Sailing Unknown Waters

Earlier this afternoon, (after the painful introspection that we all need to do from time to time, but choose to refrain from) I discovered that part of the unease and unhappiness was due in part to the anticipated exit of the college kid from the nest. This is her senior year, and she already has staged plans to launch herself into that vast sky of Adulthood. The remainder of that reeking pile of gooey, emotional miasma is pure, clingy motherhood and the unwillingness to let go. Like most human beings, I am perfectly happy to dig a ditch and drag in a decorator, so overjoyed am I to contain myself in the habitat of a comfortable rut.

There is a joy in the simple terror of being drug out of the comfortable routine. Please note, I still use the word terror. I would have preferred ‘bloody screaming horror with a ninety-eight percent chance of pissing myself” but the husband claims I tend to over elaborate, exaggerate, embellish with prejudice. Of which I might own up to almost all of that, but only after a suitable period of retrospection. An epoch or so. Oh, that “joy” part? Only occurs when I discover some unique pattern to the scars left behind from planting fingernails, toenails and front incisors to the sides of the rut I am so damned determined to stay within.

catamaran

I must also admit to some pea-green jealousy when I espied another mother’s self-exposure of her anger and rage issues. Personally, I thought her more spectacular explosions of angst perfectly justified and I admired her self-control to refrain from reducing the gene pool by at least a half dozen self-righteous incubators of Chaos and kindred. I also wished I’d had her ear when I was mounting my campaigns against the windmills of public education for my ADHD challenged offspring.

All of the above aside, there is a certain private liberal arts college in Mt. Vernon, Iowa that took my daughter four years ago and has transformed a starry-eyed high school kid into a young adult with a stunning future ahead of her. I was so terrified to let her go 1100 miles away from Mom and Dad, even if I drove the big red truck with all that she deemed necessary. What if she couldn’t get her meds? What about the weather? I mean, she’s wasn’t exactly used to four seasons and all that white stuff that falls from the sky in the more Northern climes.

Now? Well, yeah – she’s convinced the parental units that moving to a Northern clime would probably be a good thing when the heat and allergens make it damn near impossible for them to get out and be as active as they need to be to stay relatively healthy. Score one for the offspring. There are probably more brownie points in the offing for her, but as she leaves our nest this one last time there is something else pending.

The Dane and I have only been without kids in the house for months at a time, this time there is the very real possibility of the child leaving for an overseas position. The others have fledged the nest, this is the last one to try out those wings. In truth, it’s not exactly an empty nest. The fur and purr-kids are still with us. Of those, only Toby has been with us almost as long as the kids, and we all know that eventually 13 year old ginger tomcats will find the Rainbow Bridge. I’m not ready for that transition, either.

I’m not and never will be a Domestic Goddess. Yeah, I can cook kick-ass Chicken & Dumplings, and the kids call me for my Mock Stroganoff recipe. Yeah, my grandfather’s chili recipe is an award winning fire starter. But, there is so much more to be said for the echoes of conversation, running footsteps, bus horns honking, dogs barking, kids laughing and the smell of pizza on a Friday night.

I don’t think I ever considered downshifting, and after all these years spent in “Adult Parent/Standard Cruise” I’m not sure that the old transmission remembers the lower, slower gear. Bear with me if you hear some gear grinding, or the chassis starts creaking, or worse yet one of the hoses fail. I’m assured by others that have made this change, that the slope is navigable and the waters will be somewhat constant. Further, the transition from Conestoga to Catamaran is possible.

Hell, with the size of my underwear these days, it is entirely possible.

But, if you hear me mumbling about needing a “tall ship and a star to steer her by” – please pull me aside and check my caffeine levels. For that matter, please double check that I’m not smoking the local wildflowers. Goddess only knows where this is going, but something assures me the journey will be epic.

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Watch This Space

galaxy

I’ve been so scattered of thought, body and spirit of late that I nearly totally blanked that I even had a blog. No worries though; there’s this little e-mail notification that tells me that the spam-meisters have been hard at it again. I really do wish that I had less of an ethical filter at times, because whamming the crap outta their blatant promo would just thrill my little dark heart.

At some time in the VERY near future, I will be hosting a wonderful author & friend on this site, so if you are following me, please be nice to her. Read some of her work and feel free to fawn all over her awesomeness. (Hope you’re blushing pink at this point, Angel Martinez….<evil grin>) Further, to all the beloved author friends hammering the good times gong at the Romantic Times 2015 convention in Dallas this week, huge and gentle hugs. Sorry you folks had to hit here during the rainy season!

This is the time of the year that the Dane and I shift gears into parental mode because the college kidlet is at home for her final summer break before kicking off her senior year at Cornell College. We are incredibly proud of her and just KNOW that she’s going on to incredibly awesome adventures (especially if the posse’ she’s surrounded herself with is any indicator!) Beyond that, there are other opportunities that are dragging us away from Cat’s Paw Acres. It’s time for us to re-connect, re-consider, re-new and re-vamp. That being said, I’m having to learn about some time management wherein health concerns are part of that equation. Did I ever mention that I SUCK at algebra?

We’ve lost some more of our barn cats due to a bumper crop of coyotes and my heart is heavy with their loss. Until recently, both the coyotes and the cats were fine having co-opted a truce that included George the Anatolian being the gatekeeper of goodness. Once George was taken out of the picture by incarnated slime parading as neighbors, everything fell out of balance and relative peace. While I totally despise the idea of returning to being apartment dwellers, it appears that this will be our temporary respite until we leave the State. Which means I get to explore the outer limits of Creative Downsizing.

On a happier note, a completely different surprise in that I’m actually hitting my stride with “Lyriel’s Moon” – a novel that I’ve had in my head to write ever since I narrowly escaped the clutches of the Evil Day Job with my very life. If you are ever victimized by an evil supervisor, boss or co-worker, I heartily recommend exacting revenge through the medium of writing. Nothing feels quite so invigorating as creating your own version of Karmic Payback to bless them with. I’ve created a playlist on YouTube that consists of all my beloved 80’s hair bands, some late 70’s rock, and a few of the latest happy musical creations that has me chair dancing and rocking out as I put my characters through the blender of human experience. The Yorkie thinks I’m two biscuits short of a snack, the cats are conversing about my shredded threads of sanity, and the neighbors are nervously avoiding me. It’s all good.

