Sunday, March 30, 2014

I can't believe you didn't notice that thing that I didn't notice either...

I've talked before about how I write. That before anything gets put on paper (on screen?) I've actually written and re-written the story in my head. I work out the main details. Get some plot points or dialog going. Re-work it all over and over until I think I have the bones of a story that I want to tell and then I write it all down. So for this week's prompt I was off and running with a story idea. Things fell in to place pretty quickly, the people, the story I wanted to tell, it was smooth like silk and then a little buzz started in the back of my head..."wait a minute, have you written this before?"

Oh crap. Is that why it was so smooth? Had I actually already written the end of this story before? I knew I hadn't written the beginning or the middle but the ending? It was seeming awfully familiar. So while I was focused on that issue I got an email from Dana, my partner in crime for this endeavor, seems she hadn't really noticed that this week's prompt is in first person. Which if you don't write first person is a bitch to switch to. So we chatted about it, joked around about stretching as a writer and I told her about my search for previously done endings.

Great news! I found the story that I was thinking about and though there is a similar theme, the ending is different. Good enough so now I can write with a clear conscience and ...

Oh holy shit the story I'd been writing in my head was third person. All the way through. Even with talking to Dana about it needing to be first person I was so focused on the end that I wasn't paying attention to the rest. Which really sounds like this is going to be a life lesson blog right? Too focused on the the ending to see what is right in front of you? Well, yeah, that would make a great blog but that's not this blog, this blog is about point of view.

Obviously you all know I write in first person all of the time. I'm doing it right's coming from inside the blog...but I rarely write fiction in first person. I told Dana (my genius friend who is also incredibly witty and way too modest to tell you all of this herself) yesterday that I so much prefer voice of god than first person. I want to move all of the pieces. I want to have control over how they all feel, what they all think, how they all talk. First person narrows your scope. It's all about one person. One character. Everything else becomes something that they interact with. It only comes in to play if they are there. Witnessing it. And even then it's completely limited to their own point of view.

Which is life. That's why my nonfiction is all first person. Because I don't have a choice. I can guess at what you are thinking, but I don't know. And my guess is going to be totally interpreted through my own life. Weltanschauung. Great word. It's means world perception. Everything you do, every belief you have, every interaction in every day is all framed by your own weltanschauung. And your weltanschauung is created through every belief you have, everything you do, every interaction in every day.  It is your experiences that make you, you.

Now I wrote not too long ago about how we are all more alike than we are different and how that's actually pretty comforting. But the flip side of that is that we are still different. In the fact that your life is yours and mine is mine. When I am not right in front of you I pretty much cease to exist for you. I mean, obviously I still exist, but you are only guessing at that point. You can imagine what I'm doing, who I'm talking to, what is happening, and you might even get really close to what is actually going on, but you aren't experiencing it. Because you aren't here. Because no matter how compassionate you are, no matter how concerned with the world's problems you are, no matter how much you like to imagine you are all about the greater good you really only have one point of view. Yours. That's it.

Which long way around, is why I write fiction. Because I am greedy. I want more than one. I want them all. I want to know not just what you are thinking but why. I want to know what you are doing when you aren't here, does it change? There is a country song that asks, "Who are you when I'm not looking?" Every parent knows that the mark of a well behaved child isn't how they act when you are there, but what they do when you aren't. What do they do when you aren't there watching?

In fiction I always get to watch. God, that sounds creepy. Let me try again. In fiction I get to make people do what I want. Oh wait, that's worse. Umm ... yeah ... anyway...

First person fiction is hard. That's my point.

So this week when you read my story and my genius friend Dana's story keep in mind that we really worked it out. We took our fiction worlds and narrowed them. Which is as hard to do as it is to take your real world and broaden it. But life is about stretching. That's where the growth comes in. Even when stretching means narrowing...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Rut roh!

Did you see that video with the little boy trying to get a cupcake from his mother that went around a few weeks ago? Linda, listen, honey....You're not listening to me...

What does it take sometimes to realize that you aren't listening? That things aren't going the way they should? And is it that you aren't listening or that you aren't paying attention? Of course this is a navel gazer...but you knew that already didn't you?

What does it take to make you change? To move you from the spot you are on? Recently I watched a friend let go of something she had been holding on to so tightly she had missed the point where she didn't want it anymore. Once she let go, decided to move on, the relief was palpable. It's a big change happening in her life, but it's one she needed to make. To let go and move on.

Another friend of mine had a week of hits. Literally murder and mayhem. Reminders that life is short and holding on to the past does you no good. Because change is going to come. He didn't realize that he had been holding open a door to his past until the building burned down.

