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