Ah, glorious thunder. The rainy season approaches, and the desert breathes a sigh of relief.
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
When Beloved Husband mentioned to Herself on Friday afternoon that there was spot in his right eye that had been persisting there for several days, Herself was slightly aghast. Fond of things medical and science as she is, she knew that while it might be Nothing, it also could, just perhaps, be a Very Alarming Something. She chose not to go to Google, or even to mention the ugly possibilities to Beloved Husband, but did encourage him to call the eye doctor first thing on Monday. (She also refrained from asking too often over the weekend if the spot was better or worse -- though that was difficult for her.) Husband is a diligent and careful man, and so he called right away and was able to make an appointment for this morning.
And the Universe showed mercy, because the mysterious 'floaters' were, upon examination, nothing about which to be concerned.
On occasion it happens that a person feels as though all the irritants of life are a million minuscule metaphorical ducks, pecking away slowly, dully, relentlessly: peck... peck... peck... peck. It continues until the urge to scream "ENOUGH" rises in the back of one's throat, and one feels as though nothing except running will relieve the pecking. Peck... peck... peck.
Sometimes in the midst of the ducks, one attempts to escape the present by thinking of the past, or of the future; however, oftentimes the pecking drives away good memories and hope, until one is left with naught but those myriad blunt beaks. Peck... peck... peck.
It is a difficult place to be, for the ducks so often dwell adjacent to (or in) The Void. What can one do, but wait in the dark of The Void until the ducks tire, and then quietly, quietly (lest the ducks awaken again), gather the strength to find the way out of The Void?
When you find yourself in the dark of The Void, or when there are a million ducks, or when you and your million ducks are together in the dark of The Void, at all those times I send to you, metaphorical duck repellent and a metaphysical flashlight. And I repeat to you the words that a wise soul once told me:
It will get better. It always does. "Lights and Tunnels." "Darkest before Dawn." The cliches wouldn't be there, and they wouldn't be cliche, if they weren't true.
Herself and her internet ladyfriends had a very interesting discussion the other day regarding a paragraph from the diary of Anaïs Nin. The passage is complex and somewhat nebulous, and is written in Nin's usual, slightly flowery verbiage (which is, in my opinion, certainly preferable to a clinical description of sensual scenarios). Although the paragraph uses language relating to pregnancy and birth, it seems that the words are far more metaphorical than literal, particularly when viewed in the context of some of Nin's other writings (e.g., Delta of Venus, Little Birds) that focus on the sensual rather than on the biological.
The paragraph includes a hallmark theme that can be found in many of Nin's writings - that of a woman finding satisfaction in opening herself to a man. Among Herself and the ladies, there were clearly different opinions regarding the accuracy (veracity?) of such a theme. While the idea clearly didn't ring true for many, for others, it did: for some, to open oneself to a man could be a fulfillment itself.
Perhaps each woman's thoughts on the matter depend on how she views the juncture of intimacy and sexuality. Where does vulnerability lie -- in the beginning, or in the conclusion, of the act? Or both? Or neither - can sexuality and intimacy be separated? Yes, for some; no, for others.
Or perhaps a woman's viewpoint relies on whether she considers sex to encompass a type of surrender - a relinquishment of control to another. (Whether it is the man or the woman who surrenders, though, may depend on each individual experience.) Allowing another to take charge of a physical interlude can be a risk, or a delicious adventure. Where on the continuum of an encounter is control exchanged, and is it in that moment that delight is found?
It is complex -- a simultaneously delicate and physical dance of both psyche and body. Where does satisfaction reside?
Tell us what you think. Man can never know the loneliness a woman knows. Man lies in the woman's womb only to gather strength, he nourishes himself from this fusion, and then he rises and goes into the world, into his work, into battle, into art. He is not lonely. He is busy. The memory of the swim in amniotic fluid gives him energy, completion. Woman may be busy too, but she feels empty. Sensuality for her is not only a wave of pleasure in which she is bathed, and a charge of electric joy at contact with another. When man lies in her womb, she is fulfilled, each act of love a taking of man within her, an act of birth and rebirth, of child rearing and man bearing. Man lies in her womb and is reborn each time anew with a desire to act, to be. But for woman, the climax is not in the birth, but in the moment man rests inside of her. ― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
Perhaps ottoman-shaped dog knew that I was thinking of him, and whispered in Tiny Dog's ear -- for when I returned from my walk yesterday evening, there was Tiny Dog, under her leafy blanket on the dog cushion in the front hall, waiting just as ottoman-shaped dog used to wait for me.
