Sunday, October 30, 2011


Continuing with her nesting, Herself has tidied the remainder of the kitchen cabinets and the drawers.  She threw away some things, rearranged other things, and generally organized the rest of the things. It is quite pleasant to open a drawer or a cabinet and find exactly what one needs now.

In the back of one cabinet, she found a pacifier, still in its packaging.  Affectionately referred to as a "nu-nu," a pacifier was a staple in the household for a long, long time.  All of the Offspring were extremely orally inclined as infants and toddlers; they spent a great deal of time sucking on thumbs, fingers, and nu-nus, as well as attempting to put all kinds of non-comestible items into their mouths.  Herself always kept a spare emergency nu-nu handy in her purse.

It has been ages since anyone in the house used a pacifier, and Herself was a tad wistful at the discovery of the nu-nu.  Mercifully, though, she is not all verklempt.  I think she has almost completely come to terms with the fact that there will never be another baby in the household. 

All the same, she would be pleased to be able to hold someone else's baby for a little while.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy Place

Sometimes, a picture captures a moment so beautifully that it refreshes the soul just as much as the moment itself did.  I present to you one such picture from camping a few weeks ago.  We are ever so grateful to our Cherished Friend, the photographer. Thank you.

Photograph Copyright 2011, Mediocria Firma.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Today's post is brought to you by The Jeans That Are Uncomfortably Tight.

Herself has gained a bit of weight.  How much, she does not know; she has kept her New Year's resolution not to step on the scale, in an attempt to break herself of her borderline obsession about about the numbers.  What she does know, though, is that her favorite jeans -- which used to be fairly comfortable --are just a hair too constrictive right now.

Let the self-loathing commence!

She is angry at herself for her clear lack of self-discipline.  She should exercise more faithfully, she should watch her diet more carefully.   She currently is spending time forging a new set of rules in her head to try to lower her caloric intake and increase her activity.  It should help.  Losing weight is always a slow process, though, particularly in women of a certain age.  She's set a reasonable goal of several weeks out to be able to wear her favorite jeans again.  I think she can do it.

The hardest part, though, will be to change her eating habits.  For she is a stress eater, and she turns to food in times of distress.  Self-comfort with carbohydrates. 

Life has been a bit tricky of late.  There have been cookies.

She supposes in some ways that it must be like trying to stop smoking:  just as there are certain circumstances - during stress, as a habit, or even with pleasure, too - under which people feel a need for a cigarette, there are particular times when she craves food. She needs to find a replacement for those times.  But what?  Jog around the house instead? Drink a glass of water? Chew gum? (She does not chew gum.  It is yucky.) 

She tells herself, maybe if she just grew a *backbone*, she could exhibit some self-control and would not have this problem.

We know it's not quite that simple, though.

She is trying.  It will be one day at a time.  Baby steps.

Wish her luck.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011


During the past couple of days, Herself has spent several hours cleaning and tidying the refrigerator, the freezer, and the pantry.  She also eliminated the large pile of orts and gobbets of family life that had taken up residence on the kitchen counter and was slowing growing, like a fungus.  Her plan for tomorrow is to rearrange the pots and pans in the cabinets. 

It's a bit odd.  I think that she is feeling a seasonal nesting need -- like a chipmunk preparing for winter -- and just happened to start in the kitchen.  She plans to spend one hour each morning on a small project, with the long-term goal of weeding and organizing the rest of the house, one room at a time.  She is enjoying the progress she has made so far; I think it will continue to be fruitful. We shall see!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Arthropods -- insects, spiders, crustaceans -- shed a skin in order to grow.  It's an odd process in which a creature works its way out of its old covering and moves onward, leaving an empty shell behind.  We came across evidence of such growth in one of our adventures, when the horde of cicadas that buzzed so noisily left a multitude of surprisingly sturdy casings clinging to the trees in which they had perched.

