Sunday, December 31, 2006

Roller coaster years

There is a line in Parenthood with Steve Martin and Diane Wiest about life. Grandma talks about roller coasters and merry-go-rounds and how she always loved the roller coaster because the merry-go-round just went around in a circle and didn't really do anything. It wasn't exciting. I love roller coasters but once in a while I'd like to rest on a merry-go-round because from time to time it's good to give the excitement a rest.

Mom was in the hospital for four days last week because her face and the right side of her neck were swollen. It got so bad at one point they put her in ICU because her airway was closing up and she was fighting for every breath. To make matters worse they had to do a CT scan and she got panicky because she couldn't breathe. Turned out to be an infection of her parotid gland. She walked out of the hospital on Friday because she could breathe and the swelling was going down somewhat because Dad needed help.

Dad started getting radiation treatments to the back of his neck to reduce the tumor growing at the base of his neck and into the spinal canal up against the spinal cord. At first he was tolerating things all right but he's going downhill fast. He's losing weight and can't eat and after the treatments he's worn to a nub and can do little more than fall onto the nearest bed or sofa.

On top of all this I have a long time friend telling me that it's all for the best and I wouldn't want my father in pain so just let go as if I'm some mindless drone who doesn't know all this ahead of time. Knowing it may be time to let go and not wanting my father to live in pain are things I thought I was ready to deal with. I'm not so sure any more. I wouldn't want my father to suffer. I don't want my father to suffer. I know where this is going and I thought I was ready for it but I'm not ready to let go. Would I tell my father to fight, to let the doctors rip away pieces of him a bit at a time just to have him around a little bit longer? Will I tell him to fight for a few more weeks or months just so I don't have to face losing him?


But I'm scared. Even at my age I don't want to be without my father. This is a difficult time for me and all I can think to do is bury myself in work so I don't have to think, don't have to feel, don't have to cry any more. I thought I was tougher than this, that I was ready to let him go. I guess there's still a little softness and frightened humanity inside me now. It's not any easier to be clear across the country instead of watching all this happen in person. I feel like I did when Mom told me Dad might leave us and go live somewhere else, not for a year or a few months like he had when he went overseas and we couldn't go or wouldn't go for a little while, but forever. I wanted to go with him. I wanted to beg him to stay with me and not leave me alone. Those feelings are back just below the surface and I can't say anything to my sisters or my mother because it will make things difficult for them. I'm the strong one. I am the one who lets trouble roll off me like water off a duck's back. I am the one everyone else will lean on and would lean on now if I were there.

But I'm not.

How do I deal with all of this? How do I live in a world where my father no longer walks and I can't call him on the phone? What do I do?

I cry. I pray. I get ready for the inevitable and let him go because I don't want him to suffer and I don't want the doctors to chip away pieces of his spine and ribs and pelvis just to keep him alive to go into the hospital so they can chip and slice pieces of him away a little at a time. I don't want him to live that way.

Yes, I'm selfish. If I could find a way to keep my father so that he didn't have to be in pain and didn't have to go until I was ready, I would keep him around until I died. I'm selfish but I'm not that selfish.

Even though I don't know if he will still be around by February I'm not changing my plans. I'm steeling myself for what I know I will find and it will be more of a shock than seeing him without his teeth the first time and realizing my father, my immortal, eternally young and vigorous father is old. My father is dying and I feel lost and alone. I am lost and alone and I have to keep it to myself because if I crumble who will hold up the rest of them?

As this roller coaster year ends I wish my father weren't dying. I wish I didn't have to lose him. I wish there was someone who understood and would hold me and let me cry and tell me, even though I know it's a lie, that it's going to be all right, that they will be the strong one so I can lean on someone for a little while.

I wish I was on the merry-go-round.

Friday, December 29, 2006

One of those zone nights

I have always loved the snow. Even as a kid I prayed for snow. In some ways I still do. While I was at the computer working this morning something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye: someone skiing up the street. I snapped a picture. Haven't downloaded it yet, but snow inspires me. I sometimes long for the quiet and solitude of the cabin when the snow was piled up to the second floor and all over the deck. I would sit in the living room in the dark with the stove lit and the fire going and look out the glass doors onto the back deck. When the moon was full the light was blue and the sky so clear and dark the stars were close enough to touch.I usually had a cup of hot cider with a cinnamon stick in it or a big mug of hot Mexican chocolate in the recliner with an afghan around my legs and the only light the moon or the fire. It was quiet and wonder and peaceful and I miss it. I never felt alone. But there is comfort in the sounds that surround me here, the little domestic sounds of television and laughter and conversation floating through the door or up through the floor boards and the smells of cooking or incense from Nel's apartment or the simple clean fresh-wash smell of laundry. There are little sounds in the morning that remind me I am not alone: Nel showering in the morning with the bang click of the shower button going down, the sound of running water and Barbara sliding the doors open so Pastor can go out onto the deck. There is the scent of Barbara's strong vanilla coffee that wafts up through the open windows or into the hallway and under my door when I go into the kitchen. The baseboard heater ticks as water flows through the pipes and warms up the cold pipes and the comforting hum of my computer in the sun room with it's eerie green lights flashing and blinking in the darkness. I don't think I noticed the sounds and smells and feeling of a place quite so much when I was married or the kids were around because every morning was a controlled chaos of rushed dressing and meals and bundling up in the cold to take the kids to school or the babysitter's and for me to get to work on time. I wonder if that's what happens to people in marriages, if they are so busy and rushed they don't take the time to appreciate the small sounds and sights and smells around them that remind them there is something more than work and errands and bills and all the thousand little things they feel they must do before it's time to drop spent and worn into bed before it's time to get up and do it all over again.

Silent white

As I worked yesterday I watched the snow fall, first in a sugary sifting and then floating feathers that drifted down and clung to everything until the bare trees were dark with melting snow and the broken street, scarred pavement and barren ground was softened, glinting and sparkling in the watery sun blinking sleepily from the white sky. As the sun drowned in the white behind the mountains the sky and snow glowed with an eerie amber light that turned to gold-tinged lavender and then to a translucent blue violet that made the snow glow in the darkness. Every light was softly magnified until the world outside my windows was full of magic and inside was cozy and warm. The silence whispered and the snow muffled and softened the sharp edges of sound. It is snowing again and I welcome the snow the way the slumbering trees welcome its cold touch before it warms and trickles through the hard wrinkled bark and into the heart of the tree, leaving a dark caress behind, a trail from the cold outside world into the beating heart that fills its capillaries and veins.

The cold daylight and the wind have shaken most of the fairy magic from the soft storm but there is more to come and another magical night full of dreams and hope will rise as the sun slips beneath the horizon.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


It has been a while since I wrote or posted poetry. Today is the day.


Rosy band expanding
above deep purple points
reaching into white islands
in the sapphire sea

* * *

Winter Storm

Blank canvas sky
goose down and sugar slanting,
frosting everything in sight.

* * *

And a blast from the past in honor of the season.


Midwinter cave
where night rules the day
God born of virgin,
the promise of prosperity and light.

Earth turn 'round
and day moves over night.
The first balance struck,
the god grows stronger.

In fertile fields,
the seed is planted
in the Mother's womb,
nurtured beneath the warming sun.

Mid year, first harvest,
day rules the night.
The god in his glory,
strengthens the fecund ground.

Celebrate the lord of earth,
keeper of the forest,
who, with the Mother,
keeps the promise of the light.

Earth turn 'round,
day balances night.
Final harvest draws near,
year cycle ends as destiny rises.

Hail the sacrifice of blood,
payment for a fruitful year.
The bull is slain;
the god lies still.

Midwinter feast
in the darkness of night.
Harvest the seed planted
three quarters before.

The god reborn.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Color studies

I have been busy reading and goofing off but I finally found enough time to download some pictures.

Every once in a while I catch the sky doing some amazingly beautiful things and I have the camera close at hand. I don't think I have ever seen the sky quite so beautiful even when it's on fire in the morning or in the fierce dying embers right before dusk.

Then there are times when I'm working and a flash of light catches my eye. Is it any wonder I keep my camera near my desk?

I may do a little research about this little tar ball and her appearance here in Colorado so far from where he landed and write an article about her. I haven't seen her for a few days and I hope the foxes haven't caught up with her or the other squirrels run her off. She is definitely a beauty.

I am no photographer but I enjoy catching a small sample of the views and happenings I see outside my windows when I'm chained to my desk. The view is never quite the same and always a beautiful surprise in color and texture and diversity.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Random notes

A new friend and I have bonded over a magazine, one we have both tried (unsuccessfully) to break into and be published by the eccentric editor. She has sent him reams of poetry and stories dripping with snot and tears (his favorite type) and still he rejects her. Her husband bought her all the back issues so she could study them (I got a year's subscription) and still the editor rejects her with chatty notes but still very strong and unequivocal Nos. I just get the form rejections with little notes scrawled across the bottom, but they are still rejections.

