amusing diversions take2

lenoredewynter@aol.com

Friday, December 10, 2004

wed, thurs, fri all together

Wednesday December 8th, 2004

Things have gone about as well as expected. Matt and I showed up at 3:00 on Monday, only to find out that the landlord was not in. He left a note saying that he had something come up and could we come back tomorrow morning at 8. There were several moments of panic, during which we had to talk to my father about whether matt could be late to work the next day, but luckily he didn’t mind. I’m not so sure about how Chris and Tony are feeling about this new experiment in living on our own however.

The apartment is very nice, with two bedrooms just as advertised. Instead of the more popular one bedroom and large closet that most apartments turn out to be. There will be massive re-decorating required… but at least the walls are white. One of the last apartments we looked at was butter-yellow, and it looked dirty. There are just some colors that refuse to look clean no matter how hard you work at it. And no wallpaper thank goodness. Wallpaper is evil. I’ll have to get mom in to check it out, but I’m already slating a couple color palette options. One of the windows is this huge wide thing though, I’m not sure where one could find a long enough scarf valance. Maybe we’ll end up making one. Oh well, back to work on film class.


Thursday December 9th, 2004

Took mom over to see the apartment today. She is in love with the hardwood floors. We did a little preliminary work on where the furniture should go. After checking out the windows, which are quite large if lacking any kind of pleasant view, mom told me about this window art stuff she had seen at home depot. She likes nothing more than a good shopping trip. A half hour later we were in home depot. The window art is from artscapes, and it works like a window cling with no adhesives. They really are quite beautiful, and I think it will be a big boost on how the rooms look. There is nothing like a set of perfect window treatments to make a room come together. I detest mini-blinds, and she knows it. I’ve spent the last six or seven years with colorful blankets over my windows to block out the sun and the outside world, but these window films will be a heck of a lot more polished looking.

We also started looking for a little two-seater bistro style table, but were not successful. One of the major downsides to living in Maine is the lack of nearby shopping. Lucky for me that dad owns a furniture store. I’m sure he’ll be able to locate something in the next couple months. Not to mention that now that we have the room dimensions mom and I can go pick out our area rug that we’re getting as a Christmas present. Who ever would have thought I’d get to the point where an area rug was an exciting Christmas gift?

Friday December 10th, 2004

Called the phone company today. The guy must have been from New York, his accent was so thick I had to make him repeat things over and over. After half an hour I finally managed to get set up for phone service. It’s my first phone line, and that’s weirdly exciting. The bill is going to be like $45 a month, I couldn’t believe it. Local phone service apparently has gotten a lot more expensive then when I was a kid. The good news is that we’ll have call waiting, I can’t stand not having call waiting. Also, the guy set it up so we should be able to talk to matt’s family in the boondocks without acquiring charges.

Grammy Jo is sending not-so-subtle hints that she is not going to back down on wanting to help us move. She sent an extended-family-wide email about how I had said there wasn’t anything for her to do just yet. I can’t get matt to help me pack the bedroom up, let alone start moving furniture. I sent back what I hope was a suitably chagrined and soothing email. Mother and Vanessa are still waiting in the eves too… I need to get this ball a-rolling before my indignant family takes matters into their own hands.

Monday, December 06, 2004

monday dec 6

We are supposed to be going to check out our apartment this afternoon. I, of course, forgot to have mom help me transfer money from the savings account for the sec dep and first month rent checks. I feel like such a dolt. I spent all weekend reminding myself that it was important to get that done before we went to see the landlord today. Hopefully the bank will finish getting the other checks through from the current to available balance before the checks clear. Takes like 7 days for a personal check to clear and I can have mom help me tonight after she gets home... so hopefully everything will be just fine and dandy. Pregnancy makes me even more neurotic then normal. I've got to start packing up the clothes and what have you. The baby clothes are packed, as are all accessories for the baby. Kitchen stuff is packed, furniture picked out (for the most part anyway). Dad wants to tear out the carpet, and put down hardwood in the living room, which logically means redecorating totally in his mind. Works out for me cause he offered all the living room furniture for matt and I. The leather couch is so much better than the one we originally planned on using. I'm still very disturbed over the idea of living alone together. Matt and I have never lived alone together. First we had friends living with us, and since before we were married we've been living with my parents. It's a scary thought, what in gods names will we do with each other all the time? Mom and dad aren't as thrilled as I thought they would be either. When dad heard that we'd decided to move out he looked like someone batted him over the head with a two by four. My brother is moving to florida, and we're moving out... must be a big change for them too. Once I see the place I'll have to go to dad's store and pick out a rug, he wants to give us an area rug to go with the living room stuff. And I'll have to make some decisions on where everything is going to live once it's moved in. Mom and aunt Vanessa are frothing at the mouth to get in there and organize everything. Updates shall be forth coming.

