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Patti’s News Day Tuesday 3

M. Angelou quote

Maya Angelou’s recent death is not necessarily news now, but one thing she said in a 2009 CNN interview, has stuck with me. I think it is the most news worthy thing I have read in the last two weeks, so I have dedicated this News Day Tuesday to her.

Our country needs us all right now to stand up and be counted. We need to try to be great citizens. We are necessary in this country, and we need to give something — that is to say, go to a local hospital, go to the children’s ward and offer to the nurse in charge an hour twice a month that you can give them reading children’s stories or poetry,” she said. “And go to an old folks’ home and read the newspaper to somebody. Go to your church or your synagogue or your mosque, and say, ‘I’d like to be of service. I have one hour twice a month.’

“You’ll be surprised at how much better you will feel,” she said. “And good done anywhere is good done everywhere.

From http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/28/us/maya-angelou-obit/index.html

Two more short, but powerful quotes I love by Maya Angelou:

 “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” 

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” 

This is the last line in a tribute that Maya wrote for Nelson Mandela, His Day Is Done: A Nelson Mandela Tribute. I believe that it also rings true about her.

“We will not forget you, we will not dishonor you, we will remember and be glad that you lived among us, that you taught us, and that you loved us all.” 

Gratefully Yours,

Patti


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Memoir Monday 1

The Memoir Monday feature will be posted every other Monday.

This memoir writing is tough stuff. Many of my online friends are from a circle of published or soon-to-publish memoir writers. Most are based on hard subjects; illness and injury, death by disease or suicide, and abuse or neglect. You have to wonder why these memoirs are so widely read. At first glance those subjects are sad or depressing.

Why do we read them? I have always read memoirs and biographies. Sometimes I’m drawn in by pure curiosity, other times the author is covering an experience that I have had, or someone close has had. I want to know how they got through it. I want a blatant or even a subtle message of hope. Yes, hope.

The author lived to write about it, so maybe they have a secret of survival to share with me. Maybe they write so well, with that just-right stroke of humor, that I will be whisked away on their magic carpet for a few hours. I hold onto the hope that the author not only survives, but thrives after their crisis. Hope. I read memoirs for hope.

Hope may also be the reason that I keep hitting delays in my own memoir. August will be five years since Paul’s death. The memoir keeps pulling me back to the hard memories, when I am beginning to see the light of happy memories of Paul, in my everyday life. Yet…we both truly wanted to share our journey with others. We wanted to offer help along the way, for others in a health crisis, and we wanted to offer hope.

That is why I took on Memoir Mondays. I need to get this show on the road! I want to share this part of the journey with my community. I would love some feedback. I plan on exploring the topic of memoir, as well as some resource links for others who are writing memoirs. I’ll review some memoirs and announce it when my friends publish their memoirs. There is a large community of memoir writers online, so this won’t all be new information, but it will be what I think is interesting, and what I think you might enjoy.

In the mean time, here is some of the writing from within my own thick “Memoir” file.

 

A little background: My husband, Paul, spent a year in and out of hospitals, and in short-term housing near the main hospital, while fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia and the Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) that he got as a result of a bone marrow transplant. During that year, I kept family and friends updated by way of an online patient journal on Care Pages. The following excerpts are from the memoir I’m writing, and were written during a few days of the last hospital stay:

June 13, 2009 Last night we had our best sleep in a long time. That’s good, but really, we’re funnier when we go sleepless in Seattle. Since yesterday, Paul has a bit of medication-caused edema in his belly and arms. He is still taking walks around the hallway loop, 10-40 minutes a day. He’s trying to do his exercises, but his belly argues with too much movement.

The biopsies from Tuesday’s procedure showed that Paul has adeno virus in his stomach now. They have added two more drugs to fight it, and more fluids before and after the new antiviral. It’s a toss up which is worse, the virus or the treatment. The other drug protects him from the damage the antiviral causes. What a viscous circle. They continue to try and balance his glucose, but it keeps dropping low , then spiking high. They began a new plan today and it has stayed pretty even so far. Through it all, Paul pushes on to do everything he can to get better.

