“She was the music heard faintly on the edge of sound.” ~ Raymond Chandler, The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction 1909-1959

"Pretty as a Peacock" by DanaKai Bradford (QBI Microscopy 2008 competition): This is an image of the brain. Amazing.*

                  

“We are living, but can’t feel the land where we stay.” ~ Osip Mandelstam

Friday, early evening. Cloudy and relatively mild, low 50’s.

Well, I got to sleep at a relatively good time last night, for me that is—around 3:30 a.m. The night before, insomnia reared its ugly head again, and I watched 5 a.m. come and go. Went to make myself a cup of hot Ovaltine, only to find that there was none of the malted, only the chocolate malt, which just isn’t the same when you’re looking for a soothing cup of hot Ovaltine in the wee hours of the morning.

"Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder" by Nick Nacsa (volume rendering of bullwhip amacrine cell in chicken retina, QBI Microscopy 2008 competition): I would have called this Tree of Life

I ended up taking another Seroquel, which knocked me out finally, but made it well nigh impossible to wake up in the afternoon. I really hate that feeling, and even though I’m prescribed 75 mg of the Seroquel, I try to take only 50 mg as I feel better when I wake up with the lower dose.

Last night, though, for the first time in quite a while, back pain woke me, which is not good. I mean, the back pain is omnipresent, so for it to be bad enough to wake me from sleeping really disheartens me. And today the headache continues, just enough pain to be annoying and cause squinting, but not full-blown migraine pain, which is why I happened upon the images in today’s post. I do have lots of floating spots today, which is never a good sign. waits and see, I suppose.

Anyway, Corey is scheduled to leave on Monday some time; we’re just waiting for the finalized travel arrangements. I wonder if he knows that eastern Europe is under a major cold snap . . . haven’t had the heart to mention it yet.

“Time isn’t an orderly stream. Time isn’t a placid lake recording each of our ripples. Time is viscous. Time is a massive flow. It is a self-healing substance, which is to say, almost everything will be lost.” ~ Charles YuHow to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe 

So in the next three days, we have all of that last-minute planning to take care of, as in which bills get paid automatically, and which bills I need to handle, all of that stuff that I’ve been staying away from in recent years. We also plan to have a sit down with the sons to make it clear what is expected of them while Corey is gone. I find that it works better if the two of us speak to the two of them at the same time as it makes the gravity of the words sink in a bit better.

"Guideposts" by T Fotherbill (QBI Microscopy 2011 Competition)

I’m making it a point not to let my trepidation come to the surface as Corey does not need to be worrying about how well I’m handling things. He needs to be focused on what’s coming up, on how his days are going to change in a major way. At least he’ll have his laptop, and he’s been investigating the rates of international Internet access. He’ll be fine with his regular access once the ship gets to Cape Canaveral, but Lithuania is a different matter.

His other big problem is fitting everything into one suitcase. The company said that they’ll reimburse him if he has to take more than one suitcase, but it would just be easier if he only has one to check and one to carry on.

I don’t even want to think about all of the other little things that are looming out there as it will become all too apparent much too soon.

“We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me.” ~ Walter Isaacson, from Steve Jobs

My new mother board (one word or two? differs depending upon site) arrived by Fed Ex yesterday morning. Exciting. Of course, I now have to wait to have it installed, but I’m creeping closer and closer to having my computer back in working order, which will make both Eamonn and me very happy—Eamonn because I will no longer be in his room at all hours trying to work, and I, of course, because I will again have my own writing spot, small though it may be. Regardless, it will be mind, and I will be most happy to have it back.

"Activity at the Midline" by Amberl Dawson (QBI Microscopy 2008 Competition): This one and the next remind me of Georgia O'Keeffe's "Red Canna"

I even did a bit of perusing about upcoming deadlines for literary contests. Perhaps if I get off my butt and begin to put some things together, I might be able to submit something this year. No promises, but a worthy goal, n’est ce-pas?

When I was cleaning out some of my office supply clutter and going through boxes of miscellaneous stuff, I came across a scrap of paper in which I had written the opening to a book—only about ten lines, but I was surprised—it was actually not bad. Once in a while I do surprise myself when I come across something that I’ve written that I’ve completely put out of my mind. Not often, but sometimes. It’s like finding treasure.

