Category Archives: Nonfiction

Face First

Before I tell you this, please let me be responsible and say that how we celebrated this year would only work in a climate like Phoenix.

My family made an outdoor socially distanced Hanukkah and Christmas celebration in our backyard. All four kids (two plus two) were here. We sat apart, didn’t share food, and were careful with gift giving. We enjoyed seeing them and the three dogs a lot. But it was very stressful for the gardener and me because we are more careful than the kids, and every movement seemed fraught with potential danger (at least it felt that way).

During the festivities, when the gardener was in the house, I tripped on a pavement seam and fell. Yup. Smack on the concrete. First my knee hit. Then my cheekbone hit. Full body force. My arms didn’t even go out to catch me! I think I”m fine, but pretty swollen and bruised. After falling I looked up into four worried faces that were exactly six feet away from me in every direction. They wanted to come help me, but didn’t want to bring me covid!

On another note, something very cool and terrifying happened a few days before the party.

I was in the kitchen and caught a movement outside through my periphery vision. I glanced out the glass door to the patio. Our grill is outside the door and to the left of it is the wall that goes around our yard. I saw an animal jump from the grill to the top of the wall and pause for a second before jumping down the other side. Much of the animal was obscured by oleander tree foliage and blossoms. What I saw was a spotted cat butt and chubby legs. The animal was too small to be a bobcat, but too out of proportion to be a housecat. It was a baby bobcat!!! Then I knew what the outline was that I had seen a couple of nights before. I was on the couch watching TV and outside the window a cat walked by. I could only see the silhouette, but the cat looked out of proportion for a stray cat or a bobcat. I had kind repressed that sighting because it didn’t make sense. But after I saw the baby butt on my wall, I knew what it was.

So very very cool. But also terrifying that a bobcat is inside my yard proper, right next to my house and the door where we go out to the patio and the grill.

Leaving you with a photo of the delicious gluten free baked goods made by my daughter.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! XOXO

 

 

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The Destroyer, The Quiz, and Me

When I first pulled a card from the Wild Unknown tarot deck, I got The Destroyer. My feelings were mixed. Mostly I felt very negative toward The Destroyer archetype, but I also felt the satisfaction of truth because 2020 is nothing if not The Destroyer.

I was reminded of a poem that I wrote years ago about my father and how I saw him as a destroyer type of personality in some respects. I say that, but at the same time, I think he also nurtured and modeled some pretty cool things for me. He never made me feel bad about what I wanted to do in life, whether it was being afraid to do cartwheels or asking to take art classes or just hanging around the house watching TV after school. But as I began to write more poetry, I realized that I saw him as a destroyer of sorts.

For the purposes of writing poetry inspired by The Destroyer, I analyzed the artist’s image of The Destroyer on the card. When I begin to write, I will go back to those notes.

But I figured I needed to look deeper than this to understand The Destroyer archetype. I admit I had a really hard time with this for the last few weeks. I didn’t want to deal with The Destroyer. Still. Here are a few of the many things I discovered as I read:

  • Although some people might be more associated with The Destroyer, we all must have bits of every archetype somewhere within us
  • The Destroyer is one of the 3-part Trio of Existence: Creator, Destroyer, Sustainer (Caregiver)
  • The Destroyer upends everything stable: jobs, relationships, any type of security
  • The Destroyer is often unexpected or rejected, even savage
  • Nature can be an antidote to The Destroyer
  • All archetypes have good parts to them
  • Destruction allows for rebirth
  • Even The Destroyer offers gifts and lessons
  • The Destroyer archetype is about endings and closure, of letting go
  • The Destroyer challenges the status quo

When confronted with The Destroyer, one should look for closure where it is called for and for rebirth where it will lead to a new positive.

Although the Wild Unknown tarot deck contains 78 archetypes, there are a smaller number that consistently show up in many books and teachings. I found a fun quiz online that identifies your own major archetypes from a group of twelve. I like this type of quiz because it’s impossible to see “where it’s going” while you’re taking the test. I like this because you (I) can’t inadvertently influence the results. I was not at all surprised when I calculated my results. (Here is the quiz: Archetypes Quiz–the traits of the archetypes are listed just after the quiz).

My two highest-scoring archetypes were tied: The Caregiver and The Creator. (Cats and poems?) LOL, I doubt anybody who knows me would be surprised at this. In fact, I had my husband and daughter independently guess and they both came up with 3 they thought would be tied: The Caregiver, The Creator, and The Seeker. They probably thought The Seeker because I am constantly asking questions. Drives everyone nuts.

After The Caregiver and The Creator, I scored high on The Sage and then The Magician. The first is about knowledge and the second is about spirituality.

