Sunday, October 15, 2017

Truth Telling?

"Is she aware of what she is saying?"

"I'm not sure what you mean by aware."

"Okay, maybe aware is the wrong word. Is what she is saying true? Is she actually telling us things that are true?"

The doctor made what could best be described as a noncommittal gesture. She didn't nod her head yes or shake it no. She sort of wobbled it back and forth. She didn't smile. She didn't frown. She held her mouth in almost a diagonal angle and did that crazy head wobble. "Maybe?"

"Maybe?"

"Well, yes, maybe. We don't really know. Are they memories from her life or are they memories from a book she read, or a movie she watched, or is she remembering a dream? We don't really know. What we do know is that she is still verbal, and that's a good thing."

"But if she's verbal about a fantasy world, that's not really good, is it?"

"It is. I know it's hard to see, but when they stop talking, when they retreat into their shell completely, that's when we've really lost them."

"But if she's not who she was then we've already lost her, haven't we?"

"Is she not who she was?"

"Well..." He paused. She looked the same, older, of course, but not much, not really. She had always been old in his mind so as he aged and she aged the change was the same. She still had the same smile. She still dressed the same. Her voice was the same. When she laughed it was the same laugh she'd always had. She looked like who she had always been but...

"You came in today to speak about concerns about your grandmother, you still see her as your grandmother."

"Yes, but, I just...she's not who she was."

"Yes, that is what happens. I understand it's a shock to you. You haven't seen her for a few months. It's a challenge when our loved ones age. Especially when there is the added layer of dementia. You feel as though she is a stranger looking out at you. But I assure you, this is still your grandmother."

"Maybe."

The doctor stood then and he knew he was being dismissed. "I do hope you will be able to come visit more often. She doesn't have anyone left now that your uncle has passed, God rest his soul, I know she would like the company."

He nodded. He had felt horribly guilty about not visiting sooner anyway. But she was living in the home in California and he was in Florida. It wasn't an easy trip. He had been planning on moving her to a home in Florida so she would be closer to his family. He could bring the kids to visit with their great grandmother and get to know her. But he hadn't wanted to move her without her permission. And without asking the doctors if it would be healthy for her. After all she might be aging, she might have been having issues, but she wasn't a piece of furniture he could just relocate without asking. But he had wanted her closer.

She had always been so wonderful when he was a child. Always full of adventures. She had been a widow at an early age. He never knew his grandfather. Nobody every talked about him at all. It was just her. And when the car accident took his parents she had been a rock. Standing with him at the funeral, holding his hand the whole way. She had been so steady. Convincing him that the money from the insurance wasn't dirty or cursed, that he should use it to pay off his student loans and buy his first restaurant. To marry the girl he loved. To start a fresh life. She had even been understanding when he decided to do all of that in Florida instead of California. She had nodded and said it was probably for the best.

And he came to visit often. Or at least at first. But then one restaurant turned in to two, then four. The kids came and they took up the rest of his time. He called once a month. Or at least he tried to. And her eldest son, his uncle, still lived nearby. He kept everyone up to date on her life and when the time came he helped move her in to the assisted living facility. Got her settled. Warned everyone that she was starting to "lose her faculties."

Lose her faculties. What an odd phrase for what met him when he came to see her.

Yes, she still looked like his grandmother. She still sounded like his grandmother, she still laughed like his grandmother. But...he hadn't been prepared. Not really.

He walked down the hallway to her room. Paused at the doorway and then walked in.

"Oh there you are! I thought maybe you had gone back to Florida."

She seemed like his grandmother.

"Sit, sit. I want to finish our conversation."

He sat. She looked like his grandmother.

"Where did I leave off? Oh yes, with your grandfather. And after I found out about the affair I spent 6 months planning how I would kill him. I think I could have done it in two, really, but it was my first and I wanted to make sure I did everything perfectly so I wouldn't get caught. When I decided that you could use the insurance money more than your selfish parents could help you it only took me 3 months to engineer the car accident. And your uncle? Spur of the moment! I think I'm getting better with age, wouldn't you agree?"

Oh god, she laughed just like his grandmother....

Friday, October 13, 2017

It's a bad idea, right?

There is something about October that makes me consider bad ideas. Maybe it's the Halloween aspect. The constant barrage of scary images. The creepy things I usually have tucked in to my head come out to play on every lawn. The abundance of spooky stories, and scary movies. The color in the trees flaring to brightness one last time before giving up for the winter. Something about October makes me think of dangerous things. Scary things. Possibly stupid things. Like doing NaNoWriMo again.

