“My heart wants roots. My mind wants wings. I cannot bear their bickerings.” ~ E. Y. Harburg

Resting Polar Bear by Daniel J. Cox (Polar Bears International)*
Resting Polar Bear
by Daniel J. Cox (Polar Bears International)*

                   

“If a woman writes about herself, she’s a narcissist. If a man does the same, he’s describing the human condition” ~ Emily Gould

Friday, early evening. Partly cloudy and cold, 45 degrees.

I had big plans to take down the Christmas tree today, but now, not so much. I don’t take the tree down on New Year’s Day, partly out of a superstition that says that whatever you are doing on New Year’s Day is what you will spend most of your time doing in the coming year. I do not want to spend a year tackling a rather large sorting, cleaning and storing job. Also, I like to look at the tree for a while after New Year’s.

Maybe tomorrow.

Polar Bear and Cubs USFWS WC
Polar Bear and Cubs
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Wikimedia Commons)

I mean, if I were feeling productive, I could also tackle the large pile on the left side of my desk that has begun a landslide onto the floor, but it’s so much easier to push the pile back into a pile and pretend that it’s not there. However, I really need the black nail file that is usually in my pen cup, but seems to have disappeared beneath the mass of papers, so I may have to do something. I’m one of those people who has nail files and calendars in almost every room; Corey’s family has tissues in every room. Quirks.

I really need an assistant, or an intern, or an assistant intern. Like that’s ever going to happen. How does one persuade someone to be an intern to the job of life? If anyone has an answer for that, I would love to hear it. Anyway . . .

“Misunderstanding is my cornerstone. It’s everyone’s, come to think of it. Illusions mistaken for truth are the pavement under our feet.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver, from The Poisonwood Bible

Olivia spent the day here yesterday as Lex had a doctor’s appointment and wanted to try to get some things taken care of, so we agreed to sit. One thing I have to say about this baby is that she doesn’t sleep for long stretches, which is odd for me as all of my babies loved to nap, Alexis the most, and we would often have to wake her from her afternoon nap. She says that even when she was in kindergarten, the teacher had to wake her from rest time. No wonder the teachers loved her (kidding).

(By the way, the poem choice arises from a new thing that Olivia is doing: Mike’s stepmother taught Olivia how to shake her head back and forth when someone says, “No, no, no, no, no.” And then she laughs . . .)

Polar Bear by Daniel J Cox Polar Bears International
Polar Bear
by Daniel J. Cox (Polar Bears International)

Olivia has had a bit of a cold, and the pediatrician told Lex to use nose drops (saline) and the sucking thing (aspirator?), which Olivia loves (not). My mom is also sick with what sounds like bronchitis or pneumonia, but try to get her to see a doctor? Not happening. I have wanted her to change her primary care doctor for years as I don’t feel that he really pays attention to everything that’s going on with her, but she loves him and won’t change.

My, I have a lot of parenthetical asides today. Sure sign that my mind is going too fast.

Anyway, I did want to know what you think of the new theme. I can’t afford to get one of those custom themes in which you can select all of the colors and all of that other coding, but WordPress does offer a fairly nice selection of free themes. Only problem was that when I changed themes, I lost my rotating globe and all of those stats. Many thanks to Izaak Mak at I Want Ice Water for providing me with the coding needed. So the globe is back. Funny the kinds of things you get attached to on a page.

“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” ~ Douglas Adams, from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

I got a little distracted looking up music from the television show “Fringe,” which I’ve started watching again. Somehow, I lost track of it, but it’s being rebroadcast on cable, so I’m watching again. I love the quirkiness of it, almost (not quite) like “X Files,” but a different kind of quirky. I also happen to love both John Noble and Joshua Jackson. Why mention this? Who knows . . . I also had to stop to find quotes for today’s post because I realized that all of the quote that I had previously selected bore absolutely no resemblance to today’s post, which, by the way, has no clear theme.

Polar Bear, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska WC
Polar Bear
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (Wikimedia Commons)

My back has been killing me for the past week. The new doctor gave me a referral for physical therapy, but I haven’t made the appointment yet,mostly because of funds. The post-Christmas dearth of money has hit, that and the fact that Corey is on job hiatus.  But I’m hoping that I’ll be able to start with the PT sometime this month. Honestly, I haven’t had that much success with PT, but I’m willing to give it a go one more time. Out of the five or so different people who have worked on my back, only one actually succeeded in lessening my pain.

