Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The First Thanksgiving...

The first Thanksgiving was the year of the burnt offering. Neither of them had any idea how to cook a turkey but both vaguely remembered their mothers putting the bird in the oven around 5 AM to eat dinner around 3. That seemed right. Until around 11 AM when the house filled with smoke and the burnt bird had to be tossed in the sink and drowned.

The second Thanksgiving was the year of the turkeysicle. They had pulled the bird from the freezer on Tuesday night assuming it would be fine by Thursday. It wasn't. But that was okay, the oven would defrost it as it cooked, and the ice would make it extra moist right? They cooked that bird for ever and it never was anything but cold and raw in the middle.

The third Thanksgiving was during the vegetarian year and they made Tofurkey. They weren't saying that it was the Tofurkey that made them go back to eating meat, but they aren't saying it wasn't either.

The fourth Thanksgiving was two weeks after their first child was born. They went out to dinner. It was delicious but there were no leftovers so they decided that wouldn't work next year.

The fifth Thanksgiving was the nausea Thanksgiving. She couldn't be pregnant again, she was breast feeding, everyone knew that breastfeeding was like natural birth control. Everyone was wrong.

The sixth Thanksgiving started the beige years. Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, bread, cover it all in gravy. Not a green vegetable to be found. They were always going to add more in to the mix but the kids wouldn't eat it anyway. So everything was beige.

The tenth Thanksgiving was the year they decided to skip the hassle of Christmas travel and go home for Thanksgiving instead. "Oh Thanksgiving is the worst of the travel holidays," her mother had declared in that way she had of saying things that would have been helpful BEFORE but not at all NOW.

The eleventh Thanksgiving was back to beige.

The fifteenth Thanksgiving the kids started to help cook. And vegetables made an appearance back on the table. If they cooked them, they would eat them. Who knew?

The twenty-fourth Thanksgiving was the serious girlfriend I think she might be the one don't do anything to embarrass me Thanksgiving. "I'm thankful that Bobby is finally getting laid and isn't such an asshole when he visits from college." Well, that didn't work Thanksgiving.

The thirtieth Thanksgiving was the first one at the kid's house. Bobby and his serious girlfriend, now wife, hosted and they didn't need to bring a thing. Julie brought her not at all serious boyfriend with the nose ring just to make things interesting. Her father taught him how to play the bass line to Back in Black. Julie's not at all serious boyfriend never made an appearance again, he turned out to be not as interesting as she had hoped.

The thirty first Thanksgiving was back at Bobby's house with the new baby. This time they were allowed to help out as much as possible. Even Julie who brought Becky. A new interesting person in her life. Becky was much better than the not at all serious boyfriend of the year before.

The fortieth Thanksgiving was at Julie and Becky's house. Bobby and the very serious wife brought their two kids and they watched Julie and Becky's two kids. And everyone ate beige food.

The fiftieth Thanksgiving was the first one where they weren't a they anymore. It was just a her. She went to Bobby's house. She tried to be thankful.

The sixtieth Thanksgiving was crowded with children, grand children and great grandchildren. She hadn't brought anything but her stories. The stories about the first Thanksgiving and the year of the burnt offering.

House Rules

Again, I'll start with an explanation. Yesterday I wrote the first part of this dream story.  And I talked about how I had the dream, I woke up took notes and decided to make it a story. When it turned out to not be all that coherent I decided it wasn't a story. Then the next night I was back in the dream. But it wasn't the exact dream. It was the same place and the same world, just more. So here is the second dream. Still doesn't make a lot of sense, but I still think if I put it down on paper (so to speak) and let it breath I might have a story out of it sometime. For now it's just a surreal landscape of an idea.

House Rules

She was unpacking her kitchen boxes. What she really wanted to find was her coffee maker. The late night putting up Christmas decorations after the full day of moving had wiped her out. She thought about taking a nap but really wanted her house unpacked. Maybe if she settled in more she would feel more settled. 

Though maybe she should just repack everything and leave. After all this was not exactly what she had thought she was getting in to when she moved. Yes, she liked how friendly everyone had seemed when she toured the place last year, but she had no idea she would be expected to be a part of every single activity. And not just expected, but required. It didn't sit right with her, but she felt she didn't have a choice. If she left now she was out her first and last month's rent and her security deposit. She would have to dip in to her savings account quite heavily to afford a new place. If she could even find one on short notice that she would feel safe enough living in by herself.

She laughed at that thought, she wasn't sure this really counted as living by herself anymore.

She looked around her tiny kitchen. She really liked how many cabinets it had. That was an important part of living in a small space, storage. The walls were lined with enough cabinets that she thought she would have room for a few non-kitchen items as well. Maybe her holiday things could go in the high cabinet above the entry way to the kitchen. She reached up and opened that door to see how much space was there. It was already full. There were Tupperware containers and lids in one half and a first aid kit in the other. She pulled the storage pieces down and placed them in to an empty box. Obviously the previous tenant had forgotten them in the move. If she found anything else she could add them as well and give this to her landlord to forward to their proper owners.

