This publication is the exclusive property of cj Schlottman, and is protected under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws. The contents of this blog may not be reproduced as a whole or in part, by any means whatsoever, without consent of the author, cj Schlottman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Of Butterflies and Hurricanes

In a shameless attempt to get some of my readers over to My Poems, I am publishing a new one here!

Tiny butterlies flap their wings
high up in my chest, in the back
of my throat, sending sparks up each
side of my neck, prickling my scalp.
They spread into my chest, growing
into sparrows or wrens stealing
the space where I breathe, filling the
hole where my heart was with chaos.
I breathe long and slow to settle
the havoc, but to no avail.
The pounding penetrates to my
back where an eagle spreads his wings
bruising my rib cage, clawing my
wounds, pecking at my pain.
A hurricane, the energy
breaches my diaphram and roils
my gut, leaving me heaving with
nausea, tingling with thorny sweat
gasping for air.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grief Reactivated - Again


What is it about this thing called reactivated grief?  My stepson's mother-in-law died yesterday morning - on the 6th anniversary of her daughter’s death from breast cancer.  Such a cruel irony, that.

When I learned of her passing, I went numb for a while.  Then it happened.  Anxiety sneaked up on me and wracked me with unease, and I felt as though Clint had died yesterday, too.  Tears gathered behind my eyelids and spilled out all over the place, and soon I was sobbing, heaving with pain and loss.  Again.  I’m still reeling from the death of Loren’s father two weeks ago.

Ann Carol, my therapist said that reactivated grief would be part of my life for a long while, but she said it would get easier over time.  Not yet, at least not yet for me.

Jesus.  I want my husband.  These are the times I need him the most, the times that my heart cracks anew and I need his comforting way, his pure and reassuring love.  Just how many ways can one heart break, how many times will it pump poison throughout my entire body and cause me physical discomfort?  Yes, the pain is physical.  Every muscle in my body is in a state of rebellion, so much so that I have turned on my heated mattress pad and climbed into bed to take advantage of its soothing warmth.  

My gut is wrenching, but earlier I gathered myself together enough to go by to spend some time with my step-granddaughters, offer support for these young women - 21 and 13 - who, like me, have suffered such grave loss at a young age.  Kristy came by and drove me over, and I took them some of my famous cheese straws.  But when we arrived, the girls had gone to the pool at the club.  Crestfallen, I managed for a little while to interact with the adults who were milling around aimlessly, some chewing on chicken, others cutting into a ham or dishing up barbecue or munching finger sandwiches.

The kitchen counters were covered with food, and two refrigerators were bulging with more.  That’s what we do here in The Deep South.  We hide our grief behind food.  We think eating will fix just about any hurt, so on our way home, Kristy and I stopped at the store for me to buy some more cheese.  Now I have some cooking to hide behind.  I’m just as fucking crazy as the rest of them.  

Sunday, June 20, 2010

No Fathers Here - Just a Photo


Father’s Day.

Here we are, my dogs Honey and Belle and I, females all.  Mr. Palmer, our Betta fish, though male, is childless because of his ill temper.
My son is a father, but he is not here, trapped as he is in the bonds of schizoaffective disorder.*  He is 600 miles away in a personal care home, where he exists with the assistance of mental health professionals and pharmaceuticals. 

His daughter is not fatherless, adopted years ago by her stepfather.  She has a daddy, and I thank God for that.

Clint was a father, had four children with his first wife, but as we all know, he died last year just days short of Father’s Day.

Me?  My daddy died when I was six, so I’m accustomed to this day when people celebrate what I have never known.  I do have this photo of him during World War Two.  Handsome, with sweet eyes.

I guess I can count the father bird whose nest of babies just flew away.  Every year, a pair of wrens nest in an old floor lamp in the garage, preventing me from giving it to Goodwill.

No, we are not complaining.  We, the two dogs and the fish and I, are escaping the 106º heat index outside by holing up in my room, ceiling fan creating a small breeze for us, watching the U S Open golf tournament and being happy for all the fathers and sons and daughters we see there.

*schizo-affective (also schizoaffective)
adjective (of a person or a mental condition) characterized by symptoms of both schizophrenia and manic-depressive psychosis.

