Friday, October 31, 2014

And that's a wrap...

Last year at this time I was starting to really stress out about the challenge I had set up for myself for November. This year I am breathing a sigh of relief at finishing October's challenge.  Thirty one blogs in 31 days. Originally I thought it was going to be even harder. I had two trips planned with a total of 7 days out of town. So a lot of make up work to do and double blog days. But then the second trip fell through so I was on easy street. Except for the constant colds. When I am sick I do not want to write. And I was sick all month.

But I wrote anyway.

Now what did that teach me? Well that when I'm sick and I write anyway I tend to write a little darker. Yesterday's combination of TBT blog and current blog showed that. Essentially it was the same blog (I am only slightly embarrassed by that) written two years apart. One written when I was in my regular state of mind and one written after weeks of being sick. The second is grouchy. Shockingly so when you read them back to back. But that's okay. A little grouchy is okay.

I also know that when I force myself to publish something every day the content is uneven. Some days I write well and some days well, I write. And I actually kind of like that. I think seeing how bad I can be makes you appreciate when I do a good piece. You know how lucky you are. (I need an emoticon here so you can tell I was just kidding)

It's also a much more varied month when I am churning out that many pieces. You got mundane non-fiction, ranty non-fiction, a variety of fiction short tales and even a poem. Not a bad month for variety really.  And this puts me at ten more blogs for the year to reach the 2014 goal. Not going to hit the stretch. It was a bit overly ambitious I think, but the actual goal is well within reach. Heck, holidays, elections, travel, and I could always tuck the Christmas letter in here if I need some padding.

You know padding, like doing a wrap up blog when you are sitting at 30 on the 31st.  That sort of padding.

So November goals? Let's see...

Get over this month long cold. That would be the top goal.

The rest will be gravy.

mmmm....gravy....


Trick or Treat....

She had been nervous all night. It was the bane of the modern parent right? So many boogeymen to look out for. She remembered when she was a child getting dressed up in homemade costumes and being released upon the neighborhood to trick or treat until their pillowcases could hold no more. Where was the parental supervision then? Only for the babies. And they were off the streets by the time the big kids were allowed to go out. But not until after dinner. Waiting. Watching the clock. Now? Can we go now? And then finally, Yes! Off they went!

There were the McPhersons who always gave out full size candy bars. You hit them first. No way did you want to reach their house and see the porch light out. The international signal for "you lose, no candy left." There was old Mrs. Domingo who made homemade popcorn balls. Normally you weren't allowed to eat homemade treats but Mrs. Domingo was "safe" so as long as you knew which treat you got from her you could have it. But no one else. That was the start of parents worrying about razor blades in apples and poison in the popcorn. Before she had kids of her own she realized what a ridiculous fear that was, it didn't really happen, she wasn't going to be that mom.

But then she had kids and no matter how ridiculous she thought it was 10 years earlier that first Halloween night she sat on the floor and sorted the candy into "tightly wrapped safe to eat" and "torn this must be killed with fire" piles. And there was no way a popcorn ball from Mrs. Domingo would even make it in to the house. Just watch the news, the neighbors always said, "they looked like such nice people." Never trust the nice people.

So much changed when she became a mother. The things you thought your parents were silly for worrying about now filled your nightmares. Plus all new ones. Online predators. Social media bullying. The pressure to pass standardized tests that started in kindergarten! It was insane. So much to worry about all the time. She wasn't as worried about Caleb as she was Natalie. Not just because boys seemed to have an easier time than girls. Though that was part of it. But Caleb had always been more easy going. Natalie was unique. She needed handled a little differently and it was hard to get people to understand.

Everyone thinks their child is special, different, exceptional. But until you had a child who was really different you just didn't get it. They had thought Caleb was gifted, until they had Natalie. And now they knew that though Caleb was smarter than most of his second grade class and probably most of the third grade as well, Natalie was in a whole different league than her kindergarten classmates. Her mind just worked on a different level. She saw things they would never even imagine. It was challenging.

This was the first year they had let Natalie go trick or treating in the neighborhood. Before this they had gotten away with convincing her that a quick run through the mall and then home to watch Halloween movies was more fun. It was definitely more controlled. Bored mall employees handing out candy to hordes of children walking in a circle. You knew each store would have something. You knew it would be well lit. You knew the candy was safe. It was all safe. But Natalie had figured out that Caleb got to go out through the neighborhood with his friends so she wanted to go as well. The mall was suddenly baby time and she was no baby.

So this year when Caleb joined his best friends and their parent chaperones she and Barry took a deep breath and headed out with Natalie. They had a plan of attack. They would go out for an hour and then head back to pass out candy at their own place. It would be fine.

And it was. Mostly. Natalie had been very excited and practiced her "Trick or treat" over and over as well as her, "Thank you, happy Halloween!" She knew that if a house had its light off that meant they didn't have candy. She knew that sometimes people would answer the door in costumes and there might even be a scary surprise at a house or two. Maybe some spooky decorations or even something that would jump out at you just for a little safe scare. She was ready. She was no baby.

The first house had gone extremely well. But they knew that it would. It was Miss Jennings' place and she was excellent with children. Even, and maybe especially, with the exceptional ones like Natalie.

"Trick or Treat!" Natalie practically shouted it at her.

"Oh and who are you today?"

"I'm Marie Antoinette, see my neck?" And with that she cocked her head to the side to show the red line all the way around her throat.

"I see, very authentic." Miss Jennings never missed a beat.

"Did you know that Marie Antoinette never said 'Let them eat cake?'"

"I did know that. Did you know that cake in those days wasn't cake like we eat now but really a very expensive egg bread?"

"I did! Did you...."

And with that they rescued Miss Jennings from a night of trivia, "Say thank you, Natalie, so we can keep going."

Natalie laughed, "Thank you! Happy Halloween! Eat some cake!"

And the night went on. Most people marveled at her costume. She really did look very pretty in her princess style dress. Those that asked who she was were shown the neck and most people got the joke right away. She got many compliments for creativity. Though it was assumed it was her parents who were the creative ones. What five year old would add the decapitation touch? They just didn't know Natalie.

They had one tense moment where Mr. Peterson had asked to speak to them after Natalie had received her candy. "Do you think it's appropriate for her to have that costume? Don't you think it's in bad taste for a young girl?'

"This is who she wanted to dress up as. It's Halloween."

"She's a little girl. You are the parents. You need to put your foot down for what is and is not appropriate."

She had smiled at Mr. Peterson, "Yes, thank you for your opinion. We will take it under advisement. Happy Halloween."

As they were walking to the next house Natalie had asked why he was upset. "He just thinks maybe your costume might be a little scary for a young child."

"I'm not a baby."

"We know that, Nat. You are not a baby. But some kids your age might be a little frightened of the thought of having their heads chopped off."

"They should be. It is scary. That's why it's a good Halloween costume! People should be a little scared."

They decided this was a good place to call it a night and went home to sort candy. Not a bad haul really. Natalie wasn't much a candy lover she much preferred salty treats so this would probably last her until Easter. Or until it got bundled up and taken in to the office to get it out of the house. Caleb's candy would have to be locked away and doled out piece by piece or he would eat the entire bag in one night. They had learned that the hard way.

But when Caleb came home he didn't have his candy. His friend James' parents were full of apologies, they had let the boys go ahead a few houses, just to feel like they weren't being chaperoned. They had loved it. Until a couple of older boys had jumped out at them and stolen their bags of candy. The dads had given chase but couldn't catch them. They were so sorry.

Caleb was devastated. A whole evening's haul gone. Natalie listened to the whole story with wide eyes. "Why did they take your candy? Why didn't they just get their own? That's not nice at all." How do you explain to your five year old that there were people out there like that. They watched as she went to Caleb and they whispered together. Normally it was the big brother comforting his little sister but tonight she was the one to go to him. It made them feel good. They were doing something right as parents. Natalie handed Caleb her bag of candy. "You can have mine, we will share."

After they got the kids cleaned up and tucked in they sat on the couch with a glass of wine. They watched a little TV and then she said, "Kids. I would have thought the snatch and grab candy thieves wouldn't be out with so many parents around."

"It just makes it more challenging. They know they have to do it fast. Get the candy and move on. And scare them badly enough that nobody tells."

"What do you mean, nobody tells? The kids had their candy snatched, they told."

"No, I mean, nobody tells who it was. You know Caleb knows at least one of the boys. They are the older brothers of the kids he was trick or treating with. Had to be. That's always the way it works."

"You think he recognized them? Really?" She was starting to feel the panic rise in her chest.

He looked at her face and the realization hit him as well. "Oh my god..."

They ran down the hallway to check the kids' rooms. Caleb was sleeping soundly, tucked in just how they had left him. And next to him on his nightstand sat his missing bag of candy.

They walked to Natalie's room. She was sound asleep. An angelic smile on her face. Peaceful dreams. A smear of dark on her mouth. "Please let it be chocolate, please let it be chocolate," was the mantra repeating in her mind. Though she knew it wouldn't be.

Everyone thinks their child is unique. Different. Special.

They had no idea...





Thursday, October 30, 2014

Boo!

So the picture I have up on Facebook today for Throw Back Thursday is the Halloween costume I wore my sophomore year of high school. Much to the chagrin of my locker mate. "Why are you dressed up?" was how she greeted me that morning, "Because it's Halloween, why aren't you?" was my reply.

