Friday, February 29, 2008

Sweat! But Don't Sweat it.

That's my motto for Sven III which begins in a few hours.

This time around I am working at folding story writing into the rest of my life. I want to maintain the disciplines of organization of mind, body, environment, files and time that I have been practicing since January 1st.

I want to continue to enjoy the stories made by others on the same days that I work on my own. By which I mean read fiction and watch movies or TV series.

I want to continue reading Non-fiction and doing the research that relates to stories in the works whether the one I'm focusing on for Sven III or another. It is especially the research for my NaNo novel, Spring Fever, that I do not want to let go of.

And there are three more things that I meant to have folded into my routines by now: some form of regular exercise; a return to the creative pleasure of fine needlework; and a return to working regularly (if not every day) on the side bar for Joystory and the design and construction and content for my other web sites, Joywrite, Joyread and a third which I conceived of a year ago and worked on in a burst of enthusiasm for about a month before getting distracted by another enthusiasm.

It is that propensity to be consumed by an enthusiasm for a brief though intense time only to turn away to another intense enthusiasm while seldom following through to completion on any of them that I am hoping to address this time around.

It has to do with my tendency to hyper-focus on things and my difficulty in changing mental gears. It seems I am always either resisting the call to an enthusiasm for fear of it taking over my life or chastising myself for the chaos the rest of my life devolves into whenever I have surrendered to the enthusiasm.

The most productive times in my life have been when I was in thrall to an enthusiasm. But the joy in the accomplishment is always muted by guilt and shame for the projects and responsibilities neglected in the meanwhile and later by more guilt and shame for having not remained faithful to the project born in that enthusiasm.

One of the disciplines I've recently implemented in service to the chaos control project, is the mental one of noticing an issue that may need addressing while maintaining an emotional detachment. This may be related to the mindfulness practices of various spiritual traditions. I've adopted it for the purpose of identifying by making conscious the mental clutter at the root of my anxieties. The most energy sapping of that mental clutter is the incessant shame and guilt chatter that whisper-shouts through my days and nights.

So for this round of Sven my focus will be on finding a balance that allows serial enthusiasms (including the latest enthusiasm of staving off chaos); that approaches the story work with a sense of playful expectation instead of slavish dread of the word-count whip. I want to sweat like a child playing a game of tag as I chase my characters across the luminous landscape of their stories.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Friday Snippets 33

I'm scraping the bottom now. I've only got a few more and, like this one, they are either from waaaaaay back when my skills were much rougher or from the raw dough of the NaNo and Sven rough drafts which are more rough than draft. This was written in my late twenties while I was working in the pear packing sheds here in the Rogue Valley. I can't remember if it was written during a fruit season before or after I started college in January of 85 so I was between 25 and 27.

The story I set out to tell is still vivid in my head as is the Reggie character which is why I wrote a flash-fiction piece for an online contest about a year ago featuring Reggie and a character from my Fruit of the Spirit story world. I will probably post that piece next week. I don't think I've ever posted it on Friday Snippets.

One of the main flaws I see in this snippet is the amount if info-dump re both Reggie's history and the description of her job. I would appreciate hear your take as readers on that. At the end of the snippet I added some photos depicting the working conditions described here and a bit of the history of the story's origins. I didn't put that at the top because I wanted to ask you to compare my descriptions with the photos and your own comprehension of my description before and after it is aided with the photos. Does that make sense?

Making Determinations
By Joy Renee

"Starting another box?" Jan asked when Reggie reached for an empty box as she slid her finished one onto the rollers. "I’m sure not. I hate to have to finish one after they shut down the machines."

Reggie glance up at the clock, one hand still reaching for an empty carton on the rack over her head. Three minutes. "I can do it." she said. Slamming the box onto her horse and wheeling it up against the rotating bin, she reached for the first pear with her right hand, the wrapping paper with her left. After the hundred and thirty odd boxes she had packed today the motions had become like extensions of her body, taking on an intrinsic rhythm.

Sometimes at home she caught herself going through the motions with odd items--her sons baseball while watching television, a can of tuna while talking on the phone in the kitchen. It resembled nothing so much as a loner’s game of catch. Toss. Slap. Twist. Drop. The pears made a hollow thump as the staggered rows of the first of five layers went together. The knowledge of what size pear to pick up, of how many pears to put in each layer so that the count came out right and the weight was always within a five pound window--that knowledge had been absorbed by Reggie’s body in the same way the sweat had been absorbed by the red bandana twisted into a rope and tied around her forehead.

The late summer heat was unrelenting. There had been no relief from it throughout the day inside the shed. The high-ceilinged, barn-like building, constructed of cinder-blocks and corrugated aluminum sheets absorbed the sun’s radiated heat and oven-like, entrapped it. The only air circulation, provided by the great loading-dock doors, offered scant consolation; as the occasional breeze which blew through was gravid with diesel fumes from the trucks loading and unloading outside and the hysters scuttling about their various chores inside. Rivulets of sweat ran down Reggie’s back and pooled in the region of her tail-bone, leaving a trail of dark moisture-laden blotches on her shirt. The waist band of her jeans too had turned dark with the sweat it had absorbed, the darker color continuing below the band in a half-moon shape nearly the size of her palm.

Many of the girls had worn shorts as a token of respect for the heat. But Reggie was convinced that shorts would reveal the extra weight she had gained during the off-season months when there hadn’t been work to keep her active. Jan, the woman she worked next to had assured her
"Not even a string bikini would reveal anything on you that shouldn’t be there. How much do you weigh anyway?"

"One-fifteen." Reggie had said through gritted teeth.

"I should weigh so much!" Jan had said with arched brows.

But Reggie would not be persuaded otherwise nor could she be persuaded to abandon her plan to fast the ‘extra’ five pounds off. Well, not quite fasting. She allowed herself one, small non-fat meal per day--lunch, now four hours past. Her stomach signaled insistently and she anticipated a difficult time resisting the urge to lick the spoons while fixing her kid’s dinner tonight. But she would. Because she was determined to lose those five pounds by the week-end.

"Why by the week-end?" Jan had asked. "Gotta date or something?"

"No. No reason. Just because." Just because she had decided. And when Reggie decided something it got done. As would this even if it brought on one of her ulcer attacks.

Reggie had been fending for herself and her two kids for better than half of her thirty-three years and she had discovered that the only way anything got done in this world was by sheer determination. At fifteen she had determined not to get married just because she was pregnant. She had determined to care for her son, Jay, alone and so had moved out of her parents home. But when Jay was a year old she had determined to marry his father, Jake, so they could get off welfare. Never again she had determined would her family go on welfare. Nor had they. And when, a year later, Jay’s sister Rae was born Reggie had determined that her kids would have a better life than she had. All her actions since then had been directed towards that end.

When Jake had turned out to be unable, or unwilling to keep a steady job, Reggie had determined to get work herself. Seasonal work seemed to be all that was available so seasonal work it was. Sorting seedlings at a tree-farm in the winter along with pear-packing in the fall gave her six months of steady work. The other six months she drew un-employment and occasionally babysat and cleaned houses for neighbors. In this way she paid the bills, including payments on a car and a house.

A house! Of her own. Something even her parents had never had. But Reggie had been determined. When Jake had begun to take her steady income for granted and had stopped looking for work himself and began to bum around the beer halls drinking up what money he did earn from odd jobs, she had kicked him out. But he came back and she let him because for once she wasn’t determined. Until a year ago when she had found the determination to serve him with divorce papers. It had taken many years to find that determination. Years that had been a roller-coaster ride of alternating hope and disappointment.

