Posted in Stream of Consciousness Saturday

With Reservation: #SoCs for June 16, 2018

I’m about to write a post I don’t want to write, and which I’ve put off writing for most of the day.

My reservation is a bit of a mystery to me…but I think it goes back to attitudes impressed upon me in childhood. About how it’s somehow a failure to ask for help, or maybe even to need help.

But I do need help.

A year ago, my husband and I were well on our way to launching a successful cottage industry selling his artisanal hot sauces. It was something that had been a passion of his even longer than I was – I remember him telling me that he wanted to marry flavor and heat way back when we were only dating, and I really had no idea that he would be my husband in a matter of months.

He went through all the legal steps to be able to sell the sauces, and we invested the bulk of our modest savings in the company. Jim believed in what he was doing – and I believed in Jim. I designed labels compliant with state law; a friend made us a logo image for a very reasonable price. We became vendors at three area farmer’s markets, craft fairs, and other events – and we were seeing not only increasing sales, but also repeat business.

But, inside Jim’s body, pancreatic cancer had taken hold. A string of minor but annoying health concerns that began on August 24 – the day after our twentieth anniversary – culminated in a swollen, painful leg. A trip to the doctor became a hospitalization for deep vein thrombosis – and revealed that my powerfully built husband, who had struggled with his weight for most of his life, had lost 20 pounds in the month since his last doctor’s appointment, and had protein markers for cancer in his blood.

Further testing showed pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his liver. He was given six-twelve months to live, and chemotherapy to try to minimize tumor growth was to start within weeks.

On the first day of chemo, he went into distress twice. The last time was severe enough that he was transferred to the emergency room, then admitted to a larger medical center’s critical care unit. It was determined that he’d had a minor heart attack either during or after the infusions. The tumors on his liver were overtaxing his heart.

And he was turning yellow from jaundice. Stents were placed to try to circumvent the tumor, but they only seemed to help for a day or two. Then the jaundice was back, and there was nothing more to be done. He came home on hospice care on December 13, 2017.

On January 12, 2018, he died at home in the bed we shared.

He had life insurance – but it took me a bit to track it down, since he’d lost the paperwork. It took longer for me to file the claim. I had strong reservations about that – it was so final, and so much like profiting off the death of my best friend. Things weren’t urgent – I had the IRA distribution, then the tax refund.

But the money trickled away, and now we’re waiting. That final hospital has taken months and still hasn’t released his medical records so the insurance company can make a determination about the settlement. We have Social Security benefits, and are cutting expenses where we can – but it’s not enough to meet our needs. I could take part-time work, but we have a couple of events coming up, and I’d have to ask for those days off. Also, my daughter, who was very close to her father, would rather I stay here. She worries that I might die, too. She’s not quite 14.

What I most want to do is freelance. I want to be able to support us with my writing, and maybe, eventually, with some voiceover work (I’ve been researching that, but need more time to get to the point where I can seek jobs in that arena). I’d like to be able to provide for our modest needs.

What I need is help getting the word out.

What I need is customers and/or patrons willing to support my craft on a monthly basis.

I’m hoping this post will help me to find that. Because I’m not looking for a handout, but helping hands would be hugely appreciated. Our needs are modest, and we tend toward the frugal.

    • I have a Patreon page, here. It’s been a bit neglected, but I have plans in the works to spruce it up. Even a dollar a month brings benefits, and patrons add up. Being able to count on a specific monthly amount would ease some of my burden of worry.
    • A week ago, I posted my first freelancing gig to fiverr. It’s based on stream of consciousness writing, like this post, and an idea I’ve wanted to pursue for years. If you’re looking for a unique gift at a very reasonable price – it might be just the thing to tickle your fancy.
    • If neither of these options is right for you, I can use people willing to spread the word. Share the links, this post, or bits of our story. Help me to cast a net to find those who can use what I have to offer, and everyone benefits.
    • I’m adding a donate button at the suggestion of one of my readers.

    

Well, I had reservations. I still do. It’s a place of vulnerability, sharing this difficult position we’ve landed in. Sharing my pain, and my worries.

Thank you for reading, and for helping.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Wade into the waters here.

