Happy New Year from deep within Big Bend National Park. We have been unable to post for several days because of spotty signal, but have thought about you with love each and every day. We hope the upcoming year brings you health, joy, prosperity in its many forms, and an abundance of All Good Things.
Herself was reading some fluffy unimportant article about the predominance of airbrushing in celebrity photos this morning, and the web page had little pop-up ads, complete with sound, on the sidebar. One that kept repeating was an ad for a whitening toothpaste. It went as follows:
:::piano music, cuts between a comely, toothy young woman and an artfully scruffy young man, sitting in separate places in a restaurant::: He could be the one...
:::shot of them crossing a quaint street in Paris, Eiffel Tower in the background, his arm over her shoulder::: Soulmate...
:::close-up shot of them kissing on a beach, a white bridal wreath in her hair::: Husband...
:::view of her in a floral print dress, cradling a very pregnant belly, followed by a closeup of him smiling benignly at a toddler seated next to him::: Loving father to your children...
:::back to the first shots in the restaurant::: But first, you've got to get him to say, 'hello.'
:::description of tooth-whitening toothpaste and accoutrements, and the results available in a mere two days::: What will a [product]-white smile do for you?
:::shot of him sitting down at the table with her::: Life opens up when you do.
Two days of a whitening toothpaste, and she will be able to attract a total stranger who miraculously will become soulmate, husband, and father of children, merely by smiling at him? On which planet was this filmed, exactly? (Well, clearly one that similarly idealizes Paris as A City For Lovers and beaches as romantic settings.) And we wonder why young girls and women have unrealistic expectations about relationships, and why they so oftentimes become overly concerned with their appearances? I know not everything needs to be an accurate depiction of the long, involved, and oftentimes strenuous road of finding and keeping a spouse and maintaining a family, but at the same time, why must a toothpaste advertisement paint such an unrealistic fairy tale?
For how many days after Christmas can one still legitimately listen to seasonal music?
Herself has a tremendous fondness for Christmas songs. She does not like the generic holiday sentiments of 'Jingle Bells' and 'Rocking Around The Christmas Tree', and especially not the saccharine vacuousness of 'Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime'. Instead -- and even though she is not particularly religious (her beliefs are rather complicated and will require their own separate postings) -- she seeks out the more traditional carols, as well as other songs of the miracle of the Christ child: the Word made flesh, the human epitome of Innocence, of Hope and Peace and Love and Joy, here among us.
In this world in which conflict, cruelty, and callousness beget so much anger, despair, and sorrow, the music helps us find hope. We can dream that when we are finally beyond the veil, we will at last be blessed with a true understanding of all the mysteries of humanity, and that all hurt and sadness will fall away.
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
When the Offspring were all very small, Herself taught them simple physical boundaries. In particular, she specified: "you do not need to hug or kiss anyone whom you do not want to hug or kiss." No one. Not even relatives, family friends, teachers or peers at preschool or school. She wanted them to understand clearly that each person's body belongs to him or her alone, and that they should never feel any pressure to tolerate physical touch that they did not want. Part of it related to safety - she taught them as she did to try to give them tools to give a clear and unequivocal NO to anyone who might try to take physical advantage of them. The other part was to instill in them the understanding that it is acceptable to refuse what makes them uncomfortable, to take care of themselves rather than to succumb to pressure to do what is contrary to their own wishes.
Now that the Offspring are nearly grown, it is clear that they have varying requirements and comfort levels with physical contact with other people. Her impression is that Offspring the Third enjoys a great deal of physical contact; Offspring the Second prefers very little; and Offspring the first has a medium degree of tolerance. She respects their boundaries; their needs in controlling their own physical selves are paramount, and infinitely far more than her desire to hug them.
Herself has quite a problem when she and the Offspring attend social functions at which individuals ask for a greater amount of contact (e.g., an extended hug) than Herself knows a particular Offspring would normally tolerate. When appropriate, she does her best to intervene or distract in a subtle manner, but sometimes, she must leave it to the Offspring - they are nearly adults, they want to (and sometimes must) handle things themselves. Herself grinds her teeth and imagines forming a protective barrier around them.
She faced such an event recently, when Acquaintance and Spouse stopped by Herself's house for a visit. They had brought a particular, delectable type of confection. When Offspring the Second appeared in the kitchen to say hello, Acquaintance said to him, with regard to the confections, "You may have one, but you will have to hug me first."
Herself sighs. This is exactly the type of physical-contact-requiring-social-pressure she finds most bothersome. It might not have been a big deal -- or even a tiny deal -- to Offspring the Second, but it was to Herself. Even though Offspring the Second delivered the requested hug with no apparent difficulty or aftermath, and even though Acquaintance might have appeared to some to be jesting and did not seem to mean any harm, the statement (request? demand?) disturbed Herself tremendously. It was Not Right.
She managed to quip, "I didn't realize the confections came with strings attached." Acquaintance quipped in return, "Yes, they do." Indeed. Strings, strings.
Why was this so bothersome? A lovely woman whom Herself knows through the beauty of the internet put into words precisely why this type of situation bothers Herself so: it is a form of control and manipulation, as well as a judgment.
