Moving forward with the week

1. So, this was the medical situation on Friday. I can’t talk well enough to work. I may have to pay for the Mayo Clinic out of pocket. We still don’t know what’s wrong with me.

This … this colors everything else, right now. I plan to spend today on the phone, trying to move the process along more, get more answers on the payment front because, well, that’s all I can do.

2. As announced last week, I am stepping down as editor of Apex Magazine. This is due to Apex’s publisher, Jason, finally getting the chance to quit his dayjob and take over Apex full-time. December 2014 will be my last issue.

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As I said, the medical concerns kinda take up a certain amount of brain-space. Medical bills have been high this year. Money is a bit tighter. Uncertainty is rife. I am a native worrier in the FIRST place, and this does not help. The physical discomfort is not crushing, but it is omnipresent. So. That.

Yet, I had a nice weekend, for all of that. Saturday was M’s birthday. We had a small party on Friday morning, we had cake on Saturday. M is really happy with his presents.

Saturday was also the resumption of swim classes for M. He was feeling put out at having to go to swim class on his birthday, so I volunteered to go swimming for my workout. I detest swimming, I’m afraid of water, and M appreciated my gesture of solidarity. While I swam laps before his class he patted my shoulder and said, “There, there, Mom.”

I made cream of potato-leek soup on Saturday evening, and it was fantastic, and the whole family liked it.

On Sunday I got up and went to help my girlfriend work on her Tiny Trailer. (She’s building a camper trailer from scratch. It’s neat! And tiny! And it will be fun to camp in!) She’s at the covering-the-foam-walls-with-fabric stage, so we sanded and glued and three hours later had covered the interior ceiling. My knees still hurt this morning, from kneeling on the wood floor and power sanding foam over my head.

I’m still watching Criminal Minds. I’m in season two! Prentiss just arrived on the scene! I’m looking forward to the resumption of Sleepy Hollow, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

I am worried about my health and the money, but things aren’t terrible. It’s nice to see that.

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Emotional whiplash whee

MY DAY YESTERDAY, by Sigrid Ellis, age 41

1. I have been referred to the Mayo Clinic ENT. I have an appointment this TUESDAY, which is wicked soon. Apparently people with voice-dependent jobs can get in faster, which is great.

2. Call my insurance to check my coverage. My insurance, which has a HUGE network and VAST in-network benefits, does not cover the Mayo.

3. Panic, swear, shake, wonder if puking would help the situation at all.

4. J tells me the secret things I needed to say to get a different answer. We have a brief conversation about class and privilege and how there are ways around most roadblocks if you know the right things to say.

5. Call back, tell the Member Services person, Jaclyn, that I had been referred to the Mayo by an in-network specialist after a year of treatment and two surgeries, and is this covered.

6. Jaclyn says get my doctor to SAY that and fax the letter to Medical Policy.

7. Call the specialty clinic, and FINALLY got an email that *might* get to Dr. Get a direct line number of someone to follow-up with.

8. Email, call, leave messages.

9. Email my supervisor and HR specialist at work to explain that I will not be working this week, because I am not allowed to take any medications prior to this Mayo appointment, in order that my throat adequately swells up to it’s non-medicated, sloughing self.

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Now it can be told – Apex Magazine editorial change

Today we announced that I will be stepping down as editor-in-chief of Apex Magazine.

This is for the really pleasant reason that Jason Sizemore, the publisher of Apex, has the long-sought opportunity to quit his dayjob and work full-time on Apex. Jason has been a supportive publisher who has always had my back. He’s also been incredibly tolerant of the occasional vagaries of scheduling a magazine, and I wish him all the best.

I have a few other enterprises going at the moment. I’m the editor for Pretty Deadly, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios. Volume 2 of PD is in the works as we speak. (And, frankly, it’s painful that I can’t tell you about the awesome as it occurs.)

Other projects are in the works. In the meantime, you’ll find me blogging at Panels, the comics-focused sister website to BookRiot.

Apex-related queries should be sent to my Apex email (apex.sigrid@gmail.com) or to Jason directly (jason@apexbookcompany.com).

Thanks, ya’ll. For your support, your interest, your backing, your time and patience and enthusiasm. Without the reader, the work means very little. You are why we do this.

Thanks again.

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Whatever else goes wrong, at least my house is cleaner

I’ve spent nearly this entire week home sick from work. Not due to a cold, or illness exactly, but due to the ongoing and relentlessly tiresome Mystery Throat Ailment. I lost my voice on Friday, and it hasn’t come back. And I am coughing up Weird Chunky Bits, which is exceedingly tiresome.

