Sunday, September 29, 2013

Arguing With Strangers

Thanks to the oddities of social media, we occasionally find ourselves having discussions with complete strangers about issues that are fraught and complex and about which people have very strong and varied opinions.  Today was one such day.

A Facebook friend posted an article titled, "Breaking Bad Ended My Relationship And I Couldn't Be More Grateful."  You can find the article here.  In a nutshell, the author of the article described becoming embroiled in an emotionally abusive relationship, and how watching a particular episode of Breaking Bad with her abuser allowed her to see him for what he truly was, and to break free of the relationship.

A acquaintance of the friend who posted the article stated, inter alia, that the author was "dumb," "needy" and "desperate."  The acquaintance also decried therapy as being essentially a useless, expensive endeavor that was solely supportive of an individual's neediness, and surmised that therapists could also be power-seeking, manipulative abusers.  Without copying that acquaintance's words -- for they were self-righteous, condescending, and hurtful -- we would like to share with you our thoughts.  Over the course of the discussion, we wrote the following (rearranged here ever so slightly for better flow):

One of the hallmarks of an emotional abuser is rendering the target unable to trust her own feelings, perceptions and judgement. Intersperse that with signs of loving, caring, and apparent willingness to change, and it can be extremely difficult to disentangle the bad from the seeming good. Read about "gaslighting" (Wikipedia, source of all pop culture knowledge, happens to have a decent explanation of it.) 

It's not "needy" to want to give someone the benefit of the doubt, particularly when (as in the article) a well-trusted family member is good friends with the abuser, and when the abuser himself apologizes and seems to want to try to do better. And incidentally, this type of relationship happens not only among dating pairs, but also within families themselves. Would you have the same opinion about a woman who was trying to maintain a relationship with a parent who displayed similar abusive behavior? It's not always about being "needy" and "desperate"; a lot of times, it's about relating to another human being, about wanting to believe that there's a kernel of good in all people, and about love and patience and forgiveness and hope, despite one's (or another's) flaws. I say, 'brava' to the author of the piece for speaking out. She's acknowledged her flaws and her mistakes, and hopefully by reading about them, someone else may be able to escape the insidious trap of another emotional abuser.

I need to say, also: it breaks my heart a little bit to see the author say she was afraid of publishing the piece because it will make her look 'dumb'. In an ideal world, we all would have the inner strength and firm belief in our own judgement to see abusers for what they are. This world is, sadly, far from ideal, and experiences from our childhood and adulthood color our abilities and our senses of self. Why do we focus upon what is seen as a flaw of the abused person -- not to have 'seen' the abuse? Why is the abused person 'dumb'? Why aren't we glaring at the abuser for being cruel, for trampling upon and injuring another person's heart and soul? Those who find the strength to escape an abuser are deserving of praise, not criticism.

Am I understanding you correctly that her being able to list her mistakes very precisely is what you feel makes her 'dumb'? I would think that being able to use hindsight to identify where one went wrong would be an indicator of intelligence, not dumb-ness. I did not see anything in her piece that indicates that she felt she desperately needed a man and that such desperation led her to overlook some warning flags. Rather, I see her as being interested in *him* in particular for specific reasons, not just in having *any* man. 

Furthermore, I did not read the author's account of the relationship as indicating she knew at the time the man's behavior was "beyond questionable." Again, "gaslighting" oftentimes makes it difficult to believe one's own eyes. If I did see that the author wanted the relationship beyond her own self-respect, I would consider that to be a problem, indeed. However, that is not what I took away from the article. I understand that others' views may vary. 

Also, I'll add that I find the statement, "I find people's belief in the benefit of therapy touching, but naive" to be both closed-minded and supercilious.  There is significant scientific evidence indicating that therapy is helpful. (One abstract, for example, can be found here:   Therapists could also be abusers, as you said. So can all other human beings. That doesn't mean, though, that one should decline to see a therapist any more than it means that one should abstain from all human contact lest another individual be an abuser.  Cost for therapy varies, as it does for many other services. And I agree, it's not a magical cure-all. Nevertheless, it can be life-changing for the better for many individuals.