I know! I've done it twice and each time I said I wouldn't do it again. But I've done it twice so I know I CAN do it so why not do it one more time? You know, as a cleanse from two months of sabbatical limited writing time. AND it would be the way to really reinforce that sit down and write for a few hours every week day plan. I mean if I wrote for 2-3 hours M-F and a quick dash on the weekend, it's so easy to get through. You know, if you take away the times where I sit and stare at a blank page and a flashing cursor for 2 1/2 hours...

But it does force me to write. I hate setting a goal and not reaching it. So I tend to force choke out the words and get it done. I've done it two different ways. Focused on one story for the month the first time and writing more on that story the second time while also writing short stories. Anything and everything counted. Which was a lot less stressful for sure. Words are words.

Which is why it's REALLY insane that I am thinking of doing it, and doing it as one story. Starting a new novel idea. I suck at novels. I mean, objectively, I suck at them. My love is the short story. And quick flash writing. I like to write it down, put it up, walk away all in a day. Just Bang! Bang! Bang! It's a house! I mean, don't try and stay in it because it's flimsy as hell, but it's a damn house!

So what is actually wrong with me? I want to build a mansion now? With bricks and shit? And all while I need to write 23 (22 now) more blogs this year to reach my goal? So I'm behind on blog writing and I want to take a month and focus on a long story that will not count as blog writing? And to top it all off it's not something I'm good at so the odds are it won't ever grow beyond 50,000 mediocre words. What?

Maybe it's just because it's Friday the 13th and it's an unlucky day. Registering for a grind would be unlucky right? Bringing it on yourself would be the height of unlucky. Right?

Can you tell I'm losing the argument to talk myself out of this? I'm even doing the balance thing again where I SWEAR I will write extra when Brent is at Super Computing so it will be done before Thanksgiving. Because every single time I think how stupid to commit to a month long writing challenge that's hard enough as it is and then slice off the last week due to the holiday. BUT EVERY SINGLE TIME I DO IT ANYWAY! AND every single time I swear I will write more while Brent is at Super Computing and then I don't. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.

Oh wait...Thanksgiving is early this year. So really I wouldn't be taking off the last week. I'd be taking a break toward the end with an extra four days afterward to make it up. And since I really just have the barest idea for a novel right now really I could just write short stories with a few of them being trying out character ideas. See who is out there waiting to get their story told. See if I even have a frame work to make the barest idea I have in to something else. So really it wouldn't be hard at all as those could all be blogs. And THEN I might even be done with my goal for blogs before December so everything else would be extra. I mean this is probably a really great idea.

EXCEPT IT'S CRAZY.

I mean, I know it is, right?

Right?

It is.

That settles it. I am for sure doing NaNoWriMo.

I mean Not. I am for sure NOT doing NaNoWriMo.


(okay, fine, you all totally know that I am. wish me luck!)


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Difficult Gifts...

Anaun was gathering all of the things she would need. Lavender for calm, rose petals for fair, clear spring water for soothing, clay to prevent rigidity in thought, and on and on. All of the gifts that she would need to leave to ensure her daughter was given all of the blessings from the gods.

She had been collecting items for a month. Ever since the Old Woman told her she was carrying a girl. She would leave the gifts and say the prayers and then wait. A fully blessed daughter was the goal of every household. To have a daughter who was obviously born without the gifts being made was a great shame. A difficult daughter was a burden. No husband would want her. No family could contain her. What good would she be? This was truth.

Everyone knew it.

Well, almost everyone.

Her friend Joi was not fully blessed. It was apparent from an early age. Joi would speak out. Against anyone. Even the men in her family. When she had first heard Joi argue Anaun had been shocked. Not just because Joi had done it, they all had at one point, truth be told, but that she had not been corrected. Her mother had even nodded in agreement. Her father had addressed her as he would a boy and engaged the argument. There had been no punishment.

When it happened again Anaun asked her mother about it. Why were they doing this? Her mother said that Joi was born without blessings and that it was her mother's fault. She had forgotten the gifts and not said the prayers during her pregnancy. Her mother had been so flighty and absentminded that Joi was made wrong. Then she told her that Anaun should always strive to be an example for Joi and they would hope she could overcome the deficit. Joi would never had the advantages that Anaun did. The blessings of the gifts.

