The Fear

It’s probably a bad idea to blog while emotional.  But until the Blog Cops show up and pull me over, I guess I’ll write, because this is for me.

As late as this past Sunday, nobody knew where 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington was, three months after she disappeared from the Metallica concert she’d been thrilled about for weeks.  I took one kid with me to Wendy’s after church before we zipped into Target for a pair of jeans for him (poor kid, he was down to three pairs without knee holes), and as I opened the door I noticed yet another of the FIND MORGAN posters that have covered the area.

When the story hit our local paper in October of last year (2009), about how her parents had set up a reward fund, and how Metallica had donated to it, and how her family and friends were determined to get her home, I remember looking at The CEO and saying to him, sadly, “They’re not going to find her.”  And he looked back at me and said what I hadn’t: “Not alive.”

As of yesterday, we know where Morgan is, and some part of me wishes I still didn’t know, so I could pretend that maybe she would still come home under her own power and not in a box.

I really, really wish I hadn’t read all those Patricia Cornwell novels.  Every so often, my brain skitters off into wondering what Morgan’s last hours were like, and I don’t know whether that’s due to empathy, or to horrified rubbernecking, or whether I’m just examining The Fear again.  Probably all three.

If you’re female, you probably know The Fear more intimately than you’d care to acknowledge. These days, it’s less for my forty-year-old self than for my daughter, but we all know it: that tickle at the back of your neck that says, “Somebody is looking at me and thinking of destruction, because I am female.”  The Fear keeps us from walking down dark streets alone and leaving our doors unlocked; sometimes The Fear keeps us from wearing that really hot dress or speaking to strangers.  Because You Never Know.  For most of us, The Fear will stay ghostly.

For some of us, it won’t.  I’d like to change that.  I don’t know how.  All I can do is raise my boys to respect women, and my girl to respect herself, and vice versa.

Morgan’s family loved her very much, and she loved her family.  What’s kept me going today is the memory of a choral piece I sang in college, a setting of a couple of verses from Song of Solomon:

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm
For love is strong as death –
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it,
For love is strong as death.

Here’s a link to a recording of it on youtube: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart,” by Sir William Walton, recorded by the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge. (I’m American enough that I find it a little creepy for choirboys to be singing this one, although that doesn’t usually bother me. I think it calls for the passionate sound of women’s voices rather than the purity of boys’ voices. And this performance is a little slow and bloodless, too – I always felt it was a tempestuous piece. But the only other recording I could find had serious pitch problems, so St. John’s it is.)

Hold your loved ones close.  Pray for the missing.  Pray for the ones that miss them.  Hold The Fear at bay.

For love is strong as death.

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R.I.P. John Deere 4040, and Other Important Stuff

The 4040 is dead.  It caught on fire yesterday afternoon – probably due to something electrical – and although we were able to put the fire out, the tractor is sitting a blackened, immobile hulk out in the middle of a field.  (Many thanks to the New River Valley Regional Airport, and the Dublin and Newbern Volunteer Fire Departments.  You guys are the best.)

The tractor will probably continue to sit there, useless, for some time.  The ground is very wet because of all the rain and snow we’ve had, and there’s no way to tow it at this point without creating a mud quagmire. (Ever see My Cousin Vinny? That kind of mud.)

The CEO is understandably bummed.  The thing’s insured, but not for anything near its replacement cost. Also, that tractor is one that’s typically used every day to feed hay to cows in the winter; one of the other tractors will have to be modified with a hay carrier. This means: a lot of extra work, a lot of cash out of pocket, and a lot of worry.

Heavy sigh.

The good news is that no one was hurt.  Which brings me to the Other Important Stuff: please, if you haven’t already done so, consider donating to organizations offering relief to Haiti.  We only lost a piece of equipment, not our home or our hospital, church, school, police department, food, clean water, neighbors, or family members.

Here are a few reputable organizations who’ve been doing good work in Haiti for decades, if not longer, and who could use a little help right now:

Partners in Health  (over twenty years of service to Haiti – highly recommended by givewell.net)

Medical Benevolence Foundation  (affiliated with Presbyterian Church, USA)

World Vision  (a Christian humanitarian organization)

UNICEF, the American Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders you’ve probably heard of as well.  All are well-regarded for their everyday charitable work and for fiscally responsible behavior.  I have personally donated at one time or another over the years to all of these organizations and am satisfied that none of them are scams.

