Saturday, December 29, 2007
My grief is well in check, my vacation over and the nasty crud from which I've been suffering has abated enough to clear my mind and allow me to think rationally again. So, here are the 3 things in writing that are essential to me.
Whether fiction or non, if you're writing about a place millions of people know about and have visited - be accurate. If you're not sure of your facts, either do some research on the internet or just go there and see things for yourself. Otherwise, write about someplace else or make a place up because you will immediately lose credibility with those of us who live in a place if you can't write about it factually.
Write from your heart and from your own experience. If you're writing something you haven't experienced, talk to someone who has and question them in depth. It's difficult to have empathy or sympathy for characters who aren't well drawn and truly invested in the story.
Don't be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone or to tackle sensitive subjects or situations, but don't just do it to be sensational. Do it with intent - to educate and enlighten.
As for whom I would give the award to, most of them already have it and it was well deserved. If I could give it to one more person it would be our beloved Miss Snark who through her powerful words and sage advice brought most of us together and educated and enlightened us n the business of writing.
Come back Miss Snark. We miss you!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Hugs to you all!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
12/21/07 - I came home to a mountain of mail, papers and laundry and to work to a mountain of paperwork and projects that - of course - couldn't be completed by anyone but me. Oh, well - it's nice to feel necessary. As soon as I dig out from under all the piles and download my pictures I'll tell you about the trip. Basically, it was wonderful.
I did have one epiphany: I don't dislike my mother because of who she is, but because she wasn't who I wanted her to be. Will explain later.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
At age seven or eight my Aunt Alice took me to Chicago on the train. It was a long trip because we stopped at every tiny little town along the 375-mile route. When we got there, we had to take the commuter train out to her friend’s house. I really wanted to hold on to the strap like all the other commuters so she let me stand on her suitcase in order to reach it and I felt so grown up. I ended up swinging from the strap a couple of times when the train made sudden moves that swept me off the suitcase. It sent me flying through the air holding on to that strap for dear life while my aunt and the other passengers laughed and put me back into a more stable position.
We also took the train down to Florida a couple of times to visit our relatives That was incredibly exciting because it was an overnight trip and by the time we got back from dinner in the dining car, our car had been transformed into a sleeping car with upper and lower berths. I got to sleep in the upper berth and vividly remember hearing the commotion as the train switched tracks in Birmingham to head east to Florida. I didn’t care about visiting the relatives. I just wanted to ride the train.
Going to the movies was a real adventure – in the summer at the local drive-in and the rest of the year at the theater in town. My favorites were romantic comedies, musicals, science fiction and Westerns. And of course, I loved the cartoons. It wasn’t all good though. “Bambi” totally traumatized me and I was so terrified by “Psycho” and “Murders at the Rue Morgue” I haven’t been able to go to a horror movie since. The few times friends tried to drag me to them, I spent the entire movie with my shirt over my head and my fingers in my ears, and once even managed to stay in the bathroom for all but the first 5 minutes. I’ve found this usually prevents them from asking me to go again.
I was a cheerleader in junior high, probably because we lived next door to the cheerleader coach and she took pity on me because of my shyness. I was pretty athletic, so the adults in my life figured this would be a good way to get me some exposure and build my confidence. I was also in the band - the bell lyre and my older sister played the drums because Dad didn’t think it was ladylike to march down the street with your cheeks puffed out and he would not allow his girls to do that.
My Dad got his pilots license and purchased a Cessna 182. Sometimes in the summer he would fly us to North Carolina to see Mom’s relatives or take us on various day trips. Occasionally I sat in the co-pilots seat and he would let me take over the controls – with his complete assistance of course. It was quite an adventure and I loved to fly and wanted to be a pilot when I grew up – among other things.
I learned how to drive in the fall when I turned eleven. It wasn’t an official lesson but it made a lasting impression. My Aunt Alice, who also had a vivid imagination (she was a high school speech and drama teacher in her small town) and had lead what seemed to me to be an exciting life, took me out into the local fields and back roads in her big old Pontiac. She put me in the driver’s seat and sat as close to me as possible – just in case – and away we went speeding through those back roads and fields, laughing all the way. We floored the gas pedal throwing dirt and gravel everywhere, then stomped on the brake leaving tire tracks and divots everywhere.
I was a tall and lanky girl and could just reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel. Fortunately there were no cows in the fields that day. She made me promise never to tell anyone and I kept that promise for over 40 years. Keeping secrets became a specialty of mine.
Then one day I came home to find my mom chasing my dad through the house with a tennis racquet, yelling and screaming at him. My idyllic youth ended in an explosion of emotion, the residue of which covered me with anger, distrust and sadness for years.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
We slept in tent cabins with communal bathrooms and sometimes we peed in the woods. It was very exciting. We went canoeing, rowing, hiking and swimming and learned archery, crafts, shooting and survival skills. We ate all our meals in the big old dining hall and the food was delicious – or at least we thought it was. In the evenings there were big campfires and everyone sat around singing songs like Kumbaya or silly rounds like Kookaburra.
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree.
Merry, merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be.
It was a really fun way to spend the summer and I was always sorry to see it end. I wasn’t one of those kids who missed being home.
My friend Libby lived close by. There were two ways to get to her house; either the long way using the streets, or the shortcut through the little vale between our houses. At first the shortcut seemed really scary. There was a tiny little path and it was usually overgrown with weeds and bushes. There were snakes everywhere in Southern Illinois, including three poisonous kinds – rattlers, copperheads and water moccasins. I hated snakes, so I would run as fast as I could through the shortcut to her house. When it was getting dark, I took the long way home. It probably added three or four more minutes to the trip. (It was a very small town)
For some reason, there was a breeze down in the little vale. When the breeze was strong enough, I used to jump into it and pretend I was flying. Being tall and skinny, I was fairly lightweight and could ride the wind forever, although in reality it was probably only a second or two. I thought I could fly, so undeterred I just kept jumping.
Our elementary school was a typical 2 story brick building with a big central hall and stairway. There were 4 classrooms on each floor – first and second grade on the first floor and third and fourth grade on the second floor. Because of the baby boomers, they put an addition on the school that included 2 large classrooms - one for kindergarten and one for fifth grade. The auditorium/basketball court (which doubled as the lunchroom) was also in the addition.
In elementary school I was a fairly good student although today they would probably diagnose attention deficit disorder because I was often bored and restless. I had one teacher in particular I really liked, Mrs. McLain. I thought she was wonderful and always wanted to do the best for her. I used to gather up bunches of wildflowers – or flowers from my Mom’s beds or the neighbor’s beds – and leave them anonymously on her doorstep. Everyone was within easy walking distance in our town.
In third grade I was having trouble seeing and they diagnosed me with a lazy right eye. That meant glasses and weekly sessions at the eye doctor looking into machines that made funny patterns purported to make my eye more energetic. The doctor thought that may have been why I was always walking into things like poles and trees. I had lots of goose eggs on my forehead. I personally always thought it was because I simply wasn’t paying attention.
I had a great memory and learning by rote was popular then, so anything requiring memorization – like the times tables – was easy. Square dancing was big in our area and callers were always needed. I quickly learned the songs and steps and became a first class caller. My favorite dance was to the tune of “Honeycomb”.
My Mom and Dad were very social people. Dad was usually either working or playing golf. Mom was a full time homemaker. When I started Kindergarten, she returned to school to get her college degree. When she wasn’t at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, 21 miles away, she spent her free time either playing golf or playing bridge with her friends. Our family had dinner together almost every night and when my parents weren’t home we always had a housekeeper to look after us. We weren’t rich but we didn’t lack for anything and we were well cared for.
PS. Thanks Church Lady for the award.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
It was safe for us to wander around. You could walk almost anywhere cutting through the fields and your neighbors’ yards and never worry. There were very few fences. If we wandered too far, someone would invariably call our parents and let them know where we were in case they were looking for us. Mom never locked her car. In fact, she never even took the keys out of it. It would sit in front of the house or a store unlocked with the windows down and the keys in the ignition, and no one ever touched it.
As a child growing up in this environment, my existence was uncomplicated and uncluttered. I was a plain little girl, living in a protective bubble in my small, rural town. Life was simple and carefree. I didn’t have to worry about anything and I was free to let my imagination carry me away.
