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Cheerleaders and miracles. At first that's the title I wanted to give my memoir, grateful for people like J. and M. who always encouraged me, and for miracles like being given a gift of the exact amount of money needed for my son's birth at exactly the right time--and from the land of my ancestors, no less. But I'm afraid people would think I was writing about actual cheerleaders (the kind of girls who definitely scorned me in high school days)--so, no. Also, my son is afraid I won't make my memoir as gritty and true as it should be.
Who were the cheerleaders in my life? Ms. D, my third grade teacher, was the first. M., my best friend in sixth grade, taught me that I was worthy of having a good friend; she was gentle and friendly and we were part of a gentle, friendly group--I was so used to being bullied, ignored, or just not fitting in that this felt as magical to me as any Hogwarts or discovering I was a wizard! In high school, I had a wonderful lunch table of friends. But college years seem dark and gloomy, although I know there was light.
At S. Studio. So much fun to have a netbook (which I call "Nettie") and write on Written Kitten--a silly bribe, seeing a new picture of a cuddly feline after writing each 100 words--but, whatever works.
I am a moocher--nowadays I only go to free events. But with T. in college and helping him with parent plus loans and paying off my own MFA loan, never mind credit card debt for medical expenses and sending T. to Catholic school 12 years--I am broke. How I'd love to sell something and get some extra money and pay off all this debt!
I have decided to do CheatoWriMo and instead of writing a novel from scratch, pledge to finish two projects during the month of November, so I've brought Nettie (my netbook) and a pile of R. and the Cousins chapters, with stickies on the places that may need changes), and I've saved the most recent copy of my memoir to my flashdrive. But I'm a zombie this morning, saying blueberry instead of coffee, and I'm not sure if I did say decaf, so the poor clerk had to throw out a cup of caffeinated. I should have cheated with caffeine, too.
Tomorrow A. goes to the cemetery--"I'll tell J. how you helped me find the phone number for the florist." For she views going to the cemetery as an actual visit with her dead children, much as a churchgoer might look at going to church as spending actual time with God. God may be everywhere, but tangible helps. Again I'm glad I'm close with J's mom, as she is a tangible reminder that yes, J. was my best friend, and always will be, even if she's far away, her spirit in some heavenly afterlife, her remains underground at a suburban cemetery.
Dunkin Donuts has WiFi again! So though I'm in a rush to get to the free S. Studio write-in, I have to write 100 words on Written Kitten and post them! Of course, the counter guy makes sure to tell me I got the discount--probably the senior one. Why, when life expectancy is rising, and people need to work till 70, are you now considered a senior when you're in your fifties? And my Nook is malfunctioning--I'm praying I don't need to buy a new one. Of course, my tiny concerns seem just that--tiny--as I read "12 Years a Slave."
I'm better at communicating after I've had time to think about a topic, or if it's not the first time I've had to assert myself about something. On the spot, I'm at a loss and say nothing or the wrong thing. Which is probably why I'm better writing essays than Facebook posts.
A friend once gave me a book on verbally standing up for yourself. I never read it. While I'd love to abash jerks instantaneously, I didn't want to spend the time focusing on combative skills. Wouldn't that make the mean people win--wouldn't I start to become like them?
Uncle T. died, but no one told me. He wasn't a blood uncle, but the husband of my mother's sister. Still, he was an uncle from childhood days. He'd play the accordion at family backyard get-togethers, and I remember him giving me sips of beer. When I was a high school freshman he sat with me in the Cook County emergency room while my mother was being treated. He was old-fashioned, conservative, complaining about postal workers who didn't know Eire meant Ireland. When I was a college freshman, he warned me about blood being thicker than water. He was wrong.
The Frank and Melanie novel is boring me. Frank doesn't fit in, Melanie doesn't fit in, so what? They love each other; so what? I guess if Romeo and Juliet weren't star-crossed there'd be no story. I don't see Melanie's family's snobbishness as that big a deal. Melanie loves them, but she never fit in; she's stubborn and plans to live the life she wants. What can I find appealing in their story to make me want to write it? Frank is haunted by having seen his parents abuse his sister, but I don't want to dwell on that.
Frank and Melanie: They meet at NU. Frank intrigues Melanie because he speaks what he thinks and doesn't even think about putting on airs. He has too low self-esteem for that--yet there's a core of integrity. His childhood of abuse and neglect pricks Melanie's sympathy--but most of all she respects him. Frank finds Melanie beautiful, but not stuck-up like so many other NU students. She comes from money but doesn't value it. She's impetuous and likes to try new things. But how can I structure it so that it's not just a boring story of students on a college campus?
My tooth has hurt ever since I had a crown put on it in June, and the original dentist, the second-opinion dentist, and the root canal specialist all don't know what to do. I think they dread my calls. When I finally confessed to the original dentist that I'd gone to another dentist for a second opinion, he didn't sound at all perturbed and didn't suggest I come see him again to explore what is going on. He did believe that my tooth is hurting--that felt good--but he's clueless. So how do I find out what is going on? Ugh.
