Thursday, December 23, 2010


I made that commitment to Holidailies and then, after the 15th I could not bring myself to write a word. I felt bad that I couldn't write some drivel every day. How hard could it be? I have produced reams (if pixels can be considered in paper terms) of daily stuff. In fact, I went looking around and I could show you an entry for every single day in 2005. Well, almost anyway. But it would "bore [you and] me terrifically, too." (Points for knowing that reference.) I got mired in 2005 for about fifteen minutes when I thought about it and had to go get coffee and make up the bed to escape.

The fact is writing, and keeping a promise to get pixels to screen every day, used to help me get through.

Here's why: I used to find the humor in it. Even if I seemed down last year (when I got through Holidailies in fine style while dealing with quite a rough patch for Dad's health) I was on the lookout for a bon mot, a bit of humor, to make writing a little easier. A funny hook for a serious discussion maybe. Maybe my dad was the one that helped me find that. Maybe without him writing blog entries will seem empty and silly. It's sure looking that way. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Am I there? In the picture I mean. My life is like that.

Yesterday I uploaded this picture, titled this entry 'Divagate' and typed "Am I there?" Then I could do no more. I had no words to spill into pixels and keep up the stream that is supposed to be my (almost) every day Holidailies 'obligation.'

I'm a wanderer. It's so with tasks. It's so with reading. It's so with my stories.

I love this word. This title. Divagate. No, no, it isn't a scandal at the Metropolitan Opera.
divagate, v. intr.
  1. to wander, stray
  2. digress in speech
Love it. This was's word of the day sometime in the last couple of weeks. I actually pay them money to have access to the site with more info and less ads online. But word of the day, facebook and the iPhone app (which is ad-rich) are free. But...I digress.

I was so, so sad yesterday that I couldn't write. I felt empty. We went out to our house which Dad used to live in. Every time I go out there it makes me sad. And sadder. Like when I'm tossing and giving away 'stuff' I'm emptying my dad, maybe even my parents, from my life. Some of that stuff had been with them as long as I knew them. But. Oh. Well. It's really the memories, right? That's what people say. Of course, I have a lot of pictures and souvenirs. If a computer goes to screen saver after a few minutes a picture of my dad or mom will flash up.

I was also sad because we are getting old. My skin is getting thin and these red 'blood under the skin' bruises appear out of nowhere. Sometimes the skin breaks. We have our ailments. We are old. We both get Social Security checks. For now. Who knows what the Congress has in store. FFP's troubles and surgeries capped by a mother of a stomach ailment last weekend just made me feel it was all worth nothing. There would never be fun again. Just illness and worry. Trips to the drug store, etc. My in-laws are still alive. But old. I worry about them. My dad's youngest sister was in the hospital after falling. (She did get to go home and sounded pretty good today.) She is only 17 years older than I.

I am so lucky. But still I was sad. But words can make me smile. But I wander. Divagate!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Get Control of the Papers

This picture was taken some time in the late '90's I think. Not sure. Found it in my dad's stuff. Perhaps my mother shot it with her camera. And, yes, I look like one of those 'paper and bones' ladies surrounded as I am by newspapers and magazines I'm trying to sort. Or read. Or something. I see a precipitous pile of magazines on a table in the room, too. This was our media room and the place we sat in chairs and watched TV for a while until we moved that activity mostly to the bedroom. We also entertained in this large room. You know, when it wasn't so messy!

I have a real love/hate thing with newspapers. I love getting my three papers every day really. (Except on Sundays. Then only two.) And, of course, we pick up those weekly give away Chronicles and get a West Austin News in the mail every week.

I hate the way they pile up, taunting me. If I try to trim the pile down, quickly tossing the sports pages, some business sections, ads, etc. then I end up with a smaller but, in a way denser, pile of arts sections, interesting front pages, metro sections (gotta read those obits). When we moved to the condo, I had to do a better job of controlling the accretion. I decided to use two bins I had. One would hold that day's papers (assuming they weren't stacked on the dining table or beside my chair). One would hold those sections I couldn't bring myself to discard and the ones I hadn't even sorted. When the latter got too unwieldy...I'd do something about it, by golly. I usually do. Although lately there have been some tough times and getting reading done didn't seem to be in the cards.

