Monthly Archives: July 2015

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Filed under Blog challenges, creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction

Another Hospital Stay

by Lillian Csernica on July 20, 2015

Michael has surgery on Wednesday morning.  Bright and early, and when I say early I mean I’ll be up at 3 a.m. prepping him for the 5 a.m. departure to the Oakland Children’s Hospital.  The anesthesiologist wants him to have a breathing treatment before we bring him in, along with his regular meds.  Wrestling my poor boy into his percussive therapy vest at that hour will be hard on both of us.

Then we board our van for the long drive.  Caffeine will be essential.  Given my sleep patterns, I will probably just skip my insomnia meds and go for the long haul.  I’ve pulled overnighters before for Michael’s sake.  The fight-or-flight response brought on by seeing the medics wheel Michael away on the gurney should be good for a few solid hours of jittery alertness.  Yes, I’ve been through this with Michael before, and no, I’m not really worried because our surgeon is the best, but Things Happen.  Only fools tell themselves nothing could possibly go wrong and really believe that.

We’ve been told recovery time for this procedure is three to five days.  That’s what they tell everybody.  My husband is not thrilled about this, because our lives are planned very carefully on a day to day basis.  Nursing schedules, what John might be doing, what appointments my husband, my sister, or I might have.  I’m really hoping we get to come home by the weekend so Michael can recuperate in his familiar surroundings with all of his comforts.

And this time, I’m going to positively ENGRAVE our name and address on Michael’s enteral feeding pump.  During one of our many hospital stays, the staff at that particular hospital sent our pump equipment home with some other patient.  We raised hell about that, believe me.  The hospital had to send a courier after the patient and parents to recover our equipment and deliver theirs.  Different model pumps make a world of difference, especially when the particular formula for the food is different.  The formula for Michael’s food tends to thicken up once it’s mixed.  That means the tube size on the feeding bag and the related equipment inside the pump had better be matched to the viscosity of the formula.  Otherwise the pump jams, the alarm goes off, and Michael doesn’t get fed.

Can you tell I’m already on edge?


Filed under Baclofen pump, doctors, Family, hospital, surgery

The Top Ten Things I Love & Hate About Being Creative

by Lillian Csernica on July 15th, 2015

The delightful lady known as @jazzfeathers on Twitter has tagged me to participate in the Love/Hate Blog Challenge.  I’m a big fan of making lists, so I thought I’d give it a go.  If you’d like to see @jazzfeather’s list, visit her at The Old Shelter.


1) Making things.  Jewelry, cookies, Christmas ornaments, a good story.  Beadwork has proven to be good occupational therapy.

2) Being able to run away from home inside my own head.  In my imagination there’s always a road not taken.

3) Hanging out with other creative people.  Hearing them talk about how they see the world and process their sources of inspiration.  My creative drive to write has taken me to groups and lectures and conventions, to other states and even to other countries.  In my circles we say “Only writers really understand writers.”  I wonder if that’s true for painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians, et al?

4) I’ve spent most of my life reading, writing, going to the movies, and watching way too much TV.  I’ve explored acting, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, and making a really terrible science fiction movie (high school project).  My creative streak has taken me in a lot of directions.

5) Being creative is an essential element of parenting.  As hard as life has been for me and my sons, there have still been those moments of shared discovery.  Finding out which types of music Michael likes best.  John’s first taste of chocolate ice cream.  Making up games Michael could play with just his right hand.  Making up other games that helped John learn the skills he needed to attend public school.

6) Creative thinking has proven one of my greatest weapons in the war I fight against my depression.  When the Black Dog comes scratching at the door, it can take a lot of work to make it leave again.  Self-talk, journal writing, art therapy, making something by hand, volunteering or just getting out the crayons and a coloring book.  Our motto at my house is “Whatever works!”

7) I come from a long line of creative women.  My mother takes amazing photographs and also draws or paints.  My grandmother wrote a society column for the newspaper along with having quite an adventurous life.  She once fought a bull in the corrida in Mexico and won!

8) I’m always learning.  There’s always something new to discover, to explore.

9) Being creative comes in very handy when my insomnia takes over.

10)  I’m never bored.  I really don’t understand how people can suffer boredom when there’s so much to see and feel and do.  One lifetime is not enough!


1) So many ideas, so little time.

2) Sometimes when I get caught up in the rush of enthusiasm that comes with a new idea, I get carried away with it and annoy the people around me.  That has occasionally led to arguments, which are a real buzz kill.

3) Aside from more time, the one thing I need the most of is concentration.  I live in a world of relative chaos.  One change and all the dominoes for that day start to fall.  It can even spread to the rest of the week.  Stress stress stress.

