Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Curse of the Strawberry Moon

Last night was my and my brother Jim's second visit to the Emergency Animal Clinic this month, this time at 1 a.m.  Daisy had been playful and enjoying life all day but started whimpering around 10.  I thought she had to go out.  I thought her staggering was the urgency of needing to go out.  After she did her business, however, she kept staggering on the trajectory of "out".  I went after her with cookies but immediately realized something was terribly wrong.  She could barely walk, had no sense of direction and fell down in our 20-yard odyssey back to our own patio.  I called my brother because I can't lift her into my high-slung Ford Escape and told him Daisy had had a stroke and I needed help.

He was here in 20 minutes and we bundled her off.

Turns out she's having a vestibular episode, which old dogs are prone to.  The very kind vet explained this as I sat on the floor with Daisy in my lap (she adores her Uncle Jimmie, but when times are tough she needs her Mama).  Vestibular disorder affects the inner ear so the animal (including humans) have horrible vertigo, explaining why she threw up on the way back from her business walk earlier.  It passes within two weeks.  He gave her a shot to settle her stomach and another, at my request, to sedate her because she was panting and shaking so much.  We went home and Jim settled her into her bed and warned me she was out but a wreck.  She was: sleeping but still shaking.  Twenty minutes later, the full effect of the sedative had taken over and the shaking passed.  She looked like a stuffed animal.

She had seemed better at the vet's but this morning's walk was careening, she didn't want water and later came into my room and wanted to get in bed with me.  I hauled her up, slid way down  and whenever she whimpered, I'd wake enough to scratch her butt, which soothed her into calm something.

I just lifted her off the bed because I didn't want her to fall off in the quest of finding me.  She's in her bed in my office, limp as vermicelli.  It pains me to watch her walk a bit, then come to a standstill, tilted to the right, unable to make her body do what she wants.  She's probably more embarrassed and scared than she is in pain.

Luckily we only have to get through seven more days of this wretched month.

A recap:

Memorial Day: Home alone with a big resentment on my chest, Daisy begins to experience rolling shivers.  It's not right.  She's been diagnosed with failing kidneys, put on a kibble she hates, has to go out multiple times a night and now this awful shivering.  I think she is dying.  I call my brother.  If I have to put her down, I need my big brother.  The wonderful Emergency Animal Clinic does tests that should have been done by her regular clinic and announces her kidneys are fine but that she has a roaring bladder infection.  He puts her on antibiotics and pain meds for the sore back he's also found and we switch vets the next day.

June 2: Daisy iss been improving.  We are coming from a walk and I see we can't go inside from the patio because the sprinklers are on.  Then I notice a loud buzzing that, yes, is coming from our apartment complex and then the wail of fire engines.  I carabiner Daisy to a railing and go inside -- an alarm that could shatter all my crystal is going off and water is pouring into my apartment.  The upstairs neighbors sprinkler system had gone off and that sprinkler was  water sluicing from their window and deck.  The firemen are right behind me and snatch up my computer components and carry it into the living room and tarp everything they can.

Daisy and I are homeless.  We head to Jim's while they dry the apartment with enormous hot fans for four days and stay on because I can't move with so much recently behind me.  Also, Daisy loves rolling in their grass.

June 3: Jim calls me early in the morning to tell me Daisy can't walk.  He'd coaxed her out to pee that morning from the basement door and, fuck it all, gave her an ibuprofin for the pain, which I approve of even if we shouldn't give her Motrin.  When I go upstairs, she's gimpy and tender but mobile.  We see her new vet that day and he goes after her pains and problems aggressively, taking x-rays that show no masses & no arthritis, doubling down on antibiotics and on pain meds.  I want to marry him.
She starts feeling better immediately, is eager to eat the new kibble they've prescribed and is thrilled to go swimming at Flathead, screaming for me to throw the stick.

(Daisy does NOT believe I can swim.  As soon as I get up to my crotch in the freezing water, she keeps coming after me to do what I call Tunnels of Love, in this case swimming through my legs and circling back to do it again.  She is herding me to shore.  It's hilarious.  I am disappointed that I don't take the plunge.  As a kid, no matter what the weather, we were in the water on Memorial Day weekend and it's a week later & I'm too much of a weenie to go all the way in.  I am old.)

June 7: Daisy and I move home.  Dust everywhere.  Shattered glass from a picture knocked down in a bathroom, shelves moved from the hall into the living room, the hutch moved into the living room, my computer on the table in the living room.  A load of laundry forgotten in the washer for a week to re-wash.  No towels.  Can't log in on my lap top because the router is in the living room.  For insurance purposes, I need receipts for everything so after a visit to Best Buy to make sure my tower/hard drive are OK, I book the Geek Squad to come in and reconnect all the rest of my lap top in case parts of it were drowned -- the tower was farthest from the stream three feet away.  Everything checks out and they even bundle all the cables so that they aren't tripping me when I stand up.

