“What matters is precisely this; the unspoken at the edge of the spoken.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 21 July 1912.

Winter on the Bank by Marius Rumpf fcc
Winter on the Bank
by Marius Rumpf (FCC)

                   

“Left utterly alone, there is nothing
The heart can invent to numb itself.” ~ Joe Bolton, from “Departure”

Friday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 47 degrees.

Home alone. Silence.

Well, long time, no write. I know. Unfortunately, it’s been a hellacious week, and today is the first day that I’ve had any time to myself, any time to sit here and muse, any time to try to stitch together some kind of linear thought.

I hope you enjoyed the Muppet Christmas carols. I had always planned to post them leading up to Christmas, but unfortunately, was never able to do the actual scheduling. Let me back up . . . On December 16 I took my mother to the ER because she was in a lot of pain. They ended up admitting her to the hospital with a severe case of diverticulitis. She was in until December 21. Consequently, my stress levels shot through the roof, and my computer time was nil.

Winter Tree by rkramer62 fcc
Winter Tree
by rkramer62 (FCC)

I was trying to take care of her cat, do Christmas shopping and decorating, visit my mother in the hospital and everything else. And of course when she was released, she was still weak and in need. It became one long litany of telephone calls. And in between, I lost my bank card, but didn’t find out until I was in line at Wal-Mart. Thankfully, some honest soul found it and turned it in, and no weird charges appeared. I was very lucky, but man, stress upon stress.

The last two weeks have just about done me in.

“For each person there is a sentence — a series of words — which has the power to destroy him . . . another sentence exists, another series of words, which will heal the person. If you’re lucky you will get the second; but you can be certain of getting the first: that is the way it works. On their own, without training, individuals know how to deal out the lethal sentence, but training is required to deal out the second.” ~ Philip K. Dick, from VALIS

Add to all of this the planned holiday dinner here at my house, and then pile on the fact that Corey is not home. Christmas morning was more than a bit surreal for me. The boys decided to open their big presents and then to save everything else for when Corey gets home, the same for Lex and Mike. I left it up to them, and that’s what they all decided to do, which is nice.

Merikosken Alakanava Finland by ptrktn FCC
Merikosken Alakanava, Finland
by ptrktn (FCC)

But truthfully, it just hasn’t felt anything like Christmas this year. I haven’t listened to any music. I haven’t read anything, and you may wonder what that has to do with Christmas, and the answer is nothing, but everything. For me, it’s a state of mind, and my state of mind was pure chaos, a restless sea.

I don’t even think that I can describe it adequately to make sense.

I mean, my mother is very sick, isn’t leaving the house to have dinner with the family, and Corey is thousands of miles away. To top it off, Corey tried to call me on Christmas day using the ship’s satellite phone, and I didn’t answer because I didn’t recognize the number, and I really didn’t want to talk to anyone because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself. He called four times in a row, but I didn’t answer. I talked to him that night when the ship got its wi-fi back and he was able to call on his phone.

Obviously when I found out what had happened, I felt like a jerk.

“We humans, however,
understand the backward grace
of flight and fall, and also
understand the pity
of not knowing, and also
the pity of knowing.” ~ Leonard Nathan, “That the Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living”

There are things that I used to do to get into the mindset for the holidays. I have about ten Christmas CDs, and I would impose my music on anyone who was near, play it in the car, play it at home, sing along loudly. And then I would watch two movies: A Wonderful Life (in black and white), and Scrooge, the musical with Albert Finney. I would usually put these on while I wrapped presents.

None of that this year. I simply forgot. It’s as if my mind said to itself, “Hmm, Christmas . . . blank.”

Winter by askidenzsetzer fcc
Winter
by askidenzsetzer (FCC)

I finished addressing the cards on Christmas Eve, but this year I didn’t include any letters to anyone. I never send out those family holiday bulletins, but I usually take the time to add letters to a few special people. Not this year.

I tell you, it’s like I’m in some kind of vacuum. Outside everyone is carrying on with life, and I’m in here, on pause. It’s been like this since Thanksgiving, and unfortunately, I don’t feel as if my kids have been able to fill the void. It’s small things, like when I was going on seven hours in the ER, and I asked if anyone could spell me, maybe bring me Starbucks. Nothing. What gives with that?

“We are masters of unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.” ~ Winston Churchill

I know. They have their own lives, their own priorities. It’s just a bit hard to realize that at the moment, I’m no one’s priority. It’s making me reflect a lot on life, as in people who live alone, how they do it, how they survive. I want my children to have their own lives, want them to set out into the world, to explore, want them to be unafraid to try new ventures.

