ON WRITING/READING

November 24. Good morning! It’s another new day and another blank page. I thought I would talk about writing since I am reading Stephen King’s On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft. It’s a very good read. He is a very successful writer. I would heed his advice. That’s the biggest light bulb moment for me just now – to listen to those humble successful people. I’ve wasted so much energy and time on little pesky critical thinking-they-know-it-alls. Come to think of it now, I’m guilty of being a know-it-all myself. Eeek! Writing can be illuminating, spotlighting my own flaws. It’s like dust motes in sunlight. Now that I know, I will do better. No more unsolicited advice.

Stephen King’s advice to be successful at writing is that you have to read and write alot. I have been reading since I can read, first in Chinese and then in English. I have long since lost my Chinese. I had only a grade 2 when we came to Canada, but I could read my mother’s Chinese books. Being 8 or 9 years old, my mother didn’t want me to read her adult fiction books. Shed encouraged me to read newspapers and to learn English. You can imagine what happened with that advice. 

I HAD to learn English. It came easily with the help of Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, Puff and my teacher, Miss Woodall. I can’t remember the exact moment that I held up my hand to ask permission when I felt nature calling. Before that I just got up and left the classroom and went to the basement where the batheooms were. I am surprised I remember all that and their names after all these years! I’m at an age where my memory is deteriorating. Writing is good for brain health. It would be so much better if I can make it a regular daily morning habit. My mutterings could serve as my memory and mood board. It could serve as my brain health chart.

Books were and still are good friends. Libraries are happy places for me. We didn’t have a library in our little town then. A library on wheels came to town maybe once a month. I think you can get more books more often by ordering through the mail. I can’t remember how that worked but the postage was free. I read many of the Little House on the Prairies , Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys books through that system. Then there were Little Women, Little Men, the Bobbsey Twins and…

Enough now for today. Keeping it simple, let me finish with my 3 daily gratitudes.

  • I am grateful for this morning’s ski in the North and South Park. The track was not great today but still ski-able. I got fresh air and exercise.
  • I am grateful for today’s mobility class. We ran through a range of exercises for various joints. I always come out feeling better than before.
  • I am grateful my mood is improving. I am feelings bits of sparkling joy.

DEMENTED CHRONICLES

It’s a cool cloudy foggy/smoky August 23rd. Yikes! Summer is almost over. It certainly feels like autumn this morning. My body and mind are certainly confused by our sudden dips and climbs in temperature. It was only 2 days ago that we had been having blistering hot 30+℃ temperatures. I was at our community garden watering our plot in the heat of the afternoon. I was careful to don my big brim hat and long sleeved work shirt. I harvested a few tomatoes, a cabbage and my Georgian Candy squash. The Georgian Candy was new to me. I was attracted by the description as ‘heirloom’ in the seed catalogue. There was no picture of it. I had expected it to look like a squash. I was pleasantly surprised by its unusual appearance.

August 31. It seems like a long while since I was here but it was only 8 days ago. I left without finishing the conversation. I don’t know if I can pick up where I left off. I feel bereft of words, desire and ambition of late. I don’t know how to get them back. Nothing seems important any more. I feel somewhat jaded. I’m kept afloat by good habits I’ve developed over the years. I guess I do have some cares yet. I’m just tired by the heat. Today is hot as hell.

Sept. 8. Darn, another 8 days have passed. Much has happened in my silence. The Queen died today. I can’t say that I am emotional about it but I have to say she was a great dame. She worked and performed well right to the end. It is really quite remarkable. And now Charles will get to be king. He is the King. And Camilla is named Queen Consort with Elizabeth’s blessings. How wonderful is that? Meanwhile in the Commonwealth of Canada and in our province of Saskatchewan, all have not been well. We are reeling from a Labour Day weekend of violence and deaths. True, it did not happen to me or many personally but I am sure we all are affected. ‘What is in one is in the whole.’ Words by Caroline Myss.

Sept. 9th. I think I am losing my memory and a lot of my mojos. I’ve been late paying my bills the last couple of months and finding my words and the love of them are a bit difficult. I hope what we all fear the most is not on the horizon – dementia. There! I’ve said it out loud. I will have to pay more attention and be more present. I’ve been distracted in many directions.

