Sunday, October 15, 2017

Truth Telling?

"Is she aware of what she is saying?"

"I'm not sure what you mean by aware."

"Okay, maybe aware is the wrong word. Is what she is saying true? Is she actually telling us things that are true?"

The doctor made what could best be described as a noncommittal gesture. She didn't nod her head yes or shake it no. She sort of wobbled it back and forth. She didn't smile. She didn't frown. She held her mouth in almost a diagonal angle and did that crazy head wobble. "Maybe?"

"Maybe?"

"Well, yes, maybe. We don't really know. Are they memories from her life or are they memories from a book she read, or a movie she watched, or is she remembering a dream? We don't really know. What we do know is that she is still verbal, and that's a good thing."

"But if she's verbal about a fantasy world, that's not really good, is it?"

"It is. I know it's hard to see, but when they stop talking, when they retreat into their shell completely, that's when we've really lost them."

"But if she's not who she was then we've already lost her, haven't we?"

"Is she not who she was?"

"Well..." He paused. She looked the same, older, of course, but not much, not really. She had always been old in his mind so as he aged and she aged the change was the same. She still had the same smile. She still dressed the same. Her voice was the same. When she laughed it was the same laugh she'd always had. She looked like who she had always been but...

"You came in today to speak about concerns about your grandmother, you still see her as your grandmother."

"Yes, but, I just...she's not who she was."

"Yes, that is what happens. I understand it's a shock to you. You haven't seen her for a few months. It's a challenge when our loved ones age. Especially when there is the added layer of dementia. You feel as though she is a stranger looking out at you. But I assure you, this is still your grandmother."

"Maybe."

The doctor stood then and he knew he was being dismissed. "I do hope you will be able to come visit more often. She doesn't have anyone left now that your uncle has passed, God rest his soul, I know she would like the company."

He nodded. He had felt horribly guilty about not visiting sooner anyway. But she was living in the home in California and he was in Florida. It wasn't an easy trip. He had been planning on moving her to a home in Florida so she would be closer to his family. He could bring the kids to visit with their great grandmother and get to know her. But he hadn't wanted to move her without her permission. And without asking the doctors if it would be healthy for her. After all she might be aging, she might have been having issues, but she wasn't a piece of furniture he could just relocate without asking. But he had wanted her closer.

She had always been so wonderful when he was a child. Always full of adventures. She had been a widow at an early age. He never knew his grandfather. Nobody every talked about him at all. It was just her. And when the car accident took his parents she had been a rock. Standing with him at the funeral, holding his hand the whole way. She had been so steady. Convincing him that the money from the insurance wasn't dirty or cursed, that he should use it to pay off his student loans and buy his first restaurant. To marry the girl he loved. To start a fresh life. She had even been understanding when he decided to do all of that in Florida instead of California. She had nodded and said it was probably for the best.

And he came to visit often. Or at least at first. But then one restaurant turned in to two, then four. The kids came and they took up the rest of his time. He called once a month. Or at least he tried to. And her eldest son, his uncle, still lived nearby. He kept everyone up to date on her life and when the time came he helped move her in to the assisted living facility. Got her settled. Warned everyone that she was starting to "lose her faculties."

Lose her faculties. What an odd phrase for what met him when he came to see her.

Yes, she still looked like his grandmother. She still sounded like his grandmother, she still laughed like his grandmother. But...he hadn't been prepared. Not really.

He walked down the hallway to her room. Paused at the doorway and then walked in.

"Oh there you are! I thought maybe you had gone back to Florida."

She seemed like his grandmother.

"Sit, sit. I want to finish our conversation."

He sat. She looked like his grandmother.

"Where did I leave off? Oh yes, with your grandfather. And after I found out about the affair I spent 6 months planning how I would kill him. I think I could have done it in two, really, but it was my first and I wanted to make sure I did everything perfectly so I wouldn't get caught. When I decided that you could use the insurance money more than your selfish parents could help you it only took me 3 months to engineer the car accident. And your uncle? Spur of the moment! I think I'm getting better with age, wouldn't you agree?"

Oh god, she laughed just like his grandmother....

Friday, October 13, 2017

It's a bad idea, right?

There is something about October that makes me consider bad ideas. Maybe it's the Halloween aspect. The constant barrage of scary images. The creepy things I usually have tucked in to my head come out to play on every lawn. The abundance of spooky stories, and scary movies. The color in the trees flaring to brightness one last time before giving up for the winter. Something about October makes me think of dangerous things. Scary things. Possibly stupid things. Like doing NaNoWriMo again.