The first aid kit looked like it was designed for the cabinet. She pulled it down to check the supplies inside. She liked the idea of having a first aid kit in the house but it would do her no good if it was empty. She opened the box and was taking inventory of the items when her front door burst open.

"What happened? Is everything okay?"

Pam, the woman she had called the "Woman from the wall" all evening, was standing in her entry way. 

"Everything is fine. What in the world are you doing? You can't keep busting in to my house like this!"

"You took down the first aid kit, it triggered the alarm. I'm here to help."

She was stunned. "What?"

"The first aid kit. It's on a pressure sensor. If you move it, it rings in my apartment. I'm the head of the Safety Committee so it's my responsibility to make sure you are okay. I cannot believe you STILL haven't read all of your paperwork." 

"It's a first aid kit. It's meant to be a tool to help yourself. If I needed outside help I would call 911. I don't even need any help right now. I was just taking inventory of the supplies."

"That is not your job. Monthly inspections happen that take care of that. You don't need to worry about it at all."

"What's the emergency? Is everyone okay?"

Now her landlord had joined them.

"She's fine, she moved the kit without knowing it would trigger an alarm. She STILL hasn't read the paperwork. I told you that she was not going to be a good fit."

"Now, Pam, it's early. Some people need more time to adjust than others."

"Yes, and people who have never been part of a unit never do. She's not former military or police or fire, she's just a civilian. A writer for fuck's sake. No history of joining any groups or organizations. After the accident she didn't even have any family left. She's solo, a loner. Loners don't work for groups!"

"Pam! That's enough, the committee decided and you are out of line."

She watched the exchange getting more and more disturbed, "What in the world are you talking about? Did you have me investigated or something? How do you know ANYTHING about me, let alone that much about me?"

"I told you we would be running checks after you put down the deposit."

"I assumed credit checks. To make sure I would be able to pay the rent. Not a background investigation. Who the hell are you people to get in to my business like this?"

"We're your community. We're part of your social fabric now. You're going to fit it nicely, I promise. I've read your books, you write about connections. We are going to help you live those connections."

She was completely creeped out. Forget the money, she would figure that out. She was going to have to move. This was not what she had signed up for at all. 

"What is this box?" Pam pointed at the Tupperware she had pulled out of the cabinet.

She shook her head. The way people changed the subject around here was exhausting. "Those are things that were left behind. I was gathering them to bring to the office later. I assume you have a way to contact the former tenants and let them know they missed some things packing."

"That's not possible. We do an inspection of each unit between tenants. There is no way that things could have been left behind."

"Well, I don't know what to tell you, Pam, but they were. Maybe the head of that committee isn't as on the ball as you are."

Pam nodded completely missing her sarcastic tone, "Yes, I guess not. I will have to bring this up at the next meeting."

And with that Pam left her apartment. Her landlord was still there. "I know it's been an odd couple of days and you are most likely thinking about moving right now. But I just want to advise you to rethink that. You have a lease with us, and it wouldn't be cost effective for you to break it. Just read your paperwork and come to me with any questions. I'm sure it will all feel totally normal soon enough. And you did have a good time last night, right?"

And that was the crazy part. She really had had a good time. It was weird and it was uncomfortable to be told where to go, but once she got there and spent time with Jay and Barbara putting up the winter village on the front lawn she really did have a good time. And the hot chocolate was the best she had ever had. 

"Yes. I did actually."

"I thought so. Look, I am rarely wrong about the people who move in here, and I do believe you will be a good fit. But you are going to have to read your tenant responsibility sheets and follow the house rules. Pam will keep being a thorn in your side until she sees you make an effort. And you don't want that."

"Is that a threat?"

"Oh no," her landlord laughed, "It's not meant to be a threat. It's just meant to be advice. I'll let you finish your unpacking. And if you find anything else that has been left behind, please let us know right away. I'll see you this afternoon at the community meeting."

He left her alone again. Community meeting? She dug out her monthly schedule and there it was, 2 PM meeting to welcome new tenants and get new community assignments. Great. Just great. 


Monday, November 20, 2017

Moving Day...

(Starting with an explanation)

I had this really detailed dream Saturday night. Which isn't all that unusual for me. I am a vivid dreamer. But I remember in the middle of the dream thinking, "this would make a great story," that's also not unusual for me. I often am aware that I am dreaming while I dream. I have really vivid nightmares as well and teaching myself how to redirect a dream is what led to this, I believe.

Anyway, when I woke up I thought about the dream and thought, "yeah, there is a story here." First thing in the morning before I got out of bed I opened my phone and took some notes so I would remember the frame work of the story. Because I was still pretty convinced it was a great story.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon when I was going to write the story. I opened my phone and read my notes and went over the dream in my head again and...what the hell? None of this makes sense. There are giant gaps here. Which is what happens in dreams. They tend to lurch along. You are in one place then you are in another with totally different people and it all make sense in the dream but how did you get there? Why are you there? And why is there an elephant in the corner?

So I closed my phone down and did not write that story. Go to bed last night and I am in the dream again. And this time the voice in my head says, "You know this is a story, you need to figure out how to write it or you are going to be dreaming it for weeks." So here we are. I still don't think it makes much sense but it's at least going to get the start of story and we will see where it leads.

