# Fatigue Coefficient: Infinity to the power of (sometimes plus usually plus always)

I’ve often said that I can clean house or go to work but not the same day.  (Substitute any ADL for either effort in that sentence.)  As a corollary, I can expend X amount of energy times Y days after which, I will be wholly unable to expend any until I recharge.

For me, X amount of energy involves the extent to which I decide to simultaneously expend energy and endure pain.  So let’s say Z = Y x X, where Z = 0, Y equals the number of days, and X = energy plus pain.  Oh wait.  Didn’t I flunk college math?  Three times?  Including remedial? To the disgust of the grad student instructor, who shook his head and dropped the chalk on the floor when I asked what a logarithm was, and found his answer (“the solution to this formula”) unsatisfactory?  Yup.  So, *end math metaphor*

Suffice it to say that after two eight-hour days of standing with a smile on my face in a tiny house village handing out literature and answering questions, I can almost but not quite walk today.  I stayed home from the third scheduled day with the blessings of the others attending the event on behalf of the tiny house manufacturer for whom my tiny house community shows a model.  I chugged water all night interspersed with too much Acetaminophen.  I stayed in bed an hour beyond my normal time of awakening.  I stumbled through making coffee, attending to my personal needs, scrambling eggs, and reading social media.  It’s ten-thirty.  I’ve accomplished little and nothing of which to brag other than the first step, i.e., hauling my butt out of bed.

But I’m not moaning, despite the searing pain in my right hip, the intermittent cramping of my calves, and the wildly increased tightness of the diagonal nerve from my left shoulder to the base of my spine, the nerve where my shingles lie dormant.  In the immortal words of the late, great, Honorable Leonard J. Hughes, Sr., “Ladies and gentlemen, I woke up this morning, which is more than a lot of people can say.  So let’s get this show on the road.”

It’s the last day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

# Fifteen minutes of fame

Today three people approached me with wide grins and asked if I was the lady from YouTube.  I confirmed my identity.  They had come to a home show to tour tiny houses. It stands to reason that tiny house groupies would have found one or more of my videos.

But lest I become too enamored of my fifteen  minutes of fame, I reminded myself of the first time that I appeared on television.  I had been asked to address the merits of a lawsuit in which I served as local counsel for an unpopular entity.  One of the lawyers from the other side entered the studio and settled into the nearby chair.  I supposed we were to be pitted against each other, and squared my shoulders.

Someone came and fluffed a bit of powder on my nose.  Someone else adjusted my suit jacket.  At 40, I looked the best that I ever had.  I wore my most expensive clothes, and my secretary had done my make-up.  I knew my stuff.  I had outlined my talk ahead of time.  I could do this.

The news team came out, smiling, snapping fingers.  “Don’t forget, this is live,” someone said.  We chuckled.  Old pros.  We ate judges for lunch.  We could do this.  We snarled a little, then laughed to show we could be friendly adversaries.

“In three, two, one — ”

I looked down. And froze.

No one had told me that the desk had an embedded monitor.  The sight of my own face startled me.  I didn’t hear the lead, the cue, or the prompt.  I stuttered to life three minutes later, and spoke my piece — feebly, out of sync, but I disgorged it.  Nobody laughed.  I righted myself and made it through the last few seconds.  I shook someone’s hand and stumbled to the parking lot. I jerked my scarf from around my neck and tossed it on the floor, started the engine, and pulled away.  I could feel the beet-red stain on my cheeks.

I shook scores of hands today. I handed out postcards and fliers.  I gestured broadly to the model home which I had volunteered to show. I did a few Vanna White impersonations, and asked people about the land on which they thought they might park a tiny house.  And yes, I conceded, with modest half-closed eyes, that I was, in fact, the YouTube lady.

But I didn’t let it go to my head.  I just enjoyed it, along with the cold lemonade that a kind gentleman brought me late in the day.  The world’s funny that way.  One day you’re staring at the wide orbs of your terrified eyes on a television screen, and the next day twenty years have flown by and you’re living in an RV park and tiny house resort on the banks of the San Joaquin with nothing more important to do than water your dwarf lime tree.  And glad to do it, too.

It’s the twenty-eighth day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

# As I stand in awe and wonder, giving thanks.

In the wake of the storm of accusations against the current nominee to assume the bench on the United States Supreme Court, I stand in awe and wonder at the courage of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Debbie Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick.

No, this is not a political post.  Such entry will come at myeyesarewatchingyou.com when I have strength to write my own truth.  (It’s coming.)  Just now, I want to thank the universe for letting me live long enough to see such brave women stand and challenge those who ignore what women have endured for all time.

