Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Are We There Yet?

We've reached that point in the summer when fatigue has set in.  Fatigue, from the lack of Alone Time; fatigue from concern about work; fatigue from worry about the ailing pets; fatigue due to glitches in the body machinery; fatigue from the myriad mundane activities of laundry and tidying and paying bills and so forth.  Fatigue from heat and blazing sun and humidity. Fatigue from everything.

We're tired.

We need a reprieve.  We know we're a tad crabby, and we secretly worry that our cranky and uninspired presence may be a bit unpleasant for other people.  We are prickly balls of irritation and longing. We don't like ourselves much.

We want to hide. We want to be held.  We want to be left alone.
We want to hear kind words and encouraging words, and have marvelous unspoken words of love shown when our needs are anticipated and met without our having to ask.

Where would we go?

Someplace cooler, with shade. Trees. Water.  Someplace simple, with the bare necessities and nothing more.

Time to sit alone. Time to listen to nature. Time to think. Time to walk hither and yon. Time to read or to write uninterrupted.  Time to take a nap. No phone, no e-mail, no demands. No pets to feed. No mail to sort.  No toilets to scrub.

We could talk with our companions about profound things or inconsequential things, or even just enjoy silence together.

We could finally regain some serenity.  That would be lovely.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bonfire Heart

James Blunt, of whom we are fond, is releasing a new album. The first single was dropped -- accidentally? -- today:  Bonfire Heart. 

Your love is like a soldier, loyal till you die.
And I've been looking at the stars for a long, long time.
I've been putting out fires all my life.
Everybody wants a flame, but they don't want to get burned.
And today is our turn.
Days like these lead to nights like this lead to love like ours,
You light the spark in my bonfire heart.

Our thoughts:  while it's not a musically unusual piece, it is warm, catchy, and enjoyable. His voice sounds clear, strong, and natural.  We have listened to it a dozen times already. See what you think.

I am looking forward to the whole album.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Reach Up

If I could reach up and hold a star
for every time you've made me smile,
the entire evening sky would be
in the palm of my hand.


Nightfall at Aden Crater.
Picture copyright 2011, 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Friday, July 26, 2013


We have been reading some very interesting publications regarding the neurological basis for why animals enjoy being petted.  Science!

According to an article in the journal Nature, a specific rare population of sensory neurons that express a receptor identified as MRGPRB4, is activated by massage-like stroking of skin that is populated by hair.  These neurons are not activated by poking (which, scientifically speaking, is noxious punctate mechanical stimulation - a term that is tremendously marvelous).  Activation of the MRGPRB4 receptors was determined to be "positively reinforcing and/or anxiolytic" - in layman's terms, enjoyable and soothing.  Fascinating.

I would like to have my MRGPRB4 receptor-bearing neurons activated, please.

Tiny dog does indeed enjoy stimulation of MRGPRB4 receptor-bearing neurons. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Do What They Will Do

Another person is, at the heart of it, unknowable. And if you cannot know a person enough to always guess what they’re capable of, you certainly cannot know them enough to hold them in your hands, to control their behavior, to fight, manipulate, cajole or nurse or soothe them into doing what they should or shouldn’t.  People will do what they will do. The trick is admitting your own helplessness about that little fact. ― Deb Caletti, Stay

These generic people were found here

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Own Cave

All through your life your soul takes care of you... your soul is alive and awakened, gathering, sheltering and guiding your ways and days in the world. In effect, your soul is your secret shelter.  ― John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Best Gift

Listening is a gift of spiritual significance that you can learn to give to others. When you listen, you give one a sense of importance, hope and love that he or she may not receive any other way. Through listening, we nurture and validate the feelings one has, especially when he or she experiences difficulties in life.  ― H. Norman Wright

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I'll Be Napping On The Couch For Just A Bit

A migraine is the cockblock of writing. ― Don Roff

This apt image is courtesy of Natalie Dee. You can find it here

Friday, July 19, 2013

Things That Are Terrifying

There was an incidental finding on the CT scan conducted when looking for Herself's kidney stone.

