I'm typing a brief post on my husband's laptop because (cue dirge here) my hard drive is dying. My laptop won't boot up anymore, and I went to the Apple store this afternoon only to find that they could not repair the drive or retrieve any of my files. I'm going to take it to someone else tomorrow who supposedly knows more about the process but to quote Elizabeth Bennett from the BBC version of P&P, "I haven't the smallest particle of hope. I know that nothing can be done." (Not sure if that's exact, but it conveys the idea.)
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The shop where I'm taking my laptop tomorrow will also replace the hard drive. I probably will not get the computer back for four or five business days. Michael is under a tremendous writing crunch for the next two weeks, and I don't expect to be able to snatch his laptop for blogging. So don't expect to see me posting or reading your blogs for about a week.
In the interest of being helpful and trying to make a good thing out of bad, let me offer two pieces of advice.
First, if you ever hear your computer start to make occasional grinding or chugging or whirring noises . . . even if they are slight and stop fairly quickly . . . you should probably get it checked right away. It could be a sign that your hard drive is struggling.
Second, find a way to back up all your files often. We all know that, but I'm living proof that it's possible to become complacent. The only reason I'm not in complete despair is that we signed up for an Internet storage site this summer, and all my fiction and poetry and quite a lot of my work files are safely on that site. But not everything. I neglected to upload some of my work files this last month, so I have some documents to recreate. (I was working ahead and writing things not due till January or February, so it's not quite as bad as it sounds. Except for the tedium of having to redo things.)
There is still the faint possibility that the technician will be able to retrieve some of my documents, . . . but I doubt it. I talked to an expert in California this afternoon--at a company that specializes in data retrieval--and she (of course) wanted me to use their service instead. She explained all about the safety precautions they take, and their highly controlled clean room, and the high success rate they have. However, . . . taking the cheapest option (5 to 7 day service rather than 1 to 2 day service) would cost me between $700 and $2,400. If my novels were in danger of being lost, I might consider it, but not for social studies worksheets that I can redo.
Sigh. Twenty-three years without a hard drive malfunction and now I've had two in six months. What are the odds? . . . Or maybe the odds are just catching up with me.
Have a good weekend, everyone.
Posted by Ruth Hull Chatlien at 7:19 PM
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Hi all. I've started a new writing experiment. I'm producing articles for an online content site called Suite101. To start, I'll be doing mostly history and historical biography, but I may eventually branch out into other areas. The site pays on advertising revenues, so I may add topics if I find things that pull more readers than history--and if I think I have something unique to contribute. I'm planning to do only one or two articles a week at first because my writing schedule is booked pretty solid right now. That's why I'm calling it an experiment.
I put a widget in the sidebar that will allow you to see the titles of my last three articles. They are always short--400 to 800 words--so they won't take much of your time. Feel free to pop over and check it out. Since the history articles are similar to (but less censored than) my educational writing, it will give you a chance to see what I do for a living.
P.S. If anyone is interested in subscribing to the feed, you can do that at my profile page on the Suite101 site.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I haven't posted an update of my reading in a long time.
I'm sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that I've been reading a lot of novels about painters lately.
First, I reread two Chaim Potok novels:
My Name Is Asher Lev is an extraordinarily compelling novel about a young Hassidic Jew who turns out to be a child prodigy in art. This, of course, creates great conflict in his Brooklyn community--which takes the commandment not to make images literally--and his family, as both his parents are preoccupied trying to save Jews from the Soviet Union. Asher is relentless in his artistic vocation, and the book recounts the great pain that the struggle causes to both him and the people around him. I first read the book in the 1970s when I was still in high school. It is one of the novels I have reread four or five times.
The sequel The Gift of Asher Lev follows the events in Asher Lev's life several years later when he is experiencing a crisis in his art. He has been living in Europe, but family events cause him to return to Brooklyn, where he begins to suspect that a great sacrifice is about to be demanded of him.
Then I read three historical novels about real painters by the author Irving Stone. Two of the book are quite famous and one is lesser known (but better loved by me).
Lust for Life (Plume) was Stone's first well-known book, and it recounts the story of Vincent Van Gogh and his efforts to first find a vocation in life and second to fight off the insanity that threatens to destroy him. If you know anything about Van Gogh's life, you will know that this is not a happy book, but I think it is a great one. Stone based it largely on Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo.
The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo is Stone's novel about Michelangelo. The movie version of this book focuses only on the painting of the Sistine Chapel. The novel is far more comprehensive and devotes chapters to the creation of each of his masterworks. It also reveals a great deal about the Italian Renaissance, if you're interested in that period of history.