4) I grew up with my grandmother often telling me to “get my nose out of that book.”  It’s astonishing how many people can’t stand seeing someone sitting alone at a table reading or writing in a notebook.  They assume you must be bored and feel some warped humanitarian compulsion to interrupt and drag you off to some “fun” activity.

5) Having an artistic temperament is not a 24/7 blessing.  Quite the opposite.  More than once I’ve asked my mental health care professionals whether or not I am in fact bi-polar.  Nope.  Not even uni-polar.  I have Major Depressive Disorder.  Creative people tend to live in a heightened state of awareness all the time.  That can and does take a serious toll.  It goes along way toward explaining why some creative people resort to substance abuse, either as a way to maintain the creative high or as a means to come down off it.

6) A classic struggle for creative women is the choice between art or family.  It’s difficult to enjoy being a wife and mother when you want and need to be left alone for long stretches of time so you can work on your art.  That’s not really compatible with the ’50s ideal of the Stepford Wife.  Times have changed, but for the most part, expectations haven’t.  I write when my sons are either in school or asleep.

7) Some days I wish my imagination would just shut up.  It would be nice to sit in a coffee house drinking iced chai and just watching the clouds drift by.  I suppose it’s an occupational hazard to see the tattoo on the back of the barista’s neck and invent the deep inner upheavals that made getting that particular tattoo so important.  You can take the pen out of my hand, but you can’t make me stop writing!

8) Knowing what I can’t have.  I can’t plunge into a jewelery business on Etsy.  I can’t spend as much time as I would like hiding out in libraries sucking up all the strange and attractive odds and ends I find on the bookshelves.  Worst of all, I can’t have any of the heroes that people my stories because they’re just not real.

9) The signs were there, from kindergarten onward.  Big vocabulary, avid reader, drawings more detailed, asking so many questions.  I was “different.”  I felt it, even then.  My classmates certainly sensed it.  For me school was either drudgery, extra credit, or a nightmarish social minefield.  A lot of reasons combined to create those circumstances, but I’m positive one major contributing factor was me being creative, possessed of the artistic temperament.

10) I have a very difficult time throwing anything significant away.  Mementos, theater programs, fortunes from fortune cookies, little plastic toys from the Boardwalk.  These are touchstones, gateways to moments in my life I want to keep alive.  The trouble is, when you’re a kid you don’t have that many.  Once you’re my age, the trinkets start to pile up.  Too much emotional energy gets tied up into those souvenirs.  I have to take it back, which makes me sad.

And now, I must tag ten more bloggers!

Patricia MacEwen, Juliette Wade, Reggie Lutz, Alex Hurst, Sue Archer, ruralspaceman, David Snape, Cliff Winnig, Emerian Rich, Setsu Uzume


Filed under Blog challenges, Conventions, creativity, Depression, Family, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, Writing

Passing the Bouquet

by Lillian Csernica on July 12, 2015

Yesterday my husband and I were out and about celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary.  When you’ve racked up more than two dozen anniversaries and have crossed the Silver mark, it becomes more and more of a challenge to figure out something new and different to do for the occasion.

Chris made dinner reservations at the Shadowbrook Restaurant, a former hunting lodge with splendid gardens that has a total of five dining rooms.  I don’t know how the hostesses keep track of where to seat people.  There are stairways all over the place, not more than ten steps each, but even so.  Our reservations were rather late in the dinner hour due to the popularity of the place, so we had the afternoon and evening wide open.

As so often happens, we ended up down on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz.  There’s a Regal Cinema there.  Much to my surprise, Chris suggested seeing the Melissa McCarthy James Bond spoof “Spy.”  I love spy movies and I’ve been a big fan of the James Bond series ever since I was in grade school.  I have all of the original paperbacks by Ian Fleming, plus the book written by another author that gives and overview and analysis of the series.  “Spy” is hilarious, plus it’s a good action story with wonderful characters played by some of my favorite actors such as Jason Statham and Peter Serafinowicz.  I’ll have to buy this one when it comes out on DVD.  I can see myself watching it over and over again just like “Moonstruck” and “Big Trouble in Little China.”

While we were wandering around Pacific Avenue in search of a cover for my Kindle Paperwhite, I happened to spot a group of six 20something young ladies.  Five of them wore black and pink feather boas.  The sixth wore a tiara.  Bridesmaids and a bride.  Now this was just too much serendipity to pass up.

I approached the group of young ladies and asked the obvious question about them being a bridal party.  Yes, indeed.  So many smiles, such pretty faces.  I told them how happy it made me to see them, since I was celebrating my 27th wedding anniversary.  Given the impressed noises they all made, I strongly suspect I have been married longer than most of those young ladies have been alive.  They begged me to let them take a photo of me with the Bride.  I’m glad I’d dressed up!  (Chris thought I was a bit overdressed for the day.  I told him it was my wedding anniversary and I was wearing the fancy clothes and my pearls.)

