“This is Dr. Reality´s office calling, you´re way overdue for your checkup . . . ” ~ Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice

Amble Pier by Jim Donnelly (FCC)

                    

“I wish you could live in my brain for a week. It is washed with the most violent waves of emotion . . . And you think it all fixed and settled. Do we then know nobody?—only our own version of them, which, as likely as not, are emanations from ourselves.” ~ Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville West,1926

Wednesday afternoon. Hazy but not quite as hot.

Pier by dendroica cerulea (FCC)

I had very vivid dreams last night. In the first, I was in the midst of a CSI episode, one in which the main character was Gil Grissom. I stopped watching the show after William Peterson left as he made the show (in my opinion). Anyway, the entire cast was there, and the earth was literally cracking—massive waves, the ground opening up and swallowing large masses of people. We were moving quickly, trying to stay ahead of the devastation. At one point, we got on an escalator, which in my mind in the dream did not make sense since the electricity should not have been working. Lots of running and screaming all around me, but I was fairly calm. Weird, very weird.

The other dream involved my dad. He told my mom that he was going to the grocery store, and I jumped in the car with him. It was our old VW bug. But he wasn’t really going to the grocery store; instead, he was going to visit his friend who owned a gas station/small convenience store. He wanted to have a beer with him, and I ruined his plan by jumping in the car.  He went anyway and left me in the car for a few minutes while he visited with all of his friends at the convenience store.

He left the car running, and it began to roll backwards. I pulled up the emergency brake, and it stopped rolling. My dad came out and asked me what happened, and I told him. He asked me to go into the store with him to help him carry something. He had bought two large glass containers that were etched on the outside. They were both over two feet tall. I was certain that my mother would hate them. On the way home, he told me that he really wanted to open a gas station with a small convenience store.

Suddenly, my mother was in the car, and she and I were arguing because I told her that I wanted to go home. My dad was in the passenger’s seat, and he had his old machete. He waved it in the air and told both of us to stop fighting. We didn’t.

I wanted to go home because I suddenly realized that I hadn’t turned in the last two assignments in one of my classes, and I hadn’t asked for an incomplete, so I was going to fail the class. I really needed to call my professor to tell her what had happened. My mother kept bitching at me.

Strangely enough, I did not wake up with a headache.

“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

Man on Tynemouth Pier by smlp.co.uk (FCC)

Dreaming about my dad is a very bittersweet experience. Almost always, the dreams are fairly realistic, as in he’s acting like my dad, and he looks and sounds like my dad. You know how sometimes in dreams people take on different voices or mannerisms? This never happens with my dad. But one thing that I have noticed is that in the most recent dreams, my mother is almost always with my dad. I’m not sure why that is.

I haven’t spent much time with my mother lately, and I feel guilty about that. I also haven’t visited my other m-in-law in a while, and I feel guilty about that as well. My ability to heap guilt upon myself is limitless and always has been. I probably would have made a great Puritan during the colonial period: hard work and guilt being my primary driving forces.

All would have been well, that is until I spoke my mind, and then I probably would have been burned as a witch. That whole timid female thing? Definitely not me.

I do wonder why I still have dreams about school. Usually, my stress dreams involve an algebra class that I have forgotten to go to all semester, and suddenly, it’s time for the final exam. But this time it was a sociology class, and I even recalled the name of my old professor in the dream—Dr. Dixie Dickinson. Isn’t that a strange detail to recall after all of these years?

I remember that she was one of my favorite professors, and that I took two classes that she taught because I enjoyed her so much.

“But when we reach the end of the pier of everything we know, we find that it only takes us part of the way. Beyond that all we see is uncharted water. Past the end of the pier lies all the mystery about our deeply strange existence . . .” ~ David Eagleman

Craigendoran Pier B&W by baaker2009 (FCC)

The quote? New author. Hence the pier theme. Seemed appropriate.

You know how yesterday I was so proud of the fact that we had no car trouble during our Ohio road trip? I should have known not to brag. The Rodeo broke down on Corey on his way home from school last night. Seems it wasn’t just the battery that went, but the alternator as well. Mike and Alexis brought Corey home, and surprise! Alexis let Corey borrow her new car to get to work last night for his second shift.

I felt so sorry for my poor hubbie yesterday. It was an endless parade of crappola in which he was the major participant: First shift his relief arrives an hour and a half late. He gets home with just enough time to change clothes and go to school. On the way home from school, the car dies. He has to be back at work at 11 p.m. This morning he woke me around 8:30 just to talk. He had been up over 24 hours, this after driving 12 hours on Sunday night/Monday morning.

At the moment, he is sound asleep, waiting for Mike to get home from work. Thankfully, Mike offered to help Corey change the alternator, which saves us the labor charge. Then tonight Corey has to go back to work at 11 p.m.

So all of my boasting about this being the best road trip ever came back to bite me in the ass. Fate has a very warped sense of humor. The rental car was a dream, but the Rodeo is another story. At least we didn’t try to drive the Rodeo to Ohio and have these breakdowns happen on the way there or on the way home. Just saying . . .

