“The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.” ~ Max Lerner

Near Trail of Blue Ice Portage Valley AK by JJ

Near Trail of Blue Ice, Portage, Alaska by Janson Jones

 

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” ~ Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

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

42-16057799I’ve been reading like a mad woman for the past few days: The Alchemist(Paul Coelho), The Hours (Michael Cunningham), an older one by Jonathan Kellerman, The Butcher’s Theater, and a very early one from James Lee Burke, Black Cherry Blues. (I plan to write some reviews soon, here’s hoping.)

Why so much reading? The alternative is to sit down at this computer and produce something. Each night, I approach my desk as if it were an anathema to me: my body feels alien in the curves of my chair; my screen looms in front of me—tasking me like the white whale. I fear that to sit in my chair for any amount of time might somehow completely drain my body of the little energy I have left. So I walk back to the bed, pick up a book off the stack, or turn on the television.

I have regressed to my amoebic state: I am being whipped about in my single-cell form, a body in motion not of its own volition. I have to tell you that this is a very odd position in which to find myself: being propelled along by forces beyond my control and not having the least idea as to how to escape this eddying current without smashing myself against the rocks.

“The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man perfected without trials” ~ Chinese Proverb

I suppose an update is in order. The current state of affairs is that the job that Corey had hoped would still be open with Vane Brothers is, of Merchant Mariner Documentcourse, no longer available because it took so long to get his Coast Guard certifications. He is making telephone calls, sending out e-mails, doing everything he can, but our hopes that with the arrival of the certified documents from the Coast Guard would come a job seem to be all for naught.

He is so beside himself with feelings of self-doubt that it just wounds me to my core. Having gone through a period of unemployment myself, I know all too well how it affects the psyche, chips away at your sense of self-worth, tears at the very fabric of your soul.

Corey is a wonderful, caring person. He does not deserve this continued assault on his self-esteem. And I am powerless to do anything about it. In fact, it seems that the more that I try, the harder it is for him. I don’t mean in the sense of negating his feelings, but rather, by trying to be there for him, it seems to heighten the issues.

It’s as if my presence serves as a constant reminder of all of the things that are going wrong. It’s no one’s fault. That’s just how it is. His failure at finding a job in his field in this economy is moot. What stands out is the failure itself, regardless of the fact that it is not his. I fear that my words of encouragement sound hollow to him. At times, I let them die on my tongue like sand baked in the sun.

“In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.” ~ Bertrand Russell 

abandoned steel factoryI am reminded of the many closings of mill towns across America, the ways in which once thriving communities were left as mere shells of their former days of productivity. With one decision somewhere in a boardroom in another city far, far away, entire towns were dealt death blows, the only reminder of their once prosperous slice of the American pie remaining in abandoned rusting factories, blights on the landscape.

As could be predicted, in many of those communities with nothing left, alcoholism and drug addiction statistics rose. Of those citizens who decided to stay, the rate of unemployment skyrocketed as did the incidences of spousal abuse.

We are a careless society. We throw away entire communities and never look back. And then when the need for assistance increases, we have obtuse politicians making comments about hunger being a great motivator. It sickens and frightens me simultaneously: Everything can disappear in a moment.

“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” ~ Ellen Goodman

And so we are now left with accepting help from Corey’s parents to fix the disaster of the dead Trooper. The engine cannot be rebuilt. It would cost more to do so than the Trooper is currently worth. So Izzie is off to an Ohio junkyard. I try not to think about it.

Ohio JunkyardSo Corey’s mom and dad are stepping in with a vehicle. It is a life-saver and an anchor. While their intentions are incredibly generous—to help us out of this fix, Corey is finding it very hard to reconcile himself to the idea of accepting support in this way at this point in his life. It makes him feel as if he is a child again, dependent upon his parents to fix things.

After previous years of doing well with our combined incomes, being brought back to square one is akin to starting all over again.

I understand Corey’s frustrations. I felt exactly the same way when my father stepped in and bought the big ugly Buick after my Oldsmobile was totaled. Here I was, a grown woman with children, a job, obligations. But I was in a bind, and my father knew it. He did what came second nature to him. He stepped in and bought a car for me.

I never asked. I never would have been able to ask. It wasn’t a matter of pride, more a matter of feeling overwhelming failure at being at a point in my life in which I should have had the resources to take care of my problems myself without my father stepping in to save me once again.

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children.  One is roots.  The other is wings.” ~ Hodding Carter, Jr. 

I have often thought about the parent-child cycle: Exactly when does it stop? Does it ever stop? Do we ever stop being our parents’ children? Do we ever stop looking to them, needing them?

Doubtful. We grow up looking to our parents for love, support, help. If we are lucky—and indeed, not everyone is—We get those things from our parents, and so much more. We get our lessons about caring for those who have less than we do. We see our parents doing the right things day after day, and we want to emulate that. We watch carefully, silently, during those times in which we are caught off guard at the echoes of sadness in their voices, and we feel completely unprepared the first time we see our parents cry.

weeping angel with filterWe vow that we will never be the cause of their pain, and then thoughtlessly, we become the very source of their anguish. We promise to do better, and our promises are filled with that toss-of-the-hat carelessness that we do not recognize until years later.

And then later, if and when we become parents ourselves, we realize exactly how fraught with sorrow and pain the prospect of raising a child can be. We vow to do better than our parents, to listen more, to be more available, to be more patient. But things never really work out that way.

