Thursday, June 29, 2006

Grandma is in the Hospital

My husband's grandmother is in the hospital with pneumonia. She will be 92 next Thursday. I won't be able to hang out online even in the middle of the night until she is safely back home as where I live is also where the hospital would call in case of any sudden change for the worse.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Harpy Shampoo I

This is the first in a series where I plan to discuss a variety of writing practices and exercises designed to foil writer’s block and even tame those harpies of perfectionism which I wrote about in my essay, Washing Those Harpies Right Out of My Hair, first posted at Write Stuff and then at Joystory last April. I’ve been working on versions of this follow-up ever since. In fact, when I first set out to write the original essay, it was with the intent to share some of the exercises that I’ve found helpful over the years. But my ‘intro’ got away from me, becoming so long that I had to break off with an implied promise of presenting those exercises in a future post.

Well, a similar thing has been happening as I worked on the follow-up. It kept getting unwieldy long. And also, I was having trouble tracking down the sources, in which I first encountered a version of an exercise that I may or may not have altered in some way, so that I could give appropriate credit.
So I have decided to do a series, taking one or two exercises at a time--depending on how involved they are to explain and how much I wish to share about my personal experiences with them.This time, I am going to discuss journaling and I suspect I have plenty to say about it so it will stand alone. Nor is there any need to credit sources as it is one of the most commonly recommended exercises for writers. A writer’s journal is typically more than a simple daily journal for recording a day’s events. It can be that as well but it shouldn’t stop with that for, at the very least, a writer’s daily events would include anything they were reading, thinking about or doing that was related in any way to writing that day. It is also a safe place in which a writer can practice the techniques and skills needed for the more formal writing tasks.

By safe I mean two things.

First that it should be private so that you are not subject to the fears of exposure or judgment or criticism from a potenial audience--even if only imagined--nor are you tempted to put up a social mask or self-censure as you write. To guard this privacy you should keep your journal away from prying eyes whether you are writing in it or not. You also need to reassure that timid aspect of yourself that you are committed to protecting the privacy of this forum.

This will pay off in many ways. You will take risks you might not have when anticipating an audience and thus you will be more creative as creativity is inherently risky. You will be more honest with yourself which often leads to insights that will add depth and integrity to both your life and your writing.

Of course I am not saying never to share with anyone something that you wrote in your journal. I am saying that once that impulse or desire to share has occurred than the portion you are willing to share has become something more than a journaling exercise and that is the whole point of it. But to protect the safety zone you need to copy those paragraphs into a separate document--whether paper or pixels--whereupon it becomes the rough draft of something else which can be shared at your discretion.

The second purpose of the safety zone is to give you a place to pour words out without worrying about form or format. Although safety from a sense of observation is essential for me too, it is this waiving of the need for perfection in grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice etcetera that has had the most impact on my productivity in the ten years since I committed to daily journaling. My daily word count went from the hundreds into the thousands. Consistently.

Whether only ten percent or even only one percent of these words became eligible for copying into other forums for projects intended for an audience is not the issue for even if none of it ever had it would not have been in vain. For it is the act of writing that primes the pump. The more you write--the more you will write. The more respect you give your ideas by honoring them with space and time--the more willing they are to reveal themselves to you. The more you practice observation of events, people, environment, feelings, etcetera with the intent of rendering it into words, the more you will observe and the easier it will get to find the right words.

When I committed to daily journaling in the summer of 1996, I had only three rules: Never miss a day. Never share--even in my imagination. Never edit either thought or keystroke. These rules were few and simple but they were based on intimate knowledge of myself and designed to give me a harpy-free zone. For what are my harpies after all if not internalized rules and social expectations gone amok?


(Harpy Shampoo I was my guest post at Write Stuff on Friday. The link in the title of this post will take you there.)

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Books, books, books…and movies too!

Books I was reading in the last week:

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Finished it last Sunday. See my review below.

Max Weber’s Essays in Sociology. This one really exercises my reading muscles. Did not finish it before it had to go back Friday. Did not expect to. I’m sending for it again in a month or so.

Destroying World Order by Francis A. Boyle. A specialist in international law examines U. S. Foreign Policy regarding Iraq and the Middle East over the last half century. This one was supposed to go back today but I had two chapters left so the librarian renewed it for me again on the understanding that I really will finish and return it ASAP.

American Theology: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money In the 21st Century by Kevin Phillips. I’ve been eagerly awaiting my turn for this one. I got In queue for it months ago. I brought it home last Friday, knowing that I have only three weeks as there is quite a substantial queue behind me. I figured I would need to read 120 or so pages per week if I didn’t want to wait months for a second turn. I read less than twenty. Am still in the first chapter. Other reading, both on and offline, and a lot of writing and research this past week threw me off that schedule. I am especially interested in his theme. As an ex fundie myself I’ve seen first hand how radical religion operates. It is one of my personal nightmares that people like the people who once had dominion over my mind will gain enough political power to attempt to reinstate that dominion but this time with the power of the State and its concomitant powers to deprive me of life or liberty or livelihood.

The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe by Jane Wagner. This is the Broadway play from 1985 in which Lilly Tomlin played every one of its dozen or so characters. It is a critique of modern society that is very funny and yet very thought provoking. I watched a DVD video of one of the performances a few weeks ago and was awestruck by it. I am fairly sure that there are whole sections in this version that were not in that filmed version I saw. I’m awestruck by contemplating one woman memorizing over a hundred pages of text and then not just speaking it but performing it while switching back and forth among a dozen or more personas, on stage in one go in front of an audience.

Lupus: Everything You Need to Know edited by Sasha Bernatsky, MD and Jean-Luc Senecal, MD, FRCP, FACR. I’m reading this for research on two accounts. One of my favorite novelists, Flannery O’Conner, lived with this and died of it. And I’m am contemplating inflicting it on a character in one of my stories. Aren’t I diabolical?

A few of the books on this coming week’s agenda because I have limited time left with them:

Night by Elie Wiesel. This will be a re-read. I got in queue for it when Oprah announced it for the book club months ago. Am just now getting my turn with it and I know the queue behind me is still in the double digits. I once had my own copy of this one.

Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda by Noam Chomsky. My interests in writing, journalism, the media, politics, propaganda and much more intersect in this book’s theme.

Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts by John Dominic Crossan & Jonathan L. Reed. Just because I’m no longer a fundamentalist does not mean that I’ve lost interest in the stories that shaped my life. Far from it. They are more important than ever to me because they are the same stories that have shaped the world as we know it today.

