October 2nd, 2017

How to fly with a sinus infection without your face exploding

**Warning: this entire post is about my health—whiny, dull, and, in places, disgusting.**

I wrote last week about my glorious adventure in New Brunswick, but I wanted to keep the medical aspects of the trip for a separate post, lest they take over. For in truth, I was rather sick for the events I described. Not as sick as I have been this summer–for truly, this was the summer of illness for me. I started feeling vaguely unwell at the end of July, andwas truly ill for the second half of August and most of September. Starting late last week, I’ve been basically fine for the first time in several months, but not counting any damn chickens.

So in the second week of September, I had a sinus infection plus assorted other things, and was freaking out because I didn’t seem to be getting better past enough to fly in ten days. In case you don’t know, if you fly when your sinuses are too congested you run the risk of the pressure not adjusting properly in your ears (the “pop”) and if it gets too intense and you don’t/can’t take appropriate measures, the eardrum can rupture, which is not the worst thing that can happen to a person but causes you to bleed from your ear and possibly lose your hearing and is pretty bad. The reasons babies cry so hysterically on planes (well, one reason) is that they don’t know how to swallow to adjust the pressure in their ears and they are feeling it really strongly–unadjusted pressure hurts a lot, even if you are well and uncongested. So you can imagine (or I can) what a rupturing might feel like.

I was very worried about this. Not so much the pain, and the possibility of permanent hearing loss, though I was afraid of those things very much, but: here I am getting this amazing professional opportunity and I might have to walk off the plane and introduce myself to Ian LeTourneau, who has been very kind to me via email but whom I’ve never met, and say I have ruptured my eardrum, please take me to the hospital.

So, five days before my flight, a Sunday of course, I panicked and spent two hours in a walkin clinic to get antibiotics. I had tried to get an appointment with my own doctor the previous week, but she was too busy. All my other sinus infections have gone away on my own, but this one didn’t seem to be, and I didn’t have time to see how it panned out. So I start taking the antibiotics, in concert with decongestants, a steroidal nasal spray, a neti pot, and a nasal mister and lo and behold: the day before the flight, the mucus had gone from yellow to clear (yuck!) signalling that the antibiotics had worked but here’s the thing–other than the colour, nothing had really changed. I still *felt* like I had a sinus infection, even if I was no longer technically infected. And there was still plenty of fluid in the exact wrong spot–inside my face, where it could burst out an eardrum at an inopportune moment–even if it was the right colour.

So I read everything the internet said about whether my eardrum was going to burst, which was surprisingly inconclusive. Basically they said, don’t fly if you can avoid it, which was unhelpful–who flies for no reason? The tickets you can change cost twice as much!! But they didn’t say what is the difference between the people who have a sinus infection and fly and go deaf in one ear, and the people who have a sinus infection and fly and are fine. I got the feeling that maybe some people are just more organized and prepared, and also perhaps luckier?? Anyway, in an attempt to put myself in the lucky category, here’s what I did:

1) Keep on the decongestants all day and all night before the flight, and take the max dose half an hour before the flight. I thought these pills just made me feel better superficially by numbing the pain but apparently they actually shrink swollen tissue, making it easier for horrible fluids to escape from the appropriate holes and not have to create new ones.
2) Spend the previous day in a room with a humidifier, plus regular use of nasal mister. This is to thin said horrible fluids, also in aid of their easy and painless escape from my face.
3) Stay super-hydrated before the flight, again with a fluid-thinning agenda. There are also actual mucus-thinning drugs, but I was scared to put yet another unfamiliar chemical into my body right before the flight.
4) Nasal irrigation–only at home and in the hotel of course, because that’s a big project and there are limits to what even I will do in an airport bathroom. This is to evacuate horrible fluids before they attempt to escape on their own.
5) A shot of Dristan right before the flight. The doctor told me I might need to take this *after* the flight, if my ears were plugged but not exploded, but an American website told me to take a different nose-drug before the flight, and that drug doesn’t seem to exist in Canada, so I just took the Dristan. I also forget what this is for. I think it’s another tissue-shrinker.
6) Chew gum on the plane for takeoff and landing but also have two bottles of water, one for each, because gum cannot generate enough spit for all the swallows all the time. Swallow constantly. It feels odd (and probably looks odd) but does help.
7) Earplanes are a pressure-regulating earplug and I half-wonder if I could have just used these and not gotten up to all the other shenanigans above. You put them on while still at normal pressure (on the ground, ideally before the plane door has shut) and you can take them out when you are at full altitude and put them back for descent, or if you are paranoid like me leave them in for the whole flight, taking them out again, after the doors have opened. They worked really well for me, adjusting pressure more slowly and gently than it would have otherwise, though it still hurt.

