Galaxy Eyes

Galaxy Eyes

Firefly's eyes (with Tonks)

January 2020 began a long, crazy, EXPENSIVE journey for the family. I had noticed an odd cloudiness in Firefly’s left eye in December. He sometimes had flares of upper respiratory infections, and I thought this might be one of those times. But by January, it was still sticking around – and getting worse. He needed some lab work to recheck his thyroid, so I figured I’d mention it.

Cue the dramatic crescendo.

Uncertain WHAT the cloudiness was (other than not anything typical), the vet recommended a referral to an ophthalmologist. We trooped him out the same day – and got more confusion. It LOOKED like a sequestrum – a malady more common in dogs. Cats can certainly get them (spontaneously for no damn good reason – of course), but it was rare. And there was ulceration on the cornea due to an underlying dry eye problem. Surgery was an option, but with his dry eye, it wasn’t recommended.

Firefly's eyes with the worst of the sequestrum

Over the next six months, the poor kid proceeded to suffer through eye drop after eye drop after eye drop. At one point, he was on SIX drops – half of them THREE times a day. (Good thing both of us work from home!) And then, just for fun, he developed an ulcer on the right eye. His beautiful eyes started to resemble galaxies. NOT a good look for a cat. We were regular visitors to the ophthalmologists. They knew our car on sight, and everyone knew him. (Luckily, he’s a star patient) His dry eye improved – a little…at least it wasn’t ZERO anymore. He started resenting the eye drops and began running and hiding when he heard us open the bottles. We were hitting a brick wall.

Firefly post-double keratectomy

Out of options, we decided we’d hit rock bottom. The ophthalmologist agreed, and we went forward with surgery: a DOUBLE keratectomy. They removed part of the cornea on both eyes and place grafts. With his dry eye history, we were warned the grafts may not heal – not to mention that his eyes were going to look…well, not the best. And for those first few weeks, he looked rough. We held our breath and watched the blood vessels form attachments to the grafts. Fingers crossed, sacrifices made, and star charts consulted; he’d been through SO MUCH. When we hit that four-week recheck, I don’t think either one of us were breathing.

The grafts held, though! Healthy tissue and vessel attachment showed. And at the two rechecks since, the report’s been the same. He’s been able to drop down to just three eye drops (one’s even an over-the-counter drop!) twice a day. He’d prefer if we left his eyes alone, so he takes off now and then, but it’s not as bad as he used to be. And while his eyes aren’t the beautiful stunners they used to be, they don’t resemble cloudy galaxies anymore, either. It’s a compromise we’re willing to take. And not having to see the ophthalmologist for six months? That’s a freaking miracle!

Firefly's eyes now

We can actually see his pupils again. They’re larger than normal, but they’re in there. You also get a little of the prominent blood vessels on the left, where they’re gripping the corneal graft, but it’s more subtle than before. And since the left eye was worse, it’s kind of expected. We’re just amazed to SEE his eyes again. We spent so much of last year NOT seeing them. And wondering how much of his vision was obstructed. It was heartbreaking. Older, dapper gentleman or not.

We know he lost some of his depth perception. He’s a little more careful with his jumps. However, he didn’t lose his sight, which was a major concern of ours (especially since removal of his EYES was another possibility we discussed). And for a handsome boy approaching thirteen-years-old that isn’t too shabby.

The Numbers Game

The Numbers Game

Hourglass and clock
Photo by Jordan Benton from Pexels

Like it or not, everyone gets a little older each year. (In case you’re wondering, I fall into the NOT category) Some people luck out and don’t show that age. They pass through decades without a hint – inside or out. Other people feel every passing minute and it shows. And then you have people that may not wear their age on the outside, but their internal mechanisms fail. (Time comes in a close second in the sense of humor department to the universe)

And stopping time? Not possible.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of the adage “Getting older is mandatory, but growing up is optional.” I know I can’t stop the years from adding up. And my body lets me know, in no uncertain terms, that I’m not a spritely kid anymore. However, I’m not about to hunker down in a rocking chair on the front porch. (Not that I’m THAT old, either – in case you were suspicious) I don’t think my numerical age should dictate how I live my life. And, ironically, that knowledge came with getting older. (Hysterical, I know)

