Thursday, August 28, 2014

This might have been a mistake...

First off let me start by saying a few things on my behalf...

My parents took one piece of pre-marital advice they received and applied it consistently through their marriage. It was "Never yell at each other or your children unless the house is on fire." So I was never yelled at by my parents. Ever. And if we kids yelled at each other we got in trouble. So I am completely ill equipped to be yelled at. I have no coping mechanism. I have friends who grew up in yelly houses and they just don't even notice. Me? I am pissed and ready for a fight or terrified and in tears as soon as you yell. Depending on the circumstances. There is no calm response.

Not to go all RainMan on you but...I'm an excellent driver. I am one of those people that actually turns in to the near lane and then signals to move to the far lane if that's where I need to be instead of just turning in to the far lane. I use my turn signals to change lanes. I even use them in parking lots for goodness sake. I am that lone car doing 35 on Bethany (the locals know) and getting passed or tailgated by the people around me. I don't use my phone unless I have my headphones in, and even then it's rare. I don't text while I drive. And I always drive the speed limit through residential neighborhoods. Hell half the time I go under because we have a lot of kids out and about.

So today I am on my way to a dentist appointment and driving through our neighborhood. There is a sheriff's car parked on one side of the street and the sheriff is standing in the yard of a neighbor talking to them. Well not really in the yard. She's in the yard he's kind of on the street. So I even shift a little more toward the middle of the road to give him plenty of room and as I get to him and pass him he yells "SLOW DOWN!!" and gestures at me.

OH shit! I look at my speedometer and I'm doing...25. You know, the speed limit. I look in my rear view and he's still gesturing toward me. I gave him the what the fuck hand signal then a 2 and a 5.  And drove on.
Not the fuck you hand, the what the fuck hand.

But it pissed me off. First off, we have Aggressive Driver laws here. If I tailgate, cut people off, or yell at them I can get a ticket. So who the fuck are you to yell at me? Second off, seriously, who the fuck are you to yell at me? (see, instant angry)

If I hadn't been on my way to an appointment I would have stopped at the Sheriff's office right then and there and filed a complaint. I know, it really seems like it's not a big deal right? And it might not have been. Except it was. Don't fucking yell at me. And especially don't fucking yell at me when I'm not doing anything wrong! 

And that's a big part of my anger. I wasn't speeding. I don't speed in residential neighborhoods. I just don't. I do speed on the rural roads and on the highway. I do so knowing full well that if I get pulled over and get a ticket that's all on me. I make that choice. Break the law, pay the fine. I am not one of those people that would bitch about getting pulled over for speeding if I was. I am also extraordinarily respectful of our law enforcement people. I was taught that you keep you hands on the wheel, answer questions when you are asked, use your most polite voice and on and on. And I have friends who are cops so I get how tough of a job it is and how most are really good people doing the whole protect and serve thing really meaning to protect and serve. So if my default response to you is respect shouldn't I expect the same in return? 

So I get to the dentist's office and call the Sheriff's office instead. And you can't easily talk to anyone...dial this number for this, dial that number for that, not even a way to easily leave a message, which is really all I wanted to do. Which already frustrated this pissed me off more. I hang up and go in to get my bite adjusted and my crown shaved down (yes, the symbology there is just dripping isn't it?)

After my dentist appointment I tried to decide if it was worth complaining or not. And I was really torn. First off if I did complain and he did get talked to about it, would he then be on the lookout for me? Was I just opening myself up to getting harassed? And secondly, it really isn't that big of a deal, except for the fact that he stood out the street and yelled at me and kept gesturing at me even after I moved on down the road. So what if he already was going to be on the lookout for me? Wouldn't it be better at that point to have it on record that I complained? And then I finally decided, he shouldn't have yelled at me. If he honestly thought I was speeding he should have gotten in his car and pulled me over. Of course he would have seen I was doing the speed limit if he had done that, but still... And since I really do think he shouldn't have done the asshole maneuver not calling because I was afraid of repercussions would be wrong. 

So I called. And after I hung up (giving them my name and the kind of car I was driving like a good citizen) I thought again...that was probably a mistake. So we will see if I get a ticket soon. Or get any extra attention.

Please believe I will be minding my Ps and Qs even more so.

AND DON'T EVER FUCKING YELL AT ME!

Seriously...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I believe these things to be true...

I have a lot of firmly held beliefs.

I have a lot of beliefs that have changed over the years.

I have a few things that I used to believe until someone pointed out why believing them and believing other things I do were in conflict. So then I had to change one or both sets of beliefs and come to new conclusions.

I believe that right now you have the same problem with sets of beliefs that you hold and you don't even realize it.

