“Everything is as it is means this: We undergo all kinds of difficult and painful practices. We travel to all kinds of places and discover that we didn’t have to do a thing, that things are as they are. Everything is as it is after we’ve broken our bones trying everything.” ~ Ichitaro

Follow the Wisteria Line, by Marisa DL at pbase.com

                   

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” ~ Louise Erdrich

Vines on Yellow by Greg Hefner (FCC)

Tuesday afternoon. Hazy, hot, and humid. Thunderstorms predicted.

I slept fitfully last night. At first I couldn’t fall asleep (I’ve been out of my Seroquel for about a week), and then when I finally fell asleep, I woke up every few minutes scratching myself. I had broken out into some kind of rash/hives thingy. I tried everything: lotion, Benadryl, hydrocortisone cream, baby powder . . . Finally, around 8 a.m. I got up and took a shower. Thankfully, I still had a bit of Aveeno calming body scrub. After the shower, I felt marginally better, but I was still itching.

Four Benadryl later . . . I finally fell asleep for two consecutive hours around 11:30. Needless to say, I am wiped out and still a bit itchy, especially on my back (of course).

The only thing that I can think of that may have caused all of the itching is the fish stew that Corey made for dinner last night. It had clam juice in it. I have never had a reaction to shellfish before, and I love steamed and fried clams, but maybe the concentrated clam juice was just too much. I haven’t eaten anything else out of the ordinary, am not using new detergent or body wash, so that only leaves the stew, which is too bad as it was quite tasty.

So I thought that I would try to write a bit before going back to bed. Corey has gone to TCC campus to fill out more paperwork for a Pell Grant for summer classes. We’re keeping our collective fingers crossed that he can get some funds for summer. We’ve already done the FAFSA for the 2011-2012 academic year.

“Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.” ~ Anna Quindlen, from A Short Guide to a Happy Life

Cottage with Vines in Grimaud, France, by mhodl (FCC)

I spent most of yesterday catching up on my paperwork. I needed to fill out an IRS form claiming “Injured Spouse” status to see if we can get back some of the money that the IRS took from our refund. Apparently, if the debt for which the money was taken is not a joint debt, the other person can claim this status and appeal the seizure of funds. We’ll see what happens. It would be nice to get some of that refund money back so that we can buy a new back door. Of course, we have to wait eight to twelve weeks . . .

I also wrote a very long letter to the owner/president of the local Ford dealership that has been giving us the run around on the Windstar buy-back. I thought that I would try one more avenue before contacting the local media station that has a special consumer help department. No business wants to end up featured on that spot.

Then there was all of the tuition assistance/special circumstances paperwork for the males in the family: Corey, Eamonn, and Brett. I had to fill out forms and complete worksheets to show that we qualify for more grant money if it is available. Of course, all kinds of attachments were required, and I had to do some hunting to get everything together. Being able to apply for special circumstances because I am on total disability is one of the few positive things about being disabled.

I rescheduled a doctor’s appointment that I missed last Monday and finally made an appointment to have my breasts smashed with my requisite mammogram. This Thursday, I have an appointment with the neurologist to get a lumbar puncture. I am really not looking forward to this, but she feels that it’s a necessary test to determine if I have a fungus which might be causing headaches.

I also had to process a return to Avon. The whole Avon thing is not really working out, so I’ll probably give it up soon. The only people who are ordering are me and me and me. But other than that, I must say that I felt a real sense of accomplishment by last night, which is sad really, as I would have been able to do all of those things in an hour at one point in my life.

“I could feel the day offering itself to me,
and I wanted nothing more  than
to be in the moment—but which moment?
Not that one, or that one, or that one.” ~ Billy Collins

Wisteria on Arbor

Corey and I watched a truly terrible movie last night: The Tomb. The preview looked promising, and the movie was from Australia, so I thought that it might be a good scary movie for us. Turns out, not so much. By the end of it, I was yelling at the television, which is never a good sign. You know when the characters are just so blatantly stupid, when they simply cannot get a clue? Yep. That kind of plot.

In other news . . . Corey’s garden is growing like gangbusters. We’re going to have huge sunflowers again this year, and with luck, the tomatoes and other vegetables will hang in for a good harvest. Of course, it’s getting hotter than blazes here, and even though it looks like it might rain, it usually does not.

The living room is quite stuffy as the big air conditioning unit died at the end of last year, and we have yet to replace it. The bedrooms stay fairly comfortable, though. I find that I am very much like the dogs: I either want to be in the pool (which is not yet ready for people, only Tillie), or in the cool dark of the bedrooms. Shakes, in particular, hates the heat as it exacerbates his canine dermatitis.

Oh well . . .

“Remember yourself, from the days when you were younger and rougher and wilder, more scrawl than straight line. Remember all of yourself, the flaws and faults as well as the many strengths.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Hampton Court Palace Gardens, Richmond Upon Thames, England

I have a bit of a confession: I am leaving the house less and less. Now that Brett’s school year is over, I really don’t have any reason to go out, other than doctors’ appointments. I know that being this housebound is not healthy for me, but truthfully, it doesn’t really bother me. What does bother me if going out in public in my current state, which is my highest weight ever.

For someone who doesn’t eat that much (and I really don’t), I just cannot seem to lose weight. A typical day usually includes two cups of coffee (half decaf/half caff), one glass of Pepsi (decaf), a bottle of diet green tea, a cup of herbal tea after dinner, a fiber bar or a sandwich thin (100 calories) with peanut butter, no jelly, dinner, and maybe some gummi bears or a couple of Riesen, and an orange if we have any. I use Splenda in place of sugar almost exclusively.

