Category Archives: hospital

The Comfort Zone: Are You In or Out?


by Lillian Csernica on September 5, 2017

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I’ve been reading a lot lately about how writers need to get out of their comfort zones. Apparently better writing is achieved once we leave our comfort zones and venture out into the wild terrain of ideas that scare the daylights out of us.

I’m not talking about horror per se. There are subjects that we all find distressing. The kind of material that people these days label with trigger warnings. Facts and stories and ideas which will hit us where we live, push on old bruises, maybe bring fresh pain to old scars. Such subjects are intensely painful and could be trauma triggers.

A trauma trigger is an experience that causes someone to recall a previous traumatic memory, although the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic and can be indirectly or superficially reminiscent of an earlier traumatic incident.

(Relevant tangent: If you’re interested in the debate about trigger warnings, I recommend reading The Trigger Warning Myth.)

While I can appreciate the need to test one’s boundaries and stretch one’s literary muscles, I do have two problems with all of these articles urging writers to get out of their comfort zones.

  1. The people giving this advice have no idea what’s outside my comfort zone. I might have some very good reasons for staying in it.
  2. There’s a crucial piece of information missing. Maybe it’s just the debate team in me, but I don’t see anybody defining the term “comfort zone.” (That’s why I keep linking to the definition every single time I use that phrase.) To me the proper starting point is figuring out precisely where our comfort zones begin and end. Once that’s mapped out, we know where to find terra incognita. We can point to the spot that says “Here there be dragons!”

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Time for painful honesty. For years now people have told me I should write about my experiences with my older son Michael. Bed rest in the hospital. The terror of the day he had to be delivered via emergency C-section. Every day and night of the three and a half months he remained in the hospital, coming close to dying time and time again.

Why don’t I write about that? Simple. I’ve been too busy living it. For most of Michael’s twenty-one years on this planet, my husband and I have considered it a good week if no medical emergency forced us to call 911.

Same with John. Sure, I could write about the day he got out the front door while I was changing Michael’s diaper. I had to dash out after him before he made it to the busy street. I tore my right calf muscle doing so. Then I still had to get up and run after him. I wound up in the ER that night, and came home on crutches. That added a whole new layer of difficulty to being primary caregiver for two special needs children.

What’s outside my comfort zone?

Miscarriage. Babies dying. Whether or not to turn off the life support.

Wondering if I’ll ever know the joys of being a grandmother.

Who will look after my boys once I’m dead.

And a few other matters that I’m not ready to talk about to anybody, even myself.

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Yes, I agree that “growing our comfort zones” is a worthwhile goal. I also think people who dish out such advice should be mindful of the dangers of doing so. These are hard times. Telling people to go rummaging around in the darker corners of their psyches for really juicy writing material is not a smart or a responsible thing to do.

For me, getting my own car again was a big step outside my comfort zone. I didn’t drive for years because of a Gordian knot of anxieties surrounding the subject of driving. Now I have a car. Now I drive all the time. Oh look, here I am writing about it!

For once I don’t mean to sound sarcastic. You decide when and if you want to step outside of your comfort zone. You decide just how far, and how often. It’s good to tell the stories that only you can tell. It’s more important to respect your own pain and your own right to privacy. You’ll know when the time is right.

For some excellent thoughts on why there’s nothing wrong with staying in your comfort zone, go see what Darius Foroux has to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under autism, Depression, doctors, dreams, Family, family tradition, Fiction, frustration, Goals, Horror, hospital, Lillian Csernica, mother, neurodiversity, parenting, PICU, Self-image, Special needs, surgery, therapy, Writing

The Writer’s Spellbook


by Lillian Csernica on August 1, 2017

AVAILABLE NOW ON SMASHWORDS!

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One of the most important elements of a fantasy novel or a game world is the magic system. A logical and consistent magic system will do a lot to help improve the quality of the story… A better magic system means a better story, and a better story means more readers!

