Note: I began writing this post on Monday. Then in the middle of it, I learned that Robin Williams had killed himself, and then nothing made sense any more…….

“Perhaps—I want the old days back again and they’ll never come back, and I am haunted by the memory of them and of the world falling about my ears.” ~ Margaret Mitchell, from Gone With the Wind

Monday afternoon. Cloudy and probably rain, 84 degrees.

Last night’s super moon was spectacular. I’m so glad that the clouds didn’t overshadow it. When I got up to let the dogs out, the entire backyard was awash in moonlight. So incredibly perfect.

The other day, I saw something I’ve never seen before: a buzzard was hanging out in someone’s front yard, munching on something . . . well, dead. Brett and I drove by, and he said, “Hey, that’s a buzzard!”

Of course I had missed it, so I drove around the block and then slowed as we neared the yard in which Brett had seen the bird. I saw it, and it was huge. Unfortunately, it heard the car and took flight. My, those wings, so massive. It was really something to see; we couldn’t have been more than twelve feet from it. I mean, I’ve seen them in the air, but never this close, and this still.

The other cool thing that happened is that Brett and I went thrifting, and I found a set of glass fish snack plates. I only have one fish plate left, and I’ve never had the snack size (about 5 inches wide), so I grabbed them. A while back I had looked on E-bay, and a set of two of the large fish plates was going for $30. Too pricey. I got eight of the small ones for $20. Such a deal.

Of course, to balance the two good things are two horrendous dreams: In both dreams, I see fire burst through a wall, and I immediately wake up—same image for both dreams, same reaction for both dreams. It has me more than a little paranoid, checking cords and connections, making sure nothing is frayed or a hazard. This particular scenario really has me unnerved.

“Later I’ll sweep away the nest—empty,
again, of everything but a blind
belief in the possible.” ~ Peter Everwine, from “Another Spring”

In spite of the fire dreams, I’m feeling pretty good, and I suppose I have good reason: Social Security has finally, finally approved my disability claim. As a brief refresher, I was first forced out on disability in October 2007. I’ve been fighting with social security ever since.

I know that I am fortunate that I was covered for long-term disability through George Washington’s policy, but the endless fight with Social Security has taken a toll on me. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve filled out the same forms, answered the same questions, had the same interviews. So even though they wanted to date it retroactive to November 15, 2012, I decided to accept.

When I asked the lawyer why that particular date, she said that they noticed from my therapy notes that I had taken a real downturn at that time . . .

No kidding. Really? How incredibly astute of them, she said, with more than a trace of bitter sarcasm . . .

What this means is that I don’t quality for Medicare until May of next year (for some reason, dates, times, confusing). And the backdated benefits that I’ll receive all have to be paid to my long-term disability carrier anyway (it’s part of the agreement), so the date doesn’t affect me that much. The irony is that the effective date would have meant so much a few years back when Corey was unemployed, and we were struggling, really struggling to keep my health insurance and a roof over our heads.

Oh well. Whatever.

The things you asked me but didn’t really want to know . . .

I have thought long and hard about the following. This is the part of the application that might be a throwaway. I’m not really sure that anyone at SSA will read this, but I’ve decided that I’m going to print it and send it in along with my standard answers to their questionnaire. If nothing else, it will make me feel better.

To the Social Security Administration:

You asked me to complete the attached form to include any information that may be useful in helping you to determine whether or not I qualify for Social Security benefits. I remember 24 years ago completing another form for another faceless bureaucracy that wanted to know if I had any additional information regarding my daughter’s death that may assist in processing our health insurance claims. At that time, I began another page in much the same way: “You ask me . . .”

That answer turned into an essay that encompassed much that had happened in those four harrowing months of my life. Tonight, I will try to encompass the significant things that have happened to change my life in the last nine years (give or take a year, here or there).

You may notice that I have taken quite a while to complete this questionnaire this time (yes, I have completed this same questionnaire two or three other times). You see, I wanted to take the time to make everything as crystal clear for you as possible. The last judge to rule on my case depended upon an unnamed woman who sat in on my hearing and said that I could go back to work as a marketing director or sales manager (in her humble opinion). The lawyer representing me at the time very gently squeezed my hand, and I bit my tongue. I could sense that anything else that I might have to add was simply deemed irrelevant at that point. And not too surprisingly, I was denied benefits.

But now? Now I want to tell you how very much my life has changed since the morning I woke up and could not stand, the morning on which I found that I could not walk the few feet to the bathroom. It was the most agonizing pain I have ever felt, and that’s saying something as I have given birth four times, once without any pain medication. I was told, after some tests, that I had a herniated disk. I was given medication, sent to a pain management specialist, and referred to physical therapy. In time, I was able to move again, but I was never again pain-free. Little things could set it off: stretching the wrong way, carrying something too heavy, lifting a stack of books.

