Thursday, August 17, 2017

Anger and Ego...

Sometimes you need a perspective shift. Sometimes you need a clarifying moment. Sometimes you need to see yourself through a different lens. Yesterday I had one of those moments.

I joke about the Good Denise and Bad Denise responses to things all of the time. Good Denise is the one who always keeps her calm and speaks rationally and Bad Denise is a little more, shall we say, free with her opinions and does not suffer fools gladly. And people love Bad Denise. Right up until the point that they are the ones in her sites...

Yesterday I had a very public argument on my Facebook wall with someone who did not heed the warning signs. And I take the blame for a lot of the argument. I'm not wrong in my beliefs or my positions, but the argument never should have happened. Because I should have unfriended them a long time ago.

And this is where the ego part of the title comes in.

I've had debates with that person on numerous occasions. About political differences, about personal differences. And they have almost always left me frustrated. Because I would feel as though I was talking in circles. Yet I still kept talking. Brent would ask me why I did it. It made me frustrated. I wasn't getting anything out of it. Why do it? And I would say (ego) I think she needs friends. And I think having a friend who has a different opinion can make a difference.

See? I thought that my talking to her would change her beliefs. Beliefs she holds just as tightly as I hold mine. Ego.

I've talked about it here and on my feed numerous times. I wish there was a combination of words I could use that would change people's hearts and minds. That would make them understand that hateful things aren't directed at groups of indiscriminate objects, but groups of people. Real people. With real feelings. And real lives. And real pain.

I've talked about that I keep writing because I think that I'm doing some good by doing so. And I really believe that I am. Sometimes it's just to let someone know that someone else out there in the world feels the same thing. Sometimes it really does make a difference in what someone thinks. I've had a few people tell me that my words helped them change their mind about things. Not just my words, mind you, I'm not that good, but my words added to the things that helped them shift an opinion.

So sometimes I think that I need to keep talking to someone who I shouldn't. But I should have stopped along time ago. And my ego kept me from doing it. But my anger yesterday stopped my ego in its tracks.

See anger sometimes brings a real clarity to a situation. Not always, sometimes it clouds your judgement too much, but sometimes it really clears things up. When you are incredibly angry, incredibly fast then you know that there is a  lot going on. And when you hear other conversations going on at the same time as the one you are having you know you need to pay attention. When you realize that you have clear lines of demarcation that you've stated and they've been crossed over and over again and you've made excuses for it? Well...then the anger flashes back at yourself and you realize you fucked up. I let my ego get in the way of what I believe is right.

I want to be clear here. I have friends who believe different things than I do. I have friends who politically do not line up with me. I have friends who I have disagreements with on some issues that are moral things to each of us, but I understand where they are coming from and they have made the decision to keep me around as well. But my lines about race, about sexuality and gender identity are strong. And I will drop you if you cross those lines. And I should do it right away. I just need to get out of my own way to do it.

I feel that I have a responsibility to the world I am a part of to not sit silently when I see things that I feel are wrong. I feel that I have a greater responsibility than some others because I could sit silently without losing any of my space in this world. But I also have a responsibility to myself and to those that I love to not give space to things I find hateful and abhorrent. No matter how sweetly they are packaged. No matter how often I try to convince myself I can "fix" them. Someone who doesn't view themselves as broken cannot be fixed.

And it's just my own ego that thinks they aren't feeling the exact same way about me. As someone broken who does not want to be fixed. I get that I am viewed as just as wrong as I view them. But it doesn't matter. This is a fundamental difference, not a superficial one.

Good Denise is all for understanding and listening and being calm.
Bad Denise needs to step in sometimes and say fuck that shit, we are cleaning house.


Anger can be a good thing. Fire can purify. Clarity comes with the burning away of other thoughts. And ego can be one of those things burned away. That's a good thing.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Amazed but not surprised...

When people tell you who they are pay attention. I've said it over and over and over again. It is one of those life advice pieces that when you hear it it's like a bell rings and clarity comes over you and there is no going back. (Thank you, Maya Angelou, for ringing the bell)

Our president told everyone who he was over and over again. And people declined to believe him. Even people on the left who couldn't stand him assumed he wasn't as awful as he was "pretending" to be. Yes, yes he is that awful. He told you who he was. He showed you who he was. And yet there are people who assumed he was a decent human being under there. Somewhere.

Does this past weekend and today cement it for everyone that he isn't? That he is horrific. That he is a nightmare. That he is a disgrace to the country.

I wish it would.

It won't.

Not for everyone.

There are already people defending him. People who want to both sides everything that they can. But when Nazis are involved there are no both sides. There just aren't.

A woman died. That wasn't both sides. That was one side ramming in to her with a car and killing her. And wounding like 19 other people so it could have been an even higher body count.

If you have 16 minutes click through to the video of the press conference from today and watch it.

Watch him repeatedly talk about "the night before" and how great it was. The night before, in case the death on Saturday wiped it from you mind, was when Richard Spencer led a group through the University of Virginia with their torches held high chanting, "Jews will not replace us!" and "Blood and Soil!" This is our president's idea of a fine peaceful rally. Nazis in khakis.

The whole idea of white supremacy and Nazi brandishing flags is violent. That's before the car. What they want to do, they want a white country. All white. And no Jews. And no gays. And no women who aren't having babies. (Yes, this is also a thing. It as their reasoning that it wasn't a big deal that Heather Heyer was killed because she was a drag on society, being unmarried with no kids) The people you saw in the news clips that looked like riot police? They weren't. They were there with the Nazis. Full battle gear and multiple guns. It is a violent ideology and they were looking for a fight.

I'm going to leave this link here, if you have 20 minutes watch the piece Vice did on the event. This is who Trump says are some really fine people that were there.

This wasn't a political differences rally. This was a white supremacist rally. Because of the freedoms we all enjoy they get to have their rallies. But because of the freedoms we all enjoy we need to remember who they are and what they want and stop them from making headway. Even if our president doesn't agree.

And for fuck's sake listen to him this time. He is telling you who he is. He is telling you who he sides with. He is telling you what he wants. Pay attention.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lost Poem...






I wanted to write a poem.

I chased the rhyme

I looked for the rhythm


I fought with the flow

I wanted to write a poem

I looked at the roses


I watched the clouds


I sang all the songs in my head

I wanted to write a poem

I wanted to write a poem

I wanted to write a poem

I gave up and wrote this instead


Friday, August 4, 2017

Family Health History...

She didn't notice when the bleeding started.

Okay, that's not right. Of course she noticed. She just didn't worry.

One day she looked down at her pinky and saw blood. She figured she must have gotten a paper cut or a scratch or something and just not noticed. She washed her hands and waited for the sting that would let her know where the cut was. There was no sting. Odd. But not really, she had a really high pain threshold. The blood rinsed down the drain in a swirl of red to pink. She looked at her finger and couldn't see anything wrong so she went on with her day. And forgot about it. Mostly.

Until a few days later when it happened again. This time while she was washing the blood away she noticed the corner of her fingernail was loose. Well that explained the bleeding. She had damaged her nail bed somehow and must keep catching the fingernail on things reopening the wound. It still didn't didn't hurt, not one bit. Not when she lifted it, not when she pressed it back down, not when she trimmed off the loose edge to keep it from catching. No pain at all. And no more bleeding after she rinsed it off.

Until a few days later. Then there was a lot more blood. This time the whole nail came off while she washed her hands. Just peeled away and floated in the sink. She guessed it was time for the doctor.

Dr. Google told her it was nothing to worry about, she had just caused some trauma to the nail bed and the nail would grow back. Which was a huge relief. Until Dr. Google told her that it was obviously skin cancer. Wasn't that always the way with Dr. Google? It was either all okay, or it was cancer. So she called her real life doctor and made an appointment.

.......

"No pain at all?"

"Nope. I mean I can feel that you are pressing on it, and it feels a little weird since it's skin now instead of a fingernail, but there is no pain."

"And the bleeding..."

"Yeah, I would notice it was bleeding and as soon as I rinsed it away it would stop. Even when the nail came loose completely there was no extra blood."