Sending out love and gentle hugs to one and all. Billy Joel and the rest are tuning up, and the Muse beckons.

A Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

YouTube sent out an e-mail today where in honor of International Women’s Day, they asked women to make a video letter to their younger self.  Well, I’m still on the upward climb of learning video technology, but I knew I could write that letter. Without further ado, here is the “Letter to my 18 year old self.”

**************************************************************************************************************************************************************chicago peace rose

 

Dear Me;

 

I’m writing you nearly two years after a life-altering event and near-death episode. Since it’s been 39 years since I made a monumental decision to join the military instead of attempting to find a way to go to college, I’m writing this so that hopefully, one day, time travel of at least video correspondence is a reality. In November of 1975, I raised my right hand, and had Mom sign an age waiver so I could gain entry into the Texas National Guard. I was so idealistic, so naïve, so sure I was doing the right thing.

Yes, going into the military was a good thing; but I seriously needed someone to tell me about homesickness and familial dysfunction and alcoholism and rape. I seriously needed someone to tell me that my spirit was a beautiful, sacred thing and all those empathic impulses I’d been denying were REAL. I needed someone to help me find the beautiful Goddess in Training that I was, to find the self-confidence that the writing voice within should never have been denied over the need to simply survive. I needed the strong guidance that helped me discover I could do this on my own, that I never needed a man to make me complete. I needed someone to teach me by example that a life companion complemented who you are, not changed you to fit their reality. Further, no one had the right to raise a hand to you in rage; no one had the right to define your spirituality, confine you to their definition of Deity.

There was so much of the masterpiece of my being that was so incomplete at 18 that it should have been considered a felony for me to have been sent out into the world of the late 70’s without at least a Master Class in Reality. You are more than pumps, sandals, boots, or bare feet. You are more than jeans, cut-offs and bikini bottoms. You are more than a bra, a halter top or a t-shirt. You are more than the outside accoutrements of clothing, or style. Your spirit is as free as Jonathan Livingston Seagull, never let anyone tell you or try to convince you otherwise. In fact, do yourself a favor – don’t allow anyone who attempts to corral who you are with conventionality to stay in your life.

Education is a passport to freedom, little one. No one can steal the treasures of knowledge you hold between your ears. There is nothing shameful about being intelligent, there is only the shame later that you were never able to develop the bright promise you held. I said it before and I’ll say it again and again – if the guy you want doesn’t comprehend what you love, let him go. Someone will show up that shares your love of the stars, and the planets, and Star Trek and all things geeky. Someone will show up that is as much a hopeless romantic as you are, and if you are willing to let that special someone, they will sweep you off your feet and worship you every day of your lives together.

Don’t allow the bigotry of those around you blind you to the beauty of everyone you meet. Commit the words of Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata to heart and find a way to live/express/develop the intent of that writ every moment that you draw breath. Find a way to play every day, coloring books are not the territory of the very young, neither are finger paints or Play-Doh, or Legos, or Lincoln Logs or even rag dolls and dollhouses. Remember the fun you had in the kitchen with your grandmother, and your nannies, and learn that food is as much a palette as are words and crayons.

Last, learn to grieve as deeply as you loved. Never allow someone to tell you to “get over it.” While the great sages and wise women through the ages affirm that we are never truly separated from those we love, there are those who will share time with you as you dance on this planet that will only share the journey but briefly. They will be the beacons of Light along parts the dimly lit passages as no life is lived in sunlight alone. Never forget to appreciate the Light in your life; taking people for granted should be considered a mortal sin.

When you have children, stick to your guns and your gut. Your intuition as a mother is a far better diagnostic tool than the most schooled pediatrician, the most well-intentioned educator. You KNOW your children. Never deny yourself a moment spent with the extra cuddle, the additional kiss on the forehead, the caress of a silky head. Spending time cuddled together on the ‘mommy/daddy’ bed builds a bond that no one can ever break, and gives them memories of security and love to hold in their hearts forever. Remember that old pots and pans, worn out aprons and wooden spoons are far better toys than those that others spend a fortune on. Teaching them how to build fairy houses out of leaves and sticks encourages imagination, and planting a garden together grounds them to life itself.

Creating things of use and beauty with knitting needle, sewing needle or crochet hook, hands a legacy to all children. There’s nothing wrong with teaching the playmates of your kids how to do it either. Oh yes, one more thing, and it’s the most important. Kids are like that garden you’ll grow together. They need the sunshine, the dirt and the water. Letting them dance naked in the rain allows their spirit that freedom of expression in a memory that will get them through the tough times they will undoubtedly face.

You are an incredible person. You will meet other incredible persons and you will meet people of both great good and horrific evil. When you meet people of evil, walk away. Quickly. Do not attempt to find the good in anyone that greets you with all the ugliness that they are. Accept them as ugly and walk away. The greatest truth is the saddest lesson you will have to learn, and it is this: Good people attract bad people like ants to a picnic. Ants have the right to be ants, but you do not have to sit there and let them hurt you. They have their place in the scheme of things, and it is up to you if you choose to share your life with anyone who willfully hurts you. Make a different choice.

Life is incredibly short. Dance. Eat with joy. Love with abandon. Appreciate the special people in your life, and allow to pass those who would cause you or yours harm. Grow a garden, love a pet, plant a tree. When it is time to go, you want to look back and laugh with love.

Hug yourself for me – and let go of any regrets – you can always start over, on any given day.

Love,

Me.

Tums & Tarantulas

tarantula

We all have demons to slay; those personal little horrors that sit quietly gnawing at the back corners of our sanity until common sense and equilibrium start leaking out of the hole in our souls. Such is grief when never properly allowed to be expressed, and if you came from a family that put the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional’ you can identify with this. As such, I’ve carried 3 camels worth of sorrow for my beloved best friend. Further, I’ve never found a way to process it; so, when in the flash of an instant it came crashing back over my psyche, I was a sobbing huddled-in-sorrow mess on the floor of my office.

For me, part of the healing process comes with writing about this unique friendship and the bizarre joys of our time as roommates. It was the eighties, I’d just barely escaped the clutches of an abusive husband and Mary had lost her previous roomie (a cousin) to job changes. Fate had us looking to move closer into town from the wilds of the suburbs, and as luck would have it, a rather fashionable townhouse had opened up just down the block from where I was working.

