My Blinding Shabbiness

Nothing I own is new. Well, my TV is new… or it was in 2004 when my then non-working husband chose to purchase the damn thing while I was at work one day instead of paying our mortgage that month. Five years and a divorce later I still have the same television. My salary paid for it. I kept it. Petty and childish, perhaps, but I felt I made an important point.

I was home alone this weekend watching movies when it happened. “You have a lovely home,” someone on my not-so-new television said to someone else whose home he had just entered for the first time. At those very average and commonplace words my head snapped up and I looked around at my apartment. From my do-it-yourself shelving units to my poorly-slip-covered-used-to-belong-to-my-parents couch to my ugly-70’s-I-meant-to-reupholster-thrift-store chairs to my octagonal-hand-me-down-from-someone-at-church dining set… it’s all second hand. My bed is used. My boys’ beds don’t even belong to me. Our dressers or drawer sets are piece-together or acquired from someone else and they don’t match anything. For that matter… nothing matches.

It isn’t the premise of having second hand items that bothers me. I care enough about conserving our planet that I would likely buy a number of used items anyway. It is the lack of choice… freedom… that irks me. I didn’t choose these furniture items. I merely acquired them. And, while I always intended to refinish or recover or paint them in order to bring some order and cohesion, I’ve never had the available funds to do any of those things.

Ditto for my overweight, worn out body and wardrobe that desperately needs major updating. C’est la vie.

And, yes, I have felt shame and embarrassment over these facts.

But, you know what? Those prefabricated bookcases hold Shakespeare and Austen and Blake and Hemingway and Tolkien and art books and poetry books. The shelves hold globes, carvings, memories and mementos from when my wanderlust was once indulged. My used dining room table can tell stories of weekend long board game marathons. Tales of Little K beating his mom and Big K in Monopoly… or Big K besting his mother at Scrabble for the first time would be prevalent.

For that matter… under my worn clothes, non-model appearance and faded optimism is a woman who dropped out of college but is more educated than many a teacher. She reads those classics that live on her bookshelf and learns from the people she encounters every day. She can carry on an intelligent conversation with just about anyone and never feels like she has learned enough in life. Mildly witty, she has a way with words. She has happy children with a thirst for knowledge and an unexplained passion for geography and cultures. They have a multitude of very defined interests and read voraciously.

We don’t have a lot of material possessions. I’m not living in a suburban five bedroom designer house with thousands of dollars worth of designer furniture and electronics and art. But, my apartment is a home and we are happy when we are together.

Don’t let the light of our shabbily adorned love, laughter and worldliness blind you.

“If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.... It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.” ~Albert Einstein

To Love and be Loved (repost) ...

This post is by far my most read entry to date. I should have started tracking how many hits it gets a day. Alas! I did not. I do feel it is time for it to be revisited. I am reposting it as it was originally... having resisted the urge to proofread or make correction. Not easy for me. Enjoy. Read. Answer.

To Love and be Loved is to feel the sun from both sides. ~David Viscott

Do you prefer to Love or be Loved?

It sounds like a relatively simple question. It isn’t. Think about it. Ponder it. Dig deep. Initial reaction is to respond with “a bit of each,” but that doesn’t count. It’s cheating. As humans, we have an inherent nature to do both, but I can guarantee that if you spend enough time in introspection you will discover that your preference does indeed lean in one direction or the other. To Love? To be Loved?

In order to answer the question honestly and with reflection you may find it necessary to do a little research or, at the very least, define Love as you know it. We are bombarded by sources of information daily, hourly, minute-by-minute in our society that claim what Love is and what it can be for you and how to find it. Do me a favor. Pay close attention. Don’t allow yourself to be led astray. Even my favorite location for word knowledge, the dictionary, is not going to help you with this one. Trust me. Look up ‘Love’ in that esteemed tome and you will likely be disappointed. Here is a taste:

1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person
2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child or friend
3. sexual passion or desire

No wonder we’re all screwed up. There are a myriad of definitions for ‘Love’ in the dictionary but not one of them comes close to how I perceive it. First of all, ‘Love’ is a verb (not a noun) and the only definition given as such within the dictionary (without an object) is, “to have Love or affection for another person; be in Love.” Oh yeah! That’s a big help. Love is a choice. It can be created. To be able to create something is a powerful action. It isn’t simply about affection, feelings, passion and desire. In true Christian fashion (because some things are just ingrained) I flipped from the page that defined ‘Love’ to the word ‘Agape’ just to see what it said. I skipped past the “Love of God for humankind” part and to the relevant definition: unselfish Love of one person for another without sexual implications. Well, it is closer. I know. I know. Right about now you are referencing I Corinthians 13 in your head, aren’t you? Yeah. Me too.