We weren't locker mates for much longer after that. The friendship had already suffered more hits than it could really sustain. I was just not going to be who she needed me to be and had proven over and over again that I had no use in trying. Although we actually did keep a lower key friendship of sorts up, and she is the only person to have signed my yearbook all four years. I think there was a part of her that felt like maybe I could still be saved. The problem was I didn't really feel like I was lost at the time.

The year before I had worn a French Maid Costume and my best friend had worn a black cat one. We got them at a ballet studio. You could get the base parts cheaply there and just add them to leotards and tights and a few handmade extras and BOOM! costume. Which for us was the important part, not a lot of money. The one in the picture was similar. The collar you can see and the jester's hat were the costume. I made a matching skirt and shoes and wore it all over a green leotard and white tights. Cheap costume.

A few years later I discovered the joys of Goodwill for costumes. Senior year when I was a vampire I bought a black dress that was, let's say a little snug up top, cut some slits in the front and paired that with an inexpensive cloak and a band of lace to cover up a bit of the running over cups. Added some white makeup and red marks for the neck and Ta Da! Costume. We even made a grand entrance with me in a coffin and my best friend dressed as Morgana who would be "raising the dead", we had a whole theme. (drama kids)

See a week before the boy I was interested in had dressed as a vampire for a party he was going to. He stopped by another party I was at before heading to his costume party, we spent a little bit of time together, he left. So for this one I was going to be a newly made vampire. Rocking enough cleavage to finally snag the boy in vampire costume. Except he didn't show up. He went to the Entertainer's party instead of the Drama party. So I spent the night alone pining...or I moved on to a new victim. It was one of those.

Though I did end up snagging the vampire a few weeks later and he got to see the dress from the costume when it was re-purposed into a sorceress the next year. And we used the cape for a variety of costumes over the next few years. Undead love never dies?

We did a few parties as adults, had a few places of work where you dressed up for the holiday, but mostly it shifted over the years to being about C and what he was going to be, and taking him trick-or-treating. I used to decorate the house pretty heavily. Did outside spppoooookkkyyy stuff and even played music to greet the kids when they would come. I love seeing the little ones in their costumes! But now we don't get a lot of kids in our neighborhood. Maybe a dozen in a good year and I got tired of chasing my decorations down when the wind would carry them away so I stopped. And then I pared down to just the few decorations I really love inside the house. And costumes for us have gone the way to a few pairs of festive earrings. It's just something that has been put aside.

We could get dressed up and go out but I don't think Brent wants to risk me lecturing someone dressed as a sexy girl scout as to how inappropriate that costume is and how fucking creepy any dude who thinks 7 year old fetish wear is...so for the most part we aren't big Halloween people anymore. Which is so weird. I would never have guessed that I would be the one to pass on Halloween. But the holiday has changed. Sure you still see some people who do something creative and I still LOVE that. But mostly you get people who buy completely pre-made costumes and don't add a bit to them to make them better or more interesting. You get women who dress like fairy tale hookers, men who find new and odd ways to make you look at their fake dicks and everyone drinks way too much. It's not about creativity and fun anymore. It's about dressing trashy and getting trashed. The holiday has changed. Or maybe I just have.

I guess my locker mate just needed to wait a few decades...





Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The scariest stories...

...are the true ones.

Or at least the ones with a kernel of truth in them. The ones you can identify with.

So I've said over and over if I know you, you will eventually end up in my blog. Either a true story blog or a fiction one. I've talked about that moment in a conversation with someone where you just know what they said is going in a story and you are trying to decide if it would be rude to open your phone and make a note of it right then or if you should excuse yourself to the restroom so you can do it there.

Today it was my turn. (Mid-week fiction)

Okay, yeah, technically I'm always in my blog. They are my stories after all, but the fiction piece today was me.

Sunday we went to the movies and I really did have what I would call a mild panic attack. I just had that awful feeling that something bad was about to happen. I felt like someone was watching me. From the right side. Just that skin crawling feeling of "this is not good" that happens sometimes. And there was a late rush of people who came in to the theater as the previews started and it did make my palms sweat and my heart race. It was not great. But it wasn't a full blown "Oh my god I have to get out of here" panic attack. It was just a really unsettled feeling. I have no idea what caused it. It wasn't as bad as the woman in the story, but it wasn't great. And part way through it I thought...this is going to be a story.

That's normal right?

Maybe not.

But that's what happened. Even as I was still in the middle of the unease I started to wonder how the story would unfold. Would it be true? Would there have been a reason for the panic or would it be a false alarm? Or would there be a twin someplace else having something happen to them? Because an evil twin story is always good...

So then I took that attack and I wove in pieces of my life. Made it a full on story. No, I'm not losing my mind, but I do tend to forget things. There have been more times than not where as I'm telling Brent about my day I have to say, "I did something else too, but I can't remember" and I do tend to tell him I did nothing with my day, though that really is shorthand for nothing different than normal. But that's not new. I've always been like that. I forget everything that I did during a day because some things just don't stick. They either happened too fast, or I was distracted while I did them, or I just moved on to other things and forgot. Teflon brain. But it's normal for me. Like not sleeping is normal.

But as I thought about the panic attack and the story I wanted to write, I thought, what if that wasn't normal for you? What would you think if it just started happening? Who would you tell? Would you tell? Or would you just pretend like it never happened?

And then this morning I was watching an HBO documentary on domestic abuse and it was just heartbreaking. I was moved to tears. And as I cried part of my brain fired on the story again. What if you started crying and had no reason? What would that do? Would you think there was something wrong?

And I am sick again. I am pretty sure I've spent the entire month of October fighting off a cold, having a cold, getting over a cold, rinse and repeat. And I am just tired of it. I've got a fever today and and feeling sorry for myself. Whiny sick is what we call it in my house. So then I thought, what if that worked in to it as well?

And boom...story.

Nobody is safe. Everyone ends up in the blog. Even me.

Not a big deal. Not really.

Where did it go?

When she first started losing her mind the signs had been subtle. In fact she hadn't even noticed until the day in the movie theater. The moment when the lights dimmed and her heart started to race. She knew, KNEW, that something horrible was going to happen. That it would be like that crazy guy in Colorado that busted in to the theater and shot everyone. She could feel it coming. And she knew it was going to come from the right side. Was it the guy sitting two rows behind her? She tried to calm down. To talk herself out of the panic. After all there was no way she could know something like that, right? But what if it was true? How many times did you read stories like that? The people who didn't get on planes because of a bad feeling and then the plane crashed. But how many times did people not get on planes and nothing happened? Or got on them anyway and nothing happened?

So she stayed. She gripped her hands and tried to keep from screaming as a large group of late arrivals filled the theater. She lost track of how many people were sitting to her right. And when the couple at the end of the row got up and moved a few seats closer to her she had to hold on the arm rest to keep from running from the theater. But nothing happened. And the feeling passed once the movie started and she could focus on the screen. It was just a mild panic attack. Not pleasant. Not something she ever wanted to experience again, but not that big of a deal. Not really.

That's what she told herself that night as she was trying to fall asleep. Trying to forget the feeling of absolute panic that had washed over her. The sweaty palms and the racing heart. And the knowledge that there had been no reason for those feelings. They had just come. Uninvited. But it wasn't a big deal. Not really.

That's also what she told herself when her husband asked her about her day and she couldn't remember what she had done. She knew there had to be something. She couldn't have spent 8 hours doing nothing right? She knew she had done something. The laundry was done, the clothes put away. She was showered and dressed. Her workout clothes damp with sweat. So she had done those things. Why didn't she know what else she had done? And why was she looking for clues as to her day's activities instead of having memory of them? Everyone forgot things right? But to forget everything? That couldn't be normal.

She stopped trying to remember. When he would ask she would say "nothing" she had done nothing that day. It was easier than trying to remember what had been done. He would fill things in on his own. The tank is filled up, so you got gas. There are eggs and milk in the refrigerator so you went to the grocery store. And she would laugh it off, well yes, she had done something but nothing really different or worth talking about. And while she was laughing she was grasping for even the smallest memory of the store. When had she gone? Why couldn't she remember doing it?

But it wasn't all the time. Some days were normal days. She cleaned house, she ran errands, she made lists of things to do. She remembered these things. And so she discounted the other days as just busy brain. Overtired. She had had one cold after another that fall so really it was probably all just because she was sick and tired right? Not a big deal. Not really.

When she went to the doctor for her yearly checkup she was asked if there were any changes to her health. She lied and said no. Because there weren't, not really. Her weight was the same. Her vitals still good. Low blood pressure, good pulse rate. Healthy lungs. Everything in the blood work was normal. She did say her PMS had gotten worse, she was a little moodier than normal. Her doctor listened and suggested St. John's Wort. It would help. Just take it the week before. She didn't want to get on the prescription drugs. They were much stronger and really not necessary.

Because losing her mind wasn't a big deal. Not really.

When she sat in the middle of her living room floor and cried. Cried over...what was it she was crying about? She couldn't remember. She just knew she was on the floor sobbing like her heart was broken. When that happened she thought, now I have to tell someone. This is not normal. But it passed. She was fine later. And when her husband asked what she had done today she answered, "nothing."

"Where do you think it goes?" she asked one night.

"What?"

"When you lose your mind. Where do you think it goes?"

Her husband had laughed. Because it was the odd sort of joke she would make.

"Hawaii? I think that's where mine would want to go."

She smiled. If he could laugh about it then it wasn't a big deal, right? Not really....




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

There is nothing worse than hyperbole...

