Sunday afternoon . . .

This particular Gustave Caillebotte painting, “Paris Street; Rainy Day” (1877, oil on canvas) has always been one of my favorites, and I came across this video of the restoration. The finished restoration is just lovely:

 

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“The only noise now was the rain, pattering softly with the magnificent indifference of nature for the tangled passions of humans.” ~ Sherwood Smith

Untitled (1991, oil on photograph) by Gerhard Richter
Untitled (1991, oil on photograph)
by Gerhard Richter

                    

Two for Tuesday: Rain

Rain on Tin

If I ever get over the bodies of women, I am going to think of the rain,
of waiting under the eaves of an old house
at that moment
when it takes a form like fog.
It makes the mountain vanish.
Then the smell of rain, which is the smell of the earth a plow turns up,
only condensed and refined.
Almost fifty years since thunder rolled
and the nerves woke like secret agents under the skin.
Brazil is where I wanted to live.
The border is not far from here.
Lonely and grateful would be my way to end,
and something for the pain please,
a little purity to sand the rough edges,
a slow downpour from the Dark Ages,
a drizzle from the Pleistocene.
As I dream of the rain’s long body,
I will eliminate from mind all the qualities that rain deletes
and then I will be primed to study rain’s power,
the first drops lightly hallowing,
but now and again a great gallop of the horse of rain
or an explosion of orange-green light.
A simple radiance, it requires no discipline.
Before I knew women, I knew the lonely pleasures of rain.
The mist and then the clearing.
I will listen where the lightning thrills the rooster up a willow,
and my whole life flowing
until I have no choice, only the rain,
and I step into it.

~ Rodney Jones

                   

Gustave Caillebotte THe Yerres, Rain, oil on canvas 1875
“The Yerres, Rain” (1875, oil on canvas)
by Gustave Caillebotte

The Rain

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
this quite, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
insisted upon
so often?  Is it

that never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent—
am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.

~ Robert Creeley

                   

Music by Hunter Hayes, “Rainy Season”

“All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.” ~ Barbara Crooker, from “Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself”

Edvard Munch Winter, Kragero 1912 oil on canvas
“Winter, Kragero” (1912, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

                   

“I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life.” ~ Virgina Woolf

Saturday evening. Drizzle and cold, 45 degrees.

Not feeling that much better, but feel the need to write. I’ve turned down the brightness on my monitor to 50 percent, and at first I thought that might be bad for my eyes, but then I realized what a ridiculous concern that was as my eyes are terrible anyway, and at least the glare from the screen wasn’t so painful.

Ivan Shishkin City Roofs in Winter nd
“City Roofs in Winter” (nd, medium unknown)
by Ivan Shishkin

Today I awoke with a headache again, but very, very dizzy as well. Yesterday I had Corey give me one of those wonderful new self-injections of Sumavel (sumatriptan). Let me pause here: that wonderful air forced delivery method? Jay-zus it hurts, much, much worse than a needle. Give me a needle any day. The first time we did my thigh. Yesterday we used my belly for the injection site, which didn’t hurt quite as much, probably because there is more fat on my belly than on my thigh. Anyway, the headache went away, but the nausea and dizziness . . . egads.

I don’t know if I can do this new regimen, but I’m willing to give everything a bit longer for my personal test period. I have an appointment in about a month for Botox injections for my migraines. I guess I’ll know by then if this new combination of meds is or isn’t working.

“I didn’t know what to do, there was a feeling of time running out and a loss of momentum, of opportunities wasted.” ~ Jon McGregor, from If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

Last night I had very strange dreams. In one of them, I was at a department store buying Christmas presents. First I was in the music section, and I was looking for classical cds, only there were still albums on the shelf, you know, vinyl, and I was very confused. Then I wanted to go to the shoe department, but I ended up in the jewelry, and I found all of these great buys on watches. I was picking out watches with different face shapes and different colored bands, but when the associate wrung up my purchase, it came to over $6,000, and I knew that I didn’t have that much in the bank. So I asked what had cost so much, and she said that she charged me $34.95 for each watch, but I told her they were only $9.95 and $13.95, and there was no way I had bought enough to hit six thousand.