So Anaun had maintained her friendship with Joi. Trying to be a good influence on her, but pitying her all the same. How was she ever going to realize her life's potential without the gifts? To be a good wife. A mother. A calming influence on her husband. Poor Joi.

When they were teenagers and Anaun was being courted by the boys hoping to be her future husband she told Joi she was sorry that she would never find a mate. Joi was puzzled. Why did Anaun think that she wouldn't? Well because she wasn't fully blessed. She hadn't received the gifts. Anaun had reached out to comfort Joi. She had told her that it was okay, because they, the whole village would take care of her. No matter how difficult she could be.

Joi had laughed at this, and then told Anaun the most shocking thing. Her mother hadn't forgotten to ask for the blessings. She had done it on purpose. She believed that girls should have the same opportunities as boys to be themselves. Their true selves. Not blessed with pliant personalities meant to be a reflection of the men around them. In fact her mother didn't think the gifts and the prayers were what made the girls blessed at all. That is was backward to think that women should be demure, and compliant, and soft. And for that matter it was backward to think that boys had to always be in charge. That they couldn't be soft spoken and more interested in quieter pursuits. Boys and girls should be allowed to be what they wanted to be. Not what the town said they had to be.

Anaun's mother told her that Joi and her family must have had a fever disease at some time and not to listen to their ramblings. And maybe it would be better if Anaun did not spend anymore time with Joi after all. And so Anaun stopped her friendship with Joi. Because she was a reflection of her family and this is what they believed. She had received the blessings after all.

That is what she had told herself when she stopped her friendship with Joi.

Not that it was because the boy that Anaun wanted to marry had found her boring and Joi interesting. That would be a selfish reason. And why would she want to be courted by a boy who believed the crazy ideas that Joi's family believed? And did he really even believe them or was it that though Joi was difficult she was also beautiful? When her outward beauty faded, and it would fade sooner than most because Joi did not hold beauty in as high regard as she should, when it faded he would lose his patience for her challenging ways. Anaun knew that to be true.

So it was definitely not because Cleave had chosen to court Joi who had no gifts rather than Anaun who was fully blessed. It was because it was Anaun's family's wishes for her to not spend time with Joi. And when Braun had chosen her she had gone with him to start a family. Even if he had not been who she had longed for, her family knew he was strong and sure and safe. She knew that she had ended her friendship with Joi because first her family and then her husband wished her to. It was not because Joi had somehow tricked Cleave in to loving her. It couldn't be that because Anaun was fully blessed with the gifts and would not think unkindly of someone so disadvantaged as Joi.

And no matter the laughter she heard coming from the house of Joi and Cleave and their already full nursery she knew Joi was disadvantaged. No matter that Joi was beginning to be sought out for her advice in not just home matters but for her head for business Anaun knew that she was struggling. No matter that Joi still had nothing but kindness for Anaun though she had cut her cold. No matter that Cleave looked at Joi as if she hung the moon even though the three children she bore had thickened her waist and added tired shadows to her eyes. No matter that her eldest daughter already had the spark that Joi herself had when they were younger. That Joi still had. No, she was disadvantaged without the gifts and this Anaun was sure of.

Anaun continued gathering the gifts for the birth of her first daughter. She would be a reflection of her family. Of the fully blessed Anaun and her dutiful, if a little dull, father. As it should always be.

Anaun placed the items on the altar and began the prayers.

Then she stopped.

She looked at the collection.

She thought of the words.

She prayed again.

Let this child be blessed by the gods. Bring her all of your gifts. Give her the abundance of choice. And let her choose joy.

She swept the altar clear and gathered herself to leave. Let her choose Joi.



What's the goal?

Reading a friend's post and the replies this morning and wondering about style.

My friend is a vegan. As a vegan she posts vegan posts. I am not a vegan. I'm an omnivore and very rarely do we engage with each other on those posts. Because we do not agree. And I know it pains her heart that we don't agree because she believes I am a good person and cannot reconcile how a good person continues to eat meat. And it pains me because I don't agree that eating meat makes you a bad person and I don't like being thought of as morally inferior. So I tend to not engage on those posts. But I still read them. Because there is a lot of information that can be gleaned.

