thothmes: Jack O'Neill is sitting at a table surrounded by desserts and is chowing.  Legend: Eat dessert first, Life's too short. (Eat Dessert First - LTS)
Well, now that Thanksgiving dinner has been made and consumed (I'm soooo looking forward to the lentil soup made from the lamb bone, and having leftover sweet potatoes at lunch tomorrow) it's time to wish all of you living here in the States a happy Thanksgiving, and some of you out there a happy Hanukkah. I hope that your day was rich with blessings.

As always, I am thankful to live here in Vermont where other people vacation. I am thankful for the families that raised me, and the family that raised my husband. Mine were intelligent, gentle, kind, and perceptive with a love of music, books, languages, literature, and travel. His are a passionate and welcoming group with a wide range of interests, a zest for games of all sorts, and a wonderful sense of inquiry and a persistent desire to reach a consensus on a win-win arrangement for every problem. I am thankful to have been granted a life where just when I'm trying to figure out how to turn my lemons into lemonade, somehow I find they've become lemon meringue pie while I wasn't paying attention. I seem to be lucky that way. This afternoon I was enormously thankful for the warmth of the woodstove after a very bracingly chilly five miles of exercise!

This year I have been especially glad for all the old friends I have rediscovered through social media, the acquaintances that I've made connections with that we never would have made back when we were young, and trapped behind the defensive walls of our teenage and young adult insecurities, and for the new people who have set up home in my heart. You bring your interests, your passions, and your experiences into my day, and I am much the richer for it. And finally, here or there, some of you have said from time to time that some words or ideas that I have shared have brightened your day or eased a trouble for a time. That means a great deal to me, because with the karma I've had in my life so far, I'd better be building some great store of karma for the future, so I don't spend it all in one place! Seriously, one and all, I invite you all to share metaphorically in my bounty, and to receive my thanks. You are part of what makes it such a glorious journey.
thothmes: Carter and O'Neill in wedding dress and tux gazing fondly at each other from the episode 200 (Wedding in 200 - Private Moment)
In May of 1979 my father, the veteran of 3 failed marriages, then living happily with his girlfriend, sat my boyfriend and I down in the living room, and explained that he'd married three times for the wrong reason. He'd married because he'd seen the beauty and the potential in 3 women, and then these women had failed to change in the ways he'd expected them to do. He explained that marriage put certain societal expectations on a woman, and living together without marriage put a different set of expectations on her. As an unmarried woman people would be more accepting of my putting my priority on my needs and my career, whereas as part of a married couple, they'd expect me to subsume a certain amount of who I was and who I wanted to be into the needs of my husband's career. We were free to choose our path, but couldn't we consider living together, just for a little while?

I'd made a promise to my father that I wouldn't get engaged until he'd had a chance to have his say, and that I'd listen to him with an open heart and mind. I kept my word. I took in all he had to say. We both said that his points were very valid, and we'd consider them. My dad, who is early to bed and early to rise (the night owl biology is all from the other side of the family) said his goodnights and went up to bed.

My boyfriend looked at me, and I looked at him, drowning, as I always do, in his black-lashed blue eyes with the best eye-crinkles of happiness when he smiles.

"Will you marry me?" he said quietly.

I didn't hesitate for a moment. I knew this one was the one: honest and honorable, loyal, loving, and true, intelligent, with a quick, clever sense of humor and the ability to laugh at himself and the conviction that people are good and compromise and finding the win-win solution is the way to live, committed to leaving the world better than he found it, and stubborn enough to ensure that I couldn't just out-stubborn him and win, and yet flexible enough to know when to stand up for his point of view and when to give way, and very, very, very patient. We'll skip over the incidental facts that he's lean (still!) and tall, with unrepentant dark hair that is now shading into "distinguished", and very good in bed, because you don't want to know that. [font="unrepentant"]Oh. Oops.[/font="unrepentant"]

"Yes," I whispered. Much huggage ensued.

The next morning my father took it well.

"I wanted you to make an informed decision," he said. "One that's right for you."

"I did, Dad" I said.

