Those of you who have read this blog for a while know I have a full suite of auto-immune issues.  Asthma, eczema, arthritis, and random stuff as my autoimmune periodically decides to go and kick another organ, like a bored teenage delinquent on a Saturday night when there’s nothing good on TV.  A few years go it was my eyes.  They started drying out and I almost ended up with a detached retina, but eventually — thank you prednisone — the attack stopped.  Or at least was diverted elsewhere.

This probably comes from my having been very premature and — blessed socialized medicine, where the sick person is not the customer, and therefore they can treat it as a product, which in my case was of dubious soundness — not having any of the normal treatments for premature infants.

My mom thinks I was born at 8 months gestation, but there’s reason to doubt it (many reasons, really, including the fact there wasn’t an easy pee-on-the-stick test) because weight and such are… falsifiable (my dad had an attack of stupid Latin machismo and reported my weight as — I think — double because he was afraid the registrar would look at this man over six feet and think I must be illegitimate.  Keep in mind dad is very sensible and in the normal way of things very gentle and not macho at all, and shake your head at the culture that made the registrar likely to think that.)  However, I know I fit in dad’s size eleven shoe and also that years later I found my first clothes (in wool, of all things, which if I wear now next to the skin, I break out all over) and they didn’t fit my standard 12 inch baby doll.

Anyway, that type of thing apparently leaves … stuff, and apparently my body’s amiable tendency to attack itself is one of those things.

I wish I could blame mom’s habit of cleaning everything twice with bleach, but really, like all kids in the village I sailed paper (and leaf) boats in the sewage when it was let out of the storage tanks to fertilize the village fields, so, no.  I did not grow up in an hyper-clean environment.

At any rate, my body reacts to things that should make it defend itself by attacking itself.  The latest was caused by a leaking humidifier, which caused mold on the floor of my bedroom  and resulted in bad, bad asthma and eczema rash almost over my entire body.  The asthma has subsided but the eczema is still bad, all over my body, itching like heck, and making it hard to concentrate on anything else.

It will probably end up in prednisone, but the problem is I had it not so long ago.  So it has to age off my system first.  Maybe.  If this goes on, I’m going to end in an emergency room, because this is torturous to deal with.  And the benadryl I can take to cut the itch makes me incapable of working on fiction.

So, other than being like an old woman, talking about my ills what is this all about?


There is a reason I hate people who say you shouldn’t work for the money, you should follow your bliss.  Vocations aren’t bliss.  They are just what you do as a side effect of being alive.

Sure, there can be great joy in following them and working at them, but they — like any good long-term marriage — will also have their share of times you hate them, and times you want to be or do anything else.  Only you can’t.  They’re part of who you are.  Love them or hate them, it’s who you are.

I was raised thinking of vocations as religious or artistic.  I don’t remember not wanting to write/tell stories.  I used to feel the same push for art, and despite my attempts to short it/cut it off, it keeps coming up.

I didn’t know you could have a vocation for other stuff, until I raised my sons.  I think Robert was reading medical journals at ten, and lit up like a lantern when explaining some disease process.  He also did his baby best to care for us, and sometimes got very alarmed at my weird illnesses and tried to hound me into seeing a doctor.  (Never easy, since normally the answer to my weird body is ‘it’s weird.  We don’t know what caused that.”  This will probably be on my tombstone.)

Marshall, otoh, would rig the most interesting systems.  From the K’nex helicopter that took a bit “bite” off the antique chandelier (why son, of an entire house, under the chandelier?  Yeah I know, what he told me first “As G-d is my witness, I never thought it would fly.”) to the very complex rope and pulley system made out of several different construction toys, that allowed him to turn off his light from bed (instead of having to get up and do it.)  From the way that, in elementary, he devoured “how it works” books, to the fact that, as a toddler, he loved taking things apart and putting them together again, and once defeated the safety mechanisms in a grocery store, to manage to close their doors while we were paying for groceries.

I was talking to younger son about this on Sunday and he said “Yeah, engineers build things.  Even impractical things no one asked them to build.  It’s who you are.  It’s what you do.”

Which is the best definition of vocation.  If you go and read my madgenius post today —Stop Clawing–it will give you a glorious view of the system when I broke in.  Because see, vocations don’t CARE how cacked the system for exerting them is.  Read up on lives of Saints and you’ll find any dozen of them who fulfilled their vocation despite screwed up and twisted church authorities and the prejudices of the time.  (My “patron” St. Rita — yeah, you’re shocked it’s the saint of impossible causes? — is one of those.)

Vocations are like this thing on my skin.  It itches.  And when it’s big and strong and all over (like the eczema is right now) it can make it impossible to fight it and do anything else.

