Sunday, April 2, 2017

Coming to Grips

What an odd turn of phrase. Not that that is unusual in English or American English. No wonder it's so hard to learn our language. Grip: to grasp. to seize and hold fast. But how does one "come to grips?" As if one is going out to meet someone or something. And perhaps that is really what it is to grasp something directly or firmly. Going out as if to battle. Marching out in all one's combat gear to grasp something...but to grasp something that is intangible. A concept rather than a person. Which may be why "coming to grips" is such a difficult thing to do. Like pinning gelatin to the wall or holding a wave to the sand.

I haven't written in this blog for more than 6 months. I mean, I've written plenty. In my mind, that is. But I just haven't been able to bring myself to write what I write down, albeit on digital media rather than paper. Paper, I have found, is reserved for writing grocery lists (which reminds me...I need to add toilet paper and facial tissue to the list. But I digress.). There is a reason this blog in entitled thus. I truly am just a writer in my mind. When it comes to "putting pen to paper," (an antiquated phrase that someday will truly be meaningless), I'm a complete and utter failure. And I am "coming to grips" with that. I am "coming to grips" with the idea that I am more "thought" than "action." If fact, I was driven to write today solely because I read a post by a Facebook friend (which is to say we are not "friends" in real life but connected through the internet only because we share multiple "friends" through Facebook but the more I ready by and about him the more I wish we could hang out.). This "friend" is a writer (among other things) by trade. That means he actually makes a living by writing. He is the real thing. And he wrote a post about how writing for him is even difficult but that he has a regimen. And it begins with "Just Show Up and Start Something." I read his post and I started to feel guilty. Supposedly I write. Supposedly. But apparently not. Since it has been more than 6 months since I even wrote anything here at my "writer's blog." And I have no excuses. Well, I have plenty of excuses but that is what they really are. Someone wrote/said once that "what you do is proof of what you believe." And someone named Simon Sinek, who writes and speaks on business and motivation said it and added a word: "What you do is simply proof of what you believe." Simple? Really? Speaking of odd phrases.

And so, I find myself trying to come to grips with the sad fact that maybe I really am not a writer--or a seamstress, or a musician or a gardener any of a number of other things I tell my physician that I do in my "spare time" or with my time. Because if I were ever arrested for being a writer, would there be enough evidence to convict me?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


The photo to the left represents freedom. Freedom for me. It might not look like much, just three little pieces of varnished hard wood. Nothing fancy. And it's not very large. At it's highest point it is a mere 30". It is 14" long and 10" wide. And it weighs a whopping 7 pounds. It's not much to look at and probably would garner a second look from most folks. But it offers a little bit of independence--ever so much--that makes my heart sing.

It doesn't take much these days. I have had to learn to adjust to limitations. They define much of my life now. I cannot stand on tip toe, climb a ladder, kneel on the floor, sit many things I can no longer do with my foot and my leg that I took for granted. Retrieving any sense of autonomy takes thought and ingenuity. I can reach many things--up or down--with the help of my hand-held grabbing tool. I can step up onto and down off of curbs if I take my time and concentrate all my energy on balancing on my cane. I have learned to sit on my butt and scoot around into the hot tub or onto our boat. I can sew if I use my left (less dominate) foot to run the pedal. Incremental steps from semi-paralysis to resuming many of the activities I could do before. If I could just reach up a little higher...

And so, I found my new little wooden friend. It was sitting brightly in a driveway at a yard sale. Normally I would have hardly given it a second thought. But I had recently been to the orthopedist where they had taken x-rays of my foot. In order to get to the level needed I was proffered a metal stool with a handle that I could use to leverage myself up onto and down from it. I had done this before but never thought of how useful such a gadget could be in my life. Until I found my little stool. Sitting there, waiting for me, as if it had been created just for me.

Now it sits at the ready just steps from the kitchen. My little stool has helped me reach those bowls and platters that I previously had to ask someone else to help with. We don't need them so much any more, my stool and I. It has liberated me. Baby steps...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Apologetics & Apologies

It must be nice (or so it seems from your passionate desire to stay there) in your ivory tower
Where everything is black and white, plain and simple, right and wrong
Where you can spout off about freedom
         (except freedom of speech, the speech that you so ardently                shout out from the safety of your edifice while meanwhile                wanting to deny that same freedom for others)
Freedom to have as many freedoms you want, including the
Freedom to deny freedom to those different from you, those who look different or act differently or feel differently or whose life experiences you could never hope to understand.

