Why I Don’t Take Pictures at DragonCon (Thoughts After D*C 2015)

 

DragonCon 2015 was my fourth year attending what one of my friends appropriately calls NerdiGras. More than a convention with celebrity guests, panels, and gaming, DragonCon is five days of 24 hour activity transforming five hotels and the surrounding area in Downtown Atlanta into a world where Storm Troopers, Doctors and Waldo are expected parts of the landscape.

The first year, I took lots of pictures. To a first timer, it’s overwhelming to see all the wonderful costumes and it all seems so novel. These days, with four DragonCons and other conventions under my belt, I find I take progressively less pictures. This is not because I am jaded to the experience. On the contrary, I find the experiencing to be vivid as ever.

For those who love to take pictures at DragonCon and get the perfect shots of the elaborate costumes, I thank you. Your pictures land online and keep the con alive. I hope you get as much pleasure from how you spend your convention as I do from how I spend mine. I sometimes suspect there may come a year when I decide to play photo journalist myself. After all, every year is a new adventure full of possibilities.

One reason I’ve stopped worrying about taking pictures is the flood photos online after the con by better photographers with far better equipment. Add the crushing crowds and the frustration of traffic stopping dead in a congested area while someone stops a cosplayer for a photo op, say, in the dealers’ room or on the path to a sky-bridge and I’d rather avoid the hassle for myself and others.

The biggest reason I don’t go out of my way to take pictures at DragonCon is my favorite moments are of the you-had-to-be-there variety.

The scenes I notice and remember are not appropriate opportunities to record. A tenet of “cosplay is not consent” etiquette is requesting permission to photograph as well as not photographing “off duty” cosplayers. This leaves my favorite moments from conventions off the table. If I can’t take a picture of girl Ninja Turtle cosplayers sitting at the food court having lunch or Princess Leia talking on a cell phone and holding a Starbucks cup, why bother?

My favorite example from 2015 happened Sunday as we were walking past the food court entrance near CVS.

On Sunday, the crowds have thinned significantly from the madness of Friday and Saturday. I’d noticed several sets of parents and small children earlier in the day without con badges, obviously locals checking out the part of the con that spills out onto the streets of Atlanta. I’d almost stepped on Thor’s cape on the steps of the Westin as he got down on one knee to pose for a picture with one of these kids. No doubt, made that little guy’s day.

Near the food court, we’d missed the photo op itself with the mom and little boy, all of three or four years old, and Batman. It was the aftermath of the pictures being taken as if DragonCon makes Atlanta a low-rent super hero theme park for the day that I saw. The mom stood with her purse open and holding out a folded bit of currency. The little boy stood behind, watching Batman. Batman graciously waved away the offer. Without even slowing down, the idea of attempting to tip Bruce Wayne was burned into my brain.

Like several years ago when I saw thirty or so Death Eaters, Dementors, and Voldemorts arranged for a group photo outside the Sheridan. Taking their picture was a beautifully costumed Disney style Snow White.

Only at DragonCon.

PINKIE PIE GASP

**needs pictures and links updated**

Just when I convince myself I’m not obsessed with pastel equines, I come upon something outs me (to myself) as a complete and utter Brony. I reject the term Pegasister as it sounds stupid.

Now, as I type this, I realize how crazy it sounds to say I sometimes doubt the depth of my Brony fandom only to follow it up with this:

Chris and I picked up a few necessities at Walmart last night. As we typically do, once we’d gotten our milk, chocolate and fresh berries, we headed over to the toy aisle to check for MLP goodies. Specifically, I’ve been after the “blind bags” as Rarity has indeed proved to be a rarity. I love the 2″ figures for their overall cuteness, plus they don’t eat much. Does that make me a hardcore Brony?

Often amused by the more kid-friendly toys, I always scan the whole area for new MLP products. The “Baby doll” versions are especially whimsical, if you ask me. I even saw a teach-baby-Pinkie-to-walk doll once which totally ignores the fact ponies walk on four legs and equines naturally stand and walk soon after birth. Silly, but if I was six or seven, I would so want one.

Last night when my eyes landed on the bottom shelf, I did this:

 

I wish I could claim to be exaggerating.

