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Inspiration & Deadlines

ImageWhat was it Douglas Adams said?

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

I’ve been attempting to impose deadlines on myself – attempting being the difficult word. It’s easy to imagine making the deadline but then life (in the form of Migraines) appears and everything goes to Hell.

Apparently deadlines and I are no longer friends – once (in the days before I became a flake – you know I should really stop saying that – some poor editor will read this one day when I’m trying to sell her something and think “God, she’s good but she isn’t nearly good enough to put up with.” Sigh!)

As I was saying, once I used deadlines to keep me writing – I do pretty well with deadlines imposed from the outside – it is the ones imposed by me that I seem to always let slip. Right now all I have are internal deadlines – and boy do I keep letting them whoosh by. I spent several months beating myself up them then realized I needed to stop. I was black and blue and getting even less done than I had been before I got all silly and ambitious and deadline happy again.

I don’t have any control of my personal universe anymore – I could eat, exercise, drink moderately and still be sidelined by a deadline destroying, cookie tossing, soul destroying migraine – so I had to come up with something different. 

Type A to Type Zen

The beginning of this brainstorm was over the novel – the unending, I’m not going to behave, give you peace of mind, or fall into any existing genre – novel. Coming into the final curve with it I realized it was going to take as long as it took. There were no secrets I didn’t already know, no short cuts, just lots of focused hard work and it will take as long as it takes.

Granted working at the pub helps – it isn’t the most focused environment but I admit to being an exhibitionist writer. I like to write where I can be observed writing. I’m sure a few past boyfriends wished I was a different type of exhibitionist but we all have our boundaries. Thank goodness no one can see inside my head.

So, here, writing at the pub. Taking as long as it takes.


~ Tess


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An Arthur Dent Moment

Remember the beginning of Hitchhiker’s Guide when the words yellow and bulldozer swim around Arthur’s hungover brain until they connect and he finds himself lying in the mud in front of a Yellow Bulldozer that is about to take out his house?

For me the two words were needle and thread… the next thought was fuck! the stupid cat ate it.


Called my Vet (how I love them) and they said bring her in (of course).

Called my boss left her a unintelligible message of she which got Sophie – Vet – Clinic.

More panic!

I was just drinking my first cup of coffee when I saw the black thread in dry bile in the hallway and suddenly everything thing was clear. The drooling and vomiting the night before that continued into the morning. Thursdays are long days for me – usually 8:45 am to 8:00 pm – so forgive me that I didn’t figure this out last night. Granted there was no black thread to give the story away…. but oh, I felt like the worst mom in the whole world.

I pulled on some clothes and remembered to brush my teeth before getting Sophie in the cat carrier and putting both of us in the car. She was awfully quiet the whole trip. I had Jo on the speaker and we talked the whole way. Thank the gods for good friends.

Left Sophie with the vet and made it to work in time to open the clinic (Go Me!!!). Called panicked boss told her not to panic everything would be fine.

Then I got the call….

Dr. Steve had opened Sophie’s mouth and found the needle lodged in one of the ridges near the soft pallet. But the problem wasn’t the needle, which cats can apparently pass through their system (think fish bones), the problem was the thread. I knew from looking at the thread on the floor that part of it was still in Sophie. So the conversation went from the best case – finding the string still attached – to endoscopy and hoping the string was in her stomach or the top of the small intestine because if they didn’t get it out it would likely cause a obstruction in the intestine leading to the the worst case — surgery.

He’d call me in about an hour and let me know what they were able to do.

Usually I ask to know what everything is going to cost – this time I asked not to be told – I didn’t want money to effect my decision. Sophie is only a little over a year – and we’ve been to the vet and spent more money in the last year than I spent in the months Minerva was dying of cancer. Check out our shitty day. I’d just made a deal to sell some of my airline miles and wanted to use the money for a special project… and selfishly I felt the plan drifting away.

Dr Steve called in under 20 minutes. They had the needle and the string. It was over… but not for me. The adrenal kick I got when I put the pieces together had me shaking. I’d had coffee – no food – and enough adrenalin running through my system to fight off vampires, zombies, and werewolves combined. But I had nothing to fight, I just had to stay at work, keep thing going, feeling my heart beat in my chest like some wild animal, and wait until I could leave and pick up Sophie.

She was the talk of the vet office – everyone knew about the red tabby that had swallowed the needle and thread. They even made her a bravely certificate that included a picture of the needle in situ. Apparently Sophie had been her usual charming self and I couldn’t be angry at her any more.

Dr. Steve asked if they could keep the needle. I got the cat and the certificate and took us home so we could both sleep.


