Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Card and Calendar

For so many years getting the Christmas card for the year was very important to me. I often spent hours and went to many different shops. And then there were the times when I saw "the one" at the first shop and couldn't wait to send it. I always wanted to send the feelings I associate with Christmas: love, generosity, surprise, fun, grace. In New York I had a post card with a picture of a Christmas themed graffiti covered subway car. That was perfect.
I don't really remember when I stopped getting a card. Some combination of time and money. Maybe a loss of interest but, really, it just costs so dang much. It's one of many things that feel like they're just so much more expensive than they used to be.
I thought I might try to get one this year. I thought I'd be in NC with time on my hands and Mom's always bountiful amount of stamps. But.That changed.
And then there was the calendar of the year. Another way to have art that combined a sense of ... oh I dunno. Beauty. Place. I loved Pre-Raphaelite art on my calendars. There was a cluster thumb tack sized holes on my kitchen wall in SF. For the last two years I've had Kristina's calendars, which is great because it's so personal and even if I didn't know her I'd love the images. Ironically I rarely (maybe never) look at the calendar part. Maybe I never did. But I love the first of every month. I love the image for the month. I love knowing it will change so I'd better enjoy it while I can.
Now that I'm thinking about this I remember always looking for the new journal. I haven't written in my paper journal since 2005. That's just sad. In fact my last entry ended mid sentence.
Everything is on the phone now. I am always changing the wall paper and fussing with folders. But, it all gets deleted eventually.
I miss those things. I miss the search for the card and the calendar. And the journal.
Life is loosely wired now. The days and events and celebrations come and go before I'm ready for them to begin, or end. My time is filled with cleaning and meal preparation and moments of care. And every few days I sort of shred and crawl through. Only doing what I must.
I was very excited to have my first Christmas at the nest. I was excited to have a small tree and see my ornaments. Because my friends embrace the mommy we had packages under the tree and a fun morning of opening them. There is enough candy in the nest to put me in a coma. I didn't get any baking done. But we had a nice time.
When I was leaving San Francisco I thought about how I'd lost a connection with my sense of reverence. I was overwhelmed with gratitude because having a home is a pretty big deal for me. And having this one is really amazing. I wanted to rebuild something. Some process of acknowledgement. I can't use words like spirit because they are so badly used. God. The universe. Can't use them. But something like that. Something that expresses the inner. Something that connect the inner and the outer. And the bigger.
It's not really going that well.
But I am still working on it.
It's hard for me to even say things like Happy New Year because ... happy? Really? Happy is the least I want for the people I love. I want wonder. And joy. And connection. I want happiest. I want ever after. I want more than enough and best ever.
No card from me again this year.
Just these little notes.
These dribs and drabs.    

Sunday, December 07, 2014

My Day

Most days.
Wake up.
Head to the bathroom.
Feed the fish.
Raise one of the blinds.
Make breakfast.
Be as quiet as possible.
Hear the sound of the mommy waking up and heading to the bathroom.
Turn on the TV.
She gets dressed and heads for the recliner.
Raise the other two blinds.
Fool around on the computer while she either sleeps or watches TV.
On bath day, help her get in the shower and wait close by until she's done to help her out.
Set up her breakfast stuff so she can get her breakfast.
Hang out with her while she eats.
Clean up kitchen.
Make bed.
Take shower.
Make communications (email, phone) regarding the move and assorted projects for making life work.
Clean, do laundry, take the trash out (almost every day) (try to get her to go too so she gets some exercise).
Listen to the same three lines from three or four songs over and over.
Answer the same questions over and over.
Make dinner.
Clean up.
Put on my pajamas. Turn down the bed. Lay her nightgown on the bed.
Watch TV.
Wait while she brushes her teeth and gets into her pajamas.
Tuck her in.
Feel gratitude for friends who stop by and help.

In the year and a half since I've been here I've used the dishwasher about 6 times. Now I use it once a week, usually on Sundays. It feels like getting a break from dish washing. Every day there are things that don't get done. Every night I lay awake listing the things still I need to do. I am no doubt a little bit hyper. Things will probably settle down. Her new place is nice and her furniture should arrive in a week or so. By February many things will be in place that will make things easier and she'll be at her place for part of the week.
It's not bad. There have been days where things slipped off the rails. Stacked up. Overwhelmed. But it's not too bad.
The only really not good thing is I haven't read a thing in weeks. Combination of lighting and her singing and talking and the TV and just being so bleepin tired.
No swimming yet.
All the problems will be solved.
Sooner or later.
One way or another.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Our Black Firday

A fair amount of Mom's stuff will be auctioned off tonight. The very lovely people who helped us to clear the house sent me a link to the auction site. Seeing her stuff lined up brought tears to my eyes.
There's nothing particularly valuable. There's a dining set that she loved. Her "good" dishes and glassware that she hasn't used in years. A bedroom set that she bought when I was a kid and she and I were sharing a bedroom at Grandma's house. Other random pieces of furniture and some paintings. It's her stuff. It was the stuff I saw at her house. All of her houses. It doesn't matter that downsizing was the right thing to do. It feels creepy and sad to see it marked for sale. I didn't expect to see this until Mom had passed and in some ways it feels like a part of the inevitable moment of her leaving. I can't show her the site. She is struggling to process the loss as it is and for her it is loss.
The movers will be packing up her remaining belongings (and there are many) some of which will go to her new apartment, some of which will go into storage until we can process it and some of it is family heirloom stuff that will come to me. It's funny to use the word heirloom in reference to our family stuff. None of it is valuable, except in terms of sentiment.
Mom and I have very different styles. Her stuff was nice but it wasn't anything I would have chosen.I never wanted it. I am getting the things I wanted and she still has plenty of stuff. So the tears in my eyes aren't really about stuff. Or loss of stuff. It's about knowing that she is sad about the changes in her life and knowing I can't do anything about that. And knowing I will never again visit her and see that particular stuff. It's about change and endings. And beginnings. And uncertainty.
Other than a few odds and ends I have everything I'll ever really want. Obviously I'm going to want more books. My electronics will become obsolete. Some of them already are. But I am not drawn to shop. Neither is she. My stuff is less valuable than her's in monetary terms. But I have little plastic animals from cocktails that make me smile. Matchbooks and sand dollars. Dishes and dolls. I look around and see my life in my stuff. And that was true for her.
Oak Street is still full of shoppers. Oak Street is all small business so I'm not hating it. Mom is entertained by the constant parade of people.
Consumerism is a plague but we buy stuff. We collect stuff. Our stuff has meaning. I imagine the auction is almost over and someone is happy that they got a great price on dining room set.      

Sunday, November 23, 2014


When you're on the plane the stewards do the safety drill. They say if you are traveling with a small child and the oxygen mask drops down put your own on first. It's a really perfect metaphor about the need to care of oneself so you will be able to take care of anyone else. It's the kind of metaphor that could be used in any self help seminar.
There are two commercials in heavy rotation right now. An adult with watery eyes and a runny nose leans into a room, apologizes for disturbing but they need to take a sick day. The camera then turns to a small child. When you have a baby, or a child the whole self care thing falls apart. There are no sick days. You take care of your children when you're sick and too tired and emotionally drained.
Both of these things are true. You can't take care of anyone if you aren't taking care of your self. And there are times when you're going to take care of the other when you should be taking care of yourself.
Caring for an eighty-eight  year old mother with an increasingly foggy brain is similar. A silly example of this happened on the plane. Mom usually sleeps when she is on a plane but there were kids behind her moving around, banging into the seat. She was struggling with her emotions. She was worried about her future. I reached over to hold her hand. Her purse was between us and my book was leaned against it. The corner of the book was digging into my wrist but I could move it because she was finally drifting off and I didn't want to disturb her.  I wasn't in danger or in terrible pain but I was uncomfortable and unable to read my book.
When I am around Mom she dictates our day, what we watch on TV, what we eat and how I cook it (no garlic). She sings when I'm trying to read. She doesn't want to go out. I've written about the mommy cut for my hair and the removal of the nose stud (she still hasn't said a thing). All of this is no big deal for a three month visit but now she lives with me. At some point she will have her own apartment in an assisted living facility but she will always spend time in The Nest. I'm going to need to find some balance.It's just not going to be easy and it is going to require constant reassessment.
Mom has always been central in her own narrative. I was raised by someone who was central in her own narrative. My narrative was tangential to hers. It's hard to explain the mechanics of how her strong sense of entitlement calls out my urge to do her bidding. To keep her happy. It began so young. The minute I grew up I moved to the opposite side of the country. I have always known that space was needed for out relationship to function at all. Now everything is different.
I'm not all torn up or overwrought. I am just aware.
I mean.
She sleeps.
A lot.
I will be OK.
I imagine it will change me and I'm hoping I become more loving and patient and not a resentful ball of self pity. I'll be sorting and processing like super computer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