These kinds of statements ("give me a hug") are not, despite any protest to the contrary, done in a lighthearted manner. Rather, they are usually done to make a point - they are an attempt by one person to coerce another individual to do something that the individual doesn't like. Herself has had conversations previously with Acquaintance regarding the general dislike of hugging that Herself and certain of the Offspring have. Nevertheless, it appears that in the opinion of the Acquaintance, Herself and the Offspring should just "get over" or "deal with" her or his own feelings (such as a general dislike of being hugged) and do what is requested (expected, commanded). It appears that the Acquaintance feels that certain social niceties - such as prompt hugging upon entering a room - need to be instilled into the Offspring, and that an absence of such action constitutes both a failure on that Offspring's part to perform properly, and also a failure on Herself's part to instruct the Offspring properly. Such Bad Behavior and Poor Parenting must be fixed by the Acquaintance.
It's never "just a hug."
Herself found herself thinking, "I want to go home," even though she was in her own house. She wanted safety, protection. At an opportune moment, she quietly slipped out to take a moment to herself out of the room, and then returned to the conversation.
What I know now is, Herself will need to build an internal place of safety for such events in the future. It will take work, but it must be done. Only by carrying Home within her, will she be comfortable.
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. - Maya Angelou
Nearly three weeks later, the surgical scar is healing nicely. It should fade well. There is still occasionally an odd twinge or misfiring here and there -- similar to the sensation when an eyelid twitches -- but it is improving. Touch is soothing.
You are welcome to lay a finger upon the site. It will help.
Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion. - Buddha
Has everyone forgotten how to use the turn signals on their vehicles? There are FAR too many people here.
It is so much better roaming the store with company, instead of by myself. I have bought gifts for the dogs. I'm slightly embarrassed by this fact.
"Baby it's cold outside" is the Date Rape Christmas song. Those are really beautiful suits and I feel all nostalgic for the days that I would dress up and go into the office. It sure is pleasant to see the Offspring enjoying one another's company. It will be nice for Beloved Husband to take the day off for Christmas. I feel as though I've hardly seen him for months and months and months. The house is so messy, and I have no motivation to clean up. What could possibly be such a great bargain to make it worthwhile to stand in that 30-people-deep line?
I always feel weird receiving presents. Somehow I don't feel like I ever deserve any. I would like to buy a giant pile of really good books. And have time to read them.
I would love an opportunity to wear heels like that. That wretched Paul McCartney Christmas song makes me want to poke my eardrums with shrimp forks. I'm suffering from a tremendous lack of imagination in my gift selecting this year. I could be far more creative. Blah. I do like this carol. "O Holy Night..." I should play the piano this evening. Is the lighting in these fitting rooms purposefully designed to maximize one's flaws? YE GODS I have far too much cleavage and holey moley I'm a cow and nothing fits properly and I give up trying to find something new to wear for that stupid function that I don't really want to go to anyway because the food will give me a migraine and I have horrid small-talk skills and I wish I could just stay home but if I do I will have even less adult interaction and be even more lonely OH FINE WHATEVER.
I miss my sister and my brother so much. The best gift of all would be to have more of the people who are metaphorically close to my heart, also actually literally nearby, for Christmas. That's a cute Velveteen Rabbit. For years I used to get the Offspring each one stuffed animal for Christmas. They've outgrown that now. I am old.
Why on earth would anyone bring a toddler to Toys R Us four days before Christmas? GO HOME ALL YOU PEOPLE.
Offspring the First has returned home from college for winter break. It is quite lovely to have her here. Offspring the Second and Offspring the Third look very pleased to have her company. It warms out hearts to have all the Offspring together.
Tiny dog practically turned herself inside-out for happiness at Offspring the First's arrival, and is now happily trampling Offspring the First while Offspring the First and Offspring the Third watch television. It is good.
I would like to share with you, the commentary Herself posted on Facebook today:
I saw in the “news” today, statements from stylists in the hair salon frequented by the Sandy Hook gunman and his mother. Commentary about how cutting his hair was “a very long half an hour” and “a very uncomfortable situation” because he was extremely shy, didn’t speak, and required his mother’s directions to move around in the salon. I cannot, no matter how hard I try, determine why the stylists were interviewed at all, and why this is considered newsworthy information. If the gunman was on the autism spectrum -- as has been reported -- it would not at all be unusual for him to have difficulty with the social interaction and sensory input involved in a salon haircut. It does NOT explain why he did the horrific, unimaginable things he did. Such reporting merely allows people to be comfortable looking askance at individuals who have difficulty with salon haircuts – for such individuals are rendered suspicious, having been painted with a broad brush of fear and guesswork-hindsight. In the search for answers that may never, in fact, be found, such reporting is unfair, wrong, and ridiculous.
Yesterday, Herself spent some time helping Offspring the Third go through some pre-algebra problems in preparation for the end-of-semester test. She likes the math. He has a like/dislike relationship with the math; he is very pleased when he understands, and is quite frustrated when he does not. His math teacher has strongly encouraged him to stick with the course, even though it is difficult (and, ultimately, optional). He has been valiant and dutiful, getting right to work immediately after coming home from school. Herself is very proud of him.
They took a brief break. Offspring the Third bounced a large exercise ball against the couch with his foot, as he so often does, to relieve stress and to enjoy the sensation of physical activity and touch of the ball. He stopped for a moment, turned to Herself, and said:
Don't ever leave home until I am old enough to have a job and a place of my own, OK?
He paused, and then added:
You are the only one who understands.
Pause. About math.
Pause. And other stuff.
It was quite clear he was not talking about schoolwork.
Tender-hearted manchild. How delighted, and touched, and relieved are we, that you feel Herself understands. Everyone should have the security of feeling understood.
Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, or possessions - we cannot be free. ― Thich Nhat Hanh, Heart of Buddha's Teaching
Herself attended a social function briefly yesterday evening. There were present some people of whom she is fond and whom she has not seen in quite a while, so it was a relatively pleasant time. It is good to get out of the house once in a while.
Today, she is still contemplating a brief conversation she had with two women at the function. Both women -- each attractive, well-coiffed and tastefully made up -- are tiny, athletic and incredibly fit ladies (TAIFL) of about the same age as Herself. The topic: food and dietary habits. The general discussion went somewhat as follows (words may not be exact, but gist is accurate):
TAILF1: I really shouldn't eat any more. But I only ate once today. We went to a birthday party earlier and I was so good, I didn't have any cake or anything. I'll have a little bit more of this - I'll just have to run an extra mile to run it off.
Herself: Oh, it's the holidays, it's OK.
TAILF2: That's no excuse.
Herself: Sure it is, once in a while.
TAILF2: Really, it isn't.
Herself was relieved to return to the safety of her home after the function, where she could make dinner for the Menfolk (Beloved Husband, Offspring the Second, Offspring the Third, and Cherished Friend) and sit quietly on the couch watching Top Gear and not have to worry about what she ate or didn't eat, how much she exercised or didn't exercise, or whether anyone scrutinizes her appearance. They are her sanctuary, the Menfolk: they allow her to be human, to be flawed, to try and fail and try again. She does not feel judged in their presence. She wants to better herself for them, rather than out of fear of what they may think of her.
The question remains: are the TAIFL right?
On the one hand, they are correct - being extremely watchful about what they eat and how much they exercise clearly contributes to their states of beauty and fitness. Certainly, Herself could be far more diligent and circumspect about what she eats and how much she exercises. Without question, she'd be less hefty if she did. No getting around that fact.
Nevertheless: to watch every single mouthful - to deny oneself a slice of a birthday celebration, to demand physical 'repayment' for any perceived excess calorie consumed - seems extraordinarily difficult. Almost obsessive. And self-punitive.
She shall not -- cannot -- think about it any more.
Life is too short for self-hatred and celery sticks. - Marilyn Wann
We are glued to the news today, watching the unfolding of a horrific story of a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. With each report, we shudder anew and pray, it can't possibly be that terrible - and then the next report is even worse. A K-4 school: children ages 5 to 10. Babies. Barely begun to learn about the world around them and the worlds within them. Mowed down. Snatched from this earth, leaving parents and siblings bereft and confused and heartbroken.
How can this be? How can this happen? It is incomprehensible.
Godspeed, children. Our thoughts are with your families as they face this unimaginable nightmare. At the rising of the sun and at its going down, We remember them. At the blowing of the wind and the chill of the winter, We remember them. At the opening of the Buds and in the rebirth of spring, We remember them. At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of Autumn, We remember them. At the beginning of the year and when it ends, We remember them. As long as we live, they too will live, For they are now part of us as we remember them.
When lost and sick at heart, We remember them. When we have joy we crave to share, We remember them. When we have decisions that are difficult to make, We remember them. When we have achievements that are based on theirs, We remember them. As long as we live they too will live, For they are now a part of us as we remember them.
It really is quite difficult to get up and accomplish tasks when there is a very small dog pinning one to the spot. Who has the heart to disturb a sleeping wee creature ensconced in one's lap or on one's shoulder? She is so warm and comfortable. We should all be so fortunate to be able to slumber so contentedly, cradled near the heart of someone we love.
Yesterday afternoon, Herself had a telephone conversation with long-term Acquaintance to arrange for Acquaintance to visit for Offspring the Third's birthday. In the course of the conversation, Acquaintance commented on why Herself's attending of a relative's complex medical appointment last week was helpful:
You're not easily flustered by people. Well, you are by me, but not by other people. If seemed like a little poke, designed to put Herself off balance. Herself ignored the statement. She would not take the bait.
Yesterday evening, when Acquaintance was visiting, Herself felt -- for the very first time in as long as she could remember -- calm and unruffled. She allowed the little irritating things Acquaintance said to roll away. She remained unperturbed. It was a magnificent sensation.
Why the change?
For the first time, Herself understood at last that she truly does have Backup.
She was not alone. She was protected. She was safe.
Easily flustered by Acquaintance? Oh, I think not. Not anymore.
Offspring the Third has constructed a miniature catapult for his birthday. He is now working diligently on various small wooden hydraulic devices as well. He does love to build things, and has quite an eye for construction and geometry and detail.
This tender-hearted and thoughtful young man has taught us so much about patience, kindness, and the importance of the right words at the right times. Such a blessing, he is.
The eternal struggle with weight, diet and exercise wages on.
Herself knows she's a tad chunkier than she has been in the past; she has fallen off the exercise wagon somewhat of late while simultaneously stress-consuming a variety of nonessential calories, and is now paying the price. She finds at the moment that there's rather more middle and thigh present than she would like to have, and also a bit more cleavage (not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but oftentimes difficult to dress properly). She is working on improving the situation. Better diet, more exercise. It is tricky, as always.
With the advent of winter, she requires proper pants to keep her warm while exercising. She dragged her feet through the store, dreading the dressing room; she is slave, as always, to the printed sizes in the clothing. Miracle of miracles - she still properly wears the small size pants; mediums were, in fact, too big. I could almost hear her thoughts as she realized that all was not as terrible as she'd feared: STILL SMALL! I WIN!
