“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” ~ T.S. Eliot

Natural Rock Pools of Pamukkale, Turkey6
The Natural Rock Pools of Pamukkale, Turkey

                   

“There is a fissure in my vision and madness will always rush through. Lean over me, at the bedside of my madness, and let me stand without crutches.” ~ Anaïs Nin, from “House of Incest”

Friday, late afternoon. Cloudy, drizzle, liquid humidity, 80 degrees.

Now on day 8 of this particular migraine. Would someone please explain to me how this is even possible? My body is so full of pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, steroids, Botox, and nausea medication that I couldn’t pass a drug test in any quarter of this world, yet I am still in pain. Added to this was a brand new twist with my vision—as in I was rendered temporarily blind, could only see lines for about 15 seconds.Pamukkale Photos

Very, very freaky.

Do not like stuff messing with my vision. I remember well the onset of a migraine while I was out on my daily walk (years ago when I did that); suddenly, layers were coming off the hot street, and I saw horizontal bands everywhere. Today’s visual anomaly was a hundred times more unsettling.

Not good. Not good at all. So I’m sitting here typing blind, hoping that my fingers on are on the right keys because I’m trying not to focus on anything.

“When I can’t make you understand I repeat myself
I repeat

If you don’t stop asking me all these questions how
Will I understand anything” ~ Robert Polito, from “Please Refrain from Talking During the Movie”

Monday evening. Sunny, hot and humid, 90 degrees.

Obviously, never got back to the post on Friday. So many good things have happened since then that I feel a need to share them with you . . .Natural Rock Pools of Pamukkale, Turkey5

Let’s see, first, I’m having a severe reaction to the Botox, at least that’s what I think it is. I cannot get my doctor’s office to return my call, so let’s just hope that I don’t go into anaphylactic shock over this. The soft tissue above my eyebrows is very swollen; my cheeks feel taut, and I cannot open my mouth all the way. My eyes feel as if something is inside both of them burning. I looked up my symptoms and it’s either the Botox, or an extreme mold reaction, or cellulitis. All good things . . .

But believe it or not, this is the good news. You see, we have water damage and rot down to the joists. Yes, the joists. You know those big pieces of lumber that keep the house up, that make it possible for the house not to sink into the crawl space, the ones that are long and unwieldy. Yes, the joists.

I tried to put this into perspective for Corey by telling him that had we hired a contractor, that discovery would have tacked on at least another $6k to the job. Perspective is not exactly what he’s looking for. Help would be the operative word. I cannot help in the wood replacement, just don’t have the strength. It’s definitely not a one-person job. At times like these, Corey really misses his brothers and cousins, all of whom are very, very handy.

“A trap is only a trap if you don’t know about it. If you know about it, it’s a challenge.” ~ China Miéville, from King Rat

We knew we had water damage, and we suspected that it was in the studs, but not the joists. That just seems too traumatic somehow. It’s a wonder that no one fell through the floor before now. If you could only see this—it’s amazing in it’s thoroughness, complete and total breakdown of the foundation. It’s everywhere.Pamukkale Photos

As I sit here, I can actually feel all of the muscles in the top of my back and shoulder contracting. What does anaphylactic shock look like? I know. I’m a drama queen, but hey, now’s the time, if ever.

So in between trying to identify my symptoms as some new rare disease, I’m researching joist repair, adding it to the list of E-How printouts that are piling up on the dining room table. We might get to tiling sometime next week. Meantime, did I mention this is our only bathroom? Only. Bathroom.

I’ve raised three children, three teenagers with only one bathroom. It seemed like quite an achievement before. Now the real achievement is that no one has been killed by the structural failure that is our house.

“Your home is regarded as a model home, your life as a model life. But all this splendor, and you along with it… it’s just as though it were built upon a shifting quagmire. A moment may come, a word can be spoken, and both you and all this splendor will collapse.” ~ Henrik Ibsen, from A Doll House

I don’t know. Somehow, I’m not really terribly surprised by this turn of events. Our life tends to unfold based on the application of Murphy’s law and all of its corollaries. Not by choice, mind you, but by happenstance. I knew that once we pulled things up and off that what lay beneath would be ugly, but I never thought that it would look like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie in which basic structures have disintegrated into something indeterminate.

Anyway, as I try to complete this post it is now Tuesday, but I saw no point in declaring that with yet another subhead. I stopped writing this post last night to go and cook dinner and then got completely distracted in researching joist replacement, calculating wood needed, etcetera ad nauseum.Natural-Rock-Pools-Of-Pamukkale--Turkey

This whole project has turned into one massive pain in the tuckus. The only good thing that I can say about all of this is that I am so glad we are undertaking this at a time in which finding out the correct way to do something is only a mouse click away. I cannot imagine trying to do a major renovation without Internet access. By the way, the people who frequent DIY forums are seriously serious about their opinions. Every thread that I have followed has had some element of one-upsmanship as well as snarky comments along the lines of “I can’t believe you just told X to do that! Everyone knows that’s now how you do it!”

Just want to point out that most of the DIY forums are inhabited by people with XY chromosomes. Perhaps that’s why there is so much competition, such a need to have a bigger . . . wrench (not saying that women aren’t competitive, so don’t even go there).