Naturally, I snatched up the very last Walmart Exclusive Pinky Pie Plush. She was the very last one and nothing indicated if the display box contained a plethora of partying Pinkies or various characters. She didn’t leave my sight until I got her home. I contained my impulse to remove her tag long enough to take a documenting photo to submit my find to Equestria Daily in hopes of being featured in one of their “Random Merch” roundups. I subscribe to the premier Brony news blog in Google reader. Does that make me a hardcore Brony?

Pinkie Pie is now living happily on my sofa, shooting off her party canon as we speak and frolicking with the smaller plastic ponies. I can’t help but smile, smile, smile at the thought. That, it seems, would make a hardcore Brony.

COOKIES AND GRATITUDE

I’ve been ripped off. The good folks over a Sunday Stealing have done me the kindness of stealing a meme from me. Since I’ve already completed the second meme for today, I’ll include a link to my answers with many thanks both to Sunday Stealing for honoring me with a theft and the wise Queen Mimi for originating the meme.

Sunday Stealing: Our Players’ Meme

1. You have been awarded the time off from work and an all-expenses paid week anywhere in the United States. The catch is that it must be somewhere you have not been before. Where do you choose to visit? New York City. I want to see the iconic sights, eat all the amazing foods and soak in the atmosphere of the city.

2. Name three of your guilty pleasures. As-hot-as-I-can-stand showers, coffee, and high quality chocolate. I’ve been getting this to feel better about my habit since I’m getting all those antioxidants:


3. The best kind of Girl Scout Cookie is: Samoas, but I never turn down a Thin Mint.

Samoas are the best gril scout cookies.
4. What do you value most in other people? Intelligence, humor, and loyalty., but more than anything a positive outlook on life.

5. Be honest. Do you sneak some raw cookie dough when you’re baking cookies? Who sneaks? It’s part of the process and a valid reason to double the recipe.

6. Have you ever looked back at your life and realized that something you thought was a bad thing was actually a blessing in disguise?! Some questions are best answered with two small words: I’m divorced. Sometimes bad things – hard and hurtful – have to happen to clear the path for good things.

7. What is the most beautiful place you’ve ever visited? Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. I have visited many beautiful places, but even nineteen years later – exactly, in fact, as we’d visited the week of my thirteenth birthday – nothing I’ve seen has matched the raw power of the place, nor the diversity of it’s beauty.

8. Are you more of a thinker or a feeler? A thinker. I feel deeply, but I think on my feelings, examining them from various angles and determining the root causes. It is only in the last few years I have have learned the hard lesson that my feelings themselves are worthy and valid regardless of anything else or how other people think I should feel.

9. Name three things you are thankful for right now. A happy relationship (because it would be unfair to call Chris a thing), my Kindle, text messaging.

10. Have you ever participated in a three-legged race? Nope.

11. When you are at an event that plays the National Anthem, do you place your hand over your heart? Yes. Always. When you were raised a military brat, some things are considered important.

Second meme: (My answers)

12. What kind of work do you do?
13. During the course of your lifetime, which job or career has been your favorite or most fulfilling?
14. Do you think it’s necessary in your life to have a day-to-day “career” that is meaningful and service-oriented or do you function better in “just a job” with a steady paycheck?
15. Was there ever a time in your life when you wanted to stay home with your children instead of working, even if it meant less money in the household?
16. Tell us your worst boss story.
17. Have your ever been the boss?
18. What is your dream occupation?

MY GENERATION


Saturday 9: My Generation

1. What do you think is the most unique thing about your generation? Born in 1980, I am the very tail end of Generation X. We hold the distinction of being the last group to grow up in an analog world and the first to integrate the digital landscape into our lives. People much younger than I don’t understand writing letters by hand or trying really hard to think of where you’ve seen that one actor before. People much older – for the most part – don’t understand posting to Facebook from a social event or what anyone would want to blog/vlog/podcast for or about. My generation remembers the time before, but isn’t afraid of the new way.

2. Do you speak out as often as you should? No. As a rule, I keep silent unless the need to speak out weighs heavier than my nearly pathological dislike of confrontation.

