Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Paint by numbers...

Years ago I bought a painting. It was the first piece of ART I had ever purchased. Before that we had prints and framed posters, but nothing that was an original piece, that was created by someone we knew, that nobody had the same thing. It felt very grown up at the time.

And then I got it home. And suddenly it felt like a mistake.

The painting that I had loved just a few hours before, that I had thought about buying for weeks before I actually did, was all of a sudden not so great. Not even not so great but a really expensive mistake. How in the world could that have happened?

Location. Location. Location.

See the artist was the husband of a woman I worked with. The first time I went to their place I was blown away. Their entire house was like an art gallery. Every room had pieces Ron had done. The main living room had his latest collection. Space scenes. Specifically the Hale-Bopp Comet. He painted on glass. Windshields from cars. Giant dormer windows. Huge impressive pieces. All different, but all in this theme. It was amazing. The piece I liked the best was a little different than the rest. Smaller, done in blues instead of the oranges of some of the other ones. But I loved it.

And I finally decided to buy it. As a friend I got a decent price so less than he would have sold it in a gallery but still a significant amount of money for us at the time. I loaded it very carefully in to the car and made my way home. Bringing it in to our house and deciding where to hang it....and...well...

The house like an art gallery was the perfect place for this piece. The very normal (normal seems good here, not sure what else to call it) house did not. Instead of a tiki bar in our dining room, we had a dining room table. Instead of a nail table with an airbrushing machine in our family room we had a sectional. Instead of an art gallery in our living room we had a couch. See? Just not quite the same. And this was a really strong picture. It stood out. And I regretted buying it. Because instead of loving this piece like I had now I looked at it and thought about how much I had spent, and it's not like I could return it, and how it absolutely did not go with our house.

A few years later C decided he wanted it in his room. And when we moved up here and his room was painted a brilliant blue it really did look nice in there. It fit. And I could once again look at it and think, I really like that piece.

Location. Location. Location.

The art didn't change. But the surroundings did and that made all the difference. It was a good lesson for me for future purchases. I can like something, even sort of love it, but that doesn't mean it's right for my house. Art has to work with the surroundings. It becomes a part of your whole world when you bring it home. And it should enhance everything around it. Not overwhelm it.

Now C has moved out and he didn't want to take the piece with him. A friend of a friend had mentioned once how much they liked the painting and so I have passed it along to him. He likes it, his daughter likes it. It's gone to a good home. And as silly as I know it sounds, that makes me feel better about giving it away. It's something that was created. An art piece. A painting. Someone made that. And now someone else can appreciate it.


I just hope they have the right place to hang it...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Time waster...

Sitting in a car dealership waiting for my car. Driving back and forth to Bend put the miles on the car pretty quickly so it's already time for the 15,000 mile service. So here I sit waiting. With plenty of time to kill. And nothing to talk about...

Or write about as the case may be.

I have a little fiction bouncing in my head but a public space doesn't work for me for writing fiction. I tend to read sections out loud over and over to check the flow. Not sure the woman sitting here waiting with me would appreciate that so much. Also she's watching Kathie Lee and Hoda and I can feel my brain cells falling asleep the more they talk so I don't think it's a good creative space for me, man...

So here I sit with time to fill and nothing to say.

Doesn't that always seem to be the way? The time you find clothes you adore you have no money but as soon as you are ready to go shopping everything is lame. All you want to do is sit down and read a book but as soon as you have time to do so you find that what you really want is a nap. Work is slamming busy and you need a break and when it comes you are bored out of your mind.

Let's see...what to fill the blog with...

My garage is full of bookshelves. C took all of his books and such with him when he moved out and it left nothing but empty shelves in his rooms. Former rooms? No, that's not right, they are still rooms, they just aren't his anymore. The rooms that were formerly his... Anyway... The empty shelves. The walls with no pictures just hooks. Brent took all of that down to the garage. Well not the walls, but the hooks and hangers. So now I have two empty rooms with holes in the walls to deal with. Looking towards the time we sell now. So patching and painting a neutral color. Not the brilliant blue it is right now. Cleaning the carpets. Getting a spare bed for when C visits. A futon or hide-a-bed most likely.  Something that will double as something else when we move in to the as yet unfound, no timeline for when it happens, new place.

