Friday, October 29, 2010

The Post Where Holly Complains about the State of the State

Tuesday is election day, which is wonderful because I get to see my husband again.

I’m concerned some people out there are considering NOT voting- and I understand somewhat. I myself am going to have a hard time voting for:

a) The gubernatorial candidate who is against gay marriage but thinks people having sex with animals is e-mail worthy OR

b) The man who says he’s going to cut the budget but will inevitably raise taxes because he just can’t help himself. It’s just what Cuomos do.

State elections are just as important as federal elections. In fact, your local representatives make more decisions that affect your day-to-day life than your US senators.

Case in point:

You may not have heard, but NYS taxes are high. Supremely high. Nauseatingly high. Makes me want to move to the south high.

I was doing a little research, and I found a perfectly lovely home in a historic district in Savannah, GA. It has four bedrooms, four fireplaces, refinished wood floors, and oodles of charm. I calculated a 30-year mortgage with escrow (NO DOWN PAYMENT) and guess what? The monthly payment came to $120 less than our own payment. And the house costs more than twice what ours did.

We are a perfect example a middle class family considering moving to greener pastures because the taxes are strangling us. Middle-class New Yorkers pay nearly 40% of their income in taxes- and our property taxes are the highest in the entire country. Do you have any idea how much it costs to send a student to school for a year here in NYS? More than it does to send him or her to the BEST private schools in Rochester. $17,123/ student. 67% MORE than the national average. Yet, our kids’ standardized test scores and graduation rates are far below the national average.

Guess who spends the most on state welfare? If you guessed Nevada, you are incorrect. New Yorkers spend 78% more on welfare benefits than the national average.

In 1982, the New York State government declared a “war” on poverty by drastically increasing welfare benefits. Since then, the Empire state’s poverty level has significantly increased.

The poor are moving to New York in droves and the middle class are hightailing it to warmer climates.

The centre cannot hold.

The big election issues in NY this election season are: health care, education, and property taxes. New Yorkers have been throwing moolah at these issues for the past 30 years, and not only has it NOT helped, but the government has dug a hole that the state may never get out of.

Note: It is a huge misnomer to believe that people who want to cut taxes don’t give a crap about the elderly and the impoverished, and if you imply that’s what I believe, you have greatly insulted me and I will go to my room to sulk. I don’t wish to deprive ANYONE of health care. But I also think it’s inappropriate to use ambulances as taxis and to take your kid to the ER because he had a nosebleed. (This is based on a true story. The family next to us in the ER was there because their son, an 8-year old, had a minor nosebleed four hours earlier. They had taken an ambulance to get to the hospital. Why were we there? Ben stuck his hand in the vacuum while it was running and it appeared… disfigured. But that’s a completely different story.)

I also don’t wish to deprive anyone of a decent education, but frivolous programs should be cut. Teachers don’t need to attend conferences in Myrtle Beach. I’ve been to an educational conference. I suggest subscribing to an educational journal: same information, at 1/2000 of the cost.

Nor should taxpayers foot the bill for Buffalo teachers' cosmetic surgeries.  A $9 million bill.  Is that really so unreasonable?

Don’t get me started on the unions.

(I should totally rule the world. Obviously I have all the answers.)

How much are taxpayers supposed to sacrifice to support government programs that just don’t work? New York is taking blood faster than the body can recoup its loss. It’s not a matter of what’s fair and what isn’t- it’s a matter of what works and what doesn’t. You can’t take what’s not there.

So, if next year I’m writing a post from Savannah, you will know why.

On a final note- let gays marry.  Maybe then they'll stay in NY and contribute to the economy.

My new house?
Click here to find out who your local representatives are and to find other political information that will serve useful this coming Tuesday. Remember, you forfeit your right to complain about the state of the state if you don’t vote. Is that a right you really want to give up?

The polls open Tuesday. Be there.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Five Classics for a Spooky Halloween

They don’t make them like they used to.

Especially horror movies. Occasionally, I like to be frightened, but sometimes I could do without the intestinal entrails, pools of blood, and the brain-eating. I mean, sometimes I like a good brain-eating movie, but mostly, I want to watch a WELL-MADE film. And those are hard to come by.

