“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.

 

 

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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.

Who Nurtures the Nurturers?

What is it about Christmas that Makes Women Go a Little Crazy?

Don’t You Dare Say Anything About Hormones . . .

Every year from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I go into this mode that drives everyone around me more than a little nuts. It’s my holiday mode, and I have decided that I don’t like it any more than the rest of my family, but I truly cannot help myself. So let me explain . . .

It all began when I was actually quite young. I remember when I was a teenager that I started to put up the tree for my mom. She was all for handing over the responsibilities of tree duty. That was how most things were in our house since I was an only child. Little by little as I grew up, I took on more and more responsibility for things. Because our home was so dysfunctional in a lot of ways, I found myself trying to be the nurturer out of the three of us as my mom and dad grew further and further apart.

So I started to develop habits about Christmas that I came to depend on to get me through the holidays, and with my OCD, it had to be done this way every year. I sent out cards, wrapped the packages with ribbons and bows, never just a stick on bow, decorated the house throughout with candles, a nativity set and creche, my set of nativity-setsSantas, my various snowmen, my Santa boot with candy canes that no one ever eats, even a special angel candle holder in the bathroom.

Then there are the lights. I put lights in the windows, just single candles with clear lights, and then icicle lights on the roof and some lights on the bushes, not too many. I used to have a couple of white wire trees and a couple of reindeer, but I think that they have somehow disappeared in the great cleaning out of things in the attic. At one point in time, I used to climb the two trees in the front yard and wrap the limbs with clear lights, but the trees got too tall, and I couldn’t climb them any more. I’ll admit that I really enjoyed doing that, but I didn’t enjoy taking them down, so my daughter used to climb up in the trees and complain the entire time that she was taking them down that she didn’t understand how I could get the lights up so high in the branches. I used to tell her that I had monkey toes and I could climb really high if I wanted to.

And then every year except for this one, I make a homemade wreath. I buy a fresh wreath, and then I add cones and bells and ribbon and a bow. I like to leave the wreath up pn the front door as long as possible so that we still have the smell of a fresh tree since we don’t have a real tree in the house because of allergies.

And of course, there are the homemade stockings. It started with the stocking that my mom made for me, and then she made one for Alexis when she was born. I made one for each of the boys when they were born. I asked my mother to make one for Caitlin even though she didn’t make it to Christmas. It’s never been filled, but I like to hang it each year in remembrance of her. I made one for Corey when he joined the family, and the dogs have their special stockings, too. But the fun part is finding new things to put in the stockings every year: special chocolates, gummi bears, miniature games, picture frames, maybe special jewelry. I stay on the lookout during the year for things for the stockings.

Doing all of these things brings me a lot of pleasure, but at the same time, I get very stressed out because I still am very much of a perfectionist  about getting all of it done, and Corey just doesn’t get excited about Christmas in the same way that I do. Not that he has to because everyone has different histories with Christmases, and granted, my need to do all of these things didn’t necessarily grow from the healthiest of sources. But I can’t help but get testy with him because he doesn’t get filled with the same childlike, over-the-top, isn’t all of this wonderful spirit that I do, instead of the, ‘do we really have to do this again this year’ kind of exasperation . . .

I don’t really do any kind of baking any more. When I taught at Old Dominion University, I used to bake homemade cookies for my students before the end of the fall semester when everyone went home for Christmas Break. I would bring in huge batches of cookies for them to eat during exams. I would also make some for home as well. Those were fun times.

But just about every woman I speak to around the holidays asks the same questions: Are you ready yet? And the answer is always the same: No. I’m running behind. How many men do you think actually ask each other that question? I mean, Corey likes to shop. He likes to shop for clothes for him, and he likes to shop for clothes for me, but he gets tired of shopping in general, and when I start to ask Christmas shopping questions such as, do you think so-and-so will like . . . he starts to wander into men’s jeans. If I start to look at Christmas decorations for the house, I get looks like, ‘are you seriously going to add one more Christmas figurine to our over-crowded house?’

So even though I want to do this, it becomes the bane of my existence for about six weeks, and I work myself into a stress-induced kind of mania. So who cares for the emotional nurturers when they are walking bundles of stress? When they are ready to snap at the least little thing? When they will consider taking their 17-year-olds to Wal Mart and ask for a return or exchange because Wal Mart agrees to take anything back even without a receipt?

Well, I’m pretty lucky. In my case, it’s my Grinch of a husband. Even though he’s not big on the whole idea of Christmas, he’ll still take me shopping, and bring me home and pull off my boots for me, and make me a cup of tea on top of everything else. And he’ll do that even when it’s not holiday season, so men may not want to talk about Christmas, but they can be nurturers.

