Case Study

Last night during a lull in the Insomnia Wars, I had a dream. Personally, I think dreams are underrated; they are always significant (if only to know what not to eat before bedtime). This dream had as its main feature a lost suitcase and my futile efforts to recover it, despite realising at one point that it had nothing of value in it. My keys were returned to me, and I hadn’t even realised they were lost. I say ‘keys,’ but it was/is just one key on a chain with my Route 66 medallion and two of those mini-sized plastic cards: Dunnes Stores and my library card. (Wow. Not only were the key(s) the same ones I do in fact own. I’m after realising that they represent my favourite and/or most needful things: a roof over my head, body fuel, mind fuel, and travel. I had already had all I needed. See? Don’t dreams ROCK?)


A little background would be in order, as it’s been so long since I’ve written anything on this blog. A few months ago the Occupational Therapist assigned to me did assessments of both my personal and my home’s strengths and weaknesses. Only weaknesses get the State to part with any money, however, so she concentrated on those. The steep slope of my driveway (far too steep to be safe in my powered wheelchair) and the fact that my shower is not on the ground floor disturbed my OT the most. She wrote a smashing letter detailing the dangers of my dwelling-place and instructed me to apply to the Council for housing forthwith.


And so I did. The letter had the desired effect! Within one week I had an interview; within just two days (it must be some kind of record) I was informed that I WAS ON THE LIST! Whoo-who! Since there was no available ‘sheltered housing’ (similar to US independent living), the Council offered me the new scheme called Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). I could find suitable private accommodation and they would pay 300/month toward it. Suh-weet!!!!


Back up. Whoaaaaaaaa, Nellie! The paper on which the letter was written was tangible enough, and I’m sure their wish to help me out was sincere, but there is, in reality, no available local authority housing. There is, in reality, virtually no suitable private housing available either.


What’s a poor cripple to do? I’ve been searching since mid-May, ever since I got the OT’s letter, but the few places I saw online, when I rang to see if they were wheelchair-accessible, were off the market as soon as an able-bodied person could get themselves over there. (It helped that these lessees didn’t have the added HAP paperwork, of course. Irish landlords hold a deep horror for all paperwork and the spectre of government that accompanies it. Unlike American landlords, they’re not afraid of my disabilities. One of the perks of living in a place where people are not obsessed by insurance, I might add.) Anyway, Arranging Transport is my third most time-consuming activity: first place goes to Sleep; second goes to Filling Out Paperwork. (You may wonder at my describing Sleep as an activity, but if you had the dreams I do, you’d know why! I accomplish in those hours all those things I used to do in real life — and then some. It’s a pleasant place to be.)


Then, lo and behold, last week I found a place in Letterkenny, way the hoo-hah out there and offering a greater chance that I could be stranded because of lack of — you guessed it! — Transport. I’ve had several occasions here where the wheelchair taxi gets me to my destination but cannot get me home again. These occasions have been inconvenient and scary, but I did manage to get home in the wheelchair; in this new place I would not be so lucky. In addition, my neighbour warned me that the noise transfer from overhead in these apartments was horrific. In my stair-climbing past, I always chose top floor apartments if I could get them, but those days are long gone. Unless I can get a wee bungalow, I’m doomed to living under people’s feet. (Hmmm…methinks there’s another self-discovery essay lurking in those words…)


Anyway, I arranged to have the prospective landlord collect my walker and me so I could look at the place. (My wheelchair weighs more than I do. It does not, despite its ads’ proclamations, “fold up for easy transport!” LIE. It’s a job for Superman.) The fatigue from the outing, which took three hours to prepare for and about an hour to complete, left me decimated. The thought of an actual move, and the stress that accompanies it, overwhelmed me.


I wondered: if I have to move anyway, do I want to stay in Letterkenny? Perhaps there would be something in Sligo? Donegal has no trains, but Sligo does. All the Irish Rail trains accommodate wheelchair users, you see — unlike the buses — and I have a free Travel Pass. Sheltered housing is available in Sligo or Mayo, too, for when I need that full-time care. So I looked online and sure enough, there was a place in Ballymote I’d tried to get into when I first came to Ireland. (Remember: my US disability pension does not allow me to live in the major populated areas of Ireland. Rural areas are much less expensive but require a car, and I no longer have that option.)


