Saturday, December 31, 2016

Old, and New

We once more find ourselves at the end of the year. This year has been spectacularly long, with far more worries about the state of the nation and of the world than we usually have; not to mention the seemingly tremendous number of celebrity and other notable-person deaths that have cast quite a pall over everything. It seems selfish to dwell on any personal matters, given the precarious state of Everything Bigger.

I think that people, as a whole, are glad to see the end of 2016.  All the same, I think that we have not feared a new year quite as much as this one. We shall see what transpires.

For you, my faithful readers, I wish All Good Things: peace and comfort, and smatterings of joy and contentment. Have hope, always. And know you are loved, always. 

Friday, December 30, 2016


The day after the death of Carrie Fisher, her mother, too, passed away. Perhaps it was a broken heart - Takotsubo cardiomyopathy? - the straw that broke the camel's back. Godspeed, Debbie Reynolds. Carrie will be there to greet you, I am sure. 
Grief is a tremendous, powerful thing. It comes in all shapes and sizes, and can be found in small, temporary goodbyes, as well as in separation by the Veil. It is things unsaid, and wishes not granted, and hopes not given form. It is also the mirror of joy: an echo of moments of happiness that have now passed, of a touch, of flashes of understanding and personal communion.

The interwebs has circulated, without attribution, the below statement that grief is just unspent love. Perhaps that is true. It feels that way, oftentimes. 

As we reach the end of 2016 -- a year that seems to have contained far more Grief than we would like, yet in a continuum of the loss and change of its two predecessor years -- we hold on to the grain of hope that grief, like all things, must pass in time, and that perhaps, if we are lucky, we will have an opportunity to free the unspent love that binds us. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tiny Companion

She is always helpful when migraines attack. Her soothing presence makes things a little bit better.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Today's earworm: Fire Meet Gasoline, by Sia.

It's dangerous to fall in love 
But I want to burn with you tonight
Hurt me
There's two of us 
We're certain with desire 
The pleasure's pain and fire 
Burn me

I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

General Organa

Herself speaks.

There are many things I would like to say about Carrie Fisher.

My words could never do her justice, though I will try.

Of her most well-known character, Leia:

Leia was far more than a princess with cinnabon-shaped hair. She was the lone female heroine in the panoply of men -- the kind of woman that I, as a tween and young teen when the first Star Wars trilogy was released, could aspire to be: defiant, confident, willing to take risks for her cause. The woman who, despite being enslaved and stuffed into a golden bikini, would choke her oppressor with the chain that bound her. She was an intimate part of The Rebellion, and instrumental to its success. Brava, Leia.

When I reached the rocky grounds of middle age, Leia was there again: a general in the new wars. She was no young, nubile princess as in days of yore; she was older, as I am older, and looked her age. I felt a bittersweet kinship with her, both of us being Women Of A Certain Age. Leia had lost so much -- her son to evil, her husband to her son's own hand, her brother to who-knows-where. Yet, she persevered. She never turned to the Dark Side. She remained strong. She was, still, my heroine.

And what can I say, of the woman herself:

Carrie Fisher was eloquent, witty, clever; a marvelous writer; an outspoken advocate of distigmatizing mental illness; a Giver-of-Zero-F*cks about what anyone else thought of her. Tremendous. Magnificent. Ever more, my heroine.

Godspeed, lovely, wonderful woman. And on behalf of women everywhere -- thank you.

Picture found here

Monday, December 26, 2016

Au Revoir

Herself speaks.

I got up at 4:45 to take lovely Offspring the First to the airport. (She was scheduled to work in the afternoon of the 26th.)  It is always bittersweet, to send her off. Her brothers enjoyed her company so much over the holiday (as did I and Beloved Husband.) 

Safe travels, Offspring the First. We will see you again soon.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Big Questions

A timely bit from Bill Watterson.

found here:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On His Own

Offspring the Third has his driver's license.

Ye gods.

He is a good driver. Yet, he is a new driver, and there are many other not-so-good, aggressive, and inattentive drivers on the road. My heart is in my mouth as he drives away.

May the Universe look kindly on you, Offspring the Third, and protect you from harm's way. 