“Stripped of words, untamed, the universe pours in on me from every direction. I become what I see. I am earth, I am air. I am all. My eyes are suns. My hair streams among the galaxies.” ~Steven Millhauser, Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories

Old Pier, Lobos Buenos Aires, AR by Irargerich (FCC)

I have come to a few conclusions. Let me share:

  • Our house is very crowded when filled with five people. I don’t remember it feeling this crowded before.
  • I’m very fortunate to be married to a man who still has dreams about the future.
  • In this country, the rich are now referred to as “job creators” (per Jon Stewart). Are we supposed to be able to swallow the bitter pill that allows the rich more tax breaks than the middle class if they aren’t called rich?
  • I do not want to live to be so old that I merely exist. That is not living.
  • I’m chewing my fingers again, which is a sure sign that I’m stressed without even realizing it.
  • I have felt old since I was young.
  • I try not to make fun of Mormons, but it’s so hard.
  • Coffee should always be served hot and strong.
  • When I was younger, I gave my heart to people who did not deserve it, but in so doing, I gradually learned to be more discerning.
  • Given the choice, I would choose more land and a smaller house as opposed to a bigger house and less land.
  • Salt air holds magical powers of rejuvenation.
  • I would prefer wall-to-wall bookcases over expensive furniture.
  • Something about Oregon is appealing.
  • My life has an omnipresent soundtrack, real and imagined.
  • I am still very self-conscious and feel like an ugly duckling when I am in large groups of people.
  • I have gotten to a point in my life in which a self-propelling vacuum is on my list of things I desire.
  • I still desire sunlight, moon glow, cool winds, the heady scent of gardenias, lilac, and fresh rosemary, sweet fresh peaches, hot tea at dusk, beautiful books, and the sound of waves hitting the shore.
  • I lost myself somewhere along the way, but I am slowly finding my way to a different state of being, one that trusts in myself more and harbors less resentment for past ills.
  • I am ageless—simultaneously old and young—and this I can accept.
  • When I run out of things to say, I can always find the perfect words from someone else:

“We shall not cease from exploration,
and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.”
~ T.S. Eliot

More later. Peace.

Music by Cee Lo Green, “What Part of Forever”

                   

Last night as I was sleeping

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

~ Antonio Machado (Trans. Robert Bly)

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“The wind lashes the surface of the sea and makes it rough and turbulent, but in the deep there is calm.” ~ Cardinal Basil Hume

   

Weeping Willow   

 

“Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating.” ~ Karl Von Clausewitz
Japanese Red Maple

It is April 30. That’s incredible to me. One quarter of the year has passed, and I have nothing to show for it. Do you have any idea how depressing that is? I have no reliable method of tracking time any more—no scheduled meetings, no deadlines, no appointments with students. I am loathe to admit that I measure time by evening television shows: If CSI is on, then it’s Tuesday.   

I have calendars everywhere: on my desktop, on the wall next to the desk, in the kitchen, in my purse, but I never have any idea as to the date, which is why I was so surprised to see that today is April 30.   

Perhaps one of these days the fog will lift, and I will see things clearly again. Until then, I will continue to measure out my life “in coffee spoons,” as Eliot put it.   

Corey worked last night and got home at 8 this morning.   

ARGHH. I went to save, and WordPress kicked me back to the sign in page, which means that I just lost THREE PARAGRAPHS. NOOOOOOOOOO………..   

“Life is not an easy matter . . . You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness.” ~ Leon Trotsky

Let’s try this again, shall we?   

Corey worked last night and got home at 8 this morning. Then the guy who makes the schedule called him at 11 and asked if he could come in until 3. Apparently, they have several people out today. It’s now 4:45 and he isn’t home yet; he’s running on about three hours of sleep, and he was tired before he went in last night. I just hope that he doesn’t have to work too long.   

Eastern Redbud Tree

Of course, the more hours that he works, the bigger the paycheck. I just wish that the schedule could be more even, not 30 hours in three days, and then nothing for five days in a row. Of course, who am I to complain?   

Speaking of jobs, Alexis began her new job with a manufacturing company in Virginia Beach. When I asked her what they build, she said that she didn’t know; all she knows is that she adds wires to some kind of component. It’s a job. She is working with a large group of Filipino women, so I told her that at least she’ll eat well. Filipino people love their food, at home or at work.   

Of course, my mother is beside herself over Alexis losing her job. When Alexis told her about it, my mother proceeded to rant about how I had lost a few jobs—almost a decade ago. Mom told Alexis that she didn’t want her to turn out like me. Lovely, just lovely. Then, without fail, my mother called me to complain about Alexis. When she asked me how much money Mike makes, I told her that truthfully I didn’t know because it wasn’t any of my business, and it’s not any of my business. My mother is of the belief that anything and everything in my life and the lives of my children is her business. It’s more of that privacy issue that I was talking about before, as in, there is none with my mother.    

Today she called and started to talk about the same things all over again. I reminded her that we had already had this conversation, so she turned it around to be a commentary on the relationship between Alexis and Mike. She just doesn’t understand it. Has he ever asked her to marry him? I don’t know, not my business. And so it goes once again. I know that if Mike had proposed, Alexis would tell me, but by the same token, should I be asking her constantly when/if they are going to get married? As I told my mother, they’ve been together for seven years, and it seems to be working for them.   

“Be gentle with yourself. You are the truth unfolding.” ~  Joseph Goldstein

I just made a shocking discovery: We are out of Pepsi. How do I go on?   