"Why?" Jake had pleaded with a hint of tears in his voice. "I’ll get a job. I promise. I’ll stop drinking. Anything just…"

"No. Jake." she had cut him off firmly. "This time I’m determined."

Reggie was oblivious to the quitting time commotion going on about her. Packers up and down the lines were stopping work but a raging cataract of pears continued to flow into the bins. Bin sorters ran frantically from bin to bin pushing the pears into mounds in the middle. In spite of their efforts many of the pears were lost over the side. Once they hit the floor they were good only for the winery.

"Boy, oh boy! Do they look pissed up on mount Olympus." Jan said throwing her head toward the catwalk where the supervisors stood glowering.

"Well it serves em right." Carla answered. "I sat on my duff for two hours today. Fifteen bucks that cost me. Let em fire me if they dare. But I’m not staying one second past five. I won’t give em the time it takes to take off my gloves." With that she pushed her way past the idle packers, shoving an unmanned horse out of her way.

"Sometime I wish I had the guts to do sumpin like that.." Sophe said. "But I gotta pick up my kids at daycare and ifn I don’ get there by five-thirty it cost me an extry buck each. I jus made enough today to cover the sitter as it is. Three hours they run that fruit so slow half of us we can’t work. Now they flooding us jus at quitin time. Makes no amount of sense, it don’t."


This photo shows the round spinning tub and the packer's 'horse' mentioned in the story. It isn't that good a view of the horse but it was the only one I found after two hours searching. The horse is a wheeled stand with an angled tray for the box that can be tilted forward to slide the full box onto the rollers that convey it to the weigh station. The small tray of chemically treated tissue paper juts out to the side of the box, situated so the packer can snag a sheet from under the needle holding the stack down with her left hand with the help of a rubber thimble on her finger while picking up a pear from the tub with her right hand. The trick of the transfer is to be forceful enough to acquire the speed that insures a better than mediocre paycheck but gentle enough to avoid bruising the pear. As a packer in the 1980's, I got a base hourly wage of $4 something and for that was required to produce a certain number of boxes in an eight hour day to keep the job (I remember it being 60 odd) but every box over that minimum was an extra 30 some cents.
I 'borrowed' the above photo out of the archives of our local paper and my conscience may not allow me to leave this up for more than a week. I'm not sure the exact protocols of such borrowing when you are in too much of a hurry to ask permission first. But here is the link to the Medford Mail Tribune 1997 article which contains the bylines of the article author and the photographer. The article is interesting in its own right as it provides info about the pay rates packers were getting at the time--twelve years after my last packing season the hourly wage and per box rates had inched up but the required minimum had increased by nearly a third. That job was the origin of the wrist and elbow joint problems that excessive typing can inflame to this day. Probably carpo tunnel but it was never officially diagnosed.

OK, I delved a little deeper into the Mail Tribune archives. Here is a link to a better picture, in color and with better views of the horses and a more realistic view of the working conditions.

That was the environment in which I conceived this story and penciled the first drafts of this scene during breaks. I didn't socialize much being so excruciatingly shy. I spent most breaks (as I once did recesses) sitting on the floor with a book or notebook. But it was one of the ladies working in line next to me who knocked on my apartment door a week or so after season was over and said she was driving up to Ashland to turn in her financial aid paperwork and wondered if I would like a ride so I could talk to the financial aid officer. And that was how I ended up going back to school in January 1985. Thank you Mary wherever you are. Your kind gesture launched my life onto trajectories I couldn't even imagine at the time--even though I never finished my degree.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Un-TT


Thirteen Reasons Why I'm Thinking of Not Doing a TT For the First Time Since I Began 75 Weeks Ago

1. I've been awake for over twenty hours.
2. I may not have the time to visit TTs until Saturday.
3. Saturday is the day Sven III begins.
4. Having had more sick than well days in the past two weeks, I had to use this first good day in a week to catch up on a lot of necessary chores instead of preparing the pictures for the promised TT featuring our new library.
5 I may get to go to the library tomorrow. Can you blame me for putting that ahead of surfing TTs?
6. I considered another Silly Title/Author list which I could copy/paste much faster than I am typing this Un-TT list but am just not in the mood to put the other pieces of the TT together--the code, the mr. linky.
7 Similarly I don't feel like fighting the TT hub again this week. I don't know whether the problems it had last week will repeat this week but I am in no mood to even click over there to find out. Last week's dozens of failed attempts to post my comment at the hub has left a sour taste.
8. All of this matters so much because I'm so tired.
9. I should listen to my body and mood telling me I'm fatigued because it has proven it can have the last say.
10. I spent a couple hours today making bibliography slips for dozens of library books and my heart is with those books rather than the prospect of visiting a dozen+ TT lists--as entertaining and often exhilarating as that is.
11. Ed has the day off tomorrow and I'd rather spend that day with him awake which means I need to get to sleep soon and can't spend more than a few more minutes on today's post.
12. My eyes are burning.
13. I'm embarrassed that I still haven't gotten those pictures of the library grand opening off the camera after nearly twenty days and have kept breaking my promise to post them and really dreaded confessing it was still not done.

(If you are a TTer who happens to stumble over this come back late tomorrow or Friday and I will have added the TT code and mr. linkey widget. Or go ahead and comment now and I'll add your link to mr. linkey after I return your visit sometime this weekend.)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If Dogs and Squirrels can...

This story came to me via one of those ubiquitous email forwards. I always check these things out online to the best of my googling skills before passing them along. This one was confirmed by the Snopes Urban Legend site.

I was so charmed by the story and the photos I just had to share them here. Besides, this happened near Renton, Washington only a couple hours drive from where I grew up.

The pregnant Papillon was fascinated by the infant squirrel, Finnegan from the first and in the days before she gave birth she dragged Finnegan's kennel across two rooms to her own bedside--twice.

Two days after she gave birth, Giselle took Finnegan on, nursing and grooming him the same as any of her own five pups.

There are lots more pictures and more story at the Snopes site if you have a few moments to oooh and ahhh. The link is in the last sentence of the first paragraph above.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Story Calling

If I don't finish this novel by ten in the morning I will be renting it at 20 cents per day until I return it. So excuse me if I kinda blow off a serious post today. The headache preventing me from reading all day just lifted and Myla Goldberg's story is calling to me stronger than anything else right now.

This story speaks to me on so many levels. It is a coming of age story which is one of my favorite types of story. It is also the story of a young girl with a love for words that morphs into a talent for winning spelling bees. But it also address family dynamics and spiritual quests and the messy mud-pie muddle our miss-perceptions of one another's meanings can make of relationships.

All four members of the family of 11 year old Eliza are on individual spiritual quests whether for meaning, encounters with the sacred or a gathering of the broken shards of the psyche into wholeness. And yet they just keep bumping up against one another like billiard balls, knocking each other into unintended trajectories. The irony is that all of the spiritual traditions, even Kabbalah the Jewish mysticism that Eliza's father is fascinated with, emphasize that the role of relationship is paramount, that it is in relationships that we encounter the sacred.

I'm only half way through Bee Season but I'm confident that the story is going to fulfill its promises. So I'm not afraid to say: you gotta read this book!