While people -- mercifully -- do not literally shed their skins, there are times when humans do undergo similarly significant growth. 

Herself knows that she is many ways very different from how she was even a few years ago.  It has been a gradual transformation; there has been no precipitating event, no watershed moment to which she can point.  What is certain, though, is that she has changed.  Even those close to her have noticed:  her mother-in-law (a truly lovely woman) has stated that Herself has blossomed and "come out of her shell."  And indeed, she has. How so?  It is difficult to describe. 

She is more likely to speak her mind.  She questions more, and expects differently. She occasionally puts her own needs ahead -- not necessarily first, but certainly higher up than ever before.  She is less tolerant of unkind words and actions, and actively takes steps to address issues that hurt her or those whom she loves.  She appreciates the unique qualities of each member of her family more.  She has found remarkable reserves of patience and kindness.  She has reached out to other people in ways she would never have dared do before, and she is joyous and grateful for the return that she has received.

She laughs more.  She hopes more.  She risks more.  She dreams more. 

To what can we attribute her transformation?  There are many different factors.  If you ask her, though, she will tell you that the primary reason is:

she has true friends.

Close friends contribute to our personal growth.  They also contribute to our personal pleasure, making the music sound sweeter, the wine taste richer, the laughter ring louder because they are there.  - Judith Viorst

She has shed her old shell.  She will never wear it again.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Likin' Lichen

One of Herself's favorite classes in college was Biology of Plants.  She was a freshman, and most of the class participants were juniors; nevertheless, she was not intimidated, for the subject matter was so very fascinating.  The professor would sprinkle his lectures with interesting, plant-related anecdotes - and lo and behold, the anecdotes would turn up on the quizzes and exams.  Tricky.  The kind of learning Herself loved best. 

She is a little rusty now on xylem and phloem and rhizomes and such.  She has asked Offspring the Second to retrieve her textbook on plants from the depths of his room, so that she may refresh her recollection.  She looks forward to it.

Every time she is out in the wilderness, she looks for her favorite plants - lichens and mosses.  They are unassuming, yet immensely capable.  Beautiful to look at, and texturally interesting to the touch.  I am quite fond of them as well - one could say, I've taken a likin' to the lichen.  Hee.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


As part of the preparations for attending the Halloween party Friday, Herself took a late shower and then put her still-damp hair into a barrette.  During the course of the evening, she was sitting in the path of the smoke of the fire in the firepit.  Her hair must have absorbed a fair amount of the tiny smoky particulates, for this morning when Herself got into the shower, the wetting of her hair by the water released the faint scent of campfire smoke.

She wishes she could pack up her tent and her sleeping bag and go camping again.  Right now.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Herself and the family attended a Halloween party at her Pea-in-a-pod-friend's abode yesterday evening.  It was warm, friendly, and entertaining.  There were seasonal foodstuffs, movies appropriate for the holiday, and a slightly smoky fire in the firepit in the back yard.  A good time was had, particularly by Offspring the Second and Offspring the Third.  It pleases her enormously when the Offspring have an opportunity to spend time with their friends and peers.  Good for them.

Since it was a Halloween festivity, everyone went in costume.  Herself eschewed her traditional Trinity (Matrix) costume in favor of something new.  She opted this year for a Star Trek (Original Series) uniform (blue, for science officer, naturally) T-shirt dress, along with the requisite tights and knee-high boots. Slightly nerdy, but humorous. Fun!

A bit like Uhura - well, that was the goal, anyway. 

It was a good outfit - in theory.  In reality, Herself could not shake the feeling that it might be just a wee bit too short, or a wee bit too revealing.  Is it inappropriate for her to dress in something somewhat clingy?  Is it alarming, disconcerting, unpleasant for those who see her? 

The real question in her head:  is she just too hefty? 

