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March 31, 2005

Getting Paid

I feel very rich when I have time to write and very poor when I get a regular paycheck and no time to work at my real work.” Natalie Goldberg

In “Muses Like Moonlight,” my first collection of poetry and essays on writing, I wrote… “Who can I bill for the 8 hours it took me to research and write this commentary?” I asked my husband, Joe, as I slapped a stack of paper on the kitchen table. I had just emerged from the computer room, which was beginning to feel like a dungeon. I complained to my brothers and sisters – via our email group link – that I had carpal tunnel of the body. After 4 more hours, I told them I had computer chair “bedsores.”

Not only am I not going to get paid, but nobody cleaned the kitchen while I was working!” I added. Joe looked up calmly from the book he was reading. He wasn’t thrown off guard by my loud display because he knew that, for all my complaining, I was exhilarated by my accomplishment and glad that I was finally done.

The essay happily concludes like this:

My commentary (Voting Machine Voodoo) was published at COMMONDREAMS.ORG on the evening of the day I submitted it. The next morning I went to my computer to check my email and found the following: “This is by far the best article I have read to date related to the voting machine fiasco. Thank you for using your obviously superior research skills and brilliant writing techniques to bring us into the light of truth. Congratulations!!!”

As the day went on, more responses poured in… “Excellent! Thank you for including references… and… “I have a political radio talk show…Would you be willing to do a 15 minute interview on air?”

I printed out a few of the emails that the commentary had generated to show to my husband. When I did, he not only looked up from whatever he was doing, but he physically got up to see what the excitement was about. After reading, he looked at me, smiling, and announced, “YOU JUST GOT PAID!”

The commentary was picked up by a dozen other internet sites. It was published in the Roanoke Times newspaper (December 12, 03) and the New River Free Press. I did the radio interview and got to plug my website. Hey, maybe I got overpaid.

March 30, 2005

The Blog Keeper Is In

Friends want to know where I’ve been. It’s hard to explain. It’s like I opened a new business with my writing, and my blog is the storefront. As a poet and writer, I’m used to doing what I love without it resulting in any income to speak of. I did have a couple of new book sales this week, though. My blog links to my web page, which is a contact place for my books. And my web page links to my blog. Shall we call it a franchise of sorts?

My husband, who is a counselor, says that computer addiction is a new emerging disorder. For some reason, he wanted me to know the danger signs, so he showed me a list of symptoms, which include:
1. Being dishonest or minimizing the extent of the time you stay on the computer.
2. Spending more time than you intended on it.
3. Feeling of depression or anxiety when something or someone shortens your time or interrupts your plans to use the computer.
4. Having a preoccupation with the computer and computer activities when you are not using the computer (thinking about the computer and its activities when doing something else).

“Yeah, I’m probably addicted…but I want to be!” I protested to my husband and then went on to explain, “Some people have a workshop or a studio. For a writer, a blog is like that. And if you have a shop, you have to put in a few hours a day shop keeping; don’t you?”

My husband is actually very supportive of my writing and all that is involved with it. But, when he hears me walking up the stairs to the computer room, I want him to be thinking…She’s off to work…great…what a dedicated worker she is…and not…She’s addicted to the computer. Is there a treatment center for that?

After shocking myself by actually posting a photo for the first time yesterday morning, and then typing today’s entry out, I came up with another symptom to add to the above list, when I realized I had forgotten to eat breakfast. So…#5 is: Forgetting to eat.

Do you have any internet addiction symptoms of your own?
Here’s a less serious list of signs to watch out for.

March 29, 2005

Hometown Activism

floyd peace rally muse 2 crop (03-19-05).JPG
Small town group of peace pro-fessers on March 19th, 3rd anniversary of the Iraq War. This photo (or one just like it) made it on the front page of our local newspaper.

An Altar to the God of Politics

I don’t hide my politics. I don’t think of them as something separated from the rest of my life. The laws that politicians make directly affect my personal health and welfare, as well as my civil and human rights. During the 2004 election, an African American man was being interviewed by a nightly news reporter. He said something that still sticks in my mind: “If you don’t vote, you might as well be saying…do whatever you want with me.” You could also put it this way: “If you don’t engage in some politics, you might just as well say, do whatever you want with me.” It was politics that brought us the Iraq War under false pretenses and with no post war plan.

