Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Letter to America



I don’t understand. 

Donald Trump continues to attack our government agencies and institutions, our neighbors in Canada and Mexico, our allies in NATO and the European Union, bipartisan congressional efforts to protect the Dreamer kids born in this country, and steps to control the climate crisis—devastating storms and fires we all know are getting worst every season. He’s defended white nationalists and taken children—even babies and toddlers from their immigrant parents, families seeking asylum in the United States because their lives in their home country is at brutal risk—children removed without a plan to return them. He’s making a great effort to convince us that Russia and North Korea are now ‘competitors’ and friendly partners for world peace and the countries we’ve stood by for 70 years are now unappreciative ‘foes.’

For many Americans, about 40% to be exact, Donald Trump is rebuilding the American economy. Wages and job openings have increased. He’s insisting that companies build and operate in America and he's stood up to China about unfair trade tariffs. I can see why support for his economic approach is substantial. I can even see why his push for a conservative Supreme Court promises a return to middle America—the America of the 1950s when ‘aberrant’ norms weren’t a part of the American landscape—abortion was unacceptable, most gay, lesbian, transgender equality were closeted, welfare rolls were controllable, and let’s be honest: white people dominated in a way that left non-white people inferior and unprotected. 

Donald Trump promises a return to those times. He bashes illegal immigrants and liberal judges and the press who warns against him and he divides us into legitimate and illegitimate Americans. He offers permission to criticize and taunt people who look or believe differently, even those who dare to wear a tee shirt with the Puerto Rico flag on it, or who insist on a humane immigration that maintains the country’s safety and  border control but also recognizes the need and value of immigrants to our society.

I grew up in the Fifties. It was a time when I walked three blocks to and from school and  safely left my house each summer morning, came home for lunch, and left again until suppertime. My parents didn’t worry about my safety because there was no need. 

It was a time when churches offered sanctuaries and protections to refugee families who came to America; the State of the Union speeches and the President’s proclamations were more or less respected, and Democratic and Republican members of Congress routinely faced problems and passed bills together. 

It was a time when most of the families I knew—most white—had a mother and a father and had a chance at owning their own house. 

It was a time when manufacturing offered skilled jobs a time before the Information Age of computers and cell phones and cyber security. 

I hear a lot of reasons why he has support: Hillary was an ineffective candidate (mostly true); immigrants take American jobs and depress wages (not true), other countries take advantage of us (mostly not true). I can accept concerns along these lines; I can even understand and agree with the actual facts that contradict my own beliefs.

But folks, something’s brewing that you won’t see coming until it’s on top of you. Our democracy—the norms that follow the rule of law, the premise that America helps welcomes those in need, the belief that people are created equal— sooner or later, you’ll have to face that Donald Trump is systematically, and cleverly, trying to convince us that if we don’t circle our wagons, we’re screwed. If our Congress and ourselves allow him to govern as a one-man show, with his obvious flaws of narcissism and racism and willingness to take extreme positions, even if they hurt people, even if they include a threat to blow up the people of North Korea or denounce our legal system of amnesty—our country may survive in the long run, but it will no longer be the country you know. 

So what does that mean? Well, it means our friends in the world—Canada, France, England, Germany—are reduced to transactional competitors: friendship will not be based on shared values but on financial deals. 

It means Americans will be repudiated and disliked, to the point that international business and vacation travel will be unsafe. It means our country will benefit from selling arms to rogue and oppressive nations. It means the NRA will control the proliferation of guns and our schools, our shopping malls and movie theaters—our children—will be the targets of mass murderers. It means that slowly but surely, you will start to see people with dark skin as threats and they will no longer feel safe in our country. It means our judiciary and press and national security agencies will be questioned and criticized and you won’t know what or who to believe any longer. 

There’s more, of course. I remember when I lived in Germany, I asked the German husband of my American friend how and why his parents allowed Hitler to exterminate the Jews. “It didn’t start off that way,” he said, “And when they realized what was happening, their own lives were at risk if they dared speak up. So they didn’t, at least not publicly.”

Is this where America is headed? Possibly. Probably not, not to the extreme of Nazi Germany, but possibly. If our Congress doesn’t act, and the Democratic party doesn't offer a concrete plan for immigration and border control and job growth and international relationships, and more of our citizens don’t vote, it will be up to a man who believes that all of life and human goodness is about money and transactions and deals, a man who is poorly read, who discards history, who compliments tyrants and betrays allies, who believes in white supremacy—to build America in his image.

I know some of Donald Trump’s supporters—his ‘base,” agree with him, but I also know the vast majority of Americans do not, even those who support his Presidency know by now who he really is. 


