madmuser

A Grass-Roots Blog Restoration Project

The Lesson

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I like winter. But I am now done with winter. I was done with winter two months ago. I have become one with the cacophony of complaining souls about this most brutal and relentless of winters. Even on this April 5th morning we had yet another inch. But despite the weather’s refusal to let go, there are other creatures and beings whose mission it is to march on – now past March and into April. I found some of these amazing life forms beside our house the other day. They stopped me cold with their tenaciousness and bravery.  Smiling, I went back into the house that day. I thought, you never know from whence the lesson comes.  IMG_0024

10 Best Things About Being A Writer

 

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As a writer myself, I absolutely loved this chirpy little article about the wonders of a writing life!

Enjoy!

10 Best Things About Being A Writer.

Ode to the Commute

100_0308I’ve done “it” three days a week at 7 a.m. for five years now and it struck me that I needed to memorialize it in some small way for all it does for me.

“It” is my drive to the college where I teach, a 20 mile trek through a countryside that displays canvases splashed with brilliant bright colors and moody dark landscapes. Sometimes the canvas is barren, sometimes laced with daisies and buttercups, now topped with snow mounds that look like giant marshmallows.  Several ponds dot the landscape that lines the highway and I delight in tracking the lifestyles of the inhabitants which include ducks, geese, turtles, Great Grey Herons and the occasional jumping fish. I take great comfort in all life rhythms and these lovely creatures so generously share theirs with me.

During most winters, the ponds don’t freeze over for long but this year, with no thaw, the ice kept the over-winter geese from their life-blood waters. Many died,  I’m told. I didn’t see any that had, but then again, I didn’t see any geese at all. This is unusual. The cycles of life and nature are not always kind.

In the fall when the hunters bows and guns flourish and their prey don’t, turkey vultures swirl about far overhead, creating a cloud that undoubtedly marks the gutted carcasses as their own.  In the summer, road kill ‘manufactured’ by us humans angers me, for this is not part of nature’s scheme. It saddens me to think about the nests and dens to which a mother or father animal will never return leaving their helpless young abandoned and hungry.

Today on my way, I saw a creature running ahead of me, straight down the entrance ramp like a horse on a race track. Fortunately this little critter ran off into the brush before finding his way into the chaos of human traffic.

An Unexpected Meeting of Heads and Hooves

As is usual on Saturday mornings, this past Saturday I went out to the barn to groom my trusted steed, Buzzy, and gab it up with my dear barn friends. It is a ‘girls-only’ time and a place filled with my favorite sights – horses – and smells – horse poop and hay.102_0727

I went about my usual routine of feeding Buzzy his grain, and moseying out to feed my favorite mule and his mini-horse harem their Ginger Snaps while Buzzy munched away. I have never found a horse who doesn’t scarf those cookies right down. It is comical how these small hooved creatures gather around me like kindergartners clamoring to be teacher’s helper for the day. And the mule goes into this euphoric state where he continues to relish the cookies’ taste by sucking on his tongue, with its pink tip protruding slightly.

Back to Buzzy: grain gone, time for a good grooming. It’s shedding time and a grooming session now means losing half a horse with all the hair that comes off. Buzzy was restless, wanting to go out and chow down on phase 2 of his morning meal: hay. I struggled to contain his exuberance and managed to finish.

Next, I spent a few moments chatting, and then, to placate my pawing horse, I decided to take him for a little stroll in hand down the lane. I unhooked him from the cross ties, and was about to connect the lead line when I truly don’t know what happened next. Something smashed into my face – his head? His leg? He was out of control, whirling, and I was catapulted across the barn where I unceremoniously landed on my ass. (Lots of cushioning there – good thing). My glasses were gone and I felt a warm, sticky liquid flowing from near my eye.

As for Buzzy, he was whirling around, wild-eyed and with the help of Linda, managed to get into a stall where he pranced and snorted.  My friends noticed that the skin above Buzz’s eye was red and puffy.  As for me, I had two cuts around my eye, one kind of deep, and I felt like I’d been hit in the head by a bus. Other miscellaneous bruises, no major damage.

Here’s what we’ve pieced together. Somehow Buzzy caught part of his eyelid on the cross-tie clasp and it cut him which threw him into desperado mode and I just happened to be in his way.

