Monday, April 30, 2012

Fancy Feast

Herself had an opportunity to attend a dinner at one of the local restaurants that touts itself as being one of the "finest culinary experiences in the region."  Ooooo!  She zipped herself into the traditional little black dress, put on her high heels, and off she went. 

It was, indeed, quite FANCY.  The water glasses were filled with water from carefully shaped and colorfully labeled glass bottles.  There were unidentifiable items on the menu.  The special of the evening was bison tenderloin with fois gras ravioli. Portions were either gigantic or miniscule. Every plate was artfully arranged with colorful garnish.  The fleet of waitstaff hovered carefully, performing tasks that included, for example, displaying a large basket of various types of sliced bread and pointing to each with delicate tongs, so that the diners could select their preferred item.  There was a flat screen television on the wall that slowly scrolled through photographs of various Monet and Manet artworks. Ambiance!

The food was tasty, to be sure.  As far as dining experiences go, though, Herself far prefers a homecooked meal consumed at the kitchen table in the company of her loved ones.  Nevertheless, it was pleasant.  And photogenic.  She has provided the below pictures for your entertainment. Enjoy!

First, a seafood appetizer:  Claws and Things!

This is another person's main course. 
Note the festive shredded garnish.

Mary had a little lamb....
Actually, Mary had Giant Honking Lamb Chops.


Fresh mozzarella and tomato salad,
with mysterious green pickled plant bits.

And the piece de resistance: 
a wee tentacled bit that mysteriously appeared on Herself's bread plate. 
She suspects that another diner at the table placed it there for her. 
It was quite obviously anatomical - suckers and everything.  Oooo!

Sunday, April 29, 2012


If wishes were horses, beggars would ride
If turnips were swords, I'd wear one by my side
If ifs and ands were pots and pans,
There'd be no need for tinkers' hands.
- Scottish proverb

Herself, Offspring the Second, Offspring the Third, Beloved Husband, and Cherished Friend spent much of yesterday in Aguirre Springs.  The scenery was excellent, with many interesting trees, unusual flowers here and there, and a plethora of lizards, one of which jumped promptly onto Offspring the Second's pants when he sat down for breakfast.  It was a tad hot; there was an unusually large number of other people; and bright, bright sunshine on the trail. Nevertheless, the hiking was pleasant. A few sandwiches, a bit of rock climbing, and a couple of minutes' rest reclining on the bench of the picnic table rounded out the afternoon nicely.

Herself was pleased when Beloved Husband took charge of the bacon and eggs for breakfast. She likes to cook for the Menfolk and to look after them, and is usually quite happy to have an opportunity to prepare food for them. She was tired, though, and nursing the remnants of the previous evening's migraine.  She was glad to have him take care of the meal.

Herself also found the hiking surprisingly strenuous.  She felt slow.  Her hip, which continues to be a bit difficult, did not handle the trail nearly as well as she would have liked it to do.  The heat of the day caused her to perspire far more than she normally does, as well as to need more rests and water than usual. While Beloved Husband and Offspring the Third managed to ascend the path quickly and were soon lost to sight, Herself lagged behind.  Offspring the Second and Cherished Friend kindly kept pace with her.  Their presence was motivating and reassuring, for she knew that if she struggled, they were there with her.

She felt a bit frustrated and cranky.  So difficult to want to do things and not to feel up to the challenge.  She wishes she were more patient, more energetic, more adept.  More capable. More agile -- physically and mentally. More disciplined. And while she's at it, she wouldn't mind being thinner, wittier, or smarter, either. She feels tremendously imperfect these days. She hopes that others are not as aware of her glaring failures and weaknesses as she is -- and that when they see her imperfections, they will understand and forgive her.

Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections. - Saint Francis De Sales

Friday, April 27, 2012

Words Like Fire

Words can be gifts, words can be weapons, words can be magic; words can be prayer, poetry or song. - Lama Durya Das

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Aloe Vera, Season Two

You may recall that last year, we planted a new aloe vera to replace the one that had perished in the bitter cold spell of the winter.  Look how it thrives!  We have added new yellow floral companions to replace the annuals of last year.  It seems quite happy. We are pleased.

  Look, there are feet there!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mind The Gap

Sometimes, there appears within one's life a certain sense that something is missing - there is a nameless, formless emptiness of which one suddenly becomes aware.  One wonders:  how long has that been there?  Why did I just notice it now?  And, above all, what is it?

Identifying the shape and size of such a Gap can be tricky.  Determining what fits into a Gap can be even more difficult.  Assessing whether a Gap needs be filled, or must remain empty, is the hardest of all. 

