“Find the joy in your life, Edward.” ~ Carter Chambers, The Bucket List

                   

Carter Chambers: Forty-five years goes by pretty fast.
Edward Cole: Like smoke through a keyhole. ~ From The Bucket List (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson)

So one of my newest compatriots over at Sweet Mother sent some blog love my way in the form of an award:

The rules are to use all 26 letters of the alphabet to say something about yourself. She made a list of 26 things that annoy her, which was hilarious, by the way. I talk about things that annoy me all day long, so I thought that for a change of pace, I’d make a list of 26 things that I want to put on my bucket list, places I want to see, people I want to meet, things I want to do. Can’t wait to get to Z.

Here goes:

Old Typewriter by rahego (FCC)

A: I won’t cheat by using the letter as the article that it is. In this case, I would have to say that it stands for Athens. I know that Greece is pretty much in the toilet right now, but I have long-held a desire to visit Greece for two reasons: to see if it really as is blue and white as all of the travel photos depict it and to visit the ancient ruins before they erode away completely. I’ll be you thought it would be Australia . . . that’s a different entry.

B: Is is too obvious to say that this stands for book, as in the one that I’m writing in my head, the one that I want to compose on an old IBM Selectric, the one that will probably never be published? The other b is Belgium. I wonder how much longer this little country will be around? I want to go. Something about the old architecture of Europe really calls to me.

Cardiff, Wales (Wikimedia Commons)

C: Hands down, Cardiff, Wales. Dr. Who. Torchwood. It’s Wales. It’s old. Did I say that it’s Wales? A close second would be cosmetic surgery, as in having the fat in my stomach moved around and redistributed to my tatas and my buttocks. But since I know the value of a dollar, this is not going to happen, so I’m sticking with Cardiff. The other c you’ve heard about time and again: a cottage by the sea with Adirondack chairs and a sprawling garden. One or the other or both, preferably,

D: Diving, as in scuba. I know. There is very little chance that with my lung capacity that this will ever happen, but the idea first occurred to me in the 10th grade when I opened a book and saw the incredible blue waters of some island, can’t even remember which one now. But I used to sit my butt down and watch every single Jacques Cousteau show that came on television before the days of 2,000 channels, and I always wanted to dive, to go far enough under the water to see the sea. Still want to do this.

E: Obviously, Ewoks are out of the question, but it’s such a great sounding word that I just had to throw it into the mix. Actually, there are two places in the world that I would love to see: Edewecht, Germany and Egypt. The first is where my German relatives live, and one day I’m going to make the trip across the water to see them. I don’t know if Egypt will ever happen, but wouldn’t it be cool to see all of the ancient architecture there?

F: As in Fitzgerald, F. Scott. I know that I cannot meet him, but I would love to live as an expat as he did, living on the edge, writing books and stories. Okay, to make it more realistic, let’s say France and Fitzgerald. The French are, admittedly, xenophobes who don’t much like anyone who isn’t French, but the museums, the cuisine, the wine . . . definitely on my want-to-do list.

Skydiving instructor: Okay, let’s deploy
Edward Cole: [singing] I’ve got a feeling I’m falling!
Skydiving instructor: We’re in the red zone, pull the cord!
Edward Cole: [singing] I’ve got a feeling I’m falling in love
Skydiving instructor: PULL THE DAMN CORD!
Edward Cole: [pause] I was in love once… ~ The Bucket List

G: This one has been on my list for years: glider. I want to feel the freedom of floating in a glider, which I imagine is as close to flying as a human can come (other than those bat suit thingies which look both intriguing and scary as hell), And no, hang-gliding would not be enough. I do have one other g: the Great Wall, which I want to see for my dad, who traveled the world but never saw this structure. I know that it was on his bucket list, even though he never really had one of those.