Dozens of times I’ve tried to walk away.  I once stayed quit two weeks, after which Dan and the kids (then five and one) ganged up and begged me (granted, one of them non-verbally) to go back to writing, because, just like the eczema will demand I stop everything and benadryl myself half to death to just stop the itch, to drown out the urge to write, I was cleaning everything with bleach.  Twice.  Including moving objects that stood still long enough, like cats and kids.  (Okay, the living things not with bleach, but all of them got baths three times a day.)  The house was sparkling, the food was elaborate, and I was miserable and snapping at everyone.  So I was sent back to writing and being a sloppy housekeeper, and stop hurting.

Right no, due to a bunch of ah… edits on my recent novels that made me really averse to revisions, and to the massive eczema itch, I’ve been trying to stay away from the office.  Yes, sure, the living room floor needs wood, because elderly cat has decided it’s THE place to piss, and the others are stupid and follow him.  But the obsessive wood work is… the smoke from another fire.  I have two colaborations waiting revisions, one of them forced for time, and I’m running from myself.  And from the pain of reworking stuff.

Only I can’t, because the writing is still there, even when I work myself half to death.

Like the eczema itch it will always be there, and it only grows stronger the more I ignore it.  And, as my grandmother told me, about quite a different type of vocation, if you run from it, it will literally drive you mad.  It will break you, step by step, until you are nothing but a howling mad person.  And the only cure is to give in, to break, to accept your vocation, no matter how screwed up are the times in which you try to exert it.

And so I will now shut up and write.  Then take benadryl, so maybe I can sleep.

125 thoughts on “Itch

  1. I don’t envy you the eczema. Treating it in my child has been bad enough (it took getting up to elidel before it got under control at all).

    I’ve wondered what my vocation is but I know it has to do with history and words. What that combination will turn in to, I don’t yet know, but I keep working on it.

  2. Auto-immune stuff is the very definition of “weird.” I have a friend whose child has PANDAS—which is basically an auto-immune thing where strep teaches your immune system to attack your brain, with all of the associated psychiatric symptoms. It’s “controversial” because a lot of doctors claim it doesn’t exist, but I was raised by an engineer and one of the things is “if the treatment works, why do you doubt?” With PANDAS, the psychiatric drugs do little or nothing, but AIP diet, anti-inflammatories, and immune system-calming techniques do. So yeah, really weird. (Of course, nobody believed in rheumatic fever either—and that’s an auto-immune attack on your heart.)

    1. My niece has LUPUS, an auto-immune condition. Before she was correctly diagnosed they had her on psychiatric medications, when those didn’t work, with horrible side affects, she tried self medication. Luckily she was finally correctly diagnosed before she was introduced to really bad stuff. Also very lucky to have a strong support system (with support for the support system); no one was willing to be enabler’s or give up on her. Doing great now that LUPUS correctly diagnosed.

      1. (with support for the support system)

        It has become ever more apparent to me that the support system needs its own healthy support system. 

    2. Rheumatic fever is an autoimmune disease? Umm…what else didn’t I know? What else is, I mean?

      1. My sister is bald as I am, and started dieting like she has celiac (?) Or whatever. Her latest doctor thinks the illness and “allergies” she suffered as a child were actually undiagnosed rhuematic fever. She was in for some extra joint pain and arthritis runs in the family, the doc took one look at her bald head, odd hair color of what was there, and started doing the sums.

      2. I don’t know if it is or not, but I do know that it is strongly correlating (and the doctors my mother has talked to think causitively) for OTHER autoimmunes developing later in life. (My mother had Rheumatic Fever as a child and now has Fibromyalgia (sp?))

      3. I don’t know off the top of my head, but things like lupus and some forms of arthritis are auto-immune. (My husband gets auto-immune arthritis. Every time he gets sick, he gets REALLY achy. Though I think that since he’s started the CBD oil, that hasn’t happened as much.)

  3. I *really* hope you get some relief.
    Have you tried oatmeal baths and such? Perhaps set up a laptop across the tub and soak as you write?

    Why are you looking at me like that?

      1. Just throwing a few ideas out. There’s going off-peak. There’s day trips to the local lake/reservoir beaches, like Chatfield of Boyd Lake, though I can’t personally attest to their quality – I’ve merely checked them out online when investigating a beach stop on a trip to Colorado.

          1. Not the gulf? *hurt look*
            I grew up with that being the ocean I knew (Padre Island, Galveston, primarily), and it’s pretty darn nice. [Try staying a little west of Fort Walton Beach in Florida. It’s inexpensive out there, and driving to big sandy beaches is pretty easy.]

