“She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” ~ Annie Dillard, from The Living

book chart the atlantic

“Unsurprisingly, several children’s books appear in the top 20 on the list; as Adamic and Patel point out, we tend to read these books at a very impressionable age. Favorite books from those early years are likely to lodge themselves deeply in our memories.” ~ Claire Fallon, from “‘Harry Potter’ Tops Facebook’s ’10 Books That Stayed With You’ Meme And No One Is Surprised” (Huffington Post)

Thursday afternoon. Sunny with climbing temperatures, 87 degrees.

My goal is to clean today . . . but first . . . not.

Ah, to meme or not to meme . . .

The above graphic (click for larger) is taken from an article in The Atlantic based on a recent meme making the rounds on Facebook in which people have been asked to “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way . . . Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. They do not have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.”

Another article (have forgotten writer, sorry), glibly stated that the addition of Harry Potter to so many lists proves that adults don’t really read books. Um, what? I read all of the Harry Potter books as a bona fide adult. At first, I had wanted to see what all of the commotion was about, the naysayers saying that it was demonic, and the supporters saying that it was a wonderful series. Of course, I agreed with the latter. Reading the series with my kids became a family rite of passage that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and truthfully, I miss the anticipation of the next release date, getting in the car with Brett early on a Saturday morning, hitting Krispy Kreme for hot donuts, and then making our way to the almost pristine cube of books placed immediately in the entrance. Good, good times.

“Indeed, if there is a backlash, I imagine it will be fuelled by accusations of elitism. Weirdly, reading is seen as a middle-class practice . . . This is one meme that has nothing to do with showing off. It’s a place to be honest about what brings you personal delight” ~ Daisy Buchanan, from “Facebook’s ‘Share 10 books’ meme shows that social media doesn’t have to be vicious or bullying” (The Telegraph)

I’ve been reading snarky comments from different people about how people are padding their lists, how most people haven’t read the things they claim to have read. Well . . . maybe. Who knows, but more importantly, who cares?

My point is (and yes, I have one) this: Does it really matter which books have stayed with people? Does it matter if they’ve padded their lists? Does it matter if childrens’ books and YA books appear frequently on peoples’ lists? No. These lists are proof of several key things:

  1. People read. People of all ages read all kinds of things. How can that be perceived in any negative light?
  2. Even if they haven’t read what’s on the list, they are thinking about things they want to read or things they think they should read. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  1. The fact that childrens’ book show up on these lists is wonderful. Study after study show that children who are introduced to reading from very young ages will continue to read on their own. A groundbreaking study found that “having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit” (from The National Literacy Trust).
  2. The people who participated in this meme are proud of their reading, and they should be. So who cares what they read? Bear in mind that unfortunately, access to books, or the lack thereof, directly ties to a person’s success. According to The National Commission on Reading, “The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.”

I could go on and on as I am wont to do, but you get the point. All of those naysayers out there who are making fun of the lists need to shut it. Instead of criticizing, donate some books to a school, or donate some money to First Book, a wonderful organization that helps to connect books with children who don’t have any.

And my final point is this: In this society that places people on pedestals simply for being famous or for having a pretty face or for dunking a basketball or whatever, this meme is a refreshing change. Instead of reading about bullying on Facebook, or hearing about a group of teens who posted directions on how to kill someone (yes, this is true), we are being treated to something real in people’s lives, something that matters, something that adds to the world in which we live: Reading.

“But passionate readers believe books are for all people. Many of us have grown up feeling obscure and alone. Books were our friends when we had no human ones . . . the best literature educates by stealth. Books are there to make us more empathetic and kinder—and in times of emotional turmoil, they can comfort.” ~ Daisy Buchanan, from “Facebook’s ‘Share 10 books’ meme shows that social media doesn’t have to be vicious or bullying” (The Telegraph)

Listen, books saved me—not just once but time and again. Being an only child is lonely. I found friends among the pages. And when I hit my teens and began to suffer from clinical depression, books helped me to understand what was wrong, and they helped to comfort me. And when I lost my beautiful baby girl, books (not self-help books) helped me to escape from the pain.

I can go several weeks without reading a book, and then I can read six books in four days. It doesn’t matter. My to read stack has tripled in size this year, and I know that is mostly as a result of Corey’s new schedule.

Hey, I don’t need to go to bars or hang out with people who aren’t really my friends. I have my one true love, my kids, my dogs, and my books. It may not work for some people, but it works for me.