Is "Love thy neighbor" the crux of the New Testament? Or am I just interpreting it the way I want to see God's word, preferring love over self-righteous judgment? But when I open it, the first pages tell of Joseph choosing not to make an example of Mary, and this is way before the angel visits and tells him that the child is God's. Joseph chooses mercy and compassion over punishment. Doesn't this set the tone for Jesus's later lessons of judging not, of forgiving seventy times seven times, of let he who is without sin cast the first stone?
At my brother D's funeral, my brother J. was kind and took the time to point out relatives and family friends I might not know. When I broke down in sobs, grieving that I hadn't known my half-siblings as children, my young niece B. and my son hugged me. The day before had been my birthday--originally they'd been planning the funeral for that day, but the minute they realized that they immediately changed it to the next day. And the night of my birthday, they surprised me with a cake and singing. Sad--the brother who died had never accepted me.
Morning Starbucks decaf coffee and writing after dermatology appointment--I'm so glad that I didn't need to get stuck! But--lots of nonscent products to buy--shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen. Even lotions--although I wonder. If I don't put the lotions on my face, does it matter? That would make everything a little more economical--plus, I like Jergen's! But changing to no-scent shampoo, conditioner, and sunscreen makes sense to help my ocular rosacea, and I wonder why Dr. W, my ophthalmologist who diagnosed my rosacea, didn't suggest no-scent stuff and just stressed no caffeine, alcohol, or cinnamon. You really have to be educated about your health.
I am in a lousy mood because J. mentioned my weight. Spent the entire afternoon helping her, and she has to ask if weight might be a factor in my knee problem. Duh, I know that. She herself isn't skinny and added, "I can't diet." Dieting doesn't work for me either--if I'm strict and use the word "diet" I'm more likely to binge. If I eat sensibly and exercise, I'm fine--well, that was until menopause. Now, if I cheat, being extra-good a couple of days does nothing. Having the root canal and a soft-food diet hasn't helped. I feel lousy.
When I write a novel chapter, it's like I'm a sculptor digging for the figure that already exists in the stone--I find out what happens, rather than making it happen. Not sure if that's the "right" way to write--M. laughed when I insisted that I knew what my characters would and wouldn't do and was stubborn about it.
I suppose plot is a little more mechanical than that, as ideas do swirl around in my brain. Still, once I recognize that special idea and exclaim, "That's it!" well, that's what happened, sure as what happened to you yesterday really occurred.
When Rachel and her dad go shopping with Uncle Richard for cat supplies, why doesn't Benjie go? I just see David going. Does she have homework to finish--but she'd plead to do it later. Does she want to stay with Gram and Goldie? Where is Gram during the cat conversation? Is she on the phone with her sister? How do I interject that without giving too much information? So Benjie stays with Goldie and Gram. But wait, Aunt Kate is staying, too. Wouldn't David want to stay behind with the cat--but then he wants to show off his pet expertise.
Salvation Army bells jingle outside Walgreen's for the first time this year. It's two weeks before Thanksgiving--still, much as I hate snow and worry about gift bills, something about the holiday season makes me smile, and when I emerge from Walgreen's, put a dollar bill in the red container. The man thanks me--and hands me a rose!
Walking home in autumn dark, I'm happy and grateful for the kindness of that stranger--it's been a rough week, feeling isolated and fearing limitations because of my knee.
I put the rose out in the laundry room, where cats won't nibble on it.
Damn. I'm back to where I was last winter, before knee replacement surgery--I can barely walk around the block; doing half a flight of stairs is an Olympic challenge. It's the cold--somehow that severely impacts the arthritis. At least when I go for the surgery in December, I'll know it's time, not just to squeeze it into this year's insurance deductible. Friends ask about pain, but that's not it--it's feeling limited. Not sure how far I can travel, if I can visit a friend or go to a doctor's appointment. Will I be able to take my lunchtime walk tomorrow?
Bad can lead to good. Getting hit by a car, my right tibia and fibula broken, forcing me to be on crutches for a year, spurred me into my career serving and advocating for people with disabilities. A bad marriage led to a wonderful son. My father leaving my mother led to the existence of my half-siblings--and I only use the word half in explanation. They're family. M. said that having breast cancer taught her to truly embrace life a day at a time--and she was a happy person. And I feel that she and J watch over me always.
Every time, after getting together with a new friend, I analyze the conversation, thinking of everything I said wrong and what I should have said but didn't. I always find it hard to believe the new friend will want to have coffee with me again. In truth, some friendships don't go on, but others do. H and I both treasure our monthly Saturday breakfast chats at IHOP, but M. rarely comes for coffee anymore. If I had better self-esteem, I'd shrug and be happy about the friendships I have, and be proud I reached out for a new friendship. If.
