Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Serendipity - Vita Sackville-West

How often does Vita Sackville-West come up in your life? Well, in mine she hasn't come up at all until the last week, and her name has popped up three times.

The first time was with a reference to her telling her "best friend," Virginia Woolf, "If I, who am the most fortunate of women, can ask, 'What is life for?' how can other people live at all?" While that's not the cheeriest of notions, Sackville-West was quite well respected. She was an English novelist who wrote, "The Edwardians" in 1930 and followed it with "All Passion Spent," which is considered her greatest work. (I use the quotes on "best friend" because they were apparently more than just friends.)

Now, this is one of those times when I could try to make you believe that I'm regularly reading Sackville-West's work, when I'm not enjoying a little light reading of Anna Karenia or something. But, honestly is the better policy I believe. I didn't know who she was. I think - maybe - I'd heard her name before - but I've never read anything she wrote and don't know much about her.

What is the opposite of "well read?" Would that be "ill read?"  I want to be well-read, and know lots of things about lots of things, but in reality I'm just muddling through like everyone else.

Of course, she has a wiki. I want a wiki. Is that the modern equivelant of Who's Who? But I digress...

When Sackville-West's name kept popping up I couldn't help but think about Carl Jung and serendipity. I remember the day I learned that word. I was in grade school and no doubt reading something that was far beyond my capability to understand and ran across the word. Just as the librarian, Mrs. Alberta Rascoe, had taught me, I went and looked it up in the dictionary. Of course, I didn't get the full Jungian philosophy behind it, but I knew it was a very cool concept.

One of the most interesting experiences I've had along those lines in recent years was one day when I had volunteers and in conversation, one of them mentioned when President Harding visited Hutchinson. She was a little girl and he gave her a penny. I listened to her story and went home a couple of hours later. My then boyfriend was visiting for the weekend and I asked what he had done that day. He said he'd just been driving around, looking at things. Then he says, "Why is there a statue of Warren G. Harding outside of town?"

OK... I don't know about you, but President Warren G. Harding doesn't just come up a lot in conversation in my daily life. In fact, I'm not sure he has ever come up - not even in the town where he visited many years earlier. Then he pops up twice in less than three hours. That's pretty unusual.

The fact that Vita Sackville-West has come up multiple times in the last few days makes me think maybe I better read some of her work. Is "All Passion Spent" something one can just pick up at the local bookstore? Or should I start with "The Edwardians?" Or yet something else?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tornado near Charleston Missouri

I swear this year the blog is not going to be about weather. At least I hope we don't have another year like last year with Greensburg and flooding and ice storms.

But, here before the end of January, I've already been involved in a "weather incident" and I'm not even home yet.

I followed Greg to Sikeston today to eat at Lamberts and then he went on to Joplin and I came home. There were tornado warnings and I heard the interstates were at a standstill due to accidents. So, I turned by Boomland (a local landmark) and headed home "the back way." I was driving along and felt the wind pushing my car to the left and looked up just in time to see light poles less than 2/10s of a mile away bending and then snapping in the tornado/straight line wind/whatever. I threw on the brakes and make a U-turn and headed back to Boomland, the only building around, although it's a big metal building. I was right near a mailbox when I made the turn and thought... hmmm... I'm not sure I'm going to clear that but I'm not taking time to back up... I'll just hit it if I have to. I didn't.

I go back to Boomland and they're not taking it seriously at all. I'm like - people - poles are snapping and going up in pretty blue flames less than half a mile away. We should take this seriously. I'm not given to being overly dramatic about tornadoes, but this was worthy of some attention.

I made it home fine, and so did Greg, but it's what I would call a close call. If I'd been two blocks further down the road, I would have been pushed off the road, into a pole and/or the live wires.

After the danger was over I drove down and took photos and measureed the distance. There were six poles broken off.

And another view of the first one pictured here...

By the way, in the distance is a correctional facility, which could explain the two law enforecement officers parked nearby talking.

Extraordinary Life

There are times when daily life gives us the chance to be extraordinary. Actually, I think every day has that potential. But, when a loved one is recently departed it seems the opportunities are vast. The trick is if we rise to meet them. I feel a failure in that regard most of the time. But, of course, every day is another opportunity.

As one settles into the new reality, knowing that life will never be the same as it was before, you have to find your way into that new reality - make your place in it - make your peace with it. In some ways the fact that I live away from my family makes it harder - I don't have that support system. In other ways it makes it easier - the new reality is not "in my face" as it is for everyone else.

Regardless of the circumstances, we all find our way to cope, to make a new world, to move into the future while being mindful of the past. For me, coping means "doing" and "scheduling." These may seem odd, but they work for me.

Greg has joked with me for many years that I can be "such a guy" about some things. One of those is that I like to "do" something when faced with anything difficult. I want to accomplish something, do something, get something done. "Done" is one of my favorite words.

Today I had the opportunity to do that. I offered to help Mattie with thank you notes. I spent the afternoon working on them and we had a hefty stack by the end of the day. We still have a couple to write, but they're largely done.

Whenever I feel myself slipping into a depression, or not functioning as I know I should, I start scheduling myself. It seems incredibly simple, but I start making appointments for myself that require me to be certain places at certain times. Somehow that structure helps me cope. It gives me a framework in which to function.

One of my ways to work up to that, when that seems too daunting, is to get things on the calendar that are far in the future. I do things like make sure the monthly appointment with the Culligan man is on the calendar. Why is that helpful? I have no idea. The Culligan man and I aren't that close - we go many months and don't even cross paths - but somehow the idea that he will come every month is reassuring. It's there on the calendar. Life is going on. Things are happening - because, look, the Culligan man is scheduled.

We humans are funny, aren't we? We have all these little tricks we play on ourselves. But somehow they help us move forward.