She tries hard.  She exercises.  She attempts to eat right.  She makes a solid effort to keep in shape.  Yet when she looks in the mirror, she is unhappy.  She does not like what she sees.  There is too much of her.  Too much cleavage.  Much too much cleavage.  Also, too much tummy, too much thigh. Too much ass.  She turns away, and attempts to reassure herself by reminding herself that she's a middle-aged woman, and thus, invisible to the general population anyway. 

She is sad. 

I don't know how to help her feel better about herself.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Herself can be Loud.  I know this may surprise you.

When she was a child, Herself was quite quiet.  She toed the line, did what she was told, tried hard not to complain.  Her needs and desires came second to the directives she had been given.  She learned: don't cry, don't overreact.  Such a stifled child.

As an adult, Herself has gradually -- slowly, painfully -- learned that it is OK sometimes to give voice when she is upset.  She is not very good at it. 

Take this morning, for example.  The dogs were, yet again, all clamoring at her, barking and growling and clawing her ankles. She was Done.  She yelled at them.  And she irritated other household members in the process. 

Retrospectively, it is easy to see why Herself had reached the end of her rope.  The moment was, in fact, the culmination of over a day's worth of minor irritations, piling up one atop the other like the grains in an anthill.  There was work:  while mercifully present, there were unexpected time constraints on certain projects that made things a bit tricky.  Taekwondo class involved unexpected sparring (albeit "non-contact" sparring - which means that while she was spared most blows, the ones that accidentally landed hurt more) followed by the pressure of performing forms individually in front of the class.  An hour and a half was spent roaming the party store among hoi polloi with Offspring the Third, who desired a costume and yet was uncertain as to what he would like (and who ultimately ended up deciding to wear a costume he already had at home).  The guinea pigs were nibbling incessantly and noisily on their cage, begging for treats.  The shreds of a tissue were spread upon the carpet she had just vacuumed.

And more:  a conversation with a distant relative who put a negative spin on every single subject raised; the migraine that started at 3 AM and kept her awake for two hours last night, and the residual headache and nausea that greeted her when the alarm clock rang; the noise of the kitchen fan and the smell of the oil in the air while the eggs were being cooked; the multiple e-mails requiring immediate attention. The dishes. The laundry. The bills to be paid today.

And, the very last straw, the barking and the clawing.

 Even as she scolded the dogs, she was aware that she was loud.  Like Offspring the Third, when Herself is upset, she lacks a volume control.  She had reached a point beyond her ability to reel herself back, and even pointing out her difficulties would not have helped her to regain her equanimity.  It was A Moment.

She wishes she could do better.

What to do?  Herself knows that she clearly needs to learn to walk away from that last straw that is poking her.  Or better yet, to request assistance.  Yet we know how abysmal she is at asking for help.

Have patience, gentle souls, when she is loud.  See whether you can remain quiet and collected when it is clear that she cannot.  Step to her aid, even unasked, or even inquire what you can do to help. 

She will be quieted -- and she will be grateful.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The other day, Herself and I came across an article regarding footwear. 

Men in heels.

Just, no.

While Herself is generally a live-and-let-live, equality between the sexes, sort of person, this fashion trend seems unsettling and inappropriate to her.  She admits to me that she's probably far more conservative than one would surmise, given her fairly liberal upbringing and schooling.  For her, certain things are in the domain of The Men, and other things reside in the territory of The Women.  While there may be occasional crossover (Herself periodically takes a vehicle to be inspected or to have the oil changed, and she is charmed, rather than discomfited, by a man who folds laundry or takes care of dishes), she tends to divide activities -- as well as certain types of garments -- along traditional gender lines.   

While men's cowboy boots, work boots, hiking boots, and so forth, may have a bit of a heel, that is not the issue here.  Rather, it is pointy, strappy, wedged, decorative footwear:  the stiletto, the pump, and other such shoes.  These, Herself feels, are solely for women.  It may not be the most politically correct position, but it is Herself's honest opinion.