I devoured Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books and anything else I could read. I spent hours in the library reading and at night under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be asleep. The three television channels we got from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Paducah, Kentucky and Harrisburg, Illinois fascinated me. I was always disappointed when 10:30 rolled around and the National Anthem played and the test pattern appeared. I grew up on Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton, I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriett, Father Knows Best, Captain Kangaroo, The Honeymooners and all the other wonderful shows of the 50’s.
I loved the game shows. One of my favorites was Video Village. It used the contestants as tokens on the three streets of the village and was interactive and fun. I was so enthralled with it I even built my own set – laying out the streets using a roll of butcher paper Mom had for wrapping packages. I memorized the whole show and could play it for hours.
Most of our radio stations were small and played country music with lots of talk and local news. But at night when everything was still, you could get the rock and roll stations from St. Louis 100 miles away. Rock and roll was taboo at first, but gradually it was accepted, especially after Elvis appeared on Ed Sullivan.
We had a party line on the phone, our number was 998-W and our neighbors’ number was 998-R. That sometimes made life interesting unless my Mom caught me listening in on their conversations. My Dad owned a local car dealership at the time and his phone number at work was 405. But when I wanted to talk to him, I just picked up the phone and told the operator that I wanted to talk to my Daddy and she connected me without even asking who I was. It was like magic to me. I thought that was how everyone lived.
Occasionally something really special would happen. The Circus came to town and we got to see all the lions, tigers, bears and elephants up close. We would watch the performers and dream of the day when we would join the circus and go on tour as famous acts with our faces on posters – thrilling the crowds.
Once the Harlem Globetrotters came and performed at the local high school. I actually got to see Meadowlark Lemon and his teammates put on a very funny show and soundly beat the other team. It was incredibly exciting and everyone in town talked about it for months.
There are so many little memories that stick in my mind from childhood. They’re odd flashbacks of things that made me happy. For instance, I was a frustrated architect at heart. Not only did I design and draw houses, almost always in odd shapes, but when the lawn was cut I would take the grass clippings and use them to form outlines of houses – like looking at a giant floor plan. Then my friends and I would assume various roles and pretend we were a family living in the grass house. If one of us got mad at the others for something, we would just kick the ‘walls’ of the house and send the grass clippings flying everywhere. That would signal the end of playing for that day.
My older sister’s best friend had a trapeze hanging from a huge old tree in her back yard. We used to love to go over there and practice being trapeze artists – pretending we were in the circus and wowing the crowds, preparing for when they came back to town and were looking for replacement performers. I always wanted to be a star and would practice posing as I was hanging upside down at some odd angle.
We had a corner grocery store down the street from home – just a little place. We always went there for candy and ice cream bars. They had all the wonderful penny candies in jars and a nickel or dime would buy enough tiny soda bottles or candy lips to keep us happy for hours. To look really cool, we would buy packs of candy cigarettes and pretend we were sophisticated and grown up like movie stars. Almost all the grown-ups and teenagers smoked back then. If we didn’t have any money, they just put it on our account and either we paid the next time we were in or our parents paid.
Mom wanted us to be exposed to culture and expand our horizons, so we took both piano and dance lessons. I hated the piano lessons because of all the practicing. Doing the same things over and over was not my idea of being creative and fun. I thought it was boring. Even today I can’t tell what key anything is in. I always describe it based on how many sharp or flat signs there are in the clefs. “It’s in the key of three sharps or four flats”. My accompanists always seem to know what I’m talking about.
Dancing was okay because at least I was moving around. I took tap and ballet. Tap was fun and reminiscent of the wonderful movie musicals I so loved like “Singin’ In the Rain”. We had recitals and my mother would dress my older sister and me up in matching costumes and we would perform to the polite applause of all the other parents whose children were also exhibiting their skills or lack thereof.
Ballet was a bit harder to incorporate into my fantasy life. They didn’t show ballets on TV and it was really rare for a ballet troupe to perform in Southern Illinois. One thing the ballet teacher emphasized was flexibility. She would have you lie on your back on the mat and have someone hold down one leg while she stretched the other one back to your head.
The first time I saw this, it looked really painful. I was sitting on a window sill and when it was my turn to be stretched, I was so adamant about not doing it I actually pressed into the window so hard I broke it! That scared me more than the stretching. After Mom assured the teacher she would pay for the window, I submitted. Being stretched was the price I paid for breaking that window. To this day I can still lean over with my legs straight and touch the ground with my palms. I am physically flexible.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Yes, it's an outdoor tree, but I have almost 300 ornaments (not including all the glass balls no longer used) and this tree allows me to see them all without having to walk around it. None of them are hidden or forgotten. I've been collecting them since my first apartment in 1970 so pulling out the ornaments brings back a flood of memories. That coupled with a large (for Seattle) snowstorm yesterday has reminded me of a much simpler time in my life.
I was born in a very small town in rural Southern Illinois in what had once been referred to as Bloody Williamson County. It had been the scene of violence, massacres, KKK activities and gangster wars from the late 1800’s through the 1920’s. Fortunately things were peaceful by the time I arrived, but the façade of the hospital still bore scars of the many bullets fired at it during one particularly nasty siege. I wasn’t supposed to be born there, but the hospital in the town where my parents lived burned down three weeks before my older sister was born and it took a while to rebuild things there.
I started out as part of a traditional post-war family. My parents met during World War II. My mother was from North Carolina and my father from Southern Illinois. By the end of the war they were both Captains in the Army. I’m a baby boomer – the second of three girls.
When I was 6 months old, we moved to another small Southern Illinois town - 25 miles from the Mississippi river, 30 miles from the Ohio River, situated in the rolling foothills of the Ozarks with forests and lakes everywhere. At 4,400 people we were one of the bigger towns in the area. Our claims to fame were the state mental hospital and the Bunny Bread factory.
In the spring the countryside was a plethora of color. The acres of budding apple and peach orchards were breathtaking. The fragrance of their lovely pink and white blossoms filled the air and promised delicious fruit in the fall. Wildflowers grew everywhere and fields of happy daffodils greeted you. It was a wonderful time of year.
Summers were incredibly hot and humid. We were lucky because we had huge trees to shade the house and a window-mounted air conditioner. When we were home, we pulled down the shades on the sunny side of the house, closed all the windows and doors and let that sucker run on high. For cooler days or nights, we had a big attic fan to keep the air circulating. But we were used to the conditions so the weather never stopped us from living our daily lives.
Tornados were very common during the summer. You always knew when they were coming because everything would get deathly silent - the birds wouldn’t sing and the air would be absolutely still. Like clockwork, the sirens blared and we would run out into the fields and watch the funnel clouds go by on their way to strike one of the neighboring towns. For some reason they never hit us, so as kids we didn’t worry about them. Even so, during the school year we had tornado drills where we would all go into the hallways and duck and cover.
Late summer was the time to harvest the orchards. The peaches in Southern Illinois seemed sweeter and juicier than anywhere else in the world. We would stop at the roadside stands and buy baskets of them and the owners always gave us samples. Then we would have delicious peach pies or cobblers. Sometimes we would can or freeze them to be enjoyed later. Because we had orchards close to our house, I always managed to sneak in and eat my fill of peaches straight from the trees. They were and still are my favorite fruit.
This was also the time for the county fair – a very big event in our town. There were rides, animals, exhibits, demolition derbies, trotting races, entertainment and lots of good food and events to keep everyone’s minds off the impending start of the new school year. By fair standards, this was a very small one, but it sure seemed big to us when we were growing up.
Autumn was always beautiful. We had lots of deciduous trees that turned brilliant colors. When the leaves fell off, we would rake them into huge piles then run and jump on them like they were gigantic pillows. Autumn was always my favorite because my birthday was in early October. I was just under the cutoff for school, thus always one of the youngest in my class. I started Kindergarten when I was four.
Winters were usually mild. On the extremely rare occasions when it did snow, we would pull out our rusty sleds or cardboard boxes and go hurtling down the hills and then build snowmen before it had a chance to melt. That usually only lasted a few days. Everything stopped when it snowed because it was such a rare occurrence and there was no equipment to clear the roads.
