Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thoughts on sciatica, and apologies for desultory blogging

Sorry to have been such a desultory blogger. I've been trying to puzzle it out, actually, because it usually feels good to tell 'somebody' how I'm doing and what's up with me. I guess it's got to be fatigue - I'm often tired from taking care of Mom.

There's also the issue of spending time seated at the computer - I've got sciatica at the moment, am doing a lot to try to get rid of it, and spending time sitting down at the computer doesn't help.

I'm curious about the sciatica, actually. Louise Hay says it's fear of the future and fear about money, which is certainly true, but it's also not new, while the sciatica is new. One thing I find helpful when figuring out what a symptom 'means' on an emotional level is to look at what the net result is - what does sciatica prevent me from doing, or encourage me to do more?

It's not bad enough to put a full stop on anything I do, but it does discourage me from spending a lot of time sitting at a computer, and driving, all of which I was doing a great deal of until a few months ago.

When thinking about this last night, I realized I am most comfortable when moving around, so I could say that sciatica encourages me to be constantly in motion. But wait, that's really tiring!

I'm having trouble finding a comfortable way to watch Netflix films - even lying flat on the floor, giving my back a hard surface, doesn't always work. It's challenging to rest.

Sleeping is getting much better with my new bed, though. I discovered that I picked up an idea somewhere that I should drink a lot of water during the night (probably to flush out lactic acid), and it means I wasn't sleeping more than a few hours before needing to go to the bathroom. So I've stopped that and am sleeping 5-6 hours at a stretch, which is wonderful, though I wake up more stiff, I think.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Exchange with Scott Simon on mammograms

NPR's Scott Simon did a piece on mammograms, I commented, and he commented in return.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Plastic is killing sea birds

Here are photos showing how plastic is killing sea birds, because their parents think that plastic items are food.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chicago theatre booming in NYC

Here's a cool article in TIME's issue of November 2, about how Chicago theatre is booming in New York City, by Richard Zoglin.

Iranians say taking Embassy was a mistake

Passed on from Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog, an Iranian cleric talks about the taking of the US Embassy hostages, whose release helped put Ronald Reagan in the White House.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dusk walk thru Winnemac Park in autumn


I got home at around 6 this evening and took a walk down through Winnemac Park, shooting these pictures with my cell phone along the way -- sorry they're blurry, I was working quickly because I was losing the light. From my apartment I walk south on Leavitt past Foster, where I'm passing Chappell Elementary School on my left. The autumn colors are really nice right now, though some trees have yet to change.

Then I go past Jorndt Stadium on my left; you can just see a soccer game in progress with fans sitting in the bleachers. The Stadium entrance is the old-fashioned kind made of brick that reminds me of Roosevelt Pool in Glenview.

Still further south are tennis courts . . .

. . . and a large play lot, which at the moment has the Park's best selection of (small) sugar maples.

I walked east along the paved walkway that bisects the Park, with the Stadium now on my left beyond some natural grasses.

Looking east, my quarry: a stand of red maples at peak color on the east side of the Park around the Amundsen High School parking lot.



Beyond the red maples, the high school building itself. It was such a beautiful evening, in the 60s with a clear sky, so lots of people were out with their kids and dogs. The Park has at least 3 baseball diamonds, none of them in use tonight.

BY THE WAY -- uploading these pictures to Blogger was a nightmare -- why doesn't the "BR CLEAR=ALL" tag work here as it should?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A few blocks from 40-acre Winnemac Park

Yesterday I went out for a walk, and although I planned to turn left from my street and go north to explore the Bowmanville area just south of Rosehill Cemetery, something led me to turn right instead and go south, to what I thought was simply the playfields of Amundsen High School and the adjacent Chappell Elementary School.

What I discovered was a 40-acre park, Winnemac Park, for which I can't find many photos online (I didn't have my phone with me). The park currently has some really nice red maple trees at peak color.

What a lovely place -- walking paths, both paved and unpaved -- areas of recovered prairie -- lawns for kids to run around in -- a big playground.

The playfields, incidentally, include a stadium, Jorndt Stadium, which appears to have a 1/4 mile track that's open to the public. (Wish I were still a runner! Reminds me of the track in Germantown, Philadelphia, where I ran for years in the early 1980s.) Just east of the stadium is a soccer field where I saw a team practicing.

The neighborhood boundaries in Chicago are far more elastic than I would have thought -- here's a YouTube video about the area just south of Winnemac Park, which the narrator describes as North Ravenswood and Lincoln Square. He walks through the Park and gets some fairly nice footage, taken last May, I believe.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Some natural shocks I have been heir to . . .

I've just sent a long-ish email to a friend in Colorado, who was kind enough to send me some gifts to help me cope. And since I'm not blogging very often right now, I thought I'd use some of what I emailed her as an update.

It's been a rather hard week, in which I've been dealing with some burnout and depression. I'm glad to say I'm feeling pretty good this morning. It seems that the more I "plant myself" in this apartment and just spend time here, reading and watching movies, the more grounded I feel, and that helps a good deal.

Taking care of my mother has has some frustrations this past week, both because of things she's doing/saying and because of her medical situation. Her primary care physician has ruled out surgery to remove the skin cancers on her scalp, which may mean she'll have to live with them for the rest of her life. He says she can go to a plastic surgeon's office every few months and have them "shaved," and I'm awaiting a phone call with more info on what that actually means.

I took Mom on a tour on Saturday of the new facility I want to move her to, Covenant Home of Chicago. She liked some things about it, and not other things. I'm going to ask her a direct question about it today when I see her, and if she says she's willing to go, we can start working toward a move-in date.

I'm looking forward to being within walking distance, though the walk from my apartment to Covenant isn't all that relaxing, since I have to cross Western Avenue, a 4-lane street that's pretty busy.

I've been doing my best to go to Curves more regularly, though the Curves I belong to is in Evanston. Transferring my Curves membership from Colorado to Evanston was incredibly slow and frustrating, so I may just stay in Evanston for a while, where the staffers are very friendly and where they turn down the music sometimes if people ask them to.

I've been getting traffic tickets, which is frustrating and such a waste of money. Every month or two, Chicago cleans its streets, which means everybody has to avoid parking on one side of the street between 9 and 3, and last month I got a $50 ticket for parking where I shouldn't.

My new apartment has a mechanical hum in the livingroom that I think must be the heat, because the heating plant is in the basement below me. I wish I'd known that when I moved in, I might have chosen the other available apartment. I really hate anything that tempts me to plan to move again in a year, I've moved so much I'm very weary of moving.

I'm trying to get back to my "ritual self," the part of me that can do rituals to get in touch with my spiritual side. It takes initiative and calm and groundedness, and I'm generally rather burned out on taking initiative and low on calm and groundedness, so I suspect it will be a while.

In the past I've been inclined to believe that my life will generally balance out, so that if something really wonderful is happening, I'll also have something rather awful happening to balance it. If that's the case, then that would explain the natural shocks I've been heir to since moving here, since the work I've been doing with Mom really is wonderful most of the time and one of the most satisfying things I've ever done. There are few things more meaningful than alleviating suffering. When I arrived in May, Mom was spending most of her time lying on her bed crying. She is now sitting up with light in her eyes talking about the world with me, and reading novels and doing crossword puzzles. Big difference!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My sister on WGN for the Chicago Barn Dance Company

My sister, Jo Mortland, is a caller for the Chicago Barn Dance Company, which hosts contra dances and square dances around the City.

She was interviewed for WGN-TV this past week, view it here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wikileaks

I hadn't heard of this before -- a website that makes it easier to leak a document, called Wikileaks. Now it's offering a way to help people leak documents on their own websites. Here's an article about it at Computerworld.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Colorless bathroom no more

For my three years in Longmont, Colorado, I had one of the most spectacular bathrooms I've ever seen, and certainly the most beautiful and luxurious I've ever lived with. Its walls were salmon-orange, it featured a Jacuzzi tub and a shower lined with granite and offering water from 4 directions and a shelf to sit on.

So it's been a challenge to accustom myself to the tiny bathroom in my new apartment in Chicago. There's virtually no color, or space to turn around for that matter.