Does that seem like a lot? It doesn’t to me, but my metabolism is so warped that I just don’t seem to burn calories. I know—I’m not getting any exercise, but it’s that whole vicious circle thing in that I would feel better if I exercised, but I don’t feel well enough to exercise.

Being overweight preys on my mind far too much, but I simply cannot help it. I have such a warped body image, and I stand in front of the mirror and notice only flaws: flabby arms, a big belly, my double chins. I am dreading going to Chad’s wedding as I don’t want anyone to see me like this. Corey’s mom once told me that from the way I talk, I make it seem that I am huge. I’m not huge comparatively, and I know that, but I am huge for me.

Therein lies the rub.

So I stay at home and depress myself. Perhaps I’ll go cut my hair. That always seems to distract me. Thunderstorm is here, so I should probably stop so that the computer doesn’t get fried.

More later. Peace.

Music by A Fine Frenzy, “Whisper”

                   

To This May

They know so much more now about
the heart we are told but the world
still seems to come one at a time
one day one year one season and here
it is spring once more with its birds
nesting in the holes in the walls
its morning finding the first time
its light pretending not to move
always beginning as it goes

~ W. S. Merwin

                   

All quotes taken from Whiskey River

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“The world breaks us all. Afterward, some are stronger at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway, Farewell To Arms

Where does this road lead? (photographer unknown, Pixdaus)

                   

“I speak to you over cities
I speak to you over plains
My mouth is against your ear
The two sides of the walls face
my voice which acknowledges you.
I speak to you of eternity.” ~ Paul Éluard from “Absence”

Kusugawa Trail, Yakushima Island by caseyyee (Flckr Creative Commons)

Thursday, late afternoon. Thunder storms approaching.

I want to write, but then when I sit down at these keys, nothing happens. So much to say but seemingly unsayable, as if rooting around in my head trying to find words that I know, words that I know I know, but words that have become lost or have taken to hiding in the small creases in my brain.

Here is what I know:

The warmer temperatures are muddling my brain, making me dream of buying air conditioners with my mother and ex-father-in-law. But I become distracted in the dream, and look at plants instead—purple and pink plants in black pots. And I fill my cart with plants and Christmas place mats that are on clearance. This is better than the dream before of a killer chasing me down a yellow stairwell.

I awake sweaty and tired, feeling as if I have slept much too long, and I have, but I cannot get out of my bed. For days now, I cannot get out of the damned bed. Yesterday, I had another medical test done, then came home and went back to bed. I barely remembered the drive to and from the facility. Out-of-body driving?

My body feels spent and heavy with heat, and I long for tall glasses of umbrella drinks with rivulets of sweat running down the side of the glass. Not the alcohol, just the idea of the tall glass, the fruit, the paper umbrella—as the collection of these things would mean that I am not at home. I am somewhere else, anywhere but here.

It seems that the coming storm has taken days to get here. The air has been still, and yesterday evening thunder rumbled in the distance for hours, but nothing materialized. Then suddenly, just a few moments ago, rain began to fall, hard rain, hard enough to drive out the ants that have laid claim to the dirt mounds in the garden, the mounds that have been taken over as ant castles, forbidding the shoots of flowers and vegetables from breaking through. Now the mounds are mud puddles, and I can see green.

A tornado warning south of here. More tornadoes encroaching on this area of hurricanes. More proof that the earth is in turmoil.

“If you can read and understand this poem
send something back: a burning strand of hair
a still-warm, still-liquid drop of blood
a shell
thickened from being battered year on year
send something back.” ~ Adrienne Rich, from “Coast to Coast”

Tree Tunnel, Shirebrook, UK, by James Hill (Wikimedia Commons)

I slip through virtual pages on this screen, looking for the source of a line I cannot get out of my head. “Jesus Love You” pops up right above a line advertising Mexican food and good prices on gold.

The Interwebs have a warped sense of humor.

My body is still in recovery from the preparation needed for Wednesday’s test. A purge, if you will. I find myself craving fresh fruit: peaches and red pears. The orange juice Corey bought me is not enough. My body wants vitamins from the source. I feel as if everything has been leached from my system, not just impurities, but the good cells as well, the ones that make me who I am.

I think constantly of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. I have no idea why.

Speaking of the Fitzgeralds, I read an article that said that the mansion that may have been his inspiration for The Great Gatsby had been demolished to make way for several mcmansions on the same plot of waterfront land in Long Island. I shudder to think about the former grandeur being reduced to rubble so that some developer can erect those paeans to conspicuous consumption that I abhorred even when I was in real estate.

Progress is not always better.

I remember the dark enclosure in my grandmother’s house in the Philippines. In the kitchen. Water from the well in the backyard. Coffee tins filled with this water, and how this was the only space in the house in which to find relief from the heat. I think of my father. I do not want to think of my father, not right now. The loss is acute today.

“I sing the wind around
 And hear myself return
To nothingness, alone.
The loneliest thing I know
 Is my own mind at play.” ~ Theodore Roethke, from “His Foreboding”

The Gate To . . . UK (Wikimedia Commons)

I read other people’s words, wonder how it is they are so talented, wonder where my words have gone, wonder if there are any new poems left to write, any new stories left to tell.

I have been collecting phrases as possible book titles. I don’t know why. I think I have six or seven. This is a recent event in my life; it means that I am acknowledging that the book is there. I think. Maybe not. But why need a title? I love book titles, book jackets. Clever book designs remind me of studying for my publishing degree. I still owe the university a fee. They are holding my diploma hostage until I pay this fee. I wonder if I will ever bother to pay the ransom.