Friday, June 18, 2010



Today, Nancy, my friend of 38 years, came and picked me up to go eat lunch at a Mexican restaurant we frequent, though less often now that we’re in our sixties and take Prevacid.  When she parked the SUV, I climbed out of my side and glanced over to see her looking in the car parked next to us.  She wore a look of shock and fear.  I rounded the front of her SUV and looked for myself.  There, in a black car, two windows slightly cracked, on the passenger seat, was a tiny white puppy with brown ears .  She was mewling like a kitten, panting, her eyes wide and terrified, beginning to cloud over.  There was no water in sight.  I clicked The Weather Channel icon on my Blackberry to find that at that moment, the temperature was 95º with a heat index of 100º!

Yes, some idiot person(s) who should be arrested and made to sit in a black car with no water and inadequate ventilation in 100º heat had left that little puppy, who looked as though she were too young to be taken from her mother, in the car under the blazing sun, no shade in sight.

I was almost physically ill, choking back the taste of bile that rose in my throat.  We rushed into the restaurant and I went from table to table until I found the two teen girls whose combined IQ must have been that of a squirrel, who said the puppy was theirs.  I asked if I could take him some water before he died of heat stroke.

“The windows are cracked.”

“Yes, they are, but in this heat the temperature of that car is probably close to 135º.  May I please take the puppy some water?”


“We have a water bowl, the younger of the two said.”

More Shrugs.

“May I please put some water in it?”

“Okay,” the older of the two finally said. She appeared to be about 17, and she handed her younger sister the car keys.  Nancy had gotten a cup of cold water and handed it to me as the girl and I walked outside into the scorching heat, me praying that the puppy was still alive.

She opened the driver’s side door. The puppy was nowhere to be seen.  I was at the passenger door and had to ask her to unlock it, and she reached across to let me in.  The puppy had crawled under the front seat seeking shade, I suppose, and she was still crying, only much more softly.

I reached under the seat and pulled out the puppy and put the cup to her lips.  She drank weakly, hardly able to lap at the water, but as he continued to drink, her tongue started working harder at getting the water down.

“Where is the water bowl?  Will you give it to me?”

The girl, who seemed to be about 12, opened the trunk of the car and retrieved the water bowl.  Now there's an idea:  leave your puppy in a hot car and her empty water bowl in the effing trunk.  I poured the cool water in the bowl and placed it beside the puppy, whose name, as it turns out, is “Carly.”

“How long have you had your puppy?”

“I got her yesterday.  She’s a early birthday present.  My birthday is on the 25th.”

“Don’t you want this dog to live until your birthday?” I queried, coming as close as I would to losing my temper.  "Please, if you don’t have a safe and cool place for her, take your food to-go and take her home.  I’ll buy your lunch if you will take it to-go.”

She said not a word, and returned a blank stare in my direction.  I walked back into the restaurant with her, imploring her and her sister to remember how hot that car would get.  Another shrug.  I asked them to keep an eye on the dog.

Nancy and I choked on our food, so worried we were about the puppy. I got up and went outside to check on it and found it lying beside the bowl, a quarter of the water gone.  She looked a little better, had some shine in her tiny eyes.  The mewling had stopped.

The restaurant manager approached the girls and gave them a stern lecture about dogs in hot cars, and they finally got up and paid and left.

And that’s not the worst of it.  Carly is in for a tough life, and I wonder if she might have been better off to die right there than to go home with those careless girls.  

What kind of people raise children who don’t realize that puppies are not stuffed toys, that they have hearts that beat and lungs that breathe and that they need to be protected from the world around them?  I have been weeping all evening, every time I think of that puppy.

This feeling of helplessness is almost paralyzing.  Should I have called the Humane Society from the restaurant, written down their car tag number?  Shouldn’t I have done more?  

The awful truth is that it’s too late now to do anything.  All I can do now is pray hard that some of what the restaurant manager and I said made some impact on the girls.  Maybe, just maybe, they heard what we said.  I don’t think I can sleep if I can’t convince myself that they did.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's Official. I'm whining.


It’s official, I’m whining.  The job I have been trying to land since April 13 has not yet been filled.  Human Resources says Hospice has my application, but Hospice is in the middle of a computer training class, and they have not returned my call from Tuesday asking them for an update.  I just left another message with them.  What’s up with professionals not returning phone calls?  It’s rude.  That’s the only word for it.  

