“There was a star riding through clouds one night, and I said to the star, ‘Consume me.’” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Waves

"Snowbound" (nd, aquatint)by Kenneth J. Reeve
“Snowbound” (nd, aquatint)
by Kenneth J. Reeve

                   

“This is why it hurts the way it hurts. You have too many words in your head. There are too many ways to describe the way you feel. You will never have the luxury of a dull ache. You must suffer through the intricacy of feeling too much” ~ Iain Thomas, from I Wrote This For You

Tuesday, early evening. Drizzle and warm, low 60’s.

George Jo Mess Covered Bridge
“Covered Bridge” (nd, aquatint)
by George Jo Mess

Well, in the last three days I have gotten the tree up and trimmed, the house decorated, and the Christmas cards addressed. Just waiting for a check so that I can buy Christmas stamps and pop them in the mail. I’ve also gotten almost caught up on editing a bunch of pictures that I hadn’t tended to, and now I need to take a disc to Costco to have prints made. The only pictures that I haven’t edited are the ones from Lex’s shower, so I suppose that I really shouldn’t be saying anything about her inability to get her thank you cards out to everyone.

The other thing that I finally took care of was to update the flash drive for Corey’s parents’ digital frame that we got them a few years ago. They hadn’t gotten any updated pictures in a while, so between the two of us, we tried to add more recent pix than the ones of Eamonn with his high school prom date.

Okay. So our entire family runs perpetually behind schedule.

“My nature
is a quagmire of unresolved
confessions.” ~ Robert Creeley, from “The Door

"December Day" (nd, aquatint)by Kenneth J. Reeve
“December Day” (nd, aquatint)
by Kenneth J. Reeve

This afternoon I had my long-awaited appointment with the new pain management group. I am reserving my assessment of them until after my next two appointments. Today’s was with a pain management specialist. Next one is with the neurologist in the group, and then after that with the anesthesiologist to talk about injectable treatment options. All I can say for sure is that this particular practice must have a bunch of drug addicts as patients because I had to sign a medication contract stating that I would take my medicine as directed and that I would not sell it (!), and I had to do a drug test and agree to submit to random drug tests at any point in the future . . . Really? Wow.

I commented to the intake nurse that they must have a lot of drug abusers, and she said that I had no idea. It’s kind of weird, and it puts me off the practice a bit, but I’ll withhold final judgment for now. I also had to complete reams of paper work, and they gave me a copy of everything even though I didn’t really want copies of anything. Lots of dead trees today.

I know that I’m used to my old pain management doctor, but we were at an impasse with my treatment, so not it’s time to explore other options, whatever those might be.

“How deep they drove themselves into me, the things it was impossible to say aloud.” ~ Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals Of Sylvia Plath

I thought that I’d do a post today instead of my usual Two for Tuesday, and then tomorrow I’ll start to wrap presents and get the house clean.

George Jo Mess Snow Drifts ca 1940
“Snow Drifts” (ca 1940, aquatint)
by George Jo Mess

I’ve been doing this odd thing the past week or so: I fall asleep around 10:45, but I wake up again around 11:30 and can’t get back to sleep for a few hours. Not sure what that’s about.Last night I woke up, and I was wide awake, so I watched some recorded episodes of “NCIS” until 3 and then tried to get back to sleep, but the dogs had me up again at 4.

Alfie (other Jack Russell) is also doing weird things. He has gone into the dining room three times and peed in the same spot. As far as we know, Alfie hasn’t been messing in the house for years. Shakes would do his revenge pees, but not so much for Alfie. I have a feeling that he’s going downhill as far as his health, and I feel so sad that he has always been the one to receive the least attention, mostly because of his psycho streak, which made it kind of hard to get close to him. But in the past few days he’s had the saddest look on his face, and it’s breaking my heart.

“Footfalls echo in the memory
down the passage we did not take
towards the door we never opened
into the rose garden. My words echo
thus, in your mind” ~ T.S. Eliot, from “Four Quartets”

I got a telephone call from my friend Rebecca this morning. She’s Facebook friends with Corey, who still maintains his FB page, and she saw the pictures from our cruise that Corey posted. She wanted to let me know that she thought I looked good in the pictures. That actually a very nice way to start the day. She moved to Midlothian (a few hours west) this past summer with her long time beau and her eight-year-old son.

Kenneth Reeve Hoosier Homestead ND
“Hoosier Homestead” (nd, aquating)
by Kenneth J. Reeve

Rebecca is a wedding photographer and has quite a successful business. She used to work with me at the realty firm where I was marketing director. She’s done really well for herself in starting her own business and growing it more with each year, unlike some of us who just talk about doing things but never get around to doing them . . .

What’s ironic is that when I was doing the cards yesterday, I wrote a few letters to include with some cards to special people, and one of those was to her. We always seem to think of each other around the same time.

“There are days that walk through me and I cannot hold them.” ~ Katherine Larson

This morning as I was coming into consciousness, I had a poem. I had the title and the first part. I did not write it down, and now, now I cannot remember even one word.

My dreams last night included some kind of interaction with the FBI criminal profilers on “Criminal Minds,” but that’s about all that I can remember, and all of this makes me wonder if my memory has always been this bad. I don’t think that it has. I know that when I took the Topomax for my migraines that it seriously affected my cognitive abilities in a negative way, but I wonder if it did permanent damage to my memory. I just don’t seem to be able to remember anything from one day to the next. Corey, on the other hand, remembers everything (of course, he does).

Oh well . . .

A few things that I’m looking forward to in the next few weeks:

  • Peter Jackson’s first part of The Hobbit is in theaters. Can you tell from reading this that I have a really insipid smile on my face just from thinking about this?
  • The new film version of Les Miserables opens on Christmas day. The cast is stellar. Can’t wait for this one either.

    "Winter Moonlight" (nd, aquatint)by George Jo Mess
    “Winter Moonlight” (nd, aquatint)
    by George Jo Mess
  • The “Dr. Who” Christmas special airs on Christmas day. Really looking forward to this one as well (does it reflect badly on me that these first three are movies and a television show?)
  • On December 22, I’m going to run outside and say, “The Doctor saved us from annihilation,” which is only funny if you’re a Whovian and/or if you think that the Mayans just didn’t finish their calendar.