PLENTY OF FORMATS TO CHOOSE FROM!

EPUB MOBI PDF IRL PDB TXT HTML

Whether you’re a writer or a gamer, a graphic novelist or an historical reenactor, The Writer’s Spellbook will give you step by step guidance in making the crucial decisions that will bring your fantasy world to life.

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How Bad Movies Help Us Write Good Stories


by Lillian Csernica on July 29, 2017

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The Blair Witch Project and the first Paranormal Activity movies launched a new sub-genre of horror: found footage. Sometimes the people who find the footage know its original purpose. Sometimes the footage is simply discovered and viewing it can provide answers, deepen the mystery, drive you insane, and/or get you killed.

The problem with the success of these two movies is how often and how badly other filmmakers keep trying to imitate them.

This happens in the world of books as well. Charlaine HarrisSookie Stackhouse series began appearing close to the start of the vampire craze. Their popularity and the subsequent HBO series True Blood did a lot to prompt the already growing industry of vampire-based novels. Some of these are quite good. Others are not. (cough cough Twilight cough.)

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Really bad books and movies can serve as practical guides for What Not to Do. This brings me back to those found footage movies. I love a good ghost story. Now and then I go trawling through Netflix and Amazon, hoping to find a movie that doesn’t just shuffle together the same tiresome people, camera equipment, Ouija boards, and insane asylums. I have found a few gems, but it’s appalling how many mediocre wannabes clutter up the genre.

Let’s have a look at how such a movie provides a check list for What Not To Do.

PLOT — Familiar, contrived, predictable, unrealistic, and not all that scary. What is the opposite of all that? Strange, natural, unexpected, realistic, and terrifying. Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is all that and more.

CHARACTER — Shallow, annoying, not sympathetic, and their motivations are often forced. They do really stupid things that anybody with a shred of survival instinct wouldn’t even consider. We want characters who are complex, endearing, sympathetic, and genuine. Above all, make your characters intelligent with at least some common sense.

SETTING — Not realistic. Never mind the question of whether or not ghosts actually exist. Let’s think about the fact that laws about private property, trespassing, and public health are very real and rigorously enforced. Abandoned medical facilities with a history of death, disease, torture, horrible medical experiments, and abuse of the patients by the staff were often built back when asbestos and other toxins were a regular part of the construction business. Professional paranormal investigators know about contacting property managers, getting the appropriate permits, and avoiding lawsuits.

TONE — They’re going for creepy and atmospheric, but when the filmmakers abide by the trite formula of dead cell phones, flickering lights, poltergeist antics, etc. etc., there’s no suspense. Instead, it all becomes laughable. Remember how Professor Lupin taught Harry Potter and the gang how to get the upper hand with the Boggart, the creature that would take on the appearance of a person’s worst fear? Just find a way to make it funny, and that takes all the fear out of it.

THEME — This depends on the particular variations present in a specific movie. Most of the time, it boils down to “People who refuse to listen to multiple warnings about the Haunted Madhouse deserve whatever happens to them.” That brazen band of party animal college students is so annoying I’ve ended up cheering on the monsters.

PACE — Such movies usually kick off with an info dump about the setting, the main characters, or both. This is the movie version of a Prologue, and it contains every reason why smart people don’t go near the setting even in broad daylight. Too Much Information ruins the movie because now we have a good idea about what horrible fates will befall the characters. Place your bets, because once the Ouija board is out and the candles are lit, the bodies are going to start piling up.

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In the spirit of fairness, I will mention a few of those gems I’ve found:

Grave Encounters

Session 9

Cabin in the Woods

Boo

Find Me

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The Naked Truth


by Lillian Csernica on May 17, 2017

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I recently got a phone call that is one of those phone calls you really don’t want to get.

I’d gone in for a mammogram. Not fun, but an important part of keeping ahead of anything that might show up. Went there, did that, got it over with for another year.

Or so I thought.