Inderterminate 9 mm nodular soft tissue density in retroareolar region; unremarkable recent mammogram.  Advise ultrasound to exclude malignancy.

We know, intellectually, that the likelihood of it being Something Awful is small.

That does not make it any less terrifying, though.

One thousand ugly possibilities vie for her mental attention, but are quickly shut back into the recesses of her brain.  She has made an appointment in a few days to see her OB/GYN. An ultrasound will be promptly ordered. If a biopsy is necessary, it shall be done. One step at a time, gathering data, trying not to worry until all the information is collected.  

Not so easy.  She is distressed. 

Angelina Jolie, beautiful and brave, stated in her Op-Ed piece about her preventative double mastectomy:  I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.

Herself feels differently. There are a few things of which Herself is truly afraid. Losing a breast is one of them.  

Let us hope all turns out well.  The odds are good.  We shall see.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Things Girls Can't Do

When Herself was a tiny young thing, she enjoyed the rare occasions when she could watch her father shave.  It was a mysterious adult ritual, shaving:  the shaving cream, like Santa's beard; the shiny razor and the noise of it tapping underwater to rinse in the sink; the emergence of her father's familiar, kind face, stroke by stroke, until only thin lines of shaving cream remained on his face.  Fascinating.

Herself's brother would also watch.  Once in a while, he would get to mimic their father, scraping a bit of shaving cream off of his tender chin with a spare razor that had been carefully emptied of its blade.  Herself was envious.  She was not allowed to do so.  Girls don't shave their faces.


Herself's family had a back yard that seemed enormous.  There was the play house that had real shingles on its roof but no paneling on its sides, so they could easily climb up top and sit the few feet off of the ground. There was the big sandbox that occasionally contained cat poop. There was a long, long driveway, good for drawing with chalk or riding Big Wheels.  They were not allowed to play in the patch of rocks between the side of the house and the driveway; those pebbles were always so tempting, so smooth and gently colored.

There was a small, alluring grove of trees in the corner of the yard. Herself does not remember why The Rules forbade playing in the grove; perhaps there was too much danger of poking themselves with a stick? Was it ever explained? She cannot recall.  Sometimes she or her siblings would sneak into the grove and sit halfway up the trunk of a leaning, rough-barked tree for a short while.  They would then slink out guiltily, hoping they had not been caught by an eagle eye peering out of the kitchen window, and breathing a sigh of relief when it appeared that they had avoided detection.

There was a garden patch surrounded by a short white picket fence. A nearby fruit tree stood guardian over the strawberries and tomatoes.  From the kitchen window, they could watch the birds flutter. The insects hovered over the strawberry blossoms and tomato flowers. The house had two porches; under the porches were dark wooden caves.  The front porch area was off-limits because of risk of contact with the nails holding the boards together, and the back porch area was dark and stinky and contained wet leaves that had blown underneath months ago and began to molder. There were slugs, and bugs.

The swingset, off to one side in the yard, had a slide and a climbing portion and three swings.  Herself would sit at the very top of the swingset and kick her feet until her beloved cowboy boots flew off; she would then climb down, retrieve the boots, stuff them back on her feet, and begin again.  In the fall, sometimes she and her siblings were allowed to rake a pile of leaves nearby, and they would swing and swing and then jump into the pile. There was a giant area of grass in the yard, shaded at the edges by a few large trees.  There was a slight incline to the yard; sometimes they would roll down it -- in a giant cardboard box if they were fortunate enough to have one available -- until they were dizzy and their noses bled.

When Herself's brother became a teenager, he occasionally mowed the lawn.  It looked so satisfying: the hum of the lawnmower and the production of neat lines of cut grass. Herself, a mere 14 months younger, thought that when she became a teenager, perhaps she would be allowed to take care of the lawn as well.  But when she expressed a desire to mow, she was not allowed to do so.  Girls don't mow the lawn.


