Thursday, September 28, 2006

Coming Up for Air

I always anticipated, as I dreamed about having broadband and WIFI, that it would multiply my productivity beyond my imagination. I still expect that but I know it won’t happen by accident. I am going to have to set boundaries for myself. If what I’ve been doing for the past ten years via dial-up is ‘surfing’ then what I’ve been doing this past week is ‘deep sea diving’. I have been so click-happy all week on every site I encountered. I’m no longer afraid of high graphic and flash content. I’ve watched uncounted video-clips, listened to Air America, played games online, downloaded a couple hundred megabytes of new applications. I’ve read a couple week’s worth of a dozen of my favorite blogs, clicking on links as I went and delving into their archives.

Mostly, I’ve given up the graveyard shift. Except for last Sunday when I took my first dive at around two-thirty in the afternoon and didn’t come up for air until after eleven Monday morning. Then I got two hours of sleep and had to get up and get ready to go to the library because it had been closed for training on Friday my usual day to go. So Monday night I went to bed soon after dinner and slept until my husband came to tell me he was leaving for work Tuesday morning. I only dabbled my toes in the water until after dinner Tuesday though as I spent the morning and much of the afternoon doing laundry, including the bedding and cleaning our room. If I’m going to be spending the majority of my time in there now, I need to tame the chaos.

I thought I was coming down with another cold Monday evening and most of Tuesday because I had some serious sneezing fits and sinus issues. But there was no sore throat or any other indication and it cleared up by Wednesday morning. So I think it must have been allergy. I suspect the cologne of a man I passed on the walk home from the library Monday evening. I was passing a restaurant and was deeply sniffing the aromas as I walked by and so I got a nose full of this guy’s cologne as he passed me. The first sneezing fit hit me about the time I got home and I had to excuse myself from the dinner table about a dozen times. I finally holed up in the bathroom and let them rip. I stopped counting at fifty. My colds never act like that. This was a fairly unique experience for me more like the allergy attacks I’ve witnessed in my husband and my sister than any cold or flu I’ve ever had. It was like there was a piece of a feather stuck just behind the bridge of my nose.

Well that was more information than you probably needed. But the point was that thinking I was getting sick again reigned me in for almost two days. Between Monday evening and Wednesday evening I got quite a bit of sleep. But then I blew it again last night--Wednesday--when I played a word game online from five that evening until three in the morning Thursday morning. It was Bespelled, for those of you who might know it. The only reason I played that long was because I couldn’t seem to loose the darn thing. I wasn’t about to just close it or play poorly on purpose. I think when I finally lost it was because I was falling asleep over it and got careless. That is an example of my obsessing. It comes in handy when applied to something productive. I’ve been known to spend twice that amount of time and more--nearly thirty hours straight--writing on a story that was nearing completion.

I should have closed the laptop and lay down when the game died about three Thursday morning. But I decided I was hungry and by the time I’d returned to the room with a snack, I was wide awake again and decided to read blogs while I ate. Big mistake. Once my mind is engaged in a project it is very hard to disengage it. I was still reading when my husband got up at five; still reading when he kissed me good-bye at six; still reading at nine. My obsession during those hours was with the detainee bill the Senate was slated to vote on Thursday afternoon. I was sick to think that I would be going to sleep in one America and waking up in another. But I did. Again, I got less than three hours of sleep, waking up before noon to get back online to see how the vote went. It hadn’t yet but was rumored to be soon. I kept reloading my most trusted news sources and the blogs which I knew were following this story.

I would like to write something meaningful about this issue but I am too intimidated by the good writing by very educated and intelligent people on these sites and I don’t feel I have much to add except my emotional reaction which is so chaotic and verging on despair right now that I don’t want to inflict it on anyone else. For if this law is implemented, it will be the death blow to our Constitution and the beginning of the end for the American Republic. If you want to know why I am in such despair over this go read about it at these sites:

Glenn Greenwald
Talking Points Memo [Joshua Micah Marshall]Digby
Obsidian Wings
Legal Fiction

There are others but these have some of the best writing by researchers trained in the fields they are talking about. The links are to the front pages of their sites because they have all posted many times over the last weeks and even months on the issues reflected in this bill. All but Legal Fiction are community blogs with multiple bloggers posting regularly. Among them are professional journalists, lawyers, at least one ethics professor, at least one active duty military person, and several trained in the study of history.

It is probably a good thing that I’m going to be forced to take a break from obsession on this for several days--at least from obsessively clicking refresh on the browser to follow the development of this and other stories over the weekend. This is the final week-end of the dirt track racing in Medford and there are races both Friday and Saturday evenings. So I am going to be staying with Grandma from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon. I hope the withdrawal won’t be too bad. : )

But I have other things to keep me occupied over the weekend. I will be exploring several new applications which I downloaded this past week and haven’t had much time to get acquainted with. Maybe I can write reviews of them as I play with them this weekend. Two of them I need to get intimate with by the end of October as I am counting on using them for NaNoWriMo in November. Speaking of which, I need to get serious about choosing the story I’m going to work on and getting the preliminary research, plot outline, character naming and defining, and some vivid imagining of key scenes done so that I can focus on the narrative and dialog for the entire month of November. I’ve tried to participate the last two years but was severely distracted by my dad’s death last year and the year before had severely limited access to the family computer. Everything is looking good to go this year. Except for not having a story ready to take off with. The last two years I started preparing the notes and outlines in the middle of the summer. This year I’m having trouble settling on which of three or four story seeds I want to pursue.