Gustave Caillebotte View of Roofs paren snow effect paren or Roofs under Snow 1878 oil on canvas
“View of Roofs (Snow Effect) or Roofs under Snow” (1878, oil on canvas)
by Gustave Caillebotte

Very strange. And then it turned into a Walking Dead dream, and there was a cave, and some kind of sea creature like the Creature from the Black Lagoon and two turtles, and a character from the Harry Potter stories.

Is it any wonder that I awaken with headaches each morning? My brain does not rest during sleep; rather, it appears to go into some kind of overdrive, warp speed of thoughts and ideas, if you will. So greeting the day with pain seems to be the price I pay for a very active, but strange, dream state, and even though I would rather not wake up with pain, I also know that I really don’t want to have boring dreams.

“Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over.” ~ Marjorie Celona, from “Y”

So thanks for hanging in during this latest bout of maladies. I’m still trying to keep the content lively and relevant. You would be amazed what pops up when you enter such a generic search term as headaches in Google images.

Arkhip Kuindzhi, Roofs Winter 1876
“Roofs. Winter” (1876, medium unknown)
by Arkhip Kuindzhi

I heard from Titirangi Storyteller that she cannot watch the Hulu videos that I post, which are usually my selections from “The Daily Show.” Does anyone know if Hulu has country restrictions? It never occurred to me that the ability to stream a video might be geographically limited, which just reflects my ignorance about these things. In my mind, everything, I mean absolutely everything is connected and interconnected now so that we can all call up the same information, have the same access to things, can link and unlink to our hearts’ collective desires, but I guess not so much.

That being said, I still don’t understand why, with the being that is the world wide web, some parts work everywhere and still others only work somewhere. Obviously, I do not have a technical mind and cannot begin to understand concepts such as coding, applications, and such, and why, when I give it any thought at all, I am so impressed by those individuals for whom such oblique ideas in my way of thinking are as easy as the two column in the times table in their way of thinking.

And perhaps the previous paragraph would best be left alone to suffer its convolution quietly.

“I have days of illuminations and fevers. I have days when the music in my head stops. Then I mend socks, prune trees, can fruits, polish furniture. But while I am doing this I feel I am not living.” ~ Anaïs Nin, from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

I had so many ideas on what I should write about today, but none of them are here at the moment. Could be they are repressed behind my squinty eyes, my half-hearted attempts to block out the whiteness of the page on which I am composing. I will not use the word creating as I don’t believe that I am being very creative here at the moment, merely composing, moving from one word to the next in an attempt to get to the full stop.

Mstislav Dobuzhinsky Kaunas Houses at Daukanto Street 1931
“Kaunas Houses at Kaukanto Street” (1931, medium unknown)
by Mstislav Dobuzhinsky

All of which is to say that I fear that I do not have much to say, or perhaps I have something to say but do not currently have the wherewithal with which to say it, and all of this reminds me of this terrible phase I went through in the 8th grade in which I composed these tortured missives that began with the following: “If today were tomorrow yesterday, then tomorrow today will be yesterday, and . . .” and I would follow it with any manner of nonsense and then, very pleased with myself, I would force Bobby (one of my male friends) to read these bizarre creations, and because he was nice and he tolerated me, he would read them or at least pretend to read them, perhaps raise his eyebrows, and only occasionally tell me how weird I was.

And I suppose what I’m getting at here is saying thank you for not mentioning very often how very weird I can be.

“Her mind was like a wound exposed to dry in the air.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Voyage Out

And the sad thing is, really, that I would just like to sit in bed and eat some Ben and Jerry’s as my eyes aren’t working well enough to start a new book, and I’m craving chocolate, specifically in ice cream form, preferably something with caramel, chocolate, pecans, and maybe peanut butter, but I’m not going to give in to that craving, and before you think I’m being admirable, I will admit that I am not going to give in to that craving only because last night I gave in to my chocolate craving and ate a big box of Raisinets that Corey had put in my Christmas stocking and which I had hid for just such an eventuality. I ate the entire box, and I didn’t give in to my desire to turn over the box and look at the calorie content because that might have prevented me from eating the entire box, and I had already decided that an entire box was called for, especially in light of the week that I have had, and by god I was going to eat it all.

