Dec 8, 2014


Divebomber by Neil Finn

I listened to this song yesterday, because it fit my mood so well. The song is musically and lyrically haunting, and I love the layered instrumentation and the use of the airplane sounds. Dealing with the pending death of my aunt, this song seemed so fitting, but I was taken completely by surprise when he added the chords and lyrics from Hole in the River at the end of the piece. After two weeks of having a knot in my stomach and my throat, the dam burst and I sobbed. As crying always does, it helped me to feel lighter and it was cathartic. As much as I don't want to do it, and as much as it feels like it will never end when I am in the midst of it, the necessary evil of tears is cleansing. I am sad, but now I can breathe whole breathes again. 

Dec 7, 2014

Final Goodbye

Aunt Marilyn and Andy

The holidays have been a special kind of hell for me since I was a child. Where others see the warm glow of candles and fireplaces set against the crisp cold winter air or sparkling crystal snow banks, I feel the bittersweet memories of loved ones lost and no longer here to make the holidays into the ideal that is shoved down our throats ad nausem while the sacred is made profane for the glory of profit. I haven't been Christian since I was 13 years old, but I haven't lost an understanding of what Christmas, and even Thanksgiving, were supposed to celebrate.

November 24, 1976 my father died. I was 10 years old and this began the struggle with what can be a very emotional time for me. I have grown up and the scars healed over, but Thanksgiving has ever since given me a hollow feeling that I fight to conquer in an effort not to ruin the holiday for everyone else. I have failed many times over the years and each time it amplifies the hollowness I feel. We lost our beloved 92 year old grandmother in October of 2002, just over two months after we lost our eldest sibling, the kind and truly beautiful Linda, from an evil cancer that ate its way through her brain and lungs. Two years ago, our brother David, a generous, albeit incredibly hard man, was destroyed by a variety pack of illnesses on New Year's Eve, adding another layer of melancholy to our holiday cake of sorrow.  

Two and a half hours ago, they removed my Aunt Marilyn's breathing tube and started the morphine drip meant to help ease her into Elysian fields as painlessly as can be done. This final leg of her journey began a very long two weeks ago when she suffered a brain aneurysm in her kitchen and was airlifted to a hospital in a nearby town. Although we prepared to fly out to see her immediately, we were told to wait while the situation was assessed. Anxious and fearful, we started to make plans to fly out to see her again, but were again rebuffed, and we started to question whether we were being told to wait for the reasons given (too many people there already and chaotic atmosphere with everyone in and out of her room all day), or if there was another reason we were not welcome. We changed the date of our tickets to accommodate dates we were told we could be of use, then we were blind-sided by the truth. We were informed that her husband did not want us there and when he was questioned about this directive, he blew up and started yelling. We were told that Mom's presence would "agitate" her semi-conscious sister. The uncle that relayed this message seemed genuinely baffled, but he also expressed that our presence could elicit another similar reaction from my aunt's husband. Ultimately, the reasons we were not welcome are unimportant. The blow delivered with that news was shattering. Mom and I would not be allowed to help in any way (other than to stay away) and if the worst happened, we would not have the chance to say goodbye. In the interim, we received photos of her sitting up in bed with assistance and heard that she was able to respond to some questions and that she knew who she was, but did not understand why she was in the hospital. 

When the news coming to us seemed to portend that she would not survive, we talked of how to deal with the funeral/memorial. It seemed pointless to attend a function meant to comfort the family of the loved one especially when our presence at the critical juncture when we might have had a chance to whisper our love and our goodbyes to her was denied. In the two weeks since this ordeal started, not one call or text was answered by her husband. Any news we have gotten has come from her brother or son. Yesterday, we were told that they would remove life support today and that she could live for a few hours or a few days. We were also told that her husband, "is OK with you coming now." For a brief time we considered going to her side, but with the knowledge that the brain damage had worsened and that her morphine would be increased for her comfort, it seemed pointless to rush two weeks too late to be with to her when she draws her last breath and she is completely unaware of the people around her. 

