Just dropping in to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Brrr. It's cold in here. 52 degrees F in the livingroom and 31 degrees outside. And foggy! I bet the Medford International Airport has made national news for giving people the holiday blues. Socked in my fog every day from before sundown until hours after dawn all week. Gotta go get warm now. And try to get some sleep. So I can enjoy the day. One of two my husband has off (Sunday is the second) between now and the eve of Christmas eve. Starting Monday he'll be working seven days a week. That's what you get when you work for a company that specializes in mail-order specialty gifts and special occasions.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
So much has happened since I last blogged. Was that the morning of my birthday? Must have been. Eight days ago. Haven’t done much writing of any kind since then. Kept my daily journal diligently but not in any depth until last night. Learned that day--the 13th--that the day of travel was set for Saturday the 19th. My brother had been able to get the time off so their whole family was going down to Gerber a week early to visit cousins. I didn’t learn this until after we got back to my Mom’s house in Longview that night because I had slept through the conversation about it. My brother had too apparently. They were teasing us that we had been in a deep private conversation for a real long time that evening. My brother works a graveyard shift and hadn’t slept that morning and I had been online most of the night.Don’t know if it was just sleep depravation or if something I ate that day played a role but I was plagued for two or three days with a mental fugue resembling that of the aftermath of a migraine. Couldn’t think with coherence and couldn’t read for more than a few minutes without feeling nauseated. Actually it was all the symptoms of a migraine without the headpain. This was so frustrating as there was so much I wanted to do before I left. Little of which got done.
Spent my last day in Longview running errands that I had known I wanted to do since early in my stay there. Many things had been put off because of all the things that had to be done regarding my Dad’s estate in the first several weeks after his death and then because of my sister’s two week bout with a toothache and the flare-up of my Mom’s back pain. There were urgent appointments and errands being discussed constantly and I kept waiting for a lull in it to bring up my own seemingly frivolous requests It didn’t help that I was sleeping days. I wasn’t hermitting though. I was spending a lot of hours with the family in the late afternoon and evenings. Going for walks with my Mom, eating dinner, watching TV, visiting. I was generally upstairs continually between five and eleven every day. And often my sister and I continued to visit past midnight. Then I would get on the computer and usually online and next thing I would know it was eight or nine in the morning. I would often come upstairs and get breakfast when everybody else was before i headed for bed.
Spent the last evening of my stay packing. Left it all to that last minute too. Including chasing down my belongings which were scattered throughout the house. My sewing and shoes from near the chair where I watched TV, my coffee mug and food supplements form the kitchen, Items I’d left in my Dad’s office, items I’d left in both upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. And of course the two downstairs rooms where the bulk of my stuff was--the room I shared with my sister and my ‘office’ in the laundry room. I had clothes in three of the loads waiting to be washed too. Did not get started on any of this until after my sister and I got back from running errands Friday evening about five and did not finish until the last load came out of the dryer about 1am and then I needed a shower so I did not get on the computer until after two and by then of course I was too exhausted to write and would not even have gone online at all if I hadn‘t needed to email my husband. But once online, I got hooked into a lengthy IM exchange with my sister living in Vancouver and then into reading news and political commentary.
The developments on that front in the last month have been breathtaking and I could barely restrain myself from blogging about some of it. But I was deep in the heart of that territory where Bush is considered the Bee’s Knees and it tore me up emotionally to be dwelling too much on these issues. The days I couldn’t resist reading about it I would also be unable to stop thinking about it and it colored every other event and encounter of the day. My Mom especially was sensitive to my mood and would always ask me what was wrong on those days and I couldn’t give a completely candid answer. And that was just one extra element of pain I could not justify subjecting either myself or my family to.
