During this winter break, the Offspring are enjoying one another’s company.It is a pleasure to behold.Offspring the Third shouts up the stairs to Offspring the First:“Come downstairs so we can watch TV together!” She joins him, and eventually Offspring the Second arrives in the family room as well.They ensconce themselves on the variety of couches, surround themselves with snacks and the dogs, and chortle and comment together.
Last night, the Offspring were – oddly – watching Bridezillas.For the uninitiated, Bridezillas is a television series that captures the alleged trials and tribulations of women who are preparing for their weddings.After watching two episodes with the Offspring I can say, without any exaggeration whatsoever, that the women shown on the show are the most appallingly self-centered, spoiled, dreadful specimens of humanity that I have ever seen.The disregard for the efforts, feelings, and needs of others; the extensive (and oftentimes unaffordable) expenditures; the “me-me-me” attitude:how can a person possibly be that way?It’s truly shocking.
To put so much emphasis and expectation on a single day is a recipe for disaster.No matter how perfect the planning, there will always be some small mistake or problem; it is an absolute necessity to be tolerant, forgiving, creative. Furthermore, while the right formalities, dress and accoutrements can be important, it cannot be the be-all, end-all. The whole purpose of a wedding is the exchange of promises between two people. Ultimately, all else is extraneous.
Sometimes it seems that in the quest for Things and Stuff and Trappings and Display, all individuals – not just the brides of Bridezilla -- lose sight of the value of one another. Our human (and very necessary) solitude is highlighted and enhanced by its contrast with the periodic presence of another. We must always be mindful of the pleasure of another’s company; of the knowledge that if one has a disaster, there are individuals who will come to one’s aid; of the comfort of having someone no more than an e-mail, text, or phone call away to listen to even a petty annoyance or minor grievance.There is a joy in being able to provide for another’s comfort, to rejoice in another’s happiness and to be thoughtfully present in another’s times of need.These are the things that matter.When we die, our legacies are not our possessions, but the impact we have had on those around us.
Perhaps Bridezillas does, in fact, serve a useful purpose.It certainly has reminded me to be grateful anew for the people who have allowed me to be a part of their lives. Including you, my readers. It is my pleasure, and my privilege. Thank you.
In the cold of the winter with the holiday season surrounding us, we continue to ponder all of the hard questions of midlife. In addition to philosophical and esoteric queries, there are mundane concerns which also warrant review. Today, we contemplate physical matters. (While I, disembodied as I am, remain free of most of such considerations, I know that they are oftentimes uppermost on the minds of those around me.)
There are wrinkles forming about Herself's eyes; there are a few more gray strands among her hair than there were before. There are the dozen surgical scars, faded now, yet forever present. There is a bit more padding, so to speak, here and there. There are aches in joints, chill in fingers, a headache, the surprising impact of a virus: the body is a delicate thing. In this culture of smooth, thin, beautiful and eternal youth, it is difficult indeed to come to terms with corporeal fragility and imperfection. Herself wonders - what problem will surface next? It is not a question of if, it is rather a matter of when. She tries to be grateful for relative health, and fears the inevitable decline. She fervently wishes that she will hold on to her wits unto the very end, for she is terrified of losing her memories, her thoughts, her words.
Yet, the body is still a serviceable machine. While it still is running relatively smoothly, it is possible to take action: hike through that forest. Crawl into that cave. Recline under those stars. Or just walk. Then, dream bigger: make plans to paddle that lake; to sail that chunk of ocean; to drive to those mountains and scale them. It need not all be done right away, or even soon. What is important is to think about it, to set a goal: To do. To go. One hill at a time. When a hip aches or a neck is stiff, we hope that will be a reminder of all that we have accomplished despite difficulty. The pain of success.
In the end, we do not want to arrive at the close of our lives as a well-preserved corpse. We want to go out in a blaze of glory, magnificently: to be decapitated by a great white shark, to be strangled by a giant squid. Or, alternatively, we hope that we *pop* at the end - quickly and painlessly with our faculties intact. Even as the body fails, we will nevertheless be able to recall in our minds' eyes the splendor of the times when we pried open the jaws or escaped the tentacles during our adventures here on this earth.
I do want to consider my passing into the next life as the next great adventure; not fearing, but anticipating, all that is to come. If the Universe is willing, though, that next adventure will wait. There are so many things I want to do here first.
I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.
- Taylor Caldwell
Her junior year in college, Herself belonged to a certain social group. Based in a large house that had amenities including a dining room, a computer room, a TV room, a few pool tables in the basement, and various places to sit, the students of this group would generally eat, hang out, and/or study together. They were a motley bunch of individuals, but generally were studious, pleasant, and quite fun.
