blank'/> Mirth, Melancholy, and the Mundane: July 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mom and Me...

This past weekend, I took part in a new tradition that my mom and I began three years ago. Really, though, its roots were planted some 32 years ago when my grandmother casually asked what I wanted to collect so she’d have a better idea of what to buy me. Apparently, I chose miniatures and that answer led me to offer my mother a deal three years ago. Thus, a tradition was born.

From those early days of miniatures, I began a love for small figurines called Wades. My miniature collection became focused on these little porcelain animals – dense and glossy and always cool to the touch. Some of you may know them from Red Rose Tea. The ones I started with were small – no more than an inch high – small and swathed in earth tones and blue for the most part. Seals and beavers and mice and buffalo and something called a pine martin. The list goes on and on. There were nursery rhyme figures, too – and the longer I went, the more I realized that some of my pieces were fairly rare and that there was a whole world out there of pieces I’ve never heard of in shapes I’d never imagined. Pitchers and plates, decanters and vases. Buildings and egg coddlers, banks and dinnerware. The list seems never-ending and my collection seems ever-growing.

Sometime ago, perhaps 10 years now, I joined the Wade Collector’s Club – an international organization headquartered in England and very closely tied to Wade itself. I received a quarterly magazine and an exclusive piece every year. It was here that I started to realize that my collection was perhaps a bit more impressive than I had originally given it credit for being. Oh, I had nothing tremendously rare, but I had a lot of them. I also had a growing interest in the yearly convention they had in Camp Hill, PA. I never thought I would actually go, but one year – three years ago – I decided that I really wanted to see what it was all about. So, I made a deal with my mom. She has a few pieces herself and she also sells them. I made her a deal – I would pay for the hotel if she would buy our tickets in. We could go together on a road trip for the weekend and see what it was all about.

It was amazing. Friday night was an ice cream social, which we skipped the first year -- though we did go over and gather our goodie bags.  Saturday morning, we walked into the room in the convention center and I was floored. I thought I had a lot of Wades, but this was amazing. Wade upon Wade lay before me and it was a mad house. People everywhere haggling and ogling and my mom and I were right there with them. I spent a lot of money that first year and both years since. And it’s worth it. There were door prizes given out every hour and silent auctions were held to raise money for Parkinson’s research. Saturday night was a banquet where more Wades were given out, games were played, auctions were finished, a live auction was held, and we played English Bingo. Sunday, we went back into the convention room to see prices being cut, deals being made, and amateur sellers peddling their duplicates or liquidating their collections. A friend bought me the rarest Wade I have that first year – for a price that still surprises me because I brought it up as a joke and he was serious. A Mad Hatter advertising Guinness. Who knew?

The next year we had notes – we learned what to bring and what to look for. We knew better how it went. We brought our own food, packed amidst our clothes and my photo album of Wades. We brought bags to carry our purchases, and again, we played Yahtzee in the hotel and ribbed each other about finding better deals before the other. Again, I spent a good deal of money and came home with more Wades and more memories. And the friend bought me Supergirl and Batman and Alfred and Lois Lane. I came home and cataloged, numbered, photographed, and displayed my Wades and waited patiently for this year.

This year we had even better notes and better plans. My photos were better and my money was ready. We were first in line for the special Sunday sales and I came home again with more Wades and more memories.  The friend?  Pusser's Rum flask and the newest book of figurines and price trends.

I love my Wades...and I hope someday they will bring joy to another as they have brought to me. J. helps me with them and supports my collection, and maybe someday he'll go with me to the show.  He's helped me move them and organize them and kept me company as I’ve dusted them and told him stories about them.  He's urged me to make multiple copies of my database so I don't lose it -- for it would take a long time to rebuild the list as I have around 500 of them now.  And it is true that I love every one of them. But what I really value about this trip is not just the physical treasures I find but the time I spend with my mother. So many my age have lost their mothers or are not close to them and it’s so special to me to get to spend this time with mine. We laugh and plan, share and spend, celebrate and collaborate. We roll our Yahtzee dice, make our artistic nametags, and basically have a great time. My mother and I don’t always spend a lot of time together; we get along fine and go on shopping trips, but I tend to have more in common with my father. That makes these trips all the more special. The first year we went was right after my grandfather passed away and there was something profoundly healing in that first trip together. So, as I go to sleep tonight in my own bed, I will once again relive the weekend and smile at the two things that I brought home with me.

Whimsical Wades and mom memories.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tears for Norway...

Tears for Norway

Pale Nordic skin,
Touched by raindrops
And water from the lake.
Shivering with gooseflesh
Brought on by rain and fear
Huddling in confusion

You shed your clothes
Hoping to swim away,
But the lake drained you
And you turned back
Knowing that you were wading
Into the cold jaws of hell

You lay still, silent
The bodies of friends
Pressing in against you
Crushing the panic within you
The rain washing away
Blood you will always feel

You could hear him
Breathing on a rock
His taunts and laughter
Still in your ears
Then the bullet came
And you heard nothing

The world is watching
Struggling to understand
Why he came for the children
Faces not Nordic, but human
Grieving for the innocence
Shed like clothes on a rocky beach

7/25/11

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Meeples and Munchkins...

I once wrote about two flaws I have -- which was not to say that those were the only flaws I have ,they are just the ones that stood out to me at the time for whatever reason.  Today, I will write about another.

First, I want to say that I love playing games.  Not just computer ones, but games that involve tables and dice and sometimes little figurines.  Things that require you to determine battle results and how you will plan your strategy.  My favorite games of late are Munchkin in its many forms.  Arkham Horror (this one has everyone working together -- best game ever for reasons which will soon be clear), Carcasonne in its many forms.  And games where I can spell things.  :)  Nothing like spending hours on some random afternoon gathering cards and setting up elaborate game tableaux.