The insidious nature of emotional abuse, and the difficulties of breaking free, are issues that strike close to my heart. While I have been blessed by many people in my life, others have not been so fortunate. Knowing that "there, but for the grace of God, go I," reminds me that I must be a safe harbor for those in need, and I cannot do so if I sit in judgement of them.

Thank you for plowing through these myriad words, my cherished readers.  Remember, always, that I strive to be your safe harbor -- as you are a safe harbor for me.

The Mummer's Dance

We are listening to this today.  We hope you enjoy it, too.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


The strength of a man isn't seen in the power of his arms. It's seen in the love with which he embraces you.― Steve Maraboli

Friday, September 27, 2013

Flower and Bee

I am sure we have provided these words from On Pleasure in Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet before.  We hear them, and love them, and feel them in our hearts.

Oftentimes in denying yourself pleasure you do but store the desire in the recesses of your being.
Who knows but that which seems omitted today, waits for tomorrow?
Even your body knows its heritage and its rightful need and will not be deceived.
And your body is the harp of your soul,
And it is yours to bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds.

And now you ask in your heart, "How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure from that which is not good?"
Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form. 
― Rumi

In our rare resting moments, we contemplate the diminutive existential crisis that blossomed quietly after the passing of Ottoman-shaped Dog.  We think of those who tell tales of having received a sign from a lost loved one -- those who find consolation in the butterfly or the cloud formation or the somehow unmistakable indication of love and comfort from beyond the veil. We do not yet believe.  We may, in fact, disbelieve.  Yet still, somewhere in the kernel of our hearts, we have a molecule of hope.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Brick and Grass

Ancient and Decrepit Dog was using a portion of the decorative brick edging for a pillow as she lay in the grass and enjoyed the warm sun.  She then shifted, rolled around growling happily, and finally relaxed completely.  The series of four photographs presented below attempts to capture those blissful moments.

It is lovely to see the weather and the yard bring her joy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Following The Rules

During a discussion of sarcasm last night, Herself had a flashback.  She had not thought about a particular moment in ages. Eons. Practically a lifetime ago.

She was about six years old -- first grade, she thinks -- on an ordinary school day in autumn.  It was recess, and she and a few others were playing on the upper playground of the grade school.  One one side of the blacktop, there was the little hill that was an ideal spot for sledding in cold weather; behind them sat the red brick building; and on the far side was a chain-link fence, with a small gap through which some of the children who lived on the adjacent street would slip when they were running late for the bell, in lieu of walking all the way around to the main gate.

She and the others bounced the red playground ball back and forth until the ball escaped someone's hands and headed towards that gap in the chain-link fence.  She chased it through the gap, and then suddenly froze in horror on the sidewalk just outside the fence.  The warning flashed, screeching, into her brain:  Don't run into the street.  She'd almost done so, and had pulled up short just in time.  The horror.  She should have stopped inside the fence itself. Shame on her. Careless, stupid, she chastised herself.

When they returned to the classroom after recess, the teacher called the class to attention because she wanted to point something out.  "What happened at recess?" The teacher inquired.  Her young brain promptly filled in the details:  The ball went into the street.  I almost went into the street. I was on the sidewalk, one step away from being in the street.  I made a mistake.  The teacher looked at her, and she knew she needed to respond. She answered in a tiny voice:  "The ball went into the street."  "And what did you do?" The teacher asked. Oh, no. She knows I forgot. She's telling me to admit what I did - I was right there by the street.  I was bad. I did the wrong thing. She is going to make fun of me.  She breathed as quietly as possible:  "I went to the street?"  She braced herself for mockery.

The teacher must not have heard her properly, for she replied in a kind and approving voice, "That's right. You didn't go into the street.  Good job."  Then the teacher turned back to the chalkboard, and lessons began again.