She set me a task--to figure out her middle name: three letters ends with M. My first guess turned out to be her daughter's middle name but then I didn't know her name only had three letters. After reading about Hebrew naming practices I think I finally have her. Her middle name is most like to start with the same letter as her first name: J or Y in Hebrew. That narrows the field considerably.

Looking for her name made me think about names in general and mine specifically. My name is the feminine of John which means, "God is gracious." The bearer of such a name is described as well-groomed, intelligent and as solid and dependable as the Rock of Gibraltar. The Johns I know certainly fit that description and I know from talking with Beanie that my mother (and the rest of the family) certainly see me that way (okay, not so well groomed since I fail to wear makeup every day and I prefer comfortable rather than fashionable clothes). Perceptions are always interesting.

We see someone smile at us and immediately think they're interested even though we don't know they were looking past us at their date or someone that makes their toes tingle or even someone who just looks funny. Maybe they are smiling at us the way a crocodile smiles before it weeps while gnawing a piece of our flesh. Maybe they smile because they are nervous or just because they don't want to let it slip that they are liars and cheats and vampires who need your energy and your cooperation to get close enough to siphon it off and leave you empty. You never know for sure. I remember a song from the 70s: "They smile in your face. All the time they want to take your place, the back stabbers." Funny how lyrics linger in the corridors of the mind waiting for a chance to pop out when you least expect it, like when you're rambling in your journal. I always said I didn't trust Jimmy Carter who took $600 off his taxes as a campaign expense for toothpaste. Anyone who uses $600 worth of toothpaste is a liar, obsessive or has worked for the Dept. of Defense and thinks the people really believe a screwdriver costs $35,000 dollars. I don't trust anyone who smiles too much; they make my skin crawl.

I can understand smiling when you're nervous; I do that. I don't understand smiling when there is nothing to smile about. I always watch how many teeth are showing; the more teeth there are, the less I trust the person, and if they show their gums, I run for the hills as though a wild fire is on my tail. Not going to happen.

I have learned to pay attention to my instincts. Every time I have ignored that sudden flush of adrenalin and prickling sweat I have ended up in trouble. I also have my irrational fears, too, but those are a subject for another post.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Black squirrel

A little black squirrel has appeared in the trees around my house. At first I caught only glimpses of him and then on Friday I actually got a picture of him. He was in the squirrel porn tree and I finally got his attention and he looked in my office window. I got two pictures but have not downloaded them from the camera. I have spent the weekend dealing with family, explaining medical reports on my Dad's condition to several members of my family and working. I now have two jobs and I have spent the better part of the weekend working for Random House Publishing and learning my new job. I have also put in several hours on my regular job to earn the bonus but also to earn a little more money. I'm tired of worrying about money.

I could understand it if I were extravagant and spent all my money shopping and buying frivolous things I don't need, but I don't. I even gave up cable. Since my television was in the shop for six weeks, giving up cable was a smart move and I didn't miss it very much. I download the programs I want to watch anyway and the landlady is nice enough to let me watch the odd program or mini series with her downstairs. We sit and chat and discuss the show and generally visit. It's one of the good things about living where I do--the wonderful people, my friends and neighbors.

Back to the money issue...

I don't eat out all the time. I seldom eat out, come to that. I don't buy expensive food, although I am tempted now and again to throw caution to the wind and buy shrimp or steak or scallops, lovely, sweet scallops. I don't buy a lot of clothes, as anyone who has seen me on a regular basis over a period of months or years will attest. I don't buy makeup and I don't have my hair done at a salon. I drive my car once or twice a week and I have even cut back on indulging in DVDs of movies I like and books I want to read and hold and own and caress and sleep with. I'm not extravagant. So why do I have so little money?

I work hard but the people at work keep taking pot shots at my page counts, squashing paragraphs that have nothing in common and are in different tenses together to make the report shorter and use fewer pages, all in the pursuit of making sure they get the most for their money and I get the least value for the work I do. I never find out about it until I receive my paycheck and find out it is many, MANY dollars short. By then it's too late. I have responsibilities and bills I have to pay in order to keep working and so...some part of the budget must suffer. The grocery budget always takes the hit. Good thing I don't drive the car more than two or three times a week or I'd have to cut that back as well.

So what does all this have to do with a black squirrel?

I watched the little black squirrel along in the squirrel porn tree, alone for a couple of minutes. Then the red squirrels descended, biting, scratching, kicking and knocking the little tar colored ball of fur around. The black squirrel fled out on a limb and launched into space, barely missing a branch and plunging to the cement sidewalk below. Other little red squirrels chased the black squirrel out of the tree where he fled, chasing it from tree to tree down the street. No wonder I don't see it very often. You'd think the little red furred squirrels would be more interested. The black squirrel is a female.

This new little female, according to my quick Google research this morning, could have come from a plague of black squirrels that started with ten who were brought from England or she could have migrated from Quebec and the surrounding regions, crossing the Great Lakes on ice floes in the midst of winter. She is an outcast from somewhere and has decided to make Colorado, specifically Old Colorado City, her home, but the neighborhood squirrels don't like her very much and they have decided not to get to know her. She is harried from tree to tree as she forages for food and grabs a quick nap, running for her life and safety, but always ending up back here in the trees surrounding my house. I wonder how her family feels about her being so far from them and so far from what they consider to be her home?

I have watched the red furred male squirrel and the little black squirrel together from a distance and today I watched them up close. They were tentative, sniffing and touching and curling up together, eyes darting about as they watched for the other red furred squirrels. It was almost as if they were afraid to be found out, afraid their few moments of closeness wouldn't last but willing to take the chance just to be together. I'm sure he worries about his family and what they will think of him and how much trouble he would cause if he were found out, but the red and black squirrel seemed suited to each other. The fit together and the red furred squirrel has had quite a bit of trouble from the female squirrels in the area. They kick and scratch and bite and chitter endlessly at him; the little black squirrel doesn't. she shares what food she has with him and they comfort each other. I wonder if I will see black and red furred squirrels in the spring?

I hope I do.

Friday, December 15, 2006

More waiting

They did the MRI on Dad last night and a bone scan on him today. When I talked to him he sound tired and worn out. We didn't talk long, just long enough to discover that the cancer is in his spine and has moved into his neck. The doctor has started him on injections to increase the calcium content of his bones, especially now his testosterone engine is one, and they will do localized radiation therapy on his neck. He has lesions on his ribs and in his pelvis. They didn't catch it in time.

I went downstairs after a grueling night and day of work to get my ears candled. My right ear was itching and sticking a skewer into my ear to scratch the itch seemed like a really bad idea. I heard the SLURP! THWOOP! of some pretty big bits of wax go up into the candle and they were quite impressive when the landlady cut the ends of the candles open. Now my ear doesn't itch and it's like the illness I've been feeling building up in my system has been stopped dead--with the emphasis on DEAD. She also popped my ears and I have spent the rest of the afternoon and evening getting rid of the gunk clogging up my sinuses. I didn't know you could pull on someone's ear lobes and open up the sinuses. I learned something new. The landlady asked if I would return the favor after the first of the year and candle her ears. I said yes. After all, she's more than a landlady, she's my friend.

I'm sitting here when I should be in bed snoozing after such a long night and day of work, especially since I still have to work tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that and I start editing for a major publisher on Saturday.

The urge to fall asleep typing just hit.

That is all. Disperse.

ADDENDUM: The latest news is that my father has to stay in the hospital. They are beginning radiation therapy on his cervical spine (neck) today. He is still having issues with pain and by all reports looks really bad. I don't know which is worse: being there to watch him fade away or being 2000 miles away.

Yesterday the landlady asked me if I was ready to let my father go. I didn't know what to say then and I don't know what to say now. There is a little girl inside me who wants to hang onto her daddy and a mature adult who knows that it's wrong to want him to stay around in so much pain and agony. I believe people have the right to live a happy and productive life with quality. The quality of my father's life diminishes day by day and inch by inch. I know when the time comes, and if I have to cast the deciding vote, I want to know he died with dignity and wasn't being kept just because the doctors could. I'm not ready to let go of my father but I won't hold him back either. I've been ready for this time for many years but I really didn't think it would come. I feel like the women who hate all men because they have been burned in relationships even though inside them, and not very deep inside, they hope and pray someone will prove them wrong and love them. I love my father and I'd rather remember him as he was before he became ill and not as an old man crippled and contracted by pain, unable to speak and screaming in pain from a loving touch.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Holiday cards are out and some people have let me know they received my little art project. I don't know if everyone received their card, but I'll wait to hear from them.

