Fighting The Bear

So, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything of real meaning here. (As in March of 2018. I told you, it’s been awhile.)

It’s not that I haven’t had things to say or stuff to talk about, it’s just that blogging hasn’t been a huge priority for me. Then 2020…

Let’s not talk about 2020.

I’m here today to talk about fighting the bear.

Once long ago I was talking to a friend about my annoying bitch of a disorder and how most people (50%) who have had MS as long as I have (15 years this year) develop a secondary type that is relentless. Over the next 10 years, that risk increases to 90%.

Now, we all know I’m evil and a fighter. No, not that kind. A literal fighter. Combat-trained, street brawler, knife fighter. It’s a long story, but I’ve said before my upbringing was unique. My first knife-fighting lesson was at age 6, and I loved it. But I digress.

Before this autoimmune nonsense, I was also a bodybuilder. Not the ripped Cory Everson type, but I spent a lot of time in the gym with weights and drinking protein powder. I still use some of what I learned from the Body-For-LIFE book back in the 90s. (I also have the Women’s version of the book and the cookbook.) I give my training and pre-diagnosis physical condition credit for how well I’m doing right now.

And I am doing well. You have no idea how lucky I am to be in the condition I am for this late in the game. Many, many others are in wheelchairs or are unable to drive or get themselves to the toilet. For all my limitations (and there are several; don’t get me wrong), I can still do those things. I need things like a shower chair and a cane to walk outside, but I can still feed and dress myself and hug my cats.

But one day, that won’t be the case. And when that day comes, that’s the day I fight a bear.

Fighting The Bear Art

Dina vs. The Bear by artist Doruk Golcu

Yes, that is me. My Friends of Awesome commissioned this custom piece of art from the amazingly talented illustrator Doruk Golcu. They gave the artist the gist of the scene (okay, a lot more than the gist; there were some specifics that the brilliant artist didn’t bat an eye over, proving he is One Of Us) and some procured reference pics of Yours Truly, collaborated with Mr. James, and surprised me with it for my birthday. I absolutely adore it. Beyond adore. It’s my desktop wallpaper, my iPad screen, and the framed print they ordered and sent to me will be hanging in my living room.

Here’s the reason I’m fighting a grizzly bear, and what the painting truly means.

As I told my Friends of Awesome, when I am diagnosed with secondary MS and am at the point where my quality of life has deteriorated to an unacceptable level, I will take my Tank Chair (because I’ve been promised, when I need a wheelchair, it will be Tank Chair) out into the wilds of Canada to knife fight a grizzly bear. A male one, at midsummer, just before he gets super fat for the winter but has had enough time from the last hibernation to pack on the pounds so he’s not starving. Now, I will either win the fight and return home dragging a bear carcass behind my chair, or I will lose and they will never find my body because Griz ate the tiny Goth girl who came for him with nothing but a knife.

That piece of art means more to me than you might think. It’s a huge metaphor for my daily outlook. Because every day for me is a bear fight. Seeing that painting on my desktop or my iPad or in the frame reminds me of who I am. I fight bears. There are some days when the bear wins, and some days I win. As time goes on, the bear will win more often, but as I’m fond of saying: today is not that day.

via GIPHY

Some days, when just getting out of bed costs more spoons than I have, I remember I still have knives.

If this is your art, please let me know so I can credit you.

If I still have knives, I can fight. Maybe not as hard as I used to be able to, but I can still do damage. (And, in all fairness, my worst day is still better than many people’s best, so there’s that to take comfort in, I suppose.)

So why am I here, right now, blogging about knife fighting a bear? Because I said I’d tell the story behind the art. And that’s the story. It’s a gift from people who care about me that shows how they see me, even on my worst days. It helps me remember (because with MS, sometimes you need a lot of help to remember things, as it’s related to Alzheimer’s disease) that the bear fight is (probably) not this day. It’s been an uncomfortable week for me with my condition, and for awhile there I thought it might be time to find a bear soon. I did some Googling and found out the reason behind my bad week (here’s a hint: when the answer isn’t “you have cancer,” it’s “move your ass” AKA “get some exercise and you’ll feel better”), and I think (hope?) that I’m coming out of the spin I’ve been in.

