Why would you apologize for what you read for pleasure? Every book read for pleasure should be celebrated. And novels that celebrate love, commitment, relationships, making relationships work -- why isn't that something to be respected? - Nora Roberts

I Tweet not, neither do I Like. OK, so now I Tweet. So sue me.

Here we may criticize the book, but never the one who reads it.

Proud supporter of the Oxford comma, and any other comma I can wedge into a sentence.

Authors: You are welcome to comment here, on the review of your book or any other post.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Now That You've Gone Home: Courage and Comfort for Times of Grief, by Joyce Hutchison and Joyce Rupp (non-fiction, Christian, self-help)

First, this book is overtly Christian in its message, so if that will annoy or offend or bore you, then I bid you peace and hope you'll come back another time. 
Regular readers of this blog know that my much-loved husband died in December and I have been, as they say, taking it hard. I thought I was prepared but I had not the first fraction of a clue as to how hard it would be to form a new life without him. For the first time in 42 years, he is not at my side as I confront some problem. We did not have children, I don't have any close relatives, I quit my job in 2014 to take care of him, and I am socially quite isolated. I have face to face human contact perhaps once a week. So there's some background. 
A reader from the age of 2 1/2, of course I turned to books to help me find my way out of this. I have found books on grieving to be lacking, sorely lacking. They're either so religious in bent that they made me crazy ("It's all part of God's plan" or "You must submit to God's will" with God as micromanager of humanity) or they're all about Staying Busy and Keeping a Good Attitude (Tell me, author, did you actually love your husband?) or they're downright depressing (You will never really heal. Any joy you feel for the rest of your life will be bittersweet. All laughter will be tinged with regret because he is not here. Excuse me, but fuck that shit sideways, I am not going to be a professional widow.) 
Today it is nine weeks since Mr. Bat died. Part of me goes about daily life, conducts business, lunches with friends from time to time, laughs, and apart from some uncharacteristic absentmindedness or inattention to details, is pretty normal. The other half sits in a corner, rocking and making animal noises of pain and distress. Recently I've been, I think, hitting bottom and sitting in a very dark place, so dark it has been scary. I have considered - and rejected - taking my own life, just for the possibility of being with him. 
So it's been bad. I sit here with no road map out of this place where I am. Somewhere along the line I lost touch with my religious faith (liberal Christian) and I've been trying to find it, or scraps of it, or what I can make of it now given all my other rather unconventional beliefs. Still, I know how my grandmothers and mother and others made it through this stuff, and it was through their faith, so I've tried to be ... at least open to the ideas, even if they don't fit into someone else's construct. 
Even reviewing my browsing history, I can't figure out how I happened upon Joyce Hutchison's book, Now That You've Gone Home: Courage and Comfort for Times of Grief. It just showed up on my computer monitor. Disclaimer: I worked with Joyce for a couple of years in oncology back in the 1970s and know her to be a smart, funny, skilled, compassionate nurse. She's also very practical in her outlook. So I downloaded a sample for my Kindle, read the sample, and then could not buy the book fast enough.
Oh my goodness, this book. Joyce tells us about her struggles and thoughts and victories after losing her husband, Gary, who battled heart disease and cancer for most of their married life but died suddenly and without warning. Every word Joyce wrote, except things about having children and grandchildren, I could have written. Every thought and emotion she recorded is one I have had or am having. And I wanted to shout, "Finally, someone who gets it!"
The book is overtly Christian, and includes meditations, prayers, and coping strategies for all kinds of deaths. Not just the loss of a life partner, but also a friend, a grandparent, a sibling; suddenly, slowly; through suicide or accident or illness - it covers a whole range of possibilities with first person accounts from the bereaved of what happened and how it felt and how they coped and how they're doing now.
With the first prayer, the first meditation, I felt a little trickle of peace seep into my soul. It's not a miracle-worker. I didn't wake up full of energy and purpose today, having put grief behind me. It's not even noon as I am typing this and I've already had my first two big cries of the day. But I have a little peace, just a touch, a glimmer, a bit of movement away from rock bottom, and I am so grateful.
If you know someone who is grieving, especially if it's fairly fresh grief, and if they are Christian, I recommend this book highly. Tremendous insight, exceptionally comforting.
(Now if someone would just write a book about grieving when you don't have kids to ground you and you're socially pretty isolated. That I would read, too.)
A word about the writing: it's informal but it's pretty doggone good for a non-professional writer. No errors in grammar that I noticed, and the Kindle formatting is perfect. Some of the first-person accounts are better written than others, but all are honest. The chapters are short -- which is good, because when you're acutely grieving, your attention span is  ---squirrel! I did not find it amateurish at all. But it is directed at a very specific audience. 
Amazon non-affiliate link
ETR a repeated sentence. As I said, inattention to detail ... .