I’m a registered Independent and my politics are generally progressive. I come from a working class background, and so I think if the top 1% wealthiest Americans can have a big tax cut, the working class should get a minimum wage raise. Without a decent wage and affordable health care, how does President Bush think the average family can invest in the stock market for their retirement, as he proposes they should? When I think about the stock market, I think about men jumping out of windows when it crashed during the Depression.

I’m fascinated by how many people will vote against their own personal interests in order to vote for an “image.” Never before has politics been so contrived, marketed, and superficial. In the news of late, the Bush Administration has been implicated in a series of questionable and potentially illegal practices that have included: distributing fake news spots to promote their policies, allowing fake reporters in the press room to toss them soft ball questions, and paying pundits, who are supposed to be independent, to further promote their agenda. Unfortunately, the makers of product advertisements are held more accountable than some of the claims the Bush administration has made.

After the recent presidential election, I was devastated that the administration that has given us the worst environmental record, the highest deficit, and the worst case of anti-Americanism in history had managed to stay in power. (After much research, I have come to the conclusion that the 2004 election was fraught with fraud – but that is a possible post for some other day.)

After the election, I quietly constructed a simple altar as a way to express my grief. (No, I don’t have a voodoo doll of President Bush.) It sits on a tiny spot on my kitchen credenza and consists of this: A small round tin of mints decorated with red, white and blue stars and stripes with a picture of President Bush’s face placed on a cartoonish body. In one hand he’s holding a missile, in the other a bag stuffed full of $money. Purchased at our local health food store, the words on the tin say: National Embarassmints. Next to the mints sits a short cut out poem, about 2” by 2” in size. Written about 15 years ago, but always applicable; it reads:

Change armory into harmony
Change artillery into art
War into worship
and nuclear into new clear

Change invasion into vision
Conquer into concur
Change bombs into bonds
Change end into mend

March 28, 2005

Return of the Forsythia Bush

Joke told at my house: Last fall we put a new roof on our house. My husband also repaired the gutters. In preparation for doing that, he cut the forsythia bushes that lined our front porch back to the ground. It looked like a drastic bad haircut, one that revealed how crooked the porch flooring had become. Soon after, my eldest son came to visit. I heard his truck pull up in the driveway. I heard his footsteps coming up the path, pause, and then stomp up the front stairs. He swung the front door open and announced, “I hate the bushes! I hate the bushes!”

“Me too! Me too! Let’s get them impeached! I answered.

Joke heard over lunch at the foster care provider meeting I attended last week: What do you get when you cross a dyslexic and an atheist? Someone who doesn’t believe in dogs.

Speaking of dyslexia, can you read this (sent to me by my brother, Bob)?

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe and the biran fguiers it out aynawy.

P.S. The forsthiya bush gerw back and is aoubt raedy to boolm.

March 27, 2005

Blog Hopping

I’m a new kid on the blog block and so I appreciate this ingenious way to meet other bloggers. It’s called “The Weekend Meet and Greet” and is hosted by Michele at her “all things Michele” blog site.

How it works: Leave a comment on the Meet and Greet entry, such as “hello Michele.” Then go to the name above your comment and hit the link to their site. Leave another comment there, ending with “Michele sent me.” Soon your own site is in the pool of possibility and you will be visited by new blog friends, more than once if you choose to play the game more than once. And just see if you can contain your curiosity and not visit back the people who visited you. See what I mean by blog hopping?

Michele’s blog is a blast! It’s full of interactive games, such as word association, finish the sentence, the daily three things, and site of the day, and other daily comment games. She’s all about spreading what she calls “comment cheer.” And it works. When she visited my site recently and left me a comment, I was not only cheered, but elated because, as far as I’m concerned, Michele is a celebrity in the world of blogs. Her enthusiasm is contagious.

March 26, 2005

Speaking Bloggish

I may speak English, but I think in Bloggish – that ongoing internal conversation that when put down on paper amounts to writing. My bloggish comes in blocks of thought, too short to be a commentary or even an essay, but just the right size for a …post.

