Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Holy Days



Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Erratic Meanderings and Moody Operandi

Have been sleeping quite erratically lately and thus loosing my opportunities to get online. In fact have been doing almost everything erratically. My attention span is a lot like my cats’, alternating between snoozing, staring at the TV (on or off) or the wall or being hypnotized by the screensaver soon followed by the blinking blue standby light on the front of my laptop, eating, grooming… of course there are things I do that my cats can’t like read, write, watch DVDs, play computer games, laundry, walk to the library…

And it isn’t that I haven’t been writing. It’s just that most of what I have been writing isn’t fit for anyone’s eyes but mine--if even that. I would no more post it than I would try to pass off my own vomit as soup to unsuspecting guests. Why would I want to inflict the dyspepsia of the nauseous contents of my mind on anyone else? It’s bad enough to watch it splash onto the screen each day as I regurgitate the minutia of my thoughts and doings into my daily journal.

Some of my recent writing is not so noxious but it is still not yet fit for public consumption. Like my continued work on Brooding Instinct, the novel I worked on for NaNoWriMo. Though it is now on simmer, instead of full boil as during the month of November, it is still cooking. And on some days it is the most appetizing thing going in my life.

Then there is the work on a couple dozen book reviews that are in various stages of production. When life-altering events overtook me last July, a lot of my projects got set aside and I am trying to reconnect with them. But it is nigh to impossible to write book reviews for books one read months previously without having access to the book! I guess I need to send for them again but that means giving time, energy, space and attention to books I finished months ago when there are sooo many more waiting their turn to be finished or started.

And I have continued to finish books at the rate of three to five per week since I got back from Longview and start them even faster than that. Last week, I finally finished Faulkner’s Light in August. It was the fourth copy of the book I had in my possession. The first copy came bundled in the same tome as his novel, As I Lay Dying, which I ordered from the library in June and read in July after finishing, The Sound and the Fury. But no sooner had I started it, the book came due and with it being one of the summer Oprah Book Club selections, it was on hold so I had to get back on the waiting list for one of the other half dozen or so copies in the system. I was amazed when one came thru for me in late August but I was far from done when it was coming due the third week of September. I was all set to set aside everything else that week to finish it when word came that my Dad’s liver was failing and I had to leave for Longview, Washington. Then after my Dad’s funeral, my sister checked a copy out for me from the Longview library but the novelty of my new laptop and the availability of the internet for ten to twelve hours per day commandeered my reading time (not to mention my sleeping time) so I had just passed the halfway point in mid November when I learned that my ride back to Phoenix would be leaving in six days. There was little time for reading that last week. I picked up the fourth copy of the novel on the shelf of the Phoenix branch of our Southern Oregon Library System on November 20th. But I did not make good progress with it until about a week after returning from Gerber, California where I attended my Aunt’s funeral on December 3rd. Since finishing it, I started reading a collection of critical essays about it and have discovered that I have forgotten more than I remembered about the plot and missed much of the significance of many of the elements of the story. A novel was never meant to be read in bits and snatches over half a year’s time! Novels are meant to be dove into and immersed in until the last word. I believe I need to start it over if I am to do Faulkner’s intent justice. As I relate this, I have flashes of having written versions of part or all of this before. Don’t know if it was for a blog post or my journal and if the former whether it was posted. I have begun many a post for Joystory that I never finish or for some reason choose not to post. If you have heard this all before I apologize for inflicting it on you again. But I guess it is as good as anything to serve as a review of the ‘life altering events’ I referred to above.

When I started that last paragraph I was intending to list a half dozen or so of the books that I started and/or finished in the last month or so. But I guess I will save that for another post now.

Can you tell I’m not in the Holiday Spirit? But that too is another post.


Friday, December 09, 2005

A Cauldron of Complex Emotions Simmering on the Embers of Regret

(updated June 2006 for minor edits and an attempt to add photos that didn't work. does Blogger not allow you to add photos to old posts?)

The longer I put off posting, the harder it gets. But the harder I try to write something relevant, the harder it gets. I was interrupted in the middle of a short post announcing a brief hiatus last Friday morning, December 2nd. But I never expected that hiatus to last a full week. The whirlwind trip to Gerber, California for my aunt’s funeral was over by 7:30 Saturday evening. I was sufficiently caught up on my rest by Sunday afternoon that I was already composing a post about it that I hoped to post that night. I’m still tied to the graveyard shift for online access. I was tentatively titling the post: I Hope the Rule of Three Is Inoperative This Time, referring to that saying that bad news comes in threes, because I could not bear to face the concept of another death in the family, another funeral in such a brief span of time. My Dad’s Funeral was held October 3rd in Longview, Washington and my Mom’s twin sister’s was held in Gerber December 3rd. Enough already. We need a break. My Mom especially. I was quite worried for her last Saturday. Her sadness seemed significantly intensified and she exuded a weariness and a frailty I had not seen in the entire two months I spent with her after Dad’s funeral. I have never seen my mother as frail before. That was never a word I would have put in the same sentence as her name. Never. It was disturbing on levels I was barely able to contemplate.

But these were the things I was contemplating as I attempted to compose a post for Joystory last Sunday afternoon. I was also sorting through all the emotions involved in having just seen, greeted and briefly visited with dozens of cousins, aunts and uncles and others who and played significant roles in my childhood and most of whom I had not seen for ten to twenty years.

All of this was entangled with the bindweed of emotions associated with having been raised in a tight-knit fundamentalist sect which seemed like one, very large extended family and then having that ‘family’ implode under doctrinal disputes during the decade of my twenties when a handful of Teaching Brethren--as they styled themselves--began to excommunicate one another. It was the ultimate: You’re either with me or against God ultimatum and excommunication meant that all social interaction of any kind with the offender--from attending Bible Meeting functions to sharing meals--was forbidden; and not just with the offending Brother but with his wife and children as well. After over fifty years of discouraging marriage outside the sect, families were related by blood and marriage every which way times three. By which I mean, there were often multiple links of blood and marriage tying any one family to another.

The Gerber Bible Meeting was the one my mother was raised in and where the double wedding with her twin was held. Her twin’s husband came down on a different side of the doctrinal dispute than did my Dad. Need I say more? I don’t even want to characterize their ‘sides’ as right or wrong or any other adjective like liberal or rigid etc. But I will say that it was not my Dad who discouraged fellowship between the sister’s and cousins for nearly a decade. But my Uncle did soften his stance recently. Maybe it was his wife’s bout with the cancer that helped him put his priorities into perspective. But he brought her to our family retreat in Bend, Oregon last August, the weekend of the two couple’s fiftieth anniversary. And he complied with her request to have her funeral held at the Gerber Meeting Hall. So this funeral--unlike my Dad’s which had not been held in the Longview Bible Chapel as it had been sold in 98--had much the same ambience of the old Bible Conferences held several times per year at Gerber or Red Bluff or Portland or Eugene or Boise….
Though most of the tiny town of Gerber looked very much the same as it did when I was young forty years ago--and Mom says it hasn’t changed all that much in seventy years--and I could recognize almost every other building on the street the Meet Hall stood, I did not recognize the building itself as I had never seen it before. When I was there for my Mother’s eldest brother’s fiftieth anniversary celebration in 96, the lot was empty as some months before, on the eve of Thanksgiving Bible Conference, an arsonist had burned it to the ground. Inside though there were a number of familiar items for when the Longview Assembly disbanded and sold their property in 98, they sent much of their furnishing, including the piano and the pews, to Gerber. Those pews, simple hardwood benches throughout my childhood, had been built by one of my uncles and upholstered by another uncle after they had survived the arson of the Longview Chapel in the eighties.