Eastern Hemlock Tree

Truths for Friday:   

  • Oprah is on a toot to eliminate texting while driving. I absolutely agree. Is anything that important? Just remember the train engineer who caused that fatal crash because he was texting—25 people died, including the texting engineer
  • Is it weird that I still miss Izzie the Trooper? I loved that vehicle, and even though SUV sales are declining, I would own another Trooper.
  • Have you heard about “Marysville, OH, 43040”? It’s a Facebook group that is praying for the death of President Obama. Call me crazy, and I probably am, but I was never taught to pray for someone else’s misfortune, let alone death. The group has over one million members.
  • Am I the only one who thinks that the legislators in Arizona are on crack? I mean, that is the only logical explanation for their recent blatant racist, xenophobic legislation. An article in the Huffington Post reveals that the Arizona Department of Education has told schools that “teachers with ‘heavy’ or ‘ungrammatical’ accents are no longer allowed to teach English classes, this after the state spent 10 years recruiting teachers for whom English was a second language.
  • As the pictures continue to pour in revealing the devastation caused by the recent oil spill in the Gulf, Rush Limbaugh lets loose with his latest conspiracy theory: “Environmentalist whackos” may have blown up oil rig to “head off more oil drilling.” Really Rush? Gave that one a lot of thought, didn’t you?
  • And finally, on Gawker.com I found one of the best blogs ever about the Real Housewives of New York. Richard Lawson’s post, “Everyone Kills the Messenger,” is so much more entertaining than the show. To wit: “Meanwhile over in Bitchington Acres, everyone couldn’t believe what had just happened. Naturally when one is confused about a situation one turns to the very sage Kelly Bensimon, who is always good at unpacking an issue and making it understandable to the common laypeople below her.” To paraphrase the article would not do it justice, so I will leave you the link. Anyone who is interested in excruciatingly funny sarcasm and incisive wit, especially when it comes to the vacuous Housewives, should take a few minutes to peruse this post. Truly. The only bad thing I have to say is that I cannot believe that I didn’t find Lawson sooner.


Looking Skyward by Janson Jones   

Happy Arbor day, the annual celebration of trees. In honor of this holiday, I am featuring pictures of some of my favorite trees: Eastern Hemlock, Eastern Red Bud, Weeping Willow, Japanese Red Maple, Flowering Crabapple. I also love Yoshino Cherry and Weeping Cherry trees, but I just featured pictures of those in a recent post.   

More later. Peace.  

Mazzy Star, “Into Dust”  

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” ~ Albert Einstein

Lake scene 

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?” ~ Albert Einstein 

“The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” ~ Albert Einstein

It has been overcast here for days, which is not exactly helping my spirits. On days like today, I wish that I were at Peaks of Otter, sitting by the lake, looking out across the mountains, sipping a cup of tea as the day moves into the gloaming. Ah well, another day.

Cluttered Office Desk
My Last Office Desk at GWU

I’m sitting here at my desk, and to the left of me, there is a stack of papers about eight inches high on my printer. I’ve just grabbed everything that was scattered across my desk and moved it to the left.  Of course, if I were to be completely truthful, I would have to admit that I have always had a cluttered desk, in every job that I have ever had. In fact, someone once bought me a desk sign that read “A Cluttered Desk is a Sign of Genius.” I wish that I knew what happened to that sign, probably lost in some clutter . . . But this is not clutter: This is mess.

To the right of my chair is the stack of shoes that I commented about last night. I’m still pondering them. To the right of the shoes are two baskets of clean clothes that Alfie has been nesting in, thereby making the top layer no longer clean and in need of a rewash. Behind the two baskets of clothes are things. I can’t be more specific because I cannot get behind the two baskets without killing myself by falling. I see a cardboard box, some bubble wrap, a bag from Target, a belt, and a shoe (which probably belongs to the pile by my feet).

Why such disarray? I don’t know about you people, but when I’m sick, as in bedridden sick, I simply cannot be bothered with the minutiae of hangers, closets, and file folders. Granted, even at the best of times, I have become very lax about such things, but the current situation has reached new heights in combustible clutter.

An upcoming trip to Ohio necessitates that I make my way through the clutter to find presents for Corey’s mom and dad that never made it into the mail. Don’t ask me when these presents were purchased because I really don’t remember. I only know that they are inside the right side of my closet, which is currently completely cutoff from human accessibility.

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” ~ Albert Einstein 

csi-gil-grissom
"I don't know what it is. We found it under a two-foot pile of shoes."

Now this is the bizarre way in which my mind works: What if something happened to me, say I died in my sleep or choked on a cashew, and the crime scene techs had to go through my bedroom?

I would be mortified. Of course, I would be dead, so I couldn’t actually be mortified, but I know that I’m too damned nosey to leave immediately, so I’d be hanging around in some non-corporeal form looking down at the strangers in my bedroom who would be commenting on how messy and cluttered my house is.

Just imagine for a moment:

CSI Tech 1: Omigawd. Something truly horrible must have happened in this room.

CSI Tech 2: You think?

CSI Tech 1: Well just look. Everything is torn apart, clothes everywhere, shoes! Shoes and more shoes! Do you think she may have been killed by these stilletos?

CSI Tech 2: I’m not sure. But that’s not blood. That’s red nail polish.

CSI Tech 1: I think I found something here, under this pile of jeans. It looks like a leg.

CSI Tech 2: Dear god. She was killed by denim. But it will take weeks to determine which pair of jeans actually smothered her.

CSI Tech 1: You’re forgetting the stuffed animals. It looks like they made a run for it, and she may have been caught in the stampede.

CSI Tech 2: This is definitely one for the record books: Death by denim and a large stuffed black bear. Poor woman.

CSI Tech 1: But why is she grinning?

I have actually had this conversation with Corey:

Me: If there were ever a crime committed in this house, the CSI techs would never be able to find any evidence, and they would think that I’m a really bad housekeeper.

Corey: You’d be dead. It wouldn’t matter.

Trust me when I tell you that this is not the first time that I have used that scenario as a motivator to clean my bedroom. But it is rather sad, isn’t it, that I resort to non-existent crime scene techs entering my home to make myself clean up some of the clutter?