In my last post I said something about thinking the moving the mommy project would happen fast. I had no idea. We'll be back in the Hood on Thursday. There is a couple who have a "senior services"company and they have been amazing. They have so many resources and they've made time for us. They've been here for hours taking care of things. I couldn't have done this physically or emotionally without them. In some ways I'm still recovering from my own move. And hours on the Internet could not have yielded the resources they have. And they are lovely people.
I'm not sure what exactly to call the mommy's brain fog. But the hard part has been answering the same questions forty times a day. And her emotions, many of which are normal for an 88 year old person moving across the country. But she lashes out. I'm pretty good at diffusing things and I am pretty patient but it has been tough and will continue to be. My life will be differnt.
It will be better to have her closer.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Moving The Mommy

Mom has very fixed ideas, one of which is about how long a woman should wear her hair at a certain age. Four or five years ago my hair was long. Down to my butt. I enjoyed it. And I liked rebelling against the idea that I should have short hair. But the year after her husband died I decided to cut my hair as a Christmas gift. I buy her a frog calender and some chocolate frogs every year but there's isn't anything much I can give her. I don't really care how long my hair is and it makes her really happy to see mine short. Every year I get the mommy cut.
I also take the tiny stud out of my nose when we are together. This year I forgot. I was sitting at the kitchen table chatting with her when I remembered. She hadn't even noticed and still hasn't.
I've been trying to talk her into moving to Hood River for awhile now. The week before I came she said she would never leave her house. I figured I'd spend the next three months arguing with her.
The day I arrived, before I had my coat off, she announced she was moving to Hood River.
I have no idea what changed her mind.
I waited though the weekend to see if she'd change again. On Monday I called an assisted care facility and they just happened to have a one bed room apartment available. Someone came later that day who also wanted it so our timing was perfect.
It's all very good but a bit nerve wracking. Mom has a ton of stuff to go through. Lots to down size. Lots to pack. We will have time but I feel like it might happen really fast. We might be back in the Hood for Christmas.
It will be easier to take care of her there. There will also be new challenges.
Funny thing. I dragged a stack of books and a pile of magazines here. I'll probably be dragging them all back home.    
Oh. And there's a frog calendar, wrapped for Christmas, in my back pack. It will be traveling back as well.        

Monday, November 10, 2014

To Be Clear

This is a response to comments by Daniel in my last post.
I used the term disordered eating in a post recently. I was being a bit sarcastic although I do feel that in the last ten or more years of trying to have less pain after eating I've become a bit crazy in terms of food. Daniel says disordered eating is the cause of obesity. My version of disordered eating has resulted in weight loss because there have been times when I have been afraid to eat. Anyone thinking the resulting weight loss is a good thing ignores the physical and emotional misery I've experienced. All of this may have been about the gallstone and the gall bladder both of which are gone. My digestive system seems to be healing but I'm still a bit nervous.
For me it was the emotions around food that felt disordered. Not the quantity or quality of what I was eating. I eat really well both in terms of quality and quantity. I am more thoughtful about what I eat because I'm older. My digestive system is older. That's probably true for many people of every size.
I am not sure why Daniel chose a post about the difficulty of traveling when airlines make seats smaller than ever and charge fat people for two seats and having a bum knee and needing help with getting across a huge airport to write a comment about weight loss. My weight may have contributed to the wear and tear in my knee. I imagine it did. Standing on it for hours in my working life probably also contributed. When only fat people need knee replacements then we can say there is a direct and absolute relationship. And if that's true ... so what?
I don't really like the term size acceptance. I don't have to make a special effort to accept that I have brown eyes. Why should I have to make a special effort to accept that I am fat?
Oh. Wait. Because other people have lost weight so I should too.
Um. No.
There are people in the size acceptance who would shun Daniel for choosing to diet and lose weight. I am not one of them. I ask people to respect the choices I make for my body. I will respect theirs. If being fat causes a person to worry about their health and a negative impact on their quality of life (by their terms) then dieting is a course of action. If it works for you, go for it.
I have no wisdom about addiction.  Even  with things like cigarettes, drugs and alcohol I watched friends struggle much more than I did when it was time to quit. Food addiction is problematic because you can't not eat. You need to eat to live. It's not something I experience so any judgements I make are hollow.  
I am not addicted to food.
I don't have a defeatist attitude about weight loss. I simply have no interest. I'm interested in living an authentic life. I am fat. If I lose weight as a result of illness that's OK. I'm not trying to be fat. I just am. It's not shameful. It just is.
It is a political identity because there is weight based discrimination.
I am sad when people talk about food as if it is dangerous and themselves as "bad" for wanting to eat. I argue for a shift in those ideas, which includes the idea that a person might be fat if they eat what they want. It seems healthier to me. But lives are complex. I can't really know what's best for another person.              
Daniel has been very kind about my writing. But he has never really understood what I'm saying. I may not be articulating things as well as I hope I am. My disordered eating riff was in no way a milestone. I was a bit of a joke. Why should Daniel get what I'm saying? I have friends who I have known for years who don't get it.
Oh well.  

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Shot

I wrote a post last year about how great travel can be when you have a mother who has money.  Two seats in economy comfort works best for me. It's not really that comfortable but it's OK. I can't imagine having less leg room. I could never afford two seats.
I have always been resistant to AMA medicine. I would still rather do anything alternative. The gall bladder surgery was AMA and needed to be. And I get the cortisone shots for my knee, one of which I got right before I left for Asheville. The doctor said I was more likely to throw a clot during flight so soon after the surgery. Other than some pings and throbs I had no trouble. It was the cortisone that made a huge difference.
In the past few years part of any experience included worry about pain. Walking from the car to the check in desk could be excruciating. It's always hard to figure out which line to stand in and you almost always need to stand for some amount of time. I get a wheel chair but the wheel chair doesn't get there until you check in. It would be better if they met you at the curb. This time my knee held up through it all. AMA drugs. Not so bad. I would not have made it through the terminal but the wheel chair got me through.
In Atlanta I deboarded and was left in the wheel chair at the gate. I had a flight to catch at the other end of the airport. I needed to use the bathroom. I sat there. Helpless. A young woman finally came and took me but was on her way out the door. She left me at the gate. I had enough time to get myself   to the bathroom with my walker and my drugged up knee made it possible to do with out much pain. When I came back the wheel chair was gone. I got to the plane with my walker. It worked out but it always feels so precarious. Needing help. It feels terrible.
I had some really sharp knee pain in flight. I always wonder why. But there is no doubt the shot makes a huge difference.
Mom with money enough to buy two seats and cortisone. Good. Nothing to protect me from being stranded in a wheel chair on the wrong end of an airport but ...
It seems like it should be ... something. More caring? More efficient? More better.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Hang Over

A friend of mine is doing a thing with some of her friends. They're picking one bad habit to break and adding a good habit. There's a diet/exercise/weight loss component that I would roll my eyes at if I weren't still so eating disordered. No more gall bladder but still some post eating upper GI pain. I may have an ulcer. I took way too much Ibuprofen during the EA years, which may have caused it. I have some obvious symptoms but I don't have a complete match. In any case I'm still obsessed with trying to figure out how to eat and not have pain. I'm on more of a "diet" that I was when I was dieting. And I have lost some weight. My attitude about this is odd. After a fairly long time of really small portions of really healthy food I haven't lost much weight. Do I care? Not really but I wish I understood why.
I feel like I have good food instincts and a bunch of knowledge. I may give up coffee, which won't be a hardship but will make me sad. I'm just going to have to keep trying to figure it out.
And I miss the pool so much I could cry.
So. Diet. Exercise. I'm all in.
I thought about a bad habit I could give up and I've already been working on one. Turning off the talk news. It would be easy for me to that after yesterday's election. The talk is just annoying and it's already turning to 2016. This morning I feel as toxic as I would have if I'd consumed a ton of gin. A gin hangover will put me off it for awhile. Today I have a politics hang over. I do love me some Rachel Maddow. I like Chis Hayes, Steve Kornacki, Melissa Harris Perry, Alex Wagner. But I'm way more willing to miss them from time to time. I listen to OPB a fair amount of the time but that isn't all news.
Here's the catch. I'm headed to Mommy Land tomorrow. The mommy puts on MSNBC first thing and has it on alllllll day. If she turns it off it's to watch one of two or three TV shows or movies that she has watched over and over and over. The upside of this is I get a a lot of reading done when I'm there. She always wants me sitting next to her but I get really good at tuning out the TV.
The positive thing I've been working on is listening to more music, which I'm getting pretty good at on the weekend. But again, the mommy isn't going to deal. And me with my IPod in my ear won't be acceptable. So...
There is a pool at Mommy Land and I'm hoping we're going to use it this year.
I'm going to be trying to get the mommy set up with more care. It will not be easy. She's resistant to pretty much everything pretty much all of the time. I go.
There will be frogs.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Ya Vote

Mom didn't vote. First time in 88 years. It is true that she lacks motivation for most things because of her mental decline but it is also true that she's put off by politics. I don't blame her.
I don't know anyone who is exactly excited about voting today. I know people who are fully committed to voting. I know people who are fully disenfranchised.
There were elections in which I didn't vote. I was disenfranchised. I'm still not loving the institutional politics. And I really, really, really hate the pounds of paper ads and commercials There are so may truly useful things that could be done with that money. The endless polls and punditry are brain mostly numbing.
Oregon does a really cool thing. They mail you a ballot. The first time it happened I almost tossed it because I thought it was sample ballot. For me, with transportation and mobility issues, it's a really happy thing. As I sit here looking out the window at the steady rain I am happy my ballot is already done and sent.
But I actually like going to the poll. It feels like community. Seeing the same poll workers. Seeing people from the neighborhood. Getting the cute little sticker.  
So I hope people vote. I think it matters. And. I really hope we find a way to make it feel like it does.
You will not hear me saying that if you don't vote you can't complain. Of course you can. But this is a thing you can do. There are other things you can do. But this does matter.

