My Novels

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Vegetarian Anniversary, Tenants & More

Tuesday July 28

Midnight. I just finished reading Alice Sebold's memoir, Lucky. It deals with her violent rape at the age of 18, while in college. Excellent memoir, highly recommended.

I have chosen to read memoirs that are somehow related to either family violence or violent acts by strangers. There is much to learn in simply reading these memoirs, and studying how the writers can take you inside the mind of a victim. Though none of my dysfunctional family experiences include sexual violence, just being in the presence of repeated domestic violence -- witnessing it occurring to others -- has a lasting impact. Usually in the form of lifelong post traumatic syndrome from which few ever fully recover. Instead, they learn to live with it.

It takes awhile for me to actually attempt the writing of traumatic memories, because it is truly like reliving them entirely again. I think it has to be experienced in this way in order to create the reality for others, though it takes a toll on the writer.

On to other matters, this month marks the first year anniversary of my becoming a vegetarian. I'd love to say it has been easy, but it has been a struggle. I adjusted to the diet easily, enjoy experimenting with veggie recipes, but it's the lack of understanding here in the South that truly creates difficulty.

It's no secret why the South has the most obesity; eating here is a pastime, a social event, impossible to avoid. And that means socializing for any occasion includes lots of fatty foods, sweets, fried meats, unhealthy eating. Trying to explain this to the average southerner brings puzzled looks, awkward questions about "why" I don't eat meat. No matter which tact I take, the route of trying to eat healthier to placate people or in frustration, declaring I love animals and do not want to eat flesh, I just can't win. Frankly, this has caused me to hate socializing that requires eating, as does almost all such occasions.

Now I've never been an extrovert and can do without the added friction of explaining my food choices...but I'd never realized exactly the magnitude and scope of how difficult it will be to entice people into eating healthy diets. The ONLY way I see this happening, for the sake of health and the impossible costs of paying for obesity in medical care, is to implement a gradual increase in costs of unhealthy foods. Taxes, fast food, restaurant meals along with educational efforts, and then hopefully, over time reorienting social events that include such crippling foods. It will not be simple or easy and I know that from my firsthand experience.

I can say honestly though, I have no intention of ever including meat in my diet again. I don't miss it, and can't even stand the scent of cooking raw meat or the taste of it either. It was more than just a one year process though; I'd gradually begun this process when I turned 50. Basically it has taken 7 years, the last one finally achieving vegetarian status.

As for my health benefits, I eat all I want and never gain weight. My blood pressure is low, and I feel well too. I haven't had a cholesterol test, but will do that soon; I did have my blood sugar tested, and it is normal. Since I have a family history of diabetes, this is definitely good.

I do not think that vegetarianism is the cure for anything and everything, nor do I try to force my diet on others. I don't even mention it unless someone asks why I'm not eating meat -- usually they try to force it on me. Illness happens, because frankly, humans are mortal and mortals die from one ailment or another eventually. However, I do know that eating excessive fat, salt, sugar (all of which are in abundance in fast foods and most restaurant menus) will cause serious chronic health issues and/or heart attacks and cancer that costs everyone. That in turn creates more need for pharmaceuticals to treat these chronic conditions that could, in most instances, be avoided simply by diet alone. It's impossible to even discuss this here in the South; people don't want to hear it, or accept that bad eating habits cause many chronic problems. Especially if they are involved in the cattle, chicken or meat processing, restaurant, fast food businesses for their livelihood. And many are, since the county I live in is considered the leading poultry producing county in this state. Huge poultry factory farms dominate the rural landscape, blighting what otherwise is beautiful countryside.

You can see where this puts me at odds with the majority, and I've learned to keep silent when socializing. But then again, I don't socialize that much.

As for dating, I always suggest a restaurant where I know there's a buffet with vegetables, and you'd be surprised how often a date will not even notice I am not eating meat. On the other hand, if it looks like there might be future dates with the same person, I have to explain I won't prepare meat for them...which leads to the discussion. Truthfully, they usually seem to think I'll change my mind; but when I see someone will not respect my choice, then I start to withdraw and eventually never see them again. Of course, that limits the dating arena, but then again, I'm not looking for a marriage partner anyway. Just a fun companionship date now and then.

