Saturday, December 17, 2011


How do you know when it's appropriate to stop being appropriate? When is it time to say, "Enough"? Like the frog that stays in hot water until it boils, or the slowly-cooking lobster, how do you know? When did normal slip into a condition so abnormal that twenty-five years later I feel so estranged from the person I was when these things happened?

I wasn't around when he began to drink; I only met him in what should have been his prime. How does one recognize the point at which "normal" begins to crumble? Could I have trusted myself to find the moment - the right time - to risk inserting into our lives what would have seemed to be the absurd suggestion that he was in desperate need of help? What was the sign that would have said, "What we are doing is no longer okay." How could I have done that without seeming to be ridiculous? Where was . . . yes, I now know what is meant by the line in the sand. I had no idea in the beginning how long the stretching of our fabric could feel acceptable.

The guy was gentle. The guy was beyond smart. The guy was artistic. The guy was well-read. The guy was thoughtful. The guy introduced me to pre-Classical music, which I adore to this day. He introduced me to authors. He introduced me to thoughts. He introduced me to homeopathy and herbs. He introduced me to a Native American medicine man. He did the most amazing thing with a deck of cards, and I still don't know if he was a wizard, a hypnotist, or just knew an incredible card trick that could be done without his ever touching the cards. Everyone loved him almost to reverence. I could not have predicted where he was going.

He never hit me or shouted at me; he never threatened me. These things I might have been prepared to recognize as indications that his behavior had gone too far. But I did not know how to recognize the signs of this progressive form of another's self-destruction. It seems incredible now.

We all made excuses. We thought he had post-traumatic stress disorder from combat, but his story about being in Vietnam turned out to be a lie. We thought he had lost a wife and child in a horrible, fiery auto accident in the Bay Area. That also turned out to be a lie.

When did normal slip quietly into something else?

Was it when he was sober before we left the house and then inexplicably became drunk by the time we reached our destination?

Was it when we'd been shopping together and I realized he'd put things into my backpack that neither of us had paid for?

Was it when I noticed that I hadn't questioned buying a quart of Vodka for him because he was home zoned out in a stupor and couldn't get it for himself?

Was it when I began to worry about having anyone see my apartment because of all the cigarette burns . . . and I didn't even smoke?

Was it when I looked at the smashed beer cans piled up so high that the only way to get them out of the apartment was in an extra large garbage bag?

Was it when I found that he slept with a knife under his pillow?

Was it when I had nowhere to go because he was drunk in the apartment that I had rented on *my* good references and I could not get him out?

Was it when the Santa Barbara SWAT Team was on our roof?

Was it when I was being questioned by the FBI because he made some stupid threat he never intended to carry out, but he made that threat to the local cops?

For me, I hit bottom somewhere between the cigarette burns and the FBI. I had tried to leave, sleeping uncomfortably in a friend's storage room and then driving miles out of town to stay in a tiny trailer with no phone. When I came back to get my things and called ahead to see if he was okay - and maybe sober - the police intercepted my call and I had to talk them out of hurting him when their armed men were on our roof.

For him, the time never came. He was found dead of alcohol toxin in a cheap hotel long after I'd seen the last of him. I only knew of his death because the police had my contact information on file connected with his name. There had been an incident after we parted ways where he had awakened in the night, probably hallucinating, and asked the police to make sure I was safe. Without him, my life had returned to sanity, but he gave my address and they came to confirm that I was alright. Later, when he died, it seems I was the only contact they had. He had drunk himself away from his family, away from the health care professionals who had tried to help, and away from any of the friends who would have done what they could.

So when do you know? There has to be a point that can be recognized before normalcy unravels. Maybe just before or maybe just after, but certainly before normal becomes unrecognizable.

I believe that one should try to help sick people, and many people did try. But there has to be a line, a place where you can recognize that a good person is doing too many of the wrong things. Do you start to pull the warning cord when the signs are inconclusive? When it bothers you to see someone you care about moderately affected by alcohol when it's not even a special occasion and there's no social excuse? Do you worry that you're out of line to say something when it's only 7:00 PM and once again your friend has a beer in his hand and his face is red? Or do you wait until the apartment is filled with cigarette burns and the SWAT Team is on the roof?