Posted in Stream of Consciousness Saturday

Food and Growth for #SoCS June 9, 2018

 

Food is something I didn’t think about a lot in the days when Jim was alive. You see, I’m not especially food-motivated myself, and, if left to my own devices, I often forget to eat for hours on end, as I do and tend and dream and write and hang with the kids and and and…

It’s worth noting that Jim was a chef. He often brought home my dinner, and I usually ate what he brought. The kids, in those days, preferred non-cooked foods or convenience items, having long since rejected my obligatory and rather phoned-in efforts at feeding them “right” when they were smaller.

But then, Jim was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and, in the day less than two months between that date and the night he died at home, I realized that food was going to have to become something I think about, plan for, and prepare.

More than that, as it turns out. The life insurance claim has yet to be settled, and, at the moment, finances are extremely finite. Where we used to spend about half (or, when Jim shopped, sometimes more like three-quarters) of our grocery budget on convenience items and snacks. A lot of it was motivated by Jim and the kids, but I had my favorites, too – many of them single-serving freezer meals I justified the expense of because they were “healthy” versions.

But that doesn’t fly, anymore. I am the mom of two teens. My son, who will be 17 early in September, is about 6’3” and burly. He can go through a half gallon of milk in about a day. My daughter, 14 next month, is nearly as tall as me now – and I’m 5’9”.

Food needs to be an important factor in our budgeting, because it takes fuel to grow these people into adults. And, if I don’t eat as much as I need of the things I need, it’s hard for me to do the work of two parents.

It could also adversely affect my health – and, just because they’re older kids doesn’t mean they’re ready to be without parents altogether.

So…

I’ve been growing (in my approach to food and feeding us; my body is actually shrinking). I haven’t stopped buying snacks, but we buy considerably fewer of them these days. I can’t promise I’ll never buy another freezer meal, but I don’t think I’ll be doing it mindlessly, or fooling myself about why I’m buying them, when I do….

And I don’t feel the same need for them…because I’ve started to cook.

It began with buying an Instant Pot, so I could prepare things without babysitting them – the part of cooking that tends to literally drive me to distraction. I can also often cook in the one pot, and save considerably on the cleanup (wonderful, because I generally want to accomplish about four times as much as I can physically manage).

These days, I look up recipes online (365 days is my current favorite site for these), and our grocery budget is weighted toward ingredients. Food has become sustenance, art form, and agent of growth – both literal and symbolic.

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday, hosted by Linda G. Hill at Life in Progress. This week’s prompt is “begin your post with a noun.”

Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging from A-Z April 2018, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, poetry, slices of life, SoCS, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, Weekly Features, writing prompts, Writing Sample

Marriage Metamorphized with Metastasis: #SoCS and #atozchallenge Day 13

Anywhere in Sickness

Monsters in the closet and under the bed

Monsters can lurk almost anywhere

Anywhere we imagine them with our fears

Anywhere in the body where they can grow rampant

Rampant cells divide and multiply and divide again

Rampant growth consuming what was healthy and strong

Strong as his body and strong as our mature love

Love that slew every monster that came

Love that wrapped us in armor of everyday magic

Magic that put wonder into simple things

Magic we counted on in our darkest days

Days with little money and worries to spare

Days when rainbows and birdsong filled our lives

Lives shared with happiness and sometimes frustration

Lives made richer when we two became one

One home one bed one path tread by four feet

One purpose in the life we shared

Shared coffee and meals and arguments and joys

Shared a little more than two decades

Decades more we thought we’d have

Decades to grow even and ever more

More life and more business to attend to

More tears to shed and living to do

Do the things needed to raise our kids well

Do what we needed to embrace our own dreams

Dreams postponed while the kids were small

Dreams that were taking on more concrete shape

Shape of a future we never will live

Shape of a tumor-monster that killed

Killed my husband of twenty years

Killed my children’s loving silly dad

Dad and husband strong and solid

Dad snuffed out by that greedy cancer

Cancer ever hungry could never get enough

Cancer swelled and sucked away energy

Energy and strength all given to the monster

Energy gone and marriage metamorphized

Metamorphized as the cancer metastasized

Metastasized from pancreas to liver

Metastasized with deadly speed

Speed of the change from being his partner

Speed of the change to become caretaker

Caretaker a job that I never expected

Caretaker a function I served as my honor

Honor the vow I took twenty long years ago

Honor the vow of in health and in sickness

Sickness that made of him a man in grave need

Sickness tended my final wifely service

Service

Need

 

