Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kids. Shudder.

I am not, repeat NOT a kid person.  The problem is, me being a female opens the door to the vast majority of the population who are convinced I don't know my own mind.  My parents and male siblings used to volunteer me to babysit nieces and nephews.  This was a duty thrust upon me.  The joys of being the youngest.  Now if we are to consider the fact my oldest niece and nephew are closer to my age than their father, my brother, was and take into account I was nine when it all began you can see where I had little say.

Despite how often I voiced my lack of desire to have anything to do with children my folks often contracted me out to their friends or coworkers.  Capitalism be danged.  I didn't care if I was getting paid.  All I wanted was a way from those freaking kids.

Naturally as I entered into my late teens people began asking when I was going to settle down, get married and have kids.  Various guys who were considered good providers were pointed out or introduced.  The whole time I'd be going "hello, has anyone been listening to me?"  What is so hard to understand about I don't want kids?

In my twenties I constantly butted head with neighbors who seemed to feel my maternal instincts would kick in if I babysat their brats.  The word "NO" was alien to them.  They didn't comprehend.  Instead they sent their offspring over to my place, "go visit Aunt Debi".  Once the kid was out of sight the parents would run for their car.  Oh they thought they were being clever.  They assumed I'd play nice.  If the brat's parents managed making it out of the parking lot, well, then they were in for a rude surprise.  I had no qualms calling the cops and/or Child Protective Services and reporting an abandoned kid. 

Twice in my thirties I had the occasion to look at my boyfriend and ask "just how long have we known each other?"  Jeff decided we needed to start looking at houses.  He wasn't talking marriage, at first but I was cool with the idea of living with him.  We discussed number of bedrooms, bathrooms and floor plans.  All of a sudden Jeff mentioned school districts.  A warning flag went up in my brain.  Next came a comment about a pediatric clinic; he heard they're one of the best.  I stared at him long and hard and asked "how long have we known each other?"  Jeff stammered but came up with a figure pretty close to the correct answer.  "When during that time have you heard me say I wanted kids?"

We did not move in together.  About a year later Jeff got the great idea to try again.  The scene: dining room of a 3 bed 2 bath on quiet street in Aloha, OR.  We had walked around the house noting yards, patio and room either to park an RV or cultivate a veggie garden.  We began the tour of the inside of the house making it as far as the dining room before Jeff got dumb.  He said in a wistful tone, "can't you just see all of us sitting down for dinner?"

Me: "Who is us?"
Jeff, ignoring the question: "I like this room.  It's inviting and cosy.  I can see the kids doing homework or when the weather's bad all of us playing games like Yahtzee."
Me: "There's that all of us again.  And what kids?"
Jeff: "Our kids; our family."

Me: "Who are you planning on having kids with?"
(the real estate agent's eyes got huge and her jaw dropped to the floor.  she gave a little squeak.)
Jeff: "Why do you have to be like that?"
Me: "How long have you known me?  When have I ever said I wanted kids?"
Jeff: "I've known you long enough to say it's time for you to settle down and quit bouncing all over the place."  Then he stupidly referenced my biological clock and more than eluded to how I wasn't getting any younger.

(the real estate agent gasped and began looking about for a weapon to bludgeon him.  she was getting more irked than me.)
Me: "I do not have issues with my biological clock.  I do have issues with you."
Jeff: "Like you keep pointing out, we've known each other a long time.  We've had our fun.  It's time we settle down and raise a family."
Me: "I have no intention of having kids with you or anyone else.  Why is that so hard to understand?"

Let's skip the ugly part except to say I suggested he marry a brood mare.  Obviously this was the end of my relationship with Jeff.  But the question persists.  Why is it so hard for people to understand I'm not a kid person?

Everyone has limitations.  I acknowledge and accept mine.  Thankfully I born in the latter half of the twentieth century in a country where I have a say in the matter.  Personally I think if my situation had been different I'd end up in a padded room, eyes roving independantly and a thin line of drool oozing from the left corner of my mouth.   

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cats first, and then dogs

Tommy is having an identity crisis.  Anyday now I'll catch him on the bathroom counter assessing his reflection in the mirror.  He's already staring at himself in windows and television screens (when the power is off).  I can see the wheels turning in his little head.

Classic Egyptian chiseled face - check.  Green eyes - check.  Whiskers - check.  Plume tail - check.

Then Tommy practises his voice running up and down the yowl scale.  He chirps and mews; acks and chatters.  Low purr mode is tested: barely audible - check; rumbling - check.  High purr mode is tested: loud enough to be heard over the phone - check; loud and vibrating - check.  The latter always results in more rubs from humans.

Final diagnostics: leaping in single bound to back of recliner - check; intwinning around humans legs - check; hardwood floor stealth mode - check. 

Tommy is having an identity crisis.  Multiple times a day he evaluates Holly.  Tall and blonde - check.  Pants and drools - check.  Barks and whines - check.  Cannot walk quietly on hardwood floor - check.  Summation: Holly is a dog. 

"You Human.  Yeah, you, the one the Blonde usually answers to.  We need to talk.  That tall tail-less blonde is a DOG.  I, short, black and handsome, am a CAT.  I know Holly normally gets a fish-based kibble due to her allergy to chicken.  But Human - you've gone too far and I'm extremely irked.  Let me explain to you the natural order of things.  I am a cat.  Humans are on the earth to serve cats, not dogs.  How dare you fix a dog special meals when I, the cat, get only the usual kibble?  Has it occured to you to share a morsal or two with me?  I will make you pay for your insulance.  I will make the dog pay for reaping superior treatment.  I am the CAT!"

Holly's been sick.

"Yeah, yeah; she got bit by a spider.  Her face went all lopsided and goofy looking."

She had to go to the doctor.  It may take a year or more for the toxins from the bite and steriods (medicine) to clear her system.  Holly hasn't been feeling much like eating, which is causing more problems.  So, to help her get better I'm fixing her meals.

Tommy got right up in my face.  His green eyes stared unwavering into mine. "Human; you're missing the point.  I am the cat.  No dog is to ever, ever eat better than me.  I GET THE TUNA!"

(ok, I heard the sudden inhale and before you exclaim "you're feeding your dog tuna?"  allow me to explain.  Holly is getting rice cooked down to mush flavored with albacore, water packed, tuna at a ratio roughly 1 cup mush to 1 teaspoon tuna.  Think of this as a bland diet.  As her appetite picks back up I'll begin adding kibble to the mix gradually taking her off the mush.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hold the Botox

According to ad writers we women are supposed to grow old gracefully.  In other words, buy into the hype that we need all these products to lessen wrinkles and replenish collagen to make us look younger than our years.  Today I got three emails from spas announcing botox parties.  Why does all this make me think of Michael J. Fox's remarks to his aunt in "Secret to My Success"?

Personally I like my wrinkles and scars.  Thing is, I prefer getting credit for years lived over having to explain to people I know what I'm talking about, I lived through it.

I do have thoughts about aging.  First, I plan on living a minimum of 116 years, 1 week and 1 day.  Calender-wise the date will be July 5, 2076; the day after the Tricentennial of the United States.  It's all about the fireworks baby.  I'm fairly sure I can make it provided I can manage to stay away from doctors.  Lately I've been rather worried about America making it.

When I was in high school I got a part time job in a nursing home.  To this day I'm undecided on which is the worse fate: body giving out and mind staying sharp or body reasonably healthy and mind gone.  I talk to myself, animals and inanimate objects enough as it is, I doubt anyone will notice when my mind goes.  Yet the experience of watching those in the latter stages of life made an impact.  If I have a say in this I know exactly how I'll behave.

The plan when I left Oregon was for me to spend six months dinging around the east coast before settling down in Clark County, Nevada.  The Good Twin is to join me.  Despite the time schedule going out the window this is still the plan.  Say a prayer for Clark County, the cities of Las Vegas and Henderson. 

I announced to my twin yesterday I plan on buying a scooter, brilliant lime green or neon orange, with a cart to pull behind it for dog and groceries.  I shall let my hair grow into a silver braid down my back.  Then when I'm spotted putt-putting down Las Vegas Blvd. South locals will comment "Debi must have plans.  She's wearing shorts and tanktop instead of a housecoat."  Other times I might be sporting raccoon head slippers and a little black dress.  Tomorrow might be an earthmother caftan or flashback to Cyndi Lauper in the 80's.  Regardless of age, girls just want to have fun.  It's not having fun that ages us.

