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Monday, May 30, 2011

More Zona Rosa in France

The week flew by, and it is almost unbelievable that my retreat is over and I am on my way back to Georgia, via London. In order to save money, I booked a flight through London, even though it meant
changing airports in London. It saved me $500. And it was no problem. Shuttles run continuously from Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and the transition went smoothly.

To attempt to sum up my experience in Aix is a daunting challenge for me, and I will probably be writing about it for some time. There was so much good there. The weather was perfect - warm during the days and refreshingly cool in the evenings. It was the ideal backdrop for the intensive and gratifying experience of being surrounded by accomplished writers.

This is Rosemary, beautiful in red.

We were all there for ourselves, of course, but we were also there for one another, to offer encouragement as well as gentle constructive criticism. For the first time in my life I know in my heart that I am a writer - a poet before all else but also a decent writer of essays.

Yes, I am indeed a writer. I am reminded of a question posed to me not long ago at work. A colleague asked me what I did when I was not working. I told her that I spent much of my time writing. Her response? “No, what do you really do? She assigned no value to my love of words and the joy of writing them down. Because of this Zona Rosa retreat, when I am questioned about what I do, I can honestly say, “I’m a writer, a poet.”

I came away from this experience empowered to embrace my true writer’s self. The women there validated my work, even praised it, much to my surprise. Rosemary, my writing mentor, was the one who suggested I answer the “What do you do?” question by replying, “I am a writer.”

I accomplished two of the three of my goals for the retreat. Two of the poems I took to work on are now finished pieces, ready to replace the ones I previously posted on My Poems because I didn’t know what to do with them. The third is in total rewrite and will be ready soon. I will ask Rosemary to critique it before posting it - or maybe not. I now have a certain trust in my ability now, and if I believe the poem is worthy of posting, I will post it. I’m a real writer now. Remember?

Above is a photo of a ceramics booth. Below on the right is a booth of linen scarves.

During my week in Aix, I shopped at the street markets, buying trinkets and scarves. I took a tour of the city, which drove us past Cezanne’s atelier, or studio, where he painted many of his masterpieces. There was no time to visit the studio itself, so I have another reason to return to Aix. We also saw many of the city’s famous fountains.

We ate Provençal food, drank what seemed like gallons of wine - the Rosé was fresh and wonderful, not at all like the sweet stuff that sometimes passes for Rosé here in the states. I soaked up the light, the famous light so influential in Cezanne’s decision to go there to paint. It was a magic time, refreshing and regenerating, and I came away with a sense of empowerment about my writing and about myself.

Zona Rosa in Aix-en-Provence

It’s hard to believe I have been in Aix-en-Provence since Saturday afternoon, and this is the first time I’ve felt free to publish a post on this blog. I am taking this time while most of the other participants are off touring the countryside, something I am fortunate enough to have done before.

First, after I finally got to bed on Saturday night, I slept for 14 hours and almost missed the first session of our workshop.

On Sunday night, I slept for 11 hours. That kind of sleep is not solely the result of jet lag. I was just so tired from life, from all the craziness I was enduring in Macon before I started this journey.

Our sessions have been very productive. Each day, Rosemary highlights the work of one or more writers in our group sessions, and we each have one-on-one time with her to work on our individual manuscripts and/or poems. I brought poems with me, old ones that I have been struggling for years to perfect. I brought them here so that I could get satisfied with them or just let them go.

A couple of them are already published on “My Poems,” but I have never been satisfied with them, so if you follow that blog, you will see some drastic changes in a couple of the pieces.

Today I walked to the Grand Place and sat at a sidewalk cafe and drank a class of white wine while I enjoyed the view and the people watching that is so wonderful here. The famous Fontaine de la Rotonde is mesmerizing, almost hypnotic. Although the site on which Aix was built has been occupied since 121 BC, this fountain was built in 1860 to give the city a focal point.

Aix is a city of fountains. The Romans always built their cities on ground where there is water, and before it was called Aix, this city was known as Aquae Sextiaë (The Waters if Sextius) because of the abundance of spring water and in honor of its founder, Sextius Calvinus. There are 17 fountains within the walls of the city, and they span the gamut from ancient to modern. These bubbling and sparkling gems refresh the city and enchant both tourists and locals alike.

