Monday, June 30, 2014

One Word 365

One Word 365
One Word 365 suggests that instead of New Year's Resolutions we choose one word to make the theme of our year, to focus on daily in whatever way encourages an increase in or fulfillment of its essence.  

To further such an aim they have provided a kind of social network/support group for those who'd like to give it a try.

I'm thinking of joining and if I do I'm choosing JOY as my word.

For obvious reasons I think.  And the pun is fully intended.

JOY because it is the light at the end of the tunnel of depression which has been my struggle for decades.
JOY because it is my name and thus my sense of self, my identity, my life theme, my aspiration.
JOY because, whether having lost myself stole my joy or having lost my joy hid my self from my sight, seeking after either joy or Joy has to be the path toward reclaiming both and I've come to believe I can't have one without the other.

As you might imagine, I've been collecting 'joy' themed things for decades knickknacks, jewelry, art, quotes, songs, movies, crafts, stories, poems...

Assuming I'm about to join this challenge, I'll begin by resharing a poem I wrote about a moment of joy I experienced that happened to be captured on film:

Joy Splashed
by Joy Renee

_________________________________  spring
_______________________afternoon at Seaside,
__________________Oregon, while walking
_______________barefoot upon damp sand
_____________at the edge of a rising tide,
___________dabbling my toes in timid
________wavelets and kicking liquid
____diamonds at purple-tongued
______Tia, who distributes them freely
_____with shakes of her shaggy mane,
____I looked up to watch clouds cavorting
___over cyan canyons dodging the tickling
__fingers of shadow and light and gulls performing 
_their errant air-ballet upon the fickle breezes. With my 
gaze thus engaged, the sea embraced me round my ribs with salty 
ecstasy, lifting me for one eternal instant out of the grip of gravity.



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Serenity #395 Running Blind

See Joy Run

Running was once one of my passions and I thought for years that because I was so severely visually impaired now I would never run again.  But I learned that it was possible with a running partner and a safe location so in January I put it on my Bucket List.

Then in April I shared with my 2nd cousin's wife (a runner) about my running history and she offered to take me running after she finished the May half marathon she was training for.

Finally last weekend I shopped for running shoes.

Today Mary took me out to the west Longview dike to run.

Well, run-walk.  And it might have been first cousin if not sibling to jogging. I could not sustain the sprints past 30 seconds. Which is just a guess.  I just know they were short.  50-70 paces maybe.  But several of them over the nearly mile long stretch.

Baby steps.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Inbox Flood

Inbox 14K Total

13K Unread
Early last week my Gmail inbox reached 24.4K total and 22.2K unread. It had been 2 weeks since loosing Merlin and I was tentatively reengaging a few of the many things I'd pushed to the back burner and turned the heat off the day Merlin got sick.  That day I discovered several items requiring attention like sympathy notes, blog comments, notes from my sisters, a thank-you/keep it up note from a Joystory reader, requests to review, notifications from Net Galley, and notification the as yet to be used domain name for my intended online business page was expiring this weekend.

Realizing there were likely to be many more such prompted me to start slogging through the flood of 150-300 per day not counting the ones I've filtered to skip the in-box. Well that and the realization that I have to fix this inbox issue before I go live with any of my online business goals--self pub, copywriting, gift store and more.

The flood was created by following the suggestion of the AWAI copywriting course to collect junk mail to study by purposefully subscribing to email lists in niches that interested me.  Turned out I was drawn to a lot of niches--health and fitness, (diet and nutrition, naturopathic medicine, exercise) self-transformation, Spiritual paths, Law of Abundance, and hypnosis, meditation, and Brain Wave Entrainment mp3, self-pub, marketing, web site creation, promo and maintenance....

AWAI itself sends me 6-10 per day.

I began the AWAI copywriting course to learn how to self-promote but decided I might as well consider soliciting clients as a way to support my true passion of story and poetry.

I should have been creating filters and labels from the get go so the copywriting samples were either skipping the inbox or easily archived.  Same for the task list to keep the personal, urgent, time sensitive, blog and social media, business or commitment related separate from the many 'interesting, worth a more leisurely look sometime.'

I've been slogging away at it daily for nearly two weeks now and still haven't cut it in half from its crest.  Discouraging. Tho I should keep in mind the 150-300 per day are still rushing is as I slog.

Eventually I'll need to unsubscribe from many lists but I'm not taking the time to evaluate them individually for usefulness.  So, except for a few that have pissed me off, I've just been creating filters and labels then going down the label list and archiving everything sometimes attaching an email I need to tend to or just want to look at closer to a task.

But that is flooding my task list which I've never broke up into themed lists so that needs to be done next. Tho I'm considering whether I should set aside the inbox until I've created at least a few that separate the urgent and the action/reply required from the 'check-this-out-when-you-get-a-minute'.

Of course I didn't remain in the analytic mindset while reading these copywriting samples.  I got caught up in the freebie trap, subscribing to new lists to get the free, PDFs, video, mp3, tutorials, email lesson series, webinars, replays of teleseminars...

And I've bought a few products, most of which are more of the same.

Where has the time been coming from to read, watch, listen to all of these?

Or, more precisely, what have I given up doing while I do that?

My counselor says that I busy myself with inconsequential things as a distraction from things I'm avoiding thinking about.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Forays in Fiction: TED Talks on Words

I'm a lost in my favorite jungle today.

Words Words Words playlist at TED Talks

13 Ted Talks that explore language concepts like:

Why is 'x' the unknown?
What do our language habits reveal about us?
Is the paper dictionary dying?
Ode to Envy: How does fiction help us understand better than exposition?
What can you learn by tracking a word across centuries through 5 million books?
A plea to Non-Native English speakers to continue to honor and cherish their mother tongue.
Is texting killing language skills?
How did language transform humanity?
What makes a word 'real'?
What if Einstein had to pass the TOEFL?
Why do legal documents need to be so long and obfuscating?
What is Duolingo?
Why do we need poetry?