The rest of the archetypes I scored much lower, and it makes sense to me. They are: The Warrior, The Ruler and The Lover (tied), The Orphan, The Innocent and The Seeker and The Fool (all 3 tied). Lastly, with the lowest count of all, is The Destroyer.

At different times in my life, the results of the quiz would have been a little different. For example, when I was a teen, I am guessing that The Orphan and The Warrior might have played a much larger role, whereas The Caregiver and The Magician would have been less. For some people, the results could be vastly different from one life period to another.

Possibly the reason I had such a hard time grappling with pulling The Destroyer card right off the bat is because it is the archetype I find the most difficult. It’s the most alien to me, but also it frightens me. I don’t like the upending of my secure world. I like change, but only what feels warm and cozy and pretty right up front.

###

I am beginning to feel so much better from the Valley Fever. My exhaustion is lessening. To keep from overdoing it, though, I’ve been binge-watching Schitt’s Creek, recommended to me by my friend Sheila.

 

 

 

 

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Creativity is Play

Last year I wrote about starting to work on Julia Cameron’a The Artist’s Way with a local group of artists. I haven’t said much in a long time, probably since before the pandemic began. I thought I’d give you a little update about the process.

 

The group is still meeting once a month, generally with me in attendance. We moved to Zoom meetings when the pandemic began. We are down to four fully-committed women. Last week we worked on chapter nine where I learned that enthusiasm is more important than discipline (YAY!!!!) and that all artists make creative U-turns upon occasion. When we finish the book, we plan to start work on another book but haven’t yet decided which one.

 

If you’re familiar with TAW (The Artist’s Way), you know that there are two permanent parts and one temporary one. The temp component is working the book itself–reading it and doing the exercises. Though temporary, reading the book can be done over and over again. The permanent and most important parts are Morning Pages and Artist Dates.

 

I am here to fess up that I doubt I can ever complete TAW the way Julia Cameron wants us to. What works for her and thousands of people doesn’t work for me. I have to do it my way (can you hear the song there? hah).

 

First let me tell you the brilliant part of TAW–for me. It’s the Artist Dates. Because art is all about PLAY and ENTHUSIASM, I love giving myself permission to play in and about anything creative. So when I ordered the supplies for an art journal and got all excited about it, that was an Artist Date. When I started work on the Wild Unknown tarot cards, that was an Artist Date.

 

The book itself is fun and gives me ideas of how to think about creativity

 

and writing itself, but I am not a blocked artist, and I really think the program is geared for the blocked artist, the frustrated artist, or someone who is prone to getting blocked. Many times someone is blocked because other people have rained on their parade which is so extremely unfortunate. Luckily, I have not had a lot of those experiences or at least ones that I really took to heart. But I know others who have had that happen over and over again.

 

OK, now the last part of the program is the Morning Pages. Some people think these are the most crucial. I hate them, and after trying them, I refuse to do them any more. They are just work. More stuff that I “have to” do–about the opposite of play and enthusiasm as you can get. So why do I have to do them? 😉 (Hint: I don’t!) That said, I see them helping other people, so I am not dissing the concept or the application.

 

I’m just being honest about my participation in the process.

 

I had one of my stupid complicated migraines the other day and it has lingered, maybe because of the VF. Otherwise, I am doing fine, and I am sure that I am getting better. In two or three more months I should be completely well. Grateful!!!!

 

We had Thanksgiving on the patio with Mexican food yesterday with daughter and her fiance. Thursday the gardener and I will dine alone. Yes, it will include gluten free stuffing. Stuffing is the “Artist Date” of the Thanksgiving menu hahaha.

Happy Thanksgiving to all Americans this week. Please stay safe. With the vaccine on the horizon we want to be in good health to really appreciate life after the vaccine.

My boys . . .

 

 

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Too Many Ideas

Last Monday I saw the Wizard (aka the infectious disease doctor). I learned more about Valley Fever, plus I was able to hear his insights about Covid. And he told me about a Margaret Atwood poem in The New Yorker. Does anybody have a copy of it? I’d love to see the poem if you could take a pic and send it over :).

For a VF case like mine, I can expect to have the exhaustion for four months. After six months if I don’t get worse I can be pretty sure I won’t be bothered by it again, except for the node or nodes left in my lung (which is just an annoyance).

As far as Covid goes, he told me no restaurants (not even outdoors) and nobody in my house to fix the sink without a mask on. I have to entertain my family outside. So basically, just what I’ve been doing since mid-March.