Today in Seattle reminds me of those Southern Illinois snowstorms - a big dump of snow followed by a quick thaw and melting - gone in the blink of an eye. Here - as there - few know how to drive in it, either going too fast or too slow and both creating hazards. But it is beautiful to watch from my window.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
It's one of those super mulit-purpose phones that does everything but the dishes and vacuuming. It does e-mail from business, home, Yahoo and g-mail, surfs the intenet, organizes my calendar, keeps track of my address book, tells me who called and provides my with voice messages when people leave them, plays games, takes pictures, syncs with my GPS and computer and sends me reminders of things I need to do.
I say IT because I still don't know how to do all those things on my own. Occasionally one of the younger people in my office will stop by and give me a brief lesson on the finer points of cell phoning. The things I can actually do by myself are quite handy.
It still has my original message, "Hi it's me. Leave me a message and if I can figure out how to use this thing I'll call you back." Since I still haven't figured out how to use all the features, this seems to be an honest message and I'll keep it for another few months - or possibly years.
I'm becoming somewhat attached to my little cell phone although not as much as those who can't seem to function without them - you know, those who talk and text while they aren't paying attention to their driving, or their children, or to their own privacy while they're giving their account numbers out over their phones in crowded places. I'd ask what they're thinking, but obviously they aren't.
I went without a cell phone for 58 years and actually survived. I'm not sure some people I know could do that.
If you didn't have a cell phone, would you be able to function?
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Maya Reynolds did a wonderful post that included an excerpt on writing by John D. MacDonald. These 2 paragraphs are my favorite:
Compulsive diligence is almost enough. But not quite. You have to have a taste for words. Gluttony. You have to want to roll in them. You have to read millions of them written by other people.
You read everything with grinding envy or weary contempt. You save the most contempt for the people who conceal ineptitude with long words, Germanic sentence structure, obtrusive symbols, and no sense of story, pace or character.
I love Jason Evan’s short fiction contests because they allow quick tastes of many different genres and writing styles. My favorite this time was easily Just Another Monday Morning in Hell by Angelique H. Caffrey. It was easy to read and funny – a true short story. I didn’t need a dictionary to understand any of the words and excessive use of a thesaurus wasn’t evident. The writing was crisp and to the point and it all made sense.
Some of the entries didn’t make sense to me. Perhaps if the authors had another 250 or more words to provide additional details it would have helped, but that would have defeated the purpose of the 250 word limit.
Some of the writing was so flowery and long worded it made me wonder if there was any story at all or if the author was just trying to impress us with their vocabulary.
What I liked were the stories that were like Angelique’s – easy to read, easy to understand and interesting. It didn’t matter which genre they represented. What mattered was the writing. Some of them were very well thought out and Jason’s picks reflected this.
Part of this was inspired by Bernita’s post about language. She recommended reading your writing aloud and since I’ve always done this, I thought it was a brilliant suggestion. If you read aloud and it doesn’t make sense or sound like something someone would actually say, you may need to do some editing – or just use my failsafe method – highlight, delete and start again.
Lottery, Look Me in the Eye, Bad Girl, Evermore – all good examples of interesting, easy to read, well paced books in totally different genres. None of them required excessive adjectives of multiple syllables to make them good. In fact, Lottery was one of the simplest yet most moving novels I’ve read in a long time.
So, the point is if people are reading your works with contempt for the long words, Germanic sentence structure, obtrusive symbols, and no sense of story, pace or character, perhaps you should just simplify.
What have you read lately that’s simple yet effective?
Sunday, November 25, 2007
This seizure happened about 4:30 in the morning and was unlike any others. She had difficulty recovering from it and seemed to be extremely disoriented. I held her until about 7 then got dressed and immediately drove her to the vet. We were there when he opened and he saw us immediately.
He said we could bring her out of it with medication and keep her comfortable, but she would have more seizures and they would be worse each time. He said she would suffer. The decision was obvious and by 11 she was gone.
I cried all the way home and frequently for the next few weeks afterwards. It was quick and done. I didn’t have time to think about it or prepare. All the pain came after the event.
With Rosie, I learned in September that she had bladder cancer and would die within 3 to 6 months. There was time to plan, prepare and pre-mourn. Then at the beginning of November we discovered the lymphoma and the time was shortened dramatically.
When it became obvious it was time to let Rosie go I was prepared. It’s not that I wanted to let her go, but I had come to terms with the inevitability of her death and didn’t want her to suffer. On that Thursday morning leaving for work I knew it was time and she was ready. When I got home, she wagged her tail at me for the first time in several days. I scooped her up and headed straight for the vet before I changed my mind. She rode on my lap and it was obvious she was uncomfortable from the cancer. I cried all the way.
The receptionist knew why we were there the minute she saw us and immediately put us into an empty exam room. The vet walked in seconds later and we discussed the procedure. First, what to do with her afterwards – cremation and a nice blue urn for my mantle.
All the paperwork was signed and he explained there would be two shots. The first would calm her down and relax her and the second would put her down. He gave her the first shot and said it would take about 5 minutes then left.
Since I walked out my door at home, Rosie had been in my arms. I held her, talked to her and cried. It was the right thing to do, but it was unbearably painful. By the time the vet returned she was a lump in my arms. We put her on a big fluffy towel on the table and I held her head, the tech held her body and the vet administered the final shot. It was over within a minute. They left and I stayed with her for a few minutes. As I left the receptionist told me how sorry she was and not to worry about paying right then because they would bill me.
So, Happy went quickly and unexpectedly. Rosie went slowly with plenty of notice. Which way was worst? When Rosie was dying over the last few months, I thought that was the worst, but it’s been a lot easier to move ahead since she died than it was when Happy did. It took weeks to find peace when Happy died, but I felt a sense of peace as soon as Rosie died. Pre-mourning versus mourning. Both hurt like hell and in the end, the result is the same. But they are different.
I cried for weeks after Happy died, but have only been teary-eyed intermittently since Rosie – until this Saturday when I received a sympathy card from the vet’s office. Everyone there – including the 4 vets – not only signed it they also each wrote a note. After reading that yesterday I cried like a baby.
I haven’t been able to write for days and decided not to force myself. Like with Rosie, I figured I would know when it was time. I've kept busy cleaning and reorganizing the house and taking extra good care of Belle who still can't quite figure out where Rosie is.
Today it's time to move on. Today I can write.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I would never equate losing my dog Rosie with losing a person, but the process is similar. On September 29th I blogged about the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
I seem to be wavering between the last 2 stages now.
I know she’s dying. No denial.
Any anger comes from the frustration I feel with myself for sometimes just wanting it to be over.
No bargaining anymore.
Here are the definitions of the other 2 stages and my comments on where I am.
Depression: Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate. We worry about the cost of treatment and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have neglected others. This phase may be eased by a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to say farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.
I’m very sad, but have no regret. I worry about the cost of treatment. I have definitely neglected my friends because I’m reluctant to leave her and can’t afford to board her very often. I’m going to visit some friends on Saturday for an early Thanksgiving dinner and will have to spend the night. I hate to leave her though I know my neighbors will take very good care of her for the few hours I’m away. Preparation to separate and to say farewell – can we ever really be prepared? I am definitely depressed.
Acceptance: Some people never reach this stage. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. They resist the inevitable and deny the opportunity to make peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.
Though depressed, I have accepted the inevitable. She is going to die – soon. The lumps from the lymphoma are getting bigger and more numerous. I can’t rub her head anymore because they are so sensitive. As I rub her tummy and back, new bumps appear and grow almost overnight. Withdrawn and calm – yes.
I’m rational and logical. It’s how I deal with life. It’s how I’m dealing with Rosie’s death even though it hurts and the waiting sucks.
My friend Barb’s husband has been dying for 4 years. He’s had one cancer after the other and is now down to 105 pounds. I’ve tried to be supportive and helpful to her, but don’t feel I ever truly understood how wearing it is until now. In the last couple of months she's finally started to move towards acceptance.
Knowing how difficult this is for me with my sweet dog, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for her and those who are going or have been through this process with a person they love.
I am in awe of them.
Monday, November 12, 2007
One day, in line at the company cafeteria, Joe says to Mike behind him, 'My elbow hurts like hell. I guess I'd better see a doctor.'
'Listen, you don't have to spend that kind of money,' Mike replies. 'There's a diagnostic computer down at Wal-Mart. Just give it a urine sample and the computer will tell you what's wrong and what to do about it. It takes ten seconds and costs ten dollars . . A lot cheaper than a doctor.'
