“There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life—happiness, freedom, and peace of mind—are always attained by giving them to someone else.” ~ Peyton Conway March

Paul Gauguin’s “Snow Rue Carcel” (1883, oil on canvas)

 

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” ~ Winston Churchill

Corey and I have spent the afternoon cleaning, trying to get the house somewhat straightened up so that we can put up the Christmas tree. I love my dogs, as you have heard me say many times, but the dog hair . . . I think that I could make another dog out of the hair that the three of them shed.

Paul Gauguin's "Snow at Vaugirard II" (1879, oil on canvas): This painting and the one above remind me of Monet's "Magpie")

Needless to say, I am wheezing, and Corey is sneezing. One of the wonderful effects of raising any kind of dust in this house.

Eamonn came by today, only to moan about how life is so terrible because his cell phone isn’t working, and the XBox stopped working. I have come to think of Eamonn as my personal source of comic relief. Would that the only things wrong in my life were a gaming system that has gone on the fritz and having no cell phone. I love eldest son dearly, but he really has no clue as to what life is about. I know. That is largely my fault.

I will be the first to admit that Corey and I have spoiled the kids. Up until the last two years, they all got pretty much anything that they wanted (within reason). By that I mean cell phones, games, gas money. So the last two years have been culture shock for them, not that it has harmed them in any way. I do have to say that I have always held steadfast to my basic principles in that I never pay full price for anything; clothes do not have to have a designer label, and big presents are reserved for Christmas and birthdays.

We have all learned how to do without, and it has probably helped to make us more appreciative of what we do have. I just wish that Eamonn were a bit more in tune with the fact that there really isn’t a money tree in the backyard.

Anyway . . .

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” ~ Mother Theresa

Corey’s parents have come through for us again. They have agreed to pay the electric bill with the understanding that we will pay them back as soon as possible. Have I mentioned lately how absolutely wonderful they have been in supporting us? I hate that we have to ask them as there is that issue of pride and the feeling (on our part) that we should be able to take care of things on our own, but as his mother reminds me, we are family, and they are happy to help when they can.

Once Corey finally starts to get a regular paycheck we will have to make a concerted effort to start to pay them back for some of the things that they have done. No one on either side of the family is rich or even well-to-do, so it’s not as if anyone has disposable income. That’s the part that has me feeling so guilty.

One thing that his mother did for us was to order a care package from Angel Food Ministries. I had meant to write about this wonderful organization before now, but just hadn’t gotten to it yet.

Angel Food Ministries was founded in 1994 by Joe and Linda Wingo of Georgia. The Wingos formed the organization to help provide food for friends and neighbors who were struggling financially. The program currently helps almost half a million families who are unemployed, living on a fixed income, or suffering financial hardships.  Actually, there are no prequalifiers to participate in the program, and there is no purchase limit. The service provided by this organization is invaluable.

A medium-sized box, which costs $30, has a retail value of approximately $60. Participants order from a monthly selection that includes fresh, frozen, and packaged food, including meat (beef, chicken, sausages), fresh fruit and vegetables, and other staples. The food is not seconds, such as past due bread, as all food is purchased via agreements with vendors and producers. The selection changes monthly, and specialty boxes are also available. These include meat packages, for example 10 pounds of chicken cuts for $20.

Each month participants submit their orders to their host site (orders can also be placed online). Hampton Roads has 15 host sites, with four in Norfolk alone. The orders are submitted to the main office in Monroe, Georgia by the deadline. About a week later, orders are delivered to host sites, or host sites go to the main Angel Food Ministries site to pick up orders.  On a designated date, individuals pick up their orders from their host site.

It’s a very efficient system that yields so much value for the money. The program even participates in the food stamp system so as to serve better families in need. Angel Food Ministries, which is non-profit and non-denominational, currently exists in 35 states. Corey and I have decided that once we are back on our feet, we are going to support this organization. We know all too well that we would not have survived these past two years without the generosity of those who care about us. It will be wonderful to be able to give some of that back.

If you know of a family in need, or a senior citizen who may have problems making regular trips to the grocery store, or if your own family is on a fixed income and is having problems with making the food budget stretch, please consider using this very worthwhile organization. Their toll free number is 1-877-366-3646, and their e-mail address is angelfood@angelfoodministries.com. Or, click on the link above to visit their site.

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” ~ Albert Einstein

I remember one time when we were driving back from Ohio when the boys were much younger: We rode through Washington, D.C. (I don’t remember the reason why). It was winter and bone-chillingly cold outside. We drove around the area of  The Smithsonian, and I remember being dismayed by the number of homeless individuals who were sleeping over the subway grates. We told the boys that these people had no homes, no warm place to lay their heads, nothing in the world but what they carried.