Can they fold fitted sheets too?  If so, I want to marry them.

The apartment complex sends in guys to move the heavy furniture back into place.  Later they come in to replace a bunch of light bulbs the Great Deluge ruined as well as a socket plate the huge fans yanked from the walls.  I clean and mourn my periwinkle pansies that have died.  Daisy and I settle in and she lays in the sun while I combine what plants survived into two pots.  This working with flowers feels...affirming.

June 12: The Pulse Massacre.  Flags are at half-mast even in het Missoula.  I trade emails of horror with a client and decide to write an article in his name based on a list of facts I drew up for his website. I lose myself in writing over the course of two days.  I'd look up from it and four hours would be gone.  Daisy cracks me up on each walk by throwing herself on the grass to "rrrolll, rroll, rroll in de hay" although she doesn't catch the reference to Young Frankenstein.  Oh well.  I do.  I am writing journalism and I am Woman and I am Strong.  I have a novel to write.

Which brings us to last night.  And this afternoon.  Daisy is now a failed croissant in her bed, not moving.

*  * *

On Saturday, the 18th, my sister-in-law celebrates her one-year anniversary for heart valve replacement by climbing the M, a gleaming white M on a barren mountain above the University of Montana.  Everyone in the family except me (I spent the afternoon making the coconut cake she wants to end the day on) joins her.  My niece comes back to their house with their new dog, a five-ish-month-old what looks to be an English spaniel.  My niece lost her beloved dog last year and is having some buyer's remorse over the puppy.  He's all over Daisy, who in her uninterested dotage and former role as dog boarder, permits anything another dog throws at her.  She considers this one of her jobs, along with keeping me from drowning, running after thrown objects and rolling in the grass.  

This encourages the pup to try out fancier moves, such as humping.  I had just warned my niece that his squatting days wouldn't last forever and that, even though she was sure neutering would take care of it, he'd get into humping at some point.  Whereupon he began humping Daisy madly.  I made the mistake of cheering him on and got into trouble with everyone.

I'm sorry about that, Beloved Niece.

(Both male and female dogs hump.  Daisy humped Boomer and Hero whenever she could, as well as the odd fireman and a friend of mine she was clearly in love with.  I walked a dog who hated everyone except his owners, groomer, Daisy and Hero.  He LOVED me, and would attach himself to my leg as soon as I walked in the door.  The same with Grace, my best friends' Lab puppy.  She clamped on to me like a vise and left claw marks and dirt on my legs after.  It was an act of love and delight.  Dogs hump for reasons of which sexuality is the least.  Mostly it's a way of getting the humpee's attention, an invitation to play.  
I walked a dog who ran into his apartment and humped his big squishy bed: I think it felt good.  Dogs don't always like being humped, especially males, but it's a matter of hauling them off and redirecting their play energy.  I'm just sayin'.)

Everyone was in the kind of mood that showed us off at our worst that night.  I was glad to go home to get away from the simmering emotional noise.

Chatting with my sister-in-law today, I realized two things about all this dogginess.  My niece had gotten her Dog of all Dogs when Dog was a year or so old.  She hasn't done puppy.  When Daisy was a very young puppy, she was vicious.  It really wasn't until she got into the dog run in Brooklyn and played, got nibbled, gotten in trouble and made friends that she calmed down enough t risk petting her.  One of her first friends, older than she, humped her regularly, a sign, I think, of ownership since we were at her apartment and throwing her toys for Daisy.  But there was also a big white Lab in the dog run that Daisy humped so much that we wept with laughter.  Little Daisy began at his butt and humped all the way up to his head.  Then she'd turn around and hump him all the way from his head to his butt.  Again and again.  He knew this was puppy stuff and let her.

Beloved niece's Dog of all Dogs had a terrible and lingering death.  Beloved me had a puppy with a terrible and lingering puppyhood.  Now I'm experiencing the beginnings of what Beloved Niece went through and I'm not good at it.  It makes my hysterical.  As a confirmed pessimist, each visit to the Emergency Clinic has been, I believed and will believe, Daisy's last car ride.

Beloved Niece was much more optimistic and accepting when Dog of all Dogs could no longer swim, no longer run, no longer walk much.  I think of Daisy as a puppy and when these losses, so far temporarily, occur, I see it as the end.

