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

alice-dalton-brown-blues-come-through1

“Blue Comes Through,” by Alice Dalton Brown

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself,” ~ Zen Proverb

“If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come.” ~ Arapaho Proverb

Okay, so I haven’t posted in two days. I am going through serious withdrawal. I was working on a post called Twenty-six Things That Won’t Disappear when my computer crashed—again. I’m really not going to be able to hold off much longer on downloading all of my files onto flash drives and completely reinstalling everything from scratch.

Corey says that he’ll do it whenever I’m ready, but when do I have time in my über busy schedule to step away from the keyboard? I mean, in between all of the galas and social events that I attend, and my special appearances to talk about my writing career, I just can’t seem to find the time. So many people to do, so many things to see, or something like that.

Damn. There I go being delusional again. Sorry.

“If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him . . . ” ~ Dhamapada Proverb

bush_shrug2
Torture? Who me?

So anyway, I might try to get back to my list of 26 things, but I’ve kind of lost the anger that was behind the post. I’ll bet that you’ll never guess who made me angry . . .

Gee, you’re good. Yep. It was W. and Darth Cheney, and the whole report on torture. So when I get riled again, which could happen the next time I watch Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow, I’ll probably finish my list. I know that you can hardly wait.

“There is nothing you can see that is not a flower; there is nothing you can think that is not the moon.” ~ Basho

Moving along, I got some really great comments on my list of my favorite 100 rock ‘n roll songs, even though I cheated and listed 115 songs. So I was thinking that I might have to do my favorite 100 movies. Memphis Mafia said that he had done his favorite 100 movies, so I’ll have to be checking that out soon.

deniro-and-pacino-in-heat
Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro in Heat

I do love a good movie. Last night, Corey and I watched the latest DeNiro/Pacino movie: Righteous Kill. I love those two together. Even though they were only on screen together for the last part of Heat, I loved that movie, just knowing that they were playing cat and mouse with each other was enough for me.

In Righteous Kill, they are together in almost every scene. The movie did not get great reviews, but that never bothers me. I decide for myself (what a surprise), and I just think that as far as actors go, it’s pretty damned hard to top DeNiro or Pacino.

Maybe I will have to do that movie list after all, but I don’t know that I would ever be able to do my top 100 books. Maybe if I did it by genre, just my mystery/suspense novels. Hmm. Things that make you go hmm.

“The most important point is to accept yourself and stand on your two feet.” ~ Shunryu Suzuki

I got a call from the Stand Up for Virginians people regarding the long comment that I made when I signed the petition. Seems they liked what I had to say.

sally-field-oscar-speech
Sally Field: "You like me. You really like me."

Want to know a secret? It was an awesome feeling. Validation for the first time in quite a while. Don’t get me wrong, all of you wonderful people who support me by reading me on a regular basis and suggest my blog to other people are a constant source of validation. Sometimes your comments make me go all Sally Field: They like me . . . They really like me. (If that reference makes no sense to you, then you didn’t see Field win her Oscar for (not Norma Rae) whatever it was she won her Oscar for.)

But back to the validation thing. Since I stopped working almost two years ago, I have had my dark moments when I just don’t feel that I am contributing anything of value to society. Granted, not all of my jobs involved contributing anything meaningful to society, but in most of my jobs, I was able to leave my mark on something, and even the smallest thing can have some meaning.

So when I got the call about my comment, I really felt good about myself again. I had written something on an open forum, spoken my mind, and it mattered.

Of course this does not mean that I won’t still be sitting here everyday writing about whatever strikes my fancy for anyone who happens to stop in. This blog is my lifeline. It keeps me sane, which is why having the computer act up tends to tweak my temper just a wee bit.

“All of the significant battles are waged within the self.” ~ Zen Proverb

This weekend is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous here. I plan to sit outside and read and soak up the rays. Yes, yes, I’ll be using sun block. Don’t want any telltale sun damage. I already have a hard enough time looking at myself in the mirror.

bw-of-schoolchildren-in-1960s
No Filipino Faces Here

What a telling comment that is. People who don’t know me might think that I’m fishing for comments when I become self-deprecating. But people who really know me understand just how insecure I am about my appearance. And I can tell you exactly when it started: when I was a young child. Truly. No lie.

Try to imagine how it felt to be half Filipino, half American, sitting in a classroom with a bunch of white English school children. You see, I began school while my dad was stationed in England. So I had an American accent and a decidedly different name: Lolita Liwag.

Then, fast forward a few years, and I’m sitting in a classroom full of American school children, only this time, I have a very proper British accent. Still have the olive skin, dark hair and Asian eyes. Still had the oddest name in a class full of  girls named Kim, Brook, Nancy, Meg, and Linda.

The reality is that everywhere I have ever been, I have been the different one, and because of that, I have always had to prove myself. I have proved myself on my jobs with my abilities, but my quirkiness born of a façade of toughness, has always set me apart. I once had a co-worker tell me (after we had been friends for awhile that when she was first introduced to me, and I shook her hand, that I scared the crap out of her. That really blew my mind, especially since she was known as the reigning bitch. I scared her? Whoa.

“And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~ T. S. Eliot

NUP_111711_0887
Battlestar Galactica's Anders & Starbuck

Maybe I’m like Starbuck from “Battlestar Galactica.” Not in the sense that she’s incredibly buff, blond, and fierce. But, you know, all tough talking on the outside, but sensitive and loving on the inside . . . It’s a thought.