              1. Have you considered making up a bath soak based on what is added to a salt water fish tank?

            1. The Salt Lake stinks; it’s wildlife consists of flies, brine shrimp, and seagulls; and it can’t figure out what height it wants to stabilize at, so no real beach. The Pacific is cold, but the Gulf of California is warm—though the dialect of Portuguese they speak there is quite strange.

              1. Ah. Having never been there (and not dealing with information on it, obviously) I was quite unaware.

                I suppose the salt water / salt air is a Need Thing in Sarah’s case. I grew up in Wisconsin and there were some visits to Lake Michigan and Lake Superior and while I suppose oceans have bigger waves and more salt (and can be warmer!) the Big Deal of them never grabbed me. It was just, “Oh, a body of water I can’t see acrossed. Seen those. Got anything interesting?”

                1. The Daughter and I accompanied The Spouse to a gathering in Wisconsin.  While there The Daughter and I took a break from the conference to go to Kohler State Park on Lake Michigan.  I grew up in Philadelphia and had been on beaches up and down the Atlantic from North Carolina to New York.  I had never visited a Great Lake and I wanted to take advantage of the chance.  

                  As we crossed the dunes I recall a sense of something being not exactly right.  The sky and water stretched out before me, immense and beautiful.  There was a beach, all nice and proper.  The waves were relaxed as they lapped up onto the beach, like a back bay or sound.  I sniffed.  I licked my lips.  I repeated this.  Then I realized what had bothered me; there was an absence of saltiness in the air.

          2. If the east coast, make sure you’re south of North Carolina. The ocean off Maine, while liquid, is still so cold in July that we usually choose to walk on top of it.

            1. Oh come on now, don’t be ridiculous. It’s definitely liquid and nearly survivable in July.

              Your bets in May, however, are another matter. (I’m down around Portland, but I’ve spent time up near Cutler.)

              1. Nearly survivable in July? Naw. York Beach, Long or Short Sands, is nearly survivable in late August. Of course you have to acclimate yourself to it by stuffing your underwear with ice cubes for the two weeks prior to going.

            2. This is part of what drives the popularity of Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle, which lie south of Ocracoke, NC.  If you go further south there are a number of excellent beaches in the Wilmington area.  (And I can attest that both of these areas have nice branches of the NC Aquarium system.)

              If you like pirate history this is an excellent year to visit the NC coast — there are a number of exhibits and celebrations marking the tricentennial of the scuttling of the Queen Anne’s Revenge and the eventual capture and death of Blackbeard.

          3. The Outer Banks of North Carolina can be nice in late spring and summer, and the water is often in the 70’s, though unfavorable winds and currents can sometimes bring in frigid water instead. Rental houses tend to be a little pricey but not insane, and with judicious food planning (crockpot, leftovers, etc.) may work out cheaper than a hotel and eating out. When I’ve done it, it was usually simple breakfasts (cereal, fruit, etc.), leftovers or sandwiches for lunch, and then a larger dinner – which might also be or use leftovers of some sort.

            1. You do realize that if you use the setting in an income generating book or story that the expense can (probably) be charged against any income* from that book? Always keep track of expenditures qualifying as “research.”

              *Check with your accountant before acting on this. Any such expenses are deductible only against the income stream generated thereby. Offer may not include family members. Not valid where prohibited by law.

          4. Salt and vitamin D3?


            Okay, I am a big believer in vitamin D3 because it seems about half of my SAD symptoms when younger were due to lack of it. Not all, though, while taking big doses during the winter eases the symptoms a lot it doesn’t take them away. Best working combination is a full spectrum bright lamp for at least half an hour daily and big doses of the vitamin, well enough that if I had known about this when I was still in university, who knows, I might – although still a fairly big might – just have been able to graduate. Maybe. Would still have been hard. With what I had then it was impossible, my head pretty much just stopped working for over 3 months every year. With the vitamin and the lamp I can concentrate, some, without them not at all (couldn’t even read the easiest fluff novel back then because I’d forget what was what every few pages, much less something like a petrology text book), don’t feel sleepy all the time although I still sleep a lot, and the sweet cravings are somewhat under control (but I still tend to gain at least some weight during the winter months).

            Right now I am also on a corticosteroid, Medrol, for a five day treatment. Been over a decade since I last needed to use it, but I have had a pretty stubborn cold for over a week, and the birch pollen is really bad here right now and I am allergic to the stuff. Had a few days when I could not sleep because I felt like I was suffocating every time I laid down – and half suffocating while sitting or standing – before I went to a doctor. Feel a bit better already. Hate taking the stuff even so.

      2. Wish I had a house you could shoehorn into. We’re not far from the beach (but far enough).
        (My BiL will be out in August, and his in-Laws are Portuguese. You could give me some interesting insights.)

