Saturday, November 13, 2021

My Salmon Platter Birthday Dinner

My Salmon Platter Birthday Dinner

This is just a stub post.  I'm going to sit down and eat this before I tell the story of how I made for myself for the first time the 'special occasion' dinner that Ed used to make for me.  

It had been nearly two years and I realized if I was ever going to have it again I would have to figure out how to do it myself.  Beginning with the shopping. Followed by the chopping.

My first attempt isn't nearly as pretty as most of the ones Ed would make me.  Primarily do to the fact that a misunderstanding between me and my caretaker while we were shopping.  When I said yes to the canned spinach she thought I was agreeing to the substitute in the Salmon Platter Recipe but I was picturing using the canned spinach in other meals I could make for myself.  And then I overlooked the fact that we headed for checkout without stopping at fresh produce for the fresh baby spinach I wanted.

So to begin with my platter is missing the beautiful green leafy bed that always framed a decorative collection of colorful fruits and veggies in attractive slices or cubes or juliennes scattered around the outer edge of the plate or platter.

Another thing is I don't have a platter and my dinner plates are on the small size compared to what we once had, which I chose not to hang onto because they were heavy and slippery to handle in the sink.  And to be honest for any of the other menus in my small repertoire of fend for myself meals it is much healthier to have small plates and bowls to serve in.

Only in this and possible riffs with other meats would having a platter sized plate be potentially healthier.  And then, only if the extra space is used to add healthy greens and fiber and vitamin and mineral rich fresh produce.

Ed's platters were never the same twice.  That and the salmon and avocado was the only consistency.   A few time he would 'wilt' the spinach with bacon bits ahead of placing it on the plate but usually he just piled the bulk of it in the center of the plate with frilly edging of green peeking between and around the other fresh produce pieces.  And then he would place the hot salmon filet or steak on the center mound and let it wilt the spinach while I ate down to it.  Other times he substituted a fresh spring greens mix and attempted to keep as much as possible of it unwilted.

There would be at least three and often as many as six other produce chopped, sliced, or julienned. This is a list of the other produce Ed would prepare in no particular order after the top three which were nearly always the base with a single sweet item added unless none were in season:

Snowpeas in pods

There was seldom more than one sweet item.  Sometimes he didn't like the look of the tomatoes on offer so they did a no-show and sometime he wasn't in the mood to prep the jicama and would sub one or two of the crunchy items at the bottom of the list.  But I can't remember a single time there was no avocado.

Mine ended up nearly unrecognizable as lack of the fresh greens was just the beginning of the differences.  My knife work was clumsy and the shapes I created were random. 

And I don't think the mango was fully ripe.  I'd never shopped for one so I didn't know how to test for ripeness.  But it was hard to chop and nearly as dense as apple in all but the very center around the stem.  And it was not as sweet as I remember.

I came close to adding the tip of my own thumb to the jicama julienne.  I came down on the top if the nail so hard with the base of the long knife that I felt the pinch and my thumb throbbed like a fresh bruise for hours.  But thankfully no slice and no blood.

But due to shaky hands and low confidence after that incident, I had to take a long break before picking up the knives again.  Inexperience + knives + visual impairment is not a promising equation.

I think next time I do this I will plan ahead better so that my caregiver can do the chopping for me.  That had been my plan but the shopping took longer than I expected and we ran out of time Friday afternoon.  Basically that means I shouldn't plan on the shopping and the chopping being done on the same day.

But late this evening I managed to chunk out an avocado, a mango, and two Roma tomatos.  Then I heated up a can of spinach and a can of pickled slice beets (something Ed had never used but I found myself carving them as I came across them while hunting thru the grocery sacks for the ingredients. 
The next step was to cut the one pound fillet in two.

I seasoned with a Lemon Pepper spice mix and cooked a little under two minutes on each side to leave it hot but still raw in the middle.

I was serving it at 11:30 PM so it was barely still my birthday.  But oh so worth it.

Yes I've chopped enough stuff to make the same platter again Sunday evening.

 [edited Sunday afternoon, adding the bulk of the story following the opening paragraph.  I was too sleepy after I ate to come back to the post]


Monday, November 01, 2021

NaNoWriMo 2021 and ROW80 Round 4 2021 Goals

My NaNo Profile

It's time to put writing fiction back into the passion category in my life. 

I set it aside after the death of my husband last fall in favor of personal journaling and poetry.  Then when the opportunity to move into my own place came in mid July all writing got set aside for the chaos of packing up, moving and unpacking and setting up my own home for the first time in over a decade.  For the first time ever living alone since I went straight from my parents home into my marriage in 1976

See the latest photo essay of my new place, including writing station here:

Almost Home? A Photo Essay

Though they are calling it independent living I can't be left completely on my own with visual impairment, high functioning autism and mood disorder so I have a support system in place of social workers and caregivers.  The latter come several times a week to help with chores and errands I can't do correctly or safely by myself.  Things that involve stepping more than a dozen steps outside either door, hot ovens, knives or making messes I can't see well enough to clean up thoroughly enough to prevent them from attracting pests.  Like the ants me and my two caretakers had to deal with this past week.  UGH.