She will not rest on the laurels of this pants-victory, for she knows that she is still a half-cookie away from being a Fat Girl. She is motivated, though, to keep in the smalls. And so, she shall try, try again.
Note: a bit of medical information and a photo not for the squeamish. You have been warned!
Yesterday, Herself underwent Mohs surgery to remove the basal cell carcinoma from her right temple. She was surprisingly at ease with the idea of the procedure beforehand: she knew she would be awake and that no IV would be required; she likes the doctor and his staff very much; and once it was over, she would be essentially 'cured' of that spot. All good things.
The procedure went exactly as she expected. There was no pain beyond injection of the initial numbing agent. The sensation of cutting was a bit icky, and the sensation of tugging and manipulation necessary to close the surgical site was, in truth, rather a lot unpleasant. And then it was done.
As the doctor handed her the mirror, he explained that the gap had been nearly an inch square, but that because Herself has beautiful skin for closing -- elastic and movable -- the hole had been closed nicely, with enough skin to make a slightly raised closure that would smooth out well over time without pulling. (Herself was vaguely amused at being told that her skin was beautiful for something; her skin has always been temperamental and difficult and has never received a compliment before.) Because of the location, she should expect some bruising and swelling of her eyelid, as if she's been punched in the eye, that could last for a few weeks.
Herself was a bit taken aback at the length of the closure; it seems nearly two inches. It looks a bit like a zipper because of the sixteen dark sutures. She's at peace with it, knowing that in time it will not look quite so Frankenstein-monster-y, but is a bit concerned about horrifying/repelling other people. The site will look far better after the sutures are removed and any bruising and swelling dissipates.
In the evening as the numbing agent wore off, Herself was shocked at the degree of pain. She's normally fairly stoic and has hardly ever used anything stronger than ibuprofen even post-surgically before. This time, though, she filled her prescription for acetaminophen and hydrocodone willingly and took a dose as soon as possible. Ah, a bit of relief. Dulling of the pain helped to diminish the unexpected flashbacks she was having to the unpleasant sensations of the surgery, too. Shudder.
This morning, it still hurts, but not as much as yesterday. Swelling and bruising has begun, but is not too bad as of yet. She's a little worried about removing the pressure bandage to wash and rebandage the site, but what needs to be done will be done.
This is her thirteenth scar. It is the third largest, and the first visible to the public. But it is OK. In time, all shall be well.
It has been ten thousand years since Herself has tasted Fluff.
When she was growing up, there was no Fluff in Herself's family pantry. The only time she had Fluff was when she visited her grade-school friend Jennifer who lived two doors up the street. Jennifer's family had Fluff, and she and Jennifer would occasionally enjoy a Fluffernutter sandwich. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.
This tub of Fluff was a gift to Offspring the Third from one of his most favorite people. Offspring the Third delighted in a giant spoonful of Fluff today after school. "Look, it still sticks to the spoon even when I hold it upside-down!" He allowed Herself to have a spoonful as well.
Tobacco shops are a bit like gun shops -- they are primarily a male domain. Yes, women can smoke cigars or pipes, just as women can own firearms. All the same, pipes, cigars, tobacco, and such accouterments all seem to fall among the hobbies and pursuits of men. Nevertheless, while perusing a gun shop is rather intimidating, perusing a tobacco shop is an entirely different experience.
Yesterday, Herself visited the tobacco shop with Beloved Husband and Cherished Friend so that they could look at (and procure) pipes. It was most enjoyable. There is something very pleasurably sensory about the tobacco shop: the gleam of the wood polishes, the smooth or complex tactile sensations of the pipes and the cigars, the aromas of the tobaccos. The colors and shapes of the lighters. The humidity and the scent of the enormous humidor room. The magnificently beautiful humidor boxes. Marvelous.
The proprietor gifted Herself with a very small cigar before they left. Oooo! Herself has never smoked, and is both intimidated by and interested in the experience of smoking the cigar. We shall report back afterwards. Stay tuned....
Herself was feeling a tad oppressed and put-upon yesterday, with a thousand little things that needed her doing and another thousand little things that affected her yet over which she had no control. A long walk and a good laugh, though, and all was right in the world again.
Laughter is the closest distance between two people. - Victor Borge
Herself's parents are arriving late this afternoon to this desert city. They will remain here for the winter, enjoying the escape from the snow of their winter home, until early May. The warmth and the sun are good for them.
Herself is preparing their house -- a quarter-mile down the street from hers -- for their arrival. She has made carrot-cake muffins, since her mother fancies carrot-cake, and she has put together a fruit basket for them. There will be flowers as well: a nice harvest bunch, with a couple of sunflowers and autumn-colored miscellany.
As Herself perused the floral arrangements in the market this morning, she noted that there were, oddly, bunches of pink roses.
Ah, pink roses.
Nowadays, Herself generally eschews pink: the soft pink of her youth has been cannibalized by aggressive PINK of harsh colored lingerie of Victoria's Secret, female-oriented sports equipment, breast cancer awareness paraphernalia, and even pink-handled guns. She knows she's a woman even without All Pink All The Time. It has become an unnecessary color, an advertisement of womanhood she need not (and wants not to) display.
