The Skin I’m In

I think I was about 5 or 6 the first time I got the funny red bumps all over my body. Various friends and family thought I had measles or mumps or something terrible and contagious. I didn’t.

It was my first bout with psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a genetic skin disorder where the skin cells regenerate many times faster than normal, creating red patches and spots. There are multiple different types of psoriasis, though when I was a child, I was diagnosed with guttate psoriasis. Since then I’ve self-diagnosed myself with several others, based on research done via the internet.

Guttate psoriasis is what I’ve struggle with most of my life. If I got sick with strep throat, my skin would break out within a couple weeks. After that, I would make regular trips to my dermatologist, slather multiple ointments on my skin, take many baths in tar-smelling stuff, and eventually have my skin return to normal. I had 3 different bouts that I can remember, at approximately 6, 12, and 16 years old. The psoriasis flare-up I had at 16 was by far the worse and changed how my body reacted to the ointments forever.

I’d been very sick that winter, with two bouts of strep and a couple of the flu. By the turn of the new year, I had huge patches of psoriasis on my body, not just little spots. My lower legs were almost completely covered in red, itchy, dry, scaly patches. Every visit to the dermatologist gave me more ointments and medicines to try and I took multiple different vitamin supplements, all to no avail. We tried tanning booths and UV treatments, until the doctor roasted me in the UV booth, after which I stopped seeing him.

It wasn’t until the days grew longer and the sun was out more that I actually saw some results. For whatever reason, natural sunlight is the closest thing to a cure that has ever worked on me.

Over the years, I’ve learned to deal with it. I’ve found one vitamin supplement that helps, and being pregnant and nursing actually cleared my skin up completely, but other than that, my elbows are always patchy with psoriasis and I always have several large patches, between a quarter to an egg in diameter, on my legs.

Back in October 2016, my whole family got sick with strep. Every single one of us. We all got on penicillin and I went on, thinking that since I’d had psoriasis almost constantly for the last 16 years, that the strep wouldn’t make any difference.

Boy, was I wrong.

I started noticing one day that my face felt really dry. REALLY dry. Painfully so. I went in the bathroom to put on some moisturizer and actually stopped and looked at myself in the mirror. My face was blotchy, scaly, and red. After a moment of close examination, I realized that it looked like psoriasis. Practically overnight, my body completely broke out. The patches on my legs spread to cover almost my entire lower legs. My arms grew similar patches. Hundreds of small spots appeared on my upper legs and torso, many growing bigger than quarter size in a few days. No part of my body was spared. But the worse, by far, was my face, the only part that I couldn’t cover up and hide. My skin was red, swollen, dry and peeling.

Self esteem tanked. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t want anyone to see me. Nearly every time I did go out, someone commented on my face. I hurt. I felt ugly. And I saw no end in sight.

Then I had family come along to help me out. My sister, who recently started a skin care home based business, got one of her skin treatments to me. My in-laws paid for me to see a dermatologist and get some of my old, familiar ointment.

I have to say, my sister’s stuff works better than anything I’ve ever tried before. She had me take a before picture and then I took another one 30 days later and the results were staggering. She posted them on Facebook and now I’ve become a small celebrity among her business partners and their Facebook friends, with multiple people asking permission to share my before-and-after picture. It’s rather funny, but I still flinch every time I see that before picture.

I’m tempted to use the face stuff on the rest of my body, to see if it would heal the other parts, too, because even the doctor-recommended medicine isn’t clearing me up nearly as fast as I’d like. Or I may have to wait until the sun shines a bit more and I don’t risk frostbite by going outside in a t-shirt (seriously, it was -26 degrees here recently).

That’s my story of the skin I’m in.

Holiday Ne’er Do Wells

I think I nearly got robbed this week.

I saw a Facebook post a couple days ago from our local police department. It was warning residents of “holiday ne’er do wells” who were going through mailboxes to steal gifts sent via mail. I took note and went on with my day.

Then I was feeding my three kids lunch, preparing for an afternoon homework and piano lessons. I glanced up and out my big front windows and saw a man coming up my sidewalk. He wasn’t wearing any delivery uniform, so I assumed he was a solicitor of some sort. He came onto the porch and passed out of view behind our front door.

I waited for the knock, ready to open the door.

No knock.

