Sunday, June 29, 2008

Inhibited Productivity

I was able to get some writing done today while sitting next to my mom at the rehab center, but not as much as I'd like. It was a helpful distraction from what was going on in the bed next to Mom's.

We've had some problems with dementia stricken roommates. Martha, her first, is completely unaware of what is going on around her and calls for help nonstop in a broken voice that sears my heart. Eventually, I had to ask for her to be transferred so my mom, two weeks post op and still very sick, could get some much needed rest. Dottie, Mom's more recent roommate, also suffers from dementia, but she is still aware of things and people around her as the madness - and it definitely is a sort of madness - ebbs and flows. Problem is, Dottie's dementia makes her nasty and vulgar and she has begun to behave violently towards the nurses, throwing things at them and cursing them. I'd had enough when she became threatening to my mom, at one point coming up to Mom's bedside and getting right into her face. That was it for me and I burned up the phones at 9pm on a Sunday night to make sure that wouldn't happen again. Transfer number two.

She's been without a roommate since early in the week through no effort of ours, but that changed on Friday when a new resident, Rosa, was moved in. Rosa is 89 years old and was just in the hospital for bleeding in her brain. She's receiving hospice care and is dying. Her family, particularly her daughter Nellie who is of an age with my mother, is standing vigil at her bedside with fair consistency and they have been very pleasant and conversational with my mother and I. They are Russian and as the family speaks amongst themselves, I overhear amazing stories of things that have occurred in their lives as émigrés and in their mother/grandmother's life. When they are using English. Otherwise I just listen to the cadence of the Russian flying about the room. I'm touched that even the youngest generations, teenagers, fluently speak Russian. It shows the sort of thing that's important to this family.

Initially, my mother was disturbed to be given a long-term care roommate in her rehab ward, but as the days have progressed, she has been there to answer some questions posed by Nellie as she begins to read the bible for the first time. Nellie has shared some of the things that Rosa has said or asked for as she's been declining and these experiences seem to have opened Nellie up to the gospel. This has shifted my mother's focus and has, I think, eased her misgivings as it appears that she has been deliberately put into this woman's life for a reason. Nellie herself told me that they have had some good conversations this weekend and that my mother is a wonderful woman. It's good to be reminded of that.

But it's been difficult for me to witness. Not Nellie herself or even Rosa. My own medical experiences and caring for my mother through her medical crisis these past months has inured me to the realities and unpleasantness of basic care. Still, the distance from my grandmother's declining health and eventual death last year is faint and those events echo in the tableau unfolding before me. The cell phone calls to family, the numerous chairs clustered around the bed, the hush tones of conversation, the cardboard trappings of hasty meals, the strong caregiver at the center of the circle of grief. The pressing weight of inevitability.

I know these movements, I recognize these scenes. I reenacted them myself all too recently as I battled to keep my mother alive, to keep her fighting. My mother would lie there, disoriented from fever and pain, and her lost expression in a face that so mirrors my grandmother's, a face that reverberates in my own, was a painful deja vu. And as this family walks a path I've now trod twice, both times successfully in very different ways, it's difficult to sit typing away about romantic drama when an all too real drama is right before my eyes.

Reason enough for inhibited productivity.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Inside Out

I'm feeling a little inside out today.

Yesterday I found out that the apartment I felt sure was destined to answer a lot of personal needs had been rented to another. Big disappointment and no small amount of anger.

This morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 5:45am in order to leave my apartment by 7am to get to my appointment with the orthopedic surgeon scheduled for 8am. It takes about 40 minutes to get from here to there, but because of the roads involved and the time of day, I had to leave plenty of time for New Jersey error. I didn't sleep well either because I was anxious about sleeping through my alarm - exacerbated no doubt by the two medicinal Mike's Hard Cranberry Lemonade that I had with my leftovers dinner - and woke myself up at various times throughout the night to check my clock. It got so bad, I even dreamt that the power had gone out and all my clocks were showing different times, except for my alarm clock, which is battery powered.

Got up, got washed and dressed, and was on my way by the astonishing time of 6:48am. No traffic foibles entrapped me beyond navigating through the murky fog inhabiting my brain. I even had enough time for a detour to the Bagels 'R Us in Springfield that has delicious asiago cheese bagels, or at least had delicious asiago cheese bagels, because apparently they don't make them anymore. Still, a salt bagel did not go amiss.