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Just checking in. I'm okay, mostly.

Hi. I thought I'd better check in and let you know that I'm okay. I get emails and I know you're so kind and thoughtful and that you worry about me a bit. You shouldn't. I'll be okay. Someday.

I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, which is to figure out how to go on without him, and to be very sad. I'm doing real well with the very sad part, but not so well with the figuring out how to go on part.

If you have someone in your life who is grieving, please stay in touch with them. I've been getting cards, emails, little gifts from people, phone calls. A lot of the time I don't have the energy to respond, except to let them know that the thing didn't get lost in the mail, but it does make me feel less isolated to get a text with a little joke, or when someone shows up with two cups of coffee and a cinnamon roll to split, or just anything. People who are sad feel so alone, and it really helps to have some little something to prove that you're not.

Also: take them some meals or things that can just be heated up, or even healthy snack foods like nuts or pre-cut fruit. On the phone (before you see their house, so that it isn't taken the wrong way) offer to vacuum or do some laundry. You wouldn't believe the amount of energy it takes to unload and load the dishwasher right now. Pick them up and take them somewhere so they don't have to drive. Take them to a movie or to a coffee shop. They'll say no to begin with, but you can persuade them. Part of them wants to live, it just may be a bit deep down. Understand that they may cry on the way home, even if they have been cheerful all afternoon, because they know that when they go home, the loved one will not be there. If you can, go in for a few minutes to help buffer that.

In some ways, it's good that I'm not employed, in that I am able to focus my attention and such energy as I have on working through this. In other ways, a job or volunteer position would at least give me a temporary break from the constant sadness and give me contact with other humans.

I'm getting counseling, which is very helpful, and I go to a support group, which is ... okay. It's really hard for me to step out of nurse mode, counseling mode, when I'm listening to 20 people be honest about their sadness and pain. I find myself listening to them as a nurse does, listening to what is said and closely to what is not said, and drawing up a care plan for each of them. So I come away from group exhausted and tearful. I don't know if I'll continue with the group, but I committed to going through March at least and I am true to my word.

On Sunday it will be two months since he died. It seems like years. Every hour seems like a day, every day like a month. Time crawls. As I am writing this, it is mid-afternoon and it feels as if I've been up for days. I can't sleep. I eat either too much or not at all. I seem to find a new spot on my body every day that hurts. All this, they assure me, is perfectly normal and expected.

I asked one of the helping people about the latest research and evidence in this area, since my education and experience are outdated. Well, actually, what I did was pretty much pin her to a wall and ask in an Exorcist voice "How long?!" I was surprised. Latest evidence is that I'll go on feeling this way for 6-12 months, with gradual slight improvement along that time. By June, or December, I should see some difference in more normal eating and sleeping, and islands of peace where I don't focus on him constantly. The ability to see a future without him. But true integration of this will take 3-5 years. Daunting when you're my age. Still, it was helpful to know. If I'm looking at a 12-month curve before I can eat without crying, then my present behavior at 2 months is ... well, yes, normal.

