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


Friday, October 23, 2020

Folding Up


Ed's Clothes Pile.
4ft from front edge to back of closet
3.5 between closet doors
16 to 18 inches deep.

Today I tackled Ed's clothes.  I spent hours at it and I've barely put a dent in it.  And that's not just because of the size of it but because I kept folding up over some item or other I'd just picked up and having to leave the room and even stand out on the balcony until I stopped smelling him like he was standing right behind me.

It doesn't help that to access that pile I must stand right on the spot where they found his body. The awareness of that is acute and unrelenting.  It was all I could do not to just crumple to the floor and completely loose it.

The physical labor and time spent had little impact on me.  I used to enjoy doing laundry as it was something that tapped into one of my competencies and shall I say joys--sorting and organizing.   But those memories triggered by the sight of each item or by the motions of bending to pick up, shake out, search pockets, inspect for stains, frays and missing buttons...  

Memories of all the times I prepared loads of laundry over forty years...  

Flashes of moments when he was wearing that or that or....  

Watching him walking up the sidewalk toward me wearing those jeans...  

Seeing him standing at the stove wearing that shirt and it's rucked up a bit in back showing skin and I walk up behind him and slide my hand up his spine--my cold hands from having just transferred the condiments from fridge to table.

Oh, the things I will never do again.

I actually thought I was getting that project started and organized so I could work at it during the read-a-thon tomorrow.  Now I will have to leave it be until Sunday afternoon after I've slept at least six hours after the 5am end of the thon.  Now I know sorting his clothes is going to take more mental and emotion bandwidth than sorting papers, books, music and electronic paraphernalia. 

I thought sorting his clothes might work as it was such a familiar task and I'd often done it on autopilot before.  I didn't bargain for the impact of his scent on my physical, mental and emotional equilibrium.  So that is obviously not going to work for the read-a-thon.

That leaves the kitchen: washing dishes by hand and by dishwasher, packing clean dishes into boxes, washing cupboard shelves and doors, washing inside and outside drawers, washing the counters, sink, stove, fridge and small appliances and mopping the floor.  I've already done a little of that and nothing about it triggered the kind of meltdowns handling his dirty clothes and bedding did today.

I'll have to move dry goods from the cupboards and counters to boxes without sorting though as that entails reading labels and inspecting for spoilage and that is not compatible with listening to a book.

But first I've got to get a good long sleep or I won't get to do the full 24 hours of the thon.  Or worse I won't enjoy it.


Do I Have Samantha Stevens' Twitchy Nose, Or What? #ROW80 #Preptober

Here's the #ROW80 #Preptober portion of this post.
This is Ed's office after I got done creating my island of sanity before returning to work on Ed's mess.  I changed my mind about using this room as the sorting and packing station.  I needed someplace less public than the balcony to escape the chaos in between spurts of activity.  So I made my bed on the floor next to the wall adjoining Ed's closet.  I cleared all of Ed's things off his desk and made it mine. I set up a charging station for the many USB chargeable items--lights, power packs, earbuds, speaker, keyboard, androids x 5, mouse x 2 and more. With creative use of a tall chair and a couple cardboard boxes I made a second desk for spreading out papers and tree books and writing by hand.  I didn't advance any of my ROW80 goals since Sunday but by creating this environment I increase my odds of advancing one or more goals by Sunday.

The answer to the question posed by the post title is: Or what.

The photo essay I posted Wednesday morning was a walkthrough tour of Ed's apartment upon my arrival Tuesday afternoon. [Look at your own risk as they cannot be unseen] My intention to spend the night was thwarted by not being able to create a safe enough environment  before Carri had to return to Mom's coupled with having no phone or Internet to reach out for help if necessary.

If you haven't  seen those pictures yet, you might want to go check them out before proceeding as the photos below will be more meaningful and the meaning the title is referencing more poignant. Because the photo essay I'm about to commence shows the apartment conditions less than thirty hours after the first photos were taken.

I will caption the location of the shots briefly and save the explanation for after the last photo.