I have no answer, but because of where I've been I have a certain complement of wisdom. A lesson learned. I've become sensitized to seeing self-destructive actions in their infancy. I've seen a darker side of drinking than my upbringing would have suggested I should know. I never thought in a million years I would be running interference between my loved one and half a dozen specially-trained officers with guns. I never thought I would see someone close to me taken away to Federal prison until the incumbent President, against whose life my friend had made the threat, was out of office.

But then, neither did I imagine a life where I would have to concern myself with whether someone was taking even one or several drinks too many. I did not grow up with alcohol. I was not groomed for this. I was not prepared. I traveled from absence to excess. Living the extremes, perhaps, creates an awareness. 

How do you recognize the beginning? How do you say something about a problem when it's still so small and - how shall I say it - so ACCEPTABLE that to bring it to anyone's attention makes you a target for uninformed ridicule? I have no answer, at least not one I will be admired for. 

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Water, Water

Astoria, Oregon ~ November 23, 2011

It's been storming and blowing for days. A lot of the area had power out last night from downed trees, but I was fine here - only a flicker of the lights during the evening. In the photo, the rain on the river was so heavy my camera didn't know where to focus. It's always interesting to see what washes down. Above, it was a good-sized leaf. Below, a small log.

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Emergency Room Tapir

Astoria, Oregon ~ March 3, 2011

(With more octopus and less jaguar.)

You never know where you're going to find a tapir! Fortunately, I had my cell phone with me and it had a camera.

I had the worst flu or cold of my life - or whatever kind of bug it was - in late February and early March of this year, and on March 3rd I took myself to the Emergency Room to figure out why I felt so bad. As it turned out, I had a freaky reaction to Tylenol PM and I was having something just short of panic attacks. Since I wasn't seriously ill or damaged, it took them over three hours to get around to processing my tests. Meanwhile, look who was there to keep me company! Under the circumstances, I was especially glad to have the little tapir's company.

I don't know who got the idea to paint a mural with a TAPIR of all things in the temperate lands of northwestern Oregon, but we are, after all, in a rainforest, albeit different from the one where this little Asian tapir lives in real life. 

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Red on Red

Astoria, Oregon ~ November 1, 2011

Every year I smile because someone had the foresight to plant bushes along the edge of the Safeway parking lot that turn screaming red in the fall. This year I'm also glad that they were near the car. 

I haven't said much about this, and I won't make it long now, but I've had a hell of a time wanting to take photos this past year and a half. It simply hurts too much to stand for any length of time or walk to where the good angle is. I can't even think of taking a walk beyond a stone's throw from the car until I get better. I had a relapse of fibromyalgia a year ago last Memorial Day weekend. I've been dealing with it off and on for 30 years, and some years have been very good. This time severe foot problems came along with it. This is new as far as noticing that it was a real problem. In hindsight, there have been nagging symptoms that have been seriously misdiagnosed more than once over the past ten years, as much as I talked with medical people about what I was noticing. I'm fed up with doctors. They're fine if you break something or need surgery, but I prefer to work at this from the point of "what can I do to help myself?" I'm working with my Egoscue guy again (specific exercises for specific causes of musculo-skeletal problems), and again I have hope. I had given up the "e-cises" for much of the summer for various reasons, although after much thought and observation, I still believe this is how I'm going to get better. It took some time for my muscles to recover after I quit the anti-inflammatory meds almost two years ago. I'd been on them for almost 10 years, and now I'm not even taking asprin. Meanwhile, although my muscles still get sore very easily, they are better. I feel and hope I can get back into the routine of the exercises that are going to get me literally "back on my feet." I've started again, taking it slowly.

A dog with sore feet likes to curl up and sleep. I've been curling up with my projects, which keep my attention and keep me creative and mostly positive. I've been wanting to work on them anyway. For followers of this blog, this is why you're seeing more pictures of my office than of the wonders in the outside world. I feel ready to begin to bridge that gap, so here's a photo of Mother Nature, even though she's been domesticated by the landscape artists who complemented Astoria's Safeway.

On another note, I'm working on blog format today and clicking on my own sidebar (and moving some slow-loading links into the tabs above). I just noticed that one of my all-time favorite blogs is NOW DEAD. The remains are still there. If you love fun and crazy art, check it out. I was a collage artist in an earlier incarnation, and I LOVE the humor in this blog! It was best before the decoupage folks joined in, but I haven't gone through the posts in awhile to see how it's evolved. Here it is: Scrapeteria.

