Category Archives: feeling sorry for myself

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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Filed under battling depression, family, feeling sorry for myself, Paffooney

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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Filed under artwork, book review, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, illness, Paffooney

Doom Looms… Yet Again

My number two son is coronavirus positive. All four of us who live in the house are now under quarantine for fourteen days (at a minimum). I have six incurable diseases, three of which; diabetes, hypertension, and COPD, the virus uses as the window to climb in and assassinate you.

We are not supposed to share a bathroom with the ill person, which is hard to do with only one bathroom. Nobody is seriously considering peeing outdoors.

We are all now wearing masks in the house. Well, except for my wife who insists she can’t breathe with a mask on all day (though she does it for her job as a Texas school teacher.) And she is a diabetic too.

What are the chances that I will still be alive in two weeks? Well, I am proceeding with the idea that I have a zero percent chance myself. I will do what I can to swim with the current. Like a good Taoist, I will not try to change the natural order of things. I have been retired now for six years, not by choice, but because of health problems. I am actuarily supposed to be dead five years ago. Heck, I had the H1N1 virus twice (both strains). The fact that I am still alive now means that I am very hard to kill.

So, I am expecting to die soon, but doing everything in my power to paddle the boat to safety in the raging river of Doom, Gloom, and rumors of Boom.

But my regrets are few. It has been a very good run. I have had a lotta laughs over 64 years. I taught for 31 years. I have written 16 novels and one book of essays. I am about halfway finished with my next novel.

I have to thank Walt Kelly’s Pogo for allowing me to steal these illustrations.

My next novel is called The Wizard in his Keep. It is about three kids who are orphaned by a car wreck, then rescued by a family friend. Their weird “Uncle” Milt Morgan has been helping to create a virtual-reality computer game called The Legend of Hoodwink. He takes them to live inside the game world. And there they discover that things have gone terribly wrong for the computer game and the company that designed it. And it’s possible that the game has been contaminated with real magic somehow. And there may no longer be any way out of the game ever again.

This book may well be my own Mystery of Edwin Drood (the last, unfinished book by Charles Dickens.) It is somehow perfect, then, that this novel was inspired by The Old Curiosity Shop, and has many Dickens references in it.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, family, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, illness, Paffooney

Can We Be Clear?

Mai Ling uses psionic ninja powers to separate the flowers from the weeds, a thing that is not easy to do.

I suppose that if I were to be insightfully honest for a moment, I would have to admit that I am a failed novelist. If you take “success” as meaning “financial success”, the fact that I only make less than five dollars a month for my writing means I am a failure at it. If you specify that success means my books find readers, then evidence would suggest that my books are mostly ignored. A majority of those who have responded favorably to my work are actually members of the nudist community on Twitter. I admit that I have cultivated that a bit with nudist characters in about a fourth of my books. But that is a result of having experienced fascinating people and situations that I felt I had to write about because I happened to meet, totally by chance, interesting nudists in real life.

I have lost a lot of writing-community followers on Twitter because of my interactions with Twitter nudists. My work gets dismissed on occasion because your standard teacher-turned-writer on Twitter, usually female and usually fundamentalist Christian, doesn’t want to be contaminated by sinful nudist associations. Ah, such a life. But I don’t wish to destroy anyone’s faith in a God who will apparently burn them for an eternity in Hell if they are tempted to frolic with no clothes on. I would rather be blocked by them on Twitter than have them give up on whatever paradise they are pursuing.

But I am basically on the Brad Bird side of the argument about whether or not you can choose to be a hero even if others will see you as a monster. My fiction does not cause demonic possession and probably does not cause spontaneous bouts of joyful nudism either. Even my werewolf story, which was too much for one potential reviewer, does not have actual werewolves in it. Although it does describe some things that really happened to me as a child in a fictionalized, sort-of-truthful way.

So, by those criteria, I judge myself to be a failed writer.

But I am definitely not giving up on writing in despair. Those were never the reasons I wrote novels to begin with.

I write because I have something to say to the world and stories to tell. And I mean to have my say, even if the world is too stone-deaf and stupefied to listen.

I have things to say about living and learning.

I have things to say about finding love, and losing love, and finding it again.

I have things to say about how I think the world works, and why I’m pretty sure I’m completely wrong about all of that. And what I intend to do about it.

To that end, I have started writing a book full of essays like the stuff and garbage and lovely wisdom I write in this goofy little blog. And I shall call it Laughing Blue. Because, you know, nobody is going to read it anyway, and I can call it whatever the heck I want to call it.

