Monday, December 30, 2013


I guess I really have become a homebody. We got back from traveling on Saturday night, and I'm still trying to get my head screwed back on straight.

It's been a year here, and I still revel in how good it feels to come home. Didn't have that in Jax for the longest time. Really makes you realize the difference between compromise and happiness.

It was a good holiday; Yule was awesome, and Christmas was fine. Everybody put on their happy faces, and I tried not to choke on the hypocrisy. We hit his mom's place first for Christmas Eve and Day. No big talks occurred, because of time constraints, and because we all recognize the futility of speaking seriously to people who are too high for anything to sink in. We then traveled to my mom and Lil Sis's place from Boxing Day til Saturday. It was a nice visit, and a nice way to come down a bit from the tension of the other place.

Les got me a gorgeous anniversary jacket band to go around my engagement ring (we celebrate 15 years in 2014; he's been wanting to get me something like this since around year 10). I plied him with weaponry.

Things won't get back to normal for another week unfortunately. We lost Les' Aunt Kaye on Christmas Day, and we're traveling again this week to see her laid to rest. She was a dear lady.


The weather's winter-grey and cold around here, with a whisper of snow in the forecast.

Image from here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Solstice!

"Fill your mind with thoughts of peace, courage, health, and hope." ~ Dale Carnegie

Traveling all week. See you in January. Happy New Year!

Image from here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Just because...

One of the many things Christmastime should be about (as opposed to the negativity of the last 2 posts).

Image from here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Well. Damn.

This has been floating around the web for about a week now (well, probably longer...what do I know?)...and I finally got around to watching it. And realized that that whole last post, where I bitch (if we're being honest) about my family members not living their lives, was coming from a place of sympathy (if I can even be accused of going anywhere near that emotion), rather than a place of empathy.

It's interesting to recognize this, because we talk and talk about how the family members in question are addicts, so they're not going to get help until they are ready and willing to do so. But it doesn't stop us (well, me) from coming at the situation from a perspective of "at least."

You're hurting, so you neglect your daughter. At least you have a daughter. You hurt so much you think you can't get out of bed. At least you have options, if only you were able to recognize them. At least you're alive, not strapped to a bed unconscious, unable to wake up, unable to hold your daughter.

And that's where the emotions become so damn hard to control. Just thinking about it brings up hurtful words, adjectives like "you miserable, selfish, lazy excuse of a..." and my Irish temper goes red and wishes I could shake sense into the person I'm "speaking" to...

None of us are coming at the situation from a place of empathy, and that's why nothing will get accomplished if a "talk" occurs. And that's a shame, but it's also inevitable, because the one person who needs to exercise the necessary empathy to make changes, isn't strong enough to do so, and wants those around her to do it for her instead. Which ain't gonna happen. We have our own lives.

I own Brené Brown's I Thought It Was Just Me. I admired her work and wanted to start at the beginning. It sits on my bookshelf next to the bed, alongside other "important" tomes (like The Way of the Bodhisattva), that get occasionally flipped through, but haven't been "read" yet. It's definitely time.

Meantime, I'll do what I said I would. Let my feelings be known to the people in question, so I won't choke on hypocrisy while there; and pour my love onto my niece, not in that order. The holidays are about the small ones, giving them joy. Everything else is a choice, whether or not we engage.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Making sense of pain

I was raised Catholic, so I went to my fair share of funerals as a kid, not always for relatives with whom I was familiar. So the grief itself didn't make a dent, rather it was a place for my brother and I to dress up and be complemented on our exemplary behavior. I remember shedding tears when Popie died (my dad's dad), and that was probably my first recognition of death. But it simply doesn't sink in until it hits someone close to you, which is why Dad's passing hit me like a truck on the highway.

One of the niggling side effects of blog trolling is happening upon the truly sad stories, the miscarriages, the children with cancer, and such. Facebook introduced me to Sammy (may he rest in peace), whose mother, it turns out, I went to elementary school with. That blog introduced me to another Sammy. He passed this morning.