So, this Halloween, I offer up alternatives for Halloween film fare. The following five movies are:

1) In atmospheric, moody black and white

2) Smart

3) Unsettling

Only one could be considered “violent,” mostly these are psychological, spine-tingling chillers, and they are a lot of fun. Have at 'em.

Rebecca (1940) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine

Rebecca is based on the novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier.

Joan Fontaine plays a young, shy, and socially awkward is wooed by the wealthy Maxim de Winter, a dashing, wealthy widower played by Laurence Olivier. Maxim takes his new wife (whose first name is never given) home to his magnificent estate in the English countryside. The house is at the end of an interminably long driveway, and when the mansion comes into view, the new bride is astonished: Manderley, with its peaks and pinnacles and large staff is overwhelming. Unfortunately for the new Mrs. de Winter, memories of the reign of Rebecca de Winter, the former mistress of Manderley, are still prevalent throughout the house.

Mrs. Danvers, who is arguably one of the greatest cinematic villains of all time, despises the new Mrs. de Winter, and taunts her mercilessly. She constantly reminds her that Rebecca was everything the young bride is not: beautiful, elegant, sophisticated, and confident. Manderley, with its endless corridors and locked rooms, is seemingly haunted by Rebecca. Rebecca is a ghost story that doesn’t actually have a ghost, yet Hitchcock still manages to keep Rebecca very much alive within Manderley’s gothic walls.

Rebecca is one of my top five favorite Hitchcock films. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read the book…

The Night of the Hunter (1955) Directed by Charles Laughton, starring Robert Mitchum, Shelly Winters

Robert Mitchum plays Harry Powell, a religious zealot and murderer who has major sexual repression issues. (Freud would’ve had a field day with this guy.)

The Southern gothic opens in the midst of the Great Depression: two children are happily playing in front of their home. Their father, Ben Harper, suddenly rushes toward them. He is being pursued by the authorities. It is revealed that he has stolen a large sum of money and, moments before he is arrested, he gives the money to his son, telling him to hide it and to swear never to reveal its location to anyone.

Harper ends up sharing a prison cell with Harry Powell, who soon finds out about the hidden money. Powell tries to coax the whereabouts of the stash from his cellmate, but Harper takes that information with him to the grave. After Powell is released, he pursues and marries the widow of Ben Harper, and relentlessly searches for the money. His nine year old stepson, John, refuses to tell, making his new stepfather deranged with anger.

There are a million disturbing yet beautiful details in this film. The mother whose hair floats peaceably beneath the river waters; Harry Powell’s tattooed fingers: L-O-V-E on his right four fingers and H-A-T-E on his left four fingers; Powell’s looming shadow as he stands at the top of the cellar stairs; the close up of the dewy spider web as the children tranquilly drift down the same peaceful river; the money,  hidden within a child’s doll.

This film is ultimately a child’s nightmare. The children narrowly escape from their murderous stepfather and run to safety, only to find that the man they hoped would protect them is drunk out of his mind and unable to help. Frantically, they climb aboard a skiff and, by a hair’s breath, escape again. Their stepfather reaches for him and they begin their journey down the river, and when he misses, he lets out the most horrific, animalistic scream. As they drift down the river, Powell immediately begins to stalk them on horseback, all the while singing the classic hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” No matter how far the children go, they never seem to make any progress. As they seek refuge in a barn, John spots Powell across landscape on his horse. John mutters “Don’t he never sleep?”

Evil never sleeps, making this one of the most ingenious horror films of all time.

Village of the Damned (1960) Directed by Wolf Rilla, starring George Sanders, Barbara Shelley

The first “horror” film I ever watched- though it probably best fits under the “sci-fi” category. A strange mist envelopes the small town of Midwich, England. Months later, nearly every woman of child-bearing age gives birth to blond-haired, blue eyes babies who grow at twice the rate of normal human children. The children are an alien race of beings who can read minds and control people’s actions with their hypnotic stares.

The ringleader of the group is David, the “son” of the local scientist and the film’s protagonist, Gordon Zellaby.

