“To find a pearl dive deep into the ocean don’t look in fountains. To find a pearl you must emerge from the water of life always thirsty.” ~ Rumi

Sailboat at Sunrise

“Do what you must, be wise, cut your vines
and forget about hope. Time goes running, even
as we talk. Take the present, the future’s no one’s affair.” ~ Horace

Cabo San Lucas, image by cabo-sailboats.com

Long time no post.  It’s peculiar, but every time I opened my blog, the picture of the woman with the anti-semitic posters greeted me, which disturbed me, so I closed my blog without writing. Finally, I decided that I could either keep getting put off by something in my post, or I could write a new post to replace the one that causes me so much disquiet. So I’m posting.

Besides, my stats are taking a big hit with no new posts, and I don’t need anything else to fret about in my fret-filled life.

Yesterday, I witnessed something that was astounding. Brett and I were in the waiting room at his doctor’s office. She is always running late, so spending time in the waiting room is tedious but anticipated. I usually take something to read, but not yesterday. It’s a very busy office, so the check-in window has two people sitting there to greet people, check them in, take money, make follow-up appointments—the usual. In my subconscious I heard one of the women say, “May I help you sir? Sir? Oh well, I guess you don’t like me. May I help you ma’am?

The woman was obviously joking and making light of the line of people waiting to be helped. However, when said man got to the front of the line, he demanded to see whoever was in charge, “right now!” He went off for about 5 minutes without pausing, saying how she had made a joke at his expense (for which she apologized profusely), accused the office of having deep-rooted problems (it’s a therapy office, you think there are problems?), his voice getting louder and louder with each word. By this time, the woman sitting next to me was transfixed, and the man across from me was clenching and unclenching his hands, clearly ready for a confrontation.

The obstreperous man at the window went on: It’s not so funny now, is it? I’m the one laughing now . . . How dare they make fun of him . . . ya da ya da ya da. I looked at the woman next to me, who said, “You know, I thought that he was joking at first.” To which I agreed. He obviously was not joking. I told the woman that he was precisely the kind of person who went postal.

At that moment, Brett’s doctor called us into her office. Unfortunately, the loud man had been moved into the hallway right outside Brett’s doctor’s office, and he was now yelling at the office manager, who told him that if he didn’t calm down, he would be removed from the patient list. Apparently, this man must do something disruptive each time he comes for an appointment because I heard the manager say to him that he needed to call before he arrived at the office for his appointments so that they could avoid these scenes.

Man oh man. What is it with people that they feel the need to be noticed, no matter what? If the complainer was upset by what the receptionist said, he could have just said that to her, given her a chance to apologize and moved on. But no. He had to turn it into a major case in which he, the aggrieved, was intentionally belittled and the entire office was out to get him.

At one time in my life I had thought that I would have made a good therapist. Yesterday reminded me of why that would not be true: Patience in the face of rampant boorishness is just not my strong suit.

“I don’t know where I was going to lead these thoughts, or where I might want to lead them. It’s a foggy, humid, hot day, sad, without threats, monotonous for no reason . . . I’m slowly filling white paper—the paper for wrapping sandwiches they give me at the cafe, because I don’t need better and any will do, so long as it’s white—with lazy traces made with a rhombic pencil. And I’m satisfied. I sit back. The afternoon fades monotonously, without rain, in a discouraged, uncertain tone. And I stop writing because I stop writing.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet

Sailboats in Sydney Harbour

So, the temperature around here went from the 60’s to a current high of 88 degrees. It’s muggy, humid, and too warm for April. Why am I not surprised?

I spent the weekend doing taxes: our taxes and Eamonn’s taxes, federal and state for both. We already received notification that we will not be getting our federal refund again this year because the government needs the money more than we do. Not. We are getting a small state refund, but of course, that is already spent.

So I worked on taxes for two days, and then spent yesterday recovering. When we got home from Brett’s appointment, I read. I thought about posting, but just couldn’t find the energy to do so. Brett is on spring break, and I am on perpetual break.