Francis Picabia Roofs of Paris oil on canvas 1900
“Roofs of Paris” (1900, oil on canvas)
by Francis Picabia

And why, oh why, does my list of suggested related posts contain three about being pregnant and having headaches? Un-pregnant women have cravings, too, you know.

Perhaps I should go back to posting videos and reposts from tumblr, eh?

(Don’t know why, but all images are of rooftops in winter.)

More later. Peace.

Music by Muse, “Madness”

                   

More and More

More and more frequently the edges
of me dissolve and I become
a wish to assimilate the world, including
you, if possible through the skin
like a cool plant’s tricks with oxygen
and live by a harmless green burning.

I would not consume
you or ever
finish, you would still be there
surrounding me, complete
as the air.

Unfortunately I don’t have leaves.
Instead I have eyes
and teeth and other non-green
things which rule out osmosis.
So be careful, I mean it,
I give you fair warning:

This kind of hunger draws
everything into its own
space; nor can we
talk it all over, have a calm
rational discussion.

There is no reason for this, only
a starved dog’s logic about bones.

~ Margaret Atwood

“Sometimes it’s harder to deprive oneself of a pain than of a pleasure.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night

 “Boulevard vu d’en haut,” Gustave Caillebotte
(1880; I was completely unfamiliar with this particular Caillebotte, so glad I came across it as I love it.)

                   

“My memories have turned into anxieties.” ~ Fernando Pessoa

“Le Brusq,” Lucien Pissarro (1925)

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy and windy.

I wonder if it’s possible to catch a computer virus because I’ve been flat on my back for days. Wednesday, when I tried to get back to the post, the one that never ends, the computer had a major temper tantrum, kept inserting <div> codes everywhere. Internet Explorer kept locking up, giving me those errors, even after I downloaded the most recent version. Finally, I said “Fine. You win,” and I went and watched “Criminal Minds.”

However, by Thursday morning, I knew that I was down for the count. I slept on and off for most of the day, and Friday morning, I couldn’t even get out of bed. I so hate it when this happens, when the weakness (for lack of a better term) sets in, and I am completely wiped out. To put it in terms that may help you to relate, it’s akin to recovering from a bad flu, real flu, not a cold, but the actual thing. The mind is ready to get back to normal, but the body says, I don’t think so.

Last night I had jelly legs, for want of a better term. I walked from the bedroom to the kitchen, and felt a bit like a life-sized pinball, sort of bouncing between walls. So today when I woke up and felt as if I could make it to the kitchen, I was elated. I was even elated that I had enough energy to wash the dishes, Yippee skippy!

Yes, yes. I know. Strange but true.

Now ordinarily when I feel better after being down and out, I immediately use that newfound energy to do things around the house. Today, however, I thought that before I did anything else, I’d write, just in case it’s only a temporary respite.

So where were we?

“. . . well, not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others . . . Beneath it all is dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by.” ~ Virginia Woolf

“The Room of Flowers,” Frederick Childe Hassam (1894)

Ah yes . . . that open wound in my heart . . . my daughter Alexis.

I have debated over whether I should write about this, going back and forth over the whole issue of privacy—hers, not mine—hence, the snippets here and there but no details, but in the end, I decided that as long as I did not trespass into her life when writing this post, as it were, then I needed to get this off my chest in the hopes that the pain that I am carrying will not fester and turn into resentment, or possibly something worse.

I have not seen Alexis for over two months. This might not seem all that significant to many of you since she is almost 27 years old, but I should point out that she lives less than five miles from our home. She didn’t even come over for Eamonn’s birthday dinner.  And trust me when I say that I have always given her ample space and privacy as I know how it feels to be the daughter of a mother who respects no boundaries whatsoever. And it’s not that I want her at my beck and call or that I require her presence on a daily basis. None of that is true.

What is bothersome in the general sense is that her excuse for not seeing anyone or doing anything used to be that she had no vehicle. Not so any more. She has a brand spanking new Accord, quite a nice one actually. Yet it still feels as if she lives across the country.