I have beliefs that I hold right now that I know in a few years will be changed. I don't know which ones they are but I know there will be some. Because there always are.

What I believe today is different than what I believed 40 years ago. Or 30. Or 20 or even 10.

Life is constantly giving you new information to make your decisions on. If you don't ever change your mind there is something deeply wrong with you. I believe that.

So what are some things that you believe?

Things in my head lately because of posts online...

Looking around my house I have a lot of things. Some of them really nice things. Some of them I'm quite emotionally attached to. But nothing that I own is worth someone else's life. Nothing. Not even the china doll that my mother played with as a child. Not my father's belt buckle. Or my father-in-law's book. Or my computer which holds all of my stories and C's baby pictures and a multitude of memories. Nothing. But I think I must be in the minority on that one when I read news stories about break ins and see all of the comments about how "They should have owned a gun!" "Anyone steps foot in my house and touches my shit and I will blow them away." Really? Your TV is worth their life? Don't care if he is stealing from you. Really don't. TV does not equal life.

But I also know that if someone were hurting someone I loved I wouldn't hesitate to hurt them back.

Things aren't worth protecting that fiercely. They are just things. People are greater than things. Even if they are your things and not your people.

And still on the gun thing...why is it that Chicago is always trotted out as the disaster on gun control because everyone is armed anyway and look how high the crime rate is while at the same time people are saying if we were all armed crime would actually go down? There is even a story out right now trying to tie the concealed carry increase with crime rates going down in Chicago because now people don't know who is carrying. Didn't we already not know who all was carrying in Chicago? Wasn't that the argument being made before that the huge influx of illegal guns meant that everyone was armed even though the gun control laws were so strict? So which is it, are we safer when everyone carries or are we less safe when everyone carries?

I don't want to carry. Concealed or open. I don't see the need. I don't hunt. I don't live in a dangerous area. I'm not worried about kidnappers breaking in to my house and whisking me away for ransom. So I don't need a gun at all really. But I don't have a problem with you having one if you feel that strongly about it. Though if you do I want you licensed, tested (as part of the licensing procedure) and insured. (Gun control, yo) And also I will probably think you are a little silly and probably slightly delusional if you live in my neighborhood and feel the need to go to the store armed. It's just not that dangerous at the QFC. Even on Wednesdays when the new specials start.

I've written about guns before and I am sure I will again. But right now those are the bottom line things that I believe. I believe my things aren't worth your life. I believe people frame the gun arguments to fit their own personal beliefs no matter if it makes sense or not. And I believe that if you want to carry a gun you should take a few safety classes and get some insurance and a license. And I believe that my beliefs are fluid and will probably change over the next few years.

And that's really the crux of it. I don't know how people can get so fully entrenched in their belief systems that this entire blog will boil down to one or two lines about gun control. But it will.

I should probably talk about equal rights for a bit to give people something else to focus on...



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Jury Duty Day!!!

It all started so promising. After waiting for literally decades to get called I finally got my notice to appear. And just look at my juror number, it was like a sign!


So after waiting somewhat patiently for the month to pass it was finally time. Checked the website yesterday and the batch of jurors that were dismissed ahead of time didn't include my number so I was good to go!

I was very excited. I even asked Brent his opinion on what I should wear. I wanted to maximize my chances of being selected you see. So I wanted to look serious and interested but not flashy and over done. Yes, I really did put that much thought in to it. When I got there this morning I realized I was probably the only one who did but at least if I got chosen the person whose fate I was determining would know I took it seriously enough not to wear grubby jeans and a funny t-shirt.

First step! Waiting...
You may park on the 5th and 6th floors only, with the lovely view of the jail, just to remind you.

Make sure you get there early. But we won't tell you that we actually don't open the doors until 7:45.

Imma serve on a jury, but first let me take this cool shadow selfie...

So we wait for the doors to open. Then we are herded in to a line to wait to go through the body scanners. (Yes, Terri, you were right, wait here, now wait here, then wait over here) So while I was waiting for everyone to get scanned in I took a few shots of the building. Because...well have you met me?
It's pretty impressive right?

And there are LIONS! This has to be another good sign!

So then we get to the scanners, the woman at the door is directing people on what needs to be removed, drinks must be looked at, electronics must be scanned, do not cross the yellow line until you are called. I SAID DO NOT CROSS THE YELLOW LINE! I think the court house is where the people that were too serious for TSA come to work...Though I did get her to break when she said to me, "The bathrooms are at the top of the stairs. Do you have a drink I should see?" And I answered, "Well if you want to join me in the bathroom I guess you could. Let's just say I'm glad I'm at the front of the line now."  Then I had to remove my sandals and have them screened. I guess the metal on them would have set off the alarms. Next time I will wear plain ones, even though these totally make the outfit...