Silent Glider

H: Hammersmith, England, which is where I spent several years as a child. I would like to go back and see everything now as an adult, visit the pubs, go to all of the places that I saw as a child and appreciate them with adult eyes—Oxford Street and all the rest. Another h: hot air balloon. The idea of going up in something like this excites me, enthralls me. I had two chances previously, but did not do so. There was a boy in the very first composition class that I taught at Virginia Tech, and he was an avid ballooner (term?). He would write about it in detail, and ever since, I have wanted to do this.

I: Do I need to say it? Ireland. I’m going there one day, and I may never come back. It’s so built up in my head that I’m truly hoping that the reality doesn’t pale in comparison to my idea, but I don’t think so. So much history, so many writers and poets, so much green.

Ireland (from Trip Originator)

J: Jackson, as in Peter Jackson. I know that this might seem like a really bizarre fixation, but I think that this man is a genius, and I would love to meet him, work for him, fetch his tea, whatever. This man took my favorite series and made it a reality without butchering it, and considering the complexity of Tolkien’s vision, that’s nothing to sneeze at in derision.

K: Kiwi, as in New Zealand (see Peter Jackson above). I want to go to New Zealand as much as I want to go to Australia, and this isn’t a new want, and it didn’t even arise with Jackson. A lifetime ago, my ex and I actually talked seriously about moving across the world and starting over. The other big K is kayaking. I did this once, and I really loved it.

L: Not a person and not a place, but an animal: Labrador Retrievers. I have decided that I will always own at least one. They are the most loving of dogs, intelligent and loyal, and more importantly, they make me laugh, which is not something that I can say about many things. The other l is library, as in a personal library, as in I want.

M: Manola Blahniks or something in that vein, Louboutin, Gucci, whatever. Yes, I would probably fall off them and break something, but just once, to have a really expensive pair of shoes, even second-hand. I don’t know why. This is a bucket list, after all. It doesn’t have to be reasonable. The other really extravagant item that has been on my list for a very long time is a Mercedes SL. I know that I’ll never own one of the sports line of this driving machine, but as with the shoes, I can dream.

Louboutin Classic Pumps

N: New York. I know that it sounds trite, but I want to go back to New York with Corey and show him all of the museums, enjoy the bustle and flow, be a tourist. The other place in this category is New Orleans. I haven’t been in many years, and definitely not since Hurricane Katrina. I want to go back and have hot beignets and rich coffee.

O: Another one that I have long had on the list: the Orient Express. Yes, in part because of Agatha Christie, but also because I think that it would be a remarkable way to tour several countries, do the entire line, all the way to Istanbul. Expensive, possibly prohibitively so, but a woman can still dream, can’t she? Oh, another o: Oregon. Don’t know why, but think I would like it.

P: A poesy ring.This speaks to the very heart of my Medieval nature. These rings are based on ancient designs in which the inscribed phrase is Latin, Greek, ancient Gaelic, or French, among others, and I have wanted one for years and years. And of course, Ph.D., as in still want one.

Orient Expressman Pullman by Dick Penn (FCC)

Q: Queensland, Australia. My blogger friend Maureen has instilled in me an appreciation for Australia, and I really want to see the Great Barrier Reef.

R: Rowing. Sounds strange, yes, but I actually enjoyed the act of rowing when I owned a rowing machine, and I used to think that I would like to translate the act to the water itself. If not full on rowing, then kayaking. Ideally, I would kayak in Australia and then fly over to New Zealand to visit Peter Jackson . . .

S: Selectric, vintage (see B above). Red or black. Good working order. Will pay for shipping . . .

T: Tri-gold interlocked ring, preferably antique. Again, another long-held desire of mine. A friend of mine at the newspaper had one as her wedding band, and it was an antique, and I coveted it from the moment I first laid eyes on it. Such a simple design but so beautiful. When Corey and I first talked about getting married, I had told him that I wanted one, but we never found one.

Carter Chambers: [to Edward, of the two questions asked of the dead by the gods at the entrance to heaven] Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others? ~ The Bucket List

U: Not a country, not an item, not a person, but a feeling: unburdened, unencumbered, as in no more outstanding debt. No more calls from creditors. No more bills that cannot be paid. To feel the weight of such a state lifted from our collective shoulders—achieving this one would be pure bliss. Truly.