I put another tile in my grief bowl yesterday. Grief Bowl I ate a taco. That's the first time Since. Kept it down, too. There's still a lot more grief than life in that bowl (I should have selected a smaller bowl perhaps) but it is evidence of progress, progress I don't feel, but the evidence is there and I'm all about science. :)

Thank you for caring. Your support really does help. I am truly grateful.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Temporarily off Twitter - another personal entry, sorry. Also long.

Last night I deactivated my Twitter account. I would have tweeted my intentions, but the tweet would have become unavailable as soon as I deactivated, so it seemed pointless. (So much seems pointless just now.)

The reason for withdrawing from social media is two-fold:

1) I have nothing to say. All I do is cry and whine, and that's of no use to anyone. I'm sick of it myself. I can't seem to read to speak of, can't think in complete sentences, am thoroughly sick of politics (I live in Iowa, home of the early caucus, and I fill a banker's box every week for recycling the political ads I get in the mail or stuck in my door). Even I can watch only so many cat videos.

2) I am using social media, and indeed the entire internet, as a defense strategy to keep me glued to a keyboard so that I don't think about all the things I should be thinking about right now. I'm using it as a drug. I'm spending as much as 22 hours a day on the computer, fiddling around, looking up rescued pit bull stories, trying to find a local Chinese restaurant that will deliver where I live, and window shopping things that I hope will make me feel better.

When there are only two things that would make me feel better. One is to have Mr. Bat happy and healthy on the sofa, complete with guarantee that we will die on the same day at the same moment, the way we always promised one another. Well, that ain't gonna happen, so we move on to thing two:

To work through this. What I need to do in order to feel better is to feel very sad right now. I need to sleep, attend to hygiene, pay my bills, eat something that isn't pizza or cheese and crackers, and move my body, preferably out of this house for a goodish while every day, and feel very sad. This is possible.

I knew that grieving for him, mourning him, would be bad. I had no idea of the hell it is turning out to be. Purgatory is more accurate, because I am confident that this will end, and I will live fully and joyfully again in the third chapter of my life, but only if I tend to my knitting now, so to speak. I have to focus on grieving and moving through the grieving.

I've seen what happens to people who don't grieve fully, who for whatever reason, many times good reasons, such as dependent children, don't take the time to focus on resolving their grief. It takes a toll on their health. Gracious, I used to see people two years, five years, ten years down the road who were only then trying to face their grief because of the poor physical and mental health such neglect was causing them. When you have the grief plus five years of dysfunctional adaptive avoiding behavior piled on top, in counseling you hardly know where to start.

I'm not saying that there is a right way or wrong way to grieve. I'm saying that For Me, the thing to do is to focus on the path I've been plopped down on. I thought I had a knapsack full of things to help me, but my knife is rusty and there's no can opener for the food I brought along, and the matches got damp, so I'm making do, putting one foot in front of the other one, finding my way  --  not back home, because home no longer exists -- but to a new place, one I've never been before, that will be my new home.

Let me leave you -- and I do sincerely hope that this will be the last personal post to this blog and that I will be able to start reviewing books again -- let me leave you with this. It's a combination of things said to me but in my own words, and it's helping me. Maybe it will help someone else:

You're in tremendous pain right now. Pain you could not have imagined in the Before life you lived. When the fire of your pain has burned away the worst of the grief, and the flood of your tears has washed away the debris, you will be able to see what remains. What will remain, what is there right now but you just can't see it, is the love you two shared, the gift of love you gave one another. The love will stand, burnished, but unchangeable, eternal, when all this has fallen away.

Friends, thank you for caring.

ETA: I check in every morning and most evenings with my nephew and his wife. They know if they don't hear from me by 8:00 a.m. that they should call, and if no answer, to come see me. They have a key to the place. Eventually I'll find some kind of service so I don't have to keep bugging them, but for now this is working. I'm being watched over. In lots of ways. I'm safe.



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Tips for eating for new widows, especially those who don't have kids or close family and friends for support

This post contains what my grandmother called "language". If that's going to offend you to the core, move on, please. I don't have any filters left. I am practically feral at this point. I do try not to take the names of God in vain, but everything else is free territory.

