“The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.” ~ Max Lerner

Near Trail of Blue Ice Portage Valley AK by JJ

Near Trail of Blue Ice, Portage, Alaska by Janson Jones

 

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” ~ Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~ Cicero 

42-16057799I’ve been reading like a mad woman for the past few days: The Alchemist(Paul Coelho), The Hours (Michael Cunningham), an older one by Jonathan Kellerman, The Butcher’s Theater, and a very early one from James Lee Burke, Black Cherry Blues. (I plan to write some reviews soon, here’s hoping.)

Why so much reading? The alternative is to sit down at this computer and produce something. Each night, I approach my desk as if it were an anathema to me: my body feels alien in the curves of my chair; my screen looms in front of me—tasking me like the white whale. I fear that to sit in my chair for any amount of time might somehow completely drain my body of the little energy I have left. So I walk back to the bed, pick up a book off the stack, or turn on the television.

I have regressed to my amoebic state: I am being whipped about in my single-cell form, a body in motion not of its own volition. I have to tell you that this is a very odd position in which to find myself: being propelled along by forces beyond my control and not having the least idea as to how to escape this eddying current without smashing myself against the rocks.

“The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man perfected without trials” ~ Chinese Proverb

I suppose an update is in order. The current state of affairs is that the job that Corey had hoped would still be open with Vane Brothers is, of Merchant Mariner Documentcourse, no longer available because it took so long to get his Coast Guard certifications. He is making telephone calls, sending out e-mails, doing everything he can, but our hopes that with the arrival of the certified documents from the Coast Guard would come a job seem to be all for naught.

He is so beside himself with feelings of self-doubt that it just wounds me to my core. Having gone through a period of unemployment myself, I know all too well how it affects the psyche, chips away at your sense of self-worth, tears at the very fabric of your soul.

Corey is a wonderful, caring person. He does not deserve this continued assault on his self-esteem. And I am powerless to do anything about it. In fact, it seems that the more that I try, the harder it is for him. I don’t mean in the sense of negating his feelings, but rather, by trying to be there for him, it seems to heighten the issues.

It’s as if my presence serves as a constant reminder of all of the things that are going wrong. It’s no one’s fault. That’s just how it is. His failure at finding a job in his field in this economy is moot. What stands out is the failure itself, regardless of the fact that it is not his. I fear that my words of encouragement sound hollow to him. At times, I let them die on my tongue like sand baked in the sun.

“In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.” ~ Bertrand Russell 

abandoned steel factoryI am reminded of the many closings of mill towns across America, the ways in which once thriving communities were left as mere shells of their former days of productivity. With one decision somewhere in a boardroom in another city far, far away, entire towns were dealt death blows, the only reminder of their once prosperous slice of the American pie remaining in abandoned rusting factories, blights on the landscape.

As could be predicted, in many of those communities with nothing left, alcoholism and drug addiction statistics rose. Of those citizens who decided to stay, the rate of unemployment skyrocketed as did the incidences of spousal abuse.

We are a careless society. We throw away entire communities and never look back. And then when the need for assistance increases, we have obtuse politicians making comments about hunger being a great motivator. It sickens and frightens me simultaneously: Everything can disappear in a moment.

“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” ~ Ellen Goodman

And so we are now left with accepting help from Corey’s parents to fix the disaster of the dead Trooper. The engine cannot be rebuilt. It would cost more to do so than the Trooper is currently worth. So Izzie is off to an Ohio junkyard. I try not to think about it.

Ohio JunkyardSo Corey’s mom and dad are stepping in with a vehicle. It is a life-saver and an anchor. While their intentions are incredibly generous—to help us out of this fix, Corey is finding it very hard to reconcile himself to the idea of accepting support in this way at this point in his life. It makes him feel as if he is a child again, dependent upon his parents to fix things.

After previous years of doing well with our combined incomes, being brought back to square one is akin to starting all over again.

