Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Getting with the program.

Closed my eyes and Thanksgiving morphed into Christmas. It's all good, all frenzy, all roller coaster emotions. Surely, the Pope's new statement, casting a harsh look at consumerism was timely. I dodged the big stores, actually all stores, on Thursday and Friday, but found my way to one craft store of locally made goods.
But then there is Amazon. Watched Jeff Bezos on Sixty Minutes Sunday night, and am still wondering why he isn't running the world, or at least part of it.  His belief, or understanding that things change, nothing lasts forever, and that's perfectly OK was so re-assuring, so good to hear. Even though I am part of the age group that is nostalgic about paper books, cursive writing, and turtle-neck jerseys his message still sounded a positive note. I'm sure this is one of his most often quoted statements, but I hadn't heard it before: Criticism is not a strategy. Why didn't I know that?
I do remember working with a provost who suggested that if we found it appropriate to bring some problems to him that we also bring along suggested solutions. Same message, but Bezos brought  it home.

Received another message last week that the reason I wasn't writing is because I blog every day and that makes me think I've written, which I actually haven't. Hmmm.  My current dilemma? My friends Patrick, Julia and I decided we would all write something new before we meet again. I haven't written one word - not even a blog posting - in almost a week. And I know writing names and addresses on holiday cards doesn't count, so I'm cutting back on the blog in order to get back to an unfinished piece of fiction. Having failed miserably at NaNo......, I'm determined to see PatO' and Julia before December 20th, so I am cutting back to a couple of times a  week.  Hope you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. I'm getting with the program right now.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gratitude - W.B. Yeats

Gratitude To The Unknown Instructors

WHAT they undertook to do
They brought to pass;
All things hang like a drop of dew
Upon a blade of grass.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Brief for the Defense

I've published this poem by Jack Gilbert before. But looking at some news photos in print and on-line this morning, the poem kept drifting through me, especially these lines:

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight.

I think he's right, profoundly right. But it's not easy to remember.

A Brief For The Defense
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Not writing, just posting.

Attended a writers' conference all day Saturday and picked up several hints.
Major hint: You must write if you consider yourself a writer.

That's the rub right there. The writing. And writing is not editing. It doesn't count as writing to revise the opening paragraph twenty times. Write first. Only when the writing is finished, edit.

Characters aren't enough. You need a plot.

Kill Your Darlings.

If the genre you want to use doesn't exist, invent it.

William Zinsser, Natalie Goldberg and Stephen King have the best books on writing/editing.

I knew all that.

But I didn't really understand the role of the great seducer - Social Media.

Time spent on social media doesn't count as writing time. The use of social media should be the equivalent of a coffee break. Short, sweet, up-to-date. Three times a day. Too many minutes spent chatting up other authors, promoting your blog, your book, your life just isn't writing.

So I bought the book The Coffee Break Guide to Social Media for Writers.
Alas, I'll probably be reading that this afternoon instead of putting my fingers on the keys. So little time, so many excuses.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Digging Grave was his Honor

I remember where I was when it happened. Watched it all. Saw live murder on tv when Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald.
Too young to vote, I still campaigned for John Fitzgerald Kennedy to become president. I, along with millions, loved him, loved Jackie, loved all the magic they brought into our lives. It was Bobby Kennedy who later captured my soul, but John Kennedy had captured my heart.
There isn't much I can say that hasn't been said endlessly this past week. I still don't believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Jack Kennedy brought James Bond into our lives, but he also opened our eyes and minds to the concept of conspiracy. We loved the man and love the myth that has become the man.

But I leave you with Jimmy Breslin for the weekend. The story of the gravedigger that I always read this time of year. My son Rob introduced me to this piece. This article and Bart Giamatti's piece about baseball 'In the Green Fields' are in my file of must read at least once a year articles.
Thinking of all those affected by John Kennedy's death.

