“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” ~ Stanley Kubrick


“Apple Tree,” Gustav Klimt (1912)

“Life is a train of moods like a string of beads; and as we pass through them they prove to be many colored lenses, which paint the world their own hue, and each shows us only what lies in its own focus” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Viae Alberato," Gustav Alberato

Sometimes when I cannot find my focus in order to post, I visit certain blogs to see if I can find inspiration. One such blog is Luke Storms’ blog, Crashingly Beautiul, which Storms calls his commonplace book, a collection of images and words. Very often, I will find the perfect quote which makes my thoughts begin to move in many different directions, allowing me to find the path that I wish to take to fill my empty page.

This post is a good example of my use of that particular creative process. For example, although I have read a lot of Emerson, the quote above is not one with which I am readily familiar. I thought that the image of many-colored lenses would be a good starting point for today.

It’s not that I don’t know what to say today, but more that I have so many things to say, and I don’t know how to make my thoughts slow enough to translate them into a post. Where do I start?

Probably with the most pressing concern: my mother is angry with me again, and I have no idea as to why. Today, Corey opened the front door to find a small box containing some odd things, and a dress bag containing my daughter’s first prom dress. All of these things were at my mother’s house. For some reason, she left them on my porch. No explanations. No note. Nothing.

She contends that she isn’t upset but claims that I asked for these things. I did not. They are a diverse collection: a miniature tea set that I bought at a flea market when I was a child. As it turned out, the tea set is an antique. Also in the box: A mother’s day plate that I gave my mother over 20 years ago, two figurines that are chipped and worth nothing. A couple of decorative plates that I bought for my mother’s kitchen years ago, a Waterford crystal swan that I won in a contest when I was the Homestore Manager at Dillard’s, and my daughter’s old prom dress. Oh, and the fax machine.

If I am supposed to be able to ascertain the meaning behind these items, I cannot. My mother said that she is giving us the fax machine because she is having her telephone disconnected because no one calls her except for telemarketers. All rightie then. She also said that she is cleaning out her house so that she can sell it and move into an apartment. I cannot begin to count the number of times that she has said this before.

“All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible.”  ~ William Faulkner

"Field of Poppies," Gustav Klimt (1907)

Alexis called me this afternoon, and after speaking for about ten minutes, she told me that she had lost her job. I was afraid that this would happen once her medical tests came back without any specific disorder. Turns out she overslept again and went into work late. They terminated her with cause, which means that she cannot collect unemployment.

This is, obviously, terrible. I told her that I thought that perhaps she was oversleeping because she hated her job so much, kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy. I just don’t know. I have been worried for months that she would lose her job because of her erratic attendance. I don’t want to be like my own mother by just commenting on the negative all of the time, so I tried very hard not to let on as to how upset I was. After all, she is a grown woman with her own life. I can only fear for her so as not to interfere.

She really wants to work as a bank teller. That’s something that she has wanted to do for years. Unfortunately, she has no bank contacts. I know that she could actually be very good as a teller as she is very careful with money and very honest. I really think that if she liked her job better, then she would be more reliable as far as the oversleeping goes.

I know too well how hard it is to pull yourself out of bed when the place that you are going to is filled with stress. If only I still had that magical ability that all mothers have when their children are small, when mommy kisses are magic, and the monsters and goblins cannot come in because mom has all of the power to keep the bad at bay. But that’s not how life really is, unfortunately, and mothers lose their omnipotence right about the time when their children begin to have best friends who are so much more interesting than their mommies.

So my mother is acting strange, and my daughter is now unemployed. Life just keeps getting better and better.

“What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant.”~ David Foster Wallace

"Roses Under the Trees," Gustav Klimt (1905)

I haven’t really had the energy to post in the past two days. I am suffering from furious bouts of chills. I called my doctor’s office to see if perhaps my symptoms might be hormonal. The nurse said that it could be my thyroid. Just had that tested and already on medication for that. So no, not the thyroid. My fibromyalgia, but of course, because that particular disorder is so non-specific, there is no definitive way of knowing if the chills are related.

I suppose that I should be thankful that I’m not having hot flashes, but this chills thing is pretty disconcerting. It’s warm and sunny outside, and I’m wearing sweats and long-sleeved shirts and sitting with a blanket around me. My body is so messed up. I do appear to be losing a little weight, but I think that that’s probably just a result of the lack of snack food in the house. I’m not big on sandwiches. We have a few things in the freezer, but mostly, I still eat the one meal a day. I really don’t eat much, which is why I have no idea as to why I can’t lose weight. Whatever.

