“Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.” ~ Carl Schurz

Sun Reflected in Frosty River

 

“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston from Dust Tracks on the Road

Well, we survived Thanksgiving and my mother’s lovely running critical commentary throughout dinner. Had a bit of a snafu though: Alexis overslept because her electricity went out during the night, so her alarm did not go off, and as a result, the turkey went into the oven rather late. Since it was a 20-pound turkey, we didn’t eat dinner until 8 p.m., which doesn’t really bother most of us because we tend to eat late, but my mother was beside herself.

I called her at 2:30 to tell her that everything was going to be late and suggested that she eat a small meal, but that didn’t stop the bitching. “What do you mean . . . why? . . . how did her electricity go out in the middle of the night . . . I’ve never heard of such a thing . . . I can’t believe this . . .” Unfortunately, we could not cook the turkey here as we are still without natural gas, and our oven is a beautiful, large gas oven that is sitting unused, but that my friends, is a different saga.

This couple couldn't take the time to put on clothes

So the waiting became too much for eldest son as he had an urgent need to get to his girlfriend’s house; we sent him on his way with our blessings and suggested that he check back in later, although he didn’t.  In spite of the delay, dinner was delicious, not way too much food as it used to be, and we had open-faced hot turkey sandwiches on Friday night for dinner.

The madness that is Black Friday did not leave the country unscathed. No stampedes at Wal Marts this year because the stores allowed shoppers into the building; the catch was that no one was allowed to touch the early bird specials until 5 a.m. Everything was on pallets and covered with plastic. I know about this not because I was there (Wal Mart the day after Thanksgiving? me? shudder), but because Alexis’s friend Jennifer went and was out by 5:40 a.m. in time to go to work. Amazing.

I didn’t read any stories about fights in the aisles or mayhem, and the American consumer seemed to be more willing to part with dwindling cash, somewhat. Preliminary data show that shoppers deposited almost $41.2 billion into retail coffers (oh to have just .001 percent of that), this according to the National Retail Federation.  But the madness that normally plagues the pages of the news seemed to be less this year.

There was a shooting in which a man killed his adult sisters and a 6-year-old cousin on Thanksgiving day; another man locked his children in the trunk of his Trans Am while he ran into a sporting goods store (“They like to play in the trunk”). However, the most horrific thing that happened over the holiday weekend state side was the shooting of four Seattle police officers in a coffee shop early Sunday morning. The officers were sitting at a table with their laptops preparing their day when 37-year-old Maurice Clemmons walked in and opened fire. No other patrons were shot, only the officers. For more details on this story, click here.

“To receive everything, one must open one’s hands and give.” ~ Taisen Deshimaru

A Salvation Army Kettle

Oh, and one more on holiday cheer and good will towards all: In Toledo, Ohio, a man grabbed a Salvation Army kettle full of donations and pushed the bell ringer to the ground. Supposedly the man said, “I can’t stand you and your bell-ringing. I hate Christmas.” Clearly, this year’s winner for the Ebenezer Scrooge award. Personally, I love to see the kettles, but I miss seeing real Salvation Army members ringing the bells. I always try to put something in at least a few kettles each year.

And by the way, the rumor that bell-ringers receive part of the kettle coffers is absolutely false. Bell-ringing is done by civic organizations, scout troops, schools, etc, but the Salvation Army does employ people from shelters to be bell-ringers. These needy individuals receive minimum wage to stand out in the cold, snow, and rain collecting donations that are used to fund the Salvation Army’ s many charitable programs, including shelters, meal programs, after-school programs, to name but a few.

“You’re the love of my life
And the breath in my prayers
Take my hand, lead me there” ~ Dave Matthews Band

So with the one holiday over and the big one looming, Corey and I are in a kind of stasis. The bills continue to pile up, and the money continues to be non-existent. We have a huge payment due to the power company in just a few days, and absolutely no way to pay it. It’s hard to think about putting up Christmas lights when there might not be electricity to power them.

So that’s what I mean about stasis. We cannot really do anything as far as decorating until the living room undergoes a major clearing, but that is dependent upon painting the bedroom, and I had forgotten that one of the reasons that we didn’t move  the very heavy bureau into the bedroom before this is that the bedroom needs to be carpeted. Once that huge dresser is in place, it’s going to be very hard to move it. So do we wait to paint until we can carpet so that we move everything once? Do we move everything twice? And who is this we I speak of, Kemosabe . . .

I must admit that my recent renewed addiction to home renovation shows is not helping with my complete dissatisfaction with the state of our house. There are so many things that we could do to make the house better, less cluttered, easier to get around in if we just had a little cash. Having said that, using cash for renovations has to take a backseat to using it for bills, so once again, the infamous Catch 22 comes into play.

Oh well, moving along . . .

“We clasp the hands of those that go before us, and the hands of those who come after us.” ~ Wendell Berry

Brett's Hands

I have been thinking of hands lately. Don’t ask my why, but  I have. Hands that are moving through the air. Sunlight glowing through hands. Babies’ hands. My children’s hands, which are very much like my own. I have very long fingers, which was great when it came to playing the piano, and all three of my children have long thin fingers.