So I was still online when my sister got up Saturday morning and had so lost track of time that she had to come let me know it was after seven. She had already taken most of my bags upstairs and out to the car. She was going to be driving me to my brother’s house in Portland and wanted to leave by eight. It was closer to eight-thirty when we finally backed out of the garage. When we got to my brother’s house it was obvious they were hours away from being ready to hit the road so I asked for the box in which I’d packed my power cord so I could use my computer while saving the battery for on the road later. I suppose I could have used the time to take a nap or read a physical book but I was itching to get back to the blogs and news articles that I’d left open on my taskbar or else synchronized for reading offline. Besides reading those, I also worked on my NaNoWriMo novel, Brooding Instinct, worked on a jigsaw puzzle and fiddled with my files. There is never nothing to do when my laptop is in arms reach and has plenty of power. But that is to blame for the fact that I am still reading the same novel that I started in July--A Light In August, which was one of the summer Oprah Book Club books. I used to average eight to nine finished books per month but since I got my laptop September 20th, I have finished exactly one. I had to return the copy of the novel I was reading to the library before I left town and my sister checked out a copy for me at the Longview library--my childhood haunt--about two weeks after Dad died. I finally reached the halfway point just before my birthday but I didn’t get much beyond that in my final week there so I had to leave it behind again.
We finally hit the road south at two-thirty Saturday afternoon. But twenty minutes later we stopped for dinner so it was about three-thirty before we were truly on the way. My sister-in-law drove so my brother could sleep. I was so tired by then that I knew it would be a waste of battery power to turn on my laptop so I prepared to sleep too. But the kids were listening to an audio book. One that I had read in Junior High. It is hard for me to not listen to a story. And Where the Red Fern Grows is an especially hard story to tune out. Except for about one hour shortly after sundown when the kids had dozed off, that reader’s voice owned the cab of the truck we road in. I dozed off several times in spite of the gripping tale as sleep depravation plus moving car is not a recipe for alertness.
When my sister-in-law told me that we were about two hours out from Phoenix, I decided to get on my laptop and do my daily journal so that obligation would not be hanging over me. It was also quiet for the moment as everybody else in the cab was asleep so the story wasn’t playing. I was sitting in the front passenger seat though so in order not to disturb the driver, I had to work under a blanket. I had thought to move on to working on Brooding Instinct after journaling since I had about 140 minutes of battery power but it soon became apparent that adding oxygen depravation to sleep depravation plus moving vehicle was an hypno-gogic hallucination inducement. I typed steady for nearly forty minutes but the letters and the edges of the windows wobbled and I kept seeing and hearing things that weren’t there. Mostly voices and faces from the recent past but also images triggered by the story of a boy and his two coon hounds and their escapades in a swampy forest.
When they put in the next CD of the audio book, there was no way I was going to be able to compose my own words with someone else’s well-written words foisted on my ears. So I closed my laptop and came up for air. The story had just reached the point where the obnoxious boys were making a wager with the hero of the story regarding the ability of the hero’s famed coon hounds to catch the legendary Ghost Coon when we pulled off I-5 at the Phoenix exit. I remember the story has a traumatic ending but I don’t remember the details. If I continue to be haunted by the story, I guess I will have to order the book from the library.
This has already gone on longer than a blog post should probably but I don’t want to leave my story hanging here nor to I want to come back to it later. I want to be free to move on. So I will try to wrap it up with as much alacrity as I am capable of. Ha Ha. Anyway there isn’t much to be said about the rest of Saturday. My husband had been awake since four that morning and had worked that day and was fighting a cold so he was as greedy for sleep as I was. We left the five larger bags in the front room overnight. His Mom had to work Sunday morning and our goal was to have those bags out of there by the time she got home around noon. But I couldn’t move them into the room nor start unpacking them until the room had been cleaned. I made a deal with my husband that if he helped me get the room prepared for my bags, he could spend the afternoon watching football while I unpacked them. So between eight and noon we stripped the bed of all bedding and the floor of the closet of several weeks worth of his laundry, cleaned the litter box and the cat’s food and water dishes, dusted, vacuumed, sorted the laundry into four loads and kept on top of them, took lots and lots of trash out to the garbage can and reorganized several areas of the room--a corner here, a shelf there and over yonder a drawer.
The morning got off to a roaring start and then about an hour into it I fell on the front porch steps while taking out trash. It was 32 degrees outside and the metal strip on the edge of the steps was slick and my feet just went out from under me. I thought I was going to dive to the ground five steps down but I threw myself backwards against the handrail and landed on the steps with my feet crossed at the ankles under my butt. Any movement forward, backwards or sideward and the metal strips on the steps bit into my shins or the top of my foot--the same one I injured last July. I couldn’t call to my husband for help as he was running the vacuum cleaner in our room. I finally got one foot out from under me by suffering the few moments of pain needed to lean back and yank my knee toward my chest. Freeing that foot gave me the leverage to get the rest of the way up. I did not let that incident stop me nor even slow me down much. In fact knowing that if I were to rest for more than a few minutes I would be rewarded with pain and stiffness kept me going until I finished at a quarter after eight. Leaving me just enough time for a shower before Desperate Housewives. By the time Grey’s Anatomy started I knew I would not be doing anything besides my journal on the computer that night.