It has been nearly a year since ottoman-shaped dog crossed to the beyond. (I choose not to mark his passing on the anniversary of that particular day, for it would do him a disservice to dwell on his moment of death rather than to recall the decade of noble, stumpy-tail-wagging companionship he bestowed upon us.) We have become accustomed to life without him, even though his name still comes up frequently and fondly. He is part of us, always.
Quiet, brave ottoman-shaped dog, you quivered with anticipation at all the simple joys of life: a good meal, a walk around the block, a bird in the yard. You kept me company when I did my chores, following me from room to room as I distributed laundry or tidied up. You provided solace when I was ill or sad by offering your serene presence. You had marvelous fur, soft and smooth and consoling to the touch. You loved blankets, and supervising neighborhood passers-by through the glass of the door, and snacks. And you waited ever so patiently in the front hall for me to return home, always.
Are you waiting for me in the front hall of another grand place now? It will take me the rest of my life to return to you. If I can, I will.
Good boy, Thorbert. To call him a dog hardly seems to do him justice, though inasmuch as he had four legs, a tail, and barked, I admit he was, to all outward appearances. But to those of us who knew him well, he was a perfect gentleman. ― Hermione Gingold
The Heavy -- contemplating, once more, the realities of adulthood:
That when one is angry, or frustrated, or heartbroken, one must compose oneself alone, lest one make another uncomfortable with a naked display of emotion; That one must dry one's own tears, and put on a brave face, for tears are not to be revealed lest their presence embarrass or anger another; That one must take care of oneself, and not hope for another to attend to or anticipate one's needs or wants, for people live in their own worlds and cannot always see the intersecting worlds of others; That giving away pieces of oneself is never a guarantee that one will receive equal -- or any -- pieces in return; and That despite all this, one must love others anyway, for life is short, and loving makes it sweet.
The Light -- immersing oneself in the moment:
That the Caverns smell of earth and stone and water and bats; That the quiet erases the accumulation of daily noise that has taken up residence in one's brain; That the dark alleviates the oppressiveness of the desert sun; That the handrails are cool and moist and metallic, smooth and comforting to the hands; That the weight of the backpack presses against the small of one's back, relieving the pain that tends to reside there; That there is pleasant walking, down and up and around; and That for a little while, one can forget the realities, and focus on the miracle of the caverns and the beauty of the moment. And just be.
Photograph copyright 2014, GAM. Used with gratitude.
I think you may judge of a man’s character by the persons whose affection he seeks. If you find a man seeking only the affection of those who are great, depend upon it he is ambitious and self-seeking; but when you observe that a man seeks the affection of those who can do nothing for him, but for whom he must do everything, you know that he is not seeking himself, but that pure benevolence sways his heart. ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon
If wishes were fishes I'd learn how to swim Below all the seaweed In salt and in dim I'd search all the hiding spots Beneath the docks I'd follow the current Past sand and past rocks But beware the octopus Under the sea - He might catch the fish that Would bring you to me If that were to happen ('Tis likely, you know) I'd give up my quest For more fishes below Instead I would rise And take wing to the sky - For sometimes, the fishes They learn how to fly.
There are many household tasks that I do not mind -- in fact, that I occasionally even enjoy. That being said, if I had a house elf, I would ask her to do two things:
First, when I come home in the late afternoon, please have some kind of nutritious yet tasty snack available for me, so that I do not eat junk in my fatigued state and thereby become even more rotund than I am now.
And second, please unzip my work dress for me so that I can change into more casual clothes, because at the end of the day I am too tired to contort myself easily to reach that wretched zipper.
While Herself was visiting her parents during the family reunion a few weeks ago, she and her father rummaged about a bit in the basement, looking at all of the relics stored there. The Lincoln Logs were on a shelf, as were the tiny wooden farm animals, and there was a bin of lovely articles of clothing from around the world, and various briefcases, and all sorts of dishes, and quilts and pitchers and all kinds of things. One could spend hours down there in the basement, touching the memories.