Buick Enclave

V: Vehicle of my own, mine, just mine. I know that this is an American thing, that Europeans don’t possess this car-love, but it’s been so long since Izzie, my Trooper, and I haven’t had my own vehicle, and gosh darnit, I want one. I only have a few specifications: small SUV, hybrid would be nice, color must be black or charcoal grey, leather seats so that I can have heat for my back, a good stereo system, and plenty of cup holder space. The vehicle doesn’t have to be new, but it has to be mine.

W: A walkabout. I don’t know where, perhaps the Appalachian Trail, but I love the concept. Not a Forrest Gump kind of walkabout, but a Crocodile Dundee kind of walkabout, without the hamminess. I used to love to go hiking in the Virginia foothills, and always fancied going further. Men can do walkabouts, but a woman setting off on her own in an unknown direction for an unspecified amount of time? Still not possible, really, is it? For now, I’ll fill this dream with simply getting back to walking. Soon. Really.

X: I always think of Coleridge when confronted with x, and a place that no longer exists: “In  Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure-dome decree.” I’m going to cheat on this one because I really cannot think of anything x-specific, so instead, I’ll do math: a+b=x, with a being the equivalent of a room, and b being the equivalent of ample space, which makes x the equivalent of a room with enough space to have my writing area, my books, and a comfy seat to curl up with a book.

Window Seat (from Coastal Living)

Y: Yoga. I miss yoga. I loved the way that it made me feel. These past few years when the money has been so tight and extras have been out of the question, I’ve put the idea of yoga classes on the back burner. I’m hoping that by this summer I might be able to start taking them again.

Z: This was a toss-up. Should I choose zenzizenzizenzic, which everyone knows is the eighth power of a number? Or how about zho, the cross between a yak and a cow? Or perhaps zoanthropy, the delusion that one is an animal? I do happen to like zydeco, Louisiana Creole music, and I have eaten zwieback, a toasted biscuit. I’m not particularly fond of ziti, finding it too thick. I could go on for days; the Internet is a wonderful place for nonsense. In other words, I don’t have a z place or a z person. I suppose I have arrived at zeroable—able to be removed from a sentence without any loss of meaning.

Runners-up: A hedgehog, anything leather by Kenneth Cole, Iceland, white-water rafting, a 5K, built-in bookcases, room of my own, a comfortable couch, the Venice opera house, and the means to buy any book that I want.

Thanks again, Sweet Mother.

More later. Peace.

                   

Late addition:

ABC

I’ll never find out now
What A. thought of me.
If B. ever forgave me in the end.
Why C. pretended everything was fine.
What part D. played in E’s silence.
What F. had been expecting, if anything.
Why G. forgot when she knew perfectly well.
What H. had to hide.
What I. wanted to add.
If my being around
meant anything
to J. and K.
and the rest of the alphabet.

~ Wislawa Sz;ymborska 

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“If the earth needs night as well as day, wouldn’t it follow that the soul requires endarkenment to balance enlightenment?” ~ Tom Robbins from Jitterbut Perfume

Abstract: Branching Dream in Blues, by russell.tomlin
                   

“Where do colors go at night, before they are returned to us at dawn?” ~ Lorenzo

Sunday evening. Clear and chilly.

"Un Parc la nuit," by Jozsef Rippl-Ronai (ca. 1892-1895, Musee d’Orsay)

Last night I dreamed that I was fighting a dragon, a huge, purple dragon that swooped down over the meadow I happened to be in, and somehow, I escaped, only to fight a wolf with my bare hands. Weird, huh?

I love my husband; he shares everything me. For instance, his winter cold—clogged ears, cough, aches, and all. His symptoms began about four or five days ago. Mine hit their high point yesterday, so another day in bed for me. How does one repay such generosity of spirit? I’ll find a way. Trust me.