Turns out, exercise really DOES help! But it’s a vicious cycle. When I feel like crap, I don’t move, and because I don’t move, I feel like crap. That means the only way to deal is to power through, but when you’re out of power, that can’t happen, so…yeah.

via GIPHY

Now it’s late and I’m tired, but I have written a blog post, which is more than I’ve done in months. Not quite ready to fight a bear, but I’m working on it.

So This Is Sithmas

Wait, no. I won’t do that to you. Still, whatever holiday you celebrate (or don’t…that’s totally fine too), it’s that time of year. Pretty lights, trees, red, green, holly jolly, and so on. Also, presents.

And, like I did this spring when the nightmare that is coronavirus locked us all in our houses, I have something shiny for you.

If you’ve already gotten it, yay for you. But, if you know someone who might appreciate a little holiday happy, give them this link and tell them there’s a nice present waiting for them under the Sithmas tree. All they have to do is enter the code HOME4HOL at checkout and everything is free.

What’s with the code? Oh yeah. We’re still dealing with A GLOBAL PANDEMIC, and you can do your part to keep me and my family (including the cats, because pets also get COVID, in case you didn’t know that) safe from this lethal infection. We’re all immune-compromised and depend on you to keep us safe. (If some of this post sounds familiar, it’s because I shamelessly copied and pasted from a previous one. What? I have cards to finish!)

I am literally quarantined inside my house (yes! still!) along with Mr. James, and have been since March 5th. I’ve only gone out for absolute necessities, and the rest of the time we are practicing social distancing and self-isolating. It’s driving the extrovert in Mr. James mad, but me? I’m loving it. This is pretty much how I live my life as it is (hi, writer and kitten rescuer*), so nothing’s really changed for me, except how often I go out to eat/visit restaurants. (Thank God take-out is still a thing! For now, anyway!)

I know this is hard on a lot of people. We’re all demoralized (I’ve even written multiple threads on Twitter about morale boosts and their importance in these nightmarish times). and the idea of staying home for the holidays when you’re used to sharing them with family and friends is difficult for a lot of you. (I mean…not me…this is my jam. I don’t need a reason to stay home and ignore my relatives.)

As I’ve said before, my darklings, I adore it when people cope with their issues. I am here to provide you some tools to cope with your own quarantine/self-isolation. You ARE doing that, right? Wearing a mask when around others, washing your hands, disinfecting surfaces, social/physical distancing? Good. Keep it up. This is almost over. You got this.

So, the present!

This spring I uploaded my previously published/out-of-print books in ebook format to Payhip. I offered them free for a few weeks to get you through the isolation/lockdown period then. I’m doing the same thing now to get you through the holiday season.

They are free to download with the coupon code “HOME4HOL”. Just put that in at checkout, and everything is free.

No, seriously. Everything. The Destrati Series, the Stranger Things books (1 & 2 – there is no 3, despite rumors). Go.

Click this link to get your FREE QUARANTINE READS!

If you’ve wanted the out-of-print Stranger Things series, now’s your chance.

I don’t have to tell you all how uncomfortable I am offering those books for sale. I have my reasons.

However the world is forever changed, and we must change with it.

Because that’s how you survive.

Go. Get your free reads. Everything of mine is there for free. If you enjoy, leave me a review somewhere. If you don’t, well, I didn’t force you to read it. Keep that opinion to yourself.

Stay safe, stay vigilant, stay healthy.

Above all, STAY HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

— Dina

P.S. I’m plotting some theoretical eviltry that I may release after the New Year. It’s in the planning stages still, so there’s still a (fair/good) chance it may come to nothing (translation: I may get involved with something else and let it sit – again), but stay tuned. I’ll let you all know if it makes it out of the Lair.

*We have decided to suspend our kitten rescue until this pandemic is over. Not only are newborn kittens already immune compromised, shelters are limited on their space, and many veterinarians in our area are limiting the amount of spay/neuter surgeries in their clinics. It was in the best interest for everyone involved to suspend our efforts until it’s safe, especially for the kittens.

Light In A Dark World

(The title of this post is the title of one of my out-of-print books. Clever, huh?)

Whoa. Dusty in here. I mean, I suppose things do gather dust, when you let them sit for so long. Like this website.