Another part of moving forward to me is always being rooted in the past. Greg has been here a couple of days longer than expected - he was really sick with a sinus infection and slept almost 24 hours solid. Today he felt considerably better, although not perfect. But we drove over to Bandana to visit the hardware store that is closing. They weren't open but I snapped a photo of Arivett's Grocery Store, which hasn't been a store for a very long time. I can't recall ever having been inside it, but surely I was at some point. Regardless, I love seeing these pits of the past hanging stubbornly onto a bit of our future.

I also love this house with the tin roof, just a couple of blocks away.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Things Have Changed with Funerals

Things change all the time, and that's true with funerals as well. This week, as we buried my brother, Jim, I had an upclose and personal interaction with funerals. I wasn't involved in any of the arrangements so could look at things from something of an outsider perspective. But, of course, it was a funeral for someone I loved a great deal, so I was very aware of everything.

1. Something I think is a great innovation in the last few years is the picture board. I think these really add something to the event - giving a sense of the person over a lifetime. For those close to them they're reminded of events in which they participated. For others it's a way to give a glimpse of the life they lived.

2. People don't send baskets of flowers that go to the graveside nearly as often as they used to. Instead, they send things that will last - plaques, mementos, live plants, memorials, and even cut bouquets that are meant to be taken home. I was shocked at how few things covered the grave at the end of the day, because most of the things sent were not designed for that. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just something I hadn't realized had changed so much. Each remembrance is meaningful.

3. People still think "death portraits" are odd. It is a long standing southern tradition to take death portraits. I believe it was once more common all over the country, but has remained in the south. At one time, people would dress the departed and put them in a life-like position to make a photograph. This was at a time when people had few photographs made so it was all the more important to capture that person's visage - even if it was after they had departed.. It is something I've always thought of as perfectly normal - "the norm" in fact. I have photographs of my father, my mother, my grandmother, and various other relatives. I asked Johnny if it would be OK for me take photos of Jim and he said absolutely. I didn't want to do it if it would upset him. Greg took them for me. It's generally done by a friend of the family and provided to the family.

I considered putting one on the blog the night of the funeral because for the last year or so of his life Jim read my blog faithfully, and loved it when he was on it. But, I decided it might shock people to see a death portrait so I didn't put it up. Instead I shared the photo Greg snapped of me at the graveside. He took a series of them while I was there late that day. He liked that one because it's so odd - I'm moving and my whole body has motion blur, except my face, which is clear.

4. Music at funerals now includes a variety of styles. The funeral started with "When I get where I'm Going" by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton. It was in January of 2006 that this song started popping up in my life with amazing regularity, and continued long after it was on the charts. I would flip the station and say to myself, "the third (or second or whatever) song that comes on will be important to me..." I'm betting that song has been the seond, third or whatever song at least four dozen times since then. Considering how little I listen to the radio, that's amazing. Jim hadn't even been diagnosed at that time, and I wondered why that song kept coming up. And I had no idea it would be part of the ceremony, but there it was. Again.

5. Something that never changes, I guess, is that every call, email, note and remembrance is meaningful..I have been so touched at the number of people who've emailed or commented that read the blog, or that I know from online groups, as well as those in "real life." I'm so very thankful for people who have let me know they're thinking of me, that they're remembering us in their prayers

In real life, it was Teresa who drove from a neighboring town to my house the day it happened, to see if I was OK. It was Terry who sprung into action to help me unload the van for the trip. It was Greg and Mark who started making arrangements to come to the funeral. And Greg is still here with me. I need him at the moment. I need that bit of "normal life" in my life here. Greg's mom loaned him her car for the trip, and I'm so appreciative of such gestures. He will leave soon to go back and I'm not ready for that. But, I'll just have to get ready.

All of us can do whatever we have to do - but it was easier having Greg on one side of me and Mark on the other during the funeral. They were here at my mom's funeral, too. It is at times like this that you know these are people you can depend on - they will always come through for you. I'm thankful. So very thankful for that.

When you're grieving you want to feel like the world understands your sorrow. It seems obscene to you that the world is continuing to turn, that people are going on about their lives, and yet you know it's essential. As Mama used to say, "Life is for the living."

It just takes some time to feel like being one of the living again.


When I Get Where I'm Going
Artist/Band: Brad Paisley - with Dolly Parton

When I get where I'm going
On the far side of the sky
The first thing that I'm gonna do
Is spread my wings and fly

I'm gonna land beside a lion
And run my fingers through his mane
Or I might find out what it's like
To ride a drop of rain

Yeah when I get where I'm going
There'll be only happy tears
I will shed the sins and struggles
I have carried all these years
And I'll leave my heart wide open
I will love and have no fear
Yeah when I get where I'm going
Don't cry for me down here

I'm gonna walk with my grand daddy
And he'll match me step for step
And I'll tell him how I missed him
Every minute since he left
Then I'll hug his neck


So much pain and so much darkness
In this world we stumble through
All these questions I can't answer
So much work to do

But when I get where I'm going
And I see my maker's face
I'll stand forever in the light
Of his amazing grace
Yeah when I get where I'm going
There'll be only happy tears
I will love and have no fear
When I get where I'm going
Yeah when I get where I'm going

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jimmy Ray Terrell Funeral Arrangements

Thank you to everyone who has expressed condolences for my family. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated. A number of people asked about arrangements and I said I would post them here for family and friends.

Morrow Funeral Home, 376 W Kentucky Dr (Highway 60), LaCenter Kentucky

Visitation - Tuesday evening beginning at 5 p.m.
Funeral - Wednesday afternoon at 2

Burial following at Barlow, Kentucky cemetary

If anyone wants to send a card:

Mattie Terrell
PO Box 625
La Center KY 42056

Jackie and Mary Ann Terrell

Patsy Terrell

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jimmy Ray Terrell

Jimmy Ray Terrell
April 25, 1941 - January 19, 2008

My brother, Jim, died at home in LaCenter Kentucky this morning
after a battle with lung cancer.

