Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Flowers For My Valentine...

The roses were the first sign.

Wait, that wasn't right.

The roses were the proof that what she had been thinking was right.

They were beautiful roses. What her mother called "proud flowers" the ones with the very long, very straight stems. Two dozen, long stem, red roses delivered to her office. Every woman around her was jealous of them. And that was the point wasn't it? To make them jealous. To show how loved she was. That was the point of very public declarations of love. To show the world "I am loved." and not just that but the added, "I am loved more than you, June, I see your sad little mixed bouquet over there."

It reminded her of elementary school when they all would craft their boxes for valentines cards, little construction paper covered mailboxes. During the class party people would open their boxes and read their cards. The very popular kids showing the candy and treats they got with their stacks and stacks of cards, some of the very pretty girls even getting a card from a boy in the next grade up. That was something to be show off for sure. And then there were the less popular ones cherishing their 5 or 6 cards, even while knowing that they only got cards from the kids whose parents made them give everyone in the class a card. But at least they got a card. Not an empty envelope. Davey Fredrick received 7 empty envelopes one year. One empty envelope could have been a mistake, but seven? At least he got one actual valentine as well. Though he was so embarrassed about the empty envelopes she wasn't sure it made that much of a difference.

Then there was High School, where the student body government sold candy grams for a Valentine's Day fundraiser. The kids who received them would safety pin the notes they came with to their shirts. A walking display of popularity. And then the kid who took pictures for the yearbook would take a shot and it would end up as a permanent record of how very loved they were. More than you, I see you with your pocket full of safety pins and zero notes to show for it. It never would have crossed the student body government group to not sell candy grams, after all, they would all get them, they could never imagine a Davey Fredrick waiting every year for a gram that never came. Even after sending out 20 of them himself.

But here she was at work now with the equivalent of a box stuffed to overflowing with cards and a shirt covered in notes. She was loved. With proud flowers.

Her mother knew everything about flowers. She should have been a botanist. Or at least worked in a greenhouse or florist shop. But she didn't. She worked as a checker at the grocery store. But she had a beautiful garden at home. Filled with gorgeous flowers. Not proud flowers. Not those, she didn't care for long stem roses, she said they were lovely in a vase, but not attractive in a garden and since she didn't want flowers for a vase she didn't want those. Her mother had a strict no cut flowers rule. She loved them, but only when they were growing. Once you cut them they started to die. And what for? So you could see them inside on the table instead of outside in the yard? That was just selfish. So every year her father bought her mother flowers for her birthday, Mother's Day, their anniversary, Valentine's Day, but he bought her flowers. Not cut flowers. Bushes, trees, seeds, living things. And her garden was impressive.

Anyway, here she was. Two dozen proud flowers. The outward sign that everything she thought was actually true.

Her phone buzzed. She knew the text would be from him before she read it. "Did you get them?"

She took a picture and sent it.

"You shouldn't have."

"Just wait!"

She smiled at everyone who told her how lovely they were. How lucky she was. She nodded and told people the name of the florist from the card. Such straight stems, such a deep red, so many flowers.

She left them on her desk when she left work. They were going to dinner and there was no way to carry them. It would have been impossible. But he still looked disappointed when she stepped out of the cab without them.

"I thought you would bring them home with you?"

"Not tonight, there were so many of them. It would have been a lot to manage."

He smiled, "I know it was a lot. But I wanted you to have them. Did everyone see them?"

She gave a small laugh, "I don't they could help but see them."

He threw his head back and laughed loudly. "That's the point!"

She nodded, "Yes, yes it is."

He ushered her in to the restaurant. Dimly lit, candles on every table, tables all set for two. Very romantic in a this is what romance is supposed to look like sort of way. He walked her toward the table in the front window. It was set beautifully. China and silver shimmering in the flickering light. Champagne already poured and waiting. He pulled out her chair.

"I know you don't usually like big showy things, but it's Valentine's Day so I just had to."

"You really didn't have to."

"No, I did, I just want everyone to see how special you are."

She gave her small smile again.

The waiter came to the table and she waited to hear the specials, forgetting that it was Valentine's Day so of course, there would be a set menu. No choices.

He asked if they wanted anything other than the champagne to drink. Oh here was a choice after all!

"No, just this, thank you, we are celebrating!" He answered for them both.

The waiter smiled, a little too largely, and nodded, "Very good. I'll bring your first course."

He reached across the table and picked up her hand, "I want to..."

She cut him off, "I need to use the restroom. I'll be right back."

She got up and walked to the back of the restaurant. She caught the attention of their waiter, "Tell me."

He looked flustered, "Tell you what?"

She cocked her head to the side, "You know exactly what. Tell me. Yes or no?"

"Yes, but not until dessert, it's been planned out to the minute, don't let on that you know!"

She sighed, the roses had given it away. The outward sign that she had been right. She shook her head.

She went back to the table. He poured more champagne and picked up her hand again. "What is your favorite Valentine's Day memory?" She knew he was asking so he could tell her how this would replace it.

"I don't have one."

"Oh come on, everyone has one. How did you parent's celebrate?"

"My father bought my mother a flower for her garden, my mother cooked my father's favorite lasagne. We ate dinner as a family and talked about where mom would plant her latest treasure. How it would fit in to the yard we already had."

He looked puzzled, "That's not very romantic."

"It's extremely romantic. He did what he knew she liked. She did what she knew he liked. And they included all of us because we were a whole family."

