Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

Tibi gratias agimus quod nihil fumas.

It says "...freedom of...", not "...freedom from...".

"It's amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness. People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we're compassionate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint." - Penn Jillette







Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Saw the Sign

Have you ever seen hobo signs?

They're a bit like tagging, only more communicative and they don't piss me off.

I dig hobo signs, and recently found a website chock full of them. How cool!

No, my geekery knows no bounds.

So, anyway, if you're interested in hobo signs and what they mean, here's a nifty site for you: Hobo Signs.

I've often thought of making a "Kindhearted Lady" sign for my house. Shut up. I am too kindhearted. I doubt a hobo would ever see it - we're not exactly in the midst of a human migration trail or anything - but it'd still be neat.

I should make a "Housewife Feeds for Chores" one. I totally would.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

So Begins the Silly Season*

I got sidetracked yesterday with weighty matters, but I'm back on course now.

Yesterday was Black Friday. In my experience, folks are either exhilarated by the day, up early and out the door to wait in line after line for the best deals imaginable with the occasional fist fight thrown just to keep things fresh, or they stay home and don't leave for love or money.

Guess which sort I am?

In a perfect world, I have purchased or made gifts throughout the year to save myself the stress and aggravation of shopping during The Silly Season - the stretch of days between Thanksgiving and New years when people are shopping, stressing, forgetting their manners, losing their grip, forgetting little things like compassion, love, and mercy in the ever-growing frenzy to find the hottest toy of the season for the lowest price and if that's the last one on the shelf I will beat you over the head with a brickbat because my kid deserves it way more than yours!

Ahem. This year, I was a slacker, and will now pay the price with long nights and time away from my precious Internet. Sigh.

The time between Christmas and New Years is included because of the dolor of returns - walk past a returns line in any big-box or mall store and you risk having the life sucked right out of you; you'll find yourself shuffling along behind people with too-small sweaters, fondue pots, and the Learn-About-Puberty-Chia pets that Uncle Sal thought it was OK to give to little Timmy (who is six), zombie like, until you reach the glorious front of the line...only to realize that you weren't there to return anything! The line got you.

Silly Season assaults people from their mailboxes (all those desperate sale circulars, pleading for your time, attention, and dollars) and e-mail - yesterday I started the day (admittedly a little later than usual) with twenty e-mails in the bow. Three of them were from actual people; the rest were advertisements that made it through the spam filter and had to be destroyed. Don't worry, I was merciful and granted them a swift oblivion - but sent to the bit-graveyard of the Blue Nowhere or not, they'll keep coming. They are marching through the streets of Blogopolis even as I type, wedging themselves into odd corners of blogs, clogging the arteries of communication, and nesting in e-mail boxes where they'll breed, brood, and hatch more of themselves in nan-seconds.

It's on television and radio, audio battery screaming forth, drilling into your brain through your ears and gluing itself to the unconscious mind where it filters into dreams and modifies behavior so that you find yourself wandering the aisles of the big-box at midnight, desperately searching for the one gadget or gizmo you're convinced will make life perfect for someone else, and possibly cure cancer, too.

Whew.

Me? I'll be at the grocery store, shopping for ingredients, or at home baking, sewing, crocheting, possibly degrinching enough to decorate sooner than a week before Christmas (hereafter to be typed as Xmas on this blog because I'm lazy), and wrapping what few things I purchased and making the package look festive with bows I made myself because I am that person, the one who has to go one extra step and make things herself and make you feel like a schlub for having the store do it. Yeah, uh...you're not a schlub, I'm a freak. It's compulsive. Also, aside from raising, schooling, feeding, clothing, and entertaining the Evil Genius and the occasional burst of half-hearted housework, I don't have a job, so I have time (hah!) to do that crafty shi...umm...stuff.

If you must go out into Silly Season I wish you good luck and godspeed..and you're welcome to pop by Casa de Crazy for some cookies, tea, coffee, scotch (on or off the rocks) and a place to hide until February if it all gets to be too much.

*When I first composed this, I was unaware of the tragic deaths of two WalMart employees at the beginning of the day. One (in Queens, NYC) was trampled to death by people who couldn't wait the few minutes left until opening - they threw a newspaper vending machine through the doors an pressed their way in, desperate to be the first to buy...I don't know, cheap perfume? Crappy clothing with faulty stitching? Cheap plastic crap?? Whatever it was, apparently it was worth causing mayhem, damage to the store, and death. Some poor schmuck, who only wanted to wish people a good day and help them find what they were looking for, is dead now. Happy Christmas to his family...I'm sure they'll understand why he had to die. Four other patrons (including a pregnant woman) are hospitalized, rather seriously injured. Shame, shame, shame. The second (in Long Island, NYC) was killed after a fracas involving an XBox 360. No more details are available as I type this, and the stories may change after I post it - but if it's true, if people really found a game...a game, y'all...worth killing over...I despair for humanity and don't wonder that other nations view us with disgust and scorn. Shame! Shame!! Shame!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Groaaannnn...uh...Woo-Hoo?

Still stuffed? Yeah, me t...uh...wait...

I weighed myself this morning. I do it every morning. Fully clothed, because I figure I don't meet people nekkid, or go about much of my life nekkid, so I'll include my clothes, too.