For instance over the past few decades I've become much more concerned about where the meat I eat comes from. Not the animals part, I spent summers on a farm, I'm well versed in that part. But in factory farming. In mass production. In growing chickens and egg farming. How is all of that done? What is the best way to do it to cause the least damage? Because raising beef is a huge water drain. Raising chickens can be really detrimental to the environment due to the high levels of ammonia. Health issues can be compounded by what we are feeding the livestock. As someone who does not feel it's unethical to eat meat, I still feel that I should be eating meat that is better sourced. And eating less meat over all.

Being friends with vegans and vegetarians tends to give me access to good recipes as well. I try to avoid processed foods, food like substances and added sugar so I avoid a lot of what they eat, but some of it? Pretty good stuff. Except the evil that is passing cauliflower off as anything other than cauliflower.

So anyway...over the years since my friend went from omnivore, to vegetarian, to vegan I've watched her progress. And more importantly I've watched her influence over others to make changes in their diets. Maybe not all the way to vegan, but sometimes all the way to vegan. Which is what she wants. She believes that veganism is the only ethical choice. Not just for her, but for everyone. And to accomplish that she needs others to see that is the correct choice. Now how do you do that?

Slowly. Patiently. And in my opinion gently.

See she posted about something that she feels is wrong. Someone who disagrees with her posted a response and then made a little joke. My friend deflected the joke lightly and gave a little more information. Then another friend of hers came in and WENT OFF and the friend who is not vegan defriended my friend. Which I've seen before. The times I have engaged with the vegan posts on my friend's statuses I have clashed with this other friend of hers as well.

Now she also wants everyone to be vegan. And she is working toward that goal. But how is it going? Because what I saw today was someone in my friend's sphere of influence leaving. Now I don't know if she has any other vegan friends or not, but if she doesn't she won't get exposed to those ideas anymore. Was the rant worth it? Was the righteous indignation good? Because you gave up an opportunity to actually change a mind. In fact, if she's anything like me, and studies show that most people are, by attacking her and her beliefs you actually just solidified them. Made it harder for anyone else to sway her. So....

It happens. This past weekend C and I had an argument that boiled down to styles. I watched a video a friend posted that I knew going in I would not agree with, but I wanted to see what it said. I wanted to understand where her mind was and why she thought it was a good point. C thought that as soon I finished it I should fight with the person who posted it. I told him that wasn't why I watched it. I don't need to go in and tell her it was bullshit, I even know what she would say. But for C it wasn't good enough. By not fighting with her I was weak. In my opinion by fighting with her I would be wasting my time and giving up an opportunity to influence her later. But here's the kicker, we were both fighting with each other at that point and not listening to each other anymore so we weren't changing minds at all. See how that works? And poor Brent walked in to it and told us to stop fighting which led me to turning on him. And he did what he does and left the room. Because fighting doesn't accomplish anything so he refuses to do it. Which made me embarrassed and quiet and stopped the fight anyway.

Later in the weekend he posted something on his Facebook and a friend of ours posted something lame in return and I did exactly what C did to me. Are you just going to let him say that nonsense? Brent reminded me that he was not going for the goal of proving someone wrong, he was trying to get to common ground to find an agreement, which he did. His goal wasn't to prove someone else wrong, it wasn't to be right, it was to move the needle.

Which made me think about what I do again.

What is your goal?

When you are posting things, when you are debating points, when you are voicing your opinion, what is your goal?

Usually mine is to make people think; to understand why you think what you think; to try to find a way to influence you. To get completely frustrated that people don't respect facts and science and...wait...that isn't my goal. That's just what happens.

And I say usually because sometimes my only goal is to say THIS IS WHAT I FEEL IS RIGHT AND I CANNOT BELIEVE IT ISN'T FUCKING OBVIOUSLY RIGHT TO EVERYONE WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU??  Those posts are generally pretty obviously those types of posts. And sometimes one of the good intention posts devolves in to a response like that if I feel that someone isn't listening to reason. If you are looking for a fight, I often oblige. I should be more like Brent, and I do try, but C didn't get his fight response from the ether.

I wish it were as easy as just presenting the facts and having people agree. I wish it was as easy as saying, that is wrong and hard hearted and here is why and people would reach a consensus. But it's not.

But we all need to keep trying. So next time you post something, or respond to a post, or have a discussion in real life face to face (so weird), ask yourself, What is my goal? Then respond or walk away accordingly.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Signs...

The cruise ship was the first sign.