"Good"

Which means that on this day in May, thirty-three years ago, we married. Like all couples, we've had our hard times and our easy times, our good days and our bad (and for some reason we have a positive talent for scheduling our bad days on the same day- it's a gift) but I can honestly say that our decision to marry is one we have never regretted, even for an instant. Dad was right to warn me, because when society tried to put its pressures and expectations on me, I could see them as such, and act accordingly.

A year later, seeing how little our marriage had spoiled our relationship, my dad and his girlfriend snuck down to city hall, and found a justice of the peace to marry them. They have been very happy together. She was the right one, the one he loved for who she was, no alterations needed.

Are we doing anything special today? Well, small gifties, but nothing much else. We're waiting for September 13th, when we will hire a sitter and go out for a Very Fancy Dinner to celebrate 33 1/3 years (a third of a century!) together.
thothmes: Jack O'Neill is sitting at a table surrounded by desserts and is chowing.  Legend: Eat dessert first, Life's too short. (Eat Dessert First - LTS)
So yesterday was the deadline for applications, and here's the score:

Colleges she had chosen to apply for: 5
Colleges she succeeded in applying for: 4
Merit scholarship auditions she could apply for: 1
Merit scholarship auditions she did apply for: 1
Number of missed notes: 2
Number of people in the immediate household: 4
Number of highly relieved people in the immediate household: 4

Somehow, some way, whether by dint of nagging, by a number of very late nights, by parental out-stubborning, or by finally (dawn over Marblehead!) understanding where her self-interest lay, we got to the win-win.

Yay!

Thanks to all of you for hearing my whine. Sometimes blowing off steam in an ancillary way prevents the full boiler explosion, and that would not have been pretty, and there's only so much looking at each other, shaking our heads, and saying "It's not just us, is it? It isn't just a hopelessly old fashioned outlook right? It's her attitude not ours, right? Right? RIGHT???!!!" that Beloved Husband and I can do.

I can report that there were no stranglings, no smacking around, no high-blood pressure mediated stroke events, and no words said on the parental side that we regret saying. Woot!

For those of you chancing upon this who don't know me and may be considering the necessity of contacting the authorities on an issue of child safety, please know that in the above paragraph only the last thing mentioned was in actual danger of happening. Child abuse is just as wrong as voluntary cannibalism, and we don't allow it here.
thothmes: A clump of evergreens, seen dimly through snow (Trees through Snow)
It has been winter here lately. Not old fashioned, real Vermont winter, mind you, although we did have a few days of that at the very beginning of the year, but winter, with light fluffy snow. The ski places have been doing land office business, and the economy has been benefiting greatly from the influx of folks from away, spending money in local shops. After last year's almost total flop of a winter, things are good.

Now I don't alpine ski. My parents weren't of that socio-economic class when I was growing up, and besides, my husband sees too many knees of people who do alpine skiing to really encourage it in those he loves. I've been doing nordic skiing since I was 12 though, and that's the exercise I choose when snow is coming down, and if I chose to walk or run I would have to be arguing right-of-way with the plows. I have the right of way, but plows are big, and I don't want to be right, but dead. So I've been doing some nordic skiing around our back acres, and I've been having such fun with it that I've been doing it even on some bright sunny days. Cold, clear, fresh air, sunshine, and a pleasant feeling of being out and about. What's not to like?

Today I went out to ski (a little rushed and a little late due to having to deal with the issues of paying for the next session of figure skating and of The Whirlwind's lost ski poles before she goes to Ski Runners on Friday) so there I was, stepping into my bindings at 1:30, when I'd intended to be out there by 1:00 p.m. at the latest. I'm just slipping my hands into the straps on the poles and gripping them when an unearthly howl rises up behind me. It's loud, it's wild, and it's not very far off. Coyotes, and plenty of them, in the middle of the day, in broad daylight. It was eerie and beautiful, and totally unexpected at that time of day. It made my day.

Our neighbor's dog? Not so much. The poor fellow spent the next half hour sending out periodic "I'm here! My pack is here!" barks, before he finally gave up and quieted down. Generally speaking, he's not a very talkative fellow.