Tree Portrait by nrcphotos fcc
Tree Portrait
by nrcphotos (FCC)

Yet if I am honest, I am also sad at being left behind. They no longer need me; I am no longer the touchstone that grounds them, that keeps them safe from harm. Yet I know that will be my role until I take my last breath.

This is hard to elucidate. I can’t quite get a handle on it, this ephemeral state in which I find myself. I don’t know how to define it.

And of course, I feel like a selfish wench because I’m full of self-pity, and there are so many people out there who are alone all of the time. There are so many people with real problems, real life-altering problems, and here I am, having another pity party. I don’t know if I’m more upset at the fact that I’m upset or that I’m alone.

Beh.

“There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open
to the place inside us
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.” ~ Rashani Rea, from The Power of a Broken-Open Heart

Last night, as I lay in bed trying to decide whether or not to fall asleep with the television on, I thought of my mother who has been alone for so many years. I wonder if she ever fears going to sleep alone at night as I was feeling that moment, and then at the same time I was amazed by the contradiction that is me. I love the silence, love the quiet, but fear the stillness.

And I wonder when I began to be afraid to be still. Is it something that has happened gradually, or have I always been this way? And I really don’t know the answer, so unsure am I of my own personality.

Winter Tree by Ano Lobb at sign healthyrx fcc
Winter Tree
by Ano Lobb@healthyrx (FCC)

Alone in the dark, my mind races, and perhaps that is what I fear: where my mind will take me in the dark silence. And when I awoke from an intense, frenetic dream of my father, I knew that that was precisely what I had been afraid of—going there again.

The days until Corey is home again are less than ten. Surely I can hold it together until then. This is what I think as I sit here now in the afternoon sun, a cup of hot Irish Breakfast tea in a mug before me. I can do this.

Until night comes again.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, “Winter Song”

                   

two short ones . . .

On Missing Them

People always say that it hurts at night
and apparently screaming into your pillow at 3am
is the romantic equivalent of being heartbroken.
But sometimes
it’s 9am on a tuesday morning
and you’re standing at the kitchen bench waiting for the toast to pop up
And the smell of dusty sunlight and earl gray tea makes you miss them so much
you don’t know what to do with your hands.

~ Rosie Scanlan

**********

Passing

Sometimes you called on those
you’d never know
to come with you in place
of those you loved,
and talked to them
and touched them
and let them close purely
for sadness, for sadness
you’d hold them,
and you’d let them go.

~ Daniel Halpern

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“Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.” ~ Winston Churchill

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ~ George Orwell

Unconfirmed, but via Reddit: “Soldiers in Libya are using .50 BMG bullets on civilians. To put it in perspective, that’s the one on the left.”

“If you are not ready to die for it, put the word freedom out of your vocabulary.” ~ Malcolm X

The so-called February 17 revolution is not like the recent Egyptian protests that resulted in President Hosni Mubarak stepping down. Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, ruler of Libya for the past 40 years (1969), has always been regarded as a loose cannon: unpredictable, volatile, and deadly. And after Qaddafi’s speech, it’s quite apparent that he does not intend to leave Libya peacefully, and as he put it, he expects to die as a martyr.

The 15-member U.N. Security Council has condemned Qaddafi’s use of violence against the protestors, and in a bold move, Libya’s deputy ambassador to the UN. Ibrahim Dabbashi, openly broke with the dictator, accusing Qaddafi of genocide: “I think the Qaddafi statement was a code for his collaborators to start the genocide against the Libyan people. They are attacking people in all the cities in Western Libya.”

According to ABC News, the Security Council is urging Libyan authorities to “act with restraint, lift restrictions against the press, ensure the safety of foreign nationals and allow immediate access for human rights monitors.”

Various reports put the death toll at anywhere from 500 to over 1,000 individuals. The U.S. and several European nations are urging their citizens to leave the country as soon as possible.

“No dictator, no invader, can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments and tyrants and armies cannot stand.” ~ J. Michael Straczynski

For another good background piece on the current revolution in Libya, see this article in The Atlantic by Associate Editor Max Fisher. In the meantime, I found the following Hopi quote to be uncannily relevant to what is happening in the world right now: 

“You have been telling people that this is the eleventh hour. Now you must go back and tell people that this is the hour! And there are things to be considered: Where are you living? What are you doing? What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Where is your water? Know your Garden. It is time to speak your truth. Create your community. Be good to yourself. And not look outside of yourself for a leader. This could be a good time! There is a river flowing very fast. It is so great and fast that there are those who will be afraid. They will hold on to the shore. They will feel that they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say that we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time we are to take nothing personally, least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones that we have been waiting for.” ~ The Elders, Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation

More later. Peace.

