Saturday, October 22, 2016

My Brain on Books XVII

I am reading for The Office of Letters and Lights the folks who bring us NaNoWriMo today as I love what they are doing for literacy with their Young Writer's Programs and because I've participated in NaNo every year since 2004 and will again next month.  I have been blessed to have it in my life and would like to give something back if only kudos and link love.  I'm putting this plug at the top in hopes some who stop by will check out their site and see all the great things they do to foster love of reading and writing and story in kids. 

This post will be organized like a blog inside a blog with recent updates stacked atop previous ones. I may be posting some updates on Twitter @Joystory and the Joystory fb fanpage. But this is where I do anything more than a line or two.  Including mini-challenges unless required to have a separate post..   

Ode to Dewey
by Joy Renee
We Miss You Dewey

1:44 AM - Just finished Against All Things Ending, the penultimate book in Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant Unbeliever series of series.  Two trilogies published in the late 70s and early 80s followed by a four book series in the early 2000s.  I read the first book Lord Foul's Bane in 1979 and by 85 had read all six of the two trilogies.

When the first book of the Final Chronicles came out in 2002 (or at least when I became aware of it) I decided to wait until the whole series was complete to start it but not until I'd reread the first two.  The last book came out in 2013 I believe so in late 2013 I started reading Lord Foul's Bane.  Did not get far before life interrupted me and by the time I got back to it in late 2014 I had to start over.

By then I'd conceived the idea of making the Covenant series an integral aspect of one of my character's character with the themes in this epic fantasy reflected in his life and him making sense of his life by viewing it through the lens of the story's events, symbols and metaphors.

So the rereading of the first six books and the reading of the last four became a project requiring me to read slow while trying to embody Greg from Blow Me a Candy Kiss, while musing and meditating, highlighting and note taking and looking for ways to weave relevant elements of Donaldson's story throughout my own.

I was working on the final book of the second trilogy for April's Thon and am still hoping to at least begin the fourth and final book before this Thon ends.  I must confess that this afternoon out of frustration with the epub ap on my Kindle balking every time I tried to highlight, I finally gave up and read the last hundred pages without highlighting or note taking.  The relief made me regret having ignored my first inclination to set aside project mode for the first read-thru of the series.

I may just do that for the final book as chance are I will have to start over from the beginning anyway as all my notes and highlights for the first 7.5 books are trapped on my Nexus 7 which stopped taking a charge in August and I have yet to get it to a technician to see if it can be repaired or the data rescued.

11:55 - The last couple of hours have been a rough patch for me and it is hardly surprising since I hit my 24 hour awake mark at 2pm this afternoon.  It will be a miracle if I make it to 5AM PCT.

Around 10 it became increasingly difficult to keep my eyes open and I kept finding myself reading the same screen over and over.  Sometime due to not realizing that the screen tap had not advanced the text but most times because I was not processing the text.  I briefly considered packing it in early but decided instead to take a break and get active.

It was then that I truly regretted not getting my mini-tramp unburied befor the thon.  The mini-tramp has been an integral part of my thons since I got it in 2008.  But this year there was a pile of bagged crochet projects and empty bags rising to hip level on me has I stood with my feet on the floor beside the tramp.  There was also a small bench perched upside down atop the pile which brought it to shoulder level.

This was the result of my having to quickly rearrange things in my office/craft room here at Mom's to make room for Ed to have his computer station in here when he moved up from the Rogue Valley in March.

I realized that clearing the tramp would be just the kind of activity I needed and it beat walking up and down the hall. It wasn't necessary to find new homes for everything tonight I only needed to schlep the stuff across the hall to Mom's room and set it on or beside her bed.  Then I would have the tramp for the final hours of the thon even if I had to return the pile to the tramp before Mom returns from my brother's tomorrow evening.

So now it's done and the tramp is available but I'm too beat to get on it.  LOL. But I'm now wide awake again and ready to read.