  4. There is a reason I hate people who say you shouldn’t work for the money, you should follow your bliss. Vocations aren’t bliss. They are just what you do as a side effect of being alive.

    When I was growing up my “passion” was space. Finding out that I needed glasses was the literally the worst thing that ever happened to me. Worse than getting beat up by the “cool kids” at school, worse than spending days in the hospital with bronchitis, worse than getting a rock thrown at my head needing three stitches, worse than tonsils, worse than, well, anything. It was worst because at that time it meant my dreams of becoming an astronaut were dead, dead, DEAD.

    However, even what to me would have been the absolute coolest career there could possibly be, I recognize that most of it is routine, dull work. Yeah, it was pretty damn cool that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, but for every hour he spent in space, how many thousands did he spend on dull simulations, repeating everything they imagined could go wrong (and, of course, the things that actually went wrong were things they didn’t imagine)?

    I have a pretty cool job now–working as a scientist doing atomic force microscopy–but even there, most of the time is boring shit. Even running the microscope, most of the work is “here’s a polished optic, get a roughness measurement” or “here’s a stamped grating, measure the pitch and depth”. Important work, no doubt, but not exactly exciting.

    When people talk about following their bliss, they only see the “fun” parts. They don’t see the long hours of backbreaking (or mind-numbing) work that is behind those parts. They don’t see the paperwork and record keeping. They don’t see the routine jobs that are dull, but pay the bills. They don’t see the frustrating failures.

    And since all that stuff is a part of doing the job well they either have to get over the “follow your bliss” garbage, or they remain dilettantes, not even very good at what they are doing.

    I like what Mike Rowe said about the subject, “Don’t follow your passion, but do bring it along” (Paraphrased from memory).

    1. Or the years of training needed to acquire the skills, and the constant CE courses needed to maintain proficiency, and currency, in so many fields.

    2. Bliss is an ephemeral state, a temporary condition. Following it is like following a will-o-the-wisp and likely to end about as well.

      And yes, the trick is to find it in your quotidian life, to bring it to bear on the daily grind. I am sure there is a Christian instruction on this but that is not for this time nor place.

    3. Yup. I’m in flight test myself. There have been some Very High Points in my career, but they come at the price of long years of work.

      The key is to keep the dreamin front of you, for it will give strength in the hard times.

  5. I feel your pain with eczema. I deal with low order psoriasis and have been for decades. So I understand on two levels what you mean about the “itch”. Always wondered what made me so peevish. 🙂

    1. Yeah. Thing is when a flare up is STARTING I might not even be aware of it. (It always amuses me when I’m in the middle of a really bad flare up on my arms, and they’re basically raw flesh and people say “Oh, my. That must hurt” and I’m like ‘What?” because I’ve had it since I was one). BUT my family knows, because I become… not bitchy precisely. Just VICIOUS, taking emotional chunks out of everyone who approaches me.

  6. because weight and such are… falsifiable (my dad had an attack of stupid Latin machismo and reported my weight as — I think — double because he was afraid the registrar would look at this man over six feet and think I must be illegitimate.

    You know, there’s several folks alive today because of “inaccuracies” like that– the most famous is that set-a-new-record-for-suitability preme in Florida who was conceived via IVF, were they somehow got his age wrong by a few days, which took him from policy says must be neglected to death into “premature” and thus getting treatment.

    Pretty sure that policy got dumped for the much more legally defensible “they get treatment if they show signs of life” one after that incident made it public.

    What a lucky…mistake. Yeah, mistake. Because no medic would have a pencil-slip or make a mistake to save a life.
    At least, you can’t prove it.

        1. In my case, born at home, no room in incubator in hospital for “someone born at home”, dad’s reporting to registrar writing out birth certificate was merely to allay the concern they might start a rumor I was illegitimate.

      1. It beats the mistakes the medical types made when they lost a friend’s paperwork and treated him as indigent for the days he was unconscious.

      2. According to Exodus 1:17-21, He did indeed bless them. 🙂

        For those not familiar with the story: the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt at the time. The Pharaoh was worried that Israel’s population growth would eventually lead to Egypt becoming majority-Jewish, so he gave orders to the midwives to kill any male babies whose birth they assisted with, but let any female babies live. (Which goes to show that it wasn’t population growth per se that he was most worried about, but military threats). The midwives disobeyed, claiming that the Hebrew women were so quick to give birth that they generally had their baby before the midwife got there. And the Bible explicitly says that God blessed the midwives for what they did.

    1. One of my husband’s cousins had severely preemie twins in Alaska. When she had them, there were no survival statistics for twins that young. (Right around the 22 week mark—not really sure if they decided over or under. One was one pound in weight and the other was 15 ounces.) Now there are. I think they’re about nine now. Just about anywhere else in the world (including many other states), they would have been classified other than survivable; I think this medical team really wanted the chance to try.

