Life

Good Mondays – Reading

Well hello folks. It’s been a slight while for a Good Mondays entry but hey, at least it’s here. With all the crazy stuff going on in my life I’m just glad that at least I have a small part on the Internet where I can talk about insignificant but happy things. Anyway, today I want to talk about reading. More specifically, the fact that I’m reading books again!

You know, I was an avid reader growing up. Bookworm definitely described me to a T, all throughout grade school, college, grad school, and all that. I didn’t have that many books in my house mostly because I grew up poor. But it’s why I love libraries, and I’ve devoured many many tomes through that (and occasionally I go into bookstores and just read, yes, I know, not good for the bookstore, but I can’t afford buying all the books!). But as the years went on, I began to read less and less. No time, other distractions (TV, video games, yeah mostly those haha), or bouts of depression that make me not want to devote any time to reading. Eventually I just let everything drop, and basically only read articles online or forums, which, as we all know, could take a toll on one’s mental health, especially if done for a prolonged amount of time.

So last month I set a goal. I will read more! Starting with the non-fiction book I checked out from the library that I wrote about in the last blog post. It’s the first book I’ve finished in years, and I think that must’ve opened the floodgates, so to speak. I started to follow book rec blogs (since I definitely have not kept up with any bestseller lists) and put the ones that I could find onto my library’s digital loan program. Not everything has a Kindle version and not every ebook is available in my library, but there’s enough to get me started. I’m not ambitious – none of the a-book-a-week or whatever awe-inspiring goals these book reviewers go through. If I can finish reading one thing every month I’ll be a happy gal.

I wish I have more profound things to say than “yay! me reading!” I don’t really haha. However, I do feel like I’ve recovered something I’ve lost due to years of depression. I’m not sure I’ve stopped reading books solely because of depression, but stress definitely has something to do with it. And the more stressful my environment is the less I want to do things that require thought. I would delve into Youtube and other visual, super passive media because I just didn’t have the energy for more focused activities. (Come on, you can’t say that reading things like Swann’s Way doesn’t require active energy. Like, there’s a reason people study this stuff for their Ph.D thesis or whatever.) So me getting back into reading actual books, and finishing them, is a good sign. I can’t promise continual progress, and so my Book Thoughts series might be slow, but I’ll definitely try to set some time off every day to read. It used to be one of my greatest joys. It should become one again now.

Books

Book Thoughts – Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch

Yes folks, I’m 1) reading books again and actually finishing them and 2) going to blog down my thoughts post-read. There’s just something nice about putting reactions into words, and I’ve been following a couple of book review blogs and was inspired. Anyway, this is named “Book Thoughts” because these entries are not reviews, per se, because I’m not going to give them a score or anything, although I’d wholeheartedly recommend ones I really love. It’s kind of exciting, both me picking up reading again and talking about them. Also makes me work on my critical reading skills after I’ve been out of school for such a long time. It feels good.

So, the book I’m going to talk about today is Yellow Bird by Sierra Crane Murdoch. (I’d type out the whole title but man it’s long! Plus it’s in the blog title anyway.) It’s journalistic nonfiction mostly revolving around Lissa Yellow Bird, a Native American woman from Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. I first heard about Lissa from a This American Life episode called “A Mess to be Reckoned With.” It was absolutely fascinating and I picked up the book as soon as I finished listening. The episode doesn’t go into what the book entails – the disappearance of an oil rig worker – but on another case a few years later involving Lissa’s niece, who’d also disappeared. Because Indian reservations have odd jurisdiction rules when it comes to law enforcement, a lot of crimes go un-investigated by either the US police or the reservation police. So Lissa, in this case, is basically the person to go to if you’re looking for someone, dead or alive, when official law enforcement can’t, or won’t, help you.

The book’s main story is about the disappearance of Kristopher Clarke, or KC. What happened, who was involved, how did the case and trial go, etc. But it was also about Lissa. Who she is, what she does, how did she come to be. Murdoch, the writer and a journalist, has been following Lissa (and subsequently KC’s case) extensively for years. She went into extraordinary details about not just the case itself, but everything surrounding it – from the extensive family history of the Yellow Birds to the history of the reservation (and how the United States government, along with a whole long line of unscrupulous white business owners, have completely screwed over the reservation in terms of land, money, oil rights, and all that in between.) It is about so much more than just what happened to KC, and the narrative is richly interwoven with many stories about the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nation (MHA) as a whole. I have learned so much and feels like I’ve only read a sliver of the injustices and trial and tribulations that faced Native American tribes. It really puts in perspective just how badly everything was, is, from such a microcosm of what from the surface to be a confined case of missing persons.