Epic take-down! Watch this talking head COMPLETELY DESTROY this other talking head in 45 seconds! Argument for that thing we don't agree with DECIMATED by this person arguing for what we do agree with! AWESOME! Epic! Massive!

How many truly epic intellectual take-downs have you seen in your life? Not just ones that you agree with but ones that make the person they are debating change their minds, admit they were wrong and correct their life course because of it? Because that's what would make an argument epic right? If it actually changed the other person's point of view. Not just because the person is spouting off things that you (or the person posting the link) just happened to agree with. That's not epic. That's just an argument.

Click bait. That's what the kids are calling it these days. Watch this AWESOME EPIC OUTSTANDING YOU'LL NEVER GUESS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT thing... And so you watch. And they record that you watched and then can show their EPIC AWESOME click through numbers to their advertisers and get more money and then chase more clicks and the cycle continues. Whether it's animals doing cute things, people falling down, odd weather phenomena, car crashes in Russia or the aforementioned news clips of gasbags bloviating.

It's gotten to the point where I only trust a small handful of my friends who post clips as to what is actually worth watching. I mean I love a good cat video, don't get me wrong, but I don't have an urge to watch 5 minutes of the CUTEST SLEEPING CAT EVER! And if I am watching an EPIC TAKE-DOWN of one person to another I really do insist that the arguments be sound and not something I can pick apart from the comfort of my office chair without even opening Google first.

How about a little truth in advertising? Watch this mildly amusing video of a dog running in slow motion. It's worth the minute of your life it will take. Or how about, Do you need some reassurance that your world view is still valid? Watch this video of someone agreeing with you!

There is a saying that perfection is the enemy of good enough. We kill ourselves trying to get to that last little bit extra when really it was just fine and dandy before. I have to think that these stupid tags are part of that issue. Nothing can be just good. Or just fine. Or amusing. Or even cute. It all has to be the BEST! GREATEST! MOST EPIC!

As a child of the 80s I take full blame for describing things as awesome that really aren't. Awesome is just a catch all word now for pretty good. But what happens when something really is awesome? Where do we go? I usually add punctuation. Awesome!! See? Now you know I really mean it. But where does that lead? When you have habitual punctuation abusers on your feed how are you supposed to know if something is really Awesome!!!!! or if it's just awesome. Where does it end?

I know you think I'm worried over nothing but think back to the last time you actually did lol. Not just posted that you did. But actually did. And don't get me started on lmao or roflmao. Really? You really roflmao'd? I think not...

Though if you did you should video that MFer and post it...that would be epic!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dividing the assets...

He was going to keep the house. Refinance it under his name only and buy out her share. She was ready for a smaller place and he still wanted the room for his workshop. It worked out best for both of them this way.

The subject of her breast augmentation had been taken off the table when his sports car was introduced as a balanced expense and they both felt embarrassed enough to be the poster children for mid-life crises that they decided to drop the subject.

The children were grown so the debate about holiday sharing was to be left up to them. Though the friendly agreement was that if you had Thanksgiving you would not then also push for Christmas. And he would get Black Friday and she would get Super Bowl Sunday as a standing rule as he liked deals and she liked football.

They would both change their status on Facebook to Divorced at the conclusion of this meeting to avoid the whole, "Married, Separated, It's Complicated" debacle of a few months ago.

For now they just had the last few items to debate. It was almost done.

She kept her grandmother's sideboard. Even though they had remodeled the kitchen to work with the sideboard it was her grandmother's so she would take it. He was keeping the living room suite. She didn't have room for it in her new place and it really did fit the house the best. He would also keep the boat and the motorcycles. She had never really enjoyed the outdoor stuff as much as he had. She would keep the country club membership, he preferred the public golf course anyway.

A list of friends flashed on the overhead screen. "It has previously been agreed that fraternity brothers will go with Mr. Readling as well as friends made through his various jobs. Mrs. Readling will keep the book club and country club couples as well as friends made through her job." His lawyer shuffled the paperwork in front of him.

"We also agree that the neighborhood couples will stay with the house and Mrs. Readling will transfer those friendships to the sole ownership of Mr. Readling."

They both nodded.

"So this brings us to the more complicated ones. Though Mr. Readling worked with James Fern, Mrs. Readling introduced him to his wife Andrea as she was a book club friend. So we have a divided house. Our suggestion is a shared custody agreement with a signed non-compete."

The soon to be former couple looked over the non-compete agreement and agreed that they would share custody and neither would try to force the other half out of the friendship. Nor would they use the Ferns as a go between or try to get information out of them about personal matters pertaining to the other half. They agreed on this arrangement for a few more of their friends, the ones that had been around so long they couldn't remember where the friendship started. The ones made through the children and the ones that had started with one side of the couple but had clearly moved to a shared or even other sided relationship.

"And we have the Smiths."

At this Mrs. Readling waved her hand, "Oh no, they are friends of his, he can keep them."

Mr. Readling shook his head, "No, they are your friends. I've only been nice to them because of you."

"No, they had to have come from your side. I've never liked them. I only invited them out places because you liked them."

The lawyers shared a look across the table. "We will put the Smiths on the Goodwill pile with the treadmill then."

"You seriously never liked the Smiths?" he asked.

"No, never. They are awful. I was only polite to them because you seemed to enjoy them so much."

"No, they are the worst! I was only nice to them because you always invited them along so I thought you liked them for some reason."

The lawyers handed them each a file of paperwork outlining what was agreed upon today. After signing the Readlings changed their martial status and it was done. Very polite. Very mature.

After the Readlings left the room their lawyers played Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine who would have to let the Smiths know they had been dumped in the divorce.

Third time this year.

They really were the worst.






Saturday, October 25, 2014

Messages and messengers...

The message has always been the same.
 His (her) job to deliver the terrifying (wonderful) news was eternal.
Everything dies.

The girl on the mountain watching the clouds heard and ran to the village.
Everything dies!
And so she lived. Books were read. Stories were written. Dances were danced.
Hurry! There is only so much time!
Everything dies!

The man mending the fence heard and laid down his hammer.
Everything dies.
And so he died. The fence fell. The harvest left in the field.
What was the use? There was only so much time.
Everything dies. 

The old man in the hospital heard it whispered in his ear.
Everything dies.
Unplug the machines. Let me go. It's my time.
My life has been long and now I am ready.
Everything dies.

The young mother heard it whispered in her hear.
Everything dies.
Give me one more round of treatment. Try once more.
It will come someday. But not today. I'm not ready.
Everything dies.

And so it went through all of time.
Everything dies.
Are you living or are you dying?
Everything dies.
The clock ticks, what do you do?

Everything dies.
She (he) repeated the message through the years. 
Hope (despair) followed where he (she) went.
Everything dies.

Once a question was asked. 
Everything? Surely something must be eternal.
The answer was "the messenger is eternal."
Snatching greedily at the chance he (she) became the messenger.
But all the messenger is is the message. 
She (he) had tried to cheat and paid the price.
Time continued.
And all that remained was the message.


Everything dies.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Promises not kept...

The service was lovely. The music was just right. The speeches were well done. Just emotional enough to mark it as what it was, but not so much as to get maudlin. The last service she had been to the best friend was well in to his cups before it began and wept so hard he couldn't get through his speech. She shook her head. It didn't seem like it was too long ago that she was comparing weddings of friends, and then weddings of their children. Now it was funerals.

She was waiting for the chapel to clear before she left. She wasn't as quick as she used to be and hated to feel as though people were waiting on her. It had taken time to get used to her new slower pace of life, but now that she had she found she actually liked it. It gave her time to observe those around her. And in cases like today to spend a few extra minutes quietly remembering a friend.

"Excuse me? Are you Grace?"

She looked up in to the face of, which daughter would it be? Autumn?

"Graciella actually. Only your father ever called me Grace. He said the ella on the end was unnecessary."

"That sounds like Dad. I'm Autumn."

"I am so sorry for your loss. I would ask how you are doing but that always seems like such a horrible question at a time like this."

"Thank you. And yes, it's hard. It wasn't unexpected. He had been sick for a few months, but it still isn't any easier."

Autumn stopped and looked closely at the face of the woman seated in front of her, trying to imagine what she had looked like 40 years earlier. She would have been younger than Autumn was now. Grace. Graciella. She hadn't asked Autumn how she knew her name. Hadn't seemed surprised that she did. Had she expected to be recognized?

"He asked for you at the end."

"Excuse me?"

"The last week. He started asking for you. 'Is Grace coming? Is Grace here?' He said he had so much to talk to you about. He couldn't wait to tell you about the next adventures."

Graciella smiled, "We always did have so many things to talk about. If I had known I would have come. I only found out about his passing through the obituaries. When you reach my age you will find they are weekly reading."

"You don't seem surprised that he asked for you."

"I find that as we age we think more and more about the friends of our youth. Your father and I were great friends a long time ago. We talked about everything. Every challenge you could imagine.Even you and your sister and your brother.

I remember when your appendix burst. You had a fever for a few days but hadn't complained at all of any pain. When you went in to the hospital they did a blood test and discovered your white blood cell count was off the charts. When they finally narrowed it down to an infected appendix and got you on the table it burst right there in the operating room. If you had gone another day who knows what might have happened. Your father and I spent many hours talking about how as a parent you worry so much about everything and then if you miss something as big as that, what does that mean? How can you protect your children from the world if you cannot even protect them from their own bodies?"

Autumn's hand had subconsciously moved to the scar she had had for as long as she could remember. Her parents had told her the story but she had only been 3 when it happened so had no real memory of any of it. This woman, Grace, Graciella, knew as much about her operation as she did.

