Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Post-Op Thoughts: Creativity Vanquishes Pain



I have three-quarters of a million dollars invested into my spine, but that's not the most expensive aspect of the injury that started me on this road to disaster.

Chronic pain in general and chronic back pain in particular are so all-encompassing. Every aspect of your life is impacted--mostly by taking things away. When I was in the car wreck that blew up my spine fourteen years ago, I had an extremely active lifestyle. Swimming, scuba, hiking, off-trail hiking, rock climbing, bicycling...all activities I loved. All gone now. I would walk 1-2 miles a day. The furthest I've been able to walk for the past four years is a block.

Half a block for the past year or more.

I do all my shopping online so it can be delivered. I haven't been in a brick and mortar store shopping in two years at least--mostly because even though I can't walk in WalMart, I don't think it's right for me to take the little carts away from people who "really" need them. And then I get pissed when I see people who don't really need them zipping through the aisles like it's a NASCAR race.

I can't pick up anything heavier than a gallon of milk. Been that way since 2012. And, of course, I ignore that rule when there are grandbabies or cats involved.

Or my laptop.

As a writer and editor, I spend the majority of my time on the computer. But I cannot sit up for longer than half an hour at a time, so I have learned how to awkwardly write with the laptop perched too high on my abdomen.

Basic life activities are gone--driving a car, for example. If I slipped behind the wheel of my PT Cruiser now, I'd automatically be guilty of an OMVI because of the medications I'm on. Housework is out save for a few easy chores and the ones I've figured out how to do by sliding around the house on my butt. As you can imagine, my baseboards are immaculate. The crown molding, not so much. I can fold laundry, as long as the basket is brought to me. For the rest, I've learned some life hacks but my house makes me fussy because it's not the way I like it to be or feel.

Now I am six days out of another major back surgery, and once again lying on my mother-in-law's couch while I fret and worry and wonder for the umpteenth time: "Will this one actually work? Will I get that life back I enjoyed so much? Or will this be just another patch-up job that raises my hopes and then destroys them, leaving me to fight out of the depression that came after the last four-five-six surgeries?"

There's no way to answer that. With the type of bizarre condition in my spine, the success or failure of this procedure won't be known for months--six months before it's official according to my spinal surgeon. But I'll know sooner.

I know--you're sitting there, reading this and thinking that I'm whining. And you're right; I am whining. Hard not to, if I'm being honest. But my whining doesn't lead to me lying in bed, feebly asking my mother-in-law for cups of coffee or just one more cupcake. (She knows me too well. That's why the cupcakes are here.) When I'm told to walk a half hour every day, I walk an hour. When I'm assigned exercises to do in bed every four hours, I do them every three hours. I push myself, always, to supersede my doctor's expectations.

For example, in order to get released from the orthopedic hospital I was in, patients had to walk 150 feet. I went 125 feet two hours after I got into my room post-surgery. Just like an athlete striving to improve their strength or agility, I know that for every extra foot, every additional effort, the healing will be faster and more thorough. I never do too much, but I never settle for just enough either.

My lot in life has been bizarre, and is certainly not helped by the piece of broken hardware in my spine that if it shifts can either kill or paralyze me without warning. No one could have anticipated the butcher job that took place during my first back surgery in 2006--when a surgeon put the wrong sized artificial disc into my lumbar spine, had to pry it out, and in the process of hammering the correct size prosthesis into place with a sledge hammer broke it and started this fourteen year spiral of doom. No one believed me for six years when my pain worsened instead of improved. I was treated as if I was a drug addict, looking for a bigger fix. Not until I got an infection at that same level did anyone finally diagnose the real problem--and in the process reveal that the artificial disc had been shredding my spinal column and could not be removed. The prosthetic was inserted from the front, and was now insinuated between arteries on the front and my spinal cord on the back. The subsequent fusions weren't done to 'fix' my spine, but to keep that artificial disc from killing me.

And after the gazillionth back procedure in four years, it turned out that the fusion intended to secure that broken artificial disc was also broken.

It's hard for anyone to look ahead at their life and accept that regardless of what they do, regardless if they do exactly what the doctor tells them, all the parts of their life they particularly loved are a permanent thing of the past. But there's an aspect of healing I possess that many of my disabled peers do not. An outlet.

Creativity is both a blessing and a curse. It's a curse because your parents were right. "You can't earn a living writing stories. That's just a pipe dream."

And for most people, it is. A debut author's first book is released, and when it doesn't sell they give up. Mentally, they've made the transition from "anyone can write a book" to "I am a failure as a writer" and they don't try again.