I used to keep a file of writing ideas, all scribbled on various scraps of paper. The file is still somewhere around here, I think. I doubt if I would find many of them inspiring, but the book intro was an interesting take.

“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” ~ Carson McCullers

For some reason I have it in my mind that I need an IBM Selectric to actually (split infinitive, I know) begin work on my novel. Something about the rat-a-tat of the typewriter keys seems so much more substantial than the clacking of a keyboard. Yes, it’s much easier to type on a keyboard than a typewriter, but I hold a deep fondness for the Selectric.

"Meeting in the Middle" by Amberl Dawson (QBI Microscopy 2008 Competition)

When I began at the newspaper in the advertising typing pool, I worked on a Selectric. Those were the old days in which copy had to be coded as it was typed, and believe it or not, coding a retail ad, such as one for a grocery store, could take hours, but I became quite adept at it, and actually chose the longer ads to do as I found them more interesting than short ads.

Anyway, when I moved into the newsroom, I used to take dictation over the phone from reporters calling in from the field, and I used, you guessed it, a Selectric. When I applied for my technical editing position with the government contractor, I had to take a typing test, and it was on a Selectric. At that time, on that machine, I typed 126 words a minute.

So you see, the Selectric is in my blood. I associate it with production, with quantifiable results. That must be why I so want to have one on which to pound out my manuscript. I’ve seen a couple on E-Bay, but I could hardly justify purchasing one when the back door is being held together with plywood and a prayer.

Some day . . .

“These are the moments which are not calculable, and cannot be assessed in words; they live on in the solution of memory, like wonderful creatures, unique of their own kind, dredged up from the floors of some unexplored ocean.” ~ Lawrence Durrell, Justine

With Corey’s new job we’ll have access to more funds, but it’s very important that we are careful and responsible. We still need to payback my family member for saving our butts last fall, not to mention repaying Corey’s family for helping out, and we want to try to repair our credit score, which was decimated in recent years, not just hurt, not just lowered, but totally and completely destroyed, like an atomic bomb went off on our records and took away everything that we had been building.

"Dangling Neurons" by D. Blackmore (QBI Microscopy 2010 Competition)

So while I may write about all of these things that I would like to have or see or do, I know that for now, it is much more important that we gain some financial ground. Then work on the dreams and desires, never forgotten, never abandoned, only postponed. Like Corey’s college career—I’m really hoping that in the time that he is home between hitches he’ll be able to get in a course or two. He’s waited so long that I don’t want him to just forget about it.

Corey just got his itinerary for Monday, so I suppose it’s all now official. It’s quite surreal to see the words “Scandinavian Airlines.” Under different circumstances, it might be exciting, but not so now. Norfolk to Dulles to Copenhagen . . .

It feels colder, but I think that that may just be my body reacting to emotions. The back is still quite achy even though I’ve taken my meds, and my head is getting tighter. The sky outside has become dark, and my eyes are actually full of spots, so I need to wrap up this post.

More later. Peace.

All images taken from the QBI Miscroscopy site, Queensland Brain Institute’s Advanced Microimaging and Analysis Facility

Music by Melody Gardot, blues, “Our Love is Easy”

Postcard

Lately, I am capable only of small things.

Is it enough
to feel the heart swimming?

Jim is fine. Our first
garden is thick with spinach
and white radish. Strangely,
it is summer

but also winter and fall.

In response to your asking:
I fill the hours
then lick them shut.

Today, not a single word,
but the birds quietly nodding
as if someone had suggested
moving on.

What is that perfect thing
some one who once believed in god said?

Please don’t misunderstand:
We still suffer, but we are happy.

~ Olena Kalytiak Davis, from And Her Soul Out of Nothing (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997)

                   

Georgia O’Keeffe image to which I was referring above:

"Red Canna," by Georgia O'Keeffe (1923)

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” ~ Allen Ginsberg

“Open Door on a Garden,” Konstantin Somov (oil on canvas) 

  

“My trouble is insomnia. If I had always slept properly, I’d never have written a line.” ~ Louis-Ferdinand Céline
"Door Open onto the Garden," Pierre Bonnard (oil on canvas)

 I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with Cal lately—chills, aches, and lethargy—so I have not written a word in a week. A very long time for me, especially when the Internet is actually on. 

Everytime that I start to think that maybe I could actually go back to work, my body gives me a wake-up call, as in, “Have you lost your mind?” This past week, temperatures around here reached record highs. Meanwhile, I was walking around with goose bumps on my arms. A couple of nights ago, I woke myself when my body was shaking, which made the bed jerk. It’s all quite disconcerting. 

And then, of course, there is the insomnia, which makes just getting through the day a chore. One night it was nigh on 6 a.m. before sleep came. Last night, I was so grateful to be sleepy by 3 a.m. What a strange life I lead. 

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” ~ Cecil Beaton
"30 Regent Terrace," Francis Campbell Cadell (1934)

Corey had to work today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but it doesn’t really matter as we had no plans for mother’s day. Eamonn came by with flowers and a card. He can be such a sweetie when he wants to be. Alexis is supposed to come by later, so just a quiet day at home. 

Corey and I were married on mother’s day nine years ago. We didn’t really want to get married on a Sunday, but it was the only day that we could get the Women’s Club in Norfolk, which is an old Victorian home in the Ghent section of Norfolk. We were contemplating the Botanical Garden, but decided on the house so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the weather. I walked down the winding staircase in five-inch heels, and miraculously, I didn’t trip. 

But I digress . . . 

For the most part though, I have only had one request over the years when it concerns mother’s day: Please do not give me any appliances, as in a toaster or something of that sort. Just feels too domestic and traditional for my tastes. 

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place . . . I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” ~ Elliott Erwitt
"Rooms by the Sea," Edward Hopper (1950)

This past week was a busy one for Brett. He is taking is IB exams in all of his classes. The better he does on these exams, the better the chance he has of getting college credits for the courses, which will be wonderful. He submitted his art portfolio to the IB board, but that takes a couple of months for review before he hears anything. It was a combination of sketches and photographs. I was duly impressed with the quality of his work. He has two more exams this week, and then he is pretty much finished except for a few odds and ends, so he will have a nice break before graduation. 

For his final project in art, Brett is going to paint something on one of the doors in the art room. He hasn’t told me what he plans to paint, but I can’t wait to see it. 

Tomorrow, Corey and I need to go back to the financial aid departments at ODU and TCC to complete the paper work for both boys to get tuition adjustments, which (we hope) will increase their Pell Grants. At least there is one good thing about being poor. 

“Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” ~ René Magritte
"The Balcony Room," Adolph von Menzel (1845)

We watched a movie a few nights ago called “Haunting in Connecticut,” which is supposedly based on a true story. I hadn’t heard anything about the movie, but we were in the mood for something scary. Turns out, it’s pretty dark—dead bodies with words carved into them, some kind of ectoplasm and séances, lots of hallucinations. Of course, watching something like that before trying to go to sleep is probably not the best idea. 

Then last night, I was watching this program about women who kill. I think that I’ve seen it before. Anyway, three of the stories really got to me. Two of them involved young girls who got pregnant, hid their pregnancies from their families, then threw their babies in the trash. 

Anytime I read about something like this happening, it really upsets me in so many ways: That these girls felt that they could not go to their parents with the truth says a lot about the kind of pressure families put on their daughters. Like the article I just read that stated that most parents do not believe that their children are having sex; they believe that other people’s children are having sex, but not theirs. How utterly naive.  The kind of naiveté that causes people to be against birth control in favor of abstinence. 

Facts: Forty-six percent of all teens in the U.S. between 15 and 19 have had sex. A sexually active teen who does not use contraceptives has a 90 percent chance of becoming pregnant within a year. Eighty-two percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned; they account for about one-fifth of all unintended pregnancies annually. This is reality, folks. 

Sure abstinence is the goal. It’s just not the reality.  So these girls get pregnant but do not tell their families out of fear, out of shame, because they want to see the disappointment in their parents’ eyes, whatever the reason. The tragic part is that they choose to throw their babies away like trash in part because they have spent the last nine months convincing themselves that it isn’t real. 

