“We work in our own darkness a great deal with little real knowledge of what we are doing.” ~ John Steinbeck

“After the Snowfall,” by Jonas Lie (1908, oil on canvas)

“We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded. We are permitted merely to sense and guess at what we are actually experiencing. Only later when the cloth is untied can we glance at the past and find out what we have experienced and what meaning it has.” ~ Milan Kundera, from Laughable Loves

Wednesday afternoon. Snow on the ground, 30 degrees.

Today is my father’s birthday. It’s strange, isn’t it, the dates that you continue to mark on your calendar? Dates that no longer have any connection to a living person, and dates that are still connected to a person, but that person is no longer in your life. For example, every year on October 1, I remember Mari’s birthday, and on November 1, Kathleen’s. Perhaps that is because of the synchronicity of their prime number. Who knows. Regardless, I still mark so many things on my calendars at the beginnings of each year, even though no celebrations or commemorations will be had.

“Barge in the Snow,” by William Degouve Nuncques (1911, oil on canvas)

Today, I’m thinking a lot about my days at the Museum. I loved that place. And I hated that place. Wait. I loved the place, hated some of the people. That’s more accurate.

I still remember using my swipe card to enter through back doors within the galleries—that simple movement seemingly conveyed so much power to me. Any time I felt nervous or anxious, I would wander through the galleries, just drinking in the colors and textures. A museum is truly a wonderful place to work, as long as you don’t have to deal with the board of directors, that is.

But I miss those days even though my tenure ended badly when the museum had sweeping budget cuts, and I was deemed unnecessary. The days that followed my departure were dark in so many ways, and in reflecting on them, I realize that they contributed directly to the end of my first marriage, not that there weren’t already problems. I spent a great deal of time away from home, just trying to lose myself, and eventually, I lost my marriage.

Not regrets. Just facts.

“We create what we remember
to survive all we never had.
In a hall, darkened by exterior glitter,
my father scolds me
for anticipating his gift more than his return.
I am small but I slide an immense distance . . . ” ~ Marlève Rugo, “On Not Being Able to Write”

Of course there are regrets. I mean, I cast by the wayside two, no three friendships from the museum that had been very important to me. I cannot tell you why, now, only that at the time, I wanted to cut so many ties because I was in so much pain, wanted to be free of everyone and everything , which, of course, you simply cannot do. Not unless you are 6 years old.

So those people who I cast off in my attempts to recapture something that I thought that I had lost? I don’t know where they are now or how they are doing, but I think of them often and wish that I had been a better friend.

“Early Snow,” by Walter Launt Palmer (nd, oil on canvas)

Actually, friendship has always been difficult for me. There have been times when I have have had brutal arguments with a friend and then immediately severed all ties. Who does that? Well, I suppose, I do, or rather, I did. But were those truly friends, or just acquaintances? It’s both hard and easy for me to make friends. I make instant connections with people, and sometimes, those connections prove to be less than healthy, and sometimes they prove to be powerful forces in my life.

My oldest and dearest friend from my youth died a few years ago from lung cancer. I did not see her before she died, just as I did not see Allan before he died. Yes, regrets, major regrets. Do I set myself up for regrets? Perhaps.

“There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.” ~ George Eliot

I’ve been listening to some newer artists and some old favorite artists in an attempt to populate my posts with new tunes to accompany my words. I’ve found quite a few already. Let me know, dear reader, what you think of those I’ve included recently, or if you have any suggestions.The weird thing is that when I stopped writing, I also stopped listening to music all of the time. I couldn’t possibly explain why that is, especially as music has always been a very important part of my life.

I’m particularly partial to the Sara Bareilles’ tune “She Used to be Mine.” It hits very close to home. I feel as if I’ve been so many people over the years, none of them traditional or expected or normal, whatever that is. I truly wonder if everyone feels like that. I mean, it’s more than having certain attitudes in your teens, and then different attitudes in your 40s. I would expect that such things happen to everyone.

“Albany in the Snow,” by Walter Launt Palmer (1871, oil on canvas)

It’s more that when I look back on my life, I see different people. I see someone who was fiercely aggressive in her career while working for the government contractor. I see someone who loved to be at the front of the classroom, making wisecracks and listening to students while at the university. I see a woman who refused to compromise and then one who compromised too much.

Are they all the same me? No. Yes. I don’t know.

Damn. Shouldn’t I know who I am, by now? People think that I’m joking when I say that I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. But truly, I still don’t know, and chances are good that I won’t know when I close my eyes for the last time.

C’est vrai.

“There are men who carry dreams
over mountains, the dead
on their backs.
But only mothers
can walk with the weight
of a second beating heart.” ~ Ocean Vuong, from “My Mother Remembers Her Mother”

I’ll tell you something else that’s strange, even though I’ve said it before in different ways: I miss being pregnant. My body responded well to being pregnant, mostly. Perhaps my body, not so much, but more my spirit. When I was pregnant, I felt completely at home in myself. There have been no other times in my life when I have felt that way.