But creativity is also a blessing. For one thing, you're running around with your characters in your mind, watching their story unfold and finding a way to share it with your readers. For another, people with the right personality traits (for me it's being damn stubborn) are taught not to give up. Ever. Sure, the odds of me being able to walk much more than a block for the rest of my life are pretty much non-existent, but I have made the choice not to let that define who I am. I live vicariously through my words, and create new worlds that both intrigue and challenge not only my characters but myself.

And all of this led me down a path that once was closed to me, and brought me to Charlie Burris and the Orange & White Report--writing articles and features about college football when I was told during college that there was no place for women journalists in sports--unless they covered ice skating or gymnastics. Plus every Saturday, I get to interact with the other O&W writers and argue or theorize or analyze football games while they're ongoing. That transforms me from a woman old enough to be their mother lying in a huge back brace in Ohio to a sports journalist, and fulfills a long-ago dream of mine in the process.

In the end, then, my overriding thought after my fourth major back surgery in ten years would have been applicable whether I regain the life I missed or continue in the life I've had.

1. My spine cannot restrict my mind.
2. My world is much, much more than the four walls that I am usually trapped within.
3. My life is not over; it's richer and rewarding beyond my expectations thanks to the people I interact with every day online.
4. Never give up on your dreams and ambitions.
5. It's 11:14 am and Florida still sucks.

So don't feel sorry for me; I don't feel sorry for myself. And as you look at your life and the things you wanted but didn't get, don't think those things are past you either. Life or circumstance don't dictate your destiny--you do.

Even with failed hardware in your spine.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

LiveSciFi Zozo Investigation Day Two Live Blog

So here's what sucks about falling asleep. You miss stuff. 

I was up early yesterday, had a conference with my literary agent, then wrote my column, and all that fun stuff. On top of that, considering the pain level a chronic pain sufferer deals with, the medications totally knock you out. Unthinkingly, I took my meds at the regular time last night. So by the time we started hitting 3:30 - 4 am, I was pretty much done for the night. 

I kept waking up when things would happen, but then dozed back off. My own fault. Should never have said, "I'll just lie down for a while." 

So now I'm hours behind, and will have to watch catch-up footage here in a bit when it's posted. My own fault. 

That being said, though, right now the house is empty and for the past hour it's been echoing with bangs and snaps and clicks on a fairly constant basis. To me this is compelling because there is literally no one there. 

10:56 HUGE bang in an empty house. Something feel somewhere.

11:12 Another huge bang followed by what sounded like a cough.

11:30 in the past half hour, we witnessed extensive tampering with the camera system in an empty house. IR lights going off and on, cams switching from day to night vision, and all accompanied by significant noises. This house isn't just haunted at night. It's haunted by day.

11:49 One of the things that makes a live streamed investigation interesting is the simultaneous chat. Even when the investigators aren't in the house, there are hundreds of people still monitoring the equipment. This serves a couple of purposes. First off, it keeps people engaged in the event. It also leads to an ongoing dialogue about what's happening. Sure you get your kooks talking about orbs or claiming to have seen stuff that isn't there. Middle school kids need hobbies too and for the most part that seems to be annoying grownups. But if something significant happens, like a loud noise, the chat rooms dissect it the same way investigators do. But second, those transcripts provide time stamps to evidence. The team can go back later and match up the video with the log the chat room creates, and that can lead to evidence they might otherwise have missed.

Although probably not in this house. No way to miss what's going on now.

12:36 If you talk on speaker phone during a live stream, the entire world hears your conversation. And nothing else. That is all.

1:03 If the tornado siren test is going on, it's probably not the best time to do an EVP session. Mostly because you can't hear anything. Just sayin', Darren.

1:47 Okay, I'm going to be a little stern here because I'm seeing things I do not like. First off, the only reason a paranormal investigation has any validity at all is through the strict adherence to protocols and running a controlled experiment. You eliminate as many external influences as possible. You turn off your phone. You create a control. You document any changes you observe, like something falling over. You use your own equipment. You handle other people's equipment with care. If a session is disrupted by outside sources, you end the session and discount any potential evidence.

For almost an hour and a half, I and the rest of the chat have watched in horror as all of the above strictures have been ignored. YOU DON'T HANDLE SOMEONE ELSE'S PERSONAL EQUIPMENT OR POSSESSIONS CARELESSLY, like holding an antique doll by the head or so roughly a limb falls off. You don't try to use someone's personal technology.

How do I know this? Because I did my first investigation in the late 1980s and multiple ones since. Pretty much the last two hours and counting can be tossed out the window because someone who doesn't know what he is doing is destroying the validity of the investigation with every step and decision he makes.

It's a damn shame.

2:27 And the torture continues, unabated. Talk about a room of pissed off viewers. Good lord.

The thing I've always liked about LSF is the interactive nature of their live streamed investigations. Evidence captured in a totally silent house while the investigators are asleep or out. All of that has been destroyed. We went from a morning of continuous activity, to an afternoon of absolute bullshit. What makes that even worse is that the LSF team isn't there and all this destruction is coming at the hands of a guest to the investigation who is trying to force activity when he didn't need to.