Even my first book, “The Jim and Dan Stories,” about losing my brothers a month apart, was written in blog-style blocks. At first I was confused by the format that dictated itself, the slightly disjointed short pieces that I struggled to name. Essays? Vignettes? Journal entries? In the end, when viewed as a whole, those short prose pieces wove together a story; partly an account of my brother’s last weeks; part a memoir of growing up together in a large Irish Catholic family; and part a chronicle of my personal experience coping with all-consuming grief.

It seems that my mind thinks in excerpts from a larger text that fills my mind. I don’t think in linear “start to finish” ways. I’m one of those people who thinks in flash bulletins and browses through books from back to forward. Or I look at a word like “thinking” and see “thin king” or maybe “king thinking.”

Blogging comes natural to me. It reminds me of the high school notes that my girlfriends and I wrote and passed to each other in the school corridors. Whenever we got a chance, we picked up where we left off, channeling our thoughts, as though we were taking dictation from the Muse.

Blogging also appeals to my sense of efficiency. I like to speak and receive language succinctly, but I frequently struggle to put the right words together when articulating in the moment. I know exactly what I should have said, after the fact, usually when I’m writing it down. At a recent Spoken Word Event in Floyd, it was my turn to read my poetry. “Some people write because they don’t like to talk,” I announced to the audience before clearing my throat to read, hoping the written word would speak for itself.

Being a blogger, when someone asks me how I’m doing or what’s new, I can now skip the conventional perfunctory answers and refer them to my site address. Time for a letter home? Print out a blog page and catch everyone up. And of course, the archivist in me says, “Let’s get this on the record!”

Writing is the way I synthesize whatever I’m learning at the time, but it’s also the way I catalog what I already know. With blogging, I can cross reference myself and then match the results with what others are saying.

It’s a social activity too. Eventually bloggers find each other, and so you meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. As a once prolific letter writer, I have always felt that writing is a good way to get to know one another, believing it has the potential to reveal more of one’s true self than the physical presentation can.

Don’t like small talk? Would you rather share insights? Explore topics? Are you a homebody who finds anything but the occasional social event overwhelming, or maybe superficial? Maybe you’re like me, a person who loves to get mail. You could be a blogger too, and blogs can be as light as a “pen pal central” or as serious at the watchdog political blogs that have recently been keeping the news media on its toes.

Finally, I think blogging is an act of self-sufficiency that isn't dependent on editors and publishers. Not only is it an immediate forum where you can develop your writing skills, I also believe that when you share your creative output, creativity grows larger in you.

There are lots of reasons for blogging. These are some of mine. I think I’ve been dreaming up and storing blog drafts in my head since I was a young girl. Early on, I was aware of an internal monologue, which would come through most clearly when I was off on my own, roaming the open fields of un-mowed grass and Queen Anne’s Lace in my hometown of Hull, Massachusetts. It was as if I was on a quest to perceive the world and then translate it by putting it in my own words. From there, I have arrived here… blogging on the Blue Ridge @ looseleafnotes.com.

March 25, 2005

Life is Stranger than Fiction

My friend, Juniper, got two speeding tickets in one day. One of them got thrown out on a technicality. Her vanity license plate said SACRED, but the cop wrote SCARED on the ticket.

I once left my journal in an Applebee’s restaurant after having lunch there. When I went back an hour or so later to look for it, I discovered that it was being used as a shim to balance a wobbly table.

I had an aunt named Alice Gertrude who went by the name “Gertie” and another aunt named Gertrude Alice who everyone called “Alice.”

Add one of your own…

March 24, 2005

I Yield for Poetry

Even if it’s 1 a.m. and I went to bed at midnight
Even if I’m meditating and I’m not supposed to open my eyes
Even if I’m driving and I have to scribble it on my hand
Even if I’m in the dentist office and I have to ask the receptionist for a pen and write some notes on the margins of a People magazine
Even if it’s now 2 a.m. and I have to walk across the kitchen floor to get a notebook and I know that my feet will get cold


Full Moon Insomnia: I

The moon is a jewel
under my pillow
like the princess
and the pea
I can’t sleep


Full Moon Insomnia: II

I’m trying to sleep
but the moon has other plans

I follow its bouncing ball orbit
like reading subtitles in a foreign film

It says: Wake up and write this all down
before you lose such good reception

I’m a nightshift stenographer hired by the muse
to take down the moon’s business

March 23, 2005

Editor Wanted

Rejection slip for ''The Diary of Anne Frank'' - The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ''curiosity'' level.

I submitted an essay to The Sun Magazine last week. Yesterday my husband noticed a typo in a copy of the already sent cover letter that was lying around in the vicinity of the kitchen table. Looking at the page with the typo on it, made me think of Native American beadwork.

I used to make jewelry – some beadwork and some wire work – and I was employed at Seeds of Light (a bead shop in Blacksburg) for many years, which is how I became aware of the following tradition: In some tribes, a bead artist will include an off-color bead in the midst of an elaborate and otherwise uniformed bead pattern. I have a Hopi peyote-stitch key chain like this. At first glance, and if you don’t know of the tradition, it looks like a mistake was made. I’ve heard that the off-color bead is used as a signature. Or, I’ve also heard that it’s meant to keep one from losing ones soul while gazing into the hypnotizing pattern.

I don’t claim such a thing for my typos, but it’s fun to think about…

Sometimes with writing, my mind sees what I meant, more than what I actually wrote. No time for editors or writing workshop feedback in the fast paced world of daily blogging. So far I have had 3 typos pointed out to me by readers on entries that I must have read more than a half a dozen times before posting. While I appreciate knowing about the typos, I also wonder, why is it we can’t easily see our own mistakes? Our own faults and body odors don’t bother us either, as much as those of other people.

Misspelled words? It runs in my family. I like to remind myself that standardized spelling only came into existence in the late 1800s. And this is what Andrew Jackson said about it: It’s a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.

I say: “Thank God for the spell check.”

March 22, 2005

Getting to Know You

10 things I’ve done…that you probably haven’t” came from Melinama at Pratie Place - at least that’s where I first saw it. It’s another fun way to get to know each other. Feel free to share your own list. I would love to print out a collection of some of the most interesting ones. This is mine (in no particular order because my mind doesn’t think like that):
1. I jumped into a hole in an ice covered pond, naked after a sauna.
2. I lived below the poverty level for 15 years as a single mom raising 2 sons.
3. I got interviewed for the Roanoke Times on 2 occasions for home schooling my young sons.
4. I put a down payment on my house using money I earned selling my jewelry at Grateful Dead shows.
5. I got married on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The setting sun and rising full moon were in the sky opposite each other, like a bride and groom. It was a blue moon.
6. I wrote a book about losing my brothers a month apart, which spurred a Hull Village reunion in Massachusetts and a story about in The Boston Globe.
7. I swam in a phosphorescence bay at night in Puerto Rico. Every move I made lit up the water like day-glo
8. I lost my shoes in a Washington DC park while touring the Smithsonian Museums with a group of Blue Mountain School kids. They wouldn’t let me in to the view the Hope Diamond because I was barefoot. I felt like a dejected orphan working through a poverty complex.
9. I once went to a Halloween costume party and no one there guessed who I was. I then went in the bathroom, took off my costume (black), which revealed a different one (red) underneath. I went back to the party, confusing every one.
10. I met Jessica Lange at a Washington DC Peace March in protest of the Iraq war, handed her my poem “Dream for President Bush,” and she said “Thank you.”

And number 11, to end on an odd note (are you really counting?), I set up my first blog largely by myself, which is right up there with jumping in the ice pond naked and was a lot like looking up words in the dictionary that I didn’t have a clue how to spell.

March 21, 2005

My Normal Abnormal

My Asheville, North Carolinian, potter son, Josh, who is also a closet super-hero, turned me on to New Castle Beer, a dark but not Guinness dark beer made in Great Britain. Around the same time he showed off – what he would call “flash treads” or more informally “kicks” – his new pair of New Balance sneakers. For about a year after these incidents, whenever I was in a restaurant ordering a beer, I would ask for…“a New Balance, please.” Someone would usually laugh. Someone else would look confused.

The mix-up is understandable, if you know me. More recently Josh hand-built a treadle wheel, a pottery wheel that you operate like an old model sewing machine, with your foot. I kept calling it “the tread mill.”

My language confusion is not due to a lack of intelligence. I know this because last year I took my first IQ test and was surprised at my respectable score. I then challenged my husband, Joe, to take it. What was I thinking?! I might just as well have asked, “Shall we play with fire now?” (The IQ test story is one for another day.)

Joe is a master at translating me. Like yesterday morning. I was looking out our bedroom window that overlooks the driveway when I made this remark, “Except for the fact that it’s dirty, my car looks pretty clean.”

Translated: "My car is usually dirtier." We live in the country on a back dirt road, so clean cars are relative.

And when Joe gets home from work and asks how I’m doing, and I answer, “My normal abnormal,” he knows I’ve had a pretty good day.

March 20, 2005

Blogs in the News

Apparently blogs now have their own version of the Academy Awards called the annual “Bloggies.” Here are a few interesting blog facts that I got from a March 15th BBC report covering that event:

* Blogs had a big year last year, with a top US dictionary naming “blog” word of 2004.
* Technorati, a blog search engine, tracks more than seven million blogs and says that more than 12,000 are added daily.
* But a recent Gallup survey revealed that only one in four Americans were either familiar or somewhat familiar with blogs.
* More than half, 56%, said they had no knowledge of them. Among internet users, only 32% said they were very or somewhat familiar with them.

After reading that, I felt smaller than a needle like in a haystack, so I checked out some of the winning blogs for inspiration and Dooce.com was my favorite. It won the best US blog, most humorous, best taglined, and best written. The author, Heather Armstrong, helped coined the term “dooce,” meaning someone who gets fired from their job because of the contents of their blog. It’s not a DC tell-all-who-you’ve-slept-with; Heather lives in Utah, was raised Morman, is married with a young child, although, her writing is edgy. A photo posted on her site yesterday, shows (her) in a black T-shirt with boldly printed white letters that read: “I’m blogging this!”

March 19, 2005

In My Own Handwriting

Found on a scrap of paper this morning and in my own handwriting: “If no one is going to quote me, I’ll quote myself.” Is that a quote?

March 18, 2005

Tools of the Trade

1. "Are you digging the snow? was my preferred line all day yesterday after 5 inches of the white stuff fell on us, here in Floyd County. I used it on everyone I spoke with, online or otherwise. It started out innocently enough in a blog comment I made to Doug, after viewing his photos of the snowfall. I tried it later on my son, when he came up the mountain from Roanoke to provide some direct-care for our foster care resident so that I could get a break. It went over his head. Maybe the question was too baby-boomer-retro for him to understand the double meaning.

Here’s what he said upon coming through my front door” “Mom, your kitchen is a mess!” It was.

“I know,” I answered. That’s because I’ve been in school all week learning new things on the computer. The problem is that I’m the teacher and I don’t know anything! And that’s why I need your help today.”

After setting him up with a Candy Lane Game and a few instructions, I collected my various stacks of books, notebooks, and loose disheveled pages from various parts of the house and went upstairs to the computer room…and locked the door.

2. All the tools of my trade collect into groups. Right now there are 4 cobalt blue mugs on my desk. Pens are scattered everywhere…one is in my pocket…a few fell on the floor. But sometimes when I really want a pen, there are none. I also have 4 pairs of reading glasses on my desk (not counting the ones on my face). 3 of them are broke at the hinges, but I save them for back-up (knowing what sometimes happens with the pens.)

I don’t even want to mention notebooks. I try to buy them in different colors, so I can tell them apart, but it seems that I start writing in one, and then prematurely go onto a newer one, until soon they all look the same.

I have scraps of paper with words scribbled on them in every room of my house. (Some people actually use file cards?) Here’s one that just says: “Things that make me have to put on extra deodorant.” An idea for a new list or a blog entry, I suppose. Below it is written, simply “105,000.” I struggle to remember that it’s probably the suggested mileage # for changing the timing belt on my CRV. Some of the various sized scraps of papers have web addresses or phone numbers written on them, and others seem to have expired, which means that I waited too long to do something with them and now I can’t read my own writing anymore.