And along with the two empty rooms I have a very full garage. I'll put the shelves on Craigslist. Cheap. Give me a few bucks and come get them and they are yours. And yet there will be someone who wants them for even less than I will put them up for. Someone who will offer me more if I just deposit his check and write him another for the difference. And someone who will say they want them and then never show up. At least that's the way it will go if the past is any indicator.

And there is also the temporary bed that C has been sleeping on for the past decade plus. See what happened is when we moved from Colorado Springs back up to Oregon we sold everything looking to buy new when we got here. Including C's bed, which to be fair was a race car bed so it was ready to be replaced anyway... So we got up here and friends of our had just gotten new furniture for their daughter's room and had this twin bed frame that had drawers under the bed and a nice storage headboard and it would work just fine. Except they lost a piece of it in their move. So the foot board was never found. And we had to basically nail the puppy together in the room to make it work. And then the mattress he picked out was a cheap thing. We thought fine, he can have this set up for a few years then we will get him something better....

And yeah, that never happened. We asked a few times, do you want something new? And nope, he was fine. And then college came and it seemed silly to get new when he was only going to sleep on it for a few weeks at a time and then he bought his own new set up when he moved to Bend so now...well...finally the temporary bed is going away. So that's in the garage as well.

The car was in the garage as Brent moved all of the pieces in yesterday. So now I have a garage full of shelves, an old bed and a slot just big enough for the car. Which was weird pulling in this morning after the gym. I actually have to think about it when I park for awhile. I like having the extra space so I will be hopeful to sell things or give them away quickly.

Know anyone who needs some inexpensive shelves?

Or wants to haul away an old twin size mattress?

Or has anything interesting to talk about while I sit for the next few hours waiting for my car?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Whew...that was close...

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked if I had an address she needed. Sure I did. I just needed to look it up real quick.

And thus started the great freak-out of 2014.

See our network drive crashed a few months ago. Which was no big deal because we have another drive that mirrors it. Just bought a new drive, transferred the back up, badda bing, badda boom, no problems. Until I went to find that address and discovered that the documents file wasn't there. No addresses, no copies of letters, no back up of old things we had kept. Dang it.

So we dug back out the old drive that had crashed and I took it in to our computer guys, Happy Hamsters, who have fixed laptops and drives for me in the past. And crossed my fingers. They ran a few tests in their "Free 10 minute evaluation" and found that it wasn't going to be simple and more extensive searching would need to be done to recover anything. If they could. And time is money, bayyyybee... Okay he didn't say it like that but he did let me know that it wouldn't be cheap. Which left me with a moment to decide what to do. 

I've gone back and forth with sending out the Christmas letter anymore. C is grown and doing his own thing, we don't move as often as we used to. Life is pretty settled so I had been thinking about stopping it anyway. This would be the perfect excuse to do so. And as far as other documents what was really on there that we needed? Back ups of things on my laptop, for me, but I would just back them up again someplace else. And what else...and then I remembered. I sent Brent a quick text, "Do you have your dad's book anyplace else?"

Yep, the book Jack was writing while he was in Afghanistan was on that drive. And nowhere else.

So that answered the question of paying to have it recovered. "Yes, please, do your best."

And they found it. And recovered it. And transferred it all on to a working drive. Whew...

Now I need to read it.

See I've put off reading it since he died. Cowardice. That's one reason. I have a really strong voice in my writing and I have been worried that Jack did as well. I know he did when sending notes or emails, so I was worried that opening that file and starting to read that book I would be "hearing" my father-in-law. And for a long time I wasn't ready. First because of how cheated we felt losing him so early. Then because we lost my dad as well and it was too much. But now, well now I know I need to get to it. I don't want to miss my chance to read what he wrote. To see that side of him. 

