Monthly Archives: November 2010

Chasing a Dead Cousin-Part 1?

I got this phone call on November 19th from someone in Helena, MT who works for the State of Montana retirement division. She was calling to confirm the closure of my cousin’s estate. The first part of the conversation was rather convoluted, you see, because she had no idea that I didn’t already know my cousin had died. She had to back track and apologize for being the first to tell me, and then, she had to explain why she would be calling me, of all people, to talk about his retirement funds.

So, the scoop is, my “crazy cousin Larry”–he’s dead so I guess libel worries no longer concern me–died in 2007. The SSDI only shows us that he died on April 10th, 2007 with his last known address of Napa, California. I hadn’t spoken to him since early 2007, and had received a rather freaky letter from him sometime just before he, I now have learned, died. It was one of those letters that made me look at the postmark (somewhere in Wyoming) and call the local sheriff’s department to warn them they had an indigent crazy man in their neighborhood.

Okay…so the woman in Montana wants to know if Larry left any descendants. I managed to check in with my brother’s and a cousin, and none of us are aware of any wives or children. That leaves the six of us in this generation as his “next of kin.” The State of Montana still doesn’t know exactly where he died, and was hoping we could help them clear this up.

Calls to various coroner’s offices in the Napa area have shed no light on his death whatsoever. Not one of the four counties in the area surrounding Napa have any sort of record of his death. After all of these calls, I decided to do a fresh SSDI search. Rootsweb has a free one online, so I found this:

His latest address was in Napa.

Okay, so the people working at the State of Montana don’t seem to know that the State of Montana issued his death certificate. Time to start looking into places in Montana he might have ended up last. Another phone call to the Social Security Office in Montana, the certificate was actually issued in Nebraska. You’d think with all the database software out there, this would be easier.

I’m looking for that last freaky letter from him–I am sure I put it “somewhere special” and now can’t remember where I might have filed it for future reference. It might give me a clue as to where else he might have been living. At the very least, I wouldn’t mind just knowing. The idea that someone could die so alone that no one in his family would know about it for three years is chilling and saddening.

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Four More Days…

Another lovely diversion...Thanksgiving!

Gah. Only four more days of NaNoWriMo. I know the hubby is looking forward to not hearing me say, “I need to do my wordcount.” The kids are looking forward to me paying some attention to them. I know the youngest is tired of me saying, “No, I’m writing. Play by yourself” or, “Ask your sister to do something with you.” It’s not my fault that it snowed on Monday and knocked out school for Tuesday and Wednesday leaving us all at home, together.

This blog post is a complete procrastination bit on my part. While the few hundred words I post here are not something I can count toward my daily total, I’m simply and overtly avoiding writing on my NaNo project. The one is going along smoothly and is above the wordcount for the day. It’s easy to revert to writing a hot and steamy sex scene just to make the count for the day. Add that to a plot that actually make sense and is developing into a “real story” makes that one rather easy to write. (Maybe one day I’ll share the details more openly.)

This lovely graphic shows days in red where I posted no wordcount to the NaNoWriMo site. The yellow is where I posted some word count, and the green where I did the minimum wordcount or managed to get caught up to the “recommended” number. (And, for some reason, I can’t get the link to align to the right, so it looks sort of funky.)

My literary fiction piece is flailing. The topic sounded like it had merit. The idea has something to it, yet, I’m just not finding it. The NaNo month gives me ample opportunity to explore various scenarios and to see what works. I’m thinking that it also helps me see where a dud is a dud. After all, not every story I have is going to become a fully fleshed novel. At this point, I can see re-writing the NaNo project as a really fine short story. It’s just not…enough…to make a full novel out of. At least, I don’t think it is. I’m going to finish the word count just because I need to, but at this point it is painful going.

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All-Clad is All-Awesomeness

The much loved old pan.

Ever buy something really wonderful and expensive without thinking much about what might happen to it, say, ten years down the road? We bought a 12″ non-tick All Clad saute pan about ten years ago and used it regularly. Almost daily. After long and hard use, but perfect care on our part–I never put it in the dishwasher or used metal utensils, for example, it finally stopped being non-stick. It was so bad, in fact, it became unusable. An article in Cook’s Illustrated, mentioned that the All-Clad warranty was a really good one, and I decided to check into it. About six weeks ago, I sent an email to All-Clad and they sent me back a claim number and directions on returning the old pan.

Our replacement All-Clad!