All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. by Stephen Kinzer. This story of American involvement in the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister in August of 1953 and the subsequent installation of the Shah is the key to understanding current events in the Middle East.

The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney. The subversion of the principles of scientific inquiry and of the communication of relevant information needed by citizens in a democracy in order to fulfill their role as informed voters for those who will be making law and policy described by Mooney is chilling. Loosing free access to the facts that impact ones life is the first step towards loosing persona liberty.

Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip. The last several novels I read were on the serious side. I’m in the mood for something light and magical. When I used to binge on fantasy, Patricia McKillip was a relative newcomer whose books I looked forward to.

The book that came home with me today that I am the most excited about is Gregory Maguire’s Son of a Witch. It is the sequel to his Wicked which is a retelling of the Oz story casting the Wicked Witch as the sympathetic protagonist. Maguire writes fantasy that is at once page-turning adventure and biting critique of society. My husband and I read Wicked around Christmas and have been in queue for our turn with the sequel ever since.

Saturday night though will be devoted to movies more than books. I’ve taken to spending part or all of the night I spend with my husband’s grandmother watching DVDs on my laptop. This weekend I am taking with me:

Point of Order. The story of the fall of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Iron Jawed Angels. The story of women’s fight for the right to vote at the turn of the last century.
Ruby Bridges. The story of the African-American girl who was the first to integrate her New Orleans school.
Miss Congeniality 2. A comedy staring Sandra Bullock.
Twisted. A thriller starring Ashley Judd.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

I Have a Guest Post Up at Write Stuff Today

Be sure to check out my new guest post over at Write Stuff today. It is the first in a series I am calling Harpy Shampoo as they will be on the theme of writing exercises and practices designed to thwart writer’s block and encourage creativity and productivity. I will be sharing things that I have found helpful in banishing or taming those harassing harpies of perfectionism and scorn that I described in the essay Washing Those Harpies Right Out of My Hair which I cross-posted here and at Write Stuff last April. I will be cross-posting this one as well but I urge you to go check out Karen’s site which is a community blog of writer’s writing about writing.

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Friday Library Day

Friday has been all about my weekly excursion to the library for years and it starts to dominate my thinking on Thursday afternoon so, as I’ve advised here before on other issues, I’m going to write it instead of fight it. You can expect my Friday and/or Saturday posts to be related in some way--about preparing for and making the trip to and fro; about the books and movies going back and coming home; the ones I finished and the ones I didn’t and the ones I’ve been in queue for for weeks or months that I anticipate with almost the same physical and emotional reactions as for that first bite of perfect in-season watermelon on a scorching hot summer afternoon.

Speaking of scorching hot summer afternoons. The forecast for the Rogue Valley tomorrow warns of the possibility of reaching the triple digits for the first time this year. My husband wanted me to consider changing my library day but failing that I am to try to be there when the doors open at one and return as soon as possible, take water and use sun screen and maintain a moderate pace. I’ve given him cause to worry. I don’t use good sense sometimes when it comes to physical exertion on hot days. Where I was raised, up north in the V where the Cowlitz River flows into the Columbia, we did not have many heat waves and the techniques for accommodating to the heat never became ingrained. Even though we have lived in either southern Oregon or somewhere in California for nearly half of the years we have been married, I still have to be reminded how to behave on hot days.

Last week I did everything wrong and tho it was only in the high eighties I got a stern reminder of the potential cost of not respecting the sun . I didn’t drink enough water before leaving the house and did not take a water bottle. I didn’t leave until almost two instead of the usual one-thirty and then pushed too hard to get there in hopes of still getting back by ten after three and thus missing only the first segment of Dr. Phil. Like I said, I give cause to worry. My priorities are sometimes a bit cockeyed. The chances were better than fifty percent that I had already seen the show as it was a rerun but I had missed a lot of shows last fall when I was up in Longview so I keep checking in. I should probably invest in a TV guide or make the time to check on all my upcoming shows a couple of times per week while I’m online. That would allow me to reassign those blocks of time for reading or writing or watching DVDs. I have been fairly good about shutting off the TV as soon as I recognize a rerun I’ve seen but occasionally I get hooked back in or I start surfing over to other channels.

Now that was a bit of a tangent. But oh well. The upshot of last Friday’s imprudence was that I missed both Dr Phil and Oprah and was almost late for dinner as I had to sit and rest and drink some water the librarian gave me before I could start looking at the books waiting for me and again after I had checked out and packed the books up. I didn't leave until just before the library closed at five. I had miscalculated how much longer it was going to take to make the walk to the new building two blocks and two extra street crossings further on from the old one. Then the air conditioning was on only intermittently while I was there--a guy was working on it. I hadn’t noticed how over-heated I was while I was still outside where there was a slight breeze added to the motion of my body through the air but within thirty seconds of entering the building I was sweating like a dog’s tongue. Bending over to unpack the backpack instigated a blinding headache that pulsed with my pulse and did not let up until after I was able to lay down for half an hour after I got home--though I am sure the fluid intake contributed even more to the recovery than laying down but the two combined lowered my body heat more than either alone.

I do not want a repeat of last week so I am intent on doing everything right this time and that means that I have to leave the house by twelve-fifteen at the latest. And before I leave I have to eat breakfast (another thing I didn‘t do last week) and drink at least one glass of water--more if I have coffee too. I need to fill a water bottle--which I will probably do before I go to bed so I can stick it in the fridge. And then I need to remember that this walk is not intended to be aerobic. I am already behind the game though as I did not get my shower and shampoo done before my mother-in-law went to bed which means that my best option is to lay down early--like before four instead of closer to six and failing that, get it done before I lay down which would mean going to bed with a wet head. I still have to prepare the returning books and there are a few I want to spend a little more time with--as always.