I had asked my ex if he would contribute towards all of the senior fees that Brett has upcoming. When I first mentioned it, he was reasonable and said to tell him how much I needed. When I told him now much I needed (which was half), of course, he balked. Surprisingly, he did manage to come through. I mean, we have to order Brett’s cap and gown, pay for his graduation announcements, buy his yearbook, on top of paying for his SAT, college applications, etc. I don’t think that I was being unreasonable to expect him to come up with half. But quite frankly, I don’t really care if he thinks that it was unreasonable. I have let him slide on so many things over the years because it is easier than dealing with his attitude.

Wednesday is Alexis’s follow-up appointment with the neurologist in which he is going to discuss her MRI and her EEG and come up with some kind of game plan. I want her to talk to him about her sleeping habits as she has missed work a couple of times because she has not heard all of the alarms. One day she woke up at 3 in the afternoon. Her friend had called her. Mike had called her. Her boss had called her. Four alarms went off. She slept through all of it. How is that possible? Fortunately, the people at her job are being very understanding at the moment, but I expect that that will not last after this appointment with the neurologist. It’s been a wait-and-see for them (wait to see what caused her seizure before deciding how to handle it).

“An unfulfilled vocation drains the color from a man’s entire existence.” ~ Honoré de Balzac

Sailboat at Porto Koufo, Greece

Corey has a spring cold. The pollen is not helping. This week, he only works two days, and both of those are for training, which means he will make less per hour. He has told me that when he is at a port and sees the tugboats, he longs to be on one. I know how much he misses doing his real job. He read an article in his work magazine that said that shipping is not picking up as fast as they had anticipated for 2010. Really? I think that we knew that.

I really thought that he would be working for Vane Brothers by now, but they are still not bringing on any new people. The unfortunate reality is that Corey made more money on unemployment than he is making at this job, and the logic escapes me. I mean, port security is kind of a big deal around here. Port security has been a big deal ever since 9/11. Given that reality, am I the only one who thinks that the people tasked with watching these boats should be paid more than someone who is selling men’s clothing at a department store?

Apparently, I must be. Of course, there is that whole thing about being glad for what you have, being grateful for having a job, which of course, we are. But both of us also know that Corey would be much happier on a boat doing what he has been trained to do and earning what he is worth. It’s not the money that he loves about being on a tugboat. It’s the job itself. The money is nice, but the satisfaction means more.

Anyway, that’s about all for now. More later. Peace.

Music by Regina Spektor, “Field Below”

                                                                                                            

I read this on Crashingly Beautiful, and it seemed appropriate to my discussion about boats:

Cradles

Along the quay, the great ships,
that ride the swell in silence,
take no notice of the cradles.
that the hands of the women rock.

But the day of farewells will come,
when the women must weep,
and curious men are tempted
towards the horizons that lure them!

And that day the great ships,
sailing away from the diminishing port,
feel their bulk held back
by the spirits of the distant cradles.

 ~ Rene Francois Armand Prudhomme

“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries” ~ Theodore Isaac Rubin

*Snow Bath by Corey Fickel

“All my life I have been on the brink of either a break down or a break through.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Saint Francis in the Snow

Our Internet has really been acting funky, which has made it hard to post. We have a wireless network in the house, and given that our house is not very big, there really shouldn’t be problems, but of course there are. My computer is farthest from the router, but that hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference until recently. The other computers in the house have Internet service, but I do not. It’s very frustrating, but we don’t really know why this is happening unless the router is going bad, which may be the case. I suspect the router because replacing it would cost money, and that’s how things work in this house. If it’s a simple, cheap fix, it doesn’t break; if it’s expensive, then it will break. 

Anyway, yesterday, I wasn’t even able to look at videos on YouTube, without my computer locking up, so I decided to abandon any hopes of posting. Today, things seems to be working fine, so I’ll take my chances. 