Wishing we were there,

Patti & Paul

June 14, 2009 (warning–talk of needles) Paul is doing better today. His cramping belly has let up a lot. This was ATG day, when they pre-medicate him, which sends him off to a pretty deep sleep. This eve he had his weekly x-ray. We walked earlier, and will walk again later.
Tomorrow is ECP day, when he is hooked up to a machine in his room for 3 1/2 hrs. I can’t remember if I told you all about it or not, but they put a large needle in a vein, then strap his arm to a small board to keep it immobile and straight. They take blood out, separate it, take one layer and treat it with a photosensitive drug, then pass the treated portion under UV lights, then the machine puts it all back inside Paul’s vein. I have read some encouraging studies about this therapy, and we are hopeful that it can help clear out the GVHD.
Everything they are doing will take time, so we are settled in for the long haul. We’re up for it, though. Whatever it takes to get us back home and Paul healed.
Husky stadium is outside our window, so we have been watching the flurry of graduation taking place this weekend. It is surreal to watch all these young people celebrating starting out their lives full of hope, from a hospital room window, where we fight for Paul’s life.
Paul says to tell you all, “Hi!” and thanks for all the support.
Paul & Patti

More background. Paul passed away in our bed at home on August 9, 2009. Less than a month later, I started back with my emails to friends and family, while I tunneled through grief and estate issues.

Sept 2, 2009 BLOG BLOG BLOG BLOG—It’s all about me! (I really know it isn’t)

Just tonight, I realized that I miss doing the updates about Paul’s health and our daily lives as fighters-for-his-life in a foreign land (hospital in Seattle). I thought that I could continue in a private journal, although the feedback is disappointing :>) So now I will write about me fighting for my mental life in this foreign land of Paul Is Gone. I will share the journey with you, because it is a habit that I still need.

I went to the doc today because a sore throat kept me up all night. I just have some infection in my throat and sinuses. With a few antibiotics I’ll be on the mend. I feel like hell, okay? I’m only up now, because Mark (family friend, lives close) signaled with his gate bell, that he was dropping off provisions, along with a mocha from my Aunt Judee. I couldn’t get back to sleep. I got up to see if no news was still good news—yes, it is! That means no evil attacks about the estate today. Someone spread the “rumor” that there was going to be a sale here this Saturday. Friends and family think the rumor was spread just to worry me, ahhhh, success for whoever started it!

I feel like such a scholar; I added “Judee” and “ahhhh” to the dictionary! There’s just something empowering about adding words to a dictionary… my personal dictionary on my computer…but STILL!

Finally, I changed the auto insurance to only cover my truck. One more thing done. Oh, that would be two, as I also called to get paperwork started for a small pension.

From the long, wide deck overlooking the back yard and acreage; A little after 8 P.M., and here comes that moon, right on time. That was my entertainment last night; watching as Jupiter chases the moon up the hill and over the tree tops. Much better than My Name Is Earl—sorry, Paul, but anything is better than Earl. I just realized that the moon actually rises in front of, and then above Jupiter. When the moon finally takes the lead, Jupiter resumes the chase across the sky. That’s way better than that episode when Earl got stuck in jail. I do not miss television. I would watch unlimited hours to have Paul back.

#####################################################

Thanks for being here,

Patti


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EDDD 21: Travels To Alaska Home, Tangled In Ribbons

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” ― Rumi

It’s funny, but I think that you like the truth better than any tale I could weave, and I can weave some fanciful ones. But, surely it is the real heart and real emotion that we need the most…

Whether it’s, “Oh, my gosh, I never knew!”

or, “That’s just how I feel too!”

The best and worse of me, resounds in you. P.H. 2013

I just wrote that for you:>)

Traveling home is very different, on many levels, to each of us. It also changes with the reasons that we go home. Since 2007, there has been a different reason each time that I traveled home. My late husband, Paul, came up with the money for a ticket, and then insisted that I go that first time. The visit was initially to see my dad, who had a health scare, but then, also to make up with a family that I had distanced myself from for too many years. That was good. And hard. And it lightened my heart to have my reading, gardening, rolling- with- laughter mom back in my life.

