some assembly required

As I wrote about Saturday, I’m not doing what I expected I would be today, arriving in London, UK for a month, with two weeks in quarantine and two visiting family, including meeting our newest grandchild JG.

I had spent weeks making arrangements for the trip, letting lots of other things, such as writing blog posts, slide. Instead, I spent a lot of time on the phone and online covering personal and family obligations for the four weeks of the trip plus the two weeks of quarantine required by New York State when we returned. I, along with B and T, also spent hours and hours organizing and cleaning the house to be ready for my sisters to stay here to be on hand for our dad, known here as Paco, while we were away. I had planned time to work on my poetry collection while we were in quarantine. I also had some reading and blogging work lined up.

And now, I need to figure out how to organize myself for the next six weeks.

And in general.

Again.

Still.

In my experience, the thought that I can organize my life and have things go according to plan is an act of hubris or, perhaps, folly. Over these last decades, my life plans have seldom unfolded as envisioned. Things happen. Priorities change. Plans get abandoned or put on hold. This is not a complaint, but an observation.

I know I have limited control, yet I somehow feel the need to make a plan when I sense there is a turning point, or, at least, a juncture when circumstances have changed.

A consequence of the household re-organizing we did to get ready for my sisters to come house-sit is that, for the first time in almost four years, B and I have moved back into the master bedroom, which we had given over to daughter E when she moved back home for almost three years while waiting for her spousal visa to be approved in the UK. The nearby room that had served as ABC’s nursery has now become B’s at-home office; his office building closed in March due to the pandemic and no one knows if or when it will re-open. My desktop computer is now in a guest room upstairs, opposite where T’s room is and has been throughout all the rest of the configuration changes. The living room, dining room, and kitchen are more organized than they have been in years.

I suppose the first part of my plan should be to keep things clean and organized, which would be an ongoing chore as I don’t enjoy cleaning and organizing. One of the things that made the task of getting ready to leave so daunting was the psychic strain of dealing with sorting and packing cards and other memorabilia from the last few years which included my mother’s final illness and death and E and ABC living with us. In truth, I will most likely never have a minimalist house, especially as we are storing things from both my and B’s parents’ homes and our adult daughters’. Some of it may migrate to E and T eventually…

But I digress. There is some hope that I can use our new configuration to my advantage, such as getting used to writing sequestered with my desktop rather than my laptop in the midst of the household.

The larger issue may be to de-clutter my mind. Over these last few years, when intergenerational care responsibilities have been my primary focus, I have gradually been shedding more and more of the things that used to occupy my time, such as extensive research and commentary on environmental/social justice issues and on women’s equality in the Catholic Church. I still care about those things and keep up on them to an extent, but I have let my membership in a lot of the related organizations lapse as I attended to in-person responsibilities. Admittedly, my email inbox is still overflowing with news – and requests for money – from too many entities, but I’m hoping to whittle down further after the election to free up more time and brainpower for other things.

It’s not that I don’t still care about these issues. I am heartened by the convergence of social and environmental justice issues that has happened this year and I will continue to lend support, but I will do it through a few select organizations with which I have a special connection, such as NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby that I joined in observance of the Jubilee in 2000. I am also heartened by the witness and energy of the Millenials and Gen Z in this convergence of social, racial, gender, economic, and environmental justice and will gratefully support their leadership with what experience and wisdom I can offer.

I’m hoping that 2021 will bring a new administration and Congress to Washington that will restore functionality and care for the common good to our national government. The last four years have been disturbing and exhausting and keeping up with the news has become an obsession and a time sink. I’m hoping to get back to a place where it doesn’t take so much energy to keep up with the news so that I can concentrate on writing and other mental work.

One of the very immediate conundrums is that I have to wrap my head around being at home on election day this Tuesday. We voted early last Monday and I had myself mentally prepared to be in London, five hours ahead as the election results began to come in. Instead, I think I will be staying up late Tuesday night into the wee hours of Wednesday, as results begin to be reported. We all know that the vote count will take several days, but the early numbers may allow some states to be called on election night. I’m hoping that everyone – the politicians, pundits, and public – will stay calm and that there will be an orderly transfer to a new administration and Congress.

Personally, I’m hoping that I will be able to spend more time writing. I promise that will include some blog posts, although I’m sure I will never be the on-topic, on-schedule blogger-type. I most want to write more poems and do revisions to produce a new version of my collection that centers on the North Adams MA area where I grew up and to which I have returned as a member of the Boiler House Poets Collective. Optimally, I’d like to have it together by spring so that I can do a manuscript review with my poet-friends. I also need to do some more submissions for my chapbook. Rejections have been coming in and two contests that I had planned to enter this fall have been pushed back, so I will need to hunt out more opportunities. I should also send out some individual poems to journals; I’ve been ignoring this for the most part over the last several years but need to get back to it.