In all of the medical tests that I have had done in the past six weeks or so, this is what I have learned: I do not have sleep apnea. I have a digestive system that does not work at the top or the bottom, and is sluggish in the middle. To learn these things, my body has been assaulted with tubes in various orifices. I think I already knew all of these things about my body and probably could have saved myself the insult of the tubes and the associated costs which will soon begin to turn up in the mail.

I have stopped reading about politics again. It has become too weighty and unbearable once more, and my minds needs a break from the madness, not just in this country, but all over the world. I prefer to live in ignorance for a bit, that is until I begin to seethe in righteous indignation over some maligning phrase out of some politician’s mouth. Then I fear it will be once more into the fray for me.

The wind outside is whipping the trees about as if they are being tugged on by giants. I like that image.

“The slow overture of rain,
each drop breaking
without breaking
into
the next, describes
the unrelenting, syncopated
mind.” ~ Jorie Graham, from “Mind”

Lane by Derek Harper (Wikimedia Commons)

As the moveable slab upon which I lay slides into the scanner, I look up and am surprised to see the image of cherry blossoms on branches reaching across the faux-skylight above me—a vertical trompe l’oeil, and the technician tells me to hold my breath, and I do and do and do, and wait for her to say breathe, but the word does not come, and my lungs fill to bursting, and then she says breathe, and I do, and I realize that it has been mere seconds, and I think to myself that I have absolutely no stamina left.

I’ve been trying to learn Adele’s “Someone Like You,” but her voice is so powerful and the song so complicated, that it’s just not working. As with almost everything else, my voice is not what it used to be.

But the cherry blossom branches make me think of how wonderful it would be to have a real skylight, preferably above a bathtub, so that I could soak beneath the stars and ponder words, only to forget them as I dry myself with a towel.

I remember when I was about to graduate with my bachelor’s, and I had an interview with a small local paper in Maryland. An editor at the paper for which I worked arranged the interview for me. I stayed with a nice couple who owned a large old house that they were refurbishing. In one bathroom, they had built a wooden bathtub directly beneath a skylight. I had forgotten about that until just this minute.

I turned down the job, or more accurately, withdrew my name from consideration as I was in love, could not bear to continue my long-distance relationship with my ex. I wonder where life would have taken me if I had opened myself to that possibility.

Possibilities . . .

Studying abroad, visiting Greece, seeing the Great Wall, taking hundreds and hundreds of photographs of verdant Ireland and windswept Wales. Drinking wine at a small restaurant in Basque country.

Walking on a beach in Queensland with my flannel trousers rolled. Eating a peach. T. S. Eliot wondered if he dared, as do I.

Will I ever hear the mermaids singing, each to each? And how should I presume?

More later. Peace.

Music by Lanterns on the Lake, “You Need Better”

                   

My Life by Someone Else

I have done what I could but you avoid me.
I left a bowl of milk on the desk to tempt you.
Nothing happened. I left my wallet there, full of money.
You must have hated me for that. You never came.

I sat at my typewriter naked, hoping you would wrestle me
to the floor. I played with myself just to arouse you.
Boredom drove me to sleep. I offered you my wife.
I sat her on the desk and spread her legs. I waited.

The days drag on. The exhausted light falls like a bandage
over my eyes. Is it because I am ugly? Was anyone
ever so sad? It is pointless to slash my wrists. My hands
would fall off. And then what hope would I have?

Why do you never come? Must I have you by being
somebody else? Must I write My Life by somebody else?
My Death by somebody else? Are you listening?
Somebody else has arrived. Somebody else is writing.

~ Mark Strand

“My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression.” ~ Philip K. Dick

Highland Ancient Arch 

                   

“I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had.” ~ Margaret Mead 

Sunday afternoon. Mid 60’s, sunny.

Stone Arch, Ayshire, Scotland (Pixdaus)

I had wanted to write yesterday, but I kept putting it off because I just couldn’t muster the energy. Eventually I found out that Corey had spiked my coffee with unleaded. Crap. Apparently, I have a caffeine addiction, and the neurologist I consulted this past week wants me to get caffeine out of my diet as she believes that it is the primary cause for my daily headaches.

No caffeine? Seriously? Haven’t I given up enough? You want to take away my coffee and Pepsi too? Beh. Beh, I say. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling Corey, so now he’s mixing the deliciously bold Italian roast with decaf coffee. I think that I may have to take a stand here: You can make me cut back on carbs even though an Asian without rice is like Bill Cosby without pudding. You can take away most of the sugar in my diet. You can tell me not to eat chocolate (notice the wording, tell me?), but caffeine? No. Hell no.

We’ll see.

I asked the neurologist about Botox shots for my migraines, and she said that she had already thought about it, but would have to refer me to one of her partners who apparently handles Botox injections. I’m just glad that they’ve finally been approved for migraines. Actually, in looking back on the appointment, I’m not sure that much of anything happened: a new prescription, a prescription for a drug I already take, lots of hammering on my joints to test my reflexes, lots of questions. She was a humorless woman with sausage fingers (wouldn’t that make a great first line), and she kept asking me about other medicines that I’ve taken. I had to tell her that I couldn’t remember the names as they had all affected my cognitive processes negatively.

But forward progress, as in something might actually happen? Well, I suppose the sleep apnea study might fall into that category, but I left feeling a bit muddled, as in, what was the point exactly?

Please do not mention the caffeine as I will only refer you back to the previous paragraph. I mean, I’ve been told to go off caffeine before. I did. Not much difference. Of course, at the time, I wasn’t having migraines as severe as the ones I’m having now. I did let this new doctor know that on that happy face pain scale that they always show you in the ER (the one that makes me want to rip it out of their hands and tear it into a thousand pieces), my pain level is never ever below a two, as in, pain is always present to some extent.

(How foolish is it to shove a paper on which someone has printed a smiley face and the numeral one and a progression of faces until it reaches Mr. Grimace face with a number 10  in front of someone who is enduring excruciating pain? Just saying . . .)

“When you look back on your life, it looks as though it were a plot, but when you are into it, it’s a mess: just one surprise after another. Then, later, you see it was perfect.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Archway Leading to Chateau de Jumilhac-le-Grand, Perigord, France

My dreams of late have been very disturbing again: In one, my mother is holding an infant who is very ill. For two nights in a row I’ve been trying to call someone (an unknown male), but cannot seem to get my fingers to work on the keyboard of my phone. I do remember thinking that the number that I should be calling was X, only to realize that X number was my doctor’s office. How strange. And as is almost always the case with my strange sequential dreams, they begin at my old apartment that I had when I was an undergrad.

I do seem to be sleeping a bit sounder now that I’m taking an additional med that my new psychiatrist prescribed. Have I mentioned that I really like this one? I’ve been seeing so many doctors for so many things that I’m losing track. In fact, I cancelled a virtual colonoscopy (virtual?) that my gastro guy ordered because, of course, my insurance is not keeping up with the claims, and I’m starting to get bills for all of these treatments. I’d like to get the premiums up-to-date so that I don’t have to worry about calling to have things refiled.

The concept of a virtual colonoscopy intrigues me. Once I finally have the procedure, I’ll let you know what’s involved. As long as no more probes are inserted into orifices, I can handle it, which reminds me of another part of my dream which I will not discuss in any detail except to say that it was really and truly disgusting.

Corey and I were talking about how his dreams usually seem to be prophetic in some way, that, or he dreams about zombies (don’t ever get him started on his entire theory about the possibility of zombies and how our house is not zombie-proof); whereas my own dreams are filled with conflict. I wonder what normal people dream about?

“For me it is sufficient to have a corner by my hearth, a book and a friend, and a nap undisturbed by creditors or grief.” ~ Fernandez de Andrada

Moon Bridge, Japanese Tea Garden

Let’s see . . . what other interesting and intriguing things have been going on in my little world? I finally got the FAFSA’s done for both sons; so easy, don’t know why I put it off for so long, must be that procrastination gene I carry. Also, I’m in an ongoing battle with the local Ford dealer over the Windstar recall. Apparently, at some point during this process (which began on November 1 last year), Ford decided that they would not pay us the amount they had settled upon but would rebuild the minivan instead.

When Corey told me this, I went into full-on curmudgeon mode, got on the phone, and told the customer service person that they were sadly mistaken if they believed for one second that we were going to wait over six months only to be given back a vehicle that their company had deemed too dangerous to drive off the lot. In lots and lots of words, I said that we absolutely refused to take back the minivan and that we would only settle for what we had been offered. I hung up the phone, and Corey said very quietly that I was actually very scary sometimes.

Really? Had no idea.

That was a week ago. The guy from the dealership calls me everyday to tell me that it’s (our claim) working its way up the chain. I tell him that’s all well and good, but I want results.

Still have not received our federal tax refund, and we both have the feeling that the refund is once again going to be absorbed by some creditor as it has been for the past two years. We really need that money as our sliding glass door is still being held together by duct tape (wonderful thing), which makes it completely useless against zombies. That, and the fact that a new door and installation will cost a cool thousand at least. Plus I need to get caught up on health insurance payments.

And my foray into selling AVON doesn’t seem to be going all that well. My only customers have been Corey and my mom. I suppose people still don’t have disposable income for buying things. My regional rep says that we (AVON) has a new policy that if a rep doesn’t produce, they are kicked out (my words). I suppose I will be banish-ed (say it with two syllables as in Shakespearean) from the ding-dong brigade.

It’s weird how our lives can be rolling along fairly well for a few weeks, and then BAM. We’re screwed to holy hell all over again. Cut off notices, and past due bills, and relentless telephone calls from people wanting money we still don’t have. This is the part of the cycle that, quite frankly, I could really do without.

“Acceptance is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else.” ~ David Foster Wallace

Piscina Mirabilis, Napoli by laura.foto (Flckr Creative Commons)

Just so you don’t start to believe that my life is a lovely little bit of paradise, I’ll mention that I did visit the rehab place in which my m-in-law is residing. I went on Monday (Tuesday)? after my gastro appointment in which the doctor said that I essentially don’t have good working plumbing. Big surprise. More tests. Another big surprise.

But I digress . . .

When I got there, she was in speech therapy, which consisted of the therapist helping her to hold a small plastic cup of water and taking sips. I don’t pretend to know the value of such a thing. When I asked about the peanut butter that seems to be all over my m-in-law’s face and on her shirt, I was told that licking the peanut butter from around her mouth was an exercise. That actually makes sense to me.

Anyway, I rolled her back to her room, and we had a kind of conversation. She was very tired, and wanted to get in bed, but I couldn’t get anyone to come into the room to help put her into bed. Also, she was very shaky, and kept thinking that she was falling out of the wheelchair, so I pushed my chair right up to her so that our knees were touching, and I told here that I wouldn’t go anywhere until she was put into bed.