“There is no explanation for evil. It must be looked upon as a necessary part of the order of the universe. To ignore it is childish, to bewail it senseless.” ~ William Somerset Maugham
"The Four Rooms," Vilhelm Hammershoi (1914, oil on canvas)

However, the story that still gets to me, that still rips my heart right from my chest is that of Susan Smith, the woman who drowned her two young sons, Michael and Alex. When the car was found, the two boys were still strapped into their car seats in the back seat of the car. Imagine for a moment what it must have felt like for those boys when the water began to come into the car, as they yelled for their mother, the woman who had to hear their screams. Imagine the fear and helplessness that had to overtake them as the minutes passed and the water kept rising. 

There is evil in this world. Of that, I have no doubts at all. Susan Smith killed her sons because she wanted to be free of them so that she could date the man who broke off their relationship, the man who said that he was not ready for children. So this mother, this monster decided that the best thing to do would be to kill her children and to blame it on an imaginary black man. 

In 1995, Smith was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. During her trial, she tried to use as a defense that her step-father had molested her and that she suffered from a lifetime of depression. Someone else’s fault. Of course. 

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” ~ Oscar Wilde
 Found on Wikimedia Commons (lost the title, sorry) 

Perhaps this was not the best issue to discuss on mother’s day. Or perhaps we need to be reminded that not all mothers are good and kind and loving. That some mothers care more about themselves than they do their children. That some mothers should never have had children. That some mothers, completely contrary to societal expectations, are filled with hate and resentment for the very children they bore. 

Fortunately, most mothers do not fall into the former category. Most mothers love their children with a fierce, protective love that no one can touch. 

I do not believe in perfection, but I do believe that some things and some people come very close to this ideal.  Motherhood, in its truest sense, is that continual strive to achieve perfection—saying the right words said at the right time, listening instead of lecturing, comforting with an embrace that bespeaks more than any words, accepting even when faced with a reality that is contrary to expectations. Motherhood is complex, tasking, and never easy. It is not for the weak hearted or the selfish. It is the only job in the world that expects you to know everything on day one. It is the only career that breeds anxiety and insecurity in continuous doses. 

When the door closes, and the child is on the other side, off to unknown places, it is the mother who remains behind and whispers to no one in particular, “It will be all right.” 

More later. Peace

Music by Jon McLaughlin, “We All Need Saving” 

“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries” ~ Theodore Isaac Rubin

*Snow Bath by Corey Fickel

“All my life I have been on the brink of either a break down or a break through.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Saint Francis in the Snow

Our Internet has really been acting funky, which has made it hard to post. We have a wireless network in the house, and given that our house is not very big, there really shouldn’t be problems, but of course there are. My computer is farthest from the router, but that hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference until recently. The other computers in the house have Internet service, but I do not. It’s very frustrating, but we don’t really know why this is happening unless the router is going bad, which may be the case. I suspect the router because replacing it would cost money, and that’s how things work in this house. If it’s a simple, cheap fix, it doesn’t break; if it’s expensive, then it will break. 

Anyway, yesterday, I wasn’t even able to look at videos on YouTube, without my computer locking up, so I decided to abandon any hopes of posting. Today, things seems to be working fine, so I’ll take my chances. 

I think that I’ve decided to abandon Facebook. I don’t have much to report in the status bar, and my life isn’t so involved that I feel a need to update everyone on what isn’t happening. I think that Facebook can be fun for the people who participate in the games and polls, which I don’t. And it has been nice making contact with some people from my past, but after that initial contact, is there anything more to say? 

I think back to my old post on becoming a hermit, which I wrote sort of tongue in cheek, but I really think that a part of me is very much like a hermit: I don’t crave the company of lots of people, and the more time that I spend here in this little corner of my bedroom, the less I feel that I am connected to the outside world. I’m not bemoaning my fate, just making a statement. 

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always . . .  ~ Yann Martel, Life of Pi

"I love this stuff . . ."

The port security company called Corey to schedule an interview, which is great. But now he is anxious, worrying about impressing them. I told him that it’s normal to be anxious given that he hasn’t really interviewed for a job in a long time, but he is convinced that he is not qualified. He finished his port security training with the Coast Guard but did not graduate because of his injury; therefore, he doesn’t have any certifications. I told him that he just needs to explain what happened, but he is tying himself up in knots over this. 

He does have the qualifications for this type of job. I just hope that he can make it through the interview. If he can do well in the interview, he has a good shot at the job. 