I know! I've done it twice and each time I said I wouldn't do it again. But I've done it twice so I know I CAN do it so why not do it one more time? You know, as a cleanse from two months of sabbatical limited writing time. AND it would be the way to really reinforce that sit down and write for a few hours every week day plan. I mean if I wrote for 2-3 hours M-F and a quick dash on the weekend, it's so easy to get through. You know, if you take away the times where I sit and stare at a blank page and a flashing cursor for 2 1/2 hours...

But it does force me to write. I hate setting a goal and not reaching it. So I tend to force choke out the words and get it done. I've done it two different ways. Focused on one story for the month the first time and writing more on that story the second time while also writing short stories. Anything and everything counted. Which was a lot less stressful for sure. Words are words.

Which is why it's REALLY insane that I am thinking of doing it, and doing it as one story. Starting a new novel idea. I suck at novels. I mean, objectively, I suck at them. My love is the short story. And quick flash writing. I like to write it down, put it up, walk away all in a day. Just Bang! Bang! Bang! It's a house! I mean, don't try and stay in it because it's flimsy as hell, but it's a damn house!

So what is actually wrong with me? I want to build a mansion now? With bricks and shit? And all while I need to write 23 (22 now) more blogs this year to reach my goal? So I'm behind on blog writing and I want to take a month and focus on a long story that will not count as blog writing? And to top it all off it's not something I'm good at so the odds are it won't ever grow beyond 50,000 mediocre words. What?

Maybe it's just because it's Friday the 13th and it's an unlucky day. Registering for a grind would be unlucky right? Bringing it on yourself would be the height of unlucky. Right?

Can you tell I'm losing the argument to talk myself out of this? I'm even doing the balance thing again where I SWEAR I will write extra when Brent is at Super Computing so it will be done before Thanksgiving. Because every single time I think how stupid to commit to a month long writing challenge that's hard enough as it is and then slice off the last week due to the holiday. BUT EVERY SINGLE TIME I DO IT ANYWAY! AND every single time I swear I will write more while Brent is at Super Computing and then I don't. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.

Oh wait...Thanksgiving is early this year. So really I wouldn't be taking off the last week. I'd be taking a break toward the end with an extra four days afterward to make it up. And since I really just have the barest idea for a novel right now really I could just write short stories with a few of them being trying out character ideas. See who is out there waiting to get their story told. See if I even have a frame work to make the barest idea I have in to something else. So really it wouldn't be hard at all as those could all be blogs. And THEN I might even be done with my goal for blogs before December so everything else would be extra. I mean this is probably a really great idea.

EXCEPT IT'S CRAZY.

I mean, I know it is, right?

Right?

It is.

That settles it. I am for sure doing NaNoWriMo.

I mean Not. I am for sure NOT doing NaNoWriMo.


(okay, fine, you all totally know that I am. wish me luck!)


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Difficult Gifts...

Anaun was gathering all of the things she would need. Lavender for calm, rose petals for fair, clear spring water for soothing, clay to prevent rigidity in thought, and on and on. All of the gifts that she would need to leave to ensure her daughter was given all of the blessings from the gods.

She had been collecting items for a month. Ever since the Old Woman told her she was carrying a girl. She would leave the gifts and say the prayers and then wait. A fully blessed daughter was the goal of every household. To have a daughter who was obviously born without the gifts being made was a great shame. A difficult daughter was a burden. No husband would want her. No family could contain her. What good would she be? This was truth.

Everyone knew it.

Well, almost everyone.

Her friend Joi was not fully blessed. It was apparent from an early age. Joi would speak out. Against anyone. Even the men in her family. When she had first heard Joi argue Anaun had been shocked. Not just because Joi had done it, they all had at one point, truth be told, but that she had not been corrected. Her mother had even nodded in agreement. Her father had addressed her as he would a boy and engaged the argument. There had been no punishment.

When it happened again Anaun asked her mother about it. Why were they doing this? Her mother said that Joi was born without blessings and that it was her mother's fault. She had forgotten the gifts and not said the prayers during her pregnancy. Her mother had been so flighty and absentminded that Joi was made wrong. Then she told her that Anaun should always strive to be an example for Joi and they would hope she could overcome the deficit. Joi would never had the advantages that Anaun did. The blessings of the gifts.

So Anaun had maintained her friendship with Joi. Trying to be a good influence on her, but pitying her all the same. How was she ever going to realize her life's potential without the gifts? To be a good wife. A mother. A calming influence on her husband. Poor Joi.

When they were teenagers and Anaun was being courted by the boys hoping to be her future husband she told Joi she was sorry that she would never find a mate. Joi was puzzled. Why did Anaun think that she wouldn't? Well because she wasn't fully blessed. She hadn't received the gifts. Anaun had reached out to comfort Joi. She had told her that it was okay, because they, the whole village would take care of her. No matter how difficult she could be.