It's pretty easy to decipher why these passings make me pensive, beyond the knee-jerk sadness of a child dying. I'm still at an age where I could produce children, and it's still a desire, a rather deep one. I also watch and listen helplessly while my niece is neglected by her parents, and the rage about that burns deep.


Lil Sis's friend continues in a holding pattern. She redeveloped pneumonia and remains in a medically induced coma while hemodialysis attempts to continue the healing of her kidneys. She has developed intermittent contractions in her breathing pattern, which could be the pneumonia, or a new symptom of the possible brain damage from when she suffered cardiac arrest. They can't know until she's stable enough for a long MRI, just what's going on upstairs. All progress is maddeningly incremental, and doesn't yet tell the whole story.

My friend Diana won't be home for Christmas as she's being discharged to a rehab facility first. She's on the mend, but it's hard not to think about how the decades of smoking have shortened her lifespan.

I've definitely relearned how to pray these past couple of months. I think daily on these folks and send my individual desires for their health, or their families' peace, out into the universe. It's all I can do, and I reconcile myself to that.


All these people will be in the back of my head when I visit family at Christmastime and interact with family members who take life for granted everyday, who lie in bed the majority of their days popping pills and refuse to do anything to better their lots in life. It's very hard for me to walk in their shoes. I have real trouble with people who won't help themselves, and unfortunately there are quite a few candidates in this scenario.

I will wear my mala beads, meditate when able, and shower my niece in love while we're there. I can't wait to play with her, distract her from her situation, and watch her delight about Christmas. There will likely be plenty of yelling this holiday, and I want no part of it; which is not to say that I'll hide from it. Actually I'm pretty sure my opinions will become known the minute I interact with the people in question, and hopefully that will squelch any further arguing. Hey, a girl can dream.

Reading nook pic from here. Snow pics from here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Spooky coincidence

Found this within an hour of writing the last post. At this rate, I've got another 10-site day ahead of me. I shoot for 20. Audible sigh.

Definitely in my head this week

If you have no interest in football, religion, or social perceptions, you may want to skip this one...

Time Magazine named their Person of the Year for 2013, Pope Francis. The article is informative and well-written, and I needed to read it after a seriously off-the-cuff remark made by Peter King, of all people, earlier this week.

I read MMQB to follow the NFL, and I have enjoyed his columns for a couple of years now. He keeps it interesting, for someone like me who doesn't fully understand the game still; and he's a funny guy and good writer. In his non-football thoughts of the week, he threw in this non sequitur:

"The more I look at Pope Francis, the more he looks like Chance the gardener."

Being There by Jerzy Kosinski is one of the few books I read and absorbed against my will in high school. It certainly helped that they made a decent movie adaptation of it, and my teacher saw it as such and took pity on us and showed it in class. The book has been called both a satire and a social commentary on people's perceptions. It's also one of those movies where you wonder how anyone else could have nailed the role like Peter Sellers. Chance was his last role, and he was exquisite.

Loooong nutshell: (circa 1970s) Chance is a middle-aged, simple-minded man who works for a rich, old man, mainly tending the garden. His life is very sheltered, he rarely leaves the house, and his only entertainment is TV, from which he derives his limited views of the world. When the old man dies, Chance inherits his clothes and a few belongings, but is thrown out of the house. While wandering the streets, he happens upon an electronics store and is mesmerized by his own reflection on the TV in the window (they have a camera pointing out, and Chance has never seen this before). He absentmindedly backs into the street and is bumped by a car. Though not seriously injured, the society woman in the vehicle insists he come home with her. When he says his name is "Chance, the gardener," she sees his expensive-looking clothing and assumes she heard Chauncey Gardener. As he unwittingly ingratiates himself with her society friends, their perception of him as a once-rich and learned man blossoms, until he is advising heads of state with his simple aphorisms. But in truth, he's a '70s Forrest Gump, thrust into situations that are far over his head, but which inexplicably respond to his level of folksy wisdom. When he says, "I like to watch TV," they take it as a lesson about taking time for oneself to relax and reflect. When the society woman's husband, and Chance's new benefactor, passes away, the board of directors unanimously vote Chauncey Gardener as the new CEO of his impressive company.