When Herself was young, though, she was quite fond of pink. Pink clothing, pink accessories. One of her first pairs of glasses had (ack, the horror) pink-tinged plastic frames. Part of her love of pink, she realizes now, was the channeling of a preteen desire to be more feminine - a necessity for a little girl who was regularly called "son" when she wore a hat covering her braids in the winter. When the puberty fairy at last graced Herself with a more recognizably female physique, she wore less pink. She did retain a certain affection for pink, though in more muted and deeper tones.
When Herself and Beloved Husband were to be married, the wedding was to take place in Herself's home town. Since Herself was in school three hundred miles away for all but the two months preceding the wedding, Herself's mother took charge of much of the wedding planning and preparation. Herself's mother was, and is, very in tune with How Things Should Be Done, so she had a much clearer idea of what needed to be involved to arrange the wedding. Herself voiced opinions only about details for which she had specific wishes.
One of Herself's desires was to have pink roses as her bouquet. In the many intervening months between her expression of that wish and the work of the florist, though, a bouquet of pink roses became a bouquet with pink roses:
When Herself saw the bouquet the morning of the wedding, she was a tiny bit disappointed at the paucity of pink; nevertheless, it was a lovely bouquet. It was a good size, fresh and carefully arranged, with a couple of trailing tendrils of ivy and tender white roses as well as the few pale pink roses interspersed therein. Ultimately, the flowers themselves did not matter much; what was important was that after over three years of a long-distance relationship, Herself and Beloved (soon-to-be) Husband would finally be together.
Standing in the market this morning, carefully avoiding getting in the way of the tired-looking young man who was mopping up a water spill near the flowers, Herself looked at the pink roses. It had been a very long time since she thought about the details of the wedding, and almost as long since she had a desire for anything pink.
It is always good to be reminded that it is the journey that helps to make us who we are. Thank you.
More than genetics, money or education, it is our journey who defines who we are. It defines what kind of person you are. Not the experiences you encountered nor the happy or traumatic events you may have endured. But rather how we dealt with those events and how we continue to deal with those events; when we evaluate ourselves and how we treat others. Your journey is part of your story. But it is not the complete story of who and how you are. You are a soul, a spirit, who has traveled through this life and along the way; you learned and gathered bits and pieces from here and there. And you, yourself, have woven together a soul, a spirit. And that is who you are today. You define you.... So keep weaving. You are not finished yet. It is never to late to define who you are.
Today, we are content: the ailing dogs appear to be faring better; the kitchen floor is mopped and the counters are tidy; we have no obligations other than to perhaps exercise a bit and to perform a bit of data-collecting for a science fair experiment. Perhaps we will do some more baking -- we certainly enjoyed doing so for Thanksgiving. A bit of time in the kitchen is always time well spent.
Thank you, Universe, for granting us this day of respite.
Thanksgiving has passed, and the holiday season is looming on the horizon. As she contemplates wreaths and wrapping paper and festive decorations, Herself is also mentally preparing for the onslaught of Christmas and its accompanying social and familial get-togethers. She finds holidays in general to be emotionally taxing: so many people; so many expectations about what should be done and which presents should be given and with or to whom and when. Sigh.
As part of her mental housekeeping, Herself is reading a book lent to her by an acquaintance. She was a bit skeptical at first; all pop-culture psychology books should be taken with a giant grain of salt. Nevertheless, it is striking home in an unexpected way. Sentences, paragraphs, examples might have been written specifically about/for her. Her sensitivity to criticism, her inability to ask for help, her aversion to any form of confrontation, her difficulty in assessing the validity of her feelings, her fear of abandonment, and her need to look after other people, all interrelated and explained. They all have the same root. Validation and understanding, coming together in a bittersweet way.
Herself has always believed that if she tried hard enough, if she did all the right things in just the right way, if she were quiet and did not rock the boat or need or ask for anything, if she were patient and caring and giving enough, that others would love her and look after her in return.
People cannot somehow be magically inspired or willed to behave in particular ways, no matter how hard one tries. They are who they are. They have their own goals and desires; strengths and blessings; weaknesses and fallibilities. They do the best they can with what they have been given. Each person is his or her own solitary Universe.
We cannot change others; we can only change ourselves. And if we let go of what cannot be, we can be free.
Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world. ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
I want to weep, she thought. I want to be comforted. I'm so tired of being strong. I want to be foolish and frightened for once. Just for a small while, that's all....a day.....an hour. ― George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings
Aged and Decrepit Dog is ill with a recurrence of rather ugly gastrointestinal issues. She had bounced back with medication previously, and we hope she will do so again this time. Herself is rather worried, though. A pool of bloody vomit is quite a cause for concern.
We had been delaying taking Aged and Decrepit Dog for an abdominal ultrasound as recommended by the veterinarian, because the only facility able to do so is 30 miles away, and the cost will likely be fairly high. At this point, though, it's clear that further testing is necessary to ensure that there is nothing terrible going on inside of Dog. It could go either way: the ultrasound will show "nothing," and we will just have to treat Dog with medication each time she has a recurrence of her gastrointestinal distress, or the ultrasound will show something dreadful that will force some difficult decisions. Hopefully, the vet's opinion will not be at odds with Herself's thoughts on the matter.
Aged and Decrepit Dog is 12. Her face is grey, her hearing is a bit spotty, and her lower spine is nearly fused with arthritis. It is clear that any surgery at this point -- unless it's something quickly and easily fixable -- will cause her a fair amount of pain and suffering. And to what end? To prolong her life for a few months? A year? How can we know? Are we ready to say goodbye? Is Dog ready to go?