Wednesday Noon July 29

I was talking on the phone to my sister earlier, explaining my sessions of writing the memoir. She has always been supportive of my writing, but today she asked, "Why would you want anyone to know about what we went through as children?"

I told her the fact she even asked that shows why I have to write about it; the "shame" factor, keeping it a big hush-hush secret pervades that kind of childhood. To this day, we all feel a sense of shame -- and we were not to blame, instead being innocent victims, struggling to survive dysfunctional parents. The shame factor is what keeps so many children (and later adults) from revealing the truth of their home life and until this is overcome, no progress can be made. Progress starts with revelation, hard truths and realizing one is not responsible for abusive, dysfunctional parents' behavior.

I have already taken the dogs to the nearby wooded park. Windy, sunny but shady in the park, a perfect walk.

Now for the renter saga. I could write a novel based on the tenants I've had in my rental house and maybe I will someday. At this point though, the house is becoming a liability financially. For all my compassion, working with S&W, trying to let them stay's just not working out. I reduced the rent with the condition they would help me when needed. And also help with my garden, which started out great, then went downhill from there. Once the planting was finished, they didn't want to do any weeding and I ended up doing what little I was able to. I hurt my back several times, and every time I asked them to come over and help, they had an excuse.

Increasingly, they seem to take for granted I'll let them stay there, even if they pay no rent. I'm all for helping others, but I also know the point at which one is being taken advantage of. As a landlord this has been the case in every tenant except the very first one, while my husband was still alive. It's finally dawned on me that I am not going to be capable of dealing with tenants, and the house is costing me more than its worth. Hence, it has to be sold.

Getting S&W out won't be easy, I'm afraid. I told them over a month ago to start looking for a place, that I was going to put the house up for sale. When I saw them a couple days ago, they started in with the usual:

W: "I don't want to move, this is home, we have nowhere to go."

S: "If W gets his disability started, we can pay you $600.00 a month." (That's a long shot, and even then they couldn't afford to pay that amount.)

On and on, and eventually I say I'll only sell the house if it's necessary. But will give them 30 days notice to move. And I'm thinking of doing just that by mid-August, asking them to leave by the end of September. I may go ahead and have the realtor list it in September though.

As for the condo two blocks from here that I looked at last week, I'm still keeping it in mind. Saturday the realtor wants to show me another condo across town, a bit less pricey. However, I just fell in love with the floor plan and decor of the one near here, and wouldn't have to leave this neighborhood either. In order to get it though, I'll have to sell both my houses or at least the one I live in first. I don't want a mortgage, so unless I have enough to buy it and some substantial savings left, it won't be possible.

The monthly maintenance fee is low for that condo, and I can see me living there the remainder of my life. I love having the garden and fresh veggies but frankly, the herniated discs in my back will prevent me doing that again. The back problems are something that are going to get worse, not better, with time and I have to make arrangements accordingly. I've accepted that I am not able, physically, to do the required outside maintenance here -- lawn care, exterior upkeep, etc. Hiring it out is more expensive than the fee on the condo, and also likely to cause me to have an accident when I try to do that. With a high deductible on medical insurance, I can't afford an accident that might be preventable.

At any rate, that's where I stand on this issue. Still undecided, but definitely going to pursue the possibility of selling/moving. Unfortunately, there are not many condos in this town, so my choices are limited. But I am looking, and hope to find a suitable one at some point.

I'll be writing posts more often, using this method of entries via the QuickPad.

Now I'll end this with a photo of a delish veggie sandwich I had last week. Grilled pattypan (or scallop squash) with ripe tomatoes, light mayo, and wheat bread.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Memoir Excerpt

I haven't exactly been idle as a writer. I've been working on my memoir over the past couple years. I did not have a happy childhood (to say the least) which makes it emotionally traumatic to relive; therefore, I can only write the memoir in sessions, experiencing the intense memories, then taking time to recover.

At any rate, I've decided to post the rough draft of my first chapter. I have written five chapters at this point, but hope someday to complete it. I have an outline and plan to have this memoir of my early years cover to the age of 19 when I got married. And future memoirs to develop in 20-year time periods. I guess the ending will write itself, so to speak. (Or I might combine all of these into one work as I rewrite/edit, not sure yet.) I have changed my sisters/family names, although will use real names in the final version.

I spend time reading memoirs these days, learning from others who have traveled this path. I signed up for a memoir course in the fall. Writing is a lifelong learning process, never complete. There will be ten memoir writing exercise tips at the end of the chapter.

