Monday, September 26, 2011

Letter to My Sponsor on Day 20

Dear Patty:

I have this terrific need to write out, as closely as possible, what I'm eating and what I'm doing today. I just finished chapter 7. The book is due 10/15. I have decided that my desire always to write 12-chapter books is not necessary to the continued success of the written word so I may settle for 10. I don't know what to write today but I do know it will be painful.

I'm also going out on the academic job market & have much to in setting up a dossier, polishing my CV, asking for recommendations, pulling together a syllabus and looking at job listings.

I've already walked Daisy, Gertie & Emmett while fretting about all of this.  Then I had breakfast:

1 c. yogurt, 1 c. blueberries

Lunch will be: salad, 4 oz. chicken, 1 T oil
Dinner will probably be: 1 c. yogurt, 1/2 c. oats, 1 banana

I have three afternoon walks, at 2, 2.30 & 3. I cannot do them on time because from the 2.30 gig to the 3.00 gig is a long walk. Ergo I will move everything up a quarter hour: 1.45, 2.15, 3. I'll be home by 4. I need to pick up chicken on my way home. I need to stop at the bank & make a deposit & transfer funds.

Here is what my brain does NOT have room for today: going to Verizon to straighten out my accused non-payment (I've done the paperwork, I just don't have time  today and will not have to walk Gert & Emmett on Thursday); justifying my need for emotional space to an online suitor; how much money I will make in October; more than a few check-ins on Facebook; wondering if I've lost weight & when I'l fit some piece of clothing or how much weight I can lose by Xmas & all that chitter; composing academic cover letters in my head.  Just dossier, transcripts & recommendation requests for today.

I will start, as soon as I finish writing this, with calling the Associated Writing Programs and setting up a dossier file, then calling Cornell for transcripts to be sent, and calling my department head at Berkeley for a letter of recommendation.

Then I will consider whether chapter 8 should include my backing off of dating last summer but having my best friend in NYC coming on to me during his Lost Weekend, or whether that's two chapters. I may start it with how well I'm coming to know one of my dog clients and the sort of crush I have on him. I.e., I may skip ahead a year as a stated & hopefully deliberately artful way of avoiding the aftermath of disappointments last summer.

The job stuff may take up the two hours I have until I leave and I may be tired & crappy feeling after the hike across the Heights + 4 flights of stairs. If so, I will settle for setting up the chapter 8 folder, formatting the chapter, and free writing. I walk Gert and Emmett between 6 - 7 & there isn't much time before I have to walk Sandy, at 7.30,  then Daisy,  then dinner & bed.

I really, really need to say these things because I want to see huge progress today & it may not happen. But the day will be successful by staying abstinent, by taking steps toward two big goals, by showing up for the dogs, by NOT BLAMING MYSELF for the things I do not do beyond these non-negotiables.

Thanks for listening. Much love always -- fmk

P.S.  My first action now will be to brush my teeth.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Wealthy-Job Creator Says....What Exactly?

 "Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) appeared on MSNBC with Chris Jansing this morning to attack President Obama’s new deficit reduction plan, which includes some tax increases on the wealthy. Taking up the typical GOP talking point, Fleming said raising taxes on 'wealthy job-creators' is a terrible idea that kills jobs because many of these people are small business owners who pay taxes through personal income rates.
Fleming is himself a businesses owner, so Jansing asked, 'If you have to pay more in taxes, you would get rid of some of those employees?' Fleming responded by saying that while his businesses made $6.3 million last year, after you 'pay 500 employees, you pay rent, you pay equipment, and food,' his profits 'a mere fraction of that' — 'by the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over.'"

Dear Representative Fleming:

Re. your MSNBC appearance of this morning, September 20, which has now gone viral: I would suggest that, in the event of higher taxes, you do what I do.  Don't see a doctor or dentist or veterinarian.  Don't eat out.  Don't take a vacation.  Don't own a car.  Sell what you can on eBay.  Buy generic foods.  Give up new clothes.  Take out books from the library.  Make minimum payments on credit cards.  Pay high interest on taxes you can't afford to pay on time.  Forgo air conditioning.  Move to smaller home.  Write loving Christmas cards instead of giving presents.  Cut your own hair.  Terminate Showtime and HBO.

