Friday, May 15, 2015

Money...

Watching TV last night and there was a commercial for some sort of game show/reality show hybrid coming out. There is a briefcase of money you either keep it or give it to someone else. Full disclosure I have no idea what the rules or premise of the show are, it was just a quick commercial tease. After seeing it Brent looks at me and asks, "So do you give it away?" I didn't even hesitate, "Yes."

Then I stopped and thought about it. "I am assuming they would put someone against me who really needed the money. More money wouldn't really change anything in my life so yeah, I would give it away."

Then I thought about it some more. Would it change anything? Would I be able to see a briefcase full of money and hand it to someone else? Hmmm...

Yes.

Yeah, I would.

I had breakfast with my friend Erin yesterday morning and we talked about poverty and getting ahead in the world and the blind spots people have regarding where they started versus where other people started and how that prevents them from having the necessary empathy to be a decent human being. Yeah, I know heavy breakfast conversation...we also told funny stories and had great laughs. I just have to say I love my friends.

Anyway...

You all know that I started behind. Where I am now was unimaginable to me when I was younger. Unless there was a lottery win involved somehow. We are comfortable. I don't work and we are comfortable. Far cry from where I was growing up when we all worked at least one job and we weren't comfortable. We were precarious. Far cry from our first few years of marriage with Brent in the Navy where he worked and studied and served his country (unleash the patriotic music) and I worked and worked and worked and sold the country clothes and fun electronics (cue the mall muzak). We worked full time plus and there was still month left at the end of our money. Even later, especially later, after we had C I can remember sitting at the desk trying to get our monthly bills to work out and realizing that we still weren't any farther ahead, we were making more, sure, but now there were three of us and we were trying to support a house and two cars and after-school activities for C and... there were tears.

Then even later working in advertising and watching my clients going on fabulous vacations, and eating at restaurants that I couldn't even bring myself to touch the menu, and wearing a shirt that cost as much as my entire wardrobe and...and it was all overwhelming. Money. There just wasn't enough.

Until one day there was.

We moved in to a smaller place when we came back to Portland. Brent raised the amount that was taken out of his check for savings each time he got a raise so we were building that without feeling the pinch. He worked like a dog and kept advancing at work. When I phased out of advertising we went down to one car. I worked three jobs for one memorable stretch at the end of that run and we used that money to pay off a couple of things. When C went to college Brent looked at his years of stock from Intel and figured out what to sell to pay off student loans.

And yesterday I bought a shirt without looking at the price tag first.

Now to be perfectly fair once I saw how much it was I panicked and it still might be going back, but the point is there was a time in my life not too many years ago where 1. Shopping in the middle of the day wouldn't have happened because I would have been at work and 2. I would NEVER EVER EVER have even tried on a shirt just because I liked it without first checking the price, any and all sales and any extra coupons I might possibly have. I mean seriously, people, this shirt was $50. For a shirt...

So anyway...all of that taken in to account (so to speak) I am back to the original question from Brent would I give the money away? Yes. I would. Especially to someone who was where we were. Money would make a difference for us, sure. If it were serious money. Like a million dollars would change anyone's life right? But only a little. Only by a small increment. Brent and I have what we need. We are happy. We have a content life. We are able to live within our means and have some extra frills as well. Sports tickets, musical tickets, extra shows that come around, restaurants without a drive through, shirts without sales. If C needed our help we could offer it as well. But I know what it's like to be in the kitchen when the repo man comes for your car. I know what it's like to cry over the check book because it just seems like there is no way out of the cycle. And for those people? In that situation? Money makes all the difference in the world.

Now we don't give briefcases full of money away right now but we give to different charities. We use Intel's matching program and the United Way's program so that they get even more than what we could give on our own. We donate to different people and different causes. The other day I bought someone breakfast because they were trying to figure out how to get the most out of their money and I realized how simple it was for me to turn their Or into an And. But to be perfectly fair, I don't loan money. I don't give more than we can afford. I don't jeopardize our fiscal health to lift others up. I give comfortably. Because there is still the part of me that isn't secure enough in the thought that we will always be okay. I want to make sure we are settled. That's the selfish part of me.

