Wednesday, December 02, 2020

The Tyranny of Memories #ROW80 #NaNoWriMo

Ed & I Embarking This Night 1978

 This season between September and February is a minefield of memories that tyrannize me with explosive emotions.  Emotions that tear-N-eyes me.  This year tho that minefield will extend past Valentine's Day to our last sleepover mid March, the event in late May that destroyed my hope followed by June 7, the day I informed him I was done face-to-face as I retrieved my belongings from his apartment.

If not for what happened in late September, my year of anniversaries would be over June 7, 2021.  Which puts me at the halfway point right about now.  But instead the round of 'anniversaries' reset on September 28, the day I learned his body had been found.  So I'm back at the beginning and it is all still too fresh and raw to talk about coherently.

Being willing to walk away from a marriage is not the same thing as being willing to be a widow.  The complex of emotions around that is so tangled and thorny I can't touch it with words yet.

I spent the month of November processing via writing and re-reading posts, journals and emails and living in my memories.  If not for my NaNo project being tied in to it I may not have kept it at such an intense level on a daily basis for this long.  Based on my history of processing things in this way, I expect there will be a positive payoff in the future for the intensity of the work I did in October and November but I also recognize that I can't keep that intensity up indefinitely going forward.

So I'll be backing off some and over the next few days do some thinking on how that will translate as to my ROW80 goals.  My actual goals as stated at the start of the round do not depend on me continuing to work with the triggering material once NaNo finished.  So it is primarily a matter of choosing a new project for the wordcount. 

 Backstory highlights and high and low notes:


Sunday, November 29, 2020

Mud Pie a la Mode #NaNoWinner2020 #ROW80


I'm not feeling it.

The usual NaNo win euphoria is MIA.  It feels a bit like the win is a scoop of ice-cream atop a mud pie, rendering the ice cream as inedible as the pie.

In spite of this having been the second worst week in the grieving journey since the end of September and in spite of having begun the week with a deficit that required a 3K a day pace I managed to cross the 50K finish 24 hours early.  Yet I don't feel like a winner. 

I just feel muddy.

This is partly due to having wallowed in the mud emotionally all month and then using that mud as the raw material for a story that is supposed to be fictional.  The other part is feeling like a fraud for having essentially abandoned all pretense of following a plot about ten days out and taken up residence inside one character's stream of consciousness as she cleans up her dead husband's trashed trailer home and ranges over the 45 year history of their relationship going back to high school.

Since it ranges in and out of the waking, sleeping, hallucinogenic and reverie mind states it is surrealistic even without the element of personal memoir mixed in.  It is most definitely a muddy first draft.

But I do believe that unlike many NaNo novels before, I will continue to work with this one beyond the end of November because it has become an indispensable element of my grief process.

 Backstory highlights and high and low notes:


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Meltdown #ROW80 #NaNoWriMo

Dis wut missgn u feelz lyk

After over a week maintaining a fairly stable mood with the grieving on a slow simmer and the tears playing peek-a-boo for a few minutes a few times per day, I had a major meltdown this afternoon.  I had expected this week to be hard though.  I just hoped it wouldn't devolve this far again.  And I can't blame it on sleep deprivation this time.

The trigger was the fact this was Thanksgiving Eve and last year on Thanksgiving Eve I took Ed shopping at WinCo for a major Thanksgiving bash menu and then spent the week with him through Sunday evening.  

On Thanksgiving day last year I helped him in minor ways to put together the full featured Thanksgiving spread and then pack up servings for three plus leftovers to send over to Mom's by early afternoon.  Then Ed and I ate on the rest of it for the rest of the weekend and I still took some more home with me.  It was one of the happiest memories of our marriage with hope running high and only the shadow of Sunday evening hanging over it.

I can't believe that six months later we crashed and burned our marriage and four months after that Ed died.

I spent the last week in a state that felt like it might be the 'acceptance' stage but if it was I'm apparently not quite ready to live there yet.

One of the projects I worked on this week was collecting all the relevant text from Joystory posts in 2013 that reference the 'lifequake' that was the unwanted indefinite separation that has now become permanent.  

I began reading my 2013 blogposts starting with January 1st on Sunday and  I made it all the way to the end of May as of last night and there had been no sign of any impending meltdown.  Some minor tearing up a few times but there were more moments of actual joy in being reminded of some of the high notes of those months.  

Reading these posts also reminded me of how far I've come personally and thus confirmed for myself that my choice to give up on us had been necessary to avoid having all my progress sabotaged yet again.  But knowing it had to be doesn't make my arms feel any less empty.


Gathering those posts counts as part of the file scavenger hunt that is part of my Round Goals tho.  After I finish with the 'lifequake' posts I'm going to reread and harvest all the emails we exchanged during the same months.

On the NaNo front: I got way behind having maintained an average of 1K per day until a few days ago when I stepped it up to 2K a day.  Now my stats page is telling me I need 2500 per day to finish on time.  That's doable for me.



Sunday, November 22, 2020

Bedwriting #ROW80 #NaNoWriMo


Bedwriting-- will soaks yu in streamz of consuchas

Have had a fairly calm week.  I'm sure that has much to do with having put a very high priority on sleep.  I'm almost starting to worry that things might tip too far in the other direction but until I actually am getting over 10 hours per day for over a week and still feeing like it isn't enough I'm going to assume I'm just working off the deficit.  What is actually happening is I'm averaging 5 to 6 hours followed by 1 to 2 hours awake followed by another 1 to 3 hours asleep.

I spent a lot of time on my bed between 9pm and 9am the days Mom was home and when she was gone this weekend I spent way more than that.  But I'm not necessarily sleeping or trying to sleep that whole time.  As I described in my Good Grief post in October, my bed is set up for reading, writing, watching video and listening to music and audio books.  

This weekend I was intending to have a movie or TV series binge but kept putting it off--holding it out as the carrot for so many to-dos that I ran out of time.

The to-dos were  ROW 80 Goals, NaNo catchup, shower/shampoo and putting order back in the chaos of my wardrobe created by six months of not putting things away after looking for something to wear, after items returned from laundry, after the mess I made packing to go pack up Ed's apartment and the return followed by last weekend's washing up of Ed's laundry and adding the items I wanted to keep to all those piles.   