However, because of the all-encompassing nature and the sheer number of people involved in the story, the narrative can get a bit confusing. The author tries to mitigate it by always adding descriptions along with names. “Lissa talks to so-and-so, the sheriff in charge of the case.” Or “So-and-so, the tribal leader of MHA, goes to Washington DC.” Stuff like that. It helps some, but I still find myself constantly trying to remember what else she had said about so-and-so before, and it can get very distracting. I think the book could benefit with a giant “who’s who” tree, like an index of every single person mentioned with what they do, how they’re related to Lissa or KC or whoever, so that if I don’t remember exactly I can flip to it and quickly find out. But alas, it doesn’t have one, which I think is a miss.

Overall I think the book is very interesting and informative. Lissa is such a strong and imperfect human being and absolutely fascinating to listen to. (Another reason I highly recommend the TAL episode, because you literally do hear her talk and it helps with the narrative voice so much). I was unfamiliar with all the background – never knew the MHA nation existed, didn’t know North Dakota had an oil boom, you know, the most basic stuff, and the book does a great job of both entertain and inform a clueless reader like me. I’ve read some reviews that the book seems a bit meandering and disjointed, which I can see why considering what I said in the previous paragraph. But I personally didn’t mind too much, and find that the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. I was taken through this great journey and came out with newly gained insights. And just like real life, the journey doesn’t wrap up neatly or even ends, for that matter. It continues on and I’m just glad to parse a slice of it as it goes.

Life

Bad News

Got my blood test back. I am, unfortunately, not pregnant as of this time.

Yes, I am sad. My husband is faring worse than me. The doctor remains optimistic. There’s only a 60% chance that it would succeed, after all, and I have enough embryos to try again. I’m just sad that I went through all the painful shots for two weeks for nothing so far. Oh well. Five more times until I run out, right? Although if I keep on trying and it just ain’t happening maybe at some point I’ll reassess. But now is definitely not that time. It’s only my first try after all.

So the current plan is to stop all meds until I have my period again. And on the first day of my period I call my doctor and I guess we just do the whole shebang once more and hope for the best? So it’ll be at least two weeks before anything happens – enough time for my super bruised and sore buttock muscles to recover, at least (only to be jabbed more later but, I digress). I read it takes an average of three tries to get pregnant this way, so, hope?

I’m not feeling great today but I’m sure I’ll feel better soon. It just means that I have to do the procedures again and again until it sticks (and, * sigh *, more Covid testing). Like I wrote yesterday, it’s mostly out of my hands, so spending too much energy being sad doesn’t help. Better conserve it for the next chance. Meanwhile I will think and post about happier things, like books I’m reading. (Oh hey, I finally started reading books and finishing them again. Wow. Been years since I’ve done so.) So yeah, it’s not all anxiety and gloom on the horizon.

But maybe just a little bit, today.

Life

The Light at the End, Maybe

Well hello peoples. My, can you believe it’s September 1? It felt like an eternity since I last blogged. Partly because I’ve finally gone through the final, man-controllable step in my IVF journey, and so it feels like a huge hurdle cleared. Partly because, well, every day since March feels like forever, doesn’t it? (And the smidgen of hope that is November is another eternity away.)

