Sunday, June 28, 2009

Caught in a Vortex

Lately I have been caught up in a whirlwind of demands from many sources. I am unbelievably busy at work. The issues with my mother have been temporarily eased a bit, but they have not gone away. Other family issues continue to grow, and there is no reason to expect they will get anything but worse at least for the next year or two. After that, they will change, but not necessarily for the better.

Faced with so many demands on my soul and psyche, I feel as though I have only a few options. I could give myself over to depression and panic, which would only make matters worse on all fronts. I could run away, which -- tempting though it might be -- is not really an option. Or, I could find a way to cope. My way of coping has a lot in common with running away, with a twist.

My way of coping is to stay where I am and to do what I have to do to respond to the demands, but in every spare moment (and some I probably shouldn't spare) to throw myself into writing fiction in order to "process" the issues I'm facing. That has worked for me in the past. I need it to work for me now!

Until recently, I have not shared my fiction online because I was hoping to be able to publish my stories in the traditional manner. Lately, I have become increasingly unwilling to play that game. I know my stories are more entertaining than some I've read, but I can't get anyone to read them. I have only a limited amount of time to write (and that time is even more compressed than usual). I can't afford to spend time querying agents who send rejections via auto-responders.

I've been thinking a lot about it, and I've decided to self-publish. I haven't totally decided what form that will take. I'm researching my options.

When I am in crisis mode, I need to create. I'm in full crisis mode now, so I plan to get very creative, in some form or another

Saturday, June 27, 2009

'Puter woes

I haven't taken the time to look up the exact date I bought it, but approximately four years ago, I bought an Acer Aspire computer. I took it out of the box, plugged it in and less than five minutes later I was online, downloading all the shareware I use because it's way cool and I'm cheap. From that day until about three weeks ago, I never had a bit of trouble with the hardware. Software "issues" and operator stupidity occasionally provided opportunities for heartache and loud swearing, but the hardware was totally reliable.

A few weeks ago, my 'puter started overheating and freezing up, occasionally even shutting down altogether. I can't begin to express how irritating and frustrating that was when I'd be in the "flow" of writing!

Mind you, everything on my laptop is backed up, and the really, really important stuff is backed up in several places. (Anal? Who says I'm anal???) If my laptop were to die in the next five minutes, the only data I would lose would be anything in this post that Blogger hasn't saved yet. But, I love my little 'puter and we've been through a lot of adventures together. I hate to see her getting old and feeble.

Surfing the net and reading zines and blogs is what I do for entertainment. Writing (both blogs and fiction) is what I do for survival. I need my 'puter for both.

I do the routine maintenance on my computers on a regular basis. Beyond that, I'm not to much for tinkering, tweeking and fooling around with the computer operations. I like to use the computer as a tool. I'm not really interested in working on the machine itself.

Today I saw an ad for an Acer very similar to the one I have -- only newer and with a lot more speed, memory and hard drive space, plus a DVD burner. Price was $299 with free shipping! I called Dear Husband and told him he had 20 seconds to give me one good reason not to buy it. He told me to go for it (probably because he heard the tone in my voice that indicated if he came up with a good reason for me not to buy it, I'd be pissed as hell).

New 'puter should arrive next week. If it's half as good as the Little Princess here, I'll be totally thrilled.

The downside is that I will probably spend my holiday weekend setting up my new computer, and I hate spending my valuable spare time working on my computer as opposed to using my computer to do my work.

If I play my cards right, I'll end up with a new, fast souped-up computer, and still have this one (complete with the duct tape that's holding on the cover) for a backup. I can hear DH now muttering, "How many computers does one person need?"

I understand that. Hell, I am constantly on my Daughter Dear's case for her purse-and-shoe habit. (I call her Imelda -- but she doesn't know what that means.) She is always looking for a new purse or the coolest new shoes. I have not owned as many shoes or purses in my life as she has in her closet right now.

Generally speaking, I am a person of simple tastes and limited needs. I have one purse (well two, because I recently bought a travel satchel that will carry my laptop) and I can count my shoes on one hand (if flip flops don't count). The only jewelry I wear any more is my wedding ring and occasionally a pearl necklace my mother gave me. I buy my clothes at thrift stores. I eat out only about once a week, and then it's usually for lunch or takeout Chinese. I don't go to movies or concerts or plays. I cut my own hair. All in all, I'm a pretty thrifty gal. So, if I want to collect a bunch of electronic crap, well, by golly I think I'm entitled!

New laptop should arrive next week. Cursing and gnashing of teeth may/may not follow.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Day In My Life

Below is a summary description of one of my days last week. Compared with the days since then, this was a kind of slow day. I'm posting this mainly to take the Nazi reflection off the top of my blog.

Based on events today, I am not sure when I'll check back in here.

6:00 a.m
I wake to the sound of my alarm.

I should have known I was in for a bad day. I hardly ever sleep all the way until my alarm goes off. Usually I wake anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes before the alarm goes off, providing me with the opportunity to ease into my day slowly and pleasantly.Most of the time I'm already in the shower by 6:00 a.m. I set the alarm as an emergency backstop only. This does not bode well.

