Saturday, November 27, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

For starters, I'm thankful to Winston Churchill for having liberated us all from the No Prepositions At The End Of A Sentence rule. Well, most of us.  I know there are a few clenched-jawed hold-outs.  Keep clenching, folks.  You connect us to our Puritan roots. 
So what am I really thankful for?  Look.  Anytime you yield consciousness and control to a man who's about to take a saw to your leg, you are grateful to wake up.  As a particularly delightful bonus, you are grateful to wake up, feeling quite happy to be looking out a sunshiny window with a lot of kind people just finishing up on your new knee and talking to you nicely.  Miss I Cannot Remember Your Name: You were SO NICE.  Thank you! 

So for starters, I am seriously thankful to be alive and walking excellently.  I am also thankful for never getting shot in the leg (or any part of me) during the American Civil War (or any war for that matter.)  I know how lucky I am.  In so many,  many ways.

While I'm being thankful, I should throw in ALL the people, every single one at the Cleveland Clinic.  I agree with Robin Williams that I wish for all people everywhere that kind of medical care and emotional support.  From the guy with the seeing eye dog who hears you coming and welcomes you to the Orthopaedics Department, to the lady playing the harp like an angel in the main lobby, to the nurses and aides who are insanely patient with patients, to the surgeon who totally knows what he's doing and acts like it, to Mary Ann, the surgeon's nurse clinician who totally knows what YOU should be doing and helps you do that with even more patience and good humor than the nurses, if such a thing were possible.  And Patsy, the Physical Therapist, who made me laugh so I didn't notice she was breaking off my limbs.  I am thankful unto you all.  Even, maybe especially, the dog who so warmed my heart with his steadfastness.

I'm thankful for my fabulous, irreplaceable friends and family members who clucked so sweetly about how was I doing and did I need anything and then showered us with cards, food, flowers and food that looks like flowers, gifts, visits, phone calls, emails, and tender concern.  If I do any "especiallys" here I'm sure I'll leave somebody wonderful out.  But folks, you know who you are.  I am thinking of you ... yes YOU ... right now, with such gratitude, not just for how kind and generous you were on this occasions but what miraculous friends you are to me always forever and as-a-rule.  I see your faces as I write. 

And if I have your plastic container, I swear you'll get it back. 

Which enumeration brings us, of course, to immediate family:

Cujo was okay.   He has such a penchant for jumping on the very spot of my knee that should never be touched by cat claws and he did not respond to my condition with either sympathy or empathy.  However, he gets a pass because he's genetically incapable, being a felidae and a true carnivore.  And he's been warm and furry on my behalf.  Every recuperating person should be tended to by a warm and furry friend.  And learn to fend off a furry Knee Attacker.

John's been great.  Solicitous would be the word.  Helpful would be another.  Concerned like you would be if you really, really liked the limping person.  A mother lives for such moments.  Enough said.  Thank you, John, for being my kind and wonderful son.  And for bringing Allie (and her pies) into the picture at just the perfect moment. 

But here at the end of all thankfulnessworthy things, who gets the Oscar for Best Picture?  Who showed up and was incredibly nice about it, every single time I got him up in the darkest section of the night. (Multiple, multiple times.) Who brought me things, even things I didn't deserve, ALL THE TIME?  And told me I was being strong when I was actually whining (or at least groaning) quite a bit. (To be honest there was a lot of groaning and considerable moaning, much of it merely on principle, because if stuff didn't hurt, it seemed to me as if it should.  Or might.  At some point.)  Who was worried and caring and vigilant? Who counted pills and bugged me about the therapy exercises even when I was snarly? And did I mention who was kind?  And not merely kind of kind?  Who made me laugh?  And helped me feel pretty and lovable even when I was ... not. 

Bill.  My Billy.

He has so many points hoarded up in the magnificent guy/excellent husband department, it scares me. I'll never be able to pay him back.  I think he may have covered the "sickness and health" clause forever.   

I also think, skimming back over what I've written here, that the thing I'm most thankful for in all of this is love of one kind or another.  Every clumsy step of the way, I have felt amazingly, luckily, undeservedly loved.  And Bill has loved me in the most generous, forgiving, and encouraging manner for the past way too many years -- and especially for the last month.  Thank you forever, Bill.

So, thank you, all you loving people mentioned and alluded to here.  Like I said,  you know who you are.  And so do I.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No, no, NaNo.

Alas.  I think I'm sunk.  Although with great joy I can report that I'm doing great -- no, seriously, fabulously -- with the challenges of National Knee Month, I don't think I'm going to make the NaNo.  For all kinds of reasons.

I fear I shall never win the right to wear my NaNo Winner badge.  Or even the Rally badge for 5,000 words in a day.

I feel bad about this.

First of all, I am still just in LOVE with the idea of the thing.  The idea of almost a billion and a half words in half of a month.  Ordinary words like "duck" and "book" and extraordinary words like "perspicacious" and "fey."  Unleashed upon the world.  Wielded.  Set free by us writers to do their best and worst.

It plum makes me want to cry.

I have adored being an inadequate, limping member of such a magnificent crazy band of devil-may-care devils.  I already feel as though my cold little nose is pressed against the bakery window of camaraderie. (I am just about one step from lighting matches, here in the snowy night, to keep myself warm.  Oh, piteous.  I am.)

I hate The Quitter in me.  I know her so well.  She marshals excuses.  Identifies the nearest exit.  Tries to look brave and well-groomed instead of sneaky and churlish.  She sneaks and churls all over the place.  And then she tries to be cute about it.  Give her no quarter.  Let her have another box of matches and turn her back out into the snow.  The loser.

I also feel guilty as hell about Agatha Jane Porter and her cat named Hastings.  And Jack her deadbeat dad, the newspaper editor.  And Virgil her handyguy who doesn't want to fix the things she wants to have fixed.  And not the way she wants them fixed, neither.  And the doc.  They're all right there on the very eve of their big adventure: Knee surgery and murder.  Murder committed.  Murder revealed.

I already know who done it.  And I'm as amazed as anybody.  Wow.  Perfidy, most rank and vile.

But here's "the problem."  When I sit anywhere long enough to write anything, it hurts.  It's not agony or anything, but, for example, my hip, which does not have permission to throb under the current administration, throbs.  And other stuff, too.  It just doesn't feel like a smart thing to do for long stretches right now.  And let's face it.  I'll never make it without some very, very long stretches.  I had high hopes yesterday for manageable bites, but it got bad before I got very far.  And I quit.  Loser.

Here's something I don't feel bad about.  My fellow travelers.  Viv.  Maura.  Marilyn.  Viv is plain insane.  I believe she will make it, not because she loves it but because, by gum, she said she was gonna and she's gonna.  She's already poured too much aggravation on the altar of NaNo to back off now.  You go, Viv.  And do not be dragged down by trollish behavior on my part.  Maura and Marilyn, I salute your path.  I hear considerable doubt, but I also know this was a strong and positive step for you.  Keep going.  Everybody keep going.

Because that's what I'm going to do.  Not at the driven, must ... have ... 50.... thousand ... words pace.  Must wear the badge, come hell or high water.  But as much as I can and keep the peace with the hip bone which is connected to the the thigh bone which is glued to the new knee, God bless it.

I have said that I don't see a future for this novel after November.  I have three others that I still have a lot of confidence in and they're done.  They need support and promotion and, yes, dang it, an agent.  But I'll give Agatha Jane all the space I can make for her in November.  Then we'll see.

Want to know what she's like -- without revision or aforethought; all wacky the way characters are when nobody's looking?  Here she is. 

Chapter 2
I Know I Am But What Are You?
My name is Agatha Jane Porter. 
Isn’t that the very cross to bear for a girl baby born at the moment in American history when people of discernment were beginning to bestow upon their offspring imaginative, groundbreaking, exceedingly non-traditional names?  Like Moon Unit?
I can understand, though. By the time of my birth, my father had cleverly extricated himself from the family portrait by skipping town.  This scurrilous decampment left my mom entirely unsupervised in the selection of my name. And given the state of mind I’ve extrapolated for her, I get it.  I totally do.
An unconventional woman who let her MA in English Literature molder on a shelf while she cleaned other people’s houses for a living, my mother came into possession of a lot of her clients' cast-offs:  food, clothes, knickknacks.  Books.
  Someone had given her a couple of big crates of battered old detective novels, enough to fill shelves and shelves in her cramped apartment.  Since she was on bed rest for the last three months before I was born, she slipped between their dog-eared pages  for solace and company, and thus became a human incubator for Agatha Christie Appreciation. 
I suppose I got involved, too, marinating as I was in the emotional soup of it all.  A  petri dish experiment, warm, dark, quiet, kinesthetic with imagination. The small spark of a detective, glowing, there in my watery cell, shining with admiration for Hercule Poirot. I might have been the daughter he never had, but thank the good God that I didn’t get his mustaches.  And it’s also probably a good thing I wasn’t a boy.
I have read that we are shaped by our names.  That they offer a template for our development. Guide us, guard us, sculpt our path.  If I’d been named after Marilyn Monroe, for example, or had I been branched out as Moon Unit, I probably wouldn’t have grown up so completely bony and unabashedly plain.
As it was, here I am.  Skinny, smart, bookish.  Wry sense of humor. A writer from birth. Skilled enough to make a living at it.  Shy enough not to have garnered much in the way of fortune and fame. 
My mother had used the mystical power of naming to secure my future independence.  Old maid material for sure, was I. Born to sensible shoes, cardigans, reading glasses and distracted hair styling.  An Agatha Jane through and through.
Almost inevitably, I achieved a solitary middle age. Living in an eccentric Victorian cottage, on a shady, green old street in a rather backwater, Southern college town. Gardening.  Writing.  All in all enjoying the life my mother and Hercule would have wished for me. I found myself at 46 reasonably financially secure, congenitally free-thinking, blessed with the companionship of a supportive cat—named Hastings of course—and­ for the most part free from the perfidy of guys.
My mother’s final words to me, were by way of admonition and entirely typical.  Pale, wasted, unable to speak above a whisper but still sporting the irrepressible twinkle that was her trademark, she said, “Aggie, you’ve lucked out so far.  Remember, my dear one.  A man is a two-face.  A worrisome thing who’ll leave you to sing the blues in the night.  That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”  She gave me a weak parting grin, breathed, “You’ve been warned,” and closed her eyes.
Content as I was with my world at 46, I might have gone the rest of my life creating fictional murders without ever witnessing an actual one, without ever meeting my own, lost, perfidious sire, or finding my destined Dr. Blues In The Night, if I hadn’t inherited, along with my mother’s independent spirit and love of fiction, my father’s knee.

That's her.  I promise her November.  That's the best I can do right now.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I have a bruise exactly this color.

I know. I know.  You could have lived happily for a long time without hearing about that.  But it IS colorful. And as it fades, it marks my return from uncertain footing to almost normal. I have a proud affection for this bruise, which extends from ankle to mid-thigh.  I can't see or even imagine my fabulous new knee, but that bruise is a badge of honor.  Proof that something happened here.

This is the Me. Me. Me. Report for Thursday.  It's been 10 full days since the surgery.  That time while not in any way dreadful and not nearly as painful or unpleasant as one would expect is kind of ... Weird.  It's passed very quickly in a telescope of days.