The other reason is that it still makes me a little angry that he was writing. That he wanted to be a writer. See years and years ago when C was little, like 2 or 3 maybe, I first explored the idea of writing. And my in-laws discouraged me. Hard. "Everyone thinks they can write." "Writing is very difficult." "What makes you think you can do this?""Most people who write are not very good at it." "There is a big difference between liking to read and being able to write."

Ouch.

So I never talked to them about writing again. And it took a long time before I thought about it as a viable thing for me to do. I kept hearing "Everyone thinks they can write" echo in my head. Because it is sort of true. A lot of people think they can write. Or have a great book they are "writing", really just thinking about, or a really clever blog that you should read. Or a book that uses taint in the title and they have NO IDEA why that's freaking hilarious!

And writing is difficult. When I do a fiction piece if it's a small quick one I put up here on the blog or a longer one that I stress over and edit and re-edit and change and rearrange and try to get just so, either way it's something I made. Just me. And putting it out there in the world for other people to read, it's scary. Each and every time. Because sometimes it does suck. Because writing is very difficult. 

They weren't wrong. But finding out that Jack was writing, that he wanted to write? In a way it felt like a small betrayal. How could he have told me not to pursue something that he himself wanted to do? Why would he do that? My only guess is that someone had discouraged him along the way. And that the times he had tried his hand at writing he had discovered how difficult it can be. That he was trying to share that wisdom with me, but just did it badly. Crushed the plant before it really had a chance to take root.

But the good news is we both decided to give it a try. He was doing something he wanted to do and I will get a chance to read what he wrote. The bad news is he didn't get a chance to finish his book. Because he waited to try. And we never know just how long we have to finish.



The other good news is if I hate it we don't have to have that awkward conversation...


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Faraway friends...

I posted this morning on my Facebook feed about this guy I have seen lately. He sits by the side of the road with his camera and his binoculars. I am sure he's watching and photographing birds. But it's fun to speculate what he might be doing otherwise. But anyway...when I see him I think of a friend of mine who lives in Canada who photographs birds. Actually he photographs a lot of things, but he is on a bird kick right now. So when I would see this guy sitting in his lounge chair with his camera on the tripod in-front of him waiting for the birds I would think of my friend in Canada. Then this morning he was joined by a woman with binoculars, I am guessing his wife. Which made me think of friends of mine in Indiana who are a married couple and avid bird watchers.

That's the thing with online friends you might not "see" them face to face daily but you can "see" them in a lot of other ways.

Last night a friend of mine from Arizona sent me a message asking me to tell the Universe to hush up since you all know the Universe and I spend a lot of time talking. I told her it didn't work like that. The Universe is like a drunk at a party. If you try and ignore it, it just keeps getting louder.

Another friend of mine who lives in another part of Canada than the bird photographer is one of those guys that just doesn't get bugged by things. Shit comes and shit goes, but he just moves along. Usually. Except he reached his point this week where he had had enough and needed to recharge. So he went to the river. Posted that sometimes all you need in life is a book, a river and a rock to sit on. And then today he posted a picture of himself by the river, relaxed and smiling again.

And I thought. I need to go to the river.

Really I need a trip to beach, but the river will do.

I've posted before that I don't get embarrassed easily. I just don't. Usually when something happens that would or should be completely embarrassing my first thought is "Wait until so and so hears about this!" Because it's funny. I had one today that should have made me want to duck and run but instead I couldn't wait to go tell some friends who I knew would appreciate the story. Because it was funny, and funny trumps all.

Last weekend I saw I post on Facebook, it was one of those picture posts. A closed book with the line, We all have stories we don't tell. I nodded as I read it and then read people's comments. Opening up and telling things about themselves that they normally wouldn't. Their issues. Which you all know all of mine. I post about them. I take them out and look at them then put them back away. It's my way of dealing with them. Weight, boredom, lack of direction, laziness...my issues.

But you know what's awful? When you think you don't have an issue, or are at least over it and you find out you aren't.

And here is where we tie all of those random paragraphs together.

