who the heck knows anything, anyway

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

nov 22 - subtitle: terrible sitcom script with great promise

Most recently, I've had the pleasure of developing pityriasis rosea. It's a rash of unknown origin that lasts at least six weeks. It looks like the type of rash you'd draw on yourself as a kid to get out of school: big, red, round/oval spots all over. You can't get rid of it. You just have to ride the wave. Despite splotching up my neck real good, it has, thank sweet baby jesus, avoided my face. At least it happened in the winter; I'd pass out if I tried rocking these turtlenecks in August. 

Sometimes a health issue is so wild that it's comical. I could pitch a whole show about the medical magic and mysteries that befall all of my family members. I mean, how many people under the age of 100 do you know who've had scarlet fever? Because my brother, Matthew, has. That's right--we've got that Oregon Trail shit. And we've got Daniel, too, who married me for some reason and has nothing wrong with him! It's the perfect set-up. 

The world has seen so many medical shows that focus on doctors. Sure, House had a physical disability and struggled with addiction, but what if--imagine this--it was always lupus. Because a character has lupus. Imagine! Lupus, Lyme, EDS, ALS, blindness, deafness, permanent injuries, ADHD... I know many people who experience these things already use humor to share their stories (or feel better when they feel like shit), so imagine the delightfully dark jokes that will let people laugh with us instead of just feeling bad for us. I feel like the way to move forward with chronic illness inclusivity and normalization is to let a family like mine publicly make fun of our bodies. It's time to let the patients shine! Comedy will bring us together, babyyyy!

Here. I've spent twenty minutes writing a(n admittedly terrible) scene for a late-90's sitcom. I'm willing to move to LA, but I'll need great health insurance, pay that's high enough for rent and weekly doc appointments, and my current medications have me taking naps every day, so you're looking at a writers room that works 10am-1pm. Let me work from home 95% of the time and I can throw in 5-7pm.



Sitcom, Name TBD:        "The Rash" (first draft)       11/09/23



A group of Czuba family members is milling about--DANIEL (husband) is on his laptop at the table, MATTHEW and CONRAD (brothers) are looking at their phones on the couch, KERRY (mother) is clearing off the coffee table.

KILLIAN enters through front door.


Hey guys, can I show you something?

EVERYONE glances up and over to her, looking either vaguely interested, generally disinterested, or slightly annoyed at being interrupted.

KILLIAN lifts her shirt up enough to show her whole stomach. There are five comically large, circular red spots.


Is this fine?

EVERYONE stares blankly, unsure of what to think or say.



(Still looking down at her stomach)

There aren't *that* many... 

NO ONE says anything.


It's probably just weird hives? It doesn't hurt or anything. 


Did you take some Benadryl?


Definitely did not.


You know me so well.


(Gets up from the table)

How many do you want?


One, please! I'd like to take a three hour nap instead of passing out for two days.

KILLIAN turns to look at her stomach in the hall mirror, gently poking at one of the spots, nonplussed. Since her shirt is still lifted up, the audience can now see her back. It is almost completely covered in the large spots. It looks terrible.


Oh my God.

CONRAD starts laughing. MATTHEW is cringing and silently mouthing the word "yikes."


DANIEL has not gotten all the way to the bathroom and stops in his tracks, trying to appear calm and not sound concerned.


I don't think you need any Benadryl.


Change of plans. Who wants some ice cream and a brief trip to Urgent Care?



Can I come?


Sure, but bring your wallet. I'll cover the ice cream, but you're on your own for urgent care; your copay rates are higher than my student loan payments.



I'm obviously just coming for the ice cream.

DANIEL grabs his coat and speaks kindly to Matthew.


I love you, but if you don't have a fistful of Lactaid in your pocket as we speak, you will not just be coming for the ice cream.

AUDIENCE LAUGHS as Daniel hustles them out of the house. KILLIAN looks comically surprised. 

Fade to commercial.


Thursday, September 28, 2023

sept 28

My local pool, Columbia, was officially closed--condemned--in 2022. I still haven't gotten over it. As a person who suffers from a chronically bad case of nostalgia, I don't know if I'll ever get over it. 

