Tuesday, August 7, 2018

SOL Tuesday: The Overnight Train, Part 1

(This actually happened a week ago Sunday night, but I couldn't figure out how to post to the blog from my phone, so saved it up for now. Part 2 will come next Tuesday.)

My daughter and I were traveling in Poland and Germany. Our overnight train from Krakow to Berlin was scheduled to leave at 10:23 p.m. We got to the station more than an hour early since in my experience strange train stations in foreign languages take some time to navigate. When our train (to Szczecin Glowny) appeared on the train board, there was a note that it was 4 minutes late, then 5 minutes late. These two times oscillated back and forth for the next hour. This train also had an assigned platform: 5. (Platforms were above the station waiting area.) 
        Under platform 5 we noticed that another train, with a later departure, had been posted. Meanwhile, the train board still had our train leaving at 10:23. I decided to ask a ticket agent. (There was no information desk with a human.) The agent informed me that I needed a train to Swinoujscie, which the train board said was on Platform 1 and leaving at the same 10:23, which by this point was already more than 10 minutes in the past. I was panicking, wondering whether this other train would honor our sleeping compartment reservation. Fortunately, Christie had noticed that both trains had the same train number. (Why were they on the train board as two separate trains? Just to confuse me?)
        We rushed over to platform 1, where we found most of the seats in the waiting area taken. It was getting later and later, and after 11 pm, the train for Swinoujscie was gone from the train board. What did that mean? Around 11:10, a train pulled into the station and the ID board on the platform said it was going to Swinoujscie. We rushed to get on because I had no idea how quickly it would leave. (Not quickly, it turned out.)
        I was looking for car 32, with berths 41 and 45, but could not find it. We wrestled out suitcases through car after car, most with compartments holding six seats, and one with two by two seats like an American train car, and at the end of that car racks of a couple dozen bicycles. People were standing in the narrow corridors. Where was/were the cars with sleeping compartments? Where was a conductor? Were we going to have to stand for the next 10 hours?
         Finally we came to a car we could not enter, but a passenger standing at the end of the car spoke English. While I was using the toilet, luckily at this end of the car, the conductor arrived, and it turned out that the car we couldn’t enter was the one with sleeping compartments. Once we were settled in, Christie decreed this was an adventure, not a horror show.

But wait, there’s more. (next SOL Tuesday)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

SOLTuesday: Demonstration


            There was a demonstration in Union Square today in support of Roe v. Wade, from 4:30 to 6. But I had a physical therapy appointment at 2 and had to go to the gym afterwards. I could get there, but I’d be late. Christie was off today and she planned to be there, too.
            I was able to leave the gym by 5 and walked to the Q train. When I got out at Union Square, the first thing I saw was a table and big signs from the group that uses Refuse Fascism as its slogan. It’s a group that’s part of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which some people (like me) think is a cult. Beyond them, however, I could see women with signs proclaiming “Our Body, Our Choice” and other reproductive freedom slogans.
            I got out my phone to text Christie, but saw a voicemail from her 45 minutes earlier. She had just arrived, she said, and it looked dubious (she had also seen the Refuse Fascism table before seeing the women's rally). I texted her that I had arrived, but was sure from her voicemail that she’s gone home—it was hot, after all.
            I walked around the rally of at least 100 people and sat on the steps to get myself some shade. The speakers I heard talked more about voting, both locally and nationally, which got rousing chants from the crowd.
            Then I recognized Christie’s hair, and her distinctive pants, which she got on one of her international travels. She was among a group of women holding signs and standing behind the speakers. I was proud of her for staying and being more than just a bystander.
           

