I’m on Strike and it hurts

*This post was written at 10pm Sunday night and we received word at 1am that the strike was over.*

Hello Friends, Family, and Fans,

We’ve now entered the third week of the strike. If you don’t know or don’t follow the news, my union PSAC (you say the letters and don’t read it. If you read it it sounds too much like a bag of urine) which represents over 150,000 public service employees, has been negotiating a new contract with the government since our last one expired in early 2021.

Members do everything from auditing, to web design, to ship inspection, etc. Lots of different jobs. The union wants our pay to be the same as inflation and several other things. (I think the original list was 500+ items)

What happens when you’re on strike is you don’t get paid. We can get $75 strike pay if we picket for 4 hours. That’s less than half of my usual. We’re doing fine financially thanks to some inheritance, but it’ll get tight if this goes on more than another week. (Not asking for help, Thank you)

Because of my health issues, I’ve gone twice and both times I walked around 18,000 steps (3x more than I normally do in a day.) Every time I sat down I caught whiffs of cigarette or cannabis smoke. There aren’t a lot of smokers but it only takes one to stink up the place and make me have trouble breathing.

So I walked, and both times it took me 2 days to recover from the physical exhaustion and pain. It’s hard to recover from, and hard to feel so useless. I know there are awesome and brave people out there walking 20,000 steps per day and really putting on the pressure and I appreciate them. Unfortunately, like many other parts of my life, I’m feeling a little mediocre.

Let’s hope this gets fixed soon so that we can all get back to work and I can get back to figuring out how to improve my health.

Be kind and stay safe,

Éric

Health Update end of November

Hello Friends and Readers,

As you’ve read, I’ve had a few health issues of late. Long story short, I have some sort of injury to my arms. It’s been painful and limiting since June.

To catch up, here’s my first health update,  here’s my second health update,  here’s the one from Septemberhere’s the update from October, and here’s the update for early November.

My doctor finally sent my files to WSIB. (Suspiciously after Jen had a talk with him during Dragon’s physical appointment.) That’s the good news.

Back in 2020 or 2019 I went to see the doctor about my hands hurting. They ache when the weather changes and it’s anoying and hurts, but wasn’t getting worse with use. (Thankfully, since I wrote 4 novels and finished one afterwards) He did some x-rays and couldn’t find anything wrong, so he sent me to physio. I got the referral in early 2020 and when the pandemic hit, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

That’s all in my medical history and someone or something flagged it as needing to be assessed with WSIB. So they need to decide if the pain in my hands is the same thing as the pain in my arms.

WSIB rules say that workplace injuries have to be declared within 6 months. In other words, if they decide this is the same thing, they’re cutting me loose and saying good luck.

Assuming everything goes well, it’ll be a week for them to decide it’s a different injury and then another week to decide if I get sent to their clinic.

Best case scenario, I’ll get to see a WSIB doctor in the new year… worst case I need to go through my family doctor and we’re talking 6-18 months to see a neurologist.

My pain is averaging a 7 or 8 most days and the tingling and numbness in my arms has spread to the shoulders. On my left side, it’s affecting my face. It feels like the muscle has fallen asleep.

The hardest part is at night. With painkillers and voltaren, I still wake up every 20-30 minutes because of the pain.

I’m tired, I’m in pain, and it’s getting worse every week. I’m not sure how much longer I can go at this pace, but I’m trying my best to cooperate with WSIB in hopes that I can see a doctor soon.

I’m feeling really defeated…

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Coffee Advent/Holiday Calendars 2022 Cancelled

Hello Coffee Lovers,

I love doing the holiday calendars, but this year, between my tendonitis, a return to conventions, a return to the office, and my tendonitis; we’ve had to make the hard decision to not offer holiday calendars this year.

The amount of effort over a short period is just not safe for me to attempt this year. Hopefully next year I’ll be up for it.

Thank you for understanding and hope to see you at Ottawa ComicCon.

Éric Desmarais,
JenEric Coffee’s Head Roaster and Taste Tester

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Stress

***TL:DR I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Posts will be shorter and I might be doing some repeats. Guest Posts appreciated.***

Hello,

I’ve been a fool. Since February, my work has been fairly busy and regular. It’s a lot of short keys, typing, and mouse work. I’ve been having pain in my hands for a while now.

I wrote about it for the Spoonie Author’s Network. At the time, the Doctor thought it was the same arthritis that was in my big toes. After a year of tests he eliminated that option. We thought it was maybe tendinitis and he sent me to physio.

My prescription for physio was written in February 2020. I didn’t make it. I didn’t want to risk getting my children sick and was experiencing long covid. A few weeks turned into a few months and then a few years.