Quality of life. That is where we will look. We shall see.
Mr. Moose, the sole remaining guinea pig, is beginning to show more signs of his advanced age. He has touches of lighter, grayish fur around his eyes and near his ears. He drinks a lot more water than he used to, causing Herself to be a bit concerned that he is becoming diabetic in his twilight years. She is not quite certain whether diabetes is treated in guinea pigs - the trauma of chasing him around his habitat to inject him twice daily, plus the infinitesimally small amount of insulin that would be necessitated, would render that unlikely. I think the only course of action would be insuring his quality of life is good. Right now, he's doing well. He still waddles serenely about in his habitat, lies in the hay (rather like sleeping in a giant pile of cornflakes, for he nibbles and dozes and nibbles more), consumes his pellets, and begs cheerfully for veggies on occasion. Who could ask for anything more?
I do not know how much longer he shall be with us. His cocoa-brown swirly fur, prodigious size, and amiable temperament will always remain in our minds and hearts, even when his time has passed.
Quite some time ago -- before she left for college, in fact -- Offspring the First one day left a tiny missive for Herself next to the computer. Written on Offspring the First's favorite manatee sticky notes, it exclaimed, "Good job today!" It has always been one of Herself's favorite little things: an unexpected and thoughtful acknowledgement by one of the Offspring that Herself is doing something right, is of tremendous value.
The tiny dog has just chewed upon the note. She was sitting in Herself's lap (a favorite location) while Herself worked at the computer, and tried to take a few bites out of the manatee paper. Grrr. Herself is not particularly angry, though - small dogs do what small dogs do. It couldn't be helped; it was so temptingly resting right there in front of her nose.
Herself thinks that people should in general get much more positive reinforcement than they do. Sometimes, recognition that one's efforts are noticed and appreciated can make a world of difference.
THAT case is a litigation case on which Herself's Beloved Husband has worked for years. It has been tremendously difficult and complex. In Herself's (admittedly biased) opinion, the opposing counsel in the case seems to have been excessively stubborn, confrontational, and at times rather unpleasant. In Herself's view, the case should, and could, have been settled much earlier on in the process, but due to opposing counsel's recalcitrance, it continued. Hours and hours and days and weeks and months, little tricky pieces, legal hoops through which to jump, this information, that detail, late nights and early mornings, all for Beloved Husband. On and on and on and on. The whole thing was rather a bit of a Horror. Through it all, Beloved Husband worked on it meticulously and patiently, keeping his professionalism even when things were quite contentious.
Yesterday exemplified the matter: just after the alarm clocks rang in the morning, Beloved Husband needed to respond to an urgent e-mail relating to THAT case. Fourteen hours later, as he sat on the couch after having just arrived home from the office, he awaited another e-mail authorizing him to settle the case. Two hours after that, after Herself had brushed her teeth, donned her nightgown and tucked the dogs in for the evening, Beloved Husband received final word arrived with approval. He went to his computer and filed the motion to dismiss the litigation.
And a choir of heavenly angels sang Hallelujah.
Herself is tremendously relieved for Beloved Husband. It is as though the gods finally told Sisyphus, "you don't have to roll that boulder up the hill anymore."
As the dust settles, Herself contemplates all of the time that THAT case stole Beloved Husband away from her and from the Offspring, and all of the stress and frustration and worry that it caused him. Sometimes she felt as though THAT case was siphoning years off of Beloved Husband's life. Will they get those years back? No.
She cannot think about the economic impact -- with naught to be gained with the settlement, any imagined monetary gain has (expectedly) evaporated. It does not matter, though. No dollar amount could replace what was lost.
Herself mulls over, too, the impact THAT case had on her. It required extraordinary patience, perseverance, self-reliance and fortitude on her part: to wait for a moment of Beloved Husband's undivided attention, knowing that he could not be with her or that his thoughts were elsewhere even when he was physically in the same room; to take care of all matters large and small in running the household and managing the children, so that he could focus on what he had to do; to handle or muffle her own needs, so that she would not place any extra burden on him.
It was very painful at times. She tries not to be bitter. Sometimes, she fails.
With time will come healing. Beloved Husband is now free to work on other cases, other projects; or even his hobbies, his other goals - in short, he can now go on with the rest of his life. And Herself need not think about the toll of THAT case any more. She can rebalance herself and move forward. Her scars from the experience will always be there, but they will fade - and in the right light, those scars will be reminders of her inner strength during the hard times.
If nothing else, she knows she helped Beloved Husband in her own way, as best she could, to get through this trial of his. She is glad to have been able to do so.
Herself has a complex task for Work. It's been quite a while since she's had a project of this magnitude. It is enjoyable, yet quite a strain. It shall be over soon and then she and I shall get back to our regular postings.
In the meanwhile, please enjoy this picture of the tiny dog on a cushion.
Herself spent an hour and a half perusing the aisles of the local hobby and arts-and-crafts store with Offspring the Second today. Offspring the Second is in an advanced art class in school, and needed supplies. Herself marvels at his ability to envision the various projects and what will be needed for each of them. Such a quiet, thoughtful, talented and witty young man is he.
They passed by the section with posters and other items to mount on walls, and Herself leafed through them. She is particularly fond of the leaf and tree themed items. She found a lovely set of wall stickers with branches and separate flowers that could be arranged. She tried to imagine - in what type of room would one use such decorations? They would work well in a corner of the children's section in a library. Or a nursery.
