“We do not find our own center. It finds us. We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” ~ Richard Rohr

Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Hebden Bridge, UK

  

“I want to write like August, to swim in it like a pool and forget the clock hands moving across summer’s face.” ~ Terresa Wellborn

When I realized that this post would be #500*, I immediately froze and wrote nothing. I mean, 500? That’s pretty auspicious, at least in my mind, anyway. If I were to estimate the number of words in my posts and multiply by 500, I would get somewhere between 550 and 600,000 words. 

Hmm . . . Things that make you go hmm . . . 

Granted, not all of my posts have been written; a small percentage have been videos. But still . . . I have sat down at my computer (or someone else’s) at least 500 times (more if counting the posts I lost and had to rewrite) and written about . . . well, things. I have to admit that when I began this project, I never thought that I would last this long. Of course when I began this project, I was ecstatic to get 100 hits in one day. 

My how times have changed. Now, I realize that despite my creative ebbs and flows, I will probably continue writing here for some time yet, and fortunately, I am not nearly as obsessed by my stats as I used to be. Rather than numbers, I relish the comments as they are much more tangible (so if you’re lurking and haven’t commented, please accept this as an invitation to do so). 

So here I am, muddling about, trying to think of something to say in my anniversary post. Who knows where this may lead . . . By the way, I was quite surprised to see all of the 500 images that I found when I did a Google search, so I took that as a sign that I should bedeck my post in the company of other historical 500th things, like Henry VIII and a 500-year-old bridge in the UK. Granted, some of these anniversaries occurred before mine, but hey, Henry won’t mind. He was all about self-promotion.

So here I go . . . 

“Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms.” ~Kahlil Gibran
Image of King Henry VIII in Celebration of His 500th Anniversary

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers.

I have created three sets of five in honor of the big 500. It’s the least I can do. No really, the least: 

  • I have decided that in the history of television, five shows stand out as being uniquely entertaining, at least in my estimation:

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: I mean really,  hilariously funny and engaging dialogue (shows up again in another Joss Whedon creation, “Firefly” which I would have listed here, but it didn’t last long enough) 

“The West Wing”: Still waiting for a President Bartlett, unfortunately 

“Law & Order” (original): Twenty years. Just as relevant. Who else can say that? 

“House”: One of the best-drawn modern tragic characters 

“Oz”: Consistently gripping drama with an ensemble cast unlike any other ever seen 

  • Based on the above, I realize that I am a nerd/drama junkie. Sitcoms just don’t do it for me.
  • I still need a haircut.
  • Being the party of “No” is nothing of which to be proud.
  • The war in Afghanistan is too reminiscent of Viet Nam in that it is an unwinnable war. Counterinsurgency in a country that has repelled conquerors for over 1,000 years is lunacy. They don’t want to be Americanized, and the concept of American imperialism is outdated. Bring our military home.
“Brilliance is typically the act of an individual, but incredible stupidity can usually be traced to an organization.” ~ Jon Bentley
A 500 Yen Coin
  • BP’s former CEO Tony Hayward has been reassigned to Siberia. At first I thought that this was funny until I found out how much he is being paid to go away: $1.6 million in salary, and more millions in pension benefits. I guess he got his life back.
  • President Obama appeared on “The View,” causing some critics to lose their minds, saying that the show was not serious enough. Need I remind everyone of Bush’s appearance on “Dr. Phil”? At least most (Snooki aside) of the questions on “The View” were pointedly in keeping with today’s issues. And as far as the Boy Scott Jamboree that Obama passed on, how about the other 12 U.S. presidents who declined the same invitation, including Republicans Nixon, Reagan and Ford? They weren’t called un-American.
  • Jon Stewart is right. Nothing Obama does will ever make the right happy. Nothing.
  • Just a reminder: W. had a surplus coming into office ($236 Billion, according to Congressional Budget Office). Obama had a $1.2 Trillion deficit when he took office (same source).
  • Another reminder: The Wall Street crash happened on W’s watch, not Obama’s.
“Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.” ~ Confucius
Darth Vader 500th Anniversary

Well, I just lost one-third of this post when I tried to save because the router went out. Lovely. Let’s see . . . what was I rambling on about anyway . . . 

  • All of Corey’s sunflowers are dead, which means that the beautiful patch of yellow in the backyard is now a sad patch of droopy, green stems and leaves.
  • For some reason, centipedes abound in our house this summer. I don’t care what you might have to say about them, I am terrified of centipedes. I know that this is an irrational fear, but I used to have nightmares about them when I was a child. I dreamed they were in my bed. These things are hard to kill, and before you lecture me on letting things be, you should know that I only swat a few things: cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes, and ants running rampant on my kitchen counter. Nevertheless, centipedes just won’t die.
  • I’m ready for fall, which is weird since I still think that it’s April.
  • At one point we had about six tennis balls throughout the house. Today, I couldn’t fine one, which means that Tillie and Shakes cannot play pool ball. They are very sad puppies. Next week, I’ll probably find the missing tennis balls in an unlikely spot.
  • I think that I’ve just about decided what my next tattoo will be, not that I’ll be able to afford one anytime soon. These are the kinds of things with which I occupy my mind. Small things . . .