So, Joe deposits a urine sample in a small jar and takes it to Wal-Mart. He deposits ten dollars, and the computer lights up and asks for the urine sample. He pours the sample into the slot and waits..
Ten seconds later, the computer ejects a printout: 'You have tennis elbow. Soak your arm in warm water and avoid heavy activity. It will improve in two weeks. Thank you for shopping @ Wal-Mart.'
That evening, while thinking how amazing this new technology was, Joe began wondering if the computer could be fooled. He mixed some tap water, a stool sample from his dog, urine samples from his wife and daughter, and a sperm sample for good measure.
Joe hurries back to Wal-Mart, eager to check the results. He deposits ten dollars, pours in his concoction, and awaits the results. The computer prints the following:
1. Your tap water is too hard. Get a water softener. (Aisle 9)
2. Your dog has ringworm. Bathe him with anti-fungal shampoo. (Aisle 7)
3. Your daughter has a cocaine habit. Get her into rehab.
4. Your wife is pregnant. Twins. They aren't yours. Get a lawyer.
5 If you don't stop playing with yourself, your elbow will never get better!
Thank you for shopping @ Wal-Mart
Friday, November 9, 2007
We arrived at the Lihue airport with plenty of time to catch our flight. There were weather issues around Hawaii and our flight was 45 minutes late taking off. We were assured we would have plenty of time to make our flight in Honolulu. If you consider running to your gate to find the plane already loading plenty of time, they were correct.
Six hours later we stood at the baggage claim realizing we made the plane but our luggage didn’t. It was 11:30 pm in Seattle and my pillow was calling so I filled out the forms, caught the shuttle and happily spent the night in my own bed.
Knowing my girls were getting baths first thing Monday morning, I called the vets and asked them to call me when they were ready for pick up. About 10 I received the call with news that the Dr. wanted to talk to me. That’s never a good thing to hear when you have a sick dog, so off I went.
First they brought Belle and she and I were very happy to see one another. Then the vet himself brought in Rosie. She seemed a bit out of it and he showed me large bumps on several spots on her body. He recommended a biopsy and I decided to just leave her there and get it done. I would pick her up after work and would hear the results within 3 to 5 days.
We three spent that night together as a happy family and they even ‘helped’ me unpack when my luggage arrived at 7 pm. Could it have been the Hawaiian doggie treats?
At 6:30 the following night he called. The news wasn’t good. Not only does she have bladder cancer, she also has lymphatic cancer. Our 3 to 5 months turned into 2 to 4 weeks. He gave me several options for treatment in hopes of prolonging her life by a month or two. But my response was, “No. We’re done. No more tests, treatments or medications. Leave her in peace. When she starts to suffer, I’ll bring her in and we’ll let her go.”
He didn’t even try to argue with me. He knew it was the right thing to do, but as a medical professional it was his responsibility to give me all the options.
So now I sit on death watch. I observe her every movement, watch to see if she’s eating, pooping, peeing and listen to her for signs of breathing difficulties. I hold her and love her and attempt to make her final days as comfortable as possible.
My last dog went very quickly. She had a seizure about 4 am. We were on the vet’s doorstep at 8 am and she was gone by 11 am. It was over and done, I mourned and moved on. It hurt like hell, but it was fast.
This is so much worse. I learned she was dying at the end of September. Since then I’ve cried periodically, and had intermittent headaches and body aches related to the stress. I fight to hold myself together; to not tell people how petty and ridiculous some of their whines are.
I don’t want her to die, but I want this to be over.
Is that selfish?
Thursday, November 8, 2007
So, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to discuss what we did before......
Today, I pose the question: What did we do before television?
If you're old enough to remember what it was like, tell me what you did. If you've never lived without TV, tell me what you think people did.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
The entries were all great, honestly. I vote for annon, however. I liked the "twist" in the end. The reveal that it is a 43 year old man's mom who is running circles around him. That is great showing, not telling.
Mary Witzl said:
The Anonymous Writer's mother/son pair are a wonderful surprise because the reader is so certain they are a married couple.
This is really difficult for me because we had 3 good entries. Yes, only 3. I wrote the Anonymous entry hoping to inspire you and Cyn hit on exactly what I wanted to see in each entry – SHOW, DON’T TELL!
I said to create a character between 55 and 70, and the first thing you all did was TELL me how old they were. Depending on the reader, that can create a first impression difficult to overcome. That was my main objection to the 3. Here are my opinions on them.
I like that June cares about herself and how she looks, keeps herself fit, has a career that keeps her busy and doesn’t feel compelled to provide babysitting services to her grandchildren at every opportunity. You were about 100 words over the 250 limit and I feel you tried too hard to overcome the fact she was 65 and a grandmother of 3. I wish you had started out telling us about her busy career and walking 50 blocks a day and then moved into the other facts.
You didn’t need to tell us John was 70. Placing him in the Korean War as a gangly boy gives us his approximate age. The trophy wife thing was a bit of overkill. The second paragraph was very descriptive and having him take flying lessons at his age is a very nice touch. I might have ended it by having the pilot say something like, “What a great birthday present to yourself.”
If you hadn’t told me Joyce’s age in your intro, I never would have known. I like that she had a non-traditional job. My only concern is that you never showed in any way that she was 62. There was nothing to hint at her age and that was what the exercise was about. Overall though a good job
I liked each entry and appreciate you all for making the effort. However, I feel Church Lady came closest to what I was trying to demonstrate.
Congratulations Chris. Send me an e-mail and we’ll get your gift certificate to you.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Sixty-five year old June Park is the mother of two grown women and a grandmother of three. Her shoulder length hair dyed black to match the color of he youth and still wearing the same makeup style that she had been using for twenty years. Her daughters always complained she wore too much foundation, but they didn't have a blotchy complexion. Their clear skinned complexions were the product of good healthy living in the states, June envied her daughters their beautiful skin. She slipped into her size four Ann Taylot suit and smiled at the thought that she was thinner than both her daughters. Sometimes she would tease her oldest girl about how much thinner she was. Once she had to borrow a pair of her pants and she had mocked her by pulling out the size ten waistband and commenting that she could fit another person in there with her. Boy did her daughter hate that! But she did it for her own good, it was her way of trying to convince her to lose weight. Stepping out into the living room, she saw her husband sitting on the couch. His hair had gone all white and he refused to dye it. Their girls thought it looked great, very distinguished, but it bothered June, wondering if it made her look older just by being with him. No, of course not. She still looked young. She took great care of her body. She walked fifty city blocks every single day. Her life as a NY city realtor meant alot of canvassing of the city. It kept her fit, and thin. She loved her grandkids, but thanked her stars that they lived four states away from her. Whenever she missed them, she'd go visit, but it was more like once every other month or so. She loved them, but she couldn't fathom a life of being just a grandma. No she was too busy. Life had gotten more interesting now that she had become successful later in life. Life was good, better than it had ever been before and she would enjoy every moment of it.
Church Lady said...
Here's a quickie draft, about 62 year-old Joyce:
"Who do you want? Raynar or Shamu?" the stable boy asked.
"Shamu. But I'll get him. He's still out in the ring." Joyce buckled her riding helmet and jogged over to the ring.
"Tch, tch, tch," Joyce called, and Shamu trotted toward her. She held a carrot and watched horse slobber gather around the bit.
"Miss Joyce?" A twelve-year old girl stretched her arm to pet Shamu.
"Is it about the dressage competition?""Yeah."
"If you can get your diagonals done today, you can sign up."
"Thanks! I've been practicing in my head all night. I know I can do it."
"I know you can too." Joyce climbed through a gap in the fence and checked Shamu's tack. "Are you ready?"
"Am I riding Shamu today?" The girl felt shy around such a forward horse.
Joyce nodded and motioned toward the saddle.
"You're the best riding instructor, ever!" The girl climbed into the saddle and began her stretches.
“We’re halfway,” Ann said.
“I’ll never make it.” Jim was ready to quit, but he couldn’t let Ann beat him. It would be humiliating and she’d never let him forget. He kept reminding himself, I’m 43. I’ve trained for the last 6 months. I can do this
Jim wondered how she could be in such great shape. She wasn’t even winded. “Why did I let you talk me into this? This is a really stupid idea,” he said.
Ann laughed and ran a little circle around him. “Don’t be such a wimp. You were 30 pounds overweight and had trouble breathing walking up a flight of stairs. All you did was sit at your desk all day then go home and park yourself in your recliner, watch TV, eat and drink beer. I just wanted to inspire you to get off your ass and get back into shape.”