It was quite unnerving as she would drift off and then awaken with a start and stiffen her entire body as she thought she was falling. I would hold her and assure her that she was not falling and that I wasn’t going anywhere. The strangest part is that the way in which she stiffened her body is exactly the same as the way that Patrick (her son/my b-in-law in Germany who is a paraplegic) stiffens his body when he is in pain or is upset. I did not mention that, of course, as any mention of Patrick would have upset her.

The doctors have concluded (big surprise here) that she will never be able to live alone again. I can’t stand the idea of her being in that place, so I mentioned to my sis-in-law Ann that perhaps she could get a reverse mortgage which would allow her to stay in her home and possibly afford full-time in-home care. I just think that if she were around her own things, around her cat, she would probably respond better. Unfortunately, none of this is up to me, so I make suggestions and let it go at that.

At 4:50 (hours later), someone finally came into the room to get her ready for bed. I gathered all of her dirty clothes and took them home to be washed, feeling as if it were such a small gesture, one not nearly enough for this woman who has been so integral to my life.

This, I cannot write about any more, so I’ll sign off for now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Mazzy Star, “”Fade Into You” (Live)

                   

Men at Forty*

‘Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

~ Donald Justice

*I love this poem and have always wanted to write a companion piece about women at forty . . .

“Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.” ~ Serbian Proverb

Il Bucco Nero (Stairs in Puglia, Italy by Paolo Margori (flckr cc)

                   

“You must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow.” ~ Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae (On the Shortness of Life)

Late Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and warm, around 62 degrees.

Staircase at The Rookery, Chicago, IL by rspnogsaj (flckr cc)

The house is empty and quiet, just the dogs, me, and a handful of gummi bears. Not exactly certain what brought to mind the Seneca quote, but there it is, in all of its profound wisdom, its references to seizing the day.

I suppose I thought about seizing, or my inability to seize when mulling over the poetry competition. I had almost talked myself out of entering the darned thing in the first place. I do this all of the time. Truly. This is no exaggeration.

My ex, with all of his faults, did often say that I needed to work more on my writing. Corey has said from the day that he met me that I should do something with my writing. Poets and authors have made similar comments. The only thing holding me back is me.

When I worked full time, I used to harbor this dream of quitting my job and writing full time. Funnily enough, since I’ve been out on disability, I do not work on my craft full time. I suppose that I could. No, the truth is that I definitely could. I just don’t, and I don’t have any good excuses as to why I act this way except for that ever-present, nagging feeling that I’m just not good enough, so why bother.

Thanks, mom.

Okay. So it’s not exactly kosher to blame all of my problems on my mother, but it’s certainly easier when introspection feels too much like giving yourself an appendectomy with an exacto knife.

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” ~ Franz Kafka

Camondo Stairs, Instanbul by marielito (flckr cc)

So, I’m living the dream. Right? No career obligations. Just time, time, and more time. So why does it seem that there is never enough of this particular commodity? Is it because I spend almost half my life in bed, (let’s use that euphemism) resting, attempting to find sleep, which continually eludes me.

Last night, for example, the dogs awoke me on average every hour and a half. I’m certain that they were doing this simply because they knew that I was physically and emotionally exhausted from my gastro test yesterday. I had worked myself into such a worrisome snit beforehand that once the test had been completed, I was exhausted. Hence: ongoing nocturnal dog restlessness syndrome hard at work.

So if I cut back on my attempts at rest, I would have more time. Seems logical. So with more time, I can now focus on my writing, except that I don’t. I play at this blog, and I peruse tumblr looking at beautiful images and silly memes. I do laundry. Clean the kitchen, and then, well it’s time to go back to bed.

Everything just takes so damned long to do any more. My former hyper-paced multi-tasking self ceased to exist at some point, and I would really, really like to find her again. Grab her and her stylish self and make her my own. I know. I’m speaking of myself in the abstract, a sure sign that things are going wonky again.

Perhaps I need to increase my chocolate intake again.

“The heart lies to itself because it must.” ~ Jack Gilbert

Staircase at Sigiriya Sri Lanka by mckaysavage (flckr cc)

Well, the gummi bears are gone, and I’m resisting the urge to get more from the bag. Instead, I’m munching on saltines. Back to watching my caloric intake. One reason is that I’m mulling over the possibility of attending my high school reunion this August (no, you really don’t need to know the year). I told my friend Ed in Rhode Island that I might go if I lose weight. He, being male, just does not understand this statement as it’s the same thing that someone else told him.

I mean, I had plans to get back on the healthy eating program after the holidays, and the notice about the reunion just came in the mail, so the two sort of coincided. The truth is that there are really very few people who I would want to pay good money to see again. Although this year’s reunion is supposedly including the class before and the class after our class, which might prove to be interesting.

But then there’s that whole thing of finding something to wear, attempting to hold in my gut for four hours, ya da ya da ya da. Plus, the inevitable questions: So, where are you working? Hmm, I’m not. I’m on disability. Then the funny looks from people who cannot seem to equate disability with anything other than the loss of limbs or sight, as in you look fine to me . . . must be a malingerer.

I love that word: malingerer. I malinger. He/she/it malingers. You were malingering. They malingered. We are malingerers . . . Maybe I’ll go just so I can work that word into the conversation three or four times, and then having had my fun, I’ll depart, leaving hilarity in my wake . . . one does dream . . . 

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” ~ Jack Kerouac

Spiral Staircase by erix! (flckr cc)

Damn. No more Pepsi in my glass, and the saltines are stuck in my throat. Pardon me for just a moment.