Yeah, yeah. I know I haven’t updated in a year or so. I’ve been a little busy, rescuing kittens and the like. (That site’s out of date too – I’m working on that this week as well.)

What’s so special about now? Well, I’ll tell you.

A GLOBAL PANDEMIC! THAT’S WHAT!

I am literally quarantined inside my house along with Mr. James, and have been since March 5th. We’ve only gone out for absolute necessities, and the rest of the time are practicing social distancing and self-isolating. It’s driving the extrovert in Mr. James mad, but me? I’m loving it. This is pretty much how I live my life as it is (hi, writer and kitten rescuer), so nothing’s really changed for me, except how often I go out to eat/visit restaurants. (Thank God take-out is still a thing! For now, anyway!)

Now, you all know me. I’m not a joiner. I usually run the other way when “everyone’s doing it.” I don’t do trends, and I don’t do fads.

This is neither of those things. This, my darklings, is a coping strategy, and I adore it when people cope with their issues. I am here to provide you some tools to cope with your own quarantine/self-isolation. (You ARE doing that, right? Washing your hands, disinfecting surfaces, social/physical distancing? Because if you’re not, fuck right off and stop trying to KILL ME AND MY FAMILY! We are all in the high-risk category for this contagion and we depend on you to keep us safe. We’re doing our part. You do yours! Anyway, I digress.)

Along with many other authors and creatives offering distractions in these pain-in-the-ass times (which, despite appearances, WILL PASS), I have uploaded my previously published/out-of-print books in ebook format to Payhip. They are free to download with the coupon code “STAYHOME”. Just put that in at checkout, and everything is free.

No, seriously. Everything. The Destrati Series, the Stranger Things books (1 & 2 – there is no 3, despite rumors). Go.

Click this link to get your FREE QUARANTINE READS!

If you’ve wanted the out-of-print Stranger Things series, now’s your chance.

I don’t have to tell you all how uncomfortable I am offering those books for sale. I have my reasons, and I’m seriously considering taking them down after the coupon code expires.

However the world is forever changed, and we must change with it.

Because that’s how you survive.

Go. Get your free reads. Everything of mine is there for free. If you enjoy, leave me a review somewhere. If you don’t, well, I didn’t force you to read it. Keep that opinion to yourself.

Stay safe, stay vigilant, stay healthy.

Above all, STAY HOME!

General Updatery

*cough cough* Whoa. Bit dusty around here. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t update your website for nearly a year. Meh. I’ve been busy. Mostly fostering kittens, with some writing thrown in for flavor now and then.

I’m still over on Twitter for near-daily updatey things, but I really don’t have a whole lot to blog about here on the DJ website. This is really just the New Year’s post to assure those people who still read this thing that I’m alive and working, just not as visible here as I used to be. I’ll blog something when there’s something to blog about, but for now, most of my online presence is on Twitter or over at BeeBee’s House.

Because kittens.

If something new and exciting happens on the writing front, I’ll be sure and post about it here. Until then, kittens.

Happy 2019!

That’s My Cue

I admit to shamelessly copying/pasting this from another post I made on the subject. I do this every year. It should come as no surprise to regular readers. So…kthxbai!

It’s that time, all. You know the time. The bright thing is in the sky for way longer than I’m comfortable with, and the Fahrenheit temperature outside is flirting with numbers starting with 7. (Shut up – it’s a big deal where I live!) The tourists are lurking, the shrieklings will soon roam unchecked, and it is time for me to go to ground until my beloved September returns.

DOg Drags Blankie Bed

So that’s it for now. Go forth. Do shiny things. See you in September. (Possibly sooner. I have been tempted out of my reverse hibernation before, so you never know.)

I bid you farewell until the darkness returns.

Crow Pets Cat

Anger and Productivity

Or something about channeling rage into something useful. It’s 2AM and I’m exhausted and philosophy was never my strong suit.

I’m just here to point you in the direction of a new shiny thing. I’ve launched a website to detail my adventures in kitten fostering.

Longtime readers of the blog/those who keep up with me on Twitter may recall I lost my beloved cat, BeeBee, about a year and a half ago. (I also lost my very dear dog Elrohir about seven weeks ago, so you could say I’ve got a lot of rage to turn into productivity.)