That said, however, I'm a poor loser.  It's awful, really -- I try so hard to remember that it's just a game and that I shouldn't take it personally or as if the fate of the free world depended on me winning.  Sometimes -- most of the time, sadly -- that intellectual, rational thought will not stop me from getting upset when I'm losing.  I don't ragequit or cry or anything, but I do tend to get really testy with whomever I'm playing.  The worst part is, I can HEAR myself doing it, and yet I cannot always get myself to stop.  The dilemma of emotions not having on/off switches for most of us.  My poor opponent(s) gets to be subjected to petulant Gemini and I get to dig myself into worse holes because it's really hard to play better when you're feeling sorry for yourself.

I'm not a bad player, either -- sometimes I just get a bad draw of cards or my opponent gets really lucky.  Sometimes I make mistakes (don't we all?) and sometimes the other player is better.  In any event, sometimes I whine like the dickens, only to end up winning.  It's horrible.  I can laugh about it afterwards, but what I really want to to find the magic 'Whiny Loser' button somewhere in my silly head and give it a toggle.  And then break it.

Sometimes I can fight it by just being melodramatic in an exaggerated way and just be generally goofy -- telling my opponent to leave me alone or I'll haunt his nightmares.  Begging for mercy.  Casting aspersions on his ancestors.  That sort of thing.  I have found this sort of goofy hyperbole can stave off the frustration of losing and, by extension, losing all my confidence.

I also tend to stick to games that, while they have one clear winner, tend to rely more on luck or on personal accomplishment than specifically 'Crush your Opponent' as the main objective.

So...to everyone I play games with...thank you for your patience in the face of Whiny Loser and I promise you that I will continue to work on it. In the meantime, just leave my meeples and munchkins alone.

Please?  :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Serendipity and Ghosts...

Sometimes I see things that aren’t there.

It's true.  Out of the corner of my eye, I sometimes see shadows large or small – just a shape, a movement, a sense that there’s something there that’s just out of reach of my senses. When I turn to look, I see, of course, nothing. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about this – perhaps because all too recently, we watched my husband’s grandmother slip into the clutches of dementia. She saw people the rest of us could not see and quietly rewrote history by some unknown guidelines that none of us knew. We couldn’t truly understand it, and it was frightening.  We ache as we watch and wonder what it is like to lose control of our faculties and be rendered to a point where we cannot tell what is real and what is the product of a damaged mind. And we wonder if, in the end, we’ll even care.

But, my own experiences with things that others cannot see is much different.  It's also been happening more often lately and while I know it could be cause for concern in another context, I honestly don’t think it is in mine.  If pressed, I think most would admit to having experienced something similar at some point, though it may not have registered. I also suspect, from a rational point of view, that because I’m looking for anomalies, I am finding them. Or it’s the heat or a stray hair or countless other things that are less resistant to reason.  I'm sure, also, that because I’m more aware of it, I’m noticing it more. I do not think it is ghosts or spirits or anything supernatural.

Or maybe I do.

Maybe I don’t know what they are and don’t really care. It doesn’t feel like I’m losing my rational mind – I never see something out of the corner of my eye and think it’s a real person. And when I turn to find nothing looking back at me, I don’t look around in a panic, wondering where whomever it was went. I just sort of shrug and move on. Nothing feels amiss in my brain or in my reality. Nothing feels menacing within my mind or without – it’s just the idea that there’s something there, but when I look at it, it leaves my perception.

I’m not sure if this blog is braver than the one about same-sex marriage, but it is certainly up there. There are those of you out there who will nod and smile at this – having experienced similar sightings before and feeling no fear at your grip on reality. There are those who will think I’m crazy – but you already do, so I’m not sure it’s dangerous for me to share. I believe all of this is harmless.

Most of you know that I am not religious in any conventional way – there is no name for what I believe in. Someday I will write about that – but for now, I will say that I believe that no matter how one might categorize it, there are things in this world that we cannot understand. There are things that don’t fit neatly into what we know and accept as real. There are forces in the world that will make you find the exact book you are looking for in a crowded bookstore just by reaching out your hand. Or something that lands a financial opportunity at your feet on the very day you were discussing money with a loved one. Or believing you saw the shape of your grandmother – gone for two yearsdisappear in a crowd as you leave from a visit with your grandfather in the hospital. Or something that makes you stay up way too late on the one night that a near-stranger desperately needs someone to talk to.

Coincidence. Random occurrence. Tricks of the mind. Perhaps these – but what if they are not? What if those are words and phrases for the forces of the world that we cannot explain? Do we render ourselves too vulnerable if we admit that things happen that cannot be explained through science as we know it? There is an awful lot of ugliness in the world, and it does my spirit good to believe that there is some sort of force out there that, through my own will or another’s, makes things go right sometimes. So, maybe that shadow is just a trick of the light or a tired mind – or maybe it’s something else. Either way, I will see its presence – for just a brief moment – with eyes of wonder and curiosity.

It is these moments that we praise the lucky coincidence, being in the right place at the right time, opportunity knocking, or even saying that fortune favors the blind.

Give me that which I cannot understand...blur my dreams with my reality...let me have my formless shapes...they harm no one and perhaps if we all slowed own and looked to the shadows that dance just out of our line of sight, we would find more beauty and wonder in the world...

“The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical” – Albert Einstein

“There are no coincidences... only the illusion of coincidence.” – V in V for Vendetta