"Hmm...I'm going to run some tests and look at your white cell count, and I'm going to take a skin sample and check for a fungal infection. I don't think that's it because you don't seem to have any of the traditional symptoms with that but basically I'm going to rule things out until we can find what this is."

"So you're stumped?"

"For now.  Let's go ahead and do a quick body scan while you are here and make sure you don't have any other areas with unidentified wounds." Her doctor open a drawer in the bottom of the examining table and pulled out a dressing gown. "I'll step out so you can slip this on."

She slipped out of her shoes and stared at her feet. The left sock was soaked in blood. Well that couldn't be good. She finished undressing and left the bloody sock on for her doctor to look at. Since there was no pain she could only imagine that when she took the sock off there would be a loose toenail as well.

Which is sort of what happened.

Her doctor came back in the room and stopped, "I take it that foot wasn't bleeding earlier?"

"Nope, I had no idea it was at all until I slipped off my shoe. I figured I would leave it alone until you came back in so you could see what I meant." She slipped her sock off and her foot was covered in blood. It had to have all come from the pinky toe. Or where her pinky toe had been this morning when she had put her socks on. She turned the sock inside out and PLOP out dropped the tiny little toe. Fresh nail polish from her last pedicure still perfectly in place.

Her doctor paled. "Well that's not good, is it?"

"I wouldn't think so but you're the doctor so you tell me." She tried to joke but this was surely something bad now, when your doctor loses her poker face it's never a good sign. The lack of feeling still made it seem unreal. But her toe was definitely not attached to her foot anymore.

She was admitted to the hospital that day.

There were a lot of test. Leprosy being the first concern even though she didn't have any of the lesions typically associated with the disease. Just when body parts start dropping off people leap to leprosy. Leaping Leprosy! She laughed out loud at her own joke. Which made everyone stare at her. A friendly nurse said something about the painkillers making her loopy before realizing she wasn't on any. There was no need. Even though the toe was gone, or technically, toes; she had lost another one at some point during the admissions procedures, she felt no pain.

The tested her blood sugar. Diabetic necrosis maybe? Nope. No trace at all of diabetes. Not that they really thought there would be. Losing a toe isn't the normal first sign, after all. Screens and more screens. Her white blood cell count was normal. No signs of infection. She was a little anemic, but with all the random bleeding that seemed logical.

Logical. Parts of her body were falling off and she was still looking for the logical things.

She called her father, he was a worrier so she debated making the call. Her mother had been out of their lives since she was a very small child so it was just the two of them. He had been a helicopter parent since before there was even a term for it. But she knew if she didn't call he would be furious. Especially since she had just lost the pointer finger of her right hand. "First off, I'm fine so don't worry, but I'm in the hospital."

.....

"I don't know what is wrong. They are running tests."

.....

"I had some unexplained bleeding."

.....

"What?"

.....

"Four so far...Wait...why would you even ask that?"

.....

"Wait, don't hang up! I want you to talk to the doc...."

Her father had shouted he was on his way and had hung up the phone. But not before asking her how many body parts she had lost. So apparently this wasn't a completely unique situation.

More doctors came in and examined her. An entire cadre of medical students was ushered in at one point. Her symptoms presented to them like a test. She shouted out, "It's lupus!" and got a round of laughter. Apparently House was a favorite among these kids too. But nobody really had any good ideas. So more blood was drawn, more poking, more questions. And she waited for her father.

He got there the next morning.

"How was your flight?"

"I drove. I thought it would be just as fast since I could leave right then. And this way I can stay. I should have never let you move out here in the first place. I should have kept you with me."

Every discussion with her father started the same way. No matter what else was going on it was always about her leaving first then whatever else was going on next. "First off, you didn't let me do anything. Growing up and moving out is what people do, Dad. But more importantly, why did you ask about losing body parts? That's not a normal thing to ask. Has it happened to you? Do you know what causes it?"

Her doctor came in to the room at that point. "Dr. Addison, this is my father, Dad, Dr. Addison. I think he has some information that could be helpful."

Her father reached out to shake Dr. Addison's hand. "Nice to meet you. I...well..."

"Nice to meet you as well, I wish it were under different circumstances. I must say your daughter is an amazing woman. I have never seen a patient hold themselves together so well under such trying circumstances."

At this her father burst out in to tears."I should be the one holding her together! She should be with me!"

Dr. Addison reach out and patted him on the shoulder. "I know, it's so difficult when our children..."

"NO!" Her father yelled and stepped about from the doctor, "Do not comfort me. This is my fault. When her mother fell apart I should have been firmer about her staying close to me. I knew it was a risk and yet I let her leave..."

"Dad...you are not responsible for Mom and you are not responsible for me either. I'm sorry, Dr. Addison, my mother had a break down when I was a small child and left us all alone. My father has always felt guilty that I didn't have a mother. I never blamed him, she is the one who left, but he has always carried that burden. I'm afraid my getting sick is bringing out a lot of old issues."

"NO! This is my fault. I should have cleared up the misunderstanding when you were younger but it was so much easier not to. So much better..."

"What misunderstanding?"

"When I told you that your mother fell apart I meant that she fell apart. She. Fell. Apart. It wasn't a breakdown, she didn't leave you voluntarily, she fell apart. I made a mistake and she fell apart."

Dr. Addison looked puzzled, "Are you saying that your wife had these same symptoms? Do you know what caused them?"

He shook his head.

"You don't know?"

Tears started streaming down his face and he shook his head again. "I did it. I made a mistake. I shouldn't have given in to her, but I loved her. What else could I do? She made me so happy. She only wanted one thing and how could I, of all people, deny her that one thing?"

"I'm sorry, sir, but I don't understand. What do you mean you did it? Was it a virus?"

He shook his head again. "No, it was a child. She wanted a child. I let her make a child. Let us make a child. I shouldn't have...I knew it wasn't right...but I had no idea...."

She watched her father crying and the doctor struggling to understand what he was saying. "Dad? What are you trying to say? Make a child? Do you mean me? Was Mom too sick to have children?"

He shook his head again and the tears came even harder. "No...she wasn't sick. She was whole. She was just the way I had dreamed her to be. But I let her have too much freedom. I shouldn't have. My mentor told me it was a mistake, he told me that a Golem is only as weak as their Master is strong, and I was too weak for her. She was too strong for me. But what we did, it wasn't...it wasn't...she didn't have enough to give to a child and keep for herself and so she fell apart. She couldn't hold herself together. She tried..."

Dr. Addison stepped out of the room at this point. No doubt going to call for a psych evaluation for her father. A month ago she would have thought the same thing. But now? Four, oh wait, is that another finger gone? Five, body parts later? She thought she finally understood. Things from her childhood finally made sense. The complete lack of baby pictures, it was as if she had come in to being at age 4. The way her brain worked differently than everyone else's. Just always a little detached. Examining a situation as much as experiencing it. And her father's insistence that she always stay with him? The constant hovering. The perpetual worry. "That's why I don't really feel things, isn't it? I mean when I fell and broke my arm in 6th grade everyone thought I was so brave, but I really couldn't feel the pain. The doctors were amazed but I really didn't hurt. And that's why I don't bleed much isn't it? You made me. I'm half Mom and half you, right? I'm not human. Not all of me."

He bowed his head and put his face in his hands.

"Dad? Look at me. Can you fix this?"

He kept his head down.

"Dad? Look at me. Dad. Seriously, look at me."

He finally raised his head to meet her gaze. "Dad? Can you fix this?"

"No....it's too late. Once the binding wears off it's just time. I was afraid after your mother fell apart that you would follow immediately, but you lasted...lived...so then I thought you would live as long as I did. But I should never have let you leave me. I should never have trusted that distance wouldn't matter. I should have..."

She smiled and reached for her father, "You weren't strong enough to control my mother, and I'm sorry but I am my mother's child so you didn't stand a chance."

He started to cry again.

"Dad, you need to leave. Dr. Addison heard you talking about golems and is going to try and get you committed. You know that right? You need to leave now."

He didn't. He stayed by her side. It was the least he could do. It was what he had done for her mother. It took a week. In the end she was in quarantine and there were no more tests. She just fell apart, piece by piece until there was no more of her left.