{Please do not save/copy/post this, and consider it copyright protected.}

Working title: Backward Mirror

"In early youth, as we contemplate our coming life, we are like children in a theater, before the curtain is raised, sitting there in high spirits and eagerly waiting for the play to begin. It is a blessing that we do not know what is really going to happen." --Schopenhauer

Chapter One

Part I

Memory is often a trick of the mind.

Do I recall what I think I do? Or have the family tales oft told created a false memory?

For the first five years of my life, my mother and father, both nineteen, lived in the house with my paternal grandparents. They had a modest-size farm in the South, a big old frame house, some crops, livestock...but my grandfather still had to work. He was a county bus driver during those five years, a bus that traveled the rural back roads picking up farm wives to do marketing in the small nearby county seat.

I was born in December, 1951. Here is the imagery that lingers from my earliest years -- the happy years, the years before turmoil tainted everything.

A quilt pallet in front of a screen door, cool night wind whispering over me as I lie there looking out at a bright summer moon.

A quilt pallet under a shade tree in the sweltering heat of mid-morning, sitting and playing alone while my mother and grandmother work in the field of cotton.

Playing on the dirt-floor porch, hearing the hiss of doddle bugs circling in the dirt, heat so intense it scorched your skin if you ventured out at noon. A bucket let down into the deep cool darkness of the well, the glug as it hit water, then the clank as it was pulled up for us to drink tin dipper-fulls of sweet, clear well water.

My dog, Nikki, a large black German Shepard that followed me everywhere. Sneaking off into the nearby woods, finding the creek...stopping at the mossy bank, with Nikki yipping and yapping until his excited barks brought my mother and grandmother to our side, scolding and spanking me for venturing away from the house.

My daddy insisting I should sleep in the bedroom with him and mother, when I begged to sleep with my grandmother. [I was already devoted to my grandmother, because often my youthful parents left me in her and my grandfather's care while they went out.] Sometimes during that night, I got out of their bedroom and headed for my grandparent's bedroom -- but a shut door stopped me. As I struggled to open the door, I began to whimper and cry. At last daddy discovered me, and opened the door, spanking my bottom, and making me declare later the words that would be repeated at family gatherings, "Daddy spanked my butt-oh!"

A Christmas filled with all kinds of gifts. I was the first and only grandchild for four years; they all loved lavishing me with presents, and not just at Christmas. I was, in the space of those four years, pampered and spoiled, doted on by my paternal grandparents and my daddy's older brother and sister, my aunt and uncle.

I scarcely recall the birth of my sister, Mary, when I was four. But I do know that when she came along my mother seemed to prefer her to me. Perhaps I was already alienated from my mother, completely bonded emotionally to my grandmother.

It was in this idyllic first five years that I possibly developed the capacity for love, sensitivity, loyalty and devotion. These qualities had serious repercussions later in my life, sometimes even to the detriment of my own happiness.

Part II

By the middle of my fifth year, my daddy and grandfather were working in a local saw mill. My grandfather labored in the mill, while daddy became a log truck driver. Mother stayed at home with my grandmother; they took care of the house, the farm and us girls.

However, soon daddy moved us all, my mother, myself and my baby sister, to a rural area one-hundred miles away from my grandparents' farm. We lived in another large rambling frame house situated on a hilltop, with a barn and some land for a garden. My mother had a big garden that summer, and I remember the ripe tomatoes filling baskets, overflowing onto the cracked linoleum kitchen floor...and Mary, now a toddler, grabbing a tomato, dropping it and the brilliant splash of red juice splattering everywhere when it hit the floor.

I remember the ramshackle barn out back, and the litter of kittens born in a corner of the hay-scattered loft, which began my life-long love of cats. I loved to spy on the mother cat nursing her kittens, though she would move them, hide them, if I came too near.

I remember a girl several years older than me lived nearby, along the country road. She would come to our house, and I'd occasionally go to her home. Her name was Brenda, and she often would lie on the couch in an awkward position: with her torso on the flat seat, head hanging off, her feet up over the back. Her long brown hair would fall straight to the floor, and she'd chew gum and talk to me upside-down.