I had something happen last week that truly bothered me. Deeply. And on a couple of levels. The first because it was embarrassing and the second because it shouldn't have been. Not just because it never should have happened, but because I should be over such things by now. But I'm not. I just haven't had to deal with them since I was much younger so I had no idea it was still lurking there in my psyche. And it has put me in an off mood for almost a week because of it. And I kept trying to ignore it, up to and including telling myself over and over to let it go. Grow up and get over it.

Instead I just need to acknowledge not just that yes it bugs me deeply but that it's okay that it does. It doesn't matter why or what or how come, it just is, and that's okay. I'm not going to get more detailed, we all have stories we don't tell, but I just wanted to say that yes the Universe shouts when you ignore it. And friends don't have to be close enough to touch to touch you.

So thank you, Dana, for reminding me that when the Universe is talking I need to listen because it's not going to stop. And thank you, Kevin, for reminding me that sometimes what you need is a river, a book and a rock to sit on and then to let the river just wash it away...


It's a bench not a rock, but it worked just fine.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stages...

He remembered their first fight. Not the first disagreement or misunderstanding but first real fight. They had just moved in together. Maybe a month in? Not much longer than that for sure. It was all still very new and they were getting used to living with each other and the odd little things you have to adjust to. You know the ones, do they leave their socks on the floor, do they put dishes on the counter or in the sink, do they close drawers and closet doors or leave them open? The little things that become big things if you don't figure them out quickly.

Anyway, the first big fight. It was a Thursday night. He had gone out after work with some guys from the office and they had watched a ball game and had some beers and grabbed some wings. Then he went home. Home to find dinner on the table. Cold dinner by this time. And a very hot girlfriend. Not hot like attractive, though she was that as well, hot like angry. "Where the fuck were you?" was the greeting he got as he walked in to the room.

"I called you like 20 times."

At that point he pulled out his cell phone and saw the battery was dead. This was the time before smart phones. You remember that right? When you weren't constantly checking your phone for everything so a dead battery without noticing happened sometimes.

"The guys and I went to Sparky's to watch the game. It's not a big deal."

Now the dishes started getting cleared off the table. Or slammed off the table more accurately. Pick up, stomp to sink, scrape the food in to the garbage disposal, slam the dish in to the other side. "It's not a big deal? I've been waiting for you for hours. I had no idea where you were!" Stomp, scrape, slam. "I tried calling and all I got was voice mail!" Stomp, scrape, slam.

"Look just because we are living together doesn't mean I'm going to give up all of my guy time. That's not going to happen."

At that she spun on her heel towards him, holding a glass in her hand, for a minute he was pretty sure she was going to throw it at his head. "Who the hell said you had to? But fucking call home and let me know! Or better yet, tell me the day before, or a few days before. I could have gone out with my own friends, did you ever think of that? I definitely wouldn't have fucking made dinner!"

He had never seen her so angry. And he couldn't decide if he was scared or turned on. She was breathing hard. Her cheeks were flushed. Her eyes were flashing every time she looked at him. It was really pretty sexy. It would have been more so if she hadn't been so very angry, but even then. Passionate! That was what he thought, she was passionate.

That was the first big fight. Dishes slamming. Yelling. Swearing. They worked it out. He realized that living together meant letting her in on his plans. All of them, not just the ones that he made with her. And he also remembered to keep his phone charged.

After a few years the passionate fights died down. They figured out how to live together. How to work things out together. They got married. Had their first kid. Life moved on.

He remembered their worst fight.

Sitting in a bar on a date night. Their daughter was with his mother. Grownup time out. They hadn't been out together in a long time. As they sat having a drink before heading to dinner a couple of people from his office stopped to say hello. He had swallowed the large lump in his throat and made the introductions. Smoothly. Cleanly. And they moved on. He had turned back to his wife at that point and realized things were not smooth or clean. Her jaw was clenched ever so slightly. If you didn't know her you would never notice. Her lips, normally relaxed and smiling were held in a straight line. The spark in her eyes replaced by ice. Seriously, to look directly in her eyes at this point would give you a shiver down your back. The cold radiated off of her.