6:45 a.m In the car on the way to work. Call my mother in convalescent home.

Mom gets on the phone and she's chipper and alert. Loves it there. Just before I get to work she tells me they told her she could go home tomorrow, maybe. She was supposed to be there for a month before we have to decide what to do next. (Leave it to my mother to make a miraculous recovery!)

My guardian angel is with me because I manage not to run into a ditch.

7:05 a.m Log on to work email

Send frantic message to sister regarding the situation with Mom.

Begin work day. I do not write about work here, other than to say that it is fast-paced, stressful and totally CRAZY. Among fending off dozens of emails and phone calls (all bosses out of the office, so I was "in charge"), my main goal for the day was to finish a draft of a report I have been working on for a week. Started that at about 7:10.

10:00 a.m Sister calls

Nursing home has scheduled a care conference for this afternoon. May release Mom early next week.

3:00 p.m participate by phone in care conference

Nurses report on almost miraculous recovery by my mother Plan is to release her on Monday.

3:20 p.m send email to sister

Please call. Let's discuss.

3:30 p.m sister calls

Discuss various options. Decision is that she can deal with moving Mom on Monday. No need for me to go back again right now.

5:20 p.m almost everybody's gone from the office. Phone is quiet. Working on report.

If I'm going to go work out at Curves, need to leave soon, but I'm almost finished with report. Blow off Curves and finish drafting report.

6:20 p.m finish draft of to desktop.

I pull up the document I just saved to my desktop in order to email it to one of my supervising attorneys for review. It's gone!! The version that is there is from hours and hours ago!!! I have lost all the good summary stuff I just wrote!! There is screaming and yelling. I believe the word FUCK is used more than once. Legal assistant is still there. She runs in and calms me down long enough to recover document from Recent Documents (Thank you, K-- and thank you, you miserable bastards at Microsoft.) I email document to attorney (for safe keeping if nothing else).

6:45 p.m arrive home.

Husband not ready for dinner.

7:00 p.m head out for walk (forgetting bug spray).

Walk is wonderful. It's very hot but there's a nice breeze and I'm walking in the fresh air with my music (Thank God for Jimmy Buffett.) The day is looking up!

7:45 p.m heading home, sun behind clouds, very sweaty.

Mosquitoes love sweat!

8:15 p.m home

Doctoring Skeeter bites, reading newspaper. Husband leaves to run errand.

8:45 p.m pour glass of wine. Log onto computer to "process" my day


9:10 p.m Husband not home. Dogs sleeping. It is peaceful and quiet.

Dinner? Wine?

Wine? Dinner?

Can Triscuits be considered dinner? On a day like today?!! Hell, yes. Husband can fend for himself when he gets home.

On The Amazing Power of Denial

Over this past weekend my Dear Husband and I watched the movie Downfall, which is about the final days of the Third Reich seen through the eyes of Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge. It wasn't quite as soul-shaking as Shindler's List (thank God), but it was very powerful -- perhaps because it was a German-made film about the Third Reich.

Visually, the movie was amazing. The performance by Bruno Ganz as Hitler was perhaps one of the all time greatest screen performances I have ever seen, albeit one of the most creepy and disturbing. The soundtrack was magnificent. Overall, the movie was very powerful and moving, despite being in German (a language I can't stand to hear spoken -- sounds like people clearing their throats) with English subtitles.

For the first 98% of the movie, I kept asking (as I have every time I've watched a WWII movie) how the Germans could follow a maniac like that and, at the same time, how they could profess not to know what was happening. This movie gave me an inkling of how each of those things could happen. The seduction of a Dream (even if it is a Big Lie) is a powerful thing. The human ability to ignore gruesome and painful facts is one way the species has survived, because it has kept people moving forward when all the facts weighed against it. It is also a way for people to ignore obvious but inconvenient evils that exist right under their noses.

The people who supported Hitler could have and perhaps should have known what was going on. The German people have protested for more than 60 years that they didn't know the full reality of the horrors the Nazis unleashed on their country. I always thought that was disingenuous. How could they not know?

Maybe they didn't know because they were so busy living their lives and trying to get through their days, they didn't look. And for some -- like Traudl Junge -- they were so close they could see the human side of the face of evil, and they were far removed from the reality of the evil that had been unleashed on Europe outside the inner circle.

I found myself feeling compassion for Junge, who was young and clueless and who chose not to see the inconvenient and horrible truths that surrounded her.

The most chilling parts of the movie for me were the scenes in which the True Believers expressed their absolute, unconditional, and eternal faith in Hitler, despite everything, the most significant of which involved Magda Goebbels poisoning her six children.

I have always asked, incredulously: How could that be?

I sit here tonight and feel sure that, as incredible as it may be, it was possible then and it is possible today. Perhaps I should rethink my reluctance to keep apprised of the news!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Great Bumper Sticker!

Dear Husband gets credit for seeing this one on a large pickup:



Up, Up & Away....

The first time I flew in an airplane was in 1973, when I went to Europe with a class trip. We flew to New York, where we had a long layover, and then to Luxembourg where we hopped a train, with all the hippies schlepping around Europe that summer. I can't remember what airline we flew from Ohio to New York. We flew Icelandic from there to Luxembourg, along with all the hippies. The meals were amazing. I tasted cognac for the first time on that trip, and a life-long love affair was born.