She wanted to talk to her more. This mystery out of her father's past that she had only found out about the week before when her father started asking for her. All her father had told her was her name and how long it had been since he had last seen her. And now here she was. "Will you be coming to the grave side service as well?"

Graciella put her hand on her cane, "No, I don't think so. It's very hard to manage hills with this."

"How did you know it was on a hill?"

"I assumed he would be buried in the family plot at Westview. Your brother is there. And your grandparents. I assumed he would want to be there as well. There is a lovely view of the river, I would imagine it's still quite peaceful."

Autumn  wondered were there friends she had 40 years ago that she would still know this much about?

"Aren't you curious how I knew who you were?"

"You saw an old woman sitting in the back row of the church that you did not recognize. Your father had been asking for a stranger in the end. I assumed you guessed."

Autumn shook her head, "A little of that maybe. But it was your eyes that gave you away."

Graciella waited.

"You have the bluest eyes I've ever seen. My father would always say he was a sucker for blue eyes and a smile. Which made my brown-eyed mother furious."

"I imagine it did."

"Did you know my mother?"

"I did. We talked a few times. We weren't as close as your father and I were, but we socialized some."

Graciella could see the struggle on Autumn's face. The question she wanted to ask. The one she was sure she knew the answer to. "Did you love my father?"

That had not been the question she was expecting. But she supposed it was the more important one. "Very much."

"I believe he must have loved you as well."

"I believe he did."

Autumn squared her shoulders and held out her hand to Graciella, "Thank you for coming. I know it would have meant a lot to Dad."

Graciella watched Autumn walk from the church. Then she took a deep breath and composed herself. She wondered if she should have told Autumn that she and her father had never been unfaithful to her mother. But was that true? She and Andrew had never had an affair. Not a proper one anyway. They had shared one kiss, one time. And that was the last time they had seen each other. She had loved him very much and she believed he had loved her as well. But they had never had sex. At the time that seemed very important to her. She had held that in her heart, she had never been unfaithful to Eddie. Never cheated on him. Years later she realized that sex had never been what made an affair.

The final time she and Andrew had seen each other he had made her promise if anything ever happened between her and Eddie she would find him. No matter what. She had promised. Eighteen years ago when Eddie had died at his desk from an aneurysm she remembered the promise. By this time Andrew and his first wife, Autumn's mother, had divorced. As well as Andrew and his second wife. He was engaged to the woman that would become wife number three. Graciella decided to let the ghosts of the past haunt themselves. What would she have said to him, "Remember me?" What would she have expected him to do? Drop everything and run away with her? Some promises seemed better not kept.

She walked slowly out of the chapel. Feeling the sun on her face she heard Autumn's voice in her head, "He asked for you at the end." As the tears made their way down her cheeks she thought, "But there is still so much to talk about."










Thursday, October 23, 2014

People are stupid...

I have a son. Online I refer to him as C. This started when he was younger and I realized I was talking about him and blogging about him a lot but I was still being protective of him. You will see in older blogs I referred to him by his name, not the initial and then I switched. It made me more comfortable. I figured anyone who already knew him knew his name but this way I wasn't putting it out there more than it needed to be. Even though he is an adult now it stuck because it's just easier to type C than it is to type his full name. I've used it for so long now that there are times I actually call him C when I'm talking to him and not just about him. Not often, but sometimes.

And that's not the only different name I call him. Not just nicknames, though he has a ton of those. But his name. Christopher. Family and family friends are the only ones who call him that. He goes by Chris otherwise. Has since he started school. See when your last name has 11 letters in it you really don't want to spell out that plus Christopher on every paper so he shortened it to Chris. All of his teachers called him Chris. Every friend he made in school calls him Chris. He is Chris to everyone but us. But even though that's what he went by in school he has never been Chris at home. It's Christopher. That's the name we use here. 

Doesn't change who he is. Doesn't change how people interact with him. It's just a different name. One the school used. And just because it was a school thing didn't make it a home thing. (we asked, he was fine with us using his full name) Because the school had its way and we had ours.

And here is where we turn.

Just because the school doesn't lead a prayer before class doesn't mean your kid can't pray in school.

Just because the teacher doesn't open a bible and read a bible verse in class doesn't mean your kid can't take his bible to school and read from it during his own free time.

Just because the school has winter break doesn't mean your kid can't say Merry Christmas. 

Don't be stupid.

Just don't.

There is a story making the rounds right now about a Sikh child who has been granted permission to wear his kirpan at school. Don't worry, I had to Google it too. Anyway in the article there are two things that stuck out to me. The person who made a big deal out of the story doesn't even volunteer at his school but felt the need to bring it to the press. And there have been Sikhs wearing their kirpans for YEARS without incident. YEARS people. It's small. It's under the clothing. If Big Mouth McScardey Butt hadn't run to the press nobody would have even known. It would have been a private thing between the school and this family. A religious exception to a rule. You know how we like to point out that we should have religious exceptions to rules right, Hobby Lobby?

Anyway...people are freaking the fuck out and there are recurring themes. First off people do not know that Sikhs and Muslims follow two different religions. Which then shows the level of absolute hate and fear there is out there about people who are different than they are. Then there is the "kids get suspended for bringing toy guns" and the joining argument, "I worship guns so I will bring mine now". Which is also idiotic. One the gun suspensions for toys and drawings and poptarts and whatever else you want to bring up are stupid. You do not fight stupid rules by allowing more stupid rules. And then the whole worship thing? Are you trying to be offensive? Because when I quote Harry Potter books at religious fanatics who are quoting bible verses at me I fully understand I'm being offensive. That's the point. So saying that your religion says you should carry a gun (and heads up guns weren't invented during the start of most religions so probably not) you are being obtuse and offensive.

And then there is the one I referenced earlier the whole no prayer, no bibles, no Christmas argument. Sorry, gang, but that's bullshit. There is an old saying, "As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school." Just because it's not out loud, just because it's not teacher led, just because it's private doesn't mean it's not allowed. And while we are on the subject, the bible itself talks about prayers and shows a really healthy level of disdain and contempt for big showy public prayer. Go home and pray in private because if you are praying loudly in the public square it's most likely not for God's glorification but your own. Look it up.

Public schools do not push one religion over another. They shouldn't. But just because they aren't leading bible studies, or prayer groups doesn't mean they aren't happening. There are clubs. There are kids who quietly read their bibles during passing periods. There are prayers happening. And there are people wishing each other Merry Christmas. So get over it. Stop saying it doesn't happen. Or that it's not allowed. It just makes you look uninformed and unintelligent. 

As does your irrational hatred of Muslims.

And not knowing that Sikhs aren't Muslim.

And pretty much any hate fueled rant you post on a news site about poptart guns.

Seriously. Just stop being so fucking stupid.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

She's got that magic touch...

Janet drained the last sip from her coffee before heading in to the store. This was the final inspection of the day. Which made it the final inspection of the week. The final inspection of this two week road trip. Thank god. One more store, one more night in a hotel and then flying home tomorrow to spend the rest of the weekend in her yoga pants and a sweater, curled up on the couch with a book. She closed her eyes and gave a contented sigh just thinking about it. But for now one more inspection.

Her territory covered Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Northern California and Idaho. Pretty far reaching which meant some serious travel at times. But it was fine. Except in the winter. Alaska inspections in the winter months could be truly dreary. But for the most part it was easy. Not like some of her co-workers. The woman who covered New Orleans, for instance, was constantly being called out for site visits. Not a lot of travel for her since she pretty much just covered the local parishes, but a lot more emergency calls.

Shaking out her hands she took a centering breath and entered the store. The overwhelming smell of incense hit her almost like a physical blow. Why did they all burn so much incense? So unnecessary. The woman behind the counter smiled at her, "Goddess blessings to you. May I help you find anything?"

Janet smiled back, "No thank you. I'm just looking around."

She walked past the rows of books, trailing her fingers along the spines. Basic things here. Nothing you couldn't find on Amazon. That's good. There were shelves of crystals. Pretty to look at, but not really special. Passing her hand over a carved box she got a small spark. Holding the box in her hand she felt the power of the previous owner. It was soothing. This had been much loved and would be safe to pass along to a new generation.

Even finding something with a little power like the box was rare in most of these shops. Most everything was mass produced junk. Tourist traps and stores for teenage girls trying to shock their parents. It was the older used items, like the box, that she was really looking for.

She looked over the collection of dried herbs and teas. No unusual ingredients, though she would make note to let them know storing their peppermint next to their wolfsbane was just going to make both go bad quicker. Ingredients were just ingredients though. No worries here.

She moved on to the next display shelf. More tiny fairy sculptures. Why people felt the need to buy such trinkets was beyond her. She reached out and picked one up off the shelf. Janet tilted her head. Something odd here. Just a slight buzz. She looked a little closer and deeper at the sculpture and then whispered, "Oh I am so sorry."

The woman from the counter came over, "Aren't these lovely? We just got them in from a local artisan. She casts the metal herself. Such great details. Sometimes when the light is just right from that window I swear they are moving. She is truly gifted."

"Yes, they are lovely. How long have you been carrying them?"

"Not long at all. This is our first shipment actually. It's amazing isn't it? She brought in a sample last month," a hand waved toward the window where Janet saw another sculpture on the ledge, "and we liked it so much that we ordered a dozen more."

Janet counted the figurines, an even dozen. "I will take them all. As well as that one on the shelf."