You know those charts that doctors show you on which there are 10 circles with various expressions on their faces, with 1 being no pain and 10 being excruciating pain? Well, most people are fortunate enough to walk around in the one to two category. I am never below a 3, which I believe ranks as extreme discomfort. Most of the time—and please believe me when I say that I am not exaggerating—I exist at a 5. I have been very close to a ten, and on days on which I find that I cannot leave my bed, I hover around a 7 or 8.

Now let me pause. You are probably thinking to yourself, “This woman has a flair for the dramatic.”

Well, you wouldn’t be wrong about that; however, I am actually not dramatizing anything contained herein. I said that I was going to tell you how my so-called disability affects my quality of life, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Remember the woman who said that I could easily resume one of my former careers? Well, let’s take the Marketing Director position that I had. In that particular job, I routinely had to tote framed floor plans and site plans to empty sales offices in which I was then responsible for installing all sales materials. I also had to carry brochures (routinely 100 copies at a time) to and from sites. I carried large mailing to our distribution center. In other words, I carried around a lot more than the equivalent of a five-pound bag of flour.

The sales manager position? That’s just laughable. In that particular job I never sat down, well, make that almost never. I walked up and down three floors, moved full racks of clothes (not on wheels, mind you), hauled boxes filled with merchandise, and installed displays. In other words, lifting, carrying, bending, stretching, and a lot of walking.

My other positions? As a university instructor I regularly carried at least two carryalls filled with books and papers to grade. As an education specialist, I had to cart a laptop, a projector, catalogs, informational materials, an expandable banner, and various accoutrement to each informational session that I conducted, some of which were in Richmond. In this same position I routinely had to drive up and back to Washington D.C. in a day for marketing meetings. It was because of the demands of this particular position that I finally gave in and had the operation on my back, a decision that I will forever regret as ever since having that operation I have not lived one day without pain. The operation did not ease my pain; it increased it.

This little essay could actually be called “The Things She Carried.” Humor. Forgive me.

Back to the answer: Before I hurt my back, I could get by easily on five to seven hours of sleep. I used to awaken at 5 a.m., work out for at least half an hour, do a load of laundry, get ready for work, transport my kids to school, work all day, come home, fix dinner, maybe do more laundry, help with homework, and sometimes fit in a trip to the grocery store. I was actually quite strong for my size. At one time, I worked out five days a week and took a yoga class on Saturday mornings. I used to walk three miles in the morning. Every Saturday for years I would wake up and clean my entire house: scrub all of the floors, vacuum, change the linens, polish the furniture. My house was immaculate.

Some of my hobbies included hiking the Virginia foothills, toting around photographic equipment, and kayaking in the Back Bay. I loved to garden and do backyard birding. I used to collect paper samples from paper companies which I used to make personalized books for my family members. I used to change the oil in my car and regularly detail my vehicle inside and out. I have painted the inside and outside of my house, and I have hung wallpaper. I know how to change an electric socket or a light fixture, but I can no longer bend long enough to do so.

That was then.

Today, my life is more like this: I sleep at least 10 hours a day, that is if I’m not going through one of my insomnia bouts. I haven’t been to a gym in years. I haven’t taken a yoga class in almost a decade. I cannot walk distances or climb stairs. I cannot carry anything weighing more than ten pounds. I cannot kneel without great pain.

I can take care of my own hygiene, and for that I am very thankful. I can cook occasionally, but standing for hours to chop and process many dishes for a big meal is beyond my capabilities. I do laundry as long as someone else carries it to and from the washer and dryer. I cannot go grocery shopping by myself as I cannot load or unload the bags. I can sit at this computer for small stretches, but if I forget to get up regularly, I find my back frozen. My wrists hurt all of the time, but it’s not carpal tunnel; my pain doctor says that it’s directly related to the nerve bundles in my neck, which feel like large walnuts at any given time. My left shoulder has frozen twice.

Each month, or when I can afford it (not the same thing), I get at least 10-15 trigger point injections from my neck to my buttocks to try to loosen some of the muscles. I do not get massages as I cannot afford them. I have to take muscle relaxers all day and night just to exist.

By the way, it was taking these medications that gave my former employer cause for concern as I fell asleep at my desk from exhaustion one morning. They were concerned that I might fall asleep behind the wheel during the 26 mile commute to and from work. When I was referred to the proper channels about getting an accommodation at work for my condition, after review I was told that I would have to go out on disability. This was not something that I chose. If it had been up to me I would have probably tried to keep working for at least a few more years. Why? Because I loved having a career. Because not working at all after working since I was 15 has done quite a number on my mental health and self-esteem.

