Friday, August 30, 2013

Cataract's easy and painless....

 The day before cataract surgery, I couldn’t remember my phone number and realized that I was nervous. That’s like the story someone told me about going to a medical conference and hearing a speaker say, “I must be nervous. I just took a valium.” I’m like that in the slow-reaction department. Why bother to feel anything since it’s just going to get worse. But I hadn’t bothered to feel anything before the operation since it wouldn’t do any good…

It was getting dark in here and a bit smudgy. I could no longer drive legally at night and it was inevitable. James, who I never manage to correspond with, much as I want to, said to do it five or six months ago. That was when the optometrist suggested that it was time to introduce me to a surgeon. But I wasn't ready.

The operating room was cold, but the process was interesting and the surgeon was willing to describe what I might be seeing…caused by the intensity of the light. I saw three small pink circles in a field of changing color, orange, lavender, green, orange again. Sometimes the dots moved, revealing black as if there was a mask underneath them. Later, when he was taking out the actual cataract, the field was pale gray with white crackles…and I knew when he was putting in the lens because of the extremely narrow lines of white light… 

The nurse had spoken to her supervisor and I had to delete all the photographs I took that included any patients or staff…she stood behind me after the operation and watched, to make sure. But I kept a few blue elbows, which didn’t seem to bother her.

Waiting with all the other people waiting, some older than me, some a bit younger, men and women, the men looking more sprightly, strange as that seems, took far longer than the operation did……….a long time sitting there, trying to write about years ago when I had my toe nail taken off and was in a New York hospital near women with serious problems…a mastectomy, an amputation. And was certain I’d die from the anesthesia. I didn’t. I’ve heard so many stories about how easy this cataract experience is and that when it’s over, it’s over. Never again in that eye. Cataracts don’t redevelop.

I must have been nervous, though, in spite of what I thought because I went to the wrong office for my next morning after-inspection. You are not allowed to make any important decisions for 24 hours after the surgery. This wasn’t a decision and not all that different in terms of mistakes than I do make – arriving an hour too early or too late or on the wrong day. But it was a first for a wrong office, the one in Boston rather than Cambridge.   Oh, well. The surgeon, an incredibly pleasant man, didn’t mind my taking photographs. Many eye doctors are also photographers, though of a very refined and classical bent. Landscapes that are perfectly in focus and beautifully printed.

Now my left eye sees everything in a heavy tinge of light. Whites are really white. My right eye still gives a yellow tinge. Yesterday when I visited friends, their house was yellow when seen with one eye and a very pale, pale yellow, verging on white, when seen with the new lens. I can’t imagine how awful all the photographs I’ve lightened recently must look….  oh, well…

I have to go back next Thursday. And it is difficult to be on the backside with the left eye protected by gauze. I have to find another solution by the time Layla Jane gets taken to her new home on Friday.

Friday, August 23, 2013

 I should, there is that word, should, get up and go to the garden, water the spinach I planted a week or more ago...but that means getting in the car for the umpteenth time today. So, I didn't and remembered that I actually have a blog which I've paid absolutely no attention to since April....

But here's Dolly. She's been Shirley's project and is coming along nicely, thank you. So, she's gone from a pet who I actually approaching the status of a racehorse which is not as friendly a creature. But she's still gorgeous. I wish she was her old flopping self and hadn't improved so nicely into the profession she was born to...but there you go, that's what happens when a good trainer gets going.

The good accident is happening upon a woman who has  just purchased a Thoroughbred who she will take into her next life and I've been able to video the process of them getting acquainted before the horse leaves the stalls and takes off to a more elegant life. This filly has always been treated gorgeously, so the new owner is not getting a problem horse who needs a lot of work until she becomes secure.

It was rather an accident that I ended up video taping the folks who breed and buy the horses, but I feel into two interesting projects last summer...and here I am, drowning in material.   It's exciting. And I'm glad. But I bought a new video camera. And that meant a new editing program. And that's connected to my new computer, a desktop that I bought almost a year ago, but still don't know how to use properly. Besides, it has it's own technical problems that have been fixed once.   Etc.   I've got great new material and a mountain of technical information to absorb.    