Monday, December 19, 2016


Around the neighborhood, many of the houses are adorned with lights. There are several that have white lights in the greenery; the lights blanch out the leaves, and the whole effect is a frosty white twinkly plant. Very nice.

The picture does not quite do it justice, really.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Old Man, Winter

Elderly three-toothed dog does not like the cold. He does, however, enjoy a good Blanket Nest.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Walls Aren't Always Bad

'Tis the holiday season, there are far more interactions with people than usual: extended family gatherings; work-place-related festivities; and general strangers-and-clerks-and-store-employees interactions galore. For those of us who tend to be introverted and/or easily exhausted by humanity, it can be a difficult time. Just too much. What to do?

This is where personal walls come in handy.

We think of walls as being bad things -- shutting people out. And sometimes, walls can be bad; we all need a bit of human interaction. On the other hand, walls can also be protective -- keeping people out. There's a subtle, but important, distinction in there.

It is okay, I have recently learned, to be self-protective on occasion. (It took me ever so long to learn this lesson.)  We cannot change other people: we cannot cajole or scold or just plain talk them into being the way we would like them to be. The self-centered will always be self-centered; the angry will be angry, the annoying will be annoying. People are imperfect. Such it is. 

What we can do, is to give ourselves permission not to engage with these people. (And not to feel guilty about not engaging.) We can try to let the things people say go in one ear and out of the other. We can attend gatherings for the minimum amount of polite time and then excuse ourselves. We can shop online instead of in stores. We can allow others to tackle difficult conversations in person, and can take advantage of the comfortable medium of e-mail instead. 

Self-preservation. We think of it as being a primitive trait --  the "fight or flight" of small mammals. Yet, in truth, it is a trait that extends well into even the most evolved of creatures. Sometimes, self-preservation means putting up little (or not-so-little) mental walls, even against familiars. It seems callous -- yet isn't that, after all, what a "callus" literally is? A hardened point, a protective growth of skin or of bone or of tissue at a place where friction or injury has happened previously? It is necessary. Protective. 

"I do not want to be hardened," I think. Yet I do not want to be damaged, either -- and the risks of hurt and of exhaustion and of giving away too many pieces of self are very concrete risks. Like a moulting crustacean, I risk tremendous vulnerability without an intact shell. Thus, the walls. 

In the overarching scheme of things, it will be necessary to take care of myself on occasion. No one else will do so. And only by protecting myself, will I have the strength I need to do what I enjoy most -- tending to others. 

As the flight attendants say: put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before assisting others.

Behold, the walls I am building. They are good walls. I will build them, and repair them, and keep them in good order. And perhaps, in due course, I can give myself a bit of protection. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

If I Die Before You

Today's earworm: a lovely little bit of grim humor, from Cheryl Wheeler: If I Die Before You. I hope to carry on for several decades yet; and, when I go, I want this to be played for my loved ones. 

If I Die Before You
Words And Music By
Cheryl Wheeler

If I die before you
I don't care what you do
with the biology
that used to be me
Though I hope they don't sap me
for morbid display
And I hope that you're happy...
But not right away

The stuff in my closet
just jettison all
The pants are too short
The shoes are too small
The shirts are too big
What can I say?
Time, sloth and cannabis
made me that way

Treat the guitars like the treasures they are
They still have secrets to tell
They may not know why I had to go
and they've always been loved very well

If I die before you
It might not be all bad
You can turn down the heat
You can turn up the ads
You can reset the toaster
To maximum roast
And then butter the cinders
you like to call toast

I will send you a message
if ever I can
Just to tell you I'm fine
and it's not quite the end
Or I might not be able
I might just be dead
or it might really be
hot as they said.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

It Really Is A Christmas Cactus

A few weeks ago, I thought for certain that I'd inadvertently killed the Christmas cactus - it was quite dry and rather withered.

Yet, behold -- it is now blooming. Why does it bloom only around Christmas? 'Tis a mystery. 

A pretty mystery, to be sure. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cook All The Things

Offspring the Second is home for winter break. It is lovely to have him here. He is so clever, so smart, so witty -- it's a pleasure to talk with him. 

