Thursday, November 24, 2011

Only on Vashon

Yesterday my car, Eglantine had a dead battery so that when I came out of Student Link to go home, she wouldn't start.  It was a Wednesday which is my busiest day and I was already late getting out of Student Link.  My first thought was that I would simply have to cancel my afternoon activities.  But first I called AAA.

That is when the fun began.  The very kind gentleman at AAA asked me for the address for Student Link.  I said there really wasn't one, but that the towing company would know where it is because Miles Towing is the only service on the island and we are a small community and Student Link is right next to the community pool.  Well the gentleman was very kind and very polite and very insistent so we finally settled on the High School's street address, which would do Miles Towing no good, but I knew they didn't need it anyway.

Then the AAA gentleman asked where the car was going and I said Doug's Auto and again he needed an address (which I suspect he found on his own) but I said, I had no idea but Miles would know and it was right next to the library.  Ok, he finally got it all set up, and he said, with some amazement in his voice, yes it is Miles Towing.  I suspect that he doesn't get too many situations like Vashon.  He then said that I had to stay with my car and that someone would be there within the hour.

Well, by this time, Nan, the head of Student Link, had discovered my difficulties and she said, no you aren't going to wait here.  Just give me your keys and AAA card and I'll give them to Miles when they get here.  Only on Vashon!  And then Julie, the program's administrator, stopped by on her way into town and she said she'd give me a lift home.  So I thanked Nan profusely and accepted Julie's offer of a ride.  I got home just in time to catch Leigh who was taking a break from work and heading out to lunch, so she gave me a ride to the Senior Center so I could teach my bridge class and afterwards gave me a ride to my therapy appointment, and finally a  ride from that appointment to Doug's Auto as Eglantine was all ready, good as new, with her annual new battery.  Thanks to the fact that Diane never schedules many cars on the day before a holiday, even though Eglantine was their third emergency, they were still able to fix her in a very timely fashion.  And I had, of course, called both Miles Towing and Doug's Auto to alert them to the situation and both were totally fine with how things had been worked out.  Miles gave the key to Doug's Auto and put my AAA card in Eglantine, and all was handled easily and efficiently.

And on this Thanksgiving Day it makes me realize just how lucky I am to be living in a place like Vashon where people just pitch in and help when needed.  Life goes at a pace that addresses are frequently not needed.  We are small, and we are rural, and we are also an island so we know very well that we are all dependent on each other, sometimes, especially in winter, at some pretty basic survival levels.  And so that's how island life runs, at least much of the time.  I was told when I first moved here over 5 years ago not to bother giving my street address when people asked where I live but just to say I'm just south of Young's Corner.  And now, having painted my home bright purple, I am a landmark all in my own right.  People are now known to say that they live near the purple house on 87th.

I've never been a part of a small community before.  It has its drawbacks but it also has a great deal to offer.  Yesterday reminded me of that.  I wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why I Write

The other day I was explaining something which had happened to me and which was related to the topic under consideration and after a bit the person I was talking to just got up and walked out of the room.  I followed, but when the person started talking to someone else I obviously stopped my story.

This happens to me a lot.  I know I tend to ramble on.  My father always said I had logorrhea.  The other week I was in a class where I'd been asked a question and another student interrupted me in the middle of my response, which probably was longer winded than it needed to be, to say that I was off topic and then she proceeded to get things going as she felt they should be.  Of course, it was not her place to do this.  If I were off topic it was the instructor who needed to bring the focus back but so be it.

If people aren't this obvious then they tend to go glassy eyed or antsy.  After all these years I've learned to pick up on the signs and I stop rambling.  Then I've noticed that I have students with similar afflictions, so to speak, and I make sure, no matter what, that I hear them out and listen attentively to them, knowing what the alternative feels like, and knowing that many of them don't have many people in their lives whom they feel safe rambling on to.  And whether or not their current conversation is of great interest to me or not, the student is.  I care deeply for my students and so giving them some time to talk and letting them know that they are truly being heard seems a very good thing.  

