Monthly Archives: May 2010

I am a Liar, a Thief and a Spy.

I make things up.  I lie.  It is not a malicious sort of thing on my part.  It is simply part of my nature.    In order to spin a good yarn, it’s important for me to make stuff up.  I admit to it freely.  Don’t believe anything I write, because what I’ve written is not necessarily true.  It is very freeing.  It is the desire to exercise my imagination that  made Journalism a very bad choice for me.  I was taught to check facts and to make sure everything put into a story is “real.”  Fact-checking is an integral part of the process.  But, wouldn’t it read better if I added details?  And, if I couldn’t remember the exact color of the floor, did it really matter?  Well, yes.  It does.  The rigors of journalism are admirable when adopted, and we expect them in news stories.

I don’t steal things, but I do steal ideas and stuff.  I know that’s a bit nebulous, and you can’t arrest me for it.  I would never steal written words from another author, that’s called plagiarism.   I freely take things from life so that I can use them in my stories.   Maybe you’ve seen the t-shirt that says, “Watch out, what you say might end up in my next novel.”   I hope I disguise things well enough that they merely ring bells with friends rather than knock them unconscious with personal recognition.  I’d never take my friends’  real life struggles, change the name and disguise them behind a new hair color or sex change, but I would take a small nugget of their experience that would ring true enough to bring a character to life.

I also spy on complete strangers.  Recently, I watched as a woman was escorted out of my son’s soccer center by three policemen.  She had to gather her three children with one policeman at her arm, and they all went to the parking lot together.  Being the person I am, I picked up my purse and followed them as far as the window so I could watch the scene unfold.  Without the real dialogue, I began to make up my own.  I watched one policeman spend time with her kids, away from her, and the woman with the two other officers, stories began to ripple through my brain to fill in the missing gaps in reality.  I was mostly relieved when she got in her car and left, but I will admit to a little disappointment that my car had been parked too far away to make it practical for me to get close enough to eavesdrop and really listen in.   It is incidents like this that form the catalyst for entire short stories or scenes in longer works.

One of my teachers, Kathleen Alcala, (her website is linked here) had us do an exercise where we were to write down the dialogue we over heard while eavesdropping.  I spent the entire week listening to other people’s conversations at restaurants, in the grocery store and just about any place I could.  That week didn’t prove very fruitful for me, but someone in the class got a juicy bit that could easily have morphed into an entire novel if not a made for television movie.

I finally had a lucky break at Costco one day while waiting in the return line.  Someone ahead of me was an obvious regular and was greeted by the customer service rep.  She stopped him to ask where his little boy was.  He paused and said, “Well, it turns out he’s not really my son.  We had the paternity testing done, and…well he’s not mine.”  The girl looked taken aback and said, “Oh.”  There’s not much you can really say in polite company when faced with such news is there?  Then, he went on to explain how he still loved the boy, but that he wasn’t allowed custody.  He was still allowed to visit because it was good for the boy etc.  It was an interesting little interlude, and I found myself trying to take notes without anyone noticing.

My favorite place to spy is in lines.   It always amazes me how much people talk on cell phones in lines at the post office or grocery store as if they were in a private phone booth.  I used to make fun of people and answer their questions directly to them as if they were talking to me.  Instead of interrupting people in their conversation,  I just listen.  Hoo-boy.   If the person on the other end of the cell phone can hear you, there’s a good chance I can too.  The only difference is I’m taking notes.  I’m the one who looks like I’m texting on my iPhone, but I’m really copying your words down for story ideas and direct dialogue.  Thanks for the help!

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Hurray for Lizard Spit!

Gila Monster Venom.  Exenatide.  Byetta.  All the same thing.

For those of you who like specifics:

I won’t pretend I understand the composition to the left here, but it sure looks fancy, doesn’t it?  Exenatide is the name used for the synthetic version of Gila Monster Venom.  A part of me was disappointed to learn that I’m injecting a synthetic form of the stuff and not using actual venom.  Another part of me was relieved there aren’t a bunch of  little creatures being squeezed for their juices on my account–or whatever form of extraction one can imagine.

I’m what’s called a Type II diabetic.  I “went diabetic” when I was pregnant with my youngest child and never went back to normal after he was born.   I spent a long time thinking it would just go away–turns out that realllllllly doesn’t work.

After spending several years struggling with just diet and exercise and one oral medication called Metformin, I wanted something else to help.   I had already dropped a bunch of weight and had plateaued on a rather rigorous exercise and food regimen.   When I was doing everything right–eating six “food events” of 150-300 calories a day, doing one long and two short cardio workouts a day, and taking the metformin–the best I could hope for in my fasting blood sugar was around 150-160.  That’s way too high for me and my doctor, so we agreed it was time to up the medication.

Most people would shy away from using a needle twice a day, but not me.  After my lengthy infertility struggle where I got to inject myself several times a day with two-inch long needles,  the little tiny things they call needles seem like nothing.    When my doctor suggested I try Byetta to help with my blood sugar controls, I jumped at the chance to see if it would work.

