Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year in Review...

So the first blog of the year was a list of the goals I wanted to accomplish this year, figured a recap of how I did would be a good end cap blog.

I had a handful of them, and I did okay on some, most really, just one big miss.

Picture of the Day! I went back to doing Picture of the Day. Taking pictures and interacting with people about them makes me happy so this was a fun one for me to take back on. Or at least it should have been. Facebook didn't do me any favors with this one. With their new algorithms only a small percentage of what you post is seen by your friends and for me that meant that most of my pictures nobody saw. So half of the enjoyment of them was gone. I did it for 6 months and then realized without the play together aspect of it a daily picture wasn't all that fun. It really was a two step process for me. First to decide what I wanted to take a shot of, I still was using the Fat Mum Slim prompts, and second to talk to other people about them. Without that second part it was kind of dull so I stopped.

Cooking! I wanted to do 3 meals a week. And until Brent's schedule changed I was actually ahead of the curve on this one. Usually 4 and some weeks even 5. But once he started traveling it got to be kind of a hassle. I need to figure out what to do about this one in the new year. Not sure if I will keep up with Blue Apron or just start to branch out on my own. Though I have to say that they have been really fun to use. We have tried a lot of new things that we never would have otherwise, and just having the food delivered and in the fridge took the "maybe I will skip it" out of the equation.

Books! I wanted to read 85 books this year. I read 87. This one was a stretch and if it weren't for a few smaller books I might not have made it. But that's because I also read a few 1000 page books. It's hard to get those numbers up if you are reading really long books. But I pulled it off. Thanks to short books.

Blogs! I wanted to write 180. Today marks 185. I talked about reaching this goal once before so I won't bore you with the back pat again.

Weight/fitness! I wanted to lose 10 pounds. As of today I weigh...exactly the same that I weighed on January 1st. No shit. Exactly the same. I basically lost and gained the same 4 pounds all year. Once I got as low as 5 pounds but that was after being sick so it really shouldn't count. There is a caveat to this one. I am in better shape than I have been in a really long time, possibly ever as far as pure muscle goes. I have biceps. This is a good thing. However, I am still heavier than I would like to be, and more importantly than my doctor would like me to be. It's been frustrating to say the least. I've tweaked my nutrition, I've added and subtracted workouts, I've tracked, not tracked, obsessed and ignored and I am still right where I started. Though the fat to muscle ratio is better.

So over all it wasn't a bad year for goal reaching. I set some smaller ones through the year that helped keep me moving along. Not awful. Not perfect, but life is never perfect so that's just fine.


So what about 2016? I don't really know. I have one in mind for writing but I haven't committed to it yet. I've only mentioned it to one person, they were all for it, but I haven't yet made it public so I haven't yet locked myself in. I will mull it over this weekend and decide by Monday. Fitness/Weight is a do over. I really do want to lose those 10 pounds but I don't want to lose my muscles so I need to work on food/workout combos for that. Books to read? I don't think I am going to set a real tough number this year. Maybe 52. One a week. That gives me the leeway to read the monster length books on my list without feeling like I am going to let the end of year me down somehow.

The biggest goal for 2016, I think, is going to be making it through with my sanity and belief in the goodness of people in tact. The past year has rattled my faith in mankind more than once and I am truly worried that the upcoming political season is going to send me scurrying under a rock.

So there you go, 2015 done and in the books.

Happy New Year! I hope the year brings you joy and challenges and accomplishments and surprises and love and happiness. Always happiness.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Darkness...


I've always taken comfort in the first day of winter.

We mark it as the beginning but it's really the end.

The cold might still be coming.

The snow might still be on its way.

But the darkness is already lifting.

We mark it. 

We notice it.

But we've already made it through the worst of it.

The first day of winter really means that spring is on its way.

Sunsets will come later.

Time will lengthen back out.

The darkness will fade.

I've always taken comfort in the first day of winter.

Waves the White Flag...

Okay, I give up.

I've waited and I've waited.

I've tried to help it along a little.

I've faked it.

I've ignored it thinking it would come on its own.

And now I just give up. It's not happening and I'm okay with that.

The Christmas Spirit is not visiting me this year.

It's just not here.

I don't know if it's the weather; we've had RAIN for 23 days in a row. Not our normal light rains but huge downpours. Flooding and muck and nastiness. The kind of rain that makes it unpleasant to go outside. So no urge to go see the Zoo Lights or go to the Grotto or even walk around downtown and look at decorations.

I don't know if it's because we traveled over Thanksgiving so we didn't have that holiday and then the Christmas kick off didn't happen. Normally we watch Christmas Vacation on Thanksgiving night and start decorating the house the day after Thanksgiving. We didn't come home until Sunday and then Brent and I both had colds so we were kind of low key, then we were doing something else, then finally it was two weeks before Christmas and I forced myself to decorate. But just a little. And only inside; see massive rain.

I finally convinced Brent that I am serious about not exchanging Christmas gifts and this year Christopher needed a laptop more than a random collection of things which means a bare tree. I decided last year that it was the last year for the Christmas Letter so I didn't do that. McDonald's didn't do their egg nog shake so we didn't do that. I didn't do extra baking this year. Brent has been traveling a lot and I have been struggling with my weight enough as it is. Didn't need to be alone with a dozen cookies in the house. So no extra Christmasy treats.

I'm not sure if it's all of those things or if it's the massive negativity that is happening right now. Our political discourse has turned into the ugliest of the ugly screaming at each other. Our Peace on Earth Goodwill Toward Man has turned in to turning away refugees and yelling for more boots on the ground and no fly zones. It's depressing. It's disappointing. It's not very heartwarming.

I'm not sure if it's because Christmas itself has become so polarizing. I cannot stand that whole War on Christmas nonsense. Never have been able to put up with it. It's manufactured outrage and it's stupid. It's just gotten worse and worse every year and now it's as much a marker of the season as Christmas Carols in October...

Tomorrow, as long as the weather co-operates, Christopher will come home and we will do our Christmas Eve traditions so maybe there will be a last minute appearance. But I'm not really counting on it. And I really will be fine with it. Maybe next year I will be feeling more festive. Maybe the break after what will surely be a horrible political season will be so filled with relief that it's over that I will be brimming with Ho Ho Hos. We will see.

For this year I'm okay with the fact that I will get a few days with my boys to hang out and eat good food and watch good movies and enjoy each other's company. No extra holiday spirit needed.


But you know, Merry Christmas to you, or whatever...




Monday, December 21, 2015

Safe Spaces...