Anyway, these latest incidents have made me realize one reason writing is so important to me.  I live alone and don't necessarily have anyone to share stories with, which I know contributes a lot to my tendency to ramble on.  But with my writing, I can keep rambling as much as I like.  The computer doesn't walk away or limit my words and if it is for a blog post, I will never know if my readers stop reading.  True, my pets can get demanding if I write for too long, and it is always interesting to write with cats blocking the screen, but it can be done.  

As I've been writing my novel, an endeavor by the way that only my fellow writers on Twitter or Facebook or my blogs seem to understand, I've written a lot more each day.  In fact, over this past weekend I wrote 7500 words on Saturday and 7100 words on Sunday!  That was a record for me and it felt really really good.  I've discovered just how much writing means to me, how important it is for me to be able to create, whether it is fiction, poetry, a diary entry, or a blog post.  It is a way to communicate with myself and hopefully with others as well.

Whether I'm writing creatively, something I have just starting to do and have a lot to learn about, or writing blog posts such as this or even writing my end of the day Tanka diary, I find that it is like talking to someone.  Of course that someone is mainly me, but I can process my thoughts, see how the day went, or experience the adrenalin rush of figuring out a plot twist.  And I do feel as if I am also writing to my readers, some of whom I'm getting to meet through their blogs and their comments on mine, and some of whom I don't know at all, but they are still very important in my thinking.  As a result, I have learned a lot about myself from my writing and that is helping in my ongoing healing process.

Nearly a year ago (it will be a year on November 26th) I started writing on a wonderful fun free website, 750, and I have written at least 750 words each and every day since and I plan to continue that discipline.  It helps me to get my words out, to speak my mind, to tell my stories, and to figure out my world.  Daily writing has benefits which I never before even imagined.  Sure I've written all my life, but always as the result of an assignment.  There would be a paper due, or chapter questions to answer or lecture notes to write up.  Some of that was really fun.  I learned the art of picking paper topics which I enjoyed because at the end, no matter how good the topic, I would be tired of it.  But that enabled me to write a doctoral dissertation on Scottish medieval historians views of King Arthur or my thesis for my BA in Latin on modern translations into Latin of Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss, and the Wizard of Oz. 

But now I'm writing not for an assignment or a class but for me.  I realized a long held dream when I finished the first draft of my first novel.  I am not sure where I will go with it, whether I will revise it and eventually self-publish it, or whether I'll move on to writing something else.  Regardless of where I might now go, the very act of completing the novel was a major achievement for me and I learned a lot while having a really good time.  It showed me, among many other things, just how important writing is for me, and I'm sure that those people whom I do run into during the day will appreciate it also since maybe I won't ramble on at them quite so much.  Have a great day wherever your are and thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Update on Life

Gads, I can't believe it has been over a month since I last posted here!  Of course, maintaining lots of blogs--it has now grown to four, is challenging and insane, but even so.  My last post here was still swimming upstream and that hasn't changed, which I suspect is why I haven't posted in awhile.  I love all the things I'm doing, but some days it is hard to keep it all straight, so to speak.

Anyway, here is a quick update and hopefully photos will follow on another post soon!  Let's get the health update first as it is boring.  I had a very nasty spell with my bad back, which really laid me low for several weeks.  I have a great chiropractor and he had concluded that when I fell on the gym floor playing badminton in my stocking feet (not my fault I might add as we were required to do that once because of some resurfacing of the gym floor issues) when I was in eighth grade and I fractured my tailbone, that I did damage which has come back to haunt me.  I've had problems with my left sacroiliac joint since I was in my late forties and it is just nasty at times.  But at the moment, it is doing much better, for which I am most grateful.  I've also found a new massage therapist--so hated to see my old one move away--and she (the new one) does hot rock massage which I am really enjoying!  I've seen her twice now and I am glad friends recommended her.  I had also tried another massage therapist and I made the mistake (for me and you'll soon see why) of going for a deep tissue massage and then not having her stop when it really hurt because I thought that was what a deep tissue massage was.  Anyway, the massage actually increased my chronic pain levels which had been getting worse slowly all on their own.  I went to see my doctor after that and turns out that my reactions to the massage, coupled with a lot of other things, gave my doctor the data she needed for a real diagnosis and it turns out I have fibromyalgia.  For people suffering with that a deep tissue massage can really cause problems, so now I know and I'll stick to the hot rocks!  But the diagnosis has allowed my doctor to set up a new treatment plan and I am glad to know what is going on, why I have such pain issues everywhere not to mention the fatigue and a few other things, but I also realize that this is a very hard thing to treat.  So that's my health update.

