Wednesday, December 30, 2009
What I'm challenging myself with on the last two days of 2009 is to declare the year complete. I'm going to spend these two days grieving what there is to grieve and celebrating what there is to celebrate. I'm going to ask of myself to be at peace with 2009 and then to let it go. There are three questions that are in my mind to help me in that goal.
1. What do I want to acknowledge of myself in regard to 2009?
I faced challenges and I faced them with courage. I actively practiced my trust in the Lord. I was constantly shown that although I cannot control what happens in life, I can control my response and my actions. I climbed a mountain of change when it would have been easier to simply quit, and I faced down two enormous fears that I previously thought were defining of me: that of losing my job, and that of facing my inability to conquer math. I acknowledge that I made a difference in some lives, that 2009 was a year of reaching out with whatever gifts I had, be it a dollar, a minute, an hour or an idea. It was a year of saying I'll be there, and being there.
One of my dearest friends said to me earlier this year, I know why you lost your job. It was so you could be there for us. Perhaps she is right and losing my job was not at all about me but about what I could do for others.
2. What is there to grieve about 2009?
The pace of 2009 was frightening. It was a hard year, for me and for others in my close circle. It was a year of change and loss. My heart is heavy over the loss of friends, and I grieve the loss that friends experienced. I grieve a love witnessed, one cut short by cancer.
3. What else do I need to say about 2009 to declare it complete?
2009 was my year of accepting change, facing fears, and actively being a friend, the year in which I truly learned to trust in God's plans whether or not I can see or even comprehend them. It was the year I learned to trust my responses and actions, and the year I learned that I really can do so much in the name of love.
It is my goal for 2010 to carry the best of my lessons forward and to live in peace with the future challenges because I know that the journey is the gift. What I make of it is my responsibility.
What do you want to acknowledge about 2009? What do you need to do in order to declare the year complete and move forward into 2010?
Sunday, December 27, 2009
St. Francis Catholic Church, first Euro-American Roman Catholic Church in Wadsworth county, built 1895. This little church is a Texas Historic Landmark, and on the way to what used to be my father's hunting property, Flyway Farms. On Christmas morning I woke early and drove into town for the newspaper, then decided to seek out this little historic beauty for some early morning Christmas worship.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
An Early Christmas Gift
I was thinking about you earlier today. To be truthful, I've been thinking about you all day. I've been wondering what to get you for Christmas. I had no idea. I kept coming up short. My ideas weren't enough. They weren't meaningful enough, didn't connect enough, they kept falling short of enough.
Tonight though, I realized I was trying too hard. Gifts of this season are not about pomp and circumstance. Tonight, I realized that the gift I have for you is not one I can find in a store, purchase, wrap and hand over to you. Tonight I realized that what I have for you is something that was given to me. Two words, two magnificent words.
Every challenge I have faced in my life, from early years through high school and college and into my career, through heart break and loss, my father would calmly sit while I poured out my stress, confusion, sorrow and grief, and he would quietly but resolutely say to me, Be brave. Every challenge I've faced since losing my father, including losing my father, I've heard his words of advice echo back to me again and again. Be brave.
And with those words, I would realize that I could face what was before me, tackle the challenge or weather the fallout. They are not words of action or inaction, they are words of approach, of attitude.
And so I want to give you those words.
Whatever it is that you face in your life, the challenge, the sorrow, the confusion, the heartache, the destitution, the knots, the loss of faith, the hopelessness, I'm not going to preach to you, not going to advise you or make suggestions, I simply want to give you one of the greatest gifts given to me:
Be brave, my friend, be brave.
I'm not asking you to change your course or to understand something you cannot fathom at the moment. I'm not asking you to forgive or understand or extend an olive leaf. I'm not asking you to have faith or to put your troubles in the Lord's hands. I'm not asking you to seek therapy or to read this book or the other. I'm not asking anything. I'm simply offering these words: Be brave. And in giving you these words, in my heart and mind, I'm giving you my father's sage advice. Simplistic but powerful, in your darkest hour, you can do it. One minute at a time, one hour, one day. Be brave. You can do it, you can. You can face the moment, the day, the week, the future.
Please accept this Christmas gift from me, these two little words given to me over a lifetime, two little words I give to you now: Be brave.
Whether you need them today or hold on to them for the future. Forever and true, this gift of words will never fail you.
You know I love you. XOXO
Monday, December 14, 2009
This time, this present, is a terribly sad one, and yet a quiet and beautiful one. A bright light slowly fades, a circle completes itself before me. This is a time where I hold Eclesiastes close to my heart. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
It's something to think about, the law of echoes.
Monday, December 07, 2009
I've never been able to find the author.
This poem touches me with its simplicity and hope. I read it often and throughout the years I've found myself in different lines, but it’s in the truth of the last two lines that I find the strongest connection. As it has many times in the past, the poem soothes me this morning.
“You Must Always Tell…”
You must always tell the world what you’ve been through,
It does concern the curious who pass;
The stories of our hearts and of our dead
Can all improve our image in the glass.
I am a child who carefully picks her way
Here, or down there, or anywhere I stop
Tipping my had to twenty thousand truths,
Deep in a Now about to open up.