She sat, incredulous.  A kindness had been delivered to her, right there in front of the entire class.  The teacher was sincere.  She praised me for stopping just in time. She did not scorn me.  How can that be?  She was temporarily stunned; having prepared for the impact of verbal derision, she was unsure how to uncurl herself mentally even when the danger was past.  Slowly, slowly, she turned her young mind back to the classroom activity.  And the afternoon wore on, uneventfully.

Four decades later, what she remembers most is bracing herself for sarcastic criticism, only to experience the strange absence of a verbal blow. Her surprise at the lack of ridicule forever burned the memory of that tiny event into her brain, such that she can easily recall the precise emotions all these years later.

She wonders now:  why did she expect what she did?

Perhaps, she thinks, some questions are best left unanswered.

I found this ball here

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Sort mounds of laundry,
Vacuum a pile of dog fur,
Stir fry some veggies.

Sleep in, just a bit;
Run errands with the Menfolk,
Browse through the RVs.

Tidy the kitchen;
Tiny Dog curled in my shirt,
Chat with the Offspring.

All the little things,
Joy in ordinary days:
Happy to be Home.

Where we love is home - home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. -- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Be Civilized

Let us contemplate this fragment of a conversation:

"When people have been married for a long time, they treat each other with thinly veiled contempt."


Contempt: con·tempt  kənˈtem(p)t/    (noun)
the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.  "he showed his contempt for his job by doing it very badly"

synonyms: scorn, disdain, disrespect, scornfulness, contemptuousness, derision; disgust, loathing, hatred, abhorrence.  "she regarded him with contempt"

No. That does not belong in marriage. That's wrong.

It is an ever-changing creature, a marriage:  amorous, arduous, evolving. It is a lesson, a joy, a sacrifice; it is all the tiny things that fill the myriad spaces between the big things.  It is a partnership.  Kahlil Gibran describes the give-and-take of marriage best:

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.


In the best of circumstances, the participants in a marriage blossom into themselves, side by side. They learn from one another and help one another to grow.  This is how it should be, we believe.  We think that it is nothing short of tragic when a person uses the word "contempt" to describe feelings towards one's spouse.  We will not use that word, nor shall we show that emotion.  We shall endeavor always to be kind, for that is what is most important. 

Nothing living should ever be treated with contempt. Whatever it is that lives, a man, a tree, or a bird, should be touched gently, because the time is short. Civilization is another word for respect for life.... ― Elizabeth Goudge, Green Dolphin Street

We respect all the creatures -- even Tiny Silly Dog. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Hello, my lovely readers.  We are back from the business trip.  It went as expected:  no surprises, no tremendous highs, nor any particular lows.  The hotel was quaint and quiet.  We saw a man in a kilt waiting for a shuttle bus, a seagull perched on a street light, trees turning for autumn, and some wild turkeys gathered in a baseball field early one morning.  There was an X-ray and pat-down and hand-swabbing at the airport.  Herself wore dresses and high heels and makeup - rare and enjoyable are opportunities to do so.  That is all we have to report, really. We are a tad fatigued; that shall pass with a nap, we are sure.

We are glad to be home.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Flap Your Wings

Business trip. Huzzah for planes and hotels and wearing real clothes and being professional!  Although we may not be able to update for a bit, know that you, Gentle Reader, are never far from our hearts.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


She imagined herself as some sort of vessel to be filled up with love. But it wasn't like that. The love was within her all the time, and its only renewal came from giving it away. ― Kim Edwards, The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Hole In The World


I am having such difficulty finding topics about which to write.  I try, and yet nothing meaningful springs to mind or to fingers. I fret about things over which I have no control, and about things I cannot change. There are petty annoyances and memories of dreams deferred and lost all bumping about in my head, taking up space and hampering productivity. I entertain myself with meaningless busywork so that I can avoid thinking about the cold hard truths of love and loss and endings.  I succeed, mostly, during the day.  