Two weeks ago I talked about my new archetype tarot cards and researching The Destroyer archetype. Because I’ve had other stuff I’ve had to do I didn’t get as into it as I would like as of yet. But you know what I did anyway? This is so crazy. Let me preface it by saying that lying on the couch too tired to actually do something gives me a lot of time to think. And you know what I think about? All I should be doing, all I want to be doing, and about new things to do. Insanely, I bought supplies to start an art journal. I am already missing writing, staring at the tarot boxes (Wild Unknown and Original), and not touching my SCRAP scrapbook project (fabric swatches and memories).  I need to face the fact that I am one of those people who always have to have projects going on. My dad was like that, too. I’m pretty sure there is a gene that causes it.

I have watched more TV in the past month and a half than in the last year, I think. I’m not a TV person usually, but the gardener and I recorded all the October horror movies and have been watching them. Plus we love Professor T , a Belgian mystery show, and Baptiste, sequel to The Missing. The latter is filmed in Amsterdam and is more “typical” than the former. Professor T is a bit surprising and very endearing. Then on Netflix, on my laptop, I watched (by myself) The Haunting of Bly Manor. I found it interesting (the blind casting was very thought-provoking and problematic), but a little slow-moving. I’m also left with so many questions. [SPOILER ALERT!!!!! skip to next paragraph] For instance, if the ghosts originated with Viola, why was Dani haunted by her fiance even before she went to Bly? Wait, what about Miles? How did he survive? How did grownup Flora not recognize the names Bly and Owen, especially since Owen was at her wedding? Was Jamie really at Flora’s wedding or not? She seemed ghostlike to me, but she was still alive.

My daughter says the The Haunting of Hill House is not as slow, so I should watch it.

I am so blessed. I am not in much pain, and I have a good prognosis. I have everything I need at home (except people), and I live with the gardener and six pretty kitties so am not lonely. And nobody is waiting for me to finish that art journal ;).

With Covid on the rise, PLEASE STAY SAFE. No unnecessary risks. It’s not fair to yourself, to your loved ones, or to others, including healthcare workers. But then you knew all that.

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Off to See the Wizard

Cutest 11 seconds on video: my sweet Perry.

I’m off to be seen by the infectious disease doctor this morning. Fingers crossed.

Here are a few photos of our wacky garden.

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A Little This, A Little That, and a Lot of VF

My life has slowed down to a crawl, but I am still learning things. For instance, this. Sloopy Anne has to eat her meals in the bedroom because she has a sensitive nature and Perry will keep her from eating if he can get to her. She is so skittish that if I set the food  down, turn around, and start to leave the room she will run out of the room ahead of me, unless I walk out backwards. Hahaha. So she watches the direction my feet are pointed. That should not surprise me because cats are all about gestures. That’s how they communicate. A flick of the tail, a tip of the ear.

When you see how innocent he looks when he sleeps or cuddles it’s hard to believe Perry can be so naughty.

I’m learning a lot about this stupid Valley Fever. I still have the same pneumonia I had a month ago and it’s possible that my blood levels have gone up (they will be retested in a couple weeks); this is because the fungus grows very very slowly and then very very slowly is pushed into an onion of a lung nodule (the rings, you know). This will take months. The fungus doesn’t just evaporate. It gets pressed by my immune system like a pearl in the making. In the end there will be a nodule in my lung.

Another thing I learned about VF is that my neck pain–remember my neck pain from a few weeks ago?–was the first symptom I had of the disease. For some people that is the first sign. A man in an online support group told me to hydrate like crazy (my GP had told me that, too) and that the pain would be diminished because it’s displaced pain from the inflammation in the lungs. I was glad to hear of something to use because the neck pain had come back, radiated into my upper back on the left side (my left lung is the affected one), and I had even bought a little brace from Amazon. (Gee, Mom. It cost ten bucks–how much could one have cost in the late 60s?)

I’ve also learned that the brain fog from VF makes me make stupid mistakes, so I need to avoid impersonal social media as much as possible. I hope I don’t make an egregious error on here, but I guess y’all will understand if that happens. That word “egregious” is so much fun. Years ago I bought a book on sale called I Always Look Up the Word Egregious. After that, I never forgot what it meant and it’s a lot of fun to say.

This fall has brought a lot of rejections from lit journals. Some of them even praise the work I sent, but say it doesn’t fit. Um, ok. What does that mean? I think it means it’s weird. But I did have a pleasant acceptance finally this past weekend to The Orchards Poetry Journal. Another problem with publications right now is that there are a few poems that were accepted many months ago, but the issues have not been published yet.

Keep on staying safe, please!!! Grab this week by the horns!

 

 

 

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Day 22

This is day 22 of Valley Fever.

At least it’s getting slightly cooler in Arizona, finally.

