Herself was feeling a tad oppressed and put-upon yesterday, with a thousand little things that needed her doing and another thousand little things that affected her yet over which she had no control. A long walk and a good laugh, though, and all was right in the world again.
Laughter is the closest distance between two people. - Victor Borge
Herself's parents are arriving late this afternoon to this desert city. They will remain here for the winter, enjoying the escape from the snow of their winter home, until early May. The warmth and the sun are good for them.
Herself is preparing their house -- a quarter-mile down the street from hers -- for their arrival. She has made carrot-cake muffins, since her mother fancies carrot-cake, and she has put together a fruit basket for them. There will be flowers as well: a nice harvest bunch, with a couple of sunflowers and autumn-colored miscellany.
As Herself perused the floral arrangements in the market this morning, she noted that there were, oddly, bunches of pink roses.
Ah, pink roses.
Nowadays, Herself generally eschews pink: the soft pink of her youth has been cannibalized by aggressive PINK of harsh colored lingerie of Victoria's Secret, female-oriented sports equipment, breast cancer awareness paraphernalia, and even pink-handled guns. She knows she's a woman even without All Pink All The Time. It has become an unnecessary color, an advertisement of womanhood she need not (and wants not to) display.
When Herself was young, though, she was quite fond of pink. Pink clothing, pink accessories. One of her first pairs of glasses had (ack, the horror) pink-tinged plastic frames. Part of her love of pink, she realizes now, was the channeling of a preteen desire to be more feminine - a necessity for a little girl who was regularly called "son" when she wore a hat covering her braids in the winter. When the puberty fairy at last graced Herself with a more recognizably female physique, she wore less pink. She did retain a certain affection for pink, though in more muted and deeper tones.
When Herself and Beloved Husband were to be married, the wedding was to take place in Herself's home town. Since Herself was in school three hundred miles away for all but the two months preceding the wedding, Herself's mother took charge of much of the wedding planning and preparation. Herself's mother was, and is, very in tune with How Things Should Be Done, so she had a much clearer idea of what needed to be involved to arrange the wedding. Herself voiced opinions only about details for which she had specific wishes.
One of Herself's desires was to have pink roses as her bouquet. In the many intervening months between her expression of that wish and the work of the florist, though, a bouquet of pink roses became a bouquet with pink roses:
When Herself saw the bouquet the morning of the wedding, she was a tiny bit disappointed at the paucity of pink; nevertheless, it was a lovely bouquet. It was a good size, fresh and carefully arranged, with a couple of trailing tendrils of ivy and tender white roses as well as the few pale pink roses interspersed therein. Ultimately, the flowers themselves did not matter much; what was important was that after over three years of a long-distance relationship, Herself and Beloved (soon-to-be) Husband would finally be together.
Standing in the market this morning, carefully avoiding getting in the way of the tired-looking young man who was mopping up a water spill near the flowers, Herself looked at the pink roses. It had been a very long time since she thought about the details of the wedding, and almost as long since she had a desire for anything pink.
It is always good to be reminded that it is the journey that helps to make us who we are. Thank you.
More than genetics, money or education, it is our journey who defines who we are. It defines what kind of person you are. Not the experiences you encountered nor the happy or traumatic events you may have endured. But rather how we dealt with those events and how we continue to deal with those events; when we evaluate ourselves and how we treat others. Your journey is part of your story. But it is not the complete story of who and how you are. You are a soul, a spirit, who has traveled through this life and along the way; you learned and gathered bits and pieces from here and there. And you, yourself, have woven together a soul, a spirit. And that is who you are today. You define you.... So keep weaving. You are not finished yet. It is never to late to define who you are.
Today, we are content: the ailing dogs appear to be faring better; the kitchen floor is mopped and the counters are tidy; we have no obligations other than to perhaps exercise a bit and to perform a bit of data-collecting for a science fair experiment. Perhaps we will do some more baking -- we certainly enjoyed doing so for Thanksgiving. A bit of time in the kitchen is always time well spent.
