to bed with her own routine.

Viva is simple.  You go in, read a book or two, put her in her crib, sing her a song, give her a kiss through the bars of her prison crib (we have crib-tent! It is awesome!), and then blow kisses as you leave the room.

Anna is more complicated. You go in, read her a book, turn off the light, sing her a song, and then give her the chance to "ask a question." These questions can range in seriousness and complexity from "What letter does Viva start with?" to "Daddy, why did Mommy's grandpa die? I miss my great great great Grandpa!" as she breaks down weeping. Mostly, though, her questions revolve around Michael Jackson's Thriller and zombies.

(I kid you not, the girl is fascinated by Thriller and wants to watch it almost daily.

 
                      Nothing more soothing than this sweet lullaby.

Today I let her watch The Way You Make Me Feel. She watched it with a reverence reserved for funerals, then looked up at me like it was like a revelation and whispered "Daddy, there are two Thrillers.")

After "ask a question," I am required to ask how many kisses she wants, and where on her face she wants them.  Then we count them out on our hands, I distribute the kisses, we do the same thing with the kisses I blow to her at the door, and then finally after sometimes an hour and a half (total process, not just Anna), I am free.

The 30 seconds after the bedtime routine is a moment of true, unadulterated joy. It is glorious.  It's kind of like being done with school for the summer. Your mind races with the possibilities! TV? Internet? Time alone with Wife? More dessert?

The world is your oyster!

Tonight, I finished the arduous process in record time, and felt great relief.  I felt peace.  I decided to head downstairs to hop online and play some Facebook games while I waited for Wife to finish her bedtime ritual with the other daughter. As I got to the living room, though, I was startled by something so jarring it made me stop in my tracks.

One-week-old Tessa, whose existence outside the womb had slipped my weary mind, was not asleep after bedtime.

She was crying.

And then so was I. In the fetal position. Inconsolably.  For hours.

At least that's what I wanted to do. In reality, I retrieved her with a heavy heart from the bathroom where she was sleeping (barbaric, I know, but it's the darkest place in the house and the fan provides amazing white noise) and changed her diaper. Then I tried to rock her back to sleep, which wasn't entirely successful.

But you wanna know what? Instead of annoyance, all I felt for that little creature in my arms was love.



Like I said.  Parents are insane.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A blog post devoted to yours truly. On ANOTHER blog, I mean.

Wanna know something awesome that happened yesterday?

All right, so there are these blogging sisters whose blogs I stumbled upon recently.  Both of their blogs are heavily art-based, which is something I admire, as I'm the guy whose stars look like retarded* pigeons and whose stick figures barely pass as sticks or as figures.

Both of these ladies have a request page where you can request they draw something for you.  Of course I requested that they draw my deformed eye, because, seriously, what post has it not been a part of within the last week? (I seem to accidentally process a lot of crap and childhood baggage on this blog. One would think that, being a therapist, I'd be more aware of this phenomenon as it's happening. And one would be wrong.)

Anyway, Christine (whose blog is the aptly titled New Adventures of Christine) did something amazing. She wrote an entire post about me!  Well, mainly it was about my request--but still, I'm completely honored. This absolutely made my day. And not only that, she also drew me not one, but two eye pictures.  Go to her post to read all about it, and to see her rendering of my famous eyeball of disgustingness (which, incidentally, she has an interesting take on)!  Thanks so much Christine!  You rock. (Just to show how enthused I am, while editing this paragraph I removed about 13 superlatives/positive adverbs because it was starting to sound like an overemotional infomercial.)

Want a sneak peak????

All right.













But that's all you're getting!

Also, Catherine, Christine's sister, was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule and also draw me a picture

Ladies, I am tickled pink (to use a phrase from about 1910 that now has very uncomfortable connotations because people are gross.  (However, I think we can all agree that it's  far less uncomfortable than "these drawings tickle my fancy")).

Thank you very, very much.

*Lest you think me a beast, I refer to the word's original implication of the pigeons being slow and hindered--slow and hindered because their wings are all freaky and weird.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Body Deformities: Part IV--Random Observations, and LAWSUIT CITY

A couple of things:

1. I just got a visitor who had done a search for "weird body deformities."  This made me laugh pretty hard. Then I searched "body deformities" and I was the fourth hit on the list!  (I have no idea if that link will actually work.)

What this means? I have a corner on the market of body deformity blog posts!! This could bring me, like, 4 entire visitors a month who are all going to leave after 3 seconds because they are either junior high students looking for something to gawk at (wait, maybe they'll find what they're looking for?  #Disturbingthoughts) or they are people writing actual papers and looking for actual legit. information.

What a triumph!