Just some well-meant words of advice.


Frances Kuffel

If you, too, want to offer advice for living in tough times, here is Dr. Fleming's email address:

Saturday, September 17, 2011


It's been years since I've seen my money market drop to $35.  If I hadn't gone to Montana, maybe it would only have dropped to $500.  There's so little difference that I see no point in blaming myself.

The awful news came just as I began a week's substitute dog-walking for a friend.  After working out the kinks in the schedule to my pace, I've been walking from 7.30 or 8 until 4 or 5 with a one-hour break, with a couple of evening walks to finish out the day.  It will save my ass for a minute when I had counted on it to act as a bridge until I started teaching near the end of the month.

And then my courses were canceled.

I had to make the Call. 

You know the one.  "Hi -- [snivel] -- Dad...."

Is there a more humiliating call to make?

Yes.  The next time I have to do it.

This week has, until the break of Saturday, saved me from worrying too much about it.  There is always a sudden dog to go board with, I reasoned as Daisy & I packed off to do so.  I found 43 cents on the sidewalks yesterday.  At least I've caught up with other things that had dropped to new lows: doggie bags, dishes.  At least I'll have a good three weeks to write five chapters.


I have to say that I am tired of having a bad year.  2009 was a bad year.  My mother died.  2010 was a bad year.  Two months in a cast, my book bombed, Zoloft went funky on me.  2011 has been a hard year.  A difficult student during winter quarter, three quarters in a row in which I haven't taught, always countingcountingcounting (Blitzen is six walks this week and four next...150 dollars...can I pay off that Visa yet?).

But this piece of bad news is the worst because I have absolutely no savings.  I was planning to pay a lot of bills this fall.  I was looking forward to the occasional movie or Chinatown back-rub.  I was finally going to be able to relax

                      well, once I got my book turned in.

I still have that little chore.

Ever have a good idea for a book & then see it?  That happened to me yesterday via Twitter. 

And I have so few ideas for new books.

Still.  I am holding myself very tightly to focus on what's going right.  I can actually (with the help of a few drugs) DO the walking.  One of the dogs did not hide in the fireplace when I picked him up today.  Beanie, a shy Lab, comes quite briskly to me, her owner says.  I'm ten days abstinent and the weather went from warm and clammy to cool and dry which means I had to put on my favorite salmon pink corduroy jacket.  The sleeves are roomier than the last time I had it on.  I have to be out & about in a way I haven't been in years, visible & accountable.  I'm enjoying my iPod at last & feel intimate with the music.  The world is full of strange things -- loose change, fragile Christmas ornaments in the gutter, overheard comments like, "Urdu, Urdu, Urdu -- shit, man."

I need to get back into the Rooms but this time I want to change the emphasis in the Serenity Prayer from "accept the things I cannot change" to "courage to change the things I can".  That prayer fucked me up with the initial emphasis on acceptance.  Give me a test for post-traumatic stress disorder and I pass with flying colors from the women I worked for a decade and more ago.  I survived by clinging to acceptance.  I was even graciously accepting of having my courses canceled ("This must be so stressful for you," I wrote my department head).  Several times a week I dream about those women, about begging for my job back at no pay or other scenarios. 

I want to close out 2011 by being able to say it was a hard rather than a bad year.  I want to change things.  I want to have normal nightmares about werewolves and falling and fire.  I want to be the first to have a good book idea.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Little Town

 It's been a month since I've posted here and I find, this morning that I have lots to say.  In the interests of all of our sanities, I'm going to stick to one subject and try to follow up on the others through the week.  I need to start writing daily anyway, so you'll be my experiment...

I'm slowly -- as I seem to do everything -- getting back into life after being in Montana for two weeks.  I didn't mean to be away as long as I was but I thought some stranded flier might need Tuesday seat into LaGuardia less than 48 hours after Irene & then United gave me $800 in vouchers to take a flight later in the week.  (Can you say Bora Bora?)