After the graveside service in Tehama, we all returned to the Gerber Hall for a meal. Again, so much like the Bible Conferences back in the day. Or the Pot-Luck Sunday’s every Assembly held once a month. The meal and the visiting--AKA fellowship--was still going strong when the ride my sister and I depended on to return north--Phoenix for me and Longview for her--needed to the hit the road so as to get over the Siskiyou Pass before dropping temperatures made the roads risky. We left at four-thirty and I was back in Phoenix by seven-thirty. Since I awoke at ten that morning, I had spoken to more people than I had in the entire previous year. And I am including the day of my Dad’s funeral. The memories of the day combined with the memories of the past in a swirl stirred into a cauldron of complex emotions simmering on the embers of grief and regret. All of this on very little sleep since the previous Tuesday when my Mom called with the news of her twin’s passing.

That phone call came in the final hours of the NaNoWriMo challenge. Does this seem like a non sequiter? Well, adding to that cauldron mentioned above was the two months I spent in Longview. I think I mentioned in one of the posts I made during that time, how out of place I felt, how like an alien in the midst of my own family. And in the week following my Dad’s funeral, I had a series of dreams which were all set on the property of the Longview Bible Chapel. These dreams had inspired me to use the NaNoWriMo challenge to attempt to work through those intense feelings by setting my story within the culture in which I was raised. The culture of the Assemblies. This was a first for me. And it was emotionally excruciating. I spent the entire month of November actively imagining the characters and events of my novel, Brooding Instinct, evolving in the remembered settings of the various Meeting Halls I had encountered throughout my childhood, their floor plans and the landscape around them. Longview’s primarily but also Gerber’s among several others. Thus, this visit to Gerber held the quality of a dream for me and by Sunday evening the memories of it and those stimulated by it were already starting to bleed into the dream which was, Brooding Instinct, informing and enlarging and intensifying it.

I was anxious to get back to working on Brooding Instinct. Even though the NaNoWriMo challenge was done and I had come nowhere near reaching the goal, I was sufficiently engaged by my story now that it was its own reason for being. So I guess the NaNoWriMo challenge served an important purpose and I needn’t feel shame that I barely made twelve percent of the 50,000 word goal. There were extenuating circumstances, not the least of which was that I had chosen a theme that was too complex and too emotionally raw. But, last Sunday I was determined to keep on working on it. Meanwhile I was planning a post for Joystory which would update the events but stay pretty much on the surface, saving the emotional depth for Brooding Instinct. The title for it, referencing the rule of three, was kind of flippant and I may not have gone with it, but it reflects the need I was feeling then to stay somewhat detached for the time being. After all, even if one isn’t superstitious and thinks the saying that bad news comes in threes is on a par with black cats and broken mirrors and stepping on cracks, even so, just contemplating that title made me feel as though I were flipping off fate. And that was the state of my mind when the phone rang Sunday evening.

It was my sister calling from Longview. Her first words were: Joy, this is going to freak you out. She had been back in town for less than an hour and upon picking up her son at our cousin’s house she had been greeted by his excited tale of watching a fire that had burned down the place our cousin had lived when she was a little girl. My sister did not immediately understand that he was referring to the Bible Chapel. Or rather the building that had once been know as the Bible Chapel. For she had been a toddler when our cousin’s family had moved out of an apartment in the back of the building into the house next door. The new owners of the property had donated the building to the fire department for practice exercises and they had burnt the original wooden structure to the ground that day. The cement-block addition built in 77 was still standing--for now--further exercises pending before it is knocked down. On a Sunday no less. Did they know it used to be a Church? But I guess that couldn’t be allowed to matter. The stretch of Ocean Beach Highway on which the building sat is one of the busiest thoroughfares in Longview so any other day of the week this would have disrupted traffic and thus commerce too much. And don’t you know, that is the official, though unnamed, religion of America.

The building I went to Sunday School in and later taught Sunday School in, watched my Grandfather remarry in and some years later was married in myself was gone. They burned it down two days after my 27th anniversary, an anniversary that had so totaly slipped my mind that I did not remember it until I was relating this to my husband as my two sisters passed the phone back and forth taking turns discribing the scene as they stood across the street from it taking pictures with the cell phone.. This news plunged me into that cauldron and turned up the heat. For days, I could not think, let alone write, a coherent sentence. There was a time, a decade or so ago, when I was angry enough at all sides of the dispute, that I would have gleefully watched that building burn. I might have even lit the match myself, if assured no legal repercussions would ensue. That white-hot rage has since simmered down and recent events in my life had pushed me into close proximity with the people and places of my childhood and allowed me to see the people as separate from the doctrine and the love they exhibited towards one another then and now as more real and more relevant than the disputes which wrenched them apart and not, as I once believed, belied and sullied by them.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Another Funreral

Forgive me for not keeping this up. So much has been happening since I got back to Phoenix. And now I have to leave again. Only this time it is just overnight. I am waiting right this moment for my ride which is coming from Longivew. We are all on our way to Gerber California for the funeral of my Mom's twin sister, who lost her three plus year battle with cancer Tuesday morning.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

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.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Back In Phoenix

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

By the Way

Today is my birthday.


Brooding Instint

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

NaNoWriMo Progress and Projection Report

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

Crucify the Critic

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

Of Words and Dreams and Rabbits Running Late

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.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Joystory's 1st Birthday!

1 Year Today!!!



Monday, October 31, 2005

Got Change?

I’m back. I am so back! Stuff going on has been jamming my gears but I’m going to write it instead of fight it.

So many changes going on. My Dad’s passing was just one, tho, like the mechanism of a kaleidoscope, it is the pivot on which so many of the others hang and are jumbled in the turning so that my view of all events--personal, familial, public and political--are colored by it and my attention is fixated by the jagged-edged shards of a broken rainbow in an endless swirl of chaos, cloned and self-replicating to create order iterated by mirrors. Illusion? Or perception entrained by mixtures of grief and satisfaction seasoned with guilt and shame? Does it matter? The mind is a mirror-lined maze, every perception a reflection of deep-rooted biases, carelessly sewed or lovingly cultivated. Who was it that proved that all philosophical systems rest on a number of irreducible assumptions which cannot be proved from within the system? Was that Karl Popper, Alfred North Whitehead or Bertrand Russell?