A good space to be in.
And a bad one that just means I have to put one foot in front of the other and get to it.

I'm certain that if I were at the garden, I wouldn't have another squash that's been eaten by what most people seem to think is a woodchuck. My squash plant, singular, probably will decide not to have any more zuchs. My tomatoes, though they are sickly looking, are still prolific and I would have liked to have a couple with my pita and hummus. But, there you go...they are there and I am here.

I've done most of the dishes. And could vacuum. And do more sorting because the decluttering will start again in the fall when it's not so hot upstairs and the track is close to closing for the season and I've had my eyes fixed so that it's not so dark inside my head and I can drive again at night....

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Distractions from Decluttering

The impetus for this particular post came from my attempt to publicize, com, the memoir site brainchild of Susan T. Landry that I'm working on, also...

Never imagining I'd have any luck, I fooled around on the web for memoir sites and memoir groups and found Pat McNees, whose link I hope to attach...  Remarkably, she's not only a writer/editor and involved with memoir, but also has a blog on decluttering which is part of her larger concern with death and dying, how to allow us to accept this inevitability with more grace or ease. That preoccupation came from time spent with her father when he was dying and has led to a great deal of work on her part, including a book. You might well want to check her out if you're interested in memoir, writing, hospice, clutter and so forth.   This is the site for cluter...on her comfortdying site.
I am inspired to declutter in part from my experience after my father's death when it took 5 or 6 people and almost a week of working full-time sorting and tossing. I knew how much my step-mother had collected over the years, long before she was unable to think and reason. But I imagined that my father with his spare habits would have left next to nothing. No so. We had many laughs, a lot of good meals  and felt considerable dismay an attic of useless things she's bagged, tied and stashed and in the basement, the chairs he'd meant to cane, but forgot about and all those bottles for making wine, etc.

I don't want to leave that caliber of mess for my daughter and so decluttering means, to some extent, thinking about death, my death. But it also centers around the idea of  moving, so there is an underlying positive motive lurking under the massive weight of it all.

But it's slow going. I've thrown out reams of paper from piles I thought I should keep. And have moved files from shelves into the empty space in the file drawers. I have labeled them all with large letters in black and categorized -- a major learning leap. I know it seems crazy to most people to stick (labeled) files into the drawers without any system for easily finding them again, but there you go. That was how I did it for umpteen years. Until this week.

And I liberated a narrow basket under the table (along with two large ones) which contained four thick files of poetry notes from my mentor, George Kalogeris, a gentle man with a quiet voice who provided the backbone for all that writing during a period of four or five years. His neat pencil tics next to lines he liked, his brief suggestions, so important.  What mattered most is that he respected my voice and all its quirkiness. I saved those four thick files, unable to part with the sense of George. But today I'll throw them out since there's absolutely no sense in hanging on to them. I've long ago incorporated his suggestions and I certainly won't look at them again. Why hang on?

Why hang on is the question that dances around every object I pick up, each piece of paper. It's a complicated one. I couldn't learn how to think about this without the pleasant woman I'm paying standing here, talking, looking, offering suggestions. There are many, many good books, some of which you will find listed on Pat McNees' blog, but I don't learn from books. And breaking the habits of the typical adult child of an alcoholic who has lived through and by chaos is very difficult.

I'm skipping two weeks of supervision, but look forward to what I'll learn during my next session.
 In the meantime, I went back to work on a documentary on George and Arlene Brown's Thoroughbred breeding center. We went down there on Sunday to see the newest two babies and I'm hoping to catch an actual delivery, though that's hard to time since they happen between 10pm and 2am. Someone is always in the barn, waiting for signs of a potential delivery since the mares often need help. In the wild, 50 percent of the foals die, as well as some of the mares because the baby was wrong-way-round and the hooves penetrated her uterus and stomach.