Myself as a writer, Retrospect

Well, having made it through these last sixteen weeks I have to say either pregnancy is affecting my mind more than I thought, or my ‘creative’ muscles need a lot for flexing and exercise then they have been getting. Description and humor seem to be strong points, or maybe better put as crutches. Every time I attempted to break out of those two areas significantly things either came to disaster or they crept straight back in. I noticed I had a hard time moving outside of a tight focus on my own life. Bigger ideas or parallels eluded me. I think that might be just a phase though, because most of the time I remember teachers complaining that I couldn’t focus, couldn’t personalize.

Dialogue is still very difficult for me. I have an extremely hard time getting something that sounds anything like a real conversation down on paper. It’s also a problem when I’m reading though, it seems like so often the dialogue in books is rushed, and that six comments back and forth have taken an hour or more. If these published authors can’t get it right, how can I possibly? But I am sidetracked. I also have a great reluctance to curse when writing. I can’t decide whether this is a failing or not.

I tend to write a full piece quickly with minimal editing. I would rather scrap large chunks of work than edit them into something else. That I am sure is a failing at least in part. I find though that a lot of the time when I attempt to edit something it comes out much worse than when I just snap things off. I am hyper sensitive to the thoughts and comments of others when it comes to writing. I enjoy being under pressure to produce, I think it makes for better work. I don’t feel that a great deal has changed about my writing over the course of the semester. I do feel that I got a much more focused idea of some style strengths, like humor, and weaknesses than before.

Comments on ENG 162

Looking at myself as a student I think that perhaps it would be best if I took writing classes in the flesh so to speak. As much as I prefer the web format, it does not make me perform and push myself in the way that a live class does, in respect to writing that is. I get a lot out of direct interaction with teachers and classmates when it comes to creative pursuits.

As a writer, I feel that I have failed to produce to the level that I am able, though I did like several pieces I did for this class. There is some kind of mental block for me when I think about non-fiction… I even tried reading several non-fiction but novel-esque books, but was unable to lift the injunction. My block kept me from really embracing the assignments in a whole-hearted manner. It seemed like the only two options were to write something backed with a lot of research (something I only tried once or twice), or something directly to do with my life. This isn’t true really, but for some reason I can’t get my head around writing anything else.

All in all I found the class really interesting. It opened a lot of new doors for me thought-wise, though I am sure it will take me a long time to assimilate this new knowledge. Real life does not have to be as boring as it generally appears, and a lot of the same things that work in fiction can be applied to non. I’m grateful for the others who took this class at the same time. I can’t recall how many weeks it took reading someone else’s responses to a theme or prompt before I felt I had a good idea of what was wanted by them. Perhaps some sort of monthly meeting could be set up for students who would like to attend and get some live feedback… that might be my only suggestion, though I know Mr. Goldfine you tend to be a more hands-off kind of teacher. Two weeks left… homestretch here we come.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Theme week 14

PETS

I am the great pet loser. I have had five rabbits, two ducks, one gerbil, two hamsters, two abortive attempts at dog ownership, and six fish. They all died of natural but extremely unusual circumstances, save the dogs and ducks which may still be alive for all I know. If there was a little pet graveyard for the ones I’ve lost, it would be a little square of grass with tiny rounded headstones.

Here lies Shera, a good rabbit who liked to be hooked to a leash and play with basketballs. Died 1987 of old age.

