Maybe I shouldn’t have been doing the exercises with the kids

My lower back has me hostage. Relief is its ransom. My physiatrist, which is my pain specialist, and I have been around the block a few times trying to scare up any relief. Physical Therapy and the various exercises did very little. Accupuncture had the same results. Steroid injections registered relief. Unfortunately, I learned that steroids are mortal enemies of my osteoporosis in my back, which is what is causing the pain. Have you ever seen that image of the snake in a tight circle as it consumes its own tail.

When it comes to medication that’s going in the direction of having a head-on collision with body, Morphine. My kidney runs a high risk of failing because of the opiods.

There’s more than mere give and take, more like Peter robbing Paul to pay someone else, though I don’t remember who is getting robbed and who is getting paid. Okay people, this is where I need your help. I heard this phrase a lot while growing up, but I don’t remember many details. Can you help me out?

The question really lies in whether I’m living in the present or the future. We’re all struggling with this conundrum. Do I have enough money for retirement? How long will I live? But who’s to say that we have that much time? Why not make the most of life right now? The scale with those philosophies always on my mind. Would I rather be in severe pain and live a longer life or not be in as much pain, but not have a long life-pan. This question keeps the scale perpetually adjusting up and down.

In my quest for the Holy Grail of Pain Relief, I bounced to another physiatrist. Former football player was written all over his body in large letters. He’s the gentlest of giants that I have ever met.

I think the procedure he performed was called a nerve oblation. I know it’s a strange word, not something as easy and powerful as the word obliteration, even though that’s what I was looking for. Micro Pyro techniques burned nerve root endings. Kind of like Smart Bombs. The procedure paid off, but the duration was brief.

Unfortunately it doesn’t take much to upset the apple cart of pain and the scales of common sense become blind. Everywhere I turn, I’m shelled with catchy phrases such as Seize the Day or Just Do It. The momentum of mastering the moment

has me doing all sorts of stupid things that is hurting me in the longrun, even shortrun.

In today’s physical education classes, I ran with the class. It was just two laps around the gym. The best motivators are when I yell, “Can you beat me” or “I’m going to catch you.” I tell them that their eight-year-old bodies, or whatever age they were, ought to be in better shape than this fifty-four-year-old. My former partner Phyllis refered to me as the Old Gray Mare that wasn’t what she used to be. My body had started to disintegrate bedore I got into my twenties. I was so hard on my body because I didn’t think I would live very long. I’ve already surpassed my self-imposed agelimit.

It’s not like I ran a marathon or even a mile. I ran a mere two laps around an elementary sized gymnasium. Two of these laps is a drop in the bucket. I have five classes. Running with children is like running with the puppies. I have to watch my step closely as I run to avoid taking out small tykes who must think that I can either jump over them or perhaps run through them. Good thing I didn’t do any of the running and exercises with the Kinders. Today was a bonus day as I don’t usually have those darlings. People are so cute at that stage of life.

I did take it easy on the kids and only do two to three exercises. One of them were Side Stradle Hops, aka Jumping Jacks. Some schools require PC names. While teaching at the military-style school, Willamette Leadership Academy, I learned that Jumping Jacks is a derogatory phrase and it was the military that was trying to clean up its act. That’s all I remember. Perhaps one of my faithful followers can explain whether I’m barking up the right tree and fill in the gaps like why or how?

I did take it easy on my self with this activity. In some classes we only did ten though in some classes where I felt warmed up as I hadn’t stopped moving in a while, we did twenty-five repetitions.

I taught them my all-time favorite exercise. Up Downs. Some of you may be groaning by now and perhaps questioning my sanity. I think there’s another name for this popular conditioning drill. Every coach worth their weight in gold had this in their bag of tricks.

I told the kids that this was an exercise I used to dish out while teaching at Willamette Leadership Academy when cadets failed to do their homework. Today’s five groups of kids liked them, but I think it’s a lot easier to enjoy something when it isn’t wrapped in the tissue of punishment. Erase that. WLA doesn’t believe in punishment. The word is correction. Unwise choices lead to corrective action. Punative is in the eye of the beholder.

Up Downs begins by simply jogging in place, waiting for the word Down to be yelled or a the irritating tweet of a whistle. In a split second upon hearing the transitional word, the participant would flop flat face down to the ground. Luckily I’ve never had anyone smash their face aginst a hard surface and break something. At WLA, there seemed to be a correlation between the uncoordinated doing their homework, and the others not so much, though I did have students who preferred being outside doing up downs. They’d either not do their homework to guarantee a spot on the field or they would pretend to have not done it. At one point, I had my favorite go-to-first sergent, Sergeant Ough, who gladly took the deliquents out. Normally this computer tech guy didn’t interact with many people and yelling helped him vent built up frustration. Afterall, when is there a time when something’s not gone wrong with technology?

In an attempt at trying to explain why I do what I do; why I play and exercise with the kids knowing full well that these activities are a bad influence on degenerative back. I’ve never been one to spectate. Yes, I will watch the New England Patriots win the 2015 Superbowl against the Seattle Seahawks, and I do watch a lot of televised sports, but I can’tget sucked onto the playing field. They’ve not invented that mode of transport yet. Not that I’m the first to know these kinds of things.

But when I am there and I can reach out and touch somebody, something takes over control of me and I get possessed with the younger years of me, years of many moons ago. To run just for the heck of it is a freeing experience, and physically I sure wouldn’t mind being in my twenties again, though I would request to have my current mental capacity and wisdom that’s been built during those years.

In retrospect to today’s agenda, the running wasn’t a gregious assault on myself, but definitely I was not in my right mind when I did those up downs. My intention was to demonstrate once and and then stop and monitor. But I couldn’t do just one. I had to keep going. Can I blame it on momentum?

Reviewing the momentous moments of momentum, the pain has steadily increased since the end of October. I started teaching PE at the end of October. I had just started to recover from the grueling pain that gardening puts me through, so it’s not like I haven’t experienced this high level of pain over the years; there are cycles as the since my pain ebbs and flows in a unpredictable cycle, though this cycle had neon flashing lights warnimg me to not enter. It’s like movies when someone is chasing someone and they run upstairs when they could have run down. They must be possessed as well.

With high hopes of seeing my physiatrist sooner rather than later I took the calendar off of the nail. The remnants of January offered no relief.

February was another story. Numerous chicken scrathings covering almost the entire month intimidates me. I’m a bare bones essentialist when it comes to scheduling things. I prefer that several days pass between appointments, and I’m allergic to have back to back meetings But with all of the writing, hope of seeing that pain specialist unfolded its wings only to be once againt hammered by the cruel hands of reality. My reality. Your reality may be nicer to you than mine is to me.

None of the zillions of appointments in February were for the pain specialist. Maybe I was wrong and that I hadn’t written the appointment down. I’ve always been awful; my track record in that department is dreadful. I especially started slacking when more and more agencies and businees set up a call system where they would alert me a few days ahead as a reminder.

I was positive that when I called OMG, the monopoly winners of the medical care in this area, they would tell me what day in February I was to come in. I even apologized to the receptionist for not writing down my appointment.

I always get a kick out of people asking for my birthdate and then name to identify Susan Honthumb when there’s a lot of people born on that date even year, but since my sisters and I, as well as some nieces, are the only stockholders of the Honthumb name. My surname going extinct will have to wait for another blog.

She told me that my appointment wasn’t until March. I didn’t catch the number at that point I was numbed all of my senses. Good news, bad news. I was pleased that I had written the appointment down. I just hadn’t looked that far into the future. Afterall, Daffodills will be in full bloom by then. Spring will be around the corner. How can I return to gardening if I haven’t gone through my hibernation of healing?

Now the pain is off the chart, though I do okay while I am moving. Constantly moving. In this way, all of the activities with the kids, has been goo, though you have to be standing on your head to see that point of view; while moving, the motion gives me some almost painfree moments, but once I sit still or stand still, the pain rears its ugly head and let’s me have it. I can’t let stiffness of stillness set in.

Because the morphine isn’t cutting the mustand, I am forced to look in a different direction. Adding a chiropractor and masseuse to my team, has started to pay dividends. In my search for support, I’ve also been looking to myself for some answers. I am, afterall, the most important member of my team is me, though I’ve not been my strongest advocate. I wouldn’t be surprised if most if not all of you can relate to this. Why do we get in our own way? Not only do we not help, but we block progress?

And when I am in dire straits, (Or should that be straights) can I do do to help reduce the pain. How much ice and heat treatments do I do? Am I stretching enough? Yoga and meditation have been highly suggested, but where’s Yoga on the calendar? I can say that I’m getting better at setting time aside for some vanilla time for myself so I can veg out and still the waters of my mind. Iron out alll of the riples. It helps when a dog or cat or both park on my lap. It breaks my hear to have to disturb them. It takes a lot to turn off the chatter in my head or at least mask most of the white noise. Without even noticing it, while I’m in the throes of silencing my mind, I forget about the pain. I’m so busy trying to get the freeway of speeding cars to not only slow down, but to park. It would take a lot of Staties to pull this off, but with enough practice it is possible.

Of course, there are easier ways to distract the mind. The pain specialist who burned the nerve root endings, suggested inplanting a would do just that. You may have seen those small TEMS or whatever they called where small electrodes or something are attached to the painful area. With a push of a button, you tell the unit to pulse or pound or vibrate. The brain is all over trying to decipher what that sensation is doing that it forgets about all the pain it was inflicting.

They’ve created a unit that that would be implanted in my body and it would do the same thing: scramble signals to prevent pain messages from getting through; And since I am easily distracted, the odds of having success with the unit would be high..

Insurance balked, but didn’t let me take first base. According to the person or persons in control of the money bags, they were not convinced that I hadn’t sought out all of the other possible ways to treat me, all the cheaper ways that is.

I know that it can’t be easy for these people to stamp deny on someone’s chance of having a better life. I was especially enthusiastic about the procedure since had met a wounded vet that testified the inplant was all that it was cracked up to be and relieved him from the short chain of pain, allowing him to do whatever he wanted to do. Talk about Freedom.

And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, though my my freedom of doing what I want to do doesn’t take the pain away; it creates pain. I believe that the consequences are worth every stabbing jolt of pain. I choose to embrace the pain and have as much fun as I can while I can. We all know that life is too short. I would much prefer to die young and have exciting times than to become elderly and live with regrets.

The Power of Breaking Cycles

The Power of Breaking Cycles

January 27, 2015

The gymnasium slightly shook as the sound of rock music leaked out. Trickled out. Spilled out.  Shuffled out. The basketball court wasn’t shaking, but the teacher was. This is where I come in. Near the doorway, a middle-age, slightly pudgy woman is trying to move along with the song “Fantasy” by Earth, Wind & Fire. EW & F can now be found on the Solid Golden Oldies playlist, though I refer to that category as the Moldy Oldies. This is probably why the primary school age kids were protesting my song-choice. I concur with the in a cyclical way.

I never liked old-time rock ’n roll music. I didn’t like the 50s sock hop shit and the 60s were still contemporary. My formative years. I wonder if anyone’s studied music influences during a child’s formative year. What was your first song that caused you to waddle and wobble and eventually fall on your diaper padded butt.

I did say my formative years, didn’t? If I did, I misspoke. No one has ever accused me of being a grown up. Some of us  take longer to mature. I’m like some vintage wine that’s supposed to get better as it collects dust.

Yes, I’m still growing up, though some of me is going up the hill and some of me is going down the hill. The growth of my brain isn’t syncing with the deterioration of my body; it’s like they have two different destinies. The body doesn’t think it has too much more time on this planet, but my mind believes I have at least seventy-five more years.

The job I’ve been doing since the end of October has brought out the kid in me and so much more. Being able to substitute in elementary Physical Education classes has allowed me to regress. I’m not letting degenerative spine problems keep me from rolling summersaults or playing catch. I even ran a bit on the track. I hadn’t been on a track in a while; it looked like it was eight miles round.

My back complains about everything. I bend to put food in a dog’s bowl or better yet fill the water bucket up. This week’s complaint comes to you from last week where I hauled a bunch of equipment from room to room. The other day I set up an amazing obstacle course. My goal was to work as many muscles as possible. And even if the activity was a good-for-you affair, the kids still loved it; my off-the-top-of-my-head (I-think-there-are-too-many-dashes) spontaneous course involved cones, hockey sticks, place markers for Lily pads. It had those big yoga balls that the kids enjoyed rolling off of. The course ended with a mini trampoline that allowed the kids to flop onto big super squishy mats; the kind of mats  they use for pole-vaulting. I can’t think if there’s a gymnastic routine that would use something like this. Big and squish and very, heavy. If a couple of kidletts hadn’t come by to help me, I would probably still be there trying to get it from the gym, out a hall, around a corner, into the girls’ locker room, and finally into the cage where the other squishy mat waited.

I probably ought to have warned you at beginning of this blog that things might get strange here and there, but instead I’ll just ask? Was that last stagnant totally disconnected? Let me know. honthumb@comcast.net. I have been listening to a lot of 60s and 70s music; it’s possible one of the subliminal messages got through to me.

For some reason I am making a short story longer than it need be, but that happens. Where was I? Cycles. Breaking Cycles.

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like changes, but appreciates being able to start over, though maybe I need most things to stay the same and only a few things change. Changing the month to January and changing the year was almost just a little bit too much. I managed to squelch any other changes in my life.

But new month, new year, New Computer? This one is practically a virgin. There’s nothing on it, but the emails that have come in recently, just a few thousand. There are no old documents like my lesson plans from Willamette Leadership Academy. I think I have every single lesson for every single class that I taught at WLA. Why? I haven’t gotten around to throwing them away. If you are astonished, imagine those same electronic files in three-ring binders. In the basement these gigantic binders have the hard copies of those lessons. We’re talking about a lot of paper that should be recycled by now.

Let’s get back to the Family School where I teach Mondays through Wednesday. Today’s lesson plan involved loud music, such as Earth, Wind & Fire, dancing, and fun. Some took advantage of it. I knew I hit the target when a few of the I-hate-gym-kids were moving to the music, and even more of the non participators grooved to the tunes after I turned the DJ’ing to one of their kind. Just make it school appropriate. One person asked me about such and such a song that I hadn’t never heard of, and I asked if the language was appropriate. Well, it only says bitch once, and you can barely hear it. No, the student didn’t say it, just said the b-word.

A few minutes passed as I wiggled and flailed about the gym, encouraging those resisters to dance, and dancing with the others. I had a blast.

I told the kids that in my fifty-four years, almost fifty-five, I didn’t dance much. I probably did some shuffling about and swaying when I was a young kid, but somewhere along the way, I picked up a passenger and her name was embarrass. I stopped dancing because I didn’t want to look like a dork. I can’t remember if my first partner danced. I think Nancy did. Phyllis definitely didn’t. I don’t think State Troopers dance. And now I’m still partnered with a non-dancer, Sylvia would want to do just about anything else if it would spring her from dancing.

I tell the kids that pe class is more than playing dodgeball or Sproutball, which was today’s game of the day. PE is also about balancing mind and body. I leave the spirit part out just because people get weird around that subject in a school setting, even alternative schools.

Dancing is so much more than thrusting about  while trying to catch the next big wave. For me, dancing is a part of freeing that passenger I picked a long time ago. Maybe it’s more like kicking that passenger out of the car and telling her to take a hike. Go play in the traffic I tell her; just like the way my sisters used to tell me. We lived on a dead end.

Unfortunately, my back is screaming bloody murder right now, reminding me that it’s way past the time for some medicinal treatment.

The Power of a smile trumps pain

I’d rather be in pain and teach my way than sit on the sidelines.

While I write this, my back is killing me. Nothing will touch the pain. Not even morphine. I’ve tried. For now I just have to grin and suffer.

It helps that I come from the old school in that no pain is no gain.

Now, I only expect pain to come from working out and playing sports. The pain is like my body sticking its tongue out at me for being so lazy. But I never expected to endure a pain that’s so much worse than the out-of-shape muscle building pain by teaching.

I’ve been subbing as an elementary Physical Education teacher at the Family School in Eugene. This is my dream job. It just took me thirty-seven years to get there, but it’s only a temporary job. If the school ever locates a highly qualified elementary pe teacher, I’m out of luck. I started the job at the end of October.

I’m scheduled through the end of January, and then I’ll return to the holding pattern. Since October I’ve been doing the job week by week, and sometimes I am not told that I’m needed until I show up. Good thing I keep showing up.

It’s only a twenty-hour a week job, so benefits aren’t in the picture. Yet, it’s my dream job. I love the kids, and some of them have told me that I’m the best pe teacher. I know they aren’t just saying that. The staff is great. The school is so laid back, the kids call me Susan. This is a  far cry from my military school teaching experience where they had to say “Captain Honthumb” or “Ma’am.” And to top it off, like a cherry, I’m only six to eight minutes away from my house. I love being able to come home and spend some time with my dogs. I can’t say that the school lunches are very good, but heck, I can’t have everything, can I?

As I wiggle and wince in my green comfy chair, I’m reminded that I don’t think I’m meant to be a pe teacher for the long-run. My body can’t handle it.

Today’s weather in Eugene was so spectacular that I couldn’t resist taking the kids outside. They have a really nice track.(I hope not it’s one of those dangerous tracks made from ground up tires. Those are cancer-causing nightmares, but I’ll have to write about that at another time.)

So what does this almost fifty-five-year-old out-of-shape person do? I ran some of the track. I did this with each class. At one point, I couldn’t catch my breathe. I’ve had asthma before, but never due to running. It was kind of scary, but not scary enough to prevent me from running again in the next class. 

My original lesson plan called for basketball drills and a game, but this impromptu sun-invoked plan also involved the obstacle course. I had never seen it, but one of the kids asked me if they could do it. Sure, I said. Why not?

The obstacle course mostly consisted on monkey bars and other overhead overarm things to grab onto.

All was fine until a small boy, a second grader, asked if I could help him. He was having problems reaching the rings. I held him up by his hips. I didn’t realize that he was going to transfer all of his weight onto me while I held him. I got the workout, not him. By the end, he was barely holding onto the rings.

Another kid saw me and asked if I could help him. This caught on like a wildfire. How could I tell them no? I couldn’t.

The other day I was at the chiropractor’s office as my back was screaming at me. I told him that I had been doing summersaults earlier. He laughed. I didn’t have a choice; there was a girl who didn’t know how to do one. I had a better chance of teaching her how to do one if I could show her how to do it first. I do the same thing when I teach reading. I like to reading to the kids first, so they know how it sounds. Of course, my back doesn’t hurt after a reading lesson.

Today there was a little guy, Cole, who said he couldn’t do the obstacle course; it was too hard. I told him that I would help him. Again, I found myself holding him up more than Cole holding onto the bars, but while we were doing the course, he had the biggest grin on his face, and was absolutely priceless.

I would rather be in the thick of things, doing things with the kids than sitting on the sidelines.

This also means I won’t be doing this job for that long. I’m starting to think that I better get my writing career off the ground and can transition to something that doesn’t cause me to run to the medicine cabinet.

The Power of Living Like No One is Watching

January 25, 2015

The Power of Living Like No One is Watching

Have you ever imagined that your life is in fact a television sit-com? Perhaps a show from the sixties. Leave it to Beaver. Dick Van Dyke’s show. Hopefully at least one of you have had a similar experience. I don’t like being the only one who feels like this.

I’m self-conscious about almost everything I do. You may think this is strange, but I even feel this way when I home alone. Dogs and Cats don’t count.

The feeling is like there’s an audience watching All The Days in the Life of Susan Honthumb. The Laugh and Applause lights help cue the audience during the show. I probably ought to have a groan side as well. Don’t worry if you fall asleep during the show; at least I was able to do something positive.

The pressure of performing my life in front of a live audience can be nerve-racking and stressful Even though I’ve been doing this bit for almost fifty-five years, I still screw up. I don’t always remember my lines. Often I change things around and sometimes it works and sometimes I fall flat on my face. I try to be perfect. I try to be liked. I’m always successful in these endeavors.

There’s a lot of power, personal power, to be gained by being able to Live Like No One is Watching. Think of the power in harnessing the sun. I don’t expect that I’ll turn into a fireball, but barely having a pulse isn’t the way I want my life to be. Possibilities are endless. With this power, I’m able to cut the strings and move in the directions that I want to go, not the direction I think you want me to go. I really get twisted in a knot when different people want different things.

Being able to live like no one is watching is the difference between Living and Pretending. Going through the motions.

Earlier today, while listening to Pandora, one of the songs, perhaps Journey’s, Don’t Stop Believing, I saw a preview of how I could live the next half of my life. I was kicking up my heels and having a blast. People would say I was a firecracker. This was much better than living with habitual stage-fright. Deer in the headlights.

The only reason I’m spending all of this time weighing in on the issue of living in the shadows of self-consciousness is how much I struggle around music. I love music. I love singing along to a song regardless if I can find the notes or the words. I listen and then try to jump. It’s kind of like jump roping.

While singing with Soromundi Lesbian Choir of Eugene, I wasn’t studious. I remembered as many words as I could, but often I would follow what I heard and in mixed formations of parts, I didn’t always follow the right pattern. Instead of singing the Tenor II part, I’d slide into the Bass section or every so often I’d personate a Alto. I saw looks that made me think I was screwing things up. To prevent mistakes, I began to mute my voice so that the people around me couldn’t hear me. I also had muted all of the fun and ended up quitting the choir even though it’s the perfect place for me to sing in and to sing out.

Some of you may be asking what’s the big deal? So what if I look like an idiot on the dance floor or can’t sing on tune?

I try to think that it doesn’t matter. The game then becomes a tug-of-war game between the voices that tell me to sing along with AC/DC and scream out the song, Back in Black or at least play some air guitar. But my insecurities are holding the other end of the rope and they try suffocate the desires to just play with the music. I try to avoid the quagmire in the middle of this tug-of-war game that’s called embarrassment. There’s nothing worse than making a fool of myself.

The difference between a life without anyone watching and having stage-fright for fifty-five years is like the difference between dancing and singing to a great band playing and sitting still, avoiding contact with the music. Dancing around versus motionless? Which looks more fun? Which is more fun? I’d have to say that dancing and singing to Steppenwolf is much more fun. It is impossible for me to not react to the America when they sing, Ventura Highway. My feet getting tapping. I know all the words. It helps that they sing in my range. Sometimes that doesn’t even matter. I’ve tried to follow Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, and those two sure have pipes that can reach the Heavens.

I’ve been looking at this issue for the past few days, thinking that it would be a great blogging topic. I’ve stopped and started close to a dozen times. The longest document was eight pages. In each and every one of them, I felt like I hit a wall and couldn’t move any farther.

I don’t like admitting that I’m self-conscious. There’s not many things I won’t admit to, but this one feels just a bit more personal. Maybe you will think I am crazy and I’m being ridiculous.

I’m a puppet with self-consciousness pulling the strings. What I do. What I say. How I look. Will the Audience ratings go up or down. There’s always the risk that the show will be cancelled. It happens all of the time. People are fickle in what they like. If my audience were dogs and cats, I’d have no problem. Anything goes. I’m sure I have driven people crazy when I baby-talk with my dogs or make strange sounds that the dogs like.

It’s important for me to work through self-discriminating behaviors. I know by telling the audience to go home, I’ll be a much happier person.

Living like No One is Watching frees me to think about better things than what you and everyone may think of me. It frees me to just be. Keeps me from second-guessing myself, trusting that I’ll do the right thing. And since there’s no wrong way to do anything, that shouldn’t be hard.

I’m probably not alone in that different ages effect how I behave.

When I teach elementary school kids, self-consciousness fades. I can’t say that it goes away completely, but I’m more apt to go off script when I am with kids. I can be spontaneous. I can be my true self. I struggle with middle school and high schoolers as I worry about what they think of me. I know I’m not supposed to one of their friends, but it does help to be liked.

There are shades of my self-consciousness. There are times when the cloak is barely visible and I can flit around and sing off-key without a care in the world. It’s when the cloak is black when my inner desires are shielded, shrouded.

To be able to live like No One is Watching opens doors to possibilities. It allows me to   put down the extra baggage I’ve been carting around. But to live like this is a constant battle. I pretend that when two people are whispering they aren’t talking about me. There’s that saying about Faking it until you make it. I’ve been doing a lot of that in my life. There must be something wrong in letting others know that I can’t do something right.

Self-Consciousness has effected my entire life. I can remember clearly in middle school French class. I was more afraid of how my face looked in attempting to say certain words like Oui. The vowels require more funny mouth positions. Middle school is the worst time for Self-Consciousness. I know that isn’t a real word, but I like it.

Being a writer is all about exposing oneself and letting the carrion pick away at my bones. So why would someone who is so self-conscious want to put myself out there for others to see and judge my worth. Am I worthy of your time?

There’s one place where I don’t worry about looking foolish, and chances are it’s a place where I do look foolish. It’s my car. Especially my Mini Cooper. When I slip into the black leather sit, I take on another persona. I sing. I move about. I drum on the steering wheel. And in many cases there are people watching me. But I don’t care. My goal is to take that experience and spread it around to when I’m not in the car.

The Art of Finishing

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ryan Farish, a musician played, “Sea of You,” New Age stuff, while I started this blog.  Perfect background sounds to help me stay focused, though as you will notice with this writing, the task of keeping me focused is almost impossible.

Certain music allows me to find the sweet spot in my writing. Instrumental music with a steady and predictable beat. Can’t have bird sounds as that only gets my dogs, Ricky and Abby, going. I try to tell them that the birdies are in the TV, but they don’t believe me. Good thing they aren’t around now as there’s an owl in the background.  really got my fingers moving. Music with drums fits my typing tempo.

I also have a hard time shifting between moments of time. One of us has to get used to that. Sometimes I think I could have been Virginia Woolf in a previous life. Maybe I ought to go to England and see if I recognize one of her homes. Like her, I’ll flit between this and that, hoping that I can capture a real moment.

Ryan’s piece of music has me thinking about The Art of Finishing. Just sort of popped into my head.

Maybe in a previous life I was a construction worker. I was what you would call a rough carpenter. I’m good at cutting wood and pounding nails, but expect to get splinters and the nails won’t be straight. Not much in my life is straight.

I’m treating this blog like a 12-step program. First step is to admit that I have a problem. Hi, my name is Susan and I can’t finish things. For instance, stashed away, deep in a box, and deep in the stack of boxes, a couple of Crewel projects sit, waiting for some attention. For some air. None of the stuff in these boxes have seen the light in so long that I’d be breaking the Geneva Convention. (The only reason I know the phrase, Geneva Convention, is because of Hogan’s Heroes. I have no clue what the conventions are.)

Crewel is kind of a needle point arts and crafty activity. Cross stitching is another threading experience. The difference is in the stitching. Stiches like Satin. Something to do with knots. Crossing over. There’s no pearling in crewel. The stitch that I really enjoyed the most or at least was the easiest to make was called the split stitch. Stitch a thread or would that be thread a stitch? Anyway, the line is sewn and then the needle pierces through that line in the middle. I must have pricked my fingers and thumb many times. I wonder if my being so hard on my thumb has got to do with my last name Honthumb. Coincidence? Not sure why I refused the thimble. Probably same reason I don’t like to garden with gloves. There’s a kinesthetic quality the bare hands give me.

I started crewel projects in the 70s or early 80s. Maybe even in the 60s. Franny Littlehale taught me, but I don’t remember if I had stepped into the icky teenage world. I’m starting to think that I must have still been young and innocent. Though this means that I’ve held onto the starts for even longer than I first guessed.

I’ve held onto these unfinished projects too long. But I tend to hold onto everything too long, which is not a revelation to me. No epiphany here.

Would the notion that I used to live on a dead-end road bring me to an epiphany? Maybe this is why I don’t finish things.

I feel especially bad for one of the unfinished project of cute little puppies. The intention was to gift this to my sister Deb. I even showed her the pre-gift: the picture on the kit’s bag. The outline of the puppies on the canvas was cute in itself, but until the multitude of thread colors joined imprint of the picture on clothe, the difference is like the difference between One dimension and Three dimensions. I do remember promising Deb that I would finish it and give her the final project. I don’t remember if the puppies would to be playing on a pillow or be behind glass. It is a really good thing that I didn’t tell Deb when I would give her the work of art.

Now, if I were to task myself to find those pitiful pups and loose threads, this would be a long-entailed mission. (Is entailed the right word?); (And can I have a question mark and an apostrophe next to one another? Grammar’s not my strong suit. Just ask all of the teachers I had all the way up through college.) Where would I begin to look for those forlorn pups? There are boxes in my closet, in the basement, my study, basement kitchenette, rec. room. At least there are no boxes on the main floor, and only boxes of clothes in the loft of the Dome.

Finding the puppy project would almost be like hunting for a needle in a hay stack, which is something I have never done, though I have dropped needles onto the floor while creweling. I had an easier time finding them since my eyes were younger then.

Art of Finishing. Not my forte. (I really wanted to put an accent on that e, but spell checker slapped my wrist and gave me a red squiggle. I wonder if I can change it to a purple squiggle?) I have referred to myself as the Emily Dickinson of short story writers; The major difference between Emily and I, aside from my not thinking of myself as a Frog, is that when people found Emily’s poetry, her poems were complete. When someone reads my work after my death, they will find a lot of unfinished stories; the only thing complete will be my journal. It’s good to have something that is always done. Probably could say the same of this blog.  (Though if that were the case, I wouldn’t be revising it for the fourth time.)

