“Words become powerless to express your pain; what others hear from your words is so distant and different from what you are actually suffering.” ~ John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

                   

In the morning it takes the mind a while
To find the world again, lost after dream
Has taken the heart to the underworld
To play with the shades of lives not chosen.” ~ John O’Donohue, from “The Visitation”

Saturday evening. Rainy and chilly.

I did not sleep well last night. Every time Shakes would cough, I would sit up and look at him to make sure he did not stop breathing, so today has been a whole lot of nothing on the computer, lots and lots of knotted muscles, and forgetting to eat until I got a headache.

The above lightning gif appeared on my tumblr dash. As you know, I love lightning, the crack, the flash, especially lightning over water, so this image, as violent as it may seem, is very comforting to me.

I won’t even try to write a regular post, just share an image, a quote or two, and a poem. In a Gaelic kind of mood.

More later. Peace.

Music by Anne Jennings-Tauciene, “The Rose of Allendale”

                   

Beannacht (Blessing)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O’Donohue

Much ado about nothing in particular . . .

Lake George Autumn by Georgia O'Keeffe 1927Lake George Autumn by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1927 

 

Random thoughts on Saturday afternoon:

Michele Bachmann close up
Michele Bachmann's Crazy Eyes

* Michele Bachmann of the one l, two n’s never ceases to amaze me. Just for fun, go to Daily KOS to see a selection of some of her more outlandish vids. I agree with Zirgar that her eyes are just plain scary.

* Need to schedule a mammogram. When I hear men complain about their annual physicals, it makes me laugh. Have they ever had their private parts put into a machine and mashed into the size of a pancake? No? Then shut up about it already.

* Latest version of treatment for my migraines: Massive doses of magnesium daily (working up to about 2000 mg) for prevention, and then Relpax and zanaflex for relief. We’ll see. Forgive me if I just don’t have any faith in migraine relief any more.

* Any more. One word or two? One of my common mistakes. Also, always misspell minutiae.

Red Rotary Telephone* When you are a teenager, getting your own telephone is a rite of passage, one that you anticipate eagerly. Once you have one, you use it all of the time. I remember that I had a deep red rotary telephone in my first apartment. I loved that phone. There’s something to be said for using telephones that are plugged into one place: You don’t have to listen to the person on the other end do things that you don’t want to hear . . .

When you are an adult with obligations, the telephone is a pain in the butt. Have come to hate mine, and since it’s been turned off because I don’t have the money right now for the bill, I really don’t care.

* Have I mentioned that I love pens, specifically, pens that write smoothly, not too fine of a point. Hate ballpoint pens. Remember using old black ballpoints from the Navy. Yuck. The ink would always get gloppy and stain my hands. But they smelled good. Isn’t it odd how you remember little bits of minutiae like that? Love rollerballs, especially in purple. Use purple to address all of my cards. Red for Christmas cards. Oh the small things that make one happy.

* My friend Mari just had her birthday October 1st. I am so lax. I still have her birthday present from last year. How hard is it to go to the post office? Very if you are slowly turning into a complete homebody bordering on hermit. I really need to get out more.

* Since I have no new books to read, I am raiding the storage bins for reading material. Picking books at random. Hoping enough time has passed that I don’t remember all of the plotline. Not complaining. Usually read books at least twice anyway.

* Dreamed last night that someone sneaked into our home and cut off my hair. Woke up (in the dream) only to realize that almost all of my hair was gone. Symbolism? Hair equals power? Hair equals beauty? Or something much simpler: I need a haircut.

Georgia O'Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz 1920
Georgia O'Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz (1920)

* Watched a thoroughly depressing episode of 20/20: Albinism and the growing trend in Tanzania of killing albinos for body parts to be used by witch doctors in concoctions for power and long life. Visit Under The Same Sun website for more information about this very real, very tragic situation.

* Also watched the movie about Georgia O’Keeffe starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons (as Alfred Stieglitz). Actually very well made for a television movie. O’Keeffe was an incredible talent and, gasp, a freethinking woman well before her time. Her art never fails to amaze me.

* I want to have a bumper sticker made that reads “Danger: I am a Freethinking Woman.”

* I desperately need to clean my desk. There is not one square inch of surface that is not covered by paper or something that does not need to be there. I have resolved, though, that I will clean my desk when Corey cleans off the dining room table, which he has somehow claimed as his desk. Kind of defeats the goal of sitting down together for dinner.

* Shakes is currently positioned directly adjacent to my feet. Normally when I am at the computer he sleeps off to the right. Very clingy today.

* Too incredible not to be true: I actually had to reschedule my doctor’s appointment on Friday because I hurt too much to get out of bed. Now that’s pathetic: too sick to go to the doctor. I despair of what is happening to me.