Times like this make you remember so many things. I remember wanting to attend my cousin's graduations, and being told by my aunt not to come because there were too many people already going. I offered to stay in a hotel, but I was still not welcome. I remember being in the hospital dying from multiple organ failure due to lupus and not having anyone in that part of the family come to see me, in spite of my aunt being an ER nurse for more than 30 years. I remember going to South Carolina when my uncle from another branch of my family died and wanting to see my cousin, who lived/worked only 30 minutes away, but still cancelled plans to pick us up at the airport, then informed us he could not see us any other time during our visit, because he had a party to attend. I was wounded each time, but each time I forgave the slight and carried on as though it had not hurt my heart. I have always accepted that this branch of my family was emotionally stunted and did not care about me as much as I did them. Over the years, I have let them go little by little and now I will let go a little more, because I realize that the man I called uncle had no feeling for me at all and harbored disdain for my mother. At any one of these times, I might have woken to the fact that our family is broken, but I didn't see then that this particular branch is diseased to the point of not being able to function as a family outside of their nuclear unit. It is completely unable to give or receive support in the most difficult times of pain or to share the most wonderful times of joy. At least not with us. 

Going forward, I want to remember my aunt for all of the wonderful talks we had. I will remember her for the incredibly good person she was. I will remember her as the glamorous Auntie Mame that she always saw herself as. I will remember the trips to get our hair done, browsing the jewelry counter and picking out the little gold filigree ring she bought me for my 16th birthday. I will remember her amazing cooking skills, the way she mixed bottles of salad dressing to perfection, baked and filled airy cream puffs and the afternoon we baked peanut butter cookies together. I made some last week and as I pressed the criss-cross pattern into the dough, the memory of that afternoon in her kitchen came flooding back to me. I will remember her in cocktail olives and onions, and when I see a martini glass. She will be in my heart when I see floral sun dresses and Mexican dresses on svelte, stylish women who look like they are enjoying life. When I finally visit Spain, I will think of her there and how much I wish I had gotten the chance to visit her when she lived there. 

I am going to miss you, Aunt Marilyn. You are the only aunt I ever had and you were a great one. I wish we had lived closer, or visited more often. I wish that at the end of your life we had been welcome to come help care for you. The lump in my throat finally burst today and I was able to cry for you, and and for the loss of you. You are in my heart and I will always love you and remember the best of you. 

Jul 19, 2014

Summer Dreaming

Scar Tissue by Finijo

Summer is in full swing and I am working hard against my desire to lie down and put a cold rag on my forehead everyday when I get home from work. I have been drawing again (see above) and hope to keep up the habit, especially since I'm in a show in August (Just Ink 4) and I'm looking forward to it. Time to stoke the fires of creativity and get back to work.

Apr 13, 2014

Paw Prints And A Melancholy Day

 Paw Prints On A Window by Finijo

I spent most of this weekend working on the yard and around the house. I waited all weekend for the promised rain to come, hoping that it would wash away the pollen and some of heaviness I have been feeling this week. The rain did not come as I watched the gray sky through the window, but I did notice little paw prints on the outside of the window that were made by Dov as he played through the glass with Lenore, our obese tuxedo cat. They had such an affection for one another, like litter mates, so it is sad to see her waiting for him to return when in all likelihood he has either been picked up by animal control or been lost to being hit by a car. Foxy, his twitchy doppelganger cousin is decomposing under some shrubbery after being hit two weeks ago. Life is tough for feral cats in the city, but they are in abundance..

Lenore played with him for over a year and we enjoyed their antics, so I don't feel a strong urge to wash his prints away, just yet. So long, Dov.

Mar 16, 2014

Julien Martinez - Doll Maker - Lyon, France

 When I was in Lyon, France in 2011, I visited several museums and saw so many incredible things. Lyon is known for it's food and for being such a historically unique city that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I enjoyed my visit and will always remember an odd little museum,  Musée Miniature et Cinéma on the "Maison des Avocats" at 60, rue Saint Jean.  

 La Fileuse by Julien Martinez - Photo by Finijo

There were many wonders in this museum, including miniatures of all types, but I think I was most drawn to the dolls of Julien Martinez. The face of  La Fileuse is a marvel to me. All of her work is detailed and expressive, but I am awestruck by her weary aged face.

 La Fileuse (full) photo by Finijo

The costuming for her dolls is as detailed as their faces. They seem to come from a fabled land, a steam punkish surreality, where wheels are as common as feet. 

 Marcello by Julien Martinez - Photo by Finijo

Many of the creations of Julien Martinez look as though she brought in Vivienne Westwood to style them. Marcello's hair brings to mind The Cure's Robert Smith or Jack White. Either way, he's a rock star.

