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A Letter

(Today I received a copy of the eulogy delivered at the interment of my father’s ashes in the cemetery of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Albrightsville, PA. My stepmother was find enough to send them to me.

This was my reply.)

29 June 2016
Rochester, NY

Dear Joyce,

I received your letter with the copy of the eulogy at St. Paul’s today. Thank you for sending it.

Although it’s been almost five months, I still find myself crying from time to time whenever I think of my beloved father. Today was one of those times.

The one thing I never told him, and the one I wish I had, was that he was my hero. Although we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on many things, he was the one who inspired me to be firm in my beliefs. He often thought he was a failure at being a father; I remember sitting in John’s living room in Berkeley, California, one year and him telling me that he knew there had been many times when he had been too strict with me. My reply was that there were many times when he let me get away with things I would never have let my own daughters do.

I think Dad’s biggest disappointment was that none of us followed him into the ministry. I cannot speak for my brothers, but in my own case it was because I would have forever been trying to measure up to the high standards he had set…and knowing that in my own mind, at least, I’d have found myself wanting. Sadly, I was never able to find the right words to explain this to him.

It’s funny how families change from generation to generation. Their mother and I raised our daughters to be seekers of the truth, to stand up for what they believed in, and never to let anything hold them back. As a result, they grew up and rejected most of my core beliefs, and changed their religion. Yet I could find nothing wrong in this, nor even complain about it because, after all, it is exactly the way we raised them.

Joyce, I’m 66 years old now. I have struggled with clinical depression since birth. Add some PTSD, ADHD, agoraphobia, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder into the mix and I am truly amazed that I have managed to last this long. My life has been a long series of half-starts and failures. I cannot look at my life objectively and point to anything I have accomplished or succeeded at. I have been in and out of psychotherapy and hospital psychiatric wards. I have attempted suicide so many times that I’ve lost count. And yet…

And yet.

“Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.” William Faulkner, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1942.

These words are just as relevant today—perhaps even more so—today than they were in 1942. We live in a world where religion—originally devised as a way to unite people—is used to separate and divide them. It is a world where wars are being fought over which pre-literate society’s book of myths is truer than the other one.

We live in a country where you can be pro-war, pro-capital punishment, pro-hate, pro-racism, and still be considered pro-life. A country that was founded my people in order to exercise their rights to practice the religion of their choice, and whose descendants now use those same religions to deny other people their basic human rights. A country where a legislator can earn a quarter of a million dollars a year for working less than 2/3 of the time, and then say that $7.50 an hour is too much to pay a single mother who works 60 to 70 hours a week just to feed her child.

We put bumper-stickers on our cars that say “HUMAN RIGHTS ARE GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS” when we mean MY rights, and screw yours, Jack.

It’s a country where the Supreme Court has ruled that broadcast news media have the right to lie to its viewers (I’m looking at you, Fox News). A country where blowing the whistle on criminal wrong-doing by the government is itself considered a crime.

Our society loves to blame victims. The only way that I can understand why we do this—despite what every religion teaches us—is that we are only religious when it suits us. I honestly believe that no member of any religion—be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism or whatever—reads their sacred scriptures. Rather they treat them like a software End User’s License Agreement: nobody reads them; we just scroll down to the bottom and click “I Agree.”

And so I write. I write every6 single day of my life. It doesn’t matter if it’s a letter, a journal page, or a blog entry. I write to keep my sanity. It is the only form of long-term therapy that I have found to be of consistent benefit to me.

It keeps the demons at bay for just one more day. And puts off once more the question of “to be or not to be,” for as Hamlet told us,

“But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.”

Forgive me, Joyce, if I have introduced dark clouds into your otherwise-sunny day. I’m afraid that this letter has turned out to be—like so much of my writing—a rather cathartic therapy session.

I miss my daddy. Even when we weren’t speaking to each other, I still loved him, and I missed him. Thank you for being such a wonderful part of his life, for the joy and happiness the two of you shared. And thank you for being a loving grandmother to my baby girls.

With sincere affection and gratitude,

Robyn

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Obladi, Oblada Life goes on

I guess my father’s death hit me harder than I first realized. It’s been over six weeks and I’m still having trouble with it. Since returning home from the funeral, I’ve been grocery shopping twice, and other than that, the only times I’ve left my apartment is to see my therapist or to go to my Friday morning job. Oh, right: I puppy-sat Fyona last week.