“I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken—and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.” ~ Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

I suppose I’ll close with a bit of good news: My doctor’s office finally called me back yesterday evening to reassure me that I am not suffering from a progressive case of anaphylactic shock (which I knew, really, I did, it was just the whole vision thing), just good old side effects from the Botox. My eyebrows aren’t quite as huge today, and the lower half of my face/neck/throat no longer feels as if it’s closing.Natural Rock Pools of Pamukkale, Turkey9

You know, I really just want to take a Xanax and lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, and since Brett is on campus, and Corey is out buying wood, I just might do that. I mean, I began the day by taking a shower at my mother’s house, which is enough of a story for a post of its own, and the day does not promise to get any better as the hours pass, so why not just bypass all of that? Don’t you agree? I thought that you might.

Besides, if I can’t float in the pool (because of the prednizone and sun being a bad mixture), and I can’t soak in the tub because it’s in a box in the living room, I’ll just have to settle for thinking abou floating in these natural pools until my skin is all wrinkly.

More later. Peace.

*All images are of the Natural Rock Pools of Pamukkale, Turkey.

Music by Future of Forestry, “Someone”

                    

Daily

These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips

These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares

These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl

This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out

This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky

This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it

The days are nouns:  touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

“If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. I will capture nights all over the world and bring them to you.” ~ Henry Rollins

“Sapphires and Amethysts” (1925, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie*

                   

“I sleep. I dream. I make up things that I would never say. I say them very quietly.” ~ Richard Siken

Saturday afternoon. Hazy, hot, and humid. Liquid air.

Wow, such a week. Brett started fall semester on Monday, which meant a brand new schedule, one in which he has to be on campus by 9 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays. That’s 9 in the morning. I don’t do 9 in the morning, at least, not very well, and especially not well after the dogs have gotten me up several times during the night.

“The Cove” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

And of course, in between, I’m still going over to help Lex. Mike is on the night shift, and everyone’s schedules are very out of sync, most especially mine, and it’s taking its toll.

When I awoke earlier to let the dogs out, I found that my legs hurt all the way down to the soles of my feet. No lie. It may be from all of the running I was doing in my dream in which I was trying to get away from lions, then tigers. I had gone to Japan with a group of girls from school, and we had a hotel suite right on the beach. We could see Mt. Fuji from our balcony, but I realized that I had left my camera at home. As we were looking out over the beach, I noticed two lions at the shoreline, and then when I looked down, I saw three white dogs evenly spaced in the water. I realized that the lions saw the dogs at the same time I did, and one of the lions jumped in the water and swam towards the dogs.

I wanted to try to rescue the dogs, but my roommates talked me out of it. I watched in horror as the lion devoured each dog. Then the lion came into our hotel room. We ran to the hotel office, which was in a separate building, and that’s when the dream got really weird. One lion became attached to me. Simultaneously wanting to sit next to me and attack me. I think that one of the dogs must have been trying to awaken me at this point. From there, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to flee by climbing roofs and pipes, but the lions had learned how to jump straight up. As I was fleeing, I was trying to get the lions away from the hotel which had turned into an elementary school. At one point there were tigers and a panther and electric lines.

I never did get my photograph of Mt. Fuji.

“if i can only recount
the story of my life
right out of my body
flames will grow” ~ Jalal al-Din Rumi

That was my night, or rather, my late morning.

“Out to Sea” (1924, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

Alexis had wanted me to watch Olivia for a bit today while she went to a neighbor’s cookout and Mike slept, but I just had to pass. I am feeling completely drained today, and the thought of putting on real clothes and leaving the house just overwhelms me and makes me hurt more.

Corey should be arriving in Antigua any day now. He was in Ascension last weekend. We talked briefly, but I didn’t want to talk for too long as our phone bill already has an extra $300 in telephone calls on it. I can sense that he is down, which could be from his birthday or could be from being away from home when so many things have happened in his absence. I’m not really sure. I’m actually trying not to pay attention to the date or the days as it makes his absence a bit easier to handle.

Anyway, when he gets home he can enjoy watching the new seasons of “Grimm” and “Dr. Who,” both of which I have recorded for him and am foregoing watching until he is home (well, at least “Grimm”). I know that I will be unable to avoid watching “Dr. Who” as I’ve been waiting for this new season for soooo long. You would have to be a Whovian to really understand the madness inherent in such dedication to a show.

“They wished to flower,
and flowering is being beautiful:
but we wish to ripen,
and that means being dark and taking pains.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

I was going to say that I will try to resist from getting too political in the coming weeks, but with the DNC coming up next week, it will probably be hard. I do apologize to those of you who have no real interest in my rantings about politics and politicians, but they all just make it so easy. Part of me truly wishes that we had more of a campaign season like the UK’s, which only lasts a few weeks.

“Off on the Breeze” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

These weeks and weeks of ads, exaggerations, and outright lies really get to me. I find myself talking back to the television more than usual. That being said, I had planned to do a real post last night, but I lost the first section when I went to save and was redirected to login, which peeved me to no end, so I decided to watch television for a bit and then post. And then . . . holy cow, the empty chair and Clint Eastwood—it was beautifully comedic and somewhat sad at the same time. I have always loved the squinty-eyed Eastwood, loved all of his spaghetti Westerns, but nothing beats his performance at the RNC.

Hence, I posted the footage as Jon Stewart presented it. I mean really. Does anything beat an academy-award actor having a dialogue with a chair? Surreal. And yet, too real. But Eastwood’s performance was only beaten by Stewart’s commentary, which was almost poetic in its incision. As Brett reminds me, it’s kind of sad that the most honest political reporting is on Comedy Central.

“Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again . . .” ~ Frank O’Hara, from “Mayakovsky

So a little bit of good news. I picked up the frames that I ordered at Wal Mart a few weeks ago, and quell surprise! I still like them. Now I just have to wait for Corey to get paid so that I can actually order the glasses and sunglasses. I am still waffling about the contact lenses.