So, anyway, now that you're trying to scrub the mental image of me and my (no longer quite) fifty-acre arse hangin' out au naturale from you brain...

I weigh myself every day because I like to torture myself. Yep, I hate me that much. Or I could just be weighing every day and using the lowest day of the week for my weight because I'm just a nit. Uh...yeah. Y'all, a gal has to do something to feel better about herself. You feel me, right? Right??

I weighed myself this morning, prepared for a significant gain after yesterday's gustatory fiesta...and I lost three pounds. Hmm.

I ate more, and lost more.

Can that be right??

Now, if the time I spent in fat camp as a child taught me anything, it taught me that food doesn't turn to extra inches on one's thighs right away - it takes three to five days to settle in and get comfy, so next week I may be weeping in my fat-free, organic yogurt...but for now? I'll take three pounds and smile about it.

This means that I am well past my short-term goal of twenty pounds for the year (I set a long-term goal of twenty pounds a year for five years).

This wasn't the post I was going to write today, but it's the post you're getting, because sometimes a gal has to ring her own bell. Oooh, I bet that gets the Google Pervs goin'!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

I know, I know, it's corny (like the corn and wild rice casserole I'm making today), but...I don't think it's such a bad thing, to think about what I'm thankful for and write it out. It serves as a reminder when I am in a vile mood or feeling like the world just generally sucks.

I am thankful for (in no particular order):

Freedom
Water that is clean and plentiful
My son
My Mum
Nature and the way she finds to show me something new of herself every day
Words
Song
Dance
Adversity, that joy is all the sweeter
Kisses from my five-year-old
T
My friends, the net beneath me when I fly and fall
Every creature and plant that I consume to sustain myself, because without the life I take, there would be no life to live
Love - that it exists at all is a wonder, and I feel blessed to know it in many forms
My Aunt who is still giving cancer the finger - it's weak and wobbly, but it's the finger
Chocolate, gift from the Gods (yes, even the perversion called "candy bar") (Mmm...candy bar...)
Strong hands
Strong spirit
Strong will
Laughter
Cussed determination not to curl up and die just because life can sometimes be a succession of truly awful, bleak, and desolate days...but sometimes it isn't
The Internet
You

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hah!

As I already have a traditional Thanksgiving post for tomorrow, I am posting this today. It's wrong, so very wrong, and I laugh every time I see it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I am SUCH a Girl!

Does anyone else get a little...weepy...during the last scene in Cars when Lightning goes back and fetches The King, pushing him to the finish??

No? Just me then?

Oh, well...

The Menu

I'm drawing a blank here, folks - since the middle of last week I've been cleaning, cooking, and generally busy. It has all been for my benefit, true, because I can't stand the idea of having even one guest (because besides the people who live here and Mum, we have one guest, T's nephew who is a riot) in my home if it's messy. Obviously I don't have many visitors.

Because my brain (and the rest of me) is worn slap out, I don't have a "real" post...so...I give you the menu for Thursday's homage to gluttony (but just dinner, as the rest of our meals will be on the fly, catch-as-catch-can, don't get in my way or I'll thump you with a wooden spoon):

The Guest of Honor, Mr. Thomas Turkey. I had every intention of fetching home an organic gobbler, but they were upwards of $70 for a twelve pound bird! Yikes! Unless it shoots gold out it's arse, I ain't payin' that much for what will ultimately wind up as soup!! I split the difference and got a half-organic, instead - no hormones, antibiotics, or animal products in the feed, but not exactly free-range.

Dressing. Do you stuff the bird, or make yours in a pan? We are such dressing hounds around here, I usually do both. I am making this year's lot out of my own bread (one of the things I'm doing today is dicing the bread into cubes so it can get a little stale overnight) and may just stuff the bird with herbs. I still haven't decided yet. Dang Aquarius...

Hand whipped potatoes - I have nothing against box potatoes when I'm in a hurry (yes, they can be made palatable, and if you make a sauce or soup too thin, they're terrific for thickening it up...and why am I defending my larder to you??), but hand-whipped just transcend divine eatery, don't you think?

Gravy - homemade, thank you very much. My first holiday with T's family, I offered to make something, but they didn't want me to trouble myself...until I offered to make the gravy. It seems their gravy has come from a jar all this time. Can you imagine? How do you grow up in The South and not know how to make gravy? I am from The North and can make gravy, and we aren't exactly known for our cooking up there, you know (c'mon, y'all know it's true, The South has a reputation for cooking and hospitality)?? Now, when there's a meal requiring that savory sauce, it's my job to make it. I guess us Northern transplants are good for something besides carpet-bagging and marrying the natives, after all.

Home baked bread with store bought butter (because I draw the line at churning)(but it's Irish butter, so that makes up for it).

Plain old green beans (OK, so maybe if I have the time or inclination I'll saute them in butter and garlic...).

Mashed turnips and carrots. Yeah, it sounds a looks like a train-wreck in a bowl...but, oh my...how I adore this simple side dish! I've been eating since I was a child, and will continue to do so until I shall eat no more forever.

Corn and wild rice casserole, courtesy of Pioneer Woman Cooks - I heart PW, and this looked like a nice way to add to the rainbow of foods on the table (because until now, the yellow has been butter...ahem...). This one is making me nervous...but I am game to try it.

