“For doing exactly what you think you like all the time makes you feel in the end that nothing at all is worth doing.” ~ John Piper

 Album Cover Art for Brandenburg Concertos, by John Piper

                   

“To me, dreams are not as romantic as bits of real experience.” ~ John Piper

"Death of Venice 1," by John Piper (1973)

Welcome back. I’m sitting here in the pseudo Internet cafe of ODU’s student center waiting for Brett to finish his club meeting. He’s joined an anime club that meets every Thursday evening from 6 to 10 p.m. I’m so happy that he’s actually meeting new people on his own that I have agreed to drive him back and forth to the meetings (in addition to the commute to classes).

Tonight, since Corey’s shift doesn’t end until midnight, I decided to stay here and go ahead and catch up on my Internet work, the primary goal being to make a final decision on which theme I’m going to use for a while and secondly, to put up some kind of post.

As you can see from the header above, I have chosen the theme Vigilance, which puts the title of the blog on the header image. I haven’t done this before, but I think that the title looks pretty cool atop my new image, which is a detail from a work by British artist John Egerton Christmas Piper (1902-1992). The image title is included in a widget on the sidebar.

I thought that a new header image was in order for two reasons: Fall is upon us, and a new theme needs a new look.

“Good paintings in the long run tell their own story—though not in words—for those who have intent eyes, an open mind, and much patience.” ~ John Piper

"Forthinghay, Northamptonshire," by John Piper (1941; image was seen on the living room wall of Dial M for Murder)

So this evening’s post obviously has a Piper theme: quotes and images. I was unfamiliar with this particular artist until I saw the header image on a tumblr post and was immediately taken with it.  

Just a bit of background on Piper: He was born in Epsom Surrey and knew that he wanted to be an artist; unfortunately, he was subjected to that time-honored but often loathed tradition of working for his father as a clerk in the patriarch’s law firm. Eventually, Piper went to art school, ultimately attending the Royal Academy.

Piper’s oeuvre is amazingly far-reaching: sketches, paintings, lithography, prints, scenery design, costumes for opera, ballet, and theater, murals, stained glass, tapestries, and fabric. Piper was keenly interested in landscapes and architecture—other people’s architecture, preferably aged. He once commented that he would “rather paint a ruined abbey half-covered with ivy and standing in long grass.”

“The spread of moss on a wall, a pattern of vineyards or a perspective of hop-fields may be the peg, but it is not hop-poles or vineyards or church towers that these pictures are meant to be about, but the emotion generated by them at one moment in one special plane.” ~ John Piper

"The Glyders Fabric," by John Piper (1960)

One of the more irksome aspects of working on a computer in a public setting is the complete lack of privacy (obviously), but also the inability to tweak the settings on the computer. This particular screen is about half the size of my screen at home, so everything looks smaller to me.

One of the reasons that I changed themes again was that the other theme seemed to be very large (visually) as far as the body typeface, and since I’m not paying for an upgrade to tweak the coding, I’m stuck with the presets. On another note, I’ve noticed that as I’ve moved between themes, the heading sizes are completely inconsistent, so something labeled header 4 in one theme is just right for my internal headers, but then turns into something ginormous when I switch themes.

The perfectionist in me wants to go back to all previous posts and fix the headers and formatting so that everything is consistent, but that would take forever. It just bothers me because someone new to my blog who goes back into the archives might wonder if I was doing some serious drugs when I formatted some of the older posts as things go from very large to very small.

It’s hard to explain exactly, but I know that the differences exist, so that’s enough to drive me batty even though no one else really notices.

“The value of abstract painting to me, and the value of surrealist painting are to me, are (paradoxically, if you like) that they are classical exercises, not romantic expressions. They are disciplines—even dreams can be disciplinarian—which open a road to ones own heart—but they are not the heart itself.” ~ John Piper

"Spring, Youth, Earth" by John Piper (a study for an Ipswich School window)

Today was my hearing with the Judge who will decide my fate as regards Social Security. The lawyer representing me for the insurance company did a great job in preparing me for the hearing. We had already spent an hour on the phone last week, during which time she asked me a barrage of questions, things that I don’t really think about or things that I take for granted. For example, she asked me how long I stand in one place.