I talked to the letting agent and arranged that I would take the bus to Sligo and the train from Sligo to Ballymote. The buses on the Letterkenny – Sligo – Galway route have no wheelchair access, so the driver was going to somehow get me into a bus seat and stow my Rollator in the luggage compartment. The agent was going to meet me at Ballymote. I was hoping that my friends from Tubbercurry would meet me at the apartments and bring a transport wheelchair so I could see the place properly and judge its interior wheelchair access. The whole adventure, all told, would take twelve hours.


And I don’t manage well with hour-long events? What was I thinking?


And therein was the problem: I was thinking, not enquiring. I was swallowing whole both the medical practitioners’ recommendations and the fears of well-meaning friends. I felt I had to move because THEY felt I had to move. Further, I had given in to What If? scenarios and future thinking. What if we have as much ice and snow as last year and I can’t get up the driveway at all? What if I can’t get to the __________ (supermarket, doctor, bank, etc. etc.)? What if I never get to see ____________ (my kids, my grandkids, my friends) again because I can’t get a ___________ (train/bus/plane/taxi/horse & cart)?


I keep thinking I need access to various forms of transport, but I don’t. I’m not going anywhere. My life is like the key chain in my dream: I have books; I have food; I have a roof over my head. And I have the memories of my travels, as expressed in my dream by the Route 66 souvenir I bought when I drove cross-country from Albuquerque to Maple Park. (I had lots of baggage on that trip.)


In the dream, I had arranged my suitcases in the last train carriage in such a way as to discourage anyone else from sharing the space. My intent was to sleep the whole way, you see. After leaving my stuff strategically placed, I wandered along beside the train, looking at the people on the platform (and probably searching for the dining car). I had arrived early and the old-fashioned, Orient-Express-like train had not yet left the station. When I returned to my compartment, however, there was another woman there. She’d moved my suitcases to another car and I was livid. “This is my compartment!” I shouted at her. “I need to sleep and I must lie down! I can’t sleep sitting up! You had no right to move my suitcases.” (Was this the dream equivalent of Who Moved My Cheese?)


The woman, who reminded me of an Irish pal of mine I’ve lost touch with, Sharon Brady, said, “Well, the train is full now, but if you want your bags they’re three or four cars down. I stuck them under the seat.” I didn’t have time to saunter; I needed to get those bags! I rushed along outside the train, the top of my head even with the bottoms of people’s feet (there’s that image again!), asking if anyone had seen the brown soft-sided suitcases with leather accents. The stationmaster was beckoning me onto the train, but still I kept going forward, well past the point the Sharon lookalike had said she’d put the bags. I reached the front of the train and there was no sign of them. Exasperated, the stationmaster told me I had to get on, then and there. I did, downcast, and vowed I would search every cabin again at the next stop.


I made it back to my train car, still agitated that I could not find my suitcase. (It had gone from two suitcases to only one, for some reason I can’t fathom.) The door slid open and a passenger from further down came in, holding my key chain. “Are these yours?” he said. “They must have fallen out of your coat pocket when you came looking for your bags.”


I instantly felt inside my pockets. I was unaware of even wearing a coat until that point, let alone having lost the keys. “Why, yes! They’re mine.” I took them from his hand. “You didn’t find the bag, though?” The Sharon said, “There must have been something of great value in that suitcase to mean more than those keys.”


I went over in my head what I’d packed in the suitcase. Nothing of value, just some clothes and toiletries. I thought to myself, Surely there was something more important in there to have obsessed about it to this degree? I racked my brain, but no: there hadn’t been anything of importance in the case. And then I was struck with how ungrateful I’d been toward the person who’d found my keys. I had focused on the worthless suitcase and hadn’t even noticed I’d lost the key to my home. Anything else could be replaced, but not the key. “Thank you, young man. Thank you so very much for finding my keys. I’m sorry I was so ungrateful.” I turned to the Sharon and said, “You’re right. There was nothing of value in that case. All I need, I already have.” Then I woke up.