This was both opportune and serendipitous as not only was the grocery store within walking distance, should I choose to change my current employment situation, the metro stop was fairly close as well. I was working as an assistant credit manager and deposit clerk in an upscale department store, Mary was working as the educational liaison for a chain of nursing homes. We were both fairly happy in our positions and loved the proximity to entertainment, restaurants, etc. that our new home would provide.

The townhouse had a gated courtyard and a willow tree that I happened to adore with all the romantic bliss of the ignorant. It also had a fireplace; something Mary and I both insisted upon because hot cocoa and Grade B romance movies were a passion on those long Friday nights without dates. I’d taken the upstairs bedroom and en-suite bathroom, she’d chosen the downstairs. I loved my room with its lovely bay window shaded by the willow tree, she was happy with the room downstairs and its relative quiet as I was working long hours.

For the first six months, it was bliss. We’d have lunch together in the food court of the mall attached to the store where I was working when she was in town and we’d chat, laugh, and catch up on what was going on in our lives. Her job required travel no less than 4 days a week, so our lunch dates were special to both of us. We’d also plan out menus, shopping, movies, laundry, carpet shampooing, mundane household tasks, and when we could escape to go see her folks in North Texas. Her Dad had simply ‘adopted’ me as another kid in the family and when we went to see them, I had chores just like everyone else.

Then, early one spring morning I was pouring a bowl of Corn Flakes and discovered a very nasty buddy in my bowl; in fact, several. Cockroaches had infiltrated the cereal box and were feasting on my morning munchies. I’m not squeamish, but I squealed a very loud squeal of disgust. Mary’s howl of horror was not far behind. Then, when she went to open the refrigerator, several came flying out of the rubber seal of the door. We opened the cupboard doors under the sink and discovered a cavalcade of critters under there was well. She immediately called the 24 hour maintenance line and demanded extermination services.

For the next month or so, we were in chemical warfare against the little 6 legged invaders. We bought hermetic containers for any foodstuff that usually resided in a box, changed out canisters, and basically robbed the bastards of any foodstuff we could think of. Until, they broached the last bastion of our sanity. When deprived of any foodstuff humans normally consume, they turned to the electronic and proceeded to eat the plastics and coating within our video cassette player and television. Cry HAVOC!

We were at our wit’s end, eating lunch in the food court and were discussing everything from radiation to relinquishing the place we loved so much when, this tall rangy fellow from the exotic pet store comes over to our table and introduces himself. “Hey, there ladies! My name’s Clint, and I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation and your problem and well – I think I have the solution.” Mary and I were stunned into silence with the sudden, unexpected introduction to the fella, but nothing could have prepared us for Clint bringing a small terrarium with a HUGE brown tarantula in it around from behind his back and placing it right in the center of our lunch table. I immediately attempted to see how far my butt would fit in the large planter behind me and I remember Mary attempting to climb Clint like a tree in order to affect escape. Yes, there were the usual accompanying sound effects of squealing, screaming females.

Clint, in the process of prying Mary out of his hair and off of his person, remained nonplussed by our reaction and began calmly explaining that tarantulas give off a pheromone that sends roaches packing. We looked at one another; which one was going to do terrarium or rather terror-ium duty? Who was going to feed the eight-legged monster once he’d eaten every roach? How often do they pee/poo and what does cleaning up after a tarantula entail? We were not convinced that any amount of salesmanship was going to confer ownership of the spider to either of us. “Ok,” Clint sighed, “Ladies, look. I’ll loan you the tarantula for a month or two. I’ll even come over once a week to check up on him and see how he’s doing. Heck, I’ll even set the whole thing up.”

“Look,” Mary replied, “as long as you take care of that thing and neither of us have to do one thing that remotely involves removing the top of the container he lives in, we’re good. And DON’T get funny and slip in a pregnant female thinking it a joke because we WILL hunt you down!” Clint sorta turned a bit pale, but true to his word, that evening after the mall closed he came over and set up “Hairy’s” home in a corner of the galley kitchen of our townhouse.

A couple of nights later, we were curled up watching MASH and Mary looked with a funny glance at me and muted the sound on the television. “Do you hear a funny crunching noise?” She asked.

“Yeah, I do. Sorta like someone eating Frito’s.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“But, it sounds like it’s coming from the kitchen.”

“I ain’t going in there alone.”

“Me neither.”

“Come on, Roomie.”

“Oh, God! Ok.”

What we did not expect was to see something vaguely reminiscent of a 50’s science fiction thriller; Clint had set the terrarium up with a pickle jar lid of Cheerios in the corner. We’d assumed that this must be some sort of unknown treat for the tarantula, what the Hell did we know about tarantula diet? Nope, good ol’ ‘Hairy’ was crunching down on the cockroaches that nearly covered the small pile of cereal in the corner of his habitat, like a kid crunching on Cheezy Poofs. We would have screamed in horror, but the objects of our more immediate disgust were being permanently removed from our environs one juicy crunch at a time.

True to his word and ‘Hairy’s’ appetite, within six weeks the roach problem was reduced to the ‘damn near extinct’ level in the townhouse. Clint came over to take ‘Hairy” back to the pet shop, but Mary decided that as long as Clint would come over and “service” the beast we’d buy him and give him a home. Then, Clint gave us one more little trick to address the cockroach problem.

The fella was a good salesman because if he’d shown us this little trick, we might never have agreed to ‘Hairy’s’ presence. From a bag, Clint retrieved beer bottle caps. I asked, “What, we’re gonna get them drunk and toss ‘em out the door?” “Nope.” He grinned.

He placed a bottle cap next to the baseboards at the common wall between us and our neighbor’s townhouse. Then, out of his pocket he produced a roll of Tum’s antacids and he placed one in the bottle cap. “Now,” he smugly noted,” we wait.”  Within a minute or two, a cockroach came up from under the baseboards and began nibbling on the tablet. After a couple of minutes, the insect left the tablet, replete. It then began to walk across the carpet and it didn’t make it six inches before we heard a distinct “pop” and the insect jerked once and rolled over, dead. “Roaches can’t burp, ladies.” Clint calmly announced.

Mary would have fumed, but Clint was grinning such a gamine smile, she just threw her hands up in the air and for the next hour or so we were placing bottle caps with Tums tablets in them all over the townhouse. Granted, for a couple of nights the sounds of exploding roaches was a little unsettling, but we vacuumed up the conquered invaders with a sense of satisfaction that we were no longer engaging in hazardous chemical warfare, and we’d taken a homeless tarantula off the streets.