After two full months on Byetta, combined with Metformin and all the rest, I’m hitting around 120 in the mornings.  There are times during the day when I’ll test and I’m as low as a normal person.  I’m beginning to feel less shaky when I get there, too.    So, Hurray for Lizard Spit!

Here’s a link to the wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exenatide that can give you more details on exactly how it works.

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It’s not just my mind that gets cluttered.

A while ago, I was fiddling around with my wallet trying to find enough cash to hand to my daughter to buy some dinner.  We were at one of our traditional Friday night dinners at Crossroads Mall in Bellevue and there was a crowd of fellow Three Cedars Waldorf School families milling about and organizing tables.  My friend Jackie saw me and grabbed my wallet.  Holding the tangle of bills, assorted receipts, credit cards and membership cards up before my eyes, she said, “This…this is your life!”

I didn’t particularly like the analogy as it was much too apt as Jackie’s observations tend to be.    Organizing has been a battle for me ever since I can remember.  My mom was uber-tidy and so she never let stuff sit around for long.  If my room got to the point where she couldn’t walk into it, she’d step in and organize everything for me.  Not that it’s my mom’s fault for my being disinclined to cleanliness, but the simple matter is I’m still learning how to pick up and stay picked up.  My brother Ken, for some reason, has always been a neat freak.  His bedrooms were always tidy in between bouts of play and he keeps his current house picked up all the time.

After the wallet in the face incident, I decided to solve my problem by purchasing a new wallet.  Tossing money at a solution is maybe not the most efficient or cost effective way of dealing with something, but, in my case, it sometimes works.  I found a wallet that would let me put my bills inside it flat rather than having to fold them in half.  After all, the reason my other wallet didn’t work wasn’t that I stuck too much into it as much as it didn’t hold things neatly.

So, I switched to the new wallet.  A few months go along and I’m looking for some receipts for something, and I realize I’m holding a completely new mess not any better than the one I had with the other wallet.  I sigh and sit down with the pile and organize it.  It’s been a week, and things are looking pretty good by comparison.

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Marking Time

I remember when Bill and I figured out our wedding date and called relatives to let them know.  My Aunt M. was angry because we chose to have it on June 24th.  She said, “Oh, you can’t have it on that day!  That’s the day daddy died.”

I was sort of surprised that she would have that response.  Seriously, she had no idea how much work it had taken for us to find the date that would work for us–after gradation for both of us, before Bill took his new job, before our other close friends’ wedding…I just said, “Well, maybe we can make it a happy day to celebrate instead.”  My parents were right in predicting that she wouldn’t come to the wedding anyway so it wasn’t that big a deal.  This is the same aunt who…well, let’s just say her fictionalized version in the novel I’m writing won’t need much fictionalizing as she presents herself as a perfect “character” as is.

The odd thing about me is I don’t remember the actual date my dad died.  It was in February 1999, but I’d have to look it up to be sure of the actual day.  With my mom, on the other hand, I have much stronger associations and the dates are more firmly etched in my memory.  You see, she went into surgery on May 1, 2007 to have the valves in her heart replaced.   I did what most Waldorf parents do on May-day and went to the May Pole dance at school.  The whole time, I kept my hand on my telephone waiting for my brother Steve, who had come from Georgia to stay with her before and after the operation, to call me.  I expected good results, so I wasn’t particularly worried though I was a little anxious.

I went home before the traditional picnic.  A part of me just didn’t want to be in public when he finally called.  It wasn’t that I knew something would go wrong, but even when I am relieved after a stressful situation I tend to look like a basket case.  The only thing that makes things worse for me when I’m injured is to have people ask me if I am okay.  When in pain, I’m rendered utterly mute to the complete and utter frustration of my husband in particular.

Anyway, I went home and waited until my brother called.  The news was bad.  The surgery was initially quite successful.  However, my mom had a very rare allergic reaction to the Protamine used to re-coagulate the blood post surgery.  She went into shock and slipped into a coma.   In many respects she died on May 1.  Technically and legally, she died on May 4th when my brothers and I had gathered around her in the hospital and ordered the life support to be terminated.  It was an emotionally wrenching decision in spite of the fact the brain scans showed absolutely no life and no chance of recovery.

The first couple of years after her death,  I ended up in tears as the children dance around the maypole.  The memory of standing in the same field with the brightly colored ribbons moving to springy music had connected me viscerally to her death.  This year, I went to school determined to put the joy back into May Day.  We celebrated it on April 30th since May 1st fell on Saturday this year.  I managed to get through the entire day full of smiles as I focused on it being May Day–a day of  Spring and hope–not to mention a few giggles at the lyrics about ploughboys and maidens.

On this, the legal third anniversary of her death, I’d like to invite those of you who knew her, loved her and remember her to leave a comment here. (Or on Facebook since some of you, ahem, Bill,  don’t want to sign up for WordPress proper.)    It is in our memories that she lives on for the world and makes the day worthy of remembrance.  I miss you, Mom!

In memory of my mom–July 22, 1932–May 4, 2007

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Filed under Grief, May Day, Mourning, Moving On