Monday, July 9, 2018

Essay #6: Cockroaches, 2


            I saw my first cockroach in a New York City apartment when I was 19. Having grown up in the country and the suburbs, I was acquainted with insects: a praying mantis, aka “walking stick,” in the schoolyard when I was 10 (so big, and so oddly human-like); crickets everywhere, with their nighttime trills; fireflies, who we chased and collected in glass jars and mysteriously were gone the next morning, even though we’d screwed on the top. Ants, mosquitos, ordinary flies, deer flies at college.
            The cockroach in my kitchen was ugly. And its reputation was ugly as well. I only knew about them from books, where they were stand-ins for poverty, filth, nastiness. “Is that a cockroach?” I asked my roommates, though they were suburban kids themselves, how would they know? But they knew. In my first apartment a few years later with Jack, we’d leave glasses with the dregs of Coca-Cola or gin and tonic in the living room; in the morning, there would be a jumble of dead roaches who’d gone for the sugar.
            One day Jack was home and decided to exterminate the buggers. He called me at work in the middle of the task; “Call in the air force,” he said. He’d taken the books out of the bookcase between living room and kitchen and disturbed a nation of roaches, who fled in many directions. We didn’t know that cockroaches liked paper.
            I visited a friend one evening after work. As we sat in the kitchen, roaches ran up and down the wall just inches from my head. I pretended I didn’t see them, and my friend pretended she didn’t notice me pretending not to see them.
            One day in another apartment, I was reading a book while lying on the bed. Feeling a prickly feeling on my thigh, I looked down and was horrified to see a cockroach crawling along my leg. I brushed it away, but couldn’t help the creepy sense that the roach thought I was a dead thing.
            Cockroaches are really, really ancient. They’ve been on Earth for 320 million years, while Homo erectus appeared around two million years ago. We’re the newcomers to this planet. But we still try to eradicate them. Sprays, traps, folk remedies, we’ll try anything. It took quite a while for us to try the cleanliness route, making sure we washed the dishes every night and wiped off the counters. In our current apartment, Jack would wake up in the middle of the night and go to the kitchen to get water. Turning on the light caused the brown creatures to run for the walls, where they slipped through invisible-to-humans openings.
            One evening I noticed a large bug (cockroach? waterbug?) meander toward the couch I was on. I dropped a heavy book on it, smashed it dead. But I couldn’t get rid of it. It seemed almost a tiny animal. I called Jack to take it away. We had a succession of cats, but only played with cockroaches, didn’t eat them. Perhaps they had a bad taste.
            Did we get cleaner or neater? Or did our building staff do a better job at extermination? For many years now, cockroach sightings have become rare. Mostly when there is work being done on nearby apartments, anything that disturbs the natural ecology of the building. I did see a cockroach crawl out of a hole atop the bathtub where grout had come loose; it was easy to make sure its family stayed inside the wall. 
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This year there is another essay a week challenge, 52EssaysNextWave. If you’d like to try it, go to the Facebook page for 52EssaysNextWave and sign up. Or just read some of the essays that will be linked to there.

Essay #5: Cockroaches, 1


            Okay, it’s week 28, and I’ve not written anything in this essay challenge since January. It’s time to get going.
            Why start with cockroaches, you may wonder. Maybe it’s because I saw one of the big ones, the American cockroach (brown, about an inch and a half long), in my bathroom, huddled by the toilet. Naturally, since it’s July, I was barefoot. When I returned, sandaled, it was no longer visible, but was it still in the room? I walked in slowly, eyeing the area around the toilet, nudged the basket of magazines next to the toilet—and it came slithering out. I tried to stomp on it, but it zigged and zagged too quickly for my slowing reflexes, and dashed back behind the toilet. I needed a weapon.
            All I had, though, was a sponge mop. I got it from the cleaning closet and went back to the bathroom. It was still in hiding. I pushed at the basket with the mop, out raced the cockroach. I bashed at it with the mop, but again, it escaped. The mop was no good.
            Now I remembered a folk roachacide I’d read about: rubbing alcohol. So I filled my little sprayer bottle and returned to the bathroom. This time the cockroach was nowhere. I nudged the basket; nothing. Looked all around the white floor; nothing. Got into the bathtub so I could peer behind the toilet; nothing. It had either squeezed into whatever hole it had sneaked out of, or it was roaming the apartment.
            I gingerly used the toilet and went to bed—and put my slippers at bedside for when I’d have to get up in the middle of the night.
            Cockroach memories to come...