On my way back to our hotel, “Le Mozart,” I stopped and bought half a bottle of red wine, some cheese and and bread, the perfect Provençal lunch, which I ate on the little private balcony off my “chambre.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Be Very Careful What You Wish For

Part 1 - May 17, 2011

On Sunday afternoon, after publishing a whiny post about having misplaced my muse, I ran straight into a situation that I must write about. I don’t want to write about it, but that is one of the reasons must. I have not been able to start this post until tonight, because I worked Monday and Tuesday, and I was afraid it would become so emotional that I wouldn’t get the rest I need to work 12 hour days.

Sunday afternoon, I piled the dogs into my car and went off to Walmart. It was a cool afternoon, and they had plenty of water. Honey, the Ruler of all Dogdom, had the front seat, of course. I cracked the windows and started toward the “Enter” door at Walmart. It was breezy, and I had my head bowed into the wind, so I wasn’t aware of what was going on at the entrance. I looked up when I heard a familiar voice addressing the man in front of me. The voice was asking for money, begging.

I was instantly aware of why the voice was familiar. It belongs to Clint’s granddaughter. She and her husband were panhandling at Walmart. I almost vomited, in fact had to swallow bile at the sight of them. My heart seized, my breath came in rapid gulps; I thought I would faint.

Gathering my wits, I spoke to the two of them, asked what they were doing.

The reply? “We’re just waiting on our ride. How are you doing?”

“Doing great,” I replied and moved through the automatic door, still tugging for air, seeing stars.

As I pulled a buggy from the carefully lined rows, I glanced over my shoulder. They were already gone.

An automaton, I moved through the store, followed my list, piled groceries and other things into my buggy. By the time I checked out, my breath was normal, but my heart was still pounding.

Arriving home, I knew I had to write this down, but I was afraid to. Putting the whole nightmare into words would make it real, make me own it, and that was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to plant my head firmly in the ground and pretend it never happened.

I sat on my emotions, waited until I could make a halfway coherent recording of this story. I used work as an excuse not to address this issue, but I’m not working again until I return from France.

But I am exhausted, emotionally and physically. One of my dearest patients will not be here when I return to work. I don’t kid myself about that. I do bring work home. I wouldn’t be worth a tinker’s damn as a nurse if I didn’t.

Part 2
May 19, 2011

A little history is in order. The Beggar, who is now in her mid-twenties, was a difficult child from the beginning - disobedient, prone to outbursts and defiance of all authority figures. She could not wrap her head around the fact that there were acceptable limits to her conduct. If and when she wanted to do something, she did it, and the consequences be damned. She seemed to lack a moral compass, but she was charming and a great manipulator.

When she was 15, she “borrowed” her uncle’s SUV one night and took her 12 year old cousin on a joy ride. After running into a mailbox, she returned the car and said nothing about it. Her cousin, however, told on her. To this day, The Beggar has never understood what the big deal was. When faced with the fact that she could have harmed her cousin as well as herself, her reply was, “Well, only the car got hurt.” End of conversation.

On another occasion, she set her grandmother’s carpet aflame while smoking a cigarette she pilfered from her.

Punishment was never effective. Taking away her TV or her CD player or her MP3 player never phased her. In answer to her punishment, which was frequent, she sneaked out of the house, and her boyfriend picked her up at the end of the street, and off they went to buy cigarettes and beer with the money she stole from her mother’s purse.

A bright young woman, she made passing grades, studying only enough to keep herself out of trouble with her parents. After graduation from high school, she came to our house on St. Simons Island for the summer. Clint and I thought a change of venue and some separation from her parents would be good for her.

She was with us six weeks when she got her first DWI. We let her sit in jail for three nights, hoping to get her attention. Nothing worked. She had a job at a local restaurant and took to staying after work to drink with her coworkers.

We grounded her, allowing her use of her car only to travel to and from work. Her bedroom was at the opposite end of the house from ours, and she began to sneaking.