I've written before about my frustration with Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces and Being Easily Offended and claiming that your bigotry is justified by your religious beliefs and blaming the PC police when you are just being an asshole. It all makes me crazy. There is a real lack of intellectual honesty in the world today. Many people, maybe even most people, don't like their belief systems challenged to the point where they will find ways to avoid the discussion, claiming a need for a safe space, claiming that they aren't being offensive you are just being too PC. Whichever way it goes you are shutting down discussions that could possible challenge your way of thinking.

People my age and older look to college kids as the ones driving this movement. Oh these kids today...

Nonsense.

You know how I know it's nonsense?

Because you all do it too.

Look around. We've created a world that is just our safe space. We have news channels that only tell us what we already believe to be true. We have news websites that only report on stories we want to read. And not only that but make sure to spin the information in such a way that it caters to our already set beliefs. And we read them and nod along saying, "See? I was right." No you weren't necessarily right. You just found someone who agrees with you.

We don't look at issues deeper than what can be expressed in a meme or a tweet or a sliced and diced sound bite. We believe what we believe and we find people who agree with us so we can continue believing those things without challenge. We are all subsisting on pablum. Nobody is making us chew.

There is a thing on Facebook right now where you can search, "Show me my friends who like..." and then you can see what or who they are following. When it came out at first people were using it as a joke (poor Nickelback) then a few weeks ago it made the rounds as a way to find which of your friends like political figures you don't and then you could defriend them. What? You aren't defriending them because they post offensive things, you aren't defriending them because you just don't really like them anymore, you are going to defriend them because of who they might possibly vote for? Really? You know that's sort of insane right?

I mean, I get it, I cannot understand how anyone is seriously considering voting for Trump. But have you engaged with those people? Or did you just draw the line. You don't agree with me, you damage my safe little circle of same thought, so you must go. And there is a difference in these things.

I have levels. I have hidden people (used to be an option to "show me less") I have defriended and I have even blocked. I use the handy little button to the right on a post that you can click and say, "Never show me posts from this website" for things that I know are always going to make me grit my teeth and think badly about the person on my friend list who liked it and made it show up in my feed. And it's not just the ultra conservative sites I've blocked, I block the ultra liberal ones too. I have no patience and no tolerance for encouraging willful ignorance. And those sites that post sliced and diced quotes that really don't mean what you think they mean when you read the whole paragraph of text instead of just the 10 words they pulled out? Well, I have nothing for them.

I've also mostly hidden some IRL friends from my feed. People who I know I KNOW are decent human beings who have some really wacky beliefs. Things I would have never known if it weren't for Facebook and that damned public posts thing. When they comment on a friend of a friend's post with a rant against poor people, or liberals, or conservatives, or Obama, or guns, or whatever I just shake my head and wonder, "Do you know we can all see this? Not just the person here who you agree with but all of us because it was a public post so now it's in my feed too?" Because, and this is the sad or hopeful part depending on how you are looking at it, people aren't worse than they used to be, they just say things in public now that they would never have said in front of you before.

I'm a progressive. My friends know this. They know that I believe in social programs. They also know that I am fiscally conservative in that I believe we need to help people who need help but we need to figure out how to pay for that help before we pass that bill. Now my more well off friends don't like my way of paying for things. But that's not been a secret ever. HOWEVER...some of my co-workers and clients had no idea what my political beliefs were. I represented some very wealthy people at times who truly believed in tax breaks and shelters and keeping what was yours never mind you got an awful lot of help getting to where you are. I just kept my mouth shut. When the talk turned to politics if it was a client situation I just stayed quiet. It was appropriate to the situation. Now that I'm retired and some of my clients and co-workers are on my friend list we are discovering that we don't really agree on a lot of things in that area. And that's still fine.

Though sometimes it's shocking.

And sometimes it actually makes me sad.

And I'm sure I frustrate the hell out of them as well.

But as long as it isn't hateful? Well then it's fine. Hateful is where you get the defriend.

Because as much as I rail against them I have a safe space I've created as well.

My safe space includes people who are able to have a discussion about what they believe in without using derogatory terms to describe people who disagree with them. My safe space consists of a lot of context. Context is important. My safe space lacks talking points and sound bites. The world is complex. Issues rarely ever have simple answers. Tl;dr doesn't really work for my safe space. My safe space has people who are vastly different than each other in a lot of ways. My safe space doesn't have room for hatred or ignorance or cruelty. My safe space has room to learn, to change and to grow. My safe space is challenging. No pablum allowed. If you cannot defend your belief, you don't really believe it. That's my safe space.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Life!

I plan on living to be 100.  It's a stretch goal, I know, but that's my plan. I also am planning on Brent living to be 100 as well. My family history leans a little more toward me making it than him, but I've still decided that this is what is going to happen. One hundred seems like a good solid number of years. It's long enough to actually be impressive. Sixty is way too few. Seventy isn't much better. Eighty or 90 are a little better but still not quite enough. One hundred is good.

My grandmother's twin sister did this. She decided she would live to be 100. And she did. Plus a few years. She actually lived on her own until she was 100 as well. She spent the last 3 (I want to say it was 3) years of her life in a retirement home more than a little ticked off because she was now ready to go, but still. It's pretty impressive.

My great grandmother also decided when she would die. It was after my great grandfather died. She wrapped things up. Called all of her kids to say goodbye and went to bed and didn't wake up. No assistance, no pills, no outside influences, just her deciding she was done. She didn't want to live without him and so she wouldn't. When Dad died I think we all worried Mom was going to do the same thing. But she didn't. She decided to keep on living. But it wasn't out of the realm of possibility for any of us to believe that if Mom decided to die she would. We are a strong willed bunch, the women of my family.

But even though my plan is to live to be 100 I also am not afraid to die. Just not. It's going to happen. It happens to all of us eventually. And I'm just not afraid of it. And that, I think, colors my world view as much as anything else does.

Watching the news and talking with friends and acquaintances and reading online comments (though I'm done with that again for awhile, too horrible right now) the biggest motivator in the world seems to be fear. There is fear of refugees, of terrorists, of mass shooters homegrown, fear of being armed and not being armed...all of it basically a fear of death. I don't want to die so I am going to project this big giant fear on all of those things. I don't have that fear. Do I want to be shot by some crazy person with a vendetta? Absolutely not. But am I afraid of it? Not really. The odds of it happening are very small. I know people don't seem to believe that, but it's true. Terrorist attack, either domestic or foreign, isn't the way you are most likely going to die.

For most of us it's choices we make for ourselves that are going to take us out. Eating poorly, drinking too much, not exercising, driving drunk, texting while driving. These are the things that are more likely to kill us. I made a Facebook post about that awhile back and was met with push back. Even though statistically we all know what I am saying is true, people aren't afraid of those things. They should be, if they really are afraid of dying, but they feel like because those things are in their control somehow that makes them less scary. To me, because those things are in my control, I try to mitigate their damage. I work out, I don't drink and drive, I don't use my phone while I'm on the road, I swear I will eat better just as soon as I finish this brownie...

