Saturday, November 30, 2013

Alike, and Not

Here was a flower (the daisy reflected) strangely like itself and yet utterly unlike itself too. Such a paradox has often been the basis for the most impassioned love. ― Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster

Picture copyright 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Meraki

Meraki (n):  the soul, creativity, or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into your work

Herself has a quiet belief that the mood in which one finds oneself while cooking imparts its quality to the food that is being prepared.  It's a slightly superstitious notion, no doubt.  Nevertheless, she therefore finds it important to place herself into an optimum frame of mind before beginning work in the kitchen.  And if an unusual item is on the menu --  a birthday cake or pie, a special dinner, a flock of muffins for a holiday gift -- extra care must to be taken to ensure that she is composed and peaceful.  

For Thanksgiving, she  made empanadas at the request of Beloved Husband.  They are his new favorite.

She let go her worries as much as possible, and put aside thoughts about the required intense social interactions of the day.  She rolled the dough carefully to ensure that the empanadas would have the requisite half-moon shape.  She stirred the filling frequently so that it would not become runny, as that would make the dough soggy.  She crimped the edges, and painted the crescents with beaten egg yolk to give them the right sheen.  She watched the empanadas carefully in the oven, lest they burn.

They turned out fairly well, and were enjoyed by the Extended Family. That was good.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Spirit Animal

The elephant shrew.

Wikipedia says, inter alia:

Although mostly diurnal and very active, they are difficult to trap and very seldom seen; elephant shrews are wary, well camouflaged, and adept at dashing away from threats. Several species make a series of cleared pathways through the undergrowth and spend their day patrolling them for insect life. If disturbed, the pathway provides an obstacle-free escape route. Elephant shrews are not highly social animals, but many live in monogamous pairs.

That sounds about right.

Those eyes!  Picture found all over the interwebs.   Want to see it chew?  Look here

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Okay

A lovely gem - My Brightest Diamond's I Have Never Loved Someone.

Dedicated to those who long to be told: "You're okay."

You ARE okay.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Brrrrrr

It is unseasonably cold here.  The aloe vera is relieved to be huddling in the garage instead of bracing itself against the wind outside.  We nearly lost it in a freeze last year; we are being more protective this year.  We shall see how it fares.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Purpose

This post is dedicated to A, who is in need of a light to shine into the Void.  

Some days are good.  There are darting and captivating fishes in the blue of the ocean; there are glorious plants in the botanical gardens; there are kitties who play like large live dust bunnies in the middle of the floor; and there are people -- ordinary, wonderful people --  just waiting to be captured by your camera.  Physical pain can be ignored, for there is so much beauty in the world, that it lessens the aches.  These are the good days, indeed.

And then, there are other days.  Days when loneliness looms large and ominous -- a hunkering, foul-breathed entity -- and it seems, frighteningly, to be the sole creature aware of one's existence.

Do not be afraid.  Loneliness is not an enemy.  It is part of all of us.  

Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. ― Janet Fitch, White Oleander

It is the most sensitive souls who feel loneliness the most acutely -- they are all too aware of being "other."  When the tunneling of loneliness has opened new channels into their souls, it is tempting for them to try to find other people to fill those spaces.  Yet when these souls observe the other people, it is clear that other people are immersed in their own worlds, doing their own things at their own pace and in their own time.  The sensitive souls feel painfully disconnected.  They search for that thin silver thread of connection with the other people, and are disappointed, frustrated, and incredibly saddened when not even a flicker of sunlight reflects off the thread to show it is there.  

For these souls, it is possible to feel alone even in a room full of people. 

It's a bitter thought: being alone.  And yet,  the truth is: every one of us is alone. 

No one else has access to the world you carry around within yourself; you are its custodian and entrance. No one else can see the world the way you see it. No one else can feel your life the way you feel it. ― John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

You are unique.  That is awesome -- in an "inducing awe" sense -- and beautiful.  And terrifying.

What to do? Travel within yourself.  Look at the corners and hidden places.  You will find beauty there -- just as you find beauty through the lens of your camera.  

