I Got Almost … #MondayBlogs #Procrastination

Nothing.  Yes, dear Reader, I got almost nothing for this post today.  I have been fairly productive of late, but not with writing or blogging.  Again, it’s the knitting.

A friend noted that the buttons on the baby sweater I knitted for a baby-to-be might not be appropriate for a baby.


Yes, they are cute cat heads but the ears are rather pointy, not too sharp against my rough old skin, but I don’t want to the buttons to be the cause of baby’s first injury.  So I swap them out for these.


And, to be honest, I think these buttons are better suited.  They are pretty without drawing the eye entirely away from the sweater pattern.

I hope to present the parents-to-be with the sweater and hat tonight.  I’m sure they will be pleased that at least the outfit can be machine washed and dried, and yet it is wool. Merino wool, in fact, which is very soft.

Well, that’s it for now.  I’m thinking (again) of changing my blogging schedule.  If I aim for Fridays, then I can have all week to write and revise my posts instead of doing them half-off as I am now.  We’ll see.

Oh, and what about the classes I’m taking?  Well, the Modern Poetry class is a no-go for me.  It’s too fragmented: too many links to follow, an audio here, a video there.  Each week brings an email (or two) with several embedded links.  In contrast, a class I started a long while ago (on a lark), through the same platform (Coursera) has a very simple syllabus, with all content accessible through my iPad app.  The course is historical fiction and very interesting so far.  I can (and have) happily watched a video lecture while knitting.  I’ll say more about that class in a later post.  I’m still looking forward (with eagerness and dread) to the Fiction Workshop that will be offered free through the International Writing Program.  That will start on Thursday, September 24.  And, no doubt, you’ll hear all about that as well.

Until then a little eye candy for all you cat lovers: my green-eyed boy Junior.  Why buy a fancy cat bed when an old basket and a couple of magazines make him happy?

Short Short Story: Unraveling #Mondayblogs

Following is a bit of short of fiction that was published last year in The Paperbook Collective (Issue 7).  The issue itself is available here.  It contains plenty of good fiction, poetry, and photography for your reading pleasure.
***

Maggie tossed the gray mess to the empty spot beside her. She rubbed at her eyes, crushing the tiny bits of “sleep” that had crusted in the corners. Her OttLite floor lamp, tall, skinny and utilitarian, hung over her, shining a pool of white light on her hair which made the auburn and gray strands pop. She sat up straight and pulled her thick unruly hair away from her face, winding it into a knot at the base of her neck. Times like these, she thought, she was grateful that her hair was wiry enough to hold together without pins. That knot, as variegated as her favorite skein of yarn, would stay at the base of her neck throughout the night and perhaps even into the next day.  She reached for the clump of lacy gray alpaca yarn that she had just tossed aside. The wooden needles clicked together, still sheathed in the stitches of the “shrug” she had been knitting. Maggie wanted to shrug at the idea of knitting a shrug. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. She had drooled over the picture of the sweater in the catalogue, a bolero style with a paneled back that curved at the sides. It looked simple yet elegant. Much the way Maggie wished her life was.

Maggie had the simple part down pat. She lived with her cousin, who was more introverted than she and thus the perfect roommate. She had inherited her house and only had to pay taxes, no mortgage. She managed a yarn store that had already been in business for twenty years and had devoted customers when she took it over. There was very little effort she needed to make to get through her days. Her life was very simple. But there was no elegance.

Maggie knew that the lacy lightweight shrug would turn into a frumpy cocoon the minute she put it on. Everything did. She had a thick mane of hair she couldn’t control, a pear-shaped body that no clothing designer cared to design clothes for, feet that had gotten wider over the years, and she was a klutz. She could not chew gum and walk at the same time. She had to use the wall whenever she attempted Tree pose in her yoga classes. And she was lonely. Loneliness felt very inelegant to Maggie. Loneliness was simple but there was no style to it, no way to make it appear refined.

