Friday, December 23, 2011

December Night

December Night

Happy puppy licking the back window. The sun that rose in the bedroom window this morning, I see up over the hill as I drive in the opposite direction, it now sets--a large burnt tangerine globe going down the mountain. I pass the tree lot. Lights around the perimeter glow softly. Families scurrying to find the perfect tree. What happens to those trees that remain I always wonder. Back into the earth they came from--mulch, I suppose. The cold in the air clips my nose. The stark trees silhouetted, stark naked, sharing the space with other trees that still hold their autumn foliage close to their breast. It is the season of holiday lights and people running around in good cheer and the crows harking in the background. And to all a good night.


I originally wrote this on December 8. I was driving to the store the long way and the calm affect of the drive opened me to the night. The puppies are what got me and the everything was filled with emotion after that. I wanted to pull over but there wasn't anywhere and I was nearing my destination. I pulled into the parking lot and pulled out my iPod Touch and began tapping out my musings. I kept them the way they flowed out--without edits.

This is an unrelated photo of nighttime-- unrelated in the sense that it was a different day. 

Happy Day & Writing and Creating!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Random ~ Trying to Capture the Days ~ Catharsis

I’ve never been one for holiday music, not in a humbug way. But one year I did download an Elvis Christmas and another compilation of festive music. I thought I would dig it up, put it in the CD player and see how I felt about it today. Well, I must say, I wasn’t in the mood for it and when it finished, I felt as though I had enough holiday music. I was at my computer paying bills and on the phone with the cable provider to see if I could get a better deal since the current one expired, bringing the cost of the bill higher than I wanted it to be. So when the holiday music stopped, I opened iTunes and switched to some Jazz.

Yesterday I finished the last of my Christmas shopping and watched the traffic jam in the intersection as I waited for the sign to say WALK. I was glad I had found a parking space on the street and walked to my destination instead of trying to find parking where it seemed there were no empty spaces. I could hear the frustration through the honking horns and screeching tires as people tried to get home, while others most likely were in a mad scramble to get the last of their gifts.

Some time during last week I was walking to the store to drop off a UPS shipment for work. I seem to wear sweaters and sweatshirts wrapped around my waist often. And this particular morning I had a red cozy zipper fleece on and wrapped around my waist was a bright green zipper jacket. It felt festive, but it was also convenient. While I was walking, I saw a lady in her overall jeans and I started looking harder at what I realized were paint splatters on her jeans then I stole a glance at her and recognized her immediately. She said to me, I like your colors. I said thanks and then I said, “Your Blair, right?”

She said, “Yes.”

I said, “I used to work for a flower shop a long time ago and you used to paint our windows. I see your name around and I’m always happy to see you are still painting.”

She was tickled that I remembered and thanked me.  She had a mature exuberant glow about her and she truly seemed happy with life.

It was within that week, last week, that I also had a small “meltdown” at work. You know how when you try to “go with the flow”? Well, after some time, it catches up. One of my largest obstacles remains taking things personally. As my boss said, “You tend to personalize things, Rebbecca.” I listened as best I could. I conceded that yes that was true and I said it didn’t help that I was so sensitive. I told him how I felt, through sobs at our team meeting of three—in the restaurant no less. At first, my defensive reaction was, “I’m done. I can’t talk anymore.” It made it uncomfortable, so I tried to recover. That’s when the tears came and then frustration because he didn’t understand. For me, the most frustrating thing is when you have feelings that you feel and you try to explain them to someone because their behaviors add to your feelings. Everything ended fine, but as any woman knows, when your tears take over in the company of men at work, well, it’s an uncomfortable thing. The good thing is that I kept trying to explain as best I could without being accusatory and also owning my personality components and I felt like he finally “heard” me when he said, “I didn’t know you felt like that, Rebbecca. I’m truly sorry.” That was all I really needed—to be heard—that and an awareness of his behavior and its effects on the whole. Little things add up. I told him I know that I can’t expect him to change and at the same time I can try to “roll with it,”—but sometimes—

The other thing that has helped post small “melt down” is reading the book, Sybil. I had never fully known the details of the story, only the surface. It came up in conversation after a quick reference was made to it in a movie. My significant other asked about the reference and I told him what I knew, which was only that there was this real person who had many personalities and they made a movie about it. That was all I knew. I became more curious and checked the Amazon Kindle store for copies. They did not have one but they did have another book called SYBIL in her own words: The Untold Story of Shirley Mason, Her Multiple Personalities and Paintings. At that moment I became intrigued and decided I would get the book Sybil from the library because I wanted to read that first. It came and I could not put it down. I’ve always been fascinated with anything having to do with the psyche. It was hard to fathom a person who dissociated into separate personalities to cope—separate personalities that each had their own memories, their own experiences, their own outward physical appearances and speech patterns. And all the while, the main person, whom we know as Sybil, not being aware of any of the separate personalities due to her “losing time,” as she would dissociate to such a degree due to the abuse she endured in her childhood, that the other personalities would take over.