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Faces of the Season

Finally, after a long and pleasant summer, it rained like crazy for a couple of days straight. It seemed unusual just because it hasn't happened for awhile, but soon it will be almost a daily routine. I love the rain, so no problem here. The piece of two-by-four is a harbinger of real logs to come as the rains wash the shores upstream. I took this picture on October 22, and today there was one of those interesting reed mats that cover the water just in the area of the photo. I got distracted before I took a picture of it, and soon it was gone.

You can't see their full beauty in the bright light and high contrast of the photo, but these flowers outside my front door have been my friends all summer. They found a niche, then withstood all events, including someone pulling off the bloom either because they liked it or "just because." There is a ton of foot traffic on the River Walk, so you never know. Anyway, they came back wonderfully and are still looking good today even after a couple of days of our first cold-snap. I'm sure they like the reflected heat from the building and the blacktop!

When I see a pink glowing sunrise like this one over the water . . . 

. . . it usually means there's a brilliant sunrise over the River Walk.

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Few Chapters and a Bunch of Notebooks

I've been stuck in bed with a horrible, exhausting cold for two weeks now, so the work goes slowly. I had the good fortune to aquire an iPad before the cold struck, so I've been fiddling with that. If you don't want to work, there's not much of a learning curve and everything is almost seamless, but if you're like me and try to make things do what they were not intended to do, it can be quite a curve. I LOVE my iPad. It does many, many things, is light weight and pretty, but it's not a laptop. I had to learn a lot more than the basics (while sniffling and coughing) to do actual work along with playing games, listening to music, and making some notes. What I learned was how to make eBooks that can be read in an iBook reader. Big smiles here! In the end, it's easy, and they look fantastic. I had to figure out what I could and couldn't reasonably do so I would know what direction my project might be taking and whether I should be focused on scanning to PDF, making Word files, or whatever. Meanwhile, the mid-project results are less elegant, but are fully functional.

The shelf in my photo shows one set of the Chapters I published from 1992 to 1995. I got a smidgen of the way into the project before it got derailed. That's OK. It was huge and I was no longer clear how I could get it where I wanted it to go. Meanwhile, I had transcribed a lot of information, researched the references, filled in the blanks, and presented it in readable form. A glitch came a number of years ago when I found that my old WordPerfect 5.1 files would not convert completely intact to Word, but I've now scanned the printed copies of the chapters, and anyone interested can find downloadable PDFs on this page of my web site. The Word files remain for me to do something with as the project progresses.

The notebooks you see to the right of the chapters in the photo are filled with pages of chronological project data - research, synopses of material, etc. These notebooks are labelled by year(s). Some of the notebooks are alphabetical files of people, places, historic events, etc. And there are more notebooks in the other room.

I'm getting a certain amount of clarity about the path I want to walk through this mountain of fascinating information, and even some clarity on the results I want to achieve. It's a process, and, I'm really excited to be getting back to it. I'll keep you posted. (By the way, if you have an eBook reader (or at least it works with some brands), you can import the PDF files. They don't work as perfectly as a real eBook, but the graphics, captions and footnotes are intact, which is perfect for this stage of the game.

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Energizer Bunny and Storage Boxes

Still going here. More and more, this (above) is beginning to look like this (below) . . .

. . . and this (below).

There is still some of this (below) left and it actually seems very manageable now.

These fantastic bankers' boxes (I love them) moved me from Colorado to Oregon in 2001. They are so cool. The size is easy to handle, they are modular and stackable, and I used minimal padding because the boxes are sturdy and the stuff inside didn't get crushed. And, they have lids (easy as pie to open and close). An added bonus: when you arrive at your destination with almost zero furniture (plus you have things that are not easy to find a place for in your new apartment), you can stack them and drape with nice fabric and have instant tables and headboards. I did that for a number of years, and now I'm down to my final few unpacked boxes. It's kind of sad, really. I've grown to love the look. Maybe I'll keep a few for old times' sake.

Just briefly, one of the things that got me started on this Total Cleanup thing besides my new NeatDesk scanner was the desire to start working on the old letters project again. Seriously. The Hudson and Joy: A History in Letters blog that I started was a good first step into the digital media era, but it was becoming cumbersome, and I'd barely started. A couple of weekends ago I set up a new section of my web site for the project, and it's a lot easier to manage and should make a good presentation of the mass of material I'm beginning to bite back into. Here it is! There are already some sizable downloadable files, and (as I said before of the blog) I'm just getting started.