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” ~ Albert Einstein 

I comfort myself with the fact that at some point, Corey will be able to go back to work, and my bedroom will get painted, and I will be able to move the new bedroom furniture into the bedroom and out of the living room, thereby creating more drawer space for the clothes that are currently in baskets on the floor.

Truth be told, drawer and closet space does actually exist for these clothes, but it is at a premium. I long for the day when this house will finally be finished, as in, all of the renovations have been done, and then we can put it on the market and buy a home into which we can actually fit.

This was a great starter home: a three bedroom, one-bath brick ranch with a small eat-in kitchen and a nice lot. Three kids and several dogs later, the attraction has dimmed considerably, although, I still love the fact that it’s a real brick home with a yard that’s big enough so that we don’t see into our neighbor’s bedroom.

New-housing-development-774279When I was working for the real estate firm as a marketing director, I couldn’t get over the way new homes were built: brick fronts, siding around the rest, almost abutting the homes next door. Yards were non-existent.  These homes always looked unfinished somehow. And to upgrade to all brick usually meant a hefty premium of somewhere around $40k. Blew my mind, but then I got used to these new versions of the American dream and the incredibly high asking prices that people were fighting to pay.

Now, as we come out of the eastbound Hampton Tunnel, a huge billboard advertises a homesite that was initially being marketed as upscale condos in a pristine environment. The asking price for the smallest units was about $425k when the company first began to take reservations. The prices went as high as $1.2 million, depending upon view, size, etc. The billboard is advertising the units from $350k, which means that a bunch of people lost their shirts on this premium property.

I am so glad that I’m no longer trying to market new homes in this economy. I imagine that it would be tantamount to trying to sell dead people dirt, if you’ll pardon the expression.

I have no idea how much our own home’s value has decreased, but in this particular neighborhood of old brick ranches with the same basic layout, I don’t imagine that it has dropped that much. After all, our neighborhood isn’t considered up and coming, as it were.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ~ Albert Einstein 

Have no idea how I even got onto that subject. Moving along . . .

I could have started on the piles of clothes before sitting down to write, but somehow, that didn’t seem quite as appealing. I mean, use my energy to clean? Use my energy to write? Writing wins, hands down. I’ll find my brown bra later. Not going anywhere.

So I’ve also been thinking about that long post that I lost that began my tailspin into non-productivity, which, of course, was coupled with my recent bout of illness. Upon reflection, I’m kind of glad that the post didn’t make it  onto my blog. I had spent a great deal of energy and emotion taking to task someone who had made a horribly vitriolic comment on another blog. The writer’s comment truly upset me and had me feeling dirty all over, if that makes any sense.

he man woman haters club b&wIt was the kind of comment that was so full of hatred and venom, that just the reading of it left me feeling as if I had been accosted. I penned a long, thoughtful response to this person’s comment as I believed that I needed to respond, not in kind, but with logic and facts.

And then the entire post disappeared, which has happened to me two other times. But this time, I’m glad that it disappeared because I’ve had some time to think about the situation, and I realize that by giving a forum to such bile, I was only allowing the writer to continue to have an effect on me. I realize that I tend to do that—dwell on the negative.

For example, when I used to teach at ODU and end of the semester student evaluations came in, I would always dwell on the one or two negative ones, rather than savoring the positive ones. But when I left teaching, it was the folder full of positive comments, cards, and letters from students thanking me that I took with me, so I suppose that I do eventually let go of the negative. It just takes too much time.

But getting back to the blog comment, I’m pretty happy with myself for letting it go now. That’s a good thing. Granted, I hadn’t planned to let it go, but fate stepped in, and obliterated that righteous indignation with which I often find myself coasting along. Of course, that’s not to say that I won’t want to strike back again at some time in the future because I probably will. My righteous indignation at social injustices, political deception, pretentious moral superiority, to name but a few, is not going to fade away. I would not be the person that I am if I did not stand up for that in which I believe.

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” ~ Albert Einstein

Yet sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor, or at least, the road best taken. If I had posted my response, I would have been allowing an individual to continue to hold sway on my emotions, and trust me when I say that this particular individual did not deserve such power.

So, for now, I will wax about nothing in particular until the next time my ire is affronted. And maybe I’ll even put away the clean laundry so that I can get a clear path to my closet. Or perhaps, I’ll just watch NCIS or CSI, drink some tea, and ponder more of life’s minutiae.

More later. Peace.

One Hundred Things

A dock at sunset on White Sands Island in the Maldives.

These are the things . . .

I realized that even though I’ve done a few memes on here, I haven’t ever really talked about myself completely, honestly. So I thought that I would compose a random list, just to see where it takes me. So here we go:

  1. I like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. About the only vegetable I really hate is okra, and that’s because it’s slimey and hairy.
  2. I’ve never eaten escargot. No matter how much garlic you put on it, it’s still a snail.
  3. I love shrimp, but I will not eat lobster. If someone around me orders lobster, I make clawing motions with my hands and say “help me” in a high-pitched voice so as to shame them for eating something that could live for years and years in the ocean.
  4. I also will not eat lamb or veal. Do you know how they make veal? If you did, then you couldn’t possibly eat it.
  5. I love chocolate. I have tried to give up chocolate many times as it is not good for my headaches, and it is full of calories, but it keeps coming back and jumping into my mouth when I’m not looking.