Being unemployed for so long has insidious effects, which are now coming to the front. Unemployment strips your confidence, makes you feel inadequate, and the longer the unemployment continues, the more you begin to believe that you are a failure, not worthy of consideration. Having had my own bout with unemployment, I truly understand what Corey is feeling, and unfortunately, all of the loving supportive words in the world cannot erase that overwhelming feeling of insecurity. 

Here’s hoping . . . 

“You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Snow Buddha

I’m back to not sleeping. I have no idea what’s going on, and I’m at the point at which I don’t even try to ascertain reasons. Last night, for example, I fell asleep somewhere between 5:30 and 6 a.m. I got up at 7, 9:20, and 11 to let the dogs out. I don’t really think that they need to go out, but they get restless. I finally fell into a deep sleep after 11. 

This is so backwards. I did have a migraine for three days, so that probably contributed to things. Funnily enough, a representative from my long-term disability insurance called for an update a few days ago. I told her that absolutely nothing had changed. Still seeing the same doctors, still taking the same medicines . . . she asked about my days, as in what did I do. What could I tell her? I sit at the computer for a few hours, read, watch television. She wanted to know if I do any cleaning. I told her that I do some things but not others. 

Those periodic conversations really bring into focus how much my life has changed in the past two years, how I have gone from working a full day and then going to classes in Alexandria, how I have gone from cleaning my whole house to cleaning parts of my house, how I have gone from sleeping 6 hours to sleeping 10 hours. It is more depressing than I can begin to describe. 

I spend hours with ice packs on my head. I spend hours on the heating pad. I take my pills, and I look forward to small things: new episodes of NCIS, a good book, a movie, my favorite coffee. So while I have lost so much, I have also relearned the art of appreciating small things. I don’t exactly see it as a fair trade-off, but it is what it is for however long it stays this way. 

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. when you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami

In the news: Ben Stein, commentator for CNN (why should anyone listen to the former Nixon speechwriter?) says that he knows why Republicans are not in favor of healthcare reform: “. . . The answer is much higher percentage of Republicans are taxpayers than Democrats and the Republicans are the people paying for it, and the Democrats are the people receiving it.” 

Surface of Frozen Pool (or Ben Stein's Brain)

Let me just pause here for a moment while I collect my breath . . . First, and probably most importantly, the IRS does not have a spot anywhere on its myriad of forms that asks taxpayers to indicate their political affiliation, if any, so how, pray tell, did Stein come up with that factoid? Second, and this is personal, we pay a boatload of taxes, always have. A January 2009 report by Forbes magazine stated the following: 

“The 400 highest-earning taxpayers in the U.S. reported a record $105 billion in total adjusted gross income in 2006, but they paid just $18 billion in tax, new Internal Revenue Service figures show. That works out to an average federal income tax bite of 17%—the lowest rate paid by the richest 400 during the 15-year period covered by the IRS statistics. The average federal tax bite on the top 400 was 30% in 1995 and 23% in 2002.” 

This report says nothing about political parties, just income levels. In my many years of paying taxes, I have never had a 17 percent rate. Never. Stick it Ben Stein, you blowhard. (Thank you Skyewriter for the heads up.) 

In other news, former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis only received $32,171 in compensation for 2009. Poor Lewis. Oh wait. I forgot to mention: Lewis also received $73 million in accumulated compensation and retirement benefits, which brings his net to $73,032,171, approximately . . . 

Fannie Mae wants another $15.3 Billion, yes with a B, in aid. Okeedokee.  Let’s take these things and compare them to the fact that unemployment benefits for millions of people expire this weekend, but lone Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky is holding a temporary extension hostage over concerns about the deficit.  On Thursday, the House passed a bill temporarily extending the programs for a month until lawmakers can address the issues long-term. The Senate tried to follow suit, but the lone Republican Senator held out. 

Don’t get me wrong, I, too, have issues with the deficit. Perhaps we can ask Ken Lewis for a contribution, say $73 million or so? 

Enough financial news. It makes my eyes water and creates a sharp pain behind my right eye. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Imogen Heap, “The Moment I Said It” (heard it on “Criminal Minds,” which has a soundtrack almost as awesome as “NCIS.”) 

 

  

*Corey took all of the pictures featured the day after the snow storm we had here a few weeks ago.