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This year there is another essay a week challenge, 52EssaysNextWave. If you’d like to try it, go to the Facebook page for 52EssaysNextWave and sign up. Or just read some of the essays that will be linked to there.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

SOLTuesday: Becoming Old


            I’m 76. I have no major ailments, take very few drugs. Twenty years ago I started a women’s group on the general theme of women, aging, and sex. When people started offering me seats on the subway, I usually declined: I was fine. I didn’t need a seat. I wasn’t old.
            A few years ago I developed a spinal stenosis, which causes me sciatic pain in my leg. I’ve been going to physical therapy off and on since, and have so far managed to keep the pain under control through stretches and exercise. It’s not continuous, it doesn’t always bother me. Until a few months ago.
            In mid-April I had a bad cold, very low energy, and a lot of work. I stopped the exercises and stretches. Once I recovered, I was in the midst of a heavy freelance workload (which happens every April and May) and couldn’t get back into the stretches-and-exercise regimen. By mid-June, the leg pain had become severe. Back to physical therapy. Back to gym.
            This week I’m working at an office, and had to bring my laptop, which now is much easier via a wheeled backpack. People recently have offered to help me with the wheeled backpack when I have to go up stairs. Today rain was threatened, so I brought my umbrella. On my way to the gym, I came out of the subway to rain. So I’d have to go up the stairs carrying the wheelie AND carrying my umbrella. I looked at the stairs. I paused. And a young woman behind me asked if I needed help with the wheelie. Without hesitation, I said, “Yes! Thank you.”
            I walked up the stairs. The young woman carried the wheelie. I thanked her again at the top of the stairs. But as I continued along to the gym, I felt old

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

SOLTuesday: Poetry in the Park


            I’ve been going to a monthly poetry salon for about six years. JP Howard is the founder of Women Writers in Bloom; she invites a writer, usually a poet, to give a short workshop, read from her (usually it’s a woman) work, answer questions, and it’s all followed by an open mike.
            BryantPark, behind the New York Public Library in midtown, has hosted readings during the summer for several years now. And tonight Women Writers in Bloom presented, for the second or third year, four of its established and emerging poets. It was a beautiful evening, and each poet was stupendously better then the previous one.
            I arrived a bit early and saw several people I knew, from the salon, but also a woman from the gym. Found a seat, ate the delicious Indian food I’d gotten from the food fair over on Broadway, and absorbed the moving and inspiring poetry, and tried to ignore the sirens of multiple emergency vehicles storming down 42nd  Street. (Had something gone badly wrong somewhere? Who knows—it’s only New York City.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

SOL Tuesday: Busy, busy, busy


            This week and next week are my busiest weeks of the year. I’m a free-lance copy editor, working primarily for my former employer, Publishers Weekly magazine. Next week is the publishing and bookselling industries’ trade show, now called BookExpo, followed by a new consumer/readers’ show called BookCon, and PW does a daily publication called Show Daily each of the four days of the two conventions. Each is full of advertising, and the printer needs lots of pages in advance, called the preprint, and that’s what we’re working on this week.
            For the past month I’ve been copy editing dozens of stories at home. This week I, and the two editors, get to read the page proofs, at least twice, after our art director does layouts and prints pages.
            So today, I arrived at the office (this work can’t really be done long distance) around 11, bringing my breakfast with me. Spent the next eight hours reading pages, answering copy editing questions, kibbitzing with my editors, recommending a movie to the fiction reviews editor, snacked on the Girl Scout cookies brought by the Show Daily editor, chatted baseball with the publisher (he’s a Yankees fan, I’m a Mets fan).
            When I got home at 8, I ate my takeout soup while watching the Mets lose, read some more page proofs and made corrections. E-mailed the nonfiction reviews editors that I would be late working on their files. Washed the dishes. Finally got a chance to balance my checkbook. Did my daily crossword puzzle. Packed up my backpack for tomorrow—when it will be a repeat of the above.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

SOL Tuesday: New York City Wildlife


            I was all over the city today, taking the subway six times. On one trip, as I was walking up the stairs from the platform at West 4th Street, something flitted by my peripheral vision. I looked back. Yes, it was a gray mouse, running downstairs. I think it was a mouse. It didn’t look big enough to be a rat, although I could see it from the top of the steps, so maybe it was bigger than I think.
            “New York wildlife,” I said to the young woman behind me.
            “It startled me,” she replied. She must be new to the city.
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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.