Speaking of which, I was longingly looking on Amazon at the boxed sets for Seasons 4 and 4.5. When I get some money (if?), I’m buying those babies. Then, I’m going to sit down and have myself a BG marathon, starting with episode one of the first season. No, wait. Back that up. I have to get the movie first, the one that started the new series. I don’t think that I have that either, and in fact, I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen the two-hour movie. 

501199the-lord-of-the-rings-the-two-towers-posters
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings

Getting back to my plan: I’m going to sit down and start with the two-hour movie, and then I’m going to watch every single episode from every single series. It will be just like when I watched every extended version of Peter Jackson’s masterpiece Lord of the Rings.

The first version would come out, and we would buy that, and then I would proceed to watch that over and over until the extended version came out. It was sort of a ritual. I remember the boys saying something to me about falling asleep to the music that played as the credits rolled. Think of it as a kind of lullaby, I would say.

I watched each of those at least ten times after they came out. My friend Rebecca would say, “What did you do last night?” And I would get that goofy smile, and she would say, “Not again. You watched it again?”

“There is no fire like passion; there is no evil like hatred; there is no pain like this body; there is no happiness greater than peace.” ~ Dhamapada Proverb

What can I say. I am a woman ruled by my passions. When I’m passionate about something, I am very passionate. Granted, that can have its downside, for example, when I get too intense about something and cannot understand why everyone else is not as intense as I am.

But at the same time, I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to certain movies or television shows: “Highlander” (loved me some Adrian Paul) (ooh aside: Plans are in the works to remake the original Highlander movie. Hooray!); “Battlestar Galactica,” such a great remake, “The X-Files,” never the same after Mulder left, but I had an X-Files coffee mug that changed messages when hot liquid was poured into it (too cool), “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” best of all of the series even though Spock was not a character.

highlander-season-1
Adrian Paul as Duncan McLeod in Highlander

 And the Underworld movies (what I wouldn’t give to have boots like Selene), one of the best openings to any movie in the first of the three.

You get the general idea. In fact, when I was teaching at ODU, I really wanted to teach a Science Fiction class, but they weren’t ready to add it to the curriculum at that point.

So, my geekiness aside, my point is that my fierce loyalty towards family and friends also extends to certain shows and movies (but I still wouldn’t attend a sci-fi convention; aside from the total geek factor, who would I be?).

Well, I think that I’ll stop now and put on the first Underworld movie. I don’t think that I’ve watched it in several months. Although, Brett and I are in the middle of re-watching Lord of the Rings; the only problem is that we can’t watch it on the big screen because the DVD player that is hooked up to that television is being skittish (like my computer) and will only play CD’s but not DVD’s. Go figure.

More later (as long as my computer cooperates). Peace.

Advertisements

Lives in Pieces: Vale et memini (Goodbye and I Remember)

yellow_roses_from-ramsey-art-gallery1
Yellow Roses by Michele Tramontana from Ramsey Art Gallery

Part 5: Yellow Roses

We put our daughter in the cold November ground on a Thursday. I had called Kathleen on Monday when Caitlin died and asked if she could come. She replied that of course she would be there.

On the Tuesday after Caitlin died, Paul’s mother took the two of us to make arrangements. We purchased a lot in the infant cemetery at Forest Lawn, an old cemetery in Norfolk. We went to a headstone place, and Paul’s mom said that she and Paul’s father would like to buy the headstone for Caitlin’s grave. I asked that the following be inscribed under Caitlin’s birth and death dates: “God hold you in the hollow of his hand and give you peace.”

We made arrangements to hold the funeral service in a funeral home in Ghent in downtown Norfolk. We chose this particular place because it was close to the hospital and medical school, and only a few miles from ODU. We knew that people would be coming from work and many would need to go back to work immediately after the service.

Since her coffin was so small, we only needed two pallbearers. We asked Winn, Pat’s husband, and Chris Hunt, one of our best friends since grade school.

On the day of the funeral, I was handing out Valium like they were Sweet Tarts. We did not have an open casket or a viewing. Caitlin had already been through so much that Paul and I thought that it would be intrusive to put her on display. We did request that the casket be left open before the service so that all of the family could say goodbye. I remember looking down into this small white casket and seeing my beautiful brown-haired daughter lying there. It felt as if the ground beneath me were going to open up and swallow me. Part of me wished that it would.

We had given the funeral home one of Alexis’s dresses that she had worn on her first Easter. The white dress had a very thin band of pink piping, and it had an accompanying bonnet that was very large and trimmed in white lace. Part of the reason for choosing Alexis’s dress was my attempt to tie the two girls together in my memory. They had spent so little time together in real life.

However, I did not want Alexis to come to the funeral. Her preschool teacher volunteered to watch her until later that afternoon. Perhaps it was the wrong decision, but at the time, I really did not feel that Alexis was old enough to handle what was sure to be a very emotional atmosphere at her sister’s funeral. I mean, how could a small child handle what her two grown parents could not?

Before they closed the casket, I put one of Caitlin’s small stuffed animals in the casket with her. Then I kissed her for the last time and walked back into the family waiting area.

