Thursday, April 10, 2014

When you dream...what do you dream about?

When I was growing up I shared a room with my sister. For quite a few years we shared a double bed as well. It wasn't until I was in middle school that we switched out to bunk beds. I think it was me sleeping on the floor that finally got my parents to realize that maybe my own bed would be a nice thing.

So anyway last night I had a dream that I was back in New Mexico clearing furniture and junk out of my old bedroom. The double bed was back, not the bunk beds. And it was the trailer, not the house my family lives in now. Which that makes sense (as much as anything in a dream makes sense) the trailer was my home, the place they live now never was. So anyway, the double bed gets picked up and moved out and there is a ton of junk under the bed. There is a picture somewhere from when Susan and I were younger, we were in the apartment on Eubank still, I think, and it's like a sitcom. The dividing line down the middle of the room. One side covered in layers and layers of junk and the other neat and tidy. You can guess which was my side. (hint, as soon as I am done writing this I'll be cleaning house)

So anyway, the bed is lifted out and there is junk and dust and obviously years of stuff that have been lost under the bed. And in among all of that is the desiccated remains of the biggest spider I have ever seen. Think Australia big. And it was orange. And had an extra section to its body. And I thought, "I knew it! This is what I heard before!" And I flashed back to trying to sleep and hearing a giant something or other scrambling under the bed. And I would catch fleeting shadows of it climbing the walls. This is obviously what that was. I wasn't crazy.

Or at least in the dream. Because I really had heard the thing scrambling and keeping me from sleep, not just last night. I had a nightmare around two weeks ago where I was back in New Mexico trying to get to sleep and couldn't because there was a thing in the room. As my eyes would close I would just get a glimpse of it running along the wall. I could hear it under the bed. Click clacking as it walked. In the dream I knew it was a giant spider but I could never see it directly. And I was not going to go looking for it under the bed.

But there it was last night. Making a special guest starring appearance in another dream. This time dead, dried out and starting to split in two. I knew I needed to pick it up and clean the area but didn't want to touch the body. Because just as much as I knew it was a spider in the first dream, just as much as the second dream was tied to the first, I knew that if I moved that body there were eggs under it that would hatch.

I'm not looking forward to the third dream....

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

That's so nice...

"Hey! Where's Adonis?" Carl pushed a chair out for Helene with his foot.

Helene smiled, "He has a name you know. And he's not coming."

"He's not coming? Why not?" Jules asked.

Gary arrived carrying drinks, "Who isn't coming? Hey, Helene, where's Adonis?"

"That's not his name. Stop calling him that. His name is Shane and he's not coming."

Gary settled in, "Why not? Is there a ridiculously good looking people convention in town?"

"Very funny. If you all must know, we broke up."

Jules slapped the table, "Ha! I knew it! I knew he was a jerk!"

Carl smirked at Jules, "Please, you liked him just fine. Or at least you liked looking at him."

"Jealous much? And anyway, it's totally true I told Helene the first time I met him to watch out for him, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did."

"But you didn't take me seriously."

"Because your whole reason for not liking him was that he was too good looking. You can't just not like people who are good looking just because they are good looking. That's shallow."

"Reverse looksism?" Carl asked.

"Not even reverse, it's just flat out looksism. If the only thing you judge someone by is their appearance it's looksism."

"Doesn't matter, I was right. Just like Andrew. Andrew was tall, dark and handsome. I hated him. Nobody believed me when I told them that it wouldn't last between you two. But I was right."

"That was middle school! No relationship is going to last in middle school! We're lucky we lasted until lunch let alone a few weeks."

"Whatever. And it wasn't just that Shane was too good looking, he was also too nice. Nobody is really that nice."

Carl laughed, "Oh well, that makes perfect sense then. Good looking and nice? I can't believe you ever dated the jerk at all! Next thing you're going to tell me is that he was filthy rich as well."

Jules made a face at Carl, "Ha, ha, very funny. But I was still right. Why did he dump you?"

"Yeah, what happened?" Carl leaned in ready for the gossip.

Gary pushed a drink Helene's way, "Here, drink up and tell us all about it. When did he tell you?"

"Nice of you all to assume he dumped me. Not that it's really any of your business but I broke up with him."

"What? Why? Why would you dump someone as nice and good looking as Shane?"

"Jules! You just told me you didn't like him!"