At times, we become careless with our love for our children, and they know it, and they store this little nugget away and vow never to be that way with their own children when they have them.

But if we are very lucky, we also remember to cherish those sweet, sweet moments that come around only once in a while: taking an afternoon nap in the hammock in the spring sun with Alexis, barely moving so as not to disturb her slumber; singing “Unchained Melody” to Eamonn in the middle of the night when he could not sleep because of his stomachaches, sitting in the Bentwood rocker, the two of us completely immersed in each other; sitting in the backyard with Brett, in companionable silence, reading books and enjoying the quiet days of spring.

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

Portage Valley Blue Ice by Janson Jones
Portage Valley Blue Ice by Janson Jones

Corey and I are finding our way back as best we can. It’s a tricky path, filled with branches just waiting to trip us when we least expect it. He worries that when I look at him I see a man who has failed, that I am filled with anger and impatience. I worry that when he looks at me he sees a woman who is past her prime, who no longer has anything to contribute.

Of course, we are both wrong. When I look at Corey, I see the man who has brought great joy to my life, who has gone through hell and back and still stands by my side. I hope that when he looks at me he recognizes the force of the love that I carry in my heart for him, that it is inviolable, immense, and without judgment.

We are finding our way back slowly, but this much I know: Whatever is left out there for us to conquer, to overcome, we will do it just as we have done everything else: together.

I am not some starry-eyed hopeless romantic that believes that love conquers all. I am a hopeful romantic who understands that love is but one part, and that if the loving is to be successful, it must be based on mutual respect, trust, and an unrelenting belief in the person who is your partner in this life. We are just beginning this arduous task of working our way back slowly, but this much I know: Whatever is left out there for us to conquer, to overcome, we will do it just as we have done everything else: together.

More later. Peace.

 

 

Wake me up

“Today, I’m not so strong” ~ Norah Jones, “Wake Me Up”

Sometimes, the words we most want have already been taken by someone else. More often than not, the person who preceded us, has brought the words together so well that there is no point in trying to improve upon them. Such is the case with Norah Jones’s song, “Wake Me Up.”

 

 

Wake Me Up lyrics

Wake me up when it’s over,
Wake me up when it’s done,
When he’s gone away and taken everything,
Wake me up.

Wake me up when the skies are clearing,
When the water is still,
’cause I will not watch the ships sail away so,
Please say you will.

If it were any other day,
This wouldn’t get the best of me.

But today I’m not so strong,
So lay me down with a sad song,
And when it stops then you know I’ve been,
Gone too long.

But don’t shake me awake,
Don’t bend me or I will break,
Come find me somewhere between my dreams,
With the sun on my face.

I will still feel it later on,
But for now I’d rather be asleep.

More later. Peace.

The End of an Era

ted-kennedy_SLAHv1-horizontal

A Young Senator Kennedy

 

“I hope for an America where we can all contend freely and vigorously, but where we will treasure and guard those standards of civility which alone make this nation safe for both democracy and diversity.” ~ Senator Ted Kennedy, On Truth and Tolerance (1983)

Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy died today at the age of 77 after working tirelessly for the American people for over 47 years. This son of privilege focused his energies on those without: the underprivileged, the homeless, the children, the aged and infirmed—the ignored, the under-served, the invisible.

Senator Kennedy’s name is connected with some of the most groundbreaking bills to come to the floor of the U.S. Senate. He was a staunch supporter of healthcare reform, civil rights, immigration, Medicare and Medicaid, health insurance for children of the working poor, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Meals on Wheels for the elderly, family leave, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A Roman Catholic, Kennedy supported a woman’s right to choose, and was a powerful ally for the fight for abortion clinic access.

“Many in the scientific community are concerned that the president’s decision will delay development of cures for dread disease for many years, at the cost of countless lives and immeasurable suffering.”

Openly critical of former president Bush, especially over the war in Iraq, Kennedy still managed to work across party lines for the “No Child Left Behind” act, which increased funding for schools. And although the Senator stood behind former President Bush in the Rose Garden for photo ops, Kennedy never relented in pushing for those issues in which he so fervently believed.

Senator Kennedy lamented what he saw as the former administration’s short-sightedness in stem cell research and the issue of healthcare in general.

He decried the recklessness of the war, the waste of lives, the deception: “It’s now clear that from the very moment President Bush took office, Iraq was his highest priority as unfinished business from the first Bush Administration. His agenda was clear: find a rationale to get rid of Saddam.”

 “The Constitution does not just protect those whose views we share; it also protects those with whose views we disagree.”

A liberal’s liberal, Kennedy possessed a characteristic so lacking in most politicians of any party: He was willing to work both sides of the aisle, to fight, and most importantly, to compromise. Perhaps his death will help those involved in the current attempts at healthcare reform to regain focus, to move past the divisiveness, to move the spotlight back onto what really matters and away from the name-calling and inane comparisons to Nazis and genocide.

What Kennedy wanted most, and what he did not live to see, was a country that truly cared for its citizens, a country that embraced the idea of good healthcare for all, regardless of employment status, pre-existing conditions, age, race, or annual income. It was this fight above all that made me truly admire the Senator.

And my concerns over Senator Kennedy’s replacement stem from my strong desire to see actualized that which he fought for so vociferously, sometimes heatedly, always passionately.

