May 28, 2012
Potato Bars & Coffee, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 22
Grief therapy introduced me to a new concept today – one step at a time. The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. Akin to baby steps, the suggested course of action regarding reintegrating work-outs into my daily routine begins as such: Day 1 – gather gym clothes. Day 2 – find a gym back and place clothes in it. Day 3 – place the gym bag by the door. Later, when the mood strikes, move the bag into the car. Eventually take it from the car into the office. Consider dressing for the gym – maybe put just one sneaker on and then call it good. I laugh at that. “Now you’re being ridiculous,” I say. But, yeah, I can do that. I can see myself surmounting small plans, so I believe I can. I’m already way ahead of schedule. It’s just day three and the clothes are under my work desk. I’ve been considering putting them on some day and then actually making it to the gym another. But I can’t do that. That’s a silly separation, so I finally just decide.
It still wasn’t easy. I had to battle myself to make it. When I pulled into clubhouse there was a huge sign announcing Valentine's Baked Potato Buffet Party 5 PM - 7 PM. It was 4:40. I sat for a moment, considered the effort it took to get his far, considered backing out of my parking space and the self- commitment. Despite that, I put it into park, and forced myself off of the relative warmth into the cold winded-snow-mist. At first it appeared that each piece of equipment was in use, but then I spotted the one open treadmill. I stepped back from looking in only long enough to grab the door handle, forge on.
Clumsy, because I am shedding my coat and keys and sweater quickly, I’m hoping no one with less outer clothing than I arrives before I ‘m done, usurping my machine. I made it to the treadmill, upped the incline at 10 min, boxed at 15 min, began cool down at 20 min. Day one done, I re-coated , and made a beeline for the door, avoiding people and potatoes and was pretty proud of myself.
At home, on the couch, another Facebook sidebar advert catches my attention. I wander into it wondering what it’s all about, and suddenly I understand. It’s a really simple troop support program, allowing for anonymity, or not. My heart wants to go there, so I consider the options, planning to say nothing much but thank you for being where you are. Before I know it though, I’ve revealed the crux of the matter, where my heart is tonight, where it’s been. I sit for a few moments more, wondering if it’s ridiculously inappropriate to share. I know where it’s going is worse than where I am. I’m sure it’s even worse than where I was. And since I can’t wrap my head around either of our situations, I just let it go, and hit send.
"Dear Cup of Joe recipient:
This is my 5th Valentine's Day without my husband. Everything this year has been the "5th" so I've been searching for the perfect something significant to mark the time. When I came across the Cup of Joe for a Joe project, I realized significant isn't a size: it's time. It's about doing something now for someone in need of a little extra care. So, along with your cup, that's what I'm sending: a little extra care, a whole lot of respect, patriotic gratitude and the sincere hope that next year, you will be home for Valentine's Day."
I figure, that’s that, and hope at best it makes a little difference to someone, and at worst it’s just a free cup of coffee. Two days later, two emails show up in my inbox. The subject line of each reads: Our Troops Say Thanks for the COJ. Expecting a simple system burp, I open the first, and realize it’s not at all what I thought. Near as I can tell, the COJ gifts have an immediately destination life, and over the next week, replies come in. Five replies for five cups of coffee given.
Cup of Joe #1
Thank you so much, Jodi. And, hang in there. Javier serving at CFC Eggers in Afghanistan.
Cup of Joe #2
Absolutely wonderful, Jodi! Thank you so much. I love the extra thought you put into it. It's great that you can share something with us and still feel something for your husband as well. We all appreciate it...thanks. A Service Member serving at Arcent USO (406) - Camp As Sayliah in Qatar.
Cup of Joe #3
Thank you for the cup of coffee, and more importantly thank you for your love and support for me and my joes over here. I'm sorry to hear this is your 5th Valentine's day without your husband. I really hope things get better for you and that you have a Blessed year this year. Thanks again and may God bless you and keep you. Adam, a Service Member serving at Sharana in Afghanistan.