And finally, the absolutely necessary cranberry jelly, in absolutely the only correct way to serve is - cylindrical with a slicer. I have, in the past, made my own cranberry jelly (which may be just about the easiest thing ever to make), but I like the tinned stuff. Sigh. So much for my gourmet aspirations.

Wine. I didn't have anything to do with the making, just the buying, but I will open the bottle myself...

I always ask each person what they'd like for desert, and if I can make it, I will. This year we have:

Key Lime pie (the baked kind, not the cream cheese kind) in a shortbread crust (bought the crust, because I am that lazy).

Pumpkin pie (I will cop to buying the crust, because I SUCK at pastry crusts)

Sugar-free chocolate pie in a chocolate cookie crust, because J (our roommate) is supposed to avoid sugar, fat, and anything else that has anything remotely like flavor.

Mrs. Smith's Dutch Apple Crumb pie - because Mrs' Smith's make a damn fine apple pie, and while I can manage the filling and the crumb part OK, my crusts are lamentable.

Pecan pie - T said he would have a go at this one, but if he has to work on pie day (Wednesday, we make the pies) then I'll do it. I've never made one before, so it should prove...erm...interesting.

Vanilla ice cream (Breyer's Natural with vanilla bean flecks) and whipped cream (in a can or hand-whipped, diner's choice - not everyone is a tyrant in the kitchen like Bocci)

Also, coffee and tea on request.

I figure I'll finish up with the dishes sometime next April, and I'll probably sleep through this weekend...but it'll be worth it - I do so love to cook for the people I love...and I love everybody (I may not like them, but I do love them)...and it's all the better when we are dining in good company.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Now, That Ain't Right

We've had a fairly good week here at Casa de Crazy.

Several rooms went from this:

Our sun room, long relegated to "The room where everything goes that doesn't have a place somewhere else, or whoever is putting it away doesn't actually know where it belongs."

To this:

Hey, there's a rug under that table - who knew??

The above room was the only one I thought to photograph; I was too busy cleaning the rest of them. Yeah, umm...have I mentioned I'm an awful housekeeper?

Sunday I went up to the gallery for a few hours to work on cards and hang out with Mum. While I was gone, T, J, and our friend W did some repairs on T's old car, which we gave to J's ex-wife who has fallen on hard times and is losing her own car to voluntary repossession. Sucks. W is a mechanic, and between the three of them they got new front axles and something in the engine taken care of and spiffed up the Camry. W (the woman collecting the car) was grateful - I don't think she ever expected we'd be the people to help her out, what with her ex living with us and all...but she's a decent woman who needed a hand, and we had a hand to give. When' she's back on her feet, she'll pass the car along to someone else who needs it. You know- pay it forward.

To cap off our good week/good day, we decided to decorate some cookies - J bought a gingerbread man cookie decorating kit at the market on Saturday, and the Evil Genius was just bursting to play with them.

I didn't photograph the process because I was decorating, too, but here are the results:

Bird's cookie, all decked out - he didn't think it was very well done, at first (he noted that the eyes weren't right, and the face was all crooked, and it didn't look nice like Daddy's), but after a couple of reassuring words from T an I, he thought it was just fine.

A close-up - he decorated it all by himself - note that it does have eyes, a nose, and even corners for the mouth. If it's a little...er...Picasso, well...so what??

T's cookie - I think he has a thing for redheads. Umm...I'm dark blonde/blue. Uh-oh.

My gingerbread guy can tie his shoes. Not very well, but he can tie them. And look - his fingernails match his shoelaces!

Oh, dear - a CSI gingerbread guy...check out the Y-incision...

I think we know who dunnit...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ua Lava

I recall reading about something called "Ua Lava" in an Orson Scott Card book, one of the Ender series.

I think about the idea (as it was presented in the book) from time to time. It appeals to me.

Ua Lava. It is enough.

No negative, no positive...just a statement of fact. Ua Lava, it is enough. Had enough dinner? Ua Lava. Had a rough day and things don't seem to be getting better? Ua Lava. Been laughing until your sides ache? Ua lava.

It is at once an expression of joy, celebration, frustration, hurt, need, despair, contentment, love, and hope. It is a useful phrase, and I've used it on the Evil Genius in combination with "basta!!", which I was raised to believe meant "enough" in Italian.

I dabble in language.

I can't seem to find verification of the meaning behind "ua lava", but I have no reason to doubt that Mr. Card has done his research.

So why am I thinking about it now? I was blog-hopping and wound up at Oktober5's place, where I read his entry about having, not having, and about 100 squares, and it got me thinking about enough, and not enough, and how we define that for ourselves, which brought me to ua lava.

I can make a very long list of what I don't have, and a very short list of what I do have...but ultimately "have" or "have not"? Ua lava.

I wish you always enough and a bit more besides - may you find ways around want, never know need, and have enough left over to help someone fill an emptiness they may not even know they have.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lanier

We had another jaunt to the chiropractor on Friday afternoon. It was chilly, but not too cold, and T warned me to bring the camera and make sure Bird had warm clothes on- he didn't tell me to dress warmly because he knows better; if it's above freezing I probably won't wear more than my shawl (to keep the wind off, mostly).

