Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year to Old You!

When I was younger I played with Barbies. Not really shocking most girls who grew up when I did had Barbies. We were just starting to decide she was an evil influence on the psyches of young impressionable girls at that time so most of us played with them. Only the ones with hippy moms didn't. And even they did if they were visiting your house. But I kept my Barbies and played with them for much longer than most of my peers. And though it was a social activity when I was younger it became mostly just me as I aged. I knew most girls had abandoned the dolls for boys and diaries and stuff... I just wasn't ready yet.

My Barbies were my story telling outlet. They had long involved plot lines. Stories that would rival any soap opera. Midge was the "bad girl", Barbie the long suffering do gooder...what does that say about me? I made the brunette the bad guy and the blonde the hero? Hmmm... anyway...I had Ken and GI Joe who battled for their affections. I had cars and clothes and even the Barbie Townhouse...which was not as cool in real life as it looked on the commercial. Advertisers, am I right?

But the very best thing about my Barbies and my stories with them is that they did exactly what I wanted them to do, every single time. I wanted them to put on their cute work out clothes and go to the gym, they went. I wanted them to try out the new Barbie kitchen? They cooked. I wanted them to have a deep meaningful conversation where everyone came out of it enlightened and understanding each other's point of view? They did that.

Barbies followed the script.

I loved my Barbie world.

Because in real life other people don't follow the script. Hell, they are probably unaware there is a script they should be sticking to. Or that they have written one of their own that they are expecting you to stick to. Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a fight with someone and you just got there? You know, you said one thing and all of a sudden you are in a full blown argument and you are trying to play catch up and figured out how that happened. It's because they started before you. They had a script and you just weren't aware that you had already been in this argument. They were already mad at you before you ever got there. Or you were supposed to say something very specific and you didn't so you ruined the entire scene they had crafted. You didn't follow the script. And you do it to other people too. You planned the perfect evening and how it would go and then your S.O. decides that instead of looking at you dreamily across the table and telling you how lovely your hair that you spent two hours getting exactly right looks says, "Pass the salt." They are not following the script.

And we do it to ourselves. We have big plans for our year. We sit down on the 31st and say "This year I will...." and we list all of the things we always list. And we are sure, just positive that we will do it. We visualize ourselves succeeding, that's important, right? Visualization. We see it! We are doing everything exactly the way we want. We are incredible! And then we don't follow our own script. Instead of reaching for the tennis shoes on the 1st we say that everyone knows that you don't start working on your goals until the 2nd, or the first Monday of the new year, or until all of the Christmas candy is gone or.... We don't follow our own script. Because we forget something really important. Who is starring in our play.

As I watch all of the New Year's resolutions fill my news feed on Facebook and I contemplate my own goals for the next year I think, that's great, but you are still you. Even with all of these grand plans and great goals you are still you. New resolutions, same you. Which is the point of resolutions, I get it, but it is something we often forget. That no matter how much we might think we want to be a marathon running, whole food eating, peaceful center in a stormy world we are still starting with a couch sitting, junk food fanatic who can't go to sleep at night if they haven't won their latest online argument.

And sometimes we can't even get that far. This year I went back and forth between it being a year with ALL OF THE GOALS! or a year with none, not one, no goals. Now Charles, brilliant man that he is, convinced me that no goals was a really bad idea. He tried it and it led to sloth, and he is a hiking, cooking, working, kid raising, dog walking non-slothlike as it gets type, so if my cookie eating, couch sitting, done with the kids, unemployed self tried it I thought I might just melt in to a pile of goo before spring. So the no goals at all idea was tossed. As appealing as it was, I sort of knew I wouldn't be able to stick to it anyway. I am fairly aware of who I am writing my script for, and she loves gold stars. So no goals, no gold stars, not going to work.

But now that leaves me with a wide open year and trying to decide what goals to have. What changes to make. And I've gone back and forth on those as well.

Internet stuff. Should I cut back? I think about it all the time. But I use it for so much. It's my research tool. My writing forum. My social interaction with my multinational friend base. It's also where I face the most frustration. People posting the most ridiculous shit. No research. Just post. People loving to get angry about things and finding obscure stories that fit their agenda. People who flat out pass along misinformation to suit their needs. Ugh. Part of me wants to become the guy in the xkcd comic up there and just post link after link after link to factual articles to stop it. But you know it won't. You can't change someone's mind who doesn't want it changed. So being the light of truth in a dark online world is off the table. Besides, I tried that back when I first got online and thought, "Oh you just don't know the truth, here I will share it with you and you will see." and then discovered, "Oh you just don't give a rat's ass about the truth you just want to be angry. I see."

Weight. Okay, so yeah, this is always there. Last year with the rehab from the 2013 injury, the PT for the arthritis, and the overall disgust with constantly fighting with myself over it, I just took the year lightly. Or at least half of the year lightly. Honestly as soon as I found out I had arthritis in my knees I sort of got pissed off and threw a temper fit. Why bother with it all when I can't control any of it? Pout and stomp, and stomp and pout. But as my weight crept ever higher and I realized that all I was doing was making the knees that are damaged have to carry more weight I snapped out of it. So I will lose the weight I've gained over the past two years and then re-evaluate where I want to go from there. The first three months of the year are devoted to shedding 10 pounds, then possibly another 5 after that. But 10 to start. Slowly. Not crazy but steady. I need to find a balance where I am being kind to my body and still keeping fit.

Cooking. I've finally signed up for the Blue Apron service where they deliver the ingredients right to you with the recipes. I've let myself get talked out of this one for over a year. But I hate meal planning and shopping and like to cook. This really does make sense. Now it's only 3 meals a week so I will need to fill in the rest, but I am ever hopeful that I can swing that. Before the holiday I made it 6 nights in a row cooking at home, and that was without an official goal number, so I think I can swing more meals in than out this year. I just have to see how that lines up and if I do make it gold star goal.

Writing. Always writing. What do I want to do? Brent still wants me to publish. He believes in me. I am still licking my wounds from not hearing anything from publishers before. And, honestly, the instant gratification I get writing here is good for me. I've never been motivated by money, it's not my thing, but I do like my pats on the back and you all give those to me. But there is still a part of me that would love to hold an actual book with my name on the cover. And have an Amazon review by someone I never met who calls it a great book. That would be a big fucking gold star for sure.

The Goodreads book goal thing is always a fun one. It's sort of like a freebie gold star. Here, you were going to read a ton anyway, set a goal and get a star! So yeah, I will cheat that one on the list as well. Trying to decide on a good number.

New things, adventures, travel, those will fill in here and there.

And being okay with my eccentricities. I'm odd in a few ways. Some of them make me a lot of fun to be around, if I do say so myself. I see the world a little differently than a lot of people and I really do enjoy things on a very deep childlike level. Some of them make me hard to deal with and I understand that as well. Finding that balance where I am living a life that is good, and challenging in all the best ways without it becoming overwhelming and challenging in all the worst ways is important. And the people who matter will understand.

So Happy New Year to all of us! The old us, the new us, the improved versions of us that only live in our minds and the perfectly imperfect non-script following us that live in the real world! I hope you have a year filled with gold stars!


(Oh and speaking of goals...this makes blog 177 so I passed my goal of 165 but didn't quite reach that stretch of 200, hmmm.....should I set that for next year?)

Monday, December 29, 2014

It's all inspiration...


That sums up the theme for today nicely.

There is a group of men that work out at the gym I go to; I've mentioned them before. The Alpha Male Racquetball Club. They are there when I get to the gym in the morning. Four upper middle age men. Really intense game of racquetball. They have weekly "championship matches" and keep track through the year. I wonder if they use the work out time to burn off testosterone before going in to the office or to build it up. I've got entire stories woven around these guys and the group that comes in after them.

See the Alpha Males are there when I get there. Then they leave about halfway through my workout. Then the group I call the Betas come in. These three guys are older than the Alphas by probably 15-20 years. Maybe less for the oldest of the Alphas, but he has a few years on the next closest in age in his own group. Anyway, the Betas come in after the Alphas have cleared out. Their game is a little slower and lot less grunty and I've never heard them talk about championship games or even keeping track of who wins.

Today they were both there at the same time. Which was sort of weird. Not just because it's not the normal time for the Betas to be there but because the gym itself was a lot less crowded than normal. Still working holiday light hours. The normal earlier people didn't seem to show up as they weren't leaving when I got there, and the group I normally workout with was light. Though there were a lot more people showing up as I was leaving so I think people slept in a bit before heading in. So if anything I would have expected the Betas to come in even later than normal, not earlier. Anyway, the Alphas were having their End Of Year Tournament (that's not something I made up, it's what they called it) and the Betas were having a game or two. I watched from the treadmill during my warm up and then listened while I was on the machines and watched again as I finished on the treadmill. They were just wrapping up as I was.

Two games right next to each other. I watched them all play. And wondered why the Betas were there so early. And then I realized why, it was so obvious.

Whoever lost the end of year tournament would have to move to the Betas. And if one of the Betas had some sort of miraculous turnaround during the year, ("I was suffering from Low T, now look at me!") he would be moved up. Of course! Bring in the Betas as motivation for the Alphas. I wondered when the current Betas had been moved down. There is one member of the Alphas who is definitely closer in age to the Betas than the other Alphas. And there was an Alpha that seemed to drop out this year, his eyesight was getting bad in one eye, I'm guessing once he realized it and knew it was either move to the Betas or quit he just decided to take up golf...