Woody is drinking, or at least looking at water, with his mother and Wilson, a bit older, is at the water bucket on his own. George couldn't stop talking about what a marvelous creature Woody is, but I know knowing about horses and can't tell a thing. Best I can do is figure out which kitten is the largest in a litter.
 And water colors are a fabulous distraction. So relaxing. I've started using little talismen that I've kept around over all these years, propping them against a Starbucks cup as a scale, drawing and painting them. And just started self=portraits!
Many of the files on these shelves have been transferred to the empty file draw spaces, but not all of them. I'm not finished with this room by a long shot. Damn, it does take so much time.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Learning and decluttering......

      During the third three-hour sessions with the kindly decluttering supervisor, I realized that, while I had exhibited enough to be put on a tenure track, and enough to actually receive tenure in an Art Department, and have had a few self-portraits shown at MOMA twice, I’m of no real importance as an artist and it’s fine to toss out copies of emails recording the negotiations for two exhibits in Lawrence, for the Bread and Roses strike centennial last year. Certainly it was interesting to work on those videos and the drawing piece, about 100 more-or-less 4x5ish pieces of Reeves BFK.

     I was happy to drive up there on route 28, a meandering road that avoids the highway I’m phobic about. I liked the people I met and thought I did a good-enough job with the interviews, that they’re useful in the history center archive. Maybe someone will watch the DVD’s in some form or another 50 years from now and maybe the folks who I interviewed will watch theirs some years from now and feel pleased about who they were, what they were doing, in 2012. But I’m hardly important enough to keep all that correspondence.
     Now, that was an important realization and will make a difference in the tossing out and decluttering process.

      And, when I woke up this morning, I knew that I’d truly absorbed the lesson of ‘large, bold, black letters on each file folder’ and understood that folders containing related information should be put near similar files. That’s such an easy concept that my decluttering advisor probably has no understanding that I needed her time and her patience for me to finally absorb it. No de-cuttering book, magazine or article  could have taught it to me. I needed a real human, standing here, going over all this stuff, taking out her Sharpie and lettering some folders, for me to understand, absorb, the concept by the next day.

     I’m sure it’s hard for this nice woman to walk into the house and see that I’ve not finished one room before I’ve wandered on to the next. That there are still unsorted piles, visual blobs, in rooms that she’s helped me tackle. Most clients must want a finished product…all surfaces cleared, no piles in corners, a closet door that will close. But what I want is to learn how to think.

     So, our time in the kitchen and so-called living room didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know – get rid of what you don’t need. But my two sessions in this workroom have taught me the concept of like-with-like and how one might keep files in a way that would prevent the necessity of shuffling through all the labels, faint as the printing is, to find the one I want. Invaluable.

     It really doesn’t look as if there’s been progress. And she might well feel discouraged. In fact she probably has to tell herself, ‘Well, she’s paying me and I can’t force her into finishing what she clearly doesn’t want to finish.’ Though there has been progress between sessions, it never puts paid to one room.
     Hopefully she understands my sense of humor as I grumble along, annoyed that she wants me to find places for the last four unidentified bits and bobs, as she calls them, before I careen into another basket of stuff that’s been sitting on the floor, under the table, for eons.

     She mentioned a coffee table, or something low with a drawer (another concept -- drawers,) that I might buy since she identified my ‘spot’ for working which involves dropping books and papers, envelopes and pens on the floor and keeping whatever is important on a small-low stool – my checkbook and the still life for whatever watercolor I’m mucking away at.
     She is sure that I will understand that the floor is not a place to keep things. And I’m sure that I won’t because it’s so convenient. So, we’ll have to see whether I’m capable of grasping that. Capable of buying something that’s knee height and serves as nicely as the floor does.

     I did pretty well, physically, while she was here. And was careful to lift only one very heavy basket because I was so eager to tear into it. I actually asked her to lift two others, which I felt bad about, why should she lift the symbols of my disorder, but they were smaller and my sciatic nerve was already angry.
     I was capable of carrying a box (a box, does she know how valuable boxes are and how hard it was to let go of that box?) to the car filled with a few things she’d volunteered to take to Goodwill, including the white chamber pot with a small chip that I bought when I taught workshops in Maine a hundred years ago. Why on earth did I buy something as odd as that, as absolutely unrelated to anything I was interested in? I bought it the way I bought old photographs of people I didn’t know, photographs that I’d never look at and had no reason to want except that they were inexpensive and it seemed like the thing to do. I was a photographer, right? A photographer with no general interest in history and no understanding of the early photographic processes, no less.