I wrote them a nice letter explaining that, to my knowledge, we’d treated the pan with loving kindness as directed in the packaging information. I couldn’t vouch for the various people who have sat house for us while we are on vacation, but I know that I never put that thing in the dishwasher. I asked them to please keep the old pan and recycle it if possible even if they didn’t feel inclined to replace the pan under their warranty. I also told them that, if they were able to replace the pan, I would blog about what an awesome company they are. So, here I am, happily blogging and bouncing with joy. I LOVE the size shape and format of this pan, and I have completely missed it in my cooking repertoire of late. The replacement came today, just as I was beginning to think I was out of luck. Yay All-Clad!

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Halfway Through NaNo, Accident and New Yarn Shop, Oh my!

Halfway through the month of November, and my wordcount is just right where it is supposed to be. I’ve got a total of 25,653 words for the one project and 25,105 with the other. I’ve already decided to just do one project next year because this is a little bit ridiculous. I thought briefly about jamming the two together and calling it done, but that would be messing with the stats on the NaNoWriMo site, and only one of my accounts on the site would get credit for finishing the task. I can’t have that.

I’ve been writing regularly at home for quite a while now, and the 4,000 words every day hasn’t been impossible, but if I don’t get it done during the work day, I do the writing after dinner. This cuts into the alone time that I spend with my husband after the youngest is in bed, so I can see it’s not purely sustainable for the long run. Once December comes around, getting back into a routine where I’m regularly knocking of 2-3,000 words and a minimum of 1K a day will seem like a piece of cake. And, I’ve got plenty of fresh material to work from if I choose to continue with either of these project.s

The truck.....

The things that get me off my schedule are usually unplanned events. Like the accident we were in on Sunday. It took two hours to clear the truck and all the paperwork. We were extremely lucky that we were hit right on the wheel base of the truck and not on the driver’s side door. Our bruises are, I hope, superficial.

Given that my one project is about a man who is injured and put into a coma, I decided to use the accident as impetus for an alternative beginning to the novel. I got the angst and shakiness out by writing a much more horrific sort of accident with care-flight helicopters whisking someone away to Harborview. Writing an alternative accident made me feel even more lucky to get away with a few bruises and a broken knitting needle.

I was using my size 6. The needle broke right at the metal part.

I knit when I can if Bill is driving, and I happened to be using one of my lovely Knitpick’s harmony needles. Sigh. It was my only size six circular needle, and I ended up replacing it yesterday by visiting a new yarn shop in Kirkland called Serial Knitters. It’s wonderful to have a new shop of this quality on the Eastside. I was bummed to lose Hilltop Yarn East, and am very happy to have found a very decent sort of replacement. As soon as NaNoWriMo is over, I’ve got a boatload of knitting to do for the holidays, and I found some really pretty yarns to work with. (Yeah, I know I’ve got stash, but nothing in my stash would work for the projects I want to do for Christmas.)

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Dad, Doctor, Captain

Dad in uniform, early in his career.

My father served in the US Navy for twenty years. He joined up, originally, because the service would pay for his education to become a doctor, something he would otherwise be unable to afford. His career was varied and interesting to say the least.

He served aboard the USS Essex as Flight Surgeon, he helped develop the ejection system for the Gemini spacecraft, and he was the CMO (I believe) at Pensacola Naval Air Station for the last seven years of his career.

A recent picture of "his boat."

Ultimately, it was his time at Dugway Proving Grounds (remember dead sheep in Utah?) that led to his untimely death from ALS . I’m convinced that he played with some nasty nerve agents that eventually led to the disease. That, and four of his working partners also developed major motor neuron diseases leave little doubt in my mind.

The Gemini Ejection Seat. I have a video of Dad in this thing on some sort of rail, testing it. His neck was never the same after.

You might notice I have mixed emotions when it comes around to military matters. I am, however, very grateful to the people who serve in the military. I am proud of most of my dad’s many accomplishments while serving this big beautiful country of ours.

I know he was away a lot when my brothers were younger, and my mom was practically a single mom. By the time I was born, he’d managed to be working on land-based projects. I don’t remember a time where he was not around. He gave up interesting duty stations to prevent more moves. I remember him talking about how lucky we were that he didn’t take an offer to serve in Uganda in 1969 or 1970 but chose Pensacola instead. I lucked out in being born the youngest and got to grow up with him in the house my whole life. When I was twelve, he brought me into the office during the summer and put a white lab coat on me. He let me help with intake physicals by taking EKGs, hearing and vision tests, glaucoma testing and, yes, blood tests. I imagine his being in charge had something to do with all that, but I was oblivious to anything other than how fun it was to go to work with my dad, the Captain.