Not all of these suggestions will apply to everyone and some may find this list useless. I offer my experience for what it's worth. 

These suggestions apply only to those who, like me, are lucky enough to be healthy and don't have to follow a diet for important health reasons. I normally am a vegetarian with occasional fish, but during my husband's illness, I ate whatever would fit into his very restricted diet, and then I developed a sneaky fondness for the vegetarian's gateway food: bacon, as well as other very salty foods, things he couldn't have.

When he died, I found that I could not eat. My throat would simply close up and I would choke. To be totally blunt, I vomited when I ate, and also had diarrhea. The vomiting seems to have stopped, thank God, at least for the most part, at least it's not daily anymore. The diarrhea continues. In my case is not doing any lasting harm, more of a … dare I say pain in the ass? I have lost about 5% of my body weight, and I look like death having a bad day.

First, if people bring you food in the week after the death, and they may, depending on where you live, ask someone you trust to portion it out and freeze it with labels. Just because the thought of it nauseates you now doesn't mean you won't be desperate for it on down the line.

Soup. Soup will often go down and stay down when nothing else will. Get it from a can if you must, get someone to make it for you if possible, or go to Panera or Bruegger's Bagels or someplace and get a quart or two. Start with whatever your mother made for you when you were a kid. For me, that was tomato or chicken noodle, but I have found plain potato soup to be very soothing.

Eggs. Get someone to boil some eggs for you and have them mark them with the date so you know when to throw them out. Scrambled is easiest to digest for some reason, but you can pick up a hard boiled egg anytime and just eat it.

Jell-O. Applesauce. Bananas. Things that don't require much chewing. Ice cream, if you like it (I don't, particularly). Get those little containers kids put in their lunch. 

It is okay to eat in the middle of the night when you can't sleep. 

It is okay to eat something like pork 'n' beans right out of the can, or peanut butter right out of the jar with a spoon. 

Don't use the oven or stove top unless you have a good timer you can wear around your neck so you hear the timer go off when you're staring out the window or crying, which you're probably doing a lot. You're going to be forgetful and distracted, and maybe for a long time. The microwave is your friend. It won't burn the food or set the house on fire unless you're really out of it and set something for an hour instead of a minute, and that's actually pretty hard because it means you have to click the button a lot. Use the stove top only if you can actually stand there and monitor the food for the two or three minutes it takes.

Take your medications. If need be, have someone call you to remind you to do so. Ask your doctor for once-a-day formulations if possible so that you only have to take it once. I know this takes energy you may not have. 

If you're alone now, be sure you have things for sick days. Your immunity will be poor for awhile and you may get sick. Being sick while alone is no fun and can be a little scary. Stock ginger ale or non-alcoholic ginger beer, saltine crackers, 7-Up, chicken noodle soup, or whatever your go-to sick thing is. (My SIL does milk toast --- ::shudder::) Yes, you can call friends, but they're busy and have their own lives, and if you live where I live, weather may prevent them from driving the 45 minutes to your house.

Also stock OTC things like aspirin or Tylenol or Advil, whatever you take. Some kind of decongestant, whatever you can take, Sudafed or Mucinex. Some basic cough syrup like Robitussin. Dramamine or something for nausea. Pedialyte or Gatorade to replenish electrolytes if you get a GI bug. Whatever you would normally send your spouse to the store for if you were sick. You don't have to get a lot of it. Just enough for a day or two until you get back on your feet. I put the Pedialyte and ginger beer in the bathroom linen closet so I don't have to walk to get it. 

Get some paper plates and plastic spoons and cups and use them. Just for awhile. It's okay. Your short-term use of them is not going to enlarge the hole in the ozone or take down more trees from the rainforest. I promise you.

Go ahead. People will try to push bland food on you. If you think some pizza will go down and stay down, try it. Oddly enough, I have been able to eat pizza successfully. If spicy Chinese food or hot Tex-Mex sounds good, go for it. Maybe it's not even something you would ordinarily eat. Be willing to give it a try. Hell, you can't keep anything down anyway, so what exactly are you risking?