When Bobby, her husband, was still alive, she had knitted scores of hats, scarves, socks, and sweaters for him. Although she was already a fast knitter, she had wanted to be even faster to ensure that he always had an ample supply of woolen garments to see him through their long, cold winters. So she learned to knit the Continental style, with the casting yarn on her left hand and picked up with the right-hand needle. The Continental style also looked more elegant.

The problem, she thought, as she looked critically at the knitted fabric that hung lifelessly from her needles, the problem was the purling. She hadn’t gotten the hang of purling in the Continental way. For twenty-five years, she had knitted American style, using her right hand to throw, or loop, the yarn over the right-hand needle. With the Continental style, she ran a greater risk of dropping stitches since she was now “picking” them instead of throwing them. And once Bobby was gone, she hadn’t needed to knit fast anymore. Her knitting slowed as her world contracted to this small spot on her couch, where she tried to knit for herself.

The longer she sat there and fussed over the shrug that was actually almost complete, the more she worried. Could she unlearn the Continental? She wanted to ask Bobby, but he wasn’t there. He wasn’t even a ghost in her house, since they had been living in a small apartment the day he died. Maggie turned to the empty spot at the other end of the couch. She imagined that it would have been his spot. She could almost see his thin frame propped up with throw pillows, his long legs stretched out on the ottoman. He would be sipping hot tea, and he would offer to read to her while she knitted. She stared, forcing his image to come into focus. Was he actually looking at her now?

Maggie’s hands moved slowly, sliding the stitches off the thin needles. She wrapped the loose yarn around her fingers. She kept staring at that dark empty spot as she started to unravel.

***

Why I Give Blood #MondayBlogs


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Dan Rather told me to do it.  Well, in a rather oblique, unintentional way, he did.  It was early 1987.  I was between jobs, just working as a temp until I could find something regular.  My future husband and I were enjoying a quiet evening at home, watching the CBS evening news when Dan Rather earnestly urged anyone who had ever had blood transfusions before 1985 to be tested for AIDS. My future husband got up and left the room.  I started to cry.

You see, I had had blood transfusions–about 3 or 4 of them–in 1981 when I was being treated for a traumatic injury to my right leg.  The hospital was in Oakland, but it’s not like there were no people living with (dying from) AIDS there.  HIV and AIDS was all that anybody talked about.  “Jokes” that gay stood for “Got AIDS Yet” and screeds that AIDS was God’s wrath brought down on homosexuals proliferated.  To have any kind of risk factor was not just a threat for illness but also for stigmatization.  Only the innocent–children and hemophiliacs–were the exception, but often times, not even them.

My future husband never told me or asked me to arrange to be tested, but he knew I would.  While he was out of the room, I picked up the phone.  I called a local clinic in San Francisco, one where they were providing tests anonymously.  The nice man I talked to said I probably would be all right since the hospital I went to was in Oakland, not San Francisco, and my transfusions were a few years ago.  But it was still a good idea to get tested.

I had a two-month wait for my appointment.  It was by far the longest two months of my life.

My future husband (really, there’s a reason why I keep calling him that) and I went to the clinic together at the appointed time.  We had to watch a video detailing all the possible risk factors for contracting AIDS.  I wanted to crawl under a rock.

  • Blood transfusions.  Check. Obviously. That’s why I’m here.
  • Unprotected sex.  Hmmm. Well, I was protected against getting pregnant but …  Check.
  • Multiple sex partners. Uh oh. I did have a brief wild period …………………….. . Check.
  • Having sex with a man who had sex with another man. Damn. But I didn’t know at first ………………………………………… . Check.
  • Drugs, sex, and rock ‘n roll.  Of course. (Okay, this wasn’t on the list, but it may as well have been.)

About the only thing I didn’t do was shoot up.  Suddenly my history of blood transfusions wasn’t what scared me.  It was my own pathetic lifestyle before I settled down with my future husband.  A lot of that went on before my accident, before the blood transfusions.  Some of it after.  None of it pretty.