What does it take to get your attention? Sometimes all you need is a couple weeks of really terrible sleep followed by a solid 8 hours of great sleep. Then the head clears and you realize, oh holy shit do I need to make some changes.

I've let my life slide in to a holding pattern. I was kidding myself for awhile that it was nothing to worry about. But then after the rock bottom moodiness that hits with exhaustion followed by the bright eyed optimism that comes from a full night's sleep as well as a healthy dose of cleaning fumes for good measure I had to own up to it. I'm in a rut. And if I don't break out now it's just going to get worse.

I can track it, and so can you because you've been paying attention to the blogs. When my knees started giving me enough problems that I took a week off of working out before we went to Hawaii to make sure I had enough juice in them for everything we were going to do that should have been the biggest warning. Okay, no actually the biggest warning should have been when I could listen to them talk to me going up and down the stairs. Or wait, maybe when they swelled up in Chicago. Any of those would have been good warnings. But they weren't.

What happened is that I started to make changes but not the right ones. And not even ones I was super aware of. I spent less and less time on the stairs. I live in a three story house so this isn't as easy as you would think. Basically I'd pick a floor for the day and stay there instead of basement for a workout, main floor for food and writing, upstairs for laundry and cleaning, it was...well...main floor for sitting on the couch. Or upstairs with a book while I did laundry. And the basement pretty much got taken out of the equation.

Which means the workouts stopped. Which is a bad idea. Because I didn't just stop doing the stuff that was hurting my knee I stopped doing everything. I haven't done a chin up since we left for Hawaii. Not going to make the June deadline that way am I?

And when I stop working out it affects my sleep. Working out doesn't make me sleep like a normal person, nothing does, but it does help. Quite a bit actually. So when I stop working out I stop sleeping so I am tired so I don't want to workout so I don't sleep so I'm tired...

And when I'm tired I sit. And do nothing. Which lends itself to more sitting and doing nothing. And at first you kid yourself and say, "Oh this is temporary, tomorrow I will get right back on it." and you might. I was averaging one productive day a week there. One. Out of seven. And that might be being generous.

But once you are starting in a rut it's hard to bounce out of it, you know?

So I've started the bounce. For one I have been to the doctors to get the knees worked on and started PT. Of course these things didn't make me feel better this week. In fact they made everything much worse. Going through the tests and the exams and having them poked and prodded made them hurt. A lot. Enough that I got zero sleep. And snapped at a stranger in a coffee shop. (okay, he totally deserved it, but still, not really okay to do) But even though this week they didn't help the situation I know that they will in the long run.

And I read this blog today which helped reinforce that getting back in the swing of working out will not only help protect my knees in the long run but will bounce me out of the rut in the short run.

So that's a good start.

Then I needed to think about the rest of it. Because it's not just the workouts. The workouts help me feel better and more in control for sure, but then what? What is the rest of the puzzle?

Earlier this week while I was writing my prompt story for Wednesday I kept getting stuck. I would write and then erase. And write and erase. I joked with Dana that I just can't write ahead. If it wasn't Wednesday it wasn't happening. But it was more than that. I knew what I wanted the story to say, I knew where I wanted it to go but I kept talking myself out of it. "unrealistic. wouldn't happen" But She (she never got a name, it was an actual choice, cause she was invisible, you see) kept telling me, "this is my story, this is what happened, tell it" so I did. And then I heard from not one, not two but three different people that they had gone through similar things. Just because her story wasn't mine, doesn't mean it wasn't a solid voice. Yes, exaggerated, but solid.

So what does that mean for the rut? Well, the writing needs to be free, dig? Okay, sorry, the hippy chick popped out there for a second. What I mean is I'm starting to get uptight about the writing, not good enough, not a strong voice, not valid. And I need to let that go and just write again. If a story doesn't work, it doesn't work, but that doesn't mean writing it was a mistake. It just means my head is clearer for other things.

And then to add to the mix of popping out of the rut I need to do new things. So we are picking back up the new thing weekends. Some of those were a bust, and some were pretty cool. But they were all something. And right now something is what I am looking for.

Because I've been spinning my wheels and if I don't stop I'm going to dig in too deep to move. And that's just not okay. And the universe is talking to me. Screamed at me today in fact. And I don't like to be screamed at.

So April is going to be the MONTH OF ACHIEVEMENT! Sorry, it needed a title. Basically I'm going to shock myself out of the holding pattern. Time to do new things and old things and basically just things. The things I like to do, the things I need to do and the new things we are going to check out. Add in twice weekly PT session, hopefully a deep run in to hockey playoffs and then leaving at the end of the month for C's college graduation and I should be out of the rut and on a new path by May.