And when she was gone he fell apart as well.



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August is for Deep Thoughts...And Cake.

It's August! Birthday month is here! Yay!

As you all know I tend to get really self reflective (even more than my normal) during August and September. Another year on the planet makes me think about the past and September always makes me think of new beginnings so it's my most questioning time of year. Or at least self questioning.

It's usually when I start working on new goals and wrap up old ones. Though I've gone traditional now with new year and new goals just to make it easier. But I still am prone to weeding out the things that aren't working and trying new things during the end of summer beginning of fall.

Right now I'm looking at time management.

I love being retired.

I love not having to answer to a clock.

I love being able to shift my schedule around what needs done, or what I feel like doing rather than having a HAVE to staring at me.

But...

It makes me a little crazy as well.

One of the truisms in my life is that I take vacations to have something to do. I plan out what we are doing, I schedule all sorts of events and activities, I am super busy. Because I can do the traditional lay around doing nothing "vacation" as my normal day. But as Brent has discovered, I don't really do that well either. When I am home, even if I am reading something I want to finish, like that GIANT book I finally finished yesterday, I tend to get up and wander every so often. Or I pick up my phone and check the news. Or I stop and watch a little something on TV. Or I get up and do dishes. Or laundry. Or...on and on...I fidget. I pace. I wander.

Basically I'm not fully focusing on anything. I'm acting like a neurotic dog without a job.

Which then makes me think I should probably get a job. I don't need to have a job. We can afford for me not to have a job. But if I got a job I could put all of the money away in savings and then when Brent retires as well we would have more of a cushion. Which makes sense.

Then I think about the actuality of getting a job and remember how much I love not having one. And I also have been out of the work force for long enough that the jobs available to me aren't really appealing.

And around we go again.

The other big piece is that I want time to write. And a 9-5 doesn't really do that. I went years and years not writing at all. Just telling stories for fun, but always orally, but no writing anything down. I am not one of those incredible people who can work all day, take care of the things that need done at home and then sit down and pour out a story before bed. It's not in my makeup. But when I don't write I feel less than. I want to write. I want to tell a story. I want to share a viewpoint. And not having a job frees me up to write.

When I do it.

Because sitting down to write is also one of those wandery things. I look at Facebook, I get up, I wander around, I stare out the window, I open and close two different writing platforms while I decided where I want to write that day...I waste a lot of time.

Now part of the solution search this year was exchanging work with Dana. It was a big fix because I was in a huge slump at the end of last year. I wasn't really writing much at all. I was dry of ideas. I was feeling a bit like it was time to pack up my bags and quit. Dana wasn't having it and rode in to rescue me, and to force herself to finish a long term project as well. But we've pretty much run the course of that. She is thisclose to finishing and I have discovered (lie, I already knew this, I just reinforced it) that if I am given a deadline for a project I will most likely just work on that project and do it the day before it's due. So I have been writing. But not consistently. Just enough to pass. But it did break me out of the dry spell. Having a due date, having someone expecting a piece from me, helped break the log jam and get the words flowing again. I just need to change up how I am managing them.

So now I will focus on pushing Dana across her finish line. Realizing that Muse will sit with Practical Magic on the "long stories aren't really my thing" shelf. And try to figure out how best to focus my writing. I am really leaning toward blocks of uninterrupted time. Say everyday for 3 hours I am unavailable for anything else and all I do is write. Deep work. No switching gears at all. No disrupting the flow. Then seeing where that leads. I will still have the freedom to decide what to write in that time frame. Is it a blog? Is it a short story? Is it a longer piece? Is it poetry? (Sorry, Skip) But daily, sitting down and just writing. Or if not daily then a certain number of days each week.

Or is it a numbers thing? Instead of a certain amount of time I sit down and write a certain number of words each day? Some days that would be super easy and some days it would be torture. I'm thinking time over number...

Yeah, probably that.

So August is for deep thoughts and new plans.

Three more #selfiesaturdays until the end of this year...what will I come up with for 49?


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tie it Together...

I realized that I forgot to tell you a "funny" story about the cruise in yesterday's blog. And then when I was thinking about it I realized it actually kind of ties Friday's blog and yesterday's blog together.

So in Skagway when we were headed for the sled dog tour we took a little tour bus to get to the camp. Brent and I were sitting waiting to go when this big guy got on the bus. He had a toddler and was trying to figure out where to put the stroller. There was a guy sitting behind us who had an empty seat next to him and the guy put the stroller there. The guy said, "Excuse me, that seat is taken. I'm waiting for someone."

Big guy says, "Yeah, it's taken by the stroller."

Guy behind us quietly says, "No, really, it's taken."

Big guy grabs the diaper bag from his wife and puts it with the stroller. "Yep, these are your best friends now."

Guy behind us, sounding really distraught, "It's taken..."

Big guy starts to walk back to his seat.

Mouthy woman sitting next to Brent, "No seriously, he says that seat is taken."

Guy behind us, "Oh no! Sorry! We're together, it's okay!"

Everyone laughs. Seems like Big Guy, Wife, Baby, Old Couple next to us and guy behind us are all one family. Oh whoops! We joked about it a bit and I told him he did a very convincing distraught. (I didn't mention Big Guy did a really convincing bully as well; my guess is that's the normal family dynamic, brother-in-law picks on wife's little brother).

Guy behind us, "Thank you though."

When we were done with the tour and headed back down to the ship he was sitting across the aisle from us and said, "Can you believe my friend never showed up?" Patting the stroller and bag next to him again.

"How rude." I replied.

Then he said, "But, really, thank you though. I think the world needs more defenders."

"You were very convincing and should pick up your Emmy when we get back to the ship. I thought you really were upset. I would be the beacon of hope person on the What Would You Do show with John Quinones. I'm not the sit quietly by type."

So now I will feature in that family's vacation story for ever. Remember the crazy lady on the bus who was going to take out Bubba? She was not having it at all. Crazy...

And this is where it ties to Friday's blog. As much as I would like to step back out quietly. To ignore the world as it goes on around me, I'm just not built that way. I am the one who's going to say, "Hey, wait, I don't think that's right." I am the one who ignores the size difference between me and the bully and only hears the sadness in the bullied's voice. If I can do something I will. Even if it's just to say, "No, that's not right."

So as much as I am tired of shouting in to the wind at times, it's not like I can help but do it. It is who I am.

I am the crazy lady on the bus.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Cruisin'....

Okay, so we've been home a week and I've had time to think about the whole experience and decide what I really thought about the cruise.

First off, for those of you that didn't know, I have wanted to take and Alaskan cruise for as long as I can remember. It's been one of the those big list items. I've been working on checking those off recently and this was a major one. But I was still worried about it. The newly gained seasick issue from the past couple years was the biggest worry. And the fact that it's still been random. Not on the sunset cruise, not on the Christmas ship cruise, not on one snorkeling trip but on another. And when it hits it's BAD. I wouldn't wish it on pretty much anyone.

So yeah, I was worried. And I was worried enough that I decided not to do any small boat site seeing while we were on the cruise just in case. I figured if the big ship didn't make me nauseated that was great, I shouldn't push it with a little boat then back on the big ship. So I made allowances. And I also got a lot of advice from my friends who cruise as to where my room should be and what to bring along just in case I got queasy.

It ended up just fine. Not even a hint of seasickness. We could feel the ship rocking at different points but it wasn't much. So that was great.


Now it could be that to get a ship this size rocking enough to make me sick it would have to be bad weather, like REALLY bad weather. But I'll take it. And there were a lot of people on board sporting the little dots behind their ears and one woman we saw in one of the shops on board who was already sick and we hadn't even left port in Seattle yet. Eek!

So anyway, the first hurdle was an easy one. No seasickness. Calm enough that if I had known ahead of time we would have done a small boat tour or two. Oh well! Lessons!

