“I feel as though I have lived many lives, experienced the heights and depths of each and like the waves of the ocean, never known rest. Throughout the years, I looked always for the unusual, for the wonderful, for the mysteries at the heart of life.” ~ Leni Riefenstahl

Maria Mikhalskaya, Children’s Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

                   

“I’m tired of facts, I’m tired of speculations, I want to be consumed by unreason.” ~ Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers

Wednesday afternoon. Partly cloudy and mild, mid 50’s.

Well I hope that everyone who celebrates it had a very Merry Christmas. My family had a lovely one. Everyone seemed to get that one special gift, and so far, only Alexis needs to exchange sizes. Many thanks to those of you who sent good wishes.

Maria Mikhalskaya, Children's Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Christmas dinner was, shall we say, interesting. My mother was in true form, which means that she wasn’t nearly as nice as she was at Thanksgiving. She started eating before everyone was seated at the table, and justified it by saying that we should have begun dinner an hour earlier. Lovely. It was that kind of night.

Several drama scenes, one of which involved my s-in-law Ann, who was quite touchy, but as I reminded everyone, this was her first Christmas without her mother, and that first holiday season after losing a parent or child is pure hell. Ann left but then came back and sat around with us for a few more hours, so everything was smoothed over on that front.

Other drama involved my mother and her tactless comments, none of which are really worth repeating here. What I am amazed by is that I really wasn’t bothered by her comments as I usually am. They just rolled off my back, and I was (thankfully) able to help smooth the ruffled feathers of those who actually took her comments to heart.

That I was unaffected this time is unusual, and that I can write about it without being the least bit upset is also unusual, but good, good for me, at least.

“The fern in the rain breathes the silver message.
Stay, lie low. Play your dark reeds
and relearn the beauty of absorption.
There is nothing beyond the rotten log
covered with leaves and needles.
Forget the light emerging with its golden wick.
Raise your face to the water-laden frond.
A thousand blossoms will fall into your arms.” ~ Anne Coray, The Art of Being

My in-laws in Ohio sent gift cards to everyone for Christmas, and I got one for Barnes and Noble and one for Amazon. I am so excited because it means that I can order some of the books that have been on my wish list. For me, that’s the absolute perfect gift. Eamonn already used his gift card to Vans to buy a pair of shoes. Alexis and Mike got a gift card to Olive Garden, one of Lex’s favorite places to eat, and Brett got a gift card to Best Buy, one of his favorite places to shop.

Maria Mikhalskaya, The Red House Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Corey got two new fleece shirts from his parents. I wrapped them and put them under the tree for them, so he opened them on Christmas morning and had a little piece of Ohio in his morning.

By the way, Tillie got a new squeaky toy from Santa (23 squeakers total), and she’s already operated on it and removed two of the squeakers. She is such a funny dog. All of the dogs always get excited on Christmas morning because so much is going on, but this year I noticed that Shakes slept through most of it. I guess my fluffy guy is getting old, which makes me sad.

Speaking of sad, I really could have gone the entire holiday season without Sarah McLachlan’s gut-wrenching commercial for the ASPCA—all of those images of starving and abused cats and dogs, and even a horse, all with her haunting voice singing “Silent Night” in the background. I mean please. I carry around enough guilt for fifty people, I really don’t need more guilt about animal suffering . . . of course, I still watch and tear-up because hey, it’s better than self-flagellation or a hair shirt, I suppose.

“Perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

So Corey is waiting for the call telling him when he will fly out. I’m hoping that we get more than just a couple of days warning before he has to go. I’d really like to have one night out with him, maybe sushi and a movie. I guess it’s all up in the air right now.

Maria Mikhalskaya, Children's Magazine Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

The guy across the street finished the work on the truck, but there’s a twist: the truck won’t start. We’re not sure exactly what the problem is other than no power is going to the coil or the spark plug wires. I’m really hoping that it’s not some kind of major computer problem. So even though the major repair has been finished, the truck is still not on the road yet.

And to further complicate matters, the starter on the Rodeo finally died. Corey spent yesterday afternoon changing that; unfortunately, it was raining, so he ended up soaked to the bone by the time he was finished. I’m just glad that it was a repair that he could do and a part that we could afford. I mean, we knew that the starter was going, which meant that each time we got into the Rodeo, we were driving on a wing and a prayer. That it lasted until after Christmas was good.

We know that we have other repairs pending on the rodeo: the brakes, the O2 sensors, and we need new tires. If everything can just hang on for another month, we might be okay, but the thought that we would be without either vehicle was so depressing. I must say.

“ . . . spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks . . .” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “Ash Wednesday

Anyway, now that we’ve made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas, the only big thing pending on my schedule is taking down the decorations, which I never do before the New Year. I know that some people take everything down the day after Christmas, and some people do it on New Year’s Day, but I like to wait a few days after, no particular reason other than I like to look at everything.

Maria Mikhalskaya, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Other than that, the other big thing is that my Botox has stopped working, and it’s as if it effectiveness stopped all at once. I’ve had three massive migraines in the past four days, the kind in which the pain is so intense that it wakes me up. On Monday, I was just sitting on the side of the bed holding ice to my forehead and rocking back and forth. I even had to ask Corey to take off Tillie’s jingle bell collar as the sound was killing me.

You know how people say that you never remember the pain of childbirth, that if you actually remembered it, you’d never have another child? Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that I had kind of put out of my memory the pain of a really bad migraine, wishful thinking I suppose, and then when that first one hit, I felt as if someone had hit me in the head with an iron skillet. No lie.

So now I have to make an appointment with the neurologist who gave me the Botox shots, but first I have to find out if I’m going to have to pay $650 out of pocket since it’s the beginning of the year, and my co-pay kicks in. I can’t get the shots until the end of January because it has to be three months in between shots.

When I get migraines like these, I always think about that stupid, stupid Social Security judge who said that I could work with my migraines. What an idiot. Obviously, he’s never had a migraine. Oh well, that’s an entirely different saga, one that I’ll probably be facing sometime in 2012.

“For it is not yet the memories themselves. Not until they have turned to blood within us, to glance, to gesture, nameless and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves—not until then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their midst and goes forth from them.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge,

Maria Mikhalskaya. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Anyway, I’ve spent the last 48 hours, give or take, in bed with ice on my head. I’ve used to much ice that the automatic ice maker hasn’t been able to keep pace. Sad really.

But the migraines have kept me from posting, from putting away the silver we used for Christmas dinner, from doing laundry. Consequently, I’m behind in everything. But since the house was cleaned before Christmas, it doesn’t look terribly messy, unless you look at the piles of clothes in the garage.

Oh yes. That’s another thing: our washer is dying. It sometimes doesn’t agitate during the wash cycle, and sometimes doesn’t spin during the spin cycle, so finishing one load of laundry may take twice as long depending on whether or not I’m babysitting the washer. Oh what fun . . .

Enough for now. I’m starting to see lots of spots in my eyes, which is a sure sign that I need to stop.

More later. Peace.

Today’s post features the illustrations of Maria Mikhalskaya, a Russian illustrator and designer. I don’t remember how I came across her work, but it was probably on tumblr. Mikhalskaya attended the Moscow University of Printing Arts, and her illustrations to The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which were published by Arbor Publishers in 2007, seemed perfect for a holiday post.

Music by Barlow Girl, “Never Alone”

                   

First Chaldaic Oracle

There is something you should know.
And the right way to know it
is by a cherrying of your mind.

Because if you press your mind towards it
and try to know
that thing

as you know a thing,
you will not know it.
It comes out of red

with kills on both sides,
it is scrap, it is nightly,
it kings your mind.

No. Scorch is not the way
to know
that thing you must know.

But use the hum
of your wound
and flamepit out everything

right to the edge
of that thing you should know.
The way to know it

is not by staring hard.
But keep chiselled,
keeping Praguing the eye

of your soul and reach—
mind empty
towards that thing you should know

until you get it.
that thing you should know.
Because it is out there (orchid) outside your and, it is

~ Anne Carson

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If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers.

 

Sea of Japan2

Sea of Japan

“Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Swimming Carp Hiroshige Ando 19th C
"Swimming Carp," Hiroshige Ando (19th C.)

Woke up today with a full-blown migraine. The headache began creeping around my head yesterday. I was hoping that it was just a sinus headache because of the weather, but nooo.

I actually had to ask Corey to get my medicine for me when I woke up today because I could not move without blinding pain. I took my second and last sample of Relpax. Of course, the medicine did not work this time. It worked wonderfully the first time that I took it. This time—nothing. What crap.

I have a deep-seated suspicion that pharmaceutical companies design their drugs to work sometimes but not all of the time. Hence the need for more and more new drugs to cure what ails the consumer. Okay, so maybe that theory has a few holes, but so does my brain at this point. Just how many migraines can an individual suffer over a lifetime before the brain matter begins to atrophy irreparably?

Anyway, it took me two more hours to finish my post from yesterday, which I was determined to do in my effort to get back to daily blogging. The fact that it did not post until today is immaterial. I wrote it yesterday, but didn’t post it yesterday. A mere technicality. But there was a point . . . oh yes, spent too much time looking into the bright light of the computer screen for yesterday’s post that went up today, so today’s post that is also going up today is essentially going to be a whole lot of nothing. Some meandering. Don’t expect much.

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Hubble Sea of Stars
Hubble Sea of Stars

Random Observations:

Food manufacturers who use MSG should be required to put a big label on the front of their product stating that such is the case rather than forcing consumers to read the list of ingredients. I have severe reactions to MSG, and I’m tired of finding out that it was contained in a seasoning packet only after the migraine has hit.

Don’t ever try to tell me that dogs are dumb animals that don’t have sneaky streaks. Tillie has taken to hiding her favorite ball in the couch. Yes, deliberately hiding it. Both Corey and I have watched her do it. Too funny.

 I don’t understand what passes for language on LOL pictures (e.g., “Can I has it plez?”). Is this an offshoot of texting? Are we now to believe that the keyboard that comes with a computer is too taxing to use properly? Twenty-six letters in the alphabet. Not a thousand. Why on earth do we want to make our pets look stupid by imposing bad spelling and bad grammar on them?

 Still reeling over the fact that 14 people, mostly females, were arrested at Brett’s school yesterday. Also incredibly thankful that no one had a weapon.

 Very dear friend of mine is going through hell because the courts have ordered mandatory visitation rights for her ex-son-in-law, who happens to be a violent drug addict and just had a shootout with the police. Shootout was caught on local news and broadcast, yet he deserves to have visitation because his grandmother is an upstanding citizen? What in the hell kind of logic is that? Infuriates me just to think about it.

 If you read my blog and also have my telephone number (very few applicable parties here), don’t bother to call me because the phone has been turned off, and frankly, I don’t care. As long as we have one working telephone in the family and can call 911, having my own phone is superfluous. Besides, I only get calls from bill collectors anyway.

 I was not allowed to see my pain management doctor the other day when I went for my appointment because my past due balance is so high. My past due balance is so high because my insurance company is not paying my claims as it should be because of the ongoing saga with insurance company. I have been making it a point to pay my co-pays every time I go to the office. Hence, I left the office in tears, and cannot even begin to discuss this issue without getting mad, upset, and generally beyond apoplectic.

 Why do I remember so much more about the details of WWII than WWI when I studied both? Selective memory? Generational? What? Just curious.

 Oh, by the way, the sitting President of the United States won the Nobel Peace Prize. Just in case you were trying to forget. Not going to let you. It’s a big deal and something to be proud of, not to mock.

 Check out the little diamonds that I’m using for bullet points. Small things for small minds.

 I just spilled hot tea on my keyboard, but I am on a roll, so liquid air has to be a sufficient clean-up for now.

 It’s getting cool enough to begin to wear sweaters. I’m starting with my cotton sweaters first. Most of my cotton sweaters are white (it was a phase). The one that I am currently wearing is sporting a very large hot tea stain that has taken the shape of a paw print. Kind of fitting since there is a muddy dog paw print directly to the left of the tea stain from when Tillie hugged me earlier.

 Somehow, while looking for something on the Internet, I came upon a portable dog bath to put by doors to wash your pets’ muddy paws before they enter the rest of the house. How quaint. I’ll be ordering one of those right away, especially if it continues to rain everyday (kidding). I can just envision it: Tillie comes bolting in the door from the rain. I try to wrestle her into the portable dog bath. One of us lands butt first in the bathing tub. Odds are good that it won’t be the labrador with the strength of a rottweiler.

 Corey has been having strange dreams involving three of everything. Have absolutely no idea what that means. I continue to have strange dreams in which I get in the wrong elevator and end up on the wrong floor of the office building in which I work. I wonder if I will continue to have work dreams for the rest of my life. Probably, especially since I still have algebra dreams: Arrive on campus only to realize that I have been enrolled in an Algebra class that I have forgotten to go to all semester, and now it’s time for the final exam.  

 As with all people, I tend to make the same typos repeatedly, even more so when I type without wearing my glasses. I almost always type not for now, expecially for especially. But tonight was a new one: carp for crap, hence the big old picture of a carp.  

“A friend is one before whom I may think aloud.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Continued thanks to those of you who read and send your support. You stay with me on my roller coaster life. You read when I’m sad. You read when I’m snotty. You read when I’m completely offbeat, irreverent, and insane, and you read when I am beyond words. It’s kind of like having friends . . .

Closing with Sarah McLachlan’s “Answer,” which is more than appropriate.

 

More later. Peace.

                                                                                        

Answer by Sarah McLachlan

I will be the answer
At the end of the line
I will be there for you
While you take the time
In the burning of uncertainty
I will be your solid ground
I will hold the balance
If you can’t look down

If it takes my whole life
I won’t break, I won’t bend
It will all be worth it
Worth it in the end
Cause I can only tell you what I know
That I need you in my life
When the stars have all gone out
You’ll still be burning so bright

Cast me gently
Into morning
For the night has been unkind
Take me to a
Place so holy
That I can wash this from my mind
The memory of choosing not to fight

If it takes my whole life
I won’t break, I won’t bend
It will all be worth it
Worth it in the end
‘Cause I can only tell you what I know
That I need you in my life
When the stars have all burned out
You’ll still be burning so bright

Cast me gently
Into morning
For the night has been unkind

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.” ~ Henry Miller

Earth, Air, Fire, and Water

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.” ~ Jawaharlal Nehru

Massive thunderstorms this afternoon. Loud thunder booms, but no major downpours in our area. The flower garden could use a good dousing. Corey was out doing errands and said that it was raining hard in other parts of the city, but nothing here.

Eamonn is disgustedly happy to have the Trooper back in his possession, even though I told him that we still need to do a few things to it. I’m hoping that the smoke coming out of it is leftover from the problems that we just had fixed and that once it gets a good drive on the Interstate, she’ll start to run like her old self again. Corey said something about the rings, which sounds expensive. I’m ignoring that pronouncement in favor of bad gas (for the Trooper, not me).

I’ve been pricing tires, and of course, what we need won’t be cheap. Nothing ever is. Moving right along . . .

“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” ~ Joseph Addison  

CharacterDumbledore Half-Blood Prince
Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Tomorrow night Corey, Brett, and I are going to eat sushi and then go see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. This is part of Brett’s birthday present. He is the only one of the kids who actually likes sushi, so that gives us something to look forward to this weekend.

On other fronts, I happen to know that Janson and his wife are currently in the hospital awaiting the birth of their daughter Aurelia. He has been Twittering about the progress most of the afternoon. I love the name Aurelia. It lilts on the tongue and sounds like a fairy.

My friend Maureen who lives in Australia is awaiting news from her doctor, so I’m keeping a good thought for her as well. And David Bridger’s wife Janette is scheduled for surgery at the end of July. Finally.

Even though the medical system in this country needs fixing, I have found from hearing from people in other places that national healthcare does have some major drawbacks—like waiting for operations that are necessary or having some doctors refuse to do procedures that must be performed by other doctors. However, I still believe that this country needs a healthcare system that is available to all, and not just to those who can afford to pay the premiums.

As usual, the blogging community is awash with action. My best to everyone. I’m keeping all of you in my thoughts.

“It is what we make of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” ~ Nelson Mandela 

Okay, this topic is from David Bridger as well: You are stranded on a desert island, and you can only take ten things. You are one of the ten things. Who or what would you take with you? I’m assuming that food will be on the island so we don’t have to worry about that.

I’m thinking that I need a few different versions of this because, as you know, I have such a hard time making up my mind.

List One: This one is compiled with the understanding that I am not alone in the world, that I have family and pets.

  1. Corey, Alexis (and her significant other), Eamonn, and Brett plus myself. That’s six right there. Must have family with me on this desert island.
  2. Tillie, Alfie and Shakes. Another three. Must have the dogs, even though they take up three spots.
  3. My Lord of the Rings (three books but one story so it only counts as one. I know. I cheat). Must have reading material. But I would give up the books, I suppose, if my sons had companions.

List Two: This one is compiled with the understanding that I am alone in the world, no pets or familydeserted island 1

  1. Myself (1)
  2. My Lord of the Rings (1)
  3. A copy of The Odyssey (because I’ve never made it all of the way through) (1)
  4. Lots of writing paper and something with which to write (2)
  5. A fully-loaded MP3 player and back-up solar batteries (3) (Do solar batteries exist?)
  6. A huge bottle of 4711 cologne to remind me of civilization (odd choice, I know) (1)
  7. A dog for companionship (1)

List Three: This one is compiled with the understanding that I must take that which I need to survive and gather food

  1. Myself (1)
  2. A machete (1)
  3. Two dogs, male and female (2)
  4. Lots of writing paper and something with which to write (2)
  5. A spade (1)
  6. Something reflective (1)
  7. A bottle of 5,000 Ibuprofen (since I cannot have all of my meds) (1)
  8. A bucket
cast-away-tom-hanks-2
Tom Hanks and Fed Ex boxes in Castaway

Now the reality is that if I were to be stranded on a desert island a la Castaway, I would hope that some things washed up on shore with me, one of which should be my carryall bag. I could survive months with just the contents of my carryall bag as it contains meds, scissors, a mirror, candy, a pocket knife, my inhaler, a notebook and lots of pens, a mini screwdriver, and sunglasses.

In Lola’s system of counting, the carryall bag counts as one thing just as the Lord of the Rings counts as one thing.

And if I had my purse as well as my carryall bag, I would be in fine shape. Also, if I washed up on a desert island wearing the things that I usually leave the house with, I would have a watch, my glasses, my cross, some earrings (okay, those I can do without), and probably a book and/or notebook.

Look, I’ve always been a pack rat, ever since grade school when I decided that I needed to take a satchel to school filled with things that I might need. Alexis inherited this tendency, so if she were with me and we got stranded, you can bet that we’d have a lot of things one might need just in case.

I’m not sure about the whole ice skate as dental tools as in Castaway, but the blades would be handy as would the laces. Don’t know if I have it in me to use an ice skate as a dental tool. But unlike Tom Hanks’s character in the movie, I wouldn’t be waiting to open all of the Fed Ex boxes. He was being honorable.

I say that if you are stranded, sealed Fed Ex boxes are fair game. Although given that attitude, the boxes that would wash up on shore with me would probably be things like government proposals, mortgage payments, and car parts. I’m not sure that side steps for a truck would come in that handy on an island  . . .

 “What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Goethe

deserted island 3I wish that my lists were more creative, but I think that they actually reflect more about me than at first glance. For example, I could survive without another person with me as long as I had a dog to keep me company. Implements with which to write and record things are very important to me. My choice of a machete instead of just a plain knife show that I am my father’s daughter.

Granted, wanting to take along a bottle of cologne might seem crazy, but if I had nothing else on this island to remind me of home, a smell would suffice. Smells are very important to humans: they conjure happy thoughts, trigger memories, even help with digesting food. The German cologne 4711 would do that for me. It would allow me to remember that piece of me that once belonged to society.

And if possible, having an MP3 player that is full of my personal music choices would serve as a connection to the world. I would have Chopin and Beethoven, the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen, Sarah McLachlan and Annie Lennox, Pavoratti and Broadway musicals. Music, in its varied forms, is communication, and it is something that is universal.

Having music with me would help to alleviate the loneliness, even if there were no chocolate to be found anywhere.

I wonder what other members of my family would choose to take: How Brett would survive without electronics . . . How Eamonn would survive without his cell phone . . . What Alexis would choose of her multitude of things that she must have . . . What Corey would want with him for the rest of his life . . .

Each list would be very different. Of that, I am certain. What and who we value as people is as varied as the sunrises. Not surprisingly. After all, it is that which makes us individuals, unique and the same, as unpredictable as the tides.

More later. Peace.

Grace in Small Things #29

 

“Like a bird on a wing . . . over the sea to skye”

Let’s see where we are going today . . .

1. Telephone calls that bring good news. Much better than the other kind.

2. Suddenly having a line from a poem pop into my head, and then being able to search for the rest of it because you can do that now so easily using the Internet.

3. When my hair doesn’t frizz all over and decides to give me a break. This seems so trivial, but my hair and I have been doing battle since I was a little girl and my mother used to do weird things to it, like cut it all off on a whim, and I don’t look good with short hair. So I have grown to appreciate very much those special days when my hair decides to cooperate with very little effort, especially now with my torn rotator cuff.

4. The song “I Will Remember You,” by Sarah McLachlan. The line, “I was so afraid to love you, more afraid to lose,” is the perfect description of my initial love for Corey.

5. “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes. When I was very little, about 5, we took a trip to Scotland and saw a pipe and drum performance in this huge arena. In 2007-09-25t164259z_01_nootr_rtridsp_3_life-brazil-bagpipes-dcretrospect, it was probably a Tattoo. That was when I first became enamored with bagpipes. I loved that way they looked and sounded and how complicated it appeared to play them. It was also when my mother bought me my first kilt. Somewhere, there exists a picture of me in full Scots regalia: kilt hose with flashes, red Stewart tartan kilt, and a beret. It was the only time in my life that I looked good in a beret.

More later. Peace.

If It’s Friday, It Must Mean Leftovers

elizabeth-the-golden-age-20070820115809887_640w

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

Best of List In No Particular Order

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

Best Book:

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

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

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

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

Best Character in a Movie:

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

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

Best Movie Soundtrack:

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

Best Coffee:

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

Best Song (five categories):

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

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


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Homicide: Life on the Street

Best Series No Longer on Television:

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

Best Cable Series:

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

Best News Show:

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

Best Ice Cream:

Edy’s Butter Pecan. Yummy. Nuf said.

Best Poem:

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

The Olive Wood Fire
Galway Kinnell

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

Best Karaoke Song for Me:

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

Best Movie:

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

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

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

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

Best Female Actor:

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

Best Male Actor:

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

Best Tea:

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

Best Outfit Fall/Winter:

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

Best Outfit Spring/Summer:

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

Best Book Series for Fun:

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

Best Vacation:

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

Best Car:

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

Best Day That Cannot Be Repeated:

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

More later. Peace.

Poor, Poor Pitiful Me

Tonight I Wanna Cry

System Failure

red-green-mms-on-clear-background1So, I’m sure that most of you have heard Keith Urban’s song “Tonight I Wanna Cry.” And if you haven’t, it doesn’t really matter because it’s the title that’s relevant. I’m sitting here in my sweats, new Christmas socks (gingerbread men), a bag of Christmas peanut M&M’s (red and green only), and I’m feeling completely sorry for myself. It’s colder than a witch’s tit outside (have no idea where that completely nonsensical saying came from), my toes are cold, and my neck won’t turn to the right.

But none of these things are what’s causing me to be down. It’s more of a global kind of down, one of those system failures, you know, like when your computer just isn’t acting right but you can’t pinpoint what’s wrong with it? That would be me tonight. I wonder why they don’t have a Symantec scan for people, one that you could plug into your ear and run to find out what’s wrong: A few beeps and knocks later, and then a message appears on the screen: system infected with rhino virus, aka common cold. Take an ibuprofen, orange juice, and get eight hours of sleep. Or system screwed . . . too much information to process. Suggest shut down for 24 hours. Microsoft or Symantec could make another billion.

It’s not a holiday letdown because I never really went into a holiday high this year, too much stress from losing the wallet and its contents prevented that. In fact, it just never really felt like Christmas at all this year, just another day, too weird. I sent out the cards; the tree was decorated, packages wrapped; dining room table was put together, but none of it seemed to permeate me.

I think that I can attribute this low partially to two things: Sarah McLachlan and Carnival Cruises.  It seems that whenever I turned around, there was Sarah Mac on late night television singing “Angel,” and if I didn’t turn away quickly enough, I would see pictures of dogs and cats with one paw wrapped up, one eye missing, clawing to get out of a cage, a beagle shivering in the cold, a beagle of all things. Sarah Mac is evil I tell you. She has this angelic voice, and that’s what sucks you in, but then she shows you these pictures of these poor animals, and  you want to run to the nearest shelter and bring all of them home, especially the beagle and the old golden retriever who is trying to get under the gate.

Why is that evil, you might ask? She is only trying to do a community service ad. Oh, but you don’t understand the evil intent behind it. You take Sarah Mac’s beautiful voice and these helpless, beautiful animals, and then try to look away. You can’t, you simply can’t, and that’s the point, and she knows it. At Christmas, she changed the song to “Silent Night.”  How much can one person take?

Corey had to put the television on mute for my own good. If not, I’d be coming home with about six more dogs, and the reality is that this home is way too small for six more dogs. We’re pushing it with three. I cannot go to a shelter and leave without an animal. I simply can’t. They are all calling my name and wondering why I’m not taking them home. It’s much too painful.

And as far as Carnival Cruise Lines go, the economy is obviously hurting them because they are sending me e-mails every other day offering me wonderful prices on 5, 6, and 7 day cruises as a return guest. Belize is calling my name, they claim. And you know what, I can hear Belize calling my name. I can hear fruity drinks with umbrellas and white sand calling my name. I can hear total irresponsibility calling my name. I can hear a suite upgrade calling my name. And boy does it sound good.

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Wednesday's Child by Maureen Mahoney

I’ve had 365 days of pure crap, and 7 days of cruising around the Caribbean sounds like bliss to me. But it isn’t going to happen any more than I’m going to win the Lotto, so I’m sitting here shoving M&Ms into my mouth and wondering how it got to be 2009 with no major changes happening.

Wednesday’s Child

An old friend of mine used to jokingly say that if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. I know that’s from an old country song, but damned if it isn’t true still. Then another person said that you make your own luck. I thought about that, and I wondered how exactly you make your own luck. Is it the thinking happy thoughts, looking on the bright side of life kind of thing?

Well, what if I were born on a Wednesday? Remember that, Wednesday’s child is full of woe? I used to think that that was the most unfair rhyme ever. Only Wednesday got the short end of the stick because someone couldn’t figure out a better way to fit the rhyme scheme. Great. I’m given woe because of some bastard’s laziness. Figures. At least I have a beautiful portrait to look at by Maureen Mahoney.

But as usual, I digress . . .

Why so blue, you might ask? as if there were one thing in particular bringing down the Lola, the Carlotta, woman of many guises but no single self. Well, it’s the new year, so new things should be on the horizon, but nothing is looming, no Fata Morgana, no signs of change, and I do not think that I can take months and months more of this sameness. 

I feel as if something bad is waiting on the periphery, but I cannot see it yet; I can only begin to feel it, and it does not feel friendly. Attribute it to my signs, if you will. I have no way of holding it at bay any longer. Too many signs are pointing in bad directions. My empty wallet never turned up with just my pictures in it as I had hoped; who would need the picture of Caitlin that I had carried around for 20 years? I know that they just trashed it, and that breaks my heart.

No signs yet that Corey is going to get the Coast Guard approval that he needs for his upgrade, and until he gets that, he cannot apply for the jobs that he wants, and near-coastal jobs are at a standstill. Everyone has boats tied up in the yard for lack of work. No signs that Eamonn is going to come around any time soon, and I am just numb to that situation because I simply don’t have anything else to give at the moment.

I had hopes that we would do more on the house after Christmas, but that momentum seems to have died already, and I can’t really say anything about it because I don’t have any momentum left in me. I can’t even get out of bed in the afternoons, and I honestly don’t know what is wrong with me. I want to get up. I want to do things. But I simply, physically cannot. I am drained to my last corpuscle.

Hence the need for a system diagnostics and reboot. I wish that humans could do what computers do when they go off track. I don’t even have the energy to read one of my new books or to watch a DVD. And this pity party is starting to wear on me. Even the dogs are looking at me cock-eyed as if to say, “Hey. Enough. We haven’t played in days. What’s your problem?” And I can’t say that I blame them. Being this run down makes you more tired than you should be, and even a dog can only sleep 22 hours a day.

Snap Out of It

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Versace Red Snap-Out-Of-It Bag (I So Would If I Could)

I know that it’s bad when my new Christmas socks don’t really make me happy. I’m hoping that this down time doesn’t last too long. I don’t handle them as well as I used to, and Corey isn’t as empathetic when he is already down himself. My mother is no help. Remember, she’s the one who used to say, “snap out of it. Watch something happy on television. You just make yourself sad.”

Her latest thing is that my antiques make me sad, keeping things from the past, like some of my Dad’s old things, make me sad. If she had her way, she would throw out anything old and buy new everything. No nostalgia for her. No sir. Why have memories. They only make you sad. “That’s why they’re called memories, Ma. Because you remember.”

“Who the hell says I want to remember anyone or anything. Get rid of it. That’s what I say.” She kind of reminds me of Heath Ledger’s Joker in an oddly strange way: “Why so sad?” Neither of them can understand why people might want to feel things.

Oh well, enough of the pity party. Maybe I’ll try going to be early and see if that helps. Yep. Whatever. More later. Peace.

Music as Muse

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Euterpe: Giver of Delight

For as long as I can remember, music has played a large part in my life. I remember being in the chorus in the sixth grade and getting one of the coveted solo spots in the big end of the year pageant. I was such a ham. Then all through junior high I took chorus until I had to choose between chorus and foreign language, and I picked French because it was what I needed for my academic diploma. But it didn’t really matter because by that time, I was already well into formal piano lessons. I took lessons for 14 years.

Many people asked me why I didn’t major in music in college. To put it simply, I wasn’t that good, and I knew it. I loved playing the piano, but it didn’t come second nature to me, not like reading and writing. I knew that if I were going to be a classical pianist, then playing should be as natural to me as breathing, and it wasn’t. I tried to explain that to my mother, but she didn’t understand that. My piano teacher did, though. It’s just one of those things. Either you have it, or you don’t, and I knew early that I didn’t. I loved it. I loved the instrument, loved the music, loved learning, especially Chopin, even Bach’s two and three-part inventions, but they were not extensions of myself. I had to fight hard to win them. And so I did not go to Julliard as I once had dreamed of attempting.

However, that never diminished my love of music. When I write, I always have music playing in the background. I create play lists for everything. When I worked, I always had music playing in my office. I once had a job that did not allow music to be played, even for those individuals with private offices. It was like working in a tomb. I did not stay at that job for very long, not just because of the music. That was just a symptom of the larger issues, namely complete control over the employees.

But as usual, I digress . . . To me, music is a reflection of a person’s soul, a soundtrack of your life. My tastes are very eclectic. I love classical music—symphonies, operas, string quartets, piano solos, the cello, all of it. But I also love classic rock ‘n roll, pop, country, soundtracks, reggae, salsa, blues, alternative, even some metal once in a while. Most of the time, I’m mellow, but driving with all of the windows down, I want rock, loud. In the islands, I want reggae and Buffet. Sunday afternoon, I might want an opera. Saturday afternoon, some blues would be good. Right now, I have my mellow mix on because I’m writing.

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Music of the Sphere by Michail Spiridonov

Artists who inspire me tends to be writers themselves: Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan, Sting, Van Morrison, Jamie O’Neal, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Springsteen, Melissa Etheridge. Of those, my favorites are probably Lennox, McLachlan and Etheridge, probably because they tend to write in my key, and their songs are so intimate and moving. Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” is one of my all-time favorite songs because it feels as if it were written just for me.

I still love to sing, and I’ll admit to being a karaoke junkie. I used to go to a favorite karaoke bar at least once a week back in the day. I would take my journal, and sit and write, people watch, and wait for my turn to sing. Then when Corey came into my life, I got him hooked on the karaoke habit, and we would go together, but when money is tight, you give up things, and that’s one of them. We haven’t been in over a year. It’s good for grins if you’ve never been. Lets out your inner star, the one that’s been hiding inside.

When I was still living at home, I would put on soundtracks and go around the house and sing at the top of my lungs when I was the only one home. Then when I got my first apartment, I would do the same thing. My poor neighbors. Every Saturday when I cleaned, I would sing and dust. Lemon pledge and “A Little Night Music.” Yes sirree. Pine Sol and “Grease.” Let no one be spared.

So now that I can’t clean every Saturday, the Broadway musicals are left unsung, and since I don’t go on long drives too often, Springsteen doesn’t get rocked out. But I still listen everyday to my tunes, and anytime I hear something new that I think might touch a chord in my creative muse, I download it and add it to my play list. I go on my friends’ MySpace pages and check out their play lists occasionally and steal from them as well, because, well, they get out more. And there is always my oldest son, who loves music as much as I do. I steal from him as well. So from all of these sources, I manage to stay fairly relevant.

But some songs still have a way of moving me to tears. Right now, the one that is wrenching my heart is Annie Lennox’s “Lost.” For a while, it was Brad Paisley’s “Whiskey Lullabye.” Undoubtedly, though, one of the most beautiful songs ever written is David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream.” Bartolomeo Cristofori is generally regarded as the inventor of the piano, and this song is a beautiful homage to the instrument. The soaring chords are reminiscent of a cathedral, and the song itself paints a picture in my mind of many vibrant colors and hues.

That is what the best music does: transports the listener to a different place and time, removes the here and now, if only for three or four minutes, so as to allow that transcendence beyond the mundane, the dripping faucet, the leaf blower, the blare of the television, the neighbor’s mulcher. Instead, all that you hear are the notes of pure beauty and power and timelessness.david-lanz-cristoforis-dream

More later. Peace.