Finally, my favorite of the Irving Stone "painter novels" is Depths of Glory: A Biographical Novel of Camille Pisarro, partially because I love the Impressionist period and partially because Pisarro was a more even-tempered man than any of the other artists I read about. As with most artists, Pisarro had a terrible struggle to make a living, yet he remained true to his vision and his calling. He had a very stable family life, remaining with the same woman his entire adult life and having (I think) eight children with her. He had to overcome a lot--including family disapproval, the destruction of years of work by the invading Prussian army, and the wave of anti-Semitism that occurred during the Dreyfus affair. (Pisarro was Jewish.) In some ways, I found this book more inspiring that any of the others.
In addition to the painter books, I also finished reading two volumes of poetry, both of which I enjoyed:
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I just read a post in which Dawn showed her children's Halloween costumes, and I thought her daughter's candy corn costume was adorable. It got me to thinking about some of my own favorite costumes, and I thought it would be fun to do a blog meme about them.
I'm going to describe three of my favorite all-time costumes. If you would like to do the same, just leave a comment telling me and I'll come read about yours.
My favorite costume as a child was when I dressed as Wee Willie Winkie:
Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown,
Tapping at the window and crying through the lock,
Are all the children in their beds, it's past eight o'clock?
I wore a nightshirt, a stocking cap, and carried a candle as we went trick or treating. None of the neighbors knew who I was supposed to be, but I still enjoyed it.
One Halloween when I was single, my room-mate and I gave a party, and we told our guests they had to come as something from the Bible. I dressed as a rainbow: red socks, purple tights, blue shorts, yellow top, rainbow striped clown wig, and rainbow stripes painted on my face by a friend. (My roommate Joyce went as a burnt sacrifice. She was all in black with soot on her face and a belt of sticks with construction paper flames.)
Another year, the same roommate and I were asked to a Halloween party given by one of my coworkers. We went as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara. Joyce was six inches taller than me and probably 30 pounds heavier, but she had a Southern-belle-style bridesmade dress. So she wore that and I wore a brocade vest and blue suit coat I borrowed from my brother, and died my hair dark and painted on a Clark Gable mustache. My co-workers didn't even recognize and thought I was a very short man. (I'm not quite 5' 2").
I've always enjoyed costume parties. :-)
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I don't know about you, but when I have a lot of undone stuff hanging over my head, it tends to color my feelings about my whole life. Lately, one of the things that has been bothering me is the onrush of autumn. There is always so much to do to get the yard ready for winter. Our lawn guys did some of the cleanup, but there were still a lot of things left for me to do.
The other fall-related problem has been that my light-therapy lamp has been broken the last couple of weeks. I knocked it over and broke the bulb, and when the replacement came, I found out that another part had been damaged too so I had to get a replacement for it. I have seasonal affective disorder, and with the shorter days, I've been noticing the onset of the blues lately.
Yesterday was beautiful--70 degrees and sunny. In fact, judging from the forecast, it might very well be our last truly Indian summer day. And this was what I accomplished:
- Fixed the lamp.
- Unhooked the outside hoses.
- Called the plumber about the dripping outdoor faucet.
- Dug up my canna and dahlias to try to overwinter them in the garage.
- Moved my one tender rose into the garage for overwintering.
- Moved my terracotta pots into the garage for protection.
- Pulled up my dead squash, tomatoes, and bean plants. Also pulled up the beets I let grow for six months and refused to eat because of fears they would be too tough.
- Stored the tomato cages and squash trellises in the garage.
Plus I did about half a day of freelance work and completed an application to write for an online articles site, something I've been thinking about and gradually working on for a couple of weeks.
Being out in the sunlight did wonders for my mood, plus I feel so much lighter now that have so many things off my To Do list.
Maybe this will help me relax in some of the other areas of my life.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Sunday I made zucchini bread with the last zucchini from my garden. We had a hard frost very early this year, so no more fresh vegies.
Anyway, this is the recipe I normally use:
1-1/2 cup raw sugar
2 t. vanilla
1 c. corn oil
2 c. shredded zucchini
2-1/2 cup whole wheat flour (graham)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
3-1/2 t. cinnamon
1 c. chopped walnuts
Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients and slowly add flour mixture. Add nuts. Bake in two greased and floured bread pans for 1 hour at 325.
Except that Sunday I had only about 1.5 cups of shredded zucchini. However, I did have a small very ripe banana, so I added that to the batter. Hence, I invented zucchana bread.
It tastes pretty good!