But that's just because I know, due to family and health history, the things that are most likely to kill me are heart disease and cancer. Those are the big looming death possibilities on my horizon. That and dementia. That's the real terrorist for me. Which I've talked about before, if I have warning that I'm fading, I will take care of that before I end up a shell with no "me" left. Because I'm not afraid of dying. I'd just rather not until I'm 100.

Here is the life lesson in this whole thing. Don't be so afraid that something bad is looming out there that you become scared to smile at strangers. That you stop helping those that need our help. That you start believing those that want to make you fearful. Ask yourself why they want you scared. Is it really to protect you or is it to benefit themselves? Ask yourself why in the world you would want to be scared all of the time. You want to fight terrorism? Don't give in to the terror.

Fear makes you stop listening to logic.

Fear makes you do things that you regret later.

Fear can be used to manipulate you.

Don't be so afraid.

We are all going to die. It's inevitable. Don't be so afraid of it that you forget to live.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Momentous!

Or at least that's sort of what this feels like it should be. Which is why I'm just cranking something out really quickly so I can move past it and finish the year with some stronger pieces.

Yes, this is blog #180 for the year. I reached my goal. Whew...

Now to be perfectly fair it was posting the old Practical Magic stuff that I had written already but never shared that helped push it over the edge. That and NaNo and the volumes of random fiction I wrote for that to keep me from going insane because I couldn't figure out how to end PM. But still, it was done and posted and read and totally counts.

And now I'm at 180 and everything else is gravy. Or frosting. Since it's the holiday season either one will work.

But once I hit 179 I thought I should write something super cool to mark 180 and reaching that goal. Then I thought it was early enough in the month that I could totally do 200 for the year if I got cranking. Which then made me start making excuses why I wouldn't be able to do that, which was ridiculous really, I mean I was pre-excusing not making a stretch goal that only I knew about! Crazy...

So my blog sat empty.

I also have been going back and forth on fiction and non-fiction. The world is in such a state right now. The ugliness that we are all witnessing day in and day out from people. Not just the terrorists. Not just the wack jobs. Not just the extremists. But the people we have known for years and had no idea were extremist wack jobs. It's a little disheartening. And I'm being torn on that front which will probably lend itself to a blog soon...

But did I really want a "woe is us" blog to be 180? Nah...

I have two different fiction pieces sort of forming up in my head right now. But they will be small trifles. So did I really want a trifle of a fiction piece to be 180? Nah...

Then I could have used it to wrap up goals for the year. I am one book away from my reading goal so I could have just waited another day or so to finish that and come in with my semi-triumphant year in review post! But did I want to wait another day or so to write? Nah...

So instead you get this.

A not really very important but it totally counts and gets us past the GOAL NUMBER blog, blog.

Sometimes that's all you can do. Just put your head down, muscle through, get past that barrier, move along.

And now we are there.

Whew...

Friday, December 4, 2015

Well aren't you pretty?

Have you seen it? The latest do this thing and tag someone post on Facebook?

It's that time once again!
Upload 5 photos of yourself that you feel pretty In! Then nominate 15 people to do the same! Build yourself up!!! Not down. * let's take it a step further and say why each photo makes you feel beautiful* Let's see all that beauty!

I saw it the first time a couple of days ago. Then again. And again. And then today I was tagged in one. So then I had to decide if I played along or not. Often I don't. Sometimes I do. Depends on my mood. And I always seem to change the "rules" to fit me a little better. Kind of my way in life.

So anyway...I decided to play along with this one. Ish. And part of the reason why was because one that I saw yesterday stuck with me. A friend was tagged as one of the 15, but her friend didn't just tag people, she posted why she tagged them. I thought that was pretty cool. So, sure, I will play along. But I'm totally going Frank Sinatra with it...



All right, picture #1. I think this is the first time I can remember actually feeling pretty. I loved this dress. I loved the fact that I had my hair done in a salon and sat under a dryer and everything. And I am looking at my sister on her wedding day hoping I would grow up to look like her. Because the blonde hair and green eyes would come eventually right?

Picture #2. My own wedding day. Hair done. Makeup done. A dress I loved. My grandmother's crystals. The skinniest I have ever been. Never mind that I was deathly ill and about to fall over...I felt pretty. I went back and forth between this shot of the day and one I post as a profile picture a lot where Brent and I are whispering to each other. I went with this one but it was a close call. I felt pretty all day that day. Except the vomiting parts...but even then I was a pretty puker. 

#3 I love this picture. I love the way the light caught the red in my hair and in C's. I love the cuddles. I think I look really serene and motherly in this one. But what I really love about it is that I was sitting there with C watching TV and Brent said, "Hold still" then he grabbed the camera and took a couple of pictures. (before the days of cell phone cameras, kids) and he said, "You just look so pretty I wanted a picture." I hadn't really felt pretty in a long time. Moms understand me. So it stuck with me. I'm still pretty.

#4 Odd right? But I do feel pretty in the picture. I took it for a POD shot. It was something I held that day. I held my tongue instead of getting shitty with someone. But I love the way this came out. It's dorky, it's goofy, it was a joke, it's me. It makes me feel pretty. I'm an odd duck, I know.

#5 Most recent of the shots. I took this one the day before my birthday. Screwing around in the car before we took off to run errands. I was in a stretch where I didn't have my glasses and if I took pictures it was hit or miss if they came out. This one did. As the kids say today #nofilters This is just me, happy with life, looking forward to 47, screwing around with my camera. 

So then we come to the nominate 15 people for this as well. And what do I do? I have a lot of friends. How do you narrow it down to 15 to post shots? Do you pick the ones you think need it the most? The reminder? Do you pick the ones you think are most likely to play along? Do you pick the ones that you are curious which shots they will pick? Which ones make them feel the prettiest?

Because I have to tell you, I have a lot of really pretty friends. And in so many different ways. Blondes that make you crave honey when you see their shining locks. Brunettes with every shade of brown and gold woven in to their hair. Redheads from deep auburn to strawberry blonde. Curls, straight, twists, dreads. Short, long, and right now two who are bald. One by choice, one by necessity. And I have to say, they wear it well. 

Green eyed ladies of mystery. Blue eyes you could dive in to and never want to come up. Brown eyes that catch the light and go from chocolate to amber and back again. Oh my goodness...almond shaped, round as a doll, wide eyed, half closed with thought...oh those eyes!

Shades of skin. So pale you think they are made of porcelain. Rich dark ebony that makes you think of velvet. And every shade in between. White, brown, golden toned, olive skin, deepest black. Don't even get me started on the variety of freckles and how much I love freckles! And dimples! I have chins, cheeks, one cheek, and even double dimples!