Herself grew up with the burgeoning feminism of the 70s and early 80s, when Girls Can Do Anything They Set Their Minds To was the standard mantra. Girls were just as good at math and science as boys. Girls could be scientists, doctors, lawyers, professionals. Astronauts. President. No goal too high. To reinforce the point, her parents gave her a T-shirt especially emblazoned with the words SUPER GIRL across it; it was her favorite shirt for years in early grade school.

Despite the Girl Power movement of the day, though, it seems that there remained a gender-based division, both for pretend tasks such as shaving, and real chores such as mowing.  That was strange to Herself, for many poorly-defined reasons.  Contradictory. Wrong.  Or was it she who was wrong?  Were there certain things that girls just shouldn't be interested in doing, after all? Confusing. She knew, too, that there were "girl" activities -- ballet class, for example -- that she did not enjoy. At all. She didn't quite fit, somehow, within the subtle gender lines. Frustrating.


Herself still sees the shadows of those lines when she surveys her interests today -- she knows they fall far more under stereotypical male pastimes than female pastimes.  She'd much rather listen to a discussion of car parts or firearms than attend jewelry or cookware or makeup parties.  She far prefers roaming the aisles of the home improvement stores to bargain-hunting in the clothing outlets.  It is not any particular allure of being a woman in a man's domain that draws her; simply, the subjects are just far more engrossing. And despite those questions of her youth, she no longer gives much thought to the gender-based dictates of others. She tries to do what makes herself happy. As she should.

She likes to put on a dress and high heels on occasion.  And if she feels like it, she can also mow the lawn.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Bosom

In Days of Yore, it was the favorite napping spot of the infant Offspring.

Now, it is the resting place most preferred by Tiny Dog.

What is not to love about The Bosom?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Simple Questions

There's an interesting project out there - Humans of New York.  As best we can determine, a photographer wanders the city, takes pictures of ordinary (and occasionally extraordinary) people, and publishes them.  While we do not understand at all the mystique that seems to surround New York City, it is an unusual and sometimes thought-provoking work, depicting all sorts of slices of humanity.

Occasionally, the photographer asks the subject(s) a question and includes the answer in the caption of the picture. The questions are simple and deceptively difficult:

What was the happiest moment of your life?
What was the saddest moment of your life?
What is the hardest thing about being a parent? 
What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?
Who would you say has had the greatest influence on your life?
If you could say one thing to the 18-year-old version of yourself, what would it be?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
What is your greatest struggle right now?
What is your favorite thing about (the person you are standing with now)?

If we were asked such questions, could we answer them?

I think we should try.

Let us start with the easiest one:

If you could say one thing to the 18-year-old version of yourself, what would it be?

I would say:

Trust your feelings. 

Why this?  Because it took nearly my entire life to learn that my own feelings -- whatever they may be -- are valid. Justified.  Allowed. Over four decades to determine that other people aren't always right, and that sometimes, in fact, other people are very wrong. If I could have learned this lesson sooner, I might have learned to stand up for myself earlier, and might have spared myself a lot of heartache.

All the same, though, I do not, cannot, have regrets for the long road I have taken.  This path has taken me through deserts, into caves, and up mountains, both in the world and within myself.  It has taken me into the presence of guiding souls who have pointed the way through my darkness.  And the lesson, slowly and painfully learned, is sacrosanct.

This path has made me who I am today.  And I am good.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Classic

We came across this classic clip from Dirty Dancing while strolling through the internet just the other day.  Ah, yes.  The best part is how much all the dancers truly seem to be enjoying themselves.  We do enjoy a bit of dancing, too.

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. ― Martha Graham

Sunday, July 14, 2013

In the Ether

The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it
~ Jules Renard, "Diary," February 1895

Friday, July 12, 2013

That's A Little Odd

Behold, the junk mail.
I have so many questions.

(It was, in fact, an advertisement for a hard rock-related magazine.  Still.  Odd.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Where I'd Like To Be, Right Now

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.

― George Gordon Byron

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


The other evening while Herself was out walking, a mother and child passed by in the other direction on the path. The mother was pushing the little girl's bicycle, and the little girl was skipping and scurrying alongside on her stout little legs. The girl's plump belly jiggled and stretched her thin T-shirt.  She had dark, slightly curly hair.  Herself was reminded of Melissa.
Eons ago, when Herself was a young, scrawny little girl -- no more than six or so, and perhaps even younger, she thinks, though it's hard to place the moments so far back in time -- she was acquaintances with a girl named Melissa.  Melissa was a raven-haired girl with very round cheeks, impossibly long eyelashes and chocolate-brown eyes.  One weekend, Melissa's parents arranged with Herself's parents to have Herself attend a family party and sleep over.  Exciting!  Herself was rarely graced with playdates, and this was an unheard-of adventure, to stay the night at someone else's house.

Melissa had a large, ethnic family.  There was much food and laughter.  Melissa's relatives doted upon all the children present, including Herself, who was surprised and pleased by so much warm consideration from strangers.

When the evening grew late, Melissa and Herself got ready for bed and went down into the kitchen to say goodnight to the Grandmother.  Grandmother clucked at Herself:  "So skinny! So small!  Here, you must have a piece of cake.  Not you, Melissa, you're already too fat. You don't want to get even bigger."

Grandmother sat Herself on her knee and held a plate with that delicious cake close to Herself's face, encouraging her to eat it, while Melissa stood nearby in her footed pajamas, her dark eyes huge and blinking, silent. Herself felt an uncomfortable mixture of warmth from the unexpected attention, embarrassment, and guilt.  She ate the cake.
We wonder what went through Melissa's mind all those years ago. Was she angry at Grandmother for shaming her in front of a peer, or at her diminutive peer for being somehow preferentially thinner?  Or at her own self, her own body, for its apparently unacceptable shape? Did she internalize Grandmother's thinly veiled pronouncement that a fat person is unworthy of loving attention?

Does Melissa ever now think of that minuscule moment when her own flesh and blood chastised her for her size and withheld every child's special-event dream-food -- party cake -- from her?  Was it a tiny incident soon forgotten, or was it the first (or second or third) in a series of happenstances that forever linked food and body size with approval and love for her? Does she have issues with food today?

Herself, who (like so many women) does struggle with food, explains:

We are in charge of hearth and home, and especially of nourishment.  We feed our infants, our families, our loved ones:  that is how we show we care.  When we feel stressed, we turn to food again; that is how we attempt to care for ourselves. Food is our solace and our comfort.  It momentarily quiets our anger or hurt or loneliness or worry.  And though we know that eating is a damaging way to silence our inner turmoil -- we are well aware of how it impacts our weight, our health, our feelings of self-image and self-worth -- sometimes we do not know how else to fill the void.

For all the Melissas, here are our messages to you:

Let us eat cake, if we wish, without a thought to others' opinions.
Let us find better ways to care for ourselves when we need to do so.
And most of all, let us forgive ourselves for what we see as our shortcomings and our failings.  What is done is done, what is eaten is eaten. Each day is a new day to do things differently, to love ourselves differently.  We may stumble and fall, but we will pick ourselves up, and move forward. Together.

Monday, July 8, 2013


One of the trickier aspects of encountering a serious medical issue is regaining normalcy once it has passed.  There's the recovery from whatever physical insult has occurred, as well as the restoration of functions that have been impeded by whatever medications were necessary.  Even matters as previously routine as eating and digestion have been momentarily interrupted and require time to normalize again. Then there are the mental housekeeping aspects:  processing what has happened, revisiting the scary bits and coming to terms with them, adjusting future expectations about how the body will work, and making plans on how to handle matters should the same issue arise once more.

When that's all complete, there's still one area that requires attention:  the need for positive touch.

When one has been wheelchaired, gurneyed, IV'd, scanned, jabbed and poked and prodded and generally manhandled by several complete strangers during a painful medical emergency, an odd dichotomy appears in the subsequent days.  There is a need both for sufficient personal space (nobody touch me) as well as a need for non-medical, non-sexual physical comfort (somebody hold me).  One is like an overwrought hedgehog:  prickly and needy, yearning for someone to pick it up gently and encircle it protectively.  It's all right now. The worst is over. You're safe. Hush, hush. 

This wee hedgehog was found at: 

Dilly Dilly

Offspring the Third:  "I haven't heard you play your piano in a while."

Offspring the Third was correct:  it had been a while since Herself had sat down at her piano.

She remedied that for a while last night.  She brought out a few of her music books and played for a bit:  some old familiar Mozart, Chopin; the newer Yanni she'd worked on for a while; and, for good measure, the Disney songbooks.

She came across Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly).  She didn't realize it was a Disney song.  She remembers, ever-so-vaguely, someone singing that song back when she was a tiny child.  Perhaps it was even herself.

This lovely lavender was found in Better Homes and Gardens' plant encyclopedia

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Back From The Beyond

The kidney stone passed yesterday morning.  Phew.

Herself says:  "I never want to do that again. Ever."

It was a tremendously ugly, demeaning, horrific betrayal of the body.  Shockingly, hyperventilatingly painful. No way to sit still, even though moving made it worse.  No way to be quiet, even though vocalizing did not help.  No way not to cry, endlessly, helplessly.  Awful.  She tries not to think about it anymore.

She thinks instead about the people who were there.

She thinks about Offspring the Second and Offspring the Third, who stoically remained calm and helpful when Herself could not help suffering loudly.  How terrible for them, to have to witness their mother in such pain.  They were very brave.

She thinks about Beloved Husband, who -- despite having a strong aversion to all medical procedures -- held Herself's hand during the insertion of her IV, and waited patiently with Herself while she suffered until the pain medication took effect.  He  figured out how to give ottoman-shaped dog his insulin when Herself was unavailable to do so.  He fetched all the necessary medicines.  It was a lot all in one evening, to have to rush to the ER, to console an inconsolable wife, and to cope with needles (including using one for the first time on the dog), as well as the complexity of running around to find the only pharmacy open late on the holiday. He did marvelously well. 

She thinks about her Cherished Friend, who didn't hesitate to turn up promptly at the ER without even needing to be asked, and who helped to soothe poor distraught Offspring the Third by distracting him with a mission to get coffee.  He didn't bat an eyelash when Herself vomited in his vehicle (thank goodness for plastic containers) on the way home.  And he kindly kept Herself and Offspring the Third company for the day when Beloved Husband and Offspring the Second were necessarily out of town two days later.  It was remarkable and wonderful for Herself to learn that a friend can voluntarily witness all the horrid, unvarnished difficulty of an illness, and still be there afterwards, just as thoughtful and reliable as always. 

She thinks about those who were present in spirit: her siblings, who texted and called from their distant locations to see how she was faring, her parents, who did so as well; her in-laws; and her internet friends, who offered up good thoughts and prayers from across the nation.  

The kidney stone was a harrowing experience. There was a silver lining, though:  Herself felt that there was help and love during her distress. That is good, indeed. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Unexpected Horror

Herself has a kidney stone.

Pain: more excruciating than the badly sprained ankle, than the gallbladder that was ready to pop, than labor with the Offspring. Pain so all-encompassing that her crying was involuntarily loud.  Herself would be horrified at making such a ruckus, if it hadn't been completely out of her control. Pain so bad that when the doctor asked Herself how old she was, she momentarily couldn't remember.  Morphine in the ER helped quite a bit.  So ugly a feeling.