I guess I better get this posted and get to sleep--I’m already sitting on the edge of the bed and have been for the last six hours as it's my main workstation now--my week weekend with grandma is going to be harder than it needs to be if I don’t get some solid sleep first.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Those Were the Days

Those Were the Days
by Joy Renee

Those were the days
When the sky blushed blue;
When the grass grinned green;
When birds sang true.
Those were the days
Love groomed my heart;
Trust bloomed my spirt;
Joy grew unfettered.
Those were the days
My soul sang Gloria;
My eyes saw clear;
My dreams soared.
Those were the days,
I was Daddy's delight;
I was Mama's eyeshine;
I was little brother's guide;
I was baby sister's glee.

How I miss those days Daddy.
How I thank you for them.

Richard Wayne Coon
d. September 24, 2005



Fixed! My husband got my laptop formally introduced to the new wireless modem. He spent over half an hour on the phone with a tech guy and they were still unable to figure it out. The tech guy then reccomended he go to the HP tech help site since both the PC and the laptop are HP. He spent half an hour reading tutorials on the HP site and located the problem without having to get live help from HP. Guess what the problem was? He had typed the encryption key in wrong at the beginning of the process last Thursday. I hadn't thought to check that, assuming that the fact the PC was connected just fine meant there hadn't been any errors that early in the process.

I had been hovering near him for most of the process but about ten minutes before he found the solution I had decided to pick up my book and sit in a chair across the room. When he got the laptop connected, he exclaimed, "Joy!" really loud. I was reading an intense scene and was deep in the story. I had one of my trademarked startle reactions which about launched the novel across the room. The adrenaline rush that ensued browned out my vision. My mother-in-law sitting in the recliner next to mine about jumped out of her skin because of my startled gasp and flung up arms. Everybody had a good laugh. I then made the mistake of standing up to walk across the room to get a look at my laptop screen which was now sporting my new MSN account page. I took about three steps and my legs buckled and I had to sit on the floor. I didn't dare try to stand up again for three minutes. And before I could start playing online, I had to go get something to eat.

Well, I need to post this for now. They are about to call dinner. My husband is BBQing his own Bday dinner. His brother and our nephew are here for dinner as they were just working on fixing a leak on the roof.

But I'll probably be back before I sleep.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Deferred Gratification

Big developments in our hoursehold. We got broadband. I've been salivating over the idea for two years. It will solve so many of the inconviences for me. That and the accompanying WIFI connection that is supposed to allow me to access the home network from my room with my laptop. We got hooked up Thursday but have been unable to get the home network to recognize my laptop as part of the network. My husband's work hours have prevented him from resolving the issue. So I spent the last two days trying to resolve it myself, using help files, troubleshooters and online help. I'v gotten an education in internet and local area network connectivity but I haven't solve it yet. Though I do think I pinpointed the nature of the problem.

I haven't been posting or doing any of my other work since Thursday evening and now it is time to get ready to go to Grandma's for my Saturday night sleepover. I'm taking my laptop with me so my husband won't be able to do anything until I get home tomorrow afternoon. Not that he would have much time for it before than anyway. He is working this morning and going to the races from there and won't be home until near midnight anyway. He was impressed by what I did because even though I didn't solve it, I eliminated a lot of possibilities that he would have had to test for. Now he is going to call the tech service as his next step instead of spending more time trying to sort it out himself. He would have done that this morning if he hadn't had to work.

I am so excited about this development and yet so dissappointed that I can't access the broadband with my laptop yet. I can't wait. I'm going to get so much more done. I won't be tied to the graveyard shift.

It is going to be hard to switch gears now. I've been OBSESSED for two days. But I have no choice. I have to go get ready to go to Grandma's


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I'd Rather Be Reading

A book that is. As in non-virtual. As in novel. As in story!

I’m reading Lorna Landvik’s novel, Oh My Stars, this week and having a hard time pulling myself away from it for just about anything else. And to think, this is my first Landvik and she has five novels under her belt before this one and my library system has them all!

There’s other stuff going on which is making it hard for me to post regularly. I flipped my hours to days towards the end of last week in the run-up to my library day on Friday and heading to Grandma’s on Saturday because I had let laundry pile up until we were desperate and I can’t do laundry late night without disturbing the sleep of two people with day jobs. So I slept at Grandma’s Saturday night. Sort of. As much as it is possible to while keeping one ear tuned to a baby monitor and one eye alert for the first sign of window light. Grandma is a dawn riser and so quiet as long as her asthma isn’t activated, she has often gotten herself out to the front room in the mornings without alerting me over the baby monitor even when I’ve been wide awake and listening for it. She tends to forget her walker in the mornings. She can also take it into her head to try to open the blinds so she can see the birds at her several bird feeders or go outside to look for her dog. It is the risk of a fall that is of most concern.