Her father pointed out one item wedged unobtrusively at the end of a shelf: a piggy bank. His piggy bank, from when he was young.
Painting the front door of your house is remarkably like trimming your own hair - you really hope that when people see the end result, they will think "that looks nice" rather than "oh, dear, she must have done that herself."
Herself painted both the front and the back doors of the house in the past few days. The back door needed significantly more work - there were scratch marks on the frame from a time when ancient and decrepit dog, may she rest in peace, desperately wanted to come inside faster than the humans were opening the door. The weather stripping was a tad gnawed, too. Herself spackled, sanded, replaced the weather stripping, and repainted the door and the frame. Not too bad. She did the front door, too - it had a touch of peeling around the edges. That door was trickier because of all the glass. It turned out OK as well.
She's not too sure of the color; perhaps it has just a tiny bit too pink of an undertone. Or perhaps it's just right, like a new lipstick to which one has yet to become accustomed. Either way, what we would really like to know is: who gets to label the paint colors? They have such fabulous names.
Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who's in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It's like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven't seen in a long time. ― Haruki Murakami
This quote is not just for those falling in love, but also, for those who love; not just for a lover, but also for a Loved One. So it goes, when fate provides the gift of being allowed to love another human being: yin and Yang, love and loss -- opposite sides of the same coin, always.
For the past five days, Offspring the Second and Beloved Husband have been out of town visiting the college that Offspring the Second will begin to attend in the fall as a sophomore. On the way home this morning, they stopped by the city in which Offspring the First attends college, and they had breakfast together with her and her beau. Beloved Husband took pictures of them, and surprisingly, the Offspring acquiesced. They e-mailed the pictures to Herself before Offspring the Second and Beloved Husband set off for home. Herself looks at the pictures, and is verklempt.
They are beautiful souls, the Offspring.
Herself knows that the offspring, despite being physical offshoots from her genes, are very much individuals separate from Herself. They have their own private thoughts and goals, fears and strengths, dreams. The Universe blessed Herself with their care and keeping, and the Universe has been kind, forgiving Herself her fallibility and mistakes as a parent and allowing the Offspring to grow and develop and ready themselves to launch into the world.
As they go, they take pieces of Herself's heart with them. These are pieces that she willingly gave to them, to bind and protect them as much as possible, as they navigate through the mysteries of Life. It is the best she can do -- let go, and be there to catch them if need be. We hope for the very best for them always.
If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. Love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. To have been loved so deeply... will give us some protection forever. ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Note: brief frank discussion of sexuality today. You have been warned!
Remember that flash-in-the-pan internet short film, First Kiss, about strangers kissing for the first time? We wrote about it, here. It turned out to be an advertisement for a clothing company. Interesting.
The ante has been upped: now there is Undress Me, a similar short film designed to be an advertisement for the television program, Masters of Sex. The premise of Undress Me: two strangers are introduced to one another and then remove one another's clothing. Once they're down to their underclothing (brassiere and panties for girls, underpants for boys), they climb onto/into a bed together.
Herself can't even bring herself to watch the video. She supposes that for the young and attractive (and clearly rather self-confident), being denuded by a similarly attractive stranger might be acceptable, though a tiny bit awkward. As a Rubenesque middle-aged woman who clearly bears the signs of having carried 9-pound babies (not to mention an ample handful of surgical scars), though, Herself cannot even imagine.
THE HORROR. OH HELL NO.
When Herself and her ladies idly chat about their own seasoned bodies and about handsome young movie stars and with whom they'd willingly have an amorous encounter if they were available, all Herself can think is, in the event (God forbid) of an untimely demise of Beloved Husband, she would invest in a B.O.B. and call it a day. She cannot begin to imagine the self-consciousness and vulnerability of disrobing in front of another person, after so many years -- decades, even -- of familiar intimacy with one man. It's positively nauseating even to contemplate. Unthinkable.
Then again, she wonders whether the only thing more terrifying than being naked in front of a new person, would be the thought that she might never be naked with another person ever again. There is something exquisite about being bare with another person. She would miss that in a most visceral way. But would she miss it enough to take steps into the naked unknown to try to find it again?
