Queen of the Nursing Home

My 93 year old grandmother is in the Alzheimer’s ward at the nursing home. She doesn’t have it, but when they first admitted her she was hallucinating from her medication so they thought she did. Now she’s comfortable and refuses to be moved to the regular ward. She knows the people and patterns of her environment and rules the ward with an iron fist and strident voice.
I walk in to visit her and find her wearing big, red, heart-shaped sunglasses with little rhinestones around the edges. One of the employees gave them to her for Valentine’s Day and now she wants to have them with her when he comes back in. Another employee called her  “Miss Hollywood” so she’s tickled with her new moniker. She wears Tea Rose perfume and one of the nurses paints her fingernails. Her skin is as thin as tissue paper and her cornflower blue eyes are hazed over but she is still just as beautiful as always to me.
The residents gather in the lunch room for activities or just to socialize so that’s where she reigns from her wheelchair. She is from a mostly extinct generation. She lived through the Great Depression in rural Kentucky, through wars and social upheaval, from the hills of Appalachia to the Chesapeake Bay shore of Maryland. At 93, she has found a new purpose in keeping the residents of the nursing home in line. No matter how many times you tell her, she doesn’t really understand that the people there can’t control their actions. She believes they are just acting up. So when a tiny woman pushes her chair around to snatch at other people’s cups of punch, or when a gentleman walks around with his hands down his pants, my grandmother tells them to quit acting the fool. A tall, young looking man walks around in his own world, but when I come to visit, he makes a beeline for me, and my grandmother yells “Shoo! Get away from her!” while waving her arms at him. Several of the residents seem fascinated with me. They are probably fascinated with all visitors, but you can’t tell my grandmother that. I am polite, and answer them if they speak to me, but my grandmother keeps a close eye on it, ready to intervene on my behalf. A woman tries to grab my hair, so I have to do some artistic ducking, and another man comes up to tell me he loves me.
“What did he say?” my grandmother demands. “He said hi, grandma,” I tell her to keep the peace.
I sit with her through the bible study they have weekly with a group of Jehovah Witnesses that come to the nursing home. A resident is laughing loudly and my grandmother responds just as loudly that they need to be quiet because she can’t hear the pastor. She points out the one nurse she doesn’t like and asks where she got that outfit. My grandmother is an ancient Mean Girl to some, but others she talks to gently, and reminds them of what is currently happening. I haven’t cracked the code of who gets which treatment but I suspect her favors are bestowed whimsically.
She wraps the silverware for meals every day, and is convinced it won’t be done correctly if she doesn’t oversee it herself. She gives me a pair of gloves and puts me to work. I ask her about different things, and usually question her on things she’s told me about her past. This is supposed to help keep her sharp. Long ago, she told me about a snake handling church in Kentucky she went to. I wrote a poem about it, and now I ask her about the experience. She no longer remembers going to the church, or telling me about it. I move on to another subject.
The residents are gathered in a circle of wheelchairs in the center of the room for an activity. The aide has a beach ball, and wants them to bat it about the circle. This exercise is supposed to be a fun way to get them to move their extremities. Things don’t go as the aide had hoped. The lady next to me is whacking the hell out of it and yelling that she got the son of a bitch. She punches it into the face of another woman who is near catatonic. The gentleman on the other side of my grandmother catches the ball and feints with it back and forth before tossing it to another woman, who lets it bounce off her head. The aide decides this is too violent and gives them pool noodles to hit the ball with instead of their hands. This rapidly devolves into a game of kickball before the aide gives up and brings it to an end. My grandmother is not impressed. I’m amused.
It takes me fifteen minutes to say goodbye when it’s time to go. After my mother died, this woman was the most important to me growing up. My father tried to keep her out of our lives but she persisted. I saw her as an angelic savior, the one person who loved me unconditionally, and she’s been the one constant in my life. I make sure she’s comfortable and doesn’t need anything before promising to be back to see her again soon. I bend over her wheelchair to hug her, gently, remembering when I was small and would slam into her to hug her with all my little girl strength. I  miss her before I get out to the car and every time I leave her, I fear it will be the last. She is so very old, but I don’t think I will ever be ready to let her go.

 

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Just rambling.