Cup of Joe #4
Thank you Ms. Korte for the kind words and the Cup of Joe! I sincerely appreciate this. v/r SMSgt Fragoza, Andrea 455 EAPS/PAX Superintendent BAGRAM AF, Afghanistan. * There is a special notation at the bottom of this message that says: (Andrea has asked to be a COJ PEN PAL with you.) Through email, I discover Andrea is from California, originating at Travis AFB. With a total of 24 years’ service 24 April 12, deployed since late August 2011, Andrea is scheduled to return back home sometime in March. In my ridiculous medication fog, I missed a lot of February, all of March and most of April. I wrote her again in May, hoping that she is home, and my email reaches her there, but so far have had no reply. *
The last arrival is the one I’d been unwittingly waiting for: the one worth way more than $2.00 a cup; the one worth way more than 10 minutes time; the one worth exposing my heart for:
Cup of Joe #5
Jodi Ann, Thanks for the coffee and the incredibly thoughtful note. I'm humbled by your kind message. Sorry to hear of your loss. You've reminded me to send a message to a widowed wife of one of my former peers who was killed 04 Jul 2007. This will be her 5th Valentine's Day without him, too. Take care, James Thamer, serving at CFC Eggers in Afghanistan.
May 21, 2012
When Barney Sang, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 21
Sometimes frailty sneaks up on you. Professional photography and old album covers can do that to you. Take for instance, Barney McKenna. I was already sure his performance would become a highlight looked fondly upon in after-hours conversations and years from now. But, the presence was not the well imagined persona unfailingly snap-shot-ed into my personal picture-perfect, replayed and replayed rendition of how it would be. Shocked, shocking white hair wasn’t what I expected; neither was the snow white beard - ancient, and mariner worthy.
Emerging from side-shadows, walking stick in hand, yet still unsteady; paused stage edge. Sweeping eyes; swirling contemplation clearly required answering. In almost instant registration, assisting arms appeared. Jacketed by bodies respectfully reluctant to show doubt or engage in push and pull, climbing was slow. Careful navigation arrested an entire ballroom’s breath.
Only once positioned, determinedly settled, still seemingly precarious, one hand to the mic, with the other executed a treasure; a signature welcoming wave. A few more moments of readying hesitation, and violins took their cue. The obvious unspoken question hung achingly over hearts, so terribly afraid they were about to break.
Then, like fallen angels flittering forth, gently released from the soul, familiar notes pitched themselves perfectly. Concerned down-turned corners lifted into wide-eyed hesitant grins. That voice! With a slight warble of age, weakened but not forced, recognized yet richer, clear and clearly wiser from life’s experiences - the remarkable transformation from feeble to forceful was enthralling.
Innate hoarding rises, temporary protectors of time well spent, we knew we should catch these moments and hold onto them, so capture we did; with intense concentration using our minds as recorders and cameras. Not a muscle moved. We were holding our breath again - too amazed to even consider the consequences of impeding natural function.
In accorded silence, and so very certain - we agreed without doubt offering our non-used air to use as he would. For the simple truth of the moment was - the only one worthy of using it was Barney McKenna.
May 14, 2012
Glimmer, ME Newsletter Vol. 5, Issue 20
There are many types of suicide: obvious violent, subtle self-poisoning, emotional acidity. End results, the same. For the life of me, literally, even in my darkest, blackest, could not get up off the floor moments, I didn’t go there. How I arrived at the depths of hell was unintentional, not consciously chosen, but still of my own doing. Not drugs, not food, not abuse, not anything typical.
Someone asked me what happened to cause that? I considered the move, mom, job change, surgery, Ireland, coming home tired travel weary and obsessed with that date; the one where the tide turned and I was suddenly widowed for longer than I was married. But none of those things were strong enough to break me. They were just things to get through.
What actually happened to cause it? Nothing. And that was the problem. Nothing gained, nothing more lost, nothing in the future, can’t hold onto the past and can’t move forward. Wish I could have blamed it on the after effects of anesthesia, hot flashes, nutritional deficiency, but those were just the dust clouds surrounding the pit. And it was a pit. And I am more scared now that I have ever been because I was in that place - the one closest to hell on this earth, the floor of a black hole, shimmering blacker breath around me. I never would have taken the step into hell, but I wasn’t averse to sliding out of this life into GOD’s arms either. If HE’d said, “Now.” I’d have gone. There still a part of me that feels that way. I’m scared it will always be there., as if I let down my guard, it has the power to pull me back in.