The Real and True Reality? I do not have the strength to go further than the door of the wheelchair taxi or Town Bus. I don’t have the stamina for more. Indeed, a move to a new home would do more harm than good. Yes, I would get 300 euros a month, but when has money ever been the key to Happiness? I could win the lottery tomorrow and it wouldn’t change a thing. And the best bit? Not only am I physically unable to undertake major journeys, I don’t need to go any further than my own front door. I’ve got the ruby slippers. (No, really! I do! Lee Barnes gave them to me last winter.)


This is the second detailed, memorable dream I’ve had featuring baggage. A few days before my hospitalization at the end of April, I had one where I was focused on a black backpack. My childhood friend Gayle, who passed away thirty years ago and appears in dreams before life-changing events, was with me. She kept saying, “You don’t need all this stuff. You don’t need this where you’re going.”


And Gayle was so right, as was the Sharon in my dream last night (who is, of course, a representation of the Me I’ve lost touch with). We carry all these cases (worst-case scenarios; best-case scenarios) without checking the contents to see if we really need what’s in there. Not only that, we use our precious energy dragging them with us at all costs. We can’t use the key to open the door to our Present if our hands are full of yesterday’s baggage, can we?


When I woke up today, I felt a great relief. I don’t have to find a new place to live. I don’t have to spend what precious energy I have left searching for what I’ve lost, either, for I haven’t lost anything of value. What I treasure is either still here, or is in a place to which I cannot travel — and for which I can pack no suitcase.


A point in case.

Perfect Thyming

ThymeI slide the glass door
In wafts
smell of thyme
mint and lavender travel, too,
but thyme
the stronger scent
reaches me first.

lord of herbs,
travels first —
lavender and mint
close on her

This thyme’s a woman,
three times the lady
I am.
I but planted her
grounded her roots;
her powers are her own.

I remember past thymes —
irradiated —
big-city, rushed-life thymes; or
bagged and tagged
tea-thymes that
by their very de-naturement
could not be a patch on this thyme,
the thyme before me,
the thyme that might heal all wounds.

This thyme
I’ve got it right.
I pluck it gently
savour it fully.

There’s no present like my thyme.

Words to the Whys

More than once I’ve been asked why I identify with, and therefore travel, the Sufi path. (It is a path, not a religion. You don’t have to be a Muslim to be a Sufi; anyone can travel the path, either solo or with the beliefs of your choice as a companion.)

I found online this delightful encapsulation of but a few pearls of Rumi’s wisdom. If you don’t know who Rumi is, you may want to check him out. His work inspired me above all else to follow the Sufi path of love, harmony, and beauty.

I edited what I found online into a form ‘suitable for framing,’ as they say. I did it as a reminder to myself why I follow the Sufi path, but then thought I would post it here. Perhaps you, too, shall find a pearl or two of wisdom for yourself. These are distillations of his work — if you really want to be blown away, read his poetry!

May all unfold beautifully for you,
Khabira (aka Jen!)

I blame Yoda

‘No try. Only do.’

Do; do; do. As Americans (but increasingly I’m seeing it in other societies as well), we’ve grown up believing that only when we are ‘doing’ are we of any value.

And as a sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder, I have spent my life trying to ‘do’; trying to prove I was smart enough, holy enough, attractive enough, kind enough, hard-working enough, rich enough, poor enough, able enough, disabled enough. But whatever I did was never enough. Even if the governing agency/family member/ doctor/counsellor/priest/bishop/professor thought I’d done enough, I never felt I’d done enough. Always more to do! Never enough! I’ve never felt ‘enough.’

Even my last blog: I shared my wisdoms with you because, once again (but unmindful of my motivation), I was trying to prove myself, prove to you the wisdom of my choices, past and present. I wanted you to see that things really and truly do work out perfectly and at exactly the right moment. I wanted you to know I’m happy. Joyful, even! As someone who cares for me, you desire this, right? ‘This blog is a really cool way to tell you I’m doing great!’ I thought.