I don’t know . . . 15 minutes? Whatever. Have you ever thought about how long you can stand in one place? Didn’t think so. Apparently, it’s a very important measure of something.

So the hearing was supposed to take 30 minutes. We started about 10 minutes late and finished almost an hour later . . . There was some woman in the hearing (don’t really know who she was) who, I am presuming, functioned as some kind of official on jobs. By that I mean after I answered all of the judge’s questions, and after Christine asked me a bunch more questions to clarify certain issues, the judge turns to this woman and asks her what kinds of jobs I would qualify for.

I don’t know where the Department of Labor gets its statistics and descriptions, but boy are they wrong. For example, this woman stated that my position as a sales manager was sedentary. If I had been drinking something at the time, I’m pretty sure that it would have come out of my nose.

Sedentary? Jeez. I worked 60 hours a week on that job, and sitting down was something we did when we made the schedules. Other than that, there was a whole lot of running around, and lots and lots of lifting.

The phrase usual and customary kept running through my head, and I just bit my tongue.

“That, in whatever direction you look, is a subject worthy of contemporary painting. Pure abstraction is undernourished. It should at least be allowed to feed bare on a beach with tins and broken bottles.” ~ John Piper

"Leckhampstead, Berkshire" by John Piper (1964)

Christine (my legal representative) gave me one of those cautionary glances, as in “don’t lose it,” and I kept my mouth shut. Then Christine redirected and asked the women if any of the positions that she had listed would allow for two hours stretches in which I would have to be idle in order to rest as a result of pain (either from my back or from a migraine).

Obviously, the answer is no. Nevertheless, I won’t know anything for 30 to 90 days.

What’s up with that? It takes that long to make a decision. Why? Again with the waiting. I am so damned tired of the waiting. At least I don’t have to do any more forms . . . that is, I think that I don’t have to do any more forms.

I probably should not have put that down in print since the way in which my luck runs, I will probably receive a sheaf of forms in a large manila envelope any day.

The bottom line is that I felt, and Christine concurred, that the hearing went fairly well. I answered questions and elaborated as needed, and I reined in my tendency to get snotty when I’m tired of answering questions. So that hurdle has been crossed. Now, more waiting.

Do I even need to mention for the record that I had a migraine when it was all over?

That’s about all for now. This tiny screen is making me squint and I’ve started to cuss under my breath (always a sign that I should stop).

I appreciate all of the support from those of you out there who have kept a good thought for me. Thanks for hanging in with me. I didn’t disappear (completely). Hope to be posting more regularly now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Soulsavers, “Some Misunderstanding”

“All is flux; nothing stays still.” ~ Heraclitus

True Pathway of Life by Feathered Tary (Flckr Creative Commons)

                      

“Sometimes in life, from out of a myriad of prosaic decisions like what to eat and where to sleep and how to dress, a true crossroads is revealed. In these moments, when the fog of relative irrelevancy lifts and fate rolls out a demand for free will, there is only left or right”. ~ J. R. Ward
The Bamboo Forest by Trey Ratliff (http://www.stuckincustoms.com/)

My hearing with Social Security is coming up on September 16, and I believe that I am beginning to panic. After all, that hearing is going to be a live-altering event.  I mean, if SS determines that yes, I am in fact disabled, then I go on their roster of disabled people. It makes it official—government official.  

The fear of being officially classified as a nonfunctioning member of society is causing me to look at the job listings with George Washington. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, wandering aimlessly through job listings, thinking about what I could do.  

But time for total truth: Would I be able to do it—it being return to the job force full-time, rejoin the lot of functioning, productive members of society?I honestly don’t know, and probably wouldn’t know until I tried. But the catch 22, the big iron in the works, so to speak, is that if I tried and found that I couldn’t do it, then what? Start the entire process again? Would that even be a possibility?  