I remember my father’s hands. He had a degenerative condition in his right hand that caused the muscle to atrophy, so much so that he had to use his left hand to turn the ignition in his 1966 Ford Falcon.  I remember more than once looking at my father’s hands, so bent and worn with age and work, and being just amazed at how much those hands had accomplished over the years.

I really don’t remember anything that my father couldn’t do when he tried. He built things around the house, sewed things, fixed things, worked on his car (all of the time), and maintained the engines on those huge cargo ships that traveled all over the world. I know that my father was very good at his job because he had ship captains who routinely requested him.

In the end, when he was in the hospital, it was his hands that I watched. So small and shrunken, they knitted the sheets to and fro. This man who was never really still his entire life was working even in the midst of his morphine dreams. Watching that automatic movement day after day almost broke me.

But my thoughts about hands are not all painful. In my mind’s eye I see a pre-school craft project that Alexis made: a piece of muslin with small green handprints in a circle, forming a wreath. I still have that. Brett’s hands, specifically his thumb, which he sucked when he was a baby. I never really fretted that he sucked his thumb because I knew that he would stop when he was ready. Nine-year-old Eamonn’s long fingers scooped around a basketball, his slightly crooked smile as he stood for his team picture.

These memories are good memories. I can take the memory of my father’s hands when it is balanced against these memories from my children’s earlier days.

My hands when I had long manicured nails

I look down at my own hands as they skate aross the keys: long, thin fingers, the one vein on each hand that has always been prominent, cuticles a bit ragged from worrying them unconsciously. These hands have touched piano keys and computer keys; they have brushed my daughter’s long hair and finger-combed my son’s waves. These hands have held four babies, cupped their small heads and massaged their backs. These hands have polished a thousand pieces of furniture and cleaned thousands of dishes. They have planted countless flowers and strung colored lights year after year.

These hands are my strength and my weakness: For everything that these hands have allowed me to do, they have also felt the pain of being idle at times when doing something, anything, would have helped.

These hands stroked the soft dark hair on my daughter’s head as she lay dying in my arms, but these hands could not stop death. These hands held my father’s small, curled hands as he lay sleeping in a hospital bed, but these hands could not keep the pain at bay nor force death to wait.

These hands have held newborn babies, and puppies seconds from their mother’s womb. They have stroked the flanks of a chestnut mare and loosened the bolts in an engine. They have turned the pages of thousands of books and held countless cups of tea and coffee. Each morning, these hands move across a face that belies its age, while fingers probe for wrinkles that have yet to appear. These hands stroke Corey’s cheek when he is asleep, and rub the belly of my fat, spoiled dog as he lays snoring by my side.

Everything that is or has been me is within these hands, and when I hold them up to my eyes when the summer sun beats down relentlessly, my fingers seem to glow with life, and I am reminded of that scene in the old movie Ladyhawke when Isabeau raises her hands to the morning sun just before she transforms into the hawk.

I have my father’s hands. My desire is that when I am in the dusk of my life, my hands will have created more than they have destroyed, that they will have caressed more than they have repelled, that they will have calmed more than they have worried, and that they will have written a million words, filled with the myriad sides of myself, my life, and those who have used their own hands to help me, guide me, hold me, and teach me along the way.

More later. Peace.

This video of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s “Falling Slowly” somehow seemed appropriate.

 

 

Let us give thanks . . .

 

Shadows and Reflections

 “Once you have tasted the sky, you will forever look up.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

I’ve written several posts on the subject of being thankful, including the Grace in Small Things series. Today, I thought that I would focus on things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life that have helped to shape me into the person I am.