And just the other day I was thinking what a boring life I had… nothing ever happened…

~ Tess (and a very happy Sophie)

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@Laughing Planet

Sometimes the only way I get through a rough patch of edits is I take them out for lunch… or a drink.


@Laughing Planet

XTC playing over the speakers

Surrounded by parents & children… editing erotica with a pint of Diablo rojo 🙂


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Hello, my name is Tess and I’m a Flake

Ah, the joys of a chronic illness.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time… and even though I tell myself I must NOT offer to do anything, say yes to anything, volunteer for anything – a part of me still thinks I’m super woman rather than migraine girl.

I loved being super woman – the go-to for making shit happen, the reliable one. Oh, how I miss her. But a chronic illness means you have good days, midlin days, and bad days – and none of them are under your control.

I have more midlin to good days these days than bad. Gone are the 7/8s, on a pain scale of 1-10, which would last for months at a time. Mostly gone are the days when a 10 would put me down for a day with no hope of any productivity.*

At the same time, gone too is the ability to rest up in the hopes of a good day, or make one happen by shear force of will and damn the consequences, since I’m now working a full time job.


The thing is, I still don’t see myself as having a chronic illness – and apparently neither does most of the population. After three and a half years I hide it really well and do a very good job of looking exactly the same every day (Nars I am so grateful) and acting the same (damn grateful to have a Boss who puts up with me).

I haven’t yet learned how to pace myself. Partly this is the J O B.

Some days are long (10+ hours) some are short (4-6) but none of them are the same. I think consistency would help me but I love my job and my Boss too much to think about changing that. So I do what I’ve always done – I get the job done and the rest of my life falls where it may.

But I have two jobs – the Clinic and the Writing – and one is taking more of the good hours, because no matter what, I have to do the time and deliver at work.

Then there are the random requests that throw the weekend into chaos.

Two weeks ago I got a mayday from my niece – she needed help on her chemistry and bashfully (or shamefully) texted her aunt for help – for days I tried but between the time difference – the fact she asked for it just as my two LONG days were happening – then a day and a half of migraine – we got right down to the wire and spent 9 hours on Sunday doing chemical equations from yield to titers to pH….

Ah, school how much I miss you.

Now, I saved her ass and made her promise to go find a chemistry tutor in the same time zone or I’d kill her. But so goes my one good, non clinic, day.**

I can’t do that every weekend, then there would be no writing, no blog, no short stories or novellas that I’m sure you are all chomping at the bit to read.

I have to choose.

Ah, there is the rub. How do you choose? How do you say no, when a part of you wants to say yes, when you know that the world only gives back what you put into it and your teaspoon full of participation isn’t nearly enough?

I don’t know, and I’m walking into the Lion’s Den (otherwise known as the RCRW’s Spring Intensive). Rose City Romance Writers is filled with women I worship and admire from afar – I want to be a part of it, give of myself to the group, and enjoy the positive synergy of it all – but I’ve let them down and if I don’t keep my mouth shut I’ll end up letting them down again, and they deserve so much better – they deserve super woman and all I can give them is migraine girl.

Friday afternoon I will get in the car and drive across town to face the Lion. Face my own failure, owe up to the person I’ve become, and hopefully find… something.

~ Tess

*Thank you my love!

** I don’t regret it at all – it’s been 12 years since Gen Chem and it was nice to feel like a smart contributing member of society.


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Permanent Pause

DJ – so are you going to write today?
Me – My head feels full
DJ – (querying look)
Me – not full of ideas but full, like stuffy full… allergies.
DJ – so are you going to write today?
Me – uummm… 

Okay I lied, but at the time I really didn’t think I’d have the energy to sit and string words together today, and I would rather surprise him than disappoint him.

I worry that I’ve put to much emphasis on the upcoming weekend and I’m setting myself up for failure.

Last month I realized that everything I’d ever sold was written before the migraines became chronic. They may have been revamped, edited, and rewritten but the bones were all from the time before.

I gave up writing sex – now I’m trying to write sex again – ideas are not a problem (they never were) but the sitting down and getting the shit on the page… well that is a big problem and it didn’t used to be.

The other problem is the fear… of disappointing myself, my love, and anyone else out there who might be rooting for me.

I’m paused.

I thought about calling my project management guru Jeff and asking if he would help me develop a new project plan. But I don’t have a clue even what we should be planning. Then I thought about writing spec pieces again and came up with a beautiful story for a submissions call that I can’t seem to really dig myself into. I thought a lot about everything – including giving up the idea of ever making my living as a writer….

