If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .


 

This week’s headline:

Mid-term elections are important. Don’t blow them off. Go VOTE!


Happy Halloween!

How cool. I love discovering new things. I never knew that van Gogh did this piece:

Vincent van Gogh Head of a Skeleton 1886

“Head of a Skeleton” (1886, oil on canvas)
by Vincent van Gogh

Found this classic Mickey Mouse: The Skeleton Dance (1929)

Freaky!

Dumb animals, yep.

For more on Endal, click here.

Well that explains why Tidewater Drive has been a mess for almost a year . . .

Photo: It makes sense now.

No wonder I’ve never won anything more than fries . . .

Umm, okay . . .

Photo: Waatteerrrr STAHP

Okay, now go . . . no wait, stop, turn around, go . . . no, stop again . . .

And finally, would that we could all be happy with the perfect pebble . . .

                   

Music by Donovan, what else, “Season of the Witch”

“There is a time in the last few days of summer when the ripeness of autumn fills the air, and time is quiet and mellow. I lived that time fully, strangely aware of a new world opening up and taking shape for me.” ~ Rudolfo Anaya, from Bless Me, Ultima

John Scorror O'Connor Burnt October

“Burnt October” ()
by John Scorror O’Connor


 Wednesday night. Partly cloudy and warmer, 63 degrees.

Spent the day with Olivia, and now she’s asleep. We’re going to need to put together the single bed because she’s almost too big for her Pack ‘n Play, but that’s something that I need Corey to help me do as it involves rearranging and stuff. Tomorrow I’m going to take her to visit my aunt and cousin.

I tried to do a quick stir fry tonight for dinner, but it was terrible. The noodles were old and tasted like blech. Thankfully, she likes Spaghetti O’s. Yes, I know, processed food and all of that, but hey, I was punting. I tried to do the right thing, only it didn’t happen. She was just as happy to have the pasta.

I’m hoping that I’m able to fall asleep soon as I know that she’ll be up early in the morning. So for now, have some poems, and let’s just pretend that it’s Tuesday. Okay?

More later. Peace.

Albert P Lucas October Breezes c1908-09

“October Breezes” (C1908-09)
by Albert P. Lucas

Two for Tuesday (on a Wednesday): October

October

I
It’s odd to have a separate month. It
escapes the year, it is not only cold, it is warm
and loving like a death grip on a willing knee. The
Indians have a name for it, they call it:
“Summer!” The tepees shake in the blast like roosters
at dawn. Everything is special to them,
the colorful ones.

II
Somehow the housewife does not seem gentle.
Is she angry because her husband likes October?
Is it snow bleeds softly from her shoes?
The nest eggs have captured her,
but April rises from her bed.

III
“The beggars are upon us!” cried Chester.

Three strangers appeared at the door, demanding ribbons.

The October wind . . . nests

IV
Why do I think October is beautiful?
It is not, is not beautiful.
But then
what is there to hold one’s interest
between the various drifts of a day’s
work, but to search out the differences
the window and grate—
but it is not, is not
beautiful.

V
I think your face is beautiful, the way it is
close to my face, and I think you are the real
October with your transparence and the stone
of your words as they pass, as I do not hear them.

~ Bill Berkson

                   

John Francis Murphy October Mist 1902 oil on canvas

“October Mist” (1902, oil on canvas)
by John Francis Murphy

Late October

Midnight.  The cats under the open window,
their guttural, territorial yowls.

Crouched in the neighbor’s driveway with a broom,
I jab at them with the bristle end,

chasing their raised tails as they scramble
from bush to bush, intent on killing each other.

I shout and kick until they finally
give it up; one shimmies beneath the fence,

the other under a car.  I stand in my underwear
in the trembling quiet, remembering my dream.

Something had been stolen from me, valueless
and irreplaceable.  Grease and grass blades

were stuck to the bottoms of my feet.
I was shaking and sweating.  I had wanted

to kill them.  The moon was a white dinner plate
broken exactly in half.  I saw myself as I was:

forty-one years old, standing on a slab
of cold concrete, a broom handle slipping

from my hands, my breasts bare, my hair
on end, afraid of what I might do next.

