“Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.” ~ Carl Schurz

Sun Reflected in Frosty River

 

“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston from Dust Tracks on the Road

Well, we survived Thanksgiving and my mother’s lovely running critical commentary throughout dinner. Had a bit of a snafu though: Alexis overslept because her electricity went out during the night, so her alarm did not go off, and as a result, the turkey went into the oven rather late. Since it was a 20-pound turkey, we didn’t eat dinner until 8 p.m., which doesn’t really bother most of us because we tend to eat late, but my mother was beside herself.

I called her at 2:30 to tell her that everything was going to be late and suggested that she eat a small meal, but that didn’t stop the bitching. “What do you mean . . . why? . . . how did her electricity go out in the middle of the night . . . I’ve never heard of such a thing . . . I can’t believe this . . .” Unfortunately, we could not cook the turkey here as we are still without natural gas, and our oven is a beautiful, large gas oven that is sitting unused, but that my friends, is a different saga.

This couple couldn't take the time to put on clothes

So the waiting became too much for eldest son as he had an urgent need to get to his girlfriend’s house; we sent him on his way with our blessings and suggested that he check back in later, although he didn’t.  In spite of the delay, dinner was delicious, not way too much food as it used to be, and we had open-faced hot turkey sandwiches on Friday night for dinner.

The madness that is Black Friday did not leave the country unscathed. No stampedes at Wal Marts this year because the stores allowed shoppers into the building; the catch was that no one was allowed to touch the early bird specials until 5 a.m. Everything was on pallets and covered with plastic. I know about this not because I was there (Wal Mart the day after Thanksgiving? me? shudder), but because Alexis’s friend Jennifer went and was out by 5:40 a.m. in time to go to work. Amazing.

I didn’t read any stories about fights in the aisles or mayhem, and the American consumer seemed to be more willing to part with dwindling cash, somewhat. Preliminary data show that shoppers deposited almost $41.2 billion into retail coffers (oh to have just .001 percent of that), this according to the National Retail Federation.  But the madness that normally plagues the pages of the news seemed to be less this year.

There was a shooting in which a man killed his adult sisters and a 6-year-old cousin on Thanksgiving day; another man locked his children in the trunk of his Trans Am while he ran into a sporting goods store (“They like to play in the trunk”). However, the most horrific thing that happened over the holiday weekend state side was the shooting of four Seattle police officers in a coffee shop early Sunday morning. The officers were sitting at a table with their laptops preparing their day when 37-year-old Maurice Clemmons walked in and opened fire. No other patrons were shot, only the officers. For more details on this story, click here.

“To receive everything, one must open one’s hands and give.” ~ Taisen Deshimaru

A Salvation Army Kettle

Oh, and one more on holiday cheer and good will towards all: In Toledo, Ohio, a man grabbed a Salvation Army kettle full of donations and pushed the bell ringer to the ground. Supposedly the man said, “I can’t stand you and your bell-ringing. I hate Christmas.” Clearly, this year’s winner for the Ebenezer Scrooge award. Personally, I love to see the kettles, but I miss seeing real Salvation Army members ringing the bells. I always try to put something in at least a few kettles each year.

And by the way, the rumor that bell-ringers receive part of the kettle coffers is absolutely false. Bell-ringing is done by civic organizations, scout troops, schools, etc, but the Salvation Army does employ people from shelters to be bell-ringers. These needy individuals receive minimum wage to stand out in the cold, snow, and rain collecting donations that are used to fund the Salvation Army’ s many charitable programs, including shelters, meal programs, after-school programs, to name but a few.

“You’re the love of my life
And the breath in my prayers
Take my hand, lead me there” ~ Dave Matthews Band

So with the one holiday over and the big one looming, Corey and I are in a kind of stasis. The bills continue to pile up, and the money continues to be non-existent. We have a huge payment due to the power company in just a few days, and absolutely no way to pay it. It’s hard to think about putting up Christmas lights when there might not be electricity to power them.

So that’s what I mean about stasis. We cannot really do anything as far as decorating until the living room undergoes a major clearing, but that is dependent upon painting the bedroom, and I had forgotten that one of the reasons that we didn’t move  the very heavy bureau into the bedroom before this is that the bedroom needs to be carpeted. Once that huge dresser is in place, it’s going to be very hard to move it. So do we wait to paint until we can carpet so that we move everything once? Do we move everything twice? And who is this we I speak of, Kemosabe . . .

I must admit that my recent renewed addiction to home renovation shows is not helping with my complete dissatisfaction with the state of our house. There are so many things that we could do to make the house better, less cluttered, easier to get around in if we just had a little cash. Having said that, using cash for renovations has to take a backseat to using it for bills, so once again, the infamous Catch 22 comes into play.