In fact, to hell with all the rules right now. This is your job: To go on and get through the day, any way you can. No rules. No shoulds. If someone shoulds on you, shut them down. Memorize this: My job is to go on and get through the day, any way I can.

Nobody -- NOBODY -- knows what it is like until they've been here, this losing of a decades-long marriage. I don't care if they lost both parents, siblings, cousins, or - as one sweet person told me, her dog. ("I know just what you're going through, dear.") I don't care what their experience is. I don't care if they've been married three times and lost all three to horrible diseases. This was your relationship and it's your grief. As long as you're paying the bills to keep a roof over your head, doing basic hygiene often enough that you don't have your own personal cloud of flies following you, and getting through the day, you are doing your job. If someone doesn't like the way you're doing it -- unless you're doing something dangerous, like lots of alcohol or marijuana or driving when you're taking sleeping pills -- then fuck 'em. They may mean well, but they are totally clueless as to the degree and depth and sheer persistence of the pain of losing what may be the only person you ever really trusted, the only person you were ever sure loved you. They don't know what it is to be unable to take a breath without pain. They don't know. Fuck 'em. 

This will not last forever. It seems like forever, but it isn't. It's been just over a month now, and while I am still trying to pick my guts up off the floor and stop bleeding, while I cry a lot and feel sad about 99.5% of the time, and panicky the other 0.5%, I see progress: I am able to sleep, some. I am able to eat, some. I just wrote this post, inelegant as it is. I am doing my job. I am going on. You can, too.

ETA 15th January. Well, this is embarrassing. This wasn't supposed to go in this blog. This was supposed to go in my other blog, which is a private -- oh, mostly a howl of grief, a place to put all my unhappy raw emotion. But I got mixed up and published it here. I'm glad someone may get some good out of it. It's hardly all-inclusive and I left out water intake, but if someone can benefit, then I'm happy. Thank you! 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Last personal post, I hope. How we met.

By popular (one person) demand, here is the story of how I met Mr. Bat. I'll warn you: it's boring. It's totally ordinary.

In those pre-computer days, after sitting for the two-day nursing licensure exam in June, you had to wait until late October to find out if you passed. In the interim, you could work as a Graduate Nurse. Hospitals took a chance on you, really. All the licensure exam proves is that you probably won't kill somebody by mistake, and if it turns out you didn't pass, then … .

I was planning to marry a man living in Detroit and intended to move there in the spring. There was no reciprocity then between states, so once I had my Iowa license, I had to apply for a Michigan license, a process that could take some months. Even I wasn't boneheaded enough to move to Michigan in the middle of winter, so I planned to wait it out close to home.

I'd been working at the local nursing home and living with my parents since graduation, something that was uncomfortable for all concerned. I was accustomed to freedom. My folks wanted me to have a midnight curfew. The day after I got my license, I went to every hospital in a 50-mile radius and applied for whatever nursing job they had open. I decided to take the first job offered.

Later that day, we were out of some groceries, so I went to the grocery store to pick up some things. As I walked in the door with the grocery bags, the phone was ringing and for once I answered it before Mom got to it. It was Hospital P, offering me a job, which I accepted. When I got off the phone, Mom told me that Hospital N had called while I was gone, offering me a job. Oh well. So I ended up at Hospital P because we were out of toilet paper and dog food. I gave my notice at work, found an apartment in City P, and moved.

A month later when I went to pay the rent on my apartment, my landlady told me that my neighbor was in the hospital and to tell him that he shouldn't worry about the rent, she knew he was good for it. He wasn't on the wing of the small hospital I was working in, but on break I located him and told him what she'd said. I noticed that he had some cigarettes and, in typical just out of college self-righteousness, gave him the anti-smoking lecture, especially in view of the fact that he was in with pneumonia. I promptly forgot about him. I had my own wing plus two women in labor.