So I wonder if the oldest Alpha knows he's not long for his group. Will he move gracefully down to the Betas? Or will he just disappear like Mr. Blind in One Eye? Or is his goal to hang on even longer and force one of the younger Alphas out? The guy with the ever growing bald spot seems a likely choice, he doesn't seem quite a cutthroat as the other three. And do the Betas really hold out hope for moving back up? Or are they slightly relieved that they can slow down a little? Play the game a little more relaxed? I have never seen a Beta get beaned by a ball but the Alphas do it all the time. WHACK! I imagine a few weeks without bruises and Bald Spot might decide being a Beta isn't all that bad.

Now of course, these guys probably don't know each other at all. The Alphas are probably all just friends from work or a neighborhood or just the last hold outs from when racquetball used to be really popular. The Betas are probably retired guys who have played together for years. Everyone doing it because it keeps them active and working with other people keeps them motivated to show up. All of that normal stuff...

But it's so much more fun to imagine that there is a complex ranking system going on and what all could be happening behind the scenes. Like did Mr. Blind in One Eye start losing his sight because of normal aging issues or was there a little something spread in his goggles? And was it by the aging Alpha ensuring his position in the group would stay secure or a bitter Beta who was forced out last year?

Hmmmm.... I'll have to keep a watchful eye out for treachery this year....it could be very interesting...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Just checking in...

Bob brought two cups of coffee over to the table and set them down.

"It's so good to see you. What a nice surprise."

"It is good. I'm just glad I still knew where to find you."

"Yeah, every year for the past 23. It's not my every week meeting, but tradition is tradition right?"

She laughed, "Yes, it is. 'Tis the season after all. So tell me, how are you? How is your wife, sorry I can't remember her name..."

"That's okay, you don't have to try. She left me a few years ago."

"Oh! I'm so sorry!"

"No, that's okay, it was a good thing for both of us. She wanted something that I just wasn't able to give her."

"What was that?"

"Someone else."

She looked a little shocked until Bob started to laugh, "That really is it. She married me to make her parents mad, nothing like a recovering junkie to worry dear old dad, but then when she found out that I would always be a recovering junkie she wasn't as enamored. She really wanted me to hit the anonymous part of Narcotics Anonymous heavier. 'Do you have to tell everyone?' Well, yes, actually I sort of do, that's my pact with sobriety."

"I totally understand. I once dated a man who asked when I would be over it so I could start drinking again. Like there was a time limit. When I told him never he just couldn't wrap his brain around it."

"I knew it was over when she scheduled a party for this night. She knew I went to this meeting every year and decided it would be the perfect test. I told her I would be there after the meeting but I wouldn't miss the meeting. She was not amused. Then we were out shopping and ran in to a friend of mine. As we were talking about how long we had all known each other he made the mistake of asking her if she was the woman in my rock bottom story."

"Oh no..."

"Oh yes. She was not amused. And then she was really angry that I tried to tell her that it wasn't an insult. That the woman in the story was actually really lovely and kind. And that it would have been sort of romantic if she had been..." Bob blushed just a little and cleared his throat, "anyway, she wasn't happy that I counted 'junkies, thieves, lowlifes and whores' among my friends. And she was really mad when I told her I was a junkie and a thief myself and the only thing that had kept me from being a whore was a few months, I would have done whatever it took to get a fix. And then she really lost it when I told her that she would be surprised what most of her 'upstanding' friends would do for money if push came to shove."

"Ah yes, it's always nice to be warm and safe and sober and have no idea what depths you will sink to."

"And to know that I preferred the company of those that had made it out of depths to those that stood on high and looked down, it was over. Honestly it never should have started but you know junkies, we don't always make the best decisions.

Okay, well, that's me. Divorced, still sober, still leading the Santa Claus is my higher power meeting. How about you?"

"Still sober, still single, new job which is why I tracked you down. I need a good meeting here locally and I thought you might know of one."

"I know a few. Are you looking for NA or AA?"

"I generally go to NA. Most of us in NA are AA as well, but you don't get as much cross over the other way. And for a bunch of alcoholics I've found them to be a little judgmental towards us druggies." She laughed a little nervous laugh, "That sounds awful doesn't it?"

"Maybe a little." Bob smiled, "But I understand. I think a lot of people are still clinging to that 'I would never' piece. For the most part true rock bottom alcoholics and junkies don't have that. We know we would. And have. And if we aren't careful we would again. So what else? What is the new job? You were acting last time I saw you right?"

"Yes, I was, that's how long it's been. Not as much call for my talents since I hit my 40s." she smiled a wicked little smile, "Did your wife know you were friends with such a distinguished actress as well?"

Bob leaned back and laughed loudly, "No, though one time we saw a movie of yours playing at that little place on 43rd. Or I should say, we saw the window flyer, she wouldn't have wanted to go in and watch, but I almost told her I knew the lead actress."

"Which one was it?"

"I think it was Study Hard 3."

"Ah yes! Part of the Bad Teacher series. I got an AVN for that, you know."

"I do know actually. I might have looked you up a time or two online to see if you were okay. It worried me a little when you started in that industry. Hard to keep your sobriety when it's all around you."

"It wasn't as bad as you would think. A lot of former users. People got sober in the 80s and 90s and it sort of became a thing. And then when the HD filming started you had to be in much better shape. Using wrecked your face and body so people stopped. Now steroids are probably a bigger problem than coke.

Anyway, I stepped behind the camera a few years ago. And from that I started teaching acting classes."

"Really?"

"I know, right? People don't think of us as top notch actors, and for some that's true, but I worked with some great talent. And with my previous background all I did was act so it fit. And yes, before you ask, they know exactly who I am, where I came from and what my background is so I'm not trying to hide anything."

"We're only as sick as our secrets."

"Exactly. And I have none. So I'm as healthy as it gets. But I do need a new meeting. I might be healthy but I'm still not cocky."

"Well, you could check out my regular meeting and see how you like it. You know, if you wanted to try."

"Why, Bob, are you blushing?"

"I might be. Okay, here it goes, I know with our history it might be weird for you but I would never forgive myself if I didn't at least ask. Would you like to go out sometime? For more than after meeting coffee I mean. Not just a sobriety check in but an actual date?"

"I thought you'd never ask. I've been waiting years, you know, for you to figure it out."

"Figure what out?"

"That it really is a great romantic ending to your story. And then Mr. and Mrs. Claus got sober and lived happily ever after. Or at least after Mrs. Claus stopped hooking and became an award winning porn star and Santa spent a few years with the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas."

"Oh I've missed you, Mrs. Claus."

"I've missed you too, Mr. Claus. Let's not waste another 20 years okay?"

"Deal."


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Airing of the grievances....

I read a lot of fiction. I read a lot of non-fiction as well, actually. I just read a lot. I also write. Not as much as I read, it takes more time and effort to write a story, you see, so I tend to read more. But with both the reading and the writing I like a good story. I am really proud and pleased when someone reads what I've written and enjoys it. That's a great feeling. And as those of you who read my stuff know I often don't write happy endings. Or all that predictable of endings. Stories can sometimes be complicated. Or even left hanging. Because that's the way life works. Things aren't tidy and neat all of the time, in fact most of the time they aren't.

Which brings me to my problem today...it's actually been building for awhile now. Nuance. Subtly. Shades of gray.

That's life.

Rarely are things black and white. Cut and dried. People don't generally fall in to the lines of good guys and bad guys. There are nuances. There are subtleties. But you don't see that a lot anymore. "News" has become more about pushing a side than just giving the facts. And when it does just give the facts people freak out. They want to be told what to think, it seems. How they should feel about the story. Give them good guys and bad guys. Don't make them question too deeply.

And if you are someone who sees a lot of sides to each story you end up feeling like you are bashing your head against a wall as you try to explain it to someone who only sees black and white and can only speak in soundbites while looking for a gotcha moment. Which you can't really blame them because that's how the news works. Everything is big and bombastic and epic. Nobody is ever thoughtfully debated they are "destroyed!" Nobody is even reasoned with they are "taken out" in 142 character quip.

Our government in the states is filled with people trying to make a point instead of do their jobs. People working together across the aisle used to be seen as a good thing, now it's a weakness in character. You can't have nuance, it all has to be ideologically pure.

Which should scare the shit out of anyone who thinks.

Not being allowed to entertain thoughts other than the accepted norm? How is that ever okay? But that's what we see. Sure, call it vetting a candidate but what it is is looking for times they might have actually had an original thought that didn't fall in line with the accepted lines.

Reading the "news" stories about the shootings of the police officers this past weekend and then the comments and there has been a rising swell of wanting to limit what is reported. Because by showing the protests, by talking about the issues, that caused this shooting. Now think about that for just a minute. What is being said is that the problem (or perceived problem is you like that better) of institutionalized racism that led to the protests is not the actual problem. That the protests themselves are not the problem. That this crazy guy is not the problem. But the reporting about them that is the problem.

And that should also scare the shit out of everyone.