And what does that mean? Oh you know it! Blogs. Lots and lots of blogs! I am going to be writing about what I'm doing, what I'm not and why. I have three fiction stories that should hit next week, one from the prompt and two that have been bouncing around for awhile. And more navel gazing. Because you know I love the way it looks...I should probably get it pierced....though adding something shiny to the mix and I might never get anything else done...and we don't want that do we?

Oh no we don't. Okay, I'm listening...Now can I have a cupcake?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Can you see me now?

She was always the invisible one in the family. Nobody noticed her until the day she... traded her suburban mom blond bob for a sassy pink pixie. Then they noticed. Oh boy did they notice.

“What the hell did you do? You look like an Easter Egg!” from her husband as he walked in the door from work.

“Oh my god, Mom…are you trying to make me die from embarrassment?” from her daughter as she got in the car after school.

And the eyebrow raise from her son as he came home from football practice. It was a record for communication so far this year.

The pink was temporary but she didn't feel like telling them that. Not right now. They could wait until dinner. It’s not like they would say much else to her now that they were home and locked back in to their own worlds. Even with the pink hair she would fade in to the background for them. They only remembered her if they needed something.

It might sound like self pity, a bad case of the “poor mes” but she was working with some pretty strong evidence to prove her point. Over the past year she had lost 40 pounds, gone back to school and started a part time job. And nobody had said a word. Nobody noticed that in the evenings instead of watching TV or reading the latest best seller she had been reading text books on nutrition. Nobody noticed that she was busy during the day and had stopped volunteering at the kid’s school. Nobody noticed when her wardrobe changed. Not when it first became so baggy she was swimming in her clothes to when she started buying new things. All with the money she earned at her new job. The one she went to on days she wasn't in class at the community college. That nobody noticed she was attending.

And this morning? Well this morning was the last straw in being invisible. This morning her husband had kissed the air 4 inches above her forehead goodbye instead of her. And he hadn't noticed that he missed. He missed her forehead. Connected with nothing. Air. And he kept on reading the email on his phone, mumbled a goodbye and walked out the door. She had looked over at the kids to see if she was crazy, surely they had seen it all as well, but no such luck. They weren't looking at her. She stuck her tongue out at them just to make sure and nope. Zero reaction. She might as well have not been there at all.

So when Susie suggested, for perhaps the 100th time in the past 5 years, that is was time for a new look she agreed. No more fighting against her natural curls, cut it short and let them hug her head like a curly little cap. The pink had been for work. It was February and time for the annual breast cancer research donations. When she had told Susie about it Susie had suggested doing a temporary color. She hadn't been sure about that but once it was in she had to admit she kind of liked it. It deepened her eye color. Making the blue look almost Liz Taylor violet. It also brought out the color in her cheeks like no blush had ever been able to do. Susie had agreed. “I swear, with the weight you've lost and the new hair you look 10 years younger than when I first met you!”

She had ridden that compliment all the way to work. Where she got others. “Fun!” “Cute!” “Love it!” That’s what she heard all day from co-workers and gym members as they checked in at the front desk. She knew she would have to soak them in because she wouldn't be hearing them at home. She actually didn’t expect to hear anything at home. But pink hair is hard to ignore.

She went upstairs to change clothes. When exactly did she become part of the furniture in their house? A ghost in her own family. Only noticed if something wasn't done. It had been gradual of that she was certain. When she and her husband had first started dating he noticed her. He had to, right? I mean they dated. And then had the kids. Then slowly things shifted. She had noticed that her husband wasn't really listening anymore. She would sometimes stop talking in the middle of a story just to see if he would say anything. And he didn't. Eventually that led to not really talking at all. Who wants to just make noise at someone? And maybe it was her fault, maybe she just didn't have anything interesting to say?

Then it started with the kids. When they were little they loved her. Loved to have her around. Talking to them. Answering the hundreds of questions they always had. And then they got so wrapped up in their own lives, their own friends, they had no time for her anymore. She actually thought that was normal until one day she noticed a mother and son sitting having coffee together. Talking. Laughing. The boy had to have been about the same age as her son, how come he was talking to his mother like she was a real human being? When the boy got up and went to use the restroom she actually asked the woman. “How do you do it? Convince him to spend time with you?” The woman had laughed like she must be joking, “He’s my son. It’s not like he has much of a choice.” She had laughed as well, like that was an obvious answer.