P.S. I feel like there is a metaphor in here somewhere about cobbling life together in unexpected ways from the things that turn up rather than the ideal.
Monday, October 19, 2009
I've been dithering about what to write.
I worry that you must be sick of reading about this angst, but I'm still waging an internal war within myself about my art. I don't doubt any longer that I have talent--I've received too much positive reinforcement the last few months--but apparently, the old programming of "You must be a workhorse. You had to work, work, work and not pursue something so impractical" is very deep and powerful. Saturday, I was in tears again before leaving for class and Michael had to talk me through it.
I wish I could explain exactly why I have this terrible fear that it's wrong and selfish for me to study art. One of the things that is so distressing is that I never even suspected I had those controlling messages in my subconscious. A year ago, if anyone had asked me about why I stopped drawing, I would have said something like, "Oh, I don't know. It was one of those things you give up when you stop being a kid. I decided to pursue my writing, and you can't do everything in life, you know." But judging from the way I'm beating myself up about my art class, the reasons and the decision were not nearly so benign.
One of our friends at church (also an artist) thinks that part of the problem is the way our society as a whole devalues art.
When I am actually in class doing the work, I am happy and confident and focused. It's when I'm at home preparing to go to class that the demons set in.
I think that if I just stick to my guns, continue to fight to negative internal messages, and go to class every week, eventually I will resolve the internal conflict. If my past is any indication, if I put in the necessary effort of emotional processing and if I continue in prayer, I will form a new set of beliefs and mental constructs to guide my life. But I have to tell you that this is some of the hardest emotional work I've ever done in my life, defying an old and powerful set of constructs week after week. If we could afford it, I would go back to my old therapist so I wouldn't have to fight this alone, but our financial situation does not allow for that right now.
Another factor adds to the difficulty. The class is from 1:00 to 4:00, and it takes about 75 minutes to drive there and time to set up and put away my stuff each week. So the class takes a chunk (11:30 to 5:30) right out of the middle of every Saturday. I can't really schedule much of anything around it, so it's very awkward. I liked having a Saturday morning class better, but Richard teaches portrait in the morning and human figure in the afternoon . . . and I've discovered that I LOVE drawing the figure. So every Saturday, I find myself thinking, "I hate losing half of every weekend, but I love what I'm giving it up for." And I think that ambivalence triggers the old guilt messages.
I'm going to try taking Mondays off and see if that helps by giving me more of a "weekend" and more time to relax. That will be doable from now till the end of the year, but come January, I'm supposed to go back to full-time again, and I probably won't be able to manage keeping Monday free. But I guess I can't borrow trouble from the future, can I?
Anyway, I'm sorry to keep harping on this issue, but it's still a struggle and sometimes it has me so paralyzed that I just don't have energy to blog.
P.S. The top picture is one I did on my own. The bottom picture is a continuation of the figure I'm doing this month in class.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
This is the figure I'm doing for October. I didn't want to go five weeks without posting some of my work. Clicking on it makes it bigger.
I'm drawing the whole figure. At this point, the bottom half is only an outline sketch. I'll probably post the full monty when it's done. If anyone thinks that will bother them, let me know in the comments or email me privately and I'll make sure to include the word "nude" in the title of such posts, so you can avoid them.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
It occurs to me that I've haven't given an update on my life in a while. Let's see, where to begin.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we've had some work issues. Michael's freelance job ended early, and another job he was promised didn't come through. The hours on my job have been cut back as well, so we're rapidly depleting our savings. In mid-September, I got two weeks of work from a new client, and after a week, they took Michael on to help finish the job, which was massive, rushed, and extremely difficult. (We were writing test questions for state assessments--the tests kids have to take to see if they can graduate. That's all I can say about that. The confidentiality requirements are intense, so I can't even tell you the state.)
The job did not pay as well as I'd like, but it was work at a time we desperately needed it, so I was grateful. The client hopes to use me again, so that's a good thing too.
Even with that job, however, we are still on a pace to run short of funds by late December. I've told Michael that as a freelance writer, I have discovered that my comfort zone is about three months. Once we get a writing assignment, it takes time to finish, and then once we invoice, it can take anywhere from two to twelve weeks to get paid. So that's where the three-months' comfort zone comes in. As long as I can see enough income coming in (from completed jobs or jobs that we've actually started) to take us through the next three months, I stay fairly calm. If we get in a tighter scenario than that, the stress mounts with every day.