I could find out in a couple minutes if I were on line but telephone access trumps internet access between 9am and 9pm here at my Mom’s. But at least I have 24/7 use of my computer! And yes, I said ‘my’ computer. That is one of the BIG changes, second only to loosing my Dad. And it was the need to leave Phoenix for an indeterminate amount of time in order to be with my family for my Dad's last days and the follow-up rites which propelled me into taking the plunge for which I had been poised on a high-wire of indecision for months. For I could not bear to be without my ability to write unrestrained by the limits of pencil and paper imposed by poor vision and frequent pain and weakness in the hands and compounded by an often paralyzing perfectionism which prevents me from progressing to the next paragraph while any previous one sports any error of commission or omission.

I had been saving for a laptop for nearly four years. The combination of price drop and the growth of my secret stash brought laptops within my reach about this time last year. There were so many reasons why I waited but I will mention only the most obvious and the most weighty--that it didn’t seem kosher to be spending money that way while continuing to live under my in-law’s roof. But when I got the news that Dad’s liver was failing and I had only days to get to him if I wanted to see him again while he was still lucid, I feared for my sanity to have to go through the ordeal without unfettered access to the only proven coping mechanism--writing copiously via the keyboard.

I was also panicked at the thought of leaving behind indefinitely all of my files--journals, stories, novels-in-progress, essays, drafts of old and in-process blog posts, writing exercises, poetry, research, book-reviews, HTML pages for my other two web sites--over 60 megabytes of material accumulated in 20 months of intensive work to make a comeback from the last time I got on a bus and ’temporarily’ left behind a similar cache of my work never to see any of it again. Salvaging only a portfolio with a paltry 100 pages of hardcopy manuscripts. Between my onerous perfectionism and frugality with ink and paper, that was all I had left of fifteen years worth of effort. I started retyping those manuscripts on January 1st 2004 as part of my New Year’s Resolution made in response to the new computer my in-laws bought themselves for Christmas. I kept my resolution to take back ownership of my writing and thereby of my life and sanity, in spite of the fact that three days into it I received the news of my Dad’s diagnosis with colorectal cancer.

The retyping of those manuscripts was the first step in a plan of action towards a future of financial independence and freedom from debt. Because of my vision and hearing deficiencies and other health issues, my only hope to contribute to such a future would be some kind of work-at-home gig and the best fit for my skill set, talents and accessibility needs was working with a computer in some capacity. My logic seemed impeccable but it rested on certain assumptions. Beginning with reliable access to a computer and the internet. Reliance on my in-law’s computer and internet access might open the door for me but I couldn’t camp out on it 24/7 nor depend on it to be available indefinitely. What if my husband got that raise he hopes for and it is possible for us to move out on our own. The probability of having our own computer and net access immediately was imponderably low. We would be starting from scratch in terms of household necessities. A computer and net connection would not be a priority unless I could prove it would pay for itself before the need to move was upon us.

But the project to find a money generating gig kept hitting intractable snags, not the least of which was the availability of the computer only between 10pm and 7am. And there was my insistence on not becoming a parasite online--a spammer or splogger among other things. I ran across a number of schemes and scams I refused to stoop to. Like free-lance term paper writer! A perfect fit for my skill set but not even for the cash to payoff the student loans from my own attempt to get a degree would I help someone else cheat their way toward a degree for which they have such contempt.

I’ll still be writing this next week if not the week after that if I continue to dwell on all the if/then, and/or, and yes/but considerations and their caveats. And that right there is one of my issues. The need for an elaborate planning stage with the inability to take the plunge when a no-turning-back decision point is reached. Usually I have to be pushed, pulled or trip and fall over the edge. The more significant the object of the decision the harder it is to decide. And yes, Dr. Phil, I am aware that not choosing is a choice.

All of this has been either procrastinating against or preparing the ground for what follows because what I’m about to relate is the central issue which has been blocking me from productive use of my new laptop, the reason why I have never blogged about it and probably one of the intensifiers of my grief. Because, whether pushed or pulled, I did take the plunge. I got on the bus September 20th with the money I’d saved, including over ten pounds of coins, having arranged with my brother to take me shopping in Portland before driving me on up to Longview. But this detour delayed my arrival at my parents house by as much as six hours and kept me from my father’s side during his last afternoon of intermittent lucidity. For when my brother and I arrived after eight that night, Dad was in the middle of a pain episode and an attempt to get to the restroom. My brother had to rush in to help, leaving me to be escorted into the house by his eleven year old son, who had arrived with his sisters and mother hours earlier.

While I waited for my chance to go in and greet Dad, I opened the box and unpacked the components of my dream machine, with the enthusiastic help of two nephews--my sister‘s boy is also eleven--and two nieces ages 15 and 9. I was still riding a high as it had been less than an hour since I walked out of the store with it. I can still remember the exaltation I was feeling, the awe and reverence with which I handled each component as I lifted it out of the box. I was consciously storing the memory with as much sensory detail and emotional tone as I could load it with. Which is why it continues to pack so much punch now that it has been juxtaposed in my mind with the realization that while I was doing and feeling all of that, my Dad was experiencing the equivalent of torture in what would be his final attempt to get out of bed.

Thus was my choice rewarded and thus the recrimination, guilt, shame and regret overwhelmed me, tainting the experience of acquiring a significant element of my dream and setting me up for an even tougher time with the next decision. This issue affects every aspect of my life and none more than writing. If I could produce as many words of finished text for stories and essays as I do for outlines, character sketches, timelines, plot flowcharts, theme and metaphor agreement schemes and research notes for data relating to the story’s era or a character’s hobby, profession, health…I could have ten finished novels to my name by now. If I had accumulated 60 MB worth of files on my in-law’s computer after twenty months then I had to have had at least triple that on the computer I left behind in Santa Clara, CA in 2001. And several thousand pages of paper drafts and notes as well. This is why the NaNoWriMo challenge is especially challenging for me and why I believe it is especially important that I take it on. So most of my posting here for the month of November will probably be related to that project. Although, I have more to say regarding ‘change’ and this post is past long enough. So we’ll see.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Shattered Paradigms and the Caldron of Chaos

So many changes in so short a time! I can’t seem to adjust. I never did like change. Mom reminded me recently of the time they remodeled the bathroom when I was about four and I confiscated several of the nasty old floor tiles and hid them under my mattress. I cried inconsolably when they took them away from me. My reaction was the same when I grew out of my clothes, when the lawnmower gobbled up the dandelions, when the vacuum cleaner salesman took the old machine away with him, when the clown with a painted-on smile and bright white face spoke to me with the voice of a man in the aisle of a supermarket. That last was not so much about change as it was about the totally unexpected, the shattering of a paradigm. I had no context with which to interpret the phenomenon of a person in disguise as a storybook character, having yet to be exposed to TV, movie theaters, fairs, parades, school plays, circuses, or malls.