Going down the analytical path of The Art of Finishing, I question what keeps me from finishing stories. Great therapeutic question. Next I’ll be asking myself how I feel. But today, my psychologist switched on his flashlight on as we entered the pitch-black tunnel of What will it take to make me a successful writer? (All of those words in the tunnel title probably ought to be capitalized as it’s a very proper place, but you’ll have to pretend as I’m not going to revise this for the fifth time. I plead the fifth. Better than drinking a fifth.

Dr. F is turning out to be a valuable member of my team. To make room, I may have to cut the Psychiatrist. Between our talks and the Neurofeedback, the light is shining brighter with Dr. F’s guidance. (By the way, it took me weeks to remember the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, especially when my psychologist is a doctor. I still reverse the labels.)

As Dr. F lit the path for today’s session, we talked about my being a writer and what it would take for me to become a successful writer or at least one that is on the threshold. The metaphor of my not being able to enter the room was my image entirely, not Dr. F. I get the impression that the vision he sees has me sitting in a room with ideas flying through my fingers as I actively write.

On the surface, the answers in becoming a professional writer seem easy, rather routine. After all, routine is synonymous with easy or at least a routine makes things seem easier. For example, one of the first things I learned as a bowler was I had to have my own routine and I had to stick to it. Pick up ball. Clean ball with a towel. Make sure coast is clear and I don’t jump the bowler to my right and left. Look for the correct board to stand on and step to it. Make sure elbow is touching the same spot it always does, right above my hip. Make sure I’m planted with my knees slightly bent. Left foot slightly ahead of the right foot. Not much space between feet. Get the wrist and ball at the right angle. Breath deeply as I don’t think I breath as I walk down the approach. Walk five steps. Look at my target and not the pins, and make sure I’m balanced at the line. The breath again and either celebrate or wear a grimaced face. The slightest variation mean the difference between a split and a strike. Between winning and losing.

Repeating the routine over created muscle memory and allowed me to not have to think about any of those things. I don’t remember the exact phrase, but an old-time bowler once told me, “If you think, You will stink.” So true.

Maybe the blog should be about routine and not The Art of Finishing my stories.

The blog could also be about what kind of routine do I envision I will use as I write. Does being a home body mean I should always write at home? How much time should I write? I don’t have a very long attention span, but ADD will do that. Should I pay attention to word count or page count or neither? How many times do I re-write? As I mentioned this is my fifth time through the draft. Am I already sinking in the bog? Where do I get feedback and what should I do with that feedback? Should I write on my laptop, my tablet, or my phone? Should I write by hand/? Ink? Pencil? For a while I only wrote with a fountain pen. Favorite pen began with a W. Waterman. This brings up a dusty memory. I loved that slender purple pen. I’d panic, as I do today with my cell phone, if I didn’t feel it in my pocket. Maybe a good routine can prevent me from thinking about all of those things?

When Dr. F mentioned the word nurturing as a necessary ingredient for the solution to my problem, his face lit up. Nurturing. His words really stoked the fire.

Perhaps it was the wonderful waffle that I had at Off the Waffle that helped me take my therapy session dialogue to a higher level. An Epiphany. The kind of epiphany that smacks you upside the head.

Why don’t I finish stories?

Maybe the better question is why do I start another story before finishing up prior starts? I have oodles of story fragments.

An attempt to explain why I may not finish stories is similar to my experience in learning how to build a fire. I struggled building fires in the wood stove. Just when I thought I had the fire cooking, fire would sputter and choke. Watching the last ember extinguish, I’d feel disappointed, frustrated. The fires that were the most disappointing were the ones that I had enough confidence to walk away, but then I would return to the dark with not even the slightest blink. It’s not very nurturing of me to walk away from my fire prematurely. I’m about to contradict myself, so I better keep moving on.

Luckily, Sylvia’s a great fire-starter.

Last year, or so, I finally experienced some resemblance of being a successful fire starter. Is there a specific name for that aside from Arsonist? Fire builder for the good and not the bad.

Anyway, Sylvia taught me to first make sure I had enough kindling to tease the fire to get it to stick around. We have years and years worth of twigs and branches on the property. I usually go out and fill up an empty a very large dog food bag of these things that make up the forest floor.

Building a strong foundation is important in creating a fire. I tend to do the log cabin style, but I’ll play around with the Tee Pee style. Regardless of structural name, the most important thing is to make sure I give the fire enough air to breathe between the wood and other fuel. It unsettles me when I hear the wood hissing and popping as fire slowly engulfs it.

If were I to compare this experience to writing, I let my stories get too much air and they die. Maybe the stories are blown off of my to-do list. Can something die of having too much air? Aphyxiation. First stab at the word didn’t work. Afixiation? Affixiation? Third time’s not the charm. Affixation? Fourth time I nailed it. (Why the heck I wanted to stick in an extra i, I have not a clue.)

Back to why I don’t finish stories. Maybe it has more to do with not being able to stay on the same subject for very long. Some of you have probably already noticed that while you read this blog, I’m all over the place. Call me The Tangent. That will be my super hero name. Maybe I should live in Tangent, Oregon.

Why don’t I finish stories. Better yet, What can I do to finish stories? The Why really won’t help me out.

Instead of letting my stories sit for so long to breath, I could shorten the wait time between writing and editing. Months and even years tend to go by before I revise for the final time.

Time to hold the horse. I’m always putting the cart before the horse. As Dr. F. suggested, finishing the story is critical. Editing and Revising is so removed from this step. I need to think Beginning, Middle, and End.

How do I know if the story is finished? As I do have one or two or three finished stories, stories with a beginning, middle, and end. Stories that have been through the ringer. What do I do about those stories that I have picked at and revised a zillion time but they just don’t feel done? Maybe I need to let go of that feeling and there’s no such thing as a feeling of done. Right now, my stories are onions; every time I revise, the onion sheds another metaphorical layer.

But I mostly have a lot of unfinished stories. How can I finish them? Believe it or not, but this blog is showing me a little bit about the Art of Finishing a story.

As I mentioned, I’m on my fifth draft of the blog. I wrote it in my journal, thinking that I’d be one draft in and be done. Nope. I re-read it and took stuff out, put stuff in. I copied it to my Word Press blog page, but go the hankering to look at it again. About half way through I hit a wall and couldn’t go on, so I took a break. It just wasn’t feeling so good; the puzzle had way too many pieces missing. So, I cut it and pasted it to a word file.

Perhaps the largest flaw of my writing routine is that I tend to not finish editing the entire piece before I begin another edit. That does effect the true number of revisions I make on a story. I’ve not really revised this five times. It’s more like a fraction or a decimal.

The first thing I can do is to lay off of the edits and nurture the story instead. Just as raising children, it does take a village to raise a story. Don’t you love the way I go from fires to raising children all in the same breath.

With this blog, I have managed to at least write a draft from beginning to end. I’ve managed to give myself some breathing time to take breaks and stop when I realize that I’m no longer getting oxygen to the brain.

But to nurture my writing, I want to develop a no going back philosophy. Can I refrain from endless slashing and deleting? Is that possible? I’m not sure it is. Is it possible to stop analyzing whether I have the exact word or phrase or sound? Nike says to just do it. and that’s what I need to do. That’s what I want to do. I  Just  need to sew it up and call it done on my end.