So shortly after Mom left Friday afternoon, I gathered all of the clothes chaos onto Mom's bed and then set up my writing station on my bed and proceeded to go back and forth between them for the next 48 hours.

I kept intending to reward myself with one video after tending to the clothes for a time or tending to NaNo for significant wordcount.  But I always seemed to choose reading instead and then often fell asleep while reading.  I think I sensed I didn't have it in me to stay awake for an hour to two hour video by the time I had given myself permission to 'play'.  

Besides the book I was reading was Game of Thrones and that was also one of the Series I've been watching and I'd decided a couple weeks ago that I'd gotten confused by the series as it entered Season 2 and wanted to catch up in the books before I returned to the videos.  Well I had finally caught up as of late Saturday yet I kept choosing the book, now the second,  A Clash of Kings, over the video.

But as I fell asleep reading in the wee hours of Sunday, I still thought I had time for my video binge on Sunday late afternoon as Mom usually returns after 7pm but I learned as I was waking up at 10am that she would be returning before 5pm.  And with meal prep and kitchen clean-up added to clearing off Mom's bed and the shower/shampoo... Well a two hour time slot for videos just wasn't going to happen.  So here I sit two hours after Mom's lights out getting my ROW80 check-in put together--which was a task I forgot to put on my weekend to-do list--and I still haven't put in any NaNo words today.

I do have a strange habit of holding my carrots just out of reach for so long it seems I never catch hold of them.  I've been holding the video binge carrot out for months now.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Coping Schemes #ROW80 #NaNoWriMo


When what you want is hopelessly beyond your reach
Learn to want something else

The last three days have been much calmer than the three culminating in the wee hours of Monday morning as I was posting the last check-in.  Since then I've managed to apply some of the advice coming from various sources including myself and have been passably productive with my goals except for the ones requiring harvesting my files.  I hesitate to put a number to any of it but I estimate it is a bit better than 50% of the rest of them. 

I knew at the time I was writing Sunday's post that the weekend events had created the perfect storm for knocking me off my equilibrium: Being forced to give up my birthday plans for a video marathon and NaNo catchup to deal with the urgent need to do up Ed's laundry which meant having to be confronted with memory triggers.  Spending those hours doing his laundry with my cousin who let me talk endlessly about him, our marriage, the breakup, his death and packing up his apartment.  All of which created a needed catharsis but also an emotional rollercoaster I couldn't get off even once back at home and this led to difficulty sleeping which led to sleep deprivation which is my major nemesis.  

Sleep dep plus emotional volatility creates a nasty feedback loop for me that devolves quickly into inner and outer chaos.  At least I've learned to recognize the symptoms now within a day or three instead of after weeks or months and I have methods to apply to reverse the trend.  I've made sleep the highest priority since Monday which has helped me feel less chaotic inside which has helped me start to address some of the outer chaos in small ways.  

Like I started to put my craft table back in order so I could start crocheting again. It will take a few more short sessions at that task before it's safe to get a project out but I'm looking forward to it again for the first time since the phone call. But in the meantime the activity of putting the area in order is itself helping like a positive feedback loop in which creating order in the outer realm creates order in the inner which leads to being able to envision and enact more order in the outer and so on and so on.

One of the things that helped me cope though the summer months after the devastating breakup with Ed followed by Mom's stroke was the sorting and organizing project I worked on which I've not returned to since getting the news of his death September 28.  I think I need to get back on track with that. Starting with finding places out of sight to store the things I brought back from his place until they are no longer such emotional triggers.

The possibility of dehydration was raised for me several times in the past week even before I speculated about it somewhat facetiously in Sunday's post. I have been addressing that.

When I described the wee hours foot cramps waking me up to my cousin she told me it was dehydration and deficiency in magnesium and potassium and gave me some tablets to tide me over until I could send for my own.  I've not had another episode yet so there's that....

I've found solace in journaling and working on my NaNo novel even tho I can't distract myself from the grief triggers with it because it was designed to give me the space to process the grief the best way I know how and that is by writing.  It's more constructive than crying, yes but that isn't why it helps.  

Whenever my emotional state gets so chaotic that all I can do is cry or worse, numb down and stare into space for hours, that is the result of my having lost the ability to organize my reality with words.  I believe this issue is second only to the sleep deprivation in stabilizing my moods and keeping me grounded.

One activity I've actually enjoyed throughout this ordeal is sharing episodes of the old sitcom Family Affair with my Mom at dinner on most evenings she is home.  This involves me setting up my Kindle Fire with an external speaker so she can listen as I stream off Amazon.  I will pause every time she she can't understand the dialog or the visuals are needed to understand the story to explain the scene to her.  Thus it takes us 35 to 40 minutes to watch the 25 minute episodes. (For those new or needing a refresher: Mom and I have the same degenerative eye disease, RP, but hers is 24 years more advanced than mine.)

I've actually been surprised by laughter while watching Family Affair and have experienced joy in witnessing Mom's enjoyment.  I get a kick out of it when she 'gets' the joke and laughs after I've described the visual elements that put the extra kick into the humor.  Sebastian Cabot as Mr. French has the most amazing facial expressions.

Having my blog subtitle be 'story is my joy' is not a casual tag line.  It is the pure truth and I know that reading, writing, watching or listening to story of all kinds is a source of joy and healing for me and a must to make room for in my daily life.  I am determined to have my video marathon this weekend while Mom is gone.

I am also eager to return to serious reading.  I've managed to read a bit every day but it amounts to less than 5% of what was normal for me.  Getting lost in the story requires a focus I've not been able to maintain.

I am really looking forward to picking up the crochet hook again.  It is hard to believe it has been nearly two months.  I know that the rhythmical motion is soothing as is the steady creation of structure out of a string.  Without that rhythmical motion of crocheting I've devolved into more obvious autistic behaviors like rocking and swaying in my chair, tapping my fingers or small objects against myself or other objects, nodding my head like I'm listening to music when I'm not and tapping the tip of my tongue against the roof of my mouth. 