“His voice roared as he battled for the poor and the victims of injustice yet he had a smile that could light a room, a laugh that would draw a crowd and a heart always ready to share your sorrow.” ~ Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin

Petraeus testifying photo by Chip Somodevilla
Senator Ted Kennedy (Photograph by Chip Somodevilla)

Kennedy, the last of the original Joseph Kennedy dynasty, spent many years as a man plagued by personal demons. In 1991, after years of being lambasted by critics and lampooned by comedians, Kennedy admitted to his foibles in a speech at Harvard: 

“I recognize my own shortcomings, the faults and the conduct of my private life,” he said in the distinctive Kennedy accent. “I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them.”

After marrying Washington lawyer Vicki Reggie, his second wife  in 1992, Kennedy seemed to be able finally to grow into the mantle of the Kennedy legacy. He lost weight, started taking better care of himself, and stopped partying as if he still belonged to another generation.

Many political pundits agree that Ted Kennedy came into his own in the latter part of his life. His “salad days” long gone, the senior senator took to the political battlefields with renewed energy and dedication.

In 2008, Senator Kennedy was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, but he surprised everyone when he appeared at the Democratic National Convention and declared his firm support for then candidate Barack Obama. The Senator’s endorsement of Obama over Hillary Clinton surprised many, but Kennedy believed that President Obama would be the best change for the American people:

“With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion. With Barack Obama we will close the book on the old politics of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against gay.” ~ January 2008 endorsement of Barack Obama for president 

“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” (Democratic National Convention 1980)

Ted Kennedy will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, a place he visited frequently to pay his respects not only to the two fallen brothers who preceded him, but also to the men and women who have served this nation, who are buried in this hallowed ground of lost heroes and remembered warriors.

Rest in peace, “Lion of the Senate.”

 

 

More later. Peace.

Reflections on Hope (part 2)

 Reynard 8-2009

 Fox by Brett Sutcliffe (August 18, 2009)

The Possibility of Hope

Maybe im still searchin
But I dont know what it means
All the fires of destruction are still
Burnin’ in my dreams*
 

Corn Queue Henry County Indiana Julayne
Corn Queue, Henry County, Indiana, by Julayne from When Worlds Collide

I’ve sat down at this “add new post” page for the past four nights. I’ve sat, waited, and then closed the page. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say; more, it’s that my mind seems to be in recovery mode still after so long away from this forum that gives me a voice, as if I’m in the same room with a long lost friend, and we are still in those first few moments of awkardness, when there are a million things to say, but none of them seem to be the right way in which to begin again.

I love this blog. I appreciate the people who stop by just to read and even more, those who leave comments and words of encouragement. I love being part of a bigger blogging community, filled with people who sent me messages over the past three weeks, letting me know that they were out there if I needed them, that they would wait for me to come back.

But my last post was so full of despair that it actually left a physical pain in my heart. To put into words all of the bigger things that have happened over the last two to three years somehow makes it more real, and therefore, that much harder to reconcile.

That post also did something else to me: It made me a bit nauseous. It smacked of poor, pitiful me, and far too much navel-gazing. So let me just pause here to apologize for being so maudlin. Admittedly, though, wearing a virtual hairshirt every once in a while does seem to help.

But time to move on.

I wanna come in from the cold

Tree Frog at Rest
Tree Frog at Rest by L. Liwag

Last night, as I sat here, I heard the wonderful chirrups of the tree frogs in the backyard, and then as I was walking through the dining room, I looked out in the backyard and noticed that a strap on the pool was vibrating. A tree frog was inside the little tunnel, and every time he sang, the strap vibrated.

He was too far inside his shelter to get a picture, but I could see his small green body peeking out. Unfortunately, my invasion of his space made him cease his calls for a bit, but in about half an hour, I could hear him again.

And make myself renewed again

Uncle Melchors Trumpet Flower
Uncle Melchor's Trumpet Flowers

My uncle’s funeral was Saturday. He never regained consciousness. I wanted badly to go to the funeral, but the family lives almost 800 miles away in Florida, and this just isn’t the best time to rent a vehicle and get a hotel room.

So I stayed in touch by telephone. My aunt, who retired only last year, told me that all of the people who used to be in her department came over one day and did her yard. What a wonderful gesture. My uncle loved his yard and would send me pictures of his flower gardens when they came into bloom.

To hear about people who cared, taking the time to care for one of the things that he so enjoyed made me smile. A happy remembrance.

It takes strength to live this way

Tillie Happiness b&w
Tillie Happiness

Today, I braved the brightness of the sun to play ball with Tillie and Shakes in the pool. I think that I must have done a good job because both of them are sound asleep.

Tillie is a ball hog. The only way that I could get her to release the ball in her mouth was to tease her with the other tennis ball. Wanting both, she would drop one while I threw the other ball, and then I would throw the ball that Tillie dropped for Shakes to retrieve. Quite a complicated system for a simple game of water tennis.

I found myself relaxing, though, and just enjoying the moment—something that I do too rarely. I didn’t think about anything of consequence, and I just focused on exercising the dogs and looking at the birds flying overhead.

The same old madness every day

Captain Corey
Happy Birthday Corey

Tomorrow is Corey’s birthday. He is none too happy. It’s all well and good for me to try to point out to him that he is hardly old, but he doesn’t hear me. I know old. He isn’t old.

When I told him to go ahead and flirt with someone while he was at Costco, he said that he couldn’t because he was losing his hair. What bollocks. He has a head of beautiful, healthy hair, and he is losing a few hairs a day in the shower, undoubtedly because of the stress. My husband is too funny.