His wife Mattie, and granddaughter Chrissy, were with him.

Funeral will be at Morrow Funeral Home in LaCenter Kentucky.
Arrangements are pending at this time.

(photo taken April 6, 2007)

Homeward Bound

"It doesn't matter where you live today - trailer, apartment, or a house. You may be rooming in a motel or seeking santuary in a safe house halfway between your past and your future. You may even be without a roof to call your own, camping out on a friend's couch or community cot; held hostage in a palace or pitching a tent on the
dark side of the moon. It doesn't matter. If you're reading this, you're homeward bound."

Sarah Ban Breathnach in "Something More"

I love this quote. It speaks so much about our need for home - for a place to belong. Her point is that we are always thinking about home, and going there, wherever that may be.

I love my house, but this is not my dream house. I will one day live in a different kind of house - something in the Queen Anne style, which is my favorite. Those "painted lady" houses in San Francisco are Queen Anne style houses. I love the asymmetrical nature of these large houses, with their gingerbread, bay windows and stained glass. I know they're not "practical," but I love them. So, for me, that is where I'm headed ... my homeward bound destination.

Isn't it lovely that we have the ability to imagine ourselves in another place, another home, another life?

I'm in the process of tidying a lot of things around my current house. I've gone on another cleaning binge. You'd think, considering the fact that these pop up at least a couple of times a year, that my house would be clean. But, bear in mind that for all but the last few years of my life I have accumulated. Now I'm in the process of divesting.

About 10 years ago I - for the first time - removed things from my house. I had every piece of clothing I'd ever owned, unless it was completely worn out. Then, due to the breakup of a relationship, and reclaiming my space, I decided to get rid of clothes I wasn't wearing. I took 29 big garbage bags full of clothes to the Salvation Army. Yes, 29 bags. I, literally, had every item of clothing I'd ever owned since leaving home for college at 17. You can accumulate a lot of stuff in nearly 20 years.

That broke the dam for me and it has never been very difficult for me to get rid of clothes since then. I'm pretty good at only keeping around what I'm wearing. However, I will keep things I'm only wearing occcasionally.

Sometime over the holiday break I had the thought that I wanted to get rid of things I wasn't wearing regularly, or that I didn't otherwise have a real reason to keep. So the last couple of days I've been doing that. I have three bags of clothes and I'm gathering up one of shoes. I have some wonderful shoes, but I don't forsee me wearing anything but Birks - or other really good shoes - in the near future. So, someone else should be getting some use out of them, there's absolutely no point in them sitting in the closet rotting when someone could be using them.

I'm also donating a really nice swing coat. It's black and in great shape, with a little faux fur collar. But, I bet I haven't worn it but once in two years. That's just not sufficient for me to be storing it - particuarly not when someone else could be getting use out of it. I just got this nice new long coat that I really love, and while the one I'm giving away is dressier, on the rare occasion I need such a thing the new one will suffice.

Anyway, I'm taking it all to Goodwill. At least in Hutchinson, Goodwill is where people go for the "nicer" clothes. And this is nice stuff. I know I could probably sell it at a garage sale and get a few bucks, but I'd rather just get it out of my house.

The upstairs floor of my house has been in disarray for far too long, so it's good I'm getting a handle on it. And the place I'm starting is with clothes. I don't even like buying clothes and I have too many clothes. How do people who are are serious shoppers manage?

(Photo is of detail on a home in Cairo, Illinois, taken Dec. 24, 2007, at twilight.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Chocolate, Coats and Conversations

I've been on a Hot Chocolate binge lately. Not the stuff you get in a package - real hot chocolate. Milk warmed on the stove, Guittard cocoa and sugar, whipped with my favorite little whisk that works just perfectly for a cup of cocoa. Tonight I tossed in some marshmallows, but I think maybe they distract from the perfect chocolately goodness.

We had snow last night, and still have a little left. What we have plenty of is cold weather.

One of my Christmas presents from Mary Ann and Jackie was a new winter coat. I decided I wanted to be warm this winter and picked out a new coat. I don't think I've worn anything other than jackets in years. However, I'm now reminded that there's a world of difference in how warm you are in a long coat. I'm so very toasty in it. And mighty happy about that today.

I had lunch with Teresa today, which was nice. I don't think we've had lunch since October, so it was overdue. We've both had a lot going on the last few months, and not seen each other as much as usual.

I've been thinking a lot lately about friendships. I need to find more friends who want to connect on meaningful levels. Trish is about the only person I've seen on a really regular basis lately. We have great, thoughtful conversations. And those grow out of a familiarity that comes from seeing each other regularly and sharing our lives. We both value that, and take care to create opportunity for it. I need more of that in my life.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ad Hoc Book Club

I'm creating an Ad Hoc Book Club Group. What is that? Well, good question. It doesn't exist yet, but will shortly.

I used to be part of a book club and while I enjoyed many things about it, I just didn't like the monthly structure - particuarly if I didn't like the book and didn't really read it. Eventually it disbanded - mainly because Tim, the one person who consistently read the book, moved to North Carolina. Tim was one of those guys who is so smart that you can tell he just thinks differently than the rest of us. I love that. And he always had something interesting to say about whatever we were reading. Frankly, we just fell apart without him. SOMEONE has to be reading the book in a book club! That's something we discovered. Hey - all of life is a learning experience. (One of the cool things about blogging is I went and looked up Tim online. I didn't know he had left NC. I would have tried to see him when I was his area if I'd known. Maybe next time.)

Anyway... so... the book club ended. But, I have missed talking about books with people.

A few months ago the idea crossed my mind of an ad hoc group - just whenever there's a book that's worth discussing you invite a few people to gather and do just that. So, a few days ago I emailed some friends and aquaintances and suggested that we gather to talk about Elizabeth Gilbert's book, "Eat, Pray. Love." I read this a while ago and really loved it.