Now that we have contemplated footwear, Herself feels a sudden urge to find an opportunity to wear high heels herself.  Much as she loves her hiking boots, every now and then, she longs to dress up in proper girly fashion.  And that is:  in heels.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bug Haiku

 Insects. Arachnids.
 Caterpillars and inchworms.
Grashoppers, crickets.

Strange warning noises.
Uncommonly bright colors.
Crawling, flying, JUMP.

Far too many legs
Mesmerizing, frightening
Beautiful creatures.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Camping: It Was Good.

Ah, camping.  It was Very Good Indeed.  I will tell you a bit about it and show you just a few of the many pictures.

Herself got up exceptionally early Saturday to ensure that the food was packed properly and the house was clean (she tries very hard to leave things tidy so that homecoming is pleasant).  Her Cherished Friend arrived a bit before dawn, and he, she and her Beloved packed up the various bins of equipment. Offspring the Second and Offspring the Third, who had been roused quite early as well, consumed a bit of breakfast, and then off we all went to the Gila Wilderness.

A pleasant campground was found in due course, and they set up the campsite.  Tents sprouted like mushrooms; chairs were arranged; tables were set; firewood was placed. 

After a late brunch, there was tree-climbing.  Herself loves to climb trees.

Later, off we all went for a short hike and exploration of a wash with interesting terrain, rocks, and insects.  There was a bit of water, clumps of algae, and purposeful red beetles.

As the sun started to set, we returned to camp, had a meal, and sat around the campfire until all the stars came out.  So relaxing.

Overnight, it was rather unexpectedly chilly.  There were howls of coyotes, hoots of an owl or two, and bright light from the nearly-full moon.

Emerging from the sleeping bags in the morning was rather difficult.  Everyone donned multiple layers of clothes (Herself informed me that a cold brassiere is not a pleasant experience) and the campfire was started up once more.  After a leisurely morning, camp was packed up, and off we all went to the City of Rocks.

There, we found a wee little rattlesnake.  We watched with considerable interest when the rangers arrived and removed it to a safer location with the aid of a large trash can and a very long pole. 

After a bit of a snack, Herself took a short nap in the shade of a rock while the menfolk climbed the rocks and explored a bit.  Then it was time to go.

It was a lot of pleasant adventure in a mere 37 hours away from home.

Herself was very pleased.  Spending time out in nature, away from It All, is always one of Herself's greatest pleasures.  Finally being able to use her tent and her sleeping bag was a long-held dream come true.  Watching the four menfolk relax and enjoy themselves, far away from the burdens of work and school, was marvelous to behold.  Her heart was full.

We will go camping again one day.  Soon, I hope.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Camping - Trial Run

This weekend, we are making our long-awaited attempt at tent camping.  Woo! We will see how it goes.  Pictures and commentary to follow.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pit Stop

The tiny dog wedged herself into Herself's armpit to take a nap.  She tickles.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


This morning, a beautiful full moon hung in the sky before dawn.  It reminded me of the moonrise over Aden Crater.  Pictures cannot truly capture the full glory of the moon ascending over the desert.

I am looking forward to camping this weekend.  Even though it will be for just one night, I am hopeful that the moon will be visible.  The moon, the cool air, the quiet.  Away from Everything.

It will be lovely.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Favorite Things, Eight

No one word can express today's favorite thing.  Nouns -- a hug, an embrace -- are too paltry. Verbs -- to touch, to hold -- are inadequate.  Only action will suffice.       

Millions and millions of years would still not give me half enough time to describe that tiny instant of all eternity when you put your arms around me and I put my arms around you
~ Jacques Prévert

Monday, October 10, 2011


Herself speaks today:

The Westboro Baptist Church -- long known for its ugly protests at soldiers' and other high-profile funerals -- will be here in my fair city today as a soldier is laid to rest.  In this beautiful country of ours, even the Westboro Baptist Church has a right to free speech, even if that speech is crude, cruel, and deliberately hurtful.  It would be best if we could all just ignore their shrill cries of hatred entirely; if we did not give them the reaction they so desperately crave, it is likely that they would eventually go away (though unfortunately they would no doubt appear elsewhere with their inflammatory words).   

