Writing 101 Day 5. A found note. (Twist = be brief). Also part 3 to Loss.


(1) Put fake blood in the bathroom

(2) Hang out with the homeless in the basement of the library

(3) Buy a voice disguiser


Honestly, this was the text of a note found in my house this week. It raises so many questions. Whose bathroom? Homeless, really? What kind of voice disguiser and what  for? And the overriding question to them all, why? Why on earth?

Yes, more than anything I would like to return this note to the writer. Because my grown daughter was only 12 when she wrote this. And I miss that 12 year old.


Loss, Part 2 Writing 101 Day 4 assignment

What do you most value? And how do you prepare for its loss?

My lovely, intelligent, kind sister is a health care professional, a doctor of acupuncture. Before going to acupuncture school in Chicago, she trained for and was a hospice worker.  During her hospice training, she recounted this exercise to experience loss. All the participants wrote down the things most important to them. Children, health, lucidity, faith, pets, independence, a sense of humor, whatever was personally meaningful. Then after 5 minutes or so of lecturing, the participants had to choose one of these things to lose. To tear it off of the page and drop it to the floor. Another 5 minutes and another item to lose. And again. Now the choices were getting harder. Some people were quietly crying. Of course in the end, everything had to be given up. Because that is what faces the hospice patient, and that’s what the workers need to understand. To understand and face up to sickness and loss and death.

Is there an inverse to the scale of loss? My mother tells this story about her mother. When my mother was a young adult, granny’s house burnt down. She lived in Appalachia, the houses were wooden, and no one had any kind of insurance. My mother came to see the charred remains and told granny how sorry she was that her house and all her possessions were gone. To which granny responded,”Don’t be sorry, I feel free as a bird.”

Is freedom and loss intimately connected? If I lose my house (a distinct possibility), will I feel free as a bird? When I put my sick beloved pet to sleep, can I  focus on the freedom not the loss? The very best I can do is walk with one on my right side and one on my left. Freedom and loss.

Two Outta Sight Years – Writing 101 Day 4, Loss and serial posts

“Two outta sight years” -John Waters from Hairspray the film, not the stage play.


This year marks two outta sight years since I ‘lost’ my job. No, it’s not lost, I know exactly where it is and who has it. But it’s not me, which makes for the outta sight joy. I hated that job. Each day was progressively the most miserable day of my life (paraphrased from the film Office Space). I was going to leave anyway for fear of going postal, when an early retirement incentive was offered and I took it and ran.

Since then, each moment has been filled with wonder. There is a bit of lurking paranoia that the work police will come and drag me away for not working. I just can’t believe that life can be this darn good.

Here’s the creepy part. I started having dreams recently, dreams about work. The dreams are so sad and filled with grief. In the dreams I’m wandering around looking for my office and someone else is there. There is no place for me there anymore. Nobody recognizes me. Typical anxiety dreams. In waking life, I have no tinge of regret. So clearly there is some part of my psyche that I am not in touch with and it is suffering.

My tactic to comfort this silent suffering side, was to somehow bring it into reality in a symbolic way. Words were not helping. I have told the work horror stories to anyone who would listen for years. So I was thinking I had to do something with my hands. Something that I could imbue with meaning and gradually build up as a monument. Something my mute psyche would recognize. I hoped that by creating a testimony we (everyone is a we, don’t you think?) would be set free.

And so here it is. I made a quilt entitled Adieu to XRD.


The quilt is made up of only one repeating block, called Flying Geese. To me, the Flying Geese always symbolized escape. So I’m trying to tell myself that I have escaped this awful life and awful job.

The repeating unit is a pinwheel constructed of 8 flying geese. Each of the patterned fabrics reminds me of the details of the work I did. I worked with crystals and their diffraction patterns. The pink patterned fabric shows rotational symmetry. The red fabric (below) is reminiscent of the ball-and-stick models used to represent the chemical composition of the crystals. Crystal fragments are shown in the yellow fabric. Other fabrics represent crystal forms (green pattern below), refraction, and crystal planes (third picture below).




Taken as a whole, the pinwheels exhibit alternating absolute configuration. That is, one pinwheel spins to the right and the next one spins to the left. This pairing creates even more flying geese in purple between the pinwheel blocks.


Being a functional piece, this was not meant to be pretty. In fact, it could be described as garish. But whose psyche is not garish?

The loss of work can be seriously devastating. Mine was a male-dominated profession, and I saw plenty of men take it hard when they retired. At any age, the loss of a job means the loss of money, security, structure, friends, status, career and identity.

For me, it’s been two outta sight years! My identity was never that tied up in work, and I had better things to do. And now that I’ve “testified” in fabric, maybe we can all rest.

“This place is not my home I’m just a-passin through” -Tom Waits

Surrounded by the 80s – Writing 101 assignment #3

Nobody likes anyone else’s music. We just don’t want to hear it. And if it’s accompanied by commercials, it’s even worse. The children of the people next door crank up to something that sounds like zydeco country. The metrosexual on the other side is stuck in the 80′s. The old dude across the street used to blare his car satellite radio, while leaving the car door open so the speaker was pointed directly at my house. Jazz. Sometimes he made it into the house before passing out from the drink, other times he lay in the driveway. I have no sympathy. He was a mean drunk. Finally he was taken away (screaming and fussy, and drunk as usual) where he passed away (from not drinking I suppose), and his kids that never had anything to do with him sold that house to a young couple with a child. And 80s music.

I don’t want my life scored. The music I like is the music that disappears until summoned. For example, when there is some ridiculous planet-destroying expenditure going on, I always hear “And whitey on the moon”. RIP Gil Scott-Heron. Google the lyrics.

When things look grim, BD tells me “You’re on your own, you always were”. At which point Tom Waits says “Come on up to the house”.

Dan LeSac vs Scroobius Pip tell me not to believe the hype “The next big thing – just a band”.

Brian Seltzer uses only guitar words for A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. That works too.


Choose Your Setting – Writing 101 assignment #2

Groggy Tuesday morning, with a cup of coffee.

My grown daughter sends me an email “Do you fancy a long ride today?”

It’s a road trip, complete with a mission, hours of driving, road food and lots of talking. Just the two of us, catching up.

So what setting would you choose for the day? I choose the road trip and ditch the writing assignment.

Don’t dream it, be it.


Assignment #1

June 2 2014.

My first blog for Writing 101: 20 minutes of stream of consciousness writing from Detroit, Michigan

I have a list of things to do today. And creating a list involves making decisions.

Making decisions has always been difficult for me. There have been massively terrible consequences for the decisions I’ve made. I’m responsible for so many local and global bad things. My ex-spouse is one of them, and the blow-back is still clinging to my grown kids. But bad quality decision-making certainly doesn’t end with my ex-spouse and perhaps will be a topic of later confessions. As a result, I grapple with indecision which is extended to even the small things.

One thing on the table now is whether to call for a repair to my central a/c. Last year it failed, and we hate the heat and the humidity. We did not opt to get it fixed because:

(i) we are trying to live a more environmentally responsible lifestyle.

(ii) we wanted to see just how we would cope w/o a/c.

(iii) we have no extra money.

(iv) my daughter voted no.

Overall the experiment went well. It was a  little dicey, and the salt clumped up, and the house (and ourselves) felt genuinely dirty, but we did make it thru one of the hottest summers. This year I have made the decision to at least gather more information and call for a repair diagnostic. It will cost me $100 I figure for the service call. The repair will probably be in the thousands because I’m fairly sure it’s the compressor.  However, the overriding factor in my decision to get a service call is Fukushima. There is nothing that can be done about that mess. And with the recent fire over reactor #4, there is the very distinct possibility of an event explosion that will move over the northern hemisphere. What if we have to stay indoors with the windows and doors shut for a period of time? We will need the a/c and a good furnace filter. No, we are not survivalists and do not have bug-out-bag or a plan. Our options are limited.

Therefore, on my list is a decision to call the local heating & cooling service persons. In the best case scenario, it will be a minor repair, we won’t need to use the a/c anyway, radioactive clouds will not hover over us, our garden crops will be edible, and higher life on this planet won’t be extinguished this summer. However, I know better than to trust my instincts.