The pain came and went, but was usually worse when my hands were cold. So I didn’t worry. I kept thinking, “I’ll see my doctor about it when the pandemic is over.”

Fast forward to last November and I noticed my arms getting numb when I slept. (I sleep on my sides and it was the ones that I didn’t sleep on that went numb.) The pain got worse around Christmas, but got better after 2 weeks off.

Then we went into report season at work and I started writing a new book. So my days looked like this: Work 8 hours, Ukulele practice 15-45 minutes, and then 1-2 hours writing, formatting, etc. I’m also the primary diaper changer in the family… so… yeah.

The pain got worse and worse and I just kept thinking, “I’ll see my doctor about it when the pandemic is over.” and, “It’ll get better when I have less clicky work.”

Then Monday, I was told by my bosses that I had to come into the physical building of work. The meeting was tense and I won’t lie, I felt attacked. We’re so close to an infant vaccine for Pegasus… I asked if I could wait until September and they refused. “Isolating is a choice we made. Coming in to work is my responsibility.” That’s a paraphrase, but arg. I’m still angry.

I’m not sure what I did during that meeting to myself, but after, my pain in my arms and hands went from a 5 (Interrupts some activities) to 8 (Hard to do anything) the pain has been fluctuating from 6-8 since.

I made an appointment with my doctor, but he couldn’t see me until a week later. I was in tears as I tried to figure out what to do. I eventually decided to go to the after-hours clinic and saw a wonderful doctor. He diagnosed me with confidence after asking some insightful questions. He gave me two weeks off work, tests for my family doctor, and a prescription for splints to sleep with. Now it’s a waiting game. I’m seeing my doctor next week and so far, after 3-4 days, I’m still in a lot of pain. This post is taking forever to write, but I’m taking lots of breaks.

I’m worried that my reticence to see the doctor will result in permanent damage. It shouldn’t have taken a level 8 pain or my bosses showing how little they care about me to make me listen to my body and get help. The moment the pain started to increase, I should have made appointments.

I didn’t want to let my family down, I didn’t want to let myself down, and I didn’t want to let my work down. It was foolish! Work doesn’t care about me, they never really have, family only want me to be healthy, and I’m more disappointed now than if I had been treated earlier.

Expect this blog to have shorter posts (this took most of a day with breaks). I’ll let you know what happens.

At least I’m getting a lot of snuggles.

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Taking care

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

As a follow-up to my post about Long Covid, I want to add a few things.

There are multiple other things that are also affecting me and I realize I might have sounded a little dour. I’m okay and I’m taking steps to make things better for me.

I’m trying to do things that let me rest and don’t hurt me more. It’s hard, because sometimes giving my kids Sunday eggos with strawberries instead of pancakes feels like failure, sometimes writing a post and then reading a little feels like laziness, and sometimes taking a warm shower instead of practising music feels self-indulgent.

I’m going to try and give myself some slack. As I mentioned in my post about burnout, it’s really hard to fight the guilt of doing something for me. I’m going to try and hopefully it’ll get easier.

What am I doing you ask?

All joking aside, I’m working on that. I’ll figure it out. I have a wonderful wife and family to help.

Well, I should go read. I have a book to finish.

Be kind and stay safe,

Éric

So… Really?

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

So it’s the year 2022… Year three of the pandemic… It’s starting to feel like this is the year that our government and society give up on caring.

That might sound melodramatic, but as of Wednesday January 20th, Ontario has seen 10,801 deaths (According to Ontario Public Health). If you compare the deaths between the 31st of December and the 20th of January there’s a difference of 595. That means in the past 19 days Ontario is averaging 31 deaths a day. If the trend continues, we’re looking at probably doubling the deaths this year.

Yet despite rising hospital admissions and deaths, the government has sent unvaccinated 4 year olds back to school and is reopening indoor dining. It’s hard to believe this government cares about those of us who are considered high risk. (Babies, Kids, Immunocompromised, Fat, etc.)

I understand that I’m an extremist in my belief that human life is more important than money, economy, or other such things. I truly wish our government would do radical things like significantly increase spending on healthcare and education.

January is a hard month for me and for a lot of other people. So it’s hard to be hopeful right now.

My wife and I are extremely lucky and I thank the fates everyday for the privilege and advantages we have been given. I’m still sad for those that aren’t as lucky.

We will get through this and I hope that it’ll be with minimal loss of life and even less long term trauma.

Stay safe and be kind.

As they say in Everdome, “May your fractured nights be followed by glorious dawns.”