But that is what this last month has been about for me. About changes--some of them wanted as much as others were unwanted--and about shattered paradigms. About the new and the old in juxtaposition, in a clench like that of the twist in the center of a pretzel. I am reminded of that old Star Trek episode with the character(s) named Lazarus--two who were one and yet, not. The premise was that they had encountered their counterparts in alternate universes and became each other’s arch enemy. The encounter had so shattered the paradigm of one Lazarus he became insane and hunted down his nemesis as Ahab had the white whale, caring not who got hurt, what local rules were broken, whether he himself lived or died, not even that if he ever were to lay his hand on his Other, both of their Universes would be annihilated since one was matter while the other was anti-matter. The other Lazarus was just as determined to capture his anti-self, but only because the Other’s obsession was endangering both of their Universes. The solution was the ultimate in self-sacrifice. The two must be trapped without exit in the interstices between the Universes, held in the fervid embrace of eternal enmity.

The first time I ever saw that episode, I was reminded of the story in Genesis of Jacob wrestling with the Stranger AKA ‘angel of the Lord’ all night and at the break of dawn receiving, as a parting salute, a limp and a new name. And I was never to hear or think of that ancient story again without coupling it in my mind with that modern day space opera. Later when I encountered the myth of Tiamut, it mixed in my mind with the other two, tinting and being tinted by them. Into that mix went also, Captain Ahab and his Moby Dick.

It is these stories and their interwoven themes that best reflect the state of my mind this past month. And still. There is this sense of a titanic struggle underway in the depths of my spirit. There is a coalescing in the abyss of my subconscious of a plethora of themes and memes, of meanings and dreamings, of memory, history, mystery, and story. It is only tangentially about my Dad’s death. That might have been the catalyst but these things have been brewing for years. And they will out. If I don’t provide them a proper forum for forming themselves out of the energy of chaos into coherence and a structure with which to create an ordered expression of themselves, they will turn on one another and on me and with a great thrashing of limbs and bloody dismembering they will take the substance of self and life and feed it to the caldron of chaos.

Am just getting started but must stop here. All this alliteration and rhyming flowing this easily is a bad sign. An indication of severe sleep depravation. 29 hours and counting. A case could be made though that this is exactly when pushing on could provide that very forum for creating order out of chaos. But I think not for a blog post. Not for public display. The proper forum for it would be my private writer’s journal. I am letting this stand only because it is still at least marginally comprehensible (at least after extensive editing) and because I haven’t posted since last Friday morning and have spent hours on this so giving up now would be unacceptably demoralizing. Besides, it still makes my point and still sets the stage and provides an intro for coming attractions.


Friday, October 21, 2005


Am lost tonight (this morning’s wee hours) can’t get online. Been trying for an hour. For the first forty minutes the AOL dialup process couldn’t get past step 2. Was given a bit of hope when it finally broke through to step 3 and shortly thereafter to step 4: requesting network attention and I sat and stared at the connection log as it racked up 14 attempts. I had been canceling after five attempts but that little bit of hope….. Then I remembered that Dr Phil mantra that the definition of insanity is obsessively repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result. I realized that I had just spent a precious hour watching the computer endlessly repeat a behavior and getting the same unwanted response while I sat helplessly chanting (silently) ‘go, go, go’ or alternately, ‘please, please, please’. Either I or the computer must be insane. :)

I decided that I needed to find something else to do for a minimum of twenty minutes. Obviously the local dial up numbers for AOL were having some kind of problem or were down for regularly scheduled maintenance. At least I do hope that is the explanation. Besides feeling hopelessly lost while disconnected from the www, I have several things I need to take care of online which are of a more urgent nature than surfing for news and info or blogging or IM-ing or whatnot.

The first is the need to send an error report to Microsoft as something odd happened the first time I tried to go online tonight. Windows quit. The screen went black with a lot of different colored font that looked mostly like code. I caught a brief glimpse of a phrase: Windows encountered an error and must shut down. Then the screen went totally black followed by the cold boot up screen. I panicked for several moments. Until the familiar welcome screen appeared with the logos for mine and my husband’s desktops. I clicked on mine and it loaded without a glitch but once loaded it popped up with the error report message that the system has recovered from a serious error and requesting that a log of the error be sent to Microsoft. I must confess that I don’t always send those reports. Especially if I am not already online. But a ‘serious error’ at the system level does tend to send shivers up your spine. I don’t know what good is going to come of sending the report anyway. There is never a response so it is not like I am going to be learning anything helpful by doing so. Still….

Anyway the second urgent matter I need to tend to is to go online to Jackson County Library System to renew the books which are due today. I am still out of town. This time tho, there are only a few which will renew. The majority of them have had their two renewals already. A few of those I have with me. So I am going to have to make a long distance call to the library tomorrow to explain my situation. But first I need to renew the ones that will and then send an email to my husband regarding the ones that need to go back which are still on the shelves in our room. I have been doing that every Friday since I left town. And my husband has not always found and returned all of the relevant books on time.

That relates to another way I am lost tonight. I had no idea when I left town how long I would be gone. The trip was planned and executed on an emergency basis without any way of pinning down a time-frame. I had gotten the word my Dad’s liver was failing and time was short. But ’short’ covered the territory from hours to weeks. Thought they expected him to have only days of mental coherence left, he could have possibly spent weeks in a comatose state. So my plan when I left was to stay for the duration plus at least one week beyond the funeral. I left Phoenix four weeks and two days ago. It is just twenty-some hours short of four weeks since Dad died. And it is one day short of three weeks since his funeral. I am in limbo in my mind and heart. Neither place is really my home. Here is my mother’s home and there is my mother-in-law’s home. Not a good position to be in for a married woman in the last half of her fifth decade.

The whole meme of ‘lost’ for this post was inspired primarily by the ABC series, Lost, which I watched with my Mom, sister and nephew last evening. And, yes, I mean Thursday evening. They record it because it’s new timeslot on Wednesday night is past my nephew’s bedtime. I was surprised to discover that my family had been avid Lost watchers last season. Including my Dad. I would never have predicted. Anyway, it is the only show that I was hooked on last season that I am getting to watch while I am here. I missed all of the season premieres. I gave them up without a peep because most of them would not be child-friendly and many (Desperate Housewives, Boston Legal, Medium, Joan of Arcadia, Grey’s Anatomy) do not have the appropriate values frame for a mostly conservative, evangelical household. I would have expected Lost to have fit in that category too. I’m stymied as to what attracted and hooked them all to it. Especially Mom and Dad. I can see its attraction for a not yet fully indoctrinated eleven-year-old boy. And my sister has always been rather eccentric. And come to think of it, my Dad used to watch Star Trek with me why back when and seemed to enjoy it almost as much as I did, making no comment to my Mom’s frequent query as to whether he didn’t think it was sacrilegious.

The only other series this family watches every week is 7th Heaven. I used to watch it regularly too until my in-law’s switched from cable to satellite two years ago and opted not to pay the extra for the local channels. WB was the only ’local’ channel that will not come in on the regular antenna for them so I lost the ability to follow the Camden family exploits about the time Mary announced she was pregnant, Matt’s wife walked out, Lucy was just married, Simon was leaving for college a year early… Now I am completely lost while watching it.