We have to get past the vehement thinking of each other as bleeding heart liberals or  cold hearted conservatives. I don’t know exactly how we do that, but the country’s in danger. Recognizing that danger is a first and essential step. The second step is taking the time to sort the truth from the lies. That’s a stressful and depressing and time-consuming thing to have to do, but I can’t think of a more important time to care enough. Yes it hurts to be bombarded with the Trump Reality Show every day and yes it’s understandable to stop believing anything from any source. 

But the alternative is bad. Possibly, really bad. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Thursday Thirteen on Saturday

1. I'm in the right place this summer.

I live at the very tip of this peninsula, in Provincetown on Cape Cod, a town which is currently bustling with happy people enjoying the beaches and restaurants and plenty of outrageous  entertainment. It's a magical place to live, really--the way the light bounces off the ocean and bay, and small enough that it's not hard to understand what community means.


2. Why have I stopped drawing?!


3. This girl has a birthday this week. Imagine, I've known her from the very moment she was born. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that she's an adult, with four children of her own. super smart and creative. She can have my eyes, my time, anything she needs. xo


4. JB: you can see the kindness in her face. We've been together 33 years: up, down, around, and still standing and filled with love.


 5. Another sketch. I need to draw again.


6. And Emily V. V. Rabbit. She used to write and complain and whine on this blog frequently. She's been arrested at least twice, forcing me to post bail with no promise of staying out of more trouble.  The last I heard she was in Southern California trying to make jellybean money by selling avocados as weapons against mean people.  I hope she shows up again here. I miss her attitude.



7. I had an eight year old client who during a therapy session wanted to make a birthday card for her best friend. I didn't have the heart to point out her mistake....


8. Thanks to JB volunteering to temporarily helping the motel a block away by setting up the breakfast buffet for guests, we are graciously allowed to use the saline/fresh water pool all summer. This is a big deal! It's barely a block away, the water is refreshing, I get to exercise, and
the lounge chairs are comfy. We'll go often.

9. This weekend 3 dear friends will come to Provincetown from miles away and we will spend a
couple of days and nights chatting and eating and probably making some art. What's unique about
our friendships is that we all met right here on the blogs. Lo from California, Marianne from
the Netherlands, Mim from central Massachusetts. These are now precious permanent relationships and we'll have a blast together.

10. I'm only going to say that Donald Trump and his administration have shamed America and irreparably harmed the 3000 children they took from their parents. Horrible and wrong.

11. Our pup Mattie is a great dog. It's so great to have her in our family. JB and I love her.

12. What a summer ahead! Friends and family all the way into August. Even though I can't stand too long or walk too far, I'm excited by all of it. There's lots to do here in Ptown. It's a hopping happy place.

and finally:

13. I can't explain how I feel about life. I know I don't have regrets and I view that as a huge blessing. I know I want to be kind at every turn. I know I'm opinionated and I actually feel more comfortable about that. I know I got blessed. And I know terrible things can happen. That last part I wish I didn't know.

All in all: mine is a good life, born to be a Lucky Duck.

love
kj


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Classmates




I grew up in a working class city. It seemed that one or two of my classmates were rich, but most of us were lower to middle class. Recently an old classmate posted on Facebook that we shouldn't let our disagreements about Donald Trump affect our affinity for one another. This was posted while children were being removed from their parents at the southern border, and I disagreed. The response was disheartening. Here's the reply I didn't send: 

To My High School Classmates:

If there’s one thing that’s certain, the Trump presidency quickly drew a thick line separating people who support him and others, like me, who are aghast at his policies and beliefs. 

There, that’s out of the way: I oppose everything he stands for. But I wasn’t always this adamant. Even though he easily slipped racist and violent language into his rallies, I figured he’d moderate his views, if only because Presidents make some attempt to represent more than their base supporters.

For the last two weeks, I have been falling asleep each night with escalating concern about the 2000 children who have been removed from their parents. These are kids who fled dangerous countries and trekked across Mexico to apply for family asylum at the southern border of the United States. These are not the children of gang members or rapists or criminals. I don’t know of anyone who is disputing that, not even Donald Trump.

These are also children who will be forever traumatized by this separation. The facilities where they are being held has rules against holding and comforting them, so there are infants and 2 year olds and 4 year olds and 6 year olds, who don’t speak English, who are apart from their parents, and terrified. I don’t know of any childcare worker or mental health professional or parent who is disputing that either. 

Which brings me to my high school classmates:

I left my Waltham High School graduation in 1969 and like everyone else, built my life. I went to college, started a career, got married, bought a house, had a child, made new friends. But my Waltham roots are never far away. My father was a mason and my mother worked at the Waltham Supermarket and our Catholic Church took in immigrant families from war-torn countries and welcomed and sheltered them until they got on their feet. Even as a young kid, I remember feeling proud that my church did that. 

