Monday, November 22, 2010

She's No Angel...This Week...



Angel, my seal point Siamese...

It seems the elderly diva of cats has decided to play a new game with her favourite human, "Let's wake her up every hour and see what she'll do."

Of course, in her world, playing involves diving at my feet beneath the covers, emerging for air, and delivering a stern, very vocal lecture regarding everything and everyone about which there is the slightest disapproval...

This includes me at the moment. At almost fifteen, after seeing yours truly journal often, she has targeted any paper or collection of pages for destruction, including notebooks, pads of paper, post-it notes, letters or cards. All now bear tooth marks, rips or the shredding only well-aimed back claws can render.

Just as I am preparing to write out a list of priorities needed in a new locale if I am to move, and doing the necessary research to determine whether they exist there, comparing housing and related costs, looking at jobs and salaries and the number of hours I can work and still get needed PT, she stalks the desk with the fearless demeanor of a tigress, sending my pages flying to the floor.

Scolding has no effect except to increase my irritation with her as she brazenly ignores warnings, dodges the small squirts of water to her face, and then stares at me as if to say, "Do as you will, I am still winning..."

Thankfully, these efforts at warfare do not yet include potty presents in strange places such as the hallway, my freshly made bed, or the sofa. We once had a tiff over a new litter box that wasn't quite the right size and thick-headed human here only came around to this cats' way of thinking after receiving several "gifts," followed by a discussion with her rather amused veterinarian.

I am left once again to guess her uniquely Siamese motives. Is she annoyed or is this some new game she has invented? Perhaps I am the strange one in her eyes...

Until Next Time...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Under the Sea...





Photo of Seahorse Art taken in 2008.
Brain Coral, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons, 2010.

Having grown up on a land mass between the Atlantic and Pacific,near the equator, I have always loved and respected the ocean. Apart from the walks and love of waves that dominated childhood visits to several beaches, I adored the shades and hues of blues, greens and almost inky blacks found in varying depths.

While I was never a stellar snorkeler, I did swim, and on more than one occasion, crossed paths with schools of fish, sting rays and the beginning of a coral reef. Shell collecting from the shore was a hobby for my parents who created a fascinating framed mirror that was so heavy with layers of shells that it had to be mounted to the wall with especially heavy screws.

Looking at the various shells, all of differing shapes, sizes, contours and colours, I would try to imagine the creatures that had called them home...

Did the crab in the shiny pink and white shell get along with limpets and barnacles?
How was that giant brain coral retrieved? Did the lobster whose claw I was eying meet a catastrophic end? What happened to the sea urchin missing part of its lovely shell? Where did Dad find that star fish?

My favourite was the rather mythical sea horse I first saw in an aquarium. So taken was I with this delicate specimen of sea life that I spent an entire Saturday consulting the Encyclopedia Britannica in the library...

Did you know that the male seahorse is the one who gets pregnant and gives birth? For more fun facts, visit this link from a Nova episode that aired in 1997 at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/seahorse/ the link is still active.

You may also enjoy a rather unique piece of seahorse art in the photo above. Another favourite, Brain coral, is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Released for use in the public domain, each is intended for illustrative puposes only.

I was the perfect kid to have read and appreciated the funny sea characters once penned by Zoe at http://mindandlanguage.blogspot.com. If you've not seen her blog, take a look. It's enjoyable reading. It was Zoe's writing about these stories that sparked the idea for this post.

Until Next Time...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Funerals and Ties...

In my previous post, I gave a bit of an introduction to my mother. As her only living child, I had no biological siblings growing up. My stepfather, however, had a son and daughter, both significantly older than I.

His daughter, who at twenty, met my mother and I for the first time, must have taken me to heart from the first. She kept in touch via letters and cards, and always sent me gifts at holidays and remembered my birthday each year, despite eventually being a busy mother of three.

When we met, I was a skinny six-year-old who loved being outside; My favourite place was the beach, and it was on one weekend outing that my soon-to-be step dad introduced a pretty blond on a visit from her university, to my mother and I.

We spent time walking the beach and swimming in the waves. The last thing I remember about that day was riding home in his convertible, top down, feeling the sun on my face. I had no idea then that I would one day be the one to break the news of her father's death to her; I also did not foresee announcing to him that she had called while he was out, and that he had a new granddaughter.

He also had a son, whom we saw only sporadically since we were three thousand miles beyond the U.S. in another part of the world. I first met him when he was in high school and came to visit his father during the summer. I was about ten then and watched a series of events unfold with what I now understand to be dismay.

Being old-school Army, my step dad took one look at his son, and carted him off to the nearest barber, protests notwithstanding. This did nothing to endear father to son, and the two months spent away from friends and his mother and adored stepfather, in an office working a summer job, only heightened festering dislike.

It never occurred to my stepfather that constant sarcasm and criticism would wear away whatever fragile bonds existed between he and his children, or that as adults they might repudiate his role in their lives entirely. He felt justified in demanding deference and appropriate behavior, as he had from troops, not realising that such strategies do not work in the home.

While my mother was aware of this and very nearly wore herself out trying to reason with her husband, the behaviour continued. In my teens, I too became the target of vicious humour, sometimes from both parents, and learned to lie low, keep quiet and avoid either one unless absolutely necessary. I became the resident bookworm. With no-one to help, I learnt the art of the poker face, all the while roiling inwardly.