"Well, yeah, I mean, I didn't trust him but he was awfully good looking."

Helene took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "There just isn't any way to say this without sounding bad."

"Oh that's okay, we like it when you're bad." Gary smiled.

Helene gave a small laugh, "Okay. Well. He just wasn't very smart."

Gary gave Helene a look of mock concern, "He wasn't very smart? This is a problem now? Sorry, Carl, you are out of the group." Carl leaned back in his chair and scratched the side of his head flipping Gary the bird as he did so.

"It wasn't just that he wasn't very smart. Or not as smart as others. It was that he was, well he was just dumb as a post."

The group all started laughing, "Oh come on now, it couldn't have been that bad or we would have noticed."

"You think so, Carl? How many long conversations did you have with him? We dated for three months, how often did you just sit and chat?"

"We're guys, we don't sit and chat. We bust each other's balls."

"And? How often did he do that with you?"

"Well, umm..hmmm...Okay. But that's not necessarily because he was dumb. He just was too nice to really get in there and mix it up."

"No, there is nice because you are choosing to be and nice because you just can't be any other way. Because you can't keep up with the conversation. He was nodding and smiling because he didn't get that you were teasing him. He really did think that you were concerned with his hair products. He asked me if he should put together a list for you since you seemed like you were really interested."

Gary started laughing, "He wasn't wrong. Carl really could use all the help he can get."

"I tried to not let it bother me for as long as I could. He was just so sweet and so nice and yes, so good looking that I really made every excuse. When he didn't know that Monet was an artist and not the French way of saying money, I laughed thinking it was a joke. But no, he really thought people were going to the museum and looking at francs. Which when I told him the French used euros now instead of francs he said that was too bad and wished they had kept using a man's name like they did before. And like we do. You know. Bill."

Jules stifled a giggled.

"Oh well, he didn't know art, or money, that's not..." Helene silenced Gary with a look.

"You remember the other night when Bruce and his new girl were here?"

"Oh yeah, the redhead, holy shit, she was..." Carl looked around, "Not the point. Okay, yeah, go on."

"Okay, so we are all kidding around talking about The Walking Dead, which, by the way, Shane doesn't watch because it's too scary so he missed every joke reference you all made to Shane from the show and himself. So okay, we are talking about zombies and the apocalypse and Bruce starts in about the squirrels."

The table all laughed, "The ninja squirrels?"

"No, Jules, they aren't ninjas, they are hyper intelligent mutants." Carl corrected her.

"Oh, that's right! They could be ninjas if they wanted to, but they aren't limited to just being ninjas. Because you know, hyper intelligent mutants."

"Right, so anyway, we are driving home and Shane gets really quiet. I ask him what's wrong and he says he's really worried about Bruce. And suddenly I'm concerned thinking maybe I missed something because Shane is so nice I'm thinking maybe he picked up on something going on with Bruce that I missed. And then he tells me...." Helene paused and closed her eyes for a second then took a deep breath. "And then he tells me, I am worried that the squirrels will know he's on to them."

Loud laughter filled the bar. "Oh my god, that's hilarious!"

"No, it's not hilarious, because he wasn't joking. He really believed that Bruce has mutant hyper intelligent wannabe ninja squirrels living in the park across from his house!"

More laughter.  "Oh gosh, wait..." Jules tried to catch her breath, "Wait, it's not nice to laugh but..."

"Fuck that, it could be dangerous to try and hold this in." Carl and Gary both started again.

"So you see? And it was hard, you guys."

"Because he is so nice?"

"No," Helene made a pained expression, "Because I had to keep finding ways of saying it. He thought when I said that I didn't think I could see him anymore I was going blind..."

And Dana's Imaginary Friends

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sign on the dotted line....

His house was filled with art deco paintings and smelled faintly of tobacco. It made me wish I were anywhere else, not sitting in that exquisite chair, searching for something to say. How do you start a conversation that you've been forced in to having? I honestly thought I would never step foot in this house again. I can already feel my shoulders tensing and we haven't even begun yet.

How much time do I have before he's through saying goodbye to young me? I wonder if she got the same jolt of recognition from seeing my face that I did from hers? Maybe it's easier to recognize your younger self than it is your older version. I hope so. I hope she's just feeling the sting of jealousy right now and not the rest. The knowing that she is one of many. Though maybe it will be a good thing for her. Once she realizes that he probably kept her here just long enough to make sure we would see each other. Will she recognize the subtle manipulation? Would I have? Probably not.