If you were to ask me what was wrong, I really could not say for certain. Is she depressed? Probably. Is she sleeping all of the time? Probably. Is she taking her medication? Probably not. Is she doing anything to help herself? This is the big question, the one that none of us have any kind of answer to, but the reality is that until she is ready to do something, none of us can do anything.

Perhaps it’s that I’m so accustomed to intervening on her behalf for most of her life, making apologies and excuses for her apathy, her laissez-faire approach to life that to now find myself on the receiving end of her silence and disregard is irksome and unnerving.

“What is silence? Something of the sky in us.  There will be evidence, there will be evidence. Let them speak of air and its necessities. Whatever they will open, will open.” ~ Ilya Kaminsky, “Deaf Republic: 1”

However, if it were just the silence, I don’t think, no, I know that I would not be doing such a slow burn.

“Spring in Goscieradz,” Leon Wyczółkowski

It all began when her grandmother, my other m-in-law started becoming noticeably worse right after the beginning of the year. Ann and I were talking about things that we could do, especially to take some of the burden off Ann as taking care of her mother was becoming a full-time job. Ann said that if she could just get help for a few hours in the evening, it would make such a difference.

I suggested that we ask Alexis; after all, she wasn’t working, and this would be perfect. She could earn some money by spending two to three hours in the evening with her grandmother with whom she has always had a wonderful relationship, make sure she took her evening meds, ate something, put her to bed, and make sure the house was secure (as in no stove burners left on or doors left unlocked). I felt that it would also be a good way for Alexis to get back in the habit of having somewhat of a regular schedule without jumping into full-time work right away.

Ann and I both thought that it would be a win-win situation, and I thought to myself that I might even ask my ex if he could contribute a bit of funding if necessary. All that was needed was my daughter’s cooperation . . .

I called Alexis and left a message for her to call me as soon as possible. No response. The next day I left a voice mail as well as a text that she really needed to contact me regarding her grandmother. She called me the next day. I made my pitch.

Silence.

I talked a bit more about how it wouldn’t require that much of her, just a commitment to help out five evenings a week, and perhaps some weekends.

Silence.

Apparently, I was not being clear. I mean, it was actually a fairly easy proposition, not requiring that much of her time, and as she was family, my m-in-law would be more comfortable with having her in the house. Perhaps I hadn’t explained it well. So I tried again.

Silence.

Finally, I asked what the hell her problem was that she couldn’t respond. Was she not interested in helping out? Was she not interested in picking up a bit of cash? Was she not interested in working her way gradually back into a pseudo-normal state of being?

She just couldn’t commit, she responded. She wasn’t sure if she could do it every night, and what if she had other commitments? What if she got another job?

Well, I said as calmly as I could, you would have to work around it just as you would do with any other job. You wouldn’t make commitments from five to eight in the evening. And, of course, if you got another job, then that would take precedence. I could feel myself becoming angry, not just angry, but livid, but I held it in check. Perhaps she had a really good reason for not wanting to do this.

“You suppose you are the trouble
But you are the cure
You suppose that you are the lock on the door
But you are the key that opens it
It’s too bad that you want to be someone else
You don’t see your own face, your own beauty
Yet, no face is more beautiful than yours.” ~ Rumi

“Mulberry Tree,” Vincent Van Gogh (1889)

This is what I got as an explanation: She just wasn’t ready. She needed more time to get her shit together (her words). She didn’t think that she could do it. She was really sorry to be disappointing everyone, but that’s how it was. Then she tried the guilt card:

I know that everyone is disappointed in me. I have an Oma who I never see, who calls me. I have a grandmother and grandfather who are both really ill. My best friend is dying. But I just can’t. (I’m summarizing here).

I lost it. I told her not to even attempt the guilt trip. I was the master of the guilt trip, and it wouldn’t work on me. If she was so damned concerned about her grandparents and her best friend, then why didn’t she do something about it?

She just couldn’t, you see. She wasn’t ready.