Well, as soon as we entered October, we were in that "less-than-three-months red zone." I've been praying and asking for prayers and trying to manage my anxiety, but it's been difficult. One thing that added to the worry is that the assessment job, while welcome, was an example of working very hard at a pay rate that could not possibly sustain us if we continued it full-time. Many of the job leads that Michael was following up (because they were all he could find) were equally low paying, so I had visions of us working incredibly long hours and still coming up short.
Wednesday, I rebelled. I finished my work for the day by early afternoon. Then, instead of doing something related to work or job hunting, I sat down and wrote a short story, my first in about three months. Once I finished that, I cooked chicken and zucchini for dinner, while listening to the iPod and dancing around the kitchen. It felt good to blow off the stress and say to heck with the nonstop discipline and practicality. I felt like I was taking my life back.
Thursday morning in the shower, I told God, "You know what we need much better than I do, but I think that we need Michael to get a job that pays at least $X,000 by the end of the year."
If you've read this blog for any length of time, I'll bet you can guess where this is going. Yep, that's right. Thursday afternoon, someone contacted him about a job that will pay somewhere in the vicinity of $x,000. The work is due early November. We've worked for this company before, and if past patterns hold true, he should be paid by the end of the year.
It's not a done deal yet. Michael has to submit a formal bid and get approved. Then he'll be given a contract to sign. But I think this is going to work out, so I can relax for another month. LOL
P.S. In all fairness, I should tell you that there are plenty of times I ask God for specific things and they don't happen. That actually tends to be the norm. But I do get these incredible answers often enough that it encourages me to keep on asking.
P.P.S. Pray that the paperwork goes through ok, and he does actually get this job.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Not about how to treat an illness but how to seek treatment.
I have had the same doctor (internist) for about 16 years. I like her. She's my age, and she's easy to talk to.
But she's in the office for only about three hours a week. (That's not an exaggeration; that's what she told me.) She teaches in medical school and barely sees patients anymore. She'll see people for their annual checkup because you can schedule that far in advance.
However, she doesn't see people for sudden illness. Instead, if something like that happened, I would have to see her nephew or her niece who are in practice with her. (I guess it's a family practice in more ways than one.)
The niece is new to the office. She hasn't been practicing very long, and I know nothing about her other than the fact that my doctor says I'd be fine with her. I've seen the nephew once or twice, and he seems personable, knowledgeable, etc. But I prefer women doctors. (Not to mention the fact that he is young and distractingly handsome. I know that shouldn't matter but somehow it does.)
My husband sees a different doctor, also a woman. His doctor and my doctor used to be in the same office, but they split the practice about ten years ago. (Maybe to make room for my doctor's relatives???) Michael thinks I should switch. His doctor is more responsive than mine. Anytime he has tests, she calls at the end of the work day and will discuss the results thoroughly with him. My doctor has her nurse call.
Part of me thinks he's right and I should switch doctors. But I hate starting the patient / physician relationship all over. And I have this over-developed sense of loyalty. I feel guilty for considering leaving my doctor . . . even though in one sense, she has already left me.
Any thoughts? Am I making too much of the fact that my doctor has cut back hours? Or is it normal to think of switching physicians in a situation like this?
Posted by Ruth Hull Chatlien at 5:37 PM
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Long-time readers of this blog know about Evan, the son of some friends from church. He has been fighting leukemia for about 15 months.
He had two different bone marrow transplants, and his leukemia has not returned, but he is battling a host of other respiratory and digestive issues. He continues to have to go in and out of the hospital.
This is what his mother posted on her online journal last night.
Please pray for this family.
So, now the why. When Evan was diagnosed we knew things were not good. As I was reminded the other night by Dr. Dave, he had a horrible cancer. Once the genetics of his Leukemia came back we knew that due to his Flt3 (pronounced flit 3) mutation, his relapse rate was pretty much a given. We knew that his best (and pretty much only) chance was to have a Bone Marrow Transplant.
We knew going into transplant that there were many risks, many being life threatening. We have found out many of those side effects and continue to do so. We never imagined to still be in the thick of it almost one yr later. Do we regret the decision, no. We may not have our precious son here today without it. The reality is that he did not have one, but two transplants and his body has been beaten up a lot. He has chronic issues as a result of his treatments. Many people thought that once his BMT was done he'd be fine and we go on with life as we once knew it. That is not the case, life as we knew it is gone. We will never be the Dustan's PC (Pre Cancer) no matter how hard we may try. Our lives are forever changed, some things for the better and some far from. The fact is that Evan's medical issues are a direct result of AML. It stinks, but we must find a way to make the current circumstanc es the best we can. Watching your child work so hard to breathe after all that he has already fought is like being punched in your stomach over and over.