  • Having the opportunity to see original masterpieces by Renoir, Monet, Glackens, Bernini, Van Gogh, Klimt, Morisot, Wyeth, Hopper, Sargent, Kadinsky, Pollock, Caravaggio, Tiffany, Manet, Leighton, Rembrant, Tissot, Matisse, Veronese, Rothko, as well as ancient Ethiopian art, tribal masks dating back to the 12th century, real Samurai armor and weapons, and photography by Brady, Stieglitz, Bourke-White, Mann, Strand.
  • Walking through a tropical rain forest in Africa and seeing shades of green that I never knew existed. Crossing a hanging rope bridge that was situated high in the air above a stream.
  • Sitting in the dark and listening to live performances by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Seeing Nureyev and Margot Fontaine perform.
  • Hiding in the trunk of a car to get into a drive-in movie for free and then not watching the movie because it was too scary.
  • Going snorkeling in the Caribbean
  • Walking among the ruins of Tulum amid the huge iguanas and then eating fresh guacamole with cold Sol atop a small mountain.
  • Seeing the volcano in Baguio, Philippines
  • Riding up a mountain to get to Baguio in a bus very much like the ones you see in the movies, which was filled with villagers, chickens, a pig, old women, and my very American mother.
  • Reading some of the best literature ever written: all of Shakespeare, Michael Ondaatje, Marlow, and far too many others to mention.
  • Meeting some of my favorite poets and writers in person at literary festivals, including Chris Buckley, Mary Oliver, Tim O’Brien, Barry Lopez, Caroline Forché, Bruce Weigl, and many others
  • Working in a newsroom right at the crest of computers. Watching the paper be printed, smelling the ink.
  • Attending three wonderful universities: The George Washington, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion.
  • Doing on-camera interviews for the museum, which sometimes meant being at the studio at 5 a.m, but still fun.
  • Performing for the Queen Mother in London in a Dances of Asia program.
  • Starring as Rizzo in Grease.
  • Participating in a drum-making ceremony with a drum master.
  • Working in a donut shop for a few months during high school and getting to bring home the leftovers.
  • Dancing on the runway at a go go bar for a story on the Norfolk nightlife.
  • Hanging out over the water in a trapeze while sailing on a catamaran in the Chesapeake Bay
  • Going cave tubing and not feeling the least bit claustrophobic
  • Hiking on the trails at Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Getting my four-cylinder Pontiac Sunbird up to 80 mph while driving home from Blacksburg one Sunday night
  • Attending grade school in London
  • Going to a military tattoo in Scotland and sitting in the outdoor stadium wrapped up in blankets because it was so cold.
  • Seeing huge statues in the mountains of Spain as we drove through the country.
  • Seeing live concerts by The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Sarah McLachlan, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Sugarland, Norah Jones, and a bunch of other people I can’t remember.
  • Playing Chopin and Mozart on a grand piano at a recital in front of 100 people.

These are just a few of the highlights. I deliberately did not include anything personal about my children, husband, family, or friends as that is an entirely different list. But putting these things down in words makes me realize how very many opportunities I have had in my life to travel, to embrace other cultures, to see stunning natural and man-made beauty.

I have done things that I never thought that I would do, and I have seen in person things that I had only dreamt of.

I have not led a life of privilege, but I have been privileged to have had these experiences. There is nothing on this list that is earth-shattering, nor is there anything that changed humanity. But individually and collectively, these moments in time have changed me in ways seen and unseen. They have moved me to tears and made me cry with delight. Trite as it may sound, I have had a wonderful life.

More later. Peace.

 

Itzhak Perlman performing Massenet’s “Meditation from Thais,” a song that I performed in recital at Virginia Wesleyan College.

 

Muppet Madness

I freely admit that I just stole this vid from Memphis Mafia of Really . . . Really . . . Seriously. We share a fondness for the Muppets and for Queen. The following is perhaps the best cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that I have ever seen. Hope you enjoy.

 

 

Real post later. Peace.

“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” ~ Maya Angelou

Rain on a Smoke Tree Leaf

“The most significant gifts are the ones most easily overlooked. Small, everyday blessings: woods, health, music, laughter, memories, books, family, friends, second chances, warm fireplaces, and all the footprints scattered throughout our days.” ~ Sue Monk Kidd

Sick today. A family of gerbils has moved into my ears, creating a wonderful muffled sound. And a miniature Mike Holmes (from “Holmes on Homes”) is wielding a jack hammer in my sinuses. (Aside: If you like home renovation shows, “Holmes on Homes” is the best; Corey and I both love it.) Today is one of those days that calls for a nightgown and a book.

Mike Holmes from "Holmes on Homes"

Other than this wonderful news, not much going on. Cold and rainy outside. Dogs are sleeping. Brett is playing “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” an early Christmas present from my mother. Tomorrow, he is getting his picture taken for the yearbook; we never got his senior portraits made, and tomorrow is a make-up day at his school for pictures, so we’re going to do that for now, and maybe get his formal portraits made next year.

Alexis dropped by on her way home from work to chat a bit, which is always a nice diversion. I had a few smaller purses that I am passing on to her. Even though my daughter has inherited my propensity for being a bag lady—and in some ways she has surpassed it by having different bags for different items—she has still not succumbed to the big purse addiction that I have possessed for years, which is a good thing.

One bit of good news (relatively speaking): I have a new phone line, same old POS phone. After getting six text messages in a row from Eamonn, I realize now that I did not miss having a phone at all, but since I get calls from doctors and other bureaucracies, I really needed to have a number to give them that wasn’t Corey’s since his phone will be with him on the boat come January.

Funny how I could live without a phone but not a computer. Maybe that’s because the computer does not make noise and interrupt my train of thought.

Thought I’d share a poem, this one by William Stafford:

Assurance

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or in the silence after lightning before it says
its names–and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles—you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head—
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

~ William Stafford

Here is Ray Montagne’s “Be Here Now,” a perfect song for a rainy day:

 


More later. Peace.