I was frustrated when it became obvious that my caretaker schedule was being increased from two to five days per week as I had been liking the four unstructured days in a row and thinking what a treat they would be come NaNo.  But then two weeks after the move chaos and tamed to the point the time I was spending on unpacking, sorting, organizing, cleaning etc and dropped from ten hour days to less than four and I still had not added writing back, I relearned an old lesson: I MUST HAVE STRUCTURE.

Without it I'm more likely to binge watch a series on Netflix for 20 hours than to write for my daily story fix.

And I remembered that most of my best writing has happened when I had MADE time to write when it was most inconvenient to do so.

Habits and Accountability are key ingredients.  

I could not let this be the first NaNoWriMo missed since 2004 so I'm jumping in even though I got no prep in for it and I'm jumping back into ROW80 mid round for community and accountability. I've also joined the Vancouver WA regional NaNo community.

For my NaNo novel I've settled on reviving an old flash fiction piece I posted in 2007 which I claimed at the time was the prolog to a novel I was planning.  Which was true but possibly left the impression there was something more substantial than there was because there is very little left in the notes that wasn't crammed into that flash fiction piece.  The rest was in my head and has continued to haunt me all this time.

This particular story is perfect for this NaNo though, not just because it is a ready made story concept that still haunts me but also because it's theme is the very thing I'm struggling with as a writer.  Right now.  

The very thing that has been preventing me from maintaining a consistent writing habit for years: self-censorship out of fear of loosing even more of the few human bonds left in my life.

This issue with truth telling became huge in the final year of my husbands life and then after he died when it became clear to me that my complicity had played a role in his alcoholic devolvement because I covered for him with family, friends, employers and landlords.  

That had been forefront in my mind the day I walked into his empty apartment a year ago and immediately started taking photos with intent to post. I was done with covering for him, done with whitewashing my life.

Then a week later his brother tells me that seeing those pictures on fb had broke his heart and then days after Christmas he died of a heart attack.

And I stopped writing again.  Even journaling escaped me for months.

Then a few weeks ago, even tho I'd not reread the piece in years, that flashfiction character began to haunt me and I knew that she had to come out and play for NaNo because she might be the only one who can give me back my voice as I had invested her with all the courage I wish I had.

I'm going to repost it right here because the old post has lost all it's formatting and I don't want to spend an hour fixing it.  I've noticed that in a lot of my old posts.  What is Bloggers problem? Beside the point.  sigh.

A Tale of a Wail

by Joy Renee

Her mother would tell the tale for decades of how Abigail Ames sucked in her first breath and released it in a vibrato wail, with no impetus but surprise and how it took her seven years to break her daughter of the embarrassing habit of howling in the face of the tiniest frustration.  And her mother had broken her well.  So well that she didn’t cry when at age eight, she watched her brother’s dog Griswald break the neck of her kitten Calypso while her brother, Darcy, stood by laughing.  So well that she didn’t cry out at age ten when Darcy and his buddy Curtis strung a rope over a high tree branch and put a noose around her neck and slowly tightened it until crying out would have been impossible anyway as simply drawing breath burned like fire.  When they lifted her into the tangle of leaves and branches and then let go of the rope so that she fell, breaking her right arm and spraining her left ankle, still she was silent.

Her self-enforced silence began the night of her seventh birthday when her mortified mother removed her from the dinner party after she let loose an endless open-mouthed howl when eleven year old Darcy blew out her candles for her and told her that meant he had just stolen her wish.  Her wish had been to someday sing the part of Annie in the Broadway musical.  It didn’t strike her that the transference of such a wish to her brother was a ludicrous concept.  All she had registered was the irrevocable loss of hope.  She was inconsolable.  So her mother took her to her room and lectured her on the protocols of social engagements and the expediency of stiff upper lips for young ladies.  Especially for a daughter of the Apostle of the Airwaves, Amos Ames, author of Daring To Profess. 

"If you simply must cry, then go somewhere no one can hear you.  And if that is impossible, then at least get off alone and put your hand over your mouth like this."  She placed Abigail’s own hand over her mouth and pressed.  "There, see?  You can cry as hard as you want and no one can hear.  Pretty soon you will learn to do it without even using your hand.  Once you learn to do it without screwing up your face into that unsightly mess, you can scream and cry and carry on in a crowd without even disturbing your make-up."

Abigail took the lecture to heart.  She never again cried out loud.  But nor did she ever again sing out loud.  Not, at least, until she was nearly out of her teens and too old to play Annie.  Darcy had stolen her wish after all.  The first of many precious things he stole from her.  And now he was about to take from her the last precious thing because he refused to take her years of silence in lieu of an oath of eternal silence.

"Swear on what, Darcy?"  she asked.  "On my purity?  On my honor?  You took those from me long ago.  And what point is there to swearing an oath to a man without honor?  It would be nothing but babble in his ears.  Easy enough to disregard on a whim."