~ Dorianne Laux

                   

Music by Jill Andrews, “Rust or Gold”

“Life might be brief and transient, scrawled in the sand. But death was written in a much harder alphabet.” ~ Stephen Booth, from Dancing with the Virgins


No matter how careful you are, there’s going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn’t experience it all. There’s that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should’ve been paying attention.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, from Invisible Monsters

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and 83 degrees, yes, 83 degrees . . . whatever . . .

It’s supposed to be “Two for Tuesday,” but I’m pushing Tuesday to Wednesday because I was up until almost 6 a.m., thinking about words, words that I wanted to say, but I kept myself away from the keyboard because I knew that once I began, it might be days before I stopped. Days, hours, it matters not.

Odilon Redon Closed Eyes 1890 oil on canvas

“Closed Eyes” (1890, oil on canvas)
by Odilon Redon

This is what kept me awake: My mother was the one who realized that something was wrong with Caitlin. Not me. She did. She took one look at her and said, “What’s wrong with her eyes?” She said they were bulging. I didn’t really see it, didn’t want to see it, shrugged it off as my mother being overprotective of her granddaughters in the same way that she was overprotective of me.

She was right.

That phone call I received at my very first faculty meeting? That one? It was because my mother had put Caitlin in the car and had taken her to the pediatrician’s office and made them look at her eyes. You see, after the ER doctor had said that she had a virus, I had taken Caitlin to the pediatrician and said that my mother thought her eyes looked funny. The one doctor, the one I never really liked, poo pooed the comment.

My mother was right. I was wrong. The ER resident was wrong. The pediatrician was wrong. It took my mother taking Caitlin to see the other pediatrician in the practice, the gentle one who listened to every word you said—it took that for someone to finally pay attention and send Caitlin to the Children’s Hospital, the hospital that found the brain tumor.

My mother was right.

How children think of death is how the shadows
gather between trees: a hiding place
for everything the grown-ups cannot name.
” ~ John Burnside, from “The Hunt in the Forest”

Odilon Redon Ophelia

“Ophelia V” (c1905)
by Odilon Redon

Look, you’re probably wondering why I’m going over this yet again, but all I can say in way of explanation is one word: fall. Autumn is my best and worst of times. I love every natural aspect of the  season, yet the way in which my emotional well-being goes into free fall more often than not leaves me tortured. Nietzsche said it best when he said that autumn was “more the season of the soul than the season of nature.”

Example: Yesterday, after getting my fasting labs done in the early morning, and then having my six-month checkup with my PCP, all I could think about were curly fries. Weird, I know. So I had to maneuver the hell that is a major thoroughfare that it still under construction to get to the nearest Arby’s. My timing was lousy as the nearby grade school was getting out at the same time. Parents in their cars lined both sides of the streets. No one would let me turn into the narrow street. The resultant snafu left me in tears.

Yes, tears, as in crying in the car, which, if you’ve ever been in the car with me, is completely uncharaceristic. Crying over curly fries, crying over curly fries that I couldn’t eat once I had ordered them. Then yesterday evening as I was trying to force myself to post something, I came across the story about a journalist who was beheaded by ISIS, and again, I cried.

Bed. Yes, bed would make it better. But bed, not so much. No sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about my mother and Caitlin’s eyes, which leads me to this moment.

“. . . how come sorrow is as heavy, lumpen and impenetrably black as an anvil?” ~ Agnès Desarthe, from Chez Moi

November will rear its ugly head in just a few days, and with it I have to confront once again the losses of my daughter, my father, my friend, and yes, even my dog. Isn’t it time to let go, past time, you ask?

Odilon Redon The Yellow Cape 1895 pastel on paper

“The Yellow Cape” (1895, pastel on paper)
by Odilon Redon

Beh. Of course it is. But that’s for normal people, people who do not obsess and obsess and obsess over perceived failings. Example: I did not clean the portal lines that had been inserted into Caitlin’s chest the day that I had taken her in for a follow-up MRI. Why do I remember this? Who knows, but I remember vividly doing a haphazard job of inserting the flushing material in the waiting room at CHKD before they took her into the MRI suite because I wanted to make sure that I had done this one thing for my daughter that I was tasked to do on a daily basis.