So basically I had a mildly painful and highly anxious flight to Fredericton, but emerged from the plane feeling like I had WON THE LOTTERY. The great thing about assuming the worst is that everything else feels like the best! The fact that no eardrums burst and I could resume normal functioning as soon as I hit the ground, and go do all the nice things I had planned around the festival was solid gold. I hope these tips might help other people have as glorious an experience of non-eardrum-bursting as I did!

September 29th, 2017

WordFeast Fredericton

Today is PechaKucha Night at Markham Village Library so I’m already on to other things, but I want to flash back to the glorious 3 days I spent in New Brunswick last weekend for WordFeast Fredericton.

It was so great! I had never been a headliner before, so it was a bit terrifying to have three events scheduled in two days, but it was also amazing and exciting to be meeting readers in such a range of ways–a lecture on unlikeable characters Friday night, a workshop on characters and dialogue on Saturday afternoon, and a reading from So Much Love on Saturday night.

There’s a nice account of the Friday night lecture in The Aquinian, which is the student newspaper at St. Thomas University in Fredericton–there were a few other nice articles but unfortunately most of the newspapers in New Brunswick are behind a paywall so I can’t share them. There’s a great photo of me and Riel Nason enjoying a Q&A with Colleen Kitts-Goguen, and another of festival organizer and Fredericton Cultural Laureate and general mastermind Ian LeTourneau.

Everyone I encountered at the fest–reader, volunteer, director, organizer, writer, or just enjoyer of things literary–was so terribly kind and friendly. And Fredericton itself is the sweetest, prettiest little city–and I had the best weather for wandering around trying to get my bearings, going to the farmer’s market, walking on the walking bridge, being toured around by my cousins-in-law, and just generally enjoying every minute.

Sunday night I took the bus down to Moncton to spend the day with my dear friend Art (he is actually one of my husband’s oldest friends, and officiated at our wedding–Art is one of the bonuses I picked up in the marriage!) and his high-school scholars. In Art’s unique classroom, teenagers are meeting their considerable life challenges with literary theory and granola bars, and it was a truly edifying day for me–and hopefully for them. I did my best to make the world of writing and stories and publishing sound possible and interesting to their ears, and sometimes I think I succeeded. Certainly everyone made me feel welcomed and heard, and I tried to return the favour. It was an amazing experience.

And then a very tired me flew home! I’ve talked with other lit folks about what it takes to feel like a “real writer” and it’s different things on different days for different people, but having others take an interest in my work, getting to talk about it and explore it with other engaged readers, is a huge one for me, and this weekend was a great gift.

July 12th, 2017

Things We Like, Vacation Edition

…and so many great things happened. I’ll format this post as additions to the list of things we like, but with more explanation than usual….

417. The show Mainstreet on CBC PEI, where Mark and I did a short interview with Angela Walker and got called a “superpower couple”!!

418. Beaches beaches beaches! We tried to go to one a day and didn’t quite make it but saw plenty of good ones. If you’re heading to PEI, I’d recommend Brackley Beach, Canoe Cover, Rustico Beach, Victoria-by-the-Sea beach, walking the boardwalk in Victoria Park and pretty much any opportunity to see a body of water–they’re all lovely.

419. Fireworks Restaurant at Inn at Bay Fortune is probably the nicest restaurant I have ever eaten in. But maybe not quite a restaurant–they employ a staff that gardens on the property and the garden supplies all of their vegetables and herbs–when it’s too cold to garden, the restaurant closes. They serve all local fish and meat, cheese and I think wine and beer too. It was such a lovely experience in a lovely setting on the water. I understand most readers won’t be near Souris, PEI anytime soon but if you are go here!

420. GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) on Netflix The thing about being on vacation is that you spend all day every day with your significant other, and by the end of the day you are out of things to talk about. So we read a lot (more below) and watched GLOW, which is so funny and interesting (I love the insider stuff about how wrestling moves work) and stars Allison Brie, who is always great to watch. A total joy–I only how there will eventually be more than 10 episodes.

421. The Wonder Woman movie–this one probably doesn’t need a link, you know what I mean. It’s very good. I always want to see movies in theatre and rarely get the time, but I heard that you HAVE to see superhero movies in theatres, plus I really wanted to support this female-superhero thing with $$, so we made time for it on the trip. It was delightful!

422. #RevlonXLashes, a freebie product I got from Influenster. In addition to just generally enjoying free products, this one is a pretty good long-lasting mascara–decent for a drugstore brand. I have gotten way into mascara lately and have been spending too much money on lovely Lancome things (Hypnose is the best I’ve found so far–you?) but this is a nice cheap alternative that lasts all day.

423. This fun Open Book Lucky 7 interview that got posted while I was away.

424. Sunsets in Riviere-du-Loup, the town in eastern Quebec we always stop in because someone at a party once told us they have the prettiest sunsets. That person was right!

425. One Day We’re All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter is a funny book that is also smart and very readable. I sped through it in two days, mainly on the beach–proving that a beach read, like a beach body, is whatever one you bring there.

426. Naps. I took a bunch, mainly in the car on the very long drive east and then west–they were glorious.

427. Sweet potato fries. In my head, somehow, these aren’t that good until I try them again and realize they are my favourite thing in the world. Why do I always forget that?

428. Golden Doodles! Everyone in the family seems to be acquiring these. They are charming and VERY energetic.

429. Being barefoot on grass.

430. Coming home to my cats.

431. Answers to Reading Survey, in the comments on the original post and on Fred’s blog. So very interesting–and not over, if you were still wanting to answer!

June 19th, 2017

Next we take the Maritimes

My husband, the writer and lovely human Mark Sampson and I drive to the Maritimes every other summer to visit friends and family, and since we both have books out this year, we are combining it with some readings, adding up to an adorably couply little tour. We’re actually a good pairing because my book is pretty dark while his latest novel The Slip is quite funny. So it’s a well-balanced evening of entertainment!

We kick off at Tidewater Books in Sackville, New Brunswick at 7pm, June 26. Invitation here. Followed by June 29, 6:30pm at the Confederation Centre Library in Charlottetown, invitation here. We wind up in Halifax at a booksellers’ conference, but that’s not open to the public so I won’t link it here. There may be one more Nova Scotia event, so please stay tuned…

If none of that works for you, I’ll be back in New Brunswick in the fall to take part in the delightfully named Word Feast Festival in Fredericton September 22-23; I’ll also be doing some school visits in Moncton on the 25th.

If you are an eastern type person, hope to see you at one of these events…

March 30th, 2016

Pages Unbound, hanging with students, literal and figurative frosting

In the endless drudgery that is novel-completion, I am very fond of anything that is not novel-completion. Especially things that make me feel writerly without requiring me to, you know, actually write anything. That sort of thing is really the icing on the cake of this whole career choice I’m making…

So getting to talk with a classroom of college students last week about reading and writing (along with my husband Mark Sampson and the wonderful professor (and friend) Nathan Dueck was a joy and delight. So was tagging along with Mark to launch his new poetry book, Weathervane alongside Dorothy Moahoney at the fabled Biblioasis store (it’s a lovely as I’d hoped!)

And so is the prospect of getting to take part in “Burst: New Voices in Canadian Literature” on May 6 as part of the Pages Unbound festival. The wonderful and talented Suzanne Alyssa Andrew and I will be sharing the stage with a bunch of other emerging types, and I’m so excited to meet and hear them. And to read a little myself, too!

Sharing what one has written is the frosting of writing, of course–it has to be, for if you are counting on publishing and ensuring accolades to sustain you emotionally or (heaven help you) financially, you might well starve to death. Writing as well as I possibly can needs to be enough for me because it would be easier to do almost anything else and no one wants to listen to me complain about something I could easily elect not to do. But I like this line: “If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you’re not a writer.” (it’s from this essay by Josh Olson–warnings: snark, swears)

So I write because I’m a writer and if it’s hard it’s my problem because I wanted to tell these stories. Them being written, and available for me to read myself is the sustenence here. But I do really enjoy the icing on the cake, giving the work to others and seeing what they think–so grateful the opportunities to do so that come my way.