Okay so after the beverage vacating stop I head downstairs to the Jury Assembly Room. I meant to get a picture of that sign because it made me laugh but I figured there would be plenty of time for that later. On a bathroom break, or lunch, or something...

So we are handed our paperwork and there is an instruction sheet on the top. Fill out these things. Return these things. Keep these other things. Okay, simple enough. The questionnaire is nothing like what I had imagined. I thought there would be a lot of questions, but nope, just like 3 or 4. And only things you would figure. Are you friends or family with cops. Do you have any cases pending. Have you ever been a victim of violent crime. And really....aren't we all victims of violent crime in the global sense of community? But there were only yes or no boxes to check, no space for esoteric discussion. I guess that part comes later. I also waived my per diem and mileage money. I can live without the $12. 

So anyway, fill out my paperwork go to hand it all in where it belongs and help out three people, "You keep this form with you. No, keep that one as well." So I think if you can't follow that first set of instructions that should be when they tap you on the shoulder and send you out. Like a dance competition. Monitors roaming and if you are stuck on the first part then out you go. Also looking around the room if you are an older white guy you have a much stronger shot of a jury of your peers in Washington County than if you are a minority or a woman. Just saying. Lots of old white guys. 

So then the jury coordinator starts her spiel. First off turn off your electronics. Seriously. Off. Not silenced, not on vibrate. Turn them off. She will wait. And now she starts with the secrets of serving...What days are best for getting called, what time of month, all of that good insider information. Tuesdays are the days that the bigger trials begin so...(crowd moans except for one little excited squeeeee from the back). Also as this is Tuesday there will be the Hillsboro street fair starting at 3, so if you are parked on the street you will have to move your car by noon or be towed. I was thinking, if we get out early maybe I will waste some time at the street fair before heading to pick up Brent. That might be a nice cap to the day. Especially since we are supposed to be done by 5 and he won't be ready until 6. Perfect!

Then the acting presiding judge does his speech and takes questions. How many cases they hear in a day varies. Juveniles and domestic trials don't go before juries. Didn't know that. Grand Juries are only called at the first of the month (if you get a summons for first of the month and don't want to commit to a month of service you might want to reschedule, pick a Friday to come back for the least likely day to have to serve). The crowd gave a sigh of relief hearing we weren't in the Federal pool (long trials) or in the Grand Jury pool (multiple days). Well a sigh of relief and one disappointed groan. Who the hell is that freak?? 

After they give their talks we watch a movie about jury duty. Very patriotic. We are the backbone of the judicial system. It's so important that trial by jury is in the mother-fucking Declaration of INDEPENDENCE! And at this point I actually wondered how many people who shirk their duty really get how important it was to the founding fathers. We hear all the time about the Constitution and how these modern day patriots are only concerned with what the founding fathers would want. Well how about next time you get your summons you don't try to weasel your way out of it and instead serve like a true patriot? Hmmm???

Okay, so yeah, it was a very Rah! Rah! movie. But it was also really informative. You will start here, then go here, this will happen next, then this. Went through all of the stages of selection and what to expect from that process and also what to expect from a trial. Really nicely done. And yes, a lot of thank you for serving you awesome American patriot you. So by the end we are all feeling pretty darn good about being there.

Okay, maybe only that one freak in the back still. Everyone else wants to know when the first break will be so they can leave the room. Seriously people it's only 9 am. Relax.

So talks and movies are over. Jury coordinator lets us know there are 6 different things happening right now with pre-trial motions and other things so we are in a holding pattern. Possibly for a couple of hours. Well okay then...Also remember to keep your Juror button on at all times! Bathroom break, lunch break, if you are selected for a trial, if you have to come back tomorrow. Wear your button! And she was done...

Wear your damn button!
(I had a cool picture of my bag and book but it disappeared somehow oh well I switched out my skulls purse for my sparkly one, though I worried that maybe my sparkly one was too frivolous but I was sure the skulls one probably sent the wrong message so sparkles it was)

So I settle in to read and they start a really cheesy movie called "The Ultimate Gift", seriously cheesy. About an inheritance but you have to learn these valuable lessons about not being a douchecanoe first and there was a little girl who died of cancer and...other stuff. I just know that much from what filtered through while I was reading. (and yes, I actually thought about what book to have loaded on my Kindle to read just in case it might affect if I was suitable for selection or not!)

So about an hour in to the wait we finally get a rep from "upstairs" she gets her stack of randomly selected jury cards and starts calling numbers and names. There will be 28 of us that go in this group. There are over 200 people in the room so my odds aren't great, but not awful. The closest was 244. So nope...back to reading. 