I understand Corey’s frustrations. I felt exactly the same way when my father stepped in and bought the big ugly Buick after my Oldsmobile was totaled. Here I was, a grown woman with children, a job, obligations. But I was in a bind, and my father knew it. He did what came second nature to him. He stepped in and bought a car for me.

I never asked. I never would have been able to ask. It wasn’t a matter of pride, more a matter of feeling overwhelming failure at being at a point in my life in which I should have had the resources to take care of my problems myself without my father stepping in to save me once again.

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children.  One is roots.  The other is wings.” ~ Hodding Carter, Jr. 

I have often thought about the parent-child cycle: Exactly when does it stop? Does it ever stop? Do we ever stop being our parents’ children? Do we ever stop looking to them, needing them?

Doubtful. We grow up looking to our parents for love, support, help. If we are lucky—and indeed, not everyone is—We get those things from our parents, and so much more. We get our lessons about caring for those who have less than we do. We see our parents doing the right things day after day, and we want to emulate that. We watch carefully, silently, during those times in which we are caught off guard at the echoes of sadness in their voices, and we feel completely unprepared the first time we see our parents cry.

weeping angel with filterWe vow that we will never be the cause of their pain, and then thoughtlessly, we become the very source of their anguish. We promise to do better, and our promises are filled with that toss-of-the-hat carelessness that we do not recognize until years later.

And then later, if and when we become parents ourselves, we realize exactly how fraught with sorrow and pain the prospect of raising a child can be. We vow to do better than our parents, to listen more, to be more available, to be more patient. But things never really work out that way.

At times, we become careless with our love for our children, and they know it, and they store this little nugget away and vow never to be that way with their own children when they have them.

But if we are very lucky, we also remember to cherish those sweet, sweet moments that come around only once in a while: taking an afternoon nap in the hammock in the spring sun with Alexis, barely moving so as not to disturb her slumber; singing “Unchained Melody” to Eamonn in the middle of the night when he could not sleep because of his stomachaches, sitting in the Bentwood rocker, the two of us completely immersed in each other; sitting in the backyard with Brett, in companionable silence, reading books and enjoying the quiet days of spring.

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” ~ Kenji Miyazawa

Portage Valley Blue Ice by Janson Jones
Portage Valley Blue Ice by Janson Jones

Corey and I are finding our way back as best we can. It’s a tricky path, filled with branches just waiting to trip us when we least expect it. He worries that when I look at him I see a man who has failed, that I am filled with anger and impatience. I worry that when he looks at me he sees a woman who is past her prime, who no longer has anything to contribute.

Of course, we are both wrong. When I look at Corey, I see the man who has brought great joy to my life, who has gone through hell and back and still stands by my side. I hope that when he looks at me he recognizes the force of the love that I carry in my heart for him, that it is inviolable, immense, and without judgment.

We are finding our way back slowly, but this much I know: Whatever is left out there for us to conquer, to overcome, we will do it just as we have done everything else: together.

I am not some starry-eyed hopeless romantic that believes that love conquers all. I am a hopeful romantic who understands that love is but one part, and that if the loving is to be successful, it must be based on mutual respect, trust, and an unrelenting belief in the person who is your partner in this life. We are just beginning this arduous task of working our way back slowly, but this much I know: Whatever is left out there for us to conquer, to overcome, we will do it just as we have done everything else: together.

More later. Peace.

 

 

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“Most people do not consider dawn to be an attractive experience – unless they are still up.” ~ Ellen Goodman

woman-sleeping-by-sandor-liezen-mayer-1867 

 “Woman Sleeping” by Sándor Liezen-Mayer (1867)

“The worse thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s 5 a.m. Do you know where your good night’s sleep has gone?

sleeping-on-keyboardOkay, so it’s been one of those nights. I fell asleep relatively early for me, around 12:30, but then I woke up around 1:30 and haven’t been able to recapture the bliss of a good night’s sleep since. I finally decided at 5:30 to get up and make myself some tea and begin my day by reading some regular blogs. I also thought that if I went ahead and began today’s post that I might be able to lull myself to sleep with the rhythmic sound of the keyboard.