Thank you, Universe, for granting us this day of respite.
Thanksgiving has passed, and the holiday season is looming on the horizon. As she contemplates wreaths and wrapping paper and festive decorations, Herself is also mentally preparing for the onslaught of Christmas and its accompanying social and familial get-togethers. She finds holidays in general to be emotionally taxing: so many people; so many expectations about what should be done and which presents should be given and with or to whom and when. Sigh.
As part of her mental housekeeping, Herself is reading a book lent to her by an acquaintance. She was a bit skeptical at first; all pop-culture psychology books should be taken with a giant grain of salt. Nevertheless, it is striking home in an unexpected way. Sentences, paragraphs, examples might have been written specifically about/for her. Her sensitivity to criticism, her inability to ask for help, her aversion to any form of confrontation, her difficulty in assessing the validity of her feelings, her fear of abandonment, and her need to look after other people, all interrelated and explained. They all have the same root. Validation and understanding, coming together in a bittersweet way.
Herself has always believed that if she tried hard enough, if she did all the right things in just the right way, if she were quiet and did not rock the boat or need or ask for anything, if she were patient and caring and giving enough, that others would love her and look after her in return.
People cannot somehow be magically inspired or willed to behave in particular ways, no matter how hard one tries. They are who they are. They have their own goals and desires; strengths and blessings; weaknesses and fallibilities. They do the best they can with what they have been given. Each person is his or her own solitary Universe.
We cannot change others; we can only change ourselves. And if we let go of what cannot be, we can be free.
Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world. ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
I want to weep, she thought. I want to be comforted. I'm so tired of being strong. I want to be foolish and frightened for once. Just for a small while, that's all....a day.....an hour. ― George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings
Aged and Decrepit Dog is ill with a recurrence of rather ugly gastrointestinal issues. She had bounced back with medication previously, and we hope she will do so again this time. Herself is rather worried, though. A pool of bloody vomit is quite a cause for concern.
We had been delaying taking Aged and Decrepit Dog for an abdominal ultrasound as recommended by the veterinarian, because the only facility able to do so is 30 miles away, and the cost will likely be fairly high. At this point, though, it's clear that further testing is necessary to ensure that there is nothing terrible going on inside of Dog. It could go either way: the ultrasound will show "nothing," and we will just have to treat Dog with medication each time she has a recurrence of her gastrointestinal distress, or the ultrasound will show something dreadful that will force some difficult decisions. Hopefully, the vet's opinion will not be at odds with Herself's thoughts on the matter.
Aged and Decrepit Dog is 12. Her face is grey, her hearing is a bit spotty, and her lower spine is nearly fused with arthritis. It is clear that any surgery at this point -- unless it's something quickly and easily fixable -- will cause her a fair amount of pain and suffering. And to what end? To prolong her life for a few months? A year? How can we know? Are we ready to say goodbye? Is Dog ready to go?
Quality of life. That is where we will look. We shall see.
Mr. Moose, the sole remaining guinea pig, is beginning to show more signs of his advanced age. He has touches of lighter, grayish fur around his eyes and near his ears. He drinks a lot more water than he used to, causing Herself to be a bit concerned that he is becoming diabetic in his twilight years. She is not quite certain whether diabetes is treated in guinea pigs - the trauma of chasing him around his habitat to inject him twice daily, plus the infinitesimally small amount of insulin that would be necessitated, would render that unlikely. I think the only course of action would be insuring his quality of life is good. Right now, he's doing well. He still waddles serenely about in his habitat, lies in the hay (rather like sleeping in a giant pile of cornflakes, for he nibbles and dozes and nibbles more), consumes his pellets, and begs cheerfully for veggies on occasion. Who could ask for anything more?
I do not know how much longer he shall be with us. His cocoa-brown swirly fur, prodigious size, and amiable temperament will always remain in our minds and hearts, even when his time has passed.