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Monday Poetry Train #34

This week I thought I would share with you this unique poetry anthology, A Year In Poetry, which I've had out of the library since just after Christmas and will have to send back this week. Published in 1995, it took the editors over seven years to compile. Their concept was to find a poem for each day of the year in which its day was intricately related to the poem.

In some cases the poem was dated with its day. In many the poem commemorates an historical event--a battle, a birthday, a death, a holiday, or a news-worthy event like the first moon landing July 20, 1969. There are many for which the events are personal as in the birth or death of a child, the sparking of the muse by seasonal cues, nature's varied language or cultural rituals (as in Hart Cranes Broken Tower inspired by the ringing of church bells at dawn on January 27, 1932) or the beginning or ending of love as in the case of Marilyn Hacker's February 25 which is a Dear John letter though it begins "Dear Bill.'.

The one for January 4 commemorates the electrocution on that date in 1903 of Topsy the elephant who had killed

"..... an idle
Hanger-on at shows, who, given to distilled
Diversions, fed her a live cigar."
I'm not sure whether the author, George Bradley, was writing this at the time or many years later for after a graphic description of Topsy's execution he asks
"Would you care to see any of that again?
See it as many times as you please,
For an electrician, Thomas Edison,
Has had a bright idea we call the movies,
And called on for monitory spark,
Has preserved it all in framed transparencies
That are clear as day, for all the day is dark.
And so is shown to posterity,
A study in images and conduction,
Sunday, January 4th, 1903"

The poem for today, February 24 is by Jane Cooper and is titled Hunger Moon it begins
"The last full moon of February
stalks the fields; barbed wire casts a shadow."
it is dated 1967 and a footnote from Cooper tells us that the full moon in February 1967 was on the 24th and that the New York Times had recently related that the last full moon before the equinox was known in the Midwest as hunger moon because, while it was still too early to plant the food laid up from the previous harvest was running out.

Cooper's poem is about much more than physical hunger.

There are a plethora of moods, nationalities, eras and poetic forms represented in this anthology which makes it a good overview of the art form of poetry for a newbie like me. Yet should sit proudly on the shelf of the most prolific and experienced of poets.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sunday Serenity #44

Who says you can't be a kid again!

The Etch-A-Sketch was one of our family standby toys for both illness and travel. Thus I was tickled to find this (again, as I found the link in my bookmarks) today while feeling icky (achy, sore skin, fatigued and dizzy). You know I am sick when I don't feel like reading.

This bug has had me in its grip for three weeks now. Possibly five if I count the very first sore throat that lasted nearly a week without proceeding on to respiratory symptoms. So I'm not sure if it has been one virus or several. I start to feel better and get active again and then wham! It reminds me of no other illness in my history as much as mono which chewed me up and spit me out in my Junior year of high school thirty four years ago.

Talking about being sick may not seem to belong in a post about serenity but knowledge about the connection between illness and stress is fairly widespread now and I was aware of it years before it became mainstream. I am trying to apply that knowledge consciously this time. As part of the Creative Change project my sister-friend Jamie and I are working on this year, I am trying to stay mindful of my thoughts and emotions in the moment, monitor the rationality of my expectations of myself as I work at clearing mental clutter with as much dedication as I've given to clutter of physical stuff, computer files and time use in the last two months.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Snippets 31

print for sale at

Blow Me A Candy Kiss

by Joy Renee

part 5 of 5 (part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5)

Some time later, after mopping up the floor with handfuls of towels and bathing as best they could in the tepid salt-water, Iris and Greg once more submerged their turbulent need in the ocean of their love for one another. Afterwards, cradled in Greg’s arms among the love-tossed covers, with his warm, even breaths against her back, Iris felt herself sliding into sleep, as into a sea-grave, wondering if there was something wrong with her that she hadn’t yet cried for Candy Kiss.

Sleep denied her its longed for oblivion, offering instead a vision of Candy at about age three, with her mocha curls and espresso eyes. She was begging to go to the park, but Iris was busy and barely glanced at her when she told her "No." She ignored the brief tantrum that followed and hardly registered the sound of a slamming door in the distance. It was only when her absence began to weigh on her senses like white-noise, that she went in search of her.

She wandered through empty rooms haunted by Candy’s laughter and tears, but found no trace of Candy. A sense of doom was building to a crescendo within her and she began calling to Candy as she rushed through the sunless gloom of the house. Suddenly, light--a strange, pulsating, green-tinged glow like the presage of a tornado--flooded in on her from a window that hadn’t been there just moments before. She ran to it, pressing herself against it with panic. She saw Candy running across the yard, away from the house, straight towards the swirling, sucking creek that separated her from the park.

Iris pounded on the window, calling to her. But Candy did not pause in her headlong rush. She splashed into the water, spurning the bridge further on, and paddled towards the deepest part. The water took her, tumbling her about, then tossed her up on the far shore. Iris held her breath until she saw the tiny figure scramble up the steep bank. Then she began a frantic search for a way out of the house. She must bring back Candy Kiss. What would she tell Carla and Ron? How could they ever forgive her for losing their baby? How could she ever forgive herself?

She would get to her if she had to break the window and swim the creek herself. But the window had vanished, taking with it the numinous light and she kept losing her way in the catacomb of the house. Then it was too late, for Ron and Carla were there and she had to tell them what had happened. She was first bewildered, then outraged by their reaction. They seemed pleased at their daughter’s independent and adventurous spirit. They explained to her that parents began to learn on the day of their child’s birth how to let go, little bit by little bit. If Candy was ready to go to the park alone, who are we to stop her? "You’ll see." Carla reached out and patted the suddenly expanded balloon of Iris’ belly. "Soon now, you’ll understand."

"But she’s just a baby." Iris wailed. "You don’t let babies go anywhere alone." But they just smiled their sweetly patient smiles at her. She turned and ran from the room, continuing her frantic search for a way out, further hampered by tears of rage and fear. She stumbled into walls, she tripped and sprawled out on the floor only to struggle back to her feet and continue on.

Emptiness inflated within her and her belly, already grotesque in its immensity, continued to grow until she was forced to support it with her arms. The hollow weight of it like guilt, pulled her to her knees. She couldn’t bear it any longer. She felt forsaken. Not only by Candy and her parents but by her own humanity. She lay her forehead on the floor, her arms relinquishing their hold on her belly.

The pain attacked her like claws, beginning behind the breastbone and raking into her womb. She convulsed around the gross bulge, clutching at it. She tried to scream but could get no air into her lungs. The house filled with a howling noise and trembled as though gripped in the fist of a tornado. The pain came again, this time accompanied by a scalding gush of fluid. And she did scream. And she kept right on screaming, intending never to stop.

Then Greg was shaking her, calling her name, and she woke to find her face contorted by unshed tears. "I can’t…I can’t…I can’t…" she coked on words like foreign objects.

"I know, babe." he said. "I know." He held her against him for a long, long time as the dry sobs wracked her and his tears bathed her cheeks, sliding beneath her eyelids to free her own to flow. When they kissed, their mingled tears tasted of wine.


Four and a half months later, (the Vickerson’s having had to seek a court order to release their daughter from the machines) at the graveside service, when all the participants released helium filled balloons that each contained a single chocolate candy-kiss; at the moment when, standing on her toes and reaching for the sky, the string entwined about her fingers tugging at her--at that exact moment--Iris felt the first flutters in her womb and the sweet weight of it held her to the ground as she let go and the candy kisses blew over the treetops.