Hence, my panic. I remember my mother used to repeat a phrase when she was perplexed: “What to do? What to do?” Exactly. Précisément.  

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” ~ Lewis Carroll
Doorways Neuville: Number One or Number Two?

A person could go mad in the face of such a conundrum: choose to act, and the possible failure has innumerable ramifications, but choose not to act, and the acquiescence may lead to the ultimate loss of self.  

Search your soul . . . Let your conscience be your guide . . . In the end, you’ll do what’s right . . .  

Really? Seriously? Being in this position make me realize acutely why some people consult psychics, have their palms read, have a Tarot card reading: Just tell me what’s going to come, and I’ll know what decision to make.  

Sorry, but no. Back to that whole free will concept: Each individual possesses the ability to control his or her fate by choosing a course of action from among alternatives; whether or not free will is connected to moral responsibility depends upon the individual. That being said, the concept of free will implies being responsible for one’s actions as a result of being accorded the freedom to choose.. However, as most philosophers point out, the concept of free will is illusory in that whether or not the individual succeeds in carrying out actions decided upon depends on a number of factors beyond that individual’s control.  

Or at least, that’s how I perceive it to be.  

“Although every man believes that his decisions and resolutions involve the most multifarious factors, in reality they are mere oscillation between flight and longing.” ~ Herman Broch
Stair Pathways on Hillsides of Valparaiso, Chile

The sticking point for me, then, is that if I do what I most want to do, that is, try to go back to work, possibly work on another degree, then I am subjecting my family to risk. That and the fact that I decide, but many factors out there loom beyond my control.  

The positives of trying to go back to work: 

  • Improved self-worth from feeling as if I am doing something productive
  • Increased family income, thereby helping to move us out of this never-ending miasma
  • Having health insurance paid for by the company instead of self-paying
  • Depending more on myself to get things done
  • Possibly feeling better when my mind has other things on which to dwell

The negatives of trying to go back to work:  

  • Working again and finding out that my body cannot tolerate the activity
  • Not being around full-time for Brett while he is beginning college, or being available to my family on a full-time basis
  • The costs involved in going back to work: purchasing another vehicle, travel, wardrobe
  • Having to go out on disability again and possibly not being able to get coverage
  • Having to pay back debts that were forgiven when I went on disability

I did not put having time to write on either of these lists as my experience in the past few years has shown me that I will write whether or not I have the time depending on my need to say something. In all of the time that I have been out on disability, I still have not put together my book, which is what I said that I would do. That in itself is telling.  

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~ M. Scott Peck
 Pathway bridge in Saharna Moldova, by Guttorm Flatabo

                      

As some of you may realize, I write my way through, the logic being that as I put the words to page, my mind processes and sifts, allowing me to arrive at some kind of logical conclusion, and if not a conclusion, then at least a moment to pause. Having written about decisions countless times, I can say that at this moment, I am not more certain as to what I should do than when I began this post.  

No great truth has come to me. At least, I don’t believe that it has. I heard a homily or proverb one time that went something like this: If you toss a coin in the air to help you make a decision, pause as the coin is in the air to reveal to yourself which outcome you were hoping for. Kind of like truth in a fortune cookie.  

I know what I want to do, but so many things make me afraid to take this route, not the least of which is how much pain I am in from concentrating so hard on getting these words out.  

Best five out of six . . . any words of wisdom would be appreciated.  

“There are no prescriptive solutions, no grand designs for grand problems. Life’s solutions lie in the minute particulars involving more and more individual people daring to create their own life and art, daring to listen to the voice within their deepest, original nature, and deeper still, the voice within the earth.”
~ Stephen Nachmanovitch 

More later. Peace.  

Music by Dryer, “Seen Enough”  

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Norma Desmond

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard

 

Joe Gillis: “You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.” 
Norma Desmond: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” ~ From Sunset Boulevard

No post yesterday as I could think of absolutely nothing interesting to say.  Hate it when that happens.