Monday, November 03, 2014

While I Was Sleeping

I wrote a really long post the other day. I didn't post it because it felt rambling and disoriented. Today I checked and ... yeah ... rambling and disorientated. Delete.
For the first few days of my recovery I was drugged and mostly asleep. Even when I wasn't asleep I often had my eyes closed because I was nauseated. I didn't even turn on the computer. I checked Facebook on my phone from time to time but it was all a bit of a blur. And there were interesting things happening that I wanted to have conversations about but I couldn't form coherent thoughts.
This happens to me even when I'm not on drugs. I rarely have opinions that don't include accommodation of other possibilities. It's a relief when I do have an absolute feeling. Most of the time I am arguing internally. I actually want this level of discomfort because I want to be intellectually open and flexible. Boundaries usually feel semipermeable.  
The post was about my desire for complexity in conversations. And that is all. The problem with it was me trying to use a few cultural events to talk about it and being all over the map.
So I get why it's hard for me to write much. My thinking is static, meandering, abstract. Not necessarily bad thinking but not exactly easy to organize. It's one of the reasons I don't do much on Twitter.
Sometimes I don't let it stop me. I write the wandering loopy stuff out and toss it into the fray.
The problem is that I still want to have the conversations. There was a cafe time in my life. I wandered from cafe to cafe meeting up with friends and talking. I didn't have much money so I mostly drank coffee. I can remember feeling an electric buzz in my blood stream from day long caffeine. It was fun.
And the early days of blogging felt a bit like that. Like there were conversions popping everywhere and it was possible to participate. All that is still out there but I am not as willing to engage. Conversations in comment boxes don't always work.
I think the fact that I was only half awake made me want to participate more than the days when I'm scrolling along skipping the four hundred posts about famous people (except Joni Mitchel and Leonard Cohen and Ram Das) (and Wavy Gravy) skipping the constructed social models and new health trends. Skipping the endless quiz-of-the-day (mostly.) Skipping the animals and babies unless they belong to a friend.
It might have been funny to post the rambling disoriented post. I may flatter myself to imagine most of my posts aren't rambling and disoriented.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Full Report

So....I no longer have a gall bladder.
Will I be less galling?
Or less galled? I guess we'll see.
The surgery was ... well I have no idea. One minute I was on the operating table, there was a mask plunked over my mouth and then I was waking up in the recovery room. They could have been saying horrible things the whole time but I was somewhere else. And I doubt they were because everyone was really fun and really kind. We got a slightly late start, the surgery was an hour and half. I'm not really sure how long my recovery room time was because I was drifting in and out. And then I was home and in my recliner.
In some ways it felt like fast food medicine. In and out. But I was much happier being home than I would have been in the hospital. I slept a lot and I slept better than I would have in the hospital. DeAnna checked on me every day and scrambled me eggs. It was a few days before I could even keep my eyes open long enough to watch a sitcom.
I got a little better every day and now I feel pretty good. I probably didn't need the last two pain pills I took and I have two left over. All my pain is movement and posture related. If I reach too high, or breath too deep, belly laugh, any thing that requires my midsection to move. Sitting up for any length of time wears me out. But I can sit up for longer times every day. I feel like everything is moving along nicely.
I had more trouble with nausea than pain. I ate scrambled eggs and a bagel, potato/leek soup and pear/apple sauce (both of which I'd made pre-surgery) yogurt and cantaloupe every day. There were a few days when the nausea was so bad at about 4 o'clock that I couldn't eat. The only thing worse than
eating was taking a pain pill on an empty stomach so I'd get two spoonfuls of something down but it was not fun.
Then one evening I was OK and I made polenta. It might be one of the meals I've ever had.
I eat really slowly now. Restaurant workers generally eat really fast. Brand new way of being.
I was actually hungry for the first time yesterday. DeAnna got me mac and cheese from Solstice and it was also incredibly good. I'm still a bit worried about food because of the nausea. I think it will be awhile before I know what I can eat but I'm not really that worried.
I also ate some M&Ms yesterday. 12. I counted. I was looking for the magic number that wouldn't hurt.
I don't have an appetite again today but I don't feel bad. Just not hungry.
I have one more doctor's appointment to check my sutures and that's it.
Interesting experience all in all.
But ... not particularly anxious to do it again any time soon.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

And then there was the time...

When I was nineteen I was going to a community college in Maryland and living in a small studio in Washington D.C.. One morning I was getting ready for school and trying to decide if I could wear my new pair of Doctor Scholl's sandals. I was worried about how much walking I needed to do and maybe getting a blister. I decided to go with the work boots so popular for hippie chicks back in the day.
I had just crossed an intersection, looked up and saw a large German Shepard barreling across the yard of the corner house and I realized there was no fence. I thought I'd just step off the curb and walk around him. A small van/truck went by just then and the side view mirror hit my head, knocking me into a spin and my right foot went under the wheel of the truck. If I'd had the sandals on I would probably not have a foot today. The work boot wedged under the wheel. The truck driver stopped and tried to get my foot out from under the wheel but it was stuck. He had to get back in the truck and back up. Pretty freaky.
The event is a blur but I remember a person got out of his car and said he'd seen the whole thing and the dog chased the girl into the street. I imagine he was concerned about the driver who was really blameless. An ambulance came and took me to a hospital. I must have been in pain but I remember joking a lot. You're supposed to have on clean underwear in case you go to the hospital and I wasn't wearing any. I feel like a long time went by. They called my mom and told her to come get me but by the time she got there they had determined I needed surgery because a hole had been scraped in my ankle and there was no easy way to cover it. The surgery involved creating a flap to cover the hole, and taking skin from my thigh to cover where the flap had been. It was a long surgery. At some point I came out of the anesthesia enough to hear the doctors and nurses talking. This may have happened more than once because I think there was a shift change and people were leaving and others were coming in and I think there was some talk about an award show. And then there was the moment when they began to talk about my pretty face and what a shame it was that I was also fat. The anesthesiologist realized I was hearing it and made a face. I remember feeling like I needed to reassure him that I was OK. Memory is a shape shifter so the details of this memory might be off but the feeling is true.
I was in the hospital for a month. I was home with crutches and instructions to keep my foot elevated for a month. I was on crutches for another month. Long recovery and really a break in trajectory. I didn't finish the semester. I was moved out of my studio. I was back in the dreary suburbs with a story about a truck and a dog and some shoes. And a really big scar.
Every day of my life I hear things about fat people. Jokes, false concerns for our health, blame for all the troubles of a broken health care system. Sometimes things are in the background and mostly abstract. It's just noise. Sometimes it's more direct.
I have very positive experience of most of the medical professionals I've met in Hood River. Even the knee surgeon who won't fix my knee because I might stroke out on the surgical table danced around the fact that the only reason to imagine I'd stroke out is my weight. I've had two EKGs in recent history both of which were good. My blood pressure is good. My liver function, my temperature, my activity level, yada yada. All good. The surgeon who will be removing my gall bladder isn't worried. My GP isn't worried.
And really. The truth is. All in all. The idea that someone might say something stupid about my weight is the least of my worries and I'm not really worried. I'm the worried well. Just average worried. Mostly just tired of feeling like crap. And I'm tired of thinking about surgery. Filling out paperwork. Being asked the same health history questions over and over. I'm ready to move on.
But it's a weird thing, isn't it? Just the idea that I will be completely dependent on a group of people and I need them to take care of me. Heal me. And I might have to listen to them say stupid stuff about my body. It's just weird. And wrong.
And that space that I hold in which I feel the need to comfort an anesthesiologist, or make jokes, or just holding the idea that something might be said. It's just weird. It's tedious.
Just the number of stories I have in which something is said to me or about me and my pretty face and shameful size.
It's just wrong.  