* I want to see the new movie 2012, although not for the same reasons that Zirgar wants to see it. First, I love John Cusack because he has one of those faces that is perfect for disaster movies: What? Me? In case you’ve been living in a cave, December 21, 2012 is date on which the Mayan calendar ends; hence, all of the predictions of the end of the world, the apocalypse. I wonder if the Heaven’s Gate people will finally be shuffled into their UFO. I mean, they’ve been waiting since 1997. Sorry if I sound glib, but doomsday predictions tend to make the cynic in me take over.

Eamonn Summer 2009
Eamonn Summer 2009

* I miss eldest son. He works all of the time, and when he isn’t at work, he’s with his girlfriend. He stops in to put his dirty clothes in the hamper and play a little XBox. Still hoping that plans to start college in January are a go.

* If I am to believe all of the ads, then collagen from the sea is the best thing for keeping my skin looking youthful. Youthful. Such a subjective term. Do I want to look like I did when I was a teenager? No. In my 20’s or 30’s? Only as far as my weight is concerned. I’ve earned my looks. I haven’t been through all of my trials and tribulations for nothing. For now, I’ll continue to be thankful for my good genes and Filipino skin which does not begin to show wrinkles for a long time (if I am like my father), and a touch of Oil of Olay Regenerist daily.

Gummi Bears
Gummi Bears

* I am craving Gummi Bears. Isn’t that a weird thing to crave? But they’re such a great snack—small, sweet, chewable. I know. I really need to get out more.

* Stats: I’m starting to obsess over them again. I had stopped doing that, and it was much less stressful. I mean, I made my goal of 100,000 hits by October 1st, which marks just about a year since I’ve been blogging seriously. But recently, I saw a nice jump in hits, and I began to look at my stats again. Now, if I drop one day, I begin to obsess: Is my blog boring? Do people not like what I’m writing? Should I write about politics more? Should I write about politics less? Should I stop obsessing? That’s about the only question to which I can state a firm yes.

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera . . .

Reya's Jilted Rose
Reya's Jilted Rose from After the Gold Puppy

I have set for myself a goal to post everyday in October, to try to get back to my daily posting. My reasons for doing this have less to do with blogging and more to do with trying to get back into some kind of active schedule. When I was writing at least two to three hours everyday, I felt better: emotionally psychologically. I know that I need an outlet, and I have learned from many years of trial and error that writing is the very best outlet for me to use to exercise my mind. Reading does come in at a close second.

The point is, though, that I know what I need to do to help myself, but sometimes, it really is much harder than it would seem. I am well aware that part of the reason for my being lax in the past months has a great deal to do with my state of mind, which has been, shall we say, less than optimum. But it’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy: I don’t write because I feel too depressed to write, but if I don’t write, then I feel depressed. Hate those Catch-22’s of life (great book, by the way, much better than the movie, which was hilarious).

Hence, my declared decision to write and post daily again. All of that being said, there’s a very good chance that the Internet service is going to go away fairly soon, for obvious reasons. But I have a plan . . . I’ll write my posts in Word, save them up, and then post all of them once I can get service back. Why I am I bothering to mention this? I don’t know. Maybe because I’ve made this declaration, and I don’t want to appear to be wishy washy when my posting stops (even though I can be wishy washy).

That’s about all for now. I was trying to think of the perfect music to accompany this rambling entry. Couldn’t decide between “Save Me” or “Humpty Dumpty” by Aimee Mann. Found a vid with both. How cool.

 

 

More later. Peace.

Reflections on Hope (part 2)

 Reynard 8-2009

 Fox by Brett Sutcliffe (August 18, 2009)

The Possibility of Hope

Maybe im still searchin
But I dont know what it means
All the fires of destruction are still
Burnin’ in my dreams*
 

Corn Queue Henry County Indiana Julayne
Corn Queue, Henry County, Indiana, by Julayne from When Worlds Collide

I’ve sat down at this “add new post” page for the past four nights. I’ve sat, waited, and then closed the page. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say; more, it’s that my mind seems to be in recovery mode still after so long away from this forum that gives me a voice, as if I’m in the same room with a long lost friend, and we are still in those first few moments of awkardness, when there are a million things to say, but none of them seem to be the right way in which to begin again.

I love this blog. I appreciate the people who stop by just to read and even more, those who leave comments and words of encouragement. I love being part of a bigger blogging community, filled with people who sent me messages over the past three weeks, letting me know that they were out there if I needed them, that they would wait for me to come back.

But my last post was so full of despair that it actually left a physical pain in my heart. To put into words all of the bigger things that have happened over the last two to three years somehow makes it more real, and therefore, that much harder to reconcile.

That post also did something else to me: It made me a bit nauseous. It smacked of poor, pitiful me, and far too much navel-gazing. So let me just pause here to apologize for being so maudlin. Admittedly, though, wearing a virtual hairshirt every once in a while does seem to help.

But time to move on.