I suppose I’d better plan some time for writing holiday cards and letters…

I also need to factor in time for essential shopping and errands for our household and for Paco. The pandemic and the supply chain problems it has caused have made shopping a major undertaking. It has also changed the way I help Paco, as I try to minimize time indoors his senior community’s building. Eventually, when there is widespread vaccine use, I’ll be able to resume regular in-person visits, but for now I am trying to deal with most things by phone and quick drop-offs.

I don’t know whether or not I can make some semblance of a schedule for myself or a plan to better work toward these goals. I had some hope as I started to write this post yesterday, but now I have all the uncertainties of the election, the pandemic, and personal life swirling about in my head.

But, hey, here is a long blog post about to be published, which is in line with my goals, so….

Progress?

Stay tuned.

And send good vibes.

SoCS: looking for meaning

I, along with millions of others, am searching for a deep, inner meaning in these troubled times.

I’m fortunate to be affiliated with a number of organizations that center on social and environmental justice. While these organizations are working on ways to help in the immediate circumstances, they are also looking forward toward lessons to take away from these times and ideas to transform our social systems to better support people and the planet in the future.

Here in the United States, it is easier than ever to see the impacts of income inequality. So many people don’t earn enough to have any savings cushion at all that the sudden loss of work immediately puts them at risk of hunger and/or homelessness. As we rebuild our economy in the coming months/years, I hope the US will finally institute some kind of living wage protocol so workers can afford to live a dignified life and support their families, with some ability to save for future needs. We also need a stronger social safety net to help people who, due to age, health status, location, caregiving responsibilities, etc., are not able to have paid work.

At the moment – and for decades before now – the United States has had economic policies that have favored business owners and stockholders over the rest of the population. Money is taken to be a form of free speech and politicians have been showered in money by the powerful. Many of them are representing these monied interests more so than their human constituents. As we take stock of the pandemic and post-this-particular-pandemic world, we need to return to the founding principle that government exists to “promote the general welfare.” (That’s from the preamble of the US Constitution, for those not familiar with the phrase.)  It’s also often called working for the common good.

Scientists have noted how much clearer the air is, especially in major cities. With people in many countries staying at home and with a large number of businesses shut down, there are a lot fewer emissions that cause air pollution and that add to the climate crisis. Those of us who have been working on climate issues have been hearing for years that there isn’t political will to change our lifestyles to cut carbon for the sake of the planet, but the pandemic shows that our world can mobilize on a large scale – and quickly – to change business as usual. Obviously, emissions will rise when more businesses are able to re-open, but, perhaps, the pandemic will lead to some permanent changes that will keep emissions lower than what had been the status quo. Perhaps some employees will work from home most days of the week, coming together physically only on certain days to better work out solutions to problems. Maybe there will be less business travel in favor of teleconferencing. Maybe the reorganizing of the economy will include more local/domestic manufacturing and food production to cut down on shipping and boost supplies. Maybe the US will follow the lead of Europe and use this juncture to institute a “green deal” that promotes both climate/environmental and social justice causes.

So many possibilities.

There is a lot of work that many are doing to meet the immediate needs of people in this time of pandemic and I commend all of them for their deep sense of duty and service. I also appreciate those who are able to analyze the past and the present and use those insights to help us prepare for the future. If we are wise and brave, we will build a safer, better, sustainable, and dignified life for all living beings and our planet.
*****
Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday/A to Z prompt is “deep.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/04/03/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-april-4-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
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SoCS: no retreat

“After what might” have been a night on retreat, I am instead sitting on an upholstered chair next to our still-fragrant Christmas tree with my new Christmas-present laptop on my lap.

I had hoped to be on a 24-hour retreat at a nearby spiritual center. The theme was to have been finding some optimism for the new year.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough people sign up to go ahead with the program.

Part of the reason signups were low was probably the weather. Yesterday, the weather was rainy with a high in the 60s F. (16 C). Overnight, the temperature plummeted to well below freezing. There is an inch or two of snow (5 cm), mostly likely with a coating of ice underneath with more snow expected.

I know it is safer for all of us to be at home, but I still wish the retreat had not been cancelled.

I need any hope or optimism I can get for the year ahead.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was to base the post on the sixth, seventh, and eighth words of whatever piece of writing was at hand when we sat down to write, hence the quotation marks at the beginning. It’s also part of Just Jot It January. Join us for one or both! Details here:
https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/12/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-13th-2018/

 

 

SoCS: unresolved

While it is common for people to choose resolutions for the new year, it’s not something that I usually do.