Along with the muscle relaxers and pain medication, I have to take antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicine. I take medicine to help me sleep. I take medicine for my cholesterol and blood sugar, both of which are high because I cannot exercise, even though I have given up sugar and altered my diet substantially. I take medicine for my thyroid and medicine for my GERD. And I haven’t even gotten to the migraines yet.

Ah yes, the migraines, which I have suffered since I was in my teens. I have been on so many medications for my migraines that I have truly lost count. The one medicine that did help caused my hair to fall out and really messed up my ability to think linearly or remember anything beyond my name. Now I take something to relieve the pain when it hits, but I can’t take it more than twice in one day, and I was told that after the first day, it’s really not effective, which is a bitch since my migraines last for days. The longest one lasted for weeks, no lie. They thought I might have a tumor. Luckily, it was just a migraine.

I have been somewhat fortunate in that my former employers all understood that extended exposure to overhead lighting triggers migraines, not that I didn’t catch grief for it. It is a little harder to explain to an employer who has never had a migraine why it’s impossible to look at a computer screen when in the midst of an episode. I suffer from what is called something akin to multi-headache syndrome: sinus headaches, stress headaches, and migraines. Oh, that pain level thing again as regards the headaches? Well today’s migraine was a solid 7. If it’s not the intensity, then it’s the frequency and/or longevity.

So how has all of this affected the quality of my life? How hasn’t it would be a more fitting question. My family members have all learned to keep their voices down when I have a headache. They all know that sometimes it is impossible for me to go somewhere as planned because of pain. If I go to a movie, I have to take a pillow so as to sit comfortably for a few hours. I can’t eat certain foods that trigger migraines. And my health insurance and medication costs eat up a big chunk of the family budget.

How has it affected me? I am a completely different woman, sometimes, a woman I don’t know, a woman with weaknesses she never had, a woman with limitations she never knew, a woman without a career after a lifetime of hard work, a woman with almost no retirement savings and small prospects for the future. I used to have an active social life, went to museum openings, symphonies, concerts; now my family wishes that I would leave the house more.

How has it affected me? I’m not entirely sure that I can answer this question to your satisfaction. You see, you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. You don’t know the person I was nor the person I have become. The person I was would have never chosen to answer this questionnaire in this manner, too embarrassing. That person was self-assured, successful, and smart. She thrived on stress, loved to learn new things, and welcomed challenges. This person? I’m not even sure that I would want to know her.

“Everything that I write is a kind of battle won—or lost—against silence and incoherence.” ~ Geoffrey Hill

Sailing on my mind . . .

                   

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” ~ Franz Kafka

Tuesday afternoon. Hazy, hot, and humid.

Sailing found on Pinterest

Long time no write, eh? Well we were in Ohio for Corey’s brother’s wedding. We left last Wednesday and got home in the wee hours of Monday morning. I’m happy to say that the road trip was incredibly uneventful, no car trouble, no flat tires, no engines blowing up on the side of a mountain. This time we did the smart thing and rented a car, thanks to Corey’s Aunt Judy who funded the trip. And it’s a good thing, too, that we didn’t take the Rodeo as it broke down last night in the Wal-Mart parking lot; the battery light had been coming on, so we had to buy a battery, and a hose burst. So glad that happened here and not on the road.

It was a Nissan Altima. Very nice, comfortable, and incredibly smooth ride, not to mention good on gas. We made it up and back in record time, too—about 11 hours, which is a nice change from our last trip which was 26 hours during a blizzard. The Tom Tom that Corey’s parents gave him for his birthday last year helped with the timing as it plotted the shortest route (time-wise). Technology can be a wonderful thing.

We took Tillie with us this time. We actually hadn’t planned to take her, but when we were loading the car, she jumped into the back seat and looked at us like “Well?” Very unusual for her as she is not a car dog. She was a bit restless on the way up, but slept soundly on the way home.

Anyway, the visit was very nice. Corey’s sister gave me a much needed hair cut, long layers everywhere, and about three inches off the length. We saw a lot of the family at the wedding, which was a casual outdoor affair, quite lovely really. I am so happy for Chad that he has found a very sweet woman and that their extended family gets along well. All of the nieces and nephews have grown so much. No one is little anymore. I know that Corey really enjoyed himself, so all in all, I would have to say successful road trip.

“I saw myself, heard myself, felt myself, not write—and yet even then knew perfectly both that I should be writing now and that I should now be sorrier than ever for my not writing then.” ~ Henry James, letter to Charles Eliot Norton, December 26, 1898

Head Sail Sun by russteaches (FCC)

I had thought about writing a few posts while I was in Ohio, but I just wasn’t up to it. I was saving my energy so that I wouldn’t be a blob at the wedding and when we went visiting. But that meant no writing, which made me a bit antsy. Maybe one day we’ll have a laptop again, and I’ll be able to write on the road.