Tonight, when the Offspring are in their rooms and I am alone, I fall into the hole.  

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.  ― Edna St. Vincent Millay

I miss his ottoman shape, his stumpy tail, his expressive eyebrows. His fur was short and fine - much like the fur that Ancient Decrepit Dog has solely on her ears.  Ottoman-shaped dog was completely covered in ear-fur. I miss the tactile sensation of that fur.  I just looked to see whether he was resting in the dog bed under the side table in the family room, and then caught myself doing so.  I am sad.

I know he was just a dog.  But he was not just a dog. He was my guardian and my companion. He was an ottoman-shaped witness to my happinesses, my sadnesses, my worries, my hopes and my dreams, taking all in through his calm eyes as he rested nearby or followed me faithfully through the house.  He never became impatient with me, scolded me, or mocked me. He never judged me. He always appeared to give me his full quiet attention when I talked; he yielded an impression that what was said was important to him. He was my shadow -- a shadow that listened and returned unwavering acceptance.

He was an enthusiastic greeter whenever I stepped through the doorway: a marvelous welcoming committee of one.  He was a soothing presence when my body or my heart ached. My feelings were never too big or too alarming for him -- whereas Ancient Decrepit Dog would hear sobbing or an angry voice and slink quietly out of the room, he would sit with me, drawing away my pain, calming my storm within. I never once held back my emotions in front of him out of fear that he would scoff or criticize. He was unafraid of my raw humanity.

With him, I could be unquestioningly myself.  And he loved me just the way I am, without reservation, without hesitation. Such devotion.

I'm sure that all seems silly to say, but it would be disrespectful not to acknowledge all that he was.

He was a Good Dog.

I know I should feel more grateful to have had such a marvelous, faithful companion for a decade. Perhaps I will, in time.  Right now, all I can see is the absence of what once was. 

In truth, I do not cry for him.  He is at peace.  He is no more.  Rather, I cry for myself, for I have lost what can never be replaced, and I am lonely without him.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Time-Lapse Nature

Need something soothing?  Try a little time lapse nature.

Here's a lovely place: The Art Of Time Lapse.  Thank you, John Eklund, for these lovely images.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


It has rained. And rained. And rained.  We are ever so grateful for the water.

At night I dream that you and I are two plants
that grew together, roots entwined,
and that you know the earth and the rain like my mouth,
since we are made of earth and rain
― Pablo Neruda, Regalo De Un Poeta/ Gift Of A Poet


Behold, the pair of shorts found at a local store.

They were in the rack by the dressing room, which means that someone had tried them on with an eye toward wearing them. 

They look like the kind of garment -- and I use the term 'garment' in only the loosest sense -- that one would purposefully THROW AWAY, rather than deliberately purchase.

Such sartorial choices can only lead to the eventual downfall of civilization.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I said nothing for a time, just ran my fingertips along the edge of the human-shaped emptiness that had been left inside me. ― Haruki Murakami

It is an ottoman-shaped emptiness.

I stand by the sink and brush my teeth, and glance towards the door.  My heart cracks anew because I realize once more that I will not hear the jingle of his collar or view his black and white ottoman-shaped form trotting with a quiet cheerfulness through the doorway into the bedroom.  After a long and mentally fatiguing day of onerous tasks, mundane annoyances, and boring frustrations, nothing would be more consoling right now than to see the wag of his stumpy tail. I would not need words to tell him how I am feeling -- he would just understand.  I would sit with him and partake of his serenity.  I would touch his soothing, warm fur. And then I would feel better.

And I will never have those things again, and there is no comfort to be found.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Grieve Not

Last night, Herself and Beloved Husband sat out on the patio, watching Aged Decrepit Dog and Tiny Dog stare intensely at the rock wall in anticipation of a sighting of the neighbors' dogs.  Tiny Maya eventually tired of the wait and wandered back over to the patio, where Herself was recounting a story about Tiny Dog's activities the day before.