"Oh, I don't think that one is for sale. She's kind of our shop guardian angel now."

Janet smiled again and reached in her bag pulling out her badge, "I'm sorry, you are misunderstanding me. I will take them all. As well as the one on the shelf. I'm also going to need the name of the woman you bought them from."

The woman's face fell. "I didn't recognize you as an Inspector. I see. Let me box them up. I'm assuming you will want to continue looking around?"

"I think that's best. I will also want full access to your storerooms. And when you box them, please be careful. We don't want to damage them any more than they already have been."

"Damage?"

"Oh yes, you've actually bought an iron bound fairy collection. Your truly gifted sculptress is a slaver. As soon as you get me the information we will free who ever else she has trapped in her circle and she will be delivered to the authorities."

"Oh! We didn't know! How horrible. We would have never...."

Janet cut her off, "That's why you are supposed to clear all new suppliers through us. We really aren't doing it to be petty, or to restrict your profits, or to keep you from 'the good stuff', there are rules for a reason. Now, the contact information please?"

Janet called in a rescue team for the slaver's workshop as well as a team of smithologists who would be able to free the iron bound ones with minimal damage to them. Depending on how long they had been held there would need to be a recovery period but Janet was confident everyone would heal.

It was times like this that all of the travel, the endless paperwork and even the oppressive smell of incense was worth it.

Well maybe not the incense. So unnecessary.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ugh...

I've written about how I really wish I could write a good scary story. I've shared some of my mediocre (to put it kindly) poetry efforts with you. I've done the write and dump with very little polish so you can see how a story starts and then come back with a different version to show how it can take a turn and end very differently. I've shared a variety of genres. Everything I put out there is all me the good and the not so good and the downright awful.

I'm usually pretty aware if something isn't my best work. I post it anyway. But I'm usually aware. I've explained that this is my space for writing. Just writing. Put it up, put it out, get it done. I have files and stories and ideas that sit and percolate without ever seeing the light of day. I have pieces that have been polished and shined and submitted, never to see the light of day. And then I have here. Where all the rest goes.

So what does that all mean for today?

Frustration.

This morning on the drive in to work Brent and I heard a story about Fall TV and the shows that were succeeding and the shows that were failing. And one show that is succeeding is doing so because of a highly successful show it follows. And that's where the rant started. The highly successful show is awful. The writing is trite. It's schlocky. It's a soap opera disguised as a police procedural. And the very worst of all of the soapy tropes. Just awful. So much so that C and I have made it the punch line for a variety of situations.

But it's hugely popular.

Now normally with books and movies and music I just take the "it's not for me" stance when I don't like something. Because really that's all it is. I don't like the same things as someone else. And even if a lot of people really like it it can still not be for me. Normally it doesn't make me that angry. Well, sometimes. If it's a book that is just truly awful and it happens to cross my path on a day I've just heard nothing from a contest or a publisher I might get a little testy, but usually I bitch a little to people who either understand or have to listen because they love me and then I let it go.

But there are times when it's just so bad that you wonder what the hell does everyone do when they watch/read/listen to this crap? Do they shut their brains down? Do they really believe in a world where evil twins eat their siblings in utero? And honestly even that wouldn't bother me so much if they just admitted it is a soap. I watch Nashville for god's sake. It's a soap with music! But it knows it's a soap. It's not trying to be serious.

And I guess that's where I ended up with the real question. Do you think the writers for bad shows know it's bad writing? That it's just a chance to write. And writing just to write is fun. Writing and getting paid for it would be awesome. So maybe they get that what they are writing is pure drivel and because that's what they are being paid to write that's what they write. And maybe I am just telling myself that to feel better about people getting paid to write pure crap.

Or maybe I'm jealous. Maybe I just wish I was that successful and I have blinders on because of my failures and it's making me bitter?

Nah...it's really just crap.




Monday, October 20, 2014

Here come t-r-o-u-b-l-e...

This morning while I was warming up on the treadmill I looked down at the machines below and could see someone using one of the machines I work out on, not to workout on but as a chair. He was watching the alpha male racquetball group play. Now there are two of these machines but the other one had the wrong attachment hooked up. I can replace it but it's a pain in the butt because I'm short. So anyway, I spent my 10 minute warm up getting a little ticked at this guy just sitting there at the lat machine watching the game.

Then when I actually hit the floor he had moved on to play his round in the game. Oh well that worked out fine. Except then when I started in on the machine that I alternate with the lat pull down machine someone else started to use the lat machine. Dang it. I was going to have to switch out the bar after all and I hate to do....oh never mind here comes someone else who is doing it instead of me...and by the time I was done with my hamstring curls they were both done with their sets and now both machines were free and had the right attachment. Guess I was starting to stress for nothing.

I've been working on a story in my head for a friend of mine. It was one of those; "This funny thing happened to someone, you should make a story out of it" moments. Amazingly, that happens more often than you would think...anyway... I had a few of the bare facts and was starting down the path of the story. I had asked for more details and originally had planned to get all of them before I started. I should have. I was missing a pretty big piece of information that changes everything I had planned. It's obviously not a big deal in the grand scheme of life, but it does change where I can go with the story.

There's a Bible verse that tells you not to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will worry about itself. You also see a take on it sometimes as don't borrow trouble from tomorrow because each day has trouble of its own. That's such a good thing to keep in mind and such a hard thing to always practice. It's part of living mindfully as well, right? Be in the moment. Each moment is its own moment. Stop thinking so much about the past or the future or you miss now.

Now, I get it, there is a fine line between planning for tomorrow and worrying about it. I'm not saying you shouldn't save money, or have an insurance policy or stock up on toilet paper, I'm just saying pay attention to where your mind wanders. Are you planning for things that are going to happen, or panicking about things that probably aren't. Or even if they do you have no control over anyway so why bother thinking about them. Why worry about something that might or might not happen. If it doesn't happen you've wasted your time worrying about it, if it does happen worrying about it did no good anyway. Good guideline, are you planning or panicking. (just a quick hint, if you are thinking about what you are going to do when you catch Ebola, you're panicking.)

Pay attention to what is going on right now and stop worrying about the things that are out of your control. Enjoy your life right now. Not in 10 less pounds. Not after the next raise. Not during your next vacation. Right now. Worry isn't going to make it better. Getting pissed off at what might happen is pretty much guaranteed to make it worse.

Even if someone is using a weight machine as a couch....

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I would never...

A few months ago I was driving down Bethany and reached the overpass for Highway 26 as I crossed over the bridge I thought to myself, "Hmm...I wonder where I would have ended up going?" Because I should have turned left on Laidlaw over a mile earlier. But I hadn't. I was driving on autopilot. Not sure where I was going because I realized I was not where I wanted to be before I got there.

At the beginning of the summer when C was still home we were headed to the gym one Tuesday morning. I pulled out of the neighborhood and turned right on Springville and headed in the opposite direction of where I wanted to be. Because for the past month on Tuesdays at that time I had gone to PT. I normally go to the gym right after I drop Brent off at work, not later in the morning. But with C home we were going together so it was later in the morning. But I still turned right instead of left. Habit.

Once in Florida after working close one night and then having to get Brent to work by 6 AM the next morning I remember being almost all the way home and having no memory of the drive from the time I left base to where I was. About 15 minutes worth of driving. Just not there. Habitual driving. I learned years later about how the brain forms habits and patterns and that we do a lot of things like that without ever being completely conscious of them. It's a great system actually. Keeps us running efficiently. Except when it fails.

When C was a newborn I woke up one night to the sound of him fretting (he didn't cry when he was hungry or needed changed, he fretted, he was an amazing baby). Anyway...I reached over to pick him up and he was gone. Not lying between Brent and I. I patted down the bed and couldn't find him. The panic started to hit as I realized I had lost the baby. Where was he? Then I realized he was in his own room in his crib. He wasn't in the bed with us. But I will never forget that moment of panic as I had no idea where he was.

Last Thursday Brent left work early. Well early for him, he got off at five. As we were driving home an ambulance passed us. We watched people who had no clue how to get out of the way and just stopped in the road instead of even attempting to pull over. Because we had the discussion about it the ambulance stuck in both of our heads. Later that night the news reported the tragic story that someone at Intel had left their baby in their car while they were at work. That's who the ambulance was for. The baby did not survive.

As I watch people react the first thing you normally see is the "How could that ever happen? How could you ever forget the baby?" Well, if you aren't the parent that normally has the baby, if it's not your habit to drop the baby off, if the baby is sound asleep and you never look in the back seat...if you are tired, if you are thinking about something else, if you get distracted...

And then people will say, "There is NO WAY I would ever do that." And it's true there might not be anyway you ever would. Most people never do. But is that as much luck as anything else? And then there were people who were shocked that not one person noticed the child all day. And I thought, I was in that parking lot right about the time the dad was discovering his life was now completely destroyed. And I had no idea. I don't make the habit of driving up and down the rows of cars looking in their backseats. Does anyone?

I lost C. In that moment between sleep and awake I had no idea where he was. Now it worked out just fine that he was in his own bed. But what if it had been the other way around? If I had thought he was in his crib and he was in our bed instead and I has rolled over on him not remembering he was there? What if I had gotten out of bed and tossed the blanket on him when I got out? None of that happened, but what if?

I cannot imagine what that family is going through. To lose a child, and to know it was at your own hand? Unimaginable. How does the marriage survive? And they have another child. How do you trust yourself again? How do you ever start to forgive yourself? And to know that almost everyone you meet has judged you. That there are people who assume the worst of you, not just that you made a tragic mistake with unimaginable consequences but that you obviously must have done it on purpose because there is no way THEY would have done it.

I can't take that stance. No, I never forgot C in a car. I never forgot I had him. But that's because when he was a baby I was a stay at home mom. Of course I had him. I always had him. And by the time we were switching on and off who took him to day care and school he was old enough to let you know he was in the car so there was no chance to forget him. But there were times where we had to check with each other, "Are you picking up today or am I?" He is the most important thing in our lives. Brent and I were extraordinarily doting parents. And we didn't always remember who was supposed to be on pick up duty that night. It happens. Thankfully we never had any sort of tragic results because of autopilot or forgetfulness.

Now maybe because I know what it's like to absolutely forget something important to you and have someone tell you "If it was important you wouldn't have forgotten" and knowing that's not true I have more understanding. Maybe because of that moment of losing C when he was a baby and I was exhausted I understand that it can happen. Maybe because of the moments where I am driving on autopilot I understand that habits can take over. Or maybe it's because I cannot imagine adding my own judgement on a family that has to be devastated that I cannot see jumping on the "hang them high" bandwagon.

Or maybe it's just because as I age I realize more and more that "I would NEVER!" most often really translates to "I have never..." Because you don't really know what you would never do, you just know what you have not yet been faced with.

Our local news gave some really good tips to make sure you "would never" and I'm going to pass them along here along with my condolences to that entire family. I cannot imagine what they are going through and I am so sorry for their loss.

1. Always leave something needed for your day (purse, phone, briefcase, computer, etc.) on the floor of the back seat so that you are reminded that the child is back there esp. if the youngin' is asleep.

2. Always arrange with the daycare center, babysitter, etc., to call the parents if the baby is absent (much like our schools do)

Thanks, Sherri, for sharing these tips.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Scary Stories...

How do you feel about scary stories?

I don't read a lot of them. Pretty much just Stephen King and Joe Hill. Mostly because I like the characters. King writes in such a way that I feel like I know the people in the story. Even if they are going through something completely out of the realm of reality he grounds his characters so much that you feel it; like it could really happen. His son writes in a similar fashion. So much so that I am sort of waiting for the day it's revealed he doesn't really have a son and Joe Hill is just a new Bachman.

I don't watch them. Scary movies just aren't for me. At least not for the most part. I don't like the jump out and boo moments. So the slasher films are out. The torture porn is for sure off the list. I think they are disturbing in a bad way. Not disturbing in a good way like a good suspense story. Though I did watch The Strain on TV and that sort of counts I guess. But it's more creepy than scary. And The Walking Dead, I've read and watched those. Though they don't really fall in to scary stories for me. Horror, sure. But not really truly scary.

Absolutely don't do haunted houses. They take the worst parts of scary movies for me and condense them in to one event. It's all jump out and go boo moments. When I was growing up our church had a harvest festival every year on Halloween night. You know to keep us all from going out and celebrating the devil's holiday. Well when my sister was in high school they somehow convinced the church to let them do a haunted house every year. I wouldn't go through it. Hated them. Wouldn't do it. Couldn't make me. Until the year she decided to make me. And when Jeff Wenchel popped out of the trap door and grabbed my ankle and I kicked him in the face I never had to do it again. I don't care for being scared.

So what does it say about me that I still wish I could write a really solid scary story?

One that creeps you out.

Like look over your shoulder because you can feel someone behind you creeps you out?

Turn out the light and then have to turn it back on again creeps you out?

I know I can write a story that makes you cry. It's okay, you can admit it.

And I've written plenty that made you laugh. I'm fucking hilarious.

Now I want to write one that gives you the shivers.

So what does that say about me?

Don't scare me, I'll scare you.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Joy and grumpiness...

I posted on Facebook earlier today a list of things that were making me grumpy right now. And chief among them was having no ideas for a blog today as well as not enough grumpiness to construct one. I tried working myself up in to a state about the idiocy surrounding the fear mongering the media is successfully doing regarding Ebola. But then a friend made a joke that I made another joke about and it was off and running. And even later I polished my first joke and had a new one.

"Is it a coincidence that Ebola and Obama are both 5-letter, 3-syllable words? That is a little TOO big of a "coincidence" if you ask me." That was my friend Jadey's first joke. Which is outstanding.  My final spin on it is: It goes much deeper than that! Ebola and Obama both start with vowels and end with the letter A. You know what else starts with a vowel and ends with an A? AMERICA. And USA. Which just goes to show that Obama brought Ebola to the USA to be the END OF US.

Which makes me laugh. Not just because I made the joke and I tend to find myself fucking hilarious but because I could drop that as well as the joke I made about it being a truly socialist disease all about sharing bodily fluids and redistributing the germs in to any discussion on line right now about Ebola and it wouldn't even be the most ridiculous statement made. Not even close. So it's funny because people are insane.

I am also a little grumpy because I had a set back day with my cold. You know those days where you are pretty sure you are over it and then the next day hits and you are exhausted and unwell again? Today was the second day. So a little grumpy. I was planning on going and doing a few things today but didn't. I will have to tomorrow. I am out of peanut butter. It's a catastrophe. But I couldn't stay grumpy about it because there were pictures of happy babies on my news feed. And who can stay grumpy when there are happy babies to look at?

I also re-watched the video of the guy skipping the rock on the frozen lake. Oh my gosh that makes me laugh. Brent missed it when I posted it yesterday so I showed it to him last night. His reaction? "Gee that reminds me of someone." Which made me laugh again because when I had first posted it I made the comment that he and C would say I acted that way at Disney. Truly I act that way whenever something really tickles me. He is used to it. I am the person who has been busted more than once dancing in the aisle at Target after all. And he knows that if I am staring out the sunroof in to the sky I am probably watching a hawk fly and I will do it until I lose sight of it. And act like it's the first time I've ever seen one.

And then today when I saw the rock skip video posted on another site I read the comments and a large number of them mentioned that they thought the guy was stoned. Because who acts like that who isn't high right? Which made me laugh again because that's a standard joke. My sober straight brain is everyone else's brain high as a kite. I don't do drugs. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to alter my consciousness anymore than it normally is. No urge to find out either. I like my off kilter world, thank you very much.

So I didn't have quite enough grumpiness to fill a blog but I had enough joy to balance it out. And that's fine by me. Joy is better.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to start thinking about a wandering chicken and her adventures in the world...

And no I'm not going to explain it any more than that. Making you all confused makes me laugh as well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I really don't want to miss a thing....

Part One
Part Two

Rebeccah stayed off the computer for the rest of the evening. She just couldn't bring herself to even turn it back on. What the hell had that been? She looked at the glass of wine she had poured before sitting down. Was she turning in to some sort of blackout drunk? Maybe she hadn't had half of that glass but the whole bottle and just couldn't remember. She actually double checked the bottle in the kitchen to make sure. No, just a bit gone. So she was now hallucinating sober. Great.

After a fitful night of not much sleep she headed in to work. There was a flyer on the windshield of her car. She pulled it off and saw the bold printing LOOKING FOR ANSWERS? and had to laugh. If only it were that simple she thought as she crumpled the paper and tossed it in to the trash.

Walking in to work she bumped in to a man handing out leaflets. "Don't throw it away this time, Rebeccah." he said very softly as he handed her a copy of the flyer she had tossed just a few minutes earlier. Oh, well that wasn't creepy at all she thought shoving the leaflet in to her purse.

When she got to her desk she pulled it out and looked at it. It was a notice for the local AA meeting. There was one that night after work. So whoever was monitoring her computer was also spying on her at her car and thought she was an alcoholic? Was this one of those family interventions? Somehow she really didn't think so.

And that's how Rebeccah found herself in a local AA meeting listening to people share about their struggles with alcohol. She didn't speak, she really didn't feel it was her place. But she listened although nobody stood up and told a story about hallucinating aliens feasting on their friends or any real hallucinations at all.  She stayed for the whole meeting and as it was breaking up one of the gentlemen who had shared a story came over and shook her hand. "Thank you for coming, I wanted to give you this. It's your first meeting chip."

"I don't really think I need one. I'm not actually sure that I belong here..." Rebeccah trailed off realizing just how much she sounded exactly like an alcoholic making excuses for why she really wasn't one.

"You might find it comes in handy." He pressed the chip in her hand and closed her fingers around it. Then made a very subtle nod toward the door. Rebeccah guessed that meant it was time to go. Once she reached the street she opened her hand to look at her new sobriety badge and saw it wasn't an AA chip at all but a token for a cup of coffee and a nearby diner. She was beginning to feel like some sort of spy.

She walked in to the diner and started to take a seat at the bar when a waitress took her by the elbow, "Your friends are already here, Rebeccah, come with me." Again with the first name basis from complete strangers. She was seated at a table with the man from the meeting and three other people. One looked like the guy who was handing out flyers earlier but the others she didn't think she had ever seen before.

She looked around the table and started to speak when the guy from the meeting held up his hand and mouthed "Wait" then one of the women she had never seen before pulled out what looked like a giant lady bug and set it on the table. She flipped a switch on the side and it started to hum softly. "It mimics the sound of a dragonfly's wings and keeps mosquitoes away. Well, that and other things."

Rebeccah looked around the table, "So you've seen them too? I'm not crazy?"

"Well we don't really know you well enough to say if you are crazy or not. But..." the leaflet guy said.

The woman with the lady bug smacked his arm lightly, "Don't tease her. You remember what it was like at first. No, we don't think you are crazy. We've all seen them."

"So what are they? And what do we do? And shouldn't we tell someone?"

"Slow down," the gentleman from the meeting said, "We'll try and get you answers, but you have to understand that you aren't going to like all of them. And that you will probably just have more questions when we are through. First, when did you see them? How did it happen?"

Rebeccah told them her story. It felt good to let it all out. Though as she was listening to herself talk she realized it sounded completely crazy. When she was done she looked around the table half expecting them all to either laugh at her or tell her how nuts she was, but what she saw was a lot of nodding heads. Then she listened as they told their stories.

Lady bug lady had first seen them when she was a child. Her parents were big party people and one night she had woken up thirsty. The house was quiet so she thought all of the guests must have gone home, when she turned the corner and saw the living room she saw a scene very much like Rebeccah had in Hawaii. She had gone right back to bed and spent the next decade plus trying to convince herself it had been a nightmare. She probably would have succeeded except she was an emergency room nurse and heard stories from people who had come in to the hospital on psych evals of the same sort of thing. People don't share hallucinations.

The man who had handed her the leaflet had a story very much like hers. But he had been late to a party. Stopping by the party after working a late shift as he walked up to the house he saw it all through the front window. He had yelled and run for the house but by the time he got through the door they were gone and all of his friends were acting as though nothing had happened. He thought he had lost his mind.

The worst story was from the man at the meeting. He had woken up one night with one of them attached to his head. The spike drilled in to his brain. He could feel it pulsing as the thing sucked his blood or lymph or what ever it was they were taking. He had screamed and the thing looked down at him, tilting it's head and moving the spike, he felt it shift just as he passed out again. He woke up later to the party going on full swing around him again. He hadn't touched a drop to drink since then thinking it was an alcoholic's nightmare. It wasn't until he shared the story in an AA meeting that he found out he wasn't the only one. And that he needed to be very careful about whom he shared it with.

And that's where the last woman at the table came in. She had been at the meeting he had told his story and had brought him out for coffee afterwards. Introducing him to others that had experienced similar things. "We've all seen them. We tend to call them aliens but I'm not sure that's true at all. They feed off of us, after all, that seems to suggest that they've been around as long as we have. Parasites maybe? We don't know. But what we've gathered through the years, through stories like yours, is that they prey on large groups. Alcohol is always involved. We aren't sure if it's necessary to be in the fluids they are feeding on or if they use it to mask the side effects of what they are doing."

"Side effects?"

"Yes, the blank spaces that happen in an evening of drinking. The hangover the next morning. We think those aren't caused by alcohol but by them. The blanks obviously being when they feed and the hangover from the loss of whatever it is they are taking from us. It's no wonder why people are dehydrated if something is feeding off of them in the night."

With that Rebeccah remembered the sound of the sucking and shuddered.

"Oh, I'm sorry, dear. I don't mean to be so very matter of fact about it all. I forget you are still new to everything. It will be less difficult later. It will never be easy. But it will be less difficult."

"So if there are a lot of us who have seen them why don't we tell someone who can do something? I don't understand."

"Why didn't you tell anyone?"

Rebeccah gave a half smile, "Because I thought I was crazy. I get it. But if there are more than one of us? If we all have similar stories? Wouldn't more people come out of the woodwork and support us? There have to be people who have never said anything, right?"

"Sure, people would believe us the same way they believe the people who say they were abducted by aliens. If you haven't seen it for yourself it's too crazy to believe. And they won't let you find others if they can stop you. Why do you think we stopped your internet searches last night? You are lucky we found you first."

"What?"

"Tell me what you know about alcoholism. Specifically about the DTs."

"Oh the delusions people get when they stop drinking, I've heard about those, awful, really realistic scary things that....Oh. I see. People just think you are an alcoholic and have the DTs?"

"Worse than that, we think if they find out you've been trying to find others, to stop them in any way, that they will cause them. The siphon works both ways. They can drain us or fill us with..." She shook her head, "We don't know what it is. More alcohol? The stuff that knocks everyone out to begin with? Or maybe they just know where to poke in our head to cause issues. I'm not positive that they can't cause addiction. If they can make you an alcoholic they have a steady food source as well as a silent witness. Nobody believes an addict right? So they monitor. They are at AA meetings listening to stories, they are searching the internet for chat groups that might be talking about them. They are in bars. They are everywhere. But we can't see them. You don't see them unless they are feeding."

Rebeccah was starting to think maybe she was crazy. Or at least maybe they were, "They are everywhere but you can't see them unless they are feeding?"

"Think about your story. You were in the hallway, right? Nobody left past you. How did they get out of the room? We think they exist in our world but possibly on another plane of existence. Have you ever wondered where science fiction writers come up with things like phasing in and out? We think they have seen it as well. Or heard about it from someone who has. They are here, but not completely, except when they feed. So they have to make sure we are unconscious to do that. Most people will never see them. A night out with friends, maybe a little blank spot in the evening, but maybe not, depending how smoothly it's done. A little rough around the edges in the morning, but that's to be expected from drinking right?

It's just when something goes wrong, when someone sees something they shouldn't have, that's when their system breaks down. And our job is to get to that person first. Like we did with you."

"So now what? What do I do?"

"That's up to you. Now that you know you aren't alone you get to decide your next step. What do you want to do? We have people who go to meetings. We have computer experts. We have drug and alcohol counselors. We have emergency room nurses. We have psychologists and neurologists all in our ranks. We each add to our network. Trying to protect those around us. And protect ourselves. Where and how you fit in is up to you.

You won't see any of us again. It's best if we aren't seen in groups. But you will be contacted again next week by someone asking if you are interested in some volunteer work. Answer yes and you are a part of us, answer no and you won't ever hear from us again."

That had been five years ago. Rebeccah had said yes. She learned from the group. The things only seemed to feed in groups, at night, from people who had had more than three drinks. So her own rules were set. Early evenings and light drinker Rebeccah was born. Her part in the support system was meeting new people and giving them a place to vent safely.

She also listened closely when people talked seeing if she could pick out a hesitation in a story, a slight waver to a voice describing a nightmare, anything that might identify someone who had seen. She worked at prevention. The more people she could keep sober and in at night the less opportunity there was for those things to feed. So she told her story over and over. Not the real one. Not the whole story. But the one people could hear and understand. And each time they went home early she was relieved.

She hadn't had a hangover in 5 years.

She also hadn't had a full night's sleep without nightmares.

And she couldn't stand to be around anyone drinking a milkshake.

The woman she thought of as her first sponsor was right. It got less difficult. It never got easy.





















I still don't want to miss a thing...

Part One

As Rebeccah watched her friends head home for the evening she felt good about the little white lie that made it happen. She had told many variations of the story over the past 5 years and always felt a little thrill of victory when it worked to break up the party earlier than normal. It wasn't that she didn't like her friends to stay out late or have a good time, not at all, she just wanted to protect them.

The Hawaii story was true. Right up to the part where she went back to the party. She actually did leave early and then go back but she had made it all the way back to her room. She was brushing her teeth and thinking about her friends still all having fun in the party room while she was all alone in her's. She was too amped to get to sleep so she might as well go back for another round or two right?

The door to the party room hadn't completely closed and was unlatched when she returned. Pushing open the door she looked in to the room to see her friends...

And this is where her world stopped making sense.

Lying on couches and passed out in chairs the whole party was out cold. And standing over each of them was...well...a thing. Tall, skinny, spindly arms and legs, with round heads and giant black glassy eyes. And out of each of those heads was a long semi-transparent spike that was now firmly planted in the head of each friend still at the party. She could see liquid moving up the spikes in to the aliens... It had to be aliens right? Or bugs? It couldn't be bugs. Surely bugs this size would have caused some sort of mass hysteria. Rebeccah stifled an hysterical giggle as she thought about complaining to housekeeping.

Slowly backing out of the room she tried to decide what to do. Then she heard the sound. The slurping. The same sound as drinking a particularly thick milkshake. But it wasn't milkshakes. It was people. Her friends. Her knees gave way and she slid down the wall in the hallway. Knowing she should scream or run or anything other than wait there for her turn. But she was shaking so hard she couldn't move. Her voice was lost. Her breathing was too shallow. She was going to pass out.

The door to the room opened and Rebeccah thought she would scream.

"Hey! What are you doing out here? The party's inside! I'm grabbing some more ice, head on in!" No alien. No giant bug. Just James. With an empty ice bucket. Awake, laughing, oblivious.

Rebeccah slowly stood up and looked in to the room. Her friends were all drinking and laughing. No creatures. No one passed out. Just a party.

She headed back to her room again. Obviously she had had too much too drink. That was all. She had passed out in the hallway and hallucinated everything. She laid down on the bed and tried to get to sleep but as soon as she closed her eyes she could picture the scene again and worse hear it. Slurp...slurp...slurp...

She just made it to the bathroom in time. And that's where she spent the next few hours. Terrified. She tried everything she could to convince herself it hadn't been real. But the details were too clear. There was no moment where she thought, this is where I blacked out. It had happened; she knew it. When the alarm went off to catch the shuttle bus she couldn't do it. Fear kept her rooted to the spot. She did miss the eclipse and the sunrise. That part was true. The group of friends she had been partying with had missed it as well. They were all too hungover to get up.

They were all too hungover. She wasn't.

If she had had enough to drink that she passed out and hallucinated in the hallway why wasn't she hungover? She had been vomiting all night, but that was the reaction to the sound, not the alcohol. But still, she should have been hungover. Dehydrated. Headache. Nausea. Where was her hangover?

The rest of the weekend was a blur. She had forced herself to get out of the room and go to the wedding. To act as normal as possible. She didn't have anything to drink though. The thought of it turned her stomach. Every time she saw someone who had been in that room she could see the being, the bug, the alien thing drinking from them. People started to ask if she felt well. No, no she really didn't. She called it a night early.

Once she was back on the mainland she tried again to forget. To convince herself that it had just been a nightmare. Maybe none of it had happened at all. Then one day she found herself searching the internet for "common drunk hallucinations" and "are there aliens among us" after the third search, the one where she Googled, "drinking life from people" her screen went dark and her computer shut down. When it restarted there was nothing there but the C:\>_ prompt.  Then a message. "Stop searching. They are always watching." Then the computer shut down again.

She might have screamed.

I don't want to miss a thing...

"One more round?" Jeremy pointed at the empty glasses.

"None for me, thanks, I'm going to take off here in a second." Rebeccah picked up her phone from the table to drop in her bag.

"You always bail so early! Come on the night is just getting started!"

Rebeccah smiled at her friend Allison. "Not for me. The night is just winding down for me. But you all have fun."

Greg leaned back in his chair, "There is no convincing her. Trust me. She always leaves early. Two drinks, done by 11. I've never seen her vary. Unless it's one drink and done by 10."

Allison looked at her phone. "Well it's only 10:30 you still have a half hour. So share your story. Why the early leaver? Why the limits? I know you aren't an alcoholic because," with that Allison waved toward the martini glass in front of Rebeccah, "and I know you aren't an early to bed person because I've see you online answering work emails at 1 AM. So what gives?"

"Just a choice I make. No real reason."

"Please, there is nothing you do that doesn't have a reason. You are the most methodical person I've ever worked with. So spill." Greg checked his phone, "You have 25 minutes to tell your story."

Rebeccah sighed, "Fine, but please understand this sounds a little preachy and it's not my intention. Keep in mind that you asked."

Jeremy nodded. "We did. Now go."

"Okay, you want to know why I leave; why do you stay? What is your number one reason for staying out when I go home?"

Allison shrugged her shoulders, "I'm not ready to go home I guess."

Jeremy shook his head, "Easy, I don't want to miss anything."

Rebeccah pointed at Jeremy, "Ding, ding, ding. You don't want to miss anything. That's was always my reason as well. It would surprise you to know I used to be the last one to leave. Every single time. I was the rally girl. The one you could always count on for one more round, for one more go. I couldn't imagine leaving because I might miss something. Until Hawaii."

"Hawaii?"

"Friends from college were getting married in Hawaii. A group of us all went. It turned in to a mini-reunion wedding party drunk fest extravaganza. Lots of late nights drinking on the beach sharing stories followed by wedding brunches and family meet and greets and hangovers beaten back by more Mai Tais.

Now part of why they planned their wedding in Hawaii was because there was going to be one of those 'once in a lifetime' moments coinciding with the date. There was a full lunar eclipse happening, and because of the time and where Hawaii is the apex of the eclipse would happen right as the moon was setting and the sun was rising. So there would be this moment where the shadow of the moon is there and the darkness hits then the sun rises and lights the sky again."

"Aww...."

"Yes, awww, great symbolism. And a great view from the top of the volcano. Which meant getting up at 4 AM to catch the shuttle bus to the base of the hiking trail and then a half hour hike up to the spot to meet the bride and groom and the small group of us that were going to start the day with them. Their day. The beginning of their new life."

Jeremy made a face, "Oh I see where this is going."

"Yes, you do. So the night before a group of us decide to grab one quick drink before heading back to get to bed early. One drink turns in to two turns in to three, but I'm really going to leave. So around midnight I say my goodbyes and head to my room. But as I head down the hallway from the party room back to mine I think to myself that I don't want to miss anything so I turned around and went back. The next morning I missed the shuttle bus. I missed the hike. I missed the moment. The one thing that I could never actually get back, I missed."

"Ouch." Greg made a pained face, "But it happens right?"

"It does. And I realized that it happened to me a lot more than I was comfortable with. Every decision you make means you miss other things. Staying at the party until the end means you miss those hours of sleep, the sunrise the next morning, not being hungover for half of your day. For what? For a few hours with a bunch of drunks? Look back over all of the parties you've ever been to, the things that happen late in the evening are never the good things. They are the fights, the misguided hookups, the vomiting, the yelling at strangers, the one drink too many parts. And by not missing that you are missing the good things in life. The pure clean moments. The sober light of day moments."

Rebeccah looked up at the ceiling and sighed, "I told you it sounded preachy. But it's how I feel. I never wanted to miss anything so I ended up missing something I could never replace. I vowed from that moment on that I would weigh my choices better. And part of that is making sure I make them mostly sober. So one or two drinks is it. Leaving early is it. Not worrying about missing something because I know there are other things I won't miss because of that choice."

"Wow. Okay, now I feel badly for always asking you to stay."

"Don't, it's my choice, Allison, not anyone else's. But it's one I have never been sorry I made. The best part is I haven't had a hangover in five years. Not even a touch of a headache. I get the social fun part of the evening at the beginning when everyone is still feeling a little mellow. I get one or two tasty beverages, then I am done and tucked in bed for the night knowing I will feel great in the morning. It might not work for everyone, but it works for me." Rebeccah looked at the clock on her phone and then held it up to the group with a smile, "And with that, I'm off for the night."

As Rebeccah packed up her things and settled the bar tab the other three decided that they would call it an early evening as well. When people heard her reason for calling it night early they usually did. For at least one night. Sometimes for more. As she saw her friends headed home early for the evening she felt good about telling them her story, even if it was only half true.

She only left out the part about the aliens, and really could you blame her?


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Empaths are complicated...

While we were back in Michigan this weekend we got to be part of a big family announcement. Non-baby related. That was important to get out since the announcement was from Curt and Rachel and they are at that stage of just past newly married where people are constantly asking about babies...

Anyway...Curtis has been in school for the past few years getting his degree in (and I have no idea what it's really called so I am making up the degree but you will understand what it is by the words I use) Anesthesia Nurse Practitioner. He finishes in December so really close now. What it means is that for the past few years instead of making his normal salary as a nurse he has been back in school. And Rachel was finishing school as well. And working. Basically newly wed completely broke stage of life. So now he's graduating and...Ta Da! He already has a job offer! It's very exciting and fabulous and it's 3 1/2 hours away from Kalamazoo.

Which as you all know, is how far away Bend is from Portland so...

Well at dinner when the announcement was made Kim got teary eyed. Rachel worried. Curt worried. Moving that far from mom is an issue. Kim kept saying it wasn't that she was upset they were moving, it was that she was proud of Curtis. Which is true. And a lie. She is upset they are moving. And proud as well. She was both. We all knew it. Hell, I've lived it. I know exactly that feeling of "Yes! You did it! Fabulous!" that is right away mixed with "No! You are supposed to stay here!"

But then it led to a discussion on being an easy cry.

Rachel admitted she would cry as a kid when other kids got in trouble. It just bothered her so much. Empathetic. You all know I cannot be yelled at. It makes me cry. And I cry when I get angry. And I cry at Kleenex commercials. And books. And movies. And bad temper days. And a really beautiful sunset....

So yeah, we are all easy touches.

Which then Dave (Kim's husband) and Brent were both like "It's AWFUL!" because it is. It's unfair in a fight. If you are in an argument with your spouse and your burst out in to tears they just want you to stop. You (or at least I) still want to resolve the argument, you cannot stop the tears but you want them to ignore them so you can still carry on. But you are crying so they won't. Ugh.

And then for Brent it's even more baffling to him. He does not understand that crying is just something I have accepted. I wish that I didn't cry when I was mad, but that's the only time it bothers me. I'm okay crying at a book, or a movie, or a Facebook post, or getting misty because I understand how Kim is torn between pride in her babies growing up and sadness that they are growing up.

In fact, I think a good cry every once in awhile is completely cathartic. Watching a movie or reading a book that just wrecks me? I might complain a little, but I feel better afterwards. It's like there is just a build up of emotion that needs out. Like a pressure cooker. And releasing it through something that doesn't really matter keeps it from becoming too overwhelming in the things that do.

Because I am strongly empathetic. I totally get why Rachel would get upset when other kids in school would get in trouble. I have a really hard time not feeling all the feels when I hear someone's sad story. I get it. I get them. I feel it. And I cry about it sometimes. And I don't want to change that about me. Because I feel things very deeply I feel things very deeply. Circular, I know. But if I didn't feel things the way I do. If I didn't see the world through that lens I wouldn't be me. And I really dig me.

And I know that my empathy is a big part in how I relate to everyone. I have friends with different world views, I like hearing about them and I can usually understand where they are coming from in an argument. Empathy. The blog I wrote earlier today about taking a moment to be helpful to people. I get what it's like to be that mom with the car seat struggling to get through a door. So I stop and help. Empathy. Watching the world around you and getting more and more frustrated and heartsick that you can't change everything? That's empathy as well.

So yeah, being empathetic is tough sometimes. Right now I feel super proud of Curtis and Rachel and excited for them to be starting this new chapter in their lives. And I feel a little heartache for Kim. Knowing that she wishes them nothing but success and happiness but wishes it was a little closer to home. Trust me, I totally get that part, but 3 1/2 hours is totally doable.

And I completely understand that being sad doesn't mean you aren't happy.