Four and a half months after that, Iris held her daughter to her breast. Kelsey Irene Vickerson opened her eyes and bathed her mother with her gaze, a singular baptism. When she sensed Greg at her side, Iris reached for his hand, weaving their fingers. He bent over to coo at his daughter. The sound of his voice drew Kelsey’s eyes to his face and a moment later she was pursing her lips in perfect imitation of him. "Better watch that," he said to her. "You’ll be earning the name Kiss before you know it." Iris laughed, a buoyant belly-laugh, joyously awed by this new life, this one-of-a-kind girl-child that lay on her lap, the weight of her like hope.



Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #74

Thirteen Pictures of the Phoenix OR Branch Library Temporary Building June 2005-January 2008

1. Here you see Adult Fiction part one. I'm standing beside the As and the bottom right shelf across from me ended in the Ks and sometimes the middle of the Ls.

2. This was directly to my left as a took the previous shot. There was no room for two people to pass between the backs of the chairs at the computer desk and the A-G shelves of Adult Fiction. Two local teens are using the Internet. One of the librarians is using the printer and the other is in the office.

3. This shot is of the room I was just standing in from the equally tiny room on the other side of the H-K shelves of Adult Fiction. To my left was the entire Adult Non-fiction shelves. A pitiful 25% of the Phoenix Branch NF collection as the rest was put in storage awaiting the move to the new building.

4. Directly to my right after taking the previous shot. Here is the rest of the Adult Fiction. L-Z. I am backed up into the corner where the Adult NF and the YA books meet and I could almost put one foot on the child's chair which I'd had to move before I could get those two shots.

5. This was taken as I entered the above room facing the front window under which are the YA (Young Adult) Fiction and NF and Magazines. My left elbow is next to the Adult Fiction H-K (behind me) and L-N. I actually took this picture before I moved the chair to take the one above.

6. Now with my back to that section of shelves my elbow was touching above I aim the camera down the narrow isle towards the front room. The library catalog computer stands beside the check-out counter.

The odd sized shelves to my right are from a previous incarnation of this building as a post office and was where items requested from other branches are held for pickup. (Other incarnations included a dentist office and a pet store.)

During the two years in the temp building over 90% my business was conducted off one of these shelves. The librarian actually set aside the largest one for mine and Ed's requests. It was about two feet tall by ten inches or so wide. I wish I'd thought to get a shot of it but at the time I took this picture that particular shelf was being used for a display. This was just after Christmas and the libraries had only reopened the last week of October after their lack-of-funding closure April 6. Neither Ed nor I had stepped our requests up to the old level yet as he was working holiday season hours and I had been involved with NaNo in November and a visit to my Mom's in December.

7. Now my back is to those request shelves. This is the children's collection. The YA (and etc) room was to my left and the front room to my right.

8. Now I'm in the front room with the front door at my back. The New Books, Spanish Language collection, Periodicals, and theDVD and Video collection are to my right. Straight ahead is the checkout counter. To my left:

9. A large reading table was always covered with various displays and overflow from the other shelves in this room. New Books and Large Print and Audio Books especially. Those are my bags packed and ready to go. The wheeled bag in the chair and the plastic bag on the table.

10. I moved to the other side of the table to get this shot of the door. That is my white cane in the corner. The shelves there are the New Fiction and DVDs. Most of the other 10% of my business was conducted at this shelf.

11. Outside now. That blue box was the return box. It sat in a parking lot that could hold about four cars. Those brick encased flowerbeds were where I would sit to wait for the library to open after arriving to drop off books that had been due the previous day. That was also where I was sitting on the day the library reopened in October.

12. From the other end. Here you see the front door and next to it the window to the children's room and next to that the window to the YA (and etc.) room.

13. To the right of the front door is the window to the front room. There was a Xerox machine under that window. And an Encyclopedia set along with a few other Reference materials. I'm sure I had a shot of that but I guess I hadn't gotten to it yet when I realized I had my thirteen pictures prepared.

Tune in next week for pics of the brand new building. I may have to do two or three TT off them I took so many during the grand opening party and on my second visit today I saw bunches of things I hadn't seen that day. I'll have to return with the camera again. I'd put my camera in my jacket pocket as we prepared to leave today but then switched from jacket to heavy coat and forgot to get the camera.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I'm still working on getting the pictures of the two libraries prepared for a TT. I ran into some difficulties with the pictures of the old temporary building because I had apparently not noticed that the auto focus setting had been moved to manual. Probably while carrying the camera in my pocket. So the brightness is off on all of them and I have to play with brightness, contrast, sharpness and color to get them to look more like normal. I think the pictures of the new building are fine since I made sure auto focus was set. But I haven't downloaded them off the camera yet. So my plan now is to post the TT as soon as I can tomorrow but instead of thirteen pairs of then and now post only the thirteen pictures of the temporary building and save the new building pictures for next week.

One of my motives for scaling back the plan of posting thirteen sets of then and now pictures is that I'm actually going to get to go to the library again tomorrow. Less than twelve hours from now as I'm writing this. I haven't been for over ten days. The last time was the grand opening party on Saturday the 9th. On that day I was so snap happy with the camera and the crowd and confusion was so overwhelming I couldn't really get a sense of what an everyday experience at the new library was going to be like. I have been looking forward to going again but that virus just keeps having other ideas. I haven't yet felt up to making the round trip walk which is now more than a quarter of a mile longer. Ed has tomorrow off and is going to drive us in his Dad's car.

So what I want to do with my time right now is read a novel and watch a couple of DVD. The DVDs were due yesterday but Ed didn't want to make the trip just to return them. It would cost more in gas than the fine for a couple of days. But if we're going to have a fine I mights as well make an effort to watch them.

One of the DVD is only an hour not counting the extra features which I usually try to look at. It is a History Channel Documentary called Secrets of the Koran. I just watched another in the series a few days ago called Secrets of the Kabalah and it was quite interesting. The other DVD is the movie Sumertime staring a very young Katherine Hepburn.

The novel I started this morning and am anxious to get back to is Bee Season by Myla Goldberg and ironically the Kabalah figures in the story. I saw the movie based on this book last December while visiting my Mom. I found it in the Longview library when my sister took me for a visit and then checked out a huge pile of books and media for me. The DVD had caught my eye because I had had the novel checked out several times in the past two or three years and never got around to reading it. Ed read it one of those times he'd finished the last of his own stack and had to raid mine for something. He told me then that he was sure I would love it and that it dealt with many of the things I'm interested in like consciousness, mysticism, parent-child relationships, family dynamics, communication, words, mental illness, memory and learning among other things. All that and a good story about a little girl who wins spelling bees.

Speaking of reading novels and watching movies. I read a whole novel in just over a day Tuesday. I would have finished it before midnight last night if I hadn't stopped to work on last night's post with just under sixty pages left. It was a short novel. I'm not sure how long in normal format as I had a large print copy and it was 280 some pages. It was On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan and it was extraordinary. The story of a newly wed couple on the night of their honeymoon in 1962. Both virgins and both with unrealistic expectations of the coming encounter. It is an exploration of the way any of us can misread another's meaning in their attempts at communication and how even the words unspoken and the gestures not made have as powerful a consequence as any enacted.

Reading such exquisitely wrought stories is an inspiration for a writer. I somehow got it into my head over twenty years ago that I couldn't be reading fiction on the days I was writing my own stories. That was a misunderstanding and misapplication of the insight of my tendency to mimic the voice and sentence structures of what ever writer I'd been reading. I thought that meant I had to abstain from reading stories while I was writing my own. But cutting off the reading of stories dampens the flow of inspiration. Besides, the best advice from fiction writers is that you must write everyday or as close to every day as possible. The logical conclusion if both principles are applied is that I would have to stop reading fiction altogether. Not acceptable. Lately I have come to understand that the lesson I should have taken off that insight was to just acknowledge the fact and then trust myself to be able to find and apply my own voice and iron out inconsistencies on later drafts.

Thus I am intent during this third round of 70 Days of Sweat to give engagement with stories wrought by others through reading and movies an equal priority to engaging with my own stories--as close to daily as possible.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

He's Baaaaack!

Sven is back. The 70 Days of Sweat Writing Challenge commences round 3 on March 1st. Are you ready to sweat?

I've been waiting for this. The first two rounds were great motivation and combined with NaNo they taught me several profound things about what works for me and what doesn't.

Focusing on word count tends to dry up the words while engaging creatively with the story, its world and characters daily guarantees the words will come. It's that daily part that's tricky. But it is the key.

For round three, my goal is to sweat. Sweat plenty. But not sweat it. It's that which is the real challenge for me. I am too easily engaged in the wrong battle, blasting my psyche with recriminations, guilt, and shame. So instead I'm going to make a daily engagement with the story--solemn yet playful. I'm returning to the Fruits of the Spirit story world I was working with in round one. Depending on how I slice or splice them, I've got six to ten novels in progress whose story arcs are interwoven and whose POV characters walk in and out of each others stories as supporting cast across a 70 year timeline.

I spent the first weeks of round one roaming among all of these re-engaging with the characters and the files after a six year hiatus; tweaking existing scenes, adding new ones and notes for more, creating a story world time line and roster in a single file and so forth. During the second half of that round I began to focus on one particular POV character, her story arc and the novel which carries it because I identified this character's story and especially its time line as the anchor for all the others.

It seems like something more than coincidence that it turned out to be Faye's story that would serve this way. For Jubilee Faith Gardner nee Fairchild carries as POV character the novel, The Substance of Things Hoped For, whose theme is Faith.

By the end of the first round I had mapped out huge swathes of Faye's story and her novel's structure and added new scenes to the existing 20K. I was actually beginning to see a possibility that three more months working at the same intensity would be enough to ensure a completed draft of Faye's novel. I was tempted to not do NaNo so I could try to bring that draft across the finish line by the end of 2007.

But the story idea I had for my NaNo novel was too alluring and the hope that the new-found discipline and the lessons learned from Sven I would help me finally--on a fourth try!--win my first NaNo badge. So I switched to the new novel, Spring Fever, and I did earn the badge. And just as I suspected, the long break from Faye's story made it difficult to re-engage. I just started working with Faye's files again last week. Dabbling would be a more accurate term.

I have not been idle since the end of Sven II though. I have sweated plenty. Just not so much in word count. Though it was all in honor of the work and the dream. For the entire month of January I was engaged in a major do-over of our room--cleaning, sorting, tossing and organizing. My writing environment is now much more conducive to productivity and creativity. February has been about organizing my files both virtual and paper and organizing my time and prioritizing tasks. And the whole time since the end of NaNo I've been re-organizing and making over my mind and spirit. All of this was motivated by my commitment to the vision of myself as a story teller.

The last two weeks I've been engaged in battle with a bug. I'm hoping that is now won and I will be in fine shape for sweating by March 1st.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Tagged: Six Unimportant Things About Me

Ann tagged me with this.

1. Link back to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Share six unimportant things about yourself.
4. Tag six random people at the end of your blog entry.
5. Let the tagged people know by leaving a comment on their blogs.

  1. I lived as a child on a street sandwiched between a mall and a high school. Between, in other words a lake of concrete and a lack of asphalt as the parking lots were nearer the street than the buildings and took up more square yards by far than the buildings.
  2. My brother and I raided the Wards dumpster area for appliance boxes i.e. fridge, oven, dishwashers, dryers etc. We dragged them home and built forts in the back yard with them. Two story affairs with complex mazes leading to our individual personal rooms and a common area where we played chess and monopoly by flashlight on summer days.
  3. At age four I was playing hide and seek with my nearly three year old brother and hid in a large aluminum garbage can with the grass clippings. I heard our mother calling us in but was determined that I would not come out until I was found. But nobody came to find me. I finally was forced by nature's call to go in the house. Only to find that nobody was home. I only had a few minutes or even less than three minutes to feel scared though as my best friend, the neighbor girl five years older than me, had come at my mother's request to hunt for me and bring me back to her house where my Mom and gone with my brother to do a fitting of an outfit she was sewing for my friend's mother.
  4. That was the friend who taught me how to ride a bike. In secret in the high school parking lot behind her house. And then she walked behind me as I rode it around the block to the front of our house where my Mom was working in the flowerbeds. I called out to her as I zipped by. "Look, Mom!' and as I zipped by I also kept my eyes on her instead of the sidewalk and as I looked to my left I aimed the handlebars to the right and zipped on out into rush our traffic all the way across to the mall parking lot, darting between the bumpers of cars stopped for the red light a block away. That little stunt, pulled to convince my parents I was big enough to have a bike of my own may have contributed to me not getting one until I was eleven.
  5. A few years before that, at not quite 2, while playing in the sprinkler in the front yard, I stripped down to my birthday suit.
  6. I began exhibiting signs of hoarding as early as five when our bathroom was remodeled and I rescued several pieces of the decades old flooring out of the garbage and put them under my mattress. At the head of the bed. I cried when they found them and threw them away, calling them 'nasty'. I could just not wrap my brain around the idea that anything that pretty shade of blue could be nasty.

I tag Jamie, And anybody who sees this and wants to play. I know that is not the rules but I also know that everybody I can think of to tag is overwhelmed with duties and deadlines right now and/or has just been tagged by someone else. If you want to play, let me know and I'll come see and link you right there next to Jamie.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Monday Poetry Train #33

In this video you see an interesting example of an early Bob Dylan displaying a playfulness with words, showing how one can take words that appear in other contexts and mix them up, stirring the mind to startling new combinations of word, image and context.

In this example he takes the words off of several advertising boards on the side of a building. Below is a line taken from my own word-play files. See if you can figure out what the original context was from which I took my inspiration.

Stagecast for Tuneday is zany, smartly rowdy with dance for bowers.

If you need help see the link on the first word for a clue.

To get an idea of the influence Bob Dylan's word-play has had on western culture since the 1960's just scan this list: Bob Dylan songs


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sunday Serenity #43

As a remedy for the cabin fever I've been feeling after being stuck indoors for a whole week because of a virus, I went looking for images of nature for Sunday Serenity this week.

It was a beautiful day here in Phoenix, Oregon with temps hitting 60 degrees. I got to take a short walk under a blue sky with Ed and our niece and Ed's folks dog, Sweetie. I took my camera and forgot to get a picture.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Snippets 30

Blow Me a Candy Kiss
by Joy Renee

part 4 (part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5)

Iris saw her family to the door and after brief hugs all around and a few kisses blown to her sister, she closed and locked the door. She took the remote Daisy May had handed her and muted the TV to silence the white-noise which inundated the room with its belligerent nothingness. Then, thinking how wonderful it would be if bringing back the past were as easy as this, she pressed rewind. She wanted to re-watch the tape with the control in her hand, so she could relive her last hours with the girl who had been the first baby she ever bonded with, who had called her ‘Mama Too’ from the moment she started talking.