Waiting is a theme these days. I'm currently waiting for the key lime cheesecake I made last night to be ready to eat but it still has 10 hours to go. I'm waiting to hear from my parents about my Dad's visit to the doctors at the James Cancer Center. No word so far. I haven't heard from Beanie about her colonoscopy, but I am reminded of waiting to hear about a very close friend's visit to the lizard nearly two years ago. He was fine. I'm sure Beanie will be fine, too, but I still have to wait for the news.

I'm waiting to find out if I will be able to go to the Xmas party for the ham radio club but I won't know about that until tomorrow. A publisher promised to get back to me this week on another book I have making the rounds and I'm still waiting.

And I'm waiting to get enough rest to tackle another 14 hours of work but sleep is hard come by right now and there are other concerns on my mind. I hate waiting.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Another day is yawning

It's nearly impossible to enjoy the dawn with the Xmas lights still on at a house across the street. The rest of the street is dark, except for the street light on the corner, but its yellow light is less intrusive than the white twinkling lights limning the front porch, roof and windows across the street. The trees emerge as dark clawed and twisted silhouettes against the faint blue lightening sky and the houses across the street appear as ghostly lines and angles in front of the dark bulk of the mountains. The squirrels aren't up and about yet but two ragged tailed foxes prowl the sidewalks, hungry shadow wraiths anxious to catch a sleep addled squirrel for breakfast before they race the sun back to their den to feed themselves and their families. Soon my little confused squirrel will be wrestling and chasing the little black squirrel that appeared a couple of days ago, but they never stop long enough in their play for me to get a picture. A glimpse of all black fur is the most I have caught since he popped his head up in the crotch of the squirrel porn tree four days ago. I have stalked him ever since without success. Maybe today I'll catch him while I work another 12-14 hours.

A book I started and (luckily) finished yesterday wouldn't let me sleep in peace until I had written the review and posted it at The Celebrity Cafe. Now that I have finished that task, as well as deleting 20 spam mails, I am going to crawl back between the now cool sheets and chase a little more sleep before I must place my nose against the grindstone. I still have a stack of books to read and review, but they can wait a bit longer.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


My family is so supportive. My parents sent me a page from their local newspaper about a woman who took 30 years to get published. My wrote, "How long have you been writing?" and my father wrote, "Take a little time, Love Dad." I guess that means I only have 15 years to go before one of my books is published. They seem to have forgotten about all the articles, profiles, interviews, essays and stories that have already been published. My parents, like most people, equate writing success with books that have the author's name on them. The books I ghost wrote don't count either.

Oh, well, it could be worse. I could have 30 years to go.

That is all. Disperse.


Out of the darkness she came, bringing memories of murder and disappointment and a season of living with fear and darkness.

I haven't though about Dekkie Moate in years. She is a part of my past in New Orleans. Since I've been raking up old ashes in search of a spark of life and remembrance about those days it was inevitable that should would catch fire and burn her way back into the forefront of my mind. She did.

We met at a temporary agency, both looking for better paying jobs, any jobs. Since we were both hired for the same job, nuclear investigations in Tennessee, and she didn't have a car it was suggested that we pool our resources. We did. I promised to pick her up once the formalities were signed, sealed and delivered and take her to Tennessee with me. In return she took me to a lonely shell and rock strewn shingle, like a dirty secret, in the bayous surrounding Lake Pontchartrain. Twisted, gnarled skeletal trees like pale wraiths scattered among the tangled, humped roots of trees sucking life through the brackish and iridescent oil slicked waters of bayou cupped a small cold beach. "What do you feel?" she asked.

I shivered and looked back at her. Wrapping herself close with her arms, her eyes shifting nervously among the shadows as she inched closer to the one pallid ray of sunshine spearing it's way down from a cloudless sky beyond the reach of the trees. "Cold fear," I said. "This is not a happy place. Why did you want to come here?"

We stood at the end of a long dusty shell packed road where the dregs of Lake Pontchartrain licked noisily at the slimed rocks and sterile fingers of beach. We stood on the point of Frenier Beach where her mother went missing and her mother's lover died with his pants down around his knees slumped over the reclining front seats of his dark green Nash. Her mother's clothes were neatly folded in a paper grocery sack on top of the neatly typed lyrics of a song from The King and I.

We Kiss in a Shadow

We kiss in a shadow,
We hide from the moon,
Our meetings are few,
And over too soon.

We speak in a whisper,
Afraid to be heard;
When people are near,
We speak not a word.
Alone in our secret,
Together we sigh,
For one smiling day to be free
To kiss in the sunlight
And say to the sky:
"Behold and believe what you see!
Behold how my lover loves me!"

We speak in a whisper,
Afraid to be heard;
When people are near,

We speak not a word.
Alone in our secret,
Together we sigh,
For one smiling day to be free

To kiss in the sunlight
And say to the sky:
"Behold and believe what you see!
Behold how my lover loves me!"

To kiss in the sunlight
And say to the sky:
"Behold and believe what you see!
Behold how my lover loves me!"

Over the next few months as we shared a room at the Quality Inn in Sweetwater, Tennessee she told me about her mother and her life and the most famous murder/disappearance in Louisiana history, a mystery that remains unsolved to this day.

I wondered then, as I wonder now, how it would have affected me had my mother's lover been murdered when my mother disappeared and left me looking for truth among the lies that no longer held her life together. It is no wonder, despite the cold evil presence that haunts Frenier Beach, she is unable to stay away.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Waste of space

In a bold new move, and to prove how ecology conscious they are, Xerox has designed a new kind of paper. The printing fades after being exposed to light in about 16-24 hours, a process that is sped up by using the paper to print something new. Supposedly for emails and memos that you just have to see in print on paper, this innovative paper could be the genesis for a whole new crop of ideas. Death bed and murder confessions spring immediately to my warped mind. I wonder though why develop such a paper in the first place. Okay, so memos that have the shelf life of a May Fly are one reason, but why print them out when email is so much simpler and faster and creates no waste? Do we really need to smell the ink or toner and feel the paper in our hands?

As a writer I want what I print out to last--as long as there are no errors. If there are errors then I have to use clean paper and start all over again. If I use the new Xerox paper when I have a perfect finished product it will fade in 16-24 hours. Does that mean I should deliberately make mistakes so I can get the most use out of the paper, which is supposed to be good for up to 50 printings, or should I be more careful and print out only what is error free on non-fading paper? In the end, the paper will still be recycled no matter how many times it is used to print useless short lived memos, so what have I gained? What if I forget I have the fading paper in my printer and print out my novel to send to a publisher who ends up receiving a stack of blank paper with only a return address on an envelope to designate where it came from, an envelope that will most assuredly be trashed as soon as the stack of paper is removed? Here I am waiting for word from the publisher and nothing happens, not, I might add, a situation that is that rare. Writers wait endlessly for publishers. If six months or a year goes by without word our lives and writing continue regardless. I can just imagine 10 publishers with 10 manuscripts that were on the paper wondering why someone is sending them blank paper. Is it a hoax? Does the writer think they're funny or clever? "Well, we'll show them," the publisher says and puts the paper in their own copy machine to print out copies of another author's novel or changes and they send those to the author who wonders why the publisher has sent them blank paper. Is this some kind of joke or is the publisher telling them something? Could it be their words are as worthless as the paper or are they asking the author to start from the beginning? I can see all kinds of misunderstandings cropping up and a new war beginning in the publishing industry.

The wars will escalate in every sector of our ordered and well papered lives. Bill collectors and finance companies will receive contracts for payment on the fading paper and will be unable to take their proof to the courts. Lawyers' briefs will vanish overnight in the judge's chambers and the offending lawyers will end up paying fines and spending time in jail for contempt of court. Supreme Court decisions will disappear (and some of them should). Government will crash and burn as chaos reigns and all because fading paper was used to print out laws and ordinances and communications. The country will come to a standstill and the Internet will catch fire from the venting and wars and recriminations and breakdown of society as we know it.

I don't think this paper is a good idea. It's one of those things that seems like a responsible, ecological choice but ends up throwing the delicate natural balance into chaos. I wonder what CEO Xerox will fire for this one?

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Holiday food tips

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. Like fine single-malt scotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can't find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-aholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or, if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have SOME standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Reread tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.

Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, totally worn out and screaming, "WOO HOO what a ride!"

That is all. Disperse.

And EAT!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rambling no rose

It was warm enough to leave the windows open last night but it sure is cold this morning. I had to get up out of my warm bed and close them because I have to start work in a couple hours and I find it a little difficult to type when my fingers are blue and cold. Just a quirk really.

I mailed off the last of my holiday cards yesterday and a package for a friend. It was cheaper to send the package by Priority mail and ask for delivery confirmation than it would have been to send it regular mail and wait three or four days for it to show up. Sounded like a bargain so I went for it. I paid the rent and the bills and now I'm broke but that's the way it usually works. At least I got food last night and a pot of homemade vegetable beef soup is simmering on the stove filling the house with that herb and food scent that makes the mouth water. I forgot an ingredient so I have to track back to the store to pick it up today so I can make another cheesecake and freeze it. It will be a gift for someone, maybe one of you. How do you feel about key lime cheesecake? Or do you prefer plain or maybe chocolate raspberry swirl?

