“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.

 

“America’s healthcare system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” ~ Walter Cronkite

“You know, when we see a good idea from another country, we grab it. If they build a better car, we drive it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. So if they’ve come up with a better way to treat the sick, to teach their kids, to take care of their babies, to simply be good to each other, then what’s our problem? Why can’t we do that?” ~ Michael Moore in Sicko 

On tonight’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” I watched a Special Comment section that brought me to tears. Olbermann’s father has been in the hospital for six months, and now Olbermann finds himself facing a life decision.  

I am reposting Olbermann’s segment for several reasons: First, I have faced this same decision, not once, but twice. I understand completely what he is saying. I have felt his fear and his helplessness. I know that deep place from which he beseeches in his attempt to find answers. 

But aside from that, and perhaps more importantly in the general sense, I believe that Olbermann’s comment, as personal and impassioned as it is, speaks to the very heart of the the current healthcare debate. It puts a face on the perversely-labeled “death panels” (yes you, Palin, you maroon). It makes human some of the issues that are being bandied about so carelessly by those we have elected to represent us, to serve us, to make decisions that will help the quality of our lives.  

Healthcare in America has been reduced to statistics, skewed facts, sound bytes, and partisan bickering. The men and women who are going to Blair House tomorrow for the health care summit have forgotten about the important things: the quality of life, the quality of death, the access to care, the ever-increasing cost of coverage, the continually-escalating insinuation of obstacles into the physician’s ability to make decisions regarding treatment, the ability to make informed decisions not based upon what a family can afford. The politicians, the lobbyists, and the companies the lobbyists represent do not view this issue as being about people. And that, my friends, is precisely the problem. 

The bottom line here should not be the profits made by the healthcare industry. The bottom line should be what the American people need, what they have spent generations working for, what they deserve: Affordable, quality health care, comparable to that found in all of the other industrialized nations in the world. 

I contend once again that at such time the members of Congress begin to pay for their own healthcare and that provided at no cost for their families, only then do they deserve the right to makes decisions about what the rest of us are entitled to when it comes to affordable premiums, coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, and all of the other terminology that is used to obfuscate, complicate, and adumbrate the real issues related to national healthcare. 

If you care at all about this issue, please telephone, write, or e-mail your Senators and Representatives, and let them know exactly how you feel. Click on this link to find the contact information for your elected officials.  

  

Vodpod videos no longer available.

  

 

 

 

To read a transcript of Olbermann’s full segment, go to Keith Olbermann at Daily Kos. 

  

More later. Peace.

“What is important must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” ~ Audre Lorde

Girl Grasping Blooms of Thorny Shrub in Snow Covered Landscape by Kay Nielsen

“Each person who ever was or is or will be has a song. It isn’t a song that anybody else wrote. It has its own melody, it has its own words. Very few people get to sing their song. Most of us fear that we cannot do it justice with our voices, or that our words are too foolish or too honest, or too odd. So people live their song instead.” ~ Neil Gaiman

I received a very interesting comment to yesterday’s post. The writer took exception to the quote, “And in the end the words won’t matter/‘Cause in the end nothing stays the same/And in the end dreams just scatter and fall like rain.” The lines were taken from Matt Nathanson’s song, “All We Are,” and I thought that they were appropriate to my section on dreams.  

"Stealers of Light," by Edmund Dulac

But the writer contended that words do matter because “they are the bricks of the imprint which gets built.” He went on to say that we should speak “as if you are seeing dawn.”  What a wonderful comment and such a beautiful sentiment: to speak as if you are “seeing dawn.”  

If we all spoke as if we were seeing dawn, how beautiful language would be. I realize that we cannot always speak as if we are seeing the miracle of dawn or great beauty, but I do agree completely: words do matter. That being said, I chose that particular section of the song to use for my section quote because I also agree with the statement that in the end, words won’t matter. Am I of two minds? Of course, but let me explain.   

We should all speak to one another as if the words matter because words do stay—they reside in memory; they creep into the locked corners of our brain and take up residence, sometimes to be brought back out at inconvenient moments. They insinuate themselves into the very fabric of our souls, the sweetest ones part of the most beautiful patterns. But I am reminded of something that I read somewhere long ago about how people should not wait until the ones they love are dead to tell when how they feel. Words spoken over a grave are for the speaker. That is what I mean when I say that in the end, once someone we love is gone, all that we have to say, should have said, wanted to say—all of that comes to nothing, and the words unsaid become dust on our tongues.  

