Happy New Year from deep within Big Bend National Park. We have been unable to post for several days because of spotty signal, but have thought about you with love each and every day. We hope the upcoming year brings you health, joy, prosperity in its many forms, and an abundance of All Good Things.
Herself was reading some fluffy unimportant article about the predominance of airbrushing in celebrity photos this morning, and the web page had little pop-up ads, complete with sound, on the sidebar. One that kept repeating was an ad for a whitening toothpaste. It went as follows:
:::piano music, cuts between a comely, toothy young woman and an artfully scruffy young man, sitting in separate places in a restaurant::: He could be the one...
:::shot of them crossing a quaint street in Paris, Eiffel Tower in the background, his arm over her shoulder::: Soulmate...
:::close-up shot of them kissing on a beach, a white bridal wreath in her hair::: Husband...
:::view of her in a floral print dress, cradling a very pregnant belly, followed by a closeup of him smiling benignly at a toddler seated next to him::: Loving father to your children...
:::back to the first shots in the restaurant::: But first, you've got to get him to say, 'hello.'
:::description of tooth-whitening toothpaste and accoutrements, and the results available in a mere two days::: What will a [product]-white smile do for you?
:::shot of him sitting down at the table with her::: Life opens up when you do.
Two days of a whitening toothpaste, and she will be able to attract a total stranger who miraculously will become soulmate, husband, and father of children, merely by smiling at him? On which planet was this filmed, exactly? (Well, clearly one that similarly idealizes Paris as A City For Lovers and beaches as romantic settings.) And we wonder why young girls and women have unrealistic expectations about relationships, and why they so oftentimes become overly concerned with their appearances? I know not everything needs to be an accurate depiction of the long, involved, and oftentimes strenuous road of finding and keeping a spouse and maintaining a family, but at the same time, why must a toothpaste advertisement paint such an unrealistic fairy tale?
For how many days after Christmas can one still legitimately listen to seasonal music?
Herself has a tremendous fondness for Christmas songs. She does not like the generic holiday sentiments of 'Jingle Bells' and 'Rocking Around The Christmas Tree', and especially not the saccharine vacuousness of 'Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime'. Instead -- and even though she is not particularly religious (her beliefs are rather complicated and will require their own separate postings) -- she seeks out the more traditional carols, as well as other songs of the miracle of the Christ child: the Word made flesh, the human epitome of Innocence, of Hope and Peace and Love and Joy, here among us.
In this world in which conflict, cruelty, and callousness beget so much anger, despair, and sorrow, the music helps us find hope. We can dream that when we are finally beyond the veil, we will at last be blessed with a true understanding of all the mysteries of humanity, and that all hurt and sadness will fall away.
I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses. - Taylor Caldwell
When the Offspring were all very small, Herself taught them simple physical boundaries. In particular, she specified: "you do not need to hug or kiss anyone whom you do not want to hug or kiss." No one. Not even relatives, family friends, teachers or peers at preschool or school. She wanted them to understand clearly that each person's body belongs to him or her alone, and that they should never feel any pressure to tolerate physical touch that they did not want. Part of it related to safety - she taught them as she did to try to give them tools to give a clear and unequivocal NO to anyone who might try to take physical advantage of them. The other part was to instill in them the understanding that it is acceptable to refuse what makes them uncomfortable, to take care of themselves rather than to succumb to pressure to do what is contrary to their own wishes.
Now that the Offspring are nearly grown, it is clear that they have varying requirements and comfort levels with physical contact with other people. Her impression is that Offspring the Third enjoys a great deal of physical contact; Offspring the Second prefers very little; and Offspring the first has a medium degree of tolerance. She respects their boundaries; their needs in controlling their own physical selves are paramount, and infinitely far more than her desire to hug them.
Herself has quite a problem when she and the Offspring attend social functions at which individuals ask for a greater amount of contact (e.g., an extended hug) than Herself knows a particular Offspring would normally tolerate. When appropriate, she does her best to intervene or distract in a subtle manner, but sometimes, she must leave it to the Offspring - they are nearly adults, they want to (and sometimes must) handle things themselves. Herself grinds her teeth and imagines forming a protective barrier around them.