Got a phone call from the imaging center telling me the doctor there wanted me to come back in for some additional views on my right side. “What does that mean?” I asked. “Is something wrong?”

Never ask the people at the front desk these questions. They don’t know, and they can’t tell you even if they do know.

So I made a follow-up appointment for today. Was I nervous? Hell yes I was nervous.

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The imaging center front office is very cheerful with all the pink items associated with breast cancer awareness. There were a few nervous-looking women in the waiting room along with some very bored men. I’ve been in a lot of medical waiting rooms over the years, some for myself, some for the boys. Rarely have I experienced an atmosphere of everybody trying so hard to ignore the reasons why we were all there.

My turn came, I suited up in the bright pink gown, and the mammogram tech got those images. She took them to the doctor there, who would decide if further imaging would be required.

During that ten minutes or so, I kept myself occupied by telling myself to calm down, to stop imagining horrible outcomes and scaring myself, to have faith.

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Another tech appeared, this one in charge of ultrasound. Yes, the doctor wanted further images. So I followed that tech into the large closet where they do the ultrasound exams. For once the ultrasound goo was not cold. Thank God for small favors.

The ultrasound exam went on and on  and on. Time has no meaning when you’re lying there in whatever position you’re put in, feeling your muscles start to cramp while being too scared to move or say anything for fear of messing up the exam and having to start all over again.

At last those images were complete. That tech went off to show them to the doctor. I did my best to remove all the goo and stay calm while this new level of anxiety jacked up my adrenaline level.

The doctor’s verdict? The mass they’d wanted a closer look at turned out to be nothing more than a water cyst about the size of a small ball bearing.

Thank you, God. It turned out to be nothing, but it might have been something. Now I know and the doctors know and it’s all good for another year.

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(Knee) Joint Ventures


by Lillian Csernica on February 13, 2017

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Finally scheduled the physical therapy for my sprained knee. Here is yet another excellent example of “Be careful what you wish for.”

Those of you who have had physical therapy will know what happens first, especially with a joint problem. The physical therapist (PT) works the joint to see where the mobility issues are and just how serious your discomfort levels may be. In short, you spend the first fifteen minutes being tortured while your PT gets the lay of the land, so to speak.

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My PT explained and demonstrated the exercises she wanted me to do in order to help heal the ligaments and get the knee cap realigned. No problem there. One exercise involves a rolling pin. That one I really must use in a story somewhere.

Now for the weird part. A nice young man wheeled in a machine on par with a fast food cash register that included an ultrasound gadget and one for infra red light. Ultrasound can break up scar tissue. I had no idea. The infra red light promotes healing. Don’t you just love science?

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For me, they brought out the electrodes. One pair above my knee, one pair just below. This is where my anxiety spiked. I know what those kind of electrodes do, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. As much as the tech assured me this procedure was designed to reduce my pain level, I wasn’t buying it. Sure enough, Step One would be “adjusting the level to suit my needs.”

Translation: Finding out how much I could take before my muscles spasmed and I started swearing.

Ever seen Showdown in Little Tokyo? Dolph Lundgren, Brandon Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Tia Carrere. WARNING: Our Heroes do start swearing.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

It got even weirder when my PT wrapped my knee in an ice pack. So first it feels like I’ve got all these little needles jabbing me, then the ice pack helped numb the area. Even so, when the tech tinkered with the voltage I freaked out, laughing like a maniac. It TICKLED. Sounds funny? It wasn’t. I kept doubling up, working my non-existent six-pack, laughing until I thought I’d have an asthma attack.

My PT said to the tech, “I think she’ll be low level.” Gosh, ya think so?

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The tech adjusted the voltage, then set the timer for about ten minutes. My PT told me to yell if I needed anything.  Then the tech offered me this silly piece of comfort:

“Now remember, this machine cannot hurt you.”

Really? Tickle torture, muscle spasms, and making it hard to breathe? All that didn’t count as “hurting” me?