So I’m usually exhausted by the time I get home Sunday afternoon whether I slept any the night before or not. I managed, with the help of an energy drink, to have an online session Sunday night. But I didn’t accomplish much. And since then I’ve been sleeping nights. I keep falling asleep in the evenings after dinner while waiting for my mother-in-law to go to bed. My husband as woken me up in the mornings though, so that I can get online while his mom is at work and I have but I’ve been somewhat desultory about it. Just dabbling.

I was blaming it on fatigue left over from the week-end; on poor diet choices; on laziness even. But I am now considering the possibility that it is emotional. This week marks the one-year anniversary of the week my father died. One year ago today I was on the bus heading to Longview, Washington, having learned the previous Saturday that Dad’s liver was failing. So it was also one year ago today that I shopped for my new laptop in Portland, Oregon with my brother before heading on up to Longview. I fear I have yet to assimilate the complex stew of emotions that fateful juxtaposition imposed--gaining something as necessary and needful as this laptop was to me simultaneously with loosing something as necessary and needful to me as my Dad. To add to the complexity, Dad died in the wee hours of the 24th. My husband’s birthday.

Adding to it all now is my current comparing of last summer’s goals and ambitions for my writing--those which justified buying the laptop--with what I’ve actually accomplished in the past year and finding myself such a long, long way from meeting them. I’m feeling not just inadequate but unworthy. And that leads me to wonder how much of this to blame on my mood disorder and whether I should be worried about that.

As if there isn’t enough to be worried about. What with our Congress about to vote us back into the middle-ages in terms of our stance on human rights and civil rights. And the Pope quoting a medieval emperor to support his stance toward the spiritual leader of some several billion Muslims and then wonders how he could have been so misunderstood. And the North Pole now accessible by sailing boats for the first time in recorded history. (almost a week later I finaly stumbled across that link again)

No wonder I'd rather just curl up with a good story. Even better would be to curl up in it.


Monday, September 18, 2006

"I Never Knew You... worker of iniquity."

That is what G. W. Bush's favorite philosopher is going to say to him on the day they meet face to face. And anybody else who remains complicit in his ploy to make torture palatable to the American polity and enshrine it as policy.

Sometimes silence is complicity.

If you don't believe me, read Mathew 25.

Shorter Mathew: Torturing = abusing Jesus

If you need further explaination read my old post: Abusing Jesus

Spread the meme. This is about the loss of America's soul.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Creative Carnival: That Was a Mistake

(This was my contribution to Write Stuff's Creative Carnival. The writing prompt was: Making a mistake. But I think I posted too late to participate. Oh well. I still wanted to send you on over to check out the other contributions.)

That Was a Mistake
by Joy Renee
Jan began to wonder if waking up was a mistake the minute she put her foot on the floor that morning and it landed in a squishy pile of cat barf. Her consternation was reinforced when she pulled an ice-cube tray out of the microwave instead of the bowl of oatmeal she thought she had put in there. She found the uncooked oatmeal in the freezer. And again when she sat down in front of the hot bowl of cereal with her mug of coffee only to find it was the jug of cream and she had put her freshly poured coffee in the fridge.

Things continued to happen to set off the warning alarms that it would be a mistake to leave the house that morning. But she had a couple of dozen library books and DVDs due that day and failure to return them would result in loss of library privileges until the fine was paid. Now that would be the worst mistake of all. So she plunged ahead, getting ready to go, maintaining her determination to stick to her plan even in the face of finding her hair lathered with shaving gel and her loufa lathered with shampoo.

Even when she forgot to zip up the backpack before she picked it up off the bed and all of the books and DVDs fell out and scattered all over the floor, she just methodically repacked them and grabbed up her sunglasses and sun visor and headed for the door. Out on the sidewalk she turned left and walked at a good pace for three blocks before she realized she was headed to the park where she liked to watch the ducks and swans while she read or wrote instead of to the library. Keeping her mind on what she was doing in the moment was one of Jan’s biggest challenges. She would always rather be thinking about the story she had been reading or the one she was writing than about the curb that was coming up or even her next meal.

That is why she was hardly surprised to find herself sprawled on the ground having just fallen over a tyke on a small trike. Luckily she had not landed on the toddler and his mother was full of concern over her skinned knee and embarrassment with her son’s gleeful laughter.

“Oh, let him laugh.” Jan said as the woman tried to shush her child. “He knows funny when he sees it.”

Her knee cleaned up with the damp paper towels the woman had brought to her, Jan continued on her way. At the library things went surprisingly smoothly and she thought maybe she had been jolted into good sense by that tumble. But apparently it had just been that being in the library, handling the books and movies--the stories--was just one of those things that could manage to keep her in the moment where mistakes were more easily caught before they were committed.

One of the books had been so captivating she had to pull it back out of her rolling backpack as soon as she was out the door and sit on the bench under the cottonwood tree to read until it was brought to her attention by a series of combustible sneezes that she had made another mistake in not noticing that the cottonwood was shedding its fluff. When she discovered that she had forgotten to pack her allergy meds and eye drops, not to mention tissues, she knew she had no choice but to head home and hurriedly packed the book and her reading glasses into the front pouch of the backpack instead of in the roomier interior where the glasses could ride safely atop the pile of books. With visions of the books spilling out as they had done that morning, she thought it would be safer to not open the main compartment.