“It’s possible to fight intolerance, stupidity and fanaticism when they come separately. When you get all three together it’s probably wiser to get out, if only to preserve your sanity.” ~ P. D. James

Infamous Image of Secret Service Agent Climbing President Kennedy’s Limousine

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” ~ Haile Selassie

Warning: Free-thinking female liberal on a rant . . .

While perusing Andrew Sullivan’s “Daily Dish,” one of my political blogs, I came across a reference to an article by Mark Warren of Esquire. I clicked on the link to the article, which deals with the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and certain parallels to today’s society.

President Kennedy's Dallas Motorcade

The article, entitled “On the Anniversary of Kennedy’s Death, Extremism Lives On,” is a wonderful commentary on “the toxic atmosphere that holds in our current politics” with cries of socialism and communism at very turn. Warren then explains how he came across the following letter while doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas. Initially, I was going to include only selected parts of the letter, but after rereading it, I realized that the entire letter deserves to be read, so here it is.

The Letter:

Tyler, Texas
November 24, 1963
President Lyndon B Johnson
The White House
Washington D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

In this time of mourning and appreciating how very busy you are, I still must write about existing conditions here in East Texas, even if you are too busy to read this, because I feel it is my duty to do so. I wanted to write President Kennedy’s staff and try to get them to persuade him not to go to Dallas but unfortunately didn’t do it for fear of being that crank or busy–body. This time I will risk that appellation. I am frightened at conditions that prevail in East Texas.

Flier Created by John Birch Society

Mr. President, the easy thing and what is desperately trying to be done [is] to convince a stunned nation and world that Mr. Kennedy’s murder was the work of some deranged crackpot, and while the trigger was pulled by such a one, perhaps the atmosphere that made it inevitable was the hatred of the people (I don’t mean every one of them but a big majority) who wanted Mr. Kennedy and any one connected with him out of the White House. A week ago this might have sounded ridiculous but subsequent events lend it credence, I believe. There is a virus of disrespect and hate spreading here very rapidly. And unless one lives right here with it, day in and day out, it is unbelievable how quickly and subtly it infects reasonably intelligent persons. This is not too hard to understand only if one recognizes the unremitting, deep, bitter religious and racial prejudice existing today in this section of our land — I don’t know if any of them are similarly infected in other sections, but I know personally of what I speak as regards East Texas. In fact, although nearly every one indignantly denies having any racial or religious prejudice to the point where he deceives even himself in this matter, after listening seriously to protestations of horror and shock one can almost hear a collective sigh in essence, “Too bad he had to die but after all a Catholic is no longer in the White House and this ought to set the ‘niggers’ back on their heels for awhile!” It is painful to some of us I know to give credence to such a condition so we blind ourselves and blame a mentally confused person — forgetting in our desire to remove the blame from ourselves that where religious and racial prejudice prevails, not just the killer but all are mentally confused. When this prejudice is played upon adroitly and exploited actively (as in our locality) by such groups as The American Fact-Finding Committee and many more [of] that ilk, for instance the John Birchers, etc., it soon fans into a situation as exists here, many, many citizens ridden by a vicious hate which inevitably erupts and expresses itself in violence — as in the case of Mr. Kennedy’s murder in Dallas.

A strong evidence of this was the recent demonstration of violence against Ambassador Stevenson in Dallas, and even more clearly by an article carried in the Dallas News (a 100% anti-Kennedy sheet) stating that Mr. Bruce Alger [then-congressman from Dallas, and the only Republican in the Texas delegation] advised the citizens of Dallas there was absolutely no need to feel apologetic about this incident — everyone being free to express his opinion. He neglected to specify the degree of violence of such expression. And the citizens vote for Bruce Alger! So what can one expect? I just heard the flash about Oswald being shot and also the theory that is was caused by mass hysteria. That is here, all night, but I think rather there are certain groups and individuals who wish to insure Oswald’s complete and continuing silence because, knowing the ‘temper’ of Dallas, I can’t believe a known police character of Ruby’s caliber would risk his neck through any feeling of patriotism or love for Mr. Kennedy — can you?

I don’t know if anything can be done about the festering sore of prejudice and hatred on our social structure here, but I doubt if you can know its deadliness unless you are in constant, daily touch, and I thought it my duty to mention it, in that case, even though you may consider I am an alarmist and am exaggerating. I only wish I were.

Respectfully,

Charlotte Essman

Barack Obama at Richmond, VA Rally

“You have been asking what you could do in the great events that are now stirring, and have found that you could do nothing. But that is because your suffering has caused you to phrase the question in the wrong way . . . Instead of asking what you could do, you ought to have been asking what needs to be done.” ~ Steven Brust

What an incredible find, not just for Warren but also for those of us who carry with us a deep-seated anxiety over the current state of politics in the U.S., those of us who wonder openly if President Obama has enough security, wonder if the Secret Service is doing enough, if they are taking seriously the hate-fueled threats against the sitting POTUS.

To be perfectly candid, the anxiety over Obama’s safety is something that has plagued me since the campaign. After attending on of candidate Obama’s rallies, and seeing how open he made himself, I was immediately reminded of another president who wanted to make himself open to the American people: John Kennedy.

