December Blues and Bright Lights

groups cats ellison bay eric etc me 064

 

It is Christmas and we have no snow. What is there about cold barren days that put me into a down droopy mood?I just read a poem about dust on books and couldn’t help identifying with it. In fact, I could have written it myself with my dust collectors. At one time I had all the books in alpha order, but as I take them out to read them, they never get back. So it’s a dirty job now and enormous to even think about reorganizing the shelves.I keep thinking, what if I drop dead—what a mess Eric will have trying to clean it all up. He’ll probably just box them all up and take them to the book-buyers.

The poem also talked about small windows open to capture the breeze. I remember putting as much of my body in my bedroom window to get a tiny breeze in the summer. Of course, we had no air conditioning, just gazillion fans that just blew the hot air around.

Today is Christmas, my 77th one, counting  my first one at six weeks old. I grew up with lots of family around on the holidays: my Aunt and Uncle and cousins Terry and Sally. Then, because my parents were divorced, we went over to my Dad’s family where there were about twelve kids and almost as many adults. I remember falling asleep and having my Daddy wrap me in a blanket and drive me home and put me to bed. He and mother dated so he was always around our holiday parties unless he and Uncle Gerald went to the store for something and didn’t come back for hours and then staggering drunk. There was always a lot of whispering when this happened and it happened more than it didn’t. When I grew up and was in my twenties and a drinker, too, I did the same thing to my relatives, didn’t come home when I said, keep calling to say I’d be a half hour later – and later – and later – and finally there drunk and belligerent.

These last years with Jason gone, Eric, Fred and I usually get some of Gino’s wonderful lasagne and take it easy on Christmas. I don’t even have any decorations up this year because of the kitten, Missy the destroyer! Anything that dangles or rolls on the floor is fair game for her. This unfortunately includes the two older cats, Jake and Simon. She stalks them and pounces when they least expect it. There is as much growling and hissing between them as the whispers of days gone by with my Dad and Uncle and their drunken disappearances.

I think I’ll go out to the kitchen and get started on the oriental cole slaw I’m making. It is Eric’s favorite so it’s my Christmas present to him. Have a great holiday and wonderful 2015.

 

Published in: Uncategorized on December 25, 2014 at 7:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Music Camp – 1993

I flew into Bozeman, Montana, and was assigned a roomie. We met in the hotel, a Western style, plaid shirt type of place. Her name was Wendy, and she was much younger than I and very pretty. The evening meal was steak and baked potatoes, the last meat we’d have for a week. When I decided to go to the music week, I’d talked with Judy Pfeil, the woman who ran it, and she said there would be music all week with groups and individuals and lots of free time. I wanted to reacquaint myself with the guitar and bask in women’s music as well as write and relax.

From Bozeman, we drove to Big Timber and camp, a former youth camp used by MoMaMu, the name of the women’s week in the wild. We numbered 100 women from all over the country—most knew Judy Fjeil and had been part of the group at least once before. There were some women my age, both gay and straight, married and single, so I fit in okay. There were community meals, showers, workshops, and evening music. Songs of women’s power and strength with Judy and her friend, Jean, and her excellent fiddling leading us each night. We sat in a huge circle and introduced ourselves before the singing.

There was a central building, cabins and space for tents. I opted for a cabin the first night. One of my cabin mates had a buckwheat pillow and woke in the middle of the night with a mouse around her head eating the pillow. She screamed and threw the pillow and the rest of the night we all felt invisible mice on us. The next night I put up my tent, which was on a small hill and I had to keep pushing myself back or I would have rolled down. (Obviously, I wasn’t an experienced camper.) I woke around midnight to go to the bathroom and was afraid to venture to the latrine in the dark, so I tried to pee outside without getting it all over me and was less than successful. I ended up taking a shower at one o’clock in the morning. I didn’t like the cement floors in the “latrine” and it was cold. It was bad enough I had to go in there to the bathroom. That was the end of my tenting, and I went back to the cabin to sleep.