Which means I should be wrapping this up. It is after 1AM and I started this about 11PM in the hopes of knocking off a quick post about what I’ve been reading this week and then get on line shortly after midnight when it becomes possible for me to renew the library items up for renewal and find out what is waiting for me. But once again I went off on tangents. I do that so often I might as well expect it. I used to abandon these efforts--not delete them, just not post them and leave them sitting for future cannibalizations. But I am trying to be a little less persnickety. This is an informal forum and this post is definitely on this blog’s stated theme and is an accurate reflection of what is on my mind right now.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A Book Review

I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s second novel last week and it was a reading experience that will stay with me for some time. When it was published a year ago, it was one of the first novels to take as its theme the events of 9/11. The story is told in a somewhat surreal manner reminiscent of the genre known as magical realism. The protagonist and narrator is Oskar Schell a precocious boy who lost his father when the towers fell that day. From the first chapter as Oskar rides in a limousine to the graveyard where they bury his father’s empty coffin to the last chapter when he returns in that same limousine on a dark night to dig up his father’s coffin, Oskar is on an odyssey of encounters that test and shape him and ultimately show him how to be in this suddenly terrifying world, how to embrace life and love in spite of overwhelming fear and grief.

Early in the story Oskar sets himself the task of finding the lock to which a key he found in his father’s closet belongs. The only clue is the name ‘Black’ in red ink on the tiny envelope the key was in so he embarks on a quest to visit each Black in the New York phone directory in alphabetical order. There are over 200 of them and he estimates it will take over a year to visit each one. Each Black that he encounters is uniquely drawn, many of them quite eccentric and every one living their own story of love and loss and learning to adapt after their world seems to have lost its meaning.

Interspersed throughout are epistolary chapters in which his father’s parents tell their own stories of having lived through and survived the firebombing of Dresden as teens towards the end of WWII. His grandmother writes her letters to him. His grandfather writes his letter’s to his own son to explain why he has abandoned him before he is born. Thomas Schell Sr. responded to the trauma of the Dresden firebombing by attempting to hold himself aloof from ever loving or needing anyone or anything again. Not even his own voice. He went mute and communicates by writing on whatever surface is available and with the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ tattooed on his palms.

Oskar keeps a scrapbook called Things That Have Happened to Me of pictures he takes with his grandfather’s camera or clips from magazines or prints off the Internet. These pictures are scattered throughout the novel. Included among them are pages taken from a scratch pad at an art supply store on which people have doodled in different colored ink their own names and the names of colors. These and other textual oddities have received mixed reviews. I do not agree with those who were made uncomfortable by them. I did not find them distractions or ‘too precious’ or ‘gimmicky’. I found them not only to deepen the experience of seeing the world through Oskar’s eyes but also to hold clues that unlocked elements of the theme and the meanings we are to take away from the story, things that Oskar’s limited perspective could only hint at.

Oskar’s perspective was limited in several ways. First of all by his youth. Most of all by his grief and fear from which he retreats into the comforts of his imagination and memory for trivia by taking off on flights of fancy or reciting a litany of facts and statistics in attempts to put distance between his chaotic feelings and the events he is experiencing. Oskar is an example of the unreliable narrator. It is not that he is a liar, just not fully aware when he is acting on mistaken assumptions. Several of the reviewers of this novel admitted having difficulty in suspending their disbelief precisely because they find it hard to believe that a nine year old can be so precocious as to wander the five boroughs of New York alone let alone have the kind and quantity of insight and knowledge that Oskar displays.

I did not have this problem. For one thing, I have never found precocious children unbelievable as I have encountered too many of them in my life to think that they are so rare that one must always assume that every nine-year-old one encounters is a self-absorbed air-head with no thoughts beyond the next sweet-treat, little memory of yesterday and no concern for tomorrow and no ability to apply insights gleaned from experience--even vicarious experience. But mostly I had no problem getting past having to believe Oskar was only nine because I never really believed that he was.

It was his very name that indicated to me that his age might be other than what he claimed. Why was an American boy given a name with a German spelling? If either his father or grandfather had had the same name it would have been unremarkable but both of them had the name Thomas. Whether Foer gave him the name to plant a clue for the reader or Oskar himself took it in his attempt to overlay a new persona that might be better able to cope with the new realities of life after 9/11 cannot be gleaned from the text itself. But I understood from the moment early in the first chapter when Oskar expresses his passion for percussion instruments and talks about carrying a tambourine about with him that he was a literary reference to the precocious Oskar Matzerath of Gunter Grass’ The Tin Drum who, born during the height of WWII in Danzig becomes so disgusted with the obscenity that is the Third Reich and the acquiescence and complicity of the adults of his community to the atrocities and absurdities of Hitler’s regime, he chooses to stop growing at the moment he reaches three feet tall. He also carried a tin drum everywhere and made a terrible nuisance of himself with it. My suspicion was confirmed when Oskar requests cups coffee while declaring that it stunts your growth. The clincher that also indicates his true age is the time his psychiatrist asks him clinical questions designed to discover whether Oskar is experiencing symptoms of puberty. Why would such questions be put by a doctor to a child several years too young to have developed them?

I went looking for reviews of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close specifically to see if this relationship between the two Oskars had been commented on by anyone else. I found no reference to it. But there were several references to other literary allusions to fictional places, people and plots buried in this novel. Almost all of these to writers known for work that borders on the fantastical, absurd or surreal as is Gunter Grass. Many of those I missed because I had never encountered the novels in question. And again, some of the reviewers who recognized these references were irritated by them, even going so far as to accuse Foer of ‘cribbing’ from another novel. I find that irritation to be symptomatic of a lack in the reviewer and not in the novel. A lack of what I am not sure. But I was seriously irritated by their irritation. If I was a name-caller I would call them fuddy-duddies.

Meanwhile, I believe Foer, by referencing these other stories, is not only honoring their creators but attempting to give his readers a key to unlock the multitudinous meanings of 9/11. He is hinting that there are as many meanings as there are hearts in the world but that the wisdom we need to embrace life and not despair in the face of absurdity is never any further away than your own heart opened to the possibilities of love in defiance of fear and loss.

Here are some links to reviews and resources I encountered in my search:

Read what is on the book cover flaps.
Read an excerpt. I didn’t check it word for word but I think this is the entire first chapter.
Read a review by a fuddy-duddy.
Read a review by Mark Flanagan
Read reviews by Meghan O’Rourke and Ruth Franklin
Read this exposition of the novel in Wikipedia. Spoilers.
Read this interview with Jonathan Safran Foer
Visit Jonathan Safran Foer’s own web site. Warning: this site uses flash technology and may load slow on dial-up.
Read a commentary on Gunter Grass and the Tin Drum.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Why do I always do this?