    kayaking-at-first-landing-state-park-by-karen-roberts
    Kayaking at First Landing State Park by Karen Roberts
  6. The last time I was timed, I typed 126 words a minute. That was a long time ago, and I type much faster now.
  7. I have gone kayaking, and actually really enjoyed it. If I had the opportunity, I would own my own kayak and use it on the Chesapeake Bay.
  8. I like to go hiking in the foothills of Virginia, but I haven’t done it since I hurt my back. My ex and I once went hiking/camping with some friends of ours. The girl wore penny loafers to go hiking. That was her idea of old shoes. I ended up carrying the guy’s pack on the hike back. Not outdoor people.
  9. I love my dogs and treat them like children. Dogs are meant to be loved and talked to. People who abuse dogs should be put in jail as far as I’m concerned. A man who will beat a dog will beat a child or a woman. Don’t ever believe any differently.
  10. I enjoy the smell of fresh cut lilacs, rosemary, gardenias, and lavender.
  11. Butterflies are small miracles.
  12. tiger-swallowtail-on-lantana
    Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana by L. Liwag
  13. My three children, who are no longer small, are still my pride and joy, even when they screw up. After all, who doesn’t screw up once in a while?
  14. I would love to have more children, even though I am considered past my childbearing years. But what does that mean, anyway? I really don’t care.
  15. If I could live anywhere in the world, I would live somewhere where I could see water and mountains at the same time.
  16. I believe in nationalized medicine and a flat tax rate.
  17. I am a liberal liberal. I don’t mind paying more taxes if it means that there will be better schools and better healthcare. My only protest against paying more taxes is that I want the rich to pay their fair share, too, and to stop having so many loopholes so that they end up paying less than those of us in the middle of the road.
  18. I miss my father every day of every week of every year. I see him in my dreams often. I believe that he is looking out for me as best he can.
  19. When I was at the beach once, I asked god for a sign that things were going to be all right, and then the waves pulled back, and a perfect shell was there at my feet.
  20. I believe in angels.
  21. I wish that I remembered more from my publishing class on computer systems, but it was such a painful experience the first time that I think that I have blocked everything that I managed to learn.
  22. I love Beowulf (not the movie, the written version)
  23. I wish that I looked like Angelina Jolie, but I wish more that I had her ability to go to poor countries and do something for the people who live there.
  24. angelina-jolie-goodwill-ambassador
    Angelina Jolie as Goodwill Ambassador
  25. I collect stuffed bears, and I buy the ones who look like they need a home.
  26. I have a calendar fetish. I always have at least three calendars of my own: one next to my desk, one in my purse, and one in the kitchen. If I had more places to put them, I would have more.
  27. I am a speed reader, but I don’t scan in order to read more quickly. For example, I read each of the Harry Potter Books, even the longest one, in just one day.
  28. I have read The Lord of the Rings more times than I can remember.
  29. The English Patient is one of the most beautiful books ever written, and the movie is still one of my favorites.
  30. I get silly drunk about two times a year, but otherwise, I drink very seldom.
  31. I don’t do illegal drugs, and the worst thing I ever did when I was a teenager was speed, and I hated the way that it made me feel.
  32. I love to learn. I have one bachelor’s degree, and two master’s degrees. I would go for another degree in a heartbeat.
  33. I miss being in the front of the classroom but not enough to teach in the Norfolk Public School system.
  34. I’ve never been in a girl fight. How utterly stupid.
  35. I am very sentimental. I can cry at a Hallmark commercial, a Lifetime movie, or a YouTube clip. Sarah McLachlan’s commercials about animals in shelters just kills me.
  36. I am fiercely loyal and protective.
  37. I am an Aquarius.
  38. Eamonn and Caitlin’s birthdays are within ten days of each other in March (Pisces); Alexis and Brett’s birthdays are within three days of each other in July (Cancer).
  39. It’s far easier to give birth in March than in July.
  40. I’m not afraid of needles, as in having blood drawn, but I hate it when I get someone who is not good at putting in an IV. That hurts.
  41. I talk back to the computer and other inanimate objects. I also carry on conversations with other drivers, but they don’t know it.
  42. I love coffee and hot tea. I drink cream in most types of hot tea except for Earl Gray and Oolong.
  43. claire-lerner-blue-tea-cup1
    "Blue Tea Cup," by Claire Lerner
  44. My favorite dessert is Tiramisu, followed closely by real New York cheesecake.
  45. I used to be a shopaholic but have since reformed, for a variety of reasons.
  46. I believe that psychopharmaceuticals were developed for a reason and that no one should be ashamed of having to take them.
  47. I hate it when people jump to conclusions.
  48. I have a terrible habit of correcting other people’s English.
  49. My husband is younger than I am, and when we first got together, no one thought that it would last. We’ve been together for nine years, and it is the best relationship of my life.
  50. My mother is without a doubt the one person in this world who can get to me more than anyone else. She knows exactly what buttons to push.
  51. I wish that Alexis believed in herself more, but at this point, I have to let her be who she is and try not to interfere.
  52. My last beta, Mulder, decided that he didn’t like me and wouldn’t look at me any more. I took it very personally. He doesn’t live here any more.
  53. blue-beta
    Blue Beta: Mulder Did Not Look Like This
  54. I am hooked on crime shows: CSI, Without a Trace, Law & Order. I do not like sitcoms.
  55. Heidi Klum is über gorgeous, especially when she is pregnant.
  56. American society is fixated on how people look and doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to educating its children.
  57. Someday, I want to go to Australia, Ireland, and Greece.
  58. I love to take pictures but don’t like to have my picture taken.
  59. Cruises cease to be fun when you run out of money.
  60. My big goal in life is to be debt-free and to have good credit again.
  61. All of my children inherited my propensity for depression as I inherited it from my father. Sometimes genetics really sucks.
  62. I wish that Mari lived nearby so that we could spend time together again.
  63. I need to get off my ass and put together my book, but I am too scared of the whole rejection process.  
  64. point-woronzof-sunset-2-by-janson-jones
    Point Woronzof Sunset by Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana
  65. I managed a newsroom when I was 19-years-old.
  66. One day, I will figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
  67. Ending sentences in a preposition really bothers me.
  68. I love to use quotations by other people in my own work. It helps me to focus.
  69. I love sunsets and sunrises. I cannot think of anything more beautiful than a painted sky.
  70. I miss getting dressed, putting on make-up and going to work everyday. I love make-up.
  71. I hate dreaming that I am at work.
  72. I believe that men and women can be friends, but sooner or later, sex tries to get in the way.
  73. I love music: classical, pop, classic rock, country, new age (whatever the hell that means), opera, blues, even some hard rock.
  74. My birthstone is garnet, which I love, but I also love pearls, aquamarines, and diamonds.
  75. One day, I am going to have a big diamond ring, just because.
  76. I used to love to wear hats, but now I just look silly.
  77. I have long wavy hair, and I would like a new hairstyle, but I look like a monkey when I have short hair.
  78. I usually eat one big meal a day (dinner), and maybe a snack, but I cannot lose weight. I hate that.
  79. I can be very impatient, which can lead to my being snarky, especially when I’m driving.
  80. I find that I always end up telling Corey where to park, even though he doesn’t need my help. I wonder why I do that?speed-limit-sign
  81. I speed on the interstate, but I obey the speed limit in the city.
  82. I desperately need a new old car that is just mine because Eamonn ruined Izzie the Trooper, and it smells like cigarettes.
  83. I love ankle bracelets and earrings, and I love watches, but am down to about four now that still work.
  84. I smoked during college exams, but I hate cigarettes, and cigarette smoke.
  85. I don’t look my age, but that is because of good genes and Oil of Olay Regenerist, and I don’t ever tell people how old I really am.
  86. Writing my blog posts is my daily therapy.
  87. Both Shakes and Tillie snore, but Tillie snores louder. I snore louder than anyone in the house.
  88. I hate my body. I feel like a sausage most of the time.
  89. I really love shoes and boots, especially boots.
  90. I wear Christmas socks all year long.
  91. We are not friendly with most of our neighbors. I wonder why.
  92. I have never really wanted to own a horse, but I have considered living on an old farm.
  93. I am a hoarder when it comes to books and sentimental things like old cards and letters.
  94. I used to own a yard tractor and would mow the yard in my bathing suit. Of course, that was when I was in good shape. My nasty neighbor to my left thought that it was scandolous.
  95. I hold a grudge, expecially if I feel that I have been wronged unfairly.
  96. I think about revenge, but have never actually taken it.
  97. Bad manners offend me, and my sons know this and use it to drive me crazy.
  98. I wash my hands a lot, but I don’t think that I am OCD about it.
  99. One day, my bedroom will finally be painted, and I will be able to put in my new furniture.
  100. I like antiques even though my mother calls them “tired, old things” and believes that people should move on.  
  101. yoda-1
    Original Yoda
  102. I have a hard time moving on, and don’t adjust to change very well.
  103. I like the first three Star Wars movies (chronologically) a lot better than the last three (numerically).
  104. Corey brings me a cup of hot mint tea every night before bed. Isn’t that thoughtful?
  105. I am a pantheist: I believe that god, some kind of god, exists in all things: people, animals, trees, water, and that if we listen carefully enough, we can become one with all things in nature.
  106. One day, I will finally go on a poetry retreat.
  107.  