You must always tell the world just what you’ve learned;
It was not chance that took you where you went.
And when I search my pockets what I find
Is far more hope than I have ever spent.
You must always tell your secrets to the world,
Those passers-by whose business is the same;
And those from a land where all that’s holy’s dead
May not themselves be totally to blame.
You must always tell the world that you’ve been happy,
Loaded with talent, yes, a great success,
That you built beacons from brutality
And made your music from the pain of love.
We cannot both be ignorant and live
Let’s not just say we sheltered here a while
When one’s known death, and life–which is always there,
One tries to make a poem—and to smile…
Monday, November 30, 2009
I am wondering if you're wondering whether you should wait for it, you know, the punch line to the joke of my happiness. Or the kick to the gut. As it where, or is.
This is late hour of the unbelievable day, the day in which I faced my waking memory that a friend died last night, the day that I shook my head and sank my heart when I screamed at the realization that he did die, and that he died suddenly and all too young (46) from a heart attack while alone in his house. And this is the day that is two weeks after my Aunt died. And this is the day that is one and a half weeks after my dear friend lost her son.
And this is another day in the life of someone who is fighting for her life every day and every hour against a cancer that is, without mercy, stalking her.
And right now, one I love is hovering over her mother in ICU.
How does that register? The answer is that it does not.
But let me tell you this: If you love someone, if you ever have loved that someone, if you are about to or even if you realize you never will but you do care that much, do me a favor. Do yourself a favor. Hold on to your kiss a moment longer, hold on to a hug a moment longer, go ahead and pick up the tab that makes you lopsided in your balanced payout to your friends. Laugh at the jokes, shoulder the wrongs. In the end, it doesn't really matter. Forgive that one who offended you, let go of that grudge that does no good beyond you're being lonely at the top. Let go the weight, the issues, the positions.
I can promise you that the time you're not thinking about is a dangerous illusion of your wishful imagination.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
And now that I'm home, the holiday decorating has begun.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The grocery store is scheduled for early tomorrow morning. Today, I'm busying myself with making pumpkin bread and cranberry dressing for a few friends to have on their Thanksgiving tables. I love how the cranberries pop when they are cooking and I love how the sauce thickens right before my eyes. The magic!
I enjoyed my morning in the kitchen but I believe my little helper enjoyed it all the more.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Yesterday when I got out of bed, for the first time in three weeks, I could stand on both feet, my right foot flat on the ground, without pain. I was elated. Painlessly, I walked to the chair and strapped on the boot.
This morning, when I got out of bed, I walked across the room without pain and in my normal gate. Then I stopped and realized how wonderful it felt to be walking, to be able to walk.
It's a simple thing, isn't it? Walking is something I take for granted every single day. I have legs that work and I am able to get myself from here to there on my own two feet. I can take a stroll in the morning with my dog, I can walk through the grocery store, I can climb stairs or walk from the couch to the kitchen for a fresh cup of coffee. Such freedom I have. Not everyone can say that, and this morning I realized how much it means to me that I can walk, how very much I appreciate that I have that ability. When I look around this life of mine, I realize this morning that there is so much, so very much that I am thankful for. It took an accident for me to have this realization, proving to me once again that many gifts are not initially obvious.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
The space between the beginning and end of Thursday, however, was filled with enough activity and emotion to swell the single day into appearing to be a full week.
I attended the memorial service of a woman I'd known my entire life, a graceful and kind woman who was one of my mother's dearest lifelong friends and whom I always knew as Aunt Suzie. I sat in the same church my family attended, the same church where my parents' memorial services took place, and I watched her three sons shoulder an incredible grief for the matriarch of their family. Each son wore one of her brooches on his suit lapel, a little something that I found delightful and tender. I remembered those brooches. The eldest son wore a silver dragonfly. My mother had the same one, and it sits in my jewelry box. After the service we marveled at that. Did they give them to each other? Did one of our mothers buy it for herself and gift the other with one? Did they buy them together during one of their trips? We sighed. We will never know.
Later in the afternoon, I got my splint removed from my right ankle and in its place an aircast that makes walking a possibility for me now. I thought I'd skip right out of the appointment, only to find that it doesn't quite work that quickly, and I still need at least one crutch.
Still later, I went to friends' house for dinner and a visit. While she cooked, I sat with her sick partner and felt completely helpless when she took a deep breath and told me that she hurts all over, even her skin. Among other things, Cancer is a ruthless stalker.
Dinner was interrupted by a desperate phone call from my nephew. His dog got out of his yard and was hit by a truck. The driver kept going, he said, and Chico was limping and confused, blood was coming from his nose. My heart sank. I gave him directions to the nearest emergency vet and told him I'd meet him there.
When we left the vet, assured that Chico would be fine but they were keeping him for the night to watch him, my nephew and I returned to my friends' house. He hungrily finished the leftovers from our earlier dinner and then the three of us sat outside by the fire, each of us together at the end of three very different days, each of us talking, remembering, loving.