     I’d taken a Tylenol before we started and planned to take on four hours later. A card table that my friend Lorna was getting rid of was set up in the room because I’d understood, after it took me almost three days to get over our last three-hour session, that bending down to sort things on the floor was truly impossible. And when my back began to hurt, after about twenty minutes, I tried to think of ways to stop aggravating it. Fibromyalgia or resistance to this whole process? It’s not important to know why the aching starts so quickly since that’s an old problem, one I’m used to handling.
     However, by the time I got back upstairs and was actually making myself a healthy dinner (hard to believe,) I had to hold on to the stove, then the kitchen doorway, squealing in pain. Full-blown misery, the kind I often experience if I’ve taken a walk and then gotten right into the car. Terrible. But it doesn’t take long to go away. And I did eat and actually do back exercises.
     I was able to go to an early meeting of Weight Watchers this morning, only to find that I’ve gained THREE POUNDS in one month. I’m a bit achy, but not feeling nearly as bad as I did two weeks ago after our three-hour session. Maybe we can do another session next week. Hopefully.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


 When we met, my girl might have been three and their first son  might have been a year...give or take a bit.

 I had traded friends with a then friend. She got P., I think, and I got J. who is married to E. and who were, and still are, my exemplary married friends.  Lucky me.

She and I sat in their kitchen in a Park Slope brownstone that they were renovating, drinking coffee, until one of us had to break the conversation to pee. It was heaven. Often I snuck over there to Brooklyn when my daughter was in daycare, on days when I wasn't printing in my friend Will's darkroom on 9th Street. He was teaching me what would make my becoming a teacher possible...excellent darkroom practice, the technical skills I probably wouldn't have absorbed from a less patient, kindly teacher. And J. was teaching me about writing with her patient reading of so much of what I wrote...reading and commenting.
 They moved from Brooklyn, to Beirut, to the environs of Washington, D.C. and most recently to Providence. Where we imaged we'd see each other more often.

She's become wonderfully busy ... I say wonderfully because the organization she's joined has surely benefited from her prioritizing skills, her clear-headed ability to sort through problems and her low-key, well-honed ability to sort out difficult problems and set a tone that makes conciliation possible.

But she's very busy. And I'm busy, too, though not as focused on one specific set of problems, with specific goals.
 As always, I roam all over the map, getting myself tanged into projects and problems. Getting tired. And thinking that even getting on a train to visit them is too much trouble. "I have to think about it" which means that I have to decided whether I've recovered from whatever mess I've gotten into that's knocked my muscles into screams. The latest has been the de-cluttering which is combined with .... and ....and .....and .......(all things that needed to be done, a book to be read, notes to be made, questions to be thought up, photographs to be taken, a meeting to be chaired....and so on...)
 I couldn't believe how easy it was, how pleasant the train was and how quickly those hours at their house went by, that my friends are still my friends....comfortable, talkative, as if we had seen each other just the other day, been talking over the phone constantly instead of occasionally. I had to pinch myself to imagine this is possible and to stop myself from feeling endlessly guilty about how detached I've distant........

 What a cake, hazelnut and dark chocolate. And coffee............. (in addition to lunch.)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Run to the Roundhouse, Nellie and Clutter

Susan T. Landry has conceptualized and supervised the design and up-putting of the new website,   
Puuleeeze check it out. It was a huge amount of effort.
And looks really smart!       

I wormed my way out of contributing much to it any of that extensive labor, though I do present one of the two memoirs and ask the writer of it a few questions. And that takes me about three days, not totally including how many times I read the book. And I'm retired and only involved in the mischief I make for myself. I can't imagine how Susan has managed. 

One thing I've done, in part because a friend sent photos of her neatly arranged closets and clean desk, is to hire her childhood friend, newly retired and taking up advising on decluttering. She's a very cheerful person and the seven hours we've spent together so far has brought results.