Joi had laughed at this, and then told Anaun the most shocking thing. Her mother hadn't forgotten to ask for the blessings. She had done it on purpose. She believed that girls should have the same opportunities as boys to be themselves. Their true selves. Not blessed with pliant personalities meant to be a reflection of the men around them. In fact her mother didn't think the gifts and the prayers were what made the girls blessed at all. That is was backward to think that women should be demure, and compliant, and soft. And for that matter it was backward to think that boys had to always be in charge. That they couldn't be soft spoken and more interested in quieter pursuits. Boys and girls should be allowed to be what they wanted to be. Not what the town said they had to be.

Anaun's mother told her that Joi and her family must have had a fever disease at some time and not to listen to their ramblings. And maybe it would be better if Anaun did not spend anymore time with Joi after all. And so Anaun stopped her friendship with Joi. Because she was a reflection of her family and this is what they believed. She had received the blessings after all.

That is what she had told herself when she stopped her friendship with Joi.

Not that it was because the boy that Anaun wanted to marry had found her boring and Joi interesting. That would be a selfish reason. And why would she want to be courted by a boy who believed the crazy ideas that Joi's family believed? And did he really even believe them or was it that though Joi was difficult she was also beautiful? When her outward beauty faded, and it would fade sooner than most because Joi did not hold beauty in as high regard as she should, when it faded he would lose his patience for her challenging ways. Anaun knew that to be true.

So it was definitely not because Cleave had chosen to court Joi who had no gifts rather than Anaun who was fully blessed. It was because it was Anaun's family's wishes for her to not spend time with Joi. And when Braun had chosen her she had gone with him to start a family. Even if he had not been who she had longed for, her family knew he was strong and sure and safe. She knew that she had ended her friendship with Joi because first her family and then her husband wished her to. It was not because Joi had somehow tricked Cleave in to loving her. It couldn't be that because Anaun was fully blessed with the gifts and would not think unkindly of someone so disadvantaged as Joi.

And no matter the laughter she heard coming from the house of Joi and Cleave and their already full nursery she knew Joi was disadvantaged. No matter that Joi was beginning to be sought out for her advice in not just home matters but for her head for business Anaun knew that she was struggling. No matter that Joi still had nothing but kindness for Anaun though she had cut her cold. No matter that Cleave looked at Joi as if she hung the moon even though the three children she bore had thickened her waist and added tired shadows to her eyes. No matter that her eldest daughter already had the spark that Joi herself had when they were younger. That Joi still had. No, she was disadvantaged without the gifts and this Anaun was sure of.

Anaun continued gathering the gifts for the birth of her first daughter. She would be a reflection of her family. Of the fully blessed Anaun and her dutiful, if a little dull, father. As it should always be.

Anaun placed the items on the altar and began the prayers.

Then she stopped.

She looked at the collection.

She thought of the words.

She prayed again.

Let this child be blessed by the gods. Bring her all of your gifts. Give her the abundance of choice. And let her choose joy.

She swept the altar clear and gathered herself to leave. Let her choose Joi.



What's the goal?

Reading a friend's post and the replies this morning and wondering about style.

My friend is a vegan. As a vegan she posts vegan posts. I am not a vegan. I'm an omnivore and very rarely do we engage with each other on those posts. Because we do not agree. And I know it pains her heart that we don't agree because she believes I am a good person and cannot reconcile how a good person continues to eat meat. And it pains me because I don't agree that eating meat makes you a bad person and I don't like being thought of as morally inferior. So I tend to not engage on those posts. But I still read them. Because there is a lot of information that can be gleaned.

For instance over the past few decades I've become much more concerned about where the meat I eat comes from. Not the animals part, I spent summers on a farm, I'm well versed in that part. But in factory farming. In mass production. In growing chickens and egg farming. How is all of that done? What is the best way to do it to cause the least damage? Because raising beef is a huge water drain. Raising chickens can be really detrimental to the environment due to the high levels of ammonia. Health issues can be compounded by what we are feeding the livestock. As someone who does not feel it's unethical to eat meat, I still feel that I should be eating meat that is better sourced. And eating less meat over all.

Being friends with vegans and vegetarians tends to give me access to good recipes as well. I try to avoid processed foods, food like substances and added sugar so I avoid a lot of what they eat, but some of it? Pretty good stuff. Except the evil that is passing cauliflower off as anything other than cauliflower.

So anyway...over the years since my friend went from omnivore, to vegetarian, to vegan I've watched her progress. And more importantly I've watched her influence over others to make changes in their diets. Maybe not all the way to vegan, but sometimes all the way to vegan. Which is what she wants. She believes that veganism is the only ethical choice. Not just for her, but for everyone. And to accomplish that she needs others to see that is the correct choice. Now how do you do that?

Slowly. Patiently. And in my opinion gently.

See she posted about something that she feels is wrong. Someone who disagrees with her posted a response and then made a little joke. My friend deflected the joke lightly and gave a little more information. Then another friend of hers came in and WENT OFF and the friend who is not vegan defriended my friend. Which I've seen before. The times I have engaged with the vegan posts on my friend's statuses I have clashed with this other friend of hers as well.

Now she also wants everyone to be vegan. And she is working toward that goal. But how is it going? Because what I saw today was someone in my friend's sphere of influence leaving. Now I don't know if she has any other vegan friends or not, but if she doesn't she won't get exposed to those ideas anymore. Was the rant worth it? Was the righteous indignation good? Because you gave up an opportunity to actually change a mind. In fact, if she's anything like me, and studies show that most people are, by attacking her and her beliefs you actually just solidified them. Made it harder for anyone else to sway her. So....

It happens. This past weekend C and I had an argument that boiled down to styles. I watched a video a friend posted that I knew going in I would not agree with, but I wanted to see what it said. I wanted to understand where her mind was and why she thought it was a good point. C thought that as soon I finished it I should fight with the person who posted it. I told him that wasn't why I watched it. I don't need to go in and tell her it was bullshit, I even know what she would say. But for C it wasn't good enough. By not fighting with her I was weak. In my opinion by fighting with her I would be wasting my time and giving up an opportunity to influence her later. But here's the kicker, we were both fighting with each other at that point and not listening to each other anymore so we weren't changing minds at all. See how that works? And poor Brent walked in to it and told us to stop fighting which led me to turning on him. And he did what he does and left the room. Because fighting doesn't accomplish anything so he refuses to do it. Which made me embarrassed and quiet and stopped the fight anyway.

Later in the weekend he posted something on his Facebook and a friend of ours posted something lame in return and I did exactly what C did to me. Are you just going to let him say that nonsense? Brent reminded me that he was not going for the goal of proving someone wrong, he was trying to get to common ground to find an agreement, which he did. His goal wasn't to prove someone else wrong, it wasn't to be right, it was to move the needle.

Which made me think about what I do again.

What is your goal?

When you are posting things, when you are debating points, when you are voicing your opinion, what is your goal?

Usually mine is to make people think; to understand why you think what you think; to try to find a way to influence you. To get completely frustrated that people don't respect facts and science and...wait...that isn't my goal. That's just what happens.

And I say usually because sometimes my only goal is to say THIS IS WHAT I FEEL IS RIGHT AND I CANNOT BELIEVE IT ISN'T FUCKING OBVIOUSLY RIGHT TO EVERYONE WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU??  Those posts are generally pretty obviously those types of posts. And sometimes one of the good intention posts devolves in to a response like that if I feel that someone isn't listening to reason. If you are looking for a fight, I often oblige. I should be more like Brent, and I do try, but C didn't get his fight response from the ether.

I wish it were as easy as just presenting the facts and having people agree. I wish it was as easy as saying, that is wrong and hard hearted and here is why and people would reach a consensus. But it's not.

But we all need to keep trying. So next time you post something, or respond to a post, or have a discussion in real life face to face (so weird), ask yourself, What is my goal? Then respond or walk away accordingly.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Signs...

The cruise ship was the first sign.

Wait, that's not actually true. 

There had been other signs that morning but nothing that stood out as much as the cruise ship. But once they saw the cruise ship the other things became apparent for what they were.

There had been the moment when they had been waiting in line at the ferry terminal and the Canadian tour bus passengers had been taken to a different stairway than the one that seemed to lead to the ferry. When they saw it happening they had assumed that they were just going on to another deck.

There had been how fast they had cleared through customs. Normally the line took an hour or so and this time they had everyone processed and loaded on to the ferry in record speed. But they had thought that maybe the Canadians were just more efficient, or not as concerned since people were leaving Canada not coming in. Maybe there would be another check on the American side. 

There had been the moment on the ferry where they announced that the snack bar would not be open. They had seen the person who had been working on opening it taken off by an official from the ferry line. He had looked very shocked and their first thoughts were that there must have been a family emergency and they were telling him he needed to go. How horrible for him. 

But when they were approaching the Sound and saw the cruise ship; then they knew there had been something wrong all along. 

Wait, that's not actually true either.

When they first saw the cruise ship they still didn't notice anything wrong. They chatted about their own recent cruise and how they had pulled in to this very same port. But had they been going that slowly? It almost looked like that ship wasn't moving. But no, they did come in really slow. There was a narrow channel that was deep enough for the giant cruise ships so they did come in slowly. But that slowly? 

They had peered closely at the bow of the ship. There was no water movement. They looked for a wake. There was none. The ship was not moving. 

Their ferry passed and they looked at the deck of the cruise ship, at the balconies of the rooms. There was no one outside. Not a single person. No movement from the ship at all. It was dead in the water.

That was when they realized there was a problem. But they had no real idea, not yet...




Friday, September 22, 2017

Fall!

I love the Fall season. I've talked about it before, that I love the weather, I love the foods, I love the clothes and I love that sense of new beginnings that comes with the start of a new school year. Even though I've been out of school for awhile.

But there is always one part that is a pain. Like a literal pain. It's putting boots back on. I love my boots, don't ever get me wrong there, but after a summer of sandals and being bare foot convincing my now very relaxed feet to get back in to a boot can be a bit rough. Boots are confining. They are structured. And my feet are flattened out and wider at the end of summer than they are at the beginning. The first few boot days are a challenge.

Which of course is PERFECT for a metaphor...

We tend to do the things that are comfortable. Easy. Relaxing. And we steer away from those things that aren't. Even when we know that we will like the results if we just deal with the discomfort for awhile. Even when we know that it's only temporary pain for a longer lasting gain. We (or at least me for sure) like things easy. But the problem is that growth needs discomfort.  Yeah, I know I'm sort of flipping the imagery here, but bear with me.

To grow and stretch creatively or intellectually or physically we need to reach that point of discomfort, that edge of where we live, and push past it. I do it at the gym. When the work out becomes easy I add more weight or more reps and you all get to hear me bitch about it for awhile until it's manageable and then when it goes from manageable to easy we start it again. We have to do it whenever we are learning something new. To learn you have to figure out what you don't know. And for a lot of us that area is uncomfortable. That ability to say, "I don't know" makes us feel vulnerable. Now, I'm going to be honest here, I am not part of that group. I am really comfortable saying I don't know. But I came to that space years ago. I realized that I wasn't seeing big picture things by staying in my comfort zone and I started venturing out in to other areas. And I discovered that people LOVE to talk about what they know. So saying to someone, "I don't know what you are doing here, and I don't understand it, please explain it to me," isn't usually met with "YOU IDIOT!" it's more often met with "OF COURSE I WILL!" and then you learn something new.

Creatively I tend to hover in my comfort zone more than I should. But I break out here and there with a poetry month, or a give me random writing prompts time. And really comfort with creative writing is pretty limited. I call it my comfort zone because I have a style and a voice I can fall back on. But actually writing and then letting you all read it? That's still a little nerve wracking. Even if I have my speed writing style and I get good feedback every time I send one of my darlings out in to the world I'm just waiting for you to tell me it sucks and I should throw my computer out of the window. That's as comfortable as creative gets.

But that discomfort? In any of those pursuits? It's important. It's how you expand your world. It's how you get better. It's how you learn, how you grow, how you create. No growth comes without change. And change is almost always a little uncomfortable; even good change.

Besides, if you only wanted to stay comfortable how would you rock those boots? And we do love to rock a good boot!

Monday, September 18, 2017

I'm Still Here!

I know it's been awhile since I posted anything and I would like to say that will get better but it's going to be a patchy couple of months.

Because...

Sabbatical is fianlly here and in full swing! Yay! Which is great for vacationing and family time and relaxing together and probably a few household projects, but not so good for sitting down and writing.

This week I will try my best to crank out some blogs. Some fiction, some ranting, some things. Just things. :-) But then we are off again for another week and I will be radio silent.

We are two and a half weeks in and so far we've gone to a preseason hockey tournament, spent a little over a week in Hawaii and gone back to Michigan for a football game. Not a bad start at all. This morning we slept in while the rain fell outside and the house stayed dark and cool. It was pretty perfect.

I'm even having a hard time working up a good rant about the state of the world today I'm feeling so mellow. Give me a couple more days back on the mainland for that.

But I wanted to post this really quickly to let you all know I'm alive and well and will be writing more soon. I still plan on the daily block of hours writing...starting in November. But I want to enjoy this sabbatical as fully as possible since even though it's Brent's third with Intel it's our first with no other commitments during the same time frame. Ahh...

And I might even need a few suggestions for short stories, so put your thinking caps on and give me an idea to do some speed writing later in the week! Gotta blow out the salt and sand and get the gears working again.

Aloha and Mahalo!