And then about 45 minutes later the jury coordinator comes back to the front of the room. One of the trials that was slated for today has been postponed due to witness issues. After hearing pre-trial motions on another case the judge dismissed all of them and the defendant decided to waive his right to a trial by jury. And that was all that was left on the docket so you know what that means. And that was it. We were all released and have fulfilled our obligation for the next two years. A round of applause from the group and one quiet little sob. You waited until your number was called and turned in your juror pin and were dismissed. 

That was it.

I was done by 11.

They didn't even get to see the last few minutes of the cheesy movie.

I was so distraught I forgot to take a picture of the funny sign as I left. 

What a let down.

So I took a few more pictures of the courthouse.
It really is a lovely building.

I love the details they put in to these older structures

I wish I had gotten a closer shot of the lights. Beautiful old stained glass

And then took a few shots of the giant sequoias. 

Not a lot that makes you feel as small as a giant sequoia does

They've been here awhile


Just amazing.

And on that note of feeling pretty insignificant in a much larger world I ended my day of jury duty. 

Maybe next time I will get to leave the Jury Assembly room....



Monday, August 25, 2014

It's everywhere...

I have jury duty tomorrow.  I am so looking forward to it, I cannot even tell you! I've never been called. Not once in all of my years. And I've been a registered voter (what is supposed to trigger it) since I was 18. Brent gets notices regularly. As soon as he is eligible again he is called. C got called two years ago, though he ended up not serving because he was in college at the time, but I've never even been called. Talking to C yesterday and I mentioned (again) how excited I was that it was finally here and he said, "You are either really odd, or really bored." I had to laugh, because he had wanted to serve as well when he was called and was actually disappointed that it didn't pan out. So we are both really odd.

But it's interesting. I've only been in court once and that case was dismissed as soon as it was called. The cop who wrote the ticket I was fighting didn't show up so they called my case number and name, Dad and I stood up and the judge read the charge, called for the officer, then dismissed the case with a side comment about how silly the ticket was. I KNOW! That's why I was fighting it. But..still...that's been it. Which is good. There have been times in my life where people would have told you that by now I should be much more familiar with the inside of court room. Either arguing the law as a lawyer or well, let's say providing one with job security. But nope, I changed my mind about law school and decided to be a fine upstanding citizen. So no true life courtroom experience. But it will be really interesting to experience it all. At least once. We've all see it on TV and can picture the proceedings but life is different than the polished version we get in 40-45 minutes plus commercials.

And now this dovetails in to the main blog....

When you picture a trial what is one of the first things you see in your head? Maybe the swearing in of a witness? "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? So help you God?" You know the part where you put your hand on the Bible? And then proceed to go against what the Bible says about that sort of thing. (James 5:12 also Matthew 5:33-37) But trifles...

Last week I went to pick up tickets for Winterhawks training camp games. The home office is in the basement of their home arena. Memorial Coliseum, and as is befitting a Memorial Coliseum there is an actual memorial outside. I was looking at the wall of names and was struck by the wording so I took a picture.

It's a war memorial. Honoring our vets who gave all in their service. For God apparently. Which struck me as odd because I don't remember the US fighting any religious wars. But there it is.

And it's on my money, In God We Trust, and in my pledge to the flag (though it wasn't originally) and in every speech every President and other politician makes, God Bless the United States of America, and on and on and on.

But the thing that really got me thinking about writing this blog was a silly online quiz. A friend of mine posted it. Quick back history: we grew up in the same church, have known each other for as long as I can remember, he is two (maybe three but I want to say two) years younger than I am. We went to the same high school as well. I even remember our last argument in youth group my senior year when he announced that he didn't like the Whitney Houston song "The Greatest Love" because learning to love yourself was not the greatest love of all, the love of God was the greatest. (I bet you didn't even remember that did you, Kerry?) By this point in time I was just biding my time in the church waiting to get out and he was already well on the path that he would remain on. He grew up to be a minister and I grew up to be agnostic. 

Okay, so the quiz he posted was "Which Christian Religion Are You?" I took it just to see what they would do with my answers. (I'm Quaker, by the way, which actually is pretty close to what I believe, if you take out the god parts). But the thing that struck me with the quiz was the belief that pretty much anyone looking at it was Christian. Or at least identified as such in some base way. The questions were designed to assume that you already had a base in Christianity. Unlike the silly quizzes that you take to find out which dog breed you are, they don't assume you are already a dog. But that base belief that you are some sort of Christian is pervasive.