It also occurred to me that my father experienced very little of the degradations of dying.  Losing his sight could have been one but he forged on with what vision he had left, his books on tape, his music and his incredible memory.  He died of an aneurysm, immediate and painless.  What other failing of old age, my brother dealt with.  My brother found him dead (on June 26th, just to round out this mense horribilis) and that has been very hard on him.  

Daisy is my turn, challenging my mindset, my patience, my experience.  I'm so glad, in retrospect, that Dad made me put my dog, a black Lab named Jan who was dying of kidney failure, down by myself when I was 18.  I remind myself I've done this before and survived it.  This series of crises and recoveries is what I owe her and owe my brother for taking care of Dad, and Dad, whose decline last year I squirreled up & hid from as much as I could.

The Strawberry moon has swelled and diminished in the last three weeks.  It's payback time for me, to the cycles of life and the lives I didn't, perhaps, honor as much as I should have. 

But I will need you a lot, Jim.  Even at our ages, big brothers do certain Things for little sister.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Letter to My Mother on Mother's Day

Dear Mom:

Is there a heaven?  Are you with Daddy now?  Have you come together as lovers again or as the sometimes-adversarial roommates of my most conscious years?  Yes, I figured that out.  For whatever reason, you pretty much left marriage -- although not the money, not the security -- as you took each step further in.
You didn't want to be Mrs. Lieutenant Kuffel and then you began, as I left toddlerhood, around the time everyone at St. Pat's knew you had cancer before you did, to really loathe being Mrs. Doctor Kuffel.  I saw the gleam in your eye when Dad lost his sight and you finally had the power in the marriage, at least insofar as being the sole means of transportation was power.  You never really understood that Daddy lived on his own planet and was serene there with his Ellington and Chopin, fights and football, history and science.  It drove you crazy, that serenity and noise, but you didn't understand that as much as he missed driving and other stuff, he was untouchable.

And yet you loved each other.

When Aunt Claire died, I described heaven to Colleen as a nightclub with red pleather banquettes.  That's where she reunited with Uncle Connie.  In that deep gravelly voice I love so much, Colleen said, "He was mixing martinis while he waited for her."

A comforting, pretty scene.  Was there such a one for you and Dad?  Was he mixing you a Manhattan?  Were you restored to your best youth so that after that drink and a smooch, you could fling yourselves into "Elmer's Tune"?

What the fuck happens when you die, Mom?  I need to know, even though Frank, in his eulogy for Dad, said his spirit had joined the stars, that we had to let go to let that fully happen.  Those words brought me the first peace I felt after Daddy died and they're appropriate to Dad, aren't they?  He'd like whizzing around the star nurseries and undiscovered galaxies.  You?  Not so much.  I want to know where you went, where Frank would have consigned you in his eulogy.  You were Frank's tool at St. Anthony's and Christ the King; that's what he focused on.  But I have to ask: is that all you were, a sideman to Vatican II?  Or did you have galactic clouds of your own to fly up to?

That's what's on my mind this Mother's Day, a year since I've written you, a year since I've blogged here.

I can feel you in a new way, living with your treasures.  Thank you for packing up your jewelry box for me -- I sobbed when I parted the packing in that box and discovered it.  Thank you for remembering the cherub candle sticks.  I used them on the Christmas table with sprigs of pine and small white and red carnations.  Jim remembered them as well.

I have felt you the last couple of days as switching out winter for summer clothes turned into cleaning the big closet in my office, throwing things away, packing up Grandma's crystal for Kaylie or bagging things for my favorite charity shop.  You approved heartily and kind of kept me going because it was such a Mom task.

I have a little more to do but am ready to move on to the next projects I need to finish before I try to start writing my novel.  If there are any plots hanging around where you are, could you send me one? I'll think of you as I write a version of Dick and the women in his life.  He loved you as much as he could but he was pissed off that you added Jim and me to your love.

And that's one thing that Jim and I, at least, never doubted amidst your abandonment of the marriage, We knew you loved us, and that you loved us for what and who we were.  You weren't disappointed in the whole of us, although I'm sure my smoking disappointed you and maybe my weight gain. Thank you from all of us who so tangibly felt your love -- Jim, Lisa, Tom, Michele, Jerilyn, Patrice, Rob.  Lisa always says you were the only person who had unconditional love.

Oh, you'd adore Rob!  He has inherited so much of his taste from you!

And Kaylie is graduating with her Master's Degree next Sunday.  Lisa and Dustin have moved to Big Fork, so they're theoretically nearby, although we haven't seen each other since Dad's memorial.

I think you wouldn't have understood parts of the memorial but you would have loved seeing all of us together, eating, laughing, drinking, singing, dancing and loving each other.  Only Jennifer was missing among the grandchildren, but that will have to wait for the novel I'm asking you to find a plot for.

