end of her days

She spends most of her time in a cocoon she makes of my quilt. Sometimes she buries her head; sometimes she stares into space.

I don’t know if it’s her 9th life that she’s nearing the end of; over the past 17 years she certainly has gone through several, including last February, when I (and the vet) thought it might well be her last.

They were are able to diagnose and treat her then for pancreatitis, and she rebounded. But not this time.

The blood and other tests the vet did the other day indicate she’s healthy. Except she’s not. Her x-ray showed some weird pockets of fat where there usually aren’t any. More tests might figure out what that’s all about. But I have decided that there will be no more tests. She’s 17 and has had a good life.

She’s been coming to sit (or get into her “begging” position) at my feet and make strange staccato meows as though she’s trying to tell me something. If I pick her up and put her in my lap, she makes a whining sound low in her throat. If I pet her, she sometimes hisses.

Obviously, something is wrong.

She eats a little. Uses the litter box a little. Sometimes she stops whatever she’s doing and just sits, silent and glassy-eyed, as though introspecting.

So, I’m just giving her “comfort care” until the next stage of whatever is going on inside her. When she becomes “uncomfortable,” I will take the next step and end her days.

She has been my one close and constant companion, has been with me through the deaths of relationships, the deaths of family members. I will do for her what I tried to do for them — the best I can to make the end of her days easier.

Her name is Calli.

It’s no Eden.

A volunteering moment: A memory-impaired nonagenarian pats me on the butt. I just ignore it, since earlier today, for the first time, he actually conversed with me and willingly participated in a group activity. I can’t save the world, but today I make a sad old man smile.

Twice a week I volunteer at a geriatric facility that includes folks in assisted living (where I lead “Trivia” and other such group sessions) and a separate space for individuals who are memory-impaired (with whom I sing songs, share photographs and stories, go out for walks, and even play kids’ games). I think doing these things is my way of compensating for the fact that so much of this world is in such a large scale mess that I have no power to affect any of it in any positive way.

I don’t have the money to contribute to saving abused animals, abused environments, and abused people; listening to Sara McLachlan sing in the ASPCA commercial only makes my distress worse, so I avoid even doing that.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all of the horrors of the “big picture,” I cut out a piece of the “little picture” that I might be able make a little better. Maybe this geriatric facility is not the worse place in the world for elders to find themselves, but it’s no Eden, either. However, it is a place where I can make a difference without the effort impacting me in a negative way.

As a matter of fact, I’m always surprised at how much of the time I spend with these folks that I actually enjoy. Sometimes I even get inspired in crafty ways that I’d never expect.

For example, I noticed one woman had a really pretty quilted pouch attached to the front of her walker. It’s just big enough to hold some tissues, a few photos, and a pair of glasses. You can buy similar ones online for about $35. It’s a handy little item that I realized other women who use walkers would find helpful. So, I’ve been inspired to design my own version that combines crochet and fabric. Maybe I’ll try to sell them online. Maybe I’ll just give them as gifts. Either way, I now have the kind of creatively useful project that I like to work on at home as I sit around in the evening and watch escapist television.

In her post today on Time Goes By, Ronni Bennett confesses to having become a “cowardly” about dealing with the overwhelming problems in the world around her. She says:

Confronted with calamity – personal, private or global – I have always been strong, eager to understand and self-confident in my ability to do my best to help when I can and pass the word on to others who might have more resources than I.

Now, I’ve become a coward. If I cannot look at the photos, will not read the news stories, won’t listen to the appeals for starving children and abused animals, how can I possibly be part of any solution.

In a real way, it’s my similar cowardice that has led me to volunteer where I do. I can feel I’m helping to make the lives of at least a very small part of the human population a little better, in only three or four hours a week. And, as it turns out (as it so often does when you give of yourself), I get back unexpected appreciation and inspiration.