Candy Kiss was the nickname seventeen-year-old Iris had created for little Candice Kelsey Vickerson when she became her nanny. That perfect little baby had given her a thirst for motherhood that intensified with each passing month that her womb remained barren. When three-year-old Candy Kiss welcomed newborn Daisy May into her private day care, Iris’ joy was doubled. Briefly, for that same summer bright, vivacious Candy suffered a viscous allergy attack (her sinus cavities filled beyond capacity as she slept, putting untenable pressure on the brain) that left her in a coma from which she awoke, weeks later, with the mind of an infant and susceptible to seizures that often returned her to the coma.

She regained language and motor skills, but never the luminous promise of genius and grace that she had possessed. The only thing she retained from before was the ebullient love of life and unfathomable affection she bestowed on all living things. "When Candy hugs you, you know you’ve been hugged." Ron Vickerson would say of his daughter. "Even the trees stand taller when Candy blows her kisses to them." Carla would agree.

The two mothers had been college roommates and were both teachers--Irene of kindergarten and Carla a media-science instructor at the local college. So when it came time to consider the girls’ schooling they decided to manage it themselves. They designed the curriculum and supervised Iris as she home-schooled them. This had been so successful they had co-authored academic papers and magazine articles about it, and were working on a book. Inundated with requests for help from parents of special needs kids, Iris went after her Master’s in Education and began taking in students. Her day-school--held in the other half of the duplex she and Greg owned--had enrolled six to ten students each year for the last ten years.

The tape clunked to a stop and Iris was about to press the start button when she remembered her mother’s advise. How could she have been so callous? That she hadn’t given a thought to Greg’s ordeal this evening was disgraceful. Her husband and best friend gets such devastating news about his baby sister and she hasn’t had the presence of heart to go to him--even after her mother’s gentle reminder. She dropped the control on the couch and plunged down the long dark hallway towards the light and the sound of rushing water.

She found Greg in the bathroom. The shower was running full hot, filling the room with steam as it filled the tub with scalding water. He was stripped to his briefs and leaning against the wall, supported only by his forehead as cradled in his hands, against his breast, was the bag of Epsom salt. It was Greg’s habit, after a stressful day standing guard at the courtroom door, to soak in a hot Epsom salt bath with the room all steamed up. He had found it the most reliable way to relieve the muscle ache and joint pain.

Iris was awed by the singular starkness of his silhouette, by the stillness of his stance, by the enormity of the anguish enclosed by his skin. Her throat closed on all the words that came to mind, none of them adequate. Clouds of steam whirled and settled on him, giving his skin the sheen of polished granite and a glowing aura that seemed to undulate with a rhythm like heart-beat. She reached out her hand but pulled it back, fearing that her touch might trigger something cataclysmic, something she cold not control.

She laid a gentle hand on his wrist and almost jerked it away when she felt the throbbing of his pulse against her fingers. It was electric, conducting a tingle of vital need through skin, muscle and bone--straight to her heart, which clamored within the cage of her ribs in its attempt to enlarge itself to meet it.

"Greg?" Her voice was hoarse with urgency to ease his pain, her own pain coalescing into a pool of compassion. "Shall I add the salt for you:" she asked.

"The first time I saw her," Greg said, releasing the bag into her hand as if it were a newborn. "She was no bigger than this." Then the weight of it was in her hands, like the weight of a memory. She poured salt into the tub, and stirred the already wrist-deep water with one hand. When she touched one scalded finger to her tongue--it tasted of tears.

The steam in the room had saturated her clothes and her hair was glued to her scalp and forehead in heavy clumps. Sweat mixed with the steam, forming rivulets that stung her eyes and left a bitter taste on her lips. Unable to stand the way her jeans clung to her, she began to struggle out of them, so engrossed in her effort, she failed to notice Greg’s escalating travail and was startled when his fist swung past her, to crash into the towel rack. She blinked spasmodically at the buckled metal rail, reminded by its shape of compound-fractures.

When she ventured to look at Greg, his arms were at his sides, stiff as bone, his fists clenching and unclenching empty air. "Oh, Baby." she whispered. "Don’t." She laid a hand on his chest, light as baby’s-breath, yet at her touch he folded over and collapsed, sitting heavily on the rim of the tub, sucking air in fits and starts. She hovered over him, once more afraid to touch him.

"Whyyyyy?" His wail reverberated in the room, so primal a thing Iris felt her nipples harden and tug at her as if responding to the hunger cries of an infant. The water beat on his back and the tub half full, she reached past him to turn it off, but he grasped her by the waist and buried his face against her belly, stifling his next cry and the sobs which followed. As he shuddered against her, her womb clutched and un-clutched its own hollowness as though trying to enclose his need.

Instinctively she began smooth, rhythmical rocking motions, as she caressed the back of his head, the tautness of his neck. She leaned over him to place her lips against his ear and said to him, almost hummed to him. "Oh, my love, I know, I know." Her T-shirt had ruched up so his tears flowed hot against her skin and pooled in her naval. Still, her own tears are unreleased.

The shower, still going full blast, sprayed Iris’ face with hot substitute tears, but she ceased to notice, her focus, contained within the span of her arms, where Greg, finally quiet, still held himself firmly clasped to her. When he began to move his lips across her skin, laying a trail of kisses and kneading her back with his hands, she suddenly knew, with galvanic certainty, that this was the right thing--the necessary thing.

She kneeled before him, gazing past his contorted face into the glowing furnace of his eyes. "Iris," he choked out. "I need…I need…I need…" But he was unable to articulate his need and Iris knew this was the essence of it.

"I know." she said. "so do I." She joined her lips to his and with the kiss drew him to the floor with her, where his need was soon buried within her need--mutual need weaving them into a single entity that convulsed in the throes of birthing comfort. As the tub overflowed, flooding them with tear-warm brine.

Iris jumped up, starting to laugh, but bit her lip as she looked at Greg, only to find him grinning. "Candy would be the first to find the humor in this." he turned off the now cold shower. But iris still felt a shiver of guilt, thinking: Greg may have earned the right to laugh with his tears, but have I?

to be concluded next week.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Me and My Valentine

On Our Vow Day (V-Day)
December 2, 1978.
About 20 minutes after the vows

About an hour after that.

About 7-8 years later.
(That's my Mom with us and I just realized she was about the age I am now. Head spinning here. )

A little more than ten years later.
V-Day plus 17 years
(That's my sister's boy. He's thirteen now.)
V-Day plus 19
(This was my 40th B-day party. They decorated in black even to icing the cake black. Uh thanx Jamie, wasn't that your idea?)


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #73

I'm running with another list of those silly book titles again instead of the pics of the old and new libraries I promised. I'm still fighting the fallout from that virus. Though I'm feeling a whole lot better, I'm easily fatigued and mild sinus pressure is messing with my vision which makes working with the programs that take the pics off the camera and turn them into GIMP files hard to face right now.