Quite some time ago -- before she left for college, in fact -- Offspring the First one day left a tiny missive for Herself next to the computer. Written on Offspring the First's favorite manatee sticky notes, it exclaimed, "Good job today!" It has always been one of Herself's favorite little things: an unexpected and thoughtful acknowledgement by one of the Offspring that Herself is doing something right, is of tremendous value.
The tiny dog has just chewed upon the note. She was sitting in Herself's lap (a favorite location) while Herself worked at the computer, and tried to take a few bites out of the manatee paper. Grrr. Herself is not particularly angry, though - small dogs do what small dogs do. It couldn't be helped; it was so temptingly resting right there in front of her nose.
Herself thinks that people should in general get much more positive reinforcement than they do. Sometimes, recognition that one's efforts are noticed and appreciated can make a world of difference.
THAT case is a litigation case on which Herself's Beloved Husband has worked for years. It has been tremendously difficult and complex. In Herself's (admittedly biased) opinion, the opposing counsel in the case seems to have been excessively stubborn, confrontational, and at times rather unpleasant. In Herself's view, the case should, and could, have been settled much earlier on in the process, but due to opposing counsel's recalcitrance, it continued. Hours and hours and days and weeks and months, little tricky pieces, legal hoops through which to jump, this information, that detail, late nights and early mornings, all for Beloved Husband. On and on and on and on. The whole thing was rather a bit of a Horror. Through it all, Beloved Husband worked on it meticulously and patiently, keeping his professionalism even when things were quite contentious.
Yesterday exemplified the matter: just after the alarm clocks rang in the morning, Beloved Husband needed to respond to an urgent e-mail relating to THAT case. Fourteen hours later, as he sat on the couch after having just arrived home from the office, he awaited another e-mail authorizing him to settle the case. Two hours after that, after Herself had brushed her teeth, donned her nightgown and tucked the dogs in for the evening, Beloved Husband received final word arrived with approval. He went to his computer and filed the motion to dismiss the litigation.
And a choir of heavenly angels sang Hallelujah.
Herself is tremendously relieved for Beloved Husband. It is as though the gods finally told Sisyphus, "you don't have to roll that boulder up the hill anymore."
As the dust settles, Herself contemplates all of the time that THAT case stole Beloved Husband away from her and from the Offspring, and all of the stress and frustration and worry that it caused him. Sometimes she felt as though THAT case was siphoning years off of Beloved Husband's life. Will they get those years back? No.
She cannot think about the economic impact -- with naught to be gained with the settlement, any imagined monetary gain has (expectedly) evaporated. It does not matter, though. No dollar amount could replace what was lost.
Herself mulls over, too, the impact THAT case had on her. It required extraordinary patience, perseverance, self-reliance and fortitude on her part: to wait for a moment of Beloved Husband's undivided attention, knowing that he could not be with her or that his thoughts were elsewhere even when he was physically in the same room; to take care of all matters large and small in running the household and managing the children, so that he could focus on what he had to do; to handle or muffle her own needs, so that she would not place any extra burden on him.
It was very painful at times. She tries not to be bitter. Sometimes, she fails.
With time will come healing. Beloved Husband is now free to work on other cases, other projects; or even his hobbies, his other goals - in short, he can now go on with the rest of his life. And Herself need not think about the toll of THAT case any more. She can rebalance herself and move forward. Her scars from the experience will always be there, but they will fade - and in the right light, those scars will be reminders of her inner strength during the hard times.
If nothing else, she knows she helped Beloved Husband in her own way, as best she could, to get through this trial of his. She is glad to have been able to do so.
Herself has a complex task for Work. It's been quite a while since she's had a project of this magnitude. It is enjoyable, yet quite a strain. It shall be over soon and then she and I shall get back to our regular postings.
In the meanwhile, please enjoy this picture of the tiny dog on a cushion.
Herself spent an hour and a half perusing the aisles of the local hobby and arts-and-crafts store with Offspring the Second today. Offspring the Second is in an advanced art class in school, and needed supplies. Herself marvels at his ability to envision the various projects and what will be needed for each of them. Such a quiet, thoughtful, talented and witty young man is he.
They passed by the section with posters and other items to mount on walls, and Herself leafed through them. She is particularly fond of the leaf and tree themed items. She found a lovely set of wall stickers with branches and separate flowers that could be arranged. She tried to imagine - in what type of room would one use such decorations? They would work well in a corner of the children's section in a library. Or a nursery.
She suddenly remembered when she set up the nursery in their tiny apartment before Offspring the First was born. She put a border of primary-colored dinosaurs at the midpoint of the wall, so it would be visible right above the changing table and the edge of the crib. She loved those dinosaurs, so smooth-edged and cheerful and colorful.
My, my. That is an impressively flat tire. The picture doesn't truly do it justice. How relieved we are, that we awoke this morning to this situation, rather than having it occur last night while Herself was on the highway during rush hour to deliver a necessary item to Beloved Husband at the function he was running.
Herself shall ask Beloved Husband to handle this Tire Matter today. She's a traditionalist at heart, and feels that some chores -- like vehicle maintenance -- should be the Man's Domain. Granted, she does take care of many of these things herself anyway, since he is so very busy. Nevertheless, this is one task she will be relieved not to have to address alone.
I found this passage whilst meandering through the internet, looking for quotations. I wish we could all use such strings. Imagine the words that would find their homes instead of becoming inadvertently lost or falling by the wayside. Beautiful. There was a time when it wasn’t uncommon to use a piece of string to guide words that otherwise might falter on the way to their destinations. Shy people carried a little bunch of string in their pockets, but people considered loudmouths had no less need for it, since those used to being overheard by everyone were often at a loss for how to make themselves heard by someone. The physical distance between two people using a string was often small; sometimes the smaller the distance, the greater the need for the string.
The practice of attaching cups to the ends of string came much later. Some say it is related to the irrepressible urge to press shells to our ears, to hear the still-surviving echo of the world’s first expression. Others say it was started by a man who held the end of a string that was unraveled across the ocean by a girl who left for America.
When the world grew bigger, and there wasn’t enough string to keep the things people wanted to say from disappearing into the vastness, the telephone was invented.
Sometimes no length of string is long enough to say the thing that needs to be said. In such cases all the string can do, in whatever its form, is conduct a person’s silence.
Decrepit old dog is feeling the change of seasons. She gets up slowly, has a small breakfast, and then goes back to sleep. Occasionally she buries herself in the various pillows. She seems quite comfortable.
There are days when I wish I could join her back in bed.
The election is done. It was terribly close, with individuals on both sides of the aisles sweating and counting electoral points and praying and hoping. We knew that regardless of who won, nearly half of the country would be upset. Gloating and grumbling were expected, and promptly delivered when the call was made. Words of joy, disappointment, relief, and bitterness were spoken, shouted, sobbed, and written.
What shocked us was the degree of rage that was (and continues to be) splattered across social media, particularly Facebook. Such hostility. Such pessimism. Accusations of sloth and sin and irrationality and stupidity. Terrible, sweeping statements of dire end-of-times. It pains us to see. Furthermore,we are certain that had the election turned out differently, the amount of vitriol would nevertheless have been the same in reverse.
Can we, as a nation, be at all rational with emotions running so high? How can any one political party be deemed to have truly won, when we are a people so divided and angry? How can we work together for the common good? What will happen?
As we move through the next four years, let us work hard to educate ourselves further, so that we will make the decisions we understand to be best.
I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of Constitutional power. ― Thomas Jefferson
As you may have noted, Herself's self-esteem and self-perception have taken a bit of a beating of late. It is rather difficult for her to come to terms with her rather short, plump, ordinary and middle-aged appearance, particularly in this age of pervasive media images of youthful, slender and voluptuous women. She harbors (and tries to tackle) her exercise- and food-related issues. She struggles. The mirror is not her friend.
Despite her self-consciousness, though, Herself dresses up for Halloween. She does like to dress out of character on occasion, and Halloween is a perfect opportunity. This year, she chose "1950s housewife." She selected a polka-dotted dress fashionable for the time period, as well as a crinoline and festive apron. She attended to all of the era-appropriate details: dark lipstick, pearl necklace and earrings, garters and stockings with a seam up the back, and proper heels, which were actually rather high for her - somewhere over 3 inches. Fancy!
Herself was quite pleased with the outfit; she was sufficiently happy, in fact, that she mentioned it to her long-standing Acquaintance during a telephone conversation. Herself joked that Beloved Husband would hardly recognize her all dressed up so nicely. Her acquaintance replied, "You'd better be careful. He works in an office where women dress nicely and sexily every day."
Best for Herself not to think about how she compares to Other Women. She can only be herself.
Herself put aside the comment, and donned her costume. It was fun. She enjoyed it. She worried just a bit that she might have looked frumpy, foolish; but then, one of the small trick-or-treaters who had chirped a slightly Spanish-accented "thank you" as she received her lollipop, turned back to look at Herself again when she reached her mother at the sidewalk and commented aloud, "que linda."
We are firm believers that small children speak from the heart.
Herself loves words. Big words, small words, complicated words, simple words. When she writes, she may spend hours carefully selecting and rearranging just the proper words. There is a tremendous satisfaction -- a joy, even -- in identifying and utilizing just the perfect word.
She struggles when others do not focus as carefully on words. Try as she might, she cannot read between the lines. She hears only what is said, and while she can attempt to hypothesize what is behind the words, she is always uncertain. Silence is harder, for it can be even more difficult to interpret. She has learned the likely meaning behind some silences, but other silences are as unfathomable as the dark abyss.
Is it that she lacks sufficient imagination or mental speed to deduce what is hidden? She is frustrated by the opaque nature of others' words when the syllables dance before her. Do others find words translucent, with the colors of intentions and meanings glowing softly through? How? She is perplexed and stymied. Vexed.
She would be delighted if others would use plain words, with specific meaning and without subtext or cryptic agenda. That may be far too much to ask, though. She shall have to keep attempting to interpret. Such guesswork. Will she ever learn?
Each one of us is doomed and privileged to be an inner artist who carries and shapes a unique world. - John O'Donohue
Herself has always been a very slow bloomer. Her understanding of people, in particular, has been glacially slow to develop. As a child, she gave absolutely no thought to the motivations of others - not because she didn't care, but because she had no idea whatsoever that she should do so. As a teenager and young adult, she eventually figured out that she should try to determine what makes other people tick in order to try to improve her interactions with them. Remembering to do so in the midst of a conversation, as well as trying to retain and then assemble puzzle pieces of others together, though, was extraordinarily difficult. Exhausting. And not often fruitful.
There was a full decade in which she essentially gave up entirely; there had been too many missteps, too much hurt. She had superficial interactions with people, but did not try to learn about them in depth, or open up to them, either. Too much work for too little gain. At around the age of 40, though, her loneliness had grown to a size at which she was no longer able to ignore it; her busy Beloved Husband and lovely Offspring could not fill the void that had grown from years of telecommuting and paltry human contact. She began to try again to reach out and try to understand other people.
Her new interactions with others were very surprising at times. Someone would say something, and Herself would realize with a start that the person thought entirely differently from Herself. How could this be?
It was as though she had lived all of her previous life in a clouded bubble, unable to see others clearly. Through the murky air, she had assumed that the thoughts and motivations and souls of others were similar to hers. But no: and one day, the bubble burst and everything changed. It was a shocking POP. Her eyes were finally opened; the motivations, loves, dislikes, and reasoning of other people all had new and unfamiliar colors, textures and shapes.