So even though I don’t do Facebook, I do do bookish memes, so here’s mine, off the top of my head, without any second thoughts, and I know that my list is longer than proposed, and I know that I have two lists, but whatever. So in no particular order, here are the books that have stayed with me, and by that I mean the books I have read over and over, the books from which I can quote, even the books that just thinking about make me pause and smile:

  • The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje
  • The Harry Potter Series, by JK Rowling (I’m cheating in counting these as one, so sue me)
  • Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien (same here)
  • The Little Prince, byAntoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
  • Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
  • Rich in Love, by Josephine Humphries
  • The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Things they Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  • The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
  • Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood
  • Sherlock Holmes (all the collected works), by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
  • The Alchemist, by Paul Coehlo
  • Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
  • Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Richard III/Henry V, by William Shakespeare
  • Hunt is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
  • The Shining, by Stephen King
  • The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve
  • Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris
  • A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
  • Shogun, by James Clavell
  • The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak
  • Children of Men, P. D. James

” . . . reading novels as a child — implying literary engagement with life’s social, cultural and psychological complexities — can have a positive impact on personality development and social skills. A study published last year in Science found that reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or nonfiction, results in keener social perception and increased empathy” ~ Bret Stetka, from “Why Everyone Should Read Harry Potter” (Scientific American)

Here are my runners up. I will admit that I cheated for this list; I went to my Goodreads list of books and did a quick scan and was surprised by the titles I had forgotten. So again, in no particular order:

  • Reflections in a Golden Eye, by Carson McCullers
  • Cover her Face, by P. D. James
  • Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
  • The Bone Collector, by Jeffrey Deaver
  • Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe
  • Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert

  • The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
  • Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
  • The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin
  • Murder Must Advertise (Lord Peter Wimsey), by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Mystic River, by Dennis LeHane
  • A Child Called It, by Dave Peltzer
  • Darkness Visible, by William Styron
  • The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
  • Heart of Darkness, by James Conrad
  • Dubliners, by James Joyce
  • The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
  • The Velvet Room, ZK Snyder (has stayed with me since 7th grade)
  • The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
  • In the Woods, Tana French
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O’Dell (has stayed with me since 6th grade)
  • Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger (wish I could find my copy of this)

And yes, I have read all of these, even James Joyce.

More later. Peace.

Music by Zedd, featuring Foxes, “Clarity”

                   

The Pleasures of Reading

On his deathbed my father is reading
The memoirs of Casanova.
I’m watching the night fall,
A few windows being lit across the street.
In one of them a young woman is reading
Close to the glass.
She hasn’t looked up in a long while,
Even with the darkness coming.

While there’s still a bit of light,
I want her to lift her head,
So I can see her face
Which I have already imagined,
But her book must be full of suspense.
And besides, it’s so quiet,
Every time she turns a page,
I can hear my father turn one too,
As if they are reading the same book.

~ Charles Simic

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“We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.” ~ Aristotle Onassis ”

Flight of Birds on Pérolles Lake, Fribourg, Switzerland by Claude-Olivier Marti (FCC)

“The answer is never the answer. What’s really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you’ll always be seeking . . . the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.” ~ Ken Kesey

Tuesday, early evening. Partly cloudy and mild, high 50’s.

So . . . Singulair is my new best friend.

Winter Pond with Black Swans by jajoll (FCC)

I went to my PCP yesterday, who listened to my two-month long tale of woe, listened to my lungs (which are clear), and added Singulair to my long list of regular medications. I took my first dose last night before bed, and actually slept fairly well for the first time in I can’t remember. Coughing was minimal, as was the raspy, paper-crackling sound that’s been coming from my lungs.

How very unexpected but wonderful.

So today I’ve been coughing once in a while, still a bit painful, but overall, I feel 100 percent better than I did two days ago, which is saying quite a lot. I feel that the whole ER visit was a waste of time and money (once I get the bill), but the ER doctor did prescribe a cough medicine that helped, so I suppose it wasn’t a total waste of five hours of my life . . .

Tomorrow I’m supposed to go for a pulmonary function test (PFT), which I was hoping to get out of, but my doctor still wants me to go even though I feel better. I’m so very tired of medical tests, especially since they almost never reveal anything new about my decrepit body.

“Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue.” ~ Henry James

Lake Ontario Swan by Tony the Misfit (FCC)

So yesterday was my birthday, and as usual, it sucked. I’m not quite sure why this is almost always the case, but it is. Perhaps it’s because of my complete dislike for my birthday, something that has been going on for as long as I can remember. The last birthday I remember liking was my 16th, and trust me when I say that was an age ago.

But aside from my own feelings about my birthday, it seems that so few people remember it that it feels like more of an imposition than a reason to celebrate. I got a lovely card from Corey’s parents. My mother did not bother to call or send a card, which is not surprising but nevertheless, disappointing. I mean, she’s my mother . . . Two of my children were too broke to buy me a card, which doesn’t bother me, but I know that at least one of my children forgot that it was my birthday.

Perhaps I’m being hyper-sensitive; it’s been known to happen once or twice . . . but geez. If I treated everyone else’s birthday’s so cavalierly, you can bet I’d hear about it.

Is it a mom thing, this seeming lack of appreciation, or perhaps, lack of attention to detail might be more accurate? I’m not looking for a party or even a cake, although a cake would be nice (this coming from the woman who has yet to bake Corey’s homemade carrot cake for his last birthday). I don’t know exactly what it is I’m looking for, and perhaps I sound like a selfish bitch, and perhaps I am that, after all. Perhaps being sick for two months has worn down the sunnier side of my disposition (if such a side ever existed), or perhaps I feel a need to bitch where no need truly exists.

Perhaps I should just keep my feelings to myself and get on with life.

Whatever.

“By the fire, when the wind pauses, little is said.
Every phrase we unfold stands upright. Outside,
The visible cold, the therapy of moonlight.” ~ Anne Stevenson, “The Wind, the Sun, and the Moon”

So while I was sick—as in bedridden sick—I read Stieg Larrson’s Millenium Series, all three books. They were great. It’s the finest writing I’ve come across in a long time. It’s so sad that he died before he could complete more novels. But now I’m ready to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie. I don’t like to see the movie before I’ve read the book.

Snowy Owl in Flight by pbonenfant (FCC)

I ordered two other series, even though I have no idea as to whether they are any good: Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games. I used one of my gift cards that Corey’s parents bought me for Christmas. So cool being able to buy new books. I’m planning to start one of the series tomorrow, but I haven’t decided which one.

I also read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which I hadn’t realized that I’d never read until I picked up P. D. James’s new book Death Comes to Pemberley. Corey bought me the James book as a Christmas present, and even though it didn’t feature the author’s signature character Adam Dalgliesh, it was quite good, but as I was reading it, I kept thinking that I really should have read Austen’s book first.

So after Christmas I picked up a very nice collection of the Austen novels at Sam’s Club for under $15, and now that I’ve read P&P, I think that I’m going to reread the James book so that it seems more connected. I mean, we’re only talking about an afternoon of reading, so why not?

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” ~ Franz Kafka

I recently discovered a band called Girls, who remind me very much of earlier Beatles, same kind of music. Always wonderful to find a new band or new voice. I think that I heard something of theirs on the television show “Revenge,” which is not a half-bad series about one woman’s search for . . . you know, revenge for her father’s frame-up for some dastardly crime that he did not commit. It’s not high drama, but it’s enjoyable, and it features songs from musicians I’ve never encountered before, which is the best part.

Birds in Winter, Irondequoit Bay by Tony the Misfit (FCC)

I regularly find new musicians from the shows “House” and “Bones,” but it’s great when an unexpected source of music crosses my radar.

Speaking of radar . . . Eamonn was stopped by cops the other night, and the consequences are going to cost major money. Thankfully for him, his father has agreed to pay and allow Eamonn to pay him back. He’s rather down about the whole thing. Understandable.

Alexis still owes for a speeding ticket that she received during one of her trips to see Mike when he was working in Maryland. I’ve been bitching at Brett because he’s made no effort to get even his learner’s permit yet, but perhaps I should be thankful. My children seem to have inherited my predisposition for a heavy foot, although I can say honestly that it’s been many years since I have gotten a ticket.

Of course, now that I’ve put that into words, you watch. Something will happen. Testing fate. Never a good idea.

Anyway, it would be really great if Brett would make an effort to get his license, as he has classes two nights this semester, and I really hate driving at night, especially since I need to get new glasses, another thing that I have yet to take care of. I know that from his point of view (Brett’s), there’s no real need to rush the whole driving process as he always has someone to take him where he needs to go.

Odd, though. I remember that I counted the days until I was legal so that I could get my license. Corey and I were talking about how different it is now. In fact, I read an article that said that fewer teenagers are in a hurry to drive because they don’t really go anywhere as they spend so much time on the computer. I think that’s a good and bad thing.

“A process blows the moon into the sun,
Pulls down the shabby curtains of the skin;
And the heart gives up its dead.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from “A process in the weather of the heart”

Let’s see . . . what else has been happening while I’ve been non-functioning? Corey has an approximate ship-out date: somewhere after January 27, which is when the ship is due to be finished in the yard. Of course, that’s a tentative date. He’s getting restless, ready to start on this new adventure, which is quite understandable.  His route has changed from Germany to Russia to something much warmer: Cape Canaveral to the Ascension Islands, south of the equator.

Blue Swans on Lake Macatawa, Michigan, by Images by Arnie (FCC)

The warmer weather will be nice, but he’s really bummed about not seeing Europe. He’s also bummed about not being able to visit with the Germans in Hamburg. Apparently my nephew Phillip is still quite sick, so it’s a shame that Corey won’t be able to visit with them.

The new route means that all of the cold-weather gear that Corey spent time hunting down now has to be repacked, and he needs to shift his focus. I tried to make him feel better by pointing out that he’ll come home with a tan before summer . . .

Other than those things, a few minor bumps in the road: The motherboard that we bought for my computer a while ago is the wrong size for my computer, which we found out when Corey took it in to be installed finally. One of the risks of not installing soon after purchase. Somehow, we need to find a way to sell the motherboard that doesn’t fit.

Corey’s truck is fixed, well almost. The new transmission and transfer case have been installed. He had to buy a new batter because the one in the truck had died from disuse and refused to take a charge. Just one small problem: no brakes. The brake lines have rusted and consequently are leaking brake fluid. So yet another hiccup in the very long and complicated truck saga. Replacing the lines is not an inexpensive fix. I’m hoping that it’s something that I can have taken care of while he’s gone so that when he gets home, he can finally drive his truck.

We’ll just have to see.

Other than that, same old, I suppose—bills, illness, kids, and constantly shifting schedules.

More later. Peace.

(P.S. Thanks to all of you who sent well wishes for my recovery. They were much appreciated.)

Music by Girls, “Love Like a River”

                   

Cardinal Rules

nourish yourself
close to the ground
but when you fly
redden the sky with bright wings

stay close
to the cover of dark branches
a red
alert to danger
but not afraid

feed peacefully
with small chickadees and sparrows
content with crumbs
the world provides
enough

when the jay comes
hungry and screaming
vanish
like a flame
extinguished in the wind

and in the cold
in the days of iron frost
do not complain
but stuff your belly with the seeds
of your own burning
life
and fluff up your feathers
to hold in heat

even with your thin feet
deep in snow

sing

~ Nancy Paddock

“Everything that I write is a kind of battle won—or lost—against silence and incoherence.” ~ Geoffrey Hill

Sailing on my mind . . .

                   

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” ~ Franz Kafka

Tuesday afternoon. Hazy, hot, and humid.

Sailing found on Pinterest

Long time no write, eh? Well we were in Ohio for Corey’s brother’s wedding. We left last Wednesday and got home in the wee hours of Monday morning. I’m happy to say that the road trip was incredibly uneventful, no car trouble, no flat tires, no engines blowing up on the side of a mountain. This time we did the smart thing and rented a car, thanks to Corey’s Aunt Judy who funded the trip. And it’s a good thing, too, that we didn’t take the Rodeo as it broke down last night in the Wal-Mart parking lot; the battery light had been coming on, so we had to buy a battery, and a hose burst. So glad that happened here and not on the road.

It was a Nissan Altima. Very nice, comfortable, and incredibly smooth ride, not to mention good on gas. We made it up and back in record time, too—about 11 hours, which is a nice change from our last trip which was 26 hours during a blizzard. The Tom Tom that Corey’s parents gave him for his birthday last year helped with the timing as it plotted the shortest route (time-wise). Technology can be a wonderful thing.

We took Tillie with us this time. We actually hadn’t planned to take her, but when we were loading the car, she jumped into the back seat and looked at us like “Well?” Very unusual for her as she is not a car dog. She was a bit restless on the way up, but slept soundly on the way home.

Anyway, the visit was very nice. Corey’s sister gave me a much needed hair cut, long layers everywhere, and about three inches off the length. We saw a lot of the family at the wedding, which was a casual outdoor affair, quite lovely really. I am so happy for Chad that he has found a very sweet woman and that their extended family gets along well. All of the nieces and nephews have grown so much. No one is little anymore. I know that Corey really enjoyed himself, so all in all, I would have to say successful road trip.

“I saw myself, heard myself, felt myself, not write—and yet even then knew perfectly both that I should be writing now and that I should now be sorrier than ever for my not writing then.” ~ Henry James, letter to Charles Eliot Norton, December 26, 1898

Head Sail Sun by russteaches (FCC)

I had thought about writing a few posts while I was in Ohio, but I just wasn’t up to it. I was saving my energy so that I wouldn’t be a blob at the wedding and when we went visiting. But that meant no writing, which made me a bit antsy. Maybe one day we’ll have a laptop again, and I’ll be able to write on the road.

My fluffy boy Shakes was happy to see me. He hasn’t left my side since we got home. Eamonn slept in our bed while we were gone, so the Jack Russells weren’t too lonely.

Corey’s boss had scheduled him for a first shift on Monday, which simply wasn’t possible, so he lost that one. But then his boss turned around and gave him two shifts today, first and third, which makes up for the lost shift, but such a full day for him as he also has class tonight. He’s signed up for two classes this fall, and I think that we’ve done all of his paper work, so he and Brett are good to go, that is until I have to buy books, which means lots of Internet searching for the best prices.

Eamonn is another story. He’ going to do two classes this fall, but he lost his financial aid for a semester because of his GPA. I’ve told him that we’ll pay for these two classes, but he must do well. He wants to get into the radiation technology program, and the application must be submitted by December. He really needs to get at least B’s, preferably A’s to get his GPA back up. It would really be a shame if he didn’t get into this program, especially since his dad knows the person in charge. I told Eamonn that this program would be his ticket to independence: There is always a need for radiation technicians in hospitals and doctors’ offices. If he’s serious about getting his own place and being independent, then he needs to be practical.

Here’s hoping . . .

“Maybe the fear is that
we are less than
we think we are,
when the
actuality of it
is that we are much much more.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness

Sailing in Roatan, Honduras

So aside from our travels, life is much the same. The kiddies all survived just fine while we were gone, although there were a few hiccups over food. I told them that’s what it’s like to have a roommate. To be fair, Eamonn was unaware that Brett and Em had bought certain food, and we weren’t able to tell him before we left. Eamonn is Eamonn.

Nothing new on the Alexis front. Haven’t seen or talked to her since the day she took me to the doctor. Last night when the car broke down, Corey called Mike to see if he could help. Alexis answered the phone and told Corey that she was eating dinner. Hmm . . . the number of times we’ve been busy but have dropped everything to accommodate her? Can’t even count.

I never thought that nearly grown/grown children would be more difficult than toddler children or more trying than teenager children. I was wrong. I love all of my children, but sometimes I just don’t understand where their heads are . . .

I can sit here and wish with all of my heart that life for my children would unfold without complications, but we all know that such things don’t happen in reality. Motherhood is fraught with potholes and the potential for pain, and nothing can change that. But how I wish that life was still so simple that mere mommy kisses could make things better. How I wish that hugs could heal . . . but if wishes were fishes . . .

“There are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands.”  ~ Oscar Wilde

Sailing Yachts

I’m cancelling all upcoming doctors’ appointments for the time being because once again, my health insurance coverage is messed up. Apparently, the payment that we sent at the end of June was never credited, and we have no idea where it is. This is not the first time that the payment processing center has lost a payment. But as a result, none of my doctor’s visits in May have been paid for, and I’m getting nasty calls from billing offices.

This I don’t need. Obviously. I mean it’s one thing when I know that I haven’t paid a bill, or that I’ve paid a bill late, but when the bill has been paid on time, and the phone calls still come—it’s just too much.

I told Corey that I’d like to move to Vermont, the one state that provides healthcare coverage for its citizens. It’s not that I’m in love with Vermont, just the idea of having healthcare. Corey says that Vermont is too damned cold.

Of course, if my Social Security disability would be approved, then I’d be relieved of this huge insurance payment each month. Every time that I think about that stupid judge who said that I had no disabilities I get angry. Every time I have a headache that lasts for days I think of that judge, and I want to call him. Each time I have to spend the day in bed recuperating because my body is just worn out, I think of that judge in not too kindly terms.

I hate having my future in someone else’s hands. I hate that loss of control. I hate bureaucrats. Sometimes, I wish that I had gone to law school when I had the chance, but then I come to my senses. Oh, who knows . . . all of the what ifs, should haves, maybes, whys—it’s enough to drive a person crazy, but then, we all know already how crazy I am . . .

(I sure am using a lot of ellipses in this post. Maybe it’s because my thoughts keep trailing off, or maybe it’s because it’s more of a stream of consciousness post: here, there, everywhere.)

“I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can.” ~ Jack Gilbert 

Sailing by Troy Li (Pixdaus)

I had a lovely surprise waiting for me when I got home: one of my regular readers wrote me a letter, a real letter on stationary. I gobbled up the words and enjoyed it thoroughly. Of course, now I must make the time to write her back, which will be good for me. Years ago, I used to keep a stock of stationary, lovely cream-colored linen. In this day of printers and computers, who has stationary any more?

I managed to read two and a half books while we were gone. I finally read The Book Thief, which I will admit was hard to get into, but once I did, I loved it. It’s set during Nazi Germany, but the story isn’t anything that you might think. I would highly recommend it. I also devoured a Lee Child book, 61 Hours, which is more fluff reading, but enjoyable nonetheless. And then last night I finished Life of Pi, which I had started while we were still in Ohio. I had heard about this book and read reviews, but had never gotten around to reading it. It’s an improbable story, bittersweet and touching. I loved the main character.

I have a stack of books in my to-read pile. I don’t like to read while I’m floating in the pool any more, not since I dropped Gargoyle into the pool and ruined it.

Speaking of the pool, the water is finally clear. Corey had a heck of a time getting the water to clear this season. Even though it’s just an above-ground pool, it still takes a lot of work to keep it in good shape. I deliberately did not go outside today as the pool would have been too tempting, and I really wanted to get a post up. Tomorrow though—floating and perhaps a new book.

That’s about all for now. I promised Brett that I would give him a haircut today, so he’s waiting.

More later. Peace.

Music by the Editors, “No Sound but the Wind” (just discovered this wonderful group)

                   

Too Many Names

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

~ Pablo Neruda

“We search for patterns, you see, only to find where the patterns break. And it’s there, in that fissure, that we pitch our tents and wait.” ~ Nicole Krauss, from “Great House”

Snowy, Snowy Night by Miranda Wildman (mirandawildmanart.com) 

                   

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” ~ Frederick Douglass

Snow Glow by John Rawlinson (Flckr creative commons)

Sunday afternoon. Cold and cloudy.

It snowed last night for several hours. Snow in early December—not normal for this area. Of course all of the snow was gone this morning, but it was pretty while it lasted.

I’ve been on a cleaning binge for the past two days. It takes so much longer to do what I used to do in one Saturday afternoon. I have to clean a little and then take a break, so I usually visit my tumblr during breaks to see what has been posted most recently on the dashboard. I find that I really enjoy tumblr; I read somewhere that tumblr is the in-depth equivalent of Facebook, which makes sense to me. I mean, FB is nice for finding out how your friends in other places are doing, but the same can be accomplished with a phone call or e-mail.

Very often on tumblr, a predominant theme will show up on the dash quite by accident (e.g., book burning, war, silence). One individual starts with a few posts, and then other like-minded individuals join the thread. It’s a different kind of social networking. The most important thing is not the statement on how you are feeling, but the posts that reflect how you are feeling, or what you are doing, or what you are thinking.

For someone like me who loves quotes, photography, and art, it’s a treasure chest, and with each visit I find something new. The only problem is that as tumblr become more popular, the site’s servers are having a hard time keeping up with the traffic.

“True alchemy lies in this formula: ‘Your memory and your senses are but the nourishment of your creative impulse.’” ~ Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations

Fall Snow (Pixdaus)

So aside from Eamonn’s room, the house is clean. My intent is to decorate sometime this week so that I’m not doing everything at the last minute again this year. I have the wreath on the front door, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

I did spend some time on YouTube yesterday creating my country/folk playlist. A few nights ago I watched CMT’s songs of the decade special, which reminded me of how much I actually like country music, something I would not have said a decade ago. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of traditional country, with the twang and such; I’m more of a crossover fan, heartache, love, and betrayal Keith Urban, Rascall Flatts, and Sugarland style.

I remember watching a CMT special on the best 100 country love songs several years ago. Corey was out on the boat, and by the time the show was over I was a blubbery mess. I called Corey, and when I told him what I had watched, he understood perfectly why I was crying. Country music has a way of doing that to me.

I amassed a playlist of 86 songs in just a few hours. Who knew I knew that many country and folk songs . . .

“The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.” ~ Ken Kesey 

Snowstorm (Pixdaus)

Corey is at work. He got off at 11 p.m. last night and had to go back in at 7 this morning; he works until 8 tonight. Getting hours is great, but I have to say that the scheduling lacks forethought. I know that scheduling people is hard; I had to schedule 50 people at a time, and it’s a great big headache. But this sergeant doesn’t even allow Corey to get a good night’s sleep before asking him to work 13 hours.

I know that he’s really tired of port security, and I don’t envy him having to stand watch on a ship for 8 hours in the freezing cold. As he said, at least when he’s on a tugboat, he’s never outside for eight hours at a time.

Here’s hoping that with 2011 we get to start the year on a new path. It seems that I’ve said that so many times in the past few years. I just don’t really know what to think any more, and I certainly don’t know what I should hope for

“The books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all human habitation—a book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.” ~ Franz Kafka

Snow on Rose by Russell.Tomlin

I am very behind in my reading and reviewing. I have received a few advanced reader’s copies that I need to read and review before the end of the year. And since I hope to get some books for Christmas, I really need to finish at least two of the books that I am currently reading. One is by Elizabeth George, and the other is by P. D. James—two of my very favorite authors.

I’ve been reading about the Stieg Larsson trilogy, and I think that that’s the next series that I want to tackle. We got a Costco flyer in the mail, and the entire set in hardback is available online, so maybe if I get a little cash sometime soon, I might be able to order it.

I also want to read Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes. I’ve read a lot of Sylvia Plath, but not much of Ted Hughes. I think that I, like many people, blame Hughes for Plath’s death, which is not really fair. The reality is that Plath would have committed suicide at one point or another in her life, and if she had been found in time on the day she stuck her head in the oven, then she most likely would have tried again. Certainly no one can say for sure.

“There comes a time in every life when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn to know the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.” ~ Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

Tree Branches in Snow by D. Sharon Pruitt (Flckr creative commons)

Tortured souls who make up their minds to commit suicide most often do so eventually unless they have some kind of major change or epiphany.

Life is hard, harder for some than others. Some people move through their days as if covered in teflon, nothing penetrating or touching. But if nothing bad can touch them, then neither can anything good get through the protective armor. Other people walk through life with their hearts, souls, and psyches on the outside—the walking wounded who never seem to heal.

And then there is the space between through which most of us move. We suffer storms and sometimes find ourselves blinded by relentless deluges. And then we take a few more steps and move into the clear, sometimes even stumbling into brilliance.

I have no way of foretelling what the coming days and months have waiting in store for me and those I love. I know what we need and what I wish, but life’s patterns are only discernible in retrospect. I only know that asking why some things work and others go terribly wrong is akin to spitting into the wind.

Reasons get tangled like briars, and sometimes thoughts are so black that no light can illuminate the darkness surrounding them. But sometimes just waiting for the bitter wind to stop howling is enough to get through the night.  

The heart, as Ondaatje describes it, it an organ of fire, moving through joy and sorrow alike in search of what it needs to survive. It’s all that we can do.

More later. Peace. 

One of the saddest songs ever, “Whiskey Lullabye,” by Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss

                   

Waking at 3 a.m.

Even in the cave of the night when you
wake and are free and lonely,
neglected by others, discarded, loved only
by what doesn’t matter—even in that
big room no one can see,
you push with your eyes till forever
comes in its twisted figure eight
and lies down in your head.

You think water in the river;
you think slower than the tide in
the grain of the wood; you become
a secret storehouse that saves the country,
so open and foolish and empty.

You look over all that the darkness
ripples across. More than has ever
been found comforts you. You open your
eyes in a vault that unlocks as fast
and as far as your thought can run.
A great snug wall goes around everything,
has always been there, will always
remain. It is a good world to be
lost in. It comforts you. It is
all right. And you sleep.

~ William Stafford 

“Be Content to Seem What You Really Are.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

Light of the Harem 1880 Frederic Lord Leighton

“Light of the Harem,” by Frederic Leighton (1880)

 

“And it is me who is my enemy
Me who beats me up
Me who makes the monsters
Me who strips my confidence” ~
Paula Cole, “Me” 

Well, I finished two Ann Rule books since Friday night, and I have partially sated my book craving.  In case you are unfamiliar, Rule writes true crime novels, but she eschews high-profile cases, choosing instead to focus on stories with which more people can relate. Many of her books deal with women who have been terrorized and eventually killed by their husbands/boyfriends.

too late to say goodbyeI reread Every Breath You Take, which is the story of Sheila Blackthorne Bellush and her compulsive, possessive, arrogant ex-husband Allen Blackthorne. I also reread Too Late to Say Goodbye, the story of Jenn Corbin and her dentist husband Bart Corbin, who almost got away with two murders by fashioning them to look like suicides. 

I’m not giving anything away with these very brief summaries. The reader always knows the basic characters and the barebones’ scenario when approaching an Ann Rule book. But what makes Rule’s books well-written as opposed to sensationalistic is that she delves deeply into character and background and takes the reader through years of material. One of her first books was The Stranger Beside Me, about serial killer Ted Bundy. As it turns out, Bundy worked with Rule at a crisis center long before he was disclosed as the prolific killer of young brunette women in over three states.

I have read a few other true crime novels, but they never seem to equal the quality of Rule’s work, most depending upon the more lurid aspects of a crime to draw the reader in. I’m interested in the psychology behind these people: their early lives, events that shaped them. Anyway, Corey is on a search for more Ann Rule books in the storage bins.

“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” ~ Sir Edmund Hillary 

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I pay attention to my stats, not just the numbers, but what people are reading. It’s actually pretty interesting, to me, at least. I have two posts that almost always show up in my stats, and both of them have to do with beauty. I wonder why that is, exactly . . . I have reread these posts, and my main point in both of them is that women have unrealistic role models held up for emulation and that we are constantly bombarded to become thinner, more regular, less bloated, have whiter teeth, be more effective at cleaning our houses and to shop wisely.

the-biggest-loserIt’s a bunch of whooey. How many commercials are on prime time television telling young, impressionable women to further their educations, be self-reliant, believe in themselves just the way they are? None. Zero. Instead, we have television programs about people trying to lose weight and get in shape because their lives will continue to be less than ideal if they don’t. Witness, “The Biggest Loser,” “Celebrity Fit Club,” “Diet Tribe,” “I Can Make You Thin.” Well gee, if I had a personal chef to cook low-calorie weight loss meals, and a personal trainer, and that was the only thing that I did in my life for months and months, I’ll bet that I would lose weight too.

Don’t misunderstand: I know that obesity is one of the fastest-growing problems facing Americans, especially young Americans. Obesity, which can lead to a world of health problems, very often arises because people are not taught early how to eat correctly, or eat too much fast food, or foods that are high in saturated fats or overly processed foods in which the nutrients have been leeched out during the cooking and canning.

And then there is the whole problem of not exercising. I know all too well that not exercising, even walking, can be detrimental to individuals who have family propensities for diabetes, heart conditions, and other disorders and diseases. But as a nation, we do not exercise, not like other, more health-conscience nations.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt 

What I have a problem with is how we as a society continue to perpetuate the theory that being slender is the end-all and be-all without acknowledging that just losing weight is not necessarily going to change a person’s life. For me, I know that I would feel better physically and mentally if I lost some weight, but I don’t have delusions that I am ever again going to weigh what I weighed in my 20’s. But what bothers me is my inability to accept myself until I lose this unspecified number of pounds, as if, somehow, I am going to be a different person when I achieve this goal. Truth is, I am still going to be me—for better or worse—me.

elemis-ultimate-pro-collagen-collection
Yet another expensive collagen beauty regimen for women

I hate that about myself. I really do, especially because it falls right into that trap that women must be optimum in order to be happy. I mean, I have had all of the courses about empowerment and the psychology and sociology behind what makes women women, yet even armed with that knowledge, I am still easy prey for ads that promise to burn stomach fat. Why???

Why do women who are otherwise secure about their intelligence, experienced in life and all of its pitfalls and nadirs, continue to allow themselves to keep a number in the back of their mind: If I can just reach X pounds, if I can just lost X pounds, then everything will be all right . . .

Obviously, I am not the person to ask because no matter how much I rail against socialization and unreal expectations, I am still smack in the middle of it. I buy this mascara because it will make my lashes longer and fuller. I use this body wash because it will keep my skin soft (well, actually, that one isn’t true. I buy based on smell). I use this moisturizer because it will replace my collagen (that one is true).
 
Why do I do these things to myself? Conditioning. My mother. My insecurities.  The weather . . . yes, it’s that variable and that illogical.  Want to know a dirty little secret? I think that if I had the money, I might already have had some work done to my neck, my arms, my belly, and the fact that I know this makes me a little ill because I swore that I would never be my mother, who began having plastic surgery in her 40’s.

“The man who trims himself to suit everybody will soon whittle himself away.” ~ Charles Schwab

Do I ever sit here and think to myself, “I’m a great woman. I’m smart. Relatively witty. Talented, somewhat”? Of course I don’t. I search the mirror each morning to see if any wrinkles have appeared. I play with my neck to see how unfirm it is because my mother has pulled at my neck since I was young, telling me that I need to be careful of my double chins, which I now lovingly (not) refer to as my sixteen chins. If I really want to torture myself, I turn sideways to see how large my belly looks at the moment. 

janicedickinson2
Janice Dickinson: Plastic Surgery Queen

I can say, with all truthfulness, though, that my desires stem not from an attempt to look younger, just thinner. I really don’t like the way that women who have had a lot of work done look, with their taut cheekbones stretched to their ears. Kind of reminds me of Klingons, as in that’s just not normal.

So my rational self says BEH to all of the societal conditioning and yearning for no double chins. My emotional self says, well, maybe just a little. How bizarre. How utterly inane and yet complex. I know but I feel. Descartes never said that. Do you know why? Because he was a man . . .

Enough of this blather. I hate it when I dwell on this.

More later. Peace.

Paula Cole singing her beautiful song “Me”