But except for rarely venturing outside, I think I’m behaving (mostly) rationally: I’m eating properly, baking bread when I need it, and have become more serious about my diet. No, not a weight-loss diet, but rather diet in the sense of what I regularly eat,

I’ve become a vegetarian. Again

I was a vegetarian for a couple of years back in the ‘70s, and for some unknown reason gave it up. But while I was manning (would it be more accurate to say “womanning”?) the Gay Alliance table at the Nazareth College Health Fair a couple of weeks ago, I chatted with the women at the KickStart Rochester table. I had earlier decided, for economic reasons, to cut out meat from my diet, and I hit them up for information. They were vegan, but I’m not ready to make that drastic a step yet; I like my dairy products too much to want to give them up just yet.

Coffee Without Creamer?

My mother-in-law stops on the way to work every morning for a cup of coffee. She’s done this for years, and always orders the same thing: a large coffee, with two sweeteners and two flavored creamers. One morning she was running late, and when she got her coffee, she drove off without realizing that they had messed up her order and left out the creamer. She didn’t have time to go back and have then fix their mistake, so she drank it as it was.

She liked it! She decided that from then on, she was going to drink it without creamer.

So what’s the big deal? The big deal is that by simply eliminating the artificial creamer from her coffee, she lost 4 pounds in one month. Compare that with the sign by the elevator at Strong Memorial Hospital, which says that by walking up a single flight of stairs instead of using the elevator will cause you to lose 5.4 pounds—in a year,

My creamer ran out last week, and I’m not replacing it. I’ve already stopped using Splenda® and started using Stevia®. Both of them cost about the same, but I only need to use half the amount of Stevia®. Instead of creamer, I’m using skim milk. One ingredient instead of 20 or 30 chemical ingredients.

But since I’ve given up flavored creamer, I remembered that I don’t particularly care that much for coffee! So I’ve gone back to tea. And since brewing a decent cup of tea is a bit time-consuming, that cuts back on how much I drink.

I also have to watch the time. For example, it’s 9:00 pm as I write this. I’d dearly love a cup of tea—I haven’t had one all day—but I know if I have a cup this late at night, I’ll have to stay up at least another hour while the tea makes its way through my system so I can download it before bed.

And my sleep has been terrible lately, and that’s given me migraines.

So the tea will have to wait until morning.

And I shall close this entry on that note and say, in the words of the great Samuel Pepys, “And so to bed.”

Thanks for stopping by,

Robyn

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Blogging With Scrivener

Let’s talk a bit about Scrivener, shall we? I’ve written about it before, back in January, but since then my feelings (and work habits) have changed. My old work-flow looked like this:

  • Compose post in Open Live Writer (OLW)
  • Post it to the blog
  • Copy-Paste entry into Scrivener

But that’s all changed.

Some Background

I first discovered Scrivener a little over a year ago. I downloaded the demo version, used it for a month or so, and then purchased a copy for myself. I said “a month or so” because Scrivener has a generous trial period: you can use it for 30 non-consecutive days. In other words, for 30 days of active use. That means if you only use it twice a week, you can use it for however long 30 days at twice a week comes to. Hey! I was an English major; YOU do the math!

I struggled with the tutorial: although it is very well-written and easy to understand, I have a couple of learning disabilities that make it hard for me to learn via textbook or step-by-step instructions. So while I ended up with a brief understanding of the power of the program, it was a superficial understanding at best.

But I woke up this morning with the intention of learning more about Scrivener.[1] After all, up until now I’ve really only been using it as a glorified file cabinet, and that’s not what it was intended for. So I determined to start to learn how to use it the way it was intended to be used.

Naturally, as I usually do when I want to find information, I headed over to my Internet-based library card catalogue, aka Google®, and type in “Windows Scrivener tutorial.” That brought up several links to YouTube,® and I followed the first one, which brought me here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdwnHo23Ub80.

The Change

That’s when I decided to reverse my work-flow and use Scrivener for composing my entries, and then compiling it for importation into OLW. In other words, I finally decided to start using Scrivener the way it was meant to be used.

Well, that didn’t quite work. See, the thing about Scrivener is that when you compile your work, everything in the main section of your binder (usually labelled Drafts) is included. So when I compiled my latest post for export as an RTF file, all of my entries for the entire blog were included. But since that is the only folder that’s included, I’ve decided to create a new folder inside the Research folder, and move all of my previous posts to that new folder.