Wait, that's not actually true. 

There had been other signs that morning but nothing that stood out as much as the cruise ship. But once they saw the cruise ship the other things became apparent for what they were.

There had been the moment when they had been waiting in line at the ferry terminal and the Canadian tour bus passengers had been taken to a different stairway than the one that seemed to lead to the ferry. When they saw it happening they had assumed that they were just going on to another deck.

There had been how fast they had cleared through customs. Normally the line took an hour or so and this time they had everyone processed and loaded on to the ferry in record speed. But they had thought that maybe the Canadians were just more efficient, or not as concerned since people were leaving Canada not coming in. Maybe there would be another check on the American side. 

There had been the moment on the ferry where they announced that the snack bar would not be open. They had seen the person who had been working on opening it taken off by an official from the ferry line. He had looked very shocked and their first thoughts were that there must have been a family emergency and they were telling him he needed to go. How horrible for him. 

But when they were approaching the Sound and saw the cruise ship; then they knew there had been something wrong all along. 

Wait, that's not actually true either.

When they first saw the cruise ship they still didn't notice anything wrong. They chatted about their own recent cruise and how they had pulled in to this very same port. But had they been going that slowly? It almost looked like that ship wasn't moving. But no, they did come in really slow. There was a narrow channel that was deep enough for the giant cruise ships so they did come in slowly. But that slowly? 

They had peered closely at the bow of the ship. There was no water movement. They looked for a wake. There was none. The ship was not moving. 

Their ferry passed and they looked at the deck of the cruise ship, at the balconies of the rooms. There was no one outside. Not a single person. No movement from the ship at all. It was dead in the water.

That was when they realized there was a problem. But they had no real idea, not yet...




Friday, September 22, 2017

Fall!

I love the Fall season. I've talked about it before, that I love the weather, I love the foods, I love the clothes and I love that sense of new beginnings that comes with the start of a new school year. Even though I've been out of school for awhile.

But there is always one part that is a pain. Like a literal pain. It's putting boots back on. I love my boots, don't ever get me wrong there, but after a summer of sandals and being bare foot convincing my now very relaxed feet to get back in to a boot can be a bit rough. Boots are confining. They are structured. And my feet are flattened out and wider at the end of summer than they are at the beginning. The first few boot days are a challenge.

Which of course is PERFECT for a metaphor...

We tend to do the things that are comfortable. Easy. Relaxing. And we steer away from those things that aren't. Even when we know that we will like the results if we just deal with the discomfort for awhile. Even when we know that it's only temporary pain for a longer lasting gain. We (or at least me for sure) like things easy. But the problem is that growth needs discomfort.  Yeah, I know I'm sort of flipping the imagery here, but bear with me.

To grow and stretch creatively or intellectually or physically we need to reach that point of discomfort, that edge of where we live, and push past it. I do it at the gym. When the work out becomes easy I add more weight or more reps and you all get to hear me bitch about it for awhile until it's manageable and then when it goes from manageable to easy we start it again. We have to do it whenever we are learning something new. To learn you have to figure out what you don't know. And for a lot of us that area is uncomfortable. That ability to say, "I don't know" makes us feel vulnerable. Now, I'm going to be honest here, I am not part of that group. I am really comfortable saying I don't know. But I came to that space years ago. I realized that I wasn't seeing big picture things by staying in my comfort zone and I started venturing out in to other areas. And I discovered that people LOVE to talk about what they know. So saying to someone, "I don't know what you are doing here, and I don't understand it, please explain it to me," isn't usually met with "YOU IDIOT!" it's more often met with "OF COURSE I WILL!" and then you learn something new.

Creatively I tend to hover in my comfort zone more than I should. But I break out here and there with a poetry month, or a give me random writing prompts time. And really comfort with creative writing is pretty limited. I call it my comfort zone because I have a style and a voice I can fall back on. But actually writing and then letting you all read it? That's still a little nerve wracking. Even if I have my speed writing style and I get good feedback every time I send one of my darlings out in to the world I'm just waiting for you to tell me it sucks and I should throw my computer out of the window. That's as comfortable as creative gets.

But that discomfort? In any of those pursuits? It's important. It's how you expand your world. It's how you get better. It's how you learn, how you grow, how you create. No growth comes without change. And change is almost always a little uncomfortable; even good change.

Besides, if you only wanted to stay comfortable how would you rock those boots? And we do love to rock a good boot!