Music by Moby, Extreme Ways

“Sometimes a breakdown can be the beginning of a kind of breakthrough, a way of living in advance through a trauma that prepares you for a future of radical transformation.” ~ Cherrie Moraga

 

Durdle Door, Dorset, England

                   

“The question we need to ask ourselves is whether there is any place we can stand in ourselves where we can look at all that’s happening around us without freaking out, where we can be quiet enough to hear our predicament, and where we can begin to find ways of acting that are at least not contributing to further destabilization.” ~ Ram Dass

Tip of The Cobb, Lyme Regis, Dorset, England

It’s Saturday afternoon, two weeks and a day since my mother’s accident. Yesterday, Corey brought over one of the computers from the house since my stay here is obviously not going to be just a few days, and he realized that I am going crazy without a computer. That and the fact that I really cannot leave my mother alone in the house while I go somewhere else to work on my blog.

My mom’s house has no Internet connection, but fortunately, enough people nearby have unsecured networks that I can tap into. I know. Not an ideal situation, but at this point, I have to take what I can get.

So now I have a little set-up in my mother’s living room: an old sewing table, a bit rickety but just big enough for a screen and my Bose speakers (hooray for that). This will be my first official post from my new location. I have one of my playlists going in the background, just loud enough to drown out the constant sounds of television coming from her bedroom. She is one of those people who is uncomfortable with silence of any kind; hence there will always be a television on at any given minute, and the sound will always be quite loud. So “Ruby Tuesday” is currently muffling the sounds of whatever lightweight show she has found to watch on Saturday afternoon (only comedies and game shows in this house, no dramas (with the exception of “Law & Order”???), nothing heavy—remember, my mother is of the “think happy thoughts” school of mental health).

“And which is stronger in us—passion or habit?” ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Lyme Regis from The Cobb by Peter Spencer

This is the story: My mother has a very large screened back porch with a cement floor and solid cement steps. These steps are the same ones she fell on last year although without nearly the same bad results. My mom has a tendency to put throw rugs all over the place, and she had one on the steps, which is what she tripped on, ultimately landing hard on the cement. Apparently, she pulled herself into the house and crawled to the telephone.

She called a number that she thought was Brett’s and told the man on the other end that she had fallen and asked him to get me as soon as possible. Turns out it was a wrong number, but you would think that the man on the other end might have had the decency to call 911 or something. My mom waited a few minutes and then called my number. I answered, and she asked why I hadn’t come over. I told her that I didn’t know what she was talking about. She asked why Brett hadn’t told me. I ask what was wrong and told her that I would be there in a couple of minutes.

Brett and I broke the land speed record going the two miles between our houses. I walked in, touched her leg which caused her to scream, and called 911. One ambulance and a fire truck later, I was surrounded by five EMT personnel, three of whom were asking me questions simultaneously. My reaction? To answer them while cleaning. It’s what I do under stress—regress to the child who cleaned her way through family fights and insecurities. I picked up laundry, moved chairs, and recited my mom’s vitals. Brett stood by looking helpless, and Donna, the neighbor from across the street spoke quietly to my mother.

Surreal is the only way to categorize the tableau as it unfolded in the living room on Friday evening.

“Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.”  ~ Chuck Palahniuk from “Invisible Monsters”

Town Mill in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England

Brett rode next to the EMT driving the ambulance transporting mom, and I followed in the Rodeo (Brett later told me that the man had tried to make casual conversation during the ride to try to keep Brett calm, for which I am ever grateful), all the while thinking that it would go so much faster if they would turn on the lights and sirens, but it wasn’t really an emergency in their book, so I obeyed the speed limit and followed the transport to Leigh Memorial, a hospital that I truly hate but the one that my mother requested.

My father died in that hospital, and the ER in that hospital misdiagnosed Caitlin when she first presented with symptoms. Needless to say I just don’t get a warm and fuzzy from the place.

I walked into a packed ER, gave the person at the registration desk my name, and tried to find seats that were not directly under the blaring television. Have you ever noticed the unspoken rules in an ER waiting room: Everyone already seated checks out the newest arrival in order to assess if the person has a real emergency—like a dangling appendage, which would be cause to be taken out of the queue. When the registration desk tells the newest arrival to take a seat, all of those already waiting breathe a collective sigh of relief that the order will not be disturbed. Of course, when your name is called and you go between those two magical doors, the ones that can only be opened by the keeper of the automatic door opener, everyone still seated shoots daggers at your back.

Ah, the rich pageantry of life.