Thursday, June 26, 2014


the Klaipeda Chamber Orchestra
conductor/composer Mindaugas Piecaitis

Clips from  Nora the Piano Cat videos which first hit YouTube in 2007 are spliced together and accompanied by an orchestra playing a composition by Piecaitis.

What is unclear is whether the splices were created to fit an already existing piece or one composed for Nora's compositions.

Either way its amazing.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

ROW80 166th Check-In -- Round 2 2014 Wrap Up

The writing challenge that
 knows you have a life

I haven't checked in since May 31st in the midst of Merlin's illness.  He lingered for 8 days.  One of the hardest days was Monday June 2nd when I discovered that it was likely that the morning I found him unconscious he had recently nibbled on a toxic plant.  I went into a tailspin of shame, guilt, and self-recrimination.

He crossed the Rainbow Bridge on the morning of June 4th sometime between 8:30 am, when he looked up at me when I lifted the lid off his crate, and 10:15 when I got up the final time that morning and found him stiff and cold.  

I'd been unable to lay down before 3am because around midnight when I started to I found Merlin laying in front of my feet with his head on the toe of my right shoe. His crate door was two feet away. He had not left it on his own steam since mid-morning. All day I'd lifted him out to put fresh pads in his crate and wipe him down about every three hours, helping him drink water and then cuddling him for awhile before putting him back in.

He was chilled so after I'd cleaned him and the crate up, I cuddled him inside my fleece vest with one of my raggedy T-shirts wrapped around him, telling him the stories of the special moments he'd given us until I started having hypnogogic episodes and loosening my hold on him before startling awake again.

During those eight days I'd put caring for Merlin at top priority and let everything else slide, including my early bird schedule.  Between the morning I found him unconscious and the weekend after he passed I'd fallen off nearly all of my new habit horses.

The spreadsheet I'd been featuring in check-ins for over a year would have had zeros or Ns across the board  for most of June except for MISC WORDS which began to soar the last week of May as seen in the last check-in.

But then I fell off the habit horse of updating the spreadsheet.  And partly due to that, the check-ins.

I didn't make much effort to get back on any for over a week either.  With my June 10th post, Time to Find a New Normal, I declared my intent to take a hiatus from my normal posting lineup and lower daily posting's priority several notches until I'd caught up on things that impacted physical and emotional health and personal integrity.  Since then I've been running several days behind on getting my posts up though I've been beginning the drafts nearly everyday.

One of the things I began doing the day after saying so long to our Mr Wizard was purposefully seeking out things online that were uplifting, motivational, useful, inspirational, amazing or hilarious.  These then became the subjects of my posts. 

I've done some mood elevating activities as well.  Like pulling out the box of summer clothes I'd packed away last fall.  And pampering my feet with a pedicure and new running shoes.  And then setting the date and time to go running with my cousin's son's wife who runs 5 kilometer races--Sunday June 29 at 3pm.

Several of the things I found on my mood elevating explorations online were directly related to story or writing.  I've posted two in the last two Friday Forays in Fiction and have another in the works for this Friday:
One of the habit horses I fell off during the ordeal was fiction writing.  But I didn't write less only different.  And a great deal more.  Beginning that first morning while sitting still with Merlin inside my vest I tapped into a well of memories that became a gusher.  Memories of Merlin's 14 years and those entwined with them soon tangled with earlier and earlier memories many attached to insights I had to record.  

But when I found them invading posts they didn't really belong in I moved those paragraphs into my WhizFolder ap and began following the threads where they took me.  It's a bit like journaling for some stretches but more like storytelling in others and occasionally segues into poetry.

So I'm not going to fulfill either my ROW80 writing goals or the JuNoWriMo ones.  Now Camp NaNo is about to start and I've not yet set my goals or signed up and thinking about it makes me feel weary instead of enthused.  Tho if I declared my NaNo project to be memoir I could just keep letting those memories flow onto the screen.  I'm sure I exceeded 50K in June with that...whatever it I was frequently exceeding 2K a day.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Beatbox Brilliance

I'd never heard of a beat box until a week or so ago and now, after watching several videos featuring them, I'm putting it on my wish list.  As well as that other device he used near the end where he recorded snatches of notes and beats and single words individually and then, using something like a keyboard, made a song out of them.

The beatbox, as Tom Thum plays, it sounds like a whole orchestra held in the hand.  Of course, I'm most interested in making it sound like a drum symphony.


Monday, June 23, 2014

The Ultimate Bounce Back

After falling flat on your face...What would you do?

I'm going to watch this over and over until it starts to stick:

After the fall, get back up and keep going.

Don't even bother to dust yourself off.

Just get up and GO

She actually won anyway!!!


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Serenity #394: Drums for Worship

Stikyard Percussion

Well this settles it.

If what my mother said when I was eleven and choosing my band instrument was ever true, it's not now.

'You can't play hymns with drums.' was her reason for nixing my first (second, third, forth, fifth...) choice for a band instrument to spend the next six years with.

I only made it three years with the clarinet I settled on that day.

I have never lost my love of drums tho I've never actually played a real one.  But I've always tapped or thumped on everything in sight with my hands, fingers, feet or items I was holding.

Playing a real drum set was the second item on the Bucket List series I began last October.

Watching videos like this one intensifies my desire to hit big covered bowls and tubes with sticks.  But I never quite imagined playing drums like this:


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pampered Feet

Pampered Feet

Blue Toenails
My sister and I went to a hair salon for pedicures Saturday evening.  She's a veteran but it was my first.

Soaked, sanded, oiled, massaged, clipped, and painted blue.  All while sitting in a recliner massaging me from neck to lumbar.

I could get used to this

Afterwards I got my hair cut as well.  Forgot to get a picture.
Ready to Rumble

Next we went shoe shopping for my running shoes in preparation for going running with my cousin's son's wife who is a half-marathon runner.  The date's been set for Sunday the 29th.

As one of the items on my Bucket list, this is a big deal to me.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Forays in Fiction: Lighting Your Writing

Use of Lighting in Casablanca to Reflect
the Pervasive Sense of Imprisonment
Public Domain
Growing Readership By "Lighting Up Your Writing" | Bestseller Labs:  'via Blog this'

This article over at Jonathan Gunson's  Bestseller Labs is fascinating.  In Gunson's introduction to the guest post by Claudette Young, he talks about how the use of shadows that look like prison bars in the 1942 movie, Casablanca, was purposeful on the part of the director to telegraph to the audience the sense of imprisonment pervasive in that town where the desperate yet hopeful gravitated in their attempts to leave the sphere of influence of the Nazi regime.

Claudette Young's guest post begins:
Anyone can write a story, but not everyone illuminates with their words. And learning to emphasize without red flags, spotlights, or extraneous punctuation is a skill worth the effort...  read on
She goes on to use examples from both screen and print.  The first third or so discusses the way each of the CSI series has it's own ambiance established by a signature lighting scheme.  As interesting as that was I was beginning to get impatient as I'd clicked on the link for the promise of 'Lighting Up Your Writing' and really wanted examples of how it's done with words that are meant to stand on their own to create the image and ambiance in the reader's mind--unlike script writing which is just a recipe for the director and stage lighting specialists to follow who inevitably interpret it with the mediums they use.

But the rest of the article does focus on the written word--stories and novels and non-fiction so it fulfilled the promise.

The article is well worth the read for any writer wanting advice on how to increase sensory detail (especially the lighting of setting) in their stories.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Open the Eyes of My Heart

Blind and Autistic Singing Praise Music

Words can add little value to this video.  Just watch.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How Helen Keller Found Her Voice

What a YouTube Treasure!
Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan on a newsreel
demonstrating how Helen learned to speak.
Her first spoken sentence was a gem 

I have been fascinated with Helen Keller's story ever since 6th grade when I read her autobiography.  Which was long before I'd seen either of the Miracle Worker films.  Maybe visual impairment was already on my radar because of growing up watching my grandmother deal with hers but I don't have a specific memory of that being why I picked up the autobiography.

I do remember how enthralled I became with her story of coming out of a cave-dark, chaotic and silent world ruled by fear and anger into a love-bright, word-ordered world rooted in companionship, gratitude and hope.

That book may have also been the beginning of my obsession with words and language--their meaning, etymology, grammar, origins, translation, language acquisition and so on.

Imagining that little girl unable to see or hear and having no vocabulary had me thinking at age 12 about the role words have in the creation of reality.  What was a thing or an action or a thought if it had no name?

That Zen Koan I encountered much later asking if the tree falling in the forest where no ear could hear made a sound, probably had less of an impact on me after having contemplated whether things without names had any thingness at all or whether the namer and the named had a special bond or whether the namer created the thing by naming it?

Except that didn't fit the Bible story of Adam naming the animals after God created them.  But still I wondered how they could have been nameless from the moment of their creation until the moment Adam named them.  How could their creator not know their names? Which led to wondering whether God's name for them and Adam's had been the same one.  Then there was the concern that they might have their own names for themselves...

Yes, I often turn my brain into a pretzel with thoughts like these and experience it as pleasure.  Go figure.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

With Ears for Eyes..

...the World's his Symphony.

Oskar was born without eyes.  He was six weeks old when brought to his new forever home where they introduced him to toys with bells...

Just watch.  Words can't do it justice.

Then, if you're as inspired as I was, go on over to their YouTube channel and watch him grow up and have adventures with his housemate Klaus.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Sam Burns: The Little Drummer Boy with the Big Happy

Sam Burns a 17 year old with Progeria, a snare drummer for his highschool marching band gave this TED talk last fall on the theme of his life philosophy and the huge premium he put on happiness.

I watched this over and over.  Can't get enough of it.  One of his big aspirations was to contribute in such a way as to change the world.  As I watched I was holding that hope for him as well.  Then while preparing this post, I happened to glance down at the comments on the YouTube page and saw that he'd passed away in January.

Well I expect that between all the lives that he touched during the exemplary life that he lived, this video that's gone viral and the HBO documentary about his life that aired last October he has triggered change in enough people that the cumulative ripple effect can't help but change the world.

I know I was changed by my encounter with him in this video.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Serenity #393 -- A Father's Day Remembrance

Daddy Winter 1960
Joy 3yr + 2 or 3mo
Robbie 5 or 6mo
A Father's Day Remembrance

Taking Daddy's Hand
by Joy Renee

When fear pushed
its ugly face into
my dreams
and rampaged through
imagination's hall,
bouncing its
shattering screams
off cracked mirrors,
I reached for Daddy's
hand and saw
fear's visage dissolve
like morning mist
at noon
and scatter on the
brisk breeze of his
stern voice.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Oh, Make it So!

How Star Trek will finally come true |  'via Blog this'

This post on TED by Nilofer Merchant discusses how we're about to bring the Star Trek world to life.  We're thirty years out Merchant thinks.

As exciting as the technological inventions that mimic what was once the far-fetched tech on the classic Star Trek--communicators (smartphones), universal language translators, video chatting, replicators (3D printing), using light to diagnose medical conditions etc--these aren't the focus of Merchant's prediction.