Now here’s the really wonderful part.  As I gave the Bride my best wishes and turned to go, one of the bridesmaids leaned into my path and said, “Give her some advice.”  She had lowered her voice, and she looked perfectly serious, so this wasn’t just a light-hearted moment in the day’s adventures.  That bridesmaid, who might well have been the Maid of Honor, wanted to seize the opportunity to learn something from the Voice of Experience.  The course of my life as a wife and mother has been anything but “normal,” whatever that is.  Maybe the experiences I’ve had to endure made me better prepared to answer that question.  I felt the weight of the opportunity, of the responsibility, and the answer sprang to mind.

I turned to the Bride and said, “The best advice I’ve ever heard is ‘Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.’  The Bride nodded, waiting for more.  To clarify, I said, “Do not go to bed angry.”  They were all listening, no giggling or any of that.  I could have said more, but that didn’t feel right.  Chris was waiting for me, so I said my goodbyes.  The young ladies all thanked me and wished me a happy anniversary.

What a moment.  365 x 27 = 9,855.  That’s how many days I look back through to my wedding day.  I wish the Bride and all of her bridesmaids peaceful, harmonious marriages, if marriage is what they choose.  If there comes a time when tempers clash, I hope what I’ve told them will help them navigate the troubled waters.


Filed under Family, frustration, Humor, love, marriage, memoirs, perspective, romance, Self-image, Writing


Sometimes we forget just how amazing modern medicine really is.

Tabula Candida


History cuts both ways.

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Update on the Kitties

by Lillian Csernica on July 7, 2015

Chris brought poor Coco home around 10:30 p.m Sunday night.  She was awake, but still loopy from the sedative.  The right side of her face had to be shaved, including some of her whiskers.  Fortunately, no drain was required.  The vet did put her in a Cone of Shame.  When Chris got Coco out of the cat carrier and put her on the floor, she completely flipped out.  Have you ever seen a cat run around the house backward?  She wanted out of the Cone in the worst way.  Chris finally caught her.  Her pupils were huge and her tongue lolled out of her mouth while she panted.  I’ve never seen her do that.

I sat in my usual spot on the couch.  There was some dispute among the cats because Rayas usually sits on my lap there unless Hunter beats her to it.  Chris offered a second option.  Coco crawled onto my lap.  Rayas parked herself between me and Chris.  Hunter really wanted a good look at Coco.  She smelled funny, she looked funny, and she was behaving in a weird way.

Hunter, as I have mentioned, is not the brightest candle on the cake.  He was smart enough to notice Coco now wore her own Cone.  (I can’t help wondering if this made Rayas nervous.  Would she be next???)  I had to fend Hunter off more than once.  Coco might have been stoned, but she was still alert enough to growl at Hunter every time he came near her.

I spent the night on the couch keeping Coco comfortable.  The vet prescribed one pain pill a day for three days, along with warm compresses on the wound site twice a day.  From the right, my beautiful fluff ball looks like Zombie Cat.  She’s on the mend, fortunately.  Coco did manage to get out of her Cone today.  I carried her over to the food and water bowls.  She drank water for several minutes.  Then I had to put the Cone back on.

Hunter has healed up to the point where Chris and I decided to take off his Cone.  Oh, what a happy kitty he is!  The first thing he did was wash his face.  Poor creature.

Rayas is curled up on my bathrobe on the foot of my bed.  Soon I will go downstairs and see if Coco needs more laptime.


Filed under Family, veterinarian, worry

How My Cats Spent Their Summer Vacation

by Lillian Csernica on July 5th, 2015


I have three cats.  Two of them have managed to get themselves wounded by one or more of the many varieties of wildlife in our neighborhood.


Hunter is gray and white, much like Tom of “Tom & Jerry” fame.  He’s not the smartest feline on four paws, but he is a dedicated hunter.  Unfortunately, earlier this week something got him by the tail and bit down good and hard, which resulted in an abscess.


CoCo is my black longhair, fluffy and silky and quite the beauty.  She’s also the terror of the lizards, moles, gophers, smaller rodents, and even the birds.  She’ll catch some hapless critter, bring it to the front door mat, then lounge around playing with her prize until she decides to eat it.  I don’t know what she tangled with yesterday, but by late evening her right cheek had swollen to the point where she could hardly see out of that eye.  Tomorrow she goes to the vet.  The abscess will be drained, the vet may or may not put a tube in, and CoCo will probably come home wearing a protective device that she will despise.

UPDATE:  CoCo managed to puncture the abscess, resulting in a serious mess.  Chris just loaded her up to take her to the emergency vet.  We have to get her cleaned up and dosed with antibiotics before the problem gets any worse.  Poor kitty!