I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, whee. Maybe we will see some new direction to pursue then?

In the meantime, I’ve been home a great deal. So yesterday was a day of unfuckery.

Unfuck Your Habitat has a thing they refer to, the Invisible Corners of your house. These could be actual corners, like the one behind the door that you never see, or metaphorical corners like the trunk of your car. Yesterday I unfucked some invisible corners.

I first cleaned out the area of the dining room next to my desk. I don’t have a desk, you see, I have one-fourth of the dining room table. I keep my office drawers under the table, my laptop goes on a placement when I am home, and I have a small shelf for papers and office supplies. The floor near my desk space accumulates junk. So I cleaned all the stuff out and swept.

I scrubbed the walls and doorways in the hall. This was nearly an hour of scrubbing with vinegar-and-water. It was tedious. I detest this chore. I found identifiable gunk that indicated the last time anyone had scrubbed these walls was over four years ago.

I took apart the stovetop and scrubbed underneath, then went after all the burners with steel wool. The stove is now clean.

I moved two shelves into the garage. The shelves in question have been sitting in the middle of the backyard for a month, more or less. Just … sitting in the yard. (They are plastic shelves, so no harm from the elements.)

All told, it was a productive day.

The thing is …

… the thing is, I can’t work right now, and it drives me crazy. I feel guilty and ashamed of being sick. I am convinced my coworkers hate and resent me. I feel like I must be faking it, because no-one can tell me what is wrong. And then I whiplash from being convinced I am a fakey faking liar into being convinced that my throat is rotting away inside my body and I will lose my ability to speak and work and swallow and feed myself and eventually lose the ability to breathe on my own.

And then I go back to being convinced that it’s psychosomatic and I am a lying fakey faker liar.

Put that on repeat, every twenty minutes or so, all day, for a year.

I can’t do anything about that. I can’t control what other people think of me. I can’t control whatever’s wrong with my throat.

What can I control?

I can control what I do. I can only ever control what I do.

One of the things I can do is clean my house.

In War for the Oaks, Eddi McCandry at one point thinks, “Sometimes, she reflected, she dressed for courage, sometimes for success, and sometimes for the consolation of knowing that whatever else went wrong, at least she liked her clothes.”

Honest-to-goodness, I feel that way about cleaning my house. Whatever else goes wrong, at least I got that much done. At least the dishes are clean. At least the floor is swept. I may be medically interesting, but my socks are matched.

It’s a small control, and not much comfort, but it is comfort nonetheless.

Whatever else goes wrong, at least my house is cleaner.

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Full of noms

I made three dishes this weekend that I really liked. The best was a white-bean-eggplant soup. It looked TERRIBLE. I blended the soup, and the purple of the eggplant skin made the white beans … grey.

Sort of a dirty dishwater grey.

bleeaaaaaaaaa.

But! It tasted amazingly good!

So here’s how it went –

Four hours before you plan to cook, slice your eggplant. I make reasonably thick slices, about a half-inch. I salt a cutting board, generously. Then I put the eggplant slices on the salt, then pour a layer of salt on top of each slice. I leave that sit for about two hours.

Rinse the eggplant, and chop it into cubes. Put it in a bowl and let it sit while you do the next part.

Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a large pot. Add one chopped onion. (Or some leeks. Or shallots. Whatever you have, chopped.) Turn the heat to low and let the onions get translucent, stirring occasionally.

Mince about eight cloves of garlic. Add them to the pot, stirring them in, along with some black pepper. Maybe a teaspoon? Maybe two, if you like things spicier? Add a splash of white wine. A tablespoon or two, tops. Keep that cooking over low heat.

Rinse the eggplant another time. When the onions are almost entirely translucent, add the eggplant. Turn the heat up to medium-low, and stir every so often to keep things from sticking to the bottom.

After about ten-to-fifteen minutes, add the beans. I had about two and a half cups of cooked great northern beans looking for a home, but a couple of cans of any old white bean will be fine. Drain them, first.

Add two cups of broth, stock, or water. Whatever you have.

Let that all cook together about ten or fifteen minutes, stirring it periodically. If you want it thinner, add more liquid. The eggplant should be reasonably cooked.

Turn off the heat. Let it cool. You can blend it with an immersion blender, or pour it in batches into an upright blender. It will turn the most unappetizing shade of grey, but do not be deterred!