Call it coddling or pampering, even spoiling, but my band new infant baby of a story needs a lot of love and support to allow it to grow and at this point allow other people to support and nurture my story. Dr. F’s  prescription for being successful involved just two things: Structure and Nurturing. Just another thing in my life that needs fertilizer.

Back to the fire analogy. For me, when I build a fire, in addition to building the framework, I often found myself on all fours blowing on the embers, to energize them. I enjoy being a billow. I love the feeling of the heat on my face, and then there’s the glow. I didn’t realize how into fires I was until I started writing this blog.

What I need is for people to blow on my writing, to help me keep the spark aflame and prevent the embers from dying prematurely. Too many things in my life have died too early.

It’s not like I live in a vacuum. I do have a wonderful nurturer of my writing. When I share what I am writing, especially with Sylvia, I feel that warmth of the fire on my face. Last month, I was working on a story about my grey cat Stanley. I would write, and this is where the crying while writing fits in, and then have Sylvia read it.

She’d read and respond with supportive criticism. I seldom take her words in a negative manner; her words get the fire going. I’ve not had that experience with that many people. And often times if they did say positive things, I tended to not believe them.  I definitely didn’t have that experience while taking Graduate Creative Writing classes at the University of Oregon. Those graduate students stomped on my work. I was, after all a lot younger and tender back then. Need to take those things into consideration. I’m saying I’ve become a tough bird. Actually, I won’t know this until I ask for feedback.

For the particular story, the one about my cat Stanley, Sylvia and I went through the steps of my writing: I’d write, she’d make suggestions. I would re-write. She would read again and tell me more suggestions. After the third cycle of what was feeling like a Gerbil Wheel, I’d sigh, “really,” put my head down, my tail between my legs, and shuffle back to my green comfy chair. Back to the drawing board, remembering that fertilizer will only make the story grow stronger and be fuller.

I did finally publish the story about my very first cat, Stanley, on my blog page. My penpal from my Salem, Massachusetts was so sweet to have read it and send me a note, but that’s the only response I got. But as I sit and think about that story, I may have only published only the first draft. The Pre-Sylvia-read story. I know I had planned on revising the published first draft, but I’m not sure if I actually did follow through on that intention. But since I’m not so good on on following through and finishing things, I’ve got my doubts. Since I’m not much of a better, I would say that the good intentions slipped through the cracks.

I have told you that I like clichés, haven’t I? I like them, so you may not want to follow this blog. Clichés are the sprinkles on an ice cream cone. I don’t like cake and cupcakes. Of course this only makes me think about wanting my cake and be able to eat it as well.

Let’s see if this analogy works: Publishing a polished blog is like crossing Yosemite before it split. Publishing in its infancy has the earth split. That one little step could have been the difference between getting one response than a hundred and one responses. I don’t think the metaphor works since I don’t think Yosemite is like an earth quake and once the edges touched. Maybe they did. Maybe I’m just making a story up.

The bottom line is that my stories need more Oxygen.

The Power of Word Choice

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Think about the word Could. How often do you say the word? Write the word could? The word could strikes me as not being much of a word. It’s a maybe word. There’s no commitment with that word. Now by saying I would. I have a higher chance of following through with action.

There are a few words in my lexicon that I’m trying to get rid of. Trying, I think, was one of the words. The phrase, “I think” is definitely one of the catch-all phrases that just brings doubt and hesitancy into my life. The word just isn’t on the list until now. Take out the just in the above sentence and it confirms that doubt and hesitancy is brought into the picture.

Another phrase that I would like to eliminate. I will eliminate is never. Never is a mighty big catch-all phrase. Why paint myself into a corner? Chances are great I will never eat lima beans again, but there’s no guarantee there. I know our taste buds change as we mature, but because I am on the other side of the maturing hill, losing senses is more my speed.

While I lament on the things I want, I mean will be working, I also want to pat myself on the back for working through one behavior. I’m applauding myself for something that I have worked on for a while, though I have an idea that the work was done in a previous life.

I am really good about not saying yes. When I say yes to something, there’s no a shred of doubt in my mind, and I tell people that I feel gratitude in being asked.

I tend to keep my plate rather free. I get crazy if I’m like a ping-pong ball bouncing all over the place. It’s bad enough that my brain does that; I don’t have enough energy for my body to be doing that as well.

Today, for example, I had an appointment for Neuro feedback at two this afternoon. I would have been done at quarter till three. I had a chiropractic appointment in downtown Eugene, but Eugene’s the kind of city that almost everything is just fifteen minutes away, though this doesn’t count the Beltline or sixth and seventh streets. Second appointment was at three. It was doable when I set it up, but just like using a shoe horn to put on shoes, if the shoe’s too tight to fit and a painful wedge has to do it, why wear those shoes.

I’d already missed one Chiropractic visit, which is what the second appointment was today, and I didn’t want to miss another. And since the neurofeedback session was the shoe-horned event, I came to my appointment early and was able to start the session early.

The relief that I felt when I walked into the chiropractor’s office more than fifteen minutes early was priceless. I didn’t have to panic about being late. I was able to find a parking space close. I try to keep Murphy on his toes. Typically if I am running late or just barely on time, parking spaces are frequently scarce. I have been kicked by Murphy more times than I can count, so why play his game?

Because of the neurofeedback, the chiropractic care, the great day with my pe kids, I’m on cloud nine. Should Cloud Nine be capitalized? I think it should as it’s right up there with Heaven. It is heaven. It’s a proper noun. Why number nine? Are there other numbered clouds. I’d probably prefer Cloud Eleven.

Since I got onto the subject of the Power of the Spoken Word or more precisely, Word Choice, I started to think about Beliefs. My Beliefs.

I was raised Protestant Episcopalians. Raised is too strong of a word. I have no recollections of going.

I was baptized at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Weston, MA. I was confirmed at St. Peter’s. I only remember hating it. Just another thing forced to do. I know we went as a family to the Big Days. Easter. Palm Sunday. The night before Christmas. Did I miss any?

It was probably my father that criticized this young minister of trying to draw young people to the flock by growing his sideburns long. Not sure now as I think about it where was the harm.

All of my sisters were married at St. Peter’s. My mom and father’s funeral services were at St. Peters.

But I’m not exactly sure what it means to be an Episcopalian. I know that the Catholic Church scares me, and I don’t support such male domination in anything.

In my youth, I proudly announced that I was an Atheist. I think I shifted from that into the Agnostic. There’s more elasticity in that believe. I believe in something, but I’m not sure. Hey, sue me if that’s not that right definition of being an agnostic; that’s my definition.

Lately I have found myself listening to religious music on the car radio. Maybe there are more stations than there have been because when I scan stations, I have been landing on the modern rock-style religious song, so not only does the music itself grab hold of me, but the messages are starting to make an impact.

At first, if the song contained Jesus Christ or if it felt too preachy, I flipped stations, but that elasticity in my Belief System has expanded what I desire to listen to.

Not that many days ago, I got my bowling teammates stirred up. Sorry Amy and Bill, but it was a great stirring, I think. Both Amy and Bill are devout Christians, and when I started asking questions about their faith, they had a lot to talk about. I love the passion and excitement that they feel.

I wish I felt that strongly about something. But right now it certainly isn’t religion. I think my biggest hang up is the science of the World and that there’s plenty of religions and Gods that are so much older than Jesus Christ. Why can’t there be room for lots of different Gods? I’m not one to say that Native Americans or other cultures are following a false God. Is it about Ego? I know it’s about Love. My bowling teammates Love me and want me to find my way, but I guess for right now, their prayers will have to suffice.