So, there you are. A little story that will forever remain in my heart about our escapades as roomies and how we simply didn’t give up the little townhouse we both so loved. Perhaps I also believe that in sharing this a wee bit of the grief that I’ve carried for 27 years has melted. Love ya’, Mur….

Behind “Home”

trail home

There’s been a ghost of an idea sitting on the back burner of my mind for a few days; more than just the usual ‘because’ that grants perpetuity in the writer’s mind. This niggling, this fomenting creation of firing synapses and fulminating neurons is much more than that. It’s a concept that is being borne out every day in some new way by hard science and prattled upon mercilessly by one guru or another.

In a very simple derivative, it is thus: all that we are is the summation of what is around us at any given time. We must needs be mindful of this at every moment or accept the consequences. Breaking this down into chunks or simple bits of digestible concept much like cold cereal follows. (Yes, stuff like this really DOES bubble around in my brain…maybe I should have had a bit more support in the educational realm.)

There now exists hard science that our bodies shed cells on a regular basis – we are ever in the process of becoming who we are on a regular daily, almost, cycle. Given this, stop for a moment and think. Where did your breakfast come from? Was it grown locally? Touched by the hands of a neighbor? Was it harvested by machine or by hand? Was it transported in a refrigerated truck far away from where it first saw sunlight? Did it sit in a warehouse waiting for its lot to be bid upon before moving on to a distribution center? Where does every iota of what you eat come from? Where are the hands that touched it in some form before you purchased it and brought it home to grace your oven, hotplate or microwave before it graced your plate and table? Do you know these people? Would you have them share your dinner with you? You do, you know.

Every time you eat, everything you eat has been touched by others in the process of here to there; unless of course, you grow and harvest every morsel of food you put into your mouth. So with this in mind, let’s track your day. Who grew the beans that were later harvested by another, transported by yet another, processed by an additional handful, roasted, blended and ground to be put into a container that found its way to your kitchen pantry and thus your coffee cup? Do you ever think to thank the blessed hands, hearts and minds of each person that touched the coffee you now drink? How about the hands of the laborers that went into making the coffee machine that brewed the beverage you now consume? Like it or not, we are all creations of energy; we expend it in myriad ways throughout our day, but we take it in likewise. The sum of each person’s touch is in every item of clothing we wear, every morsel of food we eat, the cars we drive. Our days, our world, our presence is literally filled to the brim with the essence of another – in fact many others.

When we allow Oligarchs and Plutarchs to rule, they seek to stifle, muffle, and silence the voices and the energies that make this energy exchange bright and joyous. Without the love of the land as expressed by a human farmer, the beauty and health of the wheat field loses something in the process of providing life-sustaining grain. Without the loving hands of those that prune, tend and harvest them, tomatoes seem to lose the vibrant flavor that dances upon our tongues and sings within the sauces and dishes that they later grace. Let us add the additional dimension of presence of place.

Many of us choose to live within an urban environment, some of choose instead to thrive well off of the beaten paths of civilization. Some of us live upon the water, and some of us have no door to close nor roof to shelter our heads. Wherever we find ourselves, we need be mindful of where we are for many reasons; the least of which was stated earlier – we change, we recycle, we regenerate our cells on a regular basis. The building blocks of who we are we must get from somewhere.

Think about this – think about it hard, for more than just the moment that you are taking to read this blog. Do you know the barista that made your coffee? Do you know the hands and heart of the person who crafted a cheese Danish for your consumption? Are you aware that the chicken that laid the egg you are eating may very well be living out her short miserable life in a 1 x 1 foot cage and force fed nutrients that do nothing more than force her to lay egg after egg?

There’s a very simple reason why home-grown tomatoes taste so good. The obvious reason is the vine picked freshness, but think of the joy and energy put into the plant with the daily watering and hand care received by the plant itself. But, you argue – I cannot raise the wheat that makes my bread, or the corn that goes into my tortillas, or the beef and fish and chicken that I consume. Maybe there’s another Truth you need to embrace and integrate. Are you within reasonable commute distance to a farm? Have you ever made an effort to get to know where your food comes from? When was the last time you kicked off your shoes and let your naked feet embrace the soil?

As a whole, we humans have forgotten our sense of tribe, our sense of unity with all things living and growing. We’ve neglected to remember our bodies crave communion with the earth our bodies are made of. We’ve forgotten the music of the winds, the waters, the hymns of feather, fur and scale. What’s even worse, we’ve convinced ourselves that wandering from place to place without discovering the “feel” of where we are is a ‘normal’ thing.

As a result, our children are numbed out with medication, we take pills to wake up, go to sleep, and keep our attentions focused on the production of mindless crap. We’ve neglected to embrace our elderly in a healthy manner and allow them to pass their stories to our young. We’ve failed to place adequate value in sound judgments that will stand the test of common sense and altruism. Further, and perhaps even more shameful, we refuse to govern ourselves beyond electing a sound bite and carefully packaged automaton whose sole purpose to exist is for the elite.

If we can, it is now past time to put our courage to the sticking place and take charge of change with both hands. If you only have one hand, make sure it’s your neighbor’s that you grab because like it or not, we’re in this together. None of us can single handedly raise the food, shelter and transportation required of our lives; but we can remember and learn to accept as family those that can.

The “Me” generation was wrong; it is past time that “We” stand up, get over the petty issues, address the serious ones and move into our tomorrow – mindful of who we are, where we come from , and where we intend to go. At the very least, before you consume anything; eat food, pump gas, buy a piece of clothing, perhaps it would be a good thing to be mindful of the hands behind its creation – and give thanks.

The Year’s End

New Years celebration

 

Tomorrow is my 57th birthday. I still have no wish to “grow up” because to me, the next thing would be “growing old” and I refuse that judgment upon my person. I still believe in love, I still believe in the magic of those Unseen to affect beauty all around me, and I still believe (somewhat) in the goodness of the human race. I believe in romance; the kind that leaves you teary-eyed and breathless after a tender kiss. I believe in long-lasting relationships because the nature of love is compromise, care, comfort and consideration for one another. Oh, to be sure we all mix it up now and again to keep things fresh, funny and delightful to our beloveds.