Digging JFK Grave Was His Honor
Jimmy Breslin
Newsday's Jimmy Breslin wrote the following article for the New York Herald Tribune in November 1963.
Washington -- Clifton Pollard was pretty sure he was going to be working on Sunday, so when he woke up at 9 a.m., in his three-room apartment on Corcoran Street, he put on khaki overalls before going into the kitchen for breakfast. His wife, Hettie, made bacon and eggs for him. Pollard was in the middle of eating them when he received the phone call he had been expecting. It was from Mazo Kawalchik, who is the foreman of the gravediggers at Arlington National Cemetery, which is where Pollard works for a living. "Polly, could you please be here by eleven o'clock this morning?" Kawalchik asked. "I guess you know what it's for." Pollard did. He hung up the phone, finished breakfast, and left his apartment so he could spend Sunday digging a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy. When Pollard got to the row of yellow wooden garages where the cemetery equipment is stored, Kawalchik and John Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, were waiting for him. "Sorry to pull you out like this on a Sunday," Metzler said. "Oh, don't say that," Pollard said. "Why, it's an honor for me to be here." Pollard got behind the wheel of a machine called a reverse hoe. Gravedigging is not done with men and shovels at Arlington. The reverse hoe is a green machine with a yellow bucket that scoops the earth toward the operator, not away from it as a crane does. At the bottom of the hill in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Pollard started the digging (Editor Note: At the bottom of the hill in front of the Custis-Lee Mansion). Leaves covered the grass. When the yellow teeth of the reverse hoe first bit into the ground, the leaves made a threshing sound which could be heard above the motor of the machine. When the bucket came up with its first scoop of dirt, Metzler, the cemetery superintendent, walked over and looked at it. "That's nice soil," Metzler said. "I'd like to save a little of it," Pollard said. "The machine made some tracks in the grass over here and I'd like to sort of fill them in and get some good grass growing there, I'd like to have everything, you know, nice." James Winners, another gravedigger, nodded. He said he would fill a couple of carts with this extra-good soil and take it back to the garage and grow good turf on it. "He was a good man," Pollard said. "Yes, he was," Metzler said. "Now they're going to come and put him right here in this grave I'm making up," Pollard said. "You know, it's an honor just for me to do this." Pollard is 42. He is a slim man with a mustache who was born in Pittsburgh and served as a private in the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma in World War II. He is an equipment operator, grade 10, which means he gets $3.01 an hour. One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave. Yesterday morning, at 11:15, Jacqueline Kennedy started toward the grave. She came out from under the north portico of the White House and slowly followed the body of her husband, which was in a flag-covered coffin that was strapped with two black leather belts to a black caisson that had polished brass axles. She walked straight and her head was high. She walked down the bluestone and blacktop driveway and through shadows thrown by the branches of seven leafless oak trees. She walked slowly past the sailors who held up flags of the states of this country. She walked past silent people who strained to see her and then, seeing her, dropped their heads and put their hands over their eyes. She walked out the northwest gate and into the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. She walked with tight steps and her head was high and she followed the body of her murdered husband through the streets of Washington. Everybody watched her while she walked. She is the mother of two fatherless children and she was walking into the history of this country because she was showing everybody who felt old and helpless and without hope that she had this terrible strength that everybody needed so badly. Even though they had killed her husband and his blood ran onto her lap while he died, she could walk through the streets and to his grave and help us all while she walked. There was mass, and then the procession to Arlington. When she came up to the grave at the cemetery, the casket already was in place. It was set between brass railings and it was ready to be lowered into the ground. This must be the worst time of all, when a woman sees the coffin with her husband inside and it is in place to be buried under the earth. Now she knows that it is forever. Now there is nothing. There is no casket to kiss or hold with your hands. Nothing material to cling to. But she walked up to the burial area and stood in front of a row of six green-covered chairs and she started to sit down, but then she got up quickly and stood straight because she was not going to sit down until the man directing the funeral told her what seat he wanted her to take. The ceremonies began, with jet planes roaring overhead and leaves falling from the sky. On this hill behind the coffin, people prayed aloud. They were cameramen and writers and soldiers and Secret Service men and they were saying prayers out loud and choking. In front of the grave, Lyndon Johnson kept his head turned to his right. He is president and he had to remain composed. It was better that he did not look at the casket and grave of John Fitzgerald Kennedy too often. Then it was over and black limousines rushed under the cemetery trees and out onto the boulevard toward the White House. "What time is it?" a man standing on the hill was asked. He looked at his watch. "Twenty minutes past three," he said. Clifton Pollard wasn't at the funeral. He was over behind the hill, digging graves for $3.01 an hour in another section of the cemetery. He didn't know who the graves were for. He was just digging them and then covering them with boards. "They'll be used," he said. "We just don't know when. I tried to go over to see the grave," he said. "But it was so crowded a soldier told me I couldn't get through. So I just stayed here and worked, sir. But I'll get over there later a little bit. Just sort of look around and see how it is, you know. Like I told you, it's an honor."