Circumstances oftentimes contribute to the emergence of a Gap.  When one has the sensation of treading water in one's life, a Gap tends to arise.  If one is hoping for a change or is awaiting news that might alter the path into the future, the resultant anticipation can also open a Gap. These Gaps require patience. Time, and Change (either incremental or larger), can usually fill such a Gap; sometimes, even merely acknowledging that such a Gap exists is sufficient to cause it to fold in upon itself and disappear.

Sometimes, a Gap opens unexpectedly - a sliver of crescent moon, slung low in the sky, pokes a hole in the fabric of the night.  That species of Gap is most accurately described with the German word, sehnsuchtthat inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know not what. The sehnsucht Gap is a rift that exposes the very core of the human condition and provides a glimpse into the eternity of the Universe.  Such a sehnsucht Gap is usually best experienced as the yearning and emptiness that it is, for it cannot truly be filled.

Once in a while, an emptiness appears that is not actually a Gap, but rather, is a Void.  Voids are perilous.  One can easily fall into a Void, and it can be arduous to climb out again.  How can one differentiate a Void from a Gap?  A Gap is a noticeable space situated among all the other pieces of one's life -- an absence which will eventually be altered or filled as one walks along life's path.  A Void, in contrast, is a presence -- it is the black hole lair of a creature that envelops everything near it, until it consumes all that one can see. 

What to do when it turns out that an emptiness that one assumed was a merely a Gap is, in fact, a Void?  Do not be afraid.  Voids happen.  We have talked about them before.  Acknowledge the Void, and Name the creature of the Void, for the Naming itself can tame the beast of the Void before it consumes one.  

Sometimes, one cannot escape the pull of the Void.  If one finds oneself within a Void, a good strategy is to Own the creature of the Void. Allow it to howl and rage. Console it, for it is a wounded, angry animal. Embrace it, and the beast will be quieted and lay down to rest. 

Sometimes, it is easier to observe the Gaps, experience the sehnsucht Gaps, and tackle the Voids by oneself.  Other times, companionship is helpful, or even necessary. Remember always, my stalwart Readers, that should you wish for company, I am here to mind the Gaps with you.  And should you fall into a Void, know that if you so desire, I will sit with you in the Void and sing soft lullabies until the beast sleeps.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Today, I have Amos Lee's "Violin" stuck in my head.

This old violin was found at

Monday, April 23, 2012


Brick by hard-baked brick,
I fashioned this high tower -
Safety for my heart.

With some misgiving,
I left one wall incomplete -
Lonely window eye.

Leaf-dotted sunlight,
Birdsong, flower-scented breeze,
Alluring, outside.

Distant voice calling,
"Rapunzel, let down your hair!"
Shall I bear your weight?

If you long for me,
Handsome Prince, gazing upward -
Go find a ladder.

This marvelous picture of the Cape Bojeador lighthouse tower was found at

Fairy Tales

In an effort to nurture a few molecules of creativity, we plan to construct haiku relating to various well-known fairy tales.  Should you wish for a particular tale to be addressed, do let us know, and we will oblige.

First up, to follow shortly:  Rapunzel.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Making Time

An odd little moment of yesterday:

Scene:  the local home improvement store, in the garden department.  Herself waited by a cart containing various plants while her Beloved searched for one last particular plant.  She noticed an elderly gentleman, sporting a vest indicative of his employment at the store, looking at her and then walking purposefully in her direction.  She worried whether her cart was blocking an aisle or she was somehow doing something wrong.

Elderly gentleman:  Are you waiting for someone, or just catching your breath?

Herself (relieved that she is not inconveniencing anyone): Oh, I'm just waiting. 

Elderly gentleman and Herself proceeded to discuss the various plants in the cart, including the interesting succulent that Herself picked out.  Eventually, Herself's Beloved husband reappeared with the last plant.

Herself:  Ah, here he is.

Elderly gentleman, flatteringly, to Herself's Beloved: I was making time with your wife. I didn't know she was married.

Beloved husband: I'm a generous man, I'm willing to share her time.

Elderly gentleman:  Oh, I doubt that!

Herself, inside her head:  Egads.  I'm just going to smile embarrassedly and head towards the register now.

:::off she went:::

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Herself does not talk about her extended family much.  This is primarily to preserve their privacy - although she cannot imagine any of them accidentally wandering across the blog, should such a thing happen, she wants to be sure that they are not surprised to see themselves in print, nor embarrassed or offended by anything she has said.  Also, sadly, she does not see them as much as she would like, so the little tidbits of interactions that might be blog-worthy are few and far between.

That being said, she'd like to tell you a short story about her father.

Herself's father is a brilliant, kind, thoughtful, generous man.  He works very hard to make sure that all the members of the family have everything they need. He has always been this way.  Herself aspires to be like him.