 Nérée by Julien Martinez - Photo by Finijo

Nérée is the predecessor to the Greek god, Triton. He is also known as the Old Man of the Sea and you can see the age on his face and the pearls, sponge, and coral that adorn him. There is a full picture of him here

L'écuyère by Julien Martinez - photo by Finijo

L'écuyère, the horsewoman, is bawdy. She wears red and gold bodice hugging dress, revealing her decolletage. Her cheeks are rouged and her nose is rosy red, presumably from the bender she went on with the lion tamer the night before. She also carries a horse whip, which you can see here.

Unknown by Julien Martinez - photo by Finijo

I don't know the name of this one but he looks like a character from a Jules Verne novel had a lovechild with a biker from Mad Max. I will do a follow up post one of these days with more wonders from the Musée Miniature et Cinéma.

Mar 15, 2014

The Lottery Of Birth

 Disobey!  Photo by Finijo
Street Art Lyon, France July 2011

I watched a documentary, The Lottery of Birth, this week and it has had me thinking ever since. The title is what made me click "play" on Amazon Prime, because I sometimes think about the particular circumstances that had to occur for me to end up in my life, with the family that I have, doing the work I do, and I know that if the butterfly flapped its wings in a different way or at a different time, this would not be my life. It is probably the same for everyone, but for me, the moments that changed my life are etched without ambiguity in my mind, and it is clear to me that the flow of my life was disrupted and diverted in specific ways to drive me toward the path I currently walk. It is probably the same for everyone, but these are the thoughts that occupy my mind when I am alone and pondering my life, both past and future.

On IMDB the synopsis reads:
THE LOTTERY OF BIRTH is the first in a three-part documentary series entitled 'Creating Freedom' exploring the relationship between freedom, power and control in Western democracies. The series draws together interviews with some of the world's leading intellectuals, journalists and activists to offer an alternative perspective on today's society and the future we're creating. We do not choose to exist, or the environment we grow up in. Our starting point in life is one of passive reliance on forces over which we have no control. THE LOTTERY OF BIRTH shows that from birth onwards our minds are a battleground of competing forces: familial, educational, cultural, and professional. The outcome of this battle not only determines who we become, but the society that we create. - Written by Anonymous

The Lottery of Birth is a film for thinkers, filled with scientists, authors, and activists discussing the ideas of power, obedience, and control and how they influence ideas, in particular the idea of freedom in the Western world. We have all had the thought that if we were born into a culture that was oppressive, controlling, and abusive, that we would somehow extricate ourselves and our loved ones from what to a Western mind is akin to a fate worse than death. The first part of this three part documentary explores the idea that if any one of us was born to different parents, in a different country, under a different government, we would have an entirely different belief system. It sounds like a simple idea, but I think it is profound. 

The difference it would make in the world if everyone was cognizant of the fact the only thing separating us is something that none of us had any control over - where and to whom we were born. If we all knew that our lot in life was actually a lottery and not a birthright, and that our culture is not something we have chosen to adopt, but rather something that has molded us and our views of the world, then we might not be so willing to blindly accept that our country and culture are the best in the world, or that someone else's is the worst. If we don't have this knowledge, then we unable to shape and mold our government or our society. Questioning the actions of our government, our families, our friends, our employers is imperative to seeking truth, but questioning and the truth are frightening for people and governments who would like to divert attention from things that citizens would find untenable. Keeping the citizens complacent keeps those in power free to silently maneuver the masses away from wealth, power, and freedom. Keeping us separate from one another, makes the people weaker and the world a more violent place.

Most of us go through life like Neo before he takes the red pill and wakes up, but we should be questioning our lives, our bosses, our parents, our clergy, and our government. This film puts forth the idea that we are all political, including the people who claim to be non-political. The so called non-politicals promote the status quo, and their lack of opinion/action supports whatever political viewpoint that is served by keeping things as they are.

I found the assertion in The Lottery of Life that "obedience is dangerous" to be evident throughout history and relevant even today. From the obvious example of Nazis who were "only following orders," to the faceless employees who do whatever their employers ask, even if it means spewing pollution into rivers and skies, making that almighty buck at the expense of the health of people who will suffer and even die so that people in power can keep power and make more profit.

The questions that keeps worming its way back into my thoughts today is, "Have I been disobedient enough in my life?" I don't believe I have and I think I need work to change that.