That’s quite enough for today. Peace.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Insomnia Leads to Bad Television Habits

“Last night I dreamed I had insomnia. I woke up exhausted, yet too well rested to go back to sleep.”

~ Bob Ingman

Every once in a while, when I cannot get to sleep and I have already seen the episodes of “Without a Trace” and “CSI” that are on at 2 in the morning, I’ll try to find something else to watch on television that will bore me enough so that I can fall asleep. That is when I find bizarre programs like “Bridezillas” on WE. I’m not even sure what network WE is, but I must admit that the show “Bridezillas” and its companion show “Platinum Wedding” or something like that are really something to behold, especially if you are looking for polar extremes.

bridezilla
WE's Show "Bridezillas"

Apparently, “Bridezillas” is television’s answer to “Cops” for women. I haven’t seen behavior like this since I taught middle school for one year. These women actually do things on this show that cause the censor bleep button to have to be used repeatedly. One wedding, and I’m using the term very loosely here, used shotgun shells as part of the decor. In another, the bride left her rehearsal dinner to go to the store and returned two and a half hours later. All of her guests were gone, and her fiance was a tad upset. She managed to turn the whole thing around to an impeachment on her guests’ impatience. The show is like an accident waiting to happen, and the viewer wants to turn away but just can’t because it’s only going to be worse, which means that it will only get better.

One bride’s rehearsal in the church turned into such a fray with the groom-to-be’s side of the family that the priest actually had to ask them to leave. Another bride-to-be gave the wrong location to her bridal party on where they were supposed to get their nails done, and then she had the audacity to throw a tantrum because half of her party didn’t show. She got on her phone and told them all that they were out of the wedding because they “didn’t care enough to support her on her big day.” At this point, I’d be thanking my lucky stars that I was out of the wedding party, but no, the bridesmaids always want back in. What, are they crazy?

