Friday, July 31, 2015

See that's what makes it privilege...

This morning at the gym the Beta Racquetball Group was finishing up as I was doing my lat pull downs. The Chairman was regaling them with a story about an interaction he had with our local law enforcement yesterday. Seems he got stuck in the traffic jam Greenpeace caused by shutting down the St. John's bridge.

"...so he waves me through and I'm going through then he starts screaming at me, 'Back up! Back up! Back up!' So I back up. Then he's yelling, 'PULL OVER! RIGHT NOW!' So I pull over. He storms up to the window and asks for my license and registration and tells me the fine for driving through the cones is $586. I tell him,'You waved me through.' He SCREAMS at me, 'I did not wave you through!' so I say, 'I sure hope your dash camera doesn't have a malfunction then because when I fight this ticket I'm going to want that footage. I did exactly what you told me to do, you waved me through.'  And he yells at me AGAIN, 'I did NOT wave you through.' I tell him, 'I've done nothing wrong and I want your badge number for my records as well.' So then he tells me, 'Just calm down, sir.' and I say, 'I'm calm. I've done nothing wrong.' and then he says, 'I will let you go with a warning.' So I tell him, 'Oh no. I insist you give me the citation. We're seeing this through...'"

And the whole time his buddies are giving appreciative laughs and oh yeahs. Like you do when a friend tells you a story where they were being a badass and getting away with it. Funny thing is not once did one of them say, "Wow. Weren't you worried about getting arrested, pulled from the car, tased, shot?" Never once. And here is where my own pre-judging comes in...I know at least one of them has an Obummer bumper sticker on his truck and I had to wonder if his take on Sandra Bland was the same as his take on his buddy. Or if his buddy had gotten shot if when the video was released he would have said, "Well, he shouldn't have gotten snippy with an officer of the law. You just don't do that."

Probably not.

That's privilege. When you don't even consider the fact that you behave in a way that is reflective of your color. That's privilege.  I wrote about yelling at the Sheriff here and then what could have happened here.

A few weeks ago having dinner with our friend Eric he was telling us a story about driving through the south last summer. He's in a band and they had some gigs and then were driving to meet their families for more music and some vacation. He's African America, there is a Native American guy, a Mexican guy and I think he said an Asian guy in the van. Sounds like the start of a joke right? A black guy, a Native American guy, an Asian guy and a Mexican guy drive through the south in a van...what's the punchline? They got pulled over in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee. See? It's funny because it's racist. They didn't get pulled over for breaking any laws, not speeding, not failure to signal, not reckless driving, just driving while ethnically diverse.

I'm sassier. I'm meaner. I'm less likely to be as respectful as I should be. I'm more likely to speed. And I'm less worried about getting pulled over than Eric. A teacher. A family man. A man who is teaching the Wee Sing Praise VBS at his church this week. But I'm whiter. Far, far, whiter so I'm less likely to face getting pulled over in the first place. Less likely to have my "sassy mouth" become an issue during a stop. And less likely to even consider those factors while out driving.

That's what makes it privilege. Because I don't even think about it on a day to day basis.

I know people hate to address it. It makes them think they are being accused of being a racist if they admit that they have had benefits because of their skin color. It makes them feel like they didn't work as hard for what they have. Like it was just given to them. I get all of that. But it doesn't make it any less true. If you are white. If you are a white male especially. The systems that we have in place were set up by other white men and are set up to benefit you. The fact that we think of white as the baseline that other than white is what we are talking about when we talk about equality. That's what it means.

I'm not asking you to do anything else except pay attention. To start to notice how your life is different. How comfortable are you smarting off to a cop? How insulted would you be if someone assumed you couldn't afford to shop in a store the instant you walked in? How pissed would you be if someone you didn't know called you sweetie and tried to explain how the car you built from engine block out, worked? Once you start paying attention then you should be willing to accept that things need to change.

Because they do need to change.

United States of America.

All men are created equal.

With liberty and justice for all....

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pessimistic....

I'm feeling very pessimistic lately. Which isn't comfortable for me. It's like wearing some one else's shoes. Just not okay.

But I had this horrid realization last week that my world view is probably wrong. Like really off. See I always feel like if you get to know people it's very hard to hate People. You know? Like you can't really hate Poor People once you know (or have been) a poor person. You can't really hate Christians once you know a Christian and so on and so on. It's hard to keep up the hatred of a group once you know the individuals. Now you might get to know an individual and still hate them, that one particular person, but you don't usually project that specific hate on to a group.

So anyway...I've always felt that we just needed to get to know other people more. Broaden our horizons. Expand our bases. If we took the time to do this then we would be a lot less likely to hate other People. We would have more civil discourse over things we disagreed on. We would be able to reach compromises instead of wanting to annihilate the other side. That's what I've always thought.

Over the years watching how the US is starting to tear itself apart I was getting a little discouraged. People say horrid things about other groups of People. And it's encouraged instead of discouraged. See Donald Trump's rise in the polls for instance. Look at online comments and see how dismissive people are of anyone who isn't exactly like them. The hatred of the Poor, the Rich, the Republicans, the Democrats, the Liberals and the Conservatives. Look at the glee dance that is performed when THE OTHER SIDE fucks up publicly. Or even doesn't. See the New York Times publishing an article about Hilary Clinton that was riddled with errors and yet nobody is paying attention to the fact that it wasn't true, it's already got a life of its own.

It's very discouraging.

But that isn't even the part that made me the most pessimistic. It's how young our country is. We are barely over 200 years old. Babies in the grand scheme of things. Nothing like the cradle of civilization that is Africa and the Middle East where things are....

Well...

Awful.

Is that too strong? Maybe not strong enough.

Civil wars. Tribal feuding. Religious wars. Sects within the SAME RELIGION that want to kill each other off. Hatred that goes back more generations than the United States has been in existence. Familiarity breeds contempt. And war. And murder. And...

So I'm pessimistic.

So much for my theory that if you just got to know each other you would be fine. Because it seems like we just don't want to get to know each other.

Is it any coincidence that most religions in the world preach peace yet most people don't practice it? It keeps getting preached by religions and spiritual leaders and gurus of all stripes. If we just loved each other it would be better. But our nature says fuck that guy. I will love only those people that are most like me and the rest of you I will continue hating. I will justify it however I have to (not my religion, not the right branch of my religion, not rich enough, too rich, not the right color, not the right political party, not the right side of an imaginary border) but I will justify it and I will hate you. Peace out, bitches....

It's discouraging. I'm pessimistic that it's ever going to get better. Thousands of years in Africa, the Middle East and they are still trying to kill each other. How are we expected to do any better? After all we are just them in a different place. If only People would understand that we are all just people...


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

One Ring to Make them Cry....

tal·is·man 
ˈtaləsmən,ˈtalizmən
noun
an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.



When my dad died my mother wanted each of us, kids, grandkids, kid-in-laws, to have something of his. She took us in to their room one by one trying to go from oldest to youngest though there was a little skipping of the line in there...

When she brought me in she asked what I wanted. I didn't hesitate for a second. His ring. She knew which one I meant, it was THE ring. But it was lost. She couldn't find it anywhere hadn't seen it in ages. I took a belt buckle instead. But it wasn't the ring. Though when I mentioned it in front of my other siblings my oldest brother said, "Oh yeah, I would like to have that too." So even if it were to be found I wasn't getting my father's ring. Which made me cry. Though to be fair everything made me cry that weekend. You tend to do that when your dad dies.

Fast forward about 3 years. Talking to my mother on the phone and she says she's got a package she had wanted to send to me. She found my dad's ring. And just as I got excited she said, "But I lost it." It was there. I almost had it. (not sure why me and not my brother, but my guess is because it's all I wanted and he had other things) But it was gone again. And I cried again. Not because of not getting the ring, just from thinking about my dad. I still do that sometimes.