Our neighbors are freaked out by having coyotes in the area. I'm not. I love it. These are wild animals, and they are shy. I'm not silly enough to let my cats roam outside, not because of the coyotes, but because of the fisher cats, who think cats are yummy good eatin' when they can't get wild turkey. Dogs are required to be on a lead, although it's a law more honored in the breach. I am one of the very few in town who has actually seen a live coyote. He was traveling on his own, and was padding across a snowy field about two years ago as winter was fading into spring, and he was making for the road to cross it and get back to the woods on the other side. He got a look at me, and abruptly decided he wanted to head back to the woods he'd come from.

I love coyotes. Then again, I don't keep either sheep or chickens.
thothmes: Gleeful Baby on Bouncy Horse Riding Toy (Default)
So what am I thankful for this year?

For a cease fire that so far seems to be holding. No mother, on either side, should have to put her child to bed in fear of what may come as they sleep. No one anywhere should have to live in constant fear of sudden death from the sky.

For the end of DADT. It doesn't affect me, but it should never have affected anyone.

For the fact that hearts and minds have opened enough that marriage equality passed in three states by vote.

That I live in such a beautiful part of the world, in a community that really is a village, and helps to raise all of the children to assume that we will all help one another, that we all need to pitch in and do our part, and that helping others is its own reward. It's a great set of values to absorb young.

That my two grown kids had a place to go for their Thanksgiving dinner. They brought some sides and the dessert, and had a big family meal, instead of a small (but elaborate) meal they made and ate by themselves, as has been the pattern these past few years.

That each of my kids are so different from each other, all of them interesting, all of them with something that makes them stand out. Eldest Daughter is sensitive, honorable, thoughtful, and kind. Only Son is incredibly good natured, interested in a vast array of things, and finds something to enjoy in anything and everything. Middle Daughter is amazingly musical, quietly reflective, and collects waifs and strays. She sees good and value where others see only the turmoil and the trauma. The Whirlwind has truly amazing joie de vivre, and one of the most loving hearts I've ever known, and has endless energy and curiosity.

That I chanced upon Beloved Husband so young. He is smart, devoted, loyal, loving, and possesses a world class sense of humor. Best of all, he knows when to make me laugh, when to just listen, and when to just envelop me in a hug. That he's tall, dark silvering, and handsome is a bonus.

And I am thankful that I have all of you. You make me laugh, you point out intriguing corners of the world I might otherwise have missed, you share your creative output and give me an escape from the work-a-day world, and when I need it, you listen. May you all be equally blessed.
thothmes: Carter smiling by bookcases.  Mmmm!  Books. (Mmmm!  Books.)
First of all (and most closely related to the icon above) there's this:

The Whirlwind does not like to read or be read to, AT ALL. It is just hard for her to sit still that long, and she has resisted any book longer than a picture book like most kids resist a healthy serving of Spinach Liver Mushroom Surprise. That includes when we read them to her, and keep in mind that Beloved Husband and I are not the type to read haltingly in a monotone. We try to make it exciting, a dramatic production. We read with expression, and if it's me, I do the voices and accents. Beloved Husband, who knows what his strengths are and are not doesn't do accents, but does do voices. Neither of us are expecting an Academy Award or anything, but we do try to provide interest, and each one of my kids have been notable standouts among their classmates for reading with expression, because it never occurs to them that it would be otherwise. Be that as it may, I've carefully chosen chapter books that will speak to The Whirlwind's interests, and she has HATED having them read to her, even when she has loved the books when we get to the end of them. Reading, she hates it, she hates it, she does!

Well recently Beloved Husband went to a conference about treating a wide spectrum of childhood problems and disorders with in the context of the whole family. The man who was speaking was basically trying to transmit the message that what ever a kid's problem, whether it is ADHD, depression, teen drug use, etc., etc., etc., it cannot be divorced from genetics and the family setting. Okay. Well, duh! Little apples don't fall far from trees, but in our case, The Whirlwind is a graft, and although she is very much part of the whole, we can only take responsibility for the nurture part of the nature/nurture environment.