I tried to trace the same path with similar angles as I did Tuesday.  Keep in mind, the difference between the two sets of photos is under thirty hours.
Crossing the Threshold Facing the Long Wall Between Hall and Kitchen.
Looking Across the Living Room Toward the Kitchen.
Looking Toward the Far Wall of Living Room With Visual of Couch.
The trash bags against the wall contain only aluminum cans for redemption.  The rest of the trash has vanished.
Standing On Edge of Linoleum Facing the Kitchen Table.
The stuff on the table, all related to eating and drinking, came with me. 
Along the Kitchen Window Wall
Looking Across the Expanse of the Kitchen Towards Counter and Sink.
Including the Rest of the Long Counter Along With the Stove.
Looking Down the Long Wall in Living Room Toward Coat Closet and Hall Closet
The Bathroom Sink, Mirror and Cabinet.
That's all my stuff on the counter.  The cabinet is still all Ed's.
The Toilet.
The Tub
Standing in the Hall Looking Past Foot of Bed to Far Wall
The Bed is Now My Sort and Pack Station.

So if It wasn't my twitchy Sam Nose what accomplished this in under thirty hours?

The answer:  Two of Ed's friends from across the street.  The didn't get started until after my return approximately 24 hours after the first set of photos were taken.  So it actually took them less than three hours.

It happened like this: Because it was Mom's shower day we were unable to leave until after Mom's was settled for her after lunch nap.  It was after three and we had to make a stop at T-Mobile to get a SIM card for my RCA Smartphone.  I purchased a senior citizen plan that gave me unlimited data and ability to use as hotspot for up to six of my Internet capable devices.

By the time we arrived at the apartment Carri was already late getting back to Mom for her next potty break so she schlepped my stuff up the stairs and left it next to the door as I unlocked and then started schlepping it all inside.

She left as soon as I and all my stuff was inside so I could lock the door.  I commenced to work on my plan to create my safe haven in Ed's office.  The plan was to ignore the rest of the apartment until I had my safe place.  I meant to begin by removing all of Ed's things and all of the packing related materials and then set up good lighting before unpacking my electronics and setting up my computer workstation.

I hadn't got far.  In fact I had only cleared Ed's desk before realizing that I needed the lighting figured out before I could proceed.  My lighting plan included stacking empty boxes until the top was over my head and then set a lamp aimed at the ceiling 

I was working on that stack when there were footsteps on the balcony outside the window.  They stopped instead of proceeding to apartments beyond Ed's.  They knocked.  And I heard my name.  I hate answering the door nearly as much as answering the phone.

My first thought was it might be Carri returning for some reason.  But it was definitely a mam's voice. I head for the door deciding the fact they were calling my name meant it was probably safe to open the door on the chain.  Once I did I recognized the face as belonging to a man across the street that would often speak to us as we were coming down the stairs of crossing the parking lot upon our return from somewhere.

He introduced himself as James and his friend as Kevin also from across the street.  They had just been talking to my sister and she'd told them I needed help bringing trash down to the dumpsters. I let them in and showed them the six or seven tied off bags in the kitchen that Carri had created the night before.  While they were bringing the bags down I returned to my project in the office.

When they returned from their last trip to the dumpsters James asked if it was OK if they worked at clearing the big pile of trash and cans in front of the couch.  I said sure and showed him where I'd put the big role of Hefty bags I'd found on top of the pile of stuff on the couch. (Evidence to my mind that something had sparked some motivation in Ed shortly before he died.)

So I stayed out of their way by continuing my safe haven project.  
I had explained the 'rules' Carri and I had been using: Keep all aluminum cans in separate bags and do not take down to dumpster as we plan to redeem them at the dump.  Separate out paper, plastic and glass recyclables and set aside anything that looked like important papers or papers with information about Ed.  That meant going through all the loaded bags as Ed had not kept any of that separate.  And watch out for things that are obviously not garbage like dirty dishes and silverware, clothes, electronics, books, pens and pencils, coins and what have you.

In spite of the restrictions it sill took the two of them only about an hour to process the equivalent of what Carri and I had handled in six--the four hours I did without Carri plus the two with her.  When they called me in to see the three of us stood there in the living room chatting about Ed for twenty or so minutes.