I woke up at nine Monday morning. I was home alone and the heat was off. It was thirty-two outside and fifty-four inside. I turned on the heat and fixed a cup of coffee, playing with my in-law’s dog, Sweetie, while the water boiled. As soon as my hands were warm enough to type I got to work on this blog post. Have been working on it in fits and starts all day. Had to take a break in order to run the library books I had taken to Longview with me back to the library. They were already two weeks overdue. I lucked out to find a copy of A Light in August on the Phoenix branch shelf. I had expected to have to order it from another branch in the two county system. I visited with my mother-in-law for a bit when I got home but got back to work on this as soon as I got settled in my room again. I sat on the bed with the laptop in my lap. I didn’t move the computer off my lap when I turned on the TV at three for Dr. Phil, nor when I changed the channel for Oprah at four. I worked during commercials. I left it behind though when I went to sit with my husband’s grandma so his folks could go out to dinner.
I moved out to the living room with my laptop after my mother-in-law headed for bed about eight-thirty. Now it is time to wrap this up so I can actually go online and post it before I am chased out of this room by the cold. It is after one now and the heat has been off for nearly five hours. I started out in just a t-shirt. Added a flannel shirt about nine and a fleece jacket about eleven. Just put the hood up on my jacket. Would put gloves on if I had the kind that allowed enough flexibility to type. I will soon loose flexibility anyway once the cold settles into my fingers. It is thirty-four outside and fifty-seven inside. This is the reality I contended with for the past two winters when my access to my in-law’s computer was limited to overnight. But now it is only internet access that is limited to those hours. I had hoped to have this ready to go by eleven so I would have several hours to catch up on news and blog reading. Now that is looking iffy.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
That is the title of my NaNoWriMo novel. I linked it (this post title) to the writer profile page on the NaNoWriMo site where I just posted a short excerpt. Be advised that the flash version of that page truncates the excerpt by over a hundred words, cutting it off in mid sentence but the non flash version has it intact. Don’t know if that is my browser’s problem or what but it is frustrating.
Anyway, the theme of my novel is rooted in..well roots, among other things. Generations and the generating of generations. Life and the instinct for regeneration. Blood relations and the loyalty and betrayal of them. The protagonist, Vivian, raised in a fundamentalist sect, returns after a number of years away, to confront the demons of despair which plague her life and sabotage her every effort to apprehend happiness. In the years she was gone, she has gotten her medical degree, married not only outside the faith but outside her race and conceived a child.
Those of you who have been following this blog for some time might recognize what looks like autobiography here. But it is not in any direct sense. I am basing the mileu of the fundamentalist sect she was raised in loosely on my personal experience of having been raised in one. But none of the events or elements of the plot or characters are remotely autobiographical. This is the first time that I have created characters and a plot rooted in the specific culture in which I was raised and I must confess that it feels a bit like coming home from a long journey to alien worlds. It has actually been an effort to refrain from creating such characters and plots. I imagine it would be like anyone raised in one ethnic or racial group but attempting to write only for and about another one. Such efforts cannot help but be shallow and lacking in integrity.
There are a lot of pitfalls potentially in the path here. I have avoided doing this for so long not only because the subject is still a raw nerve for me but because, altho I want to confront and question the doctrine, I do not want to depict the fundamentalists as loosers, loonies or self-lobotomized. I want to create real, complex, multi-dimensional characters with motivations that the most secular can comprehend and thus empathize with even when they can’t agree with the premises underpinning their convictions.