Fifty years later, through Facebook, I’ve reconnected with many of my classmates. How fun to see our families and grandchildren and vacations and talents. I had a disagreement early on in the Trump presidency with someone I very much like about the travel ban, and that was a hard surprise for me. I learned that not everyone saw the situation as I did and I still try to understand perspectives that are different than my own.

I’ve had grave concerns about the rhetoric and attacks on immigrants and Muslims and the free press and the Judiciary and our country’s agencies and allies. I’ve been scared about our withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate control and other international treaties. But I don't want to be strident and I don’t mind a fair-minded disagreement about these issues. I understand that people who voted for Donald Trump had have reasons they feel strongly about, and I understand they continue to support his approach to managing the country.

But recently, to witness some of my classmates—most of us Mothers and Grandmothers—support the immediate and mass removal of children from their families—to justify arresting and detaining their parents for a misdemeanor, for attempting to apply for asylum because they fled proven violence and fear in their own countries, and then to blame these parents for having their babies taken away: that has crossed a line that breaks my heart. And honestly, I find supporting Trump’s policy about this practice nothing short of disgusting. 

These 2000 children have not been returned. There is no plan to return them. Their parents haven't been given information about where they are, when or if they can be re-united.

How is it that women with the same roots as me could justify a systematic plan to discourage and punish immigrants by taking their children away from them? We can agree and disagree about how to secure the border, about how many refugees we can allow into our country, about the role of immigration control. But removing babies and children? Indefinitely? Possibly forever? 

I am heartbroken that any of the kids I grew up with, all of us with our immigrant grandparents, would ever argue that THIS policy is right. Justifying it leaves me wondering what’s happened in the last 50 years, since our childhoods and teenage days in Waltham. Why is it that the suffering of these children can’t be first acknowledged, and then protected. Donald Trump is dead wrong on this one—this policy is inhumane. None of us should tolerate it, including the kind and smart and decent people from my own childhood. If you don’t stand up against this, what would make you say enough is enough?

Sincerely.

kj

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Rant with Good Reason




In the midst of so much worry about children being taken from their parents at the Southern Border, yesterday I listened to Donald Trump describe their trek through Mexico to reach the United States. "They're strolling like it's Central Park," he said, "they're criminals infecting our country." 

This is so far from the truth I'm constantly stunned by how and why so many Americans believe him. There is  concrete evidence that almost all the families and children walking for days and weeks to apply for asylum are anything but criminals. These are folks who have left their countries because their choices ran out, and not just from poverty, but because of threats and episodes of lawlessness, murder, rape, people suddenly "disappearing."  

This is the reality but Donald Trump pounds out the message that immigrants are 'infecting' America and must be banished, that it's 'us' or 'them.' As a country, Trump's government has no interest in promoting or protecting human rights. To be living through this is unreal, disheartening, frightening, and thank god for this too--energizing.

Yesterday on Facebook a woman from my high school and a Trump supporter blamed the parents for exposing their children to roundup and lockdown by the United States Government. Several other high school classmates agreed with her that everyone has a right to their opinion and Trump is doing his best. I disagreed. 

Do we have the right to offer and support an opinion that contradicts facts and debases morality? Is it okay to say that slavery was justified and white supremacy is justified? How about Hitler--should we respect the opinion of anyone who says the Holocaust never happened? Should we justify small children being ripped from their parents and warehoused throughout the US because the US President  didn't plan for that or doesn't care that these kids will carry this trauma for the rest of their lives?  

And yet here we are. I'm well aware that this post is not fun to read and may not be read at all, same with my recent Facebook posts. But isn't that a problem? Are we numb? How can it be that more than 40% of Americans and 90% of Republicans support the lies and racism and inhumanity of Donald Trump? These are folks I went to school with, who had the same safe childhoods I did, whose parents were likely Democrats, as mine were. These are decent and intelligent people, except they've put their faith in a Fascist. These folks are furious Trump is being compared to Hitler and they believe nothing the special counsel is uncovering. These are folks who don't mind that Donald Trump is systematically dismantling our democracy and our diversity.

This is probably the lowest point in American History, certainly in my lifetime. Was the Civil War like this?

How is it that Trump supporters can be so misguided, so uncaring to the plight of others, so believing of a man who lies all the time? Do they care that their schools and children aren't safe, their communities are feeling the disastrous effects of climate change, their health coverage is in trouble, their allies in Canada and Mexico and Europe have been abandoned, and what we're told about Russia and North Korea are lies?

Questions. 

They hurt.

love
kj




Saturday, June 16, 2018

Children at the Border

I won’t bother to include links that show and tell in detail what Donald Trump and the United States Government is doing to the toddlers and children who have arrived at the U.S. border seeking asylum, which by the way is not a criminal act.