“Maine Seascape” (ca 1920’s, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

I know that I went on and on about how wonderful it was to have contacts that I could actually see with, but after wearing them for a few days, I had to face the harsh reality: Yes, I can see wonderfully when they are in, but my near vision, such as reading labels, it compromised. I am fortunate for an individual of my age, shall we say, in that I have no problems whatsoever in reading close up. I do not use glasses for reading, for using the computer, when I’m in the kitchen. I don’t need them.

So when I went to make formula for Olivia while I was wearing the news lenses, and I realized that I couldn’t really see the lines on the bottle, not distinctly, I was dismayed. I could pump up that vision by wearing a pair of reading glasses, I suppose, but then, what would be the point in wearing multi-focal lenses? I don’t need nor want reading glasses. I have nothing against them except that I don’t need them.

So do I order contacts so that I have them on hand when/if Corey and I go out, and I don’t want to wear glasses? Probably, but I really hate that my eyes have gotten to this point, whatever point that is. And I know that I’ll never have vision correction surgery as I am just way too scared when it comes to anyone messing with my eyeballs.

Whatever . . .

“All the means of action—the shapeless masses—the materials—lie everywhere about us. What we need is the celestial fire to change the flint into the transparent crystal, bright and clear.

That fire is genius.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In this past week, I have composed the beginnings of a poem and the beginnings of a story in my mind. Wonderful, you say?

“Boats at the Pier” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

Not really as I did not bother to write either of them down. Have no record of them, and hence, no memory. Haven’t the vaguest what either of them were about. I know that one poem came to me after driving Brett to school, but I cannot remember the context, and I know that the story came to me after a dream, but again, that’s all that I remember.

So much for my big plans to do anything with anything.

I stopped in a discount store last weekend looking for one thing. As I was walking down the book aisle, because of course, if there is a book aisle, I have to traverse it even if I’m looking for antifreeze, a title jumped at me, something about contacting literary agents. It was insanely cheap, and I put the book in my cart, but then, I couldn’t find the one thing that I was looking for, so I left the cart with the book sitting in an aisle, and I walked out of the store.

Now consider: Does this make any sense to you? I found a very affordable book listing literary agents and what their specialties, a book from 2011, for under eight dollars, and I did not purchase it. Wat it because I can find this same information on the Internet? No. That’s not the reason. I actually talked myself out of buying this book because what was the point in standing in line when I couldn’t find antifreeze? But which was really more important in the grand scheme: the antifreeze (which I really needed immediately) or the book (which I could actually use to do something with my writing)?

Obviously, I opted for antifreeze, and for the life of me, I have no idea as to why. Genius, thy name is not mine.

“I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.” ~ Franz Kafka, from his Diaries

Whenever I come across a song or poem that I want to post, but it seems too familiar, I do a search on key terms within my old posts to make sure that I’m not repeating myself, which is how I came across a post from this past spring that really brought me up short. The post is from April 29 and features a picture from my friend over at Titirangi Storyteller. Why do I mention this? Only because of this: When I reread it, I felt disembodied.

“Fishing Boats at Sunrise” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

Who had written these words? Where did they come from?

You see, I really felt like I hadn’t written it, couldn’t have written it, could not have possibly said these things in this way. It was just too . . . well, too lyrical, for want of a better word.

I hate it when that happens, hate it and love it when I surprise myself like that. Hate it when I realize that perhaps I really can write, and then hate it more when I think that that’s how I write sometimes, but I do nothing with it. Hate it when I sense that those words are within me, yet I do not let them out most of the time. You have no idea how painful it is to realize that somewhere inside are poems and stories, and yet, they only surface occasionally.

Or is it that I only let them surface occasionally? Or do I not work hard enough at letting them surface? Or am I just lazy? These are the kinds of things on which I obsess, the kinds of things that make me crazy and give me headaches. Between this and the literary agents book, I’ve worked myself into a conundrum: Why do I do the things that I do? No, really. Why?

Why? Why? Why?

More later. Peace.

*All images by Norwegian-born American painter Jonas Lie (1880-1940), known for his New England seascapes and American landscapes.

Music by Cass McCombs, “Harmonia”

                   

Between Going and Coming

Between going and staying
the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.

~ Octavio Paz

This . . .

I know that it will get better, but right now, this is my life:

                   

Music by Florence and the Machine, “Dog Days are Over”

The things you asked me but didn’t really want to know . . .

I have thought long and hard about the following. This is the part of the application that might be a throwaway. I’m not really sure that anyone at SSA will read this, but I’ve decided that I’m going to print it and send it in along with my standard answers to their questionnaire. If nothing else, it will make me feel better.

To the Social Security Administration:

You asked me to complete the attached form to include any information that may be useful in helping you to determine whether or not I qualify for Social Security benefits. I remember 24 years ago completing another form for another faceless bureaucracy that wanted to know if I had any additional information regarding my daughter’s death that may assist in processing our health insurance claims. At that time, I began another page in much the same way: “You ask me . . .”

That answer turned into an essay that encompassed much that had happened in those four harrowing months of my life. Tonight, I will try to encompass the significant things that have happened to change my life in the last nine years (give or take a year, here or there).

You may notice that I have taken quite a while to complete this questionnaire this time (yes, I have completed this same questionnaire two or three other times). You see, I wanted to take the time to make everything as crystal clear for you as possible. The last judge to rule on my case depended upon an unnamed woman who sat in on my hearing and said that I could go back to work as a marketing director or sales manager (in her humble opinion). The lawyer representing me at the time very gently squeezed my hand, and I bit my tongue. I could sense that anything else that I might have to add was simply deemed irrelevant at that point. And not too surprisingly, I was denied benefits.