 I didn’t come near the computer yesterday, which should give you an idea as to how low I felt. Instead, I read another book, this one by James Rollins. Please don’t ask me the title as I haven’t the foggiest idea. I just breezed through it in between napping. It possessed my little grey cells only for as long as I was actively reading. Sometimes those are the best kinds of books: formulaic plots that don’t tax the mind too much but manage to pass the time suitably, i.e., smart, independent woman, strong man, mad scientist/curator/military leader, possible end of the world scenario.

In other news, I think that I have finally, finally gotten my health insurance fiasco fixed. My last e-mail exchange with the HR rep at GW seems to confirm this, which makes it less fantasy and more possible reality. I know. Stupid isn’t it when wishing that you had health insurance that you are paying for actually worked? So if everything goes as hoped, I can make appointments with all of the specialists that I need to see: the neurologist, the gastro guy, the gyn, the eye doctor, and the mood doctor. Oh, and the breast smashing-people.

I have so much to look forward to.

“. . . Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.”~ John F. Kennedy 

Tunisian Demonstrators Place Flowers in the Barrels of Soldiers' Guns from the majalla.com

On to other things . . . Corey has an aunt and uncle in Egypt. I’m not exactly sure as to their location, but I do know that they live in an American compound. Still, it’s a situation fraught with dangers. I will admit that I am not as up on the background that led to the current uprisings. My ongoing headache has greatly affected my usual perusal of news sites. But I did come across the following on my tumblr dash:

“The current popular unrest in the Arab world has a lot of lessons for Washington. Undoubtedly one of the most jarring is this: The leak of a simple series of cables from a U.S. ambassador in an obscure country — officially condemned by Washington — may have done more to inspire democracy in the Arab world than did a bloody, decade long, trillion-dollar war effort orchestrated by the United States.”

Michael Hirsch of The National Journal was referencing Tunisia in the above passage, which many feel has a direct link to what is happening now in Egypt. According to The Daily Mail, “A 2008 diplomatic cable leaked by the WikiLeaks site outlines how the U.S. State Department supported a pro-democracy activist and lobbied for the release of dissidents from custody.” The article goes on to state that “the protests were triggered by the overthrow of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Al Ben Ali. Street protests in Tunis focused on similar issues, including poverty and political repression.”

I must take the time to research the situation more thoroughly. If anyone has any good links, I’d appreciate the info.

“The trouble is, you think you have time.” ~ Guatama Buddha

Grass on Water by Russell.Tomlin

In less world-shattering news, I have decided to enter an informal poetry contest that one of my fellow tmblrs is holding (A Poet Reflects).

Now, I should probably explain a few things here for those of you who think that entering such a contest is old hat for me. First, and probably most importantly, to enter the contest, I must submit my work. This means that someone other than my computer and occasionally a few family members will see my poetic attempts. The idea of such a thing scares the ever-loving bejeezus out of me.

Second, I don’t practice my poetry often; dabbling might be stretching the reality a bit. I am much more comfortable in prose. But occasionally, a poem comes to me out of the blue. You would think (well, most logical people would think) that such flashes would inspire me to hasten to some writing utensil to put down the words that are bouncing around in my head so that I can work with them more. Nope. Don’t do it. Too scared.

Too convinced that my poems are hack. Too certain that there is no point. So after reading about this contest, that night in bed the opening of a poem came to me. I went over it several times, rearranging words, deleting some, inserting others. By the time I was finished with my musings, I probably had eight or ten lines. Now anyone else might get out of bed and write these lines down so that they could be revisited in the morning. Did I do that? No. I told myself, ‘self, surely you will remember all of this mental gymnastics in the morning. Go to sleep.’

And so I did.

“So many worlds, so much to do, so little done, such things to be.”~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"Chinese Lanterns at Night," by Thomas Watson Ball

 Of course I did not remember. This is the third thing in the list of things you should know about my poetry, and/or writing in general: I am my own worst enemy.