A few bits and pieces for my Friday Leftovers:

One of my favorite bloggers has taken down her blog. I deleted it from my blogroll today and have to say that it gave me a pang of sadness to do so. She is a wonderful writer and has a great turn with words. I’m hoping that she will reconsider and come back with a new iteration. Although I must admit that I understand too well her comment about how she feels that her blog has become too whiney. I often feel that way myself, although, it doesn’t stop me from continuing to whine and post. Perhaps she has the right idea . . . Just a thought.

I’ve been reading the latest on what Junior Senator Al Franken of Minnesota is doing, and boy am I glad that he was finally sworn in. The man is incredibly intelligent and is working quickly to make a name for himself. In one article, Franken took to task conservative economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth for claiming that the Democrats’ healthcare reforms would increase the number of bankruptcies filed for medical reasons. As Franken pointed out, countries with national healthcare, such as Switzerland, Germany, and France had exactly zero bankruptcies due to medical crises last year. So nice when sweeping generalizations are countered with cold, hard facts.

Sunset Boulevard Movie Poster
Movie Poster for Sunset Boulevard

In my ongoing quest to add new titles to my music playlists, I have downloaded some songs from the movie Across the Universe, which features covers of Beatles’ songs. Even though the Beatles still rank as one of my favorite bands, I am not a Beatle elitist, and I really enjoy a good cover. I’m including one of my favorites at the end of this post. It’s by Fiona Apple, who has a wonderful voice. The song is actually not from the movie but from the television show “Smallville,” but it is a Beatles’ cover nonetheless.

I have asked Corey to go through the storage bins again and find me some new-old reading material. I haven’t read a book in almost two weeks, and I’m going through withdrawal. Of course, for most of those days, I couldn’t read because of the blasted migraine, but the pain has settled into just a general tight discomfort, so I want to read. In particular, I’m craving my Ann Rule books. If you like a tightly-written true crime novel, she is the best in her genre.

Speaking of migraines, I think that I’m clenching my teeth again. Actually, I’m sure of it. When I first wake up, my jaw is very tight, and it hurts, just like it used to years ago when I was clenching and grinding in my sleep. I actually had two jaw surgeries because of my TMJ. I hope that just by being aware of it now I can reteach myself not to clench. No more surgeries for me.

Last week this time it was about 46° F outside. Today it’s about 80° F. I love this area. It’s just a hotbed for extremes, which wreaks havoc on the sinuses. Common saying about Tidewater/Hampton Roads: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few hours.”

I glanced at the calendar today, and am completely mystified as to how it is October already, let alone almost Halloween. I am so not ready for the holidays. I hope to make it through November reasonably well this year, but I never know. November is such a horrible month for me—too many bad anniversaries. Here’s hoping that I don’t crash and burn like I did last November.

Norma Desmond: “There once was a time in this business when I had the eyes of the whole world! But that wasn’t good enough for them, oh no! They had to have the ears of the whole world too. So they opened their big mouths and out came talk. Talk! TALK!” ~ From Sunset Boulevard

Another political aside: Darth Dick Cheney received the Center for Security Policy’s Keeper of the Flame Award. Looking on and listening to Cheney were convicted felon Scooter Libby and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Great company. Essentially, the speech was filled with more of Cheney’s nonsensical commentary about how life was safe under Bush and Cheney (for, and I quote, “seven years, four months, and nine days”) and life is horrible now because . . . well . . . Obama hasn’t resolved the war in Afghanistan that Cheney started . . . This administration isn’t using the former administration’s review of the eight-year-old war. I believe the word dithering was used. Hmm, if Cheney had such a great plan to end the war, why didn’t he do it when he was in office? Why did requests for more troops sit unanswered for eight months? Why was Afghanistan clearly relegated to secondary status after Iraq? But most importantly, why is this man still speaking, and why are people still listening? “Keeper of the Flame”? More like perpetuator of flaming discord. Beh.