And that's before the make up. I have friends who have mastered the art of the eyebrow. The bold red of a lip. The eye shadow or blush that takes them from beautiful to spectacular. And I have the friends who wouldn't know what to do with a pot of lip stain if you paid them. The natural beauty is their walk. And again, every thing in between. Burts Bees tinted balm all the way to the latest Dior lip look. They are all here. 

Body types? What do you want to see? Figures so lush you think bad thoughts just because they walk near you. Slender frames that move like willows in the wind? Curves? Muscles? Angles? Cheek bones for days? A booty that bangs? Pocket sized petites. Amazonian heights. I've got them all on my list. 

And then you have the intangibles. The things that make them beautiful instead of just pretty. The confidence that radiates. The timidness that attracts. Intelligence. Humor. Sheer unadulterated badassness. Quiet questing for answers. I have them all. All beautiful in their space. And I can see in pictures of them. The wistful portrait of a seeker. The full on stare of ruler. The women who are changing the world through their work, their religion, their children, their humor, their love, their presence. They are all here. Which do you want to see?

So when it came time to tag the 15 I was stuck. So I didn't. I did this instead. You are all beautiful. If you want to post your 5 pictures that you feel pretty in I will look at them. I will agree with you. I will love to hear why you feel pretty in them. But know this, I am in awe of you all the time. You are beautiful. 


And a bonus #6. Me, today, thinking about you. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Three Days...

I went three days without thinking of you.

Three days.

The song came on the radio and I thought of you.

And I realized it had been three days.

It was the milk. Another quart of spoiled milk. Nobody is there to drink it anymore and yet somehow I keep buying it. I get home from the store and unload the groceries and there it is. Another quart of milk.

I remember the first time you found out I didn't have milk. "Everyone has milk!" I don't. I don't drink milk, I told you. Why would I have milk? "For cooking at least!" I don't cook. I showed you my fridge. Leftover take out. Cream for my coffee. A few beers. A few sodas. That was it. No milk.

But you changed that. You had to have milk. So when I bought my coffee, my cream, my beer and my soda I bought your milk. And somehow even though I don't need it, I keep buying it.

And then I throw it away when it goes bad.

Three days.

It seemed longer. When the song started. I thought it must have been longer.

But the milk. I remembered the milk.

Three days. Not too shabby though.

Soon I will probably make it a whole week.

Then I cried.

I had gone three days.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NaNo 2015....

All right, we are done again. Whew.

I sort of reached a conclusion to the story with Practical Magic. I say sort of because I'm not really happy with it. In fact I think it's mostly crap. But it's something and that will be good enough for now. I might just give you all a sort of Executive Summary or Book Report finish so you at least know what happened with everyone, but I don't know when or if I will ever actually finish the story itself. Maybe someday huge inspiration will hit me and I will know exactly the right way to finish their story. I just know for now this will do even if this isn't really it.

When I did NaNo in 2013 it was expressly to see if I could write that much in a month and to try to get Practical Magic out as a novel. It was a grand plan and I did it. But then this time after I finished NaNo 2015 I wondered what the hell was wrong with me, why was it so much like a forced march this time? It couldn't have been like that in 2013 right? So I went back and read the handful of blogs I did around NaNo in 2013 and I reached all of these wonderful conclusions about my writing that I promptly forgot for 2015. And it was a forced march then as well, I just blocked that part out.

First off, I don't like writing long form stories. A novella is maybe the furthest I am willing to go and even that might be stretching it. Writing stops being fun for me much past a short story and as I only write because it's fun it seems pretty dumb to fight that.

Second, I am a pantser. I will always be a pantser. I am pretty sure that being a pantser is the biggest reason why I prefer short stories. I don't want to think about where a story is going to go. Where it needs to end up. Whose lives need tidied up. I want to be as surprised as you all are by what comes out of my head. Sure, sometimes that does mean that I have an ending in place that I am writing to (yesterday's short story, for instance, started with the image of her wrapping up the gift and I had to figure out how she got there) or a line of dialog that I want to work a story around. But it doesn't mean that I have a beginning, a middle and an end all lined up with characters and situations blocked out. Trust me, I've tried that, but the voices in my head are an unruly bunch and will pout if I try to tell them what to say.

Third I write fast and I write sloppy. I might change the sloppy part in 2016. I'm thinking about a new sort of challenge and it will require a little more tidying up. But I write and I post here and I get feedback or I don't and I move on. Sometimes so quickly that when I re-read a post from a few years ago I've forgotten I wrote the story. Hell, there was one that someone told me they really liked from last month and I couldn't remember it. LAST MONTH. As in a few weeks ago! I write fast. Sometimes less than an hour per story. And yes, I know, that doesn't make them polished or perfect or even grammatically sound half the time, but it's still fun for me.

And that is the biggest lesson I need to hold. I am in a remarkable position in life where I don't have to write to make a living. I don't have to do copy-writing. I don't have to do Executive Summaries. I don't have to craft marketing messages. I don't have to make money from the words. I can just do it because it's fun. And I hate losing the fun things in life. Which happens more often than you realize. When you start "shoulding" and "coulding" instead of "getting to" and "wanting to" the things that used to bring you joy fade away to gray.

So I proved to myself that I can do it. Twice. The first time all focused on one story. The second time finding a finish for that one and allowing myself small fiction treats. I also discovered the second time around that I can force myself to write when I am in a lousy space creatively. Which might help my lazy writer tendencies. But it might not. Because just because I know I can do it, doesn't mean I have to do it.

Writing is fun for me.

I hope reading what I write is fun for you.

I am going to protect that a little more and keep it that way.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Gift with Purchase...

She was wrapping his last present. Just a small box so it wouldn't take long. She loved the ribbons and the bows the best and was already thinking about which to use on this one. Probably the silver ribbon and a gold bow.

Gifts were always tricky with couples. Making it a surprise was hard. You spent so much time together that trying to sneak off to find time to shop was always a challenge. She usually did it on her lunch hours at work. Started early, like October or November to make sure she had plenty of time. She liked picking out just the right thing. Or at least trying to.

He was good at gifts. Not good at sizes. But good at gifts. The difference in sizing between Misses and Junior and Women had always been too much for him to grasp so he had just bought things he liked and given them to her. She would then go back to the store and exchange them for the right size without ever saying a word. Her mother had once told her that if she never corrected him about it he would never learn. She said it was the thought that counted and he put thought in to picking out pretty things. He just didn't grasp the sizing issues.

