242: Appearances

My closet

My closet

I have been thinking about appearances. Appearances, if I can comprehensively define this term, means the mask or wall that is erected to make others think you are what you want them to think you are. Think about that for a minute….it even SOUNDS stupid. I know we are social creatures, and care a very great deal about what others in our social strata think about who we are and what we do, but seriously?

Just THINK of all the money we could save if we were not so preoccupied with keeping up with the neighbors and the various advertising campaigns that we see on the TV and hear on the radio, that are cleverly designed to create needs out of wants. People NEED relatively few things, but our wants are immeasurable and uncountable, and they never, ever, end. As long as we draw breath, there are wants. For example, I like shiny things, and I never get enough of them – most girls are just like me. My sweet husband has cottoned on to this fact, and occasionally and for no particular reason, he will bring me a shiny thing: not an expensive one, because we don’t have the income for that, but a nice one, nonetheless, because I am not concerned about cost, and it really, really, really IS the thought that counts (with shiny things, especially). Besides, if the shiny things are not expensive, it is not such a disaster when things happen to my shiny things. I really hate it when other people take my shiny things because they think I have too many shiny things, and that I surely won’t miss just this one little thing they have decided they can take from me….WRONG. I have my shiny things because I like them, and they might not cost much money, but I got them because I like them. Go get your own shiny things , and pay for your own. THEN they are yours. If you take one from someone else, it is NEVER yours. Ever.

I like to dress in matching colors, unless I am in a REALLY bad mood – then I dress in black. That’s usually when I get the most compliments, too, darn it. I prefer wild colors – not all at once – but still. If there is a screaming acid green garment at the bottom of the rummage sale pile, THAT is the one I am reaching for. I have, maybe, ONE white shirt. I know that people cringe at my clothing choices, but console yourself with this: the worse it is for you, the better it is for me. If I am in wild colors, it is a good day. Is that too much to ask? Besides, I am providing to you (free of charge, I might add) entertainment for the day. Enjoy. Gratis.

241: Ruminations on the Cosmos

Who am I to consider the universe? I AM, that’s who I am, and being human (unlike SOME people I know and could name), I do contemplate why I am here, what I am supposed to be doing here, and what might occur once I am no longer here.  First of all, why is the personal pronoun I always capitalized? That makes us think we might be God, because He is the only One for Whom pronouns are capitalized. Think about it. He, she and it, they and them, us and we are all uncapitalized, unless they occur at the beginning of a sentence. Why does ‘I’ get such special recognition? Why not i instead, unless we are claiming divinity for ourselves by capitalizing it? Frankly, the whole idea makes me nervous. I know damn well that I am nowhere approaching divinity. I don’t have NEARLY enough patience to be God.

I can see me now, like some kid on an anthill with a magnifying glass: that’s YOUR last chance, dude – ZAP!! Of course, if God wanted more believers in a big hurry, He could always make the connection between bad behavior and annihilation more clearly self-evident. Maybe He does not want followers who are only after the fire insurance. Come to think of it, I would not want those, either.

I’ve been reading a book written by a self-educated thinker named Eric Hoffer called The True Believer, which is a philosophical discussion into what makes a mass movement follower.  It appears that creative types are fairly immune to mass movements as long as they are actively creating. Apparently, creative endeavors, whatever form the creativity takes, acts as an inoculant against following the ideas of someone else. Does not appear to matter if the creativity is in letters (literature), science, engineering, visual arts, performing arts such as dance, or any other realm (including growing things), it appears that the creative drive is self-fulfilment enough to help those people avoid becoming followers. Apparently you have to have a significant degree of boredom and dissatisfaction with your life before you feel the urge to align yourself with some cause, and adopt another identity related to it. The decline of handicrafts is a recipe for a mass movement, or as my grandmother used to say, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Still true today.

240: Cat Epilepsy??