And I fixed it for about 18 bucks, with a shower curtain purchased at Bed Bath & Beyond. The outer wall contains a window, and my lease makes me responsible for not damaging that wall with water. So I'd planned to put up a transparent plastic sheet to protect the window. But hah! I came up with a better plan -- I put up a colorful curtain that acts as a mural to enliven the whole bathroom. It's got 3 dolphins (2 of them leaping into the air) and a host of brilliantly colored undersea creatures.

The only downside was the smell -- eau de plastique extraordinaire. I left the window open today hoping that some of the plastic smell will dissipate into the atmosphere.

Watching a muralist at work

Paul Barker, who attends Evanston Friends Meeting, is shown painting a mural, and talking about how to paint a mural, in this video on YouTube, posted by another member of Meeting, Jeff McNear

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Another bad experience at 2120

Another bad experience at this new apartment.

I don't think I posted about the electrical meltdown that happened 2 nights after I moved in, destroying my TV and a few other items.

When I first got access to the apartment, I found the storage unit for my apartment full of stuff, with a padlock on it. I asked the janitor to remove the padlock and clear the stuff out so that I could put my stuff in there. We assumed it belonged to the prior tenant in my apartment.

He did so, and my mom's stuff is now in there, with my padlock on it.

I just found out that the stuff in that unit belonged to my neighbor upstairs and was worth a considerable amount of money. I asked her why her stuff was in the storage unit for my apartment, and she said there didn't used to be apartment numbers on the storage units, they were only added after Peak Properties took over a few months ago.

I feel horrible. There's no way I could have known the stuff was hers, unless I'd thought to ask the neighbors, but I didn't.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Realizing I've starved myself of support

There's a longtime pattern in my life, of starving myself of support, and then getting to the point where I'm desperate for it.

I'm realizing this morning that I've been starving myself of support from friends this summer, though this time for different reasons.

In the past, it's been because I didn't feel I deserved the support. I rejected it from low self-esteem.

This summer, it's been because I didn't know how to stay in touch, when I was so stressed and so 'full' from time with my mom. I was spending so many hours listening to Mom really carefully, to figure out what was going on with her emotionally, and figure out what to say in response, and figure out how I could help by changing her living situation.

Now, after several months, I've figured most of it out pretty successfully, so I'm less tired and full after being with her. Witness Monday, when I was with her for 8 hours while she had medical tests. Earlier in the summer, 8 hours with her would have fried me completely for several days. Yesterday I was tired and a bit low but nothing like fried for days.

I'm still not real sure how to stay in touch with friends, but I'm hoping to figure it out well enough to get back in touch and renew those friendships. I've received so many emails from friends asking, "How's it going? How's your mom?" And when I've tried to respond, it was overwhelming, I didn't know what to say, because there was too much to say and I didn't know how to boil it down.

I went to a ritual to honor the Equinox last night in Evanston. It was pleasant but didn't go very deep, and I didn't make many connections there. I'm missing the kind of depth I had in connections with several friends in Colorado, and the depth I found in gatherings there of friends who'd done the Matrix training or Shadow Work weekends together.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Missing my stuff

I'm a bit down today, missing my stuff, meaning the stuff I left behind in Colorado.

I moved here in early June on pretty short notice, for several reasons -- my lease was ending, and for financial reasons, and also because I was afraid the beneficial effect I'd had on Mom during 2 weeks in May might dissipate, and she'd end up back in the hospital.

And there were a huge number of unknowns -- it wasn't clear whether I'd be able to make enough money to take care of Mom as a job, so my living situation was very much up in the air. There was even a chance I'd end up taking a job as a live-in caregiver for someone else, meaning I'd have almost no room for any of my things.

So I sold or gave away most of my things -- I really downsized in an impressive way.

And now I'm finding I'm in mourning for some of the stuff I left behind -- a sweet little end table that would come in so handy, and a bedside table that I kept stuff in, and my mattress that was still quite comfortable, and large (queen size). And crazy things like the dark green dish drainer, which is no longer sold.

In writing the book, I went into debt, and I'm trying to do things differently this time around -- not buying something on impulse, buying things only when I'm positive I absolutely need them, and then getting them on Freecycle if I can, and if I can't, at a thrift store if at all possible.

And waiting for things I need exacts an emotional strain, which gives rise to the kind of depressed feelings I'm having today, so I guess I understand better why I used to buy things impulsively.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don't buy the green check mark

Thanks to Lisa Trank for posting a link to this article on FaceBook.

A deceptive practice called "Smart Choices" is going to show up on food labels in supermarkets as a green check mark on products like Froot Loops and Hellman's Mayonnaise, to indicate that they are smart choices for nutrition.

According to the article, both the FDA and food nutritionists are appalled, but the FDA isn't going to shut the program down.

It's a short article, have a look -- Avoid 'Smart Choices' on Food Products to Eat Healthy at the Planet Green website.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Moving day tomorrow

Tomorrow morning (earlier than I can imagine right now, starting at 7 am) I'm moving into my new apartment in Chicago, near Damen and Foster, in the Ravenswood neighborhood. It's a really nice apartment on a really nice block that seems quiet and neighborly, I've already met 2 of the other residents who extended a welcoming hand.

This move is much easier than my move back to Illinois from Colorado, because I've got so much less stuff. So today isn't as anxious-making as it would normally be the day before the move.

Mostly a few annoying details -- I don't have a mailbox key yet, and there's still a padlock on my storage unit in the basement. If it ain't off there by tomorrow, I'm snipping it off, I want the movers to be able to load my own stuff in there.

The past few weeks have been eventful and exhausting. Mom has decided to go ahead with the skin cancer surgery, so we'll start heading into that. I've been filling out the application for her to live at Covenant Home of Chicago, and as I talked about that with one of her doctors yesterday while Mom listened, it seemed she doesn't have any problem with that, though the idea of moving anywhere seems completely overwhelming to her, as of course it would.

I'm reading Tolkien's Lord of the Rings for relaxation and so enjoying the characters. My biggest beef with the movie versions was how they changed most of the characters, some to the point where they unrecognizable from the book.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Answers to scare tactics about health insurance reform

The following was contained in an email from David Axelrod at the White House.


8 WAYS REFORM PROVIDES SECURITY AND STABILITY TO THOSE WITH OR WITHOUT COVERAGE

1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.

2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.

3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.

4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.

5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.

6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.

7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.

8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.

Learn more and get details here

8 COMMON MYTHS ABOUT HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM

1. Reform will stop "rationing" - not increase it: It’s a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.

2. We can’t afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.

3. Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.

4. Vets' health care is safe and sound: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.

5. Reform will benefit small business - not burden it: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.

6. Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.

7. You can keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.

8. No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.

Learn more and get details here and here


8 REASONS WE NEED HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM NOW

1. Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more here

2. Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more here

3. Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more here

4. Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more here

5. Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more here

6. The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more here

7. Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more here

8. The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more here

Monday, August 10, 2009

New White House site to combat scare tactics

The White House has launched a new portion of its website, called Reality Check, to help combat scare tactics from those who oppose healthcare reform.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wonderful Jon Stewart send-up

Jon Stewart did a great job of sending up the Republican reactions to Bill Clinton's rescue of the two journalists from North Korea, and related stories.

Here it is.

Full moon women's gathering in Evanston

I attended a women's gathering for the full moon last night in Evanston. It was really nice, very pleasant, soothing and refreshing.

The gathering consisted of what I would describe as two rounds of check-in around a particular topic -- women friends -- using a lit candle as a speaking stone.

I've often been struggling with "fullness" in past weeks -- an emotional state in which I can't do any more listening to anybody because I've been listening so much to Mom -- but last night I was able to listen to everybody and come away feeling refreshed rather than more tired. I imagine that was because there was no need to figure anybody out or listen at a deeper level, as I do with Mom.

The topic is one on which I could talk for hours (a major theme in Practically Shameless), so it was hard at first to know what to say, but I was more than halfway around the circle of a dozen women from where the first woman started, so I had time to collect my thoughts and follow the modeling of those who spoke before me.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A wonderful walk on the beach

After leaving Mom this evening, I drove to Lake Michigan and walked for half an hour along the beach, feet in the waves -- there were waves today, and whitecaps from an easterly wind. I find few things as beautiful as waves washing up on sand.