This is one of the few times I wish my family lived closer because I love to bake and cook and give the results as gifts, although I'm sure my mother wishes I were back in Ohio to help her and the family deal with everything my father is going through. Carol seems to have picked up the ball and run with it so maybe me being here is a good thing since other people are doing what I've always done--handle things.

I haven't had much time to read lately and I'm going to have even less time to read since I have to work even longer hours than before. It's all part of the grown up thing that I really don't like very much. There are days when I wish I could run away, just pack up the car and hit the road and drive. I've even thought of packing a few things, stowing them in a back pack and just start walking. By the time I reach the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail I should be in shape to through hike either or maybe both. There's something so soothing about a walk in the woods with nothing on the mind but putting one foot in front of the other. I'd stop every once in a while to pick up a day job or two or work for a week or two to get enough money to push on but it would be a simple life with no bills and no responsibilities and no pressure. I wouldn't have to sit in that chair for 12-16 hours a day and I could stop and walk into a public library and read for a few hours without worrying about all the chores I need to do. I'd be close to nature and I could stop and make radio contact with my backpacking rig and chat with people all around the world and across the country. To meet new people and hear different stories I could write and submit at those libraries would be heaven indeed. That is the life I would choose.

It's a charming thought and one that pops frequently into my mind a lot these days when I'm feeling pressured and harried and worried about paying the bills and having enough money saved for the future. But it's the pipe dream of frustration. I don't need to run away to be free. I am free now. I go and come as I choose--most of the time. I do have to work and sometimes it seems endless, especially in a job I don't like, but what's to say there are other jobs that would be better or less endless. On the road I wouldn't have beds to make and kitchens to clean and trash to take out. I would have camp to make every night, dishes to wash out, food to hang, trash to dispose of, clothing to wash and things to air out. I'd still have to work some time at manual or unskilled labor for a fraction of what I make right now and the work would be mindless drudgery, albeit something new and different. I'd still have to buy shoes to replace the ones I'd wear out and clothes when my own were too threadbare to keep me warm on arctic nights and days. I wouldn't be able to bathe as often and the smell would probably keep me out of public libraries where it's warm and cozy and full of chairs and tables and books.

Whether its' the open road or my comfortable haunted apartment, it's a trade-off. It's like the stories of running away to join the circus. You think it's all painted faces and popcorn and animals. You don't know about the back breaking labor of putting up and taking down tents, practicing hour after hour after aching hour to get a trick right or washing and scrubbing down smelly elephants or mucking out cages or the thousand different tasks that need to be done for two hours of play time and entertainment for the masses. I know about what makes a circus run because my father ran away to the circus when he was younger. When he had his fill he joined the Army.

As Erma Bombeck said, "The grass is always greener over the septic tank." The trick is to be happy in whatever you do or wherever you live and if you're not happy to find what makes you happy. Whatever you choose, it will mean work and probably a lot of work, but you get to choose the work so choose wisely. No road is easy to walk but some are more worth the effort than others. The good thing about roads is that there are lots of them. All it takes is a change of course to find the one that suits you and takes you where you really want to go.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Holiday farce

Most people lose sight of common sense during the holidays. Like the full moon, the holidays induce a kind of madness that results in breakups of marriages, fights, and suicides. The only thing the holidays don't have in common with the madness of the full moon is the need or desire to over spend. A friend recently told me that most people spend upwards of $800 on gifts, with the emphasis on "upwards".

I remember reading a blog on my friends list and the friend in question talked about their longing for their home during the holidays. The friend is from Europe and it was the sights and sounds, smells and tastes of the holiday season she missed and not the gift giving and commercialism she found here. Retailers go all out to lure us into their stories to buy things we don't need and children won't play with 30 minutes after they find out what is inside the pretty wrapping paper and that wrapping paper is becoming more and more expensive for less and less paper. The cashiers and a few customers were talking while I waited in line, oohing and aahing over some very pretty wrapping paper that cost less than $2. Yes, it was inexpensive but there was barely enough on the role to take care of more than two good sized packages; that was something else the mentioned.

When I was growing up the holidays was a special time when, greedy kids that we were, we couldn't wait for Christmas morning to rush downstairs and work our way from the foyer into the living room opening packages as we went. My parents spent lavishly at Christmas--I should say my mother spent lavishly. Every year now she warns everyone that she and Dad can no longer afford to spends lots of money like they used to do. This year is no exception. I wonder what they could have done with the money they would have saved if they had spent less money when we were children. I honestly cannot remember more than a few gifts I received and those were the ones that were special. I would have been just as happy without all the dolls and games and toys and things just to have had those few special gifts. This year, like many years in recent memory, I told Mom what gift I wanted: pot holders and kitchen towels. A few years ago I asked for a telescope. I do not need much and I would rather have something I can use or a gift certificate to or even some of my things in storage (postage is a great gift when it's attached to my sewing machine or some of my cooking utensils or books). I am easy to please. I always have been. But there are those who are not content unless they go into debt every single year or drive their spouses crazy by spending so much money it affects their marriage, their credit and their lives--just because it's Christmas.

Yes, it's easy to look back on the past and see how spoiled I was when it came to gifts under the tree and say I would have been happy with less, but it really is true. One year an aunt gave me a book. It was Heidi by Johanna Spyri. I read that book many times and even slept with it under my pillow. I still have it. Then there was the year I received an easel, brushes and a paint box with some canvas boards. I painted with those tools for years, added colors and acrylics and brushes one at a time. My favorite gifts came in my stocking: oranges, nuts, and a little candy. But I wonder how my father felt about how much Mom spent every year, especially the year I snooped and found the basement room that was filled floor to ceiling with toys and gifts, so many gifts I was literally stunned by the sight.

My landlady is a generous and loving person and last year, my first year here, she gave me a big bag of goodies and home baked breads as a gift. She gave a similar bag to Nel across the hall. We talked about that a few weeks ago and she told me she'd rather give something home baked because it is a little more personal--and a touch less expensive. Last night when I took her half of the key lime cheesecake the hall and her apartment were filled with the smell of baking bread. She checked the bread in the oven while we talked in the kitchen, shedding light on three raisin- and nut-studded loaves turning golden in the heat. She told me she soaked the nuts and raisins in liquor for several days before she added them to the dough she made, reminding me of a Kentucky Bourbon cake I have made in years past.

Things here are serene and pleasant but outside these walls there are rumbles of bitter arguments to the beeping sound of credit cards being swiped in stores all over the city. Gone are the cozy holiday meals that fill the house with the scent of spices and baking meat or the warmth and glow that spreads outward from the kitchen. Instead families with go out for dinner and spend their holidays in movie theaters ignoring each other for hours. There will be no leftovers for turkey sandwiches or casseroles and no extra trips to the kitchen to nibble on leftovers while friends and family gather to share a day or an evening of music and laughter, sharing their favorite gifts, ones that they will remember and treasure for years. Instead there will be silence and an atmosphere you could cut with a dull knife and long walks in the freezing cold and snow to cool down hot tempers and get away from the looming specter of harsh words over excessive spending and debt at a time when the wasted money could be used in better ways. I wonder how many of those gifts that will find their way under trees this year will end up on eBay or in yard and garage sales come spring and summer for pennies, nickels and dimes. It's no wonder we need bigger and bigger houses with lots of closet space; we need a place for our stuff, stuff we do not need and won't want 30 minutes after we receive them.

How many gifts did you receive last year do you still have or even remember? Were they worth the cost or the arguments or the debt? Think about it, then think less about how much you plan to spend and even less about spending so much. If you need to spend that money to feel good, give it to a charity in your child's name or your own name, and remember those children who will be ecstatic over one or two gifts some stranger put into a gift collection box at a store without knowing more about the child than whether or not they were a girl or a boy. Give the money to a food pantry or homeless shelter so more people can be fed throughout the holidays and every day. I'm sure your harried and frustrated mate, the one who works and pays the bills, will thank you for not excusing your excesses with, "But it's Christmas."

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Tick tock

There aren't enough hours in the day. I'm reading the latest issue of The Sun, something I have put off because I was working or writing or dealing with family stuff, and the interview with Studs Terkel. I want more. I want to read his books and research his writing and his life but I don't have the time. I have laundry to do and I need to put in a few hours of work to pay the bills. I have to clean the kitchen and go to the market and I need to finish editing the newsletter. I want to spend a little time writing because I have a story boiling merrily on the back burner that kept me from sleeping and dreaming last night. There is also a need to deal with what's happening back in Ohio with my father and the lack of communication that sends me into a fury of useless anger at people because they don't ask questions and won't do their jobs. I also need to finish the proposal package requested by a publisher and it needs to be finished today. There's no time.