But now? Now I want to tell you how very much my life has changed since the morning I woke up and could not stand, the morning on which I found that I could not walk the few feet to the bathroom. It was the most agonizing pain I have ever felt, and that’s saying something as I have given birth four times, once without any pain medication. I was told, after some tests, that I had a herniated disk. I was given medication, sent to a pain management specialist, and referred to physical therapy. In time, I was able to move again, but I was never again pain-free. Little things could set it off: stretching the wrong way, carrying something too heavy, lifting a stack of books.

You know those charts that doctors show you on which there are 10 circles with various expressions on their faces, with 1 being no pain and 10 being excruciating pain? Well, most people are fortunate enough to walk around in the one to two category. I am never below a 3, which I believe ranks as extreme discomfort. Most of the time—and please believe me when I say that I am not exaggerating—I exist at a 5. I have been very close to a ten, and on days on which I find that I cannot leave my bed, I hover around a 7 or 8.

Now let me pause. You are probably thinking to yourself, “This woman has a flair for the dramatic.”

Well, you wouldn’t be wrong about that; however, I am actually not dramatizing anything contained herein. I said that I was going to tell you how my so-called disability affects my quality of life, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Remember the woman who said that I could easily resume one of my former careers? Well, let’s take the Marketing Director position that I had. In that particular job, I routinely had to tote framed floor plans and site plans to empty sales offices in which I was then responsible for installing all sales materials. I also had to carry brochures (routinely 100 copies at a time) to and from sites. I carried large mailing to our distribution center. In other words, I carried around a lot more than the equivalent of a five-pound bag of flour.

The sales manager position? That’s just laughable. In that particular job I never sat down, well, make that almost never. I walked up and down three floors, moved full racks of clothes (not on wheels, mind you), hauled boxes filled with merchandise, and installed displays. In other words, lifting, carrying, bending, stretching, and a lot of walking.

My other positions? As a university instructor I regularly carried at least two carryalls filled with books and papers to grade. As an education specialist, I had to cart a laptop, a projector, catalogs, informational materials, an expandable banner, and various accoutrement to each informational session that I conducted, some of which were in Richmond. In this same position I routinely had to drive up and back to Washington D.C. in a day for marketing meetings. It was because of the demands of this particular position that I finally gave in and had the operation on my back, a decision that I will forever regret as ever since having that operation I have not lived one day without pain. The operation did not ease my pain; it increased it.

This little essay could actually be called “The Things She Carried.” Humor. Forgive me.

Back to the answer: Before I hurt my back, I could get by easily on five to seven hours of sleep. I used to awaken at 5 a.m., work out for at least half an hour, do a load of laundry, get ready for work, transport my kids to school, work all day, come home, fix dinner, maybe do more laundry, help with homework, and sometimes fit in a trip to the grocery store. I was actually quite strong for my size. At one time, I worked out five days a week and took a yoga class on Saturday mornings. I used to walk three miles in the morning. Every Saturday for years I would wake up and clean my entire house: scrub all of the floors, vacuum, change the linens, polish the furniture. My house was immaculate.

Some of my hobbies included hiking the Virginia foothills, toting around photographic equipment, and kayaking in the Back Bay. I loved to garden and do backyard birding. I used to collect paper samples from paper companies which I used to make personalized books for my family members. I used to change the oil in my car and regularly detail my vehicle inside and out. I have painted the inside and outside of my house, and I have hung wallpaper. I know how to change an electric socket or a light fixture, but I can no longer bend long enough to do so.

That was then.

Today, my life is more like this: I sleep at least 10 hours a day, that is if I’m not going through one of my insomnia bouts. I haven’t been to a gym in years. I haven’t taken a yoga class in almost a decade. I cannot walk distances or climb stairs. I cannot carry anything weighing more than ten pounds. I cannot kneel without great pain.

I can take care of my own hygiene, and for that I am very thankful. I can cook occasionally, but standing for hours to chop and process many dishes for a big meal is beyond my capabilities. I do laundry as long as someone else carries it to and from the washer and dryer. I cannot go grocery shopping by myself as I cannot load or unload the bags. I can sit at this computer for small stretches, but if I forget to get up regularly, I find my back frozen. My wrists hurt all of the time, but it’s not carpal tunnel; my pain doctor says that it’s directly related to the nerve bundles in my neck, which feel like large walnuts at any given time. My left shoulder has frozen twice.

Each month, or when I can afford it (not the same thing), I get at least 10-15 trigger point injections from my neck to my buttocks to try to loosen some of the muscles. I do not get massages as I cannot afford them. I have to take muscle relaxers all day and night just to exist.

By the way, it was taking these medications that gave my former employer cause for concern as I fell asleep at my desk from exhaustion one morning. They were concerned that I might fall asleep behind the wheel during the 26 mile commute to and from work. When I was referred to the proper channels about getting an accommodation at work for my condition, after review I was told that I would have to go out on disability. This was not something that I chose. If it had been up to me I would have probably tried to keep working for at least a few more years. Why? Because I loved having a career. Because not working at all after working since I was 15 has done quite a number on my mental health and self-esteem.

Along with the muscle relaxers and pain medication, I have to take antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicine. I take medicine to help me sleep. I take medicine for my cholesterol and blood sugar, both of which are high because I cannot exercise, even though I have given up sugar and altered my diet substantially. I take medicine for my thyroid and medicine for my GERD. And I haven’t even gotten to the migraines yet.