It must be nice to live a life so bereft of knowledge, understanding, empathy that you don't have to hear the cries of the disenfranchised
          But can shout them down, swatting at them like irritating gnats
Cries that have no basis in reality--or so you think.
Simply whining, spoiled, self-centered cries.
They are so--or so you think
         Because in your ivory tower-existence you see only your experience.
The only experience that really matters.

Why don't they just get over it? Pull themselves up by their bootstraps? Get a job? Go to college? Quit sucking from the government tit?

Oh, you say racism in America is over but you have no idea do you?

Have you ever...
         Been denied a job, a seat in restaurant, human decency because of your skin color?
         Been afraid to walk down a street, leave a convenience store, drive a car legally, host a pool                   party?
         Felt compelled to teach your children to fear law enforcement officers?
         Felt the ugly stares or comments because you married or are dating someone of a different race?

Well, you can have your ivory tower. I want no part of it. I am angry and disgusted and guilt-ridden.
And I'll stay down in here in the street with the disenfranchised.

Am I a bleeding heart liberal? You damned right I am! Shame on you for not being one too. Your blindness, your prejudice, your hatred are accomplishing the goal...keeping us separated, unequal, unsettled.

It must be nice...

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Little Less Safe

I'm suffering this minute from what I can only imagine is a version of PTSD. According to the Mayo Clinic these symptoms could include:

Mood: anger, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, inability to feel pleasure, loneliness, loss of interest, nervousness, panic attack, or emotional distress
Behavioral: aggression, agitation, hostility, hypervigilance, irritability, screaming, self-destructive behavior, self-harm, or social isolation
Psychological: depression, fear, flashback, hallucination, severe anxiety, or mistrust
Sleep: insomnia, night terror, nightmares, or sleep deprivation
Cognitive: thoughts of suicide or unwanted thoughts
Whole body: acute stress or blackout
Also common: emotional detachment, headache, or lack of emotional response

I'm inclined to describe them more as "feeling constantly on the verge of tears; not able to focus on anything important; wanting to shut-down, go to bed and pull the covers over my head."  Although I have experienced nothing of the magnitude that, say, someone who has fought in the military or lived through a mass shooting has experienced, in my own small way I have suffered from a traumatic experience that makes me afraid of my own neighborhood and has me looking over my shoulder for the enemy.

This morning, in the still early twilight hours we were headed out to a meeting. We passed the little store in our neighborhood where a car had just pulled into the small parking lot. As we passed the car pulled quickly out of the lot and came up behind us. I thought nothing of that although my hubby got one of those weird feelings like "what if this driver has ill-intent and tries to ram me at the stop sign." While that specific action did not take place what happened in the next few minutes amounted to harassment on a level that spawned terror in us. The driver of the car started speeding up close and then backing off, swerving all over the road behind us, flashing his high beams at us. Our first response was that we should just get off the road and allow him to pass and create some distance between us. However, whenever we would make a move to get off the road he clearly intended to keep following--and terrorizing us. I began to have visions of being run off the road into the ditch or worse, being shot at. He turned off his headlights altogether a couple of times and the second time sped up to come up alongside us. At this point we sped up and I called 911. Between our speeding up and his backing off we put some distance between us again in time for other cars to enter the road. Whatever the reason, we saw no more of him after that but the deed had been done. We were terrified beyond reason and couldn't wait to get off the road and to our destination.

So many thoughts have gone through my head since that encounter, not the least of which is fear to be in my own small neighborhood, a victim of some crazed lunatic with a 2,000 pound car as his weapon. It brought home the truth that we can never become lulled into thinking that even our own little corner of the world is entirely safe. And certainly this notion is confirmed at least weekly it seems as another mass shooting takes place in this country. I feel fear but I also feel anger--anger that someone could in fact act so dangerously and terrify me so completely, anger that he took away any sense of safety. 
And in the end, I feel a little less safe than I did 24 hours ago.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Exclusive! Book Excerpt!

I finally launched my first published book this fall. There is something quite wonderful about hugging nearly 300 pages, bound in a shiny cover, of words that you have written. Even if you have to publish it yourself and even if you give away more copies than you sell. It is proof, right there in your hands, that you have accomplished something.

So the next accomplishment would be to sell a few copies and actually get someone to read it and maybe even give feedback. So as an enticement, for those of you who like to try before you buy, I present to you a sneak preview of of chapter. (P.S. You can also scroll back in this blog to find other excerpts if this one isn't convincing enough!)

Limbs are from Mars, Brains are from Venus
Jun 7, 2011 5:21pm
So when you have a stroke like mine the bleeding causes death to the brain cells in the area of the bleed and brain cells do not regenerate; they stay dead (an obvious misstep in the evolutionary process!). But all is not lost; the brain can often create a workaround with a bit of a rewiring job to reconnect the disconnected circuitry. The way it has been explained to me this process, while spearheaded by the brain, is a partnership--not unlike a marriage--between the brain and the newly disconnected body parts such as muscles. In my case the process requires a renewed commitment to communication between my brain and my right appendages. But also in my case the 2 parts have been in a relationship so long that as with male/female relationships of any length--say, more than 4 months!--the one partner has really stopped listening, with any intent, to the other partner. They have reached the point in their "marriage" where she (in this example, the brain) can be talking directly and emphatically to the foot, leg & arm muscles to do something and he (in this example, the disconnected limbs) are either ignoring the brain outright (as husbands are wont to do at times!) or at best responding, "Sorry, did you say something?"

The obvious result is slow progress toward the goal of reconciliation; hence there is an also obvious need for therapy in which the partners need to be led with help to find new ways to communicate with each other their needs and aspirations. Therapy does take time, is often hard work, requires mutual agreement to commit to, and isn't necessarily a cure-all. But the results are almost always worth the effort!

I am seeing progress, inch by inch, as my brain & limbs reunite, albeit often stubbornly. I am able to push myself to a standing position, stand w/o holding on for a few seconds, dress myself almost completely alone (curse you, bras and underwear!), shower almost completely independently sitting down, take a few "Frankenstein-like" steps with something to support me, and even practiced stepping up onto and down from a "step" with assistance (go ahead and cheer; I'm becoming slightly more tolerant of being the center of attention and will work on my bow!). There might be hope for this "marriage" yet!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Eye on the Sparrow


I've been rather blue and agitated lately. Since this is not my normal demeanor when I experience such alien feelings I immediately search for the cause. It could be the sudden change in the weather. The last few days of August here have been mostly gray, often rainy and windy. It could be the unexpected power outages. Not being able to access electricity makes me cranky. It could be the uncertainty that is my life these days, particularly around our finances. It could be any of these things but on reflection I think I've uncovered something more sinister, more occult. Stephen Colbert might have summed it up using one of his signature terms: "truthiness," which was Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year 2006. In a nutshell, truthiness is "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true."

Actually it is not that I suffer from "truthiness." In fact, I think we are all suffering from a failure to know--without a doubt--what are "concepts or facts known to be true." What we are dealing with is an inability to even decipher what is truthiness and what is truth. In light of the conflicting "information" that comes at us daily via the media and the internet, I must confess that I am compelled to ask with Pilate, "What is truth?" We are dependent on others for so much of our "truth" as is it impossible to "know" and investigate everything. I try to be informed, well-read, and open-minded. I try to use common sense (which I realize is not so common). But as soon as I believe that what I believe is the truth, someone comes up with a convincing-sounding argument for the other side. And I begin to question my thinking. Do I indeed dabble in truthiness without knowing it?

I don't mean to imply that I am like leaf or a reed, easily swayed by the direction of the wind. I don't immediately jump to the opposite argument every time my "truth" is questioned. In fact the opposite might be true especially if it is a "truth" that I have long held to be so. But when the opposite argument seems reasoned and well-thought-out it can shake me to my core, cause me to question sources that I had thought to be trustworthy, and, yes, it can depress me. The depression arises out of a feeling of helplessness and helplessness arises out of uncertainty. I want to know that what I know as truth is truth. This is not to say that I'm inflexible. I am definitely open to new, alternative ideas and have been known to change my way of thinking to a more enlightened one. But what does one do when one feels the need to "know" what is right and to act on that?

Either the world's climate is changing and the experts in the field who know these things are telling us the truth or nothing significant is happening and the "97% of scientists agree" is a fabricated number. Either vaccinations are necessary to prevent the spread of disease or the pharmaceutical companies are scamming us and those shots we've come to depend on are actually detrimental. Either GMOs are perfectly safe and necessary in order to feed a burgeoning world or they are contributing to the decimation of our agricultural system and making us sicker. The problem is that many times either side can make compelling arguments, cite convincing statistics and quote well-respected experts; so then how does one "know" what is right and what is a smokescreen?

Perhaps the larger issue is that things are hardly ever so black-and-white. Gray is the color of most issues, gray like the sky outside my window. So for now I will retreat to what I know, that there are sparrows outside on the deck railing, resting from dining in the bird feeder, perching on the bird bath to sip water or wash the dust off their wings, flying as a group to the safety of the neighbor's tree. I will take comfort for now in what little I can really "know."