This was a good reminder of something about which experienced horse folks can become cavalier, and that is that you just never know when you’re around horses. Anything can happen at any time. Buzzy is a steady, calm horse who is not prone to major spooking or bolting. I am blessed. But over the years, we have had a few bizarre things like this happen that serve as a reminder. Yesterday’s episode could have been worse – a lot worse. Buzzy could have stepped on me, though my friends told me it was clear he was trying very hard not to. The head injury could have been serious, my eye could have been cut, and so on.

As it is, I am left with one very visible trophy of my barn episode: one very un-glamorous and obvious black eye!!

A New Kind of Prayer Ceremony

palm_tree_2Tonight is ‘palm’ night. Not palm as in the palm of hand, nor palm as in a personal digital assistant Tonight we are planning something to take the frigid edge off, and just in case you’re interested, here are the instructions:

  1. Take one household palm tree and set it on the dining room table
  2. Pretend the mounds of snow outside are really dunes of pristine white sand.
  3. Put on and listen to Beach Boys CD
  4. Cut up a coconut
  5. Cut up a pineapple
  6. Drink coconut milk
  7. Make and drink Pina coladas
  8. Eat coconut meat and fresh pineapple
  9. Run sink water and pretend it is ocean waves
  10. Go to Weather.com and check the weather for St. Croix
  11. Go take a hot and steamy shower
  12. Give up snow for Lent
  13. Pray for spring

Social Media = Perfect People

100_0263I have been unofficially studying social media since it first came on the scene: first it was MySpace, then along came Facebook and now Twitter and myriad others. As a result, I am developing a gnawing discomfort with social media even though I quasi- participate in my platforms of choice:  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and StumbleUpon. I should say ‘sort of’ participate as I am weening myself and this essay explains why.

Let it first be said – social media is addictive. Let it second be said – not a damn thing on any of these platforms is real, and that’s what so disturbs me.  When we are ‘on Facebook,’ we’re not living in three-dimensional reality. We’re engaging in one dimension with people who aren’t real because all the gritty, grimy, ugly stuff that makes a person whole is lost among cheery witticisms and snappy snapshots. On social media we become something else. We measure success in the number of friends or followers we have. We lose our real selves among  paint pretty pictures and clever repartee. The implications of this for the future are quite scary indeed.

I read an interesting report recently that claims those of us using Facebook to look up people are actually stalking them! Another report claims that many people become depressed from Facebook. No surprise here because comparing oneself to ‘perfect people’ is indeed demoralizing.

Finally, time spent on social media is time away from interacting with people or engaging in other greater good activities. If you’ve ever seen the movie Wall E, one of my favorite movies of all time, people in the future become fat, unable to walk, and spend their days lying on magically-propelled lounge chairs and talking on video-phones all day. They never engage with one another face-to-face and actually become rather useless. (Though there is a happy ending :) Is this where we’re headed? Into a world where people create false selves that populate platforms where nothing is real and the skills of basic human interaction are lost?WALL_E_fat_chair

As you can see, I’m hot on this topic and agonizing over a decision to close out my accounts and get back to living more simply.

P.S. – I don’t count my blog as social media.

Motel 6

Motel6logoMotel 6: A man was found dead there the other day. Suspicious circumstances, they say. It is a seedy place. I know. There was a time, not too long ago, when I put my daughter up in that same seedy hotel. She was dying. She was an alcoholic and she had failed countless detox and rehab programs. They knew her at all the ERs and it hurt me when they laughed, scoffed, scolded and said, “Here’s our girl,” only they didn’t mean it in a kind way.

This had my stunningly gorgeous, stop-shouldered, brilliant baby become: lying in her bed day after day, a bed soiled with her own urine and occasionally, feces. She became a shadow of her former self – a walking skeleton, when she could walk.

The calls always came in the middle of the night. “Come, I need you.” “I’m sick, I’m going to die.” The voice always slurred. I went. Always. Until I didn’t. Well, I did, but instead of bringing her home for one more session of enabling, I did what they all told me to do – all the experts, all my friends, all the family. I did “tough love”. My form of tough love. I knew I needed to quit rescuing, quit saving, quit enabling but I wasn’t going to turn her out to the streets. I took her to Motel 6.

My skin crawled when I walked her down the hallway full of greasy heads sticking out doorways slurring taunts, cigarettes dangling from lips or held in dirty hands, most unlit. We opened the door to her grimy depressing little room. I hugged her. She held me tight. I held her tighter. I turned before she could see the rising torrent in my eyes. “I love you Mom,” she said in a surprisingly sober voice. “I love you more, Lovey,” I choked and ran to get out of that sleazy, squalid place where I left my baby because I was practicing “tough love.”

Did the man’s mother take him there too? Was she practicing the tough love everyone told her to do? Why did my girl live and hers didn’t?

Motel 6: I drive by you often, certainly not purposefully, only because you are one route or another. You almost sucked in my little girl and swallowed her whole, but I thank God, she was stronger than you.

Requiem to Winter

20130210_131924I am dazzled by the almost-blinding sparkle of snow as I walk my little dog on this late winter afternoon.  On our walk on this day, with the temperature hovering round 20 degrees, we are warmed by our brisk pace and the growing power of the sun’s rays. We are also encased in the glow of pure sunlight reflected off  pristine snow. It is simply put:  glorious.

Everywhere I go, people are complaining about this winter and wishing it away. They are yearning for the mild, mealy-mouth, wimpy winters of recent years, winters where I have yearned for the drama of a good old fashioned winter. This is it: a winter filled with winter. I am not wishing it away. .

I love these walks on days like this as well as the drama of a storm with its howling wind and swirling snow. I love curling up in cozy rooms with roaring fires,  snuggling on the couch with the dogs and lots of good books. I love getting my exercise by shoveling our driveway – sometimes two or three times in a single day!

Soon the maple syrup will be running and the sweet smell of it boiling will perfume the air. Soon the ice will go under in the Finger Lakes – swallowed up all at once into the depths as the cold water beneath emerges to the top. Soon the snow will melt from the lawns and gardens and the earth will have that rusty, vibrant smell that only fresh mud has and soon the geese will be moving, their honking a distant reminder that we’re moving from late winter to early spring.

I will love this, too. All the subtle nuances and smells and celebrations. I love them all – the seasons and all the in-betweens. And through them all I will walk my little dog.

No Emerald City

Am I missing something?

Image courtesy Jessenewmar1990, The Wonderful Wiki of Oz

Image courtesy Jessenewmar1990, The Wonderful Wiki of Oz

I just read where the Federal Reserve cut their monthly bond purchases – an alleged indicator of a strengthening economy and I also just read how Intel is cutting jobs due to faltering PC sales. I also had a conversation today with a colleague – a Ph.D. in English who, despite major efforts to find something other than the low-paying, muck-raking adjunct jobs we have in academe – has come up with nada. Likewise is the plight of her Ph.D. in history husband.

Every time I hear the latest stats, I grind my teeth and clench my jaw with angst. I am convinced all the ‘good news’ about the economy is a government plot to goad us all into ceasing all job-hunting activity to make the numbers look good. Just think – if the economy is doing great, all these people are getting jobs, and I’m not, well, what would you do? Crawl off into the sunset and wait for Social Security to kick in, if it lasts that long …

Christine Sevilla’s Murder

Upside DownShe was my friend and now I am reading a book written about her murder. It is surreal. It is surreal because I knew her. I knew about her frustrations with her professor-husband. I knew about her devotion for her dog, Riley. I knew about her love for all things natural and her fierce commitment to keep what should be wild, wild. I knew her as a fellow anti-corporate zealot. I knew her as my friend.

In a city hardened by the report of ‘just another homicide,’ the clock stopped when Christine’s name was read on the news that night in November, her body dumped in one of my favorite spots, ironically named Devil’s Bathtub, a unique geological formation known as a ‘kettle hole’ formed by by a receding glacier. This unique, natural marvel was also one of her favorite spots.

Christine was murdered and body dumped by her husband whose aim was to kill ‘the pack,’ which besides Christine inclded Riley and himself. He got Christine, he tried to kill and injured Riley, and somehow wimped out on killing himself.

Riley survived. Tim is incarcerated in federal prison. Christine is gone but not forgotten.

The tragedy here is not only Christine’s murder, but what was found to be husband Tim’s psychosis. Chilling is the question this raises: how many people are living with their so-called ‘normal’ husbands, wives, sons, daughters? There is a quote on the back cover of Upside Down that captures the terrifying result of such unknowing:

“Trapped in the stygian depths of his psychosis, Wells saw only one solution…”

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