Trying to land this job has been one of the most exasperating experiences in my life.  It has also been a tremendous disappointment.  I paid a $500.00 tuition to be reentered into nursing and get my license back, then I did a four week preceptorship with Hospice, during which I worked my ASS off for them (for free).  They wooed me, pursued me to come to work for them.  They sent the State Board of Nursing a glowing recommendation, and I had my license in a week.

The job finally showed up on the HR web site on May 21, and I applied that day.  That was nearly four weeks ago!

Life is hard enough around here without Clint, and this situation has me sliding back into the depression that has plagued me all my adult life.  It’s making me miss him more, making me angry again, making me bitchy, all the things I don’t want to be, all the things that are toxic to me.

Sure, I volunteer at the free clinic, but that is only a few hours a week.  I’m getting out with friends, but the sad fact is that I need to have some money coming in if I’m to continue that.  I haven’t been on a real budget in years, so watching every dollar is tiresome - if necessary - to me.

No, I am not headed for the poor house.  I have a nest egg, a sizable one, but I don’t want to dip into it.  I’m only 62, after all, and I plan to live a long time.  That money is for my old age, not for now.

I have resisted applying to work with any other Hospice organization, but I just made the decision to do that.  I made it as I wrote.  Medical Center is opening an inpatient facility, and my agreement with them was that I would apply for and take the shitty job that is home care nights and weekends and that nobody wants.  If I agreed to do that, they assured me a full time position in the inpatient facility.  I’m not sure I can trust them any more.

I’m going to apply at other places and then plan a dinner party for some of my friends, my close friends who will bring a bottle of wine or an appetizer.

I know I can do this, but it certainly is a roller coaster ride that keeps my head spinning and my spirits in jeopardy.  Hell, I have survived a year without Clint.  I can do anything..

(I burst into tears when I wrote that last sentence, and I had a hard time stopping.  I am really whining, and I'm going to whine and cry for a long as I want).

Monday, June 14, 2010



I promised  myself I would not write anything today until my house was clean!  Hah!  What a gratuitous lie that was!

To begin, it is as hot as the hinges of hell here is Macon, Georgia, and even the air conditioner cannot stay ahead of 95º with a heat index of 104º.  (By 3:00, it will be 98º)!

Here, in my little air conditioned house, I have cleaned my bathroom and the guest bath.  Period.  Sweat is dripping down my cheeks and my sports top is glued to my torso, feeling like a wet bathing suit.  Yes, I do remember wearing one of those, but not lately.  To make matters worse, I’m wearing a back brace that my 14 year old doctor says I should wear when I work around the house.

The copper fountain has lost its splash, needs to be cleaned, the water merely draining from one leaf to the the other with no more than a faint hum.  Water evaporates quickly in this heat. 

Both of my dogs are lethargic with crabby expressions on their faces.  They know that their walk will have to wait until 8:00 tonight...........

...................Back from cleaning the fountain.  I couldn’t contain myself.  Once I wrote it down, it became real and I was so ashamed of my neglect of it that I had to do something.  Guilt is a great motivator.

My room is scary.  I can only see a few little spots on the top of my dresser, so strewn it is with stacks of old journals, new journals, my iPod, notes to myself, - some written weeks ago - my new vocabulary lists.  There are several of them because when I add a new word, I frequently am unable to find the last list.  There are stacks of books, one of them on the verge of causing an avalanche of sorts, framed photos, a head band and two clips, my coffee cup from this morning, and the tiny brass lamp Kristy gave me one time.  Last week, cheat that I am, I moved everything around a little and dusted with one of those Swiffer things that goes 365º. 

My bedside table, oh, shit, my bedside table.  I have to leave the tubes of medicine there or I will forget my dogs’ maladies.  Honey has an eye thing, and Belle has an ear thing.  I can’t put my lip balm in the drawer or I will forget to use it before I go to bed.  Ditto the nail stuff.  Mine are little stubs.  I need the CD remote so I can turn on my relaxation music when I turn out the light.  Pictures of Clint and Addie, well, there is no room for negotiation there.  They stay.  And I dust them off every day.  Mr. Palmer, my betta fish, lives on my beside table.  He’s the only thing in the house that looks at all cool.  I guess I’ll take the dirty glass and empty Gatorade bottle to the kitchen.  The trash can in here is overflowing.