The roadrunner came back!

The last book I read before I got sick was John W. Howell‘s Eternal RoadWhat a fun and thought-provoking adventure! Click the title to purchase it on Amazon. Last I looked, the Kindle version was $.99!!! Here is my review: Goodreads review of Eternal Road

I was supposed to prepare a video poetry reading for the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival, but I could not handle that. I guess this is not my season for poetry. #wtf2020

That’s all for today, folks. Please wear a mask and social distance!

XOXO

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Best Nurse Ever

Although I still haven’t heard from a doctor, I was seen by a nurse practitioner at an urgent care last Monday. She insisted I probably had Covid. I admit I can be a real PITA when I want to. This was our conversation:

NP: I think this is Covid.

Me: It’s not possible. I’ve been a hermit for six months.

NP: Everyone says that and is surprised when they are diagnosed.

Me: (this is where I am a PITA) They are lying to you. I am not.

NP (ignoring what I said) You can get it at the grocery store or the gas station.

Me: I haven’t been either place in six months.

After the chest xray results came in a half hour later, NP said that according to the radiologist it was either Covid or Valley Fever. At that point I could tell that for my sake she was hoping it was Covid–under the thinking that if it was Covid I was on the mend without real damage. A blood test for Valley Fever was taken. From there the gardener took me up to the Mayo tents for another Covid test.

In a day I knew the Covid test was negative. Of course, now I was worrying I got Covid from the urgent care! Although the gardener kept hoping that my illness really was viral pneumonia and that I would soon be well, I had a strong feeling it was Valley Fever.

And it is. If you don’t live in the Southwest U.S. it is possible you haven’t even heard of VF. It’s considered an “orphan disease” or quite rare. But it’s not rare here in Arizona. It’s more like the “silent epidemic.” Tell too many people about it and they won’t want to visit Arizona. It’s a lung disease that is caused by a fungus found in dust in the SW. There has been a big pile of dirt from a construction site right next to my house for months, so all it took was a little wind to blow it over to my house. Many people get VF and don’t even know they have it as they are asymptomatic. But if you have symptoms it can be annoying as it takes weeks or months or longer (average time is six months) to clear up or it can become very dangerous as it invades other parts of the body.

I have an appointment with a specialist, but not for quite awhile. In the meantime, no nurse or doctor has talked to me about this potentially dangerous and definitely life-changing illness. I suspect there are just not enough doctors to cover all the regularly sick people and all the Covid people.

Today is day 15, and I am just as tired as I was a week ago. If I do a little chore or two in the kitchen, I have to nap for 30-45 minutes afterward.

This is fifteen years ago to the season that I was laid up for a year with a tumor and reconstructed foot. At that time, Pear Blossom lay with me and took care of me. Although she is 20.5 years old now, she is still doing so. Perry and Tiger lie with us, but make no doubt about it: it’s Pear’s couch and she is taking care of Mom and just letting them hang out. I hold her little paw or she holds my big hand with her paw.

I’m going to turn off comments again because I still haven’t responded to comments from two weeks ago or been reading blogs. I hope to be able to do that this week.

Hope you have a happy week and PLEASE stay safe.

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Apologies

Those of you who read and commented on last week’s post about my neck injury and treatment were so kind, but I apologize for not responding to your comments. And for not reading blogs this week. Less than an hour after that post was published I realized I was sick. It happened quite suddenly.

I did go for a Covid test that day that later turned out to be negative. But that didn’t solve anything. I’m finding it difficult to be seen by a doctor without going to the ER. I don’t want to go to the ER unless it’s for immediate life-saving because I have been so careful for six months, living like a hermit.

Friday I had a zoom appointment with a nurse. She thinks I have pneumonia–or, alternatively, Valley Fever, which is pretty common in Arizona. Valley Fever is not contagious like Covid, but what it has in common with it is a range of reactions from asymptomatic to deadly.

Then I developed a medication allergy. 😦

I am hoping to be seen somewhere today. Fingers crossed. I will try to interact over here for very sort periods of time, but I am extremely fatigued.

#wtf2020

Love to all! Keep on staying safe!

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Learning from the Past (haha)

The gardener and I went to California for a couple of days last week. That was our first time out and about in six months. The only interesting thing I saw on the trip was a fire in the mountains near Palm Springs. A huge red helicopter was sucking up water out of a pond that had been created for the purpose of firefighting. Then it flew up toward the smoke pouring out of the side of the mountain.

This photo was taken through the car window as we zipped along the freeway. Notice the pond under the helicopter.