One more: When I mentioned earlier that I didn’t think that President Obama’s White House should openly engage in a fracas with Fox Noise, I said that the publicity would only encourage them. Boy was I right, and not in a good way. People: Calm Down. Some of you need to be reminded that the Bush administration regularly neglected to allow commentators and news people from networks and radio stations that were perceived to be too liberal or anti-Bush. Whenever W. invited talk radio hosts to the White House, liberal hosts were never included, but conservative braniacs like Glenn Beck were. In the last two years of the administration, NBC, and MSNBC were regularly left off lists. And dare I mention that little tidbit about how W.’s communications people paid journalists to ask questions? Remember Jeff Gannon of the questionable Talon News? ‘Nuff said.

Sending good luck wishes across the world to Australia for Maureen of White Orchid, who is waiting to hear about her new job, and her daughter Prue, who is scheduled for surgery. A stressful time for everyone. Hoping that everything turns out well.

On this front, still waiting to see if Social Security is going to approve my disability claim this time. Had to send them additional information. Have I mentioned before how much I love bureaucracies and paper work?

Someone please explain to me why it would be bad to have healthcare for everyone who needs it? I know that we aren’t going to get exactly what we need, but if we get nothing again this time, then I am going to work my butt off in the campaign to rescind healthcare for Congress at no cost. Why do they deserve healthcare, but everyone else does not? And don’t try to tell me that this statement and the one above contradict each other. I would gladly fill out forms if it meant that I was getting somewhere. It’s the constant completion of forms without any forward progress that irks me.

President Obama is coming to Virginia on Tuesday on behalf of Democratic candidate for governor Creigh Deeds. About time, I say. I’m not really sure why Obama waited so long to get involved in this race as it’s a big one. Virginia almost always goes with a Republican governor when the President is a Democrat. This time, we had a chance to keep a Democrat, yet Obama has not done much in the way of supporting Deeds. You would think that he would have worked harder to retain a state that went blue for the first time since 1964.

Windows has come out with Windows 7. Excuse me, but I still can’t use this frigging Windows Vista without my computer locking up at least once a day. Windows XP was a wonderful operating system. I loved it, loved everything about it, considered it the best since Windows 95. What is it with Windows? I know, Macs are better, but who can afford a Mac? If they weren’t so blasted expensive, I’d say convert all of the PC’s to Macs, but of course, that is completely out of the question. Corey likes to remind me that he has no problems with Vista. Yep. Okay. Whatever.

Norma Desmond: “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.” ~ From Sunset Boulevard

Carol Burnett as Norma Desmond
Carol Burnett as Norma Desmond

When I proofed this post on Sunday, I realized that an entire paragraph was missing, the one that explains the whole Sunset Boulevard theme: In case you did not recognize the quote “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille,” it is taken from Sunset Boulevard, a classic movie starring Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, an aging, delusional movie star. That particular line comes at the end of the movie. Some of you may remember Carol Burnett’s hilarious turn as Norma Desmond on the old “Carol Burnett Show.”

Nothing yet on the job front for Corey. He did submit his application to Newport News Shipbuilding for their apprentice program, but we have no idea as to how long that process takes. If he gets in, it would be a great move. He would get a decent salary as an apprentice with full benefits, plus he would finish the program with an Associate’s Degree. I’m really hoping that this works out because the whole tug boat thing is at a standstill.

Mom decided not to replace her roof right now, this after weeks of calling us every couple of hours about what to do. My mother is decidedly single-minded once she is focused on something, and then, she turns on a dime. Not even trying to figure her out any more.

By the way, any more is technically supposed to be two words all of the time. Over time, anymore as one word has been substituted, but it is not preferred grammatically. The difference is that any more as two words signifies any longer. When used as one word, it is a colloquialism for nowadays: Not a day goes by without a headache anymore. Yuck.

Other than that, everything else is pretty much normal. Tillie is fine after her last episode. Brett is trying to stay caught up in school, and Eamonn is still working on his construction job until the new school semester. Not hearing a lot from Alexis these days. Not sure if she is in one of her moods, or just extraordinarily busy. Such is life when everyone is busy with their own things. Oh yes, the van is still running nicely, and the truck is still dead.  Good and bad, as usual.