Possibly, frosting is on my mind of late, because I was in the States last week (after Windsor it seemed natural to go on to Michigan and see some of the rockstars we know there) and a friend asked me to see if I could find any rainbow-chip frosting. Apparently it used to be available all over North American, then only in the States, and most recently no one could find it anywhere. I googled and found that the frosting had in fact been discontinued and is now coming back. I also found this insane video of a guy who who got 7000 people to sign a petition to bring back the frosting (!!!!) and then, when invited to a party celebrating his success, seemed absolutely terrified.

Anyway, I bought the frosting and my friend was delighted. I bought a tub for myself too and am really looking forward to trying it–can 7000 people be wrong? I can’t find a way to tie this back into the post or the central metaphor, but basically: you take your fun where you can get it.

August 19th, 2013

Back at the Rose-coloured ranch!

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since I posted! You’ll pleased to know I didn’t do much that was literary in my absence–mainly toured the Maritimes with my husband and his various associates, aka, went on vacation. Did you know there are mountains in Cape Breton? Well, there are and they are gorgeous, but scary to drive on. We also saw a wood grouse and ate most of the major mollusks, so I am well satisfied with the trip. Also happy to be home–the best combination. I will try to post some pictures of my own taking once I finally get’em off the camera.

BUT if you did miss my literary self terribly, not to worry: I have a couple stories coming out in the fall. My story “Ms. Universe” will appear on Joyland Toronto in September. Also this fall, my story “Loneliness” will appear in Compose Journal. “Loneliness” is from my second book, The Big Dream, so if you were curious about that one…

I’m also going to chat with some creative writing students on Wednesday night, so hopefully I will shortly be back in the swing of this literary life…we’ll see!

July 3rd, 2013

Thunder Bay: Now with photos!

 

I promised ages ago to post some photos of my Thunder Bay Experience, and though that trip, less than a month ago, seems impossibly distant now, I still enjoy looking at these and thought you might too…

Random public art at the TB harbourfront

Random public art at the TB harbourfront

Statues on Mount MacKay (note also gorgeous weather)

Statues on Mount MacKay (note also gorgeous weather)

The amazing and stunning Kackabecka Falls

The amazing and stunning Kackabecka Falls

Lake Superior from the harbour

Lake Superior from the harbour

Lake Superior up close

Lake Superior up close

Random deer on someone's lawn--love it!!

Random deer on someone’s lawn–love it!!

And there’s even more, but you get the idea–Thunder Bay is a gorgeous place and you should go look at it if you possibly can.

June 10th, 2013

Greetings from Thunder Bay

I forgot the dooie (technical term) that imports photos from my camera to my computer, so this post will lack the most important aspect of Thunder Bay: visual beauty. It is full of trees and rocks and beaches and every time you turn around, there’s Lake Superior flashing blue and enormous at you. There’s also a number of mountains, a gorge, a waterfall… Imagine if Niagara Falls were 20 minutes away from the Grand Canyon… It’s like that here.

Also: wildlife! It is very exciting here, to the point where i have a hard time concentrating on conversations that happen in cars, because if you look out the window long and hard enough you might see: a momma deer nursing her fawn; an adolescent bear thinking about crossing the road, deciding against, then lumbering off. Or a moose! A ring-tail hawk! Baby goslings! Photos of some of the above to come–some moved too fast for me to capture on camera.

Other things they have in Thunder Bay: nice houses owned by non-rich people; Finnish pancakes; a nearby crossing to Minnesota; friendly people, including my lovely host Jaime; a farmers’ market; a steakhouse with a salad bar (love!), and much more. I am having a good time here, as you can probably tell. Soon it will be time for a tour of the university here, Lakehead, but in the meantime I just thought you’d like to know how nice Thunder Bay is, and that you should probably come visit if you get the chance.

Photos to come in a future post!