I survived the ten minutes without too much discomfort. To be fair, for the rest of the evening my knee did feel better. My PT said she expects to see improvement in six weeks, so I’ve got six more sessions. I confess I’m hoping I can do without the electrodes VERY soon!

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Christmas on Crutches


by Lillian Csernica on December 23rd, 2016

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Some time around last Friday, I sprained my good knee, the right one.

Don’t know how I did it. I suspect it has to do with all the getting in and out of the car while Christmas shopping. I tend to push out with my weight on my right leg, and that’s the first leg in the car when I climb back into the driver’s seat.

I expect this kind of thing from my left knee, but it came as a nasty shock when my right knee exploded into a great big firework of pain. Spent the weekend hobbling around the few times I was on my feet. Ibuprofen and even Extra Strength Tylenol mean nothing to whatever is wrong with my treacherous joint. The Spousal Unit took pity on me and offered me one of his Vicodin.

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Matters hadn’t improved by Tuesday, so I went to the local Urgent Care clinic. Two hours and three x rays later, the diagnosis came in. A sprain, along with the possible onset of an arthritic condition. They wrapped my knee up in two Ace bandages, taught me how to use my crutches, and sent me home with my own Rx for Vicodin.

I know all about being sick for Christmas, but this is ridiculous.

So now I’m off my feet, icing my knee, wrapping it when I do have to move around, and hoarding the Vicodin for those times when the knee starts throbbing. Nobody has had the bad taste to make any Tiny Tim jokes yet, which is a good thing. Crutches might be padded in some places, but elsewhere they’re good stiff metal!

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Tomorrow I’m up with the sun to pull half the morning shift with Michael. Can’t take any Vicodin, because there are a few last Christmas errands to run. One does not take Vicodin and attempt to drive a car. Operating crutches while taking Vicodin is enough of a challenge.

God rest ye, merry gentlefolk. God bless us, everyone!

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Time To Say Goodbye


by Lillian Csernica on December 8, 2016

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One of my favorite people is dying.

He and I have been friends for about eight years now. We’ve been in two different writers’ groups together. He writes nonfiction, a memoir of his Navy days. We’ve gone out to brunch together a number of times, and we have a few treasured in-jokes.

It’s very hard to see him and know these are his last days.

As soon as I heard he was in the hospital, I hurried over there yesterday. Fortunately, my friend was awake and aware, so we had a brief conversation. His brother and his four children were on hand, so I didn’t stay long. After I left my friend’s hospital room, I found a private corner and sat there crying for a while.

Today I stopped by the hospital. My friend’s wife and one of their sons were about to take him home. It’s time for hospice care. I don’t know how I managed to keep it together until I got out to the parking lot.

I wanted to write all kinds of profound things here about my friend, his life, and our time together. Yesterday I was in shock. Today I’m so sad.

I love you, Art. For however many days you have left, and for every day after that.

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Back By Popular Demand!


by Lillian Csernica on August 2, 2016

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School is still out. Summer school is over. That means Michael is home all day every day with the exception of adventures such as the San Francisco Zoo and his latest specialist checkup at Stanford. When we have enough staff, we have two eight hour nursing shifts, resulting in coverage from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

We do not have enough staff.

This week I get to cover the a.m. shift. 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eight hours of keeping a vigilant eye on Michael, changing diapers, giving medications, and in general keeping him entertained.

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At this time a year ago Michael was in the Oakland Children’s Hospital in serious danger of death from organ failure. All things considered, I should be overjoyed to have him home where the worst thing he’s suffering is boredom.

Taking the a.m. shifts with Michael is reminding me all too strongly of the terrors of watching over him in the hospital. It’s a strain both physically and emotionally. I love my boy and I will do right by him.

I must also be careful to do right by me.

This involves pushing onward with my efforts to edit Sword Master, Flower Maiden. Given that most mornings I don’t have two brain cells to rub together, this work demands rather more of an effort than usual.