“Approaching Snow,” by Tom Thomson (1915, oil on board)

Fore more years than I can remember, I have wanted to have another daughter, another girl child to birth and to care for, but that never happened, and now, it’s much too late. And is that fate? Karma? What? God knows millions of women who want children are never able to have them, so am I being selfish in wishing that I could have had just one more? Maybe I am, but wishing never made it so, and so the point is moot, is it not? Regardless (once upon a time, I thought the word was irregardless), I still feel the desire keenly, and I find that strange as I always believed that the older I became, that the wiser I would be, and I truly believed that I would not still have yearnings that were impossible. Odd, that . . .

And now Olivia lives hundreds of miles away, and every day I wonder if she remembers me. I never understood before how a grandchild could affect me in so many ways, but it is completely unlike your own child, a different kind of love, a love that is somehow less selfish because in a grandchild, you do not invest your own future so much. Am I confusing you, dear reader? If so, I do apologize, but it’s not something you can really understand until it happens to you, and then it’s not something that you can understand losing until it happens to you.

“I would listen to my heartbeat. I couldn’t imagine that this sound which had been with me for so long could ever stop.” ~ Albert Camus, from The Stranger

The afternoon wears on, and the sky seems to be darker than when I started, and it’s definitely colder. I worry that the horses are cold, even though all of the reading that I have done says that as long as they are eating well, they will not be cold. They definitely have plenty on which to graze. But still, I want to put blankets on them. I shall resist. For now.

I just had a strange memory: I remember being 15 and sitting in my boyfriend’s den and just weeping and weeping. My father was at sea, as usual, and I missed him desperately. My boyfriend’s mother was not a particularly nice woman, or maybe she was just plain-spoken, and I was too young to appreciate it. Anyway, she told me that it was just growing pains. I left in such a huff.

“After the Snow on the Field,” by Gustave Loiseau (1899, oil on canvas)

I mean, growing pains? Could anything be more insulting? or more accurate? I do not look back on my teens fondly. Everything was too intense. All of the new feelings and emotions, the new ways in which my body did what it wanted without my having any power over it. It was all just too much. I was so very certain that my first love would be my love for the rest of my life. Gawd. Thankfully, that proved to be very wrong.

But there really was a point to this reminiscence, a non sequitur though it be: I have always had a strong affinity with animals, and I have always anthropomorphized them, had ongoing conversations with them, given them human personalities, likes and dislikes, so the feelings about the horses are not unexpected. Nevertheless, I realize that if I’m going to survive on this farm that I’ve going to have to toughen my outlook somewhat. Still, I think the horses need blankets.

More later. Peace.


Music by Finneas, “Break My Heart Again”

Coming Home

When we’re driving, in the dark,
on the long road
to Provincetown, which lies empty
for miles, when we’re weary,
when the buildings
and the scrub pines lose
their familiar look,
I imagine us rising
from the speeding car,
I imagine us seeing
everything from another place — the top
of one of the pale dunes
or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea —
and what we see is the world
that cannot cherish us
but which we cherish,
and what we see is our life
moving like that,
along the dark edges
of everything — the headlights
like lanterns
sweeping the blackness —
believing in a thousand
fragile and unprovable things,
looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,
making all the right turns
right down to the thumping
barriers to the sea,
the swirling waves,
the narrow streets, the houses,
the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs
to you and me.

~ Mary Oliver

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“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” ~ George Eliot, from Middlemarch

“Dark Crystal” (Vendee, France)
by Philippe Albanel, DeviantArt

                   

Two for Tuesday:

Two tunes, two poems, too tired for more.

Music by Gary Moore, “Still Got the Blues”

                   

sorrows

who would believe them winged
who would believe they could be

beautiful         who would believe
they could fall so in love with mortals

that they would attach themselves
as scars attach and ride the skin

sometimes we hear them in our dreams
rattling their skulls         clicking their bony fingers

envying our crackling hair
our spice filled flesh

they have heard me beseeching
as I whispered into my own

cupped hands       enough not me again
enough       but who can distinguish

one human voice
amid such choruses of desire

~ Lucille Clifton

                    

Music by Gary Moore, “The Loner”

Second Story

How strange to be sitting in this room,
to be noticing the windows—clearer than air—
how they let in everything, the leaves,
the bright-colored leaves, hanging like bits
of paper from the trees, and the thin woman
across the street sweeping her porch—
though she swept it yesterday and the day before
and will, most likely, sweep it tomorrow—
and how strange to be thinking of you, always
of you, as the room changes imperceptibly, easily
moving from moment to moment, like a lover
whose infidelities are purely imaginary,
imagined by you, just as you’re sure
the house might betray you, accommodating shadows
in your absence, sure that the room only
pretends to be your room, light climbing the stairs—
like an intruder or friend who left a long time ago—
pausing, changing its mind, going back down again,
as if the door were open and it could
come back anytime. Strange after so much time
to feel the same feelings, only stronger,
as the dust settles thickly on the tables,
and the afternoon shadows, unsure of themselves,
shrink into corners or lie on the floor,
and no letters arrive and the phone doesn’t ring,
and the woman sweeping her porch casts
a cold eye up at you—the face in the second story
window, the whorled face staring at the view—
goes into her house and shuts the door.