Corey’s last two shifts at work were cancelled because of the ship’s schedule, but he’s on the schedule for four more shifts. Here’s hoping that everything is in place for him to work. If the ship is loaded sooner than expected, it leaves early, which cancels the need for anyone to stand watch.  This is what happened for yesterday and today.

Other than those tidbits, not too much going on around here. Actually, it’s probably better that nothing else is going on because chances are good that anything else would land jam-side down in the dirt. In other words, not good. We’ll just go with what we have, shall we?

More later. Peace.

“Love Me Like a River Does,” by Melody Gardot

“Dum spiro, spero” (Latin, ‘While I breathe, I hope’)

“Snow at Montmartre,” by Hippolyte-Camille Delpy (1869, oil on canvas)

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ~ Confucius

Well, the clock is ticking down (not that clocks tick any more), and the end of 2009 is upon us. I have so many things going on in my head, so many thoughts about this past year that it’s hard to know exactly where to begin, so I thought that I would begin with the following quote by Frederick Buechner as it seems so appropriate:

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts. We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.”

I imagine that many of you out there are thinking about this past year and the new year that is only hours away. For our family, 2009 has been a year of extremes. The things that have happened have all been intense and for the most part, not positive. I lost a favorite uncle and an aunt who had been like a grandmother to me. Corey spent another year without being able to find a job, but not for lack of trying. Eamonn graduated from high school and seemed to become even more distant emotionally. Brett had a very rough year in the beginning, but it has seemed to get better for him. Alexis, too, has had a hard year, and I’m not sure exactly what changes she needs to make so that she can find some happiness.

"Rooftops Under Snow," Gustave Caillebotte (1878, oil on canvas)

Our financial situation is no better, and after Corey’s unemployment ran out in September, things got much worse. We are still renegotiating the mortgage, and don’t know when to expect any word, especially since they have lost the paperwork twice. I am on my third appeal to the Social Security administration regarding my disability.

My other mother-in-law, Yvonne, seems to be getting much worse with her Parkinson’s disease, and my other father-in-law was admitted to ICU two days ago with pneumonia. My mother took a tumble down the stairs right before Christmas, but she seems to be doing better. Watching those you love age before your eyes is more painful that I ever could have anticipated.

Friends have fallen by the wayside. I don’t hear much from Jammi, and Rebecca has a new man in her life, so I haven’t heard from her in ages. Mari is still living in Massachusetts, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to see her again. My friend Sarah has been going through terrible times with her own family. I don’t remember the last time I actually spoke with Kathleen.

Tillie had a couple of seizures, a new development. Alfie escaped from the yard and was picked up by Animal Control. As a result, he had to spend the night in doggie jail, but we were glad that he was safe. Shakes developed some kind of skin rash that makes him chew at himself all of the time, but otherwise, he is still fat and happy.

Corey’s truck died this past summer, and we know that it needs a new transmission. The Trooper died on the side of a mountain on the way to Ohio in July. We still don’t have the gas turned back on, and our credit rating is completely in the toilet.

“And if you ask me whether I regret starting out
my voice rises like flocks of finches at dawn
and blows across the deep blue sky.” ~ from St. Nadie In Winter by Terrance Keenan

"Morning Light," Walter Elmer Schofield (1922, oil on canvas)

Of course, it hasn’t all been bad. Corey’s parents really came through for us this past year. They supplied us with a Ford Windstar van and paid for repairs. They have sent us money for gas and supplied us with food from Angel Food Ministries. Corey’s brothers rescued us when the Trooper broke down in Maryland, drove six hours one-way to get us, and then drove us back to Lima with the Trooper in tow. Their generosity has been overwhelming and one of the few bright spots in an otherwise abysmal year.

Kindness has come from unexpected places, as well. Sarah’s church donated some gift cards and a bit of cash, which came at a moment when we really needed it. My mother helped out as much as she was able.

Alexis did manage to find a job after being out of work for quite a while. Eamonn did manage to graduate even after missing way too many days of school and was accepted to the local community college. Brett did survive his junior of high school even though his mental state was precarious. Corey and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. In other words, we all had our personal victories, some smaller than others, others more significant.