We won’t be doing too much of anything to celebrate this week, but with any luck, maybe we can have sushi sometime soon.

I wanna kick these blues away  

On other fronts, Brett is trying to gear up mentally for the school year. It looks as if they have set up his schedule for him to go every other day, which is wonderful.

I’m hoping the day off between class days will allow him to rejuvenate and to feel less pressure. If this works out well, he should miss less school and be able to stay more caught up with his work.

I’m very grateful that the head of the program at his school, as well as his guidance counselor are working with us and trying to come up with a way in which Brett can succeed this year.

Unfortunately, Eamonn was not able to start fall semester, as I had feared. Even if we had come up with the funds, we don’t have a second vehicle at the moment, and the fate of Izziethe Trooper is uncertain at best.

I feel really terrible that we weren’t able to get everything together in time, and to make matters worse, my ex called me up last week and cursed at me for three minutes for not getting the financial aid taken care of. It was a short conversation that ended with me saying something along the likes of, “If you’re so freaking concerned, why don’t you do something about it.”

Talking to a brick wallHis (my ex’s) reasoning that I needed to take care of everything and was falling down on the job was that his schedule is so full, and if that my computer was broken, why didn’t I go to library or something to use a computer? My pointing out that the financial aid was just one part of the equation didn’t matter. When I tried to tell him that even with the tuition taken care of, there was still no vehicle.

He actually asked me what happened to the Trooper, this after I had a conversation with him over two weeks ago about the Trooper dying on the way to Ohio. That’s the problem with trying to have rational conversations with someone who has an alcohol problem: You never know their condition when you tell them something important, and then they claim they were “never informed.”

Of course, I thought of a really good rejoinder after the nasty conversation ended: He lost the right to speak to me when he moved out of the house . . . This from the man who never took a day off to take any of the kids to the doctor. I did it because somehow I let him drill into me that it was easier for me to take a day from work.

Then I thought about it for a minute. He should have never had the right to speak to me that way. Why did I give him that right? Too often, verbal abuse isn’t recognized, even by its victims.

I wanna learn to live again . . . 

Butch Edentons Sunset
Sunset by Butch Edenton

Which brings me back to the subject of this post: the possibility of hope. I won’t pretend that Corey and I have a perfect relationship, but we have a really good relationship, and he doesn’t verbally abuse me. He doesn’t belittle me for my weird habits, and he loves me, imperfections and all. As do I him. Immensely.

Life has sucked lately, a lot. We run into walls, and we seem just cannot seem to get a break. But as I have been reminded of all too much with the loss of my uncle, we live in minutes and hours, not days and years.

I will make certain that Eamonn is ready for college next semester. I will take extra care to watch out for Brett’s signals that he is overwhelmed. I will enjoy the joy that my animals bring me.

I will remember to tell Corey that I really do appreciate everything that he does for me, even something as small but caring as making sure that I have Pepsi in the house. And I will appreciate the fact that I have a partner in life who could belittle me if that were his way, but it is not. His way is to tell me that he loves me every day of my life, to lie to me when I ask if I look fat, to tell me the truth when I ask about my writing, and to love and care for Eamonn and Brett unstintingly, including taking both of them to the doctor more times than I can count.

They are my shelter, my comfort, my great joy, and my peace of mind. With them, I really need nothing more.

Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

Thank you for allowing me to be self-absorbed and for your kind words. But thank you more for continuing to visit here, for reading my words, and through your own words and beautiful images, for reminding me of all of the good and wonderful things in this world, one of which is this poem by one of my favorite writers, Langston Hughes.

Goodbye Uncle Melchor.

More later. Peace.

*Lyrics from “Dark Road,” by Annie Lennox

Mother to Son

by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Reflections on Hope

Dark Angel

Dark Angel of Forest Lawn, by L. Liwag

The Loss of Hope (August 5, 2009)

“We have lived our lives in a land of dreams!
How sad it seems.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Angel Face
Contemplating Angel by L. Liwag

I have been considering the whole concept of hope and its opposite, hopelessness, and in the considering, I realize that my entire life has been a constant vacillation between the two, a relentless movement of highs and lows, and the harrowing realities that bespeak such an existence.

Please do not pity me. It is not pity that I seek. Rather, I yearn for the type of even existence that seems second-nature to so many. I ache for the idea of normalcy. I crave a life that does not encompass such valleys and zeniths—one that has the steady beat of a second hand on an old, reliable watch.

“We must take the measure of our own days and bear them out with a truthful eye.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “Just Open Your Eyes”

 I have tried to pinpoint the exact moment when our lives began this slow descent into a waking nightmare. It’s hard as there is no certainty, and my loss of hope began many years before Corey’s personal crisis.

Infant Angel
Cherubim by L. Liwag

I have mentioned many times the loss of my daughter Caitlin. And that loss changed everything about me, even the ways in which I allow myself to feel. For a long time, I did not allow myself to feel anything, and then I did, but cautiously. I worked my way back into an existence that I could tolerate and even at times, enjoy.

When Corey and I came together, I was able to feel pure joy for the first time in memory. I found myself daring to hope that the darkness that had cloaked me was finally receding. And it did, in so many ways: I began to have dreams again. I allowed myself to invest myself totally in a relationship that sustained me. I felt within myself the ability to trust life again, and with that trust, came hope.

