Category Archives: feeling sorry for myself

What 2020 Has Done To Me

The year began with me recovering from a bout of flu caught while substituting at Bush Middle School. I had thought it would be the end of me. But, no. I managed to survive. It left me feeling that no mere virus could get the better of me.

Oh, foolish and overly simple me! I had no idea what was coming. I had decided to write a novel set in a residential nudist park in South Texas that I knew nudists from but had never actually visited.

I discovered that my financial situation was headed for disaster if I didn’t earn enough money from substitute teaching. I was trying to pay off my Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and I was committed to paying $2000 dollars worth of our ever-increasing property tax. I wouldn’t be able to earn the money in time to avoid late fees, which meant I needed to earn even more extra money.

I dug down deep and found myself able to substitute teach to the full extent my doctor and the Texas Teacher Retirement System would allow. I was really hitting my stride and enjoying teaching again. I met a couple of kids in classes I subbed for that connected so well, I used them as inspiration for a few things in the novel I was writing, A Field Guide to Fauns. The novel practically wrote itself.

I published it. But it was about naked people. So a majority of people who might be fooled into reading one of my books will never read this one.

I was looking forward, after teaching so much that I could pay off the tax only one month late, to making more money I might actually be able to put in savings for a few minutes. But March ended all hope of that.

The long Covid imprisonment began with one novel published and one more, my AeroQuest rewrite, being more than halfway along.

I found myself with way more time to write and do other stuff than I had anticipated. But, of course, little money to do anything but survive with.

I definitely understood Kurt Vonnegut better in very short order.

I had a chance to reread a LOT of my own writing.

I gave some of my own books a careful reread and proofreading, even updating the content on Amazon. I began collecting my best posts from my daily blog. I put it in book form, becoming not one, but two collections of autobiographical essays.

My quest to put all my teacher recollections, goofy humor and cartoons, and philosophical wacky-waxings into some kind of order, allowed me to get a real sense of the overview of my life as both a teacher and a writer.

But, not only did my number two son get a job with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department as a jailor, but he got Covid in July as well from his job.

Not only did my number one son find a serious relationship with an excellent young lady, but he was forced to stay away from us and limit contact to the point he almost became a stranger.

And not only did my father’s Parkinson’s Disease get worse, it killed him in midsummer during a surge in the pandemic that meant only my mother and two sisters could actually be at the funeral.

But, in spite of setbacks, I managed to stay Covid-free and read and write way more than is probably good for any human man.

I published or re-published six books during 2020. It is an accomplishment that reflects a fear of imminent death and loss of any further chance to make my writing real, not just foolish fantasies and dreams trapped in my stupid head.

So, what has 2020 done to me?

It has made me fearful of the future. It took away enough of my health that I will never be able to stand in front of a classroom ever again. And it took my father away.

But it has also galvanized me with the heat of the struggle to survive. It has made me more careful, and more appreciative of what life is, and especially more determined to have more of it.

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Merry Christmas… (maybe)

This holiday is going to be different. Different from the holiday I grew up with. Different than the celebrationless non-holiday I lived with for twenty years. And different from the new traditions we established, my kids and I, as we pulled away from my wife’s religion. The pandemic affects everything.

I was born into a family of Iowa Methodists living in North Central Iowa in a tiny farm town called Rowan.

I remember Christmas being the most magical time of year. I believed in Santa Claus. I felt like the Christmas magic that we saw in seasonal specials on TV in black and white were so real… the realest reality there could be…even if Andy Williams wasn’t the host of the program. Candy canes and Christmas trees and sitting on Santa’s lap being terrified of getting it wrong… and making him think I was asking for a talking Chatty Kathy doll even though I was a boy… FOR MY SISTER, SANTA! FOR MY SISTER… Oh, gawd, that really went wrong. And we had family gatherings where we ate pot-luck family meals with Swedish meatballs and turkey and mashed potatoes with brown gravy and casseroles of fifteen different kinds and nuts and candy…eating ourselves into a semi-stupor as we also did only three and a half weeks before at Thanksgiving.

And presents. Everybody gave presents. And Christmas Carols in Church.

But time goes on. You grow out of believing in Santa Claus. You even grow out of believing in Andy Williams. Perry Como was better. And it was getting so commercial. And Christmas shows we loved as kids seemed so simple and lame when watched again as young adults.