My dad wasn't a real big guy. Somewhere around 5'9" and 5'10" but he was solid. Not fat at all but thickly built. (now you all know why I struggle with weight, I always weigh more than you would think, I'm freaking solid as all get out) As much as I loved my dad I never held hands with him. Ever. I held fingers. Even by the time I was a teenager my hands were too small to really hold his. I would wrap my fingers around his thumb or his ring finger and that's how I held hands with my dad. Most girls have their fathers wrapped around their fingers, my father had me wrapped around his.

And when I think of that, when I think of holding my dad's finger, I think of the ring. He had the ring and a matching watch for as long as I can remember. They were as much a part of him as cowboy boots and hats. Big solid turquoise and silver pieces. It lent a lot to how often he was mistaken for Native American, I think. It just fit him. But when I think of my father's hands, I think of thick, solid, hands. I think of calluses and grease stains from working on the car, I think of tan lines around his watch band and I think of that ring. It's larger than life. It's part of my dad. I loved it. And it was gone.

So sitting in my mother's house a few weeks ago and she brings me out a box with some things she has for me. There is a necklace. There is a bracelet that is supposed to go with the necklace. She had given my sisters each one just like it but with different stones. Mine were rubies because I love rubies. And there was a ring box which I had to assume was a ring that matched the necklace and bracelet.
It wasn't.

I cried. Instant and straight to ugly. My father's ring. My mother was telling me it needed cleaned and repaired and the stone is cracked, that always seems to happen with turquoise and I could probably get that fixed as well as some of the silver work that has been broken off and...And I just cried. It's perfect. I don't want it cleaned. I don't want it fixed. The crack in the stone has been there so long I'm not sure I would have recognized it whole. 

I took a picture and posted it online and talked about crying over it. I took it out in the hotel room just to hold it over and over again. Still not sure it was real, I guess. And now I have it sitting next to my computer in the office. I pull it out of the box and hold it. One of these days I will be able to do that without crying. Today is not that day. 

It's heavy. This is not a dainty ring.

My finger swimming in the ring. 

Not even on my thumb.

It's big. But it's bigger than that.

It's pretty much everything.

Dirty, worn, broken but still whole. It's had a hard life. And it's beautiful. And perfect. And I can wrap my fingers around it and hold it close.

It's as much of a piece of my father as I could ever hope to have again.

It's everything.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Shhh...I'm eavesdropping....

"She told me I was being really judgmental lately and I was like, I'm not being judgmental, you are just making really bad decisions."

"Yeah, she's..."

"I mean you know she's sleeping with *couldn't quite pick up the boy's name* right? She says they are in love but whatever she's totally sleeping with him. And he's not a good guy. I mean, I'm taking it really slowly with Carl and he is a really good guy."

"Yeah, he is. You and Carl are dating now?"

"Yeah. Sort of. We are going slowly, and I haven't really committed to it yet, but we are totally dating now." (which made me wonder if Carl knew they were dating)

This is where I was trying very hard to turn and look at these two without getting caught looking at them. They were two very young ladies, late teens, I would say, grabbing dinner together and gossiping their asses off. I did almost lose it when the redhead said the line about not being judgmental while totally judging her other friend...

Then after a little more discussion about other friends and who was sleeping with whom their food was ready and they bowed their heads and prayed then ate.

And I almost punched Brent in the shoulder with glee.

This was a snapshot in to my teen years. The seriousness with which they discussed dating. The judgement over who was sleeping with whom. The scandalized nature of it all. All wrapped up with a pretty religious bow.

When Brent and I got married at 18 everyone assumed I was pregnant. Valid assumption really. You don't get married at 18 unless you are knocked up right? And if you want to see a high percentage of "early" babies watch good church weddings. Lots and lots of babies that come at 7-8 months who weigh in at 8 pounds...mmmm... hmmmm....

These two will go in a story at some point in time, the judgement line is perfection. And because I recognize them from my life they will be easy to write for sure.

But on the serious side this is where religion (at least the one I was raised in) fails young women. Dating at 15 and 16 and 17 should be about having fun, not looking for a spouse. But it is about looking for a spouse. You see more young women who are engaged at ages where they really shouldn't even be expected to pick a college major successfully. And they are told not to have sex, though they totally have sex because you know, they are going to marry the guy so they feel it's okay. BUT because they aren't supposed to have sex, abstinence only education you know, they have sex (because they love him and are going to marry him) but don't use birth control (because they aren't supposed to have sex and it's hard to "get carried away" if you pre-plan and buy a condom) so then they do end up married and with a baby when they are still babies themselves and...

Well now you know why the church doesn't fight as hard against divorce (which isn't allowed biblically) as they do gay marriage (which is murky at best). Mmmm...hmmm....

But it was fun to eavesdrop and I appreciate them gossiping out loud (also a no no) so I could enjoy a little flash back to my youth...

And kids out there? Wear a condom. If you are mature enough to have sex, you are mature enough to talk about protection. Wrap it up.



Saturday, July 25, 2015

Side Track....

We are taking a little side track on the blog today...not that you would really know it because my blog is pretty much all side tracks, but from the list of what I was going to write about in my head this just jumped the line so, trust me, side track.

I'm reading a collection of short stories right now, not just a collection but The Best American Short Stories of 2014.  Get that? THE BEST.  So to get in to this collection you had to have been published someplace in 2014 and been good enough to catch the eye of the editor of the collection (that changes every year, for 2014 is was Jennifer Egan) and then you are published again in this collection of THE BEST.

I'm about half way through and let's just say that Ms. Egan and I would probably not share book lists. There have been a couple that were decent and a couple that weren't my cup of tea and a couple that were just...odd. Like I want to say bad, but the writing was competent, so not bad necessarily but just not great. With a short story you have very limited time to make a connection with the reader. Half the time on here I write micro stories so it's even less than that. You have to come right in with a hook, with a reason for the reader to care, with something, anything that makes the 15 minutes I am going to spend in this world worth it.

And some of these just don't have it. It never comes. It isn't there. I have a feeling Ms. Egan likes edgy for edgy's sake. I am a huge fan of edgy, but there has to be a story there. For example (and this is a HUGE spoiler so if you are going to read the collection feel free to skip ahead I will mark where you can pick the blog back up) There is a story about a woman who ends up with her husband's child from an affair he had. The boy is obviously severely autistic and the woman has no idea how to handle him and by the end of the story he is lost in the woods and there is pretty much zero chance he will be found.  Which should be incredibly sad right? But the author has used this child as a side prop to a story so there is no real connection to him at all. Or to the woman. Or to the father. Or to anything. You can tell it's not going to end well, it's practically telegraphed from the first paragraph, but you still really can't muster a give a damn about a 5 year old special needs child being lost in a forest in Colorado during fire season. Holy shit...if you can't make me care about that I am not sure how this is THE BEST.

YOU CAN START HERE AGAIN SPOILER FREE....

Okay, so as I'm reading these short stories, which are my thing, as you all know, and I am replaying in my head over and over the radio silence I've received from publishers over the years (which is fine, really, I have you all and I love you all for reading my stuff, I do) and knowing that I can't get any outside interest in my stuff (which really is fine, I mean I've accepted this, really I have), yet this this is THE BEST I wonder what the hell is going on. They were published not just once, but twice, with stories that are just okay. *sigh* (I'm fine. Really.)

So now I am taking a deep breath and remembering that not every story is for every person. Don't criticize the artist because their art isn't your cup of tea. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

BUT JESUS CHRIST THESE STORIES ARE NOT THE BEST!