She is more interested in the ways the new forms of communicating provided by technology are creating new ways for people to form purposeful associations that have the power to make effective and lasting change that once required the involvement of huge organizations or governments.  Both notorious for lumbering zig-zags toward goals they are as actively resisting as they are pursuing.

The notable characteristics of these groups forming for a purpose are their tendency to celebrate diversity, see the potential of those with different abilities, champion creativity over conformity, value individual and community well being over material wealth, and the ability to envision even the far-fetched and make it so.

This was the heart of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek universe and his vision for our future.  Though I couldn't have articulated that at age eleven that was the heart of my fascination with Star Trek from the classic 1960s series and through each movie and series that followed.

I wanted to live in that world.  I still do.

Nilofer Merchant a two-time book author, former tech executive and blogger at: Yes & Know. Twitter: @nilofer.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Forays in Fiction: The Dark Thread in Stories for Children

Natalie's website
At this 2010 TED talk Natalie Merchant sang five songs from her then new album, Leave Your Sleep in which she had put to music a number of 19th-century poems for children.

I was introduced to Natalie Merchant's music when she was still leader of 10,000 Maniacs in the mid 80s.  I was in my late twenties and in college at the time, studying literature, I was struck by the story elements in many of the songs I heard her singing.

It was some years after that when I learned about the folk song traditions and understood that the roots of the now solo Natalie Merchant were firmly planted there.

My interest in folk music in the early 90s had been sparked by learning from my mother that the songs she had sung to me as a young child had been sung to her as a child by her mother who had said she'd learned them from her mother.  I was trying to trace the origins of one in particular as I'd made it a centerpiece of my story, Ragdoll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes.

That was the song that began:

Oh don't you remember a long time ago
There were two little babes their names I don't know
who wandered away on a bright summer's day
and were lost in the woods I heard people say.

Later in the song the two babes lay down and die and the robins so red covered them with strawberry leaves.

My research (pre Internet) led me to sources that were able to tell me that the song existed in Britain and Europe from as far back as the age of the troubadours and that evidence of it was most plentiful in England and France.

I used to sing it to my sister when she was a baby until she was almost three.  I would have been aged 8 to 11.  The summer she was about to turn three I was rocking her to sleep for her nap and and started to sing that song which was one of my favorites and she piped up saying, Don't sing that song. It's too sad.  So that was the last time I sang it to a child of any age and I sang to a lot of babies and toddlers over the next three decades.

My not quite three year old sister had alerted me to the dark thread that ran through so many of the stories and songs for children.  And once alerted I kept noticing it every time I encountered it.  But I held no judgement for or against it other than noticing how often one of my favorite stories contained that thread.  These stories were always emotionally charged with fear, anger, and sadness and they didn't always have a happy ending.

I remember reading the Disney movie picture books to kids from age 10 or so and up and being annoyed at how sugary they were for I'd encountered earlier versions of the same stories which had not had sweet flavors at all.  I much preferred the pre Disney versions.

This line of thought was opened up again for me by the first song Natalie sings in this video, "The Sleepy Giant" in which a 300 year old giant is reminiscing about his younger years when he ate little boys raw, boiled, or baked and how he now regretted that having reached the conclusion that little boys don't like to be chewed.

My imagination and long interest in that dark thread in children's stories have been ignited.  Now I want to go look for other works from the authors of these five poems and check out all the other authors represented on the album.

And I want the album!!

Natallie's years long project that culminated with the album Leave Your Sleep in 2010 had been to collect poems written for children in the 19th century and put them to music in an effort to revive them before they were lost.

Below I've listed the titles and authors for the 5 songs  You can find the lyrics  here:
  • “The Sleepy Giant,” Charles E. Carryl (1841-1920)
  • “Spring and Fall: to a young child,” Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
  • “The Janitor’s Boy,” Nathalia Crane (1913-1998)  She was still a child herself when her poetry book was published.
  • “If No One Ever Marries Me,” Laurence Alma-Tadema (1865-1940)
  • “maggie and milly and molly and may,” e.e. cummings (1894-1962)

Davy and the Goblin by Charles E. Carryl was a quite popular book of children's poems for several decades around the turn of the last century.  The first song in the vid is from this book--“The Sleepy Giant.”

Charles E. Carryl (1841-1920) was an insurance salesman who composed nonsense verse for his children


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Let Me Lego Like This

James May’s Lego house

I saw this in this PCMag slideshow featuring ten amazing Lego Projects.  I then followed the link to the article about this project and saw a slideshow walkthrough of it.

Among the other projects featured in the PCMag slideshow are a working mortercycle, Van Gogh's Starry Night, models of Hogwarts, Taj Mahal, and the Game of Thrones castle. I hope to return to follow the links to each of them to see more pics and read the stories.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Stardate What Now?

Can anyone tell me what the Stardate is?  The Star Trek replicator is now here.  Maybe the transporter is next?

I am over-the-top excited about 3D printing.  I can imagine a hundred applications a minute just in my areas of interest.  For starters:

  • creating that miniature bodkin for tucking the beginning and ending threads on my thread crochet
  • beads of every size, shape and color
  • scrapbook misc
  • Christmas ornaments
  • cake decorations
  • babydolls
  • knickknacks
  • jewelry and jewelry making misc
  • organizing containers in custom sizes
  • bookmarks
  • shoes with perfect fit
  • replace missing parts
  • toys
  • puzzles
  • games
Imagine taking the web entrepreneur concept to the next level.  Today many of the online stores sell digital products like ebooks, music and video.  What if they could sell physical products that you download the minute you pay.  

Of course it is still a digital product--the program that instructs your own 3D printer in making the physical item so you would be supplying the raw materials in the substance used by your 3D printer.  Of which there are quite a few alternatives already though each alternative raw material requires its own printer.  

