Category Archives: surgery

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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A Dozen Devilish Delights


by Lillian Csernica on July 20, 2016

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New from Digital Fiction Publishing!

Largely Deceased

12 horror stories, including my own “Fallen Idol.”

A photographer discovers a young woman who could become his “modern Mona Lisa.” Attempts to make contact with her lead to strange suspicions. When the photographer follows her back to what he thinks is her home, he finds a treasure trove of images he must capture. The reality of their making is a secret he’ll wish he’d never learned!

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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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“Fallen Idol” now available!


by Lillian Csernica on April 17, 2016

Once upon a time, this was my first fiction sale.  Many thanks to Michael A. Willis and all the folks at Digital Fiction Publications for bringing this story to you in digital format.

Click here for a sample!

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Another Hospital Stay, Part 2


by Lillian Csernica on August 1, 2015

I’ve been MIA because I’ve spent most of the past ten days at the hospital with Michael, and most of those days in the ICU.

The Baclofen pump replacement went well.  No redness, swelling, etc. at the incision site.  No problems in the Recovery room.

Then matters started to get complicated.  Instead of sending Michael to the Surgical floor, somebody in his or her infinite wisdom sent him to the Rehab floor.  The reasoning?  The staff on the Surgical floor weren’t as familiar with the Ketogenic Diet, and besides, the kids with Baclofen pumps all go to the Rehab floor.

Michael developed an infection.  Other bad things happened, but let me just say his left lung took a hit.  That’s his most vulnerable area.  His breathing was compromised, and sure enough, it looked like pneumonia.  I don’t want to hear the P-word.  That has been Michael’s #1 enemy for most of his life.

After two days on the Rehab floor, I had a polite, even-tempered, but very firm hissy fit.  Michael needed more aggressive care.  He should be sent to the ICU immediately.  The charge nurse agreed with me and called the ICU.  One of their attending physicians came to evaluate Michael.  The doctor asked me a few key questions about Michael’s history, then told the team of Pediatric M.D.s on the Rehab floor Michael did indeed need to be in the ICU.

This is why I work so hard to be calm and polite when I’m dealing with the medics.  I know when to get angry, and I know when to panic.  I also know how to make these feelings clear without actually taking them out on people such as the R.N.s who are always busting their butts, or the respiratory therapists, or the other People Who Aren’t Doctors.  Oakland Children’s Hospital is a teaching hospital, so there are teams of residents under the supervision of the attending physicians.  They do things a certain way in teaching hospitals, and that’s important to bear in mind.  I really liked the Pediatric residents who took care of Michael.  He’s just a complicated guy and needed what can be done better in the ICU.

Two days ago Michael’s kidneys and liver shut down.  Chris and I were living in absolute terror that Michael would need a liver transplant.  The liver specialist explained the whole evaluation process to us, the waiting list, the length of the surgery, and even what would happen if Michael rejected the transplant or was considered a bad transplant risk.  He would not survive more than a week.

I don’t EVER want to have this kind of conversation with a doctor again.

The good news is Michael is on dialysis right now and that’s helping matters.  His breathing is much better, with less equipment strapped to his face to help him breathe.  The kidneys and liver are amazing organs capable of considerable recovery.  Michael seems to be on his way to getting over all this, but we still have to be cautious.  Another infection, another fever, and all this progress would be lost.

I want to say a loud public thank you to my parish priest, Archpriest Basil Rhodes of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Saratoga, CA.  He called a number of priests who reside in or near Oakland.  Fr. Ninos Oshaana was the first to arrive.  He said a molieben over Michael and anointed him with Holy Unction.  Fr. Ninos moved so quickly he got there before Michael was taken into surgery for the implantation of the dialysis catheter.  God bless you, Fr. Ninos!

I go back to the hospital tomorrow, suitcase in hand, to stay there or at the Family House nearby until Michael comes home.  Please keep us in your prayers.

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Filed under Baclofen pump, Depression, doctors, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Family, frustration, hospital, mother, Special needs, specialists, surgery, worry, Writing

Another Hospital Stay


by Lillian Csernica on July 20, 2015

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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.

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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?

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