Stuff and things happened after Bee died and I fell into a YouTube hole after someone posted one of Hannah Shaw’s videos on Twitter. One thing led to another, and less than a year after Bee’s passing, I became an official foster parent for our local animal shelter, specializing in neonatal and orphaned kittens as Hannah does. I’d bottle-raised two of my own kittens, and even though it’s been years, I still remembered how. Hannah’s videos provided an excellent refresher course and taught me a few new tips and tricks that weren’t around when I hand-raised two of my horde.

Here again is another step I’ve taken towards making this fostering thing a part of my life – I have a website and social networks in which to post kitten pictures and videos of the litters that come into Bee’s House.

Kitten season is approaching and I’m gearing up to take in a few. Yes, I’m still writing between bottle-feedings. This blog won’t be any more neglected than it usually is. I just have another one to neglect now.

Head on over and take a peek at what’s there if you want. There’s not much at the moment as I’m still getting things settled, but you can get the gist from what content I’ve managed to sort. I have lots of pictures and videos to upload once I get them organized. We’ve fostered three litters since becoming official/certified with the shelter in September, and there are many pictures across multiple devices.

More as it develops.

Foster kittens in my loo!

I Got Nothin’

Urgh.

Blargh.

*grunt* *point*

Stuff. Things. Whee.

I suppose I should just go chronologically, since it’s been a couple months since I’ve said anything here. Okay. *sigh*

November – eh. Stuff and things. Holiday. Gorgeous smoked turkey at a friend’s house (thank you!).

December – Birthday. Sithmas. Made a Boxing Day pie with hot water crust pastry. It was actually pretty good, though I learned a few things about the springform pans I used.

January – Friend came to visit for late Sithmas vacation. Stayed three weeks. Made another Boxing Day pie. Learned more about my springform pans.

Also lost my dog of nearly 11 years that I raised from a six-week old puppy.

This was my dog. His name was Elrohir. He was named after one of the twin sons of Lord Elrond in Lord of the Rings. (They weren’t in the films, thank God; they only get a short mention in The Silmarillion – Elladan and Elrohir.) We called him Ro for short. Mostly we called him Ro-Pup.

He was an awesome dog. He had his share of demons, let me tell you. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia — yes, dogs can get it too, and he had a severe case of it. He had both neuroses and psychoses (neuroses are more behavioral/emotional responses while psychoses are generally physiological in origin, resulting from trauma or disease such as a brain tumor or cancer). We managed what we could as things presented themselves, and last year was the worst of them. I was advised to consider euthanasia earlier in the year due to his increasing unpredictability and aggressive outbursts, but I was selfish and wanted one more holiday season with my special boy.

Fuck yeah I was selfish, and I don’t regret a fucking moment of it. And for all his issues, there is a hell of a lot more sadness than relief in this house. Not even Bee was this difficult to say goodbye to, and she was my bestie.

A friend tells me it’s because I couldn’t see the pain Ro was in like I could with Bee, and she’s right. I couldn’t. I knew it was there, and could see the aftereffects of his mental anguish (and sometimes while it was happening — lights on, no one home), but it wasn’t like he was physically broken. Sure, he had a little arthritis and some spondylosis going on, but he was an older, medium-sized dog, and those were normal for his age.

I know it was the right time to say goodbye, but damn it I didn’t want to. I, and the entire house including my friend who was here with us (thank God – I’d never have been able to get through it without her here; she was there when we rescued the little brat) was a wreck the entire week leading up to the appointment. (I wanted a specific vet who’d known him all his life to help him and be there with us.)

We made that last weekend we had with him special. We’d stopped leaving the house with him because of his anxiety and fear of (and tendency to be aggressive toward) strangers, but we made sure his favorite beach was fairly well empty and took him to see the ocean. He had his customary 10 minutes (he’s was never a fan of the sand) and then tugged us back to the car. We got him all his favorite foods and fed him from the table (a huge no-no). We did everything fun we could think of for him the last few days and gave him lots of hugs. We played as much as he’d tolerate (he was, after all, an semi-old man in dog years and didn’t much care to chase your ball, thank you very much). We napped a lot those last few days — his favorite thing the last year or so was to “take a nap.” He’d get his favorite toy (Lambie) and run to the bedroom, waiting.