So now I'm at a crossroads. I really had reached a point where I convinced myself that getting published wasn't the end all, be all in writing. After all what is published, right? I mean when I write something and put it on here you all read it so technically it's published right? I've never been motivated by money (much to Brent's chagrin) so being paid to write has never been my goal. But all of that being said, I feel like Last Comic Standing, "I know I am a better writer than..." and I sort of feel like I should at least put a push on one last time to get something in print with my name on it so someone else out there can read my stuff and be motivated to write because of how much they hate my stuff...


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Family...

And now this one...

There will be another family(ish) blog but here is the general one.

Trips home are always complicated when it comes to family visits. When people come up here to visit they get our undivided attention. It's just them and us. When we go down there to visit we are dividing time between families. Including when each of our father's died, we made time in the middle of both of those trips for some time with the other family. Scheduling can be tricky and it can lead to cross communication and hurt feelings and drama. All of which I am allergic to....

So anyway, this trip was specifically to make sure we visited with my mother since she doesn't travel. We wanted to make sure she got however much time she wanted with us so when I called her with our travel dates I let her know Saturday afternoon and evening were taken with the reunion (that ended up not happening) but she could have whatever else she wanted. She wanted lunch on Sunday.
"Is that it?"
"Yep, that way everyone can join."
"Okay, but you don't want anything else? We get in Friday afternoon and don't leave until Tuesday morning..."
"Nope, lunch on Sunday will be good."

Ooookay....

Not going to lie, I was more than a little put out. But that's what she wanted so that's what we did. Later my sister texted me and let me know that now Mom wanted lunch on Sunday and then time after for cake. Okay. Is that all? Yes, that's it.  Okay...

So we let Brent's mom know that Saturday afternoon and evening and Sunday were taken but what time did she want? She wanted Friday evening, Saturday morning, Monday all day and Tuesday before the flight...You just have to laugh. We got her talked down to about half of that so we could spend Monday evening with friends as well. Then it ended up that she wasn't feeling well on Saturday so begged off from Biopark adventures after breakfast.

Now I will say it was a lovely visit. We saw Brent's mother's new house. She finally moved out of the place she and Jack had together. I was surprised that it took her as long to do it as it did. The new place is nice. It's in a gated community and has some lovely wrought iron work on the windows (Albuquerque) so she feels much safer than she did out on the West Side. It's closer to her office and the places she likes to go, including a new Sadie's so we had a wonderful dinner there the first night. There are skylights all throughout and she's put up mesh wiring along the fences so the cats can go out in the backyard with her. It's a little bigger than she really needs, but the layout, skylights and price were right for her so she took it.

Breakfast the next day was nice. We hit Weck's for papas and David and Stephen joined us. David was the Mastenbrook family stylist for years and years. I got him in the marriage as well; the man knows hair. He also became a close family friend over all of those years. I felt a little badly for Stephen because he had planned on going on a morning hike and got roped in to breakfast instead but sometime sacrifices are made, right? They are both doing well and it was lovely to see them. The only bad part was, as I said, Ann wasn't feeling well so she went home instead of on to the park with us. Though she probably enjoyed being at home more than she would have enjoyed dot harvesting in the heat with us.

Sunday was lunch with my family at Little Anita's. More New Mexican food, of course, then back to my mom's place for German Chocolate cake. The cake is a big deal to me. It's my very favorite. I've mentioned before that birthdays in my family were always done in bulk. So for August we had my Aunt Lucille, cousin Todd, me, and my brother John. Aunt Lucille's favorite meal was creamed tacos and John's favorite cake was German Chocolate so that's what we had. Along with homemade vanilla ice cream because it's summer and who doesn't love that? But over the years as Ann (sister this time not MIL) would make that cake it became my favorite as well. It's just perfection. She even sent a slab of it to Idaho Falls one year for my birthday. It traveled messily but still tasty! This time around my nephew Brian made his mother's cake so the torch was passed and I ate the rewards. You all know how I am about cake...

The visit was a good one. Only one or two testy moments about politics and differences in opinions but they passed quickly and fairly smoothly. Which is good, I was really worried it would be a tough one this time. With the Supreme Court rulings, the start of the next presidential season, Caitlyn Jenner and the Iran deal there were so many potential land mines that the fact that nobody got blown up is pretty damn impressive. Maybe Mom knew exactly what she was doing by limiting the time of the visit to just a few hours.

When it became apparent that the jet lag was catching up to Brent (he was in Germany last week and would fade for a bit every afternoon as his body thought it was the middle of the night) we said our goodbyes and headed out with no blood no foul. Not bad.

Another quick meal with Brent's mother and that wrapped up the families. No tears. No tone. Or not much tone, maybe a short burst of tone once but it was quick...nobody disowned. Not bad.

Now you are asking where the pictures are? Well let me tell you, I swear I took pictures at lunch with my family. I even moved from one side of the table to the other to make sure I got everyone. And they are not on my camera. Gone. And Brent's mom? I totally forgot. I had planned on taking a picture of all of us at the park and when she didn't go I didn't reset my head to make sure I got a shot of her the next meal we had. Just gone from my brain. But we did see them, even though there are no pictures. Instead here are our stand-ins, butterflies from the Biopark...

There we all are having lunch together...

And here is a lovely shot of Brent's mother showing us how bright the new house is with all of the skylights. 

See? Pretty much exactly the same...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Friends...

We will start here with the home blogs...

Okay, let's get background info going first, you all know I love my background...

We just got back from a visit to Albuquerque. We hadn't been back home since my dad died four years ago and the trip before that was for C's high school graduation to visit family who couldn't make it to his ceremony, the trip before that was for Brent's dad's funeral and before that I couldn't really tell you....but it had been a long time since we had been back and had time to see people other than family. 

When we first planned this trip it came about because we were talking about needing to go home to visit my mother. She's 83 and has been battling cancer for the second time and she just doesn't travel like she used to. Brent's mom comes up here once a year usually, but we hadn't seen my mom since Dad died. So we needed to head home. Then while we were talking about that visit the Class of 85 from our high school started talking about their reunion, and wouldn't it be fun if the Class of 86 joined in? We thought that would be a good chance to see people so we booked for the weekend they planned.

Then that fell apart. The Class of 85 wanted a reunion but they didn't want to help plan one. It all ended up falling on one person (Caren, she'll come back in this later) who was in the middle of just moving back to Albuquerque and starting a new job so not a lot of spare time when nobody else wants to help you. So it didn't happen. Which left us with an extra long weekend in Albuquerque and no real solid plans. We winged it.

Which turned out really well. (read that one sarcastically)

It started out with trying to get people together for dinner or drinks on Saturday anyway (the day the reunion was planned) and that didn't happen. I could understand Caren's frustration at that point. I can't plan things from Oregon, folks, let me know if you want to get together and where a good place would be....nothing but a lot of "oh yeah that sounds great let me see..." and then nothing. *side eye* Well we had already made plans with our friend Nikki to have dinner on Monday since she would be out of town until then so we thought, fine, we will just move that to a casual place people can come and go and who makes it makes it. Then another friend couldn't make that but sent a message saying hey, I still want to see you guys so how about I take Saturday? Great!

So now we had plans.

