Wednesday Poetry Break

I had planned to write a post about how fast the weekend flew by, and here it is already Wednesday. I’m starting to understand that you can’t count on big chunks of money or time being there later. Every year when I wait for my tax refund I think “This year [insert large trip, expensive remodeling, lasik surgery]”  but then once the bills are all paid there is no surplus and we’re back to thinking: “Next year …” .

Weekends are kind of like that for me. As Friday approaches I always think about 99 bazillion things that I will be doing on my two days off from work and from commuting. But then, there is a car accident (not me, and no one was seriously hurt), and a drunken bender (also not me, and not related to the car accident), there is shopping, there is cleaning, there is an all day affair on Sunday for my father’s 90th birthday.

Don’t get me wrong — any day you can kiss your father on the cheek and wish him Happy Birthday is a good, good day. But all these other things of everyday life, they put me in a sort of a daze where there’s very little room for creativity. How does anyone do it? And the of course, I begin perusing poems for today’s post and am once again reminded that the lack of time itself has been a subject for creativity souls — probably since the first humanoid picked up a stick and drew a line in the dirt. And then there’s Shakespeare.

Sonnet XIX: Devouring Time, Blunt thou the Lion’s Paws

By William Shakespeare

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-liv’d Phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one more heinous crime:
O, carve not with the hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen!
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet do thy worst, old Time! Despite thy wrong
My love shall in my verse ever live young.
From The PoetryFoundation.org

When in Rome

Another phrase I don’t really “get.” But it seems to be the common wisdom, so i took it to heart and flushed $7 down the toilet last night.

I couldn’t have had a more dichotomous day yesterday — I spent the daylight hours among glorious red rocks and rolling hills, taking about, mmmm, a thousand pictures. I climbed up dusty paths for a better shot of the rocks against a stunningly blue sky.

And then, I came back to the hotel and walked in my dusty boots through the casino. This fish survived to later meet up with a colleague who is very enthusiastic about the slots. So I decided to join in the “fun” (that’s just not the first word that springs to mind when I look out at the face of people sitting at the slot machines, but that’s what they claim.)

I asked her for the cheapest games I could play, and she told me the ins and outs of the penny slots. I decided to live it up and put five dollars in and play the 30 cent bets. I know, I know — “Slow down, girl!”

So, for the first few minutes it was fun because we laughed at my losing. Then I won a few cents back. And so it went, back and forth. At my highest I had about $15, which of course I should have cashed out, but with the small amount I had out in, it was really more about entertainment then making money, so I kept going. Eventually I had 10 cents left on the machine, which wasn’t enough to play again. So two times I put a dollar bill in to play some more, each time losing, and each time with me thinking it would get to zero.

Finally, after I was down to 20 cents, I printed out my ticket. I should have taken it up to the cashier, but I figured I would keep it as a souvenir but then I saw the penny machines and figured I get the full “entertainment” out of my money, and about 10 minutes later, it was all gone.

It was fun because it was just a little bit of money, and we were laughing and joking as we played. But for me it was the fun of making the best of a situation. I mean here I am, I am going to experience it.

I would very much like to go do something else today — and luckily, my conference begins today — yippee!

Like a fish out of water

Image

I always thought that phrase was a bit hyperbolic. I am fairly uncomfortable in Las Vegas, but to say that I am like a creature gasping for air and destined to die if I don’t return to my natural environment is a bit over the top.

Still.

I can’t even honestly say that everyone should come here once in their life because, no. There are so many nicer places. on this planet. The only reason to come here is if you are on your way somewhere else, like Red Rock Canyon, just outside the city, or Hoover Dam up the road. But Las Vegas itself?  Save yourself the effort of travel and just drink a lot and then literally flush your dollar bills down the toilet. Have the Las Vegas experience — without the annoying time difference!

Some readers may be getting a little upset with me now, because I understand there are people who actually enjoy Las Vegas. Maybe I just haven’t found the right things to do here. I was here once before and saw Penn and Teller, and yes, that was fun. But incredibly expensive and not a ticket I would have purchased on my own. Maybe if I was a big Celine fan, but no.

All I see when I look around is ordinary-looking people sitting in front of slot machines, inserting a dollar, pushing a button, and repeating the process over and over again. Hey that looks like fun!

And then nothing says Americans value the sanctity of traditional marriage like a wedding party trooping through the casino, drinks in hand, the trail of the bright white wedding dress dragging across the casino floor.  Good thing kids can’t see this.

But wait! They can!  Because you can’t get to anything without going through the casino, kids CAN walk through on the way to the restaurants and shops. “Daddy why is that man kissing his dice and crying?”

If I were a millionaire and wanted to experience luxury, I would go to Paris, or London, or New York. But I am not a millionaire and I don’t have money to throw around. So to me, playing these games and acting this way as if we were all loaded just seems … silly! But what do I know — many years ago, some very nice people set up shop out here in the desert just so others could have a little fun and enjoy themselves. What nice, selfless people they were.

Flush.  Wheeeeeeee!

 

Friday, dear Friday

It was a tradition in the previous iterations of this blog to post a video on Fridays, and I think this is a fitting one for the way my week has been going. Fair warning, tomorrow I will be traveling and there is a SLIGHT POSSIBILITY I will not post tomorrow.

I promise to have pretty pictures when I post next.

Must. Write. Something.

Why is it that as soon as you announce your grand intentions, everything seems to conspire to blow up in your face?  From the man behind the house who was banging around in his shed at 1:30 am today (and the dog barking which followed that), to the web site I manage suddenly going down at some point last evening — this has not been the most peaceful and reflective of times.

Sometimes previously I’ve used the long drive of my commute to mull over topics for the blog. Today I was so deep in thought about the website and about my Dad’s birthday and about getting cat food before I leave on a business trip in a couple of days, that I drove right past my exit off the Parkway.