~ Elizabeth Spires

“Most people are on the world, not in it—have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them—undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching, but separate.” ~ John Muir

Canyon of Sumidero, Chiapa de Corzo, by Sectur

“A kiss on the forehead—erases misery.
I kiss your forehead.” ~ Marina Tsvetaeva, (trans. Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine)

Sunday early evening. Mild, 60°.

So it’s been two days since Corey boarded the plane that took him to Dulles, and then on to Copenhagen, then to Lithuania. Apparently he was late arriving in Lithuania because of fog. The plan made three attempts to land and then had to return to Copenhagen to refuel. Thankfully, he slept through most of it, and also thankfully, I did not know about it until it was over, and he was safe on the ground.

Kravice Waterfalls, Trebižat in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Wikimedia Commons)

Tomorrow I have to send him an express package with the things that he forgot, two of which are essential, and I don’t know how—between the two of us—we forgot to pack them: his merchant mariner document and his USB for his laptop.

We don’t know how long he will be in Lithuania yet, still waiting for a decision on where the rest of the repairs will be made. He said that there is a crew of about 16 on board for now.

The last two nights have been as restless as expected. Friday, Tillie was obviously upset and wouldn’t eat. I pulled a dirty t-shirt from the hamper and put it with her, and she settled a bit. Yesterday and today I’ve tried to play with her outside for a bit, and my plan it to begin walking with her tomorrow. I hope that between the physical activity and the extra attention, she won’t go into full grieving mode, leaving me with one less thing to contend with so that I can get about the business of being miserable.

“And this is one of the mysteries, that the mind can speak, and knows nothing;
and the heart knows everything, and cannot speak.” ~ Osho

The other two dogs are fine; the fat one never leaves my side long enough to pay attention to anyone else, and while Alfie knows that something is up, he seems fine as long as I let him nuzzle and sleep at my feet.

Irenggolo Waterfall, Indonesia (Wikimedia Commons)

It really hasn’t hit me yet. I mean, right now it’s just as if he’s away for a transport. We’ll revisit the issue in a week and see how I’m doing.

I took the time yesterday to catch up on my blog reading, something I have been remiss in doing. One of my blogger compatriots gave me a suggestion for a post that I think I’ll tackle soon: the virtual hoarding that I do on Tumblr. I hadn’t really thought about it until recently, but I realize that Tumblr lets me amass lots and lots of things, but in a good way: I don’t have to dust, and I don’t have to make room. Anyway, I’m pondering that for now . . .

Last night, this morning, really, the moon was still big and bright in the sky at 6 a.m. or so. This whole spring forward thing on the time always screws me up; although, I’m not really certain as to why since my nights are my days and vice versa. I mean, I don’t even know the date unless I look at my cell phone or one of the calendars hanging throughout the house.

“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.” ~ George Eliot

Anyway, I’ve been trying to stay busy the past few days, catching up on reading blogs and Tumblr, and starting the Game of Thrones series of books. It’s hard reading, and I can’t do my usual speed reading as there are so many new names of places and characters, something inherent in fantasies. But I read until 4 this morning, and then made myself stop so that I could attempt to sleep.

Right. That really worked.

Triberg Waterfalls on Gutach River, Black Forest, Germany (Wikimedia Commons)

Before Corey left, the boys sat down with us, and we came up with a family game plan for chores and tasks. Not too many changes really, just reminders that I can do laundry, but I cannot lift the baskets. I can do the shopping, but I need someone to come with me to carry. Eamonn is taking on the yard mowing, which is good as I can’t do it, and Brett hates to do it.

But we have a plan, and my hope is that I don’t get too much grief when I do eventually ask for help and that I don’t have to be in constant mom-reminder-mode. Such a pain, especially with grown/almost grown offspring. But we’re hoping that the plan will help the three of us settle into a somewhat comfortable existence in Corey’s absence. We’re shooting for a new kind of normalcy.

I remember when Corey worked on tugs and was two weeks on/one week off—it was hard going in a lot of ways. I was still working full time, and the boys were in high school, and Eamonn was at the height of his difficult years and Brett was having so many problems. Some days, I just wanted to hide in my bedroom with the dogs. But there were dishes to do, and laundry, and all of the rest, not to mention I was going to school in DC two nights a week. I really don’t know how I survived that, but I did. I suppose we all do what we have to do when we have to do it.

It’s better if you don’t think too much about things, I suppose.

“The blue river is gray at morning
and evening. There is twilight
at dawn and dusk. I lie in the dark
wondering if this quiet in me now
is a beginning or an end.” ~ Jack Gilbert, “Waking at Night”

In this most recent mode of no-sleep, I find myself attuned to every little noise. More birds are starting their morning song, so the middle of the night is actually not very quiet.