When Christmas approached that year, various students decided to organize a "Secret Santa" party. All those who wished to participate put their names into a hat; then, each drew out the name of an individual for whom they were to provide a gift as Secret Santa. Over the course of a week or two, a mound of presents -- some lumpy, some oddly wrapped, and some beautifully arranged -- appeared under the house Christmas tree. Herself added her carefully-selected present to the pile.
When it came time for the Christmas party, one of the group's members (a large and jolly student) dressed as Santa Claus, and a party was held. Herself had the privilege of serving as Santa's Elf. She wore her festive hat, and ferried presents from under the tree to Santa, who would call out the name of the individual to whom the present belonged. Many of the students cheerfully sat on Santa's lap to unwrap their gifts. Some of the presents were serious: a pen with the school's logo. Other presents were less so: the elephant-shaped g-string presented to Santa himself, who modeled it over his Santa suit to the delight of everyone. There was much merriment.
The pile of presents decreased steadily until there were only a handful left. Herself gathered the last of the packages and realized that whoever had drawn her name for the Secret Santa party had not come through: there was no present for her. She was stricken.
She wondered for a brief moment which of the people who had gladly received his or her own present was her Secret Santa. She did not know who her Secret Santa was; she could not imagine that any of the people in the room would deliberately go out of their way to try to hurt her by not providing a present for her. She couldn't take her Secret Santa's failure personally. The big question was: how to gracefully escape? If she had been solely an audience member, she could have easily hidden among the rest of the partygoers, and no one would have known that her Santa had failed. But she was elf. There was no way to hide.
After the last present had been distributed, the crowd began chanting, "Elf! Elf! Elf!" in the expectation that Herself would have the privilege of being the last one to sit on Santa's lap to open her own gift. All eyes were upon her; yet there was nothing she could say. She hurriedly shook her head at Santa Claus and busied herself with the cleanup of stray bits of wrapping paper. The crowd's chants fell away, and the students gradually began talking among themselves and moving away to the dining room in search of snacks. She finished tidying and went back to her dorm alone.
The next day, there was a present labeled for her at her station where she sat to check the meal cards. She could tell by the handwriting and the wrapping paper that it was a gift from a warm-hearted and generous friend of hers, who had witnessed the Secret Santa party and had understood what had happened. It was extremely kind of her friend. Somehow, though, it was not quite the same as a Secret Santa present.
Christmas can be a very isolating time. There may be inadvertent (or even deliberate) exclusion from one's social group; there are distances from family and friends, both in time and in space; there are memories of loved ones gone, of innocence lost, of expectations dashed, of hopes unrealized. It can be difficult. Nevertheless, we can find joy in the moment. Even if there is no gift right now for us, we can still be Santa's Elves, ferrying presents both literal and metaphorical to those around us. We can make a difference. And we will.
'Tis that season again: the time of year when it is traditional to bestow presents upon a variety of people. As we have mentioned before, Herself loves to give gifts. Every aspect of the act -- from careful thought, to selection, to wrapping -- is a pleasure. She does have a tendency to be shy about offering gifts, since she prefers to allow the receiver an opportunity for opening the present in private rather than to watch the unveiling. Nevertheless, Christmastime is filled with enjoyable moments of gift-giving for her.
This year, she was a bit slow to get into the spirit of the season. Mundane matters, too trivial to mention, have generated a general Bah, humbug sentiment that has prevailed for quite a while.
This afternoon, though, while curled up in her flannel sheets nursing a migraine, she had a small epiphany. She was contemplating gifts for a particular person, and fretting that she had not found just the right book for that person, when an idea popped into her head -- a wonderful thought of a book that she believes will delight and entertain the person. Through the glory of the internet and Amazon.com, she now eagerly awaits its shipment to her within the next few days, just in time for Christmas.
There are fewer things more pleasant than the anticipation of bestowing what she feels will be a Very Good Gift upon someone for whom she cares. She is happy.
Offspring the Third desperately wanted a Christmas-themed T-shirt to wear to school today. He brought down a white shirt and proposed that a Santa hat be generated upon it. He suggested the use of permanent markers (decoration of one's t-shirts with markers is a common occurrence in the household). Herself smelled potential disaster in the use of permanent markers (one mistake would no doubt cause the implosion of the planet); fortunately, there was a plethora of felt available. And lo and behold, a T-shirt was made.
Herself's thoughts: Why, CERTAINLY, youngest child, I would be DELIGHTED to manufacture a Christmas-themed T-shirt for you RIGHT NOW ten minutes before you must leave for school, with all the MULTITUDE OF CRAFTY TALENTS that I do not have. It's not vexing at all that you did not remember to mention it yesterday evening when I told you I was going out to help your father do some shopping for his office staff, even though that would have been the PERFECT time to say, is there a chance you could pick me up a T-shirt while you are out? And the fact that all of my hot glue gun glue sticks are mysteriously missing so that I have to use a pencil to jam the last mangy crumbs of glue stick through both wretched glue guns to complete the project? NO PROBLEM!