Plus when I settle in and read the papers it depresses me. The bad news, of course. But also the things I just don't know about that seem to be dispatches from another world. You would think, with all this newspaper reading that I would know a lot about world issues, local issues, politics, the arts. But really. No.

And yet I can't give up the papers. I do get lots of news on RSS feeds, through links on social media, from the TV and even sometimes on the radio. But. I need to be a person who gets the papers. I am a newspaper reader. I need to work the Monday New York Times crossword and feel that smug satisfaction of getting the puns or whatever. Yeah, yeah, Monday is easy. Sometimes I can work the Wednesday or Thursday one. Or the Sunday magazine. Without cheating too much.

It's been a rough day. FFP was sick this weekend but is getting better, I hope. (He's got the energy to take a load of papers down to recycling!) Actually getting sick after his surgeries and recoveries was an unnecessary blow I thought. And so it goes. I guess I'll go read some papers. And work that Monday crossword. I am so lame.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Can You Really Control Anything?

Action/reaction. Cause and effect. Can we really control anything? There are all the things we are supposed to do to stay safe and healthy. To keep things running in our modern world of cars, computers, gadgets and appliances (all which have filters if they involve water or air in any way).

The worst things to control involve other people. People you are supposed to be there for in their time of need, physical or mental.

I can't shake the feeling that my dad would have had a different outcome with a different caregiver. Don't get me wrong. Everyone owes a death. I did my best and maybe his came later than it would have in other circumstances. But you make all these tiny decisions even though you are essentially helpless in the world of doctors and treatments. You try to encourage behaviors, look up drugs, get the right professionals. You help make decisions.

With FFP's health I always feel inept as well. After all the surgeries and such he has come down with a stomach ailment. Complaining of cramping and nausea he took himself to the doctor, got drugs, tests. He feels awful. I feel helpless.

And through it all I have been trying to keep things going. Changing light bulbs, getting cars serviced, paying bills, getting Dad's stuff and affairs in order. It runs away from me.

When FFP is ailing (and this happened during stints babysitting Dad at home and hospital and doctor's offices), I sometimes give myself a vacation from all other duties and just sit and read and eat and don't exercise and just be there to fetch things while entertaining myself reading or with my iPhone or iPod.

And, of course, this brings up the question of when caregivers get sick. How do they manage to postpone the sniffles, the sneezes, their own stomach ailments, their own major complications? Last year at this time a friend was at the hospital every day as his wife fought deadly complications of H1N1. Now he fights cancer. Should we be trying to harness this delay of symptoms so that, even if we have something terrible, we can delay the onset because someone else is sick?

Plus...does anyone else think that the routers, computers, phones, Internet access, cars, TVs, appliances, etc. really have a mind of their own and will only work when you, the caregiver, hold your mouth just right and delay getting that cold or allergy attack?

Sorry about this silly ramble, but it just amazes me that we can seemingly control so many things. And yet. Not.

[Photo taken in Vegas at fancy shopping.]

Saturday, December 11, 2010

There's Always Something...

Dad used to say: "There's always something to take the joy out of life." He used to also say: "I've bought a lot of cameras but I never owned one." He didn't buy the digital point and shoot that I used to shoot the Harrah's sign in Vegas (in August) or the computer and software I used to snip it so it just said 'ahs.' But Dad speaks a lot of truth.

I'm listening to my husband moan right now. It isn't anything serious, I hope. Just a digestive upset and some pesky cramps. Still. No joy.

I'm getting ready to go play tennis. I love it, but I sometimes feel it's the only active thing I'm making time for and it shouldn't be. I have to go check on our other house after that. I no longer have to check on Dad, but I still have to check on the property. I'm ready to be done with it. Of course, I still have to settle his affairs and found out that the estate's inventory has to be on file for ten days and my sister has to sign a paper before I can finish up.

I feel OK myself this morning. Although I didn't get enough sleep because I went to bed too late. After going to see "The Nutcracker" and staying after to talk to dancers and walking home, I felt the need to stay up and read papers and watch stupid crime shows. I slept well but I had dreams. There were battles with office supplies and strange court room scenes where everyone was eating sausage.