Another way I can get the rhythmical motion is by getting on my mini-tramp and that has many other benefits to physical and mental health.  I've known for awhile that I need to do that and keep putting it off.

Yet another coping tool I've known to help in the past is classical music.  Beethoven, Bach and Mozart are the three I can name right off that I've experienced significant mental and emotional relief after listening to them.  The most helpful of all was Beethoven's 9th symphony and especially the 4th movement known as Ode to Joy.  I once called that my personal anthem.  It has been awhile since I listened to it.  Past time.

OK that is plenty of coping schemes to get me started and it is past time I post this and get to bed.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

How Many Tissues Will It Take? #ROW80 #NaNoWriMo

Seriously.  This is wearing me out.
I fear I'm going to wear out what's left of my audience if I keep posting about it.  Yet if I make this topic taboo I'll probably end up not posting at all just like I did in 2016 when so many of the topics occupying my mind became taboo for posting.  When I decided to re-commit to writing and blogging again, I knew it meant committing to truth over taboo so I guess that also means committing to truth over stats if it comes to that.

But seriously!!!

How many tissues will it take?

I ask because I emptied a box this evening.  It wasn't full when this ordeal began in late September and it never occurred to me to make note of its level at that time but the experience of reaching into the box and finding the bare bottom called my attention to the issue and has me wondering if I will be using them at the same rate by the time I finish the fresh box my sister gave me tonight.

But seriously!!!

Where do they all come from?  It doesn't seem I'm drinking enough extra water to account for them.  In fact I am drinking extra coffee to replace the energy expended. 
And Oh Boy does it use up energy.

Grief crying is a full body workout.  Every muscle from the face and neck to the fingers and toes are in play.  And then as if to repay me for their torture the muscles in my feet and shins wake me from one of the rare sound sleeps with cramps that force me to get up and pace the hall until I can walk normally again.  But when I try to crawl back into bed as often as not a single toe twitch will set the spasms off again.

At least that muscle spasming has one good thing going for it.  It co-opts the grief spasms.  Even though the pain can be an agony that makes me want to scream it completely distracts me from the urge to fold up over my crossed arms and silent-howl into my pillow.

Did you know that in grief you no longer own your body but rather your body owns you?  That grief inhabits the hind brains and the blood and tissues of the organs? That it refuses to be contained or comprehended by the frontal lobe?  That every time reason claims a foothold and proclaims itself in control again grief swings a sucker punch with a sense-memory dredged up out of the viscera and suddenly it is as if no time at all has passed since the phone call that broke your heart?

Did you know that grief makes you feel chilled?  That your teeth chatter and your muscles shiver and your ribcage tremors and the goosebumps crawl up your spine into your scalp?

Did you know that grief makes you feel fevered?  That your face gets hot and your skin sore like sunburn and sweat pops out of every pore as it does in a sauna?

Did you know that grief melts fat?  The weight I struggled to take off all year at the rate of two or three pounds a month has fallen off at the rate of a quarter pound a day for the last six weeks.  I've dropped from a size 20 snug to a size 16 snug in less than two months.

Or maybe that's all been water weight.  Twenty pounds of tears?  I could believe it.  

I suspect that the hard time I'm having today is fallout from spending Friday and Saturday afternoons and evenings at my cousin's house doing Ed's laundry.  Handling his clothes and bedding entailed too many triggers of those visceral memories.  She sent the last load over to me this afternoon and this evening's tissue tugging started after I finished sorting the basket full into keep and give-away piles.

Yeah.  I'm keeping some of them to wear myself.  Is that too weird?

Doesn't matter if it is.  I'm committed.  It's part of the process for me.

Plus I talked my cousin's ear off for hours both days.  And bawled on her shoulder. I knew I was talking to someone intimately familiar with grief because she had been her parents caretaker for over a decade before their deaths a few years ago and she lost her 16 year old daughter in the late 80s.  It was that daughter's death that was the inspiration for my story Blow Me a Candy Kiss.  I thought I was consumed by grief when I wrote that but now I know that was just grief nibbling around the edges.


ROW80 goals and NaNoWriMo quotas have gotten shorted since Friday when my plans for a catchup weekend were flummoxed by discovery that the 12 bags of Ed's laundry had been exposed to the rainstorm after wind blew the tarp off them in the wee hours.  I had been getting back on track between Sunday and Thursday.

Well, I'll just have to remember that I did do that which means it is doable.

And I did get some NaNo words in this morning using my new Windows tablet in bed.

Backstory highlights and high and low notes:


Friday, November 13, 2020

Happy Friday the 13th Birthday

Happy Birthday Song - Puddles Pity Party 

So it's the first birthday without Ed. 

Well, I knew this would be one of the difficult milestones but so far it's not as bad as I'd expected.  I can't quite claim to feel 'happy' but I'm not a puddle this week and that's an improvement.  

I give Puddles the sad clown some measure of credit for that.  I've developed a weird obsession with watching his song covers videos since I discovered him last weekend. So I'm celebrating my birthday with Puddles Pity Party singing Happy Birthday followed by another one that most closely fits my mood today: Azure.

I was planning to have a private movie festival after Mom left for her weekend at my brother's but now it looks like my main activity today will be doing Ed's laundry.  I'm trying to round up a ride to the laundromat as the tarp we had over the bags in the driveway blew off in the storm last night.  

Thanks Ed for the interesting birthday present for my Friday the 13th 63rd birthday.  You always were a bit of a prankster/trickster.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Hurt Fixes - #ROW80 #NaNoWriMo

Hurt covered by Puddles Pity Party

I discovered Puddles Pity Party over the weekend and have become addicted to him. It isn't enough to just listen.  Otherwise I could listen to the songs by the original artists and find the same relief.  No.  I need to watch.  And not just casually.  I need to fixate on his body language--facial expressions, hand gestures and shoulder shrugs and slumps.  When I do that, I find I experience for a time a sense of relief from my grief.

I don't know why this is but I have a suspicion it has something to do with the autism spectrum issues.  It's like Puddles is giving me lessons in how to grieve.  'This is what sad looks like.  Do you see it?  Do you feel it?  This is how to express sadness.  Can you feel me?  Can you show me?'

And yet I get that it is exaggerated and because of that it also elicits unexpected smiles at the incongruous juxtapositions of humor with what seems ought to be its opposite.. Humor that feels alien at first but then settles in like an old friend reminding me that Yeah.  The sad is real and strong but it isn't necessary to be swallowed by it.  

A smile is not a betrayal of the reason for the sadness only proof that there will be a new song to sing when this one has run its course.  And though it might be a sad song too it doesn't have to be and eventually the next song to come along will have more of Joy in it.

This experience reminds me of a period of time in the mid 80s when I was binge-watching 70s and 80s sitcoms and after some hundreds of hours of it my social skills had improved and I had begun to 'get' jokes in real time and had visceral understanding of satire, irony, and sarcasm.  And tho it was still difficult I was able to translate much more of the non verbal communication around me though it was likely to be hours or days later as the 'tapes' replayed in my mind.

That was decades before my High Functioning Autism diagnosis but my reading on the spectrum has developed my understanding of what must have happened then and what might be happening now.  I'm sure it has something to do with the exaggerated manifestations of emotion coupled with extreme repetition contributing to a rewiring of my brain.

Meanwhile, I continue to add to a lengthy to-do list of tasks related to the the aftermath of Ed's death.  From unpacking and putting away things I brought back from his apartment, to making calls to inform those who need to know of his passing, to sorting his papers and doing his laundry.  I'm adding to the list faster than I'm checking off but I'm requiring of myself at least one checked off item every day.

Fix You covered by Puddles Pity Party

 As for my #ROW80 goals and #NaNoWriMo?


Sleep 7.5 hours per night has been iffy since the September 28 phone call and had degenerated dramatically the twelve days I spent at Ed's apartment cleaning and packing.  But I dedicated this past weekend to catchup sleep and have maintained an average better than 6 hours so far this week.  In response my mood has begun to stabilize.

 Read/study craft.  If I count the daily coaching Letters from Abbie I signed up for for NaNo month and the NaNo site pep letters... I'm good.

Read fiction daily.  I'm reading Game of Thrones nearly every day.

Storydream in my storyworld.  Yeah.  Decent amount thanks to NaNo work

Scavenger hunt my files for creative writing drafts and bits and pieces worthy of hardcopy.  Not since Mom's stroke in July.

Gather all my poems from files and blog into a single file to prep for self-pub. Not since I got news of Ed's death.

Journaling.  yeah got this covered.  Bigly.

NaNo novel Abiding Hope.  Still running about 50% word count and it is still looking more like Preptober notes, outlines and sketches than actual scene work.

Big improvement over last week.


Sunday, November 08, 2020

Abiding Hope #ROW80 #NaNoWriMo

 Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Victory Speeches

 This has been the roughest week yet to muddle through.  Yes even rougher than the 12 days I spent cleaning and packing up Ed's apartment.  That is partly due to tension of waiting for the election results but that would have been a breeze if not for the emotional mine field that my days have become since I walked out of Ed's apartment for the last time a week ago last night.  There are still just so many ways the grief sneaks up on me and hijacks me body, mind and spirit. 

I thought I knew everything about crying.  It was like, my thing.  It was also one of the things Ed found most disturbing about me--how much and how often and how long and about how many different things that I could cry about.  But until September 28, I had no idea that crying could be a full body workout. 

I keep getting sucker-punched by the unexpected.  Like overhearing a message being left for Ed on our phone.  One of those was from his doctor's office concerned that mail delivered to him had been returned.  So I had to call them to inform them of his death.  And cried all the way through the conversation.  

But I managed to also make an appointment for myself--first one in well over a year--while I had them on the phone because I was sure I would chicken out if I didn't and if I learned one thing over what happened to Ed it was that I too was gambling with my life by neglecting my own health issues.  Maybe mine aren't exacerbated by alcoholism but they aren't negligible. Blood pressure being the primary concern.

One of the hardest things to deal with this week was having no one to talk to about the election.  That was our thing--mine and Ed's. It's easier to talk about sex in my family than politics.  And that isn't easy.

But Ed and I would spend hours talking about it, watching and reading news and taking turns ranting.  But there is now a big black hole where there were once those lively and intellectually stimulating discussions. So I've poured all the election angst as well as some of the grief angst into my NaNo novel, Abiding Hope.  But I'm barely clinging on with just under half the daily word quota.  And truth be told it is more Preptober work than NaNo Noveling since my Preptober plans got so rudely swept aside by that September 28 phone call.  

I began my blog in the aftermath of the 2004 election and was at first including political posts but I got scared off by the bullies in the comments and since I didn't have a good grounding in the facts or history and all the other contexts that make it possible to have a coherent conversation on an issue, I realized I wasn't contributing anything useful to the conversation just amplifying outrage and fear.

That could be different now as I obsessively read and researched all through the eight years of the Bush administration.  My autism OCD hyperfocus was in full bloom.  Then Obama was elected and I was relieved and needed a vacation from being on mental and emotional red alert 24/7 and Mom had her first stroke that November and I spent the first six months of 2009 helping my sister cope with that fallout here at Mom's where politics was a taboo subject.  So the habit was broken and I barely paid attention to the entire eight years of Obama's administration.

The Trump candidacy snuck up on me.  I did not even know he was running until the week of the Republican convention.  That was the summer Ed was living in the tent in Mom's back yard having moved back here that March putting an end to the three years we were separated by 300 miles. (see early posts under the Lifequake label) 

I had no extra mental or emotional bandwidth for politics that year until I learned about Trump's bid.  After that Ed and I started watching at least some news together every day.  But although we were disturbed by the tone Trump was setting that was mainstreaming white supremacy and denigrating democracy itself and all its institutions, we were not alarmed because Ed thought Trump was punking the party and I thought he was doing it as a branding ploy or to scam his donors by raising money for a campaign he had no intention of winning so he could pocket the money.

Then election night 2016 happened.  I was in shock and have remained there ever since.  I was catapulted back into the OCD research on politics and Trump and because I couldn't blog about it I stopped blogging.  Over the final months of the Obama administration the drama in my relationship with Ed was heating up again as well and that too as it so often did contributed to silencing me.