But probably one of the best sources of support has been from the readers of my blog, who write me constantly, support me, and help me to keep things in perspective.

So it wasn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, far from it. Sometimes, it takes putting things down on paper (screens) to be able to weigh the past more accurately, assess issues more clearly.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” ~ T. S. Eliot

So that leaves 2010. Wow. It’s weird just typing that number. I remember in 1999 being completely overwhelmed at the thought of a new century, a new millenium. I never thought that the end of the world was going to come or even that my computer was going to explode. But 2000 seemed like such a milestone.

"Winter Twilight Along Central Park," Paul Cornoyer (1900, oil on canvas)

I rang in that new year on a friend’s boat, docked in the harbor of downtown Norfolk. There was a whole group of us who were celebrating together, and I had a great time because I parked my car in the garage, left it, and slept on the boat. We watched the fireworks, which were more amazing than any I had ever seen, and I went to sleep wondering what 2000 would bring.

Well, 2000 brought me Corey at a time when I was looking for no one. It brought me a change in jobs, also something for which I was not looking but should have been seeking. It was a year of many, many changes, and the past decade has brought more changes than I can possibly list.

Honestly, though, I have a good feeling about 2010. I’m not sure why, and if you pressed me, I couldn’t substantiate it with anything more than a feeling in my gut. I mean, our luck has been so bad for so long that we must be due for a change. If Karma works in the way in which it is supposed to, then our family should be about to move into a new, more peaceful, less tumultuous period. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

I feel re-energized about my writing. Eamonn is about to begin college. Brett is entering the second half of his senior year. Alexis, well, I don’t know what changes are in store for her, but I hope that they are good. And Corey? Well, his new job was supposed to start at the beginning of the new year, but his last conversation with the man from Van Brothers was a bit more vague, as in sometime in February. But we’re not giving up hope.

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” ~ Oscar Wilde Hope.

"Garden Under Snow," Paul Gauguin (1879, oil on canvas)

Hope—that small word that carries within it so much weight. Hope helps to bring the soldier through the battle. Hope wends its way through the heart looking for love. Hope is the wisp of smoke that eludes the individual keeping watch over a loved one who is gravely ill. Hope is the reflection of the stars in the night sky when everything seems without light. Hope is the sound of the wind and the rain, the birds and the ocean, affirming that life does indeed go on beyond the realm of our lives. Hope is the northern star that guides us when the path is unclear, and the anchor for our ships when we feel adrift at sea.

It would be so easy to give up, to say no more. It would be a relief not to fight against the machinations of the bureaucracies that threaten to overpower us. It would be less taxing to just sit back and say whatever, do your worst. And I admit that there have been times when these options have floated through my mind. But I do not succumb. I have a good man who loves me, cherishes me, respects me. I have three tremendously talented, intelligent children who are just beginning to find their way in the world. I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. And I have the love and support of family and friends who never let me forget just how much they care.

Whatever 2010 decides to throw my way, I will face it, whether or not I am ready, whether or not I feel able, whether or not I feel beaten down. I have no choice because hope does not abandon the individual, rather, the individual who abandons hope gives in to hope’s fouler relative—despair. And my friends, I refuse to give in to despair.

May you stay safe on this New Year’s Eve. Remember to be smart out there because not everyone else will be. My very best to you and yours for a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year.

More later. Peace.

From “Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou

. . . Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

“Same Old Lang Syne,” by the late, greatly underrated Dan Fogelberg . . .

“Nulla dies sine linea.” (Never a day without a line) ~ Horace

 Waterman Fairy Ad 

Vintage Advertisement for Waterman’s Fountain Pen

 

“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up on rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” ~ Author Unknown

Not a whole lot going on at the homestead.

Corey went to an open house for MSC (Military Sealift Command) today, only to find out that they haven’t had any available deck positions for over a year. He said that the place was packed and that most of those in attendance had no experience at all. I know that it is quite discouraging for him to go to these things only to find out that there are no jobs. Besides, why are they having an open house if they don’t have any positions. Does this make sense?

watermans new leaf penWe haven’t heard anything else from the shipyard, and as I said, that process could take months. Vane Brothers hasn’t gotten back to him either, although the man with whom Corey has been in contact did say that he was passing Corey’s detailed work experience on to the General Manager. I don’t even know if that means anything any more. It used to be that when you heard something like that from an employer, it was a very good sign, but not these days in this economy.