He didn't get it. "What about in school? Did you ever have a secret admirer send you a card?"

She shrugged her shoulders, "I don't think so."

"Really? We used to have big parties. And we would all open our boxes and line our cards up on our desks. The really popular kids would cover the whole desk with cards."

"Yeah, there was that in our school as well."

"And I bet your desk was covered."

She shrugged her shoulders again, "I never opened them at school. I would take them home."

"Ah, shy when you were a kid, I see. Can you believe we had one loser in our class who didn't get any cards ever? One time he got a bunch of empty envelopes, it was hilarious."

"You think so?"

"Well not for him, I'm sure, but for the rest of us? Yeah, he was a dweeb. Dweeb. Ha! I haven't used that in years, but that's what he was. You know the ones right?"

She nodded just a little, "Yes, the ones that were set apart from the rest of us. Davey Fredrick was the one in our class. Almost everyone picked on him. They got him with the empty envelope prank one year as well."

He laughed, "Classic."

The waiter brought their plates. He gave her a small panicked look but then realized she hadn't spilled the beans and relaxed again.

"This place is great, right? It was recommended by my boss as THE spot to be on Valentine's Day."

She smiled again, she had agreed to come out, granted she had forgotten it was Valentine's Day when he first suggested they have dinner here, but since she had agreed she was trying her best not to be rude. Even though she had told him months ago that she didn't celebrate Valentine's Day. Didn't care for it. Didn't like the hype and the expectations around it, but here she was. Sitting at a romantic table for two in the front window of THE spot to be on Valentine's Day.

The food was okay. That was always the problem with restaurants on Valentine's Day. Even in great restaurants the food was just okay. Fixed menus and quick table turns. Be romantic and then get out. She had worked as a busser for a while when she was in school. It was a horrible night to work as far as being busy, but a great night for tips. Just because of the turn.

She smiled thinking of her actual favorite Valentine's Day memory. She had been working at that year's THE spot to be and one of the waiters called her over and pointed at a table near the center of the restaurant. There was a middle aged couple sitting there and the man was sweating buckets. Incredibly nervous. Which happened a lot on Valentine's Day. Was he worried she would turn down his proposal? Her friend the waiter had laughed, "No, he's nervous because he brought his mistress in for lunch yesterday and I waited on them. Now his wife brought him here for a special dinner and he's afraid I'll say something." He didn't, of course, and he was very generous splitting the extra large tip he got. It paid for her books for the Spring semester. It was a very large tip.

It was getting closer and closer to dessert. He reached for her again, "These past few months have been so great. You are so great."

She smiled and sat up a little stiffly, "Six months."

"What?"

"Sorry, I was just filling in the time. It's only been six months since our first date."

"But it seems like forever. Not in a bad way, I mean, it just has been so right. You are so right for me. We are so right together."

She gave him her small smile again.

"I love that smile. That just for me smile."

She laughed. She couldn't help it.  He took that wrong.

"You have the best laugh. I want to make you laugh forever."

Well here we go. The waiter started making his way to the table. She could see him out of the corner of her eye. She held her hand out and made a flicking motion for him to go away. He either didn't see it or ignored her. He put a piece of very dry looking chocolate cake down on the table. Chocolate cake with a diamond ring artfully laid out on a mint leaf to the side.

"You have made me so happy. I love you and want you to be the sweet in my life forever. Will you..."

"Stop. Just shhh..." She put her fingers over his mouth. "Don't say anything else. Just pretend you never started."

He went from dazed happiness to confusion to anger in just a few seconds, "What?"

"Just shh. Really. Please. I'm going to get up and walk out and I'll my own cab. It's okay. Really. I should have said something when I first thought you were going to do this. It's all my fault. Really. It is. And I know by morning you will agree. But it's only been 6 months. You don't know me. Not really.  I don't like this," she waved around the restaurant, "if you had listened to any one of the things I told you about myself you would have known that. But you didn't. I'm not this. I'm not chocolate cake proposals. I'm not proud flowers on my desk. I'm not display in a window. I'm not THE place the be on Valentine's Day. I'm the kid who shoved candy grams in to the bottom of her backpack so the people who didn't get any didn't feel like they were the only ones. I'm the one who actually gave Davey Fredrick a Valentine and then sent him extras every year after that signed 'A secret admirer' so he could pretend."

"Who is Davey Fredrick?"

She bit her lips together then smiled her small smile again, "Exactly."

She reached into her purse for her wallet.

"Wait, no! You aren't paying!"

"It's not for you. It's for him." She gave the waiter an extra tip, "I'm sorry for the scene. It's not your fault."

And then she left.

She left him sitting in the front window of THE place to be on Valentine's Day. Six months. Who does that at 6 months? She called her mother.

"So were you right?"

"Yes."

"And what did you say?"

She was quiet. "He bought me proud flowers."

"Well, some people like that sort of thing, you know."

"But not me."

"Oh hey, while I've got you on the line here, do you know who I ran in to the other day?"

"Umm, no?"

"Davey Fredrick. Do you remember him? From school? He's back in town. Asked how you were doing. I didn't mention you were about to get engaged. So..."

"Mother!"

"Well he grew up nice, is all I'm saying. Real good looking man now. And he seemed to have very fond memories of you."

She smiled. The real one. That moved her entire face. "That makes me happy to hear."

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

News Breaks...

Brent and I listen to a Flash Briefing in the morning when we are eating breakfast. It's basically a rundown of headlines about news stories happening right now. A little blurb about the story itself and then on to the next thing.