It's also a pleasure to cook for him. There is not much cooking to be done when the only individuals regularly at home -- Offspring the Third and Beloved Husband -- are so very busy (and so often out of the house). The addition of Offspring the Second, though, justifies the effort to cook new and interesting things. 

One trip to the big-box store later, and we have oodles of food to cook. That's a Heart-warming Thing.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016


There is, I have learned,
Much consolation found in
The face of a friend. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016


So many pieces
Have been given away now --
A void opens up

It is rather dark
And surprisingly soundless
Except for echoes

Filling the empty
(Or trying to), with attempts
At conversation

Words fall unheeded
On the ears of the busy.
Retreat to silence

Seek answers within?
Find my very own wellspring?
I need a flashlight. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Three Turns Eighteen

Offspring the Third has always been an attentive conversationalist, as we can see in this photo. Today, he celebrates becoming a legal adult, and I marvel at how he has grown into such a lovely young man, with such a kind and tender heart. The world is better for having him in it. I wish for him All Good Things, always. 

Happy birthday, Offspring the Third.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Herself speaks.

Offspring the Third is doing well at his driving lessons, and will be able to test for his license soon (within a few weeks). Egads. He is excited; I am nervous. He will do well, I'm sure.

He likes to leave on a particular radio station in the truck -- the station which, for a couple of months out of the year, plays All Christmas Music, All The Time. After he drives to school under my supervision, I drive the truck home, listening to the carols. Yesterday, it was a snowman-themed song that brought to mind a snowman recollection from forty or so years ago.

It was a very snowy winter in Massachusetts. My brother (a year older than I) had built a snowman in the back yard. It was a fine, tall snowman. My brother later developed a cold and so was required to stay inside, but I was still allowed to go outside to play.

I was inside too one afternoon and happened to glance out of the window to see -- much to my surprise -- an older kid, in a dark jacket, hopping back over our picket fence from inside our yard. I could not imagine why the kid would have been in our yard in the first place. I looked further, and saw that the kid had knocked down my brother's snowman. Why on earth would someone trespass into a person's yard just to knock down their snowman? What a terrible thing to do.

I suited up in my many layers of snow gear and went out. I carefully reconstructed my brother's snowman, carrot nose and all. When I went back inside to tell my brother what had happened and what I had done, he was greatly bothered:  he was angry first at the kid who knocked down his snowman, but disappointed, too, because when I put the snowman back together, I had made it facing out of the yard, rather than towards the house so my brother could see its face while he was inside recuperating.

I had tried. But failed. I hadn't thought of pointing the snowman toward the house. I hadn't realized that my brother might want to see its face from the window.

That was decades ago, and I doubt my brother even remembers that infinitesimal moment in our childhood. I had not thought of it for ages, until yesterday. I am not sure why the memory surfaced now, since I have heard a hundred snowman songs and read a hundred snowman-themed stories to small children since then without recalling my brother's snowman.

I'm sure the moment has played out in parallel since then, though: I try to do what I think would be kind or thoughtful, yet my efforts fail somehow because I have not taken into account the person's thoughts and feelings on what should be done. Alas. Perhaps I have always had trouble putting myself in others' shoes. (At least when it comes to which way a snowman faces, I do.)

Hopefully it is seen that my heart is in the right place.

I'll keep trying. Perhaps eventually I'll learn.

This marvelous snowman by Rib, CC BY-SA 2.0was found here:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Left Branch Bundle Block

Herself speaks.

I am currently reading about weakened ventricular function that could be caused by a weakened cardiac artery or by left branch bundle block, and also about a bicuspid aortic valve with reflux and stenosis. It is highly specific reading, and now I know more about heart function than I ever did before. Why this particular subject? An older relative of mine -- whom I shall call "A", to preserve anonymity -- is facing all of these issues. Diagnostics are at hand, and a cardiac catheterization is on the calendar in a few weeks. "A" is sanguine (pardon the pun) about the whole state of affairs. A's spouse is rather agitated.

I am too far away from A to be of any use, either by attending a doctor's appointment or by bringing a meal. It is frustrating. I have always thought of A as being eternal, but this is another indication of A's advancing age and the slowing down of the bodily machinery. I am secretly worried. A is a magnificent person, and I cannot imagine... Beyond.