On the way home after my blood was drawn, I asked my future husband what we would do if I tested positive.  The dear, sweet man said he would marry me so I would have health insurance.  I stifled a laugh.  Chances were the insurance company would find me out and refused to cover me.  That was a fairly common occurrence then.  I appreciated his sincerity, but I also knew I could never do that to him.

Two weeks later we returned to the clinic.

My future husband was again with me.  The clinical aide worker carefully opened the manila folder to read my results.  His relief when he said “negative” was so palpable that I had to remark, “You don’t get to say that very often, do you?”

Then I got religion.  The religion of donating blood.  The AIDS epidemic complicated blood donations because, at that time, if you had any of those risk factors, your blood was not wanted.  But people needed blood still.  I had a precious, life-giving commodity.  I didn’t have much money, but I had plenty of blood.

That year I started donating blood and I’ve been donating ever since.  Granted, I’ve gone through some dry spells.  And now that I’m older, I have to take an iron supplement before and after my donation, or wait 16 weeks between donations instead of 8.

But it’s something I can’t stop doing.  Even though I now have enough blood drive T-shirts to open up my own shop with.  Even though I hate needles and sometimes it does hurt (especially that one time when the alcohol hadn’t completely dried … talk about fire in my veins!).  Even though I get faint at the sight of blood.  I just keep on giving.

Those blood transfusions in 1981 weren’t the last time I needed transfusions. At the least, I’m helping myself. At best, I hope I’m helping others.

Oh, and my future husband.  Yes, he became my husband.  Took the whole package of bum leg, AIDS scare, sordid history, and all.

Yes, I Have Regrets: Part 3 (Fini … Encore) #MondayBlogs

Here is an old post from May 26, 2013.  I’m reposting it because today, February 9th, is a very important date.  I do a kind “reckoning” whenever this day approaches, especially if it falls on a Monday.  I had planned to wallow in my darkest thoughts, until I chanced upon this poem by Belinda from busymindthinking.com.  Read her poem, then come back here.

These lines in particular moved me to reassess February 9th:

I would have endured
Much more and far worse
I would have declined
Any opportunity to re-write

I won’t be having a dark day.  I won’t curl up with dark thoughts.  But I will share my story again because it does reflect the long, long journey I’ve been on.  It is part of who of I am and I’m finally accepting the “valuable gift wrapped” within.

***

“We all have our baggage, and I think the trick is not resisting it but accepting it, understanding that the worst experience has a valuable gift wrapped inside if you’re willing to receive it.”  -Jeanette Walls as quoted in “Mommy Nearest,”  The New York Times Magazine, May 26, 2013, pp. 18-21.

How odd, I thought, that I should come across this quote while considering another blog post on my many regrets.  As I’ve said in earlier posts, those events and deeds I feel obliged to regret are the ones I could have avoided, those decisions in which the “free will” I exercised should have / could have been different.  (You can find my earlier posts here and here.)  These range from the mundane (gaining weight) to, for this post, a fateful decision to go into work when I should have stayed home.  That last decision still haunts me even though it’s been 32 years, 3 months, 17 days, and 22.5 hours after the fact.

Even though that one fateful decision eventually led to getting a job in an office where I met my future husband, I take no comfort in it.  I tell my husband that we were fated to meet.  I find it hard to see the “valuable gift wrapped” in this particular baggage and so, I argue, it’s a decision that I regret.  I wonder, would you feel the same way if it had happened to you?

Here’s my story:

It was 1981.  I was 23 and living in a California town, nearly 3000 miles from my family home.  I was barely employed, at the time working a few hours a week as a janitor at a candle-making factory.  I had only an AA degree, no skills other than typing, and I had never worked in an office in my short life.  All I wanted to do was go back to college.  I was on the bus on my way to work, after having a disappointing interview with a financial officer at a local private women’s college.  She told me that I had made too much money the year before and they wouldn’t give me financial aid.  I didn’t want to go to work.  I felt depressed and wanted to be alone.  But now I needed money even more so I swallowed my tears and got off within a block of the factory.