A few things that I’m not looking forward to in the next few weeks:

  • Christmas morning without Shakes to sit in the middle of the presents and beg for treats from his stocking.
  • The entire Christmas without Olivia, even though I know that this year she really isn’t going to understand anything that’s going on.
  • My mother telling me that what I got her is nice and then asking where I got it so that she can take it back.
  • There’s something else, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it is . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by The National, “You Were a Kindness”

                   

Late Search

All day on the radio flat static
filled the car as I took
the river road, deep
into Vermont. I knew you only
by the glint on the water, reflected
off some deeper, moving thing like clean
white bones, or fish.
Vermont, Late fall, the sun
backing off a bit each—it seemed a good
place to find you, heading north
into the dark.

I found an inn
by the river and lay all night, the wheels
still in my head and the river
and the river road stretching on like
your breath into my body but still

I could not dream you.
I saw only the vacant waves opening
and slamming shut, slamming shut some
floating door. And then from nowhere
your palm, cool
on my forehead, closing softly
like the last word.
Then I didn’t know
which side we were on—the water calm,
too close to set or else too far—
as if you’d wakened me
from my dream, into yours.

~ Robin Behn from Paper Bird: Poems

 

“I feel all shadows of the universe multiplied deep inside my skin.” ~ Virginia Woolf

carnivalporthalfmooncayjpg.ashx
Carnival Port Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

                  

“I am subject to wind, the perambulations of the moon, the constellations, and anxiety.” ~ Rikki Ducornet, from The Complete Butcher’s Tales

Monday, late afternoon. Partly cloudy and warm, low 70’s.

Captain Corey
Captain Corey Relaxing on the Beach
L. Liwag

Well, here we are, fifteen days until Christmas. We got back from vacation Saturday night. I spent all day yesterday unpacking, organizing and doing tons of laundry. Alexis and Eamonn both denied agreeing to pick us up at the airport on Saturday, much in the same way they both denied agreeing to take us to the airport last Sunday. Neither of us were surprised; we took a taxi the few miles home.

Vacation was absolutely heaven, just the two of us, warm temperatures, blue water, sunny skies (except for one day). My lungs cleared; my cough disappeared; I had no headaches. I’ve been home two days and the nastiness in my chest is back; I awoke with a migraine, and the cough is making a full comeback. Mind over matter? The air? The temperature changes? Who knows . . .

Corey and I gave each other our vacation to the Bahamas as our Christmas present for the last five years. Actually, it’s been almost seven years since we went anywhere together, a very long time. We did a whole lot of nothing besides eating, relaxing, and being tourists. I cannot begin to tell you how much my mind and body needed the recharge before embarking upon another new year.

“How many years have slipped through our hands? 
At least as many as the constellations we still can identify. 
The quarter moon, like a light skiff,
 floats out of the mist-remnants
 Of last night’s hard rain. 
It, too, will slip through our fingers
 with no ripple, without us in it.” ~ Charles Wright

I will admit, though, that it took me a full 48 hours before I began to relax, well and truly relax. I kept thinking about things that needed to be done, bills, money, you name it. I kept feeling guilty for allowing us to do this. That old Puritan guilt that has shaped my life in oh so many ways. Now that we’re back, I still feel a bit guilty, but not nearly as much. Corey and I do and do and do for everyone else, mostly the kids, but we never do for ourselves. This past year was filled with family obligations, and I’m not complaining, but it’s nice to remember that we’re a couple who truly enjoys one another’s company, far away from the daily demands of family and life.

Carnival Ecstasy
Carnival Ecstasy at Anchor
L. Liwag

Unfortunately, I got a telephone call once we were back letting me know that my brother-in-law Patrick died on Wednesday. Patrick is my ex’s brother, but I have always been close to him; we’ve had a special relationship. Patrick is the one who was in a car accident years ago that left him a paraplegic who could not speak. He kept his mental faculties and his exceptional mind, but he was trapped in a body that no longer functioned on its own. Patrick was married to my German sis-in-law Helma.

He contracted bronchitis and went downhill quickly. Ann says that he went peacefully in his sleep, and for that I am so thankful.

To be honest, Patrick lived a much, much longer life than any of us ever thought that he would. After the accident, because he was so susceptible to illness and because he has had a couple of life-threatening bouts, we (the family) weren’t so sure he would even last a decade. The accident was in 1983. He lived almost three decades after.

“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating.” ~ Louis Aragon, from Paris Peasant

So our homecoming was bittersweet. My ex and Ann will be flying to Germany for the memorial. I would like to go, but that’s not possible.

Swimming with the Fishes, Bahamas by cdorobek FCC
Swimming with the Fishes, Bahamas
by cdorobek (FCC)

Some of you may find my continued relationship with my ex’s family a bit strange, but truthfully, I was probably much closer to his mom and siblings than he was, and in my mind, I divorced him, not his family. Anyway, I feel fortunate to have such an extended family, the losses of the past 15 months notwithstanding.

So I am moving into this Christmas season filled with mixed emotions—not all that different from any other year, I suppose.

Last night my dreams included my dad, who was dressed up to go to some big government function, and I was a visitor staying at someone’s home, but the teenaged girls who lived in the home resented all of the company. I tried to talk to one of the young girls, to ask her who her heroes were, but she told me that she didn’t have any. I told her that everyone needs heroes. And in the dream, I was doing laundry . . .

“I go through phases. Somedays I feel like the person I’m supposed to be, and then somedays, I turn into no one at all. There is both me and my silhouette. I hope that on the days you find me and all I am are darkened lines, you still are willing to be near me.” ~ Mary Kate Teske

I will finish 2012 short of my reading goal of 60 books, even though in the past month I’ve read quite a few, and I will finish well short of my writing goal. I did not work on my stories at all while we were gone, even though I had plans to do so. I did finish two books, and I worked on my tan, obviously not as artistically productive, but hey, I didn’t get any sun this past summer.

Tugboat, Freeport Bahamas
Tugboat Water Spray, Freeport, Bahamas
C. Fickel

While we were on the ship, we did a little bit of karaoke, and boy, did I find out how out of shape my vocal chords are. Yikes. It was fun, and one night, I even sang with a band, but my performances were, shall we say, tepid at best. Who cares? I’m never going to see anyone on that ship again (although we did meet some people from the area). Singing again did make me hanker to get my voice back in shape We shall see, I suppose.

Let’s see, what else? A book I really want to read comes out tomorrow, and Peter Jackson’s new movie The Hobbit releases this week. I am anticipating the first and absolutely quivering with anticipation over the second. I still contend that I would be Peter Jackson’s gopher given the chance.

This week I hope to do holiday cards and perhaps to begin to decorate the house, although the warm temperatures do not exactly make me feel all wintery wonderland inside. Lex and Mike leave this weekend to visit his family in Mississippi for the holidays, which means that I will not see Olivia for 12 days. I have missed her tremendously in the past week and a half; I had hoped that Alexis would come by before we left, but alas, no.

“This morning, waking to unaccustomed calmness,
I write these words to stay in that silent, unfevered existence,
to delay the other words that are waiting.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, from “I Write These Words to Delay”

Before we left, I was looking through photographs for some reason, and I came across a photo of Shakes that we took before the family vacation in 2007. My suitcase was on the couch, and Shakes crawled inside and went to sleep. Obviously, he wanted to go with us. It was weird coming home to just the two dogs, no smelly fat boy to curl up against me my first night home.

Parasailing Half Moon Cay
Parasailing in Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

I did not take a lot of photographs while we were gone. In truth, there just wasn’t that much to shoot. We didn’t venture beyond the ports. Our afternoon on the private Half Moon Cay was delightful, though, and I got some nice shots of Corey and the water. Speaking of water, it was so clear that I watched schools of fish swim around me. It was heavenly just spending some leisurely moments doing nothing but idly paddling as the sun beat down. The air was clean and there were no sounds of traffic or sirens or whatever. I was able to shut out pretty much everything and just chill. I did kind of wish that I could go parasailing, though.

I think I had forgotten how to do that. Chilling is an art form that comes naturally to some people, and then for people like me who are wrapped too tightly most of the time, it is an acquired state of being. I wonder if I could live like that all of the time . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Julie Roberts, “Wake Up Older”

                

A Momentary Creed

I believe in the ordinary day
that is here at this moment and is me

I do not see it going its own way
but I never saw how it came to me

it extends beyond whatever I may
think I know and all that is real to me

it is the present that it bears away
where has it gone when it has gone from me

there is no place I know outside today
except for the unknown all around me

the only presence that appears to stay
everything that I call mine it lent me

even the way that I believe the day
for as long as it is here and is me

~ W. S. Merwin

 

“Find the joy in your life, Edward.” ~ Carter Chambers, The Bucket List

                   

Carter Chambers: Forty-five years goes by pretty fast.
Edward Cole: Like smoke through a keyhole. ~ From The Bucket List (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson)

So one of my newest compatriots over at Sweet Mother sent some blog love my way in the form of an award:

The rules are to use all 26 letters of the alphabet to say something about yourself. She made a list of 26 things that annoy her, which was hilarious, by the way. I talk about things that annoy me all day long, so I thought that for a change of pace, I’d make a list of 26 things that I want to put on my bucket list, places I want to see, people I want to meet, things I want to do. Can’t wait to get to Z.

Here goes:

Old Typewriter by rahego (FCC)

A: I won’t cheat by using the letter as the article that it is. In this case, I would have to say that it stands for Athens. I know that Greece is pretty much in the toilet right now, but I have long-held a desire to visit Greece for two reasons: to see if it really as is blue and white as all of the travel photos depict it and to visit the ancient ruins before they erode away completely. I’ll be you thought it would be Australia . . . that’s a different entry.

B: Is is too obvious to say that this stands for book, as in the one that I’m writing in my head, the one that I want to compose on an old IBM Selectric, the one that will probably never be published? The other b is Belgium. I wonder how much longer this little country will be around? I want to go. Something about the old architecture of Europe really calls to me.

Cardiff, Wales (Wikimedia Commons)

C: Hands down, Cardiff, Wales. Dr. Who. Torchwood. It’s Wales. It’s old. Did I say that it’s Wales? A close second would be cosmetic surgery, as in having the fat in my stomach moved around and redistributed to my tatas and my buttocks. But since I know the value of a dollar, this is not going to happen, so I’m sticking with Cardiff. The other c you’ve heard about time and again: a cottage by the sea with Adirondack chairs and a sprawling garden. One or the other or both, preferably,

D: Diving, as in scuba. I know. There is very little chance that with my lung capacity that this will ever happen, but the idea first occurred to me in the 10th grade when I opened a book and saw the incredible blue waters of some island, can’t even remember which one now. But I used to sit my butt down and watch every single Jacques Cousteau show that came on television before the days of 2,000 channels, and I always wanted to dive, to go far enough under the water to see the sea. Still want to do this.

E: Obviously, Ewoks are out of the question, but it’s such a great sounding word that I just had to throw it into the mix. Actually, there are two places in the world that I would love to see: Edewecht, Germany and Egypt. The first is where my German relatives live, and one day I’m going to make the trip across the water to see them. I don’t know if Egypt will ever happen, but wouldn’t it be cool to see all of the ancient architecture there?

F: As in Fitzgerald, F. Scott. I know that I cannot meet him, but I would love to live as an expat as he did, living on the edge, writing books and stories. Okay, to make it more realistic, let’s say France and Fitzgerald. The French are, admittedly, xenophobes who don’t much like anyone who isn’t French, but the museums, the cuisine, the wine . . . definitely on my want-to-do list.

Skydiving instructor: Okay, let’s deploy
Edward Cole: [singing] I’ve got a feeling I’m falling!
Skydiving instructor: We’re in the red zone, pull the cord!
Edward Cole: [singing] I’ve got a feeling I’m falling in love
Skydiving instructor: PULL THE DAMN CORD!
Edward Cole: [pause] I was in love once… ~ The Bucket List

G: This one has been on my list for years: glider. I want to feel the freedom of floating in a glider, which I imagine is as close to flying as a human can come (other than those bat suit thingies which look both intriguing and scary as hell), And no, hang-gliding would not be enough. I do have one other g: the Great Wall, which I want to see for my dad, who traveled the world but never saw this structure. I know that it was on his bucket list, even though he never really had one of those.

Silent Glider

H: Hammersmith, England, which is where I spent several years as a child. I would like to go back and see everything now as an adult, visit the pubs, go to all of the places that I saw as a child and appreciate them with adult eyes—Oxford Street and all the rest. Another h: hot air balloon. The idea of going up in something like this excites me, enthralls me. I had two chances previously, but did not do so. There was a boy in the very first composition class that I taught at Virginia Tech, and he was an avid ballooner (term?). He would write about it in detail, and ever since, I have wanted to do this.

I: Do I need to say it? Ireland. I’m going there one day, and I may never come back. It’s so built up in my head that I’m truly hoping that the reality doesn’t pale in comparison to my idea, but I don’t think so. So much history, so many writers and poets, so much green.

Ireland (from Trip Originator)

J: Jackson, as in Peter Jackson. I know that this might seem like a really bizarre fixation, but I think that this man is a genius, and I would love to meet him, work for him, fetch his tea, whatever. This man took my favorite series and made it a reality without butchering it, and considering the complexity of Tolkien’s vision, that’s nothing to sneeze at in derision.

K: Kiwi, as in New Zealand (see Peter Jackson above). I want to go to New Zealand as much as I want to go to Australia, and this isn’t a new want, and it didn’t even arise with Jackson. A lifetime ago, my ex and I actually talked seriously about moving across the world and starting over. The other big K is kayaking. I did this once, and I really loved it.

L: Not a person and not a place, but an animal: Labrador Retrievers. I have decided that I will always own at least one. They are the most loving of dogs, intelligent and loyal, and more importantly, they make me laugh, which is not something that I can say about many things. The other l is library, as in a personal library, as in I want.

M: Manola Blahniks or something in that vein, Louboutin, Gucci, whatever. Yes, I would probably fall off them and break something, but just once, to have a really expensive pair of shoes, even second-hand. I don’t know why. This is a bucket list, after all. It doesn’t have to be reasonable. The other really extravagant item that has been on my list for a very long time is a Mercedes SL. I know that I’ll never own one of the sports line of this driving machine, but as with the shoes, I can dream.

Louboutin Classic Pumps

N: New York. I know that it sounds trite, but I want to go back to New York with Corey and show him all of the museums, enjoy the bustle and flow, be a tourist. The other place in this category is New Orleans. I haven’t been in many years, and definitely not since Hurricane Katrina. I want to go back and have hot beignets and rich coffee.

O: Another one that I have long had on the list: the Orient Express. Yes, in part because of Agatha Christie, but also because I think that it would be a remarkable way to tour several countries, do the entire line, all the way to Istanbul. Expensive, possibly prohibitively so, but a woman can still dream, can’t she? Oh, another o: Oregon. Don’t know why, but think I would like it.

P: A poesy ring.This speaks to the very heart of my Medieval nature. These rings are based on ancient designs in which the inscribed phrase is Latin, Greek, ancient Gaelic, or French, among others, and I have wanted one for years and years. And of course, Ph.D., as in still want one.

Orient Expressman Pullman by Dick Penn (FCC)

Q: Queensland, Australia. My blogger friend Maureen has instilled in me an appreciation for Australia, and I really want to see the Great Barrier Reef.

R: Rowing. Sounds strange, yes, but I actually enjoyed the act of rowing when I owned a rowing machine, and I used to think that I would like to translate the act to the water itself. If not full on rowing, then kayaking. Ideally, I would kayak in Australia and then fly over to New Zealand to visit Peter Jackson . . .

S: Selectric, vintage (see B above). Red or black. Good working order. Will pay for shipping . . .

T: Tri-gold interlocked ring, preferably antique. Again, another long-held desire of mine. A friend of mine at the newspaper had one as her wedding band, and it was an antique, and I coveted it from the moment I first laid eyes on it. Such a simple design but so beautiful. When Corey and I first talked about getting married, I had told him that I wanted one, but we never found one.

Carter Chambers: [to Edward, of the two questions asked of the dead by the gods at the entrance to heaven] Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others? ~ The Bucket List

U: Not a country, not an item, not a person, but a feeling: unburdened, unencumbered, as in no more outstanding debt. No more calls from creditors. No more bills that cannot be paid. To feel the weight of such a state lifted from our collective shoulders—achieving this one would be pure bliss. Truly.

Buick Enclave

V: Vehicle of my own, mine, just mine. I know that this is an American thing, that Europeans don’t possess this car-love, but it’s been so long since Izzie, my Trooper, and I haven’t had my own vehicle, and gosh darnit, I want one. I only have a few specifications: small SUV, hybrid would be nice, color must be black or charcoal grey, leather seats so that I can have heat for my back, a good stereo system, and plenty of cup holder space. The vehicle doesn’t have to be new, but it has to be mine.

W: A walkabout. I don’t know where, perhaps the Appalachian Trail, but I love the concept. Not a Forrest Gump kind of walkabout, but a Crocodile Dundee kind of walkabout, without the hamminess. I used to love to go hiking in the Virginia foothills, and always fancied going further. Men can do walkabouts, but a woman setting off on her own in an unknown direction for an unspecified amount of time? Still not possible, really, is it? For now, I’ll fill this dream with simply getting back to walking. Soon. Really.

X: I always think of Coleridge when confronted with x, and a place that no longer exists: “In  Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure-dome decree.” I’m going to cheat on this one because I really cannot think of anything x-specific, so instead, I’ll do math: a+b=x, with a being the equivalent of a room, and b being the equivalent of ample space, which makes x the equivalent of a room with enough space to have my writing area, my books, and a comfy seat to curl up with a book.

Window Seat (from Coastal Living)

Y: Yoga. I miss yoga. I loved the way that it made me feel. These past few years when the money has been so tight and extras have been out of the question, I’ve put the idea of yoga classes on the back burner. I’m hoping that by this summer I might be able to start taking them again.

Z: This was a toss-up. Should I choose zenzizenzizenzic, which everyone knows is the eighth power of a number? Or how about zho, the cross between a yak and a cow? Or perhaps zoanthropy, the delusion that one is an animal? I do happen to like zydeco, Louisiana Creole music, and I have eaten zwieback, a toasted biscuit. I’m not particularly fond of ziti, finding it too thick. I could go on for days; the Internet is a wonderful place for nonsense. In other words, I don’t have a z place or a z person. I suppose I have arrived at zeroable—able to be removed from a sentence without any loss of meaning.

Runners-up: A hedgehog, anything leather by Kenneth Cole, Iceland, white-water rafting, a 5K, built-in bookcases, room of my own, a comfortable couch, the Venice opera house, and the means to buy any book that I want.

Thanks again, Sweet Mother.

More later. Peace.

                   

Late addition:

ABC

I’ll never find out now
What A. thought of me.
If B. ever forgave me in the end.
Why C. pretended everything was fine.
What part D. played in E’s silence.
What F. had been expecting, if anything.
Why G. forgot when she knew perfectly well.
What H. had to hide.
What I. wanted to add.
If my being around
meant anything
to J. and K.
and the rest of the alphabet.

~ Wislawa Sz;ymborska 

Of Course Not.

lilacs1

Fresh Cut Lilacs

Truth is a deep kindness that teaches us to be content in our everyday life and share with the people the same happiness.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Today was one of those lazy Saturdays. I was awakened early by the clamor in the park. The loud speaker came on, and announcements were made about parking regulations. Did that stop people from parking in front of our house which is a no-parking zone because of the fire hydrant?

Of course not. Those regulations are meant for other people . . .

Well, I do have things that I need to do, fill out some more forms regarding my disability. Did I do them?

Of course not. They’ll take care of themselves at some point (audible snort on my part).

“Discovering this idyllic place, we find ourselves filled with a yearning to linger here, where time stand still and beauty overwhelms.” ~ Author Unknown

its-a-dogs-life
It's a Dog's Life

I did sit out in the backyard for a bit. Let the sun fall onto my face and warm my skin. But only after most of the crowd had cleared from the park. The dogs were overjoyed that Brett and I were outside and vied for our constant attention, which made reading pretty much impossible. Tillie came up with a tree branch that she wanted to play fetch with—not a stick, a branch, about two inches in circumference, and two feet long.

What a funny dog. In the meantime, Alfie and Shakes spent their time being sun puppies. Corey thinks that it’s funny that I put a towel in the chair next to me for the dogs, but I want them to be comfortable.

The goal was to give the dogs a bath at some point today. Hasn’t happened yet. I’m sure that between the three of them, only Tillie would be looking forward to doing some serious splashing anyway.

Both Brett and Corey seem to be in the same kind of mood as I am: kind of laid back, not really wanting to tackle anything too tasking or serious. Can’t say that I blame them. Must be something in the air.

“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” ~ Winnie the Pooh

I did do two semi-productive things today: I added my blog to fuelmyblog. See that neat icon to the left of the post? Well, if you like a particular post, I think that you are supposed to click on the icon, and I get points, or something like that. Not entirely sure exactly how it works. I did check the box to be a contributor to their blog. I suppose that I could do that if they wanted me to, or I could continue to hide in my bedroom, writing for myself and a few regular readers.

I also changed my site picture. I was getting a little tired of my old picture, but since I don’t really let people take pictures of me, it’s slim pickings finding something to choose. I settled on cropping out most of me, and just focusing on a small part of my face. That way, you don’t have to be exposed to my sausage body, and you won’t run screaming, “Ahhh. Eek. The sausage monster is loose,” or whatever it is you scream when you see a woman in her 40’s sucking in her stomach mightily.

I know. I know. I just wrote about how we should not judge people by their physicality. But do I apply that maxim to myself?

Of course not. I don’t think that I will ever be happy with my physicality.

“That is a good book which is opened with expectation, and closed with delight and profit.” ~ Amos Bronson Alcott 

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"Mirror of Galadrial," by Alan Lee

I decided to begin my annual re-read of Lord of the Rings. A few years ago Corey bought me the set that is illustrated by Alan Lee, the artist who worked with Peter Jackson on the films. It is a beautiful collection. If you’ve never seen the illustrations in this particular collection, you should check it out the next time you are in a bookstore.

Brett is finishing The Prince, by Machiavelli. Don’t ask me why he decided to read it, but now we have to put together some kind of book talk (what in the hell is a book talk?) for his English class, which is being taught this grading period by a student teacher. I know that student teachers have to go in the classroom to learn, but honestly, if this woman wants to teach English, shouldn’t she at least be aware of certain titles and authors, even if she hasn’t read them?

When Brett submitted The Prince as his book choice, she approved it, thinking that it was a contemporary novel. Could he have picked a more difficult choice to do a Power Point Presentation on?

Of course not. Why start now?

“Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

andromeda-and-lavendar-azaleaI did cut some fresh lilacs to put all over the house. The bush is in full bloom, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I put lilacs in my bedroom, in the living room, and in the bathroom. Nothing helps a room to look more welcoming than fresh cut flowers or blooms. Not that I’m welcoming anyone into my home anytime soon.

We have a new Andromeda (pieris) plant, and a new lavender Azalea. Corey is going to plant them somewhere. I have wanted both for a while, so I think that he threw caution to the wind and bought both for me to make me feel better. They will look lovely planted near each other.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” ~ Seneca

Corey went to the open house for the shipping company yesterday morning. It seemed to go very well. The man he spoke to was very impressed with all of his experience. Corey let the company representative know that he is enrolled in some courses that will help his qualifications. Now if only that could transfer into a job, everything would be super.

He also received approval from the City of Norfolk to fund the classes that he wants to take. That is doubly good news. He starts the Tankerman class on Monday, and then the following week, he will be taking the Lifeboat man class. I believe that he got approval for four classes, which is stupendously good news. Maybe our luck is beginning to turn. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

I am trying not to show too much excitement because I don’t want to jinx everything by believing that everything is getting better. That old superstition creeping back into my thoughts.

crossed-fingersTrust me, if I thought that it would do any good, I’d build a fire with all kind of herbs and chant something nonsensical until the cows come home. No sacrifices, though. What do you think I am? Some kind of weirdo?

Of course not. Just like to keep my fingers crossed.

Speaking of which, do you know where the whole fingers crossed thing comes from? Well, there were a number of possible origins: one says that finger crossing comes from pre-Christian times and was used to ward off witches and evil spirits, like the crossing of fingers to form the sign of the cross. Another says that when crossing fingers, benign spirits reside at the intersection of the two fingers. Several sources cite that finger crossing used to be performed by two people in old Europe, the first person who crossed his fingers made a wish, and the second supported it. By linking fingers, it was believed that the two people could energize the spirits to help make the wish come true.

Things that make you say hmm . . .

“The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.” ~ Blaise Pascal

Well, it seems that I have rambled on about nothing much at all. Like I said: just one of those days. Stick with me; I promise something with a little more depth next time. Until then, Let me leave you with an incredible picture by Janson Jones from Floridana Alaskiana. If you haven’t visited this site you, you are missing out on some really incredible photography. Just look to the left. See his blog in my Recommended Reading? Just click on it. Wasn’t that easy?

Of course it was.

More later. Peace.

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The Shallows at Mt. Glacier National Park by Janson Jones

                                                                                                                                         

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“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius

whooper-swan

“We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.” ~ Stephen Covey

 “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

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The Epitome of Beauty: The Venus de Milo

How many times have you looked at someone you do not know and made assumptions about that person based on the way that he or she looks? How often do you see a woman in ill-fitting clothes or with a bad hairstyle and think to yourself that she should take better care of herself? Have you ever been in line at the grocery store and noticed that the person in front of you is wearing out-of-date clothes and shoes and is a little overweight? Did you make assumptions about this person, or perhaps, increase the space between yourself and the other person?

If I am going to ask you these questions, then it is only fitting that I answer them. Yes, I have made assumptions about people based upon their physical appearance. Yes, I have thought to myself, “why doesn’t she do something with her hair?” or “she would be more attractive if she lost some weight.”

But then I will catch myself and think, “who am I to judge?” I could stand to lose some extra pounds myself. I’ve run out of the house in sweatpants and an old t-shirt, my hair in a pony tail. I’ve gone into stores feeling very self-conscious because I know that I don’t look particularly great, but I needed a gallon of milk. 

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ~ Alan Alda

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One of The Great Beauties, Marilyn Monroe, incredibly self-conscious and suffered from low self-esteem

Harsh though it may be, scientific studies have proven that physical appearance makes a difference in the amount of money you earn, how you are treated by physicians, how educators react to you, and even whether or not you make partner.

According to a CNN article by Kate Lorenz, “Do Pretty People Earn More?” the facts show that attractive students get more attention and higher evaluations from their teachers, good-looking patients get more personalized care from their doctors, and handsome criminals receive lighter sentences than less attractive convicts.”*

So what does this mean to individuals in society who do not resemble Daniel Craig or Angelina Jolie? Dr. Gordon Patzer has made it his life’s work to study attractiveness and its role in human behavior. According to Patzer,

“Human beings are hard-wired to respond more favorably to attractive people . . . Good-looking men and women are generally judged to be more talented, kind, honest and intelligent than their less attractive counterparts . . . People go out of their way to help attractive people—of the same and opposite sex—because they want to be liked and accepted by good-looking people.”

This societal preference for attractiveness is called the halo effect, due to the association with the perfection of angels. The halo effect occurs when an individual is influenced by a person’s strengths, weaknesses, physical appearance, behavior, or any other single factor.

Whether or not it is fair, research shows that attractive people also have more occupational success and more dating experience than their unattractive counterparts. Attractive people tend to be more intelligent, better adjusted, and more popular—probably because they have received better treatment from their teachers, their peers, and their bosses.

*(http://www.cnn.com/2005//US/Careers/07/08/looks/)

“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” ~ Angelique Arnauld

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Academy-Award Winning Director Peter Jackson

But let us pause for a moment. How many persons of note in history actually do not fall into the beautiful people category? Albert Einstein certainly wasn’t an attractive man, with his bushy eyebrows and unruly hair. Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest and most generous men in the world is what most people would describe as ordinary. Peter Jackson, a genius in the film world, resembled a hobbit when he made Lord of the Rings; but even he felt compelled to lose weight.

Is physical beauty truly necessary to be successful, to be considered extraordinary? I don’t believe so. Think about it. What about intelligence? Does anyone ever say, “Oh, her brain is so beautiful”? No. But shouldn’t they if they are really going to look at a woman or a man and judge her/him? 

“When a woman isn’t beautiful, people tell her: You have lovely eyes, you have lovely hair.” ~ Anton Chekhov

Why am I pondering this point? I was reading an article about a Scottish woman who appeared on “Britain’s Got Talent,” the UK’s version of “America’s Got Talent.” The judges for this program are the ever-snarky Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan (who also judges on the U.S. version), and Amanda Holden, an English actress who is mostly recognized for her television appearances.

A brief lesson for those of you who do not follow the show: Contestants apply from all over the country to be finalists on the show. In the initial rounds, the three judges watch the one-minute performances and then vote yes or no on whether or not the individual is talented enough to go to the next round. Once the contestants are reduced to 24, then there is a round for the semi-finals. In the finals, the viewing audience votes on who should stay and who should go. The winner is decided by audience votes.

“Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself.” ~ Kevyn Aucion

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Contestant Susan Boyle Singing "I Dreamed A Dream"

Now picture this: an older woman (by older I mean not in her 20’s, not old for god’s sake) with bushy eyebrows and a very unfashionable dress and hairstyle walks out onto the stage. It only takes seconds before Simon Cowell begins his attack dog shtick, the raised eyebrows, the rolled eyes, the crossed arms. All of it. A pan of the audience shows that almost to a person no one is liking this woman: sneers, crossed arms, negative body language abounds.

Already, the judges and the audience have formed an opinion on this contestant based solely on her physical appearance, and that opinion is not positive.

How fair is this? Not at all fair. Has the woman had a chance to perform yet? No. Does the audience even know what she plans to do for her talent before they cross their arms? No.

The woman declares to the judges and the audience that she wants to sing, that she has always wanted to sing. You can hear the snickers from the audience. After all, how can this unfashionable, frumpy woman sing, let alone sing well enough to be on the show?

“There comes a moment when you realize that virtually anything is possible—that nothing is too good to be true.” ~ Kobi Yamoda

What happens next is positively enchanting. Susan Boyle opens her mouth, and pure beauty emanates from it. The audience jumps to its feet. Simon Cowell raises his eyebrows, and this time, it’s not in a malicious way. Piers Morgan is stupefied.

Boyle sings “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables, an incredibly difficult song to sing because of the range. As I watched the video of her performance, I got chills, and I began to tear up.

I wanted to reach through the screen and hug Susan Boyle for her performance, and I wanted to slap Simon Cowell for his disbelief that a woman who looked like Boyle could have such an angelic voice.

“Women notice details that most men don’t . . . They notice all the details, then make assumptions about every other area of your life based on these details.” ~ David DeAngelo

But it wasn’t just Cowell, was it? It was everyone. When the opening refrain of the song played, Morgan appeared to be totally uninterested, Holden had her hands over her head as if she were trying to stifle a yawn. No one was truly interested in the woman on the stage.

However, as compared to males, we females can be absolutely merciless in our criticisms of the women who are in our office, the women our friends date, the women who do our hair, or our nails. But we can be especially venomous when it comes to total strangers. Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about: only saintly women or women who are completely self-confident do not beat down other women. And how many of those do you know?

“It matters more what’s in a woman’s face than what’s on it.” ~ Claudette Colbert

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Pursuit of Beauty Gone Horribly Wrong: Jocelyn Wildenstein

This is the very problem with assumptions. We make assumptions about people all of the time, every day, based on their looks, on what they are wearing, on how their hair looks, how scuffed their shoes are, what kind of purse they are carrying, how old their suit is, even what kind of car they are driving. And admittedly, women are worse when it comes to judging other women.

In my own experience, I have found that many beautiful women lack in self-confidence, while those who are not considered beautiful, abound in self-confidence. It’s as if they know that the world doesn’t believe in them, but they don’t care. They believe in themselves. How wonderful that is to believe in yourself, truly believe in your talent, or your goodness, or your abilities. And how pitiable it is when women abuse themselves by repeated plastic surgery in attempts to be more beautiful, look more youthful, more perfect, not stopping until they resemble caricatures of themselves.

“Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld.” ~ Martha Beck

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The Ugly Duckling Is Not Always What It Seems

Now what I did not mention is that when Sarah Boyle came out on stage, she was obviously prepared for Cowell’s sour disposition, but it didn’t seem to affect her at all. She answered all of his questions with a smile on her face. It was as if she were challenging him: “I know that you are assuming that I have no talent, but you just wait. You’ll see.”

Boyle stood her ground, even doing a bit of a jig in her sheer delight at just being invited to the party. And when she finished, she knew that she had won the battle. She walked off the stage with her shoulders back, a broad smile on her face, and joy in her eyes.

All three judges were effusive in their praise. But the best part is this: With her talent, her incredible voice, Susan Boyle has a real shot at winning “Britain’s Got Talent.” Wouldn’t that be something? And about time, too.

But just a closing thought: Why were we so surprised that Susan Boyle could sing? That is probably the heart of the matter, and a question that we should be asking ourselves even as this incredibly talented, sincere, selfless woman stands before the world and graces us with a voice from the gods.

 And on that note, I present Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed A Dream”

Embedding has been disabled. To see the video of Susan Boyle’s performance, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

More later. Peace.

If It’s Friday, It Must Mean Leftovers

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Elizabeth: The Golden Age (with Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen)

Best of List In No Particular Order

I just can’t put it together today cogently, so I’m doing something I’ve been thinking about doing: a Bests List. Feel free to tag me back with your bests if you want to play along.

Best Book:

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. The prose is beyond eloquent. Reading this book is akin to bathing in finely-scented oils: each time you read a beautiful passage, you think that nothing can possibly be any better than this, and then a few pages later, Ondaatje takes his words and lavishes them upon you until you feel utterly immersed in the exquisite way in which he mates his words to create something incredibly beautiful:

“New lovers are nervous and tender, but smash everything. For the heart is an organ of fire.” (Almaszy), or

“We die. We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we’ve entered and swum up like rivers. Fears we’ve hidden in—like this wretched cave. I want all this marked on my body. Where the real countries are. Not boundaries drawn on maps with the names of powerful men. I know you’ll come carry me out to the Palace of Winds. That’s what I’ve wanted: to walk in such a place with you. With friends, on an earth without maps. The lamp has gone out and I’m writing in the darkness.” (Katharine Clifton)

Or this one: “He glares out, each eye a path, down the long bed at the end of which is Hana.  After she has bathed him she breaks the tip off an ampoule and turns to him with the morphine.  An effigy. A bed.  He rides the boat of morphine.  It races in him, imploding time and geography the way maps compress the world onto a two-dimensional sheet of paper.”

Best Character in a Movie:

This one was hard. I finally narrowed it to two characters: Henry the Fifth in Henry V,  starring Kenneth Branaugh. Henry V was one of England’s great king’s historically, and his depiction by William Shakespeare made him truly heroic and larger than life, a king men were willing to fight and die for. The St. Crispin’s Day speech delivered by King Henry before the battle is an incredible piece of oratory:

My other favorite movie character is William Wallace in Braveheart. Obviously, my choices have something in common. They are both men of valor, fighting for that in which they believe. Wallace is the less regal version of Henry.

Best Movie Soundtrack:

Hands down, for me it’s the soundtrack from Philadelphia. I know that the whole movie is incredibly sad, but the music on the soundtrack is, well, not quite as sad. But I think that it’s a wonderful compilation of artists and styles. Runner up would be the soundtrack from Hope Floats, which also features many unexpected artists and an eclectic fare. 

Best Coffee:

Starbucks Sumatra venti with half and half and sugar. Sumatra is a dark, bold coffee, which is the kind I prefer. I don’t like wimpy coffees, but I do like my half and half in my coffee. I’m trying to cut down on the sugar, though, since I just got the lab results back on my triglycerides (yikes!).

Best Song (five categories):

  • Rock n Roll: Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” tied with “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos
  • Country: “Amazed” by Lonestar
  • Classic: “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison
  • Opera: Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” from the opera Turandot, especially as sung by Luciano Pavoratti
  • Classical: “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber

Again, this is a category that is very hard for me to pick just one Best of, so I thought that I would make it easier on myself by creating categories.


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Homicide: Life on the Street

Best Series No Longer on Television:

This one was easy: “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Set in Baltimore, this gritty cop show ran from 1993 to 1999 and featured one of the best ensemble casts ever. The only thing that I could never reconcile was the question posed in the first episode of the first season: Who killed Adena Watson?

Best Cable Series:

Again, no competition: ‘The Tudors” on Showtime. Admittedly, I never thought of Henry VIII as sexy before this finely-crafted show aired, but Jonathan Rhys Meyers changed my mind. Intrigue, deception, backstabbing, adultery, regal staging: almost American politics, but with better costuming.

Best News Show:

“Countdown With Keith Olbermann” on MSNBC. I love this guy. He appeals to my sardonic side in a way in which no other pundit ever has. He can also show emotion, such as on the night that Barack Obama was elected or on the night of Obama’s speech to the DNC. I like a human pundit who has wit and brains and a segment called “Worst Persons in the World.”

Best Ice Cream:

Edy’s Butter Pecan. Yummy. Nuf said.

Best Poem:

“The Olive-Wood Fire” by Galway Kinnell. I could name at least fifty others, but this poem has stuck with me for a while: a man, rocking his son to sleep by the fire, dozes off, and sees images of war in the fire. Awakens to the placid picture before him: his son on his arms before the olive-wood fire.

The Olive Wood Fire
Galway Kinnell

When Fergus woke crying at night.
I would carry him from his crib
to the rocking chair and sit holding him
before the fire of thousand-year-old olive wood.
Sometimes, for reasons I never knew
and he has forgotten, even after his bottle the big tears
would keep on rolling down his big cheeks
—the left cheek always more brilliant than the right—
and we would sit, some nights for hours, rocking
in the light eking itself out of the ancient wood,
and hold each other against the darkness,
his close behind and far away in the future,
mine I imagined all around.
One such time, fallen half-asleep myself,
I thought I heard a scream
—a flier crying out in horror
as he dropped fire on he didn’t know what or whom,
or else a child thus set aflame—
and sat up alert. The olive wood fire
had burned low. In my arms lay Fergus,
fast asleep, left cheek glowing, God

Best Karaoke Song for Me:

“I Will Remember You,” by Sarah McLachlan. Perfect key for my voice, and I feel a connection to this song.

Best Movie:

usual-suspectsThe Usual Suspects. The casting in this movie is pure perfection. The plot line is completely implausible, but it is a movie that I will come back to again and again. I have no idea how many times I have watched this movie.

 Best line spoken by character Verbal Kint (played beautifully by Kevin Spacey): “Keaton always said, ‘I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of him.’ Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze.”

Runner up (and it was hard to choose) would have to be Lord of the Rings (I’m counting this as one long, nine-hour movie). I have read the trilogy once a year almost every year since I was an undergraduate. Peter Jackson managed to do what I thought no person would ever be able to do: He brought to life a set of books about which many people are fanatical, and in a way that is beyond description. I am still willing to relocate to New Zealand to be a gopher for Peter Jackson any time he calls.

Actually, now that I think of it, it has to be a tie.

Best Female Actor:

This is close, but I think that I have to go with Cate Blanchett, simply because I have never seen her in anything in which her performance was not superb; the movie may have been mediocre, but Blanchett is never mediocre. She has that chameleon-like ability that Meryl Streep has, but I like Blanchett’s body of work better.

Best Male Actor:

Okay, I am really not basing this on looks, but out of all of the actors working today, I particularly like Clive Owen for a lot of the same reasons that I like Kate Blanchett. Owen does not choose to do the same role over and over with just a different movie title. I loved him as Sir Walter Raleigh in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, but I also loved him as Theo in Children of Men, in which he is much more vulnerable and a victim of circumstances.

Best Tea:

Twining’s Darjeeling, hot, strong with sugar and cream. Wonderful alone or with ginger snaps.

Best Outfit Fall/Winter:

Levi’s jeans, black leather boots, turtle neck sweater, long earrings, clunky leather watch, full-length black leather coat, Calvin Klein’s Eternity, squooshy black leather Via Spiga bag.

Best Outfit Spring/Summer:

Bathing suit and sarong, or long sun dress, 4711 cologne, and Birkenstocks.

Best Book Series for Fun:

Harry Potter, all seven books. Best book of series, book 3, Prizoner of Azkaban.

Best Vacation:

Seven-day cruise to Western Caribbean, 2006. Just Corey and me: cave-tubing, swimming with stingrays, sailing on a catamaran. Great meals. No work. Wonderful.

Best Car:

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Black Calais. Loved that car. It had a great stereo; it was great on gas, drove smoothly, comfortable interior.  Killed it in an altercation at a stoplight when right front bumper turned into accordion after tapping metal bumper of full-sized Suburban. Damage to their car: dent in bumper. Damage to my car: totaled.  

Best Day That Cannot Be Repeated:

The day that Corey and I went to Busch Gardens Williamsburg with my Mom and Dad. I hadn’t been to a theme park with both of my parents since I was a child. We had a wonderful time, and had our picture taken on the log flume. My Dad would die from pancreatic cancer less than half a year later.

More later. Peace.