So I get that a lot of people would keep the money as a padding. As a just in case. As a more. We all need more. More. More.

But what would more really get you? Would you be happier with more? Would you be just as content with less? When we first went down to one car it was strictly a financial decision and I thought there was no way we could do it. But now I wouldn't want two cars. What a waste of resources. We keep looking at places to move and most of them are really big. It's a turn off for both of us. We don't want or need more. More is just more to take care of. More to heat and cool and clean. Why have more? Where does the need for more end?

For me I guess it ends with a game show and briefcase full of money. I wouldn't take it.  How about you?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bully for you...

She liked to say she was mean to people before they had a chance to be mean to her. And maybe it used to be that way. Too many times being called names on the playground. Too many of the cool kids making her the brunt of the joke. She learned if she was nasty first they couldn't get in to hurt her. It made for a good story. A more sympathetic one anyway.

But the truth was she just liked being mean.

Controlling emotions was heady stuff. There was a lot of power there.

She was very specific with her targets. She would find the people whom life came easy to; the ones who seemed to have everything given to them on a silver platter and then she would wreck them. What was important to them? Looks? Intelligence? She was the master at making smart people feel dumb. And making the pretty people feel ugly. Making the overachievers feel like they weren't quite measuring up.

She could have gone for anyone really but where is the joy in just piling on to the person who has had nothing but adversity? It was so much more delicious to be the first cut. The out of the blue blindside.

When the beauty queen finds out her Ken Doll has cheated on her it's bad. When she sees that the person he cheated with was her? Priceless. It rocks her very foundation. Changes her at the core of what she has always believed. If her perfection was not only not good enough but he cheated with someone, well there is no other way to put this, someone ugly, then what does that mean?

It means I have the power, and you don't.

When she was in college she didn't target her fellow students, she went after the TA. So proud of themselves, leading a study hall. Full of answers. She was a master at asking a question in such a way that it made the rest of her study group doubt the answer that was given. Even if the TA was right, they would doubt them. And that seed of doubt would bloom in the TA's head until eventually they would doubt themselves. You could see it happening. When they had been so sure of themselves, now there was a hesitation, a moment of weakness. She had watched more than one have to drop their position.

Power.

She had to be careful at work not to overstep her boundaries. She would never have been described as warm and fuzzy by her co-workers, in fact she was prized for her cutthroat nature, but she was very careful not to turn it against those she worked with.

As long as they worked with her.

Anyone who dared to work against her? They were open season. People learned that lesson quickly.

Power.

She was weighing her options right now for a new position. Where could she do the most? Have the most? Make the biggest difference? The reasons others were involved didn't matter to her, she wasn't a true believer by any stretch. She just wanted to do her best work. And this was the time when she could. So many people who thought they had it all figured out. So many possibilities. Unlimited options.

She loved election season...


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

I've written about my mom before, I'm sure I'll write about her again. How can I help but write a lot about her? I write a blog that is divided between fiction and my view on the world, how can I leave my mother out? She was part of what shaped my view after all. Either by agreeing with her or disagreeing with her, it all worked to shape the view.

My mom is a force. She has always been the center holding the family together. There are four of us kids left. Two boys and two girls. There were two more girls that died shortly after birth and a boy who died when he was very young. The other kids are closer in age and then 7 years after she thought she was done I came along. My oldest brother says that the parents who raised me were different than the parents who raised him. I believe it. And it makes sense considering how different I turned out from the rest of my siblings.

But now my mom is slowing down. She will be 83 next month. She is currently going through her second round of chemotherapy for one of the two types of cancer she holds in her body. The first time she had chemo it almost killed her and they stopped the cycle before it was finished. When the tumors start to grow again recently they petitioned to try a new treatment out of Russia. It's working really well. The tumors have shrunk, she can breathe clearly again. Most importantly the chemo isn't killing her quicker than the cancer this time. She's a little yellow for a few days after the dose from the dye but she's not exhausted. She's still eating. She's not depressed. It's amazing.

