The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Posts tagged ‘death’

An Interview with Susan Landis-Steward

Q. When did you decide to become a writer?

A. When I was four. I wrote poems which my father translated from hieroglyphs and stored in my grandmother’s German Bible. One was about a star.

Q. Your grandmother was German?

A. Well, her Bible was. I assume she was. Her last name was Rugenstein. You do the math. My father also said she was Jewish. She was dead by the time I came along. But she married a Mennonite, and they raised their kids Lutheran. You figure it out. I gave up trying to understand my family a long time ago. That’s probably another reason I write.

Q. So you just started a publishing company. What do you know about publishing?

A. More than you might think. I’m a few credits away from a Masters in Publishing. And I’ve been working in the industry for several years as an indexer. Oh, and I’ve had some stuff published. Besides, I chose great business partners.

Q. You write lesbian mysteries?

A. Yes.

Q. ?

A. You asked the question. I just answered it.

Q. Why lesbian mysteries?

A. Write what you know. I’m mysterious and lesbian. I’m also neurotic so my characters are neurotic. My mysteries are fairly autobiographical in many ways, but only those who really know me know which parts are me.

Q. Do you have a dog?

A. What kind of lesbian would I be if I didn’t have a dog? My dog is a Jack Russell Terrier/English Springer Spaniel mix named Good Dog Gwyneth. She’s a pound puppy. She thinks my partner is God. I am merely a door and can opener. Unless I’m going somewhere in the car. Then I become a temporary demiurge.

Q. Why do you use words like demiurge?

A. I have a Masters in Spiritual Traditions and Ethics. I seldom get to use those words.

Q. Are you some sort of religious freak?

A. Why, yes, I am. But not in the way most people think of it. I’m a JuBuEpiscoPagaTarian Universalist who reads the Qur’an for edification and studied for the Episcopal priesthood.

Q. You wanted to be a priest?

A. Until I realized I couldn’t bear to spend another minute with my seminary  classmates, yes.  As a layperson, the Episcopal church had a hard time shutting me up. I liked that. Now I preach in the UU tradition sometimes.

Q. Do you talk about religion in your books?

A. Sometimes. In the second book in my Blind series, I introduce a  woman priest as a character. Write what you know again. I know a lot of women priests. Although I like nuns better.

Q. Nuns?

A. I fell in love with my partner because she wore nun shoes. I love nuns. When I found out she’d done time in a convent, I was hooked.

Q. So there are lesbian nuns?

A. Well, duh.

Q. One of your main characters is blind. Why?

A. As a person with a disability, I’m fascinated by the ways people with disabilities find ways to live normal lives, whatever that means. Since my disability is hidden, I figured a character with a visible disability would be easier to write.

Q. How long have you and your partner been together?

A. Depends who’s doing the math but somewhere around 20 years.

Q. Math?

A. Yeah. I have a hard time remembering how old I am so I get the math wrong. I have to figure out how old the oldest kid is, and then remember which year she was born, and work from there. I get it wrong a lot.

Q. Kids?

A. And grandkids. I’m lesbian, not unplumbed. I’ve got three daughters, and almost four grandkids.

Q. Back to the math…

A. I can’t figure out how my cell phone works either. It has a big red button that says “END CALL” but when I answer the phone my brain says “PUSH ME.” I hang up on people a lot.

Q. About your brain…

A. Traumatic brain injury, October 9, 2002, during simple throat surgery. The brain injury would have been okay except for the three concussions in the years before. Cumulative effect. My brain finally gave out.

Q.  Huh?

A. I died. I did not see Jesus. I did not go toward the light. I caught a jump start from a passing surgeon, and an ancient Asian nurse scared me back to life by yelling, “BREATHE”  every time some alarm went off. For awhile, I was out of alignment, pulled to the left, had a weird kind of aphasia, used a cane to stay upright, and set things (usually things full of liquids) down on invisible tables. I also closed my eyes while driving.  I’m mostly okay now, though. Although, I did get fibromyalgia as a lovely parting gift.

Q. I’m glad your brain is better. What changed?

A. Knitting and spinning. I did a lot of both since I couldn’t work. I made lots of yarn and lots of scarves, hats, and sweaters. Later I learned that using both hands at the same time knits new neural pathways. Since I needed some new ones, I just made them myself.

Q. Thanks. We’ll do this again sometime.

A. Please send someone else to do the interview. Your questions suck.

Near-Death by Kittens

Okay, no excuses. I’ve been busy, I’ve been working, and I’ve been to the hospital twice. Yes, twice. This (see photo) has been trying to murder me.  Now, I am many things but I’m


reasonably sure I am not a cat tree. I am not made of wood. I am not covered with cheap carpet or sisal. I am not stationary.

But for some reason, this and his/her sibling (I can’t tell which one that is…but I think it’s Abby) has been making daily attempts to cause me to bleed out. With some modicum of success.