Nor would an oath suffice.  Darcy had not gone to the trouble of tracing her after ten years just to hear her mouth a ritual phrase.  She doubted he, on his own, had the means to track her to this remote mountain cabin in Southern  Oregon.  But he had managed to get a message to her through the one childhood friend  whom she hadn’t the heart to cut loose of.  Nor would Darcy have gone to that trouble on his own.  It had to be on behalf of, and with the resources of, Curtis Christopher, currently campaigning for United Sates Senator in Idaho.  Darcy had been Curtis’ campaign manager for every election he ran in since his run for Class President his senior year of college.  Abigail had been privy to the inner-circle of that one, though still in high-school herself.  She knew that Curtis kept himself willfully ignorant of the tactics Darcy used to make things go his way.  She knew that their ambitions had been, from the beginning, to go all the way to the White House.  With stakes that high, there was only one guarantee of silence that would satisfy Darcy.

Darcy’s mistake was in thinking that she had spent the last decade cowering in this redoubt, nurturing terror and shame, with nothing more than a salacious tale to tell that could be spun as sibling rivalry, if she ever dared to voice it, an embarrassment that could be averted by a single stroke. He could not suspect that the timid, biddable Abigail had been preparing to sing on a stage dwarfing any stage her seven-year-old imagination could have conjured, for if he had he would not have attempted to back her into the corner that abutted that stage on one side and the abyss on the other.  

For, far from nurturing terror or shame, she had been cultivating a network and a name recognized for integrity and intrepid truth scrounging.  Trudy Ann Daring, Investigative Journalist and founder of, had created the stage on which she would sing.  And her tale was far more than an uncorroborated he said/she said family scandal.  She had proof--documented facts and the living, breathing truth, that last precious thing--Truth Ann Daring, not yet ten, sleeping that peaceful sleep of innocence--just this little bit longer--in the loft over Abigail’s head.


Those words are not to be counted in this year's NaNo of course.

The title of the NaNo novel is Truth Daring.  Yes it is part of the Fruits of the Spirit Storyworld.  And yes, Abigail was raised in the cult featured in that storyworld.

Now for my NaNo and ROW80 goals:

Just one really: Write every day of November in the Truth Daring file.  Give Abigail back her voice so she can give me back mine and hope that spending enough time channeling Trudy Ann Daring will rub a little daring off on me.

After I've established that daily habit, I will see about adding goals.  But from where I sit now I think it would be HUGE if that is the only goal for the entire month of November and I meet and maintain it.


Saturday, October 23, 2021

My Brain on Books XXX




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..   

Be sure and see my tribute poem to Dewey and the Thon she birthed at the bottom of this post

My Read-a-Thon Nest

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina
by Zoraida Cordova

12:22 AM (Sunday) - Coming up for air. 
WOW.  I've spent this whole time with the same book.  Tho I must admit that eyestrain caused me to need to rest my eyes frequently and several times closing my eyes to rest them resulted in mini naps.  Most lasting minutes but one or two over an hour.  But the Libby ap says I spent a total of 11 hours 33 minutes on The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova  between 5AM and 12:11 AM.  It's a book I could have read in under six hours once upon a time but those times are gone forever.  But in spite of how long it took I am suffused with a sense of triumph for having read a whole novel in what is still in essence one sitting.

It was magical.  Not only the flashback to days of yore when reading a novel in one sitting was nearly a daily happening but the story itself.  Magical.  I feel like I've been dreaming and I don't want to wake up. How do I move on to another story now with only four hours and a bit left in the thon?

And it wasn't even the book I listed in the opening meme that was the one I was most looking forward to.  I started it in the first hour because I expected it to be an easier read than Matrix like a fantasy or a YA.  I thought I'd be done before noon and could move on to the literary Matrix with a tankard or two of coffee in me.

But this story turned out to be as complex as any Lauren Groff story I've yet encountered and contained themes as serious as any literary novel I ever read.  To top that off many of those theme are the very ones I'm currently obsessed with.  Loss.  Grief.  Dysfunctional family dynamics.  Family secrets.  The untrustworthiness of memory.  The power of creativity and imagination.  The importance of truth telling.  The primal need for connectivity.  The daily necessity for repentance and forgiveness.  The evil of misused power.  The need to just say NO to bullies of all stripes.  The arrogance of that sense of purity and piety that calls itself righteousness giving itself the right to judge others 'less than' which is the source of most of the pain we humans inflict on each other in the name of good.

4:44 AM - Intro Meme I'm setting this to go live at 4:44 AM but it may be well into hour 1 or even hour 2 before I check in again.  I'll be reading my first pick sitting in my beanbag chair nursing my first thermos of coffee.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Kelso Washington USA.  Across the Cowlitz river from Longview where I grew up and had been living with my elderly mother since 2013.  I moved into my 400 square foot efficiency unit in late July.  Yesterday's post was a photo essay updating the current status of the settling in phase.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Non-Fiction: Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell

Fiction: Matrix by Lauren Groff

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Chips and guacamole.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Living alone for the first time ever.
Legally blind with RP aka tunnel vision
Diagnosed with high functioning autism six years ago
Have a caregiver who comes in twice a week to help with chores and errands I can't do alone.
I proved during this move that I have more volume in fiber art supplies than in clothes by at least thee times.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I'm hoping to interact with the community more this time than in the last several thons.

Ode to Dewey
by Joy Renee
We Miss You Dewey


Almost Home? - A Photo Essay

Writing Station

By placing my blue tray table with laptop between the white tray table and the white drawer on the couch I created a 'desk' that is a little wider than my spread out arms.  The tables are collapsible when not in use tho I seldom collapse the blue table.  