The next piece we were worried about was the actual time at sea. As many of you who have followed my vacations in the past know, I'm not really good about just sitting still. If I am visiting someplace I might not get back to I want to see as much as I can and do as much as I can so I schedule tours, hikes, dives, drives, restaurants...I fill our days. I've gotten a little better about scheduling open blocks of time to do whatever as well, but it's not my preference. If you are a lay by the pool kind of vacationer I would drive you nuts. So we were worried.

And we were a little right to worry. I did get a little bored on the first at sea day. I drug Brent to a few lectures and the glass show and we watched a live stream of the Gold Cup game but I was pretty antsy by the end of the day. It just wasn't very vacationy to me to sit still and do nothing. Even with a great view off of our balcony. I tried not to make Brent crazy. I really did.

And I figured it out a bit by our last day out to sea. I packed a bag, went to my favorite spot on the ship and spent the day looking for wildlife and reading and taking pictures and counting down the hours until we pulled in to Victoria.

The ports of call were interesting though I would choose different tours now. The snorkeling in Ketchikan I would not change. Even though it wasn't the best snorkeling ever as far as visibility goes, it was a great experience. And I love being able to say I went snorkeling in Alaska.
Like aliens underwater..

The wet suits really worked, but it was SO difficult to get on I almost gave up. There was a point in the dressing room where I was trying to get the suit over my hips and butt that I thought, I'm going to have to go out and tell Brent to go ahead without me because my 10 pounds of mud will not fit in this 5 pound sack...It was a little disheartening for sure. But then I got it to move an inch and had help with the zipper to get my boobs contained and I was ready! I walked like a Barbie with non-bending joints, but I was in! And like I said, it really did the trick. We've been colder snorkeling in Hawaii for sure. So if you like to snorkel I recommend this, just for the experience if nothing else.

Ketchikan was also the closest we got to bears on the trip. I had really been hoping to see bears in the wild. I had my binoculars trained on the waterfalls and coast line just waiting for a bear sighting the whole trip...and nothing. But we did see this:
These headless fish were bear snacks. We didn't know it when I was down there taking pictures. We were trying to figure out why in the world someone would take the fish heads and leave the rest. Our hiking guide in Juneau told us that the fish are so plentiful that the bears get a little wasteful. They like the brains and the eggs the best so they will eat those and leave the rest. These were really fresh so we missed seeing a bear by probably too close for what I really wanted my bear encounter to be. So maybe a good thing we didn't see any bears.

In Juneau the tour we took was a different one than what I thought I was getting. I thought we were actually hiking to Mendenhall Glacier and would be able to walk out on the glacier. Going back and re-reading the description of the hike I can see where it was wasn't, and also see that it was pretty closely phrased to sure seem like it was. Now, don't get me wrong, it was a gorgeous hike and it was a challenging hike, which was a nice counter to the 24 hour access to food, but it wasn't exactly what I thought I was in for. It's very hard to be upset with views like this, though:
Mendenhall Glacier 

The lady in the ice...

Mendenhall Lake

But I do know if I want to hike on the glacier or the ice fields I will need to take a helicopter tour next time. But then it's only about 15 minutes on the glacier itself. So there are trade offs for sure.

Now, I should back up. Before we pulled in to Juneau we went through the Endicott Arm and saw the Dawes Glacier. It was an early morning, we were up and in the Sky Lounge planted in front of my favorite window before 5 AM. And the whole morning was exactly what I had pictured in my head when I dreamed of taking an Alaskan cruise. It was awe inspiring. 

 Dawes Glacier

A hanging glacier. That means it's not attached directly to a body of water. Our naturalist also said this one didn't have a name so we were free to name it after ourselves. Mastenbrook Glacier sounds pretty impressive right?

I loved watching the ice in the water as well.

Harbour seals, humpback whales, ice flows, birds, glaciers, water falls, it was all just gorgeous. A wonderful morning. 

So on to Skagway...

Everyone says to ride the train in Skagway. But everyone didn't tell me that until after I had already booked our outing so we didn't. Next time. We went and saw the sled dogs. It was, again, not exactly what I had expected. Instead of a small sledge with some sort of wheels that would mimic a winter sledge we were in this giant holds six people and the musher contraption. I thought we would actually work with the sled dogs a little and learn a bit about how to be a musher. It was much more touristy than that. Though these were really sled dogs teams who do work during the winter. But it wasn't exactly what I had been thinking. I was a little disappointed but only a little. I mean I got to spend time with these guys and give them ear scratches:



And the tour ends with this:

So you know, how could you be disappointed really?

Victoria was our last stop and we originally weren't going to do any tours because we were going to have just been there. But when sabbatical got moved our trip to Victoria got pushed as well so we did a short two hour overview tour. Victoria is gorgeous and I'm looking forward to going back and actually exploring it a bit. The tour? Not so great. But again, it was a last minute add and we were probably just expecting too much. We've done tours of other cities before that were in smaller vehicles with more stops and more information about the town and I think that's what we were expecting. This was a giant bus and a driver who talked a lot and said very little. 


But it is gorgeous and we are looking forward to going back. We also checked housing prices while we were there...no reason...

Let's see, what else? We played a fun game called "who bought the drink package?" I swear there were people that were trying to make sure they got their money's worth on that before we ever left Seattle. Crazy. The food was okay. Not bad, not good, just okay. But it was plentiful. You could always find something to eat if you wanted to. And I think that a lot of cruise weight gain for people is that if you get bored you can go get something to eat. I know we did it a couple of times. "Let's grab a snack." The room was decent. Not terribly small and the bathroom was actually much bigger than I thought it would be. Now, that doesn't mean it was big, just bigger than I thought it would be. The bed was not very comfortable and the pillows missed being pillow like, so that was a bummer. The shows were not for us. We came up with a new comedy level. Cruise ship funny. Not a comedian we would pay to see off the ship but he was cruise ship funny... That was the second guy. The first guy we didn't go see his second show. He wasn't even cruise ship funny.

The smaller musical groups were better than the big productions. They had a string duet that was lovely. And an acoustical guitar duo that was really nice. The "house band" was a decent bar band. But the big productions were not great. We saw one that was supposed to be about Mozart called Amade and it was...well...the best I could figure was it was written by a guy who had heard of Hamilton and thought if he put someone in a powdered wig and had them sing Katy Perry it would TOTALLY be the same thing...It wasn't.  I think if we had bought the drink package we might have liked it better, so really that's on us.
I wasn't sure what I thought of the overall experience when I got home. We liked the things we thought we would like (great scenery, easy transportation), we didn't like the things we didn't think we would like (boredom and crowds), so at least we know ourselves very well. The thing that has made me laugh is every night since we've come home I've dreamed about being on a ship so obviously my brain was still processing the trip.

I think we will cruise again. We don't care for the actual cruising part as much, though ironically, two of my favorite days were sailing days (Endicott Arm and sailing in to Victoria looking at TONS of wildlife). But being out to sea if there was nothing to look at would be super boring after a short while. The part that will bring us back is we did really like how easy it was to get places. We saw four cities without having to pack and re-pack. We were able to relax during the transit instead of deal with TSA and small airplane seats and tiny bathrooms. So I think we will do it again. I think we will upgrade to the level where you have access to other restaurants and areas of the ship so we can avoid some of the crowds and maybe get a more comfortable bed. And we will be sticking to cruises with lots of ports of call. It gives an overview of an area and if you want to go back and spend a week someplace you could on your next vacation. I even think we will cruise to Alaska again someday. The next time we will go farther north and see more glaciers and bears dammit...we will see some bears!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Blinded by the Light...

He was trying to sleep in but it was too bright. The light kept flashing in his face. He opened his eye just a crack and saw her. She was standing by the window very slowly opening the blinds. She saw him looking at her and her face broke open in to a wide grin. "Oh! You're awake!"

"Seriously?"

She gave him her best cheesy grin and bounded over to the bed jumping on the mattress next to him. "Would you believe I was closing the blinds?"

"No."

"Would you believe I was just standing next to the window minding my own business?"

"No."

"Would you believe I have been awake for HOURS waiting for you to wake up and couldn't take it anymore?"

"Hours?"

"Well it seemed like hours. Let's go with hours for sure."

He laughed, "Okay, hours."

"If we get cleaned up and then go to breakfast we will be ready right when they open."