Image is 1982 John Deere 4040 tractor at fastline.com.  It’s not our tractor – ours is a lot older, and a lot dirtier.  I just couldn’t get out to the field to take a picture of ours. Plus, it would probably depress me.

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Commitments for 2010

I’ve committed to embracing a healthier lifestyle (exercise?  Who, me?) this year. 
I’ve committed to finishing my novel and editing it by the end of 2010.
I’ve committed to an Act of Kindness (random or planned) each week this year.

I’ve committed to being Myself, and to appreciating those around me.

Enough insufferable smugness – the purpose of this post is really to remind myself of what I’ve promised to do.  I’ll be revisiting the matter throughout the year.  (And there’s another commitment.  I’d better stop now, these things are multiplying like drunken bunnies.)

Here’s to being a “new bloom, spreading fragrance around.”

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Perfume Review: Penhaligon’s Amaranthine, or Amaranthigh, or Amaranthingy


Amaranthine by Penhaligon’s London, New for Fall 2009
Amaranthine is a corrupted floral oriental for those private moments when everything is anticipation. It opens with a dramatic flourish of spices and tropical green. This unsettling lick of drama is beautifully ambushed by an unctuous accord of jasmine and ylang-ylang, a heady bloom renowned for its aphrodisiac properties, and clove swathed in spices, tea, musk and the rounded beauty of tonka bean absolute.  The perfume is reportedly “reminiscent of the scent of the inside of a woman’s thigh”. *

Head notes – Green Tea, White Freesia, Banana Tree Leaf, Coriander Seed Oil, Cardamom Absolute  Heart – Rose, Carnation, Clove Oil, Orange Blossom, Ylang Ylang Oil, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute   Base  – Musk, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Condensed Milk, Tonka Bean Absolute

You know what? For once, the ad copy is pretty accurate, although perhaps it overstates the “drama” and “aphrodisiac properties.”  * The hilarious quote about thighs is purportedly from composer Bertrand Duchaufour, from cosmeticsinternational.  It alone made me want to smell this thing, and people seem to be associating the scent with the word “thigh” now.  Maybe it’s just that “thigh” is a funny word, which it is.  Say it six times in a row: thigh thigh thigh thigh thigh thigh.  Kudos to you if you said it without snickering; I couldn’t.

And look at those notes, too – does that sound anything like thighs to you??  The notes say “tropical floral with oriental base” to me, and that’s a category I like in general.  So here it is the beginning of winter, and I’ve spritzed Amaranthine four days in a row, to make sure the experience isn’t a freak occurrence.  I think, honestly, it would be better in warmer weather.  It’s a bit light when one is wearing sweaters and shivering in a cold rain.  But even though it’s been less satisfying in early December than, say, Alahine (about which, more coming next week), I say this:  Amaranthine is beautiful.

It starts out with fresh, dewy florals only lightly dusted with spices.  I get very little tea from it, although other reviewers find it more prominent; I get more general “green” notes.  And yes, there’s a banana hit to it, probably from the ylang, although it’s a green banana thing, not an overripe squishy vibe.  I can’t identify rose in there, but the carnation is prominent, as well as the orange blossom. The jasmine is grassy and fresh, as opposed to that indolic heavy Joy-type jasmine that makes me think of dirty panties, and it doesn’t stand out. 

Eventually I get down to the base, which is soft and clings to the skin, and still retains a veil of freesia and orange blossom.  I was a bit worried about that “condensed milk” note, but although Amaranthine is a little sweet, it reads as floral sweetness to me rather than gourmand.  At this stage, it smells a bit like skin smells if the weather is warm and it’s been most of a day since it’s been showered: not squeaky-clean, but not smelly-sweaty either.  Like, you know, skin, warm and slightly moist.

It may be my nose, but I’m not getting of the weirdness some other reviewers have discovered.  Nor do I get the smuttiness that some people have described.  Is it just too cold and/or dry? Is my brain twisted? I’m not sure.  All I get out of Amaranthine is tropical, relaxed, fresh beauty.  I’ll be putting my decant away for a few months, at least, and wearing things more appropriate to this chilly weather.  When the time is right, I’ll know.

On a related subject (THIGHS!), I’m going to talk about body image.  I have a daughter in her early teens.  She’s healthy and fit; she’s petite; she’s still wearing a few things from the girls’ department, particularly dresses, as she finds the juniors’ department offerings immodest.  (I’m not complaining.)