She suddenly remembered when she set up the nursery in their tiny apartment before Offspring the First was born. She put a border of primary-colored dinosaurs at the midpoint of the wall, so it would be visible right above the changing table and the edge of the crib. She loved those dinosaurs, so smooth-edged and cheerful and colorful.
My, my. That is an impressively flat tire. The picture doesn't truly do it justice. How relieved we are, that we awoke this morning to this situation, rather than having it occur last night while Herself was on the highway during rush hour to deliver a necessary item to Beloved Husband at the function he was running.
Herself shall ask Beloved Husband to handle this Tire Matter today. She's a traditionalist at heart, and feels that some chores -- like vehicle maintenance -- should be the Man's Domain. Granted, she does take care of many of these things herself anyway, since he is so very busy. Nevertheless, this is one task she will be relieved not to have to address alone.
I found this passage whilst meandering through the internet, looking for quotations. I wish we could all use such strings. Imagine the words that would find their homes instead of becoming inadvertently lost or falling by the wayside. Beautiful. There was a time when it wasn’t uncommon to use a piece of string to guide words that otherwise might falter on the way to their destinations. Shy people carried a little bunch of string in their pockets, but people considered loudmouths had no less need for it, since those used to being overheard by everyone were often at a loss for how to make themselves heard by someone. The physical distance between two people using a string was often small; sometimes the smaller the distance, the greater the need for the string.
The practice of attaching cups to the ends of string came much later. Some say it is related to the irrepressible urge to press shells to our ears, to hear the still-surviving echo of the world’s first expression. Others say it was started by a man who held the end of a string that was unraveled across the ocean by a girl who left for America.
When the world grew bigger, and there wasn’t enough string to keep the things people wanted to say from disappearing into the vastness, the telephone was invented.
Sometimes no length of string is long enough to say the thing that needs to be said. In such cases all the string can do, in whatever its form, is conduct a person’s silence.
Decrepit old dog is feeling the change of seasons. She gets up slowly, has a small breakfast, and then goes back to sleep. Occasionally she buries herself in the various pillows. She seems quite comfortable.
There are days when I wish I could join her back in bed.
The election is done. It was terribly close, with individuals on both sides of the aisles sweating and counting electoral points and praying and hoping. We knew that regardless of who won, nearly half of the country would be upset. Gloating and grumbling were expected, and promptly delivered when the call was made. Words of joy, disappointment, relief, and bitterness were spoken, shouted, sobbed, and written.
What shocked us was the degree of rage that was (and continues to be) splattered across social media, particularly Facebook. Such hostility. Such pessimism. Accusations of sloth and sin and irrationality and stupidity. Terrible, sweeping statements of dire end-of-times. It pains us to see. Furthermore,we are certain that had the election turned out differently, the amount of vitriol would nevertheless have been the same in reverse.
Can we, as a nation, be at all rational with emotions running so high? How can any one political party be deemed to have truly won, when we are a people so divided and angry? How can we work together for the common good? What will happen?
As we move through the next four years, let us work hard to educate ourselves further, so that we will make the decisions we understand to be best.
I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of Constitutional power. ― Thomas Jefferson
As you may have noted, Herself's self-esteem and self-perception have taken a bit of a beating of late. It is rather difficult for her to come to terms with her rather short, plump, ordinary and middle-aged appearance, particularly in this age of pervasive media images of youthful, slender and voluptuous women. She harbors (and tries to tackle) her exercise- and food-related issues. She struggles. The mirror is not her friend.
Despite her self-consciousness, though, Herself dresses up for Halloween. She does like to dress out of character on occasion, and Halloween is a perfect opportunity. This year, she chose "1950s housewife." She selected a polka-dotted dress fashionable for the time period, as well as a crinoline and festive apron. She attended to all of the era-appropriate details: dark lipstick, pearl necklace and earrings, garters and stockings with a seam up the back, and proper heels, which were actually rather high for her - somewhere over 3 inches. Fancy!
Herself was quite pleased with the outfit; she was sufficiently happy, in fact, that she mentioned it to her long-standing Acquaintance during a telephone conversation. Herself joked that Beloved Husband would hardly recognize her all dressed up so nicely. Her acquaintance replied, "You'd better be careful. He works in an office where women dress nicely and sexily every day."
Best for Herself not to think about how she compares to Other Women. She can only be herself.
Herself put aside the comment, and donned her costume. It was fun. She enjoyed it. She worried just a bit that she might have looked frumpy, foolish; but then, one of the small trick-or-treaters who had chirped a slightly Spanish-accented "thank you" as she received her lollipop, turned back to look at Herself again when she reached her mother at the sidewalk and commented aloud, "que linda."
We are firm believers that small children speak from the heart.
Herself loves words. Big words, small words, complicated words, simple words. When she writes, she may spend hours carefully selecting and rearranging just the proper words. There is a tremendous satisfaction -- a joy, even -- in identifying and utilizing just the perfect word.
She struggles when others do not focus as carefully on words. Try as she might, she cannot read between the lines. She hears only what is said, and while she can attempt to hypothesize what is behind the words, she is always uncertain. Silence is harder, for it can be even more difficult to interpret. She has learned the likely meaning behind some silences, but other silences are as unfathomable as the dark abyss.
Is it that she lacks sufficient imagination or mental speed to deduce what is hidden? She is frustrated by the opaque nature of others' words when the syllables dance before her. Do others find words translucent, with the colors of intentions and meanings glowing softly through? How? She is perplexed and stymied. Vexed.