Check the flavor. If it is bland, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. If it lacks kick, put in some more black pepper. If it’s too spicy or salty, add some cream or half-and-half or milk or soymilk or whatever dairy-esque thing you have. If it’s dull but more salt isn’t an option, add a splash more of white wine, or some lemon juice. If it lacks richness, melt a couple of pats of butter into it, or add shredded parmesan cheese.

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Each chance to be the better person

I’ve watched Winter Solider twice this weekend, once with my daughter and once with my partner, neither of whom had seen it yet. I was reminded just how well-constructed a movie I think this is. Now, the emotional beats are inextricably wound up in my head with the fanon I’ve read on Tumblr. So when I watch it, I watch the film-as-writ plus an overdubbed layer of content and meaning.

Honestly, that’s how I watch almost everything these days. The fiction as produced, plus the meaning layer generated by the so-called “consumers” of the fiction.

But consumers don’t just consume. We never have, really. It’s just that now we have voice to echo our co-creation back into the world.

I think about that during publicized moments of social and political unrest. Riots, or protests, or marches, or demonstrations. Right now I have access to the voices of the people in the middle of the action. They tweet, vine, blog, update. I see their words and images in the moment of the event. I see their voice without the filter or interpretation of others. The Ferguson protests. Penny Red in the London kettles a few years back. The librarians of Cairo a couple years ago.

History is only ever made by individual people making choices in their given moments.

The future is made the same way.

Yesterday Chuck Wendig posted a diatribe against geek misogynists. He calls them dinosaurs, tells them they are going to catch a face full of meteor. A friend of a friend asked last week, “is misogyny getting worse or has it been there all along?” In a team meeting yesterday my new area manager re-affirmed a commitment to influencing workplace culture in a positive, less hostile, more welcoming direction.

The future is made this way. It’s made by people choosing small steps, one at a time, all over, every moment.

My favorite scene in Winter Soldier is this: it’s the moment when Steve asks the elevator full of goons whether they want to get out before the fight.

That’s it.

That’s my Captain America.

Steve isn’t stupid. He knows he’s been betrayed. He knows they will attack him. But he’s got to give them a chance. He has to, HAS to, give each of those men the opportunity to be the better person he wishes they might be.

Steve gives everyone a chance to be the better person. He’s not naive. Actually it’s pretty ruthless of him. It’s the same reason he wears a uniform when he goes to war — whoever shoots at you, that’s the bad guys. Steve looks you in the eye and asks you whether you are going to be a good person or not. Once you answer, he treats you accordingly.

That’s my Steve. Pragmatic. Practical. Aware of the failures and evils of human nature, yet ever-hoping that we might be better than we are.

That’s this cultural moment.

We can continue as we always have, and allow small vileness to fester into active evil. Or we can each of us, in whatever small ways we have at our disposal, choose to be the better person Captain America knows we can be.

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Hanne Blank’s “52 Weeks to Your Best Body” Project

A while back Hanne Blank ran an IndieGoGo campaign for a new writing project, 52 Weeks to Your Best Body.

It’s not what you think.

From the IndieGoGo site:

“52 Weeks to Your Best Body Ever is the latest body-acceptance project from Hanne Blank, author of Big Big Love: A Sex and Relationships Guide for People of Size and Those Who Love Them and The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts. It is 52 weekly chapters, each on a different subject having to do with bodies, radical acceptance, and an abundance of gleeful shenanigans. Readers get a book delivered in weekly doses, each one bringing a dose of body-loving perspective, insight, strategy, experiments, Zen, and badassery to help you revel in the amazing skin you’re in.”

I signed up for this, as I’m a huge fan of Blank’s other work. (Particularly The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts.) Every week I get an email newsletter from Blank, with thoughts for the week and a challenge for the week ahead.

Every week I want to post what she says to the internet. It’s thoughtful and funny and sweet and profound. Here’s a few samples from the first four weeks. A few quotations, to give you the idea.

“Let yourself think about being out in the world and feeling like you — and the whole world — were glad you showed up that day.

What would do that for you? How might it change things?

Let your desire out to play.”

And:

“No matter what it looks like, no matter how it’s shaped, no matter what things it can or can’t do, no matter how well or poorly various bits of it work, your body is making you possible right this minute.

You are here, and that means your body is already, without qualification, amazing.

This is the radical part of radical self-acceptance.”

And:

“‘There is no wrong way to have a body’ is a short, sweet, perfect summation of the idea that your body is worthwhile and valuable simply because it exists and it makes you possible.”

It’s pretty great.

I’m really looking forward to the collection of this, when all is said and done. Hanne Blank. She’s a smart one, and a good one.

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