I wanna come in from the cold

Tree Frog at Rest
Tree Frog at Rest by L. Liwag

Last night, as I sat here, I heard the wonderful chirrups of the tree frogs in the backyard, and then as I was walking through the dining room, I looked out in the backyard and noticed that a strap on the pool was vibrating. A tree frog was inside the little tunnel, and every time he sang, the strap vibrated.

He was too far inside his shelter to get a picture, but I could see his small green body peeking out. Unfortunately, my invasion of his space made him cease his calls for a bit, but in about half an hour, I could hear him again.

And make myself renewed again

Uncle Melchors Trumpet Flower
Uncle Melchor's Trumpet Flowers

My uncle’s funeral was Saturday. He never regained consciousness. I wanted badly to go to the funeral, but the family lives almost 800 miles away in Florida, and this just isn’t the best time to rent a vehicle and get a hotel room.

So I stayed in touch by telephone. My aunt, who retired only last year, told me that all of the people who used to be in her department came over one day and did her yard. What a wonderful gesture. My uncle loved his yard and would send me pictures of his flower gardens when they came into bloom.

To hear about people who cared, taking the time to care for one of the things that he so enjoyed made me smile. A happy remembrance.

It takes strength to live this way

Tillie Happiness b&w
Tillie Happiness

Today, I braved the brightness of the sun to play ball with Tillie and Shakes in the pool. I think that I must have done a good job because both of them are sound asleep.

Tillie is a ball hog. The only way that I could get her to release the ball in her mouth was to tease her with the other tennis ball. Wanting both, she would drop one while I threw the other ball, and then I would throw the ball that Tillie dropped for Shakes to retrieve. Quite a complicated system for a simple game of water tennis.

I found myself relaxing, though, and just enjoying the moment—something that I do too rarely. I didn’t think about anything of consequence, and I just focused on exercising the dogs and looking at the birds flying overhead.

The same old madness every day

Captain Corey
Happy Birthday Corey

Tomorrow is Corey’s birthday. He is none too happy. It’s all well and good for me to try to point out to him that he is hardly old, but he doesn’t hear me. I know old. He isn’t old.

When I told him to go ahead and flirt with someone while he was at Costco, he said that he couldn’t because he was losing his hair. What bollocks. He has a head of beautiful, healthy hair, and he is losing a few hairs a day in the shower, undoubtedly because of the stress. My husband is too funny.

We won’t be doing too much of anything to celebrate this week, but with any luck, maybe we can have sushi sometime soon.

I wanna kick these blues away  

On other fronts, Brett is trying to gear up mentally for the school year. It looks as if they have set up his schedule for him to go every other day, which is wonderful.

I’m hoping the day off between class days will allow him to rejuvenate and to feel less pressure. If this works out well, he should miss less school and be able to stay more caught up with his work.

I’m very grateful that the head of the program at his school, as well as his guidance counselor are working with us and trying to come up with a way in which Brett can succeed this year.

Unfortunately, Eamonn was not able to start fall semester, as I had feared. Even if we had come up with the funds, we don’t have a second vehicle at the moment, and the fate of Izziethe Trooper is uncertain at best.

I feel really terrible that we weren’t able to get everything together in time, and to make matters worse, my ex called me up last week and cursed at me for three minutes for not getting the financial aid taken care of. It was a short conversation that ended with me saying something along the likes of, “If you’re so freaking concerned, why don’t you do something about it.”

Talking to a brick wallHis (my ex’s) reasoning that I needed to take care of everything and was falling down on the job was that his schedule is so full, and if that my computer was broken, why didn’t I go to library or something to use a computer? My pointing out that the financial aid was just one part of the equation didn’t matter. When I tried to tell him that even with the tuition taken care of, there was still no vehicle.

He actually asked me what happened to the Trooper, this after I had a conversation with him over two weeks ago about the Trooper dying on the way to Ohio. That’s the problem with trying to have rational conversations with someone who has an alcohol problem: You never know their condition when you tell them something important, and then they claim they were “never informed.”

Of course, I thought of a really good rejoinder after the nasty conversation ended: He lost the right to speak to me when he moved out of the house . . . This from the man who never took a day off to take any of the kids to the doctor. I did it because somehow I let him drill into me that it was easier for me to take a day from work.

Then I thought about it for a minute. He should have never had the right to speak to me that way. Why did I give him that right? Too often, verbal abuse isn’t recognized, even by its victims.

I wanna learn to live again . . . 

Butch Edentons Sunset
Sunset by Butch Edenton

Which brings me back to the subject of this post: the possibility of hope. I won’t pretend that Corey and I have a perfect relationship, but we have a really good relationship, and he doesn’t verbally abuse me. He doesn’t belittle me for my weird habits, and he loves me, imperfections and all. As do I him. Immensely.