My mom and dad had bought the spray for the top of the coffin. Paul and I also requested a vase of yellow roses be placed next to her coffin. I had come to associate yellow roses with Caitlin, but to be honest, I cannot remember why.

The minister from my mother-in-law’s church who had baptized Caitlin performed her service. It was a very personal and moving service. He recalled how when he had visited Caitlin in the hospital the few times before she went into PICU, she would smile at him. Then I read a poem that I had written for Caitlin. At first, I had asked Kathleen to read the poem, but on the actual morning of the funeral, I realized that it was something that I needed to do. I made it through the entire poem without breaking down. Then I sat down and began to weep.

So many people showed up for Caitlin’s funeral: people from the medical school, doctors and nurses from the hospital, all of our family and friends. It was amazing, actually. I remember standing in the little bathroom with Kathleen before the service and watching the people park and get out of their cars. I never expected such a turnout. I also remember hearing the organ playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the background. I turned to Kathleen and said, “That song should never be played on an organ,” even though it was one of the songs that I requested.

The drive to the cemetery afterwards seemed to take forever. Kathleen drove Paul and me. I sat in the front with Kathleen, and Paul sat in the back. I rambled on about inconsequential things, but Paul was silent.

The service at the graveside was short. And then afterwards, kind of spontaneously, I stood to the side so that I could be in the sun. People started to line up to talk to me. We hadn’t expected this, and Paul had already walked off a little to the side to speak to a few of his friends. I just remember hugging so many people, and then, out of the blue, Johnny, my former Catholic boyfriend, was there.

He took me in his arms, and I began to weep uncontrollably. I hadn’t expected to see him, but when I did, I was overwhelmed.

After the funeral we went home, and many people came to the house. My uncle ordered an entire spread of Chinese food, on top of all of the food that other people had brought. I ate nothing. Instead, I sat in my Bentwood rocker holding Caitlin’s bear, and drank wine.

As people left, I pressed food on them, assuring them that Paul and I did not need the extra food. Pat and Winn stayed until the end. Chris and his wife also stayed a long time. Sarah was there, and people from work. After the final guests left, Kathleen told me that she was going to drive back to Alexandria. Part of me really wanted her to stay, but another part of me just wanted to be alone.

Finally, when there was no one left in the house, Paul went for a long run, and I laid down on the bed with my black Lab Mokie and wept. I was certain that I would run out of tears, but it was as I had suspected in the hospital: my tears were endless. You see, while we were still in the hospital those last few days, I was on the verge of tears all of the time. Different people, doctors, nurses, friends, would tell me to go ahead and let it out. I would tell them that I was afraid that once I began to cry that I wouldn’t be able to stop.

The next morning, Paul and I realized that we could not stay in the house a moment longer. I packed hastily, and we drove to the mountains. We stopped by the cemetery on our way out of town, and I pulled a carnation from the flowers that still surrounded her grave. We ended up on Skyline Drive. It was our first time there together. At one of the scenic overlooks, I tossed the carnation over the side, but the wind caught it and blew it back towards me. I had wanted to give Caitlin to the mountains symbolically, but my attempt had failed.

We drove and drove and ended up in Front Royal, Virginia, the other end of Skyline Drive. We stayed in a horrible hotel because we couldn’t find any other lodgings. When we got up, we headed for home and uncertainty.

We picked up Alexis from my parents’ house, and we drove home.

I went into the girls’ bedroom and ritually touched everything that had been Caitlin’s. I was trying to absorb her into my body in any way possible. Some of the clothes that we had brought home from he hospital still smelled of her. I took the outfit that she had been wearing when she was first admitted to the hospital and put it in a sealable bag. For months afterwards, I would open that bag and inhale deeply.

I slept with Caitlin’s bear at night. I moved through the days as if I were surfing on quicksand. I honestly don’t remember very many details about the first couple of months after her death.

I remember finishing up the semester at ODU. My students, some of whom had attended the funeral and sent cards, were incredibly kind when it came time to do my evaluations. My colleagues also very gentle with me.

Christmas came, and it was all that I could do to force myself to make merry for Alexis. Somehow, we managed. I had only bought one present for Caitlin for Christmas, and this was early in September when we all thought that she would be coming home. It was one of those baby gyms that an infant can lie under and kick at and pull on. It remained under the bed.

Our lives had been forever changed. We had no idea how to move on except to move through the days as best we could. We went to one group therapy session for parents who had lost children. The pastor from the hospital had invited us. I spoke; Paul did not. After it was over, Paul looked at me and said that he never wanted to go back. We didn’t.

For parents who have lost a child, life becomes a task of mere survival. Some people are better at it than others. Most marriages do not survive such a loss. Ours survived another 10 years and two more children. We really thought that we had beaten the odds, but in the end, we became another statistic.

Next: The final chapter: A Time for Keening.

                                                                                                 

Part One: Young and Seemingly Immortal (https://poietes.wordpress.com/2009/03/14/)

Part Two: Anamchara, My Soul Friend (https://poietes.wordpress.com/2009/03/14/)

Part Three: I Dream of Oranges (https://poietes.wordpress.com/2009/03/14/)

Part Four: When Life Was Forever Changed (https://poietes.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/)

“Friendship is a sheltering tree” ~ Samuel Coleridge

dawn-by-janson-jones1

“Dawn” by Janson Jones (Floridana Alaskiana)*

“A friend is one to whom one can pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keeping what is worth keeping . . .”