Wish I weren't a hypochondriac, always waiting for the next illness to hit. I don't trust good luck or happy serendipity but wait for Murphy's Law.
Just now, Daisy jumped on my lap, and one of her long talons touched the skin near my surgical scar. I think I see a tiny mark on the skin, and it feels a tad bit sore, so I call the nurse, but in my message warn her that my question is silly.
How I wish M. were alive--she never minded phone calls and they'd be excuses to chat about more happy, healthy topics!
I've been crabby today dealing with dentists who aren't sure whether or not I need a root canal, having to keep emphasizing that I'm having knee surgery in nine days. You really need to be educated--not so much about body parts but to know you have the right to ask questions and make sure decisions make sense. But God sent a little magic into my Scrooge life--getting off the train to go pick up my mouthguard, what's stopped at the other platform but the Christmas train! Red and green, all lit up with Christmas greetings, a sleigh and Santa waving!
New Year's Eve, and I'll be alone while my son hangs out with friends. Of course, this is ideal--I have a great relationship with my son, and he has healthy circles of friends. He shouldn't be stuck spending New Year's Eve with his mom! I have wonderful friends, too--but they have significant others or their kids are little and there with them. Sigh. I'm far from the only person in the universe planning to watch televised countdowns alone, and I'm so lucky I survived surgery and am thriving, really. Still, I feel glum at the prospect of a solo celebration.
I like writing New Year's Resolutions--it's a way to dream anew every year, and I only make resolutions that I really want to keep, that don't seem like chores or are guilt-inducing. I make both general life resolutions and writing resolutions. So--drumroll--here are my resolutions for 2014:
New Year's Resolutions:
Play Red (my violin)!
Do Artist Dates!
Visit the library!
100 words daily!
Finish and submit "R and C: Seventh Grade."
Submit "You Should Be Worse."
Revise and submit picture books.
I don't have luck with my violin on New Year's Eve. A couple of years ago, I left Red (my violin, named for its reddish glow) out and sat on the poor thing. This year, while tuning Red, the bridge breaks. No serenading neighbors with Old Lang Syne tonight, and as I'll be hanging out alone, just me and the felines, I was looking forward to practicing. Murphy's Law strikes, but I can't complain, as I was able to get knee surgery on schedule, and all is great so far, knock on wood (but maybe not that of a violin).
Sometimes I wish I were more like T., easily ignoring potential friends who bore me. C. is very nice, offering to visit when she heard of my knee surgery--but the conversation bored me and she doesn't seem to be doing anything interesting with her life or following any dreams. Of course, she got married a couple of years ago, so she's definitely ahead in the romance department. But she spouts clichés like "Things change for the worse" and seemed surprised when I said, "Not always." Am I a snob who expects everyone to be working on novels and reading Shakespeare?
Reading "The Artist's Way," I notice advice I missed the first time--not only are we artistic recovery students to write three pages every morning, but we're also to do one nice thing for ourselves every day. She repeats this advice--so how did I miss it? I don't think I’m averse to being nice to myself--or am I? I tend to enjoy whatever my friend or loved one likes--the point is spending time with people I like or love. But maybe I don't respect my own preferences enough and don't ask--what do I like to do? What are my passions?
How should I attack "R and C: Seventh Grade"? Should I just keep going, submitting a chapter at a time to the group and revising per their critiques (paying close attention to my own gut feelings) and in between, work on some picture books? Of course, some early chapters may need to be deleted--but it's hard to know until I rewrite and submit them. Should I keep in the chapter about the summer art class or just jump to school starting? I'll reread the summer art chapter and see if it holds my interests--I'll see if, with rewriting, it's salvageable.
Dick Clark's New Year's Eve Countdown is on; Helenore cuddles in the rocking chair, Daisy sniffs about searching for a plaything, and Helinda's probably snuggled up in the towel cabinet. Meanwhile, I change over to new personal and writing calendars, scotch-taping in resolution lists, and try to catch up on 100 words, even though I don't have much to say. I'm happy I have writing for my passion, and I pray I don't have the beginnings of glaucoma--I don't like the ophthalmologist noticing a temporal slant to my optic nerve. Not sure what that means--not sure I want to know.
- J, S, and T staying with me at the hospital
- Physical therapy at Presence, followed by writing time at Subway, where the workers are friendly and remember me
- Being able to walk miles after right knee surgery
- Recognition for the IL courses
- Being asked to submit all of Roll Call
- T being my personal trainer--that first walk to 7-11 with Patrick (my cane)
- The White Sox double header
- Visiting Jerrie
- Dr. Who Game Day
- Finishing "You Should Be Worse" during "Cheat-o-wri-mo"
- Doing PT exercises to "Deep Space Nine"
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