The materials in use already include paper, plastic, nylon, metals, ceramic.  The printers themselves come in various sizes from large industrial sized that can make things the size of a car and bigger down to this small one featured in this video.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Time to Find a New Normal

"time flies" by Robert Couse-Baker

I let everything else fall away the morning of May 27th when I found Merlin unconscious.  Now it is closing in on a week since he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  I've found my way back to enough emotional equilibrium it's time to start moving towards a new normal that puts me back on a track towards my priority goals.

I have a lot of catching up to do--sleep, email inbox, 2Do lists, clutter on desk and in clothing and accessories area and so much more.  Including posts.  I'm still running three or more days behind in getting posts ready to publish though I continue to open new drafts for each day.

This is an added stress I don't need so I'm going to simplify the task and lower my expectations until I
  • catch up on sleep
  • rack up a week solid of 7.5+ hours of sleep
  • declutter desk, closet, accessories and crafts
  • get my schedule back in place (I've gravitated back to night owl)
  • get back on my exercise routine
  • finish the rewrite of Candy Kiss
  • and whatever else occurs to me that needs to have priority over posting

So my plan for simple, quick posts is to
  • use blog this to create drafts from things I encounter online that are uplifting or useful
  • use my cell camera to take photos of something I do that might be post worthy and start a draft
  • create LOLs
  • find posts in my archives that are worth a replay or a rewrite

  • By creating more than one draft a day that way I can have a backlog of potential posts to choose from.


Monday, June 09, 2014

Out of Thin Air

Pamelia Kurstin on a TED talk stage playing the Theremin.  It looks as though she is coaxing musing out of thin air with her fingers and hand gestures.  It's amazing to watch.


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Sunday Serenity #392

This is not only relaxing and trance inducing, it feels like it's reorganizing my brain.

While listening to trance drums, something ineffable is happening to the emotional charge of my memories.  I'm able to experience the memory along with the emotion while not getting sucked in.  Owning it instead of being owned by it.

Also I'm switching back and forth between the sadness charged memories and the happiness charged ones at will so that the joyful memories of Merlin's life with us now carry equal weight with the grief of his loss--if not more.

This is remarkable as I've always experienced the 'negatively' charged emotions like sadness, anger, despair and fear as having more substance than the 'positively' charged ones like love, joy and peace.  My sense (belief?) while in the grip of the 'negative' emotions has been that they were the true reality while the 'positive' ones were illusions, flukes--something that was going to pop like a soap bubble at any second.

Thus just by being conscious of happiness or peace I'd automatically be probing for the feelings of anxiety and sadness, knowing they had to be nipping at my heels.  And while suffering through the anxiety, bitterness and despair, they'd feel endless and the chance of happiness or contentment returning felt random and unlikely.

Now I know, from my reading on the neurology of emotion, that both of those stances are illusions.  Whether the positive or negative emotions get the upperhand has to do with how you tended to focus on them when the neurological pathways were being laid down in infancy and toddlerhood and whether or not you learned how to manage those connections, with appropriate coping skills, as you got older.  If one was emphasized over the other there are more connections and cross connections for them and thus more triggers--memories, odors, sounds, touch sensations, thoughts--that just take you there instantly and seemingly against your will.

But that too is illusion.  This is essentially a habit (an autopilot algorithm of neurological, physiological, and behavioral activities) and habits can be changed.  Not easily but it is doable.

Thus, I had it right about the positive emotions being temporary.  But wrong to think them less real.  And I had it wrong about the negative emotions being unending.  Truth is all emotion is fickle and fleeting.  So the true stance to take with all of them is:

This too will pass.

But that doesn't mean we have to deny ourselves the enjoyment of the positive emotions when they are in the ascendancy.  In fact the enjoyment of them is a form of gratitude which is also a positively charged emotion.  By enjoying them we also focus on them which increases the neurological connections, making it easier for them to keep or retake the upperhand.  Reinforcement is aggregate.

We can also increase those connections by probing for the memories charged by them, choosing to look for things to appreciate, choosing to willingly give of your time, effort, talent or money for the good of another, choosing to focus on the love that exists in our relationships with family, friends, partners, self and Divinty,  choosing to look for the potential for good in even the moments, past and present, charged by the negative emotions, and seeking out experiences guaranteed to produce positively charged emotions.

Experiences like fellowship (aka hanging out) with friends and family, listening to uplifting music, watching funny videos or comedic or uplifting movies/TV, reading uplifting stories or spiritual writings, meditate, walk in nature, sports activities or creative activities you enjoy, give and receive hugs, hold a sleeping baby, play with a kitten or puppy...

Do not mistake the use of the words 'positive' and 'negative' for the emotion categories as synonyms for 'good' and 'evil'.  All emotions are neutral in that regard.  It isn't the emotion that has moral or ethical weight it is the behavior of the individual while under the influence of the emotion.

Nor should one think that by calling them 'negative' the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear should be eliminated, disallowed, repressed or otherwise denied.  These emotions, like physical pain, have a valuable role as signals that something needs focused attention and action right now.  Too often we focus on the emotion itself  and not on what triggered it or what needs to be done about it.


Saturday, June 07, 2014

Kits N Giggles

I think the music in this vid increased the feel-good factor exponentially, adding humor and happiness.

Yes I'm still on my daily vid vitamins.  My happy pills.  I don't think it's my imagination that it is relieving the grief over loosing Merlin.

I'm also remaining on the hiatus of regular programming here and I'm fairly sure I won't return to the way it was.  Things have been shook up and, in a sense, it feels like it woke me up and I'm groping for a new normal.


Friday, June 06, 2014

Laughter is the Best...


My therapy continues with more vid vitamins.  A baby's laugh is a happy pill.