I've been realizing that over recent weeks I haven't done a good job of releasing what's going on with Mom, I've been holding onto it instead, not going out much, not dancing or walking or getting much exercise, and that has set me up for more burnout than I might have otherwise experienced. So I'm going to see if I can do a better job of releasing, with walks like this one along the beach.

I was singing as I walked, and didn't stop even when I walked by somebody. "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins, mostly.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My day off

I had a great time in the City yesterday, though it was not without incident. I was meeting an old friend from Experian days, who lives on the near north side, and planned to get off at the Division stop on the Red Line -- which just happened to be the site of a major fire, which stopped service to that stop. I was able to get off at Sedgwick instead, and Steve walked to meet me there. We'd planned to go into a coffee shop, but he's on a special diet right now, so instead we walked over to the Lake and walked to Navy Pier! It was a perfect day for walking beside the Lake, warm but not too hot, breezy, and lots of people to watch. I think we started just south of the North Avenue Beach, past Oak Street Beach and at least one other.

Navy Pier was absolutely jammed, I haven't been there in several years, and Steve said it was the most crowded he'd ever seen. We walked out to the end of the Pier where there were fewer people and less music over loudspeakers, and sat at a bench and talked. Steve has brain cancer and will undergo an unpleasant procedure on Wednesday called gamma knife radiation.

From there we walked almost the rest of the way to Millennium Park, before I realized my insides were empty and I needed food, having not eaten since breakfast. We parted company and I indulged in Giordano's stuffed pizza with mushrooms - best damn pizza in the world, as far as I'm concerned.

I walked to Millennium Park and discovered there was a free classical concert. I went into the Pritzger Pavilion to wait for the concert and realized I didn't want to wait that long. I love the Pavilion, it's one of the most thrilling architectural spaces I've ever been in. But I didn't know for certain how long the trains were running and wanted to put my feet up - they weren't sore, just tired, and wanting to be up.

Next Saturday night is another free concert, and this one is an opera program, I'm trying to think of somebody I know who might enjoy going with me to hear some opera.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A day off

Tomorrow I've got a day off from taking care of Mom, and I'm delighted, I feel lighter about the shoulders. I want to spend as much of the time being completely unscheduled as I can. I actually came back to Evanston with the intention of packing a few things and heading downtown to wander around in the City, but it started raining, and I'm watching TV instead. If it clears up, I'll go ahead down to the City and go to the Art Institute, which is free on Friday evenings.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Update on me

Tonight I think I finally have an answer on why I've been so reluctant to talk to friends lately -- and, similarly, post to my blogs.

I really expected that I'd be so bursting with news about what's happening with me, and how it's going taking care of Mom, that I'd be dying to talk to as many friends as possible. And instead I've been avoiding it.

And I think there are 2 reasons. One is that much of the time I spend with Mom, my brain is working trying to figure her out, and figure out how to respond to what she says, and figure out what to do to help her. And all that figuring out leaves me very tired of figuring out how to describe my caring for her. People ask me how it's going, and I feel tired as I try to figure out how to answer.

And the other is that I spend so much time listening to her right now that I don't have much listening time for anybody else, and it's very hard for me to talk to a friend and not be able to listen to what they say about themselves, it leaves me feeling boorish and self-centered and, afterwards, stressed to have heard stuff I couldn't retain.

I think this will change -- I hope it will.

Yesterday I took Mom to see her psychiatrist, Dr. A., and the visit went *much* better than expected, and much better than the last one.

I acted as a kind of interpreter or mediator -- explaining things Mom said to Dr. A., and vice versa. Dr. A. has a thick Polish accent and sometimes is hard to understand ("wheelchairs" becomes "wilchers").

Mom and I described with real feeling what life is like for Mom right now, and Dr. A. looked compassionate.

I knew we'd have time in the waiting room, during which Mom's anxiety would build, so I brought along some printouts of pictures of Mom's new great-grandbaby, and postings to a blog about some friends, and it really worked to keep Mom's mind off it.

We went for a chocolate milkshake at McDonald's afterwards, and then back to where Mom lives, and I stayed with her for dinner, and we had a nice conversation over dinner. She was so bushed afterward that I helped her get ready for bed and tucked her in, which I absolutely love doing. We had spent the afternoon reading, talking, laughing, enjoying a milkshake, and sharing feelings, and it was really satisfying.


About my life apart from being Mom's caregiver -- I arrived in Illinois on June 7, and after about 3 weeks here, I was starting to feel fairly grounded. Then I needed to go live someplace else for 6 days so the homeowner could have his house back. I moved some of my things there, and that went reasonably well. And then I moved my things back after the 6 days.

And it was that 3rd move that seemed to scramble just about every circuit in my body. I could continue taking care of Mom, but that's about it. It took me a week to unpack my suitcase. I've moved into the 2nd bedroom here (it's not so bright early in the morning) but haven't brought my clothes in.

It may be that the whole move from Colorado finally hit me, I'm not sure, or if it's really just the moving out and moving back after 6 days. But it's been hard for me for the last week to do anything that required perspective or focus. I can take one piece of paper off my desk and handle it, then take another piece of paper and so on. I've tried taking days off (meaning spending time watching movies, mostly) but it hasn't worked, it seems I need to continue picking up pieces of paper and handling them, so that the chaos gradually lessens.

Tonight I could clearly remember for the first time several important phone calls I wanted to make this week, so I think the cloud is lifting.


And here's something interesting, and a bit embarrassing -- I often find that when it occurs to me to watch a particular movie, it turns out the theme of the movie speaks to my current condition. So yesterday I thought of a teen movie called She's All That, and I watched it this morning over breakfast (and then some). And I realized it's a remake of Pygmalion, and that's what I feel like in my work with Mom! I can honestly say without arrogance that I've made, and am making, a big difference in the quality of Mom's life, and it's like I'm bringing her back to life again. It's hugely satisfying.

Now maybe I should watch Charlie (Charley?), or Awakenings, a film about somebody who seemed to come back to life and then went back to an old way of being, as a check on savior behavior.


What else is happening -- I went to a shape-note sing on Sunday afternoon for the first time, it was fun, and it seems there are plenty of sings around here, including some pretty big ones. I've added some new music to my iPod that I'm enjoying -- Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Red Clay Ramblers, Stan Rogers. I'm still not getting enough exercise, but I think that will come. At the moment there are so many things I have to force myself to do, that I can't force myself to go get exercise, and go only when I really want to. I'm enjoying worshipping at Evanston Friends Meeting more than I can say.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Peter Sagal on Mark Sanford

I know it's no longer the big story in the news, but Wait Wait Don't Tell Me host Peter Sagal got off a really good one on South Carolina governor Mark Sanford on June 27th, the week of Sanford's supposed hike on the Appalachian Trail.

"Sanford joins the growing army of social conservatives who decided to get a jump on destroying their own marriage before same-sex couples could do it to them."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Redesign of the Yo site

My daughter is becoming the Executive Director of the Winnetka Youth Organization next month, and she redesigned its website, which I think looks fantastic.

Winnetka Youth Organization, also called The Yo

Sunday, July 5, 2009

On ministry

Last night I went to a party at the home of a woman I grew up with, in a small religious community in Glenview. I was feeling a bit nervous about going, as there would be people there whom I hadn't seen in many years.

And so as I drove to her house, I found myself talking out loud about myself, to see what I would say if anyone asked me how I was doing, and why I had moved.

And I imagined someone asking me, Are you interested in rejoining the Church? Even though I can't actually imagine anyone there asking me such a direct question.

And the answer I gave, aloud in the car, was that it would be hard for me to belong to a church in which a woman can't be a minister.

In reply, I imagined the person asking, Does that mean you would like to be a minister? And my answer would be, I think I already am.