This morning as I listened to Alexa tell us about the latest news on the opioid epidemic, the battle with the FBI from the President, the cyclone in Tonga, the upcoming expected Russian interference in the 2018 elections, the destruction of Mosul, the Senate briefing that was going to happen to today on threats to the US from inside and out and...well at this point I thought, "It's like the background noise in the opening scenes in an apocalyptic movie." You know the ones, where the dad is driving the kids to school and you hear the faint voice on the radio describing two or three really bad things but nobody is really paying attention because the focus is on dad and the kids driving to school. It's not until about 15 minutes in to the movie when you see that the faint voice on the radio really was what you should be paying attention to because it's all going to shit RIGHT NOW.

It's crazy to me how much that feels like real life right now. There is so much going to shit RIGHT NOW. So much that people cannot possibly pay attention to all of it. I know I can't. And I know it's not even healthy for me to try. You could spend your entire day, week, month, life, just picking up the threads of the latest thing that is going to shit RIGHT NOW.

Now that doesn't mean that I'm not concerned about it all. I am. That doesn't mean that I'm not paying attention. I am. But it does mean that I know I am missing things. It does mean that I know that there are even worse things happening than I am even aware of. There are the political things that are happening right now that are going to affect the courts for the rest of my life, a a good chunk of C's as well. There are political things happening right now that are going to affect the environment for, well, possibly forever. The damage that could be done in the next few years could have irreversible effects. There are things being done right now that are driving wedges in to our society that might not be removed. Or at least will not be removed easily. How did people move past the 60s? I was too young to know. But that seems to be a pretty strongly divided time and we survived. Can we do it again?

I don't know. I do know that the past few years have made me change my mind about things and about people. But that always happens right? It just seems heightened right now. We are constantly changing our stances depending on new information. Or we should be at least. I never trust anyone who says they never change their minds. That's an idiot letting you know they are an idiot and you should just run away.

But I do know that it's been an eye opening experience living in these times. The warm cocoon of believing that deep down we are all pretty much the same has been unraveled a bit. I am frequently left doing that my face thing when I read posts by people and thinking, "Really? You really think that?" or "Really? You really don't see how offensive that is?" or "Really? You expect me to believe you didn't know that was offensive? Please..." It's amazing to me.

Last week my hometown newspaper published a SUPER racist cartoon. Like WWII propaganda level racism. And the editor of the paper tried to say they didn't view the cartoon that way, that really it could be viewed as...and then they interviewed the cartoonist who basically said, nope. It was exactly what those other people thought it was and I'm not even ashamed of that. It's an eye opening time we live in. People aren't even ashamed of things like that anymore.

We have a president and his entire administration that lies constantly and consistently. And right now you can just hold your "every politician lies" line because you know this is different. You really do. There is a difference between spinning a situation in your best light and lying about things that are easily verifiable and ridiculous to even lie about. Yet he does it and they back him up. Thousands of lies upon lies over the past few years. To the point where nobody even knows what is true anymore. And nobody seems to care. I cannot wrap my brain around why this is suddenly okay. Why people are willing to set aside their own moral compass for a faulty one that wouldn't even be able to find true north if Polaris was the only star in the sky.

I am an optimist by nature. I am happy by nature and by choice. I don't linger in misery. It's just not where my set point is. Even now, even while I have the drumbeat of this is all going to shit RIGHT NOW playing in the back of my head I still am a happy optimist. I can't be anything other than what I am. So what do I do?

So what do WE do?

Do we turn off the radio?

Do we turn up the radio?

Do we buy a bunker and start prepping?

I still don't know.

But here's my schedule for the rest of the day:
Study Spanish
Write a blog about the troubled thoughts in my head (check)
Make a roast
Do the laundry
Hope for fiction inspiration while I iron
Hug my husband
Wonder why I don't eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, maybe because it's also Fat Tuesday and who needs that sort of reminder...
Listen to that voice on the radio, make the changes I can make, encourage kindness in others, remind you to vote this year and just keep going.

I think it's a decent day. It's the best I've got right now.

Keep going.

Keep trying.

Keep being kind to others.

Keep your eyes open and keep listening.

Make the changes you can.

Encourage others to do the same.

And remember to vote this year.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Mood Enhancer...

She stared at the bottles of pills all lined up neatly in a tidy row. She reached for one and then hesitated. Did she really want to do this? Random drug testing had been increased at work. It seemed as though every day at least 3 or 4 people were pulled out to give a sample.

Mornings were her favorite and least favorite time of the day. She was clear headed. Her life felt like it used to. Before the pills took over. Before her every mood was dictated by the tablet in her mouth.

She could remember telling jokes with her husband. Laughing until her face hurt. Not because she was high and couldn't help it but because what he had just said was so funny she had laughed. Really laughed.

She remembered laying next to him in bed. Relaxed. Her head on his chest. Listening to the steady thump of his heart beat. Feeling the rise and fall of his breathing. Contentment. That's what that feeling was. Contentment. She didn't think there was a pill that could make her feel like that.

She remembered what it used to be like. She craved those days. When good days were good days because good things happened. Because she really honestly felt good. And when there were bad days too. Days where things didn't go right and she felt shitty about them. Angry. Mad. Sad. She craved all of them. Anything was better than the flat.