This is the order of my disorder. But it’s not just writing. It’s writing and cooking. My kitchen isn’t any neater than my office, as my son so honestly pointed out. Something about cooking and writing seem related. This is what I wrote in a prose introduction to a group of poems in Muses Like Moonlight, titled “Job Doesn’t Work.”

When you work at home, people think you don’t work. That’s because often you don’t. Part of the writing process is avoiding doing it, because you know once you get started, it will be all-consuming. I spend a lot of time thinking about writing, getting ready to write, collecting ingredients, cleaning off a space, as though I were going to bake a cake. And speaking of cake, sometimes it seems that the bulk of my life revolves around acquiring food, preparing it, eating it, and cleaning up after eating. Multiply that by 3 times a day, add any others you cook for,throw in snacks, tea or coffee breaks…and that’s a pretty full day. I wonder how I get anything else done.

Okay, I feel better now. I think it’s safe to unlock the door and head downstairs…to clean my kitchen.


How a poem is like cake

Don’t use a mix
or stale ingredients

Don’t look in the oven
too much when it’s cooking
or eat too much at one sitting

Don’t over-sweeten
or over-stir

A baker and a poet
are both concerned with flavor

It’s all about consistency
and knowing when it’s done

March 17, 2005

Moving Day

My first blog was born on March 12, 2005. Five days later it took its first step. With the help of my friend, Doug Thompson, I have moved on to another server, faster and easier to use, I am told. Coincidently, on the day my blog was being set up at this new location, the blogger.com server that initially hosted my blog was inoperable for nearly 24 hours and no one could post during that time. I’m sure every blogger knows how frustrating that can be. (See yesterdays post.)

Is it also a coincidence that the rebirth of my blog is making its debut on St. Patrick’s Day? Was it a coincidence that my parents named me, the only one of their 9 children who has taken an interest and our Irish heritage, Colleen, which means “girl” in Gaelic?

My profile photo on this blog was taken in Glendolough, Ireland at St. Kevin’s Monastery in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland. A shamrock is pinned to my sweater and a waterfall is behind me.

My husband and I both have grandparents who were born in Ireland. We have an entire shelf of books devoted to our love of the country. We also have German ancestors, which is probably why I love the following quote by John Steinbeck, who apparently has a similar background: “I am half- Irish, the rest of my blood being watered down with German and Massachusetts English. But Irish blood doesn’t water down very well; the strain must be very strong.”

I understand what Steinbeck means. This is what I said for a press release announcing my first published collection of poetry, “Muses Like Moonlight,” which appeared in our local newspaper: “The Irish side of my family is rich with storytellers; some poems and a song have been published, and there are a few unpublished novels still floating around. I think the Irish influence in my poetry manifests as humor, my love of wordplay, and my inclination towards short poems (about limerick size)."

Coincidently, the poem I have posted below was written on the very day my blog profile picture was taken… in the spring of 1999.

Saint Kevin’s Monastery
Glendalough, Ireland

Lime-green shamrock umbrellas
Ireland loves me
She loves me not
She loves me

I press them in journals
like a monk preserving archives
or twirl them like kilts
on giggling girls

In the name of the Mother
the Sun and the Holy Wells

Ireland is a green kite
let go by the fairies

Landed in the ocean
and anchored by rock

March 16, 2005

Question for Other Bloggers

10:00 a.m. – Are you familiar with the impatient weight in your fingers when you have a post “copy” to “paste” but have nowhere to paste it? And what did you do with your time when you couldn’t get on the blogger.com site all of last night and so far all morning to post today’s entry? I cleaned off my desk (or made a dent in it) and sent in an essay submission to “The Sun” magazine. If my submission is successful, should I thank blogger.com for being unreliable? What nice things might have happened to you, due to the fact that the server is down? P.S. If this keeps up, I may even get started on my foster care quarterly reports for my…you know…that other thing called a job.

11:00 a.m. – Hey and Hooray, I just set up an appointment with our local pubic radio station (I’m too nervous right now to remember what it’s called…begins with a W) to read one of my essays for hopeful airing later. If this keeps up maybe I should hope that the blogger.com site is down all day tomorrow too.