I will simply say my disgust level could hardly get much higher. Donald Trump is an amoral man who uses immigrants and children to bargain for his border wall and insistence that the family members of American immigrants and the refugees seeking safety have no place in his vision of white America. He’s counting on the fact that moral people will have to cave in order to stop atrocities he condones.

May karma and the universe right this and bless my country.

Love

  • kj




Saturday, June 02, 2018

Peas on Earth

Peas on Earth by Emily Rabbit some time ago


In my lifetime I have never seen racism in the United States so blatant as it now presents itself. The U.S. President is racist by every standard and he incites his followers--his base--to apologetically push aside and condemn decent people who are non-white. In the early 1970's when I lived in Germany I asked my German friends how their parents and grandparents could have allowed Hilter to systematically persecute and murder Jewish citizens and families. The answer was "they were too afraid to speak out."

Being "too afraid" is not what I am witnessing now. I'm not even sure what to call it: white supremacy, resentment, fear? Perhaps, but at its core there is a heartlessness that refuses to accept that helping people in need is a core value of being a good human being. And because the actions of my government on immigration are especially so disturbing, I find myself asking over and over:

With all our advancements in technology and science, why have human beings not evolved in compassion and cooperation? 

Why do we still fight each other? Why are we at a point where even a family seeking refuge from harm or poverty is viewed as a threat, unworthy of help? Why is male aggression still so dominant? Mothers--women--bring up these little boys who become arrogant men and use power uncharitably: why has feminine influence and evolution not brought sensitivity and kindness into the fabric of our DNA?  (I know this is not all men. But masculine dominance is always found at the core of our world conflicts.)

There is plenty of discussion about what will happen to America once Donald Trump the man and president is gone. That day will come but I don't know what then. I'm truly shocked that almost 40% of my fellow Americans are willing to look the other way while racist treatment of non-white people is clear as ice. The economy, the stock market, jobs--yes, of course we support growth and opportunity. But is that really what's happening? Because what I see is an American Super Bully closing out anyone who dares to pursue inclusion and commonality.

Donald Trump won't stand. But I have to wonder what comes next. Not just in my country, but in our world. Will we ever have true peace on earth? And Jesus, I ask, why the fuck not?

Love
kj

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Thursday 13 on Saturday: Gratitude



Back in the day, I used to post a "Thursday 13" every week, sometimes events, sometimes feelings, sometimes images, sometimes all of that. 

I'm reviving the tradition, even though it's Sunday. This Thursday 13 is about Gratitude:

1. It's a chilly 50 degree grey day today and I've turned on the new propane stove in the living room to blanket the chill. The gas fire glows. I like that so much.

2. JB and I planted tomatoes this morning. We put a 3 x 6 raised garden bed in our small front yard, filled it with organic soil, and were so excited as with a spoon we planted 6 tomato plants (3 varieties), 6 basil plants, 12 marigolds, and 2 zucchinis. This is a tiny garden for sure, but it's still a thrill.

3. I'm so glad that Prince Harry is in love with someone who loves him back. He strikes me as such a decent and nice man--I sense his Mother's influence on the little boy he was when she died.

4. My back: well, I'm still not standing without pain for more than 3 minutes at a time but I'm improved. I'm more active and I'm more social. 

5. I've started physical therapy and was assigned a therapist named Patience. I knew nothing else about her, but I almost asked for someone else solely because her name seemed weird to me. I admit how shallow this is. Turns out Patience is excellent --above and beyond. No promises, but I think I may be able to strengthen my back to a significant degree. 

6. This time of year here in Provincetown is abuzz. All kinds of repairs and fresh paint and new oyster shells on driveways, all ready for the non-stop tourists that have already begun to come. I'm not much into crowds or shopping, but I cannot believe the bay and ocean is all around me. 

7. JB volunteered to help a local motel, not even a block from our house, for a month, putting out a buffet breakfast for guests. They're waiting for the seasonal visa workers Trump has held up. In return, besides her paycheck, we are graciously allowed to use their pool this summer. Since I'm forcing myself to swim as part of  exercise for my back and as a way to MOVE, this is great news for me. 

8. I've lost 35 pounds. More motivation than I've had in years. 

9. I feel so glad about the people in my life. I listen to Donald Trump and his vanity and attacks on immigrants and I know my family and friends would not and do not carry that kind of rigidity or mean-spiritedness inside them. I don't mean this politically--I mean in their hearts. 

10. I have 4 grandchildren who are all healthy, interesting, fun, and unpredictable. JB and I rent a small studio apartment near them and besides for my joy in seeing my daughter Jess, I love when the kids come to visit. I try to keep the place stocked with new puzzles and clay and other entertaining ways. I also always kept a stash of Devil Dogs--what could be a better treat?!--until my daughter forbade me to give these unhealthy treats to the kids. Now I have Oreos and chocolate coins. 