The work I do with people is often a kind of ministry: I help a person see how God has been acting in their lives, and see the good that God is bringing out of their suffering, and see the meaning of that suffering. I sometimes quote words or ideas that for me are sacred, in a way not unlike a minister quoting scripture. So, yes, I am a minister.

There is a rare and wonderful experience that happens sometimes in Meeting, when someone speaks aloud a message that seems to be meant for you.

This morning in Meeting, we'd been sitting in silence no more than 5 minutes when a woman named Laura stood and read aloud the following quote from Faith and Practice published by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, a book which is as close to a written creed as Quakers ever get.

"It is unfortunate that much formal training in ministry does not even recognize that . . . inward preparation exists. In our world of degrees, exams, and training programs, it is easy to forget that ministry is not primarily a task; it is a way of being in the world. It is living in relationship with God and being a witness to God. Ministry is being able to listen to the Word of God and thereby have a word of life to share with others. Fundamentally, we do not do ministry. We are ministers." -- Sandra Cronk, 1991 (page 106)

This passage spoke to me so strongly that I started crying. I haven't been sure whether or not to call myself, or think of myself, as a Quaker. But I find it deeply moving to hear words like these that express a belief that I share and which means so much to me.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Brilliant Jon Stewart skit on Bernie Madoff sentencing

From a link at the Huffington Post site, here's a brilliant Jon Stewart skit on the sentencing of Bernie Madoff.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Beauty at street level

Tonight for the first time since arriving here 10 days ago -- I think because it was such a satisfying day -- I took a walk through Evanston. I've never lived in Evanston before, and its beauty is stunning, I can understand why it's so expensive to live here. I walked under an arching elm tree that must have been 100 feet tall, absolutely exquisite. And many maples, oaks, and other leafy trees I've missed.

We've had a lot of rain, so everything is verdant and fragrant. I discovered a park I'd never noticed before, Merrick Rose Garden, where tonight the season's first roses are blooming. There's a historic fountain at the south end of the garden.




I walked by the Emmanuel United Methodist Church on Oak Street, whose amber windows were lit from within. Something about the church was very beautiful, and when I arrived home I did a Google search, which turned up the fact that the church was designed by the famous architectural firm Burnham and Root, which designed "the White City" for the Columbian Exposition of 1893 on Chicago's waterfront.

This next paragraph will piss off my friends in Colorado. Colorado is widely thought of as a beautiful state, but it's the mountains that are beautiful, not the rest of the state. I remember when I first arrived there, I thought the "housing stock" (to use an architectural term) was really disappointing -- houses poorly designed and maintained -- and the street level remarkably plain, populated with ugly trees and brownish grass except during the rainy season. When fog obscures the mountains, the Boulder area becomes incredibly ordinary and even ugly in places.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A stunning photo of Sydney

My friend Sharanjit Paddam is a photographer in Sydney, Australia. Have a look at this amazing photo.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Adventures in moving: karma and humor

I'm giving away many of my household items and pieces of furniture to a couple named Pattie and Greg who just returned from living in Panama, and I think another foreign country before that.

They've been telling me that I'm doing what they did before they left -- selling and giving away things, basically liquidating a household. So it's an illustration of good karma, here they are in need of a whole new household, and here I am liquidating and helping them as they helped others. Feels good.

I had a collection of "Hold Mail" forms from the Post Office, so yesterday I left them in my mailbox for my letter carrier, a very nice guy named Jeff. My note said I'm moving to the Chicago area and could he please use these.

He took the forms and left me my note, with the words, "I blame myself!"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Quick, breathless update on plans

I don't have the focus to write a well-written update on my plans, so this will be quick and probably breathless.

I'm moving at the end of next week, on Friday the 5th I hope. This is happening quickly for several reasons. One, Mom needs somebody seeing her regularly right now. Two, I can start making money once I'm there and can't until I've moved.

Plans are changing each day. I thought I'd be driving my car and using movers, or perhaps towing my car behind a truck, but it seems my car shouldn't make the journey with me, or that's what brothers are arguing. So I'll likely rent a truck from U-Haul, or a cargo van if I can find one that rents one-way, it would be more comfortable to drive and would use less gas.

It occasionally goes thru my mind that I could ship my stuff using freight, too, since it's mostly boxes and very little furniture, but if I'm not driving my car there's no way for me to get there, and I assume a one-way plane ticket would be expensive at this point.

I feel sad about leaving my car behind. It's a 1991 Honda Accord wagon, and I've driven it for 15 years after buying it used in 1994 from Schaumburg Honda. At the time, the Honda Accord was the #1 rated car in America, and the dealership wouldn't bargain with us at all, zippo. So we took it for the asking price, and what a great car it's been. It's now at 205,000 miles and may need a little work to drive the 1000 miles to Chicago, which is why I'm leaving it here.

Today I'm getting together with writer friends to say farewell, over lunch at Turley's. This will be the third get-together of writer friends, it's been really nice, I've been getting lots of pats on the back.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Moving to Illinois

I'm moving to Illinois in a few weeks, for personal reasons, to be near my daughter and my mother. I've been listening to Puccini's aria "Senza Mamma" (without mother) frequently for weeks.

So much has happened, and there's so much to say, so, according to the immutable laws of irony, this will be brief. I'm moving around June 4th, 5th or 6th. Not sure how yet, my car apparently isn't up to towing a U-Haul trailer, and may not even be up for the trip at all, I'll get that verdict from the mechanic later this week.

If the car isn't up to the trip, I'll either hire professional movers and fly, or rent a large van and drive that instead.

I'm in the process of downsizing my possessions. I'm already a lot leaner possessions-wise than I was when I came to Colorado with a moving van full of stuff. And still I find things in my cupboard that I haven't used in the 3 years I've been here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A video to lift your spirits

My friend Dennis Hartwell sent me the link to this video. I wish I knew more about its making, but it's wonderful to watch. Be sure to have the sound on.

http://deartellman.com/?p=298

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Global day of action May 19th to save Troy Davis' life

Amnesty International is mounting a campaign to save the life of Troy Davis, who is on death row in Georgia.

There was no physical evidence to convinct him, and no murder weapon. Another man has been implicated in the crime, but the Georgia courts have been unwilling to hear the new evidence.

Davis has a stay of execution that expires May 15, and AI is hoping public pressure will persuade Georgia to reopen his case.

Please take a moment to sign the petition.

I've come to believe that the death penalty dehumanizes all of us, jailers and prisoners alike.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Brother Cadfael, the sleuth who can save a soul

I finished Monk's Hood, the third in the Brother Cadfael series of murder mysteries a few nights ago. It's a suspenseful ending, and I was reading quickly for story, and knowing I'd want to go back and read the ending again at a more leisurely pace.

On the second reading, the book brought tears to my eyes. Imagine such a thing from a mystery novel. I haven't read the work of that many mystery writers, but I certainly never started crying during an Agatha Christie or a Raymond Chandler or even a Dorothy Sayers.

The series' sleuth, Brother Cadfael, helps someone find a path toward grace. I don't want to say more than that for fear of spoiling the ending. But I'm really impressed and highly recommend the book. The first in the series (A Morbid Taste for Bones) was enjoyable but the most annoying characters were prominent. The second (One Corpse Too Many) introduced a lovable new character but the mystery wasn't that interesting.

Many of the books in the series, perhaps all, have been made into films starring Sir Derek Jacobi as Cadfael, and they're pretty good, but they by necessity leave out many of the subplots and character turns that give the stories depth.

Back to the glitz and escape of the 30s/40s?

It seems to me that news coverage is changing a little in reaction to what everyone seems to be calling the "economic downturn."

When I glance through headlines at one of the news sites I regularly check (ABC News, Google News, BBC, Huffpo, etc.), it seems to me I'm seeing fewer stories about upsetting international situations and more escapism. The cute dog who's friends with a duck. The seven-year-old who might have died of what killed Natasha Richardson until her family got her to the hospital. An athletic director fainting during an interview. Michelle Obama's arms, for heaven's sake. A rapper singing in front of a McDonald's to persuade them to open early.

No headlines today about Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iran or Mugabe or Russia or any of the other recent sore spots in international news.

And to top it off, a story on Hollywood celebrities wearing a lot of gold clothing.

