Friday, August 31, 2012

Blue Stripes

When we turned on the computer this morning, we were alarmed to find that all of the backgrounds - in Word documents, in Explorer windows, everything - had a hue of blue.  Tiny blue stripes throughout everything.  Restoring the system to a previous date did not fix the problem.  Adjusting the colors did not solve matters.  It is strange.  It renders it quite difficult to read what one has typed.  It is VERY ANNOYING INDEED.

We shall keep you posted on our attempts to resolve the issue.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Happy One: Road Trip

Entry one for Finding The Happy.

When Herself was a sophomore or a junior in college, she had her first ride on a motorcycle as a ride home from the house of a friend with whom she and a roommate had dinner.  Her friend was a relatively new acquaintance, and Herself did not know anything about his driving skills, so she was a tiny bit apprehensive, particularly given the seemingly small bike.  "Lean into the curves," was the sole instruction she recalls.  Since she usually walked around the campus, the roads were unfamiliar and suddenly alarming.  It was a brief trip, and rather frightening. 

She did not get on a motorcycle again for twenty-five years.     

Over a long weekend at the end of May of this year, Herself had an opportunity for her second ride.  She, the Offspring, Beloved Husband, and Cherished friend went out to dinner, and Cherished Friend provided her transportation on his motorcycle. It was a completely different experience. 

Herself was anxious, but far more in an anticipatory manner than in a nervous way. The bike was comfortable, the helmet reassuring. She was quite familiar with, and had great confidence in, Cherished Friend's driving skills, so she knew she was in good hands.  The road was clear and open. And for a brief time, everything else was erased save for the rush of the wind, the headlight in the dark, the speed.


That was happiness.

Finding The Happy

With gratitude to the introspective individual who inspired this writing.

When one is a child, happiness seems to come in giant doses.  Walking about at the fair with a sticky, giant wad of cotton candy; drawing on the driveway with chalk; climbing the tall, tall tree and sitting perched way up high in its branches - all these things were true happinesses.  Through the lens of time, we see whole hours, days even, of what seemed like unbridled joy and carefree delight in all the childhood things.

When one is an adult, happiness seems much more elusive. 

Adults are self-conscious; singed around the edges by the fires of social interactions over the years, they tread more gingerly, lest they be found to be foolish or criticism-worthy.  Also, adults have ongoing worries and responsibilities.  We fret:  Are the bills all paid?  Have I taken care of all the pieces of that project at work?  Do I need to see a doctor, or am I just experiencing the expected aches and pains of a person my age? What am I forgetting?  Where is my motivation? Should I have done that differently?  Was that a stupid or insensitive thing to say?

And larger concerns still:  Who is running in this local election in my community? Why are those two factions in that country still at war?  Why are there so many antibiotic-resistant germs?  What can I do about poverty, murder, rape, human suffering, destruction of the environment, endangered species? Is there any way to save the earth from eventual cataclysm?

The view is complex, and it is impossible to understand it in its entirety. And as we try to do so, we find it more difficult to see those flashes of happiness.  They are obscured, perhaps even deliberately hidden, by Life, and seem quite minuscule in comparison to the multiple mundane moments of every day.

Our mission now is to call the happy out into the open, so that we may gaze upon it and cherish it for what it is.  In the upcoming days, we will do our best to recount stories of happy that we have found.  Perhaps in reading about ours, you will remember and catch glimpses of your own happy as well.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Healing Hand

Herself had a vivid dream last night.

I was lying down on my stomach on a couch or bed, propped up on my elbows, either fiddling with a book or holding some small project in my hands. My lower back hurt, as it does when I am awake. I was chatting about inconsequential things with a person whom I apparently knew well and with whom I was comfortable. The person was sitting off slightly behind me to my left, just out of my line of  vision.

I put my book or project down onto the floor and lay down flat, my head on my folded arms, my eyes closed. The person continued to talk quietly and pleasantly with me, and simultaneously reached out a hand and placed it flat on my back beneath my T-shirt, right over the place that hurt. The hand was warm and strong, but not heavy.  I felt my entire body relax under the hand, and the pain in my back  dissolved until it was just a whisper of itself.  It was a marvelous sensation. I rested quietly, listening to the melodic and soothing sound of the person's voice, and hoping the hand would remain on my skin until the pain dissipated completely.

Would that she could, awake, have that hand.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not Ready

Yesterday, Herself's father provided Uncle S.'s phone number and requested that Herself give him a call.  The family is coming together to make sure Uncle S. has regular contact with people who care for him, as he begins to learn to move through the days without Aunt M.  Herself's siblings reached out to him over the past few days; it was Herself's turn.