Today, she was speaking with her father about a few people they both know who have been undergoing difficulties lately.  He commented:  "You're providing moral support for this person and that person.  How about you?  What do you need?"

She was caught off guard. Her heart skipped a beat.

Such a magnificent thing to say.

There are times -- many times -- when Herself feels that the number of pieces of herself that she gives away far exceeds the number that she gets back.  She can become exhausted; she runs on empty. It is hard. 

Tiny things refuel her:  Unexpected flowers. Unsolicited assistance with the groceries. Spontaneous offers to bring her a coat. Each event is a small, brilliant miracle. She is refreshed.

Her father's acknowledgment of her efforts to help others, and his simultaneous inquiry regarding her own needs, encapsulated in a few short sentences all that she longs to hear. Like him, it was brilliant, kind, thoughtful and generous.
Thank you, Daddy.  Just the fact that you asked, is all I really need.

Herself and her father, the weekend of her college graduation, so many years ago.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Brush Your Hair!

Herself had a routine appointment at the endocrinologist's office yesterday. 

She visits once a year to keep tabs on a benign thyroid nodule. When she first found out that the options were either to have the nodule surgically removed without guarantee that it would not recur, or to take levothyroxine daily for the rest of her life, she was quite annoyed.  Hobson's Choice.  She chose not to risk a potentially large and visible scar, and grudgingly went the route of medication.  Several years later now, she has adjusted to the situation; she chalks it up as one of the various indignities to which one's middle-aged body subjects one.  It could be worse.

Typically, the visit consists of interminable waiting, followed by a brief examination of the nodule and discussion of the bloodwork with one of the pleasant (and rather elderly) doctors or with the abrasive physician's assistant; then checkout and scheduling for the following year.  Slightly irritating, but not particularly onerous. Yesterday, though, was just a tiny bit different - albeit in a pleasant way.

When Herself arrived, the waiting room was relatively uncrowded.  She signed in at the front desk, where a rather buff and clean-cut young man cheerfully took her information.  (Goodness gracious.)  The wait was quite short before she was installed in an examination room.  A knock, and the physician's assistant entered. His name, somewhat oddly, was "Elvis," and he was also young, comely, and unfailingly polite and informational.  (Good HEAVENS.) After a decision was made to adjust her dosage and check back in a few months, Herself went to check out and schedule the next appointment.  A third visually appealing young man helpfully filled out the necessary forms and eagerly offered her a paperclip for all the bits and pieces of paperwork. (GOOD LORD.) She was out of the office within an hour.

When she left, she found herself thinking that she is looking forward to being an aged crone. Then, she will be able to answer Elvis' comment, "I believe I've seen you before a while back," with a jocular "Oh, I would have remembered that" instead of a polite "it's possible."  When she is 90 years old, it will (hopefully) be adorable-Betty-White-sassy-old-lady-ish, rather than creepily cougar-ish as it would have been now.

She might not mind going back in three months.  She might want to brush her hair a bit better beforehand next time, though - she knows she's not much to look at, but it is the very least she can do to try to return the favor of a Pleasant View.

Helloooo, Boys.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Moving Over

 Mediocria Firma: we were quite pleased when you joined the blogosphere.

We now see that you have packed a few boxes and trundled over to this corner of the world. 

We hope you enjoy your new site in Blogger.  We are glad to have you here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


We return once more to the series of Things We Like.

Today's Thing We Like:  walking at twilight.

The sun does not bake.  The air is cooler; the world is muted, quieter, softer on the eyes and ears.  It unwinds the day and refreshes the brain.  It is good indeed. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Like most working people, Herself periodically daydreams about a time in the future when she will be able to retire from her current employment.  What will she do then?  So many possibilities; she does not even know where to begin.

Several years ago when she adopted a set of guinea pigs -- including Tobby -- from a guinea pig rescue, Herself contemplated whether she could run a similar guinea pig shelter.  She has been extraordinary fond of small mammals ever since she was a small child, and knows that there will always be a need for safety and health care for neglected and unwanted pets.  As time has gone by, though, the idea has passed from serious contemplation; Herself is well aware of the difficulties associated with 24-hour small animal husbandry, and is at the moment rather fatigued from caring for the household menagerie for so many years.  Nevertheless, she does occasionally mention her forthcoming guinea pig farm:  she quips that when she is tired of the world and runs away from home, she will live in a yurt with a herd of free-range guinea pigs.

Sunday night, Herself was chatting with long-term Acquaintance, and joked about her future guinea pig sanctuary.  Acquaintance (who is three decades older than Herself) said, "That won't happen for a while; good, I'll be dead by then."  Acquaintance then demonstrated why a demise before such an event would be good by pantomiming an imaginary conversation with a peer:  "So, what is [Herself] doing these days?" "Oh, she is running a guinea pig sanctuary."  ::look of amusement/horror as anticipated on peer's face:: 

Apparently, Acquaintance thinks there would be significant embarrassment associated with having to inform others that Herself's chosen occupation was Founder of a guinea pig sanctuary.