I am trying so very hard not to let myself sink into depression again but it’s difficult. Yesterday I was on the edge of tears all day but they only escaped a little bit. I’m having a difficult time with the section of the story I’m writing and that combined with the depression has been clawing at me. All the doubts and pain and my broken heart want me to give in but I am doing my best not to let it. As I write this it makes me tear up again. It always does when I’m feeling bad so my instinct is to just not write. Like now, after staring at the screen for five minutes. But I think of it as bloodletting, to release some of the pain. I wrote a poem about that once.  I just pulled up the file for it… I hadn’t read it in many years. I’m not sure I like it any more.

Inspiration

She drips words,

bleeding ink from

tattered fingers,

mumbling madness

onto desolate paper,

and ripping fragments

from her soul.

 

She shares silent cabala

of cryptic language

with psychotic muse,

and lunatic laughter

within whispering walls.

 

She breathes poetry,

eats cannibalistic verse,

and unravels her

unrevealed imaginations

with enigmatic nightmares.

Eh… it was published and was in one of my collections. But it seems like the word play was more important than the meaning. Style over substance. I think that’s why I don’t really like it any more. It was fine in the first two stanzas but I think I got carried away in the last.

When I started to  take control of my life again things started to get better a little. I started a business that is doing pretty good considering. Of course I’ll have to figure out the tax thing at the end of the year but I’ll worry about that then. I started working with the rescue a bit more. I started writing. That gave me hope and a something to work toward. Beekeeping is another. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that on here or not. I’ve only had hands on experience once so far but I loved it. I’ll be getting a hive soon and can’t wait to start with them.

I have a headache and it seems I’m not getting much done today so I’ll hope for better tomorrow. Later I have to go do cat lady things for a woman I’m helping out with. Other than that, I’ll cuddle my own cats, maybe watch a movie, and read more of “Cibola Burn”. Anyone else reading/watching “The Expanse”? Best damn scifi show since BSG. Can’t wait to see what Amazon’s going to do with it S4.

Writing Anxieties

I feel like a ghost. I pass through the rooms of the house with no words, no touch, unseen.

I was excited about my writing earlier today. I got to an important part in my book, where I’m outlining the mythology of the world, in particular Yggdrasil and the Norns, I’m not sticking strictly to canon. My story is pulling elements from multiple mythologies and I’m throwing in some things of my own creation. Add to that secret messages of a sort, and it’s a big, complicated deal. At the end of this section, they will have a better idea of what to do next and will start the next part.

So I wrote for a while, and when trying to work out the cosmology in my head, I went to refresh my memory of Yggdrasil. That’s one complicated, busy, bigass tree. But there are echoes of it through various cultures and times, with sacred trees and world trees and even the cross from Christianity. I had all these thoughts zooming around and I was buzzed about it. But I have no one to bounce these ideas off of. I think every writer probably is critical of their work and has self doubts. I have them a lot. I didn’t submit my poetry anywhere for years because of it. When a friend talked me into it and my work was accepted at multiple places, I think that scared me because I didn’t submit again for another ten years. By that time internet submissions were common and I really started working on it. I was published in a lot of places and had two collections released. But then when I became disabled I quit… I just didn’t realize it was the meds. I thought it was just that I was fighting to survive and keep my house. Maybe it was a bit of both.

So yeah. I was all excited and really wanted someone to bounce these ideas off of and have them tell me if they sucked or not. Because I had a flash of “What if what I’m writing is complete crap” itis. I’m afraid I’m going to screw it up and will have a confusing mess in this section rather than the eloquently worded, exquisitely crafted, yet illuminating and very clear paragraphs that I want. I’m still not comfortable with dialog either. I’m always worried that they sound unnatural. I also get discouraged because I think about all the time I should have been writing, but was busy with other life things. I keep telling myself that better now than never, and that’s true, but God I hope I get through this and that it’s good. I know most novelists write several books before having any success, if they ever have success. I know that after I get it written I have to submit it to publishing houses (and not online) that will probably throw it in a slush pile somewhere. Still, I have to hope.

I have a tendency to get ahead of things and reading that last paragraph, that’s what I’m doing now. I don’t need to worry about all that crap. I just need to write it. Everything else will come after.

 

Writing

I’ve been on antibiotics for five days or so now and am feeling better. Not well, but much better than I was. There is a lingering nausea and headache that doesn’t seem to want to go anywhere. I was quite frustrated because I haven’t been able to accomplish much of anything while feeling like this. I could barely stand to look at the computer screen and I couldn’t work outside. I was dizzy and just all around gross. My head is hurting now, but I’ve inverted the screen colors to help.