Missing Merlin is constant.  The hardest hours are bedtime and morning routines.  He always slept with me at night and dogged my feet when I got up until I put food down for him.  Then there's lunch time when he followed me all over the kitchen begging while I made lunch for Mom and I.


Thursday, June 05, 2014

A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance

A Chinese talent show.  A three year old dancer.

Watch to the end it's worth it.  Hear his answers to the judges questions: Why do you dance? and What is your dream?  

Old soul, or what?

Watching, reading, listening to uplifting things is my therapy for pulling me up out of the emotional morass of the last 9 days.


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

So Long Mr Wizard

So Long Mr Wizard
by Joy Renee

Merlin our impish wizard kitty,
named for that Camelot wizard of yore
(escape artiste par excellence),
just escaped from the nitty-gritty
where pain and weariness stole his zest
and with it all his bright eyed joyance.

Like his name-sake, our sly escapist
broke free of all constraints--duffle bags,
zipped up jackets, two-armed embraces,
tucked blankets, leash, box, cage, door--he'd best
them all. Now, with this, his last escape
o'er Rainbow Bridge, he's loosed his traces.

No more picking him up by the nape,
cat fishing with feathered toys on strings,
comforting purrs throughout lonely nights,
nor witnessing his excellent japes.
Now he plays where string-free feathers float,
running's but a whisker width from flight,

and stars ride rivers of light like boats.
See them skitter, jostle, bob and roll?
What fun is yanking the river's tail!
Hear his skirl join the dogs' adagios,
calling for Moon to play bounce-n-pounce.
Watch as he drapes yarn on Libras scale,

jerking it once to give it a jounce,
braids ninety braids in Leo's mane,
shoots rubber-bands at Scorpios jaw,
pulls strutting Peacock's feathery flounce.
Now see him walking beside dark browed
Raven, hunting worms to fill his maw,

Keeping Trickster Taleteller endowed
with all he could conceivably need,
so his stories flow like River Lethe.
Wanting a nap, he leaps on a cloud,
catching an angel in mid refrain.
Curled on her harp, she strums him to sleep.

Rest in Peace Merlin
You are so missed!

Note: Merlin lifted his head when I checked on him at 8am but when I checked again at 10 he was already stiff and cold.

I started this post on Wednesday June 4th but just now got the poem finished--afternoon of the 10th.


Tuesday, June 03, 2014

A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

 Note: I started writing this on Tuesday night but the line of thought took me to a very dark place and I was unable to get any coherence out of myself so, as I did with Monday's post, I let this sit and opened a new tab for Wednesday's post... and Thursday's...

I finally got Monday's into postable condition late last night. It is now Friday night and I'm working to get the Tuesday thru Friday posts into shape.  The maudlin morass I'd fallen into on Monday kept it's hold on me on Tuesday.  Which had a dramatic but cringe-worthy effect on my writing..  So I'm rewriting, keeping the topic intact but aiming for the Joe Friday "just the facts Mam" approach.


It was a full week as of 10AM today since I found Merlin unconscious under my desk and the vigil over his approach to the rainbow bridge began.  This has been my primary focus and for much of the time my only focus since that moment.

It was bad enough Tuesday through Monday afternoon when I was convinced the explanation was irreversible organ damage due to old age--14 years July 6th.  But, as detailed in Monday's post, evidence of possible poisoning came to light along with the implication that there could have been a happy outcome if we'd gotten him medical attention immediately.

But it was obviously too late by the time I understood this last night as Merlin had stopped making the effort to move away from his beds to empty his bladder by Sunday evening and would just lay in it until I discovered it.  This tumbled me into the the maudlin morass of mea culpas.

Today is my Tuesday 'on duty' day when my sister is away and I'm responsible for dinner as well as lunch.  Also to be available for whatever Mom needs help with.  So today I can't spend as much time holed up in the office with Merlin.  Every time I leave the room I'm anxious about what I'll find when I get back.

This morning he was so weak he couldn't stand at his water dish.  He tried twice and gave up, laying down beside it.  So I lifted him to his feet and kept my hands under his belly so little weight was on his legs.  He drank and drank.  But his nose kept hitting the water as his head drooped.  I wasn't very surprised when he started refusing water this afternoon.

Yesterday and this morning I was replacing the wet pads in his crate every two or three hours and at the same time wrapping him in a towel, blanket or old T-shirt to dry him off before and after I wiped him down with wipes (like baby wipes but for cats and safe for the face) and then holding him until I was sure he was dry.

I spent a lot of time coo-talking to him.  Telling him the stories of the good times we had.  Thanking him for the laughter he gave us with his kittenish antics, for his love and patience and playful zest for life until late 2012.

One of the hardest things about this whole past week has been the effort to keep my emotions on an even keel when in this room with him.  I knew that if I let the grief take over he would be disturbed on my behalf and have added stress over not having the energy to comfort me.

I know this based on his previous behavior whenever I was sick or upset.  He would hang around me more and attempt to get as close as he could to my chest or head.  He might even tolerate being held so he could rub noses and chins, purr and knead though he preferred it when I was laying down so he could do all of that without being restrained.

So to keep the blubbering at bay, I told him the stories about the things he did that gave us laughter and joy.  Like how he learned how to shoot rubber bands soon after he joined our family at six months.

The first time was an accident.  He was playing with one he found on the floor and got one end in his teeth and the other hooked onto a claw.  That time he let go with the claw first so he shot himself in the face. Instead of running away and shunning rubberbands forever more he pounced on it and took his revenge, picking it up in his mouth and shaking it then grabbing it with a claw and stretching it taut.  This time he let go with his mouth first and it shot across the room a good ten or twelve feet.  He chased it, wrestled with it again and again shot it across the room.  From that moment he was hooked on shooting rubberbands.