When I started making the couch into a bed at night a bit over a week ago I put the drawer under the white table.  And a couple days ago I moved the white table between the blue table and the couch so that it could be my bedside table at night and the drawer underneath as a charging station for devices.

Below is a better view of the couch from late August right after it was unboxed:


Blue Suede Couch

Notice the empty shelves?

This is why:

It is hard to recognize it but that is the same corner as in the top photo and the same shelf unit in a jumble on the floor after it collapsed and avalanched books, electronics and office supplies all across the front room nearly wall to wall in late August.

I had just finished loading the World Book Encyclopedia set and the first few volumes of the Britannica Great Books set on the top shelf (not counting the tippy top) and noticed that the shelf was no longer flush with the same shelf on the unit to the right containing the rest of the Great Books.  I pushed on the top right corner and the entire top right quadrant folded towards me and most of the horizontal and vertical pieces popped out and the contents fell out around my feet in a large puddle with some of the smaller items including my desk toys aka fidget toys bouncing and sliding across the floor.

I messaged my sister and she brought her son over and the two of them finished removing contents from what still stood, took the entire unit apart and put it back together.  Then having learned what were my probable mistakes in putting it together in the first place took a look at the first unit and pronounced it unstable as well so they unloaded it before they left but it was a month before they returned to rebuild it.

That is why there has been such a long hiatus in my blogging about settling into my new place.  That incident followed by the heatwave the next week took the oomph out of me and not having the shelves available wrecked my schedule for getting the stuff going on them either unboxed or moved over from Mom's.  It was soooo discouraging.

But eventually I got with the program again.

Wheeled Carts

These are two of the wheeled carts containing mostly crafty stuff.  The single-wide on the left stood by my fiber art station at Mom's and contained everything to do with yarn, thread and sewing.  It is currently empty after I distributed its contents among the shelves near my current craft station.  There was no sense in having the fiber art paraphernalia clear across the room from where I would be needing them. Yes the cart was on wheels but there was no place near where I'd be crafting to place it that wouldn't create a trip hazard.  

That cart will now hold electronic devices and their assorted accessories.  As well as be one of several charging stations for said devices.  Once I get those items sorted into those drawers I'll have at least three more cubes on the black shelf units available for books.

The double-wide cart holds other crafty stuff including graphic arts and papercraft and various found items that give me ideas. But also several misc aka junk drawers.  I will be distributing any items related to fiber arts over on the shelves designated for them.  

I have a vague notion that some of the drawers on the right will be used for small kitchen miscellany.  Or I might switch the carts around and use the single-
wide for kitchen stuff and split the double-wide between electronics and graphic arts.  Still a work in progress.

Moving on to the right now facing the kitchen:


The wooden bookshelf in front of the breakfast bar contains my DVD collection.  Between that and the blue shelf unit is a charging station hidden behind the fan.

The blue shelves contain the bulk of the fiber art tools, reference and materials except for the large WIP kits and the unassigned yarn stash.  The navy cloth closet in the far corner is stuffed to the gills with said yarn stash and large WIP kits.  So stuffed the zipper is pulling away from the fabric.

This was the same wall before the black shelf collapsed and I urgently needed the wooden bookshelf for the Encyclopedia and Great Books sets.  Temporarily as it turned out.  But by then I'd found new and better homes for the clothes.

90 degree turn to the right:

Craft and Sort Station.

This is the tall 3 foot square table that was Ed's that I use for projects that I need to spread out or work at standing up.  Like sorting or large WIP in fiber art and writing/research.  Tho I've not had time for the latter yet.  NaNo is coming tho.  Fast like a freight train.

The grey shelf unit on the back wall is still a mishmash and may be for some time.  The far left column contains small to middling containers for organizing larger containers, shelves, cupboards, drawers, closets etcetera.  The middle to far right is all fiber art stuff still in flux.

Under the big table is another wheeled cart facing out.  That contains office supplies and vision aides and more junk drawers.  Behind that wheeled cart facing the other wall is a plastic dresser full of small to middling crochet WIP.  And left over yarn and thread from finished WIP.

The white shelf unit next to the front door contains outerwear accessories.  Hats on top.  Scarves in the middle and Shawls on the bottom.  My shoes are in a shallow box that slides under the couch.  My jackets and favorite handbags hang on the back of the door.

Next the self-care station aka bathroom:




It is hard to tell in that last pic as it is such poor quality but that is 8 folding boxes on four shelves over the toilet tank.  They contain the kinds of things I might need to get dressed after a shower when I'm not planning to leave the apartment: T-shirts, sweats, pajamas and grunge.  That way I can get showered on an impulse even on a cold morning or evening without having to hunt clothes out and without having to heat up the whole apartment as the bathroom has a very toasty heater.

There is still a lot of work to do to get my clothes, HABA (Health and Beauty Aids) and self-care miscellany sorted and organized but the 'homes' for the items are in place.

On the way out of the bathroom we encounter:

Read Watch and Listen Station

That's the beanbag chair atop the mini-tramp that becomes like a recliner where I watch videos, listen to audio books, music and podcasts.  When I'm just listening I'm also crocheting now.  That is new this past week.  I am on the third project. since picking it back up 9 days ago.

The same listening activities can accompany mini-tramp workouts.