Back to the initial question: Do you prefer to Love or to be Loved?

Me? I’m a Lover. Why? It’s simple. I’m a coward. It’s easier to Love. It’s far simpler for me to give Love. What? It’s true. As long as I’m giving of my Love than the focus is on the individual who is receiving the Love … not me. Mother Teresa once said, “The success of Love is in the Loving – it is not in the result of Loving. Of course it is natural in Love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done.” To me, the relationship my ultimately fail, but if I give of myself … if I Love as I know I can Love … then my Love has had value. It has meant something to someone.

Those individuals who can answer with 100% honesty that they prefer to be Loved are much braver than I. Robert Frost wrote, “Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” There is some truth in that. We all want to be Loved. However, to truly allow someone to Love you all barriers have to be dropped. Walls must be broken down. You must allow yourself to be vulnerable. I detest my vulnerability. Again, I am a coward. I don’t like to let people in. I am worn out. I am tired. I am jaded. I have been hurt one too many times. I have misjudged what Love really is one too many times. Ultimately, my inability to let those who would Love me into the deepest core of my being will result in my loss. Who knows what I will miss because I allowed myself to be caught in the ‘Illusion of Love’ too often.

Deepak Chopra penned the following on

“Part of success is not becoming caught in life’s illusions. A fool for Love …

To create a fantasy and fall in Love with it is folly, to become trapped in an illusion, in Love with your own projection. It also makes one vulnerable to those that would fuel it. Soon reality impedes upon the illusion, crumbling it, and one becomes distraught and who you thought they were, was only in your mind, or what one thought was, is not. I guess the desire to be in Love can blind one to reality. Better to not create a fantasy and live in the present being aware of those that would feed the fictions in your mind. Most relationships are really just an illusion.”

Do you prefer to Love?
“Because when we Love, we always strive to become better than we are.”
~Paulo Coelho

Do you prefer to be Loved?
“You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.”
~Barbara DeAngelis

You decide.

“Love is as much of an object as an obsession, everybody wants it everybody seeks it, but few ever achieve it. Those who do will cherish it, be lost in it, and among all, will never … never forget it.” ~Unknown

“You know when I said I knew little about Love? That wasn't true. I know a lot about Love. I've seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate... It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind Loves... You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that Love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and... What I'm trying to say, Tristan is... I think I Love you. Is this Love, Tristan? I never imagined I'd know it for myself. My heart... It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it's trying to escape because it doesn't belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I'd wish for nothing in exchange - no fits. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you Loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.” ~Stardust, Film (2007)

Fire and Ice

Nobody in this house will ever be comfortable.

I used to be a human thermometer. In a world where half the women are perpetually freezing and the other half are burning up… I seemed to be a constant. My office has five such women. Somebody is always too cold. Somebody is always too hot. The gentleman in charge of regulating the heat and air conditioning throughout the building used to poke his head into the office and wait for me to give him thumbs up or thumbs down. Thumbs up = It’s comfortable in here. Thumbs down = Come on in and ask me if it is too hot or too cold, because it is one of those things, but don’t listen to the crazy ladies who are arguing. I have the truth. It has been this way for three years.

No longer.

My internal thermostat is broken. Monday, at work, I thought a blizzard was blowing in. So cold. I was the only one and it was extremely strange. Why? Usually it is the polar (no pun intended) opposite. Oh, I’m not having hot flashes. We can rule out that theory, I think. Sorry for bringing it up boys, but nothing would make me happier then for that to happen. That equipment isn’t being used anyway. I had it all fixed (twice, long story) nine years ago. I will rejoice the day my ovaries shut down. No, generally I am HOT. All. The. Time. To me, being hot is far preferable to being cold but I am particularly warm after about 2030 in the evening… much to the dismay of my children.

I am fire. They are ice.

How I gave birth to two of the most cold-natured children on planet earth is beyond me. It makes sense with Big K. There is no meat there. Bones clatter. Little K, though, is thick and muscular; however, he radiates heat. I can feel the fire coming off the boy a foot or two away. The only logical explanation is that he is giving off heat so quickly that his body is unable to retain any of its own warmth. I’m hot. My kids are cold. So, I’ve turned the thermostat down farther than I normally like to keep it ($$) and yet not as far down as I WANT to turn it in order to be happy. I don’t get cool enough for me to be perfectly comfortable, but the boys are cold enough that they wander around in long sleeves or wrapped in blankets.