I don’t find January first to be an especially salient day, coming, as it does, during a very busy and high stress time of the year.

If I do feel the need to make a change in my life, I prefer to just jump in and work on whatever-it-may-be at that moment.

Sometimes that works out, but often it doesn’t. So much of life is beyond personal control that my resolution would have to be extremely important not to let it be displaced by the needs of others.

I can hear the wheels turning with the old mantras of “you need to put yourself first” and “put on your oxygen mask before assisting other passengers” and the like.

But that doesn’t ring true to who I am. I usually think of others first.

That isn’t to say that I am neglectful of myself. In order to “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” you can’t be mean or dismissive of yourself.

I can, however, set priorities and I usually choose to help others over doing solo endeavors. That means that things I might like to do get set aside. Sometimes, I get back to them. Sometimes, I don’t.

But no regrets.

Be it resolved: I will make my own choices at whatever time suits the situation.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “resolution.”  Join  us! find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/12/29/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-30-17/

SoCS: anybody’s guess

I’ve heard that there are people who have detailed calendars, with squares filled out for each hour detailing activities that actually happen.

My own days are more along the lines of “anybody’s guess.”

To be fair there have been times in my life when things unfolded in a predictable way, but most of those times were when I was younger and on a school schedule. In adulthood, things have been much more fluid.

At the moment, with a two-month-old granddaughter in residence and my parents in need of extra help, it isn’t any wonder that days seldom unfold in an orderly fashion. But, if I am being truthful, most of my adult life has not been highly structured. I haven’t had a regular work schedule because most of what I do is family-care oriented, volunteer, or creative work.

I have often thought about trying to establish a more set routine, often revolving around after X happens, things will settle down and there will be a routine, but usually Y, Z, AA, Q, and something else intervenes, and I am back in the realm of “anybody’s guess.”

Maybe, someday, I will join the ranks of the routinized.

Until then, I will just keep guessing – and keep flexible.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “guess.” Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2017/08/11/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-1217/ 

 

re-jiggering

Facebook is not so subtly reminding me that I haven’t posted for a week. (People who are on Facebook are cordially invited to “like” the Top of JC’s Mind page here.)

I had made the mistake of making a plan for the last week. After getting daughter T on the plane to Hawai’i to visit daughter E, I was going to spend a lot of time writing, both here at Top of JC’s Mind and in continuing work on my poetry collection, in anticipation of needing to take a writing break beginning on the 17th when Nana was scheduled to have a diagnostic heart catheterization, part of the continuing saga of the fainting episode in April.

As often happens, life laughs at my plans…

The day after T left, Nana developed shortness of breath and wound up in the hospital with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Fortunately, treatment improved her symptoms a lot and she was able to head home within 24 hours. Unfortunately, the episode precipitated  a further delay in the heart catheterization, now pushed back to August 31st.

Not much writing got done in the last week, but I am tempting fate and re-organizing.

I’m pleased to report that I wrote a new poem this morning to fill a hole in the first section of my collection. The poem is about Nana and her father, so it was nice to be able to talk to her this morning and gather some more information that I needed.  I have sent her a copy to review and will plan to workshop it with my poetry group when next we meet.

Yay! I managed to accomplish something in my plan!

And I am writing this post!

Two things!

Crossing my fingers that things will stay calm in the coming days  so I can get some more creative time in before my planned break beginning August 31st.

Or, if something does come up, I’ll just re-jigger again.

I’m really getting quite good at it…

 

 

SoCS: If x, then y

If x, then y.

I’ve been telling myself some version of that for years. It usually involves getting through some major project/issue/development – the “if” – so that “then” things will calm down and be organized and predictable and under control.

It almost never works out that way.

I am finally wising up and getting to the point where I don’t promise anyone, even myself, some future goal.

Too much can happen that was unforeseen or that results in a totally different chain of events than anticipated.

The only constant is change and all that…

A lot of things that I might have seen as if/then are morphing into hopes, rather than promises or commitments.

It’s a way to retain some level of sanity/calm/integrity.

People who read my blog know that the past few months have been difficult for me, beginning with the unexpected death of my mother-in-law in March. I had to pull back from a lot of my usual activities, including blogging practice, and I thought I had an idea of when and how I would work my way back to what I had been used to.

Then, a string of other things unfolded and I have had to acknowledge that I really don’t have a clue when I will resume or even if it is possible.

I will just do the best that I can.