“So, you thought running a marathon was the best way? Couldn’t we have done Yoga or something less stressful?”
“In your condition anything was stressful. Listening to you complain for the last 6 months hasn’t exactly been a pleasure, but unlike you I stayed focused on the goal instead of the immediate discomfort.”
“Sometimes I hate you,” Jim said.
“Sometimes I hate you too.”
“No you don’t. You always love me.”
“So you think,” Ann laughed.
Jim looked at the woman running next to him and though how very lucky he was to have a mother who cared so much about him.
On the eve of his 70th birthday, John and his 55-yr-old wife (his "trophy wife" they both liked to say) took a moment to assess his life as they waited for the plane to arrive.
He'd come a long way from that gangly boy who'd been shipped to Korea to fight the Communists. He'd come a long way from the world-weary too-soon-experienced young man who worked his way through law school while raising a growing family. He'd come a long way from interrogating drunks in Bourbon Street backrooms as an FBI agent.
His recent physical proved he was healthier than the stepdaughter 1/3rd his age. And, though not fleet of foot, he could outwalk anyone he knew.
He watched the small plane touch the ground and taxi to within a few yards. The pilot walked over to him and said, "Now that you've gone through all the class instruction, just give me a few minutes to refuel the plane, and we'll be ready for your first flying lesson."
Monday, October 29, 2007
Pick an age between 55 and 70 and in 250 words or less create a character for a novel or short story, and I want details about them - not just physical details either. Give me a character who stands on their own physically, emotionally, mentally and intellectually and one who defies stereotypes of age.
Put your descriptions in the comments section of this post or the previous one, but think carefully before you post. Stereotypes of any type should be avoided.
As of this post, there are 2 good entries from Ello and Church Lady.
The person who develops the most realistic, least stereotypical character will receive a $20 Amazon.com gift certificate to be awarded on November 6th when I return from Hawaii.
Aloha and Pomaika`i!
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Comments on stereotyping by race, hair color, occupation, nationality, IQ, disability, etc. are everywhere, but agism doesn't have such a wide reach.
Consider this; baby boomers are those born between 1945 and 1957 and 'shadow' boomers from 1958 to 1964. We comprise nearly 28% of the adult US population and have way more than our share of the disposable income. Unlike the youth of today, we were brought up reading. TV was just coming onto the scene when we were born, so we didn't grow up with endless entertainment choices. We read!
I've read - or started to read - several articles, books and stories lately with baby boomers as minor or secondary characters. Nothing irritates me more or causes me to stop reading faster than the grinning sweet little granny or poor lonely Mr. or Ms. Whosit in their 50's, 60's and 70's whose only purpose is to serve as a source of fluff or pity. And why do they all have ample laps or walk with canes and have to wear glasses?
When I asked you to describe the person in the picture I didn't want you to think about me, I wanted you to think against the stereotype of a 59 year old woman and find a new way to describe the baby boomers. If you hope to sell books to us - and you should because we're a huge market and we read - you need to write to us.
So here's a challenge for you. Pick an age between 55 and 70 and in 250 words or less create a character for your novel or short story, and I want details about them - not just physical details either. Put your descriptions in the comments section of this post. Think carefully before you post. Stereotypes of any type should be avoided.
The person who develops the most realistic character will receive a $20 Amazon.com gift certificate to be awarded on November 6th when I return from Hawaii.
Good luck and feel free to tell your fellow bloggers.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Saturday morning – 9 a.m. There was that horrible sound again. All my neighbors were starting their lawnmowers. The steady hum of all their machines gliding effortlessly over all those beautifully manicured lawns was just too much for me on that particular morning. My conscience finally got the best of me and I resolved that the time had come to break down and buy a lawnmower.
It may not sound like a big deal, but I managed to blow it totally out of proportion. It had become a task as intimidating as purchasing a new car from a slick salesman. Being a single woman that was truly frightening! I jumped in my car, opened the garage door, pulled out and got away before any of my neighbors had a chance to yell at me about the height of my grass and their falling property values.
I drove into the parking lot of the local home and garden superstore and summoned all my courage as I prepared to face my fate. “Please, God, let the perfect lawnmower be here for me,” I pleaded silently. I walked into the gigantic warehouse and the first thing I saw was a lawnmower. A chill went up my spine.
It was a brand name. That was good - I assumed. It offered features that were on my wish list. It was electric (no gas, gas cans, fires, explosions, etc.). It was cordless (no running over the extension cord every time I used it like my mom always did). It mulched (no stopping every few feet to haul heavy bags of clippings). It would go for an hour before needing to be charged so it should do most of my lawn on one charge. It could adjust to even jungle high grass (I could quickly tame my lawn before my neighbors got a petition together to have me evicted). Whoa! Could this be true? It was affordable. Fully assembled, it would only set me back $180, plus tax of course.
This was too much for me. There had to be a mistake. I wasn’t 20 feet from the entrance and here was the perfect lawnmower. Unbelieving, I walked past this machine and approached the section with all the lawn and garden equipment. There they were – at least 50 different lawnmowers of all shapes and sizes just waiting to cut me down to size. They mulched, bagged, blew, raked, aerated, thatched, tilled, dug, edged and chewed and spit out grass in all manners imaginable. Some you could ride on, some propelled themselves and some required person power. The prices ranged from ouch to aargh.
I could feel the pain in my pocketbook, my head started to throb and my knees were getting weak. A salesman approached. Oh, no. I’m doomed. “I need a lawnmower and I don’t have much money, and I don’t want to have to deal with gas or bags or extension cords or clippings or any of that stuff”, I gushed before he could say a word.
The salesman smiled knowingly and took me gently by the arm. “I think we have just what you’re looking for,” he said reassuringly. “Why don’t you come over here and let me show you what I recommend.” In a daze, I followed him to a spot about 20 feet from the front door of the store where the salesman pointed to that lawnmower I spotted when I first came in to the store
I was stunned and stood in disbelief while he told me why this was the perfect lawnmower for me. Fate, I thought. I requested assistance from heaven, it was provided, and as usual, I ignored it. The salesman helped me wheel the fully assembled beauty to the checkout stand, made sure they charged me the correct price, and then helped me put it into my car.
I drove home with an incredible feeling of relief, suddenly noticing that the sun was shining, birds were singing and people were happy and smiling. I pulled into my driveway, hopped out of the car, threw open the back of my car, and called to the man across the street (in my loudest voice so all my neighbors could hear) to come help me get my new lawnmower out of the car.
A crowd gathered round as we pulled it out and put it on the ground. I could hear the murmurs of approval and oohs and aahs as it started flawlessly and began to mow through the calf high grass that would soon, once again, be my lawn.
It’s been a while now since that first wonderful day of mowing madness overtook me. Gradually I lowered the wheels until the lawn reached the perfect height, cut by the perfect lawnmower. I am the envy of every woman in the neighborhood (and secretly many of the men) - me and my cordless, electric beauty.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
When I open the book, character and place names can also keep me moving forward or distract me to the point of frustration. If most of them have highly unpronouncable names of great length, my chance of reading more than a couple of chapters drops exponentially with every additional syllable or hyphen. I personally think you can name your characters just about anything simple as long as you're telling a great story.
One thing I really appreciate is clever and descriptive names for stores and shops. I'm not talking about the ones that describe the place in detail, but short evocative names that make me take notice and nod in approval and agreement.
This post was inspired by a name change at my favorite drive-thru coffee stand. It was recently sold and renamed 'Brewed Awakenings'. Now that is a very clever and descriptive name!
What names have you created that would make me smile and nod?
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Are you thinking?
This person is a baby boomer – 59 years young.
Does that surprise you? If so, why?
Lately, several things I’ve read have lead me to believe I should:
· Have grey hair – perhaps dyed,
· Walk with a cane or walker,
· Wear oversized housedresses or slacks with only elastic waistbands,
· Wear orthopedic shoes,
· Go to bed at 8:30 or 9:00 every night – including weekends,
· Have a lifetime supply of batteries for my hearing aids,
· Have an extra cabinet devoted to all my medications,
· Say, “Oh dear” incessantly,
· Run around patting people on the back, head or pinching their cheeks,
· Wear bottle bottom glasses,
· Be overweight and out of shape,
· Sit around knitting and watching TV while I’m babysitting my grandchildren,
· Never think about sex,
· And, well, shall I go on and on ad infinitum?