A Great Man Gone

My dear, dear friend Tom Smith died yesterday. No-one loved a good story more than Tom, and no-one told a good story better than Tom did. He was our Geoffrey Chaucer, weaving tales about all of us on our long pilgrimage together. No-one loved to dance more than Tom and no-one we knew was quite as good. Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Otis Redding, the list goes on. Their music called to Tom and he called right back.
Tom was one of those professors who changed students' lives. All through the decades he changed students' lives. He was a medievalist who could teach tales and poetry from the past right next to contemporary poetry and fiction and make it all come alive.
When people asked him what he taught he simply said 'I teach students.'

 I've known Tom and his wife Shelley for more than fifty years. Tom was Curt's best friend in high school and was in our wedding.We went through the rocky roads of marriage together - separations, divorces, coming together, drifting apart.  Newport Jazz Festivals, Newport music, parties, long conversations, the civil rights movement, protests, conversations into the night, sleeping in the VW bus, packed with rhubarb pies and munchies. We danced on the hillside in Newport, rain drizzling and dancing on the tree tops, leaves blowing in the wind, twisting along in 1969 with Sly and the Family Stone singing We are Family. Between the stage and the hill, the National Guard walked back and forth to a completely different beat, no hips gyrating, no arms in motion, no rhythm. The hillside was alive with people dancing, the stage was filled with instruments wailing, dancing and singing. The National Guard never missed a beat. That experience lived with the four of us forever. A grand metaphor for much of life, we thought. And think.

Our kids grew up together, cramped in all together in the rooms of Watch Hill, catching waves, and walking through the Ocean House. At an Inn in Watch Hill we watched Richard Nixon resign.
We were family and rode through good and bad times together. We were one, but we also had individual relationships with one another. Tricky, but real. Tom and Shelly's son Ian and my son Rob were college roommates. They knew each other before they were born. Tom and Shelly's daughter Jessie came to watch Hill this summer to visit with my sons, Rob and Chris.
Fifty years of memories - patches of sadness interrupted and overcome by great times of joy. We were connected. Still are.
But the last four and a half years Tom has been under the relentless spell of Alzheimer's. The greatest storyteller in modern time hasn't spoken a word for more than two years. Not a word. Silent. Sleeping most of the time.
What happened to his words? What happened to his stories? Where are they now?  We have them and will be sharing them this holiday and probably forever. He was the man. Rest in peace, Tom, but every once in a while, stir things up.
A poem from one of Tom's favorite poets. From the Holy Sonnets:

By John Donne - 1572-1631

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Send us some stories.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mystery Solved

I am being spooked by technological gnomes. I've been at this post for quite a while, and it suddenly disappeared. The title remained, but nothing else.
So this is a far shorter version of what I was going to say. 

That news voice that was mocking me on and off yesterday showed up again this morning. One theory laid to rest: I was not hearing non-existent voices. Good news. Roscoe heard the voices and tried to shut it/them down.
Someone kept yakking about what the Republicans were voting for or not. Not of interest to me.

After pushing, pressing on several buttons, the person continued his uninvited presentation. Finally, Roscoe pushed delete on my Washington Post news button. Both the Washington Post and the voice disappeared. I have no idea if I had inadvertently turned on some voice app for the Washington Post, but I doubt it. In fact, I only have four free reads on The Post this month, so I doubt they are  trying to give me more news than I am allowed within the free zone. I have no idea how it happened, but am glad the voice is gone. Now the question is whether or not to pull up the Washington Post occasionally or just stick with only the NYT for my version of the news.  If a voice from Fox news appears, I'll know we're in serious trouble.