All you can ever achieve is a sense of your soul. You gain little glimpses of its light, colors, and contours. You feel the inspiration of its possibilities and the wonder of its mysteries. ― John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Your possibilities and your mysteries hold the clues to your purpose here on this earth.  Finding one's purpose is the most difficult task one will ever encounter; many -- most, even -- people will not ever learn of, or understand, their exact purpose in clear terms.  The best we can do is to have faith:  faith in ourselves, and our purposes, however incomprehensible or invisible they might seem.  

Purpose is not always a Mount Kilimanjaro -- sometimes, it is a thousand anthills across a wide parched plain.  There may be minuscule happenings, such as that moment that you made quiet small talk with a fragile, yearning soul while waiting at a doctor's office or in an airport, that change the course of humanity in some small, ineffable way.  You may never be aware of the tremendous impact you have.  But that doesn't mean that the impact doesn't exist. It does. And the world is grateful for you. 

It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. ― Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum LP

I know that in the fullness of time, you will catch glimpses of what it is that helps you feel needed, purposeful, and in communion with other people. It may be enormous, or it may be tiny.  in the grand scheme of the Universe, though, size is unimportant.  It is you that is important. 

Truly. 

Photograph copyright AEP, 2013.  Used with gratitude. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pie: A Photo Essay

Today, your birthday,
A celebratory pie
Made with care, for you.

Step 1:  prepare the squash.

 It's a lovely squash, isn't it?

It always surprises me that there are so few seeds inside.

Scooping out squash icky bits is so much easier than scooping out pumpkin icky bits.

A lovely aluminum foil bed to steam the squash for 50 minutes. 

Poke it with a fork.  All done!

Scoop and mash.  Squash innards are all ready.

Step 2:  prepare the filling.  This is not a particularly fascinating step.  It involves the mashed squash, eggs, condensed milk, spices, brown sugar, and vanilla.

The filling is a beautiful color.  Make sure it's smooth.

Step 3:  prepare the crust.  (Note:  this step occurs concurrently with the steaming of the squash.)

Ingredients: flour, a touch of salt and sugar, shortening and butter

Mix until pea-sized crumbs form.

Add a bit of ice water, until the dough just clings together.

Prep the pie pan.  It's a pi pie pan, of course.  A bit of extra flour nearby, just in case.

Roll out the dough.  ACK, this is tricky.

Transfer to the pie pan.  EGADS, the edges!

There, that's a little better.  CRUST IS DIFFICULT.

Brush with a bit of beaten egg yolk.

Bake for 15 minutes to set.

Step 4:  assemble the pie.

Make sure the filling doesn't overflow.

Step 5:  bake the pie.  Watch it carefully to make sure the edges don't burn.

Beautiful.  

Ta-daaa.  

Happy birthday, our Cherished Friend. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Into The Dark

Though normally I'd eschew a band named Death Cab for Cutie because -- well, just because, I came across this song (I Will Follow You Into The Dark) today, and it is Very Good Indeed.  Simple, sweet, poignant.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Flower

In the vast (by plant standards) plain of the front lawn, somewhat adjacent to the fascinating fungus, a tiny blossom spontaneously arises.  Thank you, minuscule flower, for your perseverance and your yellow joy.




Tuesday, November 19, 2013

To Be A Child Again

There would be so many wonderful things about being a child again.

What age would I pick?  10? 11?  Some point at which I had achieve a certain degree of physical coordination, large and small.  Sufficient to climb trees and ride a bike. Enough to hike a mountain, to whittle a stick; to ford a stream while looking for tiny fishes or quickly-disappearing frogs; to carry a bucket of water at the beach to fill the moat around a sandcastle. To 'pump' myself high on the swings of the swingset and then fling myself off into the air, aiming for the pile of carefully-raked fall leaves below.  To be able to crawl through small spaces when exploring, and yet to also be able to reach that higher branch to pull myself up.