There was an interesting series of studies the man quoted, though, which showed some improvement in executive functioning following a program of daily reading to Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier. We suspect that any reasonable baroque keyboard works would do, although The Well-Tempered Clavier is notably spare, with a great deal of structure and counterpoint. We had already decided that The Whirlwind would have to earn TV by reading, because we knew what the more time she put in, the more fluent she became (she already reads well above grace level, in spite of putting little time in, but every bit helps) the more she could get sucked in to what she read. Based on the study (which we view with healthy skepticism, remembering well all the Mozart Effect hysteria of a few years back, which has not resulted in a spate of super-intelligent babies) we decided that it wouldn't hurt her, and who knows, it might help, so we told her that she would need to sit and read for half an hour each day, no excuses, while listening to music of our choosing. Turns out she really likes the Well Tempered Clavier.

So there she was, doing her daily reading, with a book I'd picked out for her as being right up her alley, a novel-length retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and when she was done, she said "You know Mom, I never knew before that reading could be so much fun!"

YAAAAAAAY!!!!!

I have no illusions that this will mean that she will suddenly morph into a bookworm. She is who she is, and she will always be a moving target. She will always prefer to do and actively experience, rather than read about it. But at least she now sees what all the fuss is about, and there is nothing more wonderful than transmitting a great joy and delight to a one's offspring.

And in other news, Only Son, who has been looking for a regular paid, salaried job in his field since he prepared to graduate in May of 2011 with a degree in computer science and a minor in philosophy, has finally landed one. As of tomorrow he will be a salaried employee. Mind you the salary is peanuts, but it comes with bennies and paid vacation and EVERYTHING. A real job.

Woot!
thothmes: Jack & Sam look up with apprehension.  Legend:  Oh Crap! (Oh Crap! - 1969)
Okay, so we had a lovely, lovely vacation, marred only by the fact that the Whirlwind of Destruction dove into the lake wearing her glasses, and I spent several hours diving in a grid pattern to try and locate them. Somewhere under the moldering leaves at the bottom of the lake are some lovely wirerim glasses which had only recently been totally replaced under warrantee. Otherwise, there were many relatives, much laughter, interesting tales, good food, swimming, loafing, and games of all sorts. All four of my kids were there (a rarity now that two of them are grown), a niece and a cousin announced engagements, and a cousin who married last October announced that he and his wife are expecting a baby in March. Good times.

And on the way home, things got complicated )

I love living in Vermont, where even the crooks aren't (by and large) too dishonest, and where life is lived on a human scale.
thothmes: Sam & JackHug from Heroes In mourning or rejoicing, be not far from me. (In Mourning or Rejoicing)
Well, it's Thanksgiving again here in America. Today was an orgy of cooking ahead so that there will be time enough to get the rest of it done tomorrow. Today was the sweet potatoes, which will be microwaved and garnished on the day, and portobello mushroom, summer squash, tomato, onion, pinenut, parsley, and mint stuffed vine leaves.

The sweet potatoes are not a big to do, but they hog the microwave at a critical time if they aren't prepared ahead of time. Stuffed vine leaves are one of those dishes that were invented by women living in small villages. They are a pleasant excuse for a good group gossip, many hands making light work, in that kind of setting. For one woman working alone while keeping an eye on an overly active child, they are a pain in the neck to make. But yummy.

Tomorrow will be roast lamb, broiled herbed snow peas, green beans with toasted pine nuts. My aunt will also be bringing kale and a celery-lemon salad.

My poor dear husband (who is not back from work yet, and it's after midnight here) will be making an apple and a pumpkin pie and putting them in the oven for me to take out before he toddles off to bed. Tomorrow he'll do most of the remaining cooking and whip up some diabetic-safe chocolate crepes with espresso whipped topping for my aunt and me, since we can't eat the pie, while I watch the Wirlwind of Destruction and so some last minute cleaning.

But that's not the important part. This is:

In a world where so many go hungry, where one third of my countrymen struggle to feed their kids, we will feast. Yeah, we too are cutting back on spending, and it looks like we will have to sell some stock that we were hoping to save for our daughters' college to finish paying for our son's final year, but the fact is, we have stock. I am thankful.

I love my family of origin, as eclectic and eccentric as we all are. I love our humor, our intelligence, our widely divergent interests, and our ability to enjoy each other. I won the in-law lottery and married into a family that is loving, welcoming, witty, boistrous, fun, and close-knit. They have a talent for loving, committed, deeply devoted marriage that has to be experienced to be believed. My children have the enormous privilege of knowing their second cousins as well as they do their first cousins. I am thankful.