I think that I’ve decided to abandon Facebook. I don’t have much to report in the status bar, and my life isn’t so involved that I feel a need to update everyone on what isn’t happening. I think that Facebook can be fun for the people who participate in the games and polls, which I don’t. And it has been nice making contact with some people from my past, but after that initial contact, is there anything more to say? 

I think back to my old post on becoming a hermit, which I wrote sort of tongue in cheek, but I really think that a part of me is very much like a hermit: I don’t crave the company of lots of people, and the more time that I spend here in this little corner of my bedroom, the less I feel that I am connected to the outside world. I’m not bemoaning my fate, just making a statement. 

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always . . .  ~ Yann Martel, Life of Pi

"I love this stuff . . ."

The port security company called Corey to schedule an interview, which is great. But now he is anxious, worrying about impressing them. I told him that it’s normal to be anxious given that he hasn’t really interviewed for a job in a long time, but he is convinced that he is not qualified. He finished his port security training with the Coast Guard but did not graduate because of his injury; therefore, he doesn’t have any certifications. I told him that he just needs to explain what happened, but he is tying himself up in knots over this. 

He does have the qualifications for this type of job. I just hope that he can make it through the interview. If he can do well in the interview, he has a good shot at the job. 

Being unemployed for so long has insidious effects, which are now coming to the front. Unemployment strips your confidence, makes you feel inadequate, and the longer the unemployment continues, the more you begin to believe that you are a failure, not worthy of consideration. Having had my own bout with unemployment, I truly understand what Corey is feeling, and unfortunately, all of the loving supportive words in the world cannot erase that overwhelming feeling of insecurity. 

Here’s hoping . . . 

“You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Snow Buddha

I’m back to not sleeping. I have no idea what’s going on, and I’m at the point at which I don’t even try to ascertain reasons. Last night, for example, I fell asleep somewhere between 5:30 and 6 a.m. I got up at 7, 9:20, and 11 to let the dogs out. I don’t really think that they need to go out, but they get restless. I finally fell into a deep sleep after 11. 

This is so backwards. I did have a migraine for three days, so that probably contributed to things. Funnily enough, a representative from my long-term disability insurance called for an update a few days ago. I told her that absolutely nothing had changed. Still seeing the same doctors, still taking the same medicines . . . she asked about my days, as in what did I do. What could I tell her? I sit at the computer for a few hours, read, watch television. She wanted to know if I do any cleaning. I told her that I do some things but not others. 

Those periodic conversations really bring into focus how much my life has changed in the past two years, how I have gone from working a full day and then going to classes in Alexandria, how I have gone from cleaning my whole house to cleaning parts of my house, how I have gone from sleeping 6 hours to sleeping 10 hours. It is more depressing than I can begin to describe. 

I spend hours with ice packs on my head. I spend hours on the heating pad. I take my pills, and I look forward to small things: new episodes of NCIS, a good book, a movie, my favorite coffee. So while I have lost so much, I have also relearned the art of appreciating small things. I don’t exactly see it as a fair trade-off, but it is what it is for however long it stays this way. 

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. when you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami

In the news: Ben Stein, commentator for CNN (why should anyone listen to the former Nixon speechwriter?) says that he knows why Republicans are not in favor of healthcare reform: “. . . The answer is much higher percentage of Republicans are taxpayers than Democrats and the Republicans are the people paying for it, and the Democrats are the people receiving it.” 

Surface of Frozen Pool (or Ben Stein's Brain)

Let me just pause here for a moment while I collect my breath . . . First, and probably most importantly, the IRS does not have a spot anywhere on its myriad of forms that asks taxpayers to indicate their political affiliation, if any, so how, pray tell, did Stein come up with that factoid? Second, and this is personal, we pay a boatload of taxes, always have. A January 2009 report by Forbes magazine stated the following: 

“The 400 highest-earning taxpayers in the U.S. reported a record $105 billion in total adjusted gross income in 2006, but they paid just $18 billion in tax, new Internal Revenue Service figures show. That works out to an average federal income tax bite of 17%—the lowest rate paid by the richest 400 during the 15-year period covered by the IRS statistics. The average federal tax bite on the top 400 was 30% in 1995 and 23% in 2002.” 