But anyway, I’m going to talk about what has been happening with me. So I finally had the embryo transfer done last week! The whole process was an ordeal, but not really painful or anything. They had me taken a valium instead of any anesthesia, as they didn’t have to cut anything. Basically an embryo technician took out the chosen embryo in the petri dish, showed me to make sure it was mine (everything’s double checked by multiple people), suck it into a syringe thing, which then went through a catheter that my doctor had already inserted into my uterus, and then it got implanted inside guided by another technician with an ultrasound machine (you know, the kind they use over a pregnant lady’s belly to see blurred image of the baby). It was only uncomfortable because I had to have a full bladder for this to work best, so I was just trying so hard not to pee while they do the procedure. And boy, the lady who operated the ultrasound was like the most cheerful person ever haha. She was so gung ho about it and optimistic and everything (my doctor was too, of course). It really felt like they were really cheering for you to have this baby, you know? Especially since my husband couldn’t be in the room because of Covid (normally he would be.) I was very sad that he missed the whole thing, because yeah, so technically I was just watching a tiny cell in a petri dish on a tv screen becoming a shiny spot on the grainy ultrasound imaging screen after, but somehow it was so emotional. Like, I was watching life potentially happen! Not gonna lie, I totally cried afterwards (you needed to lie down for 15 min post procedure), feeling all emotional and wishing my husband was next to me. Well, until I had to get up because my bladder was about to burst and ran to the bathroom as soon as I was able. At least I got pictures to show him.

I wish I could say that everything was just an anxious wait after. But it’s not. Why? Well, I’m seriously in so much pain that I didn’t even think much about the pregnancy test at all. So I had to do these progesterone shots to help with pregnancy. They’re suspended in oil and you have to inject them in your butt cheeks every day with a pretty damn long needle. And the shots are so goddamn painful! My whole buttocks and upper thigh swelled up to twice its size after the first couple of days – so much that I couldn’t fit into my normal underwear and had to co-opt my husband’s boxers instead. I could only take Tylenol, which is not great for baby’s development, so I try not take it as much as possible. Also, they recommended bed rest for 48 hours post-op and I totally understand why. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, because the swelling was so painful that it interfered with my sleep. I couldn’t lie down properly, couldn’t sit properly, and had absolutely no energy for a solid week after. It’s why I didn’t blog anything, because I couldn’t sit for more than half an hour on my computer chair without getting completely wiped out. As the days dragged on it got better by tiny increments. I can sit more or less ok now, and the swelling had gone down to a half of what it was before, but I still looked bloated as heck and the pain is not going away. I seriously cannot imagine another full 8-12 weeks of daily progesterone shots after this. I may have to, at some point, ask my doctor if we could switch to a different method. Like right now I couldn’t walk properly and stairs (yes, my house has lots of stairs) are a nightmare still.

Well, I’m going in for the first pregnancy blood test tomorrow, bright and early. I hope everything turns out positive, because otherwise I just suffered two weeks of the shots for nothing, we’re down one embryo, and we have to do everything again. But let’s try optimism, yeah? Everything’s out of my hands now, so let’s just take a deep breath and hope for the best.

Cheers!

Life

Health Update

I interrupt my Good Mondays post to bring a health update. I just had a doctor’s appointment this morning, and it looked like I won’t be moving on to the next step just yet. Doctor said my hormones are a still a bit low, so I have to keep taking medication for another week before I have to go back in and get reassessed, and then perhaps we can move on to the next step. Not ideal but, hey, at least it’s going in the right direction!

What I don’t like about these visits the most is that I have to get bloodworks done right afterwards, and that means I have to spend about an extra hour waiting in line at the labs. I don’t feel as safe there, although they closed the usual waiting room and moved some seats out to the hallway outside. But there’re a lot of foot traffic and a lot of people just standing around waiting too. It’s a large hallway but still. I’m wearing an N95 mask yet it still makes me nervous, you know? I wish they have a speaker outside the building or something, that way I can hear my number being called while waiting in an outdoor space, even though I probably have to stand out in the sun for an hour. But it beats inside with inside air, and I do have some pretty strong sunscreen.

Covid’s making me pretty paranoid, especially with repeat hospital visits. Well, at least we have plenty of hand sanitizers and Clorox wipes – silver lining of getting up early for doctor appointments; we can get to Target early before they sell out their limited stock for the day.

Life

Good Mondays – Pens

Alright let’s start our official Good Mondays post – where I post something that makes me happy (and hopefully the happiness is contagious? ahaha bad word choice but you know what I mean) so I can get through the rest of the week. Or more like a daily gratitude post – thankful for small things, but weekly – anyways I should just get on with the topic, yeah? Today – pens!

More specifically – gel pens! So you know from my past posts that I do bullet journal religiously. I mostly use fountain pens with it, and they’re great, but lately I’ve been bitten by the ‘more color all the time’ bug and changing ink every time is a huge hassle. I actually don’t own any colorful pens – it’s either expensive fountain pens or cheap plain black BICs, so I thought, let’s go to the middle and buy some nice gel pens, eh? I kinda went on a shopping spree and bought a bunch different ones to test out. I’m a sucker for muted colors, I found, so sepia, various “colored” blacks (that also sounds bad, but I just meant like red-tinged black, blue-tinged black, etc.), deep green and navy and aubergine and etc. They just look very…calm and centered? Without being boring. And god knows we all need some calmness right now.

I got three separate sets: the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner in Summer Festival, the Uni-ball Signo UM-151 in Off-black, and the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip in Vintage Color 2. They’re all slightly different thickness but all write very smoothly. It’s funny, because I’m trying to consolidate and streamline my life but ended up dividing things into categories anyway, like with these pens. I was totally just going to use them interchangeably for everything, but found myself delegating the Zebra ones to writing long journal entries, the Staedtler ones to daily logging, and the Uni-ball to everything else. I think it’s mostly because the Zebra ones are thicker, therefore more comfortable to hold, and so best suited for when I need to write for an extended amount of time. And it really tells me something about my psyche when I’m drawn to the yellows in all the sets first. Yellow is a happy color, and I could definitely use some pick-me-ups, so my notebooks are just swamped with bright and cheery colors now.

It’s kind of silly to be so happy over such mundane things like a set of pretty gel pens. And even sillier that so far my happy things are all stationary products haha. Well, these are abnormal times, folks. Normally I’d be ecstatic over going to a good restaurant or watch a good movie or going to a good concert – none of which are possible right now and probably for many months to come. I know people have been going to bars and restaurants regardless, but I need to be extra safe because of my upcoming medical procedures. I guess obsessively recording and organizing my life is a way for me to cope with the stress, so pardon me while I celebrate tiny things like a smooth-writing pen on thick, none-feathering paper. And if the color yellow reminds me of sunshine and brings a smile to my face, then everything is working as intended, and I’m only thankful that such small gestures are actually enough.

Life

Surgery Recovery, and the Next Steps

Alright, so my surgery went well, however, it took me longer to recover than I thought I would, hence the rest of my July kind of was a wash because I was too tired to do much for a long time aside from getting out of bed. But it’s August now, and I’ve completely recovered from all the fatigue and the mental fogginess, and am more motivated to work than I’ve been for a long time, so I guess that’s a win?

I have more surgery and Covid testing to do this month. And more drugs to inject (no, not illegal ones, but hormonal ones to prep for the surgery) and to take. And testing and so on and, yeah, still not fun. But hopefully at the end of everything I will be pregnant with a healthy baby. Boy, sometimes you really wonder why when it came to me shit is so complicated and hard when for other people it’s like, op, done, pregnant from having fun instead of so many goddamn medicine and blood-drawing and surgery and tons and tons of money spent, all on top of being terrified of going into a hospital setting during the current pandemic climate. But them’s the breaks, so I guess I can be sad and complain or be excited and just, follow the roadmap and hope for the best. You know to be honest I kind of was excited for one moment that other day, which I did not expect. I also did give myself a pep talk all month of July and so I’m right now relatively calm instead of anxious. I’ll take that for a good start in August.

I will definitely post more about my health and such on this blog. Along with other things, because I actually feel motivated with writing right now. Everything is melting down outside because of the stupidity of, uh, a lot of people, and I’m just sitting here thinking, well, things can always get worse so better just take it one day at a time and be thankful that the world is not quite on fire today, and seize the moment. Kinda morbid, really, but for some reason I’m not that emotional about it. I think my head gave up on worrying at some point and just went ‘fuck it’ and that’s why I’m feeling pretty centered and okay. Let’s hope this keeps up, and of course, everyone, stay safe and health, alright? Wish y’all the best.

Life

Covid Testing, Me

Well, my surgery is tomorrow and I got myself Covid tested today. Still waiting for the results and the subsequent call from the surgery center confirming that the procedure can happen tomorrow. I hope so; I should test negative since I have no symptoms, neither does my husband, and we both have been doing as much shelter in place as possible since March. But it is getting late in the day and still no calls, so I’m getting a teensy bit worried. Oh well, not much to do but wait.

Covid testing was not fun. I got the up the nose really deep kind. I already had a bit of sinus issue from…I have no idea what haha. I’m guessing dry weather? Anyway, my nasal passage area isn’t doing well, and sticking a thin needle up there for 10 seconds does not help matters. No, it did not feel like your brain’s getting scooped out – it doesn’t go anywhere near that. It just felt exactly like the nurse told me: a tool touching the innermost part of your nose where it affects your nose, throat, and ear. My left ear ached for a while after, and my nose was running and my eyes were watering and it’s been a few hours since then and I’m still feeling wonky inside my left nostril. Ugh. They told me that false positives are less than 1%. Well, I hope I don’t have it. I really don’t want to do this again in two weeks or whenever (except I probably will have to because I have another surgery coming up and, yeah…) And if I somehow test positive, uh, that’s the most lucky (?) result then since I definitely gave it to my husband if that’s the case, but we’re both asymptomatic? I seriously doubt that. Anyways, let’s just hope they call me soon.

Life

Good…Mondays?

I started the Good Fridays series a couple of weeks ago and not gonna lie, I do like the idea. I am an anxious person and don’t appreciate the small good things in life often enough, and I think my mental health would benefit if I continue to do so. However, I’ve since realized that I don’t really need that pick-me-up on Fridays, because, well, it’s Friday! The day before the weekend, the day all your work is done and you can start relaxing. Granted my work is a bit more sporadic but the general sense I have on Fridays is not really anxiety. Plus, I have Friday Fictioneers and other things going on, so there’s usually not a dearth of topics to blog about on Fridays. I started the series so I can think of something good to soothe my anxiety for the week, but I think I might not have chosen the best day for that. Fridays are generally pretty good for me, mental health-wise.

Now Mondays, though. That’s a different story. Yes, we all know the “case of the Mondays” and I have them too. And with my work schedule usually it’s not because of work, per se, that makes it hard to do on Mondays. It’s that Sundays are grocery-shopping/chores/other life problems day, and with all the trappings of the pandemic going on shopping is usually a long and harrowing experience. So many things to disinfect and long lines and masks and all that. So usually on Sundays I just get exhausted by afternoon and then don’t really work that much, which leads to a lack of momentum so when Monday rolls around, I have even less desire to do work. So if there’s a day for a good old appreciation entry to get me going, it’s Mondays. So, I think this will work better if I make the series Good Mondays instead. I mean, who actually thinks Mondays are good? And that’s exactly why I need something extra to get through it productively.

Well, I don’t really have anything particularly positive for today though. I guess we can sort of count figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t as a positive? But next week, next week we will talk about good things. Among a whole lot of other things – like multiple upcoming surgeries. But, I digress. I do hope you all have a good week, everyone. And think of something small and positive today.

Life

Read A Damn Book

So my therapist told me that I should minimize going on social media to reduce stress. I agreed, did that for a week, and found that it helped. Now I only check the news and go on social media at the end of the day. However, I’m slowly finding that habit harder and harder to sustain. Not that I have an urge to check the news, per se, but that I need to do something else in its stead. There are just times when I want to relax a bit before doing work (like right after eating breakfast, or just coming in from exercise, etc.), and I used to fill that with endless reddit scrolling. I now found myself opening browsers to catch up on news during those blocks of times when I told myself I wouldn’t. Well, that just won’t do , will it?

So this morning instead of grabbing for my iPad I reached for my Kindle. I have so many books that I meant to read but haven’t started on a single one! Well, that is about to change, my friends! Or it has changed, because I spent 30 min reading a book, an actual book, instead of browsing the Internet and getting stressed/angry/depressed at whatever people are saying. It calmed me down and I even started work early because of the calmness! So I’ve decided that whenever I feel like I’m losing concentration, or need a break, I will NOT open an Internet browser, instead I will just get on the bed and read my Kindle for a few minutes. It’s been working so far, although the day’s not even halfway over yet, but I feel, dare I say, optimistic about it? I’ll of course keep you updated on how this’ll go. Maybe, finally, I can tackle my book backlog as well as quit obsessing over social media for good.