In February or March I'll pick a date and whoever can and wants to will gather at my house and we'll talk about it. I'm not sure how this will all work, but we'll see.

If you're in the area and want to join us on this as yet undetermined date, drop me an email and let me know. In the meantime, regardless of where you are, I do recommend the book. It's a very good read.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Taking the High Road, or Being a Push Over

I'm wrestling today with a question I often struggle with - am I taking the high road, or am I being a push over?

A number of non-profits in town got an email a couple of days ago that a business was donating some furniture, and a list of what was available. I called late yesterday and said I'd like to have chairs and bookcases that were not spoken for. They said great. Today they said four chairs were spoken for and I could have the rest. And that all three bookcases were available for me as well. Fabulous!

So, I loaded the van with the chairs I could take and left some there, as well as the bookcases to get on another trip. When I returned, another organization had taken one of the book cases, and had one of the remaining chairs sitting with their stuff.

So... now... what to do? The business is just doing something kind. I didn't want to make an issue and put them in a difficult position. And, for all I know, the woman who was just told by her boss on the phone that I was getting all the bookcases and all but four of the chairs, told the organization something different.

Maybe it was just all a big misunderstanding. Maybe the person in charge gave it to them even though it had been promised to me. Whatever, it just worked out the way it worked out. And I'm very thankful for the things I got. Veeeeery thankful.

Did I desperately need the things? No. But I did have a specific purpose for them or I wouldn't have asked for them and wouldn't have shown up to get them.

I think what really bugs me is that the only reason they even wanted more once they saw it was that this was really nice furniture. If it hadn't been nice stuff they wouldn't have bothered with it. But, since it was nice they suddenly wanted more than they had spoken for. If it had been the regular stuff - not top of the line - they wouldn't have wanted any more than they had asked for.

I finally just went in and asked which of their chairs they had loaded and which of what they had spoken for was still there because one of those was the one I couldn't take in my first trip and I wanted to get it now. When they had first arrived, there were two different kinds of chairs and I let them pick which they wanted, and took what was left. I was more than fair with them, but I guess they didn't feel a need to return the favor.

So, I took the chair - which I needed more than the bookcase, although it would have been awfully nice to have matching bookcases - and didn't make an issue of the bookcase. I wasn't going to make a scene about it and put the business person in an awkward position, although it may have been her mistake. Of course, if the other organization hadn't been so grabby because it was nicer stuff than anticipated it wouldn't have been an issue at all.

Did I take the high road? Or was I a push over? I don't know. I know I'm not going to behave that way myself. I was offered some tables that someone had asked for and I said, "that wasn't me who asked about them" because I didn't want to take someone else's things. I'm going to be grateful for the kindness extended to me and let this be a lesson for the future.

I'm a little sore. I loaded all of that by myself - someone held a door open for me twice - otherwise I did it all. I hauled chairs into my office on the second floor, and my van is full of more chairs and two bookcases. I'm soooooooo thankful to have it. It will make my life much easier at the office. But I'm going to suck down some ibuprofen before bed - just in case I feel the afternoon a bit more when I wake up than I do now. And maybe in my dreams I'll work out the answer to the question of was I taking the high road, or being a push over.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Writer's Strike

I am a big supporter of the Writer's Strike.

Admittedly, I'm tickled to have my Letterman and Ferguson shows new again. But, people do not appreciate writers enough. Apparently not even in a business that is so dependent on them.

People always think anyone can write. They can't. It's a skill, a talent, a gift, a job. People deserve to be paid for work - a fair wage.

The writers, obviously, understand that traditional broadcasting is likely to be replaced by newer media. I watch shows online about 20% of the time I'd guess. And when I get a better monitor that will probably increase.

This is hilarious... but not work safe if you work in a conservative place.

Target Marketing

There's this idea in marketing that you need to target the people who would be interested in your product or service, and not waste your money and time with those who would never buy what you're offering. That's what they mean when they talk about targeted marketing.

Direct mail is a very expensive way to market, but if your audience is really targeted, it can be money well spent.

Today I got something that is so not targeted it's almost funny, except that I know people wasted money. I got a direct mail piece for carpet cleaning. I don't own a single scrap of carpet. I used the carpet that was in my house for drop cloth when I painted and then it was all gone.

Of course, there's no way to know this and there is the real problem with marketing. PT Barnun was right - half of your advertising money is wasted - you just don't know which half. And anybody who tells you they can tell you which half is blowing smoke up your you-know-what. Some marketing expert probably told them to buy my name from a list.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

McVities HobNobs

There are a few things for which I have an unnatural love. One of them is McVitie's HobNobs - Nobbly, Oaty Biscuits.

When I was in England I ate these practically every day. They were plentiful there, readily available. I loved them. I called the company after I got back and tried to find a way to lay my hands on them in the US. At the time, that was not to be done.

So, imagine my delight when I was at the World Food Market in Paducah the day after Christmas and spotted them on the shelf. I bought a package and have been saving them as a treat. Do you know how much it takes to distract me from Christmas things on Dec. 26? It's a feat.

Today is the day I get a treat.

And, how should one enjoy HobNobs? With tea in one's favorite cup from England, of course. I bought this mug in Bath and it remains one of my very favorite mugs - it fits my hand well, I like the shape of it, and I enjoy feeling the relief on the front. I drink from it on a regular basis. But this is the first time I've gotten to enjoy HobNobs while doing so.

The question you might be asking is why do I deserve a treat. Well, because I've been a good girl. I have been hauling Christmas stuff to the basement today. I've undecorated another small tree.

And, I also did something else today that is deserving of a treat. I hauled a big bag of stuff to Salvation Army. That, alone, is worth a treat. But, in the bag were some things that reminded me of old boyfriends that I've been hanging onto for a very long time. I just decided I didn't need to start a new year with any of those things hanging around. They were things that were really difficult to part with for a variety of reasons. But, today was the day.