“. . . and, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” ~ Arabian Proverb

gulf-fritilary-by-janson-jones
Gulf Fritilary by Janson Jones

My second semester of teaching at ODU was one of the hardest. Caitlin had died the previous November, and I had managed to finish the Fall semester with my two classes. But going into Spring semester was an endurance test.

I was just trying to survive the fact that my entire life had been turned upside down. I frequently burst into tears, and was more depressed than I ever had been or have been since. The one good thing about that semester was the entrance of a new person into my life: Mari LoNano.

Mari’s (pronounced like Mary) office was right next to mine. We had talked briefly during the Fall term, and then more after Caitlin died, but our friendship really bloomed during the Spring (no pun intended). We began to eat lunch together and to have long conversations about life, death, and survival. By that summer, we had become inseparable, and by the fall semester, when Marty, Mari’s former office mate, moved up in the hierarchy and was given an office to herself, Mari and I became office mates.

It had been a long time since I had had friendship with another woman on a daily basis, and it was something that I really cherished. In fact, I’m not sure that I would have survived that first year after Caitlin if not for Mari.

“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

key-west-sunset
Key West Sunset by Janson Jones

I realized in those first painful months that I was but a shell of my former self. I wasn’t sure about anything, least of all life and my own existence. Mari offered me comfort in so many ways, but probably the most meaningful way in which she became an important part in my life was through our long conversations. Mari told me about the death of her mother years before. It was obviously still very painful for her.

Like me, Mari carried around an immense amount of survivor’s guilt. After caring for her mother during her illness, Mari had not been with her when she died. I could tell that this fact bothered her tremendously. It colored all of her relationships.

We were two lost souls, and we found each other. I have no doubts that fate brought us together.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” ~ Goethe

great-blue-heron
Great Blue Heron by Janson Jones

Another important aspect of our friendship was that we were both aspiring poets. Mari had more experience in the craft than I did. At the time, I was still writing mostly from my gut, paying little attention to the actual craft of poetry. We shared our poems, and from her I learned more about line breaks and rhythm than I had ever learned in my undergraduate workshops.

She was also responsible for broadening my horizons into contemporary poets. From her I learned about Bruce Weigl, Christopher Buckley, Molly Peacock, Kate Daniels, and countless other wonderful poets. It was the opening of an important door for me: Writers become better by reading the works of those they admire.

Most of my poetry dealt with grief, while Mari wrote about a wide range of topics: her sister’s horse, her mother, her grandfather, her dogs, nature. I was amazed by her ability to bring to life images and to capture feelings.

We tried to inspire each other into writing more, and we talked about going to poetry retreats some day—something that unfortunately, we never managed to do.

“No love, no friendship, can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.” ~ Francois Mocuriac

bahia-honda-state-park
Bahia Honda State Park by Janson Jones

We found that another thing that we had in common was that both of our husbands had attended Virginia Tech in the forestry and wildlife program. Ironically, neither of our husbands were working in their fields.

Mari’s husband was working for UPS, and mine was working for the medical school as a radiation safety officer. Luckily for us, Buddy and Paul hit it off, and we started to do things together as couples; going to dinner along with Marty and Jack was always a nice evening out. And the four of us would try new restaurants in the area. Those dinners were great fun.

But mostly, it was Mari and me together. One of our favorite things to do was to eat at the cafeteria near the mall where they had those great rolls and then go shopping. Boy did we shop. For about four straight years, we went shopping at least once a week. Unfortunately, my shopping addiction was my way of dealing with my grief, not a very healthy coping mechanism, especially because of the debt that I incurred.

Mari shopped for a lot of reasons: she loved fashion; she had the money to buy pretty much what she wanted, and I believe that shopping also filled a void for her as well. Regardless, we had some great times finding bargains at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, two of our favorite stores.

“The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon

snowy-egret
Snowy Egret by Janson Jones

I ended up at The Chrysler Museum after doing some freelance work, and Mari got a job at a very prominent private school. I have to admit that even though I loved my job at the museum, I was envious of her new teaching position. Our new jobs caused us to see each other less frequently, and then, suddenly, abruptly, our friendship ended.

Mari was going through a very turbulent time in her life, and I was trying to be supportive, but it seems that something came between us. I spent months trying to get Mari to explain to me what had gone wrong, but I never really got an explanation. Finally, hurt and frustrated, I stopped trying.

One of the last times that I saw her before she moved out of the area was purely by accident. We ran into each other at the post office. By that time, she had divorced Buddy, and I was separated from Paul. Our lives were still moving on parallel paths, but they were not intersecting as they once had.

I truly grieved the loss of my friendship with Mari. At first I didn’t realize that I was grieving. It took my therapist pointing it out to me before I acknowledged the obvious. Mari’s exit from my life was a significant loss, so important and integral had she been for years.

“Hold a true friend with both your hands.” ~ Nigerian Proverb

Great Eggfly by Janson Jones
Great Eggfly by Janson Jones

I thought about Mari a great deal over the years. Finally, in 2005 when I was working for the realty company, I did a Google search to try to locate Mari. I found out where she was working, and I e-mailed her and included a poem that I had written about her. It was called “Your Mother’s Pink Sweater.” I had written it in response to a poem that she had written about her mother that I never forgot, “Flying Into the Sun.” The poem was about her mother, and it mentioned a pink sweater that her mother asked for when she was dying.

