“And the needles of the pine trees, freshly washed to a deep, rich green, shimmered with droplets that blinked like clear crystals.” ~ Billie Letts, from Shoot the Moon

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

Reblogged from Curious History

 

Devil’s Bridge

Kromlauer Park is a gothic style, 200-acre country park in the municipality of Kromlau in the Görlitz Gablenzgasse district in Germany. An incredible attraction of the park is the Rakotzbrücke, more popularly known as Devil’s Bridge.

The impressive arch bridge was built around 1860. During its construction, other peculiar rock formations were built on the lake and in the park. Devil’s Bridge is no longer open to the public to ensure its preservation. A unique feature of the bridge is that its reflection on the water’s surface creates a flawless circle, regardless of which side is being viewed.

(Source: akvision.de)

                   

Music by Mad Season, “All Alone”

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is far worse than the suffering itself—and no heart has ever suffered when it’s gone in search of its dreams.” ~ Paul Coelho

Morning Mist on Lake Mapourika, New Zealand by Richard Palmer (2008)

 

“Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live . . . the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: Wait and Hope.” ~ Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Well, we made it through the November nor’easter all right: no tree damage, no water damage, no loss of power. We were luckier than many people, for a change, and for that, I am truly thankful. I am also truly thankful that I no longer feel as if I am existing in a wind tunnel. One day is intriguing. Two days is numbing. Three days is irritating. Moving into the fourth day is like the waking dead: I can no longer tell if I am hearing the wind or if it is a constant buzzing in my ears. Oh well.

Port of La Rochelle, France in Morning Fog

Many, many strange dreams in the past few nights: my father appeared in at least two, and that is always disconcerting. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel that I did not disappoint my father terribly before he died, but that is not the subject for tonight. Much too hard of a subject, and always leaves me depleted for a long time, and since I am beginning the post in an already depleted state, I will not even attempt to tackle something as weighty as that.

The other night I had this dream about being on a sinking boat. The dream was a complete metaphor for my life: the boat was cluttered and dirty and badly in need of a complete cleaning. And there was one other problem: there was no bottom in the boat. At some point, the boat fell (?) off the support beams on which it had been resting and flew through the air, landing atop the bottom of an old military vessel. The top of the boat and the bottom of the military vessel came together, and both pieces rushed forward into the ocean.

I thought to myself that some remedy had to be found other than the makeshift coupling of the two halves, otherwise, the ocean would be able to dislodge the two pieces, and we would surely sink. In the meantime, someone was complaining about washing the windows of the boat, which were not portholes, but panes of glass like a house, and no one could clean because there was too much clutter—boxes and storage bins and whatever else. I awoke from the dream crying because it was a fast-sinking ship, and I knew that, and just as certainly I knew that the boat in my dream was my life.

Last night I dreamed that I worked at Dillard’s again, and asked to have the home store back because that was always my favorite department. But instead of a home store, there were lawn mowers. Very strange. The weirdest part was that I had all of these great marketing ideas for different departments, and I decided that I should be the store’s roving marketing manager, going from department to department coming up with selling ideas. Also very strange as my marketing background is my least favorite part of my skill set.

So I’m still not sleeping well, even more so since the drop-off for trees and limbs that were felled by the storm is right behind the house in the parking lot of the community park that our house abuts. After Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the City set up a similar drop-off in the parking lot, but is was on the other side of the park, so the sound of the wood chipper and large trucks backing up with their beeping alarms was more removed; now, it is jarringly loud, and it seems to be right outside the bedroom window. It’s not, but that’s how it seems to my head. Lovely.

“The weight of the world is love, under the burden of solitude, under the burden of dissatisfaction.” ~ Allen Ginsburg

Foggy View from Oberfallenberg Towards Swiss Mountains, by Friedrich Bohringer

Anyway . . . I have had the following quote on my mind for days, but for the life of me, I cannot find out who said it originally (if anyone knows, please pass along the information): Do what you love, and the rest will follow.

Now, I know that there is a book entitled Do what you love and the money will follow, but that is not the sentiment that I am pondering.

Do what you love . . .

What do I love, exactly? I thought that I loved to write, more than anything else in the world. But lately, I have come to question that belief, especially since I am having such a hard time piecing together a coherent blog post. What kind of writer is that? I sit down at these keys everyday, but I do not write everyday. More often than not, I open a computer game and play mindlessly for hours, attempting to lull myself into fatigue. I feel more often than not that I am existing in an endless fog.

Let me pause here. I know that I am depressed, considerably so. That I am not taking my usual dose of antidepressant is not helping matters. Granted. However, I am depending upon samples from my doctor, and I am trying to stretch those as far as they go. No one needs to tell me that this is not how you take a medication that needs to be maintained at a constant level in order to fight the chemical imbalances that lead to clinical depression. I know all of this.

I also know that my particular antidepressant costs over $200 without prescription coverage, which I still don’t have because of the ongoing battle with my health insurance. Not even worth going into that old scenario.