  7. Eczema is considered an auto-immune problem? That’s a revelation. At any rate, my deepest sympathies, as I’m a fellow sufferer. Back-scratchers conveniently positioned in every room. Now, about vocations…

    Time was, what we today term a vocation was called “a calling.” It was thought to be a demand from something beyond definition, whether inside oneself or well Above. The more specific it was, the more likely the called one would consider it sacred, not to be dismissed or spurned.

    No one objects to the notion of a calling to the priesthood. Why, then, should it offend anyone to hear that someone who plies trade X might consider himself called to it? After all, one’s aptitudes are seldom traceable to some knowable series of events. And we are seldom called to do something that’s permanently beyond our capacities.

    The most common invocation of having heard a calling is to the clergy or to one of the “helping” professions. But there’s no reason to believe that no one can be called to a scientific or technical occupation, journalism, music, or the law. One’s aptitudes can speak rather loudly about such an invocation…especially if one has struggled without success to “make it” in some other line.

    But feeling you’ve been called to do something and being irritated over it is no excuse for acting out, or making life difficult for others. And there’s a lot of that going on. Indeed, there are people who’ll assert that their “vocation” is a justification for treating others badly. These are not to be tolerated. They rarely apologize for their crudities, and they even more rarely reform.

    Sarah, your bleach over-employment episode is one of the milder reactions to resisting a calling that I’ve heard about. I hope it was quickly over, that the furniture survived, and that you find an affordable housekeeper-for-hire in the very near future. And bravo for not bleaching the husband, the kids, or the menagerie.

    1. Eczema is considered an auto-immune problem?

      It’s one of those things where the “disease” is closer to “description of symptom.”
      Another example is “peripheral neuropathy.” Which basically means ‘can’t feel at least one extremity’. No matter what cause.

      Not very helpful when folks always assume the most common cause, very useful if folks don’t KNOW the actual cause….

      1. It’s one of those things where the “disease” is closer to “description of symptom.”

        (chuckle) That’s been my suspicion for ages. When I first took my collection of large round itchy red spots to a dermatologist, I told him that my PCP had deemed it “eczema.” He performed a “punch biopsy,” which hurt like hell and added a red spot, and two weeks later proclaimed that I had nummular dermatitis. I gave him the hairy eyeball — I was 99% sure that he was blowing smoke up my ass — but he stood firm, and I left no more enlightened.

        Once at home, I looked up the meaning of nummular dermatitis. To no one’s surprise, it meant approximately “lots of large round itchy red spots.” So I scheduled another appointment with the quack and whacked him across the snout with it. He merely shrugged and said, “Well, I had to tell you something, and you weren’t satisfied to call it eczema!”

        Really and for true.

          1. I’ve seen plenty of nummular (disc) eczema on adults (and no, not a Derm PA, just Family Practice). Especially when I was deployed to the desert, as the combination of dry air and hard, weirdly treated water meant that even folks who’d never had eczema before (although usually with some other sort of atopy in the history) were developing it. Unfortunately, I have also frequently seen it misdiagnosed as “ringworm” and treated for *years* with anti-fungals with no result before getting appropriate treatment.

                1. That would explain why no treatments for anti-fungal have had any sort of results at all, while simply moisturizing and doing other symptom-treatment works.

                  Thank you.

                    1. I’m afraid my first thought here is “I guess she’s sensitive to something in the moisturizer.”

                    2. I was told not to moisturize because it makes the fungal infections worse, and can irritate the infected skin.

                      Hm… come to think of it, most moisturizers have an acid to help the stuff penetrate.

                      So who knows! I mostly am again upset about the incompetent doctors who just kept having me do “it’s fungal” type treatments.

                    3. @Foxifier
                      In 1999 I developed a case of athlete’s foot, and sought treatment.

                      Over the next 15 years I would–I thought–have a relapse/re-infection that I treated with OTC anti-fungals.

                      Then at some point I realized that I wasn’t getting reinfected/relapsing, I just had dry, itchy feet and the anti-fungal creams were acting as a moisturizer.

                    4. I’ve always had terrible skin on my feet (inherited bad circulation and hobbit-level callus development, basically) had a similar “outbreak” and after the second baby, it moved to my left hand, too.

                      The doctor that formally diagnosed it as fungal is the one that prescribed stuff with a warning to only use while pregnant on a doctor’s advice. That’s the kid we lost.