I believe in reincarnation because I am very much a work-in-progress. It would be absurd, with all the flaws inherent in my being, to expect me to conquer them all in a single mortal lifetime. Especially if your lifetime has been foreshortened in a flash, with an unexpected crash. I believe in Wonder; because if I have forgotten what it looks like, all I have to do is find a four-year old to remind me.

When all the Ugly of this world descends upon me, all I really have to do is reach out to another. This has been the hardest lesson of all, because for years, I only interacted with others thru a narrow window of a bubble – refusing more than the scant contact of a phone call, a brief meeting in a small cubicle, the direct dryness of an e-mailed message. I wrote my stories at home, safely tucked away from the rest of the world in a 9 X 6 office, 30 miles from the nearest hub of human commerce. I liked it that way because those that deliberately looked for folks like me to harass, annoy, tease, belittle or outright bully could not reach me here; and I could illumine their souls with my limited understanding in the vain attempt to discover why they felt so compelled.

When you least expect it, Serendipity waves her magic wand and you find yourself bed-rest bound with a scary prognosis and an interminable wait for a follow-up CT scan and MRI. However, because of the Common Thread of Mercy, you also end up entertained by a lovely series of urban fantasy books. This was to be only the outside of the nesting dolls of discovery, but so little did I know.

Then, I discovered what a wonder a blog could be, and my eyes were sure to be as big as that four-year-old upon seeing fireworks from the top of a hay bale in a moonlit sky. Oh, the Universe wasn’t through with me, because then I had the joy of a writer’s retreat. Not before a near-complete meltdown, however. This little country mouse was secretly terrified of leaving her safe nest under the huge ash tree in the middle of the prairie. It took a lot of hand-holding, some serious acceptance of limitations and a warning of a bruised ego should she turn around and run back to the safety of the sun-dappled shadows, but Country Mouse not only navigated the airport and the rental car kiosk, but Chicago traffic and her own limited knowledge of getting maps to work on a smartphone.

There were some disappointments along the way as well; Google Maps is never accurate, hindsight is always better than gut-level panic, and re-think what you really need to pack before you have to schlepp it all over Creation. Learning your new limits or finding a new normal have been watch phrases for me; and in the spirit of being honest, not exactly welcome. The trade-off, because we do live in a Universe of Balance, is that I made some friends that have felt like they will and have always been a part of my heart.

The next stage of my life is a complete unknown – it’s like standing behind the curtain at an improv. You have no clue what you’re going to do, but you have a gut level feeling that you can wing it if you can just get over the fear factor. Every muscle in your body is both relaxed and tensed at the same time, your mind is racing and your breathing skips a bit along with your heart. However, there is that still, small voice telling you that “You. Got. This. You’ve had it your whole life. Now. Is. The. Time.”

To be sure, there is a wonderful happy part of me that is simply aching to share some good news. (I’m going to be published!) Of course, there is the part of me that simply wants the mess out of the house so she can sit down and finish writing some of the stories that fizzled to a whisper because of the distractions of crap she simply cannot abide! (Obsessive/compulsive, much?)

Here I sit, at the end. A sudden realization tearing my eyes; I am the only one with this voice, this perspective. Should I be too shy to sound out, the whispers of what I see will dim and face into the emptiness of Chaos, with no one to note that I even sat here at all. The fear of silence being more than the shyness of sharing a beloved’s touch on my neck, shoulders and the tentative kiss of “good morning” on a still sleeping face.

Soundtracks of a hundred movies sit in my queue, background music to a chattering brain flexing verbiage and feathered synonyms to paint the mind pictures. The window frames the sere grass overgrown for lack of a sufficiently powered mower to tackle the front acre. Naked limbs of crepe myrtle, mimosa, ash and tallow give depth to the framing, and within a golden pool of illumination, the fingers move and then still; here creation moves one phrase at a time.

Tomorrow, my heart will still waltz to an unheard tune, my eyes still looking for the miraculous, and my hands will still reach to learn that next, more difficult crochet pattern. Getting the brain to engage will always be the new challenge that the new normal has become, but I refuse to ‘grow up.’ No one ever said it that it was mandatory anyway; I prefer to grow better.

Mays the Bells of the New Year bless you and yours with their soul stirring chimes.

Gentle Hugs,

 

Rhae

Takin’ Tater home….

tater

On the Eve of Christmas Eve…..

This has not been the usual week of borderline sanity at home. First, the college kid is home for the winter break. The larder needs re-stocking as I’ve adjusted to just the Dane and me for edibles in the pantry, fridge and freezer. This will later reflect itself in “The Shopping Trip from Dante’s Acid” later. It also means that the cats, particularly Phucktard Phred, will be overjoyed that she’s back. For Phred it means that he get to be Protectorate Cat in Chief for “Kitty Mama Number Two” in exchange for nighttime warm snoozes at the foot of her bed. To show his appreciation the first night she was home, he dropped a half-dead, partially consumed gecko into her nearly-asleep cleavage. Knowing she would stampede the parental units if she screamed, she instead stifled her scream and upon retrieving the critter, tossed him under the bed to seek refuge. The following night, said gecko, still having a death-wish, dropped from the ceiling onto her shoulder. Keep in mind that we live in the sticks, anything from a scorpion to a drunken bat could have fallen onto her shoulder, thence to climb into her hair. Of course, this is the child that KNOWS better than to stampede the parental units with nighttime drama unless the need is acute; rather than give into the bone-numbing fear whatever-it-was invoked, she chose to lift a trembling hand to discover that Mr. I-Have-No-Tail-Because-Of-The-Cat Gecko had returned. With bravado unheard of in my offspring heretofore, and knowing full well that scarcely three nights previous there was a rattlesnake out there, she takes the gecko outside to the back porch. It’s our expected protocol for most critters, this “catch and release.” It was protocol for the children during camping trips as well, but that’s a whole different post. The now-tailless gecko goes his merry way and Phred’s place as a foot-of-the-bed guardian Lion-Cat is assured.

Today is unusual as it’s the re-scheduled day for my weekly visit to the therapist. When I get to her office/home, she’s still half asleep and in a robe as she was up until 3 am filing the paperwork for my insurance claim. It seems that yet again, the paperwork process has changed and she now needs to re-submit 3 months’ worth of my visits on a new online system that is more difficult to navigate than the IRS website and just as glitchy. She has the patience of a saint, and I just move to a small settee for our weekly chat as she fixes herself coffee, toast and we just do our usual visit in unusual surroundings. In the end, it works out better because dealing with change has always been a bit of a sticking point with me, and I needed her as a sounding board to deal with the trauma of the precious day’s shopping nightmare. But the frustration of dealing with the new filing system is evident in our visit. I ask myself; are all my primary medical contacts going to have to deal with this, as well? Honestly. If this is your “new normal”, quit calling yourself “insurance” and adjoin the proper description of your function as “protection racket.”