Blogging A-Z: H Is for Hiatus

I have to take a hiatus. Free-lance work is piling up and the next six weeks will leave me no time to write. Maybe I'll find an hour here and there, but until June, I'm not going to be able to continue the daily post...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Blogging A-Z: K Is for Kansas


            Jack was from Kansas. He was born in a small town, was moved at age 2 to government housing in Wichita, and when he was 12, the family moved again, into the city and a small house—I think it had three bedrooms, but can’t be sure. By this time, his older sister had married and left home, but his older brother, after he did his army service, came home to live, and Jack slept in the basement while his younger brother had his own bedroom.
            I’m not sure when Jack decided he had to leave Kansas. But when his father died suddenly
when Jack was 20, he knew that if he didn’t leave Kansas soon, he never would. He saved his money, he flunked out of college again, and in the late summer of 1963, he got a ride to Kansas City with a woman friend (I think her name was Carolyn Markley, and she drove a little red sports car really fast), and took the bus to Washington, D.C. He went to D.C. because a high school friend was a student at George Washington University.
            I first went to Kansas in the ’60s, when we’d been married for almost three years. Jack’s older brother, Larry, met us at the airport and drove us to their mother’s house. After we’d been driving for several minutes, I saw a few two-story buildings and asked, “When are we getting to the city?”
            Jack said, “This is the city.”
            I was abashed.
            In those years, I think I’d talked on the phone to his mother for less than a total of five minutes. In those days, I was still very shy and not good at meeting new people. So I think I still said very little to her. And we didn’t stay at Jack’s childhood home. No., we stayed at Larry’s, with his extremely pregnant wife, Coyita, and their toddler, Michelle. And a couple of days after we arrived, Coyita was off to the hospital to have Renee.
            Wichita was one of the cities where food products were tested. Here is where I first encountered Pop-Tarts. Coyita offered one to Michelle. I tasted one and no more.
            Jack next went to Kansas with Christie in 1981, and I went to Kansas two more times, for Thanksgiving in 1985, and two years later for his mother’s funeral. A few years later was Jack’s 30th high school reunion. Three of his friends called and wrote, urging him to go. I urged to him to go—I wanted to meet some of the people he’d been telling me stories about for years. But he was adamant. He was not going back to Kansas. And then he confessed that he’d been telling his family that the reason he didn’t come back to Kansas more often was because I didn’t want to go. I was so angry. I would have been happy to travel to Kansas, but Jack was lying about me to excuse his own desire to never return to that state.
            He never went back for a high school reunion. But he did go back to Kansas a couple more times, after his older brother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and then his sister was diagnosed with cancer. He didn’t go back for their funerals. He cared about living people.
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April’s writing challenge is to blog every day, with each post beginning with a letter of the alphabet from beginning to end. We skip Sundays, except for April 1, so as to have 26 days in the month.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Blogging A-Z: I Is for Imagination


            Jack used his imagination to keep himself from being bored. At the gym, he would tell himself stories, usually stories that happened to him or that he knew about other people. But he would improve the stories, make them more intriguing, more humorous, more dramatic. Sometimes he would play with these stories from his life so much that, he said, he sometimes couldn’t remember which was what really happened, and which was the embellished version.
            I often suggested he write his stories, but he never did. That, I believe he thought, would turn it into work. He has always written for pay. Writing for the fun of it, which I do a lot, did not appeal to him. So his stories exist now only in the e-mails he exchanged with friends and family. He engaged his imagination in choice of words, in choice of detail, rather than in making things up. Mostly.
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April’s writing challenge is to blog every day, with each post beginning with a letter of the alphabet from beginning to end. We skip Sundays, except for April 1, so as to have 26 days in the month.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Blogging: H Is for Harrisburg