My fluffy boy Shakes was happy to see me. He hasn’t left my side since we got home. Eamonn slept in our bed while we were gone, so the Jack Russells weren’t too lonely.

Corey’s boss had scheduled him for a first shift on Monday, which simply wasn’t possible, so he lost that one. But then his boss turned around and gave him two shifts today, first and third, which makes up for the lost shift, but such a full day for him as he also has class tonight. He’s signed up for two classes this fall, and I think that we’ve done all of his paper work, so he and Brett are good to go, that is until I have to buy books, which means lots of Internet searching for the best prices.

Eamonn is another story. He’ going to do two classes this fall, but he lost his financial aid for a semester because of his GPA. I’ve told him that we’ll pay for these two classes, but he must do well. He wants to get into the radiation technology program, and the application must be submitted by December. He really needs to get at least B’s, preferably A’s to get his GPA back up. It would really be a shame if he didn’t get into this program, especially since his dad knows the person in charge. I told Eamonn that this program would be his ticket to independence: There is always a need for radiation technicians in hospitals and doctors’ offices. If he’s serious about getting his own place and being independent, then he needs to be practical.

Here’s hoping . . .

“Maybe the fear is that
we are less than
we think we are,
when the
actuality of it
is that we are much much more.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness

Sailing in Roatan, Honduras

So aside from our travels, life is much the same. The kiddies all survived just fine while we were gone, although there were a few hiccups over food. I told them that’s what it’s like to have a roommate. To be fair, Eamonn was unaware that Brett and Em had bought certain food, and we weren’t able to tell him before we left. Eamonn is Eamonn.

Nothing new on the Alexis front. Haven’t seen or talked to her since the day she took me to the doctor. Last night when the car broke down, Corey called Mike to see if he could help. Alexis answered the phone and told Corey that she was eating dinner. Hmm . . . the number of times we’ve been busy but have dropped everything to accommodate her? Can’t even count.

I never thought that nearly grown/grown children would be more difficult than toddler children or more trying than teenager children. I was wrong. I love all of my children, but sometimes I just don’t understand where their heads are . . .

I can sit here and wish with all of my heart that life for my children would unfold without complications, but we all know that such things don’t happen in reality. Motherhood is fraught with potholes and the potential for pain, and nothing can change that. But how I wish that life was still so simple that mere mommy kisses could make things better. How I wish that hugs could heal . . . but if wishes were fishes . . .

“There are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands.”  ~ Oscar Wilde

Sailing Yachts

I’m cancelling all upcoming doctors’ appointments for the time being because once again, my health insurance coverage is messed up. Apparently, the payment that we sent at the end of June was never credited, and we have no idea where it is. This is not the first time that the payment processing center has lost a payment. But as a result, none of my doctor’s visits in May have been paid for, and I’m getting nasty calls from billing offices.

This I don’t need. Obviously. I mean it’s one thing when I know that I haven’t paid a bill, or that I’ve paid a bill late, but when the bill has been paid on time, and the phone calls still come—it’s just too much.

I told Corey that I’d like to move to Vermont, the one state that provides healthcare coverage for its citizens. It’s not that I’m in love with Vermont, just the idea of having healthcare. Corey says that Vermont is too damned cold.

Of course, if my Social Security disability would be approved, then I’d be relieved of this huge insurance payment each month. Every time that I think about that stupid judge who said that I had no disabilities I get angry. Every time I have a headache that lasts for days I think of that judge, and I want to call him. Each time I have to spend the day in bed recuperating because my body is just worn out, I think of that judge in not too kindly terms.

I hate having my future in someone else’s hands. I hate that loss of control. I hate bureaucrats. Sometimes, I wish that I had gone to law school when I had the chance, but then I come to my senses. Oh, who knows . . . all of the what ifs, should haves, maybes, whys—it’s enough to drive a person crazy, but then, we all know already how crazy I am . . .

(I sure am using a lot of ellipses in this post. Maybe it’s because my thoughts keep trailing off, or maybe it’s because it’s more of a stream of consciousness post: here, there, everywhere.)

“I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can.” ~ Jack Gilbert 

Sailing by Troy Li (Pixdaus)

I had a lovely surprise waiting for me when I got home: one of my regular readers wrote me a letter, a real letter on stationary. I gobbled up the words and enjoyed it thoroughly. Of course, now I must make the time to write her back, which will be good for me. Years ago, I used to keep a stock of stationary, lovely cream-colored linen. In this day of printers and computers, who has stationary any more?