So, like fat people everywhere who use food for rewards, I'm now enjoying a treat of food. Dammit. Nothing is ever simple, is it? Oh well... I think I'll have another HobNob and forget about that part and just go back to the patting myself on the back part.

Saturdays are for... work

I spent all day and part of the night at the office, but I got a lot done. I did go to Roys for lunch and then just stopped at the office instead of coming back home. I stayed there until time for dinner when I met Sondra at Skaets. Then I went back to the office and worked until about 10:30 tonight.

It was a good thing I was at the office because I had a call this afternoon that was a gentleman who was having a mental health crisis. I would have gotten the call, anyway, because I had the phone transferred to my cell phone, as I usually do when I'm not in the office, including nights and weekends. I'm not always available, but if I am, I answer the phone and help people if I can. This gentleman was calling from a neighboring town - so it was good I was at the office where I have access to materials that covered that area because I don't know all that off the top of my head. I'm not a clinician, so I never offer anything resembling counseling, but I can tell people where to get help. Often people just have no idea what to do. If I hadn't answered, this guy's next call was going to be to the police to see if they would lock him up.

One thing I've learned since having this job is that the fact I wake up in the morning perceiving the world the same way I did the day before is a blessing never to be taken for granted. People suffer. I mean, they suffer. And it's not because they want to suffer - their brains just don't see the world the same way you and I do. People with psychizophrenia, which this guy had been diagnosed with, suffer. There is no other way to put it. As you lay your head down tonight, say a prayer of thanksgiving you've gone through the day without having to constantly struggle to determine what is reality. While you're at it, say a prayer of entreatment that you'll be so lucky to have another day like that tomorrow.

I also got a ton of little piddly errands done today on the way to and from lunch and dinner - mail sent, overdue library books returned (I kind of rent books from there, albeit cheaply), bills paid, etc. How can there always be errands? When I was a kid and people on TV shows would be talking about errands I couldn't imagine what they had to do. They were always talking about dry cleaning and I thought... well... geez... I just won't have dry cleaning done. I don't. But it still seems like I've always got a list of things that need to be done that keep getting written onto the next day's list.

Needless to say, I didn't work on the Christmas tree. It's probably safe until sometime in February because I've got a lot of things on the schedule in the next three weeks.

But, tonight I was feeling very festive, so it's a good thing it was still there to be enjoyed. I've been wrapping presents for next year. Yes, that's right, some 2008 Christmas presents are purchased and wrapped. I just couldn't wait to experiment with the wrapping paper theme for this year. I know it's a little silly, but it makes me happy and I'm a big proponet of finding happiness in anyway you can - from the simplest of things to huge things. I am so thankful I'm healthy and have the energy for such things.

Well, time for me to get some rest. I need to have another productive day tomorrow, too. And, it is 2:39 a.m. Frankly, it's time for anyone who doesn't work nights to get some rest.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Blue Eyes

I was reading tonight about a study done in Norway that showed blue eyed men have a preference for blue eyed women. Why? Because if the blue eyed woman produces a child that isn't blue eyed then the blue eyed man knows he ain't the baby daddy.

Remember that monk with his peas? Yup. It's all about Mendel. Blue eyes are recessive. Since it requires two recessive genes to produce blue eyes, if both parents are blue eyed then baby has be to blue eyed as well - provided baby is the product of that mama and that daddy. If baby shows up with brown eyes you know mama been messin' around.

This only works with blue eyes - not parents of other colored eyes. Brown eyed parents can produce blue eyed children, because they can be carrying the recessive blue eyed gene, but blue eyed parents are only going to produce blue eyed babies.

It's been speculated that this is why babies - particularly caucasian - are generally born with blue eyes and their true color doesn't show until about age three. It may well be an adaptive trait to keep both parents around during those early years when baby needs more support to survive.

We're interesting, huh?

This made me think about the men I've known, and other than two exceptions, I think everyone I've dated has been blue eyed. I haven't produced any children, and I'm happy to say that if I had there would not have been a need for Maury to tell me who the father was. But it's interesting that that has worked out that way in my life nonetheless.

It also caused me to think about one former boyfriend mentioning how he specifically liked women with blue eyes. Maybe he just instinctively knew this. Or maybe he read the study before I did.

This also made me think about my parents. My mom had blue eyes... but I can't remember what color my dad's eyes were. Brown, I think. It's sad I can't remember, but I can't. It's only blue eyed men who show a strong preference on eye color in a mate - blue, of course.

Not Wanting to Let Go

I am really not wanting to let go of my Christmas tree. I've been trying to convince myself to take it down but a part of me keeps saying... but... what if...

Well, that's foolish... you can always make a case for what if. But I don't want to leave it up indefinitely either. But it's just so darned pretty this year... But it's big and bulky...

Besides, I really want to feel some control in my life and controlling my environment seems one way to trick myself into feeling like I have some. I realize it's all just a psychological trick. But, hey, it works for me sometimes.

The only way I know to get control - or some ilusion of is - is through action. I've got so many post it notes tacked up around my computer that the shear weight of them is causing them to let go and fall from the stack. Each one has a note about something I need to do. I like the satisfaction of tossing them as I get things done.

The problem with that system, as well as the list system, is that "call Sue" takes up the same amount of space as "write grant." One can be done in a few minutes and one takes many hours. But both need to be done.

I'm trying to get some control in various parts of the house. I've packed up quite a bit of the Christmas stuff. I was thrilled to discover tomorrow is recycling day. It's only every other week and I can't keep track. Thank goodness I can get that stuff out of the house. It's already at the curb. Now, if people will just leave it alone, all the better.