Breathe...just keep breathing. One more thing. Just one more thing from him and then you are free to walk out the door.

God I used to love this room. I felt smarter just sitting here. The paintings, the books, even that smell of pipe tobacco. Before I knew it was all part of his show. Everything in here is a prop. A way to manipulate those around him. Especially a particular type of student. The adoring ones. The girl next door looks with the you hung the moon attitude. God I was so naive. Ten years is a long time. Why does it feel like no time has passed? I swear I can feel myself regressing the longer I sit here. I'm pretty sure I was a capable 30 year old woman when I walked in that door, why do I feel like a helpless 20 something again?

One more thing. I just need one more thing. Okay, you can do this. You still know how to talk to him. How to keep half of the conversation in your head. You can do this.

"Are you comfortable? Can I get you something to drink?"

Nice sneak in behind me. Good touch. Get me off guard to start. "No, thank you, I really can't stay long."

"It was a lovely surprise to have you call to see me."

A surprise? You made sure I had to come here. "I just thought it might be easier for me to stop by with the papers this time."

"Yes, yes, I'm not sure how I missed the last page. But we will get it set to right this time. Did you get my recommendation for the research position?"

The one I didn't ask for? The one I don't want? The one I thanked you for two years ago when you did it? "Yes, I did. Thank you again for thinking of me."

"I'm not sure why you didn't pursue that more?"

"I'm actually quite content in my position with the library." Watch your tone. You don't want to sound argumentative.

"Ah, yes, contentment. I'm not sure why you would settle for content. You know of all of my proteges you really were the most special."

Smile, just smile.

"What is that look?"

Shit, well okay, that wasn't a smile so much as a pained expression. "I just don't think that sounded as flattering out loud as you intended."

"What do you mean? You are gifted. Intelligent. Curious. Settling for content just seems a waste. How can that not be flattering?"

"You're right. Thank you again for thinking of me for the position." Let's see it's not flattering because it implies that there were many before me and many to follow. Even though I am fully aware I was one of many it's nice to pretend.

And why wouldn't I want it? A position at your university? Working for your colleague? That you got for me? Where you could keep tabs on me at all times? Hmmm...I'm not sure why that doesn't sound appealing to me.

"So where were we? One more page to sign?"

"Yes, just the last page. You signed and initialed the others, just missed that final space."

"I must have gotten distracted. You know how many time pressures I am under. I am just surprised my lawyer missed it as well."

Did you think I wouldn't expect you to have a lawyer review this? If you are trying to shock me, try harder. And please, you know as well as I do that you told him you weren't signing the last page and just to send it as it was. "Yes, he must have not been watching close enough at the time."

Pick up the pen. Go on, pick up the pen. Yes! And put it back down. Crap. Deep breath. Just a little longer.

"Does he know who I am?"

Wow. Okay, I wasn't expecting this one. Have you changed? "Yes, of course."

"Is it intimidating for him?"

What? "I'm not sure I understand what you are asking?"

"I mean, it cannot be easy. You meet what you think is just some local librarian and then discover that their last significant other was me? It just seems like those might be big shoes to fill, so to speak."

Oh, okay, no you haven't changed at all. "Well he understands that he can only be who he is and that to think about things that cannot be changed would be foolish."

"So, yes, a bit intimidating I think."

Just give him what he wants so you can leave. "Maybe. Could you blame him?"

Ego soothed and pen up and signed. "No I would guess if I were he and he me I would feel the same way. There you go. Signed."

"Thank you." Now, do I look through all of the pages while I am sitting here or wait and see what he's done after I leave? Look. You know you have to look.

"I can assure you that everything is final now."

"Yes, I'm sure it is. I just want to double check that I didn't miss anything so I don't waste any more of your time with this. I know how busy you are this time of year."

"Well, all times of the year."

"Yes, of course, all times of the year." Smile and look. And yes, it's all here. Signed, initialed, dated and done. "Thank you so much for taking the time to see me to sign this. I appreciate your help."