I managed to read two and a half books while we were gone. I finally read The Book Thief, which I will admit was hard to get into, but once I did, I loved it. It’s set during Nazi Germany, but the story isn’t anything that you might think. I would highly recommend it. I also devoured a Lee Child book, 61 Hours, which is more fluff reading, but enjoyable nonetheless. And then last night I finished Life of Pi, which I had started while we were still in Ohio. I had heard about this book and read reviews, but had never gotten around to reading it. It’s an improbable story, bittersweet and touching. I loved the main character.

I have a stack of books in my to-read pile. I don’t like to read while I’m floating in the pool any more, not since I dropped Gargoyle into the pool and ruined it.

Speaking of the pool, the water is finally clear. Corey had a heck of a time getting the water to clear this season. Even though it’s just an above-ground pool, it still takes a lot of work to keep it in good shape. I deliberately did not go outside today as the pool would have been too tempting, and I really wanted to get a post up. Tomorrow though—floating and perhaps a new book.

That’s about all for now. I promised Brett that I would give him a haircut today, so he’s waiting.

More later. Peace.

Music by the Editors, “No Sound but the Wind” (just discovered this wonderful group)

                   

Too Many Names

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.

~ Pablo Neruda

“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” 

“For doing exactly what you think you like all the time makes you feel in the end that nothing at all is worth doing.” ~ John Piper

 Album Cover Art for Brandenburg Concertos, by John Piper

                   

“To me, dreams are not as romantic as bits of real experience.” ~ John Piper

"Death of Venice 1," by John Piper (1973)

Welcome back. I’m sitting here in the pseudo Internet cafe of ODU’s student center waiting for Brett to finish his club meeting. He’s joined an anime club that meets every Thursday evening from 6 to 10 p.m. I’m so happy that he’s actually meeting new people on his own that I have agreed to drive him back and forth to the meetings (in addition to the commute to classes).

Tonight, since Corey’s shift doesn’t end until midnight, I decided to stay here and go ahead and catch up on my Internet work, the primary goal being to make a final decision on which theme I’m going to use for a while and secondly, to put up some kind of post.

As you can see from the header above, I have chosen the theme Vigilance, which puts the title of the blog on the header image. I haven’t done this before, but I think that the title looks pretty cool atop my new image, which is a detail from a work by British artist John Egerton Christmas Piper (1902-1992). The image title is included in a widget on the sidebar.

I thought that a new header image was in order for two reasons: Fall is upon us, and a new theme needs a new look.

“Good paintings in the long run tell their own story—though not in words—for those who have intent eyes, an open mind, and much patience.” ~ John Piper

"Forthinghay, Northamptonshire," by John Piper (1941; image was seen on the living room wall of Dial M for Murder)

So this evening’s post obviously has a Piper theme: quotes and images. I was unfamiliar with this particular artist until I saw the header image on a tumblr post and was immediately taken with it.  

Just a bit of background on Piper: He was born in Epsom Surrey and knew that he wanted to be an artist; unfortunately, he was subjected to that time-honored but often loathed tradition of working for his father as a clerk in the patriarch’s law firm. Eventually, Piper went to art school, ultimately attending the Royal Academy.

Piper’s oeuvre is amazingly far-reaching: sketches, paintings, lithography, prints, scenery design, costumes for opera, ballet, and theater, murals, stained glass, tapestries, and fabric. Piper was keenly interested in landscapes and architecture—other people’s architecture, preferably aged. He once commented that he would “rather paint a ruined abbey half-covered with ivy and standing in long grass.”

“The spread of moss on a wall, a pattern of vineyards or a perspective of hop-fields may be the peg, but it is not hop-poles or vineyards or church towers that these pictures are meant to be about, but the emotion generated by them at one moment in one special plane.” ~ John Piper

"The Glyders Fabric," by John Piper (1960)

One of the more irksome aspects of working on a computer in a public setting is the complete lack of privacy (obviously), but also the inability to tweak the settings on the computer. This particular screen is about half the size of my screen at home, so everything looks smaller to me.

One of the reasons that I changed themes again was that the other theme seemed to be very large (visually) as far as the body typeface, and since I’m not paying for an upgrade to tweak the coding, I’m stuck with the presets. On another note, I’ve noticed that as I’ve moved between themes, the heading sizes are completely inconsistent, so something labeled header 4 in one theme is just right for my internal headers, but then turns into something ginormous when I switch themes.

The perfectionist in me wants to go back to all previous posts and fix the headers and formatting so that everything is consistent, but that would take forever. It just bothers me because someone new to my blog who goes back into the archives might wonder if I was doing some serious drugs when I formatted some of the older posts as things go from very large to very small.

It’s hard to explain exactly, but I know that the differences exist, so that’s enough to drive me batty even though no one else really notices.