I spent my very early childhood going to swim lessons there, spent afternoons at open swim with my mom and siblings when we were being homeschooled (middle-school), spent a few high-school mornings trying to swim a mile before having to sit my butt down in a chair for seven hours*, and spent my summers on the city's youth swim team from age eleven (if not earlier) to seventeen, repping Columbia every year but the last**. I got really, really good at swimming there.

I was basically raised in that pool. The main place of my childhood joy, and the only place I ever did sports. The only place where my body has ever exceeded expectations.

I'm much, much older now (nearly twenty years, jeezus). College was busy (and there was no swim team), I moved away for a while, and it wasn't easy to get back to the pool when I returned. I should have tried harder. I should have found time for it. I should have given them more money. I suppose my cumulative ~$300 wouldn't have made much difference when the cost to survive was $5,000,000, but I would have appreciated her more if I knew our time was limited. Almost like a grandparent, I suppose. Now that I've finally gotten back into swimming, she's gone. I've been going to a pool I never liked that's three times farther from me. It's now the only pool in two city quadrants, and the lanes are apparently packed all day. (Believe me--I've tried many different times.) 

And here's the thing, the real thing: I don't really swim for exercise. I mean, I do--it's the best kind for my body--but I'd say that's only 30% of the reason. If exercise was the main point, I could just up the use of my exercise bike and the weights that are basically light enough for babies. I wouldn't drag myself to a shitty pool a couple times a week. So, why? It turns out that there are few--if any--things I find spiritually satisfying these days. I got back into the pool, and every inch of me remembered: The water is it. Swimming is it. But sharing a lane with 2+ people takes the holiness out and just makes it exercise.

Unless you're on a team, swimming is a solitary activity; one to which the entire body contributes.*** And my body remembers that perfect feeling, when the stroke is just right and there's barely a splash. I can't think of anything so grounded in the present as that feeling of cutting through the water with speed and softness. There's no thinking of anything but the angles of your joints, the counting of your breaths, the estimation of your distance to the edge where you can flip and push off the wall like a bullet for nearly half a length. No worrying about meetings, groceries, dinner, work, schedules, the overwhelming week's-worth of plans. Maybe this is what meditation is supposed to feel like.

Sometimes I like to yell into the water when I push off from the wall. Just a little bit. I know the sound carries, but no one has ever paused to see what was happening (they're busy in their own present, I think), and it feels really good. You should try it: keep your mouth closed, and let the sound come straight out of your chest. No letting your breath out through your nose, either; let the air out when you get close to the surface. Stronger than humming, not so high-pitched that it's a scream. Not a scared sound, but a release of frustration. Trust me. It feels really good. 

I'm realizing now, at this exact moment, that this true story could be read as a metaphor for my relationship with writing fiction and making comics. I suppose I feel like that part of my life--the free and joyful part--is gone, too. Sometimes I find myself with a brief burst of clarity and excitement--but the feeling passes quickly, and I give up. I'm incapable of doing things if they only feel like exercise. It hasn't felt the way it used to for a very long time.

When I'm at this other pool, I yell. Every time. I yell for Columbia, I yell for solitude, I yell for the feeling of yelling. All these weeks, I didn't know I could be keening for something else, too. What a wild revelation.

*Admittedly, this was not often. Waking up at 6am has never been particularly fun/easy for me.
**Our scrappy little North Portland team even won the city-wide meet a few times! That last year was at Peninsula's outdoor pool, though; we followed our long-time coaches over there. Not a great pool for swimming laps, sadly.
***It's also the best form of exercise for people with joint issues. This means I sometimes have to swim more slowly, but sometimes I like to go fast, just to know that I can. Not great for sharing the "slow" or "fast" lanes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

sept 19

Just watched (five times) an excellent video by a microbiologist (@tardibabe) who posts all kinds of amazing stuff. This particular video was focused on a tray with lil dot of human blood. 