I have a lot of grievances about our current news situation. Like I said, there is too much trying to frame a story, not enough just give me the facts. But that isn't all their fault. How many people out there are willing to do the leg work to actually understand what they are seeing? How many are more content to just be spoon-fed an opinion? Try and take an objective step back and listen to people around you argue and you will see that most of them are baby birds sitting with their beaks wide open waiting and then spitting back out what they are fed. It's not news anymore it's all op-ed pieces.

So my gripe is that there needs to be more journalism. Not less reporting.

I've talked before that you need to be aware not only of what you are seeing on the news but what you are being shown. So imagine now a world where you aren't shown anything that hasn't been deemed "okay" and "safe." You only get what "they" want you to see.  Doesn't that bother you?

When crazy people do crazy things there are always people there to say what influenced them. When Reagan was shot Hinckley said he was trying to impress Jodie Foster. Did we say she should never make another movie? We didn't. Because he was crazy.

Two officers were gunned down in Las Vegas in June while they ate lunch. The people that did it had ties to the rancher Bundy and the anti-government rhetoric he was spewing. Now the Bundy camp said, "Whoah, we kicked these two out because they were too extreme for us!" But what you didn't see is a strong outpouring of people saying Bundy shouldn't have spoken out against what he saw as a corrupt government, or more to my point, that the media shouldn't have reported it, because that's what caused these deaths. Because we seemed to be able to understand no matter what else they said or fixated on it was these two people alone who caused these deaths.

Crazy people do crazy things. Including kill cops.

And here is the next part of where nuance seems to get lost.

I am pro-law enforcement. I think we have some incredible people that do the job. A job I would never want to do, by the way. But we also have some people doing the job that shouldn't be. Just flat out not suited for the work. And they need to go. And saying they need to go does not make you anti-cop. It makes you anti-bad cop. Which we all should be. And the ones that should be the most against bad cops?

Good cops.

Because the bad cops make their jobs harder. They break trust. They make it hard to do a job. They make it easy for people to be suspicious of your intentions. If you want to build a bridge to a community you can't do it on faulty foundations. So clean house. But what seems to happen instead is a closing of ranks. An "us against them" thing is spreading more and more. Which doesn't help at all.

When we try and make it simple we lose too much. And there is no more simple argument than "us against them." They are bad, we are good. You can believe all sorts of things about them that you would never believe about us. Which ever way your us and them lies. But they are us and we are them. That's the way it works. Human. That's us. All of us.

I've said it before and I will say it again. We have problems in this country that need fixed. And we cannot fix them if we are afraid to talk about them. And talking about them does not make the problem. It just makes us aware of it. Be dismissive if you choose, but understand that someone telling you that your basement is flooding didn't cause the flood, they are just making you aware of it. And, in fact, you should be more worried about the person trying to tell you it's not a flood at all, just a new swimming pool...


More news less op-ed pieces dressed up as reporting.
More journalism less bloviation
Less us and them more we.


Life is complicated.
People are complicated.
Simple stories are for children.





Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's Christmas time and it's shitty...

James was at the bar getting a round of drinks for their annual after Christmas-party unwind. He watched as Ed yawned, Alice checked her phone and Carrie smiled at everyone. How many years had they all been together playing out just that scene? And was this the last one? Alice's husband Eric had an offer from a company that was based out of Chicago. If he took the job they would be moving on. One more Christmas tradition over.

Ed took his drink as James came back to the table, "Why so glum, chum? Did you get stuck introducing yourself to Mrs. Patterson over and over again?"

"No, just the once this year. And she almost got my name right. Almost."

Carrie laughed, "She means well. And you know she has to hate these parties. She doesn't know us, she doesn't work with us. She doesn't ever stop by the office except for the party, it must be a really long night for her as well."

"Ah, our little Christmas Angel spreading her good tidings. It's so lovely. Now pass me my drink so I can have one last toast to calm before Christmas Eve with my mother. The guilt over Eric's interview is thick. You would think Chicago was Mars for how much she is complaining."

"Okay, so back to my question, why are you looking so down? It's Christmas merry, merry, and all that jazz."

"Honestly? I'm just not a fan of Christmas. Never have been."

Carrie looked shocked, "Seriously? How did I not know this?"

"Well, one, you love it enough for everyone and two it's not something that is really socially acceptable to own up to. People call you a Grinch or bah humbug you and then laugh it off like you must really be joking, but I'm not. If I had my way I would skip from Thanksgiving right to New Year's Eve without anything in between."

Alice reached out and patted James' hand, "Bah humbug, you old Grinch."

The friends all laughed.

"I'm not the only one you know. Look at Christmas music. At least half of it is horribly sad melancholy stuff. And Christmas movies? Someone is always miserable!"

"But when you were a kid you loved it right?" Carrie asked.

"Not really. I sort of think we all wish our childhood Christmases were as fabulous as the ones we saw on TV. Well except for Miss "I met Santa" your's tops that. But for the most part it was a lot of build up, a whir of activity and then a let down. So much hype for ten minutes of frenzy. Then a half hour before the first gift broke. And a few hours after that the first drunken family fight of the party.

And as an adult you can't just say, I hate Christmas, for fear of the vapid Barbie and Ken dolls from Fox and Friends swooping down on you with garland and wrapping paper and forcing you to admit you LOVE Christmas."

"Enhanced Decoration..." Ed deadpanned.

Alice laughed, "Can you just imagine? We will light you up! And then they actually string little twinkle lights on you?" She laughed again, "Okay, I might be a little drunk..."

"I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that suicide rates skyrocket in December." Ed started before Carrie cut him off.

"That's actually a myth, they are highest in the spring not in December, but..." Carrie realized she was about to Wikipedia her friends, "Well, anyway, it's a myth."

"Okay, but even without that lovely little bonus, it's still awful for a lot of people. People who have lost family members or don't live near them. The money you spend. The pressure to make a perfect holiday. You get a sweet spot when you are a kid, if you are lucky, where you aren't responsible for any of it happening, but then once you are an adult you are either nostalgic for when you were a kid, or trying to create some sort of impossible Hallmark Christmas for your kids. It's just not that great. And like I said, I think most of us are nostalgic for something that never even really happened."

"Saudade." Carrie said.

"Bless you." Alice giggled again.

"It's a Portuguese word. It's not really translatable but that's what it sort of means. Being nostalgic for something that never happened." Carrie held her hands up in an 'I give up' gesture. It wasn't her fault she knew all of these random things. Years spent in libraries when she was growing up. Free books and someplace to stay warm and dry to hang out when she and her mother were on their own and Mom was at work. Spending time alone at the halfway house was just depressing.

Ed leaned back, "Okay so we have a true believer, a non-believer, and me and Alice. Where do you stand on the subject, my dear?"

Alice looked around the table, "I like it. I don't love it. And James' is right. The music can be super depressing, like even songs you think are supposed to be happy aren't. I'll Be Home for Christmas is all about how she won't be home at all. And then there are the sappy stories people tell just to get you to cry, angels on the side of the road and stuff.

But I love a twinkle light. And Eric is fabulous at gifts. And, well, if he takes this job we have decided that it's time to start our own family. And I would be lying if I didn't say the thought of seeing Christmas through my child's eyes didn't get me a little misty."

"Yeah, but you are a little drunk." James laughed.

"True. And holy shit, if I get pregnant this could be my last Christmas with drinks for awhile. Now I need to think about this again." Alice smiled and put her hand on her stomach, "Can you even imagine me as a mother?"

Carrie nodded, "Yeah, I totally can. Though I'm going to be more than a little pissed that you are living so far away when it happens. I might have to join your mother tomorrow with the guilt. I'm really going to miss you if you move." Carrie wiped a little tear away, "Okay, maybe I'm a little drunk too." Alice reached out and squeezed Carrie's hand.

James pointed out the friends each in turn, "Okay, true believer, non-believer, wants to be a believer and you?"

"I've been a little of all of it. When I was in college I dated this girl who loved Christmas. Like Carrie levels of love. We went out and did everything. The lights, the caroling in the park, Christmas plays, everything the city had to offer we did. Then she went home for break and I went home for break and she got back together with her ex-boyfriend, mistletoe you know, who could resist. So I spent a few years just hating the holiday. Everything made me think about her and how pissed and hurt I was. After awhile the specific hate of the holiday faded but I never could say I liked it.

Then a few years ago I started work at this company that had the world's worst Christmas parties. I mean truly bad. Cheap booze, the owner's wife drunk and condescending, everybody just dying to get out of there but staying because they had to and then a co-worker invited me out for drinks afterwards. I almost said no but figured why not, it really couldn't be worse than the party. And it was the best part of my day. Maybe my whole holiday season. It was relaxed and funny and the booze was better. It was just a great night. And ever since then I've sort of made my peace with the holiday. It's all about friends sitting around sharing their world. A little island of calm in a storm of tinsel. So I kind of love it now."

"Aww...." the other three said in unison.

"So if you'll excuse me I really need to meet up with those guys..."

Alice threw her napkin at Ed, "Snot!"

Alice's phone buzzed, "Oh there's my ride. Thank goodness for sober husbands! Merry Christmas, everyone! See you next week!"