However, it takes two and a half days to recover from three hours of de-cluttering supervision. There are undoubtedly many reasons why.

One could be that the concept of putting like-with-like is so foreign that my mind fizzles in trying to absorb it. Paperclips and envelopes of differing sizes, a stack of new, white 8 and ½ by 11 and another recyled sheets I print on the back off. Two shelves. 

Of course, that the stapler and staples probably should be on those two shelves, also, instead of in the square basket where I shoved them after tossing out a great deal of other oddments.

And pens? Where should they go? 

Or it could be the internalized fight with my mother, carried on since she died when I was twelve and erased her from my conscious mind, preserving only dimly felt instructions – 
be a good girl, which might have translated into being a good woman which I never was, 
don’t sit on your spine which I’d always done, alas, only in this advanced aged realizing how right she was, 
your eyes are bigger than your stomach 
and whatever she must have said about the state of my room which had three closets, two built especially for my things (there was another closet for hanging dresses and blouses and storing shoes,) under the eaves, with a window seat between. 

After her house was sold and almost all her belongings disposed of, I must have vowed not to create a home for myself, and since I had to live somewhere, I’d remain uncomfortable in chaotic surroundings. What an old battle. And I’m seventy-three!

Of course, my body is always cranky. Fibromyalgia. Something aches, my shoulders or neck, small muscles along my rib cage ping occasionally just to alert me of their presence. And my haunches are full of misery.  So, climbing on the chair to reach high shelves wasn’t helpful. Would using a stepladder have helped? I never thought about the one propped against the wall in hall, waiting for someone to replace the fire alarm battery.

And allergies. By the next day, I had a deep, aching cough, still lingering.

Five shelves. A very small section of this workroom tidy looking, at least. Two trips to Home Goods to buy baskets and one to return some. 

 Profuse apologies to James and the Cuban in London and the pie lady for not reading blogs at all. I imagine sometime I'll get back to doing's not that I don't appreciate your writing and want to read it, it's just........................ I'm tired.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Susan and her cohorts did an enormous amount of work to get the site up and running. I hope that you'll take a look at it, become involved with it. We've had nice comments ....... And are eager for more readers and folks becoming contributing editors, writing for Roundhouse writing, making comments....  Take a look!!!!!  

I hid in the weeds while she did the heavy lifting...

I seem undone by almost all technical challenges until I've mastered them. 

Yes, I could at one time load film into a camera and even develop it. Now I can load digital images into a computer, but I can't work the new smart phone that I unwisely bought, thinking it made sense and wouldn't be that much more expensive. Even two smart friends (who have I-phones) couldn't figure it out since it's not an I-phone...and I waited around too long to trade it in. So, that's one task to be done. And another is to get help for the computer I bought, but I've been unwilling to start using since I'm editing right now, video editing, and I can't imagine that this will be possible on the new computer with a much larger screen.

On the good side, today I figured out how to print on DVDs that I succeeded in editing and making on the old laptop. It took quite a bit of thinking and a great feeling of failure until I realized that I needed ink.

The DVD player broke down. I need to get a new one. Now I can't check the DVDs that I edit on it.

My car made it through inspection and I had new suspensory something-or-others put on this week.

It took me two days to figure out how to get into this blog. I was signed into a different gmail, but why would I notice that?

I'm starting a course on Interactive Documentary which will be way above my head. 

It's not age, I don't think. I've always been like this. 

But age doesn't help because there is so much to do, so many interesting things to do. A friend asked if I'm having enough fun, but work is my idea of fun. And I'm so lucky to be able to do it when some technical something-or-other isn't fouling it all up.

Small problems!!!!

I remind myself of the woman who, as she went down to the cellar, saw an axe embedded in the beam above the stairs, so she sat down, worrying that her daughter might get hurt when she went down for the laundry, she sat so long that her daughter came to find her and saw the axe and started to worry, too, beside her mother until the son found them, and soon they were all crying because each knew that someone they loved would surely get hurt by the axe in such a precarious location...
and so on...
until the whole family was huddled and weeping
until a friend, someone not overcome by speculation and fretfulness, reached up and pulled the axe out.