11. My book is written. I love the characters. It's time to send letters to agents and publishers hoping one will ask to see the manuscript. I still have to edit and proof the whole thing, and I have to write a synopsis of the whole story, which is harder than it sounds. But I'm pushing forward. 

12. Mattie is now a 10 month old puppy. I'm unable to walk her (grrrrr) because of my back but boy is she enjoyable. And easy. And smart. We're conjuring up a doggie sandbox for her in the corner of our side yard, hoping we can achieve a dog-friendly plant-saving garden. I'm grateful I can work on the garden, sitting on my stool. :^)

and:

13. I don't say this to brag: I find that most people like me.  More often than I would expect I'm told I'm interesting and fun. I think this is because I listen. I'm interested in hearing and talking about about the big and small parts of people's lives. You can't be a good Counselor if you don't listen, and that's true of being a friend or acquaintance too. 

So all in all a pretty good week. I hope this is true for you too. The USA is a scary mess, that's for sure, but today I'm just happy to be sitting on the couch. 

love
kj




Thursday, May 03, 2018

Friends



How many friends do you have?
How much time do you spend with your friends?
Do most of your friends live nearby?
Do your friends know and are friends with each other?

When I was newly married, in my twenties and starting my career, my then-husband and I had a group of about 15 friends and we all hung out and did things together. A few people in this circle were extra special to me but mostly we all collectively planned pot luck dinners and days at the beach and lazy weekends smoking weed and drinking wine.

Since then, my friendships evolved into more singular connections: people I met from work, from my neighborhoods, from shared interests, from blogging, other parents, sometimes from friends of friends. The common thread now is that my friends are all over the place and I don't have a "hang out" group where I and they just knock on the door and fall into daily life. My friendships are also now more selective, probably because time seems more finite. They are also deeper, and most prominently, at a distance, some folks an hour or two away, some a state or two away, some a country or two away. I don't have that circle that I suspect comes from living and staying in one place. 

I count about five or six people I would  call in an emergency or in whose company I'm comfortable enough that I don't worry about when or how we connect. There's a wonderful comfort in that. But because they're most often not local, JB and I and they have to plan ahead to see one another and that's not the same as a knock on the door or an impromptu cook-out.  

I live in the small town of Provincetown now and I think some deep and long lasting friendships are forming. When we first moved here JB was sick and now I'm slowed by my back pain so that's  slowed our connections but even so,  I don't see that we'll have a circle of friends who are also friends with one another. I am SO lucky to have wonderful interesting people around me, that's for sure. I can't complain, but still, I wish my friends and I wish my Jessica and her family were closer; close enough for a quick anytime drop-by. Close enough to share my chicken soup and lettuce from our garden or to drop off our puppy for a dog-sit. In other words, close enough to be spontaneous.

I'd love to hear about your friends and about your thoughts on friendships....

love
kj  

Monday, April 30, 2018

A Pup Named Mattie


We had no intention of getting a puppy. For one thing we're too old. For another, we're partial to older dogs who need and deserve a good home. And for another thing, we weren't ready.

Here's what happened: my daughter's brother-in-law posted a Facebook photo of Mattie and he left a comment, 'you might be interested.' I impulsively called the rescue group listing her and found myself talking to her foster mother. Mattie was being housed on Cape Cod, so it was easy for us to visit her foster home, watch her play with the three other dogs who lived there, and hear about how sweet she was. The die was cast: we decided on the spot to adopt her. 

Except that Jess' brother-in-law didn't direct his comment to me in that Facebook post at all. He was nudging someone else to consider Mattie, not me! Which is another way of saying that Fate took the wheel and destiny delivered Mattie to our little family.


Her foster mother was right. She is a wonderful dog, smart, sweet, flexible, kind. At nine weeks old she was pretty much potty trained in a day, slept through the night, and even now is uncharacteristically patient for a puppy.

Mattie was rescued off the streets of the island of Aruba. She was was flown to the United States with about 40 other puppies before she ended up in our neck of the woods. Aruban street dogs are called Cunucus, a rare breed named after their homeland, the small Caribbean Island in the Dutch Antilles. The word "Canucu" means 'countryside' in the local language of Papiamento. These dogs are known to be athletic, courageous, loyal and intelligent. Mattie is all that. If they have any faults at all, they dig and bark. They are also agile and have amazing leaping ability. This is apparently an adaptation for lizard-chasing in prickly terrain, which may be a necessity in Aruba but not here in Provincetown. :^) Cunucus are pack dogs who live on the streets, forage for food from tourists and by their own means, and are targeted for rescue, especially the puppies, by a few wonderful animal welfare groups. 


It has been 2 years since we've had a dog and in those two years JB and I had the luxury of no responsibility for any one but ourselves. No longer. Now we're tethered to Mattie, but not because we feel responsible. It's simpler than that. Love has taken over. I'm amazed by how easily and completely that can happen. We care about her, we've all bonded. Because of my immobility this pup has learned all kinds of commands from me on the couch (sit, stay, leave it, bed, come, kiss, paw, no, yes, kiss kiss kiss) and all kinds of fun in the outer world from JB (daily dog wrestling at the local dog park, runs on the beach, walks on a leash.) She rides in the car with us, plays with our grand kids, welcomes and snuggles with our company and friends, and sleeps right next to me each night.

Dogs are special beings. When they're loved and with guidance, their loyalty and unconditional love can't be matched by us flawed humans. I hope once I'm back on my feet we'll head to our local animal shelter and bring home that 6-7 year old dog we first planned for. We're sure Mattie will like the companionship. Meanwhile, forgive me for saying she's a special dog, but I think she is. Most of all, she's kind--my favorite quality no matter what your species.

So here's to Mattie aka Matilda 'Mattie' Marie. She has a too-small yard to play in and a non-athletic and kid-less family, but all in all she landed on her feet. And so did we.

love
kj
this post dedicated to my friend Wieneke xo

Friday, April 27, 2018

Thoughts...


There's no escape from the mess that is current American democracy. This week the President of France addressed a joint session of Congress and his message and articulation of unity and justice and  compassion was especially striking because it contrasted so sharply with the angry and divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump. Many and most Americans are hoping that the mid-term elections in November will begin to right the ship. I don't know what troubles me more: the abhorrent treatment of decent immigrants or the flagrant danger of dissing the Paris Climate Accord. (Yes, I could add the attack on the free press and all our systems of justice and government.)

I know great damage has already been done but I have hope. 

  
As I prepare to shop my second novel, here's a reminder my first book is a good beach read. I still remember what it felt like to first hold this book in my hands. The characters of Alex and Lily live with me still. Writing is a lonely profession: it has to be done alone. To me it's a mysterious process, how words follow one after another to create a story. Sometimes I reread what I've written and I hear it for the first time, like someone else wrote those words. These days my mind is on my current heroine Christine Macabee, mother of 4, devotee of poetry and all things John Denver, a woman whose belief in devotion both comforts and deceives her. 

I'm glad to be a writer. 




This is where I live. Provincetown, on the very tip of Cape Cod, a peninsula where the light bounces off the sea like no where else. (First 2 photos courtesy of the Provincetown Photography Page.) 

I long to step into spring and summer. I still can't walk very far; I can't walk Mattie  and I can't walk along the sand. But some progress is happening. No more pain meds, my activity has increased, I'm still losing weight (!), and hope still floats. I'm determined to keep my attitude high and in check because maximizing what I can will clearly help me. 

Recently my brother was hospitalized and discharged home with hospice care. His situation is well more serious than mine, but his attitude is similar: he's determined to enjoy his days and wait to worry. When my parents died, one of the last things my Father told me was, "I'm not afraid, I'll see my Mother." And my Mother, two days before her last breath, with her eyes closed and her body withdrawing, said to herself, quietly and with no fear, "I hope I'm not dying." I chuckled about that since because she was so matter-of-fact and calm. Years apart, they both died peacefully and surrounded by love and family. They never once complained. I think that will be my brother and I hope when the time comes that will be me too.

Dying is hard to talk about and hard to plan for. Do you know about Five Wishes? Google it. Totally helpful. 

I'm so glad to be blogging again. 
love
kj

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Write What You Know....




Going on 4 months later, I did not expect to still be wondering why I have groin and hip and leg pain that often hurts too much to walk and stand in a normal natural way. Which is another way of saying I am not able to plot and plan my gardens this Spring, I’m not watching our puppy frolic on the beach, and I’m not gabbing and socializing with my family and friends as I love to do. Twice now JB and I have prepared ourselves for major surgery, 5 times I’ve had injections hoping to locate the problem and lighten up on pain, but here I am again, reasonably comfortable sitting on the couch and unreasonably unable to stand and walk normally, figuring out what to do next.

Every night I fall asleep in our newly renovated all-white master bedroom and every morning as the light shines in and Mattie the puppy wakes me with her joyful licks, I think this will be a day when whatever ails me has fixed itself. I know it’s true that sometimes things and circumstances do indeed fix themselves. That hasn’t happened yet, and my concern grows bigger that I’m not helping myself, that it’s not healthy or justified to be so sedentary. I’m thankful that 2 of the injections gave me almost total relief for a glorious one or two days, assuring me that the cause of my inactivity is pain, not passivity. 