Yet no one believes me. I’ve been blown away by the reactions to my last blog. Perhaps it was cryptic, but that’s only because you haven’t realized those truths for yourself yet. (Look how long it took me!)

Perhaps it’s that you, too, are trapped in a ‘do-do’ world. Your frustrations come from not being able to ‘do’ anything for me. Oh, my beloved one, your unfailing love and emotional support over the years is more precious than you can ever imagine. It’s been the kind of love that has wrought miracle after miracle in my life. How can you possibly think you haven’t/can’t ‘do’ enough to help me? In fact, the kind of help you give (through your love and support) can be given from anywhere in the world. The miracles of Skype and such can help me to see your dear faces, but there’s not an app in the world that can generate the love I have from you, and vice-versa.

So many of you still wonder why I’m in Ireland. I’m not sure what you think I’m doing over here, but I can assure you that I am fighting still for my invalidity pension. I’m fighting for the disability allowance. I’m on pain medication (maybe this is why I feel euphoric?!) and can walk without my cane or walker. I started a statin for the cholesterol. I’m on the angiogram waiting list, and I may be able to get into a clinical trial for those who have Hyperlipidemia Type IIa. Next week I’m getting a biopsy of the breast lump. I’ve got my first appointment with a PTSD counsellor tomorrow. I got blood results back today, and my haemoglobin is over 13 — for the first time in ten years. (This means the B12 issue is improving.) Ireland is a good place for me to be. My body likes being here because it seems to work better. And did I mention it’s FREE? (Portland was great, too, but it’s too expensive to live there.)

If you’ve sent money, thank you. I am now warm enough (at last!). I can now afford to drive to the places I need to go for these treatments. Nearly all the services are at least half an hour’s drive from here and many are not accessible by bus.

You see, I’ve taken my own advice, the wisdom I shared with you in my last blog. Despite the reactions I’ve had to medications in the past, I’m taking them. Despite my aversion to drugs and my abhorrence of surgical procedures, I’m going to undergo them. I will not let past experiences or future fears make my decisions. I’m in Ireland and these health services are available for FREE (or nearly free.) And, I remind myself, I can’t make a wrong decision, especially if I’m in the right place.

Would any of you be able to do a breast biopsy or an angiogram? Of course not. I don’t need you for that, though. And I have Irish friends who check on me all the time. I’m having a ball in Fintown, taking Irish lessons, learning to play the tin whistle and accordion, attending local events, and just enjoying life. I have a huge house with no stairs, so I get around just fine. I love fixing it up. I’ve got a compost heap out the back for the garden I hope to tend.

How frustrating that people don’t believe me, but then again, I have no control over how people are going to react to what I say or write. You’d have to see me to believe me, I guess. (And that’s where the irony of the situation comes in, eh?) After this blog, I refuse to try to prove myself again to you. (Well, I’ll try!)

I just want you to know that your doing ‘nothing’ but loving me is why I’m so damn happy. It’s why, over the past several years, I’ve said I feel like the wealthiest woman in the world even when I had only a dollar in the bank. Surely no one is loved as much as I am. You couldn’t do more for me if you had a million dollars. No, really!

I would have loved to personally email each of you who responded to my last blog, but I don’t want to spend all my time on the computer! None of us know when our end will be, but I hope mine comes when I’m either sharing time with you in my home, or out enjoyin’ meself.

Whether you believe I’m joyful or not is out of my control. I shall stop trying to convince you. Please keep my last blog (and maybe this one, too) handy. Someday, it won’t seem cryptic at all. You’ll understand that my words are the greatest gift I know how to give; they are symbols of my love for you. I’m trying to put into words things that cannot be described and that exist outside of the physical realm. There is no ‘try’; there is no ‘do’; there is only BE.

Take that, Yoda!

Top Ten Tips (or, The Tao of the Broc for her bewildered friends & family)

I started with four tips. Then it was six. Now I do believe it’s more than ten, but I love to alliterate, so what can I say? After the Tips, I’m afraid I’ve got even more to say. [Words of warning: don’t read this at work unless your boss is out of the office. You’ll be fired for time-wasting.]