Éric

Lots of stuff

Hello my Imaginary friends,

I love Autumn! Halloween, cooler weather, PUMPKINS, and everything else that goes with this season. (Although this year I’m seriously missing the conventions and the parties.)

It’s a good thing I love this season because mentally and physically, it sucks. I’ve always thought it was stress that made this time of year hard, but I’m starting to realize it’s allergies and season changes.

Spring and Fall are the hardest on me. My hands ache, I feel anxious and weak. Then there’s my allergy symptoms which include fatigue, coughing, stuffy nose, nasal pressure, and trouble sleeping.

I’m seriously looking forward to snow. The snow covers the ground and freezes the allergens and reflects more light. Overall, when nights freeze and snow comes, I start feeling better. Until the melt anyway.

Book 2 of the Gates of Westmeath is cruising by. We’ve been writing since early October and have already finished the first third. I’m hoping we’ll be done the book by Christmas.

I’m impressed by how easy it has been to write this book. Hopefully that holds out for the next two thirds.

It’s hard sometimes, realizing the authors and creators who make things you love are human. Sometimes not very nice humans. I wrote about my disillusionment before.

So it was nice to get a reminder that there are good people in the world when I saw this facebook post:

Thank you Tamora Pierce for being an awesome person. If you haven’t read anything by her, I highly recommend all her books. We named our daughter after one of her characters.

Completely unrelated I have the most adorable cape:

Thank you for reading.

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Writing is Hard, Publishing is Harder

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I’m not asking for help or for advice, I just need to vent.

I’ve been writing my whole life. First novel was started when I was ten. I started writing seriously (meaning I actually finished my novels and stories) a dozen years ago. My first book was published in 2016 after 6 years of rewrites and re-submits.

My sixth book has just come out and I’m feeling a little frustrated. I feel like every book I publish is getting less readers, less reviews, and less interest. I have a lot of little easter eggs and details that cross between books and I’d love to hear someone geek out about them. (Other than my wife, mother-in-law, and daughter.)

I know part of it is caused from not seeing anyone, other than family, since March 2020. I miss talking to other authors, readers, and fans at conventions and in person.

My last two books have been launched digitally and it doesn’t give me any time to chat with one person at a time.

So I guess I’m both sad that my books aren’t reaching more people and that I can’t talk with people.

There’s hope for both cases; my publisher has recently gotten a distribution and promotion deal for all their books. And Health Canada is currently reviewing Pfizer’s vaccine for 5-11 year olds and they say that 4 and under isn’t far away.

I have high hopes for Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers (the book Jen and I co-wrote) next year. It’s set to be released in Fall and hopefully we can have an in-person release party. I’ll also hopefully be able to attend Can-Con that year.

Part of the distribution of new releases for my publisher means that some of the the books get placed in bookstores. The most recent wave, several amazing authors have had their books in stores. (Mine isn’t because it’s part of a series and they don’t put book 3.5 when they don’t have 1-3.)

I look forward to seeing Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers in bookstores. I hope it gets all the attention it deserves. It’s a fantastic book.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric


Vivo – JenEric Movie Review

How This Works – Read Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Vivo.

Story

The beginning was a little predictable in its “Pixar” style twist. The rest was a usual road trip buddy story. It was a fun story.

Score: 0.5

Characters

We don’t see a lot of Cuban or Cuban-American culture in animation. It was nice to see the art, music, and accents take centre stage. The characters were all motivated by relatable emotions.

The character of Vivo is sassy, funny, and filled with heart.

Score: 1

Dialogue

The running commentary by Vivo is both adorable and refreshingly funny. I appreciated the music, situational, word, and absurd humour.

I liked that they treated parts of the dialogue like motifs in music. They repeated or altered certain phrases to create more of an emotional impact and to pull the various parts of the movie together.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The movie was absolutely beautiful. It might not have been up to Pixar or Disney quality but they captured the Cuban art and colour style fantastically. There are a few times that the face and perspective in that art style didn’t translate well to a 3D animation, but over all, it was great.

The music was Broadway with the Lin-Manuel Miranda twist and a large dollop of Cuban influence. It’s a little reminiscent of his other work, but that doesn’t detract from how good it was.

Score: 1

Fun

The movie was colourful, never wallowed too much, and had multiple levels of humour. It was poignant and had a pretty good message, plus both kids loved it.

Score: 1

Overall

It takes a lot of elements that we’re familiar with in animated and musical movies and mixes them together with a Cuban-American influence making it feel fresh and vibrant. The visuals, music, comedy, and heart warming story make for a wonderful film.

Final Score: 4.5 stars out of 5