Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The scariest stories...

...are the true ones.

Or at least the ones with a kernel of truth in them. The ones you can identify with.

So I've said over and over if I know you, you will eventually end up in my blog. Either a true story blog or a fiction one. I've talked about that moment in a conversation with someone where you just know what they said is going in a story and you are trying to decide if it would be rude to open your phone and make a note of it right then or if you should excuse yourself to the restroom so you can do it there.

Today it was my turn. (Mid-week fiction)

Okay, yeah, technically I'm always in my blog. They are my stories after all, but the fiction piece today was me.

Sunday we went to the movies and I really did have what I would call a mild panic attack. I just had that awful feeling that something bad was about to happen. I felt like someone was watching me. From the right side. Just that skin crawling feeling of "this is not good" that happens sometimes. And there was a late rush of people who came in to the theater as the previews started and it did make my palms sweat and my heart race. It was not great. But it wasn't a full blown "Oh my god I have to get out of here" panic attack. It was just a really unsettled feeling. I have no idea what caused it. It wasn't as bad as the woman in the story, but it wasn't great. And part way through it I thought...this is going to be a story.

That's normal right?

Maybe not.

But that's what happened. Even as I was still in the middle of the unease I started to wonder how the story would unfold. Would it be true? Would there have been a reason for the panic or would it be a false alarm? Or would there be a twin someplace else having something happen to them? Because an evil twin story is always good...

So then I took that attack and I wove in pieces of my life. Made it a full on story. No, I'm not losing my mind, but I do tend to forget things. There have been more times than not where as I'm telling Brent about my day I have to say, "I did something else too, but I can't remember" and I do tend to tell him I did nothing with my day, though that really is shorthand for nothing different than normal. But that's not new. I've always been like that. I forget everything that I did during a day because some things just don't stick. They either happened too fast, or I was distracted while I did them, or I just moved on to other things and forgot. Teflon brain. But it's normal for me. Like not sleeping is normal.

But as I thought about the panic attack and the story I wanted to write, I thought, what if that wasn't normal for you? What would you think if it just started happening? Who would you tell? Would you tell? Or would you just pretend like it never happened?

And then this morning I was watching an HBO documentary on domestic abuse and it was just heartbreaking. I was moved to tears. And as I cried part of my brain fired on the story again. What if you started crying and had no reason? What would that do? Would you think there was something wrong?

And I am sick again. I am pretty sure I've spent the entire month of October fighting off a cold, having a cold, getting over a cold, rinse and repeat. And I am just tired of it. I've got a fever today and and feeling sorry for myself. Whiny sick is what we call it in my house. So then I thought, what if that worked in to it as well?

And boom...story.

Nobody is safe. Everyone ends up in the blog. Even me.

Not a big deal. Not really.

Where did it go?

When she first started losing her mind the signs had been subtle. In fact she hadn't even noticed until the day in the movie theater. The moment when the lights dimmed and her heart started to race. She knew, KNEW, that something horrible was going to happen. That it would be like that crazy guy in Colorado that busted in to the theater and shot everyone. She could feel it coming. And she knew it was going to come from the right side. Was it the guy sitting two rows behind her? She tried to calm down. To talk herself out of the panic. After all there was no way she could know something like that, right? But what if it was true? How many times did you read stories like that? The people who didn't get on planes because of a bad feeling and then the plane crashed. But how many times did people not get on planes and nothing happened? Or got on them anyway and nothing happened?

So she stayed. She gripped her hands and tried to keep from screaming as a large group of late arrivals filled the theater. She lost track of how many people were sitting to her right. And when the couple at the end of the row got up and moved a few seats closer to her she had to hold on the arm rest to keep from running from the theater. But nothing happened. And the feeling passed once the movie started and she could focus on the screen. It was just a mild panic attack. Not pleasant. Not something she ever wanted to experience again, but not that big of a deal. Not really.

That's what she told herself that night as she was trying to fall asleep. Trying to forget the feeling of absolute panic that had washed over her. The sweaty palms and the racing heart. And the knowledge that there had been no reason for those feelings. They had just come. Uninvited. But it wasn't a big deal. Not really.

That's also what she told herself when her husband asked her about her day and she couldn't remember what she had done. She knew there had to be something. She couldn't have spent 8 hours doing nothing right? She knew she had done something. The laundry was done, the clothes put away. She was showered and dressed. Her workout clothes damp with sweat. So she had done those things. Why didn't she know what else she had done? And why was she looking for clues as to her day's activities instead of having memory of them? Everyone forgot things right? But to forget everything? That couldn't be normal.