However, it was back to dealing with the insanity of shopping this close to a major holiday and children being allowed to run rampant in a very, very busy retail setting. This was not apparent in in one store but in all three that we visit in order that acquire the makings for not one, but two costumes as both the Dane and Kat are doing costume play (cosplay) at IkkiCon this year. My agoraphobia kicked in hard and all I wanted to do was bend physical laws and reach light speed to return home. I was grateful to get home, but both Kat and I were not in doing well for mental stability. The noise, the frenetic activity and the hostility from other shoppers twisted our experience into a visit into Dante’s psyche.

Soon enough, our time is over and I am driving home; food for thought growling around in my brain as it always does after these sessions and as I make one of the final turns to come home, in the middle of the road is a black bloodhound. He looks totally lost and completely thrilled to be seeing a human being; his tail wagging so hard it affects his back legs in the thump, thump, thumping of a joyful dog. I put the car in park, and go to open my door and see if I can get close to him; close enough to see if the tags on his collar could give me an idea as to who he was and where he belonged. The back country road he was traversing was NOT a safe place for two-leggers, much less four-leggers. As I exit the car, the dog sees his opening and jumps right in! He then jumps into the rear seat and starts to nose the cold window glass, I roll down the window for him, and he sits down as if fully expecting to go on a road trip. He was so excited, that I couldn’t get a grip on his collar and I made the decision to take him to the house and engage the assistance of the college kid. As we near the top of the ridge, the animal decides to engage in what bloodhounds do best, bay and howl. What the Hell, I figure, I’ll just howl with him. He was startled into silence the first time I answered his howl with one of my own. Until that is, he did it again. We were making sweet mountain music all our own all the way to the homestead.

We drive down the long driveway onto the acreage and George decides to join in with his own unique ‘bark from the balls’ addition to our chorus. From the time that George put his nose up to greet the bloodhounds’, a friendship begins to bloom; and frankly it was inevitable. Both are big, black dogs, both have distinctive voices, and both are just damned goofy. Kat helps me dog-wrangle the bloodhound and I get the vet’s phone number from his tag. I place a call and discover that a.) His name is “Tater” and b.) He lives about 3 miles from us. I get his owner’s phone number and his ‘critter-mama’ answers the phone. ‘Tater’ has been a bad boy and dug out of his yard again to go ‘visitin’ the neighborhood. I’m watching Tater and George sniff and play with each other as I’m making arrangements to get Tater back to his owners when I hear a strange yelp and see the college kid suddenly fall over laughing. Apparently in his way of sayin’ “Howdy!” to Tater, George put his cold, cold nose on Tater’s warm boy dog parts; the resulting vertical 3 foot leap and startle howl/yelp being of particular hilarity. In the meantime, the Dane has been awakened from his slumbers by the howling and the happy cannonade of bark from George. “What th’ Hell is that gawd-awful noise?” he stagger bellows from the hallway. It was almost a sudden verbal blow that my beloved would find the sweet bay of a bloodhound a ‘gawd-awful noise’ – never has our disparate childhoods been a factor in our relationship. Upon hearing my answer once more, the Dane grumbles from the darkened hallway, “The answer is ‘Hell to the No!’” My heart quavered a little, but I also realized that feeding TWO of George would require a bit more income or the graduation of a child from an institution of higher education.

Kat and I pile into the car and open the back door of Jean-Luc d’Cube for Tater. He jumps in and no sooner than Aerosmith starts thumping from the stereo but he begins to happily howl again. I can just hear the Dane in the house begin the growl and grumble over the joyful noise. I’m starting to get an evil idea that begins with a dark chuckle. Up and over the ridge and we’re back down the long, long country road the leads out of the back of beyond where the home front is. Soon we pull up to the mailbox that denotes the address of Tater’s owners, and sure enough there’s a young man waiting in a pickup truck for our arrival. Tater jumps out and then can’t make up his mind which vehicle he wants to be a part of. The young man is desperately trying to get Tater’s attention aimed in the general direction of the open cab of the truck. It take a bit of effort to wrangle 90 pounds of excited bloodhound to jump into the truck, but it’s managed with only a little bit of frustration and a lot of ignoring the tail-wagging excited baying howls. Later, Tater….I think I feel the addition of “play-dates” for George.

However, in tiniest corner of my heart, I am planning the addition of a bloodhound to our homestead. I realized what I missed in not having the sweet music of a happy howling bay to greet me home and howl with. No, the Dane has no clue; then again, he’d probably find me an early entrance into an old folk’s home if he had a clue that the addition of my dreams of “Boudreaux” will also include the addition of a mule, too.

The Home Front

EnchantedFairyHouse2

I never intended to raise a house full of girls. In fact, I think I can remember several occasions where I apologized for not giving my husband a boy to carry on his name. His answer was, “Have you SEEN my side of the family? We’re good.”

Be that as it may, just because there were females under the roof does NOT mean that there was a quiet, happy joy within the walls. Nope. No doubt there are Marine barracks full of rowdy males that were QUIETER and more sanitary than our home. From “fairy houses” of sticks, stones and mud to chickens (yes, I said CHICKENS) and the occasional kitten, there was always some sort of Chaos bubbling just under the surface of what appeared to be normalcy.

From birth, my girls were just itching to be into everything. Not a single one of them waited until their first birthday to walk, no run. At about 6 months, the urge to merge into bipedal freedom rose up along with their diapered little backsides. By 9 months of age, it was time to grab onto the curtains and cruise the furniture until “SURPRISE!” balance and locomotion made that little connection and it was time to run Mother ragged with squeals of glee and baby chuckles.

The firstborn had 3 acres and a pecan tree stump to wander over as she toddled into childhood from infancy. Not that she didn’t find enough mischief to get into; but dandelions were so much FUN to blow into her Papaw’s beautifully manicured St. Augustine lawn. A span of 8 years and then she had a sibling to join in on the domestic affairs, but Kat, the middle child, decided that living in the cupboards with the pots and pans was infinitely more enjoyable than just blowing dandelions into the manicured greens of the townhouse community we lived in.