We all have to grow old, or so I'm told.  Personally I find this to be a lie right up there with all the crap the cosmetic and pharmacuetical companies want us to believe so we'll buy their products.  There is nothing that you can ingest or inject or slather on your skin that will make you a beautiful person.  Assuredly there are plenty of things that will make you appear old like a crotchedy attitude or persistant whining.  Stop for a minute and think of how many people you know who are younger than you that seem old.  What has aged them?

I want people to remember me favorably for how I treated them.  At the end of the day did anyone really notice if I waxed my moustache or plucked chin hairs?  The dog doesn't care that I'm wearing a nightshirt and pair of shorts when I take her out to potty.  Funny how the neighbors comment on my tan and dismiss whether or not I've shaved my legs.  I like that people are comfortable enough to strike up a conversation with me.  The writer in me is thrilled with all the juicy tidbits gleaned from impromptu meetings. 

Sorry cosmetic companies; the best anti-aging formula is kindness, courtesy and a non-judgmental attitude. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Logging the Family Tree

Dear Calvin,

We've known each other all our lives.  We've shared secrets, tragedies and countless moments of awe.  There were silly times like the night we stayed up surfing a foot fetish web site laughing until we were hoarse at the descriptions and photos of feet.  Or how about the day you were bitching about all the spam in your inbox and we compared emails.  You were getting breast enhancement whereas I was inundated with penis ads.  The image of you, shaved head, stocky build, sporting triple H knockers had me rolling on the floor. 

Remember the discussions we had about Billy Joel's song "We Didn't Start the Fire"?  Can you recall the list of family members we swore we'd never be like?  We didn't start the fire, but we don't need to perpetuate it.  We'd be smarter.  We'd learn from their mistakes and foolish acts.

So tell me Calvin, what the hell just happened?  Things I've been hearing are leaving me absolutely speechless, not to mention nauseated. 

Dude, you just leaped into the fire.  I have to ask what makes you think it's going to work out any better for you than it did for all our dumb ass relatives?  You were supposed to learn from history - not repeat it!  Apparently the lesson was lost on you.  In an odd way I find it rather funny, as in humorous and pathetic at the same time.

I've given the situation due consideration and have arrived at a conclusion.  In the words of my favorite 80's t-shirt, You - out of the gene pool.  If the only way to end this selfish madness is to terminate the family tree, then so be it.  You are about to get logged.

One thing life has taught me about self-centered people is that I can inform them of precisely how I will deal with them.  It always amazes me how shocked people are when their time comes like they really didn't believe actions have consequences.  Since you've lost your listening skills I'm putting it in writing so there will be no misunderstanding. 

Calvin, you will be terminated with prejudice on a day and at an hour of my choosing.  I appreciate how easy you are making this for me in that you've managed pissing off a number of vocal people.  When someone finally reports you as missing the cops will look to those people first.  Due to the nature of our relationship it's highly doubtful I'll even be considered suspect .  I wonder how many sympathy cards I'll get?

For years I've had to cope with people making fun of my OCD.  Interesting thing about OCD, combined with my love of research it's made me very organized and efficient.  I have no doubts that I'll be able to terminate you, neatly and dispose of your body. 

Dude, you're in Oregon.  We both own 4-wheel drives.  On the maps those wide open spaces are labeled forests.  Locals know they're dumping grounds.  And bodies are seldom discovered.  Maybe I'll give you a choice of Siskiyou or Umpqua.  Maybe I'll dump you in one and leave your truck parked next to a favorite fishing hole in the other.  Would you like that?  I can be accommodating, after all, it's your funeral so to speak. 

Love ya.  Tell the folks I said Hi.  I'll be seeing you soon.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Juicy Little Aliens

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon here in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  The temperature is mild.  The breeze is light.  The neighbors have seized upon this gorgeous day to torture their lawns one last time before winter. 

I get that people want nice looking lawns.  Lord knows in this neighborhood they shell out big bucks nearly all year around to keep their property spiffy.  The average lawn care company charges fifty dollars just to mow.  Personally I find this amusing.  Why, you ask?  Because it's flat land and there's no blackberries.

My last front yard in Oregon was big enough to hold a regulation [dog] Agility course with plenty of room leftover.  Because we lived on the side of a mountain, standard to the PacNW, part of said lawn also had a thirty plus degree slope.  On a riding lawnmower, without catcher bags and the blades set on the first notch, it took an average of two hours to mow the yard, in third gear.  Obstacles included: tree roots, big trees; blackberry brambles and deer. 

I have a theory regarding blackberry bushes.  Blackberries are an alien life force.  There is one mother plant plausibly hiding in the Tillamook Forest* that is methodically spreading it's tendrils across the countryside.  Those of you who have engaged blackberries in battle know Napalm is not a deterrent.  You think it's gone but in reality it's moved to the flowerbeds to wind up through rosebushes and hide in columbines. 

Blackberry tendrils are strong.  They lie in wait in the grass seeking to wrap around unsuspecting mower blades to prove their superiority by stalling man's machines.  Heavy spiked runners grab at clothing and swat at faces or snag exposed arms and legs.  Lawn care in the PacNW is often a bloodsport.

The only way we can win is for America to eat more blackberries.  Holiday season approaches.  Please join in the fight.  Bake more blackberry pies, bread, scones and pastry.  Drink blackberry juice or add the tasty clusters to your dishes, sweet or savory.  Blackberries might not be to your house yet, but they're heading your way.

*allow me to put the Tillamook State Forest into perspective for city dwellers and flat landers - it's 364,000 acres, vertical terrain is roughly 432 times the size of NY's Central Park and spans four counties.

in March 2010 loggers found the wreckage of a WWII Navy plane sixty plus years after it crashed. 

after the decimating fires known as The Tillamook Burn, when over 550 square miles burned, 72 million trees were replanted. 

Don Berry in his novel To Build a Ship, said of the Tillamook Forest, it's a lesson in humility to stand in the midst of the forest, look up and not be able to see the sky for the trees.   Figure at this time he was speaking of old growth forest, prior to burn.  Present day trees tower better than 150 feet tall.

now if you were an alien life force, could you pick a better hiding place?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Word and words

The other night the name of a new follower on Twitter reminded me of my journalism teacher.  That poor man; good thing he had short hair.  If his hair were long enough to grasp and pull, he'd been bald because of me.  The issue was my editing skills.  The point was I couldn't spell.  The defining moment came when he handed me first a dictionary and then the galley with the instruction try it again.  Round and round we went.  I thought I was done.  He said there was still an error.  My teacher finally circled a paragraph and made me look up each word in the dictionary.  When I couldn't find one of the words, he suggested I run through the rest of the vowels.  Who'd of guessed the word "initiation" begins with an "I"? The way most people say it the first letter is an "A". 
The following day my teacher presented me with a paperback Roget's Thesaurus.  If I didn't know how to spell a word I could look up one that meant similar and cross-reference.  Bless the man.  By the end of the year I'd graduated to Roget's International Thesaurus and a life long love of words.

Personal computers are wonderful.  Thank you Microsoft for Word.  However, Word and I do not speak the same language and it refuses to learn mine.  I refuse to be limited by it.

A few years ago I taught English as a Second Language in the work place.  Although the local community college provided instructors, out of self-preservation the company asked me to take over the class.  The out-going teacher left me his lesson plans and material.  First thing I noticed was the dialect, phrasing if you will, syntax if you'd rather.  Obviously he wasn't from the Pacific Northwest. 

I was facing students from all parts of Asia, several countries in Europe, the Middle East and then Russia.  (Google Russia; their language is barely the same from one time zone to the next.) How was I supposed to get everyone on the same page? 

Star Trek.  I defy you to find someone who has not heard or uttered the phrase "beam me up Scotty".  The boss about had heart failure when he walked by the class and overheard us role playing scenes from Star Trek 4, The Voyage Home.  Everyone knew the movie.  We were on common ground which encouraged the whole class to work on enunciation.  Plus it was fun and people learn more when they're having fun.