When she decided to hoist the pack onto her shoulders rather than pull it along behind her on its wheels, she thought she was insuring a safer return trip home for herself, the books and the glasses. But that was a mistake of monumental import she realized as she found herself laying in the crosswalk ten minutes later, having had to throw herself backwards to avoid being hit by a red pickup that had just run the red light. Of course it was a mistake not to have looked both ways before stepping off the curb the moment she saw the walk signal. But all she could think about, even as the bicyclist who had slammed on his brakes just behind her as she fell back and was now somersaulting over the top of her, was her reading glasses in the front pouch of the backpack which were now undoubtedly crushed. Even the realization that she could not move her legs was not as alarming as the thought of not being able to finish that story.


Friday, September 15, 2006

It May Not Be Cash...

But it’s twice as good as the next best thing. I’m speaking of my reviewers copy of Sydney Blumenthal’s new book, How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime. This is a first for me and it thrills me. It’s like getting paid to read. Plus, not only do I not have to wait months in the library queue for my turn, I have it before it is even in the book stores. This is a milestone for me. Now I have to read it and post reviews on Blogcritics and Joystory. The former is the crucial one though as it is my membership in Blogcritics Yahoo Group that garnered me this honor. The book arrived Tuesday and I’ve been spending time with it--browsing, skipping around, skimming. I haven’t started reading from page one yet. I like to skip around in Non-Fic books before I start at the beginning and slog through from first to last page. It helps give me a feel for the thesis and the writing style and the content of the argument. Also the quality of sources and the author’s expertise.

So this explains my lack of posting this week. This and the slew of books and movies coming due at the library today.


Monday, September 11, 2006

2996: Contours of Courage

Francisco Miguel (Frank) Mancini
age 26
died at WTC 9/11/01

Your name was Frank Mancini. I never knew you; nor anyone who did. Yet I have been touched by your life as surely as if I’d met you face to face.

All I know of you is found on this page established as a memorial to you after your life was taken--one of nearly three-thousand--in that great wounding of our nation, our world, on September 11, 2001.

On this page, from a few messages left by friends and family and a single photo with a caption relating your status as confirmed dead at the WTC at age twenty-six, I gleaned this much:

Your life was a thread woven into the fabric of your communities--family, neighborhood, church, workplace, city, nation--a thread cut too soon. But in that short span the fiber of your character lent its strength to each thread that your thread touched. For as son, brother, grandson, nephew, uncle, parishioner, student, father, husband, friend, colleague, citizen, mentor and neighbor you entwined your thread with many others and in that way you live on in the life of your communities as they continue to weave their many threads into the futures. A future that will be what it will be because you were who you were--which was a man of generous vitality and zest for life with an integrity of spirit that first revealed itself on the grade-school playground.

All of this I know from the messages left for you on that page. I learned more from many hours of gazing at your photo until I began to viscerally understand the belief of some primitive cultures that photography steals pieces of your soul. It began with the simple impulse to smile in response to your smile and progressed to the sense that you were about to speak to me and then became this all-suffusing sense of wordless communing with something much more than photons on my computer screen. Once I was amazed to discover my cheeks wet with tears and realize that I was grieving your loss as one who had known you.

Was it just my imagination? I am a fiction writer after all and often have such ‘encounters’ with characters I have created. Maybe. But does it matter? Either way, my encounter with your story has woven your thread with mine, lending its strength and integrity to the fabric of my life. In gratitude, I offer to you and your communities the following poem inspired by that long gazing at your photo:

Contours of Courage

In your face I see
The contours of courage--
A nose pointed towards
A future trusted to be
Worthy of your hope;
A chin thrust forward
With confidant grace;
Cheeks that must have been
Offered in trust to the
Caresses and kisses
Of mother, grandmother,
Wife, daughter, friends…
Eyes aglow with abundant
Kindness, witnessing
A willingness to give
From the well of your
Being without calculation;
Lips curved in humor
Testify to a sustainable
Joy in life and its
Grounding faith, without
Which such joy would be
As flashes of lightning
Extinguished in the
Moments of their birth
And humor would dry
Up in the face of absurdity.


Catching Up

I am about to post my 2996 contribution--my remembrance of Frank Mancini--but I want to this catching up post first so that Frank’s memorial remains at the top of the page for at least the next twenty-four hours. I had hoped to get it ready to post by Saturday morning so it could ride the top for the entire weekend while I was watching Grandma again but I didn’t manage it. Due in large part to that migraine I was fending off for most of last week.

It never did become full-blown but it was miserable enough. None of my tried and true methods for banishing it worked and it did not dissipate completely until several hours after I took my B-complex vitamin after realizing that I had not taken one for at least ten days. I had taken them with me to grandma’s but had forgotten to take them.

This is the third time in the last six months that inadvertently forgetting to take them has resulted in a return of a plethora of miseries which had plagued me for decades--some like the insomnia and anxiety and mood swings since at least grade-school, the migraines since my twenties and the high blood-pressure since the late nineties--all of which had been resistant to standard prescription drug remedies.