Did that failure to use a one-inch square of alcohol on a gauze pad lead to infection? Who knows? Possibly? Probably? Probably not?

The point is that I REMEMBER. I cannot forget. Just as I cannot forget that I did not go back to the hospital that night before my father died even though I had promised his unconscious body that I would come back and spend the night at the hospital. Exhaustion and relief at being away from the white noise of the ICU gave me a false sense of relief, and so I went to bed, and he died in the middle of the night alone.

“How long it takes me to climb into grief!
Fifty years old, and still held in the dark,
in the unfinished, the hopeful, what longs for solution.” ~ Robert Bly, from “A Ramage for the Star Man, Mourning”

Enough, you say. Stop this madness, you say. No, not nearly . . .

When I left my mother’s room that Thursday afternoon, I secretly congratulated myself on making such a speedy getaway, leaving my mother to talk the ear off the social worker. I had work to do. I needed to get her house ready for her to come home. There was snow to be removed. And so I had a brief visit, long enough for her to bitch at me, and then I left, and then she died the next morning, sometime, they are guessing around 9, alone.

Odilon Redon Closed Eyes c1894 oil on canvas

“Closed Eyes” (c1894, oil on canvas)
by Odilon Redon

And did I mention that that best friend I lovingly wrote about years ago in my Vale et Memini series, the one who had a brain tumor and survived? Her? Did I mention that she died and I didn’t find out until a few years later, that I never even went to the funeral because I didn’t know that there was a funeral, and the other night it suddenly came to me that hell, I was her eldest daughter’s godmother, a sacred honor that I had completely washed from my memory.

And that other anamchara friend, the one who I always thought I’d be bonded to in perpetuity? I haven’t corresponded with her in years, other than an obligatory Christmas card. Yes, I am a careless friend, the kind of person who withdraws so completely that the only interactions I still have with friends occur in the midst of troubled sleep.

And then there is the nagging curse I imposed upon myself when Corey and I first got together: I had been so certain that he wouldn’t have to be burdened with me for years and years because I never wanted him to see me get old, and so I had this feeling, this sense, that I would die when I was 56. And you hear of people who have feelings that they will die young, in their teens, who do, and people who have a feeling that they will not live to be old, and they do not, and so what have I done to myself.

“Endlessness runs in you like leaves on the tree of night.” ~ Anne Carson, from “TV Men: The Sleeper”

Listen, if you recently subscribed to this blog because you found it amusing and slightly entertaining, or if you enjoyed the art or the poetry or the music, if that was your reason? Well I’m sorry. Because this post is really what this blog is about. This endless cacophony of doubt, and blame, and grief, and sorrow, and pain.

That other person, the one who offers up stuff from Takei’s tumblr or other such sites? She’s a phony. She is neither glib nor witty. She masks all of the pain behind little ditties about animals and absurd abuses of the English language because to do otherwise would be peering far too keenly in Nietzsche’s abyss, and we all know what happens when you do that.

Odilon Redon GIrl with Chrysanthemums c1905 pastel on paper

“Girl with Chrysanthemums” (c1905, pastel on paper)
by Odilon Redon

The only good thing about this post is that I did not get out of bed at 4 a.m. to begin it. Had I done so, I am completely certain that the maudlin factor would have been  even worse, if you can imagine that.

I always, always know when the words are going to come fast and furious, when there is no stemming of the onslaught. It has always been this way, since I was but a child, hiding in my room, trying not to let my mother see that yet another book had reduced me to tears and heartache because her solution, of course, was to think happy thoughts, and for a soul such as mine, one might as well say something along the line of “you could be happy if you just tried.”

Oh, but if you only knew the truth of my esse, my life force, that tortured, tormented, and torrid do not begin to encompass the four corners of my heart.

More later. Peace.