Now I just need to make my legs work again. Stand up and walk to the door. I'm done. I'm really really done. One last look around. "I can see myself out, no need to get up." My hand on the ornate door knob almost free. I remember the first time I was here. And now this will be the last. Do this one for you, don't walk out that door the helpless young girl he tries to make you, you walk out the confident woman you've become. After all he did help you down that path, even if he doesn't understand how. Stand up straight, head up, "August? Take care of yourself. Be well."

And outside. Deep breath. I did it. I took one last look at the brownstone and...

"Hey, how did it go?" A hand reaching out for mine.

"You waited this whole time?"

"Well of course I did. I knew it would be a rough ride for you. Though honestly, it took less time that I thought."

"Yeah, me too."

"Did he say anything?"

"He said a lot without saying much. As usual."

"Did he ask about ..."

"No, of course not. But he did ask about you."

"About me?"

"Yes. It threw me off, silly me, I thought he was asking about his son."

I saw the look in his eyes as soon as the words left my mouth. Oh shoot, that was the wrong thing to say wasn't it? Then the smile started across his face and I knew that it was all going to be okay. He took the papers from my hand, "Not his son. Not anymore. My son."

"Yes, your son. Our son. Let's go tell him we can make the adoption official in time for his birthday."

And Dana's prompted story. Suits, Cigars and Sonnets

And I'm going to warn you, bring a tissue.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I can't believe you didn't notice that thing that I didn't notice either...

I've talked before about how I write. That before anything gets put on paper (on screen?) I've actually written and re-written the story in my head. I work out the main details. Get some plot points or dialog going. Re-work it all over and over until I think I have the bones of a story that I want to tell and then I write it all down. So for this week's prompt I was off and running with a story idea. Things fell in to place pretty quickly, the people, the story I wanted to tell, it was smooth like silk and then a little buzz started in the back of my head..."wait a minute, have you written this before?"

Oh crap. Is that why it was so smooth? Had I actually already written the end of this story before? I knew I hadn't written the beginning or the middle but the ending? It was seeming awfully familiar. So while I was focused on that issue I got an email from Dana, my partner in crime for this endeavor, seems she hadn't really noticed that this week's prompt is in first person. Which if you don't write first person is a bitch to switch to. So we chatted about it, joked around about stretching as a writer and I told her about my search for previously done endings.

Great news! I found the story that I was thinking about and though there is a similar theme, the ending is different. Good enough so now I can write with a clear conscience and ...

Oh holy shit the story I'd been writing in my head was third person. All the way through. Even with talking to Dana about it needing to be first person I was so focused on the end that I wasn't paying attention to the rest. Which really sounds like this is going to be a life lesson blog right? Too focused on the the ending to see what is right in front of you? Well, yeah, that would make a great blog but that's not this blog, this blog is about point of view.

Obviously you all know I write in first person all of the time. I'm doing it right's coming from inside the blog...but I rarely write fiction in first person. I told Dana (my genius friend who is also incredibly witty and way too modest to tell you all of this herself) yesterday that I so much prefer voice of god than first person. I want to move all of the pieces. I want to have control over how they all feel, what they all think, how they all talk. First person narrows your scope. It's all about one person. One character. Everything else becomes something that they interact with. It only comes in to play if they are there. Witnessing it. And even then it's completely limited to their own point of view.

Which is life. That's why my nonfiction is all first person. Because I don't have a choice. I can guess at what you are thinking, but I don't know. And my guess is going to be totally interpreted through my own life. Weltanschauung. Great word. It's means world perception. Everything you do, every belief you have, every interaction in every day is all framed by your own weltanschauung. And your weltanschauung is created through every belief you have, everything you do, every interaction in every day.  It is your experiences that make you, you.

Now I wrote not too long ago about how we are all more alike than we are different and how that's actually pretty comforting. But the flip side of that is that we are still different. In the fact that your life is yours and mine is mine. When I am not right in front of you I pretty much cease to exist for you. I mean, obviously I still exist, but you are only guessing at that point. You can imagine what I'm doing, who I'm talking to, what is happening, and you might even get really close to what is actually going on, but you aren't experiencing it. Because you aren't here. Because no matter how compassionate you are, no matter how concerned with the world's problems you are, no matter how much you like to imagine you are all about the greater good you really only have one point of view. Yours. That's it.

Which long way around, is why I write fiction. Because I am greedy. I want more than one. I want them all. I want to know not just what you are thinking but why. I want to know what you are doing when you aren't here, does it change? There is a country song that asks, "Who are you when I'm not looking?" Every parent knows that the mark of a well behaved child isn't how they act when you are there, but what they do when you aren't. What do they do when you aren't there watching?