I could go on for pages, but I’ll just say we had to ask her to leave, find other living arrangements. I think she slept in her car for a while. She finally talked her parents into letting her come home, charming them with promises that she would not break house rules. Over the following years, she was arrested repeatedly for DWI, driving without a license, stealing, underage drinking. Finally, her parents asked her to leave.

Two years ago, she started dating her cousin’s ex-husband, and when he won a million dollars with a scratch-off lottery ticket, they got married. Without going into details, I’ll just say that now they are broke, flat broke, as witnessed by the scene I encountered on Sunday. They both had the dark, hollow, sunken eyes of the addicted.

That image is burned into my brain.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Ramble

Sitting up on my bed, which is where I usually write, I am surrounded by my three dogs. They are sleeping quietly, but I am jittery from trying to force myself to create a blog post. My last post was on May 1, over two weeks ago, for God’s sake, and here I sit, wondering what will inspire me. I have not even the germ of a new poem inside my head. Maybe I’m a binge writer. I published four rather long posts between April 24 and May 1.

Oh, I have written posts for the memes in which I participate, but I haven’t come up with a blog post. I have set up a blog for my granddaughter, Addie Duck, and listed it on this site. I am managing it for her for now because she is swamped with final exams.

It is entitled “Addie’s Attic,” and she has never had a lesson in writing poetry. I think she shows impressive potential as a poet. She is very left brained, math and science oriented, athletic and very competitive. She never does anything halfway, never gives up.

I am dreaming that this blog will inspire her to write, even if she does want to be a neonatologist. After all, doctors can also be poets. Please click on her button and leave her a comment. She has received a number of comments but they came to my web site before I put up her blog.

This Friday, I am traveling to Aixe en Provence in the south of France to participate in a writer’s retreat hosted my Rosemary Daniell, my writing mentor.

I have several poems to work on, and yesterday afternoon, I started on one of them and just stared at it and stared at it some more. When I started to edit it but could not decide what shape I wanted it to take. The rhythm was all wrong, and meter became my enemy. When I'm done with this ramble, I plan to go back to that poem - or not. Maybe I should work one of the others.

Here’s hoping I will be inspired while in France. There is magic in the air of Aixe. I am fortunate to have visited there a couple of times before. There is incredible Roman architecture and there are museums and churches and the weekly market from which to feed my muse. Arles, which is not far away, is where Vincent painted some of his most important pieces. Just breathing in the air should be inspirational.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Belle and Honey and I have a new member of our little family. His name is Sugar, and we rescued him. The name his irresponsible former owners gave him is Sugar Ray. Cute, real cute. I abhor the “sport” of boxing, so we dropped the Ray from his name. He is definitely a Sugar, a lover, not a fighter.

The only good thing I can say about his former so-called family is that they had enough sense to surrender him to Save-A-Pet. That was after they had used him for target practice with a shotgun. No shit. The vet who cared for him after his surrender picked buckshot from all over his precious body. He treated gashes behind Sugar’s ears that looked as though his head had been stuck in a barbed wire fence.

His former owners also neglected to take proper care of him, failing to give him heartworn prevention medicine or to feed him properly. Yes, when he was surrendered, he had heart worms, a severe case, according ot the vet. He actually said he had never seen such a severe case of heartworm where the dog survived the treatment. Sugar was rail thin, which is no surprise.

So, there is a reason Sugar is not in Doggie Heaven. He was meant to live with us. A couple of months ago, while dropping my dogs at Kottage Kennels for the weekend, I fell in love with Sugar. He was in a large kennel in the lobby, and I was drawn to him, even before I knew he was up for adoption. It was love at first sight. When the kennel owner told me he would be up for adoption after he had completed his heartworm treatments, I gushed, “Oh, he’s coming to live with us! Can we adopt him?”

Without hesitation, she said “yes.” She offered that another family had expressed a desire to adopt Sugar, but that she didn’t have a good feeling about them, and she turned them down.

It was meant to be! There was a caveat, though. He had to remain at the kennel until the vet was certain he was free of heartworms and able to run and jump and play without compromising his health.