Oddly, I developed a stutter when we moved there. My mother's name is Bonita, and instead of calling her 'mother' or 'mama' I tried to pronounce her given name, but it came out, "Buuhha..." My parents took to mocking me, perhaps hoping to cure my stutter by embarrassing me.

I missed my grandmother fiercely. I began having nightmares about her dying, and would wake crying. I recall one over-night visit from my grandparents, and how good, how right it felt to have my 'Momma' (as I called her) there with us.

During that visit she and I walked down the country road, and stopped to visit with an elderly black woman who lived in one of the rundown shanty houses. She was very friendly, and I can remember her saying that her grandmother had been a slave; that her grandmother had been treated well by good owners, and that she'd never adapted to freedom. My own grandmother asked her questions about what her grandmother had said about slavery, and though I cannot recall all of it, years later my grandmother would repeat some of this to me and I would find it astonishing and shocking.

Another incident that occurred there was often repeated to relatives. Daddy installed a window fan, and instructed me not to go near it. He took a blade of grass and fed it into the spinning fan-blades as an example of what could happen to me if I touched the fan. Later, while he and mother were in the kitchen, I went outside, got a long blade of grass and proceeded to feed it into the fan...except that I let my fingers get too close to the blades, and got a nasty cut. When daddy heard me crying, he came out and spanked me. This tale was often told as an example of how precocious, and impertinent I was.

We only lived there six months, and then we moved about two-hundred miles south to a small town. The house was a duplex, and my grandparents moved in one side, us in the other, a door connecting the two separate living quarters. My stuttering stopped. Daddy worked as a log truck driver, and my grandfather worked in the saw mill situated near a national forest. By now my grandparents were in their early 60s, as they had their three children in their 30s.

I was happy to have my grandmother practically living with us...but soon after I began my first year of school, a violent event took place which was the beginning of the turmoil and terror that would rule my life for the next thirteen years. I didn't know it then, but those first five years were to be the only peaceful, happy years I'd ever know as a child.

Part III

I can't recall too much about the time prior to starting first grade at the local elementary school, but a few moments do stand out.

I got a gray-striped tabby kitten, and loved it devotedly. I made friends with a girl who lived at the end of our street on a hill. Her name was Sandra, and she lived in a huge old rundown house; in her back yard, she had a pet cemetery. Any time a beloved pet died in the neighborhood, she would insist on giving it a proper burial ceremony.

When school started, although missing my grandmother during the day, I enjoyed making friends and learning. I was quick, smart and had no trouble learning. From the beginning, I was always in the advanced reading group. Soon I was able to escape into books, and this would later prove to be a life-saver for me.

Sometimes during that first four months of school, my grandparents would go back to their farm and stay either a few days or a week. Any time they were gone, I missed them terribly. But also, there was a subtle change taking place within daddy. I don't think I noticed it, but surely my mother and grandparents did. He'd always played guitar, but now he started hanging out with a group of musicians and staying out with them very late -- or even all night. These guys were his age, in their mid-20s, looked disreputable and I'm sure were not a welcome sight to my grandparents. Most of the time daddy would go out for a gig when my grandparents were away. He also continued to work as a log-truck driver, and this kept him away from home too.

I do recall the brick schoolhouse, which was set back off the street in cedars, and had a wide circular drive out front. Each day my mother would drive me to school, let me out in front, and I'd wave goodbye. Toward the end of those four months, I began to dread leaving school at the end of the day.

I don't know how alcoholism begins, and I was really too young to know how it started with daddy, but it must be a slow progression, insidious and deadly as time passes and drinking increases. That's how I remember it taking over daddy's life -- destroying him, and wrecking our lives. But at first, I only remember him coming in from gigs and being 'different'...quick to anger, ill-natured, foul-mouthed. He never said or did anything in front of me or my sister, Mary; but we could hear him yelling from our bedroom. Still, we were basically innocent of his growing problems.

Then all that changed, changed forever.

One Friday afternoon when I'd come in from school, I couldn't find my cat, Tiger. I looked everywhere, and was frantic with worry. Worse, my grandparents were away at the farm; mother never seemed to care for Tiger, so I knew she wouldn't help me hunt him. I had run all over the neighborhood looking for Tiger, but had no luck. Finally I slumped down, defeated, on my grandparents' back doorsteps.