Next the kitchen:

Food and Drink Prep Station

Visible are the blue toaster oven above the electric tea kettle, crockpot and red microwave.  Next to the microwave are the knife holder and spice rack.

I turned all my plastic crates into kitchen storage for the space between the fridge and the back door.  I made them stable by using bungy cords to snug each to its neighbor above and beside.  They contain:  Pots and pans too large for the other cupboards, mixing bowls, small appliances and produce that doesn't need refrigeration.  

And I left a space in the back corner for the mop and broom.

This was a recent development.  Like last week.  It was a major step in making the kitchen workable, preventing that corner from being a junk collector and also established homes for the empty crates that I'd been schlepping from place to place whenever the place they had landed was needed otherwise.  I was beginning to wonder if I needed to give them up.  But I was planning to try them inside the closet for clothes organizing before deciding but I have other options for that and I'm liking this better every day.

So the answer to the title question?

I think maybe yes?

I'm still ambivalent about it because most of the time it doesn't feel so but evidence that it is so is in these facts:

  • My days for at least two weeks now have been more about daily living than about the moving in tasks.
  • I started crocheting again
  • I started serious reading again
  • I started writing again.
  • Last week coming back from grocery shopping with my caregiver I was startled to see we had arrived and I spontaneously asked 'Are we home already?'
So yes, almost home.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sweaterless Sleeves

Sweaterless Sleeves


We've all heard of the sleeveless sweater but did you ever consider the sweaterless sleeve as being a thing?  A useful thing at that?

Well it had never occurred to me before my sister (caregiver to my 89 year old mother) asked me if I could make them for Mom for while she is drinking her tea in bed before she gets up to start the dressing routines.  Mom didn't want to have to struggle into a sweater upon first waking up and then back out of it again in less than an hour.

Think about it.  For a woman in her 9th decade putting on and taking off a sweater is...well...calisthenics.

So when my sister suggested the project last Wedensday, I was immediately on board.  When she asked how long it would take to do two sleeves I calculated based on a tube shaped carry sack I'd made a year and a half ago which took me just under a week so I said probably 10 days or so.

But after we finished texting and I was musing on the project feeling the excitement build, I realized that the bottom circle for that carry-sack had taken over 30% of the time and there would be no bottom circles on the sleeves.  This alone cut the estimate down to under a week.  Then I realized I could use thicker yarn and a fatter hook.  More time slashing but hard to calculate. 

Finally, I could use a taller stitch.  Could I have actually just whittled the estimate down to one day per sleeve?  Maybe.

I had to find out but by starting one to see how long it would take me to reach four inches which I estimated to be about a quarter of the length.  Turned out later the length needed to be 18 inches not 16.  But close enough for estimating.

To get started though I had to dig the yarn out of my stash in the portable cloth closet which amounted to an hour long calisthenics routine for me.  

Since I did not remember where in the stack the bag with my yarn of choice was I had to pull out all four 22 gallon and 8 11 gallon zippered bags out and unzip them to remind myself of their contents even when I knew the bag I was after was one of the three 22 gallon ones on the bottom of the pile. 

The yarn I chose was Lion Brand Comfy Cotton Blend in Whipped Cream.

By the time my caregiver arrived two hour later I had two inches of tube and by the time she finished sweeping and mopping (during which task it is best I stay put in one out of the way spot) I had another four inches.  So proof of concept and proof each sleeve was potentially a one day project.  

Possibly even half a day if I hadn't been coming of a months long hook hiatus.  Remembering what happened last July when I spent two long days crocheting a water bottle carry bag for my sister's birthday, I curbed my enthusiasm and stretched my estimate for completion to Sunday afternoon.  

I did not want to suffer a week of inflammation in my hands and elbows again.  That project in July had been my first since Ed died the last week of September last year.  That had been a 8 month hiatus and working that up for sister proved to me I was ready to embrace the fiber art joy again.  But because I had overdone it, I was in too much pain for over a week and by then I was busy packing up all my yarn and projects along with everything else for the move into my new place.

This past week was the first full week since I moved in that my daily routines have been more about daily living than about moving stuff from here to there--packing, schlepping, unpacking, unboxing, placing furniture and appliances, moving large items around the floorspace, moving smaller items from box to shelf to cupboard to infinitum.  I'm talking 8 to 12 hour days since late July.  Except for the two heatwaves.

Speaking of the heatwaves.  I got out of the habit of blogging about the moving adventure while it was so hot and then I kept forgetting to take the pictures to go with the stories worth telling.  I'm currently getting the pictures of things as they are now which, except for a few shelves and corners, will look much the same going forward.  I hope to put up that post soon.

Meanwhile to conclude the sweaterless sleeves story:  I finished the second one at midnight last night.  And that included having to take out and put back in 8 inches of the tube because I had increased too much over the elbow and the top section kept sliding down to the elbow.

The 'tall' stich I used was the one I made up back in 2013.  It involves a round of chain loops that can be anywhere from 4 to 9 chains in length.  On the next pass those loops are twisted by the hand not holding the hook and pinned by a single crochet in the top.  Whether or not you put a chain between the twisted loops is optional.  Depends on how lacy you want it.  The effect is a row of cursive Ls with a space between so I call it my LOL stitch.  There have been other times when I thought I had made something up only to find it in a book or chart or blog or on line somewhere as already having a long history.  For this one it has been nearly a decade and I still have seen nothing like it elsewhere.