And even though I know that not having my medication is affecting me, and November is affecting me, and being just above poverty level is affecting me, and the upcoming anniversary of my dad’s death is affecting me, and the upcoming holidays are affecting me . . . wait, I lost the subject of that sentence. In other words—everything in the world is affecting me.

“A fierce unrest seethes at the core, of all existing things: it was the eager wish to soar, that gave the gods their wings.” ~ Don Marquis

Last night I was standing at the sink doing dishes (because the dishwasher no longer works because this is the best possible time for yet another appliance to break), anyway, I was doing dishes and crying. Weeping, actually, and no, it wasn’t because I was washing dishes. Why so sad, joker asks?

Let’s see, other than the litany mentioned above, Corey burned his arm two nights ago, bad burn with scalding water, but he has no health insurance.  As I applied antibiotic ointment and dressing, all I could think of was that burns get infected so easily. Corey shrugged it off, but I’ve been watching it carefully. It seems to be healing well, but still . . .

Fog in Winter, Valley of Upa, Czech Republic

And then, the dryer isn’t working right. The dishwasher is now broken. The house as a whole is in horrible shape, cluttered, dirty, depressingly in disrepair. I used to be so anal about cleaning, every weekend, top to bottom. Now, I cannot run the vacuum for the clutter. Did I mention that I cannot write? My phone has been turned off, and basically, I hate life. To be more specific, my life. I hate my life.

Don’t misunderstand. I do not hate the people in my life. I love the people in my life. They are probably the one thing that sustains me at the moment. But my life, per se? The circumstances of my life? I hate, h-a-t-e it. I want to go back to work. I want to have a career again. I don’t want to feel like a burden for which Corey must bear the full weight. I don’t want my spouse to feel that he is a caretaker. That gets old, fast.

I want to sleep through the night, wake up in the morning, get dressed, and go to work.

That I should be happy that I awaken each morning with a roof over my head and some food in my fridge . . . yes, I know that. We’re talking emotions here. Logically, I know that I have so much for which to be grateful. Logically, I know that millions upon millions of people have it so much worse. Logically, I know that in the big scheme of things, my problems are a tiny little puddle in comparison to the monsoons that invade so may people’s lives.

Yes, I know that. Does it makes me seem ungrateful to say that knowing that, I still feel as if I am slowly losing my mind? Losing patience with everything? Losing the ability to cope? Probably, yes, I probably seem ungrateful.

But damn, it just feels as if I am existing, counting days, not living. That’s it. It took me all of these words to get to the heart of it: existing, not living. I want to enjoy life again. I want to be the woman I used to be, the woman who took pleasure in small things, who thrived on stress and pressure, who laughed more, bantered frequently, and bemoaned fate less.

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.” ~ Sylvia Plath

Do what I love and the rest will follow . . . such a seemingly innocuous platitude. Perhaps even good advice. But how do I do what I love when I can no longer identify what I love? And what is it that will follow? What is the rest?

Fog, Baden-Weurttemberg, Germany

How did I get to this place in my life, this place at which life is a calendar filled with numbers but not with days? How does anyone get here? What scares me the most is the fear that perhaps I have lost hope.

Lost my way?  Is my path occluded? Have I forgotten to pay attention to the journey in my single-minded pursuit to survive? Yes, maybe that’s it. Maybe I have allowed myself to get so caught up in counting the days until our situation changes that I have completely forgotten that life is to be lived, not endured.

What do I love? I love to write, to read, to engage my mind, to watch the sun set, to walk along the shore, to find a shell, to smell the rain, to discourse, to converse, to contemplate, to cherish, to embrace. I love the smell of a baby’s skin and the scent on the air after I have a bath. I love a cup of tea and a good movie. I love freshly cut herbs and spring blossoms. I love the sound of water and the blue of the deep ocean. I love the wind in my face and the touch of the first snow on my lashes.  I love the company of good friends and the peace of the mountains in the fall. I love to listen to good music on a Sunday afternoon, and I love the freedom to sing at the top of my lungs in the shower.

I love to be loved, to feel love, to exude love, to share love.

“Life is too short, or too long, for me to allow myself the luxury of living it so badly.” ~ Paul Coehlo

Do what I love? That is so much harder than it seems. Life is so much harder than it should be. Please don’t think me small-minded, and yet, why do I take the time in my stream-of-consciousness to apologize, to care what other people think? Isn’t that always the way?

I have some pondering to do, some searching. Perhaps, though, my search has already brought me to this place of realization: I must get back to myself somehow, before the bottom of the boat falls out and I find myself at sea, a castaway along with the scattered debris that is my life.

I am reminded of a poem by Raymond Carver, one of my favorites:

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth

Yes. To feel beloved and to love. Perhaps that is truly all that is necessary.

More later. Peace.

Damien Rice’s “Delicate”

 

“I’ve never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don’t understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.” ~ Sophia Loren

JS Sargent Repose_Nonchaloire

John Singer Sargent’s “Repose” (Nonchaloir), oil on canvas, 1911: This is how I felt yesterday 

“Sadness is always the legacy of the past; regrets are pains of the memory.” ~ Author Unknown

“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. ” ~ The Wonder Years

Well, yesterday was an eventful day, so to speak. We found out that one of the avenues of employment that Corey was pursuing is unavailable. Big disappointment there. I really thought that that part of the plan was going to work. Perhaps that’s why I shouldn’t be optimistic: It always ends up smacking me in the head.