No knock.

So, I just opened the door and said, “Hi.”

My husband’s snowboard, which had been sitting next to the front door, was in the guy’s hands. He swiftly put it down. “Um, hi. What time is it?”

His question caught me off guard and I half started to turn away to check a clock, then decided against it. “About 1:30,” I said, making my best guess.

“Thanks,” he said and hustled off my porch and across the yard. As I watched, a car rounded the corner and pulled in front of my house. The man ran to the car, jumped in, and they sped off.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket with shaky hands and called 911.

Oh, and I moved the snowboard into the house, just in case.

Tears on my Christmas Tree

We put the decorations on our Christmas tree the other day. It’s been sitting in our house for over a week now, but we were all too sick to decorate. Kids were finally better, so we dug out the boxes of decorations.

I love opening the box of Christmas ornaments. It’s a tradition going back 30+ years for me now. Remembering all those Christmases with my parents and sisters, pulling out the box and putting up our ornaments. My parents gave us all an ornament every year, something that reflected our year. I remember when I went through my horse phase, or the year all of us kids were into Rugrats, or the year I got my cat Deja.

Now there others. The pair of wedding bears given to my husband and me on our first Christmas after we got married. The little wooden nativity from my sister, which she picked up in Jerusalem. Three sets of “Baby’s First Christmas.”

It’s a yearly time capsule.

It was fun watching my kids put up ornaments on the tree, helping my six-year-old find her small collection, and keeping the twins from breaking anything too precious. We cleared a layer, and went onto the next.

And my eyes brimmed with tears.

There’s a simple little ornament. A sea shell one. It’s a big shell, slathered in sloppy glops of gold glitter, with little shells stuck to it, tied with a blue ribbon. I’ve always kind of liked it. It was so much like the little boy who made it for me, the first year I was his teacher. A crazy mess that didn’t quite seem to fit, yet, drew light and attention. It made me smile when I got it, because it was so him. It’s made me smile every year when it goes on the tree.

This year though, it made me cry.

Because that boy isn’t here for Christmas this year.

There’s a lot of happy memories on my tree. There’s a lot of good times.

There’s tears now, too. In the shape of a golden sea shell.

Day 30 – NaNoWriMo 2016

Day 23: 2589

Day 24: 856

Day 25: 3266

Day 26: 1769

Day 27: 2299

Day 28: 4185

Day 29: 271

Day 30: 414

Final Total for NaNoWriMo 2016: 63,797

Only a few hours remain for NaNoWriMo 2016, but I’m for bed after a long day. I hit 50,000 on Day 23, tying last year for my quickest NaNo win. I wanted to see if I could beat last year’s number of words and finish out Crafting the Badger’s Head, but these last few days conspired against me with a puking child and then a trip to my daughter’s eye doctor for her post-op checkup.

Crafting the Badger’s Head is close to being complete. I’ve got four major scenes that need to be written, and one of them I know for sure is going to be a doozy. I still have 15 plot cards to cover. According to my original estimation, that would give me another 15,000 words at the very least. Potentially more, seeing how I’m running long on my scene average this year. I may break 100,000 with this one!

All in all, it was a good month. One of the things I love about NaNoWriMo is that if you set out with a will to hit that 1667 words each day, by the end of the month, you’ve established a writing habit for yourself that, with discipline, you can keep going with for many weeks to come. I needed NaNo to help me refocus my writing once more and get me in the habit of writing every day again. I’ll probably continue my current habits until Crafting the Badger’s Head is finished, then I think I will drop back to writing 5 days a week with 2 days off, so I don’t burn myself out too quickly.

After this draft is done, it’ll be back to Tales of Mysera and Sentinels of Mysera. I’ve got a plan for those now and, by golly, I’m going to get them done this time.

 

Day 22 – NaNoWriMo 2016

Day 16: 1853

Day 17: 1768

Day 18: 2243

Day 19: 1757

Day 20: 765

Day 21: 3573

Day 22 (so far): 2795

I’m currently less than 2000 words away from hitting 50,000. I have 23 plot cards remaining, so Crafting the Badger’s Head is still on track to at least tie last year’s NaNo, Noontide Green. If I can find more time today to write, I should be able to hit 50,000, which will make this my fastest NaNo win yet.