I think not.

We know that in the grand scheme of things, "Small Rodent Caretaker" is not a particularly glamorous or earth-shattering occupation.  Nevertheless, it would do Good in a small corner of the world.  How could working to benefit a group of humble living creatures be an embarrassment or an unworthy task?  We are not all here to change the course of human history.  Sometimes, the best we can hope for is to make a molecule of difference. 

"Director of Cavy Haven" is not likely be Herself's ultimate profession. Until she finds what that might be, though, she will focus on doing the best she can in the job she currently has, and on looking after those whom she loves to the very best of her abilities.  For now, that will be enough.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of leave the world a better know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, April 16, 2012


We are grateful today for those who feed our souls.

As we need food, so do we need emotional nourishment: 
love, kindness, appreciation, and support from others.
- J. Donald Walters

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Caveatthe following entry contains some medical information.  Those who are squeamish may need to tread lightly.  There will be some euphemisms used for the sake of preservation of modesty.

The cortisone shot for Herself's hip was scheduled for this past Friday.  She was not at all happy about the situation. 

As you may remember, Herself has a medical history that is slightly colorful, requiring various surgical or otherwise invasive medical procedures periodically throughout her adult life.  She has always tried to be matter-of-fact, and has put on her brave face and marched through.  She has done what has needed to be done.

The recent years of relative good health have yielded a blessed respite from significant medical procedures.  Rather than attenuating the negative feelings that Herself associates with past events, though, time has caused the emotions -- apprehension, helplessness, worry, loneliness -- to solidify together with the memories of pain into a small, distinct, and definitive nugget of Fear.  

It is an ugly little monstrosity, the Fear. No amount of rational thought can quiet it.  It generates flashbacks to the cold of the operating room, the too-bright lights, the bustling masked strangers arranging Herself's body as if she were a mannequin, the voice of the unseen person behind her head announcing quietly, "I'm going to give you the sedative/anesthetic now" followed by the unbidden and automatic attempt to remain awake and lucid, even as the room turned to silent glass and disappeared.

The Fear perched unobtrusively in the corner while Herself solicited information and reassurance from other individuals who had undergone cortisone shots previously.  She was comforted a bit, although she still had that fidgety nervousness that accompanies the knowledge that an IV will be required.  Then, late Thursday afternoon, she was compiling the documentation she would need for the procedure -- insurance card, picture ID, directions to the location, and the slip of paper with the doctor's orders written upon it.  She read the orders.  They said:

Right obturator nerve block.

Nerve block?  That didn't seem right.  Why would the standard cortisone shot that the orthopedist had suggested would be helpful be called a nerve block?

She did a bit of online research.  All that she could gather was that the procedure on the orders appeared to be very different from the one she was expecting.  What did that mean? She did not know.  The orthopedist had provided her with practically no information on what would be transpiring. She would have to ask the pain management doctor when she arrived at the outpatient clinic in the morning.

The Fear, unspeaking, stepped out of its corner and sat tauntingly in the middle of the room.

She did her best to ignore it for the evening.  A twilight constitutional with comforting companionship alleviated her worry somewhat; however, she lay awake that night until past 2 AM, watching the Fear as it watched her back.  Who would blink first?

The morning of the procedure, Herself did her very best to maintain her composure.  It was difficult.  The Fear loomed like a boulder, blocking her view of the mountain trail.  She knew that she must get past it to continue on the path, but she could not see the other side, and she was afraid.

When they called her name, she explained to the intake nurse that she had several questions for the doctor and would like to speak to him before she was prepped for the procedure.  The nurse looked surprised and alarmed and stood there agog, holding the hospital gown intended for Herself.  Not wanting to be labeled as a difficult patient, Herself stated that she would be happy to change into the gown, but requested that she speak to the doctor before the IV was put in place. She might have cried just a tiny bit.  She might have hated herself for losing her composure.  Nevertheless, the nurse sent another person off to inform the doctor that Herself had questions, and handed Herself the gown.  "Everything off except your underpants," she advised. 

Herself was oddly reassured by the fact that she could keep on her underpants.  (She had wondered about this particular aspect of the procedure for quite some time. Usually the medical events have required nakedness under the gown, and given the proximity of the problem area of her hip to her groin, she anticipated that she might have to go bare again.  She had tidied the topiary of the area accordingly in anticipation, sadly contemplating how many total strangers have seen her foliage over the years in all the medical arenas.)  She dutifully put on the gown, and was installed in the intake-and-paperwork cubicle to await the doctor. 