First actual measurable snow on the ground this morning and a cold front moved in with it. Is winter here or is this just a teaser?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Selfie in the news

Barack Obama just gave a speech and awarded some women some honors, for what I am not sure. Music is playing - that sort of friendly, you have heard it before salutary music that happens when someone is honored. Background noise of the attendees behind the music.
I do not know where either the music or speech come from. It's coming out of my computer. Usually I turn on my computer, boot it up, and off I go to Outlook Web. Not this morning. Music and speech are in the background. I turn everything off and start over again. Same thing. Obama talking, then some music. One more time. Yes, craziness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

So, this will be short because, uber-control freak that I am, I don't like things coming mysteriously from my computer and I detest even more mysterious things that I can't shut off.

I guess old news is old news. Just yesterday I commented on the word selfie being the newest addition to The Oxford English Dictionary. Late last night I flipped through the new NewYorker and there was the first cartoon, on page 6.  Woman sitting in chair on city street, park in the background, having portrait painted by street artist. Portraits hanging behind him displaying his talents. Woman to artist: "Make it look like a selfie."

Leaving the President's voice, the music, the selfies.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bullies and Selfies

I'm going to read The Gettysburg Address this morning, celebrating that November 19th long ago when Abe Lincoln gave his two-minute carefully crafted speech on freedom and the quest for human equality. It's a great reminder of the power of thoughts and words...and deeds.

Speaking of words, Doris Kearns Goodwin's book The Bully Pulpit is getting lots of good press these days. I've been thinking about the differences and similarities between bullying and using the bully pulpit,
so went to our fairly reliable friend Wikipedia to see what I could learn.
Well, according to the Wiki, the term was first used in the 1500's to mean sweetheart or brother. By the 17th century, it had moved on to mean fine fellow or blusterer. Approximately 1710, the verb 'to bully' emerged. That's the etymology, just as I read it on Wikipedia.
I don't know what Teddy Roosevelt was thinking about the word bully when he coined the term bully pulpit. Whatever he meant, it certainly appears that the person in power has the privilege to present his words in a more powerful way than others.
There's more, but you can find it all on the web.

And this morning, just an hour ago, I read that 'Selfie' is the word of the year. Straight from the Oxford University Press. Selfie, the smartphone self-portrait, gets the prize. How's that for a term to define the present day culture?  It is all about me after all. I'm just wondering how one lives in the narcissistic world of Selfie and thinks it's possible to eliminate bullying.
Excuse me, I have to go take a photo of myself. Not you or the landscape. Me.  Taking your own photo? Well, bully for you.

Monday, November 18, 2013

On boots and cookies

I'll admit it - I was at the Broncos/Kansas City football game yesterday. Seated in a warm, classy box with warm classy fun. Oh, the game had started, but some of us were admiring one woman's boots. She exclaimed about their comfort, and one other woman even tried the boots on. "Perfect," she smiled. "I definitely need a pair of these." So we all punched in the name brand on our cell phones and turned towards the game.
Googled the boots early this morning, and found the pair immediately.
$585 plus shipping. $585 at a mall in the store. No shipping, but taxes.
I'll never know if the boots are comfortable or not, because I'll not be trying them on. My feet would not know how to act in $585 boots. I wouldn't know how to act in boots worth $585. What if my feet really liked them, felt comfortable for the first time in decades? How long would it take to amortize them? Who could I tell that I spent that much money on boots?
Ah yes, the rich really are different from the rest of us.
Those beautiful boots may be made for walking, but not on these crabby old feet.

Then today, I was invited to a woman's house who was willing to help three of us who are just learning how to play bridge. Very smart woman. Savvy, strategic. Huge, classy warm house. She did confess that some of her pieces were faux. And, of course, she was tall, thin, and had skin that appeared ever so tight and young. We drank tea, learned some card tricks and then she brought out four cookies. I commented on the smooth vanilla frosting on top of the gingerbread-type cookie. And I simply said, "wow, these are pretty large cookies." 
She responded: "Oh, indeed, they are large. I'll give you a bag so you can take half home."
That's why these beautiful women are skinny. They eat half a cookie and save the other half for the following day. I have failed the immediate gratification test my whole like. Did she really think I wouldn't dig into that cookie the moment I sped away from her home? I have never eaten half a cookie in my life, and won't be starting.
It's good to see how other people live. But I'm sticking with my old boots, and probably chomping into the next big cookie that comes in my sight. I'll leave behind some dust from my boots and crumbs from my cookies.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Characters - real and unreal

Just recently I went to a book club event where the featured author was speaking. I was a guest of a friend who thought I'd enjoy the discussion. I read the book, found it fascinating. Loved the author's tales about her research, her interviews, her participant-observer approach. She had taken all the information and experiences, wrote and edited, wrote and edited, and turned out a smart novel based on her observations.