The next day, after bemoaning the fact that I could remember not even one line, I took a pad of paper and pen and sat on the bed to begin again. (I prefer to draft poems with pen rather than computer—probably the only kind of writing that I do with pen any more.) I was rather pleased when I drafted eight quatrains, rapid-fire. Rather surprised, too. Then I reread them and promptly put down the pen and paper and thought to myself, “Crap. Crap. Crap.” A few hours later, a totally new opening came to me, and having learned my lesson somewhat, I wrote down the new opening. Then I left everything alone so that I could mull and stew a bit (I view poems a lot like my homemade spaghetti sauce: it needs to simmer to reach its optimum flavor).

Okay, now here is the kicker: I put the three pages of pen-written draft in my book basket next to my side of the bed. At some point during the evening, I knocked over my cup of tea. Where did most of it land?

Do I really need to tell you? On my draft. I spread the soaked sheets of paper on plain white paper (one was written on both the front and back, something I rarely do) and left them to dry. It’s been two days. Have I looked at the pages to see if they are readable?

Of course not. Will I finish this poem in time to submit by the deadline? Who knows.

Perhaps the more interesting aspect is the journey that I have taken to write the poem rather than the poem itself. Then again, that just might be more of my self-justification for not doing what I need to do. Did I mention that a book of Pessoa’s poetry is the prize? That alone should motivate me to enter the contest.

I’ll let you know what I do when I know what I’m going to do.

More later. Peace.

Music by Jenny Lewis, “Godspeed”

                   

From “Silence,” by Edgar Lee Masters

I have known the silence of the stars and the sea,
And the silence of the city when it pauses,
And the silence of a man with a maid,
And the silence for which music alone finds the word,
And the silence of the woods before the winds of spring begin,
And the silence of the sick,
When their eyes roam about the room.
And I ask: For the depths
Of what use is language?
A beast of the field moans a few times
When death takes its young.
And we are voiceless in the presence of realities—
We cannot speak.

“Life is a spell so exquisite, that everything conspires to break it.” ~ Emily Dickinson

 

Virginia Woolf’s Writing Table, Monk’s House, by Gisele Freund

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson

Poets' Walk, Central Park, NY

I woke up speaking French again. Very disconcerting. However, as Corey pointed out, what would be more disconcerting is if I did not actually know French, but I was speaking it in my dreams. Granted, my conversational abilities are very limited, but for some reason, I dream in French occasionally.

It’s absolutely beautiful here today, a perfect spring day. That is, everything would be perfect if not for one thing: yesterday was opening day at the park that our house abuts. Opening day is exactly what it sounds like: the baseball season opening, which means lots of cars beeping their horns, the loudspeaker blaring at 9 in the morning, car alarms, and litter.  Every year, people park illegally in front of our house. I say illegally because of the no-parking signs and the fire hydrant, not because I don’t want them to park there. I try to warn people if I see them parking that they will get a ticket if the police happen by, but they usually just look at me as if I am being the neighborhood bitch.

Hello. Fire hydrant. Blocking it is a bad thing, remember? Oh well.

I’m very excited because season 4 of The Tudors premieres tonight. This will be the last season for the Showtime series, starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Henry VIII. In this season, Henry will marry his last two wives (Katherine Howard and Catherine), get old and fat, and go to war. So far, season 2 has been my favorite.

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.” ~ T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Poets' Walk, Clevedon, UK

The news is full of sad things: the death of the Polish president and his contingent while en route to Smolensk, Russia for a memorial. According to news reports, the visit to the Katyn forest was to mark the 70th anniversary of the killing of thousands of Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret security during World War II, an action that led to a huge rift between Poles and Russians.

In Comfort, West Virginia, the bodies of the four missing miners were found, bringing the total number of those killed to 29. The Upper Big Branch mine disaster is the worst in U.S. history since the 1970 disaster in Kentucky. Apparently, the rescue crews walked past the four bodies that first day, but could not see them because the air was so smoky and dusty.

