Libraries and Death Traps

Thank you all, again, for your kind words on my last post. You brought a lump to my throat more than once.

We’re still at my parents’ until Tuesday morning; Grandma’s memorial service is Monday. We’re looking forward to having much of the clan gathered together for it. Even though funerals are sad, we always manage to have something of a good time just because we’re together. Some of the aunts and uncles have only met my littles once or twice, so I’m happy (and slightly nervous) to introduce my small people to the larger family.

We also had Joy’s fourth birthday party today; I can’t wait to put pictures up on here from it. It was a woodland butterfly fairy tea party (originally, it was going to be a bird and flower and butterfly theme, but it evolved. These things happen), and even the three men involved (my husband, father, and brother-in-law) wore butterfly wings. O yes, they did. They all love Joy very much. They are also all very secure in their masculinity.

And my sister and I made sure to get them blue wings. Pink might have been carrying things a little too far.

And for a first, Joy only got one book for her birthday (and that from Carl and me). Usually books make up the bulk of her gifts. I’m sure she will get more once she receives her package from Carl’s aunt, a librarian in Maine. She always sends lots of book for birthdays and holidays. We are always very happy to see presents from G-Auntie.

This is the book we got for Joy:

No, wait. Wrong one. This one:

thanks to a recommendation from Rockin Librarian (thank you!). I’m excited to see what stories Joy concocts from the illustrations.

Meanwhile, my mom, sister and I are all sick (watching the two of them trying to tack up sheets and white lights while simultaneously hacking and blowing their noses would have been funny if I weren’t trying to slice vegetables without sneezing into them), and I am starting to go a little bit crazy from not writing at all in the last week plus – not since coming up here last Thursday. Family is more important, hands down, no questions asked and no regrets … but writing is such a part of me that I’m starting to feel starved for it.

And my characters are starting to haunt my dreams. Plus last night I dreamed that I had to scale a rickety ladder and swing from a rope to get into a library’s second story, not to mention crawling along the outside of the roof and breaking through a window (and was I ever pissed when I got inside and saw an escalator that led to main lobby, and I realized the librarian at the desk had sent me up the death trap way for, apparently, a lark, and then the escalators shut down because the library closed and I had to come down the same way and I DIDN’T EVEN GET TO CHECK OUT MY BOOKS), which I think is indication that my subconscious is telling me to not neglect books so much.

Or, you know, it could have been the rum in the tea last night. Whatever.

(Almost worse than the horrific ladder (I have a good head for heights, but I have always always hated ladders, and swinging from a frail rope to try to reach a roof window is not my idea of fun) was that I had found a brand-new, just-discovered Lloyd Alexander book in the children section (downstairs) and when I didn’t get to check my books out, I had to leave it behind. LLOYD ALEXANDER, newly-discovered book!)

I am working on the MG rewrite, but of today, Maia of the 1920s fantasy-adventure has been chatting to me, reminding me, impatiently, that I left her in Grave Danger and she needs a chance to Prove Her Worth. She is most definitely not a helpless heroine, and she doesn’t like being left a victim without a chance to take on the villain herself. So I think I need to get back to her soon. She gets very crabby when left alone for too long.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some rum-and-tea and a box of tissues calling my name.

And some pictures of three men in butterfly wings to upload onto my computer.


We Will See You Again

She went out accompanied by a blaze of northern lights, some of the most brilliant seen around here in ages. Heaven welcoming a gallant soul home with fanfare.

Even after her breathing had slowed drastically, her heart remained strong until the end. We always knew her heart was bigger and stronger than most.

Her humor was one of the last things to go when the Alzheimer’s took over. Even when she was in the nursing home and couldn’t even recognize Grandpa, she would try to tease the nurses and aids. They all loved her.

They were married for sixty years. Two days before she finally died, I sat and watched him hold her hand as he told us the only reason he underwent chemo and fought so hard for life through the blood clots last year was so that he could take care of her, make sure her ending was peaceful and dignified, so that he could take care of her to the end. None of his kids could speak at that point, so I managed to choke out that he had done a wonderful job of it. They were an example to us all.

Of eight kids, six managed to make it home to say goodbye, only the one in Australia and the one in Arizona not able to get back. Fully half of the grandkids were able to come. No one fought, no one argued, no one tried to make things difficult for anyone else. Everyone acted as selflessly as human beings can act. Another testimony to the love and respect everyone had for her.

The hospital nurses teared up when their weekend shift ended, knowing they wouldn’t see her again alive.