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” ~ John F. Kennedy 

The other parallels between these two men have been discussed in just about every forum, but they bear noting: both men were accused of being communists because of their liberal politics. Both men were accused of dragging the country into socialism because of their desire to implement social change in a country that still treats part of its population as less than equal. Both men were questioned because of their ideologies, their backgrounds, their religious affiliations (or in the case of Obama, his supposed affiliations).

Fox Noise Phony Glenn Beck

And the most worrisome parallel between the two men rests not in the men themselves, but in the reactionaries who shout to the rafters about these two Presidents, separated by 46 years, generations, wars, and social change. In some of the more fanatical (and ignorant) quarters, President Obama’s plans for national healthcare are being compared to Nazi Germany. Take Rush Limbaugh: “Obama’s got a health care logo that’s right out of Adolf Hitler’s playbook . . . Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate.”  Or how about former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey with her death panel lie:  “Congress would make it mandatory—absolutely require—that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.” And then there is Louie Grohmert, a Republican representative from Tyler Texas, who claims that the president’s healthcare bill will “absolutely kill senior citizens. They’ll put them on lists and force them to die early.”

What is truly amazing is that people really believe this idiocy. Death panels? Killing senior citizens? Nazi Germany? What are these people putting on their Wheaties?

Then there are the comments that defy categorizing: “This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, for the white culture . . . I’m not saying he hates white people (uh, you just did you moron). This guy has a problem. He has exposed himself as a racist,” this according to pompous ass Glenn Beck. Or how about John Boehner, the House minority leader, who declared that Obama’s stimulus package was, “one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment.”

“No government can help the destinies of people who insist in putting sectional and class consciousness ahead of general weal.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Franklin Roosevelt Signing Social Security Bill

Of course, President Obama is not the first president to be accused of being a socialist or a communist. Any president who goes in as a reformer, that is, someone who takes on the status quo to improve the lives of the majority, is usually labeled as such. Consider FDR: The American Liberty League called Roosevelt both a fascist and a  socialist (what?).  When JFK and Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare—a system that has become a staple of American society—they were accused of trying to convert this country to socialism. The American Medical Association denounced proposed medicare, sending out a letter to its members,  “Doctor, now is the time for you and every other ethical physician in the United States to individually and voluntarily pledge nonparticipation in HR-6675, the socialized hospitalization and medical care program for the aged.”

In 1961, Ronald Regan made a ten-minute plea on an LP for the AMA, concluding by saying that if Medicare passed, “one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” Barry Goldwater, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole—all fought against Medicare because it would cause the U.S. to become a socialist nation.

Unless I am seriously mistaken, the U.S. did not become socialist after the New Deal, or after Social Security, or after Medicare, or even after Earned Income Credit (thank Ronald Reagan for that on), all of which were supposed to take us on that long dark road to socialism and the end of our country as we know it.

“What experience and history teach is this—that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles.” ~ George Wilhelm Hegel

But as usual, I digress. What first struck me when I began writing this post is how both JFK and Obama took office as reformers, and how both men really caused an upheaval in conservative parts of the nation with their supposed radical ideas for change. I won’t delve into a detailed analysis of how these two men differ or ar similar as that is not the point of this post.

Kennedy did not listen to his advisors and went to Dallas on November 22, 1963. Kennedy also made the fatal mistake of telling Secret Service agents that he did not want them to ride on the small running boards at the rear of his open convertible. We all know what happened on that fateful day. Even those of you who are not old enough to remember that day in November still know all about it. History also tells us that many in this country, politicians included, believed that Kennedy got what he deserved.

If ignorance is bliss, then this woman is one happy camper

What kind of climate fostered such animosity against the president 46 years ago? The same kind of climate in which we currently find our country: hate-filled speech, hyperbolic statements likening the POTUS with Adolf Hitler, calls to arms, bold statements by those in the public eye that perpetuate this climate of fear, hatred, racism, and paranoia.

But what we need to remember is what happened as a result of the pervasive unrest then could happen now. Those who are being churned into a collective frenzy in their hatred for the man who currently sits in the Oval Office include individuals who only need a push in the right direction to carry that hatred into an act of senseless violence.

It’s all well and good for me to include examples of extreme ignorance, such as the smiling woman with the stupid poster, because I know ignorance when I see it. I also know racism and hate when I see and hear them. But there are people out there who suck up this kind of thing like milk and honey. It nourishes and sustains the hatred that is already part of their make up, and it is precisely this segment of the population that scares the living crap out of me.

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” George Santayana’s quote is often repeated with variations, but the fact remains that Charlotte Essman’s letter could have been written yesterday.

More later. Peace.