Then came the day I corrected one of the students by explaining I was teaching American, not English.  What's the difference she asked.  This happened to be a day we were studying verbs so I picked "walk" as an example.  In America we go for a walk after dinner.  Or perhaps we go for a stroll, which technically is a more English word yet one common to the West Coast where you stroll on beaches.  In Canada they go out and about, pronounced oot and a boot.  Down in Australia they take walkabouts which means they might be back next year. 

American is cool.  We stroll, hike, go, plod, tread, trek, traipse, plow, struggle, wade, shuffle and tiptoe and the list continues.  But basically, we walk.  When you think about it ours is a huge growing language yet it only works as long as we've common ground.  Check out the dictionary, there are 27 primary uses of the word "mean".  The first time I'd read that someone went "toes-up" I thought she'd died.  Imagine my response a page later when she was fixing dinner.  (Who'd of guessed toes-up meant she was taking a nap.  In context to the story up to that point, she could have died.)

Microsoft Word and I have numerous disagreements usually resulting in me mumbling curses at its inflexibility.  Yes, I really did mean to say the statues appear to be strolling down the path, present tense.  The argument over some words and/or phrases has escalated to the point I swear Word is making up grammar rules.  My favorite is when it informs me I've used an obscure word.  Try telling it to ignore or learn when this message pops up.  Just for fun see how many different ways you can use the word "stalk" alone or with suffixes without getting the "you're wrong" message.

A friend asked why I haven't disabled grammar and/or spell check.  If I were to disable the latter my proofreaders would threaten my life.  As for the former - why ruin my fun?  I have a vocabulary and I know how to use it.

(I have to share this, as posted on FaceBook by my sister and proofreader - "Paragraph 7, line 2: dump the period between "but basically" and "we walk"; paragraph 8, line 2: curses at ITS inflexibility."  Most impressive, Gayle refrained from remarking how I had time to write a blog and she is still waiting on chapter 4 of Done & Said.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Zynga and the afterlife

Several years ago when I first started hearing about MySpace, I took a brief look at it and decided it wasn't for me.  I had other things to do like working and writing.  Holly and I were spending hours a week training for Agility.  Then more and more friends joined MySpace and they gradually convinced me to hop onboard too.

I have to admit at first it was fun and it proved to be a great way to keep up to date on everyone.  The big game at the time was Mafia Wars.  Everybody was touting what great fun it was, so I played for a while but I just don't get this game.  Racking up points, acquiring property and weapons was easy.  Yet the whole time I kept wondering what is the point?  And then people started getting real ugly, talking nasty to each other and making threats.  I bailed out of Mafia Wars. 

Around this time I noted friends were abandoning MySpace.  For whatever reasons the charm had worn off.  It was no longer the place to share pictures or personal ancedotes.  Honestly I can't pinpoint any one thing that caused the exodus.  Gradually we all joined FaceBook perhaps because it was like the early days of MySpace. 

Back then I enjoyed FaceBook.  I could post to my wall and actually get responses from friends.  I could go onto their walls and see what they've been up to, check out pictures and leave messages.  Yes, I played some games, mostly ones that my friends were playing.  The best part was we didn't need to be in the same game to chat while playing.

Do I dare mention FarmVille?  Everybody is nuts about FarmVille.  Any more I hate going out on FaceBook because of it.  My running joke for months has been "if you want to get someone's attention on FaceBook you have to offer a FarmVille freebie".

I want to blame Zynga yet at the same time I feel like screaming at friends "enough already!"  Posts to walls are buried under tons of "share" debris.  Most days I assume friends are still alive because they're playing games.  But then again, I could be wrong.  I know for a fact 2 are deceased and 6 have blocked FarmVille yet I'm still getting game stuff from them.  Yesterday I got an email from FarmVille to inform me a certain friend needed help to finish a quest.  Who'd of guessed you could play FarmVille in the afterlife?

My sense of humor suggests I post a semi-nude photo but unless I was offering bushels of cherries or free FarmVille bucks I rather doubt the majority would notice.

Until the latest FaceBook revision there was a drop-down menu on our home page with choices to filter out the clutter.  I do not like the new version; it's a pain in the tush.  However, you can group family / friends in order to see their status updates, links and pictures.  But it's still a pain.  For me at least, the charm has most definitely worn off. 

My Twitter followers are increasing daily.  For the record, there's only three I actually know.  If Twitter ever opens up to games and there isn't another network waiting in the wings to take it's place I guess I'll go back to writing letters. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Veggies Have Rights Too

Very rarely have I gone out of my way to look someone up with the intention of re-establishing contact.  I guess I've always been of the frame of mind that if I'm moving forward and they are too then sooner or later we'll reconnect. 
The last blog, Once Upon a Time in Beaverton, told of a fellow named Mark who started the Vegetable Rights Organization.  If you haven't read said blog, please scroll down and do so now.  I'll wait.

As I wrote the previous blog I could hear Mark's voice and laugh.  Then what I didn't know started bothering me.  My friend Nancy, of whom I wrote, is no longer with us so I couldn't call her and ask about Mark.  I did however get a hold of another friend who supplied phone numbers on the advisement she wasn't sure if, after five years, the numbers were good.

The first number was answered by machine; I left a message.  The second number was picked up by a man.  I asked if he was Mark; he said he was a Mark. 

Fairly positive I had the right Mark, I proceeded. "The Mark I'm looking for is of average height, brown hair and wears glasses." 

He chuckled nervously and said yes.  Consider at this point the word Stalker is probably going thru his head.

Me: "Are you the Mark who started the Vegetable Rights Organization back in the 90's?"

That got him laughing.  The answer, of course, was yes.

Now for page two - I told Mark there wasn't a week that went by that "Vegetables Have Rights Too" didn't make me smile.  He asked if I recalled the jingle.  I said no, just the logo.  Mark said that was too bad but he didn't offer to sing it for me.  So I told him about the blog and driving reason I tracked him down.  "What on earth possessed you to start the Vegetable Rights Movement?"

Here is what Mark said:
The Vegetable Rights Organization is in response to all the Vegetarians and Vegans who feel people shouldn't eat meat, yet they are not doing their part to support the cause.  Vegetarians and Vegans need to join forces with Carnivores and Omnivores.  If they'd do their part in eating up the meat supply then the population would have to eat vegetables, because that's all they'd have left.

Oddly there is logic to this premise, though debatable as to plausibility.  I am an Omnivore who absolutely loves vegetables and often dines solely on nice fresh veggies.  When I was out West my Vegetarian friends would grow so hopeful during the summer months that I was converting to their way of life.  Sorry Dudes; I still enjoy a good steak and won't ever refuse real bacon.

Out here in the South the meat tastes funny.  It smells odd when it's cooking.  I'm bothered by not knowing where it's from or how it was raised.  The looks I get have stopped me from asking whether or not it's free-range or if the animals were given drugs.  Therefore I tend to eat more vegetables out here.  Do not mistake this for me being health conscious.  Call me paranoid because I know the secret of Soylent Green.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Once upon a time in Beaverton

In the mid 90's I worked with a fellow named Mark who started an activist group.  While I don't know exactly what inspired him to advocate vegetable rights, the concept cracked me up and I loved his logo.  Perhaps as a child his mother forced him to eat his veggies.  Or maybe he dated a militant vegan.  Judging by Mark's personality I'd say he came up with the idea purely for the reaction factor. 

At the same place of employment I met a gal named Nancy.  She was a bit odd, had a non-traditional outlook on life and lived in a motor home with her dog.  During the week Nancy parked the motor home at various friend's homes or the company's back lot.  Weekends and holidays she escaped the city to camp alongside moving water, ocean or river, and work on craft projects.  Nancy was also into self-exploration: self-help books and workshops, tarot and mystics.  Pretty much when I first met her I thought she was a kook or the last remaining hippie who hadn't gotten the news the 70's were over.

Then there was Rosa, a beautiful Cambodian woman with a terrific sense of humor.  The trick was you had to get to know her to realize she was telling a joke.  For the most part Rosa kept to herself, did her job and rarely uttered a word - until she met me.  Lucky for me Rosa decided we'd make great friends which is how I came to know her story. 