All images by French artist Odilon Redon (1840-1916). I am intrigued by how many of the subjects in his paintings have closed eyes or eyes narrowly opened, to which I can relate: going through life with eyes closed, surrounded by beauty . . .

Music by Will Hoge, “When I Get My Wings”

                    

Consider the Space Between Stars 

Consider the white space
between words on a page, not just
the margins around them.

Or the space between thoughts:
instants when the mind is inventing
exactly what it thinks

and the mouth waits
to be filled with language.
Consider the space

between lovers after a quarrel,
the white sheet a cold metaphor
between them.

Now picture the brief space
before death enters, hat in hand:
vanishing years, filled with light.

~ Linda Pastan

“Nothing looks more painfully calm than an autumn twilight. The sun rays pale in the quivering air, the old trees cast their leaves. The country, scorched by the ardent beams of summer, feels death coming with the first cold winds. And, in the sky, there are plaintive sighs of despair. Night falls from above, bringing winding sheets in its shade.” ~ Émile Zola, from Therese Raquin


 

Monday evening. Clear and temperate, 65 degrees.

I’ve been in a bit of a fog for several days now. Not really sure what’s going on. Just beginning to feel a bit better today. I had my six-month check-up with my PCP. Forgot to tell her how I’m craving sugar all of the time. I’ll have to try to remember to call tomorrow to say, “by the way, when she asked if anything was new, the answer was actually yes . . .”

Sorry I’ve been so lax lately. Thanks to the newest followers. Hoping to get back into some kind of groove this week. For now, have this little ditty:

Can you name the 50 different words in Dr. Seuss’ ‘Green Eggs and Ham’?

Well…can you?

                   

Late October

Midnight.  The cats under the open window,
their guttural, territorial yowls.

Crouched in the neighbor’s driveway with a broom,
I jab at them with the bristle end,

chasing their raised tails as they scramble
from bush to bush, intent on killing each other.

I shout and kick until they finally
give it up; one shimmies beneath the fence,

the other under a car.  I stand in my underwear
in the trembling quiet, remembering my dream.

Something had been stolen from me, valueless
and irreplaceable.  Grease and grass blades

were stuck to the bottoms of my feet.
I was shaking and sweating.  I had wanted

to kill them.  The moon was a white dinner plate
broken exactly in half.  I saw myself as I was:

forty-one years old, standing on a slab
of cold concrete, a broom handle slipping

from my hands, my breasts bare, my hair
on end, afraid of what I might do next.

~ Dorianne Laux

                   

Music by Trentemøller, “Deceive”

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Friday afternoon. Partly cloudy and autumnal, 67 degrees.

So . . . hmm . . . a whole lot of nothing going on in my head . . . actually, too much to sift through . . .

The dogs kept me up most of the night, well, up and down and up and down. There must have been some kind of critter in the back yard that had their interest. The highlight of my evening was watching the finale of “Project Runway,” which I still like, even after 13 seasons. Tried to read and couldn’t. Tried to watch something else, and couldn’t. Not really sure what’s going on.

At least I finally got the x-rays on both of my hands done yesterday afternoon, something my pain management doctor prescribed weeks ago. Funny how I hadn’t noticed how weird my left thumb is looking, as in misshapen. Love this getting older stuff. Oh well . . .

                   

This week’s headline:

 18 Newspaper Headlines That Are So Poorly Written, It's Embarrassing   33 - https://www.facebook.com/diplyofficial

You don’t say . . .

And another good one:

pumpkin riots2

 

That these two were friends (they went to Julliard together) is absolutely amazing:

Have you ever ridden in an Intelevator? Me neither.

It’s long, but worth it, especially around 5:40.

Where do I get some of this?

Crime and Punishment: He did what?

 18 Newspaper Headlines That Are So Poorly Written, It's Embarrassing   15 - https://www.facebook.com/diplyofficial

Crime and Punishment: World’s worst robber?

The hell, you say?

 18 Newspaper Headlines That Are So Poorly Written, It's Embarrassing   25 - https://www.facebook.com/diplyofficial

Too bad the U.S. doesn’t have the guts Canada has in this instance:

Love the pun:

Moral of the story? Always check for newts . . .