My if/thens will be confined to simple straightforward statements, such as “If I schedule this post now, then it will appear on Saturday.”
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is if/then. Come join the fun! Find out how here:   https://lindaghill.com/2016/07/15/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-1616/ 

SoCS badge 2015

 

Resolutions, goals, and plans

I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts over the last few days with people stating their New Year’s resolutions. I admit that I am not a New Year’s resolution person. If I need to make a change, I prefer to start when the need arises.

I’m not especially wedded to January first as a date. Which reminds me that I wrote a poem about it

Some people chose to list goals rather than resolutions, but even that sounds too cut-and-dried to me.

Jay Dee, at the end of this Authors Answer post, asks what are our plans for 2016.

Plans are something I can get behind. Plans to me are more dynamic and able to be adjusted or revised as needed. Plans don’t have an expiration date.

My writing plan is to put together my first poetry collection.

Those of you who followed my saga of the Mass MoCA/Tupelo Press residency/workshop know that I had hoped returning to my home locale in its new phase of life would spawn a chapbook. Midway though the residency week, I realized that it needed to be a collection rather than a chapbook.

I have a provisional title.

A schema for organizing the sections of the collection.

And some poems that I have already written that will fit into the collection. Others are drafted but need revisions, workshopping, and more revision. Others are still barely ideas and there may be still others that become necessary to write to fill in gaps in the timeline or to balance the sections.

I am planning on marshaling my local resources, Sappho’s Circle and the Bunn Hill Poets, for help with workshopping individual poems. As I get further along in the process, I will probably afflict commandeer invite several writer-poet friends to critique a section or the whole collection. Other people are so much better at pointing out what doesn’t make sense or what is out of order than I am when I am so close to it.

I am ecstatic that our residency group, the Boiler House Poets, will have a reunion this fall. I definitely plan to enlist their help, although I’m not sure in what capacity. It will depend on where I am in the process in the fall. I may need more workshopping help, or organizational assistance, or help navigating the submission process, or may need some more art poems to balance the final section so that I would be generating new poems during the residency that would need feedback.

To me, that is part of the beauty of a plan. It can change and grow as needs dictate.

I know that many people would say that plans need to be written out with checkboxes and timelines and deadlines or things won’t get done.

I do understand that logic, but I can’t force myself – or my poetry – into that kind of straitjacket.

My life experience has featured too many unexpected events to carve any plan in stone.

Too many things can happen.

Too many things have happened.

I am confident that I will assemble this manuscript, but it doesn’t feel safe to me to say it is a 2016 goal or worse – shudder – resolution. It is a plan with roots in 2015 which will grow in 2016.

The fruit will ripen when the time is right. Whatever number gets attached to that date is not mine to say.

It’s not in the plan.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more about it here:  http://lindaghill.com/2016/01/04/just-jot-it-january-4th-dachshund/

JJJ 2016

 

SoCS: crisis du jour

OK – this is another one of those weeks where I am writing on Friday morning and scheduling the post for publication tomorrow. The weekend is going to be busy as there will be open mic poetry tonight – my second time reading, if I make it – you can read about the first here.  Saturday morning we will scoot up to Syrcause to pick up our younger daughter to bring her home in time for my dad’s rescheduled 90th birthday dinner. There will be a post about why it had to be re-scheduled eventually. Have I mentioned yet how I’m sort of behind on posting?

At any rate, my sisters and families will be coming up for the festivities which will be at a local Mediterranean restaurant, so there will be much yumminess and laughter and storytelling and dessert.

Provided things don’t get derailed by the crisis du jour.

It’s become a bit of a standing joke with me that I can’t make a plan because something will intervene. I wrote about the most dramatic of these events here. Long post but the condensed version is that my parents unexpectedly wound up in the hospital for two days at the same time with two totally unrelated problems.

Right now, I am waiting to hear back from my mother-in-law to see if we need to get her to her doc or to get an X-ray to investigate why her back pain has ramped up – after we thought we finally had her pain meds adjusted properly. I admit I’m operating on not a lot of sleep, mostly because I was worried about what is going on.

Right now, I’m trying to breathe and not make something into a crisis before its time. Maybe it’s just a pulled muscle from PT. Not really crisis du jour.

Please?

[Update from Friday night:  My mother-in-law’s doctor decided to just let things ride for the weekend and she improved through the day today. So fingers crossed that we make it through the weekend crisis-free, awaiting a previously scheduled Monday afternoon doctor’s appointment.]
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “-jour-“: add a prefix or suffix to complete it or use it as the French word for “day.”

Please join us!  Details on how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2015/04/10/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-april-1115/

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