After all this, I was told, upon arrival at the orthopedic office, that I wasn't even on the appointment schedule for the day. I have an itchy feeling that they only checked on the erroneous name I suggested because I couldn't remember the specialist's name, but I did ask them to check all three partners' schedule and I had to go with what they were telling me. So I wound up rescheduling that for next week and get to go another 7 days without the MRI results on my knee. Yippee.

All that effort (on my part) and inefficiency (on theirs) brought me to work at 8:30 this morning when the lights were still off and the toilet seats were still raised. I sat at my desk in an early morning coma listening to the office wake up around me. With our visual aids now released and our client's sales meeting underway, the frenetic intensity and time commitment of my job has eased for the moment, making the days less annoying and harder to muddle through at the same time.

Plus it's raining and humid with it and the best thing to do on a day like this is stay in bed with the a/c cranked in the company of kitties. Then there was the par for the course "where did you put my _______" call
from my mother followed by my conditioned response "exactly where you told me." Her improving health is a blessing. Really it is.

Add to all that the two calls made this morning to the social worker at my mother's rehab facility, on top of the e-mail I sent her yesterday, to get the answer for one silly Medicaid question. I have yet to hear back from her. I was waiting at my desk for the return call for more than an hour after an associate said "she'll call you right back" (uh huh), before finally giving up and heading to the ladies room. Where I discovered that more than just my morning was inverted.

My panties were inside out too.

Sigh. I guess there's not much you can do with a day like this except lather, rinse, repeat.

Too bad I skipped the conditioner this morning.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trappings of Religion

I'm absolutely fascinated by this article from The Boston Globe about a study detailing religious beliefs in America. I'm particularly fascinated by this little tidbit.

The study found that 70 percent of Americans - and even 57 percent of evangelical Protestants - believe that many religions can lead to eternal life, while 68 percent of Americans say there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their religions.

'Scuse me?

57% of evangelical Protestants believe that many religions can lead to eternal life? Just who did they poll? And how far up their butts did they find their heads at during that time? And exactly what the spit is coming out of those pulpits?

I'm curious as to how that evangelical sales pitch would go? "Do you know that Jesus is sort of your Saviour and He or Buddha or Allah love you? Here's a multiple choice list of ways that you can get to heaven and achieve eternal life with your deity of choice. Wanna sign up?"

Don't be daft. Don't claim to be an evangelical Protestant and then go so far off the reservation that you're no longer recognizable. Why would anyone want such a label anyway if they're just going to deviate from the very basics of the faith? It's not like we're all that popular in the world that it's like getting a place at the cool kids table. Find a new label, for crying out loud. According to The Boston Globe, there are another 70% of like-minded Americans out there that you can go join with instead.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Shot in the Arm

A Brief Intro: This is my revised psycho fan girl post. Hopefully, it'll help retract the restraining order I'm sure Jane Porter gave serious thought to taking out on me.

I talk myself out of good things. Not plans with friends or parties or trips, but things specifically garnered to advance me personally, to do something that won't ostensibly affect anyone but myself, either for good or bad. Nobody does justification for bad decisions better than me, I promise you. It may just be my inherent laziness or the fluctuating depression that never really goes away. But I can do a full treatise any day on why I'm just not able to do X or why I'd be better off not doing Y. Self sabotage at its finest.

I almost did that on Saturday and I'm so glad that my better angels and German stubbornness won the day. I wanted to go to the NJRWA meeting that day particularly because the scheduled speaker was Jane Porter, an author for whose books I've written back cover copy. I also like her books as well (That doesn't always happen; about 30% of the titles I write copy for are easily dismissed and readily forgotten.) But the first of Jane's books that I read - Odd Mom Out - snagged me right away because it was written in the present tense, a form you don't usually find in popular fiction. More women's fiction than straight romance, the story was layered, intriguing, and it resonated as well. The main character is Marta; her mother has advancing Alzheimer's Disease and she changes the entire course of her life to come home and help her father care for her ailing mother. That's a mere fraction of the story, there's also a style-obsessed pre-teen daughter and an alpha mom nemesis, but as my grandmother had Alzheimer's and my mother has been diagnosed with the early symptoms of the disease (though it remains under control, for now), I was particularly able to relate to that aspect of the novel. I know a lot about changing your life for your family, though I've yet to be quite as successful at it as Jane's heroine. Her latest novel follows along with that alpha mom and is appropriately titled Mrs. Perfect. Both books explore issues of identity, self-knowledge and discovery, understanding who you are rather than who you pretend to be, and sticking to your guns under enormous pressure. Good stuff.

So I had purpose in attending the meeting - I wanted to meet Jane. And I wanted to begin my involvement with the organization. But I'll tell you, it still took work to get me up and out that morning. I'm not a shy person; I can walk into an event and have 10 new best friends by the end of it - 20 if we're drinking - but Saturday still took some effort. Shockingly, I was (gasp!) nervous about walking into a room of people I didn't know. I was about to insert myself with women who have been doing this writing thing professionally for years, feeling unbelievably inadequate and overwhelmed while trying to take firm steps to make a very personal dream come true and therefore fighting the instinctive compulsion to quash it. Seriously, my belly was hosting an entire arboretum of butterflies.

But it was great and part of that was Jane. She gave 2 fantastic, one-hour workshops on the alpha male and alpha female, how to characterize them and how to write them. I learned a great deal and had a great time doing it. She also shared several personal notes with generous and revealing candor. I love having a look into how other people tick, particularly those who have achieved something I strive for. I appreciate their work even more for having known them. And it's so comforting in a twisted way to know that even successful, published authors struggle with their craft and work hard at what they do.

I had the opportunity to speak with Jane at various times throughout the day including lunch (someone saved me a seat!) She is just fantastic and I was repeatedly struck by how interesting she is, how warm and enthusiastic, how strong and resilient as a woman, an author, and a survivor. How very keen she is to share ideas and mentor the willing, even if only for the 2 hours allotted to today's workshop. Just a really lovely, talented, genuine lady, the type who'd be awesome to have a beer with and just hang out - despite the fact that she's freaking gorgeous. Plus, she's got fabulous blue jewelry - I was nearly tempted me to do a quick smash and grab - and awesome taste in movies. Any woman who puts clips of Daniel Day Lewis' Last of the Mohicans AND Russell Crowe's Gladiator in her workshop is right up my alley. [Man, am I easy. Show me a crumb (ha!) of affection and I’m yours forever.]

tangent: You could hear the whole room groan and sigh during and after the Mohicans clips. There were two, including the infamous "You stay alive!" scene, all rippling flesh and passion. (Apparently, Jane believes in sending her audience into paroxysms of lust mid-workshop just to see if we're paying attention.) Sometimes women just crack me up.

This was just the shot in the arm I needed. I've already registered for the chapter's conference in October and have signed up for meetings with agents and editors to pitch my books during that conference, though I have absolutely no clue what the hell I'm doing. I did this mainly to set a tangible goal for myself, to motivate my lazy ass towards a deadline that must be met or plagues will rain down on me and there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, which is never pretty. Saturday's experience helps reinforce that decision and just makes me feel a little less like I'm wallowing in freakish misery.

At least for now.

P.S. Check out Jane at She's definitely worth a gander.

Monday, June 23, 2008

So That's Where I Put My Life

I had such a great weekend, which of course means I'm weary this morning. My boss and I agree that there are some days when we come to work just to rest from our lives. I wrote a lengthy post about my Saturday that night, but I deleted it Sunday morning because it sounded like a fan girl on crack and I don't want to make Jane Porter consider a restraining order right out of the gate. (That'll make sense later.)

I went to my first meeting of the New Jersey Romance Writer's Association on Saturday and had a fantastic time. I'd made a decision to join the national Romance Writer's Association and its New Jersey chapter earlier this year as part of the tax return sponsored Dreams Come True contest conducted in my subconscious (I won). I don't make New Year's resolutions because the surest way to see me fail is to have me set a goal - it's that screw you power struggle between my dark and better angels. But I will set challenges from time to time and this winter the challenge was to instigate a concerted effort to finally submit my writing for publication.

The first challenge was to become part of a writing community that could bolster me. I need a critique group where pages would be produced by shear force of not wanting to be the only sap without new pages (competition and looking bad in front of others are two prime motivators for my lazy ass) as well as a forum able to mentor a personality that can fluctuate from "damn, I'm good" to "my God, I really suck" on a minute by minute basis.
And I also need people invested in giving me timely and constructive feedback. My friends and family are great and supportive but they have lives and children and jobs and don't always have the time to read manuscript pages and give critiques. But exposing myself and eventually my writing to people who aren't compelled by love and friendship to automatically offer some kind of praise along with the critique is difficult to me. I have to battle against the instinctive unworthiness that underlies most of my self-aggrandizing. Such exposure is necessary however, especially if I don't want my paper shredder to be my best and only fan ever.

And I've missed publishing so much, missed being around groups of people who just get the whole love affair with books. I spend my days with creative marketers and medical jargon and a character arc just doesn't easily work into a conversation. It's also a relief to be around people with whom I don't feel I have to apologize for reading romance, for enjoying a well-earned HEA (happily ever after) or even just an ambiguous one.
Ergo, membership in RWA, a venue that would not only encourage me to write and submit but provide the means of doing it amongst a community of like-minded people.

Not too surprisingly, I have stumbled already in this endeavor with life interrupting the best laid plans and since it's my life, you can rest assured that these interruptions were cataclysmic and life-threatening. I missed my first intended meeting where the speaker was actually a former colleague of mine who I haven't see in some time. But I finally made a meeting yesterday. Oddly enough, I was nervous going in, odd because I'm not usually cowed by a group of people when arenas and lions aren't involved.

made the most of it, signing up to join a critique group and also signing up to be a part of a small committee 'cause it sounds interesting and it'll be good if only just to get my feet wet and meet some of the board members and continue that all important networking. The women there were, on the whole, terrific people who were immediately inclusive and welcoming and supportive. I like the vibe I got at the meeting, the overall mutually supportive atmosphere and the ready humor. There were red roses for two authors who'd had their first sale, carnations for those who had submitted something in the last month (rewards for trying! my kind of place), and newbies like myself were noticed and introduced to the group at large.

And then the workshop by author Jane Porter was awesome. But that'll be the non-psycho fan girl post later this week.

That would be enough for a weekend. But on Sunday I finally made it back to church. No, the altar did not suddenly burst into flame. My mother's prolonged illness has taken up most of my free time in the last three months and Sundays became time for hospital and/or rehab bedside vigils, or for deep, regenerative sleep cycles, or for cramming out freelance copy for an overdue deadline. It was great to be back, great to see people I love who I haven't seen in upwards of three months, selfishly great to have been missed, great to be encouraged and reinvigorated by the outpouring of support and joy, great to SING and have it not be while hanging over a hospital bed holding my delirious mother and warding off Death at two in the morning
in the ICU. I swear I could feel cells in my body regenerating with each note, with every measure and phrase. The electric boogaloo from being connected again - from just singing. Plus there was the added treat of a men's quartet made up of some of my favorite people, doing an old-time gospel hour song that rocked the house. The boys were back in town all right.

After church was more time with fabulous people at a barbecue/pool party complete with massive thunderstorms. Only my friend Carol could handle upwards of 70 people plus their young children with three kids under 5 of her own and a newborn baby literally at her breast all with only two days warning. She just amazes me. As I could swim probably before I could walk, I took full advantage of the pool and spent some time just floating amidst the water games in my own little world (it can be real pretty there) just detoxing from life.

It was just great to feel a part of things again, to see old friends, to meet new ones, to take nascent steps towards achieving a dream.

Hello my life. Good to see you again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's Not Old - It's Vintage

I tend to frequent an online radio provider called AccuRadio while I'm working. They have various themed stations that you can choose from. I usually favor the Swinging Standards station, all torch songs, Gershwin, Johnny Mercer and other like tunes from the 40s and 50s. I know a lot of them and can hum, harmonize, or just full out sing along while I edit. Much to my office mates pleasure, I'm sure. The playlists are limited to a degree though, causing lots of repeats, and after hearing Come Fly With Me seven or eight times by four or five different artists, I start jonesing for something else.

For the last few work days, I've been listening to the 80s station called A Flock of Eighties (A Flock of Seagulls - A Flock of Eighties, geddit? geddit?) Locating the eighties station took a little more effort than expected as I just could not find it featured anywhere on the AccuRadio home page. I knew it was there; I'd listened to it a week prior when the umpteenth Tony Bennett song nearly drove me (even more) batty. (Seriously dude, go join your heart in San Francisco and leave me alone.) But alas, the 80s icon wasn't prominent on the home page, so I started clicking on the drop down menus to see if it was sectioned somewhere special.

Where did I finally find it? THE OLDIES LINK.

Just when did the songs of my youth become oldies? Were my teenage years so long ago that the music of the era is now labeled in the same category as Elvis? And when did it become an era anyway? Cripes, I'm not even forty yet and I'm already in the oldies section.

They're not even oldies but goodies - not all of them. I mean the world would probably survive - flourish even - without Relax. (Remember those big white tee-shirts touting FRANKIE SAYS RELAX? I remember thinking Who the hell is Frankie and where does he get off telling me to relax?) For every Faith there's an I Touch Myself and for every Bad Medicine there's Rock the Casbah. I mean, who is Sharee, why doesn't she like it, what exactly is a casbah, and why are we rocking it again?

I feel like I've just become the target audience for Sweatin' to the Oldies. Does Richard Simmons now have an 80s version for those of us new to the geriatric persuasion? I know my ovaries still work - doesn't that automatically give me a pass?

Then I looked at the years that some of these songs came out. 1981? Really? In 1981, I was nine years old and in the mixed fourth grade/fifth grade class of Mrs. Sampson who used to be Miss. Monroe. That was the year I hid out in the bathroom while dressed up as Mrs. Piggle Wiggle for my oral book report. My Aunt Barb and Uncle Dick (the California Krums) had sent me a gift box of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books for Christmas. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is kind of like Amelia Bedelia, only she knows how to correctly draw curtains. (My sister's gift box gift that year was a Tolkein set that included The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy and currently resides in my dining room bookcase. Guess who's the only one of us to ever read them.) Mrs. Sampson - who did have long, thick, dark hair, incidentally, so the name kind of fit - had to come looking for me because I was too embarrassed by the outfit to leave the bathroom. It was some outfit - my mom outdid herself on it. Think Mary Poppins, only American and a little frumpier. I even had the shoes and the hat. It took a lot of work on Mrs. Sampson's part, but she got me into the classroom, where I was, as expected, viciously mocked, but I did the report anyway. Only get a B for it though, which I still think was a gip.

I swear it was just yesterday.

I remember those years. I remember those clothes, though I would just as gladly forget them. And it doesn't feel like a time whose soundtrack should be lumped in with the oldies. Surely not yet.

Consider my casbah officially rocked.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Notes From the Peanut Gallery

A few quick thoughts to quiet the hecklers from the peanut gallery. AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
Apparently, there is not a lot of love out there for the monkeys. Now, I myself did say that they weren't necessarily my favorite members of the Perp Wall, but it's not like they're disfigured or wandering around with axes in their hands and murder on their minds. Still, the words "creepy", "weird" and "sandy-faced" (okay, I'll give you that one) have come up in the last few days along with requests for new posts to take them off of headliner status. Never mind that I have been dealing with HOSPITALS and DOCTORS and POTENTIALLY MORTALLY ILL MOTHERS for two months. Priorities people. That's all I'm saying


  • Driving to work this morning with what might be the stupidest traffic I have been in for a while (and that's saying something when you factor in the pure amount of driving I do these days), I noticed an 18-wheeler, flatbed truck next to me in the center lane. On the back of the rig, at the top edge of its cab, was the question "Whos (sic) Your Daddy?" To which I immediately replied (as I sped by, natch) "Not you baby!" There may even have been a jaunty wave.
  • Two weeks ago I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of my lunchtime appointment, talking to my aunt on the phone and giving her the most recent update on my mom's health. While we were speaking, I began to gather what I needed for the appointment and was ticking things off in my mind as I went along until I was left with only my cell phone to locate. At which point I had a mind panic attack when I couldn't immediately locate it before I realized that I was already on it!
  • Yesterday, a college roommate rang me just as I was finishing up work and we spent some time chatting and catching up. I had been putting off going to the ladies room until the job I was waiting for was completed so that I could hit the bathroom on my way to the car and not have to go out from my desk twice. Yep, I'm just that lazy. And then Robin called. Needless to say, through the course of our conversation, my bladder grew increasingly - exponentially - uncomfortable. So I start booting down my computer, packing my bag, putting my glasses away, etc. all the trappings of getting ready to leave. I figured I didn't have to get off the phone, but rather that I could keep talking to Robin as I went along down the hallway and out to the lobby to the loo. I knew from experience that Robin wouldn't take offense at that and was pleased with my efficient solution. Up to the point when I realized that I was speaking to her on my office phone, not my cell phone. Don't think the phone cord reaches quite that far. The sad thing? Putting my cell phone in my purse was not the means by which I'd figured that out.
  • GM announced today that they are closing 4 plants that make SUVs and Hummers, affecting approx. 10,000 workers as "surging gas prices hasten a dramatic shift to smaller vehicles" according to MSNBC. Furthermore, MSNBC reports that GM is considering dropping the entire line of Hummers amidst slumping sales. This means that I might actually be able to see around the vehicle in front of me for a change. But it's a sad and scary indication how this petrol issue is trickling through our economy to all areas, not only consumables. Makes me appreciate my four cylinder even more - though I wouldn't mind a little faster pick up on the hills.
  • Also per MSNBC - and every other news agent on the known planet - "Obama Clinches Democratic Nomination." Oh crap. Now I have to vote republican. I hate voting republican. I was soooo looking forward to getting those jackasses out of office this election.
  • Finally, I laughed out loud at this at least 4 times. But then, that's me.