Having a vision motivates me

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Power of Vision, the power of imagining what could be possible.

         When I set my sights on something, I will go through hell and high water to get what I want. For those of you who know me will say that I am more than determined to get that something. My sisters called it being spoiled. Maybe they are right, but usually I am willing to do whatever it takes get that something, and I don’t think of that as being spoiled.

But once I get a picture in my mind, it’s like catching a whiff of something and my taste buds won’t be satisfied with replacements.

Typically, the power of imagining the possible involves sports. I’ve been trying to use it for other things, like my writing.

This is my attempt at doing such.

When I am able to capture a Polaroid picture of what I could be, this motivates me to make that picture come to life.

Imagine a movie where the soldier pulls out a picture of his bride, his girl, his child, and then imagine that this image drives the soldier to fight as hard as he or she can. Maybe the image determines whether the soldier even makes it back home.

The Power of Vision is extraordinary; it’s the backbone of ingenuity and the creative process. Most people who create or invent things have a resemblance of what they are making before they even start to create. Sometimes it’s just a vague idea.

I’m certainly not going to compare my visions with those of a soldier who is praying to return to loved ones, but both share the desire to do more than merely survive.

The Power of Vision has allowed, is allowing me, to see my life in the future and help me to map out the steps that I need to get from Point A to Point B. If you Build It, They Will Come. It’s more than that. If I can see it, I can do it is closer to the idea I’m trying to get across.

The Power of Vision allows me to imagine a finished product and then imagine what I need to get it done. Once I know what I want, I can set goals and get the ball rolling so to speak.

I’m starting to think that the image of the solder and loved ones isn’t such a good idea and I hope it doesn’t come back to bite me because there’s no way I want to leave an impression that my silly little story is comparable. Readers, don’t be too harsh on me for using this metaphor.

Perhaps because I’m such a competitive person, when I envision myself playing a sport, I create the biggest stage that I can play on. In my version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I beat Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito in a two on one at the Boston Garden. Doesn’t get any sweeter than that. Unless you are a girl and aren’t supposed to be playing hockey. I suspect that many of the girls on the Waltham Angels, later to become the Waltham Wings, had similar fantasies of skating circles around a pro, and we had the players that could have given a professional a run for their money. I immediately think about Amy Crafts and her defensive Prowess.

I love the following quote that Phil Esposito had about scoring since he was such a prolific scorer for the Boston Bruins:

“Scoring is easy. You simply stand in the slot, take your beating and shoot the puck into the net.” (McDonell, Chris. Hockey’s Greatest Stars, page 15.) Isn’t that a little bit like life?

The power of having a vision that I could beat two of the greatest hockey players didn’t get me onto a Boston Bruin team. It didn’t give me the opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. The power of this vision did, however, allow me to squeeze every ounce of joy out of the experiences I had playing hockey.

Even though I clocked a lot of time practicing and conditioning, skated a million miles, hockey never was my strongest suit. Sitting in the penalty box didn’t help matters, but that’s a different story for a different time.

But I did try, and I worked hard at being the best I could. Sometimes even with a lot of work, there’s no guarantee that perfection comes along with that vision, but it sure is a lot of fun to try.

After hanging up my skates and making the move from Boston to the Pacific Northwest, I left the images behind of who I thought I was so I could start to create better images. I’m definitely not the same person I was almost thirty years ago.

I turned to bowling when I moved to Eugene. Ten Pin Bowling. I wanted to create community since the only person that I knew was my best friend, Heidee. I thought that bowling would be a great way to meet new people, create new connections.

Bowling had all of the ingredients to become one of being my most favorite activity. It didn’t hurt that beer was the common denominator for all Bowling Alleys. It was social, which isn’t a huge big deal, but it’s something. It was competitive, which is critical in my life. It was something that pushed me to become better, though drove me would be more accurate.

Similarly to hockey, I wasn’t very good. I threw a back up ball, which wasn’t viewed as good. It’s right up there with the derogatory phrase of “she throws like a girl,” though now that we’ve seen a girl with a 70 mph fastball pitch in the Little League World Series, that phrase isn’t as negative as it used to be.

My visions of being a better bowler took hold and Determination kicked me in the butt to get moving.

To make a long story short, my determination gave me the will to practice. At one point, I was bowling a hundred games a week. My right thumb was so fat from use, it could have been mistaken for a big toe. I bowled so much that my blisters had blisters. Sometimes my right thumb resembled hamburger. Raw. Bloody. Painful.

I was bowling in the Gay Games in Vancouver. Don’t ask me the year as that was at least a life time ago. This was my first tournament. And what an amazing experience. Kate Clinton was the MC of the Games and she had me laughing so hard. But being my first tournament and still a fairly new bowler, I was as nervous as a dog waiting for the Vet.

But when I amazingly advanced from the first round, I was thrilled beyond words. I hadn’t imagined this since this outcome was the furthest from my imagination.

Remember that big toe-like thumb? By the time the next round came about, my thumb was in very sorry shape. As I got ready to bowl, I was chatting with another bowler. Skeeter from Washington. Skeeter and her partner saw my horrific thumb and helped me out. Skeeter, you must realize, was an opponent; she didn’t have to help me. I suspect most athletes wouldn’t have.

Skeeter introduced me to the nasty chemical concoction of New Skin. For a few bucks, I could repair my thumb as if I were fixing a flat tire. First you spread this clear gunk on your open wound. The first time I felt the stinging sensation, I probably swore loudly. I do recall putting some on the thumb of a junior bowler I was coaching and the kid started to cry. Because of the alcohol, it burned my eyes as well. You didn’t have to be very far from a bowler to realize that they were patching a thumb or finger.

There was a little patch that would go on, like very thin gauze and then you would paint another layer of New Skin, though the second round wasn’t nearly as painful. I later learned that if it wasn’t drying fast enough, a tad bit of fire would dry it faster. I never did get used to that method.

Thank you Skeeter for saving the day.

Where was I? Power of the image. I didn’t do the best during the Gay Games, but the success helped make the image clearer, the determination stronger. My imagination of possibilities was growing leaps and bounds.

Aside from practicing, I devoted myself to Ten Pin Bowling as if it were my new religion. On Sundays I view the bowling alley as my church. Seven days a week I invested time. I studied. I took notes. I filmed myself. I read books. I went to classes. I got coaches. I coached. I refused to fail, though mostly I refused to let failure stop me.

My ability started to increase. One goal was to raise my average every year. I also told myself that once my average starts to drop, that would be my sign to change the channel. I guess I was lying. Even though its excruciating on my back, I’ve not been able to step away from the sport.

And so for several years, I inched my way up the ladder. In Eugene there’s a place called Firs Bowl; it was my main base. I rented multiple lockers to store multiple bowling balls. I figured out that if stacked correctly, I could get four bowling balls into a single locker. When tournaments rolled around, I would haul all of my empty bags to the bowling alley to pick up the ten or so bowling balls I would take to the tournament. Good thing they invented bowling ball bags with wheels; that saved me from a lot of unnecessary lifting. It was bad enough that each ball weighed fifteen pounds. My Subaru Forrester transported a lot of weight.