I think that I’ve finally gotten things straightened out with my retirement account. I had hoped that I wouldn’t have to take anything more out of my account, but I will probably have to continue to make withdrawals for the time being. With a 24 percent tax penalty each time, that’s a hefty loss right off the top for any withdrawal that I make, but we really don’t have any other choices left.

When I spoke to the representative with whom I have been in continuing contact, he told me that Denver had just been hit with a huge snowstorm, so the TIAA-CREF offices may be closing early. He didn’t seem very amused when I told him that it was 75 degrees here. Oh well. Glad that I don’t live in Denver. I’m not ready for snowstorms, not that we ever really get them in this area any more.

“You can’t write a personal column without going to some very deep place inside yourself, even if it’s only for four hours. It’s almost like psychotherapy, except you’re doing it on your own.” ~ Jennifer Allen, essayist 

Mark Twain pen adJust spending my time rereading some old books by Ann Rule. These aren’t as interesting as the ones that I read over the weekend, but they are better than nothing.

Other than that, I really don’t have a whole lot to say. I need to finish some paperwork for Virginia Social Services to see if I qualify for Medicaid. If I do, then some of my back balances with my doctors may be taken care of, which would be one load off my mind. With any luck, I may get some help with prescriptions as well, which would be really great since my prescription coverage is still screwed up, and we are having to pay full price for my prescriptions. As a result, I am not taking all of my meds, which I am sure is affecting the whole headache scenario.

It’s just a never-ending cycle.

Yesterday, Eamonn asked if he could borrow a few dollars. I had to laugh. I told him that I have precisely 12 cents to my name. I’m not sure what he is doing with the money that he is earning, but at least we don’t have to pay for his gas. He said something about waiting until next year to start school. I hope that it was just a passing comment, because I know from experience with Alexis that the longer he waits to begin, the greater are the chances that he won’t start at all. That would really be a shame.

Alexis kept saying that she would start one day, but that day has never come. All of her friends who went to college have already graduated and gotten jobs. I know that college isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s a shame when someone is definitely smart enough to go to college, and they don’t, but it has to be her decision.

“Some writers in the throes of writer’s block think their muses have died, but I don’t think that happens often; I think what happens is that the writers themselves sow the edges of their clearing with poison bait to keep their muses away, often without knowing they are doing it.” ~ Stephen King

advertisement-for-a-fountain-pen-featuring-a-silhouette-of-a-woman-sitting-under-a-tree-writingAnyway, it’s a chilly fall day with no sunshine, one of those kinds of days that make staying inside a good option. I’m really hoping that we can do something about the heat this winter, but I’m not going to allow myself to get starry-eyed with belief in wild scenarios. Heat. Wild scenario. My, I’ve come a long way.

As it is, the vet that we took Tillie to for her first seizure is getting pretty nasty about the amount owed. They’ve slapped on so many fees that we now owe over twice as much as we owed in the beginning. Try to imagine your highest vet’s bill—now double it. That’s what we’re talking about.

I would really like to start something with Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS), a non-profit service that helps people to consolidate and pay off their bills, but we don’t have the extra monthly income to even start something like that. CCCS is not like a lot of debt-consolidation companies. They are recognized by the Better Business Bureau, and they charge a minimal monthly fee for their services. However, once you start the program, it is very important that you make the monthly payment that has been negotiated with your creditors on your behalf; otherwise, the process is all for naught. Right now, it is too premature to agree to any kind of payment plan with anyone.

I’ve been reading the news, and the number of people who are having to file for bankruptcy is increasing each month. That is really something that I just do not want to do. It seems like total surrender, and I don’t want to consider that as an option. I know that there are a lot of irresponsible people who file for bankruptcy as a way to wipe the slate clean, and then they begin to accumulate debt all over again. But there are just as many people out there who are filing for bankruptcy because they just don’t have any other way out.

It’s sad really. A recent report in USA Today cited that the number of bankruptcies is up 22 percent over last year. By the end of the year, estimates are that 1.45 million consumers will have to file, with job loss being listed as the primary reason for filing. For 2009, Virginia ranks 23rd overall for bankruptcies filed. Nevada, Tennessee, and Georgia rank first through third, in that order.

The economy continues to be scary, and the job situation continues to be depressing. Not just for us but for millions of people.