Faced with that, I checked out. I guess I truly did not want help. I truly secluded myself, deluded myself it would be better. Some aren’t letting me back in. I understand. A part-time friend isn’t worth having, and that’s all I can manage for now. Maybe someday it won’t be that way. But I won’t promise that. I might not ever change back into who I was. Because now I’ve known terror, and it was realizing I wasn’t… anyone, anymore.
2/1 Today marked a milestone: the first session I did not cry. My therapist said I looked different. I said it was probably being blitzed out on codeine for a few days after tooth extraction and implant surgery just reset my mind. Maybe it was losing that last bad tooth, or knowing I will have teeth enough to smile in a while. Or just the act of doing something that will solidly lead somewhere.
2/8 I can’t tell you specifics, or exactly how, but something has changed. It’s the meds, and that’s ok. – least that’s my theory. It’s not that I don’t remember. It’s just incomprehensible that I was there. I’m outside that picture now, and now I’m even more scared. It was a very bad place, way worse than any other, hopeless worse, deep-down no-way-out hopeless.
So, here’s the hope adjective that best describes the change; glimmer. Not grandiose, not specific, not quite well-being, just general better-being. I’m horrified by my hindsight view of the last three months. It’s like I’m looking down into a black hole knowing there’s stuff in there, but unable see it. I’ve always said there is no magic switch. There is no easy way. But to have resisted meds so long and find so much relief in just a week, just makes me an idiot.
The meds don’t fix anything. In fact, nothing has changed except for the meds. But they are giving me room to think and concentrate and accomplish small tasks. Very small tasks, that if repeated to the point of rote will someday lead to a better place. The biggest difference is that I can imagine it, and I know it will happen one day. Nothing was going to happen any day, ever, without the meds. I can see that now. I’d kick myself in the butt for waiting so long, getting so desperate, but I’m so out of shape, I’d probably hurt myself.
May 08, 2012
The Same Thing, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 19
Hiding under a tarp
When I should have
Taken up on a boat
Water rising, I’m still
On this rock, now
An island of my
Q: If depression is a disease, how do you see it?
A: Like a virus I want to get rid of, flush out
Q: What does your grief look like?
A: It doesn’t look like anything.
My answer is met with expectant silence, an unspoken, "Go on...", so I begin to describe how it feels, in images.
A: I suppose it would look as if I am in a smoky, egg-shaped but constantly warping viscous bubble - with a 360 degree view: semi-transparent from the inside out, but nearly opaque looking in, like glassy volcanic ash sliced thin enough to create glass panes.
Q: What’s outside?
A: Wide open spaces, green grass, fresh air, trees, a warm breeze. My imagination vividly colors that should be there. What I am seeing through the bubble… I know is not right.
Q: What would it feel like to be outside the bubble?
A: Like being in a picture and not belonging there.
Q: Like “What Dreams May Come?” (ref. 1998 movie, severely panned by critics. I don’t so movies much, and ironically, I am quite fond of this one).
A: No, more like a photograph.
Q: Are you on the ground or floating.
A: Neither, I just… am. Like a cut-out picture of me from another time, glued photo shop style onto a sunny afternoon in central park.
Q: Two dimensional?
A: Very much so.
Q: What does your grief feel like?
A: Electric, bright, yellow and white and every shade in between, strong flame, but no heat. Swells up inside me like an energy trying to escape, demanding release. It overwhelms me because it wants out.
Q: And what do you want?
A: I want it to go away. I want it gone, out.
Q: So, you and your grief energy want the same thing?
A: Wow. Yeah.
Q: Maybe you could work with it instead of against it.
A: Yeah, maybe I can negotiate instead of cramming its head down using my hand as a plunger.
I giggle a while at that. Negotiate with my grief. Go figure. I have the power.
Q: You haven’t talked about friends much. Things are better?
A: No, I’ve just dropped out. It was the only thing left I had to care about, and now I don’t.
A: Yes, exactly! That’s the word I use. They always talk about “engaging” at work, so I have been joking that I am disengaging. Only I’m not joking. I have, which means I’m going in the opposite desired direction, more alone, cutting myself off more.
A: Because the only thing that makes me happy is making other people happy. But damn, it seems the harder I try, the more resentment I get. It’s unappreciated and makes people uncomfortable. If you don’t give enough you’re selfish and self-centered. If you give too much, you’re grandstanding and making other people look bad – in their own eyes, anyway.