Herself's consolation: a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips. Ah, chocolate, you soothe frayed nerves. We will regret your consumption later, I'm sure, but we appreciate your help now.
Herself's creation, as modeled by Offspring the Third:
Herself's right hip has taken umbrage of late at certain demands put upon it, in particular, things such as push-kicks and side-kicks and other routine tae kwon do movements. It is frustrating, because she needs the movement and the exercise, and yet finds her hip quickly becoming painful each time. She is not quite certain what the problem is, but she is sufficiently annoyed that she is actually contemplating making an appointment to see the doctor to discuss it. Given her general dislike of appearing before medical professionals, that is a bit significant.
She secretly hopes that if she ignores the problem long enough, it will go away. That never quite seems to happen, though, does it?
After more than a decade of carefully tending a variety of guinea pigs, as well as various hamsters and a pet mouse, not to mention the small-medium-and-large-canines, why is Herself all of a sudden getting daily advertisements from a fur coat company?
I know we could debate at length the issues surrounding use of animal-derived products, such as the wearing of leather, the consuming of meat, and others. Perhaps it is a double standard that Herself does not generally have problems with such things. For some reason, though, the idea of sporting a garment made of an animal pelt seems particularly egregious, especially after regularly medicating and syringe-feeding more than one needy or elderly rodent, as well as recently holding one while he took his last breaths.
The only fur Herself will be wearing will be attached to whatever living animal is currently draped across her lap.
One year when Herself was quite small, she and her family went to visit her paternal grandparents who lived several states away. Always prone to motion sickness, she felt a bit ill after the plane flight and subsequent drive to their house. After a rest to settle her stomach, she joined the adult relatives who remained gathered around the dining room table, chatting after a meal.
She sat upon her mother's knee, and her mother offered her a few edibles, including beans. Herself did not mind beans, but was not in a bean sort of mood, so asked for not too many. Her mother carefully arranged one single bean on the plate with the other items, and asked with gravity: "Did you want me to cut the bean up for you?" Herself answered, "Yes, please." And her mother did so with a flourish.
The mixture of humor, kindness and loving attention that was bestowed upon Herself in that moment was a comfort that she will always remember.
Around the age of forty -- sometimes slightly before, sometimes slightly after -- many people, Herself included, begin to ask themselves some difficult questions. It is a time of reevaluation: assessment of all that has come before, and contemplation of what is to come ahead. Have I made the right choices? Would I do things differently? Why have I not accomplished all that I thought I would by now? What did I actually think I would have accomplished by now, anyway? Who am I, truly? What am I doing? What do I want to do? What are my true skills? How can I pursue my dreams? What are my dreams?
We look around and see people in the public eye who are so clearly driven by what they do and who are so very successful. We see young upstarts who somehow become famous and manage to make millions of dollars while still in their teens. How do they do it? How did they know what to do? Is it too late for us? Have we somehow missed the boat? It is easy to become discouraged, fearing that we do not have any particular magical, marketable, marvelous skill. What to do?
First, we do what we must, for we have responsibilities. We go to work and to the store. We attend to the myriad minuscule tasks of daily life: laundry, dishes, bills, plumbing, cars, pets. We plow ahead.
And yet: we dream. We search. We think about trying new things, even though we do not yet take the steps to do so. On sunny days, we relish the myriad opportunities that lie in front of us. In our darker moments, finding even one small comfort seems an insurmountable challenge. Despite that, we do not yet despair, for we know in our hearts that the sun will come out again.
We move forward. We sometimes retreat. We learn to appreciate the pleasure of, and to express gratitude for, the small and profound moments. We love. We break. We heal. We look for meaning and purpose. We wait. We hope. We try. We try again.
We have courage. We have patience. All will be revealed in the fullness of time.
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.
And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless. Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth."
Say not, "I have found the path of the soul." Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path."
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals. - Kahlil Gibran
I know, I know - dogs aren't meant to wear clothing. Yet for some reason this tiny seasonal dog-suit, which was irresistibly on sale, captured our imagination. The Very Small Dog dislikes it enormously, for she is a free-range dog and eschews all garments, including collars. Nevertheless, we are mightily entertained.
There are times when Herself is truly dismayed by the unkind or heartless words that leave others' mouths. This would be one of those times. Even though the statements in question -- which are best left unwritten -- were not directed at her, Herself is not only perplexed that an individual would say such things, but also dismayed that she could not be there in person to defend the targeted individual or deflect the cruel commentary.
Promise me, readers: if there comes a time when I am judgmental rather than welcoming; when I am more concerned with outward appearances than with enjoyment of another's company; when I mock the interests of individuals rather than supporting them in their endeavors; when I plow forth with my own agenda instead of listening carefully to others -- should any of these things happen, you must take me out to the desert and leave me there, so that I may reevaluate myself.