Friday, September 03, 2021

Book Review: Odyssey of Ashes by Cheryl Krauter -- Includes Author Interview

 Odyssey of Ashes by Cheryl Krauter

Odyssey of Ashes: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go by Cheryl Krauter 
 Publisher: She Writes Press, (July 20, 2021) 
Category: Memoir, Grief, Loss, Healing 
Tour dates: August-September, 2021 
ISBN: 978-1647421328 
Available in Print and ebook, 168 pages
  Odyssey of Ashes

Joy Renee's Review of Odyssey of Ashes by Cheryl Krauter

What a raw and intimate story of loss and grief, of letting go of what must move on while holding on to the essential self and discovering a resilience rooted in vulnerability.  Reading this memoir of widowhood as a recent widow myself my emotions are still riding the turbulent currents of her story as I try to sort out the mix and mingle of my own emotions from hers.

She answered one of my burning questions tho.  How long?  Forever.  Grieving is not a task that has a definitive end like making a meal or writing a book.  It is as much a lifetime commitment as the marriage itself was.  Grief is transformative and as it transforms you and your life the experience of grief itself will transform.  Grief is like the weather and rivers--wind and water rushing over landscapes at times turbulent and stormy and other times placid but always a part of the landscape of your soul.  And never the same two minutes in a row let alone two days.

Cheryl Kruater plays with the extended metaphors of the River and the Weather throughout Odyssey of Ashes.  Having lived the life of a student of fly fishing for the duration of her marriage to an avid fly fisherman, she has a visceral understanding of both rivers and weather.  She knows in her pores and her bones what it feels like to be buffeted by the wind or the waters of the stream while standing beside or in it.  Now she takes that understanding and imbues her memoir of sudden widowhood with images and emotions evoked by her intimate relationship to river landscapes as she stands in her new personal landscape buffeted by the brutal winds of grief.

And then as she went in her husband's place on the guided tour of Montana rivers he won in a raffle half a year after his death, the interplay between that metaphor and the actual rivers and weather began to work healing magic on her grief, transmuting it into something she could carry into her future instead of fearing being carried off by currents of consuming loss. 

In having the courage to share this intimate memoir, Cheryl Krauter has contributed no small gift to fellow grievers.  I can testify to that having found comfort and hope in reading it as I approach the end of my first year of widowhood. 

Don't miss my Interview with Cheryl Krauter below the author photo.

Don't miss the book giveaway via the Rafflecopter link found near the end of this post.

Description Odyssey of Ashes by Cheryl Krauter

Odyssey of Ashes: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go begins with the sudden death of Cheryl Krauter's spouse. Five months later, in a stroke of irony and magic, her husband wins a long-desired guided fly-fishing trip in a raffle and Cheryl decides to go in his place, fulfilling a promise to scatter his ashes by a trout stream. Part I of this memoir is an account of the first year after Cheryl's husband's death, where she becomes an explorer in the infinite stream of grief and loss, a time traveler between the darkness of sorrow and the light of daily life. Part II concludes with stories of the poignant and humorous adventures she had during the ensuing year. Tying it all together and woven throughout is Cheryl's account of the creation of an altar assembled during the three-day ritual of Los Das de los Muertos. Poetic and mythological, Odyssey of Ashes is a raw story of loss and the deep transformation that traveling through darkness and returning to light can bring.


Advance Praise Odyssey of Ashes by Cheryl Krauter

Cheryl Krauter's latest memoir, Odyssey of Ashes, is both a moving tribute to her late husband John and the celebration of an emergent woman who finds herself "being carried on great winds across the sky" in a cradle of intermittent sorrow and enlightenment. Written in an enjoyable flowing format with chapters divided between two main sections, Krauter's book will break your heart while channeling habits of self pity toward doing a greater good.. You'll find good examples of ways to carry on.. Krauter shares personal, interesting anecdotes. I highly recommend this book for those who've lost a spouse and want to understand how one woman is working through it  - Shawn LaTorre, Story Circle Book Reviews 

 In this engrossing memoir, Krauter shares her journey through the deep waters of grief. Her graceful writing reminds us that the cycle of love and loss is as natural as the river current, and it is only through fully embracing the force of the waters that dry land can eventually be found.  -Allison J. Applebaum, PhD, director of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Caregivers Clinic and editor of Cancer Caregivers

What a moving book about loss and mourning. Cheryl finds solace in, among other things, trout fishing, rituals, Buddhist wisdom and, luckily for us, writing about her experiences.  -A.J. Jacobs, editor-at-large of Esquire magazine and author of Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey 

With profound insight, Cheryl explores the spiritual nature of life and death, the sacred connection between love and loss, life and death. A work of depth and infinite caring, this book is ultimately a gift of love, hope, and survival.  -Cindy Rasicot, author of Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter's Spiritual Quest to Thailand

Odyssey of Ashes by Cheryl Krauter
Cheryl Krauter
(c) Nan Phelps

Interview with Cheryl Krauter and Joy Renee

Joy Renee: Let me begin by saying I'm so honored to have read your story and to now be asking you questions.
You mention that you were raised in Washington State as was I so I'm curious if either you or John ever fished any of the rivers I've lived near.  I was born and raised in Longview which is where the Cowlitz river meets the Columbia.  I also lived for more than a decade in the Rogue Valley Oregon where my husband was born and raised.