I considered splitting this blog into byte-sized pieces for easier digestion, but I confess to a sense of urgency though it is not of a frantic, frenetic or panicky nature. If there is such a thing as serene urgency, then this drives my words. I assure you that I was utterly sane, sober, and compos mentis, at least for the two days it took me to pen this. Whether the life that resulted in the wisdom I share today was totally sane, well, I cannot be the judge of that. Many wise folks have been accused of insanity and worse. And yes, I am presuming to call what’s in here wisdom. It is the distillation of my years on earth.

I’m in the process of discovering whether I have the courage to accept the Truth of the Tips I share with you now. I am dealing with powerful health ‘facts’ right now that almost send me running to the nearest hole in the sand. The Sirens of Sensibleness, dressed in white coats and carrying lab results, shriek at high volume — and I can’t seem to find my earplugs. Answers are found in stillness, not noise; I know this. (Ah! Another tip…) This blog could only be written in the quiet hours when the Sirens were out of the office scaring other humans.

I hope you appreciate, after you’ve read this, the irony of my using the Internet — the goal of which is to provide ‘facts’ — to share my insights on the folly of relying on ‘facts.’ I love the ironies of Life. Perhaps that’s all Life really is…but I digress. And this blog will be long enough as it is. Let me begin! Bear in mind that these are in no particular order. You’ll get ’em as I wrote ’em.

TIP 1: Worry fixes nothing. It just gets in the way of either solving your own dilemma or being there for someone as they go through their rough patch. Worry is a waste of energy.

TIP 2: Respect the processes of others. I’ve noticed that when people can’t imagine themselves doing what you do, they tend to dismiss what you do altogether, or (worse) tell you you’re wrong to do it.

TIP 3: What looks to be bad/unfortunate timing never, EVER is. The secret is to live in the moment and not be swayed by [1] fear (read, ‘past occurrences or ‘future plans’), or [2] what others think of your in/actions. If you feel anxious, it means you either haven’t noticed how perfect the timing was, or you don’t have enough evidence to realise it yet.

TIP 4: Question everything you think. An updated version of Einstein’s ‘Don’t believe everything you think.’ Go ahead! Be brave enough to challenge your thoughts. If the Thought turns out not to be true FOR YOU, then thank It for being there when you thought you needed it, open the door, and gently send It on Its way. Notice how I wrote, ‘for you’? Here’s the real gem of this Tip: Each person has his/her own truth. Every raindrop has a different view of the sky, or the earth, or the cloud from which it descends. [Yes, I really did think of that one myself.]

TIP 5: If you stay in the moment, you’ll have the most current and reliable information upon which to base your decisions. I use ‘current’ deliberately. We are composed of energy and the vital information we require, whether spiritual or temporal, arrives when we need it, as surely as water automatically seeks its own level. The supply of information/energy is endless and ever-changing; thus the possibilities are endless. This is fundamentally different from predestination/fatalism, I might add.

TIP 6: ‘If-Only’s are an utter, complete waste of your life energy. Agonising over ‘If-Only’s not only diverts the stream of energy you need to make present decisions, but also destroys your ability to enjoy the gifts you have right now. Oh, for a while after my dad passed away and the mind-boggling events surrounding the doling out of his estate plagued my brain, I indulged in the ‘If-Only’ diversion. Want instant depression? Play the ‘If-Only’ game! I stopped playing, though, when I thought of the many gifts I have — and yes, I thought of you, for you are a great gift to me. I just had to tell ya.

TIP 7: Don’t confuse ‘facts’ with Truth. Epiphanies and ‘A-ha!’ moments are windows to Truth; ‘facts’ are bricks for the walls that hide them. The phrase ‘cold, hard facts’ makes more sense now, does it not?

TIP 8: Perception is Reality. Be vigilant that your perception is based on Truth and not ‘facts.’ Remember that each person’s perception differs from yours, just like those raindrops I talked about earlier.