“The value of abstract painting to me, and the value of surrealist painting are to me, are (paradoxically, if you like) that they are classical exercises, not romantic expressions. They are disciplines—even dreams can be disciplinarian—which open a road to ones own heart—but they are not the heart itself.” ~ John Piper

"Spring, Youth, Earth" by John Piper (a study for an Ipswich School window)

Today was my hearing with the Judge who will decide my fate as regards Social Security. The lawyer representing me for the insurance company did a great job in preparing me for the hearing. We had already spent an hour on the phone last week, during which time she asked me a barrage of questions, things that I don’t really think about or things that I take for granted. For example, she asked me how long I stand in one place.

I don’t know . . . 15 minutes? Whatever. Have you ever thought about how long you can stand in one place? Didn’t think so. Apparently, it’s a very important measure of something.

So the hearing was supposed to take 30 minutes. We started about 10 minutes late and finished almost an hour later . . . There was some woman in the hearing (don’t really know who she was) who, I am presuming, functioned as some kind of official on jobs. By that I mean after I answered all of the judge’s questions, and after Christine asked me a bunch more questions to clarify certain issues, the judge turns to this woman and asks her what kinds of jobs I would qualify for.

I don’t know where the Department of Labor gets its statistics and descriptions, but boy are they wrong. For example, this woman stated that my position as a sales manager was sedentary. If I had been drinking something at the time, I’m pretty sure that it would have come out of my nose.

Sedentary? Jeez. I worked 60 hours a week on that job, and sitting down was something we did when we made the schedules. Other than that, there was a whole lot of running around, and lots and lots of lifting.

The phrase usual and customary kept running through my head, and I just bit my tongue.

“That, in whatever direction you look, is a subject worthy of contemporary painting. Pure abstraction is undernourished. It should at least be allowed to feed bare on a beach with tins and broken bottles.” ~ John Piper

"Leckhampstead, Berkshire" by John Piper (1964)

Christine (my legal representative) gave me one of those cautionary glances, as in “don’t lose it,” and I kept my mouth shut. Then Christine redirected and asked the women if any of the positions that she had listed would allow for two hours stretches in which I would have to be idle in order to rest as a result of pain (either from my back or from a migraine).

Obviously, the answer is no. Nevertheless, I won’t know anything for 30 to 90 days.

What’s up with that? It takes that long to make a decision. Why? Again with the waiting. I am so damned tired of the waiting. At least I don’t have to do any more forms . . . that is, I think that I don’t have to do any more forms.

I probably should not have put that down in print since the way in which my luck runs, I will probably receive a sheaf of forms in a large manila envelope any day.

The bottom line is that I felt, and Christine concurred, that the hearing went fairly well. I answered questions and elaborated as needed, and I reined in my tendency to get snotty when I’m tired of answering questions. So that hurdle has been crossed. Now, more waiting.

Do I even need to mention for the record that I had a migraine when it was all over?

That’s about all for now. This tiny screen is making me squint and I’ve started to cuss under my breath (always a sign that I should stop).

I appreciate all of the support from those of you out there who have kept a good thought for me. Thanks for hanging in with me. I didn’t disappear (completely). Hope to be posting more regularly now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Soulsavers, “Some Misunderstanding”

“All is flux; nothing stays still.” ~ Heraclitus

True Pathway of Life by Feathered Tary (Flckr Creative Commons)

                      

“Sometimes in life, from out of a myriad of prosaic decisions like what to eat and where to sleep and how to dress, a true crossroads is revealed. In these moments, when the fog of relative irrelevancy lifts and fate rolls out a demand for free will, there is only left or right”. ~ J. R. Ward
The Bamboo Forest by Trey Ratliff (http://www.stuckincustoms.com/)

My hearing with Social Security is coming up on September 16, and I believe that I am beginning to panic. After all, that hearing is going to be a live-altering event.  I mean, if SS determines that yes, I am in fact disabled, then I go on their roster of disabled people. It makes it official—government official.  

The fear of being officially classified as a nonfunctioning member of society is causing me to look at the job listings with George Washington. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, wandering aimlessly through job listings, thinking about what I could do.  

But time for total truth: Would I be able to do it—it being return to the job force full-time, rejoin the lot of functioning, productive members of society?I honestly don’t know, and probably wouldn’t know until I tried. But the catch 22, the big iron in the works, so to speak, is that if I tried and found that I couldn’t do it, then what? Start the entire process again? Would that even be a possibility?  

Hence, my panic. I remember my mother used to repeat a phrase when she was perplexed: “What to do? What to do?” Exactly. Précisément.  

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” ~ Lewis Carroll
Doorways Neuville: Number One or Number Two?

A person could go mad in the face of such a conundrum: choose to act, and the possible failure has innumerable ramifications, but choose not to act, and the acquiescence may lead to the ultimate loss of self.  

Search your soul . . . Let your conscience be your guide . . . In the end, you’ll do what’s right . . .  