Not just in silly little quizzes where you know what you are getting in to, but in every thing. Every day. See the examples I gave earlier. And think about your news feeds on Facebook. How many "Blessed", "Pray for me", "Praise" statuses do you see in a day? And not just from your friends who grew up to be ministers, but from the people who you know haven't stepped foot in a church since grandpa's funeral. But they identify as Christian and assume that you do as well.

I've written before about leaving the church and reaching the point where I decided I can only describe myself as agnostic. I know a lot of people assume I'm an atheist, and I will admit that my arguments in favor of science over magic tend to push me in that direction, but I have never fully let go of the idea of something more. Because I was raised steeped in religion. Everything we did. Everywhere we went. Everyone we knew. We were the family you saw in restaurants praying before our meals. (Funny aside, I made friends with someone in high school because his parents were deaf and my family prayed in public. We ate at the same restaurant once a week and both busted each other staring at the "different" family, mine the prayer, his the sign language)

But religion, Christianity, Evangelical Christianity specifically, is woven in to my fiber. I had to consciously decide to not be religious, and even after that decision was made for awhile I thought after I had kids I would go back to the church so they could be raised that way. To keep them out of trouble. Let that one sink in for a minute. Drinker, smoker, hellraiser that I was I still thought that somehow church kept me out of trouble. Like my sister's drug habit or the son of an elder who tried to rape me. Church doesn't keep you out of trouble, it can keep a kid busy, but it's not a magic panacea. Once I wrapped my head around that I raised C without religion. Morals, oh yes. Strong sense of right and wrong. But not because God says so, or you will end up in hell if you don't, but because it's the right thing to do for your fellow man. And I have always said I would put his morals up against any number of kids raised in the church. Including mine at his age.

So with all that being said I still hold on to that something. That other. I know what it's like to be sitting outside at sunrise at El Porvenir with a cup of coffee (that is more chocolate and milk than coffee but still) listening to the forest. Feeling that calm stillness and being filled with Awesome Wonder...I know what it's like to pray in a room by yourself and really feel like someone has answered you. I know those  feelings. I also know that I can experience the same things now and I call them appreciation for nature and listening to The Universe or your inner voice...but I understand how if you are raised in the church those things translate to God.

And I don't know. I used to say I was strong with the God is in the Gaps theory. The things science couldn't explain, that's where God lives. But as science closes more and more of those gaps what does that leave? For me it changed my thinking from GOD to god. I think there could be something out there. A unifying presence. Energy can be neither created or destroyed right? So we are all a part of something. That something for me is god. It's us. But that is a deeper discussion than we are having right now. Or at least a different one.

For someone who is agnostic (or atheist) living in the United States is a constant bombardment of god images. And for people who identify as Christian they don't even see it. I told you about going to a seminar a few years ago with a friend and talking about it afterward and I said I had wished it wasn't so religious and he hadn't even noticed. Even though they did an alter call in the middle! I posted a few weeks ago about being angry that people are only concerned about ISIS because they are now hurting Christians. It's frustrating to me to see the assumption that not only are you a Christian but that you somehow believe that that elevates you to better than.

Because any time you use Terrorist and Muslim as synonyms that's what you are doing. Because anytime you decide that people just need more god in their lives when things don't go well that's what you are doing. When you think other people should suck it up if they have a problem with your high school coach praying before a game (even if a few of the kids are Jewish, or agnostic, or atheists) What you are saying is that your religion makes you better than.

And it doesn't.

Not for a second.

And if you think it does then you need to spend more time with your bible. And see that what your religion actually teaches is that you aren't better than. You are just as bad as. But what you have is a path to forgiveness. That's what your religion teaches you. Just so you know.

Because, like I said, I grew up steeped in it. I know it pretty well. I just don't believe it anymore.

But it does give me a really unique perspective on life. I see the way religion permeates everything in the States, and then I see people complaining about how if they can't make a law that is based on their religious belief that is somehow persecution and I just shake my head.

I don't begrudge anyone their beliefs. My family is still mostly with the church. I have a lot of friends who stayed with the church (not just as ministers, though Kerry isn't even the only one of those). I have a lot of other friends who might not attend church but would say that they are Christian if asked. I also have friends who practice other religions. And I have friends who are atheists. I don't care about your beliefs. I really don't. As long as you respect my lack of them we are cool.

And that's the part I'm seeing less and less of lately. I see more people fighting to make laws based solely on their religious beliefs (though some of those are finally being found to be unconstitutional) I see people posting nonsense revisionist history trying to paint the country as even more religion based than it was. I see people becoming less tolerant of those that call their god by another name. And it all makes me shake my head.

I don't really have a nice tidy wrap up for this blog. I wish I did. I guess I will just leave you with a few last thoughts.