And then I married a Jehovah’s Witness. If you are not aware of it, Christmas originated as a pagan holiday, the Roman Saturnalia. It was a night of feasts and orgies and excess. And Jehovah’s Witnesses believe their beliefs are the only true beliefs, and celebrating Christmas is of Satan. I celebrated Christmas for the last time in 1994. I married in 1995.

For the next twenty years I did not celebrate Christmas. At least, not out loud where Brothers and Sisters in the Truth could hear. And the season became very austere and sanitized for me by the religious integrity of those around me in the faith.

But there were friends in the faith that lost their faith and left the congregation permanently. And the people around me changed. And I was beset by illnesses, mine and my family’s. And Jehovah’s Witnesses are very good at helping the sick. But, apparently only for others, not me and mine. They began turning away.

I am probably disfellowshipped now. They have turned away from me, and I am now isolated from all those who used to be friends and acquaintances. My wife is still a member of the congregation. And this is good because she desperately needs to believe. It is a good life for her and keeps her relatively well. But I know they disfellowshipped me, even though nobody told me so like they always do in such cases. My wife barely talks to me now. And this is probably because members of the congregation are supposed to shun the disfellowshipped, even if they are family.

But I bare no one ill will. That may be part of the problem. The Bible directive is to “Hate what is bad.” And blood transfusions and psychiatry are both bad things according to the Witnesses’ understanding of Bible commands.

I didn’t need any transfusions, and though I have significant stress and diabetic depression, I was never hospitalized for that. But I did kinda fake some disfellowshippable offenses so that I would be the one, and my wife would still be able to be a Witness. She needs it more than I do.

And, to be quite honest, I need to feel a little bit of Christmas now in my old age and infirmity. After all, it is a holiday all about making sacrifices in order to give gifts to others. I know that this post will make Jehovah’s Witnesses cringe. But now that they are shunning me, I guess they won’t be seeing this anyway. And I wish them a Merry Christmas in spite of it all.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, magic, strange and wonderful ideas about life

‘Tis the Season…

Yesterday I posted one of my patented conspiracy-theory posts which was intended primarily to give my three kids more practice at using their Eye-fu skills. You know, that ancient Chinese martial art of using the dramatic eye-roll to combat the embarrassing way elderly parents have of saying what they actually think for the sole purpose of humiliating their much-more sensible offspring. So, today I need to humbly contemplate the many reasons I will not get any Christmas presents this year and begin to generate some holiday spirit to lighten the mood of what is likely to be a rather lonely Christmas season.

So, here’s a selfie from old Grumpy Klaus, wearing the aggravated countenance of the Jolly One looking at the Naughty List to determine who gets the bricks and who gets the lumps of coal… and who gets referred to Old Krampus.

Ho ho ho… kinda…

Having married a Jehovah’s Witness twenty-six years ago, I have gotten mostly out of the habit of celebrating Christmas. The Witnesses believe that holidays with pagan origins are from Satan, and bad for you. But it has been almost seven years now since they decided I was from Satan too, and so I stopped believing in knocking on doors and trying to get homeowners to reject their own form of Christianity because we are somehow more right than they are, and if they don’t swear off celebrating Christmas they are doomed. Among the many other things you have to swear off of for that religion. Like swearing.

Don’t get me wrong… Jehovah’s Witnesses are wonderful, loving people who care about others and whose religious teachings are more helpful than harmful over all… just like all other Christians who aren’t ISIS-level radicals. (The Westboro Baptists leap to mind for some reason.) If you really need religion, it is a good one to have. But even though my wife still needs to be one, I have begun to feel like I do not.

I personally cherish the holiday traditions I grew up with, and I really wish I could have shared those with my children. (This is another point for practicing Eye-fu right here.) I fear however. that like most devoutly religious parents, we managed to raise three devout agnostics and atheists. I have trained them in the last four years to like the tradition of making and eating gingerbread houses and gingerbread men. That’s probably of pagan origin too, but it’s too late now to save my sorry old soul from gingerbread.