The friends all made their goodbyes and headed for home. James was thinking maybe Ed was right, maybe he just needed to look at the holiday a little differently. It could be enjoyable. It didn't have to be a pocket of misery dressed up with a bow. His cab pulled up to the corner and he slid in to the back seat and then he heard Judy...

"...Someday soon, we all will be together...If the fates allow... Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow... So have yourself a merry little Christmas now."

He laughed so loudly his cabby thought he picked up a crazy man.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Just like in the movies...

Gretchen sat outside drinking a glass of champagne. She was going to need to go back in soon and give her toast. She was the "Best Maid" after all. She still wasn't thrilled with the title but what were you going to do? She wasn't Maid of Honor, that was the bride's best friend. And even though she was the groom's best friend Best Man didn't quite work. And Best Woman sounded just as bad as Best Maid. So Best Maid it became.

Always the Best Maid, never the bride. Always the best friend never the girl friend. That was the truth of it.

If this was a movie this would be the moment. As she sat on the steps looking at her glass of champagne Teddy would walk out and sit next to her and say...

"Hey, what's up? The party's inside."

Gretch jumped and then laughed, "Hey, Pete. I'm just thinking about my toast. I have one tonight and then another tomorrow to do. Why a rehearsal dinner and wedding toast? Who ever came up with the idea of multiple toasts anyway?"

"Champagne salesmen?"

She laughed, "Probably true." she took a sip of her drink and then held it up to watch the bubbles crawl along the glass to the top.

Pete watched her for a second, "You okay?"

She gave him a small smile and shrugged her shoulders, "This is really it, you know? After all of these years, this is it."

"You were still holding out hope?"

"No, not really. Well, maybe. I thought I was over it, you know? I really did. But I guess maybe part of me is still 12 and still waiting."

"Spin the bottle at Janine's birthday party."

She laughed again, "Yes, that moment. When the bottle landed on me and he kissed me and I thought everything changed."

"And it did."

"For me. Sure. From there it lead to my 16th birthday where I thought, this is the time he notices me. This is where it changes. Instead he got together with Cathy Downing. Then junior prom, the first time he saw me in my dress with the hair and the makeup and I knew that would be the moment the music would swell and he would see that I was perfect for him. Instead he and Cathy were Junior Prom King and Queen.

Senior year Homecoming, he and Cathy had broken up over the summer so this was going to be the time. He and I were going as friends but I was sure he would change his mind. He did. He and Cathy got back together and I ended up needing a ride home because he forgot about me. Thanks, by the way, it was very gallant of you to come to my rescue. I remember cramming in to the back seat of your Mazda. Yards of tulle, I looked like a sad birthday cake. Who was your date again?"

"Lynette Johnson."

"Yes! Lynette! She just wanted to go to Jamie's party and was not happy with the detour to take me home first. I can remember her stage whispering to you about a cab!"

"Yeah, that was my last date with Lynette. She hooked up with George Gorston at that party and that was it for me."

"She wasn't good enough for you anyway. Mean little thing."

Pete laughed, "Maybe. She never liked playing side kick to The Three Musketeers anyway."

"Is that what she called us?"

"Among other things, yeah."

Gretchen sighed, "I spent my entire teenage years waiting to act out my John Hughes movie moment. And it never came. He never saw me as anything more than his best friend. And I really thought I was over all of that and fine. Right up until he called to tell me he needed to see me that he had realized something really important and he had to talk to me about it. I knew he was engaged to Shelly. The wedding was being planned. I had the save the date card and registry information. It had been years since I had even thought about those moments. But that call..."

"Yes, I remember we had lunch the day you were going to get drinks. You couldn't concentrate on anything on your plate. Too nervous about seeing him that night. I knew what he was going to tell you and you kept trying to get it out of me. You were playful and teasing and just wanted to know what the big surprise was. I should have told you. When you called that night so mad, I wished that I had warned you. But I didn't think..."

"You didn't know what I was thinking. How could you? Why would a rational person think he was going to tell me that he realized that I was the one instead of the one he wanted to be his Best Maid? And honestly after all of these years why would I even want him to say something like that? You know? In the movies you see the moment where the star crossed lovers finally end up together. She leaves her betrothed at the altar or he does and the happy couple rides off in to the sunset together. But what sort of people do that? I mean, Shelly is awesome. If he could leave someone as wonderful as that why would I want him? And why would he want someone who wished to break someone else's heart like that? Movies never talk about the details. That happily ever after only means for a few minutes until the reality of what they've done sets in."

"That's why they are movies. Real life is messy."

"True. And I am happy for him. I really am. And I do love Shelly, she's great. And they are going to have beautiful babies and a perfect life and I will be Auntie Gretch and you will be Uncle Pete and everyone really will live happily ever after. Right? But for now I just need to give up that one last John Hughes wish and go inside and make a toast to the happy couple. The Best Maid's work is never done."

With that Gretchen stood up and started inside, "You coming?"

"Just a minute, I need to check my messages."

Pete watched her straighten her shoulders and walk back inside. Prepared to give her toast to the boy who held her heart since 6th grade. Spin the bottle wasn't the only game they played at Janine's birthday party. There was also 7 Minutes in Heaven. That time it was Pete and Gretchen that had been paired. And they spent 7 minutes in a dark closet while Pete wondered if she would ever stop talking about Teddy long enough that he could kiss her.

He'd spent the last 15 years playing that game. Maybe tonight would be the night she would notice.

Catching up...

I spent this morning watching my soaps. They aren't the daytime soaps like GH or OTL or AMC like they used to be. They are the night time soaps. The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Nashville. But still soaps. And as I started with The Originals I was hit with a few things.

First off it's the first time I've sat down and watched since our trip to New Orleans. It was really cool to be able to see places and know exactly where they were filmed. Especially the scenes in the cemetery. I stood where they were. I know which family tomb they were near. Which also reminded me that I haven't posted those pictures or written those blogs. So I have a little more catching up to do.

But then there was this scene. Two characters kissed after weeks of building. It was very romantic and swoony. It didn't matter that both of the characters were male so I had no one to really put myself in the place of, it was a swoon worthy kiss for me. Then in the next episode there was another great kiss. This time it was two characters that I don't really care for, but still nice kiss. So I started paying attention as I watched my other soaps. What makes for a swoon worthy kiss.

It's not the gender of the people involved. Two guys, two girls, a guy and a girl, a swoon worthy kiss doesn't depend on that.

It's not if I like the characters. The kiss can be really great even if it's not "people" I like.

It's not if the tension has been building forever. There was actually a couple that finally got together that have had great tension for a year on one of the shows, and the kiss was...fine. It was fine. Not swoon worthy though. And these were characters I had been hoping would become a couple. So I was swoon primed. But the kiss was just fine.

So what is it? What makes a kiss a swoon kiss for me?

And finally I decided it's not the kiss at all. It's the hand.

When the hand comes up and cups the cheek. Then the kiss happens. That's my swoon point. Doesn't matter who is doing the caress either. The girl, the guy, the other guy, each swoon worthy kiss had that hand come up. It was that tender moment as the kiss starts that did it for me. Is it the extra touch? Is it the level of intimacy that is implied by someone touching your face? I'm not sure.

I know everyone has their favorite movie and TV show kisses. The hair being swept off the forehead then a soft kiss just there. Very tender, very protective. Sweet, but not a swoon point for me. There is the thumb across the lower lip. The touch before the kiss. Like they want to experience your lips in all ways, not just a kiss. Very lovely. But not a swoon. The back of the neck hold, closely related to holding the hair if the person being kissed has long hair. It's a possessive sort of kiss. More passionate than protective. More sexy that sweet. But not a swoon.

And the really funny thing is that it's not how I prefer to be kissed in real life at all. My real life swoon is something totally different. But if you are writing a TV show and want me to swoon when your characters finally kiss have one of them reach up and caress the cheek of the other, hand curved along the jaw line as they lean in for a sweet, soft, romantic kiss.

Swoon...

And I will get to those blogs and pictures. Eventually. Because as I was watching those soaps I had an idea for a short story as well. So on the horizon, pictures from trips, blogs from trips, a short story from soaps, Christmas posts, and who knows what else...

Busy busy busy....brain.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The mine field...

She wasn't sure she knew the path anymore. At one point she could walk it blindfolded. Deftly avoiding the land mines hidden there. Not calling attention to herself. Walking past the sleeping giants without waking them. Able to scratch the hounds behind the ears without getting chased or bit. But now she wasn't even sure if she could remember which paths were safe and which would leave her bloody and torn by the end.

She remembered when she was younger and she could dance across the field like a gazelle. Never setting off an explosion. Never falling in to a trap. Too small and light to ever risk being acknowledged by the sleeping giants waiting to wake and pounce. Playing with the hounds without fear of their powerful snapping jaws. The years of magic. Of invincibility.

Then came the years where she wore her dark armor tightly around her. Where the monsters were scared of her. The power she wielded was immense. The hounds eyed her suspiciously but only growled low in their throats. But the giants knew what she did not. That it would fade. Her dark armor would shed and she would be vulnerable again. They waited...