What I did achieve was waking up Corey around 5:45 who wanted to know what I was doing. Nothing. Go back to sleep. And he promptly did.

I hate nights like these. I dose for a few minutes, then toss and turn, but never manage to get into REM. I listened to the sound of the fan, the sound of the toads, the sound of the birds. I let the dogs out twice (they were very confused as they normally only go out once around 3 a.m.). The reality is that I haven’t actually slept through the night since Alexis was born, but I do know how to stumble out to the dining room to let the dogs out (Shakes initiates it) and then still go back to sleep.

Not this morning, though. There was no sleep for this woman. Of course, that didn’t keep Shakes from curling into my side and snoring loudly.

When I let the dogs out, it was lovely outside: cool air, the sounds of nearby birdsong drifting in. Of course, it’s supposed to get up to 91° today. With any luck, I’ll be able to sleep later this morning for little while at least.

I read a post on Maureen’s blog (White Orchid), and she’s getting snow. Of course, she’s in Australia, so her seasons are the opposite of our seasons. With 91° expected here, I think that I might actually enjoy some snow. It’s like I said, we just don’t get much of a spring, which is unfortunate because I love spring.

“For the economy I want workers and consumers to have control over their own economic lives. I want everyone to have fair conditions that fully utilize their talents and potentials.” ~ Michael Albert 

golden-books-tugboat
Classic Golden Book: Scuffy the Tugboat

That would be a nice change for him, for all of us, actually.  But I don’t want to get ahead of myself (ourselves?). Corey is being cautious as ever. Can’t say that I blame him though.

“With the changing economy, no one has lifetime employment. But community college provide lifetime employability.”  ~ Barack Obama

After all of my anticipation yesterday, I was too tired to watch Law & Order Criminal Intent. Good thing that it’s recorded. I had never planned to watch it live. I prefer to watch the recorded show so that I can speed through all of the commercials. In particular, all of the car commercials.

It seems that every car company in existence is offering incredible deals, which really bites when you need a car but cannot possibly purchase one. I was just reading that used car prices are down by about 17 percent, 9 percent since January of this year (Consumer Price Index). New car prices have dropped about 3 percent. Great for consumers, bad for car companies.

In fact, the article was discussing those things that have gotten cheaper versus those items that have gotten more expensive since last year. The price drops are pretty predictable: homes, cars, electronics, airfares, alternative energy, toys, and clothing. Prices are on the rise for food, medical care, prescription drugs, college tuition, gasoline, garbage collection (huh?), and beer (too funny) (http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/SaveMoney/7-things-getting-cheaper-7-that-are-not.aspx?Gt1=33009?slide-number=1).

So let me get this straight. The things that we really need (except for beer) are getting more expensive. The things that we might like to have but don’t need to survive are getting less expensive. Makes perfect sense.

“Every gift which is given, even though it be small, is in reality great, if it is given with affection.” ~ Pindar

Now I have to take exception with another article that I read on MSN Money: “Gift Cards Are Not Gifts,” in which  the contention is that giving someone a gift card is a faux pas because gift cards are not truly gifts . I believe that this statement can be both true and false.(http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/FindDealsOnline/GiftCardsAreNotGifts.aspx)

rack-of-gift-cardsFor example, someone who doesn’t have a clue about shopping and doesn’t particularly care about personalizing usually relies on gift cards. This can be seen as being lazy, or it can be viewed as better than nothing, particularly when you know that the card came from one of those all-purpose gift card racks at a convenience store.

“Hey look. One-stop shopping, and I can get my beer, too.”

Getting a gift card from a significant other: big no-no. Reeks of ‘I asked someone to pick this up for me because I just didn’t want to take the time to put any thought into a special present for you.’ Can you imagine being presented with a gift card to a jewelry store instead of the jewelry? Ooh. Not good. Kind of like getting a toaster on Mother’s Day.

