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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.

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Thanks for being here,

Patti


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Goodbye 2013 and Hello, My Lovely 2014

Now that was a fun little exercise in commitment. The (Almost) Every Damn Day December challenge was fun and a bit of a stress, but not bad. I missed 3 days, and I apologize, but I can’t help thinking that it’s really okay, because it was in 2013 and THAT YEAR IS OVER!!!!

You’ve only known me since March (except my family & friends who jumped on board with me), but you’ve probably caught on that I’m a bit unpredictable and spontaneous. Tomorrow morning (in a few hours) I’ll get on an airplane in Seattle, Washington. I’ll land in Juneau, Alaska for a brief layover/photo tour, and then on to Anchorage, Alaska that evening. I’m staying until mid-May.

Here’s the unpredictable, spontaneous part. I SHOULD have spent the last 2 days of the year writing my AEDDD posts and getting ready for my long stay in Alaska. Any semi-normal person would have. Not me. I put on my BRAVE cape, packed an overnight bag, opened Maggie’s door and stepped into a 2 day adventure. You’re gonna love this. Am I even sane? Well, yes I am, just a little…oh yes, spontaneous!

My first 2 stops were pure pleasure. I got warm hugs from my tall, handsome boy (okay, young man), Jon, and got to hold and snuggle my sleepy twin step-granddaughters. Their mom sat back smiling, as the girls opened Christmas presents from Grani…that’s another story.

Sara, Caleb and my impish little Cameron were next. I had a blast playing with Cameron. He’s hilarious in his antics, a ball of energy and brilliant to boot! (No Grani prejudice at all!) Sara helped me unsnarl my rat’s nest (tangled, knotted hair), then I took a long, glorious shower (Maggie only gives me a quick 3 minutes). Of course, my new best buddy, Cameron, had to get in on the action. He’s our water baby and he sat happily playing in the water at my feet, while I enjoyed the warm spray of water pelting me.

Once we were out and dry, Sara gave me a heavenly pedicure and topped it off with pretty toenail polish. It probably took 8 times longer than a salon, but they don’t have to stop and nurse and play with and fight off “help” from an almost 2-year-old, like Sara did.

The next day I tracked down my aunt and “Smitty” and got about 10 hugs. She helped me map out and contact her kids, my cousins. I simply had this strong urge to see them all before I left on my long journey to the north. Soon, 4 maps turned into one, as all 4 agreed to meet me at one cousin’s house that evening. I love it when a crazy spontaneous plan comes together!

I’m sorry that I never did track down my uncle, so he’ll have to be my first stop when I get back from Alaska. My next stop was not so great, but was an ending to a long, happy/sad story. I had to get the last of my belongings out of the home Paul and I had shared, then say a final goodbye to that place and that chapter. Our fun, loving and happy home was now just an empty house.

Another bittersweet part, was that my little granddaughters came with their dad, who was helping me. We were only there a short time, but the girls shared their memories of living there, and even “Papa” memories. Nola and Cora got a step stool and removed their drawings from the wall. They explored every nook and corner for memories and lost toys. We got a photo of the girls and me in front of the house, then we all left.

A map and a few phone calls later and I was greeted by my 3 beautiful cousin/sisters. We were not only raised together in Alaska, but I’ve spent most of the last 25 years encircled by their family here in Washington. They have been along, in one way or another, for almost all the good and bad times of this large chapter in my life.

We hugged, and hugged some more. We caught up a bit and I told a few stories. We reminisced about our young selves and laughed a lot, while trying to get a good photo of the four of us. The atmosphere was calm, soothing and filled with happy and sad shadows of the past.

Their brother couldn’t make it, so we made plans to try and meet the next morning. The 5th cousin just became a new dad in California, hopefully we will cross paths one of these days soon. I’m not that spontaneous (or wealthy). My last stop on this long and emotional day was to renew a lost friendship.

I’ve written about my 4 best friends here before. Leslee is one of them. It had been many years, but seeing each other again was a balm for both our souls. She’s been very ill and is tiny, but as beautiful as the last day I saw her. Six weeks of healing from a life-saving surgery and she was on her way back to good health.