The pain management doctor, Dr. V, arrived shortly thereafter.  What a shocking breath of fresh air was Dr. V.  He was cheerful, soothing, calm, patient.  He listened to all of Herself's questions. He explained the difference between what is typically called a "cortisone shot" and what would be used on Herself, and used technical terms when Herself let him know she has a scientific background. They went over the fact that what had been previously suspected to be hip flexor tendonitis might not, in fact, be tendonitis, but something else, and they acknowledged the difficulties associated with diagnosis in the pelvic and hip region given the vast array of muscles, tendons, organs, and nerves in the area.  The purpose of the prescribed nerve block was two-fold:  not only to treat an inflammation associated with a particular nerve (the most likely cause of the problem, given the history of the symptoms she had been experiencing), but also, to confirm a diagnosis.  If the injection did in fact resolve the pain, that would indicate that the problem had been affirmatively identified.

So marvelously wonderful to be spoken to by a doctor in an intelligent, conversational manner.  Herself was reassured not only by Dr. V, but by the scientific and biological facts they had discussed.  The Fear retreated, dejected, to the shadows, while Herself submitted to the IV. 

The procedure itself went well.  The sedative worked its magic, and Herself does not remember any of the finer points of the injections.  (She was later a tiny bit mortified, though not terribly surprised, to discover a small bandage at a site where they had angled one of the injections into the area. The bandage was rather adjacent -- even overlapping -- just a bit with the shrubbery.  Alas. At least she was not awake for that particular indignity. She idly wondered afterwards whether she should consider further deforestation should a repeat of the procedure be necessary. Perhaps.)

There were no untoward effects from the procedure, other than a rather odd limp that is dissipating with time and a quarter-sized bruise on the back of her hand from the IV.  We shall see whether the obturator nerve block has the desired long-term effect. We are ever hopeful. We know, too, that this particular procedure is Not So Bad, and that the Fear has been banished, at least temporarily.  We are glad to see it go.

Friday, April 13, 2012


End-of-the-week Things We Like Installment:

We like a little bit of nurturing from time to time.  While we're awkwardly uncomfortable with too much concern or attention, we do feel better, stronger and braver with a few doses of encouragement and consideration.

It's the little things.  They can make all the difference.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Obligate Symbiotes

Today's installment of Things We Like:

We've said it before, and will say it again:  we like lichen.

Lichen: composite symbiotic organism composed of a fungus (the mycobiont) and a photosynthetic component (the photobiont).  Photobionts are usually an alga or a cyanobacterium. 
Fascinating. Science!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Today's Thing We Like:  the pine cone. 

The pine cone is a fascinating, complex, remarkable object of nature.  Pine cones are pleasing both visually and in a tactile way. There are so many variations and permutations:  big, small, open, closed, spiky, rounded.  I would like to find a large pine tree in a forest and collect and arrange the fallen cones in patterns and piles.  I can almost feel the dry pine needles under my feet and smell the faint scent of sap in the air, just thinking about it. Happiness.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I'm sure by now you must be heartily fatigued from slogging through the recent posts describing Herself's mental ruminations.   And so, we'll pursue a lighter topic for a bit:  Things We Like.

Today's Thing We Like:

The yellow flowers that sprout on that bush in the front yard in the springtime.  They are small and delicate, and they smell lovely.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Baby Cult

Herself had her routine annual appointment with her OB/GYN this morning.  Despite the rather personal nature of the exam, Herself surprisingly does not mind going.  Her doctor -- who delivered Offspring the Third -- is a unique and exemplary doctor.  He apologizes for keeping her waiting and always remembers exactly who she is.  He inquires regarding her progress in taekwondo (and today, was visibly pleased when she informed him she is now a black belt).   He always takes the time to sit and answer questions, and he listens carefully and never interrupts; furthermore, he does so before Herself changes into the gown for the exam.  He thanks her every time for being his patient so long and for entrusting him with her health.  In this age of impersonal, wait-for-hours-and-then-rush-in-and-out-of-the-office medicine, Herself is tremendously grateful for attentive, genuine care.

After her appointment, Herself went for routine bloodwork.  In the waiting area were two heavily pregnant women performing the three-hour glucose tolerance test. First pregnant lady asked Second pregnant lady whether she had a 4-D ultrasound yet.  Second pregnant lady said no, because her doctor had indicated it was not necessary and that insurance would not pay for it, and it was too expensive otherwise.  First pregnant lady rather archly commented that oh, it wasn't that expensive, and that it was sooooooooo worth it, and that the place she went, there was a big screen and you could have up to nine of your family members in there with you, and you could see images of the baby's face and movement and everything.  First pregnant lady then pulled out her expensive smartphone, and scrolled through the pictures to find an example of the profile of her fetus.

