Friday, December 2, 2011

Wishing for Sleep

I have a confession to make: I am too tired to write this post. I am also too tired to drive, cook, operate heavy machinery, shop, converse, or guide the emotional development of a school-aged child.
I’m tired, I’m cranky, and I’m looking for someone to blame.

Suspect #1: Face-Cat

Face-Cat, a.k.a. Annie
I see an allergist with alarming regularity, given that she has been unable to find a single allergy. Last time I was there, I suggested a new theory.

“I think I’m allergic to cats,” I said.

“Oh?” She looked almost hopeful. "Why do you say that?"

“Well here's the thing: One of my two cats started sleeping on my face a few months ago. I think it coincided with my snoring getting worse."

“The cat is in the bed with you?”

“On. My. Face.”

The allergist gave me that look. I know the look. The one that says maybe you shouldn’t be letting your cat sleep on your face. People give me the same look when she parades along the kitchen counter or licks her delicate bits while sitting on one of our place mats.

“I can’t lock her out of the room or she’ll scratch at the door all night long and I won’t get any sleep,” I said.

My allergist is smart enough to recognize a reasonable argument. She just nodded. “The cat probably isn’t helping matters, but it doesn’t mean you’re allergic,” she said. “No one should have a cat on their face.”

I took that to mean that she did not have a miracle cure for COFS (Cat-on-face syndrome).

Suspect #2: Furnace-kid

My second child always seems to have a fever. The only way to know for sure (thermometers are for wussies) is to kiss the exact center of his forehead. This is his “cool spot.” If it’s hot, he’s sick. If not, he’s fine - but the rest of him will still be approximately 211 degrees.

After years of sleep independence, he’s recently begun visiting our bed at night. This kid is sneaky and quiet. I don’t know he’s joined us until I wake up, drenched in sweat, my body precariously balanced on the very edge of the king-sized bed. As far as I can tell, my back is pressed against the sun.

I try to scoot him over toward John, but that just wakes him up.

Yes, that's MY BED he's in
I’ve been sleeping with my mouth wide open, snoring like an old man, in a micro-climate of approximately 211 degrees. Water, I need water. I've just barely formed the thought when -

“Mommy can I have some water?” Furnace kid reaches across me to my glass of water. He coughs, snorts, sniffles, coughs again, and takes a drink.

Well I’m not drinking that.

I go to the bathroom and rinse out the glass, because at 1:00 am I somehow believe that a good rinse kills 99% of cold-causing germs.

I take furnace-kid back to his bed.

"Mommy," he says, caressing my cheek with his hot little fingers, "I might come back to your bed later, okay?"

“I want you to try to stay in your bed, Buddy."


“Mommy’s tired. She needs to sleep by herself. She needs her sleep in her own bed.”

“But I need my sleep in your bed.”


I must make it back to bed, because that's where I am next time I wake up.

Suspect #3: Barf-Cat

Barf-Cat, a.k.a. Eugenie
Every cat owner knows this sequence of sounds:
  1. The meow. 
  2. Raspy, strained coughing.
  3. Retching.
  4. Rhythmic gagging.
  5. Splat. 
Here’s the rub: Only steps 4 and 5 are guaranteed. When barf-cat barfs in the middle of the night, she wakes us up with step 4.

The sound invades my sleep, and then my first thought is, Crap, she’s barfing, gonna have to clean that up. My conscious mind makes the connection that the sound is coming from THE BED, and suddenly I bolt upright, heart racing, and throw barf-cat across the room mid-gag. This usually results in some degree of injury to me or the covers, as barf-cat tries to hold on. I can't really blame her. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be thrown while barfing. Then again, I have never been so rude as to vomit on someone else’s bed while they were in it.

Hearing the splat, I fall asleep and hope I remember to look where I step in the morning.

Suspect #4: The DREAM

I don’t dream much, or at least I don’t remember many of my dreams. But there’s one dream I have every night between 4 and 5 am. Every. Single. Night.

I am in a car, or in a class, or on a train, or at the movies. I have to go to the bathroom with a desperation unlike anything my body has ever known. I am fighting back tears, certain I can't hold it another second. Something tickles my throat*; I cough and nearly bust the dam.

Finally, I escape. A bathroom! God Bless Plumbing. Let the trumpets blare, my happy ending is here.

Except... I can't go. My bladder's a burning building, but all the fire exits are locked.

I’m dying here, I’m bursting at the seams, I’m a water balloon about to pop, and I can’t go. It’s some kind of medical emergency I don’t understand. I try to relax, take some deep breaths. I've just been holding it too long. Okay, panic subsiding. I can feel--

Chinese Lantern, a.k.a. Bladder Cherry  
You didn't want a REAL picture, did you?  

I wake up and say a small prayer of thanks that my body knows the difference between dream and reality.

Out of bed, and off to the bathroom. Where I will need to wash the cat vomit off my foot. And now that I know where it is I might as well clean it up.

During my brief absence from bed, face-cat has taken over my whole pillow. I move her, but as I am drifting back to sleep I hear her purring on my ear and then my whole head is soft and warm and my first snore jolts me awake.

The last thing I hear before sleep overtakes me is two little furnace feet padding down the hall.

Does Sarah have a point?

If you've made it this far, you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with writing.

To be honest, it's a tenuous connection at best. Hey, I'm tired. But here goes: Going over my manuscript, I've noticed I have a tendency to dwell on my main character's sleep habits. A lot. I write about her taking naps, about her falling asleep, about her dreams, about her waking up, about her drifting off again. I've probably cut 10,000 words of sleep-related prose.

So here's my writing advice for the day: If your characters are tired, maybe you should put down your pen and take a nap. You probably need the sleep, and your readers will thank you.


*That would be dander from face-cat.


  1. Dying of laughter here.... I've had a few of those late night cat hacking moments, including one where a flimsy futon half collapsed around me as I tried to expel my own barf cat.

    Hope you get some good sleep soon!

  2. LOL, Sarah. I hope you find a way to get more sleep.

    I had a barf cat once too so I feel your pain, and your furnace boy is adorable.

  3. LOL. No cats, but the youngest visits nightly, transformed into a bulldozer of feet.


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