I clocked in at 1:00 pm.  By 1:30 pm, I was hanging upside down in the shaft of a freight elevator.  Just a few minutes before, I had rolled a large trash bin onto the freight elevator and was going up to the third floor.  The factory has three floors and my routine was to go to the top floor and work my way down.  The freight elevator had gates on the floors but not on the elevator itself.  It’s like an open, wood and metal, free-standing platform that went up and down.  I had been facing the wall as the elevator went up, distracted by the accumulation of wax and dirt and grease on the wall.  I turned around and saw, as a floor came into view, a man coming out of the stairwell and onto the floor.  It was Ted.  Ted, who worked on the third floor.  Ted, who I only ever saw on the third floor.  I must be at the third floor, I thought.  But the elevator didn’t stop.  It kept moving up.  To my horror, it kept moving up.  I screamed Ted’s name.  I screamed “It won’t stop.”  I reached out and grabbed onto the gates that were affixed to the floor.  I pulled my body through the slowly narrowing gap.  I was nearly free when I felt something catch my right foot and then a burning sensation as my leg was pulled upwards.

I had to flip myself around as the elevator pulled me up and grab onto pipes that lined the bottom of the elevator platform.  I felt hands on me and then someone’s back pressed against mine.  I learned later that one of my favorite people at the factory–Martha Coyote–stood on a box and extended her torso out into space to keep me supported.  I tried to grab her, but panicked cries sent me back to the pipes.  Martha was being held in place and if I had grabbed her, I might have sent her falling down the shaft.

I was told to hang on, they were going to lower the elevator and pull me through.  I had to tell them when to stop, which happened to be the moment when the edge of the metal plate that hung from the platform hit my groin.  They carried me out and laid me down on the floor.  Over and over I said that I just wanted to go to sleep and that my leg burned and felt like it would burst.  They asked me where my purse was, and I said downstairs on the 2nd floor.  And Martha held my hands and I heard someone say that it was just superficial.  Firemen showed up and then the ambulance came and they put me on a stretcher.  When they said they had to take me on the elevator, I cried and begged them not to.

I would be in hospital for the next six weeks, undergoing three “debridement and irrigation” procedures (where they cleaned my right leg and removed more dead skin and muscle) and one 7-hour skin graft surgery.  After I had been there two weeks, my doctors informed me that they had come very close to amputating my leg.  The first complication was apparent lack of circulation.  By the time I arrived in surgery, my foot was alabaster white and ice cold.  By the end of that surgery, some color had crept into my toes so they decided to wait.  The next complication would have been infection.  My leg had been covered with a thick layer of hair, wax, dirt and grease.  It was a mess and everyone expected it to become infected.  But no one was in a hurry to amputate as long as I seemed OK.

I was young and I was willful: two key characteristics for a swift recovery.  My leg didn’t get infected and eventually I was able to move my foot.  I had the luxury of a private room and a long line of friends who frequently visited.  My mom and brother and aunt flew out to see me.  Eventually I got strong enough to move about and make my own bed by resting my leg on a chair or the bed and pivoting around the small room.  My nurses loved me.  For six weeks it was home.

Because I was working at the time, Worker’s Compensation insurance paid for EveryThing: hospital bills, outpatient physical therapy, and mental health counseling.  They even sent me to a training school to learn word processing and a job-search workshop.  They gave me a clothing allowance so I could be presentable at my interviews.  That private women’s college relented and offered me financial support if I enrolled as a part-time student.  And one year and one month later, I was gainfully employed as a word processing operator in an office where my future husband also worked.