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Bird In The House

I just read the article by Zeke Emanuel that was circulating awhile ago. He wants to die at 75 and he makes a really good case for why. Having spent a lot of time in Mom's senior community I can relate. There are people older than Mom still active and engaged with few health problems and people younger in much worse shape, on piles of pills. It seems somewhat random. I suppose genetics and access to health care and individual health histories are all cogs in the machine but how healthy and happy a person is in their older years also seems a bit arbitrary.
Emanuel names a new cultural archetype: the American Immortal. I really like that. Most conversations about health feel distorted and exhausting to me, usually because so many of them are fat hating and fat blaming. In his article he says statistics imply that babies born today will live longer than their parents and in any article about the (cough) obesity epidemic we're all going to die sooner because we're all so fat. And, after all is said and done, there is money being made. There is a market selling immortality.
Leonard Cohen just turned 80 and started smoking again. Maybe. He said he wants to but who knows if he did. It made me really happy. I decided I'd do the same thing except the last time I had a smoke I got a wicked stomach ache. I (like Leonard) think about smoking a lot but I don't like stomach aches.
Both men are really saying the same thing. At a certain point they aren't going to focus on extending their life. They're going to focus on enjoying it.
Mom is 88 and is on no medication. Despite the fact that her fingers look gnarled and she uses a walker she says she has no pain. Every once in awhile a joint is "talking to her." Cute. Last year she had a mole removed and there was a time when we thought she might have melanoma and it might be in her lymph glands. They removed the mole and the melanoma they had found and it seems to have been all there was. I remember they said if she did have it in her lymph glands they wouldn't treat it because of her age. That made sense to me. The treatment could have been so miserable.
Despite her physical heath her mind is very obviously deteriorating. and she knows it. And she hates it. She talks a lot about wanting to "get off this earth". I'm struggling to find a way to turn that around. She has good days. She has everything she needs. But losing metal acuity is so painful.
This morning the guy who gets her groceries came in through the garage and a bird followed him. He and another guy eventually chased it out. When I heard I had an oddly superstitious reaction. A bird in the house means death.
I'm not going to be OK when Mom dies. I'm going be wrecked for a little while. But there are days when she's so unhappy. I wish there was a switch we could flip. I wish she could get into bed and flip a switch.
It wasn't until much later that it occurred to me that that I'm going have surgery and a bird in the house means a death in the family. Gulp. I'm not actually worried about dying. I'm somewhat worried about things getting worse but I don't think I'm any more worried than seems normal. I get jabs and twinges and aches. The pain is never higher than a 6. Mostly just annoying.
I don't have an age that I want to die. I feel like I'm OK with death but if you told me I'd be dead soon I might realize that I'm not at all OK with it. These things are too abstract. And superstition is like a fly that buzzes in your ear now and again.
I've had a bird in my house.
And I'm still here.

Friday, October 03, 2014

I Would Prefer Not To

If you've read Bartleby you will get the joke.
I'll be having my gall bladder removed on the 20th.
The surgeon is really cool. He is very clear and grounded. He said that it is harder to operate on fat people but "that's his problem." He has done this surgery on a 500 pound person. He has done it on an eleven year old person (which kind of freaked me out) and a person in their nineties. He said that there are general truths about who has gall bladder issues but there really isn't a type. Most people are walking around with some gall stones and a few of them will have problems. I think he said 20%.
At any other time of my life I would have asked for time to get acupuncture and drink miso and eat dark green leafy things and try to control it but I've been in some amount of pain and/or discomfort for about fifteen years. I'm tired. And most of the gall bladder stories I hear are middle-of-the-night worst-pain-ever stories. I'd like to avoid that.
The only thing worse than having surgery is knowing you're going to have it for 20 days. I'm pretty grouchy. I am scared but that seems normal. I do have confidence in the surgeon. I feel well cared for and safe in terms of all the medical professionals I've met in Hood River (except that knee guy).
I'm not thinking about writing or what I could write about or anything really. I'm in a sort of stun mode.
I would prefer not to.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Plus Size

Every year The New Yorker does a style issue. The only thing I'm less interested in is sports but I flip through to make sure there's nothing by a writer I like. This year there is a fairly good article about plus size fashion. It's very well written, includes some history of how the perception of fat bodies devolved grabbed from Fat Shame (a book I have not read). It mentions a number of fat fashion bloggers (most of whom I haven't read). And only gives a small nod to the idea that being fat is unhealthy.
"Obesity is a genuine health concern, but the connection between health and the wearing of crop tops is a murky one."
Yes. Murky.
I just hate the flatness of the genuine-health-concern thinking. However, it goes on to say that "people become plus size for all sorts of reasons, not all of which involve life style choices." So, there is some nuance and it gets even more radical by calling out the "health concern" as a way to "police the prevailing social order." 
It ends in a Lane Bryant store with a customer who will "never wear a crop top." It is a sour ending for an otherwise interesting article. It seemed to say that most fat women are going to dress in a conservative manner because ... they should.
I know that the fat revolution is fought on the fields of fashion. I get it. It feels a bit frivolous to me some times but it does matter. Wearing a fatkini is a radical act. Wearing horizontal stripes. Wearing sleeveless shirts. Wearing clothing that is fun and alive and ... pretty. If you're fat you aren't suppose to do any of those things. You're supposed to wear clothing that covers your shame.
Even the term plus size kind of makes my teeth hurt. Adding from what? Normal? And what is that?
I am not interested in fashion but I am aware that I've always worn a uniform.
A wanna be cowgirl uniform.
A hippie chick uniform.
A rock-n-roll uniform.
A lives below 14th street uniform.
A guru girl uniform.
My uniform these days is frighteningly middle aged. Most of the time I'm in simple baggy pants and a simple baggy shirt. Sometimes I wear a nicer shirt. Usually with a flowery pattern. And I will not be wearing a crop top any time soon. Much of this is about age, I suppose. It's also just about comfort and taste. I spend a lot of time in the privacy of my nest in my pajamas. I lean toward gypsy/hippie/arty stuff but ... I don't get out much. I have a hard remembering to put on earrings. It's something I actually work on because I know it matters.
I have a sense that if I were not fat my fashion life might have taken a similar trajectory. Wandering through the uniforms and landing at baggy.
The connection between wearing a crop top and having a deeply internalized sense that my fat body is a whole body with a complex history and not a pathology is murky.
Yes. Murky.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Having a Facebook page for the blog was hopefully going to encourage me to write. sort of did. A little bit. It kicked up that reflex to think of things in terms of writing. But I've been spending a lot of time under a blanket feeling crappy. I see the surgeon on Tuesday. At this point if he says he'll take the gall bladder out I'll say yes. Feeling this bad is exhausting.
So today when Facebook reminded me that I hadn't written in five days I rolled my eyes. I've created a nag. 
I was going to write about living on a highway. Oak street is also highway 30. You can drive on highway 84, which becomes (I think) highway 30 at some point and miss the downtown crowds but great big trucks are always driving past. Trucks bigger than the nest. Trucks with logs. Trucks with gravel. During the summer there is also a lot of tourist traffic. Parking becomes impossible. Because I have my door open most of the time the smell of traffic can be overwhelming and ... yucky. And noisy. First thing in the morning, before the traffic starts, I open the door, lean out and take a deep breath. Last thing at night I do the same thing. Hood River smells like forest. And it's quiet. 
I was going to write about wanting this waterproof iPod. Yet another gadget, which is not terribly expensive but costs enough to hesitate and think about if I really want it. I like having my ears open. Sometimes I talk to other swimmers. Mostly I just like the awareness of sound. I like music too and it might be fun to have music in my ears while I swim. But music can shift my mood really quickly. One overwrought romantic song and I might crash. 
I thought I might be able to wind those two things together and write about all five senses but 
I was going to write about waking up on Sunday and being very excited to play with my Sims but the game wouldn't load. There's a bug that messes up the launcher from time to time. I really like playing on Sunday because there's lots of news talk to play in the background. I got cranky for a few minutes and then ... I opened my book and began to rewrite. I worked on it all day. It was extremely fun. I want to rewrite and then self publish.
Then I started feeling bad.
David Mitchel was recently quoted on writing.