OK, but troubled in a vague way. That's me. I need to straighten out a bunch of things. I need to find time to write and love the activity. This daily journal is a chore right now. It isn't Holidailies taking the joy out of it. It's something else. Always something.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ephemeral and Colorful

This morning I was doing my best impression of sleeping in. Which due to tennis some mornings and other duties, like being at the courthouse yesterday, is surprisingly hard for this retired girl to achieve. But FFP woke me to see the contrail tracing up the sky by the Frost Bank. It was pretty dramatic. Fleeting. But dramatic. Dawn and dusk are like that: colorful and dramatic. Just like the drama at the beginnings and endings of everything.

Sometimes I wish things would be static for just a moment. Just hold up and let me catch up. I could get through the newspapers and the bills and the duties if more didn't show up each day. But every bit of life is a fleeting moment, a picture you can never take again. Whenever you stand over a dying person or try to help someone who has just been through surgery or just smile or frown at a stranger on the street? That is that moment and it is complete even as it flees across time like the contrail. It fades but it is that dot on the time line and it's irretrievable.

Knowing how ephemeral life is can give us a calm respect for how time towers over us. Or it can weigh us down as we try to do everything at once as we pursue a static place that doesn't exist. I'm trying to grab the calm this morning. To find some peace with the reality of life. To revel in the fact that this moment and its discomforts are soon gone. That things change and that's the good part.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Quit Whining and Pay Attention

It's been a surreal fall. Tomorrow I go to court for my dad's will probate and I was thinking "Life will somehow be 'normal' when I've gotten all that taken care of." Yeah, sure. Life is never 'normal.' It's always FUBAR. Anything else is an illusion. You just have to take the blows, feint left or right, dodge, go on.

FFP sent out an e-mail saying his latest surgery didn't find cancer. Yeah, we are happy and thinking about being festive and such. Someone replied that their journey was taking a different turn, toward hospice. And then we saw in the paper that our friend died on Sunday. I heard that my aunt had a fall. Don't know where that's going but they took her to a big hospital in Dallas from the suburb where they are living. Fortunately she's near Dallas, near my cousin. She doesn't have children, just nieces and nephews. So I'm glad my cousin's wife is there to help her husband. And her.

I have a feeling that I have got to quit whining and pay attention to things. But, of course, I feel like celebrating FFP's good news of the day. (The permanent sections confirm: no cancer in the thyroid. Turns out the tumor on his eyelid was the only thing that was cancerous.) I told him that for Christmas I wanted to dine in nice restaurants and he made a reservation for tonight at one of the best. Now, of course, I'm worrying about other people. Those not so lucky. But you just go on. You do. Grabbing what joy you can. Whining when you have no right and not paying proper attention to your duties. Fact is, we walked to a place for breakfast this morning and while crossing Congress, solidly in the crosswalk with a walk signal, a guy ran the light, managing to stop only after getting well through the intersection. FFP alertly grabbed my arm and we halted as he passed a few feet in front. I really, really have to try to pay attention even as I keep whining.

We took cabs back and forth to Jeffrey's last night so we could both drink and had delightful food and wine. We are lucky. No whining. Awareness.

Objects of Desire

I don't really want an art object that is a crane woven from what? Paper? Vinyl? Glass? I don't know. I didn't go into the shop. I just stole the image of it, added my camera-obscured visage and put it here. But thousands of objects, arty and otherwise, are in my possession or control. Dealing with them, their value, their weight and their emotional freight consumes a lot of my time.

Even my images, like this one, weigh down the hard drive, obscure other pictures. The more you have the less you can concentrate and cherish one thing.

When we moved we let stuff go. And go. And go. Lots and lots of stuff. I love a lot of what's left. That painting there. That book. My coffee machine. Some of my clothes. New Italian furniture we acquired. Even now we have to stay on top of things because we kept so much (or acquired the perfect object for this space) that the condo is pretty full. When we add something it threatens us.

Since we moved we acquired two new art works. We had to eject another work to hang one of them. I think the rejected one ended up in our condo storage cage. We managed to work out a space for the other new one. At one time we had several hefty sculptures. And some life-sized ones in the yard. No more.