So my first reaction to Peter King's line about Pope Francis was that he must be a pissed-off Catholic hard-liner. My second reaction was that Pope Francis does look a bit like Peter Sellers. Pretty sure that second one is random though. My third reaction was just plain confusion, which is why I was grateful for the Time magazine article this morning. It's an excellent short biography of a kind and intelligent man, who is coming at the position of Pope from a far different place than quite a few of the rigid scholars before him. But it's also a cautionary tale of how the media takes his statements out of context in an attempt to force progressive thinking on a religion that isn't going to be making major changes any time soon.

Honestly, it seems like Pope Francis has two main notes on his to-do list for the foreseeable future:

1. Help the poor. Pray for the poor. Help the poor.
2. Clean up some of the abysmal corruption that has run rampant through the Vatican.

Everything else is window-dressing, and don't let his use of 21st century technology to get his point across fool you. This guy was new to retirement and miserable at it, and giving him the pointy hat finally gave him the pulpit he's always needed to get his point across. But he's driven by charity and prayer, thankfully, not the trappings of the almighty dollar; and that could go a long way in the fiscal reformation of a vessel rife with money laundering and greed.

Pope Francis isn't a simple-minded puppet, but neither is he a progressive reformer who's going to change the face of Catholicism. And that's OK, because if you look at Catholicism on its face, it doesn't need changing; it obviously speaks to the spiritual needs of millions already. But his views on charity and helping the poor are a really good start; it reminds me of how volunteerism got such a kick in the pants after Obama was elected. These are ideas that should have been popular before these learned men took their posts; but if their presence is what it takes to start movements, then we're lucky to have them.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In my head

It is quite possible to wear mala beads daily as a reminder to be present, and still find your thoughts taken over by family strife. This angers me. These issues barely deserve my thoughts; they are not my problem. We receive the ripples of the actual problem, and it's up to us not to let it overtake our emotions, especially when we have no control over any possible outcome.

Heather B. of beautythatmoves is hosting a Hibernate workshop in January. I've found my gift to myself this holiday season.


I ache with Mandela's passing.

Checked Long Walk to Freedom out of the library the next day. The only reason I didn't buy it that day is because thanks to the purchase of a new washing machine, we are poor as church mice for the next 2 weeks.

I read it about 10 years ago, on a whim, and it, along with Kingsolver's exquisite fiction The Poisonwood Bible, stirred my interest in African history. I never retained much history in my schooling; I considered it boring and the teachers I had did not help matters, as they were, for the most part, a stuffy and monotonous lot. As an adult, my brain's finally mature enough to see different sides, and the layers of these stories are fascinating. Also fascinating are the number of fallacies that make themselves known, the difference between what I was taught in grade school and what we know to be true today (or think we know to be true). Imagine how different history will read in another 50 years...

Watched Obama's speech at Mandela's memorial today. It was just boilerplate enough to piss me off and set me wondering how many white men are still on the speechwriting staff at the big white house. Mandela wasn't a pacifist or even a thunderous orator, so why compare him to Gandhi or Dr. King? Because those are people quoted just often enough to make a dent in the short attention spans of the populace?

I'm a fan of President Obama; I've drunk the Kool-Aid and am among the whiners who believe he is a great man who won't leave nearly the mark he should in history, because he's stuck with a tight-assed Congress that's petrified of social change. I just wish he'd had the time to throw some more of himself into that speech.

The holiday tree is up, a handsome artificial model from Lowe's that was a bit of a splurge, but looks much better than any of the crap they were hawking at Walmart. Bought it at the same time as the new washing machine, so there was a bit of holiday cheer to accompany the sting of throwing down $400+ cash on our first real major appliance. Les's mom bought our first set used, as a house warming, from a nice enough mom-and-pop outfit in Asheville, but we looked at their inventory and realized the last thing we wanted was to be in the same boat a year from now, with another broken down machine.