I almost let the therapist in on my biggest secret, but didn’t. I redirected by mentioning one of the most ridiculous requests I ever received at work this week and how unbelievable it was.
He said one word: Stupid. I agreed, and time was up.
Later that night, I took a call from a fired up friend in response to a previous Midweek Encouragement post. “I told you years ago,” she said, “You can’t skip stages of grief. You’re doing yourself, Jeff’s memory and the world a disservice. And you are too creative to stay where you are. You need to move, or change jobs. Find your way back.”
I can’t even consider that right now. I just want to make it through the winter.
May 01, 2012
Art Non-Existent, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 18
January 16, 2012
I understand Facebook is a social network, and during these months of un-sureness and grief, it has become in it's own way a lifeline to distant support and a great distraction at times. To me, Facebook is a wonderful place to learn. I read the sidebar adverts; I explore the gourmet sites, the entrepreneurials, artist offerings. Sometimes I like what I see; sometimes not so much. It’s a little like local shop shopping; a little like scouring the off-path corners of museums. I like the discovering process; I like sharing those discoveries, too.
Facebook is how I found StageIt. That rocked me enough to compose notes to two only very distant acquaintances sharing the spark. So far, I haven’t seen either take the torch and fire it up, but that’s ok. Not everyone can see things the way I do.
I recently finger stumbled across another something that shook up my world. Well, another someone really. Nick Harsell is to quote: “… 20 years old and currently attending the University of Oregon where I am pursuing my art career. This will be my third year living in Eugene, Oregon, and I absolutely love it here. I am inspired by fellow artists and the beautiful outdoors. Until recently, I had never worked with paint pens and now I can't stop working with them. My new focus is working with paint pens on canvas to create unique abstract designs that are full of color.”
And it certainly was the colors that grabbed me, right away. I had to see more. I spent about a half hour rotating through the 93 photos on Nick’s page. His spacing is magnificent, giving each embodiment its own life but never denying the intricate inter-relation to its neighbors, in fact, it thrives on it.
I giggled at the art-ified garbage can, thinking how much fun it would be to have the talent to change the ordinary and wishing I could have one just like it. I even thought the three dimensional doodles on the porch pumpkin were super cool –especially because of the temporary nature of the medium. But after pouring over each colorful, perfectly haphazardly balanced piece, there were two that touched me even deeper.
The first was titled “Day 1”. The second had an ironic moniker, “Color Isn’t Everything.”At first glance, I thought the second was a black and white presentation. Upon closer inspection, it offered shades of grey in a few strategic spots, giving depth and of course, irony. Still, I was magnetically drawn to “Day 1.” It spoke volumes to me and volumes about me. Unlike the other offerings, this one was only a partially filled canvas. In some ways the mountainous conglomerate of silhouettes resembled an intriguing garbage pile. My eye instantly caught shapes: a fish, an elephant, a figure climbing and reaching. And I knew, I wanted this one to be mine because it did indeed represent beautiful, convoluted, intertwined, gorgeously spaced, abstract refuse.
I love making garbage, and as many of you know 2011 will pretty much be remembered as my garbage year. Actually beginning in late 2010 with the move from the Adrian house to my current apartment, downsizing started off as a necessity and has become a long term challenge. How much less can a person have? I have yet to find out, but so far I’ve resisted a few things most people don’t live without. Most obviously, to the consternation of many, a bed and a television. But it’s been an emotional garbage year as well. Giving up the home my husband loved so much, leaving with less than we moved in with, taking mostly memories, changing my position and my work location, losing my mother and my gallbladder, trying to rearrange my grief by placing myself in new places and old places, my 30th high school reunion, an anniversary trip to Ireland, coming home even less myself than when I left, and running straight into the wall of pain I should have hit a while ago had I not been running in circles for the past five years.
For me there was action to be had in this painting. It spoke “Conquering is eminent” and “One piece at a time.” I was in this drawing, standing sideways on the canvas, plucking each semi formed, black-lined instance, and reaching above and around and beyond myself to place each where it belonged. Recycling every bit, every treasure of a stroke, recreating usefulness and purpose, I envisioned the cluttered corner balanced out and over the remaining blank field. I didn’t worry about the mountains reaching the sky. I just moved into the task, scattered the pieces, and imagined where I wanted to go.