The post I set out to write in the wee hours of Saturday morning got shanghaied by my meandering mind and digressed so far I couldn’t bring it back to the intended point without deleting all but the first paragraph and setting off anew with my toes pointed at the target. But that would have meant not posting at all that morning as I had run out of time. As it was--and a close look at the timestamp of the previous post will show this--I was breaking my new schedule’s rule to not return to the Internet again after 6AM because every minute I stay awake past six-thirty is like pulling a brick out of the wall of my carefully structured blocks of time built to support the ladder that reaches for my goals.

This is more true of Saturday morning than of some others because it isn’t just my schedule and my goals that are impacted by my arriving at Grandma’s on Saturday afternoon sleep deprived. So when I came out of the trance of writing to notice that it was fifteen to seven, I hastily tacked on that last sentence--which also became the new title--and hastened out to the living room with my laptop on battery power to save time and ensure that I would not be tempted to linger. I was back in bed in less than half an hour.

But I digress yet again. That opening paragraph about going to the library was supposed to help me segue into a discussion about books and movies and another major insight regarding my new schedule, blogging and writing in general that the day’s events had given me. This awkward substitute for the pretty essay I had pictured as I wrote that first paragraph yesterday morning is distressing me more and more with every keystroke. I’ve more than half a mind to trash it and move on. But that is the perfectionist in me that constantly tries to convince me that it is better to do nothing at all than to be caught making a mistake or making a mess.

I am writing this post while closed up in the bedroom at Grandma’s without Internet access. My intent was to get a jump on Sunday night’s session since I may be so sleep deprived and otherwise distracted by the weekend’s events that it will be difficult to get something ready to post before I have to get off line Monday morning. And thus another brick will falls out of the wall. So I am not going to tank this either. As awkward and ugly as it is, it serves the purpose of setting the context for what I want to say.

I’ve lost track of how many light bulb moments the past two month’s reassessing of my goals and revamping of my schedule have generated but there have been many and though some have been as significant as the one I had Friday this one has to be in the top five percent--right up there next to the realization that I could not sustain flipping back and forth between graveyard and day shift every weekend. In my failed attempt to get a post written and ready to go before I went online Friday night, I recognized a pattern of behavior that I saw as a failure of will and further proof that I didn’t deserve to reach my goals since I was nothing but a dilettante of a writer with one hand full of wishes and the other full of spit. Why, I asked myself, do you always do this? Why can’t you stick to the plan? Why can’t you just…..

And I broke off, suddenly cognizant of the tone of harangue typical of my harassing harpies. Why, I shot back in a professorial tone, can you not ask that question as though you truly desire an answer you don’t already think you have and not as though you are shoving your answer down my throat? The better to gag you with, my dear, she sneered. Ah. And about that time my laptop got cranky again and insisted on a nap (restart) to install updates and clean the cobwebs out of its RAM. So I had about fifteen minutes to sit and contemplate the question. Why? Why do I always do this?

Then the habit of questioning assumptions developed in the last couple months took over. First of all, what is the ‘this’ that I ‘always’ do? And is it truly always? And what do I know about myself that can explain it? The ‘this’ in this case was not being able to get something worth posting written on a timely basis. Regular, consistent creation and posting of new content for my web sites is one of the rungs on that ladder reaching for my goals. But it is one of the more important ones since it is fairly low down so if I can’t establish a solid foothold on it, I will never get very far off the ground. After all, without content there is nothing to promote and without consistency you cannot grow a devoted audience.

As to what it is that I know about myself that could explain this inability to create content on demand? Could it have anything to do with that pesky perfectionism? Well sort of. Peripherally. Because I was trying to come up with something to write about, something important or profound or unique or wise or creative or… anyway, at the very least, readable and interesting. But my mind was like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower and never landing on one long enough to compose a sentence let alone a paragraph.

Oh, but wait. There was one flower it kept hanging out on but I kept swatting it off. It kept coming back to thoughts about the library, the walk there and back, having missed having it for the past month and fears of not having it at all by this time next year mingled with hopes regarding the better facilities slated to open next summer and all stirred up with images of book covers and DVD cases, with anticipation about starting certain of the books I brought home that day and anxieties about spending time with the books that have to go back next Friday and the novel I am in the middle of that was due Friday but which the librarian was kind enough to renew through Monday so I could finish it over the weekend. All of this is what I wanted to think about but for some reason had deigned unworthy of writing about. But why is that? What could be more worthy of a post on a blog called Joystory with a subtitle that reads in part, ‘musings on reading, writing, thinking and being’, than musing about a trek to the library and the books one has encountered there and the importance of libraries in every reader‘s, writer‘s and thinker‘s life?

There is another thing I know about myself that helps explain the difficulties I’ve been having with consistent content creation and this was the big Ah ha! I do not easily switch gears. Psychology uses the term ‘slow to warm up’. It explains shyness and so much more. It is difficult for me to get started in something but once started and heavily engaged, it is just as difficult for me to quit. It is hard to wake up. It is just as hard to go to sleep. It is hard to get in the pool, or the shower but once in it is hard to get out. It is hard to engage me in conversation at first but once I am engaged it is hard to shut me up. This has been true of me since before I started school and it was the bane of all my school years, that necessity of switching subjects every sixty minutes or less and from sixth grade on switching classrooms as well. It was excruciating for me.

But the good news is that I have understood this about myself ever since I took child psychology in college twenty years ago and learned that it can be a strength and not a weakness. If you accept it as a given, as a trait that is hardwired in your brain and nervous system and thus no more changeable than the color of your eyes or your handedness, then you can adjust your expectations and create an environment that not only accommodates it but capitalizes on it. For one thing, the focus, once engaged, is incredibly tenacious. And that is a good thing for any serious writer, reader or thinker with complex and long-term projects like books, blogs or webzines to write, edit and promote.

The next obvious question then was how do I accommodate this trait and capitalize on it in regards to regular and consistent posting on Joystory? The answer is to stop trying to change the subject when I sit down to write a post. There is always something engaging my mind and since the subtitle of this blog covers all of my obsessions and passions, it is certain that whatever has engaged my mind is worthy of blogging on here. So if I am as successful at implementing the accommodation for this quirk of mine as I was at implementing the new schedule recently, you can expect more posts here and more variety. And if life throws another series of importunate events at me to test my resolve as it did last month then you can expect that I will be less reticent about blogging about them as they occur, musing on how they impact my attempt to stay focused on my goal to create an environment that nurtures my passions for reading, writing, thinking and being.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

I Can’t Imagine Life Without My Library

Today I made my first Friday library run since the library opened in its new temporary location after a three week hiatus to make the move. I can’t believe those three weeks are over already. I can’t believe I survived them. I did get to stop in briefly on Monday afternoon on the way to Grandma’s house but I couldn’t stay long to explore as my mother-in-law was waiting in the car for me. I grabbed three books and two movies for myself and five books for my husband. I like to keep my due-dates on Friday so I didn’t want to check out very many but nor could I stand to wait until Friday which would have put four full weeks between library visits. Today was my 195th visit to a Jackson County Library since we moved back here in August of 2001. I know this because I number my receipts. Today I came home with my rolling backpack stuffed to the gills with books and DVDs.