Mar 12, 2014


 I watched a pilot for the show Transparent on Amazon Prime and there is a scene with a 40 something brother and sister listening to Jim Croce’s Operator and marveling at the music and talking about how he could never get on the radio today. Photographs and Memories is one of my all-time favorite albums. It’s on my playlist at work, so I have it playing today and I am feeling very nostalgic for the best parts of 1974 for an eight year old elementary school girl. Jim Croce’s voice had a way of reassuring me and making me feel like everything was going to be alright, even when my world was so unpredictable that it was very often dangerous. Thank you, Jim, for making a little girl feel better, then and now.

Mar 9, 2014

The Ferals That Own Me

 Third Eye by Finijo

It was a nice surprise to have Third Eye, the feral Tortie, come by the yard today to eat. 

 Third Eye by Finijo

I haven't seen her in ages and was starting to think I wouldn't see her again. I love the orange mark on her forehead.

 Tippy and Dov by Finijo

This is Tippy and Dov and they pretty much live in our yard. They let us know when they are hungry, but don't let us near them. Marilyn is getting the traps so that we can take them in to be fixed.

Tippy and Dov by Finijo

Dov and Tippy are brother and sister from the same litter, but I am pretty sure they are mates now. Hopefully, the traps will be here before she has a litter of her own.

Mar 8, 2014

Spring Peeking Through A Grey Day

 Pregnant Plant in Bloom I  by Finijo

Evidence that Spring is upon us once again is all around my yard. This is a Pregnant Plant, also known as Mother of Thousands. This Seussian  beauty was birthed from a stowaway on a plant we brought with us when we moved into our house in 2006. We tried not to bring any with us, but once you have this plant, you will ALWAYS have this plant.

 Pregnant Plant in Bloom II by Finijo

As the name suggests, this plant is prolific. It's a good thing that I really do like it. Even when it is not in bloom, the succulent leaves are a pleasingly speckled dark and light green. The rose colored, bell shaped blooms are very delicate looking, but the plant itself if drought resistant and hearty. This is the first bloom I have seen since we moved, but as I remember, when the plant bloomed at our apartment after many years of dormancy, it continued to bloom again and again. I'm glad it hitched a ride. 

Spring Onions by Finijo

These spring onions are reborn from mushy old onions that I was about to throw out. As often happens, I bought a pack of onions from the store and only used some of them, leaving the rest of them to go bad. I was about to toss them in the compost, but decided to experiment and trimmed the tops and stuck the bottoms in the dirt last December. In spite of not being covered during the freeze a couple of weeks ago, they have thrived. Now I am looking forward to eating them and planting more.

Cascading Weeds by Finijo

I have no idea what this is, but I think it's beautiful. Its seeds must have been blown into the pot, because now it is lush and flowering. I may transplant this into one of the beds in the front, near the street. I think it's pretty, and the fact that it's free, is just an added bonus.

Stolen Cactus by Finijo

I'm not proud of it, but in 1994 when a co-worker told me I could not have any cuttings from a plant that was about 4 times the size of the one pictured here, I took three pieces of it anyway. I still think this is a gorgeous cactus all these years later and I have given away pieces over the years to anyone who wants some. I know it doesn't make up for stealing, but the beauty of this cactus has brought me (and others) much joy over the years, and the victim of plant purloining never noticed the pieces missing.

 Cactus Buds by Finijo

This is one of three cacti that I purchased several years ago to plant in the pot with the other cactus after a freeze killed similar cacti in the pot. It is still on my to do list, maybe this weekend I will finally get around to it. 

Mar 5, 2014

Any Human Heart

Any Human Heart (2011)

I awoke this morning to that peculiar feeling that comes along much less often than it did just a few years ago. I was queasy, achy, and crampy, and felt generally puny. Puny enough to call in sick and make plans to spend the day in bed. I could not fall back to sleep, so I started watching Any Human Heart on Amazon Prime and watched all 6 hours straight through. It was the perfect marathon for a cold, grey, wet March day.

Any Human Heart is the story of the life of a writer, beginning in his college days and up to his death. The story of his success, his failure, and the banality of his aging, were the backdrop to the story of the ebb and flow of his love and creativity. It was a beautiful story, sad and funny, too. In my hormonal haze, it was a story that felt very personal for me, and when the last scene played out, I wept until I wailed, and I was grateful that I was home alone. On such a cold day, my tears ran hot out of my eyes and down my face and I gagged and gasped for air between the wails. Alone, I allowed myself to have the kind of cry that you stifle if you feel that anyone is in earshot or might see you at your ugliest. Growing up, I only had time to cry like this just after arriving home from school, but before my sister made it home. It was a narrow window of opportunity, but that window was there five days a week. When I moved out on my own I had the freedom to cry at will, but it has been almost twenty years since I could afford the luxury of tears that solitude affords. I know I am lucky that I don't feel the need very often, but I do miss it sometimes, the catharsis of weeping.

Lately, I am feeling my losses keenly. While I miss everyone that has left, I feel myself pulling further away from my friends who are still here. I feel solitary, but not lonely and I feel an urgency to take care of all that needs to be tended to, while I still can. When feeling this way, I wonder if these thoughts passed through Grandma and Momma when they looked at the road ahead and realized that it was shorter than the road behind them.

I suppose that this is less a review of the movie and more of an expression of sadness, release, and relief...good movie, though. I definitely recommend it for a day like today.

Feb 22, 2014


 Making Do by Finijo

This year is off to a very difficult start, and try as I might, I have not been able to adjust to the frustration I feel. I thought the loss of my brother last year would make this year a breeze by default. I was wrong. On the deepest level I know that things are as they should be and I difficulty brings about growth, but my mind is fighting all of the disappointment. I feel like I am slogging through each day in mud that becomes deeper and more thick with each sunrise. Waking each morning, I try to "look on the bright side," but as the day progresses, this weight in my chest and on my shoulders crushes. Interest in painting, creating, dating, cooking, reading, gardening...pretty much everything I enjoy, holds no interest for me now and the numbness creeps further in. I know I need to stop resisting and just float, but I feel too heavy to float at the moment, like I need to break free of the cracked earth that encases me. I wish it would rain.

Jan 15, 2014

Uneasy Day

 Prison Dog by Finijo

Today was one of those days that left me feeling uneasy. The kind of uneasy that makes me queasy and brings to mind the feeling that I got as a child if I knew I was in trouble when my parents got home.
Lyon Legs by Finijo

This is the kind of feeling that brings on exhaustion, but prevents me from sleeping. In short, it sucks.
Discarded by Finijo

Jan 1, 2014

A Metaphoric Toast

A year ago today we received the call that changed everything. We all still miss you and we are all working through the unfinished business you left behind. I suppose we will be doing that for a long time. Tonight I try to put to sleep some of the sadness that has overtaken me during the last year and work toward making the coming year a year of peace and productivity. I have much that I want to experience and accomplish and it feels at times like I have not enough time to achieve the goals I set for myself. So tonight I lift my metaphoric glass to you, David West, and toast the peace that you have finally found and the life that the rest of us have to make the most of. We all love and miss you always.

Dec 27, 2013

Releasing the Ghosts

Exalted by Finijo

Another year draws to a close and I find myself reflecting. This year has been an ode to the acceptance of loss. There is no point in grieving what you do not have, but at times it is difficult to process that people who were in your life are now not. My brother died New Year's Eve 2012. I spent much of this year traveling back and forth to another state to deal with his estate and his business and to try to help his sons learn to live their new lives - without him. I doubt my success in that endeavor, but it was not for want of trying.

Now I am in the process of releasing several longtime friendships from my heart. Friendships that, truth be told, became one sided. For much too long, I have tried to hold up both ends all the while wishing that they would someday own their side once again. I thought I could hold on forever, but the weight became a burden that I no longer wish to carry. 2014 will be the year that I embrace endings, even when I don't desire them.

Choosing to let go is freeing me from the expectation that ghosts will provide comfort and support. Ghosts are memories, and while memories can create a wistful smile, they are not companions in the world. Even though they are transparent, easily seen through, their weight is heavy and cumbersome.

To all of my ghosts: I am grateful to have known you, to have learned from you, and to love you still. Now please be free, be happy, and perhaps we will meet again in the next life as friends.

Nov 17, 2013


 Winter is fast approaching and I am trying to prepare for the end of the year and get ready for a new, hopefully less stressful year. I have no reason to believe that it will (as it should) be anything less than the new beginning I desire. I have that itchy urge to travel welling up in me and I hope to make another trip abroad next year. I have one foot in the dream of exploration and another one stuck in the thick mud of responsibility.

I don't begrudge my responsibilities, because much of the best of my life is born out of the experiences I have with family and friends. I do wish to be lighter and not carry as much stuff and perhaps not as many people through this world with me, though. Our venture into selling items on line to make some extra money has run into the snag of taking up more room in the house than I am willing to give and taking more time to post the items than Marilyn is able to spare, so tonight I will pack all of it into bags and start dropping them off at Goodwill and The Salvation Army. 

The best laid plans...