I actually wrote this poem early in the day, but then had plans that kept me away most of the rest of the day. Now, though I’m feeling so tired it’s hard to type, I’m here, because I’ve made it before midnight all week, and don’t want to blow the streak…

Marriage changes when a spouse is terminally ill. The growing infirmity shifts the partnership relationship to one of caretaker and tended. When the disease progresses as swiftly as Jim’s did, the changes can come at a truly dizzying pace.

It was exhausting, often frustrating, and consumed my time much like caring for a newborn in reverse. It became, in the last couple of weeks, almost impossible to know how my days would pass. Things we’d thought, in the beginning, we’d be able to see to together, became things I’m still dealing with three months after his death.

There were times I sobbed in sheer hopelessness at all the things that needed my attention, and the grinding fatigue as they piled up, no matter how much effort I expended…I was also angry with him, sometimes, for the things he might have done when he was well, but didn’t, even when I asked.

Maybe it was a form of grieving, and of dealing with the monster growing unchecked in my beloved’s vital organs.

But, through it all, I was honored to be able to do this for him, however imperfectly. I knew it was the last service I could do for him directly, and, after all, I didn’t promise to just be with him when things were good and he could do for himself…but in sickness, as well as health, to death did us part.

This post does double-duty for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday post, where the prompt is “mon” as a word or part of one. You can find more SoCS posts here.

And come on back Monday, when we experience No More of So Much….

Looking for more M posts?

The journey of a marriage, in one poignant song. I’ve loved it for years, but now it has new meaning…

Posted in April CampNaNoWriMo 2018, CampNaNoWriMo, Just for Fun!, Novel Excerpts, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, Weekly Features, writing, writing prompts, Writing Sample

The Key to Freedom: #SoCS and #CampNaNoWriMo

 

Passive-aggressive behavior was something Serrah felt she’d elevated to an art form – but Donovan Nash didn’t leave her any openings to use her craft.  He just offered her options, without seeming to have any stake at all in how she used them.

While it appealed to her, the way he was, and the peace he seemed to feel, it was also frightening. What would it be like, to have that kind of freedom? To not be trying to find any little way she could to get out from under the iron-willed control Mom and Dad held over her? To stand braced on her own two feet, the way he was standing, and hold herself tall beneath the ocean sky?

Was she strong enough?

That was a question she’d avoided asking herself. It was easy, back home – other than the crazy risk she’d taken in running away and coming here to find out about the dead baby who belonged to her hostage heart, she’d never really had the chance to find out whether she was strong enough to make a choice for herself.

She’d thought she was trapped; but now, Serrah thought maybe there was a strange kind of freedom in it. With Mom and Dad making all the decisions, all she’d really had to do was decide if she was going to go along quietly, or complain to herself and find tiny, inconsequential ways to rebel. Or, as was more often the case, just dream of rebelling.

She’d been wasting her life, and she’d told herself it was Mom and Dad’s fault.

But it was her life, and there was a lot she could have been doing that she hadn’t, until she came here.

Now, she was responsible for herself, and for her own decisions, and that was a trap she’d never seen coming – because Serrah Eleanor Reed, whose middle name was for a woman who hadn’t waited around for permission to do things, even though she lived in a time when women weren’t allowed to do nearly what men could, had almost no practice in the art of living.

“Will you show me, Donovan?” Suddenly, learning tai chi seemed to be the key to freedom and power in her own life.

“All right. The first thing you’ll need to know is how to set your stance. This first one is called the bow stance.” He stepped out with his right leg, and turned his left foot out at an angle. “Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and your tailbone should be tucked. If you can imagine a string connecting the top of your head to the sky, your posture will be better.”

**

The above was a snippet from the rough draft of Still Nameless, a Kifo Island Chronicles novel I’m working on for this month’s April CampNaNoWriMo.

It’s also my entry into this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop, where the prompt is “passive/aggressive”, with bonus points for beginning the passage with one of those words.