If there's any truth in what looks to me like a trend, I imagine news editors are finding that viewers/readers are depressed by the news and wanting relief.

Whether or not I'm right about the trend, I find myself drawn to escapist news right now. I turn off NPR when I can't take it any more and indulge in a documentary about the 1800s.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moving testimony by Vermont teen on same-sex marriage

I found this testimony by a Vermont teen on same-sex marriage via a tweet from Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog. What an articulate young man, his testimony is eminently quotable.

Cadfael, Faulkner, and Cather

My overnight caregiving job has ended, my client deciding to make it through the night on her own, for which she deserves a lot of credit for working so hard to get healthy.

Besides the income, I find I'm most sad about the reading. During this job I was able to catch up on some classics that I'm so glad to have read/reread. I was just starting Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Grapes of Wrath and have returned them to the Library in hopes that I'll have time to resume reading sometime soon.

I tried reading The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner and didn't get very far. I had no idea Faulkner was "one of those," by which I mean one of those "language writers" like Gertrude Stein who consider the playing with language more important than story and character. I feel idiotic in saying that I need to know at all times what's happening, or at least to know that I'm likely to find out soon. Woody Allen wrote a very funny story years ago about his difficulty in understanding mimes -- "He's either folding a picnic basket or loading a sub machine gun" (or something to that effect) -- and that's exactly how I feel when reading Faulkner. How disappointing!

I got about halfway through My Antonia by Willa Cather and gave up on that, too. It's well enough written, and I could follow the story, but I found after a while that I didn't much care about what happened to the characters. And then came the story of a large group of people being eaten by a pack of wolves in Russia. Maybe packs of wolves in Russia, pushed to the brink of starvation, would do that, but I'm immediately suspicious of such stories, as wolves have for centuries been scapegoated and misunderstood.

I've been alternating these classics with the Cadfael Chronicles series by Ellis Peters, whose gender (female) I didn't discover until I was into the second book in the series. I'd seen one of the mysteries on PBS some time ago, because Sir Derek Jacobi is one of my favorite actors, and I wasn't much impressed with the mystery. But I'm glad to find the books are much better: more fun, and interestingly, more loving, which is about the last quality I would have expected to find in a detective series. In each of the three books I've read so far, Cadfael's affection for someone is at least notable, if not pivotal to the story. And it's not really fair to say that it's due to the writer being a woman because those of Agatha Christie's novels that I've read certainly don't meet that description.

I have yet to drag out the dictionary to learn the meanings of various terms (poniard and vagation, to name just a few), some of which are probably archaic; it will be easier to do that reading at home than it was at work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thomas Wolfe's "Look Homeward, Angel"

Once again, I want to let go of some thoughts about the book I've been reading overnight so that I can settle down to sleep.

I want to let go of the book as well, and return it to the Library today, I think. I don't like leaving a book unfinished, but after 100 or so pages I'm finding Look Homeward, Angel too frustrating a read to continue.

The language is beautiful; it's the kind of book I want to jot down quotes from as I read. But the characters are like patchwork quilts; or rather, like a painting by Grandma Moses (was that her name?), too roughly hewn to be realistic.

Some quotes.

"...his white moist hands could draw from a violin music that had in it something unearthly and untaught."

"O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again."

"...the quick and healing gaiety of children, those absolute little gods of the moment..."

"...'I just had a feeling, I don't know what you'd call it,' she said, her face plucked inward by the sudden fabrication of legend..."

"Still midget-near the live pelt of the earth, he saw many things that he kept in fearful secret, knowing that revelation would be punished with ridicule."


Letting go is a theme for me right now. Letting go of my mother, or trying to, as she is so far beyond wretched that she really is in hell. Thankfully, hell is not eternal. O lost, and by the wind and your children grieved, beloved mother, go on from here and allow the suffering to end.

Letting go of other things, too. Letting go of the portion of my life when I was the most important person in another's life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

McCullers

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers is another book borrowed from the Longmont Library's Classic Paperbacks section (for which I am so grateful, as it places in proximity a great number of books I want to read).

It's very rare that a book "sweeps me away," takes me so out of myself and out of the reading experience that I am "in" the book and no longer aware that I'm reading. And this book swept me away. I might at one time have said that the story was depressing, but even though its ending isn't a happy one, I wouldn't describe the story as depressing at all. McCullers' ability to evoke compassion for even the most difficult of her characters is really impressive, something I would love to achieve myself.

I understand there's a film version, and I can't wait to see it. I've been swept away by the best films I've ever seen -- The Seven Samurai and Goodfellas, to name a few (Goodfellas is seamless) -- and I love that experience of being out of my regular life and in the same world as the characters.

I want to seek out some literary critiques of this work as well, I'm guessing there are essays that attempt to interpret the story in symbolic ways, including the book's most enigmatic characters, John Singer, Biff Brannon and Bubber Kelly. He is almost Christ-like, but I know there are more interesting things to say than that. I so resonated with Mick Kelly's love of music, and it's funny, as I write that, I choke up and tears come to my eyes. There are times when I listen to a Beethoven symphony that I can hardly express the joy I feel, it feels explosive inside my chest. And I remember well the despair she feels upon taking a retail job; it is the despair I felt working as a technical writer in the junk mail industry, wanting so much to add my creative voice to the world and fearing I would never be able to do so.

The text on the back cover says the book is about "moral isolation." I don't know what that means. I just Googled it, and among the top entries are these definitions:

"...the feeling that no one else, dead or alive, understands us, which is a little more subtle than plain loneliness. It is alienation to its extreme." (From the Intelligent Emotions blog.)

That would certainly explain Singer's mysterious devotion to Antonapoulos, a man who seems to care nothing for him.

There is also this definition, apparently by Colonel John Boyd, which doesn't seem to me to apply to McCullers' novel: "Moral isolation is achieved when an enemy improves its well being at the expense of others (allies) or violates rules of behavior they profess to uphold (standards of conduct). Moral rules are a very important reference point in times of uncertainty." (from Global Guerrillas)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Two remarkable videos

Two friends sent me the link to this video, and one explained it (which was helpful because I couldn't figure out how they'd done it) -- various musicians singing "Stand By Me" to the same background so they're in sync with each other.


And this one, a guy named Matt Harding dancing with people from all over the world. It's impressive, particularly the dancing in weightlessness with astronauts on the vomit comet, and the tribesmen in New Guinea (the Huli Wigmen).

I was able to find a little of the backstory -- Matt apparently saved up his money and traveled around Asia, filming himself dancing in various cities. A company named Stride Gum sponsored his trip around the world in which he visited all 7 continents, and I think there was at least another trip after that, and Matt has become pretty well-known as the guy who dances on the internet.

"Home" gallery trend in New York City

My artist friend Stephen Truax was involved in setting up the gallery walk visiting seven "home galleries" in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick that's mentioned in this New York Times article. Stephen's own work was on display at one of the galleries and seen there by a prominent NYC art critic.

Twain and Steinbeck

It's time for me to be in bed, I'm exhausted after not getting much sleep during the night. It seems I want to blog briefly about the books I'm reading first before I can settle down to sleep.

I finished reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn last night for the first time in I'm not sure how many years, maybe five. My old copy of the book is beyond falling apart, the middle 200+ pages are kept within the broken cover, and I can lift and read them one by one if I want to avoid the annoyance of trying to hold the loose pages together in my hands. I can't remember when or where I bought this copy, I probably picked it up used somewhere.

I enjoyed the humor more in this reading than I usually do, laughing out loud, and the stressful parts (during the con by the king and duke) were less stressful than usual. Here's a line I'd love to use some day: "I lay you'll be the Methusalem-numskull of creation before ever I ask you--or the likes of you." Spoken by Aunt Sally of Tom Sawyer after he's up and kissed her on the mouth while she still thinks he's a stranger. I can't help thinking this book must have been translated into many foreign languages but I'm damned if I can see how it possibly could be translated. What other language contains the term Methusalem-numskull?