It was frightening.
As she has learned more about those around her, she has come to understand that her individual viewpoint is indeed unique: she sees the world in a way that is completely different from the way that all other people do. (Just as it must be for others as well.) It has taken her a long time to come to terms with this new harsh brightness of reality; much of her Midlife Crisis, in fact, has centered upon learning to inhabit her solitary world even as she peers into the strange worlds of others. Sometimes, her understanding fuels a terrible loneliness. At other times, it transforms the loneliness into a quiet solitude. Here, alone in her world, there is peace.
When you inhabit your solitude fully and experience its outer extremes of isolation and abandonment, you will find that at its heart there is neither loneliness nor emptiness but intimacy and shelter. - John O'Donohue, Anam Cara
Furthermore: we are all alone - but in our aloneness, we are together. If we reach out our fingertips to one another, we can bridge the chasm for a moment, and our individual lights will join in a single glorious spark. Beautiful.
May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul. May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe. May you have respect for your own individuality and difference. May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the facade of your life there is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
- John O'Donohue, Anam Cara
When someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without taking responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good. When I have been listened to, when I have been heard, I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way and go on. It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens. How confusions that seem irremediable become relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard. - Carl Rogers
Herself went back to the dermatologist today to ask for a thorough survey of her entire pelt, to verify that there are no other serious problems that will need to be addressed. After the recent surprise of "that spot that you thought was benign is, in fact, skin cancer," she wasn't at all sure what to expect from all the other little skin oddities that she had also thought were nothing serious. She was a tiny bit anxious.
She arrived a little early for her 9:15 appointment, and shuffled through the various magazines to entertain herself while waiting. The other individuals in the waiting room also provided distraction. Most noteworthy -- for both appearance and volume -- were a woman in her late 20s and her grandmother. The woman wore black over-the-knee leather and suede boots, leggings, a tube top and a blazer; she was accessorized with complex sunglasses and a designer purse. (Herself, idly curious, looked up the designer whose initials were emblazoned upon the purse, and found that the bag was a $350 new release of the designer line.) The grandmother had half-a-dozen noisy telephone conversations during which she called the recipients "SWEETHEART" and "BABY", emphasized the importance of everyone doing exactly as she instructed, and flung about names of a few locally prominent businessmen. They stage-whispered together regarding the men with whom the granddaughter danced at a Halloween party last night. Both granddaughter and grandmother grumbled audibly when other patients were called in ahead of the grandmother, even though the vast bulk of the patients were there for simple office visits and the grandmother was there for a surgical procedure (as we learned from one of the phone conversations). They debated noisily as to whether the grandmother should leave her telephone on during her procedure.
Herself was relieved when her name was called. It is unusual for her to witness the glares of a self-drawn spotlight such as that of the grandmother and granddaughter, and she found it extremely unpleasant.
The exam room was quiet and slightly frightening this time around. What would the doctor's lamp reveal?
Herself asked about all the most minute things, no matter how seemingly insignificant they seemed - what's this? What's THIS? What about THIS? It was odd and difficult, for she does not like to call attention to herself, let alone invite scrutiny of all her littlest imperfections. Egads.
The examination revealed nothing else untoward. HUZZAH.
The physician's assistant verified the surgery date to remove the basal cell carcinoma, and once more remarked that the basal cell carcinoma is not such a grave concern. Sunscreen, regular examinations to check for anything new, the scheduled surgery to take care of the one problem, and with a bit of luck and hope, that will be that.
Herself felt a tiny bit of spring return to her step as she left the doctor's office. Perhaps all will be well, after all.
NinjaHead resides with a muffin-baking woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains a minuscule middle aged chihuahua, a most mild-mannered senior chihuahua, and a very small hamster who, due to the prominence of his gonads, seems to need trousers for decency.