“I never knew what was meant by choice of words. It was one word or none.” ~ Robert Frost

Waterfield Booksellers, UK

                   

“How far, how far we’ve come
together, tumbling like stars
in harness or alone.” ~ David Malouf, from “Stars”

Tuesday early evening. Sunny and warm, not humid.

Corey is still here. The ship’s radar is out of commission, and they are awaiting parts. Tentative day of departure is Thursday. I’m not complaining. Even though he’s working weird hours ( 4 a.m. to 10 a.m., back at 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., which is a little better than the 11:45 p.m. to 10 a.m. he worked for two days), it’s nice just to be able to sleep next to him. I’ve missed that, as have the puppies.

Cafebreria El Pendulo, Mexico City, Mexico

The past three or four days have been pretty bad for me physically. I think that I’m having a bout with my fibromyalgia as all of my joints hurt, and I am extremely fatigued. Yesterday and today I have gotten quite dizzy if I stay on my feet for too long. I have felt this coming on since mid last week, but was really hoping to avoid any down time while Corey is home.

Alexis’s shower at her friend’s house was Sunday, and it was really lovely, but I was completely exhausted afterwards. I told her that she really has a nice extended family and group of friends. Her father and his girlfriend went in with the evil stepgrandmother and bought her crib, mattress, and changing table. I was genuinely surprised by the extravagance. I suppose his girlfriend is a good influence on him. Must say that I’m disappointed, though, as I didn’t think that anyone would buy it, which would allow Corey and me to give it to them.

Oh well. She needs plenty of other things. I’m planning my shower for June 10. I need to print and mail the invitations, but I need ink cartridges. Always something.

“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

As I’m typing this, I’m on hold with the IRS. It’s been 16 minutes so far of really bad hold music, same four or five chords over and over, with a little bongo drum thrown in for rhythm, I suppose. Can I just tell you how utterly disheartening it is to (a) call the IRS in the first place, and then (b) have to clarify something that I’m 99 percent certain I did not do wrong.

Selexyz Bookstore (a converted Dominican church)
Maastricht, Holland

Bureaucracy—it’s what runs this country, and it is the bane of my existence. After my call to the IRS, I still need to call Sentara to set up payment arrangements for my ER visit back in the winter because, oh, there’s that pesky thing called a deductible, plus 20 percent of major medical, bringing me to a grand total of almost $1400 for five hours in the emergency room, during which time they did an x-ray and listened to my chest and did little else.

But we don’t need nationalized healthcare. Oh no. That would be socialism. Egads. How abhorrent.

Actually, these aren’t the rantings of someone who is taking a political stand, just the comments of a tired consumer. I get it coming and going, my health insurance payments each month, the outrageous deductibles, the endless paperwork and telephone calls . . . I hate telephone calls to nameless customer service representatives who, almost to a person, hate their jobs and pass on that dissatisfaction with their treatment of the callers.

(Update: The first woman with whom I spoke at the IRS was a peach. I take back everything I said . . . of course, I’m on hold again . . .)

“I put it down on paper and then the ghost does not ache so much.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House On Mango Street

Yesterday I spent most of the day in bed, which gets to me as I’m thinking about the things that aren’t getting done—the laundry, the trip to the grocery store, the dishes. And Tillie is not liking my down time either as it means that I am not taking her out for our usual game of stick.

Barter Books, Alnwick, UK

Speaking of dogs, and I was, Alexis and Mike got a . . . wait for it . . . puppy. That’s right, two months before the baby is due they got a puppy. Madness, I tell you, utter madness. Her name is Roxi, and she’s a Chihuahua and Jack Russell mix, which means that she’s a tiny yip yip dog and absolutely adorable. Apparently someone in Mike’s family had a litter of puppies the last time they were visiting in Mississippi, and the two of them expressed an interest. Someone took them seriously, and when the family (Mike’s) came into town for the joint wedding reception and shower, they brought the puppy.

We are withholding this little tidbit from my mother as she will quite likely go ballistic over the news. You got a puppy and you don’t have a house! You got a puppy and you’re having a baby! Ya da ya da ya da ad infinitum . . .

It hurts my ears just thinking about the things she would say.

“All the words I collect are artifacts of sentiments that do not exist and could not even be conceived of again—ideas that once desperately needed to be expressed disappear, leaving husks of language that I save, I care for.” ~ Alice Bolin, from “I Sometimes Really Feel That Way”

Livraria Lello, Portugal

Last night I had one of those dreams that, while I was dreaming it, I thought that it would make a good story. I made a point of trying to remember the dream so that I could turn it into a story. Of course, when I thought about the dream, it made no sense, and would certainly not translate well into a story. Why does my brain do that: assemble stories in my dreams, convince my subconscious that, “Hey, this is great. You must remember it”? But then when my conscious mind remembers, it is never what I had thought it was.

I do love the way that my mind creates while I sleep, but I just wish that the dream words, the dream scenarios actually were translatable. Does that make sense? I do end up feeling as if I’m holding empty husks after having one of these episodes: Hooray, creative mind at work. No wait, sleeping mind at work. Things such as logic, linear thought, character development are nonexistent. Wake up with nothing……….

(Another update: Second person with whom I spoke at IRS was even nicer than first. I take back all of the customer service insults.)

“The boon of language is not tenderness. All that it holds, it holds with exactitude and without pity, even a term of endearment; the word is impartial: the usage is all. The boon of language is that potentially it is complete, it has the potentiality of holding with words the totality of human experience — everything that has occurred and everything that may occur. It even allows space for the unspeakable.” ~ John Berger, from And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

So today’s post, albeit rambling and totally without substance, was initially supposed to deal with language and words. I don’t know where my focus went. Perhaps the bongos drummed it from my brain. I do know that it’s been ages and ages since I spent hours wandering around a bookstore. Hence, the images.

Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France

I keep thinking about that Marcus Zusak quote: “I have hated words and I have loved them,” which pretty much sums up my life. Words are everything to me, but at times, they are painful. They elude me, they tease me, they wound me. I use words to inform, to woo, and to wound, if I am to be completely honest.

Corey and I have exchanged our journals for the new trip. My journal is filled with banal words about my day, about the kids, about the dogs. But I hope that he sees beneath the banality of my words, sees to the heart of my meaning, to the heart of intent. I hope that when he reads my words, that he knows how much of myself is within them. That as I write about something inane and mundane, I am telling him how much I care. And that as I write about seeming nothingness, I am weighting each word with the expanse of the four chambers of my heart.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sparklehorse, “Eyepennies”

                   

Drinking Like a Fish

Though blue at a distance,
the surface is clear
as gin with a tension
that can bob you like
an ice cube. What
you really want, though,
is to float below
in chartreuse light,
to glide through tonic bubbles
above the swaying kelp,
borne along on currents, while
your heavy body, stranded
on land, still stumbles
and gasps. This
is your true element,
where predators
ignore the pinstripe
of the inedible.
You’re even
a Pisces.

Deeper and deeper
you go, to the bottom,
fin silt that swirls
like bourbon in branch water
to darken the gloom
where things with gelatin
wings glow blue
as a gas flame.
And this is where
you want to live
forever—to grow so
transparent, so fragile,
even the weight of the sea
cannot crush you.

~ William Greenway

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“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries” ~ Theodore Isaac Rubin

*Snow Bath by Corey Fickel

“All my life I have been on the brink of either a break down or a break through.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Saint Francis in the Snow

Our Internet has really been acting funky, which has made it hard to post. We have a wireless network in the house, and given that our house is not very big, there really shouldn’t be problems, but of course there are. My computer is farthest from the router, but that hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference until recently. The other computers in the house have Internet service, but I do not. It’s very frustrating, but we don’t really know why this is happening unless the router is going bad, which may be the case. I suspect the router because replacing it would cost money, and that’s how things work in this house. If it’s a simple, cheap fix, it doesn’t break; if it’s expensive, then it will break. 

Anyway, yesterday, I wasn’t even able to look at videos on YouTube, without my computer locking up, so I decided to abandon any hopes of posting. Today, things seems to be working fine, so I’ll take my chances. 

I think that I’ve decided to abandon Facebook. I don’t have much to report in the status bar, and my life isn’t so involved that I feel a need to update everyone on what isn’t happening. I think that Facebook can be fun for the people who participate in the games and polls, which I don’t. And it has been nice making contact with some people from my past, but after that initial contact, is there anything more to say? 

I think back to my old post on becoming a hermit, which I wrote sort of tongue in cheek, but I really think that a part of me is very much like a hermit: I don’t crave the company of lots of people, and the more time that I spend here in this little corner of my bedroom, the less I feel that I am connected to the outside world. I’m not bemoaning my fate, just making a statement. 

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always . . .  ~ Yann Martel, Life of Pi

"I love this stuff . . ."

The port security company called Corey to schedule an interview, which is great. But now he is anxious, worrying about impressing them. I told him that it’s normal to be anxious given that he hasn’t really interviewed for a job in a long time, but he is convinced that he is not qualified. He finished his port security training with the Coast Guard but did not graduate because of his injury; therefore, he doesn’t have any certifications. I told him that he just needs to explain what happened, but he is tying himself up in knots over this. 

He does have the qualifications for this type of job. I just hope that he can make it through the interview. If he can do well in the interview, he has a good shot at the job. 

Being unemployed for so long has insidious effects, which are now coming to the front. Unemployment strips your confidence, makes you feel inadequate, and the longer the unemployment continues, the more you begin to believe that you are a failure, not worthy of consideration. Having had my own bout with unemployment, I truly understand what Corey is feeling, and unfortunately, all of the loving supportive words in the world cannot erase that overwhelming feeling of insecurity. 

Here’s hoping . . . 

“You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Snow Buddha

I’m back to not sleeping. I have no idea what’s going on, and I’m at the point at which I don’t even try to ascertain reasons. Last night, for example, I fell asleep somewhere between 5:30 and 6 a.m. I got up at 7, 9:20, and 11 to let the dogs out. I don’t really think that they need to go out, but they get restless. I finally fell into a deep sleep after 11. 

This is so backwards. I did have a migraine for three days, so that probably contributed to things. Funnily enough, a representative from my long-term disability insurance called for an update a few days ago. I told her that absolutely nothing had changed. Still seeing the same doctors, still taking the same medicines . . . she asked about my days, as in what did I do. What could I tell her? I sit at the computer for a few hours, read, watch television. She wanted to know if I do any cleaning. I told her that I do some things but not others. 

Those periodic conversations really bring into focus how much my life has changed in the past two years, how I have gone from working a full day and then going to classes in Alexandria, how I have gone from cleaning my whole house to cleaning parts of my house, how I have gone from sleeping 6 hours to sleeping 10 hours. It is more depressing than I can begin to describe. 

I spend hours with ice packs on my head. I spend hours on the heating pad. I take my pills, and I look forward to small things: new episodes of NCIS, a good book, a movie, my favorite coffee. So while I have lost so much, I have also relearned the art of appreciating small things. I don’t exactly see it as a fair trade-off, but it is what it is for however long it stays this way. 

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. when you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami

In the news: Ben Stein, commentator for CNN (why should anyone listen to the former Nixon speechwriter?) says that he knows why Republicans are not in favor of healthcare reform: “. . . The answer is much higher percentage of Republicans are taxpayers than Democrats and the Republicans are the people paying for it, and the Democrats are the people receiving it.” 

Surface of Frozen Pool (or Ben Stein's Brain)

Let me just pause here for a moment while I collect my breath . . . First, and probably most importantly, the IRS does not have a spot anywhere on its myriad of forms that asks taxpayers to indicate their political affiliation, if any, so how, pray tell, did Stein come up with that factoid? Second, and this is personal, we pay a boatload of taxes, always have. A January 2009 report by Forbes magazine stated the following: 

“The 400 highest-earning taxpayers in the U.S. reported a record $105 billion in total adjusted gross income in 2006, but they paid just $18 billion in tax, new Internal Revenue Service figures show. That works out to an average federal income tax bite of 17%—the lowest rate paid by the richest 400 during the 15-year period covered by the IRS statistics. The average federal tax bite on the top 400 was 30% in 1995 and 23% in 2002.” 

This report says nothing about political parties, just income levels. In my many years of paying taxes, I have never had a 17 percent rate. Never. Stick it Ben Stein, you blowhard. (Thank you Skyewriter for the heads up.) 

In other news, former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis only received $32,171 in compensation for 2009. Poor Lewis. Oh wait. I forgot to mention: Lewis also received $73 million in accumulated compensation and retirement benefits, which brings his net to $73,032,171, approximately . . . 

Fannie Mae wants another $15.3 Billion, yes with a B, in aid. Okeedokee.  Let’s take these things and compare them to the fact that unemployment benefits for millions of people expire this weekend, but lone Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky is holding a temporary extension hostage over concerns about the deficit.  On Thursday, the House passed a bill temporarily extending the programs for a month until lawmakers can address the issues long-term. The Senate tried to follow suit, but the lone Republican Senator held out. 

Don’t get me wrong, I, too, have issues with the deficit. Perhaps we can ask Ken Lewis for a contribution, say $73 million or so? 

Enough financial news. It makes my eyes water and creates a sharp pain behind my right eye. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Imogen Heap, “The Moment I Said It” (heard it on “Criminal Minds,” which has a soundtrack almost as awesome as “NCIS.”) 

 

  

*Corey took all of the pictures featured the day after the snow storm we had here a few weeks ago.