But she said to me the other day after track practice, “You know, Mom, I have big thighs.” I looked at them and raised my eyebrows.  “They’ve got muscles.  I mean, you can actually see my thigh muscles. They’re runner’s thighs.”  I nodded.  “I think that’s the reason I have trouble finding jeans that fit.”  (Yeah, tell me about it.)  But I’m not going to apologize to my kid for giving her the thunder thighs genes, because – honestly? – she’s got great legs.  She complains that her broad shoulders make her shirts fit funny, and her muscly thighs make her jeans tight, and how her jeans are always too big in the waist if they fit her hips.    

And she’s looking around her high school at all the girls with thin thighs and thinking, How come I don’t look like them?, while I’m looking at her and thinking, Hey, that is my basic body shape, just younger and shorter and much, much thinner, and it’s beautiful.  It’s a swimmer’s body (okay, a short swimmer’s body!), and it’s healthy and athletic and beautiful. 

And I think I want it back.  I’ve been avoiding exercise for way too long.  Time to remedy that.

Ad copy from Penhaligon’s.  Top image: Amaranthine in the limited edition crystal flacon, from Penhaligon’s.
Center image: Shield Bug on Globe Amaranth by innermt at flickr.
Bottom image: 2008 Cross Country by nmhschool at flickr.  No, it’s not Bookworm, but she runs cross-country and distance track.  I’m so proud of her.

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Holy Cow, It’s December!

Wow, I can’t believe it’s the last month of the year.  Time does march on… (duh!)
I have so much to do.  I’m really glad I completed my National Novel Writing Month project a few days ago (yeah, okay, I’ll shut up about it now), but I’m very far behind on the whole Christmas thing.  It’s December 3:  three days before Bookworm marches in the local Christmas parade, ten days before my community chorus concert, twelve days before we’ll go get a Christmas tree, and three weeks before the Small People Living In My House will be pounding down the stairs, demanding to open their stockings and eat homemade cinnamon rolls.
I need a lot more time.  I haven’t bought any gifts; I haven’t baked anything; I haven’t decorated anything.
Next project: Make Christmas happen, simply.  I mean, I need simple and inexpensive and easy ways to make it feel like Christmas around here without doing a lot of the work myself – and I could pick up Better Homes and Gardens or Woman’s Day or some other magazine, but that would feel like wasting time.  (Blogging’s not a waste of time, is it?  Please tell me it ain’t!) Might have to go check out the emergency holiday missions at FlyLady.org, too.

As I’m formulating the Christmas plan, I think I’ll start by cleaning up the joint.  (Eek!)  Get all the fall stuff put away, help the kids pack up anything they won’t need over the winter months, ditch the “I haven’t used this in months” items lying around.  We’ll see how it goes.

As an aside, I smelled the Laura Mercier Minuit Enchante’ parfum that people are raving about on my favorite perfume blogs.  I don’t live anywhere near a Nordstrom’s, but managed to hit the one in Richmond a few days ago, in the course of  attending a farmers’ conference and, incidentally, visiting my brother in order to hold the new baby.  (He’s precious, of course. I got to snuggle him and kiss his little fuzzy head, but not for long enough.)  Anyway, I was expecting a big ol’ dusty resiny Opium-like thing, and instead what I got was a gorgeous spice overload.  It spends about twenty minutes in the too-sweet zone, but then it’s a pileup in the spice aisle, with freshly ground cinnamon tackling clove, and nutmeg jumping on top of vanilla bean.  I thought it was terrific.  Better, I got some on the inside wrist of my jacket sleeve, so my jacket still smells great too.

On the other hand, my brother, when invited to sniff my wrist, jerked his head back as if he’d been slapped and asked what I’d done to tick off the sales assistant.  As if you couldn’t guess, he doesn’t care for perfume. Minuit Enchante’ is a bit linear, and seems more like a Generally Good Smell than a serious perfume.  I’d rather have Teo Cabanel Alahine, otherwise known to me as Happiness In a Bottle, Winter Variation.  But ME is a nice thing to see in a mainstream release.  Bottle’s pretty, too, with that heavy magnetic cap.

Well.  I’d better get cracking on that cleaning-up thing.  I plan to be back tomorrow with a review of Penhaligon’s Amaranthine (better known to my swap buddies as Amaranthigh, or Amaranthingy).

Here are links to a few other reviews of Minuit Enchante’:
Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am
March at Perfume Posse
Angela at Now Smell This

Image is Advent Calendar by laurasjoquist at flickr.com.