3:33 PM - It's been awhile since I checked in.  I have been reading for most of that time.  For the last three hours I've been laying down resting my eyes while listening to Joyce Carol Oates short stories on my Library of Congress Talking Book machine.  The collection High Lonesome.  JCO is me favorite writer and probably my strongest influence.  I root for her to win the Nobel Prize every year.  But I was extremely pleased when Bob Dylan won it this year.  The first lyricist!  He and Emily Dickinson are my two favorite poets.

I think I'm going to return to The End of All Things, the Donaldson book I mentioned above which I'm close to finishing after spending two hours with it this morning.

5:00 AM - this is set to auto publish at 4:44.  I'll be back to do the intro meme eventually.  I may read in bed on my Kindle for awhile before getting active on here.

7:00 AM - I read in bed until the house heat had been on long enough to prevent feeling chilled while walking about or the need to wear a coat while sitting at my desk.

Intro Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Longview, Washington USA.  On the north side of the majestic Columbia River approximately 25 miles from the coast and 50 miles from Portland, Oregon as the crow flies.

From my Mom's house.  The house I lived in from age 18 to 21 and again since January 2013.  See earliest posts under the label Lifequake for explanation.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
For fiction: The Last Dark by Stephen R. Donaldson.  The final book of the final Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Unbeliever.  I'm about 100 150 pages out from finishing the third book in this, the third series set in The Land.  Two trilogies preceded it.  I was re-reading the first trilogy for the thon a year ago and the second trilogy last April.  This is my first time through the Final Chronicles.

This has been a project related to one of my own stories as Greg in my story Blow Me a Candy Kiss is passionate about the Covenant Chronicles, thinks in the metaphors, symbols, and images of the story.  I'm trying to get inside his head to prepare for another story featuring Greg and Iris from his POV. Four or five more stories after that alternating between POV would make a novel I'm thinking. I'm hoping to make that my NaNoWriMo project next month but I'm not sure I'm ready to write it yet.

For Nonfiction: I'm eager to advance in Jane Smiley's 13 Ways of Looking at a Novel.  I like to have at least one book in the mix that is about books or reading.  And in October when prepping for NaNo I like to have one about fiction writing.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Stuffed Crust Garlic Chicken Pizza

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I'm legally blind from RP aka Tunnel Vision with less than 2 degrees of vision left.  I can no longer read even large print with my left eye.  I now prefer ebooks for the ability to enlarge fonts and control line width so I don't loose my way between end and beginning of lines.  I used to read nearly 1K words per minute but now read slower than I talk.  Very discouraging.

I've had a mood disorder since childhood featuring depression, anxiety, panic and insomnia.  Several times professionals have considered the possibility of bi-polar but finally ruled it out definitively just over a year ago when they diagnosed me with High Functioning Autism aka Asperger's.  Over fifty years of feeling 'wrong' and not knowing why.  I've spent the last year reading nf about the autism spectrum and novels and memoirs featuring autistic individuals which has gone a long way toward helping me understand much that once confused and shamed me.  Since I have several of those books in progress I'll probably dip into them today.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
Last April I elected to spend the 24 hours in the tent down in the back yard where my husband has slept since March.  I imagined it would be a cosy, quiet private place where I could focus on reading.  ROFLOL.  It rained.  I spent several hours over the course of the day cleaning up water and wet things, moving stuff from damp to dry spots and trying to block the leaks.  And then there were the necessary excursions upstairs for the inflow and outflow of nutrients, the adding and subtracting of layers of clothing as temps fluctuated between 40 and 60 degrees over the 24 hours--tasks that tripled or quadrupled in time investment because every time I had to do something I couldn't do from my nest I had to extricate myself from blankets and pillows, device cords and lap boards, and sacks of books and snacks and then on my return climb back in and get it all rearranged to my liking again.  Even if I was only in the house five minutes I was away from reading for at least 35. It was during one of those treks upstairs that the worst downpour started and I had forgotten (or been in too big of a hurry) to zip up the tent door and the window flaps were down because the sun had been out long enough to make the tent feel like a sauna.

So yeah.  The tent is still there but I'm not in it.


Sunday, October 09, 2016

Sunday Serenity -- Celebrating a Life

Bernie Altman with Marcia
his wife of 69 years
Longview lost one of its heroes last month--one of my heroes--and yesterday I attended the Celebration of a Life service held at the Kelso High gymnasium in Kelso WA. A forum necessary to accommodate the size of the crowd turning out to honor this man whose heart was bigger than any I've ever encountered before or since.

Bernie Altman, advocate and teacher, dies at 92 | Local |

'via Blog this'

Bernard Altman (May 9, 1924-September 8, 2016) was born and raised in New York City and met and married his wife Marcia while they were both teaching at a four teacher school in a small Montana town.  They moved to Kelso where he taught history and government at Huntington Jr. High until his retirement in 1976.  Close to a third of the attendees yesterday stood up to identify as former students when asked.  A remarkable indicator of the positive influence on lives in our community which he wielded.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg because he didn't conduct himself as a typical retiree--sun and surf and RV vacations, TV game show marathons and recliner snoozing?  No!  He would have none of that.  He set out to make his retirement years as significant and as time and energy intensive as his three decades of teaching.  He became a political activist and an advocate for social justice and those in dire straights.  Especially those unable to advocate for themselves--the mentally ill and their families, senior citizens, the disabled and the homeless.

I'll refer you to the obituary for the details of his advocacy work--the organizations, committees, support groups, newsletters, conferences etc.

It was in his capacity as organizer and moderator of a support group for depression and anxiety sufferers that I met him in the late 90s and learned to admire him and care for him and Marcia as deeply as any of my grandparents.  For nearly a year of the several that I attended that weekly group he and Marcia picked me up and delivered me back home.  Both to take that burden off my parents and to encourage me to participate more openly with the group as it was his insight that their presence was inhibiting me.

It was Bernie's words early in my attendance of the group that lifted the burden of shame I'd carried for decades over this dark nemesis that had plagued me since my pre-teens.  He called it a disease that, like diabetes, was a chemical imbalance that left untreated was likely to be fatal.  Those words probably saved my life.

He also said that, in spite of popular opinion, depression was no more of a character flaw than diabetes or a broken leg.  Because of this I was eventually able to seek professional help.  One of my regrets now is that I never got around to contacting Bernie last year to let him know that I'd finally gotten the definitive diagnosis that had so eluded the many professionals I'd encountered over five decades--high functioning autism aka Aspberger's Syndrome.

At the time I bid farewell to the group when my husband got the Silicon Valley job in 1999, Bernie expressed his pleasure and pride in me for how far I'd come since the beginning.  A few weeks before that he'd demonstrated his belief and confidence in me by turning the duties of moderator over to me for one of the rare occasions he could not attend.  That contributed significantly to a sense of personal competence that carried me through the month that I had to live alone to pack up and close down our house while Ed was in California starting his new job and preparing for my arrival.  Something I could not have come close to accomplishing three years earlier.

Bernie was also the first--and still only--editor to accept and publish one of my poems.  He was for some years the editor of a special senior citizen newsletter insert for the Longview Daily News and the poem he published was one I'd written to honor my parents fortieth wedding anniversary.  Talk about a morale boost!

Bernie's motive for his vigorous advocacy was the impact of mental illness in his own family so it is a sad irony that his death was the result of injuries sustained at the hands of his own son, who has since been deemed not competent to stand trial due to mental illness. I know that Bernie's love for his children was steadfast and that for his son would not have been diminished one iota over this but I also know that he believed that in cases where someone was an imminent danger to self or others they needed to be committed to treatment and if necessary confined and medicated even against their will. He advocated for a better responsiveness from the system to information provided by family and others who know the ill individuals and who are in a position to know when there is a dire need to intervene.  In this case the sluggishness of the system failed the community as well as the Altman family--the son as much as his parents and sister.


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