3. How often are you tough and unreasonable? Does anyone think themselves unreasonable? I try to be tough without appearing hard. For the most part, I am a soft candy exterior with an iron nugget in the middle. No reason to be unpleasant in order to stand my ground.

4. Do you believe that sometimes you learn more from a failure than a success? Me, personally, yes. I do not, however think everyone learns well from failure or the proper lessons. Some people “learn” not to try difficult things or that cheating is the best way to win or to avoid trusting others or a host of other lessons which make subsequent success all the more unlikely. Such a sad thing to watch.

5. Do you feel that you always have to win? No. I am not competitive by nature. I would rather play cooperative games or work in team environments where everyone wins together.

6. Do you think tradition matters? Yes. Although tradition matters, I do not believe tradition should be blindly followed. It is better to analyze traditions for the substance of their meaning and decide wither to keep or discard all or part of each one.

7. Do you tend to root for the underdog? I find the idea of “rooting for the underdog” on principle as baffling as jumping on the bandwagon of the popular guy. Best to, you know, make value judgements based on the value of the various choices, not some arbitrary factor.

8. Have you ever felt that you want to exceed your parents’ successes? Again, not competitive by nature. I am also a very different person from any and all of my parental units, so I can hardly compare my life to theirs.

9. Of all the cartoon characters that you know of, which is most like you? Slightly neurotic and extremely bookish: Twilight Sparkle.

TOO TIRED TO THINK

Sunday Stealing: The Too Tired to Think Meme, Part 1

1. You have 10 dollars and need to buy snacks at a gas station. What do you get? Sodas and candy bars. Or Hostess Cupcakes and milk if it’s breakfast time.

2. If you were reincarnated as a sea creature, what would you want to be? Dolphin, of course, unless I can be the Humpback whale Spock comes back to the 80s to save in The Voyage Home.

3. Who’s your favorite redhead? Wendy

4. What do you order when you’re at IHOP? With working til 3 am, IHOP is one of the few options available if we decide cooking in the wee hours of the morning just isn’t going to happen. There are a few things I like, but the new Red Velvet pancakes are a requirement. Holy crap, are they amazing?

5. Last book you read? Redshirts by John Scalzi. It was so amazingly good, I’m reading it through again before doing a write up.

6. Describe your mood. A little punchy.

7. Describe the last time you were injured. I burned my… ah… boob self draining pasta a few weeks ago. I’m still healing.

8. Of all your friends, who would you want to be stuck in a well with? Kate, of course, which is convenient since she is the friend with whom it is most likely misadventure would lead to being stuck down a well together. Oh and happy birthday, Kate. Let’s agree you’ll stay twenty-nine and I’ll stay eleven months older than you, okay?

9. Rock concert or symphony? Rock. Classical music is best when scoring cartoons.

10. What is the wallpaper of your cell phone? The number? (We’ll just say “hi” – promise.) I’ve got animated bubbles floating around on a blue background. It’s one of the default backgrounds, nothing special. My number? Well, it starts 864.

11. Favorite soda?

Depends: cans or bottles Diet Coke, fountain Diet Dr. Pepper. I also prefer my soda room temperature or slightly cool and order with no ice at restaurants.

12. What type of shirt are you wearing? Pale green with white flowers on the front. There are tiny seed beads covering the flowers. I have a lavender one just like it. Target clearance a couple years ago.

13. If you could only use one form of transportation? Transporter.

14. Most recent movie you have watched in theater? The Avengers. Chris and I are planning to see Dark Knight Rises on Monday or Tuesday. The last movie before that was Captain America or possibly Deathly Hallows Part 2 based on the close release dates, but either way, my point stands: there seems to be some sort of pattern I’ve been unable to put my finger on.

15. Name an actor/actress/singer you have had the hots for. Typically, my “hots” are more character driven than actor driven. I loved/love Spock, not Nimoy or Captain Jack, not John Barrowman, Indiana Jones, not Harrison Ford. I know that doesn’t seem like much of a distinction, but it is very different. An actor is a real person who I know little if anything about. A character is fictional, but I know them as well as the program or film allows. One notable – slightly embarrassing – exception was my early teenage years’ huge crush on Chris O’Donnell.