                      Going to try treating it as really nasty dry skin, see if that works, and if it does– stop worrying so much about possibly spreading it. 🙂

              1. Psoriasis certainly can, but I have also seen pretty bad cuticle involvement from eczema that we finally had to resort to oral steroids to control (was in an environment where long-term immunomodulators were not an option)

              2. Also, as it didn’t respond to antifungals, did they ever do a KOH prep slide of a skin scraping? That will show fungi pretty clearly, if that is positive then there is at least secondary fungal involvement. If negative, need to look for another explanation. That would probably require a Derm visit though, since many PCPs have gotten entirely out of the in-office procedure world.

                1. Insert image here, of me blinking at you like a cartoon character at the idea that they could have freaking done a test before giving me a medication with a known dangerous side-effect.

                  *Sigh* When stuff quiets down (insert laughter here) I’ve got some places to START, at least.

                  Thank you very much!

                  1. Even worse, they could have done a test and not bothered to review the results when they came back.

                    There’s a story an acquaintance told me, about working IT in a Canadian hospital in the late 1980s. The doctors would order swathes of lab work for patients. The results were sent from the labto a specific printer at the nurse’s station. Which quit working one day.

                    They called the help desk and opened service ticket, followed up a few times over the next few weeks, and finally it slipped off the to-do list as nobody ever came. Finally, something like NINE MONTHS later, one of the people at the nurse station fiddled with it and got it working again.

                    At which point it began to print. For hours. Through an entire box of tractor feed paper. Report after report after report, lab results for patients long discharged or deceased. Some of the doctors who’d ordered the tests weren’t there any more, either.

                    This was the *only* printer for lab results. And NOT ONE of the doctors or their staffs ever followed up on their orders for lab work. And, since it was never printed, it had obviously never been read.

                    Obviously, the lab work was all done because it was policy, or for CYA. The doctors obviously weren’t using the lab work (which still cost money…) for diagnosis, or they would have made pointed enquiries as to why the hell their lab results weren’t back the next time they saw their patients.

                    “It might be ringworm. It might be a fungus, It might be eczema. We’ll take some samples and send them to the lab for analyssis.” Eeeny, meeny, miney, moe. Scribble. “Here’s your prescription.”

                    1. This is why I really like Quest diagnostics– every test they’ve ever done for me? They’ve got it stored, with the interpretation framework, and reference values.

                2. A good dermatologist is a wondrous thing. My wife’s is actually the one who told her to get checked for breast cancer (side note – chemo treatment can do a real job on some autoimmune disorders, but I don’t recommend it as a primary treatment).

              1. Well we all know that about you.

                But no recent sources will say that (just checked UpToDate to make sure I wasn’t brain-cramping, lol), it is an atypical presentation, but occurs in both.

                I will say that the literature these days changes faster than the texts can keep up. Which is why I always actually check before I give things as simple as antibiotics, some things which were standard of care when I started practice less than a decade ago are now completely unusable due to resistance. And the regimens for the rest are much shorter than the old 10-14 day courses. Same for a lot of things.

    2. When we had a plumbing business we were the only company of which I was aware that would come to the bad part of town in the middle of the night if you had a burst pipe or overflowing toilet. I don’t know if that can be a calling but I heard “Thank God you are here!” quite a few times.

  8. I haven’t written anything all week because the annual botanical orgy made me sick for a week then went into infection and asthma.
    Doc gave me Depomedrol that lasts about 6 weeks vs. the usual form of Prednisone. I very much sympathize.
    When we are both well at the same time we can conspire, and that might cover a cheap week on the beach. You weren’t expecting Waikiki were you?

    1. no. Heck, it could be the North East. The North of Portugal has arctic current, and I’m okay going into the water until I turn blue. It’s the salinity and other stuff that does good.

  9. You have my unbridled sympathy. My grandson has something similar, though one of things it has’t been called is ‘auto-immmune’. It is, apparently, a recognised condition, and has an acronym that nearly all doctors don’t even know.

  10. I have wondered for years about premature talents. Like, say you were Bach or Mozart, with a natural genius for harmony and counterpoint and polyphonic music, and you were born in some Neolithic village that hasn’t gotten past drumming on logs? or say you’re a natural mathematician and your culture doesn’t use numbers because everyone knows all his sheep by sight? What if you have Alexander’s tactical vision, in a culture that has too few people for large-scale warfare? There must have been all sorts of people who have talents that we can now recognize, but that earlier cultures gave them no way to express.

    And it doesn’t have to have stopped. In a century, or a millennium, if things work out right, there will be all sorts of occupations that don’t even exist now. There could be people who have talents and vocations for those, and no way to express them.