She faced such an event recently, when Acquaintance and Spouse stopped by Herself's house for a visit. They had brought a particular, delectable type of confection. When Offspring the Second appeared in the kitchen to say hello, Acquaintance said to him, with regard to the confections, "You may have one, but you will have to hug me first."
Herself sighs. This is exactly the type of physical-contact-requiring-social-pressure she finds most bothersome. It might not have been a big deal -- or even a tiny deal -- to Offspring the Second, but it was to Herself. Even though Offspring the Second delivered the requested hug with no apparent difficulty or aftermath, and even though Acquaintance might have appeared to some to be jesting and did not seem to mean any harm, the statement (request? demand?) disturbed Herself tremendously. It was Not Right.
She managed to quip, "I didn't realize the confections came with strings attached." Acquaintance quipped in return, "Yes, they do." Indeed. Strings, strings.
Why was this so bothersome? A lovely woman whom Herself knows through the beauty of the internet put into words precisely why this type of situation bothers Herself so: it is a form of control and manipulation, as well as a judgment.
These kinds of statements ("give me a hug") are not, despite any protest to the contrary, done in a lighthearted manner. Rather, they are usually done to make a point - they are an attempt by one person to coerce another individual to do something that the individual doesn't like. Herself has had conversations previously with Acquaintance regarding the general dislike of hugging that Herself and certain of the Offspring have. Nevertheless, it appears that in the opinion of the Acquaintance, Herself and the Offspring should just "get over" or "deal with" her or his own feelings (such as a general dislike of being hugged) and do what is requested (expected, commanded). It appears that the Acquaintance feels that certain social niceties - such as prompt hugging upon entering a room - need to be instilled into the Offspring, and that an absence of such action constitutes both a failure on that Offspring's part to perform properly, and also a failure on Herself's part to instruct the Offspring properly. Such Bad Behavior and Poor Parenting must be fixed by the Acquaintance.
It's never "just a hug."
Herself found herself thinking, "I want to go home," even though she was in her own house. She wanted safety, protection. At an opportune moment, she quietly slipped out to take a moment to herself out of the room, and then returned to the conversation.
What I know now is, Herself will need to build an internal place of safety for such events in the future. It will take work, but it must be done. Only by carrying Home within her, will she be comfortable.
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. - Maya Angelou
Nearly three weeks later, the surgical scar is healing nicely. It should fade well. There is still occasionally an odd twinge or misfiring here and there -- similar to the sensation when an eyelid twitches -- but it is improving. Touch is soothing.
You are welcome to lay a finger upon the site. It will help.
Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion. - Buddha
Has everyone forgotten how to use the turn signals on their vehicles? There are FAR too many people here.
It is so much better roaming the store with company, instead of by myself. I have bought gifts for the dogs. I'm slightly embarrassed by this fact.
"Baby it's cold outside" is the Date Rape Christmas song. Those are really beautiful suits and I feel all nostalgic for the days that I would dress up and go into the office. It sure is pleasant to see the Offspring enjoying one another's company. It will be nice for Beloved Husband to take the day off for Christmas. I feel as though I've hardly seen him for months and months and months. The house is so messy, and I have no motivation to clean up. What could possibly be such a great bargain to make it worthwhile to stand in that 30-people-deep line?
I always feel weird receiving presents. Somehow I don't feel like I ever deserve any. I would like to buy a giant pile of really good books. And have time to read them.
I would love an opportunity to wear heels like that. That wretched Paul McCartney Christmas song makes me want to poke my eardrums with shrimp forks. I'm suffering from a tremendous lack of imagination in my gift selecting this year. I could be far more creative. Blah. I do like this carol. "O Holy Night..." I should play the piano this evening. Is the lighting in these fitting rooms purposefully designed to maximize one's flaws? YE GODS I have far too much cleavage and holey moley I'm a cow and nothing fits properly and I give up trying to find something new to wear for that stupid function that I don't really want to go to anyway because the food will give me a migraine and I have horrid small-talk skills and I wish I could just stay home but if I do I will have even less adult interaction and be even more lonely OH FINE WHATEVER.
I miss my sister and my brother so much. The best gift of all would be to have more of the people who are metaphorically close to my heart, also actually literally nearby, for Christmas. That's a cute Velveteen Rabbit. For years I used to get the Offspring each one stuffed animal for Christmas. They've outgrown that now. I am old.
Why on earth would anyone bring a toddler to Toys R Us four days before Christmas? GO HOME ALL YOU PEOPLE.
Offspring the First has returned home from college for winter break. It is quite lovely to have her here. Offspring the Second and Offspring the Third look very pleased to have her company. It warms out hearts to have all the Offspring together.
Tiny dog practically turned herself inside-out for happiness at Offspring the First's arrival, and is now happily trampling Offspring the First while Offspring the First and Offspring the Third watch television. It is good.
I would like to share with you, the commentary Herself posted on Facebook today:
I saw in the “news” today, statements from stylists in the hair salon frequented by the Sandy Hook gunman and his mother. Commentary about how cutting his hair was “a very long half an hour” and “a very uncomfortable situation” because he was extremely shy, didn’t speak, and required his mother’s directions to move around in the salon. I cannot, no matter how hard I try, determine why the stylists were interviewed at all, and why this is considered newsworthy information. If the gunman was on the autism spectrum -- as has been reported -- it would not at all be unusual for him to have difficulty with the social interaction and sensory input involved in a salon haircut. It does NOT explain why he did the horrific, unimaginable things he did. Such reporting merely allows people to be comfortable looking askance at individuals who have difficulty with salon haircuts – for such individuals are rendered suspicious, having been painted with a broad brush of fear and guesswork-hindsight. In the search for answers that may never, in fact, be found, such reporting is unfair, wrong, and ridiculous.
Yesterday, Herself spent some time helping Offspring the Third go through some pre-algebra problems in preparation for the end-of-semester test. She likes the math. He has a like/dislike relationship with the math; he is very pleased when he understands, and is quite frustrated when he does not. His math teacher has strongly encouraged him to stick with the course, even though it is difficult (and, ultimately, optional). He has been valiant and dutiful, getting right to work immediately after coming home from school. Herself is very proud of him.
They took a brief break. Offspring the Third bounced a large exercise ball against the couch with his foot, as he so often does, to relieve stress and to enjoy the sensation of physical activity and touch of the ball. He stopped for a moment, turned to Herself, and said:
Don't ever leave home until I am old enough to have a job and a place of my own, OK?
He paused, and then added:
You are the only one who understands.
Pause. About math.
Pause. And other stuff.
It was quite clear he was not talking about schoolwork.
Tender-hearted manchild. How delighted, and touched, and relieved are we, that you feel Herself understands. Everyone should have the security of feeling understood.
Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, or possessions - we cannot be free. ― Thich Nhat Hanh, Heart of Buddha's Teaching
Herself attended a social function briefly yesterday evening. There were present some people of whom she is fond and whom she has not seen in quite a while, so it was a relatively pleasant time. It is good to get out of the house once in a while.
Today, she is still contemplating a brief conversation she had with two women at the function. Both women -- each attractive, well-coiffed and tastefully made up -- are tiny, athletic and incredibly fit ladies (TAIFL) of about the same age as Herself. The topic: food and dietary habits. The general discussion went somewhat as follows (words may not be exact, but gist is accurate):
TAILF1: I really shouldn't eat any more. But I only ate once today. We went to a birthday party earlier and I was so good, I didn't have any cake or anything. I'll have a little bit more of this - I'll just have to run an extra mile to run it off.
Herself: Oh, it's the holidays, it's OK.
TAILF2: That's no excuse.
Herself: Sure it is, once in a while.
TAILF2: Really, it isn't.
Herself was relieved to return to the safety of her home after the function, where she could make dinner for the Menfolk (Beloved Husband, Offspring the Second, Offspring the Third, and Cherished Friend) and sit quietly on the couch watching Top Gear and not have to worry about what she ate or didn't eat, how much she exercised or didn't exercise, or whether anyone scrutinizes her appearance. They are her sanctuary, the Menfolk: they allow her to be human, to be flawed, to try and fail and try again. She does not feel judged in their presence. She wants to better herself for them, rather than out of fear of what they may think of her.
The question remains: are the TAIFL right?
On the one hand, they are correct - being extremely watchful about what they eat and how much they exercise clearly contributes to their states of beauty and fitness. Certainly, Herself could be far more diligent and circumspect about what she eats and how much she exercises. Without question, she'd be less hefty if she did. No getting around that fact.
Nevertheless: to watch every single mouthful - to deny oneself a slice of a birthday celebration, to demand physical 'repayment' for any perceived excess calorie consumed - seems extraordinarily difficult. Almost obsessive. And self-punitive.
She shall not -- cannot -- think about it any more.
Life is too short for self-hatred and celery sticks. - Marilyn Wann
We are glued to the news today, watching the unfolding of a horrific story of a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. With each report, we shudder anew and pray, it can't possibly be that terrible - and then the next report is even worse. A K-4 school: children ages 5 to 10. Babies. Barely begun to learn about the world around them and the worlds within them. Mowed down. Snatched from this earth, leaving parents and siblings bereft and confused and heartbroken.
How can this be? How can this happen? It is incomprehensible.
Godspeed, children. Our thoughts are with your families as they face this unimaginable nightmare. At the rising of the sun and at its going down, We remember them. At the blowing of the wind and the chill of the winter, We remember them. At the opening of the Buds and in the rebirth of spring, We remember them. At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of Autumn, We remember them. At the beginning of the year and when it ends, We remember them. As long as we live, they too will live, For they are now part of us as we remember them.
When lost and sick at heart, We remember them. When we have joy we crave to share, We remember them. When we have decisions that are difficult to make, We remember them. When we have achievements that are based on theirs, We remember them. As long as we live they too will live, For they are now a part of us as we remember them.
It really is quite difficult to get up and accomplish tasks when there is a very small dog pinning one to the spot. Who has the heart to disturb a sleeping wee creature ensconced in one's lap or on one's shoulder? She is so warm and comfortable. We should all be so fortunate to be able to slumber so contentedly, cradled near the heart of someone we love.
Yesterday afternoon, Herself had a telephone conversation with long-term Acquaintance to arrange for Acquaintance to visit for Offspring the Third's birthday. In the course of the conversation, Acquaintance commented on why Herself's attending of a relative's complex medical appointment last week was helpful:
You're not easily flustered by people. Well, you are by me, but not by other people. If seemed like a little poke, designed to put Herself off balance. Herself ignored the statement. She would not take the bait.
Yesterday evening, when Acquaintance was visiting, Herself felt -- for the very first time in as long as she could remember -- calm and unruffled. She allowed the little irritating things Acquaintance said to roll away. She remained unperturbed. It was a magnificent sensation.
Why the change?
For the first time, Herself understood at last that she truly does have Backup.
She was not alone. She was protected. She was safe.
Easily flustered by Acquaintance? Oh, I think not. Not anymore.
Offspring the Third has constructed a miniature catapult for his birthday. He is now working diligently on various small wooden hydraulic devices as well. He does love to build things, and has quite an eye for construction and geometry and detail.
This tender-hearted and thoughtful young man has taught us so much about patience, kindness, and the importance of the right words at the right times. Such a blessing, he is.
The eternal struggle with weight, diet and exercise wages on.
Herself knows she's a tad chunkier than she has been in the past; she has fallen off the exercise wagon somewhat of late while simultaneously stress-consuming a variety of nonessential calories, and is now paying the price. She finds at the moment that there's rather more middle and thigh present than she would like to have, and also a bit more cleavage (not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but oftentimes difficult to dress properly). She is working on improving the situation. Better diet, more exercise. It is tricky, as always.
With the advent of winter, she requires proper pants to keep her warm while exercising. She dragged her feet through the store, dreading the dressing room; she is slave, as always, to the printed sizes in the clothing. Miracle of miracles - she still properly wears the small size pants; mediums were, in fact, too big. I could almost hear her thoughts as she realized that all was not as terrible as she'd feared: STILL SMALL! I WIN!