16. What’s your favorite kind of cake? When I was growing up, Mom would make a coconut cake with chocolate frosting and maraschino cherries on it for my birthday. The combination of flavors is my favorite though a good homemade cake of any flavor is welcomed.

17. What did you have for dinner last night? Hamburger patties and fresh tomatoes.

18. Look to your left, what do you see? My purse, Kindle and cell phone piled atop the three ring binder containing my notes for work.

19. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? Nope. I wear mostly slip on shoes anyway. My sneakers get unties when I go to put them back on.

20. Favorite toy as a child? My Cabbage Patch doll, Lisa, was the most beloved, but my favorite toy to this day is Barbie.

21. Do you buy your own groceries? I am present for most of the grocery shopping. Chris paid for far more of them than I since we’ve lived together, but now we’re making about the same amount of money, so we’re paying for expenses more evenly.

22. Do you think people talk about you behind your back? I have known of a few cases of people talking behind my back, but I suspect it’s not happening too much these days. I do everything I can to steer away from the drama mongers who enjoy that sort of thing. If anyone still does, they’re missing out on far more interesting topics of conversation.

23. When was the last time you had gummy worms? It’s been long enough, I don’t remember. I prefer the German gummi bears in the gold packaging on the rare occasions I crave gummy candy.

24. What’s your favorite fruit? I love citrus in the winter when they are in season. I’ve eaten tons of apples in the past few months thanks to this little lady:

Applejack

 

25. Do you have a picture of yourself doing a cartwheel? To my knowledge, I have never performed a successful cartwheel. If you see any such pictures of me, rest assured, they are Photoshopped.

LANGUGE FOR NIGHT OWLS: OR WHAT DAY IS IT?

What exactly do you call today when it’s past midnight, but bedtime isn’t for another five hours?

I have always been a night owl. My natural body clock reverts itself to a bedtime close to two am when no outside schedule is applied. Summer vacations and the times I’ve been without a job, it’s been the same pattern.

Even my early years when I had a strict bedtime, I remember laying in bed, wide awake, with my thoughts running wild. Something about the quiet of night, when everyone else is sleeping, makes my imagination come alive. I have distinct memories of a few night’s daydreams even after all the years. One I remember warmly is imagining myself in the chocolate room scene of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I was in the first grade and my parents had rented a VCR and the movie. I was enchanted by the vibrant colors, the music and, most of all, Gene Wilder’s voice, not to mention the novel experience of VHS tapes. I suspect the memory I have is from many nights of silently repeating the words to the songs in my head and thinking about eating one of the tea cup flowers.

In my teenage years, I journaled and wrote poetry long into the night filling notebooks with my round cursive. I’ve had both the bad kind of insomnia and the good creative kind as an adult. What I never have an easy time with is going to bed before midnight or waking before nine.

It’s still true to this day. I seldom turn off the light until Chris is sound asleep, but instead lay in bed read for at least a few minutes. It is a ritual I find soothing regardless of what time I go to bed.

Even my night owl ways have been challenged of late.

With my new job, I am working from 6:30 pm to 3 am. Luckily, Chris is on the same hours though we have different days off. We are, I neglected to mention when I posted about the job previously, working at the same place, but that is beside my current point.

The first week was very difficult. I trouble staying alert. Not having any callers after midnight was a mixed blessing. At least I didn’t have to think, but there was no adrenaline to keep me on my toes. And believe me, the first week on the phones in a new call center involves plenty of adrenaline as you struggle to put training into practice while giving the caller the impression you’re an expert.

I indulged myself in coffee and junk food to ease the transition. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly adjust to going to bed at five or six in the morning, I found myself getting a second wind after my “lunch” at 11 pm without a second cup of coffee. It took a few more days to sleep beyond my previous wake up time, but now I’m better adjusted to this than I ever adjusted to working 7 am to 3:30 pm even after a year.

