Thursday, July 31, 2014

Take a picture it will last longer...

So back in the summer of 2009 an online friend of mine started this challenge; taking a picture every day for a year. Just a random picture of their day. I loved it. Loved looking at his pictures and seeing his world. Another friend picked it up and I loved looking at hers as well. So I thought, Why not? And decided that my birthday would be a great place to start. So August 20, 2009 I posted this:

And that started POD, (picture of the day). It turned out to be a good year for it. It was C's senior year so I captured a lot of the milestones, the lasts and some firsts. It was a fun challenge. Some days were easy to decided what to take and some were really hard. But it made me think about my world and what I wanted to share with people, and what I didn't. After the year was over I stopped. Because that's what you do when a challenge is over, you stop. Though out of the three of us that first started it I was the only one to make it the full first year.

Then I realized I was missing it so I started again on October 1, 2010.  I liked the 10/1/10 start date. And I did another year. This time documenting a year without C. Our first year as empty nesters. And as it turned out I also ended up trying to figure out what pictures to take on a trip home for my father's funeral. POD isn't always something happy. And then that year ended and I took my last POD shot on 9/30/11.

Slight change over the course of two years. My hair was long enough to harvest in the middle. I finally found a skin treatment that worked (not without other side effects but those got under control after I stopped taking the skin pills thank goodness) and I zoomed a little tighter. But it was a nice neat wrap up for POD. I was done with that. And then...

Well then friends of mine in Australia started posting these themed POD shots from Fat Mum Slim. I thought it was very cool. I had missed a few days so almost didn't do them but then decided to just play catch up and do them anyway. So January 2012 started a new challenge with daily photographs. Get a theme, find something to fit.  This was a different sort of thing to think about. Some of them were easy, a time of day, what you had for breakfast, some were not so much, sometimes it was an emotion or a prompt that didn't work easily. Trying finding Sunshine in February in Portland. But it was fun.

I did it for a year.  Starting with January 1, 2012
The prompt was You. Pretty basic. And dang my hair grows fast! Then ended it a year later with December 31, 2012 the prompt being Self Portrait.
You can tell I was a little more creative in my interpretation of the prompts by then. And as I had picked it up from friends other friends picked it up from me so again I got to see everyone else's pictures and not only that but also their interpretation of the same prompt. 

And then I stopped again. This was three years of taking pictures every day, surely that was enough.

Then I took this seminar on happiness  and decided that POD made me happy. So I started again. March 1, 2013 L is for...

And I've been doing it every day since then. So add another year plus to the tally. Now we are up to just over 4 years of picture of the day starting and stopping. A few months off here and there. And I've reached the end. Again. 

The prompts aren't much of a challenge, actually wait, that's not really true. the prompts can be really challenging, but often they aren't much of an inspiration. I like to try and tell a story with the shot. Because, you know, storyteller...

Anyway, sometimes there isn't one to tell. Or not one that is really interesting anyway. I almost stopped last month. But then I found I was taking the pictures and just not posting them so I thought, well, obviously I'm not done yet...but as the month went on and I realized that I didn't have much creative to add I knew it was time to hang it up. I've covered a lot. C's last year of high school and all four years of college including graduation and getting his first job. The loss of my father and of George (like I said, not always happy) a few trips to Disney, a few to New Mexico one to Hawaii, friends visiting and visiting with friends. And I've had the chance to share all of that with other friends. I've gone from hauling my camera around with me everywhere to having a camera on my phone that's probably better than my old camera was! It's been a good run and now I'm done. Again.

Let's see how long it lasts this time.
July 31, 2014 Rise 

and fall.....of POD.

And one more bonus shot for the blog...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I'm making a face that would be the title of this blog if I only knew what to call it...

August is two days away. I wanted to do some sort of goal-a-palooza for August. But I have no idea what to do. I've been puzzling on it for a few weeks. Right now I just feel like a 10 year old with a room full of books, a bike in the garage and $20 in pocket money..."I'm booooreeed...I have nothing to do...."

What about the books? I've read them...
What about the bike? It's hot outside...
What about the money? There's nothing new to buy....

Yes, I really do have conversations in my head like this.
But it's more:
What about the books? I'm not sure what to read next.
What about the Book? I'm not sure what to write next.
What about the blog? I don't have any ideas.
What about the gym? enh...I went already
What about a hike? I don't want to go by myself.
What about getting a job? Hahahahhahaa!!!
What about....

And by this time I've flopped on the couch and am CLEARLY ignoring myself so why even bother...

Things that I could be doing:
Writing (always)
Home improvement things (still debating what needs done but it is more important to Brent to do them than it is to me to not do them so as is the rule in our house we will do them)
Normal chore type things
Meal planning
Wandering around someplace, the mall? a bookstore? downtown?
Getting a pedicure (now this one sounds promising)
Planning a list of things to do in August to have NEW GOALS! (umm and here we are again)

Hmmm...I guess I'm still puzzling it out. Doesn't bode well for August being a goal heavy month but that's okay, there is always September.

And Oooh! I just got notice from the library that The Stand is available. Now at least I know what to read (re-read?) next...Mr. Flagg, I've missed your diabolical ways...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Street of Dreams....

No really, this blog is about The Street of Dreams. It's not a metaphor. It's an actual thing.

So last year we went to The Street of Dreams and realized how very much we wanted to move. The indoor outdoor space, the kitchens, those were the things that made us realize that no matter what we do to this place it's not going to be what we really want. And thus started the year of looking. And we ended up realizing that what we really want doesn't really exist.

We want a smaller place than we have now. This place is a four bedroom three bath with a bonus room. We use two of the bedrooms. The master bedroom and one as an office. The downstairs bonus room has been C's space, my work space and is now my workout space though I do most of my working out at the gym so it gets used once a week or so and that's only if I can't make it to the gym at all. Basically it's a giant underused room. Now that C has moved out the two bedrooms upstairs that he used are empty. Well mostly empty. His old desk is waiting to be sold so it's in one room and our luggage is in the closet and I have stolen the closet in the other for my boots. So...basically two more underused rooms.

What we need is a place with two bedrooms. One we can use as a master suite and one we can use as an office/guest room for when C visits. Which two bedrooms isn't hard to find. The hard thing to find is two bedrooms PLUS a nice big kitchen.