Sept. 10th. My mind and memory are not any sharper today. I’m one day ahead of myself, thinking today is the 11th until I was alerted otherwise by Facebook. Egad! I am in a muddle, having just come back picking up my prescription from a new pharmacy. Even with Googles map and been there once, I got lost. We don’t have too many roundabouts in Saskatoon. I don’t have to navigate one too often. When I do, I get into a dither about exits. As a result, I keep exiting from the wrong one. Thus I’m directed back by Google and spent many minutes driving round and round. I’m trying hard not to waste more time and energy distressing about it. It is what it is.

I still haven’t got all my bills straightened straightened out but have set up a monthly alert to pay them. My big ones are taken care of so late fees on remaining ones will be minimal. I am at least prioritizing. I was hoping to do some tomato saucing today but it took me longer to vacuum the floors than I had planned. I will close out here, get the dishes out of the way and head outside to harvest more tomatoes and cleared up some of the beds. It will give me a sense of accomplishment. I will do better tomorrow and tomorrow after that. I need to pull myself up by the bootstrap. My inner and outer chaos is driving me crazy.

MY BLACK HOLE

I’m stretching myself, trying to move a little faster. I poke along like a snail with my head inside my shell. I have no vision or plan. It’s no wonder I get nowhere expediently. I’m just riding a stationary bike. I can’t even tread water. At the moment, I’m sipping tea and snacking on sweet potato chips. It’s not great for staving off drowsiness. It’s something once started, hard to stop. I’ve instructed the guy not to buy them for me any more.

I was talking about forgetting how to turn on my headlights the other night. It was such a strange thing. This morning in the car I could plainly see where the lever was. How could I possibly forget? It was as if there was an empty spot in my brain at the time. A black hole. I vowed to strive for better brain health. I’m giving it some serious thought.

Aside from a little snacking now and again, I eat a pretty healthy diet. I’ve cut out endless cups of coffee since I’ve retired. I’m catching and making up for my sleep deprivation from shift work. I think I have 2 more years to go according to some research. I go to aerobics 3 times a week. I swim once a week. I walk Sheba every day.

I’ve been monitoring myself for toxic emotions. It’s my biggest fault and downfall. I’m a highly sensitive person. I feels things deeply – the good and the bad. I hang onto feelings for a long time. I take things personally. Not so good. I could at one time feel my cortisol level rise with my emotions. I have better control now. I’m slowly learning to relax and to let go a little. I have a long ways to go yet. I’m aware and working on it. Then there’s the toxic relationships. Nothing kills more brain cells than toxic emotions and relationships. It’s something to talk about for another day.

SWEET DREAMS

It’s Wednesday, time enough for Friday Fictioneers and their stories of 100 words or so to a photo prompt.  We are hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields of Addicted to Purple.  Anyone can join in.  Here is my little story for this week. I admit it is a little sappy but sometimes it is nice to sweet dream.  Life is harsh.

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PHOTO PROMPT © CEAYR

The summer night was warm.  The moon bright even through her rheumy eyes. A breeze stirred the hair around her face.  She sighed softly remembering another night.

They were sitting on the Lido Deck on the Carnival.  A bottle of champagne and two glasses between them, the moon and stars above.  There was silence saved for the lapping of the waves.  The warmth of the night wrapped around them. They sat in its protected cocoon, savouring their last moments.  Tomorrow…

Her head jerked.  She sat up with a start.  Where was she?  Oh, she had fallen asleep with sweet dreams.

 

A MEMORY

My GrandmotherNelson Mandela’s death and all the news coverage brought back the memory of my dear grandmother, for she, too, had been imprisoned by political forces.  She was not in prison for 27 years like him, but still…the hardships, physical and emotional were all there.  And whereas, Mandela taught the inmates to read and write, my grandmother was grateful for learning to read and write her own name in prison.

I can see the irony in that today.  She couldn’t read or write her name even though my grandfather was a learned man, a teacher, a principal of the school. He was too busy with the school and work in the community to teach her.  She was too busy with working in the rice fields and at home to learn until she was in prison.