I’ve been taking them regularly for nearly a year now, ever since my mother gave me what was left of my dad’s stash after he died last fall. It wasn’t until the week, early this summer, which I wrote about in my posts called A Series of Importunate Events I-IV that I made the connection between the B vitamins and the diminishing of those plagues.

My perception of that connection has just been reinforced. I had been blaming my seeming disintegration to the confluence of the three anniversaries of Katrina, 9/11 and my dad’s death last September. It made perfect sense to me that the anxieties stirred by those anniversaries would leave me feeling more than a bit undone.

But the fact that I regained an equilibrium within twenty-four hours after resuming the daily dose of B-complex makes me wonder if it was a B vitamin deficiency all along. Wouldn’t that be ironic? And if it is so, what would my life have been like if that had been discovered and remedied in my childhood? How would my life have been different? More importantly: Who would I be today? These kinds of questions intrigue me to no end. Which is probably why I am drawn to fiction writing as a question like that would take a novel to explore in depth.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Caretaking Blues

Woke with headache Wednesday morning only six hours after getting to sleep. It was an incipient migraine. Haven't been to sleep again yet. I think I forgot to take care of myself while I was taking care of Grandma.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I’ve still not caught up on my sleep. Not even almost. I was wrapping up my marathon session just before noon Tuesday morning when my husband unexpectedly returned form work. They gave him a short day as they anticipate needing him to work on Saturday. So it was another two hours before I got wound down and then I got less than four hours of sleep before I was called to dinner.

I was tempted to go back to bed after dinner but I took pity on my cats and took them outside on their leashes and sat with them in the back yard until the sun went down. My husband had to come help the three of us back into the house so I wouldn’t get tangled in their leashes or trip over the hose as I crossed the yard. Once we got them settled back in the stuffy bedroom we settled ourselves on the front porch to read for the next hour and then visit for an hour after that.

As he headed for bed at ten I moved my laptop and books etc out to the front room to get started on my session but I got sidetracked by a computer game and lost three hours to it. It has been a long, long time since I let that happen. Now I am just too weary to care about my session but I know that I will berate myself tomorrow and beyond if I let it slide completely. So I am preparing this post before I sign online and I’m intending to post it and tend to only whatever is urgent in my email and then sign off and go to bed. If I spend less than an hour online, I could be asleep by three and thus have a full fourteen hours of sleep before dinner Wednesday evening if I need it.

It is rare but sometimes I am able to slide into a deep sleep and stay there after I’ve become this sleep deprived. I am hoping that sleep is the only cure I need. I am feeling somewhat like my laptop with an overfull paging file--in need of a reboot. I am hoping that a long sleep will reset my perceptions too as, after catching up on a week’s worth of news and views while in this state of mind, I am so disgusted with the whole world I am wondering if the only cure for it is a reboot. Shades of the apocalyptic meme woven thru my psyche.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Still Watching Grandma

Am back home but I’m still watching Grandma--in my dreams, in the back of my mind. It is Tuesday morning the day after Labor Day but it feels as tho this past week has been one long day. All week long, even with my eyes closed, even while asleep, I was watching Grandma. Once I was chasing after her down the long corridors of a hospital, pushing her walker as she leapt like a gazelle on the moon over obstacles, trailing shards of mischievous laughter. Once I followed after her shaky baby-sized shuffles down the night-shadowed hallway of her house gazing with concern at her trembling left arm as it passed under the dim night-light on the wall, fearing she was going to fall if she continued to push the wheeled walker so far in front of her in her eagerness to get to the front room.

The first was a dream the second a surreal reality. I had been wakened by the wail of ‘Clairol, Clairol!’ after less than three hours of sleep Saturday night. That is what I heard in my dream as I woke to the fact it was real and Grandma was standing in the open doorway calling me by my sister-in-law’s name, Carol, who had once lived with her and slept in that room. She was in terrible distress but it was all emotional and I feared she would work herself into an asthma attack if she kept it up. She was crying like a grief-stricken child that some one had stole her dog. I tried to reassure her that Spot was sleeping in the living room with her Great-granddaughter who was spending the night with us but she would not be consoled until she lay eyes on her.

She wailed over and over us we shuffled together down the hall and thru the kitchen and around the breakfast bar that her dog was gone, she couldn’t find her dog, some one stole her dog, why would someone steal her dog. She didn’t pause for breath until she spotted Spot laying next to the couch. Then she let me lead her back to bed and help her use the breathing machine.

I thought that after that incident she would sleep in but she didn’t seem to get back to sleep at all. I lay in the other bedroom listening to her restless shifting and breathing until the sky lightened about six-thirty whereupon she got up and went to her recliner in the living room where she could gaze upon her beloved Spot and watch the birds morning fracas in the yard.

That is just one incident out of the time I spent with her. Almost every moment I was there was full of the same anxiety and surrealism. I was preparing a post in my head all week about the need to elevate respect for our elders and their caretakers. But it kept degenerating into a rant because my emotions are all fraught with the personal experience. I can’t back up my statements with statistics or studies or anything like objective analysis. All I have is personal anecdote and personal angst based on first-hand observation and hearsay of stuff that happened to friends and family over the last half a century. I wore myself out trying to find an angle that I could take that wouldn’t sound like either a tirade or a whine.

Then when I finally got back online, for two hours before noon on Monday and then again just after midnight, I was too busy tending to email and chasing down a week’s worth of blogs and news for reading and tending to a variety of blogmaster tasks that didn‘t involve writing. I’m just too weary to think deep and my attention span is severely warped. I keep startling out of whatever I get focused on, thinking that I have forgotten to do something important. The same feeling I would have at Grandma’s whenever I would read more than a page without glancing in her direction to make sure she was where I thought she was and doing what I thought she was doing.

It is now after eleven Tuesday morning and the only sleep I’ve had since waking with the birds Monday morning was a two hour nap in the afternoon which was followed by a family BBQ that evening. I can’t believe I am still awake. I am craving sleep like a child craves candy. Deep and dreamless sleep. Drool on my pillow sleep. Now by the time I get settled down in the bedroom I’m going to have less than six hours before I am called for dinner.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Everything that Rises Must Submerge

(Yet another storyseed that has lain fallow for years.)

by Joy Renee

Jan sat at her desk waiting her turn as one by one her fellow sixth going on seventh graders were called to receive their graded term papers. She tried to read but the words of Jane Eyre flowed together as the voices of the kid’s surged around her. Even as enthralling a story as this couldn’t take her mind off what was happening at Mr. Ty’s desk right now.

She watched Mr. Ty thumb over the jacketed pages, stabbing his finger at splashes of crimson on them. The sight of all that red made her wince for the pristine black and white pages of her own Life and Works of the Flannery O’Connor. Hers was probably the only typed one because Mr. Ty had proclaimed: “All work must be your own. Down to the last jot and title.” a few of the brasher boys had loosed a stream of raunchy guffaws but Jan knew what he meant before he explained: “Every letter and punctuation mark is to be put in place by you. No soliciting the nimble fingers of mother or big sister.
But Jan had been typing for three years. She had loved every minute of the project from note-cards to twenty item bibliography page. She couldn’t have put more of herself into it if she’d used her heart’s blood for ink.

“Jan Hill.” Finally! She slipped out of her seat and approached Mr. Ty who held her report like a guillotine blade over his left palm, slicing it down over and over. Then he fanned the pages and she was relieved to see only a few small red stains.

“You expect me to believe you wrote this?” his words submerged her in an icy ocean of shame where her mind thrashed about to make sense of them. He tossed the paper to her and she opened it to the title page which was gashed by the bizarre equation B/D. Form over content was Mr. Ty’s way of grading all written work. “Be glad it’s not F/F. Because I know you’ve copied this from somewhere and if I had time to go to your sources and prove it you would be taking sixth grade English over again in Summer School.”

She turned away to hide the tears welling in her eyes. But suddenly remembering something she swung back.

“What is it?” he snapped. “You better not be planning to challenge me on this. Because if you make me have to hunt down your source I’ll see to it you have to repeat sixth grade entirely!”

“My books.” she said, reminding him of his promise to return the six novels he’d confiscated throughout the year when he caught her reading them during class he unlocked his drawer and stacked the books between them.

“I hope you’ve learned you lesson.” he said as she grabbed up the books like a life buoy and made her way back to her seat and sank into it.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Tale of a Wail

(Another storyseed that got abandoned. Note the gobstopper theme in this one.)

A Tail of a Wail
by Joy Renee

Her mother would tell the tale for forty years of how Abigail Ames sucked in her first breath and released it in a vibrato wail, with no impetus but surprise and how it took her seven years to break her daughter of the embarrassing habit of howling in the face of the tiniest disappointment. And her mother had broken her well. So well that she didn’t cry when at age eight, she watched her brother’s dog Griswald break the neck of her kitten Calypso while her Brother Darcy stood by laughing. So well that she didn’t cry out at age ten when Darcy and his buddy Curtis strung a rope over a high tree branch and put a noose around her neck and slowly tightened it until crying out would have been impossible anyway as simply drawing breath burned like fire. When they lifted her into the tangle of leaves and branches and then let go of the rope so that she fell, breaking her right arm and her left ankle, still she was silent.

Her self-enforced silence began the night of her seventh birthday when her mortified mother removed her from the dinner party after she let loose an endless open-mouthed howl when eleven year old Darcy blew out her candles for her and told her that meant he had just stolen her wish. Her wish had been to someday sing the part of Annie in the Broadway musical. It didn’t strike her that the transference of such a wish to her brother was a ludicrous concept. All she had registered was the irrevocable loss of hope. She was inconsolable. So her mother took her to her room and lectured her on the protocols of social engagements and the expediency of stiff upper lips for young ladies. “If you simply must cry then go somewhere where no one can hear you. And if it is impossible to do that then at least get off alone and put your hand over your mouth like this.” Her mother placed Abigail’s own hand over her mouth and pressed “There, see? You can cry as hard as you want and no one can hear. Pretty soon you will learn to do it without even using your hand. Once you learn to do it without screwing up your face into that unsightly mess, you can scream and cry and carry on in a crowd without even disturbing your make-up.”