I feel a little guilty about taking time off yesterday to relax and read and regenerate because I could have done half of what I need to do today but after working 12- and 14-hour days all last week and putting in time writing, I needed the rest that I should regret today. The only thing I did that could be seen as work was bake a key lime cheesecake for the landlady, but for me that's not really work, that's pure pleasure. I don't have a Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddles and I don't have a mixer that can handle two pounds of cream cheese so I use a wooden spoon and do it by hand, but it's not work. I love the way the individual ingredients resist coming together and blending into a harmonious creamy batter that fills the house with the scent of sunshine and sweetness with a hint of soft vanilla as it bakes, the 50 minutes passing like no time at all. Each addition, from the sugar to the eggs and finally the fresh key lime juice, defies inclusion, slipping around and over the spoon while I stir, bobbing up on the edges away from the slow swirling center, skipping away from the relentless movement toward the center and homogeneity. One egg yolk kept popping up and wouldn't break so I toyed with it, dipping the spoon down into the batter and folding the batter around it only to have it pop up again and again whole and unbroken. I smiled and laughed, playing a little longer until the desire to taste the creamy tart-sweet cheesecake today won over the egg yolk's wholeness and I jabbed the spoon into it and worked it slowly into the satiny batter.

While the baking time passes so quickly, the time it takes the cheesecake to rest and cool seems endless. I put the cheesecake in the refrigerator in its springform pan as soon as it come out of the oven and close the door for 24 hours before I can even unmold and cut it. The time passes slowly so I read for a while and fell asleep with the book still in my hands until the phone rang.

At first, I didn't know who was on the other end of the line. They knew me obviously because they talked familiarly. "Why are you asleep?"

"Because I was tired."

"I'll let you go back to sleep."

(Why does someone who wakes you from a sound sleep always say that?)

"No, tell me what you want." I was beginning to wake up.

"We took Dad to the emergency room today."

It was Beanie. I was awake.

"What happened? Is he all right?"

Dad was in pain. His neck hurt and he couldn't bear to swallow. He asked to go to the hospital. He was in tears.

My father's hands are crippled and deformed with arthritis, the joints skewed to the left and right like badly set fractures. He digs in the garden and planted a row of trees on either side of their long driveway from the road to the house. He remodeled the chicken house and painted and hung wallpaper and did a thousand different jobs with his crippled hands and he never complained or winced in pain.

Dad was in pain.

When his heart valve exploded and he was literally drowning in his own blood, his doctor told him he could either go to the hospital or die right there in his office and he'd call the coroner instead.

He asked to go to the hospital.

The only time I have ever seen my father cry was at his father's funeral, a man I barely knew as I scarcely knew most of the people from my father's side, my side, of the family.

He cried. My father cried from the pain as they took him to the hospital.

Anger boiled up inside me as Beanie told me the rest. Intravenous morphine that didn't touch the pain. Waiting for hours to see a doctor who took less than five minutes to pronounce the pain muscular. "You probably slept wrong." OxyContin added to the Dilaudid that didn't touch the pain. An IV line that blew a blood vessel, humped up underneath my father's fragile skin. "It's normal," she said and walked out. My mother gets blood transfusions every month to stay alive and she knows a blown blood vessel when she sees one; she has had many of them. The nurse wouldn't listen. The doctor didn't come back. They sent my father home with a prescription for Percocet. Mom gave him a muscle relaxer at home on top of all the other meds and he is still in pain, still in tears. They did no tests and the possibility of a blood clot in the carotid or jugular didn't occur to the doctors. He slept wrong. He could move his head with some discomfort but he couldn't even swallow without pain. This was no spasming muscle and they didn't even do an MRI or a CT-scan to check.

Take two Percocet and call me when you're dead.

All these disparate ingredients refusing to work together to provide anything useful. Ignorance is bliss and these people are obviously in a constant state of mind-numbing orgasm. It's a national disease. Our melting pot has stopped boiling and blending as the center no longer holds. The egg yolk keeps bobbing up around the spoon no matter how hard I work at slowly combining the ingredients and it isn't funny any more.

It's like the huge cockroach in New Orleans that sauntered into my bedroom while I read Atlas Shrugged. I threw the book at him and he threw it back. He marched right into the room and across the bed on his way to a crack in the old walls to join the party inside, completely oblivious to me or my presence. I was nothing more than a bump in the midst of his road, an insignificant bump. There was nothing I could do but keep on reading before it was time to go to work and leave the apartment to him and his friends rustling between the walls, hoping without hope they'd go away and things would be better.

Things are better. There are no cockroaches here and there is plenty of work and laundry and cleaning and grocery shopping and newsletters to edit in the hours left before the week begins anew and I sit chained to my desk for 12-14 hours a day while I wait for the next phone call that reminds me time is running out and the lunatics are running the asylum and giving out pills instead of cures.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Some people just don't get it

This is a sample of the stupid stuff that goes in people's charts. This doctor says the same thing no matter where the patient has been injured.

The patient is a 15-year-old otherwise healthy right hand dominant male who incurred the above-mentioned injury after punching another schoolmate or person in the head with his right fist. There was no head trauma or loss of consciousness.

Either way you take it, the doctor is an idiot, and he's a plastic surgeon.

That is all. Disperse.


This is the first morning all week I've had a little time to myself to more than glance through my emails. Today, I received my issue of The Write Way and noticed more than a few things the editor, Jennifer Stewart, and I have in common. I love when that happens because it reminds me that we are not so very different no matter where we live. Jennifer lives in Australia.

Last week's issue of the newsletter had a lovely little piece on cow economics that I just had to borrow:

Feudalism: You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

Pure Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

Bureaucratic Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and as many eggs as the regulations say you should need.

Fascism: You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.

Pure Communism: You have two cows. Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.

Russian Communism: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

Dictatorship: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

Singapore Democracy: You have two cows. The government fines you for keeping two unlicensed animals in an apartment.

Militarism: You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you.

Pure Democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.

Representative Democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.

American Democracy: The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair "Cowgate."

British Democracy: You have two cows. You feed them sheep's brains and they go mad. The government doesn't do anything.

Bureaucracy: You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. After that it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.

Anarchy: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors kill you and take the cows.

Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

Hong Kong Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows' milk back to the listed company. The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because the Feng Shui is bad.

Environmentalism: You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them.

Feminism: You have two cows. They get married and adopt a veal calf.

Totalitarianism: You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.

Political Correctness: You are associated with (the concept of "ownership" is a symbol of the phallo-centric, war-mongering, intolerant past) two differently-aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of non-specified gender.

Counter Culture: Wow, dude, there's like ... these two cows, man. You got to have some of this milk. Far out! Awesome!

Surrealism: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

Japanese Democracy: You have two cows. You give the milk to gangsters so they don't ask any awkward questions about who you're giving the milk to.

European Federalism: You have two cows which cost too much money to care for because everybody is buying milk imported from some cheap east-European country and would never pay the fortune you'd have to ask for your cows' milk. So you apply for financial aid from the European Union to subsidize your cows and are granted enough subsidies. You then sell your milk at the former elevated price to some government-owned distributor which then dumps your milk onto the market at east-European prices to make Europe competitive. You spend the money you got as a subsidy on two new cows and then go on a demonstration to Brussels complaining that the European farm-policy is going drive you out of your job.

Jennifer seems to have a thing for animals because last week she wrote about crocodiles and this week about hearing a nature program about stone martens. She thought they were birds but they are actually weasel-like rodents that have adapted to living in cathedrals and the like. That reminded me of the pine marten I thought was an escaped ferret when I lived at the cabin. It took me a while to figure out what he really was because I was fascinated with how he could get off a deck 20 feet above ground without using the stairs, which is what he used to get onto the deck. Then I woke up one morning and saw him fly from the top of a lodgepole pine tree and hit the ground running. I thought one of his parents must have been a flying squirrel and I realized he couldn't be an escaped ferret. That's when a little Google and research came in handy and I found out he was a pine marten.

So, imagine Jennifer's surprise when she realized the stone marten wasn't a bird (martin) but a rodent (marten). She discovered a new animal--again.

Speaking of animals, Pastor, and several other dogs in the area, has been quite antsy and difficult this week. Well, he was difficult until Wednesday night. Many times over the early part of the week I heard the landlady yelling at Pastor and she was taking him on a lot of walks. Their usual routine is a 2.5-3-mile walk at 6:30 a.m. but she was taking him out whenever she didn't have a client and again in the evening...until Wednesday night when it snowed. She let Pastor out onto the deck and he took up his favorite snoozing position while the snow fell, as gentle and tractable as a baby lamb for the first time in days. When I took some butternut squash soup downstairs for the landlady she told me that Pastor had finally settled down and she told me he was on the deck. There he lay in the darkness, lit only by the kitchen light, covered with snow and sleeping peacefully. He was finally happy because the heavy pressure of the impending storm had broken. I suddenly knew what had me on edge in the days before the storm.