So much for the great 500th post. I sort of lost my momentum after part of the post disappeared. I think that I’ll go have a bowl of cereal and watch a “Law & Order” rerun. That always works. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Iron and Wine, “Such Great Heights” 

 

*I realized today that my actual stats show only 496 posts, but, and this is a big but, I have written and posted 500 times. About a year ago I made 5 posts private, but I then decided to delete 4 of them permanently, which puts my total at 500 . . . Crystal clear, right?

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“Dum spiro, spero” (Latin, ‘While I breathe, I hope’)

“Snow at Montmartre,” by Hippolyte-Camille Delpy (1869, oil on canvas)

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ~ Confucius

Well, the clock is ticking down (not that clocks tick any more), and the end of 2009 is upon us. I have so many things going on in my head, so many thoughts about this past year that it’s hard to know exactly where to begin, so I thought that I would begin with the following quote by Frederick Buechner as it seems so appropriate:

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts. We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.”

I imagine that many of you out there are thinking about this past year and the new year that is only hours away. For our family, 2009 has been a year of extremes. The things that have happened have all been intense and for the most part, not positive. I lost a favorite uncle and an aunt who had been like a grandmother to me. Corey spent another year without being able to find a job, but not for lack of trying. Eamonn graduated from high school and seemed to become even more distant emotionally. Brett had a very rough year in the beginning, but it has seemed to get better for him. Alexis, too, has had a hard year, and I’m not sure exactly what changes she needs to make so that she can find some happiness.

"Rooftops Under Snow," Gustave Caillebotte (1878, oil on canvas)

Our financial situation is no better, and after Corey’s unemployment ran out in September, things got much worse. We are still renegotiating the mortgage, and don’t know when to expect any word, especially since they have lost the paperwork twice. I am on my third appeal to the Social Security administration regarding my disability.

My other mother-in-law, Yvonne, seems to be getting much worse with her Parkinson’s disease, and my other father-in-law was admitted to ICU two days ago with pneumonia. My mother took a tumble down the stairs right before Christmas, but she seems to be doing better. Watching those you love age before your eyes is more painful that I ever could have anticipated.

Friends have fallen by the wayside. I don’t hear much from Jammi, and Rebecca has a new man in her life, so I haven’t heard from her in ages. Mari is still living in Massachusetts, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to see her again. My friend Sarah has been going through terrible times with her own family. I don’t remember the last time I actually spoke with Kathleen.

Tillie had a couple of seizures, a new development. Alfie escaped from the yard and was picked up by Animal Control. As a result, he had to spend the night in doggie jail, but we were glad that he was safe. Shakes developed some kind of skin rash that makes him chew at himself all of the time, but otherwise, he is still fat and happy.

Corey’s truck died this past summer, and we know that it needs a new transmission. The Trooper died on the side of a mountain on the way to Ohio in July. We still don’t have the gas turned back on, and our credit rating is completely in the toilet.

“And if you ask me whether I regret starting out
my voice rises like flocks of finches at dawn
and blows across the deep blue sky.” ~ from St. Nadie In Winter by Terrance Keenan

"Morning Light," Walter Elmer Schofield (1922, oil on canvas)

Of course, it hasn’t all been bad. Corey’s parents really came through for us this past year. They supplied us with a Ford Windstar van and paid for repairs. They have sent us money for gas and supplied us with food from Angel Food Ministries. Corey’s brothers rescued us when the Trooper broke down in Maryland, drove six hours one-way to get us, and then drove us back to Lima with the Trooper in tow. Their generosity has been overwhelming and one of the few bright spots in an otherwise abysmal year.

Kindness has come from unexpected places, as well. Sarah’s church donated some gift cards and a bit of cash, which came at a moment when we really needed it. My mother helped out as much as she was able.

Alexis did manage to find a job after being out of work for quite a while. Eamonn did manage to graduate even after missing way too many days of school and was accepted to the local community college. Brett did survive his junior of high school even though his mental state was precarious. Corey and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. In other words, we all had our personal victories, some smaller than others, others more significant.

But probably one of the best sources of support has been from the readers of my blog, who write me constantly, support me, and help me to keep things in perspective.

So it wasn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, far from it. Sometimes, it takes putting things down on paper (screens) to be able to weigh the past more accurately, assess issues more clearly.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” ~ T. S. Eliot

So that leaves 2010. Wow. It’s weird just typing that number. I remember in 1999 being completely overwhelmed at the thought of a new century, a new millenium. I never thought that the end of the world was going to come or even that my computer was going to explode. But 2000 seemed like such a milestone.

"Winter Twilight Along Central Park," Paul Cornoyer (1900, oil on canvas)

I rang in that new year on a friend’s boat, docked in the harbor of downtown Norfolk. There was a whole group of us who were celebrating together, and I had a great time because I parked my car in the garage, left it, and slept on the boat. We watched the fireworks, which were more amazing than any I had ever seen, and I went to sleep wondering what 2000 would bring.

Well, 2000 brought me Corey at a time when I was looking for no one. It brought me a change in jobs, also something for which I was not looking but should have been seeking. It was a year of many, many changes, and the past decade has brought more changes than I can possibly list.

Honestly, though, I have a good feeling about 2010. I’m not sure why, and if you pressed me, I couldn’t substantiate it with anything more than a feeling in my gut. I mean, our luck has been so bad for so long that we must be due for a change. If Karma works in the way in which it is supposed to, then our family should be about to move into a new, more peaceful, less tumultuous period. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

I feel re-energized about my writing. Eamonn is about to begin college. Brett is entering the second half of his senior year. Alexis, well, I don’t know what changes are in store for her, but I hope that they are good. And Corey? Well, his new job was supposed to start at the beginning of the new year, but his last conversation with the man from Van Brothers was a bit more vague, as in sometime in February. But we’re not giving up hope.