There was as much laughter as tears around her bedside, as stories were shared and memories were dredged up and old jokes revived. Her fifteen-year-old grandson played his guitar, everyone sang, and her last days were filled with the music and laughter she loved so well.

She has been gone for a long time. Twelve years ago was when she was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, at that point too far advanced to do anything but watch and pray as it slowly disintegrated the woman we all knew. The pneumonia that took her tonight was a release from that living death (twelve years is phenomenally long for Alzheimer’s sufferers – most don’t live more than five years), and our tears were as much joy for her as sorrow.

She is whole again now. She is free. She is rejoicing and laughing with her Lord.

It hurts, still, but this is a clean hurt, one that will heal. The pain of the Alzheimer’s never went away; it would lie dormant for a time, but it was always there lurking in the background. This – already there is a peace growing from the sorrow.

We will miss her. We have missed her for years. But her legacy – the love, the laughter, the strength and faith and joy – she passed that on, not only to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, but to all who knew her. I am proud to call myself her granddaughter, and you can be sure my girls will grow up knowing about what an amazing woman their great-grandmother was.

Rest in Peace? Maybe. Personally, I suspect she is singing and dancing right now.

And laughing.

Lois Elnina Bates, May 20, 1929 (I think, but I can’t get a solid year out of anyone right now) – October 24, 2011


I know I’ve been MIA here on the blog for a while. I had great plans to write a bunch of posts this past weekend and schedule them to be published for the next couple of weeks.

Until I got the phone call Thursday that my grandmother was in the hospital with pneumonia. My sister and I spent most of that morning on the phone, with the result that she and I got up to my parents’ house Thursday night, while Carl took the littles to his mom’s for the weekend.

I’ve spent the weekend cooking and cleaning so that the aunts and uncles at the hospital have home-cooked food and a place to sleep if they need a break. In between, I’ve been at the hospital myself, or with Grandpa at the nursing home, or making sure my father sleeps and eats (Mom and my sister had to go to a wedding in Vermont this weekend, already planned). And occasionally (FOUR times in two days) being mistaken for my father’s wife. The ones that just mistook me for Mom weren’t so bad; I already knew we looked alike. The one that didn’t even know Mom, and just asked Dad if I was his wife? SO NOT COOL.

Ahem. Irrelevant.

Anyway, Grandma is still in the hospital, but at this point we are just waiting for the end. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s twelve years ago; her body is fading as her mind did, only in a matter of days instead of years. I’m still at my parents’ house, with the littles here with me now, and Mom and Lis back from VT, just still doing what we can for the rest of the family, and praying for Grandma.

Someday soon I’ll have a post on just what a tremendous legacy she is leaving behind. But I think I’ll need more sleep before that happens. Someday soon also I hope to go back to more writing-related posts.

For now, though, blogging is rather obviously low on my priority list. I love all of my friends and readers, but family is coming first right now. Of course!

I’ll be back soon. I’ve not abandoned the blog, or all of you.

Right now though, I’m exactly where I need to be.

Grandma’s senior portrait.

Finding My Ark

This has been an up-and-down week for me.

I wrote a children’s picture book. WHEEE!

I got the typical “oh that’s nice” response or, worse, no response at all from family and friends when I tried to share my excitement. WAHHH.

One friend immediately asked about illustrations, and we started collaborating that night. WHEEE!

Trying to figure out the best way to self-publish that offered me electronic options AND the freedom to offer print books to indie bookstores and local galleries on my own AND didn’t cost the sky completely and totally freaked me out. WAHHH.

I had a beautifully positive response from the few friends who did get excited for me, and my first critique partner. WHEEE!

My husband and I had one of those conversations where no one is mad at the other, but everyone ends up feeling lousy afterward (nothing to do with writing). WAHHH.

And then I got sick.

And it’s been raining for what feels like 40 days and 40 nights.

So, I’m finding an ark.

Today I’m going to wear nice clothes, bake cookies, play loud and fun music, laugh with my girls, work on sewing their skirts I cut out last week, and throw encouragement at everyone I can find, even if it is just online. I will hide myself from discouragement in joy. And hopefully when I emerge, the waters will have receded.

Just as soon as the two-year-old stops her wailing for no reason in the background.

What is your “ark” – where do you go, what do you do to rest and recover from discouragement or disappointment, or just plain blah-ness? Are you living in an area that’s been getting drowned, like me, or are you one of the ones suffering from drought? If you are, I so wish I could send you some of our wet!