Here's another wonderful passage: "I reckon a body that ups and tells the truth when he is in a tight place is taking considerable many resks, though I ain't had no experience, and can't say for certain; but it looks so to me, anyway; and yet here's a case where I'm blest if it don't look to me like the truth is better and actuly safer than a lie. I must lay it by in my mind, and think it over some time or other, it's so kind of strange and unregular. I never see nothing like it."

And his panegyric (is that the right word?) on Mary Jane. "Pray for me! I reckoned if she knowed me she'd take a job that was more nearer her size. But I bet she done it, just the same--she was just that kind. She had the grit to pray for Judus if she took the notion--there warn't no back-down to her, I judge. You may say what you want to, but in my opinion she had more sand in her than any girl I ever see; in my opinion she was just full of sand. It sounds like flattery, but it ain't no flattery."

I began reading what I believe to be my first Steinbeck novel, Of Mice and Men, a shorter one to start with than The Grapes of Wrath which I've intended to read for about 40 years. I've never had the goal of writing a novel because it seemed as if I would need to know when I began what the story was going to be about and why it would be interesting enough for somebody to read. And for some reason as I began this book and read the conversations between George and Lennie, I wondered if Steinbeck painted the landscape and then planted two characters in it and watched to see what they would do.

Steinbeck's writing is so theatrical in some places, it's almost like reading stage directions, or the narrative in a screenplay. "The afternoon sun sliced in through the cracks of the barn walls and lay in bright lines on the hay. There was the buzz of flies in the air, the lazy afternoon humming. From outside came the clang of horseshoes on the playing peg and the shouts of men, playing, encouraging, jeering. But in the barn it was quiet and humming and lazy and warm."

One of the reasons I've often resisted reading "great literature" was that it so often contains some horrific tragedy, the kind that haunts my sleep for weeks. I once read a novel by Alice Walker about a lesbian couple in which one of the partners gets beaten to death with a brick. I sense that something pivotal is going to happen in the lives of George and Lennie, as I guess it should or there'd be less reason for Steinbeck to be writing about them.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The DaVinci Code, redux

I reread The DaVinci Code last week. I enjoyed it a little less the second time because I knew what was coming and was surprised to find how much less exciting the book was with foreknowledge.

After the first reading years ago, I don't think I looked at much of the media responses to the book, and this time I'm interested, so I borrowed several films from the Longmont Library.

The Real DaVinci Code, from Acorn Media and shown on the Discovery Channel, is really very good. Its writer and host, British actor Tony Robinson, is known more for comedy, but he does an excellent job. Perhaps because I'm sleep deprived a lot of the time right now, I'm so impressed with the concise reasoning in Robinson's presentation.

I also enjoy watching him confront people on the lack of evidence for what they're saying. It's unfortunate that DaVinci Code author Dan Brown wasn't willing to be interviewed. Robinson could well use a slogan similar to CNN's Campbell Brown: No bull.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Anniversary Sale, through Feb. 28th

I've got 2 things to celebrate, so I've marked down books and CDs in the Practically Shameless Press online store by 20% to 52%!

One year ago -- on Monday, February 18, 2008 -- my book about Shadow Work, Practically Shameless, reached the #1 spot on Amazon.com's Bestseller list of books about Jungian psychology. (It also appeared on Bestseller lists in three other categories.)

Reaching the #1 spot was made possible by purchases by people like you, who have supported the Press from the very beginning. Thank you again!!

That appearance at #1 also laid the foundation for the book's appearance on that Bestseller list for 52 weeks since then.

Let me repeat that --

As of February 18, 2009, Practically Shameless has been on Amazon.com's Bestseller list of books about Jungian psychology for 52 weeks!

To see the sale items, please visit the Practically Shameless Press online store.

And let me say in addition --

The Tombstone Process CD can literally change your life in a matter of hours. It's a gentle, effective, and deeply touching emotional process you can do on your own at home, to let go of a painful dynamic that has been your unconscious way of loving somebody. I've used it myself multiple times, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

The Clean Talk CD can change the way you communicate so that you avoid and resolve conflict, get your point across more effectively and get more of what you want from the conversation. It teaches you to use Clean Talk, the way we communicate in Shadow Work when there is conflict or strong emotion present.

The Shadow Work Basics CD can teach you about yourself and about the four archetypal energies in you.

Practically Shameless, in paperback and on audio CD, is a personal story of transformation that explains Jung's psychology from the inside out.

And by the way, the 2nd thing I'm celebrating is the 2nd printing, which arrived on Thursday. The Press offices are full of boxes of books. Yes!!!

Rowling redeems herself

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Thursday night, and I'm very happy with and relieved by the book's ending.

I delayed reading this last of the Potter series because I was so afraid author J.K. Rowling would continue to villainize Professor Snape and Draco Malfoy to the bitter end, which would have tainted my whole experience of the series, which has given me a great deal of reading and movie-watching pleasure.

I don't remember when I started to want Snape to be discovered to be a secret good guy for whom readers could finally feel some compassion, but it was at least several volumes ago, and it built up to the point that I was really concerned about how the series would end. But I'm enormously glad that Rowling has redeemed herself. I enjoyed the ending so much that I reread the last five chapters last night.

It struck me as I finished reading that the villains in the book all gradually faded in intensity, so that the Malfoy family and even Voldemort himself by the end are almost impotent.

The only other thing I want to say at this point is that Rowling's tradition of structuring each of the books in the series so that its plot takes place over the course of an academic year has rarely proved more tedious than in this final book. As in almost every previous book (the notable exception being the 4th book, ...Goblet of Fire), this tradition requires long stretches in which not much is happening in order to allow the "middle" school months to pass. The same plan has also encouraged Rowling to introduce annoying subplots such as Hermione's fight for justice for house elves and Hagrid's attempts at lovemaking, none of which gets resolved. It's stunning how little action happens over a period of months and how much is crammed into a matter of hours at the story's end in a smash-'em-up battle scene worthy almost of Peter Jackson.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

W's library

Got this from a friend.

Dear Fellow Constituent:

The George W Bush Presidential Library is now in the planning stages and accepting donations. The Library will include:

The Hurricane Katrina Room , which is still under construction.

The Alberto Gonzales Room, where you won't be able to remember anything.

The Texas Air National Guard Room, where you don't even have to show up.

The Walter Reed Hospital Room, where they don't let you in.

The Guantanamo Bay Room, where they don't let you out.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Room, which no one has been able to find.

The National Debt Room, which is huge and has no ceiling.

The Tax Cut Room, with entry only to the wealthy.

The Economy Room, which is in the toilet.

The Iraq War Room. (After you complete your first visit, they make you to go back for a second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth visit.)

The Dick Cheney Room, in an undisclosed location, complete with shotgun gallery.

The Environmental Conservation Room, still empty.

The Supreme Court Gift Shop, where you can buy an election.

The Decider Room, complete with dart board, magic 8-ball, Ouija board, dice, coins, and straws.

Note: The library will feature an electron microscope to help you locate and view the President's accomplishments.

PLEASE GIVE GENEROUSLY!

Sincerely, Jack Abramoff, Co-Chair
Robert A.M. Stern, Architect
G.W. Bush Library Board of Directors

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2nd printing arrives tomorrow

Tomorrow between noon and 2 pm, the 2nd printing of Practically Shameless arrives in 25 cartons. I am psyched! Can't wait.

Yow -- Didn't know comments needed moderating!

I just discovered that 5 comments were awaiting my moderation -- I had no idea!

Commenters, I'm so sorry for the delay. I've changed the appropriate setting (I hope correctly) that will notify me immediately when someone comments.

And thanks for commenting!!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Having time to read

I've been working as a nighttime caregiver for the past two weeks, and it's given me more time for reading than I've had for a very long time. So, this week, I've read two books and am halfway through a third.

I get quickly frustrated when I go to write about the books I've read, however. I generally expect myself to know how to do anything I want to do, it's a significant shadow of mine. And so I expect myself to know how to write a good book review, and I really don't. I knew how at one time, and in order to get good at it again, I'd need to get into the habit of reading well-written book reviews as I used to.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is a book that came highly recommended by several people, and I enjoyed it enough to consider reading it a second time. It's about the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago (called Columbian because it was a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World). It was what we today would call a world's fair, and a significant event in the life both of Chicago and of the United States at the time. The planners, who included Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, wanted to outdo the Paris Exposition of several years earlier and wanted to show Europe that America could hold its own in culture and magnificence.

