“Every exit is an entry somewhere.” ~ Tom Stoppard

Perception Versus Reality

 

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” ~ William Blake
George Rickey's "Column of Four Squares Gyratory III

A quiet Sunday. Corey is working 3 to 11 again. The dogs are being lazy. Laundry is going. Outside, no sounds coming from the park, only the occasional birdsong. Comfortable temperatures and sunshine, although rain later. All in all, not a bad day.

I was thinking last night, or rather, early this morning, about the differences between what we perceive and what is real, that is, is what we see necessarily what is real? Is our reality the only reality?

 I think that what set me on this tangent was a dream from which I awakened in which my father was going to drive a big white Cadillac to a physical therapy appointment; my mother was rearranging papers, and different people kept coming in and out. My father, who was a small man, never felt comfortable in big cars. In his later years, I think that he would have been hard-pressed to see over the steering wheel of a big Cadillac.

But I awoke from this dream thinking about how the mind works, how in dreams reality is always altered at least slightly if not completely. I mean, the appearance of my father so often in my dreams is obviously not in keeping with the reality of my life because my father died almost nine years ago. Yet there he is. I know that I’m simplifying considerably, but for approximately one-quarter  to one-third of our lives, we exist in a state of unreality—those hours in which we sleep and dream; although the dreaming part is usually only about 25 percent of that sleeping time, taking place during REM sleep.

But the perceptions in dreams are not what I am really talking about. I think.

“But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.” ~ Octavio Paz
Liu Bolin, "The Invisible Man," Urban Camouflage

As far as I can discern, the concepts of perception and reality are both fluid, totally dependent upon the individual. My sense of what is right and just is based on how I was raised, the laws of the country of my birth, the beliefs instilled in me by family. For example, I do not believe that it is right to force a woman to cover her body because the sight of a female ankle might drive a man into unbidden lust. However, I was raised in a society in which the roles of men and women have continually evolved. My reality is not that my bare legs are sinful; does that mean that in another city in another country the idea of the exposed female body as unholy is wrong? No. Not wrong. Just different.

But let’s move closer to home. I believe that there is exquisite beauty in a yard that is filled with different kinds of flowers and trees. Five houses down the street there is a house that does not have one tree, one shrub, one flower. My perception is that it is barren. The owner’s perception may be that such a yard is maintenance free, clean lines, uncluttered.

When the trees lose their leaves in the fall, I do not feel a great compulsion to rake the leaves and dispose of them. In fact, I love the look of fallen leaves. My nosy neighbor cannot abide a stray leaf. She probably sees my leaf-strewn yard as the end result of laziness, slovenliness. I see her perfect yard as a reflection of how uptight she is.

Granted, these are relatively small things. But you get the point: What I perceive as beauty is not necessarily seen as beautiful by someone whose reality does not allow for things to be out of place.

“What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.” ~ Lao-tzu
Trompe l'oiel by Richard Haas, Facade of Brotherhood Building, Cincinnati, OH

My perception of the reality of my life at the moment is shaped in great part by the reality of my past. Three years ago, money was not so much an issue. I did not awaken each morning and measure the possibilities of my day by how much pain I was experiencing. Today, I see my life as being very limited, hemmed in by circumstances that are very much out of my control. These are my perceptions.

Across the world, in a small village somewhere, the days are measured in more concrete terms: how much water is available? Will there be enough rain to sustain the crops? Will another child die from dysentery?

Across the country in a city somewhere, a woman with perfect nails and a chic haircut is measuring her day by how many pairs of shoes she will buy, whether or not to lunch in this trendy bistro or that one.

Is one reality better than the others? Is one reality less of an existence than the others? We make these judgments according to what we know, most of the time without ever considering what is going on across the world, across the country, or even across the street.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” ~ Anaïs Nin
3D Sidewalk Illusion by Julian Beever

I don’t know if I’m being very effective here in making my point. What I had planned to say, or thought that I might say, does not seem to be translating well onto this page.

I think that too often we take our own realities and try to impose them on others. Take the Catholic church (or not).  I am not catholic, but many people assume that I am because I am Filipino.  But my feelings about the Catholic church are mostly hostile, and I realize that my hostility comes from my firm belief that there should be equality between the sexes; the Catholic church is inherently misogynistic. Men have all of the power. Therefore, I cannot reconcile myself to be of a faith that in its basic tenets places women below men. For me, that’s just a bunch of hooey.

But I was watching some documentary a while back that discussed how Catholicism, because of its staunch stance against the use of condoms is causing more deaths in third world countries. Consider: according to the pope, condoms are a sin because of that whole sex and procreation thing. Men with AIDS are forbidden by the church to use condoms when having sex with their wives even though the unprotected sex will most likely result in the wife contracting AIDS.

In my reality, this makes no sense, no sense whatsoever. But there are a whole bunch of people out there for whom this reality makes perfect sense. Do I have a right to be indignant? Well obviously I can be as indignant as I want to be, but whether or not that indignation should be heaped on any Catholic with whom I might come into contact is questionable.

But I’m right. Right? Transmitting AIDS is wrong. Right? Well, duh. But to people of faith, for whom the word of the pope is infallible, it’s not a duh. On the contrary. It’s not even a quandary.

Hence the whole personal reality and perception versus that of another person, society, country, etc. The concept of fluidity is more fact than concept. My reality of today is so different from my reality of 20 years ago.

“I want so to live that I work with my hands and my feeling and my brain. I want a garden, a small house, grass, animals, books, pictures, music. And out of this, the expression of this, I want to be writing (Though I may write about cabmen. That’s no matter.) But warm, eager, living life — to be rooted in life — to learn, to desire, to feel, to think, to act. This is what I want. And nothing less. That is what I must try for.” ~ Katherine Mansfield
Trompe l'oiel Mural: Before and After

When I was younger, my reality went something like this: career first, family incidental. Before I had children I could not conceive of a time in which my career was not the most important thing in my life. My personal success was directly tied to the size and location of my office, the amount of my salary, the scope of my bonuses. In my 20’s, I was a political animal in the corporate world. I had the kind of personality that would have actually done very well in politics.

After I had Alexis, my reality shifted, slightly at first, then dramatically as the days passed into months. I hit a point in my life in which I could not conceive of ever placing anything above her needs, her comfort, her security.  And so on.

My reality now? Not sure. I perceive of myself as being so different from what I used to be, but I don’t know if that is true. It could well be that time has passed, but I have remained the same. Or maybe time has passed, and I have allowed my reality to evolve. I just know that Mansfield’s quote comes about as close to my ideal reality as I can sum up in words: home, animals, books, pictures, music, writing. To continue to learn, expand my mind. Not to stop thinking and delving and discovering.

I feel fortunate that my reality does not include the possibility of starvation, or imminent rape, or death from something easily preventable. That my reality does not include Manolo Blahniks and pricey eateries really doesn’t bother me. In fact, I think that if I were to put on a pair of shoes that cost $800, I would probably hate myself because I would not be able to rid my mind of the thought of how that money might be put to better use.

Evolving realities. Shifting perceptions. Movement. Growth. Life is not the destination; it’s how we get there and what we do along the way.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sugarland, “Make Me Believe”

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“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Sea Star from Bunaken Marine Park, Indonesia, from The Right Blue 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Colors from The Right Blue

I’ve been meaning to comment on a beautiful site that I stumbled across: The Right Blue. According to the site’s about page, the title “refers to the goal of a lifelong pursuit. Sea water viewed from beneath the surface comes in many hues and shades. Surfers wait for the perfect wave; divers seek the right blue.” The blog contains beautiful pictures from dives, information about the ocean, and many other ocean-related topics. 

The writers, who live in Hawaii, decided that instead of letting their beautiful photographs and slides get dusty in binders and boxes they would scan and post them. What joy, especially for those of us who love all things related to the sea. The images are incredible, and Bobbie and Jerry have generously posted their work under a Creative Commons license, which means that their images can be reposted non-commercially with proper attribution. 

So today’s post features images from The Right Blue. Please give them a visit. 

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle by The Right Blue

Another restless night, in fact, one of the worse in a while. For some reason, Tillie was very restless last night, which meant that she kept asking to go out just about every hour. At one point, I had put my eye mask on, which I wear sometimes if I have a headache, and Tillie nudged me. Need I say that she scared the crap out of me? Anyway, I slept in fits and starts, and I don’t know if I ever achieved REM as my head is ringing today. 

Anyway, a holiday today celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I have used quotes from King in my post before, often with quotes by Gandhi, one of King’s major influences. 

I think that it is worth noting that King was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his civil rights’ efforts. When you think about what King did and when he did it, it really is an amazing thing: organizing non-violent protests in the South at a time when most of the white population view minorities  as second class citizens who needed to use separate bathrooms and separate drinking fountains so as not to contaminate them. It was a time in which minorities could not eat wherever they wanted, stay in any hotel they wished to stay in, or even perform in any venue. 

That the United States was once such a country is mind-boggling to generations who never saw these things first-hand. That there are still those in this country who believe that things were better before King, Thurman, and the civil rights movements is what boggles my mind. But then, as I have been the victim of discrimination myself and have had people call me names just because my skin is darker, or my eyes a different shape, or my last name is not Smith, I am not surprised, just saddened. 

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Lunar Fusiliers, Pulau Sipadan, Malaysia, from The Right Blue

In keeping with my recent stroll down memory lane, I got a friend request on Facebook from another person from my past, this time a former student who worked for me at Old Dominion University. While I was in the English Department there, I managed the two computer labs for a couple of years. This person was one of the twelve student workers I supervised in the labs. 

She was extremely intelligent and very likable, with a cutting wit and insight well beyond her years. For the most part, all the students who worked for me were really terrific, a good blend of personalities. I remember them in a very positive way as that was a very good period for me. Of course, not all of it was good, but nothing has ever topped teaching college as being my favorite profession. 

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Feather Stars from The Right Blue

Other than that, not much going on today. I thought that I might give the Harry Potter books my annual read. It usually takes a week to read all seven, and I like to start with book one and read my way through. Yep. My exciting plans for the week: reading the Harry Potter books. I tell you I just don’t know how much more excitement I can take. 

Last night was the season premiere of 24, one of my favorite shows. I am hoping that this season is better than last season. Last season was better than the very weak season 6, but I’m not sure that the show will ever be able to recapture the frenzied storylines that involved Presidents Palmer and Logan. Those were the best. And last year’s season tested the boundaries of believability (of course, the entire show does that) by bringing back Tony. That being said, I taped last night’s two-hour premiere, and I’m going to watch that tonight while the next two hours are taping. 

Personally, I am not bothered by the character of Jack Bauer. He is single-minded, and he serves a purpose. What I love about him is his Aristotelian tragic mien: He is the tragic hero, fallen from grace, torn apart by his own hubris. Like Hamlet, he knows that he is flawed but cannot stop himself. Like Othello, he is caught up in webs of deceit. Bauer represents all that is good and evil in a post-September 11 society. I just wish that his daughter wasn’t such a whiny wimp. 

I have always loved Kiefer Sutherland, though, all the way back to The Lost Boys, one of my favorite camp vampire flicks. And much like his father, I think that Kiefer just gets better with age. Too bad his personal life is always such a mess. 

That’s all for today. More later. Peace

Music from Karl Jenkins, “Adiemus” 

 

 

“Insanity is hereditary—you get it from your kids.” ~ Sam Levenson

"Bathe in me mother and child" by Warwick Goble

“Bathe in me mother and child,” by Warwick Goble

 

“Well, everybody hurts, sometimes” ~ From “Everybody Hurts” by REM

“Stop trying to perfect your child, but keep trying to perfect your relationship with him.” ~ Dr. Henker

Migraine Brain
Migraine Brain

I’ve been wiped out for over 24 hours now with a killer migraine. I had to stop taking my migraine prevention medicine cold turkey (instead of the usual method of backing down gradually) because I had developed a rash on my upper body that had blisters. I know—too much information, but I just wanted to explain my absence. I actually spent most of today lying on the bed in the fetal position with cold packs on my head. Even walking into the brighter living room and kitchen caused me pain. Just have to say how much this sucks in case you couldn’t tell how not happy I am.

Mother’s Day is in two days, and I’m also feeling sorry for myself about this. Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with eldest son. This time it’s my daughter. She’s been getting progressively aloof in the last four months. Corey and I have been trying to figure out what’s going on. But when I ask her about it, she says that nothing is wrong. This is kind of her normal reaction when confronted: denial.

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Stock Photo of Two Little Girls, Sisters Or Friends, Sitting OnI should say that Alexis has always gone through these phases. I remember when she was in school, she and her best friend would suddenly not be speaking, and when I would ask what was wrong, Alexis would say “nothing.” I mean, she and her best friend would be like sisters one day, and then a complete rift would arise the next day. I always found that odd, but I knew that it was none of my business.

I’m not even sure that she realizes that she does this, but she did the same thing at the beginning of last year. She just began to withdraw from our lives, and when I asked about it, she assured me that nothing was wrong. And just as suddenly as she withdrew, she was back, and everything was fine.

This time, her displeasure seems to be aimed at Corey, but we aren’t sure why. Their relationship has been close ever since Corey and I got married, and when her boyfriend got a new job that causes him to be out of town sometimes, it has always been Corey who she calls when she needs something: clogged toilet . . . mouse in a trap . . .  broken coffee table  . . . whatever. Corey would drop everything to help her, even if he was in the middle of something here.

Now, she doesn’t call him at all. He has tried to find out what is wrong, as have I, but the only response we get is that nothing is wrong. She’s busy. I’ve had the same thing happen to me, so I can empathize with what Corey is feeling: frustrated from the lack of information and the ways in which his attempts at reconciliation have been ignored.

“Young girl…violins…center of her own attention” ~ “Daughter,” by Pearl Jam

mary-cassatt-summertime
"Summertime," by Mary Cassatt

As far as friendships are concerned, Alexis is actually a lot like her father and eldest brother in believing in the idea that the whole world revolves around them. Don’t get me wrong. Alexis is a wonderful, generous friend. Always there to help her friends when they need it, and most of the time, always there for her family. Her father was like that; if one of his friends called and asked him to help chop down a tree, he was there. In the meantime, things around the house that needed repairing were never attended to.

Friendships for all three of them are very important. I, too, believe that friends are important, that if a friend needs me, I should be there. However, the big difference is that I put family first. This inability to put family first was a big bone of contention between my ex and myself. It was also what caused Alexis to leave home after she graduated. She was absolutely clueless or perhaps indifferent as to how her actions were adversely affecting her family. We finally had to draw a line, and she chose to leave.

“If you have never been hated by your child you have never been a parent.” ~ Bette Davis

edmond-francois-aman-jean-portrait-of-a-young-woman
"Portrait of a Young Woman," by Francois Edmond

I remember so many sleepless nights during that period, worrying about whether or not she was alive and safe. I wanted to call the police but didn’t. Instead, I would sometimes drive through the neighborhood to see if her car was parked by one of her friends’ houses. In that way, I knew where she was and could take some small comfort in the knowledge that she had found some place to stay.

Oddly enough, our reconciliation occurred on a Mother’s Day when I came home to find a card from her and a long letter apologizing for her behavior. I called her immediately and asked her to come home, and she did. From that point, things were very good, until she began to go into these phases of isolation again.

“In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything.  You just need a lot of love and luck—and, of course, courage.” ~ Bill Cosby, Fatherhood, 1986

mary-cassatt-young-woman-reading
"Young Woman Reading," by Mary Cassatt (detail)

When you are a parent, it’s so hard to know if you are making the right choices, if you have made the right choices, if you could have done something differently that might have resulted in a better outcome. I have learned that parenting is one of those on-the-job training situations. You can never be fully prepared, no matter how many books and articles you read. 

There is no other job in the world that can make you feel so completely insufficient and that can cause so much self-doubt. It is a job filled with regret over words spoken in anger and frustration and actions taken in an attempt to reign in unruly offspring. Parenting can make you feel completely unqualified, whether you are raising sons or daughters or both.

“To understand your parents’ love you must raise children yourself.” ~ Chinese Proverb

Mother With Children Klimt
"Mother with Children," by Gustave Klimt

And then there is the “mother curse” that comes back to haunt you: “I hope you grow up and have children exactly like you.” And you do. Your children may not be exactly like you, but they test you in the same ways that you tested your own parents. They push the boundaries and break your heart just as you did the same to your own mother and father. In this way, history does repeat itself.

A friend of mine, in responding to my recent post on Eamonn, had this wonderful analogy: “Raising a teenager is like nailing Jello to the wall.” Oh how true. Except that I would change the word teenager to children, because no mater how young or old they are, your children still retain that ability to make you feel as if you are somehow wanting, unfit, and unreasonable, even when you are certain that you are not.

“Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.” ~ David Bly

pablo-picasso-mother-and-child
"Mother and Chld," by Pablo Picasso

In my heart, I have no doubts that Alexis loves me and loves her family. I also know that the very aspects of her personality that grate on me so much are those aspects that are similar to my own disposition: her moodiness, her mercurial swings, her absolute fierceness in her devotion to her friends. So I do keep these things in mind.

Another thing that I know is that I still have the ability to hurt my own mother and she me, even when we don’t intend to do so, which only shows that regardless of age, the relationships between mothers and daughters are fraught with landmines.

The risk diminishes with age and maturity as both parties reach a point at which they understand each other more than they don’t understand each other. But the need to step carefully never completely goes away.

So in the end, I will wait out this current estrangement, try to be patient, knowing that this pulling away is a necessary part of her growing up. And I will try to remind myself not to be hurt, even when I am . . . in spite of the fact that my daughter, who lives in the same city as I, mailed my mother’s day card.

More later. Peace.

“Most people do not consider dawn to be an attractive experience – unless they are still up.” ~ Ellen Goodman

woman-sleeping-by-sandor-liezen-mayer-1867 

 “Woman Sleeping” by Sándor Liezen-Mayer (1867)

“The worse thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s 5 a.m. Do you know where your good night’s sleep has gone?

sleeping-on-keyboardOkay, so it’s been one of those nights. I fell asleep relatively early for me, around 12:30, but then I woke up around 1:30 and haven’t been able to recapture the bliss of a good night’s sleep since. I finally decided at 5:30 to get up and make myself some tea and begin my day by reading some regular blogs. I also thought that if I went ahead and began today’s post that I might be able to lull myself to sleep with the rhythmic sound of the keyboard.

What I did achieve was waking up Corey around 5:45 who wanted to know what I was doing. Nothing. Go back to sleep. And he promptly did.

I hate nights like these. I dose for a few minutes, then toss and turn, but never manage to get into REM. I listened to the sound of the fan, the sound of the toads, the sound of the birds. I let the dogs out twice (they were very confused as they normally only go out once around 3 a.m.). The reality is that I haven’t actually slept through the night since Alexis was born, but I do know how to stumble out to the dining room to let the dogs out (Shakes initiates it) and then still go back to sleep.

Not this morning, though. There was no sleep for this woman. Of course, that didn’t keep Shakes from curling into my side and snoring loudly.

When I let the dogs out, it was lovely outside: cool air, the sounds of nearby birdsong drifting in. Of course, it’s supposed to get up to 91° today. With any luck, I’ll be able to sleep later this morning for little while at least.

I read a post on Maureen’s blog (White Orchid), and she’s getting snow. Of course, she’s in Australia, so her seasons are the opposite of our seasons. With 91° expected here, I think that I might actually enjoy some snow. It’s like I said, we just don’t get much of a spring, which is unfortunate because I love spring.

“For the economy I want workers and consumers to have control over their own economic lives. I want everyone to have fair conditions that fully utilize their talents and potentials.” ~ Michael Albert 

golden-books-tugboat
Classic Golden Book: Scuffy the Tugboat

That would be a nice change for him, for all of us, actually.  But I don’t want to get ahead of myself (ourselves?). Corey is being cautious as ever. Can’t say that I blame him though.

“With the changing economy, no one has lifetime employment. But community college provide lifetime employability.”  ~ Barack Obama

After all of my anticipation yesterday, I was too tired to watch Law & Order Criminal Intent. Good thing that it’s recorded. I had never planned to watch it live. I prefer to watch the recorded show so that I can speed through all of the commercials. In particular, all of the car commercials.

It seems that every car company in existence is offering incredible deals, which really bites when you need a car but cannot possibly purchase one. I was just reading that used car prices are down by about 17 percent, 9 percent since January of this year (Consumer Price Index). New car prices have dropped about 3 percent. Great for consumers, bad for car companies.

In fact, the article was discussing those things that have gotten cheaper versus those items that have gotten more expensive since last year. The price drops are pretty predictable: homes, cars, electronics, airfares, alternative energy, toys, and clothing. Prices are on the rise for food, medical care, prescription drugs, college tuition, gasoline, garbage collection (huh?), and beer (too funny) (http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/SaveMoney/7-things-getting-cheaper-7-that-are-not.aspx?Gt1=33009?slide-number=1).

So let me get this straight. The things that we really need (except for beer) are getting more expensive. The things that we might like to have but don’t need to survive are getting less expensive. Makes perfect sense.

“Every gift which is given, even though it be small, is in reality great, if it is given with affection.” ~ Pindar

Now I have to take exception with another article that I read on MSN Money: “Gift Cards Are Not Gifts,” in which  the contention is that giving someone a gift card is a faux pas because gift cards are not truly gifts . I believe that this statement can be both true and false.(http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/FindDealsOnline/GiftCardsAreNotGifts.aspx)

rack-of-gift-cardsFor example, someone who doesn’t have a clue about shopping and doesn’t particularly care about personalizing usually relies on gift cards. This can be seen as being lazy, or it can be viewed as better than nothing, particularly when you know that the card came from one of those all-purpose gift card racks at a convenience store.

“Hey look. One-stop shopping, and I can get my beer, too.”

Getting a gift card from a significant other: big no-no. Reeks of ‘I asked someone to pick this up for me because I just didn’t want to take the time to put any thought into a special present for you.’ Can you imagine being presented with a gift card to a jewelry store instead of the jewelry? Ooh. Not good. Kind of like getting a toaster on Mother’s Day.

And let’s face it. What is a five-year-old going to do with a gift card? Get her a talking book so that she can learn to appreciate books from an early age.

However, I honestly believe that there are several situations in which buying a gift card for someone is better than buying a gift. Big example: teenagers. Try buying a shirt for a teenager. Chances are very good that unless said teenager was with you during purchase, the t-shirt will never be worn. You will receive a half-hearted thanks, and the t-shirt will be consigned to the never going to wear pile.

Buying a gift card for a teenager is truly akin to giving him or her money, but the gift card is more responsible. Money will be frittered away in the late-night drive through at McDonald’s or Taco Bell, but a gift card to a store that you know they like and can use is a different story. And trust me, a gift card from a favorite store will get you a big smile and a sincere thank you. If nothing else, a gift card from Target is multi-purpose: consider make-up, cd’s, dvd’s, doo-dads for the car . . . you get the picture.

Another instance when a gift card would be a good idea is you have an elderly person for whom you are buying. Consider a gift card to a grocery store or a gift certificate to a cleaning service or a service that does yard work or washes windows. Elderly relatives do not want another vase, nor do they really need a box of chocolates because chances are they are on some kind of regimented diet. But I advise the gift card to the grocery store with a caveat: offer to drive them. Then you can unload the groceries, and the gift card becomes more personal.

Another person who will appreciate a gift card is a bibliophile like myself. Personally, I would much rather have a gift card to Barnes & Noble than just about anything else from people who do not know me well. With that little piece of plastic in my hand, I can go to the bargain book shelves and peruse for hours, or I can purchase that new title that I’ve been anticipating.

A particularly good gift card for someone who is starting out in the workforce is a gas gift card. Chances are good that this person has not factored in the cost of commuting yet and will be surprised when the gas gauge begins to drift towards E faster than usual.

A good gift card for a co-worker is one for a restaurant that you know he or she likes, or, as in my case, to Starbucks. One year a sales rep gave me a gift card to Starbucks, and she made me happy for a week. If she had given me a box of imported cookies or chocolate, I would have felt compelled to share them and to eat them.

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think, though, that that pretty much exhausts the justifiable situations for giving a gift card. In situations with immediate family members, I take a lot of time and care in selecting presents that are personalized. Sometimes I’ll buy a frame and insert one of my better photographs. My mother-in-law has received a few of these, and she really likes them.

Other good personalized presents include favorite things like gourmet hot chocolate mix for Eamonn, who can’t get enough of the stuff in the winter. Or socks, yes socks, for Brett, who seems to eat them because they disappear so fast. All of my children look forward to their package of new underwear and socks at Christmas. Go figure.

But really, it’s the presents that are made or bought with the heart that count the most. The first year that Corey and I were together, I made him a decorated journal. I used to do this for special occasions for people. I take a big blank journal, and then I paste in pictures that I have collected out of magazines, postcards, cards, quotes that I have typed, photographs—things that remind me of that person.

cigar-boxWhenever I come across an interesting-looking picture in a magazine, I’ll cut it out for future books, and I usually store my pictures in old cigar boxes, or if those are overflowing, I find larger decorated boxes, especially for the larger pictures. I have a lot of images from my collages stored in these boxes as well.

It’s actually a pretty labor intensive project, but it is so rewarding once I have finished it and given it to the person for whom I have made it.  I made one for my therapist when she had her first child. I made one for Alexis when she graduated from high school. I plan to make one each for Eamonn and Brett for their graduations. Presents such as these finished books cannot be found in any store, and, I hope, they reflect all of the love that I feel for that person. 

The bitter irony of this is that I began making my decorated books years before scrap booking was a verb in the lexicon of arts and crafts. My therapist asked me if I thought that there was money to be made in such an endeavor, and I told her that I didn’t really think so since the decorated journals were so personalized. Well, we all know how wrong I was about that. I could have been on the forefront of a new wave. Oh well. It’s really just as well. I probably couldn’t handle all of the fame.

On that note, more later. Peace.

Lola’s Best of Rock ‘n Roll List (for now)

 45s 

 I Love Rock and Roll . . . Put Another Dime In The Jukebox Baby

acoustic-guitarI’ve been thinking a lot about music lately. Let me clarify, thinking about music in an analytical way, rather than just an idle way.

This personal music appreciation phase has actually been prompted by my inability to find a notebook. You see, a few years ago I decided to compose my own top 100 rock ‘n roll song list. I would put names of songs and artists down in my notebook as they occurred to me, with my ultimate goal being to arrange the list, thereby forming my own Top Ten for posterity.

 

But I cannot find the notebook. I’ve been doing a lot of de-cluttering and throwing away, but I haven’t come across the notebook anywhere. I have a feeling that it might be packed up with my office stuff since I kept said notebook pretty handy for those instantaneous recollections from my past.

 

Anyway, without the notebook, I’ve been re-compiling the list in my head, but I thought that I might offer up some entries in a post to see what other people remember and whether or not there are any big disagreements on entries or placements.

 

So, without any further ado, here is my work-in-progress of the best rock n roll songs from the last four decades (or so).

 

born-to-run-cover1.            “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen

2.            “Cry Baby,” Janis Joplin

3.            “Hotel California,” The Eagles

4.            “Imagine,” John Lennon

5.            “Doctor My Eyes,” Jackson Browne

6.            “Baba O’Reilly, The Who

7.            “Lola,” The Kinks

8.            “Sweet Dreams (are made of this),” Eurythmics

9.            “Whiter Shade of Pale,” Procol Harum

procol-harum-695-l10.        “Brown-eyed Girl,” Van Morrison

11.        “Layla” acoustic, Eric Clapton

12.        “No Woman, No Cry,” Bob Marley and the Wailers

13.        “American Pie,” Don McLean

14.        “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding

15.        “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Percy Sledge

16.        “Somebody to Love,” Jefferson Airplane

17.        “Major Tom,” David Bowie

18.        “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” Creedence Clearwater Revival

19.         “Layla,” Derek and the Dominos

20.        “Red House,” Jimmi Hendrix

janis-joplin-cover21.        “Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin

22.        “Star Spangled Banner,” Jimmi Hendrix

23.        “Jungleland,” Bruce Springsteen

24.        “The Long and Winding Road,” The Beatles

25.        “Oh Darlin’” The Beatles

26.        “Into the Mystic,” Van Morrison

27.        “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Joe Cocker

28.        “Our House,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

29.        “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” Warren Zevon

30.        “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Paul McCartney

31.        “Every Breath You Take,” The Police

32.        “Brown Sugar,” Rolling Stones

33.         “Roundabout,” Yes

moody-blues-days-of-future-passed-cover34.        “Nights in White Satin,” Moody Blues

35.        “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Simon & Garfunkel

36.        “Dark Side of the Moon,” Pink Floyd

37.        “Romeo & Juliet,” Steely Dan

38.        “Allison,” Elvis Costello

39.         “Maggie May,” Rod Stewart

40.        “Fields of Gold,” Sting

41.        Bell Bottom Blues,” Eric Clapton

42.        “Silent Lucidity,” Queensryche

43.        “Cecilia,” Simon & Garfunkel

pinkfloydthemoonjw744.        “Money,” Pink Floyd

45.        “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” Ray Charles

46.        “You Are So Beautiful,” Joe Cocker

47.        “Melissa,” Allman Brothers

48.        “Can’t Always Get What You Want,” Rolling Stones

49.        “Light My Fire,” The Doors

50.        “Respect,” Aretha Franklin

51.        “Stairway to Heaven,” Led Zeppelin

led_zeppelin_-_led_zeppelin_iv-front52.        “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Marvin Gaye

53.        “Another Brick in the Wall,” Pink Floyd

54.        “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen

55.        “Losing My Religion,” REM

56.        “Sultans of Swing,” Dire Straits

57.        “I Can See Clearly Now,” Johnny Nash

58.        “Desperado,” The Eagles

59.        “I’m The Only One,” Melissa Etheridge

blues-brothers60.        “Purple Rain,” Prince

61.        “Soul Man,” Blues Brothers

62.        “Walk on the Wild Side,” Lou Reed

63.        “Big Yellow Taxi,” Joni Mitchell

64.        Kashmir,” Led Zeppelin

65.        “Life’s Been Good To Me So Far,” Joe Walsh

66.        “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” Bonnie Raitt

csny-deja-vu-cover67.        “Southern Cross,” Crosby, Stills & Nash

68.        “I Feel Good” (I Got You), James Brown

69.        “Freebird,” Lynrd Skynrd

70.        “Over and Over,” Fleetwood Mac

71.        “Unchained Melody,” The Righteous Brothers

72.        “Low Rider,” War

73.        “Everybody Hurts,” REM

74.        “Daughter,” Pearl Jam

fleetwood-mac-rumours75.        “Go Your Own Way,” Fleetwood Mac

76.        “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” Three Dog Night

77.        “Proud Mary/Rollin on the River,” Ike & Tina Turner

78.        California Dreamin’” The Mamas and the Papas

79.        “Time is on My Side,” Rolling Stones

80.        “Who Do You Love?” George Thorogood and The Destroyers

81.        “Joker,” Steve Miller Band

82.        “Sunshine of Your Love,” Cream

83.        “War,” Edwin Starr

84.        “Black Magic Woman,” Santana

85.        “Night Moves,” Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

86.        “Dream On,” Aerosmith

87.        “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” The Temptations

roliling-stones-album-cover88.        “Wild Horses,” Rolling Stone

89.        “Can’t Hurry Love,” The Supremes

90.        “My Girl,” The Temptations

91.        “Legs,” ZZ Top

92.        “Landslide,” Stevie Nicks

93.        “Glycerine,” Bush

94.        “Born to be Wild,” Steppenwolf

95.        “Uncle John’s Band,” Grateful Dead

96.        “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” U2

97.        Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” Elton John hootie-and-the-blowfish

98.        “White Room,” Cream

99.         “Long December,” Counting Crows

100.    “American Woman,” The Guess Who

101.    “God Was One of Us,” Joan Osborne

102.    “Let Her Cry,” Hootie and the Blowfish

103.    “All Right Now,” Free

104.    “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It,” REM

105.    “Shine,” Collective Soul

106.    “Iris,” Goo Goo Dolls

nirvana-300107.    “Better Man, Pearl Jam

108.    “Walk of Life,” Dire Straits

109.    “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana

110.    “Jeremy,” Pearl Jam

111.    “Horse With No Name,” America

112.    “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” The Band

113.    “That’s All,” Genesis

114.    “House of the Rising Son,” The Animals

115.    “In-a-gooda-da-vida,” Iron Butterfly

sgt_pepper

Of course, one of the truly great things about vinyl was looking at the album cover for the first time. Album covers went from just basic pictures of the artists to bold creations full of symbolism and decidedly risqué images. I’ll close now with what has often been called the best album art in history: The Beatles: Sergeant Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band.

So that’s my list. It has 115 entries because I have some artists listed two or three times, so in the Lola system of counting, those listings only count as one, which results in my top 100 (approximately) Rock and Roll songs and artists, spanning about four decades (have to leave room for hedging).
 
In the meantime, please feel free to drop me a line as to how you feel about my choices and the order in wich they are listed. More later. Peace.

 

 

                                                                                                             

   

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“It was a dark and stormy nightmare.” ~ Neil Gaiman

take-on-edvard-munchs-scream

My Take on Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

Nightmare: Vivid, distressing dream that lasts until I wake up or my head explodes . . .

” . . . it is sitting on your chest torturing you, giving you nightmares.” ~ Bhagwan Shree Raineesh

the-scream-maskI awoke again this morning from another nightmare. This state of affairs is becoming increasingly intolerable, especially since this time my awakening was accompanied by a migraine that felt as if someone was trying to rip out my right eyeball.

The fact that I am even writing about ripping out eyeballs should be indicative of my state of distress: I hate anything to do with eyeballs. I refuse to watch any part of a movie that has any kind of object within range of the eyes. I don’t even think that I could get laser surgery on my eyes because I am so timid about eyeballs. It’s amazing that I can wear contacts.

But that is exactly what this pain felt like. I was whimpering so much that the dogs became distressed, and Shakes crawled up my chest, with all of his Polar Bear bulk, and began to lick my chin. Tillie started whining, and Alfie jumped off the bed.

Need I say that this was not a pretty sight?

“I couldn’t awake from the nightmare/That sucked me in and pulled me under/ Pulled me under.” ~ Jeff Buckley

pink-floyd-screamIn this particular nightmare, I was working for the realty firm again, the one for which I was marketing director.  Almost all of my nightmares or anxiety dreams involve something about work or going to work or leaving work. (Could be that I still have unresolved feelings about being on disability, especially since I’ve worked almost my whole life?)

So in this nightmare, I was at some boring realtors’ dinner, and I needed to leave in time to pick up my daughter. Now this scenario does not seem to be the standard material for a nightmare. Seems pretty lame, in fact.

I won’t go into all of the details because they continue in the same vein. Nevertheless, turn into a nightmare it did, along with the accompanying feelings of helplessness, distress, and heightened senses. This particular nightmare would be classified as a perceived assault on my self-esteem as opposed to an assault on my person. Okay, whatever.

I just know that when I awoke, my heart was pounding, and I was breathing in short, shallow gasps. The bonus was the throbbing, pulsating pain in my head and the rotating spots in my eyes.

But the most awful part is that after I woke up and Corey shoved an axert down my throat, the nightmare continued once I was able to go back to sleep. Tell me this isn’t weird.

“Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” ~ John Lennon

humancerebralcortex10xsmall1
Human Cerebral Cortex: My Brain in Overdrive

I did a little reading on nightmares, and apparently, they are most common in children, but adults do have them. The causes range from stress, real-life trauma, fevers, anxiety, bereavement, heredity, and reactions to medicine.

Since this onset of nightmares began when I changed medicine, I think that I can deduce the cause of these nightly forays into fright land. But I also think that the more that I have them, the more that they are going to occur—sort of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are breeding and multiplying in my subconscious like some amoeba on Viagra.

I want to send a cease and desist signal to my cerebral cortex: Stop with the creative nocturnal psychosis, please. I don’t mind if my cerebral cortex goes into overdrive when I want to be creative, but this is too much.

“This has got to be a nightmare . . . I haven’t woken up yet.” ~ Curtis Sliwa

zachary-goodson-scream
"Scream" by Zachary Goodson

There is actually something called “Nightmare Disorder” (of course there is). The criteria are the following:  

  • Repeatedly wakes up with detailed recollection of long, frightening dreams centering around threats to survival, security or self-esteem, usually occurring in the second half of sleep or nap period.
  • Becomes oriented and alert instantly upon awakening.
  • Results in distress or impairment of occupational, social or other important areas of functioning.
  • Symptoms are not caused by general medical condition or by use of medications or other substances.

  • I have the first three, but am not sure about number four. According to the Psychology Today Diagnosis Dictionary, a tendency towards nightmares can be inherited (http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/nightmare.html). I remember when I was a child, my father used to have these screaming nightmares. He would thrash about and wake up wild-eyed. Unfortunately, sleep apnea can also be a cause for nightmares, and my father, being a Filipino, had a predisposition to sleep apnea.

    Sleep apnea is a very common occurrence in Filipino males; very often they stop breathing, and then gasp and begin breathing again. My father used to do this, and it was scary as hell to see when it happened. A few times, my mother would pound him on the chest to make sure he started breathing again. But being a stubborn man, he never saw a physician for his condition.

    The syndrome actually has a name: Sudden unexplained nocturnal death syndrome, and it occurs predominantly in Southeast Asian males. Filipinos call it bangungut, which is Tagalog for “to arise and moan,” the word for nightmare.

    Another symptom of sleep apnea is loud snoring. My father’s snoring was incredible. Sometimes I would lie in my bed at night and just listen. The snoring wasn’t  just an inhale/exhale normal kind of snoring. It had tonal variations, and one inhalation seemed to go on forever. Apparently, well not apparently but decidedly, I too have an incredible ability to snore. It wasn’t always like this, but in recent years, I have begun to wake myself up with my snoring. The only being in the house who snores louder than I is Tillie (this according to Corey who must sleep next to my noisy self—now that’s love).

    “Dreams are often most profound when they seem most crazy.” ~ Sigmund Freud

    the-simpsons-homer-scream
    Homer's Simpson's "Scream"

    The number of theories about dreams abound. Freud believed that our dreams were a reflection of our unconscious desires. I don’t agree with that one. Some researchers say that dreams are the cortex’s way of  finding meaning from random signals that are sent out during REM sleep and then creating a story from these signals. Others say that dreams are the mind’s way of sifting through the detritus of everyday life and getting rid of the things that we don’t want to warehouse in long-term storage.

    Personally, I believe the third explanation more than the other two. When I try to interpret my normal dreams, often the randomness has a pattern formed from insignificant events that occurred during the day or the previous day.  For example if I dream about my mother driving a bus, I may have had a telephone conversation with my mother about nothing, and a bus may have nearly sideswiped me on my way to the store.

    “Everything in a dream is more deep and strong and sharp and real than is ever its pale imitation in the unreal life . . .” ~ Mark Twain 

    the-scream-by-dwayne-jensen
    "The Scream" by Dwayne Jensen

    But one thing is certain about my dreams and nightmares: I can recall most of them vividly upon waking, which can be very disturbing if the dream was particularly unsettling. The feelings aroused by the dream/nightmare carry over into my day, coloring my mood and attitude. For example, haven’t you ever dreamed that you had an argument with someone, and then when you awoke, you actually felt mad at that person?

    So you can imagine my state of mind when I have a nightmare: I am mad at the world or whatever part of it inhabited my mind during REM. Luckily for the other members of the family, my nightmares rarely involve them in a negative light.

    I told Corey this morning that I thought that one of the reasons I had a migraine was that I must have been clenching my jaw during my nightmare. My jaw has hurt all day, just like it did when I had TMJ and used to clench my way into a migraine either from anxiety or anger. Luckily, I managed to teach myself not to clench, especially after two jaw surgeries, and I have no desire to reacquire that painful habit . . .

     “Those with the greatest awareness have the greatest nightmares.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

    dreaming-big-by-steve-roberts
    "Dreaming Big" by Steve Roberts*

    I don’t know that I necessarily have more awareness than most people, but I definitely have more nightmares than anyone I know. Maybe I have nightmares because I can’t deal with reality. Who knows?

    But one thing is certain: If these nightmares, vivid dreams, whatever, don’t lessen, I may never be able to look forward again to a good night’s sleep as I once did.

    “To sleep, perchance to dream” has taken on a whole new meaning, and that connotation is not particularly welcoming.

    There will be more later. Peace.

    *http://www.steverobertsart.com/images/dreaming_big–small1_a7sz.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.steverobertsart.com/Announcements.html&usg=__AmTOf15OSxc_AU1OLXoSe70hE50=&h=336&w=448&sz=16&hl=en&start=38&tbnid=EFoz060Yka4ePM:&tbnh=95&tbnw=127&prev=/images%3Fq%3Ddreaming%26gbv%3D2%26ndsp%3D20%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26start%3D20