"When who opens?"

"You know who!"

"Oh, were you planning on doing that today? I thought maybe we would..." WHAP! The pillow hit his face before he could finish. "Oh really? Is that how we are going to play this?"

He sat up and grabbed a pillow of his own and the fight was on. The pillow fight turned in to a wrestling match which then turned in to ... well they were a little later getting out of bed than her original plan. 

.......

"That one! Oh can we see that one?"

The shelter attendant smiled and handed her the smallest puppy in the pen. The attendant knew that they were going home with a dog today. This was no "just looking" trip. So she would gladly hand them puppies for as long as it took.

"Hey, hon?"

She turned around still snuggling the little dog. "Yeah?"

"How about this guy?"

She handed the puppy back to the shelter worker and walked over to the kennel he was standing near. Inside was the goofiest looking dog she had ever seen. One ear up, one flopped over, a huge black spot on his face that covered one ear and eye and that was sort of in the shape of a certain Disney character. The dog was sitting quietly watching them both. Tail wagging and, she would swear this was true in any court of law, a huge grin on its face. 

"He's a year old, so not technically a puppy, but it says he's already house trained so that would be nice."

She looked at the dog sitting patiently and back at her husband. "You already love him don't you?"

"I'm pretty sure his name is Mickey."

She laughed and looked back one last time at the pen of little fuzz balls, oh well, maybe their next dog would be a puppy. "Wasn't Mickey your dog when you were growing up? Yes, I'm pretty sure that means you already love him." She caught the shelter worker's attention, "Can we take him out for a visit?"

........

They were in the park with Mickey playing fetch. He was the best at fetch. They were both pretty sure he played because he thought they loved it. He would sit and wait for the ball to be thrown, watching it sail through the sky and then as it started on its downward arc he would take off at full speed always getting there just in time to catch it out of the air. He was amazing! They had been so lucky to get this dog. They had been so lucky in so many things really.

Mickey came back with the ball and dropped it in his lap. "How about some lunch now?" He reached out and ruffled Mickey's ears then turned to unpack the picnic basket. She was sitting on the edge of the blanket watching him. "A man and his dog."

He smiled. "A man and his family."

She shifted the baby she was feeding to her other breast and sighed, "It's a beautiful day. It couldn't get any better."

He tilted his head to the sun and smiled. The light flashing in his face. 

......

They tried again. Prying open first one eye and then the other. The pen size flash light blinking in his eyes. "Pupils are nonreactive. Unable to revive heart or lung function. Time of death... 8:09 PM." The doctor stepped away from the hospital bed. "Have we found any next of kin information?"


One of the medical assistants stepped forward, "His wife died in child birth just last year and the baby didn't make it. He was all alone."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What are you trying to say??

The Universe is talking to me again. The problem is that it's telling me two different stories so I have no idea what it's really trying to say...

When we were on our cruise we bought the internet package for Brent. Any of you that are friends with him on Facebook can see from what he links that he reads a lot of newsy things. Those newsy things come daily as subscriptions. As we were going to spend our relaxation time reading we got the internet.

We figured out that I could use it as well, just not at the same time. So a few times a day I would log in and post a picture or my daily gratitude. I didn't stay on long. I was busy, it was keeping Brent off, I didn't really want to be. But I checked my notifications, anyone who was trying to talk to me I talked to. I posted those few things, I logged off. No big news. No reactions to big news.

The whole cruise was mostly politics free. There were a couple of over heard conversations but they all petered out as pretty much nobody wanted to spend their vacations thinking about politics.

I'm not going to lie. It was really nice.

In fact it was one of the first things Brent said when we got back. How nice it was to not hear about it all, all of the time.

We also spent time talking, as we do. And one of the things I talked about was feeling like I'm putting my energy in the wrong place. I'm investing too much of myself in things that I have no control over. For instance, politics. Like right now our Senate is getting ready to hold another vote on repealing our healthcare. I'm pretty sure this piece of legislation is going to pass. I also am more than sure that it's a bad idea. It's basically taking away a few sections of our current healthcare to make the ones that they keep worse. Premiums will jump. Planned parenthood will be defunded (understand that this is taking away medicare payments for health visits, abortion is already not funded). More people will be uninsured. It's a clusterfuck of massive proportions. And there is nothing I can do. I can't even FEEL like I'm doing something by calling my senators. My senators are already going to vote against it. But it will pass anyway. And I will watch as premiums rise and people are screwed.

And there is nothing I can do.

I've been reading my On This Day posts and lately they have been about the conventions from last year. It was through this time period that I was really starting to understand that a Trump presidency was more than a slight possibility. And I kept talking about it. And kept getting push back. From both sides. My conservative friends were convinced he wasn't what he was projecting. That he was just doing "a show" to get elected. My liberal friends were either sure he would lose, because come on, who would vote for him? Or, even more of them, wanted to argue about Bernie.

And I kept saying that anyone who was anti-Trump needed to vote in a way that made sure he wasn't elected.

And I kept getting told no.

Now here is where I think most of my friends were honest. I do think my conservative friends really thought that somehow he wasn't what he was presenting. Even though he was fully telling you who he was. They just couldn't believe it, so they didn't. Or they thought there was no way he was going to win, I mean, come on. That's crazy. Or if he did he would suddenly be hit with the enormity of the office and...umm...have a complete personality change?

My Bernie or Bust friends? Well I think they also honestly believed that Hillary would win. And then they could sit back and tsk tsk her but without any real consequence. "I am voting my conscience." "I will sleep well." Really? Because we are at the Or Bust part right now and A LOT of you are freaking out over what is happening. Though to be honest I don't see a lot of owning up. The Susan Sarandons, the Robert Reichs, the Shaun Kings of the world. The ones who gleefully promoted every piece of anti-Clinton news they could and then (in the case of the ones like Reich and King) couldn't understand why when they decided Clinton was okay their readers didn't. Sarandon held true to her or bust position the whole time. And still does. I roll my eyes.

Or bust sucks. And I just wish there was an admission that there was a mistake made somewhere. I get why there isn't. I really do. If you are a true believer and you make a mistake stepping back from it breaks a ledge you were standing on. All of a sudden you are on unstable footing. It takes too much to back off so you convince yourself that you are still on the moral high ground. You cannot possibly think that you did the wrong thing. You have invested too much in to the belief that you were right. If only people had listened...Bernie or Bust, man...

Healthcare. Military. LGBTQ rights. Russia. Chaos.

This is or bust.

Do I believe the Russians influenced the election? Oh yeah, I do. A lot of the or busters wanted to talk only about Wikileaks. Wikileaks worked with the Russians. So, yeah, they influenced the election. People voted 3rd party or didn't vote at all. Because her emails...because she was just as bad..because because because...And the whole time it was happening I was posting. PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO THE BIG PICTURE...

But the Republicans voted for him hoping he wasn't actually who he was saying he was. The liberals didn't vote or voted for someone who had no chance of winning. And here we are...

And here I am again. Posting in to the wind. I cannot affect change. And I feel like I'm putting energy out there that isn't worth it. I told Brent yesterday that I was pretty sure I was done. I wanted to live on a cruise ship. Or a beach with bad internet. I wanted to pretend that none of this was happening and just move on.

Then last night I got a message from a friend who wanted me to know how grateful they were for my yelling in to the wind. That it meant something to them.

I know it's just one voice. But I also know there are a few others out there that listen when I yell. So maybe I am not wasting my energy. Maybe I am making a difference in my corner of the world. Maybe this was a message to keep plugging. Or maybe it wasn't. Because it really seemed like I should be going in the other direction. The Universe keeps talking, I just wish it would be a little more clear.

There's a whole other whine about writing to go with this theme, but this is more than enough waaaa for you to deal with.



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Double Dipping...


"Did you seriously just double dip that chip?" Lori glared at Pete.

"I turned it. That's totally fine. It was a dip, bite, turn and dip."

"That is not fine, that's a double dip. That's not okay. Tell him that it's not okay." Lori made her case to the table.

"I think the turn and dip is probably okay, but I prefer the break off and dip in pieces." Carl shrugged.

