Monday, August 16, 2021

Sunday Serenity: Wallowing in Gratitude


My Happy Place Became My Wallowing Place

After encountering some grief grenades last week followed up by heat whammies and exacerbated by incipient blisters across the bottoms of both feet forcing me to stay off them for several days, I've spent the last ten or more days in a wallow.  With the lights out and the windows and blinds shut tight to lessen the heat impact, it would still top 90 degrees by late afternoon with the fan on high.  I could never open up the windows until after sundown and most nights the air outside did not start to feel cooler than the air inside until midnight.  So after several weeks of go, go, go related to the move, I was suddenly forced to put the brakes on and wait for the red light to change.

The books I read for the read-a-thon last weekend provided the grief grenades and without the distraction of the physical labor of the moving tasks, I had to sit with the feelings in the dark.  Those feelings started to taint the feelings of joy the move and been generating with the sadness of missing Ed and not being able to share my joy with him.

I tried and for the most part succeeded in distracting myself from the grief for periods of time with videos, video games, or ebooks and audio books on devices that did not generate heat. Or even sleeping.  But several times at seemingly random intervals when I was completely entranced by what I was doing--or even asleep--I would be slammed by a sudden vivid memory that transported me into a 3D movie with soundtrack of a moment in time that took place in Ed's apartment during one of our sleepovers. 

This happened at least half a dozen times before I realized the train was always blowing its whistle and rumbling past as it often did when I spent time at Ed's whose apartment was just a few blocks from where I now live.  

After I figured out the trigger, the memories continued to be delivered by the train's passing but they started feeling like gifts rather than gut punches.  They were all from the time before things fell apart again, during the height of the hope in late 2019 and early 2020 when he had been sober for months.  I realized I had been burying those memories as if what had happened later had invalidated them and thus they generated feelings of shame in myself for 'falling for false hope' yet again.

I've decided that is the wrong attitude because it has me second guessing hope on principle and hope is a necessary component of serenity, faith and joy.  And once my thoughts started down this path I eventually stepped into gratitude and regained a healthier perspective on several of the dark thoughts I'd been wallowing in. 


The Shelves I Built with my Britanica Great Books Set in Place

So what if 95% of my books are still over at Mom's.  I built those shelves and they are still here and my favorite set of books is showing off their glittery spines.  

Don't look at what isn't there yet but rather at what is.

The Blue Shelf Unit I Built Displaying My Crafts

So what if the beautiful blue shelf unit I built out of the parts of two units and then spent hours lovingly organizing, is now going to have to be broken down into two smaller units to make room for the couch being delivered later this week.  

The couch is necessary and beautiful too and once I have it I won't have to sleep on the floor anymore.

My Desk with a Mr. Roger's Neighborhood View

So what if my desk is still jerry--rigged with boards across cardboard boxes.  It has the beautiful and serene view I've always dreamed of having for my writing station.

So what if I have to keep the blinds and window tight shut on hot days.  That is temporary.

Pantry Cupboard 1

So what if it is too hot to cook my favorite meals this week.  I have a full pantry, fridge and freezer because I have a caregiver that took me shopping and a sister who did a Cosco stock up for me and a community that provided food stamps and commodities.

Fridge and Freezer

So I have plenty of food available that doesn't need cooking....

Pantry Cupboard 2

...and plenty more available just waiting for the cooler days when anything is possible.

My Aqua Baking Pan Set

And meanwhile I have the toaster oven and microwave.  And four of the pans in my beautiful new bakeware set fit in the toaster oven for those nights it cools down enough well before midnight to wake up my ambitions along with my appetite.

So what if most of the work I put into making my wallow comfortable and functional for the duration of the heat and blistered feet will have to be undone or reworked.  It was not wasted effort as I had begun to bemoan but rather lessons in what works for a specific set of circumstances and proof that I can create cozy and functional spaces designed to see me safely through a specific episode.

I'm going to miss this cozy nest as it now exists but what happens next is not loss...just change. 


Friday, August 06, 2021

My Brain On Books XXIX



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

5:05 PM Saturday - Wrapup

I stuck with Saturday Night Widows for the duration.  Why.  Why did it take me so long to engage with this book?  Because finally I'm finding one of the things--maybe the one thing--I've missed in my own widowhood experience: validation for a grief over the loss of someone some have judged as less worthy than others.  In Becky Aikman's support group there is one loss to suicide and one loss to alcoholism.  Yet the group rallied around these two without hesitation or judgment.  No implying that their grief must be easier or must be over sooner or suffered in silence and secret like a guilty vice since after all their loved one was begging for it, was making poor choices, was not a good person, did not treat you right, maybe deserved it and isn't it a relief really aren't you glad to be free of all that?  Nope none of that.  Those two women and their grief are embraced by the group with equal compassion and their loss given equal consideration.

