Friday, July 01, 2011

Seize the Day: Surprise a Writer

A writer's life is full of endless surprises. Main characters refuse to do the very things for which they were created. Villains become too compelling to destroy. Minor characters endear themselves and merit their own story lines. And then there's Real Life...

Wednesday started out like any other day. Horses, dogs, cats, & assorted flocks of fowls to feed... A beta read to continue for a Twitter friend... A request for a quick foreword edit from a blog visitor...

While perusing my Twitter feed, I saw blogger Tracey Hansen's Week 3 #HumpDayChallenge: Write a short story of no more than 100 words that featured the following 5 words:

Jelly. Memory. Greed. Stench. And legerdemain.

Entries had to be posted by 8 p.m., for judging by novelist Al Boudreau.

So after editing the foreword, I started working on a little something... 

In the evening, while my daughter was in karate class I sat in the YMCA, finished up my entry and posted it -- 15 minutes before the deadline.

And then life hit me with the surprise:

I came home to discover that my wonderful husband, who has been doing really well lately, had stopped making sense. Which is not normal for the WunderGuy. Fearing that he was gearing up for a seizure, I packed him off to bed.

(I learned later that the "not making sense" was actually a sort of seizure in itself. I should have taken him to the ER immediately. If only he'd come with an operator's manual. Now I know...)

At quarter to 1 a.m., the fun started. Multiple tonic-clonic seizures, coupled with major ick-sickness, can totally ruin an evening. After the third seizure in 2 hours, I knew it was time to take him to the hospital. His right side wasn't working very well, but somehow (thank God) we got him down the stairs. He was exhausted, so I sat him on the chair to catch his breath while I called a friend to come and watch our daughter. WunderGuy began seizing again.

I dialed 9-1-1.

When the paramedics pulled into our drive a few moments later, he seized a 5th time. He spiked a fever (common after multiple seizures), was sick-sick-sick, and was completely comatose.

We got to the ER shortly after 3. They stabilized him and ran a bunch of tests: EEG, CAT scan, chest x-ray, blood tests. Nothing conclusive, except they're worried that he aspirated fluid into his lungs, so they gave him an antibiotic as a preventative for pneumonia.

These seizures, and the 4 hours or so leading up to them are very different than others he's had. Just this past week, his meds have switched from name brand to generic made-in-India because insurance won't pay for the "real" ones. I'm leaning toward a theory that says that's to blame. But what do I know?

We stayed overnight in the ER; got discharged shortly after 10 a.m. Dragged my butt home, put exhausted WunderGuy to bed, then muddled through the day trying to stay awake & be a mom to 8 y.o. (True confession, I did park her in front of a movie so I could catnap for an hour.)

So it was a wonderfully pleasant surprise to check in on Twitter and learn that I'd won the short story contest. (Want to read it? Here: NIGHTFALL.)

Aw, Gee. You made my day.
What did I win? Well, I'll tell ya, it was a virtual swag bag.

I won the right to display this bitchen, way cool badge of honor. I received a ton of goodwill congratulations from other contestants & Twitter followers. I got the satisfaction of seeing my fiction in print on a site other than my own. And I got a much-needed boost to my emotionally drained spirit that will propel me to fight (and write) yet another day.

In other words, the prizes were a gladly welcomed surprise.

Later (apres catnap and after ascertaining that WunderGuy was still breathing and cogent), I received another surprise.  The person I'd helped with foreword editing sent me a Starbucks gift card in thanks. How nice. How thoughtful. And, given my insatiable penchant for coffee, how totally appropriate.

Now, neither winning the contest nor receiving free coffee has lessened my concern over my husband's well-being. They haven't helped me sign with my Dream Agent or contributed toward this month's mortgage payment. But both went a long way toward making a difficult day... bearable.

Want to make a writer's day? Surprise 'em! Some ideas:

*  Tweet 'em up. If you're both on Twitter, post a less-than-140-character note telling the world how great your Exceptional Writer Friend is.
"You are SO cool!" photo by Mary R. Vogt /

*  Blog 'em big. If you have a blog, write a post about something your friend does that you admire. Especially if the thing you admire is writing-related. Most writers get way more rejections than kudos thrown their way. Having someone specify how they don't suck can do more than you know to bolster a writer's flagging spirits.

*  Leave a comment. If your writer friend has a blog, say something in the comments section. Drop a note saying how much you appreciate the friendship, the insight, the craftsmanship, or the humor. Go public with your recognition. It can make someone's day.

It's the little surprises that make life worth living.
* Send a snail mail.  Eschew technology and go old school. Get tangible. Break out the pen and paper or pick up a card, write a note of encouragement and approval, and send that puppy.

*  Send 'em something special. Thanks to the twin miracles of PayPal and online gift certificates, it doesn't take much time or money to send a certain special sumpthin'. Even a $5 gift eCard for their favorite bookseller, coffee shop, movie theatre, or other vice goes a long way. It's a great way to say, "I believe you're going to make it." 

So go ahead, make someone's day. You might find it brings a smile to your face as well:  Surprise!


Malin said...

You are exceptional! I hope wunderguy recovers soon, and congrats on the writing win (that's something!!) and for all that's good in the world, don't stress about the beta read (especially not if it's mine).

The gift certificate thing is a very good idea. As most of my friends live abroad, I've used internet and paypal to reward their kindness several times. Even sent a painting kit to a good friend (but that required her adress and phone number so not much of a surprise...).

So... apart from coffee, what do you like? *innocently wields pen and gift certificate idea*

RedHeadedQuilter said...

I'm with you on thinking that the generic medication is to blame. Just because the active ingredient might be the same (might) doesn't mean that the inactive ingredients don't cause some kind of unforeseen negative interaction or problem.

I hope his doctor takes it seriously and argues with the insurer to make sure he gets the right meds.

How scary that must have been. :( *hugs*

traceyhansenwrites said...

I am so happy that my contest somehow lessened the pain of what sounds like a horrible day. I am so glad that you decided to enter, it truly was a great entry. : )

Poetica said...

Hi, Ami...Maggie here from the Bridgman library class. First, I hope your hubs is better. That had to be scary. Been there, almost done-that.

Congrats on your honor. Woo-hoo!

Say, you asked me some time ago if I'd be interested in being a guest blogger. What a compliment, and I thank you for it. Finally I have something. Still interested? It's 370 words. Too long? Let me know, okay?

Poetica said...

Oh, one more thing. I'd almost certainly blame generics. I've fought and fought with the insurance company about this, and even though my neurologist insists on the brand, MEDCO continues to send the generic of one of my meds. His office wrote a letter of medical necessity, and insurance company wasn't happy. Taking generics may well work for some, but I've been told that the ingredients from one generic script to the next are not necessarily the same, and this is the knot. I'm sensitive to all that change, and I'd be seizing way more if I had to cope with wondering what ingredients might "grab" me this time.

Ami Hendrickson said...

Thanks for the comments, insights, & well-wishes.

Malin (and all others wielding pens & gift certificates): coffee (Panera) and books & movies (Amazon) are my two all-time favorite vices. Just saying...

TraceyHansenWrites: Thanks for the kind words & for being a bright spot in a dark day.

QuiltinRedhead & Poetica: My thoughts on "brand" vs. "made-in-India generic" could fill a whole separate blog. As far as I'm concerned, it's the equivalent of selling faux Rolexes or Prada on the street: illegal for watches or handbags, but evidently OK in medicine... >:(

Butterfly said...

The state of medicine and what insurance companies don't pay for make me want to go back and live in Europe, although I'm not sure things are much better there.
Beautifully written post, I hope that Wunder-ful hubby is better soon. I'll be thinking about you :)