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another One

This is another of those "things" I talked about the other day. Who wouldn't want an 18-inch cow with shades posing in their living room? Not as many people as I would have thought, it seems. When eBay didn't work, I pawned it off on Laurel's garage sale. I haven't asked yet what happened. 

I like the cow. It came as an attention-getting display for the animal-shaped eyeglass holders we sell at Tapir and Friends Animal Store. When I switched back from Internet-plus-storefront to Internet-only, Mr. Cow got laid off. If I had one of those houses from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, I'm sure I'd keep him in a niche on the staircase overlooking the open-concept foyer. But, alas, space is limited. I have this photo for the memory book, and I hope Cow is grazing in greener pastures.

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Plastic Toy Cobra

I took this photo for a customer who wanted to know what the plastic coiling cobra would look like size-wise if wrapped around her neck. The t-shirt dummy I had on hand is probably a bit larger than the potential snake-buyer, but it gave some clue. That transaction is finished, and I'm left with an eerie photo. 

One of the great things about photos is, they help you remember "things." Often it's events and people, but sometimes it's just those things we surround ourselves with. I've been cleaning up collectibles or things that were useful at one time but no longer are. Years ago I learned that if I really don't want it physically in my life any more, but I I'm hanging onto it for some reason, it may be a good candidate for the "photo cure." I'd never called it a photo cure until now, but that's what it is. 

Often, for me, taking a picture releases me to find another home for the thing (friends, Craig's List, eBay, the women's shelter, thrift shop) or else send it off to the landfill. The t-shirt dummy ended up at a friend's garage sale, and when there were no takers at the sale, it turned out that a friend of hers saw it in their porch and actually wanted it. Great news! The dummy has a loving home. I have some more space.

Space can be physical, and it can also be psychic. To anyone who has felt "the tyranny of possessions," no explanation is needed. As for the snake, you can buy it here  :)

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Where He Went Down

The title sounds ominous, but this is no drowning or untoward event. I had been hearing something whuffing outside my office window. It was unmistakable - or was it? Each time I went onto the back deck to look for the "whuffer," there was nothing but the sound of water slapping on rocks and pilings. And then I saw him, her or it. I was too slow to catch sight of the velvety nostrils, fish-frightening teeth, or the big Labrador eyes. I only saw the sealion's huge, rounded brown back as it broke the river's surface not 20 feet from me and plunged lazily beneath the beams that support the pilings. I've seen many sea lions around Astoria, but they rarely come into the small bay at the back of my building. When they do, they're almost never this close for viewing. In fact, I've never seen one in so close at just this spot. It's always an experience to connect with a wild animal at this range. I'll stay attuned to the sound of sea lion breathing. I hope he comes back.

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Flat Rabbits


They usually come in shades of white with various odd markings on them, although other colors can also be found. I'm fond of them - probably overly fond - and I adopt them on a regular basis. They breed rapidly. They don't take much care and feeding once you file them away, but after years and years, they can overwhelm your life. Flat rabbits. Simple, garden variety information on paper.

Everything you see on the chair except for the file folders and a couple of envelopes has made its way through my scanner in the past two days. I'm on a roll or on a tear, take your pick. Digitizing and trashing.

This flurry began when I was contemplating buying yet another filing cabinet - then two related bits of information came my way. First, I read that you can now forget keeping all receipts for seven years, and three will probably do in most cases. Since bank statements and such are downloadable, you don't even have to keep those past their useful date. With both business and personal records stored not only in file cabinets but also in overflow boxes, this was fantastic news. I don't know why I hadn't heard it sooner, but better now than after having another four-drawer delivered. I love file cabinets, but in limited quantities. Second, I paid attention to the NeatDesk scanner ad I'd been seeing on TV, and I bought one. More on that another time. I love it. It's not perfect, so don't throw all of your originals away just yet, but it's about as perfect as it can be and still be fast and efficient.

I started with the unclassified piles around my office, then moved on to vendor receipts and such, but I have numerous categories. For the past couple of days, I've been into the tapir archives. There are an obvious few that will be refiled and kept (and I'm only in the paper file drawers, not even into the image drawer yet), but for the most part I am lightening the load and plan to make the useful stuff available online . . . very soon instead of "in my dreams." Meanwhile, it is on my hard drive (and, yes, backed up onto Carbonite), which is also new in my world, and what a cool discovery!

The project I really want to get to is that history thing. . . . More on these exciting developments coming your way. Stay tuned.

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Into the Archives: Palisade Sunset

Scanned Polaroid

I had not planned to spend all morning taking dust out of scanned photos, but I wanted to get into my prints and negatives, see how they would come out, and get a few online. (I didn't do the spotting as completely as I would have if I felt like I wanted to devote the time today.) I had started with a completely different subject in mind, and when I couldn't find those pictures right away, I began with this sunset. There are eight images on the page, all different, so come on over and check it out.

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Impulse Purchases

Back home. This is the only picture I took today. I took it with the camera in my phone, and it rather boggles my mind that it came out so well. For the first two years of my Blackberry career, my camera had no phone. I'd see phone photos online and they were so poor I didn't care about not having one, but when I got my second Blackberry (a Bold), I could not believe how well the photos came out. I don't want to go into Blackberries much today, though, because I have a whole story about phones I may want to rant about. Back to this picture. Right away I notice the lovely multicolored drawstring bag. I bought a bunch of them over a period of time when I lived in Colorado, using them for tarot cards and other things. I became so addicted, I bought way more than I needed, even sending fabric I'd bought to be made into bags, but I have to say they are one of the purchases I have never regretted, because I use them for many things and have gotten so much pleasure out of the colors and patterns. I use this one for my portable hard drive when I travel, so that's why it's on the desk. "We" just got home.

The big, wide cup is an impulse buy that I'm glad I made. I bought four just because I saw them and they appealed to me. I use them every day for just about everything from oatmeal to soup. The shape and size are perfect. They were probably pretty inexpensive, but when I bought them every dollar counted even more than it does today. I remember it was a struggle to convince myself I could have them. So glad I did it.

The green box is another story. At the moment, it's only holding my computer up at eye level, which would better be done with books. (I should swap it out.) I thought it would be cool to digitize all, or at least some of the dozens of cassette tapes I'd made from borrowed music or had purchased on cassette - especially one I have yet to find on CD - but once I read the instructions, I got scared. I'm only half geek, and the other half was pretty sure I was going to do irreparable damage to my files, disk or something. That was quite a long time ago, and I still have the thing.

Enough babbling for today.

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Monday, January 03, 2011

From Bend to Home

Redmond, Oregon ~ January 3, 2010
6:45 in the morning

Adam dropped me off at the airport on his way to work, so I got there pretty early. Thankfully, the highway was dry, not icy, as the images of terrible fatal accidents on that same road were fresh in mind from the news.

I'd been sick since Christmas day with some kind of bug plus complications, so the wheelchair is significant. I was going to try to use one despite feeling like it was stupid, because I *can* walk, therefore I *should* be walking, even though it hurts and will have repercussions for the next couple of days. Being my first time, I didn't handle it very well. The lady was curt, there was nobody to push after I got through security, and I was in the dang thing in the first place because of muscles as well as feet. The muscle thing meant it was actually harder for me to push myself in the chair than to get out and walk. This is temporary. I know it's temporary, but it's been chronic for awhile, and what happened this holiday was a setback of sorts, even though it was a move in the right direction getting off the anti-inflammatory medication that had been keeping the muscle pain at bay. I will not be in a chair permanently, but it sure would have helped with the long distances in the airports. It is so hard sometimes to ask for help, especially when I *can* do it. If I'd had a broken leg, people would have been falling over themselves to help. We can relate to a skiing accident. It's hard to relate to someone who looks healthy and has "something wrong."

At the other end, there was no wheelchair for me at PDX, although I'd asked for one to be there. I didn't realize I might have to wait, and I didn't ask. I walked anyway. When I saw the chair pushers coming, I was nearly to baggage claim. I told them one chair was for me, but I couldn't remember where I'd put my flight number, so they kept on going to where, I knew, there would be nobody waiting.

Driving back to Astoria was fine, but there was frost on the ground mid-day from Longview to Astoria. I've never seen so many tire tracks weaving back and forth across the median, so although the ground wasn't slick when I passed through, it certainly had been.

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Snow for Happy New Year

Bend, Oregon ~ January 1, 2011

It's been cold and clear most of the week - really cold!

This blog is sponsored by Tapir and Friends Animal Store.