A few think the film is outdated, but most agree that in spite of its flaws, it remains a frightening film.  (The story is a cautionary tale.  It is based on John Wyndham's reactionary cold war novel, Midwich Cuckoos.)

In the British version of the film, the children did NOT have creepy, glowing eyeballs. I don’t know why the Americans added this. The shots of the children staring had to be stilled in order to get this “special effect.” (Hard to have insight into the children’s minds when they are frozen in time…)

Also- the voice of David was dubbed with a girlish voice, which is distracting and unnecessary.

In spite of these flaws, this movie still scared and continues to scare me. So much of the horror is left to the imagination, in stark contrast to the bloody gore of today’s horror flicks.

The Innocents (1961) Directed by Jack Clayton, starring Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde

So, I just watched this by myself and now I can’t sleep anymore. This is a terrifying film.  Based on Henry James The Turn of the Screw, Deborah Kerr plays a sheltered woman sent to the English countryside (AGAIN with the English countryside!) to be a governess to two orphaned children left in the care of their selfish uncle. The country estate appears even bigger than Manderley, and is especially creepy. Everywhere you turn, there are staring statues, concrete cherub faces, inexplicable groans, and dark, haunted rooms. The children, though adorable, are “off.” Miles and Flora whisper in secrets, speak like adults, and giggle at inopportune times. 

The new governess, Miss Giddons, replaces the children’s last governess, Miss Jessel, who the children (especially the little girl, Flora) were dedicated to. Miss Giddons learns Miss Jessel suffered an untimely death...

Over time, the story of Miss Jessel’s demise is told through the housekeeper, the sweet Mrs. Grose. Miss Jessel had been entangled with the cruel caretaker, the charismatic Peter Quint, who also died the year before. Miss Jessel came to the house an innocent, but was corrupted by the abusive Quint. Their affair was carried on in rooms all over the house, and Mrs. Grose admits that the children were witness to their sordid and sick behavior. Miss Giddons begins to suspect that the ghosts of Jessel and Quint are still alive in the house, and that they are using the children to communicate.

(Miles is played by the same actor who played David in Village of the Damned. He was one spooky kid.)

This is a psychological chiller, an intellectual wonder, and a nerve-racking film. My nerves were racked. Ghosts hanging around in broad daylight have never been so frightening.

The Haunting (1963) Directed by Robert Wise, starring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom

An old-fashioned haunted house movie. This story, based on the tale by Shirley Jackson, has been made into countless film adaptations. This one is the best. (It is also Martin’s Scorcese’s pick for scariest film of all time.)

A group of people who have had dalliances with the paranormal at some point in their lives convene at a “haunted house” to spend the night. For scientific purposes, of course. Always a good idea. The viewer knows the house is haunted going into the film. Why, then, is it still so terrifying? The entire film is made up of bumps and shudders and noises- we don’t see one apparition.

Julie Harris plays Eleanor, a socially awkward young woman whose psychological demise is at the forefront of the story.

This film convinces me that what you don’t see is ultimately more horrifying than what you do see.

It’s also on TCM Halloween night at 9:30.

Your favorite Halloween film fare? (It doesn’t have to follow my above criteria!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Don't Worry Be Happy

My kids are sick. They have goop dripping out of them. I think they might be melting. When they cough, Kiah perks up because she thinks they are barking dogs.

I kept Ben home today but sent Caleb in, even though (and this is horrible) I wish he had been sick enough to keep home.

Caleb hates school.

He doesn’t like his teacher. She is too serious, she inexplicably raises her voice at him, and she is impatient. Every morning is a struggle with Caleb, but Monday mornings are the worst. He sulks all morning and, with tears brimming in his big blue eyes, comes up with worst case scenarios in the form of “what ifs”:

“What if I had homework that I didn’t know about? What if she yells at me because I have to go to the bathroom? What if I don’t understand the math and she tells me she won’t help me?”

“Caleb,” I respond, “You are ruminating again.” (I have been picking up self-help lingo from a book I’ve been reading: The Depression Cure by Stephen S. Ilardi.) Caleb now knows what it means to “ruminate.”

“It’s really hard not to ruminate,” he says.