When I got home this morning, this silliness was waiting for me:
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Hello? Can anyone tell me where the last week went? I swear it was just a minute ago that I was heading downstairs on the eve before my flight to St. Thomas and suddenly it's a week later. I have a lot of catching up to do.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
My flight out was at 6:00 in the morning Tuesday, but the plane left without me. Why? Because a funny thing happened on my way downstairs Monday evening.
My mother always used to tell me not to wear flip flops in the house. They are dangerous, she'd tell me. I never understood why until Monday night when I was racing down the stairs, excited to be picking up my friend who'd I'd be happily spending the next week with, when my foot slipped from my flip flop at the landing and my ankle went hard to the right off the stair and my body followed. Before I could feel it, I heard the bone break. That? That's not a pleasant sound.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Our years together have cost me in many ways. In books and frames, window ledges and shoes, in trips to the emergency vet and two surgeries to replace her knees, and many many food items swiped from the counter tops in my house and the houses of others.
Still, the rewards have been much greater. I got the dog I wanted, and that is to say that what I have is a friend. Cheyenne and I have walked many miles together and seen countless sun rises along the way. Over the past nine years, we swam in rivers and surf, in lakes and ponds. We've climbed mountains and trekked through the snow together. I've watched her baby blue eyes turn an autumn gold. We've run in the rain and played fetch in many parks and yards and even in a couple houses. We've spent days and weeks at the cabin together, free to explore where my eye or her nose led us. I've tripped over her more than once, and she's tipped more than one canoe. She keeps me shaking my head in constant amusement at her antics, whether it's freaking out that her feet are being touched, eating the Easter candy, or backing up to me and growling when she wants me to scratch her back.
And she's been a tremendous source of warmth and comfort to me in times of terrible grief.
She's a quirky one, this girl of mine. She's eager, and happy. She's both serious and silly, dramatic and goofy, and she has a whole bag of odd behavior that never ceases to make me smile. She has her moments of pause and her moments of explosive, butt-tucking enthusiasm, and every day when I get home, she's right at the top of the stairs, tail in full wag with a smile that's all her own spread across her face and crinkling her nose.
She's a little bit crazy and a lot of dork. If you know her, then right now you are shaking your head in agreement.
She has a boyfriend, the strappingly handsome yellow Lab, Isaac. He plays Forest to her Jenny, which is to say that he is completely smitten with her. And tolerant. And that they go together like peas and carrote. They have fun together. Oh what fun they have!
She's my friend is what she is, and she's a great one, bless her little brown self. She and I, we're two in a row. I can't really imagine what the past nine years would have been like without her by my side to show me the way and remind me that life? It's good stuff.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
*Crossed toes also accepted.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
But I just posted the other day about Camelot and being a sparkling drop.
She rolled here eyes, said, BORING.
Before you get defensive on my behalf, let me say that she said that with a smile on her face and an exaggerated tone, as if she were imitating a child. This friend enjoys when I relay stories, especially stories about times which she was part of, or where she knows all the characters.
Then she elaborated. What about those posts you used to write about, about your friends or the cabin and sitting around the patio and laughing?
Well, I smiled, it's not exactly like I'm having those times lately. We laughed at that because truer words could not be more true. What's also true is that it's not exactly as if I'm my usual self lately.
Let me give you a quick example: It took me about fifteen minutes to organize my thoughts and my words into the brief bit I wrote just above. Why that long? Because if I took my thoughts directly out of my brain, and left them unscrubbed, the first paragraph above would like like this:
On Wednesday (a negative times a negative equals a positive) evening, I (a fraction describes a part over a whole) was (Maria) out (Eddie) with a (Kelly) couple (my GRE test is in one week) friends (math homework) for (the difference between any two sides of a triangle must be larger than the third side) a brief (etymology) respite from (Pythagorean triplets are 3:5:4, 6:8:10, and 5:12:13) studying (homework, homework, homework) and other (Maria) things (bisecting a square diagonally creates two 45:45:90 triangles) I stuff (the shaded area equals total area minus unshaded area) my day (many coordinate questions are really about triangles) with these (a ratio is a part over part relationship) days. One (an even negative raised to an even positive gets bigger) of (what does saturnine mean again?) my friends looked at (area of a parallelogram equals base times height) me from across (vocabulary flashcards) the (use FOIL - first, outside, inside, last, to multiply two algebraic terms) table and (Maria) asked, What's up with your blog lately? I asked her what she meant by that. She said that I haven't been writing much lately.
Need I go on? My head is so filled with math rules and new vocabulary words and concern over loved ones, that my thoughts will not stop. Although tired when I go to bed, sleep has eluded me for many nights. If sleep is the ball on a roulette table, well it just bounces and bounces and never lands. Okay I confess, I capture an hour here and there. But real sleep, that wonderful kind of sleep in which all the individual hours of sleep are connected by hours of sleep? There hasn't been much of that in the past couple of weeks. On the rare and delightful occasion when I am able to get there, I have nightmares that are filled with triangles and unreal scenarios and I wake up in frightened or sad confusion.
I need to separate something here. I have so much concern for and heartbreak over a friend who is ill, and for her lover, but I am capable of handling those emotions because I put my sadness and anger and desperation into prayer and conversation with God. I am strong in this capacity, because I have learned to be that way. And that strength, that is how I can be there for my friends, how I answer a very real need they have.