She stared at the phone for some time before dialing.  What does one say to the newly grieving? She wishes she were closer to Uncle S. To be able to arrive on his doorstep, to bring food and to hold his hand and listen, would be so much simpler.  She resorted to the plain and simple truth:  "I'm calling to check on you and see how you're doing, and to let you know I'm thinking about you."

Her first thought, when Uncle S. spoke:  he sounds so very old.  Then again, he is nearly 88 years of age.

It was a short but warm call.  He is doing as well as can be expected; he said that he keeps busy during the day, but that the nights are difficult.  I imagine they must be.  Herself promised to call again next week, and to send him a few pictures she'd recently found from a family reunion several years ago.  Hopefully, they will provide him with some good remembrances.

Herself's mother is taking the loss of Aunt M. quite hard.  At 75, Mother is no longer young; within the past several years, her close friends of decades have lost husbands and have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.  Mother has her own age-related health concerns - osteopenia and high blood pressure, among others.  Herself always suspects that Mother feels the spectre of The Grim Reaper hovering nearby, watching, waiting, just behind her. Herself does not know what to say to help Mother be less afraid.

Herself idly contemplates her own mortality, too.  She knows that statistically, the odds are good that she will continue to occupy her spot on this globe for a couple of decades more.  Nevertheless, she knows that all of us may be struck down at any time - when one's number is up, one's number is up.  She hopes that all the Offspring will be launched into adulthood before she shuffles off this mortal coil.  She is concerned about how they would manage, should something untoward happen to her.  And how would Beloved Husband fare? So many little ordinary things that Herself handles for all of them.  They would have to attend to the details themselves.

She thinks that perhaps she needs to write out more specific information for them to use in the case of her untimely demise:  these are the bills, this is when they are due, this is the online banking password, this is how to access the college funds, this is the phone number of the life insurance person, this is the contact information for the maid service and the pet-sitting service, this is what medicine you take when you have a cold, this is how the new fancy washing machine works.  Would instructions even help? Or is she deluding herself that they would even need such instructions?  They're intelligent people; they can figure things out.

Truth be told, she knows they'd probably get along just fine without her, though he hates the idea of them having to do so. It is her job -- and her pleasure -- to look after them. She does not want to leave the task unfinished.

She's written brief notes for all of her important people, and put the notes into envelopes to be distributed if necessary.  Yet written words fall so incredibly short of all she would like them to know.  How could half a dozen sentences be sufficient to tell them how unique and wonderful they are, and how much they have meant to her?  Impossible task.

She hopes that somehow, they know.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


This morning, we are listening to Roberta Flack: Will You Still Love Me TomorrowIf Ever I See You Again, Jesse, and my personal favorite, Killing Me Softly. Sometimes, only Roberta Flack will do.

Image gratefully found at

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Moon Over Mountain

These are my choices
This is the bed I have made
The path I've chosen

Step by step, each day
Delights and difficulties
The ebb and the flow

I do what I must
I am saved by laughter, love,
Kindness and friendship

Though I am alone
I am not; you are with me
And that is enough.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Here We Are

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.
 - Matsuo Basho

Thursday, August 23, 2012


After depositing Offspring the First at college, Herself had 550 miles -- approximately 8 hours -- of solitude along the highway on the way home.  It was the first time she had so much time alone in ages.  Even during the school year, because of the varying school schedules, there are no more than 6 consecutive hours in which both Offspring the Second and Offspring the Third are out of the house at the same time. 

The drive itself was uneventful. The only noteworthy sights were the occasional pancaked roadkill, a bloated deer corpse, and a particularly pungent skunk carcass. The road was quite abundant with unusually juicy, large, and sticky insects, though; the windshield was quite colorful and streaked despite the best efforts of the wipers. Ew.

There was surprisingly little time for complex thought: highway driving, particularly when traveling west at sunset as well as at night, requires significant concentration.  Nevertheless, it was quite peaceful.  She stopped only when she felt like doing so.  She did not have to look after anyone else's needs. (That was odd - she's always a bit at a loss when there isn't another creature, human or pet, who requires her care.)  She had included all of her somewhat questionable music selections into the repertoire on the iPod, and enjoyed singing along loudly without anyone complaining about her inability to carry a tune or her habit of listening to the same song repeatedly.

One of the best (and non-questionable) pieces of music for driving was Diablo Rojo (Rodrigo Y Gabriela). Excellent.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Herself is ensconced in a hotel with Offspring the First, 550 miles from home, in preparation for checking Offspring the First into her dormitory back at college. The traditional complimentary breakfast: Texas-shaped waffles, prepared with love for Offspring the First by Herself. Mmmm, waffle-y goodness.


Monday, August 20, 2012

At The DOT

Herself spent nearly two and a half hours at the Department Of Transportation so that Offspring the Second could obtain his learner's permit.  She was completely flabbergasted and rather more than just a tad irritated at the volume and specificity of the documentation that was required for this particular rite of passage.  Nevertheless, they finally prevailed, and Offspring the Second is now officially sanctioned to pilot a motor vehicle.

As Herself and Offspring the Second were waiting in the ginormous queue, they spotted a dessicated insect on the windowsill.  Offspring the Second quipped:

"It waited too long in line."


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Early Call

When Herself was a child, the ringing of the telephone at an unseemly hour - very late, or very early - was a grim portent. Usually, it was a report that one of the various aged relatives on her father's side of the family had fallen gravely ill.  Her parents would hurriedly pack a suitcase, including their somber garb for the inevitable funeral, and would call her grandmother to come and care for her and her siblings.  It was a part of life for everyone she knew - that phone call.  

Today, it was the 'ping' from her telephone indicating that an e-mail had arrived quite early, that was the harbinger.  Herself has several e-mail addresses:  a work address; a general/public address; and a more private address that she limits to very few contacts, including close friends and family.  This morning's tone was for that private address. Herself looked at the subject line:  Sad news. Oh, no.

Her father's brother's wife - Aunt M - had a severe stroke last night.  Aunt M had a few minor strokes before, but this one was clearly different.  When Herself called her parents, both of them separately said quite plainly, "It doesn't look good."  Oh, no.

The hardest part was hearing the description of what transpired:  how Aunt M had woken up with a bad headache; how Uncle S had helped her to the bathroom, and then gone to call 911; how when he returned 30 seconds later, she was slumped over; how he propped her up on a pillow and waited for the ambulance; how the firefighters arrived, and then the ambulance crew; and finally, how she was transported off to the hospital. 

Herself can imagine far too plainly the fear and pain of those few minutes.  Terrible.

Now, as she sits and waits for the next phone call or e-mail, she thinks about Aunt M and Uncle S.  She regrets not being a better niece and keeping in more regular contact with them.  She worries about how Uncle S, who has been married to Aunt M for sixty-five years or so, will fare without Aunt M. She considers her parents who, though they are 10 years younger than Aunt M and Uncle S, are not at all young themselves.  How long will it be before they are all faced with further calls? 

She remembers one time, thirty-five or more years ago, when she, her siblings and her parents visited her father's extended family, including Aunt M and Uncle S.  Towards the end of the visit, Aunt M and Uncle S took her to one side and presented her with a small marble figurine.  It was a girl, head modestly held low, hands folded.  They told her it reminded them of her.  Herself was touched - it was so lovely, and she, such a homely, awkward little girl, was thrilled that such a beautiful item could remind anyone of her. 

Godspeed, Aunt M. If now is your time, your ancestors will welcome you home with open arms. We will keep you in our hearts, always.

Update:  Aunt M passed away at 3:15 this same day.  Rest in peace, Aunt M.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I think you could fall in love with anyone if you saw the parts of them no one else gets to see. Like if you followed them around invisibly for a day and saw them crying in their bed at night or singing in the shower or humming quietly to themselves as they make a sandwich or even just walking along the street. And even if they were really weird and had no friends at school, I think, that after seeing them at their most vulnerable, you wouldn't be able to help falling in love with them. - Unknown

Friday, August 17, 2012

Three Times Seven

These twenty-one years
Have barely been enough time
To even begin.

Three Offspring later,
Two careers, myriad pets,
One busy household,

Off to a good start.
Happy anniversary.
Thank you, Beloved.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


You don't love someone because they're perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they're not. ― Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Note:  a few medical details, including mention of needles, today.  The squeamish should look away. You have been warned!

This past Monday, Herself went in to have a biopsy of the thyroid nodule, as was requested a few weeks ago.  Though it was not particularly painful, it was rather an unpleasant experience, and Herself is glad it is over.

After a lengthy (but not unexpected) wait of three-quarters of an hour, Herself was ushered into the biopsy room, and signed the consent forms while the nurse carefully arranged the accoutrements of biopsy: a tray with a dozen or so glass slides; small vials of some unknown liquid; numerous needles removed carefully from their sealed packaging and lined up methodically next to one another.  The nurse quietly closed the door of the room behind her, leaving Herself alone to contemplate the medical instruments, the ultrasound machine, and a mysterious refrigerator with locks on the doors.  Alas, there were not even any elderly copies of Golf Digest or Living with Diabetes to peruse.  Dull, anticipatory waiting.

After another full half an hour, the doctor appeared and answered, a trifle vaguely, Herself's questions regarding the purpose of the biopsy and the strategy for ongoing management of the nodule.  The nurse then reappeared, and it was time.  Up onto the table Herself was arranged, with a pillow under her shoulders and with her head tilted far, far back.  She could see the ultrasound screen upside-down to the right, and had a direct view of the rear corner of the ceiling in the room.  The corner was oddly devoid of arachnid; a spider there would have been a distracting curiosity, to be sure.

The doctor sought to identify the nodule with the ultrasound wand. There was difficulty, however; the nodule is located somewhat unusually on the isthmus, rather than on either lobe as the doctor expected. Time passed and minutes ticked by as Herself's trachea was squashed this way and that by the ultrasound wand. It was difficult to swallow or speak. Not an agony of pain, by any means, but certainly quite uncomfortable.  The doctor did provide a brief tour of the grey blobs of the ultrasound image for Herself:  "Here's the carotid artery; here's the tendons that attach your windpipe; here's the thyroid."  It all looked rather the same to Herself from her upside-down perspective, except for the pretty red and blue of the blood coursing through her arteries.

After an interminable ten minutes (or perhaps closer to fifteen - the clock was not visible from Herself's position), the nodule was located. There it is!  Then, the needles began.  First, local anesthetic.  The nurse kindly held Herself's hand while the doctor numbed the relevant area. (Such a lovely person, the nurse.)  Then, while the nurse held the ultrasound wand in place and rested a reassuring hand on Herself's arm, the doctor inserted the biopsy needle. 

There was pressure and the sensation of movement of the needle; and a sharp push, push.  Sample one of three.  Herself stared at the spiderless corner of the ceiling and wiggled her toes to try to relax while the doctor and the nurse worked on the slides.  She overheard, "See those black spots there? Those are the cells."  Then they were back again for a second biopsy sample. Repeat.  "It's difficult to get a good sample because there is scar tissue.  I don't know why."  A third.  And done. "Put some pressure on here."  The doctor exited.

Herself held a small square of gauze to her bruised and numbed throat. A tiny circular bandage was eventually applied, and Herself was allowed to sit up.  A bit of dizziness washed over her, caused by having had to remain supine for half an hour with her head below her shoulders. Eventually her head cleared.  Herself thanked the nurse for her thoughtful care, and went home.

We shall get the results in approximately two weeks.  With a bit of luck, Herself can avoid another biopsy for several more years.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Here and Now

Your journey has molded you for the greater good, and it is exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think that you’ve lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered, to bring you to the now and now is right on time. -  Asha Tyson

Monday, August 13, 2012

Piebald Chuckwalla

Herself and I are entertaining ourselves in a waiting room by scrolling through the photographs in her phone. We found this one, taken at the local zoo some time ago. Such a glorious name!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hush, hush

Silence -
It has a sound, a fullness.
It's heavy with sigh of tree,
and space between breaths.
It's ripe with pause between birdsong
and crash of surf.
It's golden they say.
But no one tells us it's addictive.

 ― Angela Long

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Your beloved and your friends were once strangers. Somehow at a particular time, they came from the distance toward your life. Their arrival seemed so accidental and contingent. Now your life is unimaginable without them. Similarly, your identity and vision are composed of a certain constellation of ideas and feelings that surfaced from the depths of the distance within you. To lose these now would be to lose yourself. -  John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Friday, August 10, 2012

Near To Me

There is a primal reassurance in being touched, in knowing that someone else, someone close to you, wants to be touching you. There is a bone-deep security that goes with the brush of a human hand, a silent, reflex-level affirmation that someone is near, that someone cares. - Jim Butcher

Thursday, August 9, 2012

By Wholes

There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature. - Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Today is the forty-fifth anniversary of Herself's delivery into this world.  It has been a fascinating journey, difficult on occasion and surprisingly successful at other times.  Herself is just beginning to parse the meaning of her existence, and hopes she has many more years to contemplate all the secrets of the Universe.