Although I can do without the nonagenarian’s pat on the butt.

the small, every day courtesies

My son says this on his web portal:

the small, every day courtesies matter

As we get older, they matter even more as we struggle with bad eyesight, poor hearing, and dozens of other major and minor infirmities.

My first day of volunteering at an assisted living center affirmed what I already believe: a smile and a little bit of sincere attention make all the difference in the world to people besieged by a world over which they have little control.

These days, given the economy et al, that’s pretty much true for all of us, but it’s even more true and important for the elders with whom I spent some time yesterday. Patience, courtesy, a smile.

I really enjoyed being able to help them out a little. I will be going back a couple of times a week.

what the Occupiers want

They’ve been bludgeoned, batoned, pepper-srayed, arrested, and purposely misrepresented by the 1%’s representatives, who keep insisting that the protesters in the Occupy (Everything and Everywhere) movement don’t know what they want.

Well, according to Naomi Wolf’s article in The Guardian, this is what they want, what we want, what we the 99% want. (Can you hear us now?)

Wolf reports,

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process.

No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

In her frightening article, Wolf exposes “the shocking truth about the Crackdown on Occupy.”

We should all be outraged at the official conspiracy to try to keep a lid on what is the most rightfully forceful populist movement since the similarly persecuted Civil Rights and Anti-War protests of the 60s. Those movements forced the beginnings of positive and necessary changes in America that are still unfolding.

It is time for another major shift toward reclaiming what American democracy is meant to be.

(See this and other posters created by the Occupy movement here.)

If you want it but it doesn’t exist,
create it.

I moved into this town two years ago after a decade of taking care of my mom. It took me about a year to get over the stress and tension of living with my (demented) mother and (set-in-his-ways) brother for several years. And then my mother passed away.

For a year after that, until now, I have been trying to find a place for myself in this larger community. I joined a gym but found it all very depressing (and expensive). I joined a quilting group, figuring that I like to sew and might enjoy it. But I didn’t for all kinds of reasons, including that I have neither the space where I live nor the design talent and experience to get into quilting. And I find it boring to quilt from a kit.

So, I did more knitting to keep me busy, but that didn’t fill my need for community connection. I tried a couple of book clubs, but they never talked about the books and I didn’t quite fit in with the memberships.

So, I joined the Jewish Community Center, mostly for the Zumba and aerobics and gym facilities, and that helped to get me out of the house. But it still wasn’t what I was hoping to find. The JCC offers some other programs that I might have taken, but they were all at night (and I don’t drive at night) and cost more than I can afford.

So, I joined up to be a Hospice volunteer, got trained, and just met my first assignment. That was a start, but not exactly to the point.

What I miss from my old life are the people with whom I worked and the groups to which I belonged in which I took some leadership. Some were peer discussion groups; some were expressive arts therapy groups. They were groups that dealt with substantive personal issues and opened doors to creative and spiritual exploration (even though I am an atheist). I always made friends with people in those groups because we had those interests in common.

So, I went on a search for a group — preferably a therapeutic group dealing with elder issues or major life transitions.

Uh uh. No such thing. Not even within a 25 mile drive.

So, I drafted a proposal to start such a group under the auspices of the Jewish Community Center, and, since I am a trained study circle facilitator, I volunteered to lead such a group.

I’ve done that before — started a group to which I wanted to belong. It has worked in the past for me, and I’m hoping it will work again.

If it doesn’t, with the SAD season starting, I’m going to find it tough to muddle on through.

Oh well, I’ll think of something……

Whaling Blues — a found poem

Whaling Blues — a found poem
(take one of the blues, the largest…)

Lying at the ocean’s surface,
he is an island in the sea.
He does not fear others.
Others do not fear him.

His only victims
are two-inch crustaceans
(doubtlessly too primitive
for anxiety).

His body is used
for the satisfaction
of skillful motion,
not combat;
he is as harmless as flowers
and, in his silver swimming grace,
as beautiful.

Buoyant with blubber
and virtually weightless
in his glossy yielding element,
he is freer than the birds.

Monogamous –
mating in one year,
raising an infant in the next —
he strokes and glides along
his partner’s body
(although their specific interest in sex
is limited to the spring).

Good will, devotion:
he will stay
with his wounded mate
as long as life lasts,
even while knowing
death is certain.

The best of neighbors,
he will tirelessly
hold up to breathe
an ill or injured friend –

even that pygmie, man,
who hunts with harpoons
and his insatiable hunger
for car wax,
lipstick,
and shoe polish

bled
from the last
of the blues.

c elf 1960s

his dream coming true

He tells the story, here, of how his dream began at age 5:

……when everyone else was answering “policeman” or “fireman” or “doctor” to the question of what they wanted to be when they grew up, my first real answer was that I wanted to be an “outer space moving van driver”, helping (and this part was very specific) families to move into orbiting space stations…..

Well, as he goes on to explain,

Needless to say, I never did become an outer space moving van driver. Nor did I end up in space science in any fashion whatsoever. Or, indeed, in any field of science at all. (For that matter, I don’t even drive.)

But the exploration of space, whether by human or machine, has since that early memory of film fiction [2001: A Space Odyssey] been a consistent source of inspiration, and the realities of that exploration over the decades since have made me both cheer and weep over what’s possible when men and women strive for something (is there any other word for it?) awesome.


Now my son has a chance to witness, in person, the launch of the shuttle Endeavor on April 19 as one of 150 people selected from all over the world and hosted by NASA, as explained in the following
:

NASA will host a two-day Tweetup for 150 of its Twitter followers on April 18-19 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Space shuttle Endeavour is targeted to launch at 7:48 p.m. EDT on April 19, on its STS-134 mission to the International Space Station.

The Tweetup will provide @NASA followers with the opportunity to tour the center, view the shuttle launch and speak with NASA managers, astronauts, shuttle technicians and engineers. The event also will provide participants the opportunity to meet fellow tweeps and NASA’s social media team.

He’s been invited. And, yes, he’s excited.

Now he has to find the money for air fare and housing. While he’s in the middle of discussions with his fellow invitees regarding how to share expenses, he will still have costs that, unemployed as he is at the moment, he can’t afford to pay for.

But he is an active citizen of the Net, and, as such, he’s put himself out there to ask for help from those who know him and can’t wait to see what he reports and photographs as he lives out his dream.

He says:

Please consider donating to my trip fund for this experience. Anything raised in excess of funds required to cover trip expenses will be donated to Mercy Corps for Japan earthquake relief and recovery.

Yes, I’m donating, as is his sister, and, hopefully other family members and friends.

b!X needs a break. A job would be great too, but in the meanwhile, a chance to be at Cape Canaveral on April 18 and 19 is the closest he’s ever going to get to having his childhood dream come true. And, on top of that, as he tweeted:

This trip will happen three years almost to the day since my Dad died. He would have thought this was the most awesome thing ever.

And a note to my friends and family:

I’m sure that you will never have a chance to give him a wedding gift, so how about donating a few bucks to this adventure, which will no doubt be the highlight of his life.

To donate online, go to https://www.wepay.com/donate/197774.

The Whole Truth

We never really know the whole truth, we ordinary people who try to survive in a context over which we have no control. We try to follow the trail of newsworthy events, forgetting that news and histories are written — well, by whoever writes it all up.

And, sometimes acknowledged fiction writers, creating a fictional story line, seem to come closer to the truth than what we are fed as the truth.

The Whole Truth, David Baldacci’s 2008 international intrigue novel, might have a story line metaphorically closer to the truth than what we are being fed by the “news. There is a character that might well be an (only slightly exaggerated) embodiment of the Koch Brothers and a story line that takes the premise farther than Wag the Dog.

One commentary piece that everyone should read that accurately and succinctly gets to some of the bottom-line truths about what’s happening in America today is Ronni Bennett’s (Time Goes By) post, “Something’s Happening Here.”

She supports the following statement with factual links and graphs:

Although citizens of the U.S. are not detained, imprisoned, tortured, executed or shot in the streets as in some Arab countries, we are nonetheless oppressed. Our government, in long-time cahoots with the corporate elite, started decades before this current financial crisis to steal for themselves all but the shirts on our backs.

And, in addressing the incendiary situation in Wisconsin, she says what I hope lots of us are thinking:

If I am right about what they and their supporters are doing, the protests will spread throughout the land, particularly when the weather warms up in a few weeks. Massive street protests are the only power we the people have left against the corporate/government plutocracy.

God, I hope I’m right, that these people are the vanguard of what is coming. If so, it will be a long and bitter struggle against Mr. Jones, but I don’t see an alternative. We must fight back even if, in the end, we lose.

They’re doing it in the Middle East, setting a standard for the value of human rights and freedom,

Of course, in Baldacci’s novel, there’s a “hero” who determinedly figures it all out.

But we have no heroes. We only have ourselves.

training my brain
while playing with plarn

“What,” you’re thinking, “is plarn?”

If you’re a crafter or recycler, you might know what “plarn” is. If not, here’s a definition:

Plarn is a creative way to recycle plastic bags by turning it into yarn. Plastic bags made into yarn = plarn. Green crafter’s have been using plarn in place of traditional yarn to crochet and knit all sorts of items.

I started experimenting with plarn last summer,when I improvised a crocheted tote bag for groceries.

plastic2

The bag was easy to make; making the plarn with which to make a bag, however easy, is tedious and time-consuming — a good thing with which to occupy your hands while watching television so that you keep your hands out of the potato chip bag.

Now, switching to the “brain training” part of this post.

In a recent post at Time Goes By, “Our Plastic Brains — Even in Old Age,” Ronni Bennett reports:

Earlier this month, The New York Times published an essay from Dr.[Oliver] Sacks about how our brains are almost miraculous in their ability to stretch, adapt, overcome injury, retrain themselves and perform feats we could not imagine before.

In addition to giving me an excuse for talking to myself, the TGB post got me thinking about the brain benefits of learning to make and combine knitted geometric shapes.. I could have used regular yarn, but using up our plastic bags gave me a practical point to my creative math exercises.

I started off trying to separate my plastic bags by color. I had a lot of red and white bags from Target, CVS, and Macy’s, so that’s what I started with. Using instructions from a wonderfully simple book, “No-Pattern Knits” (which I bought used cheap from Amazon.com), I made one right triangle, and then added another triangle to make a square (which is one side of the tote bag).

You can see from the photo that the knitted ridges go one way on one triangle and another way on the second triangle. That’s where the Pythagorean Theorum has to be used as well as some algebra to figure out number of stitches for xxx number of inches. I did the second triangle wrong the first time and had to rip it out and figure it out all over again — finally correctly. To make the square into a rectangle, I knitted extra rows on each side of the square.

I was never terribly good at — or interested in — math, and spatial relations was the part of the IQ test I always did the worst at. But combining my passion for knitting with a necessity to use math skills has become a fun way to keep training my brain.

For the second side, I wanted an asymmetrical look, so I used up some bags of other colors and made a mitered square that I positioned as a diamond — with other triangles knitted off the edges to form a large square. Then I added on to one side of the square to make an rectangle.

I made the tote/purse a size in which I could fit a purse organizer that I had purchased a while ago that was too big for the purses I already own. I attached the purse organizer to the inside of the plarn puse with sticky-back velcro.

Plarn is tricky to work with in some ways. The strips can stretch and break as you work, and if you sew it with regular thread, the thread can cut through the plastic. So whenever the plarn purse’s construction required me to sew something, I sewed with a strip of plarn and a yarn needle.

I have every intention of actually using this plarn purse. If nothing else, it’s a conversation piece.

If I ever make another one, I’m going to spend some time coordinating and combining the plastic strips to vary the colors. It’s all a learning process. Good for my brain.