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” ~ Joseph Heller 

Parker Duofold PenOther than those little tidbits, I don’t have much to say, which in itself is disheartening. I had really hoped to be back to my daily blogging by now, but there are some days in which I just have absolutely nothing to say. I sit down to write and just stare at the screen. Then I open a game like Mah Jong or Spider Solitaire and play that for a bit.

It’s underwhelming, at best. I mean, how long can I continue to write about my dogs, the economy, the money situation? I’m getting bored with what I write, so it’s only logical that people would find my posts boring to read. Hence, I don’t post.

I mean, I have been reading some really outlandish stuff on the political front, but even that isn’t motivating me to post. Maybe it’s just seasonal, or the continuing ache in my head, or the fact that it’s not even November, and I’m cold. But whatever it is, I hope that is passes soon, because I enjoy writing, just not when I continuously repeat myself.

I’ll finish with a very descriptive quote that I found; it’s by Stephen King, whose writing I don’t always like, but I do like an awful lot of what King has to say about the writing process:

There is indeed a half-wild beast that lives in the thickets of each writer’s imagination. It gorges on a half-cooked stew of suppositions, superstitions and half-finished stories. It’s drawn by the stink of the image-making stills writers paint in their heads. The place one calls one’s study or writing room is really no more than a clearing in the woods where one trains the beast (insofar as it can be trained) to come. One doesn’t call it; that doesn’t work. One just goes there and picks up the handiest writing implement (or turns it on) and then waits. It usually comes, drawn by the entrancing odor of hopeful ideas. Some days it only comes as far as the edge of the clearing, relieves itself and disappears again. Other days it darts across to the waiting writer, bites him and then turns tail. ~ From “The Writing Life” (October 2006)

Today is one of those “as far as the edge of the clearing” days. Video of Anna Nalick’s “Wreck of the Day” with images from “Law & Order Criminal Intent,” one of the best shows ever.

More later, with any luck. Peace.

“We convince by our presence.” ~ Walt Whitman

Blue River Henry County Indiana by Julayne

Blue River, Henry County, Indiana by Julayne

 

“Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.” ~ Walt Whitman

“When I give, I give myself.” ~ Walt Whitman

Sings of Autumn U of AK campus JJ
Signs of Autumn, U. of Alaska Campus by Janson Jones

Earlier this morning when I let the dogs out, I stuck my head outside and inhaled deeply. Yep. Smells like fall.

Even though we don’t live in the country, so to speak, the air still has those fine seasonal permutations in which sounds and scents can be discerned. Today promises to be in the low 60’s and sunny, or so says my little weather icon. Part of me could live in clear and cool in the 60’s every single day of my life. Not hot. Not cold. Not gloomy. Not snowy.

Yet, there is still that part of me that aches for the tropics. Not so much the heat as the blazing sun and azure waters. Feeling the fine grains of sand beneath my feet and falling asleep to the sound of the incoming and outgoing tides. I find that very appealing.

People who are from this area know exactly how fickle the weather can be. It can be 80 degrees on Thanksgiving Day. It can snow five inches in the middle of March. We can go from a high of 86 on Monday to a high of 60 on Tuesday. Everyone talks about how wonderful it is that we have such mild winters, but that makes me yearn for snow. And as I have said before, spring is entirely too short: We virtually run through spring directly into summer in about two weeks. But fall does seem to last a bit longer, which is fine by me.

“The future is more uncertain than the present” ~ Walt Whitman 

I’ve had this feeling of late that I am coming to some sort of crossroads. Part of that feeling is probably due, in part, to the fact that we are now at a do or die time for Corey to get a job, and the outlook for him being able to get a job on a tug boat is looking extremely dim.

Forecasts for the shipping industry do not anticipate any kind of upturn in the industry until 2010. I just read about a strike by some tug workers in New York harbor because of hiring practices.

Fall FoliageSo we have been discussing alternative careers. I know and Corey knows that circumstances will probably make it more than a possibility that he is going to have to shift his career if he is going to get a job anytime soon, which makes both of us more than a little melancholy. He just finished those classes to get more endorsements on his Merchant Marine Document (MMD), and he is more qualified than he has ever been at any point in his shipping career. But there just aren’t any jobs.

My Captain is without a vessel. I really ache for him. I, too, know what it is like to be out of work (not the current circumstances of being disabled), but avidly looking for work, and getting nothing but the standard, “We’ll put your resume on file” response. After the first 50 times, it’s hard not to begin to turn inside and think that there must be something wrong with you.