On the way home, he drove us down a side road and to the park where he used to launch his jet ski into Lake Lanier.

You may not know this, but we've been having a drought down here in Georgia. It has been going on for a number of years now, and everything is suffering - including the lake.

Lake Lanier is a man made lake, a reservoir for the city of Atlanta and surrounding areas. The water that made and maintains the lake id from the Chattahoochee River; places downriver need the flow to continue, despite the drought, so the Corps of Engineers has to keep releasing water even if that means the lake goes down. I often joke that people with lake houses now have larger lots - are they paying more taxes because of it??

Towns that were submerged when the lake filled are popping out of the water these days, derelict mushrooms of human history springing from soaked earth.

We had a nice walk along what used to be lake bed (which used to me hillside), and I got a few photos.
Looking across the lake - see all the sand? That used to be under water.


A self portrait, and one of the rare photos of me you'll find on the Internet or anywhere else.


A family portrait. You can really see who Bird takes after...


This tree used to be under water, too...T used to tie his jet ski to it.


When the lake was full, T and Bird would have been under water. I don't think wake is a problem, right now.


Yep...not an issue.


Can you see why I thought this was funny?? You can't really see the other humorous sign - it's painted on the edge of the docks and declares "No fishing from the dock". Umm...OK.

I shot more than fifty photos, but that's a bit excessive for a blog post - even one of mine. My ears got chilled (it was breezy) and I wanted dinner, so we piled back into the van, but it was a successful jaunt - Bird enjoyed himself and had fun with T, and we agreed that we'll go back and explore other parts of the park another day.

I generally don't approve of man made lakes, but if it's there, we may as well enjoy it...no?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Turnips and Carrots and Butter, Oh My!

Here's one of my favorite Thanksgiving vegetable dishes - Mashed turnips and carrots. Yeah, I know, sounds blech. Give it a chance, OK??

I have no photographs, yet, but as soon as I do I'll add them.

Let's get right to it.

The cast:
Turnips, medium or small, one per person
Whole, carrot sized carrots, twice as many as the turnips
Salt
Pepper
Butter

Props:
Pot with enough water to cover the veggies
Potato ricer or masher

Action!(Yeah, I had aspirations to be an actress when I was a kid...):

Peel the turnips, quarter, and drop into a pot of cold water.

Scrub the carrots, remove the tops and tips, then quarter and plop into the pot.

Bring the water to a boil and let it bubble along until the carrots and turnips are fork tender, but not mushy. Mushy will make for an unfortunate flavor/mouth-feel, which is just a sad, sad state of affairs.

Drain the turnips and carrots. Don't be in a hurry - let them drain completely, because water? Is not your friend with this dish. Take note - you won't hear me say "water isn't your friend" very often...

When they are drained, squash turnips and carrots through the ricer. Don't do all of them...save a few pieces of each for later. Don't worry if they aren't smooth like mashed potatoes - the little lumpy bits are part of the turnipy, carroty goodness.

Add butter a tablespoon at a time, mixing thoroughly. Now for the tricky part - salt and pepper to taste. I don't use much pepper, a moderate amount of salt, and generally butter it up until my left coronary artery gives a little twinge. You don't have to do that, and can do without butter entirely if you want. But...why would you want to??

Give it a taste - you want the slight sharpness of the turnip to blend nicely with the sweet carrot and the mellow butter. If it's too pungent, mash in some of the carrots you reserved (you did reserve some, right??). If it's too carrotish, mash in some more turnip.

You can adjust this endlessly to meet demand and taste...and I often do.

One of the nicest parts of this side dish is that you can make it in advance - just pop it in the microwave and heat thirty seconds at a time, stirring between sessions, until it's hot.

If you have any leftover, you can use it in meatloaf or dump it into a pot of soup. I rarely have any leftover, though...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Doing the Bump(er)

"Never do anything you wouldn't want to explain to the paramedics."

"Don't drink to drown your sorrow - sorrow knows how to swim."

"Don't drink and derive; alcohol and calculus don't mix."

"Never go to bed angry...stay up and plot your revenge."



Yep, bumper stickers - what can I say? I am tired, itchy from cleaning (allergic to dust, makes me itch), and pounding away at a sizable writer's block that isn't content to sit on one story - no, it is nesting on four, the four I happen to be working on actively right now, including my NaNo piece. Was working on. Whatever. Anyway, I need to try and get some sleep because tomorrow I must do battle with what was a Christmas Cactus but has turned into the Big Pink-Flowered Muppet Plant Monster from Hell - it is rather defensive of its corner of the sun room and it doesn't want me messing with the shiu by cleaning in there. Pray for me...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thoughtfetti

Bird had a bad dream on Monday night - probably because his asthma was acting up (I often had odd or frightening dreams when my asthma was bad) - and woke up early yesterday morning. He crawled into bed with me, cuddled up, and kissed my shoulder (it was the only part of me he could reach that wasn't covered), and just rested there while I snoozed a bit more. When I was more fully awake, he told me he was sorry for knocking over my beg. What bag, I asked. The computer bag that was on the chair that he knocked off and everything fell down...

Oh. "Sweetie, that didn't happen, it was just a dream."