A Tennessee woman put her seven-year-old adopted Russian son on a plane by himself. The plane was going to Russia, and the ticket was one-way. The mother claims that the boy, renamed Justin, terrified her family by threatening to burn down the house with everyone inside. Now the woman’s family is claiming that the Russian orphanage lied to her about the boy’s behavior problems. So many things wrong with this story, not the least of which is the fact that the woman wasn’t returning a broken vacuum to Wal Mart. The adoptive grandmother bought the ticket, and the family arranged to pay a man in Russia $200 to take Justin from the airport and leave him at the Russian education ministry. A note was sent with the boy that read in part, “After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends, and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child.”

And on another sad note, Dixie Carter, star of television series “Designing Women” has died at the age of 70. I loved wise-cracking Julia Sugerbaker. Like the woman who portrayed her, she was smart, attractive, and took no guff from anyone. Funnily enough, some of my friends used to compare me to Julia Sugerbaker, can’t understand why. Carter was married to actor Hal Holbrook.

“your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose” ~ e. e. cummings, “somewhere i have never travelled”

Poets' Walk, Red Hook (Hudson River Valley), NY

One of my blog friends is packing some books to ship to me. I cannot wait. For me, nothing is better than a box of books, not even a squishy black leather Kenneth Cole purse, if that gives you any idea as to how much I love books. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a Kenneth Cole purse, but since no one is offering . . . Anyway, Kelly is a bibliophile like myself, so she understands just how dispiriting it is not to have books to read, hence her very generous offer to send me some books. In the future, I hope to participate in the Goodreads Book Swap, which is a wonderful idea.

If you love books but have yet to visit the Goodreads site, I suggest you do so soon. Goodreads is a great resource for readers in so many ways. Go to http://www.goodreads.com/. You’ll be glad that you did.

My ex called me last night, just to talk. Wow. I don’t remember seeing the news that hell had frozen over. No really, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a conversation that did not quickly escalate into an argument. He even sounded relatively sober, another first. I did suggest, very gently, that he might want to try to spend a bit more time with his mother as there is no way of knowing how much longer she will be around. I am one of the few people who can get away with saying something like that to him. His sister has tried, but he sees that as her way of trying to tell him how to live his life. I had heard that his girlfriend is moving here from Chicago. He confirmed that she will be here in July. That should be interesting. His last two serious relationships went up in flames. I hope this one works for him.

Now don’t be that way. I’m being sincere. As much as we have our problems—and boy, do we have our problems—I do wish him well. If for no other reason than the fact that when he’s happy, we get along better and can actually have adult conversations that don’t devolve into name-calling. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how Eamonn gets along with a new stepmom.

On that note, I think that I’ll close for today with an appropriate quote from Barbara Kingsolver:

“April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot wrote, by which I think he meant (among other things) that springtime makes people crazy. We expect too much, the world burgeons with promises it can’t keep, all passion is really a setup, and we’re doomed to get our hearts broken yet again. I agree, and would further add: Who cares? Every spring I go out there anyway, around the bend, unconditionally . . . Come the end of the dark days, I am more than joyful. I’m nuts. “

More later. Peace.

The one and only Ray Charles singing “Georgia on My Mind.” Classic.

And for those of you who loved “Designing Women,” here is a classic Julia Sugerbaker moment:

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.” ~ Albert Einstein

 

Sunset2 at Palm Island Park Mt Dora Fl

Sunset at Palm Island Park, Mt. Dora, Florida by Janson Jones 

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” ~ Ghandi

Well, here we are. Thursday. Another day. Rain outside my window. Muddy paw prints on my floor. Exactly 12 cents in my wallet. Life is . . . well, it is what it is.

Standard Issue School Safety
Today's Standard Issue for School Safety

A quiet peace has settled over the house. Eldest son is spending more time at home. Not really sure what the reasons are behind that, but I’ll take what I can get. Today at Brett’s school there were seven, yes seven fights. Corey said that when he pulled up to the school to get Brett, the police were escorting people out in handcuffs, most of them females. The school was in lockdown for a couple of hours. Local news stations report that 14 students were arrested.