The flat was how she spent most days. Nothing great. Nothing bad. Mehnday. Every day was Mehnday. She remembered when that would have made her laugh. Now it was closer to making her want to cry. But only for a few more minutes.

She looked at the row of bottles. Each labeled for their day and use. Work pills. Sleeping pills. Weekend pills. Vacation pills. Life of the Party pills. She had something for everything. But they were mostly the same. Vacation felt as flat as work. Sleep was just a dark void, no dreams to rescue her. The weekend just a mark of time held over from before. The Life of the Party pills forced gaiety, but it was manic more than fun, required happiness for situations where she was expected to smile. But in the mornings she remembered emotions without bottles. It was the best and worst time of the day.

She sometimes thought she should be doing something with those memories. Writing them down maybe. Sharing them. Making sure they weren't forgotten. But the she remembered. She remembered the day her husband disappeared. He was there, then he was gone. Her son was alive. He was someplace else. But he was alive, she knew that. Her husband was not, she was made aware of that also. And so she did not write down her memories. She did not send them out in to the world to remind others. She just waited for them to fade in to the flat. She was a coward. She knew that. But she had already paid too large of a price. Had paid with something that shouldn't have been hers to use.

She poured a glass of water. Ready to start her Mehnday. To go to work.

The water. They had started out drugging the water. But nobody believed the crackpots and the crazies who told them. Why would they? Those who drugged them physically had been drugging them mentally for years. Seeding conversations with those that were anti-fluoride, or anti-vaxxers. Spouting ridiculous claims like polio could be prevented with vitamin C. Or fluoride made you impotent. We learned to ignore them. To shut down any conversation they were in. Not knowing they had been plants all along and that had been their purpose. To teach us to shut them down. So when the drugs did start, when the complacency medications began to course through the veins of their children and people noticed they were there and began asking questions then the others would begin attaching their anti-vaxxer message to the actual fear of what was happening. Drowning out the signal with their noise.

And so we didn't listen. We didn't pay attention.

And then the planes came. And they flew over head seeding the clouds. And we remembered the ridiculous and false claims of the chemtrail people and paid no attention. The Office of Misinformation had done their job and now we all paid the price. The Illuminati was ridiculous so we paid no attention to the World Powers. Why would we? We were too smart, had seen too many things easily debunked. No conspiracy theories for us.

The water was bad. The rain was bad. The air we breathed was bad. All filled with chemicals. But we didn't know. We thought something was wrong with us. We went to the doctor, "I just don't feel like myself lately." We were given a pill to make it better. And it did. And we were happy. But then we couldn't make it better by ourselves. We lost the ability. We had to have the pills. And we paid no attention to the crackpots and the crazies who said it was THEIR plan all along!

She shook her head. We all believed. Until some of us didn't. Some of us tried to make sense of what was happening. To resist the pills and the flat. But they got to us anyway. They found ways to make you understand your role in this new world order. And if you didn't understand you lost. Your home. Your job. Your family. Your life. She had lost, but not everything, so she learned.

Mornings were the best and the worst part of the day.

She swallowed her work pill. She could not get caught popping negative in a random drug test. Her son was still alive.




Wednesday, February 7, 2018

HR...

"You going to eat that or just keep poking it with your fork?"

"Hmmm? Oh yeah, sorry, I'm a bit distracted. I got a message that HR wants to see me this afternoon."

"HR? What for?"

"I don't know. They didn't say, I just got the message with the time. But it's never good right? I mean has anyone ever had a good 'summoned to human resources' story?"

"You could be the first?"

"Maybe."

She kept pushing her salad around with her fork. She knew she should eat, but her stomach was in knots. What in the world could they want to see her for? She had gone over every interaction she could think of, subordinates, superiors, peers. She couldn't think of a single thing that had been done wrong. But still, she was going to face HR this afternoon.

It was strange; she had just had a conversation with her husband about going to HR with a complaint. Not that she had one, but that sometimes people forgot that HR didn't work for them, it worked for The Company. The job of HR was to protect The Company. It was always best to remember that when debating going to HR with a problem. Would that fix your problem or make you the problem?

"Okay, I give up, I'm not going to eat. Do you want any of this?"

"Nah, thanks, I had plenty."

She put the lid back on her tupperware and slid the dish back into the mini-fridge. It wouldn't be as fresh tomorrow but it would still be edible. Assuming she was still going to be here tomorrow to eat it. She shook her head, best not to imagine the worst. She really could be the first to go to HR for a good reason. She laughed to herself. Probably not.

She went back to her desk to try and get a few things done before her meeting. She was having a really hard time concentrating. Was everyone staring at her? Were they whispering about her? Did they know she had been called to HR? Worse yet, had they reported her for something? Was she going because she had done something to one of them? Or worse yet, hadn't done something but was reported anyway. A false claim was so hard to prove wrong. Was she going to be suspended? The first time she knew someone had been suspended she had thought it would be temporary, but nobody ever came back from suspension. They should just say terminated. Using softer words didn't make it better.

The minutes seemed to drag along until they suddenly sped up and she was standing in the inner office of HR. The receptionist looking over the glass partition that kept her away from any disgruntled HR visitors, "Have a seat. They are finishing up with another employee. You're next."

"Excuse me, do you know if this is a video review or..." she swallowed, it shouldn't matter. It was just a feeling a few of them had, if your review was done remotely by video screen it was a minor infraction, if it was a face to face, well you were done.

"Just have a seat, they will call you in when they are ready."