Life has sucked lately, a lot. We run into walls, and we seem just cannot seem to get a break. But as I have been reminded of all too much with the loss of my uncle, we live in minutes and hours, not days and years.

I will make certain that Eamonn is ready for college next semester. I will take extra care to watch out for Brett’s signals that he is overwhelmed. I will enjoy the joy that my animals bring me.

I will remember to tell Corey that I really do appreciate everything that he does for me, even something as small but caring as making sure that I have Pepsi in the house. And I will appreciate the fact that I have a partner in life who could belittle me if that were his way, but it is not. His way is to tell me that he loves me every day of my life, to lie to me when I ask if I look fat, to tell me the truth when I ask about my writing, and to love and care for Eamonn and Brett unstintingly, including taking both of them to the doctor more times than I can count.

They are my shelter, my comfort, my great joy, and my peace of mind. With them, I really need nothing more.

Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

Thank you for allowing me to be self-absorbed and for your kind words. But thank you more for continuing to visit here, for reading my words, and through your own words and beautiful images, for reminding me of all of the good and wonderful things in this world, one of which is this poem by one of my favorite writers, Langston Hughes.

Goodbye Uncle Melchor.

More later. Peace.

*Lyrics from “Dark Road,” by Annie Lennox

Mother to Son

by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” ~ Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs

silence of the lambs

 Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs

“Okey Dokey. Here we go.” ~ Hannibal Lecter from Hannibal 

It’s noon on Tuesday. Corey and his Dad have gone to Springfield to pick up the rental car. Apparently, there is a dearth of rental cars anywhere within an 150-mile radius of Lima.

I find this rather odd. Did a convention of oversized men in undersized cars make a run on the rental cars at the Dayton airport? What gives?

So once they return with the Impala, we’ll be on our way, that is, after lunch.

Everything is packed; at least, I think that it is. I’m terrible about leaving things behind. Apparently, I left a pair of shoes at Ann’s last year when I took them off (probably after too many slushy alcohol drinks) and never put them back on.

I must have not needed these shoes as I never even missed them. Anyway, a former friend of mine says that my habitual leaving behind of things is my little way of making sure no one forgets me . . . hmm . . . things that make you say hmm.

Clarice Starling: If you didn’t kill him, then who did, sir?
Hannibal Lecter: Who can say. Best thing for him, really. His therapy was going nowhere. ~ Silence of the Lambs  

Hannibal
From Hannibal

Brett seems to be better today. He is watching strange videos on YouTube and laughing rather insanely. His fever came back during the night, but I think, hope, that it might have broken.

We are all rather loopy. Well, at least Brett, Tillie, and I are rather loopy.

Brett wants his own bed and his XBox. I want a million dollars and no more things to worry about (but I would settle for a thousand dollars and fewer things to worry about this month), and Tillie, well Tillie just wants it to be Tillie time endlessly and forever.

Hannibal Lecter: You will not persuade me with appeals to my intellectual vanity. ~ Red Dragon 

Everyone here has been exceedingly nice and understanding, which makes me feel worse for not being very good company.

But maybe I’m never good company, and I’ve just forgotten about it? Who knows any more.

So we’ll be driving back in a Chevy Impala, unmarked cars for some Staties. I’ve never cared much for Chevy cars and trucks, but I must not put that down in words or I will curse us.

I kind of remind myself of that guy in The Mummy Returns: “This is cursed. That is cursed. Everything is cursed.” Turns out, though, he was right. Everything was cursed.

Hannibal Lecter: “First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?” ~ Silence of the Lambs 

Speaking of movies (yes, I was speaking of movies), I watched Fracture again last night. It was one of the DVDs that I had brought with me for Corey’s mom to see. I really like that movie: Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling.

Silence of the Lambs poster
Silence of the Lambs Cover

When the boys were younger, they used to be afraid of the cover of Silence of the Lambs. I didn’t know that until they got older and told me.

I have enjoyed all of the Hannibal Lecter movies and books. Hannibal (movie and book) was enjoyable, but I do prefer Jodie Foster as Clarice. Something about her West Virginia accent and her attempts to not show fear make her fear more palpable.

I love Julianne Moore, just not as Clarice Starling. It’s a role that Foster created and owned. It’s just that simple.

But I digress . . .

Hannibal Lecter: Rudeness is an epidemic. ~ Hannibal Rising

We need to get the rental back within 24 hours of picking it up, so we are going to be on a tight schedule.

Let’s everyone burn a shrubbery in the hopes that nothing goes wrong (a shrubbery?)—the Monty Python extended metaphor still applies. In fact, I can think of nothing more apropos to the current situation in which we find ourselves.

red dragon book cover
Book Cover for Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Corey’s cousin Matt is going to work on the Trooper for us. We do need a new (refurbished) engine. I suppose I will be on my search for the elusive money tree once we return home, not that I have much hope on that front.