Paranormal investigation is about creating a situation in which activity can happen, not bombarding the place in the middle of the afternoon with frantic trigger object shifting and blaring music and constant movement. One of these dolls could get up, walk down the stairs, and dance a jig in the middle of the living room floor and it couldn't be construed as evidence because of what's going on around it.

3:45 and all's well. Torture has stopped--mercifully--for the time being. I'll be glad when the investigators get back and turn this back into a serious attempt to capture paranormal activity.

LIVE BLOG UPDATED EVERY 20-30 MINUTES

Friday, October 21, 2016

LiveSciFi Zozo Investigation Night One--Live Blog

October 21, 2016 (7:00 pm EST) So what am I doing, you ask? 

Tonight at 10 pm EST, the LiveSciFi paranormal investigators will kick off a three-day ghost hunt at a residence in Oklahoma City that is purported to be haunted AND oppressed by a demonic entity known as Zozo. Now, if you read my last blog post, you know that I did a lot of research and wrote a few articles ahead of this upcoming investigation...and that the nasty critter set off a chain reaction of paranormal activity around my house and particularly around my computer. 

Ergo...I figure this is a safer and more fun way to take notes during the investigation. Blogger will automatically back my stuff up, and I can jot down observations, opinions, and instant reactions to what happens during the lockdown. So take that, Zozo! 

And here's the kicker. Although I enjoy paranormal investigations, I am also seriously skeptical. I don't put much stock into orbs, or creaky noises, or random lights. If I see something that might be paranormal, I'll jot down what I saw and an approximate time so I can go back once that block of video is done and go through it. 

But if I think something is out and out hokey horseshit, I'll jot that down too. Sorry kids--just the way I roll. At the end of the weekend, I'll put it all together in a followup article and we'll see what we've got. See something you think I should look at? Leave me a comment (time stamp or approximate time place) and I'll take a look at it. Sound good? 

Lay in the snacks, kids. Going to be a long night.

8:35 pm --dangit, isn't this thing started yet? Viewers are starting to show up on the LSF website chat and the YouTube chat. Seems to be more anticipation for this investigation than I've seen in quite some time.

9:00 The normal plethora of trolls and spammers are showing up now. Guess there's not a middle school in America that has homework over the weekend anymore.

10:03 So far, my "live feed will start 5 minutes late" bet is still alive.

10:04 still alive

10:05 c'mon man! It's ten bucks!

10:20 Time is money, guys. Time is money.

10:38 So yeah. I totally lost the start time betting pool.

Okay so it's 11:00 and time for the first Ouija session. Why you ask? Because Zozo is the Ouija board demon, and that's how the entity selects its victims and stalks them.  That whole thing about opening a door? Yep. Ouija. Spiritual door opener.

11:10 So the Ouija session has kicked off pretty darn quick. If nothing else, Zozo is predictable. According to what's coming through, it seems pretty happy to have company. Especially this company since it's spelling out H-A-H-A-H-A

11:14 Zozo just claimed it was a friend. Not sure to what, but there you have it.

11:19 Well, Zozo at least can tell a bad joke. "Saint Zozo" smfh

11:25 Zozo just said it would make a noise/create a disturbance at 1:34. I will be watching, and if that doesn't go down, I will totally call it out as a liar. I ain't playing.

11:28 Sure would have been nice to get the answer to Nicole's question about the possessed woman in SF who went after Tim, but Darren decided to pull the focus instead of letting that line of questioning proceed for some reason.

11:29 Doesn't take Zozo long to get back into its MO. All the laughing and joking aside now, and we're to gloating over a dead cat and threatening to kill Tim.

11:40 End of the first hour-ish. I think the strongest takeaway I have at this moment is that the Ouija session was moving much faster than normal. Also, getting the loud growl on the EVP session fits entirely with Zozo's recent interactions with Tim on the Ouija board. And that's disconcerting. For that EVP to have occurred so early in the live stream can only mean bad things are ahead in the next two night. Craziness.

11:46 Tim's first scratches of the weekend and it's not even midnight yet.

See, here's the deal. Coming up on ten years of dealing with the Zozo entity for Tim, and thirty-five years of dealing with the entity for Darren. This is like an all-you-can-eat spiritual buffet for it. When you're working in this field and you already have a paranormal attachment or you're sensitive to paranormal events, in a charged location and with another person present who suffers the same thing the entity is pulled in like a magnet to iron fillings.

11:51 For a guy who didn't want to say the word "Zozo" an hour ago, he sure is saying it a lot now.

11:53 So Darren is wearing a shirt with a skull on it, is looking into a scrying mirror and he sees...a skull. Wow, dude--really?