At the moment Hunter is still wearing that very device, what the veterinarians call an “Elizabethan collar.”  Thanks to the movie UP, that device is commonly referred to as the “Cone of Shame.”  The purpose of the device is to keep a cat from worrying at its wound so it can heal.  My other two cats have been giving Hunter strange looks and avoiding him.  He’s miserable.  I’ll be happy when the Cone comes off, because the poor cat will be able to groom himself properly.  Also, I won’t hear strange noises in the night as Hunter bangs into something due to the Cone making it hard for his whiskers to do their job.

My third cat, Rayas, is a torby, which means she’s a mix of tortoiseshell and tabby.  She doesn’t go outside as often as Hunter and Coco do.  When she does, nothing and nobody messes with her.  She’s on the small side.  Even so, I’ve seen her run off dogs and foxes.

Hunter wants to be Rayas when he grows up.  Unfortunately, Hunter is an idiot.  He chases deer.  I don’t know what he thinks he’s going to do with one if he ever catches it.


Filed under cats, doctors, Family, Food, frustration, Humor, Writing

The Not So Itsy Bitsy Spider

by Lillian Csernica on July 2, 2015

NOTE: Today’s post does not include graphics or illustrations.  It does include links.  If you want to take a look at what I’m about to discuss, go for it.

Today I did something that could be considered very brave or very silly, depending on how you feel about the key element.  While I was out today running errands, John asked to stop at the pet store and “visit the kitties.”  (He feels bad for them since they don’t have homes yet.) After paying his respects to each of the cats, John wanted to see the other critters.  I sent him off on his own for a few minutes while I looked for something I needed.  When I caught up to him, he was eager to show me the rodents and the birds and one other very unusual creature.

A pink toe tarantula.  (I am not making this up.  That was the name on the sign beside the container.)

John knows I don’t like spiders, so he promptly reassured me.  “You don’t have to worry about that right now,” he said.  I’m never sure exactly what he means by that statement, which he makes whenever he doesn’t want me to think about a particular subject.  So I asked him where the tarantula was.  In its cage in the reptile aisle.  I must have gone pale or given off some other obvious sign of discomfort, because John reassured me again.

Some years ago, my husband accused me of teaching John to be afraid of spiders.  I saw a spider, I screamed.  John will imitate the ways he sees other people respond to situations.  I am the person he looks to the most for this behavior modeling.  (That’s done a lot for my character, believe me.)  So John learned that spiders are scary and when you see one you scream.  The first time I heard John scream, I was in motion before I consciously knew I’d started running down the hall.  John was about to take a shower.  In the shower stall hung one of those big, skinny spiders that Americans call “Daddy Long Legs.”  They don’t scare me.  I tolerate them because they will catch and eat mosquitoes.  Michael can’t slap mosquitoes when they land on him, so I’m all for anything that kills off any mosquitoes that get into the house.

I told John the Daddy Long Legs wasn’t a bad spider.  He was our friend because he helped make sure neither Michael nor I got bitten by mosquitoes.  John was not entirely convinced.  I got rid of the spider.  We had to go through this a number of times with spiders of varying sizes.  If I find any arachnid bigger than a quarter inside my house, it meets the zero tolerance policy with an abrupt squish.  I know some people who will catch the spider and release it outdoors.  I salute the courage of those people.  I can’t manage that, at least not on my own.  Other people have done it for me.

Back to today.  John had discovered this tarantula, and  he thought it was interesting.  He warned me away from it, which was very kind of him.  I had a sudden need to prove to my son that I could look at that tarantula without screaming.  It’s just a bug.  I’m larger and stronger by several orders of magnitude, right?  So I asked him to show me to the reptile aisle.  Truth be told, I really wanted to know if this tarantula actually had pink toes.  Spiders don’t have toes.  Their legs end in a sort of hook that helps them cling to the surfaces they climb.  That’s true of redwood tarantulas, which are plentiful here in the mountains where I live.

Why is it that every time I’ve ever seen a tarantula in a pet store, it’s been trying to climb up the walls of its container?  And why has the light source always been behind it, making it look that much bigger and scarier?

I’m not the best judge of these matters, but the tarantula in question did look larger than a fifty cent piece but smaller than a silver dollar.  That means it wasn’t a baby any more, but it certainly had not achieved its full adult growth.  I was looking at the bottom of it, and it wasn’t moving, so I didn’t have the panic attack that tarantulas usually bring on.  I confess I did reach back to hold the hand of my big, strong, sixteen year old son.  I made some observations about the tarantula, John said something, and that was that.  We had a look at the tarantula together, and Mom didn’t freak out.

John will remember this.  He will remember that there is one less thing in the world Mom is afraid of.  Maybe some day when he’s scared, he’ll remember that I found a way to be brave enough to look at the little tarantula and see it for what it really was.  Maybe that will get him through a tough moment, and give him the model he needs for getting through others.


Filed under autism, cats, Family, Goals, Horror, mother, Special needs, Writing