Okay, the conversation deteriorated badly at this point, but in my favor, I did not say all of the things that I was thinking. I did ask here if she knew when she might be ready, when she might have her shit together (my words). After all, it had been almost a year since she had worked, and all she was doing was sleeping. I might be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure that it’s darned near impossible to get a job when you don’t try—at all.

She just didn’t know. She was sorry. She knew that I was disappointed.

No. Truthfully, I wasn’t disappointed. I was shocked, and I was pissed. That was what I was. It ended pretty much with me saying that she should call me when and if she ever got her shit together. I told her that I loved her, and I hung up.

“. . .you and I together have gone down a single river with linked mouths filled with salt and blood . . .” ~ Pablo Neruda, Furies and Sorrows

“Vegetable Garden and Trees in Blossom, Spring, Pointoise,” Camille Pissarro (1877)

My entire body was shaking, truly. Trembling. Given all of the things that I had wanted to say, I think that I did fairly well. I didn’t want to say those horrible things that people say when they’ve lost control, when the argument has gotten away from them, and nothing but vitriol spews out, and then the words are out there, forever said, embedded in history, and no amount of apologizing will ever erase them.

I tried to process this. Corey and I talked and talked. Was I being too hard? Was I expecting too much? I mean, if anyone knows how paralyzing depression is, I do. I know that depression and anxiety can completely waylay an otherwise energetic person, and I know that those of us prone to wild mood swings (without medication) can be almost useless. So I try hard not to compare myself with Alexis as that isn’t fair; she is her own person with her own chemical imbalances. But geez, it’s as if she has absolutely no interest in helping herself. Her doctor prescribed her medicine that—when she takes it—really helps. But the key term here is taking it. She doesn’t. She doesn’t take the medicine even when someone else pays for it.

This is her logic: If she doesn’t wake up until 8 o’clock (PM not am), then it’s too late to take the medicine because she’ll be up all night. I suggested setting all 72 of her alarms (exaggeration, whatever) for 8 AM, wake up, take the medicine. No, no. That won’t work.

It feels as if I’m staring at one of those images, you know, the ones that look like a duck, but if you stare at it long enough, it’s really Albert Einstein. You get the point. I look at her, and I see my daughter, but the longer I look, the more she morphs into something unrecognizable.

“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

“Chemin Fleuri,” Emile Claus (trans. Flowery Pathway)

One of the aspects that is so hard to bear is that I have always been my daughter’s biggest cheerleader, believing in her, encouraging her, telling her how much potential she has. In my own attempt to be my mother’s antithesis, I have gone to the other extreme with my children, writing them letters on special occasions in which I extol their virtues, urging but never pressuring them to try new things, to think about life as an adventure, and always to remember that we are not alone in this life, that many, many people help us to get where we need to go.

Yes, a bit smarmy, but it’s my own version of up-with-people for my offspring. But in the end, if she doesn’t believe in herself, in her own capabilities, then what I have to say doesn’t really matter.

So that’s the story. I called Ann and told her it was a no-go and summed up my daughter’s reasons for turning down the opportunity to help everyone, including herself. Since that big conversation, I have spoken with Alexis a few times, all but one time initiated by me. When her grandmother went in the hospital, I texted her but did not hear from her until the next day. So in the interest of keeping myself sane, I have compartmentalized, big time: There is all of the regular crap that makes up my day-to-day life, you know, bills, cut-off notices, more bills . . . and then there is the Alexis box.

This box is akin to Pandora’s box. If I open it, I have no idea what will fly out or how badly I will be hurt by it. So, for now at least, I’m keeping the lid on. Does this mean that I don’t care? Of course not. (I made the mistake of saying something along those lines to my mother, and she immediately went for the guilt juggler: How can you say that? What if something happened to her?) Does this mean that I wouldn’t help her if she asked? I’d be there in less than a heartbeat. But does the decision to leave the situation and her alone for now make me a bad person? Perhaps. Does this make me a horrible mother? Probably, but I honestly don’t know what else to do, so for now, I’ll do nothing, which grates against every Type A cell in my body.