I haven't read him yet.
I've been trying not to rush to my screen. I've been trying to start the day. Eat some eggs. Drink some coffee. Truth be told, I check my phone first thing but then I really have been trying to wait before I'm in front of the endless stream. On Sunday I wrote for a while and then I cleaned and then wrote some more. It worked.
Today the pain and nausea levels are low enough. I'm starting to want my blanket but I'm good for a bit more.
The page has 40 followers. It was at 39 for a long time. I prefer round numbers. I've sent invites to people who just don't seem to see them. Ironically two of them have asked me to follow their pages. Oh but what ever. It's all a bit silly.
I joined ello.
It's very spartan. Which is fine.
And then there's the bug. There used to be a toggle at the top of the Facebook page. I could choose to post as myself or the page. If I had it set to post as the page and I used the post-as-the-page setting in Blogger my post went straight to the page. Now the toggle is in each individual post and doesn't work with Blogger. I tried once and the post appeared briefly in the feed but not on the page. I figured out how to work around it but ...sigh.
I guess the good news is that I am writing a wee bit more. Now, if I can write a wee bit better.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Recently there was a commercial for the iPhone in which a woman is swimming and then taking something off her suit and putting it on her phone to record how her swim had gone. I wanted it right away.
It's 100 dollars. Nothing if you have disposable income. I don't. And more to the point there wouldn't be much data gathered. I swim back and forth. I swim forward and then back wards. I do a few side strokes. I hold onto the side of the pool and kick really fast a few times. I swim for an hour. That's it. I usually get out because I need to pee. People always congratulate me for "keeping it up". They don't understand how much I love it. If there was a pool right outside my door I'd be in it several times a day. But I'm not trying to be a great swimmer. I'm just enjoying being able to move with less pain than I have when I'm walking.
Generally speaking I am not in favor of all the new fitness tracking devices. Paul wrote about it recently and David Sedaris wrote a funny piece about his Fitbit. They both talk about the obsession with numbers. I am data curious and have fun with things for awhile but I always get out of control and obsessed.
When I was working on the junk room I found some old diary pages from the time when I'd been given the assignment to track my food for a biology class. I actually enjoyed it for a time. I eat around 2000 calories a day give or take. More if I eat out. More if it's a holiday. Reading through those pages I saw that not much has changed. I enjoyed doing but eventually I started worrying about it. I'd eat a cookie and not write it down. I had elaborate and loopy reasons for why not. Or I'd eat two cookies and write down one. My inner diet food cop rose up and and my inner shame about wanting a cookie (wanting a cookie) (shame) (sheesh) rose up and they did battle. What a waste of time.
I enjoy being weighed at the doctor because it's interesting to me to know exactly how much I weigh. But if I buy a scale I'm on it twice a day. I start eating less and then eat too much in rebellion. Not at all useful.
Our definition of heath is important. Numbers tend to over simplify. And for some of us numbers create obsession.  
I'm thinking about this today because I updated my iPhone and got their new "health" app. I jumped right in trying to enter data. I can't figure out how to enter some basic info, which may be because it's designed to get that information from other apps. They give you this free thing and then sell you a bunch of new apps. Ah. Capitalism.
I'm always amused by yoga in this country. People have been doing yoga almost naked in the wilderness for years. Now yoga has it's own magazine, special bags for special mats, clothes, music, straps and blocks and videos and on and on. I own a strap and some blocks and a video so I'm not above the market. I'm just ... chagrined. Or something.
The swim tracker thing also tracks your sleep.
Oh man.
I might need that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Shortly after I was born Mom had a gallbladder attack. She remembers eating a peanut butter sandwich before bed and waking up in severe pain. She went to the hospital and they removed her gallbladder. As a result I've always been mildly phobic about peanut butter.
Gallbladder problems are hereditary. In the last twenty years my digestive system has been increasingly fussy probably in some part because of my gallbladder.  In my forties I had symptoms but an ultrasound didn't show any stones. There is this thing about being fair, fat and forty associated with gallbladder issues. I have read that it's showing up in younger people and it is suggested that it's the fault of fast food. Maybe. Mom had her problems when she was 27. I made it through the forties and fifties with only occasional flair ups. I've been increasingly careful with fats, carbohydrates, sugar to manage what I call my stomach aches but which may have been my gallbladder complaining.
Fat people (particularly fat women) may have gallbladder issues more often than others. There is apparently an estrogen factor. There is a connection with Diabetes. Rabid weight loss may also be a contributor. A person may be told to lose weight and cause an attack. Many articles mention obesity followed by rapid weight lost with no sense of irony. Like so many things medical there's mostly theories, educated guesses. And I have know a few men who were young, thin and generally healthy eaters who had gallbladder issues. For what that's worth.
Recently, I had two meals that were not gallbladder friendly. I had carbonara and a few days later I had a multi-coarse meal that included oysters coppa, lamb, and lots of desert. It was a great meal with two friends and fun conversation. It's one of my favorite things to do but I don't do it that often.
The other day I saw a chart on Facebook from some hippie thing. I don't remember and I didn't look carefully but it was a picture of the body with areas color coded and associated with specific emotions. The gallbladder/liver/pancreas are is associated with anger. On the day of the multi-coarse meal I also attended a board meeting that left me enraged. It's a topic for a post of its own but I'm trying to stay calm. Heh.
I think I started being "symptomatic" the day before those events but I'm not sure. Every day after that I've had pain in my right side. Mostly after I eat. I haven't had much appetite and I'm exhausted for no obvious reason. I went to the doctor, got an ultra sound and it turns out I have a gall stone. My gallbladder is not in terrible shape and my blood work was good. I'm not vomiting. My skin isn't yellow. I am still having pain but it's really not that bad.
I'll be talking to a surgeon. I almost always go for alternative treatment. In the past few years I've been drinking apple cider vinegar and baking soda to control gout pain with much success. It turns out that it's also a treatment for gall stones. (It works to clean out clogged plumbing as well.) I could do that and get some acupuncture and maybe I'd be OK. But I'm older. My organs are older. Should I get it taken out? Is it inevitable? Can I get good advise from a surgeon? If a knee surgeon won't operate on me will the general surgeon?
Generally speaking my diet is gallbladder friendly. I am confused about some things. I was afraid to drink my second cup of coffee this morning and then I read that coffee may help dissolve stones. I snack on nuts almost every day, mostly dry roasted almonds but recently some oily peanuts. I love dark green leafy food but tend to eat more of it in the winter. I wonder if I have had stones build up and dissolve for years.
I dunno.
I guess we'll see.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

In The Gap

I am in a spectacularly bad mood. I'm not going to write about the central reasons but they have to do with the tragic gap. Remember the tragic gap? Parker Palmer talked about on a Moyers and I wrote about it a few times. It comes back to me again and again.
I was looking for one of the times I wrote about it for an hour or so this morning. It may be on the old blog. I got lost in my archives. I found another post about my moodiness, which I liked very much. That's not always true for me. I usually read old writing and flinch. I'm mostly quoting other people so ...
In the post a set of reading had added together for me and as I was looking for the tragic gap post I had a similar experience, starting with that post of my own and the bits from Coetzee. At some point I went to the Moyers site and searched: the tragic gap, found the specific episode and then I listened to the whole thing again. It aired in 2009 and still feels relevant. From Palmer.

I think the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of reality because illusion never leaves us ultimately happy. And I think the opportunity now is for us to get real. And I think that's going to make us, in the long run, more happy. The tragic gap, and I call it tragic not because it's sad. It is. But more fundamentally because it's an inevitable part of the human condition.

Reality. It's hard because reality is so often a matter of perception. But there is a real real. A real that hits you in the wholeness of who you are and where you are.
Ten or so years ago I went to the hospital to meet a friend's new son. Both parents left the room for a minute and I was sitting with that brand new boy in my arms. So beautiful. And I started to cry. I was fifty, or so. And I knew I would never have my own child. It was just physically too late.

The tragic gap is the gap between what's really going on around us, the hard conditions in which our lives are currently immersed, and what we know to be possible from our own experience.

Something like that is happening now but it's slippery. It's not as certain that it's too late. It's just very likely. It feels like something I need to decide. I need to decide because I can't stop  hurting myself.
I have said and it is true that I have been happier since I moved into the nest. I even dreamed it the other night. I dreamed I was saying something about just wanting to know that I had a home and in the dream I remembered that I do now. The nest. It is grounding. It's an embrace. And I have books. (Thank you Kristina.) And I have really good local food. And I can swim. So then.
Palmer talks about being able to sustain tension. He talks about standing in the tragic gap and sustaining tension between reality and possibility. I may be in one of those moments.
I'm always a bit surprised by how much I like Louie C.K. I really do like him. I mean he says things that make me reel but he also says things that are just exactly right. In another spot on my reading thread today I saw a video of him, which I'd seen before. He's talking about why he doesn't want to give his kids cell phones but in the middle of his rant he talks about the tragic gap. Not in those words but ... yeah. It's there. He's talking about sadness. Feeling sadness.
I'm not sad. Well. I am. But it's not exactly what I am. Melancholy, as Coetzee articulates is closer but it's bigger.
And another bit of the thread came from Paul. Interestingly the bit with Louie and Paul's post are both about the need to put down the phone and walk away from the screens and not be ... busy. That's not exactly what I'm talking about but I am talking about enduring. Enduring it all. Paul says, Without downtime and work on the self I experience profound avoidance. 
Profound avoidance. I love that he gets that.
But I think I tend to dwell. And. That's. Well. You know.
It's not about avoidance or dwelling though. It's about standing in the gap where the real real is. The tension between the possible and. What. We. Know. To. Be. Possible. From Our. Own, Experience.
Somethings just aren't going to happen.
Two loads of laundry. One done and folded. One still in the dryer. Half the plants watered. Some dusting. The glass door cleaned. My mood is still prickly. I need to eat dinner. The coming week has some fun. My mood will move.
Rickie Lee sings: there are wounds that stir up the force of gravity.  
Indeed there are.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Junk Room