The James Household is so empty. It’s amazing how much of our daily routine revolved around Ro and his special needs. I can’t go more than a few minutes without being somehow reminded he isn’t here, and it sucks so much.

Though there is more sadness than relief here, like I said, there is relief (and guilt for feeling relieved, of course). Relief that when the wind shakes the house and the rain pelts the windows my poor dog isn’t cowering in the corner, shaking in fear, wide-eyed at the noise. That I’m not running for the Thundershirt and putting on relaxing dog music I bookmarked on my iPad every time the weather comes in off the ocean, which is frequent where I live. (He was already on medication, so I couldn’t give him anything else to help calm him during his fearful episodes, which there at the end were near daily.) I’m not praying every time I go outside that there isn’t someone getting out of their car across the street and slamming the door, or the people building a house up the block aren’t using their nail gun or throwing boards around. (He wouldn’t go outside/go pee if he heard any kind of bang or pop or smack or crack.) I do still cringe every time I hear a whistle blown on the TV (they sent him into an absolute fit) and look around to see if he heard it, which is followed by relief that he didn’t, and then sadness because he isn’t there to hear it.

I’ve mentioned before that pain makes me angry (oh, all right — angrier than usual), and I am in vast amounts of pain. This sucks and I’m so angry. He was my brat-face. I slept on the couch for six months with a little area of my living room cordoned off with baby gates and puppy pads, taking him out every few hours until he was potty trained. He was also crate trained when he got older, and when he got older still, we abandoned the crate all together except for when we left the house. It was “his room,” and he loved it. It’s still here, in my office, the door still open from the last time he was in it. And damn it I hate the idea of moving it, so it’s just going to fucking sit there until I’m ready to move it, which may be never. It makes a nice end table.

We do know under no uncertain terms that we do not want another dog, no matter how old/whatever condition they’re in. Not because of any kind of bias against them, but because my husband and I are both disabled, and taking care of a dog isn’t at all like taking care of a cat, special needs or no. I’ve mentioned on Twitter that I volunteer with our local animal shelter three days a week now, and am also a foster for neonatal kittens (those too young to be adopted/have been abandoned/have no mother/need bottle feeding) when they come into the shelter system. When we first brought Ro home, I’d just been diagnosed with MS, and my disability was a lot more manageable. Now it would be totally unfair to try and meet the needs of a dog. I just don’t have it in me anymore. I can barely walk unassisted myself these days. Ro was an old man who wasn’t interested in walks or ball (arthritis, people, harumph harumph) that often, though we made it a point to mosey to the mailbox and back a few times a week. That’s all he wanted, and more than once these last few months we had to stop on the way back to rest (him, not me).

Cats, even bottle-fed kittens, are wholly different from dogs, and I’m still able to care for them. As it is, all my cats are special needs animals. Two are seniors themselves, and I will likely lose one of them before the year is out due to his health problems (fingers crossed that doesn’t happen, but it’s a possibility if we can’t sort him out again).

It’s only been a couple weeks since we said goodbye to our special, wonderful boy, but it feels like forever. We’ve gone through his toys and given away the majority of them to the shelter to help them raise funds for other dogs who don’t have the home he did yet. We took his food and medicines to the vet’s office and donated them to other dogs in need. His beds are still here as I can’t bring myself to part with them yet, and his favorite toys are still where he left them. I keep stepping on one when I get out of bed, and I don’t care. I used to step on them all the time when he was here (he had a lot of toys – our boy was spoiled rotten) and I’m not ready to move them, either.

His remains are on the shelf in the glass cabinet along with those who’ve gone before him. We’re getting pictures together to make a memorial wall above it – one portrait for each animal who has passed on in the eighteen years we’ve been married. Ro’s passing has hit us the hardest, because he’s been the only dog either of us has had that we raised from a puppy. He was our boy. He was with us for over a decade, through events both horrific and joyous. We were with him through his bouts of illness, both physical and mental. We held him through nights of terror and days of fear. Saying goodbye to him was, without doubt, one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and those of you that know me know I don’t say that lightly. It took the two people closest to me at my back to give me the strength to walk into that room where they’d made him a lovely bed complete with velvet pillow for his head. I have no shame in admitting I have cried every day both leading up to the appointment and every day since. I’d really like to stop, but I keep getting angry, and I cry when I’m angry or in pain.