At least we will have someone who knows what they are doing working on the car this time. Corey insists that I not call the shop that did the repairs on the Trooper. I’m not sure why he doesn’t want me to do this.

Actually, I think that he thinks that Izzie’s demise is his fault: he ran out of gas and a passerby offered some gas. What Corey didn’t know was that the gas was diesel. Corey is convinced that all of the problems related to Izzie stem from the introduction of diesel into her system.

But what he doesn’t seem to understand is that to my way of thinking, in spite of the diesel, any mechanic who is worth his salt should not take the word of a customer when fixing a car. Once he or she is into the repair, everything that is wrong should be pointed out.

Granted, not everyone wants to know everything that is wrong with their vehicles, but we were laying down a considerable amount on an older vehicle. I would have liked to have made an informed decision. And if we needed to replace the engine, it would have been cheaper to have outlayed the money once instead of twice.

I have no qualms about expressing my unhappiness (no, really?) to the shop that did the repairs. It’s not like we are ever going to take another vehicle there to be fixed.

Whatever. I need to blow off some steam somewhere, and I would prefer that it is in the right direction, aimed squarely at the people who did such shoddy work in the first place.

Hannibal Lecter: People don’t always tell you what they are thinking. They just see to it that you don’t advance in life. ~ Hannibal 

So it turns out that we won’t be driving an Impala because the Hertz place in Springfield did not have a car available. Corey and his dad went to Dayton airport and rented a Buick Enclave. I’m not going to complain. After the horrible car ride that we had coming here, going home in comfort and style sounds incredibly appealing.

We are trying an alternative route home that was recommended by the guy that rented us the Enclave. Apparently, this route is supposed to chop hours off our travel time. The last time we tried an alternate route in an attempt to save time, we ended up on the side of a mountain in the dead of night with little visibility. Harrowing.

silence-of-the-lambs2
Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs

I remember that trip vividly because I was hallucinating from lack of sleep—no exaggeration. I saw a boat in a tree and a chicken leg floating. There were no lights on the road, and it took us an hour and a half to get back to the main road. Corey doesn’t remember these things, or chooses to selectively forget. So if we take this alternate route and end up getting home on Thursday, I am going to be mightily put out. But hey, that’s nothing new either.

When we get home, though, it may be a few days before I can post again. Who knows what awaits us.

I do know that my poor little fat boy Shakes is probably beside himself that I left him at home and took the Lab instead. Eamonn said that Shakes didn’t get out of the front window at all the first day that we were gone.

This could be very bad. If he decides to retaliate, who knows what he may do.

I can hardly wait to get home and see: Eamonn alone for days, the Jack Russells run amok. Wonderful, wonderful.  Or is it, I can’t hardly wait? I always get that confused.

We’ll see. More later. Peace.

Grace in Small Things (continued)

Tillie Close Up Smaller

Princess Tillie Posing for a Picture

 

“As you wish . . .” ~ Westley from The Princess Bride 

“You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” ~ Miracle Max from The Princess Bride

Miracle Max and Valerie The Princess Bride
Miracle Max & Valeria in The Princess Bride

I haven’t done a Grace in Small Things post in quite a while, so I thought that I might do one tonight. I’m slightly regretting something that I said in my post about emotions: I said that I do not get elated easily. That part is true, but when I began to consider elation in my life, I realized that even though it is not an emotion that comes to me easily, I still find happiness in even the smallest of things—hence, the subject of tonight’s post.

After some pondering, I’ve decided to highlight the following five things that bring me joy:

Vizzini: Jump in after her! 
Inigo Montoya: I can’t swim 
Fezzik: I only dog paddle. 
Vizzini: AGGHH  ~ from The Princess Bride

Shakes Fast Asleep
Shakes Fast Asleep

Number 1:  My dogs’ personalities. Anyone who doesn’t believe that animals can have distinct personalities has never paid much attention to a dog. My Jack Russells have always been full of themselves, but ever since we adopted Tillie the Lab, I’ve noticed even more how much all three dogs differ. For example, Shakes, the mama’s boy, is easily lulled. He insinuates himself as close to my torso as he can get and then turns over on his back. This is a signal that the stomach rubbing should begin. I can put Shakes to sleep in under three minutes if I rub his tummy steadily. Once he falls asleep, his mouth gapes ever so slightly, showing his bottom teeth as he has a distinct underbite. Shakes would be a good candidate for dog braces if there were such a thing. Regardless, once Shakes has fallen asleep, I can stop rubbing his belly, but if he is disturbed, I have to begin the process again. If I do not, I get a head butt to my elbow, which is what happened this morning as I was drinking my first cup of coffee, which I always have while I am still in bed. Needless to say, the butt to my elbow caused coffee to spill on my nightshirt and on the sheets. I was not amused.