Jann Arden and Jackson Browne singing “Unloved”

  

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

 

Video of  Avalanche Creek in Montana’s Glacier National Park by Janson Jones

“Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah…it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.” ~ Rumi 

Well, one of the only good things about being bi-polar is that sufferers of this condition have manic bouts in which they become very hyper and have a lot of energy. Granted, I don’t have these bouts of mania the way that I used to, mostly because of my medication, but since I’m not taking my medication as I am supposed to, I am now having these spurts of energy. Did you follow all of that?

Anyway, yesterday I don’t know what got into me, but I cleaned the kitchen and then proceeded to do all of the paperwork that has been backed up, which meant forms to seven pharmaceutical companies requesting participation in their patient assistance programs. In addition to the forms, I had to include supporting documentation showing why I need this assistance. After completing the forms online, I then tried to get all of the packages together but ended up confusing myself, so I enlisted Corey’s help in going through each package to make sure that I had everything.

I also had to do an explanatory cover letter, and a cover letter to my doctor explaining everything that I was trying to do. In addition, I finally got the paperwork together for my student loan requesting forbearance due to poverty, and I completed a form for another withdrawal from my retirement, this time to pay my health insurance premium. At this rate, I will have absolutely no money left in my retirement, well, very little.

But the point is that I got all of this paperwork completed and ready to go to the various places to which it needs to be disbursed; I also filed my copies and filed a pile of other stuff that was cluttering up my desk. Finally. And of course, Corey helped. So a very productive day. Today? Well today my back is killing me and I have a headache—the price for doing too much in one day.

“It is not the perfect who always succeed in life, but those who keep trying even in the face of tremendous hardships . . .” ~ Steven Apel

Termination Dust, Chugach State Park, AK by Janson Jones

The director of the publishing program at George Washington University denied my grade appeal, which I predicted he would do, but at least I finally found out what grade I got on my project for the infrastructure class. He claims that the grade was posted on Blackboard, but it was not posted for the three months that I checked. I got an A on the project, but since the project only counted for 15 percent of the grade, it wasn’t enough to balance my abysmal performance on the midterm or final exam.

Quite frankly, that class was a failure as far as I’m concerned. The professors who were team-teaching did not mesh well. Entirely too much material was presented without there being any type of background preparation. It was a very advanced course without a background course preceding it in the cohort.

A bit of background here: The publishing degree that I completed in the summer of 2008 was set up as a cohort, which meant that everyone took the same classes for the sequence of the degree, with the exception of the concentration classes. I took the e-publishing concentration, which included this computer infrastructure class. However, at no point in the sequence was there a basic HTML course or a course in creating a website. As a result, those of us with little or no HTML backgrounds were completely lost in the infrastructure class.

We were also the second cohort to complete the program, which is now undergoing a complete restructuring. In essence, our cohort, along with the first cohort, were the guinea pigs, the ones they got to experiment on to see what worked and what didn’t work. There was duplication among the courses, and then there was the problem with the e-publishing concentration.

Now I must pause here to say that overall, the instructors in the program were wonderful, with diverse backgrounds in the publishing industry. I learned a great deal, and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. However, I do feel that we were short shrifted in that the kinks in the new program had yet to be finessed. Oh well. Live and learn.

“A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed.” ~ Henrik Ibsen 

Paint Cans from marthastewart.com

Now that I’ve complete my major paperwork project, I’ve finally gotten Corey to agree to painting the bedroom. I really hope that he comes through this time. Originally the bedroom was supposed to be painted for Mother’s Day . . . 2008! Since it was never done, the new bedroom bureau has been sitting in the living room taking up much-needed space and is part of the reason for the clutter that I go on about so much.

We have all of the supplies to do the bedroom, but it’s such a huge undertaking that we haven’t gotten around to doing it. We have to move furniture out of the room, move things into the middle of the room, removed everything from the walls, spackle, prep, etc.

To be fair, I know personally how hard it is to get motivated for such an undertaking when you just aren’t feeling right. Being out of work for as long as Corey has been has really taken a toll on him emotionally. His self-esteem is shot, and in essence, he cannot really concentrate on anything too big. I know this feeling well.

But Corey’s job with Vane Brothers is fast approaching; his point of contact said the end of December or beginning of January. I can’t believe that it is almost December, but if we can all make it through the upcoming holidays, things should be looking up by 2010. I know that Corey will like being back at work, and I also know that it will greatly improve his state of mind.

Unfortunately, the apprenticeship with the shipyard did not pan out as Corey does not have the required background in advanced math classes, which is a requirement for acceptance. By the time he takes the 12 hours of math and technology, he will have a semester of college completed. The way he looks at it, and I agree, is that if he has to take a semester of college to get into the program, which he would complete with an Associate’s Degree (four to five semesters of work), he might as well go ahead and register for classes and get his Associate’s in his preferred field.

With the upcoming position with Vane Brothers, the disappointment with the apprentice program has been cushioned, and Corey is looking forward to getting back on track professionally.

 “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston S. Churchill

As for my own career, who knows? One of the areas that I would like to explore would be book indexing, which is something that I could pursue at home, which would allow me to work at a more comfortable pace without the pressures of a regular schedule. If anyone out there knows or works for someone who is looking for a book indexer, I’m available, and I’m good at it.