Luckily, the nausea has been better the last two nights. I’ll wake up and think I’m past it and start getting on with my day and then it comes back, but at least it didn’t keep me up all night. Today it waited until afternoon to return so I had the morning.

The morning seems to be when I get most of my writing done. I’ve gotten a routine where I slurp down my coffee, check email, watch the Colbert Report, check news, eat a bagel and start writing. I’ll write for as long as I can, even if it’s like pulling teeth to get the words out sometimes. I am so out of practice. It’s not really something you think you need to practice for, but I went ten years without writing and it’s hard to get back into the habit. I’m wondering if I come off my meds completely if my writing output would improve, but I don’t think I could do that. Just cutting them in half was difficult enough. Still, I did it, and I did it on my own. And I am glad that I did if it means I can write again.

Since I’ve been sick I’ve been trying to stay on schedule but I’ve felt so lousy I wasn’t doing anything good. I’d get out a paragraph and maybe do some rewriting before I couldn’t bear to look at the screen any more. So this morning I wrote a couple of pages and moved the plot along. I’m happy with that. I have this fear that everything I’m writing is crap, but that’s a familiar fear that I think most writers have acquaintance with.

I was excited about writing (still am!) when I first started. I sent R the first chapter when she asked about it and was excited to hear her take. I told her I wanted honest criticism so not to worry about hurting my feelings or whatever and she said ok, but I haven’t heard from her since. It drives me nutty. This is my adopted daughter, and a lot of people say it’s the generation, but I hate it.

I hate that she stares at her phone all day long and doesn’t go out and do things. I love the internet and all that comes with it, but I wish she hadn’t grown up with it. I think it cripples these kids in a lot of ways. So anyway, I text her (because the girl hates talking on the phone) and it takes forever for her to get back to me. Then when I talk to her she’s all like “Oh I miss you and I love you” etc. It’s not just me. My husband did quite a bit for her and after she moved back he never heard from her again. She doesn’t mean anything by it, she’s just thoughtless when it comes to things like that. So while I know it’s most likely that she hasn’t even gotten around to reading it yet, my insecurity pipes up and tells me t’s because she thinks it sucks and doesn’t want to say.

Before I go into a rant about “kids these days” and start shaking my fist and telling people to get off my fucking lawn, I’ll stop. I just miss her and want better for her. I want her to be in school, starting a career, out having fun, experiencing new things, growing, learning. But she’s not doing any of that and it worries me. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask, even of her generation, to at least text me back when I write to her, and to let me know she’s ok. And while part of me thinks I have momma rights to bug her and expect to hear from her, part of me is also afraid that might scare her a bit, even though she has told me many times that she sees me as her mother. I just wish she’s lean on me a little more.

The Minotaur

I don’t feel like I got a lot done today. I’m tired and sore and depressed. I did some rewriting and got a few new paragraphs written. Ah well, at least it’s something.  Hopefully I’ll be able to sleep tonight and do better tomorrow.

I’m not sure why, but the story of the Minotaur has been on my mind. Last time I saw my brother I told him the whole story of Icarus. The minotaur involves some of the same characters so maybe I’ll tell him this one next time. I wish when we were little I had spent time instilling in him the love for reading and curiosity about things that I’ve always had, but honestly, we were just trying to survive, and reading was my escape.

So anyway, Pasiphae was the daughter of the sun god Helios and sister to the sorceress Circe. She was a skilled sorceress in her own right. She married King Minos of Crete, becoming Queen. King Minos asked the sea god Poseidon for a magnificent bull, which he would then sacrifice. He asked for the bull to prove his right of rulership. Poseidon granted this wish and a pure white bull rose from the sea. This was such an awesome animal that King Minos decided he was going to keep it and sacrifice another bull in its stead. Of course this pissed off Poseidon. (These mortals are painfully stupid at times. )

So, at this point we have two versions with the same result. Either Poseidon or Aphrodite, depending on the version, cursed King Minos’s wife Pasiphae to have an uncontrollable lust for the bull in question. Yes, the woman wanted bull penis. That’s a pretty nasty curse, especially since the Queen isn’t the one who pissed off the Gods. So, the bull, being a bull, wasn’t much interested in her. She had the craftsman Daedelus, father of Icarus, build a wooden cow and cover it with cow skin. This allowed her to get inside it in a “receptive” position. They wheeled the thing out to the meadow, and the white bull was turned on by the funny looking cow and mated with it, and thereby Pasiphae inside it. I do not know if once she did the deed her lust subsided or if this was an ongoing affair. I also do not know if there were splinters involved for either party.

As a result of this union, Pasiphae gave birth to the minotaur; half man, half bull. King Minos was tipped off by the birth that something wasn’t kosher and was quite unhappy. However, Pasiphae, being a badass sorceress, put a curse on him that caused him to ejaculate scorpions, snakes and other venomous creatures, which would then kill his lovers. Only she was immune. I suppose that’s one way to insure fidelity. Anyway, she named the minotaur Asterion, meaning “starry one”. I like that quite a bit.

She fed and took care of the minotaur when it was a calf, but as it got older, it started eating people. King Minos, who had locked up Daedelus and Icarus for their help with his wife’s unnatural desire, trotted them back out and put them to work building the labyrinth. Meanwhile, King Minos’ only human son Androgeos was killed in Athens. This had to do with his prowess at the games. King Minos held Athens responsible for bringing his line to an end. (I shudder to think what sort of offspring would arise from scorpion ejaculate) So he demanded from them a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens either yearly or every nine years, depending on the version. The Delphic oracle told Athens to do as the King wanted so they did. In the third batch of tributes, King Aegeus’ son Theseus volunteered as a tribute.

King Minos had two daughters named Ariadne and Phaedra, both of whom fell madly in love with the studly Theseus. Ariadne begged Daedelus for the secret of the labyrinth and then ran to tell Theseus. She gave him a ball of string to help him find his way back out. Theseus kills the Minotaur, escapes the labyrinth, and runs off with both daughters on his ship back to Athens. Along the way, he abandons Ariadne at an island. Some versions say he did this on his own, while others say he did it at the behest of the god Dionysus, who wanted Ariadne for himself. Either way, dick move.

Theseus was supposed to put up white sails on his way home to let his father know he lived. He forgot (or so he said), and seeing the black sails, King Aegeus jumps to his death into the sea, which is ever after known as the Aegean sea.

So. That’s the story of the minotaur, including all the bits your middle school mythology book left out. I actually had some things to say about this whole story, but I’ve run out of time so I’ll pick up again tomorrow. For now, there’s the myth, and attached are a few works of related artwork I have listed in my redbubble shop. I hope you enjoyed the story and now you can regale your friends with stories of scorpion semen at the next party.

Herbert_James_Draper,_Ariadne

Ariadne – Herbert James Draper

John_William_Waterhouse_Ariadne

Ariadne – John William Waterhouse

The Minotaur 1885 by George Frederic Watts 1817-1904

The Minotaur – George Frederick Watts

The Great God Pan

I have loved mythology since I discovered section 398 in the sixth grade. I love all of it, beginning with the Greek myths of Gods and Goddesses to the stories of chivalrous knights of King Arthur to the original fairy tales. No matter how much of it I read, there is always so much more that I have yet to discover. Every culture that has existed has had its own stories and myths.
One thing that has always fascinated me is how stories are parallel in various cultures. Most people are vaguely aware that Christmas was based on pagan holidays but it’s actually so much more. The Norse God Odin sacrificed himself to himself (Father and son in Christianity) by hanging on the world tree Yggdrasil, (crucified on the cross)  for nine days and nights. He did this after he had been stabbed with his spear. Jesus mimics Odin right down to the wounds.

The God Pan, or Cernunnos in other cultures, is born from the World tree, dies upon it, and is reborn again, repeating the cycle of life, death and rebirth that the earth goes through every year, an echo of Odin’s story, although I’m not sure which was first. Easter is based on the goddess Eostre, or Ostara, or Ishtar, depending on the culture. There are many examples. (BTW, anyone watching “American Gods”? It’s great…)

The point is, we have these recurring archetypes that seem to have always been with us, no matter what part of the world you’re in or what period of time you live in. This is something I’ve known all my life but I’m currently writing about these things and blogging about them helps me sort out my thoughts. I’ve been doing a lot of research, trying to find correlations to the ideas I’m putting into my writing. Most of the time, they are there to be found if I dig enough. There is an entire classification system for myths, which is much too nerdy to go into right now.

When I’m writing, I like to have as much truth in my fiction as possible. It makes it more immersive. I admire those writers who create their own worlds with their own physics, their own history, their own mythos. It’s kind of awe inspiring. As this is my first book, I can’t even imagine how much would go into that sort of thing. (I’ve been reading the Red Rising books, which are a fantastic example of this.) So I’ve been doing a lot of research to go with it. I’m looking at Scrivener to keep it organized. It seems to be a popular program for writers. They have a free trial so I’ll check it out, but I’d love to hear if any of you use it.