She stopped trying to remember. When he would ask she would say "nothing" she had done nothing that day. It was easier than trying to remember what had been done. He would fill things in on his own. The tank is filled up, so you got gas. There are eggs and milk in the refrigerator so you went to the grocery store. And she would laugh it off, well yes, she had done something but nothing really different or worth talking about. And while she was laughing she was grasping for even the smallest memory of the store. When had she gone? Why couldn't she remember doing it?

But it wasn't all the time. Some days were normal days. She cleaned house, she ran errands, she made lists of things to do. She remembered these things. And so she discounted the other days as just busy brain. Overtired. She had had one cold after another that fall so really it was probably all just because she was sick and tired right? Not a big deal. Not really.

When she went to the doctor for her yearly checkup she was asked if there were any changes to her health. She lied and said no. Because there weren't, not really. Her weight was the same. Her vitals still good. Low blood pressure, good pulse rate. Healthy lungs. Everything in the blood work was normal. She did say her PMS had gotten worse, she was a little moodier than normal. Her doctor listened and suggested St. John's Wort. It would help. Just take it the week before. She didn't want to get on the prescription drugs. They were much stronger and really not necessary.

Because losing her mind wasn't a big deal. Not really.

When she sat in the middle of her living room floor and cried. Cried over...what was it she was crying about? She couldn't remember. She just knew she was on the floor sobbing like her heart was broken. When that happened she thought, now I have to tell someone. This is not normal. But it passed. She was fine later. And when her husband asked what she had done today she answered, "nothing."

"Where do you think it goes?" she asked one night.


"When you lose your mind. Where do you think it goes?"

Her husband had laughed. Because it was the odd sort of joke she would make.

"Hawaii? I think that's where mine would want to go."

She smiled. If he could laugh about it then it wasn't a big deal, right? Not really....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

There is nothing worse than hyperbole...

Epic take-down! Watch this talking head COMPLETELY DESTROY this other talking head in 45 seconds! Argument for that thing we don't agree with DECIMATED by this person arguing for what we do agree with! AWESOME! Epic! Massive!

How many truly epic intellectual take-downs have you seen in your life? Not just ones that you agree with but ones that make the person they are debating change their minds, admit they were wrong and correct their life course because of it? Because that's what would make an argument epic right? If it actually changed the other person's point of view. Not just because the person is spouting off things that you (or the person posting the link) just happened to agree with. That's not epic. That's just an argument.

Click bait. That's what the kids are calling it these days. Watch this AWESOME EPIC OUTSTANDING YOU'LL NEVER GUESS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT thing... And so you watch. And they record that you watched and then can show their EPIC AWESOME click through numbers to their advertisers and get more money and then chase more clicks and the cycle continues. Whether it's animals doing cute things, people falling down, odd weather phenomena, car crashes in Russia or the aforementioned news clips of gasbags bloviating.

It's gotten to the point where I only trust a small handful of my friends who post clips as to what is actually worth watching. I mean I love a good cat video, don't get me wrong, but I don't have an urge to watch 5 minutes of the CUTEST SLEEPING CAT EVER! And if I am watching an EPIC TAKE-DOWN of one person to another I really do insist that the arguments be sound and not something I can pick apart from the comfort of my office chair without even opening Google first.

How about a little truth in advertising? Watch this mildly amusing video of a dog running in slow motion. It's worth the minute of your life it will take. Or how about, Do you need some reassurance that your world view is still valid? Watch this video of someone agreeing with you!

There is a saying that perfection is the enemy of good enough. We kill ourselves trying to get to that last little bit extra when really it was just fine and dandy before. I have to think that these stupid tags are part of that issue. Nothing can be just good. Or just fine. Or amusing. Or even cute. It all has to be the BEST! GREATEST! MOST EPIC!

As a child of the 80s I take full blame for describing things as awesome that really aren't. Awesome is just a catch all word now for pretty good. But what happens when something really is awesome? Where do we go? I usually add punctuation. Awesome!! See? Now you know I really mean it. But where does that lead? When you have habitual punctuation abusers on your feed how are you supposed to know if something is really Awesome!!!!! or if it's just awesome. Where does it end?

I know you think I'm worried over nothing but think back to the last time you actually did lol. Not just posted that you did. But actually did. And don't get me started on lmao or roflmao. Really? You really roflmao'd? I think not...

Though if you did you should video that MFer and post it...that would be epic!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dividing the assets...

He was going to keep the house. Refinance it under his name only and buy out her share. She was ready for a smaller place and he still wanted the room for his workshop. It worked out best for both of them this way.