But she's still slowing down. Every time I talk to her on the phone she asks me how George is and I have to tell her again that he died last summer. It's horrible. She's sad each time, and I know a little embarrassed because after I tell her she knows that she should have remembered that, but it's just gone.

Every once in awhile when I get off the phone with her I am a little worried that it will be the last time I talk to her. There are days where the conversations we have are all centered around her being done. Her sister died this past year and Dad went a few years ago. She talks about being the last one. Being alone. I remind her that we are all still here, but she just laughs. And I understand. She means the last of her generation. There is no one for her to have those "remember when" touchstones anymore. She's it. And she's not really bothered by the thought of it being her time soon. As she says, She's in her 80s she can do what she wants to.

It's for the rest of us to worry about now.

Because she doesn't travel anymore we are going back to Albuquerque this summer for a visit. I've told her a couple of times we are coming. Soon I will send the dates to my sister so someone remembers that we will be there. I worry about it being the last trip. We have family pictures from the last trip we took back before my dad died. We have a family picture from the last trip Brent's folks came up here on before Jack died. At the time we had no idea those would be the lasts, but they were. It's odd to look at them now and think, That was the last time we saw him alive. That was it. If we had known would we have done anything differently?

I can't say that we would have.

I won't call my mother for Mother's Day this year. I called her yesterday, she is going to the casino today, you see, and doesn't have time for a phone call...She's in her 80s and does what she wants. But I did call her yesterday, once my sister let me know. And I told her I love her. And when we see her this summer I will tell her I love her. And probably that George died last year. And then tell her again that I love her.

My mother is a force.

She will always be a force.

She's just winding down a little now.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Almost there...

I was going to post a piece of fiction today. It's a story that has been bumping around in my head for ages. I mean AGES. Yesterday while I was cleaning (of course) I got a whole section of it. Just BOOM! the whole piece dropped in to my lap. So now I have the piece I started with and this other piece that works with it and I am ready to go.

Except I can't get it started. I know the middle and the end but I need a good beginning. When you are writing a short story, even one that might end up being part of a longer one eventually, you have to be really good about your beginnings. And your middles. And your ends. Okay the whole thing. You don't have the luxury of a slow or awkward build when you are writing a short piece. It all has to be working together or you are stuck.

I have rewritten the beginning four times so far. How does it start? Where is Jeremy? Is he at work? Is he at the gym? In a doctor's waiting room? Could it be a magazine article? No, it has to be a TV interview. Do people even have break rooms at work anymore? Would he be in a job like that? What does he do? I know who he is in relation to the two other people in the story but for someone who is one of the main characters in a short story he's being pretty illusive.

And then the names! Of course Jeremy was originally James as all male characters in my stories start their lives. If they are lucky enough to even merit a name that is. But I have two males and a female as the main characters and at least one other woman and possibly another man as peripherals. Too confusing to give no one a name and so frustrating to find names for all of them! I wish when they told me their stories they would start out by leaving a name. Anyway...does Nicholas Graves seem like a good name for a movie star? I guess I could name him James...

So I'm not as close as I thought to having this one ready to go. Which is a shame. I was so excited yesterday to think I was finally going to get this one out of my head. It gave me hope for the Gray Lady who is still sitting patiently waiting for her story to be told. Which is good, she's not someone that I would want to have lose patience with me...


So, sorry, no Friday fiction, but hopefully soon!

Jeremy. Yeah, it's Jeremy...right? Jeremy....



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Strings...

"So what does it look like to you?"

"What does what look like?"

"Everything. I mean is it always on? What does this room look like to you?"

She smiled. It was always like this when she told people what she saw. The questions. What does it look like? It looks normal. You try and describe what your world looks like, it looks like the way your world has always looked. But since she had been answering this question for so long she had ways to describe it that people would understand. They weren't exact. But they were good enough.