    Looking at myself, I seem to have both a talent and a vocation for running roleplaying games and doing world creation. I remember as a child making up a game that involved drawing maps and tracing the expansion of rival colonies across them, before anyone had thought of Dungeons and Dragons. I had the good fortune to have rpgs invented when I was in young adulthood. But what would I have done a century ago? Perhaps had an eccentric hobby, like J.R.R. Tolkien or Austin Tappen Wright, without their gift for fiction?

    1. And I wonder if, along with that, there are some, shall we say, Innate Talents… that apply only (or mostly) to what is now considered obsolete?

      1. Like, say, spinning yarn from wool and such? Yes, there is. I can’t *not* twist fiber into “stuff” and it’s been that way since I was about seven. The irony being, if I’d lived in previous times (besides being crippled from Scarlet Fever after all the times I got strep) nobody would care then either as it was simply something expected.

    2. Or the other direction: What if you have Alexander’s tactical vision, and you get put in an intelligence slot in strategic planning because that’s where today’s need is? Or you have the perfect hand-eye coordination to wield an atlatl better than any other human ever alive, but never pick up anything other than a cell phone or golf club? Or have the eyesight and reflexes and 3d-visualization skills to be the absolutely dominant WWI ace pilot, but sit in the 21st-century desert in a conex controlling drones half a world away via satellite link?

      On the other hand, maybe that atlatl proficiency is directly mappable to the dexterity needed to secure orbital construction equipment – Things could come back around.

    3. Or, you can have Alexander’s tactical vision, but the Zampolit doesn’t like the way you questioned Marshall Stalin’s latest orders, so off to the Shtrafbat as a minesweeper!

    4. My grandfather who was a lot like Marshall became a skilled cabinet maker who made miraculous works of art with really primitive tools. there’s things.

  11. No auto immune problems here. But just the whisper of poison ivy makes me blister and itch.

    However, revenge is sweet thanks to modern chemistry.


    1. I worked for a year in a discount pier one (Local store, Charlotte, but that will give you an idea what it was like) and one day I oepend and sorted a bunch of dried plants from parts Asian. This meant spending the day up to my knees in the stuff as I sorted.
      By nighttime my ankles were three times their thickness. No clue what it was. Not poison ivy or poison oak. Might have been something Native there. But I had to get a shot to stop the ankles continuing to swell.

  12. Ah, the “Hound of Heaven” pursuing you until you accept a Call. I always loved that image, because it fits so well. Especially I accepted that writing is one of my vocations, and teaching is another. They feed into each other, and make me better at both, and when I don’t do them, I get unhappy and restless, and twitchy.

    St. Rita? I probably should be concerned that St. Michael is apparently my primary patron. Yeah, a big gun! Oooh, the guy that gets called in for the Boss Fights. Gulp. Apparently there is not an official patron saint for historians, which probably means we’re beyond help. 🙂 Some have suggested the Venerable Bede. One of my grad student buddies (a very devout Catholic) recommended St. Jude or St. Dymphnia, depending on how close to finals/dissertation defense you are.

    1. I accidentally read your last sentence as “defenestration defense” and thought you were making a wry joke about how, by the time you’ve gotten to that point in your master’s or Ph.D. program, you feel just about ready to chuck the whole thing out the window and go be a bricklayer instead.

      1. There was a reason why the grad student and junior faculty holding pens, er, offices were on the only floor without windows. A few of us opined it was so Senior Faculty in Exile [as she termed herself] couldn’t defenestrate especially deserving undergrads.

    2. I’ve been haunted by St. Raphael (I mean that literally) for about … when did I come out of the political closet? 8? 9? years. It’s interesting. I don’t see him or hear him, but I feel him. It’s an interesting form of madness. I was propelled into the fray by an angelic armored foot.
      I too have teaching and writing. I’d be a teacher if it weren’t SO MUCH insane paperwork.
      And if I don’t write I go seirously weird. No, I mean, REALLY weird.

      1. I was propelled into the fray by an angelic armored foot.

        Wait, what! Angels have mecha?

      1. Likely because today’s blog post is titled “Itch.” As I understand it, the WordPress theme Sarah is using supports setting custom header pics for a post.

  13. Funny you raise the topic; at lunch today we were discussing the Middle East and environs and whether it has always been at war. I hit on the metaphor of eczema for its pattern: it isn’t always at war everywhere but there is always war somewhere. Perhaps the M.E. suffers an auto-immune disorder?

    Speaking of disorders, your description of vocation sounds as if it is a form of OCD, one which can, properly Marshaled (or even carefully Bobbed) can be productively employed.

  14. As far as vocations, I know I need to be writing, but I’m having a hard time getting a routine going. (This week, my excuse is so much going on in the SF&F creative communities this past week, mostly bad! On the plus side, I’m remembering why I like putting words together again.)