Conversations with the other women were interesting and personal. Irene told me she was bisexual, married to a minister, and this yearly music camp was the only time she could allow herself to be gay. Many of the gay women had been married when they were younger and had grown children with varied acceptance of their mother’s new life. Another young woman’s partner was pregnant with their baby and she worried about her being alone. We relieved her stress by telling her about our pregnancies, and a few stories popped up about delivering babies in unexpected places like a cab or the car on the way to the hospital.

The sing-alongs, led by Judy and Jean were wonderful, and we all felt the community life of the camp. One night during sharing and sing-along, a mouse came out into the main room, walked slowly and dropped over dead, no one appeared to think of disease just the sadness of the mouse dying.

On the first night I was self-conscious (as usual in a group of people). I imagine the women thought I was either stuck-up or a snob. One woman asked me to dance; they were doing line dancing. I declined, not knowing the dance and not wanting to trip all over myself trying. Jean led us in the singing, Judy joining in with her guitar and lovely voice. Many of the women had brought instruments and played along.

I liked the round-singing workshop. We learned five new songs, one of which we would do on the last night––the performance night. I took a class in basket weaving and a daily guitar class. I learned to play Malaguena, passably. I was new to the guitar and timid with fingering, but I had hauled it all the way from Wisconsin, so I wanted to at least learn something I could do at home. I also made a dulcimer from a kit,a lanyard, and the days raced by.

The food was spectacular. Judy’s partner, Beth, owned a restaurant in California and was in charge of the meals. We had gourmet selections—Judy said we were feeding our creativity. and needed big, good-tasting food to spark us. One supper we had toasted French bread with roasted garlic. The large heads of garlic were served on the tray, and we squeezed each clove on toasted french bread until empty. I’d never tasted garlic that way and fell in love with it. There was salad with avocado and tomato , lasagne, meat loaf, spaghetti and sauce and more. All were vegetarian meals but the food was so hearty and filling I never missed the meat. We ate three meals a day and talked with each other and shared bits and pieces of our lives.

I went hiking one afternoon, wearing my “snake boots.” Apparently there weren’t any snakes this high in the Big Bear Mountains, but we were warned about bears and fire. We were told not to try and outrun a bear if confronted by one, but rather slowly back up and make a lot of noise. The afternoons were mainly free time and one afternoon, I sat by the creek, a part of the Boulder River, wild white water with huge boulders all through it. It was lovely, but I couldn’t calm down enough to stay long, much less write anything creative.

At the supper in Bozeman, people had talked about the dress-up Friday night performances and how outlandish some of the costumes from past years had been. Of course, I had nothing “costumie” to wear. In Bozeman I’d bought a leather vest and black cowboy hat but didn’t know what else I would do for a costume. I ended up wearing my black swim suit (there had been no opportunity to swim anyway) under my jeans, the vest and hat, and did a bump and grind and slowly lowered the jeans to show my legs. There was a great deal of hooting and hollering but I was too self-conscious to go any further. I had a good time in spite of it and enjoyed the other women and their antics.

It was sad leaving. Like any vacation, it took until the last day to feel really comfortable. I rode back to Bozeman with a group of people catching flights about the same time as mine.

My friend, Fay, picked me up at the Madison airport and drove me home. I came through the gate dragging my huge duffel holding the tent and all that went with it plus my clothes. I had a backpack with my necessities, a flute and cardboard dulcimer sticking out the flap. I was wearing my snake boots and jeans and black cowboy hat, and carrying a guitar case. I also had a couple of gifts for the kids and my husband in a bag hanging from my elbow. Fay fell over laughing when she saw me. I was home and it had really been the most interesting vacation I ever took. Looking back over the past twenty years, I wish I could have gone again.

 

Published in: Uncategorized on December 21, 2014 at 5:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903

Is There Any Living Person Here, asked a member of the Chicago Fire Department upon entering the ruined theatre? Only an eerie silence answered back. Over 600 people lay burned and trampled inside, or outside where they had jumped to their deaths. Most of the 27 exits were unavailable—some hidden by drapes some locked against people coming in unpaid. Each time someone found an exit door, others pushed toward it en masse.