All Herself knows for certain at this point, is that in the unlikely circumstances that she were to brave that seemingly impossible new path towards nudity with another, it would have to be with someone whom she loves enough to take the risk.
Herself is fond of pugs. She is not entirely sure why she is drawn to them; she just is. I think that perhaps there is something about their enormous dark eyes and their vaguely worried expressions that calls to her.
She keeps tabs on various pug-related pages and organizations on Facebook, including several pug-specific rescues. Late last night, one such rescue put out a message asking for pug fans in Herself's city. She responded to the call, and spoke with the Director of the pug rescue, who let her know that there were two pugs at the local animal services shelter. He asked that she take responsibility for retrieving the two pugs from the shelter and care for them briefly until arrangements could be made for transport of the pugs to the rescue.
On the one hand, Herself was a little terrified of getting involved. Would she be able to accomplish all that was necessary at her job that morning (there were several projects that needed to get out by noontime), and still retrieve the pugs? It seemed likely, but still worrisome. And there were a multitude of practical concerns: did she know how to get to the shelter? Where was her portable dog crate? Did she need to bring collars and leashes? She has no pug dog food, should she get some? What if the pugs had health issues? How should she separate them from Tiny Dog, until she knew that they were healthy and safe for interaction?
All night long, she dreamed about fetching the pugs.
This morning, she cut her time on her elliptical trainer slightly short, so that she could fill up the car with gas and get to her employment early enough to ensure she could handle work matters before leaving to go to the shelter. She had the telephone number of the shelter so that she could call right when they opened at 10 AM to inquire about the status of the pugs; she had her mapquest directions of the route to the shelter.
At about twenty after nine, though, she received a message from the Director of the pug rescue, who was in direct contact with the shelter himself. The pugs had already been retrieved. There was no need for Herself to take action.
Herself thanked him, and let him know that she would be available should the situation arise again.
On the one hand, Herself was relieved that there was no need for her to determine all the final logistics of dog crates and kibble and leashes, and that she didn't need to drive to unfamiliar territory and take responsibility for a pair of small canines.
On the other hand, she was disappointed. She has been worn down by her unmooring and changes and wistfulness about things that cannot be, as well as by family gatherings and the accompanying memories. She would have enjoyed an opportunity to be momentary savior to two humble furry lives. Heartache is eased by the wag of a tail.
Perhaps an opportunity will arise again. We shall see.
You hurt and have sharp desire, yet your presence is a healing calm. -- Rumi, The Big Red Book
Hermione sighed and laid down her quill. "Well, obviously, she's feeling very sad, because of Cedric dying. Then I expect she's feeling confused because she liked Cedric and now she likes Harry, and she can't work out who she likes best. Then she'll be feeling guilty, thinking it's an insult to Cedric's memory to be kissing Harry at all, and she'll be worrying about what everyone else might say about her if she starts going out with Harry. And she probably can't work out what her feelings toward Harry are anyway, because he was the one who was with Cedric when Cedric died, so that's all very mixed up and painful. Oh, and she's afraid she's going to be thrown off the Ravenclaw Quidditch team because she's been flying so badly." A slightly stunned silence greeted the end of this speech, then Ron said, "One person can't feel all that at once, they'd explode."
- J.K. Rowling, Order of The Phoenix
Sometimes Herself wonders what emotions are like for other people.
She knows and accepts that her feelings can be rather intense. She has learned to ride their ebb and flow. She considers them to be an asset; a strong sense of empathy helps her to understand -- and possibly be more able to help -- the people she encounters. Unfortunately, though, there is no sliding scale of empathy; either she is either fully engaged, or she has shut out all feelings. For self-protection, "off" often seems to be the safest emotional position; it is, however, the most difficult tactic to use, since it stifles and denies her emotional core. Better to feel -- even pain -- than to be numb.
Sometimes Herself wonders whether the strength of her emotions is a gender-based characteristic. Do other women feel as intensely? Perhaps they do. Herself doesn't know a sufficient number of women personally to make any kind of scientific assessment. She assumes, however, from her paltry experience that it is so. And as far as she can tell, too, men's emotions emerge very differently from women's.