And tonight after Lost was over, a situation developed in which I came close to loosing it. It being my composure, my precarious balance on the emotional tightrope I walk each day while here. The entire hour of the story had been riddled with interruptions because one person or another had not caught one scene or phrase etc and another would fill them in either muting or pausing the tape or talking over the dialog or occasionally rewinding. I have my Dad’s ears as well as my Mom’s eyes. (10-15% of my field of vision left and under 50% of my hearing range) So it was very frustrating. To make matters worse, I had not slept that day, having stayed on the computer most of the day. Well both my sister and her son have been diagnosed with ADD and my sister suspects that both Mom and I have it too. But if I have it, it presents quite differently for me. I hate to have my stories interrupted. I have never had a problem sitting quietly thru them. Mom never could and still doesn’t. She gets up to putter around in the kitchen during commercials. Even when someone is fast-forwarding thru them. My nephew chatters incessantly. He opines on the character’s motives, he predicts the next plot development. And he is seldom right because he has not been listening closely enough and jumps to conclusions. His Mom or Grandma then feel the need to correct him or request he calm down. But not in brief form. Unless you might be referring to a legal brief submitted to the Supreme Court. :)

Anyway. I was on edge when the story ended. And then my nephew pitched a fit when a preview for another story came on the TV. I am unclear as to whether the tape was still playing or this was in real time on one of the channels. It was apparently for a new series dealing with serial killers and the images were graphic and violent. My nephew is susceptible to nasty nightmares which images like that witnessed just before bed can trigger. He jumped up and ran out of the room crying and, in escalating volume, chanting over and over: Shut off the TV. Shut off the TV. SHUT OFF THE TV. Followed by shrill wailing and then: WHY IS THE TV STILL ON? DON’T YOU CARE I’M GONNA HAVE NIGHTMARES? WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT, ME OR THE TVEEEEEEEEEE?

My sister had apparently noticed that I was interested in that preview and so had not immediately complied with her son’s request. Myself? I had been blocking out the distractions to some degree so had not tuned into the situation in time to realize my role in it. And once I did understand, instead of immediately empathizing with the distressed child as I am wont to do, as is my well earned reputation in the family.. I felt myself becoming a distressed child on the verge of a meltdown of my own. The weeks of listening to his whining, me-first, me-NOW OR ELSE voice, his sarcastic, in-your-face back talk to his mother, I had enough. I am easily overwhelmed by sensory overload which is one of the reasons my sister suspects me of ADD too. The volume of his voice and the TV, my sister’s attempt to get his attention, my Mom’s clinking and clanking the dishes as she loaded the dishwasher…. I had to get out of there or I was going to stick my nose and mouth in where it didn’t belong. My head was bursting with phrases more typical of my Dad than myself. And the fact that I was sitting in his recliner took on an eerie significance and I felt as tho I had to get as far away from that chair and that room and that ruckus as possible or risk loosing my very sense of my self.

I went downstairs and sat in the dark watching the computer’s screen saver. And I did finally loose my composure. For the first time in nearly a week, I wept. For loss and for feeling lost. For confusion and for sensory and emotional overload. I let the tears flow for probably five minutes. And suddenly I was exceedingly weary. I decided to go to bed. I’m not sure how soon, but I slept for a time before being awakened when my sister came to bed a couple hours later. Then I got up so that I could have a session. Now that the house is silent and dark.

And I used to think that I wanted a dozen kids!!!
Well actually, I still do. But that’s another story. For another day. Or another lifetime.

Meanwhile that incident and its aftermath has fed into my current conundrum. I have been dithering about whether to stay or go for the past ten days. I’ve tried repeatedly to compile a good pro and con list for staying and another for going back. And all I get out of it is a steady flip-flop on a six to twelve hour pace. And I guess I am not going to solve it now by reiterating all the reasons for going against all the reasons for staying here. It has been well over an hour since I tried to log on. I think I will try again. And if it works get those afore mentioned tasks taken care of and then post this.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cleaning House, Rearranging, and Taking Out the Trash

Spent the last several hours deleting the spam comments from the posts still on the front page of Joystory. Don’t know if or when I will go into the archives to chase down the rest but since the problem didn’t really become a problem before late August, I can probably let them slide. But I had to take that step I’ve been reluctant to take: I activated the verification code on comments. I guess I haven’t minded too much when I was required to enter such codes while commenting on other blogs or claiming my mystery credits on BE, so I am hoping no legit commenters will be dissuaded by this.

While I was at it I also activated the new Blogger backlink option to track those, so far, few posts linking back to me. And I opted for comments to appear in a pop-up window. I hope this doesn’t inconvenience anyone but I am hoping that it will solve part of the issue that has kept me procrastinating on this task for weeks: when I visit my own blog comments Site Meter tracks my visits in spite of doing everything Site Meter recommended to prevent this. So my Site Meter account is registering all forty some odd page views that accumulated by my going back and forth between the front page, the comments and the delete-confirm page. I suppose I will have to reset the counter at Site Meter now. If it is possible that is to reset it to just subtract those visits and page views that I know were mine.

I don’t know. I’m finding it hard to care one way or the other. What exactly am I keeping track of and for what purpose? It seems to be nothing but a distraction from the work, which was my passion, which prompted me to start this blog one year ago next week. All this admin detail is time consuming and feels meaningless to me at this moment. But I set myself these tasks today in hopes of re-engaging myself heart and soul back into the (game? Project? Passion? ….?)

In the beginning was the word…. For me, writing, reading and thinking was the impetus and the reward. But lately all three of those have been mired in mental mud. Rough drafts too rough, too raw, too muddled, too morbid and yes, occasionally too maudlin, to impose on anybody else. Or is that missing the point of blogging in the first place? Maybe I need to relax my standards for the time being. Things being what they are right now.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Oh Baby Mine!

Still haunted by that dream but the bright, adoring eyes of that baby and her eager arms reaching out for me has begun to override the overwhelming sense of shame and guilt and the patina of abject failure. I sense the unconditional love and the innocent expectation that it is reciprocated and the unfathomable well of forgiveness which is her heart. I don’t claim any expertise in dream interpretation but it doesn’t much imagination to see a baby in a dream as a symbol of creativity, regeneration, self-expression, self-renewal….. There is probably much more depth to plumb but that is enough to work with for now.

I believe that among other things, this dream baby was alerting me to a major pitfall before I actually stumbled into it. She was reminding me that I have been neglecting the very thing that I know from repeated experience has been the solution or at least the source of solutions to every crisis I’ve encountered in my life. In one word: Story. Writing is therapeutic and journaling and blogging have legitimate roles but they can only go so far. It is the activation of archetypes, symbols and metaphors encouraged by Story that has the most potential for healing.

Thinking along these lines, I remembered that I had just received the announcement email from NaNoWriMo that the 2005 contest was upon us and it was time to reactivate our accounts if we wished to participate this year. When I saw that the other day, my first reaction had been: I can’t do it this year. Not with everything that is going on right now. But after contemplating that dream for a few days, I took a second look at that assumption. What better way to work through raw grief than to transform it by Story.