He was a good man.

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Double Duty NaNoWriMo

For various reasons that I know I won’t be able to fully articulate, I’m admitting my own insanity in public. Maybe it’s an underlying egomania that wants you all to know just how hard I really am working at this writing “thing” this month.As a matter of fact, the number of words you see for my NaNoWriMo ticker is actually roughly double that. Yes. I’m writing TWO projects during the month of November. For a variety of reasons, I decided I wanted to see what would happen if I split myself in two and honestly went at work on two projects with my two different writing personae.

The first project I can talk about openly and freely because it’s a literary fiction piece that involves a regular sort of person dealing with extraordinary events in her life. Her husband is in an accident and put in a coma for twelve weeks. During those twelve weeks she has quite a few personal ups and downs, though I’m not yet sure what they will all be as I’m still just writing that. The story will ultimately focus on the time after her husband has returned home and is re-entering family life. My sixteen year old rolled her eyes and told me something to the effect that it had to be literary fiction because it was depressing and serious. She continued with telling me that everything I write is disturbing.

That was certainly the case for the novel I wrote two years ago that is on an editing hiatus. I got the insight I needed to fix it a while ago, but haven’t gotten around to opening it up and re-writing the entire novel from a different point of view and in retrospective instead of current time. This approach fixes that whole pesky “Unreliable Narrator” problem I was having trying to write about a teenager going through a heartbreaking and self-destructive time.

The other novel I’m writing is under a different name that, so far, only my hubby and a friend or two know. It shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me well that I am interested in writing romantic smut. Okay, okay, the term I prefer is “erotica” because it’s well written and there is a story to what I write. But, the last thing I really want to have happen is for someone to do a search on the Rockenbeck last name and have it connected with such overtly adult material. Let’s say it’s somewhere between the low-level Harlequin Blaze program and Anne Rice’s Beauty series in it’s level of content.

I find myself wanting to be in the open about this somewhat covert activity more keenly because of the recent elections. My mind has been a-whirl with some of the campaign rhetoric of people who scare the hell out of me on any number of levels. I know that a lot of people made fun of Christine O’Donnell when she put up the commercial declaring “I’m not a Witch, I’m just like You.” Well, no, ma’am you most certainly are not just like me. I’m far more concerned with her up-tight Victorian-era rigidity and fear of sex and can no longer stay completely mum about my own views on the subject. (See this link for more…)

Unless people like me–normal Americans with homes, families, two cats, two cars and a garage admit that sex (and even “GASP” masturbation) is part of our normal daily lives, people like that are just going to gain ground politically and socially. Their anti-sex, fear mongering, anti-homosexual, anti-freedom rhetoric is cloaked by their use of the American flag and their so-called claims to God and country.

I, for one, am sick of it. So, every once in a while, I will make references here and there to my other, still mostly closeted persona. And, I won’t be afraid to mention sex here. No worries about me getting graphic on wordpress, but neither will I be utterly complicit by my continued silence.

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NaNoWriMo is Underway

I started writing with a pace that surprises me. I’ve been thinking through my novel concept for a few weeks, and decided on the project I’ll be focusing on this month on Sunday, the day before the program started. Last year, I worked on something that had a full-fleshed outline and intricate plot twists already worked out. This year, it is more of a vague idea of what I wanted to do.

My daughter has accused me of picking another “depressing subject,” but, hey, I am writing literary fiction. I don’t find the topic as depressing as I do fascinating. My main character is a woman who has a husband who is in an accident and suffers brain injury. When he returns home, there are subtle differences. At the moment, I’m writing a lot of stuff that I doubt will ever bee seen in print. I decided to go ahead and write through the accident, hospital stay and similar ‘back-story’ elements into scene for my own needs. I’ve spent the last few days putting a woman through some rather sudden and painful changes, but it’s not all dreary reading or writing.

I’ve been intrigued with the work of Oliver Sacks for years. His work on brain trauma and injuries highlights cases of the most unusual sort, and make for fascinating reading. I’m thinking about the kind of changes that the Jim, the current name for the hubby, will have. I can’t take every interesting thing I’ve read about and give it to the one character, but I’ll probably put together two or three things that will have Jessica wondering who her husband has become. I don’t know where this going, really, but I don’t have to know that. The characters and story will evolve as I write them. The only thing I’m worried about for November is the daily task of writing nearly 2,000 words every day. And it doesn’t include blog posts.

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