Here’s hoping that nothing else too dramatic happens in the next few days. However, I’ve been on the phone (currently on hold) with my retirement fund for the past 20 minutes regarding a withdrawal, and I don’t think that I’m going to hear what I want to hear; this after speaking to three different people about this transaction and being told that everything was fine. Why oh why, I am whining to myself.

 

More later. Peace.

Screw the IRS and the Horse They Rode In On

no-irs-yard-sign

 

You Must Be This Insane To Ride This Roller Coaster

I am too angry to write a coherent post tonight. We received a notice in the mail today that our entire federal refund, such as it was, had been diverted to a federal creditor to go towards the debt.

I am not denying that we owe the money. However, would it not be logical to assume that we owe this money because we do not have it to pay? We are not deadbeats. We are hard-working, patriotic Americans who have been affected terribly by the economic downturn that this country as taken in the last year. Those statistics that we read about every month about how many people are unemployed? Well my husband is one of them.

Not for lack of trying. But it’s hard to convince a tugboat company to put its boats in the water when it doesn’t have any contracts to support them. It’s that economic domino effect, and the old saying of things rolling down hill and hurting those at the bottom the most. Well, we are close to the bottom. We are hanging on to our house only because Obama forced mortgage companies to stop foreclosing temporarily.

We have a roof over our heads, which is more than many people. We can put food on the table, again, more than so many. But we have one dead Trooper, and the truck is making terrible sounds. Both cars need state inspections, and we need to get current tags on the Trooper. We have suspended all home renovations. We do not go out on the town, hang out in bars, use recreational drugs, or even try our hand at the lottery. We don’t go on wild shopping sprees, and Eamonn’s birthday dinner was the first time that we had taken the family out in over a year.

So we were really counting on this refund of our money to pay for two classes that Corey needs that will help him to be more employable as a merchant marine. Now, he will have to withdraw from the classes, and we can only hope that the school will be kind enough to refund our deposit on the classes.

Imagine what it feels like after checking the IRS website to find that they have deposited the money into our account as of March 27, only to find out today through this wonderful explanation letter that the money has been appropriated.

Some of you are probably thinking, “Why didn’t you pay the bills in the first place?” Good question, but I have a better answer: for the past year, we have been living on my disability checks, and Corey’s unemployment. That is barely enough to pay for the mortgage, my health insurance (which is almost $400 a month), groceries and gas.

We own both vehicles outright. We try to pay cash for everything that we buy. This one line of credit was with the Military Exchange. Corey opened it when he was in the reserves, and we made regular payments on it as long as we had incoming income. But because of our personal family recession, we are overdue on everything.

We were really hoping that we would be turning the corner in just a few short weeks after Corey completed his classes and joined a new union that represents many shipping companies. Now, I’m not sure what will happen.

We still have to come up with the $300 for Corey to join the union. That was going to come out of the refund money as well.

I have long argued that the IRS needs to be abolished and that a flat tax is the way to go. It would be more fair in that people with higher incomes who pay fewer taxes would be on a level playing field with the rest of us. But that is neither here nor there. The current situation is that our anticipated refund is not coming. A debt that we had planned to pay as soon as Corey was working regularly again has gotten the funds that we needed to help Corey get a job.

I am so tired of this merry-go-round that I think that I am going to lose the little bit of sanity that I have left. And I feel so bad that Corey is facing yet another major disappointment, this after I assured him to believe that things were turning around for us.

no-irs Someone please tell me why . . . why is this happening to us, to other people, to people who have never hurt anyone, who just try to do the right thing? Too many peopleare falling by the wayside. Too many people are becoming statistics. Too many people are losing the little bit of hope that they had when they voted into office an ethical man of intelligence who seems to care about all Americans, not just the rich ones who pay $500 for a fundraising dinner.

I’m losing hope.

I didn’t think that it was possible for me to become more cynical, but the IRS took care of that feat today. Congratulations. As Sting once said: “I’m so happy . . . I can’t stop crying.”

Yeah. Right. Whatever.