“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”