Of course, I need to get back to some kind of physical activity, but the motivation has been seriously lacking in that department. I’d like to start walking with Tillie so that both of us get some exercise in this cold weather. Maybe next week.

“Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from A Wild Sheep Chase

I haven’t been doing well with giving up chocolate, what with the abundance of sweets throughout the house, but this one is a must-do, especially because of my blood sugar and my triglycerides. I have been easing off day by day, but the other morning I was shoving Reese’s miniatures in my mouth like they were a supply of oxygen. So glad no one else was up at the time. I mean, who eats peanut butter cups at 7 in the morning?

olar Bear paren sow paren, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska WC
Polar Bear (sow),
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (Wikimedia Commons)

I do.

Anyway, almost all of the holiday sweets are gone, and that makes me very happy in a weird sort of way. Although, I do still have a keen hankering for cookies, especially those Pepperidge Farm gingerbread men. Delish.

Okay. I’ll stop. I mean, you really didn’t come here to read about my strange cravings and my constant internal debate over whether or not to go over to the dark side where Russell Stover caramel bites and Danish butter cookies reside.

“There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.” ~ Tom Robbins, from Still Life with Woodpecker

So other than the above inanity, not much going on.

Polar Bear by Craig Taylor Polar Bears International
Polar Bear
by Craig Taylor (Polar Bears International)

I ordered everyone’s calendars after Christmas when the prices dropped by 50 percent. But here’s the thing that kills me: Amazon offers free shipping to Prime members and for orders over $25, which is great, but they sent two different boxes, each one containing only one (count it) one calendar and a sheet of pillow wrap. Both boxes arrived simultaneously, so just look at the waste:

  • Two cardboard boxes (recyclable)
  • Two sheets of pillow wrap (or whatever you call that packing stuff that isn’t bubble wrap but is filled with air) (not recyclable)
  • Two calendars (which will ultimately be recyclable)
  • and shipping for two boxes that had the exact same weight.

Am I the only one who doesn’t see the logic in that? Of course, this isn’t the first time Amazon has done something like this. I remember one time when I ordered Brett some special pens; Amazon shipped them in (I kid you not) a box that was roughly 24 x 6 x 6 inches for a box that measures about 7 x 4 x 3/4.

Whatever.

More later. Peace.

Music by My Morning Jacket, “Thank You Too”

(*Today’s images of polar bears—because I was thinking of Shakes who always reminded me of a miniature polar bear, especially in the way that he lay and tucked his tale under). Some images taken from Polar Bears International site.)

                  

Counting The Mad

This one was put in a jacket,
This one was sent home,
This one was given bread and meat
But would eat none,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one looked at the window
As though it were a wall,
This one saw things that were not there,
This one things that were,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one thought himself a bird,
This one a dog,
And this one thought himself a man,
An ordinary man,
And cried and cried No No No No
All day long.

~ Donald Justice
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“We don’t understand that life is heaven, for we have only to understand that and it will at once be fulfilled in all its beauty, we shall embrace each other and weep.” ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky

Bateau Acadien*

“We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” ~ Henry James

Dried Fishing Boat at Udaipur Sea Beach in West Bengal

Well, Corey finally got a telephone call from the security people. He goes in tonight to fill out his paper work and to attend an orientation. It’s so funny because not even an hour ago, he was bemoaning the fact that he hadn’t received a phone call yet, and it was really worrying him. Now he is worried about going to work. As he puts it, he hasn’t worked in so long that he has no idea what to expect. I told him that I was certain he would be fine.

The company representative reiterated that they think that Corey is overqualified for this particular position, and that they will not hold it against him if he finds a better job. He said that Corey should look on this as a stepping stone.

I am so happy for him. I have a feeling that once he begins working, everything will fall into place. For now, I will have to drive Corey to work on those days that conflict with Brett’s school schedule or other appointments, but it will be so worth it.

“If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet . . . maybe we could understand something.” ~ Frederico Fellini

Abandoned Fishing Boat, Threipmuir, Edinburgh, Scotland

More very strange dreams last night, very intricate. I do remember that I was doing a lot of walking to and from place to place and that I felt really good about myself for doing so much walking. Must have something to do with the fact that I planned to start walking today, but of course, I awoke to rain.