However, part of me really wishes that I could go back to a real job, one in which I interact with other grownups, have responsibilities, make a decent living with benefits. The reality is that I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to do that again. But I’m not giving up on the idea entirely. I suppose that it’s just one more thing in my life for which I’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.

So other than those tidbits, I don’t have a lot to report, but here are a few thoughts for Friday:

  • How did Heidi Klum manage to walk the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show only six weeks after giving birth to her fourth child? That woman must have incredible elasticity in her skin, that and very good genes.
  • Carol Hannah Design from Project Runway Finale
  • Speaking of Heidi Klum, Project Runway finished last night with Irina being declared the winner. Personally, I liked Carol Hannah, but I knew that Irina would win. That show is one of my guilty pleasures.
  • I read that a man in London has been found not guilty for strangling his wife. Apparently, he has suffered long-term from a sleep disorder and has automatism, a condition in which the sleeping individual has no control over his or her actions. Brian Thomas, the man on trial, strangled his wife because he mistook her for an intruder. Hmm, things that make you go hmm.
  • In Peoria, Arizona, a family’s home was burglarized. The intruders took electronics and a music box containing their deceased baby’s ashes. Man, I’d like to know what kind of person steals ashes.
  • Linday Lohan is upset that she wasn’t allowed to take $15,000 worth of jewelry from an event. She was promised between $1500 and $2,000 of loot for her appearance. Hello? I would show up wearing a gopher suit to get $1500 worth of free loot, and I wouldn’t complain. I mean, I’m a lot funnier than Lohan, whose only claim to fame at the moment is that she does nothing.
  • Hershey Co. is making a bid for Cadbury PLC. This disheartens me. I don’t really like Hershey’s chocolate, but I absolutely love Cadbury as it’s the chocolate that I ate as a child in England. Cadbury Fruit and Nut Bar, Cadbury Caramello. Um Um Good.
  • MSNBC regularly posts photographs of people who have had Ambush Makeovers. These are “Today Show” fans who are grabbed off the street and given a makeover. I wonder if they make house calls . . .
  • Speaking of house calls, I am seriously thinking of submitting our house for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” I know that we don’t have eight children, but geez, does every deserving family have to have a boatload of kids to qualify? What about normal everyday people who have a real need? Maybe they could consider someone like us for a change.
  • And speaking of houses, I’m not liking the current season of “House” that much. I mean, the two-hour season premier was wonderful, but since then, it doesn’t seem to have its usual bite.
  • Dr. Warner (Tamara Tunie) of Law & Order SVU
  • And while I’m on shows that have lost their bite, “Law & Order SVU” might be on its last leg. What makes that particular L&O franchise so good is the interaction with the criminals and the nature of the crimes themselves. This season is spending too much time on the personal lives—a show about Olivia, a show about Elliott, a show about Huang. An episode about ADA Paxton. Get back to the squad room and the victims.
  • The long nightmare is over: Jon & Kate are finally saying buh bye. Never watched the show myself, but am soooo tired of hearing about this two. And what’s with her hair?
  • And finally, an image of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus has appeared on a piece of glass in a church in Latvia. I don’t mean to be mean, but the image that they are showing looks more like the snow suits that Luke and Han wore on the ice planet in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Does that make me a bad person?

Many thanks to my comrade Janson Jones for the inspiring video. More later. Peace.

One of my all-time favorite songs: “Chances Are,” by Bob Seger and Martine McBride from Hope Floats.

 

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” ~ Kenji Miyazawa

“Rose Pastor Stokes,” by Clarence H. White (1909)

 

“Existence is a series of footnotes to a vast, obscure, unfinished masterpiece.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov

I found a new blog last night called Crashingly Beautiful. It’s the kind of blog that I might create myself, filled with quotes, poems, music links, passages, Zen stories, photographs, and other artwork. Lovely, just lovely. I found several quotes there that are new to me, and I liked them so much that I am using in tonight’s post. I am also borrowing some images that were posted on the site. Many thanks to Luke Storms for offering such inspiring material.

 If you get a chance, check out the site, along with the companion blog Intense City, also by Luke Storms.

“if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves . . . ” ~ Pablo Neruda, “Keeping Quiet”

"Autumn Trees," Egon Schiele (1912)

Aside from finding new blogs to read and achieving high levels in online Bookworm, not much new to report. Corey’s burn on his arm is healing nicely, just a little sore and no infection on the part that blistered. It’s getting ready to rain again because we so obviously need more rain. Tillie has been hanging out on the platform of the pool’s ladder, almost as if she expects to go swimming at any moment. I had to inform her that regretfully, November is not swimming weather, even for a Labrador Retriever.

I am feeling a bit better emotionally. No big changes, just a slight upswing. I’ll take anything that I can get. Perhaps I am feeling a bit better because I have printed out pages and pages of forms to have my PCP sign and then send on to various pharmaceutical companies (five total). I decided finally that being without my medication has gone on long enough, and there is no reason why I shouldn’t apply for patient assistance directly with the companies.