Sometimes she would find a receipt ahead of the holiday and go in right then and buy the right size. Knowing that she could just return the wrong one after the Christmas rush. She had a little envelope she kept all the receipts in. It was a good system. Especially if it was something fancy for New Year's Eve. That way she had the right dress or shoes waiting in hiding to be brought out and worn right away and the wrong size version could just wait to be snuck out to the returns. It didn't bother her not to be surprised on Christmas morning. It was nicer to have the right size waiting than to be surprised.

When she found the receipt from Victoria's Secret this year she almost blushed. Okay, she had blushed once she went in to the store and found the bra and panty set in her size, it was pretty racy. But the 36 DD and medium panty was no where near her 34B and size small. She just had to laugh imagining him pointing to the mannequin and saying, I think she's around that size. The set was more decorative than functional but she had to admit it was awfully pretty and it would be perfect for New Year's Eve. The straps to the bra were woven with a glittery thread and there was a heart shaped crystal between the barely there cups. She even decided to treat herself to a new dress that would work with the outfit. He wouldn't be able to keep his hand off of her.

While she was shopping she decided that it would be fun to book a hotel room for the night. Why not right? They could have a late dinner and go dancing and then just stay downtown after the ball drop. It would be romantic. She would wrap up a picture of the hotel and a decorative key and that would be the last of his Christmas presents to open. Something to look forward to that week. Anticipation made things so much better. Hotter.

And it had worked for her as well. Keeping her sexy secret to herself all month had made her feel dangerous and wanton. She liked that word. Wanton. It was perfect for how she felt. It even had made the seemingly endless parade of work related parties not so terrible. Get dressed up, but not too dressed up, have a drink, but not too many drinks, relax, but don't get too relaxed. And they had to do it not just for their own jobs but for each others. And clients parties. Merry Christmas...

Last night's had been the last round of them. They had been double booked. His office party lined up with a client dinner she had. So they were on their own. Which was worse. At least if they had each other to whisper to over their drinks to they could find a little rest from the relentless cheer of everyone else. Which is why she had been pleased when her client actually begged off early. He had an early flight in the morning and if she didn't mind could they just grab a drink instead of dinner. She absolutely didn't mind.

She debated for just a minute going home instead of joining him at his function. He wasn't expecting her, after all so if she didn't mention that she had actually been free he would never know. But it was only for a minute. She knew he would never leave her to twist at a party if he was free so she wouldn't do it to him either.

She stopped in to use the restroom on her way up to their office space. Washing her hands she noticed a woman a few sinks down adjusting the strap of her bra. A strap that was woven with a glitter thread. She smiled at her, "I know this is weird, but I used to work in a lingerie department and I would pride myself in being able to guess sizes before measuring. Are you around a 36DD?"


She fluffed the ribbon and bow on the carefully wrapped package and left it on the counter. The note inside was attached to a store receipt, "No returns. No exchanges. At least you know exactly how much this cost you."







Sunday, November 22, 2015

Summer breeze...

It started as a cool breeze.

Comforting.

Soothing when the heat was too much.

Eyes closed, face to the sun, cool breeze against her skin.

Bliss.

She didn’t notice when the breeze got stronger.

Not at first.

The shiver when the cool breeze started to become a cold wind.

Not at first.

Or maybe she did.

And just didn’t want it to be true.

It was a cool breeze. It was her cool breeze.

And then the gusts came again.

The sun on her face. The warmth on her skin. She felt it. She willed it to be.

But the sun was behind the clouds now.

There was no warmth.

There was a storm.

She ignored it.

Standing in the hurricane telling herself it was a light spring rain.

Holding on with both hands so she wouldn’t blow away.

It was nothing she couldn’t face. It was fine.

Until it wasn’t.

Seeking shelter she knew she had failed somehow.

She was soaked to the bone.

She was battered from the wind.

She was cold.

She was beaten.

Then the sun came out again.

She did not go outside.

She would not suffer again.

It wouldn’t last.

She would not be fooled again.

But the sun stayed out.

She warmed up.

She dried off.

The sunshine beckoned her.

She opened the door.

She walked out and put her face toward the sky.


The sun warmed her skin and she wished for a cool breeze…

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friends...

She didn’t remember the first time she met Death. She was too young. Just a baby. But he remembered. He was much older at the time.

The first time he saw her he was standing at her crib side; it was her time. Look, it wasn’t his fault that her time had been so short, it was just his job. He didn’t decide the time lines. That came from above his pay grade. He just got the list and took care of things. She was the last person he was to visit that day. And it just didn’t go as planned. He’d never had a problem before, and hadn’t since. Though he really felt that the visits with her now helped with that. Just having someone to talk to helped, you know? Anyway…

He had come from a big accident on the freeway. It had been a mess. Trying to sort out who was on the list from who wasn’t in the middle of all of that chaos? Really stressful. He almost marked someone who wasn’t on the list. He was reaching out for one of the men involved in the crash and his son dashed right in front of him. He almost grabbed him instead. The son whose time wasn’t up for another 50 years and had a future that was going to impact hundreds of thousands. That’s how close he got to grabbing him. Close enough that the systems to automatically back up his life story kicked in. The proximity alarm rang. He almost took someone too soon. That’s probably what shook him. To come close to a mistake like that? Well that would have been a big mess. Although it turned out that he made his own big mess anyway. But at the time he didn’t realize it. And honestly, was it really all that big of mess? It seems like it worked out for the best. He’d even made a suggestion that the higher ups take a look at his situation and maybe expand on the program. The official word back was “don’t push it” but he’d heard through some unofficial channels they were looking in to it. The problem is that nobody really understood how it happened. Or why. Or why it worked out the way it did.

Okay, back to the first time he saw her. He was standing next to her crib. He was still a little off his game but she was the last bit of work on his list for the day. And really the little ones easy. Yes, he knew that made him sound like a bastard, but again, it was his job. The little ones weren’t afraid. They went with him without a fight. Honestly it was a little grating to have people always talk about how scary Death was. He wasn’t scary. He was inevitable, sure, but not scary. Sickness, disease, pain, those were scary but Death? He liked to think of himself as a relief. As a soothing balm. Like a dark comforting blanket. So anyway…he was reaching out to her when she let out one of those little sighs. You know the ones that only babies make? That kind of cooing rush of air? You know what that is the sound of? Pure innocence. And he’d had a really busy and rough day. The car accident had just been the end of it. There had been a flu epidemic at the nursing home, an outbreak of E-Coli at a fast food restaurant, and just the normal daily list of times. He was flat out exhausted. Dead tired.

Don’t groan! That’s was a good one.

So the sigh. And before he really understood what he was in the rocking chair by her crib holding her in his arms. Rocking. Smelling that top of the head baby smell and well…he cried. Just a little. But he did it. One big fat tear formed and fell. Splash. Right on her little noggin. BOOM! Everything changed. He could see it. Like literally see it. Where the tear had touched her she now had a spot shaped like a sickle. He pulled himself together, put her back in her crib and left. He was going to have to file a report. Man he hated filing reports.