Yesterday I realized I was sitting with the person upon whom the main character of the book was based. And I had known her, ever so briefly, at the time of the book discussion. Never put it together until yesterday.
Art imitating life...

Wonder who else I know that I don't know I know - in fiction or not.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Are You Covered?

Having grown up in the Insurance City, Hartford CT, it's hard to figure where it all went wrong. My Hartford aunts had long careers in two of the major insurance companies. Being who they were, they never learned to drive (too cautious; too fearful), but took a bus and transfer to work and a bus and transfer home from work. Forty-five years, five days a week. Granny Phelan, having come dirt poor from Ireland with Pat, raised all her kids in CT. Aunts Peg and Julia were her success stories.

For my generation, the insurance companies provided jobs for the girls who didn't go to college. Straight from the Business track in high school to the typing pool and beyond. Respectable. Responsible.

Now? No-one understands insurance companies, policies, or benefits. HMO's weren't in the vocabulary, nor were the choices so complicated. Time for the City of Hartford to change its bragging rights to something else.

I don't know about you, but I am sick of hearing about health insurance and sick of even trying to decide if I have anything to decide or not about health insurance. So I'm sticking with my nice Kaiser arrangements and some part of medicare. I won't be going on anyone's broken system to compare policies. I'm wondering why Jeff Bezos wasn't called upon for advice on how to build a person-friendly system. Personally, I'd give the job of setting up health care insurance to the IT folks at Amazon and Zappos. Seriously, Barack.

And with big pharma promoting the use of statins for more people with hearts, and new anti-obesity drugs for people who don't seem to like vegetables, fruits and walking, the IT folks and the insurance magnates better make sure there's enough money to cover all the new meds people will be on.

That's my raving for today. I'm sure it will all work out for a reasonable number of people. In the meantime, I'm trying to process something complex and compelling. I had the honor of being with a small group (4) of women today for three and a half hours. Managed to open and close the luncheon buffet at a tasty Indian restaurant. But I don't feel comfortable sharing what we talked about. One of the women was from one of the countries that monitors everything, especially the words and actions of social justice advocates. Social media is looked down upon. This person is doing really significant work, making significant differences in the lives of many. It's not that I think people around the world have any interest in my blog or are reading me to find out what's going on around the world. But...I'm censoring myself for now. Have to process it all before sharing it. I'm thinking the same thing you are: "Yes, it might be a fine idea to process before writing anything."  I'll take it into consideration.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On not being a Bag Lady.

Good news. Tickets all exchanged and accounted for. Everyone has the tickets they are supposed to have and reservations as needed. One flight into CT on Christmas Eve from FL and another from Las Vegas. Hoping the stormy weather gods and goddesses will be sleeping on the 24th.

Good news - or good news if you fly in and out of Denver often. DIA, the airport) just pulled No. 1 ranking in healthy foods at an airport. Figured the airport was on a mission once Root Down showed up near the food court.
You can eat well coming in or going out, in-between is up to you.

On another front, the saga of the bus stop trash container continues. Received a quick and thoughtful response from RTD (regional transportation district). RTD managers researched and found an old Google map showing that bus stop once had a bus shelter, a trash container, and a boxed news stand.   The RTD isn't sure who removed the shelter or trash container. It's long and complicated, but the property is owned by the Lowry Redevelopment Center. The city property code says that the adjacent property owner is responsible for maintenance of the area. It turns out, a local school is responsible for the maintenance.

RTD only maintains those bus stops with shelters. But it will refer this spot to its Adopt A Spot program. Once again, I'm quite taken with the quick, thoughtful response. Beginning to have some faith in politicians and local organizations.