It would be an ideal age, that time when scraped knees were interesting and bandages were essentially curative.  When glasses were unnecessary to spot that woolly-bear caterpillar or the bud of a wild strawberry, even at a distance.  When nothing hurt on a daily basis.  When I could eat as much or as little as I liked, when there were no migraine triggers or concerns about body size or shape.  A time before puberty caused inconvenient and uncomfortable changes to the physical machinery. When I could skip or run, just for the sheer pleasure of being able to do so.

Responsibilities are few at such an age.  I would have solely to do my schoolwork and my chores.  That would be all.  No need to fret about a job or bills. No need to understand the health care policy. Someone else would take care of all of the shopping and of meal preparation and laundry. Someone else would drive me where I needed to go.  Easy-peasy.

I could play with toys for hours. Color with crayons. Sit in a tree and read a book.  Pretend to fish over the front hall banister.  Wear whatever amalgam of clothing I would like in the daytime -- for fashion and brand names would be unimportant -- and sport pajamas with feet at night. Leave cookies and milk out for Santa, even though I didn't necessarily believe in Santa. Sing loudly and unabashedly.  Make snow angels.

There would be magic in finding a smooth stone or a nearly-perfectly symmetrical chestnut.

Everything could be made into an adventure.

There would be only one drawback:  the other children. Well, two drawbacks: the other children, and the adults who interacted with me and the other children.

I would have to navigate the intricacies surrounding social relationships and reciprocity (or lack thereof).  If little Kellie didn't extend an invitation to her birthday party, I would need to understand why I was told not to invite Kellie to my party, either. Why not? What did it matter, if I played with Kellie on occasion and would enjoy having Kellie there?  And why was I not allowed to play with Beth who lived next door?  She was a year or two younger than I, but we still both liked Colorforms.  And what was wrong with the fact that Mary had CCD on Mondays, other than the fact that I could not play with her after school that day? So many questions, for which there were no answers.

I would have to figure out why my classmate Eloise decided to fill my school shoes with glue while everyone was outside in their winter boots for recess.  And I would need again to learn to reject the advice of an adult who, upon learning about the glue escapades, instructed me to place prank phone calls to Eloise to say "I know what you did and I'm going to tell" and then hang up.  No.

If I set up a 'fix-it' shop in the corner of the third grade classroom with my classmate Joseph, where we would use tape or other means to mend a torn page of a book or other tiny problems, I would once more need to remain calm when looking at the triumphantly hostile face of another classmate who broke a pencil in two, with shreds of wood and yellow paint dropping to the ground, and challenged me to repair it.

I would have to figure out why the teacher always called on Nanette first, especially when Nanette sat up extra prim and proper with a sweet smile across her face, and why my attempts to do the same would never yield the same result. I would have to understand why that pack of kids threw snowballs at me because they thought I was my brother.  I would be reminded that I was being sent to speech therapy and instructed to hold a file card between my closed lips, in order to ensure that I could close my lips around my buck teeth so that my peers would not make fun of me.

Those were the hard parts of being a child.

If I were a child again, I would select the individuals around me ever so carefully. The adults would be benign, muffled voices in the background, much like the teacher in a Charlie Brown holiday special.  For my companion(s), I would pick someone like the boy whose name I've long forgotten, whom I met in summer camp when I was a tiny wee thing.  We spent hours playing in the shade of the tree near the monkey bars, pretending that we were heroic dogs who were on an outer-space mission.  We would understand one another perfectly, somehow, and there would be not an ounce of sarcasm or criticism or mind-game.  Such would be the best childhood companion - someone in front of whom I could set my imagination free without fear of being judged, and for whom I would return that kindness.  Together, we could be canine astronauts all day and into the evening, until the sun went down and the lightning-bugs began to twinkle.

That would be excellent, indeed.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Places To Go

We thought we'd introduce a new topic to address periodically:  places we'd like to go.

This topic was inspired by the Aescher Hotel in Appenzellerland, Switzerland.  Oh, to see that view, to breathe that air.  Marvelous.

This glorious photo was found in imgur here.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

-- braincramp --

Herself has a migraine.  This one is not terribly horrid, as far as her migraines go - the floor is not spinning this time, and she is not (very) nauseated.  She's taken some appropriate drugs, and hopefully the ache will dissipate soon.

