For the past week, Herself was fortunate to be able to spend some time with a cheerful young canine with camel-like eyelashes and an enthusiasm for sniffing. He is a sweet fellow, slightly timid around other dogs, patient with people, and clever enough to learn to play a bit of Fetch. He enjoys lying in a spot of sunlight. Good boy, Dog.
Dog was trying out a partnership with a new designated human. The attempt was, from the start, an uncertain venture into an unknown land: a risk. And the particular arrangement did not work out for several well-founded reasons. Nevertheless, Herself is quite optimistic that Dog will soon find the right situation without difficulty. He has been in good hands, and will be so again.
She hopes the human is not self-critical. A step outside of a comfort zone was taken, and a solid effort was made. A bit of wisdom was gained. That is always a good thing.
Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise. ~Author Unknown
Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing.
A lovely, warmhearted woman whom Herself knows through the marvels of the internet had a quotation posted on her Facebook page this morning. We would like to share it with you. Thank you, K.
I'm quirky, silly, blunt, and broken. My days are sometimes too dark, and my nights are sometimes too long. I often trip over my own insecurities. I require attention, long for passion, and wish to be desired. I use music to speak when words fail me, even though words are as important to me as the air I breathe. I love hard and with all that I have... and even with my faults, I am worth loving. - Danu Grayson
It reminds Herself of the years she and Beloved Husband spent apart before they were married. She would turn the radio off or change the station if this song began to play -- no point in being further reminded of the hardships of a long-distance relationship. It's a difficult song to hear, even now. It's still too close to home.
Fewer things more painful than being unable to spend time with someone you love.
There is just something about the music of the 1980s: some of it big, some of it cheese-tastically cheesy, some of it synth-pop heaven. It formed the soundtrack for Herself's teenage years, when the radio was all-important; Walkmans were just becoming popular, personal CD players were exceedingly rare, and iPods were --gasp-- nonexistent. How those songs take her back.
Last night while in the car on the way home from a constitutional, she came across one of the classics of the 80s. The song unusually peaked twice -- once very early in the decade, and again towards the end of the decade. She remembers it most from 1980, when she was just barely a teenager. It made her young heart -- replete with reveries, as yet unrealized, about somehow miraculously attracting the affections of a boy -- contemplate all of the endless, magical possibilities.
Those were days of hope and innocence. We'll recapture them oh so briefly by listening to Benny Mardones, Into the Night. Ah, nostalgia.
When Herself was a wee girl and her lovely Sister was even tinier, Sister had a stuffed bumblebee. It had a red pom-pom nose and made a soothing jingly noise when moved about. Sister called it Bumbee. We remember Bumbee well. Sister still has Bumbee to this day; Bumbee is carefully packed away, fragile and well-loved. Although his pom-pom nose is a bit loose and askew now, Bumbee still jingles soothingly.
Several months ago, Herself was out shopping at a local discount clothing store, and near the cash register was a pile of stuffed bumblebees. The bees had large black pom-pom noses and they made no sound, but still, they were reminiscent of Bumbee. Herself purchased one. New Bumbee.
She held on to New Bumbee for quite a long time, for it reminded her so much of Sister, who lives 2,000 miles away and whom she misses tremendously. Finally, though, she packed New Bumbee into a box with some books for Sister, and mailed it off.
The box arrived at Sister's house today, just in time for Sister to open before she and her family set off on a road trip to a nearby city. Sister sent a picture of New Bumbee perched on the dashboard of her car. The picture made Herself very happy.
Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid. - Bernard Meltzer
Herself's long-term Acquaintance and Acquaintance's Spouse stopped by for a short visit yesterday. Muffins were consumed and tea drunk, and then the conversation turned to hearing impairment, hearing loss, and hearing aids. Acquaintance's Spouse wears hearing aids; Herself knows that a time will come when Beloved Husband will similarly need some assistance with his hearing. It is always helpful to obtain a point of view from Acquaintance's Spouse, for he has a mind for detail and technology that provides excellent information.
Suddenly, Acquaintance interjected: "You know that people with hearing loss are more likely to get early dementia."
Herself was stunned. Why, WHY, would Acquaintance say such a thing? As if Acquaintance's Spouse has any control over his hearing loss; as if he could somehow prevent hearing loss or onset of dementia. As if he -- who graduated from a highly technical university at an early age with advanced degrees, and who is renowned and admired in his field for his intelligence and his capacity for remembering facts and painting a thorough and helpful picture to solve any given problem -- would not quietly fear a decline of his mental capacities in these, his later years.
It was cruel.
Herself tried to provide a scientific defense: "Lots of different issues can contribute to dementia," Herself began, but the various medical informational bits she has read wouldn't coalesce into a cogent sentence. She despaired. A silence fell over the table.
And then, Acquaintance's Spouse found the proper response:
"Such as a lack of exercise."
It is well-known that long-term Acquaintance refuses to exercise. Acquaintance would rather diet -- semi-starve and bemoan the lone lettuce leaf and small portion of plain chicken breast of dinner -- than exert at all. Acquaintance steadfastly declines to go for a walk or perform any activity that might contribute to any form of sweating. Yet: Acquaintance, Acquaintance's Spouse, and Herself all well know that Acquaintance's slightly excessive weight, high blood pressure, low bone density, and chronic clinical depression could all be ameliorated by exercise. And unlike age-related hearing loss, exercise is, in fact, within one's control.
Game, set, match, to Acquaintance's Spouse.
Acquaintance took the only tactic available -- claiming personal attack: "Stop picking on me!"
Herself shut down that avenue promptly with a lighthearted correction: "Well then, don't pick on [Spouse]. If you would like to squabble, you'll have to do it elsewhere than at my kitchen table."
That was that. The conversation moved on to other matters.
Herself is quietly proud of Acquaintance's Spouse for taking a stand. Herself is exhausted, too, from being on guard for the next weird, odd, or unkind words that Acquaintance may speak. It shouldn't be this trying to spend time with someone.
Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. - Mother Teresa
When Herself was a teeny child, her parents purchased a humble little farm house in Maine. Cold Comfort Farm, it was dubbed: the only heat was supplied by the fireplaces and the wood-burning kitchen stove. There was a rickety staircase to the tiny room where Herself slept, across the landing from the doorway that led to the unfinished portion of the attic where occasionally they would find a large and lumbering porcupine munching happily on the wood beams. The fields and woods nearby had many woodchuck burrows, and the family dog would disappear for hours to investigate them, with a muffled barking as the only sign of his whereabouts. He would return, exhausted, at the end of the day, have a huge drink of water, and then lie in the middle of the floor to rest.
There were not many neighbors on the dirt road up to the farmhouse. Bessie and her husband owned the property down the hill and to the right. It was a minuscule hunting cabin, with an outhouse. Bessie and her husband also owned a house in "town" (such as it was), and Herself's family would occasionally go there for tea and cookies. There were no toys at Bessie's house; it was rather a bit dull while the adults chatted. Herself would attempt to entertain herself by sitting outside and watching what would pass by the house.
One visit, Herself noticed a scraggly small dog who appeared to be entertaining itself in the same manner: it sat slightly down the street, watching passersby, and keeping its distance. Bessie explained that the dog was a stray who did not like people; they left out food for the dog, but the dog would not let anyone near, no matter what anyone tried.
Herself sat, still as could be, in the yard. She was near enough to the food bowl to see the dog, but far enough away that the dog could still eat unhindered if it chose to do so. Herself waited.
The dog crept near. And nearer. And surprisingly, nearer to Herself than to the dish. Finally, the dog was close enough to allow Herself to give it a few small pats. It scampered off when the adults opened the door to the house and stepped out.
Ah, stray dog. Thank for giving a lonely child that moment of connection.
Since that time, Herself has harbored a fondness in her heart for all the timid and self-effacing animals -- those who are shy, those who are defective, those who are in need but are afraid. Yesterday when she spent time admiring the dogs at a local pet store's dog adoption event, she was reminded of the dog near Bessie's house, and her heart broke just a bit for the unwanted dogs: the 10-year-old dachshund with four remaining teeth, who just needed a lap for her last remaining years; the one-eyed chihuahua; the exhausted overused female dogs who needed peace and space and an opportunity to play instead of producing endless litters of puppies. Hopefully by the end of the day, some of them found new homes and new chances.
All the small creatures. She can't help them all. All she can do is take the best care she can, of the ones she has.
Wounding and healing are not opposites. They're part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to find other people or to even know they're alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of. ― Rachel Naomi Remen
If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. - Grandmothers around the world
It is astonishing how much negativity can be exuded in a short amount of time, and how little pointed words can color the tone of the most benign of conversations.
Yesterday, Herself hosted a brief visit by a married couple she knows, for tea and muffins. Conversation was relatively pleasant, but there were specific moments in which the Wife in the Couple deliberately and (in Herself's opinion) unkindly challenged the Husband's statements, demeanor, or intent in speaking. Wife also was generally cynical and disparaging, with overtones of criticism. It was uncomfortable. Unpleasant. Yucky.
Moment 1: Husband in the Couple, knowing that Herself's Beloved Husband would be out of town for Valentine's Day, indicated that he would bring Herself a treat: "I'll bring you a [delectable comestible] Thursday." While speaking, he looked at Wife in the Couple, presumably (and reasonably, in Herself's sphere of reference) to elicit Wife's assistance in remembering and delivering the comestible in a few days. Wife in the Couple looked back at Husband in the Couple and protested, loudly: "For me? You mean her? Why are you looking at me then? No, it's all right, I don't expect or want that anyway." Wife continued scolding while Herself and Beloved Husband opted to discuss other matters so as not to be party to the Couple's conversation.
Moment 2: Herself, discussing aged and decrepit dog's temperamental eating habits: "I do feed [dog] by hand on occasion when she doesn't feel well. It's a good karma thing, so when I'm old and decrepit, someone will throw kibble to me, too." Wife in the Couple replied -- snidely, pejoratively, disparagingly: "Well, you hope that will happen." Wife then hung a "but it won't" clause silently in the air in the room, and waited for Herself to acknowledge it. Herself did not take the bait; she chose to respond "Yes, I do hope so," instead.
Moment 3: The conversation turned to how the neighbors recently redid the floor in their garage. It looks nice and has sealed their garage well. Husband in the Couple commented, "That's something we've been thinking about doing." Wife in the Couple snapped: "I just want to make it clear that it isn't something WE have been thinking of doing. It's something HE has been thinking of doing." Herself felt compelled to point out that Wife would also benefit from the garage floor treatment. The Wife scoffed and rolled her eyes.
These conversations make Herself tired. She feels an obligation -- or rather, a NEED -- to stand up for the Husband in the Couple; he is a kind, thoughtful, helpful man, and it pains Herself tremendously to hear Wife speak to him in such an unkind and deliberately antagonistic manner. Herself also is easily wearied by the pessimism thrown about by the Wife. Herself fully understands that life is difficult, that bad things happen without reason or solution, that people can be uncaring or cruel, and that the possibility fully exists that she may one day end up neglected and unfed in the corner of some nursing home somewhere. Herself chooses, though, to hope for the best and to treat others as she herself would like to be treated: to be kind; to build others up, rather than to chop them down; to be positive and encouraging. Even when Herself falls into the Void, she tries her very best to shine a light beyond her edges.
Life is short. Life is hard. She can try to make it better for others, and particularly for those she loves.
The Golden Rule. It works for Herself.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. ~ Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
We have Miley Cyrus' cover of Dolly Parton's heartbreaking song of a plea to a rival -- Jolene -- from her Backyard Sessions stuck in our heads. We hadn't given much thought to Miley Cyrus previously, thinking her to be nothing more than a pop-culture mediocrity. Perhaps, though, we have misjudged her. We shall endeavor to keep an open mind in the future.
We have been watching more of The Big Bang Theory. It is cleverly written and entertaining, and is a welcome diversion while Herself struggles with the elliptical trainer. The characters are somewhat caricatures, but they hearken back to individuals Herself knew in college, which makes them all the more familiar and humorous.
There's a current subplot that makes Herself just a teeny bit squeamish, though: one of the main male characters has recently begun dating a woman who is revealing herself to be needy and fearful of breakup, and so she uses sex as a tool/weapon to try to keep the man interested in continuing the relationship. It makes Herself uneasy and sad, because it is all too often that young women do so; and yet, it it inevitable that a relationship maintained in such a manner will crash and burn, harming the woman's perceived self-worth in the process. She hopes that the young women watching the show perhaps will learn something -- such as what not to do -- from the exaggerated portrayal.