Two years later and the last of the Celtic Warrior Queens Reincarnate came aboard just in time to celebrate with fireworks, watermelon and 100 degree temperatures in a very rural setting. We welcomed our first Great Pyrenees into our lives at the same time and of course he aided and abetted the baby’s first steps. What child could resist all that long white fur and gentle nature?

It appeared that the stage was set then, for all the antics and memorable moments to come. The move back into city life and the tiny apartment that barely managed to contain all the life within. The Yule tree that came with its own Squirrel; which didn’t reveal itself until the Dane was cutting off the 8 inches off the top to make it fit and managed to cut off the tip of his thumb when the squirrel made a panicked attempt at retreat down his body length. It gets better, the squirrel managed to find a way OUT of the apartment under the kitchen sink, but not without disturbing the bat that was sleeping/hibernating in the exit. When the sink door was opened to retrieve the dishwasher detergent, the bat fled the confines of the cabinet and all females of the household ran screaming for the relative safety of the master bedroom. This left Sir Bloody Thumb to capture the menace and expel such from the dwelling, immediately with no further assistance from the royal residents. You could almost HEAR his wish to fly free with the creature as he released it into the clear blue skies of a Texas twilight from the bat capturing shoebox.

The next move came with a backyard, an 8 foot privacy fence and a beautiful willow tree. It also came with the youngest daughters being ever-so-eager to go camping disappearing into the dark of a Yuletide Eve with a laundry bucket, their pillows, cans of food, but “No sharp knives, Mama!” The local constabulary were left with a Christmas story and had them all chuckling into their coffees the next morning as the paperwork was written and filed. There are also pictures of children wallowing in the mud of a drainage ditch where the only way their parent could discern lineage was by the blue of their eyes. Mad posse’s of children on bicycles when they weren’t at the neighborhood elementary also framed these years; as did the first of many sleepovers with children piled into heaps of air mattresses and blankets on my living room floor. This was where the practice of counting heads for pancakes began on those Sunday mornings way back when.

The next move would be marked by fields of bluebonnets accompanied by a little Welsh Corgi that had joined the household before the previous move, but now he was in his true element as the duplex bordered on a cattle holding. Retrieving Gizmo would become a household chore until a sane way of bolstering the fence line could be established.

Then, the eldest child graduated high school and was about to discover college. Time, it seemed had flown by all too quickly. True, there were two more daughters to get through the system, but this event telescoped the eventual happenings for the younger children. Once more, it was time to move. This time, into a house.

We were to lease/purchase a beautiful, two story home on what appeared to be a quiet cul de sac. Never doubt that appearances are deceiving, especially on a deal that seemed too good to be true. But, this was the house where the youngest child would set the sofa on fire with her laptop’s power brick and send her sisters screaming “FIRE” into our once quiet bedroom. This would be the home and final resting place for “Midnight- the Wonder Chicken.” This would be the home for what would become the starting set of kittens that grew into the “Crazy Cat Lady’s Starter Kit” I now know, love, feed and protect. This would be the home wherein I would watch a 20 pound Corgi ‘tree’ a 190 lb. electric meter reader up a 12 ft. oak sapling. This would also be the home that we would lose because of the shiftless, worthless lying greed of a ‘real estate investor’ and his inability to make the mortgage payments we’d been sending him for over 4 years.

I’d planted roses here, raised young girls into young ladies who attended their first proms here. Welcomed with open arms the eldest child back into the fold when a lying consort had beaten her and crushed her dreams. I planted morning glories and moonglow vines. I’d established an herb garden on the front porch, had plans to paint the bedrooms, created our first office, and managed to find a job that I could hang onto during the worst economic environment since the Great Depression. Now, with a single knock at the door and a visit from a confused Wells Fargo representative, it was going to be gone. Where was I going to shelter my daughters?

It all turned out better in the end, in its own way. Cat’s Paw Acres is not much; just 2.5 acres and a singlewide mobile home with a built on addition and a HUGE back porch, all covered by a wonderfully massive tin roof. In the past 5 years, we’ve made incredible memories here; the middle daughter’s High School graduation, but not before that fateful morning one late April afternoon when she received her acceptance letter into Cornell College. Then there was Batu, the wedding anniversary yak (an Anatolian Shepherd/Great Pyrenees puppy) who grew into a 150 lbs of lap dog. And last, the youngest daughter asking to go live with her godfather in California, thinking that he wouldn’t be as restrictive as Mom and Dad.

Before I knew it, the homestead is quiet. I can hear the winds sigh through the ash tree, the crepe myrtles, and the ligustrums. I’ve perfected the art of watching grass grow. I miss the insanity of having children underfoot. I miss waking up to piles of children between the Dane and myself. But I’m beginning to understand the term ‘golden years’ because like the golden light of autumn, while there may be some bad memories back then, they’ve faded with the light of happier times.

Ghosts of Gustatory Gesso

Samhain 2

The seasonal Gods have decided to bless us with unseasonably cooler weather than most native Texans are used to. Yes, it’s a standing joke/sad fact that any weather that takes the temps below 50 degrees Fahrenheit sounds a statewide weather emergency, and ice of any form will shut down Texas completely. To me, it opens the memory vaults where family recipes are stored and comfort foods of every occasion come out begging to be reborn on the table and palate. As the cats of the farm know, when Mama starts building cold weather nooks and crannies, it’s time to look forward to the organ meat rich gravies added to the kitty kibble.

I finally got the time to view the movie “The 100-foot Journey” yesterday. My heart sang when, in the opening there was the reference to the ghosts created in the process. It’s a simple Truth; in order to eat/cook something must die. We honor the spirit of that sacrificed when we appreciate the meal. Let me taste your food, listen to your music and bathe in the laughter of your people. In this way, I will know your people. To those who can appreciate the wine or brewed spirits of an area are reserved the remains of sunnier days, sunshine in a bottle so to speak. If we wish to truly educate our children, we let them taste the happiness of a beloved relative’s home-cooked meal. We must expose them to a pot-luck supper created by close friends. We share the joys of a family reunion with all the legendary dishes and recipes that are guarded as closely as the hand stitched quilts and handmade furniture.