Unfortunately, too often, and I know this firsthand, we have to be our own nurturers. We have to work eight to ten hour days, come home, fix dinner, go shopping for presents, send out the cards, decorate the house, play Santa, and nurture our kids’ hurts by ourselves. And sometimes this leaves us short. The cup doesn’t have enough on some days, and we find ourselves short: short on patience, short on time, short on all of the necessities we need to be good moms and still take care of ourselves in the process.

painted-toenailsOn those days, we might fall into bed with our make-up on and our feet hurting and wonder why life can be so unfair, wonder why we can’t get a fair shake, why we can’t find the time to paint our toe nails (oh, I painted my toe nails every time I went into labor before I went to the hospital. Oh yes. Believe me). I remember nights when I would curl up in bed with a dog and think with regret what a bad mother I had been that day because I didn’t take the time to play with one of my kids when he asked, or I skipped the bedtime story because I was too tired.

We can be so hard on ourselves. Years pass, and we still remember these things. Christmases come and go, and we still try for that perfect holiday. Is it because of what we see in magazines? For me, probably not. I stopped trying to live up to Victoria and House and Garden years ago. I did finally realize that my living room was never going to look like those pages, and my children’s rooms were never going to have toys neatly stacked in quaint little nooks.

Being a mother can be one of the the most difficult jobs in the world. We need to stress less, truly learn from our mistakes, and like most everyone else in our lives, be more forgiving of ourselves.

More later. Peace.

Everything Old is New Again

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Kitty Hawk Sunset (L. Liwag)

The Water of Life

“Eternity begins and ends with the ocean’s tides” (anonymous)

I’ve lived near the ocean for most of my life, so of course, I tend to take it for granted. I remember when I was in graduate school at Virginia Tech, I brought my office mate home with me. She was from Wisconsin and had never seen the ocean, so we made a point of driving her to Virginia Beach to see the coastline. I remember how amazed she was to see the vast expanse of water, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, the shoreline, even the seagulls and the sandpipers darting in and out of the water. It was nice for me to see something that I took for granted through the newness of her eyes.

Another time, a friend of mine came into town and wanted to see the Navy ships in person. She had been working on Navy contracts for years, but had never actually seen a real ship. We went on the Naval base and drove by the ships. She was amazed by their size, and fortunately, one of the carriers was in port. Again, living near Naval bases, I have always taken these behemoths for granted. They are quite amazing when seen up close, and she was very impressed to see something that she had only seen in pictures on the contracts for which she had been working for several years.

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By the Sea (L. Liwag)

Nothing ever makes you look at your surroundings better than when you have the chance to introduce them to someone new. I remember the first time that I took Corey to the Outer Banks with the boys when they were much younger. We climbed the big dune and watched people hang gliding. Even though I had been there before, it was a new experience because I was there with Corey and the boys, and it was really wonderful. It was one of the first trips that we took together, the four of us, and we had such a terrific time. The Outer Banks are only about an hour and a half from Norfolk (depending upon traffic), so it makes for an easy day trip.

On the way to Kitty Hawk and Hatteras, there are several farmer’s markets, which makes the trip even better, especially if it’s the season for ripe peaches. Once in Kitty Hawk, visitors can go to the Wright Brothers Memorial, which is what we did on that first trip together. We also visited the Hatteras Lighthouse. It’s nice to be a tourist once in a while, because I had never visited these places before, so it was brand new for me too. Corey, the boys and I made several more day trips to the Outer Banks on the spur of the moment, and we always enjoyed ourselves immensely.

I remember another trip that I took to the Outer Banks in October, a long time ago, and it was an Indian summer weekend, absolutely beautiful—high 70’s during the day, mid 50’s at night, beautiful sunsets. I was having one of those bad falls, and the trip really rejuvenated me. There were no tourists around, so we pretty much had the beach to ourselves. Nothing is more calming than the beach in the fall and winter. It’s my favorite time to walk on the beach because hardly anyone is around. If you get up around dawn, the sunrises are spectacular, and the only sounds you hear are the birds.

I have always said that if I had the money and the opportunity, I would have two houses: one in the mountains and one at the beach. I would not necessarily spend time at the beach house in the summer. More than likely, I would spend more time at the beach house in the spring and fall when fewer people are around, when the beach is still home to locals, walking their dogs, and strolling in the surf at sunrise and sundown.