Here lies Jenny, a rabbit who thought she was a cat and would only eat cat food. She used a litter box. Killed in a fight with Digger 1989.

Here lies Digger, the wild rabbit the neighbors all got together to catch and put in our rabbit pen when we were on vacation in Disney. (they thought jenny had gotten out) Killed in a fight with Jenny 1989.

Here lies Wesley and Buttercup, both female rabbits but my brother really wanted a boy one. May you be rest in peace. Died after an attack by a red-eyed, black vampire cat, 1991.

Here lies Crystal and Teddy, a worthy hamster and gerbil pair. You came together and didn’t last long when the other died. 1991.

Here lies Alex, the hamster who went into spontaneous hibernation for three weeks and we almost buried you alive. 1994.

Here lay my fish, none of you survived a week once we got you home, after two attempts, mom said no more fish.

For those who have no headstone, a little memorial would be set up, cause hey, they’re bound to die sometime before I do.

For Silsby the mutt-mix puppy, my first attempt at dog-owning. You were terribly abused when you came to us, and hated men. You ended up biting my brother in the eye when he tried to take a slice of pizza away from you. I hope you found a good home.

For Pepe the pedigree Toy Poodle, you were a good if incredibly stupid dog. You escaped the house through a bathroom window and kept the neighbors terrified and stuck in their house for five hours until we got home. I hope you found a good home.

For Thing One and Thing Two, or The Boys, my mallard ducks. I’m glad you learned to fly, even though Thing Two flew away. The homeless man at the 7-11 found you after you’d had your bill run over. He happened to show you to my cousins, who showed their father, who bought you from the homeless man and brought you home. After a vet visit and several weeks of recovery, we found a nice man with a country house and female ducks for you to go live with.

It was not then, overly surprising that several years went by in which we had no pets at the house. Finally, when we moved to the house on Kenduskeag Ave, mom started looking for puppies again. Eventually we ended up with Tika, who has been the family pet now for seven years.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Theme week 13

this was inspired by one of this weeks prompts... it turned out too long for me to feel comfortable with it on the class blog so here goes:

56. "There are eight million stories in the Naked City... this has been one of them.”

Veazie is a nice little town. It’s about one mile long by one mile wide. There is only one little convience store to service it. The houses are all settled back from the road with perfectly manicured lawns. There are two separate cemetaries at least partially within the boarder, and it keeps things in perspective. The people are friendly, and many are older. There aren’t a lot of wild parties going on there, unlike Orono just up the road a couple miles where the college is. All and all it’s like a little suburban slice of heaven… except for the crazy rabid police officers.

On one memorable occasion I was driving through town at about ten o’clock at night. It was winter, and as a result it had been pitch black outside since about five pm. I was minding my own business, going two miles under the speed limit up state street. A car squealed it’s tires pulling out behind me, it flipped on the high beams. The car gunned the engine and settled in about an inch from my bumper. I was blinded by the lights. Heart pumping with fearful adrenaline I cut through the yellow light ahead of me, swinging on to Chase Rd in an effort to escape the lunitic behind me. As soon as I did, pop, on came the blue lights. The officer pulled me over to give me a warning about going through yellow lights. I was just happy he wasn’t an axe murderer who planned to kill me after running me off the road.

My favorite memory however, is the time I forgot my license. I had made it about two hundred feet up the road when I figured out my wallet was still at the house. I turned around. About thirty feet from the driveway, on go the blue lighte behind me. I pulled over. The officer came up the the window, asking for lisence and registration. I explained the situation, pointing out the second driveway from where we were all sitting. He grunted, then looked at the other passangers. He then asked if he could search my car.

Confused by what he could possibly hope to find in the car I agreed. Matt, Jeremy and Ben, who were also in the car all piled out. I had been getting ready for bed when the guys wanted a ride to the store, so I was standing there in a tank top and pj bottoms in the snow. He then asked to search each of us. I raised my arms, and noting the lack of pockets, he let me alone. He searched the guys. Then he turned to the car. I will never forget what he asked me, “So, hiding any drugs, or bombs in the car ma’am?” He flicked his flashlight on the backseat, “have you got any Tali-ban in here?” he looked everyone over with a gimlet eye. I was too shocked at that moment, but later I would almost die laughing over it. “No sir.” I told him. He eventually let us go without even looking in the trunk.

