This afternoon, I shall present myself at the ophthalmologist’s office, where I will be measured, Valiumed up, awakened from a peaceful sleep on the waiting room sofa, cattle-prodded down the hall to the operating room, punctured, divested of a cataract, invested with a shiny new lens, wobbled back to the waiting room, and driven home, thence to crash on the sofa until further notice.
Isn’t that a lovely sentence? I wish the writer who told me to stop composing sentences requiring semicolons could see it. Not a semicolon in sight.
My critic said readers wouldn’t understand semicolons. I countered (mentally) that I hoped for readers who could unravel more than a simple declarative sentence, and if I couldn’t get them, I would give up writing and instead take conversational Spanish or annoy another voice teacher. But I have cut down on semicolons.
She also told me not to digress. One out of two isn’t bad.
Anyway. That was the procedure with LASIK, except for the puncture, the cataract, and the new lens. This time the doctor will use a vacuum cleaner. Doesn’t sound appetizing. The trade-off is that I won’t be disturbed by the smell of burning flesh–mine–from the laser. I’m to wear warm clothes because the operating room is cold. In the midst of this 75-degree winter, cold will be a relief. Friends have told me there will be heated blankets, but the doctor didn’t mention those, so I will take a sweater. I’ll have to take off my shoes, so I’ve also set aside a pair of socks the cats haven’t gnawed holes in.
Although by the time the Valium has taken hold, I won’t be able to read a compound-complex sentence, and I won’t care what the cats have done.
Note: A friend told me my impending surgery was announced on Facebook yesterday afternoon. I didn’t intend to announce it, and I don’t remember announcing it. Well, whatever. Since the story was already bouncing around in cyberspace, I thought I might as well make a post out of it. This evening, I might not think it so amusing.
At Christmas play and make good cheer For Christmas comes but once a year.
~ Thomas Tusse
David and I met friends Geoff and Emme at the Root Cellar yesterday morning for a belated Christmas breakfast. Our plan for a Christmas-David’s Birthday-New Year’s dinner in December fell through when both Emme and I came down with whatever people get at this time of year and we had to cancel.
The breakfast worked out better, however, because we dressed less formally (if such a thing be possible) and because I didn’t have to make a salad.
The gift exchange comprised books, homemade granola, a kazoo, cute little plastic thingeys to bind cords and cables, and a Christmas ornament.
The best, however, were the gifts exchanged by the cats and Geoff and Emme’s dogs, Tuck and Abbey. Tuck and Abbey received toys best described as big blue squeaking Scrubbing Bubbles covered with jiggly cilia. I would describe Tuck and Abbey, but I can’t do them justice, except to say that if you turn your back and walk away from Abbey, you’ll never do it again. More info in the form of photos will be provided at a later date.
Ernest and William hit the jackpot. They received fancy sequined mice and a variety of balls, most with noisemakers–jingle, rattle, clack–inside. In little more than twenty-four hours, half the balls have disappeared.
William and Ernest have always found it convenient to store toys under the bed for spontaneous midnight romps. By morning, I may know where they’ve hidden these.
Since early November, when the media shifted focus from the presidential election to the next crisis, David’s favorite television show has been the evening news. To him, it’s comedy. Every time Diane Sawyer says “fiscal cliff,” he roars with laughter.
I haven’t laughed. The prospect of going over a cliff is scary. At first, the mere mention of John Boehner’s name gave me the fantods. But after being bombarded–fiscal cliff, fiscal cliff, fiscal cliff— over and over, on local news, network news, PBS News Hour, day after day for nearly two months, I became jaded. While David sat in the living room and guffawed, I muttered, Que sera, sera, and kept on chopping onions.
But two days ago, while rummaging through purpleborough’s blog, I stumbled upon this sentence: Nevertheless, I must decide what I am going to wear going over the fiscal cliff.
And I realized my error. The fiscal cliff isn’t something to dismiss with a chuckle. There’s a lot to be done before midnight. I haven’t decided what I’ll wear either.