Sport Model

Sport Model

This is Sport Model. He is a sweet and loving Moroccan boy kitty about seven or eight months old. He is curiously elegant. He also has bad dreams, flashbacks and apparently, epilepsy! When someone left him on the doorstep as a kitten, I adopted him, of course, and he joined the inmates of the local cat orphanage – my house – with a number of other cats (it fluctuates, depending on who’s out visiting, and who’s decided not to come home). Lately, there are seven.  We let the oldest ones outside to explore a bit, but not the younger ones (Sport) since we worry about the babies. He still went out on his own one day, though, when he found the door open, and he GOT LOST. OMG. Where is HOME??

He was gone not even one whole day, and my husband went looking for him in the evening and heard him mewing piteously in the apartment building next door, so he rescued Sport and brought him home. It was apparent Sport was significantly traumatized by this experience, since all that evening, he kept having LOST flashbacks. He’d be in the living room (with mom and dad and all the kitty siblings) and he’d sort of zone out, and start mewing piteously again – I’M LOST, COME FIND ME, I’M LOST, COME FIND ME, until one of us would speak to him. Then he’d snap out of it, and look sheepish. He’s not gone near the door again. He remembers.

He also has bad dreams. He was sleeping on the banquette (a Moroccan sofa) and he had a bad dream. What must have been a REALLY, REALLY bad dream. Like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Scream (all versions), Nightmare on Elm Street, Jason (all versions), Halloween, the Exorcist, Children of the Corn, Wrong Turn,  SAW and several others, all rolled into one.  Poor baby. He woke up, but he was still in the dream world, and he was FREAKED OUT, crouched and shivering for some time before he finally realized he was safe at home and everything was OK. No more monsters. Then he looked sheepish again.

The last bad dream he had, he had a convulsion-fit. He was frothing at the mouth, and turning rigidly in circles for a few minutes (running from the monsters?) until he came out of it. Could be sleepwalking, maybe. Poor baby. He’s such a sweetheart the rest of the time, and he cannot help whatever it is that’s wrong. We’ll consult the vet next month (a few days from now) when it is time for his regular inoculations and see what’s up – how common is epilepsy in cats???

239: Numbness

I am having sciatic nerve pain from a mildly herniated disc in my back. This means my entire leg hurts, from hip to toes. It also means, because of the pinched nerve, that leg is several degrees colder than the other one, and that the entire surface of that foot is numb. Like Novocaine numb.

When I was young (and foolish) I wrote a poem about being alone in a group of people, watching everyone else having fun, and feeling so all alone (in the crowd). OK, universal teen angst. Still, I wondered whether it would be good to be just numb, dumb and not knowing there were alternatives and differences. Would that not be better?

Since I am now living with numb (albeit literally and not figuratively), I can now definitively say the answer to that is NO. The popular perception, among those who don’t know and have not experienced it, is that numb is comfortable, while the reality is that numb is NOT comfortable. You would think it would be, because there is no pain there, but still, the body knows that numb is not normal, and it lets you know something is wrong in ways that are hard to ignore. The numb place wants attention (is this not what most us are secretly wanting when we emotionally go numb??) and it craves feeling, such that you find yourself massaging it, stroking it, and otherwise trying to make it feel better. Some of us do that in our emotional numbness, too- we smoke, take drugs, screw around, or try to drink it away – all without success.

What works to counteract numbness is FEELING – and sometimes feeling is painful. Compared to numb, painful is still better. Painful is on the road to recovery and healing. Feeling is healing. Numb is dumb.

238: Grit Your Teeth and BEAR IT.

Last week was truly from hell. Monday, I got my contract documents for my next job in Panama, a two-year contract I am thrilled about, and I printed them, signed them, scanned them and e-mailed them back. I also finished the trimester report cards for two classes – way early! YEA!! That was just about the last positive thing that happened!