The soft light of the tree in the living room in the evenings is like a blessing. I'm itching to make some new ornaments. Those we have are OK, but hold little history. It needs some garland too. I'd love to make a construction paper chain for it, but finishing knitting of holiday gifts has to come first.

Image from here.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Building Traditions

For the last decade, at least, as a family, Les and I haven't celebrated the holidays. This isn't as bleak as it sounds, as we've certainly exchanged gifts (when there was money to do so) and enjoyed the season. But we stopped bothering to put up a tree quite a while back, because we were always traveling around Christmas, and besides, the old apartment was small and such an epic clutter pile, it had no room for any extra decoration.

We traveled, usually to his folks' house, and spent a couple of days doing Christmas there. Nothing wrong with that, certainly, and we're both agnostics, so we don't feel any religious obligation to deck our personal halls. But I miss it, and in the face of traveling to a house that feels less like a home now (thanks to the family drama that lives in it), I determined that this year needs to be a time of building our own traditions.

We bought a new artificial tree, which we will decorate tonight. I'm also going gathering for pine branches to hang around the house. We're not sure if Les is allergic to pine, so this will be a way to test him out without going whole-hog with a real tree.

We're spoiling each other a bit with gifts, for once. I'm having us open our gifts on Yule, rather than drag stuff down to his folks' house. I'll make us a nice meal. Maybe we'll watch a movie together, or go catch the new Hobbit flick. I'll refresh my memory about winter solstice. We'll light candles around the house, and ponder the turning-inward momentum of this time of year. Tonight we light the 2nd candle of my version of Yule advent: courage.

We'll still travel to both our folks' homes, but we're keeping the trip short, both for my work sanity and our personal sanities. Having the holiday land smack in the middle of the week this year is going to be grueling for me, as my work week runs Sunday to Saturday. Laptops are marvelous portable devices, but no amount of distraction known to man could get me to concentrate in his folks' house, where my 7-year-old niece resides, and besides, I want to be available for her. She's the real reason we're making the trip.


My friend Diana is out of ICU and on the mend. Lil Sis's friend Kendra remains in a medically induced twilight. All prayers appreciated.

Image from here.

Monday, December 02, 2013

New Month

Thanksgiving...survived it. May I always have the ability to have it at my own house, because I do nail it when I have control over my surroundings.

The meal was exquisite. We were concerned about cooking the turkey too long, because it seemed like the thermometer wouldn't rise enough whenever we checked it, but Hubs basted religiously and it was delicious. I did the sweet potatoes in the crock pot, eliminating the need for a pot on the stove, and we popped the rolls into the oven the minute the turkey was out. And that Brussels sprouts recipe of Emeril's is amazing!

It just came together so nicely this year, I guess via a combination of the larger kitchen and fresher, local foods. Hubs' uncle couldn't make it, but we hosted his mom, so it was simple and quiet.


It was a white Thanksgiving. It snowed the entire day before and didn't melt as quickly as I thought it would; there's still some white stuff sticking around in deeply shaded areas, but the temps will rise the next 2 days, and then drop again. It's overcast most days lately. The leaves have dropped, and the mist and fog covers the mountaintop in the twilight hours.

We'll decorate next weekend. Still not sure where the tree is going, but it's going somewhere.


I lit the first candle for our Yule advent on Saturday. Under the heading of making our own traditions, I settled on 4 themes, which hilariously, I cribbed from a favorite quote of Dale Carnegie's: "Fill your mind with thoughts of peace, courage, health, and hope." So the first candle was for peace, peace for us, our families, and the world.


My friend Diana is back in the hospital with pneumonia, and Lil Sis's friend still wavers between the light and the dark. All prayers welcome. Also, on a completely materialistic bent, I wouldn't mind prayers for my washing machine too, which decided to stop agitating this past weekend.


It'll be a pensive week here, as we get back into our own rhythm. Hosting family is fun at times, but it also helps us realize how much we love our life together, just the two of us. Maybe someday there will be children and more animals, but for now, we're happy.

Have a great week, y'all!

Image from here.