I know this too well.  

So yes, Manish, words do matter, but in the end, words cannot change the life we have led, how we have treated our friends and our enemies, the things we have said in anger, and the things we have said in love. The end is too late.  

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” ~ Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

"The Fairies Have Their Tiff with the Birds," from Peter Pan by Arthur Rackham

After my bout with violent dreams and vivid dreams, I’m back to not being able to sleep. This morning, after hearing the clock chime 6 a.m., I got out of our bed (Corey’s, mine, and the dogs’) and went into Eamonn’s room and laid upon his futon. His room is dark and cool, and I thought that maybe I would be able to sleep better without the dogs, who were pressed up against all sides of my body, so I lay there in the dark and looked up at Eamonn’s ceiling, where he had put stars that glow in the dark. I thought about when he was dating this one girl with whom he was truly smitten, and he had labeled one star “the first star to the left.” For awhile, he was consumed with Peter Pan, the adult version, not the Disney version.  

I laid there in the dark and realized just how much I miss eldest son. Yes, he drives me crazy, and yes, he is so much like my ex that it is beyond annoying, but he is also my first son, and I remember him sleeping on my chest when he was an infant. He had a stomach disorder that made his sleep fitful, and he used to sleep best on my chest. I would lay there with my hand gently on his back and watch him breathe. I was still so plagued by the loss of Caitlin that I could not rest peacefully unless Eamonn was nearby. When he wasn’t asleep on my chest, he slept in the cradle at the foot of my bed. Our old lab Mokie would sleep under the cradle in protective mode.  

Those were days of great joy for me. Our family seemed to have recovered from the unrecoverable, and we were making our way into life again. That Eamonn did not sleep through the night until he was one year old did not bother me, although I would get curious looks from people who asked if he was sleeping through the night, one of those judgemental parenting questions. After the stomach operation he had when he was only three weeks old, Eamonn had to take several medicines, including a dose during the night, so sleeping all the way through was impossible.  

I would feed him, give him his medicine and then rock him back to sleep in the Bentwood Rocker. Often, I would sing to him softly; he loved “Unchained Melody,” and it never failed to put him back to sleep.  

That is what I was thinking about as I lay there on his very uncomfortable futon, looking up at the stars on his ceiling that were fading as the morning light began to creep into the window. And I finally fell asleep.  

“There is only one page left to write on. I will fill it with words of only one syllable. I love. I have loved. I will love.” ~ Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

  

“The Star Lovers” by Warwick Goble

Words. Words of love. Words of hate. Words spoken in anger. Words spoken in frustration. Words uttered in helplessness. Words whispered in sorrow. Words are my bane and my lifeblood. They make me whole and allow me to share my innermost thoughts, and they cleave my heart when I allow them to fall from my lips angrily. Words join us as families, communities, societies. And they separate us from the others, those who do not speak the same words. And sometimes, the unspoken words, the gestures—the hands clasped in prayer, the hands crossed over the heart, the clenched hand, the wringing hands, the open hand against the lips—those unspoken words can be comprehended by any onlooker, and we are joined, whether or not we desire it.  

I am my words, all of the words that I have said to my children, to my love, to my parents, my friends, and yes, even my enemies. All of the words that I have put down on paper, have typed with my keyboard. All of those words are the sum of my life, myself, my esse, and my soul. There are words that I regret but cannot take back, and there are words that I should have said, yet I remained silent. Those utterances and those silences also comprise my being. If I am very lucky, when I reach the end of my journey, some of my words will be remembered, and I will have said all of the words I needed to say to all of the people who mattered.  

More words later. Peace be unto you and yours.  

