Recently I realized that I have blog posts dating back to 2004 archived on an external hard drive. This is a slightly terrifying prospect, because hello, teenage angst! They come in handy sometimes, though.
Reading through old writings can give you new perspective on a situation. They can also give you a better birthdate for your cat.
That’s right, folks—Squirt is a whole year younger than I thought! 😂 I thought she was 14 but she is, in fact, 13. (Again?) When I let her know, she just flicked her gaze away from me disdainfully.
She has naps to take, people.
It seems like I got her in May or June of 2004, so she was probably born in March or April 2004. Some people pay big bucks to look younger, but not Squirt—she actually is younger! (Plus there’s the fact that she is tiny and doesn’t at all look or act like an older cat, aside from being more cuddly and taking more naps.)
There you have it, folks—musings from a kooky cat lady who is procrastinating all of the things. #amediting #amschooling #amwishingiwasnapping
PS: Does anyone know how to import LiveJournal XML posts to WordPress? I can’t figure it out for the life of me, and the plugins I’ve tried all suck. Not that the world really needs to read my angsty teen blogs, but it’s a hell of a lot easier reading them here than it is to squint at an XML file, and I kind of like scrolling through (some of) memory lane.
In December 2016, I was diagnosed with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD). I’d been suffering from symptoms for a decade, and the diagnosis was a relief. Finally, I could start some kind of treatment and maybe get some of my life back!
There are a lot of misconceptions about UCTD, and autoimmune diseases in general. Part of the problem is, we don’t know a whole lot about them. We do know that the immune system gets confused and starts attacking healthy tissue. This can cause a lot of problems.
My disease, UCTD, is like the center of a three-way Venn diagram, with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and Lupus the three overlapping circles. UCTD is at the center, meaning people with UCTD have symptoms from all three of these awful diseases.
It’s the best of both worlds.
The “undifferentiated” part means that the patient is presenting symptoms from all three diseases and their blood work doesn’t point clearly to any one disease. My symptoms and labs lean more toward Lupus. I have:
joint pain and stiffness
dry eyes and mouth
numbness and tingling
anti-double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA)
positive antinuclear antibody (ANA)
Sometimes I have bladder and GI issues, but it’s unclear whether they’re related.
People with UCTD sometimes go on to fully develop one (or more) of these diseases. Sometimes UCTD just stays put. It can also go away entirely. My rheumatologist is monitoring me for kidney involvement, which is how we’ll know if my UCTD is developing into Lupus.
In all likelihood, my UCTD is here to stay; I’ve had it for over a decade now and it only seems to be getting worse, not better. Since my labs have been stable, though, it’s also likely that I won’t develop Lupus.
This doesn’t mean that UCTD is at all mild. Though it doesn’t involve organ damage, the joint pain and other symptoms can be debilitating. When I’m flaring, I’m mostly homebound, or even bedridden.
To treat my disease, I take 200 mg of Plaquenil and 500 mg of Naprosyn twice a day. I also take Tramadol as needed. My rheumatologist is trying to avoid putting me back on Prednisone because its long-term side effects are pretty nasty, and I was just on it for nine months. Unfortunately, I’ve been flaring since I stopped Prednisone completely. If the Naprosyn doesn’t help my joint pain and stiffness, we’ll try something else.
It’s also important for me to eat right, get plenty of sleep, manage stress, and exercise as much as possible.
Even though having UCTD has been quite the adjustment, I’m learning to live around it. I listen to my body, resting when I need to and being careful not to overdo it. I’m also lucky to have Mike, who cares for me so tenderly and makes me laugh even in the worst of it.
‘Tis the season for nannies and single dads! Well, okay, I made that up. It’s actually the holiday season, though. It’s the season of colder weather, of cozy nights tucked inside with a book. Snuggle up and fall in love with Max and Savannah in The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos—only $0.99 for a limited time*!
Single dad Max isn’t looking for love—or so he thinks.
The cat’s out of the bag: my next book, A Disturbing Prospect, will be available January 29th!
This book is a lot different from my others. It’s a romance, but it’s much darker. Heavier. Steamier.
There’s revenge, vigilante bikers, and ravenous love.
I wrote this book in two weeks flat and then I sat on it for over a year. I didn’t know what to do with it. I toyed with the idea of making it into a series, but that didn’t feel right. Locking it up wouldn’t work, though.