Monday, September 18, 2017

I'm Still Here!

I know it's been awhile since I posted anything and I would like to say that will get better but it's going to be a patchy couple of months.

Because...

Sabbatical is fianlly here and in full swing! Yay! Which is great for vacationing and family time and relaxing together and probably a few household projects, but not so good for sitting down and writing.

This week I will try my best to crank out some blogs. Some fiction, some ranting, some things. Just things. :-) But then we are off again for another week and I will be radio silent.

We are two and a half weeks in and so far we've gone to a preseason hockey tournament, spent a little over a week in Hawaii and gone back to Michigan for a football game. Not a bad start at all. This morning we slept in while the rain fell outside and the house stayed dark and cool. It was pretty perfect.

I'm even having a hard time working up a good rant about the state of the world today I'm feeling so mellow. Give me a couple more days back on the mainland for that.

But I wanted to post this really quickly to let you all know I'm alive and well and will be writing more soon. I still plan on the daily block of hours writing...starting in November. But I want to enjoy this sabbatical as fully as possible since even though it's Brent's third with Intel it's our first with no other commitments during the same time frame. Ahh...

And I might even need a few suggestions for short stories, so put your thinking caps on and give me an idea to do some speed writing later in the week! Gotta blow out the salt and sand and get the gears working again.

Aloha and Mahalo!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Simple is as simple does....

I tend to think people in the online world are too simplistic in their ideals. And I see this now in the offline world as well. If x then y. All of the time. And purity tests. If you are x then you must believe y. All of the time.

I don't think that way. I never have. I make the joke that no straight lines were used when creating me. Not in my shape or in my thoughts. I curve. I think situations need to be evaluated separately. I think that good enough is often the best course of action and waiting for perfect is just lazy thinking. Why lazy? Because if you can discount things that aren't perfect you never have to reason out why something is good enough.

I think this lazy thinking is the root of a lot of problems in our society. Simplistic lines lead to tribalism. I believe this so I belong here. You believe that so you belong over there. And then we go from the we believe different things to people who believe different things than we do are wrong and stupid and must never be included.

Libtard
Rethuglican
Godless heathen
Religious hypocrite

On and on and on.

But there is pretty much always nuance to be had. There are differences in situations.

One of the bashing sticks on the Right right now is Antifa. If you mention the alt-right and the white supremacist movements they want to bring in Antifa and BLM usually as well. Now comparing BLM to white supremacists is beyond laughable. But I've talked about BLM before so I'm going to skip that repeat and just focus on Antifa.

Antifa is a pain in the ass. They make things difficult for the voices on the left to be heard. They are a great recruiting tool for the alt-right. They do more harm than they do good. I've posted about them before. I railed against what they were doing on election night and the four nights that followed here in Portland. I railed against them again on election day and May Day. I don't approve of them. I think they are generally anarchists who just want to break shit and have no real agenda other than that.

But...

In Charlottesville they were on the right side. They weren't there to damage property or prevent "good people with different ideas" from speaking. They were there because heavily armed white supremacists were marching in the fucking street. That changes the context and context matters. When actual fascists are around it makes sense for anti-fascists to be there too. And let's keep in mind that a woman died and it wasn't Antifa that caused it. Another man was beaten in a parking garage. And it wasn't Antifa. Another man shot a gun in to the crowd. And it wasn't Antifa. The people with the swastikas were not the good guys. There were no good people in the crowd with the torches chanting Blood and Soil. There should be no shelter given to "just different ideas" when those ideas are racial cleansing. Get it? Context matters.

Which then brings us to Berkeley this past weekend. And the context changes again. You had the Patriot Prayer group show up to cause problems. He goes to areas where the majority of people are liberal to get a reaction. "I'm just all about free speech." Okay, but why do you need to travel to Berkeley to practice it? Or try in San Francisco? Or even downtown Portland? You live in Vancouver, why don't you speak there? Could it be because you won't get the opposing crowds there so it's not the photo op you are looking for? Probably. And I get it, you're sure you're not a racist and you don't understand why all these racists keep coming to your events...you're just an attention whore. Fine. But then we have Antifa show up again and it's the Black Bloc version. And they just want a fight. So they caused one. And they were wrong.

See how that works? It's all about the situation and the context.