In fiction I always get to watch. God, that sounds creepy. Let me try again. In fiction I get to make people do what I want. Oh wait, that's worse. Umm ... yeah ... anyway...

First person fiction is hard. That's my point.

So this week when you read my story and my genius friend Dana's story keep in mind that we really worked it out. We took our fiction worlds and narrowed them. Which is as hard to do as it is to take your real world and broaden it. But life is about stretching. That's where the growth comes in. Even when stretching means narrowing...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Rut roh!

Did you see that video with the little boy trying to get a cupcake from his mother that went around a few weeks ago? Linda, listen, honey....You're not listening to me...

What does it take sometimes to realize that you aren't listening? That things aren't going the way they should? And is it that you aren't listening or that you aren't paying attention? Of course this is a navel gazer...but you knew that already didn't you?

What does it take to make you change? To move you from the spot you are on? Recently I watched a friend let go of something she had been holding on to so tightly she had missed the point where she didn't want it anymore. Once she let go, decided to move on, the relief was palpable. It's a big change happening in her life, but it's one she needed to make. To let go and move on.

Another friend of mine had a week of hits. Literally murder and mayhem. Reminders that life is short and holding on to the past does you no good. Because change is going to come. He didn't realize that he had been holding open a door to his past until the building burned down.

What does it take to get your attention? Sometimes all you need is a couple weeks of really terrible sleep followed by a solid 8 hours of great sleep. Then the head clears and you realize, oh holy shit do I need to make some changes.

I've let my life slide in to a holding pattern. I was kidding myself for awhile that it was nothing to worry about. But then after the rock bottom moodiness that hits with exhaustion followed by the bright eyed optimism that comes from a full night's sleep as well as a healthy dose of cleaning fumes for good measure I had to own up to it. I'm in a rut. And if I don't break out now it's just going to get worse.

I can track it, and so can you because you've been paying attention to the blogs. When my knees started giving me enough problems that I took a week off of working out before we went to Hawaii to make sure I had enough juice in them for everything we were going to do that should have been the biggest warning. Okay, no actually the biggest warning should have been when I could listen to them talk to me going up and down the stairs. Or wait, maybe when they swelled up in Chicago. Any of those would have been good warnings. But they weren't.

What happened is that I started to make changes but not the right ones. And not even ones I was super aware of. I spent less and less time on the stairs. I live in a three story house so this isn't as easy as you would think. Basically I'd pick a floor for the day and stay there instead of basement for a workout, main floor for food and writing, upstairs for laundry and cleaning, it was...well...main floor for sitting on the couch. Or upstairs with a book while I did laundry. And the basement pretty much got taken out of the equation.

Which means the workouts stopped. Which is a bad idea. Because I didn't just stop doing the stuff that was hurting my knee I stopped doing everything. I haven't done a chin up since we left for Hawaii. Not going to make the June deadline that way am I?

And when I stop working out it affects my sleep. Working out doesn't make me sleep like a normal person, nothing does, but it does help. Quite a bit actually. So when I stop working out I stop sleeping so I am tired so I don't want to workout so I don't sleep so I'm tired...

And when I'm tired I sit. And do nothing. Which lends itself to more sitting and doing nothing. And at first you kid yourself and say, "Oh this is temporary, tomorrow I will get right back on it." and you might. I was averaging one productive day a week there. One. Out of seven. And that might be being generous.

But once you are starting in a rut it's hard to bounce out of it, you know?

So I've started the bounce. For one I have been to the doctors to get the knees worked on and started PT. Of course these things didn't make me feel better this week. In fact they made everything much worse. Going through the tests and the exams and having them poked and prodded made them hurt. A lot. Enough that I got zero sleep. And snapped at a stranger in a coffee shop. (okay, he totally deserved it, but still, not really okay to do) But even though this week they didn't help the situation I know that they will in the long run.

And I read this blog today which helped reinforce that getting back in the swing of working out will not only help protect my knees in the long run but will bounce me out of the rut in the short run.

So that's a good start.

Then I needed to think about the rest of it. Because it's not just the workouts. The workouts help me feel better and more in control for sure, but then what? What is the rest of the puzzle?