Are male feelings as intense but just not as noticeable because men have been trained since they were wee little tykes to be stoic and silent and unemotional? Or do men operate at a lower level of emotional intensity? We genuinely wonder. We do not know.
One thing we do know is that men on the whole do not deal well with the intense feelings of women. The sight or sound of a woman in emotional distress, however mild, is oftentimes enough to send most men running for the hills. What is it about the emotions of women that is so very alarming for men?
Is the showing of female emotions an unseemly display of what must be suppressed in accordance with some mysterious Man Code? Do men perceive visible feelings as a disappointing lack of self-control by women? Does a woman's emotion make a man uncomfortable because he (thinks he) cannot, must not, allow his feelings the same freedom? Do men perceive a show of emotions as an unacceptable display of weakness? Is it akin to seeing a wounded animal limp around on the savanna when there is a pride of lions nearby?
Do men more often, or more easily, resort to "off" as an emotional position and thereby not know what to do when someone's emotional switch is "on"? Are strong emotions somehow seen as contagious, so that men avoid interaction with emotional individuals in order to avoid "catching" them? Or do men worry that they have somehow caused the woman's distress, and are fearful that they will not be able to repair any damage they have caused? Does female emotion frustrate the inherent male desire to FIX things, since sometimes emotions are about things that cannot be fixed?
Or is it all something else entirely that Herself, as a woman, will never be able to understand? We do not know.
Nevertheless, no matter how hard men try to stay away from situations in which a woman shows strong feelings, there are circumstances under which it may become unavoidable. And so, behold, Men: we have written instructions for you to take to survive encountering a woman's emotions.
Preface: generally speaking, unless there is blood, fire, flood, or active weaponry in the immediate vicinity, give the woman your full and undivided attention. Women will certainly understand if an imminent danger requires your heedfulness, but will be (further) wounded if you interrupt a moment when she is expressing her emotions to attend to less vital distractions. Note, too, that a few minutes of your complete attention will in all likelihood reduce the duration of an emotional storm. Everyone wins there.
Now, the instructions:
First, acknowledge the existence of the feeling. "I can see you're really upset." Name the feeling if you can -- "You sound really mad." If you're wrong, she will correct you. "I'm not mad, I'm sad." (It's not likely that any initial misinterpretation of her emotion will create a further problem; under most circumstances, a woman will be grateful that you are communicating with her about her distress). Even if you do not understand the particular emotion or why it is happening at that moment, you can nevertheless legitimize it for the woman by verifying its presence. Many women have grown up hearing phrases such as, "You're overreacting" or "you shouldn't feel that way" (or "you should feel this way instead"). To affirm that her feelings are exist and are valid, whatever they may be, is tremendously empowering for a woman.
Second, provide words of reinforcement. Sometimes, a verbal statement akin to "it will be OK" is enough. Or put yourself in her shoes (I know, that's impossible -- but try) to show you understand what's bothering her: "I'd be really angry about that too" or "that was a hurtful thing for [the person at whom she is annoyed] to say/do." If you are not sure how to be supportive, make a statement in a way that highlights the competence of the woman -- "you've got this" or "good for you for taking the higher road, that must have been difficult." If all else fails, "I'm here for you" will always be extremely helpful, as it will let her know she is not alone while she is distressed. Knowing someone is there for her, and believes in her and encourages her, is again tremendously empowering.
An empowered woman is a brave woman. She is a capable woman. She has been comforted and given strength, and now she can move on to what needs to be done.
One caveat, above all: do not attempt to provide solutions to any described problem unless you are specifically asked to do so. Sometimes, it's not about the nail. Truly.
This advice, when condensed, is brief enough to be scrawled upon a single sticky note to hang on the fridge among the dinosaur magnets, thusly:
3. Do not fix.
That is all. It's complex. And yet simple.
One final piece of advice: if all else fails -- or if she's upset beyond talking -- just hold her. Don't be afraid of tears; they don't last forever. And neither of you will melt.
Buy the sky and sell the sky And lift your arms up to the sky And ask the sky, and ask the sky Fall on me (what is it up in the air for) Fall on me (if it's there for long) Fall on me (it's over, it's over me)
Herself is still processing the recent trip. It was a family reunion, full of all the wonderful and difficult moments associated with collecting a disparate assortment of individuals linked solely by the fragile and yet enduring bond of DNA. It was good, and it was tricky, and it was full of memories that were vaguely embarrassing, slightly wistful, and occasionally surprisingly sweet.