(Whenever I say that out loud my heart skips a beat)

I keep deferring to the beginning of April, two whole days of writing workshop – not editing, not publishing, not branding or marketing – but writing.

More than anything I want my office reorg finished, I want my house clean, and the laundry done (Sophie’s having bowel problems again – you really don’t want to know) and I want to hit Monday April 3rd at a dead run. I have a week off from work and I truly believe new habits can be formed in that week – or at least the formation of new habits can begin.

Or am I kidding myself?

~ Tess

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A Shitty Day…


Sophie and I at the vet the other day… enough said.

~ Tess



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Why yes, I am insane

That is what I felt like telling everyone I encountered on my shopping spree this evening.

Not for clothes, or shoes, or makeup, or jewelry but for food.

Yes, food.

Yesterday was to be my cooking day – I’ve only been trying for months to make Tuesday the cook-for-most-of-the-week-day. Tuesday is usually a short day for me. Unlike my other days when I get home around 7 pm or so. It also isn’t Sunday which is dedicated to DJ and laundry, or Friday (my other short day) because it just seems wrong to make Friday a cooking day. So Tuesday it was supposed to be.

Except this Tuesday was decimated by a migraine… so out went that plan.

But damn it I wasn’t going to keep me from doing what needed to be done, thus shopping for food at 7 pm on a Wednesday night so I could cook till dawn.

The goal – 4 recipes all from The Anti-Inflammation Diet book (Mushroom soup, Garbanzo Curry Salad, Turkey Meat Loaf, and Quinoa Chicken Salad) I finished three of them (Turkey Meat Loaf will have to happen tomorrow) and the Mushroom soup (the only one I’ve tasted so far) was ummy but not really exciting – although with my diet restrictions exciting might be out of reach.

After 3 hours of cooking....

I’m tired, my kitchen is trashed… but tomorrow I will have food. Which, if I’d thought I would have the energy to post anything tonight I would have taken pictures of but it is now stored away in my fridge in mismatched containers, so no pictures.

Funny, that doesn’t look nearly as bad as it looks from here, Oh well. Time to head to bed, do a little writing or reading and slow my brain down.

~ Tess


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AKA the Crouching Woman from The Gates of Hell

Apparently I’m in denial.

Big huge, hiding under the sheets, denial, about of all things… my migraines.

At lunch on Saturday my best friend Jo, and I were discussed our migraines. A very common topic since we both suffer chronic migraines. Jo said (as we sat down at Laughing Planet with our gluten free, corn free, dairy free, sugar free, but very tasty meal) that I was really good at forgetting how often I have migraines. She said it with such authority that I was a little stunned. I’d always thought of myself as a very scientific person – being an unreliable narrator to my own life seemed very un-me. Then she pulled out several specifics and I had to admit my self-reporting sucks.

Always nice to have friends good enough to call you on your BS.

I probably would have filled this under interesting but not actionable if I hadn’t just come in late for work that Thursday after a migraine hit so hard at 8am (the office opens at 9) I ended up shooting myself with imitrex and vomiting until I dry heaved (sorry graphic I know) thanks to modern meds I made it to work by 10:45 am unsteady but on my feet.

It just days after my conversation with Jo when my Boss mentioned she was convinced she never saw me out of migraine space the year I’ve been working for her. That one hit hard, since I’d just missed work and I hate missing work and overall I thought I felt better. But two Level 10 migraines in a month is even a lot for me.

I thought about this for awhile.

As animals we really aren’t good at remembering pain – the obvious painful memory comes to mind childbirth – and our brains are wired to keep us going and keep us reproducing, protecting our families, and so of course distinct memories of pain would be an evolutionary liability. I also know that my daily optimism is rather insane – that fact that I can work at all, that my co-workers not to mention my Boss put up with the days when I say blue for green or say Wednesday and mean Friday is a constant joy to me. Even writing this, coming off a migraine by the grace of drugs – I have trouble word finding.

Not to mention that a Canadian study showed that chronic pain may hamper memory creation so there are probably huge pieces of the last three and a half years I don’t remember anyway. So in addition to not remembering to survive the pain I also don’t remember because I can’t form memories because of the pain. This study also showed a problem with spatial relationships which is the beginning of understanding how I could have gotten lost in a part of Portland where the streets are numbered up from the river and in alphabetical order from B for Burnside on. I’ve lived here all my life.