So, as you can see in the sidebar, I’ve become an official participant of the 2005 NaNoWriMo contest. Not a contest really so much as a challenge and a community of support from fellow travelers on a quest to churn out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. What better way to focus all this raw emotion and the swarm of agitated memories than the discipline and play of Story?


Friday, October 14, 2005

An Exercise in Exorcism

All that sleep and yet I don’t feel rested. Sleep is full of dreams with high octane emotion and high voltage images in colors so intense they seam to sear my retinas so that the colors of waking life are grayed out, no more than a watermarked backdrop for the dramas playing out in my mind. More real than real, these dreams intrude themselves into every moment. The images haunt and the emotions harass me throughout my days and nights. I could write several pages a day for a year on the themes and intricate plots and the archetypes of those dreams of just the last ten days.

The one I woke from Wednesday afternoon still has me in its grip. The entire dream, comprising dozens of scenes, took place on the property of the Bible Chapel (the non-denominational, fundamentalist, church I was raised in) and the houses to either side of it (one which my Aunt and Uncle, as caretakers of the property, lived in for nearly forty years, the other which my husband and I lived in between 1993 and 1999--after I had stopped attending and during the slow-motion collapse of the church under doctrinal dispute which culminated in the selling of the property.)

This dream began with me setting up a crib in a small fenced in yard that existed only before 1977 when the construction of a kitchen-equipped fellowship room and Sunday school rooms began. My reasons for setting up this crib were vague but I seemed to be expecting to watch a baby for someone--something I was well known for before, during and after any events held at the church, but also family get-togethers held at my Aunt and Uncle’s house.

After setting up the crib I went inside the church building to get something. Toys or diapers or blankets or possibly the baby? Once in there the scenes of the dream shifted often and arbitrarily and all of them were a whirl of motion and color and activity. The themes of each were some mixture of looking for something, sorting collections of items, a variety of housecleaning tasks. The scenes took place in rooms in all three buildings mentioned plus the three garages on the properties and these rooms and the landscaping outside could contain objects and configurations from any time between the late fifties and late nineties mixed together.

Also present throughout were the people from my past in any way associated with any areas or eras of those properties--and they too could be as they were from any of those forty-odd years without chronological logic. Or any other logic for that matter as they could also be in two or more places or times at once. By which I mean that I could leave the presence of someone only to have them appear again in the same or another area or era, at the same or another age.

I never worked so hard and was never so exhausted in waking life as in this dream. It seemed endless. It seemed that in these few minutes of real-time that dreams are known to be limited to that I had lived (or relived) a lifetime with all of its angst compacted and focused like a laser beam.

The one figure noticeably absent from any of these scenes was my Dad. There was no sense that it was he that I was looking for or expecting to encounter either. There was possibly a sense that he was observing my quest or that the errand I was on was at his behest or that I was going to have to explain or report my activity to him. But that wasn’t clear. What became clear to my dream self near the end of the dream was that I was not going to find what I was looking for on or near this property and I needed to go elsewhere to fetch it back there.

In the final scene I was preparing to get in a car to leave when someone asked me about the baby. And it was then that I ‘remembered’ that I had put the baby down for a nap in that crib and had left it unattended as I searched. Frantic with fear and self-recrimination, I went running to the crib which was not where I had left it but was now setting in the middle of the exit driveway which ran between the church and the house in which I once lived. The crib was empty and I was nearly abject with despair.

Then someone led me to a sliding glass patio door in the side of the church which never existed in any era of waking reality. This door opened on a room which also had never existed. In this room a woman with long flowing hair sat in a rocking chair holding an infant. The baby, a girl about six months old, saw me and squirmed with exuberance and reached out for me. It was then that I realized that this baby was my own, not one that I had been watching for someone else. With that realization all the emotions of guilt and shame for abandoning her intensified.

I could not meet the eyes of the woman as she handed the baby over. But I caught a glimpse out of the side of my eyes (something I can only do in dreams now) and knew that she was full of doubt and regret at the need to release the baby back to me and a deep yearning to keep--in the sense of protecting, nurturing and taking responsibility for--her. I realized that she had no confidence in me, nor should she, and I was filled with a shame as viscous and as suffocating as quicksand.

This shame has clung to me waking and sleeping for over forty hours. Writing this has been an exercise in exorcism in hopes that clothing it in words would tame it and sharing it will diffuse some of the intensity of feeling. Hoping also that the act of confessing is in some sense taking responsibility for that baby--meaning whatever aspect of my psyche she symbolizes.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Halfway to Far Enough

The bouquets are drooping, the edges of the flowers and leaves browning. Mom is humming hymns as she stirs hamburger in the skillet, echoes of my childhood harmonizing with the sizzle. The familiar ritual of meal preparation is necessary once again as we finished the last of the leftovers from the flood of delivered meals by Saturday (the 8th). The phone remains silent for long hours at a stretch now. I am sleeping again. Long, dream saturated sleep. After nearly three weeks of sporadic sleep with several 48 plus hour stints of no sleep at all, my body and mind are greedy for sleep and slurp it like a small child with a Popsicle on a summer afternoon.

In the last week I have gone several times with Mom on her daily walk around the block. The blocks here are not square city blocks but curvy lanes ending in cul-de-sacs. So ‘around the block’ is not quite correct either. It would be well over a mile to make a full circuit so we turn back and retrace our steps after one of us judges we are half way to far enough.

What a sight we must make--two women wielding white canes but gesturing hither and yon at this flowering bush and that leaf-turned tree. Mom warns me several yards in advance of every root-raised sidewalk slabs, every curb, every fire-hydrant and every twig that hangs down below forehead level over the sidewalk. Her RP has advanced much further than mine but tho she sees much less, she has nearly three decades more familiarity with this neighborhood than I do.

Mom spoke of Dad in the present tense three times yesterday. But I did not call her on it as I know she is neither delusional nor in denial. It is just the grooves that language wears in your mind, mapping experience. Repetition of new experience will redraw the map--in time. Grief is much like a walk in unfamiliar terrain. You put one foot in front of the other, advancing through the minutes, the hours, the days. Routines reassert themselves but they are like old maps superimposed over new territory, giving only an illusion of ’normal’ as your steps take you past missing landmarks or stumbling over unmarked obstacles. And no matter how many steps you take, you are always one step short of halfway to far enough.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

His Legacy Was Love

You can read the obit which my mother wrote for my Dad in the online version of The Longview Daily News. I don’t know how long this link will hold but when and if it dies I will republish the obit here in this post instead of linking to it. I would just do it that way now but I still haven’t learned how to post photos to my blog.
Meanwhile, now that things are (somewhat) calmer here, I am writing again and am preparing a post relating some of the past weeks events in a more coherent form then the last few posts have been.
I would like to thank those who have expressed their sympathy via comments here or email. They have been much appreciated by myself and my family. I have shared some with my sister and shared the fact of their existence with my Mom who is busy at this time with opening the dozens of cards she has been receiving by snail mail since the Tuesday after Dad’s passing. Read the obit to catch a glimmer as to where those cards are coming from. The circle of lives impacted by my parents is not negligible! This is an honorable legacy.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Eternity Encompasses Time's Passages

Can it have been a week already? A week. Days passing in a dreamscape of memories, tears, hugs, doorbells, phone ringing, food-bearing and flower-bearing arms floating through rooms where scattered memories startle laughter or tears or both at once. Children’s chatter. Hymn-singing. Prayer circles. Photographs. Remember this? Remember when? Remember that time?