At the top of the list is whether I can go with just the clothes on my back, or whether I’ll need a suitcase. What about toiletries? Cosmetics? I will take a lipstick–I always take a lipstick, because I think other people feel better when I wear it–but what about eye shadow? Will I be able to find my manicurist after we’ve gone over? Because he’s all booked up today.
I’ll have to take shampoo, conditioner, brush, dryer, curling iron. Millions of people will be going over that cliff. I’ll take several bars of deodorant soap. I hope everybody does.
Packing would be easier if I knew what’s at the bottom of the fiscal cliff. If a river’s down there, I would wear my bathing suit, but for anything else, denim is more serviceable. My jeans have gotten a little scruffy, so if there’s mud, they’ll do fine. It would be a shame for my good black slacks to get dirty. I want to wear them to dinner later with my with my new red cowl-necked sweater. I hope there’s mud. For that matter, I hope there’s dinner.
What will Diane Sawyer wear going over the fiscal cliff?
The probability of a hard landing means I’ll have to take the travel first-aid kit I picked up at Target last year. Gauze and antibacterial ointment can come in awfully handy. Plus mosquito repellent. Anti-itch cream. Aspirin, ibuprofen. Cough drops. A couple of Ace bandages for wrapping sprained ankles. Ichthyol for mesquite thorns. Moleskin for blisters (I assume we will not be met by a string of limos). Sunscreen, hat.
Books. I don’t go anywhere without books.
Laptop, notebook, pens, index cards. I assume there will be WiFi somewhere in the vicinity of the landing site. Mouse. Camera and USB cable. Flash drive. Printer and paper? I might be able to print at a library. Are there libraries over the fiscal cliff?
Cats. I can’t go without the cats. I won’t go without the cats. Neither will David. But he’ll have to deal with them. They’re so heavy that every time I pick up one of the carriers, I throw my back out.
Insurance cards, passport, driver’s license, birth certificate. Purpleborough thinks we won’t need any form of ID, but I’m going to take what I have. If we get down there and they change their minds, we’ll probably need ID to get back up.
It’s obvious I’m going at this haphazardly. There’s so much to do and so little time in which to do it. If you see anything I’ve missed, please leave a comment. If you’ll do the same thing for Purpleborough, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.
I have to go now and do a load of laundry. I was going to make peanut butter sandwiches to carry along, but I’ve decided against it. The one thing I’m sure of is this: even at the bottom of the fiscal cliff, we’re bound to find a McDonald’s.
Before I go, let me be clear: I’m not complaining about going over the fiscal cliff–I want to do my part, just like everyone else–but if we go over and then they tell us to turn around and come back, I expect transportation to be provided. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Mules will do. I just don’t think I should have to scale the fiscal cliff under my own steam. There’s too much stuff to carry.
We got the official word today: William weighs nearly 19 pounds. To my sorrow, the veterinarian said he’s not overweight–he’s just enormous.
I’m sorry because I had hoped she would put him on a diet, reduce him by two or three pounds, and thus save me several visits to the massage therapist. Lugging his carrier from house to car and from car to receptionist’s desk has more than once resulted in parts of my sacroiliac going AWOL.
It happens every time we board them: We stuff the cats into their crates. David carries Ernest; I carry William. Four hours later, changing planes in Atlanta (or Charlotte or Chicago or Houston or New York City or Seattle), David hoofs it down the concourse like a cross between Rudolph Nureyev and Roger Bannister, and I limp along twenty yards behind, Quasimodo dragging a carry-on.
And since William has been pronounced a perfect 10, so I will continue.
When I left him at the vet’s this morning, I wasn’t convinced he was healthy. He’d had a minor tummy problem, one the Internet had assured us was probably nothing to worry about. But when it’s your kid, or your cat, you worry anyway, at least a little.
The doctor, however, agreed with the Internet. The cause of his ailment isn’t clear, but it falls under the heading of “Sometimes Cats Do That.” We hauled him home. He’s happy to be back with Ernest and has said he might someday forgive me.