The subject of her breast augmentation had been taken off the table when his sports car was introduced as a balanced expense and they both felt embarrassed enough to be the poster children for mid-life crises that they decided to drop the subject.

The children were grown so the debate about holiday sharing was to be left up to them. Though the friendly agreement was that if you had Thanksgiving you would not then also push for Christmas. And he would get Black Friday and she would get Super Bowl Sunday as a standing rule as he liked deals and she liked football.

They would both change their status on Facebook to Divorced at the conclusion of this meeting to avoid the whole, "Married, Separated, It's Complicated" debacle of a few months ago.

For now they just had the last few items to debate. It was almost done.

She kept her grandmother's sideboard. Even though they had remodeled the kitchen to work with the sideboard it was her grandmother's so she would take it. He was keeping the living room suite. She didn't have room for it in her new place and it really did fit the house the best. He would also keep the boat and the motorcycles. She had never really enjoyed the outdoor stuff as much as he had. She would keep the country club membership, he preferred the public golf course anyway.

A list of friends flashed on the overhead screen. "It has previously been agreed that fraternity brothers will go with Mr. Readling as well as friends made through his various jobs. Mrs. Readling will keep the book club and country club couples as well as friends made through her job." His lawyer shuffled the paperwork in front of him.

"We also agree that the neighborhood couples will stay with the house and Mrs. Readling will transfer those friendships to the sole ownership of Mr. Readling."

They both nodded.

"So this brings us to the more complicated ones. Though Mr. Readling worked with James Fern, Mrs. Readling introduced him to his wife Andrea as she was a book club friend. So we have a divided house. Our suggestion is a shared custody agreement with a signed non-compete."

The soon to be former couple looked over the non-compete agreement and agreed that they would share custody and neither would try to force the other half out of the friendship. Nor would they use the Ferns as a go between or try to get information out of them about personal matters pertaining to the other half. They agreed on this arrangement for a few more of their friends, the ones that had been around so long they couldn't remember where the friendship started. The ones made through the children and the ones that had started with one side of the couple but had clearly moved to a shared or even other sided relationship.

"And we have the Smiths."

At this Mrs. Readling waved her hand, "Oh no, they are friends of his, he can keep them."

Mr. Readling shook his head, "No, they are your friends. I've only been nice to them because of you."

"No, they had to have come from your side. I've never liked them. I only invited them out places because you liked them."

The lawyers shared a look across the table. "We will put the Smiths on the Goodwill pile with the treadmill then."

"You seriously never liked the Smiths?" he asked.

"No, never. They are awful. I was only polite to them because you seemed to enjoy them so much."

"No, they are the worst! I was only nice to them because you always invited them along so I thought you liked them for some reason."

The lawyers handed them each a file of paperwork outlining what was agreed upon today. After signing the Readlings changed their martial status and it was done. Very polite. Very mature.

After the Readlings left the room their lawyers played Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine who would have to let the Smiths know they had been dumped in the divorce.

Third time this year.

They really were the worst.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Messages and messengers...

The message has always been the same.
 His (her) job to deliver the terrifying (wonderful) news was eternal.
Everything dies.

The girl on the mountain watching the clouds heard and ran to the village.
Everything dies!
And so she lived. Books were read. Stories were written. Dances were danced.
Hurry! There is only so much time!
Everything dies!

The man mending the fence heard and laid down his hammer.
Everything dies.
And so he died. The fence fell. The harvest left in the field.
What was the use? There was only so much time.
Everything dies. 

The old man in the hospital heard it whispered in his ear.
Everything dies.
Unplug the machines. Let me go. It's my time.
My life has been long and now I am ready.
Everything dies.

The young mother heard it whispered in her hear.
Everything dies.
Give me one more round of treatment. Try once more.
It will come someday. But not today. I'm not ready.
Everything dies.

And so it went through all of time.
Everything dies.
Are you living or are you dying?
Everything dies.
The clock ticks, what do you do?

Everything dies.
She (he) repeated the message through the years. 
Hope (despair) followed where he (she) went.
Everything dies.

Once a question was asked. 
Everything? Surely something must be eternal.
The answer was "the messenger is eternal."
Snatching greedily at the chance he (she) became the messenger.
But all the messenger is is the message. 
She (he) had tried to cheat and paid the price.
Time continued.
And all that remained was the message.

Everything dies.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Promises not kept...

The service was lovely. The music was just right. The speeches were well done. Just emotional enough to mark it as what it was, but not so much as to get maudlin. The last service she had been to the best friend was well in to his cups before it began and wept so hard he couldn't get through his speech. She shook her head. It didn't seem like it was too long ago that she was comparing weddings of friends, and then weddings of their children. Now it was funerals.