Another visit to the north was a casual one, almost a vacation. Fishing in Homer with #1, a sister who took me everywhere when I was little, says I was HER baby! A long-time friend of hers verified the news. I made up with a sister that I hadn’t seen or spoken to in at least eight years, and made headway with another. I helped dad with his yard sales and listened raptly to tales from his childhood in Kentucky. I loved the way his faded southern accent peeked in and out of his reminiscing. Of course, mom and I reveled in working the garden together, and I, in watching her dance in front of the green house in her jammies, to the loud music coming from within. Joy.

In 2012, my visit was filled with pain and heart-ripping sorrow. My direct sorrow was laced with regret. The sister I had reunited with just eight months earlier, the sister who had been sending care packages of craft ideas and love ever since, the sister I’d been sharing texts and long-missed phone calls with, was gone. The gratefulness that we DID connect, didn’t come until much later. My secondary sorrow was the torture of witnessing how the loss hit my parents; the death of one of their seven, a crushing blow.

Then, too, the twin to my lost sister, their birthday is tomorrow, lost her literal other half. There are just no words for the pain I felt she must be suffering. Still suffers. Another sister was a close business and personal buddy with our lost one. Another sister was out of the country. The brothers stood by, strong shoulders for our tears. My heart tore in painful strips of crumpled, tear-stained ribbon. I tried to capture and identify my pain and soothe it, but the ribbons flew in all directions; my parents, our twin, each sibling, even dear friends who fed and flowered us so well. A tattered ribbon of pain from my husband’s death flew in, and tangled with the rest.

Our (now) single twin flew home, soon after the beautiful memorial, into the loving and healing arms of her husband and son in Arizona. When I flew back to my beach a few weeks later, the ribbons of pain flew behind the jet and tangled between my feet as I disembarked. They knotted in my hair as I walked the beach, searching for my lost loved ones. A little over a month later, a phone call; my mother is in the hospital, and so, I packed my ribbons of pain for another flight to Alaska.

The ribbons of pain were no longer filling every space in my parents home. But as I cared for mom, cooked, cleaned and organized, the ribbons fell from every drawer, cupboard and closet; still there, but moved aside to make room for daily living. The ribbons filled pillows that we rested our heads on each night. We used them to wipe away the tears that flowed, unbidden, from our eyes. I was there for over 4 months, which allowed special time with the four siblings who live near.

Eight months after the return to my Washington beach, I lost my 3 year-old grandson and the fresh ribbons of pain, added to the others, almost smothered me. My mother’s sister died October 1st, adding still another tangle of ribbons. I feel them right now. Those ribbons of pain make it hard to open Maggie’s door; my little RV cave is packed with them. I am safe, as long as I keep them away from my nose and mouth. I’ve accidentally swallowed a few and they almost choked me.

Mom is having hip surgery January 3rd, and a brother is having a potpourri of surgeries in the next few months. I fly out on the 2nd and spend the day in Juneau, the capital city that I have never been to. I look forward to walking up to the huge Mendenhall Glacier, that presents its blueish glory, just a few miles from the airport. There are other wonders close by that I hope to explore. Are you excited to see the photos? I am too! If you have a friend in Juneau who can give me a quick tour between 2 and 6 that day, please let me know.

I’ll be back to my beach in mid-May and I’ve promised to visit Mrs. M soon after. She’s doing well, by the way, and is doing outpatient PT now. I also have a long list of family and friends to visit on my return. Those ribbons that I’ve been writing about? They have been keeping me inside the sorrow of those lost loved ones, and not allowing me room to be with the loved ones who are alive. I know that. I’ve decided to drop them out the airplane on my way back from Alaska:>)

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
― Charles Dickens

Here’s a beach sunset from a few days ago. Enjoy, please:>)

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Peace Out,

Patti

Every Damn Day? Who’s idea was this anyway? The culprit can be found here: Every Damn Day December at http://treatmentofvisions.com/2013/11/26/evdadadec/


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EDDD 17; “Sending News Secretly,” Letter To Paul

“Your body is away from me  But there is a window open, from my heart to yours.  From this window, like the moon,  I keep sending news secretly.” Rumi

When I read this quote on my friend, Elaine’s site, it reminded me of a letter to Paul that I posted back in June. Paul died August 9, 2009 after a year-long battle for his life; first leukemia, then a stem cell transplant, then his body attacked itself with Graft vs Host Disease of the Gut. I was his 24/7 advocate/caregiver in the 3 hospitals, the 4 temp housing units in Seattle and for his final 2 weeks in our bed at home. In our short 4+ years of working, living, loving and building dreams together, we considered ourselves married. Just 7 weeks before his death, I climbed into Paul’s hospital bed at the U of W Hospital, and we made it legal and official. Since his death, I have “sent news secretly” to Paul through my journal. After the death of my little grandson, I didn’t write in my journal very often. The letter below is my catch-up letter, as I resumed my healing writing habits. I’ve recently updated it to include another lost loved one.