Which turned out really well. (read that one sincerely)

Dinner on Saturday was with our friend Chad and his wife Stormy. I've written about reconciling with Chad after a decades (not even kidding) long fight here and here and there was more after I wrote the second blog that I never wrote about because it wasn't my story to tell, someday he or Stormy will write about The Lie and I will link that, but trust me it makes everything he and I went through seem small. Anyway this was the first time we had seen each other face to face since we started talking again almost 5 years ago. I'm not going to lie I was a little nervous if the damage had been too severe and we would end up with long awkward silences. Yeah, no, that didn't happen. We caught up on current lives and filled in even more of the past issues and came out smiling. He's still my brother from another and now his wife is part of my family as well. The only weird part was that he got old and I didn't and we aren't sure how that happened. (joke, he said he got old I told him to bite his tongue because I didn't and technically I'm older than he is so it's not possible for him to be old when I am not) 

But there were a lot of gap filling stories. Things that talking about now made a lot of other things make so much more sense. And telling those stories, and the catch up stories made everything that has happened since then fit together like a puzzle. It's amazing how that works. When you can step back and look at things how they all fit together you get a lot of clarity. (this was a recurring theme) But dinner was great. Los Cuates, tamales, sopapillas, lots of laughter and a more than a few "Oh! Now that makes more sense!" moments.

And a picture before leaving because we have NO pictures from high school or San Diego. It's sad...
(also Stormy and Brent are totally ducking down here and are actually taller than me by a good piece)

Then we skip ahead to Monday....

Monday was originally just dinner with Nikki, then it was going to be Nikki and Caren and then we said, "hey, who ever is around, come!" and Eric joined us. Small group to be sure. But you know how it goes, people who are living there have lives to live. Kids need shuffled around places, work happens, spouses might not be all in for dinner with strangers, and really do we have anything to talk about with people we haven't seen in decades? I get it. And honestly, it worked out perfectly. There were people I would have liked to have seen, but I cannot imagine that it would have made the night any better, because it was a great dinner.

Nikki and Brent were in Entertainers together. Nikki and I became friends through that connection. We knew each other and were "friends" before that through the crossover of groups but not "Friends." When she realized that I wasn't going anywhere she made the choice to actually get to know me. As I've mentioned before that wasn't easy to do in high school. I was mad at the world and that came out as terrifying. But Nikki was important to Brent so I made the effort as well. And we ended up with a friendship of our own, friends to Friends. It was a good transition. She's also gorgeous. It was a little intimidating in high school, now I can just appreciate how blue her eyes are without wishing mine weren't so very brown. Okay, that's what I tell myself, but I would still love to swap. 

Caren and I knew each other in high school, we were both in drama, we were both friends with Nikki, but we weren't close. We were in different groups within the drama crowd and she was part of the friend of a friend circle that you know but you don't know. We reconnected recently and discovered we really dig each other. We both like sports (just a little). We have the shared history of Albuquerque and Highland, with a lot of cross over in friendships. We both tend to look at life from the ridiculous side. You know, "what is funny about this, let's find the joke." She's also pretty much the text book definition of vivacious. And she wore polka dots to dinner because she knows I love them. How great is that?

Eric was in Entertainers with Brent and Nikki so they are friends from that. Eric was in drama with me and Brent so we are friends from that. He's a twofer like Brent. Bridged both performing arts groups. Eric was probably one of the only people in high school more people were scared of than me. And that's only because of his size. He's 6'5"tall. Which is big now...in high school? It was HUGE. We laughed because I was never scared of him (I had no real sense of fear) and the only thing he is scared of is small women (his mother is a petite lady) so I would boss him around constantly and he did what I asked. He also played a very funny part in the night Brent and I started dating for the last time...which is a different story for a different time.  Eric was a year behind us at school and Caren was a year ahead so they met for the first time Monday, but you wouldn't have guessed it. 

We all laughed so much. That's the main thing to point out. So much laughter. And then stories shared. And remember how I talked about with Chad how when you got the "oh that makes sense!" moments? There were so many of those! We each had pieces of stories and when we put them all together it made for a completely differently story. But one that finally made more sense. There were things that if you only knew part you really didn't know anything. And it was great getting all of those pieces to put together. Even when Nikki told me "this better not end up in a story!" and I had to admit that please believe it was totally going in a story, I was already writing it in my head! 

There was also the line of the evening, you know when you get those moments that are going to be jokes forever? "But we were good kids..." that's going to be on that list. Talking about us versus "these kids today" and Nikki said, "We were good kids" and we all busted up laughing. But it's true, we were good kids, in that sense that we all had decent hearts and grew up to be good people. But we made some incredibly stupid choices way back when and were very lucky at times that things turned out as well as they did. Alcohol, police, random nudity offers, more alcohol, cruising, Yale Park, scripts for parents, tornadoes, a few punches thrown ... but we were good kids... We needed the rest of the Entertainers there and a few gallons of iced tea and it would have been just like hanging at Carrows. 

One of many, many shots taken at the end of the evening, and who needs a selfie stick when you have Eric's long arms??


So yes, there were a lot of people we didn't see, there were plans that fell through and people that were missing, but it was still great. And the good news is that the Class of 86 is already planning for our actual reunion so we can do it all again next year, but with more people and more stories.

I hope everyone makes it.

If not we'll just head to Dion's and see who shows up...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Age before beauty...


Gray hairs are unruly by nature.
They stand out.
Silver or white in a dark mane of hair.


Shining or dull.
Different. 



Even if you try to color.

They mock you.

Standing straight up.
Curly in straight hair.
Thick in thin.



Try to make them blend in?
Not a chance. 
They might look similar,


But they are never the same.

Gray hairs have earned that right.
Age has brought changes.
Don't try to ignore them.
Gray, grey, gray, grey.

Gray hairs are unruly by nature. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

And Go....

I have fifteen minutes to fill before I leave for the airport to pick up Brent. Not enough time to really get in to anything. Maybe part of a chapter in the book I am reading but that doesn't sound appetizing, which should tell you what I think of the book so far...there are flashes in there, something that could go well, or it could go badly and make me frustrated that a good idea was squandered...but so far it's almost a chore to read more. Not a good sign.

I could watch part of an episode of a TV show. But I just binged on Empire over the last few days and finished the season finale an hour ago. Letting that dose of cotton candy settle. It's just such a pure soap. So much drama in one family. I love it more than I should I am sure...nursing a crush on Jussie Smollet right now. I already had one brewing from his guest appearances on The Chew but after watching Empire? Oh my goodness...Jamal broke my heart. So good. (I checked his age, he's in his 30s it's not creepy, and yes I know he's gay. I'm a theater kid who grew up in the 80s you think this is the first gay man I've had a crush on? Child, please.)

I could look at my clothes and try and figure out what I am packing to take to Albuquerque again. But so far all I know is what I'm not taking. I hate packing to travel. I hate trying to decide what is appropriate for what crowd. I hate worrying about things that I shouldn't have to worry about but I do so thinking that I shouldn't doesn't matter...yes I know you think that doesn't make sense, but it totally does so there.

I could try and knock out a fiction piece but in fifteen minutes all I could manage would be a poem. Maybe a couple of haiku or an American sentence but only if I had a subject in mind and right now I don't.

So what I settled on was a fifteen minute brain dump blog. (we are 5 minutes in and I am running out of steam so this might not have been a great idea)

Not sure I will write tomorrow, cleaning and that packing that will have to be done then. Won't write over the weekend while we are away so it will be Wednesday before I start again. Then I will have like 12 blogs or so to do by the end of July to catch up to where I should be to keep on goal. Eek. I really do need to get more disciplined about the blog.

One of these days I will remember who I am and stop trying to make myself disciplined. Or I will accept that I can meet a goal, but not in a steady manner. It's all fits and starts. But why start now, right? I mean if I don't know me by now I will never ever ever know me...ooooh....

Okay, yeah, you caught me, I'm singing to fill time.

And that's close enough. I used up 10 minutes and by the time I get my shoes on and out the door it will be about right. I will grab that book to bring along just in case Google was way wrong on how long it was going to take and I will power through some more of that...let's see if it gets better.

Thanks for stalling with me. You're the best!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Gone girl...

He walked by her like she wasn't there
Made of nothing but memory now
Distant. Fading. Gone.