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Adirondack Chairs (L. Liwag)

The beach in the winter has always struck me as the perfect place in which to write, but never having had a house on the beach, I wouldn’t know. I think that looking out on the water would provide a glorious backdrop for creative thinking. I have a few CD’s that have sounds of the ocean that I have used for meditation before, and they are very relaxing. In those two hankie movies, it seems that the setting is always a beach house with empty Adirondack chairs. I wonder why . . .

I still have dreams of moving to the islands one day and keeping a home in the mountains. I know that with the economy the way that it is, the probability of this ever happening is growing more remote with every passing day. Besides, what would I do in the islands anyway?

I had originally thought that I might like to open a book shop. After all, there really aren’t very many book stores in the islands. I think that Grand Cayman got a book store, but a small shop near where the cruise ships dock would probably do fairly well, but the more I thought about it, the more that it seemed like work. I still like the idea of opening a small bar right on the beach. Since I don’t drink, this would probably work out for me.

I could sell cold cervezas from a bucket to tourists. It wouldn’t be hard work, and I could sit under an umbrella. More than likely, though, if I ever do make it to the islands, I would just sit under an umbrella with a laptop and write, which sounds like a much better idea. I have no grand designs. Corey can work out of just about any port. The boys will be in college. I don’t think that the dogs will mind where we go. Tillie will like the beach and the water. The polar bear might not be agreeable to it, though.

Who knows? Landscapes change. The ways in which we view them change as well. We see them with different eyes each time we look at them anew, depending upon the circumstances. I just know that I am no longer anxious to spend my life in a place in which people drive Hummers through the suburbs, trample people to death in Wal Marts, shoot each other in Toys R Us, market Botox for women in their 30’s, think nothing of talking about trillions of dollars as if it were Monopoly money, promote DVDs of young college aged females getting drunk and taking off their clothes while obviously too impaired to know what they are doing, and on and on and on and on.

Sorry, don’t let me rain on your parade, but my Obama Hope high has worn off, and I’m deep into my What’s Wrong With These People phase, precipitated by the madness of a Utah state senator wanting to mandate that stores say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” because “this is a Christian nation,” let’s not even begin to discuss just the Jewish population that he is ignoring not to mention every other religion, the horror of Black Friday, and the inflatable lawn ornaments that have sprung up all over my neighborhood.

I think that I need to go lie down with a good book. More later. Peace.

Human Tragedy: Losing Perspective Over Holiday Shopping

The Insanity Begins

Attention Wal Mart Shoppers: When You Become the Problem

I just read a news story that literally made my stomach do a little flip, and definitely not in a good way: A temporary worker at a Nassau County Wal Mart in suburban New York was trampled to death when the doors opened at 5 a.m. on Black Friday, this past Friday after Thanksgiving. Over 2,000 people rushed the doors, stepping over Jdimytai Damour and knocking down other employees as they tried to rescue the downed employee.

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The Associated Press report states that at least four other people, including a eight-months pregnant woman, were taken to the hospital for their injuries. Damour was a temp employee who was doing maintenance at the store but had been put on the front door for the early opening.

Now I want you to consider this: A man lost his life at a Wal Mart. Throngs of people ran over his body in their rush to buy the bargains advertised at this store, including great prices on a plasma television, an upright vacuum, a digital camera, and great prices on DVDs. These people were unwilling to stop even when it was announced that the store was going to close temporarily because of the death. According to one witness, when the store announced that shoppers had to leave, that an employee got killed, “people were yelling ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ They kept shopping.”

What is one man’s life when I can get four DVD’s, a camera, and a vacuum all for under $150? Yessiree.

Police say that even with the surveillance cameras it will be unlikely that they will be able to prosecute because it was such mayhem. According to his family, Damour was a big man who loved poetry. He was trampled to death for bargains at a Wal Mart. What a completely disheartening and contempitble reflection that is of our society.

Mob Mentality and Stampedes

Which leaves me to ask the obvious question? Was it worth it? If you were one of those people who pushed through that door and over that man or injured one of those people, how are you going to feel when those presents are opened on Christmas Day? Will you feel one inkling of guilt? The sad truth is that if you were one of those individuals caught up in that mass hysteria for bargains, probably not.

What has happened to our society? If what was behind Wal Mart’s doors was food and medicine, and we were hungering for these basic staples, then the need to stampede, the me-first mentality might be more understandable. After all, what would be coming into play would be the “survival of the fittest” instinct, and to survive, we would need to batter down the doors to Wal Mart and whatever else stood in our way.

But there was nothing out there on Black Friday that we absolutely neededwanted yes—but needed, no. Trust me, I know the difference. I’m not so sure that my oldest son does, and probably few of our teenagers do. Small children rarely understand. That’s why it’s so hard to go shopping with them. They have to have this toy now. It’s imperative. Their World Will Absolutely Stop If They Do Not Have It NOW! But I know a lot of adults like that, too. I’ve felt that way about a few pairs of black boots, but never enough to push my way through a crowd for them. As adults, we are supposed to know the differences and to act responsibly.

Unfortunately, what happened in this particular situation at this particular store is far from an isolated incident. We’ve seen it before at concerts, at soccer stadiums, and festivals. For example, in 1979, 11 people were crushed trying to get in to see The Who in concert. In 2003, 21 people were killed in Chicago as they were rushing to flee a nightclub after mace had been used. In 2001 in Johannesburg, South Africa, 43 people were killed as people were trying to push into an overcrowded soccer stadium. In 2005, 300 people were trampled to death in Wai, India at a religious festival.

But one of the worst stampedes on record was the 2005 Baghdad bridge, which occurred when up to 1,000 pilgrims died following a stampede on Al-Aimmah bridge, which crosses the Tigris river. The stampede occurred because of rumors of a suicide bomber.

A herd mentality can occur for lots of reasons. It is usually a fear-based reaction caused by an individual’s subconscious fear of being left out or left behind. A stampede is a sudden rush of people, usually in reaction to fear. Put the two together, and you have a formula for chaos on a mass scale. What happened at Wal Mart was that you had a mass of about 2,000 people who had been waiting for hours, no supervision of that crowd, growing impatience, and then crowd psychology begins to dominate, bringing about mob rule. That is, someone began to push, and then someone else, and then there was that domino effect again. Whatever stood in the way of that crowd did not stand much of a chance because the store was ill-prepared.

Jdimytai Damour was one of the unfortunate things that stood in the way of that crowd. Wal Mart bears the responsibility of placing Mr. Damour in that crowd’s path. 

Holiday Shopping: An Analysis

So what happens to supposedly responsible adults during those weeks between Thanksgiving and December 24? I’ve seen people get in nasty verbal assaults over parking places. I’ve seen people try to defy the basic laws of physics and try to put two cars into the same space at the same time. I’ve seen grown women pull a lovely sweater completely out of shape because it was reduced to an unbelievable price point, making it literally unwearable by either woman. I’ve watched grown men reduced to small boys because they’ve lost their wives in shopping malls.

scary-santa-bwI’ve watched mothers manhandle their children in line to have their pictures taken with Santa to the point that the children are red-faced with tears and completely terrified of the upcoming experience. When I was a retail sales manager, I watched people go into dressing rooms one size and come out three sizes larger, wearing four layers of clothes and had to have them arrested.

I’ve seen women turn into harpies when there are no more gift boxes, and I’ve done battle with a customer who insisted that I reduce the price of an evening gown by 25 percent because of a lipstick stain that I watched the customer carefully place on the garment. Heaven forbid customer service run out of wrapping paper because that is cause for an all-out rebellion.

The holiday shopping season is not for sissies. It can reduce a tired person to tears in a nanosecond. Shoppers who forget to eat, often wind up cranky, standing in line at an Auntie Anne’s pretzel counter, trying to juggle all of their bags, while reaching for $3.12 without dropping their pretzel, their wallet, and their gift card to Dillard’s which may or may not have anything left on it. If you do find a store that gives out give bags, you hoard them, and other people eye them with envy while the heavy, overladen plastic bags cut into their wrists.

There are no good times of the day to go shopping during ths holiday season, except for first thing in the morning, when you can catch the associates off guard and still in a good mood. By one hour after opening, all bets are off. No one has any change, and all of the associates are in countdown mode until their breaks. The parking lots are full, and the food courts are already out of napkins.

Shopping with a friend or family member may or may not help. If you shop with someone like my mother, you may not get out of one store. If you shop with a spouse, you may only be allowed 15 minutes per store, which, as any female knows, isn’t time enough to buy one present. If you shop with a friend, you will be gone for 12 hours, and you must take a change of shoes and whoever owns the largest car between the two of you. If you shop with one of your older children, all bets are off because then the shopping trip becomes about them and their needs.

This is my advice to you: Do your shopping in mid January. It’s easier and it’s cheaper. Everything is on sale because retailers are trying to clear the floors for spring merchandise. You won’t be able to get toys, but you can buy for all of the adults on your list. Just remember where you hide everything. One year, I found a music box that I had bought my mother four years previously and had forgotten about. It made a great Mother’s Day present. January shopping also keeps you from having to shop during the holiday season. Buy small children toys during October, then stay away from stores in the months of November and December.

This is what I used to do when my OCD was in full swing. It worked wonderfully for me. I had everything bought and wrapped by December 1st. My Christmas cards were in the mail, and my house was decorated while everyone else was just getting started. Oh, don’t ask me about now. I haven’t a clue. I’m just tossing out advice for you. Me? I usually finish around December 24 these days and consider myself lucky to be doing so. I do stay out of Wal Mart, though. Just on principle.candle_1

Just remember to keep things in perspective. A sale is just a sale. There is no such thing as the perfect gift. Your life will not be changed in any way by the giving of said gift. We already have ruined an entire generation of children by allowing them to believe that they are entitled to anything that they ask for whenever they request it. We spend more than we have, and we have forgotten about those without. When you go out this season to buy presents for those you love, remember why you are buying them, but also remember that a man who loved poetry spent his final moments gasping for air under the feet of strangers who cared nothing for him because all they cared about were getting the most for their money at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

There will be more later. Peace.

Seen, Heard, Read

News from the Road, If I Were On The Road

What’s Snoo?

  • Unemployment figures for the month of October: 240,000, which means that Americans have lost approximately 1,000,000 jobs so far this year
  • Claims from aides in McCain camp: Sarah Palin thinks that Africa is a country (no . . . this is is a joke, right?)
  • Claims from Sarah Palin: The most that she ever asked for was an occasional diet Dr. Pepper (okay, governor)
  • Republicans want Joe Lieberman to caucus with them; Dems don’t want to lose a Senate vote since we are so close to the all-powerful 60. I say we should buy him a new wardrobe and let Joe the Plumber decide.
  • Joe the Plumber who hates Socialism has benefitted from that entitlement program called “Welfare” on two occasions. Hmmmm
  • W. has given permission for uranium drilling within three miles of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, which provides drinking water for three states. Way to go George! Just when I thought that you couldn’t do anything more asinine, you go and prove me wrong. Who needs a natural monument that is eons old? Who needs fresh drinking water? What a bunch of sissies. You show ’em. After all, you’re going to be far, far away in a land called Oz.
  • Michele Bachmann, who just weeks ago was calling for McCarthy like hearings into anti-American liberals in the Senate had this to say about Barack Obama’s presidential win: She was“extremely grateful that we have an African-American who has won this year.”
  • Gay marriage was defeated in California, but the defeat is not sitting well with the Gay/Lesbian community, as it shouldn’t. Expect to hear a lot more about this issue.
  • Since President-elect Obama’s election, the Iraqis have been more willing to sign the security agreement that they had been stalling. The Iraqis were worried that the agreement for withdrawal of forces by December 30, 2011 would not be honored by a Republican White House. However, they are more willing to negotiate an agreement with the upcoming change in the White House. The new agreement also prevents the launching of attacks of other countries from Iraqi soil (such as Syria).

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    Eugene Allen (Clark/Washington Post)
  • And finally, if you want to know who really makes the White House run, please read this incredible story about Eugene Allen. If this doesn’t touch your heart, then you are made of stone. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2008361980_webbutler07.html

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor

This time last week we were getting ready to watch the returns from what would become one of the most historic elections in our country. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this process. I only wish that I could take it a step further and apply for a job with the new administration. That would be like something out of a dream, to participate in an administration that is going to make sweeping changes. I mean, I know that it’s going to be a really hard row to hoe.

The problems that this country faces are enormous: Unemployment is creeping up every month, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it hit double digits. Our three major car companies are going under and need major help. This is probably going to be one of the worst holiday seasons for retail in a dozen years. I know that I won’t be out there spending my usual amount. That’s for sure. One of the only companies to turn a profit last quarter was Wal Mart; even Target recorded a loss. And we all know how I feel about Wal Mart. Everyone is hurting.

So I don’t delude myself that President-elect Obama is going to take office and miracles are going to happen. His first year is going to be hell, and there are going to be a lot of people pointing fingers and saying “I told you so,” because there is so much blame, and he is the easiest target. But I also have no doubts that given enough time, his plans can work.

The best laid plans of mice and men, and all of that. Everything worth having is worth waiting for, at least that’s what the cereal boxes and fortune cookies say. I just hope that when the finger pointing starts, and the naysayers begin with their doom and gloom, they remember how this country has felt for the past eight years, how as a nation, we have collectively lost hope, lost faith, lost our status as a global leader,

And so, like the Eugene Allen’s of the world, we must remember to put our coats on one sleeve at a time, and go to work, and do our jobs, and carry on, and give this man who we believed in enough to put into office a chance to do his job.

Here endeth the lesson. More later. Peace.