So the first time she met Death she didn’t remember him. And she wasn’t sure when the next time was. Or the next. What she did know is that she had always known Death. One of her earliest memories of him was a tea party. She must have been around 3 or 4 by that time. She had set up the table and put her stuffed animals in a circle and left a space open for him. Then she waited. He didn’t disappoint. When he sat down at the party she poured him a cup of tea (water from the bathroom sink) and served him the finest tea sandwiches that could be found (some graham crackers she had saved from snack time) and they talked about the latest goings on with her stuffed animal crew. Then when tea time was over he picked her up, sat in the rocking chair, and told her a story of his own. As she was drifting off to sleep she looked up in to his dark black eyes and tried to count the stars. She made it to 5 before nap time took over. Some of her best naps started sitting in the lap of Death counting the stars in his eyes. So no, she had never feared Death.

She went through a short Goth phase in High School. She wasn’t sure if it had to do with her friendship with Death or if she just liked the clothes. But she got instant coolness cred when she shaved the sides of head and revealed her unique birthmark. She would sometimes darken it if she was going to a party or a concert. But mostly she left it alone. So people could see it was natural. She had a sickle on the side of her head. She was that cool. If only her friends knew. Though her experiences trying to tell her parents about her friend when she was very little taught her to just keep some things to herself. Besides as much as her friends liked to talk about Death, they really didn’t understand him at all. In fact Death found her new friends to be misguided and lacking in fashion sense.

Eventually she grew her hair back out and started wearing colors again. She and Death were still fast friends. Though now she shared the stories of her school friends instead of her stuffed animals. And when he told her the stories of the world she wasn’t in the rocking chair but usually camped out on the floor. Then there was the one time when she caught mono and couldn’t even make it out of bed to eat without having to take a nap he sat at the foot of her bed and told her stories about ancient Egypt when he was worshiped as a god. She thought it sounded cool. He said it was a lot of pressure and he actually preferred taking things a little more low key. She learned a lot from Death. And he learned a lot from her.

The first time she ran in to him at work had been a shock to both of them. He was waiting in the corner of a darkened room. His next name was here but it wasn’t quite time yet. He didn’t have anyone else between now and his time though so he was just waiting. Death was very good at waiting. Nobody was ever as patient as Death. There was a knock at the bedroom door and in she walked. He watched her go to the side of the bed and take the hand of the boy laying there. “I got your text. You’re worrying me. What is wrong?” And as the boy talked to her Death felt the pull to be in this room fading. He mentally checked his list and saw the name had disappeared. Hunh. Just then she looked toward him. Noticing him sitting still and calm in the corner. He held up a finger to his lips, “Shhh…” and he left.

The spoke later in her bedroom. She asked why he was there; why he had been sitting in her friend’s room. He told her it was his job. She started to cry thinking that she hadn’t made a bit of difference after all. He soothed her. Holding her in his arms and rocking her slowly while he smoothed her hair. No she had. Her friend’s name was no longer on his list for today. She had changed his time line. It wasn’t an easy thing to do. To change someone’s time line. But she had done it. She asked if he knew when her friend would die now. If she should keep worrying. He said he didn’t know. And if he did he could not tell her. That would be against the rules. And since he was already on probation for his last little incident, he tapped the side of her head where her hair now covered her unique “birthmark”, he would not be breaking any more rules. She understood. Or she thought.

When she went away to college she learned that being friends with Death wasn’t always easy. She had that strong unshakable sense of right and wrong that can only belong to mad men and college students. Walking back to her dorm one night she saw her friend Death walking ahead of her. She thought he must be on his way to visit her and thought it would be fun to sneak up on him. Who else ever got the chance to sneak up on Death? You know, it was usually the other way around right? She tried to stifle the giggle that was bubbling up as she thought about it. She might also have been slightly tipsy. When Death walked past her dorm and kept going she decided to follow him and see where he went. Maybe he knew she wasn’t back yet and was wasting time while he waited. He wasn’t. He walked toward two people sitting on a bench in the quad. Then he stopped and waited. For a second she thought he was making sure he wouldn’t be seen. But then she realized why he was waiting. One of the figures on the bench reached toward the other and before she could even scream for them to stop it was done. One had killed the other. Death was there so quickly she hadn’t even seen him move. His hands lifting the second person, oh no, she recognized her… it was a girl from her Psychology class, Death grabbed her and then she was gone. The body was there, but the person? Gone. The boy she had been sitting next to got up and slowly moved away. He was going to get away and Death had just stood there letting him get away with it, he had HELPED. She started to scream then.

He didn’t get away. Her screaming caught the attention of some people walking by. They caught him. He was arrested. She had to testify to what she had seen. Or at least part of what she had seen.

When Death came to visit she didn’t speak to him.

She didn’t speak to him the second time either.

The third time she yelled at him. Death had just stood there and let that man kill her classmate. Then he let him get away. If she hadn’t been there he would have. Why didn’t he kill him instead? Or at least try too? She didn’t want to hear about the rules. Or about whose time it was to go. Or the higher powers. She was mad. He should do something. He explained again and again that he did. That he did his job. She didn’t want to hear about it. She was too mad. She told him to leave. That she didn’t want to see him again. Ever.

The next week her mother was diagnosed with cancer. It was late. Too late. Too fast. Too widespread. Too soon.

She went home from school.

She spent the next few months taking care of her. Listening to her stories. Cooking her meals. Cleaning the house. Visiting with her mother’s friends who came in droves when they heard the news.

Toward the end her mother told her, “I’m not afraid of Death, you shouldn’t be either. I am ready.”

And then she understood again. It was his job. If he didn’t do it her mother would suffer endlessly. People would age and never move on. Bodies would grow frail and weak and they would never find relief. Some lines ended too soon. But that wasn’t his fault. He was there to help. In his own way.

When she went to bed that night he was waiting. She fell in to his arms and sobbed. She fell asleep counting the stars in his eyes.

The next day he came again. She sat on the edge of her mother’s bed holding her hand. Telling her it would all be okay soon. Her mother looked in to her daughter’s eyes and swore she saw all of the stars in the galaxy reflecting back. Death took her other hand and she was relieved.

They reached an understanding that day. She would not judge his work anymore. They were friends and she understood him better than anyone had before.

When she went back to school she changed her major. She became a nurse.


She found work in a hospice center. She helped those that were facing their time. She held their hands and told them stories about the world. And when her friend came for them she sat with them in the calm spaces and helped them count the stars as they fell asleep. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Perfect...