Daisy will be 13 in two months.  She's starting to age now and has kidney failure we can control with kibble.  Jim thinks she has a year left.  I know he's right but Mom -- I can't lose her.  There will be no memorial for her, no eulogy, and yet she has shared 90 percent of my life and been the one I came home to from the other ten.  No one else I've hacked and cried over while writing this had Daisy's claim for Being There.

I'll try to visit Lisa this summer, Mom.  She took good care of your treasures and she's a good egg. I'm trying to pass on some of the family stories and I'll try to be better at that.  When I was organizing photos, I marveled over the pictures of you with Jim and Dick as babies and little boys.  It was good for Jim to see those pictures and all the mother's day cards he made and you saved.

Funny: I haven't asked where Dick is.  I don't feel at like doing so either.  This has nothing to do with hell: I just lack curiosity.  Or maybe it's that I lack missing the comfort and the ease and having things in common.

Speaking of which, I've been filling out the other two sets of china -- Grandma Kuffel's and the tea set I bought in London.  You'd get a kick out of that, I think.  You'd definitely have my apartment sorted out down to the last picture hook.  You'd drive me bonkers but I'd love you for it, and love you for looking around and saying, "It's very you, Francie.  Very homey.  Very pretty."

And I think those things are the only things I've ever wanted.



Sunday, May 10, 2015

Letter to My Mother on Mother's Day

Hey, Mom --

A lot is going on here and I miss you terribly in the turmoil of it all.  I've moved back to Missoula and Mother's Day is sweet with the mountains still green, the black-eyed Susans on the slopes and the smell of lilacs light in the early morning air.  I haven't seen this Montana in 30 years -- the hills are brown when I come in August and wild flowers out only in places like Glacier.
I've been here six months, staying with Jim, if you can believe it.  We haven't fought once, which is even more unbelievable.  He's been unfailingly kind, if a little hyper, and I've done my best to be cheerful and helpful or to hide when my mood turns south.

Almost the whole family is here for Mother's Day -- Lisa is in Oregon but they're moving back to Kalispell this summer and then the circle will be pretty much complete.  Little Sophie is in third grade and Anna -- did you meet Anna? -- is a very shy pre-schooler.  Michael and Leeanne moved to Spokane and all the Spokane kids came over to see Kimmie's play.  Kim tells me that every time she goes on stage she channels you.  I thought you'd like that.

I'm moving into a tiny cottage in about six weeks and oh, I wish you were here to supervise!  Will I find just the right pink for the kitchen and lavender for the living room without you?  I've bought a couch, Mom -- my first real one that Daisy will refuse to let me nap on.  I'll be gathering my stuff from the four corners and will have your/my bedroom furniture back.  You'd like this little house: it's very 30s, and so much of what I've inherited covers that period.  I want to mount your toy stove in the kitchen and I will be putting up photos of you and Dad over the fireplace in the living room.  All my dour great- aunts and uncles, the entire 23 of them!  You'd enjoy this move, Mom.  I think of you every time I buy something.  And you'd laugh at my mania to re-collect things from my childhood that got broken or went astray in the moves.  I actually bought a piece of carnival glass although the bowl you had was much bigger and more useful.  I'm going to see if I can get my part of the Azalea china Grandma Kuffel had which a friend and I have collected.  It would look swell in the kitchen.  I'll have to put a table cloth on the table to use the Spode.

You can see I'm planning dinner parties right and left.  That's your presence in me as well.

Dad is getting frail but is in good spirits.  Last night was the annual Western Montana Retired Officers' Club dinner.  Only five World War II vets left and I cried when they gathered to have their picture taken.  It was the day after VE Day and Dad was telling us about free drinks at the Officer's Club in San Francisco.  Jim found it hard to believe how even more ecstatic VJ Day was, how relieved you and Dad were that the Homeland Invasion was off.  Jim had never heard to story of you and Dad renting a room from the colonel and the colonel's wife expectation that you would clean for her.  It explained a lot to him about your dislike of the military, although you always seemed to enjoy the perks a great deal.

I was Dad's date and Jim and Brenda came as well. 
Seeing the men of Dad's age barely able to stand and hold a limp salute was a solemn sadness to us -- my eyes are pricking as I write this -- but he was terribly glad to be there, with us, and to see one or two of your remaining friends who I made sure came over and sat with him for a few minutes. 
All three of us pitched in to be ears, eyes and stability for him.  He's already set the date for next year.

He misses you, Mom.