Herself, who was unfortunately seated in the crossway between the two women, dutifully looked to admire the picture.  The photo itself was a tad underwhelming, looking more like a claymation baby than anything else.  What fascinated her, though, were the First pregnant woman's fingernails. They were fully an inch longer than the tips of her fingers, manicured with precision to have gold polish and tiny little blue footprints in the center.  They were clearly the nails of a pampered individual heavily focused on her imminent role as mother.

It is the Cult of Motherhood. Women are crowned and pampered. Their nails are indicative of their status: they cannot possibly do anything productive with their glistening, baby-footprinted talons. The women are inviting all their relatives -- or at least up to nine of them -- to view the growing fetuses within their wombs publicly, in live-time and multiple dimensions. They are worshiping at the altar of the belly - intruding medically, unnecessarily, with ultrasound waves solely in order to have a blurry monochromatic photograph of the not-yet-fully-formed features of the child.

The Cult of Motherhood perpetuates after the baby is born, too: baby is Princess, Mommy is Queen, Daddy is... oh, who cares? The woman will immerse herself in every possible aspect of the child's life, becoming the Helicopter Parent she is destined to be - for she has micromanaged every aspect of her life and the child's, even before the child was born. Daddy is not important; his genetic contribution seems so long ago and unimportant.

It is an attitude that denigrates men and does an enormous disservice to women. It drives a wedge between the parents of the children because of unrealistic assumptions about their respective roles and expected actions. It leads to attitudes of "I am a better parent than you because I have done XYZ prenatally and you have not." It's frightening. It needs to stop. If I were in charge, I would stand on a small soapbox and announce:

People: be normal. Certainly, enjoy the beauty of knowing that a new life is growing. But don't obsess so. It is unhealthy -- for you and your offspring. Truly.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mending Fences, Building Walls

Herself had an opportunity to discuss the Incident of a few days ago with the Spouse of Acquaintance.  It was a useful conversation, for Spouse is a thoughtful bastion of rationality.  While Herself did not learn anything new, she did garner some food for thought.

Herself and Spouse concurred that it was clear that Acquaintance is lacking the typical filter between brain and mouth that most people have.  Acquaintance thinks and speaks nearly simultaneously, rather than stopping to consider whether something might be inappropriate to utter aloud.  The question is, is this habit/character trait gradually becoming more pronounced (it seems so) -- and if so, why?  It might be that Acquaintance has reached a certain age at which it is assumed that one can say whatever one likes.  Slightly more ominously, though, it could be a sign of a type of slow decline that comes with age.  They do not know. Only time will tell.

Spouse reassures Herself that Acquaintance does not mean any harm, that Acquaintance does not intend to be hurtful.  Herself wants to believe Spouse.  She would like Spouse to be right.  How many times, though, can one say, "Oh, no harm was intended," before one begins to wonder?

The difficulty also lies within what happens after Acquaintance has wounded another's feelings. In Herself's mind, an apology is an expression of regret for having hurt another, and should be offered without justifications or excuses. The apology which Acquaintance provided for the Incident, however, seemed to Herself to be more of an explanation that deflected the spotlight away from the actual event -- a statement that caused hurt -- and towards a commentary on Acquaintance and Herself.  It described Acquaintance's positive traits (direct, open, straightforward), and also highlighted Herself's characteristics that Acquaintance felt contributed to the problem (ultra private, ultra sensitive).  This is not, in Herself's mind, a true apology.  Surely if one does not intend harm but accidentally does so, one should offer a heartfelt, simple "I'm sorry" without reservation or qualification? Or is that expecting too much?

Herself knows what she must do.  She must learn to say, politely and without any sign of anger, "Acquaintance, you can't say that," and still continue to be polite and friendly to Acquaintance. This will cover a multitude of bases:  if Acquaintance is being deliberately mean, it will indicate to Acquaintance that Herself knows and refuses to be upset by it.   If, in fact, Acquaintance is oblivious to the inappropriateness of a comment, it will put Acquaintance on notice of the problem without causing Acquaintance to become agitated or upset for having committed a faux pas.  Most of all, it will provide Acquaintance's Spouse much-needed support, for it will reinforce Spouse's position that Acquaintance means no harm. Spouse needs to believe that.  It is the very least we can do for Spouse.

All this is so much easier said than done.

Part of the problem lies in that Herself has difficulty reading people; it is problematic for her to identify sarcasm, passive-aggressive statements, or subtle digs by others. Growing up, she was also often told that she was "overreacting," and so she doubts her ability to assess her own emotional responses. She additionally has historically (and naively) assumed that most people are benevolent -- although, as she gets older, she assumes so less often -- and is surprised when they are not. All of these characteristics make it nearly impossible for her to handle unexpected moments like the Incident:  like a deer in the headlights, she stares and blinks and cannot determine what is happening. It will take enormous concentration and effort to respond appropriately to future Incidents as they occur.

People are exhausting.

Herself knows she must hide from others the thoughts she cannot utter aloud, the feelings she cannot expose.  She must hug the individuals who need a reassuring touch, even if they have hurt her.  She must not embrace those who prefer not to be touched, even if she yearns to do so. She must be kinder than she is inclined to be, more patient than she thinks she may be able to be. 

She must do so, because it is who she is.

She must build herself a few more personal walls.  The less she shares herself with others -- including Acquaintance -- the less vulnerable she is to wounding, and the easier it will be to allow harsh, unexpected or unkind words to fall away rather than piercing her.

She hates walls.  She feels boxed in, constrained.  Yet the walls are there for her own safety. She must protect herself, for ultimately, no one else can do so.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Naughty Fruit

Ripe is alluring.  Don't ever be easy, though. 


Friday, April 6, 2012


Herself has scheduled a cortisone shot to address the now-tedious hip problem.  She dreads the event, for it involves a loathsome medically-induced vulnerability. All the same, though, she will do what needs to be done, for she has been reassured by several people that the shot will be indeed quite helpful.

She was informing a long-term Acquaintance about the upcoming appointment.  She quipped that she would likely soon be meeting her deductible for her health insurance, so if she needs anything else medically, she hopes it'll happen later this year so that the insurance would cover more of the costs.

The Acquaintance responded, "Well, what about that lump on the side of your face, can you get it removed?"


What?  Acquaintance must mean the flesh-colored bump -- a benign intradermal nevus -- near Herself's right eyebrow.  It's not necessarily small, nor is it particularly large. It does not bother Herself at all unless she accidentally scratches it.  Is it so unsightly? What?

Herself stumbled; how to respond to such a statement?  Defensiveness. "It's benign and does not bother me.  Does it bother you?  I can have you sit on my left side from now on if it does." And surprise. "I am quite surprised that you would mention such a thing."

Her acquaintance countered, "I don't know why, I've mentioned it to you before."

What? When?  Oh, yes.  A couple of years ago, Herself and her Beloved were out to dinner with Acquaintance, Acquaintance's spouse, and Acquaintance's cousin who was visiting from out of town. Suddenly, Acquaintance turned to Herself, stared purposefully at Herself's eyebrow region, and said, "What IS THAT?"  Herself stumbled then, too, and explained it was a harmless spot.  She attributed the odd question to the amount of wine that had been drunk at the meal. It had not been discussed before, nor since, until now.

Herself was still astonished.  "I am quite taken aback that you would mention such a personal thing during a casual conversation on the telephone."

The Acquaintance countered, in what seemed to Herself to be the type of voice normally reserved for hysterical or tantruming children:  "It's clear I've made you angry."  "Yes, I'm angry. Well, I'm shocked and surprised at the inappropriate conversation.  And I need to go pick up Offspring the Second from school, so I'm going to hang up now."  And she did.


Why would a person suggest out of the blue that another person have a cosmetic procedure done?  Under what possible circumstances could unsolicited advice of this kind ever be appropriate?  Herself cannot imagine.

While Herself contemplated this bizarre conversation, her self-esteem dejectedly crawled under the desk to hide.

Later on, an e-mail arrived from the Acquaintance, offering amends -- of sorts:

"OK, by training and personality I am direct and open about medical things....straightforward and quite likely tactless."  Direct, open, straightforward - so many positive words, and particularly important  characteristics when discussing medical things.  Is this a "medical thing", though?  No.  It is a cosmetic thing.  There's a world of difference there.  Tactless does seem appropriate under the circumstances, though.

"You are ultra private and ultra sensitive and I forgot to respect that."  Ultra sensitive - unless we're discussing a condom, that cannot truly be considered as anything other than negative.  And how does one forget to respect a personality characteristic of someone whom one has known for so long?

"So, I apologize and will in future NEVER discuss physical issues unless you introduce the topic." Darn tootin'.

"Truce?"  Doesn't a truce imply a cessation of hostilities between two battling parties?  Herself has done nothing wrong or aggressive, except to be appalled at the unexpected commentary.

Herself waited until the most polite response she could muster wrote itself within her brain, and sent a return e-mail:  "I appreciate your message. I do agree that it is best that we refrain from discussing physical issues -- be they medical, cosmetic, or otherwise -- regarding myself and the children as well."  Hopefully, that will prevent any further questions posed by the Acquaintance regarding the Offspring's skin care regimens, orthodonture, and vaccinations. Herself has previously fielded such queries from the Acquaintance, and "I don't care to discuss such matters" has been ineffectual in the past in putting the Acquaintance on notice that these were not appropriate conversation topics. Perhaps now, Herself's requests will be honored.    

The Acquaintance replied:  "Consider it done."

Bitterly:  sounds like you are doing Herself a favor.

Herself continues to be astounded. Misgivings tiptoe quietly into her conscious. She asks herself whether she might in fact be excessively sensitive.  

Am I damaged or defective somehow, in that I lack an ability to judge or temper the strength and appropriateness of my emotions? 

She is at a loss. She imagines that she has found herself at the edge of a precipice, with rage, self-hatred, and doubt spread out across the landscape like the fiery plains of Mordor. Ah, yes. See? The epitome of ultra-sensitive.

She must step away and trust herself.  It is not her fault, this time. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Quotable Quotes

You have no doubt noticed that I employ quotes on a fairly regular basis - sometimes, another person's words capture the essence of what I am thinking or feeling in a far better manner than I myself could.  I am still working on my ability to corral the right words in the right order, and I am not a particularly good shepherd. There are too many adjectives, verbs, nouns milling about; a plethora of synonyms from which to choose; and commas, semicolons, and dashes sprouting haphazardly wherever I look.  I love them all, and cannot select just a few at any given moment.

Today, I am reading excerpts by Henri Nouwen.  He speaks of the human condition:  love and fellowship and pain and loneliness and the magnificence of the soul.  I have offered selected words from him before (e.g., here and here); I think, though, that I might need to delve beyond his popular pithy quotes and read more in depth. Here is a smattering of his writings for you.  I hope you enjoy.

On being alone: We must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. 

On waiting:  Waiting is a dry desert between where we are and where we want to be.

On patience:  A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.

On friendship: There is a twilight zone in our hearts that we ourselves cannot see. Even when we know quite a lot about ourselves-our gifts and weaknesses, our ambitions and aspirations, our motives and our drives-large parts of ourselves remain in the shadow of consciousness. This is a very good thing. We will always remain partially hidden to ourselves. Other people, especially those who love us, can often see our twilight zones better than we ourselves can. The way we are seen and understood by others is different from the way we see and understand ourselves. We will never fully know the significance of our presence in the lives of our friends. That's a grace, a grace that calls us not only to humility, but to a deep trust in those who love us. It is the twilight zones of our hearts where true friendships are born.

On caring: When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Woolly Bear

Do you remember woolly bear caterpillars?  It was said that the severity of the winter could be predicted by the breadth of the orange band of their midsections.  They were abundant in New England (or at least more common) - Herself remembers explaining the woolly bear caterpillar mythology to Offspring the First and Offspring the Second ages ago when they were tiny, before they all moved to this desert land. They had gone to a local park to slide and play; the wind was chilly; and a woolly bear caterpillar was industriously marching its way across the mulch near the swingset. 

How I'd love to swing on the swings, slide down the slide, and lie on my stomach and watch the woolly bear caterpillars, once more.

Monday, April 2, 2012


I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person.   ― Audrey Hepburn

More (Midlife Crisis)

For the first time, she did want more. She did not know what she wanted, knew that it was dangerous and that she should rest content with what she had, but she knew an emptiness deep inside her, which began to ache. ― Iain Pears, The Dream of Scipio

Picture Copyright 2012, Mediocria Firma


Sunday, April 1, 2012


Herself's maternal grandmother was a marvelous seamstress and could crochet wonderfully.  She made beautiful dresses for Herself and her sister; tiny doll clothes; fanciful Halloween costumes (Herself had a green cat costume that she wore for years); afghan blankets (Herself's was a cream color, with yellow patterns interspersed with other pastel colors); and, occasionally, whimsical stuffed animals. Herself's favorite creations are a set of barnyard fowl:  two upholstered-type chickens (one in a burnt orange pattern, one in a brown pattern), one larger fuzzy dark brown chicken, and, the pièce de résistancea goose.  While Herself's mother still has the chickens, Herself is in possession of Goose.

Goose is orange and blue, with a long neck, felt feet, and googly eyes that rattle softly.  When Herself was a youngster, she was particularly fond of Goose.  If she were feeling sad, or otherwise in need of consolation, she would tuck Goose under her arm and carry him about with her when she was playing or reading.  Her family figured out that the appearance of Goose was a sign that Herself might be upset, and at first would inquire as to Goose's presence.  Quickly, though, Goose's appearance was a target of gentle mockery, and so Herself put Goose away.

Every now and then, she wishes that people could, in fact, carry around some outward sign of emotional need. It would make it so much easier to understand others, and perhaps even to be understood oneself.  Then again, perhaps not.  Sometimes, we need to work things out for ourselves.  An invisible Goose - comforting and yet unseen by others - would be perfect, I think.