Home with pain pills, waiting for the stone to pass.  What a horrible experience.  We shall keep you posted on progress.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Batty Batty Bat

One of Herself's kindest-hearted friends, whom Herself has gotten to know through the boon of the internet, has a fondness for all living things -- particularly the less-loved ones such as spiders and insects.  Yesterday she posted to Facebook several videos of rescued bats.  They are so tiny and yet so vigorous in their attempts to grow and live.

One of the bats, 'Lil Drac, was particularly moving.  You can see him hereas well as here.  He liked to rock himself after being fed. We think of times when we have rocked ourselves, too, and we discover a tender spot in our hearts for this fragile, strange, humble creature. 

His story and the videos of him rocking drew the world's attention to the Bat World Sanctuary who cared for him, and aided them in their rescue efforts.  Bravo, little bat, for endearing yourself to humanity, perhaps altering peoples' perceptions of bats, and thereby helping to save so many of your kind. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


NOTE: Adult conversation today. You have been warned!

We read a weird little article the other day. (Read it for yourself, here.) It pertained to the growing popularity of a cosmetic procedure designed specifically for men:  Tighten The Tackle.  In the words of the article, it includes "using lasers to remove hair, erase wrinkles and correct discoloration on the scrotum."


Now, let's evaluate.  Certainly, we can comprehend that a fellow might do a bit of manscaping in order to tidy his fur-garden and keep overgrowth in check.  Some men may do so because they know a particular type of topiary appeals to their partners.  That's reasonable and alluring. We are a little mystified, though, at the idea of removing all of the foliage surrounding the twig and berries; that seems a tad excessive.  Body hair is there for reasons beyond aesthetics - to prevent chafing and to distribute pheromones, to name a few purposes.  Nevertheless, to each his own with regard to the density of the shrubbery.

But erasing wrinkles, ameliorating blotches? Seriously, there are gentlemen out there who are concerned with the number of creases upon their cojones, who are perturbed by the color and clarity of their family jewels?   And given the distance from, and positioning of, their eyeballs in relation to their groins, how are they even making such a detailed assessment of the bait and tackle? Moreover: WHY?   It boggles the mind.

Moreover, men are not alone in this obsession with the size, color, texture, and overall presentation of their intimate regions.  There are women who -- despite having no underlying medical issues -- undergo labiaplasty in order to ensure that their external genitalia visually conform to some perceived norm.  Herself, who required repair work to her undercarriage in the delivery room after the births of Offspring, crosses her legs in horror at the thought of undergoing elective surgery upon her nether regions. She cannot understand why any woman would do so; yet she knows they do.

We are reaching a peculiar point in our culture where individuals are so focused upon the tiniest of physical discrepancies from some imagined ideal, that they are willing to endure lasers and scalpels aimed at their most delicate body parts in order to reach some extreme goal of "beauty." This preoccupation goes hand-in-hand with the societal obsession with sex. Sex is viewed less and less as a communion between two people, and more and more as a sport, a display, a "see what I look like and what I can do" activity. The focal point is each individual's appearance and performance, not the mutual enterprise.  It is vanity and narcissism; it is not union.

How can sex be relaxed or fun, when the parties obsess about their most microscopic physical variations?  How can sex be bonding, when the parties have plucked, tweaked, depilated, bleached, and plasticized their physical characteristics to such a degree that their natural states are masked or removed?  Without any risk of vulnerability, the self and the soul remain hidden. Is that the objective?

That's a very lonely goal.

It would be much more rewarding and meaningful if people could leave behind their preoccupations and worries, and enter their bedrooms with a spirit of adventure and some plain, naked honesty.  Let lovers enjoy one another without a thought to any ideal.  Let them say:  here we are, just how we are; and let us just be us.  Furriness, wrinkles, and all.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Delight For Which I Wish

I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world.
 ― M.F.K. Fisher