My stepfather was at his best when travelling, something we did a lot of as a threesome. I saw Paris, Brussels, London and other cities in Europe, learnt about beetles indigenous to the tropical rain forest, tasted berries grown in volcanic soil and spent time helping kids in a Colombian hospital, none of which would have been possible without my stepfather.

When he turned his attention to impending retirement, my stepfather, who would have been happy to find a place abroad, faced stiff lipped expletives from his wife, and back to the States we came, I first to university and they to a condominium on the water.

Though we saw his adult children and grandchildren portions of the summers during my teens, relations remained strained. With his death in 1982 at 58, we were freed from walking on eggshells, but it would be many years until I grasped the depth of resentment and hurt that he left as a legacy in his children.

While I have long since forgiven each of my parents their mistakes, and still work daily on forgiving myself and others, apparently my stepfathers' children avoided any mention of him, no longer referring to him as dad, but only by name, and only when necessary.

This was evident in the recent obituary, written about his son, that omitted any mention of his father or any step sibling. While another might take offence, I see it as a sign of longstanding hurt, something that I cannot mend.

As I prepare for the impending burial of a fifty-six-year-old man who was sometimes as stubborn as his father but never as critical or mean, I marvel at ties and their duration and evolution over time and distance.

He leaves behind nieces, nephews, many friends and professional associates, a fiancee, sister, and brother-in-law, a great-niece and great-nephews a stepfather and lastly, a step sibling, all of whom will miss a nice guy.

I will stand with his sister, the pretty blond I met over forty years ago as a youngster, and say the Mourner's Kaddish with others as we say goodbye.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Birthday: November 10, 1938



If she were still amongst the living, my mother would be seventy-two today. The photo here was taken in the mid-sixties, in her twenties. I would have been about seven or so.

A complicated woman, she was the first person I ever knew who could stop traffic, holding herself bolt upright amid cheers, catcalls and other exclamations. She could alternately curse like a sailor or hold her own with the most cultured, and she placed high value on manners.

Her eyes were a blue green that darkened with her mood, and when her eyebrow was raised without a smile beneath it, I learned to beware as a storm of anger could quickly ensue.

She endured much, including an early divorce, the death of a child and being a single, working parent before that became commonplace. My stepfather, whom she married at thirty, was the love of her life.

Widowed without warning at forty-two, I watched as her life imploded, never to be the same.

We were both like gathering storms, two forces of nature determined to have our own way. She loved but did not understand me, and I understood but sometimes failed, to appreciate her.

She was the first person in her family to attend university, an opportunity she was more than happy to extend to me, and one of which she was most proud.

Sarcastic, funny, irreverant and often surprising, she walked with her head up, rarely bowing to sorrow in public, a trait we both share.

She died at 59 of cancer. Her name was Sarah.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Do You Ever Wonder About These Things?

A recent post by Barbara at http://looking2live.blogspot.com has got me thinking of the serendipitous nature of choice and how one decision can impact or cause a whole series of events.

In my life, certain pivotal moments stand out:

Coming to the city I live in now as opposed to going to university somewhere else; That decision, determined more by parents, is one that on some level, I've always regretted. Being overseas,however, meant choosing from catalogues rather than making an in-person visit. My mother had an aunt here and was under the illusion that her extended family would somehow make a difference. They did not. The life and friendships created were my own. I rarely saw my mother's relations and do not generally hear from them.

Refusing to marry at twenty, a choice I knew would have closed more opportunities than it created.

Realising that my ex-pat experiences profoundly influenced not only my worldview and feelings of not quite fitting in here, but the people I would keep as friends. Several of them are widely travelled, educated and more than monolingual.

A chance meeting at a party led me to the editor of my college daily, and a small clerical job that became a staff writing position. This led me to abandon my original plans to teach. Instead, I became a freelance writer and author. I am working my way back to this since library opportunities are few and far between.

Bouncing back appears to be something I do well, despite hating change. I learn quickly generally, something that has worked in my favour. Life is not for the faint-hearted and I am not among them.

Someone recently said of me that I have no particular reason to be anywhere. This is as frightening as it is exhilerating. If this is true for you, what would you do?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Election Day Blues...

I read online today courtesy of the Miami Herald that two million votes have already been cast in this state thanks to the convenience of early voting. This includes one million absentee paper ballots, one of which was mine.

Reading and researching the amendments on the ballot here is always interesting. One begins to wonder who writes these things and whether they are paid by the level of obfuscation reached.

Another interesting local tidbit involves a county commissioner whose name, when I voted, was still on the ballot. His name has now has been removed due to what amounts to chicanery, something unfortunately not unheard of in politicians or lobbyists.

Rather than watch several hotly contested races, I will be at hospital for PT in the late morning and then do some necessaries in the neighbourhood. Since I make it a point to live sans telly, I escaped most of the vitriolic rantings of those running for office, something that seems to worsen with each election.

I do read and look up voting records; I also look up amendments and examine endorsements, occasionally casting a cynical eye toward the editorial pages to see if those with views often not my own have any valid ideas or points worthy of consideration. I have also written the odd letter to my governmental representatives. Only once did I received a reply. Having marched in both the state and national capitols and stuffed envelopes for various pols over the years, I have grown cynical.

As a registered voter since the age of eighteen, I have also seen parties come and go, voting manipulation, politicians I would never invite home for a chat let alone put in office, and all manner of obfuscation and avoidance of the job for which some politicians were elected, as well as low voter turn out.

I am now one of the disaffected, a situation I fear permanent. I hope tomorrow turns out better than I anticipate it will.

Until Next Time...