Oh well, moving along . . .

“We clasp the hands of those that go before us, and the hands of those who come after us.” ~ Wendell Berry

Brett's Hands

I have been thinking of hands lately. Don’t ask my why, but  I have. Hands that are moving through the air. Sunlight glowing through hands. Babies’ hands. My children’s hands, which are very much like my own. I have very long fingers, which was great when it came to playing the piano, and all three of my children have long thin fingers.

I remember my father’s hands. He had a degenerative condition in his right hand that caused the muscle to atrophy, so much so that he had to use his left hand to turn the ignition in his 1966 Ford Falcon.  I remember more than once looking at my father’s hands, so bent and worn with age and work, and being just amazed at how much those hands had accomplished over the years.

I really don’t remember anything that my father couldn’t do when he tried. He built things around the house, sewed things, fixed things, worked on his car (all of the time), and maintained the engines on those huge cargo ships that traveled all over the world. I know that my father was very good at his job because he had ship captains who routinely requested him.

In the end, when he was in the hospital, it was his hands that I watched. So small and shrunken, they knitted the sheets to and fro. This man who was never really still his entire life was working even in the midst of his morphine dreams. Watching that automatic movement day after day almost broke me.

But my thoughts about hands are not all painful. In my mind’s eye I see a pre-school craft project that Alexis made: a piece of muslin with small green handprints in a circle, forming a wreath. I still have that. Brett’s hands, specifically his thumb, which he sucked when he was a baby. I never really fretted that he sucked his thumb because I knew that he would stop when he was ready. Nine-year-old Eamonn’s long fingers scooped around a basketball, his slightly crooked smile as he stood for his team picture.

These memories are good memories. I can take the memory of my father’s hands when it is balanced against these memories from my children’s earlier days.

My hands when I had long manicured nails

I look down at my own hands as they skate aross the keys: long, thin fingers, the one vein on each hand that has always been prominent, cuticles a bit ragged from worrying them unconsciously. These hands have touched piano keys and computer keys; they have brushed my daughter’s long hair and finger-combed my son’s waves. These hands have held four babies, cupped their small heads and massaged their backs. These hands have polished a thousand pieces of furniture and cleaned thousands of dishes. They have planted countless flowers and strung colored lights year after year.

These hands are my strength and my weakness: For everything that these hands have allowed me to do, they have also felt the pain of being idle at times when doing something, anything, would have helped.

These hands stroked the soft dark hair on my daughter’s head as she lay dying in my arms, but these hands could not stop death. These hands held my father’s small, curled hands as he lay sleeping in a hospital bed, but these hands could not keep the pain at bay nor force death to wait.

These hands have held newborn babies, and puppies seconds from their mother’s womb. They have stroked the flanks of a chestnut mare and loosened the bolts in an engine. They have turned the pages of thousands of books and held countless cups of tea and coffee. Each morning, these hands move across a face that belies its age, while fingers probe for wrinkles that have yet to appear. These hands stroke Corey’s cheek when he is asleep, and rub the belly of my fat, spoiled dog as he lays snoring by my side.

Everything that is or has been me is within these hands, and when I hold them up to my eyes when the summer sun beats down relentlessly, my fingers seem to glow with life, and I am reminded of that scene in the old movie Ladyhawke when Isabeau raises her hands to the morning sun just before she transforms into the hawk.

I have my father’s hands. My desire is that when I am in the dusk of my life, my hands will have created more than they have destroyed, that they will have caressed more than they have repelled, that they will have calmed more than they have worried, and that they will have written a million words, filled with the myriad sides of myself, my life, and those who have used their own hands to help me, guide me, hold me, and teach me along the way.

More later. Peace.

This video of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s “Falling Slowly” somehow seemed appropriate.

 

 

And the Sun Shines Again

fog-at-the-beach-by-marge-levine-pastel

I love this pastel by Marge Levine entitled “Fog on the Beach”

“The art of art, the glory of expression, and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.” ~ Walt Whitman

“The fog comes in on little cat feet . . .” ~ Carl Sandburg

Finally, after eight long, muddy days, the sun came out today. At first, the area was covered with a very thick blanket of dense fog, but by noon, it had burned off, and the sun came out, and the temperatures rose. May I just add a hallelujah here?

Tillie the lab was so happy that it stopped raining that she convinced Brett to take her to the park for a walk and some running action. They’ve both missed their park time. As have I. When Tillie doesn’t get a workout during the day, she wants to play all night, which includes trying to help me type when I’m on the computer. You may not know this, but Labradors like to type with their noses, which are quite big.