    Why is it so hard to start, when I know, once I crank up the creaky mind machine and get it humming, I have such a good time?

    On Larry Correia’s Alphabetical Author List, I’m an S, trying to work up to an M. There may be a straight line in there somewhere.

  15. For nonfiction, I’m R or S. For fiction, more around T, U, V territory. No straight lines for me, alas, my literary progress more resembles a Drunkard’s Walk.

  16. My sympathies. Sounds like a lot of these auto-immune issues travel together. The combination you describe (arthritis, dry eyes, etc.) could also go with psoriasis. My skin patches are very mild, but I’ve been hit with arthritis, especially in my hands and knuckles. I’ve avoided dry eyes, but every time I see the doctor I get asked about it. It’s apparently a very common part of the suite of symptoms.

    Also, no real surprise on St. Rita as your patroness. She was definitely a tough one, willing to fight the system.

  17. Utterly gratuitous but too good not to share, from an item about Tom Wolfe:

    When Yale’s American Studies dons rejected his doctoral thesis, he wrote a pal: “These stupid f***s have turned down namely my dissertation . . . They called my brilliant manuscript ‘journalistic’ and ‘reactionary,’ which means I must go through with a blue pencil and strike out all the laughs and anti-Red passages and slip in a little liberal merde, so to speak, just to sweeten it.”

    He retyped it, pocketed the degree and moved on to remake journalism …

  18. I’m inclined to disagree with Sarah on this one. It seems to me that the more writers go woke the more such writers go broke. As the old political axiom goes, “Never interfere with your enemy when he’s in the process of destroying himself.” The only thing is, we must encourage these writers to be more open in their wokeness, to brand their books proudly as agents of the Resistance. Perhaps if they would put “WWA – Woke Writers of Amerikkka” on their book covers it would help their sales (tank)?

    Note to Those Politicizing Fiction Against Trump: Shut Up and Write
    By Sarah Hoyt
    Why is it that fiction writers feel compelled to push their political opinions into the most unlikely stories?

    By which I don’t mean building your world or your characters according to your understanding of the world. That’s just what humans do and I don’t even resent it. Oh, there is no power in the world that would compel me to read one more science fiction novel in which “the world of women” is a peaceful paradise, because, you know, I went to all girls’ high school – aka the pit of hell – and by page five I’m wondering if the author ever met a living woman, even when they claim to be women.

    But I’ve read stories where the assumption as that, oh, the euro soft-socialism model worked best for human societies, and even enjoyed them, providing that the characters weren’t preaching their nonsense at me every five lines. I just assumed the character didn’t know everything about the world.

    I do that even with books I agree with. Take 1984. There’s no way that world is real. It wouldn’t survive a Heinlein character with a screwdriver for five minutes.

    What I’m talking about, though, are critters like this one.

    This is a romance writer, who is so upset over Trump’s win, that instead of writing what she was writing before – which frankly sounds like a bog-standard regency romance – is going to write to encourage the “resistant” or to educate people against Trump, or even knows what she thinks she’s doing.

    And apparently she’s not alone:

  19. “Dozens of times I’ve tried to walk away. I once stayed quit two weeks, after which Dan and the kids (then five and one) ganged up and begged me (granted, one of them non-verbally) to go back to writing…”

    Heinlein tried to stop writing once. He decided he would quit writing once he paid off a mortgage. He said so at a soirée of the Mañana Literary Society. Anthony Boucher was there: he smiled and said “We’ll see about that.” Heinlein said “What do you mean?” Boucher then asked him “Do you know any writers who have quit writing?” Heinlein said, “Well, there’s _____, and ______, and _____.” Boucher said “They’ve stopped publishing, but have they stopped writing?”

    Heinlein laughed him off. Soon after, the mortgage was paid, and Heinlein stopped writing. But within a week or two, he became irritable, couldn’t sleep well, lost his appetite – for no apparent reason. Then one day he had a great idea for a story, and sat down to write it. The miseries lifted right off him. He never tried to quit again.

      1. Grumble Grumble

        You got me interested in another Web Comic!!! 😉

  20. Take 1984. There’s no way that world is real. It wouldn’t survive a Heinlein character with a screwdriver for five minutes.

    Has anyone written such a thing? I expect it would be a fun short story.

    1. Isn’t that pretty much ANY of the Baen dystopia books?

      “Here’s a horrible situation where the bad guys have it All In Hand. And then…. someone who actually tried showed up….”

      Heck, Fallen Angels, the first Baen book I identified that way, was pretty much that.

  21. “like any good long-term marriage — will also have their share of times you hate them, and times you want to be or do anything else. Only you can’t. They’re part of who you are. Love them or hate them, it’s who you are.”

    Thank you for this. I needed it.

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