What has me losing sleep is the fact that I am filled with such anxiety over the math in my upcoming GRE that my nerves have overtaken the knowledge that I do have and I stare at the questions on my practice tests and don't understand at all what I'm being asked to solve. All the while, a sweat breaks out all over my body as I imagine a gigantic clock, tick tick ticking over my shoulder, about to announce to the world that I will not get into graduate school because I cannot do simple arithmetic, and then a global email will be sent and that email will say: ISN'T ALISON PATHETIC? Because, seriously, how the hell can she not understand how to convert 0.167 into a fraction and multiply that by the long side of an isosceles triangle to arrive at the volume of a parallelogram, which don't we all know is just a box? (panic, panic, panic)
My GRE study course teacher told me during a one-on-one tutor session a couple weeks ago that my problem is not math, that I know the math, my problem is me and my anxiety towards math. I smiled at her and told her that she didn't understand that my tackling math is the most difficult thing I've done in years, and I've been through a lot in the past several years. As the words came out of my mouth, I thought, Wait a minute. And then I realized that, yeah, maybe I do have some anxiety there. But something needs to get a shake down, because, seriously, math? Math does not compare to the real world, and the little battle I have with fractions and decimals has no place at all in the rest of my world. Period.
But still, anxiety is NOT a reasonable thing. So, asking or telling the anxiety in my head to calm down because I've survived more and others are fighting way bigger battles, does nothing.
Trust me on this: Anxiety is a selfish and self-feeding logic-eater.
Yesterday, I was prescribed something to calm me down. It's a very small dosage of a powerful substance to calm my nerves enough to allow me to focus. That small dosage is going to get smaller tonight because although I did sleep wonderfully last night, when I woke up I felt as if I'd been hit by a truck and the resulting impact left me with mashed potatoes for brains. It took me three cups of coffee before I could feel my head atop my shoulders, much less use the brain inside that head.
Anyway... all of this is to say that for the time being, it's not all patios and laughter-filled conversations with friends and loved ones around these parts. Part of the reason for that is painfully beyond my hands, but in my prayers. The other part is the GRE test looming large on my horizon. Someone recently reminded me that this test is not something that defines who I am, but rather a means to an end. And nothing more. And that is something I keep telling myself. Over and over and over again. I hope the 1/16th of that pill I'm taking is listening.
Monday, October 19, 2009
The night before the final battle against Sir Lancelot, King Arthur has come across a young boy (Tom of Warwick) who wants to fight for him. Arthur knights him and instead, instructs him to return home.
Sir Pellinore, an old and trusted friend of Arthur's, is with Arthur and observing this.
Arthur tells the boy: Each evening from December to December, before you drift to sleep upon your cot, think back on all the tales that you remember of Camelot. Ask every person if he's heard the story and tell it strong and clear if he has not; how once there was a fleeting wisp of glory called Camelot. Camelot! Camelot! Now sing it out with love and joy.
Sir Tom of Warwick repeats after King Arthur: Camelot! Camelot!
Arthur: Yes, Camelot, my boy. Where once it never rained till after sunset, by 8:00 a.m. the morning mists had flown. Don't let it be forgot that once there was a spot for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot. My teacher, Merlin, who often remembered things that hadn't happened better than things that had, told me that one day, a few hundred years from now, it will be discovered that the world is round. Round, like that great table at which we sat with high hopes and noble purpose. If you do as I ask, perhaps one day men will sit around this world as we did around our table and go questing once more for honour and freedom and justice. Now run, Sir Tom, behind the lines...
Sir Pellinore: Who was that, Arthur?
Arthur: One of what we all are, Pelly, less than a drop in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea. But it seems that some of the drops sparkle, Pelly, some of them do sparkle!
Years ago, I clipped from the Playbill those last words between Pelly and Arthur, framed them and placed the frame on my bedside table. I read them often, and I strive to be one of the sparkling drops.
Friday, October 16, 2009
And I wouldn't be me if I didn't have a camera in hand.
With these photos, I wish you a happy Friday and a good weekend. Perhaps you too will discover appreciation for the many gifts that are always present.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
As turning points go, some are not particularly great. But inside are hidden many gifts and opportunities for change. A firm believer in silver linings and making the most of what you have been given, I'm not someone who fears change. That feeling was challenged when I lost my job last February. That turning point was a surprise and sudden, a shock to my system that led to an emotional time, to be sure, but it was not a frightening time. Now I look back to that day with gratitude. I didn't know then what God was planning for me or what new path He wanted me to walk.
I still do not know, but here's what I do know: The path is a good one. I've been given opportunity to be a fully present friend who is needed. I've been given opportunity to spend time with family. I've been given opportunity to expand my mind through reviewing and setting new goals and continuing my formal education. I've been given opportunity to take care of an elderly loved one who needs assistance. All of these opportunities are fulfilling.