So my #journeytojoy takes another step forward, as I recognize that I am not alone, that I’ve never been alone.  And knowing that I matriculate in such  brave company, I can perhaps begin to move forward with more certain steps.  The shackles which bound me; the weights which  dragged against me; seem lighter this evening.

I recognize that much of what has slowed my forward motion lies in my inability to manage what I have experienced.  That potential seems a tad more possible tonight, because of the  noble example of three women who came forward to disclose the abuse which they suffered.

Like them, I have withheld so much because of my shame.  I hope that I will be able to openly break my silence some day.  For the record, I have told some who mocked me. I have told some who did not believe me. I have told some who reviled me because of what I told.  Those experiences acted to insure that I would close my mouth, that I would fall silent having once tried to speak.

So thank you, Dr. Blasey Ford, Ms. Ramirez, and Ms. Swetnick.  Your bravery inspires all survivors and helps us think that some day, telling will not subject us to humiliation.  What you have suffered will help all of us to heal.  The path you forge will open beneath our faltering feet, exposing wide beautiful vistas to our broken hearts and our wounded spirits.  Thank you.  For all of us.

It’s the twenty-sixth day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

# A painfully beautiful grace

I can’t pull over to photograph the egrets standing in the fields adjacent to Highway 160.  With no shoulder, and the press of early morning traffic, I can only slow and risk the inevitable bleat of an impatient horn.  But I behold their lovely stride, their incredible agility; and my heart flutters.

I do not understand how these creatures choose the spots on which they perch in the tender shoots of the fall crop.  Yards span between a handful of single birds, each in its small domain.  They step with delicate care from plot to plot, seeming to have no genuine thought of effort.  I creep westward, my eyes lingering on the vivid white of their feathers and the slow, persistent motion of their dainty pace.

By the time I get to the bridge, my heart pounds and my lungs tense with the pressure of holding my breath.  I’ve been afraid to exhale, for fear one of these marvelous beings will rise in panic.  I cross the Sacramento thinking, for perhaps the hundredth time, of my amazing good fortune at discovering the California Delta.  Where else could my morning shine with the dazzling light reflected from the dew on a thousand newborn leaves, lush and verdant; amid which an egrets sketches out its effortless dance?  This grace — this painfully beautiful grace — carries me through the hours of an otherwise mundane life.

It’s the twenty-fourth day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

# How does your garden grow?

I did not do much of the labor which has resulted in the bounty of our Community Garden.  I had the idea, requested the allocated space, secured the cooperation of the Park, and encouraged the young and the able-bodied in their efforts.  Most evenings I go down to the garden to water or do some mild weeding.  Other women carry the weight of the effort.  Sarah, Jessie, and Ken built two of the beds; John from the park built the first of them and hauled the good rich earth for us.  Sarah fashioned the bean trellis from willow branches, and carved the signs which mark each row.

But I share the bounty.  I eat the lettuce in my salads and saute the chard.  This evening, I will toss fried zucchini with butter and mushroom for my dinner.  I breathe the air which seems sweeter under the rising bows of the living trellis.  I let the western light bathe my face as the soaker hoses do their work.

We have a little patch of flowers.  Rose contributed the seeds.  Sarah opened the packets, spreading the contents with wild abandon.  We’ve all pulled creeping grass to protect the tender growth.  I bought a stone plaque from the local potter.

Walking back from the garden, my neighbor Jessie keeps her arm extended.  I know I can lean on her if I need assistance over the rough ground.  That knowledge sustains me, like Dumbo’s feather or Dorothy’s ruby slippers.  Or, for that matter, like the slender whip which I retrieved from the ground today, before Jessie arrived.  I found myself teetering on the hillside by the water spigot.  With the meager guide of a long thin branch, I scooted to safer ground.  That stick could not have held my weight.  But somehow I felt assured, gripping it, letting its tender tip drag on the ground beside my stumbling feet.

Our garden grows with grace and glory.  It drinks the water which we provide and soaks the rays of the afternoon sun. Rich Delta soil nurtures the roots.  The stalks rise higher than we could have imagined.  Despite my meager contribution to the creation of this place, I take much comfort from its burgeoning contours.