Statistically, in this kind of stagnant economy, I think the old saying is that for every 100 resumes you send out, you can expect to get 1 interview. Bummer, huh?

But even though we are still on this see saw, I have this gut feeling that a change is coming, not exactly sure what kind of change, but some kind of change. Change can be good. Right? I should embrace this gut feeling. Right? Then why do I feel trepidation?

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” ~ Walt Whitman 

Perhaps trepidation is too strong. Fear is too dramatic. Icky feeling in my gut is poorly phrased. What’s the word that I’m looking for? Agitation? Perturbation? Palpitation? Hesitation? That’s it: hesitation.

I am hesitant to embrace any kind of gut feeling that might portend a change for the better. After all, if you convince yourself that things are looking up, that’s about the time a grand piano falls from the sky and lands on your head.

Skyline DriveIs it any wonder that I really liked the story of  “Chicken Little” when I was a child? I suppose I have always been a glass half-empty person. I mean, if I won the lottery, after being incredibly excited, my very next feeling would be dread because of the taxes that I would have to pay. I know. I know. I’ve been talking about hope and strength and peace of mind, but the nudge side of me keeps intruding.

My ex used to call me a nudge, as in I could never let something go. I would keep nudging until it erupted or died like the proverbial dead horse on the front lawn. I’ve really worked on the whole letting go thing. I think that I’ve gotten much better. For example, whenever I used to get into an argument, I was never ready to apologize and move on. I do apologize now, and I actually mean it sincerely 99 percent of the time.

But I don’t think that I’ll ever get to the point at which I can say (truthfully) that I have let go of the perturbation at having been wronged by someone (other than Corey). I mean, I don’t openly dwell as much; truth be told, I don’t dwell to the point of internal agitation. But every once in a while, a memory of a situation in which someone has treated me badly will pop into my brain, and I will stew for a bit. I really wish that I could overcome the ability to remember past wrongs with such clarity. The rest of my memory seems to be getting fuzzier, but not the “Oh. I have been done wrong” part.

But I digress . . .

“Not I—not anyone else, can travel that road for you,/You must travel it for yourself.”  ~ Walt Whitman  

Crossroads. Fall. Right.

I do feel that I am coming to some sort of divide in the road, Frost’s two roads diverging. And I will probably take the path less trodden upon as it seems to offer more in the way of surprises. I’m just hoping that they will be good surprises, for a change.

Fall is my season of big change. Almost everything significant in my life has happened in the fall—good and bad. Job changes. School. New friendships. Losses. All in the fall.

I also find that I write more in the fall. I am planning to get back to my daily writing in October: posting everyday, getting back into my routine of writing about something, anything every day. Fall is also my time for poetry, perhaps because my psyche is has embellished upon it the memories of teaching literature classes to students who would groan audibly when I would mention poetry. By the second week, they wanted more. It’s all in the words, the ways in which we share them, the manner in which we connect with them.
sunset on skyline drive
Perhaps the change that I sense is the bounty that fall brings to my life. Perhaps not. Not being a seer, I have no way to tell. I just know that something is looming, just over the horizon. And I think that I am actually ready for it.

So I will pause and make myself cherish the coming days. Go outside more and breathe the air, watch the birds, listen to the geese as they fly overhead, and smell the leaves, the chrysanthemums, and enjoy my season.

I have used quotes from Walt Whitman in this post because his words have been echoing in my brain. In particular, there is one long quote by Whitman that is among my most favorite:

“This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun, and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men; go freely with the powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and mothers, of families: read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life: re-examine all you have been told at school or church, or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your soul.”

I have included James Wright’s “A Blessing,” as it is one of my favorite poems, and it jumped into my mind as I was writing this post. Obviously, it was supposed to be here.

More later. Peace.

A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

~ James Wright

                                                                                                   

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Weathering a Storm is No Guarantee of Calm Seas

rough-seas

Stormy Seas

Why Does It Always Rain on Those Who Are Already Wet With Tears?

“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

This afternoon a song from my past came to me from nowhere. I wasn’t listening to the radio or any of my playlists, or even a CD. It just came, but I’m pretty sure that I know why this particular song rose from my subconsious: The title and words are so close to what I am feeling right now.