I am awestruck every time I can look closely at our bodies—everything is in constant motion (at least ideally), sticking together, bouncing off of each other, flowing down rivers between slow, red glaciers; white blood cells moving alone, pushing against the current with wide open mouths. 

We're made of so many living (and dying) pieces. Despite all of the ways we can break down and fall apart, I think you could call us truly, literally marvelous.

Monday, September 11, 2023

sept 11 - raptorial legs

 We found a praying mantis in our backyard last night, and it was still against the house in the morning--until the dog started freaking out (understandably) and then tried to play with it (an odd choice). So Daniel and I embarked on a rescue mission. 

It went well.

I briefly flirted with the idea of nudging it onto the paper with my finger, but when one of those "raptorial legs" got its grabbers on said-finger with great speed and strength, I backtracked* and we got an additional piece of nudging paper. I made sure it got to take the blade of dead grass it seemed very attached to (literally, and perhaps emotionally). The relocation progressed uneventfully from there, and we gingerly placed it in a protected area.

I've never seen one of these guys in real life, let alone touched one. Did you know they have FIVE EYES? I did not find this out until after the encounter, so no photo evidence, but scientists have told me this is the case. 

It's difficult to go from ✨Wondering at the Majesty of Nature✨ to Doing Regular Things, like stressing out about a million dumb tasks and figuring out what to make for dinner. Those things are boring, and tiring. (If you don't find figuring out what to make for dinner, and then making dinner, every night to be tiring, I envy you.) Sadly, it must be done.

*after squeaking like a startled child. We later watched a video about what a praying mantis bite is like, and it would appear that they start chewing on you like you're straight-up bug meat. They are not "harmful" to humans, but I'd argue that the trauma of being chewed on by any creature is harmful. Not as literally harmful as a blood-sucker (mosquitos and ticks, I'm talking about you, assholes), but traumatic all the same.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

june 29 - Irish origin story

While poking around JSTOR this afternoon, I came upon a paper titled "Rhetoric of Myth, Magic, and Conversion: A Prolegomena to Ancient Irish Rhetoric". Obviously I read it. On page four, there was a quote (footnoted--although the footnote doesn't actually match the resource), and the poetry of it was almost painfully beautiful. So I tracked it down, found the full story online. Here's a larger excerpt than that used in the journal paper. Prepare yourself:

Brigit ceased to sing, and there was silence for a little space in Tir-na-Moe. Then Angus said:

"Strange are the words of your song, and strange the music: it swept me down steeps of air--down--down--always further down. Tir-na-Moe was like a dream half-remembered. I felt the breath of strange worlds on my face, and always your song grew louder and louder, but you were not singing it. Who was singing it?"

"The Earth was singing it."

"The Earth!" said the Dagda. "Is not the Earth in the pit of chaos? Who has ever looked into that pit or stayed to listen where there is neither silence nor song? "

"O Shepherd of the Star-Flocks, I have stayed to listen. I have shuddered in the darkness that is round the Earth. I have seen the black hissing waters and the monsters that devour each other--I have looked into the groping writhing adder-pit of hell."

The light that pulsed about the De Danaan lords grew troubled at the thought of that pit, and they cried out: "Tell us no more about the Earth, O Flame of the Two Eternities, and let the thought of it slip from yourself as a dream slips from the memory."

"O Silver Branches that no Sorrow has Shaken," said Brigit, "hear one thing more! The Earth wails all night because it has dreamed of beauty."

"What dream, O Brigit?"

"The Earth has dreamed of the white stillness of dawn; of the star that goes before the sunrise; and of music like the music of my song."

"O Morning Star," said Angus, "would I had never heard your song, for now I cannot shake the thought of the Earth from me!"

"Why should you shake the thought from you, Angus the Subtle-Hearted? You have wrapped yourself in all the colours of the sunlight; are you not fain to look into the darkness and listen to the thunder of abysmal waves; are you not fain to make gladness in the Abyss?"

Angus did not answer: he reached out his hand and gathered a blossom from a branch:

he blew upon the blossom and tossed it into the air: it became a wonderful white bird, and circled about him singing.