How did this help me? First, I don’t want to undermine the severity of this complex. By reading this story, however, it helped me realize something about my relationships with certain personalities—or rather reinforced what I knew. Reading Sybil gave me more to work with. I do not do well with strong personalities that I feel try to overpower me or have a cruel tone and once I reach a point, I start becoming more defensive, sometimes louder, defending myself, being prompted just by a look from them. Something in me detaches and matches the behavior coming at me or develops behavior that makes me feel in control. It made me revisit my reactions in general and take a harder look at some things that I hadn’t quite considered with my own past. I felt as thought there were pieces that made more sense in a way that I think I’ve always had a sense of, but didn’t quite have certain pieces. It made me also feel more compassion toward my mother for the pain that she must have felt and not knowing how to deal with it.

I noticed there is another book on Amazon that questions the truthfulness of the book Sybil and whether the doctor’s behavior was ethical. All I can say is that the story touched me immensely and it was good of Shirley Mason to share her story and to bring awareness when the book came out 1973. I have not seen any of the movies, but plan to sometime soon.

And so this morning as I was paying bills on the computer I started getting a little down at the credit card debt. I took a deep breath, tried to bring myself into focus, looked up at my inspirational corkboard and my heart and soul received what it needed from Mother Theresa. I read it to myself quietly and then read it aloud so I could hear the words.

Lastly, this is a photo of our little Victorian Village. My significant other was at the thrift store and found this set. I was surprised when he brought it home and showed me. He was so excited that he found it and that it was such a good deal. It was only $12. What a bargain indeed. He helps me to be more festive and grounded. He also bought our first Christmas tree. It’s cute and a little slanted.

Wishing you all peace and happiness; and strength and resilience for handling the kaleidoscope of emotions that make us human.


“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”

—Mother Teresa

Friday, December 9, 2011

Desert Loom

Two books popped into my head: Willa Cather’s, Death Comes for the Archbishop and Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky. A third book came later: Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

I came to The Sheltering Sky because I was reading something—an article maybe—and the actor, Ethan Hawke, listed it as one of his favorites. I admired Ethan Hawke and I still do. If not for finding it that way, I may not have come to this book. If I had seen it on a shelf, I may not have been interested. I remember the odd triangular relationship of the characters, the African desert looming, pushing down, having a profound effect on the characters as they each struggled with their own feelings of isolation and maybe even hopelessness. It’s been years since I read this book and I don’t know how well my memory recalls the details. I know that the language swept me in and something held me there through the end. I know that it had enough of an affect on me to stay planted in my memory.

Another book that I may not have read except that it was one of the books for a class that I took is Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop.

The desert played a prominent character, the villages—the whole Southwestern landscape. A part of the book that has stayed with me is when they are trying to reach “The Rock.” I still have my book with underlined passages and reminder notes and here is one small excerpt that still sends me chills of truth:

The rock, when one came to think of it, was the utmost expression of human need; even mere feeling yearned for it; it was the highest comparison of loyalty in love and friendship. Christ Himself had used that comparison for the disciple to whom He gave the keys of His Church. And the Hebrews of the Old Testament, always being carried captive into foreign lands,—their rock was an idea of God, the only thing their conquerors could not take from them. (pg. 97)  

It was a difficult book for me to get through. The writing is beautiful and dense. I would read mouthfuls of description, and as much as I admired the beauty in which Cather creates sentences and brings the characters and setting alive, I was drowning in it. And yet, I was so happy that I finished. It took a little while for the depth and beauty to really wash over me. It was a long journey literally and for me as a reader—An unforgettable book.

And last, one of my favorite books because it speaks to the dreamer and elemental in me: Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. This one I bought the first moment I saw it on the shelves and read the back cover. Again, the desert is a powerful character, along with the elements. Even the idea of a dream becomes itself a character and drives the story that is dependent upon the vast Egyptian desert, its inhabitants and nature her and him self. As the Shepard boy, Santiago, embarks on his journey he thinks to himself: “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting” (pg. 13).

