Monday, June 30, 2014

Unsentimental sentimentality...

Okay, time to get the painful blog out of the way...

As most of you know our family pet passed away a few weeks ago. It was a shock. We had no idea he was as sick as he was and once we knew it was too late to do anything about it. It was awful. We miss him terribly. But I have to say something that will probably shock a few of you and possibly insult others. He was a cat, not a person. We didn't think of him as a child but as a pet. A beloved and completely spoiled pet for sure, part of the family yes but as the family pet. He didn't "think he was people" and neither did we. And honestly no matter what most of you say you don't feel that way either.

I will tell you how I know.

"You need to go out and get a kitten right away."

Do you know how many times I've heard this? Not just since George died but before that when we lost Sampson, which is how we ended up with George. We did go out and get a kitten (actually two) right away.

But just think about that for a second, you would NEVER say that to someone who had lost their child, "You need to go out and get a baby right away. OH! You know the orphanage has some two year olds that are already potty trained, that way you wouldn't have to go through that again, but you would have a new baby to focus on." See? Ridiculous.

Now I'm not saying we don't love our pets. Or that we don't grieve when we lose them. But what I am saying is that we don't have to try and elevate them to "human" to feel this way about them. It's an argument I've had with some of my more umm...passionate vegan friends. They want to point out all the ways we should be treating animals as equals because they are so much like humans. Well, if your basis for compassion is that animals are like humans isn't that flawed? Shouldn't your argument be that animals deserve compassion because everything deserves compassion, not just things we can equate with ourselves? Isn't that more ego driven, or at least as ego driven as saying that animals are less than human? Just something to think about. And something I wanted to put out there before I write what will probably be a very long blog, you are free to skip the rest, about our pets.

I grew up with dogs and cats and birds and fish. Even a turtle for a stretch. And mice, I had mice for a brief moment in time. And many of those animals were completely spoiled. Very well taken care of house pets. But I also had parents that were raised on working farms and had grandparents we went and visited during the summer whose animals weren't pampered house pets but working members of their farms. There was my grandparents dog who let all of us kids pull his ears and ride him like a horse and sleep on him like he was a giant stuffed pillow. Oh did I mention he was a pit bull? Yes, the nanny dog. Very good with kids. If they are raised that way.

There was also Fred. Solid muscle with a purr like an outboard motor. You could hear him coming from the barn when he saw you on the porch. Fred didn't have a name until we came to visit. He was just the barn cat. Every barn needs at least one cat to keep the mice away. Fred was that cat. Cats, even more than dogs, get less love on a farm. They are there to work. The dog might be let inside to the screened in porch if it got too cold but the cat was left to find someplace warm to curl up. Though my grandfather also did leave him a platter of fresh milk when he would milk the cow, so he was a little spoiled.

Anyway, just like the cows, chickens, horses, and pigs the dogs and cats on a farm have jobs. Protection, sanitation, food, and you don't ever think of them as your brothers or sisters or kids. Because they are pets. So I had that in my upbringing.

But again, that doesn't mean you don't adore your pets. When we were first married Brent came to pick me up from work one day and said, "Your mother called, they had to put Brandy down." and I burst out in to tears. You can't just tell me something like that off the cuff! Brandy was my brother and sister's dog. They had Brandy and Jeremiah. Great pair of dogs. Jeremiah was the sweetest thing ever. He had a tuft of hair on the top of his head that was different than the rest of his wiry coat. Longer, softer and gray, like an old man. Brandy was the tough chick. She was the one who would protect the house if it needed done. She was also a fierce bird hunter. You had to watch the yard or she would have a snack. She also would sit at the base of our parakeet's cage and chatter at him. He would pace back and forth on the perch laughing my mother's laugh at her. Great dogs really. Not my dogs, but I still was so sad when we lost them. But I didn't think of them as my nephew and niece. They were my brother and sister's dogs.

Growing up we had Mitzi (smartest dog ever), Sunshine (bless her heart, she tried), Princess and George for dogs. Princess and George being strays my sister and I took in at different points. For cats we had Chris and Jeremy. Then there was Petey the parakeet, the fish and the mice I mentioned before and Yertle the Turtle who was around when I was like 4, I want to say. So a good mix of pets. When we moved away my parents still had Mitzi, Sunshine and Jer. When I would come visit Jer would still come running when he heard my voice. He was a great cat. But as pets do, they all got old and were eventually replaced with other pets by my folks. Right now I think they have two cats and two dogs and a bird again.

When Brent and I got married our first pet was a ferret. Super fun pet. People will tell you they are like cats, and maybe a little. But more like cats as imagined by a horror writer. They are sneaky, tricky, super entertaining things. But not cuddly sweet pets. More mischievous than cats for sure. She was great. But when we were transferred to California we had to give her away. They are illegal to keep as pets there and if anyone had discovered her she would have been confiscated and put down. Just not okay. So off she went to a new home. The young boy who got her was thrilled. The mom had no idea what she was in for.

We didn't have pets again for a long time. We moved a lot and worked a lot and just didn't have the time. Until we settled up here the first time. Thinking we were done with moving and that C was old enough for a pet we decided it might be time. And then we saw Sampson. In a pet store. I know! Can you believe it? We bought a pet store cat. Shame on us...but he was adorable. Little gray striped ball of fluff.

And he was awesome. And didn't stay little for very long. The vet told us he thought there must be some Maine Coon in him. Head the size of a softball and 20 pounds. He was one of those cats that you say thinks they are a dog. When someone would come over he didn't run and hide, he was right there to see who was there and what they wanted and if they would play fetch with him. When we bought our first house up here he spent the entire time we were drawing up the offer perched on the head and shoulders of our real estate agent. Good thing for Steve Sampson was still a kitten at the time and only about 8 pounds. Once he reached his full size he also discovered that if he took a running start at you and jumped at your legs he could hit the back of your knees and completely take you out. Did I mention aside from being the coolest cat in the world he was also mean as shit? He would bite you if he was in the mood and do the flying tackle.

He also didn't live very long. And here is where the argument against pet store pets comes in to play. He was a genetic mess. At three years old he got sick. Started vomiting and just wouldn't stop. We had gone through a stretch with him around 2 where he did the same thing. But that time they gave him some medicine, he stopped, and it was all okay. This time nothing was working. We had the rounds of testing, of x-rays to make sure he hadn't swallowed string, of medicine, of fluids and nothing was working. Though we did discover through the x-rays that at some point he had broken his hip and we never knew. I know how he did it, the house we had in Hillsboro had an open plan from the living room to the second floor, there was a plant ledge up there and we used to nag at him when he would crawl out there lay on it. At some point he obviously fell. But some how was able to get around without a limp that would have let us know he broke his freaking hip!

Anyway...after quite a few days at the emergency vet (it was over the 4th of July so holiday hours) he was recovering. We were going to get to take him home! Yay! Then the call came. We had to come right away because he was failing and they couldn't stop it. If we wanted to see him before he died this was it. I couldn't believe it. He was 3. There was no way we should be doing this! And they still had no idea what went wrong. It wasn't until he passed and they did an autopsy on him that they saw he had massive internal organ damage. And one system after another was just failing. There was nothing we could have done. Which would have been nice to know before we spent the right at three grand to keep him alive. Yes, three grand. Which we didn't really have. There went the bonus and savings for that year. Everyone would tell Brent, "You spent how much?" and he would say, "This was Denise's cat. You try telling her no we aren't." And honestly if he had lived it would have been worth it to me. He was our cat.

Also in those three years we had a dog for a stretch. One of the biggest regrets in my pet owning life. She wasn't a good fit for the family at that time. I was stretched to capacity (something I didn't know I would be when we got her) she terrorized Sampson to the point where he became very anti-social (of course now we wonder if this wasn't more his health fading than her) and I just couldn't give her the attention or the compassion that she needed. I regret that we got her and I regret that we gave her away. I feel like if I could have just lasted a year with her she would have mellowed out. But then again, lasting a year right then was a lot to ask. It wasn't a good time.

So after Sampson died people, including his regular vet, said we needed to get another cat right away. I knew I wasn't really ready, but everyone said it was best, so off to the pound we went. Where we found the most adorable little Harlequin faced cats! Oh my gosh! They were so freaking cute! And completely feral...not at all ready for adoption. The people there said maybe in a few weeks they would settle but in the meantime have you seen these two? Sam and Diane they were named...a brother and sister duo. Tiny little black cats. Diane was the braver of the two, coming over to check us out while Sam hung back a bit. But when I picked him up he started purring right away. Okay we would take the bold Diane and her chicken brother Sam. But we would find new names.

So Sam and Diane became George and Gracie or as I referred to them, the replacements. And they were. I just didn't connect with them for the longest time. Now it didn't help that Gracie had tricked us at the pound. She was not brave. She was scared of everything. Except food. Neurotic to the hilt. We spent years trying to get her calmed down. Kitty Prozac. Kitty pheromones. Different foods. Different environment. Different everything. And then there was George. He was a bit of a chicken heart. More social than his sister, but that wasn't hard to be. But still not ever calm. He would lay down next to you but in a perma crouch, ready to bolt at the slightest movement. And this is how it went for about 8 years or so. When I realized I had had the replacements for longer than I ever had Sampson but I still didn't bond with them.

Then Gracie lost what was left of her mind. We tried even more things with her, but she started treating the entire house as a litter box and since I worked out of the house this was really not okay. So I packed her up and took her to the local shelter. Where I was told that they had too many cats and the only thing they could do for her was put her to sleep. So I brought her back home. That was one of the worst days ever. Because I knew that I couldn't keep her. We had already spent so much time and money trying to get her to be "okay" I had nothing left. And I wouldn't live in a house that was constantly soaked in cat urine. The local cat sanctuaries were full and couldn't take her. The local pound wouldn't take her. Finally a no-kill shelter opened in Washington and a friend took her up there for me. I couldn't do the drive to the shelter again. As much as I didn't like her, as much grief as she had been, she was still our pet and I was still a failure as a pet owner. It was bad.

I had been really worried about how George would react. After all they were litter mates. He had never been without her. How would he handle it?

Turns out very well.

He calmed down quite a bit. Became a very social little guy. And he was little. Nine pounds on a good day. As opposed to Sampson's 20 and Gracie's 18. But he was able to keep his weight more steady now that his sister wasn't constantly eating all of his food. He was able to relax with us. Which makes me think she was probably beating on him when weren't around. She was a lot more temperamental so that would explain his nervousness. He was still really physically fragile.  He had always had a delicate system, prone to vomiting (which of course with our history with Sampson worried me) and he had never reached his full growth potential so he had his giant snaggle tooth hanging out of his mouth and his bat ears on his head that he never grew in to. We think he was probably malnourished between their time on the street before the pound and his sister stealing his food afterwards.

And as he spent more time with us we saw more and more of his personality. And, as I do, I gave him stories to tell about his world. "George thinks..." "George says...." Eventually my friend Scott said, "he needs his own web page so other people can hear this stuff." which I think was a way of telling me to shut up about my fucking cat, but worked. He got a web page. And between that and posts on my facebook page he became a smallish internet sensation. Full of snarky observations on life. No crazy spelling or bad grammar or cutesy overload either. He wasn't that type of cat. Odd right? I gave him a personality that meshed well with mine. Imagine that.

Even when he got sick this last time I posted about it in a snarky way. On his page and on mine. That lets you know how very not worried we were. He was only 13, yes fragile but mostly healthy as always so we were thinking we would have another 5 years with him at least. He vomited a lot on Friday. Which for him meant more than three times. Because he always would vomit in threes. But by the time Friday was over he had vomited 8 times. A lot. And he was warm. The plan was to wait overnight and take him to the vet on Saturday. But he got better overnight. Only vomited once on Saturday. We were feeling good enough to leave for the coast on Sunday without worry. Then Monday he was okay. Tuesday C and I went to Bend for the day and by the time we got home Tuesday night he was sick again. By the time we went to bed he wouldn't even keep down water. So Wednesday morning straight to the vet. He had to stay there for the day so they could fit him in around other appointments. He had lost weight, which was always worrisome because of his size. But he looked good, the vet thought, healthy coloring, good response, a little tired, but not terrible. Blood work and they sent us home. Then the call came Thursday. He was in acute kidney failure. His levels were off the charts bad. Sitting in the parking lot of the dentist while the vet told me our options but also let me know that the odds weren't good. Not with the numbers we were seeing.

How could this be? A week earlier he was fine. But he wasn't. Looking back I can see a few signs. Very few. Nothing I would have ever put together before we knew he was sick. He was eating a little less than normal, but his weight had been steady right up until the last few days. He wouldn't take treats from the boys anymore, just from me. He had pooped outside of the litter box in the study. Subtle things. But things that looking back let me know he wasn't his best. So anyway, we decided to try and treat him. A small chance is still a chance right?

Thursday he was back at the vet, kitty dialysis, fluids, the whole bit. Thursday night home with us and back for another round on Friday and then Saturday with a redoing of the blood-work on Saturday. Or at least that was the plan. But George had had enough. When I picked him up on Thursday they let me know they couldn't get him to eat or drink anything or use the litter box to eliminate the fluids he was taking in. And that didn't change when we got home. He wouldn't eat or drink anything for us. He used the box once. And it was to throw up in, which turned out to be the food I got him to eat on Wednesday. It had just sat there undigested in his stomach for a day. He didn't want attention. He didn't want to be touched. He hid. Which wasn't like him at all. So I made the call that we would stop treatment. I just knew it wasn't going to get better and I had two options. Keep trying and let his last two days be at the vet getting poked and prodded, or say this is enough and spend one more day with him here at home.

We chose home. Brent said goodbye to him before he left for work. C and I spent time with him petting him and telling him what a great cat he was. And crying. Lots of crying. He didn't eat or drink all day, but he didn't hide either. He stayed in the living room with us. Letting us fuss over him while he slept mostly. And then when the time came C and I took him in to the vet and let him go. We stayed in the room with him petting him until his last moments. As far as those things go it was the best it could go. And as befitted an internet sensation I posted a note to his page and mine about losing him.

What I really didn't realize was how much of sensation he really had become until I got such sweet notes from people all over the world, literally, all over the world, who would miss him.

So even though he started out as one of the replacements he ended his life full on in the spotlight.

And I won't be replacing him any time soon.

Because as much as I don't agree with the whole "they are people" sentiment, I do know that I need time to grieve for my pet. For the loss in our family. I don't want to bring another pet in to fill a hole. It's okay to have that hole right now. And no matter what I do it won't change. George and Gracie didn't make me miss Sampson less, they just distracted me from the missing and the missing kept me from bonding with them as much as I would have. But I still miss Sampson. Just like I know I will still miss George. They come in to our lives and we take care of them and love them and spoil them. How can we not miss them when they are gone? It's only natural. Grief is natural. And I'm okay with grieving him without trying to replace him.

And I'm okay saying he was just a cat.

Because just a cat is a pretty damn good thing to be.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Nice to meet you...

I met my father's mistress when I was 15.

I usually just let that sit there for a minute in a conversation. It's always good for a bit of uncomfortable silence. And it gives me a chance to size people up by their reaction. The most common one is disbelief. After all you know who my mother is, why in the world would my father have a mistress? Then there are people who cannot believe he introduced me to her. And then there are those who make an off color or bad joke out of it. And finally there are those that let the silence linger waiting for the story. The jokers and the waiters are the ones I usually keep as friends.

I remember everything about the day. A girlfriend from school and I were working on a report and there was an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art we wanted to include. And to be perfectly honest we wanted an excuse to spend the day in the city by ourselves. Getting permission would be tricky. Not for me, for Anna. After all my mother had been living on her own since she was 16 and, as the neighborhood mothers said, she was European and had very different ideas on how to raise children. Basically she thought that Americans babied their children and because of that limited their life experiences making boring adults. You can imagine how this theory was met.

Though she had convinced Anna's mother that we would be perfectly safe taking the train in to the city by ourselves, visiting the museum, having lunch and doing some shopping before coming home. I say convinced but she probably intimidated Anna's mother more than convinced her. My mother was Bulgarian. She was very direct. I can just imagine her telling Anna's mother, "The girls will be fine. You worry too much. It's bad for your face." And that would be that. But just to be sure Anna spent the night at our house so her mother couldn't change her mind at the last minute.

We spent the night before picking out just the right outfits. We wanted to look very grown up. I remember my mother looking in on our choices and giving her feedback. "Change the shoes." But we loved the shoes! They made the whole outfit! "They are beautiful shoes.You have wonderful taste. But those are riding and sitting shoes. You need walking shoes."

We stuck to our guns and did not change the shoes.

She had been right. She usually was.

We went to the museum first. Taking notes on the pieces we had gone to see. Then we explored the rest of exhibits making comments we thought were very mature and educated but were really just parroted back pieces from our books. Then we turned the corner to the photography exhibit. And there was my mother. "Is that?" "Yes, it is. We have a smaller copy at home. I didn't realize this was here." And I hadn't. If I had known it was on loan from the museum in Paris where it usually resided I would have made sure Anna and I skipped this room. It's not that I wasn't used to seeing pictures of my mother like this, but this picture was not just her, but my brother and me as well. I was 5 and my brother 3. And did I mention we are all naked? It's a beautiful picture. My mother looks as stunning in it as she does in any of the hundreds of pictures of her you can find. My brother and I look adorable, I will admit. But at 15 it's not what you want people to see.

"She's gorgeous."

"Yes she is. Come on, let's go to lunch." I wasn't embarrassed by the picture. Not really. But it always seemed like bragging to me when people wanted to talk about her. She had graced magazine covers from the time she was 15. Leaving Bulgaria at 16 to live in Paris and then London. Finally coming to New York City at 18 for Fashion Week where she met my father. He was 26 at the time. And he fell in love with her instantly. When people would ask about the age difference he would say, "She was bothered at first, but I matured over the next few years and caught up to her."

They married when she was 20 and she had me at 22. Which became her next defining career moment. Not just motherhood, which she threw herself in to completely, if not conventionally, but in the discovery that no one made maternity clothing for adults. That's how she described it. "Big lacy collars and floppy bows. Why do they believe I should want to dress like a baby just because I am carrying one?" And so she began designing maternity clothing. And then branching out from there. Magazine articles called her the "Style Momven" My father had to explain that they were making a play on maven. Puns do not translate well. But the styles did. She was very successful. It helped that she could model her own lines at the beginning and people made that leap that they do, "If I wear this I will look like her!" Well maybe not, but at least you will look like an adult not a very large baby.

I had picked the restaurant for lunch. It was one my father had taken me to the summer before. I loved it. You could sit outside and watch everyone walking by on the street while you ate. It reminded me of the cafes in Paris my mother would take us to when we visited. I felt every inch the daughter of a European while eating there. After we were seated and had ordered I excused myself to use the restroom. And there in the very back of the restaurant was my father. "Dad! What a surprise!"

And he did look surprised, but then why wouldn't he? I am sure he had forgotten, or might not have even known, that I would be in the city that day. "Anna and I have a table outside, did you want to come sit with us?"

He gestured to the place across from him, "I'm sorry, Syd, but I'm here on a business lunch."

"Oh, of course, I will see you tonight then." and I leaned over to kiss his cheek before leaving.

"Excuse me?"

I turned and there was a young blond woman standing by the table watching my father and me.

"Miss Harris, this is my daughter Sydney. Sydney, this is Miss Harris. Miss Harris works with James Osterhouse."

I shook her hand, we did the nice to meet yous, I excused myself and apologized for interrupting their meeting and went back to my day in the city with Anna.

That night when I walked in the front door, carrying those stylish shoes and nursing some serious blisters, my father was already home. He said his last meeting finished early and seeing me at lunch made him homesick in the middle of the day. It was very sweet. I smiled at him and turned to see my mother watching us both very closely.

Later that evening my mother asked me if I had seen anything unusual that day. I told her that in fact I had. And I told her about the photograph.

Ten years later my brother and I were standing outside of the funeral home. A blond woman walked over to us and shook my hand. "I don't know if you remember me, we only met once." And then the day in the city came back to me. "Oh yes, you worked with my father. Miss..."

"Harris. But you can call me..."

"You cannot be here. I will not have it."

My mother had her hand on Miss Harris' shoulder, pulling her away from me and my brother. "I will not have it. You will leave now."

"I wanted to give my condolences. I just..."

"You will leave!"

And then it made sense. And didn't. All at the same time.

When I was 15 my father introduced me to his mistress.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I'm so behind...

So basically half the year is gone so I should be halfway through my blog goal right? Well that hasn't happened. I have to step it up to make the baseline goal and REALLY crank to make the stretch goal now! Eek! The easy parts are that I have half a year to go. Plenty of time to make things up. Also life should be settling back out from a few topsy turvy months schedule wise. Now I just need to get back in the habit of sitting down and writing every day. That's the hard part.

Because I've had a ton of blogs. Really good ones. I wish you could have read them. But they never made it from my head on to the page so you missed brilliance. BRILLIANCE! Or at least I can say they were and you will never know so you can't really contradict me. There was a really good one on C graduating and another on his move. A tear jerker about George. One on sports. A fiction piece that started with a great line and then kind of meandered. Okay, that one might not have been brilliant but the line was excellent.

So now I am going to go back and try and recreate a few of those and capture that lightning in a bottle again. I hope they are just as brilliant the second time around. Which is going to be hard, because trust me, brilliant!

And of course I am totally cheating by writing this as an easing back in to the habit blog. Because that's the way I roll...Oh and as always, I still do take requests. If there is something you want me to write about just ask and I will give it a try.

So just a quick story to finish up (pad this out?)...

All week long I have been SUPER productive. Making lists, checking things off. Generally kicking ass each day. Today when I will actually have someone ask, "So what did you do today?" I have pretty much nothing...

I umm..watched soccer and I wrote a blog. OH and I did some laundry. Want to hear about the rest of the week? It rocked...

Now to be fair one of the reasons I was rocking things out the rest of the week was so I could have today to watch without feeling distracted, but still...

I need better planning if I want to get that gold star pat on the head...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Don't be an asshole...

I know, it's kind of a blunt title today, right? But I was trying to figure out some other way to put it and I just couldn't. So Don't be an asshole it is.

Now on to the blog!

I read a book last week that is 14 years old. It's the first in a series I have been meaning to try out for a long time. Probably not 14 years, but at least 7 or 8. I have read a few short stories in that universe that have been included in anthologies I've picked up but I've never actually read the main series. Amazon had a really good deal on "first in a series" books so I picked it up and boom! Now I've started. And it was entertaining. And I will probably pick up more. I will look at the library's selection of e-books and hope that most of them are there. Lots of reading in my future.

I have at least three different television show series that I want to catch up with on Netflix soon. Things we just haven't had the time to watch yet. But I want to. I know they are there and we will enjoy them when we get to them.

There are a ton of movies out there that I want to see as well. We tend to see the big action style flicks in the theater and leave the smaller less effects heavy ones for home viewing. Which means we watch things late. But we get to them.

So where am I going with all of this?

Well somewhere I've been before. Spoiler Alert.

My biggest pet peeve right now is people and spoilers. The book series I mentioned, I know that a lot of things are going to happen. It's a 14 year old series, so imagine how pissed off I am when someone tells me, "don't get attached to...".  Television series, "Oh my gosh, the second season you will cry because they are killing...."  Movies, "It was really good, big twist at the end." What the actual fuck, people! Don't do this! Don't justify it when you do with "Well you should have seen/read/watched by now so..." NO! Do you have any idea how many books, movies and television shows are released each year? Just because you read it or saw it first doesn't mean you own it and all plot lines. Get it?

The biggest one? Game of Thrones. I watch the TV show. I haven't read the books. I made a conscious decision after the first season not to read the books because I enjoy the show so much. I know as soon as I read the books it will change the show, things will be different, I want to enjoy it without expectations. But I live on the west coast. So trying to make it to 9 PM on a Sunday night without seeing who died or who didn't is tricky. Spoilers hit my feed as early as 5 PM. If I'm not thinking about it, and making sure I am not online the episode is tainted. (I hear you laughing, Dana) and I am pissed off.

Not just that someone has spoiled it but because their response is "You should have read the books by now!" Sorry, that's just using an excuse because you are being an asshole. First off, not everyone who watches TV reads. Period. Secondly, why should I have read the books by now? Because you said I should? I will read the books, but I had never heard of the books before the show started. If you know that the show isn't even on yet where I live why not post as your status, "Game of Thrones tonight, See Comments for discussion!" That way you get to post your OH MY GOD THEY KILLED KENNY moment and I can avoid seeing it so for 40 minutes of the show I'm not just sitting there waiting for the death blow. Easy right? I'm not saying you shouldn't be excited to talk about it, I'm saying don't be an asshole.

Because that's what you are being when you ruin it for other people.

I don't care how you want to justify it. If you know not everyone has seen it and you ruin it, you are being an asshole.

"I can't believe you haven't read that!" Oh really? Then you have a very limited imagination. I read close to a hundred books every year. Do you know how many are published every year? Roughly 300,000.  So yeah, I haven't read everything. And neither have you. So don't be an asshole.

Are we clear?

Friday, June 6, 2014


So last week Dana sent me a link to a show on Discovery. Swamp Murders. The original link has changed, I wish I could show you what it was, but if you look to the left of the video you can see part of that original image. Anyway...Dana saw that and thought it needed to be a story. I agreed. It was a creepy shot. So many possibilities.

And so she made it one. Sentenced

I read it yesterday morning and it stuck with me all day. Shortest of short stories but what a great pairing with that picture. And I want to know more. Loved it.

And because it was stuck in my head as I drove past one of the many forested areas here in town I heard this line, "I wasn't surprised when they found the body."  Boom! There it was. I could see the woman talking. I knew how I wanted the story to end.

After a few tweaks and changes I have the piece ready.

Who knew it would end up a surprise shared prompt?

I bring you...Best Friends.

Best friends...

She wasn't surprised when they found the body. Not really any way. She also wasn't freaked out, creeped out or grossed out. All things people assumed she would be. After all the body was found on her parent's land. In the clearing where she spent a good chunk of her childhood. Her idyllic pasture. Her golden garden. Her fairy ring. Her place. And every one knew she had sat within steps of where they found the body for years. Never knowing.

She tried playing it off like she was just too cool for such things. After all the planet is millions of years old. The odds are strong that no matter where you are sitting, walking, building a house, parking your car, someplace underneath you is a body. Maybe not a human, but for sure an animal. The whole planet is really a graveyard when you think about it.

Which she quickly found out most people don't want to think about. So she just said, no, she wasn't creeped, grossed or freaked out. She hadn't been then so why would she be now?

Sitting today in the clearing, looking at the newly overturned dirt where the police had dug up the body, smelling that fresh earth smell she thought about it again. Shouldn't she have at least been surprised? After all it's not like everyday you get a call from your mother telling you their new dog had been digging in the woods and you would never guess what he found...

She looked at the mound of dark brown earth. The holes in the ground around the area where the police had driven stakes and strung cord to keep people back while they dug. The broken and trampled ferns around the base of the trees where people who were not as careful as she always was had come in and out of the clearing. And she remembered.

Remembered the first time she had found this spot. They had only been living in the new place for a week. She and her dog Lacy, the non-digger, had been out "adventuring." The house came with land. Lots of land for a girl raised in the city. And this had been the best piece of it. Breaking through the trees and finding the clearing had been magical. She thought back to that day, the way the light broke through in patches. Sunbeams. She had heard the term before but for the first time really understood what it meant. She would discover that depending on the time of year that light would vary. Golden in the fall when the aspens would filter the sun through their yellow leaves. Pure white in the winter. She loved the spot.

The area was a clear circle, no trees, just the large stump of a pine tree that had been felled a long time before they ever bought the land. He father said that the old tree was probably why the area was clear, that when it had been alive it would have cast a large shadow and no other trees would have grown there and the roots of the big tree were still there so it was probably keeping other trees from growing as well.

With that thought she looked again at the mound of dirt. There were small traces of roots in the dirt. Just the thin wispy ones. Easily cut with a shovel. Pulled from the ground with the body. That must have meant that the body had been buried when the tree was still alive. Though the thicker roots must have been deeper. Under.

She looked around at the aspens and pines that surrounded her. Listened to the soft swish that was always present in the woods. The breeze always blew in the tops of the trees. She always thought of it as the way they breathed. She listened for the sounds of the animals that lived in the trees. Today they were mostly silent. She thought they were probably still a little cautious from having their home invaded over the past few weeks. She stretched her hands out next to her legs. Feeling the top of the tree stump. The smoothness. It had been exposed to the elements for so long it was more furniture than living thing.

When she was younger the tree stump had served as the centerpiece for many activities. The table for tea parties, the pretend fire for a witches cauldron, the stage for her Oscar worthy performances. More than once a pedestal for a snowman. She had played in the clearing for years. Bringing friends from school to share her spot, if she felt them worthy, but often just by herself but usually with Lacy. She thought about the tea parties she would host for any number of imaginary friends. Talking with all of them, and as all of them. Her faithful companion laying down in the clearing waiting on her until they would head back. Or until she would join her. Resting her head against Lacy's warm belly. Laying in the sunbeams. She turned again and looked at the mound of dirt, is that where they would rest? In that spot? Or was she just imagining it now because the dirt stood out against the green of the forest floor?

Then she thought about what changed as she got older. She would still come to her clearing but now it was just her and Lacy. Friends from school were not welcome. And then Lacy had gotten a little too old to keep up with romps through the woods and would wait for her back at the house tail thumping on the porch as a welcome home. On these visits instead of tea party supplies she would take her notebook with her and write poems and stories. She would recite them out-loud to the trees. Listening to the way the words sounded when spoken aloud. Did they flow the way she wanted them to? Were they as powerful as they could have been? She realized that she had always told her stories in the clearing. But now instead of tea parties and witches' brew she wrote.

And thought. There was no better place for her to clear her head than here

When she had her heart broken for the first time she had escaped to the clearing. She had first sat on the stump and cried, and then stood on it and screamed. Screamed until she felt like she had no voice left. Then she had laughed. Realizing that the stump didn't care about a boy so neither should she. She had jumped off the stump and laid down on the grass. Staring up at the sky. Watching the clouds roll past. Knowing that her first broken heart would heal. It would all be fine. She paused again in her thoughts, where had she lain? She stood up and walked around the clearing. Then laid down in the grass. No, this wasn't right. It had been where the mound of dirt was now. That had been the spot. That was always the spot.

On nights where she and her father would come to the clearing and watch the stars. During the day when she would lay and watch clouds pass. When she was working on a story and just needed to think. Sitting up from the "not right" spot she looked again toward the mound of dirt and noticed for the first time a little path worn from the stump to the edge of the pile. She and Lacy had walked between the two spots so many times they had worn a path. And she had never noticed.

She walked over and picked up a handful of the freshly turned dirt. She let it run through her fingers feeling it slip back away. Getting back up and going to sit on her stump she took a deep breath. She thought about the years she had spent in this very spot. Resting on the tree stump while its roots ran underground and cradled another. Supporting them both. Looking toward the dirt mound. How many times she had lain in that very spot, resting, thinking?

No she wasn't surprised that they had found a body in her clearing. One that had laid just under the dirt through her entire childhood. Cradled by the roots of her tree. Watching her tea parties. Listening to her stories. Comforting her broken heart.

Not surprised. Or freaked out. Or creeped out. Or grossed out. Or any of the other things people asked her. But things were different. She did feel something she had never felt here before.

She was lonely.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Last week as we were getting ready for bed Brent looked up at me in the mirror and said, "Do you do it on purpose?"

This is one of those loaded question moments. I think it was Bill Cosby who did a routine about calling your kids in to the living room every once in awhile and saying something like, "Well? Do you have something to tell me?" and then waiting for the confession. Because odds are they've done something that they think they are getting away with right until this very moment.

So as I turned off the water and met his gaze in the mirror I was wracking my brain, do what? What have I done lately? Is this "I'm sorry I didn't mean it" time or "I didn't do it!" time?"Do what?"

"Put everything back in a different order."

Oh! I get it. I had cleaned the bathroom that day and I take everything off the counters and clean then put it all back.

"Did I put things back in the wrong place?"

"Every time. Always different. I was just wondering if you did it as a game or because you couldn't remember where it all went."

Both of these are valid choices. Putting things back differently each time because it amused me would be something I would totally do. And having no clue where the things were 15 minutes before is also something I would do. Now the really crazy thing is I do think about it when I put them back. Not just trying to recall where they were but what would make sense in where they should be. And every time I put them back in a different place. Let that sink in for a second. From week to week I think the logical place to put something is a different place than last week.

So every week Brent gets to learn the new arrangement for his things. "Do you fix it?"

"Nope. I just leave it in the new arrangement and wait for the next week's surprise. I just wasn't sure if you did it as a game or an accident."

I gave him the "what are you going to do?" smile in the mirror and said, "Just an accident. Just think of it as helping you fight Alzheimer's!" (new ways of doing things you normally do by habit are good for neural pathways)

I thought about that today as I cleaned house. I had today as the only day this week with a good uninterrupted chunk of time to get the house cleaned before the mother-in-law visits this weekend. I needed to get it all cleaned top to bottom. So how long would it take? Let's make it a game! I thought it would probably take a normal person 3 hours so for an easily distracted person I was giving myself 4. I had 5 hours to get it all done so even if I went over I would be fine. I set a stopwatch and off I went! It took 4 hours and 37 minutes. So more than I thought but not terrible because I had other things that came up...

Like the clothes I started to switch out yesterday but only got halfway through before I left to take C to the dentist and forgot to get back to when we got home. I had some that I needed to try on to see how they fit and the rest needed hung up and the closet arranged. But I got that done. Then there were the pictures from graduation that I was going to scan in to email people and when I was sorting recycling I saw we had photo paper and realized I could actually print the pictures on the photo paper and give the grandmas' hard copies. And that took a little bit of figuring out but I got that done. And then the three times it took me to actually get the dishwasher unloaded because I kept getting distracted by other things. I don't really do chores in a linear fashion...a little of this...a little of that....which is great for keeping me interested but lousy for having to stop and think..."Hmmm? Where was I again? What's left?"

But the good news is, the house is clean.

And the toiletries are all rearranged.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I learned it by watching you okay...

I've talked about it before, I'm an introvert. I can play an extrovert when needed, which then makes people confused when I tell them, no, I'm an introvert. But I am.

I just know that sometimes I have to be social. Especially when I worked in advertising. I would have to turn it on and keep it on for long stretches. Especially during business trips when it was early morning meetings followed by late in to the evening socializing. Coming home from those trips would mean a day (at least) of sitting on the couch by myself not talking to anyone while I recharged my batteries.

The phone is an especially horrid thing. I was so relieved to find that it's a common trait among introverts to hate phone calls. We were earlier adopters in this house of the whole no land line thing. We didn't have one until C got in to middle school and was too young for his own cell phone but old enough to be at home alone. And then as soon as he started high school and we got him a cell phone that land line went back away. I don't want to answer the phone. Even if it's someone I really like calling, half the time I have to brace myself before I answer. I don't understand people who don't like text messages.

So the past few days I've had to play "Do as I say, not as I do" with C. He's had to make phone calls. Have conversations with strangers. Just the worst for someone like me. And he is much more introverted than I am. Yesterday I was asking him questions and he was stone silent. "Are you listening to me? Do you understand what I'm telling you? I'm not getting any sort of read off of you here." "yeah, I'm just exhausted."

And yes, that's what it's like. It's exhausting. I get it. I really do. But you have to do these sorts of things sometimes.

And I can't do it for him.

Not that I want to.

But I really do need to let him deal with this on his own.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

There be fangirls ahead...

Warning time. Do not read this if you haven't seen Maleficent. I will be talking in detail about the movie. Spoilers will abound. This isn't a wash over review it's a dissection. Back out now if you want to see it fresh without my take on it. And with the movie unsullied and unspoiled.

Okay? Are we clear?

Everyone still here knows what is coming? Good.

Now for the second warning. I am a Maleficent fangirl. She is my favorite Disney character. Flat out, hands down. My favorite. So with that being said it's hard to please a true fangirl or fanboy when a movie comes out that dares to touch their hero. And we tend to say things that make other people roll their eyes and mutter "fangirl" under their breath. And I am not only aware of this, I am okay with it. When we left the theater the first question Brent asked was, "How mad are you?" See? He knows there was no way to please me completely and it would just be a degree of mad. So take all of the rest of this review with that in mind.

When the news first hit that they were making a live action Maleficent I had visions of Snow White and the Huntsman roll through my head and I was not okay with them doing that to my Maleficent. Not at all. But then the first pictures of Angelina Jolie came out She looked so perfect for the part. Maybe this was going to be okay. And the first trailers hit and it looked beautiful and ominous and I started to get excited about the film and look forward to opening weekend.

Also keep in mind that Maleficent is really unformed in the Disney universe. It's not like Sleeping Beauty was about her, it was about the princess right? We know very few things about her. She wasn't invited to the party, she cursed the baby, the other fairies tried to fix it but could only lessen the effects. She had a raven and could turn in to a dragon. We are left to fill in her story. And for those of us who are fans, we have. We've given her more. All based on that basic framework. And now there is a movie that is going to fill in the gaps for us. To change the story we have all filled in on our own. How was this going to play out?

So let's begin. Did it live up to the trailer? Yes. It was beautiful. The movie is gorgeous. Angelina Jolie is perfect as Maleficent. Beautiful. Beyond. And the addition of the wings? Just so impressive. She commands every scene she is in and she is in most of them. Also very good was the addition of her raven being more developed as a character. The shape shifting elements when he was in human form or as the wolf or the horse and still had ravenesque qualities? Gorgeous. Stunning. The chemistry between the two of them was also wonderful. Crackling. So good. The back story with her and Stefan? Shows how a protector of her lands and people could turn in to a villain against his. And the first battle scene? The power she showed as a fae warrior? Loved it.

Okay, let's begin again. Did it live up to the trailer? No. It just wasn't...and here is where I've struggled trying to figure out what was wrong with it. I kept telling the boys, "Now I am a huge Maleficent fan so..." and qualifying my critique of the film. And I honestly just couldn't put my finger on what I didn't like about it. I can tell you what C didn't like. I can tell you what Brent wasn't fond of. But I couldn't really grasp what my biggest issue was. C put it this way, "Disney had a hard time committing to a villain being the main focus of the story." Brent said, "They couldn't seem to decide what story they wanted to tell." And those are both parts of my issue.

And finally it came to me. They made her less than. They not only literally clipped her wings but figuratively as well. Maleficent is the best Disney villain. She is scary. She is powerful. She turns in to a fucking dragon. How bad-ass is that? Her curse is so strong that the other fairies can't get rid of it, they can just lessen it. But here...well...the curse is lessened from the start, she doesn't condemn Aurora to death, but to a death like sleep only to be awakened by true love's kiss. Now the catch is Maleficent doesn't believe there is such a thing as true love so it would be death for all intents and purposes, but still... I didn't like it when I saw it in the preview and still didn't like it in the movie. I get that it was a slap at Stefan, but still. Nope. Death. She cursed her to die. The stakes are supposed to be huge.

And one of the cool effects in the movie is when Maleficent turns her raven companion Diaval (mentioning his name because I will come back to it) in to other forms as she needs them. She saves Diaval from death and tells him that she needs him to be her wings. And also her wolf and her horse. She also turns him human from time to time so they can chat. Which was great, as I said before the two of them were incredibly good together. And the effects here were wonderful. Wolf with feathers instead of fur. You never forgot his nature. Which is where to movie really slips for me. You never forget his nature, but they forgot hers.

Take the original name of the raven. His name was Diablo. Her raven was named devil. She was evil and her raven was devil. There isn't a lot of subtlety there. (they changed the names of the three faeries as well which bothered me but C pointed out the original names weren't all that great either) And for those of you that saw the movie you've noticed I keep skipping one of the things she turned him in to. Yes. The dragon. She turns Diaval in to a dragon when she needs one. And this is where my heart breaks for Maleficent. Not when Stefan cuts off her wings, but when the movie does. Okay, I lied, my heart broke when he did it as well. But to me, this was adding insult to injury. And they could have fixed it in my opinion. If they had shown that before he stole her wings she could transform but after she couldn't I would have been okay. But no. We are left with a Maleficent that is bad-ass, up to a point, wicked, kind of, and can turn a raven in to a dragon.

Less than.

The movie did a good job showing why she was so evil. You would be too if someone told you that they loved you then mutilated you to gain the favor of a king who had just tried to conquer your land by unprovoked war. Though I still like the original that she was mad because she didn't get an invitation to a party. I like the sly smile that comes with "don't be rude" in my mind. But I liked this well enough.

And I don't really have a problem with her watching Aurora growing up and becoming slightly fascinated with her. She can play as the light to Maleficent's dark. I'm cool with that. Up to a point. It doesn't sit quite right for me but I'm willing to go with it, up to a point. Aurora's father was awful (not just the acting, but that wasn't great) but an awful person. Driven by the desire to have power. Then turned bitter and paranoid, as one would probably do if they knew they were responsible for the death-like curse on their daughter. But I still have issue with Maleficent becoming the hero. The good guy.

In a world where we watch The Sopranos and Breaking Bad and are fascinated by our anti-heroes why do we need to make Maleficent a good guy? The took the story of the biggest bad-ass on the block and turned it in to a redemption story. And that's my basic problem. I never thought she needed to be redeemed.