Ah yes, the migraines, which I have suffered since I was in my teens. I have been on so many medications for my migraines that I have truly lost count. The one medicine that did help caused my hair to fall out and really messed up my ability to think linearly or remember anything beyond my name. Now I take something to relieve the pain when it hits, but I can’t take it more than twice in one day, and I was told that after the first day, it’s really not effective, which is a bitch since my migraines last for days. The longest one lasted for weeks, no lie. They thought I might have a tumor. Luckily, it was just a migraine.

I have been somewhat fortunate in that my former employers all understood that extended exposure to overhead lighting triggers migraines, not that I didn’t catch grief for it. It is a little harder to explain to an employer who has never had a migraine why it’s impossible to look at a computer screen when in the midst of an episode. I suffer from what is called something akin to multi-headache syndrome: sinus headaches, stress headaches, and migraines. Oh, that pain level thing again as regards the headaches? Well today’s migraine was a solid 7. If it’s not the intensity, then it’s the frequency and/or longevity.

So how has all of this affected the quality of my life? How hasn’t it would be a more fitting question. My family members have all learned to keep their voices down when I have a headache. They all know that sometimes it is impossible for me to go somewhere as planned because of pain. If I go to a movie, I have to take a pillow so as to sit comfortably for a few hours. I can’t eat certain foods that trigger migraines. And my health insurance and medication costs eat up a big chunk of the family budget.

How has it affected me? I am a completely different woman, sometimes, a woman I don’t know, a woman with weaknesses she never had, a woman with limitations she never knew, a woman without a career after a lifetime of hard work, a woman with almost no retirement savings and small prospects for the future. I used to have an active social life, went to museum openings, symphonies, concerts; now my family wishes that I would leave the house more.

How has it affected me? I’m not entirely sure that I can answer this question to your satisfaction. You see, you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. You don’t know the person I was nor the person I have become. The person I was would have never chosen to answer this questionnaire in this manner, too embarrassing. That person was self-assured, successful, and smart. She thrived on stress, loved to learn new things, and welcomed challenges. This person? I’m not even sure that I would want to know her.

“We must leave evidence. Evidence that we were here, that we existed, that we survived and loved and ached. Evidence of the wholeness we never felt and the immense sense of fullness we gave to each other. Evidence of who we were, who we thought we were, who we never should have been. Evidence for each other that there are other ways to live—past survival; past isolation.” ~ Mia Mingus

The Milky Way above a Volcanic Crater, Somuncura, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)*

“How fragile we are, between the few good moments.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, from “Vinegar and Oil”

Saturday, early evening. Showers and much cooler temperatures.

So . . . long time no real post. One week, actually. So what’s new with you?

To the Stars, Buenos Aires, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)

I did manage to post the really big news in my life this past week, which is that my computer is back home, new motherboard and graphics card installed, and it did not cost me a fortune as I did not take it back to the geek squad or whatever they are called at Best Buy. Instead, I took it in to a local computer repair place, and the guy there was wonderful and more than reasonable. I will be taking all future problems to his store, for certain.

The other big news is that I’ve spent just about every day with Alexis and Olivia, much to the chagrin of my boys at home—all of them—and the sole other female in the abode, Tillie the Lab. As a result, I’m feeling tugged in a million different directions at once. I want to help Alexis get adjusted, and I want to spend these early days with Olivia, but I am also missing being at home and having some semblance of a routine.

Then, to make everything a thousand times more complicated, Corey got a departure date: this coming Wednesday. I am more than a little discombobulated.

“ . . . there is luxury in being quiet in the heart of chaos.” ~  Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 23 June 1927

I simply cannot fathom that he will be leaving for three months again in just a few short days. We haven’t even gone on a date since he’s been home as the baby’s arrival threw everything out of kilter, and he’s been spending his days trying to tame the wilderness that is our backyard. Now he’s scheduled to leave, and I feel as if we haven’t spent any time together.

Little Boat on the River, in Zárate, Buenos Aires, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)

My middle name is guilt.

I wonder how I balanced all things when I was working full time. Was everyone so needy then? I’ve been coming home from spending time at Lex’s apartment, and then I do dishes and laundry here and try not to let myself just fall on the bed in a sweaty, exhausted pile of nothingness. The weather certainly hasn’t helped with heat index temperatures above 100 degrees and 150 percent humidity (at least that’s how it feels).

I feel as though even the Beta (Capt. Jack Harkness) is giving me the evil eye for neglecting him. Is it possible to spoil a pet fish?

“It’s odd how the objects of our lives
Continue to not define us,
no matter how close we hold them unto us.
Odd how the narrative of those lives is someone else’s narrative.” ~  Charles Wright, from “Bees Are the Terrace Builders of the Stars”

So all of the big plans to see movies together, to eat sushi, and everything else . . . these things now have to be crammed into a few days.

Lobos Lagoon, Buenos Aires, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)

Of course, I also need to spend time scanning and printing photographs of the baby as my mother is demanding pictures to send to relatives. Pictures need to be inserted into thank you notes. The computer’s hard drive needs major cleaning as I made duplicate backups of my files when it seemed that everything would be lost, and consequently, I have way to0 much duplicate data.

I need to go through two weeks of unopened mail, because, well, no one else has done it, and a million other things that are demanding my attention. At least the OB cleared Alexis to drive at yesterday’s appointment, not that that means much as she is still quite uncertain of herself and her ability to do thing with the baby by herself.