If you judge people, you have no time to love them. - Mother Teresa
We were listening to Rihanna's California King Bed in the car while driving Offspring the Second to school this morning. He was listening to the lyrics, and then deadpanned:
"California Bean Bag."
Hee. I will never be able to hear that song again without thinking "bean bag."
Offspring the Second has a marvelous wit. He is stoic and generally quiet, and yet his magnificent sense of the absurd, of sarcasm, of contrast and alliteration and pun and wordplay, flows constantly under the surface and emerges periodically like a serene and glorious fish in a river of language. His interpersonal skills and understanding of the human race are remarkable for a young man of not-quite-seventeen. He is kind, thoughtful, and humorous. Such a blessing, he is.
For strange and mysterious reasons, the high-speed cable-modemn internet connection cannot tolerate any form of precipitation. The molecular dusting of snow that this desert land received yesterday was apparently sufficient to cause the connection to give up in despair. Although a temporary cable-free connection is available, it is quite sloooooooooooow. Alas.
At first, the provider offered a service call on Saturday. When we explained that Herself telecommutes and that a greater-than-96-hour delay in restoring internet services was not acceptable, we were transferred to another individual who informed us that we were quite fortunate to be able to squeeze in a service call a mere 53 to 57 hours from then. :::commence the grinding of teeth:::
We will hopefully be back with aplomb within two days' time.
This morning we awoke to find that the grass was all frosted. Oooo! Pretty! So chilly! The Very Small Dog was not at all sure that she wanted to walk on the frost. She looked mighty silly trying to sniff out the right place in the yard to pee, while attempting not to put more than one paw on the ground at a time.
The frost reminds Herself of winters in New England, where she was born and raised and spent five years after graduate school. Though she doesn't necessarily miss New England itself, there are times when she is nostalgic for the mountains of snow. As long as her toes and her fingers were warm, she was happy to be out in the cold. The white blanket of snow, the gray sky, the quiet. Beautiful.
She remembers shoveling snow in the winter when she was pregnant with Offspring the First. At five or so months along, she had finally left the days of nausea and fatigue behind, and there was something very satisfying about the combination of the warmth of her burgeoning belly within her parka and the mild exertion of the shoveling. Chipping ice off the windshield was not nearly as enjoyable, though.
She would not mind a little shoveling this winter. Will there be snow?
Herself has a firmly-ingrained abhorrence for asking anyone for anything. She has always worked carefully to avoid inconveniencing or upsetting others. She remembers that even as a small child she would deliberately refrain from speaking up about her wants. She would remain silent even if her siblings mentioned their preferences about even the smallest of things, such as the selection of a vegetable for dinner, lest she create extra work for someone or cause someone else to be unhappy with her choice. (There were a lot of log-shaped green beans -- her brother's favorite -- throughout her youth.) She would not ask to attend a school function if it meant that someone would have go out of their way to drive her there. She would not mention feeling unwell until she was sick enough to require bed rest. She would not ask for any of the clothing that was popular amongst her peers, for that would mean that one of her parents would have to take her shopping and, worse yet, spend money on her. One of the most difficult questions was, "What would you like Santa to bring you for Christmas?" Egads.
She was a very quiet child.
She is still much the same way today. Much of her aversion to the telephone stems from a fear that she may somehow interrupt or inconvenience the person whom she is calling. She puts the Offsprings' and her Beloved's needs ahead of her own even if it is to her own detriment, always. She remains silent when a relative criticizes, lest she wound the feelings of that relative by speaking back. She does not daydream about what things she would like to have; she considers that a waste of time and energy since she will only very rarely spend money on herself -- it could be better spent on others. She does not ask for help except under dire circumstances. She is most comfortable functioning within these self-imposed parameters.
Underneath it all, though, there is a slow and quiet evolution. Over the past few years, Herself has begun to realize that she is allowed to want. Her needs do count. Perhaps, occasionally, it is appropriate for her to speak up for herself.
She works hard to anticipate and meet the needs of other people. I'm sure she errs on occasion, but she tries. Very hard indeed. Nevertheless, after much analysis she has determined that not everyone does -- or can -- do the same. Humanity is not telepathic, nor even always empathetic, nor do people (including herself) often understand all the little eccentricities, motivations, and driving forces in even those with whom they are close. Other people cannot meet her desires unless and until she shows them what they are.
Her needs are not often complex: usually, they are basics such as a need to get enough uninterrupted sleep. Occasionally, she would like to have a calm and helpful person step in and handle matters during the rare moment when she feels too exhausted, upset, or ill to take care of matters herself. Yet because she so seldom asks anyone for assistance, it is impossible for those around her to ascertain when she is close to her breaking point.
Therein lies the greatest difficulty. She must learn to ask. It goes against every fibre of her being to do so. Yet it must be done.