Really? Seriously? Being in this position make me realize acutely why some people consult psychics, have their palms read, have a Tarot card reading: Just tell me what’s going to come, and I’ll know what decision to make.  

Sorry, but no. Back to that whole free will concept: Each individual possesses the ability to control his or her fate by choosing a course of action from among alternatives; whether or not free will is connected to moral responsibility depends upon the individual. That being said, the concept of free will implies being responsible for one’s actions as a result of being accorded the freedom to choose.. However, as most philosophers point out, the concept of free will is illusory in that whether or not the individual succeeds in carrying out actions decided upon depends on a number of factors beyond that individual’s control.  

Or at least, that’s how I perceive it to be.  

“Although every man believes that his decisions and resolutions involve the most multifarious factors, in reality they are mere oscillation between flight and longing.” ~ Herman Broch
Stair Pathways on Hillsides of Valparaiso, Chile

The sticking point for me, then, is that if I do what I most want to do, that is, try to go back to work, possibly work on another degree, then I am subjecting my family to risk. That and the fact that I decide, but many factors out there loom beyond my control.  

The positives of trying to go back to work: 

  • Improved self-worth from feeling as if I am doing something productive
  • Increased family income, thereby helping to move us out of this never-ending miasma
  • Having health insurance paid for by the company instead of self-paying
  • Depending more on myself to get things done
  • Possibly feeling better when my mind has other things on which to dwell

The negatives of trying to go back to work:  

  • Working again and finding out that my body cannot tolerate the activity
  • Not being around full-time for Brett while he is beginning college, or being available to my family on a full-time basis
  • The costs involved in going back to work: purchasing another vehicle, travel, wardrobe
  • Having to go out on disability again and possibly not being able to get coverage
  • Having to pay back debts that were forgiven when I went on disability

I did not put having time to write on either of these lists as my experience in the past few years has shown me that I will write whether or not I have the time depending on my need to say something. In all of the time that I have been out on disability, I still have not put together my book, which is what I said that I would do. That in itself is telling.  

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~ M. Scott Peck
 Pathway bridge in Saharna Moldova, by Guttorm Flatabo

                      

As some of you may realize, I write my way through, the logic being that as I put the words to page, my mind processes and sifts, allowing me to arrive at some kind of logical conclusion, and if not a conclusion, then at least a moment to pause. Having written about decisions countless times, I can say that at this moment, I am not more certain as to what I should do than when I began this post.  

No great truth has come to me. At least, I don’t believe that it has. I heard a homily or proverb one time that went something like this: If you toss a coin in the air to help you make a decision, pause as the coin is in the air to reveal to yourself which outcome you were hoping for. Kind of like truth in a fortune cookie.  

I know what I want to do, but so many things make me afraid to take this route, not the least of which is how much pain I am in from concentrating so hard on getting these words out.  

Best five out of six . . . any words of wisdom would be appreciated.  

“There are no prescriptive solutions, no grand designs for grand problems. Life’s solutions lie in the minute particulars involving more and more individual people daring to create their own life and art, daring to listen to the voice within their deepest, original nature, and deeper still, the voice within the earth.”
~ Stephen Nachmanovitch 

More later. Peace.  

Music by Dryer, “Seen Enough”  

“You’re a three decker saurkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce.” ~ Dr. Seuss

 

You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch  

“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You’re as cuddly as a cactus,
You’re as charming as an eel.” ~ All lyrics from “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” by Dr. Seuss

Well, I’m back. We lost cable/Internet service. Something about wanting payment. Not really sure what that is. Anyway . . . 
You would think that after all of these many days away from my blog that I would have oodles to say. Funny, but I don’t. I mean, as soon as the Internet went out, I immediately wanted to blog. How typical of me—to want so keenly what I do not have, only to feel imposed upon by it once it returns. 

Actually, let me apologize in advance. I am terribly bitchy today, as I was yesterday, which is why I did not attempt post last night. I knew that anything that I wrote would only be a long diatribe on how awful things are, so I begged off until today, only to find that things are more awful today. 

Let me explain: Yesterday was one of my infrequent sojourns out of the house. Corey and I went to Target to pick up cards and stocking stuffers, as well as various other sundries. By the time that we got to the register, Corey was really foul—scowling, impatient, the works. It made me feel as if I had committed some egregious sin against humanity. 

Of course, part of it was that he wasn’t feeling well, but the larger part is that Corey just isn’t a Christmas person. Try as I might to infuse some of my love for the season into him, he just throws up this wall that doesn’t come down until well into the new year. I understand that not everyone is jolly about Christmas, but just a little ho, ho, ho instead of harumph and humbug would be nice. 

You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You’re a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.