You got that right, kid. Especially on cloudy Monday mornings when you’ve got to face a grouchy 8-month pregnant teacher whose ankles have recently melded with her calves. Of course she’s grouchy! Her boobs are about to be ruined forever. (I don’t tell Caleb this.)

The past few Monday mornings, I’ve vacillated between being Caleb’s energetic cheerleader and being visibly annoyed about the whole Monday-morning production. (Those are mornings I’m not proud of.)

This morning, I was feeling especially sympathetic, so I made all sorts of promises and grand gestures: We’ll make cookies with frosting when you get home! I’ll come have lunch with you once your brothers and sister have stopped dripping with ooze! I’ll bring pizza! We’ll read THREE chapters of Pippi Longstocking tonight!

This is probably the incorrect way to handle the situation. I don’t want Caleb to associate negative rumination with rewards. But acting nonchalant about his concerns trivializes his… life. This is his life.  And he’s so unhappy! And I know, from experience, that stuffing your face full of cookies will only dull the pain for a while.

So, I’m developing a “life strategies for Caleb” plan. It involves memorizing an inspirational bible verse every week, dwelling on the positive aspects of the day, taking baby steps out the door and onto the bus, wearing a goldfish around his neck, and receiving a giant kiss on the hand that he can hold up to his cheek any time he wants.

Now, I just need someone to make such a plan for me. Excuse me- it's time for my morning ruminations.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Call me Al

Because I'm feeling soft in the middle and have a short little span of attention today:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kiah the Wonder Dog

Obamacare. You’ve been waiting to hear what I think. My position may shock you. I believe that Obama’s healthcare plan doesn’t go far enough. I will NOT REST until every dog, regardless of its breed or its owner’s income, race, creed, etc., has full health coverage. I see absolutely no good reason why your tax dollars shouldn’t pay for the health and wellbeing of all dogs when so many pet owners simply can’t afford to pay themselves.

You may say- if a person is already strapped for cash, perhaps they should not get a dog.

To which I say- how dare you.

Kiah the Wonder Dog had a little oops on Sunday. We made it almost three whole weeks without an incident. Kiah, who is 70% stomach and 30% fluff, ate another dog’s thyroid medicine. This is something the dog books don’t warn you about. They don’t say, “when socializing your puppy with another dog, make sure the older dog does not offer your puppy its thyroid medicine because he doesn’t want to take it himself.” (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

John, of course, was beside himself. We found an emergency pet center and John sped Kiah there to expel all poisonous contents from her stomach. Kiah is fine and has suffered no side effects. John is now in therapy.

The cost of taking a puppy to the vet on a Sunday? Aye carumba.

Health coverage for all dogs! And maybe partial dental coverage, too.

Back when she was really little. A whole week ago.

"Waiting for mom to wipe my muddy feet."

Jumping up to say hello.

Where she lays when I am cooking dinner.

It's hard to be this good looking.

This is not your room.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Age of Innocence

The elusive diplodocus.

I’ve lost 11 pounds within the last nine weeks, in spite of the Russell Stover chocolates I wolfed down over the course of two days. (On clearance at the drug store. The cream chocolates!) It’s a sad day when you buy yourself a box of Russell Stover chocolates.

I attribute the loss mainly to my Tuesday/ Thursday exercise class at the Y, where a masochist I’ll call Lynn inflicts pain of immeasurable proportions on a bunch of stay-at-home moms desperate to lose post-baby fat. She makes us do something she calls a “Russian Twist,” which is not an alcoholic drink, but rather something they make prisoners do down in Guantanamo.

The weight loss is good, as it is the start of my “social season.” (HA! That sounds so pretentious.) Yes, since John has involved himself in the political realm, I find I have a social season, much like characters in Edith Wharton novels. There are a number of balls, galas, dinners, fundraisers, etc. that I get to dress up for, and I am more compelled to go when I don’t feel like a hippopotamus.

We had such an event Saturday evening. My hair was a dreadful mess, so I decided to wear it up in an experimental hairdo that I called “an homage to the 40s.” John wasn’t a fan. He said I looked “like a diplodocus.” Big sigh.