Happily, I found that I can get almost all of my medications through the companies, with the exception, of course, of the ones that now have generic formulas. Nexium will probably be the hardest one to obtain, mostly because they want my entire life history to prove that I am worthy of receiving assistance from Astra Zeneca. AZ recently received the right to retain their formula for the purple pill, so no generics anytime soon on that front.

If anyone else is having problems with affording his/her prescription medications, look up the name of the company that manufactures the medication, and then enter patient assistance into the site’s search. Almost all of the major pharmaceutical companies have some sort of patient assistance program. I really wish that I had thought of this three months ago.

“Whatever it is that pulls the pin, that hurls you past the boundaries of your own life into a brief and total beauty, even for a moment, it is enough.” ~ Jeannette Winterson

"Four Trees," Egon Schiele (1917)

Thanksgiving is only a week and a half away, and already the drama has begun in my family. Incredibly important issues such as who is going to cook what dish are on the forefront of family discussions. Three vegetables or two? Really?

I made a passing comment to my mother about butter, and her response, verbatim, was this: “I can’t get you to lose weight for anything.” Ummmm, alrighty then. I have real butter on my bread maybe three times a year. I’ve gotten comments like these my entire life. Now do you see why my self-esteem is so low?

Brett and I stopped by my mother’s house the other day on the way home from school. Brett had his sketch pad with him, and I thought that it would be nice to show my mom some of his recent work. Big mistake. Brett is really good at pencil sketches, and his latest was done during the nor’easter. It’s a dark self-portrait, done in sort of an anime style. For those of you who may not be familiar with this style, anime (アニメ) is short for Japanese animation. Anime, like manga (Japanese comics) is considered to be a non-traditional but pervasive art form.

The facial characteristics in anime can be exaggerated or muted (e.g., very large eyes and head, or simple lines for eyes), depending upon the artist. Coloring the cornea to indicate depth is sometimes employed. Some anime (sometimes spelled animé with final acute accent) attempts to draw characters whose nationalities cannot be discerned (e.g., Pokemon). The sketch that Brett showed my mother had very exotic, piercing eyes. The first time I saw it I was amazed by the detail that he had included, and I think that it is one of his better sketches.

After I got home, my mother called me to tell me that she’s worried about Brett. Specifically, she’s worried about what’s in his mind, “all of these dark pictures.” She asked why he doesn’t paint geese. I tried to explain to her that Brett doesn’t like to paint, that he likes charcoal and pencil. I noted that not all art is mountains and fruit, but it really didn’t matter what I said because now my mother has decided that Brett’s art is cause for concern.

I made a point of telling Brett how much I like his work, and I told him to take what his Oma says with a grain of salt as she doesn’t realize how much her words can hurt. She really doesn’t realize this, which is something that it took me many years to realize myself. My mother has good intentions, but she has no sense of self-censorship: whatever she thinks comes out of her mouth without any consideration of the hearer’s feelings or reaction.

I hate to have to say this about my mother, but it’s true. It’s also something that I have learned to live with, although not without its consequences, so I want to ensure that her remarks do not affect Brett’s already fragile self-esteem.

“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” ~ Erich Fromm

Untitled by Maurice Tabard (1932)

Anyway, that’s about all for now. I must pause here, though, to express my incredible gratitude to all of you who took the time to send me very special comments in response to my last post. Maureen, Kelly, and Andrew sent very lovely expressions of support, and no matter how many times I say it, being on the receiving end of such generous statements always makes me feel better and helps more than I can say.

Even though I have not been as focused lately as I would like to be, this blog continues to be incredibly important to me. It allows me to vent, to bemoan, to rejoice, and to share with a wonderful community of people.

NCIS this past Tuesday night featured a major power outage in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area as a backdrop to the crime. The investigators had to do things the old-fashioned way—by hand—and they were all complaining about how hard life is without computers, without mobile telephones, without PDA’s. I know that when we lose electricity around here because of a storm (which happens more than you might think), I always enjoy the quiet; no sounds of air conditioners or televisions permeate the neighborhood, and the streets are so dark.

Having said that, I do have to admit that as much as I like the simplicity when the lights go out, I do love the convenience of a lightning-fast search engine and the fact that the Internet and the web keep us connected all over the world. Just a decade ago I was still struggling with dial-up and having to wait to get online. Now I am so completely spoiled by our high-speed connection that I cannot imagine living without this convenience in my life, although I’m sure that I could if I had to.

I suppose that all of that was a very roundabout way of saying that yes, I am able to appreciate the small things, but especially how technology has afforded me new avenues to friendship and support.

YouTube video courtesy of Kelly. I’m including a poem by Mary Oliver, and I apologize in advance if I’ve already included this one, but it seems very fitting.

 

 

More later. Peace.

                                                                                                                                     

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver