“She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet, yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon. You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong. Passion flows through her like a river of blood.” ~ Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

Tuscany Landscape by Marcin Sacha

                   
 

“She is not waiting. Not quite. It is more that the years mean nothing to her anymore, that the dreams and the street cannot touch her. She remains on the edges of time, implacable, unhurt, beyond, and one day you will open your eyes and see her; and after that, the dark. It is not a reaping. Instead, she will pluck you, gently, like a feather, or a flower for her hair.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Crovie Banffshire Scotland by Chris Spracklen

Isn’t the picture above just breathtaking? I have landscapes on the brain today—lush green, gold, and red landscapes, far, far away from here. Imagine living in that house amidst those rolling hills, surrounded by nothing but green. 

It’s Sunday afternoon, and the weather outside is lovely, a temperate 76°F with lots of sun and no clouds. If I had any inkling of motivation, I would sit outside and read a book. Obviously, that is not what I am about today. I’m still recovering from yesterday’s migraine, a pretty foul one that kept me in bed all day with an ice pack glued to my head. It’s always such an attractive look. 

The pain finally ebbed around 2 a.m., and I was almost asleep when the dogs decided that it was time to go out, which meant that by 3 a.m., I was wide awake and full of nervous energy. Hence, I loaded the dishwasher, wiped down the bathroom, and took a shower in the hopes that the warm water would soothe me. No joy. 

Spider solitaire until 5 a.m. Ah, the rich pageantry that is my life. 

“There were always in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning and another who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, conceal her true emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair, and present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.” ~ Anais Nin

Bench, Germany, Svetlana aqua2512

I had thought about dedicating a post to that nut job tea bagger in Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, but what’s the point, really? She lies as it suits her, has a platform that would deny women’s basic rights, and ducks the hard questions. How is she any different from anyone else who is running this November? 

I’m so tired of all of them, dems and reps alike. The right is running on a fear-mongering platform, and the left has essentially tucked its collective tail and run for cover. The president is stumping, but I cannot help but feel that it is too little, too late. 

If the right retakes Congress, we can look forward to a dismantling of the first real healthcare reform in decades, and it’s all so disheartening. Just for grins, I called Optima last week to see if I qualified for health coverage . . . three guesses as to their response . . . pre-existing conditions are a bit of a problem. But let’s make damned sure that we undo what has been done, if for no other reason than principle: the Kenyan socialist enacted it, so we must backpeddle, post-haste. 

Beh. Double beh. 

I have realized that what will kill the dems in November is apathy: We voted for change, real change. We got dribbles and drabs. DADT still exists. Guantanamo still exists. Rendition still exists. Healthcare reform is tepid at best. We’re still pouring money into Afghanistan, and non-combat personnel are still dying in Iraq. And oh yeah, Newt Gingrich still thinks that he’s Speaker of the House. 

Look, I’m not some starry-eyed innocent who doesn’t understand that certain intelligence policies will always exist. I know that Gitmo and places like Gitmo will always be in operation. But can’t change happen on the domestic front at least? 

Get out the vote is going to be damned hard in November, and I don’t foresee long lines of people waiting at 5 in the morning to cast their votes. But how I wish that I could be proven wrong on this one. 

“She was illusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.” ~ Jerry Spinelli 

Unknown Landscape found on Pixdaus

A few things are going well, though. Brett is adjusting well to college, much better than I had hoped, actually. He has joined a club, and has already made a small circle of friends with whom he likes to spend time outside of class. He gets out of bed and gets ready in the morning without any kind of prodding or mood propping by me, and he actually likes going to class. 

The change in him is pretty phenomenal. He has realized that I wasn’t lying when I told him that college was nothing like high school. He isn’t self-conscious about wearing his beret if he wants to, and he has commented that no one on campus looks the same, as in that high school pressure to dress and look like everyone else. 

He had his first test on Friday (in psychology), and he received a B-. Happiness all around. 

I can feel my need to be in protective mode loosening each day as he gains self-confidence and begins to make his own way. I’m really hoping that the worst is behind us, that he will no longer suffer agonizing depressive episodes that paralyze and drain him.  

Now, if I could just see eldest son more than a few minutes ever few weeks, I might be able to feel less anxiety in the parenting department . . . Who am I kidding? We all know that if I’m not worrying about Brett, I’ll just turn my focus on someone else. Speaking of which, Alexis is adrift again. She is sleeping hours and hours and missing time at work. I wish that I knew how to help her. 

“She could never be a saint,
but she thought
she could be a martyr . . .
if they killed her quick.” ~ Flannery O’Connor, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost”

The northern coast of Normandie found on Pixdaus

Since the hearing last week, I have been obsessing about what I did or did not say. If the judge rules in my favor, it will be a mixed blessing at best. I mean, I will be covered under Social Security as far as income and health insurance (unless the Republicans go through with their threat to shut down the government after the election), but at the same time, I will officially be disabled; my name will be on a government roster somewhere, down as unable to work. 

I really don’t know how that makes me feel. Sort of. I mean, it means that I have moved from that group of people who contribute to society to that group of people who take from society. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been paying into the system since I was 16, and I have no qualms about receiving the benefits due me. 

It’s the emotional part. The part in which I feel as if I have been sidelined. Everyone claps when the injured party moves off the field, acknowledging that the injury isn’t life-threatening, but no one in the stands gives another thought to what happens to the person who was taken off on the stretcher, not really. The attention goes back to the ongoing action. 

Okay. I apologize for the sports metaphor, particularly since I do not like most sports, but it’s what came to mind. Now that I’m on the sidelines, apparently for good, now what? Just put it all away and wait until tomorrow? 

I suppose. 

I’ll close with this wonderful quote that I found by Janet Finch from White Oleander

I regret nothing. No woman with any self-respect would have done less. The question of good and evil will always be one of philosophy’s most intriguing problems, up there with the problem of existence itself. I’m not quarreling with your choice of issues, only with your intellectually diminished approach. If evil means to be self-motivated, to live on one’s own terms, then every artist, every thinker, every original mind, is evil. Because we dare to look through our own eyes rather than mouth cliches lent us from the so-called Fathers. To dare to see is to steal fire from the Gods. This is mankind’s destiny, the engine which fuels us as a race.

More later. Peace

Music by Katie Herzig and Matthew Perryman Jones, “Where the Road Meets the Sun” 

“Everything stated or expressed by man is a note in the margin of a completely erased text.” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Blooming Sour Cherry Tree, Switzerland

“The various thoughts which arise in our minds are nothing but the scenery of the Life of the Self.” ~ Uchiyama Kosho

Spring in Vorarlberg, Austria

Very little sleep again last night . . . I got up early this morning to take my other mother-in-law to DMV to get a replacement license. I suppose this is my first time alone in trying to do something with her since her condition has worsened, and I must say that it was an awakening.  When I got to her house, she did not know why I was there, and then we had to spend time looking for her social security card, which she was certain she had lost. As it turns out, it was in her wallet. 

I really wasn’t sure if they would replace her license as I put Parkinson’s on the form under medical conditions, but I don’t think that the woman at the counter even glanced at that particular box. In a way I am very dismayed by the outcome. Her license was replaced, which means that she is legal to drive. She assured me that she won’t drive unless she feels up to it and that she will not drive at night, but after spending the morning with her, I am worried that she might get in the car and forget where she is going, only to get lost. 

To say that I am saddened by the helplessness of a once-vital woman who has been such a big part of my life for so many years is a huge understatement. Like so many others of us in the sandwich generation, watching my children grow and come into their own while simultaneously my elders decline and lose so much of themselves has become the sad reality of life. 

“How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you—you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences . . . little rags and shreds of your very life . . . ” ~ Katherine Mansfield

Claife Station, Western Shore of Windermere, NW England

The weather here is beautiful, a bit chilly, but sunny and clear. For some reason, when the weather starts to become warmer, Shakes takes to hiding in my closet, nested within the shoe boxes and clothes that have fallen in the back. It’s very unnerving to go to the closet door and hear rustling. Maybe he likes the cool, dark of the closet. Who knows. When I was a child, I remember going into my closet during thunder storms. I wasn’t really scared, everything  just sounded better from within the depths of the closet. 

A few nights ago I dreamed about my cousin from Great Bridge again. We were very close when we were growing up, but other than the funerals, I haven’t seen very much of him lately, which is why it’s disturbing that I seem to be dreaming about him about once a month now, and he is always in some kind of dilemma, not danger, but facing some kind of problem. Another who knows . . . 

Some good news with a caveat: Corey spoke to someone at the port security firm today, and she told him that she had a list of names to call of individuals in whom the company is not interested, and his name is not on the list. The head guy comes back next Monday, so perhaps Corey will get some good news next week. Here’s hoping. 

“There is no refuge from memory and remorse in this world. The spirits of our foolish deeds haunt us, with or without repentance.” ~ Gilbert Parker

Bois de la Cambre, Brussels

Tomorrow is Alexis’s EEG, which is supposed to take eight hours (blimey), and then she has her MRI on Friday. It will be good to get the tests out of the way, but then more waiting for results. Overall, she is handling everything really well, or maybe she’s hiding it from me. There is no way to be certain. I just know that I’m on perpetual worry mode until we find out something concrete, which may or may not happen. 

I think that Alexis realizes what a worrier I am, so she probably does not let on if she is fretting herself. But she seems to be fairly calm, which is a good thing. I can worry enough for everyone. 

I didn’t tell my other m-i-l about Alexis’s seizure as I didn’t see any need to worry her. I was thinking about it, especially when she asked how Alexis is doing, but I decided that in this particular situation, discretion is most definitely the better part of valor. The last thing she needs on her mind is whether or not something is wrong with one of her grandchildren. 

“There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.” ~ Josephine Hart

Spring in Vonêche, Belgium

Since it’s getting close to spring, I wanted to feature some spring images from other parts of the world (found on Wikimedia Commons). I have images in my mind of Europe in the spring, the hills in Scotland, vast expanses of green in the English countryside. I know that I saw them as a child, and even then they imprinted themselves on my memory.  

Personally, part of me longs to live in a small European village dotted with houses with steep roofs. I hate the suburbs. I hate ranch houses. I hate driving down a road that is one long line of unending convenience store chains, grocery stores, and car repair shops. I wonder if the place actually exists that I have created in my mind’s eye, the small place, with local shopkeepers, a small flower store, and in the background, fields of wildflowers, a creek. 

But more, I wonder if I would really love it in reality as much as I think I love it in my mind. 

More later. Peace. 

“Be Here Now,” by Ray LaMontagne 

Let us give thanks . . .

 

Shadows and Reflections

 “Once you have tasted the sky, you will forever look up.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

I’ve written several posts on the subject of being thankful, including the Grace in Small Things series. Today, I thought that I would focus on things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life that have helped to shape me into the person I am.

  • Having the opportunity to see original masterpieces by Renoir, Monet, Glackens, Bernini, Van Gogh, Klimt, Morisot, Wyeth, Hopper, Sargent, Kadinsky, Pollock, Caravaggio, Tiffany, Manet, Leighton, Rembrant, Tissot, Matisse, Veronese, Rothko, as well as ancient Ethiopian art, tribal masks dating back to the 12th century, real Samurai armor and weapons, and photography by Brady, Stieglitz, Bourke-White, Mann, Strand.
  • Walking through a tropical rain forest in Africa and seeing shades of green that I never knew existed. Crossing a hanging rope bridge that was situated high in the air above a stream.
  • Sitting in the dark and listening to live performances by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Seeing Nureyev and Margot Fontaine perform.
  • Hiding in the trunk of a car to get into a drive-in movie for free and then not watching the movie because it was too scary.
  • Going snorkeling in the Caribbean
  • Walking among the ruins of Tulum amid the huge iguanas and then eating fresh guacamole with cold Sol atop a small mountain.
  • Seeing the volcano in Baguio, Philippines
  • Riding up a mountain to get to Baguio in a bus very much like the ones you see in the movies, which was filled with villagers, chickens, a pig, old women, and my very American mother.
  • Reading some of the best literature ever written: all of Shakespeare, Michael Ondaatje, Marlow, and far too many others to mention.
  • Meeting some of my favorite poets and writers in person at literary festivals, including Chris Buckley, Mary Oliver, Tim O’Brien, Barry Lopez, Caroline Forché, Bruce Weigl, and many others
  • Working in a newsroom right at the crest of computers. Watching the paper be printed, smelling the ink.
  • Attending three wonderful universities: The George Washington, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion.
  • Doing on-camera interviews for the museum, which sometimes meant being at the studio at 5 a.m, but still fun.
  • Performing for the Queen Mother in London in a Dances of Asia program.
  • Starring as Rizzo in Grease.
  • Participating in a drum-making ceremony with a drum master.
  • Working in a donut shop for a few months during high school and getting to bring home the leftovers.
  • Dancing on the runway at a go go bar for a story on the Norfolk nightlife.
  • Hanging out over the water in a trapeze while sailing on a catamaran in the Chesapeake Bay
  • Going cave tubing and not feeling the least bit claustrophobic
  • Hiking on the trails at Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Getting my four-cylinder Pontiac Sunbird up to 80 mph while driving home from Blacksburg one Sunday night
  • Attending grade school in London
  • Going to a military tattoo in Scotland and sitting in the outdoor stadium wrapped up in blankets because it was so cold.
  • Seeing huge statues in the mountains of Spain as we drove through the country.
  • Seeing live concerts by The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Sarah McLachlan, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Sugarland, Norah Jones, and a bunch of other people I can’t remember.
  • Playing Chopin and Mozart on a grand piano at a recital in front of 100 people.

These are just a few of the highlights. I deliberately did not include anything personal about my children, husband, family, or friends as that is an entirely different list. But putting these things down in words makes me realize how very many opportunities I have had in my life to travel, to embrace other cultures, to see stunning natural and man-made beauty.

I have done things that I never thought that I would do, and I have seen in person things that I had only dreamt of.

I have not led a life of privilege, but I have been privileged to have had these experiences. There is nothing on this list that is earth-shattering, nor is there anything that changed humanity. But individually and collectively, these moments in time have changed me in ways seen and unseen. They have moved me to tears and made me cry with delight. Trite as it may sound, I have had a wonderful life.

More later. Peace.

 

Itzhak Perlman performing Massenet’s “Meditation from Thais,” a song that I performed in recital at Virginia Wesleyan College.

 

Sometimes It’s the Little Things

clas tub + candles

 Feels Like a Little Bit of Heaven

Fifty Things About Me That Are Totally Irrelevant:

  1. My middle name is Gayle. Just think about that for a minute . . . Lolita Gayle. Can you perceive any possible rhyme or reason why those two names might be linked together in any way? Me neither. It has always dumbfounded me as to why my parents chose this for my middle name, and I have always hated having Gayle as my middle name. It’s not the name that I hate, per se. It’s the name in conjunction with my first name. No poetry there. No melody. No logic. But what can you do? My cup of teadaughter hates her middle name also, and her father and I thought that it went very well with her first name, so I suppose that it’s just one of those parent things.
  2. Whenever I go to a bar, I order three things simultaneously: whatever liquor I’m drinking, for example Kahlua and cream, plus a glass of iced water, and a cup of hot tea. This is one of the reasons that I like to go to places where the wait staff knows me. They don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I place my order. Why do I do this? Why is my middle name Gayle? Exactly. Actually, I like to drink all three things at once. I pace myself by drinking water throughout the night, and I like my hot tea. I’m not a big drinker in the first place, so my combo works very well for me.
  3. I have only had short hair a few times in my life, and the times that I did have it, I hated it. I’m just not a short hair person. I feel like I look like a monkey when I have short hair. Of course when I was a child, my mother used to chop off my hair regularly. She would see a hairstyle that she thought was very chic, and then I would lose hair. I hated it when she would do that.womens-collage
  4. I have always been a flaming liberal, and females who say that they aren’t feminists don’t really understand the true definition of the word.
  5. I have two crooked toes. They were never broken, but the fourth toe on each foot is curved like a comma. It has never really bothered me unless someone asks me about it.
  6. Speaking of toes, I have Filipino toes, as in, I can pinch with my toes and pick up things with my toes. I know, also very strange, but trust me, this is not an unusual trait among Filipinos.
  7. Cats make me have asthma attacks, which is a shame since cats love me, and if I enter a house in which a cat resides, said cat will make a beeline for my face.
  8. My favorite thing to do when I go out is singing Karaoke. That’s because I’m a ham and a thwarted Broadway star. I had planned to run away to New York after high school, but it never happened.
  9. I’m a classically-trained pianist, but never felt that I was very good at it, even after 14 years of lessons.
  10. I have been a vegetarian a couple of times in my life, and there was no particular reason for it other than I got tired of eating red meat. I’ve never been a vegan and don’t even have the least idea as to how one does that.
  11. I love Beethoven as much as I love the Beatles, Frederic Chopin as much as I love Kenny Chesney, Stravinsky as much as I love Springsteen. My playlists usually cover about four genres of music.
  12. Cayman Islands beachMore than just about anything else, reading is my favorite way to pass the time. Reading on a tropical beach is even better. Reading a good mystery on a tropical beach with an umbrella drink is the best.
  13. My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love to decorate the house and to buy the perfect presents for the people in my life. No one else in my family gets as excited about Christmas, and that always makes me a bit melancholy.
  14. I make lots of lists—grocery lists, shopping lists, to do lists—and I lose them almost as soon as I make them, which kind of negates the whole purpose of lists.
  15. painted toenailsI always keep my toenails painted. When I went into labor with Alexis, I took the time to paint my toenails and mop the kitchen floor. One of the things I hated about having back surgery was my inability to paint my toenails for a while.
  16. I have worked as a writer, editor, marketing director, resume writer, newsroom supervisor, grants writer, proposal development specialist, graduate teaching assistant, university English instructor, membership coordinator, publications manager, 6th grade public school teacher, senior education specialist, and research and development assistant. The job that I hated the most was teaching 6th grade for Norfolk Public Schools. The job that I loved the most was teaching at a university. The environment that I enjoyed working in the most was at an arts museum. The environment that I enjoyed working in the least was for a non-profit help group.
  17. I have been to the following countries: England, Scotland, France, Germany, Morocco, the Philippines, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Belize, and Spain. The places that I have not yet been to that still want to see include Ireland, Wales, Greece, Costa Rica, Australia, China, and New Zealand.
  18. A job that I think I would have been good at? Being a crime analyst (in the lab, not in the field). I love solving mysteries, and it seems that analyzing evidence would be one of those jobs that would continue to evolve.
  19. The major that I seriously considered and actually regret not pursuing is marine biology. I considered pre-med, psychology, and anthropology. I ended up getting two of my degrees in English, but I have always been interested in life under the sea. I did take my LSAT’s because I was going to go to law school when we moved to northern Virginia, but then I got pregnant with Alexis and changed my mind. 
  20. Tartan 27 Sailboat
    Tartan 27 Sailboat
  21. I almost bought a 27-foot boat when I was in college that I wanted to live on. Do I regret not doing this one? Absolutely. How often are you that free in your life? No ties, no debts, the ability to make life-changing decisions. I was completely stupid for not following through on this one, and the only thing that held me back was fear.
  22. My best feature? My legs. My worst feature? Everything else.
  23. My favorite flower is lilac.
  24. My favorite scent is Calvin Klein’s Eternity.
  25. My favorite colors are black, red, and purple, in that order.
  26. I love black leather boots, my full-length black leather coat, and squooshy black leather hobo bags. My favorite leather designer is Kenneth Cole, and I don’t believe that you can ever have too many boots or purses.
  27. black bootsI love cashmere but cannot wear it because it gives me a rash.
  28. I love silk and wear it as often as possible.
  29. I love the smell of freshly cut roses, but hate the smell of rose-scented candles.
  30. My favorite jeans are Levi’s, and I cannot imagine ever paying $200 for a pair of jeans.
  31. My favorite jewelry, besides my wedding rings, are my crosses. I have a gold Claddagh cross, a gold crucifix, and three rosaries. I am not Catholic.
  32. I would have been a good lawyer because I like to win.
  33. Among the things that I like to collect are watches, especially ones with big faces and leather straps.
  34. My mom pierced my ears with a needle when I was 12.
  35. I have one tattoo on my back. I want to get at least two other tattoos.
  36. I am claustrophobic in crowded places: elevators, coliseums, rallies.
  37. I can curse without moving my lips.
  38. gem_aquamarineI spent several formidable years of my childhood in London, England. I went to a public school, and I had a very proper British accent. I haven’t been back to England since I was a child, and I would love to go back just to see how much it has changed.
  39. My birthstone is garnet, but my favorite stone is aquamarine.
  40. I am stupidly jealous, and more than once have made an idiot of myself because of it, but it stems from my insecurity.
  41. I believe that if you make a promise, you should keep it even if it’s to a small child. If you know that you aren’t going to keep the promise, don’t make it. Broken promises cause disillusionment.
  42. Keeping information from someone is the same thing as being dishonest. I know. This is probably a woman thing.
  43. I could go my entire life without watching the NFL and never miss it.
  44. I want to live in the mountains and by the sea.
  45. I love good coffee, Belgium chocolate, and angel hair pasta.
  46. I love fresh seafood, but refuse to eat lobster because I think that they should be allowed to live on the bottom of the ocean for as long as they can.cupid's bow lips
  47. I miss wearing suits and heels.
  48. I always have something on my lips, at least gloss, throughout the day.
  49. I would love to pursue another degree.
  50. Nothing is better for stress than a hot bath, lots of candles, a glass of wine, and someone washing your hair for you.
  51. This is the longest amount of time that I have spent thinking about just myself in forever, and I only did it because I couldn’t think of anything else to post.

More later on a different subject. Promise. 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.