We were supposed to have a wind storm and the temps were going to plummet but I had a feeling it was going to snow and snow hard. It did.

When I lived at the cabin I became more attuned to the rhythms of nature and the weather. Since I've lived in the city for nearly two years I thought I had lost that ability but I obviously haven't. As I look back across the months I realize that my moods have been in tune with the changes in weather patterns and that I am cranky and unsettled whenever a storm is looming and the air is charged and waiting. It's the psychic equivalent of nails on a blackboard, just as it is for animals who act up before a big storm or earthquake. I guess I haven't lost it all after all and being in the city hasn't dulled all my senses.

I do sometimes wish I was back at the cabin and didn't have to bother with a scheduled job, that I can write whenever the mood strikes me and not have to put it off until I've typed enough pages. I miss the slower and more organic pace and I miss the solitude at times, although living here has its positive side, too. I have some level of solitude but there is always the sound of rushing traffic and the voices and daily sounds around me from the landlady and Nel and the neighbors. The neighborhood is peaceful at times but it gets loud when a Harley passes in the street with its deep-throated growling roar, shattering the calm and the low level white noise that seeps in through the cracks and windows. There are many more lights here and the dark is not the palpable entity that wrapped me close at the cabin. I cannot go out onto the deck (I don't have one here) and reach up and touch the stars or marvel at the full moon that floods the landscape with blue-white brilliance. Yet the sights and sounds, and especially the smells, of holiday baking and impromptu cookery have made my little corner of this neighborhood a home that I am reluctant to leave.

There are no pine martens launching from tree tops across the morning sky but there are ragged and gaunt foxes that trot past when dawn fingers the sky with rose and gold and copper in pursuit of sleep addled squirrels. It's a trade-off, but most of life is.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Unquiet ghosts

It's howling outside, scratching at the windows with clawed fingers, trying every crack and hairline opening in the walls and windows. The trees are waving wildly, tossing leafless crowns, demanding my attention. I hear nothing but the rushing scream of the wind. Traffic is muted and a few brave souls fight their way up the street. It's cold outside these covers and the heater is across the room. Soon I will have to venture out of my warm nest of blanket and pillows to fix breakfast and work, shivering until the little heater spreads its warm glow throughout my safe haven against the unquiet ghosts that ride the wild winds.

Not now.

Not yet.


Monday, November 27, 2006


I just got the news I sold Chili Night to an anthology that will be published next year. They're also buying another one of my stories for another anthology.

ADDENDUM: This is my day for certain. I received two more emails. I sold two more stories and the books will be out next year. At this rate, I might be able to quit typing doctors' dictations in about five years.

That is all. Disperse.


My bed is covered with books. Okay, the whole bed isn't covered, just the side I don't sleep on. Books, magazines and DVDs and all the necessities for when I take a day off, put up my feet and forget about work and responsibilities and anything outside these walls. It's a little mini vacation. The books and magazines and DVDs and computer and camera and phone and paper journal and pen still keep me company most nights, disappearing for the occasional guest and reappearing almost as soon as they are gone. It's one of the perks of being single.

This weekend just past I had Pastor and we had a good time. He was a nuisance now and again but mostly he is a loving and sometimes demanding companion that pushes me out of my comfort zone and into the world to take care of his needs first. It means stumbling bleary-eyed down the stairs and waiting in the frigid breeze while he does his business in the front yard and enduring his weight when he decides to sit down next to me--or more often on top of me. He's a big dog and I usually end the time with him covered in hair. Not mine, of course, since that usually decorates the carpet and hair brush in the bathroom, and occasionally my pillow and blanket, but his hair. I get furred. It's a lot better than getting skunked.

The landlady got skunked second hand when her daughter's dogs were sprayed twice over the holidays. I got a strong whiff of it when I went downstairs Friday night to feed Pastor his dinner and it wasn't pleasant. I'm used to the fading scent of eau de skunk on the road and not up close and in my face. Breathing through the mouth is crucial to keeping the stink to a minimum and getting in and out as quickly as possible. Since it was freezing Friday night I couldn't leave the landlady's windows open, but I made sure I got out of there and into the fresh cold air as soon as I finished feeding Pastor. I can't imagine how it must be at her daughter's house since the dogs were still there and still covered in a double dose of eau de skunk. They may have to change the dogs' names to Pepe.

Beanie's dog Gander got skunked again a couple months ago and from all reports still smells like eau de skunk. I love dogs, but I don't think I want to have one of my own. I can borrow the landlady's dog when I want a companion for walks and I love taking care of him for a few days every once in a while, but I don't think we'll be doing any nature walks where there are skunks. I prefer my own home brewed scents of a more benign nature and gifts that don't keep on giving and are nearly impossible to get rid of.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for one more package to finish out a gift box for a special friend. Except for one or two items, it's a silly kind of gift that I hope they will appreciate. I started buying the items back in March. I hope he doesn't mind too much since he's not really fond of gifts and the last one was a huge disappointment for everyone involved. I hate to let a good gift go to waste and no one else would appreciate it, so I'll take a deep breath and plunge into the deep end. It's a curse having the holiday spirit when you have it like I do--all year long.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


It is said there are only six degrees of separation, that there are on six connections between you and everyone else on the planet. With the Internet, and probably because of Live Journal, that gap is much smaller. Connecting by glowing lines of energy like a virtual spider's web that touches nearly every computer on the planet. Strangers meet online and share bits and pieces of their lives, but usually only the good parts, the happy moments, or the moments that show us in a good light. It is as if we never get bad breath or body odor, never pass gas or wake up with our swollen from crying or lack of sleep. We are on a perpetual first date when first appearances are all that matter. We save the bad moments, the sadness, the loneliness, the anger and less than perfect hair days for close friends, family and the person who shares our homes.

Every once in a while someone vents and allows their anger and disappointment and pain out onto their journal. Some people understand and offer support. Some people rant and rave about how negative the person is for showing how human and fragile they really are. Some people read and say nothing, either from shock or because they don't know what to say.

Sometimes we just need to vent without seeing the positive side of things, without looking for reasons or answers and just because we want someone to listen or read and stay silent.

A couple days ago a friend called me nearly in tears. I had offered a positive slant to her situation. She wasn't ready to hear positive. She wanted to feel the pain and anger and disappointment. I listened just as she has listened to me rant and rave at times. She needed a friend and an ear, not answers. That is difficult for me. I don't like seeing anyone in pain and cannot help myself; I want to offer my support and understanding. Sometimes it is welcome; sometimes it is not.

We all have demons and secrets and days when nothing goes right. We cannot see the bottom of the well and there is no light to guide us while we dig ourselves out. Lying there and allowing the earth to cover us so we can let go and not have to face another moment of pain or struggle or disappointment or betrayal is seductive. We want to quit, to just lie down and go to sleep forever. I've felt it and I feel it from time to time even now. But I'm a fix-it person and I seldom allow the dirt to cover me for long. As long as I'm breathing I know things will change because they have--many times.

Those who know me well know some of my story and know that my life has not been easy, not even as a child. I have stood at a graveside with my youngest sister while they lowered a small white coffin into the ground and shoveled the earth over her first born child. I have watched my grandmother's body wracked with pain as her muscles and tendons pulled her back into a fetal ball and even the most loving touch caused her to scream with mindless pain. I have lost a child and known rape. I have been lied to and used and I have walked away from love. I watch my parents sink further and further into old age and disease and I live with the knowledge that this day might be their last on earth at this time. I have been homeless and I have been alone, sometimes by choice, and I have been surrounded by friends. I have had acquaintances call me best friend and then stab me in the back. I have taken help when I had none to give in return. I have said goodbye to close friends when I really meant until I see you again and they died before I saw them again. I have been brutalized by the men who promised to love and cherish me until death and I have been loved the way fairy tales taught me to believe in.

What you see here is a small part of who I am and sometimes it's the best of me. Mostly what you read here is me working my way through life and learning as I go. I hope some small part of what I offer helps you understand me a little bit but mostly I hope what I write helps you understand yourselves and the people around you. I hope what I write makes a connection that shows you that you are not alone, that no matter how bad things get someone has been where you stand right now and they understand, that I understand. I know I'm not alone because I have friends and family and because I have known true love. That makes all the pain and the anger and the betrayals bearable.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

And I'm not done yet

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It all started...

...because a judge didn't like the idea of a woman in combat. Having once upon a time wanted to be a combat pilot, I found the judge's attitude ignorant and interesting. The conversation that came after made me think.