The moment you throw in the towel on the things you love and enjoy because you hit…I don’t know, some weird age threshold, is the moment your body DOES start to quit on you. The MIND dictates how old you feel (most days). And if your brain tells you to belly flop into the pool, run around with a Nerf gun, or kick back on the porch with a stack of comic books, then arguing you’re “too old” to do so violates your programming. Does knitting or arranging coffee table books HONESTLY sound like more fun to you? (If you enjoy knitting, this isn’t meant as a dig – do what you love) Look at the difference in activity level! One’s going to keep your body moving and pumping blood through every limb. The other? It encourages sedentary life and stagnant blood flow.

Now tell me which is healthier.

Laughter promotes health. Which means cartoons trump documentaries, people. Pushing the “try me” button on toys in the stores and giggling lightens the stress hormones in your body. (Even if you get strange looks from the “adults” around you) And what sounds better to you? Creating a work space with your favorite characters or making sure you adhere to feng shui? As someone with cartoon, comic characters, and cast photos on her walls, toys and stuffed animals on her desk and shelves, and stickers on the computer and monitor, I can tell you which fosters the better work environment. (Especially since I’ve lived in a rigid work environment in the past)

Does that mean I stop learning? Of course not. Hell, my job requires daily research. I have non-fiction books on the middle shelf over my desk, and I pick up a few new ones every year. I watch the occasional documentary if the topic catches my interest (and I don’t consider it absolute bilk; Tiger King falls into that category. I never watched more than 10 seconds of the trailer). I expand my mind between Marvel movies and cartoons, but it’s on MY terms – not because I feel it’s expected due to my age.

And my body? Yeah, it feels twice my physical age. I’m down four organs already. Writing my surgical history ALWAYS overflows the lines they give you. My body is crisscrossed with scars. I take handfuls of medications twice a day. And my collection of specialists is coming along nicely; I’m only missing a few before I think I’ll have seen every single one.

But people mis-guess my age.

It’s all a crazy number game. And you have ALL the control – over YOU. So why in the world would you ever choose to act your age?

Cue it Up

Cue it Up

Playlist of records
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The ancient Greeks divided up inspiration among nine different Muses, crediting their influence for the creativity that flowed over the known world. Terpsichore held dominion over music and dancing. So the Greeks felt music held the same importance as poetry and comedy. Probably because separating music from writing is damn near impossible. And when you’re stuck, mired in writer’s block, Terpsichore lies in wait in the wings, waiting to assist you.

Simply put: Turn on the radio.

Nowadays, finding inspiration has myriad forms. Music lurks everywhere, in every form. CDs reside in hefty binders or stacks against the wall (don’t deny it – you know you have them), records have returned to weigh down shelves, and computer drives hold decades of MP3 files. Not to mention the variety of streaming services open to people – free or paid. If you can think of it, there’s a station for it. Type it in, and you have music blaring from your computer, laptop, or phone.

I’ve said before that I refuse to work in the vacuum of silence. The music calms my brain, but it also helps me when my writing brain locks up and refuses to work. I have playlists designed specifically for inspiration. They’re chock full of songs that take my breath away and energize my imagination. They transport me into different places, different times, even different worlds. They drop the curtain on the world around me, giving me a chance to breathe and reorient myself with what I’m struggling with. And they jolt electricity through my imagination, sparking new ideas into my writing.

Magical playlists? I guess you could say that.

The funny part is, none of the lyrics have every prompted a story idea. I don’t take inspiration from the words, from the scenery (a lot of the entries on the playlist come from Broadway shows), or even the original concepts. It’s the feeling generated by the music that does the trick. And I know you have songs that engender that feeling in you. Music that gets into every nerve fiber, causing you to freeze up. You find yourself in another place – somewhere YOU created – feeling emotions only your writing brain has words for. Maybe it’s the beat, or the harmony, or something less definable. You just have to stop and let the power sweep over you.

And then the words flow – so fast your fingers can scarcely keep up.