Excited Businessman

Soon I'll be number one!!!!

2. So, in doing research for a writing project, I stumbled across something actually pretty disturbing.  Ever heard of Bendectin?  You probably haven't.  That's because it was taken off the market about three decades ago because it is a morning sickness medication that ended up causing birth defects in babies.

Can you guess where I'm going here?

I was reading my Dad's journal a couple of nights ago and... yep.  My poor sweet mom was so sick with me in the formative weeks of pregnancy that her doctor gave her an ultimatum.  Take Bendectin, or be hospitalized.  My parents chose Bendectin (which I think was the right choice.)
  
One of the possible cited birth defects from Bendectin?  Congential eye deformities!!!


Nurse Holding Various Pills

These pills will help you feel better. They'll also mess your fetus UP.

Can you believe that???  Never, ever in my life have I thought I could be a part of something like that.

So, naturally my first thought was: lawsuit!!! Lamentably, there hasn't been a successful case in like two decades and there's actually a whole debaccle about whether or not the drug actually causes birth defects.  Not surprising.

And I'm only kidding about the lawsuit anyway.  Even if I could become litigious, I wouldn't.

But isn't that weird?  I think it's so crazy to finally have a viable explanation for my eyeball deformation.

This would be so awesome if my life goal was to start a strange, spooky website dedicated to something only marginally fact-based and totally sensational.

Kind of like this one.

Did you watch that intro?  Isn't this just creepy?

All right, that's it for today.  This post has been brought to you by paternity leave. It's been awesome to be able to be home with the girls.

Missed my other body deformity posts?  That's almost more tragic than having one. (How was that for compelling?)  Remedy this post haste, by clicking  here, here or here.

Also, one more deformity post to go!  (I will not stop until I'm #1 on google.  I'm driven like that, ya'll.) The next and perhaps final body deformity post will be about sinusitis.  You'll love it.  I know I do.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Something awesome happened last week.

My third daughter was born.

Her name is Tessa
The labor was very painful (the epidural didn't take, and the nurse was the opposite of competent and empathetic), but it was successful.

In the hospital, Wife and I decided to take pictures of each other holding the baby.

I took these:


Beautiful
Happy

She took these:

Awkward
Ridiculous

Somebody make this stop please
At this point, the following conversation occurred:

Me: I look ridiculous.

Wife:  You don't look ridiculous.  This is how you actually look.

Me: Please, tell me that isn't true.

Wife: Okay, you look a little weird in these.  But they're still cute.

Me: Let's try one with me sitting down.

Wife:  I already told you to do that.

Me:  No you didn't!  You didn't say anything of the kind.

Wife: Yes I did!

Me: No, you really didn't.

Wife: I did in my head.

--Pause--

Me:  ....you are correct, then.

Fact of life: when someone has pushed a human being out of their crotch in the last 24 hours, they are right no matter what they say.

Edit suggested by wife: when someone has pushed a human being out of their crotch EVER, they are right no matter what they say.

Result?

Less awkward!



 In closing:

The girls meet their sister for the first time.


A family of five!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Excuses

Goal: finish this post in 20 minutes.  Go!

(Update: I failed.)

In my last post, AJ asked a very interesting question.  It was this:

You've probably thought of this, but do you think your directional ineptitude might be related to your ADHD? Have you noticed any improvement since being on Ritalin?

Here's the deal.  In all honestly, yes.  I think the two are related.


But do you want to see a neat trick?

"Why are you late for this staff meeting?"   Oh, it's because my left eye is blind and I couldn't take the freeway because I don't do freeways because I don't have depth perception and merging feels a little bit like playing chicken in a golf cart so it took extra time.  Sorry!


--or--

"Why did you miss your appointment for a filling at 3:00?"  Oh, I had a really bad migraine behind my blind eye so I completely blanked my dentist appt.   Sorry!


--or--

"Why are you such a huge liar who makes up lame excuses for everything and can't take ownership of his failures?"  Oh, that's because I was repeatedly traumatized as an infant when my father pinned me down and put an adult-sized lens into my baby-sized eye over and over, and now I have the compulsive need to cover up my inadequacies with half-truths that cast me in a good light, or at least as a victim.  Sorry!


--or--  

"Why did you murder that goat then eat its uncooked entrails?"  Oh, that's because my name actually is Psycho-Killer Dahmer Bin Laden and I enjoy killing things brutally and then eating them, and this stems from a birth defect which should be obvious as you look at my blind left eye.  Also, you're next. Sorry!

Any of these situations can be just as easily handled by saying "I have ADHD.  Sorry!"  In some instances, this excuse carries far more weight, in fact.  Especially that last one.