Sasha has had her own issues and as her vet said yesterday, Sasha is just keeping us on a roller coaster.  Dr. Nell even said that when she'd gotten Sasha's blood results on Thursday they were so bad that she was ready to dig her grave, but then the ultrasound on Friday showed major improvement in her GI track, no evidence of cancer, a possible kidney infection, and a kind of stasis in her GI track that made her nauseous.  So a few more meds were added and Sasha, bless her wonderful heart, is still being her usual inquisitive self and we are now on the up side of the ride.  Both Nell and I are hoping the ride goes on for a long time.  Sasha was diagnosed with aggressive oral cancer a year ago yesterday and given 2 months at best, but thankfully, Sasha didn't read that diagnosis.  And we are so fortunate to have a magnificent vet tech, Kay, who was genuinely happy yesterday to be back to twice a day visits with Sasha and me for Sasha's meds (definitely a two person job!).  Kay does this as a volunteer and it is a real blessing.  We have been so lucky in all our caring health care providers for Sasha--it has been and continues to be incredible.  All the other pets are thankfully doing well.  Oliver has had some ear issues, Chauncey ear and skin, Poosa eyes, but all very minor.  Thackeray is trying to become a vet tech (among other things) and Laoise is thankfully very healthy as she is so shy and disappears when anyone is around.  

I am really enjoying my work with Student Link (Vashon's alternative high school) and having my own library to run is a dream come true.  The students are all wonderful and being there three mornings a week (and thanks to budget considerations Student Link is only open three days/week) has made a huge difference to both the students and to Nan, the only teacher for 18 independent learners.  I'm not only helping with math but also writing questions and assignments for world history for one student and just generally being encouraging, ready to listen, for all who come through the door.  

And the big thing for me this month is National Novel Writing Month.  Folks have been doing this for many years, I guess, trying to write 50,000 words in one month, but it is my first time.  I've wanted to write a fantasy novel for a long, long time, but the reality is that I have never before written anything creatively.  All my writing, and there has been a ton of it, has been academic.  So I started writing Flash Fiction (that's my fourth and newest blog), and flash fiction has many definitions as far as word count but it is short, generally 1000 words or less.  I was doing a flash fiction story a day on my blog just to get the creative juices going and I'm sure I will return to that after November, but right now I'm just posting updates on my novel progress (today is day 5 of the challenge and so far I've written 5 chapters for a total of 9223 words--my novel is called Dragon Riders and I've set it up as 30 chapters long, intending to write a chapter/day).  It is pretty brazen to jump right into a novel, but I wanted to try the challenge and so far it is a lot of fun.  It is taking about every bit of energy I have after Student Link, however, so I'm not doing a lot else, but that is quite fine with me.  One of the Student Link students has also joined the challenge and that is truly fun to have a fellow writer whom I know.

My kitchen has gotten tiled and hopefully this week it will get grouted as well.  Leigh is preparing to install the cat walks which I know will please the cats as they haven't had them since last fall.  The remodel is nearing completion.  The garage needs insulation and sheet rock put in, but that will not be mudded, etc. just painted since sheet rock looks horrible.  But having real walls will keep the garage a bit warmer so things like paint don't freeze and it will also allow the garage to be properly organized.  I think work on the garage will also be starting soon.

Ok, so that is the update from my end.  I hope it won't be another month before I write again.  I shall try to get a bit more organized, but my novel will take up a big chunk of writing time!  Hope you are all well and getting into fall weather easily!