The devil to which the title refers is the subject of the book's other primary story, of America's first documented serial killer, a man who used the name H.H. Holmes, who killed between 10 and 230 people during the same period of time as the Exposition, some of them visitors to Chicago for the fair. It's uncertain how many people he managed to kill because, as amazing as it sounds, he had his own crematorium as well a lime pit in the basement in which he could dissolve the bodies of his victims. One of the most stunning things about Larson's story is that so many people who encountered Holmes and fulfilled his bizarre construction plans for a crematorium and torture chambers never thought to question why he wanted them.

Larson's style is enjoyable, full of factual detail and a degree of suspense without resorting to the kind of hypnotic obsessiveness that makes The DaVinci Code a spellbinding page-turner, and that's a good thing. I won't qualify this review as a rave because I think the book suffers badly from a lack of photos and useful maps. As Larson talks about the design and construction of each of the Exposition's buildings and features, it would have been most helpful to have a map to follow, and the lack of photos was really puzzling. (I was able to find a slideshow of photos of the Exposition online today here, which was very satisfying.) The Exposition site was huge and complex, and even after looking at the photos it's hard to grasp how the pieces fit together. A map, a map, my kingdom for a map!

Next, I read Marley and Me, a copy of which I found on a bookshelf at the facility where I'm caregiving. I'd heard some reference to it recently, possibly about it being made into a movie, so I picked it up even though I'm not a "dog person" and haven't read very many pet stories, with the exception of James Herriot's books. I enjoyed Marley and Me very much, and in some ways even more than Herriot's work because author John Grogan doesn't manipulate or skew the plot of each episode in his relationship with Marley in order to maximize suspense or sentiment. There are times when a Herriot story begins to strain credibility, and Grogan's style is by contrast so candid that it's entirely believable. There are a few really touching moments in the book, too, which brought tears to my eyes.

I'm halfway through True Believer by Nicholas Sparks, which I'm feeling a bit guilty about reading. I loved the movie The Notebook, based on another of his books, but was appalled at the style when I tried to read the novel and gave it up. The style of this one is less annoying but the characters are pretty shallow and they don't act in a very consistent way. It's an unabashed romance, though, and I haven't read a regular romance in a long time, and it's fun, lightweight reading.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Republican Party desperately seeking identity

Everything I've seen coming from Republicans in past weeks has convinced me that the GOP is having an identity crisis after its thrashing in November and is trying to use opposition to the stimulus package as a way to recreate identity and bond with each other in crisis.

The other thing that's clear is that they've got nothing to gain by joining hands with Obama, and they have much to gain by opposing. If Obama can change that, it might help get them on board.

If they oppose and the stimulus plan goes well, they can say they were trying to shape an even better plan, and that if their ideas had been included, the plan would've worked even better. And since there'd be no way to prove them wrong, it might persuade some people.

If they oppose and the stimulus plan doesn't go well, they can blame it on Obama's refusal to include their ideas.

Caregiving, the night shift

It's been a while since I blogged, mostly because I've been working nights on a caregiving assignment, and the change in schedule is somewhat disorienting.

The woman I'm caring for is in her mid-90s and quite frail. She lives in an assisted living facility where help is available during the day and at night only for emergencies. She's very fearful of being alone, so I stay with her when needed, and help her get to sleep, and accompany her on visits to the bathroom so that she doesn't have to worry about falling.

She apparently lived alone until quite recently, and I'm impressed. She's 10+ years older than my own mother and has stayed healthier longer. Then she fell and now has painful arthritis in her legs, which increases her fear of falling.

I've enjoyed caring for my own mother, despite the emotional challenges, and I enjoy caring for this woman as well. I particularly enjoy holding her hand to calm her while she goes to sleep.

The first night, I tried to get some sleep while caring for her, but she was up so many times during the night that it didn't work well, and by the end I was desperate and headache-y the whole next day. So I started switching my schedule to be awake during the night. My biggest concern is loneliness. During the night when I'm there, I'm the only person who's awake.

I'm still playing around with my schedule to see what works best. I thought originally that I'd shift my schedule roughly 12 hours. But I think now it will work better if I spend some of my afternoon and evening hours at home, which means I can still take a coaching client and be free evenings to go to social events or political meetings.

There's no way to know how long this caregiving assignment will last. It's been dawning on me that caregiving an elderly patient is always going to be unpredictable because it's based on the medical condition of an elderly person in ill health. That unpredictability is certainly a disadvantage, but there are many advantages, including the opportunity to demonstrate simple compassion.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Guest blog appearance at FEAST

My friend Rosemary Carstens asked me some time ago if I'd be interested in doing a "guest blog" appearance at FEAST, her blog about books, art, food, film and travel.

So I wrote up my December visit to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and it appeared yesterday.

http://carstensfeast.blogspot.com/2009/01/indianapolis-museum-of-art-provides.html

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stunning photos from the Hubble telescope

At the ABC News website, a slide show of stunning photos from the Hubble telescope, at http://snurl.com/auygl

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Two video features

New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks talks about his photo essay on Gaza, the photos are powerful: http://snurl.com/ap6s6

And Diane Sawyer does ABC News feature, Person of the Week, on Obama's "body man," Reggie Love, who's a lot like Charlie on "West Wing" -- http://snurl.com/ap766

Isn't Reggie Love the name of a John Grisham lawyer in The Client?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Inauguration, view from the Street

New York Times photographer Bill Sullivan narrates this photo essay of Tuesday's Inauguration in Washington, focusing on the "ordinary" folk who attended the festivities on the Mall without much concern for fashion.
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/01/24/fashion/20090125-street-feature/index.html#

Friday, January 23, 2009

CFG 2009

I returned Sunday night from the annual gathering of certified Shadow Work facilitators, known as the CFG. Last year, the gathering felt like home by the time I left, and I wasn't the only one using the word "home" to describe the experience.

Despite that, this year, as for most previous years, I arrived terrified, and the 5 days there were a journey from fear to comfort. The shame I was feeling when I arrived told me I didn't belong there, that people would reject me and consider me too screwed up to be certified.

The gathering starts on Wednesday evening, and at 2 a.m. Thursday morning, I woke up with intense intestinal distress that became a hellish 2 hours of extreme diarrhea and nausea. I was too weak to join the group and slept until noon. It was apparently about having eaten too much soy ice cream on Tuesday night that my body couldn't digest, though a friend said it could also have been the okra we had for dinner on Wednesday night. But I think the coincidence is too great to dismiss that it may have had an emotional component about being at the CFG.

Regardless of the cause, it left me in a physically weakened condition and unable to eat much for several days, so it was hard to have energy for doing anything. I think I ate nothing but 2 bananas all day Thursday and similar on Friday, my stomach was really wary. It was hard even to drink water.

I rejoined the group for Thursday afternoon and mostly rested on the sidelines. The next day I was still rather weak but worked and facilitated during the afternoon. (After working, conked out and slept on the sidelines during the 2nd person's process, and felt really sad about being so tired because I'd wanted to support her.) My own work was about being worthy of support, and being weakened meant I was very vulnerable and getting a lot of support from people, so no accident there.

By Saturday I was getting back to normal and helped lead group discussions during the day. By Sunday I could eat almost anything again, though favorite foods like pineapple were still off-limits to my stomach. In my final checkout on Sunday, I said that I'd arrived with rough surfaces and now felt like a smooth stone with the water of the brook running over me -- a familiar feeling for me at the end of groups, and one I wish I could hold onto at the beginning of groups.