When these books were prompted into my awareness by this week’s blog topic, I had no idea that they would share in common the desert. I have always been in awe of the desert landscape, the way it seems like a dried up ocean that goes on forever and can seemingly swallow anyone who dares to enter. I love desert flowers and succulents, the colors, the way the sands ripple, the warmth, but it’s not a place that I have ever desired to travel except in books. Revisiting these books though, has made me think again and I realize it’s very possible that if I met the desert, I might just fall in love.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Odds & Ends

Sugar, Chocolate, and Sweet Breads

Yesterday I had to stop and get sugar for the office. I thought while I was at it, I would bring in a sweet treat. Not chocolate because the boss doesn’t know how to stop eating it and will eat and eat until he may get a bellyache. And the few others that may want some need to be quick; and they joke about it because they know. I keep the candy bowl on the front counter and he will sit there, unpeeling the chocolates, until there are only a few left. I scold him in a nice way, “D! You’re going to get sick eating too many.” He’ll stop and then when he has to go by again, he has to stop for a chocolate. But, I only rarely bring chocolate anymore because of his lack of restraint; and if I do bring chocolate, I try to put it out in small batches.

I saw that CVS had a variety pack of 16 individually wrapped Svenhard’s pastries. I thought this could probably last a few days. I then went down the Christmas isle to see if I could find a festive box to keep the pastries in our makeshift kitchen. We don’t really have a kitchen in the office. There is a long folding table with a microwave, coffee maker, postage meter, and shelves above the table for “kitchen” supplies. I found a cute pale blue box with snowmen. Perfect. I made the purchase, left the store, and drove away.

Waiting at the light, the wind started blowing really hard and the leaves were shaking like snow, rolling and twisting. I tried to bring my camera out and I did, but the light changed and I missed the shot.

Walking to work, I had my sweets in hand. I saw a man, that I occasionally see walking the crosswalk after work. He appears without a home and a tad disheveled and usually has a bag or two. Even sitting at the crosswalk, waiting for the light to change, I can see time and toil in his face and his gait. Yesterday morning I saw this man sifting through the top layer of the trash can. Without thinking, I tore open the box of Svenhard’s and started to walk toward the man, but waited until he turned around. I approached him. His body slightly hunched over, but he was not that old. I held out the small sealed package with a bear claw and he eyed me, eyed the package, and in a gruff voice said, “What’s that?”

I too looked at the package. “It’s a bear claw,” I said.

I held it out for him to take. I was waiting for him to reject it, but instead he took it. I smiled. He held the same stern countenance; face ruddy with a scornful twist to it. We parted ways.

As I walked away I felt a small wave of emotion well up inside of me and it led me to a recent email that I received as part of being on an e-mail list for a small local store that sells jewelry, spiritual items, clothing, and many wonderful odds and ends.

In the email, N., the storeowner shared what was new in the store and current sales discounts. She also shared a recent exercise she came upon in her meditation book: Write down five things you are grateful for each morning and each evening. Don’t just think about it. Write it down. I thought I would give it a try and used one of my Apps to record the mornings and the evenings. It’s only been three days, but it feels like much longer. It’s possible I may continue with this ritual or be satisfied when it’s been a week and with the small inner shifts I’ve noticed in the short time.

Book Ends

I don’t recall seeing BookPage at the local library I usually go to. When I was in Carmel, I went into the library for a quick moment. They were closing, so I only had a few minutes. I saw the BookPage in paper format and took a copy. I was pleased to see that they also have an App for iPhone or iPod Touch. Hurray!

Here’s the link from the Apple AppStore description.

Another App I’ve enjoyed is Short Stories e-reader App from the Apple App Store. Free is always nice. I prefer reading on my Kindle e-reader to save my eyes, but this short story App has had some interesting short stories. It’s very easy to navigate and is visually easy on the eyes.

On of the short stories that I thoroughly enjoyed listed under their Top 20’s list is called Death by Scrabble by Charlie Fish. It’s only 4 pages long—on my iPod Touch that translates to 13 pages.

One of my favorite holiday shorts is O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. I may have eventually stumbled upon it, especially since it’s also on this App. But I first came across this short story when I asked a friend what some of her favorite short stories were and this was one of them. What a beautiful story.

Currently I am reading John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas on Kindle. I was in the mood for something Christmassy to read, yet not too serious and so far this is fitting. It’s made me laugh a lot. I’m half way through, so I have to see how it turns out.

Little Flower – Photo

I took this photo of a little yellow flower that I saw growing from inside the drain cover around a tree. She looks full of hope and happiness with her little yellow wings around a sturdy green shoot, that is her base and holds her head up high amongst the dried leaves and fresh moist soil.