Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Friday, September 16, 2016

New and Exciting Medical Saga!

And here I thought this post would be about how I sent all the contributions to Heifer and they sent a nice letter back and named the water buffalo "Jim" and sent him to Southeast Asia.  Well, that's still going to happen (this week, I swear) but in the interim, Joan's having a new and exciting medical saga.  For anybody who doesn't know what's going on, Joan woke up about a week ago mostly unable to see out of her "good" eye.  She has a "bad" eye, too, where the visual field is limited, so to have the "good" eye poop out on her like this is not a good thing.  Obviously this is causing all kinds of problems, like you would expect if you were suddenly struck about half blind.  We've spent days in doctors' waiting rooms and testing facilities, and while we were at it, we hit Joan's out of pocket maximum. So at least everything's free from here.  

At this point there is no news, except that things are not getting better.  Nobody seems to be able to tell us if the eyesight will come back once they figure out what's causing the problem and start treating it.  Oh, and what could be the problem ranges from papilloedema, a condition caused by diabetes but usually on a much older person (don't Google it, it's scary) to a brain tumor, which is--well, I'm not gonna say anything more about that.  And all of that is incredibly sucky, but what I'm having the most trouble with now is just the sheer logistics of this thing.  

By that I mean, how to cope with the world when you can't see most of it.  I dunno if you've ever thought of that before, but it's a lot.  I mean, for example I've had to go through the house, and will have to do it again on a regular basis because we have a kitten, looking for trip hazards and things below radar that Joan could get hung up on. (And our house is an OSHA nightmare in that respect.  We're working on it, though.) There are some chores I've more or less taken over because I just don't think she can do them.  And of course there's driving.  When you can't see, you can't drive.  So now, instead of just driving myself around, I actually need to think about it, sit down and make a schedule; where Joan has to be when, when I need to pick her up, how long it'll take to get to here from there, and therefore, what time I can expect to, say, arrive at work.  Bonus, though; We're spending a lot of time together.  Kristen was right; that part is actually pretty cool.

(And just incidentally, my work has been great about all this.  No complaints about my lateitude or about my being gone on a semi-regular basis to take Joan someplace or other.  Essentially, they don't have to pay me while I'm not here, but that aside, they've been really nice.  And this may be coincidental, but one of the Downstairs Guys came upstairs to tell me he was running low on work and did I have anything for him.  Oh, honey.  Do I ever.)

And me? you ask.  Has my head exploded from the stress yet?  Well, actually no.  This is very Buddhist-y of me, but I've just been taking it one day at a time.  Say today is Thursday.  What time do we both need to be at work?  Any doctor's appointments? What time do I need to be at the library to pick Joan up?  What's for dinner?  And that's all I can really think about.  I don't deal with the long term possibilities because they're just flat-out beyond me. We'll have news when we have news.  It'll get better if it's going to get better.

(Of course, I can say that, right?  It's not like it's my eyes, after all.)  

But, seriously, this is a marriage.  And in a marriage, things change all the time.  You might not notice it, but if you take a look at yourself you'll realize you aren't the person you were ten years ago.  Everything's different now.  You're different now.  If you're married, you're in a different marriage than you were in ten years ago, even if you're still married to the same person.  You've plainly found a way, and many people don't, to navigate those changes with your partner.  Now, this is a particularly sucky change, and it's a big ugly nasty one, but still, it's a change.  The only way to handle change is to handle it together.

That's all I've got for now.  Sorry, but I've been really tired. Those of you that are in good with any particular deity, if you  wouldn't mind dropping him or her a line about Joan's eyes getting better, that would be great. And the checks go to Heifer tomorrow.  All I need is an envelope.  And a really good picture of a water buffalo.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Elizabeth Jane Vrabel, 1969-2016

Beth, heavily armed (as she generally was)
"Anyway, my sister called yesterday and it's not going to be that simple."
Beth rolled her eyes at me.  "You know perfectly well you don't have a sister."
"Dead?" Joan asked.
"Extradited.  It's a messy story, complete with a hooker, a chicken, 25 lengths of copper tubing, Lydia and a rubber llama suit."
--from The Great Cucumber Heist, by Jen, for Beth





Beth and Tera.
Beth and Tera and Jen and Joan were all friends in San Diego for a very long period of time.  Beth was the bridesmaid at Jen and Joan's wedding almost 20 years ago, to give you a time frame.  There were adventures too numerous to mention, but let's just say balloons were stolen, Zambonis were cheered for and the entire line at CVS Pharmacy was treated to some incredibly silly street theater, among other things.  Then Beth and Tera moved to Portland, OR and Jen and Joan moved to Dallas, TX, and they didn't see as much of each other, but still thought fondly of each other all the time and kept things silly on Facebook.

Beth died Sunday night of unknown but probably natural causes. We miss her terribly and probably always will.  

 

There have been plenty of good tributes on Facebook, from which I stole these pictures, but I thought it would be fitting to have one here, too.  Beth may no longer be with us, but her smile, her infectious spirit and most particularly her laugh will never be forgotten. Here's hoping she finds peace in the next world, or life, whichever it may be. 

 Incidentally, if anyone wants a cat, please comment below.  Beth had 3 and they are now homeless.  And that's about all I can say at this time.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Mini-Post: FINITO!!

Oh thank God, it's August 1.  The last few days of July there I thought I was gonna die. Sore arms, sore shoulders and just plain tired from all the swimming.  I capped off July 31 with a 2-hour swim, 3200 meters, and subsequently overslept this morning and missed my first August swim entirely.  But that's okay.  The point is, SWIM FOR DISTANCE MONTH IS OVER!! and here are the results:

22.4 miles
32 km

That's not bad at all.  I aimed for 23 miles and did not miss it by much. Yay!  

So, if you were sponsoring me by the mile or the kilometer, or even if you weren't and you just want to contribute something, this would be a great time to send me a check.  Make it out to Heifer International, which is a charity that can be deducted from your taxes and all that.  I have not moved in 12 years so if you know my address, send it there. and if you don't, you can send it here:

attn. Jennifer Jonsson
Law Office of John M. Lozano
9900 Starlight Road
Dallas, TX 75220

And if you want to be anonymous, make the check out to me, instead, and I'll include it with my check.  Hey, I sponsored myself, too.  Only a fool wouldn't.  

Anyway, please get it in the mail by the 10th of August, if you can, and on the 15th I'll total everything up and see if Team Water Buffalo really managed to raise enough money for a water buffalo ($250.00.)  If not, no harm no foul; we can also buy goats, chicks, ducks and other aminals that cost less but will still bring great benefit to needy families all over the world.  I'm going to write a letter to Heifer and list everyone who contributed, so if you don't want to be included on that list, let me know. And of course I'll send you a copy of the letter, which I think works as well as a receipt for tax purposes.  

So thank you, everybody, for joining Team Water Buffalo and raising a little money to help poor families this year.  You are all awesome!! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Mini-Post: Mileage Report

Hello all.  Just wanted to let you know I clocked in at nineteen (count them: 19) miles this morning for our Swim for Distance Month, still with half a week to go.  I should easily hit 20 on Friday, there's still Saturday and if I manage a long swim on Sunday, I could even hit the fabled 23.  Either way, I'd say I've earned my t-shirt.  But will I have enough sponsor dough to buy a water buffalo
from Heifer International?  Or at least a goat, some chicks and a hive of bees or two or three?  Well, that all depends on you.  If I haven't hit you up yet, it's just because I haven't personally run into you.  By all means, consider yourself hit up.  Sponsor me by the mile or the kilometer (31.4 so far) and help some poor family in Nepal (or someplace in Asia--you can find the range of a water buffalo here) improve their situation.

So what's it like to swim 23 miles in a month's time, you ask.  Well, it involves swimming just about every day, weather permitting, and frankly, I am TIRED.  I've noticed when I lift heavy things, my arms are sore.  These back to back swims, where I swim one evening and then again eight hours later the following morning, are the worst.  There's just not enough muscle recovery time and the it's like swimming through peanut butter.  I'll be glad to go back to my usual 4-5 times a week.  Yeah, you'd think if you're swimming almost every day, anyway, what's so hard about throwing in two more days and staying in the water longer, but somehow it makes a big difference.  Like the big difference it would make for a poor family to have a water buffalo, and--nah, I already talked about that.

One thing I'm pretty sure I haven't mentioned is how nice it is to be upside down in the water (doing a flip turn) and be listening to Beethoven at the same time. In case y'all missed it, my awesome sister Kristen bought me an underwater iPod last Christmas and it's just been the best gift ever.  I think classical music works best for long sets and rock is best for speed sets, but the important thing is giving my brain something to do besides count laps. I'm already plotting out what I'm going to listen to for the Really Long Swim in September. So thank you, Kristen! and cheers, all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mindful Swimming

So something happened yesterday that's probably happened about a million times before, but I didn't notice for whatever reason.  Probably because I wasn't being mindful, which, you know, a Buddhist kind of should be.  Ironically, Thich Nhat Hanh's school of Buddhism, which is my particular sect, is All About Being Mindful; my Buddhist name, for Godsakes, is "Deepening Mindfulness of the Source," which is pretty Jedi, when you think about it.

But anyway. I woke up in a bad mood, which happens.  I kind of grumped around the house having coffee and getting ready and so on, and then I went to the pool. There was a New Guy in my lane.  This is not surprising; new guys often show up in my lane because I swim in what we shall call the Slow Lane, with the older guys and the guys recovering from injuries and the guys who, for whatever reason, don't want to swim in the Fast Lane with the ex-Olympians and the 30-year-old doctors and, you know, the kings of the water.  (And they are mostly guys, now that I think about it.  We probably have twice as many men as women.  It's a pretty egalitarian sport, but I bet women have more trouble getting out of the house at 5 am to get to the pool what with kids and pets and jobs and--stuff.)  So the first question that always comes up is, "Does the New Guy know the rules?"  There are a couple of different ways to share a lane--like circling, going up one side and down the other side, or splitting, where each of you stays in one half of the lane. and I could tell this guy didn't know the rules because he was kind of all over the place. In that circumstance it's not very safe to jump in and start swimming because there could be a collision, so I jumped into the water and just waited by the wall for him to come back from the other end so we could Discuss.

And an amazing thing happened.  I guess I never noticed this before because I normally jump in and then immediately push off and start swimming, and in this case I was just holding still, but the second I jumped into the water, the happiness meter started going up.  I swear, it was like watching the mercury increase on an oven timer; I came in grumpy, I jumped in the water, and just by being in the water my mood started to improve.  Never mind the actual swimming.  When I started actually swimming, my mood just shot up.  Sure, exercise and endorphins and all that, but still, this was pretty remarkable.  Instant happy, just add water.

And speaking of swimming, how's the swim-for-distance thing going?  Pretty good.  I'm at  19.7k or 12 and a quarter miles.  I still have the better part of two weeks, so it looks like I'll hit at least 20 miles and hopefully 23.  This Sunday I'm hoping to do a double session, or a session and a half, which comes to at least an hour and a half in the water and 2700-3000 meters.  The big 5k swim is in September and I lost a lot of ground when I was out with a month with pneumonia, but we'll see how that goes.  Somebody told me recently that there's a two-hour limit on the 5k swim, anyway.  There's absolutely no way I will get fast enough to swim 5k in 2 hours (more like 2 1/2, maybe even closer to 3) but I can probably swim between 3500 and 4000, and that's a lot.  (Hm, maybe I'll take bets on whether or not I hit 4000.  Proceeds to go to some charity.  Not sure which one.  There are a lot of them out there.)

I have several sponsors pledging me by the kilometer or the mile, with all proceeds going to Heifer, International, but I could always use more.  It's easy; just be around when I post my final tally at the end of the month and send me a check, made payable to Heifer (which is tax deductible and all that) so that I can mail it with all the other checks and a nice letter from everybody.  If I raise $250, we can buy a water buffalo for some family in Southeast Asia, which would be cool.  If not, we can still buy goats and chickens and hives of bees and so on. Farm animals make a huge difference in the lives of poor families and they are not to be eaten, so there's something for the vegetarians.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Good News at a Bad Time

It's been nothing but good news all week.

First, and by far the most important, the Supreme Court threw out Texas's omnibus "make abortion completely inaccessible for most people who live outside the big cities and don't have lots and lots of money" law in a 5-3 split that marked the most significant court decision on abortion since--oh, well, since Roe v. Wade, probably.  Cutting through a mass of legal gobbledygook, the Court stated very clearly that states can't just go around slapping new regulations on abortion clinics to drive them out of business.  Which prompted the part-time Texas governor and full-time asshole Greg Abbott to accidentally admit that's what he was trying to do all along.  Now all we need is for somebody to admit that what anti-abortion activists are really all about is trying to punish women for having sex and we'll start having this discussion in an atmosphere of intellectual honesty.  Which would be refreshing.

Next, a much less significant Court here in Texas allowed the reinstatement of a lawsuit it had pitched out, and in a shocking twist, the Court even admitted that a "clerical error" might have led to the dismissal of the lawsuit in the first place.  It's a small thing, but I'll take it.  It beats the hell out of having to refile the petition, repay the $300-odd fee, re-serve all the defendants (presuming I can even find them again), and all the other stuff we'd need to do if we hadn't been able to get it reinstated.  So kudos to my boss, for good arguing at the hearing.  And me, for writing a good motion.  Rah.

And finally:  I have a new project.  I haven't the foggiest idea what it is, though I'm kicking around a few things, but I have a new project.  I have mentioned Rhett from Jinks, Oklahoma before, but only in passing and not as "the really cool guy I met at the Pen to Press Writer's Conference in 2010 and we're still friends all these years later."  So Rhett is this really cool guy--right.  And a couple of days ago I finally got up the nerve to ask him if he wanted us to write something together.  And he said yes.  Whoo hoo!!  So again, we don't know what we're going to do yet, but we're going to do something.  I'm leaning toward a suspense thriller with lots of blood, chapter cliffhangers, shocking "Game of Thrones" style deaths and the occasional gallows humor.  If you knew Rhett (and you should, because again, he's really cool) you'd probably think that's his kind of thing, too.

So anyway, it's all been good news.  And me?

Well...

Let's see here.  On Monday I became elated that a Big Country song was on the radio and a few minutes later started sobbing because it reminded me of my ex, who died recently, and now I'll never know why blah blah blah etc. etc.

On Tuesday, I caught myself driving 80 mph on the freeway.

On Wednesday, I had a complete meltdown at the gym and cried for ten minutes because I was so upset about the way our society treats fish.

And on Thursday, I called my doctor and said, "Something jist ain't right here."

Yep. After three or four years of being stable and pretty much asymptomatic, I'm suddenly spiking bipolar symptoms all over the place again for no apparent reason.  It's been kind of like having a storm of little earthquakes.  Either that's the fault line settling into a new and more stable position, or it's the buildup to the Big One and who the hell knows which?  So it's been pretty scary. I mean, I like being asymptomatic.  It's almost like being Normal.

However, This Does Happen. Things change, people change, haircuts change, body chemistry changes and sometimes doses of meds that have worked for a long time don't work anymore.  My doc upped my dose of something or other to see if that would help.  (Again, psychiatry is a lot like alchemy; you try a little bit of this and a little bit of that, try to find a good drug cocktail that treats the most obvious symptoms while not killing you with side effects, and if you happen to turn lead into gold at the same time, good on ya.)  So far, I have an upset stomach and I'm more scatterbrained than usual.  Oh, and I had a migraine yesterday, but that could be coincidental.  So I'm typing with crossed fingers because seriously, that's not bad at all.

And so July arrives, not with a bang but a whimper.  July, of course, is Swim for Distance Month for my swim team.  We try to swim as far as possible in the alloted 31 days, and the winner gets some cheesy prize, but I'm never going to come anywhere close to winning because I just don't swim that fast.  I am, however, shooting for 23 miles, which will be tough but doable.  (Think a mile a day for 23 days out of 31.  Again, should be doable.)

Also, I am once again inviting people to pledge me by the mile, the meter, or just generally for the 23 miles, or however far I get.  If you want to toss in a dollar a mile, or 50 cents a kilometer, or whatever you're comfortable with, that would be great.  I'll post regular updates here and all money raised (which is usually not a lot; I don't have many rich friends) will go to Heifer International, which is a nonprofit that helps people in poverty by giving them animals to raise. (Donations are tax deductible.) It's hard to imagine if you live in the United States or anywhere else in the 1st World, but an animal can make a huge difference to a family living in poverty.  A goat, for example, will give milk, which both helps with nutrition and can also be made into cheese and sold.  Also, a goat can get together with another goat and make baby goats, which can then be sold to other families and help them, too. In fact, a pair of goats can benefit a whole village. So Heifer's pretty neat.  I'd love to raise enough money to buy a water buffalo ($250.00).  You know, swimming, water buffalo--sort of follows, doesn't it?


Last thing:  I finally saw an announcement about that 5000 meter race I was going to enter.  It will be in mid-September. Actual date to follow shortly.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Another Saturday Night of Wild and Reckless Abandon.

So it's Saturday night.  Across the globe, couples dance and drink in seedy bars, go to sporting events, throw parties, take in movies, go on wild crime sprees that always end in a Tijuana prison cell, lying on the floor with a nude Barbie doll.  And I?  Well, I'm at Half Price Books.  Typing away.

Why Half Price Books, you might ask.  Well, two reasons.  One, they have free wi-fi, though half the time I'm not able to get my laptop to talk to it (ie, tonight).  There are also lots of tables in the common area, and some of them face the aquarium.  I'm big on aquariums.  I miss my fish.  There's also a little coffee shop that sells fine Italian sodas and decadent sweet things that I'm not supposed to have.  But most importantly, Half Price Books isn't my house and doesn't have a ten-week-old kitten gallumphing at high speed around corners and down hallways, causing hiss fests with other cats and occasionally launching herself at my feet in a brutal takedown attack that's evidently supposed to render me footless (no luck there so far).

Besides, Starbucks is too pricey and when I order something as mundane as a regular coffee, all the overdressed rich women who apparently have nothing better to do than hang out there look at me like I'm crazy.

Mainly, I just like to get out behind my desk and go out into the wild.  You know.  Libraries.  Bookstores.  Coffee establishments.  Anywhere I can sit, look busy, type fast and deflect curiosity.  I used to do my blog posts at Afrah and then one night this like 18-year-old waiter tried to pick me up, not realizing I was old enough to be his mother (which was nice, if a little awkward).  I still go to Afrah sometimes, but tonight I'm at Half Price.  There's no pita bread here, unfortunately.

And how's the writing going, anyway, you ask.  Well, it's been better.  I've been kicking around a small thing that I'll probably go back and work on in a few minutes here, and I've got another thing that's basically done but needs some major slash and burn editing, and there's another one that's almost done but I think I'm going to have to go back some 80 pages from the end, just chop them the hell off and make it all happen differently.  Which I'm not up for at the moment.

The truth is, I haven't been very excited about anything I've written since I finished the increasingly inaccurately named Mindbender trilogy.  (Quadrology? Quintology?)  I've been able to get angry enough to write something Serious (the thing that's basically finished), but I'm not sure I hit the point I'd been trying to make and I'm equally not sure I can make it hit that point, regardless.  I also have a major time crunch that I didn't have during the Mindbender era (swimming) and very little time in the evenings to sit down with a keyboard.  Most of the thing that's basically finished was written on the fly, longhand, between appointments, in waiting rooms and wherever else I happened to be when I had a few minutes.  Which is one way to go about it, I guess.  Transcribing it was a lot of fun, though.  You should see my handwriting.  No, you probably shouldn't.  You've seen what happens when you whack a bug and splatter its guts all over the wall, haven't you?

(By the way, whacking a bug is a big Buddhist no-no.  It's better to usher them outside.  I usually scream for Joan, which is sort of outsourcing my violations of the First Precept.  You know, like the United States exports its industrial pollution by manufacturing goods in countries that don't have the strict environmental laws we have here.)

So I'm here, and I'm gonna try to write something, but in the meantime, I just made a modest proposal that might lead to yet another project.  I hope so.  I'm probably going to shut off my Internet connection now just to avoid having to read whatever comes back, but let it be known that I proposed it.  Whatever it is.

And I hope I get to tell you whatever it is very soon.