Anyway, I am trying to look forward to the season of Peace on Earth once again. And though I will be celebrating mostly alone and ill and condemned by gingerbread, I do have pleasant memories. I can still reach my sisters and my mother by phone. They share some of those memories. And my kids will be around enough to eat the gingerbread castle I bought for this year.

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Islands of Identity

Island Girl2z

Who am I?

Why do I do the things that I do?

No man is an island.  John Donne the English poet stated that.  And Ernest Hemingway quoted it… and wove it into his stories as a major theme… and proceeded to try to disprove it.  We need other people.  I married an island girl from the island of Luzon in the Philippines.  She may have actually needed me too, though she will never admit it.

Gilligans Island

When I was a young junior high school teacher in the early eighties, they called me Mr. Gilligan.  My classroom was known as Gilligan’s Island.  This came about because a goofball student in the very first class on the very first day said, “You look like Gilligan’s Island!”  By which he meant I reminded him of Bob Denver, the actor that played Gilligan.  But as he said it, he was actually accusing me of being an island.  And no man is an island.  Thank you, Fabian, you were sorta dumb, but I loved you for it.

20160730_061115

You see, being Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island was not a bad thing to be.  It was who I was as a teacher.  Nerdy, awkward, telling stories about when I was young, and my doofy friends like Skinny Mulligan.  Being a teacher gave me an identity.  And Gilligan was stranded on the Island with two beautiful single women, Mary Ann and Ginger.  Not a bad thing to be.  And I loved teaching and telling stories to kids who would later be the doofy students in new stories.

But we go through life searching for who we are and why we are here.  Now that I am retired, and no longer a teacher… who am I now?  We never really find the answer.  Answers change over time.  And so do I.

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My Secret Faun

Radasha is his name.

I was a child who grew to maturity holding a secret horror… a truly terrible secret, in my creative little brain. I was sexually tortured when I was ten. I know now that it sounds like I should blame my torturer for everything, that I should have reported him to the authorities to keep him from ever doing that to anybody else. But my mental defense system took over in ways that prevented me from ever seeking justice. Or what justice too long delayed becomes, simple revenge.

But I could never be that seeker of revenge. I had a Sunday-school faith that had to be strictly followed. First of all, although the thing that happened was never truly gone from me, my creatively evil little mind forced me to forget. Or at least bury the knowledge so deeply within that I could not answer the school guidance counselor in high school when he asked, “Michael, what is it that is causing this behavior, this debilitating fear?” I could only answer that I thought I might be going crazy. He told me that he could help if it was about something like having sexual feelings toward another boy. He was more progressive than most Iowans. But, at the time, I didn’t understand what he was suggesting. I wouldn’t really understand homosexuality as a thing until I was almost out of high school, so when we had that talk, and I was clueless at sixteen, and then he talked about it with my best friend Byron, he knew that it was not about that.

The coach had seen the burn scars on my lower back and legs during P. E. But he only saw scars. I suggested to him that it was probably from playing with the large dog next door. He had big paws and untrimmed claws. And he believed me because he knew my parents, and he knew that they would never do anything like that. And he could tell that I was being truthful when I said I really didn’t know for sure how those scars had gotten there. I didn’t realize for sure how the scars happened until my more-mature twenty-two-year-old evil little brain decided I was burning myself against the heating grate to make sexual feelings and urges go away.

Radasha

I was seriously beginning to hate myself, be depressed without knowing why, and nearly killing myself at seventeen. All because of an event in my life that I really wasn’t able to admit to myself really happened.

Then, one snowy night in February of 1974, Radasha came tapping at my window.

I realize now that it had to have been a dream, but I knew even then that it couldn’t have been reality.

He was a black-haired, brown-eyed boy with goat horns on his forehead and a deer’s tail on his behind. He was completely naked, sitting on his haunches in the piling snow on the porch roof outside my bedroom window. He was grinning at me. No larger than my younger brother who was sound asleep in his bottom bunk in the room we shared. He indicated that I needed to open the window and let him in.

I should’ve realized that it was a dream then, because in real life I could not have opened the window like I did because of the winter storm-windows dad had put up before the first snowfall in October. But the scene played out according to dream logic.

“Aren’t you cold like that? You must be freezing your peeper off if you are outside naked like that.”

“Naw, I’m not real, Sharpie. I don’t feel cold because I’m a faun. I’m mythological.”