Chronic illness costs more than you’d think. Financially speaking, it’s the thousands of dollars spent on doctor’s appointments and medications. It’s the medicines, salves, and mobility aids not covered by insurance. It’s takeout in place of a home-cooked meal. It’s time lost at work due to sleepless nights and bone deep fatigue. It’s whole careers and goals, and starting over with new dreams and hopes.
There’s also an emotional toll.
It’s the frustration of finding the right treatment and the side effects of medications. It’s the devastation of years of pain. It’s evenings crying at the sink because it hurts to wash dishes when wrists bend to scrub. It’s the sharp inhalation of breath every time you bend over because knees won’t bend and hips shift as if on broken glass. It’s feeling exhausted after taking a shower, or skipping one because it’d only wipe you out completely.
Then there’s the pain of friends and family who don’t get it. It’s comments like “You’re not using your cane! You must be all better!” It’s dismissive belittling: “That’s not too heavy,” “You just need to walk more.” It’s the feigned interest, the change of subject.
The most substantial cost, though, comes when those close to you—the people you thought understood—actually don’t. It’s the priciest lesson, the deepest cut.
It’s a common occurrence for people with chronic illnesses. It happens to us all the time. We’re treated as an inconvenience—or worse, we’re treated as if we’re purposely inconveniencing someone else.
As if we have control over our illnesses or the weather.
Chronic illness teaches you who’s real and who isn’t, who truly belongs in your life. People like my mom and sister, who stopped by when I couldn’t go apple picking a few weeks ago and brought me apple cider donuts. They drank tea with me and turned an otherwise miserable and lonely afternoon into a nice memory.
All people like me need is a bit of understanding. We don’t enjoy canceling plans. It’s not fun being stuck home under an electric blanket and painkillers. I’d much rather be able to get out and live, but my body often has other plans. Slowly I’m learning to live around it, but it’s even harder to live around a broken heart.
The first time I was sexually harassed, I was six years old. Six. I was a little girl. A boy in my class, whose desk was paired with mine, exposed himself to me and tried to get me to touch him. He actually grabbed my hand.
I fought back.
I wrenched my hand away and told him no. I froze with panic, terrified that I would get in trouble. Eventually, we were moved around. (My teacher paired students with someone new every so often.) I never told a soul, until now.
I’m telling this story because ever since that first time, it’s happened so many more times, I can’t count. Boys and men touching me, making jokes and comments, catcalling. Then there are the two boyfriends who sexually assaulted me. Raped me. Violated me with acts of violence that I will never forget. Men who I trusted with my body and heart, yet they only wanted to control and possess me. To hurt me. I went years without telling anyone, and it almost killed me. This story has a happy ending: I did the work, and I healed. I grew strong. I got my voice back, and a confidence I’ve never known before. But.
I’m worn down to the bones, sick in my soul every time another story hits the news or blogosphere about men who hurt women. I’m tired of the violence, the victim blaming, and the bystander effect. All three contribute to rape culture, and these three seemingly small things—men who turn away when they overhear other men make a sexual joke, for example—are the reason why women stay silent. Only when others come forward do we feel protected enough to raise our voices, too; there is safety in numbers.
I’m tired of men making excuses or saying they’re sorry. Instead of being sorry, stop being a piss poor excuse for a man. Don’t justify your past actions or write apologies to the women you’ve hurt. Start being a better person. Stand with us when we’re accused of trying to ruin a man’s career. Speak with us when we tell a man to leave us alone. Stop automatically siding with your bros, and start being a brother to the women in your life—both friends and strangers.
And for fuck’s sake, quit it with the “not all men” line. When you’re whining, you’re centering yourself in a story that isn’t yours. Your selfishness is complacence, and your hands are around her neck, too.
As a small business owner—yes, writing books is a small business!—I’m always looking for interesting ways to get myself and my books in front of new readers. So when Paperless Post approached me, I thought “Why not?”
I’d recently released Any Other Love and thought Paperless Post’s cards would be a fun way to announce the book to my readers. I have to admit, at first I misunderstood and thought they were sending me 800 free coins for physical cards. I had visions of swag postcards dancing in my head. So I was a little bummed when I discovered I was “only” getting digital cards. My first thought was “Who sends e-cards anymore? It’s not the ’90s!” My second thought was “I can make this work.”