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Filed under autobiography, blog posting, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, irony, philosophy

Dreams of Forgetting

I don’t wish to forget anything… ever. But increasingly I can no longer call things to mind as swiftly as I could when I was younger. I constantly now find myself unable to recall names of old movie stars I loved as a boy, dates of Civil War battles that I studied at length in the ’90s, the names of former school teachers that I had when I was a boy, and those I worked with as a colleague in the 1980’s. I fear reaching the point my father is now at, not being able to remember my own children.

Last night I had a nightmare about being a substitute teacher. I remember in the dream finishing a first-period class that was not the teacher I was covering for, because the sub-coordinator does that during the teacher’s planning period, using you in classrooms where no sub showed up. And I left that classroom feeling good about the class, but suddenly not able to remember where the classroom was that I was supposed to be teaching in next. I remember going into the office, one unlike any school office I have ever been in. The secretary behind the front desk recognized me by name. Then she asked me why I forgot to sign in that morning. I couldn’t remember. She asked me who I was subbing for. I had forgotten. I didn’t know her name or recognize her face either, something that never happens in a school you work at even for a single day. Secretaries actually run schools telling both teachers and principals what to do and where to go. The secretary was beginning to get irritated with me. I told her I must be having a bad spell. And then I woke up in a sweat.

That dream will probably never come true. I will probably never walk into a classroom as the teacher again, even as a sub, thanks to this horrid pandemic.

But I am having anxiety about forgetting in a very telling way.

I must confess that every illustration for this post was chosen because I saw the picture in my media gallery for this site and realized I did not remember posting these or even making the one at the start of this essay which is two different drawings put together with photoshop.

But I do have one small ace up my sleeve for dealing with serious forgetfulness. I have seven years worth of posts to look back on. That should help me remember a thing or two about… wait, what was this post about?

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, Paffooney, teaching

Same Old Woes…

I am running another free-book promotion this month, once again for Recipes for Gingerbread Children. Same song, third verse. It seems no one wants this book. I can’t even give it away for free.

I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that there are nudists in the story. It’s true, the Cobble Twins are teenage girls who love to be naked. And in the story, they spend time at Grandma Gretel’s house walking around with no clothes on. And when they get their junior high friends to visit Gretel, eat her gingerbread cookies, and listen to her stories, they also try to convince their friends to get naked too. But, really, it is a part of the charm of those two characters. It is not a pornographic story, and they basically fail in promoting nudism among eighth graders.

But nudism has a slightly different meaning for Gretel Stein. She barely escaped the showers at Auschwitz. It is the hardest story she has to tell.

Sherry and Shelly Cobble

I am roundly disappointed. I have every reason to believe I am a good writer and this is a good book. But how can I get people to agree if no one is willing to read it? I have to just keep trying. The book is still free until Tuesday midnight.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, gingerbread, humor, novel, Paffooney, publishing

What Is Making My Ears Bleed?

Don’t panic. I’m okay. Or if you don’t like me at all, don’t get overly happy in anticipation. I actually know why my ears keep bleeding. It is the skin on the top and sides of my ears peeling off and bleeding because of moderate-plaque psoriasis. I just like the way that title sounds. All dripping with ill omens and horror-movie anxiety. I am not becoming a zombie or anything. I just look and feel like one.

I am feeling a little bit old and pointless, what with the pandemic worsening in Texas, my father’s health deteriorating in darkly concerning ways, and the upcoming decision about whether or not I get to return to Iowa this summer. It’s definitely in doubt this year. My parents are both octogenarians and there is the risk of carrying virus anywhere near them. Not to mention the risk of death the virus presents to me. And I am feeling ill. Not with Covid 19. I have no symptoms of that. But I have a stomach virus. My psoriasis is fierce. And I do not have the physical energy to drive myself all the way to Iowa. The prospect of not being able to go home again for another year is weighing heavily on my soul. That is why I have been busy with maudlin posts about dead movie stars like yesterday’s post.

There’s a certain minimum amount of time needed for re-connection with my roots, my childhood, the people and places that gave rise to me. The picture above is one of my Great Grandmother, Nellie Hinckley. She is one of the founders of my world. A Goddess responsible for giving life to my mother’s side of the family. She passed into the World of the Remembered in 1980, when I painted this picture. Soon my parents will be joining her and my grandparents from both sides of the family in that world where everything is summed up in old photographs. And I shall surely follow soon… if not proceed them. I wonder if anyone will lift a brush to Remember me?