3:03 PM Saturday - Now I'm going to run out the clock on the novel I mentioned in the opening meme:

Saturday Night Widows
The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives 
by Becky Aikman

Six marriages, six heartbreaks, one shared beginning.

In her forties – a widow, too young, too modern to accept the role – Becky Aikman struggled to make sense of her place in an altered world. In this transcendent and infectiously wise memoir, she explores surprising new discoveries about how people experience grief and transcend loss and, following her own remarriage, forms a group with five other young widows to test these unconventional ideas. Together, these friends summon the humor, resilience, and striving spirit essential for anyone overcoming adversity.

Hmm.  Somehow along the way I either missed that this was a memoir not a novel or forgot.  Well, it is just as well as I already have too many novels in the works.  So I'm still going to spend at least an hour with this and then decide whether I want to move on to one of those novels-in-progress to close out the thon.

2:44 PM Saturday - Started reading soon as coffee in hand 9:30ish haven't stopped to update or explore the thon activity

I have several items in my Libby library on my Nexus 7 that are coming up due and/or very close to finished and that is where I put my focus this morning:

Rage by Bob Woodward
It's OK That You're Not OK by Megan Devine (about grief)
27 Essential Principles of Story by Daniel Joshua Rubin
Conversations With the Divine by Caroline Myss

I finished Rage.  Finally after starting it 42 weeks ago.  But I just read at least half in one sitting.  The last half of course.

2:44 AM Saturday - Can't keep my eyes open.

Not surprising since I began the thon with nine hours awake behind me.  I spent the last six hours browsing in the ebooks in my Libby, leaving comments on the Dewey thon hour posts and on some reader blogs.  My eyes are rebelling big time.  I must sleep as I've been rereading the same sentences over and over for the last thirty minutes.

11:11 PM - Here's the biblio scoop on the audio I spent the last hour or so with:

The Essential T.S. Eliot by T.S. Eliot

A selection of the most significant and enduring poems from one of the twentieth century's major writers, chosen and introduced by Vijay Seshadri, performed by T.S. Eliot, Vijay Seshadri, Daniel Halpern, Willem Dafoe, Natasha Trethewey, Meghan O'Rourke, Natalie Diaz, Frank Bidart, Joy Harjo, Rosanna Warren, Emily Jungmin Yoon, Tracy K. Smith, Nicole Sealey, Jorie Graham, Kevin Young, Louise Gl├╝ck, Eileen Myles, Carol Muske-Dukes, Campbell McGrath, Robert Hass, and Monica Youn.

This audio book was supplied by Libby via my local library.  It's about 4 hours long and I just listened to the second hour.

9:33PM - Going to fix a snack and return to my beanbag chair

I think I will give my eyes a break with some audio.  Probably a T. S. Elliot collection I've got checked out from Libby in which the selections are being read by renowned poets of our era.  I'll add the correct bib info later.

8:55 PM - First Finish

Just finished 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 it 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.

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

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 less than a month ago.  The last several posts have been about the move.  This will be my first read-a-thon in my new place.  This is also the first time I've ever lived alone.  Takes some getting used to.

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

Non-Fiction: Odyssey of Ashes by Cheryl Krauter #OdysseyofAshes #NetGalley.  An ARC I'm reading for a blog tour for which my review and interview day is September 3.

It is the memoir of a widow whose husband won a coveted Montana rivers fly fishing trip nearly a year after he died.  She decided to go on the trip in his place and spread his ashes in the places he loved.  The account is a meditation on grief and loss and starting anew.

It's been five years since I participated in a blog tour.  As a recent widow myself I could not pass this one up.

Fiction Memoir:  Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman  a fun chcklit novel a memoir that I keep checking out on Libby but then never getting to.  I think I have been resistant to a light-hearted take on widowhood before now and might be ready for it.  (edited later: oops.  somehow I got the wrong idea about this book and mistook a memoir for chcklit fiction and wrenching emotional depth for lighthearted?  Don't know how that happened.  But I may have remembered the parts of the blurb that emphasized the humor.  And there is plenty of that.  Humor and heartbreak go together like cheese and crackers.)

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?


4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Legally blind with RP aka tunnel vision
Diagnosed with high functioning autism six years ago this month
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?