She will not rest on the laurels of this pants-victory, for she knows that she is still a half-cookie away from being a Fat Girl. She is motivated, though, to keep in the smalls. And so, she shall try, try again.
Note: a bit of medical information and a photo not for the squeamish. You have been warned!
Yesterday, Herself underwent Mohs surgery to remove the basal cell carcinoma from her right temple. She was surprisingly at ease with the idea of the procedure beforehand: she knew she would be awake and that no IV would be required; she likes the doctor and his staff very much; and once it was over, she would be essentially 'cured' of that spot. All good things.
The procedure went exactly as she expected. There was no pain beyond injection of the initial numbing agent. The sensation of cutting was a bit icky, and the sensation of tugging and manipulation necessary to close the surgical site was, in truth, rather a lot unpleasant. And then it was done.
As the doctor handed her the mirror, he explained that the gap had been nearly an inch square, but that because Herself has beautiful skin for closing -- elastic and movable -- the hole had been closed nicely, with enough skin to make a slightly raised closure that would smooth out well over time without pulling. (Herself was vaguely amused at being told that her skin was beautiful for something; her skin has always been temperamental and difficult and has never received a compliment before.) Because of the location, she should expect some bruising and swelling of her eyelid, as if she's been punched in the eye, that could last for a few weeks.
Herself was a bit taken aback at the length of the closure; it seems nearly two inches. It looks a bit like a zipper because of the sixteen dark sutures. She's at peace with it, knowing that in time it will not look quite so Frankenstein-monster-y, but is a bit concerned about horrifying/repelling other people. The site will look far better after the sutures are removed and any bruising and swelling dissipates.
In the evening as the numbing agent wore off, Herself was shocked at the degree of pain. She's normally fairly stoic and has hardly ever used anything stronger than ibuprofen even post-surgically before. This time, though, she filled her prescription for acetaminophen and hydrocodone willingly and took a dose as soon as possible. Ah, a bit of relief. Dulling of the pain helped to diminish the unexpected flashbacks she was having to the unpleasant sensations of the surgery, too. Shudder.
This morning, it still hurts, but not as much as yesterday. Swelling and bruising has begun, but is not too bad as of yet. She's a little worried about removing the pressure bandage to wash and rebandage the site, but what needs to be done will be done.
This is her thirteenth scar. It is the third largest, and the first visible to the public. But it is OK. In time, all shall be well.
It has been ten thousand years since Herself has tasted Fluff.
When she was growing up, there was no Fluff in Herself's family pantry. The only time she had Fluff was when she visited her grade-school friend Jennifer who lived two doors up the street. Jennifer's family had Fluff, and she and Jennifer would occasionally enjoy a Fluffernutter sandwich. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.
This tub of Fluff was a gift to Offspring the Third from one of his most favorite people. Offspring the Third delighted in a giant spoonful of Fluff today after school. "Look, it still sticks to the spoon even when I hold it upside-down!" He allowed Herself to have a spoonful as well.
Tobacco shops are a bit like gun shops -- they are primarily a male domain. Yes, women can smoke cigars or pipes, just as women can own firearms. All the same, pipes, cigars, tobacco, and such accouterments all seem to fall among the hobbies and pursuits of men. Nevertheless, while perusing a gun shop is rather intimidating, perusing a tobacco shop is an entirely different experience.
Yesterday, Herself visited the tobacco shop with Beloved Husband and Cherished Friend so that they could look at (and procure) pipes. It was most enjoyable. There is something very pleasurably sensory about the tobacco shop: the gleam of the wood polishes, the smooth or complex tactile sensations of the pipes and the cigars, the aromas of the tobaccos. The colors and shapes of the lighters. The humidity and the scent of the enormous humidor room. The magnificently beautiful humidor boxes. Marvelous.
The proprietor gifted Herself with a very small cigar before they left. Oooo! Herself has never smoked, and is both intimidated by and interested in the experience of smoking the cigar. We shall report back afterwards. Stay tuned....
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 solely a minuscule middle aged chihuahua and a lovely red fish named Ruth Betta Finsburg. Someday, there will be more critters, for she loves them tremendously.