Grandmother, at 23 years old, had taken her younger brothers to see Eddie Foy as Sister Anne in The Blue Beard. Grandma, Willis and Logan had been standing on the main floor not far from an exit—it would prove to be unlocked and mostly unseen by the panicking crowd.

As the flames lapped up the scenery, Nellie Reed the aerialist died helpless on her swing high above the stage. Foy tried to calm the crowd but a fireball exploded toward the audience, and they surged toward safety, but were only caught in the crowd.

The theatres of the day were dangerous and prone to fires from poorly constructed lights, draperies and flammable scenery. Promising the five-week old Iroquois Theatre was fire-proof proved no different from the later Titanic’s claim of being unsinkable.

Grandmother was a dancer of Scots’ music, pointing her toes between the blades of crossed swords or gracefully dancing the Highland Fling for the Social Clubs visited by her parents and friends. She never forgot the smell of death and feeling of panic. When she told me stories, she would shiver if I asked about the Fire. When I was older, she told me of women who threw their children off the fire escape because the ladder wouldn’t open; she saw people trying to run to exits, pushing past her while she vainly tried to make her way to the exit she remembered.

The air grew thicker and fear at losing the boys propelled her through the dead and dying to outside the theatre where she walked the boys through fire hoses, tangled like limp snakes on the wet pavement. Rows of bodies had already begun to fill the street outside the Iroquois—bodies that would later need to be identified by family members.

The Fire Department, the pride of Chicago, would find bodies crushed in the aisles, dead in their seats of smoke inhalation, the crowd allowing no movement. People jumped from the balconies and were trampled below.

The only folks saved were those like my Grandmother and her brothers, those seated in the parquet; those who were standing by a main floor exit, or from the back of the stage through the loading dock that someone broke open with a pipe. Almost 2,000 people began their day looking forward to an afternoon of comic burlesque. Six hundred and two died, two-thirds of whom were women and children.

References: “Chicago Death Trap, The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903”
by Nat Brandt as well as family stories told by Grandmother.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 1, 2014 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Old Houses Have Their Wisdom

Image

My childhood home was 19th century old,

bricks with ivy growing up the side and,

a wooden porch in the front.  There 

was a walk-in attic off my bedroom where

I played with my doll’s house and my Sparkle

Plenty and Shirley Temple dolls.

 

Gram sewed outfits for the dolls and I got

doll-house furniture like sofas, bags of flour,

and little beds with covers of embroidered flowers

on the pillow cases and spread. Of course, Sparkle

and Shirley were too big to live in the doll house, so

I had to have little painted people who would lie in bed

and stand in the kitchen. 

 

I also had a Hedy Lamarr doll when I was a little older

and began to collect movie star autographs. I was 

precocious and gave Hedy her period by painting

mercurochrome on gauze mimicking my mother’s 

hygienics. I also began waiting for my own period

so I could achieve “grown-up status.” Some of 

my friends were “grown-up” now and I envied them.

 

I always felt like the house was a breathing thing. 

With the attic and dirt-floor basement it was different

than my friend’s houses and they would always want

to discover in my house. We also had an old barn

in the back yard that had tack for animals hanging

on hooks from the walls. The hay mow was on the

second floor and we were always warned against

the thin floor and falling through.

 

There was a Philips radio in the living room and we

would gather around it for Amos and Andy, and 

Gram and I would listen to her soaps in the kitchen

while she cooked. I had a victrola and played my

childhood records of Rudolph, Spike Jones,

and Bing and Bob Crosby. My favorite was

Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers 

singing Water, Cool, Clear, Water. We also

had a piano and our boarder played songs

and we sang with the tunes. I remember she

was playing when Daddy came come from

the war. 