TIP 9: Don’t deny another’s Reality. Focus instead on living your own Truth. Your life may be the window through which another discovers his/her Truth, but you have no control over this. Life becomes easier if you just assume that everyone is doing the best they can. If they could do better (as Maya Angelou said), they would.

TIP 10: If you feel angry or offended by someone, rejoice! Take this as an opportunity to add to your own Truth. An unquestioned ‘fact’ is blocking your view.

TIP 11: Facts are Truth’s shadows. That’s why they’re so mesmerising! They look like the Real Thing, but in fact, they have no substance.

TIP 12: Truth is in the mirror. And no, this is not the one in your bathroom. You will see yourself in every single person you encounter — the nice stuff, and the not-so-nice stuff. We can only see ourselves; we can only recognize what we have experienced. Once you get the hang of this piece of Truth, you’ll be addicted! You’ll look forward to every encounter… ‘what about this guy is me?’ or ‘Why do I like her so much?’ It really is all about You. Revel in it. (Perhaps this explains why, in the past, I’ve needed so much alone time. I could only take so much Me. Had to give it a rest!)

TIP 13: A life lived by ‘facts’ alone will not be a Joy-full one. Yes, it may have happy moments, but that’s because (as you will find on your journey) we’re already surrounded by happiness. It seeps through the cracking bricks we call Facts. We are meant to be happy, and (like that water I talked about earlier) happiness must find its own level, no matter the obstacles. When ‘facts’ fall away, though, through the window you’ll glimpse JOY. Why? Because Joy can only exist in Truth. ‘Facts’ obscure Truth; thus, they obstruct Joy. Happiness is cool, but Joy totally rocks. It’s my drug of choice.
[P.S. A society whose system relies on ‘facts’ — whether they be scriptural, scientific, or legal — at the expense of Truth cannot claim to be just, or to be dispensing justice. Justice without mercy must go by another name, for mercy, too, is a function of Truth. ‘Facts’ do not take one’s heart/intention into account. I’m sad to say that this has happened to Ireland since my last visit.]

Ah, I can almost see you! Nodding in agreement here; there shaking your head at my stubborn reliance on heart (Truth) over head (‘facts’). Welcome to my dilemma!

The health facts with which I am faced are, in a word, dire. If I listen to ‘facts,’ I could very well be down-hearted. (And my loved ones, you might be, too.) For example, if I listen to facts, then I must not fly because of the risk of stroke or heart attack. In ‘fact,’ I should never have flown in the first place. Please note that I did not get this wave of information until I came to Ireland and had blood tests here. Ooh, Life’s irony! You’ve got to love it! (And truly, I am not being sarcastic! I do love Life’s twists and turns and surprises.)

Oddly enough, my reaction to the numbers the doc showed me was a hand to my heart: an almost-universal sign for humans hearing Truth. (Pay close attention to what your hand does when someone gives you information. The hand-to-heart, involuntary movement is a human reaction to Truth. Watch for it.) This reaction also occurred when I rounded a sharp bend on the way to my current home, Fintown; I had to pull over to the side of the road to take it in. The view fit a vision I’d had after my heart attack in 2003 and a visit from a fortune-telling nurse. I rounded that curve in the road and realised, ‘This is the end of your journey, Jen.‘ Far from being depressed, I was filled with great joy. I knew I was in the right place.

So…do you really want me to live by the ‘facts’? I care for you so much that I’m tempted to succumb to the Sirens of Sensibility, but if I do, then I very well may not see you again. Truth is so much kinder than ‘facts.’ Or shall I continue to follow — and O! this is so poignant to me — my heart? My bruised, battered, stomped-on, oft-betrayed, full-of-love heart. When I leave, no matter what the cause of death may be, you can be assured that the real cause was my heart had had enough and gave up. I will have lived and died by the heart. I am very glad of that. Know that all I did, I did because I thought I was helping you. My heart was and has always been in the right place, I’ve finally realised. Duh!