After she changed clothes she went back downstairs and got dinner on the table. Then she called everyone to come eat. They shuffled in silently. Her husband looked at her hair again and shook his head, her daughter glared at her, her son took in the hair and the odd choice in her outfit and raised one side of his mouth in a somewhat quizzical expression. Finally her daughter broke the ice, “What are you wearing?”

She looked down at the dress that was hanging off of her. “This? This is the dress I wore on Valentine’s Day last year. Notice anything different about it? Like maybe how it doesn't fit anymore?”

Her son shrugged his shoulders

Her daughter said, “Yeah? So?”

Her husband, well that was interesting. She actually saw a flicker there.

Then she stepped away from the table, unzipped the dress and let it fall to the ground.

“MOM!” her daughter shrieked.

“Whoa, Dude!” actual words from her son, it might be a miracle.

And as her husband looked at her, now standing there in her work uniform. Capri leggings and a Healthy Start! T-shirt she thought he might actually be seeing her for the first time in a long time.

"What are you wearing?” The tone from her daughter.

“This is my work uniform.”

“You work at Healthy Start? Since when?” Two whole questions from her son. Dying her hair and stripping at the table definitely got a reaction.

“For the past 6 months. I joined last year, the same time I went back to school. Not that you all remember that either. But anyway, I was such a success story for them they asked if I was interested in a job. I’m the new member liaison.”

"You've been working? Why didn't you tell me?”

She looked over at her husband and sighed. “I did. I told you when they offered me the job. You mumbled, ‘that’s nice dear’ and went on with your evening.”

Now he at least had the good sense to look chagrined.

She took a deep breath. She had been planning this all day, now she just needed to go through with it.

“Now that I have everyone’s attention, there are going to be some changes around this place. I've spent the last year playing sort of a game. Seeing what all I could do before you, any of you, would notice. I lost 40 pounds. I changed my entire wardrobe. I went back to school. I got a job. But it took dying my hair pink to even get a word out of any of you. And that’s not okay. Because what I realized today is that if this is a game, we are all losing. Because I don’t want to play anymore.”

“What do you mean?” She almost felt bad for the touch of fear in her husband’s voice. Almost. Until she remembered him air kissing the kitchen goodbye this morning.

“I mean what I said, we are changing things around here. I’m no longer to be treated like the maid, or the cook, or the chauffeur. When I ask how your day was I expect a full set of answers. If I don’t get them I might just start asking your friends.”

The look of horror on her daughter’s face should have made her feel guilty but it didn't, in fact it made her feel great. Finally she was getting through to them.

“And more than that I expect you to ask me questions about my day as well. I’m actually very interesting, you might be surprised.”

And then there was silence. wasn't what she had hoped for but it was what she had expected.

What she had been worried about. If she pushed would they push back? Or would they walk away?

And then from her son… “So why pink? I think you’d look better with blue.”

She smiled. It was a start…

 And Dana's version...Fragile

Monday, March 24, 2014

Take a note...

She has always been a list maker. It had saved her skin more times than she really cared to think about. Thoughts had always made their way through her head at a rapid pace. If it didn't get written down, it didn't get done. It wasn't that she wasn't bright, she always felt it was the opposite in fact. There were just so many things to think about, so many things to do, that to hold on to one thought for the length of time it would take to get to the grocery store was an impossibility. Too many things were fighting for her attention.

When she was younger it had been stenographer's notebooks. Those were replaced by her never far from reach day runner. Then the smart phone. And then recently back to the stenographer's notebooks. The tried and true gave her comfort as she got older. That and they didn't run out of juice just when she needed to check her daily schedule. Because try as she might remembering to charge her phone was something no list could seem to make her do. And she relied on her lists even more now.

When it had first started happening she had denied it even to herself. Standing in line at the bank only to not be able to remember the word "checking" once it was her turn at the window. She had laughed with the teller about "brain farts" but it hadn't been funny. Not really. Names disappeared and reappeared on her on a regular basis. People would come to visit her and she would have no idea who they were. She smiled and chatted with them anyway waiting for the name to come, and eventually it would.

She went to the doctor expecting to be told that there was nothing to be done. Just aging taking its toll. She was half right. There was nothing to be done. She carried the APOE-e4 gene. Blood tests, brain scans, cognitive tests. Her symptoms didn't match anything else. Alzheimer's disease it was.

She made plans and lists as soon as she knew. Her doctors told her it could be a very slow march through the stages of the disease and not to get discouraged. There was research being done every day that was bringing them closer to a cure. And for awhile she was fine. Lapses here and there. But her lists got her by. She felt like she was doing okay. Not perfect. Moving out of her house and in to the adult care community had been hard. A necessary precaution, but hard. But she still felt optimistic about her progress. Until today.