From “A Tree Within”  

The landscape opens its eyes and sits up,
sets out walking followed by its shadow,
it is a stela of dark murmurs
that are the languages of fallen matter,
the wind stops and hears the clamor of the elements,
sand and water talking in low voices,
the howl of pilings as they battle the salt,
the rash confidence of fire,
the soliloquy of ashes,
the interminable conversation of the universe.
Talking with the things and with ourselves
the universe talks to itself:
we are its tongue and ears, its words and silences.
The wind hears what the universe says
and we hear what the wind says,
rustling the submarine foliage of language,
the secret vegetation of the underworld and the undersky:
man dreams the dream of things,
time thinks the dream of men.
  

~ Octavio Paz  

Matt Kearney’s “All I Need”  

  

   

*Images are book illustrations from the Golden Age of Illustration (early 20th C.), including works by Kay Nielsen (Danish), Warwick Goble (British), Edmund Dulac (French), and Arthur Rackham (British).

“I went broke believing/That the simple should be hard.” ~ Matt Nathanson, “All We Are”

Fenêtre Ouverte Sur la Seine, Pierre Bonnard (1912)

“And in the end the words won’t matter
‘Cause in the end nothing stays the same
And in the end dreams just scatter and fall like rain” ~ From “All We Are,” by Matt Nathanson

"Table Set in a Garden," by Pierre Bonnard

Last night I had one of those dreams that seems to go on forever, with changes of scenes, players. I remember that I was in a gourmet wine shop with Anthony Hopkins. There were different selections of cheeses, breads, wines. I was sitting at a table with Hopkins, a couple of characters out of a British mystery novel, some woman who I knew distantly. I had stopped in for a cup of tea because my tea was cold.

Then we were all packed into someone’s Jaguar (not an easy feat) so that we could visit the boarding school of one of the British mystery characters, but it was chained shut. Then Anthony Hopkins became agitated and hit the back end of a parked car. I offered him bread to eat so that there would be less alcohol in his body. Always thinking, I am.

Then, there was this man who owned a vineyard but was also part of a boy band. Don’t ask me who as I don’t listen to boy bands. I thought that it was quite a contradiction. Turns out, though, he was very intelligent and debonair, not a teeny bopper. We were eating chocolate, and he was telling Hopkins, who was now Dr. Mallard (David McCullum) of NCIS, that he would create a label just for him. Someone mentioned Kim Kardashian, and I said that I didn’t like her, which seemed to offend the vintner at first, and then he laughed and said that she was a big fake and that I was the first person he had met who had the guts to say so.

I don’t remember more, but the cheeses were delicious, as was the wine. The thing I remember most about myself in this dream was that I wasn’t myself. I was a different woman, but I don’t know who. Very strange.

“The artist who paints the emotions creates an enclosed world . . . the picture . . . which, like a book, has the same interest no matter where it happens to be. Such an artist, we may imagine, spends a great deal of time doing nothing but looking, both around him and inside him.” ~ Pierre Bonnard

"La Fenêtre," by Pierre Bonnard (1925)

 I do remember just a short blip from another dream: I was walking across the parking lot of a local shopping center, and I was thinking to myself that it would be nice to work in one of the bank’s drive-through booths (all of which were torn down years ago) after hours, just get locked in with the computer and do nothing but write, but then I thought that since it was a bank, they probably wouldn’t let me in after closing. All of this passed through my mind in just a second as I was avoiding a rain-splashed hole in the parking lot pavement.

Then in another dream, I was back at the real estate company, and my old office was very crowded as the owner had moved six people into a two-person space. I remember being quite upset because the filing system that I had created while I was there was in disarray. And then I found stacks of phone messages tied up in bundles. I thought that it was strange that the owner was reviewing all of the phone calls that came into the office.

I always dream about the real estate office where I was marketing director when I am feeling particularly stressed. It’s my grown-up version of an algebra exam dream. Oddly enough, I wasn’t stressed when I fell asleep, so I’m not sure why this scenario popped into my head.

Other than my very strange dreams, not a lot to write about today. It’s beautiful outside—sunshine and temperatures in the 50s. I think that our bout with snow and ice is finally over.

“What I am after is the first impression—I want to show all one sees on first entering the room—what my eye takes in at first glance.” ~ Pierre Bonnard

La Fenêtre Ouverte, by Pierre Bonnard (1921)

Corey managed to put aside a small bit of money so that we could go to the movies last night. Avatar. Wonderful movie. I wasn’t interested in seeing it until Brett saw it with his friends and told me that it was a great movie. Since we have the same tastes in movies, I thought that it might be worth a try. Corey wasn’t sure about it, but he knew that I wanted to see it. So much better than the last movie Corey and I saw.

As much as I dislike megalomaniac James Cameron, I have to admit that he knows how to do a big movie. The storyline was moving, and the picture itself was breathtaking. The only drawback was that the movie was in 3D, which meant that I had to watch with those funky glasses on top of my glasses. Films in 3D get to me after a while, and my eyes begin to hurt. But it was worth it. We both really enjoyed the movie. I understand now what all of the hoopla is about.

The only problem is a slight residual headache from the 3D, of course, wouldn’t expect anything less with my stupid head.

My dreams about wine and cheese made me think of France, which made me think of French painters, hence, the images by Pierre Bonnard, a French post-impressionist painter known for his use of intense colors. Bonnard, who was a contemporary of Toulouse-Latrec and Henri Matisse, was intrigued with light and refracted sunlight. Bonnard did not paint from life; instead he painted from drawings or photographs. I chose his depictions of open windows, as well as the outdoor table with wine and cheese.

 The Internet is not cooperating today. Have no idea as to why, so I’ll stop for now. Maybe I’ll have more to write about tomorrow.

More later. Peace.

Music by Matt Nathanson, “All We Are,” another great song that I first heard on NCIS.

 

All We Are

I tasted, tasted love so sweet
And all of it was lost on me
Buttons sold like property
Sugar on my tongue

I kept falling over
I kept looking backward
I went broke believing
That the simple should be hard

All we are we are
All we are we are
And every day is a start of something beautiful

I wasted, wasted love for you
Traded out for something new
Well, it’s hard to change the way you lose
If you think you never won

‘Cause all we are we are
All we are we are
And every day is a start of something beautiful

And in the end the words won’t matter
‘Cause in the end nothing stays the same
And in the end dreams just scatter and fall like rain

‘Cause all we are we are
All we are we are
And every day is a start of something beautiful, something real

All we are we are
All we are we are
And every day is a start of something beautiful, beautiful

“Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.” ~ Thomas Carlyle

Key West Sunset by Janson Jones

“A person has three choices in life. You can swim against the tide and get exhausted, or you can tread water and let the tide sweep you away, or you can swim with the tide, and let it take you where it wants you to go.” ~ Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure

Wow. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. My head is ringing. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood . . . 

I sat down to post yesterday and realized that I didn’t have anything to say. I hate it when that happens. I will be so glad when this latest bout of whatever finally passes. It’s hard to label it as I don’t really know what it is. Not the blues. More a total lack of energy and constant head pressure. I have been good for absolutely nothing, and it grows weary. 

My cohort Janson Jones in Alaska has been posting some beautiful pictures of Florida on his blog Floridana v3.0, so I thought that I’d share a few with you. Lovely Florida Keys skies. Wish I was there. Actually, I really do wish that I was there as I’ve never been to the Florida Keys but have loved looking at pictures of that area for years. Warm weather, beautiful skies, umbrella drinks—I could do with a little of that right now. 

 

Neonic Blue by Janson Jones

“The journey between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place.” ~ Barbara De Angelis 

Let’s see. On the home front, Corey has applied for a few port security positions. His Coast Guard training makes him qualified to do that, so maybe he can pick up a job in port security until the tugboat industry gets back on its feet. Who knows when that will be. He hasn’t given up on Vane Brothers, but delivery of their new boat seems to be open-ended at this point. Unfortunately, bills are not open-ended. Hence, the temporary change in focus. 

Haven’t seen much of Alexis lately. I don’t really know what’s up with her. She could be in another one of her moods, or she could just be terribly busy with her life. I try not to read too much into it, having grown accustomed to my daughter’s mood swings. 

I do wish that things would even out for Brett, though. He is on new medication, and seems to be a bit better, but high school has become such an albatross for him that at this point, we are just counting down until graduation. It’s weird, really, how high school can be such a defining experience for some people and not others.  For Brett, it is nothing but something to be endured. For Eamonn, everyday was a party. My sons are so different in so many ways. I try to remind Brett that high school is really very small in the big scheme of things, just a blip on the radar, so to speak. But I know that it’s hard for him to see it that way until he has some distance. 

I’m still not sure if he is going to be ready to tackle college in the fall, but I’m thinking that maybe a bit of time off from academics might be what he needs to figure out what he wants to do with his life. No one ever tells you about this part of parenthood: having to stand by helpless while one of your children is suffering and being able to do little to nothing to make it better. Such a horrible feeling but nothing compared to what he is feeling. 

I just wish that it were somehow possible to absorb other’s pain, to take away the hurts and replace them with a sense of calm. If wishes were fishes . . . 

Dawn, Long Key State Park, Janson Jones

“I sleep and I unsleep. On the other side of me, beyond where I lie down, the silence of the house touches infinity. I hear time falling, drop by drop, and no falling drop is heard falling.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, A Factless Autobiography

I’m back to having violent dreams again. A couple of nights ago, my dream involved knives, lots of sharp knives, and trying to escape from someone in a tunnel that was filling with water. Before that I had a dream with guns again. Maybe it’s too much NCIS. I only know that I wake up exhausted from fighting bad guys. I suppose I should be thankful that I’m sleeping, given the alternative, but is it too much to ask for sleep with restful, pleasant dreams? Probably. 

The songbirds are beginning their pre-dawn canticles, so spring cannot be too far. Each morning around 4 a.m., if the house is silent, I can hear them. It’s such a lovely sound, yet I wish that I were actually sleeping rather than listening to them sing. 

I will be glad for spring, though. Using space heaters makes the house very, very dry, which I’m sure does not help the sinuses. And the space heaters, along with the electric water heater and all of the other electrical appliances are killing the power bill. At the moment, it’s more than a car payment, and if you’ve made a car payment in the last few years, you know how high that can be. 

Someday we’ll be able to install the whole-house gas-on-demand hot water heater that we have; it’s currently sitting in the box it came in, in the storage shed in the back yard. I hate the electric water heater. It’s not power efficient, and it’s small, which means no long showers unless your preference is for cold showers. But it was an electric water heater or no hot water at all until we make friends with Virginia Natural Gas again. 

Power companies are such ripoffs. In our area, Virginia Power and Virginia Natural Gas are monopolies. We have no alternative sources for electricity or natural gas. Bah. 

That’s just about all for now. I’ll leave you with this quote by Alexander Woollcott, which seems quite fitting since I’ve done a whole lot of wishing in this post: “Many of us spend half our time wishing for things we could have if we didn’t spend half our time wishing.” 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Australian trio Sick Puppies, “That Time of Year” (heard on an NCIS episode) 

 

  

  

That Time of Year 

Another Year
Has Come and Gone again
Look around
And think where have you been
Trace the Lines
On your face tonight
And don’t forget
That this will pass in time
It’s cold out this morning
You should be getting into bed
Can’t believe its that time
Of year again

  

Curled up tight
A darker shade of white
Thinking Back could be here for a while 
Its cold out this morning
And it’s getting harder to pretend
Can’t believe it’s that time of year again 
Can you believe the life you led?
Did you achieve the goals you set?
Did you lose your mind?
Well and then 
Is there a reason you own them
It is a season that won’t end
Can’t believe it That time of year again 

Another year
Has come and gone again
Look around
and wonder what happened 

“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?” ~ Fanny Brice

“Benjamin’s House,” by Andrew Wyeth (1955)

“A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: ‘As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.'” ~ Joseph Campbell

I’m in the mood for sparse, hence, the Andrew Wyeth images. My favorite is the last one: “Renfield.”

"Wind from the Sea," by Andrew Wyeth (1947)

Lovely visit to the pain management group yesterday. Trigger point injections from my neck to my bum. I saw one of the new Physician’s Assistants that joined the group last November. He seemed a bit nervous about giving me the injections until he realized that I wasn’t squeamish. After that, he proceeded to inject everything in sight (slight overstatement). Anyway, I felt like a pin cushion, came home and had to lie down on the heating pad.

A bit better today, but very sore. I told Corey that I’m not certain about this new guy, and Corey reminded me that he hasn’t been giving trigger point injections for years like my other doctors. Good point. Guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Brett used my computer last night to write something about Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” for school. Personally, I have never been that big of a Kafka fan. Just not my cup of tea, so to speak. A story about a man becoming a giant cockroach gives me the willies. I know. It’s about alienation, distance, loneliness. A masterpiece reflecting the identity of self in society . . . Ya da ya da ya da. He’s still a cockroach.

“In reading, a lonely quiet concert is given to our minds; all our mental faculties will be present in this symphonic exaltation.” ~ Stéphane Mallarmé

"West Window," by Andrew Wyeth

Once the omnipresent head pressure of the last few weeks began to lessen, I was finally able to read the last three Harry Potter books in quick order. I had forgotten how much I really love the last book. Then I thought about all of the e-mails I get from my Goodreads contacts in which they list what they have read lately, and it made me pause. I haven’t really read anything new in a while. I’ve been rereading old favorites. I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with rereading, as it is something that I have always done, revisiting favorites once a year or so, but sometimes I feel as if I am not making any forward motion in my reading.

What I mean is that I feel a general lack in my background as far as world literature is concerned. I am hard-pressed when it comes to naming new authors from around the world, those who are considered to be contributing to the literary canon, as it were. And when I feel like this, I miss Mari, and teaching, and the department. Being surrounded by colleagues, attending lectures, reading journal articles, going to literary festivals—these things serve as a constant stimulus and impetus; the desire to remain current stays at the forefront at all times.

I miss that. But then, I miss many things, as you are probably weary of hearing me lament. Most probably, I miss the idea of working, the positive aspects of being amidst a job that stimulates the brain. When I get like this, though, I remind myself of the less than positive aspects: the backstabbing, the politics, the endless time-consuming meetings about nothing at all. These things I do not miss.

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

"Monday Morning," by Andrew Wyeth (1955)

Corey and I talk about the possibility of my returning to work full time. The idea of doing so appeals to me greatly, but would my body allow it? And working at home would serve no purpose other than to bring in income, which I am doing (to some extent). It would not allow me to get out of the house, be in different surroundings for several hours a day. It’s all so vexing, having no clear answers.

Anyway, Corey did speak with his contact at Vane Brothers, who told him that delivery of the new boat has been put back because of the bad weather. No surprise there. He did tell Corey that he would make a note that Corey has stayed in touch and continued to express interest in working for the company. I suppose that’s the best that can be expected. Yet another shipping company to which Corey applied has said that they are not hiring anyone new at the moment, even though their website listed open positions. Such a depressing mantra.

We are coming to the end of February, and Corey’s current unemployment extension is about to end. I know that another bill for yet another unemployment extension is before Congress, but who knows if it will be approved. God know that it should be considering that over 10 percent of the population is unemployed. We can only wait and hope and in the meantime, keep sending in applications.

“Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.” ~ Paul Carvel

My Australian friend Maureen of White Orchid mentioned something in a recent post to which I can really relate: Apparently, the reality show “Little Miss Perfect” airs in Australia, and Maureen and her daughter watched an episode. For those of you who do not know to what I am referring, “Little Miss Perfect” is a show about child pageant contestants and their mothers . . . No, I’m not kidding.

"Renfield," by Andrew Wyeth (1999)

Apparently someone thought that this form of child abuse would make for good television. Child abuse? What would you call it? These little girls are made up to look like little beauty contestants, complete with fake eyelashes, make-up, costumes, the works. They have mothers who give them nothing but candy before the pageants so that they’ll be full of energy. This is good parenting?

Okay. I know that there are some people out there who love pageants, love the whole idea of the pageant circuit, participated in it, thought that it was the best thing since Barbie got longer hair. Whatever. You are entitled to your opinion. If you did it and you loved it. Great for you.

I’m looking at it from a totally different perspective: that of a sane person (relatively). These little girls are being indoctrinated into that whole concept that their entire self-worth is tied to their looks, to their ability to charm, to their willingness to please. Does no one else see anything wrong with this? We’ve raised generations of young women who regularly abuse their bodies in attempts to conform to airbrushed magazine images. We have agents who tell size 4 models that they are too fat (just read that one in the news). We have young women who are getting Botox before they are 25.

The need to fit in, to conform, to wear the right clothes, to carry the right purse, to be like everyone else—that need is as ancient as the concept of societies. But there is something very, very wrong with a society that condones taking five-year-old girls and plastering eye shadow on them and sending them out on a stage to compete with other five-year-olds for crowns and trophies rewarding them for being cute.

Let me pause here. No, I do not believe that every child should be given a trophy simply for showing up to school. No, I am not against healthy competition. Yes, I believe that innate talents should be honed and fostered. Yes, there will always be someone who is the valedictorian, and rightly so. But must we start at such a young, impressionable age at teaching our little girls that beauty is the answer to all of their problems?

Just consider the title of the show: “Little Miss Perfect.” What is perfection? The right dress? The best walk? The most winning smile? Are these young girls not being indoctrinated to grow up into young women who strive to fit into a size 2? Who will turn to plastic surgery to take out an imagined imperfection in a nose? And perhaps most importantly, are they being given the tools to face the real world? What will they do when their beauty does not open every door? How will they cope when they get their first stretch mark?

Yes, I know that I’ve said it before, but as I commented to Maureen, this concept of instilling unrealistic expectations at a very young age makes me want to throttle someone. I am reminded of the woman in Texas who put a hit out on the mother of her daughter’s cheerleading rival. True story (click here for info). I am also reminded of the mother of a girl who went to my former high school. This mother called me after cheering tryouts at which I had judged to drill me about why her daughter had not been chosen. All I could think of was how she had gotten my phone number?

Who are these people? Where does that kind of obsessive behavior originate? It has to begin somewhere. “Little Miss Perfect” my ass.

More later. Peace.

Red House Painters, “Have You Forgotten?”

“Words form the thread on which we string our experiences.” ~ Aldous Huxley

“Winter Morning,” by Igor Grabar (1907, oil on canvas)

“After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own.” ~  Oscar Wilde

"Clearing Skyes," by Igor Grabar (1928, oil on canvas)

Unbelievable. Snow. Again. That’s three times in two weeks, more than we’ve had in years. It’s no longer snowing, but the wind is fierce, and boy is it cold. Earlier today the wind had that rumbling sound, not quite a freight train, but very, very loud and prolonged. For a moment I thought about the old oak tree right outside our bedroom window, but then I figured that since it had survived three hurricanes, it was probably not going to be taken out by the gusts.

Removing that particular tree is one our very long list of things to do around here once Corey starts back to work. The list continues to grow despite the lack of job. Funny how that works.

Last night I played music in my dreams. I’m pretty sure that it was a Chopin prelude, but I can’t remember which one. How strange.

I looked at the calendar and realized that I haven’t posted very much at all in February, despite my intentions to post every day. Quite frankly, I just haven’t had it in me. Between the excruciating back pain, and this headache (not quite a migraine) which has been around for over a week, I’m just not feeling very prolific. I mean, I sit here at the computer each day, open the screen that says Add New Post, and just look at the blankness before me. And then nothing. Nada. No joy, as it were.

I know. I know. I’m letting the blank white page (so to speak) get to me, letting it cower me into submission, allowing it to intimidate me. But any writer will tell you that the blank white page is a living, breathing nemesis. It chuckles softly at my inability to put down the opening sentence. Mocks me. And no, I’m not hearing voices in my head. Things haven’t deteriorated that badly—yet. But the white page, the blank rectangle stretched out on my screen fears nothing, which makes me fear everything.

I begin, and then delete. It’s part of the curse of technology. When writing in longhand, it’s so much harder to undo the words that have been written. Now it’s just a matter of holding down the backspace key or the delete key, and voila: Gone. Blank again. I used to hate to cross out my words. It seemed like such a violation, so I would write and continue to write. Maybe I could put something on my backspace key to make it painful to the touch, train myself, you know, like Pavlov’s dog.

Right.

 “Once you know some things, you can’t unknow them. It’s a burden that can never be given away.” ~ Alice Hoffman

"February Day," by Igor Grabar (1904, oil on canvas)

Anyway, on to other things. Corey called his contact at Vane Brothers, but hasn’t been able to speak to him. Considering Baltimore is crushed under the weight of yet another storm, it’s very possible that the office is not open. No need to read too much into things.

I called my mom today (phones are back on as of yesterday) to check on her, but she didn’t answer. It’s entirely possible that she’s mad at me again for not calling her even though Corey went by to check on her while he was out last week and told her that the phones were off. I never know when or why my mother is mad at me. It’s kind of like the phases of the moon: they happen all by themselves (well, not really), and if you wait long enough, a full moon will come around again. That’s my mother.

Who knows the whys and wherefores of her logic. I should talk. But now that the phones are back on, I really need to call my gastro doctor and make an appointment; it’s just the thought that he’s going to put me through some kind of uncomfortable test really sets up an internal roadblock, making me put off making the call. Going to a gastroenterologist is never just an office visit. I mean, there’s the visit, but then, without fail, there is some kind of test involving a tube, or a nasty drink, or something of that sort. I cannot fathom why anyone would become a gastroenterologist. But then, I cannot imagine why anyone would become a podiatrist.

Actually, it’s hard to imagine doing a lot of things that different specialists do, which is precisely why my pre-med major did not last very long in undergraduate school. The first time we had to dissect rats that were still warm I realized that perhaps touching things for a living was not for me, and I retreated to books. They’re safe. They don’t smell (unless they’re old), and they don’t bleed or ooze.

My uncle was very disappointed in me for not going to medical school. For some reason he had it in his head that I would make a really good doctor. When I told him that I was thinking about law school, he had a cow, told me I was wasting my brain. Of course, law school didn’t happen either as I became pregnant with Alexis. I don’t really have any regrets about not becoming a lawyer. I love the research, but cannot see myself working for a corporation or representing some of the people who need lawyers. Of course, my view is skewed from watching years and years of Law & Order.

That particular uncle died just a year after my dad. He actually wasn’t my uncle, but my dad’s childhood friend, and everyone knows that when you are Filipino, you have lots and lots of uncles and aunts who aren’t related by blood. That’s just the way that it is. I think that it’s kind of neat, actually. Anyway, I still dream about both my father and my uncle as he was such a big part of my life.

 “She tells her love while half asleep,
In the dark hours,
With half-words whispered low:
As Earth stirs in her winter sleep
And puts out grass and flowers
Despite the snow,
Despite the falling snow.” ~ Robert Graves

"Frost," by Igor Grabar (1905, oil on canvas)

Valentine’s Day is coming up in just a few days. I have very mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. Mostly, I think that it’s a big ripoff. The cost of flowers doubles, even triples. People who have no one special in their lives are made to feel inferior, especially when the florists deliver bouquets to co-workers. The greeting card industry makes a fortune, as do the manufacturers of stuffed animals and chocolates. There’s something wrong with setting up one day of the year on which to display affection for your significant other.

Expressions of love should be a continual thing. I don’t mean flowers and cards. I’m talking about hugs, kisses, saying I love you. Doing thoughtful things for one another.  I think that our society in particular has these manufactured holidays that set up people to fulfill ridiculous expectations. My boyfriend didn’t send me a dozen red roses. He must not love me as much as he says that he does.

Please. If it only takes a dozen roses to prove love, then our expectations about relationships are too low. Let me tell you a true story: A radio station was running a contest; I don’t really remember the exact nature of the contest. The DJ’s had a woman on the line, and they called her boyfriend to tell him that he had won a drawing for a dozen roses. They asked him who he wanted the flowers to be sent to, and his response was his wife. He gave the DJ’s the name of his wife, at which point, his girlfriend interrupted and said, “Your wife?” The DJ’s cut the feed.

My point exactly. Roses do not define a relationship. If Corey spent $60 to send me roses, I would be too bothered about what that $60 could have been used for to enjoy the roses. Buy me a card and write something lovely inside. Tell me every day how you feel about me. It means more. Maybe it’s age, or maybe it’s wisdom, or maybe it’s a combination of things, but now that I have someone in my life who lets me know every single day how much he cares about me just in the way that he treats me, I don’t need the roses.

Now diamonds. That’s another story.

Quotes found on Crashingly Beautiful. More later. Peace.

Music by Chopin: Etude in A Flat Major, Opus 25, No. 1

 

 

*All images are by Igor Grabar (1871-1960), a Russian post-Impressionist painter.