Emotionally, I refuse to give up on her. I’ve already lost one daughter; I will not lose another. But for now, I have to step back and just suck it up. There isn’t a baby book in existence that has a chapter that covers the heartbreak your children can cause. No one wants to read about that aspect when life and the future seem so full of possibilities. If we knew all of the potential heartache in store when we thought about becoming parents, would we have done it anyway? Yes. Does that make us stupid? No, just human.

More later. Peace.

*I began this post at 1:35 in the afternoon. I finished writing it around 3. It is now 6:15, and I have spent the last three hours or so trying to take out weird coding and entering coding for borders around the images since the WP feature to do that doesn’t seem to be working. This is why posting lately has been so damned taxing . . . Update: It’s now 8:08. This post is still royally f-ed up. I am considering abandoning it in between my mother calling to say that the sky is falling (tornado warnings in the surrounding area), I’m losing track of the sections that have mysteriously disappeared . . . Spell check isn’t working, so apologies in advance.

Music by Jimmy Eat World, “Hear You Me”

                   

Going There

Of course it was a disaster.
The unbearable, dearest secret
has always been a disaster.
The danger when we try to leave.
Going over and over afterward
what we should have done
instead of what we did.
But for those short times
we seemed to be alive. Misled,
misused, lied to and cheated,
certainly. Still, for that
little while, we visited
our possible life.

~ Jack Gilbert

“Dum spiro, spero” (Latin, ‘While I breathe, I hope’)

“Snow at Montmartre,” by Hippolyte-Camille Delpy (1869, oil on canvas)

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ~ Confucius

Well, the clock is ticking down (not that clocks tick any more), and the end of 2009 is upon us. I have so many things going on in my head, so many thoughts about this past year that it’s hard to know exactly where to begin, so I thought that I would begin with the following quote by Frederick Buechner as it seems so appropriate:

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts. We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.”

I imagine that many of you out there are thinking about this past year and the new year that is only hours away. For our family, 2009 has been a year of extremes. The things that have happened have all been intense and for the most part, not positive. I lost a favorite uncle and an aunt who had been like a grandmother to me. Corey spent another year without being able to find a job, but not for lack of trying. Eamonn graduated from high school and seemed to become even more distant emotionally. Brett had a very rough year in the beginning, but it has seemed to get better for him. Alexis, too, has had a hard year, and I’m not sure exactly what changes she needs to make so that she can find some happiness.

"Rooftops Under Snow," Gustave Caillebotte (1878, oil on canvas)

Our financial situation is no better, and after Corey’s unemployment ran out in September, things got much worse. We are still renegotiating the mortgage, and don’t know when to expect any word, especially since they have lost the paperwork twice. I am on my third appeal to the Social Security administration regarding my disability.

My other mother-in-law, Yvonne, seems to be getting much worse with her Parkinson’s disease, and my other father-in-law was admitted to ICU two days ago with pneumonia. My mother took a tumble down the stairs right before Christmas, but she seems to be doing better. Watching those you love age before your eyes is more painful that I ever could have anticipated.

Friends have fallen by the wayside. I don’t hear much from Jammi, and Rebecca has a new man in her life, so I haven’t heard from her in ages. Mari is still living in Massachusetts, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to see her again. My friend Sarah has been going through terrible times with her own family. I don’t remember the last time I actually spoke with Kathleen.

Tillie had a couple of seizures, a new development. Alfie escaped from the yard and was picked up by Animal Control. As a result, he had to spend the night in doggie jail, but we were glad that he was safe. Shakes developed some kind of skin rash that makes him chew at himself all of the time, but otherwise, he is still fat and happy.

Corey’s truck died this past summer, and we know that it needs a new transmission. The Trooper died on the side of a mountain on the way to Ohio in July. We still don’t have the gas turned back on, and our credit rating is completely in the toilet.

“And if you ask me whether I regret starting out
my voice rises like flocks of finches at dawn
and blows across the deep blue sky.” ~ from St. Nadie In Winter by Terrance Keenan

"Morning Light," Walter Elmer Schofield (1922, oil on canvas)

Of course, it hasn’t all been bad. Corey’s parents really came through for us this past year. They supplied us with a Ford Windstar van and paid for repairs. They have sent us money for gas and supplied us with food from Angel Food Ministries. Corey’s brothers rescued us when the Trooper broke down in Maryland, drove six hours one-way to get us, and then drove us back to Lima with the Trooper in tow. Their generosity has been overwhelming and one of the few bright spots in an otherwise abysmal year.