After spending my childhood taking long road trips with the 'rents, I discovered air travel, and I loved it.

In the years following college, I took a lot of trips on planes, I visited friends and relatives around the U. S. A few years after I graduated, I got a job that involved a lot of traveling, mostly to New York, Washington D. C. and San Francisco. We stayed in five star hotels and ate at extremely nice restaurants. Flying was fun. The stewardesses on Delta called the passengers "honey" and "sugah". They pretended they appreciated our business. They refrained from saying "bless your heart" to anyone but the total Yankees who wouldn't understand, anyway.

In the early 1980's, I married a man who hated to fly. We took one airplane trip together, and I swore I would never let him get on another plane, considering that my palms were positively bloody from his nails digging into them by the time we landed in Las Vegas. For most of the next twenty-plus years, we traveled only to places we could reach via four-wheeled motorized vehicle that did not leave the ground.

In recent years, I have had to travel occasionally for business and also on several occasions for last-minute trips to visit ailing parents. Flying in the post-9/11 world totally and completely sucks.

In the "olden" days, when a flight was delayed the airline apologized -- and often provided free drinks to soothe the jangled nerves once the passengers were aboard. These days, after hours and hours of delays, the airlines do not offer free drinks to anyone except first class (maybe). Hell, they don't even apologize!

Pardon me for being cranky: this was written after a delay of more than seven hours and three gate changes.

The good news was that my luggage arrived on the same plane as me. That's cause for celebration.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hello!? Hello!? Hello?!

Talk about communication gaps!

My daughter is a college student. She has a smart phone, which she carries with her all the time, but keeps in her purse. The purse is often (allegedly) left in the car, in a bedroom, under the table, or someplace else inaccessible, so she does not always answer it (at least when one or the other parents call).  (I believe that, oh, yes I do.  I also believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy.)  She is generally available only by email or text message.  Occasionally she answers the phone, mainly in order to throw me off.  The key thing is that, while I can rarely actually talk to her when I want to, I can always leave a message in one of several ways, and she can tell how many times I tried to reach out to her.

When my mother lived in her own home, she had a portable phone with caller ID. She was usually home, but if she was out or on the phone, she could always tell when I called, so she, too, knew when I was thinking of her.  Sometimes she would even remember to turn on the damned answering machine so I could leave an actual voice message. (Not very often, but sometimes.)

My mother is now in a convalescent center where she is undergoing rehabilitation therapy. There are only certain hours of the day when she is in her room. She has a basic phone in her room, with no answering service and no caller ID. I spoke to her on Monday for a while, after trying several times and getting a busy signal (I hadn't heard a busy signal in so long, I thought there was something wrong with my phone). Tuesday she had company when I called, so we spoke for only a minute. Today I have tried five times to reach her and the line has been busy every time.  Now it is too late to call because it's almost her bedtime!

Lord, I may have to actually resort to writing letters and mailing them.... then again, maybe I'll try calling her early in the morning when I'm on my way to work! That's worth a try, anyway.

Anything to avoid printing out an actual letter and having to buy a postage stamp! What does a stamp cost these days, anyway? 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Aging Parents

We admitted my mother to a nursing home last week.  

It is hard for me to imagine my fierce and powerful mother as an old lady who submits to being diapered and bathed and having her meat cut up by others. Right now, we don't know if this is a permanent arrangement or if she will -- with physical and occupational therapy -- be able to go home at some point. Personally, I rather hope she decides not to even try to go home. I want her to be someplace where she is safe.

During my entire life, my mother had two desires:  she wanted to spend every possible moment of her life with my father (to the exclusion of all other desires) and she did not want to be a burden on her children.  

After more than 60 years of marriage, my father died a few years ago.  I frankly did not expect Mom to live long after that.  Neither did she, which is why she planned and paid for her funeral when they were arranging his.  

Turns out she's tougher than any of us gave her credit for, and she actually had a few good years, maintaining her independence, doing some things that Dad never would have wanted to do and muddling through her days in a world without the man who was the center of her universe.  

After Dad died we gently suggested that she divide her time between my sister's home and mine.  We each offered to build out mother-in-law apartments in our houses.  Mom wasn't ready to do that.  She didn't want to "burden" us, and she wanted to be independent.  It would have been no burden, but as a stubbornly independent-minded people (who got that from our parents) we respected her desire to live in her own home as long as possible.

Recently, Mom began to have more and more physical and mental "issues".   She fell several times -- three times that she has admitted to (I think there have been several falls she hasn't told us about).   This last time she ended up in the hospital with a whole array of mysterious and scary symptoms.   

It was abundantly clear that this time, she wasn't going home by herself. We found in a very nice place that is clean, and where they apparently do a good job of doing physical therapy to help their residents operate at the highest level they can, as well as keeping them busy and entertained.  We could not ask for more.....  

... other than for her to be young and strong, fierce and stubbornly proud again.... but, well, I'm not going to go there because I've cried enough for one week.