First impressions can be very deceiving.  How we analyze and classify someone often is prejudiced by where our head is at and / or external factors.  I had just moved back to Portland after burying my father.  To say I was dealing with a lot of unresolved issues fails to convey my level of anger and frustration.  These three people saw in me a kindred spirit and went out of their way to help ease my burden.

I was having a particularly bad night, (we worked second shift) and was looking for any excuse to pitch a fit and quit.  Nancy moved over to the desk next to mine and unasked began assisting me prep parts.  But instead of working at a let's get this done and over with pace, she very annoyingly took minutes to do one part.  Realizing I was about to scream Nancy held up a resistor and said how much she appreciated the bands of color.  I'm sure I gave her a look that said she was going soft in the head.  One by one, each part she picked up Nancy made a statement about it's sharpness of lines or contrasts in colors.  Gently she was distracting me, halting my frantic pace and shifting my focus.  It took her most the shift but I've never forgotten the lesson, the Zen of prepping parts.

Months later Mark shared how he endeavored everyday to get me to laugh.  One, he figured me laughing greatly reduced the chances of homicide taking place.  And two, focusing on me diverted his mind off his problems.  Because of Mark I make it a practice to get a minimum of three people to smile each day and if I can get them to laugh that's even better.

Rosa shared her life story with me.  I'm sure she omitted or glossed over parts that were still open wounds, too painful for her to deal with despite time and distance.  I cried when I heard it and still cry when I think about what she went through.  Rosa's is a story of perserverance, of believing her lot in life could change with the very next breath.  For the longest time I failed to understand why, when given the opportunity, Rosa passed on gaining revenge.  I know it isn't just Americans who are raised with the notion you did to me and now I'm going to do back to you.  Once I crawled out of my anger I realized the moral to her story.  The only winning move is not to play; do not perpetuate stupidity. 

Sixteen years ago, purely by chance these three people came into my life at the same time and when I needed them most.  It took all three to make an impact.  I lost contact with Mark and Rosa about ten years ago.  Cancer took Nancy five years back.  The person I am today, tomorrow and ten years from now is due in part to them.  Maybe they'll never know the impact they made but everyone I've met since has reaped the benefits of these three making me their friend.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Go "hmm"

Time frame: junior high, now known as middle school, when teachers begin assigning homework that requires research, organizational skills and a basic command of language and grammar.  Before the Internet and laptop computers students had to go to the library and use card indexes to locate reference material.  Obviously access was limited to library hours and parent's work schedules. 

I knew the library better than my own backyard, which at the time constituted approximately two cleared acres and four timbered acres.  The problem was the library was six miles away and there was no bus service.  I was not allowed to ride my bike into town and there wasn't a hitching post for my horse.  Prior to junior high, going to the library was a huge treat.  I loved to read and always checked out the maximum allowed number of books.  My parents did not limit my reading to children's or preteen sections.  I had full run of the place. 

Yet in junior high I discovered some of my classmates couldn't be bothered with books.  My young brain couldn't get wrapped around the notion of people thumbing their nose at books.  Who doesn't like to read, to immerse themselves in a story letting the characters take them on an adventure?  Granted homework is boring and it takes time away from things we'd rather do, but still, unlimited access to the reference library is right up there with Christmas. 

Had I known the word at the time I might have denounced my classmates as heretics.  Denouncing books is like denouncing God.  Non-readers are the atheists of progressive societies.  Imagine if you will a world without readers of science fiction.  Perhaps Dr. Robert H. Goddard would still be the father of solid fuel rockets but would there have been a race to the moon?  Picture America without NASA.  Now let's see you pull out your laptop to Google all those wonderful modern conveniences we take for granted every minute of our day, and night. 

We who write never know what might entice a reader to go "hmm."  Believe me, had tampons and feminine pads not been invented by the time I read passages from the journals of women who came west on wagon trains, I'd be in a test lab working on them.  Necessity maybe the Mother of Invention but someone had to say "hmm" first.  Hmm, as in women really need something better than strips of rags. 

Thanks to somebody who said "hmm, let's record books for those who are blind" we now download our favorite authors onto our iPods and Kindles.  We have more counter space in our kitchens due to using laptops or iPads to call up demonstrated step-by-step recipes. 

The number of readers may ebb and flow but books will never go out of fashion as long as our society isn't willing to accept being good enough as the status quo.  I see in the near future going to my computer, calling up a book and selecting who will read it to me.  Digital voice impressions: Sam Waterston reads John Grisham.  Jimmy Stewart reads Mark Twain.  Pick your book and then pick your reader.

Hopefully the idea of digital voice impressions just made somebody go "hmm" cause my twin really wants to hear Ice-T read Piers Anthony.  I'm holding out for Tom Petty reading Nevil Shute.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Germies and dog hair

Show of hands please, who has seen at least one episode of Monk?  Good.  Now that you've got a mental image let me say I have moderate OCD.  No, I don't walk around demanding wipes.  I read the labels.  Wipes merely apply perfume to germies.  Who needs good smelling germies?

The first medical professional to evaluate me said I didn't have OCD because I'm not hung up on even numbers.  Personally I like a clear defined center, anything else is out-of-balance and lopsided.  Therefore it is annoying and makes me fidget.  In an odd way, it actually feels dangerous. 

Most of the time I am aware I'm becoming obsessed with something and can take measures to control it.  Then there are other days.

Waiting for an order at a butcher shop I stood to the side and thought I was minding my own business until one of the cashiers made an announcement. "Whoever is processing Debi's order please hurry up or send Bob to keep her out of the produce."  She was looking right at me as she spoke.  I'm like, what's going on?  She pointed to the tiers of bottled beverages nearby. "You've already sorted every shelf and faced all labels forward.  Then you threatened to slap another customer's hand when he put a bottle back in the wrong slot.  We know you.  Stay out of the produce." 

Mean lady; the world would be tidy and well-organized if more of us practised a few OCD traits.

Do you love gardening but cannot stand getting your hands dirty?  Double glove!  First, pull on a pair of latex exam gloves and then gardening or work gloves.  For house plants - latex gloves followed by those yellow kitchen gloves so you can feel what you're doing.  See, now you can pull off the dirty outer gloves with touching them.  I suggest double gloving for other chores too like sorting recycling.

I hate touching [public] door knobs.  Yeah, this gets tricky.  Sometimes waiting for someone else to open the door isn't possible.  Often I'll resort to using either a sleeve or hem of t-shirt to grasp door handle.  The latter is guaranteed to get me weird looks.  For the record, cops tend to get highly suspicious should I don a pair of latex gloves before entering a courthouse.  Cops more than anyone know what kind of people frequent courthouses, and what might be brought in on their person.  (We're talking germies and bugs.)  Therefore the first order of business is to locate the nearest bathroom to exit so hands can be washed prior to leaving.

Yes, I wash my hands as soon as possible upon leaving grocery stores too.  Let me reiterate - wipes don't cut it with me.  I need to flush germies down the drain with hot water and soap.

On those bad days when I can't control the compulsion, when certain stressors over-ride logic, no one is safe.  I've taken on an auditorium filled with prospective jurors, made them straighten rows of chairs, tuck in clothing tags and comb their hair.  If I'm at home I'll happily feed the paper shredder or delete things off the computer and then set up new files.  Must be organized, no clutter.  Days like these I must be restrained from cleaning, specifically from cleaning my truck. 

While you're thinking this could be a good thing, imagine spending all day vacuuming and brushing dog hair from seats and carpet.  Now picture: it's well after dark and you're armed with flashlight and tweezers removing strands of hair.  I will admit that it's taken years but I've successfully reached a tolerance level to Holly's shedding.  I love her.  She sheds.  Shaving her isn't an option. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Holly's Top Ten

Last month one of the dog site's I follow asked where our dog would go if they could drive.  Naturally most people answered a pet store.  I asked Holly where she would go; she thought about it for a moment and asked "do I get a credit card too?"  She maybe be blond but she's no dummy.  Holly knows the truck takes gas and chews cost money.

Here's Holly's Top Ten:

10) any Human Bean or Dutch Bros. Coffee.  They give treats and sometimes top biscuits with whipped cream.  (also see #9)

9) any bake goods retailer that sells pumpkin or zucchini bread, preferably both.  oh, and blueberry too.