My favorite events are ones with auctions. I’m a huge auction enthusiast. First off, it gives me something to do so I don’t have to talk to people. I walk around and intently examine the items up for silent auction. I find one I like, bid, and then skulk around in its general vicinity, shooting daggers at anyone who dares approach said item.

Last year, I lost out on a twelve days of Christmas ornament set to some elderly woman. It pretty much ruined the entire holiday season for me.

I’m a highly competitive silent auction participant.

We left the fundraiser right before dessert was served because we were to meet friends for drinks. At a wedding they were attending. That we were not invited to. And we would’ve gotten there sooner if my winnings had not been misplaced. Oh, it was an exciting evening full of glamour and intrigue.

So we crashed a wedding. Or rather, a reception at a very nice party house. We arrived late in the evening and ventured straight back to where the festivities were being held. It was an exceptionally loud party. The bride was boogeying to Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” John went straight to the bar and ordered a drink. We looked around for our friends, couldn’t locate them, so we called to figure out where they were. They were in the next room, at a completely different reception.

So we left reception #1 and went to reception #2, where we ordered more drinks and ate cookies and stole someone’s maple syrup party favor. We left after a half hour, and John crashed a third reception just to say he had. He ordered a third drink while I stood outside the doorway, feeling very nervous. Three receptions in one night? Someone was bound to catch on. And I was suddenly strangely cognizant of my diplodocus hairdo, as I was surrounded by gorgeous bridesmaids with long, flowing locks. So I stomped my high heels, shot John a dagger look, and we left.

I fully expect the police to arrive and arrest me any minute, maybe even tomorrow during my class with Lynn. If they do, I hope it’s before those damn Russian twists.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Halloween Conundrum

5-year old draws skeleton!

When I was in high school, I saw a video (in youth group?) about the origins of Halloween that scared the living you know what out of me. I fervently swore off all things Halloween- until the next Halloween, of course, when I donned my traditional gypsy costume and went begging for 3 Musketeers bars and Dots.

As I got older, I decided that my kids would be allowed to celebrate Halloween, but that we would keep the scary devil stuff out of the house. No witch costumes, no devil costumes, and no ghosts, darn it. I have fall decorations, but they are pumpkins and colorful leaves and stuff- no spider-webs or scary jack-o-lanterns.

The kids, however, have decided they LIKE scary. Ben spent a good portion of this weekend creating an extremely realistic looking skeleton. “It’s for my spooky closet!” he said. At this moment, his closet is adorned with one tall skeleton, one green alien, several scary jack-o-lanterns, and one forthcoming mummy. (“Mummies have bandages, mom, because they are dead.”)

Thank you, public school system, for disregarding my passionate stance against witchcraft and voodoo and spookiness in general. Example: Caleb brought home a Scooby Doo book last week. One character “put a curse” on the gang.

“What’s a curse, mom?”

"You know." I said. "Those words daddy says when he's having a bad day."

Scooby Doo has made me a liar.

So, I’m modifying my apparently not-so-stringent convictions about Halloween. Skeletons are okay. Spiders are okay. Friendly ghosts are okay. Mummies in closets- okay.

I will not let Daniel dress up like a witch, which is what he informed me he wanted to be for Halloween. First of all, I’m anti-witch, and second of all- witches are girls, man.

“Honey, you mean you want to be a warlock. Say warlock.”

I mean, what kind of hypocrite am I? I like The Wizard of Oz, Jimmy Stewart in Bell, Book, and Candle, and am a huge Harry Potter fan. If I clung to my hardcore anti-spooky stuff on Halloween stance, I’d have to give up a lot of other things, too. Like zombie movies and Bewitched re-runs. And I am loathe to give up my zombie movies.

I can just imagine trying to explain to Ben why he can’t draw skeletons:

“You see, baby- Halloween is a high holiday for Satanists and witches. There are these occult groups who all get together on Halloween night and sacrifice animals and worship Satan. Remember how our neighbor’s cat disappeared last Halloween? Yeah- I don’t think she’s ever coming back.