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Thanksgiving 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! 

My NaNoWriMo word count stands at 45,027.

The turkey breast is in the oven.  The ham and the sweet potato casserole await their turn. Cranberry gelatin salad, green beans, and pies are done.  Guests are bringing rolls, dressing, fruit, and broccoli casserole.  Gravy is a last-minute project.  Floor has been mopped, bathroom has been cleaned.  (Kitchen is still a mess, but there’s time to clean it.)  The house smells good.

My family is all healthy and together.  We have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet.  We’re warm and comfortable and well-fed and we love each other. 

I often forget that many people don’t have those things. 

I will be making time in the next month to do something that makes life a little better for someone.  This month was for me, but it’s time to turn my focus outward and let God love someone through me.  That is, to me, what “giving thanks” should mean – that we not be complacent about what we have or envious of what we don’t have, but that we set our faces toward making things better for everyone.

May your Thanksgiving be so blessed.

Image is Happy Thanksgiving by *Gracie at flickr.

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Life, the Universe, and Babies.

No perfume review today, as I’m anxiously awaiting a call from my brother, announcing the safe arrival of his firstborn.  Today also happens to be the birthday of my youngest child, whose nom de blog will henceforth be Taz, for obvious reasons.  (I considered, and then rejected, Genghis as being a tad too bloodthirsty for this affectionate whirlwind.)  His older brother – whom I’ll be calling Gaze – is a little disappointed that this cousin won’t be arriving on his birthday next week, as we’d been told was a possibility. Their older sister, Bookworm, is torn between wishing for a girl cousin and wanting to be the only granddaughter on that side of the family.

Therefore, of course, as a mother I’ve been dwelling on the miracle of a new baby. (I’m aiming for philosophical rather than sentimental here, but please forgive me if I roll all the way down the hill.)  I don’t mean the miracle of reproduction; every plant, animal, and insect on the planet is set up to make copies of themselves.  And I don’t really mean the miracle of birth, that most of the mammal babies on the planet manage to extricate themselves from the birth canal without damage to themselves or to their mothers.  You see it on Animal Planet all the time (especially if Taz has control of the remote)!  I don’t even mean the miracle that all that complex genetic code gets read correctly, producing perfectly healthy human babies, so often.  How amazing is that?

What’s miraculous, and a little eerie, about a baby being born, is that the baby changes from the Imagined Baby into its real self.  Before it’s born, a baby is UNLIMITED POSSIBILITY

It could be a girl or a boy, or it could look like its father, or its mother, or Great-Aunt Doris… it could have Dad’s eyes, Mom’s chin, and Grandmom’s fingers.  Or Dad’s feet, Granddaddy’s jawline, and Pop’s eyebrows.  Mom’s musical ability, Aunt Amy’s artistic skills, Aunt Ellen’s gift for compromise, Dad’s stubbornness, Bambaw’s talent for making a party out of a cucumber, some pudding, and a cup of apple juice… not to mention some heretofore-undiscovered-among-the-family talent for, I don’t know, synchronized swimming.   The kid in there could be the next great left fielder for the Boston Red Sox, or the scientist who discovers a cure for cancer, or the greatest American novelist of all time… the possibilities are literally endless. 

(I acknowledge that Kid could also be a future Skid Row bum, among other unpleasant things, but we prefer not to entertain those possibilities, and I’ll thank you to not kill my buzz.)

At the moment of birth, when Imagined Baby turns into Real Baby, we parents feel an unexplained sadness for all the things this baby could have been – but isn’t.  The universe shrinks to the size of something that fits in newborn-size jammies, something noisy and rather damp, something that keeps us awake at night.  But very soon, the joy at what this baby is grows much larger than the diaphanous regret for the lost possibilities, and we’re caught up in everyday miracles: the perfect rosebud of this baby’s mouth when she sleeps, or the steady, dreamy, regard of his eyes, or the beautiful hazelnut shape of his head.

God bless this baby, that New Universe in a Diaper.  God bless the New Universe’s parents.

God bless us all.

Top image: Andromeda Galaxy, posted by clownfish33 at flickr
Lower image:  Nace’ un bebe’, nace’ una mama (A baby is born, a mommy is born) by happy-mami (Rebe) at flickr

Update:  New Universe is here, and will be living on Earth under the name of Airin.   Mama and baby are well and healthy, and dad is very happy!  We’re all proud.

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