I told him the story of how he got his name.  We got him from the shelter with the name Skippy in honor of his peanut butter colored fur.  We didn't really love that name so over the next week we tried out a number of others: Nutter-Butter for the color and his antics, Jiffy for the color and his running speed, Doofus for his silliness.  We had him over a week before we settled on Merlin.

We had to keep him isolated from Gremlyn until we were sure he hadn't contracted a virus at the shelter.  So we kept him in the master bedroom suite--this was when Ed had the tech job in the Silicon Valley.  Since we wanted him to know he was primarily Ed's cat, I ignored him all day, avoiding the bedroom as much as I could.  Then Ed would spend a half hour socializing with him alone in the bedroom after he got home from work.

One evening Ed got home and headed back to see Nutter/Doofus/Jiffy and could not find him.  After Ed had done a thorough search and still not found him we had dinner and then we searched together.  We had ourselves a looked room mystery.  Ed finally gave up and went to sit in front of the TV with his nightly bottle of wine.

I went to my office but soon had another idea and went back to check it out.  I'd remembered hearing skittering across the underside of the boxsprings at night and wondered if he might have ripped it enough to get up inside it.  So I got down on the floor to look from all three sides.  No strip or corner of gauzy fabric hanging down.  But something was odd on the floor against the wall at the head of the bed.

I had to move the queen sized Hollywood framed bed away from the wall.  The odd thing I'd seen was the out of place framed picture that still hadn't been hung which I'd pushed against the wall at the head of the bed to cover the floor vent whose cover was not screwed down.  Silly Doofus had pushed it off the vent and gotten the vent cover completely off and apparently had disappeared into the ducts of the defunct heating system.

I brought Ed in to show him.  There was nothing to do about it that night.  If Doofus had not found his way back to the open vent by morning we might have to get park maintenance involved.

He had not shown up inside by the time Ed got up but when he went outside for his first cigarette the little rascal sauntered up meowing and rubbed against his legs.

Before he left for work Ed said Houdini was now on the list and in first place.  Then I suggested Merlin after the teleporting wizard from the Arthurian cycle which was one of Ed's favorite stories.  He liked that too and said he would think about it.  By the time he got home that evening he'd settled on Merlin.


Well it was nearing 10pm when I realized I still hadn't cleaned up the kitchen which I'd meant to do directly after reading to Mom. I also needed to sort Mom's pills for the next three weeks before I went to bed.  My sister could be home anytime after midnight and I didn't want her to see the mess.   So I pushed away from this still unedited rough draft but when I tried to stand I felt something on my foot and looking down saw Merlin stretched out flat on his side in front of my feet with his head resting against my toes.  I thought for sure it was over but once again he stirred when I lifted him.

He had crawled out of his crate for the first time since before lunch and got himself across the two feet . He tried to meow but it was whisper soft and raspy.  He was damp again from thighs to tail.  I dried him off with the T-shirt, wiped him down with the wipes and wrapped him in the blanket and held him against my chest.

I cooed to him while gently massaging one paw between thumb and index finger.  He responded by starting to knead the air.  I almost started blubbering but instead started telling him the story of the rainbow bridge where it was warm and beautiful and he'd be free to run and play, chase balls and shoot rubber bands and tease Gremlyn who would be waiting on the other side.

After an hour of this I reluctantly lowered him to the floor, removed the top of his crate to put a dry pad in, settled him into the nest I'd made and replaced the top before leaving the room.

It was 3am before I finished my kitchen tasks.  I was preparing myself to find Merlin gone when I returned but he turned his head toward me when I lifted the crate top.  I was going to go to bed but decided I'd return to this and tell the story of finding him at my feet and the subsequent cuddle.  It is now 5am and I really must go to bed.  I'm in no shape to edit this before I've had some sleep.  I've still not edited yesterday's post either.


Monday, June 02, 2014

Mysteries, Appetites and Mea Culpas

The Amaryllis leaf Merlin may have chewed on Tuesday morning.
It was hanging over the scratching post pedestal he loves to sun on.
 Note: I started writing this on Monday night but this line of thought took me to a very dark place and I was unable to get any coherence out of myself so I let this sit and opened a new tab for Tuesday's post...and again for Wednesday's post... 

It is now Thursday night and I'm trying to get all three in posting shape.  The maudlin morass I'd been writing through was not publishable tho.  So I'm rewriting, keeping the topic intact but aiming for the Joe Friday "just the facts Mam" approach.


Every post since I found our elderly Merlin unconscious on the floor last Tuesday morning has been about the ongoing vigil over his last hours/days.  This is no exception.  The vigil is still ongoing.

Merlin is still drinking copious amounts of water and his kidneys are still expelling it.  But to the best of my knowledge the last bit of food he took was the several slivers of salmon off my plate Tuesday evening.

That incident gave me such a burst of hope.  Especially since he'd started drinking again that evening on the upteenth time I pushed a water bowl near his nose.  But this was even better, he'd actually defied the lethargy he'd exhibited all day to follow his nose out to the living room where I was eating with Mom and climbed onto the couch and arched his neck over the edge of my plate.

In response I defied my sister's disapproval (tho I might not have if she'd actually been there) and broke the rule we'd imposed on him when he came back with me last May.  I let him take those slivers off my fingers.

Hope was short-lived as a soap bubble in a room full of kittens tho.  It was the last time he did more than sniff at any of his favorite treats that I tried to tempt him with.

He'd been in such bad shape Tuesday morning and into the afternoon that I was sure he was in his last hours.  Tomorrow morning will be one week.

We'd been assuming it was old age organ shutdown but new developments--or should I say realizations--have cast the whole scenario in a new light that makes me wonder if that wasn't the primary issue.