Earlier this week while I was writing my prompt story for Wednesday I kept getting stuck. I would write and then erase. And write and erase. I joked with Dana that I just can't write ahead. If it wasn't Wednesday it wasn't happening. But it was more than that. I knew what I wanted the story to say, I knew where I wanted it to go but I kept talking myself out of it. "unrealistic. wouldn't happen" But She (she never got a name, it was an actual choice, cause she was invisible, you see) kept telling me, "this is my story, this is what happened, tell it" so I did. And then I heard from not one, not two but three different people that they had gone through similar things. Just because her story wasn't mine, doesn't mean it wasn't a solid voice. Yes, exaggerated, but solid.

So what does that mean for the rut? Well, the writing needs to be free, dig? Okay, sorry, the hippy chick popped out there for a second. What I mean is I'm starting to get uptight about the writing, not good enough, not a strong voice, not valid. And I need to let that go and just write again. If a story doesn't work, it doesn't work, but that doesn't mean writing it was a mistake. It just means my head is clearer for other things.

And then to add to the mix of popping out of the rut I need to do new things. So we are picking back up the new thing weekends. Some of those were a bust, and some were pretty cool. But they were all something. And right now something is what I am looking for.

Because I've been spinning my wheels and if I don't stop I'm going to dig in too deep to move. And that's just not okay. And the universe is talking to me. Screamed at me today in fact. And I don't like to be screamed at.

So April is going to be the MONTH OF ACHIEVEMENT! Sorry, it needed a title. Basically I'm going to shock myself out of the holding pattern. Time to do new things and old things and basically just things. The things I like to do, the things I need to do and the new things we are going to check out. Add in twice weekly PT session, hopefully a deep run in to hockey playoffs and then leaving at the end of the month for C's college graduation and I should be out of the rut and on a new path by May.

And what does that mean? Oh you know it! Blogs. Lots and lots of blogs! I am going to be writing about what I'm doing, what I'm not and why. I have three fiction stories that should hit next week, one from the prompt and two that have been bouncing around for awhile. And more navel gazing. Because you know I love the way it looks...I should probably get it pierced....though adding something shiny to the mix and I might never get anything else done...and we don't want that do we?

Oh no we don't. Okay, I'm listening...Now can I have a cupcake?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Can you see me now?

She was always the invisible one in the family. Nobody noticed her until the day she... traded her suburban mom blond bob for a sassy pink pixie. Then they noticed. Oh boy did they notice.

“What the hell did you do? You look like an Easter Egg!” from her husband as he walked in the door from work.

“Oh my god, Mom…are you trying to make me die from embarrassment?” from her daughter as she got in the car after school.

And the eyebrow raise from her son as he came home from football practice. It was a record for communication so far this year.

The pink was temporary but she didn't feel like telling them that. Not right now. They could wait until dinner. It’s not like they would say much else to her now that they were home and locked back in to their own worlds. Even with the pink hair she would fade in to the background for them. They only remembered her if they needed something.

It might sound like self pity, a bad case of the “poor mes” but she was working with some pretty strong evidence to prove her point. Over the past year she had lost 40 pounds, gone back to school and started a part time job. And nobody had said a word. Nobody noticed that in the evenings instead of watching TV or reading the latest best seller she had been reading text books on nutrition. Nobody noticed that she was busy during the day and had stopped volunteering at the kid’s school. Nobody noticed when her wardrobe changed. Not when it first became so baggy she was swimming in her clothes to when she started buying new things. All with the money she earned at her new job. The one she went to on days she wasn't in class at the community college. That nobody noticed she was attending.

And this morning? Well this morning was the last straw in being invisible. This morning her husband had kissed the air 4 inches above her forehead goodbye instead of her. And he hadn't noticed that he missed. He missed her forehead. Connected with nothing. Air. And he kept on reading the email on his phone, mumbled a goodbye and walked out the door. She had looked over at the kids to see if she was crazy, surely they had seen it all as well, but no such luck. They weren't looking at her. She stuck her tongue out at them just to make sure and nope. Zero reaction. She might as well have not been there at all.