And let’s face it. What is a five-year-old going to do with a gift card? Get her a talking book so that she can learn to appreciate books from an early age.

However, I honestly believe that there are several situations in which buying a gift card for someone is better than buying a gift. Big example: teenagers. Try buying a shirt for a teenager. Chances are very good that unless said teenager was with you during purchase, the t-shirt will never be worn. You will receive a half-hearted thanks, and the t-shirt will be consigned to the never going to wear pile.

Buying a gift card for a teenager is truly akin to giving him or her money, but the gift card is more responsible. Money will be frittered away in the late-night drive through at McDonald’s or Taco Bell, but a gift card to a store that you know they like and can use is a different story. And trust me, a gift card from a favorite store will get you a big smile and a sincere thank you. If nothing else, a gift card from Target is multi-purpose: consider make-up, cd’s, dvd’s, doo-dads for the car . . . you get the picture.

Another instance when a gift card would be a good idea is you have an elderly person for whom you are buying. Consider a gift card to a grocery store or a gift certificate to a cleaning service or a service that does yard work or washes windows. Elderly relatives do not want another vase, nor do they really need a box of chocolates because chances are they are on some kind of regimented diet. But I advise the gift card to the grocery store with a caveat: offer to drive them. Then you can unload the groceries, and the gift card becomes more personal.

Another person who will appreciate a gift card is a bibliophile like myself. Personally, I would much rather have a gift card to Barnes & Noble than just about anything else from people who do not know me well. With that little piece of plastic in my hand, I can go to the bargain book shelves and peruse for hours, or I can purchase that new title that I’ve been anticipating.

A particularly good gift card for someone who is starting out in the workforce is a gas gift card. Chances are good that this person has not factored in the cost of commuting yet and will be surprised when the gas gauge begins to drift towards E faster than usual.

A good gift card for a co-worker is one for a restaurant that you know he or she likes, or, as in my case, to Starbucks. One year a sales rep gave me a gift card to Starbucks, and she made me happy for a week. If she had given me a box of imported cookies or chocolate, I would have felt compelled to share them and to eat them.

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think, though, that that pretty much exhausts the justifiable situations for giving a gift card. In situations with immediate family members, I take a lot of time and care in selecting presents that are personalized. Sometimes I’ll buy a frame and insert one of my better photographs. My mother-in-law has received a few of these, and she really likes them.

Other good personalized presents include favorite things like gourmet hot chocolate mix for Eamonn, who can’t get enough of the stuff in the winter. Or socks, yes socks, for Brett, who seems to eat them because they disappear so fast. All of my children look forward to their package of new underwear and socks at Christmas. Go figure.

But really, it’s the presents that are made or bought with the heart that count the most. The first year that Corey and I were together, I made him a decorated journal. I used to do this for special occasions for people. I take a big blank journal, and then I paste in pictures that I have collected out of magazines, postcards, cards, quotes that I have typed, photographs—things that remind me of that person.

cigar-boxWhenever I come across an interesting-looking picture in a magazine, I’ll cut it out for future books, and I usually store my pictures in old cigar boxes, or if those are overflowing, I find larger decorated boxes, especially for the larger pictures. I have a lot of images from my collages stored in these boxes as well.

It’s actually a pretty labor intensive project, but it is so rewarding once I have finished it and given it to the person for whom I have made it.  I made one for my therapist when she had her first child. I made one for Alexis when she graduated from high school. I plan to make one each for Eamonn and Brett for their graduations. Presents such as these finished books cannot be found in any store, and, I hope, they reflect all of the love that I feel for that person. 

The bitter irony of this is that I began making my decorated books years before scrap booking was a verb in the lexicon of arts and crafts. My therapist asked me if I thought that there was money to be made in such an endeavor, and I told her that I didn’t really think so since the decorated journals were so personalized. Well, we all know how wrong I was about that. I could have been on the forefront of a new wave. Oh well. It’s really just as well. I probably couldn’t handle all of the fame.