Midyir the Haughty rose and shook out the bright tresses of his hair till he was clothed with radiance as with a Golden Fleece.

"I am fain to look into the darkness," he said. "I am fain to hear the thunder of the Abyss."

"Then come with me," said Brigit, "I am going to put my mantle round the Earth because it has dreamed of beauty."

Oh jeez, consider me overwhelmed with emotion!

There are few things as powerful as origin myths. If there's a boring one out there, I've never heard it.

Seriously. "The Earth wails all night because it has dreamed of beauty"? Brigit. Stop it. It's too good. And strangely topical? I imagine the Earth is wailing a bit these days--her terrible return to a god-frightening abyss. Or maybe it's just we humans doing the wailing, stuck down here in the groping writhing adder-pit of hell. If I was still on Twitter, I think I'd have a great new bio. 

Read here for the full list of stories by Ella Young, 1910

june 28 - all the presidents' dogs

Earlier today, I considered how it would be a fun little project to draw the dogs belonging to each president. Looking into the matter, I realized that would not be a "little project." But the list was so interesting that I had to make a note of some of the wilder facts! I had to!

So here we go. Important notes on presidential pets (collected from wikipedia):
(note: I won't be mentioning every president--just the ones with weird anecdotes. Most of the presidents have dogs, cats, and/or horses, depending on the time period)
  • John Adams had a dog named Satan.
  • Thomas Jefferson owned a sheep that killed a "fine young boy."
  • James Madison's only pet was a parrot. The parrot outlived him.
  • It's possible that John Quincy Adams' only pet was...silkworms. (There's also an apocryphal alligator, but a not-real alligator is not a pet. Exception made for imaginative children.)
  • Surprising no one, Andrew Jackson kept fighting chickens.
  • James Buchanan had a Newfoundland, a toy terrier, aaaaaand an eagle.
  • A drunk person murdered Abraham Lincoln's dog after he was assassinated, which is all kinds of fucked up.
  • Abe also had a cat that he said was "smarter than [his] whole cabinet," which is amazing.
  • Benjamin Harrison had a goat, a dog, two opossums (excellent choice), and...two alligators. Real ones this time.
  • Teddy Roosevelt had an unsurprisingly huge number of animals. They include *deep breath*: guinea pigs, ponies, a lizard, a hen, a number of dogs, a macaw, a garter snake, a rat, a small bear, a badger, a pig, a rabbit, cats, a hyena, a barn owl, a rooster, and a lion (sadly, unnamed in the notes).
  • Woodrow Wilson had a ton of sheep to keep the WH lawn looking good (which is surprisingly environmentally friendly), and he sold the wool to benefit the Red Cross.
  • Calvin Coolidge had a shocking number of pets. Aside from a lot of dogs, cats, and some horsies, he had raccoons, some birds, and--this is a real Teddy move--a bobcat, lions, a pygmy hippo, a wallaby, antelope, and black bear (the latter three given to the zoo)(but only the latter three...).
  • Herbert Hoover had dogs, a bird, and--like Harrison--an opossum. Regardless of political standing, we need more opossums-as-pets in government.
  • John F Kennedy coming through with a great number of pets--all totally normal ones for rich people with kids, but a lot of them: ponies, hamsters, songbirds, a rabbit, and a great number of dogs (including the USSR-gifted puppy of a Soviet space dog, which is the interesting bit, aside from sheer number).
  • Looks like Lyndon B Johnson was the last one to have hamsters and songbirds included in the list. Things get all cats-and-dogs from there.
  • Except for Trump, who, as we all know, had no pets. Only one aside from Polk. It's not like Polk was great, either, though. They both had/have extremely bad ideas re: Mexico. 
  • Actually, technically, Andrew Johnson also didn't have pets. He also really sucked.

Conclusion: although having pets does not, by any means, guarantee you are a good person (especially if your only pets are fighting chickens, Andrew Jackson), not having pets as a president does suggest that you might be a bad person. 