People like to go through my trash and recycling. I don't know what I have that's so darned interesting, but it creeps me out. Big time. Really creeps me out. I don't want people going through my trash. I know. It's trash. I'm throwing it out. Why do I care? I don't know, but I do. I think because it's creepy. I mean I'm just one person - I don't drink enough pop that you're going to get rich from the cans. And did I mention it creeps me out?

OK... I couldn't resist more tree pix tonight...

The one above is of a glass icicle I bought in 1990 on a trip to Salt Lake City.

This little glass box was a gift from Virginia at Creative Sisterhood in 2005.

Jackie and Kim brought me this from their honeymoon...

I got this in Boston on a trip with my friend, Fran...

This angel was a gift from my mom. My mom loved birthstone things and this angel is in a blue dress, holding a blue stone - my birthstone is blue topaz.

I picked up some of these little birds in Guatemala in 1999...

This was from Canada in the fall of 2006

This angel came from the Ten Thousand Villages - Et. Cetera shops many, many, many years ago. These are some of my first ornaments.

I don't recall where I picked up this little snowman icicle...

I have a few of these little baby Jesus ornaments I got in Rome that I nestle in the tree in various spots. They're one of my favorites.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What I'm looking for

I've been enjoying the music of Brendan Benson lately.

I particularly love the lyrics to "What I'm Looking For." The first and last verses particularly speak to me. Truly... I don't know what I'm looking for but I can't stop looking.

What I'm Looking For
Brendan Benson

Well, I don't know what I'm looking for
But I know that I just want to look some more
And I won't be satisfied
'Til there's nothing left that I haven't tried
For some people it's an easy choice
But for me there's a devil and an angel's voice
Well, I don't know what I'm looking for
But I know that I just want to look some more

Well, I don't know what I'm living for
But I know that I just want to live some more
And you hear it from the strangers and you hear it from friends
That love never dies and love never ends
And I don't want to argue, no I don't want to fight
'Cause you're always wrong and I'm always right
Well, I don't know what I'm living for
But I know that I just want to live some more

I used to be involved and I felt like a king
Now I've lost it all and I don't feel a thing
I may never grow up, I may never give in
And I blame this world that I live in
I visit hell on a daily basis
And I see the sadness in all your faces
I've got friends who are married and their lives seem complete
And here I am still stumbling down a darkened street

And I act like a child and I'm insecure
And I'm filled with doubt and I'm immature
Sometimes it creeps up on me
And before I know it I'm lost at sea
But no matter how far I roam
I always find my way back home
But I don't know what I've been waiting for
But I know that I don't want to wait anymore

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Politics in New Hampshire

Maybe I should move to New Hampshire. Obviously, I'm more in sync with the people there. I've been saying for about three years - before they were running - that this election would be McCain v. Clinton.

Now, before I get all uppity like pollsters have, lets be clear that we have no freaking idea how it will all play out. There's still some time before the election and a lot can happen.

I'm a Hillary supporter. I've been very clear about that. I like Obama and I like Richardson, but I'm a Clinton gal. I love Bill. I love Hillary. I want them back in the white house. Why? Well, because in my entire life the 8 years when Clinton was in the white house is the only time we've had peace and prosperity. What's not to like? I like peace. I like prosperity. I'd like some more of both, thank you. So far, only Clintons have proven to me they can produce those results.

Historically, when Republicans are in the white house our debt increases exponentially. The only exception in modern times is the Carter administration, where there were some unusual circumstances.

And, of course, there's the "O Factor," what will Oprah's involvement do? We'll see. I like Oprah, but I hope to goodness people's votes cannot be bought by a handshake from a TV star. I know she's a big star, and she is a smart woman I believe, but lets keep a little perspective.

I've been amazed at how many people turned their backs on Hillary after Obama's win in Iowa. Are we really so wishy-washy that we can't make up our own minds, but have to just follow the trend of the day? Apparently, yes. Thank God voters in New Hampshire are smarter than the average person who follows the whims as they are laid out by the "news" organizations. And, no, those quotes are not a mistake.

Maybe I should consider a move to New Hampshire because they are obviously my kind of people. I've had my mind made up for many months - before she even announced. Obama's win in Iowa did not change my mind. Nothing changed about either candidate except how a group of voters in Iowa was seeing them. That doesn't impact how I see them.

I like Obama, but to go around talking about how you didn't support the war doesn't count when you weren't even in the Senate at the time the vote was made. Making a speech against war isn't the same as having a responsibility to vote and being told that there are weapons of mass destruction. I made more than one speech against war and I'm not qualified to be president, either.

That whole thing just points out that you don't have much experience on the national - and certainly not the international - stage. I'm afraid that's a serious problem at this point in our history. Eight years from now, with more experience on the national stage, I could be a big supporter. But right now I want Hillary, who will also have the counsel of Bill.

As I heard a pundit say one day - "One thing I've learned in politics is, never bet against a Clinton."

Packing Away Christmas

I've started packing away some of my Christmas stuff tonight. I hate this part. Everything seems so bare when I put the Christmas stuff away. But, I also get eager to have the house de-Kringled and ready for spring. Generally it takes me many, many weeks to get around to getting the tree down, but I want to get to it sooner this year.

I feel a need to have some control in my life, and there are so few things I can control at the moment that this seems like one way to gain a bit. Or at least the appearance of some control.

One of the things I am putting away tonight is this drawing. My great niece Chrissy did this on Christmas Eve, 1985 at my mom's house. I remember her doing it. I can't recall how old she was, but about five or six I'd guess.

She gave me the drawing and I kept it for years. I also wrote her name and the date on the back, which is why I know when it was. A few years ago I ran across it and decided to take it and get it mounted and matted. I framed it and have kept it around since.

I used to have it hanging on the wall all the time but decided the colors would fade that way, as well as the paper fall apart, so I started just puting it out during the holiday season. You may not be able to tell from this rather poor photo I took, but it was done on notebook paper with crayons. Don't you love children's art?