Twitter responses to pumpkin riot in New Hampshire hand conservative pundits their own words . . . with a twist:

pumpkin riots

 

Love this story:

To read the judge’s lyrics, click here.

And finally, let’s turn the tables on birth control:

“I will go down with my colours flying.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry

Sunday evening. Sunny and autumnal, 63 degrees.

I’ve been saving this series of photographs for the perfect fall afternoon. It’s finally here. Enjoy the following beautiful images by Kacper Kowalski. For more of Kowalski’s incredible work, including his series Polish Autumn, click here.

By the way, I did not go through (since I am reblogging as published) and move the periods and commas to within the final quotation mark as they should be, even though this is one of my major grammatical pet peeves. I have to admit, I thought about it though . . .

                   

Reblogged from The Guardian:

He shoots, he soars: Kacper Kowalski’s forest photographs – in pictures

Travel writer Robert Macfarlane responds to photographer Kacper Kowalski’s giddily beautiful aerial shots of Poland’s forests in autumn

Henry James called it “the figure in the carpet”: a pattern that is imperceptible when seen from close up, but startlingly visible from above. For a century and a half, aerial photography has been revealing such patterns in the landscape: from prehistoric earthworks and trackways to the intricate designs of motorway flyovers and suburban street plans. The elevated perspective – once the view only of “the hawk” and “the ­helmeted airman”, in WH Auden’s phrase of 1930 – has become increasingly ubiquitous in everyday life. Satellite mapping has made gods and birds of us all, swooping over virtual surfaces of the Earth, while abstract patterns issue and vanish with a slide of the zoom-bar.

Kacper Kowalski’s astonishingly beautiful ­photographs of the autumnal Polish woodland disclose the figures in the forest carpet. Seen from above, tree species whose greens blend together for much of the year are vividly distinguished by their different fall colours, the change of season acting as a chromatograph. In one image, an area of forestry has been replanted and the younger trees assume a Mondrian-like geometry: Aztec red and gold rectangles and rhomboids of green and mauve, separated by logging tracks. In another, a band of heath, flanked by chalky ploughed fields, resembles a Rothko in its blocks and stripes of colour, and in the deep, ­eye-absorbing purple of its heather.

Several of Kowalski’s most striking photographs practise exquisite deceptions of scale. A diamond-shaped island, set in a lake whose surface itself looks like the sky, might be a micro-terrain of mosses and lichens on a boulder. Reed-marsh cupped in the curves of a river has the intricately crinkled texture of chamois leather. The ­spreading grey canopies of beech trees closely resemble nano-scale imagery of human nerve endings. Indeed, our neurons possess “dendrites” (from the Greek word dendron, meaning “tree”) – the branching projections that conduct electrochemical stimulation from synapse to nerve cell, and that overlap to form what neuroscience memorably calls a “dendritic arbor”. The outer landscape has christened the inner.

Autumn leaf-turn expresses a death that is also a renewal. Through spring and summer, green chlorophyll is the dominant leaf pigment. But as day-length decreases and temperatures fall, chlorophyll production in the leaves is reduced, eventually to the point of extinction. As the ­chlorophyll content declines, other pigments begin to shine through: carotenoids – that flame-orange, yellow and gold – brown tannins and the rarer redder anthocyanins. The anthocyanins are produced by the action of sustained strong light upon the sugars that get trapped in leaves as the tree’s vascular system prepares for leaf-drop. In these ways, deciduous trees scorch themselves spectacularly back to their bare branches, in order to survive the winter and prepare for the resurg­ence of spring. It’s a process that still speaks to us – unseasonal though most of our lives now are – as we start to batten down for the cold to come.

British woodlands lack in number the real fire-starters of the North American forests: the maples, aspens and sumacs that set whole mountain ranges ablaze each autumn. The pleasures here tend to be subtler, and certainly smaller in scale.