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” ~ Oscar Wilde Hope.

"Garden Under Snow," Paul Gauguin (1879, oil on canvas)

Hope—that small word that carries within it so much weight. Hope helps to bring the soldier through the battle. Hope wends its way through the heart looking for love. Hope is the wisp of smoke that eludes the individual keeping watch over a loved one who is gravely ill. Hope is the reflection of the stars in the night sky when everything seems without light. Hope is the sound of the wind and the rain, the birds and the ocean, affirming that life does indeed go on beyond the realm of our lives. Hope is the northern star that guides us when the path is unclear, and the anchor for our ships when we feel adrift at sea.

It would be so easy to give up, to say no more. It would be a relief not to fight against the machinations of the bureaucracies that threaten to overpower us. It would be less taxing to just sit back and say whatever, do your worst. And I admit that there have been times when these options have floated through my mind. But I do not succumb. I have a good man who loves me, cherishes me, respects me. I have three tremendously talented, intelligent children who are just beginning to find their way in the world. I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. And I have the love and support of family and friends who never let me forget just how much they care.

Whatever 2010 decides to throw my way, I will face it, whether or not I am ready, whether or not I feel able, whether or not I feel beaten down. I have no choice because hope does not abandon the individual, rather, the individual who abandons hope gives in to hope’s fouler relative—despair. And my friends, I refuse to give in to despair.

May you stay safe on this New Year’s Eve. Remember to be smart out there because not everyone else will be. My very best to you and yours for a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year.

More later. Peace.

From “Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou

. . . Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

“Same Old Lang Syne,” by the late, greatly underrated Dan Fogelberg . . .

“Words are the voice of the heart.” ~ Confucius

This is my attempt to recreate the post that was eaten by my computer last night . . .

 

“The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments.” ~ Gustave Flaubert

Things I accomplished yesterday:

  1. Finished addressing Christmas cards, ready to go to the post office today
  2. Finally packaged my friend Mari’s birthday present along with her Christmas card in a mailer, also ready to go to post office
  3. Did not eat an entire one-pound bag of peanut M&M’s whilst doing the above
  4. Cleaned off most of my desk in an attempt to find the Christmas stamps for the cards; did not find stamps on desk as I had put them in a very safe place (always risky)
  5. Also managed to find paperwork that I had put in a very safe place, just not the same very safe place as Christmas stamps
  6. Did not put fist through computer monitor when I lost blog post that was almost finished
  7. Realized that I am not supposed to try to accomplish two major tasks in one day as one of them most certainly will become an epic fail

Felt rather pleased with myself right up to the moment when I went to save my post, was redirected to the WordPress sign in page (for some unknown reason), and then returned to blog post only to find that nothing, absolutely nothing that I had written was there save for the quotes.

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

I’ve been having very vivid dreams lately. One that was particularly disturbing dealt with my mother dying. My Aunt Ronnie, who died earlier this year, was walking me through my mother’s house, pointing out things. I remember feeling very comforted that she was there with me. Woke up crying after that one.

But two dreams in particular have stuck with me, and both of these dreams dealt with words and my relationship to words.

The first dream:

This dream was very long and detailed. I was back in college as an undergraduate. I sat down in the common area of the Arts & Letters building, and the person next to me turned and spoke to me. I hadn’t realized that I had sat down next to one of my creative writing professors (it was him, but he looked different in the dream). He asked me if I was going to show up for his class that night. I replied that I had only missed two classes because of my illness, not dropped out, and reminded him that I had submitted the work that was due.

He said that the work was substandard, which really surprised me. Then he told me that the final exam was that very night. I panicked and began to hyperventilate. I told him that I couldn’t possibly take the exam because I wasn’t prepared. I begged him to let me take the final later, but he refused. I went to the department chair’s office and explained the situation. I reminded him that I had doctors’ letters explaining my health issues, and I asked him to give me some leeway since I was a member of the department.

The chair spoke to my professor who asserted that I wasn’t sick; I was on acid. I argued that I wasn’t on acid, that in fact I had never in my life taken acid. My professor again said that I was a drug addict and that he wasn’t going to do anything for me.

I sat down in the common area and put my head in my hands. Two female professors from the department walked by and said loudly enough for me to hear that they thought that my writing professor was only doing this because he hated women (not true in real life). I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people who were enrolled in the class with me; several of them were holding papers—newspapers, pages torn from magazines, cards. One person said that I had to do something extraordinary to prove to my professor that he was wrong about me.

I asked him what I should do. He said that I needed to take the pages that they had all collected for me and create something. I began to look through the pages, and words started to stand out. I began ripping words from the pages and arranging them on the floor. I was creating a poem from the words. Someone gave me scissors, so I began to cut out more words.

My writing professor walked up and observed what I was doing, but he said that he wasn’t impressed, but by that point, I no longer cared about him or his class. I was creating for myself. I couldn’t collect the words quickly enough. The poem soon grew to be about five feet long and just as wide. It was massive, and I wasn’t finished. I needed more words.