But here’s the thing, the rub, the darkness that covers it all.  As I write this, my heart races, my blood gets hotter, my throat constricts.  When I remember that day, I relive the fear, the terror.  But worse than that is the memory, the knowledge of what really happened, the real decision that set it all into motion.  My second day in ICU, the owner of the factory came to visit.  She was, understandably, worried not just about me but also about how my accident might affect her business.  In an accident like this, who is at fault?  The factory owner, the freight elevator company, or me?  She felt compelled to tell me that it was me.  She presented as thinking that I already knew this, that I already knew that I had actually been at the 2nd floor when I saw Ted and panicked.  I hadn’t been at the 3rd floor.  The elevator had not been malfunctioning.  I had been malfunctioning.  I had said I left my purse downstairs, on the 2nd floor.  At the moment I said that, I was lying down on the 2nd floor, my purse only a few yards away.

From that moment, I lost trust in myself.  I could have died.  I could have had a worse injury.  Someone (Martha) could have died trying to save me.  And it was all my fault.

Isn’t the reason why I regret what happened because I still believe that it was my fault?  That in exercising my free will, I made a very bad decision and now have to pay for it the rest of my life.  Is there a “valuable gift wrapped” in this experience that I’ve yet to learn to receive?

If you’ve made it this far in my story, then thank you for staying with me and I will receive that valuable gift.

A Brief “Happy Dance” Break from the Author of Clemency, A Novel in Progress

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

Enuf said.  Happy Turkey Day or Tofurkey Day, everyone!

I finished at 50,132 words.  Thanks to everyone who hung in there with me!  And thanks to the team at NaNoWriMo!

And, yeah, I’m getting me one of these:

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A Word from the Author of Clemency, A Novel in Progress

Hey, everybody, I feel like I’ve been so deep in NaNoWriMo land and posting the progress of my WIP, Clemency, that you all may have forgotten what I look like.

Photo on 11-23-14 at 1.58 PM

Yes, I now have blue hair as well as pink.  In the right light, my husband says I look patriotic.  It’s just a streak of blue, but it goes well with my favorite bathrobe, don’t you think?  Oh, and this is what my hair looks like when I don’t use a flat iron.  Kind of all over the place.  Amazing how much work I have to put into my appearance just to be able to leave the house.

Okay, enough about my hair (although it is my favorite subject).  The point of this post is to let all my steadfast readers of Clemency–all five of you–know that the last chapter will be posted on December 2.  And, yes, all will be revealed for those of you who keep insisting that Mrs. Whitebread is guilty.  She’s guilty, but …  enough said.

A word of warning:  You may feel like you’ve missed something once you get to the end.  And, yes, indeed, you will have missed quite a bit because I am not posting the whole novel on my blog.  Yup, whole chapters are being left out.  Why?  Here are my excuses reasons:

  • I didn’t want this WIP to go on indefinitely. I have other things I want to write about beside the novel that threatens to go forever.
  • I’ve tried to keep the posts to 1,000 words or less, but obviously (that is, if you’ve been reading), that’s been near to impossible.
  • Even more truthfully, posting these chapters have seriously cut into my writing time, more than I thought it would.

So I went ahead and wrote the ending, put it up on the scheduler and then just filled in with what I think are the most crucial chapters.

So in the remaining chapters, if you are reading along and find yourself exclaiming, “WTF. When did that happen?,” just know that it’s not you, it’s me, it’s the work in progress.  Besides, if I posted the whole novel, would there be any reason for anyone to buy it if and when it gets published?  “But, Marie,” you cry, “you’re giving away the killer’s identity!”  Yeah, so?  Some readers (myself included) don’t mind knowing the end as long as we have fun getting there (especially if your idea of fun is reading about people being tortured and killed).

Also, after Clemency has been raked over the coals by a series of revisions and an editor or two, the writing should be much better and, who knows, the killer’s identity might even change.  It would be just like me to do something like that.

I hope you enjoy the remaining posts on Clemency.  Looking forward to seeing you all on the other side.

P.S.  I’m past the 40,000 mark in NaNoWri as of this moment. Still a ways to go but I can almost taste the sweet finish.