It was getting dark and cold as I sat there, but I was heartsick at not finding Tiger. Then mother yelled that we were going to get groceries, and daddy drove us to the store. Mary and I waited with daddy in the car, and I do remember he seemed preoccupied. When we got back home, daddy began unloading the groceries and mother went to the kitchen, ready to put them up.

Mary and I went into the small living room, but before we could turn the TV on, there was a loud crashing noise from the kitchen. I ran out to see what was wrong, and daddy was yelling, cursing, and swiping the grocery bags off the table. He looked furious, his face twisted and his mouth snarling, his eyes too bright...and oblivious to my presence, he snatched a carton of eggs out of a bag, and opened it, began tossing the eggs against the wall, where they burst and ran slickly down to the floor.

Mother was crying and cringing in a corner, and saying nothing. Daddy just kept tearing up the groceries, cursing and screaming at mother. He was saying something about one of our uncles (mother's brother) who had stayed with us a few days recently, something about long-distance phone bills. Mother stayed silent, just staring...staring...

Finally, I guess daddy ran out of steam, because he started for the door, but said, "I won't be back tonight."

I can't explain the feelings that went through me while experiencing all this. I was scared, upset and yet...worried about mother and daddy. I wondered if he was sick, ill? What had made him act like that, he'd NEVER done anything remotely like that. The violent outburst was a mystery to me, and I just didn't know what to make of it.

I wanted to ask mother what was wrong, but she began cleaning up the mess and ACTED AS IF NOTHING had happened. I was then confused and still upset, but went to sit again on my grandparents' doorsteps. Soon I saw their familiar car turn the corner, and was so relieved! I thought they would know what was wrong with daddy, and make sure it never happened again.

When my grandmother got out of the car, I ran to her and began crying, telling her what had happened. She looked stunned, then angry...and my grandfather urged us inside. My grandmother told me to stay with them that night, and she and my grandfather went next door to talk with mother. I don't know what was said, but they were gone a long time.

When my grandmother came back with Mary, she said we should spend the night with them. And when we all finally went to bed, she told me not to worry, that there would be no more such 'fits.' I felt sure she was right, and that whatever the trouble, my grandparents could take care of it.

Unfortunately, this was only the first in a long line of such incidents when I put my faith in my grandparents to no avail.

The next morning when I got up, Sandra was at the door. She said she'd found Tiger, that he'd gotten run over by a car, and she wanted to give him a burial in her cemetery.

We stood near the small mound of dirt, Sandra and I, and she said a brief prayer. I'd been in church often during those first six years; my grandmother and mother were devoutly religious. And growing up in the South, the Christian religion was hammered into all young kids. But as Sandra closed her eyes and chanted a prayer for Tiger, I felt so empty and lost, so guilty about letting Tiger get hit by a car, that I couldn't say a word.

I'm sure I was too young to really understand the concept of 'God' but somehow it all seemed unfair -- that a God would allow people and animals to die. I think that was the first of my doubts, and as time passed, and as family life became more and more of a horror, I decided there was no God, no such Being that could allow such abject misery and suffering for innocent, good children. If there were a God, He'd answer prayers...and over time, my prayers for peace and a change for daddy went unanswered.

But on that long-past morning, I only knew that my beloved Tiger was gone, and I felt it was all my fault. Mother and daddy wouldn't let me keep him in the house though, so what could I have done? After Sandra and I turned away from the grave, she told me that she had chores to do, and left me.

I wandered back home, and when I came into our house, mother said my grandmother wanted to see me in her bedroom. Once I got there, she was sitting up in bed, and asked if I'd help her get her bra fastened in back; she was suffering from arthritis, and often became too stiff to reach her arms behind her. As she slipped it on underneath her gown, I hurriedly moved around to fasten the strap. I felt so glad that I could help her, proud to be there for her...and as she thanked me, and gave me a hug, I felt very much loved. Unlike being with my mother who seemed at best indifferent and at worst, uncaring toward me, I could always FEEL the power of my grandmother's love. This was a saving grace for me, and though she and my grandfather often let me down so far as changing our living circumstances, they DID try...and I knew without doubt that I was loved by them both.

Later that week daddy returned to work driving the log truck, and I hoped that the awful experience in the kitchen with him was something that would never happen again. Life returned to normal, and for awhile, everything seemed fine. I went to school, came home and did homework, helped around the house, played with Mary, and spent time with my grandmother. I was not allowed to have another cat, and in fact, Tiger and Nikki were to be the only pets I ever had as a child.