My apartment in San Francisco had a small back room, which I imagine had a washer and dryer at some point because there was a hook up. There was a small window and built in shelves. I put all my cook books and magazines back there. I put two file cabinets with a board on top for a desk and there was a time when it was a fun little office. I sat there reading recipes and smoking cigarettes. I paid my bills and wrote in my journal. 
The first computer I got didn't fit on the desk so I ended up with a desk in the living room and the back room became a never ending battle zone in which random trash built up. Mostly cardboard boxes waiting to be hauled downstairs and lots of silly little decorative (sort of) things. A few of those things are hanging in my living room now. 
I really did work to keep it from being a junk room but it was hard. It was a room that was out of sight so as I cleaned the rest of the apartment stuff got dropped in the back room. I'm pretty sure I wrote about it from time to time. 
When the idea of moving to Hood River sparked I began working on the back room. Even before I was absolutely sure that I was going to move I started sorting and discarding. In the end I hauled the filing cabinets here filed with papers that I knew I probably didn't need, or want. And lots of other stuff.
The nest was sold as a two bedroom. I think it had been rented as a two bedroom. But it is also a "loft" and neither of the two "bedrooms" has full walls. Both are smallish. One has a shelf that opens above the kitchen sink so if someone is washing dishes when another person is trying to sleep ... well. I don't think roommates could be comfortable here but these places are rented out during the summer to people who come for the river sports. Most of them are out the door early in the morning. I've seen a few families. That probably works for short visits. 
The room behind the sink is my library. It's a room that will be years in the making. I've already had a wall filled with built in shelves and replaced the carpet. I might have a new chair for the living room soon so I'll put my old chair in the library. I already love being in there but it will be nice to be able to sit comfortably.
Because it wasn't a clearly defined room it has been the place where the junk gravitates. As I unpacked last year it was where boxes waited. And more than a year later there are things waiting. 
Since the new carpet was put in I am driven to keep it from being the junk room. I am going through those piles of papers. I can only do it for an hour or so at a time. I get completely overwhelmed. I have a copy of My Emily Dickenson, which one of my teachers spent hours xeroxing, breaking all kind of copy right laws. I also have the book. But how can I just toss the copy? Doesn't someone want to read it? Someone? Some where? I have a folder of old scripts from the classes I took in my attempt to become a voice over artist. No problem tossing them into the recycling bag. I have copies of my own writing and the writing of many of my former class mates. Those are miserable choices. Photos. Promo posters, my own and other people's. Menus from places I worked. I decided to keep them yesterday but I may be changing my mind today. In fact I should plan on doing this again in six months. I should just keep letting go. It's really not that much but it feels endless. 
And then there is the crazy amount of silly little things. Plastic animals from drinks in New York and San Francisco. Ash trays about which I am sentimental. Troll dolls from my teens that Mom saved and sent to me. A small plastic doll that a minister gave me when I was a child. Mardi Gras beads. I've never been to Mardi Gras. Match books. Rocks and shells. A stick that a small boy gave me in a park. Candles and incense. It's just crazy.  
I have a full box of cassette labels from the wanna be voice over time. People don't use cassettes anymore. Do they? I have note books and note books and note books. I really have to think about these. Will I use that much paper in my life time? I barely go through the stacks of scratch paper.  I filled the recycling bins in San Francisco several times before I left and I already have a grocery bag full here. 
The library is looking better every day. I moved all the books off of my old shelf and put them on the new wall shelf. I sit and stare at them. I move books around. I find an author on two different shelves and adjust everything to put them together. Auster needs to be next to Hustvedt. Someday they will all be filled and I'll be in my recliner reading. 
Years ago I read that Findhorn had lots of beautiful gardens but they always allowed a certain amount of space to grow wild. Something about leaving a place for spirits to express themselves. I've used that as a rational for my junk drawer. Every kitchen needs one. But I don't want a whole junk room. 
We'll see how it goes. 

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


I spent about an hour yesterday trying to find this article. I read it a few days ago and intended to write about it. Intending to write is my daily fail.
In the final days of my writing program we did a graduating class read. As I stood  reading my little offering I noticed an error. The piece I was reading had been read by my workshop: eight or ten people including a teacher, a friend in my program who was (is) a great editor, my thesis adviser, my goddaughter, not to mention myself during multiple rewrites. And yet there it was. A typo. I don't remember what it was. I do remember having trouble continuing because the urge to mark up the paper was overwhelming.
Not all of the edits I got in workshops were useful. It often seemed like my classmates were trying to convey literary sensibilities, usually giving me a feeling of futility. Generally speaking, I did not feel like they were getting what I was trying to do. I remember once writing a scene in which the dialogue included a repeated expletive that I ended with in rather than ing. One classmate circled all the ins and added the "missing" g. Seriously.
I have always taken comfort from a moment I saw on (maybe) 60 Minutes. Toni Morrison was looking at one of her books in a display case and she noticed a typo. She also talked about an ongoing argument she has with her editor regarding the Oxford comma.
It's nice to know there is brain science to explain typos. Comforting. It's frustrating though. Because, as it says in the article, other people catch them. When I was writing in school I put way more energy into editing than I do when I'm writing a blog. But I do make an effort even in a blog post. I usually walk away from a post for awhile. I read it out loud, which I usually find helpful. I've tried reading backwards and it does work but it's annoying. Blogging is fast writing, for me. I'm OK with some raggedy-ness. But I reread something after I publish and see something really stupid, often after I know it's been read by others and it just drives me crazy.
I know when to use it's and when to use its but I mess it up now and again when I'm writing fast. I regularly misspell their. I can spell it correctly out loud if you ask me but almost every time I type it I reverse the i and the e. I use made up words like dunno. I over use the word and on purpose although I do edit it out sometimes. I use ellipsis in ways I am told are incorrect but I don't care. And there are things I really just don't know.
I always got As in English but I went to a hippie high school for the last two years and I doubt I was corrected much. If I'd gone to college right out of high school I might have been learned more, or had correctness ground into me.  I went to college in my forties at which point I'd forgotten what I may have learned. And I went to a hippie college where teachers liked to talk about how the students didn't write well but no one seemed to want to teach a basics class. Within my reach there is a copy of Strunck and White and The Chicago Manuel of Style. They're pretty.
And then there's the problem of my ageing brain and the great fuzz in which I live. And my horrible typing.
Really some of my typos really are physical typos and some of them are just my brain glitching. I notice mistakes in other people's writing occasionally. I usually shrug it off but sometimes I feel judgy.
I just finished The Snow Queen. It is a lovely book with wonderful writing. And he used the word rampancy multiple times. It's a word that I may have read before but was compelled to look up every time I came across it and still am not sure I could use it correctly. I understood it in the context of each use but it's a wonderfully specific word. I felt like it popped up at least one time too often. Or maybe it just stuck out to me because I didn't feel like I had a grasp on it. Inscrutable is another word I look up every time I read it and still feel like I could not use it well.
Honestly,  I've given up. I will make mistakes. when I write. Some of them will be intentional. I just did a reread on this post and found two mistakes one of which was glaring and would have pissed me off if I'd clicked publish before I caught it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Eros Bumps

I've been off blood pressure medication for about eight months now. One of the side effects of the medication was a complete lack of interest in sex.
On the one hand, I'm not in a relationship so who cares?
On the other hand (the hand) (get it?) I have never been in a relationship and I've always thought about sex. I've always had a crush.
In fact, beginning in my forties I was really quite randy. Until the meds.  
So what do you do when you aren't in a relationship? (The hand.) (Get it?)  You day dream. You imagine. And often times that dreaming is aimed at the idea of a person. It could be a famous person. An actor. Or more likely a specific role that an actor plays. Like Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall. Swoon. Brad Pitt other wise? Eh. It was probably the long hair. Some times I have a night dream about an actor and become completely enamored. That happened with Jim Belusi years ago. I'm not sure I'd even seen him in anything at the time. Images of famous people are like a virus. They're everywhere. Even if you never pick up a fame magazine you see them in the doctor's office and the grocery store. Then the oddest people show up in late night inner wanderings.
But I've had crushes on people I've never seen. People I've only read. Because really it's the things I want to hear that turn me on the most. And I'm the one who knows those things. My imagined dialogues are probably nothing that would be thought of as erotic by anyone else.
It happens with people in my daily life that I don't really know. I remember once I was quite enamored with a security guard at the Caltrain station. It made for some interesting rides to work. Not quite awake and not quite asleep. Just dreaming. It happens with waiters and the guys that do handy work on the buildings across the street. I don't really want to know these guys. I enjoy the relationship I have with them.
I call these relationships Eros bumps. A bump because you're going along, minding your own business, not even thinking about anything and suddenly there's the dream. Or a moment when you see someone in a certain cast of light. I remember it happened to me once with a guy in New York. I think it happened when he said something protective about me. It just rattled some need that I didn't even know I had.
It is a way of objectifying a person and that is not a good thing.
I know.
And it is quite obsessive.
Overwhelming obsessive.
Not good.
I know.
I try not to make a big deal about it. I try to think of it as a small thing. A human thing. It's just a little bump.
But since I am writing the narrative of these moments and since they are based on ideas and not realizations they arrive, build up in my head, refine in terms of the ideas and then one day they are over. Seriously over. Just as suddenly as they began. I hit some kind of wall and wake up. Sometimes I want to tell these guys. Hey. We just broke up. Did you notice?
If you put all these guys in a room it would be hard to discern a physical type. It is not really about bodies.
And of course it's very different from the times when I've met someone and developed feelings. Although it doesn't always feel that different. I have made myself wild with desire. It's all me. I'm making it up.I'm making myself happy with it and I'm making myself miserable when I can feel it losing energy. It goes global. It calls up every memory of every rejection. It pushes me into the corner with my dubious romantic history. I fail.
I have failed.
It was almost nice having a rest from all that. It's been years. It was nice to have it back for awhile. Nice to feel alive. But it's not as easy as it used to be to fall into a swoon. I've worked too hard to gain the little bit of lucidity I have. I try to ignore the awareness  of who I really am and who anyone else really is. Just for a minute. Just long enough to dream. Just a little bump.
I am really happy to be off meds.
I am.
(Get it?)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