Cheryl: I was born in Bellingham, Washington in 1951 and, of course, have no memory of my short infancy there. My father was in the FBI and was transferred to Richland where he must have been involved with the Hanford Project in some capacity. I have wondered if the aggressive breast cancer I was diagnosed with in 2007 was in some way impacted by my life as a toddler in this area, playing outside in the dirt, drinking the water, and so on. Richland was known in the 1950’s as “The Atomic City of the West” and held festivals celebrating nuclear energy with pride. We moved to Mercer Island, Washington when I was about four years old where I lived until I was eleven years old when my family moved to Los Angeles, California. I have a great affinity for the Pacific Northwest and my oldest friend, Bill who still lives in Seattle, shows up in many pages of Odyssey of Ashes: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go. 
We have fished the Hoh River on the Olympic Peninsula. I know that John fished the area of Rogue Valley. We fished small streams in the Dunsmuir area of Northern California as well as the Sacramento River, and streams in the Lake Tahoe area of California.  Odyssey of Ashes features fishing adventures in Montana, together in 1988, and then my solo journey in 2017 to scatter John’s ashes by the Madison River. 

Joy Renee: You noted on your visit to the mortuary that there were no sacred symbols.  Seen through the lens of a business model catering to a community with multiple traditions this seems obviously sensible.  Let the griever bring their own tradition and narrative to a blank slate.  But it is also becoming more common in our culture for people to have become disconnected from their sacred traditions of origin without replacing them and thus their encounter with the blank slate mortuary becomes their experience of the rituals surrounding the death.  Do you think the presence or lack thereof of a sacred tradition, narrative and symbolism plays a significant role in a griever's ability to process what is happening to them?

Cheryl: American culture has a profound absence of ritual around death. I suspect some of this relates to our insistence on praising a culture of youth above recognizing the wisdom of the elders. The historical foundation in America of Judeo- Christian traditions promises entry into Heaven or a deep fall through the Gates of Hell and personal stories or beliefs are seen as a rebellion against traditional religious doctrine. Throughout history any waft of a pagan spell could mean ostracism or death. Women who practiced rituals were labeled witches and suffered the flames of fire. I also think that a pervasive denial of death creates a sterile, hasty attitude that sanitizes memorial services. The oppressive attitude to quickly get through a period of mourning and move on is cruel to those who are grieving. People feel ashamed to weep, to be “out of control” when grief arises. There is an odd pressure to be stoic as if that symbolizes strength and courage in the face of loss. I was instructed prior to one memorial I attended that it would not be sad occasion but a celebration, a party where we wouldn’t have to feel bad about the death. Native traditions allow for more of a journey and speak of visitations or visions of the dead. Western culture tells us to look away from our mortality and to shield younger people from this reality, robbing them of the experience of being with loss and learning resilience.  When personal beliefs are not encouraged mourning becomes a “rush job”, something to “get through” rather than to authentically experience. 
In Part II of Odyssey of Ashes, scenes are woven between the creation of an altar during Los dias de los Muertos and, in this way, shows how ritual can offer a way to acknowledge and honor the dead while giving those of us still living an opportunity to be present with our own thoughts and feelings. Throughout the memoir, there are meditations, myths, and rituals that speak to the deep expression of grief as personally transformative.  

Joy Renee:   As you were describing the role of the River Guides in flyfishing tradition and the importance of the etiquette developed by their enclave over the centuries, it occurred to me that the terrain of grief is also a wilderness of mysterious shoals and treacherous weather in need of rules of etiquette and River Guides and I was trying to formulate a question as to whether you had found such help on your journey but then it occurred to me that it is memoirs like yours that have become my River Guides.  This extended metaphor opens up so many questions and caveats I'm not quite sure how to ask.  I am sure that though it has been of great help the memoirs haven't been enough and that is probably because text on a page can go only so far. So maybe it is truer to see the memoir writers as the Izaak Waltons which would give the 'River Guide' role to something more hands on.  
This privilege of reaching out with my questions to the author does add something helpful to the experience but I'm aware that it is a rare privilege and it is still text on a page.
Could you riff a bit on that extended metaphor of grief being a terrain in need of rules of etiquette and guides and whether you found such help and if so, was it enough and whether you think our culture could do a better job of providing it.

Cheryl: As a therapist, I am a River Guide, a Sherpa, a companion who travels the terrain of grief, the caverns of darkness in which the soul can get lost without being accompanied by someone who knows how to hold the light.  Sometimes I see myself as a minor with one of those headlamps around my head leading the way. Sometimes I am only a breath ahead, sometimes I am walking alongside, occasionally I am behind, but always with my eyes on the person who I am guiding along their way. The River Guide knows the river, where the fish lie, how the currents are running and, most essential, studies the hatch that the fish are feeding on so that the flies used in casting the line will match the tasty treats a trout will devour. A River Guide has lived with the river, is familiar with its waters, its twists and turns, yet also knows that the river is constantly changing and will not be the same one she waded yesterday. 
I do not believe that is enough to read a book about grief, yet I feel that memoir, as well as other books on grief, may help the reader feel less alone in their pain. Sometimes the reader feels less “crazy” in hearing about the experiences of another. We are talking about take-away from the written word as a possibility to soothe heartache or maybe even evoke it as a way to connect within the aching heart and find a deeper, meaningful expression of grief. The landscape of loss is explored and discovered by each of us in our own time and in our own unique way. I do not have a formula, I have no map, no GPS.  Those techniques are better left to those who guide people who need that type of structure. In the end, there is no right or wrong way to travel the terrain of grief and loss. 