"Oh, OK"

Poor little guy thought I was mad at him, and he woke up broken-hearted.
~~~~~
Yesterday on the way home from the chiropractor, T was telling me about some guns he was interested in if we ever win the lottery. I hadn't had much sleep, what with going to bed quite late and the Evil Genius waking me up quite early, and I was cross - I went off on a rant, which led to the recitation of the rules for guns (yes, I have rules for guns). Bird then proclaimed that the only gun he would ever use would be to go in the water and hunt shrimp with so he could feed us.

Good grief. I love that boy.
~~~~~
I need to give my house a good cleaning before the holidays - I won't have time after Thanksgiving because I'll be baking, sewing, crocheting, and wrapping things until Xmas. Whew. How did the year get away from me?? Wish me luck - some of the rooms I'll be cleaning have dust critters in them the size of a Buick!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bon Apetit

What follows is graphic in nature. The scene reminded me of that scene in Jurassic Park when they left that goat out for the T-Rex and all that was left was a dangling chain. Really...it was...it was...(shiver)...I may never recover...











Poor little dog, never stood a chance.

Slap and Caress

When I was younger, I hung out with some friends who were interested (to varying degrees) in BDSM living. It wasn't my thing, but I try to understand and support the people I love, even when I don't always grok.

As a result of my interest in supporting and understanding my friends, I found myself hanging around in a bondage club/dungeon, making friends with the owner, getting an education I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd have, and becoming the club secretary for a BDSM group.

The places life takes us.

I learned a lot, not just about the lifestyle but about the people who practice it and why.

This isn't a post about that. If you want to know who, what, or why, go see for yourself or wait until I feel like opening that can of worms (which will probably be never).

This is, however, a post about how a particular behavior of mine mirrors a common practice in BDSM (heh...I wonder how many pissed off, disappointed Google searchers are going to end up here because I keep typing BDSM) - the slap and caress.

I don't know if that's what it's called, and don't really care enough to research methodology...it's just a descriptive term.

The Dom slaps the Sub, then caresses the offended spot. It soothes away the slap but keeps the skin stimulated. Yeah, umm...that's about as far into that as I'm getting.

However...I tend to do that here on my blog. I know I'm doing it - it's a conscious action on my part. I write a heavy post, a prickly post, something uncomfortable...and then I post a fluff piece after. It's how I roll, yo.

I've noticed I'm not alone in the behavior; if we form a club, I am not going to be the secretary.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thoughtfetti

The trees behind my house are whispering to each other. They are telling secrets to the wind. Leaves fluttering, hands waving as they describe what they've seen, animated. They'll be quiet all winter - this is one last tea party to share the season's end gossip. Sometimes, when the wind is right, I think I can just make out what they are saying.
~~~~~
Last night I stood out in the driveway talking to the sister of my heart, K. The air smelled of wood smoke and snow (no, it didn't snow - but you know that cold, clean smell). She was driving somewhere in Florida, straight into the moon. I watched the moon rise through the screen of trees, tangle her beams in the branches. K said "Hey, K? I love you under this moon." I said "Hey, K? I love you under this moon." We may sometimes be a nation apart, but we're always under the same moon.
~~~~~
Moments of silence are rare, around here - television, computer, LeapPad, video games...it's a constant, underlying strain on my sanity. Hearing the hawk cry out this morning was a blessing - nothing to drown out her calls.
~~~~~
I am baking banana bread today. I may not get any NaNo writing done, because I'm in a slump, but my house will smell of baked goods, and that's a fine thing.
~~~~~
The little bird is outside my window again. It flutters up the glass and drops away, pipping the whole time. I think I'll go fill the feeder.

The Secret Place

Lantern in hand, I open the door and stare into the musty, murky dark. The light doesn't penetrate the gloom; it is a living thing, winding around itself serpentine-like, not quite hissing but more of a hushing muffle that devours sound as well as the light.

There are stairs. Sometimes they are grand, majestic marble that glows and show the way. Sometimes they are simple wooden steps. Sometimes they are whole, sometimes half-rotted, ready to crumble. They are clean, or covered in the grime of ages.

Just now, they are stone; sturdy, not too filthy, maybe a little mossy. They'll hold me as I descend. There is no railing. There is never a railing - I must make my way down and back up again under my own aegis.

I leave the lantern behind - I know the futility of it, and it's better I should have my hands empty, open, ready to catch me if I fall or to receive whatever comes out of the deeper-than-night space below.

It's a secret place. A secret room. No one comes here save through me. It is at once full and empty, cluttered with years of flotsam, jetsam - but always expanding to hold more. There is a pool shining with dark light in one corner, where the tears flow. No matter where the silver drops fall, they end in the pool. There are things that drink from the pool, things that thrive in it. They wait, eager for the next inflow, and we all know I will oblige them; if not today, then tomorrow.

There are memories stuffed into drawers, sprawling on counter tops. They are loud, insistent. I see me, little girl, hearing the poison words pouring from someone's lips, telling me how stupid and useless I am. I believed them then, and I believe them still. It is not a rational place.

Older, answering the door, no one home but myself...and he knew, timed his visit perfectly to coincide with the absence of his neighbor/friend (Mum, often gone because she was a single mother struggling to raise two kids...largely along) and his son's best friend (Big Brother). It is not a comfortable place.