Pay attention to how much of your daily world (assuming you live in the States, as I haven't traveled much I have no clue what it's like elsewhere) is colored by a religion that not everyone shares. Wonder for a second what it would feel like to be a stranger in a strange land. Someone who didn't share those beliefs. What would it be like to read a news article about prayer in public schools and see the angry comments from people who are SHOCKED! that the ungodless masses dare tell them to be polite and considerate of those that don't share their beliefs. Wonder what it's like for an atheist when a town hall meeting is opened with a prayer. When a NASCAR race starts with an invocation. When someone wins an EMMY tonight and Thanks God. or if they don't and people freak out on them!

Instead of so much anger about not everything being tailored to your personal belief system you should probably be a little appreciative how much of it is.

You might not notice. But you should. 

And also keep in mind when you rail against Sharia law on one hand and your right to have the Ten Commandments up at the courthouse on the other I am shaking my head at you...

And possibly coveting your ass. But dat ass though....






Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Two, 46, eight....

Here we are again....birthday blog time.

I've been doing this for a few years now. Almost didn't do it this year but then thought I would probably regret it if I didn't. Here is last year's blog, and in it are links to the previous years. And that's really part of why I almost didn't do it this year. A lot of what I spent my year working on are things I have spent the years previous working on. I seem to be on a track and no matter how many times I leave I go right back to my same circle. Working the same issues. Maybe with a different spin (so to speak) but really the same things.

I talked about how 44 was the year of feeling old. Well let me tell you that paled in comparison to getting the arthritis diagnosis at 45. Arthritis? What the heck? But yes, in my knees. The right knee especially. Physical therapy and rehab. I've made jokes about it, and the doctor did tell me it was pretty early onset. But it still makes me feel old when I listen to the creak creak grind as I walk up the stairs. Ugh.

Weight? Oh hell yeah, we are still dealing with weight. With two years spent on various IR lists I've gotten softer and softer and softer. I've tried the pep talk, "you look fine" I've tried the reasoning, "your boobs look really good at this weight you know" I've tried the logic "you are doing the best you can right now." But bottom line is that weight is still an issue. And I still fight the unhealthy urge to stop eating because I can't work out as much or as hard as I would like to. But the good news is I have been successful in fighting that urge, so maybe I have made good progress over the years after all.
Not quite at fighting weight, but still fighting my weight.

Writing. Well, I've tried to get to be more consistent writing and posting here. Still the mix of fiction and non-fiction. I sent in a couple of short stories again this year (first time I've told anyone) and heard....nothing. Still not making any headway there. Brent is still trying to convince me to self publish but I am much too lazy to go that route. Seriously. The level of self promotion you have to be willing to do shuts down my drive to write each and every time. I did do the NaNoWriMo challenge last November and put 50,000 words towards a story I had originally started here on the blog. And I have not looked at it since. I keep meaning to go back and edit and add to it, but it just seems so....Overwhelming? I don't know. Something about expanding it that quickly just made it somehow not mine. I know it needs serious work and probably a whole rewrite, and so I retreat back to my bar friends and let them comfort me with their simple short stories. Some day I will fix the other. But for now writing is still here. Just moving along slowly. But I still enjoy it, and I still feel like I have something to share so that's all good.

Parenting. Oh man. That was a big one this year. C's senior year. His broken ankle and the angst of not going to his rescue on that one. Then graduation and him entering the job search. Then him landing a job within two weeks of graduation and moving out. Not just off to school temporarily out but out out! What the heck? I'm not done with you yet! You are fun to hang around, we have summer to do stuff! You have ankle rehab and I have knee rehab and we are doing it together and adding back in hiking where we can hobble along together and it won't be so terrible and...damn...you got all grown and shit...
Yeah okay, that's actually pride there on my face. 

So for all of the "me, me, me" in that last section really what I felt and feel is proud of him. He did great in school. Good grades, good plans by adding classes he knew would help him in the job market, good impression on the people he worked with through school which led to a recommendation for a job interview which he nailed. Then settling in and starting to find his way in a new town. AND remembering to call his mother on her birthday before heading in to work this morning. Let me tell you how surreal that was. I was getting ready to head in to the gym when the phone rang. He was on his way to work and I was on my way to play. What a switch! But yeah, he's all grown now. Really and truly my job is just as back up support. And way way back up. Odd....

We also lost our dear sweet George this year. Okay, he wasn't really sweet, he was an ornery little shit at times, but he was my ornery little shit. Losing him was harder than I had really imagined it would be. We've decided (or I should say I've decided) that we are waiting a year before getting another pet. At least. Then I will decide what we do next. Brent says he will do whatever I want so for now we are waiting. 