When I wake up each morning, I thank God for this completely unexpected path, for the turning point He gave me that was initially disguised as something I thought I did not want. And now I find it was the beginning of changes in my life that I very much do want, and embrace.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Thursday, October 08, 2009
On Tuesdays, a volunteer plays the grand piano in the lobby and fills the space from floor to ceiling with beautiful notes. You expect to see people sitting in the lobby and you expect to see the empty wheelchair by the door and the volunteer sitting at the information desk. You expect to see doctors ambling about and patients out for a stroll, but piano music is not what you expect when you enter a cancer center. It's a pleasant surprise.
What these gifts give your heart and mind is a moment, just a moment of pause when you walk into and through the lobby on your way to the elevators that carry you up to the tenth floor where you will spend the day with your friend who for the time being is in the corner room.
From the phone calls, emails and texts I received, apparently I worried a few people with yesterday's post. It was not about me. I wrote it about my friend, wrote it to my friend.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
It won't be okay. Life will go on, but it won't be okay. And this? Knowing this? This will be the secret and most regrettable voice in your mind, in your heart. It will be the day you never forget and the words you will forever despise, the words that will always take you down, because this was the moment you will forever trace your weary fingers backwards to discover over and over again to be the beginning of the end.
All I can offer you right now right here is this song I heard while taking the long way home tonight.
- Pearl Jam
Yes I understand that every life must end
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go
I’m a lucky man to count on both hands
The ones I love
Some folks just have one
Others they got none
Stay with me
Let’s just breathe
Practiced are my sins
Never gonna let me win
Under everything, just another human being
Yeah, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world
To make me bleed
Stay with me
You’re all I see
Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t, now I’m a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
As I come clean
I wonder everyday as I look upon your face
Everything you gave
And nothing you would take
Nothing you would take
Everything you gave
Did I say that I need you?
Oh, Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t now I’m a fool you see
No one know this more than me
As I come clean
Nothing you would take
everything you gave
Hold me till I die
Meet you on the other side
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Much is required of us because to give and receive is the order of life. And that has been particularly true of my life lately. But it is the quiet, timeless, natural activity that October ushers in the calm, that rests me and puts a glow on my face. Everything is not duty, I am reminded. Much is reward, rewards I don't remember earning but that are everywhere around me nonetheless. October reminds me to slow down and enjoy those rewards.
I want you to slow down and recognize those rewards too.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Along with the expanse of math filling my head, I've been weighed down with some hefty decisions and deadlines by which I had to make them. Decisions that don't only involve me but involve my parents' wishes and the children's futures and a lot of emotions and memories. That has been about as much fun for me as not only having to remember the Pythagorean theorem again but actually having to apply it to find the sum of the diagonals in the meaningless diagrams on pages 326 through 331 of my GRE manual.
Really? All squares are rectangles? And they contain distinct right angles?
Sometimes, I look in the mirror and wonder who it is staring back at me, wonder who this adult is that is making big decisions and has immersed herself in an eight-week course that involves an enormous amount of math so that she can take a big serious test so that she can spend the next two years in school. Voluntarily.
If it weren't for the consistency of my ever-present camera, I'm not sure that I'd be able to recognize myself these days.
This photo of a storm moving in from the west was taken just moments before I walked into my tutoring session Monday night.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
As exhausting as it is, I'm learning to recognize and love some of the knowledge that is seeping into my brain during my weekly class and daily, almost hourly, studies. Some of that knowledge is very basic but left my brain years ago. For instance, paying attention to trigger words in reading comprehension, those words that shift direction: nonetheless, although, notwithstanding, except, yet, despite, etc. While that's obvious, who really thinks about that consciously? It wasn't up front in my mind and now, well now they jump out at me as if I'd already highlighted them with my nifty yellow highlighter. And in reading comprehension when you have to read five boring paragraphs and answer five questions with four possible answers that are each paraphrased, those trigger words are extremely important because they alert you to an argument that will be in one of the questions.
While I admit to enjoying what I'm learning and I believe that having a killer vocabulary is a worthy goal, the gist of the GRE is that it does not test your knowledge, it tests how well you take the GRE. So in addition to resurrecting math I've not used since high school, and dusting off reading techniques that I haven't considered since college, and learning new words daily, I am also having to study the tricks of this test. For instance, beyond Process of Elimination, my study guide tells me this: Do not believe your eyes. Beneath that warning is the explanation that the test contains figures that are not drawn to scale. BUT THE TEST WILL NOT TELL YOU THAT.
Learning this does not placate my nerves.
So, as I plod through my studies, I'm also trying to assuage my desire to wring these test-writers necks for all their games designed to trick me into false answers. Testing knowledge is one thing. Creating a test that doesn't test your knowledge but your ability to walk through a mine field unscathed? That's completely over the top and if I ever meet someone who says they work for the company who creates the GRE tests, I'm afraid that my initial reaction will be to throw a drink in their face, and to do so in honor of all of those who've walked this very slippery path known as the GRE.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Today, September 22, 2009 at 4:18 pm CST, something is going to happen, something you may or may not notice. But at that time, the long-awaited (for me anyway) Autumnal equinox occurs, meaning 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night time, but really meaning, hello Fall! On the southern hemisphere, some kindred soul is beginning to thaw and surely saying hello Spring! But over here, this summer and its heat and its absent rain took it all out of me and I am so hapy to wake up to the first day of Fall.