So, we waited for several weeks, and finally we were allowed to bring Sugar home with us. Honey stuck up her nose at him, even snapped at him, feeling certain that someone was coming to pick him up. Belle was a little miffed, too.
Honey is the Lhasa Apso, and Belle, the senior citizen of the group, is the Boxer lying down on the foyer rug.

But, after a couple of weeks, they both realized Sugar wasn’t going anywhere and begrudgingly began to make friends with him. This acceptance came only after Honey had attacked him, driving him to jump out of the playpen. They made so much racket that the glass break alarm went off! I got Sugar a large kennel of his own, and that fixed that.

As you can see from the photo below, Sugar fits right in here in our little cottage. We just love him to pieces!

© cj Schlottman


At the risk of sounding like I'm whining, I am publishing this post because I need to.

Why is it that the things we least want to write about are some of the most important? It happens to me often, and I have to force myself, push myself hard, to write down my truths. This post is one I have been putting off for two weeks.

Why must a mother endure the loss of a son who is still alive? Can anyone answer that question? No. There is no answer, just the fact that it is true.

Once again, my son Parrish has dropped off the wagon and gone underground. When he stops contacting me, it is never good. Understand that I know where he is, at least I think I do, but I have chosen to distance myself from him because his behavior is self-destructive and too painful for me to watch. I wrote him a letter to that effect.

During his years in Atlanta, Parrish lived in a number of places - under bridges, in parks, at one of his girlfriends’ apartments. These “girlfriends” were drinking and drugging buddies, and they floated in and out of his life, always ready to get high. There were the inevitable break ups, but they always managed to find Parrish, or he them, and the cycle began again. He subsisted on whatever he could get by selling items he shoplifted and was arrested a number of times. The only time he contacted me was when he was in jail. He always wanted me to send money to bail him out. I steadfastly refused, but he never stopped trying. Since his crimes were petty, he was inevitably released on probation, which he consistently violated.

These women, Lisa and Angela, were, and still are, poison for Parrish. They are emotional black holes who sucked him into their lives, manipulated him, then kicked him out when they had no more use for him. He was a willing participant in these cycles of toxic behavior; something always made him go back.

For the last six weeks or so, I have known that things are not what they seem to be. Before Parrish went missing in late March, (The 48 Hour Day) I was concerned about his tone of voice, his slurred speech, his constant phone calls (four or five a day) to say how much he loved me and how lonely he was and how he couldn’t wait to meet me in Atlanta for the weekend of April 16. When I challenged him on his slurred speech, he blew it off by saying he had just taken his Ativan and was sleepy from it. Now I wonder if he landed in hospital for his stated reason - lithium toxicity. I don’t know what to believe.

Two days before he was to fly to Atlanta and spend the weekend with me, he backed out, saying he had a relapse, was back in outpatient rehab. That’s when the red flags popped up. Parrish not wanting to come to Atlanta, the place he insists he wants to eventually make his home again, where his best friend lives, where the two of us have found a neutral ground where we can actually enjoy each other? Given his recent phone behavior, I had my doubts but didn’t question. Honestly, if he relapsed, I didn’t want to hear about it. I am so utterly tired of him, I could scream.

There. I said it. I’m exhausted from his neediness, his duplicity, his lies.

This time it is Angela. They have been in touch via phone and facebook. How do I know this? Parrish’s best friend, Michael, called and told me. He is the essence of a good friend. Michael loves Parrish, wants him to be clean, behave, stay away from toxic situations. He loves him enough to tell on him, even if it means making Parrish mad.

My son knows I will not support his “friendship” with this dangerous woman. I have made that clear since he landed in Miami, over 650 miles from her. He has assured me all along that he wants nothing to do with her or Lisa.

So, what is going on? My guess is that he has been drinking and drugging for at least the last six weeks, and he must have called Angela because she had no way to contact him. (Or maybe she did). I feel as though he just spit in my face. Really. I do.

Parrish cannot use his mental illness to excuse this behavior. He made a choice when he called Angela. He made a choice to start drinking and using again. And I made a choice to distance myself from him because he did.

© cj Schlottman