Because she has recently partaken of adult beverages in sufficient quantity to render her inebriated, Herself is currently mentally comparing a migraine state with a drunken state.  It's an interesting contrast, in that there are far more similarities than differences.  Both involve dizziness/a sensation that the environment is rapidly tilting, as well as a vague sense of nausea.  Both yield a need to lie down with eyes closed, moving as little as possible lest the room move as well.

The main difference lies in thought processes.  Herself was surprised to find that a state of inebriation did not appear to yield a significant change to any emotions -- there was no excessive desire to be silly, to cry, to dance on tabletops, or otherwise behave differently than she is accustomed to doing.  (She will admit that she might have been a wee bit more easily amused when under the influence of alcohol, and also, might have mentioned more than once that she had imbibed more than usual. She's sure that must have been a tad tiresome to her companions.)

With a migraine, though, emotions are more definitively affected.  Loud sounds (or even sounds of normal volume) seem particularly reverberant and dangerous, and irritate her almost immediately to the point of crankiness.  Also, feelings are more intense:  passion runs high, sad things seem particularly sorrowing, and annoying things more quickly yield indignation and hostility. She's more likely to speak aloud the thoughts that she would normally keep solely inside her head.  Processing time for thoughts is longer, and her mind tends to get temporarily stuck on each topic it encounters, rendering it difficult to move along without greater effort.  It's as though her higher brain functions are dampened, leaving her with solely the more primal needs -- for food, for safety, for physical touch -- in the forefront.  It's a cavewoman state. Reptilian brain. Difficult.

Migraine is more likely to yield a sensation of 'hangover' when it resolves, too.  That stage is a muffled cotton state, where sensations are muted and the intensity of emotions has evaporated, leaving a kind of exhausted peacefulness.  She's looking forward to that point right now.  Hopefully it will arrive soon.

This amusing graphic was found here

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Journey Of A Thousand Miles

While she does not want to delve into details as of yet, Herself has just taken a step towards making a significant change.  Hopefully, a very good change.  She is terrified.  And determined.  With a bit of luck, all shall work out for the better.  Eternally optimistic, we are.  We shall see. 

You must do the thing you think you cannot do. -Eleanor Roosevelt

Picture copyright 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Peacemaker

Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite.
Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.
But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;
And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.

- Kahlil Gibran, from "On Reason and Passion," The Prophet


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Where Did We Go?

It's been a week since we last posted - a previously unheard-of gap.  What transpired?

In a word:  NASCAR.

Herself and Beloved Husband traveled 450 miles and spent several days enjoying an abundance of relaxation and fun that was the Phoenix International Raceway and its environs.  They brought no Offspring and no pets.  There were none but grownups:  the two of them, plus Cherished Friend and three other easy-going and entertaining adults.  Herself had virtually no obligations during the trip, since all meal preparation, from organizing to shopping to cooking, was in the capable hands of another.  It had been a very long time since Herself had no need to pack anything except her own possessions for a vacation. She quite enjoyed it.

We'll write more in due course; right now, there is a small mountain of laundry and some significant tidying of the house to be done.  We have missed you, gentle reader, and hope to return to our regular posting soon.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cavy Maintenance

Herself enlisted the aid of Beloved Husband to trim the cavy's toenails. (A pair of people is a prerequisite for portly piggy pedicures.)

I do love the scent of the guinea pig, and his wheek and hiss noises.  He chews his vegetables animatedly, and waddles around his habitat jovially. Such a humble, serene, soothing creature.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Polar Opposites

Thankfulness month continues.

Today, I am thankful for the Offspring. 

I have sometimes joked that if one could have three polar opposites, that would describe the Offspring, for they have such divergent temperaments. Their likes and dislikes; their needs and wants; their reactions to difficulties and to joys -- all so very different. 

Nevertheless, they each have an abundance of kindness and tender-heartedness.  They care for their friends.  They are helpful. They are clever, and their respective unique wits are marvelous to behold. 