She has begun to try. It no doubt surprises everyone around her when she states what she would like another person to do. So unexpected! She evaluates at length before making any request to ensure that it is in fact a reasonable one. She does her best to choose her words carefully, too, so that people will understand that her statements are not a criticism of them, but an explanation of her own particular needs. She knows that her requests might be met with a "no," and she understands that she cannot take such refusals personally. It is difficult. She is learning.
She would do well to remember that the asking and giving of help go hand-in-hand, always. Fewer things bring her greater happiness than to help others; perhaps, occasionally, she should offer someone she loves the opportunity for such a happiness for themselves. It could be wonderful.
Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful. - Ric Ocasek
National Novel Writing Month drew to a close this week. Herself had aspirations. How did she do?
November was A Difficult Month, bookended by the car accident at the beginning and the passing of James the guinea pig at the end, and with assorted things in the middle. There was blogging, but not much work upon the story. Nevertheless, I will point out encouragingly that the story is three times longer than it was at the beginning of the month. So that is good. While it is not a great deal of progress, it is progress just the same.
We will see how much the story advances in December. I am optimistic that it will continue to grow.
Herself has always been a vivid dreamer. It's odd. Even though she considers her imagination to be fairly pedestrian when she is awake, her subconscious -- or whatever mechanism serves to generate dreams -- is extremely creative, bringing forth complex, multilayered storylines while she sleeps. She is more likely to have unusual dreams if she has a migraine pending or if she is ill, although even ordinary nights can yield dreams of exceptional detail. She always remembers her dreams, too.
Once when she was very tiny (probably three or four years of age) she had a fever-induced dream that she still can recall today. She dreamt that her bed was made of sand; there was a warm yellow sunlit glow in the room and a soft pleasant breeze. She was digging happily in the sand, feeling it flow through her fingers and patting it into piles, and was singing a song aloud to herself. When she got close to the end of the song, the air in the room suddenly became still, a hush fell over everything, and the closet door flew open, revealing a paper grocery bag standing upside-down with the bottom toward the ceilling. The bag mouthlessly sang the last line of the song in a loud, proud voice. The bag was alive. She woke up drenched in sweat, horrified.
Nightmares of inanimate objects becoming cognizant have long since passed away. Adult dreams tend to have a foundation in the mundane, such as being back in college and realizing she has missed a class or not studied for an exam, or needing to facilitate a complex homework project for one of the Offspring. There are the typical flying/falling dreams that most people have, too. Even within those dreams, though, there are tiny details - heat and cold, sounds, smells, sensations of touch - that linger in her memory after she awakens.
More powerful than the sensory elements of her dreams, though, are the vivid emotions that occasionally come into play. Dreams generating anger, fear, or despair: the feelings bleed into the first minutes after she awakens, and she must actively douse the flames of the rage, the terror, the sorrow, lest they follow her into the day.
She had one such dream last night. It was an unusually intricate nightmare, so very real in its details and so very horrible in its content, that more than once she asked another individual, is this a dream, or is it real? She could not tell. She finally was awoken by a sensation of panic and was able to drag herself back to consciousness. Such a relief. She is still haunted nearly four hours later. I asked whether describing the dream here would help to release her from its hold, but she cannot bring herself to put it into words. In truth, she says, this dream needs only a single word to describe its horror:
Herself took Offspring the First to the airport today to return to college. Alas. Such a short visit.
It was delightful to have her home. She was cheerful, patient, pleasant, conversational, and her usual witty self. Wonderful.
As she watched her daughter ascend alone on the escalator in the airport, Herself was struck by how grown-up Offspring the First has become. Traveling by herself - imagine. Making her own way in the world, one step at a time. Exciting.
Spread your wings and fly, child, fly. So many adventures await. I am happy for you.
James the guinea pig did not come out of his house to eat his lettuce yesterday evening. For James, who heartily loves his veggies, this was a giant red flag of alarm.
Herself took him to the emergency vet last night. Given his age and condition, he is likely in kidney failure. He was sent home for hospice care. Herself knew, even before the vet's caveat that it could be hours or weeks, that the end was near.
And indeed it is. While James took a syringe feeding well last night, but this morning, he was limp. There is no point in trying further. He does not seem to be in any pain - he periodically twitches and lets out a tiny piggy squeak, but it seems more like reflex than a purposeful action. He is wrapped in a towel in Herself's lap, where hopefully he will be warm and comfortable until his last breath.
Go towards the light, James. Better things await you. Thank you for the time you have spent with us.
Update, one hour after initial posting: James is gone.
I will add only: thank you, my readers, for the opportunity to be a part of your life. I am enriched and rewarded by your presence, and am grateful for the momentary connection we share during the time it takes you to read. You inspire me to write, and the writing brings me hope, consolation, and happiness.