And some of you might have also noticed there was no birthday month this year. After years and years of enjoying it, the past few years have been spent explaining it so often that it sort of sucked the joy out. And one of the things I did decide (you remember from August challenges) was not to do things that aren't me anymore. And not joyful is not me. So birthday month didn't happen. It might come back again, it might not. But it just wasn't working for me this year so my low key birthday became even more so.

Which led to this circular blog. Still dealing with old things working toward new things. What will 46 bring? Who knows but I would guess writing, weight and what to do with myself now that the nest is well and truly empty will feature large. 
And looking back to look forward...

See I got all artistic and shit with that last one...

And I know that this post is a bit melancholic for a birthday post but it's my birthday and I'll reflect if I want to...
(double pun for the picture! Boom!!!)

Bring on 46.



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What is the point?

I've been sitting at the computer for an hour trying to decide if I write a blog today. The top of mind awareness on Facebook has been all about two fairly different things lately. Ferguson and the ALS ice bucket challenge. I have opinions on both (shocking I know) but what is the point in adding more noise to the discussion?

I can top line them for you.

ALS has received millions of dollars in donations they didn't have before. If you want to dump ice water over your head and encourage others to do so, get down with your bad self. And then write that check. That's about it. Really. Okay, well, I mean there is more, there is my reaction to people who are mad about it. "It's vain. It's slacktivism, it's a waste of water, it's not really charity if you tell people about it." To all of that I say, as politely as I can, oh shut the fuck up. You do you and let them do them. And if they want to make a silly video before they donate then why do you care? And if you are worried about people just drawing attention to themselves and not donating I ask, what did you do? You know, before you posted about how awful people were about drawing attention to themselves and not donating? How much did you give? None of my business? Oh..yeah...exactly.

The Ferguson issue. I wrote about it a little bit last week. Your opinion on it really depends on where you are coming from to start. Which is actually a problem. Because people aren't willing to even entertain the other point of view. And if you aren't willing to listen to hear then you aren't really listening, you are just waiting your turn to talk. I have friends who are cops. So I know for a hard, stone cold, fact that there are good guys and gals out there serving. I also have friends who have had issues with bad cops so I know that the bad guys are out there as well. I know that color does have something to do with how you are treated, not just by the police but by society at large, and if you think that I'm wrong well, I think you are naive. Not every interaction, don't be obtuse, but a lot of them.

My more libertarian friends have been preaching the gospel of overly militarized police for years. Now every one is seeing it. And I have to wonder if maybe the money that has been spent on equipement would be better spent on dash cameras and body cameras. There are a lot of studies out that show you behave better if you know you are being watched. It's sort of the old adage that if all you have is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail. If you are dressed in full military gear every place starts to look like a war zone.

I come from a city where the police have recently been investigated by the DOJ because the culture had become an "us against them" problem. There should never be an us and them situation with the police. They are us. When that happens, when you see things like the officer recorded in Ferguson calling the protesters animals, well something is very very wrong. And the number of officer to civilian shootings in Albuquerque should be a warning to police forces all across the country. Make sure your culture is not us and them but we.

But what do I really have to add to the discussion right now that is constructive? That is useful? That can change things?

Nothing.

So I will wait and watch quietly (ish, I realized this is getting awfully long to really count as quiet) to see what happens. I will hope for calmer heads. I will hope that when you are reading stories about it, or watching reporting on it, you try to understand not just what you are seeing but what you are being shown. For instance yesterday I was on the treadmill during the news conference about the autopsy. CNN on one side, FoxNews on the other. CNN showed the conference. Fox kept split screening to one of the more thuggish pictures of Micheal Brown. So what were you seeing and what were they trying to show you? During the looting a few nights ago I saw a few stories about the citizens of Ferguson standing guard over stores to make sure they weren't robbed. Very few. It wasn't as sensational as showing and talking about rioting and looting. What are you seeing and what are you being shown? There were pictures out over the weekend of officers talking with the people protesting. Laughing. There had to be more of those out there, but how many of you saw them? Not as sensational as a cop pointing a gun at someone right?

I will ask that you keep in mind that someone can say that they believe the police are doing the best they can without them automatically being a racist. I will ask that you keep in mind that being worried about the militarization of our local police forces doesn't mean you are anti-cop. I for one think that Micheal Brown wasn't a good guy. But I don't think he deserved to die because of it. I also believe that the protests that sprung up after his shooting show that there has been a long simmering issue in Ferguson and this just tossed it over the top. That what he was or was not isn't really the point. It's not this one cop and that one guy. There is more to see than what we've been shown.

Life is a big picture. Remember to look at all of it.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Vows...

They stood before their friends and family hands tied together with red cords. The official placed her hands on top of theirs....