Moving Day

It was a small apartment. Maybe even smaller than the first apartments she had shared with her husband years ago when they were first married and very broke. It didn't feel like a studio apartment but it wasn't exactly a one bedroom either. The living room would be her bedroom as well. The kitchen was set off from the living area. And there was a good sized bathroom with a dressing area. Which is what made it seem larger than a studio apartment, that extra space with an old fashioned mirrored table and padded bench seat. She thought she would probably move her desk in there and use it as an office area more than a dressing room but wasn't sure if it would be odd to be open to the bathroom like that.

But those decisions were for another day. Today she was tired and ready for bed. It had been a long day moving her small collection of boxes out of the old house and in to the new apartment. She didn't have much anymore. She had sold off or given away the majority of her things over the last year. It had taken a long time to pare down enough to move in to the new apartment. But that was okay, it had taken a long time for the unit to become available. She had decided to rent the smaller space almost right away, after...but when she had come to look and sign the papers they let her know that there was a waiting list. Smaller spaces were harder to find than larger ones it seemed.

She filled out the paperwork and put down the deposit and waited. Starting the process of selling off her life. The books and artwork first. She would only have room for a few things, and since it was back to a rental she wouldn't be putting any holes in the walls. Back to easels and double stick easy release tape for her. Clothes. Some of them were easy choices, after all she didn't need half of the things in the closet anymore, did she? Though she had to admit she kept a few things anyway. There was need and there was want. 

She sold almost all of the furniture, knowing that she would have to replace everything with smaller versions or multi-use versions. The couch needed to be a sofa bed. The desk needed to fit in the dressing room, and have storage spaces for her writing supplies. She would need storage that would double as living room and bedroom. Luckily Ikea seemed to have an entire section devoted to such items. It did make her a little depressed to see they were geared toward college age people. She actually sent in a recommendation that they could market them to an older crowd who found themselves downsizing and on their own for...reasons...

She was tired. The long day. The long year. It had all taken a lot out of her. But she was in her new space now. She would finish unpacking tomorrow and start the next phase of her life. She changed in to her new pajamas and made her sofa into her bed. Pajamas were a new thing as well, but she didn't feel comfortable sleeping in the nude in her living room. It just didn't seem like a good idea. Too vulnerable. She reached over and turned off the light. 

An hour later the light was switched back on. She startled awake and blinked at the harshness of the glare for a moment before realizing she was not alone. She sat up straight and looked around at the crowd of people in her living room.

"I told you she wasn't going to be ready to go." a woman leaning against her wall said.

"Did you not read the paperwork?" 

She looked toward the voice and saw her landlord near the entrance to the kitchen.

"What paperwork?"

"The paperwork I gave you. With the community activities list?"

"Excuse me, let's back up here a bit. Why are you all in my house? I didn't invite you in."

"I told you she was going to be a problem." the woman from the wall said.

"You didn't read any of the paperwork did you? It states very clearly that management must have access to your unit."

"I did read that, but that's for repairs and such. Not for midnight...midnight...what the hell is this exactly?"

"Oooohh...language! Community standards must be met!" the woman near the wall chimed in again.

Her landlord picked up the folder of paperwork she had left on the side table, he handed her a sheet. "Here."

She looked over the paperwork there was an all community work party on November 30th starting at 10 PM. They would be putting up Christmas decorations so they would be ready to go on December 1st. There were also a variety of activities through the holidays. Gift exchanges, pot lucks, caroling. She had known that it was an active community but..."Are these things mandatory?"

"Of course they are mandatory. It says community right there on the top of the sheet, does it not?"

"You can't be serious."

"Did I not tell you that we were an active community when you first applied for the unit?"

"Yes, but..."

"Did I not tell you we looked out for our own here and that is why it was such a good place for...well..people like you?"

"Yes, but again..."

"And did you not say you liked how nice everyone seemed?"

"Yes..."

"Well this is how we do things. When you did not arrive for the work party we formed a committee to come wake you up. Because, of course, you must have accidentally fallen asleep. It would be unheard of to miss your first activity. Especially one as important as this one. Imagine our surprise to find you in bed. On purpose."

"I wasn't surprised." the woman from the wall said.

"Look, she obviously doesn't want to be here and be a part of this. Just revoke her lease and move down the list." A new voice added.

She looked over to her left to see another one of her neighbors opening and closing her curtains. "What? You can't just revoke my lease like that."

"Oh yes we can. You signed the paperwork. If you disturb the peace you will be evicted and your deposit forfeited. You even initialed that line."

"I am not disturbing the peace! I was sleeping! You all are the ones disturbing the peace by breaking in to my apartment..."

"Management has the right to access the unit..."

"And demanding that I go help decorate..."

"Community activity..."

"I was quite peaceful!"

"You are yelling a bit now."

"Of course I am! This is very upsetting."