We also hauled antibiotic (1/4 tablet, twice daily, use a syringe to keep fingers out of danger), oral paste (1 dose twice daily, wait 30 minutes after administering antibiotic, just push it through his teeth), and a week’s worth of dry and canned catfood (gastroenteric). Both cats will eat the food. There’s no way we can separate them at dinner time, which lasts 24 hours.
William was a gentleman while in the examining room, which is more than I can say for him at the beginning of the expedition. He squalled from door to door and kept up the screeching even after being deposited in the vet’s reception room next to a pit bull awaiting vaccination. When Ernest sees a dog, he clams up and concentrates on making himself invisible. William says All Places Are Alike to Him, and if the dog objects to his caterwauling, he can just get over it. That’s the same message he gave me when I tried to shush him.
The vet asked one question that still hangs between David and me, unanswered: “Has William been under any stress?”
We discussed it over dinner at the Magnolia. David has been under stress. Ernest has been under stress (Ernest has an overly active fight-or-flight response). I have been under such stress that I couldn’t even put a meal on the table this evening.
But stress and William don’t move in the same circles.
Except once. Less than a week after William became part of our family, Ernest developed a severe gastrointestinal upset and had to stay at the hospital. The next morning, William stopped eating (unheard of), ran a high fever, and became lethargic. He lay unmoving in my lap. Almost catatonic, no pun intended. I raced him to the vet. She checked him out and then put him in the cage with Ernest.
Six hours later, when I called for an update, William’s temperature was normal and he was “eating like a horse.” All better. He just needed his brother.
But for the past three years, William has been serene. He’s not reactive. At times I wonder whether he even has reflexes.
Only two stimuli energize him: his partner in crime, and his toys.
At present, William lies across the room from me, his back turned. He knows he’s supposed to swallow 1/4 tablet before bedtime. He remembers I’m going to push oral paste through his teeth. He knows he’s nowhere near critical condition. He knows I know it.
He’s waiting me out, hoping I lose my nerve.
Frankly, my dear, his plan is working. I’m going to bed.
And as for the inevitable showdown, I’ll think about it tomorrow.
Note: I shan’t really continue lugging William to the kennel. In future, I have dibs on Ernest. He weighs in at 16 pounds.
Last week, Ernest claimed the chair I consider mine. When I got out, he jumped in. When I wanted to sit down, I had to wrestle him out. That’s why the photo shows Ernest lying in the chair.
The laptop is in the chair because one night several months ago, when the laptop was sitting on the floor beside the chair, its usual resting place, Ernest chewed through the cable running from the laptop to the fan beneath. The cable was hardwired, so I had to buy a new fan. The next night Ernest chewed through the cable running to the new fan. Fortunately, that cable was replaceable.
Ernest had never shown interest in any of the cables decorating our home, and he’d been peacefully coexisting with the fan cable for two years. I don’t know why he snapped.
I’ve now treated all wires and cables with dishwashing soap.
Anyway, since Ernest’s oral fixation got the best of him, the laptop has spent its nights in the chair, covered by a pillow. William sometimes sleeps on the pillow. On the day I took the photo, Ernest took possession of the chair before the laptop was tucked in.
That’s why Ernest is lying on the laptop.
While we’re on the topic, here’s a picture of the stationary bicycle I bought in January. At Academy. Brand new.
(William, I fear, though he’s neither gnawer nor clawer, may not be entirely innocent in this matter.)
When I discovered the bike’s new look, I wasn’t pleased. I’ve managed to convince myself, however, that function is more important than form. And form can be altered.
I could knit the bike a sweater. And buy Ernest a straightjacket.*
*I can hear readers saying, “What is wrong with this woman? Why does she put up with this?” For three reasons: 1. I love the cats, even Ernest. 2. They’re not generally destructive–don’t tear up carpets, baseboards, cabinet doors, so far haven’t broken any china (although I once came upon William on the verge of pushing the salt shaker off the table, so china isn’t a slam dunk,) and spend most days sleeping and being cute. 3. I don’t want a divorce.