"You know that string art we would do in schools? Ojo de Dios? God's Eyes? Cat's Eyes? Whatever they called it in your school. The one where all the strings connect and make a pattern? That's what it looks like."

"Strings?"

"Pretty much. But imagine the strings are like laser beams. Each a different color. And the colors shift depending on what is going on. But there is a string connecting each person you are talking to, or looking at, or sometimes not even apparently paying attention to, but if there is a connection there is a string."

"When did it start?"

"As far as I know from birth. There are home movies of me as a baby and I am waving my hands in the air and giggling, normal baby stuff, but when I look at it I can see that I was reaching for the lights. For the strings. And my hands would pass right through, like a sunbeam. When I was older I would talk about them, I didn't realize that no one else could see them until an older cousin of mine, who could see them as well, told me. He taught me to be careful about when I talked about them, and that sometimes you have to keep your mouth shut. He learned that when he mentioned the bright red string between his father and his father's secretary."

"Oh no!"

"Oh yes."

"So wait, are the strings different colors depending on relationships?"

"Yes and no. For instance the color between my mother and father is dark purple and the color from each of them to each of my siblings is a lighter purple and the color to their grand-kids is almost lilac. So if my mother is sitting in a room and I see a lilac string appear I know one of my nieces or nephews has just come in. But that doesn't mean that the color between your parents and their kids would be the same. Purple means family in my family, but in yours it could be blue. There are differences among people. Even if the relationship is the same it's not the same, see? "

He shook his head no and said, "Maybe? Like what color is between us?"

"Right now? It's varying. It's in the yellow orange spectrum though. You are trying to understand something I'm telling you so the color keeps changing. It gets darker as you listen to me, lighter as you try and figure out what it is I'm telling you. The color shifts as you try to piece together what I'm saying with other things you know."

"Woah...so you can tell if someone is really listening to you by the color of the string between you?"

"Why do you think I'm still single?" She laughed, but it wasn't really a joke. It was almost impossible to keep a relationship going if you knew how connected someone was feeling to you at every moment. If they were listening when you were talking. What their actual relationship was with the friend you just met. Trust was hard to come by if you knew that much about someone. We aren't designed to know everything about everyone all of the time. It was easier to live alone than with everyone else's strings.

"And you can never turn it off?"

"Not really. I can focus on what I am doing and sort of tune them out. They become background noise, but I can't just not see them at all."

"So you have no idea what everyone else sees?"

"No, I do. It's easy to imagine what it looks like to have them gone. They aren't in paintings or in most still pictures. Sometimes you get a haze, or an aura around someone, but for the most part they aren't there. And before HD cameras I couldn't see them in movies and TV shows. Now as the pictures gets clearer and clearer the lines are coming in. Which is horrible."

"Why is it horrible?"

"Because they don't match. Say there are two actors in a movie and they are married to each other, but the characters they play are married to other people. So what I see on the screen is the line between the two actually married people and a really faint line between the two that aren't. And that line fades in and out depending on how hard the actors are thinking about their character. It's like watching a show and the sound isn't syncing up. You know when the mouth is moving just ahead or just behind the lines? That's what it's like when the strings don't match. My brain is seeing one thing and trying to process another. It's annoying."

"Oh! So that's why you like old movies best!"

"Exactly. No strings. No distractions."

"So would you change if you could? Would you get rid of the strings?"

"Most days I would say no, absolutely not. They are part of me. I am not sure how to function in the world without them. It would be like losing any of my other senses. I would feel lost. But there have been times I would have gladly given them away. Times when seeing what no one else sees has been awful. Hurtful. Heartbreaking. But mostly it's been good. It's helped me in a lot of ways. I wouldn't have my job if it weren't for the strings."

"Is it genetic? You said you had a cousin who can see them? Is this like a family trait?"