The one part I can’t same to wrap my head around is keeping track of the days of the week and the date. As I write this, the calender on the corner of the computer screen says it is 7/18/2012, a Wednesday, but in my head it is Tuesday. It is bad enough that Tuesday is my Friday, but it seems Wednesday morning is my Tuesday night. I am confused and dependent on the clock and the calender by this going to bed with the raising of the sun in a way that staying up til two never troubled me.

It feels funny to tell the few remaining workers when I leave “good night” and great Chris with “good morning” when I drag myself out of bed. Maybe it troubles me so because I am a language nerd. I value precise use of words. I don’t claim to be perfect, but certain things drive me batty. For example, people say “PIN number” or “ATM machine” without registering the redundancy. I am too polite to point out they are saying “personal identification number number” and “automatic teller machine machine” but don’t think for one second it is easy to refrain.

What I would love to see happen is for a sort of generic equivalent to evolve to denote a sleep and waking cycle which doesn’t follow the wake by morning, sleep by night paradigm. And don’t even get me started on the weekday/weekend workweek cultural assumption. I don’t know nearly as many people who work Monday to Friday “business hours” as I know who work all kinds of crazy days and hours. Being wished a “good weekend” when your weekend is long shifts and grouchy customers is demoralizing.

It seems inevitable as we move more to a global culture and a twenty-four hour business day that we’ll get some new words or phrases to accommodate. I also suspect within a hundred years, we’ll abolish time zones in favor of a global standard. It think it would be practical for syncing business operations and less brain power would be spent calculating time zones. Each current time zone could still schedule activities better done in daylight during those hours, but it wouldn’t matter where on the twenty-four clock the daylight.

The sooner this happens, the better for me. Let’s get on it, society.

TEDDY BEAR PAJAMAS

 

Nothing like a project I can start and finish within a few hours. And nothing like bears in pajamas.

The bears in question belong to my friend Alex‘s nine year old daughter. The big guy is “Upstate Bear” and his little friend is “Daisy.” They’ve been waiting patiently on our love seat since January to have custom sleepwear fitted. I’d originally made a set for Upstate Bear with an 18 inch doll sized pattern, but that was without laying eyes on the fluffy fellow. When I had Alex bring him over to measure for a hem, we found the whole thing would have to be bigger, but I had to launch into work on our Klingon wedding costumes before reworking the PJs.

Little did I know it would take four months to complete all the Klingon wedding stuff or that I’d be sewing the night before the convention and talking a hand-sewing bit for the car ride to Atlanta.

I was so relieved to have a small project to jump back into after we got home. But first, I moved our sewing area from the dinning room into our office and put my desk in the dinning room. Crafts breed chaos. When you have a connected living/dinning room, working on a big, long project out there makes it feel like we don’t have a living space at all. I will eventually post pictures of our sewing room when I’ve got things set up how I’m envisioning. I really want a giant spool and bobbin rack, an cork board and maybe a peg board to hang our fanciest tools on.

When I finally sat down to make the pajamas, I wasn’t sure how well the skills I learned modifying patterns for our wedding garb would translate to working with dolls and bears. Let me tell you, it’s much easier to work with a bear than a person. And the pattern shapes are much simpler. Measure the waist, cut the pants pattern down the middle, tape in some of the cool giant graph paper we’ve got and presto, it fits. The shirt is a little more in depth to explain without diagrams, but a cake walk compared to fitting the bodice of my dress, for sure. The little pair needed only to be shortened. I used a Ken doll sized patten and it was perfect.

I’m proud of myself for learning a skill I’ll hopefully be applying for years to come for costumes, dolls & toys, and possibly even day to day wear clothes. Without being to cocky – the seam ripper is always handy for a reason – I feel like I’ve got the basics down. For someone who never had hobbies before besides reading and writing which, at the core, are basic skills everyone learns in school, it’s a darn good feeling.

Upstate Bear and Daisy went home a couple days ago. I hear their owner is very happy with the results. Without a doubt, that’s the best part.

TO TELL (MY) TRUTH

I haven’t been honest in my writing. I have avoided the truth at every turn, written about safe topics and superficial feelings. It’s easy to write book reviews or answer silly quizzes or post pictures of craft projects. Those are perfectly reasonable things to post on a personal blog, but alone it is not all that personal.