Daisy's showing her age, too.  She'll be 14 this summer, can you believe it?  She's still active although she can't jump the way she could a year ago.  I like it that she is still at a learning curve at her age.  She has learned who Auntie Brenda and Uncle Jimmie is (she outright adores Jim!), and I taught her to stay in the unfenced back yard.  I don't know how I did that but I don't know how I taught her anything.  She's smart on her own.

You'd had laughed to see her facing down two deer one evening.  She kept advancing, slowly, barking, while one of the deer pawed the ground like a bull.  Finally the deer decided the noise was too much and ran off.  We call her the Deer Stalker and Brenda's plants are thriving with absence of ruminants invading the lilies.

Next spring I'll find a black bitch to join her.  The cottage has much more light than the Bat Cave had and I'll be able to read that little monkey face's mischief.  No dog can replace Daisy but I do love a black Lab.

It felt funny being Dad's date, Mom.  I put on an underwire bra, Spanx and make-up, but I'm ashamed of the weight.  I hope you would be proud of me despite the weight gain, and I hope you would have been proud of us last night.  I made sure it was OK for Jimmie to get in on the photograph of all the Vietnam vets -- it's the 50-year anniversary of the start of that war -- even though it was an officer's club meeting.  He felt chagrined that I did it but Brenda walked him over.  We're as proud of his sergeant's stripes as we are of Dad's bird and I'm glad we forced him into it. 

I have a new psychiatrist and she changed my meds up.  It's a huge help.

That's about it, Mom.  I want you to know how much you're on my mind and how much you would love this tender time of year and the 16 people flowing in and out of Jim's house this weekend.  I know you'd be buried in paint chips and helping Kimmie plan this doily hanging we have in mind.  Daisy misses your pocket full of cookies.

Oh -- I bought a car, Mom!  And a washer and dryer.

I'm trying to grow up.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


It's a very appropriate title, Car on the Hill, because I've been in a state of waiting -- for a car, finally achieved -- since August.  That was when I knew my move back to Missoula was coming within the year.  In October I knew it was coming in a month.  By the time I got here I was waiting to pay off debts, get said car (an `09 Ford Escape), settle into my social media work.  Then I fell off my Prozac and went into a deep tearful frightened place and waited to get an appointment with a psychopharmicologist.  Then I waited to see what the Effexor she weaned me onto would do.  Now I'm waiting to move.

I've kept up with the social media accounts although one is winding down and I'm now on the hunt for two more (I have experience in weight loss, mind/body connection, military affairs, New Age stuff, addiction for authors but I'm a curious girl and could totally get into a Civil War book or thriving antique shop).  I've put out the first feelers -- this is another but will stop here -- and am trying to get it together to put out more.

And there's the rub.

Let's talk about Effexor first.

It's gotten the Black Dog off of my chest.  I'm on the starting dose and will probably add more as time goes on (we're seeing each other once a month, my new prescriber and I) and after some weeks of stabilizing I'm much more driven, more balanced when faced with implied criticism, more cheerful.  I'm on the verge of wanting to do things I haven't wanted to do in a long, long time -- see friends from Missoula I've barely been in touch with, write, dig into research.  I'm on the verge but not there.

This blog is an attempt to get there, to care about my own doing life rather than my paid passive life, to speak out about myself.  I don't know if this push is something "I" am solely in charge of, or whether I need to increase the Effexor dose, or whether it's going to happen when I finally move in about two months. 

I've done two Frances Has Entered the Building things so far -- bought furniture and do-dads for the little 1930s cottage I'm moving into, and begun to tweet and do Pinterest in the hopes of catching two new clients.  But spending money is too easy and scary.  While I've bought a great table, mismatched chairs, a sofa and love seat, a washer and dryer (!), and a hutch that will all honor the era of my coming cottage, I've also bought depression glass, odd dolls, and summer clothes because I have no idea where mine are in my storage unit that's bulging at the seams.  Buying is fun and it's gotten me out of the house but it's not, in the end, active.

I've had to put the rosary book on hold because so many books are packed, although I have located the one church in Missoula that says a daily rosary.  In the meantime, I've had an idea for a novel whose research I've mostly done -- it took a day -- and I could write quickly if I don't get neurotic about it.

Given that I haven't blogged since January, what are the chances I'll take this steady, sane approach to a comic, soft novel?  But writing is the biggest doing-thing in my life and I want to be doing it.  So far I have a vague idea of plot, 1 1/2 names.  You see I couldn't do more because I had taxes to finish.  Then I had a manuscript to finish editing.  Then I had some ghost writing I'd put off.  Then I had to take a short break from everybody else's business and ended up packing up stuff I don't need (cut glass and a rabbit doll) and then creating eBay listings for my family.  I haven't bathed, I'm in the same pajamas I wore to bed on Thursday night, I don't remember if I brushed my teeth yesterday and suddenly it looks like a really good idea to reorganize my bookmarks.