“Helplessly Hoping” has been interpreted in so many ways, but I have always seen it as a love song about two people who are floundering. There love isn’t floundering, which is made apparent by the refrain, but individually, they are both losing themselves to confusion and circumstances. The words of the refrain symbolize how these two people are better together. As one, they are individuals. As two, they are separate but alone. But when they merge their separate selves, they become another person altogether: three. And always, they are “for each other.”

I find myself in a very perculiar position. A someone who has long suffered from severe depression, bordering on bipolar disorder, I have always been the one that has needed support and understanding from my partners. I have never had a more supportive or understanding partner when it comes to my mental health than Corey.

But now, I am watching someone I love more than life itself being consumed by self-doubt, depression, and guilt. And I finally realize just how helpless it feels to be in this position, how much you want to fix things but cannot. How much you want to take on the pain of your loved one, but how impossible that task truly is.

I can listen when he wants to talk. I can try to remind him of how talented he is, how much training and education he has acquired on his own to become better in his field. I can tell him that being unemployed is not something that he should feel guilty about, that taking a dead-end job for slightly over minimum wage wouldn’t give him benefits, nor would it pay as much as the unemployment for which he qualifies.

That’s a point that many people don’t understand. They say things like, “why don’t you just take any job for the time being?” never stopping to think about the realities of doing something like that. I’ve been in a dead-end job just to get by, and believe me, it does nothing for your self-esteem or your mental health. If anything, it only makes the problem worse.

Corey has always had his spells, his times in which he turns inward for a little while, and I have learned, or attempted to remember, that pushing him does nothing to help. Instead, it is better to let him work through these times, and he always has. But this time is different.

With each passing day, I am watching him feel as if he is less of a person, and this infuriates me. Mostly because my husband is one of the most caring, honorable, and hard-working individuals I have ever known. When he joined our family, he gave all of us a renewed sense of hope. He gave so much of himself to me and to my children, never doubting that we were working to come together as a family. He has been there countless times for Alexis when her father dropped out of her life. He has taught my sons about honor and respect and love just by being the man that he is.

How could you possibly want more of someone?

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

We never ever dreamed that his unemployment would drag on so long. He has written, sent resumes and applications, and made so many telephone calls that we have lost count. We thought that the course that he took last year would be enough to make the difference, but it wasn’t. We thought that this AB course would help to make the difference, but now our plans have been derailed once again.

I no longer feel as if I am surfing on quicksand. I now feel as if I am treading in quicksand. The safety of the board on the surface has disappeared. I try not to sound as if I am feeling sorry for myself, and the reality is that self-pity isn’t what I am really feeling. The emotions are more a combination of hopelessness, anger, and guilt in my abilities to make things better for this family.

I cannot help but think that if I had never been put out on disability, things would be different. I still wonder if I shouldn’t try to go back to work, although considering my health background, I don’t know who would take a chance on me.

There are too many unanswered questions. Life has become like a maze with nothing but dead ends and no clear paths.  And so for today, I find solace in an old song. Tomorrow? Who knows?

If suffering and adversity make a person stronger, then by the time all of this is over, we should be like superheroes. That, or we will be like flowers deprived too long of the sun: withering and unable to withstand much more.

Peace

 

“Helplessly Hoping”
by Stephen Stills

Helplessly hoping her harlequin hovers nearby
Awaiting a word
Gasping at glimpses of gentle true spirit
He runs, wishing he could fly
Only to trip at the sound of goodbye

Wordlessly watching, he waits by the window
And wonders at the empty place inside
Heartlessly helping himself to her bad dreams
He worries, did he hear a goodbye
Or even hello

{Refrain}
They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for each other

Stanby the stairway, you’ll see something
Certain to tell you confusion has its cost
Love isn’t lying, it’s loose in a lady
Who lingers, saying she is lost
And choking on hello

{Refrain}
They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for each other

Why We Need This Recovery Plan: An Op-Ed Piece

The Action Americans Need

By Barack Obama

Thursday, February 5, 2009; Page A17

By now, it’s clear to everyone that we have inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the days of the Great Depression. Millions of jobs that Americans relied on just a year ago are gone; millions more of the nest eggs families worked so hard to build have vanished. People everywhere are worried about what tomorrow will bring.

What Americans expect from Washington is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives — action that’s swift, bold and wise enough for us to climb out of this crisis.

Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That’s why I feel such a sense of urgency about the recovery plan before Congress. With it, we will create or save more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, provide immediate tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, ignite spending by businesses and consumers alike, and take steps to strengthen our country for years to come.