Tonight was Chicks and we had a great time. We laughed so hard for so long tonight. It was a great - I really needed to laugh. It felt good to be sharing humor with that group of people.

Laughing is not something I'm doing enough of lately. Maybe I need the writer's strike to be over.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Cathy called this afternoon to tell me they put my brother, Jackie, in the hospital today. They want to change his medication and decided to hospitalize him while they do it so he can be monitored.

Mattie, my brother Jim's wife, got to come home from the hospital yesterday.

Kim (Jackie's daughter in law) goes back to Vanderbilt tomorrow to see the radiologist. She has really been on my mind the last few weeks.

I'm trying to get back into the swing of "real life." It's always a struggle after being gone. And, needless to say, my mind is on my family.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Back in Kansas

I am back in Kansas, after a trip to Kentucky to be with family. I extended my visit a few days. I spent last night in Joplin, and drove the last 4.5 hours home today.

I took a little detour by Fall River today and waited for the sunset.

Of course, before it got to this stage, there were some other pretty scenes. I loved the reflections of the sky in the water. It was like looking an oil painting. Nature imitating art imitating nature, I guess.

I never feel like I can capture the colors as I see them, and no futzing in programs later seems to do the trick, either. Oh well... I guess it's a "you had to be there" kind of thing...

And, yes, I know the standard rule is that the horizon should divide the photo into thirds, not half, but I liked the reflection better this way.

Mary Ann and Jackie always make me feel completely comfortable in Kentucky, but it's good to be back in my own house. It's good to see that everything is OK, to make a cup of tea in my kitchen, to settle back into "the norm."

Unfortunately, I am already feeling so behind it's not even funny. I have so much I need to do. That week without power in December put me a week behind and I haven't caught up so I'm going to be in overdrive for the next few weeks. I have a ton of things I need to do and these are not the things I especially enjoy, which makes it all the more difficult. But, they must be done.

I was hoping to get a head start on some things while in KY, but that didn't happen. I just can't seem to focus, and I don't know what my problem is. I always intend to get so much done - I haul all kinds of things there I plan to work on - and I'm certain I'll get a lot of writing done. But, every time I come back without having accomplished any of it. I guess when I'm there I'm caught up in the moment of what's happening on a day by day basis and ready to put my "real life" on hold. But, real life requires some attention and now that has to be done.

The trick is that I need to be living a "real life" that I don't want to escape from.

And it Continues...

I went to Target tonight and took advantage of the 90% off sale on Christmas things. My big purchases were gift boxes. I was just thinking my stash was depleted and then I was able to buy them for 19 cents for three robe sized boxes. So, I'm good for a long time, now.

This is probably my last purchase of any size. By the way - this cart full of stuff was $20.85.

OK... I know I'm a little nutty about such things, but it makes me happy to go the shelf in the closet and take down exactly that size box I need. It's simple... I know... but it makes me happy. So, there you go.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

No Meteors For You

I didn't get to see any meteors last night - it was just too hazy in that part of the sky. It was as if the soup nazi is now in the meteor business and saying, "You... no meteors for you." Oh well... there will be other meteor showers.

Meteor Showers always make me think about Robert Frost's poem "The Star Splitter," although no telescope was involved.

My favorite part is this little snippet.

I recollect a night of broken clouds
And underfoot snow melted down to ice,
And melting further in the wind to mud.
Bradford and I had out the telescope.
We spread our two legs as it spread its three,
Pointed our thoughts the way we pointed it,
And standing at our leisure till the day broke,
Said some of the best things we ever said.

I've had that experience while looking at the stars of pointing thoughts that direction and also sharing some of your best conversation with someone while doing it. Maybe that's why I love that particular bit so much.

Last night it was just me and I wasn't talking to myself. And I'm afraid my thoughts were much more mundane - namely how to keep warm.

Ah, but another night... another chance... for meteors and for lofty thoughts and for good conversation....

Friday, January 04, 2008

I took Jim to the hospital to see Mattie today. She looks much better. A couple of days ago when I was there she was just zonked out sleeping. But, I decided if I had tubes down my nose, pumping my stomach, I'd just as soon be sleeping through it too, so didn't wake her. They've decided no surgery will be necessary - that her bowels "went to sleep" and are now functioning again. She will have some dietary restrictions, but will probably go home Saturday.

Jim and I made it fine. I didn't have any trouble getting the wheelchair in or out of the blazer, and it rolls so nicely that I nearly zipped him too fast down the hallway. I told him he nearly took a ride like at a roller coaster. Hopefully I would have caught him before he hit the wall at the end of the hallway. At least when I think about the "what if" that's how it works - I catch him in plenty of time. I think I noticed his hand hovering near the brake on the return trip. And who could blame him?

He doesn't need the chair except when going a distance. And, as you know, everywhere you go in a hospital is a distance. I guess they figure they'll make you exercise one way or the other.

He was enjoying the pumpkin bread I made yesterday. I didn't eat any, but he tells me it's pretty good.

When I left his house it was near sunset and it looked like it was going to be a nice one, so I headed to Wickliffe to get it over the water. I didn't have time to get to Cairo to the river before it set, which would have been my preference. Unfortunately, they're really ruined the river shoreline in Wickliffe with these monstor docks with lights and all. I wish cities wouldn't let that sort of thing happen. I know... commerce... business... yadda yadda yadda... ugly. Anyway - no cool photo from there, but I did snap this tree on top of a hill before the sun really set.

When I got back to Mary Ann and Jackie's, Bob was here with the puppy. Drake is a bundle of energy - chewing energy - people, paper, hair (namely mine), toes, shoes, fingers (Jackie's), socks (anyone's), chair legs, whatever. But he's just so darned cute. He has grown since I've been here. I'm sure when I see him next he will be huge by comparison.