“Oh. then why did I have to let you in?”

“I’m Radasha. I am a part of you. You can’t keep me out. I should really be inside you instead of out here talking to you.”

“What? Are you my heart or something? Maybe one of my kidneys?”

“More like your love-life. I’m a part of you that shouldn’t’ve ever been detached. You need me to live a normal, healthy life.”

“Should I even be talking to you? What if my little brother wakes up and sees you?”

“Nobody can ever see me but you. I was born in your brain. I’m here because you need me back in your life.”

So, from that moment on I was a teenager with an invisible playmate. He reminded me of all the things I had learned about the birds and the bees from Reverend Aiken, the Methodist minister. We talked about what sex was, and the role it had to play in a normal human life. We talked about what to do about girls and how I felt about them. Without consciously realizing it, I stopped burning myself.

His advice got me slapped by a girl I thought I liked. He also helped me avoid three different girls that were sorta chasing me, at least in my evil little brain. In college he would get me into and out of trouble with girls I both wanted to chase and were chasing me when I didn’t want to be caught.

When I had the assignment to create a life-sized nude portrait for anatomy drawing class, he picked out the girl he wanted me to ask to pose for it, and almost goaded me into asking her. I, of course, ended up drawing my sister with all her clothes on. And I didn’t fail the assignment. He also got me to sign up to pose for the art class in the nude. But fortunately I got the flu the week I was suppose to sit in front of all those female art students in my birthday suit… the best ten-dollar modeling fee I never collected.

My invisible faun was a kind of self-therapy, I guess. He brought the sensual side of me back to life. He healed me and made me more whole.

I seriously thought I had a lifelong invisible friend. But once I started telling other people, real people, about the sexual assault, he kinda faded away.

I have now probably confessed something that makes me clinically schizophrenic, or technically crazy. But Ra is still real to me in so many ways. I used his story as part of my book, A Field Guide to Fauns. And for me he was an imaginative and necessary cure for a very real problem.

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Grifters, Politicians, and other Cannibals

Yesterday my daughter was attacked by online scammers through her account that she uses to sell her precious paintings. I am still kicking myself for not seeing through it from well before the money was lost.

The evil grifter contacted her about buying her painting for $20.00. That’s a mere twenty, well below what it is actually worth when you add up the canvas, the paint used, and the time she spent on it. Let alone the worth of her talent and original ideas. He said he wanted to buy it, add gift cards to it, and have her send it directly from our house to his girlfriend’s house. This meant that gift cards were to be purchased by my daughter, put into the package and mailed. When I heard that he was sending $330.00 dollars to her by PayPal, I thought initially she was getting the real value of her work. But I had a headache and didn’t fully understand when she explained the PayPal contract she had. PayPal supposedly was going to hold the money while she purchased the cards, and then would release it to her to reimburse her. But she used all $200 in her account to buy two of the three cards he wanted, and PayPal was supposedly refusing to release any of the money until she proved that the three cards were activated. So, I contributed $100 to bail her out and get the last card. I should have been way smarter than that! In proving that the cards were activated to PayPal, she was actually giving him all the numbers he needed to own the cards and spend the money at his leisure. The PayPal link he emailed her was a fake. He got what he wanted and then some. Fortunately he didn’t get the painting.

I told you recently that I am getting dumber with age. I got scammed myself for $3000 dollars in 2007 when I was told I had won a $50000 prize from Publisher’s Clearing House from a contest my father had entered me in. I was given a real check for $3,000. I am gullible when it comes to trusting people I haven’t really even met. The scammer reclaimed most of my bank account money before the bank discovered the check was a fake. Never mind that my father ordered magazines to enter in those contests on more than one occasion. I was liable for the money that got sent to Canada for fake reasons.

The real problem is, it seems, that in the modern world, if you are not a meat-eating predator or a meat-eating scavenger, you are considered meat.

People who are rich and don’t actually need to squeeze me down to where there’s nothing left but bone and gristle are constantly treating me like a farm animal to be harvested. Bankers are pirates. Bank-o Merricka taught me that when they sued me rather than allowing me to do a debt-reduction program. Politicians like the evil Trumpinator are cannibals. I found that out when in 2017 his, “Big, beautiful tax cut” saved most of the people I knew $50 on their taxes, while I owed an additional $1,600 dollars because the December tax cut was retroactive for the whole year, and it required more in withholding from worthless, “taker” pensioners like me.