I have my brave face on. We shall see what transpires.

Heart bits found here:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Amen, Omen - 2

Today's earworm: yet another version of Amen, Omen (Ben Harper).

I hope you enjoy.

Monday, December 5, 2016


Herself speaks.

The small dogs are never far from me: I go downstairs, and they go downstairs. I go upstairs, and they go upstairs. I go into the back yard, and they go into the back yard. They are my personal pilot fish. It's mostly amusing, but occasionally hazardous, as they do tend to get underfoot.

With the colder weather, though, they adjust their strategy slightly. When I am showering, instead of waiting on the bath mat they instead bury themselves nearby. Both of them are in the picture below -- one just tucked herself into the red blanket on the couch, and the other is snoring, belly up, in the white blanket on the bed. They both looked so comfortable that I left them there when I went back downstairs to go to work. They did not move, but slumbered on, without a care. 

It's a fine life. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016


When I go out into the back yard and see the leaves in the grass, I think about the glorious days of early fall as a child, when my father would rake giant piles of leaves in the yard, and sometimes we would move one of the piles near the swingset and swing high and higher and then jump into the piles. I remember the crunch and the smell of the leaves, and the layers of clothes and the bite of the cold air and wearing a hat and collecting chestnuts all along the street one over from our own. 


I would like a walk in the woods, to shuffle through the leaves. Perhaps someday. Soon?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Old Enough

Herself speaks.

Years and years ago - twenty-three years, in fact - one Saturday morning, I sat in a restaurant with my family and Beloved Husband's family to have brunch in celebration of Offspring the First's baptism. It was a lovely service, and had gone smoothly; three-month-old Offspring the First had noisily sucked on her fist during the ceremony, much to the amusement of everyone since the sound was caught and projected by the priest's microphone. It was a bit of humor in the otherwise solemn service.

I was still learning the ropes of New Mothering. The trauma of Offspring the First's difficult delivery had started to fade, thank goodness; and she and I had, after much effort and many tears (primarily on my part) figured out the mechanics of breastfeeding. She nursed well and promptly drifted off into a heavy-cheeked sleep. She often smiled, and looked interestedly at the tiny board books I showed her. I was tired, but I enjoyed her, so much. She was such a good baby with whom to begin my motherhood path.

In the restaurant, Grandma took Offspring the First from me so that I could eat. And as she held my daughter, my mother proclaimed to everyone at the table:

"I don't feel old enough to be her grandmother. I feel like her mother."


I took my child back from her shortly thereafter. No one should feel like Offspring the First's mother, except for me.

Now, over two decades later, I have begun to comprehend what my mother said -- for twice over the past few weeks, I have been asked: "Do you have grandchildren?"


My first internal reaction is incredulity: Good Gravy, do I look grandmother-ly? Realistically, though, it is certainly biologically possible at this point for my Offspring to have reproduced -- so it is not an unreasonable question. Still, it makes me sad to have so clearly moved into this age group.

I do not feel old enough to be anyone's grandmother.

I finally understand, Mom.

In the fullness of time, if my Offspring have offspring of their own, I will embrace grandmother-hood. There must be something truly enjoyable about participating in the fun parts of a wee person's life without the onus of the grittier parts of parenthood. And I like babies, and toddlers, very much.

It has been so long since I have held a sleeping young person in my arms.

I will say one thing, though: I will never say that I feel like someone's mother, unless I am, in fact, their mother. Motherhood, in all its magnificent complexity, is wrought through pain and joy, through success and failure, day by day by day -- moment by moment, even. It is an experience unique to each woman, and it is not for me to lay claim to any experience other than my own.

I mother three human beings -- that is all. I nurture others. I might help nurture a grandchild, in due course. That is up to the Offspring. We shall see.

Myself, a lifetime ago. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Shoulder Warmer

She spends all her time trying to stuff herself into a warm place - under a sweatshirt, under the blankets, between my neck and the back of the couch.... It's a rough life for a Tiny Dog.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I Do Love An Evergreen

As spotted on a nearby college campus.