But then things began to happen, small, seemingly inconsequential things at first. I had a run of bad luck with jobs. Nothing seemed to fit, or perhaps, I did not fit. That I felt like a failure is a vast understatement. Why could I do nothing right? Perhaps it was because I did not believe in myself enough.

Then, I lost my father before Corey and I had shared even our first anniversary, and I was heartbroken. That my father did not live long enough to see me pull myself out of my personal abyss always dismayed me, but now, part of me is glad that he has not been around to watch my slow slide into stagnation.

And then there was a betrayal by Corey, a lie of such consequence. But we were new in our life together, and Corey did not yet know the weight a lie would place on my heart, and I was trying to learn the concept of true forgiveness, something that had eluded me before. So we were willing to work through this major rift as the prospect of what we could have far outweighed the wound to my heart.

A few years after we were married, I lost my left ovary to a tumor, and our dreams of children seemed to be snatched from us with one small cut. Still, we prevailed, never losing hope in the possibilities of things to come. So we coasted through a few more years together, making our way through normal dips and peaks, like the naturally-occurring lines on an EKG.

But somewhere in 2006, something seemed to break somewhere—a subtle shift in the continuum, so subtle, that at first, we did not recognize it for what it was and what it would come to be: a continual struggle with relentless events so injurious to the psyche and diminishing to our existence that it seemed that we had walked under a dark cloud and never moved away from its paralyzing shadow.

“Looming, the Fata Morgana stung my eyes 
crept into my dreams   
offered only a cruel discordance,
falsehoods in the night where only truth should reside” ~ Lolita Liwag, “These are the only truths I know

I made a change in my career in September of 2005, a position on which I had stumbled quite by chance, and fate seemed to be on our side. Corey, too, decided that he wanted a change in his career, and made the fateful decision to return to the Coast Guard Reserves.

While trying to retrain in the reserves, Corey had a freak accident that almost demolished his knee, one misstep, and his knee was torn. His hopes for a new, more fulfilling career were gone in one afternoon. The training that he had done so far was for naught as the Coast Guard would never let him work in his desired field.

Angel of Fire
Angel of Wrath by Lita Liwag

Our finances also began to crumble as Corey was out of work for several months while he recuperated. But still we rallied.

Then soon after, yet another misstep, and Corey found himself felled by his own carelessness, and this error of judgment affected the entire family for quite a while in several different ways. However, Corey went back to work as a merchant marine, and our lives seemed to be getting better, but this lull was short-lived.
 
The increasing pain in my back was not responding to ongoing physical therapy and treatment, and so I made the fateful decision to try surgery.
 
I had a back operation in March of 2007. By July, it was apparent that the operation had not been successful, and I found myself in constant pain. However, I was not willing to stop working. But it was not a decision that I was allowed to make.

In September of the same year, I made a discovery that literally sucked the air from my lungs and left me broken and completely disillusioned. I had been betrayed again, and my emotional pain had reached a point at which it melded with my physical pain. I was so spent as to be completely ineffective.

I left work full time in October 2007. Corey was laid off in January 2008. Our downward spiral has continued unabated to this moment—unpaid bills after working so hard to gain ground with our finances, continuing health problems (emotional and physical), a constant battle to keep the utilities on, sometimes unsuccessfully.

But we have not succumbed.

“ . . . then you would never have to move into that next second when you know for certain that all possibilities have ceased to exist and that the pain—a pain that you have never felt before, are unfamiliar with, are not used to assimilating and reacting to—that pain has only just begun to consume you.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “Last Possible Second”

In the past 20 months, we have become two shells of the people we once were: both of our lives defined greatly by our careers, the loss of first mine and then Corey’s was a full frontal assault on our sense of worth as individuals. We have floundered about, steadily sliding down a precipice leading to an almost numbing loss of hope.

Angel in Clouds
Angel of Reflection by L. Liwag

And each time that we rally, something else seems to happen to weaken the already strained fabric of our existence: another bill in the mail demanding full payment, another snide comment from someone on the outside about not trying harder. But worse, the unkind cuts from those who should have more understanding.

And then, in just the past two months, we have come within a hair’s breadth of losing our home, the only place in which I feel safe. We do not answer telephone calls from area codes that are unfamiliar as we never know who will be calling to threaten us because we have not made payments.

First the truck and then the SUV have failed, until the most recent complete breakdown of the Trooper on the side of a mountain in western Maryland.

We have depended upon the kindness of our families and even strangers for help. I have depleted the minuscule amount available to me in my retirement account. There is nowhere left to turn for help, and it both frightens and disgusts me that we have reached this point of hopelessness.

We cling to each other, but there are times when being together is too painful, each of us consumed by our own feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and despair, neither wanting to let proximity cause grief for the other.

I have tried prayer, pleas to anything out there that will listen, and I have cried deep into the night at the injustice of it all in one instance, and then in the next second, I weep tears of hot guilt for failing to live up to everything that I promised my father I would be.

“I think that you’ll understand
if I tell you
that Barber’s Adagio for Strings
makes me weep.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “Finding My Way Through Our Friendship”

And then once in a while, perspective kicks in, as does reality, and I am faced with more truth than I can bear: My uncle, my father’s brother with whom he was very close, is very ill, possibly dying, and another wound has been opened. My uncle is one of my last surviving ties to my father.

Blue Angel
Blue Angel by L. Liwag

Corey’s family is filled with a kind of despair, knowing what we face, and being able to offer only so much solace. My own mother is in denial, moving between blame and worry. The few friends who know offer kindness.