Other things, equal in unpleasant flavor and tenor, waiting for my inner eye to fall on them, to wake them. Sometimes I can manage to forget for hours, days, and once I did not think on them for years. They were still there, though, pulling my strings - better to remember and know why some parts of the waking world are so unwelcome.

In another corner, a chest of old and broken dreams - the ones that fell and shattered and could not be pieced back together or remade into some other thing. I can no more throw them away than I can be rid of my fingers, or the memory of multiplying by nines.

Here and there, flitting from one place to another, restless and seeking egress into reality, are the dreams left behind sound, but unattainable. These are not real things; they are, in every sense of the word, haunts.

As soon as I step from the staircase, they rush me - some are happy for my company, but most are simply reminding me of themselves, of the very real delusions they represent. They are frighteningly solid, especially when I come down in dreams - for some reason, remembering in the waking world, be it day or night, doesn't give them much to feed on.

Dreams, though - dreams are fodder for deeper stuff.

There's the red-headed child who was my daughter (only she never was because...she never was). She used to wait for me to fall asleep before tormenting me with her laugh, her eyes, her irrepressible spirit. She took years to relegate to the secret place, years of waking and crying and going back to sleep because nothing quite compares to knowing that a very real soul is showing herself to you, inviting you to bring her to life, and knowing that it won't be you who does it...but you can't help wanting to, and if dreaming is all you get of her sweetness, well...

There's the stranger who is no stranger, except I don't know his face or name. I know his touch. I know the solid comfort of his presence behind me as we face the world in contentment. I know our life together, years of it rolling behind us, our history. I know how tall he is, how he smells, the sound of his voice, the weight of his hand upon my shoulder and the warmth of him as he holds me wrapped in his arms. He is the other part of me, and we have never met except in dreams. Awake, I am bereft - though I am often a human space-heater, when I dream of him I wake chilled to the core, and it can take months to shake the spell of his presence...his presence entirely in my mind. Sometimes I wonder - is there someone out there in the blue nowhere who has dreams from the other perspective? Does he dream of a woman he doesn't know, whose face he never sees but whose laugh is as familiar to him as his own?

Dear goddess, I half hope not, because it's a kind of hell to feel torn in half for no reason other than a figment...worse if is was real, some oddity in space/time that connects us in dreams but denies us our waking hours.

There is the woman I was going to be, until I turned another way. She is legion.

Sometimes, she is corpulent, wheezing, gasping for breath, struggling to move. She eats, and the filth of her dining is strewn across her vast expanse, crumbs and stains, a history in leftovers dribbling down her front. I hate her. I hate her greasy hair, her stink, and the way she laughs; her laugh grates, a throat full of gravel, a laugh without mirth, full of bitterness and mockery.

She is a swimmer, wide shouldered, fit. She slices through the water stroke after stroke, relentless and powerful. She is not fast, but she has endurance, and she doesn't have much to say to me - mostly she stares at me, puzzled, before returning to her endless laps.

There is the singer. She has been through the grinder - chorus, always chorus, scrabbling for every tiny part, practicing endlessly, audition after audition, all the while enduring the daggers thrust into her by every other vocalist after the same tiny piece of music. She is tired but her voice is still strong - failure is not an option. She has her small solos, and the young ones following up the ladder whisper, scheme, make their plans to oust her and take her place. It can be a cruel world, stage music.

There is the writer. She lives alone, content with her solitude. She writes, she gardens, she walks in the rain, the sun, the snow, through the woods, up the mountain, fords the stream, and she revels in all of it. The world is her lover, her love.

There are others.

They swarm.

They wound.

I don't come down here lightly, willingly. I am compelled. Who wants to see what they could have been, especially when they hate what they are? I am no masochist - I'd just as soon leave all of it boxed neatly, taped and labelled in the basement, sanitized, for someone else to find when I am gone.

At least this time, I haven't tripped, stumbled, tumbled to the bottom and landed hard, seeing stars and fighting to stand up before they weigh me down beyond my ability to rise.

How I get down there isn't as important, though, as how long I remain, and how swift I may ascend again.