This simple series of events pretty much covers my trip.  It extended it, it extended what I most needed to accomplish, and it extended my regrets over what felt like I didn't have time to accomplish.

My relationship with my family was tested pretty severely two years ago after my mother died.  My reclusion and the difficulties of making friends in New York to begin with, meant that this very lonely person needed both to reconnect and, if not to make actual amends, live them.  I stayed with my brother for two weeks and got silently irritated with the situation exactly twice.  I felt guilty at imposing on them but given the number of hours I was there, I enjoyed 99.99% of our time together.  The entire family, except for one grand-niece (yeah, you!) drove to Spokane for another family member's birthday so I got to see everyone except said grand-niece in my brother's family.  I lovedlovedloved laughing and talking with my oldest nephew who is as cynical as I am and almost as psycho.  I met new nieces.  An in-law I've met once was recounting a story about her favorite cousin and my father's head shot up and he said, "Jumbo?  He was a conductor on the NP.  He had a sister..."  I thought that was a fine serendipity and a fitting one for Missoula, with its concentric circles of family history.

I spent a lot of time with my father.  I was confessor to younger family members.  I saw our old house at Flathead but fleetingly: I couldn't bear to look.  I took day trips with one or another of my family to the east, west, north and south.  I had huckleberries, elk, prime rib, corn that had been picked that day.

So much for the slide show.  I also failed in other important reconnects and amends, with friends from grade and high school, from the Writing Community, with cousins.  I thought I was on a shorter schedule.  I found that talking after saying perhaps twenty sentences a day for the last four months was exhausting.  I was ashamed of what I look like.  I was scared to meet some of the people who have hurt me in the past.  I put myself on my family's schedule and agenda and took a vacation from self-determination.  I'm sorry that this is so, K, M, T, L, J, M, S, J, C, F, N, L, L.  I don't know whether you'll read this but I will try to make it up to you next summer, although my brother and I have plans already to float the Blackfoot.

I haven't been back to Missoula -- really and truly there on an out-and-about basis -- for more than ten years.  What I noticed when I stepped out of the airport was the smell of green grass in 15% humidity, and the skytheskytheksy.  I have only ever seen that sky in one other place -- Austin, Texas -- and only in Montana is it that cornflower blue. 

The next startlement is the growth of the town.  I mean, it's really grown, with lots of raw housing tracts, miles of chain restaurants and stores, and a complete rerouting of traffic.  Part of it has been Super WalMartized, another part has been darlingized in restoration, and another part is permanently Outdoor Magazined.  I could spot the latter by the badly maintained yards but neatly stacked inflatables -- inner-tubes, rafts, tents, mountain bikes.  The OMs have too high morals an no time to waste water by changing sprinklers.

I probably could have met up with everyone I didn't see if I'd hung around the Saturday morning farmer's market longer.  At some point my willies came up and said, "Get your fat ass outta here."  My sister-in-law and I lugged out bread and sun flowers and beets back to the car and took off for the corn farm just, perhaps, in time.

Even out-and-about, however, was traditional stuff.  Hamburger with my pa at the Missoula Club, a visit to the Clinic on the former St. Pat's hospital site, pie at Glen's in Florence.  That stuff.  Someone would mention a local favorite restaurant and I would wrinkle up in consternation.  I bought gifts at the airport the day I left. 

So maybe it was a visit to Montana but not Missoula.  I think my father will be moving there permanently next year and maybe I'll have the nerve and energy to see Missoula then.  I came home to find that the hurricane took out an old survivor of the 1928 Dutch Elm epidemic that graced several homes with its shade, and that the tree had taken down two other trees, uprooted wiring and busted up the doorway of the 1828 wooden house next door.  I stepped out of the cab from the airport to be greeted by the smell of the sea.  I had a calendar of dogs awaiting me the next day and a pile of catalogues.  A friend had come in and changed my sheets and put a salad and yogurt in the fridge.

I was back in Brooklyn even though I wouldn't say I'm back in New York.