It’s the twenty-third day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

The Sleep of Seeds

It didn’t rain all summer.
Instead of water, my father used prayer
for his garden. Despite his friends’ laughter,
he planted spinach and lettuce,
countless rows of cucumbers
in beds lined up meticulously
ignoring old people’s warnings
Every afternoon, he pushed his hat back,
wiped off his sweat,
and looked up at the empty sky,
the sun scorching
the acacia trees shriveling in the heat.
In July, the ground looked like cement.
Like the ruins of a Roman thermal bath,
it kept the vestiges of a lost order,
traces of streams long gone.
He yelled at me to step back
from the impeccable architecture
of climbing green beans,
the trellis for tomatoes,
although there was nothing to be seen,
no seedlings, no tendrils,
not even weeds,
just parched, bare ground—
as if I were disturbing
the hidden sleep of seeds.

— Lucia Cherciu, from Edible Flowers

# Flag City on Fumes

The shimmering light drew me around the Loop, from the 5-mile mark at which Delta Bay sits to Highway 12.  I turned east, towards Lodi, gambling on the ten miles to Flag City and the direction in which my morning appointment took me.  I could have gone west, a half-dozen miles to Rio Vista and gas.  The glowing icon on my dashboard chided me for the gross oversight of forgetting to stop before groceries last night, after my appointment, on the Solano County side of the bridge.

I headed east.  I don’t care for back-tracking.  Move forward.  Always.

I made it to Flag City on fumes.  Two pumps had canvas covers and signs apologizing for their unavailability.  I stopped next to the third and struggled to see the screen in the dazzle of the day.  A man by a red Ford truck bigger than my front porch smiled as I fooled with the nozzle.  I chose to assume that he liked my look and wasn’t laughing at me.

A pleasant hum greeted me back on the highway.  My gauge thanked me for the stop as the car surged forward, into traffic.  I found myself smiling.  I had put 13.5 gallons into a 15-gallon tank.  I could have gotten all the way to Lodi.  Once more, I had beaten the odds.  My record improves by leaps and bounds.  At the rate my luck has been changing, I might buy my first lottery ticket soon.

It’s the twenty-second day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

# Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I don’t have to rise at 5:30 to be someone for somebody else.

Tomorrow, I can do laundry, neaten my storage cubbies, and water my succulents.

Tomorrow, I can stroll down to the Community Garden, pick lettuce, and take sentimental pictures of the weeping willows.

Tomorrow, I can drive north of Rio Vista to find the farm with fresh eggs.

Tomorrow, I can throw out the circulars, junk mail, and paper copies of statements that I get online.

Tomorrow, I can answer moderately significant e-mail, decide if I really need to drive two hours each way for physical therapy, and examine the requirements for registering my car in California.

But that’s tomorrow.

Tonight, I will finish this delicious locally-grown pear; wash the dishes; then get into a pair of cozy pajamas.  I’ll close the windows against the chill of an autumn night on the banks of the San Joaquin.  I’ll open my tablet and summon the novel that I’m reading.  I’ll snuggle under my quilt and lean against my pillows.  I’ll pause, gaze around my two-hundred square foot house, and smile at the incredible gift of #mytinylife.

It’s the nineteenth day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.

# What I learned today.

Traffic on Highway 5 clogs at the I-80 exchange.  The slow-down lasts for hours.  I had thirty minutes to sit in the mess going to and coming from a meeting.  I used the time to cogitate on my day and what I’ve learned.

I started with the certain knowledge that the River Delta Volunteer Fire Department works tirelessly for the people of the Delta.  I got a first-hand view of their effort.  I considered taking a photograph, but last night I watched a video with Anderson Cooper explaining why he didn’t rush after flood victims with a camera.  “We respected their privacy.  We didn’t want to stick a lens in their faces.”

So you’ll have to get an idea of what I saw from my description.  I came to the intersection of Jackson Slough Road and Highway 12 at 8:20 this morning.  I saw the commotion as I drew near.  A tow truck had backed toward the front of a crumpled car.  Five firefighters grouped around a man lying on the ground  His legs twitched.  Shards of glass and hunks of twisted metal clattered on the road as the vehicle ahead of me inched through the scene.

I lowered my window to ask, in a hushed voice, whether I could pass.  The nearest first responder measured the gap between the prone victim and his battered car.  “Okay,” he instructed.  “Go straight across; don’t turn left or right; and watch yourself on that side,” he added, gesturing to the tow truck driver.  I followed his instructions.  Another rescue vehicle approached the scene from the west and waited while I crept through the accident’s aftermath.