"I don't know if it's genetic or not. If it is, it's really recessive. It's just the two of us that have the ability, as far as I know. I've met a few other people who can see them, but not a lot. There are people who have touches of it, like they can see auras, but not where those lead. I've met people who can see them in certain circumstances, like when they are drunk or under a lot of stress.

I've met people who pretend they can see them but don't really. After I first started speaking publicly about it I was invited to a lot of conferences and meetings with people who claimed all sorts of abilities like this one. For every 1000 who say they are psychic there are probably 2 who actually have something. After they figured out that lying has its own color string I wasn't invited to many more conferences."

"What is the hardest part? Is it the trust?"

She leaned back in her chair and thought for a minute. No one had ever asked her this question before. They had assumed the trust issues would be the hardest. But that wasn't it. That was something she just dealt with. It wasn't her favorite, but it wasn't the hardest. "The hardest part is seeing a cut string."

"A cut string?"

"That's what I call a string that only goes one way. Okay, see that couple over there? The older lady and the young man? They are having coffee in the corner there. What do you see?"

He took a little bit to watch them. "Grandmother and grandson maybe?'

"That would be my guess, that or great-grandson. They are attached to each other with a light pink string. It's very strong, thicker than normal. There is a strong connection happening. But she also has a very dark pink, almost in to red string that leaves her and then just fades away. A cut string. I would guess her husband, his grandfather, died within the past few months. She still has that string sending out to him, but he isn't there to pick up the other end. That's a cut string. A death. A divorce. A break up. A loss. Unreciprocated love. They all cause cut strings."

He picked up a napkin from the table and tried to subtly wipe the tear, "Oh wow. And you see that all the time? Even if she wasn't sitting with her grandson would that string be there?"

"Yes. Some people are nothing but cut strings. That's pretty much the hardest part."

"Pretty much?"

She smiled, "Caught that did you? Yes, pretty much. The hardest part is meeting someone who has no strings at all. No connection to anyone. Ever."

"Wow."

"Yeah, wow. So that's what it looks like to me. How about you? What do you see?"

He looked around the coffee shop one more time. "Enough I think, just enough."





Monday, May 4, 2015

Strong feelings...

I've written before about the Now Discover Your Strengths book and quiz. And I've given my top 5 strengths here. And lately I've been reminding myself over and over about them.

Not just what mine are but that if they aren't yours you won't react to things the way I do.

The top two for me right now are Empathy and Connectedness. Why is it I can see where someone is coming from and why that's a big deal for all of us and others cannot? I had an argument discussion with a friend of a friend the other day about what was happening in Baltimore and they kept trying to come around to their own point. Which didn't match what the article linked (the fact that I read it before commenting actually is part of my Input strength as well, come to think of it). He wanted to make his point and everything else be dammed. Which was incredibly frustrating all around; but the clear lack of empathy for someone else's situation, and the ability to understand that if there is a problem it's not their problem, it's our problem, was truly frustrating to me.

He's not strong in Empathy or Connectedness. And because I am I cannot be any other way.

I see it all the time in political pissing matches discussions. People just want to make their points and never really consider what is actually being said. Or why people might feel differently than they do. Or, god forbid, that they might actually be wrong. Which means the next few years will be so frustrating for me.

Because Input.

I cannot just log off and not look. It's almost impossible for me to ignore the comments on an article. I just want to know what people think and why do they think that way, and what is their motivation? And...yeah. It's frustrating. Because often they don't know why they think what they think. Not really. They are repeating a talking point. There is no man behind the curtain. It's insane to me that they have no clue what they are really talking about. Where is their need for INPUT?

So when all you want is to try and make people understand that we are all in this together, that they should try to understand a point of view that is different from them, and they just won't? What do you do?

When all people are interested in are their pre-fed talking points?

When open discussion is a rarity?

When respect for a difference in opinion is gone?

When instead of philosophical differences we have all out disdain and contempt?

When a lack of empathy is considered a strength and ignorance is truly bliss?

How do you cope with that?

I guess I will see.