Kindness has come from unexpected places, as well. Sarah’s church donated some gift cards and a bit of cash, which came at a moment when we really needed it. My mother helped out as much as she was able.

Alexis did manage to find a job after being out of work for quite a while. Eamonn did manage to graduate even after missing way too many days of school and was accepted to the local community college. Brett did survive his junior of high school even though his mental state was precarious. Corey and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. In other words, we all had our personal victories, some smaller than others, others more significant.

But probably one of the best sources of support has been from the readers of my blog, who write me constantly, support me, and help me to keep things in perspective.

So it wasn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, far from it. Sometimes, it takes putting things down on paper (screens) to be able to weigh the past more accurately, assess issues more clearly.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” ~ T. S. Eliot

So that leaves 2010. Wow. It’s weird just typing that number. I remember in 1999 being completely overwhelmed at the thought of a new century, a new millenium. I never thought that the end of the world was going to come or even that my computer was going to explode. But 2000 seemed like such a milestone.

"Winter Twilight Along Central Park," Paul Cornoyer (1900, oil on canvas)

I rang in that new year on a friend’s boat, docked in the harbor of downtown Norfolk. There was a whole group of us who were celebrating together, and I had a great time because I parked my car in the garage, left it, and slept on the boat. We watched the fireworks, which were more amazing than any I had ever seen, and I went to sleep wondering what 2000 would bring.

Well, 2000 brought me Corey at a time when I was looking for no one. It brought me a change in jobs, also something for which I was not looking but should have been seeking. It was a year of many, many changes, and the past decade has brought more changes than I can possibly list.

Honestly, though, I have a good feeling about 2010. I’m not sure why, and if you pressed me, I couldn’t substantiate it with anything more than a feeling in my gut. I mean, our luck has been so bad for so long that we must be due for a change. If Karma works in the way in which it is supposed to, then our family should be about to move into a new, more peaceful, less tumultuous period. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

I feel re-energized about my writing. Eamonn is about to begin college. Brett is entering the second half of his senior year. Alexis, well, I don’t know what changes are in store for her, but I hope that they are good. And Corey? Well, his new job was supposed to start at the beginning of the new year, but his last conversation with the man from Van Brothers was a bit more vague, as in sometime in February. But we’re not giving up hope.

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” ~ Oscar Wilde Hope.

"Garden Under Snow," Paul Gauguin (1879, oil on canvas)

Hope—that small word that carries within it so much weight. Hope helps to bring the soldier through the battle. Hope wends its way through the heart looking for love. Hope is the wisp of smoke that eludes the individual keeping watch over a loved one who is gravely ill. Hope is the reflection of the stars in the night sky when everything seems without light. Hope is the sound of the wind and the rain, the birds and the ocean, affirming that life does indeed go on beyond the realm of our lives. Hope is the northern star that guides us when the path is unclear, and the anchor for our ships when we feel adrift at sea.

It would be so easy to give up, to say no more. It would be a relief not to fight against the machinations of the bureaucracies that threaten to overpower us. It would be less taxing to just sit back and say whatever, do your worst. And I admit that there have been times when these options have floated through my mind. But I do not succumb. I have a good man who loves me, cherishes me, respects me. I have three tremendously talented, intelligent children who are just beginning to find their way in the world. I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. And I have the love and support of family and friends who never let me forget just how much they care.

Whatever 2010 decides to throw my way, I will face it, whether or not I am ready, whether or not I feel able, whether or not I feel beaten down. I have no choice because hope does not abandon the individual, rather, the individual who abandons hope gives in to hope’s fouler relative—despair. And my friends, I refuse to give in to despair.

May you stay safe on this New Year’s Eve. Remember to be smart out there because not everyone else will be. My very best to you and yours for a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year.

More later. Peace.

From “Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou

. . . Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

“Same Old Lang Syne,” by the late, greatly underrated Dan Fogelberg . . .