This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending — it’s a strategy for America’s long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it’s a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis — the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We’ve seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.

Every day, our economy gets sicker — and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.

Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.

Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.

These are the actions Americans expect us to take without delay. They’re patient enough to know that our economic recovery will be measured in years, not months. But they have no patience for the same old partisan gridlock that stands in the way of action while our economy continues to slide.

So we have a choice to make. We can once again let Washington’s bad habits stand in the way of progress. Or we can pull together and say that in America, our destiny isn’t written for us but by us. We can place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles, and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and, together, write the next great chapter in our history and meet the test of our time.

The writer is president of the United States.

Source: washingtonpost.com

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/04/AR2009020403174.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Ever The Same

jessie-willcox-smith-new-years-baby
Jessie Willcox Smith, watercolor, charcoal, colored pencil, 1910

“New Year, Same Goal” ~ Joe King 

About that resolution thing . . .

So I tell a friend of mine that I’m going to write about my resolutions for 2009 in my New Year’s blog. Then I realize that that means  that I actually have to put down resolutions for everyone to see, and I’m thinking, hmm, is this really a good idea, what with me putting my whole life out here on a daily basis? And people who really know me know how much of a procrastinator I am, and people who know Corey know how much more of a procrastinator he is, and between the two of us, it’s a wonder anything gets done unless we happen to be cycling on an energy upswing, which hasn’t happened in quite a while, what with the whole unemployment and ensuing downturn in the economy and predictable downturn in moods and related downturn in funds for projects, and then the back, and now the shoulder, and you see where I’m going . . . don’t you?

Breathe . . . two . . . three . . . four.

“New Year’s Resolution: To t0lerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.” ~ James Agate

But actually, there really are things that I would like to put on my “resolve to accomplish” list for 2009, and then really work on accomplishing them, so I shall take a stab at it, as they (just who are they, anyway?) say.

Resolved:

To write at least two hours daily. I have found that when I do this, I feel much better about myself, feel as if I have accomplished something, and feel that I am making headway in my long-term goal towards creating something publishable.

To try (key word being try) to stay more organized so that I don’t miss doctor’s appointments or get the times or dates wrong.

To help Brett get through the rest of this school year without over-stressing.

To work on our personal debt that has grown since the big financial crash of 2008.

To put together the rest of the dining room chairs, and start having dinner together as a family at least half of the time each week.

To download the pictures in the camera and to start doing something with them.

To start scrap booking (see above) and quit thinking that I’ll remember all of this stuff because I won’t

To take better care of myself by getting on the training bike every morning for at least 15 minutes (I can do that, 15 minutes, right?) so that I’m getting some kind of exercise, since I can’t do free weights right now with my shoulder.

To make sure that Corey takes better care of himself by quitting smoking, or at least cutting back, and stops eating things that are bad for his heart.

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives . . . looking for flaws, but for potential.” ~ Ellen Goodman

And a few more:

To paint my bedroom by mid-February so that the bedroom furniture can come out of the boxes in the living room.

To take up the rest of the old carpet in the living room and dining room by March.

To paint the living room and dining room by April.

If Corey has a job, to finish renovating the garage by the end of summer.

To start to work on the deck in the fall.

“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.” ~ Brooks Atkinson

I think that that’s a pretty comprehensive list. I’m certain that I could add lots more, but I don’t want to overdo it. If I add too much, then I’ll look at the list and start to feel overwhelmed and as they say in the old Monty Python movies, I would have to “run away.” But there are just a few more that I feel a need to add:

Find the copy of the Blade (first) DVD that is lost somewhere in this house

Fix my dangling black earrings that have been sitting in the dish on my dresser

Backup my hard drive because my computer has been acting wacky.

There. I think that takes care of everything, from the mundane to the lofty. Some of these I know that I will be able to accomplish. That’s why I put them on here, just to be able to give myself a sense of accomplishment. Some of these I might get done, but maybe not within the time frame that I’m hoping for. Some things I didn’t put on here because they are a given, and I don’t want to jinx them. I just want everyone out there to send good thoughts to help them happen. And these are the two most important: That Corey can find a job on a boat very, very soon, and that I can find some relief from this constant pain, which I know is exacerbated by the stress.

Thank you for visiting and reading. It means a lot. I hope that you and yours have a very safe and happy 2009. Peace be with you.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~ T.S. Eliot