While Herself was in the kitchen, she had heard Offspring the Second come down the stairs.  Tiny Maya, who was watching Herself cook, had not responded to a "go get him!" or a "who's there?", but when instructed to go find Offspring the Second with a mention of his name, she promptly disappeared into the hall to look for him.  She knew his name.  Smart Tiny Dog!

Herself and Beloved Husband also talked about Aged Decrepit Dog's deafness, and about how Ottoman-shaped Dog had served as her ears.  So hard for Aged Decrepit Dog without him.  Herself looked at Tiny Dog, and asked her:  "Where's Thor?" Surprisingly, Tiny Dog promptly looked towards the back door, as if she expected an Ottoman-shaped Dog to emerge.  She watched, and waited, and then went over to look more closely at the doorway.  She continued to look for Thorbert's arrival for a good five minutes.

That was unexpectedly heartbreaking.

The family is slowly getting used to the absence of Thorbert.  Like Tiny Dog, though, Herself still finds that she is looking for him. It will take more time.

Herself finds it very hard to imagine Thorbert anywhere other than here.  She still harbors a painful visceral uncertainty - is he safe? Is he at peace? Is he happy? Where is he?  While looking through one of her favorite books, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, she found a few words that may bring her consolation, if she takes them to heart.   She must remind herself:  he is Home.

We do not need to grieve for the dead. Why should we grieve for them? They are now in a place where there is no more shadow, darkness, loneliness, isolation, or pain. They are home. ― John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

This lovely crocheted remembrance of Thorbert 
was made by Inugurumi of Etsy

Sunday, September 8, 2013

It's All in How You Look at Things

I would like to listen to those who walk among the stars.

"Well," said the boy, "in my family everyone is born in the air, with his head at exactly the height it's going to be when he's an adult, and then we all grow toward the ground.  When we're fully grown up or, as you see, grown down, our feet finally touch.  Of course, there are a few of us whose feet never reach the ground no matter how old we get, but I suppose it's the same in every family."
"Does everyone here grow the way you do?" puffed Milo when he had caught up.

"Almost everyone," replied Alec, and then he stopped a moment and thought.  "Now and then, though, someone does begin to grow differently.  Instead of down, his feet grow up toward the sky.  But we do our best to discourage awkward things like that."

"What happens to them?" insisted Milo.

"Oddly enough, they often grow ten times the size of everyone else," said Alec thoughtfully, "and I've heard that they walk among the stars." And with that he skipped off once again toward the waiting woods.

- Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Where Do You Keep Yours?

A word is not the same with one writer as it is with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket. ― Charles Péguy, Basic Verities, Prose, and Poetry

This marvelous tree of words can be found here, at  
Lovely word trees. Marvelous.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


After a week of writing about the passing of devoted, treasured Thorbert, we are a tad wrung out and mostly out of words.  The searing sorrow of his death has subsided into an intermittent, oscillating bereavement.  A stark grief still inhabits the shadows, oftentimes seeming to take the form of an ottoman-shaped dog out of the corner of one's eye, only to be revealed upon full inspection to be naught but a bicycle helmet or a bunched-up blanket.

Nevertheless, we're not overwhelmed by sadness.  We are learning to live with his absence. Slowly.  It's a bit difficult to return to the minutiae of life after having delved rather deeply into the occurrence of death. Return we must, in time.

In the erstwhile, though, we might be a tiny bit quiet here. Or not - one never knows exactly when inspiration for detailed composition will arrive.  We hope that it may be soon. There is always comfort to be found in words.

Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters. ― Neil Gaiman

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Now that Ottoman-shaped Dog has shuffled off this mortal coil, Tiny Dog is attempting to get to know Ancient and Decrepit Dog a bit better.  Ancient and Decrepit Dog is relatively tolerant, all things considered, as long as Tiny Dog isn't too ebullient. Perhaps in time they will come to a new and better understanding of one another.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different

There is a beautiful spider in the window of the back patio.