Kjerag Waterfalls, Rogaland County, Norway (Wikimedia Commons)

I remember that when I lived in the mountains the sounds of sirens were rarely heard in the middle of the night. When I lived in northern Virginia, it was the opposite, city sounds all night long. I don’t think that I really notice the sirens around here unless I’m trying to quiet my thoughts, but sometimes in the still of the night I can still hear the train whistle, and when there’s fog, I can hear the foghorns on the bay.

I know that I would be able to quiet my thoughts better if I had the sound of waves or rippling water within earshot. Perhaps, once I get my computer fixed and set up on my new desk, I’ll go back to my old habit of listening to my Sounds of Nature CD collection: thunderstorms, waves, whale songs, even rainforests. It’s a toss up between thunderstorms and waves, pretty much.

Last summer, we didn’t have much tree frog action, and I missed that. Just as I miss the pond outside the bedroom window with the frogs singing. Anyway, with water on the brain, you can see why I chose today’s images.

“That was the strange thing, that one did not know where one was going, or what one wanted, and followed blindly, suffering so much in secret, always unprepared and amazed and knowing nothing; but one thing led to another and by degrees something had formed itself out of nothing, and so one reached at last this calm, this quiet, this certainty, and it was this process that people called living.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

So that’s what life has been like in the past few days. I had toyed with writing an analysis of the Kony 2012 fray, even composed some of it in my brain, but then  I just didn’t have it in me to delve into such deep political waters. It would take maximal brain cells and concentration.

Waterfall, Location Unknown (?)

I suppose I’m keeping my brain on a short-leash at the moment. Subsuming the need to think too much or ponder too deeply. Introspection poses too many problems. It’s that nagging awareness that I’m holding things at bay, not allowing any tears in front of Corey before he left, for example. If I don’t allow myself to think past the surface, if I don’t move past the dust bunnies and the dirty clothes, if I don’t sit alone with my thoughts, then perhaps this ache that is creeping into my heart can be assuaged.

I’m okay, really. I mean, more okay than I expected to be, which is what worries me. I have this tendency to build walls inside without realizing it. I mean, I admit that I exist in a constant state of grief and loss. I would be lying if I claimed anything else. That loss exists in the background of my reality—a thin membrane that cloaks everything without suffocating it. If I allow it to come to the forefront, it can be all-consuming, which is why I usually just feel the subtle vibrations of its existence.

I have taught myself postpone my confrontations with that aspect of myself, to walk carefully on the surface. At least, that is what I tell myself, and sometimes saying things silently over and over does make it so. Sometimes.

More later. Peace.

Music by Shuyler Fisk, “Waking Life”

                   

You Reading This: Stop

Don’t just stay tangled up in your life.
Out there in some river or cave where you
could have been, some absolute, lonely
dawn may arrive and begin the story
that means what everything is about.

So don’t just look, either:
let your whole self drift like a breath and learn
its way down through the trees.  Let that fine
waterfall-smoke filter its gone, magnified presence
all through the forest.  Stand here till all that
you were can wander away and come back slowly,
carrying a strange new flavor into your life.
Feel it?  That’s what we mean.  So don’t just
read this—rub your thought over it.

Now you can go on.

~ William Stafford, from The Methow River Poems in Even in Quiet Places


“Agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” ~ George Eliot on Dogs

Lab nail polish

Wegman’s World Poster featuring Fey Rey, by William Wegman

 

“They (dogs) offer, if we are wise enough or simple enough to take it, a model for what it means to give your heart with little thought of return.”~ Marjorie Garber

“Both powerfully imaginary and comfortingly real, dogs act as mirrors for our own beliefs about what would constitute a truly humane society.” ~ Marjorie Garber

I had just begun writing my post for today; I was going to do a new Grace in Small Things. However, things change, and in this household, it’s usually within the blink of an eye.

Tillie had another seizure today. I heard Corey running from the living room and knew that something was wrong. Tillie’s last seizure was in May, and that one racked up a hefty vet bill that we are still trying to pay. This time, we knew that we did not have to take her to the vet. But still, it’s a hard thing to watch: the obvious fear in her eyes from not knowing what is happening with her body is probably the worst part. Thankfully, this one did not last long, and she seems to have suffered no long-term effects as she was ready to go outside and play ball with Corey within an hour of having the seizure.

I’ve been doing some reading about dog seizures, and of course, opinions vary from article to article. One common thread seems to be a deficiency in B6 and Magnesium.

One article in particular was very graphic in its disparagement of commercial dog foods, even relating how California pounds sell their euthanized dog and cat carcasses to dog food processing plants. I’m not sure how much stock I put into that, but if it’s true, it’s horrible.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that the term “meat by-products” is a euphemism for what’s leftover from the parts people can eat. I remember as a young girl being horrified when someone told me that old horses were used to make dog food. I would always get a lump in my throat whenever my mother would make me open the cans of K-Nel Ration (don’t even know if that brand exists any more) for the Yorkshire Terriers that we had. I was certain that I would smell horse when I opened the cans. I took me forever to get over that one.