Several days later I was cleaning up my apartment from a fairly wild housewarming party I'd had (potato chips ground into the carpet, oy!) when there was a knock at my door and there he was. He had a rather silly question about his hospitalization but I promised to check it out and let him know. I did and slipped an answering note under his door. I specifically wasn't interested in him. [BTW, I found that note among his things as I was cleaning out his dresser last week. He kept it all these years. Why, no, I didn't cry over it, not at all.]

Next day, knock knock, there he was again at my door. I was still cleaning (it had been quite a party) and he stood in my doorway for three hours, pretty much telling me the story of his life. He'd had an interesting one, I'd give him that. I noticed his kind eyes, and his strong hands and, when he turned around once, his butt, which was mighty fine. I had to leave to go to work and he asked if I'd like to go out with him sometime.

I told him, yeah, sure, movies and coffee and such but nothing heavy because I was on my way to Michigan. Fine with him, he was on his way to Florida. (Found out later that he fibbed. He was on his way to me and he knew it.)

We were immediately comfortable with one another. I was never on date behavior with him. In some ways, I felt as if I recognized him somehow. Couple weeks later we went to see Romeo and Juliet, the 1968 Zeffirelli version, so good, and he cried at the end. And when he did, I knew. I was in love with him. And I thought, "Oh, no. Not you. Why you? Why did it have to be you?" because we were so very different in almost every way. He was older than I, had been married before, not much education, different religions. Recipe for disaster.

Here's a perfect example. One day we went to the city to buy our wedding rings. Even then he was fond of ice cream, so after buying the rings we stopped at Baskin Robbins, you know, the store with 31 different flavors of ice cream. I got something weird, burgundy cherry chocolate chunk  banana or something. You know what he got? Vanilla. I said, "This is Baskin Robbins and you order vanilla??" So he thought a bit, realizing he'd stepped in it, and said, "Chocolate chip?" That was our marriage. His vanilla to my burgundy cherry chocolate chunk banana. 

Forty-two years. Doesn't seem so long ago.

I intend for this to be my last personal post here. I have another blog for the personal things now. I'll try to return to reviewing books as soon as I can. Thank you. 


One more personal post to be done, then back to reviews only.

Thank you for your kind words, thoughts, prayers. They have meant so much to me. The smallest kindness now feels like a huge blessing, and I am so grateful for your caring.

I am going to post one last personal post in a few minutes and then move my ruminations on grief and mourning to a different blog. This blog is for reviews and I've let my personal life take it over. Eventually my ability to read will return -- oh faithless friend, to desert me now! - and I'll get back to reviews here. But I'm going to stop cluttering up this review blog with my personal life - to the degree that this is possible, since books change depending on what's going on in a person's life.

I don't know when I'll post another review. I hope it won't be long. I miss reading. I just can't seem to concentrate and I have limited patience for imperfection or silliness just now.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Grief Bowl (personal, not a review)

As I typed the title, I had to chuckle. In the US, this is American football bowl season, as college football teams with good winning records come together to have another post-season game. There's the Orange Bowl and the Rose Bowl and the Gator Bowl. There must be 20 of them. All heavily hyped and all enjoyed thoroughly by the fans. My alma mater's team is going to the Rose Bowl this year, where they will probably have their heads handed to them.

So this is the Grief Bowl. Except it's not.

A grief bowl is a bowl of whatever size and composed of whatever material you want. Theoretically it holds the tears you cry for the one you loved. Here's the idea, for which I'd give attribution if I knew who came up with the idea.

You get a glass bowl. You fill it with water. The water represents your grief, your tears. Then you get ceramic tile and some waterproof paint. On the tile, you write a small victory or a goal. For example, mine might say: I went alone to our favorite restaurant. I went alone to an open house and had a good time. I fixed the kitchen faucet. I fixed the curry I love and you hated and it was good. Someone else's might say: I signed up for a class in watercoloring. Or: I signed up for a martial arts class. Or: I'm volunteering at story time at the library. Or: I went back to work.