Here are some facts for you.
· I just started turning grey in the last couple of years. My hair isn’t dyed. What you see is my natural color.
· I don’t use anything to assist me in walking. In fact, I normally walk about 2 miles every day after work and I work out with weights. How about you?
· I wear very stylish clothes that are in excellent condition.
· I wear stylish shoes including some with 3” heels and my ankles don’t wobble or my feet suffer from doing so.
· I go to bed between 10 and 10:30 on weekdays because I get up at 6 am to get ready for work. Sometimes I stay up until midnight or later. Ooooooooo!
· My hearing is excellent - better than some much younger people who have ruined theirs with booming music from I-pods or standing too close to speakers at rock concerts.
· I only take one regular medication.
· I’m more likely to say “Oh shit” than “Oh dear”.
· If you’re a hot man, I’m more likely to pat your behind than your back – surreptitiously of course!
· I had lasik surgery, although I still need reading glasses.
· I’m neither overweight or out of shape.
· I have a fixer house and have done most of the work myself, so sitting around knitting just won’t work for me and I don’t babysit.
· I think about sex – a lot!
My point is; we’re baby boomers – not dead. Don’t depict us all as cute little grannies or poor lonely souls.
I would put myself up against any of you intellectually, emotionally and mentally and I could probably physically kick most of your asses.
QUIT STEREOTYPING US!
Friday, October 19, 2007
Religious healing program
Grandma and grandpa were watching a religious healing program on TV.
The evangelist called to all who wanted to be healed, to put one hand on the TV and the other on the body part they wanted healed.
Grandma hobbled to the TV and put one hand on the TV and the other on her arthritic hip.
Grandpa made his way to the set and put one hand on the TV and the other on his crotch.
Grandma looked at him with disgust. "You just don't understand, you old coot. The purpose of this program is to heal the sick, not raise the dead.”
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I have 6 books in my to-be-read pile right now. I’m half way through Evermore by Lynn Viehl and really like it, but am having difficulty finding time to read it. Next up is Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison and I can’t wait to read it. I’m not one of those people who can read more than one book at a time, so lack of time to do this is very frustrating. I can’t go to a regular or an online bookstore right now even though there are many more books I want to buy because I don’t want to put myself even farther behind.
I started a new list of items that need to be accomplished around my house. Right now there are 22 things on it of varying size and difficulty – and cost.
I have several cross stitch projects to finish for a dear friend and need to have them done by next August. I’m not sure I’m going to make it and that makes me crazy. (I will probably make it, but it will still drive me crazy.)
I’m about ¾ of the way through my de-cluttering process and want to finish.
My body keeps falling apart piece by piece and the stress of the last couple of months with my dog Rosie, my sewer, my work environment and all the health issues is taking its toll.
I want to take a couple of online writing classes but don’t have the time right now. I don’t have time to write and I really want to write. I barely have time to blog on a regular basis and I love blogging. I especially love reading other blogs because there are some amazing people out there in blogland.
I’m incredibly busy at work and there are things going on that will cause some changes for others that will be surprising. It will be a good thing, but definitely unexpected. I’m one of only a couple of people who know about this. I hate secrets and yet I have to keep them and am very good at it.
I’m taking control and setting some priorities. This weekend I’m going to make a master list of all the things I want and need to do and decide where to start. I have too many balls in the air and need to complete some things so I can move on to others.
What do you do when you get overwhelmed?
Monday, October 15, 2007
For example, when I lived in Chicago the first 5 years, I lived in 4 different places and had 4 different jobs. The second 6 years there I lived in 4 different places and had 3 different jobs. I was improving. I was only in Vegas for 1 ½ years – 1 place, 1 job.
I’ve lived in Seattle for 21 years. In the first 13 years I had 9 jobs although 4 of them were part time second jobs. I’m in my 8th year at my current job.
In the first 8 years here, I moved 6 times. I’ve owned my home for 13 years now.
I’m definitely improving.
Commitment phobic people like me don’t like conflict and we deal with it by running from it. The dichotomy is we’re only running from ourselves. Rather than facing our problems and fixing them, we run from them and hope they don’t follow us. Inevitably, just when we believe we’ve run fast and far enough, they tap us on the shoulder and say hi.
As aware of this as I am, whenever I run into a conflict my first instinct is still to run.
Fortunately running isn’t as easy as it used to be. When you’re a renter, moving is as easy as moving out when your lease is up. Yes it can be a lot of work, but it’s easy. When you own a house that needs some work, it’s harder to walk away.
I recently made a new list of all the things that still need to be done to my house – about $20,000 worth – and then my drain collapsed and I added $6,100 to that total. My first reaction was to go on the internet and start looking at houses – new houses and condos that don’t need work. The problem with all of them was location. They weren’t in my neighborhood with my wonderful neighbors. I can’t move. I’m taking some money out of savings and finishing my house. I love where I am and can easily stay here another 13 years. By completing all my projects I can enjoy my home and focus on other things. I’m staying put.
My job has also been a center of unhappiness lately. I was so frustrated I updated my resume and started hunting through the want ads. The problems with all of them was, I really like where I work now and only have about 7 more years until I retire. I can definitely stay here for that long. They pay me well and I have great benefits. At my age, benefits are really important. So I had a long talk with my boss at lunch the other day and we resolved the problems. They like me value me and want me to stay. I’m staying put.
All the changes in my home and job won’t happen at once, but they will happen within the next 6 to 9 months. I can wait that long.
I am commitment phobic but in most areas of my life I control it now, it no longer controls me.
Sometimes staying put feels really good!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
This started out to be a short story about the benefits of research and development in the treatment of cancer and other diseases. My maternal grandmother and I had the same cancer, but our outcomes were very different. In the thirty years from the time she died from the disease until I contracted it, there had been enough research done to make Pap tests a part of routine physicals and early detection wasn’t only possible but probable. Also, methods of treating cervical cancer had vastly improved and there were more options for managing and even eliminating it.
Now, twenty-five years later research has led to the identification of the cause of some forms of cervical cancer and a vaccine to help prevent those forms. As a beneficiary of the research, I am most grateful to all those researchers who have worked so hard to make a difference in our lives. It takes time, and it takes money. Every minute and every dollar spent brings us that much closer to a time when we will eradicate this disease and many others.
Life can be difficult enough without adding the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual stress that comes from having cancer or any other disease. Research and development in these areas is critical and I hope everyone will support it by giving generously of their time and money.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
As a very wise woman once told me, “You can change.” I changed. It’s harder than hell but it can be done. The most difficult part is convincing people who have known you for years that you have actually changed. Many people don’t like change and don’t deal with it very well. They cling to the past as if to a lifebuoy, afraid of what’s ahead even if what’s behind was worse.
People try to keep you in the past, or continue to make references to how you were instead of letting you move forward. They don’t necessarily do it maliciously. They may not even realize that what they’re saying or how they’re acting is hurtful. They haven’t come to terms with their past experiences and allowing you to move forward would force them to deal with their own issues. I understand this and am happy to have found a way out of the maze. I try to live in the present, not the past or the future. I try to live every day as if it’s the only day that matters because it just may be.
Changing is a constant struggle and requires unwavering attention and introspection. Sometimes to accomplish it, you have to distance yourself from your past. You have to put space between yourself and the memories of who you were. Sometimes that space requires a physical move – far away where you can start fresh without all the people around to remind you of how completely you screwed up your life. It can be emotionally isolating but also very liberating. It requires making a decision about what’s most important – placating other people, or making yourself happy.
I don’t blame anyone for my bad choices. That’s the easy thing to do and it shifts responsibility for my decisions to others. Once I left home the decisions I made were all mine. No one forced me to do anything. Some people influenced me more than others but no one controlled my mind. I accept full responsibility for everything that happened to me. I live every day with the knowledge of my past mistakes but I don’t suffer from them anymore. I learned from them and moved on to a much happier life.
I don’t see myself as selling out for not taking my family and others to task for what they did or said to me years ago. I see it more as me taking back control of my life. They no longer have the ability to make me feel bad or inadequate because I won’t let them. They have no more power over me and what I do or how I feel. My choices in life are no longer dictated by what they might think or feel about me.