I got into a discussion about the freedom of choice and totalitarian governments. I realized that no one can take your freedom of choice away no matter what they do. A government can clamp down on freedom and limit everything you say and do but the government cannot take away your right to ignore their laws and restrictions. There are always options.

For instance, the American government makes flying anywhere an exercise in frustration with their metal detectors and strip searches, etc. Having flown to New Jersey nearly two years ago I experienced it first hand, including having everything I had with me pawed through by security guards and being forced to take off a good portion of my clothing. I submitted because I had to get to New Jersey to go through orientation for my new job, and because if I didn't get there I would not have had a job and a paycheck. I'd been without a paycheck long enough.

Most of us are so used to following the rules that we do little more than complain while we submit. We do have options and we never think of them because we worry about the consequences of not complying.

Laws are agreed upon societal guidelines that set down what is permissible and the penalties of disobedience or going contrary to the guidelines. When you get right down to where the rubber meets the road, laws are for honest and decent people. Society says this is where the line is drawn and the majority of people will never cross the line or even get near it. However, there are people who are unwilling to live their lives according to society's guidelines. These people exercise their freedom to choose not to obey the law. Some are caught but more often than not most people get away with their disobedience and continue to get away with their "crimes". Some of those people are legislators and officers of the law.

Even in a dictatorship there are those who will ignore the strictures set down and choose to follow a contrary path. Most of them are in power, but a few are considered freedom fighters by their peers and the rest of the sheep who follow the herd. Those freedom fighters are labeled anarchists by the government.

Whether or not a government allows its people the freedom to read a book or travel without hassle or even dress a certain way, everyone is still free to choose whether or not to follow the laws. How many people though are willing to risk censure, punishment or even death to exercise their freedom of choice?

Laws are like burglar alarm systems, a mirage of safety that keeps honest people honest and do little to deter those determined to follow the left-hand path. Think about it.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, November 24, 2006

After turkey blues and greens and skunk

I'm not happy about it but I'll do it. Work, that is. I over slept this morning and am getting a late start but I think it's a good thing. The landlady came back early today and her daughter's dogs got skunked again. She had to take a shower and wash her clothes because she smells like skunk. That is one scent I don't think I can take early in the morning, especially not on a morning when I have to work. She'll go back out to her daughter's house in Black Forest for the weekend and Pastor and I will roam around the area for the weekend. We may even take a walk out to Garden of the Gods for a while to clear my head and get some exercise. The landlady said even her purse smells of skunk and she has clients today; that is why she came back to town.

I probably over slept because Mark called late last night to thank me for my Thanksgiving day card and to see if I would give in and give him what he wanted--a little titillation over the phone. The answer is still no, but thanks for playing. I have to give him credit. He is persistent and that persistence is what finally got him a permanent job so that he is back to work now. He's been working temporary jobs, doing consulting work and helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity since he was laid off four years ago. He's glad to get back to work finally but a little nervous. I know the feeling. It's hard to give up having lots of free time to come and go as you please and get back into the 9-5 grind. He was also bemoaning the fact that he was planning to come back out and visit for a few days and now he has to wait for six months because of the new job. I have mixed feelings about it. I'd like to see him again but I'm not anxious to explain that since I now have a couch that is where he will be sleeping. My heart (and body) belongs to another. I guess I'm more Charlotte than Samantha, despite what you might have heard.

I have about ten minutes to get dressed and get some breakfast before another day of work. It's not so bad, I guess, since I'll get paid when I work and I wouldn't get paid if I took the day off. I have a four-day weekend for the next holiday and that is something to look forward to enjoying. At least this year I'll be paid for the holiday and there will be a bonus at the end of the year, so two things to look forward to enjoying instead of one. At this rate, things are bound to get better.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

I woke up at 2:30 AM and couldn't get back to sleep right away. Not a problem; I have a computer and books. I read and went through email and did my usual early morning routine after heeding and obeying the call of nature and then I fell back to sleep only to wake an hour later from the midst of a dream where I was going to the bathroom. I made it to the bathroom with seconds to spare. My warm and cozy bed called softly to me but I have company this weekend, my favorite fella--Pastor. He had to go out.

Eyes still partially veiled with sleep, I worked my feet into my still tied trainers and made my way downstairs to wake Pastor and take a cold blast of autumn morning air in the face while Pastor ambled out into the yard to yawn and stretch and stretch and yawn and... "Do your business, Pastor," I called with hope in my heart and body wracked with chills. "Hurry up, boy," I begged as he yawned and stretched some more, sniffing here and there to find just the right spot.

Why can't dogs go in the same spot all the time? Humans do. Okay, so we have a bowl of water with an opened ringed seat and the debris doesn't sink into the water table or dry out while flies feast and lay their maggoty eggs. Yuck! Where was I? Oh, right...

"Please, Pastor," I begged silently as he stretched and yawned and hovered in prime position at last. I didn't hear the usual splash and forcible spray onto the crunchy dead leaves and he didn't stay there long. He milled around stretching and yawning some more but something in my look--probably the abject pleading frozen on my numb face--caught his attention and he ambled back to the porch and inside, stopping long enough to butt me with his head and push me into the cold pallid morning light in my T-shirt and trainers.

I shut and locked the door and followed him into the landlady's apartment and into the kitchen to give him fresh water, prepare his meds and add them to his food, patted him on the head and he dove nose first into his warm breakfast and trudged back into the hall and up the stairs to go back to bed. I'm in bed but sleep did not follow so I'm back on the Internet cruising for an information fix before I slide back beneath the covers and find that warm and cozy spot where I can drift back into sleep to find the three hours I lost this morning when nature raised the alarm at 2:30 AM.

At least dinner will be quick and easy to prepare: turkey, baked yams, dilled cucumbers and fresh fruit. (I did the cucumbers last night and the fruit is already ready)

I had planned to be in Missouri for a very long weekend until lack of funds and the jolting shock of being told by my boss she didn't schedule me off tomorrow as I had requested and she had agreed nine long months ago. Instead, with my one remaining personal day, I am taking off Dec. 22nd so I will have a four-day weekend with Xmas.

I got it in writing.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I started to write about snakes because a column I read about snakes reminded me of the snakes I collected and kept as a child. Then something happened that drove the snakes out of my head. A friend is in a deep depression.

My friend doesn't have a lot of friends and keeps pretty much to himself, cut off from emotional and outside support. His family is nearly all gone; only a few cousins remain. He shares his wife's family because he has none of his own. His friends are important to him, especially the other two musketeers who share his hobbies and his passions. Now he feels alone. One of his friends, a some time bully, has hurt him deeply and reminded him of something in his own past when he hurt someone in the same way. He has fallen into the abyss and cannot get himself out. Work holds no interest for him. He wishes his wife and family would leave him alone. Even his projects no longer fill him with excitement--and he is alone.

Or so he thinks.

His past has come back to bite him in his tender parts. He is reminded of something mean and petty he did to someone who trusted and cared about him. He is in the Slough of Despond.

He needn't be. No one needs to be.

It is doubtful there are more than a handful of people who, at one time or another, have not hurt someone they loved or cared about, betrayed a friend, or been mean and small and petty. We have all made mistakes. That's part of being human. It doesn't mean we need to wallow in our failures and mistakes but it is doubtful we are ready to listen when anyone tells us to forget the past and learn from our mistakes. It's easy to stand outside and tell someone else there's nothing to fear. It's different to be the one inside afflicted with fear of going out into the wide world. It feels nearly impossible that the huge towering sky and the cacophony and clamor of voices and sounds ready to thunder down will pause and give you time to get used to them, trickle in rather than flood your mind and your senses. It's hard to get control when you feel out of control and have no experience with what it feels like to be in control. But someday, some time, some way there will be a moment when you are ready to take that leap of faith and venture out and you needn't be alone. This is for when that time comes for my friend.

Whenever you need to talk, I'm here to listen. Whenever you're ready to venture out again, I'll walk by your side and take your hand. Whenever you need a friend, I'll always be here because I never left.

On the darkest days when the clouds are closing in, the sun still shines; you can count on that. You can also count on the moon coming back to full when it seems to have disappeared from the sky. And you can count on me.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Chilly November

This is one of those mornings I woke from a sound, undisturbed sleep, something that doesn't often happen. I was a little stiff from lying in the same position for so may hours but I also didn't dream and I feel refreshed instead of like I need to crawl back under the covers and sleep for another eight hours. I usually want to sleep more but I get up and work and write and do all the things I need to do before it's time to climb onto the torture chair for another 8-12 hours of slave wages. That's life--or at least that's my life right now.

It's a clear cold morning and the sun glances off the bare branches striking silver and golden sparks beneath a cold pale blue sky full of drifting banks and islands of clouds. I smell snow on the breeze sneaking through the window I left open just a crack, a sharp, clean scent of moisture. There's a slight heaviness in the air, an anticipation like a held breath or an caught sigh. The buses labor through the streets outside the windows and cars whoosh by but here inside it's quiet and calm and full of golden light. Now I know why Feng Shui says the head of the bed should lie on a west wall--to see the dawn.