Thirteen Silly Book Titles

Danger! by Luke Out
Dangerous Animals by Mann Eaters
Decorating your Mousehole: Minnie Blinds
Defunct Nations: Sophie Etunion
Desert Crossing by I. Rhoda Camel
Do It Yourself: Tyrone Shoelaces
Don't Do Anything Rash: Jacques Itch
Don't Tread On Me: Amanda B. Reckonwith
Downpour! by Wayne Dwops
Drafted!: Abel Boddeed
Drinking Problems by Al Coholic
Dull Razor: Nick Shaving
East Coast Resorts: Nan Tuckett
East Coast Universities: Cora Nell

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Re: Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway

seventh edition

If asked to name the one book that influenced my storytelling craft the most, I would not have to think for five seconds before answering. There is not even a close second. And I've read dozens if not hundreds of books on writing. I used to own at least fifty of them. But I never owned Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway. It was a library book when I first encountered it sometime between 1988 and 1992. It was, I believe, the second edition tho it might have been the third.

There are now seven editions. I know this because I briefly held a copy of it when I visited Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon on the day of my return trip from Longview, Washington to Phoenix, Oregon just before Christmas. I had spent over thirty minutes of a precious hour-long whirlwind visit to the largest bookstore I've ever been in--it covers a city block--a place I'd been dreaming of returning to for over ten years, spent it looking for this one particular title, not caring if it was old or new, first edition or latest edition. I had my heart set on finally owning a copy, having been deprived of access to one for the seven months the library was closed and unable to get my hands on it again for the preparation for NaNo last year.

I walked out of Powell's that day without the book though, because seconds after I pulled it off the shelf, I spotted the price: 67 dollars. Someday maybe I can justify that. But not then. And not yet.

fifth edition

So I'm about to embark upon my fifth (or sixth? or seventh? I've lost count) reread of this book. Once again with a library copy. This one is the fifth edition and apparently the last one on which Janet Burroway's name stands alone on the cover. I discovered that this evening during my research online while preparing for this post. Editions six and seven have co-authors listed, a different one for each and neither name familiar to me. I think I just might prefer to have a copy of this fifth edition. Though there are some new chapter and section headings in 6 and 7 that intrigue me. I know this because of the access to the table of contents that most online bookstores provide now.

The book is a comprehensive manual of the techniques of story telling with each chapter focusing on one aspect i.e. description, dialog, character, setting, plot, POV, etc. Each chapter is followed by a list of suggested exercises for working with the concepts just covered and two or three short-stories of high quality that demonstrate the techniques. This anthology is probably one of the things that make the cost so prohibitive for me. That and the fact that it is designed and marketed as a college textbook. If I'd known last December that some of the college bookstores were selling the book for over eighty dollars, I might have seen the one I held as a bargain and, briefly, reconsidered.

I did not set out here to write a book review nor am I morphing this into one. It is just that when it came time to post, this was what was on my mind because I had just been browsing through the pages as I planned my approach for this latest reread. This will be the second or third time I've read this edition cover to cover. In the early nineties, in Longview, I read that library's copy at least three times. The first time at a headlong rush. The second time, slowly and methodically while taking copious notes. The notes were so comprehensive that I didn't feel the need to check out the book again for several years. When I did, it was primarily for the exercises at the ends of the chapters but I read it again with my notes as a fat bookmark to assure myself that my notes contained all the important points.

I lost those notes along with the rest of my reading and writing notes and manuscripts and personal library when we abandoned our storage unit in San Jose, CA in 2001.

When I first checked the library catalog shortly after we moved here, there wasn't a copy in the entire Southern Oregon system, which then encompassed Grants Pass and Klamath Falls as well as the Rogue Valley Community College Library. I don't remember now exactly when I discovered this 2002 edition was available through RVCC. It was sometime in 2004 though, after I'd finished retyping my paltry 100 or so pages of manuscript off the hard copies in the portfolio I'd been carrying nearly everywhere I went since 1996. The portfolio in which I collected the cleanest drafts of my best work.

The shock of loosing my manuscripts, computer, reference library, notes and research had sent me into a funk that lasted for two years. It wasn't writer's block. I continued to keep a daily journal. It was a form of despair that induced a sense that the dream I'd been dreaming since age 7 had been a child's illusion, a foolish and irresponsible waste of time and resources.

I began to reconnect with the dream again in late 2003 and just about that time, shortly before Christmas, my in-laws with whom we live, purchased a new PC. It sat there in its box for over a week as there wasn't room to set it up until the Christmas tree came down. But while it sat there, the picture on the box called to me and I recommitted to the dream. Foolish or not, it was mine. Illusion or not, without it, I could not envision myself.

It took me several months to type those manuscripts into the computer. As of course, I began fiddling with them as I went. It was around this time I discovered the Burroway book was now available through the library. I've been intending to redo the comprehensive notes for it ever since. If loss of access during the library closure did not give enough urgency to the task then seeing the price tag on that book did.

Instead of a typical review of the entire book after I've finished this reread, I'm going to post occasionally as I progress through it. I will try for weekly during the time I have possession of it. Which is at least for the next three weeks. But I can never count on this book renewing and it is often difficult to get a turn during a school term.


Monday, February 11, 2008

My Dream Lap Desk

I found this while browsing on This site sells items to assist those with a variety of challenges including visual impairment like I have. I was on there looking at white canes but had a thought they might offer something in the way of lap desks or lap trays for the bedridden or wheelchair bound. I have been looking everywhere for something I can use as a desk while sitting on the bed, in a recliner or, during the summer, in a lawn chair outside. None of the very few options I've seen in local stores are workable for me because they assume the user able to see what they are doing all the way down on their lap.

Assuming they have a lap to begin with. But that's a whole nother story. :)

I need something that allows me to raise it up to about breastbone level. Though there are different preferred distances for different tasks. But for regular writing with pen or pencil, I need it fairly close to my face without necessitating bending over too far. Lack of a good surface for note-taking is one of the issues keeping me from taking notes while reading and thus from posting book reviews which was one of the things I set out to do when I started this blog.

I've got well over a hundred book reviews in various stages of production that got set aside last winter as the library closure loomed. Meanwhile I am finishing books at the rate of several per month and not even bothering to start the note-taking part of the review process because I've not got this issue solved. And that doesn't even touch on the dozens of research projects related to my various writing projects. You think I exaggerate? I did three TT last year on the theme of the research projects the library closure was going to impact.

The libraries reopened the week before NaNo started and the week after NaNo I left to spend two weeks with my Mom in Longview, WA. I got home the week before Christmas. Almost the entirety of January was subsumed by the room organization project. It is time to get serious about addressing this issue.

Taking notes or quotes off of a book via keyboard is difficult too as I've not had a way to prop a book up or hold it open or hold it at the right distance from my eyes. The seeming miracle of this particular lap desk is that it can do both--be a writing desk and a book propper. Those bands across the top and bottom are elastic bands for holding books open or loose papers in place. Ingenious.

I had actually been thinking along these lines for the issue of propping a book up. I have a plastic tray that is just the right size to hold a hardback book open on and I was recently wondering where I could get large rubber bands that would fit around both tray and book. Though I was thinking vertically rather than horizontal. I figured, if nothing else, I could get garment elastic at a fabric store and make them. And if I could have solved the problem of propping that tray up to keep my hands free, I just might have went to the trouble.