I looked up and realized that below where I was working on the floor was a gap and that trains were moving through the gap, but instead of coal in the cars there were small colored rocks, larger than sand, but much smaller than coal—vivid blues, bright yellows, greens. I realized that I needed to get to the other side of the gap to collect more words, so I jumped down onto the first car, which contained blue rocks, My feet began to sink into the rocks, and the blue began to swirl about my legs. I jumped from one car to the next until I was on the other side. When I reached the other side, I suddenly realized what Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” really meant: It was his poem about life, only with paint. I smiled to myself and went in search of more words.

The dream ended there.

“The smell of ink is intoxicating to me—others may have wine, but I have poetry.” ~ Abbe Yeux-verdi

Second dream:

I was working in the newsroom again, but this time, I was a clerk responsible for typing and filing. I was speaking with a reporter with whom I had a good relationship, telling him how glad I was to be back in the newsroom again, even if it meant that I had to do grunt work.

I remember the hum of the actual newsroom in which I worked while I was an undergraduate. An undercurrent of creative energy was always suffused in the air. I felt that in my dream. I looked about me at all of the reporters and editors, and commented that I wished that I could be out there in that pool of people and not stuck in a clerical position.

The person with whom I was speaking asked me why I didn’t apply for a position. I told him that I didn’t think that I was good enough, but I remember thinking to myself in the dream that that was not a true statement, that it wasn’t a matter of being good enough but rather, a matter of being afraid. He told me that I should apply.

Many people who I had actually worked with walked through this dream. Some stopped to chat, others just walked by and nodded. I inquired about the City Editor who had been in charge when I worked there, and my friend told me that he had died. Soon after, I awakened, feeling very calm and reflective.

There is a saying that people who work for newspapers have ink in their blood. I know this to be true. The slow death of printed newspapers saddens me in a way that cuts to my very heart as I wrote my first pieces for publication for the local paper.

“Unclose your mind. You are not a prisoner. You are a bird in flight, searching the skies for dreams.” ~ Haruki Murakami

I have rerun in my mind both of these dreams several times, and what strikes me is that my psyche is sending me a message: I need to return to my writing full time, or rather, on a daily basis, which is full time for me. Obviously, I have words within me that need to be released, to be massaged into something concrete, and I have not been doing that of late. I must recapture the passion with which I first began writing this blog, and I must return to the discipline with which I so carefully honed my writing method: working at it for at least two hours each day.

The brain is but another part of the body that requires regular exercise lest it atrophy. By not working on my craft, I have regressed to my former state of writing only when the creativity hit me, rather than forcing myself to cull to the surface the creativity which resides within me.

In fact, I have been very lackadaisical when it comes to writing daily, and I know this to be true however painful it is to admit. But something inside of me is quietly rebelling at the passive approach to writing that I have been taking. Something—my inner muse, inner self— is sending me signals that there are words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs all waiting to be created, and that if I ignore these signals, then I am doing myself a disservice.

My birthday is next month. I will be yet another year older and no closer to achieving my dream of having a book published. I have no one to blame for this but myself as no one else controls my mind, my thoughts, my muse.

My love affair with words goes back to my childhood, to the time that I composed my first poem when I was five. Believe it or not, that poem had rhyme and meter: a quatrain with six beats per line. From that moment, I knew that I wanted to do something in my life that involved words, just as some people know innately that they want to work with numbers.

As any of my regular readers know, I have a passion for quotes; I have always had this passion. I have collected quotes for as long as I can remember, mostly because they inspire me. I used to use one quote repeatedly in cards that I sent to new graduates: “Only the dreamer can change the dream,” which is actually the title of a book of poems by John Logan. I don’t know when I picked up this quote, but it has always been very special to me.

My dreams about words were a reminder that only I can make possible what I want to achieve, that I am responsible for my path, that I must do all that I can do to make my dream become a reality.

Thanks to Crashingly Beautiful for the Marakami quote. More later. Peace.

I know that you have probably seen this video, but I love it, that and the fact that any videos of TSO in concert are bootleg, and the quality isn’t great. I did find a concert on Good Morning America in 2005, but it’s not the same in a small venue, and the light show really needs to be seen in person to be appreciated; otherwise, it’s just blobs of light in some parts. I give you the Trans-Siberian Orchestra: “Wizards in Winter”

“Stupidity is better kept a secret than displayed.” Heraclitus of Ephesus

Fire and Smoke Chugach Foothills Anchorage by JJ

Smoke Blankets the Anchorage Bowl (Chugach Foothills) by Janson Jones

One can realise a thing in a single moment, but one loses it in the long hours that follow with leaden feet.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” ~ Confucius

Today was a pain doctor day: Only 10 shots in my neck, shoulders, back and other places. Not too bad, especially since I wasn’t feeling that bad. Kind of a weird statement, I know: Only 10 shots! Came home and crashed for several hours. What is up with my tolerance and my body? I am not liking the way that I have felt for the past two weeks or so. Absolutely no energy. Feels like someone comes into my bedroom at night and walks across my body. Okay, so maybe that’s just the dogs, but I have been just useless as far as accomplishing anything, and I really hate that.

j0395964Not that I’m the Tazmanian Devil on my best days, but feeling and reacting like Elmer Fudd is kind of a downer. Seems like I don’t really get good sleep until about 8 in the morning after the dogs have decided that I’m not going to get out of bed anymore for a while. Bizarre, totally bizarre.