Mom posing with the Amaryllis in bloom.
 When I sat down to eat lunch with Mom today I found a newspaper clipping on the couch beside me.  It was about protecting your pets from common house and yard items that are toxic to them.

What it said about Lilly toxicity for cats alarmed me as the symptoms resembled what he'd exhibited Tuesday morning.  Vomiting, lethargy, refusal of food and water.

This reminded me that my sister had told me during the three hours I held Merlin after finding him unconscious that she'd found a spot on the hall carpet that looked like vomit.  Mostly water with a green sliver in it.  It didn't look like grass though (from the potted grass for the cats) and she asked if I'd given him anything green to eat.  I said no and thought little of it.

Until I read that article.  Now that vomit with a green sliver haunted me.  "There's no Lilies in the house are there?" I asked Mom.

"Only that one." she pointed at the plant table in front of the front window.  "That blooms once a year."

I knew which one she meant.  It had been blooming a couple months ago (around Easter) and now its long leaves arched over the the other plants on the table and two of them hung their tips over the cat's scratch post.

I went over to examine them and found on one...what you see in the top picture. That's after nearly seven days of healing.

The Amyrillis blooms without leaves.
After the bloom falls off the leaves shoot out.
After lunch I started researching pet toxins and symptoms online. Reading the info on the Lily toxicity and symptoms I was less sure of the hypothesis as kidney failure usually follows in one to two days.  So how could he still be alive after a week?

When my sister got home, I showed her the chewed leaf and called it a lily and she said it was an azalea amyrillis*.  So back I went to the pet poisoning pages where I'd remembered seeing amyrillis on the list.  I found it's symptoms similar to lily toxicity tho not as severe and not always fatal if the lingering lethargy and anorexia can be overcome.

The list of symptoms were also closer to what Merlin had experienced.  That unconscious state I'd found him in could have been the sudden, dangerous drop in blood pressure and my picking him up had revived him.  The subsequent three hours in which I held him and fussed over him could have kept him stimulated until he was over that hump.

Single Hippeastrum
Order: Amaryllidaceae
This led to hours more searching trying to pin down exactly what plant it was.  I got a crash course in plant nomenclature.  I finally settled on this one because one of the pictures way down the page on the right most resembled Mom's plant.

If I'd put all this together on Tuesday I might have made different choices.  A visit to the vet might have made sense if we hadn't assumed this was the inevitable organ shut down of an elderly cat and death in short order was inevitable.

But if he wasn't already in organ failure last Tuesday, he is now.  He'd already lost a lot of weight over the last six months and now picking him up is like picking up a fur bag full of toothpicks and twigs.

The lethargy has been exchanged for extreme fatigue and weakness. When he walks he has to stop and lay down after a few yards and rest.

I'm in an agony of shame and guilt.  Not only over this incident but over the mistakes I'd made over the whole last year decade.  Especially in nutrition needs.  His weight loss over the winter may have been due to his not getting enough of his needs met through the brand of cat food we used.

There was nothing wrong with his appetite before last Tuesday morning. He was constantly dogging my feet in the kitchen.  Begging for whatever I was handling.  I often gave him slivers of this and dollops of that. Turns out my sharing my food with him and letting him clean my plate had been as potentially dangerous for him as having a toxic plant's leaves arching over his favorite sunning perch.

The list of toxins for cats in people food is long.  Among them is garlic, cinnamon, chocolate (at least I knew this) raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, and Xylitol.

There were dozens of other plants in his reach as well and I'd even seen him nibbling at several of them before and no alarm bells went off.

Putting the slime icing on the compost cake of mea culpas is the fact that after two decades of having fur babies in our home I had remained this ignorant and incurious about what it takes to keep your pet healthy.  Me!! The obsessive researcher had not bothered to collect the data!

These are the thoughts that led me into the maudlin morass that turned the rough draft of this post into its mirror image rendering it unpublishable.

[I was zipping around the links too fast to take notes or save links or I would be linking to the toxins and plant information.]

*My sister, Jamie, corrected me in comments on the name of the plant.  The mistake was an editing glitch.  My sister, Carri, called it an Amarillis.  I did all my research on Amaryllis and Lilly.  Even the image file names have it as Amaryllis.  And the linked phrase 'this one' is to the Wikipedea page for  Hippeastrum which is a Genus in the Order, Amaryllidaceae.  

I added the image from the Wikipedea page with links to the article and the JPG  as part of this correction, as well as changing the word in all three of the other images and in the text, leaving the word azalea in strike through only in the first instance.

The editing glitch was a combination of: fatigue, distraught emotions, passage of time, having used "A" in the rough draft and having been talking to Mom about the bushes in her yard.  How embarrassing.  Thanks, Sis, for correcting me.


Sunday, June 01, 2014

Sunday Serenity #391 -- Remembering Merlin Moments

Merlin Sitting Pretty
Merlin is still with us tho fading fast.  Still drinking but no food since the several slivers of salmon Tuesday evening.

This is another photos essay with pictures from better moments.

Merlin Loving the Light

Merlin Resting after Playing

Merlin's Throne
My Phoenix Office

Merlin Asleep on Arm of Ed's Recliner

Merlin Satisfied with Himself
[cropped from a pic of him sprawling on my crochet as I attempted to photograph it]

Merlin Thumping the Stuffing out of His Ball

Merlin Rests on His Laurels

Merlin at Freeway Reststop
Between the big dog nearby and the scolding bird strutting a circle around him, he had nothing to give.

Merlin Struts His Stuff

Merlin Getting Allover Skritches from the Driveway

Merlin Meets Bradley

Merlin Eating

Merlin Claiming His Latest Throne [My Longview Office]

Merlin Scoping Out the Front Porch at Mom's


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