Do men do this? finish some looming work projects and then look for other people's work to do instead of attending to some allowable selfishness?

The difference between now and a month ago is that I'd have been in bed burying my ennui instead of writing about it.  I hope that in six weeks (I'm going to Oregon to take care of a niece after surgery in a month), I'll take a shower to curb my ennui and then call a friend.  Or write two pages.

It's been a fascinating experience to live with my brother and sister-in-law for going on six months now while we've all waited for so many things to fall into place.  I haven't been around people like this since spending a few weeks with my parents years ago -- and they didn't expect much of me.  My brother and I have had a contentious relationship but I've come to realize, if not always calmly accept, that much of his critical and bossy attitude that we've fought over for 50 years is a kind of speed dial for him.  He gets a thing in his mind and it joins the 44 other things on his mind and it all comes spewing out in one big sometimes repetitive rush.  I felt nagged for a while then began to see that something like joining the Y had as much weight as how his hamstring is feeling.  That's been an enlightenment.

Sometimes, too, I see him get an insight into me.  We were watching a mama deer with her adolescent young-uns across the street.  She was cudding away but the kids were playing -- none of us had ever seen deer play.  They were jumping straight up and twirling in the air, charging at each other and otherwise acting very puppy-like.  Once Mom looked up and joined in, then went back to her grass.  I narrated her attitude: "Norman, behave yourself or there'll be no rosebush for dessert tonight.  And Heidi, I want to see you acting more lady-like."

"'Heidi'??" Jim said, laughing.  "Where do you get that stuff?"

I shrugged.  It's that thing in my brain that I like quite a lot about myself -- verbal whimsy, I guess.  When I meet someone with whimsy, I am besotted.

For the first time since I was in grade school, then, my brother and I are friends.  And I've been friends with my sister-in-law for some time but we're now partners in crime, both of us ready to drive off to the Bitterroot and take pictures or pour over Craig's List.

It's also a busy way to live.  There is always a birthday to celebrate, a play to go to, a family member needing attention.  I've never seen so much cake.

My coming cottage is small.  It has a largish living living room, a kitchen out of the `30s, and a tiny oblong bedroom that used to be a porch.  There is a basement with one finished Bat Room and after struggling over it I decided it would be my office.  I'll be too late to plant much from seed but it has a rock planter and I'll strip it and fill it with pansies.

I am waiting to give my first dinner party.  It fills me like a craving for cake, this dinner party.  It's months away -- months of finishing with furniture, painting, unpacking and more cut glass (two bids on eBay this morning).

And so I wait.  I'm waiting for checks, one of them a big piece of change that would see me through lean times when I could come up with another half a name and a shower.  I'm waiting for the lilacs to burst through their fat buds, for the river to be low enough for Daisy to swim in, for next March when I think I'll get a black Lab puppy; I'm waiting to be me while I'm entirely grateful not to be smothered under the Black Dog and to have ideas and ambitions rather than retreating to bed.

And writing this blog?

It didn't hurt a bit.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Moving: One Step Forward

I'm OK, first of all.  Thanks for so many queries asking if I'm still alive.  I don't know if I know how to write any more, but I'm willing to test the waters here.

I've moved, if anyone doesn't know that, from Brooklyn back to my hometown, Missoula, Montana.  The return of the native has become the native is restless.  I'm without a car or a place of my own, living in my brother's basement (still has more light that the Bat Cave), & finding out why moving is considered one the three most stressful life changes. 

Who am I going to be? I began to wonder as I packed up boxes of books and clothes and silliness in October.  I won't be walking dogs -- can I scrap the stained clothes I used?  I began to do that, along with scrapping almost anything I couldn't see using or wanting.  But what would I be?  Who would I hang out with?  Where would I go?

Idiot me: I thought I'd find out & I haven't, much.  The Holidays are a terrible time to answer those questions because the wheres are fancy & the whos are not dependable when the calendar changes.  So far, my crappy dog clothes, those that weren't hopelessly awful, have been fine, although today I took my father to breakfast so I'm wearing jeans & a bra & my hair is still down & I still have earrings in.

This week I hit critical mass in the cha-cha of moving.  The IRS and I had agreed I would pay by check in December.  We discussed this twice.  I wrote a check.  The IRS deducted its amount from my bank -- my New York bank which I was about to close out because there isn't a branch to be found for 200 miles.  Overdraft & stop payment fees I can't afford hoved into my checkbook.  I called the IRS to discuss all this...&, after an hour of trying to get through, their computers were down. 