The fact that I'm living alone in my own place for the first time in my life has already been covered.  So I'll add that I'll be spending the majority of reading time for books that need eyes on my new beanbag chair atop my new mini-tramp.  When I have to be up and about doing unavoidable tasks or I want to exercise on the mini-tramp I'll switch to audio.

Ode to Dewey
by Joy Renee
We Miss You Dewey


Sunday, August 01, 2021

Playing Musical Places


The Bed Alcove
showing the back wall cleared for the shelves and the table moved in for the build

The last ten days has been a hectic blur of shifting stuff from one place to another.  At one point as I was moving things from one shelf to another for the fifth or sixth time for those items, I said to myself, 'This reminds me of musical chairs.  Without the music.'  So I started thinking of it as 'musical shelves' but soon I realized it wasn't just shelves, it was every conceivably nameable place: wall, corner, cupboard, counter, box, bag, floor, table, chair, tramp, tub, sink...

All that shifting of stuff wasn't random but always part of a preplanned project with a goal that was, I hoped, possible to reach before time for the next event that required me to have the area(s) affected returned from chaos to functional.  Events like time for meal prep and eating, time to prepare for the arrival of my caretaker to help with mundane chores and errand running, time to stop making noise that could disturb my neighbor, time to lay out my mattress or  even just time to stop and take stock of my surroundings to confirm that I'd left a clear path between wherever I was standing and both doors and the bathroom.  That latter is an important self-care habit that I try to remember to do as frequently as every twenty minutes because my vision impairment puts me at risk of nasty jarring incidents if not outright falls.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The projects that required all this shifting of stuff were of several categories.  There was the unpacking of boxes and bags, the unboxing of amazon orders, the building of shelf units, the experimenting with the placement of furniture sized items and the sorting, purging and organizing of a category of items.  The projects must likely to take longer than anticipated and thus have negative ripple effects on the functionality of the places and myself were the shelf building.  They required having enough floor space to spin the unit in place with room for me to walk around at least one end of it.  In other words I needed an approximately six foot diameter space.  The only way to get that was to shift a lot of stuff to the front wall of the living room.

Three Happy Places Smooshed into One
making room for the shelf build in the bed alcove

All of this shifting around played havoc with my happy places.  Those areas of calm and functionality I established in the first days.  I kept having to compromise one or more in minor or major ways.  For the three days it took me to build the 5x6 cube unit for the back wall of the bed alcove, I had to smoosh three happy places into the 6x4 foot space in front of the front room window so that I could move half the huge bags of crafts into the front room and move the table in there to build the first two layers.

The three happy places smooshed into a space equivalent to a queen sized mattress were the tramp, my desk for reading/writing/viewing and my bed.  When the mattress was on the floor I had to walk across it to get to the tramp or the desk, when the mattress was folded it had to be on the tramp.  I had to live with this set up for two full days and the first night I had worked long past the cut off for potentially noisy activities trying to make sure I could have my bed in the bed alcove.  By the time I gave up the sky was already pale and by the time I had my bed made the three windows viewable from my pillows were bright and there was no way to turn my back on all three at the same time.  Between the light and the pain in my back and feet and the fretting over needing to be awake in four hours to prepare for the arrival of my caretaker (the 7th new girl in under 5 months) I could not sleep.

Tho I didn't sleep I made myself stay put with my eyes closed until my alarm went off at 9 and then got up to prepare for the arrival of my caregiver at 12:30 by making a list of the things I needed her help with while I drank my coffee, making sure the floors were clear in the kitchen and living room for sweeping and mopping, gathering all the cardboard boxes needing to be broke down and stuffed in the bins, placing all the dirty dishes in the sink, and getting a shower.  I was going to do up all the dishes except the crock pot which I'd dropped three times when I washed it after pulling it out of the box from the 2013 move from the Rogue Valley. But I ran out of time.

But then it didn't matter after all as the caregiver did not show up.  It turned out she got lost trying to find my place and because I was so busy watching for her at the window I did not think to check my Google Voice mail for messages from her boss until 45 minutes after she was due and by then it was too late.  I was so tempted to put my bed back down and sleep away the heat of the day but the issue of the window light and the neighbor noise made that unappealing.  So I returned to work on the shelf.

Not sure that was wise tho as I made so many mistakes I am sure I doubled the effort with half the return.  I kept having to undo and redo things.  Things put in backwards or upside down.  Things put in off center.  Things put in before realizing that the thing below it was not secure so it had to come back out in order to get at the loose piece and secure it.

So it was unsurprising that I was unable to finish the shelf in time for bedtime Tuesday night which came as soon as the window light was minimal enough--around 8:30.  In spite of the pain in my back and feet being worse than the night before, I slept hard Tuesday night right through until the light from the kitchen window filled the front rooms around 7.

The Portable Yarn Closet Returned to Its Place After Spending Three Days Cat-a-Corner

I finally got the shelf unit finished Wednesday late afternoon in plenty of time to experiment with its placement and the placement of other large items.  In preparing the space for building the shelves I'd concluded that the portable closet I'd set up beside the hall door which held all the never-been-on-the-hook yarn and thread was not going to fit with the shelves so I'd moved it to the opposite corner of the alcove by the window.  But that was before I'd decided to combine the pieces of three kits for units three cubes wide into one unit 4 cubes wide by 6 cubes tall.  Now the closet would fit and that was where I preferred it so that meant pulling at least a dozen 11 gallon and 22 gallon bags out, piling them in the living room, moving the closet and putting them all back.  The reverse of what I'd done Monday afternoon to prep for the project.

The Yarn Closet and the New Shelf Unit In Place

Once I was happy with the placement of the closet and the shelves and the bags of craft stuff destined for those shelves, I could put the rest of the alcove together according to the plan I'd had for over a week.  I moved the tramp in under the window and then spread the fleece rug in front of it to mark the space for my bed and stood the folded mattress up against the shelves.

The Bed Alcove With Tramp and Bed Space In Place

Now I was free to recreate my read/write/view happy place in the location I'd been envisioning as it's long-term home ever since I first toured the unit over a month ago: The front wall with my desk placed so I could look out the window while I wrote.  I would be putting it together with boards across cardboard boxes, a bit flimsy and far from the ideal I have pictured but functional enough and a right proper reward for the last three days of chaos, pain and fatigue.

My Read/Write/View Happy Place Re-Created Now In Its Home Space

After I got that set up I fixed a salad and ate while watching MASH and Gomer Pyle.  That was the first time in a week that I'd been able to stay awake for the final scene of a sitcom tho I'd made watching one part of my bedtime ritual.  Maybe it was only because I was sitting in my office chair with food in my hands instead of reclining with the DVD player on my belly.  But it was at least partly pure exhilaration. 

It was while enjoying my replaced happy places Wednesday night, that I conceived the plan to spend as much time there over the next three days as I'd spent on my feet over the previous four of five days.  In light of the anticipated heat wave with temps expected to hit triple digits it seemed a wise plan and not just self-indulgent.  Add in the fact that incipient blisters on the soles and toes of both feet were making standing and walking excruciating and it seemed insane to expect myself to continue the work at the same pace.

My new caregiver agreed with me Thursday afternoon and suggested I needed to stay off my feet as much as possible for at least three days to allow those hot spots on my feet to heal before they became real blisters and thus at risk for infection.  She also coached me on the protocols for surviving an exceptionally hot day without air-conditioning: hydration, closing windows and blinds before the air warms up in the mornings and keeping them closed until the air outside is cooler than the air inside, frozen wet towels, minimize exertion..  Most of which I was well versed in after living for decades in the Rogue Valley where triple digit days were common in July through September.

The thermostat on my fan read in the high 80s by mid afternoon Friday and flickered between 89 and 90 several times before 10:30 that night when, just out of curiosity I opened the front door to see how warm the air was outside only to discover that it was much cooler with a nice breeze already.  That seemed to indicate the heat dome had moved on or broken up.  It was a nice marine air flow and I opened up all the windows.

The Front Room
I Can't Wait to See My Books Fill Up Those Top Two Levels

Nothing is the same as It was Wednesday evening or even Thursday evening when a few of these pics were taken as I continue playing musical places.  For example, my sister brought the blue six cube shelf unit I had at Mom's since 2016 over on Friday and Saturday I discovered it's parts were the same as the 9 cube unit I had yet to assemble and I decided I'd combine them into one larger unit 3 cubes wide.  I finished that Saturday evening and today, Sunday, I unpacked four large bags and two large boxes of the craft stuff that had been on shelves or in drawers or bags at Mom's.  Now both of the shelf units I built in the last week are loaded up.  But I'm going to have to unload the blue one tomorrow to fix several spots on one level where I put pieces in upside down and one pipe that came loose from its slot.   I'll probably move it all over to the top two levels of the two load-bearing bookshelves on the opposite wall which I just got cleared off in anticipation of bringing my books over from Mom's.

And so I continue to play musical places


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