Her landlord spoke again, trying to soothe everyone's nerves, "There is no need to discuss eviction, just yet, you are new here, and I think most of us understand that it can take a little bit of getting used to. We have lived in such a disconnected world for so long, some of us didn't even know our neighbor's names in our old lives, it's a new sensation. Especially for someone like you who has been living alone for awhile. Please just get dressed and join us. There is no need to make a big deal out of this, for any of us," he pointedly looked toward the woman leaning against the wall, "and we have hot chocolate."

"Fine, I will go. But you all need to leave so I can change. I will meet you...where am I supposed to meet you?"

The woman against the wall made a disgusted sound, "It's on the sheet! Geez, you will have to start reading things, meet us in the rec room. We will expect you within 15 minutes."

She watched as her neighbors all filed out of her apartment. She looked around the cozy space, now feeling bigger and smaller than it did before she went to bed. What was she going to do now? She guessed that first thing tomorrow she would have to read everything in that folder...


Someone's at the Door...

I was listening to a story on NPR this morning about Native American artifacts that have been uncovered due to the hurricanes in Florida. They were talking to an archaeologist who was so excited to have access to these items now. Trees were blown over and when the root balls came up and the dirt around was exposed there were thousands of pieces to explore. It had been used as a trash dump site by the tribe that had the land back in 700 AD. She was talking about taking as much as they could to research and display. The whole time I was listening to her my face was doing that *my face thing* we discussed earlier. I was afraid they were just going to leave the story at "Excited Archaeological Discovery!"  Now I should have known better, it was NPR after all, they did talk to local tribes' members about how horrified they were that this was happening. Their belief is that if you disturb these items it will harm the rest of the spirits attached to them. You leave the dead and their things where they were buried. Let the dead rest.

The archaeologist, of course, did not hold to this belief. The research, the understanding of an ancient culture, the missing pieces of what was on this land before the Natives were driven out by disease and "progress" that was important. The members of the Tribes feel disrespected. They are telling her how to understand their culture, and that is to let the things be reburied.

It made me start thinking about two different things, the first being is there a more disrespected religion (or technically group of religions since each tribe varies somewhat) than Native American religions? If Christians today faced the actual disrespect that Native Americans face they would freak out. It's not "People don't say Merry Christmas!" It's "People are digging up our graveyards and putting things on display." It's "people are wearing our religious garments as drunk fest items." It's "people are building on our holy sites." And the complete dismissal of those beliefs as superstition, or ancient history is amazing.

And the other part is that a lot of people don't know anyone who practices any form of Native American beliefs. I come from a place where the culture is this mix of places and peoples and it became this really unique mash up. When the Spaniards tried to settle the area that is New Mexico they brought their religion, as they did everywhere, and tried to convert the Natives to their beliefs. It was met with varying rates of success. Now when I say convert you might have the image in your head of a nice Mormon kid or Jehovah's Witness on your porch asking you if you want to discuss their truth. Imagine that Mormon kid or Jehovah's Witness slicing open the throats of a few of your neighbors when they decided not to convert and then coming to your door and it's a closer version.

And it wasn't just the Spaniards and their bloody conversions there were times they would set up a church and small settlement and then move on only to come back and discover that the Natives had decided not to convert after all and all of the priest were gone and the villagers were either missing or "gone Native" as well. Conversion or non-conversion by blood was the standard.

But what also happened is that the Catholicism that did stick became mixed with the Native beliefs. There is a difference in the churches where I come from than the ones back east. There was a blending of cultures even in conversion. I grew up in a protestant house but even with that there were more somewhat supernatural aspects to faith than there would be in a protestant house in the Bible Belt. Enough of my friends believed in Saints and Dia de Los Muertos and Shamans and the like that it was mixed in to my growing up. (Saints are Catholic from the Spanish influence, Dia de los Muertos is Mexican traditions and Shamans are Native American)

And part of that is because my parent's faith has a very open door policy to it. By that I mean the living are in one room and the dead in another but sometimes the door between the rooms isn't shut so tightly. They believe strongly (and it's a tenant of most if not all Christian faiths) that the dead go on living, just in a different way. For them it's heaven. Though they can be around you at times. Sort of a just visiting clause. And you honored your dead, and spoke of them as though they were still around. In a way.

For instance my father died right before Father's Day. On that Sunday my oldest brother said it was nice that Dad was going to spend the day with his three children he had not been able to before. That it was Marsha's, Marcia's and Mark's turn now. And how nice that was. The thought of it brought him great comfort. When my mother dies she wants her ashes and my father's ashes spread on the east side of the mountain. When Dad died she had dreams of seeing his silhouette on the top of the mountain standing with three other silhouettes. She took that to mean Dad was with their three children they lost, waiting for her. It's comforting to her.

And that religious belief had to have been so important for them when they lost three children. Believing that though it hurt to lose them, they were not gone forever, they would be reunited after death? That probably kept them sane while they dealt with every parent's worst nightmare, three different times.

But growing up what it meant is that my two older sisters who died right after they born and my older brother who died when he was 6 were still talked about in my house. They all died decades before I was ever born but even with that they were part of my family and I always felt closest to Mark. My mother used to tell me that we looked alike. I would scour his baby pictures trying to see the resemblance. Because I don't look like my other siblings. I look like my mother and they resemble my father. So the thought that Mark and I would have looked alike was great. It meant I wasn't really from the milk man after all!

And even though I don't believe what they all believe about heaven, that feeling of the door between the living and dead being kept open is a part of my basic sense of life. You see it in my fiction. A lot of what I write doesn't have a clear delineation between the living and the dead. They interact pretty consistently. My actual belief is that when someone is gone they are gone but my creative take is that they are still around. Though, I guess it's not entirely accurate for me to say I think they are gone. I think what remains is what lives on with you. I still have my father with me, for instance.

While the rest of my family waits to be reunited with him after death I keep him alive in my thoughts. And in a way I have a firmer hold on him now than I did when he was alive. Because he's frozen in space and time now. He's not still changing. I have his essence, in a way. I have the parts that he gave to me. His beliefs about life that formed me. And I access those all the time. Brent and I will hear something or see something and comment about how much Dad would have liked that, or hated it. We do the same with his father. What we have from them is what they left to us.

With our mothers what we have is constantly changing. Because they are still living and to live is to change. My mother is quite a bit older than his and so we have the random nature of 85 year old woman to add to the mix. My mother is brilliant and funny and kind. She is also bossy and critical and snippy. The mix changes depending on the phone call that day. When I was growing up the good parts were pretty much the most prevalent, though the other was always there as well. (Sound familiar to any who has dealt with GD and BD?) As she has aged there are days where the more pleasant aspects are tucked away a little tighter. So you don't know what you are going to get. With the memories of my father I know what I am getting. So that's what I mean by having a firmer hold on him now.

So back to the NPR story. We have an archaeologist who wants to display these artifacts to show the world the missing pieces in our country's history. We have descendants of these tribes saying that they don't want it to happen because it is disrespectful to their religious beliefs. Where do you come down on this? Does the need for education overrule the religious beliefs? Would your opinion change if it were a Christian settlement being excavated? And would that change be because it's not part of that religion to tie objects to the spirits of those that used them? Is it a lack of understanding of different faiths that is really the issue? Or do you think the level of respect given to each religion is uneven? Should the dead be able to rest or should we say it's superstition and nonsense?


Or, and this is what I believe, should she be worried about how tightly that door is shut?


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Silence...

Silence has a weight to it, a heaviness. You can feel it pressing against your skin. Wrapping you in its hushed embrace. The silence of empty spaces could be suffocating with its weight.

She felt that weight now as she sat in her mother's house. The oppression of nothing. There was no television to turn on to cut the silence. No radio to play just to have something to distract her. Her mother had been practically deaf for the last ten years and as she did not enjoy those things anymore she had gotten rid of them. She preferred to read books, not television captions. She could only feel the deep bass and did not enjoy music through a thrumming in her chest. So there were no noisy distractions left in her house.

There wasn't much of anything, actually. If there was such a thing as an anti-hoarder her mother would be it. Anything she found unnecessary she got rid of. It wasn't this new "sparks joy" movement that had taken hold. It was strictly a genuine distaste of things. Wait, was that an ascetic? Was that right? Monastic would work too. Except her mother was not religious. That would be one of the things she discarded as unnecessary years ago.

So she sat in her mother's silent, empty house feeling the weight of nothingness sitting on her chest. Making it hard to take a deep breath. She got up and started pacing around the living room. There wasn't much furniture. A small couch and matching side chair. An end table and one small bookshelf. Her mother's Kindle sat on the end table and the bookshelf was now mostly empty. She had been surprised when her mother went to digital books but when she showed her how she could make the text as large as she needed to read comfortably it made sense. An electronic gadget that made print large was much easier and caused less clutter than a shelf of large print books.

She had a tablet she could use to text her children and grandchildren. Which her grandchildren loved. No phone calls for their hip grandmother. She texted. Though she always texted in complete, perfectly spelled, and punctuated sentences and she didn't use the phone because she couldn't stand the interface between her hearing aids and the phone. And once she figured out that she could just discard the things she had to listen to, she discarded her hearing aids as well.

That was her mother. If she deemed it unnecessary it was gone. She did not believe in keeping things to be polite. She didn't believe in gifts at all. Giving or receiving. She needed nothing and felt that if others did need something they should buy it, not wait for a holiday and ask for someone else to buy it for them. She wasn't completely hard-hearted, she gave the grandchildren money. Or more correctly she gave them the receipt from the deposits in to their college funds. That money would be released as tuition payments when they started school or given to them outright at 26 if they chose another path. It was their money, but she did not think they could spend it responsibly until then.

Her mother was not a sentimental woman. She was practical. Above everything else she was practical.

It had been hard when she was younger. Other mothers were so very different than her own. They always seemed to be overflowing with things. Purses with endless supplies. Snacks, tissues, pens, decks of cards. It was like watching Mary Poppins when she would see her friend's mothers start to dig through purses to find something. Her own mother carried a handbag. But it had spaces for the things she felt she needed. She never dug around looking for her car keys because they were always snapped in to place with a key chain designed to fit in the handbag. She never dumped the contents out looking for a quarter for a parking meter because the quarters were in her change purse slipping in to a zippered pouch in the center of the bag.