On Sunday I watched Captain Johnson stand in front of a group of people and say, I'm sorry. For me, there are no two more powerful words. In my personal life it has been the thing that brings me closer to someone. When someone can just own a thing that has happened between us. Just hold it. I let go of things really fast when that happens. In a civil crisis it's so powerful. I could feel the collective shoulders relax. 
Leadership in Missouri has been horrifyingly bad. Saying all the wrong things in all the worst ways. The governor actually said if there was going to be justice there must first be peace. Really? So justice is only there when things are calm and people are well behaved? 
April linked an interesting article: In Defense of the Ferguson Riots. I was thinking about it last night as I watched live coverage of the night and the sudden shift from peaceful to violent. I thought about it this morning as I listened to people talk about provocateurs and thugs. 
As things were unfolding last night journalists kept talking about not being able to see why things got heated. Some of that might be vantage point but I imagine some of it was that not much happened. Images of tanks, tear gas, snipers, just way too much positioned against people in t-shirts and shorts made it seem likely that there was over reaction on both sides. 
Actually, I hate that idea of both sides. I hate it when it's used in conversations about these events. There are things that are clear. An unarmed, young, black man was shot multiple times by a police officer. No matter what happened it seems to me that multiple guns shots are an over reaction. And every night since then it has seemed to me that the same over reaction has played out. There may be two sides here but they are not equal. 
And one side is supposed to be in service to the other. They are there to protect and serve. They are there to protect not just people but ideals. Ideals like justice. Ideals like freedom of the press. Ideals like the right to assemble. Ideals like the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. They may also be there to protect private property and commerce but it feels like they lean toward that and ignore the others. 
In an area like Ferguson commerce is probably made up of small businesses. Mom and Pop shops. It's hard to talk about them in strict Marxist terms. It's hard because they are so small and usually owed by hard working people. I worked for small businesses most of my life. It's also often true that the people are often better off than the community in which they run their shops. Maybe not much better off but usually some what. They work hard and they enjoy benefits. OK. 
It has always been frustrating when civil unrest tears down community resources. But the focus on business concerns rather than focusing on the systems of repression and alienation and the murder of a young man irritates me. It's just not the point. 
As much as I admire Captain Johnson his presence is a way to pacify an enraged community. He hugs people. He talks in soothing tones. And he defends the use of tear gas. 
Last night Chris Hayes had rocks thrown at him and his reaction was to say that "people are mad." People are mad. That observation was almost as powerful as the apology. It was an observation of something that is true. Of course it's true. A young man is dead. The streets are filled with tanks and tear gas. There may be bad actors but there is also rage. Rage at a system that should be raged against by all of us. 
Trayvon's mother wrote a beautiful piece in Time in which she says, if they refuse to hear us we will make them feel us. And that is the truest truth. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pacing The Cage

I was reading an interview last night in which Jack Turner says: The more digital your life is, the more you have conformed. It’s safe to stay home and watch reruns of Star Trek and fiddle with Facebook and track digital gossip, but it’s also shallow and lifeless.
I'm more likely to watch reruns of Doc Martin than Star Trek. I'm not interested in gossip. I do have Facebook on the screen most of the day although I'm not always looking at it. A few details are different but he's talking about me.
Up until then I was enjoying the read. He's an interesting man who has lived in an interesting manner. But there's chauvinism in so much of what he says. Some of us can't live in a place where we need snow shoes to get home. And even when I was able to walk I wouldn't have been engaged by the life style he holds dear. I like nature. I value nature. And I've always wanted there to be a coffee shop and a book store fairly close by.
I need to get out more. I know that. I'm lonely and I need to find a way to connect with more people. It was true in SF and it's more true now. Every Saturday morning I try to push myself to drive my scooter over to the Farmer's Market and I fail. I fail because I'm afraid when I'm driving my scooter. I fail because the only thing worse than being alone is being with people and feeling alone. In the time it takes me to eat breakfast I talk myself out of going.
Having said all that I resist the idea that a life organized around screens is shallow and lifeless. It can be but it doesn't have to be. When I first started blogging I was thrilled to find so many interesting people. People doing great art. People having great conversations. People writing and posting about their daily lives. I would get lost clicking through other people's blog rolls. I've met a few of the people I found on blogs and it has usually felt like meeting an old friend.
It was hard this week not to be glued to media. I spent a lot of time mumbling to myself. When I saw the picture from Howard my first reaction was to take a picture with my hands up and use it on my profile. I try not to do things like that. I didn't take a hoodie shot during the Trevon days. I haven't poured ice water on my head. I don't wear pink. I don't disapprove of any of those things. I don't really think most people who do them feel like they've done anything substantive. It feels good to do something when it feels like there's noting you can do. Of course there is a need for action but I find criticism of  these things jaundiced and unnecessary. My choice to not do it was because I felt such urgency and it didn't feel real enough. There were solidarity event all over the place and I felt like all I could do was drag my walker down to the patio for my building and hold a Hands Up Don't Shoot poster. Maybe I should have. Maybe I would have met some people and had some interesting conversations.
I wonder if the people who had used social media to launch revolutions feel like what they're doing is shallow and lifeless.
Do I sound like I'm arguing from both sides of a fence? I am. I often do.
I'm just annoyed.
I'm frustrated.
I feel way too many things.
I know having a news talk show on a screen next to me while I scroll through the Internet in front of me and checking my phone and ... oh. OK. I need to get out more. But it's not about conformity. It doesn't feel lifeless. Or Shallow.
I have been pacing the cage.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I was born in Ferguson, Missouri. When I was three months old my mom left my dad and moved in with her parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have no memories of Ferguson. No identification with it. It's typing on my birth certificate.
The news from Ferguson is painful. It's not just Ferguson, of course. It's New York and California and Chicago and Florida.
I want to believe that I have some kind of innate character. I want to believe that even if I had grown up in Ferguson that I would have the same revulsion and anger I feel now when I hear the news of another young black man murdered by the people who have sworn to protect and serve. But there's no way to know. My father was racist. What if I had been Daddy's girl?
I didn't meet my father until I was eleven or twelve. I spent less than a year with him.  A month here. A week there. Even at 61 I can feel my throat tighten with hurt and longing. Not always. But often. When I see fathers with babies I am sort of mystified. What does that feel like?
Therapy? Been there. Done that. And I have this part of my narrative in a compartment. But it is part of how I experience the world. There's a gap in the programming. An absence.
My dad was extremely charming. He was the youngest child, the only boy. His father died when he was young. He had the same gap in programming. And he was raised by a mother and two sisters who thought he was the sun and the moon. He believed women  were there for him. If I had been raised by him would my desire to please him have shaped me into a different person? How different? In what ways?
Racism, in my world, was absence. There were no people of color in my neighborhood, in my church, in my school. I remember feeling very curious about them. I remember feeling like they were interesting because of their difference. I remember feeling like I just wasn't in on something. Something very cool. And that is a kind of racism. It may seem benign. It may seem like a function of the culture and the times. If I'd grown up in Ferguson I would have a different experience. But would I be different?
It's in the nature of privilege to assume that you know the truth. But there really is no way to know. What ever sadness I have about my father's absence in my life is matched by a sense that I was much better off with out him.
There is nothing about Ferguson that  feels like home. But, in fact, it is where I am from.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wide and Kind.

Just as I reached the sidewalk the other day a young boy and his mother passed by. He smiled directly at me. He smiled a sweet wide open smile. It struck me because I've been thinking about that Louie riff  specifically the moment when, after having been boldly confronted with his inability to see her as a possible romantic relationship, he takes the woman's hand and then looks around to make sure no one sees them. The moment contains such a small sweet thing, the reach for a hand and such dull but real thing, the look around.
Once I read George Clooney talking about the paparazzi and what a drag it could be. He said something about being next to a fat girl at the airport and  they get a picture and say it's his girl friend and it's just such a drag. I thought about his aunt Rosemary, who I think he probably loved. She was very fat. I wondered if he wanted her to have love and kindness and respect. Probably. I guess if it's your older auntie you don't imagine them as a full person. But what if a man was ashamed to be seen with her? How would George feel about that?
In the Louie rant (let's remember he wrote it) she talks about being a flirt. She talks about how the really good looking guys flirt right back but the guys who aren't secure in themselves don't want to seem interested. I feel that way sometimes. I can be a crazy flirt. It feels easier to flirt with younger, handsome men. Men who are my age won't meet my eye but younger men can be very playful.
These are generalizations. Of course.
And after the rant and the reach for the hand the woman is never seen again. She was just there so Louie could confess. Everybody talked about it for a day or two. And?
When I swim there is an older (which is to say my age) couple who walk the pool for a half an hour. The first time I met them I didn't like her because she seemed kind of naggy. But as I've been around them more I've become quite fond of them both. She is a bit naggy. But they are also sweet and playful and flirty with each other. They take pleasure in just looking at one another.
It isn't always about flirting or romance. I've been meeting a lot of new people. When I first got here I was wide open. I loved everyone I met. I met a lot of nice people. And I saw that look. The look of dismissal. Like I could not possibly be interesting. I wrote about this not long ago.
Young people are often shy or reserved. A smile from a young boy ... really.... a young man, something that should have no real big meaning, something that should be matter of fact, was quite lovely.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Did You Like Me?