I don't like Patriot Prayer. I think they are providing a front for some very bad actors and then when they get called out on it they clutch their pearls and declare they have never been so insulted. And they disavow people that are at their rallies and marching with them as soon as they, oh let's say, kill two people on a Max train. So be clear, they aren't good people, they don't attract only good people. But their rallies cloak themselves in Christianity and Patriotism so you do actually get some people there that are just conservatives thinking they've found a place to shout their messages. So now you get to shout them down when you don't agree with what they are saying. Use your own free speech to drown out theirs if you want. And honestly, he and his group should just be ignored. It's just not worth it. And if you cannot ignore them at least don't raise a hand to them.

Until they pick up the swastika. Then beat them back down.

Yeah, I know. Free speech is all about people saying things you don't agree with and we should all be tolerant of it...

Bullshit.

There are things we should never ever ever tolerate. And Nazis are top of the list. And the fact that this seems to be hard for people to grasp is boggling to me. It has been since the video of Richard Spencer getting punched on inauguration day went around. I'm not talking about punching someone because you think they are a Nazi. I'm talking about people who self identify with that shit. Who proudly and loudly proclaim their white nationalism and desire for a cleansing. This to me is crazy that people are defending them.

We fought an actual literal war against them. We call that age group the Greatest Generation because they fought the fascists. What the hell happened to all of us that we now can't see out of our own bubbles and if x then y beliefs to understand that NOBODY of ANY political persuasion should be in favor of them marching through the streets. They are violent by nature and call. What they want to do is only achievable by violence so as soon as they pick up that banner it's violent. It's not just a "different idea."

I'd like Antifa to stop being a bunch of violent destructive assholes who are just giving the alt-right an out. But I'd like all of us to break out of our stupid little bubbles and be a lot more anti-fascist. No matter what the context. Simple right?



Monday, August 21, 2017

What Next?

The day the sun disappeared it wasn't a shock. It had been planned for. Mapped out. People flew in from all around the world to watch. It was an event timed to the exact second it would disappear. So no one was surprised.

The oooh...and aahhh... of the crowd was like a wave, or maybe like a pebble tossed in a pond. Rippling out. Everyone enraptured as they watched.

And watched.

And watched.

Finally one after another looked down at their phones to check the time. Wasn't it only supposed to last for a few minutes? How long had it gone on?

When it reached the five minute mark people started to murmur to each other. At ten minutes they started shouting questions at the experts in the crowd. Who were obviously no longer experts as they had no idea what was going on either.

The sun was gone.

No it wasn't gone, they tried to reason with the crowd, see the shadow of the moon passes between the Earth and the sun giving the appearance of...and here they would trail off because the shadow was not moving. The sun was gone.

Next came the frantic checking of phones to see if everyone else was seeing, or not seeing, what they were.

The sun was totally gone in Oregon and Idaho. Mostly gone in Arizona. The East Coast was still fine. Still waiting for their chance. Still excited to see the sun disappear.

It started to get cold. Really cold. Amazingly cold. How in the world could that happen so quickly?
People packed in to their cars and tried to leave. To go find the sun. But of course so many had come that leaving wasn't easy.


They waited. Packed in to their cars, their cars packed onto the roads, the darkness and the cold packed all around them.

The sun was gone.

They had planned for this. They had been so excited. Traveled so far to watch. They had talked about it for a year. And now? Now that it was gone? All they could do was ask, What next?

What next?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Happy Birthday Blog!

I'm linking last year's blog here. When I wrote that I was miserable. And I was so tired of being miserable. Just bone tired. And here we are a year later, so has it changed?

I woke up today on the last day of my 48th year knowing that my country is being led by a crazy man. And that there is a portion of my country that will defend him until he leaves. I spent the last week reading about and listening to people defending racists as peaceful protesters who were sweetly minding their own Blood and Soil business when those mean old anti-racism people somehow made one of them ram a car in to a crowd of people and kill someone. I've spent a week reading about and listening to (AGAIN) people talk about how having Confederate statues around isn't a big deal because how are we supposed to know anything about history if we don't have statues up honoring and revering the CONFEDERATES, who LOST, who were WRONG.

And, listen, I don't care about your arguments that it was a different time; we don't live in that time so we don't have to honor them. I don't want you to try and explain to me how it wasn't about slavery when I can just link you to the articles of secession from the states that started it and you will see in the first or second paragraph of each that it was about slavery. Or you can read the Cornerstone Speech. Or you can just accept that the Confederates lost and we agree that you don't get participation trophies right?