Never  mind the chair in my room, just never mind.

God, I hate this sweat.  For the uninitiated, here in the Deep South, the humidity invades our homes, even with the air conditioner cranking out air that is supposed to keep us cool.  Someone once told me that an AC can only effectively cool a home more than 20º below the outside temperature.  I believe it to be true.

I’m going to tackle my dresser, then take a cold shower and lie naked beneath the ceiling fan that hangs over my bed......or maybe I’ll clean the den first.

Friday, June 11, 2010

It Came and Went - © Claudia Schlottman


The first anniversary of Clint’s death came and went, leaving in its wake waves of sadness and loneliness and yes, despair.  I knew I would not wake up on Wednesday morning and be well, but I didn’t expect be so painfully sorrowful.

My wonderful friend, Loren, lost his father on Wednesday, and his loss reignited my grief - once more.  Will it go on forever?  

I am dressed to go out to run errands, but I'm having trouble getting to the door.  My toenails really do need a top coat.  I need to read my favorite blogs and take time to comment.  I need to clean my house, which was left in a moderate state of shambles by the get-together on Tuesday night and to which I have not done one fucking thing.  It was yesterday morning before I loaded the dishwasher and late in the afternoon when I unloaded it.  I found some Burger King sacks and some greasy spots on the cocktail table in the TV room, but I didn’t do anything but throw away the bags. 

Last night I went with my usual group to Bonefish for happy hour drinks and food.  It sat and wished I could be anywhere else in the world, anywhere I’m not known and friends won’t look at me with their furrowed brows and whisper, “Are you all right?”

Hell, no, I am not all right.  I have been a widow for one year and that’s not long enough to be all right.  I have done some healing, and I love my friends for their support and caring, but no, I am not all right.  I want to escape but don’t know where to go.

This morning, I cried while practicing yoga.  I think crying during yoga might be against the rules, so I pushed aside my tears and dammed up the rest for later.  And there will be a later, maybe tonight or tomorrow or today in the middle of Wal Mart.  They are there, lurking, watching for an opening.

I want to be NIN’s Sabina for a day or two.  No, I don’t want to have her sexual exploits, but I want to pretend I’m someone I’m not, flirt with strange men, eat exotic food and surround myself with people who have no idea who I am or what I want or what I need. Maybe on some level I do want to have gratuitous anonymous sex.  But would I come away from it any different?  Would it heal me?  Would it hurt me?

So many questions, so much sadness and uncertainty have me feeling lost and confused and impotent to live my life as I know I can.  Maybe tomorrow will be better.  God, I hope so.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

2 Weeks from Hell - Part 5


So we had Clint for three more days - at home where he wanted to be.  In turns, we lay with him, whispered our love in his ear, even napped with him.  That's Kristy in the photo with him. Until noon on Monday, he knew all of us, and we guarded our secret that he was here and dying.  None of us wanted to waste one minute of our time with him to answer the door and take a casserole from a well-meaning friend or neighbor.  None of us could eat, anyway.

On Monday morning, when his breathing became laced with rattles, none of the others could bear the noise.  But I stayed with him, and until noon, he answered me every time I said, “Iove you,” with his stock reply, “I love my darling.”  After that, he would open his eyes when I spoke, but as the afternoon wore on, he stopped even that, and I knew he was safe in a coma, away from his pain.

This is one of my poems I wrote only a few weeks ago, but this is where it should be.

Your Leaving

I grow a shell  armor
against your pending death
steel myself for the blow.

And then you get too tired
to live and we dress you
in your soft sweater
and I drop moprhine under
your tongue to give you peace
and let you go.

I lay my head on your
chest, cashmere soothing my
tear stained face and listen
as your heartbeat fades &
you breathe the breath that
is your last.

Now I’m a turtle on
my back  feet fighting the
air flailing to upright
myself  hemorrhaging
tears & wondering how
I got here.

I rock hard, roll back and
forth  struggle to right my-
self and crawl after you.
I fall deep in the dark
grope in the ink-black place
for your touch - one more touch
allow myself to sink
dreading the time I will
paddle to the surface
to find you gone.

I have a long way to go.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Two weeks from - Part 4 - We go Home - © Claudia Schlottman


It was the middle of the afternoon when we arrived at our house, and our hospice nurse, Nicole, was waiting for us.  After the EMTs had deposited Poppy into his bed, I began pulling off his hospital gown.