If I am less than warm or welcoming, if I am not cheerful in disposition or active with my words, if I do not walk out into Blogopolis with my accustomed frequency, it is because I am fully in the secret place, the basement, the internal darkness, and am finding my way out again. As always, I will muddle through somehow...and hopefully, I will not have sent anyone running with whatever madness slipped through the door before I could close and lock it once more.
~~~~~

If you made it this far through my self-indulgent maundering, thank you.

There are fires gobbling their way through people's homes, their towns, their lives and dreams, in California. If you pray, spare one for the strangers who are experiencing Dante's vision as they hurry to evacuate just in front of flaming chaos. Spare one for the people who stand and fight conflagration - they know the terrible beauty of the raging blaze, and they strive to kill it even as they love it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Name That Bird (with Bonus Round)

No, not the one I lovingly refer to as "the Evil Genius".

The one in our trees.

There's something about our Leland Cyprus trees that attracts weirdos (that should be a species - the blue crested weirdo, that's me).

Last year, it was the owl (or possibly giant squirrel)(but really, it was an owl).

Sunday, it was this feller:

What, you can't see it? The whitish blob sort of in the middle of the green? Yeah, well...I do the best I can with my beloved Kodak EasyShare, but its super-mega-ultra zoom can only do so much, especially through the living room window.

I went outside and tried again:

Slightly better - you can see the blue and the dark collar, necklace around its throat (if you look really hard, or squint, or use your imagination). I really need to learn to levitate.

One more, because two blurry photographs are never enough:

So - want to play "Name That Bird"? We think it may either be a freak Belted Kingfisher (not very likely) or the biggest dang bluebird ever. No kidding - can you see it in the photos? Those were taken at a distance of fifty feet or so with a little PAS camera with not much zoom to it. It's freakin' huge, that bird.

Honestly, before I got the binoculars out and had a better look, I thought maybe we had a parrot or something out there - maybe a rare, flying blue chicken.

Probably, though, it's a blue jay - with a glandular problem that it's very self-conscious about, thank you very much.

Time for the bonus round: here's another little weirdo for you - although this one hasn't been in the Cyprus trees. Nope. It has been fluttering and hovering outside the living room windows, occasionally clinging to the screen, all the while pipping and chirruping at us like it's asking to come in. Funny little fellow:


Yep, I have a future in birdwatching...or in blurry, blobular photography.

It's A Tough Job...


...but somebody's got to do it.
In my next life, I want to come back as one of my cats - fed, petted, loved, pampered, with a place just for me in the sun (but maybe without the five-year-old child terror/fitness program).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Brief Interlude

Upon sun-blasted desert stone
A single flower grew
And we who passed by the furnace
Of earth and light
Wondered about the bloom

One said "It is a fluke, a mistake..."
To which I replied
"Everything is always as it should be, when it should be
The Universe is a perfect place, and we are all expressions of that perfection."
They took my shoes, that I would feel the burning sand and comprehend
How wrong I was.

One said "It it unnatural, it does not belong..."
To which I replied
"But here we are, immersed in nature, forging ourselves upon her anvil
just where She placed us; nothing grows where She does not Will it. We belong because we are here."
They took my clothing that I might feel the sun scorch my flesh and comprehend
How wrong I was.

One said "It will die, it cannot sustain itself here..."
To which I replied
"Perhaps the future looks grim, but for now, in this moment that we all share
breathing the same air, being in the same Now, it lives as we do. We will die too, one day, but here and now, we live as it does."
They took my water and my food and left me to feel the desperate parch and hunger and comprehend
How wrong I was.

I lay me down beside the flower, and breathed upon it and was Wind
And wept upon it and was Water
And loved it and was Fire
And became Earth sustaining it

I was not wrong.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Sun'll Come Out...

And even if it doesn't, I don't care. I'm heading up to Mum's tonight, not for the weekend but because on Saturday we are demonstrating at a jewelry show at the gallery. Hopefully, she'll sell a lot of her amazing chain-maille, and if I'm lucky someone might like a pair of my earrings.


I'm working on more note cards, trying to get some holiday ones put together.


I am also getting started on some crocheted gifties for a few folks.


I am thinking I'll go through my fabric stash and see what I have for making lap quilts, too - if not for this year, then to make and sell next year. I know I have lots of cotton for the tops...I just need to see if I have batting and fabric or fleece for the backs.


Y'all were awfully nice on Wednesday, and I thank you for your support and encouragement - I don't usually discuss finances or financial stress with anyone (unless I'm spending the tax refund and I just have to tell you about the new love of my life)(I wasn't raised that way), but sometimes it just boils over.


As I often find myself saying, I'll muddle through somehow.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dam

T and I had chiropractor appointments on Tuesday morning - prepaid, thank goodness, or we'd never be able to keep going!

To get there, we have to cross Buford Dam, a tremendous earthen (I think) dam that spans the Chattahoochee River and created Lake Lanier. I enjoy the drive - the lake and river are both always lovely. See?

Lake Lanier looking lovely.

The view from the dam down to the river.

We are usually pressed for time on appointment days, because T had to get home in time to go to work, and it's a long drive. On Tuesday, though, he turned off the dam and down a little side road I hadn't noticed before.

We went down...down...down hill, off pavement and onto gravel, and eventually pulled out of the woods and into an open area. A park! in the lee of the dam, a nice little park with a large open space, some picnic tables near the river, and some walking trails.

T thought Bird would like to see the dam we drive over all the time, and maybe I would find something to photograph. Thoughtful!

We set off toward the footbridge over the river, situated near the point where water flows from the dam.

The bridge over untroubled waters.

Sweet release.

Bird was enthralled by the geese (and the goose poop, once I showed him what it looked like), the dam, the river...

...and the bugs on the trail.

He walked with T while I lingered and shot some pictures. I caught up to them on the hill above the water-release, and we watched the goats mowing the fenced area there - it's too steep, rocky, and dangerous to have mowers in there, so the folks in charge of dam maintenance got their goats. Hah!