Home builders sort of assume that if you are only in need of two bedrooms you really don't need a decent kitchen. But one of the things I really don't care for here is the kitchen. I can make do with the counter space. I can make do with the odd cabinet arrangement. But I can't do anything about the smoke that fills the house when I use my cast iron. Not because I'm a bad cook, thank you very much, but because the hood over the stove's a microwave. There is a vent under the microwave but it doesn't go anywhere so the smoke just recirculates. So anything cooked at high heat, or fried, or strong smelling, doesn't go anyplace but all through the house. Ugh.

I want a nice big kitchen with gorgeous flat counter tops for baking with a big stove top with a giant hood and could I get double ovens because that would rock. Yes, a lot of you are very confused about this since you all know I don't cook. But like I say, just because I don't, doesn't mean I can't. I am actually really good at it. I just haven't. But the more and more I try and get away from processed food and food like stuff the more and more I realize I am just going to have to cook it all myself.

So what we've discovered is that we want a place with two bedrooms and a really big nice kitchen. Oh and a little outdoor space. That's private, wooded would be best. Backing to the forest or a green space would be awesome. Is that too much to ask?

Well yeah. It actually sort of is. That's what we've found. We can get the big kitchen but they come in big houses. We can get the two bedrooms but they come in tiny houses with dinky kitchens. We can get the outdoor space but...well sometimes the house is just a wreck, sometimes it's too big, sometimes it's too small. Just any number of issues. So we've decided what we have to do is either build our own or remodel someplace that has a nice lot and good bones. Which then you look at bills and budgets and we are staying here for a few more years. Just until the college loans are paid off.

Which leads us to the next question, how much do we want to put in to this place while we stay? And we don't agree. I am all for nothing or nothing much, Brent is realistically looking at what it would take to bring this place back up to snuff for resale and for our own enjoyment while we are here. So we are doing the home improvement tango. He moves...I back up...he dips...I turn my head...

And part of that dance was another trip to Street of Dreams to look at the things we liked last year and see if they stuck.

So a nice view is great. The houses were in Happy Valley this year so almost all had some sort of Mt. Hood view. Though from odd places at times....

This was a walk-in closet. With a view of Mt. Hood. See what I mean?

Don't we all need a shower with neon lights?

I did like this touch. It's a tree and branches, all metal work. Nice way to let in a little light between rooms.

So..I love the drama but could only think about what a bitch it would be to dust those nooks...

Now THIS is what I'm talking about! GIANT kitchen, dining room combo.

I just thought the blue booties really made the outfit...

So other than a few more shots of Mt. Hood those were the only pictures I took. Which is sort of funny since I didn't even take any of the builder we really liked. Who would have made the perfect home for us...if only we could have sliced off the top floor. The main floor, that's all we needed. Two bedrooms, great kitchen, decent outdoor space, though not as private as we would like, but still...pretty darn close to perfect.

Last year Street of Dreams set us off on a year of looking. This year, it just firmed up that we aren't looking right now. The houses were all just okay. The lots they were on weren't private enough to cause location envy. The spaces were too big for what we want to cause house envy. The kitchens...well...they still made me sigh. But for the most part our reaction was...enh...

I guess we already know what we are dreaming of.

Paid off college loans.  That's the dream... *sigh*

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Paint by numbers...

Years ago I bought a painting. It was the first piece of ART I had ever purchased. Before that we had prints and framed posters, but nothing that was an original piece, that was created by someone we knew, that nobody had the same thing. It felt very grown up at the time.

And then I got it home. And suddenly it felt like a mistake.

The painting that I had loved just a few hours before, that I had thought about buying for weeks before I actually did, was all of a sudden not so great. Not even not so great but a really expensive mistake. How in the world could that have happened?

Location. Location. Location.

See the artist was the husband of a woman I worked with. The first time I went to their place I was blown away. Their entire house was like an art gallery. Every room had pieces Ron had done. The main living room had his latest collection. Space scenes. Specifically the Hale-Bopp Comet. He painted on glass. Windshields from cars. Giant dormer windows. Huge impressive pieces. All different, but all in this theme. It was amazing. The piece I liked the best was a little different than the rest. Smaller, done in blues instead of the oranges of some of the other ones. But I loved it.

And I finally decided to buy it. As a friend I got a decent price so less than he would have sold it in a gallery but still a significant amount of money for us at the time. I loaded it very carefully in to the car and made my way home. Bringing it in to our house and deciding where to hang it....and...well...

The house like an art gallery was the perfect place for this piece. The very normal (normal seems good here, not sure what else to call it) house did not. Instead of a tiki bar in our dining room, we had a dining room table. Instead of a nail table with an airbrushing machine in our family room we had a sectional. Instead of an art gallery in our living room we had a couch. See? Just not quite the same. And this was a really strong picture. It stood out. And I regretted buying it. Because instead of loving this piece like I had now I looked at it and thought about how much I had spent, and it's not like I could return it, and how it absolutely did not go with our house.

A few years later C decided he wanted it in his room. And when we moved up here and his room was painted a brilliant blue it really did look nice in there. It fit. And I could once again look at it and think, I really like that piece.

Location. Location. Location.

The art didn't change. But the surroundings did and that made all the difference. It was a good lesson for me for future purchases. I can like something, even sort of love it, but that doesn't mean it's right for my house. Art has to work with the surroundings. It becomes a part of your whole world when you bring it home. And it should enhance everything around it. Not overwhelm it.

Now C has moved out and he didn't want to take the piece with him. A friend of a friend had mentioned once how much they liked the painting and so I have passed it along to him. He likes it, his daughter likes it. It's gone to a good home. And as silly as I know it sounds, that makes me feel better about giving it away. It's something that was created. An art piece. A painting. Someone made that. And now someone else can appreciate it.

I just hope they have the right place to hang it...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Time waster...

Sitting in a car dealership waiting for my car. Driving back and forth to Bend put the miles on the car pretty quickly so it's already time for the 15,000 mile service. So here I sit waiting. With plenty of time to kill. And nothing to talk about...

Or write about as the case may be.

I have a little fiction bouncing in my head but a public space doesn't work for me for writing fiction. I tend to read sections out loud over and over to check the flow. Not sure the woman sitting here waiting with me would appreciate that so much. Also she's watching Kathie Lee and Hoda and I can feel my brain cells falling asleep the more they talk so I don't think it's a good creative space for me, man...