12:00 p.m. – Driving home from town on Tuesday, after taking my regular turn onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, I heard something that I thought was someone running a chainsaw, somewhere off in the woods. By Wednesday, when I drove to my local satsang, I realized that the faint chainsaw sound was coming from under my hood. Hoping it’s not the timing belt, I just arranged a ride to drive me home from Gene’s Auto Shop. Will the server be back up and running, when I get home in a few hours? Or is everything destined to be broke?

P.S. I finally got on 1:00….reality time…and not the virtual time it says below.

March 15, 2005

Spring Fever

Since my mid-twenties I have struggled with something – for lack of a better explanation – in the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome family. My current Chinese Medicine Practitioner does not approve of the term. The emphasis on “chronic” might enable a self-fulfilling prophecy, he suggests. He might refer to my problem as “a yin deficiency”…or maybe cold kidneys?

I’ve spent years describing what it’s like and wishing others could get inside my body to see what I have to endure. My sister, Kathy, has tinnitus. Others I know have chronic back pain. With any of these disorders, the key to dealing with them is managing them; not being personally identified with the symptoms, respecting your limitations, and sometime over-riding your symptoms…pushing yourself a little to do the things you love that help you take your mind off it.

Sitting in the office of my Chinese Medicine Practitioner, whose practices include cranial sacrum energy work, acupuncture, bone setting, and herbal infusions, a newcomer and acquaintance inquired, “You’ve been coming for a while. So, do you feel better?”

I laughed. “You know,” I answered, “you might come here to cure fatigue and be cured of mistrust instead. I can’t be attached to what needs to happen first with healing.” I added, “For me the cure is not the goal – but progress is!” She understood, and I was used to her type of question.

For many years I called my condition “my low energy problem” because the term Chronic Fatigue (which is actually an immune dysfunction) hadn’t been coined yet, and after it had been named, I didn’t relate to the bedridden people who had it. “I’m not bedridden, but I surely know the bed,” I would explain to others.

One of the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue is something I used to call “mini-fevers.” This is when you don’t have an actual “fever” but your body temperature does rise slightly, and you feel achy-all-over like you could be getting the flu (but you never quite do). In the past couple of years I have learned that my mini-fevers have another name. For eons the Chinese have called them “tidal fevers” and they tend to come more in the spring (usually in the afternoon) and relate to heat rising in the body (but then getting stuck)…sort of the way sap rises in plants getting ready to bud at springtime.

I spent most of my life thinking the term “spring fever” referred to “restlessness” or maybe to being “twiterpaited” – a word from the movie, Bambi, which meant an interest in dating and mating (hardly). But now I know different. My spring fevers are back and that old song from the 60s, “You Give Me Fever,” is running around in my head. I guess I should be thankful that I don’t have the flu like other people I know.

First Thaw

Pale as spring grass
beneath un-raked leaves
my skin under clothes
is wilted and withered

My shivering flesh
is the first flower exposed
at the first sign of thaw
when green rumors come true

March 14, 2005

The People I Want To Thank

Ed Wilhelm: I moved to Floyd County in 1985 and immediately got involved in the production of the “Museletter,” a locally published forum that includes event listings, poetry, columns, and more. Back then it was called The ERC Newsletter and was, as it remains to this day, supported mostly by Floyd’s “alter-natives.” It was Ed, who I thought was a bit of a computer nerd but was actually just ahead of his time, and his wife Linda who put the newsletter together every month. Ed was the first person who coaxed me to sit down in front of a computer for the first time. It was a scary sight. EEK…I would jump up on the chair, as though I had seen a mouse, every time I lost a page, or got to a new one without knowing how it had happened. I acted like a high- strung, wimpy, school girl handling a live rodent when I inevitably lost control of the computer mouse and was not able to align its movement with what was happening on the screen. Ed, who was not daunted, provided my first introduction into the world of virtual desktops, folders, and files. Much of what he attempted to teach me then made more sense later.

Will Bason: Another one of those early “computer types,” as well as a fellow Floyd folk poet, who from day one tried to convince me of the benefits of a computer and how one would make my life as a budding writer easier. Will was persistent even though I repeatedly brushed him off. I bet he’s somewhere, maybe reading this, trying not to say, “I told you so.” Or maybe he’s saying, “You’ve come a long way, baby?”