My eldest son wants to begin community college in a few weeks, and I know that this is an impossibility, but I do not know how to face him with this news. And even if somehow he is able to begin classes, we no longer have a vehicle for him to drive.

It’s as if we are caught in a kind of endless mobius strip, chasing our tails, catching up long enough to fix one thing only to have two more crash and burn.

There is a chance of Corey being able to get a job with a shipping company, but we must await his certifications from the Coast Guard for his most recent training.

When we returned from our ill-fated trip to Ohio, Corey received a letter in which all of his certifications were kicked back, prolonging the review process and diminishing the chances of getting a job. Another injustice: the reasons for the denial are all based on incorrect facts, a lack or loss of paperwork by the processing center, as all of the documentation has been submitted at least twice. Yet still they persist in holding out what we so badly need.

We are living a nightmare that will not abate, a living purgatory from which there is no release, and I have to ask: Are we bad people? Did one of us do something, somewhere, at some point in time to warrant this hand that fate has dealt us?

“How did you know that it was time  
I didn’t. I still don’t.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “The Final Loss of Hope.”

Is hope not merely a wish, a whim? Do we not invest in hope our deepest, fondest desires to make something that does not exist come into being? And if that is the case, then what is the point of hoping, really, if we know that something is not possible? 

Sleeping boy angel
Sleeping Cherubim by L. Liwag

How do we continue to hope, to hope for hope when the possibilities now seem impossible? 

And in the end, is not hoping for something that is not possible the worst possible betrayal of self, a delusion that can only wound to the very core of our being?

Or is continuing to hope a fool’s errand, that attempt to wish into being something that rests just beyond the reach, futility by its very definition?

Then what purpose, hope?

Peace be with you and yours.

“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” ~ Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs

silence of the lambs

 Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs

“Okey Dokey. Here we go.” ~ Hannibal Lecter from Hannibal 

It’s noon on Tuesday. Corey and his Dad have gone to Springfield to pick up the rental car. Apparently, there is a dearth of rental cars anywhere within an 150-mile radius of Lima.

I find this rather odd. Did a convention of oversized men in undersized cars make a run on the rental cars at the Dayton airport? What gives?

So once they return with the Impala, we’ll be on our way, that is, after lunch.

Everything is packed; at least, I think that it is. I’m terrible about leaving things behind. Apparently, I left a pair of shoes at Ann’s last year when I took them off (probably after too many slushy alcohol drinks) and never put them back on.

I must have not needed these shoes as I never even missed them. Anyway, a former friend of mine says that my habitual leaving behind of things is my little way of making sure no one forgets me . . . hmm . . . things that make you say hmm.

Clarice Starling: If you didn’t kill him, then who did, sir?
Hannibal Lecter: Who can say. Best thing for him, really. His therapy was going nowhere. ~ Silence of the Lambs  

Hannibal
From Hannibal

Brett seems to be better today. He is watching strange videos on YouTube and laughing rather insanely. His fever came back during the night, but I think, hope, that it might have broken.

We are all rather loopy. Well, at least Brett, Tillie, and I are rather loopy.

Brett wants his own bed and his XBox. I want a million dollars and no more things to worry about (but I would settle for a thousand dollars and fewer things to worry about this month), and Tillie, well Tillie just wants it to be Tillie time endlessly and forever.

Hannibal Lecter: You will not persuade me with appeals to my intellectual vanity. ~ Red Dragon 

Everyone here has been exceedingly nice and understanding, which makes me feel worse for not being very good company.

But maybe I’m never good company, and I’ve just forgotten about it? Who knows any more.

So we’ll be driving back in a Chevy Impala, unmarked cars for some Staties. I’ve never cared much for Chevy cars and trucks, but I must not put that down in words or I will curse us.

I kind of remind myself of that guy in The Mummy Returns: “This is cursed. That is cursed. Everything is cursed.” Turns out, though, he was right. Everything was cursed.

Hannibal Lecter: “First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?” ~ Silence of the Lambs 

Speaking of movies (yes, I was speaking of movies), I watched Fracture again last night. It was one of the DVDs that I had brought with me for Corey’s mom to see. I really like that movie: Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling.

Silence of the Lambs poster
Silence of the Lambs Cover

When the boys were younger, they used to be afraid of the cover of Silence of the Lambs. I didn’t know that until they got older and told me.

I have enjoyed all of the Hannibal Lecter movies and books. Hannibal (movie and book) was enjoyable, but I do prefer Jodie Foster as Clarice. Something about her West Virginia accent and her attempts to not show fear make her fear more palpable.

I love Julianne Moore, just not as Clarice Starling. It’s a role that Foster created and owned. It’s just that simple.

But I digress . . .

Hannibal Lecter: Rudeness is an epidemic. ~ Hannibal Rising

We need to get the rental back within 24 hours of picking it up, so we are going to be on a tight schedule.

Let’s everyone burn a shrubbery in the hopes that nothing goes wrong (a shrubbery?)—the Monty Python extended metaphor still applies. In fact, I can think of nothing more apropos to the current situation in which we find ourselves.

red dragon book cover
Book Cover for Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Corey’s cousin Matt is going to work on the Trooper for us. We do need a new (refurbished) engine. I suppose I will be on my search for the elusive money tree once we return home, not that I have much hope on that front.