I forgot to mention that during all of this, I texted Alexis first with a brief message: “Oma fell. 911. Call ASAP.” She did not respond; what in the hell is the point of using 911 if the response is ho hum, I ask. I texted again, this time to everyone with more specifics: “They are taking Oma to the ER in an ambulance.” Alexis and Eamonn called almost simultaneously. I had already called Corey on the way to the house, but as luck would have it, he was working but supposed to be off at 11.

“The shortest distance between two points is often unbearable.” ~ Charles Bukowski 

Ammonite Light Post at Dusk in Lyme Regis

So back to the narrative: I was told to go through the doors, turn right, turn left, go around and turn right. Right. Got it. I turned right and immediately asked for someone to point me towards my mother’s room.

She had been given morphine in the ambulance, which had made her throw up, so when I walked in, she was clutching a disposable emetic bag that I eventually had to pry from her fingers. I was told that x-rays had been taken and that we were waiting for the doctor. Talk about stating the obvious.

Hours and hours later . . .

The x-rays revealed that my mother had broken her tibia directly below the kneecap, and she was bruised in several places. She had not broken her hip. An immobilizing brace was ordered, and the attending physician told me to call the orthopedist on Monday.

Now this all sounds terribly civilized, but I’m leaving out some good parts, like my mother screaming when anyone touched her, the fact that she was shaking all over from shock and I couldn’t get her a blanket, and she needed to pee. Eventually, she was catheterized, given more meds (I felt like Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, trying not to become hysterical as I demanded that they shoot some more of the good stuff into the IV. Look, I just can’t get into what I was feeling during all of this, not really, as it was all much too intense and draining). 

As the doctor was giving his parting directions, I thought to myself, “You’re not keeping her??? What do you mean you’re not keeping her??? Have you lost your mind??? Have I lost my mind???

Then there was the Marx Brothers scene in which an orderly, a nurse, and I tried to put my mother into the passenger seat of my car. You see, I had sent everyone home. Brett hadn’t eaten all day. Corey was exhausted,and I knew that I was going to need him when we got home. So the departure was a solo event.

The three of us tried lots of different scenarios with each of us holding different body parts, and my mother screaming “No. No. No. Just put me back.” Finally, the orderly lifted her bodily and placed her in the seat as my mother said, “You’ll get a hernia. You’re going to hurt your back.” Meanwhile, I thought, “how in the hell are we going to get her out of the car when I get home?”

“The human story does not always unfold like a mathematical calculation on the principle that two and two make four. Sometimes in life they make five or minus three; and sometimes the blackboard topples down in the middle of the sum and leaves the class in disorder and the pedagogue with a black eye.” ~ Winston Churchill

Coade Stone Ammonite Pavement Celebrating Lyme Regis’ as the Capital of the Jurassic Coast

                   

I don’t remember the drive home at all, just that I avoided potholes and bumps. I had called Corey, and he was waiting at my mother’s house for us. I told him about the ordeal of putting her in the car. Neither of us had an inkling as to how we would get her out of the car, up the steps, and into the bedroom.

Lots of screaming. Hers, mine, ours.  (look, I’m not being flippant, or maybe I am, but this was two weeks ago, and the only way to deal with some things is in retrospect and with no respect whatsoever). The goal was to remove her from the car without bending her right leg . . . We had the walker, but it quickly became apparent that it was useful as a skateboard.

We ended up carrying her. Don’t ask me how. We stopped on the porch as I opened the doors while my mother yelled not to let Willow (her schnauzer) out. Trust me, Willow was too petrified to bolt. We stopped at the entrance to the hall. Somehow, we got her in bed.

Those first few days and nights were a blur, except for the hallucinations, which I’ll get into next time as they deserve a post of their own.

So that’s the first part of my latest saga. Feels good to be writing about it.

More later. Peace.

Music by Jean Louisa Kelly, her version of “Someone to Watch over Me” from Mr. Holland’s Opus

“Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” ~ Chief Seattle

What Our House Will Look Like When We Begin Remodeling 

“What we anticipate seldom occurs, what we least expected generally happens.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli 

Would love to have a glass block shower

Well crap. The one day that I really, really need to make telephone calls, the phone is off. Normally, I avoid the telephone at all costs, but today I woke up early to call two doctor’s offices only to find that no calls were going through. I have the worst timing in the world. 

Corey is working today from 3 to 11. He was originally scheduled to do guard duty at one of the yards, but they called him and asked him to stand watch on one of the boats. This is only his third full shift. He worked on Friday and Saturday; on Friday, he spent the day being taken to all of the different docks so that he would know where to go. Apparently, they are not just going to use him at Lambert’s Point as they originally said. Some of the docks/yards are in Newport News, which is all well and good but is much farther, hence, more gas. 