Those blobs of black and white in the middle? Goats. The sky was not pink - my camera is suddenly having issues with bright places and is turning them pink - we're going to have a go around about that soon.


I tried to capture the sheer size of the damn, but mostly captured more not-really-pink sky and what looks like a green wall.


It looms over one, even from quite a distance back.

There were signs everywhere, warning of the danger of water release and advising one to listen for the horn...and reminding folks that life jackets are mandated on the river, at least to a certain point. Bird wanted me to read them all, but I told him one would suffice since they said the same thing.


While Bird and T headed back to the car, I took a moment on the footbridge to enjoy the river - it's not the sea, but it is a living, moving water...and I love living, moving water. How could you feel anything less than peaceful......looking at this?

Or...

...even this?


We headed on home, back up and around and over the dam, having anjoyed our little jaunt.

T doesn't bring me flowers, write me poems or love songs, or dance with me. SOmetimes, I wonder if the computer and the Internet are more important to him than our family or our marriage.

He has a difficult time thinking of gifts when they're warranted, so I often simply tell him what to buy, and where, or what to do and when (he'd rather buy a present than do chores, though...hmm...how can I parlay that into a nice chunk of Tanzanite??)....but he gave me this...


...on a day when I could really use it.

Thanks, hun.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Financial Fear Factor

Afraid? Why would I be afraid? Just because we went more than three-hundred dollars into the hole since the last paycheck (it was a domino thing, not an willful spending of what's not there, which makes it all the more frustrating), and we not only have bills to pay (some of which are of the "past due, we're going to shut you off you deadbeat, no you can't defer or pay them next paycheck we want our money now" variety), but there's a major, food-related holiday coming after the next paycheck but before another one.

So why would I feel dread at the prospect of going to the market? Perhaps because I am daft enough to host Thanksgiving here? Actually, I rather enjoy the day...I love to cook, and love to share a good meal with friends, family, and heck...even strangers off the street. No one goes hungry if I can help it...unless it's me, and that's OK because I bet I could live for a month off the fat in my forty-nine-and-a-half acre ass. Yeah, it used to be fifty-acre, but I managed to shed twenty pounds, and I figure that's worth a half acre, right??

No, it's not Thanksgiving that has me stressed - I can do the whole thing without breaking the bank because I love to cook and don't have to buy more expensive convenience foods - no it's the rest of the next two weeks that has me worried. And the coming gift-giving holiday that I've taken to calling "Christmahannukwanzuka" to save time, even though I'm pagan and celebrate Yule.

So we have nothing in savings, nothing but a huge hole in checking, and I have to figure out how to feed three adults, one child, three cats, the feral cats outdoors, and anyone else who needs feeding, for two weeks...for less than two-hundred dollars, and that still leaves bills unpaid.

Good thing I know how to make soup, huh??

Meanwhile, I've already decided that, except for a few people whose gifts I already have or am planning to make with my (extensive, thank you Goddess) yarn or fabric stashes, everyone's getting donations to varying charities for the gift-giving holiday of their choice. Sorry if that spoils it for anyone...but my concern over paying the power bill and resulting need to blog about it trumps your need to be surprised. You have over one moth to forget or practice faking surprised delight. Get to it.

I know we're all feeling the pinch...but good Goddess, I am so tired of it... It would be nice, for a change, to go to the grocery store and feel free to purchase fresh fruit when we need it, and not just once a month when we can squeeze it into the budget. I'd like to tell T "Go ahead and drink all the milk you want, I'll go get more..." instead of yelling at him for finishing it off.

And beneath it all is the feeling that it's my fault because I don't work outside the home, or for pay - I school my child and write, neither of which garners remuneration (<---I have been misspelling this word for years - d'oh!!). Sigh. The burden falls to T, who is trying like crazy to supplement his income without detracting from family time...

Sigh, again.

Tomorrow, something a little less self-pitying and a little more uplifting...I promise.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Thank you.

Surprise Quilts

Not too long ago my friend Michelle's co-worker was surprised to learn she was having twins. Then she had them.

She was not prepared for one, let alone two new little lives.

Aside from an inkling of what her name is (I actually am not certain, but I think it starts with "M"), I don't know the woman - but I can certainly feel for anyone who needed medical care and couldn't afford it for most of her pregnancy, and so didn't know about the two lives within her until just before they made their appearance on the stage of her world.

She doesn't have much. Several of my friends - Michelle, K, and the other K - have gone through their baby things and donated buckets, barrels, baskets, and bounties of clothing and baby items for the two wee sprites.

As I have already sold or given away all of the Evil Genius things I was willing to part with (almost everything but a couple of the very cutest outfits that I just adored on him), I decided to make a couple of quilts. Something new, just for them.

Nothing fancy. I am not an adept quilter, so simple is best if it's to be done in a timely fashion - like before the kids are twenty.

I went with six-inch (finished) squares, five by seven, making for a thirty by forty-two inch quilt for each child. For the boy, blue and green. For the girl, pink and green. Backing both, green fleece that I have been calling Muppet fabric - it's soft in color, soft in texture, and for some reason it makes me think of Muppets. The green on the front is common to both quilts - I wanted something twinnish without being identical (because the babies aren't identical). I didn't use batting - we're in Georgia, and the fleece should suffice - so rather than actually quilt designs or stitch around the blocks (which I would still be doing), I tied each square at its corners with green pearlized cotton. I may use the leftover fabric to make pillows, too.

I think they turned out OK...although I have been chanting my quilting mantra: "Finished is better than perfect, finished is better than perfect...I will not frog it and start over...finished is better than perfect..."

Want to see?









Thank you, T, for modeling them - it's awfully hard to hold up a quilt and photograph it at the same time.