I am so so tired of having my words bottled up by fear and shame.  I don't know how I'm gong to handle it but I do know I am not going to make the same mistake as I did in 2009.  I am not going to heave a big sigh of relief and then change the subject in my head.  And since I risk stopping blogging and even writing altogether if I keep a self-imposed taboo on the topic of politics I will need to relax that restriction.

Meanwhile, I managed to experience some moments of joy yesterday while watching images of dancing in the streets all over the world when the AP finally announced the 270 electoral votes for Biden/Harris.  And yes, I cried for joy.  But it was bittersweet as I couldn't share my joy with Ed as I had in 2008 the moment Obama's win was announced and memories of watching that coverage together were nearly as vivid as the images in front of my eyes.  


Sunday, November 01, 2020

Wiped - #ROW80 #NaNoWriMo


Dish Drainer and Sink

Having spent the last twelve days wiping surfaces along with moving, sorting and packing stuff--all while grieving the loss of the husband who made the mess and owned the stuff--it is no wonder I feel wiped.  Wiped as in exhausted and wiped as in a bleached hard drive.

I finished with the last of the scummy scrubbing around 3 Saturday afternoon and by 5 had also finished with the last of the packing except for my personal belongings.  Then I took time to get something to eat and let my sister know my status.  

After food, water and rest I got in the shower to scrub the scum off myself from head to toe and let hot water beat on my neck, shoulders and back.

Had another rest after that before getting dressed and then starting to dismantle my safe haven aka island of sanity in the room Ed called his office and which I'd turned into my office with a sleeping mat on the floor.

I'd also used the closet in there to put things of his I was definitely bringing with me and in the end it had overflowed over a foot into the room.  The bulk of that was Ed's clothes and bedding as they took up about the same amount of space as they had on his closet floor before I sorted them into laundry loads and packed them into trash bags.

Most of his clothes I'll be donating after I've laundered them.  I saved only what was gently worn and they were all bought for him on vouchers viia the programs helping him and were intended for job searching and working. Predominately casual dress with a few dressy slacks and shirts.

The Long Counter

Most of the hours and heavy duty effort spent in those twelve days was in the kitchen.  I have hangnails on nearly every finger to show for it.  Also several broken nails and pain in fingers, wrists, elbows and shoulder.  My hands look like a washer woman's out of a Victorian novel.  Raw, dry cracked, skinned, bruised, scratched....

But it is exactly because of the effort and the wear and tear on my person that I'm feeling most accomplished over the results I got in the kitchen.  And that in spite of the fact I ran out of time to finish it to my standards.  I was also constrained by my physical limitations.  Because of my vision and joint issues I was only able to spot mop the most egregious spills on the floor by soaking them with wet rags and then scrubbing the spot using my feet on the rag.  

No way with my aging joints was I going to go down on my knees and I couldn't be swinging a wet mop around with my vision issues.  And it wouldn't be safe for me to have more than a small contained wet spot on the floor.  Most of the nasty spills were on the edges of the room near the sink, stove and fridge so I could avoid them while they dried but when they were more than a foot away from the edge I left the room until they dried.  No sense risking another senior citizen taking a fall in that apartment inside a month.

Also I left the cupboard and drawer fronts alone as I did not know what cleaner and scrubber was safe to use without ruining the finish.  Anyway it's not like I was trying to get my deposit back. 


I also left the burner pans alone as I didn't have any steel wool.  But like I said: Not after the deposit.  Just needed to take the edge off the mortification I felt when first seeing Ed's apartment seven months after our last weekend sleepover.

So, Carri arrived with the truck she borrowed from a friend about 7:30 and by 9 we were running the first load back to Mom's where she and her son unloaded while I put away food and arranged my personal bags and boxes for later unpacking--on my bed, on Mom's bed, on my desk and desk chair, on my craft table.  Then Carri returned the truck and reclaimed the van and we returned for the last of it about 11 and were driving out of the parking lot at midnight.

We stopped at Taco Bell on the way home and I chattered about going to be late for the NaNo kickoff by as much as an hour as I still had to unpack my Windows tablet which I'd gotten prepped for the purpose 24 hours earlier so I could sit on my bed with it for the kickoff.

But even late, it wasn't to be.  I got set up with the Windows tablet in bed with my Taco Bell crunch wrap and chose a short YouTube video to watch while I ate.  Next thing I knew the video was over and I remembered nothing of its ending and my hand was empty and I remembered nothing of the last bites of my crunch wrap.  It was hopeless.  I put the tablet on shelf and got up to take ibuprofin, 5HTP and Trazadone.  Having not slept at all Friday night I was determined to make sure I slept solid last night--in spite of the pain both physical and emotional.

When I crawled back into bed and pulled blankets I stuck my elbow in something wet and found the last third of my crunch wrap.  I went ahead and finished it in the dark.

This afternoon I spent three hours unpacking my personal belongings and returning to working order my various workstations--bed, desk and craft table--getting devices and lights plugged in and stowing accessories where they will be right where I expect them to be when I reach for them.  There is still some unpacking of smaller bags left to do but once I got all the big containers off Mom's bed, I was free to tackle my NaNo Day 1

I began by creating the project titled Abiding Hope.  In the slot for summary I wrote:

Set in the same mobile home park, Mobile Estates, as my election year NaNo novels for 2008 and 2012 (Mobile Hopes and Occupy Hope) Abiding Hope showcases issues relevant to the election as they play out in individuals and their family's lives--economics, health, legal, psychological, war, climate change, immigration etc.  As a microcosm of community Mobile Estates, with its high turnover rate demonstrates the need for cohesiveness in the face of all the traumas and divisive opinions showing how the political really is personal and community begins at the level of neighborhood and possibly even household.

I could also say that the whole Mobile Estates storyworld puts the lie to the American Myth about 'pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps'.  It's one of the most egregious lies we've been fed about the finding, founding and furtherance of America.  Awareness of the laws of gravity should be enough to discredit that myth yet it persists and reigns supreme in our self-talk and political rhetoric.

I've logged in 1111 words today.  That's rounded to the nearest 1111 as a little OCD tic makes me want to see the quadruple number.  I usually try for the 2222 so as to get more than the daily req of 1667 but as I's been saying, I'm wiped.

I'm hoping that by this time next week I'll be back on track with the goals as stated in this round's goal post.


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Raven Kissing the Rainbow? #Preptober #ROW80

Raven Kissing a Rainbow Bird?

That's my new mousepad for my Fusion 5 Windows Tablet.  I found it when I was shopping for Raven misc. in honor of Ed a couple weeks ago.  Ed considered Raven to be his Spirit Animal in the Lakota tradition.  I was looking for some other very specific things that day which I'll discuss in a future post but when this mousepad showed up I knew I'd found the one I wanted for my Fusion 5. Rainbows have been one of my things for decades so it felt fitting.  Like Raven represent Ed and the rainbow bird represented me.

Now the first time I saw this I was sure that rainbow was shaped like a bird which made it look like Raven was kissing his rainbow reflection.  But sometimes I see it different.  Often I don't see the bird shape in the rainbow and it just looks like Raven is drinking the rainbow.  Or worse, if my mood is in a funk, barfing a rainbow.

What do you see?

Meanwhile, I'm still working on Ed's apartment.  Have nearly completed the sort and pack of everything except the kitchen.  The kitchen has been slow-going because every item and every surface has to be scrubbed and washed multiple times for the caked on, baked on food and a greasy/soapy scum coating everything.  All the dishes and pots and pans have to be washed by hand and then run through the dishwasher on pot-scrub cycle which means two soap capsules instead of one.  I can only scrub for five to fifteen minutes at a stretch.  Well a week ago it was closer to five minutes but now I'm building up past fifteen.

Also slowing me down in the kitchen is having to wait for the dishwasher to run in order to proceed.  This frustrates my tendency to want to focus on one task and get it done.  I have to move on to one of the sorting projects and trust myself to remember to return to the kitchen to have the next go-around with emptying the dishwasher, refilling it from what is soaking in the sink and then filling the sink with the next batch before returning to the pile of clothes or the boxes of book, electronics, papers, self-care aids, and miscellanea.

Tomorrow by noon, I won't have those other projects to trade-off with the kitchen.  So maybe I'll find some time to peek into my files and set up my NaNo project during one of my breaks from the kitchen.  But it is also true that the bulk of the dishes and pans are already clean and packed which means there is room to maneuver in the kitchen while the dishwasher is running in order to do some of the scrubbing of the surfaces--counters, cupboard doors, stove, dishwasher door, refrigerator and floor.  

On the other hand, I probably shouldn't push the scrubbing past twenty minutes even if I feel fine at the time as sometimes the pain in my hands, wrists, elbows and back doesn't show up for hours.  It's favorite time to show up is after I'm in bed, keeping me awake. 

 Abbie Emmons Wants to Be Your NaNoWriMo Writing Coach

Sign up now and receive a letter a day of encouragement and tips with a hand selected video from her archives targeting the stage of the novel you should be tackling that day.

And she encourages you to reply sharing what you are doing and how/if her letter is helping.

What does she ask in return?  Nothing.

Of course this puts you on her mailing list in anticipation of her next novel's release.  But who wouldn't want that?


Monday, October 26, 2020

Mental and Emotional Prep for NaNo - #ROW80 #Preptober

Kate and Abbie Emmons Writing Podcast
Re: Prepping Mentally for NaNo 

Prepping mentally for NaNo is about all I can manage right now anyway so I found it really helpful to listen to this during a brief break from cleaning and packing up Ed's apartment. This Kate and Abbie Emmons Podcast gives me permission to see the mental and emotional work I'm doing as equally valid to preparing my files and making outlines and character sketches which I have not and will not have time for this Preptober..

I hope to be done here by Friday so I can get everything I'm bringing back to Mom's unpacked or stashed, all my electronics and lamps returned to their proper locations and my writing workstations reestablished and a solid 8+ hours of sleep before NaNoWriMo kickoff at midnight Saturday night.  It has been my tradition to start writing at midnight and I will do so this time even if all I can manage is a paragraph or two.

But I've learned that hope isn't always enough.

One way or another tho, I have to clear out of here by midnight Saturday anyway as first thing the next morning they will change the locks on me and anything still inside will be forfeit.  So I need to find a way to be OK even if we're spending most of Saturday schlepping things out of here back to Mom's and to the dump and wherever else.  

Thus I may not be back at Mom's in time to get everything arranged to my liking and have a good solid sleep under my thinking cap but all my devices are portable and I have a Bluetooth keyboard that works with all but the HP laptop.  So I can sit anywhere there is a plug nearby and write into whatever ap is at hand and later I can copy/paste the result into Evernote to make it available to any other device.

To refine that plan tho, I think my best option is to create my 2020 NaNo project on a thumb drive that I use on either of my Windows computers because both of them have Scrivener on them.  That way I can use the Windows tablet with the Bluetooth keyboard anywhere I can find a seat.  If I make sure they are both fully charged I could have several hours of writing without worrying about plug-ins.

There.  I have a plan for how if worst case scenario is in play.

As for what, I have had a plan for that for several weeks but have not been able to work with my files so I've been playing with the concept in my head while working, trying to sleep or sitting and staring at a wall while resting between spurts of cleaning and sorting.

My plan as laid down in the goals section of A Sad So Big is:

Am going to rebel a bit and bring back a previous NaNo WIP and rework it.  It is fitting because it's premise was rooted in the dynamics of my own marriage. I'm hoping this can be an exercise in grief processing. It's title is The Storyteller's Spouse and it was an exercise in 'unreliable narrator'.  The wife in my story is a YA novelist and the husband is a life-of-the-party natural born storyteller aka raconteur aka tall-tale-teller. I think the reason I got discouraged with the effort after that NaNo ended was because I had tried to lay all the unreliableness at the feet of the husband not realizing how much the wife's denial about the extent to which his storytelling was not confined to social gatherings put her squarely in the same camp. Older and wiser now.
   Am tweaking this goal to combine Storytellers Spouse with another story.  I had forgotten that I've made it a tradition since 2008 to write my election year NaNo in the same storyworld as Mobile Hopes which is set in a mobile home park called Hope Estates.  Each of the novels is set during its election year and the families in the park are living the issues that dominate the campaigns: health, jobs, housing, immigration, women's rights, law and order, climate change, race relations and so on.  All I have to do is have the characters move into Hope Estates and share the novel with several other families and I don't have a reworking of an old NaNo but a new story in the Hope Estates series.

So as I work at scrubbing, sorting and stuffing bags I'm playing with ideas on how and why Bray and Lor or possibly just Lor, end up at Hope Estates.  The fact that I never completed their story in Storyteller's Spouse makes that difficult. Especially working from vague memory.  I may have to write or at least outline in the original story a bit but then I'm up against the quandary of whether it is kosher to count the words for NaNo.


Meanwhile on the scrubbing, sorting and stuffing front:

Yesterday I finished the first pass through all the papers identifying three categories:

  • definitely of importance
  • possibly important but I can't take time with it now
  • definitely garbage.

I spent four or five hours on that.  I will be closing up that box tonight and leaving any further dealings with it until after I'm back at Mom's. Probably after NaNo unless some issue comes up requiring me to find something specific for a specific task related to settling his estate.

I spent another three hours last night on sorting his clothes and made it the rest of the way through the 4ft by 3.5ft by 20in pile.  First pass that is.  I still need to refine the laundry loads by type and stuff into bags. Some will probably head straight for the bins in the parking lot, though not nearly as much as I expected.  

Over 90 percent of the items where under two years old and gently worn. As most had been provided via vouchers by the homeless vet programs that were helping him since 2017.  It seems he wore them for public occasions like meetings, interviews and volunteer work and then changed into his grunge clothes to hang out at home.  His grunge clothes are headed for the bin.  Some of them could just about walk themselves down there on their own.

I also fussed a bit in the kitchen yesterday but only to keep the dishwasher going and to prepare food and clean up afterwards.  I put in over 8 hours on the kitchen Saturday during the readathon as it was the only chore lending itself to listening to stories while I worked as it took very little thought.

Today was a different story.  I have not done any work on the apartment or its contents because I had to take a hiatus to go pick up the death certificate and Ed's ashes.  My brother-in-law and his family are heading down to the Rogue Valley for the grave side service for Ed's mom who passed on September 1st and they are going to bury Ed's ashes in the same grave.  

They are leaving early in the morning so this had to be done today.  My mom had a speech therapist appointment this afternoon so Ed's brother played chauffer for me. So my morning had to start with cleaning myself up and getting dressed to go out in public.  Then there was the visit to the funeral home, then a visit to an ATM so I could provide the money for Ed's burial and then to my Mom's to pick up a bag of things I need--food supplements and food.  I packed for three days and it will have been a week by tomorrow afternoon so I'm low on some essentials.

The food supplements I picked up at Mom's included immune system support which is probably a good idea to keep on top of when handling what I've been handling here.  But more importantly was the 5HTP which is the serotonin support that has replaced prescription meds and is essential to keep my sleep stable so that my mood is stable.  This is not the time to fudge on that either.

The food was a pouch of potato flakes and another pouch of shredded cheese.  I requested these because on Saturday among the food Carri had brought over for me was a package of sauerkraut and another of organic sausage.  I commented then that if only I had the potato flakes and the shredded cheese I could make the sauerkraut casserole.  And that's exactly what I'm going to do as soon as I post this.  It will be big enough for three to four meals so by putting in the effort this evening I'll have to interrupt the work fewer and shorter times for meal prep over the next couple of days.

Sauerkraut Casserole

  1. Layer chopped up sausage or hotdogs of you choice on bottom
  2. Layer sauerkraut
  3. Layer mashed potatoes
  4. Cover with shredded cheese
  5. Bake at 350 until sauerkraut is boiling and cheese is melted but not too brown


Saturday, October 24, 2020

My Brain on Books XXVII


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.  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 that don't require a separate post..   

2:22AM - Been sitting on couch reading Game of Thrones on my Nexus since 11
I was falling asleep over it and I'm giving up.

8:00PM - Listened to entire Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Grace by Anne Lamott

When my sister dropped Thon food off for me earlier she brought in the Anne Lamott talking book cassette she and Mom had been listening to in the car suggesting that I might find it helpful in my current situation.  So I put my other reads on hold and popped the cassette in the machine that I'd set on the kitchen window sill and cranked up the volume so I could hear with the water running and set the speed to 1.5.

I listened as I emptied the dishwasher, loaded it again partially from what had been soaking in the sink, scrubbed the right side of the sink, wiped down appliances and moved them off the counter, sprayed and scrubbed the counter between the sink and the microwave and was startled when the book ended.  I'm not sure how long it was supposed to be tho I Googled the question and got the result 2hrs 53min.  So listening at 1.5 means it was probably around 2 hours.  In pages the tree book is 178.

I think it was helpful though I've already encountered the principles in other readings.  But her personal touch made the concepts come alive.  When I left the funde doctrine I was raised under it was the concepts of grace, mercy, compassion and love that I gravitated to as my spiritual path.  Thing is I was always seeing everyone but myself as worthy of it.

This is where Lamott spoke to me in ways I've been unable to speak to myself.  In truth, how could the mercy and compassion one says one feels for others be real if they hold themselves in contempt for falling short of their own ideals?

2:22PM - OMG I've been lost in Alice's Wonderland for three hours and I don't mean the book.

After I updated this morning I fixed my coffee and a snack and took it out on the balcony to listen to an audio while I drank my coffee.  I no sooner got the audio going and this woman from across the street climbed the stairs and I recognized her from times we had spoke casually when Ed and I were down in the parking lot or walking the sidewalk.  So she started chatting about Ed and the fact it was her that had called the wellness check.  

Twenty minutes later she was still talking and complained she was cold says 'let's go inside' and she pushed open the door and went in.  And then she wouldn't leave.  She kept chattering and wandering about the rooms, riffling through boxes and bags and pulling things out and keeping up a running commentary about conversations she'd had with Ed and most of it was completely bizzaro. 

Then she saw how i kept stumbling into things and was getting unsteady on my feet so she told me to sit down and then went in the bedroom and unplugged the fan so she could bring the chair it was sitting on and she sat and kept on talking and talking and talking and talking..

Then my computer started dinging message notifications and one was from my sister and i was trying to answer it and this woman came up and looked over my shoulder.  Finally i was able to message Carri 'She's here and she won't leave"  knowing Carri would understand it was the woman that James and Kevin had warned us about Wednesday when they cleaned up Ed's trash for me.  This is what she does striking up conversations then walking right in your place and refusing to take subtle hints.

So Carri messaged asking 'Can you message James or call him?' I messaged back 'i don't have his number in my contacts yet'  so i was looking for the paper he wrote it on and found it and managed to message it to carri so she called James and with her knowledge he came over and knocked but waited only two seconds before opening the door and saying brightly 'how's it going Joy?'  And the woman said 'I gotta go' and pushed past him to get out as I answered 'I've had better days.  Even yesterday was a better day.

Of course James wouldn't have got the context for that last as it was in reference to what I posted on last night about the emotional wreck I became sorting Ed's laundry.

James stayed about five minutes and then left and then i had to contact my sister because my phone had shut itself off after i unplugged the usb so I could carry it with me.  Apparently i can't do that unless i shut down the hotspot that my computer is connected with.  The phone system thinks it is draining the battery too fast or something.

By the time I was able to reach Carri she was already on her way over but she was going to be doing that anyway as that was what the original message from her was about.  She was wanting to know if I wanted her to bring over more Thon food. 

So a few minutes later she arrived and we chatted about what had just happened and she told me I needed to always have my key on me and lock the door when I go out on the balcony and she had me practice using both the key for the handle and the key for the deadbolt until I could work them quickly without fumbling.  

Then she gave me a couple of possible scripts for excusing myself firmly.  This is the kind of thing I need for even normal social interaction but this was not in the least normal.

Then when I got back on my computer I found messages from Ed's brother reminding me that he needed the remains and a copy of the certificate by Monday or they wouldn't be able to bury him with his Mother the day of her burial next week.  So I had to call the funeral home and found out, yes, both the certificate and the remains are ready to be picked up.  So then I arranged for Ed's brother to pick me up here on Monday to go take care of that.

And now I'm doing the update. I started it while my long overdue brunch was heating up in the microwave.  9 hours into the Thon and I have less than an hour's reading in.

i overslept and there went two hours.  I did my 7am update which took half an hour.  i read while I was waiting on my coffee water to heat and then I took my coffee and audio book outside and was listening for maybe five minutes before that woman came up.  There went four hours.  Then another two dealing with the fallout with James and Carri and finding the message from Ed's brother and dealing with that by calling the funeral home and then messaging Ed's brother about it.  And now another hour on this update.

Seriously I'm asking if I'm awake or not.  I still feel weirded out.  What do you do when the drama in your own life is too intense to let you engage with the drama on the page whether it's reading or writing?

7:00AM - OOPS

I got up at 4:44 as planned.  But it was too cold.  I couldn't go make coffee while shivering so.  

I"d never thought to turn on the heat all day yesterday as I was always so overheated from the exertion and was constantly going out on the balcony to cool off physically and emotionally and didn't think it made sense to be constantly releasing rooms full of hot air only to fill them up again.  Besides I prefer breathing cold air and getting warm by putting on layers.

Anyway.  I turned on the heat in the room I was sleeping in and crawled back into my nest on the floor with my cellphone and earbuds intending to start listening while the room warmed up.  But I didn't stay awake long enough to get the earbuds untangled.  Soon as I was under wraps and the shivering had stopped I blinked off.  Wish it had worked that way at midnight when I first lay down when I wanted to blink off but couldn't for over an hour.  I had to make myself stop checking on the time so I'm not sure when I finally did sleep.  

So, like so many thons before I'm beginning this one with a sleep deficit and now a reading deficit as well.

5:00AM - 
Opening Survey!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
    Kelso WA in my late husband's apartment sorting, packing and cleaning...

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
    NF - The Thorn Necklace: Healing Through Writing and the Creative Process by Francesca Lia Block and Grant Faulkner
    Fic - The Bookshop of the Brokenhearted by Robert Hillman

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
    Chocolate Chip Cookie Protein Bar

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
    Since the last Dewey Thon my life has been topsy-turvey.  Big Time.  Several times.

    First on June 7, I reluctantly walked away from my 41 year marriage.  

    Then on July 7 Mom had another stroke and spent the rest of the month in the hospital.  Her care has intensified since then.  She can no longer get in and out of chairs and bed without help.  She can walk only with the walker and then only with my sister right beside her.

She has resumed the weekend respite visits to my brother's home so I will be able to do way more reading than I could last April when we were in strict Covid shelter-in-place.

The latest blow was the death of my husband.  So I will be a widow rather than a divorcee.  Getting the news was like applying sandpaper to a healing road-rash.  Not that the healing had gotten all that far along.  I was mostly emotionally shut down all of June and then July was distracted by Mom's stroke fallout.  But when I got the news September 28 that Ed's body had been found in his apartment my emotions erupted and continue to alternately erupt or ooze like molten lava.

 I'm still in the fresh trauma of widowhood.  Ed died one month ago today.

The only thing that keeps the volatile emotions at bay is distracting myself with tasks that command my attention.  I'm sure the thon qualifies.  And if the tears come anyway, I've got audio books lined up.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? 

    Because I can't loose a whole day on dealing with Ed's apartment I'll need to depend on audio books from the Library of Congress Talking Books and BARD.  I've used them in many thons but never as the mainstay of the entire 24 hours.

    Though I guess the really one different thing isn't the use of audio books it is the fact that I have to do major chores while reading.  I've discovered over the last several days that the only chores that are compatible with listening to a story is cleaning so I'm tackling the kitchen.  Anything involving reading labels, papers, book and music titles will not work.  And I learned on Friday that neither does sorting his clothes.

Then there is sharing brainspace with the grief.  That will be different.

4:44 AM - I'm setting this to go live at 4:44 AM but it may be as much as an hour before I check in.  Making coffee, Getting eyes focused.  Settling in at primary reading station.  But I will be reading via audio by 5AM.

Ode to Dewey
by Joy Renee
We Miss You Dewey


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