But the best one was the bride who got upset when her nephew turned up missing during the reception. Everything stopped so that everyone could search for him. The bride threw herself on the couch and had a complete meltdown because no one was paying any attention to her. Luckily, the boy was found safely and all eyes could be turned back on the bride before her makeup was smudged. I’m not making this up.

In “Platinum Weddings,” viewers are treated to weddings that are examples of the most incredible examples of conspicuous consumption known to man. Everything from traditional Indian weddings in which the groom rides in on an elephant, to weddings in which the lighting alone costs $50,000. One wedding had a drink that was designed especially for the bride and groom to be served at their after dinner cocktail bar and dance room. Of course, fireworks were set off at the appropriate time. Cakes can cost upwards of $50,000, and the flowers can run anywhere from $25,000 to $250,000. Where do these people live? On Venus?

Needless to say, I don’t fall asleep when I watch these shows because I get caught up in the complete idiocy of the whole thing and end up watching three episodes in a row. I then find myself totally disgusted with myself and feel as though I need a bath to wash off the excess in which I have immersed myself.

One day, I was unable to get out of bed at all, and I watched an entire season of “America’s Next Top Model” from beginning to end. Usually on days like these I read, but my head hurt too much, so I tuned the television to something inane, hoping that it would put me to sleep. Of course, the reverse happened. I found myself watching the progression of these 14 or so candidates, slowly being weaned down to the final 3, then 2. I had a personal favorite, and I had one candidate that I particularly disliked. Why? Why did it matter to me? Was the winner going to go on to find a cure for AIDS?

I mean, Tyra Banks is a multi-millionaire. She has managed to turn her career as a model/Victoria’s Secret runway model into a television icon. She’s savvy, and she’s incredibly full of herself. The show is just as much about Banks as it is about the women who are competing. Tyra is always talking about how she did this for this photographer and that for said designer. Supposedly, it’s a lesson for the gawky young women who are learning to become models. And you do see some of them break out and change from show to show, but really, what’s the point? The two Jays are more interesting than the models. Trying to figure out what bizarre outfit Tyra is going to wear to judging is more interesting than some of the photo shoots. I can sleep through two episodes, wake up, and still not have missed much.

I suppose that is the point of reality television. There is no point, and to try to find one is an exercise in futility. I know that there are people out there who love their reality television. I just don’t happen to be one of them. I’ve never watched one episode of “The Real Life” or “The Surreal Life” or “Survivor” or “The Great Race.” My daughter tells me that “Jon and Kate Plus 8” is a nice show, but the thought of eight children scares the crap out of me. We did watch “Holmes on Homes” for a while to get some tips on home renovation, but that got too depressing when we ran out of money to continue renovating.

I will admit to loving “Project Runway” because I love Tim Gunn, and for some odd reason, I like “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” I think that it’s because Vicki is insane, and I’m waiting for her children to snap on her. I don’t like the other Housewives shows. They were bizarre knock-offs. But late-night reality shows are an entity all their own. I once was flipping through the channels and came upon some kind of dating show on which one man and three women went on a date, or something like that. I cannot remember the name of it, nor do I particularly want to. Five minutes of the Barbie-like verisimilitude, and I thought that I might be going mad. The women were flaky, too.

I suppose what makes late-night television interesting is that I haven’t seen it before in the way that I’ve seen every episode of Law & Order, Law & Order Criminal Intent, Law & Order SVU, and CSI. Whenever there is a Law & Order marathon on, I’ll watch, but I will fall asleep. The whole idea of watching television to cure my insomnia isn’t always truthful on my part. Maybe I’m watching just because I’m bored and because I don’t want to get out of bed to peruse our extensive DVD collection to figure out what I could put on the player.

theghost
Asia Extreme "The Ghost"

Which brings me to another point: I will watch good movies over and over again, but I have to be in the right mood for a particular movie. For example, right now, I’m in a vampire/horror mood. I’m watching the Blade movies, Saw (all of them), and maybe others, but not zombies (zombies freak me out). I have discovered Asia Extreme movies on Sundance, and I really like them. I’m not really sure as to why, but part of it is that the movies can be pretty darn scary, and I haven’t seen all of them before. I think the other part is that almost all of them are based on some kind of ghost story, which is better than a slasher story any day.

What does all of this have to do with sleeping? Nothing, except that after watching scary movies, I can go to sleep and not have nightmares. Odd, huh? You would think that I would, but I don’t. I think that it’s because my brain knows that between an Asia Extreme movie and an episode of “Bridezilla,” the episode of “Bridezilla” is definitely the scarier of the two because it’s real. There are real women out there behaving that badly and thinking that it’s perfectly acceptable to treat people like crap simply because they are getting married.

Personally, I can really understand why some men run from the alter. If I were marrying some of these women, I’d get my butt in the closest pickup truck and floor it to the next state, change my name, shave my head, grow a beard, and go to work in a field that required me to be out of the country for extended periods. Those women on that show are crazy. It’s Cops on progesterone.

I’ll watch a scary movie any day. I find them to be much more soothing and less anxiety-filled. I kid you not. But lately, I like my new technique of trying to go to sleep: I turn on my latest bedtime music playlist, turn on one of the soothing visualizations on my great big screen, and turn off the television. The dogs seem to like it, not that they really care as long as I stay still long enough for them to get comfortable under the covers. And then I try to let Hypnos carry me off to sleep so that Morpheus can bring me dreams.

“Come, cuddle your head on my shoulder, dear, your head like the golden-rod,

and we will go sailing away from here to the beautiful land of Nod.”

~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

More later. Peace.

I Vant To Be Alone . . .