I was surprised but incredibly happy when Mari wrote back to me. It was as if the years and distance between us had never happened. We started writing and calling each other, and we are still in touch today. We’ve never had the long talk about what went wrong. We’ve been saving it for the day when we live near each other again and can float around in the pool, sipping iced tea together. I’m content with that.

“For believe me, in this world which is ever slipping from under our feet, it is the prerogative of friendship to grow old with one’s friends.” ~ Arthur S. Hardy  

adirondack-chairs-by-lita-liwag
Adirondack Chairs (detail) by L. Liwag

I’m glad that I finally decided to find her. I had been talking about it for years, and Corey kept urging me to do something about it. I suppose I waited because I was terribly afraid of being rejected again, and I just wasn’t sure that I could handle that. Luckily, that is not how things turned out, and I got my best friend back.

When Mari and I were writing together, we used to talk about growing old together, how we would get a house by the sea and two Adirondack chairs. And then we would spend our days growing flowers, watching birds, and reading. It was a wonderful fantasy. I don’t know that our plans will ever come to fruition, but if I had to choose one friend to grow old with together, it would be Mari.

More later. Peace.

*Most of the images in this post are from Janson Jones’s blog, Floridana Alaskiana. I know that Mari loves beautiful photography and nature and would appreciate the beauty of these pictures. To see more of this incredible photography, please visit http://floridana.typepad.com/weblog/.

                                                                                                                         
 

 

Your Mother’s Pink Sweater

 

I have it, you know,

your mother’s pink sweater,

the one she wore

when she ran headlong

into the ocean. I claim it.

 

I stole it from you

when you were distracted

by the boy’s brown skin.

I placed it in a box, beneath unsent words

and misdirected sorrow.

No longer the color of spring peonies.

you would be much pressed

to avouch its heritage.

Stained by too many tears,

(yours, mine),

It little resembles the soft, pink yarn

of youthful memory. Nor do we.

 

Who holds your hands now

when you step into the night?

Do your thoughts fly south

even momentarily?

 

I have your mother’s pink sweater.

Do not ask me to return it.

I have woven its threads into my tapestry.

It cannot be separated without unmaking.

Did you think that I would leave it

untouched for eight years?

 

January 28, 2005

 

 

Scattered Thoughts

oak-toad-from-floridan-alaskiana

Oak Toad by Janson Jones from Floridana Alaskiana*

Update on the Current State of Affairs in Our Household:

The Tax Man Cometh

tax-cartoon1I sat down at the computer yesterday afternoon around 2:30. I didn’t get up until 1 a.m. I was doing our taxes using one of the online programs. It was incredibly painful, taxing even (is that where the term originates?). So I e-filed our federal and state returns around 1 in the morning. When I did my error check, I came back with no errors. Hooray for me. I’ll tell you, I was grasping for every single deduction and credit I could find (while staying within the limits of the law!), and even then, we were in the owing category for a while.

This year, we had fewer deductions than last year; couple that with the fact that Corey was on unemployment for most of the year and had no taxes taken out on that, which means that we are getting a much smaller refund. I know a lot of people prefer to break even at tax time because the logic is that you don’t want the government to have your money in an essentially interest-free account during the year. But the fact is, a nice, big refund is like a boon for us. It allows us to do things like go on vacation or put on a new roof or continue to renovate the house. We wouldn’t be able to save otherwise because we always end up tapping into our savings during the year because there are always emergencies.

At one point, we actually did have a nice savings account, but those days are past. I’m hoping that we can get back to saving once Corey gets back to work, but I won’t hold my breath.

Shipping News

rogue-island-tug
The Rogue Island Tug

Speaking of Corey getting back to work, we are going to use part of the refund to pay for another class in the hopes that after this particular class and endorsement, he will be more employable on a wider class of boats. The tug boat industry is so tight right now that jobs are at a premium.

Once he completes this class and joins a different union, we are hoping that he might be able to catch some boats out of the Gulf Coast or even West Coast. The pay is better, and the companies fly their people to and from jobs. Keep your fingers crossed and think good thoughts because we really need this.

The Home Heating Situation

42-15257051I’d like to report that we successfully made it through the coldest part of winter using only space heaters and lots of blankets. We plan to pay off our exorbitant balance with the gas company with the other part of our tax refund. I would really like to stick to that plan and not have to be diverted.

Once we get the natural gas turned back on, that means that Corey can install the whole house hot water system that we’ve had in a box for almost a year. This system is supposed to provide hot water on demand throughout the entire house. I’m really looking forward to that as the electric water heater that we got for the interim sucks big time. Being able to take long hot showers has been an impossibility, and everyone must wait at least a half an hour between showers unless you want a cold shower.

I’ve really missed being able to take a long hot bath without having to boil water to add to the available hot water. It’s more of a pain for Corey than me since he has to tote the hot water into the bathroom, and each time he does, Shakes attacks his toes because he thinks that Corey is bringing in some kind of weapon to hurt me. Shakes is a serious mama’s boy. Have I mentioned that?

The Birthday Boy

angel-wings-tattooSo my oldest son turned 18 yesterday. We were able to take the family out to dinner on Sunday night. It was Corey, me, Eamonn, Brett, and Alexis, which was really nice. Of course, Eamonn’s friend and my pseudo-adopted son Josh came along too. He spends more time at our house than his, but we really don’t mind. He’s a nice kid and fits in with our familial quirkiness really well.

For Eamonn’s birthday present, Brett bought him a Bob Marley t-shirt, which was a big hit. Alexis got him a Scarface poster to hang in his room and a small stuffed penguin (he loves penguins)—both big hits. Corey and I gave him a new silver chain for his cross, only to find out that the cross is broken at the top (another jewelry repair to add to the list), some new studs for his ear, and a handwritten coupon towards a tattoo.

Eamonn envisions having wings put on his back, which I am not opposed to, but that’s something that he’s going to have to pay for as I’m sure that it would be quite costly. But above the wings he wants to put a Latin phrase, which at the moment I cannot recall. We figure our promise of funds will cover the Latin phrase.

Sweet Dreams These Are Not

meye-nightmare1
Meye Nightmare by L. Liwag

I have been having the wildest most violent dreams this past week. I don’t know if this is a side effect of my new migraine medicine, but if it is, I hope that it passes. In one dream I was involved in an altercation that involved a rocket launcher being aimed directly at me, and then lots of stone throwing (symbolic, huh?).

But last night, or rather this morning, I had a very controversy-filled dream that involved all kinds of people. In one part, I was with my friends from ODU Mari and Marty. The three of us used to go to lunch together. Well in my dream, we were shopping for wine and cheese, and then we were going to go to my house to relax. Marty ended up drinking a bottle of wine (she doesn’t drink in real life) and getting very ugly.

The dream continued to the next part in which I was having an argument with my former father-in-law, which never would have happened as he is very laid back, and he stormed out of Alexis’s birthday party. In the dream, she was still a little girl. After he stormed out, I had an altercation with Alexis and hit her repeatedly. Again, this is not something that ever happened or would happen in real life.

I woke up gasping and feeling completely discombobulated. I have to tell you, dreams like those are so unnerving that they stay with me for days, and I probably read too much into them. Why did I dream that? What did that mean? I psychoanalyze myself like crazy, which makes me, well, crazy.

It’s Raining . . . It’s Pouring . . .

its-raining-its-pouring
Rain on the Window Pane by L. Liwag

It has been raining here for seven straight days. What, is this Seattle? The worst part about the rain is that I have to dry off the dogs each time they go out, or they have muddy paws. Occasionally, one of them slips past me when I’m drying off the others, which results in muddy paw prints on my sheets.

Can I just tell you how absolutely annoying that is? I know that I have wiped muddy paw prints off the bed at least four times during this god-awful rain. I’m not about to yank the sheets off every time one of the dogs jumps on the bed with wet paws or I’d be washing my sheets every day. Changing the sheets on a normal basis is a hard enough task for me, what with the bending over.

Our backyard looks like a marsh, and I swear that there is a mud puddle that is at least three inches deep and about four feet long. Of course the dogs walk through this pool of muddy water each and every time they go outside. I know that it’s deliberate because they think that it’s pretty funny to watch me spaz out when they do it. I think that Tillie is the ringleader with the whole puddle thing, but don’t tell Corey because according to him, Tillie can do no wrong.

Well, that’s all of the latest news. Nothing exciting really. Just needed to write about it so that some day I could look back on this and think: Geez you have a boring life . . .

More later. Peace.

*http://floridana.typepad.com/weblog/oak-toad-bufo-quercicus/ 

Following Your Muse Is Sometimes Like Following a Bumper Sticker

calliope-by-troy-pillow2

“Calliope” by Troy Pillow

Conversations With My Brain

save-darfur-logo I used to work with a woman in the English department at ODU who ascribed to the adage, “Follow Your Muse.” I always thought that it was a terribly wise saying, but never really thought about how a person could actually go about doing so in real terms until years later. I mean, it’s a nice sentiment, something lovely that you might see on a bumper sticker, like “Whirled Peas,” or “Impeach W,” or “Save Darfur Now,” or “Not On My Watch.” All of these aphorisms are accepted as meaningful, and who would actually argue against any of them?

You sit behind a car in traffic that is bearing a sticker calling for World Peace, and are you actually going to think, ‘no, I’m not for world peace. Screw it. Let’s all go to war’? Of course not. But do you actually take action?

In sociology classes, wearing a button, or putting a bumper sticker on your car is classified as the first level of social/political participation. In other words, you have participated, but on the most passive level. You have made a statement that shows the rest of society that you believe in something, but unless you move on to the next level, say contacting your representative in Congress, you remain at that actively passive level. That is not to say that your level of participation is not good, because usually to get the bumper sticker or button, you have contributed some money to the cause in which you believe, and those funds will go in support of that cause.

But how about how I end my blog entries, with the word peace?  What exactly is my point? What am I trying to prove? That I’m a throwback to the days when everyone used the word peace as a word of departure instead of goodbye? No, that’s not it. Perhaps I thought that “Live long and prosper” would be too pretentious even though I think that it happens to be a wonderful statement? No, that’s not it either. I just happen to be so tired of conflict, so tired of the conflict that this country is mired in that I thought that using the word ‘peace’ as my closing could be my small statement towards following my muse and being true to myself.

For me, the word peace is not a throw away word. It is filled with significance, and I do not close with it lightly. It is my benediction, my way of saying to you, my reader, ‘thank you for taking this journey with me, and I wish you well until the next time that you visit.’ Like the Quaker who says “Peace be with you” upon departing, it is my fond farewell that you remain safe, inviolate when you go out and about in the world.

But getting back to following my muse . . . My muse is Calliope, the muse of poetic inspiration and oratory, sometimes called the muse of epic poetry and eloquence. I used to think that my muse was Erato, but she is actually more closely associated with erotic poetry and mimicry, as well as song and dance. I just don’t see myself as being inspired by dance. I mean, I love the ballet, but I love rhetoric more. Of course, all creative people are supposed to be a blend of the muses; supposedly, I am a mixture of predominantly Calliope, with some Erato, Terpsichore, and Polyhymnia mixed in. All righty then.

But to follow your muse, truly follow your muse, you must first know your muse, and as I said, it took me a while to determine who mine is, and I have yet to begin to know her truly. But to decide to take the journey to follow your muse takes some real dedication on your part. I mean, following my muse means that I will actually dedicate myself to finding my inner creative being, my inner source of poetry, eloquence, inspiration, and oratory.

Consider the ramifications of this for a moment. Following your muse isn’t something that you actually take on lightly. You must be willing to look inside yourself and find those pieces of you that actually are being driven by your muse. Do you realize how crazy this sounds? Looking around inside yourself, opening those spaces inside your brain, your memory, those hidden places, saying hello through the cobwebs . . .

Don’t mind me. I’m just looking for some inspiration here?

Some what?

Some inspiration. You know, my muse sent me.

Your what did what?

My muse, Calliope. She said that I had some creativity stored in here somewhere, some eloquence or something like that. Said I might be able to use it.

Have you lost your mind? This section has been closed off for a good decade or so. What in the hell are you bothering us for?

Wasn’t my idea, really. Some bumper sticker thing, or maybe repressed memory, something about . . . give me a sec . . . oh yeah, “follow my muse.”

You’re kidding right? You’re dusting us off for a bumper sticker?

No. It’s not a bumper sticker. I told you. It’s a repressed memory, and quit giving me such a hard time. It took me a while to remember this. Trust me. This is going to be a good thing. Following my muse is going to let me write even better, be more creative.

What in the bloody hell are you going on about? In all of these years, you’ve written what, maybe five good pieces, and how many have you sent out for review? And you can’t even be honest about that. Can you?

Mind your own business. This isn’t about how many pieces I’ve sent out. This is about what I’m going to do now. Calliope is calling. I’m going to write like the wind. Now open your doors, and let me through.

Bloody hell. Some twit named Calliope rings you up, and now we have to come out of a perfectly good hibernation. For what? Waste of time, if you ask me. Bet you anything she’s off her meds again. Dee-loosions of grandeur, that’s what this is all about.

I heard that.

Okay, so maybe it will take a while for the whole muse path thing to really work for me. But I think that perhaps I am closer to understanding what my colleague actually meant by her statement on a real level, not just on a superfluous level. Following your muse is a way of life, not just dabbling here and there. I’ll have to give it more time for it to become second nature.

In the meantime, the next time you see a bumper sticker that makes you think, consider giving some money to the cause. That takes you up one level from a passive activist to a level one activist, and that can give you a nice warm feeling, even it’s only a $5 donation. I know, even $5 is a lot in this economy, but in Darfur, $5 can be the difference between life and death.

For more information about this particular ongoing world crisis, please visit this site: http://www.savedarfur.org/content. And please believe, a crisis such as the one in

save-darfur-pix

Darfur is not regional. What is happening to these people is a human crisis of epic, global proportions. No one remains untouched.

More later. Peace.

 

We’re Down to Hours, and the Silliness Begins

Mommies, Don’t Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Rebels

Pepé Le Pew Couldn’t Have Done It Better

When I was a child, I loved that French skunk Pepé Le Pew: “Ah, chérie. Where are you? It is I. Pepé. I am looking for you.” And poor Pepé. He could never quite understand why the female cat would run away from him, why people would faint when he came around. And so, when the governator received a call from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, of course she was all aflutter when that accent came through le telefone pour le governor Sarah P.

What she didn’t know was that she was being punked, on air, by the Quebec comedy duo, “The Masked Avengers.” Now I do have to give them props, they gave her several clues along the way that she was not speaking with the real president, aside from the Pepé Le Pew accent. For example, the shooting the animals from the helicopter comment? Or how about his special American advisor Johnny Halladay (French singer)? Too remote? Okay, I’ll let her pass for not knowing the translation for lipstick on a pig (de rouge a levre sur un cochon).

But really, she didn’t get an inkling something was up when he said, “the prime minister of Canada Stef Carse” ? I mean, she’s the one who is always bragging about being next door neighbors with Canada, but she didn’t know Stephen Harper’s name . . . and then the Prime Minister of Quebec versus the Premiere of Quebec (okay, maybe splitting hairs, but she still didn’t recognize that the name was wrong). And come on, did she really think that a head of state was going to tell her that his wife was “hot in bed”? But worse than that, she said to “give her a big hug for me.” Omigawd. You do not tell a head of state to give his wife a big hug from you. Jeez-o-pete. Were you raised in a barn?

Moving on. Marcel the guy with bread under his armpit? Okay, I snorted out loud with that one. To which she replied: “Right, that’s what it’s all about, the middle class and government needing to work for them.” I think that it was at this point that the guys on the other end decided that they probably couldn’t go on much longer or they might pee in their pants.

To which I have to ask, who are her handlers? What numbskull handed her the phone? Don’t they know anything about protocol? Are they for real? Is this aide now looking for other meaningful employment at a nearby McDonald’s as she should be for allowing the Republican VP candidate to be embarrassed for seven minutes on international radio and television, even more than usual? Good golly miss molly.

Who We Are is What We Put on Our Walls

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but my new masthead is actually an inset of a picture of one of my collages. I kept trying to find the right picture for my masthead, something that would reflect the real me, and then it dawned on me: nothing would reflect me better than a piece of me. So I took a picture of my last bulletin board at work, and I cropped a piece of it. I really wish that I could have put more of the whole picture up there, but there is only so much space allowed for the image, so I took what I could get, and I really wanted to get my ERA NOW pin in the shot.

My offices have always been very, very cluttered, by choice. I have always reasoned that if I am going to spend over one third of my life in some place, then I need to feel comfortable in that place, and so I nest there. I bring in books, mostly reference books, but a few philosophy books, lots and lots of pictures of my family, but also pictures that I have taken of various landscapes, and then my little collection of minutiae that I have built up over the years—an ashtray from Paris, a running gnome with chipped feet, a Waterford business card holder, a clay fish that my son made in Bible school, a German knife letter holder that I traded an old Volkswagen for (long stupid story), and then my collage collection, which has taken many years to amass, and I have to tailor to fit my office size.

I mention all of this because I just read an article by Bill Bishop in “Slate Magazine” that talks about a very interesting theory: Republicans tend to be neater than Democrats. Really? Apparently, Sam Gosling, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, and three other colleagues, have posited In an unpublished paper that liberals and conservatives differ in “two major personality dimensions.” Their paper, which is titled “The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives,” looked for the underlying personality traits that defined left and right.

It seems that we liberals are more open to experiences, and more motivated by the curiosity and diversity of the experiences. Whereas conservatives are conscientious, follow the rules, have self-control, and like order. The professors used college students as their test subjects, and took polls, asked questions, and looked at the students’ rooms for information. Conservative subjects had more cleaning products!

Now there is just one thing wrong with the professors’ study. They didn’t break it down by gender. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be stereotypical here, but I think that gender, in a study about neatness, would make a difference, regardless of political leanings. For example, when I was in college, my OCD was rampant. I not only cleaned my apartment, I cleaned friends’ apartments. No kidding. One of my best male friends happened to be very, very Republican. He was a complete slob. His apartment was filthy. I cleaned it—when he let me. However, the reverse can also be true. My oldest son and daughter for example, are both liberals, and when my daughter was 16, my father asked if someone had robbed her room (I don’t think that he was kidding). My son, who has since moved on from his neat phase, used to keep his room impeccably clean. You just never know who will be neat and who won’t.

Now as to the other part of their study on carrying over to work life and offices, the professors claim that conservatives’ offices “tended to be more conventional, less stylish, and less comfortable compared with liberal offices. Liberals’ offices were more colorful and contained more CDs and a greater variety of books.” I would have to agree with them on this point. Not just because of my own track record with offices, but because of my observations of other people’s offices. At ODU, for example, in the English Department, most professors’ offices were filled with wonderful, eclectic things. Whereas at the government contractor where I worked in Northern Virginia, it was predominantly rigid, and boring. The most exciting thing in one of my boss’s offices was a Porsche magazine.

And then there was the time in which I was stuck in a cubicle. Omigawd. Just send me into the circles of hell, why don’t you. But, hundreds of push pins and a lot of tape, and voila. It was just like a cubicle covered with as much crap as I could fit into a 10’x10′ space without the walls falling down. And boy did my boss hate it . . .

A Little Ironic Night Music

Found this little tidbit on the web, and while it happened months ago, I just had to share:

Rupert Murdoch must have been gnashing his big teeth. Apparently, the owner of Fox News and The New York Post, has no control over daughter Elisabeth’s guest lists. It seems that since Elisabeth Murdoch left her father’s employ to run her own television production company, Shine, Ltd., she has definitely formed her own alliances, and one of them is Barack Obama.

Perhaps daughter Elisabeth’s fondness for Obama comes from her first marriage to Elkin Kwesi Pianim, who is Ghanian, and with whom she has two children. Murdoch is currently married to public relations guru Matthew Freud, the great-grandson of Sigmund Freud.

Murdoch, a citizen of both the U.S. and Great Britain, is herself known as a shrewd businesswoman. She grew up primarily in New York. In April, she hosted a Notting Hill fundraiser for Barack Obama with co-sponsors that included Gwyneth Paltrow.

Can’t you just imagine daddy Rupert’s delight? Gnash, gnash, snarl, snarl.

Whoo, boy. Two days to go. Be prepared to stand in line. You’ll be part of history, whether you are a neat Republican, or an expressive Democrat.

More later. Peace.