Offspring the First arrives home this evening, for the first time since we dropped her off at college over three months ago. HUZZAH. How we are looking forward to her visit. Lovely child, now grown-up young woman, we have missed the presence of your smile, of your humor, and of your loving spirit. It will be a pleasure to have you under our roof again, even if for only a short while.
Tiny Dog takes umbrage upon any attempt of an individual to touch the person whose lap she is currently occupying. She frequently sits upon Herself, and the rest of the family members entertain themselves by attempting to poke Herself with a single finger while Tiny Dog snaps vigorously at their hands and growls menacingly. (Well, as menacingly as a 3.5-pound creature can growl.) Tiny Dog prefers most to drape herself across a person's crotch like a tempermental merkin. She is certain to keep one's virtue intact.
Yesterday, Herself spoke at length on the telephone with her marvelous Sister; made chicken soup for her Cherished Friend and saw him briefly to hand it to him; had a short but lovely catch-up chat on the telephone with her Pea-in-a-Pod Friend; prepared a quiche for a relative's visit for dinner; and took a long walk with the dogs and her Beloved, who had unusually arrived home early enough from work to do so.
It's these seemingly ordinary things that make Herself happiest.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. - Kahlil Gibran
Confession: I like James Blunt. Not in an obsessive, screaming-Justin-Bieber-fan kind of way, but in a "if he ever has a concert near enough, I am SO THERE" manner. I have his three albums; two books of piano music of his songs; and even a commercial DVD of a live performance of his. If a song of his comes on the radio or appears in the shuffle on the iPod, I will always listen to it. One does not skip over James Blunt.
If we were all hobbits, there would not be this enormous sock mountain on the kitchen table. It is comprised of the various socks of the five household members; when Herself folds laundry, if a pair is not easily found, the leftover socks go into this basket. Eventually the socks reach a critical mass, and a weeding-and-matching session is in order. Occasionally, Herself tries to bribe one of the Offspring into doing so, with a (fulfilled) promise of remuneration for the effort. The pile of socks in the basket grows much smaller, and then gradually larger again over time, until the whole cycle repeats itself.
I think that this time, we will stuff all of the remaining odd socks into a single big sock, and give it to the dogs to play with. They love socks. It will be entertaining.
This morning, Herself and her Beloved completed the range qualifying portion of the course that is necessary to obtain a Concealed Handgun License. Herself was a mite anxious, but it went fine. The primary difficulty for her was the requirement that the gun be .32 caliber or larger - the .380 that they used certainly packs more punch than the .22, with which Herself is most comfortable. Nevertheless, a brief round of last-minute practice yesterday afternoon ensured that she was sufficiently familiar with the weapon so that all would go smoothly today. And so it did.
It's still a wee bit odd to think of Herself handling firearms. They used to be wholly outside of Herself's comfort zone. Now, though, they are within the fringes of her comfort zone, and with a bit more practice, will become even more familiar. She's come far.
Herself is looking after Cherished Friend's fish for a few days. It cheers her to see the fish swimming about; they are small, colorful, and purposeful. There is one petulant piscine who hides just long enough for Herself to begin to worry that it has croaked, before it makes its appearance - ta-daaa. Can a fish be mischevious? What goes on inside those teeny tiny fishy brains? I wonder.
Although Cat Stevens once sang about another Saturday night, it is Friday nights that are most problematic when Herself lacks adult company. When the Offspring were small, such Friday evenings were not quite as difficult because there were still the labor-intensive child needs of entertainment, bath supervision, story time, and bedtime routines. Now that the Offspring are half-grown, though, the evening no longer has much plan or definitive structure.
The Offspring take this day off from their usual homework and taekwondo, and have their own activities. Offspring the Third spends time hanging out with his neighborhood buddies, plays with the dogs, and watches television; Offspring the Second devotes a significant amount of time to his drums, and roams his favorite internet sites and FaceBook; Offspring the First, off at college, likely enjoys time with her friends.
If Herself's Beloved comes home early enough on a Friday, sometimes they take the dogs for a walk around the block, and Herself might even have an opportunity to cook dinner for her Beloved. Tonight, however, Beloved is out at a particular function -- the culmination of several late nights' work -- and will not be home until the wee hours of the morning. And so, Herself is alone.
Without the motivation of adult companionship and conversation, Herself lacks the impetus to do much of anything. She looks at the carpet, but is unmotivated to plug in the vacuum and drag it throughout the house. She plays the piano for a bit. She tidies the pets and makes dinner for Offspring the Second and Third. She folds the laundry. She grumbles at the dishwasher, which did not release the soap properly in the last cycle, and resets it to try again. The tile could use some steam cleaning, she supposes - maybe tomorrow. Her elliptical trainer awaits; and it will continue to do so. The small dog has tucked herself into Herself's hoodie, and they recline on the couch together, feeling the cold of the evening settle upon them.
Funny how, when there is so much empty time, so little gets done.