In parts of my dream, my father was going to divorce my mother; someone killed chickens in the kitchen; a man and woman moved into the townhouse next door to mine and tried to take my family and me captive; the boys were very young again; Corey and I decided to just pack what we really wanted and to leave everything else behind so that we could start over, and I was packing backpacks for all of us.

Why does the mind work in the way that it does during dreams? Whenever my father comes to me in dreams, it is almost always in some kind of bizarre form with a little bit of truth behind it. I understand that dreaming about my sons’ younger versions is my own sense of wishing that they were younger and still needed me as they did then, but why do I always dream about conflict?

I heard somewhere that every person in your dreams actually represents yourself. I don’t really think that is true because so many people in my dreams act in ways that are totally alien to me.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” ~ Thomas Merton

The family got together on Sunday for lunch to celebrate the three birthdays. Alexis planned everything. It was very nice, and even my mother seemed to enjoy herself—such a rarity. My s-i-l Ann and I decided that we are quite content to pass the baton for planning family gatherings to Alexis since she seems to have such a knack for it. We haven’t informed her of this yet. I’m sure she will be pleased . . . not.

Old Boat Returning to Nature

For some very strange reason, I have been craving lobster. Now if you knew me, you would know what an aberration this is. I don’t believe in eating lobsters as they can live to be incredibly old if left alone. I think that there is something very elegant about these creatures that live in the bottom of the sea, just meandering along, bothering no one. In fact, I make it well nigh impossible for anyone who is dining on lobster to enjoy their meal as I put my fingers together and say “Help me” in a squeaky voice.

So bearing that in mind, why would I be craving something I don’t believe in eating? This, too, makes no sense to me. It would be akin to my craving lamb or veal, neither of which I will eat. Is this my own version of pica, that eating disorder that occurs in very young children in which they eat non-nutrive substances for no apparent reason? Geez.

“Do you find coming to terms with the mindless tedium of it all presents an interesting challenge?” ~ Douglas Adams, The Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy

Old Boat on Càrna Overlooking Caol Chàrna, Scotland

My word for the day is tedium, from the Latin taedium, which means irksomeness. I mean, that is what most days are, really. The tedium, the unending parade of washing machine commercials, telephone calls that result in no forward progress, mail from companies wanting more and more when there is less and less, the stream of cars lined up at stop lights, each individual wrapped up in his or her own world, just waiting for the light to turn green.

Life being dealt out in seconds and minutes of rushing to where exactly? Our own mortality? People going to jobs they hate but saying nothing because having any job is better than no job. Mothers and fathers waiting after school for their children to be released from school only to spend the next two to three hours shuffling them from one extra-curricular activity to another, but is there any interaction going on in the car, the minivan, the SUV between parent and child while on the way to somewhere?

The cacophony of reality television in which the people being shown are doing anything but leading real lives. Shows about fat people, famous people, people with huge families, people who are famous because they are famous, people whose vices are held up as virtues because they can win the island, people who wear seven-carat diamond rings and bemoan their inability to have real friendships, people who are hoarders, addicts, moguls, and more.

“Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits.” ~ John O’Donohue

Colbost Jetty, Skye, England, by Bob Jones (used under Creative Commons License)

And then there is me: putting my life on this page for anyone to see. Sharing intimate moments, triumphs and failures. Writing about life, love, loss, and nothing at all. Castigating politicians and talking heads. Caressing words as if they hold all of the power. But they do hold all of the power. Words. Words that pass on knowledge. Words that wound. Words that awaken the soul to beauty. Words that weave stories and morality tales and dreams. Words that are hollow and hard. Words that are sour and somber.

Sometimes, it is all so tedious, this life. One long line of I want, and I don’t have, and Why me, and What will happen? Mortgage restructuring, debt consolidation, loans and repayments. This is civilization and all of its entanglements. Pity the poor fool who yearns for this rough and tumble existence over what she already has.

Tedium. Thoroughly tiresome. Bone-shakingly, soul-achingly stultifying. The alternative? Silence and nothingness.

More later. Peace.