In the meantime, I didn't mean to make a long-term commitment to the trash pick-up on a corner a mile from my home. I don't want to confront the school and ask the principal why she/he isn't attending to the local bus stop trash.  Other priorities. Maybe a young student can start an environmental club and take care of the situation. I sure don't want to make it my job to start giving suggestions to teachers. If I really wanted to be pro-active, I'd adopt the spot. But one of my life goals is not to become a bag lady. Maybe I'll collect trash and carry the bags home in the future, but not just now.

Once again, kudos to all who responded to my query so quickly. I bet something good happens on the corner sooner or later.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Changing Tickets

Short post today. Will be back again on the cheap ticket chat spot, trying to shorten a reservation in a FL hotel by two days. The method Cheap Ticket recommends is for the person making changes to cancel current reservations, wait for the refund, and then make a new reservation.
The problem: we have two rooms under one reservation. Just want to shorten one room reservation by two days. But they recommend we cancel the whole thing and then start over.  Oh....a little fine print thing. That big, flashing 'No cancellation fee' refers to Cheap Ticket policy, not the hotel policy.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? And about all that paperless, credit card money floating here and there? Little dicey for me. And I don't want to sleep on a park bench New Year's Eve, even if it is in Florida.

And the chances of getting the same cheap rate the second time around?
There seems to be perhaps an alternate way to drop 2 days off one room reservation, but it requires going into their online chat system, followed by their 800-number which means lots and lots of time on hold.
It was a good hour yesterday on chat with the very friendly, and truly helpful Lily.
But no resolution on anything until a manager comes in this morning.

So, should I have another splash of coffee or breathe long, deep breaths and go forward?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wherever You Go, There You Are

"Get with the program!"  That was the message of the ninety-year old Jesuit priest who held mass for the Sisters of Francis, their friends and guests of their friends Sunday morning. Nora Jacquez got me there.

Turned out the shaky old priest wasn't exhorting those of us sitting in a small circle around the room to get with the program, he was wailing on the Catholic Church itself.
He reviewed times when the Church needed to 'get with the program' and proclaimed that the present was one of those times. That's what Pope Francis is calling to the church and those who decide what the rules are and aren't, what Jesus said and what he meant. Pretty heavy stuff.

Being a Jesuit, he spun the intellectual pinnings of  his talk on the idea that the words are organic, alive, and with life always comes change. If one is truly in a relationship with the scriptures or the holy words, then there must be the seething, bubbling, messy organic emergence of change. It was a small group - maybe nine of us, but such a powerful reminder of the breath of life that comes with words and our relationship to words. Organic.

Two hours later I met up with Roscoe, headed for the Redline Art Center for an organic, sustainable brunch and a panel discussion by some western food and farming experts. . . and the two daughters of the rancher, now dead, who ran Hannah Ranch. This was all precipitated by the launching of the film, Hannah Ranch, by the Denver Film Society. Questions about preserving the land or expanding the land,  the wheat, the fear of GMO's, the wheatgrasses, expenses filled the post-brunch organic delight. Finally, a couple of questions to the daughters.
They both mentioned how fortunate they were to go away to college, to travel, to get beyond the farmland, the home that was the seat of their values, and then return. They talked about the dilemma of going out and returning with new ideas, based on what they've seen. People don't like change, don't like the inference that maybe there are better ways to do things, don't like the young coming back with their fancy thoughts. So for the young women to become leaders in the ranching and farming world, they must learn how to work with an experienced group of people, set in their ways and must honor all that has been done in the past to pave the way for the future.  Another 'get with the program' venture.
Wherever you go, there you are.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Shout Out for Local Reps

Waiting for that Facebook or other novel to show up soon. I've been checking in the corners of my mind, through the webs along the way, and in dark places. Even the sun sheds no light yet on a novel bubbling in my body. CT scans, PET scans, bizarre imaging, flashbacks...Don't know what is next on this search. NaNoWriMo, send me some help!

While waiting, thought I'd end the week on a positive note...and it's a positive political note. Imagine that.
To anyone willing to listen, I've been whining about the trash surrounding a busstop a couple of blocks from my home. It's on that almost other side of town - the side with big ads for Slurpees, the 7-11, the neighborhood where kids wearing flashy shirts from second-hand stores, shirts they don't quite understand yet as they are still learning English, the neighborhood where hopes run high and where kids go out in the early morning cold to find a bus leading to whatever school they attend. I cannot figure out why there are no trash containers there. The beautiful Great Lawn Park, bordered by the bus stop where kids and early morning workers huddle, is filled with trash containers artfully placed along the walkways. The park is spotless. Shouldn't that bus stop on 11th and Yosemite have the same opportunity to be clean?

Long story short, I finally e-mailed Lois Court, who is District Six's State Representative. I e-mailed late Friday afternoon, a week ago. She responded within fifteen minutes, said she would see what she could do, and copies Mary Beth Susman, President of Denver City Council, District 5. She e-mailed me immediately and said she would send a message to RTD because they are responsible for such things.  Sunday I sent e-mails of thanks to both women, and, again, received immediate responses with a reminder to contact them again if there aren't any changes within a couple of weeks.
How's that for local government, for people on the job, and acting on things? Proud to be in this part of Denver. Hope you all, wherever you are, have such responsive representatives. Makes me smile just thinking of these two women.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Disastrous beginning. So few words written, I dare not post them. Definitely will make up for the lapses this weekend.

Inspired by all the great writers I know, I signed up for NaNoWriMo. For those of you smart enough not to set such a goal for yourselves, that means National Novel Writing Month. November. What have I learned so far?
I've learned that I don't have a novel in me. No heavy plot, twists and turns, revelations. I do have a few characters but can't find a damned thing for them to do. No denouements, nada.

No 50,000 words for sure. Fifty-thousands words is the goal in this novel writing month.  Alas, I haven't gotten to 1.000.
So I'm going to change the rules and guidelines. Back to the oldest method on earth - freewriting. Writing without editing, writing with nothing in particular to say.
Why not join me in this agonizing challenge? Just google NaNoWriMo, sign up, and breathe some life into your November. Cheers.

Monday, November 4, 2013

How Am I Doing?

It's not pretty, not upbeat,  but it's an honest look at what friend and writer Christy Bailey has been going through for months. She has a very unusual type of cancer, breast cancer, the walls of her chest, all sorts of rare issues. Can't count the number of operations and treatments she has been through. She's writing this from Texas, going through some serious treatments at MD Anderson. The majority of her blog entries (well, about 97%) are upbeat and positive. Every once in a while she lets us in on a time when she isn't feeling so upbeat, isn't able to pull off the optimistic spin on her current life. Thought I'd pass it on because she is a beautiful woman, writer, warrior. An inspiration to all of us. Her mom seems to be one strong, loving warrior herself. Here is to all the warriors out there, fighting visible and invisible battles.

How am I doing? My arms have limited reach. They took muscle out of my left arm, as well as more lymph nodes. They took 29 lymph nodes out of my right arm. My upper arms on both sides are numb. They might be swollen. They might be developing lymphedema, for which I'm high risk. There's not a damn thing I can do to stop that development, if that's what's happening. My arms have to be elevated at all times. When I'm unable to do that, for example in the lounge area of my doctor's offices, they ache so bad they feel like they're broken. I can't lift things. Even a full cup of coffee is hard. I have started drinking half cups of coffee at a time with frequent refills. I haven't been given authorization to bathe yet because the wound is so extensive and raw and can't get wet. So I'm still taking sponge baths. Assisted sponge baths. I need help getting clothes on over my limited arms. I can only wear button down or Velcro shirts with plenty of stretch. No tailored fixed tight arms. I need help getting clothes over the wrapped up leg graft, which measures about five inches across and over a foot down. The home health thing didn't work out (long story), so Mom is my nurse. She expertly uses saline and gauze to wash the wound, vaseline gauze with Bacitrane (spelling?) to wrap it, she cuts the extra gauze off, she covers it with puffy abdomen pads, secures it with sticky roll gauze, she secures the leg graft with Tagaderms, she empties and measures the drain, she helps me go to the bathroom. Nothing is more humbling than having to need help going to the bathroom. The day I had my drains out I had two experiences of blood shooting out of my chest, both times when I was home alone. This scared the shit out of me. At the time I couldn't find the source of the shooting, so I though it was the chest wound. Perhaps one of the dry spots? But when Mom helped me take the gauze and bandages off of the drain site, we found the source of the shooting. A big hole in my stomach with wet liquid still oozing out a day later. The doctor who removed my drains said there'd be oozing from the drain sites. She said nothing about shooting blood. I had three shirt changes that day. We're doing a lot of laundry. Well, I'm not doing any laundry. I'm not able to. Mom is doing a lot of laundry. The drains go inside of you about 2-3 feet. Plus they create quite a big hole where they used to be. It takes a while for the hole to scab up. The drain site and some spots inside of me are still sore from where all that tubing used to be. My feet are still numb, the neuropathy hasn't subsided. I often feel off balance. I'm taking a hella lot of medicines. I'm unable to bend low to get to the bottom drawers of my dresser or to the DVD machine to change out my DVD. I leak fluids so we have to place puppy pads on the couch, on the bed, on the seat of the car. I can't use seat belts because they'd massacre my chest wound. The wound is going to take weeks to heal, which is why Radiation didn't schedule my first appointment until December 4th. I'm scheduled to start radiation the week of December 9th and we'll go twice a day for 4 1/2 weeks. Which means I'll still be here in early January. I'll be in Texas for Thanksgiving. I'll be in Texas for Christmas. I'll be in Texas for New Year's. Yes we still have to do radiation even though they think they got all the cancer out. Getting all the cancer out does not mean there is no cancer. No evidence of disease does not mean there is no disease. There are still microscopic bits of disease that aren't detected by pathology or scans. We have to zap these bits with radiation before they grow into detectable cancer. We still have to do radiation. We still have a long road ahead. Every day is still very challenging. Am I still celebrating every step forward? Damn straight I am. But it's two steps forward, one step back, and so on. One minute I'm doing great. One minute I'm having a nervous breakdown. That's my reality. That's how I'm doing.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Spooked in the Night

Made it through Halloween with no candy left for today. I think I've had a year's worth of candy in the last week and that I've plumped up myself as well as stock in Snickers and Reese's multiple peanut choices. Done.

During the 6:00 hour I was sure we had to move. Not a trick or treater in sight. I prefer not to live in a neighborhood where the neighbors turn off the lights and pretend not to be home - or actually go out so they don't have to open the door. And I know that kids from the neighborhood and afar go to the McMansions on 6th Avenue in our area. All those home are lit and decorated with huge cats, pumpkins, ghosts. It's a great show and even I love it. But at last some munchkins wandered to our street and started ringing the bell. Relieved, the moving plans disappeared and all the anxiety provoking thoughts went out the door along with the candy.
A nice pace until about 8:00 and then the big kids, the boys on the last Trick or Treat walk they'd probably do for a while, showed up. Victory. All that candy would be gone quickly with those long arms and strengthened hands reaching into the bowl. Victory. Only four left, and that was an easy gobble.

Off to bed, to a sound sleep. Around 3:00 a.m. I heard noises. People talking in high voices. Having no intention of going downstairs, I figured I'd just lie there and let them take what they want, although it was hard to think of anything valuable other than Waterford crystal, bone china, dishes from Deruta, and three paintings. I don't think those are at the top of the list for a quick sale. Finally Roscoe put on his courage shirt and walked forcefully down the stairs. The television was on. Voices from the box. No idea how or why that happened. But all the things valuable to me were still there.
Go figure. One of those All Hallow Eve mysteries.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Red Sox fans are celebrating their first World Series win at home in over 90 years. For the rest of us, there's All Hallows Eve, commonly referred to as Halloween, tonight. Children and other candy lovers will show up in bizarre costumes tonight. Now that there is a call for costumes to not be offensive to any group, we'll see who shows up and who doesn't. No beggars, no sluts, no ethnic group, no fat clowns. It might still be ok to be a ghost.
Then there is Day of the Dead, All Saints Day, All Souls Day. . .so many celebrations, so many people not really knowing what they are actually celebrating.

Off to buy some candy for tonight's tricksters. Had to eat the previously bought candy because it had nuts. Did my duty, had a two year supply of Reeses and Snickers in two days.
My goal is to celebrate all the above days. Hope you do.