My Gothic Body: Stone, part 4.1 – Work Life, Bag Life

Part 1part 2part 3.1, Part 3.2

TW: Living with a nephrostomy bag, almost certainly TMI

Sunday, after I got home from the emergency department, I had a couple of packages from Amazon. One contained Amazon Essentials sweat pants, and the other a netted bag, attached to a belt, I could use to hold the nephrostomy bag under the baggy sweats. I was ready to return to work on Monday.

If I was a normal, well-adjusted person I’d probably coordinate with my doctor and my HR people to figure out a reasonable amount of time to be out, perhaps come back working part days, figure out how to use an oddball bank of benefit hours that got grandfathered in when they changed benefit policy a few years ago, etc. But, as many people have have told me plainly over the years – I am not normal, and as a lifetime of insight has demonstrated to my satisfaction, I am not well-adjusted.

I’m afraid of my HR department. They fired one of my colleagues for having cancer. OK. That’s a pretty simplified version but I think that’s a fair summation. (If you want to know what happened I’m appending the story at the bottom of this post.) It is sufficient to say my fear is real.

And, I’m afraid of my doctor. That is, I’m afraid of annoying him to the point he does something mean to me. So I didn’t want to bother him with too many paperwork questions. (I did, though, ask plenty of questions about the procedure, possible alternatives, what to expect, ways to reduce the likelihood of it happening again, etc. I didn’t then want to start asking him to fill out paperwork for my HR department.) Did I mention that I’m not well-adjusted?

It is a novel experience to stand in front of a classroom knowing urine is pouring out of my body into a bag hanging next to my thigh. Knowing that when I’m done I’ll have to empty it because it’s getting pretty full. Wondering if they can see the outline of the bag as I move around the lectern. Maybe they didn’t see it at first but as it swells with urine they notice it! Did I ever think of that? Yes!

My mindset and energy in those early days was good. I could tolerate five weeks of this.

What happened though, is that it was hard to sleep. If this was a permanent condition, or if I were living with it more long-term, I would have purchased a “night bag.” A larger bag to use at night so I didn’t have to get up as often to empty it. I probably should have bought one even though it was only five weeks. I could have used that sleep. OR, I could have adopted this strategy much earlier than I did – remove the bag and cap the tube and don’t worry about emptying the bag. My bladder and kidney were working fine. The bag was there as a measure of precaution.

I chose to sleep kind of sitting up with my bag resting on a low bedside table. It had to be below my kidney and I got kind of squicked out sometimes when I imagined it above my kidney and urine flowing back into my body. Fortunately, I don’t think that ever happened.

Between the awkward position and getting up 3 times a night to empty the bag I quickly started missing sleep time. Sweet, sweet sleep time.

Then there was the nearly persistent discomfort of getting poked by the stent. Sometimes I’d find a satisfactory position but it never lasted long enough. Eventually I’d have to move and there’d be more discomfort.

There was also an ongoing worry about the tube connecting my body to my bag getting caught on something in the bathroom, so I moved (usually) very mindfully and cautiously if the bag and tube were ever exposed.*

to be continued…

*Eventually (perhaps in the next post) I’ll include the heart-dropping moment when I nearly pulled the tube from my back. That was a real eye-opening moment.

I’ll append the story of my colleague’s employment termination at the end of part 4.

A Brief Aside: My Tumblr Fandom

After I dropped all my social media one of the things I missed was my Instagram page. It was filled with images of art and photography. One of the internet pacifications I still enjoy is scrolling through long lists of images. So, I dialled up my moribund Tumblr account and filled it with lots of cartoons, cartoonists, art and artists, photographers and photographic images. So many pretty pictures!

I eventually expanded a little into SFF fandom. I’ve always been intrigued by fandom but never really been very good at it (which probably deserves a longer post to unpack). Over the months I noticed lots and lots of references to a wide variety of fandoms. Where’s MY fandom I cried, I whined, I pouted. Everybody else gets to have a fandom. Why can’t I be a fan, I lamented.

But last night I realized I DO have a fandom. I’m a fan of scholarship. My whole adult life I’ve loved to read scholarship.