Lockdown. In a school. And people ask me why I don’t get a teaching job. No thank you, not in an urban public school, no matter what their academic standing is or how good the principal happens to be.

The one year that I taught in public schools, I was hit three times, all three accidents, but hits, even so. You know that old myth about having unusual strength during a time of crisis? Well, it’s true. I once broke up a fight between two boys in my classroom by lifting one of them off the other. The kid I lifted, who was actually a very nice boy with very good manners, was a head taller than I was.

Another time, a girl in my class was reaching around me to hit a boy she had a crush on, and I got punched in the arm. The worst fights were always the ones involving females. Not making a generalization here. This is what I saw firsthand.

Not sure what made me think of all of that. I suppose the situation at school today. Thankfully, Brett was not in the vicinity of any of the fights when they broke out.

“Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being . . . creativity requires passion and commitment.” ~ Rollo May 

Maureen, my friend in Australia made a comment that she really liked the images that I used in the last post. I’m glad that people notice the images and the words.

Waves in Blue and Green
Sargasso Sea Abstraction by L. Liwag

I spend about half of the time writing my blog, and then the other half searching for and working on images. Sometimes I am very lucky, and I have a very specific image in mind, one that I have seen on another blog. But other times, such as with the last blog, it takes forever for me to find the precise image that I want. I usually look for images that I know have no copyright or for which I know that the copyright has expired. Or, in the case of my friend Janson Jones, I try to let him know that I plan to use an image in a post; he has graciously given his permission.

And then there are the times that the images I include are mine or a family collaboration. Someone in the family may have taken the photograph, but then I work in Photoshop (wonderful Adobe program, but eats up memory), and play with color, layers, filters. As with every computer program I know, I am self-taught on Photoshop, but the more that I work with it, the more interesting things I find to do with photographs.

And then after I have my words down, and I have inserted my images, I try to think of the perfect song to go along with my theme for the day. Of course, this is not always possible because sometimes, like today, I just kind of amble from one thing to another.

I’ve come a long way since I began blogging over a year ago. Whether or not my changes are an improvement only others can tell. I like to think that I have reached a point at which I have found a good balance between words, images, and music. These three things are the root of my creative process. I almost always write with music playing in the background, and my time at The Chrysler Museum of Art opened my eyes to so many beautiful paintings, sculptures, glass, photography, and other art forms from every time period.

I had always loved art before I worked there, but my appreciation for the visual expanded significantly during my tenure at the museum, especially because part of my job included writing about exhibits, giving interviews, etc. I had to take crash courses in artists and their works every couple of weeks. I’m not complaining at all. I loved the opportunity to learn more about an area in which my prior involvement had only been brief visits to museums. Coming at a work of art from the inside, having the opportunity to work with the curators was wonderfully informative, and therefore, rewarding.

“It has always seemed strange to me that . . . so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought—that is to be educated.” ~ Edith Hamilton

William Glackens The Shoppers Detail
"The Shoppers," by William Glackens (detail, 1907, oil on canvas) from the permanent collection of The Chrysler Museum of Art

I suppose I don’t really understand people who do not want to learn new things. It’s as if they are content with a certain body of knowledge, and anything else would just be extraneous. I understand a need to be focused, but to close your mind to new things, developments in science, language, politics—How can you not take an interest?

I fear that we are raising an entire generation that does not know how to delve, how to dabble. The art that they see is on a computer screen not in a museum. The research they do is from the Internet not in a library. Their knowledge of classical music comes from hearing it as background music to a commercial or when it is used in a movie soundtrack.

The term classical education is no longer a matter of pro forma, and that grieves me. A true classical education meant learning about as much as possible, even if it was just a bit about everything: languages, art, music, literature, politics, science, math, culture, economics, history.  Of course, not all of these subjects are absorbed at once.