Now I've seen this and my little imaginary invention seems shabby. But the price range is similar to that of the printer Ed said we might be able to swing within the next month so I'd have to choose between the two and postpone the other. I've been postponing the printing of hard copies of my manuscripts for over six years. So I guess I know what needs to come first.

But I can dream.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Monday Poetry Train #32

Still no new poem of my own. So I thought I would take this opportunity to send you to the blog of my nephew Jessie who is currently serving in Baghdad as an Army Medic. Jessie is 19 and interested in dragons and dogs. He hopes to study veterinary medicine after completing his service. He has just recently discovered he doesn't hate writing as much as he always thought he did. He writes regular newsy notes to family and friends and has posted a couple of his poems on his My Space blog. That link takes you directly to the poems since the My Space front pages are notoriously slow to load.

In the email in which he sent that picture, Jessie tells us that the buddies who took it then stuck pretzels up his nose and took more pictures--or attempted to, I'm wasn't clear on whether they succeeded before he woke.

In my mind, I see him as he was nineteen years ago, clearer than I see the keys beneath my hand.

My Mother holding her first grandchild, Jessie at age 4-6 mo.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sunday Serenity #42

print for sale at

Dolphins have become a symbol of joy for me, and of the subset of emotions and states of mind contained in joy: peace, harmony, acceptance, hope...

I'm in a celebratory mood today, Saturday, after attending the Phoenix library's grand opening for its new building.

Though still not feeling well enough to make the walk, I got to go because Ed got off work in time to drive me. We still had to walk a couple of blocks because the parking lots of the library and the church across the street were full and the nearest spot on a residential street was well over a block away.

That was quite a turnout for our tiny town.

The occasion was twice as sweet with memories of this time last year when an indefinite closure of our county library system was looming. That closure went into effect last April 6 and lasted until last October 24 (29th for Phoenix).

The Phoenix branch, just one of 15 branches of the Jackson County Library System that closed for seven months last year, has been in a temporary building since June of 2005 after it moved out of its old building so City Hall could move in and thus allow for the demolition of the old City Hall building on which site the new library building was built.

I took my camera and went snap happy with it. I'm planning to do my TT with them next Thursday but I may not wait that long to post something.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Sick Day

I'm taking a sick day. I've got that bug Ed came down with last weekend. It is wiping me out. This was the second day. My apologies to those who visited my TT and Friday Snippet over the last two days. It was all I could do just getting the post up. I'll do my best to make the visits as my energy and vision permit. Illness usually further compromises my vision. Especially anything affecting the sinus cavity or ear canal This bug feels more like the flu then a cold.

If it wasn't that I have less than eight weeks to make my goal of an entire year of daily posts, I'd have blown this one off. I haven't missed a day since April 9th. The day I returned the last library book after our libraries closed indefinitely April 6th, not to reopen until late October.

I really try to avoid sounding whiny in my posts. So to balance the above I will add that I am so grateful that Ed and I were able to get our room organized and cleaned last month and keep it that way ever since. It is a much pleasanter place to hang out now. But more to the point of this post, it is a much pleasanter place to be while sick. Our new arrangement has been test-driven hard the past three weeks and it keeps surpassing our expectations.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Friday Snippets 29

At the end of last week's snippet, Iris and Greg had just received some devastating news about Candy, Greg's handicapped sister. Candy, who was prone to seizures, had suffered another one but this time, unlike the previous times, there was no hope of recovery.

Last week there seemed to be a question about the term 'brain dead'. When I wrote this story in the early nineties, I was under the impression that it was a common term referring to a catastrophic loss of electrical activity in the brain. I will check into current usage and make any appropriate changes.

Just as Iris' mother had delivered the news the sound of Candy's voice rang out from the next room where Iris' young Down's Syndrome sister had been left playing. On to part 3...

Blow Me A Candy Kiss
by Joy Renee

part 3 (part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5)

They stared at each other, no one wanting to be the first to admit to hearing it. Iris’ Dad cleared his throat and fiddled with his hearing aid. Greg, who could see into the living room with a slight turn of his head, spoke first: "Daisy May just found the play button on the remote."

"Oh," Iris said. "That’s the tape I made of the girls’ slumber-party last week." She led the way back through the dining room, stopping in the wide, arched doorway to the living room. Her parents stood beside her and Greg faced her from the other end of the room, having just had to turn himself sideways to move from the kitchen’s doorway to the living room’s. His arms, no longer crossing his chest, hung at his sides like wounded wings. She held out a hand to invite him to her side, but he shook his head.

They each had a clear view of the TV screen and of Daisy May, standing in the middle of the room fidgeting with the remote. She reversed and paused and fast-forwarded the video completely unaware of her audience. Watching Daisy May watch herself, Iris felt a giddy detachment, as if she had stepped back to watch her family and herself watch Daisy May watch herself. An infinity of recursive scenes that threatened to spin her off into wonderland.

Daisy May replayed the water-balloon fight several times. She finally let it play past that but during the picnic dinner of fried chicken, corn-on-the-cob and watermelon, she paused every time the camera focused on a messy face or gooey fingers to laugh. She fast-forwarded through most of the long Candyland game they had played, but for the Twist game that followed she worked the remote like a ten-key, calculating the value of love.

The video reached the final scene, where the girls and Iris snuggled into sleeping bags on this very living room floor and whispered stories in the glow of a lava-lamp, until sleep stole upon them. Daisy May’s voice, thick with exhaustion, called from the depths of her sleeping bag: "Hey, Handy Dandy Candy, Blow me a Candy Kiss." Candy obliged her, blowing a long, slurppy kiss off her hand, which Daisy returned in kind. Now Candy had a request, "Hey, Lazy Daisy Mazy sing Candy Man." "If," Daisy bargained, "You sing with me. And Iris too." Iris hummed the opening bar and they began to sing but by the refrain, Iris sang alone. The video continued to play until the faces of the girls took on the repose of slumber, then the image of Iris aimed the remote at the viewers and turned on the chaos of white-noise.

Everyone, except Greg who had disappeared early on, had tears of laughter running down their cheeks. "Oh," Iris gasped. "That felt so good. Let’s watch another one. I have stuff going all the way back to when Daisy was born on cassette. The stuff before that hasn’t been transferred from reels yet."

"Not tonight, dear." Irene patted her daughter’s shoulder. "But you might remind Carla and Ron you have all this. They may want to put together a little memorial piece to play at the service."

Iris embraced herself and shivered convulsively. "I don’t think the full reality of this has hit me yet. I should be wailing into my pillow or shouting curses at the sky or something equally hysterical."

"These things work themselves out in their own way. Thee are no ‘shoulds’ about it." Irene put her arms around Iris, who leaned into their comfort, her chest heaving around huge dry sobs, her arms clutching her waist where a heavy heat smoldered in the vicinity of her womb--the weight of empty promises. She felt gravid with something immense and unnamable. A few moments more of this and the reservoir may have burst, like an overfilled water-balloon, drenching the two of them with the soothing brine of tears. But Daisy May barreled into them, burrowed her head between them and wrapped her arms around them.

Iris felt a pang of resentment towards her sister just then, that surprised her with its intensity. She had to step back to resist the urge to push Daisy away. Imagine that, she mused, I’m experiencing sibling rivalry for the first time at thirty-five.

"We’ll go on home now." Irene cupped Iris’ chin in one hand as she caressed Daisy May’s back with the other. "Go to Greg." she said. "He needs you right now. And you need his comfort more than you need mine."


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