King Alfie
King Alfie Atop the Pillows

Alfie is much harder to read. He likes to sleep atop the pillows, more often than not, above Corey’s head. Alfie can be very, very sweet and loving, and then he can turn on a dime and begin to growl. He doesn’ t like to be dried when he comes in from the rain, so I have to coax him by speaking very quietly while simultaneously drying him very quickly. Another of Alfie’s quirks is that if given a treat such as a chewie, he will immediately try to bury it, even if he is in the house. We have found chewies between the couch cushions, under the piano pedals, even in a storage tub. If Alfie buries his treats outside, Shakes will watch him, and then at the first chance, he will unbury Alfie’s treat and claim it as his own.

Tillie is a prima donna. She is quite vocal about many things, and if she is not being paid the attention she feels she deserves, we’ll get a good telling off until someone, usually Corey, stops whatever he is doing and gives her a big hug. Tillie is also very jealous. If Corey comes into the room and begins a conversation with me, Tillie will interrupt. If we happen to be embracing one another, Tillie will bark. However, Tillie is not the least bit aggressive. She is all talk. Tillie also likes to make the bed. If the bed covers are flat, she will stand in the middle of the bed and rake the covers with her paws until they are in the desired shape, and then she will promptly flop down on them. This is why we have removed the hand-stitched quilt that my mother gave us and replaced it with a cheaper, machine-sewn quilt.

I know, we spoil our dogs as much as we do our children, but it’s hard not to as they have such human characteristics.

“I do not mean to pry, but you don’t by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?” ~ Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride

Inigo Montoya The Princess Bride
Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

Number 2:  Nail polish. Granted, nail polish is not a terribly important thing in the grand scheme of things; however, I love all of the different shades of nail polish. Did you know that there are probably 50 different shades of red, if not more? Some of my favorite reds include Cherry Crush, Woman in Love, I Am Not a Waitress, To Eros is Human, and Bogata Blackberry. Aren’t those names wild?

I wonder who has the job of naming colors . . . That’s something that I think I could do: create catchy names for red nail polish. How about Molten Lava? Or Chili Pepper Passion? Or maybe Devilicious? Scarlet Woman? Okay, so maybe I need to work on it.

“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” ~ Westley from The Princess Bride

Westley and Buttercup TPB
Westley & Buttercup in The Princess Bride

Number 3: The poetry of Pablo Neruda. I have to admit that I discovered Neruda later in the game, but I am so glad that I found him. Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto was born in Chile in 1904 and had his first poem published when he was only 13. Neruda was a prolific writer, and almost all of his work is political in nature.  Neruda, an avowed communist, was almost denied the Nobel Prize because of his political beliefs. However, he also wrote some incredibly moving love poems, and it is those of which I am most fond. Regardless of his subject matter, Neruda’s poems are filled with strong images and fine craftsmanship.

From “Lost in the Forest”—

Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

“And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva  . . . ” ~ The Impressive Clergyman from The Princess Bride

Cicada
Cicada on Tree Branch

Number 4: Night Sounds. As I have mentioned, I have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, which means that I am awake at very odd hours. But one of the better things about my odd sleeping habits is that I am often awake to hear all of the sounds in the night. We live fairly close to a marsh, so the sounds of the various inhabitants of the marsh are easy to hear in the nighttime stillness. 

I enjoy hearing the tree frogs chirruping in the evening and early morning, and the toads with their lower pitched chirps are often interspersed, creating an harmonious din. The crickets’ songs are not annoying to me; instead, their sounds right outside my bedroom window are full of life. Occasionally, the sound of cicadas with their incremental buzzing and clicking resonates among the trees. And by 3 a.m., all of the birds begin to awaken: First, the mourning doves with their coos, and then the mocking birds with their various melodies, and sometimes there is even the knocking of a wood pecker, which echoes into the coming dawn.

“Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles . . . ” ~ Grandpa from The Princess Bride 

Number 5: Fairy Tales and Fantasies. It probably comes as no surprise that I love fairy tales, especially since I frequently take my own flights of fancy. But it’s the uncommon fairy tales that enchant me. Disney’s tales of fair maidens being rescued by handsome princes always bothered me. It’s that whole helpless female thing, you know? It wasn’t until Beauty and the Beast that the people at Disney finally came up with a female who was determined and headstrong.

But for me, the best fairy tales are the ones that involve magic and battles and odd creatures, with a pinch of tongue in cheek humor. For example, my favorite fairy tale in movie form is The Princess Bride, hands down. The stable boy turned pirate, André the Giant as Fezzik, Inigo Montoya on his single-minded quest to avenge his father, and Miracle Max (Billy Crystal), whose inclusion among the characters makes a wonderful story into a truly memorable story. Yes, Buttercup needs rescuing, but her captors turned rescuers are anything but stock characters.