I'll never forget you
he once swore
How could he forget her
He loved her he said

Air. Memory. Remainders.
Fading. Disappearing.
Just reach out your hand
and I will always take it

Or walk through it
Smoke. Haze.
Clouds on the horizon

Who was she now?
She didn't know


Is this the real life?

They sat on a park bench eating lunch. Sunny days were meant for small breaks. She was staring at the new apartment building going up across the street when a woman in a grey dress seemed to float up the partially constructed front stairs. She was so graceful she looked like she belonged on a dance floor not a construction site. And that dress? It was so delicate, so gauzy, so...wait...see through? Not like the dress was see through but she could see through the woman herself. She leaned forward to get a better look....

"Do you see that?" she turned to her lunch companion.

"The woman in grey? Yeah, I see her. She's not real though, poor thing."

"She's not real? You and I both see her, she's right there, what do you mean she's not real?"

"Well, I mean, she's not real. Or at least she's not any more. I would guess with the level of detail involved she was real-ish for a while. Someone really worked hard on her. But now? Look at her."

"You think she's a ghost?"

He looked again, "I don't think so. She doesn't act like a ghost. I don't think she was made to be a ghost."

"You and I can both see her. She's translucent. She's not a ghost. And she's not real."

"Yep. That's what I think."

She looked at him and shook her head, "I have no idea what all of that means."

"Well you know there are only a few hundred real people, like really real people in the whole world right?"

She laughed, "What?"

"There are only a few hundred real people. The rest are all made up by them. The best they reach is real-ish."

"Are you crazy? Everyone but a few hundred people are made up?"

"Yeah, I mean yeah on the made up, not yeah on the crazy. Look people like to interact with other people. And they like variety. New stories. New people to meet. With only a few hundred real people around things get pretty boring. Or I would guess they would. There have been so many generations of made up people that it's kind of hard to imagine the before."

"The before?"

"Yeah, when there were only the few hundred. And then even when there were only scattered pockets at all. Before the internet I imagine it was especially barren in places. But now you can imagine people all over the world and interact with them so there are more and more made up people filling every space. It's getting to be much more crowded. Though you still get fade aways like her." He lifted his chin back toward to the woman in grey.

As she looked at her again the woman did seem even more pale. "A fade away? Is that what you call people who aren't real?"

"No, fade aways are the unreal people who are forgotten. Someone real made her up at some point but now? Now they've started to forget her. So she's just, you know, fading away."

"So she's dying?"

"No, not dying. Who ever made her didn't have her die. That wasn't part of what they made up. So she didn't die. My guess from looking at her is that she never made it out of what ever dance they met at. She just stayed there until she was forgotten. And now..." he waved his hand her way. She was still gracefully climbing and descending the steps, but she was definitely paler than she was at the start.

"So since we can see her. And we can see each other. That means that we are real?"

He smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea. I mean I feel like I'm real. But maybe you made me up because you didn't want to eat lunch alone. Or maybe I made you up for the same reason. Or maybe someone else made us up but gave us a lot of details."

"A lot of details?"

"Yeah, okay, you know how some people you know everything about right? You know where they grew up, where they are now, where their family is, where they work and on and on? They have a lot of details. Then there are the people that you see once and never see again. They don't even have a name. Not a lot of details. Sometimes it's just because they aren't part of your story, but other times it's because who ever made them up just didn't fill them in anymore than a sketch. You know, like 'bus rider #1' in the movie credits. They are less real than 'coworker of 5 years' less details versus more details."

"If we were real wouldn't we know how to make people up?"

"Nah. The reals don't know they are the only ones any more than the real-ish don't know they aren't real. They don't even realize they are making people up. They just know that when you get on a bus there are supposed to be people on there, so there are. They know that they are supposed to go to school and have classmates so they have them. The world is populated by the people they think should be there. They don't realize they are doing it. It's just what your life is, you know? Well for most. I have met a few real-ish people who seemed to know they were only a part of someone else's story and didn't have one of their own. They weren't fade aways, but they weren't really substantial either. You know? Like the only details they had were about someone else."

"I don't think I understand."

"Okay, middle school. Do you remember middle school?"

"Sure."

"Okay, you know the girlfriend? She wasn't really a part of your group of friends she was just the girlfriend of someone. She was there sometimes but mostly not. And if you ever tried to talk to her all she talked about was her boyfriend? Same with some boys. They are just the boyfriend. Or in sports, they are just the teammates. These are the girls on the swim team...and some of them had real personalities and some of them all they could talk about was swimming."

"So assuming that all of this is true and you aren't just making up a complex story to try and pretend you didn't just see a ghost, how do you know about it all? How do you know about the reals and the real-ish and the fade aways and the sketches? How do you know all of this and no one else does?"

"I'm not the only one who has it figured out. You've seen the quotes right? 'Everyone is the star of their own movie' 'Be your own hero' Those are all from people who have figured it out. Some of them are real and some are just very detailed real-ish. Someone real wanted someone to talk to that was as aware as they were, so they made them. They could sit around and have deep thoughts or get high and dissect life. Neither one realizing that only one of them was actually real.

The first time I talked to someone about it was college. I had walked in to a classroom I hadn't seen before and when I opened the door there was nothing behind it. It was like a television set. Just a classroom door but nothing on the other side. I closed it and backed up and looked at it again and again and each time there was nothing there. Then someone behind me said, 'That room hasn't ever been needed, I would guess if you look at your schedule it's not really your class either.' He was right, I was off by two doors. But it didn't really explain why that one was just nothing. It should have been an empty room right? Someone imagined that room there for some reason and so the door was there, but nothing beyond. I don't know if I am real and I knew it was the wrong room so I didn't build it out, or if I am real-ish and just touched the wrong door that someone real had put there as a meeting place.

But that was the first time I saw behind the scenes. I tracked down the guy in the hall and we talked a lot about it. His name is Jonathon and we are still friends today. He has a lot of details. And we have shared experiences. Times when you walk in to a room and it seems like the conversation was stopped before you got there. Like it was just waiting for you to make it start. The times you have been out walking in a snow storm and it's silent. Like more than just quiet, but silent. Because no one imagined that anyone would be out walking in the cold so it was empty. Things like that. Like right now, maybe because we are gone nothing is actually going on at work. Maybe it's just paused waiting for us to come back before it starts again. Or did you imagine there would be a meeting while we were gone? Because if you know that they are working then I would guess they really are working. Most of them have pretty good details. Except for Kent on the third floor. He's pretty sketchy."

"This is all very confusing and I'm not sure I believe it. I think I'm getting a headache."

"I understand, it's a lot to take in at first. Though it could be worse. You could be her."

They looked back toward the apartment building and saw that the lady in grey was now just a blur. And then she was gone.

"Well, back to work."

And with that he packed up his lunch trash and held out his hand to help her up, "We wouldn't want to keep everyone there waiting."


Monday, July 13, 2015

And the greatest of these is...

"Would you stop that?"

"Stop what?"

"That thing you are doing with your fingers. Stop it. It's annoying."

"I'm bored. Aren't you bored?"

"Of course I'm bored. But that doesn't mean I should be annoying."

Grace rolled her eyes at her twin sister and went back to entertaining herself. Hope was just jealous that she had never mastered lightning the way Grace had. The trick to getting it to walk between your fingers was to understand that a big storm and a small storm were really the same. It was all about concentra....

"Hey!" Grace barely ducked out of the way of the fireball the Hope hurled at her.

"I told you to knock it off!"

Grace stood up and spread her hands wider making the electricity bounce between her palms. "You want to fight? Fine!"

"Fine by me." Hope faced her sister with her hands facing up. Pockets of fire glowing in her palms. She curled her fingers to make them form balls and got ready to launch them at her sister.

"WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING? Are you trying to burn the whole house down? I swear to Bast I can't leave you alone for a second."

Hope and Grace both dropped their hands and looked down at their feet, "Sorry, Charity, we..."

"I don't want to hear it. I really don't. Look I know you two don't get along, but I need you to try to act like humans. Faith needs us. She wouldn't have asked us here if it weren't important. So just act like grownups for a change."

Hope and Grace both sat back down each with a loud sigh and a prominent eye roll. If there was one thing that could unite the twins it was their disgust in being bossed around by their older sister. It didn't mean they would do anything about it, nobody took on Charity, but it didn't stop them from resenting her.

---------------

And that's it. I've had this scene in my head for a week. What is going on with Faith that she needs her sisters there? Obviously a play on the names, but who are they? Where did they come from? What is the background?

It's stuck on repeat and no matter how I try to sneak up on it I can't get more. But I have been spending a lot of time imagining lightning dancing between my fingers as I think....

Muscle...

Before I got in to the shower today I was distracted by something in the mirror. It was a muscle. A muscle I have never seen before. Well, that's not accurate, I've seen it before. On other people just not on me. External oblique. Only on the right side, the left didn't stand out no matter how much I twisted. Which had to have looked ridiculous but I still tried. But on the right side? When I turned and bent? There was a muscle.

Thank god.

As you all know I've been more than a little frustrated with the lack of progress in my new plan. But that one muscle? The one I've never seen before? That will keep me going for the next 6 weeks. It means what I am doing is working. That there are changes being made. That I am getting stronger. That I am growing. It's enough to push me along. It's not a huge muscle. It's not one anyone else would ever notice (and not just because I don't bare my stomach to people much) but it's my muscle. It's my mark of progress.

Sometimes that's all we need. Some little bit of proof to let us know we are on the right track. To keep us going. It doesn't have to be much. Just something.

A few weeks ago when I told the story about the two wandering children in Target to Brent he said something to me that he does every so often, "You are a really good person." It's a pretty simple sentence and usually it's said after I've done something that, to me, seems like a fairly obvious thing to do. Once it was because I made sure to talk to some fans of the opposing team at a hockey game so they knew that we were glad they were there supporting their players. Once it was for standing up for someone who couldn't stand up for themselves. Once it was for listening patiently to a confused old woman who just wanted to talk. There are other times as well, but as you can see none of them are really big deals, just things you do. But he tells me, "You are a really good person." It makes me feel really good. It reminds me to keep doing what I do. That it's important, even if it's small.

Last night I posted a quick rant and a quick free verse about something that has been making me crazy lately. This morning I had comments on the post including one from someone who isn't even a normal reader of my stuff. Yay! Positive feedback for a simple post! That keeps me going. It means that there are people out there reading my stuff. That I'm not writing in a vacuum. You all keep me going.

We need things like that in life. Little atta girls. Little gold stars. Dots on a fitness tracker. Likes on a post. Muscles on your abs. A smaller notch in your belt. A smile from someone who loves you.

And a thank you from a wacky writer who really appreciates that you take the time to read her stuff. It's small, but it makes a big difference to me in my day. Thank you.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

It drives me crazy...


Just a little ranty post to explain the odd little poem like piece I just posted...

There are things that make me really nuts on Facebook.

Memes about needing a man who knows the difference flattering you and complimenting you...spending money on you and investing in you...etcetera..

Reading posts by mothers of teenage daughters who post about their daughter's boyfriends treating them so wonderfully, taking care of them.

Memes about how real men treat their women.

And I get it, I'm not super romantic. I never have been, but the message we send to women and girls seems to be a constant drum beat of needing a man. A good man, sure, but still needing a man.

You need a man who will...

You need to do this once you find a good man...

You need....

Where is the advice to teenage girls that they don't need anything but themselves? Instead of telling them they need to find a boy that will treat them well teach them how incredible they are so they won't let someone treat them like shit?

And women are just as bad as girls. "I need a man who treats me like a princess." Child, please. Treat yourself like a queen and you won't accept anything less from those around you.

We let our girls wrap their self images around the boys they are dating. We should be past that. Don't encourage that anymore. Make sure when your daughter grows up and finds a partner she is finding someone she wants in her life, not finding someone because she thinks she needs something she is missing.


You need a man...


You need a man...

You need a man who knows how to treat you right
You need a man who respects you
You need a man who cherishes you
You need a man who would never hurt you
You need a man who understands how important you are
You need a man who knows what a precious gift he has been given

The voices droned in her head over and over
You need a man...
You need a man...
You need a man...

Then one day a stronger voice rang out

You need to treat yourself right
You need to respect yourself
You need to cherish yourself
You need to stop hurting yourself
You need to realize you are important
You need to see that you are your own gift

Once she understood that she did not need a man she saw the truth

Treat yourself right and you will never let anyone else treat you badly
Respect yourself and you will not tolerate disrespect
Cherish yourself and you will not be taken lightly
Treat yourself with care and you won't let anyone else hurt you
Know your own importance and no one can steal your voice
Once you understand your worth you will not give yourself to the unworthy

She did not need a man.
She did not need more than she was.
She was enough.
She always had been.



Saturday, July 11, 2015

Now that's really scary...

Thursday afternoon I sat down to work on that Rosetta Stone puzzle that I've been working on for a few months. I hadn't touched it in weeks, too many other things going on and so it just sat on the table where I dusted around the pieces and tried not to lose any. But Thursday I finally sat down to it again. And as I put in the first piece I thought, "The scariest part is..."and I had a blog idea. So I left the puzzle again and came in to the study to write that blog. But on the walk from the kitchen to the study I realized that if I posted a non-fiction blog after leaving a cliff hanger on a short story (which is really awful of me to do, I mean it's a SHORT story, there shouldn't be cliff hangers!) I should probably wrap that up first and then write the other one. So I did that instead.

Wrote quickly (as I do) posted it and then read it one last time realizing it was full of odd little errors so I was editing while the story was in the wild. Eek!

And then I realized that completely tied in with what I was going to write so it actually worked out fine. So Friday's blog was set.

Then I had lunch with a friend on Friday and it turned in to a 3 hour lunch (honestly could have been a few more but we shut the restaurant down!) and then by the time I made it back to this side of town it was time to pick up Brent and finish up a few things to get him ready for his trip to Germany so the blog got pushed again.

But during lunch with Marcy we talked about writing. I shared a story with her about the first story I let a lot of other people read. I've written about that before and how in today's society of "Oh won't someone think of the children!" I would have had a very unpleasant experience out of it. And even telling a quick version of it yesterday I realized it makes me sound completely crazy and slightly unhinged that I could think that up. And I have to admit that I think up much worse now. You've all read some of it. And some of you have been on the other side of a riffing session where we come up with more and more bizarre things. They are all in there. Just waiting for their own story.

But then that tied in with the blog I wanted to write on Thursday so that worked out as well.

Because the scariest part is...

Right after I hit publish.

It's that moment where the blog or story now is out of my hands and in yours. When it's not mine anymore but ours. Sometimes it takes a lot to get it from me to you. Sometimes it's just a few minutes. There is a varying amount of care that goes in to crafting a blog or a story. Some of them take ages of thinking on them. Working through feelings and ideas if it's a nonfiction piece. Figuring out what to name people in short stories. And also seeing if that one great line of dialog that popped in to my head is a story or isn't it? Is it part of something I'm already working on or is it a new direction?

And then there is that moment where I've been working on something, I go back to read it and realize that it's actually horrible. Not at all the brilliant piece that I had in my head. And why did I ever think that I could write in the first place. I swear to god my friends are all really nice or completely crazy when they pretend the shit I throw at the wall is art and....