Having the Facebook page has been interesting. I'm not sure people understand that they can "like" the page. I'm not sure why I should care. I think Facebook assumes pages are about promoting a business. I get messages about how a given post is performing. And numbers about how many people have been "reached". I really wonder how these numbers are gathered. If I look at the page or a post three times does it count as three? I'm trying not to think about it too much. When I used to write more regularly I spent a silly amount of time checking my stats. I'm not above caring about attention  but the purpose of the page is to nudge me into writing.
John McPhee wrote a piece that is (remarkably) available in full. I first read it right after I'd returned from three months visiting Mom and just before the idea of moving to the nest.  At that time I was determined to rewrite The Book. Moving took over and it never happened. McPhee writes about using letter writing as a way to cross "the electric fence from the actual world to the writing world." That wouldn't work for me. Even writing email sometime causes me to seize up.
He goes on to write about the pleasure of rewriting. I love rewriting. It's been a really long time since I wrote in any kind of sustained manner. But when I was writing for school my favorite thing was the rewriting. Once I showed David something I was working on and in about three minutes he'd marked it up in ways that taught me how to think about reorganization. Jo Ann did something similar when she told me to take out all the "ands" in something and see which ones I felt I needed to put back. I do over use the word and. I like it because it's the way I think. And. And. And. Or. But. But. But. But....she had a point. Those two moments taught me more about how to think about writing than all of the hours in MFA workshops put together.
He writes" Until it exists, writing has not really begun."
I've reread his piece a few times and reread it again as I began this recent push. He writes about something that is very true for me.

What I have left out is the interstitial time. You finish that first awful blurting, and then you put the thing aside. You get in your car and drive home. On the way, your mind is still knitting at the words. You think of a better way to say something, a good phrase to correct a certain problem.
When I wrote daily everything was a writing prompt. And if I was working on something it was in my thoughts like a constant buzz. Some of that has returned.
I have been checking Whiskey River most days. This bit is worth a full read but the line about writing because one is unemployable made me smile.
There have been times in my life when writing was a source of comfort. It was mostly journal writing and not writing I ever imagined anyone would read. Or if they did read it I'd be dead and they'd find my journals and then it wouldn't really matter if I'd said something stupid, or said it badly. At least not to me.
Very often, maybe always, when someone likes something I've written and leaves a comment, I reread what I've written. I'm trying to understand what it was that was appealing. I fret over something I could have said better. I wonder if I was clear. I can never separate from the imagined reader. It may or may not trouble the writing.
The page has 32 likes. Apparently I should aspire to reach 100. I can't see that happening. I can't say I wouldn't be happy if it were true. When I get a new like I feel very Sally Fields.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Mood Swing

When I heard that Facebook had been manipulating feeds in an attempt to mess with our moods I smiled. On any given day my feed is filled with pictures of cats and dogs. So many of my friends are passionate about animals. Not that pictures of cats and dogs can't be depressing. I have learned shocking things about what happens to animals on Facebook. More than once I've heard about a pet being dropped off at a shelter when they are too old or infirmed. Concentrically, the number of stories I read about pet rescues are heart warming. Sometimes there are ducks. Chickens. All manner of animals being adorable.
My feed is also full of platitudes. These actually often have an impact on my mood but not the one they're intended to have. Obviously a good attitude makes life easier but being able to feel all the possible emotions is a good thing. Platitudes often feel like scolding. We are being taught to focus on personal responsibility too often in stead of questioning institutions.
I read a really interesting rant on disability, which stimulated much thinking. I love when that happens.

"We are learning strength and endurance, not against our bodies and our diagnoses, but against a world that exceptionalizes and objectifies us. I really think that this lie that we’ve been sold about disability is the greatest injustice. It makes life, it makes life hard for us. And that quote, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude” the reason that that’s bullshit is because it’s just not true, because in the social model of disability. No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it into a ramp. Never. You know, smiling at a television screen is not going to make closed captions appear for people who are deaf. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshelf and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into braille. It’s just not going to happen.It’s just not going to happen."

Exactly. Sometimes it's not about you. Sometimes it's about us. Sometimes it's about how we decide to be as a community.
And then there is politics. Oh politics. I follow a lot of political people and political news so my feed is full of stuff much of which is just not useful. Almost every day I see a post from the left followed by a post from the right both of which are saying things in an inflammatory way. Much of which is slamming the other side. I lean left. Lean far enough that I am close to submerged. And even when I agree with things that are being said I recoil at some of the posts on Facebook. I feel out rage and there are times when it feels satisfying to read someone being extreme but I'm not interested in that as a daily ritual. I'm interested in understanding.
I find it hard to take a public political stand these days for that reason. Things feel complicated to me. Most of my friends lean left but I have a few friends who are far more to the right than I knew. If I could sit face to face with them I'd engage in debate but I see things in comment boxes that make me cringe. And I want to jump in. Then I'm in a conversation with my friend and their friends. And I feel manic. I feel like I can't type fast enough.  
My mood is impacted in the moment that I read some things. My mood is impacted by what's going on in the world. But that isn't about Facebook.
My ... um ...mood has always been slippery. I can fall down a tunnel of gloom for no obvious reason and slip into near bliss at the oddest times. I've worked on being flexible enough to ride these waves. Facebook can experiment on me. I doubt they can keep up.
Oh. And the food. My feed has pictures of food. How PoMo is that?

Monday, August 04, 2014


I read an article in Harper's about people my age and older living in camper trailers and working in random jobs including Amazon warehouse work. The title and focus of the article is The End of Retirement. I also heard the writer on NPR and MSNBC. Her focus is important because it talks about how many people are working past what is thought of as retirement age. And working hard. Some of them had great jobs, made great money and lost everything in the crash. Some of them are people like me who worked hard but never really made enough to save.
Mom retired when she was 55. Her husband continued to work for a few more years and his money is the reason she lived as well as she did. Her frugality is another. And it is the reason I have a home and food in my refrigerator. The amount of money I have in savings and will get from Social Security wouldn't be enough to manage this. I am grateful and humbled and I also know that  I worked really hard in my life. Working really hard ought to add up to something. And I know that I would still be dragging myself to EA if they hadn't laid me off.
It's sad to say it that way because there are people who want to work at EA. Gamers are a culture and I was never really part of it. I still love my Sims. I am more of a gamer than most of the people I know but I was not gamer enough comparatively. The commute was brutal. The job was frustrating mostly because of the way things are there. I loved working on Sims2 but was so disappointed in Sims3.  And still I worked as hard as I could and I imagined I'd be there until I was in my seventies.
I've worked with older cooks and wait-people. Restaurant work is brutal. Physically, emotionally. And yet we all worked with as much humor and camaraderie as we could. I knew I couldn't do it much longer when I was in my forties. Hence college and the rest of that story.
Hard work. Education. It's supposed to add up. It shouldn't be so crazy hard to have a simple life.
The article talks about how relatively new retirement is and how it wasn't that long ago that people worked until they fell over. And there are more places in the world where people work well into old age than there are places where people retire. There are also people  who keep working because they love their work.The notorious RBG comes to mind. But the article is about the ideas we have and how they are not really true for so many people.
Harper's put a link to the article on their Facebook page and both there and on the NPR page it got a lot of push back. The article was talking about things from the perspective of how we imagine life in this country and what's real. The writer worries about what happens to people as they become too old to work. She worries about how they drive to Mexico to get dental work. But she also wrote about about the ways community built up among the people in their campers. And the ways in which living with less was freeing. Not enough for many of the people in the comment sections but it seemed to me she did.
I am a fan of tiny houses. I look at them all the time. I can't imagine not living here in the nest but I do often think about how I would design a house big enough for me and my books and still small. I imagine a piece of land big enough for a few of my friends and a garden and a greenhouse with a small lap pool. Swim and read and eat food from the garden. Yep. My paradise. I have most of that in the nest. I am that fortunate.
Younger people are choosing the tiny house lifestyle because it is affordable and it is stepping out side of the consumer lifestyle and enjoying living with much less. All of that is cool.
After I wrote about music yesterday and listened the new Chrissie Hynde six or seven more times (it's on right now) I wanted to own the disc. It reminded me of Veblen and the stacks of  sheet music on pianos in parlors where they were meant to display taste and culture. If I see a CD rack in your home I will look to see who you like. Same thing with books. Owning the disc is like claiming my cultural position. I imagine the fact that Facebook is letting everyone know who  I am listening to is the same thing.
There's an intersection of consumerism and working too hard to afford crap and loving things because they mean something and needing other people to know you like who you like and letting it all go. But letting it all go to be more Zen or less invested in being hip is different from working jobs that don't pay well and are hard on your body when you're older. In the article she talks about the trailer camps being decorated with bird houses and lawn ornaments. Some times stuff is just about making beauty.
Should we expect to be able to retire? Maybe not. Work is how we participate. I just come from an each according to his ability place. In Amazon warehouses someone my age is swallowing handfuls of Ibuprofen to get through the day of concrete floors and  repetitive motion. I was up to 20 pills a day when I left EA.