"How long?" Flat, toneless, just the words, nothing else.

"Until dinner? Umm...our reservations are at 8, so another half hour."

The small slight twitch at the corner of her mouth. The only emotion in her face. There for a second and then gone. "How long have you been sleeping with her?" The same flat tone. Ice water in her veins.

He reached casually for his glass and knocked it right off the table.

"Don't make a scene, I'm asking you a question. How long?" He looked at her hands. She had them folded on the table. Clutching herself so hard there were white moons around each finger tip. He saw the muscles in her arms were bunched. Tense. Like a trap waiting to spring.

But she never did. Ice. Cold. Stare. Nothing but control.

That fight was a long one. But she never got warmer. And it was never sexy. Just scary. The way she held herself when they talked. Like she didn't trust her hands if they weren't held tightly. They worked through things. He hadn't been sleeping with the co-worker. Not yet. But they were close. That stopped. He changed positions in the company, moved to a new office, things got better. The ice thawed.

Years passed again. Things just sort of fell apart. No more almost affairs, no more out without calling nights. Just drifting.

Now they sat in an office with a counselor trying to fix things. To bring it back to good. He remembered the first fight, the heat, the passion. He remembered the worst fight, the ice, the reserve, the fear. And as he looked at her face while the counselor talked he saw, well he saw nothing. Blank. Empty. She could have been making a grocery list in her head for all of the emotion she was showing. And he realized that the first fight, the worst fight, those were bad, but this? This was the last fight.

And there was no fight left.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Spark...

Tabitha watched Grant Armiston and his new bride Jenna dance. They were a lovely couple and a good match. Grant's family and Jenna's family had planned their betrothal from birth. The blending of the two families would mean good things for both of their villages. This was the way things were done. And it was a good way. Tabitha knew if she kept telling herself that then eventually she might believe it to be true.

Her grandmother Luella came behind Tabitha and placed a hand on her shoulder. "You should dance with one of the Graystone boys. If you start with the youngest you will have four other dance partners all waiting their turn. Your feet will give out before the evening is over."

Tabitha smiled at her grandmother. She knew what she was doing. Distraction and then exhaustion. That's what she needed tonight. Anything to stop thinking about what might have been.

She had first noticed him watching her while she hung out the laundry. It had been a breezy day and she was trying to hang the sheets. The wind kept catching them like a sail as she would fight to get them on the line and secured. At one point she was wrapped in her grandmother's pink sheet like it was a dress, trying to untangle herself without letting any of the sheet drag on the ground and thus need rewashing. As she finally danced her way out of the mess she heard a laugh. A deep solid laugh. She swore that she could feel it vibrating in her bones as much as she heard it. She turned and there was Grant Armiston laughing at her.

"You know instead of laughing you could have helped!"

"I could have, but this was much more amusing."

And then he smiled at her, tipped an imaginary hat and walked on his way. She had felt herself blushing. Blushing. Just because Grant Armiston had spoken to her? She was being silly.

But no matter how silly she knew it to be she couldn't help replaying the way his laugh had sounded. How he had looked leaning up against her grandmother's fence watching her. And every time she thought about it she smiled.

She also started volunteering to run any errands that would take her in to town. And she might have made sure to take a slight detour to walk past the Armiston's house. Just because it was a lovely house and she enjoyed looking at the garden. That's what she told her grandmother when she had asked Tabitha about it anyway.

And more and more often when she walked by the house Grant would be outside. Reading. Or working in the garden. Or just getting ready to walk in to town and would she mind too much if he joined her. She never did mind, of course. And oddly enough he never seemed to have any errands to run that weren't at the same places she needed to go.

This went on for awhile until one day her grandmother asked her to come sit with her in the kitchen and talk.

Tabitha sat at the table while her grandmother tended to the fire in her stove. "Fire is an interesting thing, isn't it?"

Tabitha smiled, sometimes her grandmother said odd things like this, "Yes, I suppose so."