So when Susie suggested, for perhaps the 100th time in the past 5 years, that is was time for a new look she agreed. No more fighting against her natural curls, cut it short and let them hug her head like a curly little cap. The pink had been for work. It was February and time for the annual breast cancer research donations. When she had told Susie about it Susie had suggested doing a temporary color. She hadn't been sure about that but once it was in she had to admit she kind of liked it. It deepened her eye color. Making the blue look almost Liz Taylor violet. It also brought out the color in her cheeks like no blush had ever been able to do. Susie had agreed. “I swear, with the weight you've lost and the new hair you look 10 years younger than when I first met you!”

She had ridden that compliment all the way to work. Where she got others. “Fun!” “Cute!” “Love it!” That’s what she heard all day from co-workers and gym members as they checked in at the front desk. She knew she would have to soak them in because she wouldn't be hearing them at home. She actually didn’t expect to hear anything at home. But pink hair is hard to ignore.

She went upstairs to change clothes. When exactly did she become part of the furniture in their house? A ghost in her own family. Only noticed if something wasn't done. It had been gradual of that she was certain. When she and her husband had first started dating he noticed her. He had to, right? I mean they dated. And then had the kids. Then slowly things shifted. She had noticed that her husband wasn't really listening anymore. She would sometimes stop talking in the middle of a story just to see if he would say anything. And he didn't. Eventually that led to not really talking at all. Who wants to just make noise at someone? And maybe it was her fault, maybe she just didn't have anything interesting to say?

Then it started with the kids. When they were little they loved her. Loved to have her around. Talking to them. Answering the hundreds of questions they always had. And then they got so wrapped up in their own lives, their own friends, they had no time for her anymore. She actually thought that was normal until one day she noticed a mother and son sitting having coffee together. Talking. Laughing. The boy had to have been about the same age as her son, how come he was talking to his mother like she was a real human being? When the boy got up and went to use the restroom she actually asked the woman. “How do you do it? Convince him to spend time with you?” The woman had laughed like she must be joking, “He’s my son. It’s not like he has much of a choice.” She had laughed as well, like that was an obvious answer.

After she changed clothes she went back downstairs and got dinner on the table. Then she called everyone to come eat. They shuffled in silently. Her husband looked at her hair again and shook his head, her daughter glared at her, her son took in the hair and the odd choice in her outfit and raised one side of his mouth in a somewhat quizzical expression. Finally her daughter broke the ice, “What are you wearing?”

She looked down at the dress that was hanging off of her. “This? This is the dress I wore on Valentine’s Day last year. Notice anything different about it? Like maybe how it doesn't fit anymore?”

Her son shrugged his shoulders

Her daughter said, “Yeah? So?”

Her husband, well that was interesting. She actually saw a flicker there.

Then she stepped away from the table, unzipped the dress and let it fall to the ground.

“MOM!” her daughter shrieked.

“Whoa, Dude!” actual words from her son, it might be a miracle.

And as her husband looked at her, now standing there in her work uniform. Capri leggings and a Healthy Start! T-shirt she thought he might actually be seeing her for the first time in a long time.

"What are you wearing?” The tone from her daughter.

“This is my work uniform.”

“You work at Healthy Start? Since when?” Two whole questions from her son. Dying her hair and stripping at the table definitely got a reaction.

“For the past 6 months. I joined last year, the same time I went back to school. Not that you all remember that either. But anyway, I was such a success story for them they asked if I was interested in a job. I’m the new member liaison.”

"You've been working? Why didn't you tell me?”

She looked over at her husband and sighed. “I did. I told you when they offered me the job. You mumbled, ‘that’s nice dear’ and went on with your evening.”

Now he at least had the good sense to look chagrined.

She took a deep breath. She had been planning this all day, now she just needed to go through with it.

“Now that I have everyone’s attention, there are going to be some changes around this place. I've spent the last year playing sort of a game. Seeing what all I could do before you, any of you, would notice. I lost 40 pounds. I changed my entire wardrobe. I went back to school. I got a job. But it took dying my hair pink to even get a word out of any of you. And that’s not okay. Because what I realized today is that if this is a game, we are all losing. Because I don’t want to play anymore.”

“What do you mean?” She almost felt bad for the touch of fear in her husband’s voice. Almost. Until she remembered him air kissing the kitchen goodbye this morning.

“I mean what I said, we are changing things around here. I’m no longer to be treated like the maid, or the cook, or the chauffeur. When I ask how your day was I expect a full set of answers. If I don’t get them I might just start asking your friends.”