The temp building, which is one of the older buildings in this blink-your-eyes-and-miss-it town on Oregon’s Hwy 99, is about one third the floor space of the old one. The wiring is so old that they can’t use their coffee maker once the computers have been turned on in the morning. They anticipate staying there for about a year while their new building is built.

The new building will be twice as big as the old one with all kinds of new features, including study rooms for students and WIFI internet access. The funding for this new building was finalized just before the tech bubble burst. It has taken them this long to find the location for the building. Now the fear is that once it is built the funds for keeping it staffed and stocked with new books are not going to be there by the time they open their doors next year. This is because Congress is about to vote to discontinue the timber money’s that have been supporting our county library system since the seventies. I don’t understand the ins and outs of this issue. But I’m about in a panic over it.

I’ve tried to research it but so much of what is written assumes you already know what they are talking about. ‘Timber moneys’ is a short hand term for something that is more formally known as the Oregon and California Funds. And they are something that was set up to compensate northern California and most of Oregon for the loss in potential taxes when large sections of forest were designated to be conserved from development or resource extraction. Every time I try to search online for info on this, all I find is recent articles in local papers that assume their reader’s already know the full backstory. Those links that promise to answer some of my questions are always to pay-per-view archives or personal websites that do not cite primary sources adequately enough for me to feel comfortable citing them.

This is a big issue and yet nobody is talking about it other than to just casually mention that the vote to discontinue the funds is set for sometime this fall and that it is assumed to be a done deal, no point in debating. The questions I have that I can’t find answers to are:

When was the original law passed that created these funds and what was it called? What were the arguments for and against back then? How many times has it been renewed and what were the arguments at those times? At whose instigation is it being discontinued now?

This is going to affect the rural communities of Oregon and Northern California quite drastically. It isn’t only libraries that will lose funds. Among the things various communities use the funds for are: sheriff’s departments, drug rehab, and domestic violence shelters.

I can’t imagine life without my library.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Discipline Is Love In Practice

The last couple of months have been an exercise in re-examining every 15 minute block of time of my 24/7 schedule, every assumption about what is and isn’t necessary and reassigning priorities to reflect my goals. Most of my posts in the last six weeks or so have been about this experience. I have learned--and in many cases re-learned--valuable lessons but I would not ask another busy writer to read those 10-15,000 words of meandering musing and wimpy whining. I’ve been hoping to distil it down into an essay of about one tenth the length. Meanwhile, a post over at Write Stuff on the related theme of goal-setting and discipline for writer’s, inspired me to leave a comment based on my recent experience. I spent so long composing that comment, I ran out of time to compose a separate blog post but I realized that I had managed to distill the last six weeks of angst induced insight into two succinct paragraphs that contained all of the main points of the lessons visited on me:

Let's not forget that discipline shares the same etymology as disciple. A disciple is one who follows a discipline out of love not fear. Love either for the teacher/exemplar, the ideology or the craft. If you allow discipline to be imposed from without or within by a rigid taskmaster the love is corrupted into something demonic. And even discipline requires flexibility.

Discipline can be custom designed to fit the exigencies of your unique life circumstances. A fact about myself that has remained stable for over forty years is that I cannot snap to attention upon awakening. So, like the poster I left the comment for, I always used to feel like a failure when I attempted to apply the advice of seasoned writers to make time for the writing by getting up an hour early to write before other duties intruded. Some people need more time than others between first opening their eyes and feeling like all the lights are on inside. There is no sense in calling yourself a failure because you can’t be task-oriented while your brain straddles the waking and dreaming worlds. That slow-to-simmer time could actually be a gift you don't want to kick in the mouth by accusing it of laziness. It seems, in my experience, to be a source of creative ideas and energy that can be nurtured. A schedule designed to make time for writing must take into consideration this, or any other, idiosyncrasy as well as those can’t-get-out-of duties related to work, family or community.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

A Series of Importunate Events IV

Here is the story I’ve been promising. Parts of it are rate R for riotous. You have my permission to laugh. This happened on Wednesday, the last day of May. We--my husband, his mother and myself--were having dinner at the kitchen table. I had plenty of light so that offers no excuse. The power outage affecting the kitchen light had been fixed the previous Friday. We were having hotdogs and mac and cheese. There was no room on my plate to lay a piece of bread so I lay it on the table as I needed both hands to pick up and open the ketchup bottle. This was a large plastic squeeze bottle that had once held probably about a quart of ketchup but now held only enough to fill the neck. It had been sitting upside down in the fridge door for over a week. My doing, since my mother-in-law never saves the bottles once they get that low. She just tosses them. She has mentioned to me before that leaving them in the fridge upside down leaves a sticky mess that is annoying to clean up. But that hadn’t broke me of the habit learned from my depression-baby mother. I couldn’t easily stomach the loss of those last few squirts of red goop.

The upside-down bottle was sitting on the table near me while the one newly opened for the BBQ on Mother’s day was at the other end of the table between my husband and his mother. A not so subtle message, no? So I took the hint and reached for it. I was careful not to squeeze it as I pried the flip-top cap open. The lid was practically glued on by dried ketchup. When I felt it start to give, I glanced down at the slice of bread to make sure I still had the bottle over the top of it, so I felt it before I saw it. My right hand filled with a cold wetness that overflowed onto the slice of bread. I was so surprised by this, I could not quite comprehend what was happening. I just sat there staring at my hand and the ketchup still oozing--tho a bit slower now--out of the spout. I swear I’m not squeezing it. I said with not a little tone of panic in my voice. My mother-in-law, with not a little tone of annoyance in her voice--said, Just throw it out Joy. My husband was cracking up. The garbage can was on the other side of him and I was trying to figure out how to maneuver all the way around the table to throw out the bottle without spreading the mess everywhere when he lifted it out of my hands and stuffed in the garbage can he could reach without getting up. I continued to just sit there staring at my hand but finally glance up to scan the table for the napkins. It was then my mother-in-law said that she had already handed me napkins. She sounded irritated. But I honestly had not seen them. They lay on the right hand side of my plate and my narrow field of vision was entirely taken up by my hand and the slice of bread to the left of my plate. My husband grabbed up the napkins and stuffed them in my right hand. I squeezed them, depositing the goop into them and my husband lifted the soggy red mass away and stuffed it in the garbage.