See? No one in this house will ever be comfortable.

Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
~Robert Frost

I'd like to thank the Zombie Academy...

I … am a recipient of: The Zombie Chicken Award. I received this honor from the lovely joemmamma, book blogger extraordinaire!

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the Zombie Chicken-- excellence, grace, and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all."

I now have the honor and incredibly difficult task of passing the baton. With sincerity, silliness and a lot of bwahahahahaha, I hereby bestow this award on the following:

Caffeinated Librarian
In a moment of poor timing for me, the Caffeinated Librarian blog is temporarily out of service. You know we bloggers... sometimes it just has to happen. CL is a lover of the zombie and, therefore, the natural choice for such a prestigious honor! Alas!

Nurturing Narcissism
There is much awesomeness here in Melain’s world!

So About What I Said…
What were the words I once used to describe Melissa? Ah, yes… I said she was searching for love with wit and whimsy. Thank God someone is not jaded!

A Life Less Ordinary
Finn!! From her words to her photography… I am awed by her honesty and her artistry.

Simply Dori
Kindred spirit ~o~ mine, she is.

As fun as Zombie Chickens can be, I leave you with this thought:

“Would that there were an award for people who come to understand the concept of enough. Good enough. Successful enough. Thin enough. Rich enough. Socially responsible enough. When you have self-respect, you have enough.” ~Gail Sheehy

Toe Curling

Newsflash: I’m a girl. What? I KNOW!

This fact periodically surfaces in random
confessions and not-so-secret longings.

Those of you who actually read these scribblings get to see the girlie side of me more often than those who interact with me in person on a daily basis. I am a tomboy who spent most of her life hanging out with the guys and I am pretty adept at the whole keeping-my-real-emotions-at-bay thing. And yet, I have a lifetime pass on the Jane Austen train although the Harlequin phenomenon baffles me. Trust me, I read my fair share to see what I am missing. Nothing, apparently. I am missing nothing. It is the movies that turn me into a total sap. I adore really romantic onscreen moments… not whole movies… just moments… and some of those moments come out of the most unlikely of films. Others are more obvious.

These are a few of the moments that make my toes curl.

Casino Royale (2006)
Sheer perfection.

Love Actually (2003)
Without hope or agenda…
[The bloody embedding is disabled on the only clip I could find and the sound quality could be better, but you can click
HERE to see the scene if you would like.]

The Empires Strikes Back (1980)
Leia: I love you. Han: I know.

The Little Mermaid (1989)
I. Love. Prince. Eric.

Scent of a Woman (1992)

Out of Sight (1998)
There are 2 scenes actually. This is one. The other is when they are trunk of the car.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Angry George Peppard = Swoon.

A Knight’s Tale (2001)
This is how to write a letter.

The Quiet Man (1952)
I like graveyards and thunderstorms scare the wits out of me. Should there be a strong manly man nearby… well, my reaction would likely be pretty close to the same.
[This is another one with the embedding disabled. Grrrr. So – click
HERE for this very quick clip.]

The Replacements (2000)
A kiss scene accompanied by John Madden commentary. I can dig it. PS – I love football movies.

Phantom of the Opera (2004)
I know. Obsession. Twisted. Blah. Blah. Blah. Shut up. Point of No Return is undeniably one of the single most sensual songs ever written.

High Fidelity (2000)
Top 5 Things I Miss About Her! Seriously, every girl hopes that every guy she’s ever dated has a mental list like this in his head.

And… definitive proof that astoundingly great scenes happen in not-so-great movies. My favorite:

The Village (2004)
This scene leaves me speechless… every time.

There are others, some of them that affect me more than a few listed here, but I won’t list them. For most I was unable to locate an adequate film clip. In my searching I discovered there are a lot of lonely women out there who take solace in making music video collages of romantic moments, favorite movie kisses, hottest men alive, etc. – Crazy stuff. And I thought this list was bad enough.

"Infatuation is when you think he's as sexy as Robert Redford, as smart as Henry Kissinger, as noble as Ralph Nader, as funny as Woody Allen, and as athletic as Jimmy Conners. Love is when you realize that he's as sexy as Woody Allen, as smart as Jimmy Connors, as funny as Ralph Nader, as athletic as Henry Kissinger and nothing like Robert Redford - but you'll take him anyway." ~Judith Viorst, Redbook

Into the Pride

At the age of eleven I wanted to be a veterinarian. No surprise, really. I still claim that my inner super power is animal communication and when I witness or see evidence of animal cruelty I get violently angry. I want to save them. I used to be jealous of my friends in East Africa who grew up farther out in the bush than I. We lived on some beautiful compounds and I often explored the surrounding forests, but had we lived “in the wild” there is no telling what types of injured or abandoned animals I would have brought home on a regular basis.

My mother, always one to encourage my interests, thought James Herriot and his book All Creatures Great and Small would be a good read for me. It’s a wonderful book, but it begins like this:

They didn’t say anything about this in the books, I thought, as the snow blew in through the gaping doorway and settled on my naked back.

I lay face down on the cobbled floor in a pool of nameless muck, my arm deep inside the straining cow, my feet scrabbling for a toe hold between the stones. I was stripped to the waist and the snow mingled with the dirt and the dried blood on my body.

[Blah. Blah. Blah.]

I tried to wriggle my way an extra inch inside the cow. The calf’s head was back and I was painfully pushing a thing, looped rope towards its lower jaw with my finger tips. All the time my arm was being squeezed between the calf and the bony pelvis. With every straining effort from the cow the pressure became almost unbearable, then she would relax and I would push the rope another inch. I wondered how long I would be able to keep this up. If I didn’t snare that jaw soon I would never get the calf away. I groaned, set my teeth and reached forward again.

And, thus, my veterinary dreams came to an abrupt end. I finished the book, but that visual was enough for me and with my math and science skills being what they are… it was for the best. My love of animals, however, will linger for all eternity and I never felt more alive and a part of this planet then when I was out there… in the wild with the elephants, cape buffalo, lions and other original habitants of my beloved Africa.

While I have this love for the beasts of the planet, it has always been the felines that truly captivate my heart. Oh, I have no intentions of ever becoming the crazy old cat lady. I just love cats… big and small… domesticated and wild. I feel a kinship with them. My eyes are often described as feline. My astrological sign is Leo (the lion). In the Chinese horoscope I am a Tiger. The number of times I’ve had to rise from the ashes is far less phoenix and far more nine lives. I’ve owned a number of cats and I miss the time I used to spend with the big cats of Africa in Kenya’s game reserves. The cheetahs are my favorite. Had I realized, as my veterinary hopes dwindled, that there are many more animal related careers in this world… perhaps I would have followed a different vocational path. But, I didn’t. I’m okay with this now because there are those who allow me to live vicariously through their adventures.

Enter Dave Salmoni.

He’s not alone. There are others, the iconic Jack Hanna for one, but Dave is different and it was his most recent work,
Into the Pride, that absolutely bewitched me. For five too short episodes I lived with Dave in the Namibian bush as he got up close and personal with a rogue pride of lions who had been banished from the game reserves for bad behavior. I fell in love with the pride. I laughed and I wept. The thought that the entire pride might be destroyed if Dave failed and the cats could not be rehabilitated was unfathomable to me. In particular I came to adore Cleo, the alpha female, who never quite warmed to Salmoni’s presence. She is wary, aggressive, protective and untrusting. And… there is a startlingly familiar look in her eyes. I know it well for I see it every morning when I glance in the mirror.

Dave can be seen in a number of other
projects and I am looking forward to what he does next. As a single mom with the world on her shoulders I have not the luxury of going deep into the wild… but I can follow Dave on his adventures, read updates via his blog (though one entry regarding the pride brought tears), and even follow the more day-to-day through his Twitter stream: @davesalmoni. Thanks, Dave, from the eleven-year-old animal obsessed tomboy still residing in me somewhere.

"Cats are opportunists. They will kill you if they get a chance. They may share some of your emotions, but they won't have any problem with killing you if you make a mistake." ~Dave Salmoni

Thoughts & Remembrance

September 11, 2001

“There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that's for thoughts.”
~William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Act IV, Scene V)

My Mandala

Yesterday I posted a mandala titled Beth by Teresa Silverthorn and commented that, though it had not been made for me, I loved its colors and intricacies. That particular mandala is now titled Beth G for whom it was originally created because Teresa found her way to my post and created one of my very own… and I adore it. This is my Beth:

It resembles, to me (because art is wonderfully subjective), a beautified version of the chambers of the human heart… from the inside. I see electrical impulses relaying their messages. I see the beat. I feel the rhythm. This, my friends, is what draws me into different artistic mediums.

Art. I love it.