In Cambridgeshire, where I live, the first trees to turn are the acers – the sycamores and field maples – that glow doubloon-yellow and then burn ember-red. The beeches, oaks and hornbeams take their colour later and hold their leaves longer: entering a beech hanger on a bright, mid-autumn day is like stepping into a light box. The sunlight assumes the hues of the leaves through which it passes, and so falls inside the wood as gold, green and bronze. When a frost is followed by a gale, spectacular leaf falls occur and vast leaf drifts build up, big enough for children to burrow into. I particularly like the brimstone yellow of the sweet chestnut, and the acid yellow of the larch (a deciduous conifer). Up in the Hope Valley in Derbyshire one November, I cycled through larch plantations after a frost-gale combination had knocked millions of needles from the trees. They lay in glowing reefs that seemed to possess a lustre rather than a colour.

The forest, seen from the elevation of Kowalski’s camera, becomes more artefact than ecosystem. Details are encrypted by altitude: is the winged shadow that falls in the blue lake that of a boat on its surface, a raptor flying overhead, or the photographer’s own aircraft? Are the silver shards that cluster the shoreline of the diamond-shaped island waterfowl or boulders? It doesn’t really matter: the viewer makes his or her own sense of the sight.

I suppose this is why I slightly distrust aerial photography. The images it offers us are often arrestingly beautiful, but this beauty is born of abstraction, distance and detachment. Seen from above, landscape tends to reduce to pure form, and our relationship with it to the purely aesthetic. I would much rather be tramping through an autumnal forest than flying over one. It’s for this reason that my favourite of Kowalski’s images is that of the dendritic beech wood. The trees are bare of their leaves, so we can see down to the footpath that slants across the frame. And just visible upon the track are a couple of walkers, out for a wander, making their own pattern in the copper carpet of leaves.


Music by Carina Round, “For Everything a Reason”

 

“Really, all of this speaks to the broader picture of how the middle class in America is struggling to exist.” ~ Bill Faith, from “Where the Tea Party Rules (Rolling Stone, 14 October 2014)

Saturday afternoon. Sunny, 76 degrees.

Date night tonight, two movies at one of our favorite places to see movies, Cinema Cafe; tonight’s selections—Fury and Gone Girl. Hoping the ones we chose this time are better than Noah and Oculus, both of which were a major waste of time and money.

Anyway, thought I’d share a few tidbits I came across in my perusing. It’s a theme—you know, Tea Party and Rolling Stone. Corey actually forwarded me the article below about his hometown in Ohio. Happy reading . . .

                   

From Rolling Stone article, “Eight Tea Party Morons Destroying America

This guy is my hero. No really:

Steve Stockman
State: Texas
Elected: 2012
Core Beliefs: A fierce defender of the petrochemical industry. Believes “the best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it, oil and gas come out.” Said president’s post-Sandy Hook gun-control push “reminds me of Saddam Hussein.” Invited rodeo clown who dressed in a racist Obama outfit this summer to be an honored performer in Texas.

But this one runs a close second:


And speaking of Rolling Stone and the Tea Party, here’s its article about Corey’s hometown—Lima, Ohio:

Lima Ohio

Abandoned storefronts, empty streets and rundown housing plague Lima, Ohio, once a manufacturing hub. Photo by Geordie Wood

Where the Tea Party Rules

Lima, Ohio, has been struggling for decades – and the GOP’s radical policies are making it even worse

By | October 14, 2014

Dewey Chaffins was 19 years old when he left Appalachia for northwestern Ohio in 1958. The youngest of 10, he’d grown up in Garrett, Kentucky, a hardscrabble coal town where his family had lived and mined for generations. During the 1950s, when the coal industry in eastern Kentucky fell into a steep decline, scores of young men packed up all they had and headed north toward the industrial Midwest. Chaffins found opportunity in the city of Lima, a manufacturing boomtown where there were so many factories, as one retired autoworker recently told me, ”you could walk into a place, get a job without even a high school diploma, and if you didn’t like it, you could quit, walk across the street and have another job that afternoon.” By the time Dewey and his 18-year-old wife, Linda, settled in Lima, seven of his siblings, their spouses and some of their in-laws were living in and around the city, where they quickly found work in the automotive plants or tire factories or steel mills, joined the UAW or other unions, and set about raising their children in a manner none of them had ever dreamed possible.