We buy Purina  Beneful for our dogs. The Jack Russells have been on it since they were puppies, and Tillie has been eating it since she came home with us, first the puppy food and now the healthy weight maintenance formula. Apparently there is a mineral called phylate that leeches the vitamins from dog foods, causing a vitamin deficiency that can lead to seizures in some pure bred dogs, Labrador Retrievers being one of those breeds.

I checked the contents on the Beneful bag, but I didn’t see phylates listed. Who knows what to believe? I did look up phylates and confirmed that the mineral does cause depletion of vitamins. Whether or not it’s in the dog food is anyone’s guess. I just know that we are going to look for a vitamin supplement to give the dogs with their dinner in the evening. Two seizures within five months is two too many.

“One reason a dog can be such a comfort when you’re feeling blue is that he doesn’t try to find out why.” ~ Author Unknown 

Im ready for my close up
"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille"

Tillie may feel fine, but I’m wiped out, and my headache that was gone for most of yesterday is creeping around my skull at the moment.  Oddly enough, I was speaking to the woman from the Social Security administration this morning about my migraines. She had called for some follow-up information: how often? causes? symptoms? Did I mention stress?

Anyway, the episode is over. Corey is mowing the yard, and Tillie is sleeping on the couch. Brett is still upset because he thinks that he should have noticed sooner that something was wrong. I told him that no one is to blame, but we just need to keep a closer eye on Tillie. The fact is, she may have had more seizures when we were asleep, but I don’t think so.

I am very attuned to the dog’s movements during the night and early morning. The dogs usually get my attention by shaking their heads and making their collars jingle. I wake up as soon as I hear that sound. They have me trained well. My own Pavlovian bell. So I think that I would have noticed if Tillie were in distress. At least, I hope so, but there is no way to know for certain.

“I love a dog.  He does nothing for political reasons.” ~ Will Rogers

Do you need a wrench
"Do you need a wrench?"

So much for the Grace in Small Things entry. I wasn’t doing too well with it anyway. I only had one thing down and was struggling to find four more. The past few days have been like that. Yesterday, I began an entry that I just deleted. My heart wasn’t in it, and it showed. Hence, no post yesterday, which breaks my attempt to post everyday in October.

I could touch on the abysmal governor’s race in our state, or the latest dubious proclamations from Glenn Beck about the POTUS being like Chairman Mao (oh, pleez, you moron), or how the Obama White House is wasting time on getting into a pissing match with Fox News as reflected Communication’s Director Anita Dunn’s comment to CNN about Fox News being a “wing of the Republican Party.”

I mean, the phrase Fox News is an oxymoron. There is very little news involved in the news arm of Fox Media. How about when Martha MacCullum of Fox News used a clip of VP Joe Biden on the campaign trail? Biden was quoting John McCain in saying that the “economy is basically sound.” MacCullum used that edited clip to say that the VP was one of many who were proclaiming a rebound in the economy. Say what?

Fox news is biased, not well researched, strongly conservative, and filled with lunatics like O’Reilly and Beck, but the acknowledgement by the White House just seems to be giving them more fodder for their misspeak. I say, treat them like the misbehaving children that they are. Ignore them and send them to bed. Blowhards feed on attention—positive and negative. Just consider bully Rush Limbaugh if you want proof.

Perhaps tomorrow I will be more inspired. For now, though, just not that much going on in my brain, at least, nothing very noteworthy. Just the usual: bills, mortgage, money, bills, money, health insurance, bills . . .

More later. Peace.

Quelle Surprise!

bugs bunny maroon

 

You must stick to your convictions, but be ready to abandon your assumptions.” ~ Denis Waitley 

“The worst mistake of first contact, made throughout history by individuals on both sides of every new encounter, has been the unfortunate habit of making assumptions.” ~ David Brin 

Imagine my surprise today when I checked my comments and found the following delightful missive from Alex:

Wow..you are a little moronic I must admit. Who on Earth would use someone as shallow and absurdly small-minded as Kim Kardashian, who is famous for doing not much of anything similar to Paris Hilton, as a role model? I certainly would not want my children looking up to someone like her. Since when is she the standard of real? She has had plastic surgery to obtain what many voluptuous women are blessed with (i.e butt, lips, breasts, even had a nose job!) She is NOT the standard of real, but I do respect her for not being rail thin. I would never look up to her for anything outside of what she is–an attention/media whore. That is what she lives for. Famous for being promiscuous and creating sex tapes “mysteriously” released on the internet. I’ll look up to someone who aspires to be something more than what she unfortunately is.

It seems that Alex was taking umbrage at my post on beauty, “Beauty is not in the face . . .) (https://poietes.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/beauty-is-not-…-kahlil-gibran/) in which I discussed the issue of people being held up as role models for girls and women and how these supposed role models do not have attainable bodies without a personal trainer or air brushing. In this post I also discuss how most women have a warped sense of their body images because of what is thrown in our faces day after day. Personally,  I really liked the post, and I received good feedback from regular readers. I should also point out that the woman whose image I placed at the top of my post was Sophia Loren, an iconic beauty simply because she does not look like everyone else.

However, this is not the first time that someone has dropped in on my blog randomly and completely missed the point of a post. I just received an overly long treatise on politics in Iran in response to my recent post on the demonstrations. I do love to get comments, even completely irrelevant ones such as the one above. It let’s me know that people are reading, even if they are reading selectively.

This was my response to Alex:

I have never said that Kim Kardashian is a role model. I said that she could be a role model “as far as how she carries herself.” If you read more closely, what I was commenting on was the fact that she is attractive without being rail thin. Other than that, I know nothing about the woman.

If you were a regular reader of my blog, you would know that my heroes are more in the line of Socrates, Einstein, Virginia Woolf, and countless other philosophers and writers. I have never viewed celebrities or celeb-wanna bes as role models. Nor have I ever pointed my children in that direction.

As for your labeling of me as moronic, perhaps you should read more than one entry on a blog before casting aspersions.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I do find it fascinating, though, when people who are obviously not regular readers decide to be a wee bit caustic. Do I know Alex? I don’t believe so. Have I ever heard from her (assuming gender since the name Alex can be male or female) before? Not that I recall. Do we have an ongoing dialogue? No. So how is it then that Alex can call me a moron? This puzzles me.

Marvin the MartianLet me be clear here. I do banter back and forth with my friends. They have on occasion called me everything from a bitch to a dork to a dweeb, and perhaps a few other things in between. I have never taken offense because this type of name-calling is done in jest with no ill intent, and admittedly, I can be bitchy, and a dork, an a dweeb. Those individuals in my life who are close enough to me to say these things also love me unconditionally for who I am and would not hesitate to be there for me if I needed them. And as I have mentioned before, bantering is one of the things that I do best—the give and take, the witticisms, the seeming disagreements over small things—but always without malice.

I will freely admit that I like to quibble. Accepting everything at face value seems to be just a tad too compliant. Questioning and carping keep life interesting and have often led to long, intense conversations. I like intense. I appreciate a keen wit. I derive great pleasure out of the give and take of an easy banter. In fact, one of my daughter’s first polysyllabic words was sarcastic, as in “Mom, you’re being sarcastic again, aren’t you?”

But that’s not to say that my personality has not led some people to draw conclusions about me that were untrue. That’s probably because my temperament is an acquired taste, and very often, my tendency towards being a curmudgeon can be offputting, even though more often than not, my vaunting comes from insecurity.

“Regret is insight that comes a day too late.” ~ Author Unknown

I do remember one time in which I made a callous remark out of the hearing of someone to a friend of mine. I turned to my friend Amy and said, “God is she ugly.” Amy just looked at me in stunned silence, and then she said, very calmly, “Who are you to judge the way that someone looks?”

I will forever be grateful to Amy for saying this to me because she was absolutely correct. I had no right to judge this other person, who happened to be very sweet and kind. Amy’s comment to me made me feel like the shallow person that I was at that moment. But ever since that day a long time ago, I have watched what I say about people, especially people who I do not know.

Granted, in the heat of a political debate, I can be absolutely caustic, casting my own aspersions about Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh, and I do not apologize for that. Individuals such as these men go for the jugular of people with whom they disagree time and again, and I find it abhorrent. I do not claim to be an innocent who has never had a harsh word for anyone. I know that I can be vicious in an argument, but not without deep regret afterwards.

“It was not that she was out of temper, but that the world was not equal to the demands of her fine organism.” ~ George Eliot

Daffy DuckNow that I have some years on me, I have become much more even-tempered, if you can believe that. I try to choose my battles well, and I try not to go for the sweet spot just because I can. I am not always successful.

That being said, I can say with honesty that Alex’s comment did not provoke my ire, nor did it hurt my feelings. Rather, I was more intrigued by how someone who has never met me or conversed with me could make such a pronouncement on my character.

So for the purposes of this post, let us just assume that Alex possesses a deep loathing for Kim Kardashian. Or let us suppose that someone may have made fun of Alex in a bathing suit or some such thing. Or even, let us assume that Alex is a beautiful woman who is self-assured and impatient with supposed celebrity. Any of these could be true, or none of these could be true. I have no way of knowing because I do not know Alex. So it would be rather supercilious of me to assume anything about Alex.

And that, dear readers, is my point exactly.

More later on a more interesting subject. Peace.

“One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small and the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all.” ~ Grace Slick, “Go Ask Alice”

Spitzer Rosette Nebula

Spitzer Rosette Nebula* (Images from space look very similar to brain scans . . . Cue Twilight Zone music)

“We can describe the thoughts of Hamlet, but we cannot describe a Migraine.” ~ Virginia Woolf

“There is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying existence.” ~ George Eliot

Hubble Pistol Nebula
Hubble Pistol Nebula

This is day five of this migraine. I am in the midst of a lull, which I hope is a signal that this migraine is finally abating. Or it could be the vicodin . . .kidding, only kidding. Geez.

After consulting with my migraine doctors, I’ve decided to stop trying the preventive medications for now. I’ve had so many horrible side effects with the last three that I’ve tried that I just don’t think that the preventive medication is working out for me. And the reality is that I’m getting just as many migraines on the preventive medicine as I am without. The main difference has been duration, as in, does the headache last a few days or a few weeks.

Those of you who have never had a migraine probably cannot imagine having a headache for weeks, but believe me, it is a reality. And it’s not just a headache—it’s a migraine, and there is a significant difference between the two.

“At first every small apprehension is magnified. Every anxiety a pounding terror. Then the pain comes and I concentrate only on that.” ~ Joan Didion

With a migraine, which is a neurological syndrome, several things can happen, but they do not always happen. Sometimes, it’s just one or two; other times you get the whole bag. There are actually four possible phases to the migraine: the prodrome, the aura, the pain phase, and the postdrome.

In the prodrome, or the phase leading up to the migraine, the sufferer can experience several things: euphoria (never had that one), irritability (yep), fatigue, yawning, food cravings, stiff muscles (yep, yep, yep). The prodrome can occur anywhere from a day up to hours before onset. The aura can appear 5 to 20 minutes before pain onset, and can last for up to 60 minutes. The pain phase, well, that’s self-explanatory. And the postdrome can be manifested as euphoria (what is it with euphoria?), malaise, weakness, loss of appetite, stomach problems, and cognitive function impairment. Some sufferers liken it to a hangover. I prefer to call it the limp dishrag syndrome.

Hubble Eskimo Nebula
Hubble Eskimo Nebula (resembles auras I have had)

Most of the time, I get an aura before the onset of the pain. This aura can be blurred vision, spots in my eyes, or waves, accompanied by tingling in the limbs. The aura is usually a signal that the pain is about to errupt in the brain. This pain can be a band around the head, sort of like someone tightening a metal band around the circumference of your head until you feel that you skull is going to crack open.

The pain can be focused in one or both eyes. I tend to get the eye pain. The only way to describe this is as if someone is taking an ice pick and sticking it in the corner of your eye. Or, if the pain is behind the eyes, it feels as if someone is trying to push your eyeballs out of your head from the inside.

Too graphic? Now you know why I have a thing about my eyes, as in, I cannot stand the thought of anyone approaching my eyes with a laser, or anything sharp. Strike the laser eye surgery.

The pain is often accompanied by other wonderful symptoms: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, clumsiness, a sensitivity to sound (hyperacusis), sensitivity to light (photophobia), inability to bend over. There have even been occasions when I have had a migraine, and I have had a temporary blinding light behind my eyes, which in essense, makes me blind for a few seconds.

My postdrome phase is almost always the same: I feel very weak, achy, and have a dull headache for at least several hours after. Often I am nauseous.

“When there is pain, there are no words. Everything is the same.” ~ Toni Morrison

According to an article from ABC News, many doctors believe that migraines are the result of “a genetic disorder that makes one person’s brain more sensitive to certain stressors that other people would barely notice—like missing a meal or a rainy day.

More than 26 million [up to 32 by some estimates] Americans suffer from the neurologic disorder,” according to the American Medical Association (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PainManagement/story?id=4170218&page=1).

Hubble Massive Galaxy Cluster
Hubble Massive Galaxy Cluster

I think at this point, I should count as at least two people in that statistic.

In essence, people who suffer from migraines do not deal well with change (I’m not talking about my emotional dislike for change). Migraines can be triggered by changes as innocuous as not getting enough sleep. According to Dr. Joel Saper, founder and director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute, “Any change of the norm, any stress to your system, and your body will produce a headache.”

Triggers for migraines (outside and inside factors) include many different things: bright or flashing lights, certain smells, chocolate, caffeine, bananas, cigarette smoke, fresh paint, hormonal changes, climate changes (e.g., rapid drop in barometric pressure), lack of sleep, too much sleep (http://www.relieve-migraine-headache.com/migraine-trigger).

 In other words—life.

“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.” ~ Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

Spitzer Towering Infernos from Hubble
Spitzer Towering Infernos

Triggers vary from person to person. I am sensitive to certain colognes and bright lights. Caffeine, which can be a trigger, can also alleviate a migraine, so I have not given up my Pepsi or coffee. I do know that certain foods can trigger my migraines, but I don’t think that a banana has ever set off my pain. 

One of my big triggers is MSG, or monosodium glutamate, which is a flavor enhancer that used to be a major ingredient in spices and packaged foods. Individuals who are sensitive to MSG, as I am, routinely scan the list of ingredients for this additive. Corey is particularly diligent in checking labels of any new foods that we may be trying for the first time.

Unfortunately, some of my favorite snack foods contain MSG: cheese puffs, Cheetos, Ranch-flavored Doritos. Even fast foods contain MSG: McDonald’s used to use MSG to enhance the flavor of their french fries. Chinese food used to contain MSG routinely; however, most Chinese restaurants have become aware of the large number of people who are allergic to MSG.

Adverse reactions are not limited to migraines or headaches. People who are allergic to MSG can have asthma attacks, nausea, vomiting, arrhythmia, rash, facial pressure, tingling and warming  in the face, arms and upper body, to name but a few of the possible reactions.

MSG is actually an excitotoxin, which means that it effects the brain by exciting it. Excitotoxins include MSG, aspartate (which is found in Nutrasweet), and hydrolized protein (http://www.ezhealthydiet.com/excitotoxins).

Another compound found in food that can cause migraines is tyramine, which is produced from the natural breakdown of the amino acid, tyrasine. Tyramine, which can cause blood vessel dilation is usually found in aged or preserved foods. For example, beef jerky. How do you go hiking without beef jerky? Other foods containing tyramine include olives, alcoholic beverages, aged cheeses, and soy sauce.

Okay. I’ll give up a lot of things, but I simply cannot give up soy sauce. I’m Filipina. My blood is probably 5 percent soy sauce. I was raised on soy sauce. I like soy sauce on cauliflower (weird, I know, but try it). Obviously, I’ve built up an immunity to soy sauce because I don’t have migraines every day of my life, and chances are pretty good that I’ll have soy sauce 6 out of 7 days a week.

Soy sauce? Is nothing sacred?

“Everything hurts.” ~ Michelangelo

Hubble M17 Omega Nebula
Hubble M17 Omega Nebula

I was reading an online article from Science News that contends that people who suffer from migraines have brain scarring, specifically on the cerebellum, which controls motor function and cognition. The odds of scarring for migraine sufferers who have accompanying auras are nearly 14 times higher than people who just have regular headaches.

Headache expert Dr. Richard Lipton of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City contends that “It’s pretty clear that migraine sufferer have more brain lesions [than people without the attacks] . . . That strengthens the view that migraine is a neurologic disease, a disease of the brain.”  (http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/41052/-migraines_leave_trail_of_scars_across_the_brain).

Great. My cerebellum has infarctions or dead spots, and my brain is scarred—I don’t think that this is the kind of scarring that you can fix with dutiful applications of aloe vera.

“Pain is real when you get other people to believe in it. If no one believes in it but you, your pain is madness or hysteria.” ~ Naomi Wolf

Hubble Eagle Nebula M16
Hubble Eagle Nebula M16

If you are a migraine sufferer (migraineur), you probably know that having migraines is not always looked upon kindly. In the workplace, there is often a stigma attached to migraine sufferers who call in sick, the reaction being, “I’ve worked with a headache before. Why can’t she?”

The Migraine Awareness Site had one of the best passages regarding this situation that I have ever read:

“. . .oftentimes people think that those with Migraines just can’t handle life or are drug addicts or alcoholics. Such perception can be formed when, for example, people see a Migraineur wearing sun glasses indoors due to sensitivity to light, lying in a dark and silent room due to sensitivity to light and sound, making frequent trips to the rest room due to nausea and vomiting, leaving work early, slurring their speech, or engaging in otherwise erratic behavior. According to Dr. Sheftell, “Historically, patients with the most intractable Migraines experience a downward spiral in terms of income and contributions to society at large.” (http://www.migraines.org/disability/impawork.htm).

I know that I had to attend a marketing meeting once when I was suffering from a horrible migraine, and I wore my prescription sunglasses during the meeting. Everyone knew that I had a migraine, but something was still said about it. I had one boss who was very annoyed when I informed him that if I had to share an office with someone, they would need to be able to use natural light and lamps.

We were relocating into a new building, and I had had a private office in the old building. I was not trying to be difficult, as I knew that there were two other migraine sufferers in his employ; I was merely asking for accommodations for my illness. In the end, I did share the office with another individual who didn’t like overhead light either, but my boss’s reaction exemplifies how uninformed people who do not suffer from migraines can be.

 “Life’s sharpest rapture is surcease of pain.” ~ Emma Lazarus

ESO Horsehead Nebula
ESO Horsehead Nebula

Even though a significant percentage of the population suffer from migraines, it is still one of the most stigmatized disorders in society. Small comfort is the fact that migraines have been around for centuries, actually longer. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, wrote in 460 BC about shining light that was typically seen in one eye and followed by severe pain that started in temples and worked its way to encompass the rest of the head and down into the neck.

Ancient cures included applying an electric fish (related to a ray) to the forehead (Greek). Albucasis, an ancient Arabian doctor (936-1013 A.D.) advised applying a hot iron to the afflicted head, and if that failed, he recommended cutting a hole above the temple and inserting a garlic clove (what?) into the hole for 15 hours. Russian folk medicine recommends placing large cabbage leaves on your head and neck.

I can smell like garlic or like cabbage. Great.

Well, at least I know that I’m in good company:  Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Virginia Woolf, Charles Darwin, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Cervantes, Tschaikovsky,  Lewis Carroll, Mary Todd Lincoln, Elvis Presley, and President John F. Kennedy just to name a few migraineurs in history.

And the good news is that they don’t cut holes in your head any more.

More later sooner. Promise. Peace.

*All images are from NASA’s Spitzer or Hubble space telescopes, which are part of NASA’s Great Observatory Program.
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