I know that my daughter is not a clone of myself, nor do I expect her to be, but I think back on when I gave birth the first time, and how alone I was in everything. My ex went back to work immediately, did not take a day off work, and there I was in our townhouse in Alexandria trying to learn how to be a mother for the first time. Daunting, but nothing that millions upon millions of women haven’t been doing for millennia. Still, I found then and subsequently that motherhood came quite naturally to me. I was fortunate in that, I know.

I guess I am aware of her mental and emotional fragility and want to ease the transition as much as possible.

“The edge is what I have.” ~  Theodore Roethke

Still, I find myself torn and divided and feeling as if there is no time to do the things that I want to do, like write my posts, or reacquaint myself with this wonderful machine with the huge monitor, sort out my desk, clear off my nightstand. I feel as if everything that I want to do for myself has been placed on that proverbial back burner until everyone else is taken care of, in as much as possible.

Twilight on the Rocks, Miramar, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)

For instance: Eamonn is on a new tear about wanting a double bed; consequently, I need to be on the lookout NOW for good buys on mattresses. The dogs’ nails need to be clipped, and Alfie the Insane has developed another bump on his face underneath his left eye. Brett has been nagging both Corey and me to address the Internet issues plaguing our home network (as in it is painfully slow), and his fall semester is coming up, and we still haven’t found the funds to pay for the two summer school classes that he has taken. Corey’s unemployment still hasn’t kicked in for the time that he’s been home, and his phone, which he dropped into water, is not working and needs to be fixed before he leaves. Not to mention that neither I nor Brett have had our eye appointments yet. I need to make an appointment to have the new tires put on the Rodeo so that I can get the damned thing inspected before I get a ticket. and I need to stop by the local urgent care to get my TDAP shot, which I promised Lex I would get . . .

. . . and on and on and on . . .

And in between I try to keep myself bathed and try to remember to take my own medication, even as in the back of my mind I have the Social Security Administration’s form to complete, which should have been done months ago, and my disability provider leaving messages on my phone.

Have I brushed my teeth today?

“I want to tear myself from this place, from this reality, rise up like a cloud and float away, melt into this humid summer night and dissolve somewhere far, over the hills. But I am here, my legs blocks of concrete, my lungs empty of air, my throat burning. There will be no floating away.” ~  Khaled Hosseini, from The Kite Runner

Bitch, bitch, bitch . . . moan, moan, moan.

Jetty Blues, Buenos Aires, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)

Truthfully, though, there has never been anything in my life coming close to a happy medium. It has always been feast or famine. But currently? I am at a loss as to how I should even begin to approach this Everest.

Breathe deeply, realize that there is not enough air, try again.

I know that this post is colored in large part by the migraine with which I awoke early this morning, the residual effects of which are still creeping about my eyes. I’ve had a headache every day for the last two and a half weeks, mostly because of the heat, but it morphed into a full-blown, brutal migraine finally, and I was reluctant to wake Corey to help me as he has not been able to get to sleep for four nights in a row.

Everyone is stressed, not just me. I know that, but the environs resemble a pressure cooker about to blow, and I really want to avoid that at any cost. Unfortunately, my OCD which came back with a vengeance a few months ago will not allow me to let even one thing go, let one thing slide until later.

“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from A Book for the Hours of Prayer (trans. Robert Bly)

Sorry my first real post in a week is nothing but line after line of whinging. Allow me to switch tacks for a moment . . . good things:

  • Olivia is an adorable baby with a very calm demeanor. There are moments in which her facial expressions so keenly resemble her mother’s when she was a baby that I am lost in time.
  • My BOSE computer speakers are connected, allowing me to enjoy streaming music.
  • My new Logitech mouse that Brett got me for Christmas is very cool, a vast improvement over what I have been using, exactly what I’ve been wanting.
Selene at the Sea, Mar de Las Pampas, Buenos Aires, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)
  • We’ve gotten a break in the sweltering temperatures and agonizing humidity.
  • I stumbled upon a new blog that features really great photographs.
  • I can open Photoshop on this computer without everything locking up.
  • I can finally get back to visiting my blog community on a more regular basis.
  • I no longer have to listen to Eamonn complain that I’m invading his space by using the computer in his room.
  • I am getting familiar with my new workspace, and I’m fairly certain that I can make this work comfortably.
  • I can tell my mother that I’m feeding/changing/rocking the baby and end telephone conversations much more quickly . . .

So, enough for now. Hope to be back to regular posting.

More later. Peace.

*All images are taken from Irargerich’s photosets on Flickr (creative commons)

Music by Gotye, “Hearts a Mess”

                   

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about…

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
death.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

~ Pablo Neruda

“Are you interested in catastrophes?” ~ Paul Leppin, Blaugast: A Novel of Decline

Waterfall in Suriname Rain Forest
by Robert Caputo (National Geographic Travel)

                   

“This enormous, murky river with its deep current, this is the familiar river, but familiar from where.” ~ Péter Nádas, from Parallel Stories (trans. Imre Goldstein)

Photos of Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral, Paramaribo
Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral, Paramaribo
Oldest Wooden Church in South America
(source: tripadvisor)

Thursday afternoon. Cloudy, warmer, and very humid.

I got up early to get my fasting lab work done (finally) before Alexis’s ultrasound appointment. Of course there was a backup at the lab, so I left so that I wouldn’t be late for the appointment only to arrive before Alexis and to find out that her appointment was 15 minutes later than she told me. I had forgotten that she does that—writes down her appointments as being 15 minutes before the scheduled time so that she won’t be late.

So anyway . . . went back to the lab after her appointment only to have the lab technician tell me that I needed to register because I wasn’t in the system. Luckily, Alexis noticed that the lab tech had called me by the wrong name. I was still in the system because it hadn’t been that long.