She shouldn't have asked. Now that would go in her file, she was sure of it. Don't show nerves. Keep calm. You've done nothing wrong. You have been a model employee. You...

"You can go in now."

Had she missed the other employee coming out? Or was there a back door so they didn't see each other. Some psychiatrist's offices had that. One entry and one exit so people didn't cross paths in the waiting room. A way to keep things confidential.

"You can go in now."

"Oh, yes, sorry." She stood on legs so wobbly she wasn't sure they would work to carry her in to the room. She opened the door and saw that yes, it was a face to face meeting. In fact the head of HR was sitting behind the table a file opened on the desk. Her file she assumed.

"Come in, have a seat."

She sat stiffly. Barely touching the chair she was so ridged.

"Do you know why we've called you in here today?"

"No, I don't. I really don't."

"Good."

She looked puzzled.

"It's good because that means we have nobody talking when they shouldn't be. A Company is only as good as the secrets it keeps, don't you agree?"

She still looked puzzled.

"I'm sure that's the expression. Anyway, we've been reviewing your file. You've been nothing short of perfect in your time with us. Never an infraction. No late days. No unexcused sick days. No personal phone calls. No office drama. Nothing. You've been exemplary."

She smiled then, it was going to be a good meeting. "Thank you. I was raised to..."

The head of HR cut her off, "We need more like you. We have too many others who are not as efficient. Who are late, or lazy, or wasteful.You are none of those things." A button was pressed and a video screen began showing her at lunch putting her food back in the fridge. "Many would have thrown that away instead of saving it for later."

She was shocked. They filmed them at lunch? Thank goodness she hadn't said anything negative.

"Do you understand how valuable of an employee we find you to be? You should be honored."

She was puzzled again, she had said thank you before hadn't she? "Thank you. I appreciate that you  noticed."

"Yes. We noticed. And we've decided that you should be more for us."

Oh my goodness, was she getting a promotion? A raise? Could she and her husband finally afford to have a child? That was their dream. To have children. But they were so expensive. And the paperwork involved was daunting. A promotion would mean so much.

"We've sent a note to your husband informing him of the change."

"Excuse me? I'm sorry. I must have missed something?" She couldn't believe her daydreaming had kept her from hearing.

"We've sent a note to you husband. We would not want him to be worried about where you are. It wouldn't be prudent for him to make a scene. We've found that sometimes the mated pairs make scenes."

"I'm still not understanding what you are saying."

"You are going to be more for us."

Okay, so she had heard all that was said, she just didn't understand.

"We need more like you. So you will be the base of our new HR department. Finding ones like you has been slow and often not fruitful. Making more of you will be easier for all involved."

What was being said finally filtered through. She stared into the alien black eyes of the head of Human Resources, "You are going to make a clone of me?"

"Oh no, not a clone. A whole division. We are going to extract your DNA and synthesize a whole new human division."

"Extract my DNA?"

"Yes, you will be moving to the lab and staying there. The process shouldn't take too long, or not too long for our kind. You, of course, will be kept in suspension and will be unaware of the time. We aren't animals after all."

She started to shake. They were taking her to the lab. She was going to be suspended. Termination would have been better.

There never was a good meeting with Human Resources...

Monday, February 5, 2018

Don't Make Promises...

When I worked in advertising one of my guiding work principles was to always under promise and over deliver. It's a phrase a lot of people in the service industry use and it can be a little trite when you hear it all of the time but I firmly believe in it. It used to make one of my clients crazy when I wouldn't promise to some deadline or the other. I would say, "I will try my best." or "I can get it to you on Tuesday for sure, I am not sure about Monday." He would respond, "You are just trying to look good by being faster! You are under promising!" And he was half right. I was under promising. If I wasn't sure I could do it in a tight timeline I told people that. Now I also worked my ass off to get it done quickly and usually got it to them early, but not always. So I wouldn't promise to do it earlier than I was positive I could get it done.

Under promise and over deliver.

Make sure you are only committing to things you know you can do, but then work to do more.

It's stuck with me even in my life now. I can see it in my constant goal setting. It makes me crazy when I set a goal and cannot reach it. That's why you will often see me set one goal and then have a stretch goal as well. I am pretty sure I can hit the first mark, but will strive for the second. Even to myself I try not to over promise.

Because here is the thing, you do the over promise thing one to many times and people stop believing in you. Even if it's you yourself that you need to believe in. I know, Brent knows, my friends know, that if I say I will do something I will do my damnedest to get it done. And if for some reason I don't, I will work extra hard to make it up to you with something else. I don't give my word a lot. I'm not a big false promiser. I'm an I'll try, I'll work on it, I'll see, much more often than I will. But once I say I will, I really mean I will.

I write lists. I take notes in my phone. I send myself meeting reminders. All because I don't want to give my word and then fall short. And I know that I might because I'm also pretty multi-focused at times. (sounds better than flighty) I don't want something important to slip my mind. And sometimes it does. So if I tell you I will do something for you, the next thing you will often see if me whipping out my phone to put it on my calendar. "Oh it's not that big of a deal!" Yes, yes it is. I just told you I would so I will and this way I really will.

It makes me crazy when people promise things and don't follow through. Or constantly say one thing and then do a completely different thing. Your word is the only thing you have that is truly yours and if you break it over and over then I know that you aren't to be trusted. You are broken. And I won't depend on you to be anything other than broken. I would much rather hear from you that you will try to do something (Yoda was wrong, sorry, but he was) and then fail rather than that you will for sure do something and then have you not follow through. Don't promise me something you cannot deliver.