I replayed that experience many times this afternoon. I’ve been in similar collisions.  I’ve been wrenched from a car by the jaws of life.  I’ve been gingerly pulled from the street and cradled in a stranger’s lap while we waited for help.  I have sat dazed in the narrow space between a jammed steering wheel and the seat back.  I’ve smashed into a window.  I’ve broken an axle ramming against a curb.  I’ve flown three stories into the sky, landed on a hood, and shattered the windshield as I smacked against it, folded in a tight ball, desperately straining to protect my head.

I lived through all of that.  I barely even shed blood.  I sustained, at the worst, multiple fractures in my right leg.  Even when I had to be pried from beneath the twisted door of the Gremlin in which I had been riding when an Oldsmobile broadsided us, I suffered nothing worse than a dislocated hip.

This morning I crossed myself out of habit and said a prayer for the man whose brown shoes struck a tender chord in my heart. Late in the day, I shielded my eyes from the glare of the setting sun and decreased my speed.  I squinted to see the curving levee road in the shimmering light.  I let a motorcycle pass.  He clearly had somewhere to go, but I had  no need to arrive at home five minutes sooner.  I could take my time.

What I learned today will not surprise you.  Life is fleeting.  A heart beat separates our sojourn on earth from an unexpected reservation at heaven’s threshold.  We can be knocked across that gap without notice.  On any given day, someone’s life will end without that person having a chance to reaffirm their love for family and friends.

One moment, we strive to leave the California Delta Loop by beating the oncoming traffic on Highway 12.  The next second, five earnest first responders lean over us, fighting for our very lives.  Perhaps a divine plan dictates the timing of such moments; perhaps not.  Either way, they shall come.  Best be ready for them.

I love you all.  I appreciate you all.  Now spread the word.

It’s the eighteenth day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

# In which I thank my sisters.

Take a deep breath.  You’ll get through this day.  It’s kind of lumpy, I know; but you have so many sisters who love you.  Think of them.  Focus.  You’ve come too far to falter.

I repeat this mantra over and over on days such as today.  As the sun settles on the far horizon, over Mt, Diablo, I feel drawn to thank all of the amazing women who have gotten me through the last four years.  Bear with me.  This could take a while.

Here’s to you, Brenda.   You came late to my life but just in time to rescue me from a bitter nugget on which I had been choking.  You strode past the porch where I sat molting and pulled me into the sunshine with your practical  good cheer. In your honor, i went today and got a library card in Rio Vista.

I raise my glass to Katrina, who dug each hole in which I buried a broken splinter of my heart.  You planted columbine, impatiens, and lilies in the soil where my spirit slept.  You awakened my joy with your persistence and your patience.  I nurture the plants in my tiny garden thinking of you.  And lest you think that I have forgotten, you also shared your daughters with me, Jennie and Caitlin, and opened my eyes to the special bond of women in another generation.

I owe so much to you, Pat, my Yorkie-loving friend.  You give me your faith, your admiration, and your attention.  Your saucy tongue and your understanding dance across the wires with such keen timing that I often wonder if you have a portal to my soul.

And Miss Jeanne. What can I say to you? It seems our friendship grew more after I came to California than it did in all the years we knew each other in Missouri. You believe in me in ways that I have never done and no one else has ever done. I did not forget you.

No sister-tribute could overlook Lyne’t, my twin sister from a darker mother.  Your robust laughter, your warm embrace, the twinkle in your eye, the sure step of your vibrant dance — these sustain me, even now, even two thousand miles from your best intentions.

A quiet nod across that same distance to Elizabeth, who knows what I do not; who often sees what I overlook; and whose quiet, careful regard for me shone like a candle in more than one dark hour.

I can’t find the words for my devotion to Paula K-V.   You have shown me so much tenderness.  By your words, in your silence, with your arms and hands and eyes, you have brought me from the brink and kept me safe.

Penny — no, I would not omit you.  You often knew that my pain could not be soothed with words, and so you poured another cup of coffee, another mug of tea, and sat yourself down to glow in the gloom of my desperation.  What’s more, you brought me into the circle of your world.  Through you, I met so many other sisters, including sweet Angela, whose music calms me even when I only hear the notes inside my head. And Cindy, beside whom I never fail to smile.

No tribute list could be complete without Kimberley, my sister leopard with her charming spots.  You placed your feet upon the same path where I now walk with more conviction because your spirit abides with me even though our roads diverged.

To Jane, I send undying gratitude.  You knew that you could not give me solutions, but you offered steps, and methods, and an unbroken life line.  You cannot be blamed for my failing hands, or the blind eye with which I shunned your kindest suggestions.