And there is a perfect example of the power of Scrivener: it lets you tailor the program to the way you work, rather than forcing you to work the way it thinks you should work.

The Future

So that’s my first step in becoming a better Scrivener user, and in learning how to adopt it to meet my needs. There will be more to follow, I’m sure.

Thanks for stopping by!

Robyn


[1] 1 Actually, I woke up to the sound of the garbage truck emptying the dumpster outside my window.

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When A Parent Dies

My father and I have been estranged for the better part of 7 years, ever since I was outed to him as transgender. Over that time, I have made several attempts at reconciliation, only to be rebuffed every time.

Today my daughter called me with the news that my father—who had a stroke almost a year ago—is dying. She said that she had spoken to my stepmother who informed her that he was going to be 88 on his birthday—“if he makes it that far.” And since his birthday is next month, well, you can see the implication.

This evening I called to see if my father would speak to me. My brothers were there with him, and he accepted my call. I told him that I loved him, and much to my joy, he said the same thing. We had a mostly-good talk (I say “mostly-good” because I was on my cell-phone and he was on speaker phone, and his speech has been adversely affected by his stroke), and we ended on a positive note. I asked if I could call again next week, and he assented.

I finished by speaking with my brother, who said he’d call me tomorrow and we’d talk about what’s going on, and what I can expect.

I’m trying to keep it together long enough to write this, but it’s hard. Hard to sort out the jumbled thoughts and mixed emotions, hard to see the screen through my tears. Hard to realize that the man I’ve looked up to and idolized for such a large part of my life will soon be gone.

But I’m trying to stay positive by concentrating on the fact that we are in fact effecting a reconciliation. My daughter and her mother (my ex-wife) will be flying out to see him soon, and I wish I could afford the air or train or bus fare to see him one last time.

It’s been hard these past few years, but he’s my father, and I love him.

 

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A New Toy!

I like rice. And my favorite rice is brown Basmati rice. I like it so much, I’ve been known to buy it in 20 pound (9 kg) bags. But I have a problem with rice, and that’s the fact that I can’t cook it! You see, I cook on a cheap gas range, and I can’t get the burner to set low enough to simmer the rice. And so I end up with rice that’s either a sticky mass, or overcooked rice that’s stuck to the bottom of the pot.

basmati bag

The other day, when I was craving rice, I remembered that many years ago I had been given a rice cooker as a birthday present, and that it cooked a perfect batch of rice. So I decided to research current models and see if it was feasible for me to buy one. I’m on a fixed income, so whenever I invest in a major purchase, I need to make sure I’m getting the biggest bang for the buck, as the actress promised the bishop.

What do I consider a major purchase? For me, it’s pretty much anything over $30. And the rice cooker I found weighed in at $29.95, on sale from a MSRP of $39.95.

rice-cooker

The Test:

I didn’t get a chance to try it until today. After all, I still had most of a 9”x13” pan of baked ziti with Italian sausage and a homemade sauce, and I wanted to whittle that down before I put it away and tried something new.

The instructions were quite simple: Rinse the amount of rice you want to cook until the water runs clear (this washes away the extra starch), then add the rice and an equal amount of water to the cooker. Close the lid, turn on the machine, and select either White Rice or Brown Rice. That’s it! When the rice is done, the machine beeps to let you know it’s ready.

Naturally, I didn’t follow the instructions. I know a lot of people eat their rice plain, but I’m not one of them. So I figured that since I’m not going to eat it plain, neither am I going to cook it plain. So in addition to the rice and water, I added a can of Ro-Tel Tomatoes to liven things up a bit. And while that was cooking, I diced a small chicken breast and fried the pieces in my cast-iron skillet.

In about 25 minutes, the rice cooker beeped. I opened the lid and removed the inner cooking pot, dumping it into a serving bowl. I added the chicken, and feasted on the first perfectly-cooked bowl of rice I’ve cooked in years!

This weekend, I’ll head off to the Indian food store for another bag of brown Basmati rice, now that I know I can finally cook it properly!

The Details:

The rice cooker:  Aroma® Rice Cooker and Food Steamer, Model ARC-914SBD
Bought at: WalMart
Price: $29.85

And while I promised no ads, I will from time to time share with you products that I like.

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