"One dip per chip. You don't need every square inch of chip covered. One dip." Janine declared.

"Wait, so yours isn't a germ thing, it's a greed thing?" Lori asked.

"Not greed. Flavor balance. The chip needs to be appreciated for its chipness. To use it just as a dip delivery vehicle you might as well get a spoon."

"Okay...so we have a no way from me, a you can but you should do it differently from Carl and a foodie choice from Janine. What do you say?"

Amy shrugged her shoulders, "Didn't Myth Busters do a whole episode on this? Like they measured the germ level and decided that double dipping, even without a turn, was no big deal?"

"Not the point. Just because Myth Busters could blow it up afterward doesn't mean it's not gross. Aren't you grossed out by it?"

Amy shook her head, "Nope. Why should I be? We've all had our fingers all over the chips and the salsa all night and I only know when I last washed my own hands, not the rest of you. And even if you did wash your hands right when you got here, like I did, you've touched each other, the table, your glasses, your jeans, your arms, pretty much all over the place. Then you grabbed a chip brushing against the chips next to it and then possibly turned the chip to get the best possible dipping surface and putting the finger touched side in the bowl of salsa."

"Okay, now I'm grossed out by the whole idea of finger foods." Lori pushed her plate away.

"Why? That's my point. You've been sharing germs with us all along. It's not gross. It's actually good for you. People who are too worried about germs and bust out the hand sanitizer constantly have weak immune systems. Look it up."

Carl started laughing, "This is about the toothbrush isn't it?"

Amy shot him a dirty look, "No. It's about the chips. And how some people are really weird about germs when they are already covered in them and are FINE."

"Yeah, it's totally about the toothbrush."

"Okay, what about the toothbrush? Now I'm curious." Janine broke in.

"Yeah, me too. Forget the chips, now I want to know about toothbrushes." Pete added.

"If it's gross I don't want to hear about it."  Lori shook her head.

"Fine! Thanks, Carl, I'll now share with the group."

"Oh, that was going to happen eventually anyway." Carl smiled.

"Whatever. Steve and I are not dating anymore."

"Wait? What? You just started getting serious, right? What happened?" Now Lori was interested.

"I asked if I could use his toothbrush and he freaked out."

"Oh gross. You did not!" Lori was back to being disgusted.

"It's not that big of a deal."

"Apparently it is." Pete nodded toward Lori whose face was tightly scrunched.

"Okay, just like you are grossed about the thought of germs when it doesn't really happen you are grossed out about using someone's toothbrush when we had just had our tongues in each other's mouths. He had literally touched my teeth with his tongue. Among other body parts. We had sweated on and in each other. We had kissed and licked and...well it was really good sex, okay?

 So we are pretty much wallowing in each other's DNA, I want to take a shower and freshen up before we go grab some dinner and to be POLITE I ask if he minds if I use his toothbrush and he FREAKED out about how disgusting it was. When I tried to explain that it wasn't he just kept, well making that face." Amy pointed at Lori.

Janine snort laughed.

"So anyway, it ended up being a big fight we aren't dating anymore."

"And..." Carl waved his hand at her.

"And I might have licked his toothbrush as I was leaving anyway."

The friends all laughed. Except Lori. Who just pushed the chips farther away.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Absence...

So...yesterday I went hiking with my friend Marcy. Marcy is a unicorn. She's a Mormon Democrat. It's kind of amazing. I lived in Idaho for years and Intel recruits heavily from BYU and I'm pretty sure she's the only Mormon Democrat I've even known. That's actually why we are friends. She had a real lack of liberal friends and a mutual friend of ours (who is not liberal so couldn't fill the role) suggested she make friends with me. So I am her liberal friend. And because she's Mormon, she counts as one of my more conservative friends. Totally counts.

Anyway...while we were out hiking she asked me about some of my fictional stories and how they relate to my lack of religious belief. Because, as you all know, I often write stories where the undead aren't really gone. Souls, spirits, ghosts, they are all main characters in a lot of my writing. So she was curious, knowing that I don't consider myself religious, what I thought happened after we died.

I told her nothing. No, I didn't keep my opinion to myself, are you new here? I told her nothing happens. Nothing, that's what I believe probably happens. I always say probably. Or I believe. Because I don't know. Nobody knows. It's what keeps me on the agnostic side of the line though I lean pretty atheist.

But I believe that nothing happens. I believe that it's much like before you were born. You weren't here, then you were. When you die it's the same in reverse. You were here then you aren't. I have entertained ideas through my life that deal with energy and recreation and such things, but those are more due to my imagination and partly having a hard time dealing with letting go of the religious belief of more than anything else. I really do believe that this is life. Right now and right here, and after this we are done.

But I discovered yesterday that that is hard to explain. Or hard to explain in a way that is easy or acceptable. Religions give you something else. Some next. Either a new land, heaven, hell, reincarnation, limbo...something. But nothing? Nothing at all? Just absence of belief? That's a tough one to want to believe in. And I get that, I really do.

How do you tell a story about how to live your life that ends with...and then the lights went out. Click. Done.

People want more.

Most people.

Not me. I actually like the thought of nothing. I like that what I do right now matters not because of what might come next, or what reward I am getting or punishment I am avoiding but just because it matters right now. I like that my legacy is what I do and what I leave. The people I've touched in some way. My son and what he does with his life. My friends and any hearts or minds that I've changed in positive ways. Those are good things, but even the negative things. The people who would rather never hear my name again. I had an impact. I hope it's positive, even a negative interaction can lead to a positive direction.

But that is a really hard sell. There isn't a promise of pearly gates or streets of gold or a do-over in another body. There is no reward waiting for you. There is no carrot. There is also no stick. There is no purgatory waiting for you if you are so-so. There is no hell if you were a so and so. What are you living for if it's not for the end game? We've been conditioned to always be reaching for some prize. To be good because God is watching. To do the right thing because we will be judged. To say, I do the right thing because it's the right thing? I don't expect a reward. I don't expect to get anything out of it except that it was the right thing to do. It's not as easy to explain.

Another friend was surprised the other day that I don't believe in karma. Again, I will write about karma, and even say that karma will get someone. But one, that's not really how karma works, if you do believe in it. You can't really wish for someone to be "gotten" by karma. That would be bad for you karmically...ANYWAY...even though I use the figure of speech, I do not believe that there is some great cosmic justice system out there waiting to punish you if you do something wrong. Now I do believe that you get what put out there, which is karma in a broad sense. But the reason why I believe you get what you put out there is because there is nothing else that would make sense. If I'm an asshole people are going to tend to be assholes back to me. If I'm a decent person, the same is going to happen.

That's not really karma, or supernatural, or religious, or what ever. That's just human nature. But actual karma? Nope.

I can't believe in it because we've all see too many instances where really bad people have really great things happen for them. So where was karma again? Just taking the day off?

And I have the same issue with God. To believe in a supreme deity who has his own book (or books depending on your faith) I would need to believe in that book and his omnipotence. The book contradicts itself. The book has stories that do not make sense if you take them literally. And shows a pretty heartless God if you do. And, again, the world is currently full of really shitty things happening to people who don't deserve them. So you have to take all of that in stride and tuck it away in to the "God works in mysterious ways" folder and move along.

I find it easier to say no.

To believe that there is no broken karmic system.

To believe there is no indifferent to the suffering of starving and dying children God.

That when we are done the world will weigh what we left and how we are remembered but we are done. Lights out. Click.

But until that switch is flipped I am here. I am responsible for my actions. I am able to influence people. I am able to make the world around me a better place in small ways and sometimes in larger ways. It's all on me. Not for later. For now. Before the click. I would say that's better than nothing but...

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Wake and Bake...

When the Rock Star died the world mourned. It was a public mourning. And a private one. Because he wasn't just a rock star. He was a person. With friends and family who loved him. But because he was also the Rock Star he had adoring fans who loved him as well.

He had met the Rock Star at a wake, oddly enough. Not the normal place you would think to meet a rock star but this wake had been for the Rock Star's father, who was like a grandfather to his wife, so they met at the wake.