I followed the link to the Etsy shop, where it was promised art could be bought. When I arrived, I was crushed and over-joyed. “Day 1” was nowhere to be found. But “Color isn’t…” was available, reasonably priced, tempting to the point where I added it to my virtual cart, then abandoned it, and returned to the Facebook page. I have regretted the last time I did not buy a piece of art I fell in love with for 15 years, and the one before that I have regretted for 25 years. I did once buy a piece of art because I could not afford the one I really wanted. Instead, I purchased the mounted palette used to create a series of cowboy scenes by Malinda Trick-Chandler. The 15 year regret was a Beverly Doolittle I found in a Fort Worth gallery. The 25 year regret was by an artist whose name I do not know, but the silk screened Koi were showcased in a Greenwich Village shop window and I loved them instantly. I visited twice; decided on the third trip to buy. But it was already gone. Like the paisley roll Coach purse at Macy’s, I hesitated, debated, justified and unjustified, finally gave in, and was ultimately forced to face disappointment. Yeah, regrets, I have a few.
So, I decided that 2012 was going to be the year of no regrets, theoretically creating no emotional residue. In that vein, I composed an email to artist Nick Harsell inquiring about the status of Day 1, hesitated and then remembered hesitation’s loss.
Jodi Korte: January 16, 2012 7:39 PM: Subject: Day 1 piece?
Hi - didn't see it for sale, but Day 1 stole my heart. Color Isn't Everything is running a close second, if Day 1 isn't available. Let me know, please. Thanks!
Within in an hour I had a startling reply.
Nick Harsell: Monday, January 16, 2012 8:38 PM: Subject: Re: Day 1 piece ?
Jodi, The piece titled Day 1, was a picture of a work in progress. The completed piece was completely covered in detailed lines and dots. Soon I will be adding many art pieces to Etsy.com, where people will be able to purchase them. I was wondering how you found out about my artwork? Regards, Nick
Trying to wrap my head around the fact that” Day 1” no longer existed was painful. It occurred to me that maybe what I had really been seeing, what touched me the most about it, was “potential.” I did my best to explain without explaining in a return email to Nick.
Jodi Korte: Monday, January 16, 2012 9:04 PM
Oh, for goodness sake! Now my heart's broken, but truly that's probably what called me about it. I showed it to a few friends and they all said they could see what I was thinkin'. There's a huge long life-story that your "work in progress" captured. Which, given that it was a work in progress will in itself make an interesting story. I write a weekly encouragement newsletter and blog for a small but steady audience. Most of them have been with me for over 4 years now. If you don't mind, I'd like to include you, your work, and contact/facebook info. I think a lot of them would enjoy your art.
As to how I found you, your page link came up as an interest sidebar/advert on Facebook. I do subscribe to other artists, so perhaps I got hit on as a target audience? What attracted me right off were the lines, colors, and details, and the fact that pretty much the viewer's imagination makes each piece what it is to them.
Thanks for the reply! Looking forward to seeing more of your work on Esty.
Nick Harsell: Monday, January 16, 2012 10:08 PM
Jodi, That's great to hear. I would love to have you share my artwork with others. When you said, "the viewer's imagination makes each piece what it is to them," I was very pleased. I enjoy creating abstract artwork so much because it allows each viewer to create their own view or interpretation of it. Enjoy, Nick
So there you have it. Another piece of art I will never own. I pull up the photo again and follow my imagination into the v-shaped canyon, finding the path to abstract solace that no one else ever will ever own it, either. Of course, physically someone will own the final canvas… someday, and will surely be as enamored with that version of it as I was with the unfinished. But they’ll never own the emotional, and emotionally fulfilling, piece I fell in love with; the one that no longer exists, but is still mine; solely mine, an essence, in essence, paralleling a truth I have been headed for all along:
Life, as art, isn’t stagnant; the way you see it, when you see it, how you see it makes all the difference. In my mind, I had completed the picture, considered it finalized, only to discover that was just my “Day 1.” What I had is still mine, and yet, there’s room on the canvas for more.
(And yes, I am now the owner of "Color Isn't Everything." It fits right into my retro black, white and grey bathroom, and I smile at it every morning.)