Learn more about CampNaNoWriMo here.

Find other SOCS posts here.

 

Posted in Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging from A-Z April 2018, CampNaNoWriMo, Challenges and Contests, JuNoWriMo, Life Writing, Parenting, slices of life, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, Weekly Features, writing

“I’ve Got a Lot of Work to Do”

So says Trip Tucker, from Star Trek: Enterprise.

I can relate.

Everything I want to get done is all bunched up together. It’s been that way for me for months now – first it was my seemingly ever-increasing role in Jim’s nascent hot-sauce business while attempting, at the same time, to move my own writing career to the next logical level. Then it was Jim’s illness, and attempting to care for him as his condition deteriorated while at the same time preparing the kids and I for a life without him.

Time bunches together; it seems nearly impossible that the entire process of dying was encompassed in a day less than two months – leaving my head spinning, with a bunch of what I’d intended to accomplish still left undone as those last weeks brought a rapid, crashing decline that began with the literal crash of Jim’s body hitting the dining room floor when he could no longer reliably locomote.

And then he was gone – and it was like the bunches of undone tasks were breeding like tribbles – a new litter every few hours, and no concerns whatever for things like inbreeding…

I feel like I’ve been scrambling for a long time, trying to find the right blend that lets me address all the things left undone when Jim died – like that life insurance policy I never found, so had to do an end run by finding the withdrawal on our bank statement and going from there – and those things that move our family life, each of the kids’ growth, and my own professional and personal development further…

I’m still scrambling.

But the life insurance claim has finally been submitted, two and a half months after Jim’s death. Last night, I filed our income taxes. I’ve helped the kids connect with their far-flung friends, and there are more plans. As spring blooms, I’m cleaning, decluttering, and planning for some desperately needed home improvements. Jim was going to do these – but that didn’t happen, so I need new plans.

Planning my goals for the next quarter is among the bunch of things I still want to finish before a new month dawns at midnight (not literally – literal dawn will take another few hours).

And when that dawn comes…

I’ll be embarking on two new writing challenges, and the first of four months of intensive writing pursuits:

I’m far less prepared for this than I normally an. For my April project, I’m working on finishing a novel I began last April. I’m not quite halfway in rereading, as I type this, and I haven’t even glanced at my outline. I’m hoping to do both before midnight – but I have to accept that I might have to choose between winging it, or waiting to start writing till I’ve caught up…

I only have a rough idea where I want the A-Z posts to go, when I prefer to write them ahead of time, revise, and schedule all before April starts.

And, in the midst of all this, I still have two major and one minor writing course I’m in the middle of…

Yup…

It’s a bunch.

It could be stressful if I chose to be stressed.

Instead, I’m trying for a different approach. Rather than trying to force myself to do everything perfectly and to completion, I’m going to see it as more experimental. Can I begin from where I am, and move forward without indulging in insane amounts of stress? Can I focus on growth, passion, and the joy of creation? Can I find the balance point between all the many aspects of a transitioning life, and ride it like a wave, or will I end up choking on a bunch of sea foam?

Only time will tell….

This bunch of words is my entry for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, where this week’s prompt is “bun,” used however we wish. Wade in yourself – the water’s fine!

Posted in Blog Hops and Fests, Life Writing, slices of life, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, Weekly Features, writing prompts, Writing Sample

So Far for #SoCS: Stream of Consciousness…Sunday?

So far….

So far, it’s been not quite two months since Jim died.

So far, the kids and I are all right.

So far, I still don’t know how I’m going to get the roof, ceilings, and floors repaired.

So far, I haven’t quite managed to file the life insurance claim.

So far, I’ve done a little cooking, but not as much as I would like.

So far, there’s far more to be done than there is me to do it.

So far, I’ve started reclaiming my bedroom, but I’m still not quite in the habit of using my new workstation with the dual monitors, because I have such a long history of sitting on my bed with my laptop – which is just what I’m doing right now.

So far, I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around the reality of Jim’s death.

So far, I’m keeping things mostly together, even if the garbage didn’t get picked up last week because I didn’t get that bill paid in time.

So far, we’re making plans a few months ahead, and dreaming a bit further.