 

He’d been expected hours earlier

but they let me stay up and wait and the songs

made the time go by. Finally, he came in the 

door and I was sent to see who it was! I shouted,

“Daddy, Daddy is here,” and everyone else

greeted him. Daddy was very tired and soon

went to bed, I later found out he was staggering

drunk and they rushed him upstairs before

he passed out. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: Uncategorized on May 19, 2014 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rehab Update

Well, it’s been about three weeks since my last blog and I do have improvements to list. I can now stand with the walker without putting weight on my foot. I can transfer from bed to wheelchair, wheelchair to grown-up potty and back, wheelchair back to bed. In the therapy room i have learned to hop on my good leg while holding the bad leg off the floor. My rotator cuff doesn’t seem to be improving much probably will take longer to exercise it out. I get an electrolysis-type of treatment each day and I do pretty good with raising it as long as I hold it with my other hand.  I can see by the small improvements I’ve made, how long it will take me to recover. My goal is to leave this place using a walker and not a wheelchair. 

For those of you thinking your insurance is perfect, I have some truths for you. I have Medicare and Deancare from work. These have covered everything on an outpatient I’ve used it for BUT for long term care it is a different story. In a skilled nursing home, you have to show progress every day. If you can, Medicare covers for 20 days then Dean picks up the twenty percent Medicare stops payingfor a limit of 120 more days. BUT again, Dean has the same criteria as Medicare and you still have to show progress each day. If you get to a non-weight bearing status of no progress, they BOTH stop paying and you must go into a Private Pay status or leave the facility. Private Pay is expensive and a good share of us can’t afford it. Also, if you are lucky enough (using up all your savings, etc.) to remain in the Skilled Nursing Home, your physical and occupational therapy is extra. When I asked the sense of this, I was told the facility has a dailly exercise class that patients are encouraged to go to. 

I have wonderful care here at St. Mary’s Care Center, the aides are very nice and the meals continue to be great. I have no fault with any of the care I’ve received here. This then is an update. If you have more interest, send me an e-mail at jacklang60@yahoo.com 

 

 

Published in: Uncategorized on February 14, 2014 at 12:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rehab, the new experience!

Well, I’ve really done it t his time. Stepped on some black ice and fell on my leg breaking my ankle in four places. I’ve had two surgeries so far and after eight days in the hospital, I am in rehab. My leg is not to have any weight on it, so you can imagine trying to get out of a wheelchair or bed using only one foot while the other one has a six pound boot on it and I’m not supposed to put it on the ground. I thought I was doing okay, but yesterday I found out I was putting up to 40 pounds on it when I transferred from my bed to the chair(s), so I’m back to baby steps again and just trying to do the therapy. Those who know me, know how I  hate any kind of exercise so this is like eating spinach or broccoli, in other words hard to impossible.

Speaking of food, the food here is great. Much better than the hospital and a lot of variety. If I don’t like the meal of the day, I can order ala carte from a bunch of different selections, and the desserts are wonderful!

Someone comes to visit almost every day so the time is broken into reasonable units. In fact most of the time I don’t have enough time between needing help to do EVERYTHING so waiting for someone to help me, meals, physical and occupational therapy etc. The days have gone by quickly.

Today I managed to get up from my wheelchair twice without putting weight on my left leg (the bad one). I also hurt my right arm so have some problems writing and typing. Right now I have just the right things set up for my computer (which is why I’m going on so long) and can type without much pain.

With that, I’ll close this down. I’ll write again, with more exciting news about rehab. My poet friends have told me they expect to see poems coming out of this experience. I’ve already written four whiney poems and one that is pretty good. So it goes here in rehab land.

Published in: Uncategorized on January 29, 2014 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

What Child Is This

ImageI just heard on TV that a motorcycle gang bought and delivered Christmas presents to a family who had been robbed of all their holiday gifts. Apparently, they didn’t know the people, just heard about it and heartened, they rescued this family from a gift-less morning, I love the picture of people on Bikes, wearing helmets with horns and swastikas handing over gaily-wrapped gifts to make this family’s day.

