• 11Jun
    Written by: Categories: Life Comments: 0

    It’s been seven years since I posted in this blog. A lot has happened during that time. I met the most important person in my life on a social media site. After private messaging thousands of words for many long hours, we met in person in St. Louis, him driving from Kansas and me flying from Pennsylvania. It was the first time I wasn’t nervous meeting someone new. And now we share our lovely house (albeit a little messy…he’s very patient with me) and home in a beautiful piece of Pennsylvania. With our amazing puppy-cat, Arnie, who was here when we got here, and patiently waited until we were ready to admit we were going to take him away from his existing family. Turned out they were just happy to know he was well.

    One night we went to bed and I told my partner I’d felt a lump and asked him to feel it. It was small, but it was there. After jumping through some highly unnecessary medical hoops, under the circumstances, I had a biopsy done and, yes, it was cancer. But “the best kind to have,” if that’s actually possible. We were at breakfast at our usual place when I found out, and I started to cry. Just a reaction, I think. I didn’t really know what any of it meant. As time passed, I decided I just wanted people to know, so I went around and told the people we knew well at the restaurant. Some of them thought I was nuts. In hindsight, it was weird. Knowing what I know now, always allow people to do whatever they need to do under similar circumstances. It’s like when someone dies. Everyone handles it differently. And no way is wrong. Frankly, I think I was looking for as much support as I could find. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it in most of those places. But I learned a lot in the process.

    That Thanksgiving, during a break from my radiation, we went to my cousin’s for dinner as usual. But it wasn’t usual at all. Shortly after we arrived, my partner suddenly wasn’t well. He ended up collapsing and had a lot of trouble breathing. We eventually learned at the hospital that it was congestive heart failure. Fluid retention from kidneys not working sufficiently filled him to the point of affecting his lungs. He was in the hospital for two weeks as they worked to bring his weight down. That kind of emergency changes how you see things. Eventually, he came home, my treatment was done, and we moved on to our new normals, working through the after effects.

    A new coffee shop opened up close to us. My partner had been looking for a decent cup of coffee since moving here. Finally, he could get one, and right near home! So, he started up his old routine that he followed in Kansas and went to the coffee shop every afternoon. It’s a great habit…same time, same place, often the same people… This time, the people were two young ones who worked there. He would come home and tell me about them. They were smart and thought about life, but were also light-hearted. The barista, although in her mid-twenties, had been through more than she should have at that age. She had the tough edges acquired from bartending and fending off drunks. She’d dealt with other life events that made her wise beyond her years. Yet, I was to find out, she still ran around on her toes. It was a long time before I actually saw her feet flat on the floor. Her co-worker had only recently entered his third decade. He was quiet with a big smile and gentle disposition, and eyes for the barista.

    One thing you can always count on is that things will always change. You can never imagine that they will, or what they could change into, but they do. I can’t even really say in what way. We all change too. Inside, if not outside for other people to see. This has happened over and over for many centuries, yet we can never really be prepared because we don’t know what will come. And, of course, as humans we don’t fully understand things until we live through them. How do you know what it’s like to be married until after walking down the aisle? Or what it’s like having a child until there’s a little being who’s totally dependent on you and cries when you leave its line of vision? Or how you’ll react when diagnosed with cancer?

    We have no idea what time will bring and it will surely affect us in ways we would never expect. It can even take years to understand what those effects are. Only yesterday, 2 ½ years after my cancer surgery, I realized that maybe allowing my sister to come for it would have helped HER. She offered multiple times. She wanted to be here for me.

    What we experience growing up, and after, makes us who we are. As a child, we have no idea what our minds are putting away for use later. Often those things sit there for years and years without us realizing. But they certainly affect our behavior and decisions. Our parents’ choices, sibling dynamics, experiences in school, and learning how to socialize.

    Our relationship with our barista friend has changed. For the better, I think. She has a beautiful baby girl now. She no longer walks on her toes.

  • 10Jun
    Written by: Categories: Art, Habit Comments: 0

    Uh-huh. A challenge, based on an article about creative “cross-training.” I didn’t have to choose this, of course, and still. must. paint. But I do want to write, and the author suggested choosing something you have an interest in. So, here we go…

    Topic: I thought of things to write about last night, I swear. They’ll come back to me. Right now, I think the point is just to write. I’m trying to remember a couple books I’ve looked at in the past (this memory is terrible). When you search for “writing book” on Amazon, sadly the first book is “sponsored.” Amazon has taken a page from google. I could write 1000 words on that alone.

    The second book is also sponsored, but I like it: Cursive Handwriting Workbook: Cursive Handwriting Book for Kids (Grades 3 – 5) – Workbook to Practice. One of my hot spots. Schools are no longer teaching kids how to write in cursive. This news came out right after my sister, an elementary school teacher in Louisiana, had taken a teachers’ trip to New Orleans to learn a new way of teaching cursive. Brilliant.

    I am, however, happy to see that parents have chosen to take on the teaching task themselves, and other venues are promoting the reasons to teach cursive to kids. There’s even a Campaign for Cursive with an extensive web site.

    Back to Amazon. The next three books are Amazon “Best Sellers”: Another workbook on cursive writing; a workbook on printing, for younger kids; and The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers. Well, I’m glad to see they’re covering the bases and reaching out to young people. That’s the time to learn these skills. I have a friend who, while attending Lehigh University, said that her professors did not mark her papers for spelling or grammar! Not even comments. I was appalled. College is young people’s last opportunity to be taught to write well. And they will need it in the real world. But, the quality of communication is changing drastically. Hey! Another writing topic! But I digress, yet again…

    The next book on the Amazon search results is On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King. It has 4½ stars, from 3,155 customer reviews. One review states, “He awakens in one an urgency about writing, and how this activity can just fill one’s life with meaning.” I’d like to say that makes me want to read it. Unfortunately, I have become jaded about Mr. King. Years ago, I loved his books, especially one of short stories, which I don’t usually like. They were so gripping with simple, effective premises. Unfortunately, I can’t share what the book is (that darn memory again), because when I searched Mr. King’s books on Amazon, on about page four of the list (there are four “sponsored” listings per page), it started including other authors. That’s where they lose me. I became jaded with Mr. King because it seems to me as if he is one of those celebrity writers just pumping out books. Either for money, or to meet his contractual obligations (although it does seem like he should be able to write whatever and whenever he wants, at this point).

    Book five on the search results list is a blank journal. No, thank you, I already have enough of those. I love journals. Oh, the possibilities. I could collect them. But writing on that first blank page is so intimidating. This one says it’s “for Boys and Girls,” so I’m safe passing it up. I don’t think I fit the “Girl” category any more.

    The list then disperses into the wide variety of writing books. Grammar (the only one you’ll ever need), writing nonfiction, resumes, fiction, general writing tools and Start Writing Your Book Today! As usual in this world of too much information, they all start to meld into a pile of HOW TO WRITE.

    But that list was based on Relevance. Let’s see what happens when I order the results by Avg. Customer Review.

    Number one is The True Story of Fake News: How Mainstream Media Manipulates Millions. A big topic right now. I don’t know if this is the penultimate source for information on fake news. According to Amazon, the author’s “YouTube channel has over 1 million subscribers and more than 400 million views, and his viral videos have been mentioned on the Fox News Channel, CNN, the Drudge Report, TMZ, the New York Daily News, the Washington Times, and other media outlets around the world.” (emphasis mine) I’m not sure if having a popular youtube channel makes you an expert. But I could be wrong. Youtube has become a venue for all kinds of people to get their message out and has made many very successful. But is does get five stars, averaged from 2,496 customer reviews!

    I have no idea what the next group of books have to do with writing. Maybe they came up because I included the word “books” in my search. There’s a kids’ book, book three of what looks like a teen drama series, a couple Christian-based books, another blank journal…I could go on. I’m not sure ordering by customer rating works for me. I rarely read best-sellers, either.

    Finally, I remember the title of one book I’ve read—Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Ms. Lamott is an excellent writer. This title is based on her father’s advice given to her brother when he was having trouble writing a report about birds as a child. He said to just write it “bird by bird,” excellent advice. Starting to write is so hard (as are many other things) because we look at the blank page and the topic as a whole. Breaking it down is the only way to start.

    I own this book. And others on writing. Like the blank journals, I have, in the past, read about writing without committing to do it. I’m sensing a trend.

    One excellent tip I read long ago was to write first thing in the morning. One to three pages, just dumping whatever is in your head. That tip seems to be all over the internet now, but I’m pretty sure it originated from a book on drawing: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Excellent book. The idea is to get all the garbage out of your head to clear the way for real writing. There are always days when you will just write garbage (this could be one of mine, you judge), but, the more you write, the more chance you have of writing something decent. Of course, there’s more to it than that. But you have to start to for it to be even possible.

    This is my start. This time around.