Here’s my progress report for the first week of January:
On Tuesday, I attended Austin Mystery Writers. I had not submitted anything for critique, but I took a bit of the newsletter I was editing for CP to proof. My printer had cut off an inch or two on the right side of the document, so CP had difficulty proofing. I learned to look at documents while I’m still able to try again.
On Wednesday, I saw I’d made no progress, and I was lethargic, wanted to sleep all day, so I postponed reporting until Sunday.
On Thursday, I fell victim to cedar fever and wanted to sleep all day, but I went out and bought a stationary bike and allowed David and the cats to assemble it while I slept in a chair. I woke up and rode the bike for twelve minutes, whether I wanted to or not.
On Friday, I attended the Just for the Hell of It Writers, where CP and I discussed changing the name of the group. We discussed several other things as well, including the fact that I had made no progress because I was perpetually sleepy. I rode three minutes on the stationary bike before sitting down and going to sleep in a chair. I woke up and posted on my blog that cedar fever was upon us.
On Saturday, I developed a light case of allergy flu (I rarely have hay fever, I prefer to host a virus) and sat around the house feeling miserable and moaning and sighing several times an hour so David and the cats would know I was miserable. David decided to visit a friend. They cats hid upstairs. I didn’t ride the bike. I finished putting together a newsletter, prayed for accuracy, and published it.
Today I woke up feeling better, no flu, but looking disgusting enough for David to offer to cook breakfast. He prepared dinner several times during the week, too. I updated the blog for my writing practice group and posted the link on Facebook. Then I corrected the date and posted the correction on FB. Then I corrected the address and posted the correction on FB. Then I corrected the address in the address correction I’d already posted on FB and posted that to FB. Then I made a correction to that correction; I had said it was the fourth correction, but it was really the third. The correction process having taken a lot out of me, I considered going to bed but decided to post my report instead.
Summary: I did not meet my goal of working on my novel every day. Instead, I coughed, moaned, and felt sorry for myself. To my credit, I did not eat a gallon of Campbell’s tomato soup made with condensed milk and further gooey-ed up with smashed saltine crackers. Said soup is the only halfway effective palliative for a condition involving the sinuses, but it is chockfull of sodium, preservatives, coloring agents, and various other chemicals I’ve sworn off. So ate baked chicken, salad, fruit, and cough drops. And suffered.
So that’s my report. Cedar fever isn’t the best excuse in the world, but it beats the dog ate my homework.
Note to my former students (and all others who monitor my grammar, usage, and punctuation): I know this post contains a comma splice, and I know I told you all that using a comma splice qualifies as sin. But I’ve loosened up a lot over the years, and now I find that the judiciously placed comma splice can be just the ticket for getting my meaning across. Using run-on sentences, on the other hand, those jammed together with no punctuation mark at all, still constitutes sin.
Image by DonES at en.wikipedia. Later version(s) were uploaded by Hohum at en.wikipedia. [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.—Somerset Maugham
After two days of letting A. A. Milne and Mark Twain do my thinking for me, I buckled down this evening and composed an essay about my experiences teaching high school English.
Actually, I wrote about half of a draft in which I said that all except three of my students hated writing, and that when I became a better teacher about a dozen showed slight enthusiasm for writing, and that after the library (to which I had fled in search of a job that would allow me to buy books with other people’s money) connected to the Internet and let students open e-mail accounts, those who had formerly resisted picking up a pen skipped lunch to park themselves at my computers and e-mail students sitting less than a foot away when they could have just turned their heads and spoken face-to-face.
Of course, I said that in shorter sentences, but a lot more of them.
I was planning to say that kids who’d been telling their composition teachers, “But I don’t have anything to say,” suddenly found plenty to say. I was going remark that the novelty of the technology contributed to the verbal onslaught. I was going to mention that the definite sense of aim, mode, and audience also promoted fluency.
I was going to expand the discussion from students with e-mail to adults with blogs. I was going to say that two weeks ago I joined the NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) network and, following its dictates, have posted on two blog sites every blessed day for thirteen days straight, even when I haven’t had anything worth saying.