Quick check on the laundry. Fed the dogs dinner. Tillie talked me into giving her a new toy that was hidden on top of the fridge (don’t ask me how she knows, but she does); made a cuppa tea (last jasmine green tea bag, reminder to get more), back at the desk, and you guessed it—forgot the Pepsi.

Yes, my life is grand, grander than grand. All ye bow before me in awe at my awesomeness. Okay, enough of that.

My mother is leaving me messages about hair color. We’ve had this conversation several times already, but she keeps forgetting that the doctors told her that coloring her hair is not problematic while she is on coumadin. She reminds me each time that we talk that she’s on coumadin and is diabetic, as if I would have forgotten this information since our last conversation.

I’m not as horrible as I sound, or maybe I am.  I don’t know, but I do know that my mom’s memory is going quickly. I really don’t think that she’s developing Alzheimer’s like her older sister did, or maybe I’m in denial. These are the things that I just don’t want to think about now: my mother’s health, my other m-in-law’s rapidly declining health, my daughter’s seemingly complete detachment from what it means to be a productive member of society.

Too much, just too much. At least for tonight. Perhaps I’ll jump into the deep end of the pool tomorrow. Until then, I want to share with you someone I am much too late in discovering, Adele. What a voice. You might get sick of her soon because I plan to include a few of her songs with the next few posts. I’ll just say sorry now, and we’ll move on.

Shall we?

More later. Peace.

Music by Adele, “Someone Like You”

“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” ~ David Foster Wallace

Castle Door and Keyhole by Horia Varlan (flckr creative commons)

                   

“I have filled 3 Mead notebooks trying to figure out whether it was Them or Just Me.” ~ David Foster Wallace

This is all that I can muster tonight, and trust me, it’s much better than my own words:

“The truth is you already know what it’s like. You already know the difference between the size and speed of everything that flashes through you and the tiny inadequate bit of it all you can ever let anyone know. As though inside you is this enormous room full of what seems like everything in the whole universe at one time or another and yet the only parts that get out have to somehow squeeze out through one of those tiny keyholes you see under the knob in older doors. As if we are all trying to see each other through these tiny keyholes.

But it does have a knob, the door can open. But not in the way you think…The truth is you’ve already heard this. That this is what it’s like. That it’s what makes room for the universes inside you, all the endless inbent fractals of connection and symphonies of different voices, the infinities you can never show another soul. And you think it makes you a fraud, the tiny fraction anyone else ever sees? Of course you’re a fraud, of course what people see is never you. And of course you know this, and of course you try to manage what part they see if you know it’s only a part. Who wouldn’t? It’s called free will, Sherlock. But at the same time it’s why it feels so good to break down and cry in front of others, or to laugh, or speak in tongues, or chant in Bengali–it’s not English anymore, it’s not getting squeezed through any hole.

So cry all you want, I won’t tell anybody.”  ~ David Foster Wallace

“We search for patterns, you see, only to find where the patterns break. And it’s there, in that fissure, that we pitch our tents and wait.” ~ Nicole Krauss, from “Great House”

Snowy, Snowy Night by Miranda Wildman (mirandawildmanart.com) 

                   

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” ~ Frederick Douglass

Snow Glow by John Rawlinson (Flckr creative commons)

Sunday afternoon. Cold and cloudy.

It snowed last night for several hours. Snow in early December—not normal for this area. Of course all of the snow was gone this morning, but it was pretty while it lasted.

I’ve been on a cleaning binge for the past two days. It takes so much longer to do what I used to do in one Saturday afternoon. I have to clean a little and then take a break, so I usually visit my tumblr during breaks to see what has been posted most recently on the dashboard. I find that I really enjoy tumblr; I read somewhere that tumblr is the in-depth equivalent of Facebook, which makes sense to me. I mean, FB is nice for finding out how your friends in other places are doing, but the same can be accomplished with a phone call or e-mail.

Very often on tumblr, a predominant theme will show up on the dash quite by accident (e.g., book burning, war, silence). One individual starts with a few posts, and then other like-minded individuals join the thread. It’s a different kind of social networking. The most important thing is not the statement on how you are feeling, but the posts that reflect how you are feeling, or what you are doing, or what you are thinking.

For someone like me who loves quotes, photography, and art, it’s a treasure chest, and with each visit I find something new. The only problem is that as tumblr become more popular, the site’s servers are having a hard time keeping up with the traffic.

“True alchemy lies in this formula: ‘Your memory and your senses are but the nourishment of your creative impulse.’” ~ Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations

Fall Snow (Pixdaus)

So aside from Eamonn’s room, the house is clean. My intent is to decorate sometime this week so that I’m not doing everything at the last minute again this year. I have the wreath on the front door, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

I did spend some time on YouTube yesterday creating my country/folk playlist. A few nights ago I watched CMT’s songs of the decade special, which reminded me of how much I actually like country music, something I would not have said a decade ago. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of traditional country, with the twang and such; I’m more of a crossover fan, heartache, love, and betrayal Keith Urban, Rascall Flatts, and Sugarland style.

I remember watching a CMT special on the best 100 country love songs several years ago. Corey was out on the boat, and by the time the show was over I was a blubbery mess. I called Corey, and when I told him what I had watched, he understood perfectly why I was crying. Country music has a way of doing that to me.

I amassed a playlist of 86 songs in just a few hours. Who knew I knew that many country and folk songs . . .

“The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.” ~ Ken Kesey 

Snowstorm (Pixdaus)

Corey is at work. He got off at 11 p.m. last night and had to go back in at 7 this morning; he works until 8 tonight. Getting hours is great, but I have to say that the scheduling lacks forethought. I know that scheduling people is hard; I had to schedule 50 people at a time, and it’s a great big headache. But this sergeant doesn’t even allow Corey to get a good night’s sleep before asking him to work 13 hours.

I know that he’s really tired of port security, and I don’t envy him having to stand watch on a ship for 8 hours in the freezing cold. As he said, at least when he’s on a tugboat, he’s never outside for eight hours at a time.

Here’s hoping that with 2011 we get to start the year on a new path. It seems that I’ve said that so many times in the past few years. I just don’t really know what to think any more, and I certainly don’t know what I should hope for

“The books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all human habitation—a book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.” ~ Franz Kafka

Snow on Rose by Russell.Tomlin

I am very behind in my reading and reviewing. I have received a few advanced reader’s copies that I need to read and review before the end of the year. And since I hope to get some books for Christmas, I really need to finish at least two of the books that I am currently reading. One is by Elizabeth George, and the other is by P. D. James—two of my very favorite authors.

I’ve been reading about the Stieg Larsson trilogy, and I think that that’s the next series that I want to tackle. We got a Costco flyer in the mail, and the entire set in hardback is available online, so maybe if I get a little cash sometime soon, I might be able to order it.

I also want to read Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes. I’ve read a lot of Sylvia Plath, but not much of Ted Hughes. I think that I, like many people, blame Hughes for Plath’s death, which is not really fair. The reality is that Plath would have committed suicide at one point or another in her life, and if she had been found in time on the day she stuck her head in the oven, then she most likely would have tried again. Certainly no one can say for sure.

“There comes a time in every life when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn to know the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.” ~ Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

Tree Branches in Snow by D. Sharon Pruitt (Flckr creative commons)

Tortured souls who make up their minds to commit suicide most often do so eventually unless they have some kind of major change or epiphany.

Life is hard, harder for some than others. Some people move through their days as if covered in teflon, nothing penetrating or touching. But if nothing bad can touch them, then neither can anything good get through the protective armor. Other people walk through life with their hearts, souls, and psyches on the outside—the walking wounded who never seem to heal.

And then there is the space between through which most of us move. We suffer storms and sometimes find ourselves blinded by relentless deluges. And then we take a few more steps and move into the clear, sometimes even stumbling into brilliance.

I have no way of foretelling what the coming days and months have waiting in store for me and those I love. I know what we need and what I wish, but life’s patterns are only discernible in retrospect. I only know that asking why some things work and others go terribly wrong is akin to spitting into the wind.

Reasons get tangled like briars, and sometimes thoughts are so black that no light can illuminate the darkness surrounding them. But sometimes just waiting for the bitter wind to stop howling is enough to get through the night.  

The heart, as Ondaatje describes it, it an organ of fire, moving through joy and sorrow alike in search of what it needs to survive. It’s all that we can do.

More later. Peace. 

One of the saddest songs ever, “Whiskey Lullabye,” by Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss

                   

Waking at 3 a.m.

Even in the cave of the night when you
wake and are free and lonely,
neglected by others, discarded, loved only
by what doesn’t matter—even in that
big room no one can see,
you push with your eyes till forever
comes in its twisted figure eight
and lies down in your head.

You think water in the river;
you think slower than the tide in
the grain of the wood; you become
a secret storehouse that saves the country,
so open and foolish and empty.

You look over all that the darkness
ripples across. More than has ever
been found comforts you. You open your
eyes in a vault that unlocks as fast
and as far as your thought can run.
A great snug wall goes around everything,
has always been there, will always
remain. It is a good world to be
lost in. It comforts you. It is
all right. And you sleep.

~ William Stafford 

“I know no other way out of what is both the maze of the eternal present and the prison of the self except with a string of words.” ~ Lewis H. Lapham

 

 I want to go here: Hotel de l’Europe, Amsterdam

                   

“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.” ~ Mark Twain

And here: Bakklandet, Norway, by sigkyrre (flckr creative commons)

Saturday afternoon, my house.

The autumn sun is shining brightly through the window of what used to be Eamonn’s room, and dust motes are dancing in the beams. Shakes is asleep on a pillow on the floor near my chair. Corey and Tillie are at the park; Alfie has the big bed all to himself, and Brett is playing XBox. All in all, a rather quiet, peaceful Saturday.

Alexis is busy with a yard sale, some of the proceeds from which will go to Jennifer’s fund for her son Reilly. I spent $10 I didn’t have on two china teapots that belonged to Janet’s mother, Amanda’s grandmother (Amanda is a life-long friend of Alexis). They are beautiful and might make lovely gifts for someone. I also scored a free bread maker, which is great as Corey and I were looking at breadmakers last Christmas but decided against the investment. Scott, Amanda’s father was diagnosed as being Diabetic Type II, so no more homemade bread for them. The bread maker is in great shape, which makes getting it free a great yard-sale deal.

Fresh, hot bread and homemade soups and stews—a winter staple in our house. I know many people who do not like using slow cookers, or crock pots, but I have always used one. When I worked full-time, I would put the soup on in the morning, and when we got home nine hours later, we would have a delicious, hot soup for dinner. Small pleasures.

“So long as a person is capable of self-renewal they are a living being.” ~ Henri-Frederic Amiel

And here: Bruges, Belgium

I began this post on Saturday, and it is now Wednesday evening. Corey asked me this morning if I was going to post soon as I hadn’t added anything since the 19th, which reminded me that I had actually started a post but had never gotten back to it. I had a very good reason, though.

I did something on Saturday and Sunday that I’ve needed to do for a while, but just didn’t feel ready to do: I cleaned my closets, really cleaned, and filled two large black trash bags with clothes, not including the three suits on hangers. I got rid of pretty much anything that I wore to work; I realized that if I ever returned to work, I would want a new wardrobe, that and the fact that none of these clothes would be in style if I do ever resume my career.

So someone at the thrift store will get a great deal on two Jones New York suits, and one Chaus suit, one of which had never been worn, not to mention the jackets, blouses, and pants that I tossed.

It felt good, really good, as if I had passed some kind of hurdle, which is actually what I did. I mean, I cleaned out a chunk of my life that doesn’t exist any more. Corey was both surprised and amazed.

Of course when I finished, my body was completely trashed, and it has taken until this afternoon for me not to be in constant, throbbing pain. The price I pay for living.

“Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering—because you can’t take it in all at once.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

And here: Istanbul, Turkey

While trying to recuperate from my big project, I had to take my mother to a doctor’s appointment on Monday, after which she wanted to do some grocery shopping. No surprise that by the time we were finished, she was complaining bitterly that her leg was hurting. She is doing well, but she has not yet healed completely, something that she does not seem able to reconcile.

After all of her hard work, Alexis only made about $70 at the yard sale. She was a bit down about that, but at least this particular project is over.

In other family news, Eamonn stopped by Monday evening to pick up some of his belongings. I have been pressing him to make some decisions as Corey and I want to change Eamonn’s bedroom into an office, so of course eldest son is thinking about moving back home. I would love to have him move back, but I don’t think that he will; rather, I think that he bothered by the idea of his bedroom being transformed into something not reflective of him, which is to be expected.

Brett finished his astronomy project yesterday, which put him in great shape for Thanksgiving break. He is really doing well in school, and I cannot say enough how happy I am at the change that I see in him.

“Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself; if all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying.” ~ Simone de Beauvoire

And here: Helsinki, Finland by sigkyrre (flckr creative commons)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and in preparation, I have baked sweet potatoes so that I can mash them tomorrow (with a dash of vanilla, nutmeg, brown sugar, and cream), and I have made a cranberry salad that I hope turns out okay as it is my first time with this recipe. Tomorrow I’ll make the dressing. just a basic recipe.

Corey has to work from 7 to 3, so we’ll probably eat around 5. I’ll go to my mom’s around noon to put the turkey in the oven as it is quite large and heavy. Mom has already made pecan pies and is cooking the green beans, and I’ll make the gravy and heat the rolls after the turkey comes out of the oven.

After last year’s fiasco in which Alexis got up in the afternoon and didn’t put the turkey into the oven until 2 p.m., she is responsible for the mashed potatoes and corn this year, two things that do not require a great deal of time. I do have to say, though, that since she started her new medicine, she does seem to have more energy and hasn’t been sleeping for 24 hours at a time—a positive sign that perhaps she is moving in the right direction.

So if everything goes as planned—which never, ever happens with this family—all details of our Thanksgiving feast should be covered. Eamonn is eating with us, which means that the whole family will be together. I just have to try not to get hyper and anxious, something always happens whenever the whole family is together. I love it, but it makes me very fretful as the perfectionist thing kicks into overdrive.

“If I see the outer world differently from how others see it, it’s because I inadvertently incorporate, into what I see, the things from my dreams that have stuck to my eyes and ears.” ~ Fernandoa Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

And also here: Locronan, Brittany, France

                   

I couldn’t bear the thought of spending another winter in this house without natural gas for heat and cooking, so I took money out of my retirement to pay the back balance to Virginia Natural Gas. In addition to the balance, we have to pay a deposit, which they will spread over three months.

It’s a major expenditure, but a necessary one.  I mean, let’s face it; the cold wreaks havoc with my back, not to mention my knees, which is why it’s so odd that I would love to relocate to a place that has mountains and snow. But ask me on another day, and I would love to relocate to the tropics. As with most things, I don’t really know what I want, but what I want is anywhere but here.

Brett has been talking about New Zealand, a country that I have wanted to visit since I was a child. I told him that unfortunately, the reality is that I cannot even think of moving far away as long as my mother is still around. Her recent accident only reinforced the reality that I have been trying to avoid: As an only child, there is no one else to step in, and there never will be.

Life has an odd way of unfolding, of spilling seemingly insignificant pebbles across the path, only for the pebbles to morph into giant boulders when no one is paying attention. And boulders, well they don’t move at all and cannot be easily pushed to the side, which means that the only way forward is around, making the path longer than anticipated.

As a fellow once said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Too right, that.

More later. Peace.

Music by Cyndi Lauper, “Fearless”

                   

Fearless

Sometimes I’m afraid when you go
Sometimes I’m afraid when you come home
Underneath it all . . .
I think I’m afraid when there’s nothing wrong.

But if I was fearless . . .
Could I be your reckless friend
And if I was helpless . . .
Could you be the one comes rushing in.

There’s something that I never told
When I find myself slipping off of my pedestal
I’m a fierce believer afraid to fall.

But if I was fearless . . .
Could I be your reckless friend
And if I was helpless . . .
Could you be the one comes rushing in.

Sometimes I’m afraid of the dark
I can’t find the light in my heart
I can see my hand pushing away from you
Hard as I can

But if I was fearless . . .
Could I be your wreckless friend
And if I was helpless . . .
Could be the one comes rushing in.

Sometimes I’m afraid when you go . . .