It reminds me of the WW1 story where on the eve of Christmas, soldiers fighting  met in the no-man’s land between them and celebrated the birth of Christ with carols and good cheer. How much it cost the first German and first Allied man to take that first step––the possibility of death put to one side in the desire for fellowship and celebration.

It’s not really the gifts; it’s not really the food––it’s the warmth of our childhood memories living once more. We try and give our children the happiness we had long ago before mortgages, illness, and failures in businesses. The simple tree or menorah or the symbol of all peoples is all it takes to change what is in our hearts.

But I’m imagining now. There were embassy bombings Christmas eve, and killing didn’t stop in Syria or the Gaza Strip. Think how cold the stomachs of terrorists are having to hate on a holiday of love and hope.

Well this brief respite is over for another year. Let’s try and bring some of these feelings into the new year.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 26, 2013 at 2:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

These Truths Shall Be Self-Evident . . .

“Nothing built by human beings can be seen from the moon”
Toscanelli’s Ray by Wilde-Menozzi

Image

I always thought that the Great Wall was visible from the moon––didn’t they tell us that and why didn’t the reporters check the facts. This is like finding out there is no Santa or the Easter Bunny. It makes one wonder about other “truths” and just how truthful they are. 

For instance: What about the man in the moon and all that green cheese he was going to eat. In fact, what about the stories that  we never even went to the moon––it was all done in a movie studio somewhere in California! I want to know more about St. Nicholas and Smokey the Bear. And what about Goldilocks––if some things aren’t true,  I’ll bet some are. Take for instance the three bears, the three pigs, the big-bad wolf, red riding hood. I’m suspicious of everything now. Why even our baseball heroes couldn’t make it to hero-status  alone. 

I always knew I hadn’t played the piano when I was six but I told it so many times even I believed it. Was broccoli ever just little trees? Black cats, walking under a ladder and three-on-a-match all gone to the absolute truths we insist on now, although these three have some basis in truth. I’ll vote for Santa to be real.

 

Published in: Uncategorized on December 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

I see fuzz on the moon

Image

Unknown

Driving at night with car lights all around, halos––red, green, yellow from the stop lights. If pavement is wet the reflections sparkle like Christmas trees and yard lights begging for a trip to the North Pole.

Mixed in with the color glistening in the night are the black spots where for a moment relaxation takes over, eyes resting, the headlights of the car showing the road as a road and not a moving  rainbow.  Then suddenly the darkness ahead is lit by two spotlights and the flashing starts over.

The surgery helped but I can’t drive with one eye closed, especially the one in the corrected lens, to avoid the lights. The second cataract is scheduled for removal in a month or so––then if as promised, lights will be singular the way they were designed to be. But I imagine some part of me will miss them, especially if I’m feeling psychedelic.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 18, 2013 at 1:32 am  Leave a Comment  

The Story of a Cancer


Image

(This is a story of Cervical Cancer long before the vaccination was discovered. Treatment has become shorter and easier on the body, but the danger of death remains if early intervention is missed.)

There was cancer in my abdomen my ears buzzed and I didn’t hear the rest of the nurse’s comments. I had cancer, did that mean death? The appointments began over the next few weeks and treatments were discussed. But I had cancer and that was all I could think of. When was it going away?

I spent a week in the hospital having cesium implants the doctor brought into the room in a lead box, it was a lead room, my husband could only visit for seven minutes at a time. And there was pain like the worst menstrual cramps I’d had rippling up and down my stomach. I couldn’t roll over and only move my head a few inches. There would be four days of this, and we would do it again in two weeks.

After discharge from hospital there were daily trips to the radiation unit—five days a week for five weeks, I lay for minutes that seemed like hours under the sterile white machine. I pictured the rads as spears going in and stabbing my cancer into disappearing ugliness.

My body won. The cancer was killed and now I only had to remember its name every six months for three years,  then once a year for five years to see if it stayed dead.  I was lucky—that was twenty-five years ago. So the spears stabbing the cells and my visualizations all won me back my life. At the age of ill-health, there were other friends who died being grateful.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 9, 2013 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.