See how easy that is?  Gotta admit, it's really handy to have such awesomely legitimate built-in excuses.

And that's not even to mention the brain cyst, which if played correctly can not only excuse behavior, but can also elicit sympathy verging on shedding tears.

"Why did you forget my birthday?"  Oh, I did?  I'm so sorry.  I've been kind of preoccupied... I  actually recently found out I have a cyst in my brain and I haven't been able to focus on much else lately.

--or--


"Dude, why are you going into the women's bathroom.  The men's is on the other side of the hall."  I'm... I meant to... I have brain damage, okay?!!  Leave me the hell alone!!!


--or--

"You just swore!!!!"  I know.  It's been a hard day.  I have ADHD, a migraine behind my blind eye, and my brain lesion is acting up.  I just need to go to bed.

In conclusion, I think it would be wise for everybody to be like me.

So, how could you lose an eye, your attention span, AND develop a brain lesion?  I think crystal meth should do the trick!  (AND, you'd probably even develop psoriasis!)
 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Body Deformities: Part III-Cysts and Polyps and How I Thought I Was Going to Die

My journey with cysts and polyps began with some headaches.

The problem was this: remember the time I told you about my freaky blind eye*?  Well, these headaches happened to be localized directly behind this freaky blind eye, leading me to believe that my blind eye was up to no good.  Either it was dying, or it was growing some big cancerous blister on its back just to spite me and my parents for its 30 years of wretched existence.

Soon, the frequency of the headaches made me sure that if I didn't act soon, I would be murdered by my eye in an act of vengeance, leaving my wife and children to fend for themselves.





 I contacted my doctor.  When I went in for my appointment, I explained that I was pretty sure something was happening with my blind eye.





He looked it over, checked my charts, and said: "I have no idea why you are having headaches, so I think I'm going to go ahead and send you to 3,469 specialists to make sure I don't get sued.  The specialists will perform tests.  Hopefully one of the tests will tell us what is happening in your head."

His words were comforting to me in the way a mallet is comforting to dry-wall.  Before he headed out the door, he took a moment to reassure me. "I'm pretty sure it's not cancer."





Next thing you know, I found myself strapped flat on my back listening to the soothing, machine-gun-like sounds of an MRI machine and trying to hold my head as still as humanly possible. You know how on TV they show you people going into MRI machines and it's all uncomfortable and dramatic and then the doctor presses the lever that propels the patient out of the machine and says something like "I'm so sorry.  Your skin is going to fall off because the part of your brain controlling skin growth is covered in malignant lesions" or whatever?  Well not so in the real world!


Senior Man Getting MRI Exam

I'm so sorry to have to tell you this.  Your brain is absent.

In the real world, your MRI takes an hour.  An hour for you to sit listening to noise reminiscent of a jack-hammer with nothing to prevent you from lapsing into full-fledged panic about the possibility of malignant head masses.  Then, instead of hearing the results when you're done, you are forced to wait for an entire week, giving ample time for your malignant head mass scenarios to morph into full-fledged multi-month death-fantasies that you run through nightly as you fall asleep.

And then when you get your results, they look like this.



Now, I've highlighted the pertinent sections so as to not make you run screaming from this post.  But the basic take-home message for Josh:  your head is filled with weird, repulsive masses, at least one of which is a chronic lesion.

Not surprisingly, my own doctor was unhelpful when I brought this incomprehensible document to my next appointment, as well as a disc containing the images from my MRI.  "I don't have the right equipment to look at this," he explained with a wink and a smile after trying to load the images onto his laptop unsuccessfully for a full 10 minutes.  "You'll have to talk to a neurologist."

Thanks for your immense help as always, doc.

PORTRAIT, MALE PHYSICIAN WEARING REFLECTIVE MIRROR

"I will not help you ever ever ever.  But you have to keep seeing me because I'm your portal to everyone else.  Pleasure doing business with you!"

By the time I saw the neurologist I had done some research.  As it turns out, the chronic lesion that was making me all terrified was actually a totally innocuous brain cyst called an arachnoid cyst.  Apparently, it has been in my brain since birth, right there in my right parietal lobe, just waiting to be discovered.

Here's an MRI shot of a cyst that, in this shot, looks something like mine, except mine's further back in my head.  (I would have copied it and just inserted it, but I didn't have time to get permission from the cyst-owner.)  The cyst is the greyish part at the perimeter of the brain.  Yeah, that big blob on the right.

Seriously.

(I'll have you know that in trying to find pictures of an adequate cyst online I was subjected to some of the most disturbingly haunting and disgusting images of human flesh and excised nastiness you can ever imagine.  I'm pretty sure I now have PTSD.)

Anyway, I asked Neurologist about the headaches.  His conclusion? "Your anachroid cyst is not the cause of your headaches."  I then told him about this theory I had that because it is a brain lesion located on the lobe in charge of spacial understanding and certain math skills, maybe I am legitimately brain damaged and that is the reason I am directionally impaired to the point that, having lived in the greater Seattle area for four years, I would be hard-pressed to be able to find my way to Seattle by car.

"No," said Neurologist.  "Chances are that you really are just that stupid."

Leaving that meeting, then, I knew three things. 1. I have two inconsequential cysts in my brain, one of which is disturbingly large. ("I've seen them much larger," Neurologist told me, despite the fact that what I was looking at was so large it was actually protruding into my brain-matter.  Yikes.  (If you look at deeper photos of the cyst I linked to before, you'll see it is huge--much larger than mine.  And his was removed.  Comforting, no?))  2. I have a polyp the size of a baby's fist in my sinus.  And 3. there is no identifiable reason that I get lost coming back from the bathroom in restaurants or that I can barely add and subtract other than my feeble intellectual capacity.

Good work, team!


Man's hand giving thumbs up


Sadly, I still didn't know was what was causing the blasted headaches.  (Though by this point, all that helpful medical insight notwithstanding, I had developed my own hypothesis.)

All right. This post is long enough, methinks.  Who knew this would turn into a four post series?  I certainly didn't!  Stay tuned for the conclusion, which will thrill and chill to the bone.  (Not really--I'm actually aiming at barely more exciting than a complete anticlimax.  We'll see if I can achieve that ambitious goal.)

If you haven't happened upon the previous posts in this scintillating series, you can find Part I here, and Part II--the creepiest face you might ever see here.  Aaaand I just realized I linked those at the beginning of the post.  But I'm not taking the links out because they took five minutes of my life to make because I'm that computer-slow, so you get to enjoy them twice. 

*I cannot tell you how many times now I've written "blind I" accidentally instead of "blind eye."  One of these posts, it's going to happen.  Just you wait.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to create the worst training in history

Have you ever been to a training that made you want to slam a pencil up through your eye-socket to your brain-matter in a desperate suicide?  I have.  It was last week.  I was praying every single day that Wife would go into labor early so I could go home.  (She didn't.  Due date is today.  Wish us luck.)

From this experience, I've developed a how-to guide you might enjoy, and perhaps use in the future.

How to facilitate the most mindnumbingly inefficient training on earth:


1. First, you must start with a get-to-know you activity apt for 7-year-olds, in which all the participants (who are adults with graduate degrees) draw a picture that represents themselves.

2. Ensure that at least two hours are spent going through each and every picture like it's show-and-tell in third grade.

3. When someone comes in late, make sure to have everybody do introductions again. 

4. Make loud, awkward jokes that aren't funny.

5. Mention 478 times the fact that you have ordered catering for this event.  Detail the meals that will be included several times.  Clarify that on the day you eat tacos, you will also have "fixin's" lest anyone think that you have ordered a bunch of tortillas with a few slabs of chicken and nothing else.  Talk about the catering as if the participants have never had a catered lunch in their lives.



6. When explaining the curriculum you are training the group to use, make sure to never actually talk about the information your attendees will be using.  Instead, talk about various nonsensical lists having to do with "openness" and "feedback" and "The three 'C's'".  Never explain how these lists apply in any way to the curriculum.  Refer to the lists constantly at random moments, most especially when asked a question you don't know the answer to.

7. Talk a lot about a vague concept called "fidelity."  Never explain what "fidelity" means, nor what it pertains to.

8. Have three staff persons who have no idea how to present the curriculum you are training about help you with the training.  Make sure they have literally never seen the material.

9. Be sure to give them the opportunity to present chapters of the curriculum as "experts."

10. As they do so, make sure they never once explain the context of what they are teaching.  Instead, allow them to have the group do activities that have no anchor in anything at all.  It's best if these activities make no sense.

11. Make sure the activities involve the use of balls, some of which must be blue.  Make completely innocent reference to blue balls a lot, saying things like "all the guys in the room have blue balls now!"  Leave the balls all over the tables so you can make these comments throughout the entire training.



11. During one of the activities, it would be especially helpful if two of your employees (the one conducting the activity, and the one who just finished doing so) get into an actual argument in front of the entire group.

12. Ensure this bickering is completely asinine and infantile.

13. In the next activity, have the entire group stand in a circle and then share why they don't smoke. 

14. When the last person in the circle, to his credit, admits that he actually does smoke, allow your "expert" employee to lay into him like a meth-addict parent would her disobedient 5-year-old.

15. Make sure that this activity is one in which everyone is not only standing in a circle, but is also each holding a segment of string tying everyone together in an awkward web.  This way, the honest participant who admits to smoking will have no way to escape everybody's furtive glances, and everyone else in the "circle of trust" will try as hard as they can to not look at him in his moment of ignominy, but will fail, having nowhere else to look.

16. After watching her rebuke him, allow your employee to invite the other participants stuck in what has now become "the web of shame" to share their feelings on his smoking habits with the clear intention that they form an actual lynch mob.


17. Allow the entire group, including your employee, to stand in excruciating silence for nearly a minute while nobody says anything to the poor guy because they all realize this activity has become insane.

18. During the debrief you conduct about these activities, allow your employees to get into the same exact fight they were in before, rehashing every detail while the rest of the room sits in uncomfortable silence.

19. Next, make the employee who did the web activity apologize.  Give her the floor so that she can, once again, berate the honest fellow in front of the entire group as a veiled attempt at rectification.

20. Move on without resolving anything.

21. When the attendees start incorporating the word "awesome" into everything they say to stave off boredom and trauma, fail to recognize this insurrection or nip it in the bud like an adult.  Instead, get very confused and misunderstand the situation entirely.  Get so confused for a moment that you honestly think one of the participants is NAMED awesome.  Actually call her awesome, even though her name-tag clearly says Kelly.  Be sure not to notice this hilarious mistake, and do your best to fail to see the entire room laughing in awe at what has just occurred.



22. Repeat these ridiculous antics for three entire days of training.

23. On the last day of training, give the attendees the chance to present classes from the curriculum (which they have not yet seen).


24. Watch in awe as the participants deliver lessons that far exceed your own or those of your employees in quality and relevance.

25. Take this as a personal emblem of the quality of your "training" instead of as a desperate attempt to get something--anything at all--of value out of the 24 hours of nothingness this group has mutually experienced.

26. Make sure one of your "expert" employees sends around a home-made card thanking you for your time and effort, putting the attendees in the uncomfortable position of having to thank someone for something so horrible there are no words to describe it.

27. Read the card in front of everyone, including touching and very lengthy messages like "Thanks!" and "The fixin's were delicious!" and "Awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome job!"

28. Start to cry, you are so touched.

29. Instead of just handing out certificates, have an actual graduation ceremony similar to the one my 4-year-old had from preschool.  Make everyone do standing ovations over and over and over.

30. Close this workshop by having everyone draw another picture of themselves and how they are now different because of the training.  Ensure this takes obscene amounts of time.  Make the entire experience so boring that when your training ends, even though people are getting out early, they feel personally violated and so full of frustration it doesn't even matter.

I wish I had had the nerve to draw this as my final picture.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Writing

You'll notice in the tagline of this blog that this, contrary to all evidence indicating otherwise, is a blog about writing.

I just haven't mustered up the guts to talk about that part of my life.

I have a tortured relationship with writing.  What I mean by this is that I love writing, yet I find myself doing things other than writing that I also love but that pay jack, and so I want writing to be a magical sprout of alternative income that will allow me to keep my children from poverty.  Being on government assistance has been a riot and all, but I'm ready to be done.  Writing feels like my ticket out.

(Whoa.  Did I just get too real there?  Whoops.)

I've been actively working on my writing career.  I've seen some ups and downs.  There have been some moments of exhilaration (like when an agent at Writer's House--the same agency that represents Stephenie Meyer and Christopher Paolini--responded to my very first query ever by asking me to see my novel.  That letter still makes me smile).  There have been some moments of frustration (like when the same agent, after months of my waiting on pins and needles, asked me to send it again because he couldn't get the file to work--and then never emailed me again--I'm still WAITING...).  There have also been some moments of disappointment (like the other 5 or 6 queries I sent out that were rejected.)


Now, I realize I'm really early in the game.  In fact, as I've done more research I understand that I had no business querying yet at all.  My manuscript is "finished" in the sense that I wrote most of it down and had some people read it.  But it's definitely not finished in the sense that I "edited it" or "wrote the final scene that's still in my head" or "proofread it ever."  It is not in any state to have Someone Important read it and determine whether or not it's salable. 

Getting it to that point, I've discovered, takes a lot of effort.  It requires a lot of really good, integrity-filled editing.

Editing is a terrifying process for me.  Because of the whole ADHD-I thing, I have never edited much of anything over the course of my academic career.  It's hard for me to even grasp the idea that it helps (which is ludicrous--in the copy of my novel that I sent out to a few close friends I had used the word "sweet" where I actually meant "suite" so clearly it could use a good read-through).  But, I guess what's really terrifying is that my "edit" is actually pretty much a rewrite.  That's right.  I--the kid who can barely finish reading a novel before becoming distracted--wrote a novel.  Very painstakingly, and with great sacrifice.  And now to celebrate, I'm writing it again.  EML! 

Rewriting is, by far, the most challenging thing I've ever done.  I am constantly freaked out that I've taken a wrong step, or eliminated the one character everyone would have loved, or... whatever else.  I have little trust in my editorial decisions.  I have little to no experience editing something and seeing it become better as a result of my efforts, so it's very difficult to train my brain to believe that I'm actually improving my work instead of destroying its undergirding and causing it to die.

But, I have to believe in myself.  I have to believe in that instinct--that feeling that I'm onto something.  It's taken me good places before, and will continue to do so.  And deep down, I do believe it, and in myself.  Fact is (cue Rocky music), I'm never going to give up on this, and I will not stop until I have made something happen.  I will find success even if I have to work until my fingers actually fall off of my hands leaving me with ugly stumps of bloody, bandage-sheaved nastiness to type with and a nasty staff infection to deal with. And even then I'll still work, but it will just hurt more.

I will do this.

It's just really hard.

And that my friends, is why this blog is about writing.


I'm currently working on post III in my body deformities set.  Should be interesting!  You can see parts one and two here and here.  The next installment is about my cyst.  Mmmmm.  Cysts.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Body Deformities: Part II--The creepiest face you might ever see

I'm writing a series on body deformities.  You can read the first installment here.

This post is a continuation of that post.  As I was saying yesterday, my left eye is legally blind.  

If you've met me, you already knew this, though.  Either that or you thought I might have cancer, or be on the verge of sprouting a tree out of my face.

There was a time when I was younger that you couldn't tell that there was a problem with my eye just by looking at me.  This was back when the muscles still tracked properly, and the lid opened fully, and it didn't look like my left eye was governed by some kind of rogue homing system set on detecting a satellite in orbit above my head while my right eye was all normal.  We'll get to that in a minute though.  First, the rest of the story.

After I had surgery on my eye at the tender age of two weeks in which the doctor removed the lens, my parents were put on strict regimen.  They had to do two things to avoid causing my eyeball to fall out of my skull and onto my dinner plate some random Thursday evening later on in my life.

First, they were required patch my good eye for numerous hours a day.  Had I been a little bit older, I might have liked to pretend I was a legally blind pirate wearing a flesh colored, yet totally obvious, patch.  As a lad of a mere two or three weeks, it just made me scream.

Then--and this was the really fun part--they were required to pin me down and put an adult sized contact lens into my bad eye.

So, ideally, this contact lens was supposed to remain in my eye for several days--even weeks--at a time.  However, my eye didn't cooperate, and jettisoned the little thing on a regular basis, requiring them to pin me down yet again as I writhed in pain (baby eyes don't like big-people lenses as it turns out) and insert that sucker back into my eye.  I consider this repeated trauma the source of every bad thing that has ever occurred in my life, incidentally.  So, no biggie.

--side story--My parents said that one time it popped out of my eye as I was eating cheerios, and I proceeded to eat the very expensive lens thinking it was a cheerio on my face.  They found it in my diaper the next day.  And reused it.  (Okay, that last sentence was a lie.  Though they might have been tempted to if my digestive tracked hadn't torn it in half.)

All of this was an effort to get my legally blind eye in shape in the event that I got my good eye gouged out with a broken pencil or whatever.  It was also to build the muscles so that my eyes tracked effectively.

Then, when I was in first grade, I had another operation.  This operation was to fix the tracking in my eyes, but for reals this time.  So, after being put under, then waking up and vomiting over and over and over and over as a result of the anesthesia, my eyes actually tracked properly!  Awesome!

The thing is, I was supposed to have another such operation when I was 13.  I didn't.  I'm now 30.  Using basic math and and intuition, you can deduce that this means I went from normal eye-tracking at age 5 to needing corrective surgery again at 13 to looking like I'm recovering from a concussion and a hangover and a bee-sting to the pupil all at once at age 30.

One of the main difficulties with this progression is that I subconsciously function under the assumption that my face looks basically normal.  I often find myself helpfully explaining to people that "oh, my left eye is weird--it's actually blind" only to be met with a stare which says something to the effect of "on what universe did you think I wouldn't notice the utter freakiness of that disgusting eye, which the reptilian part of my brain is interpreting as a signal that you are about to knock me out, throw me in a van, take me to your lair, and sew a suit out of my skin?"  But then, of course, this person's executive brain takes over and feigns surprise.  "Oh, your eye is weird? I hadn't noticed it... that much."  Some will even throw in a comforting phrase like "It's really hard to tell that with your glasses!"

Thanks. 