Look Paul, the reality is that I have no idea what you do or do not know about what’s been going on around here, and maybe just for me, I need to catch you up. For all I know you could simply be ashes buried deep; away forever, from this well-lit world that I walk in. For all I know you are “up there” bitchin’ about the fancy food and wondering when Earl’s gonna be on. So, that’s the place I’m going to imagine you while I write this little note. I mean, how can I think of you as just gone? Just buried ashes? At the same time, you know I haven’t let the bliss of religion take me over; we’ll just settle for “up there.”

In the place I keep you in my mind, you have all the sweet company of lost pets, your parents, and your former wife, Janet. We talked about it before you left, and I know where the balance of your love lies; Janet was the love before ours, I was the love of your present and future (huh! Some future!). You guys can hang out until I get there and then we’ll all be friends. Janet and I will probably ditch you and go antiquing anyway.

I’m sure my sis, Michaela, has found you by now. She’s the one cracking up, putting on fancy parties and trying to take care of everybody else. Our family friend Tommy is probably with her, and you two are going to get along great—you both have that little sparkle in your eyes that I never did figure out. It does my heart good to think of the three of you having fun together, and you pulling them into your own family circle up there. You’ll probably sit around watching Johnny Carson with my grandma and ogling pretty women during the commercials with my Uncle Eddie. My Aunt Norma has joined you, her parents and her brother, Uncle Eddie, by now. She’ll be telling bawdy jokes that you guys will eat up. She’ll be fighting my sis, Michaela, for snuggling time with Tiven, then the two of them will exchange manicures and recipes. Don’t miss Aunt Norma’s chicken enchiladas or Michaela’s layered chocolate pudding, whip cream and cake dessert!

There’s a precious little 3-year-old blond boy up there too now. He’s Jon’s son, Tiven, born just a few months after you left. That birth was an amazing event, and one of the only things that could get me out of the house. You’ll probably find him snuggled up with my sis, since she’s always been an awesome mommy. He needs one. And Tiven actually knows you, his papa, from all the pictures he’s seen and from all the stories we tell about you. You were so good with Nola and Cora, and I know you’ll just love our Tiven as much.

We could use some help down here, with keeping an eye on and caring for Tiven’s brother, Hunter. If you folks in the know up there could visit him and surround him with your love, I’d appreciate it.

Anyway, honey, I miss you more than you can imagine, and I hope you are dealing with this better than I am. I’m trying and I’m finally back to writing, so don’t nag about that. Just like we talked about, my hope is that our memoir will help others travel that rocky road of love, illness and death with better ease than we did. Well, I better get back to it.

IMG_0688You always loved holidays and had a way of getting me to love them too, so Merry Christmas, my sweet man.

Love you always and forever, Your Patti

Oh, and I know it’s you, sending Tiven to wake me with his little kisses. Send more.

 

Every Damn Day? Who’s idea was this anyway? The culprit can be found here: Every Damn Day December at http://treatmentofvisions.com/2013/11/26/evdadadec/

Rumi quote from: http://elainemansfield.com/2012/solstice-blessings-a-family-ritual-of-remembrance-and-love/#sthash.Mj2l11ac.dpuf


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Someone Needs You. How Will You Answer The Call? Part 1

Holding You Up A bronze statue on hotel grounds in Kauai, Hawaii PHALL PHOTO 2012

Holding You Up
A bronze statue on hotel grounds in Kauai, Hawaii
PHALL PHOTO 2012

by Patti Hall

They Say That Practice Makes Perfect

Technically, I wasn’t looking for practice or perfection when I answered my sister’s phone call from Alaska a few days ago. Just last week I was deep into my grieving cave-woman mode. Tuesday, I traveled about 350 miles (round trip) to a convalescent facility in Oregon. I met with the care team of my sister’s mother-in-law, Mrs. M.  Yesterday I started cleaning, packing and planning for an extended stay at the home of Mrs. M. in Portland, as her caregiver.