Speaking of being smacked in the head, have to say that so far, the massive doses of magnesium are not helping with the usual morning headache. Each morning when I awaken, I have a headache, not a migraine, just a tightness. I don’t know if I am grinding my teeth, but I don’t think so. Corey would have told me by now if I am grinding. So each morning I get up and take 800 mg of ibuprofen and two Sudafed. This usually helps somewhat as I think that part of the reason is my fall allergies kicking in and causing sinus pressure. Oh well.

Another interesting not good thing that happened yesterday is that I had a minor breakdown. Let me explain.

hampelmann
Hand-painted Bear Hampelmann from Germany

I was looking for something for Alexis that I had been keeping for her. I had thought that it was in the small lockbox in which we keep our passports, birth certificates, etc., but it wasn’t there. Then I thought that I might have put it with her stuff from when she was a baby. I pulled down everything in the top left of my closet as that is where I store the things from the kids’ earlier days.

For example, I have a huge Raggedy Ann that Alexis’s Aunt Ann made Alexis for Christmas one year. The handwork on this doll is amazing. I kind of feel sorry for all of the grandkids, nieces and nephews who came along after Alexis. Everyone was tired of making handmade presents by then. I mean, for the first five years of her life, Alexis was it in the family, so she received handmade Christmas ornaments, dolls, cross-stitched pictures, you name it.

Anyway, Raggedy Ann and a much smaller Raggedy Andy are stored in that part of the closet, waiting for the day if/when Alexis has her own children. I also have a bag of puppets from Germany. They are called hampelmann, which are hand-painted puppets of sorts. Alexis had about seven in all, and they used to hang over her changing table. I would use them to entertain her, and then later, her siblings.

(Aside: Today when I got home from picking Brett up from school, the Pluto hampelmann had been eviscerated, torn limb from limb. I’m pretty sure that Tillie did it as she was the only dog that was hiding from me.)

“Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.” ~ Willa Cather

Sock Doll
Example of a handmade sock doll

Back to the closet. I have kept just a few pieces of clothes from each child, favorite shirts, etc., and I have a bag for each one. There is also a plastic cubed storage container in which I have put several things that belonged to Caitlin. Well, in pulling everything down from the closet, this container also came down.

I made the mistake of opening the container and opening the box that was on top inside of the container. This box holds several things from that hospital, including a sock doll that slept with Caitlin the entire time she was in the hospital.

Let me back up. I’m not a craftsperson. Never have been. But while I was teaching at ODU during that semester in which Caitlin was in the hospital, several of my students brought in things for her. My most cherished gift is a sock doll that one of my student’s mothers made especially for Caitlin. These sock dolls have been around for centuries. They have been called hush-a-bye dolls because mothers used to give them to their babies to keep them quiet in church.

Anyway, I took the doll in my hands, and that was pretty much as far as I got for the next hour. Corey walked in, took a look at the things spread on the bed, and immediately knew what had happened.

“Love lost is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food our tousle their hair . . .But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it. Life has to end. Love doesn’t.” ~ Mitch Albon

I came across an article about two weeks ago on a syndrome that some psychiatrists and mental health care researchers are trying to have approved for insertion into the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association). The disorder is called prolonged grief disorder, or something like that. PGD is a disorder in which the individual simply cannot get over the loss of a loved one within the “normal” time periods.

PGD is different from depressive disorder, and currently grief is not included in the DSM. In one article, researchers contend “that PGD meets DSM criteria for inclusion as a distinct mental disorder on the grounds that it is a clinically significant form of psychological distress associated with substantial disability.”

Apparently, PGD occurs when grief following lingers and become a serious health problem.

I wish someone would have asked me. I could have told them that years ago. I know that my grief is not normal. I have known that forever. It manifests itself unexpectedly, sometimes mildly, sometimes to the point at which I am completely paralyzed. Granted, I do not have these hour-long crying jags everyday or even every month. But I can count on having at least one Caitlin/Dad related episode in a year.

I really don’t need a psychoanalyst to tell me that my bereavement periods are longer than most people. I do not need confirmation that the pain should not be as acute as it still it. And I will freely admit that even I am astounded by just how severely I am affected when it happens.

I also know that a lot of the reason that my grief has hung around for so long is directly attributable to my feelings of guilt over both of their deaths. I had to make the decision on whether or not it was time for Caitlin, and I don’t know that I will ever be able to view that as not being questionable: Was it time? Should I have waited? With my dad, the guilt arises over the fact that I wasn’t with him when he died, even though I had promised him that I would be there.

“Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.” ~ Cicero

Logically, you don’t have to tell me that I should have let go a long time ago, or point out my inability to let go. I know all of this. But holding that small, soft doll I could swear that it still smelled of her essence. I know that that is not possible, but grief and despair do funny things to a psyche.