I shall prevail! All prayers, good thoughts, and best wishes are most welcome!

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Light That Candle


I’m sitting here crying. The family of a friend of mine has lost a little girl. There was an Amber Alert out for her, but the authorities didn’t find her in time. This loss, on top of France and Dallas and the rest of 2016, is just too much. I’m reposting this blog in the hope that these stories provide some inspiration and perhaps even comfort.

Hopes and Dreams: My Writing and My Sons

by Lillian Csernica on August 16, 2014

It has been a long and difficult week all over the world.  So many losses.  So much upheaval.  I’ve seen a lot of information out there about depression and how to cope with it.  I’ve seen a lot of really stupid remarks by people who have no idea what it’s like to live with the big Black Dog day in and day out, to go to sleep (if you can) with the Black Dog sitting on your chest and then wake up to it gnawing on your heart.

One suggestion I’ve heard several times is to go do something for other people.  Get out of your own head, away from your own life, and help somebody who needs it.  You could make all the difference.  With that in mind, I’d like to share seven events from my life, seven moments where the kindness…

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My Stress Managment is Too Stressful


by Lillian Csernica on June 30, 2016

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How do I manage my stress?

  • At the end of the day, I watch TV
  • I go to the library and write in my journal or my work notebook.
  • I get out in the sun and enjoy Nature.
  • I play with my cats.
  • I see my physical and mental health care professionals.

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How do these activities increase my stress?

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  • Are you familiar with the term “binge watching”? There are a number of TV and cable shows available on Netflix, Hulu, et al. Some of my favorites include “Person of Interest,” “Once Upon A Time,” various Food network shows, and a few that try to document paranormal activity. One episode is just like one potato chip. One is never enough. Even though it’s summer, I still have to get up at 6:30 a.m. for Michael’s morning routine.  If I stay up too late watching TV (and I do), I don’t get enough sleep. Less sleep = more stress.

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  • Libraries are no longer the Sacred Sites of Silence. I often find a remote corner, depending on the time of day, but even so, noise travels. Shrieking toddlers, teenagers with no concept of muting their phones and themselves, and the endless clicking of everybody’s laptop keyboards. Makes me crazy. If it’s a bad time of day, I retreat to Denny’s. Yes, it’s noisy, but in Tourist Season, I’m OK with that.

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  • Santa Cruz County is full of beaches and national parks and redwoods. We’ve got artist colonies and museums and aquariums. And yes, this means we’ve also got Tourist Season. Generally speaking, I like tourists. I can take a stroll down the Boardwalk and hear three or four foreign languages being spoken. What stresses me out is the traffic. People who don’t know Hwy 17, Hwy 9, and the major artery streets can get confused, which means they slow down. Then there are the people who insist on going insanely fast no matter where they are.

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  • It’s summer. I have three cats who are all shedding. One is a black longhair who decided to hack up the mother of all hairballs on the stairway landing some time last night. The last thing I want to see first thing in the morning is some big furry disgusting mess on my stairs, especially when there’s a good chance it might be alive. I live in a somewhat more civilized area than I have in the past two towns where I’ve lived, but we still have all kinds of flora and fauna that can and do take me by surprise.

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  • Now we come to the big issue of the moment. I’m having trouble with my heart. Arrhythmia, which is no big deal. At least I hope not. I had an attack today that lasted long enough to make me consider going to Urgent Care. I made an appointment with my doctor. The thing is, my general practitioner is over the hill in San Jose. That means I’ll be driving Hwy 17 tomorrow. Tomorrow is the Friday of the 4th of July Weekend. That means on my way home I will be dealing with everybody on the face of this part of the planet who wants to spend the holiday weekend at the beach. On a slow day Hwy 17 is a nightmare. Just thinking about it stresses me out. I didn’t realize the logistics of the drive until after I’d made the appointment. Doesn’t matter. I have to see my doctor. This is one of those things that just can’t wait.

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