Fall brings remembrance of times gone by. The season is prayerful and peaceful. Fall is a joy, a setting sun spreading rouge like an open heart across the horizon. Fall is a feast of time, a feast of friends and family, of football and cool weather. Fall brings wonderful Orvis and LL Bean catalogs, comfortable jeans and long-sleeve tee shirts, and boots. Yea for boots!
Hello Fall, it's good to see you. Welcome back into my life.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Driving to El Rey with my niece, both of us in our pajamas, for breakfast tacos and fresh squeezed orange juice - silly and comforting
Running errands with her, buying her some new jeans - happy and parental
Walking through Whole Foods, wandering the aisles because we love to look and smell and marvel at all of it - discovery and wonder
Lunch of sushi and completely unnecessary key lime tart for me, and for her, cheesecake tart - lavish and delectable
Watching her drive away towards her brother's house and then later back to Austin - a smile, a thump thump thump in my heart, a tickle in my throat
Getting ready for a dear friend's birthday party at her house this evening - excitement, happy, life is good
Friday, September 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Perhaps you don't know this, and really why would you, but I lost my job in February of this year. I'll do the math for you: that's seven months ago. And those past seven months? They've been, what's another word for challenging? Trying? Taxing? Yes and yes. Mostly so in the financial department. Because completely without my consent, I went from a healthy salary to dipping into savings and adding to that an anemic pittance from the government in attempt to live my life as if nothing had changed. Guess what? That attitude will catch up with you and when it does, it will tackle your behind to the ground and hold you there until you say out loud, not mercy, but OKAY, I ADMIT IT. I ONLY HAVE A HUNDRED DOLLARS IN THE BANK.
This week, I've been putting pencil to paper and eraser to paper and wadding up paper in frustration and throwing it in the trashcan, except for my aim stinks so the wad never lands in the basket but nearby on the floor and I have to get up out of my chair and place the wad there from the no miss advantage point of about one foot above the target receptacle. All that pencil to paper business is in earnest effort to create a reasonable budget for myself for the next two years while I attend graduate school. That budget consists of starting with a number that is just under the salary I was making back in the day when I was employed and trying to stretch that number to cover me for two years. I know, I know, just divide by 24, but oh man the resistance on my part when I see the number I have available to me each month and realize that some things have to be adjusted.
Budgets? I can't stand budgets, I rail against budgets, stretch against the choking yoke of the their hold on me. I don't mind the number so much as the portion of my scratch paper where I have to cut things in order to actually make the allotment work, where I have to draw a line through things that I enjoy, things like manicures and pedicures and XM radio in my car and did you know that Dos XX beer tastes nothing like Veuve Clicquot champagne?
I'm determined to make this work though and if I have to cut back on things that I enjoy but in reality are completely unnecessary in order to reach my goal of survival the next two years, then so be it. But that doesn't mean I'm happy about it, understand.
Pottery Barn, are you still with me? I have a point, really I do. Part of what has been eliminated from my budget is that part of income known as discretionary. Why? Are you dense, Pottery Barn? Have you not been paying attention? Because there's nothing left over to be discretionary about, that's why. And that is why, five paragraphs later, I'm going to get to the point. With head bowed, I humbly request that you stop sending me your catalogs, your luscious, soothing catalogs. I cannot daydream through your pages any more. I cannot be tempted by your paisleys and velvets, your gilt and silver-plate frames, your perfectly appointed rooms with hand tufted wool rugs, or you embroidered towels with thread colors of sandalwood and ocean blue.
It not you, it's me. You are lovely, understand, but I simply cannot have you in my life anymore. I've tried but there's no room on this piece of paper I have with the columns and numbers beneath the heading 2010/2011 Budget. It's not your fault, you've done nothing wrong. It's just that there's no longer room for you in my life and I'm not strong enough to resist you, so we have to separate.
Wipe that tear from your eye, it won't be forever. Promise.
A former frequent customer
p.s. I guess you'll find out soon enough, but because I am weak when it comes to your seductive ways, I've also had to block your emails.
Ann Taylor Loft
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Oh look! The plumber is finished! Before I sign off and miserably reacquaint myself with studying fractions and their numerator, denominator and reciprocal madness, check out my shiny new sink with free cutting board.
Friday, September 11, 2009
The previous Saturday, I walked the long and zig zagging path of Boston's Freedom Trail. I read about and walked the early history of our country. The feeling of patriotism was still with me that Tuesday morning and in my head the song, City of New Orleans, Good morning, America, how are ya? There was a bounce in my step; I just knew the day was going to be a good one.
As was the morning norm, the Today Show was on the living room television when Cheyenne and I returned. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to watch. Suddenly there was a switch to breaking live news. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. It seemed it was a tragic commuter plane accident.
A glance at the clock told me I needed to get in the shower or I'd be late for work.
My friend called out to me from the hall. Are you watching this? You should watch this. Her voice was different, higher than normal, desperate, an urgent timber I'd not heard from her before.
Oh my God! A second plane hit the World Train Center!
Confused, I stepped out of my room to the hallway, dripping wet in my towel. She stood there in her robe. We hugged in fear and shock. We stood before the television in my bedroom waiting for someone to pull the plug, announce the mistake.