Everything in creation has its appointed painter or poet and remains in bondage like the princess in the fairy tale 'til its appropriate liberator comes to set it free. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Axe On, Axe Off

Big K wants cologne. He doesn’t want to go to Cologne… well, perhaps he does. He has inherited his mother’s wanderlust and we do have a healthy amount of German blood in us. A trip to Cologne would be lovely, but the point here is that he wants to smell good.

I gave him my standard I-can’t-answer-questions-without-quoting-a-movie response:

“That’s a negative, Ghost Rider. The pattern is full.” ~Top Gun (1986)

Now, keep reading before you jump to the bottom of this post and leave me some bizarre message questioning my parenting choices.

I have my reasons:

1. He’s only 14. Does someone at the age of fourteen really need cologne? Isn’t deodorant enough? I’m having a hard enough time adjusting to the fact that he showers twice a day now. He takes a shower at the end of the day in order to get clean and not sleep on really funky sheets. He takes a shower in the morning in order to get clean and not be funky at school. It also helps in taming his insane Harry Potter morning hair. I can not fault him this logic. I shower every morning. I honestly can’t function without it. I shower every night. Gym. Enough said.

2. I have to wisely choose which battles to fight. He is a teenager. There are disagreements and, honestly, far too many things are happening around here between 0545 (when we all get up) and 0700 (when the school bus arrives) for me to deal with a daily argument regarding scent moderation. You laugh. It. Would. Happen. My child, and he is still my child, will not walk out of this house smelling as though he as slept all night submerged in a cologne bath.

I am not, however, completely unreasonable. I was perfectly willing to compromise.

So, early in the evening we popped across town to Walgreen’s in order to negotiate this development whilst standing in front of the all the make-your-body-smell-better products. I had to go anyway. We needed bread and milk. Monday evening is usually my night for grocery shopping, but I spent most of the day violently ill and a grocery store was definitely out of the question.

My compromise was this: I was willing to let him switch to scented deodorant (instead of the standard generic stuff) and a matching scented soap or body wash. He was satisfied with this proposal (mentally I give myself a ‘Mother of the Day’ award) and there we stood in the drug store while he made his choices. This was not a quick process, but eventually we had the preferred items. Axe Phoenix. Body wash and deodorant. Yes, I have seen the ridiculous Axe commercials. I know no woman that reacts to the Axe scents as portrayed in those advertisements so I deemed the items appropriate and we left the scented aisle of Walgreen’s.

In another family the story might have ended there. Oh, no. Not us.

As we rounded the corner of the aisle Little K looked at me and said, “Mom, I want cologne.” What the hell? I wouldn’t purchase the stuff for his older brother. Why would I get it for a nine year old? Is it too much to ask for him to pay attention to what is happening around him? Obviously it is. I quickly think of how to respond to this child. If I merely say, “No!” then he is going to ask for the deodorant and the body wash. Heck, he probably equates those things to cologne. Big K, meanwhile, laughs at the look on my face and, in typical teenage fashion, speeds several store aisles ahead of us. I turn and take Little K by the shoulders and explain the situation in a way I feel he can truly appreciate. “Your brother is going through puberty.” I say. “He stinks.”

I feel this is a fine place to further illustrate how my boys are polar opposites. Big K, from a very early age, has had tact. He would never point out oddities in people while still in their presence or even within earshot. Kyle, on the other hand, has absolutely no tact and no desire to learn the skill. He has diarrhea of the mouth and says whatever comes to his mind… usually quite loudly. I know this. I have raised him. He is my child. And, yet, sometimes I underestimate his brashness. His reaction to my statement about his brother went something like this:


Classic. Need a remind you that Big K was at least 5 aisles away at this point? If you were in Walgreen’s in this vortex of Small Town, USA between 1745 and 1800 on Monday, August 31, 2009… let me apologize. I’m quite sure you didn’t need to hear my youngest child scream the word “puberty” (accompanied by raucous laughter) across the store to his elder brother. I’m also positive you didn’t want to witness the scene that unfolded in the 30 seconds following that outburst.

And, in case you are wondering, I revoked that “Mother of the Day” award I had given myself only moments earlier. I had no choice for, in the midst of breaking up the potential throw down between my boys, I was laughing hard enough that any fellow patrons who weren’t already staring definitely turned to do so as I cackled uncontrollably. My laugh, dear friends, is no quiet thing.

Oh well. Big K might have been embarrassed, but at least he’ll smell good.

Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring - quite often the hard way. ~Pamela Dugdale


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