Dewey and Linda worked for Hayes-Albion, a Michigan-based company whose Lima plant provided Ford with chrome and trim. Their combined annual income was almost $50,000 a year, not a lot but enough at the time to buy a home in the middle-class suburb of Bath Township, just east of Lima. By the end of the 1980s, each of their four children had graduated from high school, and two had gone on to college. There was no reason to doubt that their family’s continued upward mobility was secure.

One recent morning, I went to visit Dewey’s son Scott Chaffins, who still lives in Bath, in a small three-bedroom house he shares with his wife, Lori, and their two college-age kids, Joshua, 21, and Alyssa, 18. Now 50, Scott is a burly guy who meets me dressed in long cutoffs, a blue polo shirt and flip-flops. He shuffles through his kitchen followed by the family’s big brown Lab, Brutus. Stopping briefly to say hello, Scott then excuses himself to lie down. “It’s his blood pressure,” Lori says, apologetically. A chemist and former college professor, Scott’s been out of work for six months. “Stress adds a lot of health issues, as you can imagine,” she says.

Photo: Geordie Wood

A short, round woman wearing a pink T-shirt and shorts, Lori Chaffins sits at a long, rectangular wooden table, drinking Dr Pepper. It’s a Friday afternoon, and she’s off for the summer from her job driving a school bus and working in the nearby middle-school cafeteria. The schedule isn’t bad, she says – working only nine months out of the year means she’s had more time to spend with her kids. On the other hand, her annual income is roughly $25,000, and she hasn’t had a raise in six years. Since her husband’s been out of work, they’ve liquidated Scott’s retirement and drained most of their savings, about $60,000 in total. Still, they have close to $160,000 in debt between their mortgage ($1,200 per month), car payments ($305), health insurance ($300 per month, with a $1,750 deductible per person) and the loans ($7,000) they took out to help pay for Joshua’s living expenses at Bowling Green State. Their home, which they purchased in 1999, along with 20 acres of land, for $170,000, has depreciated by a third, Lori says, ”and we’re still upside-down on our loan.” She shakes her head with the tight, exhausted expression of a woman who’s just barely hanging on. ”I mean, when a family can’t afford to buy steak at seven to 10 bucks a pound, that’s ridiculous. But ground beef at $4.99 a pound? That’s outrageous,” she says, her voice rising in frustration. Last year, their family had $18,000 in medical bills. ”And that was with our insurance,” she says. ”I just get so mad when people say the economy is turning around. Are you kidding me? I’m poorer today than when my husband was in college.”

Lori grew up in the nearby town of Elida. Her father, a nonunion carpenter, made less than $4.50 per hour, when he worked at all. ”We had an outhouse in the 1970s,” she says. ”I mean, we were dirt-poor. I refused to raise my children like that.”

Scott, who has a chemistry degree from Ohio State, was the first member of his immediate family to go to college, which at the time cost him $1,500 per year in tuition. While he was in school, Lori helped pay their bills by waitressing at a Pizza Hut, and she kept working as they moved from Columbus to Bowling Green, where Scott studied for his master’s, to Cincinnati. They had no intention of returning to Lima to live, but after the kids were born, they began to think it would be good to be closer to their families. So in 1999, Scott, then 34, went to work in the oil industry, managing 30 other chemists at the city’s large oil refinery, the longtime anchor of the community. Depending on his bonus, Lori says, he would go on to make between $100,000 and $125,000 a year, a small fortune in an area where most people earn less than $60,000 annually.

That was a good period, Lori says as light streams in through sliding–glass doors and reflects on a series of wall photographs: Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, the Pacific Coast. Scott took those, she explains, back in the days when they could afford to take family vacations. Today, she says, they can barely afford to go to the movies. ”The last movie I saw was Harry Potter, in 2011,” she says. ”We had no idea it would get as bad as it did.”

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