From the couch I’ve had time to notice certain areas of my character and they are surprisingly comforting. For one thing, to borrow a scene from the bay, just a block down the street, I still see starfish and reject seaweed: I believe I will in time be on the move again. I have a lot to be thankful for and every day I review that list: JB is well again and cooking us these super meals, our puppy is a goofy joy, my Jessica and her husband are happy and healthy and so are my 4 spunky grandkids, my manuscript is done and ready to be shopped for publication, I’ve lost almost 30 pounds, I’m swimming to strengthen my back, I love my house and the nearby ocean, I'm almost retired, and I have terrific friends and interesting people around me. The point is I have a lot going for me.

Pain has a way of removing a person from day-to-day life but I’m doing what I can to ride through the worst of it and I’m lucky because the pain isn’t relentless. I also have a couple of doctors who are riding this uncertainty with me—we try one approach, evaluate, and move on to the next. 

I’ve had an unusual amount of time to sit and reflect. And for some reason that reflection has taken me back to the very day I graduated from high school.I remember that day so well. I knew everything would be different the following morning. A couple of friends went to college with me and stayed near by but mostly I moved on to a new life: I got married, moved away, built a career, raised a phenomenal daughter, fell in love again, learned to garden, traveled the world. Over the next fifty-plus years, I lost touch with my high school friends and I built a satisfying life. Then a funny thing happened. When I began to wind down my high-energy career and took more time to relax, I reconnected with some of the friends I‘d left behind so long ago. I found I am still the same person and so are they. Despite all the changes and good or bad circumstances folded into our lives over half a century, to quote the songwriter Paul Simon, “after changes upon changes we are more or less the same.”  I’ll be damned.

Which brings me to the point of this post, if there is one. Last night I learned that it’s time for my brother, 7 years older than me, to arrange for hospice care now, so he can comfortably stay at home with his wife. Because I’m a Case Manager and at his request planned to speak with his doctors he called me first. “I don’t want you to be surprised when you talk to them,” he said. “It’s grim but I’m alright. I’ll have time to take care of things.”

It seems my brother approaches challenges like I do. I’m not in the middle of the worse challenge life might eventually throw at me, but there’s evidence so far that neither I or my brother aren’t likely to fold or whimper. I look backwards again and I see my parents didn’t fold or whimper either, even when they were dying. It must be in my DNA. And it must be because I've been lucky. 


And I should add, a week after I wrote this, the 5th injection has so far worked! Pain is a zillion times less. I’m might be gardening afterall. 

Love
kj

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Update 😬

My surgery was cancelled. There is a possibility that I have a second problem and it not the bone slippage may be the source of my limiting pain. This would be good news. So i’ve Had an injection into the suspected site and so far the pain has significantly decreased. Too soon to tell, but hopeful.
💜

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Attitude


Whirlwind times. On April 2nd I'll undergo a 4-5 hour surgery with the hope and goal that in the months that follow I'll be able to walk and gallivant without the limits of pain and endurance. The recovery will take up to a year, but I can expect to improve each week, and I'll be mobile from the start. After almost two months of confusion to confirm a diagnosis, I've found a neurosurgeon and hospital program where I have full confidence. Backs are tricky: the literature says the success rate is about 60% and my own rehab experience confirms that. 

But I'm more optimistic than I am concerned. The surgeon tells me to shoot for  80-85% improvement and I'm psyched about that goal. Even if there's evidence to the contrary, I'm happy to accept his prognosis. This has been a wake up call for me: it's time to get myself in shape and stay that way. So I've lost 23 pounds so far and I'm heading toward the next 23 pounds. I'm swimming, I'm done with sugar and white flour, and I'm 'waiting to worry.' I hope to get off blood pressure meds sooner or later. I have a good life, a great family, loyal friends, plenty of interests. I live by the sea and I know enough to be astonished. 

I'm surprised that I've been mostly good natured over the last two months. Sometimes my pain level is through the roof. But not always, and that's an important distinction. Mine is not a relentless situation so I have moments when I'm relaxed and comfortable. My doctor prescribed a little pill so I can get a good night's sleep. I'm heading into this surgery with a positive attitude and a commitment to take care of myself better than I have before. And when I lose enough weight, I'll start dressing myself like the (now older) babe I want to be. :^)

I don't remember my parents complaining about anything, including their last weeks of preparing to die. I make jokes that I'm the black sheep of the family because I LOVE to complain. But honestly, I think I'm handling my impairment pretty well. I've decide to anticipate the best and I'm willing to put in the work toward that. Maybe 3 weeks from now I'll be shaking in my boots, but I hope not. 

For the record, I told JB I thought I've had a good attitude 70% of the time. She disagreed: "Maybe 60-40," she said. So maybe I'm not coasting as easily as I wish. But once my eyes open in post surgical recovery and I'm assured I'm still alive, I'll be spending at least 60% of my time anticipating good things ahead. And I'm shooting for 70%.