I haven't used an alarm clock in ages and I don't really need one most of the time. My windows are bare and the morning sun nudges me softly every morning, waking me slowly like a lover's kiss. There is no jangling bell, burst of raucous laughter or music or insistent buzz, just the slow tiptoe creep of the sun on the horizon getting slowly brighter and brighter welcoming me from the underworld of sleep and dreams and calling me back from my wanderings to another day.

The weekend was busy. Can you tell?
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
65,698 / 50,000

And I'm not done yet.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A note to doctors

It is my job to make sense out of your dictations so I have a few pointers for you.


1. Every time you race through a dictation and garble test results and technically difficult surgeries you waste my time and yours. I have to take extra time to figure out what you're saying while you eat your meals, speak at twice the speed of sound or fumble through technical jargon with an accent thick enough to cut peasant bread. When I leave blanks because I cannot decipher what it is you're saying then someone else has to take time away from their job to fill in the blanks. Most of the time they cannot figure out what you said either and must send the report back to you to fill in the blanks. You have wasted my time, their time and your time. If you would talk clearly and succinctly and spell out the difficult or unfamiliar words (not the easy ones since I know how to spell CT scan and radiograph already) you would save all of us a great deal of time.

2. Dictate your reports within a day or two so you don't have to waste my time while you leaf through the patient's file to figure out what you did two or three years ago and so you don't have to race through 500 reports in the space of 20 minutes (see above).

3. If English is your second language speak slowly and clearly and do it in a quiet environment, not at home with your kids screaming and running around so that you have to tell them to go to their mother or leave the room, not in your car on your cell phone with the windows down and the music on, and preferably in an area where cell phone coverage is clear and doesn't have dead zones. I cannot transcribe static into anything coherent. You waste my time and yours because you will inevitably have to dictate the report again, so please do it right the first time.

4. Read the patient's case file before you dictate and not while you're dictating. A 2-minute report should not have 15-30 minutes of dead air while you leaf through the report to familiarize yourself with the patient.

5. If you dictate the same operations over and over, please dictate a template and indicate changes where necessary. This saves us both a lot of time and you won't have to race through your dictations or dictate while you are eating, driving, bawling out your children, commenting on having sex with nurses and coworkers, or sneezing, coughing, and sniffling in my ear for 10 minutes while you dictate one page of copy.

6. If the patient broke his hand or had a table fall on his foot, of course there is no head trauma or loss of consciousness.

If you follow my suggestions we will all be happy. You will get clean and error-free reports that you will not have to go back and fix. I realize you have a difficult job and that you see a lot of patients, but remember these are people and you and I are responsible for making sure the report is accurate. I don't have to worry about malpractice, but you do. Keep that in mind when you dictate. I'm sure your insurance company will thank you, too. I certainly do.


That is all. Disperse.

Happy dance

I knew the ice truck killer was still at large and the guy they picked up, a taxidermist, living in an old trailer, with a genius IQ and a desire for immortality, was a dud. The ice truck killer would have definitely have not had a lame hobby like taxidermy when he practices his art on humans, and I don't mean to demean taxidermists. They have their art, too, but it's like equating Picasso or Michaelangelo with a kid in high school art class who can draw stick figures. No contest.

Anyway, I was right about the identity of the ice truck killer. i knew I was right two weeks ago and today I got confirmation.

Don't know who I'm talking about? Check out Dexter. If you haven't seen it on Showtime at least check it out the available episodes on the web, and definitely make a trip to the library and check out Jeff Lindsay's Dexter books. They're both worth the time and effort and you'll be amazed. This is how truly creative minds work.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Two truths

There are two things I realized today. Popcorn made with Crisco is not nearly as good as popcorn made with olive oil. I can't believe that's the way I used to eat it until I ran out of Crisco and used olive oil more than 10 years ago. The popcorn had a fruity taste and scent to it that was very different and the popcorn was very light. (Yes, I still make popcorn the old fashioned way because I can't stand the smell of the microwave kind). I'm the frugal sort so I will choke it down and go to the store on Tuesday and buy some more olive oil. A 20-gallon drum ought to do it.

So many people I know complain that they don't understand why people who lie, cheat and steal get everything they want. I've been one of those people. Not any more. I know why now.

While we might have the moral high ground the liars, cheaters and thieves own fertile ground at the bottom of the hill. While good and decent people are getting shafted left and right and focusing on doing the right thing the liars, cheats and thieves are focusing on getting what they want by any means necessary. Those kinds of people leave no stone unturned, no trick unplayed and allow nothing and no one to get in their way to getting what they want. What they have is focus and drive. They are single-minded and think of nothing but their wants, their needs and their success. If someone gets hurt or loses money, property or love to them, so what? Those moral people should be willing to risk everything to get what they want. There is no middle ground. You either focus on getting what you want anyway you can or you end up eating the dust of those who will.

Moral people focus on what the immoral people are doing wrong and crying into their beer, coffee or tea instead of focusing on doing their jobs and making success come to them instead of waiting for it to happen in God's, goddess's, gods', fate's, the Universe's or Karma's time.

Whatever you think of an immoral person's lack of ethics one thing you cannot deny. They get the job done. Maybe it's time to take a lesson. Politely ask someone to move out of your way before you have to run over them, but get where you're going. Keep your eyes on the prize and you will get it. Time to stop whining and asking why, hitch up your pants and damn the torpedoes.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


I called my parents tonight to check up on Dad. He's been having trouble sleeping and has been in a lot of pain. Mom complained that he lies in bed and moans and won't get up and take a pill, which is Mom's answer for everything? Have a problem? Take a pill.

Dad went to the doctor this week and was told he's healing up nicely two weeks after the surgery and he can go back to work. This should help relieve the relieve the depression that has gripped him so tightly this past two weeks. He's happy to go back to work. He's that kind of guy. What kind of guy he isn't is a sports kind of guy. Neither is my brother. The sports fans in the family are all women.

Mom is a big fan of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team and she and her mother never missed a game whether it was on TV or on the radio. They would each listen and then it was a race to see who could get a call through first to say, "And this one belongs to the Reds," a saying not heard very often in my grandmother's latter years because the Red weren't playing at all well. One could even say they weren't playing at all, but that's another post.

Beanie and Carol are both football fans. Beanie loves the Chicago Bears and Carol is a big Cleveland Browns fan, although I'm not sure how she feels about them since the original team was bought out and are now the Baltimore Ravens (the city of Cleveland would not allow Baltimore to buy the name). Bears and Dogs for my sisters and Carol really has gone to the dogs--and cats. She has a houseful of both. I followed the Minnesota Vikings back in the old days but haven't watched my football in recent years. I have had other things to do. But I know a lot about football, having played powder puff football in junior and senior high school and even before that with the boys in our neighborhood in the park that ran down the center of the street in front of our house for a block. The center was heavily wooded but the ends were clear and dry (when it wasn't raining) and that is where I learned the fundamentals of football first hand, usually on the bottom of the pile-up. I was the only girl among hormone-filled teenage boys. Need I say more?

Mom doesn't follow football but when I called she was watching the Ohio State-Michigan State game tonight. That's the Buckeyes versus the Wolverines for those who follow such things. She was cheering the touchdowns and very involved in the score that stood at 35-31 with the Bucks in the lead. She knew to cheer for the touchdowns but kept getting upset whenever the Wolverines pushed the running back out of bounds, thinking that was the end of the Buckeyes' possession of the ball. I gave her a quick lesson (and I mean really quick because she was yelling in my ear all the time) about downs and stopping the clock and conversions and penalties. One of the players, Michigan of course, was called on a penalty for a face mask. First down for the Bucks. "What does that mean?" Mom practically yelled into the phone.

"It means the Bucks get to move the ball ten yards and have the first down."

"That's good, right?"

"Yes, Mom, that's good."

The Bucks scored a touchdown and I explained that they could run the ball in for two points or kick a field goal for one point, converting the points from 6 for the touchdown to 7 or 8 depending on what they did. She couldn't follow but she yelled out the score. "42!" Okay, they played it safe and kicked the ball right between the uprights.

This is the most worked up I've heard my mother in a long time, even though between plays when she wasn't getting upset about the backs being pushed out of bounds, she also brought me up to date on her vomiting situation. She's still vomiting. Late in the day. Bringing up breakfast. "TMI, Mom," I said just as she yelled again for some penalty call.

I talked to Dad briefly and then when Mom yelled, "What is going on? What does that mean?" he handed the phone back to Mom who promptly told me she didn't have time to talk. She was concentrating on the game.

"Okay, Mom. Goodbye. Have a good evening. Enjoy the game. Time for me to give my poor ear drums a rest so I can hear again."