You know what? I have a better way to explain this to you. Come on, I want to show you this movie called Rosemary’s Baby. And while I set it up, let me tell you the story of a talented but troubled director named Roman Polanski…”

Parenting is just so hard. Good news: Ben will probably ace Gross Anatomy in med school.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ithaca to Buffalo

The kids and I just took Kiah for a walk. Walking Kiah is like walking a drunk home: There’s lots of swerving, urinating on private and public property, yelling for no reason whatsoever, and on top of all that, you end up having to carry the person a good part of the way. But a vigorous walk is the only way to tire the little sucker out. She’ll get better at it soon, I hope.

John and I left kids and dog with family this weekend to frolic about central and western NY. There was a lot of cajoling of family members and scheduling involved, but we managed to find a way to unload all four of them. Quite frankly, planning a short excursion away together is exhausting, and I don’t really want to do it anymore.

On Saturday, we ventured out to Ithaca, where we went to the biannual book sale with our friends Bob and Beth. Because whoever dies with the most books wins, y’know. Or ends up on that show “Hoarders.” (This is not just ANY book sale, by the way. It is the second largest in the states!)

Saturday was the day I learned that no home should ever be without an atlas of New Zealand.

I made it to the following sections: local interest, crafts and hobbies, children’s books, fiction, and pets, where I purchased the book The Dog Whisperer so I can learn to communicate with Kiah on a higher plane.

I spent an excessive amount of time in the kids section, browsing for books I loved as a kid. Like Pippi Longstocking. And Henry and Ribsy. And The Trolley Car Family. And those crazy Happy Hollisters, who had a daughter named Holly. Holly Hollister. (What were they thinking?)

I didn't make it to biographies, music, and other various non-fiction stops. Too many books; not enough stamina.

Bob, a Cornell law school graduate, took us on a tour of the college. Stupid Cornell, with its gothic-looking architecture that sits high on a hill overlooking the very blue Cayuga Lake.

Last week, John woke me up early in the morning and I, still in a state of sleepy stupor, said the following: “I got into Yale and Harvard. I’m going to go tell the mean girls, now.” And then I tried to go back to sleep. I think visiting Cornell is going to perpetuate such dreams.

Sunday, we went to a Bills game. I’d never been to a pro-football game. Now I can say I have and be done with it- unless we get seats next to the aisle. I say this because drunk men are really rude when you pass them to go to the bathroom. Plus, the Bills are a horrible team.

On the other hand, it was a perfect day with bright blue skies. We heard a great rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and we had heated seats, which I didn’t even need to turn on. The cheeseburger I had, however, was the worst.


Lake Cayuga from Cornell campus.

The law school.

Part of the law school. Those are professors' apartments up there.

This picture reminds me that I will never be able to visit or attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Us, sans children! Don't we look relaxed?

The bell tower.

Sexy cheerleaders!

Big big men in tight pants.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Best in Show

If we don't win the pet costume contest on Monday at the Garden Factory, well. I may act like the Parker Posey character in the film Best in Show. For those who haven't seen the film, she is a most unpleasant human being.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Day in Pictures

John is having a hard time accepting that his coffee maker is kaputs. Every time he brews coffee, it leaks all over the place. So he's taken to brewing his coffee in the sink, even though we have at least four other functional coffee makers collecting dust in the garage. My head hurts thinking about this.

This is what happens when certain people leave their lime chips out:

The pre-wash cycle:

This is what the twins were doing while I was bringing groceries in from the car. I can now empathise with what those poor people in Iceland went through. This picture doesn't quite detail the extent of the damage. They flung ashes across the room, onto all of the furniture, onto the clean folded laundry, even onto the television. My vacuum cleaner needed emptying four times. During the third time, I'm pretty sure it swore at me. And one of my attachments broke while I was vacuuming the cushions. Cleaning up the living room= 2-hour project.

Look what I found!!! It's the wishbone from last Thanksgiving's turkey. We are such procrastinators.

Now is the time where I ask if I can come stay with you for a day or two. If you have a house where all of the people and animals have COMPLETE control over their bowels and are reasonably quiet, I assure you, I would make a very pleasant house guest.