I was going to say I’m running out of pictures of my cats, and there are only so many poses they’re willing to strike, and I’d prefer not be pigeonholed as a chronicler of cute.
I was going to say that more than 12,000 other people are blogging at NaBloPoMo–poetry, journals, photographs, devotionals, stories, recipes, a plethora of words, words, words. I was going to marvel at what appears to be a compulsion among people who, like my students (and I was going to admit I had once shared feeling), would once have found it difficult or foreign or unimaginable to put pen to paper.
I was going to wonder about this desire to create, to share, to vent, to communicate, to play, to do whatever we’re doing when we contribute to the sentences flooding cyberspace.
I was going to say that some people tat or make doilies or whittle, and we write.
Then I was going to draw a lesson, wise and well-phrased, from all the foregoing, and end with a nod to novelist Somerset Maugham, whose words precede mine on this page.
That’s what I said and what I was going to say.
Unfortunately, about three hundred words in, I touched an alien key and deleted everything except the HTML for font, and I couldn’t find the Undo icon because I’d composed on a new blog I’d set up on a rival blog site and hadn’t read all the instructions and found out I’d have to undo with a keystroke rather than an icon.
So now, instead of referring to Maugham, I shall end by paraphrasing Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, T. S. Eliot, and any others to whom the line has been attributed, and say that this post would have been shorter but I didn’t have time.*
*It would have had better sentence structure, too. But it’s a lot less pompous, ponderous, and moralistic in this who-cares version.
Reposted from Whiskertips, July 23, 2009
Image by Julitofranco (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, stresses the importance of both writing and playing. At the WLT Summer Writing Retreat, Karleen Koen reminded students of Cameron’s Artist’s Date—a weekly solo “adventure” to feed the soul and allow for continued creativity.
Since leaving the retreat, I’ve been thinking about possibilities for my Artist’s Dates. A visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a candidate, though it’ll probably wait until spring. Central Texas affords plenty of potential for adventure.
But having just returned from a week-long Artist’s Date, I decided to concentrate first on writing.
I designated yesterday, my first day out of post-retreat depression, a day for writing.
Here’s how it went:
I rose at a reasonable hour and prepared to leave for my coffee-shop office.
Downstairs, doling out catfood, I realized that in the half-hour I’d been up, I’d seen no cats. This had never happened. William often sleeps late, but Ernest is up with the chickens and frequently makes sure I am, too.
I called, ran upstairs, searched, called. William, draped across his pagoda, opened his eyes and blinked but offered no opinion as to Ernest’s whereabouts.
I ran downstairs, called, searched, dropped to my knees and peered under furniture. I ran back upstairs, etc.
Finally dropping at the right place, I found Ernest under the bed. He was sitting in that compact way cats have, with all his feet neatly tucked in. His look wasn’t warm and welcoming. When I tried to drag him out, he wriggled loose and ran into the hall and thence into the guest room and under that bed.
At that point, I remembered a get-well card I sent my great-aunt Bettie: On the front was a drawing of an orange-striped cat, looking bored, and saying, “Feeling poorly? Do as I do.” Inside, it said, “Crawl under the porch.”
We had no porch, so Ernest crawled under the next best thing.
I put batteries in the flashlight and girded my loins. Negotiating the guest room is not a task for the faint of heart. There’s stuff in there.
Back on my hands and knees, aka standing on my head, I again located Ernest. He was lying, neatly tucked, in the corner near the wall. Stretching out on the carpet, I reached under and scratched his ears. He didn’t protest. His big green eyes, however, told me I’d better not make any sudden moves.
Then I did.
Ernest is heavy and muscular. His twenty toes are tipped with talons. He has teeth.
Like Barry Goldwater, he believes extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
I believe in keeping as much of my blood as possible on the inside of my skin.
I also believe extremism in the pursuit of getting my children to the veterinarian is a necessary evil. This evil was necessary.