8) a pillow factory, warehouse or retailer.  every creature must have their comforts and my blond diva loves pillows.

7) West.  as in the direction.  out of humidity.  also the home of Human Bean, Dutch Bros. and PetCo

6) Best Western and La Quinta Hotels.  she delights in charming staff and other guests.  plus several have fixed her breakfast plates of bacon, sausage and ham.  need I say more?

5) The Hong Kong Restaurant, Grants Pass OR.  the staff never let me leave without a to-go bag for Holly.  Whenever we called in an order they always asked what Holly wanted. (BTW - she likes Szchewan and Hunan styles)

4) a good Tex-Mex restaurant, (sadly lacking in NC) she'll take anything hot and spicy on the menu.

3) tied for this slot are her uncles Terry and Jarod because they both grilled her plenty of steaks

2) Aunt Kat.  sender of care packages from Albertson's and PetCo

1) Albertson's grocery store.  seller of dry cured deli sliced bacon and Tillamook Cheese

Holly has yet to forgive me for moving to an area that's never heard of real cheese or non-chemically processed bacon.  The latter being surprising for all we hear about Southern cooking.  PetCo was not given it's own slot because she orders online and has a love affair going with the FedEx driver.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Shoutout to my Friends

Have I mentioned lately I have the coolest friends in the world?  Each and everyone of them is different; half of them can't stand the other half and a few barely tolerate the rest.  But they all love me.  And I love them. 

They all know I write about them, hence the disclaimer "anything you do or say probably will end up in a book".  You know they get a huge kick out of this because they call, email or IM bits of their lives, secrets or embarrassing moments; things that will bring you to tears or make you say "huh?"  I find this remarkable.  They know I'm going to share - globally.  Granted, I usually change names but still, I feel honored.

This week I've been keeping them apprised on Face Book the results of research into whether or not, and if so under what circumstances, homeowner's insurance pays for crime scene cleanup.  The consensus of my friends is that Big Brother is watching me and has been for sometime.  Apparently they feel I make government types twitchy by researching explosives, handguns and legalities.  Or in the terms of an insurance agent "this is starting to sound premeditated". 

Should I get sent to Club Fed, I'm fairly positive a few friends will be right there with me.  One, they assisted in research.  Two, hesitant to use the term anti-government, let's just say several have bigger issues with authority than I do.  Three, if they don't try to break me out, then they'll try to smuggle something in. 

While some people say it's their friends that keep them out of trouble; I have to give the credit to Holly.  I refuse to go any place I can't take her therefore jail is not an option.  However now that I'm thinking about it, jail might help with book sales.  I might change my mind if Club Fed accepts well-behaved doggies.  Considering the amount of mail and packages Holly gets they'll have to hire additional security screeners.  Maybe a nice friendly Golden so she has someone to play with.

Ok, seriously; I have the greatest friends in the world.  Even though we can annoy the hell out of each other, at the end of the day it's all love.  I think it's because the one thing we all have in common is the ability to laugh at ourselves.  We know that contrary to the adage, wisdom does not come with age but rather from being an idiot and then learning from it. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

No, I'm not from here

The occasion: my first visit to a particular North Carolina Courthouse.  Bear in mind, the South does not use the same verbiage as the West so I'm walking around in a bit of a daze.  It's a new courthouse, real fancy.  Up ahead I spot 3 police officers lounging at a security checkpoint and then as I draw closer I see they are chatting with a seated cop.  The instant the notion flash into my brain I acted upon it.  (I was the only civilian in the area.)  Rushing down the hall towards them I leaped onto the mat at the center of the metal detector and tapped the top button on my shirt.  "Scotty, one to beam up!"

You know those officers were real nice.  The seated one appointed me an escort to show me around the courthouse.  I asked if that was Southern for "we're showing you to the parking lot; you're 86'd." 

Hold on, you know it's coming.  Those four officers looked at each other and yep, one asked "you ain't from around here, are you?" 

I love Southerners.  They tell me I talk funny.  If it wasn't for Jeff Foxworthy I wouldn't have a clue what some of them are saying.  For the record, when it comes to the State of Georgia if you're from the West Coast just give up now.  I've actually had a county tax clerk ask what language I was speaking.  At least I think that's what she asked. 

The scene: Domino's Pizza, paying for an order.  I swiped my debit card and the counter person asked for my billing zip code.  I told him it's 97526.  He asked what country that was.  (Read that again. Yep, you read it right the first time.) Then he said could tell from my accent I'm not from here.

The situation: completing a Current Owner [title] Exam for client.  The client had supplied a checklist of required documentation however I had no clue as to one of the items.  I called the county, Registrar of Deeds Office and by the time I got off the phone with them I was even more confused.  So rather than calling the client I hit the phonebook.  A real sweet ReMax agent put me thru to their legal office.  The attorney on the other end of the phone was polite enough to hear me out.  Laughing he asked "you aren't from here, are you?" 

The hair-pulling-I'm-going-to-scream frustration points: Southern courthouses have records dating back to when the king handed out land grants.  But none of them are standardized.  And it's not just a case of from one county to the next they use different terms - it's from one clerk to the next, in the same office and on the same day.  I end up having to ask a lot of questions.  The response always begins with "you aren't from around here, are ya?"

Footnote for those of you either in or acquainted with the title industry: while performing a search I discovered how many ways a reconveyance can be indexed.  Thankfully the guy only owned the one piece of property, bought less than 10 years ago.  Every 18 months or so he took out a Credit Line, small amount and then paid it off before taking out another.  The reconveyances were indexed as: Completion of Note; Cancellation of Lien; Satisfied Note; Cancelled; and Completion Deed.  The heading of each document boldly said "Reconveyance of Deed of Trust".  I love the South.  I had the opportunity to ask one of the clerks "wouldn't it be easier to just index these as Recons?"  She gave me the look; the look that says "you aren't from here, are you?"

That got you awake

I am told I have a blatant disregard for authority.  Hmm. I wonder where that notion came from?  Could be I stayed awake during that portion of government class covering the Bill of Rights - that all men (and women) are created equal.  Maybe it was from George Carlin.  More than likely it's because I get a huge kick out of the shock factor, which is another reason I'm the Evil Twin.
Tonight the question circling my head like an annoying mosquito is: who pays for crime scene cleanup?  A simple enough question that can be easily answered tomorrow when State Farm's office opens.  However, being me I am entertaining how to ask the question depending upon whether or not the agent who takes the call knows me.  For the sake of this blog, let's assume I call Judy tomorrow.  It would go something like this:

"Hey Judy, the cops have hauled a dead guy out of the house.  Who's gonna pay to cleanup this mess?  There's blood everywhere, splattered on the furniture and the carpet's ruined.  I'm covered, right?"

'That dead guy wouldn't happen to be related to you?  Are you calling from lockup?  Where's your dog?"  About this time Judy will notice caller ID displays a non-Oregon area code. "Are you on vacation?  Oh my god; you aren't home and someone was killed in the house?"

People's minds sort incoming bits by order of relevance to where their head is currently at, which does not directly translate to how well they were paying attention.  This is especially true when presenting a task related question to an on-the-clock professional.  The real trick is timing.  For example, Phoenix Airport 2007: armed TSA official has concluded scrutinizing my ID and boarding pass.  As he hands them back his eyes go to the endless line behind me.  "I'm good to go?"  He nods and jerks a thumb towards the next security check point.  His expression made me say it.  "Best damn forgery you've ever seen, huh?"  

One thousand one, one thousand two; around the twenty second mark his head snapped up.  I was trying so hard not to laugh, tears were rolling down my face.  The fact I wasn't led away in handcuffs merely means there wasn't any middle-age, white, overweight women on the terrorist watch list that day.

Since I left Oregon I wonder upon occasion who is keeping security awake at the Douglas County Courthouse.  The standard pre-search questions are: Do you have weapons of any kind - guns, knives or razor blades? Is there anything on your person or in your belongings that will cut or puncture me? 
Ok, please read the questions again.  Did the officer ask if you are in possession of a green and pink squeaky dinosaur? 

I had taken one of Holly's squeaky toys and mashed it under my laptop. You know that sound squeaky toys make when they "inhale"? I thought the deputy was going to pee his pants when he lifted up my laptop.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tommy vs Holly, part 2

(recap: Tommy is a large black cat; Holly is my dog, Boxer - Great Dane cross)

The yard is not fenced.  When Holly's keeping me company while I work or write she's on a forty foot long tether.  Holly figured out real quick that Tommy was not allowed outside and that he's darn good at slipping passed humans or working a door open. Should he make it out, she tattles on him whining and head butting me.  If I fail to immediately go fetch the cat or if he runs from me Holly takes matters into her own paws. 

At first Tommy was still leery enough of Holly that when faced with a bouncing Boxer he quickly retreated to the nearest door.  Then as he got braver and more determined to remain outside he foolishly got the notion he could outrun her.  Holly raced passed him, swung around and dropped her chest to the ground - and then barked in his face.  Nose to nose with the business end of a very big dog it's amazing that black cat didn't turn white.  The next few times Tommy escaped Holly planted herself in his path and woofed.  Then I either grabbed the cat or he beat feet back to the door.

But Tommy is persistent.  That Holly's won ribbons in Agility means nothing to him.  He's a cat.  He's positive he can outsmart her.  I warned him she's a Boxer; he just gave me that look. 

Tommy is persistent.  He made it outside and was proudly flaunting the fact strutting down the sidewalk.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Holly's head come up.  She'd been stretched out on the grass dozing.  Now she's watching the cat.  Tommy randomly paused his stroll to sniff at grass and shrubs.  His tail fully erect, the tip twitching in delight.  Another six feet and he'll be beyond the dog's reach; he cast a look over his shoulder as if to say, ha, you've lost this time. 

There was a flash of blond streaking across the lawn.  The twang of the tether rope as Holly hit the end and let the laws of physics reverse her motion to bring her to a stop directly in front of the cat facing him.  Hunkering down she woofed ordering Tommy to return to the house.  Tommy tried making a break for it but a paw reached out and flattened him to the ground.  Another woof; Holly let him up.  And then she proceeded to dribble Tommy like a soccer ball between her front paws all the way to the front door.  Added to the poor cat's indignity was me laughing - he hid from us the rest of the day.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Peanut butter, pickles and twins

We are twins.  We have different biological parents.  We've known each other 36 years.  I am older by 14 months.  There is no mistaking that Kat is a Leo; her heart and personality is as big as a lion's.  Though my sign is Cancer, popular consensus says I'm Gemini perhaps due to my passive/aggressive nature. 

We are twins.  We are both the only female child in our families.  She is the oldest in her's; I'm the youngest in mine.  We were not raised in the same religion.  Kat's dad was an accountant; mine was an engineer.  Her mom taught middle school; mine was an artist.  Differences aside, major aspects of our lives run parallel.  Make no mistake about it - we are twins.

Kat is the Good Twin.  I am the Evil Twin.  How we gained that distinction was my mother's fault.  Undoubtedly it has more to say about my relationship with Mom.  Kat was seen as the good daughter who attended church, social functions and did her parent's proud through volunteer work.  I was the kid who kept to myself, usually stayed quiet but when I did speak up Mom had heart palpatations. 

(When we lived in Longivew WA, Mom and Dad were good friends with a pastor and his wife.  The scene: houseful of guests for brunch, table laden with food and the pastor was asked to say the blessing.  Twice before the prayed ended Dad kneed me in the leg to tell me to quit giggling.  Upon the final amen I hopped up and grabbed dishes from the table carrying them back to the kitchen.  When asked to explain my actions I said, "The church teaches God foresees our needs therefore He gave man the idea for microwaves because simply saying a short grace so the food doesn't get cold is beyond the abilities of Baptist preachers."  In my defence, "grace" lasted a ridiculus forty minutes.  Even the pastor's wife was trying to get him to wrap it up once he cleared the ten minute mark.)

Kat is the Good Twin.  She would not have said such things.  For the record, she would have remained quiet because she was within her father's strike zone.  I was confident Dad would not whack me in front of guests, most particularly the pastor.  I can live with being the Evil Twin.

Experts say that when living or closely working together female's monthly cycles tend to fall into synch.  A few years back Kat had a hystorictomy.  Now she hates me.  Once a month she gets bloating and mood swings coinciding with me starting a period.  Most of the time Kat finds this amusing, in her words "people get to deal with my irratibility but you get the mess.  I think that's fair." 

What's not fair is the months Kat gives into food cravings and then I get sick.  She's a vegitarian and I'm an omnivore.  However there are somethings I will not eat.  There are some food combinations that make me nauseaous just thinking about them on a good day.  Bad enough to be having the period from hell but my twin goes and gives in to a craving.  Oh my gosh I was sick; up all night and worrying poor Holly.  All because my twin ate a peanut butter and dill pickle sandwich! 

Tell me we're not twins.  Peanut butter and dill pickle - there has to be a law against that.  Isn't she lucky I'm not a kid person?  One more sandwich like that I'd be tempted to get pregnant just so Kat had morning sickness.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sheer Joy of Murder

One lesson age has taught me is that arguing is not worth either emotions or rise in blood pressure.  Think about it.  In how many arguments have you actually managed to change someones mind or alter their actions for the better?  Experience tells me most people argue when he or she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt they are wrong.  Personally, I'm not about to waste my breath when all they are looking for is justification of their actions or words. 

I am passive/aggressive and I love it.  While you are pissing me off I am plotting your demise.  Lucky for you I have a live and let live philosophy except in print, which is lucky for my readers.  There are some people I have killed off numerous times.  I've changed their names, gender and location so not to be monotonous.  One particular person has been murdered around fifty times; forty-eight scenes got deleted but I felt better having written them.  Some times all it takes is writing their name and hitting the delete key.  Think of it like Staples "Easy" button.  See, I can delete you!  Ha!  You are gone! 

Let's see a raise of hands - how many authors are asked by family or friends "will you put me in your book?"  Do you comply? 

Next question, raise your hand if: you've had a friend or family member beg to be the villain.  Has he or she given you suggestions as to who to bump off and how?  Would you like to read some of my email?  I get a huge kick out of this, maybe because I'm not on any of the lists, yet. 

In Done and Said I'm bumping off the neighbors.  Nothing personal; I barely know the ones that are dying.  It's just that I'm frustrated, they're within my field of vision and so they need to die.  This is the joy of being a writer.  I can expel my anxieties and frustrations in the most horrific manner and the cops won't be knocking on the door.  (Although for shits and giggles I do like the idea of Mr Pete glancing out the window to see the house surrounded by SWAT.) 

Being an ornery person, I also delight in responding to the question what are you doing with the perfectly honest answer "I'm plotting the death of a neighbor".  Oh, it's the look on their faces, the sudden intake of air and nervous stammer that thrills me to the soles of my feet.  My favorite to date - Donna's mom, who swallowed hard and asked how many neighbors I've killed.  I thought about it for a moment and then asked "in this neighborhood or altogether?"  Probably a good thing another neighbor interceded and told her I write novels.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tommy vs Holly, part 1

Tommy, aka Mr Tom, is a large all black cat with expressive green eyes.  He must be part Siamese for he can yowl pretty darn good.  Hence other nicknames that shall be omitted from my blog or I'll get a PG-13 rating due to language.  When Holly and I arrived in his home Tommy did not cower.  For the next three months he stomped and hissed, fluffed out his fur and arched his back like a Halloween cat doing his best to intimidate the largest dog he'd ever seen.  Holly ignored him. 

Now Tommy didn't take too well to being ignored.  He went on the offensive.  From on top of or from under furniture he attacked Holly batting her with a paw.  Since Tommy has been declawed Holly continued to ignore him.  Growing braver Tommy stalked her and if she turned and looked at him, he hissed and growled.  Holly didn't know what to make of his attitude but she was good and didn't respond in kind.  Gradually Tommy got up the nerve to get close to this foreign blond monster that had invaded his space.  If she was lying down Tommy would circle her sniffing delicately at an ear or paw. 

Then came the day Tommy had his fill of being ignored.  He marched straight up to Holly and batted her with both front paws.  I held my breath.  Holly is a Boxer.  She's well versed in delivering a one-two whacks.  One good swat from Holly and the cat would be flying.  Much to my surprise Holly, who did not grow up around cats, dropped to her belly and looked Tommy in the eye.  And then she woofed in his face.  That gave Tommy something to think about and while he was thinking - Holly licked him.  I half expected Holly to turn to me and say "he tastes like fish". 

Boxers come in two varieties: wet-mouth and dry-mouth (think drool).  Holly is a dry-mouth which in this instance was sort of a shame.  Still, the expression on Tommy's face when a huge tongue wiped his whole head and most of his upper body in one pass had me doubled over in laughter.  Poor Tommy; he just sat there stunned - so Holly licked him again.

Realization set in; every fiber of that cat's being recoiled in horror.  "I've been kissed by a dog!"  Tommy retreated to the laundry room and sat atop the washer for the next couple of hours scouring dog slobber from his fur. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Photography and Writing

Today I was struck by the parallels between photography and writing a novel.  Cameras and computers are abundantly available limited only by what you can afford.  Cell phones take pictures and posts to blogs.  If I felt like writing on a tiny keyboard and sending the pages to my computer, I'm sure there's an app for that or there'll be one soon.

Everyone has words in their head.  Everyone has a story to tell.  I have a camera.  I take pictures.

My cousin Jarod is a fabulous photographer.  I'm looking forward to the day I can have his photos, framed and hanging on the wall.  (I need a wall first; he'll give me the photos.)  One of my favorites is a forest scene, a bend in the road and patch of fog.  Anyone could have taken the picture.  But the beauty is in the composition, in the fact Jarod waited for the fog to reach a certain point and for the light to be just right so it evokes an emotion. 

Over on FaceBook, I always make a point to check out his picture of the day.  I've never been to New England.  Honestly I was never really interested in heading that direction until Jonathan and I became friends.  Often when I look at his pictures, particularly the black and white ones, a whole story composes in my head. 

Today I gained a new follower on Twitter who is also a fabulous photographer, Jean-Michel LeClercq. (check out his web site  I could shoot ten thousand frames and maybe, if I was really lucky, have one or two that might be on par with Jarod's, Jonathan's and Jean-Michel's artistry.  Clearly having the tools does not translate to talent. 

I write.  I like to think I'm talented and that readers will immerse themselves in the story.  When I wrote The Privacy Fence I made the conscious decision not to describe the characters.  I want the reader to interact with the story much like I interact with photographs. We live in a colorful world.  Our brains automatically assign color to black and white pictures based on our emotional response and that response comes from memories, good or bad.  With The Privacy Fence I want each reader to say "I know someone like this" and picture that person while they read.  Doing so personalizes the book, it's no longer just a story I'm telling that will be the same for each person who reads it. 

Thank you to those who enjoy and honed their craft.  Your masterful artistry inspires me to compose, to rethink and edit so that I might take my readers on a journey much like your pictures take me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dad's method of babysitting

My father was a mechanical design engineer.  He was about 40 when I was born many years after my siblings and the only girl.  Uniquely Dad hit upon a babysitting plan that amused both of us and indulged our curiosities.  We did factory tours.  Now come on; don't make a face and poo paw the notion.  Think about it for a minute.  He started us doing tours when I was young.  What kid wouldn't be fascinated by Pendalton Woolen Mills, or Boeing, or saltwater taffy making?  Think about all the moving parts.  Think free samples.  Even if I didn't understand what was going on, it was pretty cool.

When I was eight he got the great idea for us to tour the Bumble Bee Tuna cannery.  Pause here to sing the song - bum, bum, bumble bee; Bumble Bee Tuna.  As I recall it was a drizzly overcast day and the tour started on the docks.  For those of you who have never stepped foot in a fish processing plant please do the following in order to grasp the full sensory effect.  Get a whole mess of fish.  Shut all the doors and windows of your house.  Put all the fish boiling in pots on the stove, every burner.  Now multiply the smell factor by a thousand.  The word overwhelming fails to convey the aroma.

Meaning no disrespect to Bumble Bee Tuna for in all honestly it was a very, very clean facility.  But Dad's wonderful idea backfired.  I have not eaten tuna, or most fish since that tour.  It had nothing to do with watching them clean or cut up tuna.  Believe me; it's all about the smell.

As I grew older Dad was both surprised and delighted I wanted to continue our habit of taking factory tours  when visiting new cities, states or countries.  You have to understand, Dad was an engineer and he was a friendly, polite man.  Quite often the tours we got went above and beyond those given to the general public.  For example: northern Arizona, a brief conversation at the pumps led to an invitation to "come see our operation".  We followed this guy out into the desert to a silver mine. Turned out the guy was co-owner/foreman.  I was 14.  They asked if I was claustrophobic.  I said no but I'm scared shitless of elevators.  Next thing I knew I was being strapped in a harness and lowered down a [like a dumbwaiter] shaft.  Dad took the elevator with the guy.  Silver mines are interesting.  They wouldn't let me blow up anything - bummer.

The next day we got a behind the scene tour of Hoover Dam.  There at the dam I realized a main factor in us getting preferential treatment was it gave our guides a chance to brag.  They enjoyed their jobs.  They loved having the opportunity to share their workplace not only with a peer but with a kid who found it as wondrous as they did. 

Dad and I had a list of factories, of things we'd love to see how they're made.  Slowly but surely we were getting them checked off.  Which brings this story to my late twenties, Salem Oregon and the Agripac cannery.  Think the Diamond A food brand.  A sign said they give free tours.  The lady at the desk said they won't give one person a tour, I had to come back with a few friends.  So a couple days later I returned with a few friends.  Note: she did not specify how many constituted "a few".  At this point however she stated we needed to number no less than twenty-five.  I didn't know twenty-five people in Salem.

On my way out I spotted another sign.  They were hiring.  Being an ornery person I took personal time off work and applied at the cannery.  I got drug tested and had a physical.  I sat through safety courses.  Each step of the way I openly told them "I have no intention on working.  This is all about getting a tour."  When they issued my gear I told them.  When I got assigned a shift and team lead, I told them.  Apparently they didn't believe me.  I got put on the corn line to pull out rejects.  Yep, I drove them nuts.  Where do the good ears go?  What's over there?  What happens to the rejected ears?

The team lead wanted to bang her head, or mine, against a wall.  Whenever she wasn't hovering over my shoulder I took off to see what the next crew was doing or to get a look at another processing zone.  Repeatedly the team lead chased me down and declared my wages would be docked.  I just laughed and asked how they made cream corn.  Finally one of the supervisors clued in.  I wasn't there to work.  All I wanted was a tour.  I got a tour! 

Footnote: a while later I happened to be driving by the cannery and saw they'd put up a new sign.  "Free tours to groups of 25 or more". 

I'm sorry to say Dad died before we could check off the most desired factory tour from our list.  Maybe on my way back West I'll be able to stop off at the GE plant that makes locomotives.  Cross your fingers that they don't have a tour group limit.  There's no way I can bluff my way into employment there.  Do you think they'll believe I've come to buy a train?

Monday, September 5, 2011

what I make of it

Several years ago a friend presented me with the book "Heal Your Body" in which the author states physical ailments are the result of our subconscious thought pattern.  The premise made sense at the time and it still makes sense.  I agree that most my problems, psychological and physical stem from fear, or in the author's terms, from my deep-rooted insecurities.  To break the pattern the author suggests beginning with the mantra: I am protected by Devine Love.  I am always safe and secure.

While I can readily admit the mantra has been useful in seeing me through situations that felt overwhelming, I'm not sure how much progress I'm making towards truly addressing my subconscious issues.  Perhaps it's because I've yet to feel secure.  Those rare instances in my life in which security was on the horizon?  Well, let's just say it turned into a pipe dream like winning the lottery.

My life experience says people have ulterior motives therefore anything they say or do is to benefit them.  The problem is I want to believe there are those who honestly give a damn about someone else, about me.  I tend to look at relationships be they with friends or family as mutually equal.  I care about you; you care about me.  We help and support each other.  Over the course of my life I've met four people who share this same belief and put it into practice. 