FLASHBACK: My friend JT told me once that (unbeknownst to me) I influenced his decision to go to grad school. I was just some yahoo working in a sandwich shop but I was telling him about the Foucault book I was reading (this was back in the early 1990s). He thought (he later told me) huh, perhaps academia isn’t completely isolated from the rest of the world. Perhaps I can be an academic and still reach a popular audience. /FLASHBACK

So, if you visit the blog page you’ll now see a Tumblr feed for my Tumblr blog (a blog of scholarly fandom!). Or, you can find the page here – or (or, if you’re into RSS –

I expect it to mostly be cool articles I find as I skim through Google Scholar (my preferred way to kill time on the internet).

One of the things that appealed to me about studying history, and later librarianship, is that both lend themselves to being a generalist. You can study the history of anything, and librarians try to organize the knowledge of everything. I’m very much a person of broad interests, not deep.

At Tumblr I describe my fandom this way –

My Tumblr Fandom

I think I finally figured out my Tumblr fandom! I really love scholars and scholarship and spend a lot of time browsing Google Scholar. I especially love historians of all stripes and critical theorists. Also some superstars like Rachel Armstrong, Rosi Braidotti, and Tim Ingold. I’m not a scholar but read a lot of scholarship. So, when I find some scholarship that catches my eye I’ll post it here. I’ll try to tilt toward open source but I’m sure some restricted access works will make their way into the mix.


I’ll let Tim Ingold conclude for me.

“Personally, I don’t much like the notion of interdisciplinarity. It tends to reproduce the colonial idea of the discipline as a bounded terrain of knowledge with an exclusive claim to represent a particular segment of the world. In just the same way, the international order reproduces the idea of the sovereignty of the nation state over its territory. As the world is carved up geopolitically between nations, so it is divided intellectually between disciplines. Dealing with other disciplines calls then for treaty negotiations, as in interdisciplinary conferences. But real disciplines are not like that. They are more like conversations. Each conversation is composed of multiple lines which, while converging in some regards, diverge in others. In practice these bundles of lines have no boundaries, nor do they lay claim to territories. Each line is rather looking for a way through. There is nothing to stop anyone from departing from one conversation in order to join another. One has to cross no boundaries in order to do so.

“So we don’t really need interdisciplinarity. That only creates boundaries where none were there before. What we need is accessibility, responsible scholarship, and conversation.”

Here’s to accessibility, responsible scholarship, and conversation!

To Start Again, Reset, Reboot, Renew

I like Mondays.

I like making resolutions at the beginning of a new year.

I like a clean desk, not because I’m satisfied all those projects are complete, but because I look at it and see it’s ready to start something new.

This summer has been a drag writing-wise. I’ve spent the last 100 days wrestling with the current work-in-progress. Mostly in my mind because I’m not thrilled with the revisions I’ve been making. It doesn’t snap like it oughta.

Looking back over the last few years the best time I’ve had writing was turning out short stories regularly, so I’m going to do that again. I’m not giving up on the long WIP, but my timeline for completing it is extended greatly.

I’m at the beginning of a new semester, and moving to a new house. I think it’s also time to refocus my writing goals. Summer is winding down and a new season is around the corner.

What I did this summer: I bought a house, killed my dog, and my computer magically turned into a brick

And, in addition to all that, I’ve been working to shrink my digital life.

We’re buying a house! Yay? It’s exciting and nerve-wracking, and all happening faster than I expected. We already own a house, but we never really liked it. So, a few years ago we decided to start saving for an upgrade. Our target date was 2020, but after meeting with a financial adviser (because now that I’m fifty-something I do responsible adult shit like that) we determined there was a way to move forward this year.

We sat down with people at the bank in May and on the long July 4 weekend we started to look for a new home.

We found a house that weekend!

But then learned someone had already bid on it, and the buyer only looked at bids in the order in which they came.

The next weekend we euthanized Abby the dog. Abby had degenerative myelopathy for about a year and a half before she died. On Tuesday she had some sort of fit, which the vet (based only on our description) guessed might have been a spinal infarction. Regardless, after that night her ability to move her hind legs diminished greatly. She walked like the drunkest of drunks. She had already been pooping inside the house (because she was losing control of her bowels due to the myelopathy) for the last couple of months. But, the key indicator that it was time, was that she stopped eating. Even her special crazy expensive delicious food that she gobbled down even at her most anxious and picky. By Friday we determined that the time had come. We’d been expecting this moment, but it was still a really sad weekend.

Let me back up for a second.