I had to have my blood work done this morning before my checkup next week. I’m hoping that all of my levels are much better this time, especially the triglycerides, which were through the roof three months ago. My doctor is in Hampton, which means that I have to drive through the Hampton Roads Tunnel to get there. It was a very cool trip on the way to the doctor as the fog had not burned off yet, and the Bay was covered in this white layer.

fog-over-westminster-bridge-and-parliament
London Fog Over Westminster Bridge With Parliament in the Background

I love to see fog on the water. It is a very ethereal sight. At the same time, I hate to see fog on the water when I know that Corey is on a boat because fog is so dangerous for people who work on the water.

I remember when I was small and we lived in London, there used to be fog so thick that it was virtually impenetrable. Pea soup fog it was called. My mother and I were out once when a very heavy fog descended on the city. As a child, I thought that it was a great adventure, but my mother still talks about how frightening the whole experience was—not being able to see anyone until they were right upon you.

I suppose that even at a young age I had a flair for the dramatic, which is why I loved the fog so much. I conjured up the possibilities of all kinds of strange things happening in the fog: people snatching children, wild dogs, and who knows what else. Need I mention that I had a very vivid imagination, which probably did not help my mother’s state of mind at the time.

I do have to admit, though, that I have never quite understood Sandburg’s quote about fog being like little “cat feet.” What is that about? Fog descends. It cloaks. It obfuscates. Cats pounce or slink or retire to another room when an obnoxious person is around. Besides, I have known very few cats who love water, and fog loves water. Okay, so I’ll stop on Sandburg now.

On the Lighter Side . . . Perhaps . . .

42-19062324
You want me to take what?

As I mentioned earlier, ever since I started taking my new migraine medicine I have been having the wildest, most vivid dreams. So today I thought that I would go on the web to see what some of the common side effects are for this particular medicine. I’m not talking about the list of “possible side effects” printed by the pharmaceutical company and included with the medicine. I’m talking about a blog on which people who are taking this medicine report their side effects. Not to my surprise, the list is long and a bit distressing:

  • Vivid dreams; nightmares (so this is not an offshoot of my vivid imagination?)
  • Night sweats (really don’t find this one even remotely attractive but am told that this will happen to me sooner or later . . . great)
  • Short-term memory loss (already have that one from the last medicine)
  • Memory lapses, as in drifting off while people are speaking to you (I thought that was natural for me)
  • Loss of hair (another reason I stopped taking the last medicine)
  • Weight gain (audible gasp and horrors)
  • Weight loss (much better)
  • Excessive clumsiness (now this is too much; I already trip on air when walking through the house)
  • Diminished libido (not in favor of this one)
  • Migraines (excuse me????? I thought that this was why I was taking this medicine)
  • Nausea (or as  my children used to say: naudeous, as in “I’m feeling naudeous”)
  • Acne (now that’s always attractive: acne in a grown woman)
  • Back acne (could that be why there is a diminished libido?)
  • Sensitivity to alcohol (good thing I only drink about four times a year)
  • Temperature sensitivity (puleez, tell me something new)

So in essence, the big ones that are possible are the same big ones for which I stopped taking the last medicine. The other possibilities seem so delightful that I can hardly contain myself. Right now, I’m on the lowest dose with a plan to increase the dose in increments. Almost everyone on the site mentioned that the worst side effects started kicking in at about 100 mg. This gives me something to look forward to, and if nothing else, I’ll have new topics for my blogs.

The Great Lighter Debacle

Every time I buy a double pack of those long disposable lighters—you know, the ones used to light grills or candles—they disappear. The culprit is my son, Eamonn. He takes them and leaves them in the Trooper, a once non-smoking zone. So the other night when the power went out, and I was searching for a lighter to illuminate the various candles around the house (he also steals those and puts them in his room), I could not find a single long lighter.

disposable-candle-lighter
Disposable Lighter: A Valuable Commodity in My House

After some swearing and hunting for matches in the dark, I managed to light the candles that were in shallow jars or dishes, but I was mightily vexed—resulting in my decision to purchase at least four of these buggers and hide them around the house. The problem was that with my short-term memory loss (see section above), I kept forgetting to ask Corey to pick some up when he went to the store.

I finally remembered a few days ago when Corey was going to that horrible bastion of low low prices and killer of small businesses, Wal Mart. But Corey came home without the lighters. He said that they were just too expensive there and that he was sure that he could find them cheaper somewhere else. Fine by me.

So when he went to Target to get special dog cookies (the ones with eucalyptus that help with the dogs’ sewer breath), Corey picked up two packs there. He walks in the bedroom with one and says, “Can you light this thing?” I look at him as if he has grown a third eye and grab the thing out of his hand, only to realize three short seconds later that whoever designed this damned lighter has not only made it child-proof but adult-proof as well. First, you are supposed to move the child-proof lever to the side (of course there is no picture, and nothing is labeled on the lighter). Then, while holding that lever to the side, you are supposed to push in the button to ignite the lighter. Except this maneuver does not work. At all. No flame. No blue butane hue. Nothing. Nada.

Two grown adults and one gifted youth could not make these lighters work. I kid you not. We put them back in the package, and Corey took them back to Target today. The woman at the customer service center asked if there was anything wrong with them. Corey told her that there was nothing wrong besides the fact that some idiot had made them impossible to light. (I think that she may have thought that he was exaggerating; just wait until someone at the store tries to light one).

The end result was that we had to further our search for a long lighter that didn’t cost an arm and a leg and, if the planets were aligned correctly, would light on demand. Fortunately, Corey found some.

We now have them hidden in various parts of the house. Meanwhile, I bought Eamonn a new candle for his room and a small disposable lighter. We’ll see how long it takes him to find the good lighters.

On that note, more later. Peace.

Do I Ever Really Have Random Thoughts?

water-lilies-claude-monet-oil-on-canvas

Water-Lilies by Claude Monet, Oil on Canvas

Or Are They Always Just One Big Thought Without Punctuation?

1. I am a major Battlestar Gallactica nerd. I love this show. So when it ended abruptly almost a year ago with everyone standing on a nuked out earth, and no indications of when it was all going to be cleared up, I was bereft. I have the first three seasons on DVD. That’s how much of a BG nerd I am. So I was more than happy when they finally decided to show the remaining shows to end season four and end the show beginning a month ago that you would think that I would have been glued to my television. I set my DVD to record, but just got around to watching. Go figure the logic in my mind . . .

2. I got the idea for this post from David Bridger’s site, which I visit frequently because he usually has pretty bizarre postings. For example, he had a post about how his daughter’s door squeaked out the first five notes from the Addams Family, which of course, put the tune in my head. Couldn’t let that go, so I put the tune “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” in his head. The last I read, it had gotten down to Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” Putting an earworm into someone’s head is pretty sneaky business. I would never do that to anyone. But does anyone remember the words to “Sweet City Woman”?

hand-sanitizer1

3. I’m addicted to hand sanitizer. I have little miniature bottles of it everywhere, in the cars, in all of my various bags, and I’ve made Corey addicted to it as well. He carries a miniature bottle in his carryall. Alexis carries on in her purse. And my sons are so used to using it before they eat fast food. I think that if you’re going to be addicted to something, hand sanitizer is a good thing. Have you seen what people do with their hands in stores? Think about it the next time you use a cart in a store.

4. I really love the color purple and its various shades, light purple, dark purple, lavender, lilac. etc., which is why I am probably so much in love with Monet’s Water Lilies.

5. I wish that I had more opportunities to wear my boots and sweaters, but now that I don’t go to work everyday, I don’t have to get dressed in real clothes everyday. Usually, it’s just sweats for me. It would be kind of silly to get dressed in boots and a skirt and sweater to sit here at my computer for five or six hours, although it might make me feel better about myself.

6. My dogs are unnatural. Tillie is just plain demanding, and vocal about it. I swear the dog talks to me, and gets louder if I do not acknowledge her. Shakes snores and will not let me out of his sight, and also talks; it’s just a different dialect than Tillie. If I stay up too late working on the computer, Shakes gets very impatient and tries to jump in my lap (an impossibility as he is very bottom heavy), and then starts bitching at me to try to get me to go to bed. And Alfie is just plain psycho. I say that with love in my heart, but I can be holding him and rubbing his belly, and all of a sudden, this small dog will start a growl deep in his throat, and it may be because one of the other dogs entered the room, or it may be because he doesn’t want me to touch that part of his belly. You just never know with him. He really should have gotten laid before he lost his manhood.

7. I’m currently using checks that have a misspelling in the imprinted quote beneath the total line. I know the misspelling is there. In fact, I made the check company reprint the checks because of the misspelling, but since I ran out of checks and ran out of money to reprint more checks, and thought of the trees and the waste, decided to use them anyway, even though they offended my sensibilities. The quote is by Albert Einstein, and it is one of my favorites: “Imagnation is more important than knowledge.” This is the quote with the misspelling. Did you notice? Jumped out at me as soon as I opened the box. Corey kept saying, “where, where?”

8. Speaking of which, I try not to be, but I’m one of those pain in he butt people who corrects things like menus, my children’s speech, and various and sundry other things. When I was teaching Editing to English majors at ODU, I used to have them keep an Anguished English journal, in which they had to collect examples of various abuses of the English language. We would share our collections, some of which were hilarious. I once corrected a memo that my Division General Manager had sent out company-wide; it was riddled with mistakes. He had not run the memo by me first for a proofing. The memo concerned a very large, multi-million dollar contract with the Air Force. His assistant had made mistakes such as using the word roll instead of role for the company’s role in the job. It was really quite embarrassing. Anyway, I corrected it and sent it back to him, and told him that he never should have sent it out without sending it to me first. Very few people could have gotten away with that, but when you are right, you are right.

9. I’m obnoxious when it comes to being right.

10. I do actually watch one reality television show: “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” I started watching it when it first came on four years ago, and I became addicted. Those women are so far out there. Who spends $3800 in one day on hats? Certainly no one in my circle. That’s why I watch it.

11. I still have two metal pica/agate rulers from when I worked at the newspaper several years ago. These are the old style rulers that were used to measure headlines by hand if need be. They are made of metal, and they are very flexible but durable. I love these rulers. One is a 12 inch, and one is an 18 inch. I tell you, there are some things that I simply cannot let go of, and certain office supplies are among that category.metal-pica-ruler

12. I have Star Wars pencils with the original Star Wars characters on them. Not the prequel lame characters, but the good old characters from episodes 4, 5, and 6.

13. I still have in my possession my old teddy bear, who is named Mr. Higgins for the green grocer who was just down the street from our apartment in London. The teddy bear is quite worn, but Mr. Higgins was one of my favorite people when we lived in W6. He always gave me an extra sweet whenever we went in the store.

14. I have a tattoo on my right shoulder of a hummingbird sucking nectar from a trumpet vine. It runs down my right shoulder. I plan to have more of the vine added, and possibly a dragonfly. I like some body art, but not a lot of body art, especially when there is so much that you cannot tell where one picture starts and another begins. I believe that if you are going to use your body as a canvas, then you must have an aesthetic, look at it as a whole. I mean, I’ve seen some really weird things put together on one back, and then I’ve seen some beautiful things. Of course, it is completely up to the individual, but I think that some people get tats when they are high or drunk and don’t really stop to consider the final picture, as it were.

15. I believe that Dick Cheney should be punished for all of the ways in which he befouled the Constitution of the United States.

tax_filing16. One day, I will have a new used BMW X5 with heated leather seats for my back and a sunroof for my mental health, and Eamonn will not be allowed anywhere near it.

17. One day, I will get my stuff together enough to find a publicist and try to get this book published.

18. I have to do our taxes this week. That really sucks.

19. The islands are calling me. I keep telling Corey this, but he doesn’t believe me. But would I lie? Every day, one of the cruise lines sends me an e-mail offering me a new deal as a repeat customer, and they tell me that Belize is calling me, or Grand Cayman is calling me, or the whole Caribbean is calling me. It would be just plain rude of me not to answer, and I really hate rudeness.cayman-islands-beach

20. I hate rude people.

21. I also hate people who insist that they know what is good for me. No they don’t. That mantra: “It’ll be good for you.” Where did that come from, anyway? Unless someone is my doctor and he or she has just drawn my blood, put my through and MRI, or looked into my brain, no one know what is going to be good for me. What’s good for me is usually a cup of tea and a nap. I don’t want your best intentions to blow up in my face at some point, which has happened to me more times than I can count. Trust me, hot tea, nap, or maybe Southern Comfort, tiny bit of lemon, and some honey, warmed in a brandy snifter. That’ll cure what ails me if its in my chest. And a nap.

22. Wal Mart was created by the devil and it continues to be run by the devil’s minions, especially on Saturday afternoon when I have a migraine and I really, really need to pee because there is no way in hell that I will use one of their bathrooms (remember, hand sanitizer), and every child in the city is in that Wal Mart at that moment crying or screaming or begging for cotton candy or falling out of the cart because no one was watching and therefore will soon be crying and screaming.

23. Target, on the other hand, is nice and clean and is starting to have almost everything that Wal Mart has. Hooray for Le Target.

24. I have an original “Women for Obama” sticker that Corey ordered in the mail for me before the campaign really got underway. He ordered it because he knew that I supported Obama and he knew that I would want to keep something like that and because that’s the kind of guy that he is.

25. Did you hear? George W. Bush is not president and cannot be president ever, ever again, and that just makes my heart sing!

Those are my 25 random things. Do you think you have 25 random things in you? Of course you don’t have to be as wordy as I am. That goes without saying, but if it goes without saying, why am I saying it?

More later. Peace.