We laughed, cried, hugged and kissed, then did it all again, until late into the night. She fed me love, warm soup, a potpourri of cookies and candies and wise sisterly counsel. In the morning I had another long, glorious shower, but not before jumping in my truck to find a place to buy my addictive morning cup of coffee.

Of course, I told her the story of the two fifteen-year-old kids on a first date. I mentioned a possible 40-year-later meeting. That very day. Possibly. She wanted in on the story. Badly. The morning felt just like the old days when Leslee was singing in a band, and I was her best friend/sister/groupie/hair, costume and make-up assistant. She primped and slathered me with blusher, despite my protests. I kept refusing the pink coral nail polish, but once she noticed my painted toes, she wouldn’t stop until I finally handed over my finger nails for her loving application.

I know that you’re dying to know if I ever caught up with my other cousin. You may even want to read whether or not my BRAVE cape and Leslee propelled me and my pretty painted nails all the way to a rendezvous with Mrs. M’s son. The thing is, this post is already over 1300 words, it’s after 1 a.m. and I have to catch a flight in the morning. And tomorrow is a long drive to the airport, a photo tour and two airplanes. The next day is mom’s hip replacement surgery…so I will try to get back and finish the tale of my last day of 2013 as soon as I can.

Peace Out, Really!

Patti

Here is my New Year’s welcome:

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
― Alfred Tennyson

That is my word for the new year: Hope.

My arms are wide open for the good, wondrous and unknown things that await me in this new year.

I hope that all my friends and family (and yours) stay safe, healthy and full of LOVE in 2014.

I hope that I am calm, brave and loving when the previous hope falls short; after all, we’re only human.

I hope I choose the best path for me, when I stand before the crossroads that are offered up this coming year.

I hope I am successful in living in the present moment; not one foot in the past and one in the future.

I hope I use hindsight and foresight to make wise decisions, for even these have a useful purpose.

I hope to learn more (about you and me and the world), see more (of the magic in you, me and the world), share more (of myself and the magic and what I learn about you, me and the world) and be more (of myself; to stretch and reach and pull in all of the good stuff).

HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2014!!!!!!


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Naked Without Them

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Naked Without Them; Gold & Silver Memories

My wedding ring set has such a bad track record.  You’d think that I would want to drop it down the sink or bury it in a drawer. Never. Like most of us, that set of rings has had its ups and downs, through no fault of its own.

Before their life with me, the rings had a life on the finger of a young bride, full of high hopes for a happy future, with the man of her dreams. That dream died quickly and lives were shattered. The rings sat in a box, in the very back of a drawer, forever. Who knows how long it really was, as rings have no sense of time.

My friends, the preacher and his wife, gained possession of the rings through their family ties. They finally found a way to aim the rings on a path towards a happier future; much happier than living in a drawer full of undies and unopened packages of socks.

Admittedly, the groom (whose bride would wear the rings) was being treated for leukemia, but surely he would live to rejoice in his recovery with his new bride? The rings could have a new life too. The betrothed were living in the hospital and did not have the freedom to go shopping for wedding rings. So when the preacher and his wife drove across the mountains to perform and witness the hospital wedding, they brought the set of rings to offer as a gift to the couple. The rings would be redeemed and the newlyweds would live happily ever after. The gift was gratefully accepted.

The groom’s wedding band was chosen from the offerings of the preacher couple and the bride’s aunt. He simply chose the one that fit the best. The wedding is another story altogether, and you are welcome to read one version of it here. Most of you know that the story didn’t end so well. The groom left this world and his bride less than 2 months after the ceremony. Once more, the rings were marked by tragedy.

That was 4 years ago and I wear Paul’s wedding band on my thumb now. I just recently moved my wedding set to the ring finger of my right hand. I read somewhere that this was the custom for widows in…? I can’t remember what country that was. My wedding ring finger is still much thinner where the rings once sat, and I’m sure that time will be successful in healing the finger, if not my heart. Either way, the rings and I are happy for the company along the way.

