Tag Archives: living with Parkinson's

The Physics of Packing Tape #amwriting

I had one of those horrible realizations this last weekend. Sure, I know on one level, I will officially be a septuagenarian this June. As anyone who knows me will tell you, it’s a miracle I survived the blender years to arrive at such a landmark in life.

MyWritingLife2021But what I realized is this—had he lived, my father would be turning one hundred. Our two oldest daughters will be turning fifty. Our two sons are in their mid and late forties, and our youngest daughter, the baby, will be forty.

Now those are the numbers I find hard to assimilate. It mystifies me even though every aspect of our lives emphasizes that Grampa and Grandma are sliding into the high end of life, hurtling toward the golden years like a comet into the sun.

And these days are golden, despite the minor inconveniences of life. Greg’s Parkinson’s is manageable with medication and an intensive physical therapy regime. If you or someone you love has Parkinson’s, LSVT Big therapy is a miracle. But it does require true dedication and daily efforts. Fortunately, my husband is highly determined. Physical Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Orange_Door_with_Hydrangeas_©_Connie_Jasperson_2019This diagnosis has prompted us to downsize and sell our home. We currently live in a tiny, rural town twenty miles south of Olympia, where all the services we need easy access to are located. So now we’re planning to move back to a city of politics, art, and creativity. Since leaving there in 2005, we have enjoyed the quiet of our little quarry town—but now we’re looking forward to seeing plays and attending concerts again.

But first, we must sell our home, and to do that, we must excavate—think Heracles and the Augean Stables.

Holy moly … we have a lot of stuff. Big stuff, little stuff, useless stuff, and stuff we have never used.

Right now, our home is littered with boxes. Most are empty, waiting to be called into action. Gradually we’re filling them with the things we intend to keep.

Each day we do one task, empty one corner or cupboard.

Each day we vow, tomorrow we’ll get more done.

Each day, all we manage to get done is the next “one thing,” whatever the appointed task of the day was.

coffee cupsWe have upped our garbage collection to weekly instead of bi-weekly, and we have no trouble filling that bin with things no sane person would have saved in the first place.

De-junking seems so daunting, so impossible. But that is because we are at the beginning stage of the process. The main frustration for me comes in the form of—

Packing tape.

My husband has the patience of a saint. And believe me, he needs it when I am allowed near the packing tape.

First, you must understand that when I went to the store in our tiny town, they didn’t have the monofilament kind of tape that comes with the dispenser, the kind where you can see the cut edges. They only had a single roll in the entire store, and that roll is comprised of clear tape.

Completely and utterly clear.

Now, we all know that ordinary packing tape is a product invented by Satan to punish all who end up in his domain.

But clear packing tape is a reward set aside for the special few, those more deserving of a true sojourn in Hell.

First, if you forgot to fold the end the last time you used the tape, you can’t see where the cut end is or how to begin peeling it back. It is made so that the moment one does find that end, the tape will automatically roll back onto itself before the victim can make that tiny, intentional fold.

scienceThis behavior occurs on a subatomic level, something to do with muons and Buckminsterfullerene. This unique characteristic of clear packing tape offers the poor sinner ten more minutes of frustration and creative cursing.

Electromagnetism and the Higgs mechanism kick in once we have a strip loose from the roll.

Or something like that.

I know for a fact this demon-infested thing is only tape, inanimate, and made of plastic and glue. Yet it sticks to (and wraps around) whatever it comes within an inch of. It seeks out my hair, my sweater, and the back of my hand, and (when the stars are in alignment) it sticks to the intended box.

Clear packing tape is both here and there, a kind of Schrödinger’s Cat—technically lifeless but also alive and generating mayhem.

The moment I have cut a long strip of packing tape from the roll, it will magically twist and stick to itself before I can get it anywhere near the box. Trying to get it unstuck from itself is futile – but fools flourish in my family.

The thought of leaving this house makes us a little wistful, but we know we must do this. We can no longer do the work of maintaining it and have had to hire a gardener. Now that I am the only driver, we need to be in a town with public transportation, one that is near our doctors.

We console ourselves with the thought that we’ve only been in this house since 2005—only eighteen years. Who knows how large the pile of possessions we must weed through would be if we’d been here longer?

BackYardMay202020The most important things we will keep are the memories, things that take up no room and never need dusting. We’ve had family parties for every holiday, including Easter Egg hunts that are legendary among the grandchildren.

Before the pandemic, we hosted a wine and cheese party for our friends every year on Valentine’s Day.

When we first moved here, the house was brand new, just built and rising from a sea of mud and gravel. Over the years, we turned that barren mudscape into a garden, a little piece of paradise. I can’t tell you how many hours we have spent on the back porch, watching the birds and enjoying the sounds of our small town.

At some point, I know this will be done, and we will be able to sell the house and move on to our new memories. We will have packed what we are keeping and given away the rest.

And tomorrow, I will buy another roll of packing tape, this time the kind that comes with the dispenser.

Packing Tape


Credits and Attributions:

The images in today’s post are from the author’s private collection and are copyrighted.

 

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October is #NaNoPrep Month #amwriting

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is approaching, and October is NaNo Prep month. I have participated in that annual writing event every year since 2010. For the past 11 years, I was one of my area’s Municipal Liaisons for NaNoWriMo as a way of volunteering in my community.

nano-computer-word-count

November’s Goal

Usually, I have earned my “winners’ certificate” by the day they become available, but even so, I continue writing on that project every day through November 30th. I update my word count daily because using every moment available in November is a personal challenge.

I say this every year because it’s true: NaNoWriMo is only a contest in the sense that if you write 50,000 words and have your word count validated through the national website, you ‘win.’ It is simply a month that is solely dedicated to the act of writing.

This year, my personal life has taken a left turn for the different. I stepped back from my position as Municipal Liaison. I will still participate, but I can no longer serve my region as they deserve.

My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in June and will be starting an intensive physical therapy regimen in the middle of November: Big Therapy For Parkinson’s – ParkinsonsDaily.com

I am already seeing improvements from the medication and the PT he has already been given. We’re fortunate to have good health insurance, an HMO providing us with a terrific neurologist and cutting-edge physical therapy.

An immediate effect of that diagnosis was that his doctor said he was not to drive. We live south of Olympia in an area with no public transportation and no uber or even a taxi.

StarshipHydrangeaLIRF072022So, for the two final weeks of November and the first two weeks of December, we will be firing up the Starship Hydrangea (our hydrangea-blue Kia Soul) and driving 30 miles a day to and from the clinic. This will happen four out of five days a week, barring snow.

Then, I will have an hour or two to kill at the clinic. I could take a laptop and write, but I find that more disruptive than waiting until I get home. Instead, I will probably read or daydream and make notes for possible plot twists.

And that’s not terrible. Taking a break from the grind helps spur creativity.

Usually, I end November with around 90,000 words on two or three projects. But twice I’ve finished with more than 100,000 words. Most were crap—I wrote them, cut them in December, and used them as fodder for other projects later.

50,000 words is an acceptable length for YA or romance. But for epic fantasy or literary fiction, it’s only half a novel. But regardless of the proposed length of their finished book, a dedicated author can get the basic story arc down in those thirty days.

Alice in Wonderland Tea SetI have no problem getting the first draft done with the aid of a pot of hot, black tea and a simple outline to keep me on track. All that’s required is for me to sit down for an hour or two each morning and write a minimum of 1667 words per day.

So how do we find time to write daily? I plan ahead and use my time wisely. Cooking and cleaning are things we all have to do. I think simple is best when it comes to food and housework.

I have a crockpot that gets a workout every winter. I use it two or three times a week for soups, chilies, and stews. I’m a fan of meals that can be cooked in the oven, and also of dinner salads. I serve tasty and eye-pleasing meals that don’t take much time to assemble.

We all have to live in a home, which means we all have housework. It’s not my favorite thing, but it’s how I get my exercise. I zoom through the house daily, wiping down surfaces and vacuuming.

When the holidays approach, I locate the cobwebs, spray them with hairspray, toss a little glitter on them, and presto! The house looks festive with little effort on my part.

(My mother’s ghost just fainted.)

(Did I mention I write fantasy?)

Anyway, as in many good things, there is a downside to November’s intense month of stream-of-consciousness writing. Just because we sit in front of a computer and pour words into a document doesn’t mean we’re writing a readable novel. Many cheap or free eBooks will be published every year, a testimony to that fundamental truth.

to err is human to edit divineThe real work begins after November. After writing most of a first draft, many people will realize they enjoy writing. Like me, they’ll be inspired to learn more about the craft. They discover that writing isn’t about getting a particular number of words written by a specific date, although that goal was a catalyst, the thing that got them moving.

For a few NaNo writers, writing becomes about embarking on a creative journey and learning a craft with a dual reputation that is difficult to live up to. They will find that we who claim to be authors are either disregarded as arrogant ne’er-do-wells or given far more respect than we deserve.

More people write during November than you would think. In some previous years, half of the NaNo Writers in my regional area devoted their time to journaling, writing memoirs, or even writing college papers.

For a few people, participating in NaNoWriMo is about writing and completing a novel they had wanted to write for years. These writers will join writing groups and begin the long journey of learning the craft of writing. They may find the courage to go back to school and maybe even get their MFA.

steering the craft leguinA good way to educate yourself is to attend seminars. By meeting and talking with other authors in various stages of their careers and learning from the pros, we develop the skills needed to write stories a reader will enjoy.

One good way to polish your work (which costs nothing) is to join a critique group. Be bold—ask the clerks at the local bookstores in your area if they know of any writing groups that are open to new members.

Every year, participating in NaNoWriMo will inspire many discussions about becoming an author.

Books contain ideas, and ideas are the most dangerous magic of all—a magic that topples kings and gives rise to great civilizations.

Dare to be dangerous.

Go ahead and write that book.

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