She would be delighted if others would use plain words, with specific meaning and without subtext or cryptic agenda. That may be far too much to ask, though. She shall have to keep attempting to interpret. Such guesswork. Will she ever learn?
Each one of us is doomed and privileged to be an inner artist who carries and shapes a unique world. - John O'Donohue
Herself has always been a very slow bloomer. Her understanding of people, in particular, has been glacially slow to develop. As a child, she gave absolutely no thought to the motivations of others - not because she didn't care, but because she had no idea whatsoever that she should do so. As a teenager and young adult, she eventually figured out that she should try to determine what makes other people tick in order to try to improve her interactions with them. Remembering to do so in the midst of a conversation, as well as trying to retain and then assemble puzzle pieces of others together, though, was extraordinarily difficult. Exhausting. And not often fruitful.
There was a full decade in which she essentially gave up entirely; there had been too many missteps, too much hurt. She had superficial interactions with people, but did not try to learn about them in depth, or open up to them, either. Too much work for too little gain. At around the age of 40, though, her loneliness had grown to a size at which she was no longer able to ignore it; her busy Beloved Husband and lovely Offspring could not fill the void that had grown from years of telecommuting and paltry human contact. She began to try again to reach out and try to understand other people.
Her new interactions with others were very surprising at times. Someone would say something, and Herself would realize with a start that the person thought entirely differently from Herself. How could this be?
It was as though she had lived all of her previous life in a clouded bubble, unable to see others clearly. Through the murky air, she had assumed that the thoughts and motivations and souls of others were similar to hers. But no: and one day, the bubble burst and everything changed. It was a shocking POP. Her eyes were finally opened; the motivations, loves, dislikes, and reasoning of other people all had new and unfamiliar colors, textures and shapes.
It was frightening.
As she has learned more about those around her, she has come to understand that her individual viewpoint is indeed unique: she sees the world in a way that is completely different from the way that all other people do. (Just as it must be for others as well.) It has taken her a long time to come to terms with this new harsh brightness of reality; much of her Midlife Crisis, in fact, has centered upon learning to inhabit her solitary world even as she peers into the strange worlds of others. Sometimes, her understanding fuels a terrible loneliness. At other times, it transforms the loneliness into a quiet solitude. Here, alone in her world, there is peace.
When you inhabit your solitude fully and experience its outer extremes of isolation and abandonment, you will find that at its heart there is neither loneliness nor emptiness but intimacy and shelter. - John O'Donohue, Anam Cara
Furthermore: we are all alone - but in our aloneness, we are together. If we reach out our fingertips to one another, we can bridge the chasm for a moment, and our individual lights will join in a single glorious spark. Beautiful.
May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul. May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe. May you have respect for your own individuality and difference. May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the facade of your life there is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
- John O'Donohue, Anam Cara
When someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without taking responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good. When I have been listened to, when I have been heard, I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way and go on. It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens. How confusions that seem irremediable become relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard. - Carl Rogers
Herself went back to the dermatologist today to ask for a thorough survey of her entire pelt, to verify that there are no other serious problems that will need to be addressed. After the recent surprise of "that spot that you thought was benign is, in fact, skin cancer," she wasn't at all sure what to expect from all the other little skin oddities that she had also thought were nothing serious. She was a tiny bit anxious.
She arrived a little early for her 9:15 appointment, and shuffled through the various magazines to entertain herself while waiting. The other individuals in the waiting room also provided distraction. Most noteworthy -- for both appearance and volume -- were a woman in her late 20s and her grandmother. The woman wore black over-the-knee leather and suede boots, leggings, a tube top and a blazer; she was accessorized with complex sunglasses and a designer purse. (Herself, idly curious, looked up the designer whose initials were emblazoned upon the purse, and found that the bag was a $350 new release of the designer line.) The grandmother had half-a-dozen noisy telephone conversations during which she called the recipients "SWEETHEART" and "BABY", emphasized the importance of everyone doing exactly as she instructed, and flung about names of a few locally prominent businessmen. They stage-whispered together regarding the men with whom the granddaughter danced at a Halloween party last night. Both granddaughter and grandmother grumbled audibly when other patients were called in ahead of the grandmother, even though the vast bulk of the patients were there for simple office visits and the grandmother was there for a surgical procedure (as we learned from one of the phone conversations). They debated noisily as to whether the grandmother should leave her telephone on during her procedure.
Herself was relieved when her name was called. It is unusual for her to witness the glares of a self-drawn spotlight such as that of the grandmother and granddaughter, and she found it extremely unpleasant.
The exam room was quiet and slightly frightening this time around. What would the doctor's lamp reveal?
Herself asked about all the most minute things, no matter how seemingly insignificant they seemed - what's this? What's THIS? What about THIS? It was odd and difficult, for she does not like to call attention to herself, let alone invite scrutiny of all her littlest imperfections. Egads.
The examination revealed nothing else untoward. HUZZAH.
The physician's assistant verified the surgery date to remove the basal cell carcinoma, and once more remarked that the basal cell carcinoma is not such a grave concern. Sunscreen, regular examinations to check for anything new, the scheduled surgery to take care of the one problem, and with a bit of luck and hope, that will be that.
Herself felt a tiny bit of spring return to her step as she left the doctor's office. Perhaps all will be well, after all.
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia
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.