The years of her young adulthood were the most fraught with dangers. Young enough to feel invincible. Still holding memories of when she was not threatening at all and memories of when she was left alone in her darkness she felt untouchable. She came to the battlefield armed with "TRUTH" and "KNOWLEDGE" she was the bright and shining knight. Then the first misstep. The first landmine. Dragging herself from the path to nurse her wounds she wasn't sure how to make it to the end. But she knew she had to. The pain receded enough that it was replaced by anger. How dare she be hurt! She would fight again...only to be bloodied and bruised once more.

After a few years she learned to carry with her rocks. Light enough to throw far away from her but heavy enough to trigger an explosion where they landed. They were to be used in case of emergency. When the hounds came. When they smelled her fear or vulnerability and she had no way out. Tossing a stone away from her, causing the explosion away...it wasn't noble, but it worked.

But mostly she learned the path. Where to step. When to step. To never let her guard down. Where the most dangerous parts of the battle were waged. How to stay away from the trailing vines that would capture you and drag you deeper in to the woods. When she brought companions she taught them to walk behind her. Stepping only where she stepped she protected them. Then there was the day her companion pulled her back from the edge of a newly dug trap, she knew she had found someone who could walk the fields with her forever.

It had been years since they had first joined forces and walked those fields battling the hounds and the giants together. Understanding that the victory feast in the middle of the battle only marked the beginning of the most dangerous time. When bellies were full and minds were muddled with drink, this was the time the smallest misstep could cause the largest of the battles. The bloodiest wars were waged on the way out of the battle field, not the way in.

They had been fierce companions. Each having the other's back. Watching for hounds and giants and traps of all kinds. All while walking on the safe path. Using distraction and each other to pass safely through. They had learned to fight as a pair. To ease the burden of the other. And to nurse wounds on the fly when an unexpected hit came. Could she do it on her own?

It had been years since she had tried. Did she still have it in her to be alone in battle?

She took a deep breath and took to the field....

"Merry Christmas! Oh we were so sorry to hear that Tom had to work. We were surprised he didn't work harder to spend the holiday with you. There is no trouble brewing I hope?"

"No trouble, it was just his turn this year. Oh is that your famous stuffing I smell? Can't wait to have some!"

Step one...



Saturday, December 13, 2014

This is where is gets tricky...

So the end of the year is rapidly approaching. Doing that look back thing at what I did, what I didn't do, what I want to do and what I should just let go. Marking off the goals I reached and ones I missed. Thinking about the things that are perpetually on the list and things that have finally either been done or been deleted as "nice ideas but..." items.

Which then leads us to 2015. What do I want to do for 2015? And I thought...what about a year where I set no goals? Where I write the number of blogs I write, I read the number of books I read, I work out the amount I workout, but I just do those things. No lists. No numbers. No measurements. No goals.

How would that look? Would the complete lack of structure be the one last step in to slothdom? Or would the freedom from arbitrary goals and numbers be the moment of pure clarity to show what I really want to do?

Would a year without any goals be freedom or chaos?

There would still be the normal "things that have to get done" to do lists for days and weeks but no over-riding goal toward those things. No "In August We Shall Do a Brand New Thing Every Weekend" type lists. No Goodreads read all the books list. No Blog a Day in May. Nothing like that. Not even lose 10 pounds by summer. Just life. Done when it's done. How ever it's done or not done.

The way I figure a large number of people probably live all the time.

No goals.

No gold stars.

Just doing.

But then I thought...

Isn't that a goal?

Not to have any goals for an entire year really is a goal in and of itself right? I mean it's an overarching one, but it is totally a goal. It's something I would turn to each time I thought I was slacking, I would think, "Oh I need to...." and then I would think, "No, I said no goals this year." And I would be right back on working toward a goal.

A goalless goal.

So as soon as the year ended and I made it all the way through without any goals set I would have reached my goal of no goals and all of a sudden the year would have been a year with a major goal. And would I have failed or succeeded?

Clearly I need more coffee to work my way through this one...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Teacher won't you teach me....

You all know I believe that the Universe talks to us. Lets us know what we should be paying attention to, right? I had one of those moments this week. Or I should say two moments that lined up together. One of my teachers posted that he was tired. Tired of giving out love and not getting it in return. That he was feeling empty. Used up. Done. This dovetailed on a post I had been reading about an equality issue where someone commented that it wasn't their job to make people understand the issue and that they were tired of it falling to them. It's not their problem that other people don't get it so why should they be the ones to constantly have to explain things. They weren't their parents so it shouldn't fall to them.

I get the sentiment in the why me post. I really do. Sometimes when you are talking to someone about something like equal rights you think, "Why do I need to tell you this? Shouldn't you already know this?" And I get the extra burden this particular person felt because it was a lifelong (or at least as long as they had been out long) issue. They had spent a good chunk of their lives explaining why they deserved the same rights as everyone else. And why should they have to do that? Shouldn't it be obvious?

Well yeah, it should be. He's right. Absolutely right. However, it's not. Not to everyone. So that then leaves a gap between those who know and those who don't. Those who get it and those who haven't. Those who understand and those who are ignorant. And who will teach if it's not the people who already have the knowledge?  Because someone will. Someone is out there pushing their version of the truth. Whatever it is.

Fox News. MSNBC. Bill Maher. Ann Coulter. Bill O'Reilly. Chicks on the Right. Slate. Matt Walsh.

Do you think any of them ever think, "Oh no, I couldn't possibly tell one more person what I think!"

Not very likely.

So if any of the names on the list made you cringe it's up to you to fill a void. To say to people around you, "This is another way of looking at that..." To show a different way. What you believe to be a better way. A kinder way. Those that know, teach.

And it might not make a bit of difference.

Which is when you will get tired.

What I will tell you though is what I told my teacher when he said he was tired. Just because the person he was talking to at that moment didn't seem to be getting his message and not returning the love, the person next to the person he was talking to might have been. And then they went out and spread that love to someone else. All because of him. Because that's the way love works. You give it out and it goes where it needs to. You might not have any idea where that influence lands, but it does land. And when your tank is empty and you are feeling like you just can't possibly give another drop think about that. Think about the fact that you have given so much that it's out there growing even now.

I don't know if it helped him or not. I hope it did. Because he needs to keep going. Because what he has to share is important. Just like the rest of us.

No matter how tiring it is. No matter how bleak it looks at times. We need to keep saying, "Hey, here is another way of looking at that." And offering up love instead of hate. Kindness instead of anger. Compassion instead of judgement. Keep filling up each other's tanks. It's important.

And yes, I still have teachers. All of you are my teachers. Every person in my life is here to teach me something. So I am lucky to have friends and teachers all in one package. I'm grateful for that.

And yes, I know this was a little more woo woo than I normally go with my posts, but sometimes I just need to remind myself that it's important to keep going. To give what kindness I have to give. To not get discouraged and bitter. So welcome to my pep talk. I hope it helped you too.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wrong turn...

She finished her errands early and thought she would surprise him with lunch. How long had it been since she had done that? Just shown up at the office with picnic in hand? Too long. Way too long. So why not today? And with that she meant to turn right.

She turned left out of habit. Heading back home instead of toward his office. Dang it. She was in the middle of downtown so turning around meant navigating all of the one way streets in a circle to get back to where she started. She hated when she did things like that. Not paying enough attention. Always distracted. What was wrong with her?

As the voice in her head started in on how she was always messing up she took a deep breath and remembered what her therapist had taught her. Even if it's a voice inside your own head that doesn't mean it's right. She wasn't always messing up. She wasn't always distracted. In fact she was so organized that errands she thought would take her all day had only taken half of the day. She had worked out a plan and followed it exactly. She was really very organized. She ran a business. She was raising kids who never went hungry or had to go to school in dirty clothes. She was really very much in control of her life. 

Okay that was much better. She was fine. There you go, six months of therapy paying off. As she was giving herself the much needed pep talk she missed her turn. Again. 

She had to shake her head. Okay, back two more streets now and then she would get to the on ramp for the freeway. Seriously, who misses the turn twice? She really couldn't navigate her way out of a paper bag. She was going to be one of those old ladies who had to give up her car keys. But she would have to do it at 37 instead of 73! This was just like the time she forgot the plane tickets and they had to go all the way home to pick them up only to realize once they got back to the airport that she had left her driver's license in her other purse. Two trips back and forth to the airport and almost missing the flight. Would she ever learn to be more prepared? Who messes up the same thing twice? 

Deep breath. This wasn't just like that. Not at all. She had forgotten the plane tickets because she thought he had grabbed them when he was in the office. And her driver's license had been moved when the baby threw up on her purse and she had to switch bags quickly. It wasn't like she had just forgotten things carelessly. She was trying to get the baby ready, the packing finished, and everyone out of the house on time. It wasn't carelessness. It was just being overly busy. And why were the tickets her responsibility anyway? Neither of them had double checked before they left, that didn't make it her fault. And in the end they had made the flight on time. Because she had insisted they leave plenty of time to get to the airport in the first place.

This time as she worked through the negative thoughts she sat through a green light. The honk from the car behind her woke her up just in time to see the light turn yellow. Crap. That was inconsiderate of her. Now who ever was behind her was probably going to be late. They had places to go, and it was probably their lunch hour and they only had limited time. She had wasted their time. So inconsiderate of her. She was so self centered.

Okay, now that's not fair. She was distracted, sure. But was it that big of a deal? Really? It would be another 3 or 4 minutes of their time. That was all. Everyone has zoned out at light before. It's okay. If they really were that pressed for time they wouldn't be trying to drive through downtown at all. Nobody gets anywhere fast downtown. It was okay.

She looked at the clock on the dashboard. It was probably too late to just surprise him with lunch now anyway. It had been a good thought, but by now he would have already grabbed something to eat and anything she brought would just be a waste. Spontaneity was never her strong suit. So many things could go so wrong. Something as simple as dropping off lunch could turn in to a nightmare of missed connections and bad timing and even one memorable case of food poisoning. So really why bother? Though she tried. Because she knew it was important to him. It was one of the reasons why he wanted a divorce. She just was too stodgy and set in her ways. Not fun enough. 

But it was impossible to be fun and spontaneous and still be organized and together. You couldn't have both. Not while raising kids anyway. Schedules were so important. Sure a quick weekend get-a-way would be fun but there was soccer practice on Saturday and a homework project due on Monday. So in her mind you put those things aside for a few years. You could still have fun. You could still do things. They just had to be planned. That didn't make them less fun, that just made them different. They would have years together after the kids were grown. Heck, even once they were old enough to fend for themselves more they could go back to the spontaneous things he liked so much. Though honestly, she never really did.

Selfish. She had been so selfish. Only wanting to do the things she liked. Never the things he did.

No, that wasn't true at all she had gone along with all of his crazy ideas at the beginning. She loved how happy they made him. But once the kids came and work picked up and then she started her own company she just needed more structure.

Because she didn't love him as much as he loved her.

No, that wasn't true either. She loved him deeply. But she had to balance the kids and work and marriage and why was it always on her to make things work? Why was she expected to give up what she wanted to do just so he would be happy?

As she headed toward home she realized that voice in her head, the one she had been arguing with, the one the therapist had told her wasn't always telling the truth. That voice. Well it wasn't right. And it wasn't hers. And she didn't have to listen to it anymore. Eight months after the separation, six months after starting therapy to fix what was wrong with her, twenty minutes in to a wrong turn she heard her own voice loud and clear. He could get his own damn lunch.








Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Oh Christmas Tree...oh Christmas Tree...

It's December 2nd and my house is not decorated for Christmas yet.

Let that sink in for a moment. December 2nd. Two days in to December. Five days past Thanksgiving. No decorations.

I am wearing Christmas earrings today. Which happened as a sort of an after thought as I got dressed...oh yeah...it's December I guess it's time to break those out.

I have Christmas stationary and cards on the desk waiting to be written and sent. But...

Nothing.

It's all new this year. C is really and truly on his own. Sure he came home for Thanksgiving like when he was in college though instead of coming home the week before Thanksgiving it was the night before but he spent the weekend with us feasting and watching a few movies, including Christmas Vacation and Elf, our two "FIRSTS!" for the holidays. But normally we would have decorated on Friday as well. We went to a hockey game instead.

And Saturday we watched football and The Lego movie. And Sunday we went to the movies instead. So no decorations.

It wasn't really supposed to go like that, I had a plan. We were going to sort through the boxes and boxes of shi...stuff...we've collected over the years and put the things he is going to want in to a separate area and then I would put out a few things and the rest would go to Goodwill. No more elf threw up in here decor. Time for less is more!

See he is only going to be home for Christmas for a few days. He's also 22 and a little past the whole needing a ton of stuff for Christmas decorations phase. It's the time to start new traditions! It would have been perfect!

Well, except when I brought it up to him I was met with a resounding, "meh...."

See I thought he would have things he really wanted to keep. Things that really mean Christmas to him. I forgot he's not really all that sentimental. And since he's not going to decorate his place this year he really didn't see the need for anything. So we decided to have a low key weekend and watch movies and lounge instead of trying to sort things he had no interest in sorting.

Which then left me with an un-decorated house.

Well that and we aren't putting up a giant tree this year. We are going to do a little table top one. So I don't even have a tree to put up.

And I need new outdoor lights because the experiment with the solar powered lights is OVER. So I don't even have lights to put up.

And I have no idea which of my elf vomit decorations I really want to put out anyway. So I have no decorations up.

So December 2nd and no decorations.

And the really weird thing is...

It's only weird when I think about it.

I'm not bugged that I have nothing up. And no plans for when I will put things up.

Is this the new Christmas tradition?

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...how barren are your branches...

Or would be, if you know, I had a tree....



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gooooaaaalllll!!!!!!!

Made it. I wasn't sure what to write about for this momentous occasion. Should I leave it until I had something really profound to say? Should I write a short story about someone who met all of their goals and then in a surprise twist found out that meeting all of her goals meant that she had nothing left to live for and ended up on the street eating grass clippings? (spoiler alert!) Should I just write a normal blog and then casually mention as I posted it that it was the 165th blog of the year, like, you know, no big deal...whatever... Brent suggested I just write the word DONE then the stress would be off and the next blog could just be it's own thing.

What I eventually decided to do was just write the blog about writing the blogs that reached the goal and stuff...

Actually this week I reached two goals, the other one was for my Goodreads reading challenge. I'm now 2 books ahead of where I set the original goal. I hadn't realized I had met it until Dana poked me about it. Ta da! I read a lot! It's funny to me because last year I actually kind of stressed over it. I set an original goal that seemed like a lot of books. Then as I realized I was going to make that goal by June I started tweaking the number. I read graphic novels, do they count? I decided that two or three counted for one book depending on the length so I added to the goal number if I read a lot of graphic novels. Then I stressed over if re-reading a book counted. Yes, if it has been at least a few years since the first read, no if it hadn't. And if I started a book and didn't want to finish it would that count? No. You have to finish to get the star. This year I picked a number (lower than 2013 knowing it would be a busier year) and then sort of forgot about it. I checked once around mid-year to see how I was doing and left it alone.

The blogs were different. As you all know I realized in September I wasn't going to make it unless I did a big push. So 31 blogs in October happened to catch me up. Now any I do in December will be cake. Or I guess frosting since the 165 is really the cake part right? Anyway...extra.

So what did you think? I've gotten a little feed back that less is more. In other words when I am cranking out a blog a day some of what you get is, well, let's face it, crap. I've also gotten a little feedback that more is better. That when I am cranking out a higher number of blogs consistently you know there will be something here to read. So what do the rest of you think?

And what about the mixing I have been doing. I sort of think I should pull my fiction off this site and make a blog specifically for that writing and leave this one for the rants and ramblings. But then I change my mind because the fiction is part of my rants and ramblings. It's all what is bouncing around in my head. What do you think about it? Do you like it that you never know what you are going to get or does it bug you?

What do you think of the throw back Thursday posts? Do you read them, or re-read them as the case may be or do you ignore them cause they're all stale and stuff.... I kind of like seeing what was going on on the same (or close) date a few years ago, but I find myself fascinating...  (oh and just so you know they didn't count towards the goal number, darn it!)

I'm still a little bugged that Facebook has throttled back my reach from my page, but you all still find me eventually so I can't be too mad. I've also added a few new readers, so HI! glad you all are here. I hope you enjoy your stay.

All right, that wraps that up then. Blog goal for 2014 met! Ta da!

Hmmm...35 days until 2015, 35 blogs to meet the stretch goal...interesting....

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Well...

I don't have a lot to say on this. People have strong opinions and there isn't a lot of sway in them. I also don't think there was any real surprise in the decision, no matter where you stand on the issue I don't think you were surprised.

If you are of the belief that the system is rigged against people of color you knew it wouldn't go to trial.

If you believe that the officer acted properly you knew it wouldn't go to trial.

If you believe that officers rarely get put on trial when they shoot someone in the line of duty you knew it wouldn't go to trial.

So I don't think anyone was surprised.

I guess what I do have to say is what I said before, if you think the anger and the tension about this case was just about Michael Brown and Darren Wilson then you need more friends who are darker complected than you are.

I find it interesting to read comments from people who I know for a fact have posted long rants about government oppression because it was suggested they register their guns. They will tell you that that sort of oppression just shows why they need to have them. So they can take up arms against their government. You know, for all of the oppression. And then to see them absolutely not get the anger from the black community boggles my brain.

You think registering your gun is infringing on your rights? How about getting stopped and searched because the color of your skin made you suspect. Not a suspect. Not for a specific crime. Just for walking while black. Or driving. Or, god forbid, shopping. Spend your life being seen first as a color, then as a suspect, then as a person and tell me again about your rights being infringed.

A few months ago I wrote about yelling at a sheriff who yelled at me. My middle aged, middle class, white lady self was only worried about getting pulled over and getting a ticket later as revenge. I have friends who are much more successful than I am. Higher on the economic food chain. Drive nicer cars. Live in nicer neighborhoods. Who would NEVER yell back at a cop. Ever. Because they know that the odds of them coming out of that experience unscathed are slim to none. Because their experience is based on growing up a black man in America. Very different than my experience.

That's where the anger comes from.

There was a shooting this week of a 12 year old boy. He had a toy gun he had been playing with. There was a 911 call, where the caller even says the gun is probably fake, and the police responded. The kid reached for the fake, the police shot him. He's dead. Twelve years old with a fake gun. Dead. Now the gun looked real (a blog rant for another day and time, guns shouldn't be toys or fashion accessories) so how would the police know? They will be cleared of any wrong doing. Don't be surprised. I'm not even sure it's the wrong decision. But here is where it gets tricky. If it had been a white kid would they have assumed the gun was real? Would there have even been a call to 911? The fact that this isn't an out of bounds question to ask speaks to some deep truths.

That's where the anger comes from.

You've seen the memes right? The listing of black men and women who have been killed by the police for minor crimes put up against the listings of white men and women who have killed people who were arrested. Not killed. Arrested. Sure you can cherry pick your facts for a meme. But the fact that you really aren't surprised when you see the pictures says something.

That's where the anger comes from.

So yeah, there is a lot of pent up anger. And when you get something like the Brown case it can explode like a powder keg. Do I think it's the right way to react? No, not at all. But have I ever reacted by coming out swinging when pushed against a wall? I have. Did it do me any good? It didn't. But I'm human. And that's a very human reaction.

I have friends who are cops. They have a really difficult job. They are faced with things most of us cannot even imagine. They have to react in an instant and then we have all the time in the world to pick apart what they did and how they should have handled it better. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Do I understand their frustration when they feel like they are doing their jobs to the best of their ability and they get branded as thugs and criminals? Sure I do. But that doesn't mean we should stop asking the questions and looking at what was done and why.

When you have an entire community that feels like the system is rigged; that there isn't a space for them. That no matter what happens the world they live in is going to view them as suspect because of the color of their skin. And that when they try to discuss it they know they are going to get accused of playing the race card when they know full well that the race card is real and the deck is stacked...

well...

When you have that situation maybe it's time to look for the reasons why. And how do we move forward. And how do we fix this?

I don't have answers. I have questions. But at least I'm asking them and trying to hear what is being said. That's a start.

And we have to start someplace.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Oh that's so creative...

I still have a hard time getting the "I'm a writer" sentence out of my head and through my mouth without stumbling. So much of life as adults is geared around not what we do, but what we get paid to do. And I don't get paid to do this. I just do it.

Last week at dinner a friend said to me, "I didn't know you wrote!" Because I had posted something on my main Facebook feed about writing and that was her first indication. I said, "Well...I blog." and then felt stupid because who blogs anymore? Well besides me. I still blog. And then she asked what I wrote about and I had to try and explain and I stumbled again. For someone who likes words as much as I do the one time they seem to fail me is when I try to explain that I write. "Nonfiction? Fiction?"
Yes, those. I told her that I had written about common core that day and the day before a fiction piece about how people are different colored lollipops. Which I followed with, "It all made sense, really." And then I tried to explain the bar people and realized how very crazy it makes me sound...

Then she said she used to write, which made her fiance say, "I didn't know that." And made me relieved because then we could talk about that instead of me.

But then it made me think. There are a lot of "I used to write" people out there. Heck, for a number of years I was one of them. Sometimes life just gets in the way of being able to sit down and put words on paper. Sometimes confidence shatters and you think it's not worth it anymore. Sometimes you just have nothing to say.

And then today while I was cleaning house I thought about when I started writing again. The first few things I put on paper. All nonfiction on the blog at the start. My stories. My life. My past. And people liked them. I got feedback from people I knew who were glad to hear the stories. And people that were in them who liked being a "featured performer." And that feedback gave me the courage to actually share complete fiction. Stories that were just out of the air. And I got good feedback on those as well. Which was great, because that was really hard to do.

Not just to share them, but to unlock that vault again. To open that pathway back up. Because I used to write.

My head is busy. I've written about it before, I've talked about it before. People who know me in real life see it in person. I have a busy brain. I can and will switch topics mid stream of a conversation because there was a random connection that flashed for me and I ended up on that tangent instead of the one we started on...it's crazy up in here.

Reading and writing keep me sane.

Reading gives me a space to become absorbed in someone else's world. To focus on that life. That drama. That story. I can get sucked in to that and it calms my head. Reading is meditation to me. It's the way I have to keep my brain occupied and calm.

Writing lets the voices out of my head before they drown out everything else. When a fiction piece comes to me, most often it comes almost fully formed and wanting to be written NOW. Stop what you are doing and write me NOW. And if I don't then it plays over and over in my head until I get it out. I think that's why I end up with so many short stories. They just come to me. And since a group of them are my bar people they just keep talking louder and louder until I have to let them out to shut them up.

But I will let you in on a little secret. If you ignore them too long then they stop talking to you. And it's awful.

When I was little I was always the storyteller friend. I was the one that came up with our games of make believe. I was the one who told you what your character should be doing. I was the one that remembered where we were and what we were doing at recess the day before. I made up stories on the bus when our youth group would travel. I wrote stories at school for creative writing and just to share with friends. I was dramatic.

When I was in high school my brother found a box of things that had been stored in his garage. In that box was my diary from elementary and middle school. I read it and just had to shake my head. Anyone else reading it would think I had led a very different life than I really had. I didn't write about what was really going on. There wasn't a single page on any of the abuse. But there were long passages about this boy or that boy. And they were much more umm...intense than the reality. I even wrote at one point about a worry over getting too attached and getting pregnant! I was 12 when I wrote that and I was still a virgin while I was reading it! Crazy. But the reality wasn't all that exciting so I punched it up.

Because I was a writer.

But then I stopped. Lots of reasons. No time. No faith in my talent. No time. And did I mention no time? But what happened when I stopped was first the stories went back in to my head. Quietly. I was still able to sit and entertain myself for hours in public spaces imagining what people were doing, who they were, what they might be thinking. But then the longer I stayed away from writing the quieter those voices became. I could call them up when I was playing with C. But the stories running in the background of my daily life were gone. Just gone.

I used to be a writer.

I can remember one day at work at the agency (the first time I worked there) I was at the front desk with our receptionist and a new hire. There was a KFC meeting going on (this was when I was the bookkeeper not the AE so I had to be available for questions but not sit in on the meetings) and they had had lunch catered in. There was a big bowl of salad left and it had baby corn in it. Courtney asked what made the baby corn so small and I popped off, "Low self esteem" then wove an entire story about it out of thin air. They laughed and laughed, Jack gave us stink eye from the conference room and I said, "See? Don't you feel yourself shrinking right now?" And we all had to cover our mouths to keep quiet.

As I was walking back to my office Diana said, "You should be a writer." And I said, "I used to want to be."

A few years later I thought about that story and I thought about how easy it had been. That it had all come to me just like when I was younger and would tell stories on the bus. Or when C was little and we would tell a story together. It was still there. Someplace. So I thought, I will try again. And for a little bit I did. I would come up with something I wanted to write. Something I thought was interesting and I would get a few sentences out and then....nothing.

I used to be a writer.

It took a long time. I think the voices stopped talking to me because I stopped listening. I think it took them awhile to trust that I would pay attention again. And I think that's why they can be so insistent now. The story has to get out before I decide that I used to be a writer again. And so usually I do stop what I'm doing and write.Because I like the voices in my head. And I missed them when they stopped talking to me.

And I know that still sounds crazy when I say it out loud. Which is why I stumble over the words.

But...when I was telling Raquel on Saturday about trying to explain my blog to someone who hadn't ever read it and what I do and how hard it is for me to explain it she said something that made me smile...

"You're a writer."



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What were you thinking?

This past weekend I went with my friend Raquel to see a production of Frankenstein. In this one the story is told more from the point of view of the creation. It was outstanding. (Not just because the creation was played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Victor Frankenstein by Jonny Lee Miller but that sure didn't hurt) As I was watching one really moving scene I was riveted by what was going on and then I thought..."oh that's so going in a blog."

Basically the scene boils down to the creation asking Victor why? Why did he make him? Why did he do it? Why? Did he ever even consider what it would mean, not to Victor, but to what he created? And he hadn't. He had done what he did to prove that he could. To show that he was right. That he was brilliant. That he was in control. And he never once gave thought to what it actually was that he was doing. Creating a living being that would have its own feelings. Its own struggles. Its own life. He never thought about it.

Wow.

I had written down something my friend Marcy had posted on Facebook earlier in the week. I knew I would go back to it. She had posted a status asking if anyone besides her had ever gone back and read something they had written and realized how awful it sounded. Just rude or mean or dismissive. And then she wrote, "The thing is, I was usually thinking of myself, not going so far as to be thinking of someone else to want to offend them. Hence, I can go around offending people without even meaning to."

Wow.

That to me speaks to such a great truth. How many times in our daily lives are we rude and dismissive only because we are not even considering the person we are interacting with? Not just that you aren't considering their feelings or that you disagree with them but not thinking about them at all. Just projecting your own feelings on them like a blank canvas. You weren't even considering them enough to be rude on purpose.

I've written before that I have a real distaste for people who try to use "I'm not PC" as an excuse for being an asshole and I think that fits here. When you are saying "I don't care if you are offended" usually you are saying, "I'm not really thinking about you at all." And this dovetails right in to that. You are saying what you want because you want to. Never considering the person in front of you that you could very well be talking about.

One of the things I've been working on over the past few years is to remember that just because someone disagrees with me doesn't mean they are wrong. It just means they disagree. And just because I disagree with them doesn't mean I should go tramping in on their conversation and shit all over them. Now sometimes they are wrong. But I need to be really sure I am considering that they are wrong. That there is a person there that I am conversing with. Not just a point that I need to make. Not just an opinion I feel needs expressed, but that there is a person on the other end of this conversation and how am I treating them at this moment?

Am I considering them enough to even offend them on purpose?

Which seems sort of odd when I put it that way. But sometimes I really do want to offend you. I want to disturb you. I want you to be rocked to your core by what it is that I am saying to you. Because I want you to think. And  maybe change your mind. Because I'm hoping that if you are offended enough you stop to think about why it's offensive to you. Are you offended because you think I implied you are a bigot? Then look at what you said, was it bigoted? I know that the times I've actually changed, shifted my perception, is because I've been bothered by something. By what something I said or did said about me. And then not liked it enough to change.

But I promise to really try and think about why. Why am I saying this? Why am I doing this? Am I thinking about you at all? Am I concerned at all with you? I promise to ask myself those questions.

And then offend you on purpose.




Monday, November 17, 2014

I Heart You....

A bright red heart on the white tile floor. That's what the drip looked like. A perfect little heart. It was like a personalized valentine. A faint smile played across her face. She always did like finding these surprise hearts.

When she was little she would bring her found treasures to her mother. Heart shaped rocks, leaves, flower petals. "Look, Mommy! A heart for you!" And her mother would ooh and aah over each gift as if it was the first time.

When her mother lost her battle with breast cancer a decade ago she had found a little box filled with these trinkets tucked in a drawer with her socks and underwear. All of the rocks, dried out leaves and flowers. All of her found hearts. Plus a few hand drawn ones. And the big gaudy earrings she had bought her for Mother's Day one year. They were for pierced ears and her mother only wore clip on earrings but she had said she loved them anyway. And there they were. She took the box to the cemetery and left them there for her mother.

Her husband had said, "You know some punk kid is just going to steal the earrings and toss the rest away right?"

She had smiled and said it would be fine.

Her mother had just died so he hadn't argued with her about it. Though she knew he was probably right.

She remembered the kitten she got when she was nine. She had been so excited when her little black ball of fluff turned over and she saw the white patch of fur on his belly. A small secret heart. It had made her love him even more. When he had run away a few years later she had been devastated. She had looked for him for weeks. Putting up signs. Phoning the animal shelter daily. Calling out for him over and over again as she walked the neighborhood. Years later her mother admitted to her that he had been hit by a car. She had thought she was protecting her by letting her believe he had run off. Giving her a chance to imagine a better life someplace instead of a brutal end. She knew her mother had meant well, but it had made it worse. Pretending things were better than they were was a lousy idea.

When she was in high school she remembered laying on the grass watching the clouds with the boy she had a crush on. When he pointed out a cloud that looked just like a heart she knew it was a sign they were supposed to be together forever. It wasn't.

It also wasn't a sign when she met that cute college boy who had a freckle shaped just like a tiny heart on his hand. Though they had a fun summer finding other heart shapes. And other freckles. When Fall came and he went back to school she had smiled and waved at the car pulling away, he said he would write but she knew he wouldn't. He would go back to school and the smart funny college girls waiting there. Why would he write to her? She would be the summer fling story, not the girl you come back to. Pretending things were better than they were was a lousy idea.

On the first Valentine's Day she spent with her husband he brought her a bouquet of long stem roses and a box of chocolates. A square box. She thanked him and then said that she thought all boxes of chocolates on Valentine's Day were heart shaped. She should have just been quiet. She couldn't blame him for being hurt and angry. Nobody wants to feel like their gift isn't good enough. And why did she feel the need to criticize him anyway? The chocolate was just as good no matter what shape the box was. It had been rude.

She learned to keep her mouth shut about what she thought things should be like.

But it didn't stop her from noticing her surprise hearts.

A puddle in the street.

A patch of ice melting on the window.

A drop of water on a bar.

A spilled beer on the floor.

A bruise on her arm.

A cut on her cheek.

A spiral fracture in an x-ray.

A drop of blood on the tile.





Thursday, November 13, 2014

I was told there would be no math....

My mother was a math genius. We would walk through the grocery store and she would add up the groceries as we put them in the cart. When we got to the check out line she could give you the total within just a very few cents. Looking at a menu in a restaurant tell her what you are ordering, along with the other kids and her and dad and she knew how much the bill would be. She could figure out a discount in a shopping mall in her head. Tell you the before and after tax total on a shopping trip. All without once breaking out a calculator.

And when I was in middle school she bitched about the "new math" that they were teaching kids today. Because it wasn't the way she was taught so she didn't understand intuitively what it was she was seeing. So she taught me how to do math her way. Which I still use today. Back to that later.

My son is a math genius. He could tell the answer to a complex math problem just by looking at it. Just knew the right answer. Boom! Human calculator. When he was in elementary school his TaG teacher made him learn how to actually do math the long way. Showing his work and each step of the process. It was boring and pointless to him. He already knew the answer why should he have to do all of the steps? But if you don't know how to do the steps in basic math you end up not being able to do the more complex math later.

By the time he was in middle school he was doing math that I had no idea how to do. And I couldn't really help him. Though I took algebra I didn't like it. I took statistics which I did enjoy but that was the end of my higher math. He was already looking at things that I just didn't understand. They made no sense to me, and I have a degree in accounting. So when he needed math help I was not the one he turned to.

I have friends with school age kids now and every once in awhile they will post a math homework problem that they are trying to help with. We all take a crack at it and usually can figure it out. I do have some other math genius friends around who can do the complex things and I'm pretty good at this super complicated crazy "common core" math. I put common core in quotes there because common core isn't a method, it's a standard. But just like our parents hated "new math" we hate "common core" because it's different than what we learned. Well, except for me. Because see I learned math from my mom.

Take that discount at the store. If you are figuring out a 25% discount the math we learned would have you multiply the total by .25 then subtract that answer from the total and that leaves your answer. Which would involve moving decimal points, carrying down zeros as place holders and all sorts of things that you would need to keep in your head to figure it out. My mother's way? Take ten percent double it and halve it. $150 sweater with a 25% discount? Easy. Ten percent of that is $15. You know that because you just have to move that decimal one space to the left and you have 10%. Easy mom tricks. Then 15 and 15 is 30. That's 20% easy peasy. To get that last 5%? That's half of ten right? So another $7.50 so your total discount is $37.50. Want to do the easy math in your head? Subtract that $37.50 from $150, but it's easier really to subtract $40 and then add back in the $2.50 to make it right. So the sweater after discount is $112.50. Would have taken me less time to work it in my head than write it all out. But that's basically what I see in "common core" commotion now. It's the bringing things up to tens and even numbers to make the base math easier. The old math my mother knew, before the "new math" they taught me. (by the way, my mother taught me how to figure out the discount my father taught me that I still wouldn't pay $112.50 for a sweater)

Now why did my mom hate "new math"? Because she didn't understand it. Why do most people (from my observance) hate the new math of today? Because they don't understand it. We feel like we should know how to do what our kids are learning. Especially when they are younger. And if for some reason we don't, we blast the system. I mentioned C earlier and being a math genius because I had to let go of the idea that I would know more than he did at a very early age. He was smarter than I was and that was apparent. I might know more in certain areas, I might have a lot of life skills to teach him, but he was flat out smarter than I was. It's a blow to your ego as a parent when your 9 year old knows more than you do. Or when your 7th grader has a question on their homework and you have to say, "I have no idea." Nobody likes to feel dumb. Luckily for me I had a lot of practice with him so I got really good at it.

But guess what? It wasn't about what I was comfortable with. If I had only let him learn what I knew he would never have had the opportunity to know more than I do. Get it? It's not about you. It's about them. They are learning a new way because our old way wasn't working. We bitch and moan about falling behind the rest of the world in skills and test scores and then freak out about trying a new method of teaching. "The old way was good enough for me!" Ummm...no. No it wasn't. I'm saying that as one of you. It wasn't. We didn't learn enough. We didn't learn as much as we should have. Math stopped for me in high school after one year of algebra and one year of geometry. And I had to retake the algebra in college because I couldn't remember enough of it to move along. If we want our kids to be able to work in math and science fields we need to find ways of teaching them math and science.

Is what your school is doing right now the best? I don't know. I can't really answer it. But I can tell you that just because you can't do it doesn't mean it can't be done. And it doesn't necessarily mean it's the wrong way to do it. If you don't understand the new math how about scheduling a session with your kid's teacher to have them show you? Wouldn't that be more productive than posting online about how stupid this or that test is?

 Like I mentioned, I have a degree in accounting. One of the reasons I really liked doing accounting is because numbers don't lie. The other thing I really liked was cross footing. That's when the numbers all add up to be the same no matter how many ways you look at them. And that's what you need to remember when looking at this "common core" nonsense...yes 2+3=5 and it's just that simple.

But guess what?
So does:
3+2
and
4+1
and
10-5
And you can represent it with a graph. Or a number line. Or a pile of donuts. Or dots on a board. Or....


Lots of ways to get there...don't discount all of the others just because you didn't learn it that way.