I have four bright, healthy, energetic, interesting, and wonderful kids. Their strengths, their passions, their challenges, and their beauties are all quite different, and they have led me into worlds of experience I never could have predicted or imagined. It takes every bit of intelligence and wisdom I have to stay a step ahead of them until they are launched. One of the greatest joys of spending my days with them has been to watch their wonderful, unique and individual, and clever senses of humor develop before my delighted eyes. I am so very thankful.

I have a handsome, gentle, clever, funny husband who met me at 19, and has watched the 125 lb. competitive swimmer he first knew morph into a 215 lb. mother of four and then back into an active 135 lb. middle-aged woman, and the love and desire in his deep blue eyes never waned, but has always grown. At a family wedding last month he told the groom, a younger cousin of his "You look at your bride with so much love, but you will never again love her less than you do this day." I am humbled, and very, very thankful.

And although I have much to be thankful for, I still have days when I am tired or discouraged, days when parenting has been stressful, when the news I hear has been depressing, days when my molehills have swollen into mountains, days when my soul aches with or without a reason. No matter the depths of my self-pity, the degree of my discouragement, the heat of my frustration, at the end of my day, when I can steal a bit of time to myself to come and play here and turn away from the cares of the day, I have never, ever failed to find something to amuse me, intrigue me, soothe me, or carry me off to the safer worlds of fantasy in the offerings of my f-list. I am thankful for you all.
thothmes: Gleeful Baby on Bouncy Horse Riding Toy (Default)
Thirteen years ago, just before Thanksgiving, I had just gone out with heavy heart to buy two copies of two different Christmas ornaments. We were going to send one copy of each (one fragile ornament, and one nearly impossible to break ornament) off with our beloved seventeen month old foster daughter when she was sent off to live with her biological mother's brother and sister-in-law. She'd been with us since two weeks after her first birthday. The transfer was imminent, pending their official approval as foster parents in Kentucky where they resided. This way she would always have something tangible as evidence of her short stay in our lives. We would keep the duplicates for our tree, to mark her place in our hearts and our family.

Then, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, her aunt and uncle called to say that they had done their research on "artificial twinning" (they have a daughter whose birthday is just two weeks later than our then-foster daughter's) and had considered the effect on their niece of disrupting the bond she had started to develop with us, and had pondered and prayed, and had decided that the best thing would be to let her stay with us and be our daughter. A true act of trust and selfless generosity. Our two older kids stood speechless as we thanked them profusely, hung up the phone, and burst into tears of grateful relief, drawing them all into a family hug.

That year my oldest daughter was told in art class to make a placemat showing what she was thankful for. It was her sister. It takes pride of place on our table every Thanksgiving. At Christmas all four ornaments hang on the tree, until the day when she moves to a place of her own and takes her copies with her.

I am truly blessed. I have a soft life, and everything I need. Not everything I want, but that would be bad for me, and I know this. But that one moment, for me, will always flavor the thankfulness I feel on this holiday.

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thothmes: Gleeful Baby on Bouncy Horse Riding Toy (Default)
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A Few Words From The Wise

Speak to him, for there is none born wise.
-The Maxims of Ptahotep

In mourning or rejoicing, be not far from me.
- an Ancient Egyptian Love Song

But your embraces
alone give life to my heart
may Amun give me what I have found
for all eternity.
-Love Songs of the New Kingdom, Song #2

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.
-Wendell Berry

Up in the morning's no for me,
Up in the morning early;
When a' the hills are covered wi' snaw,
I'm sure it's winter fairly.
-Robert Burns

Visit to the Hermit Ts'ui

Moss covered paths between scarlet peonies,
Pale jade mountains fill your rustic windows.
I envy you, drunk with flowers,
Butterflies swirling in your dreams.
-Ch'ien Ch'i

Mistress of high achievement, O lady Truth,
do not let my understanding stumble
across some jagged falsehood.
-Pindar

Every Gaudy colour
Is a bit of truth.
-Nathalia Crane

I counted two-and-twenty stenches,
All well defined, and several stinks.
-Samuel Coleridge