Sometime in the night, Monday night, IN MY FREAKING SLEEP, I apparently herniated a disc in my back. HOW do you do that in your sleep?? Tuesday I hobbled to work with considerable back pain, eating Tylenol like candy all during the day. OUCH. When I got there, we got the sad news that our director (the person who would be called our principal in the US) had passed away from her battle with cancer, after a year and a half of fighting it. Hers started with lower back/leg pain, too – just like I was experiencing.  It was a tough day. The University called in two counselors and we held two assemblies to inform the students, who were understandably upset.  And, my back pain got worse. And worse.

Thursday, school was called off for the funeral. I was unable to attend,because I was unable to stand up for more than a few seconds at a time. I spent the day medicated, and getting gradually more and more nauseous, until I began vomiting. What fun – back pain, and tossing cookies. Friday, I called in to work, since I still could not stand, and was still puking. The University clinic injected meds, since I could not keep them down, and they dispatched me to Fez, a big city an hour away, for an MRI. That took until 7 pm, and I got home shortly after nine. Saturday morning, I returned to Fez for the verdict – which was a MILD (OMG, if that was mild I don’t even want to THINK about how much a real herniation would hurt) herniation that would not require surgery IF I obeyed directions and took the next week off, medicated it and let it heal. DONE DEAL. My mama didn’t raise no fool.

I did stop on the way home and put my report cards on my Flash drive so I could work on them as I was sitting down at the computer while at home for the week, and actually keep up with work. Fortunately, this month is my lightest teaching load this year, so subbing for me requires the minimum, and I am sending in lesson plans for my three classes each day.  We are reading Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream for the seniors, the 10th graders are reading Eric Hoffer’s essay, The True Believer, and the 11th graders are reading The Great Gatsby, since somehow they missed that one in earlier years. So, I read, make out lesson sheets and e-mail them to school. The students are e-mailing their finished work to me at home. Heck – why do I need to go in??

237: Using up the Points

I like to think of all of us humans down here on Earth as earning heavenly “points” during our lives. When we do good things, we get points. When we do bad things, we lose points. I know (or I think and believe that I know) that is not how it really works, but it helps my tiny little brain to think of life on a rewards and punishments basis, because so much of our earthly lives actually does work out that way.

For instance, timeshares sometimes operate on points. The better quality timeshares ($$$) are worth more “points” than the lesser quality ($) ones. Thank goodness life is not rated on how much it costs. I would not make it out of Heaven’s BASEMENT, if that were the criterion. At any rate, for timeshares at least, the more valuable the week is, the more points it is worth. So, if you buy an expensive week, you can use the points it is worth to vacation for several weeks at resorts that are still nice, but considered “less valuable.” Since I book a hotel for a place to sleep while I explore the surrounding countryside, I am much less concerned that the place where I stay has every amenity known to man: particularly a golf course. I know that is very important to some people, but golf? Seriously? There are even special carriers to ship your golf clubs by air, so that your very own personal set of clubs is waiting on you when you arrive at the resort. I don’t even want to know how much it costs to ship a set of golf clubs by air, if they want to charge me 100 extra dollars for a second set of clothing. I guess if you have to ask how much it would cost, you can’t afford it anyway, right?

Well, I have about 70 thousand timeshare points that will expire in a few months if I don’t use them. These points are already paid for, so letting them just expire would really, really not be cost efficient. Since I just accepted a job in another country, I looked at some of the timeshare resorts nearby where I might be able to book a vacation in order to use up these last remaining points. Over the traditional break in December that most schools schedule, I can book two weeks back-to-back in Costa Rica, the eco-tourist’s wonderland. Now, THAT is the right way to use up your points.

236: One New Star in Heaven

Our little school is having a really tough day. We only have a little over a hundred students in grades pre-school through 12th, so we are really a pretty small family. We suffered a loss today. The director of our school, the person who in the US would be called our principal, passed away today from cancer – she had been fighting it for just over a year.

Of course the students and parents are sad and upset. Our University counselors are here today to help where they can. She was instrumental in bringing the school together, breaking down barriers that had been built previous to her arrival and making us into one family – at least as much as a group of people can be a family. She will be missed.