At least we will have someone who knows what they are doing working on the car this time. Corey insists that I not call the shop that did the repairs on the Trooper. I’m not sure why he doesn’t want me to do this.

Actually, I think that he thinks that Izzie’s demise is his fault: he ran out of gas and a passerby offered some gas. What Corey didn’t know was that the gas was diesel. Corey is convinced that all of the problems related to Izzie stem from the introduction of diesel into her system.

But what he doesn’t seem to understand is that to my way of thinking, in spite of the diesel, any mechanic who is worth his salt should not take the word of a customer when fixing a car. Once he or she is into the repair, everything that is wrong should be pointed out.

Granted, not everyone wants to know everything that is wrong with their vehicles, but we were laying down a considerable amount on an older vehicle. I would have liked to have made an informed decision. And if we needed to replace the engine, it would have been cheaper to have outlayed the money once instead of twice.

I have no qualms about expressing my unhappiness (no, really?) to the shop that did the repairs. It’s not like we are ever going to take another vehicle there to be fixed.

Whatever. I need to blow off some steam somewhere, and I would prefer that it is in the right direction, aimed squarely at the people who did such shoddy work in the first place.

Hannibal Lecter: People don’t always tell you what they are thinking. They just see to it that you don’t advance in life. ~ Hannibal 

So it turns out that we won’t be driving an Impala because the Hertz place in Springfield did not have a car available. Corey and his dad went to Dayton airport and rented a Buick Enclave. I’m not going to complain. After the horrible car ride that we had coming here, going home in comfort and style sounds incredibly appealing.

We are trying an alternative route home that was recommended by the guy that rented us the Enclave. Apparently, this route is supposed to chop hours off our travel time. The last time we tried an alternate route in an attempt to save time, we ended up on the side of a mountain in the dead of night with little visibility. Harrowing.

silence-of-the-lambs2
Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs

I remember that trip vividly because I was hallucinating from lack of sleep—no exaggeration. I saw a boat in a tree and a chicken leg floating. There were no lights on the road, and it took us an hour and a half to get back to the main road. Corey doesn’t remember these things, or chooses to selectively forget. So if we take this alternate route and end up getting home on Thursday, I am going to be mightily put out. But hey, that’s nothing new either.

When we get home, though, it may be a few days before I can post again. Who knows what awaits us.

I do know that my poor little fat boy Shakes is probably beside himself that I left him at home and took the Lab instead. Eamonn said that Shakes didn’t get out of the front window at all the first day that we were gone.

This could be very bad. If he decides to retaliate, who knows what he may do.

I can hardly wait to get home and see: Eamonn alone for days, the Jack Russells run amok. Wonderful, wonderful.  Or is it, I can’t hardly wait? I always get that confused.

We’ll see. More later. Peace.

“Hello, good evening and welcome to another edition of “Blood, Devastation, Death, War & Horror.” And later we’ll be talking to a man who DOES gardening.” ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Flying Circus

Monty Python’s Flying Circus 

 

“We interrupt this program to annoy you and make things generally irritating.” ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus 

“I should say not! Dinsdale was a perfectly normal person in every way. Except inasmuch as he was convinced that he was being watched by a giant hedgehog he referred to as Spiny Norman.” ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Well, it’s Monday afternoon. We’re still here in Lima, Ohio. Lost in Middle America, as Corey calls it.

Ministry of Silly WalksIt looks like the Trooper is going to be staying here for a bit, and we are going to take a rental car home. Beyond that, don’t ask me what’s going on.

To top things off, Brett is sick. Last night he was running a fever and was nauseous. He hasn’t been feeling well the whole trip, but I thought that maybe his timing was just off from sleeping in the car at the auto place while we were waiting for Corey’s brothers to show.

But he just doesn’t seem to be feeling any better. He was up at 4 this morning, thinking about throwing up. Not good. Brett hates to throw up.

In fact, last night both Brett and I left the birthday party a little early and came back to the house. I thought that we might watch a movie, but we were both asleep by 10 p.m.

Soldiers: My goodness me! I am in a bad temper today, two three! Damn damn, two three! I am vexed and ratty, two three! And hopping mad!
[soldiers stamp feet on ground angrily] ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus 

Spot the LooneyPersonally, I’m fidgety as hell. My back hurts, but my headache is gone, at least for now. But I just can’t seem to make myself calm. Too much to worry about. Too many things in the air.

I don’t know how we’re going to pay for this whole engine thing. My health insurance has to be paid by the 30th, or they are going to cancel me. We need to pay the water bill and the electric bill. The phone people want money.

Dennis: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. ~ Monty Python and the Holy Grail

pathosIf I knew how, I would seriously consider printing some of my own money. Just enough to pay off everyone and get them off our backs. But I’m pretty sure that the Federal government frowns upon such actions. Of course, they frown upon just about everything.

Almost everything that makes fast money is illegal: guns, drugs, prostitution, etc.,  not that I would consider any of those. But what about Wall Street or owning a bank or something like that. It’s probably too much to think that AIG could throw $5,000 our way (that’s probably what one of their executive lunches costs). 

I have thought about looking for that money tree that my mom used to always talk about when I was growing up. You know, the one that she would say she was going to go pick some money from when I would ask for things.

Despite my best efforts, I have been unable to locate this source of income. And I am dubious as to my abilities to find a leprechaun and a pot o’ gold as well.

I’m open for suggestions here . . .