Today her "To Do" list wasn't comforting at all. It wasn't just that today was June 26th according to the calendar on her watch and her "To Do" list was for June 25th.  It was the scrawl across the bottom, "WHO ARE YOU???" The barely legible chicken scratch across her neatly written list that stopped her cold.

It wasn't just the loss of an entire day. It was what she felt when she saw the writing. It was her writing. Just not the neat orderly writing she normally had. It was a panicked child's writing. And when she saw it she clearly saw her shadow self for the first time. The one that came when she left. During those stretches where she couldn't remember what was happening. This is who must have been coming and taking her place. And how terrifying for this other self. To not recognize the people around you? Your surroundings? Even the list you wrote out yourself of things to do that day. So much fear.

What an odd feeling to have pity and compassion for this other woman. Only to face the fact that she was you. And would become the main you sooner than you had thought. Already you had been aware of her, the cap left off the toothpaste, the spoiled milk in the fridge. The mess of unfolded clothes. But here she was, sending you a message. Who are you?  WHO ARE YOU???

Who am I? Who are you? Who are you to come in and take over my life? Who told you that was okay? Who opened the door for you? You have fear? Of course you are afraid. So am I. Terrified.

She took a deep breath. She had known it was coming. When she had gotten the diagnosis she had done a lot of research. Made lists of symptoms to watch for. Things that would need done. She had wondered what she would do when the time came. If she would even remember where she had put those lists. But for now she did. She went to her bureau and pulled out a small box. Opening it she took out the stenographer's notebook and opened it to the first page.

To Do:
Today's Date, Unknown

1. Put the letters in this box in the mail.
2. Call Zooey and tell her that you love her.
3. Fill the bathtub.
4. Take the bottle of pills and a glass of water with you to the bath.
5. Take the pink pills first followed by the two blue ones. The pink will put you to sleep and the blue will keep you from throwing up.
6. Enjoy your bath and sleep well.

She closed the notebook and put it back in the box. Today wasn't the day, but she knew it would be here soon.

There was comfort in a list.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What prompted this?

Oh yay! So after I posted yesterday's short blog based on a prompt my genius friend Dana came up with a brilliant idea, as geniuses are wont to do...

Anyway, she had seen a writing prompt a few days earlier that she had thought might be fun for both of us to attempt. See, we would each take the same prompt and write our own stories. I thought it was a fabulous idea and agreed right away. It's always pretty cool to see what two different writers come up with using the same prompt. Would they both be horror stories? Romances? Fiction? Non-fiction? And since I happen to love everything she writes this would selfishly mean that I would get a new Dana story to read out of the deal.

Then when she went back to find the original prompt that gave her the idea she found three more. So instead of doing it once, we are going to do it once a week for the next four weeks. I'm really super excited. I might even write ahead and proof and edit, wouldn't that be a nice change of pace for you all? To get a more polished story instead of a dump and write one? Hey! It could happen....I mean it probably won't, but it could.

So what this means for you is every Wednesday for the next month there will be a short fiction piece from me with a link to a short fiction piece from her to read. Both stories based on the same prompt. I think it will be very cool. I can't wait to see how the ideas differ and possibly how they are the same. And also to give you all a chance to read her work. Seriously good stuff. I can't wait to share!

And it means I got this extra blog out of it to write about what we are going to write. Which she totally knew I would do. Because she's a genius.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Short prompts lead to short blogs...

For today's writing prompt, we dare you to write 100 words inspired by the last song you listened to. And in the NaNo spirit: let it be free-writing! Don't second guess yourself, don't hesitate.

Simple right? Okay, here we go...

If it doesn't have a roof is it still a room? I mean I get the symbolism that nothing is holding you back, but then why a room at all? Because wouldn't the walls be containing you just as much as a roof? So why are you concerned with the one piece on top inside of all four around you?

And then okay, so it’s supposed to rhyme with truth in the next line. But that’s pretty sloppy rhyming structure right? Roof and truth? It’s kind of muddy.

If you wonder if you over think the lyrics here’s your proof.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Messages and protests...

Fred Phelps is knocking on death's door. His son released a statement this weekend saying he was dying and also that he had been excommunicated from the church he founded. I wondered what it would take to be excommunicated from Westboro Baptist, the only thing I could come up with is he softened. It happens sometimes. When you start realizing that bell tolling is tolling for you and maybe just maybe those pearly gates you've always imagined are going to be locked when you get there. He wouldn't be the first bitter old man to have a late in life conversion.