If not, I understand. I hear there's plenty of room at the Hotel California.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Almost two weeks ago, three cars collided on 390N. The talking head on the news reported that a woman was taken to the hospital with severe head injuries. When I saw the report, I had a weird, heebie-jeebie feeling in the pit of my stomach. This is unlike me, to have weird heebie-jeebie feelings in ANY part of my body. (I’m not one for supernatural “signs” in the form of nausea.) Still, I felt compelled to call my mother (who lives off of 390N) and make sure she was home, safe. She was, already in her pajamas, wondering why I thought she would be on the 390 at all. I dunno, lady. Maybe you went to the mall or something.

I pondered who the woman might be. “It could be someone we know,” I said to my mom. We hung up and I, somewhat subdued, took a Tums and went to bed.

The woman with “severe” head injuries turned out to be my friend, Lydia. A man lost control of his car, drove across the median, and slammed into Lyd’s vehicle. Lyd lost consciousness, crawled out of her car via the passenger door, and took an ambulance ride to the hospital. She was released later that evening.

Lydia is one my oldest and best friends. We’ve been through a lot together. I stole her best friend in the fourth grade, she slapped my face (she says accidentally) in the fifth grade, and in the eighth grade, I peed all over her kitchen floor. (First time I had Vodka. I’m not particularly proud of that incident.) Lyd cleaned it up. She’s one of those friends- the long-term, will-always-be-there-for-you friends. I sincerely hope you have one.

Lyd has to have surgery next week- her orbital bone is in need of repair or else, and these were her words, her “eyeball will sink into her cheek.” (Ack! I now realize I’ve been taking my orbital bone totally for granted.) She also suffered a concussion and is bruised and beaten. She limps, thanks to a swollen knee, and her eye looks like you would imagine someone with a compromised orbital bone’s eye would look. (It is a lovely shade of aubergine.)

But if you saw the pictures of her car, you would know how lucky she is. How lucky everyone who loves her is. If you have an active imagination, you might note how the insides of the engine hanging from the crumpled hood are reminiscent of something out of a horror movie. It might be a miracle that she is alive.

Incidences like this remind me that we’re all standing at the edge of a precipice, and that fate can push us into the abyss just as easily as it holds us back. And the precariousness of this situation sometimes wears on me.

Everything is meaningless. Wisdom is meaningless. Pleasure is meaningless. Folly is meaningless. Advancement is meaningless. Toil is meaningless. Riches are meaningless.

(Because, of course, you can’t take it with you.)

For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone?

Did you know that the book of Ecclesiastes is a favorite among atheists? I am a person of faith, yet I so often I have an atheist’s heart. I have perched at the edge of the precipice and looked down- my heart filled with nothing. No passion, no love, no anger, just a void. Just a dark, deep, chasm. And I have wanted to bury myself in the darkness. (see endnote)

We took communion today at church. We were asked to examine ourselves- to make sure our hearts were clean before we took the bread and the wine. (Which is really just juice. So lame.)

And my heart held no grievances, no bitterness, no angst- nothing, really. My heart was empty.

As a woman of faith, I believe there is a bridge that will take me across the chasm. That went the time comes, my leap of faith will carry me to the other side. I know that life is not meaningless… that my loves, aches, and toils will have counted for something. That I’m loved when I don’t feel loved. That God makes everything that is bad into something that is good: that people of faith are “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor 6:10)

And this evening, this verse brings me peace. (I’m working toward the rejoicing. Don’t want to get ahead of myself, here.) And I’m eternally grateful for my loves, my family, my friend- for her safety and for her meaningful life. Her ever-meaningful life.

My husband, on the other hand, needs your prayers. On the way home from church today, he was stuck behind a particularly terrible driver. He gritted his teeth and his gripped the steering wheel, his knuckles a most angry white, and when the woman finally turned away from us, he shouted, “LADY! I do not forgive you. At least, not until the next communion.”

At least he didn’t give her the finger.

Endnote: Don't call 911. I'm not saying I feel like that NOW- this is just an example of the sort of depressing stuff depressed people feel occasionally. 911 NOT NECESSARY. ALSO- I don't mean to imply that all atheists feel nothing. Obviously not. I don't mean to offend. If you're an atheist and you take offense, it is probably because you are a perfectly LOVELY human being. I'm going to stop now.