On that note, more later. Peace.

Ever The Same

jessie-willcox-smith-new-years-baby
Jessie Willcox Smith, watercolor, charcoal, colored pencil, 1910

“New Year, Same Goal” ~ Joe King 

About that resolution thing . . .

So I tell a friend of mine that I’m going to write about my resolutions for 2009 in my New Year’s blog. Then I realize that that means  that I actually have to put down resolutions for everyone to see, and I’m thinking, hmm, is this really a good idea, what with me putting my whole life out here on a daily basis? And people who really know me know how much of a procrastinator I am, and people who know Corey know how much more of a procrastinator he is, and between the two of us, it’s a wonder anything gets done unless we happen to be cycling on an energy upswing, which hasn’t happened in quite a while, what with the whole unemployment and ensuing downturn in the economy and predictable downturn in moods and related downturn in funds for projects, and then the back, and now the shoulder, and you see where I’m going . . . don’t you?

Breathe . . . two . . . three . . . four.

“New Year’s Resolution: To t0lerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.” ~ James Agate

But actually, there really are things that I would like to put on my “resolve to accomplish” list for 2009, and then really work on accomplishing them, so I shall take a stab at it, as they (just who are they, anyway?) say.

Resolved:

To write at least two hours daily. I have found that when I do this, I feel much better about myself, feel as if I have accomplished something, and feel that I am making headway in my long-term goal towards creating something publishable.

To try (key word being try) to stay more organized so that I don’t miss doctor’s appointments or get the times or dates wrong.

To help Brett get through the rest of this school year without over-stressing.

To work on our personal debt that has grown since the big financial crash of 2008.

To put together the rest of the dining room chairs, and start having dinner together as a family at least half of the time each week.

To download the pictures in the camera and to start doing something with them.

To start scrap booking (see above) and quit thinking that I’ll remember all of this stuff because I won’t

To take better care of myself by getting on the training bike every morning for at least 15 minutes (I can do that, 15 minutes, right?) so that I’m getting some kind of exercise, since I can’t do free weights right now with my shoulder.

To make sure that Corey takes better care of himself by quitting smoking, or at least cutting back, and stops eating things that are bad for his heart.

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives . . . looking for flaws, but for potential.” ~ Ellen Goodman

And a few more:

To paint my bedroom by mid-February so that the bedroom furniture can come out of the boxes in the living room.

To take up the rest of the old carpet in the living room and dining room by March.

To paint the living room and dining room by April.

If Corey has a job, to finish renovating the garage by the end of summer.

To start to work on the deck in the fall.

“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.” ~ Brooks Atkinson

I think that that’s a pretty comprehensive list. I’m certain that I could add lots more, but I don’t want to overdo it. If I add too much, then I’ll look at the list and start to feel overwhelmed and as they say in the old Monty Python movies, I would have to “run away.” But there are just a few more that I feel a need to add:

Find the copy of the Blade (first) DVD that is lost somewhere in this house

Fix my dangling black earrings that have been sitting in the dish on my dresser

Backup my hard drive because my computer has been acting wacky.

There. I think that takes care of everything, from the mundane to the lofty. Some of these I know that I will be able to accomplish. That’s why I put them on here, just to be able to give myself a sense of accomplishment. Some of these I might get done, but maybe not within the time frame that I’m hoping for. Some things I didn’t put on here because they are a given, and I don’t want to jinx them. I just want everyone out there to send good thoughts to help them happen. And these are the two most important: That Corey can find a job on a boat very, very soon, and that I can find some relief from this constant pain, which I know is exacerbated by the stress.

Thank you for visiting and reading. It means a lot. I hope that you and yours have a very safe and happy 2009. Peace be with you.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~ T.S. Eliot