This morning, it was quite chilly and all the cats were gathered in the living room cuddled together on the sofa and the old blanket stretched out there just for their comfort. They sent a spokes cat, Luufy, to cry at the door in order to awaken the Giver of All Things Yummy. I wasn’t going to stir; the hubby was a wonderful radiator of body heat and the delicious luxuriousness of naked skin. Luufy’s insistent cries at the door became more and more plaintive and with a grumble I woke to slide toes into slippers and arms into a robe. The slight breeze carried the scent of woodsmoke, and my mind went instantly back to childhood when that scent was reminiscent of the bacon rashers and ham quarters being readied for the holiday table. The memories of buttermilk drop biscuits being pulled fresh and fluffy from the oven and the jeweled delights of muscadine grape jelly jars being released from the depths of the panty spring from my mind as fresh as the frigid morning they arrived on the breakfast table.

I have a mother’s instinct that tells me that not long from now, I will be hearing from my children. Their requests for Mama’s recipes for dishes that bring them comfort while far from home will make me both happy and sad because I know of the valuable memories created with the sacred ties of an apron’s strings. I remember the magic that begins with the crack of an egg, the careful measurement of ingredients, the steady hand on a whisk, spoon or fork. The sense of accomplishment that is created by the removal of the perfectly done creation just beyond an oven’s door or under the lid of the stew pot on the stove. The incense of love that wafts through the house because of the joy cooking in the kitchen.

It is only apt that the so-called “Holiday Season” is marked by the arrival of a day intended to honor our beloved dead. It is truly their memories we invoke when we recreate their recipes on the canvas of our family’s hearts and memory. Perhaps, in this very simple way we can school our very errant attentions to the importance of “Be ye mindful.”

Gentle hugs, everyone. From my hearth at Cat’s Paw Acres to yours – wherever your heart finds you; may the blessings of happy memories being made and joy-filled feasts grace your life and the lives of those you love.

When You Wish Upon a Cloud

In the long lasting relationships there are always stories; these are the weavings of how we relate one to the other, of what we find precious and hold dear. It’s been more than 20 years since this particular incident occurred and I never considered what the impact of it would be for myself and my beloved. Today, I am glad to have this particular memory to look back on because it reflects on who we are as a couple and the tough decisions we’ve had to make.

It was October then, too. Six months after our wedding and I was VERY pregnant with our first baby together. I was also craving ice cream, but not just any ice cream. It had to be Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla. (Still my all-time favorite!) The Dane and I had walked the ½ block down the road to the corner convenience store and on our way in, we heard kitten noises. We looked around, but couldn’t locate the source –and I was worried, this wasn’t just an “I want my momma” cry, this was something more. Unable to find where the noise was coming form, we went inside made our purchases and then returned to where we’d heard the sound.

It was twilight, and there wasn’t very good lighting behind the store, but we were able to identify an area of the source; the dumpster. I was still worried and when we returned home, we asked the babysitter and my oldest child to take a flashlight and go see if they could find the distressed animal. 20 minutes later, she and my daughter came home with a tiny mess of a kitten; he was still yowling, but purring simultaneously. To our horror and shock, someone had wrapped this furry baby in duct tape and then attempted to set fire to him. His whiskers were singed, the tip of one ear was scorched, blistered and hairless, and his paws were a mess from where he’d tried to escape from both the dumpster and the tape.

With baby oil and scissors, we managed to get the tape off of him, and with cotton swabs and baby shampoo, we were able to get all the crud off of his coat. He was a green-eyed beautiful long-haired tri-colored tabby patched male, with fur so long and fluffy that I named him “Cloud.” His purrs were tremendous and his appetite more so. He ate the mix of canned and dry kitten food with relish and abandon, and promptly fell asleep with one paw in the food dish. We tucked him into a basket with clean towels and newspaper; sure that the morning would bring us a better chance to know our newest adoptee. After the rush of getting everyone off to school and work, the housekeeper and I discovered that Cloud had made a mess in his basket. I couldn’t clean him up as I was home on bed rest from having earlier premature delivery symptoms, so the housekeeper scrubbed the poop mess off the kitten and we layered newspaper in the bathtub of the unused guest bathroom for him. We figured that he’d just had an upset tummy from eating garbage and a week or so of eating kitten chow would ‘put him to rights’ – either way, he was much too young for worming meds.

 

Cloud

I decided that Cloud needed a toy and went looking for something suitable for our tiny furry baby. All I could find was an oversized marble, but when I put it in the bathtub with Cloud, he pounced in absolute joy and abandon. Chasing and batting the marble was the thrill of his life, that is until his bowels decided that the extra movement was a signal to let go and he pooped all over the tub again. I heard him protesting loudly, Cloud did not like ‘dirty’ and his tub was ‘dirty.’

Sensing we might have a bit of a time with his bowel problem, I came up with a solution. Line the tub with paper, give him a potty box with newspaper and then plug the drain so his marble toy had free rein. For the better part of two weeks this was Cloud’s world; until anyone came into the bathroom, that is. Cloud preferred to be held and loved. He was happiest cuddled up under a chin purring for all he was worth, kneading the chest of the lucky person holding him.

At the end of three weeks, Cloud’s stools were still runny and now beginning to show signs of blood. He wasn’t weak, but I was worried and my beloved husband made a vet appointment for him. I wasn’t prepared for the phone call I received later that day; it was my husband, and he could barely talk. “Honey?” I asked, “What’s up? What’s wrong?” I heard him try to catch his breath and then I heard a choked sob. “Babe,” he replied, “Are you in bed or sitting in the living room?” I was propped up in the bedroom crocheting a toy for Cloud, and I told him. “Honey, put it down for a moment. Cloud was terminal.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My beloved further explained, “Cloud’s mother must have been seriously infested with worms and she passed the infection on to her babies. The reason that Cloud didn’t get any better despite our care is that the infestation was so bad he had lost about 1/3rd of his intestines. The vet was surprised that he was so sweet natured as he had to be in serious pain. There was no saving him, honey. I asked for him to be put to sleep…and he passed in my arms.” There was a silence and then a sob.

I was crying, too. We’d tried to do right and take an abused animal from a nightmare existence, only to have an inevitable Death take him from us. It was also the first time that we would rescue an animal together. We’ve rescued animals and taken in plenty of strays since then, but no one and nothing compares to Cloud. People talk about the Rainbow Bridge and the afterlife. For me, I hope that on that big ol’ porch swing in the Hereafter waiting for me and my beloved, there’s a space between us – for Cloud.