Herself finds these gatherings to be draining. She must put on her sociable face and spend far more time than to which she's accustomed making small talk with people whom she has not seen for quite some time (ranging from a few years to a few decades, in this case). She tried hard to do and to say all the right things. Did she do enough?
She put on a brave face when asked about her employment and talked about her recent unmooring, providing a positive spin on what has actually been a difficult time for her. She kept an eye on the Offspring to ensure that they were not cornered by any particular relatives for too long. She tried to soothe the ruffled feathers of those who were disappointed to discover they were not the center of attention at the dinner table. She tried to interact with the nephews and nieces in a quiet and peaceful way so that they were not overwhelmed by another unfamiliar face. She listened to the elderly widower reminisce about his lovely wife, and noted how he still referred to "we" when talking about the home in which he now lives alone.
They all needed a moment to say what was in their heads and their hearts; the best she can do, always, is listen fully and attentively.
When things were strained, she mollified and pacified and cajoled. She tried to ask thoughtful questions and tend to the needs of others. Even when she realized that she was exhausted and needed to go recuperate alone in a quiet space, she could not retreat for long; social rules required her participation. She drew strength from her Offspring, who were charming and conversational, and she found joy in seeing how kind and thoughtful they have become. The Offspring are Good People. They warm her heart.
Herself looked at the newly-found pictures of her beautiful aunt who has been gone for over thirty years (how can it be so long?), and remembered the shy admiration she always felt in her aunt's presence. She realized that she never knew -- until she saw the photograph -- that her paternal grandmother played the violin. Such a remarkable woman, grandmother was; never did an unkind word leave her grandmother's lips.
Even though the pictures were black-and-white, Herself could readily bring to mind the bright clear blue of her grandfather's eyes. Shaina maideleh, he would call Herself as he briefly cradled her chin, and in that moment, Herself's unkempt braids and crooked teeth and spattering of freckles did not matter, because she knew he found her pretty, even when she did not understand his words.
All the tiny details, still so crystal clear after all this time.
She realized how much her own Offspring look like the grainy old pictures of their ancestors. Do they feel a kinship with their kin?
Herself is now back in the safety of her own house, and yet the busy pace of daily life continues. She has had precious few moments to digest and absorb the whirlwind of the trip. She is in need of a long walk, some quiet contemplation, and a bit of time with her Safe People. Only then can she put on her Self Face, and let go. Underneath my outside face There's a face that none can see. A little less smiley, A little less sure, But a whole lot more like me.
~ Shel Silverstein
Such a lovely painting of words. A girl stood before him in midstream, alone and still, gazing out to sea. She seemed like one whom magic had changed into the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird. Her long slender bare legs were delicate as a crane's and pure save where an emerald trail of seaweed had fashioned itself as a sign upon the flesh. Her thighs, fuller and soft-hued as ivory, were bared almost to the hips, where the white fringes of her drawers were like feathering of soft white down. Her slate-blue skirts were kilted boldly about her waist and dovetailed behind her. Her bosom was as a bird's, soft and slight, slight and soft as the breast of some dark-plumaged dove. But her long fair hair was girlish: and girlish, and touched with the wonder of mortal beauty, her face.
― James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
As we have mentioned before, Herself's maternal grandmother was a marvelous seamstress. In addition to fashioning the much-loved goose, she also made a flock of three chickens -- two in floral patterns, and one in a rich brown fuzzy fabric. Herself is extraordinarily fond of the chickens. (She has always had a certain affinity for chickens. Perhaps that stems from her very beginning: when she was a newborn, at a wee bit under 5 pounds, her parents observed that she was no bigger than a rather puny chicken, and so, she was nicknamed "Miss Chicken" for quite some time.)
Herself's mother allowed Herself to bring the chickens home this weekend. Herself is very pleased to have them.
NinjaHead resides with a sesquipedalian 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 and rather cranky middle-aged chihuahua. Someday, there will be more critters, for she loves them tremendously.