            Jack liked making enigmatic comments, especially when he was drinking. Occasionally, he’d say he was thinking of going on a three-day bat in Harrisburg. Maybe this came from some book he read.
            Some years after he stopped drinking, he started saying, “I’m thinking of doing something irrevocable.” He was feeling bogged down in his life. I can still see him sitting at the other end of the couch, looking slightly desperate. We weren’t have any more difficulties than usual, yet his comment made me very nervous. This may have been when I opened another savings account that I didn’t tell him about. Just in case.
            But the irrevocable thing that happened was his blood-clotting disorder. Not what he had in mind. And I never asked him afterward what he’d been thinking when he made that cryptic statement.  
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April’s writing challenge is to blog every day, with each post beginning with a letter of the alphabet from beginning to end. We skip Sundays, except for April 1, so as to have 26 days in the month.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Blogging A-Z: G Is for Gym


            Jack went to the gym almost every day for the last 30 years of his life.
            He wasn’t particularly athletic when we first met, sometimes joking that the most exercise he got was lifting his glass-holding hand to his lips. But a few years after we moved to New York, we decided to learn to ride bikes. Mostly we biked around Central Park or Riverside Park; this was long before bike lanes, and biking on city streets faced hazards from both moving and stationary vehicles.
            We always walked a lot, well, at least Jack walked a lot. He sometimes told the story about walking to school as a teenager. Because he didn’t have a car, he was embarrassed about walking, and later found out that students admired him for walking. We walked around the neighborhood, but also in Riverside Park, down along the river and back.
            Especially in the summertime, with a cool breeze off the water, this was fun. A few times we walked across the George Washington Bridge and into Palisades Park, once climbing down giant rocks to near the river. Another time we took the ferry to Staten Island and walked eight miles to Richmondtown.
            In the ’70s, Jack took up running. At first he ran along the outside of Riverside Park. Then he discovered the track down in the park near 72nd Street. That was his favorite. I tried running, too, but soon I had to tape my ankles, and after another year or so, I was taping my knees. And since I could never make myself run farther than a mile and a quarter, I went back to the long exercise walk.
            When I started teaching at NYU and got a family membership to the gym, Jack took to it immediately. No longer did the weather stand in the way of getting his endorphin hit. When it looked like I wouldn’t get tenure, he searched around and found the West Side YMCA. He’d taken Christie there for swimming lessons years earlier, and the gym and locker rooms had been considerably refurbished since.
            He loved the Y. He rode the stationary bike long before there were TV screens for distraction, for an hour at least. He had friends there, both men and women. He’d bring home stories, most of which I’ve forgotten. Sometimes he tried the weight machines, but mostly he just wanted to bike. Even after his blood-clotting disorder, he missed a few months, but was back as soon as he could.
            His fall, however, stopped him. He never went back to the gym, and it was never clear whether he was embarrassed about how feeble he had become or simply didn’t want to talk about what happened. He went to physical therapy and kept up his exercises at home. I bought him weights to help. I also kept renewing our family membership, even though I wasn’t going as regularly as I should have. I did tell Zaida, who worked at the “towel-desk” and always asked after him when he died.
            Ever since, I’ve had mixed feelings about the Y. I keep going back, much more regularly now, but there’s hardly anyone left who knew Jack and knew that he and I were together. The Y is one of the most diverse places I spend time, which is important to me. But will I continue to go there, or find another gym or health club? I don’t know. 
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April’s writing challenge is to blog every day, with each post beginning with a letter of the alphabet from beginning to end. We skip Sundays, except for April 1, so as to have 26 days in the month.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Blogging A-Z: F Is for Flying