The first week of June we went to the beach for a week. It was awesome. When I came back and fired up my computer nothing happened. It was dead. Bricked. There wasn’t much on it. Lots of pretty pictures I saved off the internet for my screen saver. Old tax returns (which I also have in paper). And, oh yeah, the novel work in progress. Fortunately, I’m pretty good about backing stuff up, so I have the novel. What I didn’t have were the latest round of edits (which was about 40 pages worth). So I had to find a new strategy for editing the novel.

Then my dog died.

Then we found a house. A different one. One that we made an offer and it was accepted. One that we expect to own on Aug. 31.

And, somehow, in the midst of all this, I lost interest in my WIP. I didn’t stop working on it. Not completely. I began editing sections again. But it became a depressing chore instead of an engaging interest.

My solution? Next post.

Time for an Update

Time for an update.

I dropped in the feed from my Twitter account in the right-hand column since most of my online writing is short tweets rather than substantive, or at least longer than 280 characters, blog posts.

Editing the novel is still a work in progress. I reached the half-way point this weekend. On the one hand this is good. Yay! I’m persistently persisting. On the other hand it’s not moving as fast as I wish it would. Boo! I was supposed to finish this round of edits by the end of March.

Regardless, it’s comforting that it has not been abandoned.

I sent out a couple of stories before the busy-ness of February. Now that February is over, and I’ve caught up on some things, I expect to send out more stories soon.

I’ve finally managed to pick up the podcast habit. Right now I’m cycling through a variety, looking for something I can listen to regularly. One of my favorites so far is Talk Nerdy.

Inspired by listening to a variety of programs I’m thinking I should post an audio story. Not sure exactly when I’ll do that, but maybe in May?

My New Year’s resolution was to work on lessening my hermitish ways. To that end I started a book club, and we sort of randomly selected Trouble Boys since we are all of a certain age and listened to The Replacements frequently in our various youths.

I’m a heavy user of RSS feeds, and Digg Reader was my RSS reader of choice. They announced recently that they are ending that service. Right now it looks like I’ll be switching over to Inoreader. Feedly only allows 100 feeds in their free version. I weeded myself down to 400, and Inoreader had no problem handling that many feeds in their freebie version.

Whoops! Movie is starting. That’s all for now. I’ll update again in a few weeks.

Persistently Persisting

I forget how much the beginning the semester can sap my energy. Rejuvenated over winter break I foresaw much busy-ness when it came to creative work and blogging. Alas, that is not the case.

I continue editing the novel. I will eventually go through the whole thing multiple times. I’m currently one sixth of the way through this edit. Not quite on target for completing this go-through by the end of March, but I’m still confident I’ll hit my target date. It’s going well.

I managed to get one story completed and submitted in January. I have another deadline at the end of February. Unfortunately, I’ve been at somewhat of a creative loss and don’t have a story in the works. There is still time, but it’s running out fast.

I’ve started listening to the podcast Ditch Diggers. I’m not really a fan of podcasts, but I’ve been able to tolerate this. It’s two working SFF professionals discussing the business side of the biz.

Started watching Altered Carbon. While watching episodes of Black Mirror and PKD’s Electric Dreams I vowed I was done with dystopic SF, but here I am. We’ll see how far I make it.

Read Fifth Season and liked it. Read Three-Body Problem and didn’t like it. Next up is The Only Harmless Thing by Brooke Bolander.

I am by nature asocial and an introvert. My efforts to counter that are going alright so far. I’m getting out and socializing.

On one sojourn out and about I hung out with a friend who is totally engaged with his work. He’s loving it. Everything is feeding into his research and creative process. He is excited about what he is doing now and what he will do next. A few nights later, another friend is spinning free, no idea is gaining any traction, and he’s not sure what to do next.

I find myself similarly at a loss. Perhaps it’s February and work busy-ness. Keeping a record of my writing allows me to see that these fallow times happen periodically and will almost certainly pass. But, for now, every idea is a thin gruel, every opinion is shallow, the world is dull, and the future is dim. Nonetheless, I persist.

First Story of 2018 Submitted

This year I decided to change tack when submitting stories. Instead of writing stories and then looking for a market, I study a particular market and write a story for them. My first deadline was Monday. I wrote the story (“Funeral Champagne”) the first part of January, edited it over the weekend, and sent it out in time to meet their deadline for the next issue.

Today I start conjuring up a new story for a new market with a deadline at the end of February.