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to bear witness for our friends. The last time many of us were together in one room was 15 years ago when we last met to bear witness for this couple. We watched as they were joined in matrimony, the two becoming one. We listened to their vows. We congratulated them. Then we drank their liquor and danced the night away. Can I get an Amen?"

And the crowd responds with an Amen and some scattered laughter.

"Today we are gathered again to bear witness."

And with that she started to unwind the cords from their hands.

"We understand that the road they have walked has not been smooth. It was not what they expected when they joined here in front of us so many years ago. When they made their promises. And now they come before us again so that we might witness the one become two once more."

The crowd watched the untying of the cords. The smooth way her hands moved as she talked.

"Many of us refer to a marriage as failing if it does not last forever. I do not agree. These two standing before you had a successful marriage. Not everything is destined to last forever. Some things are made to last for a day. Or a week. A year or 15. But their marriage was a success. They shared their lives, their dreams, their hopes, and then they shared the decision that they wanted to no longer be tied to the dreams of the other."

And with that the officiant held up the now released cords from the couple's hands.

"Some ties are easily undone. However some are not."

And with that the cords were held up to show there were four.

"Much time has been spent over the past few months dividing property, reaching agreements on housing, on names, on time. And this has been no different. Many of you were once here. Making the vows that they will soon be making. Remembering how difficult some were to keep."

Laughter again from the crowd bearing witness

"Four blood vows were made during this marriage. Four times an agreement that cannot be undone was reached. These cords represent half of each of you. The best half. And the best parts of your marriage. The part that lets you know it was a success. And now, though the couple is no longer, the family remains. New promises will be made. Please hold your hands open."

As the couple opened their palms she laid the cords across them.

"Do you vow to remember that these four lives are in your hands?"

"We do."

"Do you vow to never say something negative about their other parent when the children are in ear shot?"

Laughter again from the crowd

"We do."

"Do you vow to abide by the parenting agreement laid forth between the two of you before this ceremony?"

"We do."

"Children please join us."

As the four children joined their parents at the alter they also held out their hands. The cords were wrapped over them as the officiant began speaking again.

"We have spent some time meeting as well. These four and me. We've had a lot of talks about how much this sucks. Because it does. And we've had a lot of talks about how much better this will be for their parents. Because it will. And we've also talked about how they have to resist the temptation to play one parent off of the other. Because that temptation will come, or has already come. Right?"

Four sheepish grins met her stare.

"But mostly we talked about how they are loved. And how this decision does not change that."

And with that the cords were finished. Wrapped around the hands of the children with their parents holding them.

"This vow is a blood vow. This vow does not end at 18, no matter what people will try to tell you. You are tied for life, the six of you. Tied by blood, by bond and most importantly by love.

By the powers vested in me by the State of Oregon I pronounce you a family. You may kiss the children and shake hands with your parenting partner.

And to all of you. Thank you for bearing witness to the end of one chapter and the beginning of the other. The family asks that you join them for a reception, split 50/50 in cost, where you may drink their booze and toast their new futures."


......


Having reached the age where more friends are divorcing than getting married I've had the talk with a few of them about the end of marriage. And more than one has stated how anticlimactic it all is. That final point where the papers are signed and filed and the marriage is done. There is nothing. No trumpet blast. No shift in feeling. It's just...done. So today as yet another friend goes through it I started thinking and I wondered, what would it look like if we treated the divorce like the marriage?

If we did pre-divorce counseling like pre-marital counseling to iron out the details, like the no bad talking in front of the kids. Huge that one. Trust me if your ex is an ass the kids will figure it out, you don't need to be the one to tell them. And you don't want to be the one to tell them. Because they know who their parent is, and if you are spewing hate in that direction there is a good chance they will wonder if some of that is coming their way as well. Also reaching a parenting agreement. Like no major decision will be made without the other parent. And setting the frame work for reasonable expectations and then no butting in when it's not your night. Like Dad grounds the kids for not doing their homework you can't unground them when they get back to your place. Little things you would do if you were still together, but now need to do the same even if you aren't.

And if there was a ceremony how would it look? I've seen the tying of the cords in a few weddings and I liked the symbology. I thought it would fit in this service to be an untying and then retying in a new formation.
Not sure how many couples could actually do this in a friendly manner, but if we treated a divorce as a change instead of a failure maybe that would make a difference as well. The legalities get handled, alimony, child support, custody arrangements, asset division, but there is no acknowledgment. No shared moment to mark the end of one part of your life and movement on to the next.

And I think we need that in life. We do it with births, with deaths, with marriages, with milestone birthdays and anniversaries. Maybe we need to start doing it with divorce as well.

An un-coupling ceremony.

Just an idea.