Now it was safe to proceed to the sink to wash my hands. But when I got up from the table I stumbled and bumped my elbow smartly on the handle of the metal cabinet beside the table. I let out a high-pitched Ouch! And my mother-in-law said something like, You know that is there, Joy. Which she often says when I bump into or trip over something that has been in the same spot for weeks or months or forever--or at lest ever since we moved in here in August of 2001. She said it when I kicked the cast-iron duck doorstop last July and apparently broke one of the small bones in my foot.

As I washed my hands at the sink my husband gave me a physics lesson a bit garbled by his uncontrollable chuckles. I was not laughing. In fact, I was close to tears especially after smacking my elbow like that. But I didn’t dare risk my mother-in-law’s contempt by giving into them. I could have figured out the physics myself once I had calmed down enough to think and not be so consumed by mortifying embarrassment which was now compounded with irritation at my husband’s condescending, ‘Professor Science’ tone. Imagine Ben Stein with a giggle. Eww. No, don’t go there. The physics of cold air expanding as it heats up and thus building up pressure inside a confined space that is suddenly no longer confined and then pushing the plug of ketchup as it seeks its own way out--that is simple to understand. But not very consoling in the moment.

On my way back to my chair, the subject shifted to how lucky I was that I hadn’t gotten anything on my clothes or worse. My mother-in-law then launched into the story of someone not so lucky, the account of when my father-in-law had once given up on pounding the bottom of an upturned glass ketchup bottle and slammed it down spout up on the table where-up-on the plug of ketchup in the neck exploded out and hit the ceiling. She was still in the middle of this tale which I had heard before as it is a family legend, when my left hand brushed against something slimy on my left leg. I looked down and there was a small gob of ketchup on my leg. I push back away from the table and discovered that the front of my shirt from the level of my waist band down was one huge smear of red with another large glop on the front my white slacks below the shirt with more smear and splatter on the right pant leg. Both my husband and his mother swore they had not seen any evidence of any of that when I had gotten up from the table and headed to the sink. I once again headed to the sink and washed my hands and soaked the affected areas of my shirt and pants with the--happily--clean dish rag until the stains had faded to a pale peach I could barely see. I couldn’t do better than that until I could take them off. But I had yet to take my first bite of dinner and clean-up duties would follow dinner.

I returned to the table once again but as I approached my chair I was stopped in my tracks and rendered speechless. My husband noticed my widened eyes and clenched jaws and the fingers curled around both thumbs that bespeaks an intense frustration and simmering anger. What? He asked as he leaned over to look down at my feet to see what I was so transfixed by. It was the culprit and the explanation for the mess that hadn’t been there and then suddenly was: that slice of bread that had been under my hand, that had gotten nearly as large a dose of the ketchup as had my hand and which I had forgotten about. Apparently I had knocked it off the table when I returned to my seat the last time and it had slid off my belly, into my lap and onto the floor as I pulled my chair up to the table. And then, of course, my shirt and pants had shared their bounty with the part of the tablecloth that hung down in front of me.

The story doesn’t end there. This is so long already I am tempted to cut it off there and tell the rest latter but this story is already over ten days old and I would like to just get it behind me. I meant to tend to the stains as soon as I finished cleaning up the kitchen that night but I took a break to sit on the front porch with my husband and his mother and that break lengthened until it was too late to start a load of laundry before they headed to bed. I thought it would be safe to wait until the next morning or even afternoon. But I let it slip my mind until I was reminded after dinner the next night that the laundry facilities were slated to be out of commission starting the next morning and probably thru the weekend as the work on the bathroom and laundry room floors commenced. I hurriedly got two loads of must-have items ready. One of darks and brights the other of lights and whites. It was while preparing those loads that I remembered the stains. I treated them all with Spray-N-Wash and prayer. I started the whites load first. When I was transferring that load to the dryer about a quarter to nine I almost forgot to double check on the stains before I tossed the slacks in the dryer. When I did check I found them little changed from before the application of the spray. I went ahead and started the dryer for the rest of that load and took the slacks out to the front room to show my mother-in-law. I hated to bother her just at her bedtime but I was at a loss. Her recommendation was to run the sink about a third full and put in a third of a cup of bleach and then soak them in that for fifteen to twenty minutes. But no longer she said or the bleach will rot the cloth. And don’t rub or scrub at the stains either. Just soak them. And then rinse the bleach out thoroughly.

This I proceeded to do. When I checked for the stains after the fifteen minute soak I could not find a one of them. So I drained the sink and filled it up again. Then drained it again. Then wrung out the slacks. Still the smell of bleach was strong. Stronger than the smell of a wet swimming suit after swimming in a public pool. So once more I ran water over them until they were submerged. I swished them about before draining the water again and wringing them out again. I had to go through this twice more for a total of four times and I wanted to go for a fifth but the wringing combined with the bleach was raising a blister on the tender web inside my right thumb. So I gave up.

The repercussions of this episode did not end with that. The effort of wringing out the slacks had turned my arms and hands into floppy wet rags about as capable of sustained typing as the wet legs of those slacks. Nor did I have the energy to sit up at the computer and use the touch pad to scroll web pages. I spent the next four hours on the front porch in a chair I could lean back in, reading a book that was just over 200 pages and yet was a struggle to hold up at the necessary level. To think that not so very long ago that was the normal way of doing laundry, though without the convenience of running tap water and electric light to work after dark, just boggles my mind. Knowing that some have made their living doing laundry for others by that method boggles it further. If my life depended on it, I doubt I could manage that. If just my own wardrobe depended on it, I would own only one outfit and what I would wear while I washed it would be a mystery.