The ceramic tile represent life, your return to life. As you do a tile, you put it into the water, with or without some ceremony or ritual.

After a time, you notice that the tiles are starting to displace the water, as life begins to displace the grief.

The bowl will never be completely empty of water. There will always be some water surrounding the tile. But over time, it will be no longer a bowl full of grief, but a bowl of life. The life your loved one would want you to live, rich and full and varied.

So I have my bowl. And believe you me it is full to the brim with water. I'm going to the crafts store to get my tile and paint. I am trying, my love, I am trying to go on without you, and not just to go on, but to live.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sad news.

Hello, friends. I have sad news. Mr. Bat died yesterday morning early. While he had been slowly failing, he abruptly became much worse late Thursday. He was oriented and loving until about 5 minutes before his spirit left me behind. It's awful. It's horrible. It's worse than I imagined it could be, and I have a pretty good imagination.

But it's no more than others face. I am okay this morning. I have slept. I have eaten. I have remembered to brush my teeth and feed the cat. This morning I have to go sign all the official papers. I know which charity is going to get his clothing (most of it - I'm keeping a few things). I have arranged for his recliner chair, which is in good shape, to be given away. I have thrown away some partially-used food that was just for him, and the unopened food is in a box to go to the food bank today.

In other words, I'm keeping busy.

I don't kid myself by saying that I'm sane, because I'm not. The messages of caring and support you have sent me have kept me going, and I thank you. I'm kind of numb. We knew this was coming, but it was awfully fast at the end, and very fast at the very end.

I have a small family but they are being exceptionally supportive, especially the one nephew. I have a small circle of friends who have filled my calendar with lunches and visits and will come to get me if I don't feel up to driving and won't think it strange if I cry a lot or laugh inappropriately.

I am a lucky, blessed woman.

I'll be back with reviews when I can hold a thought in my head. Again, your support, your kindness, your caring have meant the world to us, and now to me.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

May be gone awhile. Mr. Bat failing rapidly.(personal, not a review)

Friends, my husband is failing rapidly. His kidneys are failing. He's in and out, knows me and understands what is going on, but is not aware of much else. He's reasonably comfortable, some swelling and a little shortness of breath at times.

I may not be around for awhile.

Generally once kidneys shut down, it's 3-5 days until death. The death is usually quiet, they simply sleep more and more and more. There are some things that may be distressing for witnesses, but the patient himself is normally comfortable and just very sleepy.

I want to thank you for all the support, all the prayers, kind thoughts, good wishes --- and just sticking with us through all this. You have been the most faithful of friends.

I'll be back with a review or an update when I can. Where would we be if not for the refuge of books, after all?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"They want my soul."

In light of today's gun violence, I feel a strong need to tell, again, this story.

Harold Hughes was governor of Iowa in the middle 1960s. A, all-state football player, a former truck driver, an Army veteran of WWII, an alcoholic in recovery, a devout Christian (Methodist, I think), unapologetic liberal, he was popular here and ran for the US Senate, winning by a large margin. He was a helluva public speaker.

He came to speak at a local university, and I was privileged to be part of a small group of young people meeting with him afterwards for coffee and the kind of heavy conversation that young people love - and Hughes loved it, too, and loved being around young people, the energy, the optimism.

He could easily have risen to more power. He was making a difference in the Senate. We asked him if he was going to run for another Senate term or perhaps try for a VP spot. And this is what he said, paraphrased due to the mists of time. I'll never forget his face as he said it, though.

"I was governor for 5 years. Before that, I worked in the trucking industry. I thought I'd probably seen it all. People have tried to blackmail me over my addiction. My family has been threatened. I thought I was ready for Washington.

But let me tell you. I knew they would want to buy my vote, fair means or foul. I did not know that they would want my soul."

He looked haggard and haunted by what he was experiencing in DC. He did not run for re-election. He came home eventually and worked with the homeless and people with substance abuse and mental health problems.

"I did not know that they would want my soul."

And that was then.