I unfortunately came across a little hiccup in my plot. One of my minor characters has become more of a major one. He’s supplanted his father in a lot of the story, so I’m considering having the son take over a key confrontation rather than the father doing it. But it would require some reworking of the order of the plot, which makes other key scenes a little more difficult.

So I should probably spend my spare time figuring out how to make this change work, rather than writing myself into a corner that I’ll have to revise out of later.

To my fellow NaNo participants, keep up the words!

NaNoWriMo 2016 Halfway Mark (and a Tale of Two Eyes)

Day 11: 2889

Day 12: 1748

Day 13: 1988

Day 14: 1708

Day 15: 678

Yesterday was the halfway mark for NaNo 2016 and proved to be the toughest of writing days for me. It wasn’t even writing that caused the challenges. It was what happened during yesterday.

If any of you had spent a substantial amount of time around my 6-year-old, you may have noticed that her eyes had a tendency to drift outward. Kind of like going wall-eyed, I guess. They had a different name for it, but I can’t remember what. When she was really little, her right eye just lost focus and drifted, but it did it rarely and only when she was tired. As she got older, it happened more often.

She got glasses at 3 years old, which improved the problem slightly. We tried patching and different exercises, with varying degrees of success. We went from our regular optometrist to a specialist in a bigger city 2 hours away. Her left eye began doing the same thing as the right.

Over the summer, I noticed that her right eye drifted any time she looked at something for more than a few seconds. It did it constantly. So at a recent appointment to the specialist, my husband and I informed him of that and he said that it was probably time for the one thing we were hoping to avoid.

Surgery.

We agreed, though reluctantly, but with her eye drifting more and more often, we were running a higher risk of her losing her sight in that eye. So surgery it would be.

Her and I went to the bigger city on Monday, to prep for her surgery on Tuesday morning. We got a hotel for two nights, while my mom stayed home with the twins and my husband kept working a job he couldn’t afford to be away from for 3 days. I brought my husband’s work laptop with the intent of keeping myself busy.

Day 15 was Tuesday and the same day as my daughter’s surgery. I wrote a little in a half distracted fashion before waking her up and taking her to the hospital. Surgery was at 8 a.m. We were back at the hotel by noon.

Yep, that quick.

But the rest of the day was spent with the two of us lounging in the hotel room while the rest of the anesthesia wore off, with me occasionally giving her Tylenol when she started complaining about her eyes hurting. She looks a little cross-eyed now, which the doctor said would be normal and would improve over the next couple weeks, since he detached and reattached muscles in her eyes. The stitches will dissolve on their own and apparently the eye heals faster than any other part of the body. So fast, in fact, that she could go back to school tomorrow.

If she stops seeing double, which is another side effect.

If you didn’t notice the bloodshot corners of her eyes and her tendency to bump into things right now, you’d never know she’d just had surgery yesterday. I can hear her playing with Legos in her room right now. She hasn’t had any pain medicine since first thing this morning, so I’m thinking she’s already on the mend.

Hopefully this surgery corrects her problem from now on and we can go back to the regular optometrist after a couple follow up appointments.

And maybe next time I’ll see if I can put off surgeries until after NaNo.

Day 10 – NaNoWriMo 2016

Day 7: 3,020

Day 8: 2,426

Day 9: 2,103

Day 10: 3,208

Total written: 24,383

Today’s writing session set a new record for words for this year’s NaNo. We’re 1/3 of the way through NaNo and I’m nearly halfway done with the NaNo word count… and I’ve only gotten through about 1/5 of my plot cards. At the rate I’m going, I could hit 100,000 words for Crafting the Badger’s Head. That would make it my longest NaNo ever and, I believe, my second longest rough draft. I think the first draft of Sentinels of Mysera was 120,000. Nothing else had come close.

I’m starting to get into a groove. I’m starting to figure out who Josin and Kirron are as characters. Gentos, my antagonist, is intriguing me, because he’s not exactly coming out how I envisioned. He’s better than I planned.

My plan of waking up at 4 a.m. to write has stayed steady every day so far. I’m really enjoying that quiet time first thing in the morning. The catch is that I have to get to bed early enough in the evening, or else I have splitting headaches by noon.

How are my fellow Wrimos doing? Smooth sailing, or is it a little bumpy?