Truth be told (and sure, this is the meaning of my writings today), the Truth shines so brightly that the ‘facts’ cannot be seen. ‘In the noonday sun, there are no shadows,’ as someone once wrote. Or, to put it in the words of one of Debs’ and my favourite songs, ‘I can see clearly now.’ It’s impossible to be afraid when Truth’s light shines so brightly. Plus, Truth does not have our timeline; it has no calendars. I could be here for ages yet. All I know is that I’ve been given a glimpse of Truth from a wide-open window. Since I’m still here, I’d like to get a few things in order so you won’t have too much of a mess to contend with when I go. I’ll be asking some of you for information or favours, but you must do what feels right for you. I’m trying to avoid a mess, but then again, maybe you need that mess. It’s all out of my hands, at any rate!

At some point I hope you realise how I’ve honoured you by sharing my Truth, but I realise that’s out of my hands, too. Let me leave you with things that maybe you can accept.

–Know that I’m not afraid. Truly. The light of Truth banishes all darkness, and thus removes all fears. Any fear, worry, or anxiety you’re feeling is your own. I don’t feel it.
–Know that you cannot make a mistake. We all stumble in the dark; that’s not the same as a mistake. If you could do differently, you would.
–Know that you help me most by respecting my Truth, especially if you don’t agree with it.
–Know that it has been an honour to meet you on my path. You have enriched my life in untold ways.
–Know that what you love about me is your own beautiful Self shining back at you.
–Know that you are loved, deeply and unconditionally, by me.

It would be lovely to see you again, that’s for sure. Inshallah, that will happen. But for now, sorry, I’m driving! Must concentrate. There’s a sharp bend in the road ahead. If the signs are to be believed, a bit down the road there’s a bridge under construction. I don’t see any workmen around, but that’s Ireland for you: either half a dozen fellas staring at a hole in the ground, or there’s not a workman in sight. The road I’m on is too narrow to make a U-turn, or I might be tempted to turn back. At least it’s a bright, sunny day. Nothing hidden. I like that.

Onward I go. Later, ’gator.

‘Can’t Connect to the Server’

It nearly always happens after I’ve given up. My pot of coffee is down to its last cold sips (like myself, no matter how I bundle it up, the carafe goes cold rapidly), yet another morning’s ritual has been denied.

Perhaps it would be fairer to say that I have replaced my cherished coffee-and-crosswords routine with one where I walk back and forth to the tiny portable modem stuck in one of the two Arctic-like rooms in which it works. If I’m not trying to place the modem where it’s happy, I’m cajoling my computer or massaging it gently, my finger on the mouse pad, trying to get it to relax and just link up, already. When kindness doesn’t work (and it often doesn’t), I hurl epithets; that never works, either. Most mornings I switch between my ancient MacBook and my ailing Acer. I try Firefox. I try Safari. In desperation one day, I must confess, I used INTERNET EXPLORER!! God help me…

Maybe IT — the Great Server — just wants to see me write, as I’m doing now? Engrossed in my task, I just glanced up to see the elusive Guardian Cryptic puzzle I’ve been trying to nab for three days. There it is! On the screen at last! Afraid to breathe, I hit ‘Print.’ OMG, it prints.

Of course, I’ve no more coffee suitable to drink now. Shall I go wild and make a fresh pot? [‘Do I dare to eat a peach?’] Feeling very bold indeed, I opt to try to print a SECOND puzzle, daring the Server to bestow an extra blessing; an extra miracle. First, though, I want to get this all down for my Broc blog. I’m having epiphanies here, so no time to waste.

I realise that I am the Cryptic Guardian’s servant, am I not? The Server has become the Served. The Server has no power; it is illusory. Nowadays, there isn’t even a ‘man behind the curtain’! I have given it power — my power, in fact — the power to control my life. And it doesn’t even register.

Ah. I just looked up at the screen. “Safari can’t open the page,” I’m told. Can’t or WON’T, I say to myself. I read on. “The server unexpectedly dropped the connection.” Indeed! Greedy little so-and-so. Simply must have attention all the time, eh? [Jen: MUST STOP TALKING TO SELF!]