My doctor says that someone in his group received funding for trials on a new pain med, wanted to know if I was interested. Sign me up. I’ll try pretty much anything at this point. Short of wearing patches all over my body to lessen pain and improve cognitive abilities, I seem to be at a standstill.

I had planned to write about something else today, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what it was. Perhaps it will come to me sometime tonight, or maybe never. It’s not exactly ennui that overshadows me, something less debilitating but still keeps me from being able to puncture this thought bubble that leads nowhere. Oh well.

Heard but Not Seen:

So in the meantime, I thought that I would just throw out a few quotes from people who have been in the news lately. There has just been too much going on to pass this up, what with the governator resigning and politicos cheating and a Supreme Court nominee, who can choose? I know that I’m not quite current in my selections, yet, these little gems were just too good to let go without at least a little nod from Lola.  

“Americans will respect your beliefs if you just keep them private. Keep it private.” ~ Bill O’Reilly, Fox News

Brian Kilmeade on “Fox and Friends” had this to say recently when discussing a study dones in Finland and Sweden that shows that people who stay married are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s: “We are — we keep marrying other species and other ethnics and other . . . See, the problem is the Swedes have pure genes. Because they marry other Swedes . . . Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society.”

Okay. Well, other species huh? Woman marries jackass? I don’t think that that’s exactly what Kilmeade had in mind, but who can decipher exactly what this braniac had in mind when he plummed the depths of interspecies marriage. Maybe he’s been watching a little too much Star Trek, or maybe no one ever bothered to explain the term eugenics to Kilmeade.  Maybe Brian should have listened to sage Bill O’Reilly. Things that make you say hmm . . .

“Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.” ~ Oscar Wilde

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford on his relationship with Maria Belén Charpur: “This [relationship with Chapur] was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story. A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day.”

Gee governor, I’m sure that your spouse is delighted to hear that your illicit affair with the Argentinian woman was a “love story.” That makes what you did so much easier to accept. You and John Ensign should get together to discuss how to humiliate your spouses, families, and party, especially since both of you have been so openly critical of others who misstepped on the moral line, like Larry Craig, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, to name but a few. Just glad that neither of your wives joined you for your mea culpa speeches at the microphones.

“It’s too bad that stupidity isn’t painful.” ~ Anton LaVey

Dorothea Lange photo
Photograph by Dorothea Lange, Great Depression

Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis stepped into the national spotlight with her finely crafted logic regarding the state’s summer food program: This one was so good that I thought that I would include most of the State Representative’s motivational message:

Who’s buying dinner? Who is getting paid to serve the meal? Churches and other non-profits can do this at no cost to the taxpayer if it is warranted . . . Bigger governmental programs take away our connectedness to the human family, our brotherhood and our need for one another. Anyone under 18 can be eligible? Can’t they get a job during the summer by the time they are 16? Hunger can be a positive motivator. What is wrong with the idea of getting a job so you can get better meals? Tip: If you work for McDonald’s, they will feed you for free during your break.

You go woman. With logic like this, I see a position in Congress in your future. Abolish those frivolous programs that give food to the hungry. Who needs them? Only one in five children in your state, but what the hell? I see your point. I really do. Let those poor people huddle around the table at dinnertime and dine on their togetherness. The arid taste of nothing on the tongue is akin to sweet, sweet honeydew if a little bit of imagination is applied.

I simply cannot wait to hear your reasons for abolishing state-supported programs for providing heat for the poor during the winter: Hypothermia can be a great motivator for physical fitness. Two hundred jumping jacks can produce enough body heat to sustain an individual for an hour. Disabled? Crippled? Pshaw. Use those walkers as weights.

By the way, Ms. Davis, when did you last go without a meal?

“I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is.” ~ Sarah Palin

Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska: Where to begin? At the beginning? Nay, too much fodder for this little forum. Let’s just pick up where she left off on her Facebook page: “How sad that Washington and the media will never understand; it’s about country . . . Though it’s honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make.”

Far be it from little me to question the decision of Palin to leave her term in office with 17 months to go, but I’m having a little bit of a problem in understanding exactly how her resignation is “about country,” that is, unless Sarah the Obtuse has finally realized that going far, far away would be good for her state and the country. But this “higher calling” business really has me perplexed.

Is her higher calling to join a seminary? Will she, too, learn how to cast out demons as her pastor has done? Is her higher calling to join “Fox and Friends” as a pundit? That might work because I believe that there is a wardrobe allowance for Fox’s motley cast of characters, and we all know how Palin loves her clothes. Or maybe she’s taking time to regroup and write her memoirs.

I can see it now: I Was Robbed in 2008 Because the Liberal Media Didn’t Understand Me. Of course, since Palin is so well-read and a Constitutional scholar to boot, there won’t be any ghost writing for her. No sirree. She’ll just use that can-do spirit of hers to churn out those pages. Perhaps she could take a tip from Cynthia Davis and forego eating while writing. That way, Palin will be super motivated to dissect her interview with Katie Couric.

(Do you think the publishers will be able to include pop-up pages showing Palin winking at key points? Just a thought.)