As Vivienne walked in to the coffee shop every eye turned to look at her. Some just a quick glance, others a full on stare. Holly wasn’t even sure if they realized they were doing it. She knew Vivienne didn’t notice it at all. Holly was just used to it happening and watched other people watch Vivienne. And then she watched their faces to see who had noticed. Not Vivienne’s long blonde hair, everyone noticed that. Or her ice blue eyes. They would have noticed that as well. Or even her outfit. She was always dressed perfectly. Like she walked out of a fashion photo shoot. Head to toe not a hair out of place. But no, if they really noticed. See it was pouring rain outside and Vivienne, no umbrella, no jacket, nothing, was completely dry. Not a drop on her.

Holly had asked her once how she did it. And Vivienne looked at her like she was a child asking as silly question. As if the answer was obvious, “Well I just walk where the raindrops aren’t.” Simple really. Of course she did. That was Vivienne.

Holly stood when Vivienne (never ever Viv, not even when they were children) reached the table. She received her dual air kisses and then sat back down. “I wasn’t sure what you would want so I haven’t ordered yet.”

“Oh anything is fine with me.”

“I’m getting just a cup of black coffee. Do you want that?”

Vivienne pursed her lips and thought for a moment. “Do you remember that coffee we had in Italy? The one that was so rich Elizabeth Taylor wanted to marry it? That’s what I want.”

Holly smiled, “I’m not sure they sell that here.”

“Then probably just an espresso.”

Holly was going to get up to order their drinks when Vivienne grabbed her arm, “Did I tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“I’m getting a dog.”

“A dog? In your house?” Vivienne lived in a beautiful apartment uptown. White carpets. White couches. White walls. Every few months she would change the art work, the throw rugs and the pillows on the couch to a different color. Right now it was royal blue. Before that it was red. At Christmas she would go with gold. Perfection. But white. “Dogs are a bit messy you know. They shed. They track in dirt.”

Vivienne stared at her, “Why would you let them do that?”

“You don’t let them do that. They just do that. They are dogs.”

“Hmmm…well, I won’t let that happen. Look.” She pulled out her phone and showed Holly a picture of the world’s cutest little white fluff ball of a puppy. There was no way that dog wouldn’t shed everywhere. Except in Vivienne’s apartment. Holly started to giggle imagining the dog holding back all of its fur until it could go for a walk. Then POOF a giant cloud would automatically pop off and the dog would be shed free until the next time. Of course, not getting a single hair on Vivienne.

“You know dogs have to be walked right? Especially dogs that live in apartments. You would have to walk the dog. In the park.”

“Oh no, Rodrigo, the nice man next door has a dog and said he would love to walk my new puppy. So that’s all taken care of then.”

These sort of things happened for Vivienne. People took care of things for her. Another thing Holly was pretty sure they didn’t notice they were doing. They just felt compelled to handle her problems for her.

“Excuse me? I happened to overhear your order and just thought I’d bring it over to you. Coffee and an espresso right? I also thought you might want to try these. We’ve just started carrying them.”

The young lady from behind the counter set their coffees and a plate of croissant down on the table. Holly reached for her wallet. “Oh no, that’s okay. That gentlemen paid.”

Holly looked toward the counter where everyone else was standing in line and ordering. An elderly gentleman was standing there looking at Vivienne like he had seen an angel. “Vivienne, wave to him.” Holly whispered.

Vivienne flashed her brilliant smile and gave the man a small wave and then mouthed the word “Thank you.”

He blushed and turned back to the counter. Holly shook her head. Only Vivienne could make a man nearing his 80s blush with a smile and a wave.

They sampled the croissant. It was wonderful. Holly wasn’t sure she had ever had one so delicate and flaky. She looked down at her lap. Covered in crumbs. Looking over at Vivienne she wasn’t surprised to see her spotless. No errant flakes at all. They wouldn’t dare. A potential grease spot on her silk blouse? Unimaginable. And so it wouldn’t happen.

“What is going on in your life?” Vivienne turned to Holly again.

This is where Holly could tell Vivienne about the troubles she was facing at work. Or try to start a conversation about the refugee crisis or the recent terrorist attack in Paris and the global and political ramifications that she feared. She could talk about the fact that she thought she and her boyfriend might be splitting up soon. But if she did she knew that Vivienne’s beautiful blue eyes would glaze over, the smile would freeze on her face and she would soon make an excuse to leave. Vivienne treated trouble the same way she treated rain. She just walked where it wasn’t.

It had taken Holly a few years to understand this about her. Perfection was hard to maintain. Vivienne was like a collectible in a box. Nothing touched her and so she remained pristine. Mint condition. The only way Vivienne could maintain her ways was to walk where the world wasn’t.

So Holly told her everything was fine. They laughed about new puppies. They drank their coffee. They discussed the latest fashion trends, the hottest new movies, the bestselling romance novel. Then they parted ways. Vivienne walking back out in to the world between the raindrops.

Holly looked at the rain and took a step forward tilting her face toward the sky, water rushing over her.

Perfection was overrated.




Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Time...

Why do you sit in the darkness instead of look for the light?

Why do you sit in the ignorance instead of opening the book?

Why do you sit with your hatred instead of looking for love?

Why do you hide from your fear instead of trying to be brave?

Why?

The world is losing its way in the dark.

The world is losing its battle to the ignorance.

The world is losing its struggle against the hate.

The world is scared and alone.

You.

You are the light.

You are the book.

You are the love.

It’s time to be brave.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Behind these walls....

“Nervous?”

“A little.”

“It’s perfectly normal. First day on the job, it’s to be expected. But you’ll do fine. Just follow the protocols, they are in place to provide the best in protection. Got your badge ready?”

Swiping ID badges at the scanner they waited until they were verified and they heard the door buzz that it was able to be opened.

“This first room is our tech center. There isn’t a space in the facility that doesn’t have camera coverage.”

“Even the restrooms?”

“Even the restrooms. But we have a filter in place, here look.”

She looked at a computer screen. The bathroom was divided into quadrants and all areas were visible, however the inside of the stalls was blurry. You could make out a general shape, but no details.

“Safety first. But there is always a way to maintain some privacy. That is a permanent filter, you can’t get a clear image at all, the camera isn’t designed that way.”

She nodded. It would take some getting used to she knew. But at least now maybe she wouldn’t have to try and hold her pee for her entire shift.

“This is a map of all of the areas. The security tightens the deeper you go in to the building. There are checkpoints here,” pointing to the map, “here and here. This last one is your ID card and then a retinal scan. You won’t be working in that area at first.”

She nodded again. If she never had to work that block she would be perfectly fine.