A true classical education begins early, with a basic foundation in language so as to be able to absorb basic facts. From this, students progress to analyzing what they are taught until ultimately, these students have the ability to express themselves using their expanded knowledge base. Of course, this is a simplified explanation of what is known as the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and quadrivium (astronomy, arithmetic, music and geometry) of a classical education.

Unfortunately, Latin is no longer taught as a matter of course. And the dialectic of logic and reasoning is included in schools that are focused on college-bound students, but what about the rest? Do I dare touch on the uneasy fact of how many of our high school students graduate without knowing how to read or balance a checkbook?

We are so removed from the Greek and Roman ideas of education (barring their idiotic barring of females from receiving formal education) that I fear we will have a generation whose only acquaintance with Latin may be the two phrases carpe diem and semper fi. Of course, I am over-simplifying things as I have a tendency to do when I am frustrated.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~ Cicero

Actually, I don’t really know how I ended up on this particular topic; I only know that upon arrival, I began to become vexed—a sure sign of my omnipresent impatience with ignorance (not stupidity) and how we as a society are responsible for said pervasive ignorance.

Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day
One of my children's favorite books

Time to stop and have a Pepsi and some chocolate, something to sweeten my disposition. I will leave you with this: If you have young children, read to them, all of the time, from board books when they are very young to fairy tales as they get older. A little story: My daughter Alexis was with her friend Jennifer. The two of them were sorting through children’s books bought at an estate auction. Alexis kept picking up books and saying how wonderful this one was and how much she enjoyed that one.

Jennifer replied that she hadn’t read most of them. Alexis was incredulous until Jennifer reminded her that her mother was not an English professor like Alexis’s mother. Jennifer, like so many young people, grew up in a house without books; whereas Alexis already had a pretty extensive library by the time she entered high school. Not bragging, just telling a story.

Teach your children to read early and you will allow them to become life-long readers. And remember, never ever make fun of a child’s ability to read. Nothing could be more cruel or do more harm to a child’s self-esteem. Just ask anyone who has struggled with dyslexia or a learning disability.

I’ll stop now. Relenting my time on the soapbox. More later. Peace.

Just a note: I actually wrote this post on Thursday afternoon, but after writing about picking images for my posts, I froze. I could not, for the life of me, decide on any images that would be suitable for this post, with the exception of William Glackens’ painting “The Shoppers.” Probably should not have written anything about my creative process . . .

 

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.

The Wonder Years

Today is my youngest son’s 16th birthday. I won’t bother to get into the details of how we celebrated because most of you would find it oh so strange; however I will share one of his deeper comments with you: “Krispy Kreme donuts must have cocaine in them.” I’m not so sure that he isn’t close to the truth about that one. If any of you have ever tasted these delectable concoctions from hell, then you will know of what I speak. Don’t even bother to swallow. Just apply them to the largest portion of your body as that is where they will eventually settle; have no doubts. 

But back to the birthday. After buying books–yes we went to the bookstore first, and we had to decide which ones to put back because we both had too many in each of our piles–we headed out to find other things for his birthday celebration. I have a special place in my heart or my youngest son, and I will admit it, and it is not that I love him more; it is that I love him differently. When it was time for him to be born, he did not want to come out. Right before his due date, he turned laterally (women who have given birth, you can appreciate this special pain). He put his elbows under my ribs, and I had to have a c-section to have him removed. My ob/gyn, with whom I have a special bond, said that there was no way that he was going to come out on his own. He had decided that he just didn’t want to leave. And it has been pretty much that way ever since. We have a connection, he and I, and I think that it comes from the fact that he is a living, breathing replication of my father in so many ways, down to his eyebrows and the way that he stands.

Nevertheless, one thing is for certain: no matter how old he gets, or how old his brother or sister get, I will never stop being amazed at how we reached this point in time, how we survived this crisis, or that calamity. I have to believe that there is some fabric that exists in our tapestry as a family that binds us together, that will not let us be tossed to the furies of the four winds alone without the support of each other. Ours is a pattern that fate has chosen not to weave easily but intricately, making us resilient, independent but always interdependent, creating a beautiful whole.