Genevieve turned her lens on beauty which I still find difficulty acknowledging.  She held her arm out in just the right way to break my fall.  She showed me that love defies definition, and that I have, in fact, added value in the lives of others.  Along with Genevieve, Samantha gave me sweetness and the delicacy of her images.  I raise my eyes and feel the peace in each flower.

Lori and Kristen showed me that I can walk a foreign path and find a comforting oasis.  The two of you have encountered so much sorrow.  And yet, you rise!  You rise!

Ruthie offered devotion even though she knew that I strained to accept my worthiness.  And something more:  A vision of life after devastation.  Ruthie, my lovely friend, thank you for your example of believing.

Mary never forgets to tender a message of love, and light, and acceptance.  I read those messages, my friend, even when I cannot bring myself to answer.  Your constant presence comforts me.

And oh, Jenna — did you think that I could perform this recitation without recalling our wild trip across the state?  You were the first to lay eyes on Angel’s Haven!  Oh no, my girl; you too receive my gratitude.  You showed me a new way of viewing life, for which I am so much the richer.  As did all the ladies of our Rotary Club, come to that.  Season, and Laura, and Katie, and Janette, and Bayley, and the other Jenna, and Robin.  And even, through her mysterious husband, the indomitable spirit of Dr. Carolyn Karr.  There is no way on earth I can remember all of them.  They know.  They remember everything we shared.

Stretching back — to St. Louis — Jeanne Serra, who came back into my life after decades and brought angels with her; and Diana, who left so long ago but never forgot, even to welcoming my son into her home despite the decades and distance between us.

This list could continue.  I fear that I will forget someone.  It could include the new women in my life — Sharon and Ellen, who share the ocean with me; and Pattie, Macrina, and Christina, and all the other ladies of this place which I now call home.  And it must expand by three.  So many women have become my sisters-by-choice, but I have three other sisters:  Ann, Adrienne, and Joyce — sisters to the core, by our blood, by our shared DNA and the fabric of our childhood.  I can barely breathe for measuring the ways which each has loved me.  Not a day goes by without a call from Joyce, or a little note from Adrienne, or a gift from Ann.  I never once regretted being the youngest girl.  My big sisters keep me sane, if sane I can even claim to be.

I’m not dying; nor have I decided to throw in the towel.  It’s just this:  As I drove down Jackson Slough today, the light glinted off the old cultivator which I’ve longed to photograph in the fullness of the western sun.  I drove past, telling myself, today was not the day.  Then I made a sharp turn in an old culvert, turned around, and pulled into the farmer’s field.  I don’t know yet if I got anything decent enough to share.  My sight blurred with the sudden rise of tears, thinking of home, of my tribe, of the women who wove themselves through the rich fabric of the shawl with which I warm myself each night.

Thank you.  Thank you all.

It’s the fifteenth day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Just a few of my sisters, by choice and birth.

I’ve been doing some contract work in Elk Grove.  This endeavor takes me out of the house earlier than had become usual, and onto the loop while the morning traffic makes its way off the island.

I’ve seen folks and sights that I would otherwise never have beheld:

A woman walking her labs — one blonde, one chocolate — from behind the wobbly front wheel of her mountain bike on the opposite side of West Brannan Island Road, with the same line of trucks straining their idled motors behind her parade every day.

The morning crew of road-workers on the draw bridge at Walnut Grove, who hold their signs admonishing me to SLOW or STOP with an air of certainty that I will comply, and an easy, strong bearing to shoulders flexing beneath Flourescent-green vests.

A grizzly-bearded old hippie who nods his head at each slow-moving vehicle on the river road near Locke, his thin body wrapped in a tattered flannel shirt, and a cigarette dangling from worn lips.

A tiny Chinese lady wrapped in a pink silk shawl, picking her way along the river bank as I journey north to the Twin Cities Road cut-over.

A herd of goats nibbling at weeds behind a wire fence, guarded by thin, wary dogs who glare at me through the open window with angry eyes above their open jaws.

And oleanders:  Miles and miles of glorious bushes, rising above the landscape, sending the heady fragrance of their sweet  poison  onto the wafting breezes of chilly Delta air.

I arrive at the office building just before nine, and sit for a few minutes listening to my motor cool.  I marvel anew at the striking differences between where I now live and the places that I previously called home.  Neither surpasses the other in my esteem; but this new road upon which I have set myself brings strange and wonderful vistas.  My horizons have broadened.  I’ve opened my eyes to the world on this unexpected and intriguing leg of my journey.  I take my time,   I don’t want to miss anything.

It’s the fourteenth day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.