Since the announcement I've read a variety of status updates about his eminent passing. Some of them taking the high road, "we can't celebrate or it will make us as evil as he is" some not as high, "I hope he is right about heaven and hell because I want him to burn." And I will say that when I read he was dying my first thought was "Yes!" because I had foolishly assumed that once he passed the church would pass along with him. But when I read that he had been out of the church since August of 2013 I realized that was just a wish on my part. Not reality.

I don't have a general dislike of the man or his church. Not a vague sense of what they do is wrong. Obviously I don't agree with their messaging. I grew up in a very religious household and even if I had stayed with the church I wouldn't agree with Westboro Baptist or their message, but it's not general or vague. It's personal.

As most of you know WB threatened to picket Jack's funeral. So I can speak to what it feels like to have that looming over you while you are already dealing with more heartache than normal. They didn't come. They didn't have to. That's the way terrorism works. Just the threat of it is enough. And believe me they are terrorists.

I was furious when we got the news that they were coming. And I was torn. Because part of me wanted to argue with them. To use their own book against them. To take their picket signs and break them over their heads. But that's what they want. They have lawyers in their family just to sue people for such things. Antagonize, terrorize, sue.

They didn't come. But the Patriot Guard did. And I got the chance to hug a few members and thank them for what they do for families in our situation. And that meant a lot to me. And I think to them. One of the guys got all flustered. "It's just the right thing to do", he told me.

And that's the real point of things like Westboro Baptist. They show us that there are more people out there willing to do the right thing than we realize. How many people are willing to stand up and say, "This isn't right." For the 20 people in his church/family that he spread his vile poison to there were thousands more that realized how wrong he was. Not just in how he was spreading his message but in his message all together. When you get a chance to see what the end result of a hate message is, it changes things.

How many people had to re-examine their own beliefs about homosexuality when they saw how quickly, "The Bible says..." morphs in to "God HATES Fags?" How many people stopped automatically fearing the guy on the motorcycle after going to a funeral, or seeing one on TV where they lined the street and protected the family? How many people realized that religious extremists don't represent an entire religion?

Maybe Fred Phelps actually did more to advance the cause for equality than he did to stop it?

And maybe he knows that right about now.

And if he does I hope it burns. I hope it burns a lot.

I'm not quite ready for the high road...

Monday, March 17, 2014

No caviar dreams for you!

I have a really good life. I've said it before. I've also said that I have a life that is so far above and beyond what I thought my life would be that I feel quite lucky every day. And I get that to a lot of people I live a pretty plain life. But I have a house that we own. Not just a car but a luxury automobile in my garage. A closet full of shoes and clothes. A child attending a private college and getting ready to graduate. I spent over $4 for a cup of coffee today. And I don't have a paying job.

If you had asked me at 15 what I thought life would be at this age I'm not sure what I would have described. But if pushed I'm pretty sure I would have come up with something close to what I was living right then. My mom worked, my dad worked multiple jobs, all of the kids worked from the moment we could. We were broke. But in that twilight of brokeness. Not so poor we were on welfare but so poor there was no extra and I've met the repo man. Our house had wheels on it. Cars were worked on in the driveway with parts scrounged from the junk yard. The very definition of the working poor.

College was a thing. I knew it was coming but had no clue at all what to do about it. My parents hadn't gone. My siblings didn't go the traditional route. Susan went to a small Christian college in Grand Junction for a semester but I have no idea how she got in, or applied, I think a youth minister at camp did it all for her? Jeff went to TVI and did their nursing program then switched to something (?) else? But never did the four year college thing. I had some scholarships to Christian colleges around the country as well as one to UNM by the time I graduated but I had no clue about applying. The when/where/how of that? No clue. And no idea where to turn to make that happen. And honestly there was no way my family could have afforded what the scholarships didn't cover if I did get in someplace.

And when it came time for C to do the college thing I still had no clue what to do. We stumbled along in the process, did the visits (later than we should have), selected schools to apply for (not as big of a mix as we should have) got in the applications (later than we should have) got a few extra scholarships set up (ignoring the free rides he had other places) and got him settled. If we could go back and do it all again knowing what we all know now we would do it differently, but we didn't know. So we muddled through. Aware that this was sort of what we were supposed to do but not having done it before having no real clue. A lot of internet research to even get started.

So why am I telling you all of this again? Because I've had a rant building for years and I have to let it out.

When C was younger every Christmas we would go to the Giving Tree in the mall and he would select a tag for a boy about his age and buy him a gift. He would save his money and buy it out of his own pocket. So there was a lot of looking, what did people ask for and what could he afford? But it was important for us to teach him that there were kids out there that wouldn't have things under the tree like he did. That couldn't just ask and expect to get what they wanted. And the year we knew he got it was when he picked a tag for gift that was well out of his comfortable spending zone. It was going to tap his resources to give. See, he didn't choose the cheapest tag off the tree he chose the gift that sounded like something he would want and gave that.

He got it.

What was it? That giving is important? No, he understood that before. What he got was that the kid who wrote that tag was just like him. Just with less money.

Seems really simple right? But it's a really hard concept for people to get.

See same tree different people looking at the tags this is the conversation you are going to hear, "This kids is asking for an X-Box! Are you kidding me? How ungrateful!"


"Oh my god! This girl wants 7 For All Mankind Jeans! She should just be asking for clothes, not brand name items! What a greedy thing!"


"Look at the size of this list! He asked for at least 5 things! Entitled. I swear."


But if you asked any of them what they were buying for their kids for Christmas that year it would be X-boxes, brand name clothes, and I guarantee more than one gift under the damn tree. But see, their kids aren't poor so it's okay that they ask for nice things. Poor people should just be damn grateful they get anything. How dare they want something more than the basics.

Jon Stewart has been having a bit of fun poking at Fox News over their fear monger reporting over food stamp abuse, I suggest you check it out. It's the same thing. How very dare people who are broke buy organic food. They should be eating generic foodstuff like products and be happy to have them. Don't even think you should have what "normal" people are having because you are poor. You deserve to suffer.

It makes me livid. Because I know what it's like. My parents worked hard for what we had. And though I said thank you for the clothes it doesn't mean that I didn't want new instead of the used clothes we bought from the second hand shop. And never more than when sitting in a classroom and having someone recognize that the shirt you are wearing, the one you patched the small hole in the collar and then artfully hid the patch with a bandanna is the same shirt they gave to the charity shop because it had a hole in the collar and some poor person could have it.

Just because I knew that Christmas morning would be a collection of clothes, shoes and few toys that didn't mean I didn't go through the Sears catalog marking pages, a LOT of pages, with what I wanted. Being poor doesn't mean you don't get to dream of having what everyone else has. And trust me when I tell you handing the little girl who asked for a Barbie a "Betty" with the legs that won't bend, and makeup that is a fraction of a centimeter off so the face looks more like a party girl at the end of the night than a doll face, the one "outfit" is a painted on bathing suit "This is just as good as Barbie" Doll isn't good enough.

It's not. And shame on YOU, yes YOU for thinking that because she's poor she should just be grateful for whatever piece of shit you hand her.

Ask yourself the simple question, would you buy that toy for your child? Or your niece or your nephew? If you are donating food to a food bank, would you eat it?  Sure you can get a smoking deal on 10 cans of generic slightly dented beans but why? If you wouldn't eat it why do you expect someone else to? And not only to eat it but to be damn grateful that you gave it to them?

Because that's the part that gets me. The expectation of gratitude. You say they are entitled and looking for a handout. I say you are trying to make yourself feel like a hero for pawning off crap you wouldn't want.

How dare poor people want the same things we all want. How dare they. And how dare we have programs set up to help them get there. They should just figure it out on their own.

"Oh!", they will moan, "You should see the fraud! There is this guy at our freeway ramp who begs for change and then drives off in his BMW every night! I swear I've seen it!"  Seriously...have you seen this or did you hear it from "a friend" and if you are willing to stand on a ramp all day in the rain getting a dollar a shot I think you probably "worked" pretty damn hard for that BMW anyway.

"You know Obama gave away free phones right? FREE PHONES! How dare poor people get a free phone! They should get a job!" Okay, Einstein, how are they supposed to get a job if they don't have a phone where they can be reached?

"The fraud! People abuse the system!" Yeah, they do. Just like people abuse tax write offs. Corporations jump through loop holes to make sure they get every bit of money back from the government that they can. Lobbyist help write laws that benefit the groups they represent so they get more money. But are you bitching about those things? No, because it's only poor people who you are disgusted by.

Is there fraud and abuse of the system? Sure there is. Show me any system and there will be someone gaming it. But why is it The Wolf of Wall-street gets a movie made about his illegal activities and people laugh and gasp at the excess but The Welfare Mom caricature gets demonized? Is compassion really that far behind greed?

It's enough to make me grit my teeth.

One of the things I believe to be true in life is that you can tell a lot more about a person from how they treat the waiter than you can how they treat the restaurant owner.

And you can tell an awful lot about a person when you listen to them talk about the poor.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The 5 Stages...