            I first flew in a plane when I was 19, in 1961. I was going to my second Antioch College co-op job, in Los Angeles. In those days, there was something called “student standby”: if you had a student ID, you could show up at the airport two hours before a scheduled takeoff, and if there was a seat available, you got it for some discount. (This was before deregulation, and flights routinely had empty seats.)
            I was at the airport before 6 a.m. and got on an 8 a.m. flight. Not a particularly adventurous person, I expected to be nervous: inside this metal cannister, tens of thousands of feet in the air. But once inside the plane, buckled into my seat, and staring out the window at puffy clouds and the green and brown earth below, I felt serenely safe. The flight was smooth, and I couldn’t help feeling that my jet was attached by a firm pole to a truck on a highway below. Of course I knew this wasn’t true, but it felt like it could be true. I’ve loved flying ever since, especially that moment when the airplane that’s been lumbering along the runway gracefully lifts off and the ground falls away.
            Jack took his first plane ride, with me, a few years after this. We were on a shuttle flight to Boston before switching to a tiny DC-3 to Montpelier, Vermont. Jack thought he would be nervous, and he was very nervous. He had to have a drink before we boarded, and another as soon as the refreshments were wheeled around. After a few more flights with Jack, his nervousness became contagious; I tried not to be as nervous as he was, but it was hard.
            As the years went by, Jack became somewhat less nervous, but I found it easier to fly without him.
            He did come up with one of his classic teases on a flight to his home in Kansas with our daughter when she was about eight. Looking down at all the lights as we flew over Cleveland, Jack said, “ Look down there. It’s a light-bulb farm.” Christie glanced out the window, gave him a quizzical look, and replied, “That’s just another one of your lies.”
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April’s writing challenge is to blog every day, with each post beginning with a letter of the alphabet from beginning to end. We skip Sundays, except for April 1, so as to have 26 days in the month.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Blogging A-Z: E Is for Editing


            I’ve been a copy editor for decades. When Jack was laid off from his reporter’s job after Rupert Murdoch bought the New York Post, one of his drinking buddies was a production editor at McGraw-Hill. She offered him copy editing work on textbooks, so I taught him how to be a copy editor.
            I taught him the way I learned, through the Chicago Manual of Style. Jack was an excellent writer and knew how to turn poor writing into good, but he needed guidance in explaining why he made grammar changes, and he needed to learn to pay attention to formatting (marking
heads, subheads, or sub-subheads, for example), as well as keeping track of proper names and their spellings, among many other details.
            He became good enough at this work that after a few years he was able to get a job on the copy desk at Business Week magazine. And he ended up working there much longer than he worked as a reporter. Not only that, we had frequent discussions verging on arguments on copy editing issues at the dinner table, which our school-age daughter found weird—but she was listening. As a grownup librarian today, she often e-mails me to ask whether a sentence she’s read in a book or a newspaper is grammatically correct.
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April’s writing challenge is to blog every day, with each post beginning with a letter of the alphabet from beginning to end. We skip Sundays, except for April 1, so as to have 26 days in the month.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Blogging A-Z: D Is for D.C.


     Jack and I met in Washington, D.C. I was living in a communal house, what later came to be called a commune but we called a co-op, having dropped out of Antioch College as the quintessential dropout, a second-year humanities student. Jack had left home in Wichita after his father died, to fight for civil rights and revolution, against racism and war, and came to Washington because a high school classmate was a student at George Washington University.
  Jack moved into a rooming house and got a job as a waiter at a lunch place on Capitol Hill. He hung around the university on his free time, and one day, while looking at the apartment listings in the student union, someone told him about this house up near Dupont Circle. He met the resident manager of our building, a grad student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and moved in.
    No one knew the person who had recommended us to Jack, which made some of our more paranoid residents suspicious. "He must be an FBI agent," said W. Why? He's from Kansas. He has blond hair. But he had a job and could pay one-sixth of the rent for our house, and we'd all moved in thinking we'd be one of six, and there'd been only five of us for a few months.
        I wasn't interested in Jack at first. The man I wanted was our resident manager, but he wasn't interested in me. Besides, Jack was cynical and caustic, with a judgment about everyone and everything. 
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April’s writing challenge is to blog every day, with each post beginning with a letter of the alphabet from beginning to end. We skip Sundays, except for April 1, so as to have 26 days in the month.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