He had met the Rock Star's father a few months earlier. He hadn't even realized that he was the Rock Star's father at the time. He was just a friend of his wife. A close family friend. Like he said, like a grandfather actually. The Rock Star's father had been in hospice care in London. He and his wife were there on their honeymoon and she wanted to make sure they stopped in for a visit. She knew it wasn't the most romantic of things but the Rock Star's father had been too sick to make the wedding and it was important to her that they meet. That he had a chance to know her loved ones at least briefly.

He had been worth the visit. He regaled them with stories of his childhood. Of the way things used to be. Then he shared stories about his wife's childhood. Which gave him more insight in to how wonderful she was. She had always been wonderful to hear the Rock Star's father tell it. And his wife obviously adored him. As they said their goodbyes his wife and the Rock Star's father held hands and gazed in to each other's eyes for a very long time. Both of them knowing that this would probably be the last time they would see each other. He was very ill.

When he died a few months later and they made plans to go to the wake, they had just been to London and he wasn't sure how they were going to afford the trip back. But tickets arrived. First class tickets. "I knew it might be a stretch." The Rock Star had sent them. They were met at the airport by a driver who took them to a hotel they could not afford. The Rock Star again. His wife shrugged her shoulders, "Family comes when called, I would have been here anyway, but it's nice of him to make sure we could make it."

They dressed in black for the wake. But each with a purple scarf. It was the Rock Star's fathers favorite color. And she had packed something purple to wear each day of the weekend. Mourning colors should honor those being mourned was her belief.

A call came to the room announcing their ride. They arrived at The Rock Star's manor. You couldn't call it a house. Not really. It was grand. He tried not to stare open mouthed but he couldn't help it. The Rock Star greeted them at the door. "Thank you for coming. It's good to have family here." Then he turned to Eddie, "I am sorry I missed the wedding, I wish we could have met in better circumstances." He leaned in very close to the both of them and whispered, "Don't eat the brownies." His wife smiled and nodded. As the Rock Star walked away he turned to her, "I guess they are a bit special."

The wake was unlike anything he had ever seen. So many people were there. His wife spent most of her time with the Rock Star and his sisters. He spent most of his with an old photo album. The Rock Star's father had been a photographer in his day and he had told them stories of some of these photos. To see them now was incredible. He could hear his gravelly voice telling the stories about the people in them. There were shots of his wife as a child as well. Those he lingered over the longest. The Rock Star came and sat with him for a bit. "I am so sorry about the loss of your father. I only met him once, but he was so very kind to me and Karen adored him." The Rock Star patted his knee, "It meant a lot to him that you came. He was broken up that he couldn't make the wedding so to come on your honeymoon to visit a dying old codger made him feel like a king." They both teared up a bit and then pretended to get absorbed in the photos again.

"I remember when he took that one. That's at the country house. But..Karen spent the whole day picking flowers and making giant arrangements with them. Da never had the heart to tell her they were just weeds. But after she left he never let anyone pull them up again. They were her wildflowers and her meadow from that point on. They loved each other."

The wake went on and turned to more and more of a free for all party. They said their goodbyes and made plans to see the family again at the private entombment of the ashes. The Rock Star glowered at the crowd. "Most of them couldn't be bothered to come visit him when he was sick but here they are enjoying my free booze and my free food. They didn't want to be a part of him when he was living..." they hugged the Rock Star as tightly as they could.

And now the Rock Star had died. He was packing a bag when one of his daughters came in to the room. "When do we leave?"

"In the morning."

She was holding on to her phone. There were a lot of stories being written about the Rock Star as the world mourned him. She wanted to ask about one. The one about his father. "Is it true that he snorted his father's ashes?"

He stopped packing for a moment and tried to decide what to tell her. She knew about drug use. She knew about excesses. But he wasn't sure if she should know about this.

"What does the article say?"

"It says it was always a rumor, that he had said he did something special with part of the ashes but that was all he would say."

"Then we should let it be all he has to say. How about that?"

She thought about it a little bit. "I'll ask Aunt Libby."

He laughed and went back to packing.

Yes, he did something special with the ashes.

Don't eat the brownies. "...they didn't want to be a part of him when he was living. Now he gets to be a part of them."

Friday, June 30, 2017

Comfortable in Her Own Skin...

Janet walked by the shop window looking over the latest models on display. Fashion changed so quickly it was hard to keep up. And honestly she really didn't want to be cutting edge. The colors were too bright for her, the angles too sharp, and the styles too extreme. She liked the classics. The things that she saw as a child and dreamed of being able to buy.

But she did need to refresh her look. She had noticed this morning that her favorite was getting a little threadbare. A little worn looking. Nothing changes classic to old quicker than a sagging seam. But she wasn't keen on this new look. The bright blue was especially popular right now. And what was the deal with the add on spikes? Shoulder caps with long silver spikes. Neck collars with deadly looking needles. How in the world were you supposed to interact with the world if you looked like a blue porcupine?

Of course, she didn't really know exactly what a porcupine looked like. She had seen pictures of them and once even an old nature documentary where a dog had gotten a face full of quills. She had never seen a real dog either, for that matter. But she did have an idea of what they were like as well. She had always thought having a dog would be a good thing. 

She took a deep breath and walked in to the showroom. She was going to have to get new things, no sense putting it off any longer. Maybe they would have something on the clearance rack that would suit her tastes more. 

"Welcome in, Ms. Vargas! What can we help you find today?" The Salesbot rolled over to her as soon as she walked in the door. Her personal information already being transmitted to its memory banks.

"I'm looking for a new suit. Do you have anything in this style?" Janet motioned over what she was currently wearing.

The Salesbot scanned Janet from head to toe. Janet swore if its head had been articulated enough it would have cocked it in a puzzled look. As it was it was just silent for a very long time as it accessed all of the data records.

"The suit you are wearing is from our 2045 line. We haven't had anything from that line in stock for quite a while I am afraid. Let me set you up in a fitting room and we can look for other styles that might fit your needs."

Janet sighed. She figured that would be the case. Oh well. She let herself be led to a fitting room and sat down on the padded bench in front of the view screen. 

"If you will please stand still with your arms out to the side so I can scan your dimensions, Ms. Vargas."

"Oh yes, I'm sorry. It's been awhile since I've had a fitting."

Janet stood and let herself be scanned. She hadn't changed sizes since her last fitting. It was why she had been able to keep this suit for as long as she had. She hated being a style chaser anyway. She really did like the classic look. And it was just so expensive. She didn't understand people who had a variety of sizes at their disposal. So much money for something that you could make last with just a little more discipline. 

After the scanning was complete she sat down to view the style mirror. Her body was projected on to the screen wearing the bright blue spike suit she had seen in the window.

"This is our latest design. It's very popular."

"No thank you. I really am looking for something more classic in style and color. Do you have anything in champagne?" Champagne sounded so much nicer than beige. 

Janet watched as version after version of herself modeling the latest styles and colors scrolled quickly past as the Salesbot looked for a more basic style. It stopped on a pink version with artful cutouts on the waist. "No. Not really my style, I really would like something more classic."

The images scrolled again stopping on a royal purple outfit with a collar that looked vaguely like a coronation cape. "Not that classic. Really I would like something like I have right now. Just not so worn out."

The Salesbot tried again, "Many people like the updated looks once they adjust. They wear very well. Stain resistant. State of the art blocking technology. The brighter colors do not show damage as much as the older lighter color styles did. We find that..."

"I would really like to stay away from the bright colors. I just don't prefer them. Can you please look again to see what is available?" The images started to stream faster. More colors. More attachments and cutouts and stylistic choices. All of it much too ornate for her tastes.

"Wait! Go back!" Janet saw one she liked, it had been a light brown suit. Perfectly fitted. Very smooth. The images slowed and reversed one by one. "There that one! How much is that one?"

The image crackled for a moment. She could almost hear the circuits in the Salesbot's processors humming as it tried to access the information. "I apologize, Ms. Vargas. That suit is not available."

"What do you mean not available? You have it on the screen. It has to be part of your inventory."

The screen changed to a pale purple suit with silver highlights on the shoulders. "This is more contemporary yet understated look."