“Now here,” back to looking at the map, “is the biggest area of concern for you right now. This is the outside perimeter, the protest zone. They generally arrive around 8 and stay until sunset. They are allowed to walk this area and this area only. If they wander off the path at all they are subject to detainment. They know this and are generally pretty good about staying in their lane. The hard cores are here every day, it’s the newbies that get overly excited. Either they’ve just discovered this as their cause or something has triggered a renewed interest in the situation. Once the news cycle moves on, so do most of them. But you will still have to pull outside duty at least once a week. Don’t engage with them. Don’t take any fliers. And for goodness sake never take any food or drink from them.”

“Oh my gosh, have they tried poisoning guards before?”

“No, of course not. But it does make an embarrassing picture on-line to look like we are sitting down to a picnic with them.”

“Why are they even protesting us? I mean, I have seen them on the news, but it doesn’t make sense.”

“It doesn’t. Who knows why anyone does what they do? They like the freedom and safety they are afforded out there walking, shaking their signs, living their lives, but they can’t make the leap that it’s what we do in here that gives them the opportunity to do it. Twenty years ago? Not a one of them would have wanted to be around here after dark. What we do here makes a difference, don’t let anyone tell you differently.”

“I won’t. My mother told me how it used to be. The constant fear. Worrying if today was the day something would happen to you. The news showing one story after another of terrible things.” She shook her head. “I’m just glad I was too young to remember what it was like before.”

They left the tech area. “This first block is for processing. It’s fairly empty right now. Our brave officers are always out there doing sweeps but for now we’re pretty clear of new detainees.”

She looked around. There were holding cells lining the walls. Probably 100 in all. Two bunks per cell. Right now there were only 5 cells with inmates in them. She tried not to show any fear as she sized them up. She knew that they would thrive on it and she would be damned if she would allow that.

The cells circled an area that had what looked like small picnic tables bolted to the concrete ground. “This is where their lawyers help them process the paperwork we then use to determine which block will be their more permanent home. You can see the eye bolts under the bench? Lawyers are not allowed in to the room until the prisoners are securely fastened to their chair. We cannot risk even one getting hurt because we weren’t vigilant. Procedure is to use three guards to move one prisoner. One will keep a rifle pointed at his forehead the entire time the other two are shackling him, walking him out and attaching him to the conference table. Originally we allowed them private rooms but there was no way to ensure that nothing secret was going on if we let them have that space. So it was decided that processing wasn’t confidential and was not covered under attorney client privilege and did away with that.”

“Is that what they are protesting when they talk about due process then? That this wasn’t the first process?”

“Not exactly, but that’s close enough.”

They walked to the next check point and scanned their badges.

She looked down a long hallway that ended with a guard station. The guard behind the glass gave them a little half salute, half wave to acknowledge their presence. “That’s Garcia. I will introduce when we go by. This is our medium security sector. Behind each one of the closed doors is an inmate. If the cell is empty the door is latched open like this one here. Unless we are at capacity we keep the two cells closest to the door empty. It’s not really necessary, they are extremely secure, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”

She looked in to the empty cell. One bed, one sink, one squat toilet. The bed was on one wall with the toilet on the opposite the sink in-between, they were approximately 3 feet wide. Everything appeared to be molded to the floor or wall.

“One piece construction. They are formed and shaped before installation. That way there are no parts that can be disassembled and formed in to weapons. We know how crafty these guys can be. We don’t want to give them any opportunity to try out their skills.”

As they walked down the corridor she could hear some muffled sounds coming from behind the closed doors. “Who are they talking to?”

“Themselves. Some of them pray but you know they aren’t really true believers in anything but destruction so I prefer to think that no god would listen to them anyway.”

“Do they ever try to talk to you?”

“Some do. Some will definitely try to talk to you. You’re new. You’re young. They will assume they can charm you. Catch you off guard. Maybe engender some sympathy. They’ll try. Don’t let them.”

“Absolutely not. I learned about some of their techniques in my criminal justice studies.”

“There is a difference between reading about them and having them used against you. Keep that in mind. Garcia! Good to see you. This is Smithfield, she’s our newbie. She starts full time tomorrow. Will be training with Stanley for her first rotation.”

“Nice to meet you, welcome to the team. Getting the full tour today?”

“Second tour actually. I was able to come with my class first year to see the back area before it went in to service.”

“Ah, there you go. So you’re an old pro now.” Garcia gave her a wink and then buzzed them through to the next section of the building.

There were open shower areas lining one side of the space and a door on the opposite wall. “This is the commons area for showering. They get one a week whether they want it or not. They stay shackled during their showers so you will never be in any danger. Same procedure as when they are being processed. If they try anything lewd or otherwise inappropriate they know that they will not be returning to their nice comfy cell but will be put in to small holding. They usually don’t go to small holding more than once. The door leads to the kitchen areas. Food is not prepared on site, but delivered through there. We pick up the trays and deliver them to the holding cells. The trays are paper. It’s not as good for the environment as they would be if they were plastic and reusable however they degrade quickly and provide no opportunity to be weaponized. They get no silverware. Everything can and will be eaten with their hands. They get water from the sink to drink. “

She nodded. It was a lot of information to take in. She was the most uncomfortable with the open shower area. They showed many videos while she was in school to try and desensitize them to the naked prisoners but she had never completely gotten over feeling a little embarrassed. She knew it would just take time. One of her professors would say, “Think of them as the animals they are capable of being. Not any different than washing your dog.” She hoped that would help.

“This is the final scanner. You scan your badge first, then this will open,” there was a section of the wall that was slightly different than the rest, “This is the retinal scanner. Once you are clear the door will slide open and you will have 2 second to get through the opening before it closes down again. Move quick.”

She nodded, “Are there many still being held there?”

“Some. Mostly they are dying off now. Some of those from our medium security areas do get moved here occasionally. If they are disruptive. But the majority are from before the sweeps. These are the offenders from before we went to preventative measures. They’ve had the opportunity to follow their nature so we keep them away from the others. Now, the rest are just as dangerous. Don’t ever get complacent. You’ve seen the stats.”

And she had. Before the sweeps were put in place it had been undeniable they were needed. It had just taken awhile for everyone to realize that it was the truth. That dangerous men were going to be dangerous no matter how kind hearted you tried to be. She mentally went down the check lists as she had done in school. No matter how you broke down the statistics, socio-economic, geographical, race, religion, age, it didn’t matter. The majority of crime was committed by men. Seventy-five percent of all crime committed by 50% of the population. And if you adjusted for violent crimes then the number increased to 98%. When the majority of the clear headed women accepted this, when the not all men are criminals crowd was finally drowned out by the rational voices of not all men are criminals but almost all criminals are men. Well then the changes started happening. The internment camps were set up. Then facilities like this one to provide more secure holding areas. Cloning was perfected so even their base need to population was no longer needed. This way was best. Anyone could see that. Crime was down. You couldn’t argue with statistics.