Today, however, the foulness has bounced back onto me. I went into the garage to try to find some Christmas supplies, such as the wide ribbon that I use on the tree. I swear that I saw it less than a month ago in that hell hole that we call a garage, but now it has totally disappeared.  Then I made the mistake of opening some bags that were never put away after last Christmas, only to find that all of my wrapping paper, decorative tissues and gift bags have been ruined by moisture and mold. 

I’m not talking a few rolls and ten or so bags. I mean rolls and rolls of beautiful paper that I have amassed in after-Christmas sales, bags that I have picked out especially for certain family members to match their distinct personalities, and beautiful foil and decorated tissue paper. It just broke my heart. Truly. 

What breaks my heart even more is how I have always been so insistent upon storing Christmas paraphernalia so carefully: plastic tubs for ornaments, house decorations, lights, wrapping stuff, and the tree. Last year because Corey had torn down part of the attic when he was working on the garage, nothing was put back into storage properly. 

So even though the tree is up and decorated, little else can be done. I don’t even feel like decorating the outside of the house, even though I found the lights. I know. I’m having a huge pity party, and once again, I should be thinking about what we do have, but it is so hard sometimes. So hard not to feel completely down and bereft. So hard not to wish that I could do more, lift the kind of weight that I used to be able to lift.  

When I was working retail, I was incredibly strong for my size. I routinely lifted four-way racks filled with clothes from one spot on the floor to another several feet away. I carried bundles of clothes several feet high. It kills me that I cannot do this any more.  

I’ll admit it: It seems silly to be upset over the loss of various items that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but this is how I am. I relish the things that I have bought at bargain prices, stocking them away for the next year. I take great care when I wrap packages, choosing just the right paper, ribbons and bows. It delights me to see the finished products. Oh well. Nothing really to do except bemoan the fate of what has been ruined and get over it. 

I’ll just have to go out when we get back from Ohio and buy new wrapping stuff. With any luck, it will be on sale by then. 

You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch.
You’re the king of sinful sots.
Your heart’s a dead tomato splot
With moldy purple spots.
 

In other news, my mother fell on Sunday. She was walking up the back steps on her porch when she apparently missed one. Luckily, nothing was broken, but a lot of bruising and soreness. 

Now the really pathetic thing about this situation is that my mother crawled inside and called everyone in the family, and none of us answered. Ask me how horrible I feel . . . 

My phone was by the bed on the nightstand, but the battery was dead. As I have said, this phone is a genuine POS, and it does not hold a charge more than a day or so. Corey’s phone was in the dining room, so we didn’t hear it. Brett was at his friend’s house, and Eamonn was asleep, as was Alexis. Consequently, my mother called 911 and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. 

I feel so bad for my mother, just imagining how alone and scared she must have felt. She put on a brave front when we got to her house, and I stayed with her, but she wouldn’t let me do anything. I offered to put up one of her Christmas trees and decorate her house, but she said that she really didn’t feel like having a tree up. 

She is feeling better, although the bruising is looking worse as it is apt to do a few days later. Meanwhile, I am back to feeling like a worthless daughter. She didn’t need to say anything as it was so obvious that once again I had let her down. 

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch.
With a nauseaus super-naus.
You’re a crooked jerky jockey
And you drive a crooked horse. 

So much to do before we leave Friday afternoon. I had planned to do the wrapping, but that will have to wait until we get back. I’m still mired in paperwork with the pharmaceutical companies and the social security administration. The company that represents me is gearing up for the second appeal, which, apparently, happens before a judge.  At this point, just tell me where to be and what time to be there.  

I realize that disability is a racket, that people who don’t really need to be on disability try to get through the system all of the time. But those of us who genuinely depend upon this have to jump through so many hoops that it boggles the mind. That’s why I just cannot let this part of my life upset me. If it happens, it happens. If not, I’ll move on to the next step. Whatever. 

I desperately need a haircut, so I’m thinking of asking Corey’s sister if she will take care of it while we are in Ohio. I have only let one person take care of my hair for the past 15 years, but frankly, I cannot afford to go to her right now, so maybe I can get it shaped for now as I am so tired of pulling it back into a pony tail. 

To put things in perspective, at least I don’t have a teenager who ran up my cell phone bill by almost $22,000 in one month. Apparently, the California boy downloaded 1.4 million kilobytes of data last month. Busy boy. 

And Senator Joe Lieberman is pulling more of the ‘am I or aren’t I’ stunt that he displayed during the campaign. Apparently, Lieberman is definitely not into helping Capitol Hill Democrats any more. The Senator, who kept his pony chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee after apologizing to Democrats, is threatening to vote with Republicans on the health care bill. Joe, you are a schmoe. 

Other than those juicy tidbits, not much else going on. With any luck, tomorrow I will be more inspired and less grouchy. 

More later. Peace. 

Mr. Grinch, of course . . .