Caregiver: Is This A Calling And/Or A Bridge?

My caregiver internship began within the parameters of my first parenting role when I was 28 years old. That’s what parents do, they give care. Care-giving starts when you wake up in the morning, extends throughout the day, and continues into the night. It is wiping snotty noses, changing diapers, feeding, clothing and loving those in your care. Care-giving is sleepily welcoming a tearful dreamer under your covers, and into your arms, in the middle of the night.

To further my caregiver qualifications, I answered the phone and agreed to join a caregiver group in California. A troupe of his sisters and nieces, gathered at the home of my maternal uncle, when he was in the last stages of his battle against cancer. We came from 3 states; sometimes one at a time, sometimes overlapping, but one of us was always at his side. Despite my uncle’s sad prognosis, he basked in the songs of this Florence Nightingale choir. The songs were expressed in our laughter and love. We nurtured, laughed, cried, reminisced and took care of his physical needs. It was the first time that I truly considered how fragile life is.

A few years later, an interim caregiver position came available via an out-of-state call from my children’s father, aka my former husband. His mother was in her 80’s, living alone and had recently been widowed. She was not doing well emotionally, although, she was physically fine. I packed my bag, drove 100 miles north and left my own family to fend for themselves (again). K and I had known each other for many years and we had remained friends.

K was in deep grief and needed help with the mounds of paperwork and legal procedures that come after a death. While her son handled his job and household transfers from Utah to Washington, I helped K negotiate the details at hand. The signs of dementia came on fast and I consulted her son over the phone. I took K to her doctor and explained our concerns. She was poked and prodded and tested.

I received a promotion. Along with K’s paperwork, legal matters and emotional distress (grief), I had to keep her physically safe. From herself. Household hazards suddenly loomed everywhere. She was a fragile child one moment and an angry woman in the next moment. By the time her son came, K and I were exhausted and traumatized by trying to navigate the chaos brought on by the changes taking place within her brain. I returned home and wished that I could have done more.

Stay tuned, Part 2 will be posted soon…more caregiver experiences and I ponder whether this role is a calling or bridge to the next step in my life.

Have you answered the call? We’d love to hear your story in the comment section.

Helpful Links:

http://www.caregivers.com/caregiving/ All things caregiver.

http://alzjourney.com/helpful-resources/ An incredibly helpful list of resources about dementia, Alzheimer’s, and caregivers.

Peace,

Patti


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Dedicated to My Aunt, Her Children and You!

On October 1st, while I was being amazed at the offerings of the sky, my Aunt Norma was on a final journey to her loving husband who passed away eight years ago. As a hole in the stormy clouds above the ocean opened up, it sent rays of light from above, and chills ran up and down my body. This is usually my reaction when I get to witness this natural phenomena, but it felt stronger that day.

Hole in sky. October 1st. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Hole in sky. Westport, WA, October 1st.
PHALL PHOTO 2013

Yesterday I visited my other aunt and talked to my mom in Alaska; they had both lost a sister the day before. For my mother, that is a daughter, a close family friend, a great grand child and a sister, that she has lost in less than 2 years. I got to hug two cousins yesterday and renew our cousin-love vows. I stopped by to give my uncle a hug and to renew our vow of family love. I have recently been rebuilding friendships with the children of the aunt who just died, and I am trying to support them through this hard time.

A double rainbow, double the hope. Oct 2nd. PHALL PHOTO

A double rainbow, double the hope. Oct 2nd. Centralia, WA
PHALL PHOTO

All of this has me thinking about the nature of loss. How very different the loss of one person can be to each of us; how the news hits us and how it settles around us. Our experiences with loss, and our relationship and history with the lost one, make such a difference. Some want to laugh, some need to cry, others want to reminisce, while some just want to ignore the pain. It is very hard to know which way a grieving person is leaning on that particular day, or hour or, even, that minute. I am doing the best that I can for each. The biggest thing I think I can do, is to be a good listener and let them lead me to the place they are, emotionally. I offer gentle sympathy. After a lot of listening, I can usually offer something that I think will help. Sometimes it is just a hug, or hanging out for awhile. Sometimes it is an action I can take. Either way, I try and be gentle. And yes, this loss is my loss also, so I’ll need to be gentle with me too.