I did look a little more in the storage case: I found the blue smocked dress that I have talked about, which was a real surprise as I have believed for many years that that particular dress is with Kathleen, along with the other dresses that I sent her. I also found the dress that Caitlin was wearing when she had her one and only portrait taken.

Black Patent Leather Mary Janes
Black Patent Leather Mary Janes

Eventually, I was able to put everything away, and Corey put the box back in the top left of the closet. The rest of the things that I pulled down are still in a pile in front of the closet. My accidental encounter with the past left me depleted, bereft, numb.

Too much at once. I’ll get to the rest soon. I think that I am saving it until I can actually enjoy the contents of these bags and boxes. After all, they are filled with items that recall good memories—like Alexis’s tiny Virginia Tech t-shirt. That made me smile.

So I’ll go through the rest, probably tomorrow, refold, repack, and replace on the shelf. I’ll take the time to bring to mind some of the good memories that are associated with these things: Brett’s baby blankets, the various humpelmann, Eamonn’s little cap from the National Zoo, Alexis’s Mary Janes. I find myself smiling inwardly even now as I type about these things. And that’s a good thing.

At times, I can balance with unbearable with the wonderful, the heart-wrenching with the endearing, which only proves that I am human after all. And even if it’s a lie, I will try to believe that it will be all right.

 

More later. Peace.

 

“I prefer neurotic people. I like to hear rumblings beneath the surface.” ~ Stephen Sondheim

Andrew Wyeth Master Bedroom

  Andrew Wyeth, “Master Bedroom”

“Neurotics are sure that no one understands them, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, 1966

Well, I think that my body does not like the antibiotic Cipro. I started taking this wonderful med last week, thinking that my body would react as it normally does after taking an antibiotic for a few days: No more icky, everything all better. Not this time.

I’ve been waiting a week for the chills and weakness to go away. So far, no go. I stayed in bed all last week, didn’t even come near the computer. My desk began to look like a laundry rack. Finally, on Friday, I had to get out of bed to go to a family cookout for my German niece and nephew who were in the country. I look forward all year to these family parties, seeing everyone, getting out of the house, getting tipsy twice a year.

Not this time.

I was drinking Coke and ice (no Pepsi, pshaw), ate a grilled burger, no birthday cake even. Had to go home and change into jeans and a long sleeved shirt because I was freezing. Good thing we live so close together.

My one day out of bed earned me two more in it. Yesterday, I woke up early with big plans to put away the laundry and to write a blog. By 8 p.m., I knew that it was a lost cause. Today, we went to the airport to see off the travelers. I came home and crashed and woke up at 7. Unfortunately, I did not know if it was 7 in the morning or 7 in the evening.

Totally discombobulated. Don’t you hate that? I actually went out into the dining room and asked Corey if it was nighttime. But as I asked him, I realized the answer to my question because if it were morning, he would have been in bed, not sitting at the computer in the dining room.

It’s impossible to be able to tell time by the dogs because they are quite content to stay in bed with me day and night, occasionally moving under or above the covers depending on whether or not I’ve turned off the air conditioner.

Oh yes. Life has been pleasant for Corey since I’ve been shutting off the a/c in the bedroom since I’ve been sick. First I get chills, and then I’m too hot. A/C on and no covers . . . a/c off, lots and lots of covers. He said that he woke up a few mornings ago and I had completely buried myself under the blankets. He couldn’t even see my nose.

“No good neurotic finds it difficult to be both opinionated and indecisive.”  ~ Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960 

Andy Warhol Diamond Dust Shoes
"Diamond Dust Shoes," by Andy Warhol

So that’s what life has been like in my house for a while. Completely unexciting. Nothing to tell. No energy to post. I have had plenty of time to ponder a few things, which I thought that I would share with you because that’s just the kind of person that I am:

  1. Why are there six pairs of shoes next to my desk and how did they get there?  I realize that I probably left all of them there, but when? When have I had time to wear six pairs of shoes since I’ve only been out of the house to go to the doctor and the store?
  2. Why did the x-ray technician at my doctor’s office try to take my blood while the lab technician (or whatever the proper term is, sorry) went to help the student x-ray technician do an x-ray? Doesn’t that seem weird to you? It does to me, especially since she missed my vein the first time. I think that my evil, ugly twin may have reared her head accidentally because she didn’t want to try to go for another vein. We waited for the real blood person to come back and stick me.
  3. Which one of the Jack Russells talked Tillie into taking a bag of hoagie rolls off the island in the kitchen when we weren’t home, and did they make her share? I’m pretty sure that Alfie did the conniving, while Shakes used his opposable thumbs to open the bag.
  4. Did you know that eldest son’s name has been changed to Ramonn? When they put all of the cousins’ names on the birthday cake at Costco, they spelled Eamonn’s name wrong. Do you want to know something even more bizarre? When Corey texted me to tell me that Eamonn’s new name was Ramonn, I actually texted him back and asked him ‘Why?’ That’s how out of it I am.
  5. Why is it that nothing I wear ever makes my mother happy? I show up at the cookout in my brown sundress and wedges. She announces loudly, “Why are you all dressed up? I thought this was a cookout. I don’t understand why you do this . . . ya da ya da ya da ya da.” She said the exact same thing on the day of Eamonn’s graduation. This has led to my adoption of the following standard: “I’m fat and ugly and my mother dresses me funny.”
  6. Why can’t there be another series of books like Harry Potter? While I’ve been in bed, I’ve reread books 6 and 7 in ancitipation of the movie coming out on Wednesday, which only makes me wish even more that there could be more books. And no, I’m not going to read any of the Twilight series, just on principle.
  7. Why do I continue to get notices that I’ve won the Irish Lottery, but no one is sending me any money? What’s up with that?
  8. Who will be the next to fall in the continuing saga of politicians who preach one thing but do another? And how does one go about getting on the payroll for John Ensign’s parents, you know, just to get helped out (as they put it)? (I know, I broke the whole tongue-in-cheek motif of the list, but I was just wondering . . .)
  9. Why does a commercial featuring a cartoon line drawing (Slim Shots) need a disclaimer at the bottom alerting people to the fact that results for a real person would not be the same as they are for a cartoon? Have we as a society really gotten that stupid?
  10. How can Bruno be at the top of the box office list? Is this somehow related to #9? You’re kidding me, right? People actually paid money to go see more of this crap cloaked as humor. Yeah, maybe I’ve lost my sense of humor, or maybe, I just don’t find annoying racist, bigoted skits posing as humor terribly entertaining.

I’m going to stop for now because I think that I’ve taxed my brain with just this little bit of fodder. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be able to piece together something more interesting; for instance, how can John Sandford of the Argentinian boddice-ripping e-mails actually compare himself to David in the Bible and do it with a straight face? Now that’s food for thought.

And to everyone who has been stopping by to check on me, thanks. It’s always nice to hear from you. Mean it.

More later. Peace.

Sometimes It’s the Little Things

clas tub + candles

 Feels Like a Little Bit of Heaven

Fifty Things About Me That Are Totally Irrelevant:

  1. My middle name is Gayle. Just think about that for a minute . . . Lolita Gayle. Can you perceive any possible rhyme or reason why those two names might be linked together in any way? Me neither. It has always dumbfounded me as to why my parents chose this for my middle name, and I have always hated having Gayle as my middle name. It’s not the name that I hate, per se. It’s the name in conjunction with my first name. No poetry there. No melody. No logic. But what can you do? My cup of teadaughter hates her middle name also, and her father and I thought that it went very well with her first name, so I suppose that it’s just one of those parent things.
  2. Whenever I go to a bar, I order three things simultaneously: whatever liquor I’m drinking, for example Kahlua and cream, plus a glass of iced water, and a cup of hot tea. This is one of the reasons that I like to go to places where the wait staff knows me. They don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I place my order. Why do I do this? Why is my middle name Gayle? Exactly. Actually, I like to drink all three things at once. I pace myself by drinking water throughout the night, and I like my hot tea. I’m not a big drinker in the first place, so my combo works very well for me.
  3. I have only had short hair a few times in my life, and the times that I did have it, I hated it. I’m just not a short hair person. I feel like I look like a monkey when I have short hair. Of course when I was a child, my mother used to chop off my hair regularly. She would see a hairstyle that she thought was very chic, and then I would lose hair. I hated it when she would do that.womens-collage
  4. I have always been a flaming liberal, and females who say that they aren’t feminists don’t really understand the true definition of the word.
  5. I have two crooked toes. They were never broken, but the fourth toe on each foot is curved like a comma. It has never really bothered me unless someone asks me about it.
  6. Speaking of toes, I have Filipino toes, as in, I can pinch with my toes and pick up things with my toes. I know, also very strange, but trust me, this is not an unusual trait among Filipinos.
  7. Cats make me have asthma attacks, which is a shame since cats love me, and if I enter a house in which a cat resides, said cat will make a beeline for my face.
  8. My favorite thing to do when I go out is singing Karaoke. That’s because I’m a ham and a thwarted Broadway star. I had planned to run away to New York after high school, but it never happened.
  9. I’m a classically-trained pianist, but never felt that I was very good at it, even after 14 years of lessons.
  10. I have been a vegetarian a couple of times in my life, and there was no particular reason for it other than I got tired of eating red meat. I’ve never been a vegan and don’t even have the least idea as to how one does that.
  11. I love Beethoven as much as I love the Beatles, Frederic Chopin as much as I love Kenny Chesney, Stravinsky as much as I love Springsteen. My playlists usually cover about four genres of music.
  12. Cayman Islands beachMore than just about anything else, reading is my favorite way to pass the time. Reading on a tropical beach is even better. Reading a good mystery on a tropical beach with an umbrella drink is the best.
  13. My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love to decorate the house and to buy the perfect presents for the people in my life. No one else in my family gets as excited about Christmas, and that always makes me a bit melancholy.
  14. I make lots of lists—grocery lists, shopping lists, to do lists—and I lose them almost as soon as I make them, which kind of negates the whole purpose of lists.
  15. painted toenailsI always keep my toenails painted. When I went into labor with Alexis, I took the time to paint my toenails and mop the kitchen floor. One of the things I hated about having back surgery was my inability to paint my toenails for a while.
  16. I have worked as a writer, editor, marketing director, resume writer, newsroom supervisor, grants writer, proposal development specialist, graduate teaching assistant, university English instructor, membership coordinator, publications manager, 6th grade public school teacher, senior education specialist, and research and development assistant. The job that I hated the most was teaching 6th grade for Norfolk Public Schools. The job that I loved the most was teaching at a university. The environment that I enjoyed working in the most was at an arts museum. The environment that I enjoyed working in the least was for a non-profit help group.
  17. I have been to the following countries: England, Scotland, France, Germany, Morocco, the Philippines, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Belize, and Spain. The places that I have not yet been to that still want to see include Ireland, Wales, Greece, Costa Rica, Australia, China, and New Zealand.
  18. A job that I think I would have been good at? Being a crime analyst (in the lab, not in the field). I love solving mysteries, and it seems that analyzing evidence would be one of those jobs that would continue to evolve.
  19. The major that I seriously considered and actually regret not pursuing is marine biology. I considered pre-med, psychology, and anthropology. I ended up getting two of my degrees in English, but I have always been interested in life under the sea. I did take my LSAT’s because I was going to go to law school when we moved to northern Virginia, but then I got pregnant with Alexis and changed my mind. 
  20. Tartan 27 Sailboat
    Tartan 27 Sailboat
  21. I almost bought a 27-foot boat when I was in college that I wanted to live on. Do I regret not doing this one? Absolutely. How often are you that free in your life? No ties, no debts, the ability to make life-changing decisions. I was completely stupid for not following through on this one, and the only thing that held me back was fear.
  22. My best feature? My legs. My worst feature? Everything else.
  23. My favorite flower is lilac.
  24. My favorite scent is Calvin Klein’s Eternity.
  25. My favorite colors are black, red, and purple, in that order.
  26. I love black leather boots, my full-length black leather coat, and squooshy black leather hobo bags. My favorite leather designer is Kenneth Cole, and I don’t believe that you can ever have too many boots or purses.
  27. black bootsI love cashmere but cannot wear it because it gives me a rash.
  28. I love silk and wear it as often as possible.
  29. I love the smell of freshly cut roses, but hate the smell of rose-scented candles.
  30. My favorite jeans are Levi’s, and I cannot imagine ever paying $200 for a pair of jeans.
  31. My favorite jewelry, besides my wedding rings, are my crosses. I have a gold Claddagh cross, a gold crucifix, and three rosaries. I am not Catholic.
  32. I would have been a good lawyer because I like to win.
  33. Among the things that I like to collect are watches, especially ones with big faces and leather straps.
  34. My mom pierced my ears with a needle when I was 12.
  35. I have one tattoo on my back. I want to get at least two other tattoos.
  36. I am claustrophobic in crowded places: elevators, coliseums, rallies.
  37. I can curse without moving my lips.
  38. gem_aquamarineI spent several formidable years of my childhood in London, England. I went to a public school, and I had a very proper British accent. I haven’t been back to England since I was a child, and I would love to go back just to see how much it has changed.
  39. My birthstone is garnet, but my favorite stone is aquamarine.
  40. I am stupidly jealous, and more than once have made an idiot of myself because of it, but it stems from my insecurity.
  41. I believe that if you make a promise, you should keep it even if it’s to a small child. If you know that you aren’t going to keep the promise, don’t make it. Broken promises cause disillusionment.
  42. Keeping information from someone is the same thing as being dishonest. I know. This is probably a woman thing.
  43. I could go my entire life without watching the NFL and never miss it.
  44. I want to live in the mountains and by the sea.
  45. I love good coffee, Belgium chocolate, and angel hair pasta.
  46. I love fresh seafood, but refuse to eat lobster because I think that they should be allowed to live on the bottom of the ocean for as long as they can.cupid's bow lips
  47. I miss wearing suits and heels.
  48. I always have something on my lips, at least gloss, throughout the day.
  49. I would love to pursue another degree.
  50. Nothing is better for stress than a hot bath, lots of candles, a glass of wine, and someone washing your hair for you.
  51. This is the longest amount of time that I have spent thinking about just myself in forever, and I only did it because I couldn’t think of anything else to post.

More later on a different subject. Promise. Peace.

“Take Care of All Your Memories For You Cannot Relive Them” ~ Bob Dylan

summer-08-cousin-shot

Summer 08 Sutcliffe Cousins: Phillip, Eamonn, Brett, Hannah, Alexis, Rebecca, Mallory

“Memory is the primary and fundamental power, without which there could be no other intellectual operation” ~ Samuel Johnson

I cannot write tonight. There is just too much pressing on my mind. I am waiting to hear about my brother-in-law in Germany. He is in the hospital with pneumonia and is on a respirator.

Maybe if I tell you about him that will help. Patrick is my ex’s older brother. He has always been the serious, intellectual one. Patrick was in the R.O.T.C. in college, and then he went into the army after graduation. Patrick was stationed in Germany where he met Helma, the woman he married. After a couple of years, they were transferred back to the states, somewhere in Tennessee.

In the meantime, Paul’s younger sister Ann was engaged to be married in the spring. Patrick and Helma were going to drive to Virginia on President’s Day weekend for a visit and for a fitting of brides maids dresses as Helma and I were both going to be in the wedding. Then the unthinkable happened. Helma fell asleep at the wheel, and Patrick, who had been asleep in the back seat was wedged in the seat when the car stopped. Helma had a broken nose and lost some teeth. Patrick had been deprived of oxygen and had spinal cord damage.

After all of the operations, Patrick was left a paraplegic, but he still retained his mind, his long-term memory, his wit. The army retired Patrick as a full Captain. He was unable to speak, but they worked out a communication system using arm movements and eye blinks and mouth openings and closings. Patrick was quick-tempered and impatient before the accident, and he was just the same after the accident, but never with me.

Whenever I tried to spell with him (which is what we call talking), I would tell him quite plainly that if he started to get all mean with me, I would stop and walk away, which would usually make him laugh, and then he would be patient with me as I tried my best to get things right the first time.

Just to show you how smart he remained, while they still lived here, we used to play games, like Trivial Pursuit, usually men against the women, and it would usually come down to Patrick against me. He loved to kick my ass with history questions, but I could usually get him on literature.

Eventually, he and Helma were able to have two children of their own: Phillip and Hannah. Helma’s sister Kerstin lived here in the states for a while, and she was married, and members of her family would visit, but Helma was always lonely for home, and it was very hard for her. Patrick had a physical therapist who came to the home, and Helma took really good care of him. But finally, they made the decision to move to Germany so that Helma could be closer to her family.

It was hard on everyone, especially on Paul’s mom, but Helma promised to come over every year for a visit, and for a while it was every year, but then the dollar dropped, and then after 9/11, everyone was afraid to fly for a while. They had just started coming back over a few years ago. Patrick had a big 50th birthday party in Germany, and several of his best friends with whom he has stayed in contact flew to Germany to celebrate with him, as did his mother, who hadn’t been to Germany since right after Patrick and Helma were first married.

That he has stayed so healthy for so long is directly tied to Helma’s dedication to keeping him that way. He has had two major health scares. And we have spent our time making visits to VA hospitals, which are incredibly depressing places. But overall, he has been incredibly lucky. They have made trips all over Europe, and when they have been here, Helma has taken Patrick to just about every Revolutionary battleground in the area.

With Helma’s assistance, Patrick has kept up his massive stamp collection, his alphabetized CD and LP collection, including anything ever put out by the Beatles. He reads constantly (books on tape have been a wonderful development for him because before that, it was books by whoever was designated reader). In other words, Because of Helma, Patrick’s hobbies have all been attended to, and his life, although far from normal, has been turned into the closest semblance of normal that it could be.

He has a computer that he can control to write letters to his friends. His children may have had times that they were embarassed by their father, but I think not any more than any teenager is embarassed by a parent. Just ask my sons.

The last time they were here, I noticed how tired Helma looked, and I was actually surprised, because she really takes care of herself. She is a championship swimmer. She coaches swimming. That is her time for herself. She is in very good physical shape, but she really looked thin this time. Not thin as in skinny, but thin as in worn thin. I wrote her an e-mail about it, but she never really responded, which I did not expect that she would. She is just not that way.

She had told me before coming that this time she was not running around to see everyone the way that they usually do. She was just going to take it easy. Normally when they visit, they are on the go from the moment they arrive until the moment that they leave. But this time, she really didn’t go very many places. Even when she went to Busch Gardens, she didn’t close the place the way that she usually did.

I’m waiting until it’s 2 a.m. here so that it will be 8 a.m. there so that I can call. I always forget about the six hour time difference. I’m hoping that the news is good, that they have turned down the ventilator and that the pneumonia is clearing. That’s the news that I am hoping for. After all, Patrick’s grandmother just died last week. I’m not sure how he took the news I don’t know the last time that he saw her. But he does get very emotional.

His mother, my other mother-in-law, is noticeably worsening with her own health problem. Parkinson’s does not respond well to stress. So I’m just hoping that she holds up well for the next few days.

I suppose for someone who said that she didn’t have anything to say tonight, I managed to run on in my usual way.

That’s all for now. More later. Peace.

American Pastime: Thrift Stores

When the Economy is Bad: Thrift Stores Do Well

Such A Deal, I’m Telling You

Well, we were in a thrift store when the wallet fiasco happened, not to dwell on a painful subject, and I had planned to blog on the phenomenon of thrift stores that evening, but just couldn’t, so I decided to broach the topic tonight. I’m not sure if thrift stores are mostly an American cultural pastime, but I do know that my German relatives claim not to be aware of any such stores where they live. Maybe my Australian friends can clarify this for me . . .