King Arthur: Cut down a tree with a herring? It can’t be done. ~ Monty Python and the Holy Grail 

French knightsI know that I’ve been trying to make light of all of this, but I do have to say that I really don’t know how much more bad luck I can take. I try to keep things in perspective. No one is gravely ill, and I am thankful for that.

But apart from that, it seems that we have just about the worst luck of anyone that I know at the moment: unemployment, disability, overwhelming bills, the possible loss of the house, a truck that is barely holding together, and now, a dead Trooper.

At least we know that the trooper can be used for sleeping . . .

Ex-Leper: What I was thinking was I was going to ask him if he could make me a bit lame in one leg during the middle of the week. You know, something beggable, but not leprosy, which is a pain in the ass to be blunt and excuse my French, sir. ~ Monty Python and The Life of Brian

Seriously, though, I know that things can be worse, but do we have to actually find out how much worse? Is it necessary to know firsthand every bad thing that is out there in order to know about every bad thing that is out there? I don’t believe so.

I mean, for example, I know about sharks and volcanoes and the plague. I know about homelessness and violent crime and communicable diseases. I realize that the world is in actuality a big place in which a myriad of terrible things can happen. I know that my very small section of the world is actually protected and somewhat privileged.

meaning of life drAfter all, I come from a place that has running water (if we pay the bill), indoor plumbing and toilets, appliances on which we can cook and in which we can preserve food, walls, a roof, soft beds, warm blankets, clean clothes.

We have access to medical care, medicines and emergency care. We can watch movies on our televisions and have instant access to information on the Internet.

We have privacy when we want it. We can enjoy the company of others when we seek it. We can read what we want without the government censoring our books.

We have the freedom to say what we believe and to vote in elections without the fear of being shot for supporting the wrong candidate. We can go to grocery stores without fearing suicide bombers.  

So yes, in the grand scheme of things, my life isn’t bad, isn’t nearly bad. I have food in my stomach and clean water to drink. I have clothes and shoes to put on my body, and my family is not dying of dysentery or starvation or preventable illnesses.

Compared to other parts of the world, we do, in fact, lead privileged lives. Compared to the privileged in this country, we lead average lives. Compared to athletes who make $35 million a year, we lead mediocre lives.

Mr. Mousebender: I want to buy some cheese.
Henry Wenslydale: Oh, I thought you were complaining about the bouzouki player. ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus

I wish that I could say that putting things in perspective helps me to feel better about things. It should. I know that. My logical, sensible side knows that of course things could be worse. Of course, we should be thankful for what we have when so many have so little.

MoL wide-eyed
Monty Python's Meaning of Life

In asking if the road ahead could be a little smoother, do I bring down the wrath of the gods, the curses of the force, the lightning bolts of the heavens?

I’m still open to the whole witch doctor thing. Maybe some shamanism, as long as I don’t have to strangle a rooster or read entrails. I have to draw the line at entrail reading, besides, it seems to be a bit open to interpretation to me:

Well, this gizzard looks sort of like a peanut. . .

No it doesn’t. It looks like a cashew.

No, I really think that it looks like a peanut.

Cashew. And you haven’t even gotten to the intestines yet.

Intestines? Oh, aye. Linguini, definitely linquini. Linguini and a peanut, which means 40 days of rain and loss of money.

Angel hair pasta not linguini. And a cashew. Definitely cashew. Not rain. A drought. And you will come into money.

I think that you’re half-cocked.

Well I think that you look like a springer spaniel.

No need to get personal.

Mr. Vibrating: Oh I’m sorry, just one moment. Is this a five minute argument or the full half hour?
Man: Oh, just the five minutes ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Life of Brian
Monty Python's Life of Brian

And now, I will leave you with the funniest grammar lesson ever to be depicted in film (from The Life of Brian)

[Brian is writing graffiti on the palace wall. The Centurion catches him in the act
Centurion: What’s this, then? “Romanes eunt domus”? People called Romanes, they go, the house? 
Brian: It says, “Romans go home. ” 
Centurion: No it doesn’t ! What’s the latin for “Roman”? Come on, come on ! 
Brian: Er, “Romanus” ! 
Centurion: Vocative plural of “Romanus” is? 
Brian: Er, er, “Romani” !
Centurion: [Writes “Romani” over Brian’s graffiti] “Eunt”? What is “eunt”? Conjugate the verb, “to go” ! 
Brian: Er, “Ire”. Er, “eo”, “is”, “it”, “imus”, “itis”, “eunt”.
Centurion:bSo, “eunt” is…? 
Brian: Third person plural present indicative, “they go”. 
Centurion: But, “Romans, go home” is an order. So you must use…?
[He twists Brian’s ear
Brian: Aaagh ! The imperative ! 
Centurion: Which is…? 
Brian: Aaaagh ! Er, er, “i” ! 
Centurion: How many Romans? 
Brian: Aaaaagh ! Plural, plural, er, “ite” ! 
Centurion: [Writes “ite”] “Domus”? Nominative? “Go home” is motion towards, isn’t it? 
Brian: Dative !
[the Centurion holds a sword to his throat]
Brian: Aaagh ! Not the dative, not the dative ! Er, er, accusative, “Domum” ! 
Centurion: But “Domus” takes the locative, which is…? 
Brian: Er, “Domum” !
Centurion:[Writes “Domum”] Understand? Now, write it out a hundred times. 
Brian: Yes sir. Thank you, sir. Hail Caesar, sir