Those who read Odyssey of Ashes: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Letting Go will travel with me on my own journey from the moment of my husband’s sudden death to the rivers of Montana, through storms and tears, live with me in my daily urban life, and, hopefully, gain some solace and peace for themselves.

Joy Renee: OK This question isn't inspired by your story but rather personal from one griever to another and I keep going back and forth on whether it is appropriate to even include it.  So, I'm going to leave it up to you whether you wish to answer and if you do whether you prefer, I left if off the published interview:  Either before or during your own grief journey have you noticed that our culture treats some grief as more legitimate than other grief?  I can think of two categories but there may be more.  Infants not carried to term or born too sick to thrive is one.  Another is those who passed due to either intentional or negligent self-harm.  I witnessed the first in the past and am living the second as my husband was an alcoholic.  I'm wondering if the experience of feeling pressured to move on quicker, to feel relieved or even grateful rather than devastated and shamed if you persist is common to our culture or unique to my family and/or faith tradition.

Cheryl: To devalue and delegitimize any grief is inhuman. Unfortunately, it does happen but I am seeing this start to change as people are more open to expressing types of losses that may previously have been invalidated. The loss of a child through miscarriage was often overlooked in the past but now is recognized as a painful experience. The loss of a child at any stage of life is unbearable for many people to acknowledge and the grief from that type of death may remain a silent wound. The stigma of mental health fuels the difficulty of acknowledging a suicide. People tend to be terrified of this type of death and, indeed, often are judgmental due to that fear. Again, this bias has begun to slowly shift as more people are willing to courageously come out with their stories. I have also counseled people who felt shame that they were, in fact, relieved, when someone who has been difficult dies. The death of a beloved pet can also be minimized even when that pet may have been the most important companion to the person who is grieving.  As grief work is moving out of the shadows, I believe some of these previously “unspeakable” losses can come to light. 
Comments I find particularly insensitive have to do with elderly people dying. “Oh, it was their time.” “They had good life.” Those who mourn that person are then expected to shut up and not feel their grief. 
I have spoken to the culture pressures of “getting on with it” in response to the other questions. Individual family cultures and particular faith-based cultures have their own restrictions on personal expression but that would be unique to each person. 

(You are welcome to share these thoughts on your blog if you want.)

Joy Renee: Thank you so much for your story and for giving attention to my questions.  I hope the blog tour has really given your story wings.

Cheryl: Thank you, Joy Renee. I appreciate your questions and the opportunity to write something for you. 

About Cheryl Krauter

CHERYL KRAUTER is a San Francisco bay area psychotherapist with more than forty years of experience in the field of depth psychology and human consciousness. A cancer survivor, she is the author of Surviving the Storm: A Workbook for Telling Your Cancer Story (Oxford University Press, 2017) and Psychosocial Care of Cancer Survivors: A Clinician's Guide and Workbook for Providing Wholehearted Care (Oxford University Press, 2018). She lives with her personal assistant, a cat named Amie. 

Buy Odyssey of Ashes by Cheryl Krauter

Amazon BarnesandNoble Indiebound

Giveaway Odyssey of Ashes by Cheryl Krauter

This giveaway is for 2 print copies and ends on September 4, 2021 at 12 am, PST. Entries are available via Rafflecopter only. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow Odyssey of Ashes by Cheryl Krauter

Teddy Rose Book Reviews usPl  August 2 Kickoff & Interview 
 Becky Life as Rog  August 3 Review & Excerpt 
 Sal Bound 4 Escape  August 4 Guest Review 
 Lu Ann Rockin' Book Reviews  August 5 Review & Guest Post 
 Andrew K. Amazon  August 10 Review 
 Margret Nostagalic Homosapien  August 11 Review 
 Bookgirl Goodreads  August 12 Review 
 Linda Lu All Things Jill-Elizabeth  August 13 Guest Review 
 Betty Toots Book Reviews August 16 Review 
 GudReader Goodreads  August 17 Review 
 Laura Lee Celtic Lady's Reviews  August 19 Guest Review & Excerpt 
 Karen T. Amazon  August 23 Review 
 Bee Book Pleasures  August 27 Review 
 Gracie Goodreads  August 31 Review 
 Mike M. Goodreads Sept 2 Review 
 Joy Renee Joystory Sept 3 Review

Odyssey of Ashes by Cheryl Krauter


Blog Directories


Feed Buttons

Powered By Blogger

About This Blog

Web Wonders

Once Upon a Time





70 Days of Sweat

Yes, master.

Epic Kindle Giveaway Jan 11-13 2012

I Melted the Internet

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP