Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Sometimes it sneaks up on you...

Yesterday watching the Nascar race they did the Memorial Day traditions. Shot off the volley of three, played Taps, had a moment of silence. And I started to cry. I was right back at Jack's service hearing Taps being played for him. It took me by surprise. But I guess it shouldn't really. Gone but never forgotten...

So today in honor of Memorial Day, in honor of those that have served, in honor of those that continue to serve and especially in honor of Jack I am reposting my series about Jack's service.

I just re-read it all myself, a word of advice, grab a tissue.

Part One The Background

Part Two September 2, 2007

Part Three Final Roll Call

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rapture

So we've all had a lot of fun with Harold Camping's prediction, or I guess at this point failed prediction of the May 21 Rapture. I can remember where I was when I first heard about it, I was walking into the Get Motivated seminar and there was a gentleman handing out pamphlets while wearing a sandwich board with the End of Days! message and a website. He was shouting out, "Why worry about being a success in life when you should worry about the afterlife!" A few things struck me at the time, the fact that this was old fashioned street corner preaching like we don't see very often up here in Portland and that of course the end of days now has a website. And I debated for a bit on if I could sneak a photograph of him without his noticing.

Then it sort of left my mind. Until the billboards starting going up around the country and the news stations started reporting. And then the internet picked it up in full force. Everyone knew that May 21, 2011 was his date. They knew about this preacher. They knew about his failed prediction from 1994. They knew about the radio show and the people that truly believed this would happen. The one thing people seemed to not know is that Rapture does not equal the end of the Earth so there was a lot of erroneous "last day of life" stuff going on. But that's okay. People were having fun right?

There was some dissension in the ranks of the Christians as a whole, there are places in the bible (Mark and Luke) where Jesus is quoted as saying that no one knows the day except for God. He wouldn't even tell his son why would he tell Harold Camping right? And as every parent knows the "Someday" threat is much better than a specific deadline. Think about it, doesn't the call to Santa to report bad behavior work much better in November than it does in June? It's because your child is smart enough to know that they can make up for eating the extra cookie if Christmas is 6 months away, but now a few weeks away? Maybe not. We are all just children, if you gave us a debauchery cut off date don't you think we would take advantage of it? But the whole "thief in the night" angle means we have to be good ALL THE TIME. So if you are using religion to influence behavior this is the smarter tactic.

Now, as I said earlier, we all had fun with this prediction, just as I am sure we will continue to have fun with the 2012 predictions. But this morning I noticed that the fun aspect of it was slowly but surely turning mean. People are starting to discuss how stupid those that believed are. How idiotic they have to be to have believed this. And by default how much smarter we all are by comparison.

So for those of you that are Christian and behaving like that, first off let me speak to you out of your rule book, Judge not. Secondly, if you are a Christian and you believe the Bible don't you think you are cutting a pretty fine line on them being stupid and idiotic for believing their minister who said the end of the world is coming May 21 while at the same time you believe your minister when he says Noah built a boat and put 2 of every unclean animal and 7 of the clean on it and then God flooded the entire world? Every animal. All of them. And then there is the whole virgin birth, death and resurrection that the religion is built upon. You say these are matters of faith. Well, Harold Camping's flock had faith in their minister. He just got it wrong. Be kind. Their faith is a little shaky right now and what they need from you is compassion not derision.

And for those that aren't religious who are mocking them just because they are Christian. I say you probably don't have as firm of a leg to stand on as you think. You tell me you believe in science! I say great, it's still faith. It might be faith that someone smarter than you figured something out but unless you understand and can build a plane, you have faith that it will fly. It might be scientifically sound...but it's faith. Unless you mixed your own headache relief from the bark of the willow in your front yard when you take your aspirin you are putting your belief in the company that manufactured your drugs. We all believe in something that we don't understand at some point in our lives. You can call it what you like, those that are religious call it faith, you can call it trust. What ever. You believe in something that you don't fully understand because someone else has told you that it's true. And that they do. And so you should just trust them. You might do it with you internal combustion engine mechanic, they did it with their minister. I do it with my sports teams. Don't you dare try and tell me that what I wear on game day doesn't influence my team. I know that it does. I just know it.

And as is my way...this is another reminder that the fringe, in this case Camping's flock of Rapture believers, doesn't represent the whole, the thousands of Christians who made plans for Sunday knowing that the odds weren't good Harold Camping was right. Just as the portrayal of any religion's fringe element doesn't reflect the core and mainstream aspect of that religion. Al Qaeda isn't the Muslim faith. The terrorists that crashed into the Twin Towers weren't following the tenants of Islam. The atheist litigating every-time someone says bless you to a sneeze doesn't represent the atheists (and we agnostics who get lumped in there as well) who believe freedom of religion means freedom to practice or not to practice. The fringe doesn't represent the whole.

Having fun is all well and good until you get hateful. Rapture didn't come on Saturday, but Santa is still watching. Don't make me call him.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tossing out a few ideas...

A friend of mine writes a very funny blog called Mrs. Mustache. This week she was busy and so only posted notes that she had taken that she will make into a future story. Her sense of humor and the way she views the world makes me laugh so hard I sometimes have to catch my breath. Check it out here.

But it sort of got me to thinking about my own notes. I have notes in my phone, first lines for books or just lines I want to make sure I use in a story. I have notes by the computer. Some for Totally random but...some for The World by George. Some are for games I am playing. Some are for chores I need to get done. And then there are the ones that I am sure made some sort of sense when I wrote them down but I have no idea why now. For instance in the middle of a list of ideas for The World by George I have "Billy Joel" Now I have no idea why or what it was in relation to. Since it's in the middle of the list and not to the side I have to think there was a cat joke in there someplace. Just not sure where it went.

I have a list of thing for TRB. Some of them I have done, Smells and memory, Games People Play and the Need for Gun Control. Some I haven't yet, The First Year of College, Playlists, Learning to Skate and Knit. Then there are the things I thought about writing about but the time passed or the subject never full materialized. Osama? is one note. I knew the blog I was going to write had started it in my head then a friend who writes a blog wrote one that was so similar in tone I abandoned it half formed. There are also blog idea lists here and there through these blogs. If I ever need to find an idea I just need to read back and I will find a few that I was going to write but I never did.

The way my brain works sometimes I just need to clear out the old ideas to make room for new ones. And sometimes that's as far as the idea gets. It's a note. I wonder what people would think of my life if I wasn't around to explain and they were treated with this random collection of notes from my phone and my computer:

"The last thing that went through her head was "what is that truck doing?" the last thing her head went through was the windshield"

"Winged? Keeper? Egg?"

"Opposable thumbs and litter"

"Sure you can, just don't tell me about it"

"Toilet bowl cleaner, new sponge, curling iron?"

"Kilburn and Gates LM, AGAIN"

"Billy Joel"

Yeah, I tossed Billy on there again just to see if I could jog something loose...Still nothing but I am sure it was brilliant.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I made it up

"The worst part is the entire time he was telling me he was sick and needed to cancel our date I could hear people laughing in the background! He was obviously out at a bar and was bailing on me up so he could stay there!" Kat could barely contain herself as she regaled Sandra with the previous evening's bad date story.

"Wait, are we mad that he lied to you or mad that he was a lousy liar?"

Kat and Sandra looked at James as though remembering he was there for the first time, "Both obviously!" Kat said as though speaking to a slow child.

Sandra patted her husband's knee and explained, "The lie is bad enough. The fact that he didn't even try to hide that he was lying is worse. It means that he didn't care if he got caught."

"But wouldn't it be worse if he was a good liar and you would still be thinking he was a good guy to date? This way you know right away that he isn't someone to waste time with?"

"That's not the point! The point is that he didn't even care enough about me to lie well!"

"I still don't get it." James shook his head slowly looking from his wife to her best friend. Aliens, he was sure they were aliens, it was the only real explanation he had.

"It's okay, honey, it's complicated, you don't have to get it." Sandra loved her husband and loved her life. Simple, straightforward, drama free. Well except for Kat, there was always plenty of drama around Kat.

There you go. This bit of dialog popped into my head yesterday while I was cleaning the shower. It fits in with a series of short stories I have been working on for awhile. I have small bites of each of them on file. Pieces that fall into my brain that I just KNOW are somehow going to form a cohesive story at some point in time. The thinking right now is that it will revolve around 5 or 6 main characters and how they come in and out of each other's lives. Each chapter will be a complete story but they will be grouped in a book that by the end you will see how they are all tied together.

Obviously, that piece up there is still rough. I have been playing around with character names, I like Kat, she could be Kathy, Katherine, Kate and Kat all through different stages of her life. Sandra has been Connie, Sandra, Dianne and few other names, I can't settle on who she is yet. Her husband is James. Solid name also one that can be shortened or lengthened depending on where he is in the story. But that could change as well.

Kat seems to be the character that I have the most random pieces for. She is pretty fully formed. At least right now. And her best friend, the ever solid Sandra (Connie? Dianne?). I think those two will be the main thread through all the stories. Even the ones they aren't featured in there will be something there tying them back. I think. Maybe.

That's the part of making it up. I keep hearing these voices in my head. I know they are trying to tell me a story. And I listen, and I write down what I remember, and I work them over and over until they make sense. Or at least make sense to me. Or I write them down, work them over and then throw them away because what seems like a clever idea at 2 AM is often not so clever at 10 AM. Or the basic thread of the thought is still there but everything around it has been reworked so many times it's barely recognizable.

Anyway...I thought I would share that piece with you. When I finally get all of the voices to finish telling me their stories and I write that book you can read it and see if that exchange made the final cut. Or if you can recognize the piece that it ended up becoming.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Can you smell that?

As the car reached the top of the hill Anna closed her eyes, tilted her head back and took a deep breath, "Can you smell that?" Up until that point I don't think I was paying attention to the smells in the car, but following her lead I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and there it was...the ocean. That unmistakable combination that is the salt water, sand, fish and sunshine smell of the ocean. From that moment on, any time I smell the ocean part of me remembers that day.

Smell and memory are closely tied. There are scientific reasons (or theories anyway) for this. One being that the olfactory cortex has a direct neural link to the hippocampus where as all the other senses go through the thalamus first and then on to the hippocampus. Meaning that smell goes right into the memory banks and our other senses are processed, then stored. Makes sense right? Or your eyes just glazed over and you started hoping for the next paragraph to get on with the story....lucky you...

I love the ocean. I love the vastness of it. I love being in the water. I love watching the waves. I love the gritty salty feel on your skin when you have spent the day at the beach. This isn't a secret to anyone. But one of the things I love the most is the smell. That smell takes me back to the day in the car, finally reaching Southern California after driving for days. It reminds me of days spent on the beach in my early 20s boogie boarding with friends. It reminds me of taking C to the beach for the first time when he was little. Watching his face as he was fascinated by the tides rolling in and out. Opening the doors to the lanai in Hawaii and breathing in the freshness of the new day and again watching the sunset at night. It calms me, centers me, connects me to the fact that no matter what is going on in my world the ocean is there, the waves keep coming in and going out.

This past summer we visited with family in Michigan and I went to Lake Michigan for the first time. I was amazed at how much like the ocean it was. The lake is big enough you cannot see the other side so it looked like the ocean, there were waves, so it felt like the ocean. There were shells, there were sunbathers, there were kids building sand castles, but it didn't smell right. I kept taking those deep breaths in and though the sun smell, the water, the fish, the mist, it was all there, it was missing the salt. But it was beautiful in it's own way. It just didn't smell right. There was nothing there to tie it to my greater memory banks. To weave it in to the story in my head "This is what the beach is like" so I almost felt like it was missing something. A beautiful beach for sure, but just not quite right.

I have never been one of those people who is bothered by our weather in the PNW. I always tell people I love the rain the way only someone born and raised in a desert can. Growing up in New Mexico a big rainstorm is the lead story on the news. Even in monsoon season there is sunshine every day for most of the day. Many people from that climate never adjust up here. The gray, the rain, the cool temperatures get to them. But not me. I have always loved it. Until the past two years hit...after a particularly brutal winter for us on the heels of a non-existent summer which had followed a very wet (even for us) winter I had reached my breaking point. And I wasn't the only one.

It seemed like everyone I knew was just over the weather. A good friend of mine was training for a marathon and I could always tell when she was taking her lunch time run, that would be when the micro-system over the area would burst and the hail and freezing rain would hit. The weatherman would predict sunshine at the end of the long range forecast and if you mentioned it to someone they gave that derisive snort followed by an "I'll believe it when I see it." And then the day for the sunshine would come and go and the sun would have never made its promised appearance...the weathermen took to claiming a day with just clouds and no rain as a victory...or maybe just a light shower instead of a downpour! Hey! Isn't that great! Umm...no.

Then two weeks ago Brent realized I was at the end of my rope. My sunshine meter was buried so far in the red I was starting to absorb the light from every room I walked into. He first suggest a last minute dash to Las Vegas, but my father's practical voice made me balk at the final ticket prices and I suggested we head to beach on Sunday instead. Then we checked the weather forecast one last time. Rain. Are you kidding me? It was supposed to be sunny! Oh well...but then Friday dawned clear and bright and Brent decided that nothing at work needed his immediate attention so he scooted out early and we dashed off to Seaside and Astoria for the day. We ate seafood, walked along the beach, looked inside kitschy little stores, took pictures of ships waiting to go out to sea, laughed at the harbor seals in the aquarium and at the sea lions sunning themselves on the pier. We enjoyed it so much we did it again the next day.

Now, don't get me wrong, it was super cold at the beach. In fact most people in Oregon don't say they are going to the beach, they say they are going to the coast. It's a different experience than southern California. The point in California is to be IN the water. To surf, to swim, to boogie board. The point in Oregon is to be NEAR the water. To hike the wilderness areas near by, to explore the tide pools, to beach comb. But the water is pretty cold, especially in April, and the wind rips and the temps stay mild. But it's still the ocean. And it still smells wonderful.

Like a sunflower I stood on the sand with my face pointed toward the sun, eyes closed, head back, breathing in that ocean smell. Ahh....this is what I needed to start recharging my sun meter. This is what I was missing. Breathe...and suddenly I was 16 sitting in the backseat of my parent's car with Anna, I was 20 floating in the waves in San Diego, I was 30 walking in the waves with my young son, I was 36 standing on a balcony in Hawaii watching a sunset so beautiful it took my breath away, I am 42 chasing the cobwebs of a long winter out of my head...Can you smell that?

The time came to head home. When we got there I had a package waiting for me on the porch. It was a scarf knitted for me by my cousin in Michigan. As I put the scarf around my neck the smell of her perfume filled my nose and I could hear her laugh, see the kids, feel the dogs wiggling around my legs vying to get pet, taste the peanut butter pie from the Amish village and most of all I could feel the sun on my face, the sand beneath my toes and hear the waves of Lake Michigan crashing on the beach...nothing was missing after all.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The games people play...and the need for gun control.

Last week I left to pick up C from his first year away at college. There is a blog about the year coming, but that one is still percolating.

So when I am taking the red eye from Portland to New York I like to try and pick out the people in line that are from Portland heading to New York and the ones that are from New York heading home. Now I know that there will be people that are just traveling through as well, and sometimes they get tossed into the "other" list, but for the most part it's the PNWers and the NYCers that I am sorting.

For instance...the dude with the skateboard wearing PJs and smelling faintly sweet...like ummm...incense...Portland. The woman with the very complicated hairstyle, full makeup and suit (on a red eye flight) New York. The musician with the waist length black hair cut in a vaguely Ramonesish style dressed all in black, New York...but the two younger guys traveling with him dressed in flannel with the goatees? Hmm...I would say Portland. Odd mix for a band, but I am sure their hippy, alternative, punk sound works for them.

The guy that decided the line to get on the plane didn't apply to him and so he snuck around the chairs and joined 3 people from the ticket agent...you know the one wearing super dark blue jeans, top siders and a gold chain? New York. The two couples he cut off who didn't say anything to him but looked at each other, raised eyebrows and shrugged...Portland. The woman from the back of the line who yelled..."Don't think we didn't see that!" New York.

The girl with the spacers the size of 50 cent pieces in her ears sitting with the boy with what can only be described as a miniature hula hoop in his nose? Portland. The young woman sitting two seats down from them who weighed about 20 pounds less than I though humanly possibly carrying a bag that probably cost more than my plane ticket? New York.

There was one woman who was throwing me off. She was obviously late 40s but trying to dress younger. And missing. Her hair was over-dyed black which on an older woman is usually New York and on a younger is Portland. But she just seemed not of either place. Then we got on the plane and she sat behind me....when she opened her mouth to speak it was...AH! Southern California!

I was a little lost at first, thought she must be a publicist and this blog was going to be about the inevitability of drug abuse amongst our celebrities. See, as this young blond and a young man who had been carrying a guitar he gate checked walked by they had a conversation in the aisle about sleeping on the plane. It became apparent that the blond was some sort of talent and the black haired lady was with her. She first offered her some Tylenol PM which the blond said didn't work, then moved on to Vicodin and some other pill which she produced from a zip-lock bag.

But no, it turns out that the black haired woman was the blond girl's mother. She is from San Diego originally. She was Miss National City when she was younger. She and her husband met and married when she was 20 and have been married 27 years. Her daughter wrote the hit song "If I was a Boy" that Beyonce released recently and they have been on a publicity tour since October. Friday they were going to meet with Clive Davis in Manhattan. She NEVER sleeps on a red eye which was going to make the next day really long, but it was totally worth it. See, her daughter is a star. She didn't go to college because she told her and her husband...Oh wait? Am I boring you? Did you maybe want to get to sleep?

Yes, I know all of this and more because she talked almost the entire flight to New York. And like I said, she wasn't sitting next to me, she was the row behind me. Apparently she never learned her quiet indoor voice so I would guess everyone within four rows of her knows her life story as well. At one point her seat mate (stranger to her, who could sleep on planes, though that hint was missed when given) must have fallen asleep because there was a stretch of quiet...broken by the loud braying laugh of Miss National City. (when I say someone has a loud laugh, they have a loud laugh) This woke me up and I thought to myself Seriously?? Or I should say...I thought that I THOUGHT it. Apparently I said it out-loud because the woman in the seat next to me gave me a comforting shoulder pat. Oops...and by the way Portland.

So this brings us to the last part of the title for this blog. Knowing that my next two days were going to be balls to the wall busy. Knowing the odds of me getting much more than a few minutes sleep on the next flight were slim. Knowing that Miss National City, My baby's gonna be a STAR! kept me from the three-four hours of sleep I was going to need desperately over the next few days I was faced with her when we got off of the plane...I had to settle for making "Bang bang" noises in my head as I took this shot...


Or at least I think it was in my head...the old man who was standing next to me who had been seated a few aisles away appeared to give me a knowing look...New York.