I grew up in a world where most of the people I knew were basically honest and hard-working. Now I live in a world where, to be successful, you must eat red meat. And I get to be the meat. That’s a good enough complaint to actually feel like I got it off my chest for a change.

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Why Have I Grown Dumber with Age?

No, this is not a picture of me.

This is Garrison Keillor, an author, a humorist, and a Midwesterner. I have some things in common with him, but he is not me. So, why is his picture here instead of mine? Because I am growing dumber and I picked the wrong picture.

Seriously, if I do have Parkinson’s Disease like my father before me, that erodes your short-term memory. I had to go back to the grocery store today to buy the things I forgot while I was in the store yesterday. This, of course, included bread. I mean, bread!!! If you live on a peanut-butter-sandwich-based diet, bread means life. Short term memory is a pretty important thing to be losing. I know you are probably thinking, “Mickey, write it down. Make a grocery list.” I did. I forgot it at home fifteen minutes after I finished it. The three items I forgot were all on the list.

And I have found being a writer gets harder with age because years of reading student essays has left me unable to spelll and make verbs agrees with subjects and other writing stuff that you really has to know if you wanna do it good. (Why didn’t the spell-checker flag “wanna”?) I have to look up immediately, embarrassment, and noticeable every time I try to write them. (Including this time… And I find myself using incomplete sentences too now way more than I….) You know what I mean?

And I have three kids that have now all reached adulthood. I survived three very different puberties with three very different results. I have grown more liberal with age. So, naturally, my kids are all conservatives. And they all basically have me convinced that I don’t know anything about anything anymore. And they are probably right. But I reserve the right to be skeptical about their diagnoses of early-onset dementia until I see the evidence in front of my eyes… my really old eyes that have glaucoma and will probably go blind. But I remembered to vote for Joe Biden. And that is a good thing. A smart thing. Even though high school friends on Facebook are all thinking about un-friending me over not admitting the superiority of Trumpocratic thinking in the United Trump-States of Trump-America. What is it about farmers loving Trump after their farms all went bankrupt over the Chinese tariffs kerfuffle that was actually only a penis-length contest between Stormy Daniels’ magic mushroom and Chinese President Poohbear (Don’t have me killed, please, Xi. I just don’t know how to spell things in Chinese. And , hey, you could be his twin brother.) I should be smarter than to insult Chinese and Russian presidents. But I’m not.

I have only gotten dumber as I have gotten older. (Did I remember the “b” at the end of dumber? I did? Well, one for Mickey, then.) Hopefully there is still hope.

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Filed under angry rant, autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, humor, satire

The Devil is in the Details

2020

has been one of the worst years of my life. I say one of… because in 1966 I was sexually assaulted, and a tornado attacked Belmond, Iowa with both of my parents there for work… and me not knowing if they were alive or dead for about eighteen hours.

This has been another dragon of a year. The pandemic took away my substitute teaching job, removing permanently the last chance I had to do a thing I loved.

And, of course, my father has had a series of strokes that took away his memories of his wife and family and has left him dying in hospice care

He had another incident yesterday. They called my mother on her one day she was allowed to visit him (due to the pandemic) and told her not to come in. He hadn’t awakened that day, and they didn’t expect him to make it. So, she started calling all of us to let us know the end had come. Except it hadn’t. He did wake up after all. And Mom had to undo the final notices she had already done.

But he lost some ground. Before he could talk, even though his memory was mostly gone. He would talk about crazy things, like working in a Hardware store in Lubbock and needing to retire because his 89th birthday is this month and he was exhausted from working. (He did somehow remember his birthday accurately, though he has never worked in Lubbock, Texas.) Now he can only mumble incoherently. He is emaciated and loses ground daily.

And it is wearing on my mother who is 87 and has not been so alone since they married in 1956. I fear once he is gone, we will lose her too. I have spent long hours on the phone with mother and sisters for most of three months now. There has been tears and heartache over long-distance phone lines. The Trump Pandemic has kept us hundreds of miles apart.

I am reminded that my life has been pretty good compared to that of Jews and Gypsies and political dissenters in Germany and Poland in the 1930s and 40s. And the plague now is probably better than the Black Death in the Middle Ages. But, in the space of a year, we have reached a point where those comparisons are no longer merely exaggerations.

But bankruptcy, illness, and misfortune have not changed who I am. There is still more in life to be lived. At least until there isn’t. And on that day when I play that final game of chess with the Grim Reaper… Who knows? There’s still a chance I might win the game.

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After the Last Chapter

Yes, I have reached a snag in the novel-writing process. I am definitely at the end of the story. The crisis point is past. The characters who have to die to resolve the central conflict are dead. The characters who needed to be rescued are already rescued. I have probably less than a thousand words left to write. But I still have to tie the knot in the end of the plot to keep all the main ideas and themes from pouring out and floating away with the wind. I need the final scene and a memorable end line.

And, I am ill. My chest hurts. My head hurts. And I have needed to sleep every time I have settled down to write it. What happens if the old Grim Reaper shows up again with a sharper scythe than he had on his last visit?

I don’t know

what comes after the last chapter. I don’t know it for the book I am writing, nor for the life I am living.

I freely admit that I have no confidence whatsoever that after I die I will wake up in Heaven. Baptists have told me I will go to Hell for not believing what they believe. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have assured me that there is no Hell for me to wake up in and be eternally tortured in. But they also tell me I get no Paradise forever because I stopped believing what they believe. I have repeatedly said in writing and conversations that I am a Christian Existentialist. And I have explained that I think that makes me an atheist who believes in God. That leaves me, more or less, as an agnostic, not knowing anything until it’s proven to me, and realizing that nobody can prove it besides the God that I believe in but who doesn’t exist.

Our lives are like a book.

Things happen before the book is opened and you begin to read, but they are not technically something that the book contains within it. And when the book is finished and you close it, the story is complete. But the book still exists even when it’s closed.

I am not concerned about the fact that my story will end. But with both the book I am working on and the life I am living still unfinished… well, I hope both stories will be finished.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, illness, novel writing, Paffooney, religion

Up and Down, Good and Bad

Lepperd Girrrrl, Jungle Princess

I am in quarantine because of my son’s COVID-positive status, so naturally I am hyper-sensitive to the possibility that I could get the virus and die in just a few days. This morning I woke up to a cough, headache, and sinus drainage that immediately set off alarm bells. Time to start living my last days on Earth…. again.

But I have been thinking about canceling the Pubby subscription I bought before the free ten-day trial period ends tomorrow and they charge my bank account for the whole year. So, before calling an ambulance prematurely and setting the house in a panic, I checked Pubby. One of the two reviewers I thought were both going to stiff me on a review I had earned came through and posted a review. And it was a very literate and convincing five-star review. I was basically thrilled and felt vindicated enough that the other nagging worry felt better too.

This link takes you to the reader-review page.

So, then I took my temperature yet again and got 37.1 degrees Celsius. 37 C is, of course, normal, a fact that I had to look up and then convert to Fahrenheit myself just to be sure. So, I have not had a single instance of fever since long before the quarantine began. And, I was also able to discern that these are the exact same symptoms I had at the end of June that made me go get a COVID test that proved I was negative for the virus after the doctor assured me that taking the test was only a precaution, and I didn’t really have coronavirus symptoms. I still have medication for the allergic reaction I had last time, I remembered trying to do the same clean-up yesterday that I had done the first time I had that reaction.

Since we are on a watch for severe symptoms anyway, I decided to wait until I have a fever or shortness of breath. Exactly what the doctor would tell me to do anyway with the situation whether a test came back positive or negative. I am saving money for the doctor’s phone-call consultation, and saving myself another long trip and long wait in a long, long line. Especially when I don’t feel well enough to drive, and don’t want to risk a healthy family member to drive me. So, while I am sealed in my room waiting to die, I will continue to write and read and try to get more books reviewed. This may be my last day alive. But I am happy and the world looks good even though the Republican National Fear-fest continues to threaten a Trump-family dictatorship.

Oh, and I am continuing to scan artworks as my scanner has temporarily forgotten once again how much it hates me after tax time.

A way to access my artwork from this blog with a simple Google images search.

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