"No. Go back to the other one."

"That suit is not available..."

"I heard you. Go back to that look."

The screen shifted and Janet was again looking at herself wearing a light brown suit. It was perfectly tailored. Not a seam to be seen. The detailing was different. Shading here and there. But it all looked like it was exactly right. Not overly ornate. But she wouldn't call it plain. "When was this a current design?" Janet was thinking she might find a tailor who could copy the design and get a privately made suit. Though she wasn't sure she would be able to afford one like this.

The Salesbot was silent.

"I asked you when this was in your stores. I won't ask again. Don't make me call programming to run a diagnostic on you."

The threat of having its circuits wiped worked, "This is an historical rendering of what your original suit would look like if it had not been damaged in the fallout."

"Wait? This is..." Janet looked at the picture again. "This is skin? Actual skin? My skin?"

"Yes. This is what the projections say you would look like before the fallout."

Janet stared at the version on herself on the screen. Then she carefully peeled off one glove and looked at her hands. The radiation sores never healed. She was more wound than skin. Had never considered what her actual body would have looked like. She had been born after the war, after all. She was second generation after war baby. The land was diseased. The animals were gone. But the robots remained and the people were making a comeback. The scientists who created Nu-Skin had saved them all. The original suits had only been available in dull gray. It had taken years for them to design other colors. Then the style mavens had taken over.

Janet ran her fingers over the picture screen wondering what that suit felt like. What it would have been like to have lived in that skin. She put her glove back on.

As the tears fell down her champagne colored cheeks she said, "I guess I will take the lavender suit."

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Splash of Red...

It was the red shorts.

She was driving to work and caught them out of the corner of her eye.

A jogger, do people still call themselves joggers? Probably not. Now everyone was a runner. In training for a marathon. Or a tri...tri what? Maybe it's try. Maybe she has been hearing it wrong. Try athletes. Not tri-athletes. Like maybe they are out jogging, excuse me, running because they are trying to be athletes.

Anyway...he was wearing red shorts.

As she drove past him she saw the flash of red out of the corner of her eye. His red shorts.

But she didn't realize that's what she was seeing. She just knew that there was a splash of bright red on the side of the road.

She didn't realize at the time it was red shorts and he was a runner and it was all normal. She just saw the splash of red.

That's what she told the officer anyway.

Not right away. I mean she didn't call the police because she saw a splash of red on the side of the road. That would have been crazy.

She called the police when she saw the story about the hit and run accident.

And even then she didn't call them right away.

She saw the splash of red out of the corner of her eye when she was walking in to the bar. The News was on the TV in the corner and they were talking about the accident. As she walked to the table by the window she saw the splash of red. And it made her think, I've seen that splash of red before.

That's when she found out it was a jog...runner. Wearing red shorts. The red shorts caught someone's attention on their drive in to work. They saw it as they were driving by and something didn't seem right so they had pulled over and gone back to look. They found him on the berm.

Berm is an odd word. She had thought for a long time people were saying burn. Which didn't make sense. They weren't burning the grass they were planting it in hills. Building a berm to block the view of the new construction. To keep people from seeing them. Unless, of course, they were wearing bright red shorts. Berm.

So now she had her drink and she was watching someone else who had seen that splash of red and had stopped and found him. It made her feel as though she probably should have stopped. But she hadn't. For a splash of red? Who does that? Well, except for the man on the News.

It had been a splash, a flash of red. How did he even know it wasn't right? How many other colors did he stop for each day? Did a splash of blue make him slow down? Or was it just red? Yellow? Orange? Pink? Pink would have probably led him to slamming on his brakes and putting the car in to reverse right away.

She laughed out loud.

She hadn't noticed she was laughing until people in the bar turned and stared at her. She didn't blame them. She was sitting by herself watching a News story on a hit and run and the hero who had stopped and she was laughing. Was it laughing? She tried to stop. It sounded a little hysterical. And it wasn't really funny.

She was probably feeling guilty that she had just driven on. Was he still alive when she had seen the splash of red? If she had realized something was wrong and stopped like the man on the News would it have been in time? Or was it too late by then. Had he already felt the berm?

She snorted and laughed again. Slamming her drink down and signalling for another.

It had been a spectacularly bad day. She had been late for work. She had spilled coffee on her keyboard. Again. IT was not impressed. She had called her boss by the wrong name. Which wasn't her fault. She had one of those names that are too close to other names. The number of Christines, Katherines, Cathys, Courtneys, Calistas, what ever. What happened to Rhonda and Lisa and Darlene? When did people start naming their kids the same name? Three hundred Britneys, Britnees, Britnays in her nephew's graduating class. It wasn't her fault. Not really.

Anyway once Crystal was through berating her for being late, ruining a keyboard and calling her Catherine she had told her that the company was bringing in an expert to run the Lakeridge account. Excuse me? She was an expert on the Lakeridge account. She had been running it for the past year hadn't she? Well, yes she had but apparently some things had slipped lately so they felt it would be good to get someone in who maybe had a firmer grasp on the fine details. She would, of course, be needed to help. And she would still be handling the other aspects of her job.

The filing. The making copies. The getting coffee. She was being pushed back down to being a glorified secretary. Again. She had been with the firm since she graduated college. She had worked up from intern to managing partner. Well not partner. Almost partner. She had been so close she could almost taste it. Then it had fallen apart.

Bermed.

She signaled for another drink. Was shocked when she looked down and saw she'd already had two empty glasses on the table. How did that happen?

She had been about to make partner. Had already started looking at new condos downtown. Ones she would be able to afford when that raise came through. Maybe a vacation to Europe. A tour. That's what they called them. A European tour. Partners got extra time off. More money. More vacation. She was right there. Then she wasn't.

A splash of red.

She laughed again. It was a splash of red that did her in wasn't it? Jerry got caught with a bright red lipstick stain on his boxers. His wife didn't wear bright red. Jerry decided to retire. His wife had given him the option. Retire or divorce. And he had chosen to retire. And her dreams of being partner retired with him. They couldn't fire her. They knew that. She could sue. So they kept her. For all the good it did her.

A splash of red.

She signaled to the bartender that she would be signing out now. When she got her tab she was amazed at how expensive a couple of drinks had gotten.

The News had switched over to an entertainment show. The latest it girl talking about her latest summer blockbuster. Wearing a cut down to her navel shirt and laughing at the host like he was the funniest man in the world. She did a slow blink watching them flirt. As the starlet leaned back you could see the edge of her bra. Just a little splash of red.

She got in her car and started the drive home. Slowly. There was no reason to rush. What did she have waiting there anyway? The trash and recycling that needed to go out tonight? Was that all? She didn't want to rush for that. She wouldn't put her containers out until late. She knew her neighbors were judging her. Like none of them had bottles to put out. She knew they did.

She saw the News van on the side of the road as she got close. They were broadcasting from the scene of the hit and run. Why did they do that? Go out where something had already happened? Did they expect to see the ghosts of newsworthy events past? Ridiculous. Shouldn't they be on a beach somewhere waiting for a hurricane?

She laughed again.

She drove past the News van. Past the berm. Past where the splash of red had been.

Well where it had been when the hero saw it.

She passed where it was when she noticed it a few feet past that point.

She could hear it again. The thud he made when he hit her car. She felt it. The way the car shook when he ran in to her. Because he had run in to her. She would have seen him if he had been on the edge of the road the whole time. He was wearing those damn red shorts after all. But she hadn't. Not until he was on her hood. Then flying up and over to the berm. Landing in a way that no one would ever land naturally.

Just a splash of red.

When she got home she called the police. She told them she had seen the News story about the hit and run. She told them her side of the story. That it hadn't been her fault. He had run in to her. She hadn't even noticed it except as a splash of red out of the corner of her eye. Not really. Then she told them where to find the car. She hung up the phone and had another drink. Then another. She took her trash and recycling out and sent Crystal an email message.

Dear Crystal,

Fuck you.

Then she filled the bath tub and sank in to the warm water clutching her glass so tightly it shattered in her hands. Across her wrists. Up her arms.

Just a splash of red....