Well, I promised to write something every day.  I did not promise it would be profound.

“I am trying to resume my pen”

I suppose there comes a time in one’s life when you have to accept who you are and just run with it.  If you have any sort of creative bone in you at all, that can be tough when more of your bones are filled with insecurity and self-doubt. I don’t need a therapist to tell me what it means that I struggle to draw or paint — I know I’m supposed to just brush upwards in one bold stroke … but I can’t. I worry about how I’m holding the brush, about whether I’m pressing too hard, will it look stupid. And voila! It becomes a mess!

Yeah, painting’s not really my thing.  But I do like to write, and I do feel slightly more confident in my writing abilities than in my painting abilities. And just like everyone else who enjoys writing, I have a million story ideas running about in my head. The rub is getting them down on paper.  Sure I’ve read books on writing. (Which by the way, is a great way to avoid actually writing.) They all say things like “carve out time in every day to write, even if it means getting up an hour earlier every day.”  I already get up at 5 am for a long commute, so I don’t see that happening. Yet I know that some of the best authors in history also had a full time job while they wrote their masterpieces.  For years I wondered about Nathaniel Hawthorne working at the Customs House and writing, and then I came across these words he wrote to his friend Mr Longfellow:

I am trying to resume my pen… Whenever I sit alone, or walk alone, I find myself dreaming about stories, as of old; but these forenoons in the Custom House undo all that the afternoons and evenings have done. I should be happier if I could write.

See? I should be happier if I could write, too, dear Nathaniel! Much as he must have found time here and there in every one of his days, I hope to write something here at the old blog every day.  Some days it may just be a paragraph, other days it will surely be longer. Some days it will be serious, but generally not.

I look around at the elders of my family, and I see lives well lived, fully lived. Today is my aunt’s 97th birthday, in a few weeks my Dad turns 90. When we lost my mom last year to a stroke, she was just shy of her 92nd birthday. It’s quite possible I could live another 40 years, all the time saying to myself, “I really wish I had time to write.”   So instead, this place is going to be my exercise, my structure, my daily rant. Call it what you want. This little blog has been a faithful friend to me in good times and bad. As I flirt with Facebook and Twitter, Nailing Jello to the Wall is always here waiting for me. If I took the time I spend reading summaries of posts about celebrities on Facebook, and instead spent that time here, well. I think we know when there’s too much junk food in our diet. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Gawker.

So let’s do this thing.

(Hawthorne quote from: Miller, Edwin Haviland. Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991. ISBN 0-87745-332-2.)

And so we begin a new year

A new year, a (re)newed pledge to start writing again. Not like last year, when I felt a sense of foreboding after Christmas Day 2012. That’s when I decided to start a new blog about living life to its fullest after sitting by my father’s side in the hospital, a team of nurses and doctors fighting to keep his blood pressure from plummeting as he battled the flu and then pneumonia. How he hung on through that we don’t know, but he did. He then experienced about 6 months of a health rollercoaster, getting better and then suddenly crashing down again. He somehow made it through last year.

Unfortunately my Mom did not.

Although her health had been frail for several years, things seemed pretty stable last year. It was hard for her to go up and down the stairs, and her dementia was making her evermore confused about everyday things. But she always was so happy to see her children and grandchildren, and always asked me “And how’s Fritz?” So it was quite a shock when my brother went to help her up one morning last July and found that she was having a stroke. My next three days were spent shuttling my Dad to be with her as she went first to one hospital then to another where the doctors thought there was a slight chance that she could be treated. But the damage was too extensive and she very peacefully passed away on July 9 with my Dad and me at her side.

Many of my friends lost parents this year. Mom was 2 months shy of her 92 birthday, and with her failing health I have tried to gird myself for this inevitable time. But when I arrived at her hospital room and the nurse handed me my mother’s wedding and engagement rings in a little plastic baggy, well, it was all I could do not to fall to my knees. But of course Dad was standing right behind me and I had to be there for him. So I did what you do in that moment, and tucked my emotions along with the baggy into a pocket to be dealt with later, and escorted Dad into the room.

There are moments and emotions from the past year that I want to write about, and I will in the coming months. Twelve months ago I guess I knew it was going to be a tough year, and I abandoned this trusty old blog for a new one that would focus on living life to its fullest. But maybe there is a personal marker that  makes you someone who writes about that stuff, and I don’t have it. It’s not that I don’t believe in it — I absolutely do. But there is something different about saying “I am going to live life in the moment,” compared with actually just doing it.  There are two phrases my Mom always said: “Don’t borrow trouble,” and “We’re chugging along.” These are my new mottos.

watercolor

One of my Mom’s last paintings, done in Spring of 2013

2014 holds many challenges ahead for me, including sorting through the grief for my mother as well as sorting through her belongings. But of course this is a condition of life, and comes with the bargain of parents and children. She pops up now in the most unexpected places, like when I’m standing in line at the grocery store, or when I see some nice pajamas in the store and catch myself thinking “I’ll bet Mom would like those.”

I like to think that one of the things I got from Mom, besides the thick hair and the dislike for math, is an enjoyment of writing. She wrote all her life, and actively sold her work and found ways to get it published (pre blogs, mind you). Short stories, poems, news articles, and a collection of her mother’s letters from China. She found a way to do all that while raising 3 kids that, ahem, kept her busy, shall we say.  I have an idea for a story. I have started writing it. That’s my big goal for the year. My little goal is to check in here regularly.

As in the early days, everything’s fair game at Nalling Jello to the Wall: politics, movies, music, poetry, snark and more. You don’t have to agree with me or anyone else here, but you can’t call names and you can’t be a jerk. Mom’s rules.