“Your Song,” duet with Elton John and Ronan Keating (what a great name)

*All images found on Wikimedia Commons

“Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead.” ~ Mac McCleary

Snow completely covering a road in Clifton, Virginia during December Blizzard 09

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. ~ H. Jackson Brown

Vintage Christmas Card

Today is the day I slated to do my Christmas cards . . . finally. Look. I used to be very anal about getting my cards out before the middle of December. In the past few years, I have found myself to be quite pleased if I managed to post them by Christmas day. This year, if they make it to the post office before New Year’s Eve, I will be content.

Anyway, we received so few cards this year that I am truly beginning to think that people just do not take the time to send things via regular post any more, and that, dear readers, is a shame. Opening Christmas cards and holiday greetings from friends and relatives is such a wonderful moment in time, even if the sender does nothing more than sign a name. I mean, at least the presence of the name in ink means that someone took at least a few seconds out of the ever-decreasing free moments in our lives to remember my family and me.

But this is not a discussion on the dearth of letters and cards that arrive in the mail, making all of the accompanying bills and flyers pale in comparison. No, this post is to update everyone on the saga of the December trip to Ohio . . .

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.  ~ Dave Barry, Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn

So, how was this latest trip to Ohio?

Oh, not bad. After the first twenty-four hours in the vehicle, your body is so numb that you really don’t care any more.

Twenty-four hours? Are you serious?

Actually, it was twenty-seven. We actually pulled out of our driveway at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 18.  We pulled into their driveway on Saturday, December 19 at 10:40 p.m.

DuPont Circle, Washington, D.C., December Blizzard 2009

No. It’s more like 696 miles, give or take, depending on which route we use.

So why so long?

I don’t know. Maybe it was because we were driving in snow, ice, and blizzard conditions. Or maybe it’s because once we got past Newport News, the traffic began to move at about 30 mph. Or, it could be that for every five miles that we traveled, we saw at least one car in a ditch, or on a tree, or upside down.

We had scanned the radar for the entire area, and the usual route through the western part of Virginia was out of the question. They were expecting 12-18 inches of snow, and there were warnings that some roads might be closed. That left going north around DC, into Maryland, and across to Ohio. Little did we know that there was no good route.

Then there was the little problem with the windshield wipers.

What happened to the wipers?

Well, at first, we thought that we needed new ones because one entire area of the driver’s side wasn’t clearing with the swipes back and forth. So when we finally made it to Fredericksburg, a trip that normally takes about two hours but took about eight (I mean, we didn’t make it to Richmond until after midnight, and that’s a 90-minute drive), we stopped at that bastion of American consumerism, Wal Mart, and bought wipers and Rain-X spray to keep the windshield from freezing because by then we realized that the wipers themselves were freezing.

That worked better, for a while, but then there was that whole Pennsylvania turnpike thing after we stopped for breakfast in Maryland. Of course, we only stopped because I threatened Corey with bodily harm if I didn’t get the chance to get out of the van and use a real bathroom. But trust me, I was only thinking of him . . .

I mean, Corey hadn’t had a break since the Wal Mart and he was getting grouchy (wonder why), so I suggested that we stop for a real meal and rest for a bit. We pulled into a Cracker Barrel somewhere in Maryland and ate. I drank about four cups of coffee and tried to convince Corey to let me drive for a while. No go. That whole male driving thing. Don’t ask me because it makes no sense whatsoever to me.

Doesn't even begin to depict the conditions

Why did you go on the Pennsylvania Turnpike?

More coffee and a bathroom. Actually, I thought that since it was such a heavily-traveled road that surely the snowplows and salters would be out (because they certainly weren’t out on the other interstates) and that we would be able to travel faster than the snow. Wrong. It was worse than I95, which was virtually a parking lot.  But by the time we stopped at one of the driver’s centers on the Turnpike, Corey was clutching the steering wheel so hard that I thought he might break it, so I decided to drive. He relented, but only from exhaustion. (More of that it’s not safe for you to drive in this, ya da ya da ya da. I lived in Blacksburg for God’s sakes. Snow is a way of life there.  Bah.)

As I was pulling out of the driver’s center, the driver’s side wiper broke, as in the arm just limped, kind of like a drunk slug. Of course that was before the flat tire.

What flat tire?