The text on the screen said, Plane Crashes into World Trade Center Tower.
NBC News took over. Tom Brokaw spoke to us. It cannot be confirmed at this time, but it appears that we are under a terrorist attack.
With those words, and the incomprehensible live images before us, we began to believe the unbelievable. We watched the unreal become factual. We watched in frozen horror and disbelief. So little could be confirmed. I remember the scramble for information. And more came. The Pentagon was hit, images and live feeds were all over the television. The more we understood, the more we cried out. Instinctively, we called our fathers; she called her girlfriend. Both of us terrified but reassured by the voices on the other end of the line.
We were being attacked. We paced. We made the dogs nervous. Our hands were shaking. We lifted our coffee cups to our mouths and held them there unable to take a sip. The tears came. They would stop as we digested more news, and they'd return again. And again. I don't know how many times I held my hand to my mouth and said Oh God. I think I will forever remember the sounds, the sirens and sirens and sirens of responding vehicles.
We weren't at all sure what to do, but we needed to be with our families, that much we knew, that much drove us out of the house. I remember saying goodbye to her that morning. The two of us about to set out into a suddenly unfamiliar and dangerous world. The two of us marked, changed within a few moments. Along with everyone else in the country. We hugged before leaving. I held on. I honestly was not sure I would see her again.
On the drive to my parents, I listened to the news on the radio. When the first building began to fall, I looked over at the man in a truck beside me in the traffic. His hand was on his mouth. We locked eyes and I put my my hand on my heart. I started to cry again. Never have I felt so devastated but so broadly connected at the same time.
Eight years later, I walk downstairs and light a candle while the coffee brews. In a moment, I'll walk Cheyenne to the park, gaze up at the flag flying atop the building across the street and remember that morning, that morning I was singing Good morning America, how are ya? without a care in the world, innocent to terror. Eight years later, I recall the horror and I recall looking into a stranger's face in traffic and feeling love.
Eight years later, I'll be singing at the park this morning, I will. And that? That singing at the park? That's my love for this country and her people. The song is more doleful now; so very much happened that day and so very much has changed since then. But sing I will, out loud and out strong.
That last line? That should be the ending to this post, but I'm not quite finished. I know that bells will ring today. I know that bagpipes will sound. I know that my memory of that day will float through my heart and haunt my mind. I know that grief pours from shore to shore. With that in my heart, I want to finish with this: A dear friend of mine writes a wonderful blog and just yesterday she wrote a post with the title, Grace Really is Amazing. After I read her words last night, I recalled the childhood poem, Monday's Child.
Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
It's that second line, Tuesday's child is full of grace, that resonates with me today.
September 11, 2001, fell on a Tuesday. As my friend pointed out, grace really is amazing. And as I grew up, I helf fast to Tuesday's child being full of grace. I'm Wednesay's child, full of woe. With that, with head bowed but voice high, in honor of those who we lost on September 11, 2001, those who died, those who grieved, those who collapsed, those who crawled into a dark place and never came out, those who connected with strangers, and those who stood up and fought, who rushed in when others ran out, those who prayed, those who caved, those who shook their heads in sorrow, those who reported and those who watched, I say this: Tuesday's child IS full of grace and never more have I known that child than on this day eight years ago, and now.
We are all Tuesday's children, each and every one of us.
I leave you with these words by John Newton (1725-1807).
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail
,And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Fast forward to now where she is a senior in college and I'm sitting on my couch scratching my head because wasn't that moonlit night just last week?
Happy birthday Peanut! Your Aunt loves you very much and would like to request that you slow down the speed of time. Okay?
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
It was a wonderful surprise, a thoughtful gift from a generous and thoughtful person. I'm feeling very blessed these days.
Speaking of The Saint Veronica Project, remember the contest? Even though I went a different route for the site name, I still wanted someone to win an 8 x 10 of one of Donald's photographs. So this morning, I incorporated the ever-fair Random Number Generator and the winner was Comment No. 11. That's mccarthy281.
The Saint Veronica Project site will be launched in a couple of weeks. I'm working with an external designer for the site since the standard templates do not appeal to me and I have zero knowledge on creating my own design. I can't wait to go live with all of this!
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
When I walked outside to get the morning newspaper, I was struck not by a hot wet blanket of hot heat, but by little to no humidity and a temperature of 70. I had to look in the paper to learn what temperature the low was but do you know what 70 means? It means over 30 degrees cooler than what was the norm in June, July and August. Oy, three months of hot moist heat in the air and on my skin and dripping down my brow whenever I was out for more than, oh, two minutes. But 70? Seventy is a delightful giggle of a temperature. You can take a walk with 70, you can dance with 70, you can sit on the back porch with 70 and 70 will smile at you and tell you that you are beautiful. Seventy is that nice.
Ninety is still lurking though, to be sure, but that 70 in the morning? That 70 is just the beginning of the changes that September has in mind.