In the meantime, I’d set up giveaways via Goodreads for Just One More Minute and Any Other Love paperbacks. I decided that using Paperless Post would be a fun way to let my email list know about the giveaways, and started off by browsing their Business Launch and Event cards.
Figuring out the Paperless Post site came with a bit of a learning curve. I’d expected an interface more like Vistaprint’s, where I can edit text boxes with just one click, and place them wherever I want. Paperless Press is sort of like that; I could edit the text, but I couldn’t move it around on the card. I found myself a bit limited with what I could do. I could also start with a blank card and add my own image, but I only got a single large text box superimposed over the image. Since the image I planned to use was a book cover with its own text, that wouldn’t work.
I thought I’d just use a teaser, then, but I couldn’t resize the image; when I uploaded it, Paperless Post dropped it onto the card at an odd size. It took some playing around, but I ultimately found a card that matched the cover of Just One More Minute. (I’d really wanted to use Any Other Love‘s cover, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.)
The design just so happened to have an envelope liner option that exactly matched Just One More Minute, which was cool but there wasn’t a way to choose an exact color. If I’d stuck with the Any Other Love cover, I would’ve ended up with a card that clashed.
I also wasn’t sure why an e-card needed an envelope, but what do I know?
Paperless Post’s behind-the-scenes magic automatically addresses each envelope for you. (Their physical cards have a similar option, and you can have Paperless Post mail them out for you.) I could’ve chosen a fancy stamp, but I stuck with the default one because it would’ve been at least one more coin per email address. Each card starts off costing two coins per email, and I have almost 400 subscribers, so I had to be careful.
Here’s where I spent an embarrassing amount of time being confused. On the next screen, you can pick a reply card option. Since I was just letting people know about the giveaways, not inviting them to an event where they’d have to RSVP, I didn’t need the default “yes or no” reply card. It took me a bit of playing around to figure out how to change it to a simple call to action with a linked button.
I could’ve changed the reply card’s design and its backdrop, but I decided to keep them simple. I wanted the book to be the focus.
I also couldn’t figure out how to change the text on the reply card. Hoping I could figure it out later, I clicked “done.” I didn’t have to wait long, because on the next screen, I could customize the text itself.
Finally, it was time to add my recipients. I could add them one by one, or I could import contacts under the “email list” option. I initially thought the email list option actually connected my MailChimp account, for example, and then imported my subscribers. That would be cool. Instead, I got a downloadable spreadsheet and had to manually add 300+ people to it. Thank goodness for copy and paste; I exported my MailChimp list as a .csv, then copied the names and emails.
To be fair, my use of the card was a bit unorthodox; Paperless Post is intended for things like birthday parties and weddings. The average person would’ve just imported their contacts from their address book.
Before sending my card, I previewed it in my browser and emailed myself a test.
Then I sent the card off! I sent it to myself, as well, so I was able to open up the actual email and make sure everything worked properly.
The animation is actually pretty cool. I saw right away why I needed an envelope. The flap opens and the card slides out. That’s not the coolest part, though.
Once my cards were sent, I could see who opened them in real time. My readers could even send me private messages.
If this were an event requiring RSVPs, recipients could click yes or no, and I’d see right away which they’d chosen. For my purposes, though, I could see as soon as someone opened it. I didn’t know whether they clicked my link, though—at least not through Paperless Post’s interface. (Instead, I used my website traffic stats to get a general idea of how many people clicked.)
I got a few messages thanking me for the giveaway, which was pretty cool. When I send regular newsletters, it’s rare that I get replies. (Does my aunt count? No? Damn.) It’s totally okay, because my email list has a higher than industry open rate, so I know my readers care. (Seriously—experts say to feel lucky if 18% of subscribers open; my average is something like 30%.)
All told, sending these e-cards would’ve cost me about $75 out of pocket. (I used 755 coins; 600 coins cost $60 USD and an additional 200 coins are $28—or I could’ve purchased 1,000 coins for $90.) Also, you can’t use coins to send paper cards. Though it’s an interesting concept, I’m not sure that I would spend $75 on e-cards. On the other hand, their RSVP response and private message system for paper cards would’ve come in handy when I got married. Their prices for print cards are comparable to, say, Vistaprint, so check them out!
When was the last time you sent an e-card? Let me know in the comments!
Disclaimer:Paperless Post provided me with 800 free coins in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.