So far…to go, and so far from where we were a year ago, when we couldn’t see any of this coming, when Jim and I thought we’d grow old together, in some time that was still so far away.

**

This Stream of Consciousness Saturday post was brought to you by the prompt “so far.” Check out other posts, or submit your own!

I miss this face…and the man it belonged to.
Posted in Blog Hops and Fests, Life Writing, Parenting, slices of life, SoCS, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, Weekend Coffee Share

Redefine for #SoCS/#WeekendCoffeeShare

 

If we were having coffee, I’d be reminiscing about life.  Over the last year or so, my life has changed in so many ways I still feel like I’m trying to wrap my head around the simple facts of it, let alone the scope of the implications.

The most obvious change is my husband’s death of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer on January 12. He was officially diagnosed on November 13, 2017 – so those not-quite 2 months were clearly the seismic shift that ended with finality with his death.

But cancer, even aggressive kinds, doesn’t happen in a sudden flash. Jim hadn’t felt great for a few months before a painful swollen leg sent him to the doctor, then the emergency room, then a diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis that led to the discovery of the tumor on his liver…

A tumor that had been just a spot way back on August 24, when it was spotted on another emergency room ultrasound, when we thought the pain in his abdomen might be appendicitis, so went the night after our 20th anniversary, when we’d gone out to an oyster bar and feasted on rich foods we usually don’t indulge in. That spot, which would kill him not 6 months later, was suspected of being fatty liver disease, and Jim was so sure that’s what it was, he didn’t follow up with his primary care doctor.

Since she couldn’t have saved him, even then, I think maybe it was for the best that he didn’t, because we had those months of relative ignorance, and even though Jim wasn’t feeling especially well, those were charmed months.

It was during this time when Jim’s hot sauce business – a dream he had way back when we first met – really started to take off. We worked farmer’s markets and events, met lots of people, and Jim got to share his passion and see the expressions of the people who tried and loved his creations. He didn’t have a lot of energy, but we had a lot of fun, and I picked up a lot of slack…which means I was pretty exhausted and overwhelmed, though happy to be helping him realize a dream.

While we were so busy, we were also neglecting some things in and around the house, because there just wasn’t time or energy to get to them.

And that’s where I am right now  – with a roof in desperate need of replacing, with bathroom and kitchen floors that aren’t far behind, and ceilings in the wings that have leaked and need patching.

And Jim was the handy one…

During the time between his diagnosis and death, we talked about many improvements we might make. We’d been shopping for a sectional sofa – our son, at 16, is about 6’3”, and our 13 year old daughter is closing in on my 5’9, so more space was indicated. We had a budget and a style in mind, but hadn’t found the perfect unit yet.

Since Jim died, I’ve been giving these things some thought – but the death of a spouse comes with a lot of immediacy – things that need to be done, children who need tending, dishes and laundry, sleeping and eating and absorbing.

A candid couple moment at the playground, September 2013.

It’s interesting, and sometimes very overwhelming, the way the new ideas are creeping in around the edges and through the middle of other things I’m doing.

It feels a bit like cheating on Jim when I realize I can change the budget for the sectional, and get the ottoman he didn’t like but the kids and I do; or when I changed our bedroom to be my bedroom, with a large corner workstation and a far more feminine flair – and, as happened earlier today, I realize that I want to replace the large and heavy bed, built like a miniature house with 4×4 inch posts, with something we didn’t share – and that the bed frame, which is incredibly heavy and was built in this room, is the perfect size and shape to frame the woodshed I dreamed of putting by the door, so we can get to our firewood easily, and without braving the elements to do it.

It feels like cheating…and it doesn’t. Jim is dead, even though my heart and soul don’t want to accept that fact, and I need to redefine my life if I am to move forward -as a mother, and as a person. Everything I do won’t be what I would have done, if Jim was still alive, and I was still his wife, and not his widow. But my role has been redefined, and so I need to redefine to thrive…

So I will move through the process – and maybe, one day, it will feel natural and fine.

Join us at Stream of Consciousness Saturday, where this week’s prompt is the word “fine” – with bonus points for ending with that word.

Pop on over to #weekendcoffeeshare for more weekending fun!