This report says nothing about political parties, just income levels. In my many years of paying taxes, I have never had a 17 percent rate. Never. Stick it Ben Stein, you blowhard. (Thank you Skyewriter for the heads up.) 

In other news, former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis only received $32,171 in compensation for 2009. Poor Lewis. Oh wait. I forgot to mention: Lewis also received $73 million in accumulated compensation and retirement benefits, which brings his net to $73,032,171, approximately . . . 

Fannie Mae wants another $15.3 Billion, yes with a B, in aid. Okeedokee.  Let’s take these things and compare them to the fact that unemployment benefits for millions of people expire this weekend, but lone Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky is holding a temporary extension hostage over concerns about the deficit.  On Thursday, the House passed a bill temporarily extending the programs for a month until lawmakers can address the issues long-term. The Senate tried to follow suit, but the lone Republican Senator held out. 

Don’t get me wrong, I, too, have issues with the deficit. Perhaps we can ask Ken Lewis for a contribution, say $73 million or so? 

Enough financial news. It makes my eyes water and creates a sharp pain behind my right eye. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Imogen Heap, “The Moment I Said It” (heard it on “Criminal Minds,” which has a soundtrack almost as awesome as “NCIS.”) 

 

  

*Corey took all of the pictures featured the day after the snow storm we had here a few weeks ago.

 

Scattered Thoughts

oak-toad-from-floridan-alaskiana

Oak Toad by Janson Jones from Floridana Alaskiana*

Update on the Current State of Affairs in Our Household:

The Tax Man Cometh

tax-cartoon1I sat down at the computer yesterday afternoon around 2:30. I didn’t get up until 1 a.m. I was doing our taxes using one of the online programs. It was incredibly painful, taxing even (is that where the term originates?). So I e-filed our federal and state returns around 1 in the morning. When I did my error check, I came back with no errors. Hooray for me. I’ll tell you, I was grasping for every single deduction and credit I could find (while staying within the limits of the law!), and even then, we were in the owing category for a while.

This year, we had fewer deductions than last year; couple that with the fact that Corey was on unemployment for most of the year and had no taxes taken out on that, which means that we are getting a much smaller refund. I know a lot of people prefer to break even at tax time because the logic is that you don’t want the government to have your money in an essentially interest-free account during the year. But the fact is, a nice, big refund is like a boon for us. It allows us to do things like go on vacation or put on a new roof or continue to renovate the house. We wouldn’t be able to save otherwise because we always end up tapping into our savings during the year because there are always emergencies.

At one point, we actually did have a nice savings account, but those days are past. I’m hoping that we can get back to saving once Corey gets back to work, but I won’t hold my breath.

Shipping News

rogue-island-tug

The Rogue Island Tug

Speaking of Corey getting back to work, we are going to use part of the refund to pay for another class in the hopes that after this particular class and endorsement, he will be more employable on a wider class of boats. The tug boat industry is so tight right now that jobs are at a premium.

Once he completes this class and joins a different union, we are hoping that he might be able to catch some boats out of the Gulf Coast or even West Coast. The pay is better, and the companies fly their people to and from jobs. Keep your fingers crossed and think good thoughts because we really need this.

The Home Heating Situation

42-15257051I’d like to report that we successfully made it through the coldest part of winter using only space heaters and lots of blankets. We plan to pay off our exorbitant balance with the gas company with the other part of our tax refund. I would really like to stick to that plan and not have to be diverted.

Once we get the natural gas turned back on, that means that Corey can install the whole house hot water system that we’ve had in a box for almost a year. This system is supposed to provide hot water on demand throughout the entire house. I’m really looking forward to that as the electric water heater that we got for the interim sucks big time. Being able to take long hot showers has been an impossibility, and everyone must wait at least a half an hour between showers unless you want a cold shower.