The look of horror on her daughter’s face should have made her feel guilty but it didn't, in fact it made her feel great. Finally she was getting through to them.

“And more than that I expect you to ask me questions about my day as well. I’m actually very interesting, you might be surprised.”

And then there was silence. wasn't what she had hoped for but it was what she had expected.

What she had been worried about. If she pushed would they push back? Or would they walk away?

And then from her son… “So why pink? I think you’d look better with blue.”

She smiled. It was a start…

 And Dana's version...Fragile

Monday, March 24, 2014

Take a note...

She has always been a list maker. It had saved her skin more times than she really cared to think about. Thoughts had always made their way through her head at a rapid pace. If it didn't get written down, it didn't get done. It wasn't that she wasn't bright, she always felt it was the opposite in fact. There were just so many things to think about, so many things to do, that to hold on to one thought for the length of time it would take to get to the grocery store was an impossibility. Too many things were fighting for her attention.

When she was younger it had been stenographer's notebooks. Those were replaced by her never far from reach day runner. Then the smart phone. And then recently back to the stenographer's notebooks. The tried and true gave her comfort as she got older. That and they didn't run out of juice just when she needed to check her daily schedule. Because try as she might remembering to charge her phone was something no list could seem to make her do. And she relied on her lists even more now.

When it had first started happening she had denied it even to herself. Standing in line at the bank only to not be able to remember the word "checking" once it was her turn at the window. She had laughed with the teller about "brain farts" but it hadn't been funny. Not really. Names disappeared and reappeared on her on a regular basis. People would come to visit her and she would have no idea who they were. She smiled and chatted with them anyway waiting for the name to come, and eventually it would.

She went to the doctor expecting to be told that there was nothing to be done. Just aging taking its toll. She was half right. There was nothing to be done. She carried the APOE-e4 gene. Blood tests, brain scans, cognitive tests. Her symptoms didn't match anything else. Alzheimer's disease it was.

She made plans and lists as soon as she knew. Her doctors told her it could be a very slow march through the stages of the disease and not to get discouraged. There was research being done every day that was bringing them closer to a cure. And for awhile she was fine. Lapses here and there. But her lists got her by. She felt like she was doing okay. Not perfect. Moving out of her house and in to the adult care community had been hard. A necessary precaution, but hard. But she still felt optimistic about her progress. Until today.

Today her "To Do" list wasn't comforting at all. It wasn't just that today was June 26th according to the calendar on her watch and her "To Do" list was for June 25th.  It was the scrawl across the bottom, "WHO ARE YOU???" The barely legible chicken scratch across her neatly written list that stopped her cold.

It wasn't just the loss of an entire day. It was what she felt when she saw the writing. It was her writing. Just not the neat orderly writing she normally had. It was a panicked child's writing. And when she saw it she clearly saw her shadow self for the first time. The one that came when she left. During those stretches where she couldn't remember what was happening. This is who must have been coming and taking her place. And how terrifying for this other self. To not recognize the people around you? Your surroundings? Even the list you wrote out yourself of things to do that day. So much fear.

What an odd feeling to have pity and compassion for this other woman. Only to face the fact that she was you. And would become the main you sooner than you had thought. Already you had been aware of her, the cap left off the toothpaste, the spoiled milk in the fridge. The mess of unfolded clothes. But here she was, sending you a message. Who are you?  WHO ARE YOU???

Who am I? Who are you? Who are you to come in and take over my life? Who told you that was okay? Who opened the door for you? You have fear? Of course you are afraid. So am I. Terrified.

She took a deep breath. She had known it was coming. When she had gotten the diagnosis she had done a lot of research. Made lists of symptoms to watch for. Things that would need done. She had wondered what she would do when the time came. If she would even remember where she had put those lists. But for now she did. She went to her bureau and pulled out a small box. Opening it she took out the stenographer's notebook and opened it to the first page.

To Do:
Today's Date, Unknown

1. Put the letters in this box in the mail.
2. Call Zooey and tell her that you love her.
3. Fill the bathtub.
4. Take the bottle of pills and a glass of water with you to the bath.
5. Take the pink pills first followed by the two blue ones. The pink will put you to sleep and the blue will keep you from throwing up.
6. Enjoy your bath and sleep well.

She closed the notebook and put it back in the box. Today wasn't the day, but she knew it would be here soon.

There was comfort in a list.