Robert DeNiro in Stardust
Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare

And then recently, Corey and I watched Stardust, which I also found immensely enjoyable. Not as good as The Princess Bride, but a good fairy tale nonetheless. Robert DeNiro plays Captain Shakespeare, an in-the-closet pirate who dances the Cancan. Ricky Gervais is a trader in lightning and other dodgy goods; Michelle Pfeiffer plays an ugly old witch (if you can believe that), and Rupert Everett does a turn as one of the dead king’s sons, Secundus. The two lovers are played by Claire Danes and Charlie Cox. The story is based on a Neil Gaiman book (really must read this).

Among the movie’s enticements are magic, treachery, true love, two goats, a glass flower, and a fallen star. And this time, it’s the prince who doesn’t know that he’s a prince who is the clueless one. And bonus points for having Ian McKellan’s sonorous voice as the narrator:

“A philosopher once asked, ‘Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?’ Pointless, really… ‘Do the stars gaze back?’ Now that’s a question.”

And now, I will leave you with the most hilarious scene from Stardust: Captain Shakespeare as a whoopsie:

 

More later. Peace.

“When you feel dog tired at night, it may be because you’ve growled all day long.” ~ Unknown

adventure-dog1 

 Alfie’s Big Adventure

 “Every dog must have his day.” – Jonathan Swift

Alfie’s has his day and leads me around by my nose . . .

dog-in-glassesWhen I finally managed to fall asleep yesterday after my insomnia bout during the night, it was early evening. I spend most of the afternoon with an ice pack on my head because of the migraine that was brought on from fatigue.  Not until the pain subsided was I actually able to fall asleep. Apparently, while I was sound asleep, Corey and Alexis were out searching the neighborhood for Alfie, that little bugger.

Let me rewind the story a bit.

In the forbidden forest that is the side of the yard outside my bedroom, the overgrowth had become scary. I told Corey that I wouldn’t mind the wild look so much if only I could have my pond back (love the sound of the frogs). Then Brett got the idea that he’d like to make a little zen garden. That area of the backyard would be perfect because it actually has a narrow picket fence that divides it from the rest of the yard.

Corey decided to take the weed whacker to the area and cut back a lot of the growth. Now that part is the good part of the enterprise. The bad part of the enterprise involves the smallest dog, Alfie, and the fence.

There is a very small hole in the main fence that encloses that part of the yard from the front yard. We plugged that whole a few years ago, and don’t really have to worry about it because the dogs don’t go into the forbidden forest because of the picket fence: that is, unless Corey forgets to close the fence to the forbidden forest, in which case Alfie, who yearns for adventure, find his way through the fence and out. He then romps and yells “I’m free,” before splitting like a hare (get it, split hair? audible groan? okay, back to the story).

Well, Corey did not notice at first that Alfie had escaped because he was mowing the back yard (the other part that is not the forbidden forest). When he finished mowing, Corey realized what he had not done and began calling Alfie’s name. Then he came into the house and asked if anyone had seen Alfie lately. Big no’s all around. Hence the hunt ensued.

“The dog wags his tail, not for you, but for your bread.” ~ Portuguese Proverb

dog-peanut-butter-jarThey finally gave up around 8:30 after making several routes through the park, where people had seen “the cute, little white dog,” and after Alexis rode through the neighborhood calling out her window: “Alfie. I have chocolate!”).

To explain: Alfie is a chocolate fiend. We know that chocolate is bad for dogs, and we don’t give him chocolate: the little bugger steals it. If for some reason we have forgotten to move the chocolate out of his reach, he steals it and eats it, sometimes wrapper included. I’ll never forget the time that I had gotten some Lindor Truffles, a personal favorite. Well I left some on the nightstand, which is easily within Alfie’s reach, even with his short little legs. Found the Truffle wrappers under the buffet in the dining room and Alfie with a smug look on his face.

Back to the adventure: I called the Norfolk shelter to report him missing and to see if anyone had brought him in or if he had been swooped up by Animal Control, which occasionally patrols the neighborhood looking for strays. An absolutely delightful woman told me that I would have to call back in the morning because they did not release any information unless it was during normal business hours.

“The greater love is a mother’s; then comes a dog’s; then a sweetheart’s.” ~ Polish Proverb

This morning Corey left for school early because they were going out on the water today, and I waited until 9 a.m. to call. The first woman I spoke with asked me to come in and fill out a lost pet report. I explained that I did not have transportation, and asked if she could take the information over the phone. She did but was not terribly happy to do so. About a minute later the phone rang, and a different woman from the shelter told me that she knew that a dog matching Alfie’s description was there, that he had been brought in last night. The fee to pick him up would be $15 for the bordering and $5 for a city license, which we never remember to get at the beginning of the year because or dogs never leave the yard (almost).

dancing-dogsThat fee was contingent upon having a valid rabies shot. Well, Corey is pretty good about keeping the dogs shots up to date, so I assumed that there would be no problem there. I called the vet that we go to and asked the woman if she could fax a copy of Alfie’s rabies’ record to the shelter. She was actually delightful and said that she would be happy to. She looked up Alfie’s record only to find that his shot expired n February. I was very confused because I thought that rabies shots lasted for several years, but apparently, when Alfie and Shakes were vaccinated last year, they were given one-year shots because we could not find records of their previous shots (new vet).