Five hundred and fifty four days until the 2016 presidential elections...I wish us all luck.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Oops!

I was totally going to "Blog a Day in May!" and then never got around to writing yesterday! Way to start it off with a bang! So "Blog All But a Day in May!" How is that? :-) Though tomorrow I have a movie in the morning and a hockey game in the afternoon so I'm not sure I will get a blog in there as well. "Blog All But Two Days in May!" Yeah...maybe not.

Can you tell I'm trying to get back on pace? I figure if I am on track by the mid point of the year then I will be feeling pretty good. So two months to play some catch up for the first half of the year and if I can get a little ahead for the second that would be great too.

Looking at May and deciding what to do with the month. I want to finish sorting things out in the house. I think we are back toward leaning to selling earlier rather than later. I know, I know, we just got the floors done and replaced the dishwasher, but the outdoor space we can never change and they are adding another HUGE subdivision near our neighborhood which is about to make traffic a nightmare. That and I can't get Brent to stop looking at new houses so we know what he wants to do, right? I'm looking at the house sorting as a possible pre-move sort. And I think I will end up painting the living room soon. If we do put the house on the market the dark gray walls will have to go, and the good enough patch I did when we took down the shelves will have to be made better.

Brent has two work trips and we are going to California for a wedding at the end of the month as well. So May will tick right along. We are trying to figure out when we are going to see C next. Right now it might be as late as 4th of July. It's really kind of funny, we are planning on going back to New Mexico this summer, we haven't been since my dad died and my mom doesn't travel anymore so we need to go see her instead of her coming here. But it's been a few years. And that's pretty normal. Brent's mom comes up here once a year or so, but we can go years in between me seeing my side of the family. But the fact that it's been 5 months since I saw C? Crazy! Now I know how my mom must have felt when we first moved away.

I am five books behind for my reading challenge. I set this ridiculously high goal and then set about reading these super long books. So I am reading the same amount as usual and they are only counting for a third. I swear I am contrary even to myself! I need to find a short sweet quick read series this summer to catch up on that number count.

Weight, fitness, size, body image. Oh gosh. I wish I could just skip this one all the time. I swear I will figure this out. I really do want to lose some size. If I put it in pounds probably that 10 that I stick with.

I was looking at this new diet plan they have been talking about, MIND, it's a blending of the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diet, but it shows benefits for Alzheimer's. So you know it's in my wheelhouse. But it's new research and I'm not sure exactly what it entails. I keep reading more and more on it, and we will see. It's a diet as in, the way you eat forever, not diet like eat this and lose this much weight. So though I would still like to lose weight, this is not for that. So of course I am not sure on that angle as well. Maybe lose 10 pounds and THEN worry about brain health. Though as we all know, if I could get my brain healthy I wouldn't be so fucking obsessed with those 10 pounds...

Politics, social unrest, idiots on the internet...all of those things have been filling my brain lately too. With that persistent "log off, just log off" buzz. It's difficult because I am so tied to my friends through my online world but I am so over the rest of the online world that there is a real push pull on unplugging going on right now. For now I am sticking with the fact that by being online I am still exposing myself to a variety of opinions on subjects and that's always better than just sitting in an echo chamber of people who agree with you. But if the discourse continues to lower in tone I think I will opt for the echo chamber eventually. Better to erroneously believe everyone agrees with you than think that the world is filled with hateful, awful people, right? Or if not better than at least more peaceful.

And as you can tell by the brain dump of a blog that this was, my sleeping pattern is all messed up again. It's so much worse since I had a few months of 6 hours a night or so. Going back to this sporadic nonsense is wiping me out more than it used to. Hopefully that means that it won't last and I will go back to good sleep here again soon. Focus! Focus! Fo...did you ever realize that if you break it down Focus is like fo cus like you are pro cussing? Which I mean, I totally am, so maybe I don't lack in focus so much as I have an abundance of fo' cuss...

Yeah...sleep would be GREAT right about now.

"Blog a Saturday in May!" all wrapped up...