For some reason I spoke of my ordeal the previous evening working alone between five and nine and how I'd had to step out on the balcony at least twice an hour to get some cleansing breaths as the stench from the bathroom was overwhelming.  'We saw.' Kevin said.  'We were keeping an eye on things wondering what was going on.'  ;But, I said I couldn't stay on the balcony for more than a couple minutes before I'd start to cry and would make myself get back to work to put a stop to it.'  'We saw.' Kevin said.

Then James who had been standing nearest the hall in the cross currents of air wrinkled up his face and said, 'We can't leave you here alone with that. It's not safe.'  So with my permission he set to work cleaning the bathroom and Kevin proceeded to do the same in the kitchen.  Except for a stint playing paper towel dispenser for James while sitting on the office chair in the hall, I continued work on my safe haven.

Turns out James had professional experience cleaning up extreme messes.  In his twenties he'd worked for a company that cleaned up after deaths both violent and peaceful and when significant amounts of time had passed before the bodies had been discovered.

Before they left James ran the vacuum cleaner over all the carpet in the apartment wherever there was room to maneuver it.  They had accomplished in under three hours what would have taken me at least three days.

There was plenty more to my evening and night but I must leave off here as I did not sleep last night and my intent to go to be early flew off hours ago.  It's nearly 2am already and my sister is going to bring me a bathmat on her way out of town to take Mom to our brother's in Portland.  That way I get to tell Mom goodbye.  But that goes down in just twelve hours and I could easily sleep that long after being awake more than 24hrs.

Oh, dear.  I just realized that I've severely sabotaged my chances of making the whole 24 hours for the Dewey read-a-thon which starts in 27 hours.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Just Look At This Mess!


Standing in the doorway facing the long wall between the hall and the kitchen

I chickened out spending the night. The mess was worse than I imagined and I have a good imagination with past experience to feed it. 

Carri dropped me off about 4pm and came back with my dinner about 9pm and I still did not have a safe path between the bedrooms and the kitchen through the living room. 

While I continued advancing along the long living room wall towards the kitchen,  Carri started  clearing the kitchen floor.  She was about to leave just after 11 and said she really hated leaving me there with no way to ask for help. She caught me at a weak moment and I agreed. 

I'd just been thinking how exhausted I was and how my back kept seizing up on me and how I still had to rearrange all the stuff I'd set up in the office to make room for a bed on the floor as neither the couch nor Ed's bed were safe places.  Plus I would have had to sleep with all the lights on so I could find my way if I needed to get up in the night.  Plus the toilet was gross.  Plus the stench from the bathroom had been so bad all day I had to come out on the balcony to breath normal for a few minutes at least twice per hour.

It took me half an hour to gather the essentials--purse and puter bag and a couple USB lamps so I could find my way to my bed in Mom's room. Then we had to shut down all the lamps I'd set up in every room. 

Mom is having her shower this morning so Carri won't be free to bring me back over until after Mom has had lunch.  We are hoping to figure out the phone situation first too.  If my nephew Levi can't figure out how to make Ed's phone load past the provider's logo screen, he will try to transfer its SIM card to my smartphone that has no SIM card.  If Ed's service doesn't work in my phone I'm going to get a pay-as-you-go SIM card for mine.

My idea that I could be finished with this before the weekend is a fantasy.  It is a good thing the landlord gave me access through the end of the month as I may need more than a week.  Hope I can start spending the night soon though as I'm loosing at lot of time toward making a dent in the mess by having come home to sleep and then not be able to get back over before mid afternoon.  If I can only work at it six hours a day it would take me well past the end of the month.

This whole ordeal is costing me more than emotional stress and time.  It's costing me money.  I've already spent the $IK I saved over the last year towards my own moving expenses as my spot on the waiting list for low income housing has been advancing for five years and that was their estimate at the time I signed on.

One step across the threshold and a slight turn to the left.
Looking across the living room towards the kitchen.
The lamp shade is sitting where Ed sat but I put it there having found it on the floor.
The rest of the couch is piled with stuff he was keeping safe.
So much for my preferred option for a place to sleep.

Stepping past the end table aiming at the floor in front of the couch.
Looks like he'd be setting the full kitchen trash bags on the wall but without tying them off so they would tip over and spill.  Then he was tossing empty beer cans on top of all that.
There were factors other than the drinking in play.  Navigating the balcony and stairs with a trash bag and cane meant he couldn't hold onto the rails so taking the trash down to the dumpster was a daunting ordeal even when he was sober in the mornings.
Standing on the edge of the living room carpet looking at the kitchen table.
An island of sanity.  Sorta.  This was his cigarette making station.  See he could be organized when it mattered to him.

A slight turn right looking across the kitchen.

Another slight turn right looking at the sink and counters.
These were not nearly as bad as I expected.  No standing water.  No cooking prep mess.
Once it is safe for me to walk around in there I can deal with that in an hour. No worse than cleaning up after a single meal.

Another slight right turn.  Based on the condition of the stove top I don't think he'd cooked since the last time he cooked for me in March.  Based on the content of the trash he was living on deli subs and potato or macaroni salad.

The towel holder I crocheted for him last fall.

Standing in the kitchen door facing the front door.
The hole in the wall is where he hit his head in a fall summer 2019.
The whiteboard paper hanging on the coat closet was something I bought him for his programing flowcharts but he used it for to-do lists and calendar.  But he hadn't added anything new to it in over a year.

The best reason of all for not spending the night even with a working phone.

The scarves I crocheted for him.
Still hanging on the closet door in the office where I hung them last fall.
I spotted the poncho on the bottom of the mess on the couch at the end where I sat.

Standing in the office door looking across the hall towards the far wall of the bedroom past the foot of the bed which is out of sight.

The bed and the floor beside it where they found him.
The bed was supposed to be flush with that lamp table though so they must have had to push it towards the window to make room to maneuver him onto the stretcher.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Shadows of Our Former Us

Shadows of Our Former Us
Taken at the lake March 2016
the week Ed moved to Longview
After 3 years separated by 300 miles.
Blinded by a big happy.

Today I'm finally getting access to Ed's apartment and will be spending the next several days sorting and packing his stuff and cleaning up his mess.  

I don't know if I'm going to have access to the Internet.  I hope that I will find his phone still working so I will have a way to get messages to my sister or call for help in an emergency.  But even if it is working it may have a lock screen.  

If It does work and is not locked it may provide me a hotspot for getting online with one of my devices.  But I'm not counting on it so this may be my last post before I return with task complete.  I do hope that will be by Friday evening in plenty of time to get rested up for Dewey's read-a-thon Saturday.

I have spent many hours in the past week walking through Ed's apartment shadowing my memories, anticipating what I will encounter and planning my course of action.  I made lists of things I need to take with me: cleaning and packing supplies, lamps, stepping stool, food, audio books and music to listen as I work.  I made lists of things I need to look for: important papers, the guitar I bought him, the poncho, scarves and hats I crocheted for him, my Bullet food processor, my fleece blankets, jackets and robe...  I made lists of tasks and the best order to tackle them.

The plan:

While Carri is bringing stuff up from the van I'll set up sorting/packing station in his office, the only clean room as he stopped using it when his computer died a year ago.  But he broke so many of the vertical blinds off by banging his office chair against them I will need to cover the windows with an opaque film to give me privacy without giving up light.

Find phone and discover its status.  If it gives me access to use as phone then Carri is free to go and I'm on my own.

Clear my path through the living room.  This means removing a low table on the long wall between the hall and the kitchen.  That was always a hazard for me especially in the dark.  But he insisted on keeping it there as that was where his Internet was connected.

Take a moment and have some words with Ed.  Yes I'm going to talk aloud and get some of the unsaid stuff out of my head into the open air.  Maybe it's just an illusion but it is an illusion I need to experience and my counselor thinks it is a good idea.

Have a good cry but set a timer.


Set up my lamps in the living room.  There is no ceiling fixture and the two table lamps are useless and worse than useless.  They just shine in my eyes and don't shine on what I need to see.  My best bet is to shine a bright light against the far white wall or up at the ceiling and let the ambient light fill the room.

Set up the charging station for my electronic devices: androids, USB charged lamps, earbuds, external batteries etc.

Set up my computer on Ed's desk so I can write on a whim.  Maybe write up the events of the day so far.

Designate and clear wall in office for boxed and bagged items I intend to keep.

Designate and clear the corner opposite bedroom door for boxed and bagged stuff I'm not keeping.

Designate and clear living room wall farthest from door for furniture I don't intend to keep kitchen contents I don't want. 

Designate and clear kitchen wall for bags of trash since I won't be able to carry them down to the dumpsters myself.

Now it gets serious:

Clean the toilet passably well enough to use.  Ugh!

Clear his stuff off bathroom sink and clean so I have a safe place to wash my hands, get drinks and set out my personal self-care items.

Make a pass from the least to the most cluttered areas filling trash bags with the obvious garbage.  There will be a lot.  Bushels of it.  I have cleaned up after him many times after I'd been away for a time.  His janitorial skills did not translate into housekeeping skills.

Clear kitchen table and wash it.  This will include papers, dirty dishes and his cigarettes' rolling paraphernalia and mess.

Don rubber gloves and empty the contents of the sink.  There will be a lot of standing water left since who knows how long before he died which was 3.5 weeks ago today.  Stack emptied dishes into boxes lined with trash bags.

Clear the counters, table and stovetop of dirty dishes by piling them into cardboard boxes lined with plastic trash bags.  Wash sink, counters and stovetop.  Rinse dishes for loading dishwasher and run it.  First of many loads I'm sure.

Empty fridge of all spoiled food and wipe down.

Now that it is safe, prepare my dinner which will be something I bring with me needing little prep other than unpacking it and having a clean surface to spread it out.  Eat.  Put away food.

Unload dishwasher into packing boxes.  Load it up again.  While it runs rinse up another batch for the next load.  Continue to return to kitchen to unload into boxes and reload.  Once the obviously dirty dishes are done will likely have to run the dishes in the cupboards through the dishwasher as well as Ed cooked greasy food on high heat which coats everything nearby in grease.

Make pass through living room identifying items I know I will be keeping: his guitar, kindle, crochet supplies (yes he crocheted too) the poncho etc  and move them to the office packing station.

Decide where I'm going to sleep and prepare it though I probably won't be ready for it for hours yet.  Probably the couch since I'm not fancying sleeping on the bed we shared in the room where he died.  The bedding won't be fit to use anyway.  But if the couch stinks or has other obvious issues I may have to sleep on the office floor.  The couch has built-in recliners at each end though and he kept to the end near the door so the one I used when there is probably no worse for wear since the last time I was there.

Once that is settled:

In the bedroom start sorting his clothes.  Begin with whatever is still clean in the closet and sort by quality: worn and/or stained go in rag bag while anything useful packed for giving away.  

I was going to say: Next do same for dirty clothes

But I think they will keep until daylight when I can have windows open.  It will likely be over fifty percent of the clothes and all of the bedding and towels.  It will all be nasty.  There will likely be mildew and noxious odors. 

Will need to sort for laundry loads even though I'm not planning to do laundry while there and cannot bring them home to do up either as Mom's machines are running hard to keep up with her needs and they are both having issues.  So either I'll need to have someone escort me to a laundromat next week or maybe talk someone into washing them in exchange for keeping them.  I may need to wear a mask for this task.  My poor nose is running scared in anticipation.

As I said, they will keep until I wake up.

So I think I've earned the right to relax with a good book or movie as I wind down to sleep alone for the first time in a space I shared with my husband as his widow.


Get coffee and something to eat.  Maybe journal for a bit.

Tasks for day: 

Continue running dishwasher as before.

Empty kitchen cupboards and drawers.  Wash what needs it.  Pack.

Sort dirty clothes as described above

Empty coat closet and deal with whatever I find.

Empty hall closet and deal with whatever I find.

Sort his books.  Keepers?  Probably a few but mostly pack to give away.

Tackle his papers sorting out anything that is obvious junk mail and garbage from what might be important and pack in box designated for Important Papers.

Cut my hair in the bathroom.  (the last time I cut my hair at Mom's my sister kept finding it all over the floor and counter in the bathroom so I won't be doing that again)

Now start a bathroom deep clean starting with the cabinet above the sink then the cabinet below the sink.  Then wash the mirror and cabinet and sink.  Then the toilet.  Then the floor.  Finally the shower and tub.  Top it off with getting a shower and washing my hair.

It's probably time for dinner.  Maybe another movie.  Among the movies I'm taking with me is Game of Thrones Season 2, On the Basis of Sex (RBG), and Dirty Dancing and Grease.  The latter was one of our favorites to watch together and if I watch it while there it will probably be the first night.  Game of Thrones was something we always talked about watching together but never got around to it.  Grease was the second movie we went to together shortly before we married in 1978.  The first being Star Wars shortly before we were engaged in 1977.

Journal and wind down for sleep.


Get coffee and breakfast.  Journal for a bit.

Tasks for the day:

Deep clean kitchen.

Pack items I'm keeping.

Decide if I need to spend another night.

Or if not need, want to.  Maybe to have some more words with Ed.  This time of a more calm nature aimed at releasing him and the past.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

My Words Paid a Visit - ROW80 - Preptober


Christina Aguilera - Say Something

Well.  I started journaling again late Thursday after Mom was in bed.  It began as an exercise in testing out my lap desk set up in bed for my new Windows Fusion Tablet with my Zagg Bluetooth keyboard.  I was writing in Scrivener but not in a file purposed to something specific.  

I had just installed Scrivener on the Fusion but had no access to files created on the other Windows computers yet and until I have a backup procedure that includes syncing files I didn't want to work on any of those files on the Fusion.  So I had created a scratch pad file called Write Now.  This is actually a thing I've done since my first computer.  

This gives me the ability to take notes, have a copy/paste clipboard for complex posts, and write for any file in any ap on any device on impulse knowing it is just a matter of copy/pasting it into the intended file.  If that file is on a different device I might email the text to myself or copy/paste into Evernote.  

When I started paying for Evernote so I could have it on unlimited devices I'd hoped I'd be able to use it as the scratchpad directly but the interface can't keep up with the speed of my typing and slowing down to accommodate it interrupts my thoughts and keeps me focused on the tech rather than my words.

So I started typing (at first it was all about the typing, the feel of the keyboard, the view of the screen, the feel of my posture) and since I needed something to type I just started typing the word 'words' and phrases with the word 'words' in it.  Soon this became me having a conversation with 'my words' about their missing status.

No conversation isn't quite right.  It was more like a cross between prayer and tongue-lashing; begging and bargaining.  Soon I had a large chunk of unbroken text with no caps, no punctuation, no breaks, and lots of typos.  My typical 'shitty' first draft.  Though calling these things 'first draft' is a stretch because 90% of them I deem word vomit and never look back.

This time though, there was something drawing me forward.  There was a rhythm and if began to feel as though it were singing to me. I was even hearing music in my head that seemed familiar but at the same time new.  And that  music and rhythm began to impose more form on the text and next thing I became aware of was the arrival of mental images, metaphors and moving pictures--all the elements of story!  Or at least how story announces itself to me.

I went with it for a total of twenty to thirty minutes and then started reading it over and looking for places for natural breaks.  Thinking paragraphs at first but it soon became obvious this was not prose but a free verse poem and possibly even a song if I knew how to make the music for it..  Five hours later I posted 'Say Me Else I Shall Not Be'.  

It was after 5am and my alarm was going to go off in less than four hours.  I was too wound to sleep.  It was a good thing Mom was leaving for my brother's before lunch.  At first I intended to at least try for a nap before my alarm went off but I had to get up to get something to eat as I knew I wouldn't sleep without that and while I was eating I sat at my desk and did a search on YouTube for phrases beginning with the word 'Say' or 'Speak' and eventually hit on 'Say Something'  

With the first notes even before the first words, I recognized it as the piece faint memories of had been influencing my poem.  I spent the next three hours listening to various versions and covers and eventually ended up with the two I've embedded here as my top two favorites which I've listened to over and over for the last two and a half days. Multiple dozens of times. 

Some combination of writing the poem and listening to this song has created a calm state for me.  I'm no longer (for now) having meltdowns.  I get weepy but I am not soaking my pillow or shirt with tears, sucking a belly full of air or curled in a ball holding my breath in an attempt to make no sound as I bawl like a tantrumming toddler.  As I had been for seven straight days.

There were some moments while writing the long unbroken text that became 'Say Me Else I Shall Not Be' that I thought I was recognizing suicidal ideation which I had been free of since the late 90s and I was briefly scared.  But then I realized that what it really was was a plea for my life with the words that had abandoned me because I'd long understood my words were my tether to reality.  

Whether I was writing on paper or screen or on that screen that is my mind I had had the habit since early childhood of composing a running narrative of the the events as they transpire.  When I loose that I loose the ability to maintain a sense of reality, to keep the daydreams and fantasy separate from 'what is really happening'.  There is no way to function in the real world when that happens.

As to my goals since Wednesday.  Failure across the board except for the journaling exercise that became the poem.  I'm good with that.  A small price to pay for a huge payoff.

If I could carry a tune I would sing this song to Ed:

Lyrics to Say Something
by A Great Big World:

Say something, I'm giving up on you.
I'll be the one, if you want me to.
Anywhere, I would've followed you.
Say something, I'm giving up on you.
And I am feeling so small.
It was over my head
I know nothing at all.
And I will stumble and fall.
I'm still learning to love
Just starting to crawl.
Say something, I'm giving up on you.
I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you.
Anywhere, I would've followed you.
Say something, I'm giving up on you.
And I will swallow my pride.
You're the one that I love
And I'm saying goodbye.
Say something, I'm giving up on you.
And I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you.
And anywhere, I would have followed you.
Oh-oh-oh-oh say something, I'm giving up on you.
Say something, I'm giving up on you.
Say something...

Say Something - Pentatonix

Backstory highlights and high and low notes:

The writing challenge that
 knows you have a life

NaNoWriMo 2020

2020 Round 4 ROW80 and NaNo goals:

  • Sleep 7.5 hours Daily Minimum --  This used to be a major challenge for me but I've got it managed since mid March.  Or at least I had until this past week.  Grief has taken a toll.
  • Move/Breathe/Meditate 15 min Daily minimum  -- proven to provide a high yield return on investment as whenever I've practiced any of them it stimulates creativity, memory, and insight; lowers anxiety, and increases energy, stamina and a positive mood.
  • Storydreaming with note-taking tools at hand. 15 min Daily MInimum -- This is a technique I learned from Robert Olen Butler in the book From Where You Dream.
  • Read Fiction 30 min Daily Average
  • Read/Study Craft 15 min Daily Average 
  • Social network activities 30 min Daily Minimum (writing Joystory posts doesn't count only social reaching out like reading/commenting on other blogs, guest posts and posting to fb, twitter, pinterest etc) -- something I've a strong resistance to.  The autism diagnosis helps explain this but doesn't let me off the hook.  If anything it makes it more important.  Plus this is preparing the ground for future promotion once I'm ready to publish
  • 30 min Daily minimum engagement with a scavenger hunt though all my creative writing files including Joystory looking for better than shitty first draft scenes, sections, stories, poems and essays and edit, organize and make hard copies. --  It's been years since I've made clean copies of manuscripts in my portfolios and for most of the noveling writing challenges I've never printed hardcopy.  That is a lot of words to mine as between 2004 and 2015 I participated in more than one such challenge per year-- Nanowrimo, Junowrimo, Camp Nano, ROW80 and Sweating for Sven.among them.  That is a lot of novella length WIP just gathering electron dust.  A conservative estimate is over 20.  I've been wondering for sometime now if the neglect of these stories after the challenges were over is at least partly responsible for the storyworld's elusiveness over the last several years.  I'm hoping that this exercise in honoring their existence will cure my character's recent shyness.
  • To prep for self-pub: Gather all my poems into a single Scrivener file. Minimum one poem per day until all accounted for.  Adding new ones encouraged.  This will take most of the Round as there are over 80. See Poems by Joy Renee Portal.  Another exercise in honoring old work to encourage new work.
  • Via the above mentioned Scavenger hunt: Collect everything resembling personal essay into a Scrivener file.  Either this will be added to the self-pup poetry ebook or will become the second ebook.  Or a combo of those options.
  • Personal Journaling 20 min or 500 words whichever comes first Daily Minimum -- This is the heart of the writing challenge.  The preceding provides the structure and the nutrients that nurtures and honors the work which I've learned over time must exist to ensure that this becomes more than just dabbling. 
  • NaNo Novel 1666 words per day on average. 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.  Alll 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. 
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