Hermits, Eremites, Anchorites, or Just Plain Recluses?

aran-islands-hermits-cave
Aran Islands Hermit's Cave, Ireland

I’ve been contemplating hermits. You know, those people, usually men, sometimes women, who go off and live by themselves. (The word hermit comes from the Greek word erēmos, which means desert or uninhabited; hence “desert-dweller”; adjective: “eremitic”; (Wikipedia)).  Hermits have been around since the 3rd century AD, and their associations have traditionally been religious. Originally, Christian hermits would live in huts or caves, called hermitages, in the desert or forest, and they were sought for spiritual advice, which kind of negated the whole solitude concept. (Here in Norfolk, we have a museum called The Hermitage, which has nothing to do with hermits, and that’s always kind of bothered me, but I digress.)

By the Middle Ages, the hermit’s life had changed in that it had become more anchored to the Christian church, thus the term anchorite. Instead of living in forests or deserts, many anchorites were actually walled into mud or brick attachments on the sides of the churches with a window opening into the church so that the anchorite could receive holy communion and another window open to the street to receive donations of food. I suppose that this allowed for more of the life sought by the Christian eremite, which was to be in total praise and devotion to his god.

tigers-den-buddhist-monastery
Tiger's Den Buddhist Monastery in the Himalayas

Of course, there were and are many kinds of hermits, not just the Christian ascetics. For example, Buddhist monks and nuns seek solitude for meditation, contemplation, and prayer. They prefer to life without the distractions of modern society or sex, and their lives follow a regimen of a simplified diet without meat, drugs, or alcohol. Buddhist monasteries and temples can be found all over the world, with an expected preponderance in China, but also from every place from Queensland, Australia, to Slovenia, to Oregon, to Chile and Bali.

Then there are the hermits who have no religious affiliations, the ones who are hermits simply because they choose to live a reclusive life apart from the rest of society.

When I was about 17, I contemplated becoming a nun. Now, given that I’m not Catholic and was not raised Catholic, you might find this a somewhat interesting declaration. I had a very good male friend in my teens who I may have mentioned before, and he was pretty much my sounding board throughout my teens and college years. We have known each other since the fourth grade, so I trust his judgment, even though he was a Republican for almost forever. So when I made the statement that I thought that I might like to become a nun, his response was to raise an eyebrow and wait.

These were my reasons: Let me preface this by saying that I find the Catholic religion particularly sexist, so I really have a hard time with that part of it, which I know pretty much disqualifies me from the start, but I love the rituals of it: the incense, the candles, the kneeling, the holy water. I wish that they still said the mass in Latin, not that I understand Latin, mind you. I loved the idea of being a nun and not having to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I mean, bingo, you’re married to god, you have a vocation, your wardrobe is chosen for you, you never have a bad hair day.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to be flippant. These really were my reasons. I was 17, and I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my life. It had nothing to do with religion. I loved the idea of being cloistered. I had not idea that I might have to teach school children or anything like that. I just wanted to be away from the rest of the world, and I didn’t know how to go about being a hermit, and I wasn’t sure if you could still actually do that, at least not in America. I knew that they still had hermits in England, or at least, I thought that they did.

My friend listened to my reasons, and then very calmly pointed out two main flaws in my plan: First, I wasn’t Catholic. And second, I wasn’t particularly religious or even spiritual at that point in my life. As he said, he thought that I needed to be at least one of those or to at least have some kind of “calling,” as he put it.

I cannot say that I was surprised. Disappointed yes, but surprised, no. It has seemed like a good idea at the time, and one that I revisited from time to time, especially when I was feeling as if I did not want to be of this world, if that makes any sense.

Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of finding a monastery to go to for an extended retreat. I have heard of one that is in the foothills of Virginia somewhere, but I have never actively looked for it. I suppose that I have never given up on the idea of the monastic retreat even if I cannot live the lifestyle full time, which, in reality, I know that I cannot. I mean, I am already pretty much of a hermit already. Since going on disability, I have retreated from the trappings of life by choice, and I cannot say that I miss it all that much.

I miss going to school and learning new concepts and new information on an ongoing basis, but my computer is my lifeline to information, and I am tapped in 24/7. When I cannot sleep, I surf. I watch MSNBC for new political information, and I watch Law & Order, Without a Trace, and CSI for my doses of crime drama. That much hasn’t changed. I still like to eat out once in a while, and I would love an occasional night out for karaoke, but other than that, the world outside my bedroom doesn’t beckon to me in the way that it used to.

hermits-cave-quarry-bank-garden
Hermit's Cave Quarry Bank Garden

If we had the money, I would still like to take a trip once a year to a new country just for the experience, but a trip to a mall? Not so much. The movies? I really resent paying $30 for tickets and drinks and popcorn when I can pay $4 on cable in a month. Now a museum? In a heartbeat, but I would need to be in a new city for that. The symphony? I would probably get out of my pajamas for that. But just going out to go out? My hermit tendencies kick in, as do my curmudgeonly feelings about people in crowded stores like Wal Mart and the like.

If I had been around in the Middle Ages, and I believe that I probably was, I think that I would have liked to have been a hermit, probably one who lived in a stick hut in the forest. That sounds about right. And my name would have been something like Leonid of Aghast and I definitely would have been a misanthrope.

I’ll get into the whole idea of reincarnation and my thoughts about past lives and Zen and Karma and getting it right in another posting. But just one parting thought on that one. Why does everyone who believes in reincarnation believe that they were someone great like Napoleon or Marie Antoinette? I mean, why isn’t anyone ever a chambermaid or a stable boy or something like that? Just a thought.

As always, there will be more later. Peace.