The day after we got back from California my neck went BONKERS. It was so painful that I couldn’t even lie down as the pressure was excruciating. It reminded me of when I injured my neck in sixth grade.

That incident belongs in the category of what were my parents thinking? 

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I was eleven, and we had been tumbling in gym class. I’d always been so-so to lousy in PE. My best events were sprinting and square dancing. Definitely not gymnastics.

The kids from both sixth grade classes were in a line, rushing through barrel rolls on a padded-top vaulting “horse.” As I eased myself over the vinyl for the third time, almost folding my over-long neck in two, I felt something crack. By the time I completed the mile-long walk home after school, the pain demanded attention. It gored me anew as if with an awl with every slight movement of my body.

At the emergency room, my parents gathered round the doctor as he pointed to the damaged vertebrae on an X-ray. “This is why she has to brace her neck. It will also help keep down the inflammation.” Mom’s shoulders were hunched. She had pulled into herself. Dad bounced on the balls of his feet.

At home, Dad wrapped my neck with a faded beach towel and pinned it with one of my brother’s diaper pins. The towel still held the out-of-context smell of sand and Coppertone.

After a night spent awake more often than asleep because of the lump under my neck, I finally fell into a deep sleep sometime after the glow-in-the-dark hands on my alarm clock displayed 5:30. But at 6:30, I awoke to find my arms wrapped around my limp ragdoll, my mother gently shaking my arm. “Wake up. You’ve got to get ready for school.”

I couldn’t believe what she was saying. “School? I can’t go to school.” I wrapped the covers tightly around my shoulders.

Mom pulled the cover down to the foot of the bed. “Rise and shine, Lulu. Your friends will be here for you pretty soon. I made eggs and sausage.” Every morning, the neighbor kids stopped by my house so I could join the group walking to school.

“What about the towel?” It had gotten twisted while I slept, and I tugged on it, trying to straighten it.

As Mom unpinned the towel, I could smell fried pork patties on her hands. “You have to wear it,” she said, as she re-wrapped the towel around my neck.

I didn’t think I had understood her correctly. “I can’t wear a towel to school!”

“You heard the doctor. It’s not negotiable.” I knew that voice, and I knew Dad’s iron hand lurked somewhere behind Mom’s no-nonsense tone.

Reluctantly, and perhaps in shock, I got dressed, ate a few bites of breakfast, and when the doorbell rang, I was ready to go, beach towel and all. When I opened the door, my friends all spoke at once.

“Gaaah, what’s that around your neck?!”

“What’s the deal?”

“Wha . . . .” Karen collapsed into a sputtering laugh.

That day I suffered. Kids pointed their fingers and mimed explosive laughter attacks as they walked past me in the hall. In class, they whispered behind their hands, staring openly at me.

I stood alone at my locker and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the windows across the hall. A girl with a giant donut around her neck.

A neck brace would have drawn attention to me in a negative, pitiful way. But a beach towel and diaper pin? That launched the pitiful on a swift path to the ridiculous.

Underneath the towel, the swelling increased, the pain intensified, and my voice began to diminish. By lunchtime, I could only rasp. Pain closed off all but the sensory part of my mind.

I sheepishly approached my teacher’s desk and croaked unintelligibly.

“Let’s go to the office.” Her suggestion seemed a relief. The office was far from the laughing eyes of the kids.

To the secretary seated behind the counter who stared with an open mouth at my beach towel, my teacher said, “I don’t think school is the place for her. Can you please call her mother to pick her up?”

In the car on the way home, my mother said, “Why didn’t you tell me it hurt?”

I thought I’d made clear that I was in no condition to go to school and that a towel did not make a neck brace that I could wear in public. But my mother seemed to think it was my fault that I didn’t communicate better.

“I did tell you! And it got worse today at school!” I gulped in some air. “It was horrible!” Sobs burst from my mouth before I could control them and that began a shuddery crying jag. Every time my mother would try to pat my arm with a jerky, awkward movement, I cried louder.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you disliked it so.” My mother frowned as if she were confused.

The doctor must have set my mother straight when she called him about the swelling and pain because she kept me home from school for a month after that.

Now that I’ve been a mother long enough to see my kids reach adulthood, I can see the scene through Mother’s Eyes. The reactions of my parents perplex me more than they ever did. I never doubted that they loved me, but they didn’t listen to me or imagine things from my perspective.

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Having lived through that experience gave me the idea the other night to wrap a pair of yoga pants around my neck. Perfect! I was able to sleep through the night wearing that “brace” around my neck. My neck got much better because the brace took weight off my neck. So now I am sleeping with the pants around my neck every night!

Do you have a childhood memory where you wondered what in the world your parent or parents were thinking?

 

 

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