And this fucking hurts. Then I feel strange, because I honestly didn’t cry this much for my Bee-girl, and she was my baby. Nor did I do this for my Daddy, who has been gone seventeen years today, and he was my best friend in the world. I miss him all the time. Hell, I even signed the order to take him off life support and held his hand as he died there in the hospital, and it didn’t hurt this long, or this much.

Before anyone says anything about grief and grieving, I’ll repeat what I said when I lost Bee:

You know how there’s these supposed stages of grief? Yeah, those don’t apply to me. I have been viciously wounded, and pain makes me angry. (All right, fine – I realize “anger” is a terribly vague word to use to describe me, because that’s my default setting. This is a little different.) I have…interesting responses to pain. By “interesting” I mean…uh….

Yeah. I’ll come back when I’m able to drink tea with another person again. That might be awhile*.

Anyone who is stupid enough to think (let alone say aloud in my presence) “she was just a cat,” I refer you to John Wick.

Farewell, Ro-pup. May all your demons be vanquished. You tried so hard to be a good boy, and you ended up being the best. We love you.

*comments closed

NaNo-What Now?

NaNoWriMo.

For those unaware of this exercise in insanity, it’s short for National Novel Writing Month. It’s every November (because nothing gears you up for becoming a professional writer like writing to a deadline in one of the busiest months in the United States) and the gist is this: you have 30 days to write 50,000 words on a brand new novel. I have NO idea what possessed me to attempt it this year. I avoided it for years, did it once (and won, tyvm) in 2011, then walked away, satisfied that I could do such a thing despite my condition.

As I said, I have NO idea what possessed me to do it this year. I’m even coming to it a day late – most participants started last night as proper. No, I had the brilliant idea to participate just this morning, and I’m still mystified as to why. But hey, if I’m moved to do a thing, there’s usually a reason behind it. And I’m moved to do this.

Never mind that my garage is still full of Halloween decorations that need putting away, my master bathroom shower stall is currently occupied by three half-feral kittens (two of whom have upper respiratory infections that require twice daily medication), I’m watching a friend’s house while they’re out of town, and volunteering two days a week at my local animal shelter. Sure, why not, let’s write a novel too! Throw another log on that fire!

If you’re feeling up to joining me in my insanity, I’ll scootch over. There’s always room at the bar for more crazy. You can find me on NaNoWriMo here.

Latecomer

So, it’s FINALLY September again. You all should be fairly familiar with me and deep and abiding love for September by now. I know it’s the middle of the month right now, but that’s because we had a bit of a late start to fall this year, owing to summer not wanting to fuck the hell off. September won finally, and summer crawled back into the hole in which it belongs.

It’s blissful here now. The temperature is under 70F (21.1C) every single day (and dropping!) and it’s back to our typical Oregon weather out here on the coast. I’ve written about it before, but the true arrival of fall is glorious for me. I have more energy, more creativity, less hostility (okay, this one is relative – go with it)…fall is my least vengeful season.

Earlier this year someone pointed me to this article about reverse seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and honestly, it’s pretty spot on when it comes to how I feel about summer. Right around mid-March/beginning of April I start getting an uncomfortableness, and it just worsens until my beloved September returns. There are many, many reasons I loathe the warmer months, but reverse SAD would explain a lot of it. But all that’s over now for another six months or so.

Here are some links to things to kick off the end of my reverse hibernation:

My friend Valt is still in need of some help for his surgery! If you could sacrifice that (pumpkin spice!) latte today, that would rock.

The anthology I’m in with Skyla Dawn Cameron is now available in print! Clicky the linky to get the shiny!

Go forth and enjoy September!

Sacrifice Your Latte Please!

So my friend Valtinen (you may have heard me mention him before) is finally, after more than a decade, getting to be himself!

Me And Valt Terrorizing The Villagers

He needs a little help, though, and I know my friends and fans are awesome at helping people. Valt has come a long way in his personal journey, and this step is finally here. It’s amazing and I’m very happy this is happening for him.

But you don’t need to hear me talk about it. Go here and read his story for yourself!

Help Valt Get His Surgery!