They make me seethe with rage.

While a funeral is a public ceremony, there are private griefs present there.  Children left fatherless and a woman left grieving for her man; parents having to bury their child and brothers having to face the future without their childhood companion; friends trying to come to terms with the new gaping hole in their lives.  For the Westboro Baptist Church to subject grieving individuals to their message of hatred at such time of raw and tremendous sorrow is no less than inhuman.

Yet they proclaim that their message is a religious one: 
God's word. 

I despair for the human race when I think of the atrocities committed in the name of God. 

Can we find hope for humanity?  I think we can. I look at the Offspring, who are warm-hearted and thoughtful souls, loyal and helpful to their family and their friends; at my Beloved, who works so hard for the betterment of his family, his clients and his community; at my friends, who have brought kindness and support not only to me, but to the people around them as well.  All of them shelter within them a light that can dispel the darkness.  I am grateful for that light.

There is Evil in this world, to be sure; but there is Good to be found, too.  I hope that those who are grieving today can find that Good, despite the shadow of Evil. And Godspeed, our soldier.  Thank you for your service.  We will remember you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Yesterday, Herself, her Beloved, Offspring the Second and Offspring the Third, and Herself's Cherished Friend visited the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument.  The hiking was pleasant, and the weather was lovely.  Under the guidance of a ranger from the Bureau of Land Management, they hiked up into the monument and looked at trace fossils, and then poked around in an area replete with fossilized sea creatures.  Although many times they were unsure of whether a particular rock was some sort of fossil, or just a rock, it was quite interesting to try to imagine what was what.

The best part for Herself was watching the menfolk poke around and discover things. They climbed about, employed their rock hammers, dug and sifted and selected the most interesting items to show to Herself and to one another.  Such a pleasure to see them enjoying themselves.

Friday, October 7, 2011


After her first year of college, Herself signed up with a temp agency for summer employment. She was (and still is) proficient at routine office tasks, and was quickly assigned to a small company for two weeks.  After the first three days, the company called the temp agency and requested to have Herself stay for the entire summer.  And so she did.

On the whole, the other people in the office were pleasant and helpful.  There were various Characters:  the laboratory assistant with the slightly shady and sorrowful past; the productive, quiet mentor; the petulant and demanding superior; the 50-ish woman who was ineffectual yet had been with the company so long that no one could imagine letting her go; the twenty-somethings who were rumored to be conducting a clandestine relationship.

It was a decent working environment. Herself's desk was mercifully out of the way, and so she did not have to interact with any other individuals very much. She did her work, and when there was no work to be done, did her best to look busy. 

Eventually, it became apparent that the 50-ish woman was rather beholden to the petulant and demanding superior.  Perhaps it was he who kept her on at the company.  She catered to his whims, his tantrums, and his moods.  As the summer wore on, she began to attempt to teach Herself to similarly coddle the superior.  Herself resisted.

One day, the woman stated that Herself should prepare a cup of coffee every morning and deliver it to the superior's desk so that it would be waiting for him when he arrived.  Herself declined. A conversation along the following lines ensued:

Woman:  Do you have a boyfriend?
Herself:  I do.
Woman:  Wouldn't you make coffee for him?
Herself:  No.  He can make his own coffee.

Afterwards, the woman essentially left Herself alone for the remainder of the summer - apparently, Herself was appallingly feminist and untrainable. Herself continued to type, edit, file and perform all the necessary tasks to everyone else's satisfaction, and received praise for her work from both her mentor and the temp agency.  No one mentioned coffee. 

It was not so much the instruction to prepare the coffee that rankled Herself, as was the manner in which it was presented.  She did not work directly for the superior, and he had spoken to her only once or twice in passing.  If it had been part of a morning routine along with meeting and discussing the day's tasks, that would have seemed appropriate.  Even if they did not interact regularly, if he had asked Herself directly and politely, that would have been acceptable.  Without any such contact, however, Herself found the order to be strange and improper.

Ultimately what was more shocking to Herself -- besides the impropriety of the suggestion of treating a superior at work as equivalent to a boyfriend -- was the implication by the older woman that proper treatment of a boyfriend would include preparing and delivering coffee, sight unseen, on a daily basis.  She contemplated the matter during her down time at her desk.  To prepare coffee for a boyfriend seemed quite domestic, implying a commonality of daily life and an intimacy that Herself not only did not have with a boyfriend, but in which at the time she would have been uncomfortable participating.  No thank you.

Some twenty-five years later, Herself still does not make coffee; she does not know the necessary proportion of grounds to water for the coffeemaker.  She does not feel any need to learn.  Nevertheless, she understands that it is similar acts that are indeed tiny signs of caring for another person.  And so, she tries to facilitate the small comforts of daily life for those she loves:  she makes cookies; she pushes in the chairs and picks up the plates; she fetches a towel or a glass of water; she puts shoes away; she obtains preferred snack foods; she wrangles the laundry and provides an extra blanket; she tries hard to take care of all the little things, sight unseen.  It makes her happy to do so.

No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. - Aesop

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Apple Cries

The legendary -- and I use that word without any exaggeration -- Steve Jobs has passed away.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  Even the most brilliant individuals cannot escape the ravages of disease, despite having access to, and millions of dollars for, the very best possible medical care.  He leaves behind a tremendous technological legacy.

I know that my own impact on the world ultimately will be infinitesimal.  Nevertheless, I hope when my time comes that I will be able to depart this world with as much grace as he did, and that I will have left behind a word or two that will be meaningful to others.  

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.  You are already naked.  There is no reason not to follow your heart.

- Steve Jobs

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Small Dog

Hyperactive pup;
Miniscule scrap of canine -
Shrill, fragile creature.

Watery eyeballs,
Furless naked underside,
Crooked tiny teeth.

Galloping about,
Flinging your toys in the air,
Chasing your wee tail.

Curled like a donut,
On my lap or close nearby,
You are a good girl.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Herself's life is a room full of furniture. 

She likes many of the items:  some are old and perhaps a tiny bit shabby, though quite comfortable; other newer ones are beautifully shiny, and she is still adjusting to their presence. Some are cushioned, some are fragile, and some have unusual angles.  Some need regular polishing; others require only an occasional dustcloth.  A couple of pieces she has picked out for herself; many others have been inherited or presented as gifts, and she cares for them out of respect and consideration for those who have brought them into the room. 

Some days, she despairs at the number of pieces that must be dusted.  She wishes she could rearrange the furniture, and perhaps remove a few items. Yet she cannot lift them, and even if she could, she cannot move them without damaging the others.  She must work around them. As she tries to navigate the room, she miscalculates and bumps into the corners of even the most familiar of pieces.  She feels crowded and bruised.  Weary.

She needs wide open spaces.  Soon.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Slightly Naughty Bits of Plumbing

(Rated PG-13).

Went to the local home improvement store yesterday and perused all the various plumbing fixtures and accoutrements while Herself's Beloved obtained parts to repair a sink faucet.

Such interesting names. If you'll pardon me, I'm now going to go fish my mind out of the gutter where it is currently swimming.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I would like toast, please.

When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender, of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.  - Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Egg Pie

Herself truly enjoys cooking, yet sadly does not have many opportunities to spend uninterrupted time experimenting in the kitchen.  Yesterday, she set aside the afternoon to attempt a different recipe or two.  The results:  quiche.  One bacon and mushroom, one tomato and goat cheese.  Homemade crust, too.  All things considered, they turned out fairly decently. 

It made her quite happy.