Here's what I can do now:  I can walk down the driveway all the way to the street.  I can go up and down stairs and it's no big deal.  I can flex my new knee to 92 degrees -- unless, it seems, I just did that and then I can only get about 85 out of it.  Because the new knee says yes, but the old leg says no.  (At least that's my interpretation.)  I can shower.  I can dress myself.  I can't dance.  Don't ask me.    

I suppose Doc Hammer is the only one who can pronounce my operation a success, but I gotta tell you, I'm super pleased.  I feel lucky.  I feel blessed.

I feel lazy.

This report has been brought to you by Ms. 3200 Words in the NaNoWriMo Challenge.  That's some words short.  A few.   Um.  Like. 46,800 short.  That would be 2300 a day?  And in the place where my ambition lies?  There's a big fat old percocet saying, "Hey. Dude. Let's take the day off and read some more of that cool Bill Bryson book."  I'm currently using all my bouncy can-do to bend my knee towards 93 degrees.  But I know that's about to change.  Know. It.

In the meantime, let me take a moment to express incredible gratitude to Bill -- first of all and forever -- for giving a first class demonstration of how to keep that "for worse" and "in sickness" oath he took back in our youth.  He's been "all about me" every bit as much as anyone could ever hope.  And nice about it, too.  John has been 100% solicitous and helpful and kind as well.  (Cujo hasn't been all that great.  He's a cat.  He's been hoping I'll die so he can eat me.  But I'm pretending not to notice that.)  And my friends!  I have such fabulous friends.  Food, flowers, cards, calls, visits, sympathy, empathy, kindness.  You people are the best people anywhere.  And that's a fact.

Thank you.  Everybody.  Thank you.  I feel very nurtured.  I feel very loved.

And bit by bit, as I kick my drug habit, I'm coming back.  First the blog.  Next the NaNo.  Soon the dancing.

But let's never forget that for one brief, shining moment, I had a sunset on my leg!

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Second That Emotion!


But the good news is, I'm doing very well.  For example, my right knee feels marvelous.  My  head is fine (fuzzy but fine), my arms are quite good, and all my multiple choice of body parts are just peachy.

I'm repaired.  I'm home where the lake is wild and windy.  I'm ready for NaNoWriMo -- and only (yeek) five days behind.  I'll write more about what a uniformly excellent experience I had at The Cleveland Clinic and how Hammer, MD and I are both very satisfied with how things went.  But first a rerun post so I can slam down some words on my lagging novel.  Yay!

My Physical Therapist is coming to visit around noon. I think I shall call her Ms. OOF.

Here's an early post about living next to Lake E from the Like Water For Water blog.

On June 17, 2005 everything changed.

Before we moved to the lake, I dreamed of living near big water. An ocean, maybe. I'd savored a hefty handful of beach vacations, jealously guarding every moment of silent staring. Listening to the tattoo of waves breaking on sand. Tracking gulls and pelicans. Just soaking it up. Back then we lived in a nice old house. It had a nice old garden and small space for a new one which was so terrifically terrible for the planting of anything that I froze just considering what might be done with it. So, we engaged a garden designer and as part of the getting acquainted phase of the plan, she asked what I wanted in a garden. "Uh," I offered tentatively. "I always wanted to live near water." A professional, she didn't say, "Well, maybe you should move." She suggested that a fountain on the garage wall, which was, attractively enough, brick would allow the
sound of water at least.

It did. She found us a lion-headed fountain which my neighbor named Bert after Bert Lahr in
The Wizard of Oz. Bert got the job done. Provided the sound of water. Lulled me for years in that upland patch of pretty flowers. But I never stopped wanting big water. And it was so tantalizingly near, yet so far away behind the barrier of habit and convenience of living thirty years in the same lovely town. But we did it. On June 17, 2005 we moved to the shore of Lake Erie, ten yards from the water's edge, eight-point-eight miles and a hundred light years from our old familiar place. Bert came along, but when the pump died, we didn't replace it. Now we plant him full of flowers. A kind of reverse role from his old garden self. 

Of the sound of water, there is now a plentiful supply.