Perhaps I will send Herself to bed. In the light of the early morning, all will seem just a bit brighter, and she will be able to get things done once more.
How many of you listen to the same songs, over and over and over again? The same musician, over and over and over again?
I do. Herself does.
Today, as on other days, the songs of Ben Harper accompany us as we write, as we clean, as we cook. His music is direct, intimate, raw. It speaks to us.
I cannot explain why his Amen, Omen fills the void as no other song does. There was a time when this song reminded Herself of her friends; it still does, though it is now much more. It is a prayer, a sorrow, a remembrance, a call to strength, a wish and a question.
Herself asks for your forgiveness and patience for her difficulties of late. She is more fragile than anyone realizes. Nevertheless, she has tied a knot in her rope, manned up, and gathered herself again to resume doing what needs to be done.
She reminds herself that self-pity is fruitless. She tells herself that she wants, not that she needs. She knows that she must find her own comfort and strength within herself. It is there.
In the depth of my soul there is a wordless song. - Kahlil Gibran
There are days when I am tired of being an adult. There are eight million little pieces of life that all require my attention. There is this project at work, that deadline at work, this e-mail, that telephone call, these reminders, those concerns about clients paying and about having adequate amounts of work to do. On the home front, there is the laundry, the food, the bills, the cleaning, the pets, the house -- an endless cycle of care and attention. Added to that, is the delicate balancing act of handling the needs and wants of all the various family members. Everyone needs nurturing.
I do too.
More than anything else, I would like someone to make me a snack, pat my hair, and tell me that everything will be all right.
When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.
Close the language-door
and open the love-window.
The moon won't use the door,
only the window.
Herself thoroughly dislikes romance novels, romantic comedy and romance-based drama movies, and works of similar ilk. Reading about or watching missed connections, misunderstandings, and failed relationships is discomfiting at a visceral level for her. While she will willingly listen to the heartaches of her friends and attempt to offer them solace, she always vigorously declines to subject herself to the lovelorn sorrows of fictitious individuals.
It is therefore incredibly odd that there appears to be a subplot centering on an unrequited love in the story she is writing. Although the overarching themes and story line have yet to be determined, this particular element in the story revealed itself early on while Herself was working on developing the main characters. It likely will not be remotely central to the finished story; yet it does remarkably exist.
If I flew away tonight Would you search for me? Or would you glance at my empty perch And forget me even before you turned away? Unencumbered, wherever I would fly, I would be free to think of you in peace. In silence, I would reflect on the color of your eyes And yearn for the tender strength of your hands.
I will be interested to see how this element of the story completes itself.
There are times when one longs for human company, but it is not to be had. In those moments, I recommend a good book for solace. I have just finished the first Percy Jackson book. It was quite a good read. Perhaps this weekend I will read another.
Remember the story that Herself had begun a while ago? She wrote two short scenes then -- approximately 400 words each -- and then stopped. It seems, perhaps, that those pieces were crying out to be put into words, but that the full formation of the rest needed to brew slowly. She has contemplated the story periodically since then, generating additional characters in her mind. She has no distinct plot yet. Still, with a bit of work yesterday, she now has just a hair over 1,700 words. With the average novel being anywhere from 60,000 to 200,000 words (according to various searches in The Google), at this rate, it will take a mighty long time. Nevertheless, the creative process is always a happy thing.
Character development is particularly tricky for Herself; she has rather a lot of difficulty putting herself into another's shoes, seeing through another's eyes. She knows that the fictional individuals she creates will likely have qualities similar to those of actual people, for she can write best from what she has seen and felt, even if she adjusts, idealizes, or otherwise alters those experiences. She wonders whether people will see themselves in her book, or if they will erroneously attribute actions or motivations to her familiars by assuming that particular characters are modeled after certain real individuals.
She will remind everyone: it is fiction. Those who know her well already know that her life is an open book. This written story will be something else entirely.
There were approximately 600 trick-or-treaters this year. They came more gradually than last year, though, as we still had treats at 8:30 PM, in contrast to last year when everything was gone long before 8 o'clock. There were many tiny pirates, the usual princesses, a few scary masks, and general good cheer all around. Offspring the Second delighted in leaping out and frightening passers-by, and Offspring the Third was practically beside himself with excitement at the whole trick-or-treating bonanza.
There was even a bit of pumpkin carving, too. So impressed were they by the jack o'lanterns made by Offspring the Second and the Third and Cherished Friend, that Herself and her Beloved have already discussed decorating the yard for next year's Halloween with a great multitude of pumpkins. That will be excellent indeed.
The most intricate, as well as carefully and patiently wrought, was the Star Wars Death Star. Fabulous.
Continuing with her nesting, Herself has tidied the remainder of the kitchen cabinets and the drawers. She threw away some things, rearranged other things, and generally organized the rest of the things. It is quite pleasant to open a drawer or a cabinet and find exactly what one needs now.
In the back of one cabinet, she found a pacifier, still in its packaging. Affectionately referred to as a "nu-nu," a pacifier was a staple in the household for a long, long time. All of the Offspring were extremely orally inclined as infants and toddlers; they spent a great deal of time sucking on thumbs, fingers, and nu-nus, as well as attempting to put all kinds of non-comestible items into their mouths. Herself always kept a spare emergency nu-nu handy in her purse.
It has been ages since anyone in the house used a pacifier, and Herself was a tad wistful at the discovery of the nu-nu. Mercifully, though, she is not all verklempt. I think she has almost completely come to terms with the fact that there will never be another baby in the household.
All the same, she would be pleased to be able to hold someone else's baby for a little while.
Sometimes, a picture captures a moment so beautifully that it refreshes the soul just as much as the moment itself did. I present to you one such picture from camping a few weeks ago. We are ever so grateful to our Cherished Friend, the photographer. Thank you.
Today's post is brought to you by The Jeans That Are Uncomfortably Tight.
Herself has gained a bit of weight. How much, she does not know; she has kept her New Year's resolution not to step on the scale, in an attempt to break herself of her borderline obsession about about the numbers. What she does know, though, is that her favorite jeans -- which used to be fairly comfortable --are just a hair too constrictive right now.
Let the self-loathing commence!
She is angry at herself for her clear lack of self-discipline. She should exercise more faithfully, she should watch her diet more carefully. She currently is spending time forging a new set of rules in her head to try to lower her caloric intake and increase her activity. It should help. Losing weight is always a slow process, though, particularly in women of a certain age. She's set a reasonable goal of several weeks out to be able to wear her favorite jeans again. I think she can do it.
The hardest part, though, will be to change her eating habits. For she is a stress eater, and she turns to food in times of distress. Self-comfort with carbohydrates.
Life has been a bit tricky of late. There have been cookies.
She supposes in some ways that it must be like trying to stop smoking: just as there are certain circumstances - during stress, as a habit, or even with pleasure, too - under which people feel a need for a cigarette, there are particular times when she craves food. She needs to find a replacement for those times. But what? Jog around the house instead? Drink a glass of water? Chew gum? (She does not chew gum. It is yucky.)
She tells herself, maybe if she just grew a *backbone*, she could exhibit some self-control and would not have this problem.
We know it's not quite that simple, though.
She is trying. It will be one day at a time. Baby steps.
During the past couple of days, Herself has spent several hours cleaning and tidying the refrigerator, the freezer, and the pantry. She also eliminated the large pile of orts and gobbets of family life that had taken up residence on the kitchen counter and was slowing growing, like a fungus. Her plan for tomorrow is to rearrange the pots and pans in the cabinets.
It's a bit odd. I think that she is feeling a seasonal nesting need -- like a chipmunk preparing for winter -- and just happened to start in the kitchen. She plans to spend one hour each morning on a small project, with the long-term goal of weeding and organizing the rest of the house, one room at a time. She is enjoying the progress she has made so far; I think it will continue to be fruitful. We shall see!
Arthropods -- insects, spiders, crustaceans -- shed a skin in order to grow. It's an odd process in which a creature works its way out of its old covering and moves onward, leaving an empty shell behind. We came across evidence of such growth in one of our adventures, when the horde of cicadas that buzzed so noisily left a multitude of surprisingly sturdy casings clinging to the trees in which they had perched.
While people -- mercifully -- do not literally shed their skins, there are times when humans do undergo similarly significant growth.
Herself knows that she is many ways very different from how she was even a few years ago. It has been a gradual transformation; there has been no precipitating event, no watershed moment to which she can point. What is certain, though, is that she has changed. Even those close to her have noticed: her mother-in-law (a truly lovely woman) has stated that Herself has blossomed and "come out of her shell." And indeed, she has. How so? It is difficult to describe.
She is more likely to speak her mind. She questions more, and expects differently. She occasionally puts her own needs ahead -- not necessarily first, but certainly higher up than ever before. She is less tolerant of unkind words and actions, and actively takes steps to address issues that hurt her or those whom she loves. She appreciates the unique qualities of each member of her family more. She has found remarkable reserves of patience and kindness. She has reached out to other people in ways she would never have dared do before, and she is joyous and grateful for the return that she has received.
She laughs more. She hopes more. She risks more. She dreams more.
To what can we attribute her transformation? There are many different factors. If you ask her, though, she will tell you that the primary reason is:
she has true friends.
Close friends contribute to our personal growth. They also contribute to our personal pleasure, making the music sound sweeter, the wine taste richer, the laughter ring louder because they are there. - Judith Viorst
She has shed her old shell. She will never wear it again.
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 solely a minuscule middle aged chihuahua and a lovely red fish named Ruth Betta Finsburg. Someday, there will be more critters, for she loves them tremendously.