She was waiting for the chapel to clear before she left. She wasn't as quick as she used to be and hated to feel as though people were waiting on her. It had taken time to get used to her new slower pace of life, but now that she had she found she actually liked it. It gave her time to observe those around her. And in cases like today to spend a few extra minutes quietly remembering a friend.

"Excuse me? Are you Grace?"

She looked up in to the face of, which daughter would it be? Autumn?

"Graciella actually. Only your father ever called me Grace. He said the ella on the end was unnecessary."

"That sounds like Dad. I'm Autumn."

"I am so sorry for your loss. I would ask how you are doing but that always seems like such a horrible question at a time like this."

"Thank you. And yes, it's hard. It wasn't unexpected. He had been sick for a few months, but it still isn't any easier."

Autumn stopped and looked closely at the face of the woman seated in front of her, trying to imagine what she had looked like 40 years earlier. She would have been younger than Autumn was now. Grace. Graciella. She hadn't asked Autumn how she knew her name. Hadn't seemed surprised that she did. Had she expected to be recognized?

"He asked for you at the end."

"Excuse me?"

"The last week. He started asking for you. 'Is Grace coming? Is Grace here?' He said he had so much to talk to you about. He couldn't wait to tell you about the next adventures."

Graciella smiled, "We always did have so many things to talk about. If I had known I would have come. I only found out about his passing through the obituaries. When you reach my age you will find they are weekly reading."

"You don't seem surprised that he asked for you."

"I find that as we age we think more and more about the friends of our youth. Your father and I were great friends a long time ago. We talked about everything. Every challenge you could imagine.Even you and your sister and your brother.

I remember when your appendix burst. You had a fever for a few days but hadn't complained at all of any pain. When you went in to the hospital they did a blood test and discovered your white blood cell count was off the charts. When they finally narrowed it down to an infected appendix and got you on the table it burst right there in the operating room. If you had gone another day who knows what might have happened. Your father and I spent many hours talking about how as a parent you worry so much about everything and then if you miss something as big as that, what does that mean? How can you protect your children from the world if you cannot even protect them from their own bodies?"

Autumn's hand had subconsciously moved to the scar she had had for as long as she could remember. Her parents had told her the story but she had only been 3 when it happened so had no real memory of any of it. This woman, Grace, Graciella, knew as much about her operation as she did.

She wanted to talk to her more. This mystery out of her father's past that she had only found out about the week before when her father started asking for her. All her father had told her was her name and how long it had been since he had last seen her. And now here she was. "Will you be coming to the grave side service as well?"

Graciella put her hand on her cane, "No, I don't think so. It's very hard to manage hills with this."

"How did you know it was on a hill?"

"I assumed he would be buried in the family plot at Westview. Your brother is there. And your grandparents. I assumed he would want to be there as well. There is a lovely view of the river, I would imagine it's still quite peaceful."

Autumn  wondered were there friends she had 40 years ago that she would still know this much about?

"Aren't you curious how I knew who you were?"

"You saw an old woman sitting in the back row of the church that you did not recognize. Your father had been asking for a stranger in the end. I assumed you guessed."

Autumn shook her head, "A little of that maybe. But it was your eyes that gave you away."

Graciella waited.

"You have the bluest eyes I've ever seen. My father would always say he was a sucker for blue eyes and a smile. Which made my brown-eyed mother furious."

"I imagine it did."

"Did you know my mother?"

"I did. We talked a few times. We weren't as close as your father and I were, but we socialized some."

Graciella could see the struggle on Autumn's face. The question she wanted to ask. The one she was sure she knew the answer to. "Did you love my father?"

That had not been the question she was expecting. But she supposed it was the more important one. "Very much."

"I believe he must have loved you as well."

"I believe he did."

Autumn squared her shoulders and held out her hand to Graciella, "Thank you for coming. I know it would have meant a lot to Dad."

Graciella watched Autumn walk from the church. Then she took a deep breath and composed herself. She wondered if she should have told Autumn that she and her father had never been unfaithful to her mother. But was that true? She and Andrew had never had an affair. Not a proper one anyway. They had shared one kiss, one time. And that was the last time they had seen each other. She had loved him very much and she believed he had loved her as well. But they had never had sex. At the time that seemed very important to her. She had held that in her heart, she had never been unfaithful to Eddie. Never cheated on him. Years later she realized that sex had never been what made an affair.