Really?  So does that mean everyone owing them money on January 2, 2015, gets a day's grace?

Somehow I doubt it.

All of this was preoccupying me while I tried to be a nice person waiting out agendas on my brother's home front so I could pick up the car I'd rented for a few days, then driving said car on ice after many years of not driving on ice, going to a Zoo Town Lit New Year's Eve & being asked questions like, "How come you weren't at X party?" & wondering if that was an answer to the question of who I'll hang out with (not some of the people you love) & realizing how hungry I am for the right writer friends to talk to.  But, uh, will I?

I'm reading William Manchester's Winston Churchill biography, Vol. 1, & am reminded of what it's like to make one's way in Society.  Once upon a time, I had a small niche of my own in Missoula -- Zoo Town -- Society.  No longer.  All I can do is show up when invited, follow up on what bait I've thrown out & try to decide if I want to be in Society.

It would be nice if this involved a long white train, ostrich feathers & curtsying to the Queen.

God.  It almost does.  Ouch.

Oh, dear.  What have I done?  I can't even walk down the street for cigarettes, yogurt & kibble.

Although the kibble is half as expensive here & cigarettes $5 less.

The good thing about all that was complaining to my father.  My father as you may remember always told us kids that if we wanted sympathy, we'd find it between shit & syphilis in the dictionary, so I was wary of blabbing out all my financial, family & social woes.  Amazingly, he understood.  He actually did.  He GOT it.  I felt heard after many weeks of trying & probably failing to be mute while I smiled.

It's all temporary but it's been a longish temporary that included a vicious stomach bug & a Holiday season in which I was too broke to buy all my family gifts.   Today I finally mailed the keys back to my landlord in New Jersey...although the postage machine didn't dispense the postage until I paid twice.

You see what I mean?

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Spitting Angry

I believe that the family member trying to keep an eye on her business has both our interests at heart and I'm sorry that she's caught in a mangle of unrealistic expectations on the one hand, and my orthodoxy regarding the original agreement on the other.

But I just came back from walking Daisy after spending five and a half hours tracking down every glimmer of interest in one of my social media client's book and making a list, nearly comprehensive, of the websites I use as sources for my work for her.  Last night I spent 90 minutes explaining what and I why I do what I do.  I don't know how many times I've run through that litany but I do know that, in the nearly three months I've been charging her for the four and a half months I've been working for her, this is the fourth time she has wanted to renegotiate the fee I put in the work to earn.

And I know very well that she expects the same work for half the money.

I'm leaving for Montana on Wednesday.  I need to do laundry.  I have no food in the house and I have prescriptions to pick up.  I have other media clients and my own sorely neglected social media and writing to attend to.  There is some cleaning I want done in the Bat Cave.  I'd like to pay a credit card and figure out my trip to the Festival of the Book in Missoula in October but I can't because I don't know how much money I'll make this month, or won't until tonight or tomorrow.  I'm pissed as hell and I ache.  I'm hungry and don't want to go to the market.  I want to hide but I want a friend.  I want to spit and hiss.

I ache from sitting still in front of emails, Hoot Suite, book marks for so long.  I know I have done a good job and I know I can't make a best seller on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook.  If I could, I would have done it for myself.  I have been honest about that since we met in March.  I have told her that my job is to get the word out and fashion a persona.  I have offered to do more but have not had cooperation.  When she has asked me to do more and I've double-checked my information, I've been met with sarcasm.

But I need this money.

And this client wants to write like me.

That's a very poisonous basis for any relationship.

I haven't worked for The Man since I was a literary agent.  I don't count adjunct teaching as working for The Man because aside from some simple rules, I was free to do what I wanted.  I've now been doing social media for 19 months and until this, it's been amiable and smooth sailing.  I'm learning how to speak up for myself when I'm asked too much or blamed without information, but this has been with someone rational.  I feel like I'm back in the literary trenches again, working against someone determined at once to like me and demonize my professional performance.

With each re-negotiation except for one, I've kept a cool head, not giving into tears or sarcasm or anger.  I've stuck to my original thesis: let's make this book earn out so you can capitalize on it.  I send daily updates of my work.  I forward important possible opportunities.  I'm stolid and steady.

But I gotta tell you, peeps: I'm fucking miserable here!  Everything I do for this client is fraught with whether it's good enough, whether she'll like me that day or ignore me or deride me.  I would KILL for the income to get out of this goddammed situation.  I would love to tell her I was quitting -- and in language that would make Freud blush.

One of the things I hate most in life is justifying myself.  It sounds shrill and pathetic in my ears.  It makes me question myself, immediately handing over power to my inquisitor.  I end up being the whipping girl and I feel like I'm walking on March ice.

When I picked up Daisy, the other dog waiting for us began to screech.  I call him Kreacher because he's like Sirius Black's house elf who was so foul to people.  He's actually a fabulous dog, part Chihuahua and suffering from Little Man complex.  Some guy across the street yelled down from his window to make the dog shut up.

HE is the one I'd like to go after, since I have to swallow my fear and singled-out-ness on the other front.  If I could have gotten a look at him -- if he'd leaned out his window and made himself known -- I'd have yelled back, "Dogs bark.  I don't like it either but I can't stop it.  Do you scream at babies crying or kids throwing tantrums?  I'll bet not.  So take it.  It's life, you jerk.  Live with it."

But the ass didn't make himself visible.  He made himself another voice in my head saying, "You don't do it good enough."

And I'm sick of that voice.  I'm sick of the fact that I've done what I can do to explain myself AGAIN to people who really only want a miracle of book sales and not one word else.  I'm sick of absorbing it all as being a fault of character or intelligence.  I'm sick of people deciding I've represented myself as a king maker when to know me is to know that's about the last thing I would claim.

And I can't teach anyone to write like me.  Who'd want to?  I don't make much money.  The people I went to graduate school with will probably be in English classes in 2114.  Anyone who doesn't like me, REALLY hates me because I expose too much.  I am doomed to misunderstanding.

What I have going for me is a talent for similes, humor, being unafraid to hang it on the line.  I get fired for writing blogs like this but sometimes the bullshit reaches critical mass and I don't have anyone to turn to today and be consoled (let alone fed mild amounts of alcohol) by.  I can't teach that.  To be in proximity of someone who thinks they can get it from me feels like one of those vampires who doesn't go in for the final kill.

As if a fifth round of financial recompense didn't already feel like that.

I think I'll go query the doorman across the street to find out who the dog sniper is.

I hope my client doesn't find this post.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weird Saturday

It's gray outside.  It's cool but not cool enough to turn off my rattling air conditioner that keeps Daisy from hiding in the bathroom on the cool tile.  Everything feels off today.  Was it because I woke up a couple of hours later than usual, after a dinner party in some friends' garden?  Because I didn't take anything to sleep, making me vaguely anxious on a day when I have few obligations to the world?  Long dreams?

I don't know.  It's after 1 and it could be ten in the morning or six at night.  I did my first, essential rounds of social media for the day and I don't think it should have taken three hours -- but I wasn't hacking around.  If felt very slow motion.  Lots of looking and not finding, but the looking is essential.

Or is it that I waited forever for Deborah Harkness to finish the All Souls Trinity and it was mind candy I haven't had in a long time?  The problem with the last two books, Shadow of Night and The Book of Life, seems to me a fear of getting going that makes the first two-thirds of each book a lot of scene changing but little tension, and then a hurry-up through what should be drawn out. 

I feel a little guilty about saying this because I'm lousy at my own plots and if I only had skill in that discipline I wouldn't have to write about me-me-me all the time.  But I think she could learn something from reading The Return of the King.  And it feels like fear rather than lack of talent.  And there she is, making a gazillion dollars despite these problems because somehow the story is really compelling.

I'm pissed off that my mind candy is done.  I read The Book of Life on Kindle and flipped to some research after finishing, only to gag at the cloyingness of some forward to a book about 20th century popes and their relationships to the Virgin Mary.  Should I read BOF again?  Would I like it more?


I also want to work, which is why I'm at least writing my blog, and I want to hear from Dar, who is or isn't dead on the streets, and I want him to go away and leave me to get over him some more.  And I want to go to Copenhagen and get a juicer and I think there's room for a pony in the Bat Cave if it wears a diaper.

Ha!  The co-op board, in its un-wisdom about dogs, put a size restriction on future canines.  Daisy is grandfathered in.  But there's nothing in the bylaws about ponies and I could save a lot of subway fare...

God.  It's not quite 1.30 in the afternoon and something is stirring in me at the same time that time feels like t-i-m-e.  I am restless to be absorbed.  It's very hard to become absorbed when one is restless unless it's to escape self.  I'd like to avoid that today -- such a lovely empty day -- but I don't know if I have the strength.

But I just made breakfast.  Maybe that will help.  Maybe someone will find something to relate to in here and compliment me, which I seem also to be hungry for.  Oi!  I should go buy flowers or really cook something for dinner or go to Pinterest with a vengeance.

Or work on the rosary proposal.  After I eat.  After I do dishes.  After I.......