Anyway, I’ve spent the afternoon doing a bit of cleaning and some laundry. I really wanted to get to the ceiling fans, but I think that my back has had enough for the day. It’s very quiet without Corey around the house, but this job will help both of us to get used to him not being around all of the time. 

The weather here has been bizarre the past few days—sunny, warm, cold, rainy. As a result, my sinuses are protesting. What’s new? 

It was a very quiet weekend. Brett spent most of his time at Gordon’s house. He made the passing comment to me that they (Gordon and Tailor) have no idea how easy they have it. I suppose the vast differences in our lifestyles are really laid bare when he visits them. They live in a very nice suburb in Virginia Beach. I asked Brett if it was hard for him to see that, and he said that it wasn’t hard, but it made him realize how easy other people have it as compared to us. I assured him that one day our lives would get back on track, and things would be easier. 

Here’s hoping. 

“Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.” ~ Lemony Snicket

Almost Gutted Kitchen (not ours but could be)

I was watching “Holmes on Holmes” last night, and Mike Holmes was redoing a kitchen. As usual, he didn’t stop with gutting the kitchen, he went into the dining room and sitting room as well, tearing everything down to the studs. When I watch his show, I get so many ideas about how we can fix this house, but I also realize that none of the repairs that we need to make will be easy. 

For example, the wall in the living room on which the window is situated is going to need to be torn back to the studs because there is water damage from the window A/C unit that has been there for years. To fix that one thing, we need to rip out the window, tear down the wall, and replace both from scratch. However, we really cannot take that air conditioning unit out until we get central air. To get central air, we really need to replace the old duct work. When we replace the old duct work, we need to put in new insulation . . . 

I mean, even the fireplace needs to be redone. The reality is that there is no one small thing that we can do. I fear that when it really comes down to it, we are going to have to gut a lot, put up a lot of plastic sheeting, and just rebuild. 

“It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.” ~ Winston Churchill

How I would like to remodel my fireplace with bookcases

So other than those tidbits, not a whole lot going on. I think that I’m going to abandon the book on Mary Queen of Scots because I am finding it tedious. Perhaps I am not in the right frame of mind, but the endless lists of names is keeping me from making any real progress. 

The other night I watched a show on the Travel Channel about the ten best beach resorts in Mexico. Why? Am I trying to torture myself? White sand, blue water, palm trees. I could so do that in less than a moment’s notice. Of course, doing such a thing requires funds; funds require a job; a job requires stamina; ya da ya da ya da . . .  Meanwhile, back in reality, one of the neighborhood children is screaming at the top of his lungs directly outside my window, which is making the dogs bark as if Genghis Khan is invading. No Mexico for me. 

The word for today is sesquipidalian, a long word meaning long word. I love the way this word sounds, and it popped into my head when I was trying to think of the antithesis of Sarah Palin. Don’t ask me why I was thinking about this or her or whatever. Anyway, my sentence using my word for today is the following: Sarah Palin, when faced with the sesquipidalian oratory of her opponent, predictably resorted to a toothy smile and a “dontcha know” retort . . . 

I do have one interesting thing to report before signing off: Last night, I dreamed that I was hugging my father, and at the precise moment that I touched him, he became a bright light, so bright that I could not look at him. I woke up crying to a booming thunderstorm with bright flashes of lightning. Funny how the mind works in sleep. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by System of a Down, “Lonely Day” 

 

 

“Sameron adion aso” (I shall sing a sweeter song tomorrow) ~ Theocritus

“The Empire of Lights,” by René Magritte (1954, oil on canvas)

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston S. Churchill 

"The Scream," by Edvard Munch (1893, oil, tempera, pastel on cardboard)

This is the fifth morning in a row in which I have woken up in screaming pain, I mean literally screaming. I am going through a migraine bout the likes of which I haven’t seen in several years. Who knows why, certainly not I.

I just wanted to post a quick update since I haven’t been on in several days. Corey had his interview, and it went very well. The three people who spoke with him were very impressed with his background and training. That’s the good news. The downside is that the position does not come with any benefits, and is not guaranteed for 40 hours a week. Nevertheless, Corey is very excited about it as he would be able to make many contacts if he gets the position.

It was just wonderful to see him so happy, and having a good interview really went a long way in making him feel better about himself. Even though the position itself isn’t ideal, we both think that it would be great for him to take it if offered. The people who interviewed him even said that if something more in his field came along, he shouldn’t feel bad about taking it. So who knows.

I’m just happy that it went well and that there is a good possibility that Corey will be working again. I know from experience that having a job in which he is interacting with other people will be great for his state of mind, and also, it always seems easier to find another job if you are already working.

“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching—they are your family. ” ~ Jim Butcher

"The Large Family," by René Magritte (1963, oil on canvas)

On the down side, we had quite a family scare yesterday: Alexis had a seizure at work and was taken by ambulance to a local emergency room. They ran a series of tests on her, and fortunately, there does not appear to be any physical reason why she would have a seizure. The doctor thinks that one of the medicines that she is on may have caused the seizure: Wellbutrin has a 4 in 1,000 rate of seizures in patients who have been prescribed the medication. I was completely unaware of this side effect.

Alexis is supposed to have a follow-up with a neurologist just to make sure. She spent today at home in bed sleeping. Everyone was at the ER last night, and I have to admit that the first thing that popped into my head was brain tumor. I’m sorry, but that’s where my mind goes. Fortunately, the CT scan showed no blockages or masses anywhere in her brain.

I won’t even get into the stupidity that was the presence of my ex at the ER and what an ass he made of himself. What is important is that my baby girl seems to be fine, none the worse for wear, and apparently just experienced a medication side effect.

It’s funny, but Corey and I always seem to comment on those pharmaceutical commercials that promote new medicines for new ailments as seeming miracle drugs, but at the end of the commercials there is always this list of horrible side effects: heart attack, stroke, death.  The cure seems to be as bad as what it purports to fix.

Anyway, Alexis walked out of the ER with an appetite, and she and Mike stopped at a McDonald’s drive-through on the way home, so I’m thinking that’s a good sign.

That’s about all for now. My head is beginning to throb again from the screen. Time for another ice pack.

More later. Peace.

(Had Magritte on my mind, which led to Munch. Hence, the images)

“Breathe In Breathe Out,” by Matt Kearney

“There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life—happiness, freedom, and peace of mind—are always attained by giving them to someone else.” ~ Peyton Conway March

Paul Gauguin’s “Snow Rue Carcel” (1883, oil on canvas)

 

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” ~ Winston Churchill

Corey and I have spent the afternoon cleaning, trying to get the house somewhat straightened up so that we can put up the Christmas tree. I love my dogs, as you have heard me say many times, but the dog hair . . . I think that I could make another dog out of the hair that the three of them shed.

Paul Gauguin's "Snow at Vaugirard II" (1879, oil on canvas): This painting and the one above remind me of Monet's "Magpie")

Needless to say, I am wheezing, and Corey is sneezing. One of the wonderful effects of raising any kind of dust in this house.

Eamonn came by today, only to moan about how life is so terrible because his cell phone isn’t working, and the XBox stopped working. I have come to think of Eamonn as my personal source of comic relief. Would that the only things wrong in my life were a gaming system that has gone on the fritz and having no cell phone. I love eldest son dearly, but he really has no clue as to what life is about. I know. That is largely my fault.

I will be the first to admit that Corey and I have spoiled the kids. Up until the last two years, they all got pretty much anything that they wanted (within reason). By that I mean cell phones, games, gas money. So the last two years have been culture shock for them, not that it has harmed them in any way. I do have to say that I have always held steadfast to my basic principles in that I never pay full price for anything; clothes do not have to have a designer label, and big presents are reserved for Christmas and birthdays.

We have all learned how to do without, and it has probably helped to make us more appreciative of what we do have. I just wish that Eamonn were a bit more in tune with the fact that there really isn’t a money tree in the backyard.

Anyway . . .

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” ~ Mother Theresa

Corey’s parents have come through for us again. They have agreed to pay the electric bill with the understanding that we will pay them back as soon as possible. Have I mentioned lately how absolutely wonderful they have been in supporting us? I hate that we have to ask them as there is that issue of pride and the feeling (on our part) that we should be able to take care of things on our own, but as his mother reminds me, we are family, and they are happy to help when they can.

Once Corey finally starts to get a regular paycheck we will have to make a concerted effort to start to pay them back for some of the things that they have done. No one on either side of the family is rich or even well-to-do, so it’s not as if anyone has disposable income. That’s the part that has me feeling so guilty.

One thing that his mother did for us was to order a care package from Angel Food Ministries. I had meant to write about this wonderful organization before now, but just hadn’t gotten to it yet.

Angel Food Ministries was founded in 1994 by Joe and Linda Wingo of Georgia. The Wingos formed the organization to help provide food for friends and neighbors who were struggling financially. The program currently helps almost half a million families who are unemployed, living on a fixed income, or suffering financial hardships.  Actually, there are no prequalifiers to participate in the program, and there is no purchase limit. The service provided by this organization is invaluable.

A medium-sized box, which costs $30, has a retail value of approximately $60. Participants order from a monthly selection that includes fresh, frozen, and packaged food, including meat (beef, chicken, sausages), fresh fruit and vegetables, and other staples. The food is not seconds, such as past due bread, as all food is purchased via agreements with vendors and producers. The selection changes monthly, and specialty boxes are also available. These include meat packages, for example 10 pounds of chicken cuts for $20.

Each month participants submit their orders to their host site (orders can also be placed online). Hampton Roads has 15 host sites, with four in Norfolk alone. The orders are submitted to the main office in Monroe, Georgia by the deadline. About a week later, orders are delivered to host sites, or host sites go to the main Angel Food Ministries site to pick up orders.  On a designated date, individuals pick up their orders from their host site.

It’s a very efficient system that yields so much value for the money. The program even participates in the food stamp system so as to serve better families in need. Angel Food Ministries, which is non-profit and non-denominational, currently exists in 35 states. Corey and I have decided that once we are back on our feet, we are going to support this organization. We know all too well that we would not have survived these past two years without the generosity of those who care about us. It will be wonderful to be able to give some of that back.

If you know of a family in need, or a senior citizen who may have problems making regular trips to the grocery store, or if your own family is on a fixed income and is having problems with making the food budget stretch, please consider using this very worthwhile organization. Their toll free number is 1-877-366-3646, and their e-mail address is angelfood@angelfoodministries.com. Or, click on the link above to visit their site.

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” ~ Albert Einstein

I remember one time when we were driving back from Ohio when the boys were much younger: We rode through Washington, D.C. (I don’t remember the reason why). It was winter and bone-chillingly cold outside. We drove around the area of  The Smithsonian, and I remember being dismayed by the number of homeless individuals who were sleeping over the subway grates. We told the boys that these people had no homes, no warm place to lay their heads, nothing in the world but what they carried.

I remember how sad both boys were at coming face-to-face with the cruel reality of homelessness. Of course there are homeless people in Norfolk, just not in the suburbs where we live. It’s not so obvious. I wanted to boys to see that homelessness had a face, that it wasn’t some abstract concept. 

Homelessness is the veteran whose mind has been torn apart by what he or she has seen. Homelessness is the senior citizen without a family, left to live at the mercy of the elements. Homelessness is the family that is living in the car that once served as a source of transportation. Estimates are that 1 in 50 children in the U.S. are homeless. That’s the face of homelessness.

I never want my children to become so inured to the plight of others that they no longer see faces, no longer feel a pang when they encounter someone in need. I hope that I have raised them to be caring adults.

During this time, one of my biggest fears has been losing the house. It’s not grand, but it’s home. The reality is that if we lost the house, we would not be homeless, we would have some place to stay.  And in spite of my complaints, I never lose sight of the fact that someone’s child is going to go to sleep hungry and cold tonight. Man’s inhumanity to man is without a doubt the worst scourge on the face of this earth.

“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.” ~ Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama

I’ll close with this poem that I found on Crashingly Beautiful:

The Thing Is

The thing is
to love life
to love it even when you have no
stomach for it, when everything you’ve held
dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands
and your throat is filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you so heavily
it’s like heat, tropical, moist
thickening the air so it’s heavy like water
more fit for gills than lungs.
When grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, and obesity of grief.
How long can a body withstand this? you think,
and yet you hold life like a face between your palms,
a plain face, with no charming smile
or twinkle in her eye,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

~ Ellen Bassboth

More later. Peace.

Ben Folds Five, “Magic” (Corey loves this song)

“A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma”

What to Do About the American Auto Industry

recessionjobhunters

 

Job Hunters During Great Depression

I’m of two minds . . .

Very bad news for November: highest unemployment rate, 533,000 jobs. One in ten homeowners are behind in their mortgages by at least one month. And by the way, the country is officially in a recession, has been for at least a year. Woo hoo. Glad to know that it’s official. I never would have known if someone in charge hadn’t told me. Thanks.

Corey and I were talking, and we realized that this is the first time that we have officially been in a recession. I mean, in the last one, we were both employed, so while we felt its effects peripherally, as in higher prices, we didn’t feel its effects directly, as in unemployment and higher prices and late mortgage payments. Have to tell you, I like it much better the other way. When you are just hearing about this stuff on the radio on your way to work, you can empathize. When you pay more at the pump and at the grocery store, you can bitch and moan, but you still have that paycheck, and it doesn’t really occur to you just how bad it can be on the opposite side.

Well, now we’re on the opposite side, and I have to tell you that every time I read a new article about the recession and Congress and the bailout and their plans for helping main street, I start to do a slow boil. I mean, I’m sitting here on main street, and so far, that $700 billion hasn’t found its way to my door yet. And what’s worse, they aren’t even sure where some of it went.

Excuse me? You lost track of some of the $700 billion bailout money, Mr. Paulson? How does one do that exactly? Is the money located in some ultra secret location that you forgot to close the door to, and someone just came in and took out a few billion? Did you just happen to leave a million or two on the table and go to lunch? I mean really, how do you lose track of a few hundred billion? BILLION?

And then when the Big Three auto makers come asking for some help, you treat them like proverbial ca ca, like something you stepped on and can’t quite identify and send them off with their tails between their collective legs. Granted, their method of arriving was a bit ostentatious: The private jets didn’t quite jibe with the hats in hands. However, a bailout of the Big Three seems a bit more reasonable and practical than the bailout of Wall Street. And I have to wonder about the very different way in which the two requests were treated.

In the first case, we had flashy suits asking for money with no strings attached; AIG execs took spa days after receiving a bailout; many of said execs are still going to receive their bonuses, bonuses that are far beyond anything the average UAW earns in one year, and there has been little to no oversight of that big $700 billion price tag. No one is sure yet what the money from the first bailout is going to be used for or how or when, which leaves me just a teensy bit concerned.

In the second case, when the Big Three came calling, they were treated like Oliver Twist asking for another bowl of gruel: “Please sir, may I have some more.” They were told to go away and come back with a game plan, a revised strategy on exactly how they would use the money they were requesting, how it would help to save the auto industry from going under, how they would compete with the foreign market.

Ford Dearborn Assembly Plant
Ford Skyliner Assembly Line

Why the discrepancy? After all, if the auto industry goes down, America loses the ability to manufacture on a big scale, and then there is that small consequence of three million jobs lost, that’s million. After November’s jobless numbers, can we really afford to have that many more people out of work? And while the UAW certainly isn’t blameless in this mess, neither is it completely to blame. Auto workers do not make as much as the suits on Wall Street. When they do, then you can start to complain to me about auto workers’ salaries. Sure, there are problems with unions, always have been, always will be. Does it make sense that a pallet will sit unloaded while a union worker sits nearby doing nothing because it’s not his/her job to unload it? No. Should things be better? Yes. Is this whole mess because of the UAW. Absolutely not.

Granted, there is a lot wrong with the American auto industry. Let’s put mismanagement right up there at the top. How about lack of foresight in there somewhere? Designs are not keeping pace with foreign auto makers as far as producing cars that are more fuel efficient. We are behind in electric and hybrid designs. Drive train design hasn’t kept pace, nor have basic things like what kinds of warranties American care companies offer in comparison to their foreign competitors. And then just small things, for example, compare the ergonomics of a Toyota with a Ford; there is a noticeable difference. Unfortunate but true.

President-elect Obama is taking office on the promise to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. He has named this as a priority in his administration. Until the big three can begin to make cars that can live up to that promise, do we have an obligation to help them restructure or should we let them fall? This is one of those rare times in which I am actually truly torn. Part of me is sick to death of bailouts. After all, the bottom line is that the bottom line belongs to us, the taxpayers, and I don’t know about you, but my checkbook is way past being able to support any more bailing out of anyone other than myself.

On the other hand, part of me feels that if we bail out anyone, it should be the American auto industry, that they should have gotten a piece of the pie well before AIG or some of the other greedy bastards who received bailout money without any preconditions. After all, people who work in the auto industry, for the most part, are not millionaires (I’m ignoring the upper echelon who deserved the spanking that they received for flying in on private jets).

On the other hand, this is a free economy system. Those who cannot make the grade should be allowed to fall, which is why we shouldn’t have bailed out some of those banks in the first place. If Chrysler falls, and it probably will even with a bailout, then we should let it. Lee Iacocca was able to turn it around a few decades ago, but I don’t think that an Iacocca is in Chrysler’s future this time, and since it didn’t learn its lesson after the first time, it deserves to go down. As to the other two, maybe they should file for bankruptcy, restructure, start all over, renegotiate with the UAW so that American union workers are more like their foreign counterparts: the wages and benefits are essentially the same; the big difference is in how the jobs are handled. With the foreign unions, jobs aren’t pigeon-holed.

Of course, one of the things that a lot of people keep forgetting to mention is the trickle down effect of the failure of this industry: how many smaller industries will fail, and subsequently American workers will lose their jobs as a result of the Big Three going under? There is no easy answer to this one. It is a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” (Winston Churchill).

For once, I think that I am actually at a loss for words. Hmm. A liberal Democrat who doesn’t know what to say? Mark it on your calendars people because this doesn’t happen often. There will, of course, be more later. Peace.