Thought about it for a bit longer and realized I need to remove my memory from the self reporting process…

I remembered a few studies I read where researchers were using apps to ping people at various times of the day to report on everything from health to happiness. Apparently having an app that asks you a series of questions a few times a day is less arduous than putting pen to paper. Not having a smart phone (I know, I know, sometimes I am so ahead of the curve i.e. beta user of Hulu – and sometimes so behind it is laughable i.e. smart phones and NCIS) I decided that maybe Google docs would be good enough – available from just about anywhere, permissions based on email user names, and I can sort data, build graphs et al.

I’m a week into my trial and it’s working pretty well.

I report to myself 4 times a day: Morning, Noon-ish, 5-ish, and Night. If I don’t have the computer handy I walk myself through the questions and seem to be able to hold that information until I can log it in. There are a lot of variables, and I’m in the process of changing several key behaviors, so I’m not sure if the data will really provide anything more than my non-scientific self-remembered reporting but I’m sure my Neurologist will be excited to see the data mid year.


There are two interesting things that have come about since this epiphany 1) I’m giving myself a break – If I’m really in migraine space all the time (prodrome to hangover) then I’ve decided I am a kick ass woman just for surviving and holding down a job. 2) I made a deeper commitment to the anti-inflammatory diet that I started two weeks ago. I’ve tried just about everything else so it looks like it is time to really commit to trying something new.

~ Tess


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I’m Back.

Writing in bed...

Not that I think anyone will notice…

Actually I’m kind of hoping no one will. I need to find my feet again… It’s been a year. So many of the stories belong to other people, I don’t feel comfortable telling them so I’ll stick to my own. My unemployment was ending (as some might remember) and I got a reprieve when a friend offered me a job (think that is here).

And then there was the novel… oops the Novel. Once it became Novel with a capitol N I should have know I would be in deep shit.

Between all of my stuff, family stuff, and friends with family stuff and never forget the migraines – I curled up inside myself and really didn’t accomplish much.

The thing is (and yes there is a point to this post) I discovered that it is nice to feel done. The long haul of a novel is just too damn long. I discovered some solace in cooking. Don’t laugh – I know I’m as far from a domestic goddess as one can get but I found a strange sense of joy in preparing a meal, enjoying that meal with friends or lovers, and then it was over… done.

It was the done part that I loved.

Succeed or fail – it was over.

In short, the novel is on the back burner, I’m reworking two pieces to see if they can find new homes (yes, short pieces) and I’m committing to the blog for the same reason I’ve started to learn how to cook*, once it is up it is done**, so I’m back.

I’d toast you all but I had to give up my scotch – but that is for another post.

~ Tess

*Yes, classes and everything (there might even be pictures).

**okay after the 4-8 edits that I do when I obsessively check the published post.


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Day 1 – Yet again

I always hated the line “the first day of the rest of your life” but for today it works.

There are watersheds: days that bring so much change you use them as milestones defining everything that came before and since. It is amusing to think of today as a milestone – but it is.

Today I go back to work.

Not a full time job – not a career job – just a part time job to help pay the bills and keep me financially viable. So crazy! I knew I needed to find something and to have it fall into my lap is still delights me. Yesterday I had nothing and today I have something. Some place that wants me! That is the most surprising point. I hope they won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and for the record. I found out about the job a few days ago, didn’t even think about doing it until yesterday afternoon, and by 9 pm had the job. Did I mention insane? Crazy?

In addition to starting a job today – today was the first day of my 21-Day Yoga challenge. So I got up, made a cup of green tea, and hit the mat. And was humbled. I was once in great shape – now I’m not – the class for the morning was insanely difficult for me. Spending a week learning how to ski didn’t help much either. There are muscles that are hurting like hell still. But I was disappointed when I realized that my major muscle groups weren’t up to the challenge – so did 20 minutes rather than 45 and will keep going. The big thing is to focus on doing something every day rather than worrying that I’m not strong enough, flexible enough, or fit enough.

But I’m working through it, which is the point…. Right?

The universe is being very kind to me – needed work, got work – needed accountability for my exercise program, got accountability in a Sunday check in with my friend D – needed accountability in my writing goals, got that too!!! J – sent an email out asking for volunteers to be part of an accountability group. Working in threats of chicken dances and other humiliations so I joined on.

I’ve read so many books about changing behaviors – most for business – and one of the things that I find interesting is how sometimes you can be open for change in such a way that it just flows through you and at other times you can avoid it, bemoan it, and fight it every step of the way. It always amazes me how easy it is to stand in your own way and the courage it takes to own up to the fact that you are your own worst enemy.

So, I’m taking my evil twin out for an airing and will see if she enjoys it enough to leave me alone because the next several months are going to be interesting.

~ Tess

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