Looking at Trump tweet insults this morning after calling for unity last week just reinforces this belief. He's a broken man, running a broken system, that we are all supposed to trust in to keep their word. It's why I wouldn't last in politics. I would want to deliver results and would meet up with the people I was supposed to work with to get them done only to discover that nobody keeps their word...it's not a good way to run a local co-op let alone a country. When did we as a country give up on expecting our elected officials to keep their word? When did we decide that politicians just lie so there is no reason to expect better of them. When did we decide that their word was not only not their bond but worse than used scotch tape but that was okay with us and we would vote for them again?

I don't get it. It's just not my way. It's ridiculous.  It's broken.

We need to figure this out. We need to start voting for other people if the people who are supposed to represent us aren't. We need to demand that when they speak they speak the truth. And if they don't deliver they need to have a really good reason why not.

We deserve some under promising and over delivering. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Chilly...

Her hands were so cold. She scooted closer to the fire and held them out over the flames. She kept them there for as long as she could stand it. As soon as she pulled them back to her body the heat fled from them and they were cold again. She couldn't chase the chill away. She had tried hot showers, hot baths, hot tea, hot soup, fireplaces, fire pits, blankets, sweaters, gloves, mittens. Nothing was working. She would feel the warmth for a moment and then shiver again.

The cold had set in to her bones. That's what her mother would say. "I've caught a chill. The cold and damp has just set in to my bones." And it had. The cold has set in to her bones.

She was trying to remember when it happened. She had been cold for so long now it was hard to pinpoint the moment. She remembered being warm as a child. Running around in shorts and a t-shirt. A beaded line of sweat on her forehead. Smelly tennis shoes on her sweaty feet. Was that actually the last time she had been warm or the first time she had felt the chill? When she had run home at the end of the day, filled with joy over the things she had seen and done only to be greeted by her mother with, "Young lady! You are filthy! Go take a bath, you stink!"

She thought again. Surely she had been uncomfortably warm in high school. She could remember the heat in her cheeks when David Tavish smiled at her. The small trickle of sweat down her back when he asked her to dance at the Winter Mixer. She had been warm then for a moment. Until she heard him tell his friends that he was dancing with her because he had heard she was easy and would put out for anyone who was nice to her. They had all laughed and then leered at her in the hallway the next day at school. She had asked Emily Johnson why he would say such a thing and Emily smirked at her, "Like you don't know." She didn't though. She had never even dated a boy let alone put out. But Emily didn't believe her. She just looked at her like she was dirty and smelled bad.

She started wearing giant sweatshirts then. Folding herself inside of them. Trying to find a cozy place to hide and stay warm.

She discovered a talent for acting. She had known for awhile she could pretend. Pretend to be happy. Pretend to not notice people staring at her. Acting like she was dirty and smelled bad. But then she learned she could act as well. Take her pretend on stage and become someone else. She was warm then. Under the bright lights. They were so hot her fellow actors would complain sometimes. But she didn't. She liked the warmth. It made her feel...made her feel. Made her feel. She was warm then. For a moment. Then the casting director made it known what was required for the next role. The next big part. The next step. When she asked her friends about it, what to do, they asked her if she wanted to be an actor or not. Play the game or don't. But don't bitch to us about your opportunities. Don't act like your shit doesn't stink. She was so cold.

Had she been warm since then? Every moment where she felt warmth it was taken away. Every cozy sweatshirt ripped from her body. Every fire snuffed out when she stayed too long. Would she be warm again? Could she be warm again?

Why didn't you say anything?
Why did you put up with it?
Why didn't you fix it?
How dare you leave the mess for the next person.
How dare you complain now when you played the game before.
How dare you feel that you deserve to be warm when so many are cold.

She was so cold. It had set in to her bones. She reached her hands out toward the fire again. Maybe this time the heat would last. Maybe this time she would finally get warm. Maybe...

Friday, February 2, 2018

Cage Match...

She woke up in the center of a cage. She looked around as much as she could without moving. Trying to figure out how she got there.

"I know you're awake. I've been waiting."

She turned her head toward the voice, "Kyle? What the hell, dude?"

He wrote something down in his notebook.

"Kyle? Hello, what are you doing?"

"I'm taking notes. While I have you I want to make sure I find out as much as I can."

"Don't you think you could have just asked me questions after class? Or maybe in the cafeteria? This seems a little drastic."

"You're very calm. That's interesting."

"You aren't planning on hurting me are you? It seems like if you were planning on hurting me you would have already started. And aside from being locked in a cage I seem to be okay."

"It's still interesting. Most people would be slamming themselves against the bars in anger or reaching out through them begging me to let them go. Yet you haven't moved from the middle there. As far away from the iron as you can get."

If she hadn't already been quietly freaking out, that would have done it. But she was a master at maintaining a calm exterior during a private freak out.

"Again, I don't think you are going to hurt me. You've never struck me as that type. So I'm calmly waiting for you to tell me what the hell is going on."

"You're right. I don't plan on hurting you. I can't say what will happen to you after I sell you. But I won't hurt you at all."

"Sell me? What the fuck? You in to human trafficking, Kyle?"

"Human trafficking? No, not human trafficking."

She narrowed her eyes at him, "What are you insinuating there, Kyle? Are women not humans?"

He shook his head, "Look, you and I both know you aren't human. It took me awhile to figure you out but I eventually did. You really needed to be more careful with your tells. First off some contacts probably would have helped. Nobody has eyes that color. Nobody human at least."

Her eyes were dark brown. So dark that they looked black. And they had flecks of gold in them like the spokes of a wheel. She really considered them her best feature and would have never wanted to hide them with contacts. "Because you're from Wisconsin or Minnesota right? Where most people have light colored eyes? I'm not. My whole family has brown eyes. Pretty much everyone I grew up with has brown eyes. You come home with me and people will think you are wearing fake contacts."

"They aren't brown. They are black. And the gold. Don't forget the gold."

"Go look at your own eyes, Kyle. They are blue with a darker blue ring. Eyes are like that. Colors vary."

He shook his head, "And your ambrosia."

"Ambrosia?"

"Or wait, nectar. I think it's probably more nectar. Whatever it is in your vial you carry. You add it to your drinks. I've seen you. It's so you can handle human food. I've read the stories."

"My meds? I'm diabetic, Kyle. I have specialty meds I put in my drinks to help me process sugar. I also have insulin shots when that isn't enough. In fact, you might want to let me check my blood sugar here soon or you won't have anyone to traffic."

"They aren't meds. No diabetic ever has a silver vial of mystery medication they add to their drinks."

"Just because you haven't seen it before doesn't mean it isn't so. That medication keeps me alive."

"Oh, I believe that. That's why I switched out your drink after you treated it yesterday. To see what would happen."

She nodded then. Well that explained it. "So you fucked with my medication as an experiment? And when I passed out from the spike and drop in my blood sugar you kidnapped me and put me in here?"

"Pretty much. Except we both know it wasn't a blood sugar thing. And as soon as I put a few drops of your 'medicine' on your tongue you started to wake back up. You ate human food and it didn't agree with your fae system."

"My fae system?"

"Yes. Fae system. See? I told you that I figured it out. You are a faerie."

"Okay, sure, Kyle. I'm a faerie. Where are my wings?"

"Oh don't do that. Just admit that I have you figured out. You are a faerie. Or a sprite maybe. I don't think sprite because of the size thing, I've never read about a sprite being able to pass as human even with glamour. But a faerie? Easily done."

She nodded, "Okay, Kyle, I'm a faerie. Who drinks nectar. But not a sprite because that would be ridiculous. Anything else you want to tell me about myself? Like what would a faerie be doing in college studying business management? Lot of banks in faerieland?"

"I think you are in school to study humans. I'm not sure why. Probably the same reason why I will get a good price for you when I sell. Everything is curious about what it isn't."

"So my dark eyes and my meds are what tipped you off to all this? Pretty amazing filling in of the blanks there."

"Not just those things. Your hands too."

She looked down at her hands. "What about my hands?"

"You have very graceful hands. Your fingers are very long and thin. More so than most. And the nails on your little fingers are very sharp. Just those. You don't file the others like that. I think in your natural form they must be like a spur on a rooster or something. And you can make yourself look human enough, but you can't get rid of everything."

"Because I file those two nails to a point that makes me faerie? It's not that I use them in my origami? To make sharper creases in my folds? I mean, doesn't that make more sense?"

"Your origami is another thing that gave you away. You are too good at it. Nobody who hadn't studied it for many lifetimes would be that good."

"I have been doing it almost my whole life, Kyle. This would have been one of the things you could have asked me about. I'm a fidgeter, I needed something to keep my hands busy. Some people knit, I fold paper.  I've been doing it since I was 6 or 7 and I first saw someone make a dove. You do something for more than a decade you get pretty good at it."

"How about when you argued with the professor about hemophilia?"

"Excuse me? What argument with a professor?"

"Jacqueline said that you told Professor Randal that the rumors of rampant hemophilia in the royal families were not actually true. And that he didn't believe you until you showed him an article online that said it was used as a sort of shield to protect the young children. Nobody wanted to be the one to cause an injury that would make them bleed out so they gave them distance. But there wasn't really any disease. He still didn't believe you but was impressed that you had ever seen an article on the subject considering it was published in such an obscure journal."

"That's not really much of an argument. And why would my reading an obscure journal make me a faerie? Wouldn't it be more likely that I was just someone who spent way too much time online?"

"Funny you mention online. That's how I discovered that the journal is written by and mostly read by Fae creatures. So you see, you tipped your hat by knowing about it."

"You found a list of what faeries read online? Seriously?"

"You would be surprised what you can find online."

"I'm sure I would be. Tell me, have you ever gone to vanhelsing.com?"

Kyle rolled his eyes, "Now you're making fun of me."

"Kyle, you have me locked in a fucking cage talking about selling me because you think I'm a faerie. I'm pretty sure you can handle a little mocking."

He wrote a few more things down in his notebook.

"Subject is mocking me. Do not understand the hostile tone. You would think I kidnapped her. Is that what you are writing, Kyle?"

"No. If you must know I'm noting the time. I imagine with limited access to your nectar and being surrounded by iron as you are that you won't be able to hold your human form forever. I'm waiting to see what happens when you turn."

"What do you think will happen, Kyle?"

"I'm not sure. All of the images online are just guesses. Nobody seems to know what a faerie looks like in their natural form."

"So you really aren't going to give me back my meds?"

"Nope."

"And you are really planning on selling me off once you force me into my natural faerie form?"

"Yep."

"Okay, then I guess I have no choice but to level with you."