After a couple weeks, one of my aunts, my mother's sister June, came to visit. She stayed and stayed, and when daddy came in from his job, he was irritable and hateful around June. Finally I overheard my parents having a bad argument one night, more about long-distance phone bills, and then he stormed out of the house. That was on a weekend, and he didn't come back until time to report for work again. My grandparents simply stayed out of the situation, perhaps thinking it was none of their business.

However, even after June left, daddy was sullen and withdrawn. He would have quiet spells, when he seemed to be a million miles away, in deep thought. Or he'd strum his guitar, and stare off into the middle-distance, as if in a trance. He was tall, blond-haired, fairly nice-looking, and my mother was also blond, but short, petite. She had a nice figure, and was attractive. Yet even at that young age, I could sense a deep dissatisfaction in daddy, and because I didn't understand about their marriage, I began to think that daddy's brooding and silent withdrawals were somehow due to Mary and myself. That we were not wanted, were a burden to him. To this day, I still bear that scar, the deep emotional wound of always feeling unwanted and a burden to others, no matter how little they do for me, or how independent I am.

Within a month, there was another violent outburst by daddy. I woke late in the night once when he'd come in from a gig drunk, and raving. I heard him crashing things, cursing, and yelling at mother.

Mary and I shared a bedroom, and soon she came over to my bed, scared. I pulled her under the covers, and we huddled together, afraid and hiding. I kept thinking if only my grandparents would come over, and I just knew at any time they would. Sure enough, soon we heard my grandfather's voice, reasoning, cajoling with daddy. There was a tense quiet. Then I heard my grandmother's voice and she was furious, chiding daddy for his behavior. That seemed to end the confrontation, and soon all was peaceful, quiet.

I thought that would always be the case, that daddy would be controlled by my grandparents, his parents preventing him doing any real harm. But I was wrong, because a week before Christmas, daddy announced that we were moving back to the area where my grandparents' farm was located. He was going to take a job as a long-distance truck driver, and would be making trips to the distant northern states. Mother explained it was a better job, that he'd make more money. And he said that someday he wanted to own his own rig, be an independent trucker.

I was happy at first, but then he said we'd be living in a small town about twenty miles from the farm. I would again be separated from my beloved grandparents! Worse, there were not even telephones in the rural community where my grandparents lived, so we could not even communicate unless visiting. Twenty miles seemed a tremendous distance to me, and I dreaded the thought of being out-of-touch with my grandparents. I would lose my few friends at the school, lose touch with Sandra...

I'll never forget that move: it was bitterly cold for the South, and as we packed things that weekend, the weather forecast said there was a snowfall in the northern part of the state, where we were going. By the time we arrived in Smallwood, the town was buried knee-high in snow. When we drove up to the renter house, the snow was so deep it had buried the front yard, and was piled up to the waist-high porch.

The house was a white-shingle box-like shape, with two-bedrooms, living-room, kitchen, and small bathroom. It looked similar to the other houses around the one square block of renter houses, large old oaks in the neat yards, sidewalks lining the street. As we stared at the seemingly ordinary house, I had no way of knowing when we walked through the door I'd be entering a hell that would last until I graduated from high school, and left home.

End Chapter One

Here are some tips from a memoir course you can try as writing exercises, should you be interested in writing your own memoir:

Memoir Writing Exercises

10 exercises to get you started

* Write two pages of something you can't deny.

* Write two pages of what got left behind.

* Write two pages of something you wrote or did that you no longer understand.

* Write two pages of apologizing for something you didn't do.

* Write two pages about a physical characteristic you are proud to have inherited or passed on.

* Write two pages of what you had to have.

* Write two pages of humiliating exposure.

* Write two pages about a time when you felt compassion unexpectedly.

* Write two pages of what you have too much of

* Write two pages of when you knew you were in trouble.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saturday Night

Since I seem unable to write a lengthy entry on my computer, I decided to write in segments on my QuickPad. If you aren't familiar with it, the QuickPad is simply a small word processor with full-sized keyboard and 4 lines of text on-screen. There's a file system which allows different documents to be stored until sending via infrared port to your PC. At any rate, I've had mine for several years, and to date it is the most convenient way to write without the distractions of the Internet, being online. It does nothing other than function as a word processor, and runs on 4 AA batteries -- and gets amazing battery life.