“Mrs. Schlottman,” said Nicole, “you may want to leave that on him so it will be easier to keep him clean and dry.”

“No hospital gowns,” I said.  Clint sleeps in boxers and a cashmere sweater, and that is what he will wear.”  

She looked skeptical but did not argue.  

“He has a catheter and a rectal tube,” I said.  That will keep him clean and dry.  He’s not going to die with a gown on.”  

So, I chose his softest sweater and a pair of Tabasco boxers with an alligator on them, and we dressed him for bed.  He was asleep in 30 seconds.

I had a meeting with Nicole to go over hospice procedure.  Having been a hospice volunteer, I was familiar with the routine.  She ordered medicine for anxiety and pain for Clint, to be delivered by a local pharmacy.  

“Mrs. Schlottman....has Dr. Schlottman asked for any alcohol?

“No,but if he does, I will give it to him.”

“Right answer.”

And I said the truest words that ever left my lips, 

“I will not deny him anything he wants.  I will not say ‘no’ to a dying man.  If he says he want to soak in the tub - he soaks every day - we will get him in the tub. He might die there, or it may take the fire department to get him out of the tub, but believe me when I say I will deny him nothing.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Two Weeks from Hell - Part 3 © Claudia Schlottman


The gardenias didn’t bloom last year until after Poppy died.  Today, I’m at my desk, looking out over the back yard, and it is filled with hundreds of blossoms and the perfume sneaks around the closed doors and windows.  Maybe they bloom for him?  Or me? 

A year ago, early in the morning of May 4, 2009, around 1 AM or so, Poppy was restless and pulling at his tubing and fussing at me.  The ER doctor walked into our little room - not even a real ER room because they were so busy.  

“His ammonia level is over 330,” he solemnly reported.  

“Oh,” I said.  “That explains his crankiness and confusion.”  (Normal ammonia levels in human beings range from 10 to 40).  I asked for the papers, the ones I swore to Clint that I would sign if there were no hope.

“Care and comfort only,” I said.  Try to get him stable enough to take home.  He does not want to die here.”

I called Kristy, and she came right away, then we decided to call Robert.   We saved our call for Gretchen until after daylight since she was 1200 miles away.

Clint was transferred to a real ER room, and a friend of our family, Donny Robinson, a chest surgeon, drained a liter and a half of fluid from Clint’s chest cavity.  It was not pleural fluid, it was abdominal fluid called ascites which collects in the abdominal cavity in the last throes of liver failure.  There was so much fluid, it had breached Clint’s diaphram and was what was causing all his dramatic shortness of breath.

I stood at the head of his bed and whispered “Fight, Darling, you have to fight.  I know you can do this.  Don’t give up, keep fighting.”  He looked into my eyes and slowly moved his head back and forth to say no.  I could read in his eyes that he was too tired to fight, so I told him we would go home.  He nodded yes.

“I’m ready to start the discharge process,” I said tearfully to Kristy and Bert.  “Poppy is not going to get well this time, and I want to take him home to die.”

“I have to hear it from the doctor,” said Kristy.  I don’t believe he is dying right now.”

“Then let’s talk to the doctor and see what she says.”

We made an appointment to see Dr. Bickley on her lunch hour.  She agreed that this was Clint’s terminal episode, but she had good news, too.  There will never be a way for me to thank Kristy for insisting on seeing the doctor.  Dr. Bickley asked to keep Poppy overnight, saying there were some procedures to bring down his ammonia level so he would be more himself.  Then we could take him home.

We called Gretchen and got her on a plane.

They moved Poppy to ICU, so we couldn’t stay with him, so on Thursday night I went home and tried to rest.  Gretchen got home at 2 AM, and I got up at 4.  I dressed and went to the hospital and begged the nurses to let me in to be with Clint.  His nurse told me that, three times during the night, he asked her to call me to come get him and take him home.

We made hospice arrangements, and I went to tell Poppy we were going home, and that we would be taking hospice with us.  He said, “I think that’s a good idea.”

His mind was clear, his ammonia level was normal, but it was only a matter of time before more fluid would build up and his ammonia level would, too.  

So we went home, but not before he ate a lunch of roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans