wearethe99percent:My parents love me.  This was a blessing and a curse: A place to live, free food + Internet.  Under/unemployed for three years.  Humiliating.  Couldn’t afford health care, couldn’t qualify for welfare unless I moved into a homeless shelter. When I was laid off, after the company was sold for $17 million over its original price, I couldn’t get unemployment because contracted employees get zero benefits and protection.  Couldn’t get a job at retail stores or fast food because my masters degree made me overqualified.  Illinois schools laid off 2,000+ teachers so no work there.  Other places only wanted people currently employed.  I want to work because it is humiliating and degrading to be dependent on others.  Finally just said screw it.  Took out student loans and moved to Australia with help from my parents. Aussie friends cannot comprehend me when I say getting cancer in the USA is a choice: Bankruptcy or death.  I’m lucky: My parents love me.  I now have health insurance ($80/month for what would be $1,000/month in the USA) and real job prospects, but it took moving of the USA to make it happen.I am the 99%
wearethe99percent:

My parents love me.  This was a blessing and a curse: A place to live, free food + Internet.  Under/unemployed for three years.  Humiliating.  Couldn’t afford health care, couldn’t qualify for welfare unless I moved into a homeless shelter. When I was laid off, after the company was sold for $17 million over its original price, I couldn’t get unemployment because contracted employees get zero benefits and protection.  Couldn’t get a job at retail stores or fast food because my masters degree made me overqualified.  Illinois schools laid off 2,000+ teachers so no work there.  Other places only wanted people currently employed.  I want to work because it is humiliating and degrading to be dependent on others.  

Finally just said screw it.  Took out student loans and moved to Australia with help from my parents. Aussie friends cannot comprehend me when I say getting cancer in the USA is a choice: Bankruptcy or death.  I’m lucky: My parents love me.  I now have health insurance ($80/month for what would be $1,000/month in the USA) and real job prospects, but it took moving of the USA to make it happen.

I am the 99%

 

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“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?”

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” ~ St. Augustine

 

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” ~ Lao Tzu

It’s 7:50 a.m., and I haven’t been to sleep yet.

Corey and I stayed up very late watching King Arthur with Clive Owen. I felt the need for a Clive fix, and I still wasn’t the least bit sleepy at 3, so I decided to watch another movie. Corey came into the bedroom right as I was starting the movie, and he decided to watch with me. As a result, we turned off the television at 6 a.m.

Corey went to sleep immediately. I, however, did not and have yet to close my eyes. During the movie I noticed that I was scratching my arms and neck but didn’t really think anything of it. Once the movie was over, I was in full-blown itch mode, and have yet to get it under control. I took a Benadryl around 6:15, hoping that it would stop the itching and put me to sleep. An hour and a half later, I’m still scratching and not asleep.  I just took another Benadryl, so I thought that I would write a bit until something kicks in—either a rash all over my body or sleep. Personally, I would prefer sleep.

Last night I was getting ready to insert my images into my post when the Internet went out. How annoying. I finally wrote a post (of sorts), and then couldn’t publish it. I was this close: formatted, quotes, song, but then bam. No Internet.

Today I had planned to write about traveling, as in if I could go anywhere in the world, where would I go and why? I’ve selected five places, all for very different reasons.

“Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking” ~ Antonio Machado

Irish Cliffs of Moher
Irish Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

Ireland: I have wanted to go to Ireland since I was a teenager. Ireland is the land of poets and writers. It’s the land of civilizations long gone and ancient ruins. I want to see the River Shannon and visit Limerick. Take pictures of the 8000-year-old Castle of St. John, and then to County Clare’s west coast to see the Cliffs of Moher. Then on to Derry and visit some pubs.

My friend Kathleen has an Irish heritage, and she was finally able to make the trip a few years ago. She says that Ireland is one of the most beautiful places that she has ever seen. I used to work with a photographer of some repute who actually lived in Ireland with his family and flew to the states for shoots. We talked about the advantages of living in Ireland and how it is a country that embraces its artists.

Australia Whitsundays Islands
Whitsundays Islands, Australia

Australia: Even though my dear friend Maureen lives in Australia, she is not my main reason for choosing this country. In fact, my ex and used to talk about moving to Australia. In particular, I would like to visit Queensland, see the Great Barrier Reef, and of course, visit the Whitsundays Islands.

I don’t know if I am generalizing, but it seems that Australia has so many more opportunities to get away from the hectic pace of life. And then there would be the opportunity to sit across the table from Maureen, sip tea, enjoy some of her baking, and talk for hours.

Greece: Ever since I first saw pictures of the white church domes against the blue sea, I have wanted to visit Greece—the cradle of Western civilization. This ancient country has so much to offer: The Acropolis with the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike; the Castellian Spring in Delphi. Even though it’s supposed to be a tourist trap, I would like to go to the island of Santorini.

Fira Santorini Greece
Fira Santorini, Greece

The landscape is beautiful, with the cliffs, the white houses with blue doors, and the black sand. I know that my idea of Greece is probably idealized, but that first image has stayed with me for years, and I know that some day I am going to see those blue and white domes overlooking the sea. I just don’t know when that will be.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” ~ Jawaharial Nehru

France: The Louvre. I could stop there, but there is so much more. France is steeped in culture and fine cuisine. We visited briefly when I was a child and my father was in the Navy. But even that short stay still sticks in my mind. I want to see Paris when it isn’t overrun with tourists, and I want to visit the valleys that are lush with vineyards. I want to see the countryside of Aquitaine and the Bordeaux vineyards. Tour La Champagne and see the medieval castles and the Forest of Ardenne.

When I think of France, I think of expansive fields of lavender in Provence, fine art, and rich creamy sauces. I imagine myself sitting outside at a café, sipping coffee and listening to the bustle of people about me. Or walking the beaches of the Riviera, enjoying the sunshine and azure waters. It is an appealing image.

And finally, Italy: Rome. At one time, the Roman Empire stretched across Eurasia. So many aspects of contemporary life can be attributed to the Romans: our system of government, the architecture that reflects Roman influences, even the idea of arenas. Of course, I want to see the Colosseum in Rome, but just as enticing is Tuscany: the rolling hills, the museums in Florence (the Uffizi and the Accademia).

Venice Opera House
Venice Opera House

I would also like meander through Venice, see the mosaics in the Basilica di San Marco, visit the rebuilt Opera House, travel in the canals, and wander through the perilously narrow streets. Actually, there is far too much in Italy that I want to see. I would probably need months and months to satisfy my appetite.

Perhaps I should probably do a Mediterranean cruise. Then I would be able to see the hot spots without having to find hotels, which can be quite pricey. Come to think of it, I could do an an Australian cruise. And once I have completed all of my cruising, I could decide on where to relocate!

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” ~ Martin Buber

I know. I’m daydreaming, and I’m daydreaming quite extravagantly. Just imagine how much money would be involved . . . but the exercise was not to fret over cost but to consider where I would want to go, not how I would pay to go. That’s why it’s called daydreaming and not reality.

Oh well. I’ll just have to keep my passport valid and hope that one day I win the lottery.  No wait. You have to play in order to win, don’t you? Well I suppose that rules out that particularly unrealistic massive windfall.

How will I get to these places? I’ll think about that tomorrow . . . right now, I’m going to try to close my eyes and sleep. I’ll let you know how that whole peaceful dreams thing goes. I would love to know where you dream of going, which places you would like to see given the opportunity.

Piano music of George Winston . . .

 

More later. Peace.

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

Norma Desmond

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard

 

Joe Gillis: “You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.” 
Norma Desmond: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” ~ From Sunset Boulevard

No post yesterday as I could think of absolutely nothing interesting to say.  Hate it when that happens.

A few bits and pieces for my Friday Leftovers:

One of my favorite bloggers has taken down her blog. I deleted it from my blogroll today and have to say that it gave me a pang of sadness to do so. She is a wonderful writer and has a great turn with words. I’m hoping that she will reconsider and come back with a new iteration. Although I must admit that I understand too well her comment about how she feels that her blog has become too whiney. I often feel that way myself, although, it doesn’t stop me from continuing to whine and post. Perhaps she has the right idea . . . Just a thought.

I’ve been reading the latest on what Junior Senator Al Franken of Minnesota is doing, and boy am I glad that he was finally sworn in. The man is incredibly intelligent and is working quickly to make a name for himself. In one article, Franken took to task conservative economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth for claiming that the Democrats’ healthcare reforms would increase the number of bankruptcies filed for medical reasons. As Franken pointed out, countries with national healthcare, such as Switzerland, Germany, and France had exactly zero bankruptcies due to medical crises last year. So nice when sweeping generalizations are countered with cold, hard facts.

Sunset Boulevard Movie Poster
Movie Poster for Sunset Boulevard

In my ongoing quest to add new titles to my music playlists, I have downloaded some songs from the movie Across the Universe, which features covers of Beatles’ songs. Even though the Beatles still rank as one of my favorite bands, I am not a Beatle elitist, and I really enjoy a good cover. I’m including one of my favorites at the end of this post. It’s by Fiona Apple, who has a wonderful voice. The song is actually not from the movie but from the television show “Smallville,” but it is a Beatles’ cover nonetheless.

I have asked Corey to go through the storage bins again and find me some new-old reading material. I haven’t read a book in almost two weeks, and I’m going through withdrawal. Of course, for most of those days, I couldn’t read because of the blasted migraine, but the pain has settled into just a general tight discomfort, so I want to read. In particular, I’m craving my Ann Rule books. If you like a tightly-written true crime novel, she is the best in her genre.

Speaking of migraines, I think that I’m clenching my teeth again. Actually, I’m sure of it. When I first wake up, my jaw is very tight, and it hurts, just like it used to years ago when I was clenching and grinding in my sleep. I actually had two jaw surgeries because of my TMJ. I hope that just by being aware of it now I can reteach myself not to clench. No more surgeries for me.

Last week this time it was about 46° F outside. Today it’s about 80° F. I love this area. It’s just a hotbed for extremes, which wreaks havoc on the sinuses. Common saying about Tidewater/Hampton Roads: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few hours.”

I glanced at the calendar today, and am completely mystified as to how it is October already, let alone almost Halloween. I am so not ready for the holidays. I hope to make it through November reasonably well this year, but I never know. November is such a horrible month for me—too many bad anniversaries. Here’s hoping that I don’t crash and burn like I did last November.

Norma Desmond: “There once was a time in this business when I had the eyes of the whole world! But that wasn’t good enough for them, oh no! They had to have the ears of the whole world too. So they opened their big mouths and out came talk. Talk! TALK!” ~ From Sunset Boulevard

Another political aside: Darth Dick Cheney received the Center for Security Policy’s Keeper of the Flame Award. Looking on and listening to Cheney were convicted felon Scooter Libby and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Great company. Essentially, the speech was filled with more of Cheney’s nonsensical commentary about how life was safe under Bush and Cheney (for, and I quote, “seven years, four months, and nine days”) and life is horrible now because . . . well . . . Obama hasn’t resolved the war in Afghanistan that Cheney started . . . This administration isn’t using the former administration’s review of the eight-year-old war. I believe the word dithering was used. Hmm, if Cheney had such a great plan to end the war, why didn’t he do it when he was in office? Why did requests for more troops sit unanswered for eight months? Why was Afghanistan clearly relegated to secondary status after Iraq? But most importantly, why is this man still speaking, and why are people still listening? “Keeper of the Flame”? More like perpetuator of flaming discord. Beh.

One more: When I mentioned earlier that I didn’t think that President Obama’s White House should openly engage in a fracas with Fox Noise, I said that the publicity would only encourage them. Boy was I right, and not in a good way. People: Calm Down. Some of you need to be reminded that the Bush administration regularly neglected to allow commentators and news people from networks and radio stations that were perceived to be too liberal or anti-Bush. Whenever W. invited talk radio hosts to the White House, liberal hosts were never included, but conservative braniacs like Glenn Beck were. In the last two years of the administration, NBC, and MSNBC were regularly left off lists. And dare I mention that little tidbit about how W.’s communications people paid journalists to ask questions? Remember Jeff Gannon of the questionable Talon News? ‘Nuff said.

Sending good luck wishes across the world to Australia for Maureen of White Orchid, who is waiting to hear about her new job, and her daughter Prue, who is scheduled for surgery. A stressful time for everyone. Hoping that everything turns out well.

On this front, still waiting to see if Social Security is going to approve my disability claim this time. Had to send them additional information. Have I mentioned before how much I love bureaucracies and paper work?

Someone please explain to me why it would be bad to have healthcare for everyone who needs it? I know that we aren’t going to get exactly what we need, but if we get nothing again this time, then I am going to work my butt off in the campaign to rescind healthcare for Congress at no cost. Why do they deserve healthcare, but everyone else does not? And don’t try to tell me that this statement and the one above contradict each other. I would gladly fill out forms if it meant that I was getting somewhere. It’s the constant completion of forms without any forward progress that irks me.

President Obama is coming to Virginia on Tuesday on behalf of Democratic candidate for governor Creigh Deeds. About time, I say. I’m not really sure why Obama waited so long to get involved in this race as it’s a big one. Virginia almost always goes with a Republican governor when the President is a Democrat. This time, we had a chance to keep a Democrat, yet Obama has not done much in the way of supporting Deeds. You would think that he would have worked harder to retain a state that went blue for the first time since 1964.

Windows has come out with Windows 7. Excuse me, but I still can’t use this frigging Windows Vista without my computer locking up at least once a day. Windows XP was a wonderful operating system. I loved it, loved everything about it, considered it the best since Windows 95. What is it with Windows? I know, Macs are better, but who can afford a Mac? If they weren’t so blasted expensive, I’d say convert all of the PC’s to Macs, but of course, that is completely out of the question. Corey likes to remind me that he has no problems with Vista. Yep. Okay. Whatever.

Norma Desmond: “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.” ~ From Sunset Boulevard

Carol Burnett as Norma Desmond
Carol Burnett as Norma Desmond

When I proofed this post on Sunday, I realized that an entire paragraph was missing, the one that explains the whole Sunset Boulevard theme: In case you did not recognize the quote “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille,” it is taken from Sunset Boulevard, a classic movie starring Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, an aging, delusional movie star. That particular line comes at the end of the movie. Some of you may remember Carol Burnett’s hilarious turn as Norma Desmond on the old “Carol Burnett Show.”

Nothing yet on the job front for Corey. He did submit his application to Newport News Shipbuilding for their apprentice program, but we have no idea as to how long that process takes. If he gets in, it would be a great move. He would get a decent salary as an apprentice with full benefits, plus he would finish the program with an Associate’s Degree. I’m really hoping that this works out because the whole tug boat thing is at a standstill.

Mom decided not to replace her roof right now, this after weeks of calling us every couple of hours about what to do. My mother is decidedly single-minded once she is focused on something, and then, she turns on a dime. Not even trying to figure her out any more.

By the way, any more is technically supposed to be two words all of the time. Over time, anymore as one word has been substituted, but it is not preferred grammatically. The difference is that any more as two words signifies any longer. When used as one word, it is a colloquialism for nowadays: Not a day goes by without a headache anymore. Yuck.

Other than that, everything else is pretty much normal. Tillie is fine after her last episode. Brett is trying to stay caught up in school, and Eamonn is still working on his construction job until the new school semester. Not hearing a lot from Alexis these days. Not sure if she is in one of her moods, or just extraordinarily busy. Such is life when everyone is busy with their own things. Oh yes, the van is still running nicely, and the truck is still dead.  Good and bad, as usual.

Here’s hoping that nothing else too dramatic happens in the next few days. However, I’ve been on the phone (currently on hold) with my retirement fund for the past 20 minutes regarding a withdrawal, and I don’t think that I’m going to hear what I want to hear; this after speaking to three different people about this transaction and being told that everything was fine. Why oh why, I am whining to myself.

 

More later. Peace.

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.” ~ Henry Miller

Earth, Air, Fire, and Water

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.” ~ Jawaharlal Nehru

Massive thunderstorms this afternoon. Loud thunder booms, but no major downpours in our area. The flower garden could use a good dousing. Corey was out doing errands and said that it was raining hard in other parts of the city, but nothing here.

Eamonn is disgustedly happy to have the Trooper back in his possession, even though I told him that we still need to do a few things to it. I’m hoping that the smoke coming out of it is leftover from the problems that we just had fixed and that once it gets a good drive on the Interstate, she’ll start to run like her old self again. Corey said something about the rings, which sounds expensive. I’m ignoring that pronouncement in favor of bad gas (for the Trooper, not me).

I’ve been pricing tires, and of course, what we need won’t be cheap. Nothing ever is. Moving right along . . .

“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” ~ Joseph Addison  

CharacterDumbledore Half-Blood Prince
Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Tomorrow night Corey, Brett, and I are going to eat sushi and then go see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. This is part of Brett’s birthday present. He is the only one of the kids who actually likes sushi, so that gives us something to look forward to this weekend.

On other fronts, I happen to know that Janson and his wife are currently in the hospital awaiting the birth of their daughter Aurelia. He has been Twittering about the progress most of the afternoon. I love the name Aurelia. It lilts on the tongue and sounds like a fairy.

My friend Maureen who lives in Australia is awaiting news from her doctor, so I’m keeping a good thought for her as well. And David Bridger’s wife Janette is scheduled for surgery at the end of July. Finally.

Even though the medical system in this country needs fixing, I have found from hearing from people in other places that national healthcare does have some major drawbacks—like waiting for operations that are necessary or having some doctors refuse to do procedures that must be performed by other doctors. However, I still believe that this country needs a healthcare system that is available to all, and not just to those who can afford to pay the premiums.

As usual, the blogging community is awash with action. My best to everyone. I’m keeping all of you in my thoughts.

“It is what we make of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” ~ Nelson Mandela 

Okay, this topic is from David Bridger as well: You are stranded on a desert island, and you can only take ten things. You are one of the ten things. Who or what would you take with you? I’m assuming that food will be on the island so we don’t have to worry about that.

I’m thinking that I need a few different versions of this because, as you know, I have such a hard time making up my mind.

List One: This one is compiled with the understanding that I am not alone in the world, that I have family and pets.

  1. Corey, Alexis (and her significant other), Eamonn, and Brett plus myself. That’s six right there. Must have family with me on this desert island.
  2. Tillie, Alfie and Shakes. Another three. Must have the dogs, even though they take up three spots.
  3. My Lord of the Rings (three books but one story so it only counts as one. I know. I cheat). Must have reading material. But I would give up the books, I suppose, if my sons had companions.

List Two: This one is compiled with the understanding that I am alone in the world, no pets or familydeserted island 1

  1. Myself (1)
  2. My Lord of the Rings (1)
  3. A copy of The Odyssey (because I’ve never made it all of the way through) (1)
  4. Lots of writing paper and something with which to write (2)
  5. A fully-loaded MP3 player and back-up solar batteries (3) (Do solar batteries exist?)
  6. A huge bottle of 4711 cologne to remind me of civilization (odd choice, I know) (1)
  7. A dog for companionship (1)

List Three: This one is compiled with the understanding that I must take that which I need to survive and gather food

  1. Myself (1)
  2. A machete (1)
  3. Two dogs, male and female (2)
  4. Lots of writing paper and something with which to write (2)
  5. A spade (1)
  6. Something reflective (1)
  7. A bottle of 5,000 Ibuprofen (since I cannot have all of my meds) (1)
  8. A bucket
cast-away-tom-hanks-2
Tom Hanks and Fed Ex boxes in Castaway

Now the reality is that if I were to be stranded on a desert island a la Castaway, I would hope that some things washed up on shore with me, one of which should be my carryall bag. I could survive months with just the contents of my carryall bag as it contains meds, scissors, a mirror, candy, a pocket knife, my inhaler, a notebook and lots of pens, a mini screwdriver, and sunglasses.

In Lola’s system of counting, the carryall bag counts as one thing just as the Lord of the Rings counts as one thing.

And if I had my purse as well as my carryall bag, I would be in fine shape. Also, if I washed up on a desert island wearing the things that I usually leave the house with, I would have a watch, my glasses, my cross, some earrings (okay, those I can do without), and probably a book and/or notebook.

Look, I’ve always been a pack rat, ever since grade school when I decided that I needed to take a satchel to school filled with things that I might need. Alexis inherited this tendency, so if she were with me and we got stranded, you can bet that we’d have a lot of things one might need just in case.

I’m not sure about the whole ice skate as dental tools as in Castaway, but the blades would be handy as would the laces. Don’t know if I have it in me to use an ice skate as a dental tool. But unlike Tom Hanks’s character in the movie, I wouldn’t be waiting to open all of the Fed Ex boxes. He was being honorable.

I say that if you are stranded, sealed Fed Ex boxes are fair game. Although given that attitude, the boxes that would wash up on shore with me would probably be things like government proposals, mortgage payments, and car parts. I’m not sure that side steps for a truck would come in that handy on an island  . . .

 “What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Goethe

deserted island 3I wish that my lists were more creative, but I think that they actually reflect more about me than at first glance. For example, I could survive without another person with me as long as I had a dog to keep me company. Implements with which to write and record things are very important to me. My choice of a machete instead of just a plain knife show that I am my father’s daughter.

Granted, wanting to take along a bottle of cologne might seem crazy, but if I had nothing else on this island to remind me of home, a smell would suffice. Smells are very important to humans: they conjure happy thoughts, trigger memories, even help with digesting food. The German cologne 4711 would do that for me. It would allow me to remember that piece of me that once belonged to society.

And if possible, having an MP3 player that is full of my personal music choices would serve as a connection to the world. I would have Chopin and Beethoven, the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen, Sarah McLachlan and Annie Lennox, Pavoratti and Broadway musicals. Music, in its varied forms, is communication, and it is something that is universal.

Having music with me would help to alleviate the loneliness, even if there were no chocolate to be found anywhere.

I wonder what other members of my family would choose to take: How Brett would survive without electronics . . . How Eamonn would survive without his cell phone . . . What Alexis would choose of her multitude of things that she must have . . . What Corey would want with him for the rest of his life . . .

Each list would be very different. Of that, I am certain. What and who we value as people is as varied as the sunrises. Not surprisingly. After all, it is that which makes us individuals, unique and the same, as unpredictable as the tides.

More later. Peace.

The Road Less Taken

Point Woronzof Park along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail AK

 Point Woronzof Park Along The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Alaska by Janson Jones

 

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

edward-hopper-rooms-by-the-sea-1950
"Rooms by the Sea," Edward Hopper (1950)

Today, my mind seems to be going in seventeen directions at once. I feel that I am being bombarded by thoughts and feelings too complex to unweave. Part of me is in Australia where a dear friend is going through some major life difficulties. To worsen things her daughter is also ill and experiencing ups and downs.

Another part of me is thinking about the wife of one of the writers whose site I visit. She, too, is ill and awaiting some kind of relief from her doctors.

Another blogger, one whose writing is just amazing, is anticipating the death of her beloved dog who has been with her for years.

A poet with whom I try to stay in contact has just lost her nephew. Her words are full of pain and sorrow, yet they are hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

Yet another compatriot is awaiting the birth of his daughter. The excitement that he is feeling is palpable, making me excited for him.

It’s so hard in some ways to be connected to so many people, to be intimately familiar with their lives and their loved ones. These connections bring me laughter, insight, opinions, joy, and sometimes, heartbreak.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 

It is the empathic side of me that feels too much, that perhaps delves too deeply into the pain and joy of others, leaving me bereft at times, and full of inner delight at other times. I have always been this way—too willing to take on the emotional burdens of others. I remember being a young girl and feeling such complete despair when one of my friend’s dogs was hit by a car, and then being filled with delight when a neighbor’s dog had puppies. Granted, these are probably normal childhood emotions, but it is hard to put into words the keenness I have always felt emotionally, the incisive way in which my emotions have held sway for as long as I can remember.

Henry County Indiana from When Worlds Collide
Henry County Indiana by Julayne from When Worlds Collide

I remember being devastated when someone I worked with at the newspaper died after a bout with cancer. And how absolutely crushed I was when I heard that John Lennon died.

My emotions have always guided me, which is why, I suppose, I have the incredible highs and merciless lows in my life. I’m not suggesting that this is the preferred way to live. On the contrary: There have been many times when I have wished that I could simply turn a switch, turn off everything that I was feeling. There have been moments in which I would have given anything not to be able to feel. To be numb, completely without thought, emotion, or concern.

No one has ever accused me of being a Stoic. For me, nature is not rational and perfect. I do not see everything from a fatalistic viewpoint. In Stoicism, whatever happens, happens, and nothing can change that which is determined, so there is no point in questioning or trying to alter things that are not within the individual’s power. I would never have been able to converse with Zeno, the father of stoicism and his philosophers of the porch. For each statement made, I would have asked why.

But why? Why does this happen? Why didn’t that happen? Why? Why? Why?

For me, every change is felt, not just within my psyche, but by my corporeal self as well. It’s as if my body is a barometer to my soul.

Admittedly, pure elation is an emotion that eludes me much of the time. That’s not to say that I have not been elated many times in my life. Of course I have: when I first held each of my children, on the day that I graduated with my B.A., when I finally completed work on my publishing degree, whenever I finish a piece of writing that I feel certain has come together well, each time that Corey returned home safely after being on the water, each accomplishment in my children’s lives, to name only a few.

As I have mentioned, the beauty that I find in the smallest things—flowers, birds, beautiful images, music, words—brings me a tremendous sense of inner peace and can affect my mood and sometimes reverse an impending low.

But spontaneous elation? I am mystified by people who are like that. You know the ones—they are genuinely happy most of the time. Very little seems to penetrate their cheery dispositions.

To be honest, I am uncomfortable being around people who are like that. Something in me tries to find the falseness behind the cheer. But sometimes, there is no falsehood. These people are happy, with every fiber of their being they are happy. I don’t understand that, nor do I particularly care for it, or perhaps the more accurate statement would be believe it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish unhappiness for these people, but to have that much happiness all of the time? How does one go about feeling the inevitable calamities in life if everything is always good? Positive? When faced with tragedy, to speak homilies such as “well, it was probably meant to be,” or “you’ll feel better soon” seems to ignore the pain. And if pain is ignored, if the individual does not allow herself to move through it, embrace it, and come out on the other side, how can any knowledge be gained?

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
 

Bear Lake Trail Everglades Fl by JJ
Bear Lake Trail, Everglades, Florida by Janson Jones

Admittedly, I am a cynic. I question everything, take nothing at face value, and tend not to accept glib explanations. Am I proposing that that is the way to live life? No. Sometimes, I wish that I could just enfold myself in the easy answers, ignore the nagging doubt. Wouldn’t that be easier?

But then, I would not be true to myself if I did so. I question. I doubt. I wonder. But once I believe in something, I will argue vehemently in support of whatever it is that I believe.

For me, the path isn’t always clear. Where it is going is never defined, but I would never change that. The not knowing is what allows for exploration, what encourages the soul to seek out the truth, even though the truth is not always what we desire or what we are prepared to accept.

The truth is such a complex animal. It changes with the wind. It is ephemeral. And that is why the search for it is usually not well-trodden nor lit with beacons pointing in the right direction.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

andrew-wyeth-easterly detail
"Easterly" (detail), by Andrew Wyeth

My life has been one long search for beacons pointing the way, but just as sailors have been misdirected by false light, I too have been misdirected: by believing the words of the wrong person, by holding dear to someone who was not worthy of my heart, by listening to misleading echoes.

And then the path becomes unclear, no boundaries, no borders. And at these times, I have become lost. Yet I have always made my way back, whether it was a friend who guided me, or my love for someone or their love for me, or just being attuned to my esse—I have always managed to find my way home.

For me, the lie is the worst thing. It rips apart the existing reality. It causes shifts in time and space, and as a result, things must be moved around until a new pattern can be formed, and the result is a grey spot where the truth used to be.

But then the opposite holds true: each new friendship, each new person who enters my life in a meaningful way also causes a shift, but the resulting move to accept these new people into the fold increases the beauty of the tapestry, enriches the colors, emboldens the pattern.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 

Even though I may wish at times that I had it within me not to feel things so deeply, I know that that will never be. I have my peaks and my valleys, and the movement between the two is an amazing journey, regardless of the pull on my psyche or the taxing of my constitution. My emotions are my plinth: They bolster me and keep me buoyant. But more importantly, they allow me to open my heart to others, to sustain my empathy, to avow the truths of my soul.

Arctic Valley Chugach St Prk Anchorage by JJ
Arctic Valley, Chugach State Park, Anchorage by Janson Jones

Admittedly, the pinnacles of my highs and the chasms of my lows do not make me the easiest person with whom to live, or even, to love. But I hope that the ferocity of my loyalty and my unstinting willingness to follow those for whom I care into the breach help to compensate for my ever-shifting spirits.

And so it is my hope that all of those individuals who I mentioned in the beginning of this post know that even though many miles separate us, my heart and my thoughts encompass them as fully as if I were sitting across the table from them, sharing a cup of tea.

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference” ~ Robert Frost
 

edward-hopper-houses-of-squam-light detail
"Houses of Squam Light" (detail), by Edward Hopper

I do not know where my path will continue to lead. I only know that I am willing to follow it to its end. I hope that along the way I continue to meet new people, to enter new lives, to touch those who seek comfort, to share in the great moments of bliss, to ease the way for those who will allow it, and to love and be able to call myself beloved.

It is these stops, these waysides that make that path more enthralling and that make me want to continue on this journey. I do not know the full purpose of my quest; I only know that it began years ago and that I still have a long way to go, many more observations to make, and more words to write before I reach my inn.

I’ll leave you with this track from Die Romantik. Haunting song.

 

More later. Peace.

 

The Road Less Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

Sometimes It’s the Little Things

clas tub + candles

 Feels Like a Little Bit of Heaven

Fifty Things About Me That Are Totally Irrelevant:

  1. My middle name is Gayle. Just think about that for a minute . . . Lolita Gayle. Can you perceive any possible rhyme or reason why those two names might be linked together in any way? Me neither. It has always dumbfounded me as to why my parents chose this for my middle name, and I have always hated having Gayle as my middle name. It’s not the name that I hate, per se. It’s the name in conjunction with my first name. No poetry there. No melody. No logic. But what can you do? My cup of teadaughter hates her middle name also, and her father and I thought that it went very well with her first name, so I suppose that it’s just one of those parent things.
  2. Whenever I go to a bar, I order three things simultaneously: whatever liquor I’m drinking, for example Kahlua and cream, plus a glass of iced water, and a cup of hot tea. This is one of the reasons that I like to go to places where the wait staff knows me. They don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I place my order. Why do I do this? Why is my middle name Gayle? Exactly. Actually, I like to drink all three things at once. I pace myself by drinking water throughout the night, and I like my hot tea. I’m not a big drinker in the first place, so my combo works very well for me.
  3. I have only had short hair a few times in my life, and the times that I did have it, I hated it. I’m just not a short hair person. I feel like I look like a monkey when I have short hair. Of course when I was a child, my mother used to chop off my hair regularly. She would see a hairstyle that she thought was very chic, and then I would lose hair. I hated it when she would do that.womens-collage
  4. I have always been a flaming liberal, and females who say that they aren’t feminists don’t really understand the true definition of the word.
  5. I have two crooked toes. They were never broken, but the fourth toe on each foot is curved like a comma. It has never really bothered me unless someone asks me about it.
  6. Speaking of toes, I have Filipino toes, as in, I can pinch with my toes and pick up things with my toes. I know, also very strange, but trust me, this is not an unusual trait among Filipinos.
  7. Cats make me have asthma attacks, which is a shame since cats love me, and if I enter a house in which a cat resides, said cat will make a beeline for my face.
  8. My favorite thing to do when I go out is singing Karaoke. That’s because I’m a ham and a thwarted Broadway star. I had planned to run away to New York after high school, but it never happened.
  9. I’m a classically-trained pianist, but never felt that I was very good at it, even after 14 years of lessons.
  10. I have been a vegetarian a couple of times in my life, and there was no particular reason for it other than I got tired of eating red meat. I’ve never been a vegan and don’t even have the least idea as to how one does that.
  11. I love Beethoven as much as I love the Beatles, Frederic Chopin as much as I love Kenny Chesney, Stravinsky as much as I love Springsteen. My playlists usually cover about four genres of music.
  12. Cayman Islands beachMore than just about anything else, reading is my favorite way to pass the time. Reading on a tropical beach is even better. Reading a good mystery on a tropical beach with an umbrella drink is the best.
  13. My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love to decorate the house and to buy the perfect presents for the people in my life. No one else in my family gets as excited about Christmas, and that always makes me a bit melancholy.
  14. I make lots of lists—grocery lists, shopping lists, to do lists—and I lose them almost as soon as I make them, which kind of negates the whole purpose of lists.
  15. painted toenailsI always keep my toenails painted. When I went into labor with Alexis, I took the time to paint my toenails and mop the kitchen floor. One of the things I hated about having back surgery was my inability to paint my toenails for a while.
  16. I have worked as a writer, editor, marketing director, resume writer, newsroom supervisor, grants writer, proposal development specialist, graduate teaching assistant, university English instructor, membership coordinator, publications manager, 6th grade public school teacher, senior education specialist, and research and development assistant. The job that I hated the most was teaching 6th grade for Norfolk Public Schools. The job that I loved the most was teaching at a university. The environment that I enjoyed working in the most was at an arts museum. The environment that I enjoyed working in the least was for a non-profit help group.
  17. I have been to the following countries: England, Scotland, France, Germany, Morocco, the Philippines, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Belize, and Spain. The places that I have not yet been to that still want to see include Ireland, Wales, Greece, Costa Rica, Australia, China, and New Zealand.
  18. A job that I think I would have been good at? Being a crime analyst (in the lab, not in the field). I love solving mysteries, and it seems that analyzing evidence would be one of those jobs that would continue to evolve.
  19. The major that I seriously considered and actually regret not pursuing is marine biology. I considered pre-med, psychology, and anthropology. I ended up getting two of my degrees in English, but I have always been interested in life under the sea. I did take my LSAT’s because I was going to go to law school when we moved to northern Virginia, but then I got pregnant with Alexis and changed my mind. 
  20. Tartan 27 Sailboat
    Tartan 27 Sailboat
  21. I almost bought a 27-foot boat when I was in college that I wanted to live on. Do I regret not doing this one? Absolutely. How often are you that free in your life? No ties, no debts, the ability to make life-changing decisions. I was completely stupid for not following through on this one, and the only thing that held me back was fear.
  22. My best feature? My legs. My worst feature? Everything else.
  23. My favorite flower is lilac.
  24. My favorite scent is Calvin Klein’s Eternity.
  25. My favorite colors are black, red, and purple, in that order.
  26. I love black leather boots, my full-length black leather coat, and squooshy black leather hobo bags. My favorite leather designer is Kenneth Cole, and I don’t believe that you can ever have too many boots or purses.
  27. black bootsI love cashmere but cannot wear it because it gives me a rash.
  28. I love silk and wear it as often as possible.
  29. I love the smell of freshly cut roses, but hate the smell of rose-scented candles.
  30. My favorite jeans are Levi’s, and I cannot imagine ever paying $200 for a pair of jeans.
  31. My favorite jewelry, besides my wedding rings, are my crosses. I have a gold Claddagh cross, a gold crucifix, and three rosaries. I am not Catholic.
  32. I would have been a good lawyer because I like to win.
  33. Among the things that I like to collect are watches, especially ones with big faces and leather straps.
  34. My mom pierced my ears with a needle when I was 12.
  35. I have one tattoo on my back. I want to get at least two other tattoos.
  36. I am claustrophobic in crowded places: elevators, coliseums, rallies.
  37. I can curse without moving my lips.
  38. gem_aquamarineI spent several formidable years of my childhood in London, England. I went to a public school, and I had a very proper British accent. I haven’t been back to England since I was a child, and I would love to go back just to see how much it has changed.
  39. My birthstone is garnet, but my favorite stone is aquamarine.
  40. I am stupidly jealous, and more than once have made an idiot of myself because of it, but it stems from my insecurity.
  41. I believe that if you make a promise, you should keep it even if it’s to a small child. If you know that you aren’t going to keep the promise, don’t make it. Broken promises cause disillusionment.
  42. Keeping information from someone is the same thing as being dishonest. I know. This is probably a woman thing.
  43. I could go my entire life without watching the NFL and never miss it.
  44. I want to live in the mountains and by the sea.
  45. I love good coffee, Belgium chocolate, and angel hair pasta.
  46. I love fresh seafood, but refuse to eat lobster because I think that they should be allowed to live on the bottom of the ocean for as long as they can.cupid's bow lips
  47. I miss wearing suits and heels.
  48. I always have something on my lips, at least gloss, throughout the day.
  49. I would love to pursue another degree.
  50. Nothing is better for stress than a hot bath, lots of candles, a glass of wine, and someone washing your hair for you.
  51. This is the longest amount of time that I have spent thinking about just myself in forever, and I only did it because I couldn’t think of anything else to post.

More later on a different subject. Promise. Peace.