health

Photo by Nancy Wong, 1977

Let’s Talk About Cults

Or more, let me introduce you to my new favorite obsession. Three years ago it was biker gangs, last year it was viruses. This year is the year of cults, and I am so giddy that my astral cocoon is fit to burst!

I’ve been busy working on Book 3 (reminder, you can buy books 1 and 2 on Amazon), but as always I’ve also been working through replotting book 4 (because writing a series, let alone one nine novels long requires a bit of foresight on my part.) And as with all the previous books, something about the plot of #4 just wasn’t sitting right.

And then I listened to Cults, a comedic investigative podcast that looks into various cults throughout history, their activities, recruitment methods, all that fun sort of jazz. As hosts Paige Wesley and Marie Bello explain on their inaugural podcast, they’re interested in cults because they live in California and cults are literally everywhere. Oddly enough, that was the same thing Gregg Hurwitz said in an interview about his second Tim Rackley book.

I love comedy. I love cults. If there were a cult based around the Marx Brothers, I would probably join. (The password is always Swordfish). As it is, I live in Canada and the only Cult I have access to has a history of cutting off people’s arms and I need mine for writing purposes (Hello, Ant Hill Kids.) Therefore, I live vicariously through the work of people like Paige and Marie who are deeply ensconced in the cult-scene and, on at least one occasion relayed to listeners about a weekend visit to a farmer’s market for a massage (which might just be the most hipster thing I’ve written in the last few months) about how they were nearly swindled by a cult.

The point is, knowledge is power. I have a notebook chalked full of notes thanks to these two lovely ladies about the cult that will be dominating book 4, and I am excited to see where it takes me.

However, as with all things in life, they couldn’t have expected to poke the hornets nest for so long before something came out to sting them. A couple days back a message was posted on the Cults Facebook page regarding the removal of Part 1 of a particular episode. It doesn’t take a backrub peddling pontificator to know that someone got a little uptight about being called a ‘cult’ and didn’t appreciate having their presumably very white, identical pants and shirts all laid out to bare for the public to see. It looks like they have avoided litigation, at least for now. But that sort of subtle threat against your creative work can be a serious downer, and word can spread and sometimes impact that potential audience you are trying to reach. That’s why I’m encouraging all of you to go to your favorite podcast provider and give Cults a listen.

Okay. Maybe not the first few episodes. Pre-Armando episodes, or Pre-Mando episodes as I will now call them. Armando, their hilarious sound guy, was sorely needed in those early days. But don’t bring it up to Paige or Marie. They know their sound was crap. If you can deal with ratcheting your sound up to eleven, they’re still worth checking out. I promise, there are no audible jump-scares to ruin your hearing.

Cults are fascinating. They’re all around us (some more than others, I guess. Stupid, lame Canada with its lack of interesting cults.) They prey on the weak and most vulnerable in society and manipulate them into acting outside of the social norm. They are awful, but sort of cool, but really actually awful, but also, like, sort of really cool in a sick sort of way.  I have a lot of different feelings, but given my history of writing explosive, violent scenes, I suppose an interest in cults isn’t that unusual.

The point is, go listen to it. The crimes of these cults and leaders aren’t exactly friendly jaunts through fields of daisies. Paige and Marie are dealing with dark, uncomfortable topics on a weekly basis, and interjecting an overtop level of humor that a person could argue reflects the overall nature and response of general society when we hear about people getting caught up in cult activities. Ha ha, look at those chumps! This could never happen to me! That’s about as academic as I’m willing to get on the topic at the moment given the high levels of morphine currently in my system.

Anyways, give it a listen. It’s well worth it. Also buy my books. Those are also well worth it.

Or don’t. See if I care.

(I do.)

Header Photo by Nancy Wong, 1977
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Extra Life 2016

It’s that time of year folks. Extra Life 2016 is almost upon us; 14 days and counting. Somewhere, in my brilliance, I thought I could make a $2000 goal. That was silly. I am silly. As it stands I am currently at $410 plus some change donated by my lovely coworkers. Not bad given that I haven’t bombarded social media the same way I normally do. If you’d like to donate to my Extra Life campaign, you can do so here. If you need some convincing, read on.

The What:

Extra Life is a 25 hour video game marathon that takes place every fall. Gamers around the world gather to play video games, board games,  and card games for 25 hours while simultaneously raise money for local Miracle Network Hospitals. I play for Alberta Children’s Hospital. ACH is my jam.

The Why:

I’ve spoken about my medical misadventures more than a few times. I haven’t held back when discussing how nasty chronic pain is, or how vital I have found music and books when it came to surviving my hospital experiences. When it comes down to it, a person can’t be expended to spend hours upon hours of their formative years in the same place with the same people, repeating the same experiences, and not develop some sort of affinity for the setting. For me, that has been, and always will be, the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The old hospital, now the Richmond Road Treatment Centre (Where my chronic pain clinic is now located, fancy that) became my home away from home. I knew its walls, its art work, its doctors and nurses and orderlies. I knew it better than I knew myself, and consequently found the earliest pieces of who I am grew and were nurtured in those walls, by those people. The old ACH holds a very special place in my heart.

It also terrifies me. Like, literally, I usually pee myself a little bit when I have to go back there. Three spinal surgeries with awful, debilitating pain will often create that negative connotation. And yet, for whatever reason, I also love it. Despite having only one surgery in the New Children’s Hospital (which will be celebrating its Tenth Anniversary this year!) I find myself still associating it as a home-away-from-home. It is still inexplicably mine, though I have grown so much older since walking through its halls as a patient. It is a place I ‘graduated’ from, phased out of, and in so many ways, it was the first place to dub me an adult. Sure, I had already graduated high school and gotten a diploma and could vote and had to do my own taxes, but only when I was told I could no longer go to ACH did I truly feel like I had grown up.

It was mesmerizing how sad I was to leave the hospital, to leave behind the nurses who had helped raise me in so many ways, and the doctor who had been like a father to me for the last seven years.

Growing up sucks, but growing up and leaving behind that was more difficult than any tax equation or ‘adulting’ I have had to do since then.

I love the Children’s Hospital. I hate what it represents in many ways; all my fear, my pain, my awkward youth. But I appreciate how I can now look back on it with wider, if not world-weary eyes, and see what it meant to me and how it shaped me into the woman I am today. That is why I take part in Extra Life. It is giving back, if only in the smallest way, to a place that helped shape me into the sarcastic, annoying individual I am today.

I couldn’t be more grateful.

The When:

November 5th, starting at 10:00 a.m.

The Who:

As always, Cheryl will be joining me for her own live stream! Last year I was pretty damn sick and I flaked bad on her. This year I am making it up. Because Alex and I are moving this monday, we will be having a pseudo-house warming party with some close friends who are invited to come over and play card games as a break in the evening!

The Small Details:

I’ve decided this year to try doing a single game from the start. Namely: Fallout 4. I’ve only done a single run of Fallout 4 so far, so I think it’ll be fun to start all over and make the biggest, sarcastic, jerkiest character I can. I’m going to call her Moira BulletStomper. Yeah.

I’ll be streaming on my Twitch channel here!

Tweets will happen intermittently here.

How can I help?

If you have a dollar to spare and you’d like to donate, you can do so on my fundraising page here!  Alternately, I encourage you to join in the fun! Tell your friends, get groups together, and use November 5th as an excuse to reconnect with some old buddies and raise money for your local Children’s Hospital. It certainly doesn’t have to be ACH! You can pick any hospital in any region!

This really is a wonderful cause. I can’t do sports. I am not so good at the mathing. I don’t politic or science well. But dammit, I can game, and I can write, and on November 5th I’m going to be doing it #ForTheKids!

As a bonus, here is my spine from… one of the surgeries. I don’t know. I’ve lost count.

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Chronic Pain Diaries: The Longest Cycle

Sometimes I imagine that I am in a time loop. That my life is only capable of extending to a certain point before I reach a door that is meant to represent change. Instead, the door leads me directly back to the beginning of the cycle. I walk, and run, and prance my way through everyday events until I reach that damnedable door. The whole process begins again.

Today was a bad pain day, fitting given that I had my appointment with the Good Doctor. It was the sort of morning where it felt like the pain was leaking from my spine and staining my hips, my thighs, and even my ass. My ass, for god’s sake. This is mechanical pain, coming from the arthritis. I assumed it’s because the weather is properly cold now. This mechanical pain is the sort that claws into your body and doesn’t let go no matter how much morphine or baclofen or kittens you throw at it. It’s a vibrant, hot, red and black pain.

In the last two years my pain has gotten worse, and with it I assumed so did my curve. Perhaps the only highlight of the visit was learning that my lower curve has settled nicely at it’s 45-49 degree range. It hasn’t moved and likely won’t anymore. Hooray for me!

But at the same time it was some of the worst news I could have imagined. 50 degrees is the magic number. That is when the specialists go from shrugging their shoulders and saying “meh?” when you ask about surgery, to rushing you into the OR and rubbing iodine over your back themselves. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want more surgery. The concept of my spine being almost fully fused is troubling.

But I’ve learned to live with a fused spine. I’ve adjusted my life to it and I get by even without being able to bend over to tie my shoes. What I still find myself struggling with every day is the inconsistencies in pain. One day is good. One day is bad. One day is puppies and cotton candy and the next the puppies have rabies and the cotton candy is actually some sort of snake that is propelled by rockets made out of spiders. And while I can predict when snake-spider-rocket days might occur, it’s fairly hit and miss for the most part. And not knowing when I will be in that sort of pain is exhausting. You feel as if you can’t make plans, can’t make promises. You never know what sort of person you will be when you wake up in the morning.

Because the pain comes out of nowhere and it infects your life like those damned rabid puppies spreading through a daycare.

If the doctor has told me that the time had come to fuse my lower spine I would have been a-okay with that, because there is a slight possibility that fusing those two vertebrae would decrease some of my mechanical pain.

Maybe.

Then again, maybe not.

So I open the door and I walk through, back to the start of the cycle. I look back and see all my friends and family walking through the same door, yet somehow being able to reach another path that isn’t open to me. I have so many questions. When can I finally step onto that new path? What preparations do I have to make? Can I speed up this process? No. I am shunted back to the start of the cycle. Another year of waiting, of snakes and spiders nibbling on my nerves and burrowing into my body.

I’ll give myself one day to be sad, to feel a bit of self-pity that this will be another year when this cannot progress. I’ll put all my focus onto writing, of being a good partner to my husband and support him as he has supported me not only today, but every day rabid puppies and spider rockets strike me down. I’ll work and save, and in October I will go to Japan and see another culture with towering mountains and verdant plains. I’ll snuggle my cats when I feel sad and knit my blanket when I am lazily watching TV.

And I will have pain, every day, because the cycle is just starting again.

Walk to Fight Irony!

I like a lot things in life. I like bunnies, cupcakes, kitty cats, the word ‘snorkel’, banana bread (with or without walnuts), lime flavoured things, and Final Fantasy VII.

I do not like my arthritis. It is degenerative, which I am told is a bad thing. Ergo, I dislike it even more.

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