And as the most educated man  in their village, he was called upon to do many duties – accounting, reading and writing letters, settling disputes, etc.  People did not have much so they paid with what they had, like a chicken, eggs, vegetables from their garden.  Sometimes they cannot pay.  Sometimes he gives them their old clothes, blankets for the winter or rice that was meant for next year’s crops.  He thought the rice was better to be eaten when someone was hungry.  Next year’s crop could wait.

Sometimes one is not honoured by one’s good character nor  works.  He earned envy and enemies.  When the Mao Zedong and the Communist came into power, there was much confusion in China.  My grandfather’s enemies took advantage and accused him of corruption and wrongdoings.  Luckily for him, his friends got wind of the plots for his life and warned him.  He escaped by a hair’s breath, hiding behind some bushes and made his way to Hong Kong.

My grandmother was the unlucky one.  They took her in his place.  I do not know how long she was in prison but they moved her at least once.  My mother was working in the fields as they led my grandmother past.  She dared not look up even to acknowledge her own mother, but kept her eyes cast down, tears flowing.  One wrong move or anything that can be construe as anti-Mao could be dangerous.

My own eyes are clouded by tears as I write this.  My grandmother has been gone since 1969 and yet she still resides close to our hearts.  I can write no more at this time.

SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS

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I am hearing John Lennon’s song, A Happy Christmas, but I’m having a hard time feeling the music or the sentiment.  I wonder how many people are of the same sentiment.  I’ve been fighting these feelings to no avail.  Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting and I mean it literally and just do the right thing.  Even Sheba looks sad as Santa Claus.

So, I give up gritting and gnashing my teeth.  I get up and down a pain killer along with  my blood pressure pill and vitamin Ds.  No point in suffering and being a hero.  I’ve been trying to make a simple batch of biscuits for the last two days.  The first time, I put in a tablespoon of baking soda instead of a tablespoon of granulated sugar.

How the hell did that happened?  Don’t think that it couldn’t happen to you.  Never say never, because even though I was reading granulated sugar, my brain saw baking soda.  And I never caught the mistake till I’ve already added the milk.  So hoping against hope, I added the missed tablespoon of sugar, formed the biscuits and popped them in the oven.

They came out of the oven puffy and golden, but with a very bitter after taste.  Well, what do you figure?  The recipe already called for 4 teaspoon of baking powder.  It didn’t need an extra tablespoon of baking soda!  Very big sigh.  Mistakes are apt to happen when one is tired or under the weather.

This reminds me of a time very early in my nursing career.  Well, I’ve never forgotten it.  It is always just barely beneath the surface of my mind, ready to pop out.  I was working a set of nights and made a medication error.  Much like my reading of the biscuit recipe, even though my eyes was reading codeine syrup, my brain was saying morphine syrup.  Even though I had to look and look at the label and calculate the dosage each time during the night, my brain told me it was morphine syrup instead of what it actually was.

The incident has taught me not to swear by my memory or my other senses.  Sometimes we are wrong even though we swear that we couldn’t be.  And kindness can come from strange places, like from the patient at the receiving end of my error.  Doctors make mistakes, too!  She comforts me, though she had received less than adequate pain relief because of me.

And from my manager at the time, a visit to her office and a typewritten list of all my inadequacies, at the time when my patient load for those nights was 25.  None of my coworkers spoke of it to me, except the one who discovered the error.  She felt so sorry for me.  Sometimes one’s universe can be such a silent empty place.  You can almost hear the echo of one hand clapping.

 That was the hardest summer of my life.  It happened in July.  I felt I had no one to talk to.  I learned to journal, talk into a tape recorder……all these memories, triggered again by the nurse who was duped by those two broadcasters from Australia into thinking it was the Queen calling and forwarded the call.  I can understand how upsetting it would be to make such a mistake…  well, maybe just a little.  Her mistake was broadcasted worldwide.

The sun has come out.  Time to move on with life.  My Tylenol 3 is working.  I’m feeling more comfortable.  And oh, on my second try at the biscuits, I forgot the salt.  They didn’t look as nice as the bitter ones, but they tasted much better.  I even fed them to a guest and got praised!

I’m a much stronger person/nurse now.  Mistakes are part of every human being/life.  If you see/know another suffering from a mistake, don’t avert your gaze or look the other way.  Give her an acknowledgement/comfort, however you can.  I am sure it will be much appreciated.  I know that from experience.

And here’s wishing everyone A Happy Christmas: