Reaching Eighty – A Time for Reading

I don’t when it began–this inability to stay with a book. A few pages and I lost interest and then, the next time, I picked up the book, I would have to reread everything and would get to the same place a few more pages and lose interest. Instead of continuing to try, I gave up. I had no trouble with most poetry books, but long narrative poems also were beyond my concentration.

So for a long arid time, I, a person who used to read constantly and sometimes all night long to savor the rest of a book, this person didn’t have the joy of losing herself in a story or other material that demanded staying power.

Oh, once or twice a year I’d find a book like “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova and devour it in one or two sittings. It was a novel of an educated woman in her 50s who developed early onset Alzheimers Disease and the progression of her illness. It’s possible my interest was due to my own fears about my memory deserting me. Although I kept being told I was all right until I was diagnosed with Moderate Cognitive Impairment or MCI, a memory problem but not Alzheimers or Dementia but can become either down the road. I’m happy to say I’m still CMI although having more difficulty in remembering directions, getting lost a little and my driving came under jeopardy last summer–Happily I’m still driving but not for long distances and not at night. Fortunately, I have Eric to help me.

Then I came across a book about life in North Korea: “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson.  It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2013. Jun Do (yep, John Doe), a North Korean orphan who stumbles from poverty to a job as body double for a Hero of the Eternal Revolution. The closed world of North Korea revealed here—where businessmen are conscripted to work in the rice fields and the ruthless Kim Jong-il is still the Dear Leader. It describes the huge barracks and the prison mines and the graveyards and the execution yards is just terrifyin and goes beyond anything Orwell ever imagined. The Orphan Master’s Son veers from cold terror to surrealistic humor with ease, and succeeds as both a thriller and a social satire. I couldn’t put it down. Again, my mind shouted, I can read again. But again a couple of years passed without my reading-life returning.

I just finished my book for this year–a Sue Grafton mystery, “Y is for Yesterday” and I went for days following the story until I am sure that I can read another novel and am anxious to find one. In the meantime I have read two May Sarton books: Her poetry book, “Coming Into Eighty,” and her last journal: “Encore: A Journal of the Eightieth Year.” Both these have my interest as I have just entered my 80s and want to read May’s words, which keep me turning the pages.

I’ve also made a goal to write a poem every day for 80 days. I began on my birthday November 15 and haven’t missed a day, in fact some days writing more than one. I know I may not succeed with this lofty goal, but I am enjoying the work and that’s what is important to me. I may put together a chapbook on my own Entering the Eighties and wouldn’t that be fun.



The Writing Retreat

I have a “writer family” and for a number of years, several of us went on yearly writing retreats together. Destinations were varied and the trips, usually in February or April were interesting, fun and productive. Our favorite retreat spot was the Olympia Resort in Oconomowoc. (I exchanged locations of one of the two time-shares I owned with my friend Fay for weeks all over the United States. The other was saved for my writing retreats.) In the back of the hotel, supposedly from scooped-up landfill, was a ski run. We could experience the younger local population dressed in bright colors skiing down the whiteness under flood lights, laughing and yelling at each other; it was like observing skaters in Rockefeller Center and fun to watch.

In 2003, we once again went to Olympia. It was easy to get into the resort in spite of the skiing mecca. We usually arrived individually, driving or riding with a pal or discombobulated husband who was surly from having to be quasi-wife and mother for a week. The condos contained three bedrooms and a sofa bed——twin beds in the other two bedrooms  while the master always had a kingsize bed and its own bathroom. We could accommodate five comfortably and if another came, there was the fall-back sofa.

0WcH5179Ty2F%lXI2fwJJw_thumb_9cf.jpgThis year, 2003, had record snowfall—it had blizzarded hard for the past couple of days.  We were able to get there because it was only 45 miles from home, although that 45 miles was hair-raising. The skiers were out in their colorful ski duds and melodic as usual.

Alice and I were editors of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (WFOP) calendar for 2004, and we had fellowship work to do as well as our own writing. She came with the box of over a thousand poems, all indexed and put into divided folders. She had been the mail-in point and had the work of separating the poems  into basics: months and rated one, two, or three with three being No.  I was of little help during this early process as that was the year my son Jason died. I hoped being with friends and having a project would help me with my grief. Personally, I had a head full of squirrels and needed to have some real downtime. We had to get the original 1118 down to about 125 poems. It was up to us to judge the merits of the poems and whether they fit the criteria of the year. Hard work with so many good pieces to look at.

We loved the retreat weeks. We got up when we pleased, ate breakfast, worked on poems and padded around in our slippers and robes until around eleven. After getting dressed, combed and brushed, we got together to read our work and write from prompts to start new poems. After lunch, we worked on our own until four o’clock when we met as a group and shared our work. Then it was always out to eat somewhere, but with the snow storm that year, we couldn’t go far. We slid on the wintery road down to Stoltzies, about a block from the resort. As the week went on we were able to go into one of the nearby cities and have our choice of cuisine–we had our choice of Mexican, Italian or Chinese in the surrounding towns.


image.pngThe last night we decided to go into Oconomowoc, and drove around the resort trying to find a way to get out with all the cars and snow. There was a Winter Carnival going on and the narrow service road was clogged with cars and trucks on both sides. We got about fifty yards from freeing ourselves and stopped! A jam of vehicles ahead blocked our way. I began to backup, andthe car incident happened—we backed into the rear end of a large truck. We got out and appraised the damage. My car had a broken tail light but the truck had a small nipple-type dent and scratch. There didn’t seem to be anything we could do, so I left a note on the truck’s wiper blade telling them I was sorry and leaving my name and phone number. The rest of the evening and for a week or two after, I jumped every time the phone rang, thinking I would be arrested for leaving the scene of an accident. No one ever called—apparently the owner of the truck either couldn’t find the ding or felt following up was too much trouble. Who knows?

The week ended, we loaded our cars, inventoried all the knives and forks , etc., and bundled back into our cars and  returned to reality. But we were carrying poem-starts, half-done books and 100 plus people to notify that their poems had been accepted. I offered to do the computer work of typing up the poems for the publisher, and we left our condo to the next group of wayfarers.

A Conundrum


A Conundrum

I’ve made it a goal—
clean up my bedroom.
The room is fine,
it’s the books.

They’re flying out
of the shelves
without warning.
There are the boxes
carried there
from living room,
where they fell out.

in the living room
expectorate books.
box-full to store
in the bedroom.

A box I just filled
has become
a bookshelf itself.
Woodward’s “Fear”
won’t fit so
he sits beside Hilliary
on the box.

A friend’s book
dropped out today
made me wonder
the other two are–
I’ve just got
to organize my books.

jackie: 10/21/18


Wasted Nights and Wasted Days

Fred and Jackie 001

This was me in 2011; I was sleeping good and writing lots of poems. Look what happened when I lost 70 pounds and gained 7years: I look just like my grandmother in this photo!

Dream last night. Had two men pull into my yard and begin asking questions about using my garage and when would my husband be back etc. Well I got suspicious after probably giving them too much information like he wasn’t coming back and the garage was full. So I asked them to leave and they refused. I tried to go into the house to call 911 and they forced their way inside and my cats got out (they are NOT outdoor cats); I tried to catch the cats and the men overpowered me and got my phone. They turned out to be intruder/thieves of small inconsequential things so they weren’t important enough to be looked for by the authorities. They then left to thieve something, locking me inside and thinking they had dismantled all the phones. My son Jason was out trying to catch the cats and I kept trying to tell him to go to the neighbors for help but he couldn’t hear me—I couldn’t seem to say words right. I found another cell phone and tried to call 911 but got a message that they were no longer taking calls and I should call Milwaukee, giving me a looong phone numbere that I couldn’t remember no matter how many times they repeated it. I finally got the numbers written down and tried to call: I kept dialing and would forget the numbers half way through or make a mistake and have to start over–anyway I couldn’t get through until finally I did and tried with my limited speaking abilities to tell them what was happening. They told me they no longer serviced my area because we hadn’t been courteous to them the last time.


I finally ratcheted myself out of the dream and got coffee and opened my computer to get my nerves settled down. Two hours later, I was still scrolling through FB reading the gossip and political ads and not getting any poems written or my manuscript edited. What a waste and the nightmare night still with me.


Dream of the Clothes

I dreamed that I opened my closet to get a light weight dress for the concert and there were none that fit. Although I had worn them recently, they all appeared too narrow when I held them against my hips. I tossed the last garment and went to the bureau to see if anything was good to wear in there.

When I opened the first drawer, clothes began springing up as if on wire coils of an old mattress. As I tried to catch them, I noted that they were all the clothes I owned in my lifetime:


Flannel pajamas with feet in them in a small size and a blue coat I had as a kindergartner. I carried a little blue matching leather purse with the white poodle on it that I hit the big people in the department store who got in front of me when we shopped.

The black silk caftan with the large red flowers all down one side that flowed to the ground—I’d had that while married to Bob. All these clothes and more coming out were my history from childhood to the present time.


Most, like the white jersey Grecian prom dress I wore with Dan to my senior prom, I hadn’t seen in years. I had a silver coiled snake bracelet that I wore high on my bicep and felt like Helen of Troy.