This afternoon will be the memorial service and Monday morning will be the internment. Will it get easier then? Quieter maybe….but easier? I can‘t imagine. Time. They say it will take time.

This is the poem I wrote for my parent‘s 40th anniversary:


Time was there was no we
Only you and only me
Solitary I’s enclosed, apart.

Time went far to bring us here
To where we are--our
Unitary I’s--entwined by love.

Time is now for making strong
Our fragile, time-made bonds--
Singular I’s and thou’s in synergy.

Time will be when all our we’s
Conjoin in heaven’s harmony--
Tributary we’s in eternity.

I am to read it at the service today. If I can stay composed. If my desire to honor my Dad can overcome both grief and the swarm of panic-anxiety triggers to be expected in a crowded public setting where sensory overload is immanent. If Eternity will encompass time, providing a buffer against the pain and fear and give free passage to the Voice which which Love speaks in time.


Monday, September 26, 2005

The Prize On the Other Side

Between emotions so raw that clothing them with words is like wearing a wool sweater over a sunburn and fatigue so deep that grasping a thought is like trying to fish one of those translucent beads out of tapioca pudding with fingers clad in rubber gloves, attempting to compose a post would be counterproductive as another one sinking to the level of the previous one would not profit either me, my few readers or my blog.

Instead, I offer here a poem which I wrote about ten years ago. The controlling metaphor is fitting I think--passages from one life-stage to another, always reaching for and then being grasped by the prize on the other side. Daddy is now embraced by and embracing the Ultimate prize on the Other side:

The Prize On the Other Side
by Joy Renee

The bars, the rail that divide
Here from there.
The prize on the other side.

To climb, to reach, to grasp,
Willing it mine.
To have until eternity lapse.

The fumble, the tumble into loss.
A long falling
Towards pain, separation, life’s cost.

The arms, the rescue, tears dried.
Belonging to Love--
The prize on the other side.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Passing Reference

My Dad passed on at 4:40 Saturday morning. The sudden silence that suffused the space which had been assaulted for three days with the rasp of his labored breath, the gasps and groans and the choking coughs was both relief and grief. Relief inasmuch as the silence means the cessation of his suffering. And yet, this morning, now twenty-four hours later, that silence oppresses me. My heart wants nothing more than to fill it with the wails of a child no more than three, calling for her Daddy in the dark wee hours of the morning.

Forgive me if I sound maudlin. I’ve had less than twenty hours sleep in the last six days. And I miss my Daddy.


Friday, September 23, 2005

There Are No Words…

Never have words seemed more inadequate than they do this week. The sudden reversal in my Dad’s health surprised us all in spite of the head-knowledge that it was to be expected sooner rather than later. It was Dad’s habit of defying expectations throughout his illness that led us to expect an indefinite extension of the cycle of crisis and rally. Just last Saturday, while I was on the phone with my sister catching up on the latest developments, Dad was up walking around slow and careful with his walker.
He was still speaking too. He said to Mom how he wished he could go outside to see the pumpkin. He was referring to the Pumpkin my sister’s boy has been nurturing all summer. Mom said that she wished he could see it too. But she did not offer to take him out to see it. She was sure that the excursion into the back yard, which entailed descending some stairs would just be too much for him. Seeing that Mom was not going to help grant this simple wish and knowing he no longer had the verbal competency to debate with her, he just left the room. Watching him progress down the hall towards their bedroom, Mom thought he must be heading back in to lay down as he had already be up for some time. But he came back just moments later with his straw hat on his head and wordlessly headed for the back door.
Mom followed after to assist him on the stairs. And so did my sister since a nearly blind woman with a history of sciatica should not be the primary support of a frail man steering a walker down some stairs. My sister and I had to say quick good-byes and I didn’t learn until the next day that Dad had made it safely down to the garden, where he spent the next hour or more beaming blissfully as he watched the pumpkin grow. Even this wordoholic is forced to acknowledge thatometimes words are unnecessary.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Redirecting My Attention

Well I have been woken from the Katrina dream (nightmare?) by a competing trauma of a more personal nature. I just learned that my Dad is losing his battle with cancer. He is exhibiting signs of liver failure. I am going to be joining my family in Longview, Washington for the duration. The Hospice nurse has said he may have only days before loosing the ability to maintain alertness for communicating. But every patient is unique and he could rally again. He has surprised us all several times in the last twenty months.

So I don't know how long I am going to be separated from this computer with my 12 MB of personal files (stories, poems, essays, novels, correspondence, book reviews--the bulk of it in progress) and 100+ MB of research materials and E-books downloaded off the internet and my stuffed to the gills IE favorites. Nor do I know what kind, if any of computer and/or internet access I am going to be able to finagle. I do know that I can't expect to monopolize the phone lines in the daytime and my tactic of spending the night online as I do here will not wash either as there would be no point in going there if I'm just going to make a recluse of myself in a different household. I need to be available for those moments Dad is still able to interact.

I will be journaling, hopefully intensely, as writing is my life-line in ordinary times and the very air I breathe in times of emotional chaos as this will be. And I expect that I will be suffused with memories and bittersweet nostalgia and I've decided it will be healthier to go with it--to write it instead of fight it. So my posts here (and I do intend to post several times a week) will be mostly cobbled together from material developed in my journal.

But I am also going to do my best to continue to update the previous post with links related to the environmental impact of Katrina. I will also be following the repercussions of the current Rita hurricane. My prayers are with the people of the Gulf Coast states--the survivors of Katrina, the relief workers and government officials at every level. Of the latter, even those with whom I am angry I do not wish ill. I wish only that all can pull together for the commonweal.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Post Katrina Environmental Impact

I've been so busy chasing links and reading stories and digesting information regarding the probable long-term environmental impact of Katrina and the reconstruction efforts that I haven't been able to compose my own post regarding any of it for several days. I still don't feel ready. My head is so swamped with facts and theory--rumors and guesses; actual announced policy from the administration (along with speculation about the true meaning behind the Orwellian words); proposed legislation from Congress; alerts from those with credentials in the field--I just don't feel competent to sort it out into anything of unique and substantive value, which is one of my benchmarks for posting.

I feel there are enough blogs out there doing a remarkable job of calling attention to current events and news and commentary with quotes and links (often to articles in the MSM which are quickly archived behind pay-per-view walls, leaving the blogosphere riddled with linkrot) that I would not be adding anything of value to the discussion by doing more of the same. But my struggle to find relevant and substantial information over the last week has shown me that this meme is not spreading through either the MSM, the EzInes (at least the free ones which are the only ones I can afford) or the blogosphere with the alacrity of many of the other Katrina related memes, though I believe it is the most important following only after providing for the immediate life-sustaining needs of the survivors.