At least I hope so!

love
kj

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Book!



Amanda asked about my current novel. I have finally finished it, the manuscript is being reviewed by two readers, and unless their feedback leads me to massive revisions, I'll soon be shopping for an agent or a publisher. This requires a one page query, on which a response of yes or no or maybe is based.

I have some work to do on this query, and I've deleted the paragraph that describes the story from start to finish, but here's a taste of the book. I will love your impressions and reactions.

love love
kj

In the words of the novel’s protagonist Christine Macabee, mother of four:
“My family history is told without fancy prose or superheroes, and admittedly with some drama around the themes of neglect and illness and crimes and death and alcoholism and infidelity and even a failed attempt at convent life. If you’re looking for threads I suggest you look to John Denver, Robert Frost, and Billy Collins. And I suggest you learn all you can about devotion.” 
The Answers to Everything is a work of fiction expanding seventy years and centering on the Macabees, a middle class family guided by its gutsy Mother Christine, who has a dual passion for the redemptive powers of poetry and her fantasy husband John Denver. Christine’s childhood and motherhood are comically supported by her uppity righteous older sister Louise who manages to rescue her from one crisis to another, and by the failures of first her alcoholic parents and then her alcoholic husband, Jimmy. Their four children, each with a story of his/her own, are shaped by Christine’s version of devotion and their own life circumstances: Claudia, devotedly languished in a seven year affair with a married man; Cole, a television sports reporter who is physically attacked for being gay and forced to face his own addictions; Emily, a Plain Jane who serendipitously lands a good guy who seems to stabilize the whole family; and John, the youngest, who quietly observes and easily accepts his family as everything he needs.  
Christine’s answers to everything are poetry and devotion. She painfully learns these tools aren’t perfect. 
The Author has a background and Master’s Degree in Counseling and Rehabilitation. She has a keen understanding of how people behave when faced with the commonplace and the extra- ordinary. She has self-published one book, The Light Stays On, (multiple excellent reviews on Amazon) and from time to time writes essays and poetry on her Blog, OPTIONS For A Better World. 

The Answers to Everything is approximately 100,000 words and divided into four Parts, beginning with Christine and Louise’s neglectful childhood and ending with a gathering that includes a number of new and surprising additions to the Macabee family. This is a story that aims to entertain and educate around the unique challenges of alcoholism, infidelity, differences, and the strengths and foibles that make a family. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Backing Up

I'm on a wild ride. 

About a month ago I started having significant back pain that has increasingly (and painfully) affected standing and walking. It's a slipped disc. This would be a big deal for anyone but is probably less so for me because I don't mind being sedentary. I'm happy to sit on the couch, work on my novel, read books, cruise social media, play pretend slot machines. But this is different.

For one thing, I turned 70 in August. This is probably the first time I've announced that publicly because 70 sounds pretty serious. I've noticed that sometimes kind people offer me their seats on buses and in waiting rooms. Sometimes, probably because even before my latest bout with pain, my back announces I'm creaky in my movements. So combine this new age with an impairment that is (luckily) my first big medical challenge and I'm a novice feeling my way.

I've had shots and consults and prescriptions. If I don't have relief in the next week or so, I'm headed for a surgical consult and it would be a biggie: probably a laminectomy and fusion. It's a 3-4 hour surgery and I'm told recovery is painful and extensive--3-6 months. That route will gobble two full seasons of my life.  Plus, major surgery has obvious risks. 

I am fortunate I have a partner who is able to help me in a thousand ways. She is currently cooking us three meals a day, bringing me ice packs, supervising our new puppy (yes, a puppy) who arrived a few weeks before the slipped disc, proofing my manuscript, and watching Netflix with me.

I woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago and reminded myself that my attitude matters as much as my effort. I'm determined to stay positive, and to WAIT TO WORRY. I'm also forcing myself to a pool a few times a week (I hate it) to counter the weakness that comes from not moving. 

And: I'm actually finishing my manuscript. Finally. For real. Even preparing my query letter for an agent or publisher. This time of forced solitude and sedentary sit-downs hasn't been all bad. It's also scared me enough that I'm losing the weight I've needed to lose for years.  I'm going to do that. I'm envisioning that there will be an endpoint where I'm healthier and stronger. Wouldn't I love to dress like the cool hip woman I want to be. :^)

I have a doctor here in Provincetown who reminds me that 70 in Provincetown is 50 anywhere else. A few months ago I asked him why I've had so many medical issues in the last year or so when I've never had any before. He smiled, "I'd say you should be grateful. Most people start to decline when they hit 50 and you've had a good 20 years without problems. So you're playing a little catch up, that's all."

He is a good doctor. I'm lucky in that department also. So far: Optimism reigns. 

love
kj