One of my favorite set of photographs of them is contained in a three-window frame with a different word underneath each window:  SPIRIT  -- WISDOM -- LIGHT.  Each child could easily be shown above any of the three words.  The way it is arranged at the moment, though, it shows: 
  • Offspring the Third as a toddler, with four pacifiers jokingly and gleefully stuck in his mouth at the same time, over the word SPIRIT
  • Offspring the Second as a youngster, full of millions of facts that he delightedly shares, with his quiet smile and thinking eyes, over WISDOM; and 
  • Offspring the First as a grade-schooler, with her kind and abundantly cheerful smile that radiates throughout the room and warms the hearts of all she meets, over LIGHT.  
They are truly lovely people. They have motivated me to become a better person, and I'm grateful every day for them.



Saturday, November 2, 2013

Warmth To Love

Sometimes the tiniest of things -- a simple scent -- remind us of those we love.  We are grateful for our loved ones, because they allow us to love them, and they warm our inner hearth.  

The heart is the inner face of your life. The human journey strives to make this inner face beautiful. It is here that love gathers within you. Love is absolutely vital for a human life. For love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to your self. When you learn to love and let yourself be loved, you come home to the hearth of your own spirit. You are warm and sheltered. ― John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Picture copyright 2012, 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Body Thanks

In the land of Facebook, many of Herself's friends have a particular tradition for November status updates:  each day, they describe something for which they are thankful. It can be silly, or serious; sweeping, or tiny.  We like this idea.  Sometimes, in the slog of every day life, we forget to take a moment to appreciate that for which we are grateful. It helps to remember.

I thus turn the blog over to Herself, for her ruminations on thankfulness for today.

------

Halloween is always a tricky day.  Though I love to dress up, I struggle with appropriate fit and appearance of my costume, much as I do with ordinary clothing on other days of the year.  It's a challenge for an ample, middle-aged woman to achieve the desired Halloween goal of fun/flirty/witty/attractive without looking foolish.  'Mutton dressed as lamb.' No.  

It was a tad chilly yesterday, so I went with Trinity from The Matrix. I've dressed as her before.  It's an enjoyable costume, and surprisingly comfortable despite the pleather and the corset.  I even managed to lace myself into the corset, a challenge to be sure.  I will admit, I feel good wearing the costume. Happy. A tad more outgoing.  Perhaps even a tiny bit sexy. That doesn't happen terribly often, so I do enjoy the feeling. 

After the trick-or-treaters had descended and all of the candy had been given away, we retreated inside.  Beloved Husband took a few pictures of me in the costume while I had a brief Facebook 'conversation' with one of my ladyfriends on my telephone.  

Oh, dear. The pictures. 

He likes them, and for that I am glad.  I dislike many -- most -- of them.  I see so many flaws. Deficiencies, shortcomings.  Scars. Wrinkles. Chipmunk teeth.  More weight than I need, curves that are far more ample than alluring. I feel frustrated. Sad. Embarrassed. I say: the me that lives inside my head is so much cuter than the me in the pictures.  And then I laugh. 

The laugh does not hide the fact that this is the truth, for me.

But I realize that, all things considered, this body serves me well.  I do not feed it as well as I should, nor exercise it as often as I should.  It has given me trouble periodically and I have had to part with a recalcitrant (and mercifully unnecessary) organ or two. I have sprained and injured it, and I've visited the emergency room on more than one occasion when it has had difficulty. It's a little clumsy. It is prone to migraine, to food cravings, to pain in the hip and the lower back. It is an imperfect machine.

Despite all that, this body trudges on.  It forgives me my failings. It does its best to heal itself.  It allows me to do the things I like to do - I can walk and hike for hours; I can cook and type and play the piano and read.  I can touch the people I love.  Really, that's a lot.  And today, it is enough. And I am thankful for it. 


So tempted am I to put a caption:
"It's the angle that makes my behind look so big!"
Today, though, whether it is the angle or not - 
Thank you, behind, for providing me a comfortable seat.