I sometimes scratch the surface of deeper things; daily struggles, health and physiological issues. But I hold back, never cutting beyond the skin. Talking about the fact I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression isn’t hard. Telling my readers, today I was frozen by anxiety with irrational fears running through my head is terrifying. Equally frightful is the prospect of explaining happiness and joy.

Hell, I often don’t admit to myself how I’m feeling, but instead keep pushing forward.

Pushing forward is great. “Doing” is a strategy I fully embrace. For 2012, I made a to-do list rather than resolutions. Sitting around thinking is about the worst thing a person like me can do, but a busy schedule isn’t a cure. Nor, ironically, is a happy life. Is that annoying or what?

In many years of self-examination, I have found I don’t figure out anything by thinking. Talking, even to my nearest and dearest, doesn’t do the trick either. I can’t tell anyone what I don’t know or understand. Since I was a kid, I have articulated myself to myself best by writing. My journals from those years are gone, paper and pen are no longer my native tools. A keyboard is where, if I free myself, my thoughts flow best. I don’t know what is coming before I start typing which in itself frustrates me. I crave a peek at the big picture.

Opening a Word document, keeping a journal on my computer like I did on paper off and on for most of my life, would be one solution to working out what’s on my mind and heart. No doubt, it would be helpful. There have been times I have done just that and certainly in the course of my life I will do so again. But that solution only solves half of the problem.

What I’ve realized lately is being a chicken shit blogger has more consequences than a boring blog and low traffic. It represents giving up on my dream of being a writer. I have accepted easily the fact it’s harder than ever to break into traditional publishing. I don’t care one lick about being on the New York Times Bestsellers List or even on Amazon’s list. I care about filling a blank screen with words destined to be read. Without the second part of the equation, it’s literary masturbation. It’s a dichotomy; one writes for oneself, because it’s necessary, but putting the words away in a shoe-box under the bed doesn’t satisfy the writer’s needs. Writing is a conversation as much as sitting across the table talking is a conversation.

In staying safe, I have failed as a writer. The truth is the only thing worth reading. That is as true in fiction as in personal writing. As a personal blogger, I aspire to the best of autobiographical essays. I aspire to challenge readers, but not half as much as I challenge myself.

It is not in isolation I have come to these conclusions. As I find to be the case when I’m struggling with something I need to do but don’t want to do, life, the universe and everything puts signposts in my path too bright to ignore.

First, I must credit my cousin Sarah, better known under her pen name, Ivy Marie, who’s been writing her heart out for a while now online, has published a book, and is brave enough to tell the truth, even when it’s ugly, scary or unflattering. Not only has she found her voice with no formal training, she’s managed to make money doing it. I am inspired by her persistence and the sheer volume of words she’s written since she began her first blog.

After that, in no particular order, are some bloggers I deeply admire for the traits I want to infuse into my blog. Jessica Gottlieb wrote this post. The Gal Herself who chronically her life with such honesty it’s easy to forget she does it anonymously.

Dan of Single Dad Laughing writes bravely about the very meaning of life and happiness. Seriously, his top posts page has something for everyone or start with Who’s Life is It Anyway.

Of course, and always, there are writers who have influenced me for decades. Issac Asimov and Madeleine L’Engle top the list which includes so many fine, brave writers. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them, nor would I hold the dream I can’t shake loose (I’ve tried) of walking in their footsteps.

I am afraid of the consequences of digging deeper, but I am also afraid of the consequences of silence. If I’m honest, I am more afraid of the consequences of silence. Not sure what’s coming as a result of this honesty I vow to pursue, but I know it’s necessary.

DISMISSED

One of my greatest fears is telling someone who’s supposed to be there to help you about a problem and being blown off. I sometimes feel my troubles aren’t valid or important enough to bring up in the first place. Even when I know intellectually I need to speak up, it is hard for me. Being non-confrontational to the extent I am, making my needs known feels like confrontation. Aware of my difficulties, I screw up my courage to do what I have to do. The experience is seldom as bad in reality as in my anxiety imagines.

Once in a while, it is every bit as bad as I fear.