Abigail took the lecture to heart. She never again cried out loud. But nor did she ever again sing out loud. Darcy had stolen her wish after all. The first of many precious things he stole from her. And now he was about to take from her the last precious thing because he refused to take her silence in lieu of her promise of eternal silence.

“Swear on what, Darcy?” she asked. “On my purity? On my honor? You took those from me long ago. And what point is there to swearing an oath to an man without honor? It would be nothing but babble in his ears, easy enough to disregard on a whim.”


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Spring Fever

(The following is something I call a storyseed. They amount to a few paragraphs to a page of a scene with the potential to be a story, whether short story or novel. I collect these in a file. Some I get back to. Some I abandon for months or years. This is one of the latter. It was intended to be a story about a shy poetry professor whose dying wife tries to matchmake for her future replacement.)

Spring Fever
by Joy Renee

Maynard Bloomingdale paced the perimeter of the room as he spoke, his words as measured as his steps. His attention to his words on a par with that of the class he was reading to from the slim volume he held. His eyes, like theirs, often straying to the patch of blue sky spackled by the pink blossoms and green leaves of the dogwood tree outside the window. His thoughts strayed to Bonnie, his wife of thirty years, at home and also separated by a window from the spring-spackled blue sky. This was the first spring she was unable to operate her electric wheel chair without assistance. Would it be her last spring? The MS she had battled for fifteen years had advanced an alarming distance since fall.

The door opened and slipping into the room on a blossom scented breeze was a lithe-legged, bramble-haired creature that Bloomingdale was sure must have sprung from his poetry fed imagination. A wood nymph if ever such a thing existed. His breath caught for an interminable moment as she glided into the nearest empty seat.

“So nice of you to join us, Miss…”

“Brooke.” she supplied. “Robin Brooke.”

“Ah, I’m sure Miss Robin Brooke you have heard often of the proverbial early bird and the worm.”

“Often and often Mr. Bloomingdale and I always thought the late worm would get the best deal of all.”
A gurgle of laughter flowed though the room and Bloomingdale felt himself blushing like a callow kid.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Stay Tuned for Storyseeds

Well, I'm off to Grandma's here in a bit. Just wanted to post one more time to let you know that there will be one post per day while I'm away. I got the drafts prepared and my husband is going to go online after the races each night to post them for me. I decided to show three of the storyseeds that have lain fallow in my files for years. What I call storyseeds are single scenes of several paragraphs to a page of fictional narrative and dialog for a story idea. I haven't shared too many examples here of my fiction so I thought it might be a treat or at least of some interest. These three stories still intrigue me enough I don't give up on them yet I don't go back to work on them either. But some of the stories I have finished remained storyseeds for years so I haven't given up hope for any of these or the other half-dozen like them.

If the storyseeds whet your appetite for more, you can find three complete stories of mine posted on my Joywrite site. The link is in my sidebar. If you've already read those and still want more I guess you'll just have to beg me to write more like my neice of late. I do have two completed stories that are not posted anywhere which I've been holding back partly because I concider them my best work and am afraid to loose them on the net and partly because, althought they do stand alone, they are also chapters in a planned novel. It was one of those stories my neice read and went gaga over.

Speaking of my neice. She brought me Christmas in August yesterdy. Volumes 7-12 of Lemmony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events; the boxed sets of the first three seasons of The Gilmore Girls on DVD; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie on DVD; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince book. They are all loaners but she says I can have them at least until the school year is over next spring.


Watching Grandma

I’m writing this while still at Grandma’s on Thursday morning. Or at least I’m beginning it. She seems to be sleeping in this morning. She woke several times during the night, crying out like she does when her back is paining her. She refused the naproxin at bedtime the last couple of times I offered. I think I need to be more insistent. She hates to be dependent on pills whether drugs or vitamins and resists even doctor’s orders. She has a mind of her own. I am the first to understand a reluctance to depend on pills. I am supposed to be on BP meds but after three tries at finding one that wouldn’t blur my vision or mental faculties, I gave up. And because I have been flouting doctor’s orders and have no intention of complying with taking a med that muddies my mind or blurs what is left of my vision, I haven’t been back to a doctor in three years.

I had to bow to the inevitable this morning though and take naproxin my self. I should have taken it yesterday immediately following the incident that is necessitating it now. I fell over Grandma’s dog, Spot, yesterday afternoon. It was a jarring fall and I knew I was in for it. I woke this morning with pain from my neck to my tailbone and one hip and knee. The worst of it is the whiplash of my neck. I can barely turn my head and that is going to make it harder to keep an eye on Grandma and harder to watch where I am going as I compensate for my tunnel vision by scanning my environment frequently to keep track of where everything is in relation to me and what or who might be in motion. Like Spot or Grandma. That is much harder to do when moving your head is painful and slowed by stiffness.

I am worried that I waited too long to take the naproxin and am now going to be in the grip of a pain cycle for the next several days to a week. The two things that I know will prevent that are impossible to do. I have already missed the opportunity to nip in the bud by taking the anti-inflammatory immediately. Nor can I do the other most important thing--rest and sleep. Because I am staying with Grandma so many days in a row this time I have to get my sleep while she is getting hers. But when she has a rough night like she did last night, I do too.

I do get to go home for a day--from this afternoon until tomorrow afternoon. But there are three imperatives that will be preventing me from getting needed rest. I want to get online to take care of business--post, look at my stats, visit fave sites, read and reply to email; prepare an extra draft or three that my husband can go up and publish for me while I’m gone and so on; spend some time with my husband; spend some time with my niece who is spending one last night at her Grandma’s before school starts next week. I may end up getting little or no sleep tonight before returning here tomorrow afternoon. So I’m going to be gong into my four days and three nights with Grandma with a severe deficit of rest.

I have to be as alert with Grandma as with a small child. Only in this case it is necessary to remember I am dealing with someone who vividly remembers autonomy and resists every hint that it is being whittled away. I have to be careful to present her limited choices in such a way that she continues to feel that she still has a choice. At the same time, if I give her too many options she gets confused and will then choose to just not choose, such as claiming she isn’t hungry when I offer three different menus to choose from for dinner.

She is devoted to her dog to the point of obsession. She can not stand to not know exactly where she is at every instant. Grandma will take it into her head to go outside to look for her. She frets that Spot doesn’t have food in her dish. She will ask me, or Spot, if there is dinner in her bowl. I will check and tell her yes. Five minutes later she is asking again. And again a few minutes after that. Often instead of asking she just gets up from her recliner and goes to the back porch where Spots bowls are and checks for herself and if she thinks the amount is too low she adds some more, forgetting she has already done so as many as three times that same day.

At bedtime Grandma will not stay in bed if Spot will not stay in the room with her. Spot will not stay with Grandma if there is one electrical thing still on in the living room--TV, fan, light, heater--or anyone still out there. Which is why I have to hole up in the other bedroom with the door shut after Grandma goes to bed. If Spot decides that she needs one more constitutional before bedtime and goes outside instead of into the bedroom, Grandma will call and call and call and call her incessantly until she returns. “Spot! Spot! Let’s go to bed, Spot. Spot! Spot! Come on Spot! Let’s go to bed!’ And if Spot doesn’t come to her calls within a few minutes Grandma will get up and go looking for her--even outside.

Last Saturday was a fairly warm day but not hot enough to warrant turning on the cooler. At least not until the evening hours when the sun started beating on the front of the house. Grandma and I were watching one of her favorite TV shows, Everybody Loves Raymond, which I thought would be enough to keep her attention for its duration. She had been complaining about being too warm, had me turn up the fan and when the extra noise made the TV hard to hear, she asked me to turn up the TV.

She continued to make comments and suggestions about the heat. She wanted to open up the back door but it has no screen and would have let in flies and mosquitoes. I told her that in half an hour the sun would be off the front of the house and it would cool down real quick after that. She seemed content with that but a couple minutes later was suggesting we turn on the cooler I explained that by the time we got all the windows and doors--front and hallway--shut and then waited the half hour or so for the cooler to cool the front rooms of the house, the sun would have gone down so why don’t we just wait a half hour and the breeze outside will be cooler and the sun will be off the front windows. She nodded and I turned back to the TV.

A couple minutes later she suggested turning on the cooler without shutting the windows and doors. I explained we would have to cool the entire Phoenix area before we would feel cooler ourselves, that it would be like leaving the refrigerator door open. She seemed to understand. I said that by the time Raymond was over it would already be a lot better. She turned back to the TV as did I. I heard her laugh at something Raymond said and chide Debra for being so snotty to her husband. I thought she was engaged in the story again. So I was too. I was sitting not three feet from her.

Suddenly, I heard a loud thump coming from the back of the house. I looked to my left at her chair and she was gone. I hadn’t heard her get up and leave. Both her walker and Spot were gone. I thought for sure she had fallen somewhere in the bedroom or bathroom and I went running back there, switching on lights as I went. Grandma hates having extra lights on. But she wasn’t in the back rooms. I found her outside on the back porch with Spot. The thump I heard had been the back door shutting.

I chided her some then. I was out of breath. I said, Why didn’t you just tell me you wanted to come outside? I would have come with you. I thought you had fallen. She said, I didn’t want to interrupt your story. I said, That was your story, I’ve seen that one like three times. Then I told her to stay put, I was going to go turn down the blaring TV and be right back. She said that’s OK she would come back in, as it wasn’t all that much cooler out her anyway. So we head in together and she makes detours to shut off all the lights that I had turned on while trying to find her.

We get settled in our chairs again. We’re still watching Raymond. I keep glancing over to her and she continues to still be there. I start to relax. Then the next time I glance, there she is sitting there stripped to the waist. I gave in and shut the windows and turned on the cooler. I was trying to save her a couple dollars on her electric bill. Next time I will just turn the darn thing on the first time she hints at wanting it.

So that is what my weekend is going to be like. Picture me there, with my eyes peeled open and taped to my eyebrows, watching Grandma. This time I won’t be able to watch DVDs or read at night as I will have to get my sleep while Grandma gets hers but then I will have to keep my ears pealed for sounds of distress coming over the baby monitor of which I’ve had to respond to an average of two per night in the last couple of months. It can be anything from bad dreams, to back pain; breathing difficulties to bladder demands.


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