Ernest suffers from what might be termed a sluggish constitution, which is aggravated by his habit of putting foreign objects into his mouth. And swallowing them. Mainly bits of string and thread. They don’t have to be on the floor. He pokes around on tables and steals anything that strikes his fancy.
The first time he withdrew from society, two years ago, I had to authorize X-rays, ultrasound, and a simple procedure he really really didn’t like. It seemed best, this time, to seek medical attention before a minor problem became major.
Well, to summarize: Ernest hid under the bed from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. I spent a goodly portion of that time supine on the floor trying to regain his trust. I spent the rest of the time downstairs, sneezing my head off because of all the dust bunnies under there with him.
In desperation, I took his jingly collar, the one he refuses to wear, and lay down by the bed and jingled at him. He purred and gnawed on the collar. Then he flopped over onto his back and I administered belly rubs. He had a lovely time. I went back downstairs and sneezed until my throat was raw. Then I coughed. I couldn’t stop coughing.
Having neither cough drops nor unexpired cough medicine, I poured a tiny bit of some extremely aged Jim Beam (my mother bought it to put on her Christmas applesauce cakes over twenty years ago) into a glass and added the dregs of David’s hummingbird sugar and drank it from a spoon. The first sip tasted pretty bad, and it didn’t do much for the cough, but by the time I was finished sipping, my concern for Ernest had eased considerably.
Anyway, as I sat in the living room taking my medicine, Ernest appeared downstairs. He sashayed into the kitchen. I heard him crunch two or three bites of food. Then he doubled back. Sneak that I am, I lured into my lap. Then I grabbed him and stuffed him into the waiting crate and headed for the vet’s.
Ernest protested, of course, at first. But as soon as the two big dogs in the vet’s waiting room charged up to his crate to pant hello, he decided confinement had its advantages and shut up.
Getting his weight was the first order of business. I was not surprised to learn he weighs 17 pounds. My spine had already intimated I would be making a trip to the chiropractor in short order.
After some poking and prodding and determining this was indeed the result of ingesting thread, and addressing that problem, the doctor said cats like linear objects. I said I’d noticed.
He gave me three choices: take him home and give him meds and watch him for 24 hours; leave him there for meds and the procedure he really really doesn’t like and pick him up at 5:00 p.m.; or be referred to another vet for X-rays because he’s moving his office up the street and his machine was all to pieces.
He said choice #1 would have been fine for his cat, but I told him I liked choice #2. Leaving Ernest would ensure he was unclogged. If I took him home and he crawled under the bed again, I might never get him out.
I hated sentencing him to a procedure. But if he hadn’t eaten something unacceptable, he wouldn’t have been in this fix.
As agreed, David and I picked Ernest up at 5:00 p.m., bought a tube of Laxatone, and hauled him home. He’s fine now, thank you, and appears to have forgiven me. I assume the scratch I got trying to remove him from my person in the middle of last night was unintentional.
That is the story of my day set aside for writing.
I’m trying to decide whether it qualifies as an Artist’s Date.
I am too tired to speak of goals or progress. I will say that I got to bed by 11:00 p.m. two days in a row, and that I’m about to make that three.
I am still trying to come up with just the right way to begin Molly Chapter 5. That means, of course, I’m fighting a losing battle. It’s interesting, the things you do when you know they’re not going to work. Or perhaps you don’t. But I do.
My conclusion: I must go back to pen and paper, slow myself down, write what’s wrong, leave it there, scratch it out, whatever, but–live with it. Let it stare me in the face while I keep a-going. End up with a mass of scribbled-on paper instead of a screen blank from repeated deletions.
Someday, when I’ve broken through the need for perfection–or at least the idea that I can attain it–I’ll return to the keyboard.
Regarding exercise, I ran all over the house this afternoon trying to get out the door to an appointment. Last-minute tasks kept calling me: find keys, find socks, find purse, find sunglasses, find cash, take clothes out of dryer, put clothes into dryer, put note on door for AC technician telling him not to let cats out…
It wasn’t the last-minute things that caused me to run late, though. It was the amount of time I spent trying to put on a pair of David’s jeans.