Okay, this was originally started as a series of Facebook profile pictures. I thought that would be an amusing thing to do. But I forgot one thing...Facebook isn't so great for a narrative. Short bursts. Little jokes. Quippy status updates, those all work fine, but a drawn out narrative? Not so much. First of all Facebook itself doesn't help you out. Sometimes people see what you post, sometimes they don't. And then it all depends on if they check it on the PC or on the phone. How much do they see? And even if they do see the picture, do they click in and read the description? Well, no, not always. So then the whole story line/joke falls apart and you just end up with people asking why you changed your profile picture five times in two it is. Which is probably a good thing anyway, because I am WAY behind on my blog counts for the year if I am going to reach my main goal let alone my stretch!

So here we go, short burst turned in to a full on blog...

I have arthritis in my right knee. That's what started all of this. The first stage is...

It really is. And it was a long stage. See the knees have ached off and on for a long time. Longer than I really want to talk about because I feel silly that I didn't have them checked. But there was always a good explanation as to why they ached. Busting my toe changed the work outs I could do and for a stretch I couldn't do any. So I wrote off the unease in my knees (like that?) to getting back in to working out. They hurt and swelled up when we were in Chicago but we walked at least 10 miles every day and it was humid so that must have been it. Then the noise started. First I thought it was my work out pad. See I have cushioning in the basement that I workout on. One day I am doing my squats and the workout DVD is a little lower in volume than usual and I hear this crunching noise. My first thought? That the nonslip pad under the cushions was drying out. So I moved to a new section. And then moved again. And again. And finally off of the mat and...well that's me. How odd. 

But they didn't really hurt. So it's just noisy joints. No big deal.

Then they started on the stairs. When I am home alone I keep the TV off for the most part. The house is pretty quiet. So walk up the stairs...crunch... crunch..crunch...still no pain. Not really. They were starting to feel like they weren't quite right, but not really painful. Much. The right was noisier so I guess I started to favor it a bit so I didn't have to hear it. Which then made the left start to hurt. I didn't work out at all the week before we left for Hawaii. I knew we were going to be really active while we were there and I didn't want to wear them out. And for the first time I mentioned it to Brent and told him if they were still acting up when we got back I would call the doctor. 

Well when we got back I was more concerned with C's ankle than my knees. So I didn't call. Until his first weekend back and I went up and down the stairs a few extra times, I hadn't really been paying attention to how much I was avoiding the stairs until I wasn't anymore. Okay, so maybe they didn't hurt, but they didn't feel great. So when I took C in to the doctor for a check on his ankle while he was here I made an appointment for me. 

Dr. Kwon and I talked about the knees, she listened to them and sent me for x-rays. But she said it might be a return of patellofemoral pain syndrome. Which would be great, I had that in my late teens and it's easy enough to correct with some physical therapy. And it would make sense since my gait had changed with my busted toe that the alignment in my knees would be off. She also mentioned the possibility of arthritis but I didn't want to hear that. 

After all (and the tag from the original post on Facebook) I have a tattoo, I can't have arthritis. Meaning, I'm no grownup! That's an old person disease, not for me thank you very much! Denial...

Which leads to Stage 2 Anger...

So it's osteoarthritis in my right knee. I see an orthopedist in a couple of weeks. I had already decided what it was so it shouldn't have been something else. How dare my body betray me like this.  Anger isn't someplace I dwell for long so on to Stage 3


Okay, so look, here's the deal. I will trade Zumba for swimming, I will drop about 5 pounds (for every 1 pound you lose you relieve 4 pounds of pressure from your knees), I will take the gelatin capsules and the glucosmine pills and eat beef marrow soup...and I will make the concession to wear lipstick and jewelry so people know I am an adult.  Okay? I mean, not dark lipstick, just a nice light berry stain. And not like gaudy jewelry, but a nice earring. And I will give serious looks. And act grown up and...


Give up my Disney Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck flip flops? But I only wear them every once in awhile because I already had to give up most of my flip flops for my toe...and come on...seriously? To be a grown up I would have to do this too? Oh I don't think I can do that...


All right. So they are noisy. And a little painful. And I will probably have to make a few changes to my supplements and exercise and possibly my weight. But it's no big deal. My sister's knees were wrecked by the time she was 15. Major knee surgery before she was even out of high school. I got 30 more years than that before getting a touch of arthritis. Not bad really. We will see what the doctor has to say when I go in. I'm sure it won't be nearly as bad as what I've imagined.

Or it could be that I have never moved out of denial and I did all of this to keep my mind busy...