When something is hard for me to write about, I know it’s also important to write about it. So, here goes:

I had an appointment Friday with my primary care doctor. I had seen her only twice before, once for a new patient appointment (or please, doctor, refill my prescriptions) and for a pap smear/pelvic exam. I don’t like going to the doctor in large part for the reasons explained in the first paragraph, plus I wasn’t raised going to the doctor for every little complaint.

When I scheduled the appointment in question, I used the office’s online appointment system to leave a detailed note about the things I hoped to discuss. I’m better at explaining myself in writing. It was comforting to think the doctor might already have an idea of the symptoms and what I thought of them in light of my medical and family history.

The major catalyst for making an appointment was pain I’ve been experiencing in my right shoulder and, to a lesser extent, my elbow and wrist. It started a few weeks before Christmas. I’d been shaking it off, taking Motrin, and living from hot shower to hot shower. Now, I knew full well part of the problem was all the sewing projects I’d been working on. If I didn’t do anything for a couple days, it got better, but I mean laying off computer use and not being at work, too. Not practical. Even if medical science couldn’t do more than diagnosis the problem and tell me to continue taking inflammatory medications as needed, it hurt enough I wanted to know what is going on.

I had also been putting off doing something about my quality of sleep. I have sleep apnea. Getting diagnosed and bring home a CPAP machine in early 2009 changed my life. I never imagined it was possible to wake up refreshed. Based on snoring, we can assuming I’ve had apnea since I was a child. I can remember being fatigued in middle school. I suffered migraines. Lately, I’ve been tired after a full night sleep and waking up with headaches far too often. It’s time for new equipment or, my preference, following up with an ear, nose, throat doctor as recommended in my original sleep study reports to check for physical obstructions. At my first appointment with my current doctor, she commented on my large tonsils and she was not the first medical professional to take note of them. If it is possible getting my tonsils removed could resolve my apnea, surgery is a no brainer, but I need a referral to the appropriate medical professional.

I told my story about the shoulder, elbow, and wrist to the nurse and then the doctor. I explained I was concerned by my family history of osteoarthritis with likely connection to dwarfism in our direct familial line. My mother had both of her hips replaced at forty-seven years old. Every joint in her body is impacted. At the time of her diagnosis, around ten years before her hip replacement, doctors told her she had the hips of an eighty year old, nearly bone on bone. Maintaining the privacy of the rest of the family, I will not give additional details here, only to say I have second and third degree relatives with even more serious cases beginning at extreme young ages. Simple logic, looking at family history and similarity in body type, tells me it is likely I will inherit some level of difficulty with my joints. I do experience stiffness unusual for a thirty-one year old woman, as I explained to the doctor, but the pain is new.

The doctor listened to what I said, then examined me by testing flexibility and strength in my hands and arms. I’ve always been pretty darn flexible for a fat chick, so I have a full range of motion. It doesn’t all feel good all the time, but I know enough to know gentle stretching, even when it’s uncomfortable, is good for my long term mobility prospects. I let her know, at a couple points, what she was doing didn’t feel good.

After the physical part of the exam, she asked about my working conditions. I answered and volunteered the fact I spend a substantial amount of time on the computer and explained about my sewing projects. She suggested rest. Again, impractical. She did not seem interested in my commitment to make costumes by a certain date. She asked which pharmacy I wanted her to send an order for prescription strength Motrin. I would have declined anything stronger, so that was fine. I have no desire to be doped up.

What wasn’t fine was how finished she was with my concerns. No mention of what I’d told her or even a suggestion something other than arthritis. Carpel Tunnel Syndrome or simple tendinitis, perhaps. You know, a diagnosis or speculation on a diagnosis with follow up testing.

At this point, I’m sitting on the exam table wishing I’d hadn’t booked the appointment in the first place.

I felt foolish. My opinions and insight weren’t even worthy of discussion. Am I blowing things out of proportion? Is it all in my head?

Instead of shrinking back, I asked her again about the possibility of arthritis.