Monday, June 12, 2023

june 12

I started this blog in (*checks timeline*) 2010. I was a borderline child (I don't know if you've met many 20-21 year-olds, but they are still pupae. I'm not sure a person can be described as fully-formed until the age of 27...if ever). Looking back at old posts--which I just unarchived--I am a little embarrassed. I don't know what I've written in the ~200 posts prior to 2022. Am I somewhat worried about people scouring my shit for absolutely stupid things I've written? Yes. Because people can be really mean. But I've never been a really mean person, so I don't imagine I've said many mean things (at least not targeted at groups of people that aren't conglomerated into The Government of Any Particular Country). Still, the fear remains. I'm hoping you are all kind to me and my past self. 

Past-self didn't know a lot about me. She didn't really know that she was sick--she had ideas, inklings, but not the clinical words to put to it. 

I thought I had run-of-the-mill depression, but didn't see anyone for it. I learned (professionally) in 2012 that I also have OCD. I learned in 2017 that I also have type II bipolar. Honestly, these should have been diagnosed when I was in high school. The signs should have been a hint to the adults around me (self-harm, periods of insomnia, periods of hypersomnia, trichotillomania, paranoia, near-crippling anxiety, physical compulsions that helped me "prevent" plane crashes and being murdered...the list goes on) but--as close as the early-mid 2000s are to now--mental health interventions were not easily available, and I was "high-functioning" (which, to be fair, did make it a little less obvious if you weren't looking for it). There was a hangover, I think, from a 1990s fear of over-medicating children. I was also afraid of being diagnosed with something bad. My maternal grandmother had a host of mental health issues, and she was estranged from everyone. A "bipolar" diagnosis of any kind was, in my eyes, a point of immense shame.

Around that same 2016-2017 time period, I learned that all of my crazy physical body issues were related to a trifecta of conditions abbreviated to EDS/MCAS/POTS. It led to an exciting few years of figuring out medications that worked together. I'm still working on that, in fact; juggling pills and tinctures and physical interventions, constantly assessing my state of mind in case something's amiss. Honestly, I feel like my body is The Great Betrayer; it doesn't do so many things it's meant to.

I haven't written in years. I had to stop tattooing when I got really sick, and Oregon does not make it at all easy to get re-licensed, so I haven't started again. I've done freelance art stuff off-and-on, which is great, but all those comics I used to write? As I said, I haven't written in a long, long time. I developed mild aphasia for a couple of years, which didn't help. My blog was generally abandoned in 2015. 

It's the writing that hurts the most. I spent my life writing--wanting, deeply, to be a writer. It felt like a super-power, too; it was the thing I was good at (not sure the blog demonstrated this, though. haha). I had stories in my head, I had a laptop, and I had a host of professors and peers cheering me on. I even got a few things published. But after I graduated with my MFA, something inside of me died. My thesis advisor and I had very different ideas, and my whole thesis--two years of work with other advisors--was gone. I had to rewrite everything. What I came away with was dead words on a dead page bound in dead cow skin. 

All this is to say that I'm very different now. I have more nuanced views of the world. There are things I can't do--I know that--and there are other things I very much wish I was doing. I can't be everything I want to be. None of us can. It can be painful, but we grow, we transition into new beings. We are each a Ship of Theseus, all the way down to our cells.

Vulnerability shouldn't be a curse, but a gift. So I'm leaving my old posts up. Please, again, be kind to my young self, for all her flaws and strange perspectives, because she was her own person as much as she is a part of me. She deserves to be remembered.

Aside: I'm glad that "kids these days" have a chance to get help early. The internet is full of resources that didn't exist when I was a kid, and many parents are more familiar with the early signs (because many in my cohort are having kids, and a lot of us have mental health issues). I wonder who I could have been if I'd had help sooner. I'm very (extremely) lucky in having found a partner who cares about me so much that none of this has affected our relationship, but in another universe, baby Killian grew up to be a paleontologist or a neuropathologist because wasn't too terrified to take college science classes. She probably has a lot of student debt, but she's always knee-deep in dirt or elbows-deep in brains.