And even that moment isn't as scary as when I hit publish.

Because all of that doubt and work is in my head right up until that point. Once I hit publish it's out there. Errors that I let slide and didn't notice that change the meaning of what I was trying to say. Names of characters that inexplicably change mid story. Ideas that might be a little off for most people. All of it. Now it's free. What will people say? Think? Do? Will they like it? Won't they? Do I really care? How much feedback do I need? What happens when I get rich and famous and the interwebs dissect my old blogs and discover that I held a deeply unpopular opinion and now must be driven off to a cave to die by myself....

It's a deeply personal thing when someone creates something and then shares it with others. I think that's why people tend to think of artists as slightly neurotic. When you are making something, making up something, painting, sculpting, sketching, writing, it's all you. You are giving people a look right inside your brain. That's really very personal. You are opening up your work to criticism. Which is opening up the very heart of who you are to criticism. You can't help but take it personally, it is personal. You can tell yourself that not every piece of art is for every person. Not everything I write is going to be your cup of tea. But that doesn't mean that I want you to tell me it's shit tea.

I always try to keep that in mind when I am looking at a piece of artwork, or readying a story, or listening to piece of music. Even if it's not for me, not my style, that doesn't mean it took any less for the artist to put it out there. To open themselves up to the judgement. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are enough to make any aspiring author run for the hills. Walking through a First Thursday showing of a new artist's work and listening to people who couldn't paint by numbers if they were spotted the primary colors talk about what drivel this or that painting is makes my blood turn cold. Because it's hard enough to put it out there. And I know that once I do you are free to tear it apart.

The scariest part is right now...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The bigger the job the bigger the problems (part 2)...

Prelude

Part One

Janet was trying to compose herself. She hadn't expected to find blood magic in this store. She turned around to face Delores, "This really is blood magic."

Delores smiled pleasantly, "Yes, I have all of the paperwork here." She held out a notebook that Janet was fairly positive hadn't been in her hands a moment ago. Paging through Janet saw that all of the paperwork was indeed in order. There was the spell page listing exactly the ingredients including a signed statement of consent from the blood donor. Then there was a signature page for people who had purchased this particular potion. There were only a small handful of signatures on this sheet. This was interesting though, there was an extra notation next to each signature. Consent form and page number.

"What are the extra consent forms noted here? Are they other blood magic potions used in conjunction?"

"No, before I allow purchase and use of this particular potion you have to try the temporary version for 60 days. Once you have passed the waiting period then if you still want the main potion you may purchase it. This notebook contains the consent forms and signatures for those who started down the path but did not choose to continue as well as those that did. You can cross reference those signatures and page numbers with the forms in this book." Delores put her hand on a much thicker book that was now on the table in front of Janet. Janet opened that book and saw a spell sheet much like the other, but made with sweat from the same donor instead of blood.

Janet looked closer at the ingredient listings for the two potions. There didn't seem to be any reason for such care. There were the standard base herbs from multiple spells, a few ground minerals and then the blood or sweat from the donor. But nothing that jumped out at her as significant. "Are there side effects?"

Delores laughed, "It's not the side effects that cause people to not want the main spell, it's the main effect. And once you take the full strength potion there is no reversing the result."

Janet looked closer at the spell. "Anti-charm. What is an anti-charm?"

Delores smiled at Janet, "That's not an ingredient, that's the spell. Once you take the potion you are immune to charm."

"I've never heard of a spell that could do that."

"That's because it's my recipe. Took me years to perfect. It would be almost impossible to duplicate. And as you can see there really isn't much call for the full strength potion so there isn't a strong incentive for anyone else to try."

"Why did you?"

"It started as a labor of love. My sister was a very talented witch. Much more so than anyone else I had ever met. But she was an incurable romantic and easily misled. The third time she married badly she told me she wished she was able to recognize charm instead of thinking it was love. A pocket full of fool's gold doesn't make you rich. So I started work trying to come up with a 'cure' for charm. I came close a few times, but they were never exactly right. Here are the notes on developing the spell."

Another book was now on the table in front of Janet. An older and well worn moleskin. Janet opened the book and looked at the first few pages. Recipes with ingredients crossed out, amounts changed, notes in the margins. Test results were listed after each batch. Stains and pieces of dried herbs dotted the pages of the notebook. "You tried a lot of different recipes. What led you to using blood magic?"

"Ah! That was the big break through. Talking with friends one night they were sharing stories of a man that they all knew. He was known to be a rascal, but they all laughed and said he was just so charming that he got away with it. Then one said, 'Well except for with Suzanne.' Then another said, 'Yes, she is immune to charm, always has been.' And that was when I knew I needed to meet Suzanne."

Janet looked at the blood forms. Suzanne Hotchins age 34. "So she consented to give you her blood to experiment with?"

"Eventually. We talked for awhile about her seeming immunity to charm. She said she recognized it. Understood it. But was not affected by it. Never had been. In fact when someone was actively trying to charm her it seemed to have the opposite effect and would repulse her. She wouldn't trust them. Couldn't understand why everyone else did. She had always thought she was missing something in her psyche that everyone else had. I convinced her that instead of missing something she actually had something extra. After that she agreed to donate the sweat and the blood."

"Why both?"

"You are familiar with the differences in spells correct? Blood magic is stronger. It's elemental. It's a life force. Sweat is an echo of that life force. When testing blood magic one should always start with a sweat based spell. Always. You wouldn't want to find out that your spell was wrong after you made the results permanent. The first tests we did were with the sweat spell. It took a few times, as you can see in the book, to get the portions down exactly. Then I let my sister try the spell. I was so excited for her new life free of being lied to."

For the first time since Janet had entered the shop the spark in Delores' eye seemed to dim. The barely held back laughter quieted. "It didn't work?"

"Oh no, it worked. And she was miserable. She said it felt like living in a stranger's skin. There was some piece to her life that was missing. It turns out that though the fool's gold wasn't making her rich, it was still something shiny to look at and she loved the shine. So she never took the full strength potion. She continued to fall for the wrong man and eventually it was her undoing."

Janet looked at the books, "But you decided to keep it in stock?"

"Yes, just because she chose not to use it it was still good magic. It's still a valuable spell. But because of her experience I am very strict about the waiting period. And I also remind people that you cannot unring a bell. If you find while you are on the trial that your true love is actually a con artist in disguise that knowledge won't go away once the effects wear off. You will still know. You will just be susceptible again to falling for his, or her, smooth words and charms. However you will know that you are doing it. Which is worse. To know you are being made a fool of and still letting it happen? There isn't much worse than that.

There is also a large dose of Cassandra Syndrome. Just because you know that your friend's boyfriend is full of false charm doesn't mean she will believe you. Even though you can see your brother's new wife is slick as glass doesn't mean he will ever want to know the truth. It can be a very frustrating and lonely life you are choosing. Which is why most people do not come back in for the rest of the potion."

"But some do, obviously."

"A few over the years have. A couple of people who were hurt so deeply and so badly by someone that any way to avoid that in the future was worth whatever spark they might lose. And a few lawyers who felt that this knowledge would help them on their career paths."

At that Janet looked again at the list, pointing to a familiar name, "Is this the..."

Delores cut her off, "It is. She's done very well for herself. She would have anyway, but this helps."

"Have you ever been tempted to take the potion yourself? I can imagine there are times it would be very handy. I can sense magic being used around me, but pure charm? I think knowing if someone was trying to charm me that would be very useful."

Delores laughed again, that deep sensuous laugh that almost felt like you could hold it, "I am not sure what would happen to me if I used it." Then she winked at Janet, "Charm isn't always a bad thing. Like any other form of magic it can be used for bad purposes, but it can also just be a lovely gift to give to someone. Now, are you satisfied with this particular section? Would you like to continue your inspection?"

Janet thought about it, "I think I will actually come back for the rest. I need to make my notes on what I've seen so far and compare them to Silvia's last reports and as you weren't surprised by my visit in the first place I doubt I would find anything here that wasn't in perfect order." With that she went to gesture to the notebooks on the table only to find they were no longer there.

"Oh did you need me to bring those back? I thought you were finished with them."

Janet shook her head, "No, that's okay, I was done. Oh one more question though, when I first came in you were talking with a customer about not bringing demon cookies in to your store again, could I get her name and address to visit?"

Delores really laughed then, "You could visit, but you would be disappointed when you found only a dear sweet abuela not a seasoned witch. She is a customer of mine for sure, she buys her star anise from me, says it's the freshest she can find. To show her appreciation she tries to bring me in her famous biscochitos." Delores shuddered, "I cannot stand biscochitos. Demon cookies."

....

Later that evening after Janet had finished compiling her notes from the visit she pulled the folder from Silvia's file to compare.

Shop: The Magic of Taos

Owner: Delores Sandoval

Age of Owner: Unknown

Origin of Owner: Unknown

Shop layout: Trinkets in front room. Real equipment in the back. Dangerous items under lock and key and guarded by familiar.

Paperwork: Always impeccable. Would like to see her library at some point in time. Unclear where books are stored when not called in to use.

Special Notes: DELORES SANDOVAL IS THE REAL DEAL! The council has notes on Delores Sandoval from as far back as 200 years (the oldest on record in America) and it is assumed she was practicing before that time. She has recommended many current leaders on the council as well as trained numerous apprentices. Pay attention to her when she talks. Watch what she does. Again DELORES SANDOVAL IS THE REAL DEAL!

Janet put down the file before reading more as there were at least 6 more pages of "Special Notes." 

Clearly she was going to have to rethink her position on not reading her staff's files before she did an inspection. 




Thursday, July 2, 2015

The bigger the job the bigger the problems....

Janet grabbed her logbook ready to inspect one of the new stores under her watch. Ever since her big coup last year in finding a slaver and freeing hundreds of trapped fairies and other magical beings she was on a fast track up the career ladder. She was now regional director for the Western Provinces. Instead of doing inspections and answering emergency call outs for the Pacific Northwest she had added Central and Southern California, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico to her territory and was now supervising the local inspection crew. Today she was doing a spot inspection on a small magic store in New Mexico, she would do a cold inspection and then compare her notes to her employee's notes to make sure nothing was being missed or hidden.

So far she had been pleased with her crew. Everyone seemed to really know their stuff. It was a tricky territory but she was enjoying herself. New challenges for sure, but nothing she hadn't been able to handle yet. Southern California was mostly making sure the New Age fad chasers didn't accidentally stumble upon real magic they weren't prepared to deal with. It had happened once a few years ago, a Los Angeles store owner was trying to invent the next big mystical thing and accidentally conjured an incubus. He had posed as a producer for 6 months before being found and sent back to his realm.

The Southwestern states were a little harder to work. Magic there was mixed in to the culture in a way it wasn't in her other territories. She was working on a theory that the more Catholic a region was the more actual magic practitioners you would find. The crossovers between the two areas were too numerous to be a coincidence. Incense, lighting candles, saying words of power in an ancient language...and on and on. Though both sides would be horrified at the comparison.

She took her centering breath and opened the store door bracing for that hit of incense and was greeted with...

Well this was a nice change of pace, the smell was quite pleasant. Sage and something else she couldn't quite place. But very subtle. Nice. There was a woman at the counter helping a customer and a young girl at the back of the store shelving books but other than that it was just her in the store. That was good, it helped her to focus.

"...and don't you bring any of those demon cookies in to my shop ever again!"

Janet's head snapped around to get a good look at the woman the proprietress had been speaking too but all she caught was the back of her head as she left the store. She would make a note after her inspection was finished and come back to it later. Looking over the shelves there was the normal mix of trinkets and crystals. A few extra things nodded to the Native American heritage of this area. Kiva shaped incense burners. Kachina dolls of varying fashion. More turquoise than any other stone.

"I assume you really want to see the back of the store?"

"Excuse me?"

"The back of the store, where we keep the real items. You won't find anything worthy of the council's attention out here, though by all means keep scanning."

"You know who I am?"

"Of course. You are Silvia's new boss. My name is Delores, this is my shop, as you know."

"Did she tell you to expect me?"

Delores smiled at Janet and cocked her head to the side, "How could she have done that when you didn't tell her yourself? Come, let's go to the back so you can spend more time where you need to be. You can review the front room before you leave. Celia, hija? Watch the counter for me please, we will be in the back if you need me."

"Yes, ma'am."

"She's a good girl, you are going to want to watch her, I think she could have a very promising career as a seer." The younger girl ducked her head in modesty and Janet could see both the pleased grin on her face and the blush creeping up her cheeks.

Walking through the curtains separating the front and back rooms Janet felt a press of power she wasn't expecting to find in a small tourist attraction magic shop. The smell from the front room grew stronger for a second and then faded away. "Sage and?"

"Piñon. The sage is due to the large volume of people we have coming and going, consider it a constant cleaner running in the background. The piñon is for calmness. So everything in the store is always clean and calm. The best for clear heads. I enhance it at the doorway between the fun and the work."

Janet looked around the space they were now in. Shelves of books, locked cabinets with jars of potions inside, spice racks with more ingredients than she had ever seen outside of headquarters. The magic was thick enough in this room she could feel it crawling over her skin. Coating her in a layer of warmth.

"You might want to re-shield yourself. I should have warned you, I guess. This room can have the effect of a warm fire on a cold day. If I left you alone you might just curl up in that corner over there with Syar and go to sleep."

Janet looked to the corner and was greeted with a slow yellow eyed blink from the largest cat she had ever seen.

"We think he might be part puma. But we aren't sure if it's that or he's just fat." Delores laughed a full throated deep almost sensual laugh. Syar made a chirping meow at her and rolled over to go back to sleep which just made Delores laugh even harder.

Janet wasn't sure where to start in this room. Everything radiated real magic. She decided that the only way to approach it was by using a focusing spell. She would quickly scan over everything and anything that warranted special attention would spark. There were a few books on the shelves that called to her for a deeper look. They held spells with real power. Though nothing illegal. One of the books was set on a shelf by itself. Janet reached for it and it moved away from her. She reached again and it slid away again. Delores smiled, "You have to sneak up on it from the side. It's why we have it all alone. It kept knocking all of the other books off the shelf. It belonged to a very reclusive witch and took on her personality. It's actually a very handy book once you get it in your hands. But all things being equal it just wants to be left alone."

Janet pretended she was looking at the books on the shelf below and casually reached up to grab the lone book. Once she had it in her hand it held very still, not trying to get away again. "Go ahead, think of a spell you might want." Janet could only think that she wasn't prepared to find a book with a personality in a small shop in a tourist town.

The book quivered in her hands and then opened to a spell for increasing awareness, then quickly turned to a page on a draught that would help you be open to new experiences. Then finally flipped to a page on a medicinal herb that would lower your sense of superiority. Delores saw the last one and laughed again, "It's a very helpful book, you see, the woman that owned it and wrote most of the spells in it was very knowledgeable. But she had no patience for pretension.  Don't feel badly though, every time the book gives a series of spells it ends on that one. It's not you, it's well....it."

Delores produced a key to potions cabinet and unlocked it for inspection.

Janet focused again and was rewarded with a blazing spark toward a bottle on the second shelf.

Reaching toward the bottle she turned on Delores, "Is this blood magic?"