What's that you say?  You want to see a picture?

Sure.
 
From a distance you see this:


A normal looking 30-year-old father of three


When you get closer, you see this:


Psycho-Killer Dahmer Bin Laden I-Molest-Farm-Animals Face


(Note the ridiculously untamed eyebrows.)  You might be wondering if I was pissed off or sad in this photo.  This was taken the day my second daughter was born, one of the happiest days of my life.


Need further evidence?




I rest my case.

The next installment will cover my internal deformities.  Get ready for some incredible polyps and cysts!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Body deformities: Part I

Are you deformed? I am! Both inside and out. Now I'm going to tell you about it.

*warning* If you are the type of person who gets all squeamish when a blogger talks about things like "cysts" and "polyps" and "cataracts" and "feces-ridden bed sores" now would be a good time to bail, 'cause I'm about to get all kinds of real on you, minus the bed sores thing which, if you're actually interested in, you can find here and here and here.

Let's start discussion on this fun topic with a story.

When I was spewed forth from the (pretty?) loins of my mother, all seemed to be in order. I had the expected number of fingers and toes. I was not retarded.* I had no visible deformities. And, let's face it, I was already incredibly handsome.

However, my parents noticed something wrong about one day in. My eyes had something weird going on. One of them seemed cloudy. They called over the nurse. "Nurse," they said. "It seems like there might be something wrong with his eye."

The nurse looked me over cursorily and said, "Oh, you sweet, young, innocently naive parents. There is nothing wrong with this child. All babies have a strange cloudiness in their left eye. It's called being a newborn."

Though comforted by these kind, dismissive words, my parents wisely continued to bring up the issue. The cloudiness did not recede. Finally, they found a doctor who actually examined me. He looked at my eye more carefully and said, "your son's eye is screwed."

It was really messed up, that eye of mine.  Some disease I can't remember, plus a cataract, plus a lack of formation of some of the nerves or some junk. (I'm hazy on the details.  I was a day old.) 

As it turns out, groundbreaking research had just been conducted (this is research in 1980, by the way, which from today's vantage point looks a little bit like when a child brings you a drawing and says "it's a picture of a house!" and you say "oh, that's great!  I can see the... lines you drew haphazardly...") which permitted doctors to operate on my face.  At the ripe old age of two weeks, a surgeon cut a big hole in my pupil, removed the lens from my eye, and I was left forever maimed.  But, my eye didn't die like it would have had I been born any earlier, and now if some brutal thing happens and I get a javelin through the right side of my face or whatever, I'll have my left eye.  That's right, though I'll never be able to read, see a computer screen, drive, or recognize a human face, I'll still be able to see a bunch of blobs of color and walk around without hitting walls.  Which in all honesty I'm thankful for.

There's more to this story, but this is getting long.  So, this will be a multi-post series about body deformities!  Yay!

Stay tuned for a discussion of how my legally blind lazy eye makes me look vaguely like a serial killer.

Update: you can now find said discussion on Part II of the series which can be seen here.

*Lest you think me an insensitive beast, I feel I must mention that contrary to the thrust of popular culture which suggests otherwise, retarded is the technical term. Mentally retarded, to be more exact. (See pp. 41-49 of the DSM-IV)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pretty Loins

Okay, I'm not really known for my accuracy.  Nor my precision.  I can only barely distinguish between those two words, in fact.

I tend to be a "big picture thinker" which is a really nice way of saying that I don't pay enough attention to minute details to notice small inconsistencies like "your bank account is now empty--do not buy those Zingers" or "it is now 5:42 and you were supposed to be at your meeting at 5:00--please stop reading the decade old copy of The New Yorker you found as you were 'cleaning' and get in the car," or "You have two children in your charge and they are no longer audible--find them before they die," or "you just used a capital Y in the previous example and that doesn't jive with the preceding two examples where you did not--please fix this." It also implies that I can understand larger constructs and concepts very clearly--viewing the forest, not the trees.  We're talking complicated, big-picture things here such as "I'm pretty sure that every flavor of ice cream is delicious" and "Pain hurts every time" and "the United States is called the United States because it is comprised of 50 individual states!"

Sometimes, the burden of this broader vision lends itself to situations where I overlook important details that affect others.  I was recently made aware of just such an instance when my friend, Lindsey, who is getting her PhD at Loma Linda University, alerted me to a minor error I made in Spanish translation back when we were interns together.

When I first heard that she was going to Loma Linda, I had recently decided not to apply to PhD programs myself, which meant I was required to good-naturedly tear down the hopes and dreams of those who had decided to not be wussy.  Thus, upon hearing her news I blurted out, "well, you do realize what Loma Linda means don't you?"