Well, we got directions from the first toll collector to an auto parts store so that we could try to fix the wiper. We found that store fairly easily, but when I was pulling into the parking lot, I ran over something, probably the curb that was buried under three feet of snow. One of the employees in the store came out and looked at the wiper and tightened it, and it seemed to be working again. 

Another stop for coffee, and then I drove off, feeling somewhat relieved until the wiper flailed and then died again as soon as I got back on the main road.

So we got off on the next exit as I was trying to see the road through a space of about 12 inches square and got directions from another toll collector for an auto store that was supposed to be eight miles down some state road. (Exactly why are there toll collectors on interstates that are paid for with tax dollars? Another story.) This particular store was not quite so easy to find, and we found a NAPA auto parts store first. We pulled in, and the guy next to us said, “Do you know you have a flat tire?” Lovely. Just lovely.

NAPA didn’t have a part of any kind, so Corey bought a can of Fix-a-Flat (another miracle product), and we tried to find the other store, but when we got there, it was closed. We pulled into the lot of a dollar store and Corey came out with the universal fix-it: duct tape. Apparently, the bolt was stripped, so Corey wrapped the tape around it, and we made a make-shift coupling.

Duct tape is a wonderful thing, just like Windex, but again, I digress . . .

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” ~ Douglas Adams

Beautiful but Treacherous

Corey went back to sleep, and I drove with the window partially down, sticking my hand out in the snow and then rubbing my face with my cold, wet hand. It was refreshing, and I knew that in spite of two gallons of coffee, I was not going to be able to drive that much longer. I just don’t have that y-chromosone-related driving non-stop thing going on. I made it to Washington, West Virginia (there’s a Washington in every state, by the way), which is right on the border of Ohio. By this time, it was about four on Saturday afternoon, and I had told Corey’s parents in the last update not to expect us before four.

Obviously that anticipated arrival time had come and gone.

Then what happened?

The duct tape held for the most part. We had wipers. The Fix-a-Flat seemed to be holding, and the snow finally lessened almost to a stopping point. There was the one incident around Columbus, though.

What happened in Columbus?

Corey missed the bypass, so we went through Columbus, and then we missed our turn. Consensus was to take one of the state roads the rest of the way in. I think that was when I started to see things.

It was probably due to a combination of the coffee, need to go to the bathroom, exhaustion, and the fact that my teeth felt as if cotton balls were glued to them. Of course by this time, we were all punchy from exhaustion. Everything was funny, even when it wasn’t.

But did you get there safely?

Safely is a relative term. No, we didn’t go off the road, although we did spin once. Our bodies were in one piece, but the van had all kinds of sensor lights flashing at us by the time we pulled into the driveway. And I believe that I aged at least two years in two days. Other than that and the fact that when I finally got into bed I had the spins (now that hasn’t happened in a long time), everything was fine.

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” ~ Don Williams, Jr.

Plowed Roads on the Way Home

So ends the saga of our trip to Ohio. Our journey home to Virginia was the complete opposite. We left at 10:30 in the morning with the stated goal being 10 a.m., rather a record for us. We drove to Marion to get the wiper part, and then we headed down to Cincinnatti to go to a branch of Joseph Beth Booksellers, my favorite bookstore in the world, well, at least in this country. The best one is the original JB, though, in Lexington Kentucky.

We ambled through the store for about an hour, and then we had a nice relaxing dinner at Don Pablo’s, a chain Mexican restaurant that actually has quite good food. Apparently, Tuesday is all-you-can-eat tacos. Corey and Brett each had their fill. I abstained from coffee, and we got back on the road by our goal time. We took our preferred route, which is down Route 35 to I64 through part of West Virginia and into Virginia. No storms, no ice, no car problems (well, other than the sensor lights still going off in the van), no major drama—just the way I like it.

I have to say that I do enjoy visiting Corey’s family, and the time that we spend there is always full, but I really, really hate actually making the trip. Corey and I thought about it, and I don’t think that we have ever had an uneventful trip to Ohio, whether it’s the weather, car trouble, more car trouble, getting lost, not having enough money for gas, whatever. So with that in mind, we have decided that next time, flying is the way to go.

More later. Peace.

Traditional German Christmas Carol (no, not ready to stop posting them, yet): “Still, Still, Still”