I remember when I was in college eons ago, I loved thrift stores for funky hats and jackets, and then when I taught college later, my office mate and I used tskinny-tieo scour thrift stores for men’s jackets and coats because I loved to teach in jeans and men’s jackets and wear white shirts and my father’s old ties from the fifties. I wasn’t going for affectation. It was just my look, a look that I had first adopted in college, continued with at the newspaper, and carried over into teaching. I loved my father’s old skinny ties; in fact I still have them and still wear them on occasion.

A New Generation of Thrift Store Buyers

I kept a few of the jackets and one favorite wool top coat, and it turns out to be propitious that I did. My youngest, Brett, has now adopted his own style, and it is very reminiscent of my thrift store days. My sister-in-law has been taking her daughters to thrift stores for a while, so they are already addicted, but I have a feeling that I have a new convert with Brett.

I swear that I never told him before he began to move into this new style what I used to wear, and I don’t think that any pictures exist of me in these clothes because I rarely let my own picture be taken (it’s just a thing with me; I don’t like to see my own image in print, but I love to shoot my own film). But about three months ago, he started asking if there were any suit jackets around that he could have to wear, or any old suits. I found one of his father’s old suits still in the closet from when he was much younger and thinner, and Brett immediately grabbed it and wore it to school the next day. Very posh, indeed.

Then I remembered my old sports jackets from the thrift store. He took those, too. I remembered the coat. That was a big hit. Corey had a couple of sports coats that he no longer wore. Those went into the collection. Then the search for hats began. He wanted a fedora. I didn’t even know that he knew what a fedora was. And a beret. Could I get him a beret?

basque-beret5
Genuine Basque Beret

So, I decided that since we were tight on money this year, I would take him on his own search to one of the bigger thrift stores, and we would look for a few of the items that he still wanted. In one store, we found a Kenneth Cole solid black jacket for $3.49. Sold. We also found a genuine Basque wool beret for $5.49. Sold. A vintage 50’s tie reminiscent of my Dad’s old ties for $1.99. Sold.

Went to another store and looked around. Absolutely nothing in that one. It used to be a good store, but it has gone down hill since the last time I was in there. I decided to go into one other store that was nearby that I don’t really like because it’s usually pretty dirty, but I didn’t want to pass it up on the off-chance that it might hold something. We went in and within two minutes Brett found a long, off-black trench coat. I found a herringbone overcoat very similar to one that my Dad used to own, and we found another beret, this one a black knit one. I spent less than $15.

All of his finds will have to be cleaned, but for less than $26, I found him a trench coats, an overcoat, a black jacket, a tie, and two berets. I gave him the knit beret now, and he has already washed it and started wearing it. I have to say that with his long, straight hair, he looks really good in berets. That was one kind of hat that I could never pull off. I used to wear page boy caps and fedoras. I have found a fedora for him for Christmas. I hope that it fits. It’s not an old one. I do have an old one that I bought in an antique shop in Cape Cod; it’s a Stetson, but it’s too small for Brett.

I find his whole enthrallment with old clothes and hats very nostalgic. He still wants some boots, preferably some combat boots. Corey has a pair that are practically brand new from his last stint in the Coast Guard reserves. The bad news is that they are somewhere in the black hole that is our garage at the moment. I have told Brett that if he can find them, he can have them. I have told Corey that we might have a better chance if we go to a surplus store after Christmas and buy a pair.

Newer Stores, Better Stock

thriftstoreusaalbumsbooks1
Old Record & Book Room in Thrift Store USA

I miss the days when Mari and I used to go Thrift Store mining. It was always a hunt for buried treasure, and we never knew what we would be coming home with because we never really had an idea as to what we were searching for. Brett and I didn’t make it to the store that used to be Mari’s favorite, which is in Virginia Beach. I’m not even sure if that one is still there. That’s where I found the over coat that I gave him.

The big store where we found Brett’s first big haul is really quite a nice store. They have the usual things: old dishes and glasses, out- of-date cameras, baking ware, purses, lots of out of date clothes for women, etc. But they also have some really nice things that you wouldn’t normally find in a thrift store: vintage furniture such as settees with carved wood backs in wonderful shape, drop leaf dining room tables, marble top side boards, Depression and Carnival Glass (which they are smart enough to keep in the display case and which is how I mislaid my wallet), old 45’s and LP’s, hobnail milk glass, and even an antique pedal organ. The prices on the nicer items are about what you would see in an antique store, and apparently, you can negotiate with the owners on the vintage/antique furniture and pricier items, which I’ve never heard of in a thrift store before.

cream-settee
Type of Settee I'd Love to Have in My Living Room

If my house were finished, as in all of the renovations complete, I saw a lovely, very comfortable vintage couch that I would love to put in the living room, which we are going to use as a sitting room with just a sound system after the garage is converted to a den. The den will house the big screen television and the DVDs and the gaming systems, which means the boys and their friends will be living out there, and I can reclaim my living room as a reading room, which means that it wouldn’t be insane to have a lovely sofa for sitting and reading on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Ah dreams . . . they are wonderful things to hold onto, aren’t they?

One of these days, when life returns to normal . . . more later. Peace.