Anonymous: One of my siblings, who blogs under a pseudonym and also suffers with dyslexia/dyscalculia, was several years ahead of me in getting online. When he/she insisted I would “love” the computer if I just gave it a chance, all I could think of was when my friend Ise announced to me shamelessly in 1988 that she “loved” her Mac. I looked at her like she was an alien and vowed never to utter such a thing myself. The above sibling has often been there to point me in a new/right direction.

And most lately, Fred First: Fred, a photo-journalist, radio essayist, and member of my writing workshop, has a premier blog featuring his above mentioned varied talents. Visiting him this past couple of years at his Fragments from Floyd site, has shown me how blogging is a good place to develop and share ideas, how it helps to keep those writing skills oiled and ready to go, and how it can generally broaden a writer’s opportunities and exposure. As I posted in a comment to him recently about blogs…”It’s a writer’s reality show…more current than a web page…more versatile than a business card."

And Nelson: You know who you are.

I will not go so far as to say that I love the computer, but I’m sure on the darn thing a lot. I don’t love it like I love my cup of tea in the morning, but it is edging up to number 4 in my morning ritual routines… not to mention the afternoon, evening, and night.

See you online. P.S. I’m meeting with another fellow Floyd blogger, Doug Thompson, today so that he can show me some more of the blog ropes. Doug has more blogs (and photos of the moon) than I can count on both my hands. Consider him added to this list.

March 13, 2005

Do you feel like this?

The Poem: It starts out as a sensuous pleasure, the right chemistry of words and feelings at play. But then comes the daunting work of putting it all together…digging deeper for the details…editing out the unnecessary…laboring over every line break…all done with an underlying urge to get it all just right. If you can persevere though, the effort will often lead to a satisfying climax, a sense of completion, and an excitement to share it with others. Funny how every creative process is like birth, marriage…or sex.

The poem posted here was conceived out of frustration, rather than sensuous play, but still…it has its play. (The only thing missing is a line about rewiring my own coded template.) It’s meant to reflect the imperfect state of my blog and to express how I feel about my lack of skill and ability to fix it. (It’s still not safe to hit those sidebar links.) Firstly, I’m not a computer programmer and every new thing I learn on the computer seems to take hours of uphill effort. Secondly, my husband – a counselor with one class away from his Master’s – has been doing homework on our only computer all weekend. My husband and I have been known to bicker about who’s in control of “the mouse,” as if it is an extension of our hands and to give it up would be an amputation. If we’re in the computer room together, we’re likely to be possessive of the mouse, in the same way we are of the TV remote. I like to watch the news on all 4 channels to get the gist of what stories are being covered or not, and, needless to say, my husband has other ideas about how to watch the news.The poem was written about 10 years ago and was recently resurrected when one of my sisters used the word “discombobulated” in an email post to me. “Do you feel like this?” was my answer.

Remodeling

I’m a discombobulated
arrangement of cells
running askew

I need a screw
to tighten my grip
because I’m loose at the hinges

Or maybe I’m under construction
expanding my own dimensions
and I need a level to keep it straight
until the changes fall into place

March 12, 2005

How's It Working For You?

The Good News: Putting up my first blog was easy. In fact, I inadvertently created 3 of them.

The Bad News: It took me 5 hours to post my picture in "About Me," and in the end it wasn't me who did it. (Thank you to Nelson Pidgeon, my tech support webmaster). Posting blog messages is easy and I quickly understood how to make links. I have a rudimentary understanding of how to post pictures now, but I haven't done it myself yet. Too busy doing other things. Such as; figuring out how to delete the other 2 blogs I mistakenly set up.

Day 2: After several hours navigating around, I actually figured out how to get into the template code to rename some of the sidebar settings. But - and this is a warning - don't hit those links (you'll probably just have to now) because they are not what they say they are. I haven't figured out how to put the text I want in them. For a technologically challenged person with dyscalclia (a variation of dyslexia)I'm amazed at what I've done so far, but the rocket science isn't over yet. The last thing I said to my husband, before turning out the lights last night, was: "All I want to do is write, but I feel like I have to invent the printing press first!"

Day 3: The first blog message has been posted. (Although I had to type it twice because I forgot to hit save before preview and I lost most of it.) Please feel free to send any helpful advice.