Today I’m posting early because my wife and I are heading to the big city about an hour away.
We’re not taking the girls, but it’s (unfortunately) not a date trip. I have an appointment at a hematology/oncology clinic for a CT scan.
Whenever you say “oncology” people tend to think cancer for obvious reasons. I haven’t been diagnosed with cancer, but I’m being monitored to see if I might be developing it.
See, about a year ago, I was having stomach pain coupled with this feeling of something swollen near my rib cage. I went to the doctor about it, and he noticed on the CT Scan an overall swelling of my lymph nodes around my stomach. Now, this was not a huge swelling, but abnormal nonetheless, so the doctor referred me to the aforementioned hematology/oncology clinic for further treatment (or observation, which is mostly what they have done).
I’m sort of at the midpoint of the 2 year plan to observe me, take my blood, and scan me to make sure that I don’t have a slow-growing lymphoma.
I haven’t really told that many people about this, and I honestly don’t even think about it that much because I don’t feel sick and nothing’s been diagnosed. And so far, everything has stayed the same. Apparently, it’s sort of common to have chronic swollen lymph nodes for a variety of reasons – I’ve had mononucleosis and Strep B, and both of those can contribute to someone having lifelong lymph node swelling.
But, here we go, off today to check this out once again. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous or anxious. I am. I’ve written before about how I tend toward the darker side of thinking realistically, so obviously, the thought of getting bad news today is weighing on me.
I hate to leave this on a bad note, but I needed to do a blog post today, and this was on my mind. I’ll make sure to update the post later today when I get back home.
But isn’t it just like my wife to mention yesterday that this was sort of like a date? She has this habit of labeling any time we’re not with the kids as a date, even when I sliced the top of my finger a few years ago and cut a tendon.
She had to drive me to urgent care to get it stitched up. Only Liz. But I guess when you have four kids, you look for "date nights" wherever you can find them.
For the sake of this post, I'll post results when I get back!
So I went and got my CT Scan. Unfortunately, the results weren't what I would've wished for. They found 1 or 2 lymph nodes that are bigger than what they were. The nodes are intertwined with my intestines so he couldn't just grab a biopsy with a needle. The doctor gave me an antibiotic to see if that would cure the swollen nodes. I go back in 4 weeks. If the nodes are still swollen, then I will have to have surgery to remove them. Keep praying!
I love winter. Those that know me, know this about me. And if they didn’t before this statement, they do now.
But what I think that gets overlooked is that I like other seasons as well. I don’t only love winter. I like the other seasons as well.
I like spring and the rain it brings. I miss the fact that my daughters can go out and run around without coats. I miss the sounds of birds. After seeing brown snow for the last month, I miss the green that follows.
I am ready for spring to arrive.
I am ready to go outside and be active once again. Over the winter, I felt as if my body were wasting away. So in order to combat this feeling, I had to go out and buy a chin up bar.
I miss being able to clean our car (both inside and out). The back seat is… unsanitary is the closest word I can think of. It has been my two oldest daughters’ personal space since the fall, and I’m not about to vacuum the car in 10 degree weather.
I went outside yesterday to take some pictures for an interview on a blog, and I thought… I miss shooting my bow.
Over the winter, we bought our girls bows, and I will be teaching them to shoot as well. These are things you can’t do with several feet of snow on the ground. That's another reason why I’m ready for spring.
My wife said, “Oh, now you’re tired of the winter.” I said, “No, all I ask is for summer to be summer, winter to be winter, spring to be spring, and fall to be fall.”
You see, I don’t like warm days in January or cold days in the summer (though I don’t like really, really hot days ever.)
So, with that being said. Spring can come. I think I am ready for it.
Everyone has a story. It doesn't matter if the person is real or fictional. The person's story is his or her's defining experience. In writing, we call it backstory, and writers think a lot about it because it is an integral part to a story.
Who is this character? What are his relationships like? How did he end up where he is at this exact point in the narrative? Questions like this plague authors. The answers to these, and others like them, determine everything about the character, and, if that character is the main one, determine the arc of the story itself.
You must know where I'm going with this. If all of our fictional characters that we read about (or write about) have a back story, so do all of us. Part of the interesting thing about life is learning the backstory of those close to us. Which, when we learn this backstory, makes us feel even closer to these people.
So, then the question every writer has is, how to reveal the back story. Do you do it all at once (or at least the main points), do you wait until the end (the big revelation as part of the climax), or do you space it out in spatterings like a Jackson Pollack painting (kind of like a mystery novel)?
If we're mirroring life here, sometimes you get a little bit of all three. You meet a person, and you might ask questions about where the person is from, how many siblings he has, where he went to school, etc., etc. You are basically asking for his (abbreviated, superficial) backstory. Or, as Lajos Egri would categorize it - the sociological part of his story.
The deeper you go into someone's backstory, the more you understand him and perhaps see why he made the choices he did and ended up in the place where he is. The fascinating thing about this is that it feels infinite. I'm still learning new backstory details about my wife, and I've been married to her for almost twelve years.
Then, from the writerly stand point, there's the moment when you find out something from someone's backstory that seems to change everything - sometimes for good, or possibly for ill. This is the Moment of Discovery. Very, very important in storytelling. Because in that moment your story changes, and you are forced to take everything to the next level. Your character must make Big Decisions that will impact her life and shift the path of her future.
So, thanks for enduring my ramblings on backstory. Now, I urge you, if you are a writer, don't neglect this element of your narrative. And, for anyone out there, I urge you - find out the backstories of the people around you. In this way, your relationships will grow and you will have greater understanding of those people who inhabit your sphere.
Since Scott is swamped trying to finish some last minute proof reading, I decided to take the blogging reigns for today. See, last night he was supposed to spend a lot of time doing said proof reading, but got a little sidetracked.
First, he had to get gas in the van, then buy and refill our windshield wiper fluid.
Digression: When I was growing up in the Deep South, I don’t think I really ever remember my parents buying windshield wiper fluid (I mean, maybe they did, I just don’t remember). What I do remember is filling up the windshield wiper fluid tank with water. Just water. Where we live now (in the subarctic region of the United States), that would be foolhardy! Sometime around November, you’d just have a big block of ice in your windshield wiper fluid container that wouldn’t melt until sometime around the end of April.
Back to the story: So, then he’s driving out to his office (Starbucks), and realizes he has a flat tire while he was on the highway. The shoulder on the highway is next to nothing right now because of our tremendous snow banks, so he had to drive really slowly with his hazard lights on to the nearest exit.
Digression: It’s been the coldest month here ever (maybe not, but it’s been really, really cold), and last night when he was out changing the tire, the temperature was probably hovering around zero.
But, he loves the North and the snow and the cold, so this didn’t phase him at all! (Well, I’m sure it did a little, but he still managed to change the tire with minimal cold weather injuries.) All that to say, he didn’t get as much work done last night as he wanted to, but at least his final destination was a coffee joint.
Meanwhile, back at our house, the girls and I made belated Valentine’s Day cookies. It’s sort of a tradition every year since I got a Valentine’s Day cookie cutter set (which I think Scott gave me one year as a Valentine’s Day present). But we’ve been sick for a couple of weeks, so we’re a little behind.
HOWEVER… I finally completed this Herculean task last night. And by Herculean, I mean, it was always a borderline disaster. I mean, the baby is at the age where she wants to do everything the big girls do, so that meant a lot of fun for her, but also frustration for me. Then, the girls were super excited, but that makes them jumpy and crazy acting and that means they tend to get into trouble. I tried to be chill, laid-back Mom and take it all in stride. Overall, I think I did pretty good… I only had to yell once or twice and I don’t even think I had to punish anyone, just a talking-to. Progress.
At one point, Caroline and Emily were both at the kitchen counter cutting out the cookies to bake, and they got into a shrieking competition because they both wanted to stand in the same place and both use the same little heart cookie cutter. Then, the big girls didn’t really care about cutting out the cookies, they just wanted to decorate them, so they kept coming in asking if it was time to decorate yet (NO). The baby kept grabbing at the dough and squeezing it between her little fingers and Caroline was like a little cookie cutting machine. She just kept at it, even when Emily would be physically attempting to grab the cutter out of her hand. Tenacity, that’s what Caroline has.
Well, eventually we got them all cut out and baked and cooled. I made the frosting, cut the tips off the store-bought frosting bottles, and away we went! The decorating involved a lot of me trying to keep the baby from sticking her hands into the frosting, or climbing up on the table and destroying the decorating handiwork of the other girls. And there was a lot of moderating whose turn it was to have the pink frosting, and reminding the girls not to eat too many or sneak too many licks of the frosting or they’ll have a stomach ache (there was a stomach ache later).
All in all, it was an evening of adventure. I hope tonight is really boring.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.