The haunted house – Part III

For reasons I still don’t fully comprehend, I never spoke of these things to anyone else. The battle remained with me and me alone.My siblings and I were born into a very religious family. Throughout our childhood we memorized long passages of the Bible in exchange for gifts.

One night, in the midst of my terror, I began reciting Psalms to myself as I lay there sweating. I focused my mind on their meaning, on my nascent connection with the Divine. I filled my mind with their beauty and praise with iron determination to think of nothing else.

The fear eased. I lay in bliss and freedom, able to rest by turning away from darkness and focusing only on light.

The evil in my bedroom never left. But from that night forward I had a powerful weapon to use against it. Even in my dreams I could call up favorite verses and shield myself with them. When I awoke I glared into the darkness and told it: Every time you come for me, I will praise God.

Eventually we moved away from the farm house. My nightmares evaporated with the change in location. Years later, my family and I got to talking about times we had felt afraid. I shared for the first time my experiences in the attic and said I even knew where the foulness was centered.

“Stop,” Steve told me. Without speaking further, he drew a floor plan of the attic and circled a small area beyond the western curtain wall. Every hair on my body stood up and I couldn’t warm up for a long time that evening.

My novel Sage Courage is an absorbing bit of writing inspired by my early experiences and is available in print and ebook at Amazon.


A tale of true terror

So it’s Monday and I’ve promised myself to post a blog once a week and Sunday is The Day and it came and went (I have excuses, I promise!) and now it is Monday and after an extended period of navel gazing I have come up with a whole lot of Not Much on my mind.

Good. That’s over with. I had this insane urge to write a really good run-on sentence so now we can get down to it. I’m afraid of marketing. Well, that’s not strictly true. Let’s try it again. I am terrified of marketing. Closer. One more go. If given a choice between marketing and, say, a stint at Guantanamo Bay… You get the idea.

I read an article that really hit home a few years ago. Following an intensive Google search just now, I cannot find the article (frustrating!) but I’ll summarize. The commentator said one of the biggest differences between the iPad and Kindle Fire was that when the iPad was launched Steve Jobs did this huge, glitzy unveiling to a wowed audience while the Kindle guy (no idea of his name) muttered, “Here, take this,” and threw a couple Kindles at the crowd while failing to make eye contact.

I identify with Kindle Guy. Every cell in my body is urging me to secretly publish my novel “Sage Courage” and then run and hide. My body cells may not be as wise, however, as the synergistic output of my brain which tells me I should look into telling people about my novel and explaining to them why they would like to buy it.

My fingers have frozen. I find myself looking out into space and picking at some dead skin on my arm. And all because this was the paragraph where I was going to tell you, Dear Reader, about what I wrote.

Deep breaths. You can do this, Heather.

I wrote this nifty horror novel called “Sage Courage.” My faithful pre-readers have dubbed it a page turner, enjoyable, loved it, etc. Seriously. I had one reader tear through it in one sitting and come up for air (and food) only after the last page.

This paragon of entertainment will be available in Amazon in ebook and print formats August 16, 2016. Like, next week. 

Now I’m going to go throw up a little.

Rage against the machine, O lilies

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon…And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. –Matthew 6:24, 28-29

“Hello, my name is Heather,” I used to say many times a day, “and I’m a nurse with your insurance company. I’m calling to see if you’re doing better following your stay in the hospital.”

My introduction completed, I would eel my way into a conversation about my client’s health and begin to identify problem areas to be addressed. I sat at my desk in my home office and listened, asked targeted questions, and finally provided education and direction.

“That’s something you should call your doctor about immediately,” I would say to one man. “It would be better to take your blood pressure medications after your dialysis treatment,” I explained to another client. For another, I would teach about the importance of gentle, daily exercise and frequent hand washing for chronic lung disease.

The theory underlying this occupation is elegant and, at least on its face, an excellent example of the capitalist concept that financial constraints can drive moral solutions.

First, the problem. Profit margin for health insurance companies is dependent on the health of the insured population. In any population, acute and chronic illnesses will require health care expenditures. However, there is a statistical difference in the amount of money required to pay for a bunch of sick people who are “compliant” with health care directions and a similar bunch of people who don’t understand how or aren’t motivated to care for their health.

The market-driven solution is to provide expert education and support to sick people. Advice and a helping hand cut costs.

The long and short of it is I was a very good nurse to my clients at this, my last job. Also I was a lousy employee. There was a time during the span of my position when the productivity requirements made by my bosses became impossible to meet. Or–perhaps not impossible. It would be more fair for me to say the demands of administration conflicted with my ability to do what I thought was best for my patients.

I experienced a period of despair. I needed this job. It paid well and it allowed me to stay home with my brood of teenagers with their predilection for drama and danger. Following despair came fear and with fear the flight/fight instinct kicked in.

My “solution” was simple. I would continue to provide each of my client-patients with the best I had to offer and ignore productivity expectations for as long as my company would keep paying me. In the recesses of my rebellious mind and in the crevices of my proletarian heart I rejoiced to “stick it to the man.”

In retrospect, I see every lengthy encounter with a client, every time I made six calls to advocate for someone instead of one, every time I raised my middle finger in the direction of “productivity,” I deepened the grubby hole where others could bury my career.

In the proud tradition of Don Quixote and Vladimir Lenin, I chose to joust with the capitalist windmills. My patients loved me. I made a difference in a lot of lives. At least once a day I said something or made a call which facilitated better health for a client. In the meantime I’m sure my supervisors noticed my distinct lack of interest in the finer points of the art of volume.

In March of this year my care management company failed to win a contract renewal with the insurer. By late May the new company had hired most of my coworkers while choosing to decline my services. On the first of July I became officially unemployed.

Over the last few weeks I have discovered that more of my self-image was based on having a job than I thought. I have become depressed. I have concluded my normal self-confidence was just a clever ruse to cover up my basic inability to be a “good worker.”

I cannot argue I was ever a bad nurse to my patients at any of my jobs ever. But I do see a bit of a pattern of defiance against administration when the chips come down.

Currently a few shocks are running through my brain in parallel. I have fully realized there is a stark difference between being a good nurse and being a good employee. Damning evidence has emerged that the Democratic National Committee rigged the primary. And I’m reading Russell Brand’s book “Revolution.” You, dear reader, are smart enough to see where this is going so I’ll stop ranting and end with a question: When did doing the right thing get subsumed under the financial bottom line?

The frog and the ice

“Such is beauty ever—neither here nor there, now nor then—neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire. If I seek her elsewhere because I do not find her at home, my search will prove a fruitless one.”–Henry David Thoreau

I’ve looked at this picture often since my husband took it. Each time I look I’m struck with a sense of awe and tenderness. Those feelings are amplified by what I know about the rope the frog is hiding under. In fact, it is not rope at all but the strings of a mop. That frog—tiny, perfect, self-sufficient—whispers to me about the preciousness of life, the endurance of beauty.

Thoreau’s thought above was inspired by an ice storm—everything encased in crystals made of frozen water.

The frog, the sun sparking diamonds from ice, these things are common. They are always there if we find the courage to look.

I spend most of my time in solitary work. What soul is there to admire? What beauty to appreciate? Perhaps the soul which most needs admiration is my own, and the beauty inherent in even the smallest displays of nature.

May you find the beauty of the souls before you and of the soul within you. May you find the precious right where you are.