But it wasn't just that other mothers were over flowing with things, they seemed to be overflowing with emotions. Hugs that would envelop you. Hands fussing with your hair, or straightening your clothes. Deep curiosity about every detail of your day. "How was school, did you pass your math test? Did Jeremy ask you to the dance? Did Sarah like the cookies you made for her birthday?" They wanted details. She could not imagine her mother caring at all about high school intricacies. She could barely tolerate attending parent teacher conferences.

She had been so embarrassed her freshman year when her mother had met with her homeroom teacher. She had wanted to know what grades she had in each subject and then got up to leave. When Mrs. Robertson had told her there were other things to discuss her mother had looked at her and said, "I don't think there are." and then left the room. That wasn't the part that had embarrassed her. It had been how Mrs. Robertson had treated her for the rest of the year. She had become overly kind and solicitous to her. As if she needed attention and love that she had been deprived of. As if she were a freak. She found the extra attention to be distasteful and cloying.

She walked in to her mother's bedroom. Knowing that this would be met with a disapproving glare. A bedroom was a private space. Not to be breached by those uninvited. There had been no crawling in to her mother's bed after a nightmare. No lazy Sunday mornings curled up together watching TV. Not even watching her mother dress or do her makeup to learn how such things were done. It was not allowed. So she felt a little guilty standing in the doorway now. It was a breach and she knew it. 

There was a neatly made double bed. A plain tan comforter with two pillows. No fancy duvet. No decorative throw pillows. A bedside table with a lamp and a small glass of water was the only other extra item in the room. She went to her mother's closet and opened the door. Clothes were hung neatly, arranged by type and color. All of her pants together lightest to darkest, the same with her blouses and the handful of sweaters she had. There were a handful of empty hangers at the front of the closet waiting to be refilled after laundry was done. Her shoes were neatly lined up along the bottom of the closet, with a space in the middle missing. Even though she did not know what shoes her mother had been wearing she could tell by looking at the space that it must be a pair of loafers a shade of tan that was darker than nude but not quite light brown.

Those shoes were the ones that were gone.

Leaving a hole.

She closed the closet door.

The silence was like a weight.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Damn Dog...

She opened the back slider and let the dog out in to the yard. She stood there for a moment drinking her coffee and watching the first light of the day etch across the sky. It looked like it was going to be a perfect Fall day. Crisp but not cold. Sunny and bright with that beautiful golden light that only seemed to happen in November.

She started making her mental list of Saturday chores when she saw the dog make a b-line for a pile of leaves in the yard. "What is that damn dog doing?" He launched himself at the pile and started rolling around and around rubbing his back into the leaves, paws extended skyward in doggy bliss.

"Oh shit!" She opened the door and started to run toward the dog, "Rufus! Rufus no!" the smell hit her before she ever reached the dog. Why in the world do they do that? Find the grossest things to roll in? It's like people who know the milk is spoiled and hand it to you, "This is gross, here smell." Dogs are those people just as dogs! "Hey, this stinks! Let me roll around in it and carry it with me all day!" And didn't dogs have extra sensitive noses? Like they could smell things from farther way and stronger than humans? So wouldn't that make it even worse?

She stopped and tried not to retch. God, this was the worst. And still that damn dog was squirming around like a pig in mud. Which, again, why the fuck do they do that? Pigs in mud. It's just gross. Let me find some gross dirt and fling myself in to it. And then really rub it in. Ugh. She could feel the itch in her jaw warning her that she was going to vomit. She had to back away.

She went in to the house to try and enlist help but of course nobody was up. Or if they were they saw or smelled what was going on and were staying hidden until the ordeal was over. She looked in the cabinet to see if they had any tomato juice. And of course they did. She bought it in bulk, after all. That damn dog was a stink magnet. She pulled out a couple of the large cans to take outside. She'd have to dig the tub out of the garage and fill it with juice and water and vinegar then wrestle Rufus in to the tub. The whole time getting that stink on her as well. She'd change in to something she could just burn afterwards. Washing it never took the smell all the way out. She, unfortunately, had too much experience in this matter.

She opened the back door again and put the washing supplies on the picnic table and then went in to change and put some vapo rub under her nose. If it was good enough for television cops it was good enough for her. Her husband was still in bed. Pretending to sleep. "I see you faking. You better get up and help or I am going to let him come in here before I wash him!" He just closed his eyes tighter calling her bluff. There was no way she would let the dog inside when he smelled like that. It would seep in to the rug and they would never get it out. Again, too much experience in the matter.

After changing and getting a generous dollop of vapo rub on she made a pit stop in the kitchen to grab her dish washing gloves then headed back out in to the yard. She pulled the tub out and filled it with her miracle combination of vinegar, tomato juice and water. The first time she had done it she had taken the time to heat the water on the stove first. Now Rufus got cold out of the hose. It served him right for rolling in that nastiness.

She stalked across the yard to get him. He was still rolling around making happy grunting noise. "Oh look at me, this is the best, smell this!" That damn dog.  She grabbed his collar and started pulling him toward the tub. She would hit him with the hose first to rinse any...well...ick off of him. Getting the pieces off before he got in to the tub and she actually had to touch him. Even through the gloves it was disgusting. She had learned that the hard way.

"Rufus, Sit!" He sort of sat, mostly crouched back legs quivering, ready to take off for the pile again as soon as she let go of him. So she held him with one hand and sprayed him with the other. Then she picked him up and put him in the tub. Scrubbing him down over and over until his fur was pink and frothy. Then she took him back out and sprayed him down again. She did this three times. Three being the number it usually took. She towel dried him then wrestled him inside.

Her family had miraculously appeared by this point. "Someone give him a whiff and see if the smell is gone. All I can smell right now is tomato and vapo rub." Her youngest called the dog over and gave him a whiff.

"Nothing here but ketchup."

"Great. I'm going to take off these things for the burn pile. Whoever's job it was to bury Mrs. Johnson better get out there and do it right this time. You were at least 3 feet shy of a good hole. Piling the leaves on top was just sloppy work and I'm very disappointed."

She turned to go get herself cleaned up grabbing the dog by the collar to make sure he didn't make a break for the pile again. It's what he liked to do. The damn dog.

Running for Office...

I used to say I could never run for office because of my mouth. I tend to say what I really mean and say it in a colorful way, as you all know. Trump sort of fucked that up for me. He said whatever he wanted to, truthful or not, kind or not, logical or not, and was still elected. So my swearing and telling stupid people not to be stupid sort of pales in comparison.

But I still know I would be unelectable. Because I'm a progressive. And progressives love purity. We are seeing that right now as the Democratic Party continues to eat itself from the inside. The Bernie Sanders wing vs. the Establishment Democrats is how it's usually billed. Which makes those of us who might not be about purity but are about WORDS MEAN THINGS shout about Sanders not being a Democrat so why in the world is there a Sanders wing of the party? It should be the Warren Wing for god's sake.

I would also be unelectable because as I stated I'm progressive and I believe words means things so I have to say upfront, I'm not a democrat. I've never been registered as a democrat. And not only am I not a democrat I wouldn't feel right running as a democrat because my fiscal policies wouldn't line up well with their platform. I'm a fish out of water.

But the purity is what would hurt me more.

Because I've done and said some incredibly stupid things in my life and I am sure there would be a group of people willing to talk about them on record. And so there would be hand wringing and "if we let her get away with this then we have no moral high ground so..." and I would lose. (You all know how I feel about losing.) Never mind that if you have a progressive candidate and a conservative candidate running and the progressive loses because they aren't perfect you are in all essence electing the conservative who doesn't share a single one of the attributes you say you want. The sacrificing of the good in search of the perfect makes me crazy.

It happened in the last election cycle with Clinton. She wasn't perfect and so she was tossed out in favor of Trump. And now we have a new Supreme Court Justice who is so conservative Scalia is objecting from beyond. And not just the Supreme Court Justice but over a hundred other federal court judges. And heads of agencies. And revoking of protections. And we will see the ramifications of this election for my lifetime for sure. And probably beyond. All because Clinton wasn't perfect.

So I know I wouldn't be elected. I would be running third party, which doesn't work, and even if I could get acknowledged as a good progressive choice I wouldn't be perfect so I would top out at some local city council position, if I was lucky, and that would be that. But they would have their purity to fall back on.

Which is a shame because let me tell you. My good is pretty damn awesome. My past faults mean I've learned some hard lessons. My current beliefs were forged over time. Not set in stone from birth and never challenged. It means I worked to to get where I am, not that it was handed to me and I never questioned it. I understand why I think the things I do and I am willing to change my mind when needed.

But it's not purity.

It's not never made a mistake.

So it makes me not an electable progressive.

In the past when describing why I am not registered one way or the other I used to say "I'm too far left to be a Republican. My social stances are too liberal. I'm too far right to be a Democrat. I believe we shouldn't have programs that we can't pay for. I have too big of a heart to be a Republican and  like getting shit done too much to be a Democrat." The last line was partly a joke. But only partly. Democrats want everyone to be happy. They want everyone to get a say. And that tends to prevent anything from getting done. And now they want everyone to be perfect and never to have made a mistake in language or action or bad jokes. And so they will continue to eat their own and hand elections to the worst instead of the good enough.

And we will continue to see progressive policies pushed aside and debt increased to fund those that need the help least.

And since I'm already not electable I'm going to talk about the Al Franken situation. Just yesterday I wrote a blog and talked about the wave of sexual assault accusations and the fact that I will look at each one and make my choice on what I believe. Little did I know as I was writing that there would be an accusation made, with picture proof, against the liberal hero, Senator Franken.

Let me walk you through my reaction...

See the headline on Facebook "Al Franken Forcibly Kissed me and Groped Me!" My first thought was, "Seriously? Goddammit, Al, you are supposed to be one of the good guys!" Then I read the article and it lifted quotes from her blog describing what happened and that she had a picture of him grabbing her breasts. I am pissed. I cannot believe that he is such a slime. What the fuck is wrong with people? The article I saw did not have the picture but it did have a link to her actual blog so I clicked through to read it.

And as I read my face did that "my face" thing. It's the face that causes Brent to say, "Stop reading whatever it is you are reading." when he walks in while I am doing it. Or to say, "Did you realize you made that face just now or was it involuntary?" when we hear something on the radio or see it on TV. It's the What the Fuck face? My forehead crinkles, my mouth purses, my eyes narrow. It's the "I don't really know what the hell I'm reading/seeing/listening to here." Because her picture proof does not show what she says it shows. It just doesn't. He's not groping her, he's not grabbing her breasts without her permission, he's not doing what she said he was doing. You can see the space between his hands and her chest. You can see it. It's there. In the picture she says is proof. It's proof of a joke in bad taste, and if she is correct that they fought the whole tour then it's a shitty joke on another level. But he's obviously not touching her. Which made me read her blog again.

She says he wrote a skit with a kiss, and she knew what he was after, and when they rehearsed it, which she didn't think they needed to do at all but he kept insisting her crammed his tongue in her mouth. And then here is the kicker, she pushed him away, told him never to do that again and he....didn't. He didn't do it again. Those are her words. He did something I didn't like, I said don't do that and he stopped doing that.

Senator Franken is handling this much differently than I would (unelectable, remember?) he's apologized, he's said the photo was in bad taste and he is sorry she was upset by it, and he regrets doing anything that would upset her like that. He does say he recalls the rehearsal differently, but that that doesn't matter because it's her feelings that do. And then he requested an ethics committee investigate the matter.

And the Democrats are calling for his head. Seriously. And the media keeps printing that he groped her. He didn't. I know that the headline, "Al Franken Simulated Groping Her" isn't nearly as flashy but let's try and be honest. He didn't grope her. He didn't assault her while she slept. Use your common sense, if he were going to assault her why would he take a picture and have it included in a group of shots SHE got. She didn't find this picture on some weird website, she was given it with the other photos from the tour. And she says she held on to it for 12 years because she knew the time would be right someday to tell her story. Not when he was running for senate in an historically close election where it could have prevented him from being elected? That wasn't the right time? But now is? Yes, I know, we don't get to decide when a victim is ready to tell their story, but when they tell me they held their story during the tour because they didn't want to rock the boat, I can believe that, but when they hold it when they could prevent him from becoming a senator? I just wonder. Why now?

And I get it, you are all incensed over this and you think I'm giving him a pass because he's liberal and we shouldn't do that because then the republicans will use it against democrats and...fuck that shit.

The Republicans are going to use it anyway. Trump tweeted about it. You know Trump, "It's just locker room, just locker room." Trump? The one who has said Jack and Shit about Roy Moore? Yeah, and let's not forget the chorus of BUT BILL! that is resounding through the halls again. It doesn't matter what happens the Republicans will use it. So at least try not to toss a good Senator okay?

And I get it you are so insulted. How dare he pose for that distasteful picture. She was sleeping! Well, I'm sure you are just as deeply insulted when pictures of some drunk dude passed out at a party with a dick drawn on his forehead goes around, right? Or any other staged pictures taken with sleeping people. There are entire buzzfeed lists with these sorts of "funny" shots. People being messed with while they sleep with a picture to see later.

Oh no, I get it, this is miming grabbing her breasts so it's much worse, and, and, and, what about the skit he wrote just to get a kiss?

Really? Because just recently my feed was full of people posting "YAAASSS, QUEEN!" and "YOU GET IT!" about the SNL skit where Kate McKinnon and Gal Gadot kissed. If you cheered that and used any form of, "I would have written that part for me!" then you need to sit down. And my guess is he wrote the skit to get a laugh, not a kiss. See he was still working as a comedian at the time. Writing skits just to get your crush to kiss you is 7th grade drama class, writing skits with a kiss to get a laugh is more likely. And again, she kept performing the skit and he never shoved his tongue in her mouth again (if he did it the first time).

Each case needs to be evaluated on its own. And I know I am in the minority here when I say this is not a big deal case. This is at most a case where one person needs to say sorry to another for doing something they thought was funny that the other person did not. And he did that. And she's accepted his apology. So that should have been the end. But my guess is his political career is over. All of the good he's done and could do for progressive causes is over. Because Democrats are calling for his head.

And we are just seeing the start of this. Sit back and watch. Watch while Roy Moore still runs and Trump is still president and BUT BILL! is still an effective rebuttal to pretty much any conservative charge and the Democrats eat their own...

If more comes out about Franken that shows he's actually a piece of shit and not just a childish comic I will change my mind. And if  a case as flimsy as this one comes out about a Republican I believe I would judge it the same way. But I will not demand purity from anyone. If you made a mistake in your past and you (here is the important part) have changed and grown and are a better person then I will give you the benefit of the doubt. If you have a pattern of bad behavior I won't. But I will never demand purity and I will never say BUT BILL! is an excuse for shitty behavior. If you are an asshole you are on your own. Stop eating your own, Democrats and stop trying to ignore your creeps, Republicans!

Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you people?

Ask me again why I am an independent. Ask me again why I could never run for office.

*my face is doing that "my face" thing again*