It should be noted that this subplot is part of a greater overarching focus of the show: the desire of the main characters to find someone with whom to have sex.
Herself realizes that the characters are intended to be single and in their late 20s, and understands that the particular demographic portrayed would indeed likely focus on finding a sexual partner. By the time she was in her late 20s, though, Herself was married with two small children and a high-powered job to support the family. She really can't put herself into the shoes of the characters at all. Furthermore, even if, by some terrible twist of fate, she were to become single now, she still cannot imagine. No hook-ups or hopping into bed with someone on the first date or within the first few weeks of beginning to date. Just - no.
She knows other people see things differently, and doesn't judge anyone for taking an opportunity to spend naked time with someone they find attractive even though she wouldn't necessarily do so herself. Perhaps it is due to her age, her inherent self-consciousness, or her recognition of her physical flaws -- she knows that she would decline a romp in the hay (as it were) if the occasion arose. Perhaps, though, it is an acknowledgement of her own needs: for her, physical intimacy requires a fairly high level of emotional connection in advance.
In other words: she needs Love first.
She might be a bit of an idealist. Or old-fashioned, some might say. That's fine with her. She understands her own needs, and that understanding is what is important to her.
Warning: picture not for those who are squeamish about insects. You have been warned!
We have a giant bag of pistachios. They are delicious and nutritious - an excellent snack food, particularly for Offspring the Third, who likes to have something to chew while he is struggling through his algebra homework.
Herself was contentedly consuming a few nuts this morning as she checked her e-mail. She absentmindedly looked down into the shell of the pistachio she just ate, and spotted --- what was that?
1. out of keeping or place; inappropriate; unbecoming: an incongruous effect; incongruous behavior.
2. not harmonious in character; inconsonant; lacking harmony of parts: an incongruous mixture of architectural styles.
3. inconsistent: actions that were incongruous with their professed principles.
1. A 2001 Econoline van mom-mobile replete with crumbs, sand and dog fur; an offspring's sports gear; a bevy of cloth grocery bags; and miscellaneous wrappers and nut shells from the last family drive, piloted by a humdrum middle-aged woman --- with the bass turned way up for Peaches' Tent In Your Pants.
The Void is a precarious place, appearing and disappearing like an unstable wormhole in space. Sometimes it's clear that one is skirting adjacent to a Void, and one has slippery hands that will lose their grasp on the rocks and precipitate an inevitable downhill roll into the Void. Other times, one will be walking along serenely in the warm sunshine, and unexpectedly trip over a tiny, seemingly inconsequential rock. Suddenly, there is a nauseating plummet headlong into the darkness of a previously unseen Void. Thud. There's the bottom.
The Void may be large or small; echoing or silent; stifling or oddly, blissfully solitary. We know we can't live in the Void; yet escaping, as we always must, can be arduous and exhausting. Sometimes we must sit in it for a while to build the momentum and stamina to make the climb out.
Sometimes -- especially when one has recently spent time within the Void oneself -- it is abundantly clear when another has also fallen into a Void. That's a tricky place to be -- peering over the edge of someone else's Void. One never knows the exact size or shape of another's Void; tempting though it may be to wave one's arms and shout "Over here looks like an easier climb!", the truth of the matter is, only the person in the Void can truly know what is required to emerge from it. One can throw a rope, and hope that it serves as a useful hand-hold rather than accidentally klonking the person in the Void on the head. One can shine a light, and pray that it serves as a beacon to show some paths forward instead of irritating the other's eyes while they adjust to the darkness. One must tiptoe along the edge and offer just enough presence to let those in the Void know they have not been abandoned, yet not so much nearness so as to impede progress, or worse yet, unintentionally dislodge boulders that may fall harmfully into the others' Void.
Precarious unavoidable Voids: I know they are part of the journey; how I wish at times that they were easier to conquer.
I shall wait here with my flashlight. I am near, and will help in any way I can -- even if the best way to help is to do nothing.
Fear not. The way out is there. You will find it.
Through adversity, not only are we given an opportunity to discover our inner strength, we are also given the gift of foresight so we can shine a light for others who go through the experience after us. - Rachael Bermingham
Love, I find, is like singing. ― Zora Neale Hurston
Herself likes to sing. She hesitates to sing in front of other people, though - even merely to sing "happy birthday." She will sing if there's a crowd, hiding her voice amongst the others. She will sing when she is home alone, or by herself in the car (quite loudly, in fact). Otherwise, though, she will almost never sing.
She remembers once, very long ago, singing in the car. She was a young thing -- still in the single digits of age -- sitting in the back seat with a classmate, and the two of them were singing along to the radio. Her long-term Acquaintance was in the front seat. Acquaintance chastised Herself for singing "funny." Herself didn't know what was meant - she was just singing. She and her classmate continued the song, and Acquaintance scolded Herself a second time not to sing "that way." Herself still couldn't determine what she was doing wrong. She tried harder, but her efforts yielded a third admonishment: stop that, or the radio would be turned off. She could not fathom what was the problem.
She became silent and sat, embarrassed, until the car ride was over.
Several years later, in high school, Herself did sing in choir, as required. She did her best to try to match her voice precisely to that of a peer whom the choir instructor regularly praised for her singing ability. While others did not openly flinch, Herself could never let go of the anxiety she felt when singing. She knew there was something wrong with her singing. She knew her beloved sister sang beautifully. She wished she could too.
When the Offspring were small, they did not mind Herself's singing. They enjoyed it, in fact. There was Itsy Bitsy Spider and Puff the Magic Dragon (leaving out the sad last verses) and a personal favorite, The Donut Song, which Herself would sing while brushing the toddler Offsprings' teeth to ensure adequate minutes of dental care. Such a lovely time of un-self-conscious song.
The days of reading board books and singing "Tree, tree, tree" have faded away as the Offspring have grown and begun listening to CDs and then the radio and then iPods. Now that they are all teenagers, Herself is acutely aware of their need not to be embarrassed by their parents. Sometimes she sings quietly along with the radio when the Offspring are in the car with her; she always feels sheepish, though, particularly when Offspring the Third -- a thoroughly teenage middle-schooler who prefers the hard rock station to anything his mother might select --- sighs and grumbles. Ah, how Herself is nostalgic for those days when he (a difficult-to-soothe infant) was easily quieted by being carried and softly serenaded by his mother.
Herself likes to listen to music while in the kitchen. Cooking is a full-sensory undertaking: the colors of the ingredients, the cold and the hot of the pans and implements, the smells, the tastes -- all that is needed is a little auditory accompaniment to complete the experience.
Sometimes on the occasional weekend evening, when the Menfolk gather for dinner and a movie or games, Herself has found herself singing quietly while preparing the food. She silences herself if they step too near, lest her singing offend; still, she does sing. And she is grateful that she feels comfortable enough to sing with Beloved Husband or Cherished Friend nearby. Such a blessing, to feel secure and uncriticized.
Although Herself has traditionally strenuously avoided stepping on a scale, she recently decided that it was time to do so in order to motivate herself into shedding the few pounds she knew she'd gained. She was afraid of what the numbers might be. She denuded herself, held her breath, and stepped on the Judgment Machine.
:::exhale::: Well, that number, though higher than she would like, was not as dreadful as she'd feared.
To reach a number at which she would feel better about herself, she decided to lose eight pounds. On the one hand, that may not seem like much -- but on a not-terribly-tall woman, it is certainly a noticeable difference not only in her cup size but also in the degree of squeeziness of her jeans. Her goal is to banish her muffin top and be much more comfortable. I think it can be done - if she can find the willpower.
She cajoled the scale into cooperating this morning - it's a temperamental device, digital and prone to displaying an error signal as well as to vacillating up and down a few pounds depending on time of day (or alignment of the planets, or whatever strange forces compel it to behave as it does).
It says: four pounds down.
And therein lies the incentive to keep going.
Four more pounds. Perhaps one more, if possible, for buffer. That would be good.
The only spot of comfort was the lingering impression of her fingertips through the fabric of his shirt, a reminder of the good side of having skin. He cultivated that square-inch patch, tilled and tended it into a full-body embrace. - Alex Shakar, Luminarium
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.