BC also stopped by tonight. He's in the newspaper this week so we were looking at that and just talking. He's one of my favorite people on the planet. He has always been really personable - even as a little kid. Hard to believe he's 17 - 18 in just a few months.

I've been out to try and see the meteor shower once already, but couldn't see it. I'm going to check again in a few minutes and see if it has moved up the horizon a bit and maybe I'll be able to see it. Unfortunately, we have a few clouds here tonight - that part of the sky mostly. But, maybe I'll get lucky and see some. If not, I guess I'll get lucky and get more sleep than I originally thought. Either way I win, I suppose.

Travel Shopping

I'm doing a  little travel shopping - you know, just considering some as yet undetermined destinations I could fly to at some as yet undetermined dates for some as yet undetermined periods of time. OK... so some women like clothes and jewelry. I like airline tickets and half off Christmas stuff. We all have our vices - they could be worse than glittered holly leaves and entry visas. Really. Much worse.

No matter how many times I see it, I'm still amazed by it. How can it possibly make any sense that I can fly to Barcelona, Spain for less money than it takes to fly to Bangor, Maine? Do the people in Bangor know this? Do they not want us to come there? Is that why it's so expensive to get there? I swear - $603 from KC to Barcelona and $625 to Bangor. I'm not making it up.

I've never been to either place, but in my continual quest for different, Barcelona would win that contest. But... the question is always where else could that money take me instead... Where... Where... Where...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Meteor Shower Tonight

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower will peak about 1:40 a.m. Friday (that's overnight tonight). This is a brief shower - lasting only a few hours, but can be prolific with a couple of meteors visible every minute. The further north and east you are in the US the more likely you are to have a view, but I'm going to try to see some tonight. If you google for the name, you'll get lots of info. No need in me repeating it here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Scenes of the Day

My day has involved...

furnace repair...  and....

baking pumpkin bread.

Never let it be said that I'm not versatile...

With temps in the low teens, Mary Ann and Jackie's furnace decided today would be a good day to stop working. The gas logs kept us cozy in the living room and the furnace repair guy came out and put the hose back on, which was the problem. But, after he left, and the furnace kicked off, it wouldn't come back on. The hose was off again. We know, because Mary Ann and I went out and took the panel off and put it back on. Only to have the same thing happen.

I told Jackie, "we need something like a clamp that holds a dryer vent on, only much smaller."

The furnace guy came back. And put on a clamp like what holds a dryer vent on, only much smaller.

I loved this man's attitude, too. He didn't charge them for the two visits, saying, "All I did was take out two screws and put a hose back on. And I know when you get ready to replace the unit you'll call me." Now there's a fellow who understands customer service. And how to get business.

Oh that he would share this mentality with the people who work on my house, or give me bids to work on my house - one of which once included a fee of $75 for "replacing the aerator on the upstairs sink." In case you don't know, that's the little thing that screws off the end of your faucet in the kitchen sink. It costs maybe $3 if you get a fancy one - if there even is such a thing - and is probably sold at upscale places like Wal-Mart. You screw off the old one, screw on the new one, and charge the customer $75.

I looked at the guy, laughed, and said, "Do you think ovaries make me particularly stupid, or do you just assume all your potential customers are idiots?" Needless to say, he is NOT my plumber. And I try to warn others away from him whenever I can, but he is doing a booming business, no doubt screwing people over while screwing on aerators.

But... I digress...

This afternoon, I went to Jim's and made him some pumpkin bread. It's one of his very favorite things. His wife, Mattie, is in the hospital, so I wanted to make him something he would enjoy munching on while she's not there cooking for him. I thought of pumpkin bread as I was driving up there.

Mama made him tons of the stuff, and he loves it. Mattie had everything on hand except pumpkin but a quick trip to the store fixed that.

I didn't eat any of it, but I hope it is good. I was liberal with the pecans, just like Jim likes. Fortunately, the recipe was on the blog, so that was mighty convenient. Where, you ask? Right here at this click. You, too, can be making pumpkin bread.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Rituals are guide markers, helping us find our way through life, from one event to the next. No ritual starts that way - it starts as a simple act. It's through repetition that it takes on the added cachet of a "must have."

Last night Janice came over to visit at Mary Ann and Jackie's and we were in looking at the tree. Mary Ann pointed out an ornament I had not noticed earlier and told us she had had it on every tree. How I could have missed it all these years, I don't know.

It's an ornament friends of her brother, Eugene and his wife, Cornie, sent Mary Ann when she was a little girl. Eugene was about 15 years older than Mary Ann, so married when she was only 5. It was a Christmas card ornament sent by Harvey and Robbie Tucker that arrived in an envelope. When Mary Ann married, her mom gave it to her and she has had it on every tree since.

It's a silvery, reflective foil, which I hadn't noticed at first.The lower parts are paper, but the tree itself is a heavier foil of some sort. The paper folds down to reveal an inside message. Very clever.

In case you can't make out what it says, here it is:

Hang this greeting on
your tree, for it's an
ornament, too, - you see.

As Christmas spangles trim your tree,
And children's shouts ring out in glee,
May Christmas candles light your way,
To a very Merry Christmas Day!

Also, the back of the card shows the back of the little girl and the presents.

It also has "Brilliants 5330" written in the corner. I'm assuming that's the brand of card. A quick net search yielded only sales of other vintage Christmas cards by the Brilliants company, but no real information.

Obviously, they made some fine products and had a very cool idea. Why don't we have neat stuff like this anymore? This was obviously mass produced. Why can't we mass produce something interesting? With character? That people would want to hang on the tree for more than half a century?

I'm betting the Tuckers had no idea they would be playing a role in a ritual when that card was selected and sent. They probably just thought they were thrilling a little girl with her own piece of mail at Christmas time. Iit was probably sent in the late 40s, but we're not sure.

I just love tradition and ritual and keepsakes. I'm so glad Mary Ann told Janice this story and that I was there to overhear it.