SOLTuesday: The Blogging A-Z Challenge


            Here’s my April writing challenge. I didn’t know I had to sign up in advance, so I’m not officially in it. But I’m going to post as though I am anyway.
            The idea is to post every day on a subject starting with a letter of the alphabet in order from A to Z. Since each month has more than 26 days, we skip Sunday, but this month we start on a Sunday, since it’s April 1.
            My posts so far, and today I wrote the letter C:
A Is for Aimless
B Is for Bereavement
C Is for Coldwater (that’s the town in Kansas where my husband was born)
My theme is my late husband, our life together, memories. If you’d like, you can follow these daily posts here.
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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.

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Blogging A-Z: C Is for Coldwater


            Jack was born in Coldwater, Kansas, a town of about 1,200 people in the south-central part of the state, a few months after Pearl Harbor. The town is in Comanche County, which borders Oklahoma. Jack’s parents, and 6-year-old brother and 8-year-old sister, lived in their own house on Jack’s grandfather’s ranch. His grandfather bought baby calves, fattened them up, and drove them north to sell.
            Coldwater was what is known as a “sunset” town, i.e., it had a sign at the town limit with
this message: “N*****, don’t let the sun set on your black head in Coldwater.” That sign still existed into the mid-1950s, when Jack came to visit his grandparents on “the farm.” Other towns in the county are Protection and Buttermilk. Coldwater now has a population a bit over 800, Protection about 500, and Buttermilk barely exists any more.
            Jack’s father, Lawrence, worked for his father, but their relationship was strained; one year, Lawrence failed to return home immediately after selling the cattle because he was drinking up much of the money. By 1944, he moved his family up to Wichita, where he’d started working at Boeing, which was churning out warplanes, and the family lived in a war-time housing community called Planeview.  
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April’s writing challenge is to blog every day, with each post beginning with a letter of the alphabet from beginning to end. We skip Sundays, except for April 1, so as to have 26 days in the month.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Blogging A-Z: B Is for Bereavement


            Merriam-Webster defines “bereave” as “to deprive of something,” as “bereavement” as “the state of being bereaved or deprived.” These are rather bloodless definitions for what is often meant by “bereavement,” which is the loss of a loved person to death.
            I’ve been going to a bereavement group for two years, since the death of my husband. We
were together for 52 years, pretty much all of our adult lives. Jack was six weeks older than me, but since June 4, 2016, I will always be older than he will ever be. I am still learning how to be an adult on my own.
            The bereavement group consists of a group of women and men who have all recently lost a spouse, partner, or, in my group, a parent. Even though our circumstances vary, sometimes dramatically, we all share this one experience of loss. It’s an experience you don’t really understand unless or until you find yourself in it.
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April’s writing challenge is to blog every day, with each post beginning with a letter of the alphabet from beginning to end. We skip Sundays, except for April 1, so as to have 26 days in the month.

Blogging A-Z: A Is for Aimless


            April’s writing challenge is to blog every day, with each post beginning with a letter of the alphabet from beginning to end. We skip Sundays, so as to have 26 days of the month, except to do that we have to start on April 1. I’m a day behind, so I’ll post twice today.
            Aimless is still how I am feeling much of the time. When I have freelance work to do, or a lunch or dinner engagement with a friend, or one of my many groups in the evening, I tend to focus on those. But there is usually time “in between,” when I would have been talking to Jack, or we would have been going to the movies, or wandering around town (before he fell) or the neighborhood (after he fell).
            I’m not an astrology person, but I can’t help noticing that I am a classic Gemini, finding it hard to make up my mind between sometimes opposing tracks, or simply having too many interests to settle on one. Jack gave me structure, and now he’s gone—so I have to find, to make my own structure. It’s not easy.