So here I sit with time to fill and nothing to say.

Doesn't that always seem to be the way? The time you find clothes you adore you have no money but as soon as you are ready to go shopping everything is lame. All you want to do is sit down and read a book but as soon as you have time to do so you find that what you really want is a nap. Work is slamming busy and you need a break and when it comes you are bored out of your mind.

Let's see...what to fill the blog with...

My garage is full of bookshelves. C took all of his books and such with him when he moved out and it left nothing but empty shelves in his rooms. Former rooms? No, that's not right, they are still rooms, they just aren't his anymore. The rooms that were formerly his... Anyway... The empty shelves. The walls with no pictures just hooks. Brent took all of that down to the garage. Well not the walls, but the hooks and hangers. So now I have two empty rooms with holes in the walls to deal with. Looking towards the time we sell now. So patching and painting a neutral color. Not the brilliant blue it is right now. Cleaning the carpets. Getting a spare bed for when C visits. A futon or hide-a-bed most likely.  Something that will double as something else when we move in to the as yet unfound, no timeline for when it happens, new place.

And along with the two empty rooms I have a very full garage. I'll put the shelves on Craigslist. Cheap. Give me a few bucks and come get them and they are yours. And yet there will be someone who wants them for even less than I will put them up for. Someone who will offer me more if I just deposit his check and write him another for the difference. And someone who will say they want them and then never show up. At least that's the way it will go if the past is any indicator.

And there is also the temporary bed that C has been sleeping on for the past decade plus. See what happened is when we moved from Colorado Springs back up to Oregon we sold everything looking to buy new when we got here. Including C's bed, which to be fair was a race car bed so it was ready to be replaced anyway... So we got up here and friends of our had just gotten new furniture for their daughter's room and had this twin bed frame that had drawers under the bed and a nice storage headboard and it would work just fine. Except they lost a piece of it in their move. So the foot board was never found. And we had to basically nail the puppy together in the room to make it work. And then the mattress he picked out was a cheap thing. We thought fine, he can have this set up for a few years then we will get him something better....

And yeah, that never happened. We asked a few times, do you want something new? And nope, he was fine. And then college came and it seemed silly to get new when he was only going to sleep on it for a few weeks at a time and then he bought his own new set up when he moved to Bend so now...well...finally the temporary bed is going away. So that's in the garage as well.

The car was in the garage as Brent moved all of the pieces in yesterday. So now I have a garage full of shelves, an old bed and a slot just big enough for the car. Which was weird pulling in this morning after the gym. I actually have to think about it when I park for awhile. I like having the extra space so I will be hopeful to sell things or give them away quickly.

Know anyone who needs some inexpensive shelves?

Or wants to haul away an old twin size mattress?

Or has anything interesting to talk about while I sit for the next few hours waiting for my car?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Whew...that was close...

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked if I had an address she needed. Sure I did. I just needed to look it up real quick.

And thus started the great freak-out of 2014.

See our network drive crashed a few months ago. Which was no big deal because we have another drive that mirrors it. Just bought a new drive, transferred the back up, badda bing, badda boom, no problems. Until I went to find that address and discovered that the documents file wasn't there. No addresses, no copies of letters, no back up of old things we had kept. Dang it.

So we dug back out the old drive that had crashed and I took it in to our computer guys, Happy Hamsters, who have fixed laptops and drives for me in the past. And crossed my fingers. They ran a few tests in their "Free 10 minute evaluation" and found that it wasn't going to be simple and more extensive searching would need to be done to recover anything. If they could. And time is money, bayyyybee... Okay he didn't say it like that but he did let me know that it wouldn't be cheap. Which left me with a moment to decide what to do. 

I've gone back and forth with sending out the Christmas letter anymore. C is grown and doing his own thing, we don't move as often as we used to. Life is pretty settled so I had been thinking about stopping it anyway. This would be the perfect excuse to do so. And as far as other documents what was really on there that we needed? Back ups of things on my laptop, for me, but I would just back them up again someplace else. And what else...and then I remembered. I sent Brent a quick text, "Do you have your dad's book anyplace else?"

Yep, the book Jack was writing while he was in Afghanistan was on that drive. And nowhere else.

So that answered the question of paying to have it recovered. "Yes, please, do your best."

And they found it. And recovered it. And transferred it all on to a working drive. Whew...

Now I need to read it.

See I've put off reading it since he died. Cowardice. That's one reason. I have a really strong voice in my writing and I have been worried that Jack did as well. I know he did when sending notes or emails, so I was worried that opening that file and starting to read that book I would be "hearing" my father-in-law. And for a long time I wasn't ready. First because of how cheated we felt losing him so early. Then because we lost my dad as well and it was too much. But now, well now I know I need to get to it. I don't want to miss my chance to read what he wrote. To see that side of him. 

The other reason is that it still makes me a little angry that he was writing. That he wanted to be a writer. See years and years ago when C was little, like 2 or 3 maybe, I first explored the idea of writing. And my in-laws discouraged me. Hard. "Everyone thinks they can write." "Writing is very difficult." "What makes you think you can do this?""Most people who write are not very good at it." "There is a big difference between liking to read and being able to write."


So I never talked to them about writing again. And it took a long time before I thought about it as a viable thing for me to do. I kept hearing "Everyone thinks they can write" echo in my head. Because it is sort of true. A lot of people think they can write. Or have a great book they are "writing", really just thinking about, or a really clever blog that you should read. Or a book that uses taint in the title and they have NO IDEA why that's freaking hilarious!

And writing is difficult. When I do a fiction piece if it's a small quick one I put up here on the blog or a longer one that I stress over and edit and re-edit and change and rearrange and try to get just so, either way it's something I made. Just me. And putting it out there in the world for other people to read, it's scary. Each and every time. Because sometimes it does suck. Because writing is very difficult. 

They weren't wrong. But finding out that Jack was writing, that he wanted to write? In a way it felt like a small betrayal. How could he have told me not to pursue something that he himself wanted to do? Why would he do that? My only guess is that someone had discouraged him along the way. And that the times he had tried his hand at writing he had discovered how difficult it can be. That he was trying to share that wisdom with me, but just did it badly. Crushed the plant before it really had a chance to take root.

But the good news is we both decided to give it a try. He was doing something he wanted to do and I will get a chance to read what he wrote. The bad news is he didn't get a chance to finish his book. Because he waited to try. And we never know just how long we have to finish.

The other good news is if I hate it we don't have to have that awkward conversation...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Faraway friends...

I posted this morning on my Facebook feed about this guy I have seen lately. He sits by the side of the road with his camera and his binoculars. I am sure he's watching and photographing birds. But it's fun to speculate what he might be doing otherwise. But anyway...when I see him I think of a friend of mine who lives in Canada who photographs birds. Actually he photographs a lot of things, but he is on a bird kick right now. So when I would see this guy sitting in his lounge chair with his camera on the tripod in-front of him waiting for the birds I would think of my friend in Canada. Then this morning he was joined by a woman with binoculars, I am guessing his wife. Which made me think of friends of mine in Indiana who are a married couple and avid bird watchers.

That's the thing with online friends you might not "see" them face to face daily but you can "see" them in a lot of other ways.

Last night a friend of mine from Arizona sent me a message asking me to tell the Universe to hush up since you all know the Universe and I spend a lot of time talking. I told her it didn't work like that. The Universe is like a drunk at a party. If you try and ignore it, it just keeps getting louder.

Another friend of mine who lives in another part of Canada than the bird photographer is one of those guys that just doesn't get bugged by things. Shit comes and shit goes, but he just moves along. Usually. Except he reached his point this week where he had had enough and needed to recharge. So he went to the river. Posted that sometimes all you need in life is a book, a river and a rock to sit on. And then today he posted a picture of himself by the river, relaxed and smiling again.

And I thought. I need to go to the river.

Really I need a trip to beach, but the river will do.

I've posted before that I don't get embarrassed easily. I just don't. Usually when something happens that would or should be completely embarrassing my first thought is "Wait until so and so hears about this!" Because it's funny. I had one today that should have made me want to duck and run but instead I couldn't wait to go tell some friends who I knew would appreciate the story. Because it was funny, and funny trumps all.

Last weekend I saw I post on Facebook, it was one of those picture posts. A closed book with the line, We all have stories we don't tell. I nodded as I read it and then read people's comments. Opening up and telling things about themselves that they normally wouldn't. Their issues. Which you all know all of mine. I post about them. I take them out and look at them then put them back away. It's my way of dealing with them. Weight, boredom, lack of direction, issues.

But you know what's awful? When you think you don't have an issue, or are at least over it and you find out you aren't.

And here is where we tie all of those random paragraphs together.

I had something happen last week that truly bothered me. Deeply. And on a couple of levels. The first because it was embarrassing and the second because it shouldn't have been. Not just because it never should have happened, but because I should be over such things by now. But I'm not. I just haven't had to deal with them since I was much younger so I had no idea it was still lurking there in my psyche. And it has put me in an off mood for almost a week because of it. And I kept trying to ignore it, up to and including telling myself over and over to let it go. Grow up and get over it.

Instead I just need to acknowledge not just that yes it bugs me deeply but that it's okay that it does. It doesn't matter why or what or how come, it just is, and that's okay. I'm not going to get more detailed, we all have stories we don't tell, but I just wanted to say that yes the Universe shouts when you ignore it. And friends don't have to be close enough to touch to touch you.

So thank you, Dana, for reminding me that when the Universe is talking I need to listen because it's not going to stop. And thank you, Kevin, for reminding me that sometimes what you need is a river, a book and a rock to sit on and then to let the river just wash it away...

It's a bench not a rock, but it worked just fine.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


He remembered their first fight. Not the first disagreement or misunderstanding but first real fight. They had just moved in together. Maybe a month in? Not much longer than that for sure. It was all still very new and they were getting used to living with each other and the odd little things you have to adjust to. You know the ones, do they leave their socks on the floor, do they put dishes on the counter or in the sink, do they close drawers and closet doors or leave them open? The little things that become big things if you don't figure them out quickly.

Anyway, the first big fight. It was a Thursday night. He had gone out after work with some guys from the office and they had watched a ball game and had some beers and grabbed some wings. Then he went home. Home to find dinner on the table. Cold dinner by this time. And a very hot girlfriend. Not hot like attractive, though she was that as well, hot like angry. "Where the fuck were you?" was the greeting he got as he walked in to the room.

"I called you like 20 times."

At that point he pulled out his cell phone and saw the battery was dead. This was the time before smart phones. You remember that right? When you weren't constantly checking your phone for everything so a dead battery without noticing happened sometimes.

"The guys and I went to Sparky's to watch the game. It's not a big deal."

Now the dishes started getting cleared off the table. Or slammed off the table more accurately. Pick up, stomp to sink, scrape the food in to the garbage disposal, slam the dish in to the other side. "It's not a big deal? I've been waiting for you for hours. I had no idea where you were!" Stomp, scrape, slam. "I tried calling and all I got was voice mail!" Stomp, scrape, slam.

"Look just because we are living together doesn't mean I'm going to give up all of my guy time. That's not going to happen."

At that she spun on her heel towards him, holding a glass in her hand, for a minute he was pretty sure she was going to throw it at his head. "Who the hell said you had to? But fucking call home and let me know! Or better yet, tell me the day before, or a few days before. I could have gone out with my own friends, did you ever think of that? I definitely wouldn't have fucking made dinner!"

He had never seen her so angry. And he couldn't decide if he was scared or turned on. She was breathing hard. Her cheeks were flushed. Her eyes were flashing every time she looked at him. It was really pretty sexy. It would have been more so if she hadn't been so very angry, but even then. Passionate! That was what he thought, she was passionate.

That was the first big fight. Dishes slamming. Yelling. Swearing. They worked it out. He realized that living together meant letting her in on his plans. All of them, not just the ones that he made with her. And he also remembered to keep his phone charged.

After a few years the passionate fights died down. They figured out how to live together. How to work things out together. They got married. Had their first kid. Life moved on.

He remembered their worst fight.

Sitting in a bar on a date night. Their daughter was with his mother. Grownup time out. They hadn't been out together in a long time. As they sat having a drink before heading to dinner a couple of people from his office stopped to say hello. He had swallowed the large lump in his throat and made the introductions. Smoothly. Cleanly. And they moved on. He had turned back to his wife at that point and realized things were not smooth or clean. Her jaw was clenched ever so slightly. If you didn't know her you would never notice. Her lips, normally relaxed and smiling were held in a straight line. The spark in her eyes replaced by ice. Seriously, to look directly in her eyes at this point would give you a shiver down your back. The cold radiated off of her.

"How long?" Flat, toneless, just the words, nothing else.

"Until dinner? Umm...our reservations are at 8, so another half hour."

The small slight twitch at the corner of her mouth. The only emotion in her face. There for a second and then gone. "How long have you been sleeping with her?" The same flat tone. Ice water in her veins.

He reached casually for his glass and knocked it right off the table.

"Don't make a scene, I'm asking you a question. How long?" He looked at her hands. She had them folded on the table. Clutching herself so hard there were white moons around each finger tip. He saw the muscles in her arms were bunched. Tense. Like a trap waiting to spring.

But she never did. Ice. Cold. Stare. Nothing but control.

That fight was a long one. But she never got warmer. And it was never sexy. Just scary. The way she held herself when they talked. Like she didn't trust her hands if they weren't held tightly. They worked through things. He hadn't been sleeping with the co-worker. Not yet. But they were close. That stopped. He changed positions in the company, moved to a new office, things got better. The ice thawed.

Years passed again. Things just sort of fell apart. No more almost affairs, no more out without calling nights. Just drifting.

Now they sat in an office with a counselor trying to fix things. To bring it back to good. He remembered the first fight, the heat, the passion. He remembered the worst fight, the ice, the reserve, the fear. And as he looked at her face while the counselor talked he saw, well he saw nothing. Blank. Empty. She could have been making a grocery list in her head for all of the emotion she was showing. And he realized that the first fight, the worst fight, those were bad, but this? This was the last fight.

And there was no fight left.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Tabitha watched Grant Armiston and his new bride Jenna dance. They were a lovely couple and a good match. Grant's family and Jenna's family had planned their betrothal from birth. The blending of the two families would mean good things for both of their villages. This was the way things were done. And it was a good way. Tabitha knew if she kept telling herself that then eventually she might believe it to be true.

Her grandmother Luella came behind Tabitha and placed a hand on her shoulder. "You should dance with one of the Graystone boys. If you start with the youngest you will have four other dance partners all waiting their turn. Your feet will give out before the evening is over."

Tabitha smiled at her grandmother. She knew what she was doing. Distraction and then exhaustion. That's what she needed tonight. Anything to stop thinking about what might have been.

She had first noticed him watching her while she hung out the laundry. It had been a breezy day and she was trying to hang the sheets. The wind kept catching them like a sail as she would fight to get them on the line and secured. At one point she was wrapped in her grandmother's pink sheet like it was a dress, trying to untangle herself without letting any of the sheet drag on the ground and thus need rewashing. As she finally danced her way out of the mess she heard a laugh. A deep solid laugh. She swore that she could feel it vibrating in her bones as much as she heard it. She turned and there was Grant Armiston laughing at her.

"You know instead of laughing you could have helped!"

"I could have, but this was much more amusing."

And then he smiled at her, tipped an imaginary hat and walked on his way. She had felt herself blushing. Blushing. Just because Grant Armiston had spoken to her? She was being silly.

But no matter how silly she knew it to be she couldn't help replaying the way his laugh had sounded. How he had looked leaning up against her grandmother's fence watching her. And every time she thought about it she smiled.

She also started volunteering to run any errands that would take her in to town. And she might have made sure to take a slight detour to walk past the Armiston's house. Just because it was a lovely house and she enjoyed looking at the garden. That's what she told her grandmother when she had asked Tabitha about it anyway.

And more and more often when she walked by the house Grant would be outside. Reading. Or working in the garden. Or just getting ready to walk in to town and would she mind too much if he joined her. She never did mind, of course. And oddly enough he never seemed to have any errands to run that weren't at the same places she needed to go.

This went on for awhile until one day her grandmother asked her to come sit with her in the kitchen and talk.

Tabitha sat at the table while her grandmother tended to the fire in her stove. "Fire is an interesting thing, isn't it?"

Tabitha smiled, sometimes her grandmother said odd things like this, "Yes, I suppose so."

"In the stove like this it's a good thing. A helpful thing. It cooks our food. It boils our water so it is safe to drink. Heats it so we can take warm baths. During the winter I can use the charbox to put an ember in each heating stove and warm the house. But if I were to drop that ember out of the box on to the floor what would happen?"

"You would have to put the ember out before it caught on fire."

"And what about if I asked you to carry an ember to Mrs. Livingston if her fire had gone cold? How would you do that?"

"I would put a coal in the charbox and take it to her." Tabitha said in a tone that clearly reflected the thought that her grandmother might be losing it just a touch.

"You wouldn't carry it in your hand? Why not?"

"Because it would burn me. You cannot carry fire in your hand."

"That is true. In the proper place it's a wonderful thing but you cannot use it in an improper way or you will get burned."

Tabitha gave her grandmother a confused smile, "Yes..."

"You have been spending a lot of time with the Armiston boy lately."

Tabitha looked down and blushed.

"You know he is betrothed to another don't you?"

"It's not like that, we are just friends."

"Is that so?" Tabitha's grandmother put her fingers under Tabitha's chin and lifted her face. "Do all of your friends make you blush?"

Tabitha looked down again, "No..."

Her grandmother sat down across from her at the table. "He's a fine boy. I can see that. And he can see that you are a lovely girl. But I need you to listen to me. He is betrothed to another. That is not going to change. No matter what you are thinking. He is spoken for. His parents have made those arrangements. And they are good arrangements. If you try to steal that coal you will end up burned."

"I am not trying..."

Tabitha fell silent as her grandmother looked at her. It was a stern look, but not an angry one.

"Child, I know. I do. I know how you are feeling. I know what you are hoping. But it is not going to happen. His family will not allow it. And he is a good son and will not go against his family. You need to take that ember and put it deep inside a charbox right now and don't let it back out. Do you understand me?"

Tabitha nodded and a tear spilled from her eye.

Her grandmother reached out and wiped it away, "Yes, I see that you do."

It took awhile. Tabitha stopped going in to town unless she was with her grandmother. She did not venture in to her own yard when she saw Grant walking by the house. No matter how many times he walked past and no matter how badly she had wanted to. She knew her grandmother was right.

Now two years later Grant was dancing with his new bride and the world spun on as it was meant to.

And the fire in her chest burned.

She closed the charbox down tightly and asked the youngest Graystone boy if he knew how to dance.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fire or ice?

So which is scarier for you? An explosive temper or a quiet one?

I've talked before about my parents' tempers before. My dad was slow to anger but once he got there he was over you. My mother was quicker tempered but it was fast and gone. And neither of them yelled. Ever. Never. And though my mother was a quicker flash when you really had to worry was when she got quiet. That meant you were in big trouble.

Now because of the no yelling thing I am pretty much incapable of dealing with explosive tempers. Temper fits, the yelling, the slamming of things, they upset me. I just don't know how to process such things. The fight or flight response kicks in and I either want to run away in terror or start hitting you. There is no calm and rational thought when I am around an explosive temper.

But on the other hand if I am dealing with someone who has the icy temper? Who just gets calmer and calmer? Then I am truly scared. Because that's the dangerous one in my head. That's the one that says you are really in for it now.

I've also talked about how I am a mix of my parents. Faster to anger than my father, I stay there longer than my mother. When I'm ticked off at you I will fight. When I am truly angry I will get quiet and withdraw.

Quiet is worse.

And the quieter I am the worse it is.

I think it's a control thing. When I am truly angry I am not in control of what is going to come out of my mouth. What I will say. How I will say it. So I get quiet. But all of those things are said. Just in my head. Because part of me knows that to say it out-loud would do no one any good. So I'm quiet. And in control. And icy.

Now here is my dilemma. I think an icy temper is scarier. I think it's worse. I think it is the one to be truly scared of. But when writing a character who is mad a  fiery temper is more expressive. It's obvious they are mad. It's explosive. It's big. It's out there. But does it really convey how angry they are?

What do you say? Which is scarier? Fire or ice?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Four years...

Yesterday I was cleaning house. I pulled the last of the things that will go to Bend out of C's bedroom and put them with the other packed up items. I took a look around at the bare bookshelves and empty hooks on the wall and thought, "Good deal! He's on his own.You did your job! Excellent!"

Okay, not really.

I took a look around, took a deep breath and went in to the hallway to dust. And instead sat on the floor and cried for a minute.

I've had four years to get used to the idea that he was leaving. That's what college is for parents. For kids it's four years to prep themselves for the "real world" the one where they get a job and join the other grown ups. For parents it's where you ease yourself in to the idea that they will move out and move on. And just like those four years do little to prepare people for the actual daily realities of working (But I just got up early yesterday what do you mean I have to do it again? And where is my month off at Christmas and three months over the summer??), they do little to prepare parents for that day when they aren't coming back. When it's not just "for a few months until vacation" when they really are gone.

It's weird.

I mean I knew it was coming. But part of me really didn't expect it. He had a job offer within two weeks of graduation. The start date was later than the offer, back ground checks, moving, yadda yadda, but still. Two weeks. That's outstanding. And we were and are super proud of him.

But still.

I had sort of gotten used to the idea that it would take awhile to find a job. The market is so tight. People are having a hard time. I figured I'd get the summer with him at least. I had plans! Finish rehabbing that ankle and get him back in to the swing of being my walking buddy. We had to skip last summer due to other reasons so this would be our make up summer to do our weekly explore gig. But nope, he got a job right away. And then the time we had between the offer and the move filled up. Trips to find a place to live, PT for the ankle, packing, shopping, moving and all of a sudden here I sit, Brent at work, C at work. Empty house.

Really empty.

Not just the for a few months temporarily empty but actually this is life now. 

Okay, to be fair in the three weeks he's been in Bend I've seen him every week and he is coming home this weekend but it's for a visit and to get the last of his things. He doesn't live here now. He visits. And after this weekend who knows when he will come up again. It's kind of up to him now. You know when he decides to visit. Visit.

We also did just lose George so the house is even emptier than we had planned. Which doesn't help.

We have decided not to move until all of the college loans are paid off so we will be remodeling this place a bit over the next year. I will be moving the furniture that is left out of his rooms, painting, turning them into a guest room for when he visits (visits!) and who knows what his study will become. Because he doesn't really need it anymore. You know because he doesn't live here anymore. He lives in Bend. Not going to college in Bend, lives in Bend.

I keep saying it so it doesn't sound weird. 

And like I said, we are so proud of him. And hopeful that this is the first step in a long and productive career. And that he is happy. That's always the goal right? Happy. And honestly I hope this position leads to more in this company. Bend is lovely, three hour drive so during the non-snowy months we can visit, he can visit (visit!), during the holidays there is a ski bus that goes from PDX to Bend so hopefully he can get a cheap ticket for that to come home at Christmas, or a ticket on one of the little regional flights. But the other places he could work with this company might be better opportunities for him, not just with the company but bigger cities with more to do. And he could still visit. After all we had four years to get used to the idea that he wouldn't live here full time anymore. Just visit.

Four years wasn't that long. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Entitled? To what?

Okay, let me start with the links so you can see what I've said before, if you are so inclined. There are a few...

On Fairness
On Lowered Expectations
On Tiger Moms
On Bullies
On Zero Tolerance 
On These Kids Today

And now one more. Just because I have found myself posting it as a comment more and more lately.

When people talk about young adults you hear "entitled" come up more and more. And then the discussion about the "everybody gets a trophy" comment gets posted. And everyone nods along.

Except I don't. I point out that every generation thinks the one behind it is spoiled and selfish and entitled. It's only when you get older that you forget that's the truth. I'm sure you remember some uncle or friend of the family ranting about "These kids today, so spoiled!" Because we were.

Seriously. Compared to my parents I led a freaking soft life. They were both raised on working farms. Not easy for anyone. Didn't matter that they were kids, they worked the farm. So my fast food and then cashiering jobs starting in my teens didn't even come close to being the same.

But here is the big truth. It's not our kid's fault that they are soft and spoiled and entitled.

It's not.

It's ours.

Or actually it's our parent's.

And theirs.

But not our kids.

Don't believe me? Oh good...story time!

These past few weeks I have been helping C out in his move to Bend. It's meant driving 3 hours there and 3 hours back more than a few times. The day he signed his lease I waited for the guy to come hook up his cable and internet so C could get back to work. Then I did a quick Target and grocery run so he had a few supplies waiting when he got home. On the 4th of July Brent and I went down with a carload of things and then spent the day down there picking up and putting together some cheap furniture for him (that he paid for) so he wouldn't have to sit in an empty apartment. This Friday we will take another load down to him, pick him up and bring him home for the weekend then take him and the last of his stuff back down on Sunday.

So is he spoiled and entitled?


Because I chose to do that. He didn't expect it. He was grateful for the help but he didn't expect it. And the main reason I chose to? Because my parents didn't.

Now obviously being 3 driving hours away makes it easier than being 25 hours away, but still. They didn't help. Brent's folks did. They gave us as much of their old stuff as they could (I still have a few of their old dishes) and Ann took the time off work to drive with me across country and help me find our first apartment. I appreciated it greatly and never forgot how much of a difference it made. So when the time came for C to move out and set up his new place I chose to do things differently than my parents did. Because I knew what it meant to me.

And that's why I am telling you if kids today are soft and spoiled and entitled it's not them, it's us, and our parents before us.

The things you change as a parent are the things that didn't work for you growing up. You keep the things you liked. In those blogs up there I talked about how C never won a game he didn't legitimately win. That works for me. Competition and drive are good things. The desire to be the best you can be is a good thing. I also talked about the appropriateness of rules. I tried to instill in C the difference between a good rule and a bad one. And that sometimes even if it's a bad rule you have to follow it, until you get in to a position to change it.

The reason these kids today think they can get away with everything is because YOU let them. And why do you let them? Because you felt like your parents were too strict with you. So you changed the way you parent to fix that. And now you want to say, Oh these kids today...No, it's you. And your response to not liking how you were raised. And you were raised in direct response to how your parents were raised. It's a cycle.

My parents were both very touchy feely. Because their parents weren't. No hugs. No pats on the head. No contact. So my parents thought that was awful and changed it. I liked it and kept it so C got and gets hugs and shoulder rubs and touched when we talk. My parents also spanked, I can remember the last time I was spanked and I was plenty old enough to have been reasoned with instead of  hit. I don't think that's okay so C didn't. My paternal grandfather was an alcoholic. I saw my folks drink a small handful of times each year. My parents are very religious. I don't agree with it so I raised C without.

Every parenting choice they made they made either because they agreed or disagreed with the way they were raised. Same with Brent and I. We took things from our upbringings that we thought worked and kept them and the things we absolutely did not like we changed.

Which is where we get kids today who never lose a game. Who always get a trophy. Who think if someone is mean to them they were bullied. Who think if you have a problem at school the way to handle it is by going to the media instead of the principal or school board. Who don't play dodgeball or have to get picked for a team.

It's on us. We did that. Because we didn't like losing, so we don't want our kids to. We didn't like our parents telling us to get over it when the school said no. We didn't like being picked last so we decided to protect our kids from the hurt. We did it. Why? Maybe because our parents didn't. And their parents were even harsher. So they mellowed, then we mellowed even more, and now we think our kids are awful. BUT WE DID IT.

You can't blame a kid for not losing well when you never taught him how.

You can't blame a kid for being entitled when you've handed them everything they've ever wanted.

You can't blame a kid for not knowing how to work if you never made them.

And you have to actually ask yourself, why you didn't. And the answer is generally because you felt like it was the wrong thing when you were growing up. My kid learned how to lose, because I thought it was important. My kid didn't work during school because we wanted him to focus on school, not a job. The only job he held was volunteer work at the Nature Camp during the summer. School was his job. Is he entitled? Maybe. But I don't think so. He knows he was lucky, he knows he was born in to a decent cushy life. But he also knows it was Dad's money not his. Did it work? He kept his grades up in school. He has a job. He knows he will have to work hard there to make an impression to keep that job. Seems like it to me.

As I always say, if you think today's kids are all rotten, entitled, jerks you need to hang around with better kids.

And remember when you are bitching about these kids today you are really bitching about yourself and those adults from yesterday. So get over yourself, you entitled, whiny little twerp.

Seriously...these adults today...

Thursday, July 3, 2014


So you all are aware of the reports of Facebook doing a psychological study on its users right? Back in January of 2012 they manipulated people's feeds showing them more negative posts or more positive posts to see how they would react. Was mood contagious, basically. I find this to be fascinating. And yes more than a little diabolical on the part of Facebook. Making people lab rats without their knowledge is pretty shady. But the only way to do such an experiment is without their knowledge so though I don't really agree with them doing it, I am still fascinated by the fact that they did.

And of course one of the things I did was go back and re-read all of my January 2012 posts to see if there was any indication I had been part of the experiment. I would have been especially interested to see if I was one that had been subjected to more negative posts and how that would have affected me. My findings were that I was either completely unaware they were tailoring my feed or, more likely, they weren't. My January 2012 posts were about college football, NFL, hockey, the Republican primary candidates and general food, cat, kid, weather posts. So basically the same as always. Just take out the political posts and it was probably the same as any other January. Oh well.

I've written about this before. Here, here and of course here. Interestingly enough (to me anyway) the first blog was January 2011 and it speaks specifically to not seeking out things that make you mad. Maybe someone at Facebook read that and thought...but what if you made you see them? What then? Maybe it was my blog that started the whole thing? Yeah, no. But still interesting to me.

Because as you all know from reading those posts, and status updates, and knowing me, that I fully believe that happiness is something we choose. If I had been in the group that was subjected to a ton of negative posts I have to imagine I would have logged off. I know that mood is contagious. It's one of the choices I make. I don't surround myself with people who make me mad. I don't seek out things that are just going to piss me off. Sometimes it's not easy. People post things that set your teeth on edge. Sometimes I type out a full response before I realize what I am doing. Then delete...why send it? Why engage in something that is just going to make everyone mad but solve nothing?

That's not to say at times I don't. Sometimes the rhetoric spewing is too much for me so I poke at it. Because that can be fun as well. But as soon as it stops being fun I stop doing it. And aside from being fun I still hold out hope that maybe someplace there will be something I say that sneaks in and grows in someone's mind. Helping them to see a different point of view. They don't have to change their minds, but opening up to the acceptance that another point of view is something to be valued at times instead of belittled? Awesome. And there are the times where I feel silence might make someone think I condone something. Or at least it feels to me like something needs said. If it's something I am passionate about, I post that as well. Though even then it has to be something I am feeling very strongly about to get an open status. Otherwise I have a blog for such things...

So here is my upcoming issue. I already see it brewing. I have another year maybe year and a half before it hits the peak of awfulness. The next presidential election. Especially if Hillary Clinton does run (which we are all pretty sure she will) I just see Facebook becoming a place I avoid. The vomit that spews forth about her is astounding to me. Worse even than what I hear about Obama. Worse than what I heard about George W. It's like each successive group has to top the previous one in vileness. You called George W dumb? Well fine, we will call Obama a traitor! You called Obama a traitor, well wait until you see what we call Clinton! It's crazy to me. Just flat out crazy. And vile. And unreasonable.

Politics makes me angry. And the main reason it makes me angry is people are so busy mounting personal attacks on politicians that they pay no attention to what is actually happening. And when they do pay attention, they pay attention in the wrong way. Passionate is great. Vomit spewing is not. Wanting to actually change the broken things in our system, wonderful! Just wanting to post over and over about how the other side is just as broken because... Not great.  And I see it coming. Already. And I know that I will choose to not be involved.

So I have a stretch of time to figure out what I am going to do. Though I think Facebook might have given me the answer. I will control what I see and how it affects my mood. Not by manipulating my feed but by turning it off.

Thanks, Facebook, for the reminder. Mood is contagious. Whose are you willing to expose yourself to?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Keep your distance...

I just finished a biography about Jim Henson. When I was much younger I actually entertained the idea of being a puppeteer. Our youth group had a touring group that did music and puppets. Random right? But it was a big deal. We learned puppeteering and toured. I went to Puppet Music Camp every summer for a stretch and worked on puppets more. I built one from scratch. I learned how to operate single puppeteer puppets and the human hand style that take two puppeteers. And I have to say I was actually good. Shouldn't be too shocking really, I have always liked to perform. For an introvert I am extremely comfortable on a stage. Just don't make me talk to you socially...

I am also the exact right age for growing up with the Muppets. Sesame Street started when I was a year old. The Muppet Show debuted when I was 8, The Muppet Movie when I was 11. So it wasn't an odd thing for me to think this could actually be something fun to do for a living. Then things fell apart with the youth group, I've talked about it before, and I had no other place to practice and really no urge to pick one up for a long time. But I kept the skill for awhile, I remember picking up a simple puppet in a store to play with a friend's daughter when we were living in San Diego and the woman who ran the shop asked me to show her how to get the mouth to work so realistically. People always make the mistake of moving the fingers, it's all about the thumb, you don't talk by tilting your head back but by lowering your jaw right? was fun to do. And for a long time I thought I might do it for real.

Which, of course, meant Jim Henson. Anything I could find on him I read (which wasn't much at the time), anything he did I watched. Frank Oz was a close second in my world of "How freaking cool!" people. And when he died I was so sad. Even though I had long abandoned any thought of doing that for a living, I still watched all that they did. I still thought it was so much fun. And watching the outpouring of love and loss from people when he died I thought he was a good hero to have had, what an impact he made on people's lives. And then to see what his family did to honor his legacy. The grants and donations. The promotion of the arts and other social programs. Just amazing. So when this book was published I put it on my wish list and couldn't wait to dive in.

I think the old Hollywood studio system had it right. They would keep their stars out of the news unless it was a very controlled story. You knew very little about their private lives. The feeling being that it was easier to believe the character they were playing if you weren't distracted by who the actor really was. There was also a large dose of hiding the sexuality of some of their male stars, but I prefer to not think about those reasons right now.

You can see where this took a turn right?

First off, let me say that the book did nothing to change my mind about what a huge talent he was. In fact it made me even more impressed. He did a lot more than just Muppets. And the technologies that he actually designed? Amazing. He was also extremely well thought of and loved by the people he worked with. And the author of the biography was obviously a bit smitten with him as well. But as I was reading the book and I kept getting to passages like, "all of the female co-stars were very fond of Jim." And  every time he talked about tensions in the work shop with some employees feeling as though he was favoring others a little too much I thought, uh oh.

And yes, eventually the author let us all in on the cagey language. He was a rover. His wife Jane, they never got divorced though they did finally legally separate, said he just couldn't ever be alone. And since he worked in LA and in New York and in London what was he supposed to do really? I mean it's not his fault. And he was just so gosh darned charming. Not his fault at all. Then there was the lists of things he bought, the cars, the houses, the clothes. The man was a huge success and he should enjoy the fruits of his labors but it didn't mesh with the hippy, free love (well maybe the free love part), environmental activist image. If you are jetting between coasts and across the ocean and have multiple cars and buy a lot more than you need you don't really fit that mold right?

And maybe I am just looking at an 80s lifestyle through 2014 lenses. Maybe we didn't really think of someone using so much jet fuel as an anathema to conservation back then.

And maybe I had just filled in the parts of his personality I wanted him to have.

I knew he was married to Jane when he died. I knew he was extremely close to his kids. I knew they felt strongly about carrying on in his footsteps and kept up with the company for years. I knew how much everyone he worked with had loved him. I knew how talented he was. And I meshed it all into "Jim Henson"

Now I know more and I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Because now I know he was just human after all. Lots of personality faults. Non-confrontational to the detriment of actually getting things done. Fickle. A little self centered. Huge ego, though the author tried really hard never to say this, you got it from stories about him and people around him. He was pretty sure he was right. All of the time. That level of confidence only comes with a huge ego.

Now I'm left with a childhood hero who was just a guy. And possibly not even a guy I would have liked had I pursued my young dream and actually gotten to work with him. Though according to all of the interviews everyone else he worked with liked him a lot. Like flowers to a sunbeam people turned toward him.

Maybe the lesson here is that childhood heroes have to be put aside once you are no longer a child. And you have to come to the cold hard truth that nobody is perfect. Everybody has their faults. But in our imperfections we can still create amazing things. Have amazing impacts on people's lives. Inspire others. Even if we don't live up to their unrealistic expectations. Which we really can't control anyway.

So maybe he was a good hero to have after all. Just for different reasons than I originally thought.