Maybe that’s why the Greeks felt there were demigods behind inspiration. It’s an immediate rush. Or, sometimes, it’s perfect quiet. Other times, you break down completely. The music provides the emotional connection your brain needs to break down that wall blocking your creativity. Or it ignites the imaginative spark in the first place. The rush is crazy, and when you “wake up” from it and see how much writing you’ve accomplished, you’re amazed.

Everyone needs that playlist.

Think over the songs that resonate with you. Start setting them aside into their own playlist. Organize them into the order you need – or leave them on shuffle. (I get some amazing results when I do that) Keep it labeled so you can find it the next time you need a jolt of inspiration. And each time you stumble over a new piece, add it. Will the songs have any kind of cohesion? Of course not. Will people look at you strange if they hear that particular playlist? Probably. (Mine bounces from classical music pieces, through musicals, to modern instrumental pieces, to hard rock, some pop, a couple 80s – it’s a crazy hodge-podge and I love it!) It doesn’t matter. If it resounds with your imagination center, that’s what counts.

And the next time writer’s block rears its ugly head, sit back and cue up the list. You’ll clear the obstruction in no time.

Matter Over Mind

Matter Over Mind

Trust your gut instincts
Image by athree23 from Pixabay

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Sound familiar? People like to throw that bucket of ice water around whenever you get your hopes up over something. And your response is often defensive. They don’t understand or appreciate how amazing the chance you’ve stumbled upon may be. They’re jealous of your opportunities. They’ll see when you’re looking down on them from the pillar of success.

Except the saying’s dead right.

Whether we’re talking about speculative fiction or a freelancing job, you need to keep an important tool in your arsenal to prevent yourself from falling for those obvious pitfalls. And it’s one everyone has (but we often forget to dust off and take down from the shelf): gut instinct. The lurch inside that tells you something feels off – which your brain and heart cheerfully overwhelm with rationalization and hope.

Now, I’m not saying you have to abandon all hope, but that twist in your stomach deserves more credit than we tend to give it. Most of the time, it grabs our attention for a reason. It’s a buried instinct that tells us something feels off and needs a more critical eye. It we’re just willing to stop, set the heart aside for half a second, and employ THOUGHT (not rationalization), we might unravel the truth. Your gut can save you A LOT of grief down the road, but you have to USE it.

BEFORE you make the mistake.

Hope springs eternal, though, and the bugger gets in the way of that gut instinct.

There’s a market out there you’re haunting. It’s not currently accepting submissions, and the notice says they’re working on a Kickstarter – dated five years ago. Your gut assures you that market is dead and gone, but your heart tells you to keep checking, just in case.

Just in case what? Come on. If things were still functional, there’d be an update. Publications DO go under. Move on and find another.

You find another market, but even their submission guidelines tell you they have no response time. You’ll never know when/if they’ll get around to your story. Your heart wants you to try, on the off chance your work might find a home. Your instinct screams it’s a waste.

Again, there are so many markets out there WITH response times and ways to follow-up on submissions. Do you want to roll the dice with someone that isn’t willing to do that for a writer?

You take a contract with someone who tells you they won’t pay you for 45 days. You’re so excited you have a freelancing job that you rationalize the finances. After all, you’ll get paid…eventually. Your gut instinct tells you this is suspicious.

Even the largest magazines pay ON publication. If they have your work and it’s displayed, you have the right to receive payment. Sitting around for over a month, waiting for a check is nonsense.

LISTEN TO YOUR GUT!

Because, honestly, that twist is right 99% of the time. It’s trying to protect you. Sure, evolution developed the gut instinct to preserve our health, but it works in your writing career, too. Maybe it doesn’t speak the way your heart and brain do, but you know the sensation. When that jerk behind the navel happens, take your hands off the keyboard and ask yourself, “What feels off?” It’s a tool that gets more accurate the more frequently you use it, believe it or not. It starts to save you from embarrassing gaffes. And you find yourself succeeding more and more.

That gut instinct? It works both ways. You get a funny swoop when something feels right. You’ll stumble on a writing contest that speaks to one of your stories perfectly. A new market will open up that suits your work perfectly. Or you’ll land a new contract with the perfect client. And you’ll feel a butterfly that lines up with your heart and mind.

Don’t discount what you’re body tries to tell you. It wants the best for you. I mean, it IS attached to you.