I worry that if we don't create a tipping point of demand for responsible, transparent, accountable attention to this issue, it will soon be commandeered by the corporations, the construction contractors, the sea-food and agricultural industries and the tourist industry. And before long even Oprah would suffer distasteful repercussions if she were to frown in public at the thought of being served shrimp gumbo laced with PCBs, lead, mercury, heavy metals, petroleum, arsenic….

There are already laws in place in many states forbidding the libeling of produce on which that state's livelihood depends, laws which have been used to hush whistle blowers and lone activists with crushing financial punishment via fines, loss of jobs, blacklisting and bankrupting legal fees. Watch for such laws to be created and/or strengthened throughout the Gulf states, if not throughout the US, in the near future. The only way to preempt this attempt to preempt open discussion about this is to make such a hullabaloo now that a demand for dependable information and responsible, science-based, clean-up operations will become as unstoppable as Katrina herself.

I have yet to find anyone doing anything resembling a clearing house of information and links regarding the ramifications of the toxic content of the water saturating every surface of New Orleans and being pumped into Lake Pontchartrain from where it will wend its way to the gulf through the estuaries and be spread into the local (thus global) food chain and all the local sources of potable water. I don't have any illusions that I can provide one with my current resources, nor do I want this blog, Joystory, to be commandeered for the purpose as my intent for it is still reflected by the subtitle even though I continue to have trouble overriding my obsession with this issue in order to maintain a balance in post subjects (or in my daily life routines for that matter). But I do want to contribute to the meme stream some of what I have dug up and to put out a call for more relevant links. I am going to periodically update this post with my continuing research results and thus will put a permanent link to it in the sidebar within the next few days.

In Reviving New Orleans, a Challenge of Many Tiers I put this one first not because it is most useful but because it is one of the rare examples of a MSM source addressing the issue (and it will be easier to locate here than elsewhere in the list for removal when its link rots next week).

This is also likely to linkrot which is why I include the relevant quote here. I'm going to keep my eye on Carol Browner in hopes she continues to be vocal: Carol Browner (former EPA head under Clinton) theorized that the city proper may well become the nation's largest de facto toxic waste site: The water, so thick and toxic... is now receding while you watch in places... and I fear the sludge and dust left behind won't necessarily present itself to people as the danger we know it is.

Susie at Suburban Guerrilla alerts us to an AP report that Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Republican chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is preparing legislation that would allow the EPA to relax or suspend its rules in the interests of expediting reconstruction.

Susie again: The Heritage Foundation, a radical-right think-tank which provides many of the talking-points for the 'conservative' pundits and professional 'experts' consulted by the media and contributes to the writing of legislation and regulations, has issued its recommendations for Katrina recovery and New Orleans reconstruction. Among them: Repeal the estate tax and copiously fund faith-based organizations. Drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, suspend environmental regulations including the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, suspend prevailing wage labor laws. (Including worker safety regulations which would allow them to subject workers now and in the future to toxic levels heretofore considered unacceptable? While curtailing their access to healthcare? And forcing them to work for substandard wages? Don't they have a name for this? Hint: it rhymes with 'rave' but it ain't no party! JR)

(Be not confused: this is a battle between the moral values of billionaires for bottomless greed versus the moral values of the commonweal. The prophets for profit are currently out-shouting the prophets for public and personal well-being. We need to find our voice and soon, before they find a way to buy or steal that too.JR)

BAGnewsNotes has some more stunning photos of the rainbow sheen spread over NO but questions the media's will to keep the toxicity of NO story alive. Not sexy enough, too difficult to research. Not photogenic enough. And someone in the comments on this post leaves behind these links, which while not directly related to Katrina have information with implications for the mind boggling complexity of the problem we are facing:
We have met the enemy...
Huge Cleanup Ahead for Kodak
Photographic Processing Hazards
Hazardous Waste From Computers
Video Display Units — Health Hazards
Cathode Ray Tubes = Hazardous Waste
U.S. Electricity Generation — Fuel Sources

(As you read those sources, consider the implications of the electronic components found in a typical household or office and multiply it by one or two hundred-thousand. Add to that the probable contents of department stores and warehouses in this major shipping nexus--all of this soaking in this water for several weeks. JR)

Solid Waste & Recycling, an online magazine, alerts us to the infamous Agricultural Landfill Site in downtown NO. Said to be on a par with Love Canal for levels of toxins, it is a toxic waste contaminated area several blocks wide, now under three feet of water, making probable the spread of the contaminates it contains.
Appended to this article are links to interactive maps of before and after the flood with directions for locating the ALS.

There is also a link to an Environmental Justice Case Study which offers a detailed history of the pollution problems at the ASL and of residents complaints and health problems.

Also provided is a link to the government site that offers details about the government's Public Health Assessment regarding the ALS. (I predict this one won't stay available for long and I hope someone with tech savvy and file storage resources can stash a linkable copy of it before it disappears down the memory hole. JR)

GIS mapping of sites likely to be sources of toxins released into water by Katrina

Amy Goodman interviews Harold Zeliger re NO Toxic Soup
I do expect Democracy Now to keep their watchful eye on this issue
Toxic Soup: The Deadly Floodwaters of New Orleans
Environmental Pollution Along the Mississippi: From the Headwater to the Delta

Kudos to T r u t h o u t which is shaping up to be a resource on this issue with several articles already and forums for discussion available.
The entire community is now a toxic waste dump
After Katrina: the toxic time bomb

From the Guardian Unlimited:
Katrina oil spills may be among worst on record
According to the Coast Guard, 6.5 million gallons of crude oil had been spilt in at least seven major incidents. This does not include the leaks from 200,000 submerged vehicles and hundreds of submerged gas stations.
Prescott links global warming to Katrina
Oil spills and lost islands add to the hurricane's toll

Cover-Up: Toxic Waters 'Will Make New Orleans Unsafe for a Decade'
Hugh Kaufman at the EPA is blowing the whistle on the administration's attempts at a cover-up already. They are suppressing the release of the test results on the water samples and deliberately preventing the collection and testing of a statistically significant number of samples.

(Let me remind those still clueless: Science and technology need facts with which to work. Facts are the foundation of knowledge and understanding and of the concomitant innovation which provides solutions to problems in the form of technology. This is the true fuel of the economy, without it the billionaires gold is so much gas, dissipating into the global finance network, trading itself for itself, buying itself with itself--one giant Ponzi scheme. In order to adequately address the toxins in NO the scientists and innovators need facts. JR)

He did the same with the cover-up of the highly toxic condition of the air in downtown Manhattan after the WTC towers fell. He was not heeded and today a large percentage of the rescue, recovery and clean-up workers are suffering various degrees of compromised lung function among other health issues, including a statistically higher than normal death rate.
Help me amply his message so that his warning cannot be marginalized by the administration or the MSM again.

Here are two more which have caught the meme from Kaufman:
Culver City News w/ a forum for commenting
Paul Krugman quotes Kaufman in the context of alerting us that the state of most if not all of the government agencies mirror that of FEMA


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