I think I learned my lesson. The thought of a small stain on a fridge shelf had not overridden my strong sense of the waste of throwing out a quarter cup or more of ketchup. But the concept of the potential loss of a nice pair of white summer slacks or, as it worked out on this occasion, the time, energy and angst spent in removing the stain and cleaning up a mess like I made that night, added to the loss of a productive work session, weighed against the loss of a few table spoons of ketchup--that tips the balance in the other direction. Buh bye ketchup, you’re outta here.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Series of Importunate Events III

Another importunate event in the series prevents me from following thru with the story from last week that I mentioned in the last post but I didn’t want to just not post since this is Friday night and tomorrow night I will be staying with Grandma and without Internet. I will have to try to have that story prepared for Sunday night. It is longish and convoluted but it is ROTFL--if I tell it right, and that takes time and care. It involves ketchup and white slacks. Need I say more. Maybe I don’t need to tell the long version now just picture that and ROTFL. If the incident had been captured on video I’d have a sure fire winner for AFV. So the longer version is probably worth the wait. Stay tuned.

Today I woke with a migraine about three hours after going to sleep and was repeatedly awoken throughout the afternoon by the work continuing on the laundry room and bathroom floors. The toilet was removed again today for over three hours. You never really appreciate the finer things in life until they are gone. : )

The task today was laying the linoleum in both rooms. It wasn’t as noisy--thank heavens above--as they were done with the power tools. But there was still a lot of thumping and bumping and tapping and knocking and scraping and cussing and grumbling and….. Well, that about covers it. One of the thumps followed by cussing, I learned later, was my husband’s head hitting the cabinet above the washer--which wasn’t there, which is why he was under it tucking the edge of the linoleum under the wall with a spackle spatula. When he came to the end of the wall he stood his six-foot-six-inch self up and…Ouch! But that isn’t what he said.

The good news is that that project is all but finished. Just some touch up to do with the molding. All the appliances are back in place and operational. Which means that next week I’ve got some catching up to do with my laundry. The bad news is--well it isn’t really bad it is just hard to contemplate right now while the recent events are so fresh--they are going to be doing a similar project in the kitchen next month. They will be repairing the leak in the roof and around one window and then replacing the floorboards damaged by years of winter rain and summer thunderstorms. And then of course new linoleum. And around the same time, new carpet for the living room and hallway. The day before the carpet layers are to arrive my husband and his brother are going to move all the living room furniture into the kitchen and pull up the old carpet. I don’t know what that is going to mean for my Internet session that night. I’m chiding myself for fretting about it now. Don’t even know yet which week let alone which day of the week so can’t even begin to predict what projects of mine might be impacted a month from now. At least I have the laptop so will have all my files with me in the bedroom that night--and plenty of books and DVDs. So I will cope of course.

I also learned tonight that there is an extra day of racing next Monday night and they would like me to spend that night with Grandma too. My husband has to work so he doesn’t get to go but his folks want to go. Monday is the day the Phoenix library is supposed to be opening in its new temporary digs after its three week hiatus. I can’t believe that is nearly over already. If I get to go on Monday tho it would probably be only a quick duck in and out to pick up the items waiting for me on the way over to Grandma’s. There won’t be time to browse or visit. That bums me a bit. But then, on days when I’ve had one of these headaches I tend to bum way too easy. My writing exercise when I finally deigned to sit up and open my laptop, was nothing but a list of words that rhymed with ‘pain’.

This was the forth or fifth day I woke up with a headache this week but this was the worst of them. I suspect it has something to do with the construction. On some days it was more like a sinus headache. On some days I felt like I was coming down with a cold with burning eyes and sore throat and sniffles. I blame the dust and probable mold spores kicked up by the work along with the chemical fumes--the combination of which set off the smoke alarm several time so no telling what it was doing to my respiratory system and brain. I actually felt like I could be like ‘under the influence’ several times. You know, kinda spacey with blurred vision and difficulty using language and balance issues.

Well, if I don’t get this posted soon, I’m not going to get to chase down my fav blogs to store them up for reading over the weekend at Grandma’s. Though I suppose that wouldn’t be a tragedy. I have plenty else to be doing. Including about ten hours of DVDs that were due today--Friday--and which I am hanging onto over the weekend. No fine if they are in the drop box before the library opens on Monday. I intend to drop everything off on the way home from Grandma’s like I did last Sunday. Last Saturday night I watched nine hours worth in less than seven hours by using the time-stretch option and speeding them up. I was so engrossed in movies last Saturday night I forgot to watch the time and before I knew it the sun was coming up and I didn’t dare lay down for a nap for fear of not hearing Grandma get up. So I stayed up anticipating the ability to get home and lay down by ten or so. But my father-in-law wanted to hang out at home to do yard work and watch the construction project so they didn’t pick me up until after three. I came home and crashed. Told my husband I did not want to be called for dinner, that my work session that night trumped the duty to come to the table. Besides with all the chaos at the house those three days, I’m sure his Mom did not need to have to prepare a meal for us too. My husband took the cue from me and removed his name from the pot when he passed the word to his Mom that I was down for the count.

And here I thought I wasn’t up to writing a long post tonight.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

A Series of Importunate Events II

The series of mini stay-at-home-adventures continues tonight as the work proceeds on the laundry room floor. It is already after nine and the guys--my husband, his brother, and our nephew--have been hard at it since about seven-thirty and they just called a restroom alert: if you need it, speak up or hold your peace (or do they mean ’piece’ or ’pees’) for at least another hour. So it will be past ten-thirty before I get access to the front room and the Internet tonight again. I guess I better get started on this. Wasn’t much in the mood to try to think, let alone compose readable prose, with all that racket. Those power screwdrivers sound like dentists drills on steroids attached to jackhammers! I don’t think earplugs would help much. They would just silence the sounds that give context to the high decibel sounds and the jarring thumps and that would subject me to a series of heart thumping startle reactions.

There is no happy choice here for someone with Panic/Anxiety Disorder. I’m not handling it as well tonight as I was the last couple nights and not nearly as well as last Friday afternoon when I slept through most of it, waking to take note of a noise but dozing back off with little trouble. For the first time since the week of my Dad’s funeral last October, I’m tempted to take a chip off one of the Zoloft tablets left from the last time I had the prescription filled in 2001. But I’m not sure I remember where I put them after I got back from Longview. Besides there are less than a dozen approximately 25mg chips left from when I split the remaining fifteen or so 100mg tabs the week I realized that a refill anytime soon would be a miracle and if I didn’t start a controlled withdrawal immediately I would be faced with a cold-turkey withdrawal in fifteen days anyway. That was the second week of September 2001! I should save the few I have left now for times when I am required to be in a high-stress situation that includes social interaction and/or walking the public streets unescorted. Those occasions when others are depending on me to perform adequately or my life depends on me performing more than adequately.