“People before the public live an imagined life in the thought of others, and flourish or feel faint as their self outside themselves grows bright or dwindles in that mirror.” ~ Logan Pearsall Smith  

I’m not going into the hinterlands of the whole Michael Jackson may or may not have been murdered/abducted by aliens/followed in the footsteps of Elvis. Too much there, and too many people are way tooo serious about it. King of Pop. Boy who would be man. Pedophile. Jacko. Doubtless, we will be pulled into the morass that may or may not have been Jackson’s true story for months, nay years to come.

Books from those who purport to have known the real Michael Jackson. Tell-alls in the National Enquirer by his housekeeper, his nurse, his pool man, his Neverland gameskeeper. It’s all so tawdry, and really, really beyond the pale. He was an entertainer not a god, a singer who reached his artistic apex with Bad and Thriller. He was a man who was obviously plagued by such incredible insecurity that he completely changed his physical appearance over the years. What he did or did not do to himself, to others, we will probably never really know.

Andy Warhol Artificial by Billy Name
Andy Warhol by Billy Name

Anyway, the real tragedy here, folks, is how we continually put people onto pedestals, raising them to greater heights than perhaps they ever wanted or maybe they ever deserved. Lest we forget:

“Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. We come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety.” ~ Daniel J. Boorstin

Well, I’m sure that there are others who I have missed in my latest Heard but Not Seen compilation. I hope that they won’t be too terribly put out that they didn’t garner a mention this time. Never fear, though. There will always be another.

More later. Peace.

 

 

“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius

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“We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.” ~ Stephen Covey

 “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

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The Epitome of Beauty: The Venus de Milo

How many times have you looked at someone you do not know and made assumptions about that person based on the way that he or she looks? How often do you see a woman in ill-fitting clothes or with a bad hairstyle and think to yourself that she should take better care of herself? Have you ever been in line at the grocery store and noticed that the person in front of you is wearing out-of-date clothes and shoes and is a little overweight? Did you make assumptions about this person, or perhaps, increase the space between yourself and the other person?

If I am going to ask you these questions, then it is only fitting that I answer them. Yes, I have made assumptions about people based upon their physical appearance. Yes, I have thought to myself, “why doesn’t she do something with her hair?” or “she would be more attractive if she lost some weight.”

But then I will catch myself and think, “who am I to judge?” I could stand to lose some extra pounds myself. I’ve run out of the house in sweatpants and an old t-shirt, my hair in a pony tail. I’ve gone into stores feeling very self-conscious because I know that I don’t look particularly great, but I needed a gallon of milk. 

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ~ Alan Alda

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One of The Great Beauties, Marilyn Monroe, incredibly self-conscious and suffered from low self-esteem

Harsh though it may be, scientific studies have proven that physical appearance makes a difference in the amount of money you earn, how you are treated by physicians, how educators react to you, and even whether or not you make partner.

According to a CNN article by Kate Lorenz, “Do Pretty People Earn More?” the facts show that attractive students get more attention and higher evaluations from their teachers, good-looking patients get more personalized care from their doctors, and handsome criminals receive lighter sentences than less attractive convicts.”*

So what does this mean to individuals in society who do not resemble Daniel Craig or Angelina Jolie? Dr. Gordon Patzer has made it his life’s work to study attractiveness and its role in human behavior. According to Patzer,

“Human beings are hard-wired to respond more favorably to attractive people . . . Good-looking men and women are generally judged to be more talented, kind, honest and intelligent than their less attractive counterparts . . . People go out of their way to help attractive people—of the same and opposite sex—because they want to be liked and accepted by good-looking people.”

This societal preference for attractiveness is called the halo effect, due to the association with the perfection of angels. The halo effect occurs when an individual is influenced by a person’s strengths, weaknesses, physical appearance, behavior, or any other single factor.

Whether or not it is fair, research shows that attractive people also have more occupational success and more dating experience than their unattractive counterparts. Attractive people tend to be more intelligent, better adjusted, and more popular—probably because they have received better treatment from their teachers, their peers, and their bosses.

*(http://www.cnn.com/2005//US/Careers/07/08/looks/)

“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” ~ Angelique Arnauld

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Academy-Award Winning Director Peter Jackson

But let us pause for a moment. How many persons of note in history actually do not fall into the beautiful people category? Albert Einstein certainly wasn’t an attractive man, with his bushy eyebrows and unruly hair. Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest and most generous men in the world is what most people would describe as ordinary. Peter Jackson, a genius in the film world, resembled a hobbit when he made Lord of the Rings; but even he felt compelled to lose weight.

Is physical beauty truly necessary to be successful, to be considered extraordinary? I don’t believe so. Think about it. What about intelligence? Does anyone ever say, “Oh, her brain is so beautiful”? No. But shouldn’t they if they are really going to look at a woman or a man and judge her/him? 

“When a woman isn’t beautiful, people tell her: You have lovely eyes, you have lovely hair.” ~ Anton Chekhov

Why am I pondering this point? I was reading an article about a Scottish woman who appeared on “Britain’s Got Talent,” the UK’s version of “America’s Got Talent.” The judges for this program are the ever-snarky Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan (who also judges on the U.S. version), and Amanda Holden, an English actress who is mostly recognized for her television appearances.

A brief lesson for those of you who do not follow the show: Contestants apply from all over the country to be finalists on the show. In the initial rounds, the three judges watch the one-minute performances and then vote yes or no on whether or not the individual is talented enough to go to the next round. Once the contestants are reduced to 24, then there is a round for the semi-finals. In the finals, the viewing audience votes on who should stay and who should go. The winner is decided by audience votes.

“Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself.” ~ Kevyn Aucion

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Contestant Susan Boyle Singing "I Dreamed A Dream"

Now picture this: an older woman (by older I mean not in her 20’s, not old for god’s sake) with bushy eyebrows and a very unfashionable dress and hairstyle walks out onto the stage. It only takes seconds before Simon Cowell begins his attack dog shtick, the raised eyebrows, the rolled eyes, the crossed arms. All of it. A pan of the audience shows that almost to a person no one is liking this woman: sneers, crossed arms, negative body language abounds.

Already, the judges and the audience have formed an opinion on this contestant based solely on her physical appearance, and that opinion is not positive.

How fair is this? Not at all fair. Has the woman had a chance to perform yet? No. Does the audience even know what she plans to do for her talent before they cross their arms? No.

The woman declares to the judges and the audience that she wants to sing, that she has always wanted to sing. You can hear the snickers from the audience. After all, how can this unfashionable, frumpy woman sing, let alone sing well enough to be on the show?

“There comes a moment when you realize that virtually anything is possible—that nothing is too good to be true.” ~ Kobi Yamoda

What happens next is positively enchanting. Susan Boyle opens her mouth, and pure beauty emanates from it. The audience jumps to its feet. Simon Cowell raises his eyebrows, and this time, it’s not in a malicious way. Piers Morgan is stupefied.

Boyle sings “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables, an incredibly difficult song to sing because of the range. As I watched the video of her performance, I got chills, and I began to tear up.

I wanted to reach through the screen and hug Susan Boyle for her performance, and I wanted to slap Simon Cowell for his disbelief that a woman who looked like Boyle could have such an angelic voice.

“Women notice details that most men don’t . . . They notice all the details, then make assumptions about every other area of your life based on these details.” ~ David DeAngelo

But it wasn’t just Cowell, was it? It was everyone. When the opening refrain of the song played, Morgan appeared to be totally uninterested, Holden had her hands over her head as if she were trying to stifle a yawn. No one was truly interested in the woman on the stage.

However, as compared to males, we females can be absolutely merciless in our criticisms of the women who are in our office, the women our friends date, the women who do our hair, or our nails. But we can be especially venomous when it comes to total strangers. Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about: only saintly women or women who are completely self-confident do not beat down other women. And how many of those do you know?

“It matters more what’s in a woman’s face than what’s on it.” ~ Claudette Colbert

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Pursuit of Beauty Gone Horribly Wrong: Jocelyn Wildenstein

This is the very problem with assumptions. We make assumptions about people all of the time, every day, based on their looks, on what they are wearing, on how their hair looks, how scuffed their shoes are, what kind of purse they are carrying, how old their suit is, even what kind of car they are driving. And admittedly, women are worse when it comes to judging other women.

In my own experience, I have found that many beautiful women lack in self-confidence, while those who are not considered beautiful, abound in self-confidence. It’s as if they know that the world doesn’t believe in them, but they don’t care. They believe in themselves. How wonderful that is to believe in yourself, truly believe in your talent, or your goodness, or your abilities. And how pitiable it is when women abuse themselves by repeated plastic surgery in attempts to be more beautiful, look more youthful, more perfect, not stopping until they resemble caricatures of themselves.

“Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld.” ~ Martha Beck

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The Ugly Duckling Is Not Always What It Seems

Now what I did not mention is that when Sarah Boyle came out on stage, she was obviously prepared for Cowell’s sour disposition, but it didn’t seem to affect her at all. She answered all of his questions with a smile on her face. It was as if she were challenging him: “I know that you are assuming that I have no talent, but you just wait. You’ll see.”

Boyle stood her ground, even doing a bit of a jig in her sheer delight at just being invited to the party. And when she finished, she knew that she had won the battle. She walked off the stage with her shoulders back, a broad smile on her face, and joy in her eyes.

All three judges were effusive in their praise. But the best part is this: With her talent, her incredible voice, Susan Boyle has a real shot at winning “Britain’s Got Talent.” Wouldn’t that be something? And about time, too.

But just a closing thought: Why were we so surprised that Susan Boyle could sing? That is probably the heart of the matter, and a question that we should be asking ourselves even as this incredibly talented, sincere, selfless woman stands before the world and graces us with a voice from the gods.

 And on that note, I present Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed A Dream”

Embedding has been disabled. To see the video of Susan Boyle’s performance, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

More later. Peace.

“Words are the voice of the heart” ~ Confucius

17_letter_planet

 “Letter Planet”

We are healed of a suffering only by expressing it to the full.” ~ Marcel Proust

“Words are of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind” ~ Rudyard Kipling

It has been a few days since my last post in which I wrote about not being able to write. I proposed that my inability to write might be chemical, might be emotional. I finished that entry, posted it, and did not come near my computer for more than 48 hours. On the third day, I looked in on some regular sites, made a couple of short comments, then walked away from the computer again. It was as if the keys themselves had evolved into hot coals, devices of torture.