And yet, no matter how it turns out, I have much to get on with. I am not done telling stories. I have had little success in selling my books so far. I can barely give them away. But the work of it gives my life just enough purpose and meaning to keep me alive longer than the insurance industry, my Texas teacher retirement plan, and the mortuary companies of the world would like me to. But, I promise to continue frustrating them further.

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Filed under family, feeling sorry for myself, humor, illness, Iowa, Paffooney

Impatience and Impertinence

My parents still live in the farmhouse my great- grandfather built in the 1800’s.

Life is impermanent.

Sometimes it is as fleeting as the wind.

I finished re-building the retaining wall in our yard today. A two-year project coming to an end. But someone working on the road maintenance crew came back one night after work and stole about ten bricks. The compromises I had to make will leave the job permanently unfinished.

This is the retaining wall in February of 2019.

Nothing, no matter how old it is, or if it is made of stone or not, endures time unchanged… by geologic forces… or my paltry masonry skills.

My father will reach his 90th birthday this next October. He is in failing health as I write this. My mother is taking care of him at home at the age of 87. Covid 19 may take all three of us before Summer even ends.

I have now published my 16th book. I have been in writing competitions and made the finals. I have more five-star reviews than fours, and no reviews below three. I feel like I have reason to believe I am a good writer. But even though I have made money on my books every month for a year and a half, I have never made more than five dollars in a single month. It is probably set in stone that I am not going to see any fame or fortune before the ill winds blow me away.

Do I have any right to expect more out of life? I have already been far luckier than other people I know. It is probably impertinent to think that somehow I am owed more.

But, never-the-less, I keep writing books about things that never really happened to made-up people, and re-building my world brick by brick, glad that I didn’t use straw or sticks, because a windy old wolf will soon come to my door.

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Forgetfulness

I may be suffering from the onset of… what’s that disease called? The one that makes you shake and be mentally confused about… what was I talking about? Oh, yes, I still can’t remember.

It disturbs me that I have difficulty recalling names that I used to rattle off the top of my head quite accurately when I was teaching and was a total master of all the useless trivia information in the universe.

Recently my daughter and number-one son were arguing with me about actors who played Superman. I successfully remembered TV Superman George Reeves who I watched as a pre-teen kid, and Christopher Reeve who I watched on the big screen as a college sophomore, and I even put the “s” at the end of the right one’s name. But I couldn’t remember the name of that new guy… No, not Brandon Routh from Superman Returns (apparently for only one movie), but that other new guy… from Man of Steel, and he was in the movie remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Number-One Son finally figured out who I meant by looking it up on his smartphone. Henry Cavill! Why couldn’t I remember that guy’s name? I recently watched him in the Witcher on Netflix. Henry gol-danged Cavill!!?

But then I ponder why there are some names and details I can’t seem to forget. Dawn Wells played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island. But it wasn’t the actress’s name I could never forget. It was the sight of her belly button. When the series was on television on a night that didn’t conflict with watching Batman, I watched Mary Ann’s every movement and flounce and prance and twirl, and every banana cream or coconut cream pie she ever handed to Gilligan. At the ages of ten, eleven, and twelve I was mad to see a glimpse of her actual belly button. But not for the reason you think! I insisted to all my friends at school that I did NOT LIKE GIRLS! (Even though I actually did.) It was because I didn’t know if she had one. She wore revealing clothes and even bikini two-pieces on the show, and yet, it was always covered somehow. I remember every delicious detail of my too-close-to-the-TV inspection of Dawn Wells’ acting ability in black-and-white, and later, in syndication, in color. It was clear that somebody in the TV universe didn’t want me to see it. And maybe that is precisely why I can never forget it.

But, then again, I can’t remember this guy’s name. Yes, I know, Uncle Fester from The Addams Family. I even remember the two “d’s” in Addams. And I remember that he played the Kid when he was a little kid in Charlie Chaplin’s movie The Kid.

Yes, I honestly could not remember Jackie Coogan’s name until I looked up the Chaplin movie on Wikipedia.

It really bothers me that I cannot remember some things that I used to know really well. But given time I am able to remember that it is Parkinson’s Disease that my father has and may be causing my memory losses, and that the narrator-guy in the first picture I used in this post is Ludwig Von Drake, a character voiced by legendary cartoon voice actor Paul Frees. I am getting old. And forgetful. But how was I going to end this essay? I forget.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, nostalgia