Kyle wrote some more notes very quickly and leaned forward anxiously.

"You're right. I'm not entirely human, Kyle. You got me. You should be really proud. I've been passing my whole life. Only three people ever have picked up that something wasn't quite the same about me, but you are the first to go to this," she motioned at the cage, "sort of lengths to prove it."

"What happened to the other two?"

"Nervous, Kyle? I don't see why. You clearly have the upper hand here and have this all figured out."

"What happened to the other two?"

"They asked me what I was and I told them. Then they went their way and I went mine. I told you that you could have just asked me instead of going to such drastic lengths. But then, of course, they weren't looking to make a profit off of me. They were just curious. The myths and the truth weren't lining up for them."

"What do you mean the myths and the truth?"

"Oh, like you said you thought I might be a sprite? Well, Kyle, you better hope you never run across a sprite in real life. They are vicious creatures. You ever try to trap one of them and you will end up with a swarm on your doorstep. They will pick your bones clean like a school of piranha. They might be the meanest things in the whole supernatural world."

"Sprites? The little sprites?"

"Judge them by their size do you?" She laughed at her own joke. He wasn't so someone had to.

"And, Kyle, Jacqueline got the story wrong. She overheard Professor Randal and I talking about the hemophilia myth and put the pieces together in the wrong way. That happens sometimes when people are eavesdropping on creatures they shouldn't be. See, Professor Randal isn't strictly human either. I'll let you try and figure out exactly what he is on your own. But anyway, the truth is much more interesting than the myth. See the German Royals did have a particular blood disease, but it wasn't hemophilia. They didn't bleed out so much as they didn't keep their blood. I know it seems like the same thing, but it isn't, not really. They were reliant on blood donations to be able to maintain their lives. And there had to be an official reason why they kept on donors in the castle at all times so, hemophilia. And that also kept people from the outside from wanting to marry in to the family. Who wants to risk passing a deadly disease on to their children?

So the family tree got a little loopy there for awhile, but they finally figured out how to survive with their blood issues and ventured out into the world. Intermarrying with other Royals and then eventually the rest of the world. The gene gets passed down in families still, but if you teach the children young how to deal with the iron deficiencies they do just fine."

"Iron deficiencies?"

"Well, yes, that's what most blood diseases boil down to. How you process iron. How much blood can you keep in your system? How much iron can you process?"

"So the Royal families couldn't process the iron in their blood. Are you saying that's because they were fae and the fae can't tolerate iron?" Kyle was getting excited by this information. He was scribbling notes down as fast as he could.

"The Royal Family were no more fae than I am, Kyle."

Kyle jumped, her voice was much closer than it should have been. He looked up and directly in to her eyes. She wasn't in the cage anymore. He started to scramble out of the chair and she reached out and pushed him back in with one finger. He slammed into the seat. "What..."

"What the hell, Kyle? That's how I started! Now you know how it feels right?"

"See, Kyle, you messed up. I tried to give you a hint. You really should have checked out vanhelsing.com before you came for me. I'm not fae, I'm human. Ish. Vampire sounds so old fashioned, but that's really what I am. Vampire."

"That can't be because..."

"Because I go out during the day? Because I'm not phased by crosses? Because I can sit next to Crystal when she eats her garlic mashed potatoes in the cafeteria? Kyle, dude, don't you think a line of creatures that has existed forever would put out a little false information? How do you think we've survived this long?" She moved the items on his desk around then patted down his pockets until she found her silver vial. "I'll take this, thank you."

"What is it?"

"Oh come, now, I think you can guess."

"B.b.b.lood?"

"Smart boy. Okay, not really smart. I mean you kidnapped a vampire, starved her, locked her in an iron cage where she could sit quietly and absorb the iron energy until she was strong enough to escape and then...well. So yeah, not really smart, Kyle. I'm a vampire, Kyle, not a faerie. I don't weaken from iron, I get stronger. It's not as good as my condensed blood, but as you stole my vial it worked just fine. That's why I'm here, by the way, my family runs a distillery. Best condensed product out there. A few drops a day is all it takes. I needed a business degree to help us expand. Going in to the family business. Just need to figure out where we are going to get more donors." She gave him a cold smile.

Kyle tried to scoot away from her one more time but she reached out and grabbed his wrist holding him in place.

"You wanted to know what the nails are for? I think it's only fair to show you." She traced a line down his wrist with her right pinky. A line of crimson formed quickly. She leaned down and licked the blood away making a face, "Some people really like the extra kick from the adrenaline but I never did care for it." Kyle stared at his wrist as the cut healed and disappeared. "Neat trick right? It's in the saliva. We are healers. You'll find a lot of us in the medical profession. Great plastic surgeons especially. Very little scaring. It just didn't appeal to me as much. I like numbers. I really do." She ran her finger over her lower lip wiping up a little bit of blood that had smeared there.

"Are you going to kill me?"

"Kill you? No, Kyle, I'm not going to kill you. I'm going to work with you to destroy all of your notes and cover up all of your tracks. I'm going to help you destroy your little dungeon here. I'm going to make sure everyone on all of the chat boards you've visited knows that you are crazy. Then we are going to part ways and you are going to change schools."

"Why would you trust me?"

"Oh, I don't trust you, Kyle. I don't trust you at all. But the one thing that is true," she looked him in the eye and he watched the golden spokes start to pulse, "Is the hypnotism. You'll be a good boy, Kyle, and that's the truth."

"The truth..." Kyle repeated.