October 26th, 2012

Back and last of the 1000 Things

So I went to Vancouver and it was awesome, but caused me some confusing days with the wrong number of hours in them, as well as a lot of time slouched up against an airplane window while a broad-shouldered man tried really hard not to squash me. So I’m tired but I met a lot of amazing folks, heard brilliant readings, and ate as much salmon as humanly possible without being an embarrassment (I don’t think). So let’s get a bit closer to polishing off this liking list while I’m in such a good mood.

First, from Fred,

942) Becky’s cat channel (RR says: aw, thanks!)

And from Jane,

943) paper warm from the printer

And now me, with a heavily west-coast tinged bunch

944) candied salmon
945) Walking along and suddenly seeing a body of water where you didn’t expect one
946) farmers markets
947) tiered tea trays
948) holding a baby who doesn’t mind
949) Irish accents in general and Anakana Schofield‘s in particular
950) Anakana’s novel, Malarky
951) Really good huggers, like VIWF’s head honcho, Hal Wake. In the midst dozens of authors, staff and volunteers, hundreds of audience members, too many potential problems to count, and basically a perfectly awesome festival, he still found time to hug like he meant it.
952) When Alice the kitten stands on the palm of my hand
953) Not even starting to fret that it won’t work out before it does in fact work out
954) GIFs
955) Zsuzsi Gartner
956) Angie Abdou
957) Caroline Adderson
958) Biting into a chocolate-covered cookie to discover it’s actually a chocolate-covered cream puff
959) When my suitcase is first one to hit the baggage carousel (I swear, this actually happened for my return to Toronto)
960) Toronto, city of my love
961) Fluffy pillows
962) My brother
963) Blogging
964) Swiss Chalet (less than an hour to go!)

October 1st, 2012

What I’ve Been Up To

I was doing so well at the regular posting for a while there, but seem to have fallen off last week. Do I have excuses? Not really, but here’s what I was doing instead of blogging:

1) On Tuesday night, I went to the Bibliobash, where my fellow Biblioasis authors were reading. I was late, because of my evening class, and so missed all the actual readings, but still managed to a) get Alice Peterson’s excellent collection signed, purchase CP Boyko’s new one and c) chat up the authors. I meant to buy the new Chekov translation by David Helwig, but due to a miscommunication, didn’t–next time!

2) Following that, I had a migraine for 48 hours (unrelated…I think). For those familiar with migraines, mine are not the worst kind–some people see auras, throw up, and basically have to be alone in a silent dark room until things improve. My migraines are usually of the sort I can function through, albeit not cheerfully. The worst-case scenario is fairly serious pain, shaking hands, nausea, and an inability to concentrate, which is where we were on Wednesday, a day on which I slept for close to 16 hours. It was sort of glorious, in a way. The worst of the pain had abated by evening, but it took another day to shake it completely.

3) On the weekend, we went to stay in a fancy hotel, a treat given to us as a very lovely wedding gift. Since the hotel was in Toronto, we figured we didn’t need to bother with tourism or posh restaurants, so we spent the whole time in the hotel. Swam in the pool, examined the fancy piano bar, then ordered pizza and watched 4 hours of televisions–we don’t have TV at home, and the lost art of channel surfing is sorely missed. The best part was re-watching *Edward Scissorhands* after an interval of 20 years. It’s still so gorgeous and moving, but the ending???? SPOILER ALERT: Winona Ryder decides their love is too difficult so she leaves Edward all alone in his house at the top of the hill. Then she returns to her normal surburban life for FIFTY MORE YEARS, with only a slight tinge of regret. Why is she not a really horrible person??? Why????? Ahem.

4) Throughout all of this, I was reading Pasha Malla’s People Park, an extremely overwhelming experience. Were it not for my abiding love of Malla’s first book, I would not have touched *People Park*–500-page alternative realities are not my friends, normally. Just a personal preference, not a judgement. So perhaps it was for lack of context that I was so overwhelmed by People Park–so wildly ambitious, so diverse and imaginative, so *weird.* I don’t know if it was brilliant or terrible or what. I’m leaning towards brilliant, but I would really like to talk this through with someone, only no one I know has read it yet. I tried reviews online, but seem to stick with effusions or excoriations without much explanation or examples. I know, I know, reviews aren’t tutorials, but you’d think someone could help a girl out here. Did *you* read People Park? Any thoughts?

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