So, should it be a dark night, or even a bright day, I would suggest staying as far away from Veazie as possible. The town reminds me of all those stories you hear about people living in small towns in the desert. Where the sherrif thinks it’s still the wild west. You may think me paranoid but, whether it is sheer boredom or a pyschotic sense of duty the Veazie police are out to get you.

Monday, November 22, 2004

theme/prompt #2 week 12 - Tika

Theme/prompt #2 week 12 - Tika

Pet me, pet me, pet me, pet me, pant pant pant, man, it’s hard to say that when you’re jumping up and down. And I’ve got a ways to jump. It’s not like I’m as big as Nash next door you know! I only weigh seven pounds and am eight inches at the shoulder. I should be getting way more credit for the jumping height I can get. Hell, I should be an all-star doggie basketball player!
Hey, wait, where are you going? You forgot the milkbone! I always get a milkbone when I come inside. Sheesh, she’s gone, well, let’s go try that tall guy instead. Hey you! No good. Maybe if I stand on his foot…. Success! You, I need my bone! Ah, I like this one. He’s so smart and easily trained compared to the rest of my humans. Crunch, crunch… Ooo, itchy. Owe! Wish someone would remember to clip my nails in between grooming visits.
They’re going to sit down in the couch, I can get to the couch. Ramming speed boys! “Oof, hey Tika relax a little okay pretty girl? You don’t have to play flying projectile every time someone sits down.” Oh yes, pet me, pet me, pet me…. In a few minutes I’ll go grab the Skippy and we can play fetch together and, and… Okay, well, maybe just a little nap first.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

theme/prompt week 12 #1 erin's room

Upstairs, a wreck of a room lays waiting for the owner to return. Shirts in various sizes, torn jeans, soda bottles in drifts against the furniture. The dog has taken to using the carpet as her personal litter box. The bed is beautiful. It should be, he got it from his father’s furniture store. Pale oak with a satin sheen, it catches up sunlight like honey. Dust covers the top edges now, covers the bare slats that used to hold the mattress. Two empty cups sit on top of the headboard. The insides are irrevocably stained by the soda left to evaporate within them.
The teak wall unit, a collection of drawers and cupboards and such that stack nearly to the ceiling, sit in disarray. Some of the doors hang half-open, spilling their contents into the mess on the floor. They too are covered with dust. No one comes in here since he left. The old big-screen TV with a crack down the plastic that protects the screen dominates one corner. Old video games and a water fountain he borrowed from his sister sit along the top. A testament to childhood abandoned.
Above the mess, perhaps the filth in this room which no one has had the heart to dismantle is the air of desertion. Like an old house that has not been lived in for years the air is close and stale. The sunlight through the windows has that odd golden color that dust in the air gives it. The whole room looks like a tornado touched down within whirling and shredding and destroying. Perhaps a tornado it was, though of a more human nature. Anger leaves much the same destruction behind it. The door leading in stays closed. No one will venture past until he once again returns home.

Monday, November 15, 2004

theme week 11- Mildred

The average nurse aid in the United States makes $6.65 an hour caring for elderly patients in a nursing home. According to the University of California, any nurse-aid who is in charge of the bulk of feeding, bathing, and other general care duties should be in charge of only three patients during meals and no more than six between meals. However, in many facilities a nurse-aid is in charge of fifteen patients at a time, or sometimes as many as thirty. Even more grim, the New York State attorney found that 25% of nursing home aids who are prosecuted for abusing residents had some kind of prior record. In a 1994 survey it was found that about 5% of the nurse aids on file with state regulators had a criminal record involving violence or theft. In these over-crowded positions where stress is high and thanks low, perhaps we can sympathize with how things get overlooked. Maybe even we can understand petty abuses of their generally incompetent patients. Understand yes, but accept never.
Walking down the hallway the smell of overheated bodies and antiseptic is overwhelming. It doesn’t quite drown out the underlying odor of urine and sickness though. My head is dizzy by the time we reach Mildred’s room. I wonder if she will remember who I am today.
43% of people who turned 65 in 1990 will enter a nursing home at some time in their life. Only one in eleven of these will spend more than five years in one. The New England Journal of Medicine states that 52% of all women and 33% of men who are now 65 will spend their last years in a nursing home. Those who are 85 and older have only a six percent average chance of dying in their own bed, with the familiar sights and sounds of their lives around them.
I grab a seat in one of the caned chairs. Laura, another teacher who lived with Mildred until she died eleven years ago, made this chair. She was so much fun when we were kids. I feel a mild rush of guilt, knowing that in my secret heart I wish it had been Mildred, not Laura who died. Mildred knows me today, but she can’t remember whether her mother is alive or not. Mom is trying to explain that her mother died a long time ago, before any of us here in the room were born in fact. It doesn’t seem to be having any effect. She can’t hear us anymore, anything you want to communicate must be written down in large letters on one of those white erasable boards.
There are approximately 1,813,665 total beds in nursing homes in the United States of America in 16,995 facilities. There are about 107 beds in the average facility, with an 83% occupancy rate. Seven percent of nursing homes are run by the government, 25% by non-prophet agencies and a staggering 66% by for profit agencies/corporations. On average there are about 53 total direct care staff per facility. Two-thirds of all nursing home residents have no living family, and 70% of all patients are women. The median age at death is about 73.2 years for men and 79.7 for women.
During Mildred’s lifetime teachers could not get married or they would lose their jobs. She shows no particular sorrow at this, we are her family now. She started teaching at eighteen years of age, and is in possession of a lifetime teaching certificate, concepts that would bring horror to the face of any school administrator in the world today. She lived through the introduction of indoor plumbing, the Depression, the civil rights movement, and many other things that seem ancient history to one born in the 1980s like myself. She is a member of MENSA, that group only those in the top two percent of IQ scores may belong to.
Eight years ago my mother finally convinced her that she was unable to live alone. Still lively in her mind, she was upset but agreed that it was time to do something other than just an emergency medical button. In home heath care proved an unimaginable nightmare. People stole from her, others kept trying to force her to change her will, some were completely unreliable about showing up. The last resort was moving her into the nursing home. It wouldn’t be that bad, we all thought. At least she would have someone to talk to during the day.
Now she can’t get out of her wheelchair. She never got the opportunity to go walking, and so now she can’t. She can’t go to the bathroom by herself, can’t bathe herself anymore. Her handwriting, once beautiful cursive is a cramped squiggly line even she can’t read. Her hearing is completely gone, her muscles evaporated. Her lower legs are red and swollen from sitting, with dark angry-looking veins all up and down them. She cannot remember who we are all the time now, nor can she remember for more than a minute or two what the conversation she is having is about. She suffers from paranoia and depression, for which she is medicated heavily.
This once-vibrant woman, so smart and sharp witted she could talk anyone in the room in circles, is now a husk of what she was. Part of it is, of course that she is 93 years old. Anyone is lucky who makes it to that age. However, I am convinced that the sterile environment of the nursing home has eroded that woman whom I love much faster than time itself would have done it. Incompetence, proven over these eight years, mixed with high turnover has been alarming. Mildred is so used to that environment now though that we dare not try to move her to a different facility, nor have we found a reliable source for in-home full time care.
With an aching heart I get up and kiss her papery cheek as we all get ready to leave. She smells a little of talc powder. It’s a good smell, a clean one in this evil soup. Her eyes are tearing, but otherwise flat. I can’t tell if it’s us in particular she grieves or just that she’ll be left alone in this place for the rest of the day. For a second as she hugs my brother Erin I swear I catch a glimpse of the old sparkle that used to liven her eyes, but then it’s gone. Back through the putrid corridor and out into the parking lot. I take a deep breath of the freezing January air. We will be back next week.


****statistics found at http://beoutrageous.com/IYP/death.htm and http://www.efmoody.com/longterm/nursingstatistics.html****