She is grateful today in particular for her Loved Ones, for they make this odyssey bearable even in the darkest hours, and bring her more joy than she ever thought possible. Their greatest gifts to her are their acceptance of her love for them and their forgiveness of her human flaws.  She knows she cannot ever truly repay them; she hopes, though, that she has made their own sojourns a bit happier, and perhaps even a little bit easier.

We are looking forward to what the future brings.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Skipping with Sidney

Once upon a time -- nearly 30 years ago -- Herself spent six weeks in France during the summer. The program, which drew students from various preparatory schools along the eastern seaboard, included three weeks in Paris and three weeks in a small town in the south. Though herself loathed speaking French (so self-conscious of her accent), the trip itself was an excellent adventure.  She learned how to navigate the Paris metro; she visited museum after museum and saw innumerable well-known and marvelous works of art; she wet her fingers in the holy water of Lourdes; she sat in Monet's gardens at Giverny; and she bicycled throughout the countryside, waving merrily at the truckloads of French soldiers who cheered as they drove past. It was a time of innocence and independence, when the most difficult things to do were to decipher the menus in the cafés and to keep track of the exchange rate for dollars to francs.

The students who attended the program were a varied co-educational bunch of high school sophomores and juniors.  Though Herself did not know any of the others, many of them had attended the same schools previously and were familiar with each other.  Interpersonal relationships have never been Herself's forté; she was usually more comfortable exploring by herself than attempting to fit into the group.  Nevertheless, there were a couple of fellow students with whom she struck up an comfortable companionship. One of them was a young woman whom we shall call Sidney. 

When she and Sydney were assigned to the same activity, Herself was always pleased.  They sat on the bus next to each other, giggled about the boy on whom they both had a crush, and shared a loaf of bread and a jar of Nutella as they strolled through the Jardin du Luxembourg. They bemoaned their atrocious accents and puzzled over the maps. They eyed the myriad clothes of the popular girls on the trip, and felt faintly smug when their own suitcases were so much easier to carry.  She and Sidney got along well.

Herself remembers their trip to the Louvre. She and Sidney wandered from hall to hall with a few other companions.  The Mona Lisa was surprisingly small.  It was late in the afternoon and they were getting tired.  At one point, Herself held Sidney's sweater so that Sidney could rummage in her purse or tie her sneaker; afterwards, Sidney and Herself each took hold of one of the arms of the sweater, so that it was dangling between them like a flag or a cloth rope.  They worked their way through the emptying museum joined by the sweater in both their hands. They might even have skipped a little bit here and there, together.


Herself and Sidney did not keep in touch after that summer; it was that Dark Age before cell phone, e-mail, voicemail, text, Skype or Facebook could facilitate a friendship across several states.  It has been years, in fact, since Herself found Sidney on her mind.  Today, though, a sweater that Offspring the First left on Herself's dresser called to Herself's mind that day in the Louvre.  She wishes she knew a girl now who would skip with her and who would braid her hair, and with whom she could make faces at weird foods and whisper about cute boys.  But she's an adult - a mother and a wife and a professional - and those days of youthful girly friendship are far, far gone.

Sidney, on the bus, giggling.

Up High

We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started. - Henry Beecher Ward

Monday, August 6, 2012


Herself dislikes caterpillars.  They are yucky.  This miniscule inchworm, however, was captivating, and Herself (for the very first time ever) actively sought to hold it.  Quite a victory over her squeamishness.

Look how adorable!

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Herself and the Menfolk made a second pilgrimage to Guadalupe Peak this past weekend. (You may recall our description of the first adventure here.)  Once more, to the top of Texas - huzzah!

The weather was hot and rather humid, though the rainclouds that moved through the region with a helpful breeze in the afternoon provided some much-needed shade.  Without the snow and ice they had encountered during their first trip in January, portions of the route were certainly much easier than before.  Nevertheless, Herself found it to be a particularly arduous climb.  More water and much more rest were absolutely necessary. Talk was sparse, especially on the ascent - it required far too much work to formulate and enunciate full sentences.

Herself was very glad that her hiking companions managed the journey without problem.  She, on the other hand, had to push herself quite hard to put one foot in front of the other.  She managed:  she reached the top, had a thorough look at the marvelous view, and made her way back down to base camp.  She was relieved when it was over.

Most of all that day, Herself was pleased to see the Menfolk do so outstandingly well.  Their successes are always a beauty to behold; they bring a joy as wide and as far-reaching as the expanse of Texas laid out around them from Guadalupe Peak.  Good job, Menfolk. We are incredibly proud of you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Growing Up

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable. ― Madeleine L'Engle