My computer, my sounding board, had become my personal albatross, but instead of hanging round my neck, it sat quietly humming in the corner of the bedroom, taunting me, as if to say, “I’m waiting.” At times during the past few days, I have glared at my computer, wishing its presence away rather than having to set my fingers to the keyboard again. At other moments, I have looked at it longingly, wishing that I could reconnect with it, and in so doing, with myself.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been reading; I’ve been reading notes of support from faithful readers, all essentially saying the same thing: It will be okay. When you are ready, the words will come. Those missives have been manna, sustaining me, reminding me that anyone who writes experiences periods of drought, periods in which the words simply will not form, will not make that connection from all of the fiercely firing thoughts racing through the brain to a message that is not even necessarily well formed, just simply a message, a communication of some sort, any sort.

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” ~ Anthony Robbins

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Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World" (1948)

But this time, this time was different, and I knew it. You see, I had come so far in my journey this time, that to abandon it, or to let it abandon me, simply was not an option.

And so I sat down this afternoon, placed my fingers on the keyboard as I have done a thousand times before, and instead of waiting for the words to come, I went searching for them, knowing them to be harbored somewhere deep within the recesses of my mind. I opened doors to thoughts. I walked down hallways of the past. I flung open windows of memory. And then I suddenly realized that I was looking in the wrong place.

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out” ~ Ray Bradbury

The words were not in my mind. They were in my heart, within these four chambers that enclose all of my passion and all of my grief. All of my desires and all of my fears. All of the joy and sorrow and all of the other countless contradictions that make me who and what I am: a woman who loves deeply, who protects fiercely, and who, when hurting the most, feels the least capable.

I allowed myself the indulgence of moving through this place—intimately familiar yet foreign at times. And I realized that the words were not gone, were not lost, and neither was I. That in the midst of my outward sadness, I had erected a barrier of protection, as often I am wont to do. I had allowed my fear to paralyze me: If I did not try to write, then I could not fail to write.

So in the end, I wrote—an explanation as much for myself as for anyone else. Yes, the doubt still lingers, probably always shall: am I good enough? Does what I do matter? To those questions, I may never have an answer, or rather, the answer. But perhaps I understand the doubt a bit more, can look it in the eye for what it is.

“Self-expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment.” Pearl S. Buck

I sit here and write because I have something to say. Just exactly what I say does not necessarily have to be profound or deep or even eloquently written, no matter how much I might wish it to be. But in the saying, I am sending out the words because I want them to be read. And in the reading, I want the words affirmed and myself to be understood. It is my communion.

We are no different than the other beasts of the world in sending out our calls to our own kind, hoping for responses, acknowledgement that another like us is nearby. Our reasons for so doing are as varied as the calls of the birds outside my bedroom window just before dawn. Our methods vary: Some compose music, stringing together harmonies; others paint or draw, creating beauty and introspection that can be seen. And then others, those of us who would, write.

We create to communicate, to share, to remember and be remembered. Regardless of the trappings of our media, we communicate because we can, and if we did not, then we would perish as people.

I write because I can, because I desire to, because I need to. But most importantly, I write because I must.

Grace in Small Things #39

dragonsamuraiswordset1

Dragon Samurai Sword Set

Beauty in Words, Glass, and Blades

1. Reading sentences as beautiful as this: “The man can makes tears sparkle, hearts expand and the wisdom pour like wine” and wishing that I had written them, but feeling privileged to read them. (From the blog “My Sweetest Downfall” http://janeylynn.wordpress.com, which I highly recommend).

2. Finding a new author: Paulo Coelho and his book The Valkyries are next on my wish list. But take a look at this quote from Coelho’s blog:

If pain must come, may it come quickly. I have a life to live, and I need to live it in the best possible. If he has to make a choice, may he make it now. Then I will either wait for him or forget him. Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.
(By the River Piedra I sat down and wept)

Would that I could write like that.

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Decorative Tsuba

3. Tonight my son Brett and I wrapped his practice katana. The part that you hold is called the tsuka. The tsukamaki is what is tied around the tsuka for a good grip. Wisteria vine or leather can be used. We used black grograin ribbon. The tsuba is the disk between the tsuka and the blade, which protects the hand from the blade. The tsuba also adjusts the weight balance of the sword and has come to be a work of art on the Japanese katana or Samurai sword. I  enjoyed doing this with Brett. He has wanted a practice katana for a while. Now we just need a boxing bag for him to work out his frustration.

4. If you’ve read a lot of my blog posts, you’ve probably noticed that I use many different quotes, from Marcus Aurelius to Confucius to Sophia Loren. I like to collect quotes from all kinds of sources: from the Ancient Greeks through current political pundits. For our wedding I chose about 15 different quotes about love, typed them, and printed several copies of them on separate pieces of four by six cream-colored paper. Then we rolled them, and tied them with ribbons and put them at each place setting on the tables. My favorite quote was from Goethe:

“This is the true measure of love: When we believe that we alone can love, that no one could ever have loved so before us, and that no one will ever love in the same way after us.”

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5. I have four Cranberry Glass wine glasses that I bought in Cape Cod a long time ago. I take very good care of them because they are irreplaceable. Cranberry glass (not the same as Ruby Glass) is a semi-transparent red glass, the color of cranberry juice, that is usually hand blown. It gets its color from the addition of a gold chloride. The height of cranberry glass was during the Victorian era in England, but real Cranberry Glass is still made today. I had about five pieces total, but they have all been broken over the years. All that I have left is this set of wine glasses that I bought at the Ocean Spray cranberry factory of all places. They are absolutely beautiful when natural sunlight is reflecting on them.

That’s all for now. More later. Peace.