End result: I have to add to the fee for Alfie to get a rabies shot at the clinic next door to the shelter. Great . . .

Amidst all of this telephone calling, I had asked my mother if she could give me a ride to Corey’s school so that I could pick up the truck. After a delightful conversation with her in which I had to reiterate that we didn’t quite have the exorbitant amount of money needed to fix Izzie the Trooper yet, she agreed to take me to get the truck.

So, my mother picks me up and delivers me to the truck, and then she does something really extraordinary and unpredictable: she gives me a check to cover the fees to pick up Alfie from the shelter. Corey had done some heavy lifting for her, and she said that she wanted to give him something. I told her that Corey neither wanted nor expected to be paid when he helped her, but she said that she wanted to do it.  Snotty comment about earlier conversation with mother retracted.

In between all of this (oh yes, more complications), Brett had called and left a message that he needed to be picked up at 3 instead of 2 because he had to stay after school to work on a project. I knew that Corey would probably need to be picked up between 3 and 4 because that’s when the classes have been ending, but there was no way of knowing for sure since they were on the water in the lifeboats today. The shelter closed at 4:30. Timing was going to be tricky.

I rode to the bank at a few minutes after 2 p.m. Went to the gas station down the street since the little monitor that tells you how far you can go before you run out of gas was reading 0 miles. Put in just enough gas to leave me with enough money to pay Alfie’s bail, then decided to make a run for the shelter before picking up Brett. I hightailed it to the shelter which was in a different direction from the school, all the while keeping a lookout for police cars since I didn’t have time to be pulled over for the expired inspection sticker on the truck (different story).

“Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.” ~ Dave Barry

blonde-brunette-and-redheadMade it to the shelter by 2:32. Made a positive identification of the suspect, who was looking very pitiful (in the meantime, tried very hard not to look at any of the other cages, made of mistake of looking into two or three, and immediately wanted to rescue more dogs who were barking and whining to get my attention). Filled out paperwork while one woman took Alfie next door to the clinic to get his rabies shot.

I had assured the woman that Alfie was small, 10 years old, and would be nice to her as he loves strangers (Alfie never goes psycho on strangers, only the family that he loves). The woman came back five minutes later out of breath—It seems that once Alfie was released from the cage and had his collar put on, he managed to break free and run away from the woman as fast as he could. Luckily, there wasn’t too far to run, but this woman was not a sprinter.

She asked me if I was sure that Alfie was 10. I assured her that he was indeed not a puppy but apologized that he was also very fast, a fact that I hadn’t taken into consideration when I was describing the culprit to her.

Alfie comes around the corner and is beyond happy. I fold all of the papers that return him to my custody, pick up Alfie, and head to the truck, whereupon Alfie immediately becomes the Energizer Bunny and wants to simultaneously jump on me, look out the window, help me drive, claw at my arm, and whine. He is not a good bye bye dog, so he doesn’t get in the vehicles very often. Time is now 2:45, and I am on my way to school to pick up Brett, which is approximately 15 minutes away if a take the interstate.

While I’m driving the speed limit, by the way, Alfie manages to crawl behind my neck at one point, wrapping the leash that I have wrapped around my hand, around my neck. I free myself with one hand while maintaining my steering power with the other hand. Alfie is not at all interested in listening to the voice of reason. Somewhere in my subconscious I have a feeling that there is going to be a train at the railroad tracks that I have to cross to get to Brett’s school if I take the usual exit off the interstate. I decide to chance it and arrive at the school at exactly 3 p.m.

“A house without either a cat or a dog is the house of a scoundrel.” ~ Portuguese Proverb

happy-dogAlfie immediately becomes Brett’s best friend, and I am finally allowed to drive. We turn down Little Creek Road and as I approach the train tracks, we hear the train coming. I cross the tracks, and within two seconds, the arms come down blocking the tracks. Brett and I just look at each other, and I tell him that I knew that the train was coming.

We make it home; everyone (meaning Eamonn, Tillie, and Shakes) is happy to see Alfie, except probably Shakes. My phone rings, and it’s Corey asking me to pick him up. It’s 3:57. Once more into the fray . . .

By the way, Alfie is comfortably asleep on Corey’s pillow at the moment, but the first thing that he did when I let him out in the backyard was to run to the fence of the forbidden (although not so forboding anymore) forest. Obviously he was not at all humbled by his adventure.

More later. Peace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On that note, more later. Peace.