September is such a lovely month. School starts, Fall clothes appear in all the catalogs, the leaves on the Cottonwood tree begin to yellow and fall. Summer desperately tried to hold on, but we know it won't last for long. The change in seasons comes softly, slowly. The sunrise becomes gauze curtains of lavender and pinks, and pockets of cool air surprise me in my morning walks. Even before there is credible evidence that Fall is coming, one can sense it in September's air.
Today is the day to start enjoying the changes, the releasing of the old season, the welcoming of the new. Today is the day to listen to the earth speak, and let it renew your spirit.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Did you know that Saint Veronica is the patron Saint of photographers? Until recently, I did not know that. But when I learned it, I began to research what I could find about Saint Veronica.
In brief, when Christ fell on his way to Cavalry, a woman handed a veil to Him so that He could wipe His brow. According to tradition, the cloth was imprinted with the image of Christ's face. This woman was Veronica, and this incident is all we really know about her, and the veil has become her symbol ever since.
The relic is still preserved in St. Peter's Basicila in Vatican City, and the memory of Veronica's act of charity is commemorated in the Stations of the Cross.
Are you wondering if I have a point? I do have a point.
I've decided to name the new website The Saint Veronica Project.
I am moved by the True Image meaning behind the name Veronica. I also like the idea of naming this photographic collaboration between Donald and me after the Patron Saint of Photography. I hope that Saint Veronica will guide and bless us as we journey together.
After all of your wonderful suggestions and kind comments, and I thank each of you for them, everything in me tells me to go with this name. I didn't want to make the title about Donald's wheelchair, didn't want to promote that handicap, and although I liked many of the names with the word, street, in them, I felt that too was limiting Donald. With The Saint Veronica Project, I don't feel any limitations at all, on Donald or me. What I feel is inspiration, and connection.
Donald likes it. I like it. I hope you like it.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
If you read my post of August 19th, Working Together, then you are aware of a project I'm working on, one very close to my heart. If you haven't read that post, please click on the link above; otherwise you'll have no idea what this one is about.
Go ahead, I'll wait.
That post received a lot of support and the comments you left gave me so much encouragement and excitement. Thank you for that. Donald was thrilled when I told him your kind words.
I'm hoping you are willing to do the same again because I really need you now.
I cannot think of a name for the website I will build to launch and feature Donald's work. I had thought about HoustonStreets but that name is not interesting and also does not capture this project. The trouble is that's the only name I can come up with because my brain struggles all the time with titles for individual posts, so how can I expect myself to come up with a name of such importance to me, one fitting to this project?
Do you have any ideas? I hope you do because I'm running a contest. I need your ideas for a blog name, one that will capture this project thad Donald and I created together. Please leave any ideas you have in the comment section of this post. Feel free to leave more than one suggestion if you have multiple ideas. I'll check the name's availability and the winner will receive a signed 8 x 10 of one of Donald's photos, as well as credit for the title. If you like to be anonymous, that's okay, you'll know who you are.
Does that sound fair?
This contest will be open until Thursday at midnight CST, so if inspiration strikes you more than once, by all means, let me know.
Donald and I thank you for your creative assistance!
Matthew 5:14-16You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Donald's personality is a large one, a happy one. Oue paths first crossed in a parking lot of a neighborhood coffee shop. He flashed a broad smile and I smiled back at him. He rolled up to my car and proposed to me. I was delighted but had to turn him down. After that day, whenever I saw Donald, we'd strike up a conversation. In time, we became friends. I began to give to him as I could, a dinner here, a diet coke there. He never asked for anything, beside my hand, but I could see his hunger and his thirst at times and I wanted to help him. Still, the giving and taking was making the friendship off balance and I began to get uncomfortable with that because I knew there was something else, had to be something else that I could do. That Donald and I could do.
I asked myself, How could I really help Donald? What could we do together? And while I was asking myself these questions, Donald and I had a conversation that sparked an idea. A long time ago, I learned, Donald was a photographer in Fort Worth for a local paper. My mind began to spin. I have many cameras. I have a photo printer. I have access to editing programs.
Can you see where I'm going?
Donald and I talked about my idea. I gave him a camera, asked him to shoot what he sees, what moves him, what inspires him, what he lives. And once a week, Donald and I meet and I give him a fresh set of batteries and take the memory card from the camera and upload his photos to my laptop. Then I give him prints of his photos from the week before and we put them in photo sleeves in a large notebook. And Donald sets off to take more pictures and to sell his photos for $5.00 for an 8 x 10.
It is my hope that in this project, I can give volume to Donald's voice as well as help him earn money and become less dependent on others. It is my belief that I'm in for a lot of learning, through Donald's eyes.
The photo at the beginning of this post is of Donald, and was taken by me Monday evening. The other photos were taken by him. He has an interesting eye; he likes big spaces in his photos, he likes to make your eye wander the scene. He breaks a lot of rules and that works for him because really how can you place rules on someone's vision?
In a couple weeks, I will be launching a separate site where I will feature Donald's photos available for purchase. In the meantime, I will show you Donald's work here.
I read somewhere that the scent of a rose lingers on the giver's hand. This feels like that. This is something I wanted for my friend Donald and yet it makes me feel so good, to work beside him, to learn about him through his photography, to watch him roll away from me eager for his next sale, his next opportunity.