I've come to think of this annual journey of mine in terms of Enneagram subtypes and specifically about the subtype that I have most in shadow. I attended a workshop with Russ Hudson a few years ago, the author of The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

He believes the 3 subtypes are "instincts" inside all of us, and although I don't think it works to consider them instincts, I agree that we all have 3 learning styles, or centers of focus in us, and each of us generally has 1 of the 3 more in shadow than the other 2. For me, the social is what's more in shadow, and that's why it's so hard for me to attend the CFG, and most other groups for that matter. In fact, I think if Russ read Practically Shameless, he'd say, "This is a book about a woman with social instinct in her blind spot." (his term for shadow)

I was lucky enough to have a very compassionate roommate who is a very sound sleeper, so she never woke up from my troubles during the night.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Our long national shame is over

When President Ford took over following Richard Nixon's resignation, he said, "Our long national nightmare is over," referring to the Watergate scandal.

With Barack Obama's ascension to the presidency, our long national shame is over, and I'm proud to be an American again, for the first time in a long time.

We're a country in which white citizens voted for a black president.

We're a country that will end a war that should never have been waged.

We're a country that will never torture again.

An entirely new tone at the White House

A beautiful photo essay at CNN.com, with music, of Americans looking up.
http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2009/44.president/inauguration/looking.up/

I just looked at whitehouse.gov, and there's a blog where you can sign up for updates. I know I've been to the site in the past, but I don't remember much about what it looked like. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a blog, though! President Obama (God, that sounds good!!) has sent a memo to White House staff saying that transparency will be the watchword of his presidency.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The scale of the universe

Some time ago, a friend sent me these images showing the relative scales of the planets in our solar system.

I looked online to see if I could find the person who originally created them, but wasn't able to, so I can't attribute them as I'd like to. There's something fascinating and reassuring in this for me. Most likely the impact of seeing what is so huge and therefore so much more significant than the little things I worry about during the day. I get a similar reassurance from driving through the mountains, and specifically through Big Thompson Canyon, where the huge stone bluffs dwarf any objects at human scale.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I didn't know the Huff Post recapped late night's best jokes!

Do they do this every weekday? Recap the best jokes from the previous night's late night shows? This is great!
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/16/late-nights-best-jokes-th_n_158499.html

Monday, January 12, 2009

Smooth the Soul blog post about my holiday articles and CD

The Smooch the Soul blog has very kindly reviewed 2 articles I've written on shadows at the holidays and provided a link to my new "Home for the Holidays" CD.

http://www.smoochthesoul.com/blog/2009/01/12/what-are-your-holiday-shadows/

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Joe Cocker deciphered

A friend sent me this video of Joe Cocker performing "With a Little Help From My Friends" in his usual impossible-to-understand way, with captions suggesting the lyrics he's really using. Very funny.

Mandy Walker's blog, Since My Divorce

My friend Mandy Walker has a new blog, Since My Divorce, on the theme of what we learn following a divorce. Her latest post, about learning to play the piano, links to a YouTube video of someone playing a lovely Chopin waltz.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Andrea using Twitter at the ChicksWhoClick conference

My friend Andrea Meyer is "livetweeting" the ChicksWhoClick conference, and I'm having fun reading. For those who haven't discovered Twitter yet, "livetweeting" means sending Twitter updates while attending an event, similar to the kind of live blogging that sites like the Daily Kos do, but using Twitter rather than a traditional blog. If you've used Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or any other social networking site, a tweet is similar to the kind of status update you make there ("what are you doing right now?") but many tweets are informative and manage to squeeze in a URL, usually by condensing it first at tinyurl.com or snurl.com, since a tweet can be only 140 characters long. It's amazing how informative a 140-character message can be.

I don't know if Andrea is using a laptop or a PDA to tweet from the conference, but she's sending out both informative and funny tweets you can read at her Twitter page. If you click "Follow" beneath her picture at the top, her tweets will show up at your own Twitter page. Andrea has several hundred followers.

Here's my Twitter page. I was warned by a friend that Twitter can quickly become addictive, and I'm beginning to see why. It struck me yesterday that Twitter is somewhat similar to a blog reader (like Google Reader, bloglines, etc.) which shows which blogs have a new entry, and if you click the name of a blog in your list, you see the entries and can start reading. Your Twitter page is different in that you see the most recent tweets from everyone you're following, one after another on the same page. So on my Twitter page this morning there are updates from the folks I'm following, including Andrea, the Daily Kos, and the New York Times. To see all the tweets from any of these parties, click on their name to see their Twitter page.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Updated my profile

I just updated my profile here on Blogger.

One odd thing, it asks for links to your blogs, but provides no way to upload links to any other blogs than this one. I've got two other blogs: the Practically Shameless blog about publishing and writing, and my blog at Amazon.com (scroll down) about shadow in the news.

It also creates a hyperlink out of the name of each of your favorite movies, and since I ended the list with the words "many more," it created a hyperlink for "many more."

When Twitter removes an inappropriate tweeter

I was just looking through the list of people "following" me on Twitter, and one of them was a name/face I didn't recognize. I clicked on her photo, and got this message. Cute!

Real info learned from Twitter

I've been using Twitter for only a short time, and I've been wondering when it would prove tangibly useful. And that day was today.

This morning my friend and fellow Boulder Media Women member (and Longmont resident) Beth Hayden posted links to Boulder County sites with info about the wildfires. (Another friend and BMWer, Andrea Meyer, described a hike she took and posted a photo that shows fire damage in the foothills.)

And then a tweet from the New York Times mentioned this NYT article which told me that the Obama soon-to-be-administration is asking Congress to delay the switch from analog to digital TV transmission, and that the government ran out of funding for coupons to buy the converter boxes so long ago that a million requests for coupons have gone unanswered. A million! And I haven't even requested one yet!

Procrastination wins again!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Opening up to colleagues

Next Tuesday I leave for the annual gathering of Shadow Work facilitators, being held this year (as for the past few years) at the Center for New Beginnings in Dahlonega, Georgia, about 90 minutes north of Atlanta.

Every year -- and I've been going since January 2002 -- there's a nervousness that arises as I think about going, and I understand from colleagues that they feel the same way, even those who have been doing this a lot longer than I have. The requirement for each of us while we're there is that we both do a piece of our own work, facilitated by our colleagues, and facilitate a colleague at least once. And the nervousness is about opening ourselves up to people whom we love and admire but whom we usually see only once a year.

Most personal growth facilitators grew up in families where it wasn't safe to open up to people, to expose the parts of yourself you want to work on. And we've all worked on that issue, along with many others. But there's a residual fear that arises for me every year as I contemplate going and exposing shadow-y parts of myself to these people.

The gathering lasts from a Wednesday night through a Sunday noon, and by the end of every gathering, I feel so at home, so close to these people, so loved and loving, that I'm reluctant to leave and wishing that we could all share a big house somewhere year-round. Last year the feeling of "home" with these people was the most pronounced ever. It was the first year I attended with copies of Practically Shameless in shrink-wrapped bundles of five. Almost everyone in the group has purchased multiple copies from me to sell at their own workshops or to give or sell to clients, friends and family members. Several colleagues have told me that people are showing up for workshops or client sessions because they've come across the book at Amazon.com or heard about it from a friend. It's very gratifying.

Last night I talked by phone with Janine Romaner, who lives near Atlanta and will host the gathering for the (third? fourth?) year in a row. I interviewed her for the Shadow Work email newsletter a few months ago and got to know her better than I'd ever known her before, and I really enjoyed our talk. She's a doctor of natural medicine and an expert on autism and natural health, and we've always got lots of interesting stuff to talk about. This year, as she did last year, she'll lead the welcoming ceremony on Wednesday night for the people who are coming for the first time. There are 4 newbies this year, and several have mentioned to me how afraid they are, and I've told them about my own fear, which I think has helped them a little.

There aren't any good morning flights to Atlanta from Denver, so I'll be flying to Chicago on Tuesday and spending the night at my sister's, which will give me an afternoon with my mother, who is still profoundly depressed and who benefits more from physical touch and affection than from anything else. ("Hugs are the best," she's told me twice.) She apparently isn't answering the phone any more -- I called her 3 times over the weekend, and I guess she never picked up, perhaps for fear someone was calling whom she wouldn't want to speak with -- and she dreads phone messages, so if I miss her, I don't leave a message. The last two visits, I've felt a real connection with her, which for me means a lot.