The funny thing about having visions of being better at something is that it forces me to let go of old visions. I remember how excited I was to get my first two hundred, my first five hundred series, my first six hundred series, my first seven hundred series, my first perfect game. With every first, the excitement started to fade. The other day, a good friend of mine, Bill, asked me what I would have to bowl to feel satisfied. The game has to be over a two hundred and I’d have to have a six hundred. Anything less was anticlimactic.

During my early years of infatuation, I used to go to watch some of the better women in Eugene bowl. I was still at the point where a 150 probably excited me, but I couldn’t understand how some of the bowlers would get so disgusted with themselves for a sub two hundred game. I witnessed way too many men throw temper tantrums if they didn’t get a strike or if they missed a spare.

I remember asking one bowler, one of the best in the history of Eugene Women’s bowling, what kind of series she had that particular night, and Karen said, “Just a six hundred.” When I heard her say this, I was dumbfounded. I hadn’t had a six hundred series years; that was my mountain to climb. Yet for Karen and many other high performing bowlers, a six hundred brought no satisfaction to them.

I did say that I was going to make this short story long, didn’t I? I’m already looking at the longest blog that I’ve ever written. I am curious to hear how many people make it through the entire story. (Can you hear the begging in my voice?)

I even use the Power of the Image to become a better bowler simply by imagining. Visualization. It doesn’t take a physical action to create muscle-memory. Seeing a flawless approach. Viewing the path that the ball must take to hit the sweet spot called a pocket didn’t require a ball, a lane, or pins. It just took closing my eyes. Over and over, I would imagine hitting my target and see pins explode, shatter all over the deck of the lanes, especially when the game is on the line.

The Power of those visions allowed me to grow. Each year I got better. Each year I learned something new. And I never cut myself slack. It didn’t matter that I was constantly traveling, sacrificed friendships, though many new ones were created on the lanes.

The climb wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I would show up to bowl and the Susan that didn’t know how to bowl would bowl in my stead and I’d finish dead last. That happened more than once or twice. But that didn’t slow me down. I have this philosophy that all good gardens need fertilizer, and shitty bowling was just that. Failure only fueled the fire to return to the drawing board and try, try again.

The Power of the Image has me sitting on my green comfy recliner writing these words with the picture that some one may be reading this way too long blog. Hopefully it’s been a good read. If so, please let me know.

At least with bowling, when I throw a gutter ball, I know that I sucked, but when I write and I’m the only one that reads it, I have no clue whether I hit a strike or a gutter ball.

Why do I write?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why do I write? Why do I do all sorts of things? Such a classic question. There are some writers who say they don’t have a choice. Sometimes I feel that way. My original motivation was to remember, struggling with memory issues from day one. Remember people. events.

Since I have been journaling since the early 80s, I get to flip back through the years. I tend to look for behavior, for attitudes, for things that need some adjustments. Sometimes it takes quite a long time to see a pattern that needed to be disrupted, but eventually something that I said, either to myself or to someone else, clicks.

In addition to writing to remember, I write to not only entertain myself, but to give me something to do. perhaps in the earlier years that was the case; I’ve got plenty that scream to be done. House chores.

But since writing is such a ritual, the desire to write trumps the desire to do chores or pretty much anything else.

There are a lot of people who write in order for them to know what they know. I really learned that to demonstrate understanding, putting information in my own words, my own thoughts,  was an important skill for doing well in school..

I used to drive my students crazy by making them translate information from a text  book into their own words. For me, I sometimes had to read the text a few times before I could put the ideas into my own words. Writers often write to understand.

I’ve only blogged twice this year, this being the second, and so instead of asking myself the question as to why do I write, I ought to ask why don’t you write for others to read?

Emily Dyer Fricia

Saturday, January 17, 2015

I was wandering through last year’s journal and read an email from my friend Em, one of the last emails I would ever get.

Our friendship grew from a mutual profession. I was a grunt at the Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene, and she had the same unrewarding and thankless job in California. Both of us were aspiring writers who just never got the gumption to follow through with our dreams.

As emails crossed back and forth, the years passed, building a trust that I had never forged before. Both of us had suffered with Mental Illness. I had only recently in the past two years had revealed to my physician that suicide was and is a constant little voice. It’s a dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about. Even my current psychiatrist doesn’t. The other day we talked about everything else. After my 45 minute session was over, she got up and said, “I’ll see you in six months.”

Emily had been going through depression, though she referred to it as mild, and anxiety for many years. After a suicide attempt, a hospital stay, and a lengthy battle, she earned a Medical Disability.  But this seemed to have come at the ultimate price. Before Em stopped working, she had a great working relationship with her psychiatrist, but once her insurance shifted to Medicare.

We both lamented about the guessing game. There’s a zillion different drugs, and it’s common knowledge that we’re mere lab rats. Dosages. Combinations. After a couple of years of being a frequent flyer on Prozac, my new psychiatrist suggested that I add Wellbutrin. I think it was doing something, but I was having a hard time with the side effect of hand tremors. When I saw the doctor again, and I mentioned this, she seemed surprised. Really? And then she increased the dose and that was not a pretty picture. For about a week it felt as if Pandora’s box had opened up in my brain. I was a mess. My doctor did fit me into her schedule and did apologize, but she still recommended the medication, though at a lower dose. I’ve not been able to bring myself to take it on a daily basis.

And this is where the difference begins between Emily and I. I think my doctor realized the other day that she was in over her head with me, and she suggested I see someone else, but she asked me a few times what kind of insurance I had.

I am extremely lucky in that I have Pacific Source, one of the best that I’ve been told. Emily confided with me that she didn’t think the county doctors really cared, and even when she was severely suicidal, she couldn’t get in.

Last March, Emily Dyer Fricia shot herself. When her email bounced back, I knew something was seriously awry, but I hoped that she had succumbed to cancer.

I don’t have any data or statistics to support my concern that Emily was a victim of insurance penny-pinching, but when someone is removed from their original care-provider due to a change in insurance, it seems rather obvious.

After Robin Williams hung himself, that was the common discussion. Books. Newspaper articles. Talk show hosts jumped on the bandwagon, but even my insurance was having a hard time deciding on whether I qualified to see a psychiatrist, even though it says on my card that I don’t need a referral. They’ll cover chiropractic care or acupuncture. I’ve not heard if they are having any concerns over the new psychologist I added to my team; it usually takes a while for the paper trail to catch up.

Mental Health is an expensive. I’m going through a neuro feedback treatment that I had to cough up $1300 for the treatment. I figured it was worth the investment. There are so many people who couldn’t afford such an alternative treatment.

I think about my friend Emily quite often. I don’t know how many times I have re-read her emails, looking for something, some clue that she was about to end her life. But it’s not something to talk about. It’s not like it’s common place that people ask, “So, how’s your mental health been lately?” Oh, I’m told over and over that they are there for me, but it’s not something I am going to talk about while in the grips.

Earlier this evening, I was watching a special on PBS that Belgium allows euthanasia for mental illness. Doctor’s don’t go out of their way to reach out to family members if that’s the patient’s wishes. I am grateful that Oregon has this option, but I never heard that Mental Illness was ever an option, which it isn’t, but I’m talking about a different country, different rules. I’m all about free choice, and since the spectrum of pain is so wide, who is to say what others ought to endure during their life. I can tolerate a lot of physical pain, but emotional pain is a pain that nothing will ever really touch that pain.

Last summer I was soaking in a hot tub in Southern Oregon in the wilderness, and right after I started to think about my Friend Emily, I heard a Great Horned Owl. It was as if she were telling me that she was fine and in a better place. I can only hope so.