It just occurred to me that it is a pretty good sign that I haven’t even had to think about looking for those chips since I got back to Phoenix just before Thanksgiving. That is not a lightweight realization. Go read my December archives if you need clarification of why. Especially this one. And consider that the typical holiday stresses and social expectations followed close on that. Hmmm. I need to contemplate on the variables involved. That can’t have just happened. Something that I have been doing differently on a fairly consistent basis for the last seven months that I had not been doing for much of the previous twenty-plus years? The only thing that pops out in my mind is the two big bottles of B vitamins--a B complex and a B6--that were my Dad’s that my Mom encouraged me to start taking for my high BP the week after he died and then sent home with me. I need to get online and Google Vitamin B and anxiety.

I could have been online several hours ago now. Shortly after I wrote the first paragraph of this, my screen froze while I was switching back and forth between two word processor windows one of them this post and the other a copy of an email I wrote my mother last week that related some of the events I am trying to retell here. I needed to refresh my memory on the fine detail. But the slow window turnover that started plaguing me a couple days ago and which I know is a signal that it’s past time to restart finally caught up with me and forced a control-alt-delete restart. I knew that was coming and intended to restart before tonight’s session but hoped to get the post written first. I made myself return to it after I completed the reboot and then got moved out to the living room. I’m thinking of making it another rule to have something ready to post before I allow myself to sign online each night. I don’t write as well on the fly unless something I just read has stimulated me to rant. And even then the fear of being knocked off line by bossy ole AOL whenever I spend more than five or so minutes without clicking on a link keeps me too distracted to write. Yeah, they give me a warning but I have to uncover the AOL window to get to the ’yes-I-want-to-stay-online’ button and it sometimes takes so long to appear that they preempt my choice.

This post did not go where I set out to take it. I had intended to relate one of the series of importunate events from last week. Well two actually but one followed on the other and was a direct effect of the first so I was planning to combine them into one story. So I guess there will be yet another post in this series. Well at least I won’t have to dither around about what to write about.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Series of Importunate Events

The last several weeks have consisted of one mild adventure after another seemingly sent to test my resolve to maintain the new schedule I designed to support my writing and all of the things that support it from reading and research to web site management. Or maybe the test was of my ability to be flexible while maintaining the resolve to honor the work by balancing the slew of major and minor priorities, giving each the appropriate weight. Success has been mixed at best. One unqualified success though has been the holding to a single shift schedule throughout the week. Not only has that meant keeping to the graveyard shift for the Saturday night that I stay with Grandma, it means resisting the temptation to return to the Internet after my mother-in-law leaves for work at six. And not just on Saturdays. Because I have been faithful to this principle, I have been better rested and more productive--in ways that have yet to be reflected here but I hope soon will be. I have been writing more and more creatively--just not material ready for an audience and in some cases, like writing exercises and journaling, not intended for an audience.

The series of events I have somewhat snidely referred to as ‘adventures’ began with a five day heat wave which began on Mother’s Day during which I felt as though I’d lost ten percent of my IQ. Until I rediscovered, as I must each year, that an increase in fluid intake must accompany the increase in temperature. On the last day of the hot weather a circuit breaker kicked off and refused to stay reset. This happened on a Friday and it was the following Friday before an electrician could come scope out the problem. Meanwhile we lived with only half of the electrical outlets and switches in the trailer house working. I mistakenly thought that the washer and dryer were among the appliances on that circuit. So I got behind in my laundry but worse than that did not get the habit of doing laundry in the evening established.

Then last weekend my husband’s brother began a major project here for his mother that is still ongoing and has on several occasions--as tonight-- kept the household up past ten and thus encroached on my work session--at least the Internet part. Tonight I am using the time I wait to begin writing something with the intent to post it later. But I’m not being very dedicated to the proposition as I’ve been surfing really stupid stuff on the TV which is splitting my attention but on the other hand maybe it is also helping me block out the racket of saws, hammers, drills, power screw-drivers and voices on the other side of the thin wall along with the occasional severe thumps that shake the bed I am sitting on. And there just went the smoke alarm again! The thing is so sensitive, the sawdust kicked out by the power drill sets it off. As does the heating up of the linoleum glue with a propane torch. On the other other hand, I suppose I could have put in earplugs. I can’t believe that I slept through this same chaos and noise the day he did the bathroom floor.

Tonight my husband is helping his brother and nephew replace the floor in the laundry room. And I do mean the actual floor boards and not just the floor covering. Last night they moved the washer and dryer out in the back yard and pulled out the carpet and scraped off the linoleum tiles under that in preparation for tonight. Last weekend they removed the linoleum and the toilet in the bathroom and cut out a section of water-damaged floorboards and replaced them and put in a new toilet. A leak from the toilet, another from the washer and a poor seal to the backdoor allowing rain to soak the threshold carpet is not what pressboard was designed for. One look at that naked pressboard leaves me amazed the appliances, including the toilet, did not need step ladders to get down to them.

My brother-in-law originally thought this would be a two day job. One day to prepare the bathroom floor and one to prepare the laundry room floor and to lay the linoleum and reinstall the appliances. But unexpected things happened. Isn’t that always the case? Lessons in flexibility and adapting to reality while staying true to the values that under gird the floor of my life seems to be the theme of this little adventure.

The sight of soggy floor boards and bare floor joists has also stimulated the return of the dreams that plagued me in the mid to late nineties at the time I made the final break with the fundamentalist doctrines that I thought had been supporting my value system and my fundamental sense of self for over thirty years. Those dreams of walking across carpets that sank under my feet, of stepping on floors that tilted and buckled under me, of houses that collapsed into piles of pick-up-sticks around me, of roofs that blew off and water that rose up about my knees and fire that roared about my ears, seemed at first to confirm my sense that the foundations of my life and self could not hold without those doctrines. But in the end, after hundreds of repetitions and dozens of variations on the theme of de-construction, I learned that doctrines are among the man-made stuff used to build a sense of security, pin things in place and decorate our lives. They are ultimately as replaceable as soggy pressboard, as interchangeable as floor coverings, for they are but feeble attempts to point to that Ineffable Something that grounds our being but they are not the thing Itself.

I could go on for another thousand words and still not tell the whole story of the past several week’s series of importunate events and how they impacted me but I think I will break off here for now so I can get this posted and still have a couple hours to surf.

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