There was my graduation dress, beige silk covered in white lace—and I was thin then. Dan had his suit tailored at the local men’s store and we were a handsome couple—all I have left of it is a photo.

The last dress to fold itself into my arms was a black velvet short sheath dress with red embroidery on the sleeves and hem; I wore it only once—after that I never got slim enough to go through the physical and emotional trauma of trying it on.

The apparel storm over, I chose a pair of cut-off Levis shorts and a white t-shirt. When I woke in my living room recliner, that’s what I was wearing.


I’m Back–sorta!

Well I did do a number on my back or side to be exact. Then to exacerbate the issue they found pneumonia and fluid in my right lung–visiting the cancer I guess. But I’m on those antibiotics that choke a horse and  give you horse trots too. I’ve been a good girl and staying quiet while I get better. Not accomplishing anything like work on my manuscript but this morning I did the crossword puzzle and because that made it a red-letter day . . . you guess it – red penned letters.

Also remember October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so get screened and do your soapy shower massage. 

The kitties were glad to see me – raised an eyebrow in welcome.IMG_2356

Today I went out for breakfast with three friends from my old workplace–I’m ashamed to say the word government both state and federal. VOTE NOVEMBER 6, 2018! My son, Eric, drove me — he doesn’t think I’m good to drive yet but it turned out fine as we stopped at Ken’s Market in Monona and guess who was there–right, Ken. I remember Ken from the old days when I lived in Monona and I think he was my younger son, Jason’s scout leader. He is retired now too but it was my lucky day to catch him visiting. It’s always good to see people from my past, alive.

Unfortunately, another friend isn’t alive and I will miss her in my memories. A friend from my writing past in the 90s at The Writers’ Place on State Street. Peg Sherry was in my first critique group–a Fiction writing critique group. There were from five to seven of us and we all learned so much from each other–at least I learned from them. Peg was a bright light in our group and for many years after through her Christmas Card Poems. The last time I saw her was at a Canterbury Book Shop poetry reading. It was several years ago but there she was, red hat and big smile and there with a couple of the old group just to hear me! Since then Canterbury has been Avol’s and now is Room of One’s Own all recognizing the importance of poetry and poetry readings.

That’s it for me today. Perhaps I’ll have something more action-oriented next time.





Holy Wisdom Monestery

Arrived here around 3pm and just beat the rain. And rain it did! Buckets and torrents, pitchforks and hammerhandles–whatever cliche you can think of it did that. My room is next to and a  little above the ceiling of I think the chapel. It is covered with large stones and gravel and  now looks like a pond with stepping stones and aught-o-be ducks and frogs.

It’s almost time for supper, and I wonder what Robert will have for us. I’v never been much impressed with the food out here except for the Pizza lunch, which was terrific! Maybe suppers are better. I want to go over while there is a surcease of the downpour so I don’t get too wet even with an umbrella.

I’ve not gotten my Holy Wisdom brain turned on yet–I walked around after unpacking, did a crossword, checked my e-mail and Face Book messages, laid down, scratched my back against the doorway (I never break a sweat but today with all the unpacking activity I did, I am itchy now). If I could I would hop into the shower but I don’t hop anywhere anymore, especially in places of peril like the shower.

It stopped raining long enough to get up to the Monestery for supper. Delicious cake, baked potato and some kind of fish I didn’t eat. I was so clutsy I didn’t recognize the sour cream and butter until I wheeled up to my spot at the table, so I had to walk back out to the food table and get some. Then when I  started eating I realized I’d picked up two spoons instead of a fork, so I had three spoons to eat vegetable salad with delicious dressing and baked potato, then the chocolate cake. After I scraped my uneaten food into the trash, I left and left my left brain somewhere else again and couldn’t remember the code for the door. I punched in every numer I could think of; finally realized I wasn’t pressing enter, so began again. I finally got the door open so I could get to my room.  It was one of my less intelligent episodes out here.

I’m back now and ready to settle down and get some work done. I haven’t found a comfortable place to sit yet,  but I’m working on it. See you tomorrow.


Isn’t this a lovely photo–magical with the sunlight hi-liting the lake and trees. That is Lost Lake and it’s right off the balcony, just a few steps from my room. My room also looks out at these glorious trees but the roof precludes me from taking pictures from that  angle. Here is another lovely one (you can tell I couldn’t pick just one of these breathtaking views:


I look at these views in spite of the difficulty I have  in moving this morning. Yesterday I somehow pulled a muscle in my side and it hurts when I breath, move, sneeze or most anything else except sit bolt upright in my chair or stand very still. Neither of which is conducive to enjoying this place or getting any of my work done that I planned. So I walk along the hall groaning quietly of course, and just enjoy the place where I am.