The complexity of this theme and its nearness to the raw nerve in my own psyche exposed by the recent death of my father, is not conducive to completing this novel in a month. But I am not sorry I tried for I have 5000 words that I did not have two weeks ago and a story with a half dozen characters breathing life into me as I breathe it into them. It has not been a fruitless exercise, whatever else comes of it. I now have Brooding Instinct and Brooding Instinct has me.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Well, I’m probably not going to make the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo yet again this year. Have only got 5000. The fact that I generated most of that in a single day leaves room for hope. If I can only string enough days like that one together between now and the 30th. But if I couldn’t do it the first two weeks it isn’t likely I can in the last two. Sometime between now and Thanksgiving, I have to spend a day or more gathering my stuff and packing for the trip back to Phoenix. The trip itself will use up another day. Will probably be riding back with my brother’s wife who is planning to drive down to Gerber, CA for a Bible Conference over Thanksgiving weekend. Her kids and my Mom will probably be going too. Unless we are traveling on Thanksgiving Day itself, there will be another day commandeered by the traditional family get together of my husband’s family.
And once I am back home there is the unpacking and that means confronting the mess I made in the rush to pack the week I left. (September 19th) Then there is the issue of creating a workstation in our room there. That will take me several hours, probably most of a day. Will have to do some significant reorganizing of space. Nor do I know how it is going to work out trying to stay focused with two cats prowling the room. Especially with one of them most likely insisting on sitting on my lap. Or shoulder. She would sit on my head if she could stay balanced up there! That’s Gremlin. So aptly named. We have never been separated this long since we got her when she was tiny--twelve years ago. So she is apt to be very demanding once she has me back in her clutches. Merlin is a bit more laid back but gets his share of attention by being a clown. He likes to chase balls, bugs and blanket wrinkles. If there is nothing else to chase, he will chase the flickering shadows on the walls or the crawl on cable news channels.
But once I do get a workstation set up in our room, it will increase my options for working. I am no longer tied to the graveyard shift to write or work with my files. Will still depend on those hours for online access until I get the phone line issue worked out in some fashion. Besides a new workstation in our room, I will have to figure out where to work with my laptop out in the front rooms--kitchen or living room--for those hours when my husband is sleeping or when I need to go online. The options are not many and since it isn’t my home, I don’t feel comfortable just commandeering a spot. Don’t know where I will be able to hook up to the phone line either.
Then there is the issue of my husband’s grandmother who I had been sitting with several evenings a week. She hurt her back the week after I left and was in the hospital for a couple days. She can no longer be left alone even after she has gone to bed at night so my father-in-law has essentially moved in with her. I am hoping to relieve him of some of that burden again once I get back down there but I have no idea what will be needed or accepted from me. So I don’t even know what my daily or weekly schedule will look like.
I have been here long enough now that going back is going to be as hard as leaving was. That change issue again. I have a good deal going here actually. Now, anyway. Didn’t get off to a great start. The first ten days I was here I set up my laptop in my Dad’s office where his computer and my sister’s computer were networked together. My nephew does his home school lessons on their computer. My sister uses my Dad’s computer to keep the household books as coached by Dad. They all play games, read and write email, on either of the computers. And as co-executor my sister was responsible for going through the papers relating to the church books as my Dad had been Treasurer and Secretary of the church I was raised in until the weekend before he died when he officially transferred that responsibility over to one of my cousins. Even though that church had not existed as a congregation since the late nineties, it still existed as a legal corporation for managing the money from the sale of the property.
The point of all of this being that it became obvious even before Dad’s internment on October 3rd, that I could not count on productive work sessions in that room. My presence during my nephew’s school work hours distracted him as his did me. My Mom and sister were in and out of the room looking for this or that, the phone rang every few minutes. When I worked in there at night, I disturbed my Mom, sleeping in the next room and my sister, sleeping in the room below with the sound of the chair’s wheels on the wooden floor. Doubly disturbing--as the sounds I made while working were so similar to those my Dad used to make.
But from my first night there, I had prowled all 2000 square feet of the two story house for a better alternative and could find nothing. The best option I found that first week--the second evening I was there--was to hole up in the basement bathroom with the laptop actually on my lap. I just absolutely had to write in privacy and the house was full of people that week. Had not been able to journal in depth since learning of Dad’s sudden turn four days earlier. It had been after midnight the previous night--Wednesday, the day I arrived--before I had my new laptop up and running and by then I had been without sleep since Monday afternoon so that journal entry had been fairly perfunctory. So when I woke up Thursday, I was desperate for some serious face time with my journal. No one knew I was awake yet so I had a couple hours which is about the limit of the battery. There was nowhere to plug it in without a lengthy extension cord which I could not impose on anyone to hunt down for me then, even if I had wanted to let anyone know that I was awake.