But, about 10 days ago, my leg suddenly got hot, bright red, and blew up to piano leg proportions. We have a box grand piano, with elephantine legs, so that’s pretty damn big. And it hurt like hell. Jenny decided that a trip to Urgency Care was in order. I had pretty much decided that I’d cracked my tibia/fibia (always get those two mixed up…the little one) when I slipped on wet leaves the week before. So I reluctantly agreed.

Diagnosis: Cellulitis caused by cat scratch. Okay, fine. Sounds tame. Then they start jabbering about necrotizing fasciaitis and other things that sound nasty and are.  They natter, Jenny panics, I’m just hoping there’s some good drugs involved. We go home with heavy duty antibiotics and by the next day, a miracle! I’m worse! The leg is redder, parts of it are turning purple, and it hurts like hell. I call the advice nurse and her advice, after consulting a physician, is get to the ER IMMEDIATELY.

Which we do. (Well, we did eat dinner but it was already cooked and we were hungry so make that Immediately plus 10 minutes.) We are members of Kaiser and mostly that’s a good thing. But on a Monday night (or any night for that matter if staff are to be believed) it is a freaking zoo. I get in line and am second in line. The line moves and I am first in line. It is about 8:15 pm.

The line grinds to a halt. A triage nurse, the only triage nurse it seems, is using the check in counter to do, well, triage. So the person who checks us in can’t because of HIPAA laws. So I’m standing there, getting purpler, and swollen, and the triage nurse yells at me and about 20 other people to BACK UP. BEHIND THE LINE. FOR CONFIDENTIALITY. We’re already behind the line but we back up. Which forces some people out the automatic doors. Which start opening and closing. Which causes the triage nurse to yell at them  to stop playing with the doors. Which they aren’t but what do I know. I stand there for close to an hour. I am not happy.

Finally, it’s my turn to check in. It is now after 9 pm. I’m told to go sit down and that I will be seen soon. Only if soon means five hours later. We sit across the room and can STILL hear the triage nurse asking personal HIPAA-covered questions to people at the desk. That dang line is so damned effective!

Finally, after a couple hours, I get called into a room where I am weighed and my blood pressure is taken. Then I am sent back to the waiting room but not until I’ve found out (being a former newsy and all) that the ER has 43 rooms, 4 doctors, and 8 nurses, and that some REAL emergencies have been waiting over 2 hours. And that the triage nurse, who should be in the little room talking to people in private because of HIPAA LAWS, has been told to do triage at the front desk by Kaiser management. Which means people can’t be checked in while she’s doing triage. Following that? My Kaiser dollars at work.

If I decide to try to die in some particularly dramatic way, I ain’t going to Kaiser Sunnyside.

Two more hours pass. I am returned to the little room for another blood pressure check. I am not weighed although I’m sure I’ve lost a couple pounds waiting. My blood pressure is up but I’m one of those folks who has low blood pressure so up for me is normal for you.

Then the triage nurse wants me again. Just to see if I’m worse. She wants to know what’s changed since we came in. I tell her my leg is now swollen up like a giant oak and she says, no, what is new. I say that is new. It wasn’t swollen when we got there because I was following doctor’s orders and elevating it. I’m sent back to my seat for insolence.

Then Jenny  gets bugged enough to go up and talk to the nurse. Finally, I am taken to the exam room. The doctor comes in, draws around the infection with a pen, mumbles MRSA, and prescribes Clindamycin. Look it up. It’s nasty. Better than being admitted for an IV but still nasty. My favorite side effect is that it may cause nasty side effects in my lower GI tract SIX MONTHS after I finish taking it. Not that it isn’t causing them already. YOGURT IS GOD.

Anyway, we got home after 3 am. It’s now been ten days and I am on the mend. Nothing is eating my flesh. My left leg will stay attached. No tubes are coming out my arm. I will live. The kittens are still using their claws on me. They will live too.

My new prophylactic treatment is water aerobics. I figure the chemicals in the water will cancel out cat slobber and other stuff. Don’t tell me otherwise. Some of us require our fantasy lives to survive. And Vicodin.

Update on the Wrist

Today was my four week checkup on the broken wrist and I NO LONGER HAVE A CAST! I do, however, have one of those velcro/elastic/steel/nylon splint things. Which I can remove. And, the doc told me drop spindling is “good therapy” for my wrist. Life is good.

I also have a referral to occupational therapy and am not allowed to ride my scooter until “they” say so. Did I break my wrist? Who knows. We may never know, or it may manifest now that I have permission to actually use it. This is weird medicine at its best. Some docs say I broke,  some say I didn’t. At least they aren’t going to do a CT scan unless it gets worse which is good.

I do not do well with anything that involves putting me in a confined space for a long period of time. To get me in an OPEN MRI machine requires lots of Valium. To get me in a closed one requires, well, maybe death. Speaking of which, don’t even put me in a coffin. Just start a big fire and burn me up.

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