I rarely see things I desire these days. But I must confess that I take a peek at most of the catalogs that come in and stare at ads in newspapers and magazines. And sometimes a desire is created, but, more often I see a possible burden. And some resistance ensues. I wish I could impose the 'one in, one out' rule. You know where if you buy a new outfit or new shoes then something old has to go. Instead I wait until things are out of control and get rid of piles of things. Or I find places to tuck the goods and wait, as my dad and my mom did, for someone else to deal with it when I'm gone. Six years ago I created a (of course incomplete) list of objects I owned in my blog. It would be interesting to review it and see if I still have the stuff and if I can even remember what happened to it if not.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Going through my dad's things yielded some surprises, some tears, some real finds. OK it was mostly trash and moderate treasure headed to the thrift store without regret. A few things were saved for me or my sister, a few other things judiciously given away. One thing I immediately moved to toss and then didn't was an Austin 2004 date book. Apparently someone gave it to him, maybe for Christmas. If so, he didn't write who gave it to him inside. Maybe he'd bought it for himself. After I retired, I taught him to go to Barnes and Noble, prowl around, read their books in the coffee shop. Sometimes he would buy things there.

Anyway he used it throughout the year to jot down his appointments and in a few cases who he visited with and what he had to eat. Pretty mundane stuff. I read through it all and moved to throw it away and then didn't. I trotted it out again and read all the mundane entries. The name of the urologist he didn't like and later fired. A bunch of appointments to see about a large goiter we'd just discovered. Appointments with a GP I later fired. A note on one day that he spent $14.35 on food. Indications that he planned to attend water aerobics, later abbreviated to H20 Arb or W-A. On January 17, 2004 he wrote 'Rain 5 inches over 3 or 4 days.' Emptied his rain gauge, I guess. This was back when he drove himself lots of places. Not everywhere. The surgeon considering his goiter was in St. David's big medical complex and he wanted me to take him there. He noted cards he mailed to his grandchildren and calls he made to his sisters. The gate code for an apartment where he picked up a woman and took her to church activities. Dates were noted for parties for a friend's 90th birthday and a couple's 50th wedding anniversary.

On June 2, he noted 'Linda and FFP to France.' On July 20 he wrote 'Fly out 12:30P to Frankford [sic].' He meant Frankfurt. Germany. He was eighty-seven years old and headed on an almost thirty day trip to Germany, England and Iceland with a friend. On August 17 he wrote: 'Return from London.' On the 18th: 'From Chicago at 1:30AM No luggage.'

The last six years weren't kind to my dad and he had some difficulties even back when keeping this datebook, but somehow these few scrawls show me just how in control of his life he was then and how much he was enjoying it in spite of everything.

I still haven't managed to throw it away.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Festive Me

The 'Visible' Woman, you see, is a bit of a joke. I like to hide in reflections, opaque images and, if I'm honest, writing that obfuscates and complicates rather than reveals.

This year I'm only festive in reflections like this one. I'll be brushing the glitter off my hands from your cards (actually who sends those now? especially the ones with glitter?) and putting a Santa hat on in reflection only (at Top Drawer Thrift). I'll be looking at your lights and trees, drinking your booze. Oh, I may cook up a jazzy seasonal music play list to listen to on the iPod and I'll post seasonal pictures. But, honestly, I'm not doing festive this year. There was a time when I decorated the house, however idiosyncratically. That was when we had a house. And even a year or two when I had a Christmas party at that house. There were years I gave scores of gifts to relatives, friends and co-workers.

There will be presents for party hosts and my in-laws. That's it. Oh, I sent money to Colorado for the kiddies, but that hardly counts.

So, yeah, as Holidailies kicks off don't count on me to conjure up the smell of cider and cookies or to advise on roasting a turkey. I may, rather, be talking about my strange 2010 of travel and adventure, death and diagnosis, healing and milestones and, of course, downsizing. Downsizing is a favorite topic of mine and a time when you have to decommission an abode is ripe for downsizing tales.

Stay tuned, if you will, for the Visible Woman type of reflection. But, in any case, enjoy the writing that the Holidailies portal offers.