I’ve edited two of ninety sections in the novel. Not as far as I wanted to be, but at least I finally got started on it. I’m setting that deadline for the end of March. By ninety days into the year I should be able to finish editing ninety sections, right? It will need multiple revisions, so this will be going on all year.

I finished reading Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin and enjoyed it immensely. I’m typically not drawn to multi-volume fantasy series. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them. I feel anxious about spending so much time reading one long work instead of multiple shorter works. Before I start the second volume I’m going to read Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin (another multi-volume work!).

I liked Stone Sky because it wasn’t a typical orc, dwarf, thinly veiled European mythos fantasy. Instead it has a Jack Vance Dying Earth far future weirdness vibe I dig.

I watched Mother! recently and thought it was terrific. Less enthusiastic about the new season of Black Mirror, or the one episode of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams I watched. Of course, I’ll probably watch all the episodes in each series.

I’m secretly excited for the rest of the Supergirl season. I haven’t watched it at all this season, but I deeply loved the Legion of Superheroes when I was a kid, so I’m looking forward to seeing them live and in action.

I added a text widget in a column on the blog which tracks my movie/tv watching.

The cold snap we had killed all my peppers, basil, and tomatoes (though the carrots, beets, and green cauliflower came through OK), so I’m going to re-seed next weekend. It’s supposed to get down to below freezing tomorrow. In Florida. I know it’s cold everywhere, but it’s not supposed to be that cold here. I can’t grow peppers when it’s freezing outside! And, I don’t know if the banana trees will make it through this winter.

Still getting into the rhythm of the new year. The 3-day weekend felt almost like a continuation of my winter break/vacation, but there’s nothing but work for the foreseeable future. At least until May/June. I feel like I’m starting slow, but I’ve managed to be somewhat productive and found time to hang out with friends, so maybe it’s not a bad start at all.

Bustling Folly

To start off the new year I’ve re-designed the blog and renamed it. This year’s blog title is Bustling Folly.

“Bustling folly is the character of our species: people hastily set off on the path of the good, but do not persevere steadfastly upon it; indeed, in order to avoid being bound to a single goal, even if only for the sake of variety they reverse the plan of progress, build in order to demolish, and impose upon themselves the hopeless effort of rolling the stone of Sisyphus uphill in order to let it roll back down again.” — Immanuel Kant

This year there will be no 21st century politics or hot take on the outrage du jour. Instead of venting my anger I’m going to focus on the stuff that engages me. And what engages me are books, stories, and ideas. Especially weird books, stories, and ideas.

Because of my day job I spend more time than the average person reading book reviews and skimming scholarly papers. I’m going to start funneling some of that into this blog.

Because of my hobby I spend a lot of time reading weird fiction, science fiction, and fantasy. I also want to funnel a lot of that into this blog.

With any luck it will be weird and fun and maybe inspire an idea or two. At the very least it might provide a moment’s reprieve from the inside-out, upside-down lunacy of our current situation.

Here’s to a new year of bustling folly and mind-bending weirdness!

“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality.”Ursula Le Guin

2018 Resolutions

Fresh beginnings. I love them. I am that weirdo that loves Mondays, because with a new beginning everything seems possible.

I don’t love January 1 and Mondays because I’m optimistic, or because I think everything is going to be OK. I don’t. I like them because they are cues, opportunities to re-focus my attention and energy.

And it’s because of the opportunity to re-focus, to re-plan that I love resolutions.

Typically I try to avoid self-improvement resolutions. Last year I resolved to get in tune with the moon. A few years ago I resolved to eat more pie. This year, though, I’m tilting toward the betterment of self.

This year I’m resolving to be more social. Online and off.

I am an introvert in the sense that I find being around people to be tiring. I like people just fine. I’m comfortable in front of a crowd. I can speak extemporaneously to any size group without fear. I like parties, and hanging out with friends.

But, I have a weird sense of hypervigilism when I’m with a group of people. This sort of extreme attention can be exhausting.

Over the years it’s become apparent that that sort of isolation isn’t healthy. So, I’m working against my instincts this year and plan to spend more time hanging out.

Other resolutions are simply to do more of what I enjoyed in 2017. Write more, read more, blog more, submit more stories, and move around more. Where will I find the time? Less passively browsing the internet and fewer TV hours.

I hope your 2018 is getting off to a great start despite the blast of cold that’s chilling us all, even down here in Florida. Here’s to 2018 and more of the good stuff!