So what's going on in my life? Not much, as I've mentioned in my last post, as well as my daily brief Twitter messages. Yes, I occasionally get bored with the lackluster lifestyle, yet never quite enough to actually take serious action in changing much of anything. In some regards, I'm contented with my peaceful, predictable routine; the mad moments which sometimes occur (car wrecks, etc) serve to make me realize I LIKE my serene life. I'm lucky, in most regards, and do not take that for granted.

My worries mostly consist of fretting about health care insurance; though I have a fairly good Blue Cross, Blue Shield coverage, it is $4,000.00 deductible and that means I have to pay for anything (including doctor visits, lab tests, etc) out-of-pocket. As a result, I do NOT get checkups, nor preventive care -- other than my regular prescriptions and twice a year visits to my G.P. for those. And yes, this is a counter-productive kind of insurance coverage, but the only policy I could afford ($386.00 per month) that DID NOT have a pre-existing clause. Primarily, this is what I call "ransom" money for a policy that would protect my assets in catastrophic illness.

I'm always sleuthing the online sources for news updates on the latest "health care reform" going at any time, since I have my own personal health invested in HOPE for change. Frankly, the pessimist in me thinks not much will change, regardless of the announcement that "some kind" of reform has passed legislation. The private medical insurance companies and major pharm business will never change UNLESS they go bankrupt (like what occurred with the auto, financial, banking industry). I'm convinced though that in time, that is exactly what will happen without serious changes in reform. So, you heard it here first.

As you can see, I spend a lot of time preoccupied with the latest news on that issue, and it's absorbing TOO MUCH of my time, but I'm somewhat obsessed.

Here's a couple of informative pieces about the current reform efforts:

Health Care Reform Noise

Who Is Against Reform: Lobbyist

And a last word on this topic: How many of you are aware that drug advertising by big pharm is subsidized by income tax breaks? I'm positive that if even half the money spent on lobbyist, ads, PR, on and on, were spent on ACTUAL medical care, there wouldn't even be a need for a public option. Without that option though, there is NO CHOICE for those of us held hostage by the private, for-profit health care industry.

As I type this it's nearly 11 PM, I'm halfway watching an updated "It's Me or the Dog" with Victoria Stillwell on Animal Planet station. LOVE her show, and always learn a trick or two to help me with my own dog's behavior. I also like "The Dog Whisperer."

Today I dropped off a couple of DVD movies at the library, and checked out two more, as well as several good books. Though I have strong reading glasses, I'm having trouble with small print. Haven't been able to read paperbacks in years, and if possible, I get large print books. The selection is very limited at our library, so I usually get regular print novels. I've found I can only read for about an hour or so without serious eyestrain, and this is truly ruining the enjoyment I get from reading. Reading has always been my "drug of choice"...and next, of course, is writing. I despair of a life without books.

I have thought about the Kindle electronic book reader, but cannot accept the ridiculous idea of having to buy practically EVERY book you read. That's why we have libraries, in order to have free access to LOTS of books. Until there is something similar to libraries for electronic readers, I'll pass. I wouldn't mind a small yearly fee, but that's my limit. Yes, I do occasionally buy a book, but NOT the majority of my reading material. (Perhaps this is a hint to the electronic reader market!)

I had a stupid moment yesterday. Took the dogs to the lakeside park, and we had a terrific walk very late when it was cooler. Got back to my car, popped up the hatchback to get out the water I carry for the dogs. Gave them their water, and at some point, apparently laid the keys in the hatchback area. Slammed shut the hatchback...and you guessed it, had locked myself out. KNEW that was going to happen, since the older car I had didn't have electronic locking. At any rate, it was irritating, but didn't cause me to go into a panic. I just looked around, saw a couple playing miniature golf with their kids and asked to borrow their cell. (Mine was locked in the car, of course.) I called the Sheriff's Department, asked for a locksmith's number and got one there within 30 minutes. A bit pricey, but doable. And, I learned a valuable lesson: DO NOT PART WITH CAR KEYS! (Sigh)

I think that's enough for tonight. Will continue next entry as time permits in segments covering my rental/tenant issues, the anniversary of my first year as a vegetarian, my gardening experience, my auto accident lawsuit/settlement and dating.