"In the stove like this it's a good thing. A helpful thing. It cooks our food. It boils our water so it is safe to drink. Heats it so we can take warm baths. During the winter I can use the charbox to put an ember in each heating stove and warm the house. But if I were to drop that ember out of the box on to the floor what would happen?"

"You would have to put the ember out before it caught on fire."

"And what about if I asked you to carry an ember to Mrs. Livingston if her fire had gone cold? How would you do that?"

"I would put a coal in the charbox and take it to her." Tabitha said in a tone that clearly reflected the thought that her grandmother might be losing it just a touch.

"You wouldn't carry it in your hand? Why not?"

"Because it would burn me. You cannot carry fire in your hand."

"That is true. In the proper place it's a wonderful thing but you cannot use it in an improper way or you will get burned."

Tabitha gave her grandmother a confused smile, "Yes..."

"You have been spending a lot of time with the Armiston boy lately."

Tabitha looked down and blushed.

"You know he is betrothed to another don't you?"

"It's not like that, we are just friends."

"Is that so?" Tabitha's grandmother put her fingers under Tabitha's chin and lifted her face. "Do all of your friends make you blush?"

Tabitha looked down again, "No..."

Her grandmother sat down across from her at the table. "He's a fine boy. I can see that. And he can see that you are a lovely girl. But I need you to listen to me. He is betrothed to another. That is not going to change. No matter what you are thinking. He is spoken for. His parents have made those arrangements. And they are good arrangements. If you try to steal that coal you will end up burned."

"I am not trying..."

Tabitha fell silent as her grandmother looked at her. It was a stern look, but not an angry one.

"Child, I know. I do. I know how you are feeling. I know what you are hoping. But it is not going to happen. His family will not allow it. And he is a good son and will not go against his family. You need to take that ember and put it deep inside a charbox right now and don't let it back out. Do you understand me?"

Tabitha nodded and a tear spilled from her eye.

Her grandmother reached out and wiped it away, "Yes, I see that you do."

It took awhile. Tabitha stopped going in to town unless she was with her grandmother. She did not venture in to her own yard when she saw Grant walking by the house. No matter how many times he walked past and no matter how badly she had wanted to. She knew her grandmother was right.

Now two years later Grant was dancing with his new bride and the world spun on as it was meant to.

And the fire in her chest burned.

She closed the charbox down tightly and asked the youngest Graystone boy if he knew how to dance.






Friday, July 11, 2014

Fire or ice?

So which is scarier for you? An explosive temper or a quiet one?

I've talked before about my parents' tempers before. My dad was slow to anger but once he got there he was over you. My mother was quicker tempered but it was fast and gone. And neither of them yelled. Ever. Never. And though my mother was a quicker flash when you really had to worry was when she got quiet. That meant you were in big trouble.

Now because of the no yelling thing I am pretty much incapable of dealing with explosive tempers. Temper fits, the yelling, the slamming of things, they upset me. I just don't know how to process such things. The fight or flight response kicks in and I either want to run away in terror or start hitting you. There is no calm and rational thought when I am around an explosive temper.

But on the other hand if I am dealing with someone who has the icy temper? Who just gets calmer and calmer? Then I am truly scared. Because that's the dangerous one in my head. That's the one that says you are really in for it now.

I've also talked about how I am a mix of my parents. Faster to anger than my father, I stay there longer than my mother. When I'm ticked off at you I will fight. When I am truly angry I will get quiet and withdraw.

Quiet is worse.

And the quieter I am the worse it is.

I think it's a control thing. When I am truly angry I am not in control of what is going to come out of my mouth. What I will say. How I will say it. So I get quiet. But all of those things are said. Just in my head. Because part of me knows that to say it out-loud would do no one any good. So I'm quiet. And in control. And icy.

Now here is my dilemma. I think an icy temper is scarier. I think it's worse. I think it is the one to be truly scared of. But when writing a character who is mad a  fiery temper is more expressive. It's obvious they are mad. It's explosive. It's big. It's out there. But does it really convey how angry they are?

What do you say? Which is scarier? Fire or ice?