I discussed this dilemma with my sister the night of October 5th as she was heading to bed and I was getting ready to start my work session even though I was already exhausted. And, lo, if she did not have a solution by the time I got out of bed Thursday afternoon. She had cleared a couple of shelves in the basement laundry room, brought in a twenty foot heavy-duty outdoor extension cord long enough to plug in behind the washer and wrap all the way around the room to the far side of the shelves, and dug out my Dad’s old knee-chair. With the phone dismounted from the wall just outside the door, my laptop’s phone cord could plug in there. As it turned out, the knee-chair did not work for me. I had one in the eighties with my first PC and loved it. But my knees don’t tolerate them anymore. Of course it didn’t help that the week before, while visiting my brother’s family in Portland, I stepped wrong off the penultimate step in their stairwell and fell to my knees on the concrete floor. I futzed around with the setup in the laundry room for several days but that was just details. From the very first day I was double if not triply productive. And besides that, I now had a role beyond hug dispenser to fulfill for the family--I took over the laundry.
Most of the time it is a nearly ideal setup for me. At least an ideal jerry-rigged setup if you reserve ‘ideal’ for a dream office, or a room of one’s own. Sometimes there are issues. Like, whenever anyone is walking or working in the kitchen over my head, I begin to feel like I am inside a drum. If I crowd loads of laundry too close together my glasses will steam up from the humidity unless I open the door which then creates a chilly draft. But there are elements that are closer to ideal than what I left behind in Phoenix or even what I imagine is waiting for me upon return. For one thing, I am able to go online for brief tasks all through the day so I don’t need to crowd it all into the late night or wee morning hours. If it wasn’t that I missed my husband and cats so much….
Well this took off in a rambling way that went in unintended directions. I was planning to discuss my progress on the NaNoWriMo front, even divulge a bit of detail about plot and character and theme and such. Was even considering leaving a snippit of a scene which is in less disarray then most… but that will have to wait until another time now.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Too busy, mustn't stop to blather on about how far behind etc. But here is a poem I wrote in the late eighties which might be of help to all of you struggling NaNoWriMos:
___________Crucify the Critic
To write and not worry if all is spelled right,
To write and not think of the good and the bad of it,
To write and not judge, neither budge
A finger to backspace or erase,
Thinking only of white space,
Fingers flying like birds, to fill it with words-
With thoughts sublime or absurd,
With plots simple or complex,
With dreams shallow or deep,
With observations, inspirations, aspirations,
To make someone-if only me-laugh or weep,
To make their brows perplex,
To slake their verbal thirst
For soothing nouns and zesty verbs.
Wandering solitary in thicketed woods,
Wooing amid airy leaf-lace that enchanting face,
That muse, unnamed, neglected, un-embraced, until
That harassing harpy who begrudges-even sabotages-
The art of it, is banished from the heart of it.
So crucify the critic writer, and write!
(c) 1988 by Joy Renee
And for good measure here are a couple of tips for banishing the critic during that critical creation stage:
1. Use the Zoom function of your word processor to make the font too small to read.
2. Make the font the same color as the background.
3. Shrink the window of your word processor so that only a couple lines of type are visible.
4. Wear a blindfold.
5. Writing by hand? Place a piece of cardboard or construction paper over the lines above the line you are writing.
Numbers 4 and 5 were the tricks I used before the era of word processors--pre 1987 for me.
For those of us plagued by perfectionism the only rule worth following is the one ignored by Lot's wife: keep going and never look back.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Day 3 of NaNoWriMo and I’m just getting started. That means I am already 3333 words behind and need to reach 4999 to catch up by midnight. Will I be a day late and a dollup short every step of the way? Stay tuned.
But I am encouraged by the fact that the reason I am getting a late start was because I produced a blog post draft on Monday that was over 3000 words. It took me two days to edit it down to a reasonable length for posting. It was a necessary step to prepare for NaNoWriMo as I was desperate to break through a monster block and knew that writing it instead of fighting it has been the most reliable method for me to break through a block whether writer’s block, mental, emotional, what have you.
So I have little doubt I can generate the word count. Whether it is readable….
Thus you will understand if it is a few days or even a week before I share any of it with you. I have to catch up and pull ahead before I let myself stop to edit.
Here goes…I’m off to follow Alice’s white rabbit down the dream hole. So glad he was late! Late can be useful sometimes.