When I got home, Tillie wouldn’t leave me alone until I took her outside to play, which distracted me and made me lose my train of thought, so when I got back to the computer, I looked up songs from the “Revenge” soundtrack, but I’m back now.

My back is killing me, by the way. I could chalk it up to just about anything: the barometric pressure, the rain, the heat . . . whatever.

“So I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “100 Love Sonnets: Cien sonetos de amor”

Corey texted me this afternoon. He’s in Suriname (I was unaware that the country was spelled with an e on the end, but it is, which is odd as certain things from the country do not have an e on the end, like the Surinam Toad, or Surinam Airways).

Paramaribo Open Market by permanently scatterbrained (FCC)

Anyway, he’s just 1 degree above the equator, and it’s hot.  From there they will go to the Ascension Islands, which are in the South Atlantic, between the Horn of South America and Africa. Then from there they go back to Suriname for fuel, and then he’s not sure, maybe back to the U.S. or possibly Columbia, SA, wherever the ship is going into the yard, so about another 31 days or so.

He had shore leave for a few hours, and he wandered around Paramaribo (a former Dutch Colonial town), which is the capital and the largest city in the small country. He said that there were lots of open air markets. I read that shrimp are supposed to be wonderful there. Most of the population lives in the north, and there is a rainforest in the south that covers up to 80 percent of the country.

“There are ways of naming the wound.

There are ways of entering the dream.
The way a painter enters a studio:

To spill.” ~ Tracy K. Smith, from “History”

Friday afternoon. Sunny and humid.

Fort Zeelandia, Paramaribo, Suriname by madmack66 (FCC)

I just couldn’t finish yesterday. For some reason, I was quite weepy, and a song came on my playlist, and I got that feeling, and then I couldn’t write any more. Just as well, probably. Who knows what I would have said.

Very bad night. I dreamt that Tillie ran through plate-glass and was blinded in one eye, and Corey renamed her Joe, and I didn’t understand why, and I walked out of the house and didn’t lock the front door, so I turned around and went back inside, but it was a different house, and before I could lock the door, a man pushed his way inside, and he tried to grab me but I pushed him, so he pushed me back, and I thought to myself, “this is very weird.”

Corey called last night, and we tried to keep the conversation short so that we do not owe our carrier a second mortgage. He sounded tired as he had just come off watch and had to be back on at 4 in the morning. He’s still liking this job very much and is getting along well with his co-workers. That’s a really good thing, especially when you’re confined with people 24/7.

“Wherever I am
I am what is missing.” ~ Mark Strand, from “Keeping Things Whole”

I do want to take a moment to apologize to my followers whose own blogs appear on my blogroll. I have not been a regular visitor of late, but not by choice. This computer in Eamonn’s room is truly on its last leg, and I am very limited in what I can do. Sometimes as I’m writing, the letters appear on the screen one at a time very slowly, much like a typewriter. I had planned to put my CPU in for repairs this paycheck, but then we had that huge hiccup with T-mobile, and well, more of the same.

Suriname Rainforest Village (Wikimedia Commons)

Once I get my computer up and running, I can get back into my regular mode of visiting people and commenting, something that I truly enjoy doing. It seems that I’m always apologizing for something not being the way that it should . . .

Did I mention that eldest son truly believes that I’m lazy? He (who is very, very much like his father) has never accepted that I am on disability. Whenever we’ve had money issues, he’s said things like, “Well why don’t you just go back to work?” And he’s serious. Not matter how many times Corey or I have tried to break down the realities for him, he still thinks that I’m not working because I’m lazy. This is a very bitter pill to swallow, I have to tell you. It always makes me question myself.

His father could never accept any kind of illness or physical impairment, always believing that the individual affected was just faking. Funny, the things that are ingrained in the DNA.

“And so when all the time had leaked,
Without external sound
Each bound the Other’s Crucifix—” ~ Emily Dickinson, from “[13]

So, well, I’m still weepy. I’m taking my medication, but I did miss one day when I ran out, but that’s been days ago. Truth is I would hate to see how bad I’d really be without the meds. And as always, I am reminded of my mother’s mantra: think happy thoughts . . .

Paramaribo, Suriname by permanently scatterbrained (FCC)

At times such as these I really feel for the people who suffered from some kind of mental illness in generations past, how they had to try to hide it, how if it came to light, they were forever marked as being crazy. The Scarlet A, except it would be a Scarlet C (for crazy?). I mean, there was a time when any political candidate who had ever sought mental health counseling would immediately be out of contention for a race, and even now, few in the public arena are willing to admit that they may have had to seek help.

It’s as if mental health is still in that category of the unspoken verboten: sex scandals, counseling, depression, homosexuality. It’s okay if you ran a company or two into the ground, if you caused thousands of people to lose their retirement, but say that you once had to get help for depression? Nope. Not so much.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), in any given 12-month period, 26.2 percent of the adult U.S. population will suffer from some kind of mental disorder, and contrary to popular belief, women do not suffer more than men. That’s one-quarter of our population.

Chew on that for a moment, and think happy thoughts while you do it.

“I see my life go drifting like a river
From change to change; I have been many things —” ~ W. B. Yeats, from “Fergus and the Druid”

I have a vivid memory of being 14 and sitting on the floor of my bedroom just weeping buckets. The family down the road had moved to Tennessee, and the daughters were two of my best friends since we had moved back to the area. I spent all of my time with them. Their moving left me hollow. My mother told me that nothing was really wrong, that I just had my period.