She preceded to tell me I was too young to have arthritis, but if I don’t loose weight I may eventually develop trouble with my hips and knees. Hips can be replaced, she agreed, but “natural ones last longer, don’t they?” All I could muster to say in response is “that depends” thinking of Mom how long she was in pain before she got her hips replaced. As if to humor me, she offered to order an x-ray of my shoulder.

Already frustrated, I was still determined to handle both problems I’d come in to handle, so I brought up how tired I’d been and requested a referral to someone to evaluate me for getting my tonsils’ removed. Again, I felt like what I said didn’t matter when she referred me to a sleep specialist and told me they would let me know about that. Not as bad as the “if you stay fat, you’ll hurt your joints” dismissal, but insult to injury. The assumption that sleep apnea is caused by excess weight is common and sometimes true especially in those who carry fat around their necks. My situation might be exacerbated by weight, but I was an average size child who snored like a bear with a sinus infection.

For me, it was the last straw. I didn’t tell anyone at the doctor’s office, but I am not going back.

I am not in denial about my weight. I understand my health problems, statistically, would improve if I lost weight. I live in modern America. The message is rammed down my throat constantly: thin equals healthy. I don’t buy into the message in totality, but I want to work on my fitness level and eat better.

I also know myself and my body. When I am not sleeping well, I use food and caffeinated beverages to keep functioning. When I’m well rested and in a positive frame of mind, I make choices which lead to pounds dropping. Science supports both the sleep deprivation in general and sleep apnea specifically as leading to weight gain. I also have low thyroid function and several other markers for polycyclic ovarian syndrome. Even with medication, it makes loosing weight more difficult. Obviously, my poor eating habits are a factor I need to overcome and I do accept responsibility for them.

What I find unacceptable from a medical professional is a judgement based on weight. All the more frustrating when my medical problems are one of the reasons I’m overweight. I don’t expect a layperson to understand, but a doctor should be interested in treating medical causes of weight gain. Even if I looked her in the eye and told her I’m perfectly content to weight 230 pounds, those medical conditions require attention and impact my quality of life.

It was as if my medical issues weren’t worthy of investigation or treatment because I am fat.

The worst part, still, was those fears coming true, that in the eyes of the powers I don’t need what I think I need, my problem isn’t important, my experience isn’t valid.

RIVET ME

What’s more important: Good writing? Or a good story?
(Of course, a book should have BOTH, but…)

Would you rather loose an arm or a leg? Sight or hearing?

Both things are equally important in different ways.

But not answering is a cop out when it comes to hypothetical questions.

I can honestly say, I have finished reading more books with poor writing and good stories than I have finished beautifully written but dull books.

Sometimes I find writing distracting. It can be a style issue or something my high school creative writing teacher would have sent back on my work in red ink. Mr. Brush was legendary. His criticism pushed my writing. Other teachers had given me the A and allowed me good-enough work. He made the effort to pull out the best in me like a good editor should.

When I see things in published work like telling instead of showing or using the same words throughout so many times it breaks the trance of the story. Showing not telling was my pet peeve with the few Danielle Steele I read years ago. She would say point blank x character has y and z personality traits instead of showing x behaving in ways demonstrating y and z. Twilight tended towards redundancy in word choice, a criticism I haven’t often heard, but one of the things which drove me bonkers when I read them.

Still, I finished the Twilight books and read more than one Danielle Steele novel. Why? Even, oh dear God, why?

The concepts were better than the execution.

It happens with movies, too, sometimes. The basic premise is sound, but the end product is bad.

If the plot is something I find compelling, I can overlook flaws or taste issues with the writing simply to find out what happens. Like most lifelong readers and connoisseurs of film and television, seeing how the elements of storytelling (there is nothing new under the sun) are used is a primary motivator for picking up new books or watching new movies and shows. Otherwise, I’d be perfectly happy to experience stories I’d read and seen over again. At my age with all the books I’ve read and enjoyed, coupled with my limited time for reading, I could keep myself happily busy with rereading for the rest of my life if not for the draw of experiencing a fresh take on those ages old ideas. Well done is best, but even done badly, I can enjoy deconstructing the treatment of the old-as-Methuselah plots and concepts often with an eye for how I would have handled the same material. Naturally, I’d do much better.