Fall Rainbows. Oct 2nd, Centralia, WA PHALL PHOTOS 2013

Fall Rainbows. Oct 2nd, Centralia, WA
PHALL PHOTOS 2013

I also spent time with my daughter’s family yesterday. As usual, I drug them all out to see Nature’s glory in the sky. Pretty soon, Nola (6) and Cora (7), were dragging me down the sidewalk and around the corner to get better views of the incredible fading rainbow-setting sun-lit sky.

Sunset on window-wall of Centralia College. Oct 2nd. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Sunset reflection on window-wall of Centralia College. Oct 2nd.
PHALL PHOTO 2013

 

They ran up the concrete steps of a vacant 1930’s church, and still, stood on their tippy-toes to get a better view…then, around another corner, and they careened, arms out, down a wavy concrete ramp.

Nola & Cora, Oct 2nd, Centralia, WA. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Nola & Cora, Oct 2nd, Centralia, WA.
PHALL PHOTO 2013

This loss, like others, seems to bring us together, even as we regret not having spent more time, laughter and rainbows with the one we lost. Let’s just try harder with the ones we have left. I think my aunt would be happy with that vow.

Sunset of a happy-sad day. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Sunset of a happy-sad day.
PHALL PHOTO 2013


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New Features and Reflections of Memoir and August

Tan steerette

From my country drive a few weeks ago here. Tan Furry Steerette (not official species name). Maybe it’s the teats, maybe that soulful look, but I love her. Cannot have steerette where I live. I’m so glad that she has that awesome rack (horns not teats) to keep those bad boys away…when necessary:>) I was very sad when we had to leave these new friends behind. I wish they had internet.

New Features & Reflections of Memoir

I have not received enough reader photos here and here to keep that feature going, so I am working on 2 new features that I hope will be more popular and useful. One is for caregivers and the other is for writers. Both of my new features are written as “Postcards” since that seems to be in keeping with my “Souvenirs from My Heart” memoir series. I intend on carrying that theme through all my writing, as it is such a big part of my former and current life.

I wanted to get the memoir postcard series here published this month, but this has been a rough month for me. As you might imagine, my emotions are pretty raw, and time spent on the memoir has been ripping off old scabs. I hope that the caregiver and writer postcard series will give me a short break and allow me step back and breathe for a short time. Both of those series are meant to help others, and that helps me get out of my own emotional way.

Reflections of August

Tomorrow, the 27th, is the anniversary date that Paul and I celebrated our new life together. He would always tease me about my bold, “Why don’t you call me sometime” gesture at the pig roast in 2005 where we were re-acquainted. The 28th was the day of his memorial. What a day. I raged in my journal about how that day was supposed to offer some “closure,” but all it did for me was make my grief worse, because it made Paul’s death so real and so final.

I will certainly be glad when August is over! With Paul’s deathday, birthday, our anniversary and his memorial in the same month, it is always hard. Leaving our home  and gardens for the last time, this past week, added more to my heaping pile of emotions.

The bright side could be, that it is all over in one month of the year. I (with lots of help) am building a new “secret garden” that Paul would love, from what I salvaged from our old garden. This year I also have my wordpress family to add to my supporting and loving circle of family and friends in “real” life. Thank you all.

Heaps of Goodness

Please continue to send all sorts of goodness to my WP friends, Ionia, Belinda and Marilyn, and my real world f/f’s who face serious health issues. For those in my circle facing emotional issues, maybe try what helps me most; give true and loving support to others:>)

I just got word that I did not win the last contest. A BIG thank you for those who took the time to read and vote on my story, “Love, Laughter and Loss” I did not win, but had the most, by 20!, facebook likes:>) Here is how the stories were judged. (I think I only had one person write to the judges.) http://midlifecollage.com/winner-circle/
Again, thank you!

See you soon,

Patti