You’re Now a Raging Success

The Paperbook Collective is back and Hallelujah to that 🙂

The Paperbook Blog

I don’t even know how to begin this post…

The last time I typed words into this blog was one day before my birthday, all the way back in April.

Two days later, I ended my four and a half year relationship, and all the words disappeared.

It has taken me close to seven months to actually open up WordPress again, but here I am. About a month ago I dug out my battered original copies of The Paperbook Collective, and started again. I hadn’t actually realised how much I missed it, and how happy it made me feel. My life is now filled with work and events and committees and obligations, but I am determined to make time for The Paperbook Collective once again.

So I have been working hard, and Issue Seven is now officially a zine!

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If you had ordered a copy of Issue Seven before I…

View original post 284 more words

And We Begin … Almost

You remember this, from last year, don’t you?

 

NaNoWri 2013 mug

It will be my official cup of java starting November 1.  That’s TOMORROW!

 

Participant-2014-Web-Banner

Several days ago, I introduced the idea of posting part of a novel on my blog, the parts already written, while I slave away at trying to finish said novel during NaNoWriMo.

Here’s a reminder of what I plan to do.  The title of the novel in progress is Clemency.  The blurb:

Clemency is a story about Misty Daniels, a young girl (~18) in prison for allegedly killing her live-in boyfriend after he beat her up, causing her to miscarry.  Enter Sarah Mansfield, a newly minted attorney who believes in Misty’s innocence and wants to secure her freedom.  But not everyone believes that Misty is innocent.  Not even Misty.  And there are some people in Misty’s poor small town that want to see her stay in prison.  And they will do anything to make sure that happens.  Even if means someone has to die.

Only in her mid-twenties and alone in an unfamiliar southern city, Sarah finds her life on the line and with few people she can trust.  Her boss and mentor, Lucas Danforth, seems to know more than he lets on and brushes off Sarah’s concern for her and Misty’s safety.  Michael Daniels, Misty’s half-brother and a former Marine, is more interested in hindering Sarah’s investigations than helping her.  And the people of Oyster Point, led by Sheriff Cooley, harbor more than a general mistrust of strangers.  They are all hiding something, and Sarah suspects that what they are hiding is the key to Misty’s freedom. 

These posts will are scheduled for 6 AM (US Eastern Time), starting November 1.  I sliced up the chapters into roughly 1000 words or less to make them digestible for those on the go.  But I think that makes for a choppy read, so I’ve added the Recent Posts widget to my blog (top of the sidebar) so you can wait a few days and then start reading your way through, if you prefer.  I always welcome comments, but I also know that it can be harder to comment on fiction than on book reviews or posts about a person’s lousy day at work.  And I know people are busy.  And I know I’ll be very busy.

On the trail at Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Seashore Park, California July 2012

A long way off in my own head.

Experimental Poem/Prose: Bonita’s Song

This “experimental” “poem” (feel like I should put both words separated in quotes because I rarely write like this) was previously published on The Community Storyboard.

* * *

She called me her little Puerto Rican.

I was too young to remember, she said.

 Not until I was an adult,

and she lay on her bed, her white hair spread like a fan on the pillow,

her wrinkled, spotted hands folded on her chest,

her opaque eyes fixed on the bluebird outside her window.

(more…)

Short short story: Sunday Dinner

This short short story was originally published on The Community Storyboard in May 2013.  With some minor revisions, I’m reprinting it here. 

Sunday Dinner

The child’s cry pierced my ears, and I thanked God again that I was too blind to see her tear-soaked red face.  Every Sunday they put me through this.  As an old woman, a matriarch, I’m supposed to be grateful.  And I cope well enough with the cacophony of patent leather shoes and Buster Browns tripping across my wood floors.  I cope with the sting and stench of my son-in-law’s cigar smoke, fighting for attention with the sour aroma of sauerkraut and kielbasa, my shoulders  constantly pressed and rubbed as if I needed a reminder that it’s another Sunday dinner with all my children and their children. (more…)

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