People who aren’t content with themselves will never be content with another person. Dragging another person into my issues isn’t going to solve them. It’s just going to make two people miserable.
I haven’t forgotten anything from my past. That’s both a problem and an advantage of having a good memory. I remember everything – good and bad, funny and sad. No matter what emotion or circumstance, except for a few hours in Haiti, I remember it all. I remember the situations, the emotions that accompanied them and the pain they caused. However, I no longer feel the pain nor do I suffer from the memories. I learned how to put the pain away and have replaced it with the comfort of knowing I not only survived it, I grew and prospered.
I’ll never forget. I don’t want to. It keeps me humble and in touch with what’s important. I’m not just a survivor. I’m a thriver. I made a conscious choice to live my life being happy. I may be temporarily affected by what people say or do but I have no intention of allowing anyone to permanently change my choice to enjoy my life.
I did some pretty stupid things in my past but I don’t do them anymore and I don’t allow others to make me wallow in them either. Holding on to memories of how you were wronged is not going to make things right again. Forgiving (or at least forgetting) will. We have to move forward and leave the wrongdoers in our past where they belong.
Choices can be proactive or reactive. You can live life from the outside in, always focusing on external things to provide you with stimulus and meaning, or you can live life from the inside out by giving external things stimulus and meaning. You can live by your own decisions or you can live based on the decisions of others. You can live your dreams or you can live the dreams of others. It’s your choice. You have to define yourself not allow others to do it for you.
I haven’t resolved all the issues in my life, but I have arrived at a place where most of the things that were so important and urgent 25 years ago are now either non-issues or under control. I have a true sense of appreciation of life. I have something a lot of people who’ve had cancer or any serious disease will never have. I have the opportunity to continue working on my issues and looking for solutions.
I have hope for the future and a present full of good friends, a wonderful job, several “families” and two darling dogs who think I am the greatest – especially when I give them treats. And best of all, I no longer aspire to be a drama queen. In fact, I’ve grown very fond of my easy, comfortable, low trauma way of life. If I wasn’t me, I might just envy me!
I have lots of love in my life but not the love of my life. That’s okay. One of those unresolved issues is a fear of relationships. I don’t want to be a hotel again and I don’t want to check into any more hotels. I have too much self esteem now to do that to myself again. There’s a real difference between being alone and being lonely. I recognize the difference and I’m happier alone than I’ve ever been in a relationship. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up the idea of finding true love, just that without it, I’m still good.
I’m at a point where I’m so sure I’ll screw up an intimate relationship that I won’t even allow myself to get involved in one. I no longer suffer from the dissolution of my relationships, I just quietly lament not having any in the first place. Do I want one? Yes, I do. But wanting something and being open to it can be mutually exclusive. I want a relationship, but I’m not open to it. I know myself too well to put another person through that. The interior scars are too deep. It’s my own fault for letting it go on for so long.
Writing this gives me another opportunity to maintain my perspective. I can focus on the fact I had this health issue that overwhelmed me and redirected my life for over twenty five years, or I can focus on the fact the health issue was the catalyst that allowed me to change and become who I am today. What an interesting conundrum. Did I have the disease, or did I allow it to have me? Or, both? And does it really matter?
I love old movies and one of my favorites is “White Christmas”. In that movie Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sang a song that I use now as my mantra when I’m starting to get overwhelmed.
But somewhere along the line it took on a life of its own. The farther into it I got, the easier it was to write and the more the words flowed out of me. Now as I sit here putting the finishing touches on it I feel a lot lighter and happier. I wonder why it seemed like such a daunting task. It almost makes me want to go out and hug a tree or something. Or, maybe I’ll just stay inside and eat a truffle and hug my dogs.
Life should be a blessing. Always maintain your perspective. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Never give up hope. You can change.
Friday, October 5, 2007
The factual errors are more irritating to me. I live in Seattle and for some reason many authors (and TV shows) base their stories here. We have traffic problems and are surrounded by water. We also have well known landmarks that haven’t moved since they were constructed. However authors have people who live on the peninsula leaving home and arriving in Seattle in 15 minutes. That’s only possible with a helicopter. They have them living on Queen Anne and driving across one of the Lake Washington bridges to arrive at a job or appointment near the Space Needle. The Space Needle is at the bottom of Queen Anne hill. It’s about a 5 minute drive – no bridges required. It’s obvious the author doesn’t know the city.
If they want to write about a specific, well known place, they should thoroughly research it – perhaps even travel there. I’ve stopped reading in the middle of some books because they were so inaccurate. If they don’t want to do the research it would be better to just make up a city.
Why do people do this? Why do they write about places where millions of people live and visit every year and make up facts about them? Do they really think no one will notice? The internet is full of information about almost every place on Earth. Why can’t they spend a couple of hours looking at maps, reading some local newspapers, reading tourist info from the Chamber of Commerce or even asking friends who live there or have been there for information? If they don’t want to take the time to get their facts correct, why don’t they just make up a city or town or country? It would be more believable and far less irritating.
Am I nuts, or does this drive you crazy too?
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
One thing I’ve come to believe is WE are the most precious gifts we can give. The gift of our time, our spirits, our intellect, our bodies and our love is more valuable than any material things we can offer. We shouldn’t give ourselves away to people who don’t deserve us and won’t appreciate us.
I haven’t totally given up on finding someone special but whoever applies for this position is going to have to jump through a lot of hoops before he reaches my bed. First he’s going to have to become my friend – someone I can talk to about anything, anytime and anyplace. He’s going to have to earn my trust. Good luck with that! Absolute, total and complete honesty will be a non-negotiable requirement.
He’ll have to be intelligent and witty. There are 24 hours in a day and approximately eight of them are taken up with sleeping. That leaves the possibility of spending 16 hours some days with this person. Depending on their age and health, sex might only fill a few minutes of that time so you have to be able to talk to them.
The man who finally snags me will also have to understand I still have residual abandonment and intimacy issues. I’m totally aware of this and have been working on it for a long time but it is a deep-seeded part of my psyche and it fights with my rational mind for control of me in many situations. I used to believe it would help to have someone who shared and had overcome these same types of issues. Now I think it would be better to have someone who just recognizes them and won’t allow me to dwell on them. Having a relationship with another person with these issues could be a recipe for disaster and I have experienced enough disasters. I don’t want to complete someone. I want someone who’s already complete.
He’ll have to be patient. Having read this far you should understand why by now. And he’ll need to have a really good sense of humor – an absolute must. He also must like animals – especially dogs. My dogs will have to approve of him. He must be financially independent because I am. I’ve supported men before and have no intention of ever doing it again. And, no skanks! He must be good looking with great self esteem – only humble.
He has to have his own friends and interests and not rely on me to entertain him all the time. I have wonderful friends and enjoy spending time with them. I don’t intend to stop spending time with my friends and I really do enjoy being alone sometimes. I don’t mind if he goes out to play with his friends and he is not allowed to mind if I go out and play with mine. I don’t want a clinging vine. No angst allowed!
Based on all of this, I probably won’t be getting married or into any kind of serious relationships any time soon.
I’ve often thought I should move to Italy. I have a friend who’s married to an Italian man. He says Italian men really appreciate older women because of their wisdom and experience. He says I would be a goddess there and the men would value my wisdom and strength. They would think I was sexy and desirable because they’re looking beyond the exterior and more concerned with what’s inside. He says younger women may look better but older women ARE better. If I’m ever rich enough I think I’ll rent a house in Tuscany for a while and test his theory. Of course my friend could be full of bull and just trying to make me feel better, but it’s nice to think about and I may try it eventually.
Maybe some day I’ll find someone who’ll love me enough to stick around and help me get through all of my issues – someone who’ll care about me enough to prevent me from running at the first sign of tension. When people are tense or angry it makes me cower inside. I think it’s a response to the memory of the yelling and arguing I witnessed as a child, but at the first sign of it all I want to do is head for the nearest exit. Then the chances of seeing me again are very slim. I’m not a fighter.
Anyway, men are last on my list of demons because they are my biggest challenge and obviously I still need to do a little work here. However, I’ve resolved not to fail in this arena again even if that means many more years without someone. And I won’t compromise. Until I meet someone with whom I’m compatible physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually I will stay single.
Maybe when I’m in my nineties in the retirement community, with failing eyesight and poor hearing, my prince charming will roll up to me and make a pass. If I try to hit him with my cane and miss, I’ll know he’s the one.
Well, that's it - my chapter on men. I welcome any and all comments and thanks for reading!
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
I’ve spent a lot of time coming to terms with my problems with men and sex. Over the past few years I worked to redefine my relationships and thought I made tremendous progress. About a year ago I told a friend I might be ready to try dating again. When she picked herself up off the floor, she suggested I try one of the internet dating sites.
Three months later (because I never do anything that has the potential to be life changing without thinking it to death anymore) after she and my other friends badgered me relentlessly every day about my NEED to do it, I signed up at one of the big national sites which shall remain nameless because I don’t want to get sued.
I’m a no-nonsense person and I don’t take crap from anyone anymore – just ask my bosses and the other people with whom I work. My philosophy is, if you can’t truthfully say something nice just walk away smiling. It confuses the heck out of people and makes me pretty happy. I decided my profile needed to be absolutely truthful – no lies - because I didn’t want any misunderstandings of whom I was or what I expected. When it comes to men, I lived a lie my whole life. This seemed like a good time to be completely honest.
First I included the word mean in my screen name. Now I’m not really mean but occasionally people who don’t know me have interpreted things I said while being sarcastic as being mean. I am incredibly sarcastic and make no apologies for it, so putting mean in there just seemed honest. Here’s the profile I submitted:
Perfectly happy and content woman living a good life. Friends think I need a man because they all have them and want me to suffer too. No strings, no nutcases, no needy men should respond. Only those who are financially secure will be considered, because I do not need or want to be supported and am totally unwilling to support you financially.
You must be emotionally and spiritually well adjusted and basically liberal to middle of the road - willing to see all sides and not be firmly rooted in any religious or political crap. You must also be very intelligent and have a great sense of humor and be fairly busy with your own life because I really don’t want a clinging vine.
You must be good looking and in good shape. I walk my dog often and you have to be able to keep up with me. I am incredibly picky and like people who are nice looking and take care of themselves. If you are a Dr., it would be a plus because I seem to be falling apart piece by piece.
Overall, I’m a nice looking person in pretty good shape. Way too intelligent for my own good and extremely intuitive. Also extremely honest and totally uninterested in playing games. Don’t I sound like a great catch? Hopefully this will satisfy my sadistic friends who are making me do this.
This was the toned down version. My friends thought the original one was a bit too harsh. What do you think?
Original Version: Total Bitch in need of a booty call. No strings, no nutcases, no needy men should apply. Only those who are financially sound will be interviewed. She doesn’t need or want to be supported and won’t support your sorry ass financially. Must also be emotionally and spiritually well adjusted and basically middle of the road – willing to see all sides and not be involved in any fundamentalist crap. Must also be very intelligent, have a great sense of humor and fairly busy as she really doesn’t want to spend a great deal of time with anyone. You must be good looking and in good shape. She is incredibly picky and won’t be seen with any skanks.
I think they objected to words like skanks or something. I personally liked the original version, but went with the other one on their advice. Anyway, I thought it was a rather good synopsis of me and what I was looking for and the site people didn’t reject it. I figured if anyone responded they must either be able to see past all of the rhetoric and into my true self, which would pleasantly surprise me, or they must be totally stupid and desperate. Either way, since I had no intention of initiating anything, I would be firmly in control.
I had hundreds of hits on my profile and bunches of e-mails and winks, all of which I promptly rejected. It’s not that I didn’t want to find someone. It’s just that the right one never appeared in my in-box. Or, maybe I really wasn’t ready. Who knows? But no one was able to tear me away from the “no thanks” button.
One response really floored me. This idiot had the nerve to e-mail me to tell me he thought my profile was crap. (Wonder where he got that word?) He told me my profile lived up to my screen name – especially the mean part – and if I ever had any hope of finding a nice person and a good match I should change my profile. He said my friends were probably right and having a man in my life would do me good. (Choke me now!) He also said I was probably lying about the mean part and I shouldn’t do that because honesty was very important. Then he had the nerve to wish me well in my search.
I was flabbergasted. Why did he even bother to respond? If he wasn’t interested, why didn’t he just move on to the next profile? I went back and reviewed his profile to see what had inspired him to be so absurd.
Religion was important to him, so my comment about not being rooted in crap probably didn’t sit too well with him. He said all the same things I read in a hundred other profiles about long walks, cuddling, intimate dinners, romantic evenings, loving and spoiling someone, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Did all these men take lessons from the same college – Boring U?But one thing I noticed he had neglected to mention about himself – self important hypocrite!
Hey, at least my profile was honest. The more I thought about it the angrier I became. This bigheaded jerk had never met me. He didn’t know anything about me and was passing judgment on me based on a few paragraphs on the internet.
For about thirty seconds, I seriously considered responding to him and giving my opinion on his lineage. And then I hit the delete key and ate a small chocolate Santa.When my six months membership was up, I quit.
To be continued!
Sunday, September 30, 2007
First, there are hotels, some offering more amenities than others but all with revolving doors. The women check in and the women check out. Some stay a night, some a week, some longer, and some check in more than once – but they all eventually check out. Sometimes more than one room is occupied at a time. Hotels are generally smooth, seemingly happy people when you first meet them. They can be very attentive and a lot of fun – for brief periods. With hotels you have sex. No attachments, very little if any emotion – especially on their part. It’s just a physical act.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a hotel as long as you understand and acknowledge from the beginning that the door never stops revolving and you WILL be checking out. The problems begin when women refuse to deal with reality and think they can change a hotel that isn’t ready to cancel the rest of his reservations. If you don’t accept the fact that you aren’t the first one to check in and you won’t be the last, you’re just setting yourself up to be hurt.
Second, there are apartment buildings. They’re like hotels except they’re usually ambivalent in the beginning about whether they want to be in a real relationship. Again, at first they are seemingly happy people and they give the impression they’re interested in getting to know you better than a hotel would. But eventually the rent is due, the lease is up, and they move on.
Again, it’s really just sex. Good, bad or indifferent – it’s just a physical act. Because apartment buildings have some doubts about what they want, they can fool you into thinking you could have a committed relationship with them. You have to be really careful here because by the time you realize you’ve got an apartment building on your hands you could already be in over your head.
The third types are houses. They offer shelter, sex and all the basic comforts often including love and companionship. If they’re really nice houses, they may offer a more upscale lifestyle too. With houses you also have sex but there’s usually some emotional attachment involved. They tend to be longer term, caring relationships based on friendship. Many marriages occur in this category and many of these relationships last a long time. This is probably the most prevalent type.
Finally there are homes. They provide everything a house does, plus deep committed love and a best friend with whom you can share your life. With homes you make love. There’s an emotional and spiritual attachment that accompanies the physical act. Homes are the ones who walk down the street after years of marriage still holding hands and smiling at each other.
So, how do you know which type they are? I learned it really, really, really, really, really helps to talk to them – often several times in great depth – BEFORE you go to bed with them. If you get to know them and are around them enough, they will eventually reveal themselves. Other than that I haven’t found any magic formula for smoking them out. Men can be very sneaky – especially the hotels and apartment buildings.
I was usually attracted to the hotels. There was an apartment building or two but, with my abandonment issues, the closeness was always frightening. Whenever I encountered a potential house or home I ran like a rabbit for the nearest hole. This was probably because I was always a hotel or apartment building myself.
The truth is I’ve never been in love – not really “in” love. I loved people but never wholeheartedly. I certainly never cared enough to sacrifice my freedom for any of them. When I was still really naïve, I even talked about marriage a few times but was never able to make the leap. I always found a way to screw things up before it reached the point of having to make a real commitment. I became proficient at making men think it was their idea because part of the way I dealt with my issues was by not making anyone else feel bad - even if they were. I always assumed the blame. Sometimes it required being a total bitch to drive them away, but if that’s what it took, so be it.
Over time sex became strictly a physical release because I could never really connect on any other level with anyone. I had sex with more than a few men in my life, but I can honestly say that I have never made love. The lengths of my relationships were often based on how good the sex was. I stayed with one supercilious, self absorbed jerk for almost a year but he was great in bed. I kept thinking if the sex was good enough eventually everything else would fall into place. Even though I told myself and everyone else I really cared about him, in truth everything was dependent on the sex.
To be continued!