"What?" she asked.

"It means Pretty Loins.  That's right, Lindsey.  You're getting your PhD from Pretty Loins University." 

Ahem.  You Spanish speakers who pay attention to barely significant details like the gender of nouns know that I made a slight error.  One of those little oversights that I am prone to make as I'm busy seeing the big picture (which in this case was either that Lindsey needed to be heckled for doing something I was jealous of, or that I was really bored doing paperwork and wanted to laugh about stuff.  Not sure which.  Let's not sweat the details here, folks.) 

Loma in Spanish means hill.  Lomo means loins. 

Oops.

If I had put on my thinking cap I might have listened to the voice in the back of my brain saying "this can't possibly be right."  I might also have gone on to note that Lindsey thinking her school's name was "pretty loins" when it meant something much less weird and improbable could possibly lead to an embarrassing situation.

Well, such a situation occurred.  But thankfully, Lindsey narrowly escaped humiliation.

The following is the wall post she just left me:

Oh!  I forgot to tell you!  Guess what one of the group questions was on orientation day?  ... (drumroll) ...  What does 'Loma Linda' mean in Spanish!  Although motivated to win the world's ugliest beige LLU sweatshirt, I wasn't able to spit out the answer before some brown-noser beat me to it.  And she said "Beautiful hills."  And they said she was right.  BUT WE KNOW BETTER!

That's right, Lindsey!  We do know better.  We know better than to trust the accuracy of any information Josh ever shares ever ever ever.  (Except when he's right.  Which, according to his scientifically sound process of relying on his broad impressions of reality and then ignoring pesky distractions like "facts" or "lack of bias" or "actual math," is approximately 93% of the time*.) 

Is it bad if part of me wishes I could know what would've happened if the brown-noser had kept her mouth shut and Lindsey had had the chance to answer? 

*Did you note my use of the word "approximately" right there?  This handy trick negates all responsibility if your statistic ends up being wrong!  Which is why I can say that Loma approximately means loins--just one letter off--and still feel good about myself.  Aren't stats fun???

A non-humorous post about humor

I wrote a post yesterday that I found to be very amusing.  (Those of you who use feeds can probably see it.)And then I felt sick. 

I had trouble figuring out why.  As I thought about it throughout the day, I realized it was because of a joke I made about a student.  It was not a nice joke.  But it made me laugh--it was probably my favorite part of the post.

Now, I'm no dummy.  I've seen enough horror stories out there about bloggers losing their jobs or whatever because of posting idiotic things.  To avoid this, I had decided to write about the incident (it was about a student I knew from teaching a few years ago saying hi to me, and me realizing with a thud that my middle school students from my first years of teaching are now entering college) but I also decided to completely change the identity of the student.  I even changed the student's gender, because I didn't want this student to ever see it and be like "wait, that's me.  I remember that.  Now I'm very, very sad and want to kill myself."

I only wish I were being hyperbolic in that last sentence.  But I'm not.  Truth is, I've been at school working with the kids for less than a month, and I've already had two legitimately suicidal kids in my office one of whom had recently attempted, which heightens the likelihood of later attempts dramatically.  (That student is doing much better.)

I'm doing everything I can to support these kids--to boost their sometimes tragically low self-esteems, and to help them believe in themselves.  To help them rebuild after trauma--help when they've experienced things most people can scarcely imagine.  I'm so careful to say all the right things to get them to see the awesomeness that I can see in them as they sit across from me, to make them feel comfortable in my office, and to maybe give them a space where they can come and not feel judged or criticized or crapped on or abused or whatever else. 

And then, to think I would turn around and write something offensive about a kid on my blog just for laughs?  For my own entertainment?  Yeah.  No wonder I couldn't get that sick feeling out of the pit of my stomach.  A little vile, Josh.  Shame on you.

So, I took that one down, and I'm realizing that there are some boundaries that I'm not going to cross.  This is a good thing, I guess. 

Part of why I'm attracted to writing comedically on my blog anyway is because of my work. Things get heavy up in that joint. I spend my day talking about abuse and trauma and secrets and drugs and really, really bad things with people who are a mere eight years older than my four-year-old daughter. So, I'm attracted the idea of writing funny stuff (or at least what I consider funny) as a counterpoint, I think.

I had hoped that I wouldn't get all meta-bloggy now that I had put a moratorium on my ADHD melodrama. But, turns out I can't help myself.

Here's the bottom line.  I'm not going to make fun of kids.  Ever.  And contrary to what I flippantly said in yesterday's post, it's not for myself or my own protection.  It's for them. 

(I will now humbly bow while all three of my readers do a slow-clap that intensifies into a very weak and awkward applause...)