I remember how sad both boys were at coming face-to-face with the cruel reality of homelessness. Of course there are homeless people in Norfolk, just not in the suburbs where we live. It’s not so obvious. I wanted to boys to see that homelessness had a face, that it wasn’t some abstract concept. 

Homelessness is the veteran whose mind has been torn apart by what he or she has seen. Homelessness is the senior citizen without a family, left to live at the mercy of the elements. Homelessness is the family that is living in the car that once served as a source of transportation. Estimates are that 1 in 50 children in the U.S. are homeless. That’s the face of homelessness.

I never want my children to become so inured to the plight of others that they no longer see faces, no longer feel a pang when they encounter someone in need. I hope that I have raised them to be caring adults.

During this time, one of my biggest fears has been losing the house. It’s not grand, but it’s home. The reality is that if we lost the house, we would not be homeless, we would have some place to stay.  And in spite of my complaints, I never lose sight of the fact that someone’s child is going to go to sleep hungry and cold tonight. Man’s inhumanity to man is without a doubt the worst scourge on the face of this earth.

“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.” ~ Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama

I’ll close with this poem that I found on Crashingly Beautiful:

The Thing Is

The thing is
to love life
to love it even when you have no
stomach for it, when everything you’ve held
dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands
and your throat is filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you so heavily
it’s like heat, tropical, moist
thickening the air so it’s heavy like water
more fit for gills than lungs.
When grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, and obesity of grief.
How long can a body withstand this? you think,
and yet you hold life like a face between your palms,
a plain face, with no charming smile
or twinkle in her eye,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

~ Ellen Bassboth

More later. Peace.

Ben Folds Five, “Magic” (Corey loves this song)

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“Hello, good evening and welcome to another edition of “Blood, Devastation, Death, War & Horror.” And later we’ll be talking to a man who DOES gardening.” ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Flying Circus

Monty Python’s Flying Circus 

 

“We interrupt this program to annoy you and make things generally irritating.” ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus 

“I should say not! Dinsdale was a perfectly normal person in every way. Except inasmuch as he was convinced that he was being watched by a giant hedgehog he referred to as Spiny Norman.” ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Well, it’s Monday afternoon. We’re still here in Lima, Ohio. Lost in Middle America, as Corey calls it.

Ministry of Silly WalksIt looks like the Trooper is going to be staying here for a bit, and we are going to take a rental car home. Beyond that, don’t ask me what’s going on.

To top things off, Brett is sick. Last night he was running a fever and was nauseous. He hasn’t been feeling well the whole trip, but I thought that maybe his timing was just off from sleeping in the car at the auto place while we were waiting for Corey’s brothers to show.

But he just doesn’t seem to be feeling any better. He was up at 4 this morning, thinking about throwing up. Not good. Brett hates to throw up.

In fact, last night both Brett and I left the birthday party a little early and came back to the house. I thought that we might watch a movie, but we were both asleep by 10 p.m.

Soldiers: My goodness me! I am in a bad temper today, two three! Damn damn, two three! I am vexed and ratty, two three! And hopping mad!
[soldiers stamp feet on ground angrily] ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus 

Spot the LooneyPersonally, I’m fidgety as hell. My back hurts, but my headache is gone, at least for now. But I just can’t seem to make myself calm. Too much to worry about. Too many things in the air.

I don’t know how we’re going to pay for this whole engine thing. My health insurance has to be paid by the 30th, or they are going to cancel me. We need to pay the water bill and the electric bill. The phone people want money.

Dennis: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. ~ Monty Python and the Holy Grail

pathosIf I knew how, I would seriously consider printing some of my own money. Just enough to pay off everyone and get them off our backs. But I’m pretty sure that the Federal government frowns upon such actions. Of course, they frown upon just about everything.

Almost everything that makes fast money is illegal: guns, drugs, prostitution, etc.,  not that I would consider any of those. But what about Wall Street or owning a bank or something like that. It’s probably too much to think that AIG could throw $5,000 our way (that’s probably what one of their executive lunches costs). 

I have thought about looking for that money tree that my mom used to always talk about when I was growing up. You know, the one that she would say she was going to go pick some money from when I would ask for things.

Despite my best efforts, I have been unable to locate this source of income. And I am dubious as to my abilities to find a leprechaun and a pot o’ gold as well.

I’m open for suggestions here . . .

King Arthur: Cut down a tree with a herring? It can’t be done. ~ Monty Python and the Holy Grail 

French knightsI know that I’ve been trying to make light of all of this, but I do have to say that I really don’t know how much more bad luck I can take. I try to keep things in perspective. No one is gravely ill, and I am thankful for that.

But apart from that, it seems that we have just about the worst luck of anyone that I know at the moment: unemployment, disability, overwhelming bills, the possible loss of the house, a truck that is barely holding together, and now, a dead Trooper.

At least we know that the trooper can be used for sleeping . . .

Ex-Leper: What I was thinking was I was going to ask him if he could make me a bit lame in one leg during the middle of the week. You know, something beggable, but not leprosy, which is a pain in the ass to be blunt and excuse my French, sir. ~ Monty Python and The Life of Brian

Seriously, though, I know that things can be worse, but do we have to actually find out how much worse? Is it necessary to know firsthand every bad thing that is out there in order to know about every bad thing that is out there? I don’t believe so.

I mean, for example, I know about sharks and volcanoes and the plague. I know about homelessness and violent crime and communicable diseases. I realize that the world is in actuality a big place in which a myriad of terrible things can happen. I know that my very small section of the world is actually protected and somewhat privileged.

meaning of life drAfter all, I come from a place that has running water (if we pay the bill), indoor plumbing and toilets, appliances on which we can cook and in which we can preserve food, walls, a roof, soft beds, warm blankets, clean clothes.

We have access to medical care, medicines and emergency care. We can watch movies on our televisions and have instant access to information on the Internet.

We have privacy when we want it. We can enjoy the company of others when we seek it. We can read what we want without the government censoring our books.

We have the freedom to say what we believe and to vote in elections without the fear of being shot for supporting the wrong candidate. We can go to grocery stores without fearing suicide bombers.  

So yes, in the grand scheme of things, my life isn’t bad, isn’t nearly bad. I have food in my stomach and clean water to drink. I have clothes and shoes to put on my body, and my family is not dying of dysentery or starvation or preventable illnesses.

Compared to other parts of the world, we do, in fact, lead privileged lives. Compared to the privileged in this country, we lead average lives. Compared to athletes who make $35 million a year, we lead mediocre lives.

Mr. Mousebender: I want to buy some cheese.
Henry Wenslydale: Oh, I thought you were complaining about the bouzouki player. ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus

I wish that I could say that putting things in perspective helps me to feel better about things. It should. I know that. My logical, sensible side knows that of course things could be worse. Of course, we should be thankful for what we have when so many have so little.

MoL wide-eyed
Monty Python's Meaning of Life

In asking if the road ahead could be a little smoother, do I bring down the wrath of the gods, the curses of the force, the lightning bolts of the heavens?

I’m still open to the whole witch doctor thing. Maybe some shamanism, as long as I don’t have to strangle a rooster or read entrails. I have to draw the line at entrail reading, besides, it seems to be a bit open to interpretation to me:

Well, this gizzard looks sort of like a peanut. . .

No it doesn’t. It looks like a cashew.

No, I really think that it looks like a peanut.

Cashew. And you haven’t even gotten to the intestines yet.

Intestines? Oh, aye. Linguini, definitely linquini. Linguini and a peanut, which means 40 days of rain and loss of money.

Angel hair pasta not linguini. And a cashew. Definitely cashew. Not rain. A drought. And you will come into money.

I think that you’re half-cocked.

Well I think that you look like a springer spaniel.

No need to get personal.

Mr. Vibrating: Oh I’m sorry, just one moment. Is this a five minute argument or the full half hour?
Man: Oh, just the five minutes ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Life of Brian
Monty Python's Life of Brian

And now, I will leave you with the funniest grammar lesson ever to be depicted in film (from The Life of Brian)

[Brian is writing graffiti on the palace wall. The Centurion catches him in the act
Centurion: What’s this, then? “Romanes eunt domus”? People called Romanes, they go, the house? 
Brian: It says, “Romans go home. ” 
Centurion: No it doesn’t ! What’s the latin for “Roman”? Come on, come on ! 
Brian: Er, “Romanus” ! 
Centurion: Vocative plural of “Romanus” is? 
Brian: Er, er, “Romani” !
Centurion: [Writes “Romani” over Brian’s graffiti] “Eunt”? What is “eunt”? Conjugate the verb, “to go” ! 
Brian: Er, “Ire”. Er, “eo”, “is”, “it”, “imus”, “itis”, “eunt”.
Centurion:bSo, “eunt” is…? 
Brian: Third person plural present indicative, “they go”. 
Centurion: But, “Romans, go home” is an order. So you must use…?
[He twists Brian’s ear
Brian: Aaagh ! The imperative ! 
Centurion: Which is…? 
Brian: Aaaagh ! Er, er, “i” ! 
Centurion: How many Romans? 
Brian: Aaaaagh ! Plural, plural, er, “ite” ! 
Centurion: [Writes “ite”] “Domus”? Nominative? “Go home” is motion towards, isn’t it? 
Brian: Dative !
[the Centurion holds a sword to his throat]
Brian: Aaagh ! Not the dative, not the dative ! Er, er, accusative, “Domum” ! 
Centurion: But “Domus” takes the locative, which is…? 
Brian: Er, “Domum” !
Centurion:[Writes “Domum”] Understand? Now, write it out a hundred times. 
Brian: Yes sir. Thank you, sir. Hail Caesar, sir