Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oh, By the Way...

...and a propos of absolutely nothing, I wonder if Emily Bronte had Asperger's?

According to the Google search I just conducted, others have wondered the same thing.

It's the kind of thing you've gotta consider if you know anything about EB's story. She left behind almost no written record of her short life -- no letters, no diaries -- beyond Wuthering Heights and some juvenilia I believe exists but have only read about second-hand. Luckily, Charlotte loved her and wrote about her -- often a bit disingenuously, but that is what an older sister does when she wants the world to remember her younger sibling as more angel than oddball -- or even worse, social deviant. Because Emily Bronte was no Victorian "Angel in The House," that much I know is true.

I mean, have you READ Wuthering Heights? Heathcliff is no romantic hero, whatever the back of your Signet Classic says, and Cathy is as cruel and dangerous as her soul-mate.

Ugh. Shades of Scarlet and Rhett?
Oh, geez. Really??

The first time I read WH I was a teenager, and all I could do was hug my knees and wonder how so young a woman could have imagined and written down such heartbreaking acts of violence and cruelty. This was the stuff of nightmares, not of love.

None of this answers the Aspie question, but all of it is interesting, as far as I'm concerned.

And that, Readers, is your non-sequitur for tonight.

Once again, The Striped Nickel delivers. FTW!!

All Kinds of Wonderful

I'll bet the title of this post surprised you. You are not used to wonderful here at The Striped Nickel, are you?

Well, if you've been dropping by for a while, perhaps you are, but perhaps you've forgotten. Or think I have forgotten.

I haven't.

Here is some of the wonderful going on around here as we speak:

A. Benjy, Benjy, and more Benjy. He is doing so well, and his school is so amazing, I have to pinch myself a few times a day to make sure it's not all a dream. Readers, he is LEARNING, and not exclusively on his own. He has FRIENDS. He is MUCKING OUT HORSE STALLS AND FEEDING SHEEP.

Sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you. Not at all. I just cannot believe it and shouting allows me to hear it better. It's true, all true.

I love that boy so damn much it hurts. Seeing him hurts in a joyful way, and not seeing him hurts in a missing-you sort of way -- but not-seeing allows healing all around, so it's good. So. Very. Good.

B. Saskia is wonderful. WONDERFUL. Did I mention wonderful? Not sure what Lars and I did to deserve our girl besides contribute some genes of a very mixed nature -- when you have a spare eight hours or so I'll tell you all about our...uh, colorful families -- and teach her the things we strongly believe to be true. Which means she has a deep sense of the urgency of socio-economic justice for all. And she loves books and animals and people and ~OPERA~ and actually has the voice to SING it.

Also, she finds the dog-speak I use when I talk to Noo Noo hilarious. We laugh uproariously at the dinner table when I ask the Hound if he is ready for his Pill-Pocket with a yiddle Pred-nisone inside.

I appreciate that, because really? I think it's probably just weird.

Then again, we celebrate the weird in this household. Pied-beauties, eccentricities, things and people on the far-reaches of "normal."

Oh, and Saskia has brought music back into my life after a long, dry spell -- my own Sahara of the Bozarts, to borrow a witticism from some 20th-century southern writer but I don't remember which one -- and for that I am so grateful. Music was everything to me -- music and books, that is -- until life became so hard I couldn't fit them in anymore. There just was no room.

But every day now, there is more space in me. Every day I get to hear bits and pieces of arias and art songs floating through this house.  Sometimes I get to have them whole. And boy, does that make me happy.

Have you had enough, Readers? I hope not, because there is even more wonderful afoot here. There's Lars, of course. Everyone needs someone to make fun of, and Lars is always willing to oblige.

Somehow he has always managed to love me, even when I could not love the life I was living, or myself. He loved me through those forty pounds Risperdal packed on me, and through the long, sick period last winter and spring, when they fell off. He takes me as I am, the Gestalt, the whole package, imperfect as that may be.

Lars is good people.

Today I had the privilege of thinking about, and talking about, some of the issues that matter most to me, with some very thoughtful people. That there are real things binding all of us humans together, and that much work is yet to be done so that every person is treated with equal dignity and offered opportunities to be happy and to thrive.

It sounds so simple, but somehow it's not.

BUT: I am lucky to live in a place and at a time in which these conversations are possible. How utterly cool. How hopeful. How wonderful.

And finally, there is this:

A. E. Housman (1859–1936).  A Shropshire Lad.  1896.
LIV. With rue my heart is laden
WITH rue my heart is laden
  For golden friends I had,
For many a rose-lipt maiden
  And many a lightfoot lad.
By brooks too broad for leaping        5
  The lightfoot boys are laid;
The rose-lipt girls are sleeping
  In fields where roses fade.

A tiny poem, a profound thought. My Dad gave it to me as a gift when I was maybe ten or twelve. He did not write it, of course, but he wrapped it in tones of love and offered it to me so we could cry together. To this day, I hear those eight short lines in his voice. I thought of it last night because Saskia was talking about the generation of English poets writing around the time of the Great War. This was written earlier, but it trembles with that same unbearable sense of loss you find in Thomas Hardy and Wilfred Owen.

Readers, I have been thinking about "With Rue My Heart is Laden" since last night. It is so sad, yet so utterly beautiful.  Nearly perfect, I think. I hope you like it, whether for the first time or the hundredth. It's the final bit of wonderful I have to share with you until next time.

I hope next time comes soon!

Want to share your own wonderful in the comments? That would make my day!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Keeshond, My Keeshond

First, let me say that Keeshonds (or, Keeshonden, if you want to be all correct and Dutch-like -- and I do recommend being Dutch-like because the Dutch are generally a handsome and very nice people, and their language sounds a little like English and a little like German and a little like something else, which is both cool and disconcerting) are not easy to live with.

Ours isn't, in any case. It's the whole Spitz family of dogs, apparently. High maintenance.

Noo Noo is not easy, but oh is he loved. Probably by only four people in this world (or possibly six, but that might be a stretch). I have named him here at last, which I said I would never do because he prefers his misdemeanors to be anonymous.

I have named him now because I am afraid I may not be saying "Noo Noo" as often anymore, and his is a name I will miss terribly when the day comes that he is no longer living in this house.

Sometimes I over dramatize things. That's what Lars thinks. Although, Lars thought so when Saskia was so sick she kept crashing into the lockers at school and I kept taking her to the doctor to find out what was wrong. For a while the doctor did not know, and Lars said, "You're over-reacting! She has a little cold."

(Germans are apparently such a fierce people that HORRIBLE respiratory infections are merely an inconvenience. Although I've noticed that when Lars has a little cold our house shakes with dramatic sneezes, moans, and groans. Just saying.)

Well, turns out Saskia had pneumonia. Oh, and mono, too. Simultaneously. That's why when Lars tells me I'm over-reacting I tend to ignore him.

Anyway, Noo Noo is sick. This story is longer than my attention span right now, but it started a year ago with a series of seizures, followed by a year of nothing out of the ordinary. Then, a week ago, he started compulsively licking his haunch, until there was a bare spot the size of a silver dollar. He licked that spot until he broke it open, and then he licked some more until it became infected.

Noo Noo will not permit so much as a concerned squint in the general direction of his hot-spot. Woe is she who attempts it.

The OCD behavior was followed by progressive behavior changes this past week: aggression, depression, paranoia (or so Saskia and I think...he sure looked and acted paranoid last night), chewing and licking motions something like tardive dyskinesia (not sure if dogs get that), confusion, random barking at nothing, and oddness of gait.

But at times he was pretty normal this week, too.

Right now he is at the kennel, which is also the veterinary practice where he is a patient. The vet has seen him and is concerned.

Apparently there a few possibilities but the most probable have to do with his brain. Something is not right up there.

It could be a tumor. It could be doggy mental illness. (Can you fucking believe it? I just KNEW I was going to end up triaging even more psychiatric crises. Because, why not?) Whatever it is, he's clearly a bona fide member of our family.

And that sucks for poor Noo Noo, and it sucks for the rest of us. We love him. We need him. And we may not get to keep him till his seventh birthday in December.

I hope I am dead wrong. I thought the same about Benjy not so long ago. I did not know if we'd get to keep him forever. And now I'm pretty sure we will.

Although it doesn't happen often, I am occasionally wrong. Cross your fingers that this is one of those times, Readers.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

You Think I'm Dead, Don't You?

Well I'm not. I'm here, Readers. Sitting by Lars on the butterscotch couch. The Hellacious Hound is snoozing nearby, on the red rug, and Saskia is upstairs pretending to do homework but almost certainly doing other, more interesting things. (Trying on outfits that will not be warm enough when she leaves for school at 7:40 tomorrow morning, for example, or watching something like Parks and Recreation on Hulu, or maybe engaging in acts of Facebookery.)

The fact that I do not know and do not care overmuch tells you something about me right now.

It tells you I am tired.

I did talk to my boy tonight, after a three-day phone call hiatus that was not my choice but which we all survived just fine. My mother reminds me on a regular basis that no news is good news. And usually she is right.

He sounds a bit low these days but he is not in crisis -- yet. Maybe this will the first autumn in four years without a breakdown. Funnily enough, we'd forgotten that this is hospital season, that short days and long darknesses are incompatible with happiness -- in our boy, at least. It's because he has come closer than ever to happiness since I stopped being CEO of his life, that we'd forgotten about hospital season.

But here it is, and all we can do is cross fingers and act all German by pressing thumbs and shouting toi-toi-toi!, and hope he will be OK.

In other news, my short story "Hello, Kitty" will be published at some point (soon, I hope, but you never know) in the online journal YARN (Young Adult Review Network). I did not realize I'd written a YA story. I have never really written for children or adolescents. But my good friend and writing group buddy, Diana Renn, publishes for the young adult market and she told me that I had, in fact, done so.

And I said, "cool."

My other good friend and writing group buddy, Eileen Donovan-Kranz, has a wonderful story out on YARN right now, and if you read it you won't regret it.

Also, I registered Saskia tonight for the 2014 Classical Singer Competition. This is a biggie. She will compete in the first round of the high school division at Boston Conservatory (there are regional first-round venues across the country), and if she makes the semi-finals or beyond she will compete in San Antonio, TX in May. Her teacher thinks she will make it to semi-finals (probably not finals as she is on the younger side and singing art songs rather than arias -- and if you don't know the difference you are in very good company;). So we are excited but also terrified by the implications for our traumatized checking account.

(To be honest, I'm a bit annoyed by the fact that two out of the three composers whose work Saskia will be performing are people I'd never heard of. This challenges my inflated opinion of my own classical music intelligence. Oh well.)

And that, Readers, is that. Glad you didn't give up on me. :)