The final time she and Andrew had seen each other he had made her promise if anything ever happened between her and Eddie she would find him. No matter what. She had promised. Eighteen years ago when Eddie had died at his desk from an aneurysm she remembered the promise. By this time Andrew and his first wife, Autumn's mother, had divorced. As well as Andrew and his second wife. He was engaged to the woman that would become wife number three. Graciella decided to let the ghosts of the past haunt themselves. What would she have said to him, "Remember me?" What would she have expected him to do? Drop everything and run away with her? Some promises seemed better not kept.

She walked slowly out of the chapel. Feeling the sun on her face she heard Autumn's voice in her head, "He asked for you at the end." As the tears made their way down her cheeks she thought, "But there is still so much to talk about."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

People are stupid...

I have a son. Online I refer to him as C. This started when he was younger and I realized I was talking about him and blogging about him a lot but I was still being protective of him. You will see in older blogs I referred to him by his name, not the initial and then I switched. It made me more comfortable. I figured anyone who already knew him knew his name but this way I wasn't putting it out there more than it needed to be. Even though he is an adult now it stuck because it's just easier to type C than it is to type his full name. I've used it for so long now that there are times I actually call him C when I'm talking to him and not just about him. Not often, but sometimes.

And that's not the only different name I call him. Not just nicknames, though he has a ton of those. But his name. Christopher. Family and family friends are the only ones who call him that. He goes by Chris otherwise. Has since he started school. See when your last name has 11 letters in it you really don't want to spell out that plus Christopher on every paper so he shortened it to Chris. All of his teachers called him Chris. Every friend he made in school calls him Chris. He is Chris to everyone but us. But even though that's what he went by in school he has never been Chris at home. It's Christopher. That's the name we use here. 

Doesn't change who he is. Doesn't change how people interact with him. It's just a different name. One the school used. And just because it was a school thing didn't make it a home thing. (we asked, he was fine with us using his full name) Because the school had its way and we had ours.

And here is where we turn.

Just because the school doesn't lead a prayer before class doesn't mean your kid can't pray in school.

Just because the teacher doesn't open a bible and read a bible verse in class doesn't mean your kid can't take his bible to school and read from it during his own free time.

Just because the school has winter break doesn't mean your kid can't say Merry Christmas. 

Don't be stupid.

Just don't.

There is a story making the rounds right now about a Sikh child who has been granted permission to wear his kirpan at school. Don't worry, I had to Google it too. Anyway in the article there are two things that stuck out to me. The person who made a big deal out of the story doesn't even volunteer at his school but felt the need to bring it to the press. And there have been Sikhs wearing their kirpans for YEARS without incident. YEARS people. It's small. It's under the clothing. If Big Mouth McScardey Butt hadn't run to the press nobody would have even known. It would have been a private thing between the school and this family. A religious exception to a rule. You know how we like to point out that we should have religious exceptions to rules right, Hobby Lobby?

Anyway...people are freaking the fuck out and there are recurring themes. First off people do not know that Sikhs and Muslims follow two different religions. Which then shows the level of absolute hate and fear there is out there about people who are different than they are. Then there is the "kids get suspended for bringing toy guns" and the joining argument, "I worship guns so I will bring mine now". Which is also idiotic. One the gun suspensions for toys and drawings and poptarts and whatever else you want to bring up are stupid. You do not fight stupid rules by allowing more stupid rules. And then the whole worship thing? Are you trying to be offensive? Because when I quote Harry Potter books at religious fanatics who are quoting bible verses at me I fully understand I'm being offensive. That's the point. So saying that your religion says you should carry a gun (and heads up guns weren't invented during the start of most religions so probably not) you are being obtuse and offensive.

And then there is the one I referenced earlier the whole no prayer, no bibles, no Christmas argument. Sorry, gang, but that's bullshit. There is an old saying, "As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school." Just because it's not out loud, just because it's not teacher led, just because it's private doesn't mean it's not allowed. And while we are on the subject, the bible itself talks about prayers and shows a really healthy level of disdain and contempt for big showy public prayer. Go home and pray in private because if you are praying loudly in the public square it's most likely not for God's glorification but your own. Look it up.

Public schools do not push one religion over another. They shouldn't. But just because they aren't leading bible studies, or prayer groups doesn't mean they aren't happening. There are clubs. There are kids who quietly read their bibles during passing periods. There are prayers happening. And there are people wishing each other Merry Christmas. So get over it. Stop saying it doesn't happen. Or that it's not allowed. It just makes you look uninformed and unintelligent. 

As does your irrational hatred of Muslims.

And not knowing that Sikhs aren't Muslim.

And pretty much any hate fueled rant you post on a news site about poptart guns.

Seriously. Just stop being so fucking stupid.