The truth hits me: Yes. True. The server is not, for all my slavish attention to it, capable of anything but distracting me from Life, from the Reality I say I prize above all else. It needs nothing. I’M the one who needs attention!

I wonder…if I try to open Broccoli4Breakfast, will it open? It’s not a site for selling anything but my soapbox ideas, and there are no puzzling graphics to slow things down.

I try it. I’ve almost forgotten my password, but it comes to me. Hit ‘Enter’…lo and behold, it works! I hesitate, because I really wanted to put my New Year’s Day blog in first. But it’s not right in front of me, this blog is. Pay attention to what’s in front of me, that’s the ticket.

Et voila — you’re reading it.

I did it! I did it! I really, really did it!

Yes, I managed to crank out 50,000+ words to win NaNo for the fourth (or is it fifth?) time. Zippedy-doo-dah!

I’ve titled the book ‘Burying Octavia,’ and it really has been fun to write. I’d say I’m halfway through the story, if that. I had a writing partner this time, my young neighbour Mia, who has completed her first NaNo at age 12. She had to do 30,000 words. We met at my house several times a week to write, share our favourite bits of writing, and encourage each other. I never thought I could write with someone else around, but it actually made the whole process much more enjoyable — and productive. I wasn’t planning on doing it this year, but when you have an eager, brilliant young writer looking to you for direction, by gosh, you get it done!

I’ve already had a publisher contact me about the book. Pretty exciting. Those of you who are publishing young adult fiction, though, may want to read Mia’s work. She’s an extraordinary storyteller and she’s only twelve. Wow!

We’re keeping our writing going, as neither of us has actually finished our book. We merely met the word count so we could be NaNo winners. We all do better with a bit of encouragement, right?

I’m going to put arnica on my aching muscles, anoint my feet with lavender, and see if I can’t find some good telly to watch. Time to rest after my big win.

Watch this space, as they say…

New book. New address. Old friend.

Well, I may have had to leave my PhD program, and I may be unemployable these days, but I can still use my education. I just started another NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) despite the fact I have a perfectly good, already-written novel that just needs a bit of TLC.

The new one is called Burying Octavia and is about a PhD student who discovers that a famous classical poet actually stole his most famous poem from his scribe, a woman masquerading as a man (secretaries back in the day were men, not women). The news is not accepted with joy by the academics who have based their ivory-tower lives on this famous poet. In fact, murder and mayhem will result. I hope it turns out to be an absorbing tale.

I’m living in Ireland now, for those of you who don’t know. It’s the only place I can afford to live on the tiny Social Security disability pension I finally won this last July, but it’s also a place of peace and gentleness for me. I need those right now. My father’s recent passing has brought up a ton of angst, grief, and questions despite our last words to each other, a month before his death, being “I love you.” I can no longer blame dad, can I, for my damaged self-esteem. In my emotional flounderings I have erroneously focused on one or two still-alive persons, hoping to fix blame on them for my inner anguish and torture, but of course that cannot work. Apologies to those who received that fallout.

Onward and upward. I’m hoping the focus on writing this new novel will help me exorcise some of the demons I’m dealing with. Communications are difficult from over here, so I apologise for not keeping in better contact. Know that I love you and think of you often. I’m always in your corner — as you are in mine. Now…on to burying Octavia!


Why do lovers lie?

Why alter Truth’s face—

a nip here,

a tuck there—

botox that baby into a fixed, forced smile?

Then trot that tarted-up Truth onto a stage

Hope she doesn’t forget her lines

Add a laugh track

Pray the hidden Truth doesn’t stumble in,

tripping over the footlights?


True lovers love the skin you’re in

Cherish the wrinkles

Feel the pangs of your illness

Grieve at your losses

Hug your weaknesses close to their chests and murmur,

“There, there.”


Unadorned Truth is beautiful when seen through Love’s eyes.

Love isn’t blind at all.

Love sees every cell and adores it for its own perfect self.


That’s why lies and deceit make lovers weep.

Lies dim the lights

Deceit draws the blinds

The loved one’s beauty,


cannot be enjoyed anymore.


And we are left



May 21, 2014

DeKalb, Illinois