I have some things percolating with Pan in my story but he’s not going to make an appearance until later. However, one thing leads to another, to another, and so the universe turns.

pan_rackham

Piper at the Gates of Dawn – Arthur Rackham

The Wind in the Willows

Artist Paul Bransom 1913

Crane_Sweet-piercing-sweet-was-the-music-of-Pans-pipe

Pan Playing his Pipes – Walter Crane

 

Pain

I am a pain patient. That means I’m in pain most of the time and that I’m on pain meds. This is from a ruptured disk that left me with nerve damage. I have good days and bad. Then I have a bad knee that goes out when it wants to. Of course it’s the leg with the least nerve damage, so it sort of evens things out. The knee is one of the minor things though, in that it goes out, and I’ll be staggering around for a week or so and then it will behave until the next time. I am lucky that those are not frequent since it was operated on.

Then there’s the necrotizing fasciitis. That was a couple of years ago but I’ve had pain from the scar tissue ever since, and now I think there might be a hernia in there too, just to add to the fun. I see a Doc about that next week to finally get that taken out. It’s a major operation and I don’t know how long recovery will be. I’ll find out when I see him. After the NF, I was very leery to be operated on again but the scar tissue thing is ridiculous. I was on a wound vac for two months and had bi-weekly debridements, so there is a LOT of scar tissue. My stomach aches pretty much all the time, and when I’ve been more active than usual it swells up so much that it gets itchy from the skin being pulled tight. Hell, sometimes it does that for no particular reason that I can discern.
My C spine also has damage, and right now it feels like a herniated disc, again. I can barely move my head.  My neck is getting worse the older I get and I fear it might need surgery too eventually. For now I’m just hoping that not moving it for a few days will help. So yeah, I’m in rough shape right now.

I don’t talk about these things often. I doubt if anyone wants to hear them, and you can’t really know what it’s like for another person. Everyone is different. I’ve had several Doctors tell me that I have a very high pain tolerance, and Doctors are notorious for lacking empathy with pain in their patients. This is not to say that I’m full of grace when in severe pain, I’m not. I may or may not have been known to scream bloody murder to help alleviate pain. But if I mention being in pain, I sometimes get the impression that whoever I mention it to thinks I’m just bitching. So I don’t mention it unless I’m not thinking about it, and then if I don’t mention it I think they assume I’m not in pain. I know I’m not the only person who has this experience with others. Mostly I don’t worry about what others may think but once in a while it does hurt my feelings or anger me. Mostly I keep it to myself.

So, I’m on pain meds and really don’t like taking them. When they first put me on them, they tried various things. Some of them worked, but made me feel slow and stoned, which I absolutely hated. We  settled on a long acting pain med that did wonders. A few months ago we cut it in half. I volunteered to, for several reasons. One being the crackdown currently being played out over the “opioid epidemic”. As a result of this, they’ve come up with this handy little scale saying how much pain meds you can have. Because you know, they know better than the Doctors. Politicians being politicians and meddling with things they know absolutely nothing about is never good. So of course they didn’t account for long term pain patients or even cancer patients. Nice, huh? So according to their scale I’m still over, but if this scale hits my insurance it will be a little easier to come off it at a lower dose. The second reason is just not liking them. I don’t feel effects from them other than pain relief, but they’re strong meds so they have to be doing something, right? I have a ridiculously good memory but sometimes I can’t remember a word I’m thinking of. Stupid stuff like that drives me nuts and I think it’s the meds. And there’s the thing with writing. Because I don’t feel side effects it didn’t occur to me that the meds might be stifling my creativity. And I still don’t know for sure if it does, but I’m writing again after ten years.  It may be coincidence. I’m just grateful.
I have been writing every day, even if it’s just a little bit. It’s going slow, and part of it is that I keep going off on research tangents. But I’m immersed in it and that makes me happy. Between that and my art shop, they keep me busy, but I need to spend more time away from the computer. I want to keep the momentum going. I want to write a book, and then another book, and another. So naturally I wonder what I might be able to accomplish if I went off the meds completely. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’d be able to think past the pain. So I’ll take what I can for now. I fear that for recovery from surgery I’ll be on a higher dose again. I’ll keep trying to write, but I have this fear that I’ll lose momentum with the pain from surgery and the pain meds.
That’s it for now I think.