The other piece of jewelry that I cherish is the heart locket that you see in the picture. It was already special to me, but now I only take it off to shower (so I actually am naked without it). Sealed inside is some resin mixed with my forever-3-year-old grandson’s ashes. We lost him in April and I can still hear his voice and see those bright blue eyes,

I had more to say, but I lost my steam somewhere up there in that last paragraph. I can say how grateful I am that I have these special things, and I truly would feel naked without my gold and silver memories. Some people don’t want such constant contact with objects that hold sad memories. That’s odd to me. When I adjust the rings or the clasp on the locket chain, I may shed a tear (or a bucket of them), but then I usually end the tearful session with a smile for all the happy memories.

Do you have something special that you feel naked without? Maybe something romantic or funny or magic to cheer us up? Well, then please share it with your friends here :>)

Peace Out,

Patti


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This One Is For Leslee; The Silk Ribbons of Friendship

Fall = Pumpkins and Corn=Leslee Phall Photo 2013

Fall = Pumpkins and Corn and…
Phall Photo 2013

Fall’s magic and joy

shines from her heart to her eyes

corn stalks and pumpkins

Of all the people on this planet that I know, no one brings the magic and joy of each holiday to life, as Leslee does. Halloween and Christmas are her yearly pedestal projects, but oh, her Valentine and birthday creations are also grand. She beckons the inner child from anyone in her orbit, and sings the fairies from their hiding places.

Sadly, Leslee has been out of my orbit for too many years. She’s getting closer though, and once I knew that she was back in…I began to feel a girlish giggle and a fairy’s impish grin emerge from somewhere deep within. They swim up through the pain and loss that I have experienced in her absence. What wonders will now be unleashed?

Within about 18 months, 25 years ago, I met four incredibly strong and supportive women. Leslee was one of them. The other three, Gwen, Vickie and Roxanne, each have special ribbons that bond us together. If I had to pick one word for the ribbon that connects me to each, it would be humor for Gwen, strength for Vickie, and spirit for Roxanne. Of course, they are all a mixture of those, and many other beautiful silk ribbons.

This writing inspires me to remind us all to write a love/friendship letter to those that we share that special ribbon with. Have I ever told Gwen how much her laughter means to me, or Vickie, how her steadfast strength has always helped keep my feet on the ground, or Roxanne, how her gentle spirit soothes me like a babe in arms? And Leslee, how the fairies welcome me into their circle when she is in my life? She sets my imagination free.

Peace,

Patti


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Book Review: Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

 

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
Dog Songs
by Mary Oliver

Patti Hall‘s review

Sep 22, 13
Recommended for: Lovers of dogs, pets, poetry and nature.
Read from September 20 to 22, 2013, read count: 2

I won an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Dog Songs through a Goodreads and publisher book giveaway.

One of my best friends turned me on to Mary Oliver several years ago, and I have been hooked ever since. Mary’s poetry is clear, concise and loving to the small things in this world that many of the rest of us simply overlook. If there is any uncertainty in her writing, it is about something that she notices and then questions. Otherwise, you will find no ambiguity in her words.

About Dog Songs? You are going to love it! Mary’s new book begins with a puppy, of course, and then we learn all the things that she (and most of us) love about dogs. She says that the thing these furry friends have that we humans just don’t, their secret ingredient, if you will, is steadfastness.

There are so many places in this book that I smiled, laughed and teared-up. While Mary shows the many nuances of these animals, she also shines light and love on their connection to our own species. She adds word to word, sentence to sentence, to offer up another poem that shows our bonds; dog to human, bound in pure love.

Mary doesn’t hide reality under the rug either. Dogs aren’t always that cute, they have gross and annoying habits, and they (sadly) have relatively short life-spans. While you read, please notice the way Mary touches her dogs. It is subtle, but do you feel the reverence?

It’s all here, in this little white book. The beautiful pen and ink illustrations by John Burgoyne are as clear and concise as Mary’s words. There’s nothing overly sweet, silly or gushy in her words, yet the dog songs may make you feel that way.

I am surrounded by gushy dog-lovers. Almost every person in my circle is a gushy dog-lover. I am not. I am a plant-animal-bug-tree-sky-water-lover. And not gushy at all. I do hear all of their songs though.


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Midlife Collage Contest Essay, “Love, Laughter and Loss”

sunset, moon, coastguard

Sunset Moon & Coastguard Tower, Westport, WA
PHALL PHOTO 2013

As usual, the photo is unrelated to the text :>) I hope that the Coasties love this one. More photos of mine at phallphotos.wordpress.com 

One of my stories is in the  Midlife Collage contest this week (Monday through Sunday). It’s called “Love, Laughter and Loss” and is up against four other short stories. It only runs until this Sunday.

http://midlifecollage.com

This contest pays $50., but it asks more of the reader/voters;

  1. Facebook “likes” count a lot in the final judging. So, please click the Facebook link at the bottom of my story—it looks like a thumbs up.
  2. Please leave one of your thoughtful comments at the end of the story. Comments count for judging, only if they are more than a quick, “Great story!” What emotions, memories, thoughts came up when you read it? What did you think about the quality of writing? Was it descriptive enough? Logical beginning, middle & end?
  3. Please go to “Closing Arguments” (at the top of each page, in the header) and convince the judges which story should win this week and why. I usually copy and paste my comment from the story I want to win, then make it stronger for the judges.
  4. For you to “qualify” to give the judges your opinion in the “Closing Arguments” you have to click a box that says that you have read at least 3 of the stories.

Thank you for taking the time to do this for me.

Patti


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What Happens In A Bed

Eight days before her 50th birthday they were married in their cozy new pajamas, holding hands on his bed in the hospital. The pastor and witnesses wore protective hospital gowns and gloves; the patient was in isolation once again. A special dispensation from the head doctor allowed the bride to wed without protection. (Pun intended).

The bride’s aunt and the couple’s neighbor came the day before on a ring and pajama-driven mission. On the big day the pastor and his wife brought more pre-owned wedding rings to choose from. No flowers were allowed. No rice-tossing, no wedding music or little flower girl. No wedding dress or tux. No wedding cake either, although a nurse brought them cake on their 1-month anniversary. Frankly, they wouldn’t have chosen a big-event kind of wedding anyway. But a garden wedding might have been nice; by this time of year, their neglected back yard was surely exploding in blooms.

The pastor and his wife (a witness) were dear friends who had traveled 6 hours across the mountains with only 3 days notice. The other witness was from the bride’s new circle of caregivers who lived in the hospital with their stricken family members. This witness had a 20-year-old son who was having life-threatening challenges while waiting for a heart transplant. Later she would lead the pastor to her son’s room for a blessing.

The bride simply had to marry the guy after his sweet middle-of-the-night proposal, on knees that were so swollen that they could barely bend; they laughed and cried as he grabbed her waist and she helped him up off the floor, back onto his hospital bed.

This scene reminded both of them of a night in their own bed several years before, where they got to laughing so hard that they both ended up on the floor.  Humor was a big part of who they were as individuals and defined them as a couple.

wedding hands

After their friends left, after the certificate was signed, he was set up with the postponed blood transfusion, as the new wife slipped back into her protective garb. Later that night she unfolded her cot and moved it next to his bed; they slept in wedded bliss holding hands between the beds.

Her birthday began just past midnight 8 days after the storybook wedding. She woke to him singing “Happy Birthday” in his whispery-raspy voice, and ending in the words, “…and many more with ME!”

His optimistic song and the effort he made to sing it were her best gifts ever. Her birthday passed by at the bottom of a long list of medical priorities that day, but her thoughts kept drifting back to his gift. If she closes her eyes and allows herself, she can still hear it today.

Seven weeks later, 11 days before his birthday, the new bride became a widow. Preparing him for the next step on his journey, eyes filled with tears, she lovingly bathed and dressed his body on their own bed at home. He had been Captain of the volunteer fire department and 2 of his men helped her. Later, the new widow’s mother sat in a chair next to the bed, humming soothing words and watching her daughter frantically cover up his body as it cooled.

The pastor and his wife would be heading back across the mountains soon.