Colonial Houses, Unesco World Heritage, Paramaribo Center
(oursurprisingworld.com)

Right. But you know, I have to say that it’s not really her fault. She’s a product of her generation, one in which such things were not acknowledged, that to admit that someone in the family was frail (euphemism) was cause for shame. Still, at 14 all I knew was that it felt as if my insides were being torn apart.

Another time when I was really in a bad state a neighbor said that I had “growing pains,” that seemingly innocuous phrase that so many adults use to categorize youthful angst. I remember being so pissed. I just wanted to scream at her that she didn’t know what she was talking about, but I didn’t. I remembered my manners and kept my mouth shut.

Those growing pains produced some of the most angst-filled, emotional bad poetry probably ever written, but at least I sought a way to unburden myself. I don’t know how I got off on this tangent, and now that I’m here, I don’t really want to pursue it any more.

“The red balloon outside rose up
to an unsuspected sky, its chains
strained by the certainty that the nearer the inferno
the greater the paradise,
the nearer the prison cell
the greater the freedom.
Cantabit vacuus coran latrone viator.” ~ Miroslav Holub, from “Interferon” (trans. Dana Habova and David Young)

The penniless traveler will sing in the presence of the highwayman . . .

Paramaribo Photos
Houses Along the River, Paramaribo
(source: Trip Advisor)

In spite of my current state of mind, I can still be amazed by the serendipitous nature of life, how I can come across the perfect quote, a new poet, a new poem—something that says exactly what I’m feeling—when I’m not even looking. I had never heard of Holub, never read this poem, but this section of the poem (quote above) is apt for today. I especially like the Latin phrase at the end of the section.

A penniless traveler has nothing to lose, some would say, and on the surface, that is true. But we all have something to lose, even if it’s hidden deep within, so deep that we have forgotten about it. We all have something to lose, even if it is ourselves.

More later. Peace.

Music by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors (from the very last episode of “House” ever and the song that keeps making me weepy), “Live Forever”

                   

Poems in Braille

1
all your hands are verbs,
now you touch worlds and feel their names—
thru the thing to the name
not the other way thru (in winter
I am Midas, I name gold)

the chair and table and book
extend from your fingers;
all your movements
command these things back to their
places; a fight against familiarity
makes me resume my distance

2
they knew what it meant,
those egyptian scribes who drew
eyes right into their hieroglyphs,
you read them dispassionate until
the eye stumbles upon itself
blinking back from the papyrus

outside, the articulate wind
annotates this; I read carefully
lest I go blind in both eyes, reading with
that other eye the final hieroglyph

3
the shortest distance between 2 points
on a revolving circumference
is a curved line; O let me follow you,
Wencelas

4
with legs and arms I make alphabets
like in those children’s books
where people bend into letters and signs,
yet I do not read the long cabbala of my bones
truthfully; I need only to move to alter the design

5
I name all things in my room
and they rehearse their names,
gather in groups, form tesseracts,
discussing their names among themselves

I will not say the cast is less than the print
I will not say the curve is longer than the line,
I should read all things like braille in this season
with my fingers I should read them
lest I go blind in both eyes reading with
that other eye the final hieroglyph

~ Gwendolyn MacEwen, from  A Breakfeast for Barbarians

Keeping the Grey Matter Active

                   

Reblogged from History Receipts Itself (comments in brackets are from original post):

Some of these are groan-worthy, but make you think, nonetheless . . .
1. Johnny’s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May. What was the third child’s name?

2. There is a clerk at the butcher shop, he is five feet ten inches tall and he wears size 13 sneakers. What does he weigh?

3. Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain in the world?

4. How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?

5. What word in the English Language is always spelled incorrectly?

6. Billy was born on December 28th, yet his birthday is always in the summer. How is this possible?

7. In California, you cannot take a picture of  a man with a wooden leg. Why not?

8. What was the President’s name in 1975?

9. If you were running a race, and you passed the person in second place, what place would you be in now?

10.Which is correct to say, “The yolk of the egg are white” or “The yolk of the egg is white”?

11. If a farmer has 5 haystacks in one field and 4 haystacks in the other field, how many haystacks would he have if he combined them all in another field?

Here are the Answers

1. Johnny’s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May. What was the third child’s name?

Answer: Johnny, of course

2. There is a clerk at the butcher shop, he is five feet ten inches tall, and he wears size 13 sneakers. What does he weigh?

Answer: Meat. (I know. I groaned . . .)

3. Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain in the world?

Answer: Mt. Everest; it just wasn’t discovered  yet. [You’re not very good at this are you?]

4. How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?

Answer: There is no dirt in a hole.

5. What word in the English Language is always spelled incorrectly?

Answer: Incorrectly

6. Billy was born on December 28th, yet her birthday is always in the summer. How is this possible?

Answer: Billy lives in the Southern Hemisphere.

7. In California, you cannot take a picture of a man with a wooden leg. Why not?

Answer: You can’t take pictures with a wooden leg. You need a camera to take pictures.

8. What was the President’s Name in 1975?

Answer: Same as is it now—Barack Obama  [Oh, come on …..]

9. If you were running a race, and you passed the person in second place, what place would you be in now?

Answer: You would be in second place. Well, you passed the person in second place, not first.

10.  Which is correct to say, “The yolk of the egg are white” or “The yolk of the egg is white”?

Answer: Neither, the yolk of the egg is yellow  [Duh]

11. If a farmer has 5 haystacks in one field and 4 haystacks in the other field, how many haystacks would he have if he combined them all in another field?

Answer: One. If he combines all of his haystacks, they all become one big stack.