So anyway...the week (the past year for fuck's sake) leading up to birthday weekend has not been great politically or morally. I have to shake my head at people who want me to be nice to the crazy man in the White House just because he is in the White House. Mind you these same people were horrific to the last resident of the White House but that was....ummm...different? I have to shake my head and clench my jaw at the number of people who believe that there is any other response to a Nazi than hell no. I have to shake my head and roll my eyes at people who freak out about a woman wearing a hijab because it's so oppressive but are totally cool with an African American family having to walk past a statue of  Robert E. Lee every day.

The nagging injury I wrote about last year ended up being a gap in the labrum, not sure if it's a genetic issue that it never fused or a tear but I have a gap where the labrum does not attach to the bone to form the full ball and socket joint of the shoulder. The labrum itself had folded over and pinched in to the joint, making it unstable and causing the pain. Possibly able to be fixed by surgery, possibly made worse by surgery. But not going to go away on it's own.

So 48 wasn't any better than 47 right?

Well...no. It was a lot better. It just took some time.

I made a decision as I was writing last year's blog that things were going to change. I was going to fake it until I made it if I had to but things were going to change.

I started the next day with Selfie Saturday. Odd thing right? But I wanted to take time each and every week to mark the time. To smile for a camera and show it was going to be a good year dammit. Today will be the last Selfie Saturday picture and I have to say looking through them yesterday that for the most part I was successful. A few cranky shots, but they were about specific things happening right then. But great adventures and fun days and hockey games and just life going by. Selfie Saturday captured them all.

My shoulder? When I went in for the appointment before the last MRI the doctor was checking range of motion and POP the labrum unfolded from the joint and the pain went away. Oh my goodness...it was a medical miracle! Seriously, he wasn't trying to do that. It just happened. He was like, "I would like to take credit for that and say it was my plan all along but it wasn't. It was a happy accident." Happy indeed! I still can't work out the way I was, but with some modifications my strength has returned and I have VBL again. (visible biceps line)

I put us on a lower sugar diet at the beginning of the year and my steadily climbing weight from last year finally started a slow decent again. I'm still that perpetual 10 pounds away from where I'd like to be but at least it's not still going up. The healthier diet is supposed to help in a number of ways but the only outward sign I've got is the scale so I will take it.

The creative wasteland? Well that stuck around for a few more months. I force choked out a few stories and then at the beginning of the year started an exchange with Dana (god bless Dana) that pulled me the rest of the way out. Writing keeps me sane. I really believe that. When the world around you sucks it's nice to be able to make up a new one to step in to for awhile.

And the month of gratitude that I normally do in November I stretched this year to every day in 2017. When the world is going crazy it's good to remind yourself of all of the really great things there are. To put your head right instead of focusing on the wrongs.

People who needed to go? Well some of them are still around and still taking potshots here and there and I still wonder why they keep me around when they clearly don't like me much. But I've chosen to be philosophical about it. As long as it isn't changing my opinion of myself (and it's not) they obviously need someone to look down on. And if it's me instead of someone who can't shoulder that burden then this is better.

Because that brings us to the end of this blog and the message. I was miserable last year on my birthday. I lined out all of the reasons I shouldn't be. All of the things that were good in my life. But it didn't matter. My depressive side was slowly but surely overtaking my manic side and I was having a bitch of a time stopping it. I've been lucky enough in my life that I've not needed medication to regulate, but I was at the point last year where that was my next step. And there is no shame in that. If you need help get it. If you can regulate your brain chemistry through diet and exercise that's fine, but if you need more that's fine too.

A friend of mine's husband who coincidentally enough shares my birthday lost his battle to depression last year. He had a lot of good things to live for as well. He just couldn't see them anymore. And he couldn't force himself past it one more time. He was also bone tired.

So this year as I reflect on the past year, past two years, I know how lucky I am to have been able to swing my pendulum back. And I ask you all to pay attention to where you are in life. How are you feeling? Is it darker than it should be? What can you do to fix that? Diet, exercise, active gratitude, force perspective change, medication, therapy? What ever it takes please do it. Be here next year to read my navel gazing essay. The world needs you.

Because you are incredible.
So smart.
So special.
Wonderful really.

Now have a piece of cake and raise your fork in my direction and send me a wish for a good year as you do.

Happy Birthday Weekend to us all!

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!