11:56 All right--let's talk research. The "14th century source" Darren Evans cites for the Zozo entity being known as a demon isn't a 14th century source. It comes from an 1876 issue of the Catholic Review, and it's referring to a sermon St. Bernardino preached regarding gambling with dice. The term " commune omnium daemonum" is a generic term of the medieval church. And if you want to check out that source, head here and look for yourself. I asked Darren for the original 14th century source when he questioned me not citing that story as fact in my articles. He did not provide me with that source. That does not mean the source doesn't exist. The Catholic Review has access to Vatican documents and this article could very well have been taken from such a legitimate source. But you cannot call a 19th century source a 14th century one just because it refers to something that happened then, and particularly with a church document from that time because all that stuff was edited heavily to fall into political lines of necessity.

That's not how source citation works. That would be like me saying I know JFK was killed as the result of aliens because I read somewhere once that's what really happened. Without that source, I could be referring to the National Enquirer for all you know.

In proper research, the word Zozo being mentioned like that five hundred years later is secondhand--kind of like hearsay. This isn't a reliable or valid source citation, so much as it is forcing something totally unrelated and MAKING it sound like a source. Want to convince me? Show me a literal, physical source from the 14th century, not an article from a journal 400 years later.

And then, too, the source isn't about a demon named Zozo. It's about a sermon preached by a saint where he substitutes gambling terms for the items used in a Catholic Mass. It's about how to take a sermon and relate it to your audience in terms they understand and relate to--a sermon used as an example of how to create an effective Catholic Mass during the season of Lent. It has nothing to do with demonology, and it doesn't chronicle or identify a demonic entity. It's an allegorical tale, created by a priest to demonstrate the evils of gambling. (BTW St. Bernardino didn't like much of anything. Even hear the phrase "bonfire of the vanities"? That's where people take the things they enjoy or that give them pleasure out into the street and throw them on a fire. This guy is the one who started all that crap)

The earliest source this Latin, Greek, and French-reading writer with mad Google-fu skillsfound in my research is the 1818 Dictionairre Infernal, regarding an event in France two years earlier. And THAT source can be found here. At the end, I have to question this as being presented as fact, because it's not. And it bugs me that it was presented as such.

12:03 So Darren refuses to touch the Ouija board, but he'll confront the entity, and look in scrying mirrors for it, and scribble things on paper in an attempt to summon it? I am confused. And that Z-word he didn't want to say is now being used every other word. I wonder...how long will it take him to touch the Ouija board? Hmm... Earlier he said it had to do with intent, right? So here's my question--what's so different about intent in why he wouldn't say Zozo early on in the investigation, but will now?

12:13 Hard to do an EVP session in the house when someone is in the other room bellowing like a drill sergeant.

12:35 EVP session not in your skill set man. Ask a question, give them 30 seconds to answer. then ask another question. Don't tell it stories.

12:38 we are now winding down the second hour of this investigation. The last 40 minutes has been the Darren and Zozo show. Unfortunately, even Zozo appears to be dozing off.

12:52 Getting creeped out off a letter--rare.
Just turning on the Ovilus for the first time and it says "Z" when you're investigating the Zozo house? --priceless

1:04 Okay the voice that Ovilus generated is uber-creepy. Also find it interesting that it said "birds" considering the connection that's come up with birds before in both Tim's and Darren's history with the entity. And yes, the South Park version of R. Kelly's In The Closet is now stuck in my head. Travolta and all.

1:10 'abort' 'sharp' and 'cross over' rapid fire on the Ovilus. Again...interesting.

1:14 setting up for a Ganzfeld experiment--whenever sensory deprivation is involved, the paranormal activity seems to get more intense. Also, keep in mind Zozo's promise of activity at 1:34

1:34 Since this moment occurred during the Ganzfeld experiment, it's hard to say if Zozo kept his promise. Did I notice paranormal activity? No. Did Tim act totally bizarre all of a sudden? Yes. But was it what Zozo said it would be? No. So yeah==> so totally unimpressed Zozo. A demon should do better.

1:36 Things not to do on an investigation 101--never rip ping pong balls taped over your co-investigator's face. Be gentle and kind to his eyes.

1:36 "DO YOU HAVE A HEADACHE" is probably not the thing to
yell into someone's face if you think they have a headache. Just sayin'.

1:45 The third hour is in the books and we have a couple of good EVPs. Not bad, but not exactly burning down the house here, either.

6:30 AM, October 22-- I'm not sure what to make of this place. That there's paranormal activity seems completely undoubted. As the night went on the activity increased and even when the house is empty, there's nearly constant noise. I personally don't trust my eyes after being up all night, so I'll wait until I can go back and see the footage for myself after some sleep but--this is beyond creepy. That being said, this place is loud.