I’ve really missed being able to take a long hot bath without having to boil water to add to the available hot water. It’s more of a pain for Corey than me since he has to tote the hot water into the bathroom, and each time he does, Shakes attacks his toes because he thinks that Corey is bringing in some kind of weapon to hurt me. Shakes is a serious mama’s boy. Have I mentioned that?

The Birthday Boy

angel-wings-tattooSo my oldest son turned 18 yesterday. We were able to take the family out to dinner on Sunday night. It was Corey, me, Eamonn, Brett, and Alexis, which was really nice. Of course, Eamonn’s friend and my pseudo-adopted son Josh came along too. He spends more time at our house than his, but we really don’t mind. He’s a nice kid and fits in with our familial quirkiness really well.

For Eamonn’s birthday present, Brett bought him a Bob Marley t-shirt, which was a big hit. Alexis got him a Scarface poster to hang in his room and a small stuffed penguin (he loves penguins)—both big hits. Corey and I gave him a new silver chain for his cross, only to find out that the cross is broken at the top (another jewelry repair to add to the list), some new studs for his ear, and a handwritten coupon towards a tattoo.

Eamonn envisions having wings put on his back, which I am not opposed to, but that’s something that he’s going to have to pay for as I’m sure that it would be quite costly. But above the wings he wants to put a Latin phrase, which at the moment I cannot recall. We figure our promise of funds will cover the Latin phrase.

Sweet Dreams These Are Not

meye-nightmare1

Meye Nightmare by L. Liwag

I have been having the wildest most violent dreams this past week. I don’t know if this is a side effect of my new migraine medicine, but if it is, I hope that it passes. In one dream I was involved in an altercation that involved a rocket launcher being aimed directly at me, and then lots of stone throwing (symbolic, huh?).

But last night, or rather this morning, I had a very controversy-filled dream that involved all kinds of people. In one part, I was with my friends from ODU Mari and Marty. The three of us used to go to lunch together. Well in my dream, we were shopping for wine and cheese, and then we were going to go to my house to relax. Marty ended up drinking a bottle of wine (she doesn’t drink in real life) and getting very ugly.

The dream continued to the next part in which I was having an argument with my former father-in-law, which never would have happened as he is very laid back, and he stormed out of Alexis’s birthday party. In the dream, she was still a little girl. After he stormed out, I had an altercation with Alexis and hit her repeatedly. Again, this is not something that ever happened or would happen in real life.

I woke up gasping and feeling completely discombobulated. I have to tell you, dreams like those are so unnerving that they stay with me for days, and I probably read too much into them. Why did I dream that? What did that mean? I psychoanalyze myself like crazy, which makes me, well, crazy.

It’s Raining . . . It’s Pouring . . .

its-raining-its-pouring

Rain on the Window Pane by L. Liwag

It has been raining here for seven straight days. What, is this Seattle? The worst part about the rain is that I have to dry off the dogs each time they go out, or they have muddy paws. Occasionally, one of them slips past me when I’m drying off the others, which results in muddy paw prints on my sheets.

Can I just tell you how absolutely annoying that is? I know that I have wiped muddy paw prints off the bed at least four times during this god-awful rain. I’m not about to yank the sheets off every time one of the dogs jumps on the bed with wet paws or I’d be washing my sheets every day. Changing the sheets on a normal basis is a hard enough task for me, what with the bending over.

Our backyard looks like a marsh, and I swear that there is a mud puddle that is at least three inches deep and about four feet long. Of course the dogs walk through this pool of muddy water each and every time they go outside. I know that it’s deliberate because they think that it’s pretty funny to watch me spaz out when they do it. I think that Tillie is the ringleader with the whole puddle thing, but don’t tell Corey because according to him, Tillie can do no wrong.

Well, that’s all of the latest news. Nothing exciting really. Just needed to write about it so that some day I could look back on this and think: Geez you have a boring life . . .

More later. Peace.

*http://floridana.typepad.com/weblog/oak-toad-bufo-quercicus/