The word envious doesn't really apply. I am bewildered by those who have people who love and care about them.  My experience, particularly with family members, says if they aren't profiting somehow, they aren't doing it.  Love come with a price tag.  Mom spoke the truth when she said the only reason she wanted a daughter was so said daughter, me, could take care of her.  I was a latchkey kid.  I had chores before school and a list waiting when I got home.  Saturday mornings I'd wake to an empty house - and a list.  If I failed to complete the chores or the quality of work didn't pass muster there would be punishment, a spanking and more chores.  By the time I was ten I could cook and iron.  Both tasks required me standing on an orange crate.  Mom did her own thing.  She was a budding artist.  Lord help me if she had to lay down her paintbrush or the book she was reading to come see what I was doing.  Heaven forbid she lend a hand, after all, what are daughters for?

At age 15 the State of Oregon granted emancipation and I found out what it was like to be homeless.  Incredibly I managed attending school everyday and maintained good grades.  Most nights I slept in my car.  Early in the morning a janitor would let me into the girl's locker room to shower.  Occasionally I stayed the night or a weekend at a friend's place though not often because their mothers were leery of my independence.  I strove to be very polite, to be a well-mannered guest.  Believe me, it was wonderful to just for a few brief hours feel like I belonged.  But it never lasted.  They were the family.  They had their priorities and I wasn't one of them.

The following year my parents moved back into the state and regained custody of me.  In hindsight, I should have ran away.  Which is worse: knowing you're homeless or being in a home in which you're not really a part of?  I was there for Mom's convenience.  Clearly she wished I came with an on / off switch like a vacuum cleaner.  Then she could keep me in the closet when not in use.  Nothing I did was good enough and she let me know it daily, repeatedly and if possible, publicly.  Right or wrong I took care of her until her death.

I have come to terms with my childhood and choices made as an adult.  I think my biggest fault is expecting people to treat me in the manner in which I treat them.  The day is what I make it.  I can indulge in selfishness, take my frustrations out on others or wallow in self-pity.  Personally I choose to be polite, to be helpful and to avoid confrontations, especially those that serve no purpose. 

While it's true I currently have a roof over my head I am and have been for two years technically homeless.  Being forced to rely on charity does not sit well with me.  But the day is what I make it.  I am doing my best to change the situation but there are things I have no control over.  Do I feel secure?  No.  Am I frustrated?  Yes.  Being homeless, accepting charity, means so much more than swallowing one's pride.  It means knowing at any given time circumstances can change depending upon someone else's whim.  It means remaining at a heightened level of vigilance for what was fine yesterday is unacceptable today and there will be no verbal notification of the change in rules.  Most of all it means knowing I don't belong, that I'm equal to a stray dog or cat.

Still, the day is what I make of it.  I could let the situation overwhelm me, which at times it has threatened to do, or I can keep striving to move forward.   I'm already homeless.  I've already lost most everything.  Daily I tell myself as long as I've got my dog, life is good.  What gets me down are the setbacks, the clients who don't pay on time or in full, or having to replace spendy items due to another's carelessness.  I'm working to improve my life.  Is it too much to wish that those who could make an impact to meet me part way?  Seems like any more all I get is told to wait and then put on ignore. 

I am a person with hopes and dreams and goals.  I wish my circumstance was different but it is what it is.  How does this make me of lesser value?  I work.  I put a lot of effort into building my company back from the ashes.  I take pride in the job I do, and I enjoy doing it.  I am not receiving any government handouts.  When I'm not focused on my business I write novels.  Frustratingly all I'm hearing from agents is "we like the book; please wait, we'll get back to you" or they love the book but it doesn't fit with the trend they're currently peddling so please try again later.  I guess being homeless also means I have all the time in the world to patiently wait for other people to remember they've left me hanging.  If I ran my business like that I wouldn't have one. 

There are days I want to scream "I am here.  Would someone please pay attention to me?"  What I'd give to ask a question and not be met with a blank stare, or "huh?" or "wait".  Being homeless has caused me reevaluate worth, self-worth and the worth of others.  Perhaps I've given up on the notion of security hence my new mantra:

"I am worthy of all that is good.  I willingly and graciously accept good things to come to me."  The day is what I make of it - and my day is going to be good.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'd like to place an order

Yesterday my sister-in-law announced she had just received a call from her husband's oldest daughter to say "we're fine.  It was scary but we're all safe".  I racked my brain trying to recall if there'd been previous mention of health scare or travel to a foreign country.  Drawing a blank left me saying "huh?" 

"The earthquake," my sister-in-law prompted.  "A short while ago Virginia had a 5.8 quake."

Again my response was "huh.  5.8's are nothing.  Artillery practice at Ft. Bragg can rattle a house better than a 5.8"  Her stepdaughter grew up in Oregon therefore she should know all about earthquakes.  So why was she all weirded out over a little one? 

Today I added a new entry to my list of major differences between the West and East Coasts - earthquakes*.  Allow me to say very tongue-in-cheek, "gee, I found yet another thing they don't have out here."  No baby loafs of cheese and no dry-cured bacon; no flavor choices in SoBe or CoffeeMate, and now no earthquakes.  I'm in half a mind to call the USGS and complain.  The other half my brain is toying with the notion of putting in a request.  Certainly the USGS can't think me any bigger a kook than the local grocery store managers. 

*According to the USGS, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California get at least one earthquake a year magnitude 5.8 or better.  Since 1900 the East Coast has experienced two (2) including yesterday's quake. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Neighbors

Holly and I have been in Fayetteville NC for a little over 2 years now.  Most of that time we've hung out on the front porch in clear view of the street.  I've got my laptop, coffee and cigarettes.  Holly is on a tether to keep her from detaining passersby for a thorough inspection.  (Maybe the TSA should hire her.)  Meaning no disrespect to exercise buffs, and totally meant tongue-in-cheek, I refer to them as "streetwalkers".  Oh come on, you should see some of the outfits they wear.  Still, it doesn't matter if they're covered head-to-toe in thermal fleece or flaunting shiny Spandex, it's my generic term for anybody running, jogging or walking.  Plus it gives me a chuckle when someone asks what Holly is barking at and I say a streetwalker; this is an upscale middle-class neighborhood. 

The neighbors who aren't scared of Holly venture into the yard to greet her.  She is a big girl; twenty-five inches to the shoulder and weighing in at 82 pounds.  Since she doesn't have a tail, cropped too short hence her nickname of Twinkle Butt, Holly tends to come across as imposing.  Mainly she's just doing her job, alerting me there's someone near.  For 2 years I've been answering questions about Holly.  Yes, she's friendly.  Yes,  you can pet her.  She's a Boxer  - Great Dane cross.  Do you think anyone asks about me?

Lately I've learned the neighbors had been leaving me alone because they saw the laptop and thought I was working.  Actually, that's pretty thoughtful of them.  Equally impressive is the range of occupations they've assigned me.  Because I'm frequently seen on the phone the majority decided I'm a customer service or sales rep.  Coming in a strong second is medical transcription and other home-based data entry type jobs.  Far down on the list are: web site designer, stock trader and online party host.  I think that last one came from sheer hopefulness that I could hook him up with a date.  Ah, maybe if he checked the mirror before leaving the house?  Even Holly winces at some of his color and pattern combinations. 

Earlier this year two of the neighbors discovered I write.  One of them has read Desert and has started The Privacy Fence.  I cut her some slack.  She's very pregnant, with twins, due anytime and trying to finish her last term of college before the babies arrive.  Note: remarkably none of the neighbors have assumed I'm taking online classes.  Interesting. 

People on the West Coast who know me always include the following warning when introducing me - "it is highly likely that anything you say or do will end up in a book."  For the record, this is true.  Also for the record, there are 3 fictitious characters in Desert: Kayla, James and Scott.  I changed occupations and last names of everyone else.  I might have used a bit of creative license in regard to physical appearance or marital status but only for the sake of the storyline.  See what you get when you say "I want to be in one of your books!" 

The neighbors here are so naive.  Totally out in the open I've been studying them for 2 years.  I guess they're so used to seeing me I now blend into the scenery.  While I can't say The Privacy Fence is about them, I will admit they gave me the idea for it.  It's simply amazing what I overhear. 

Heads up Fayetteville!  I've started a new novel and the chances are good that some of you will be in it.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Hearing Voices

I used to think everyone had a few billion personalities in their head struggling to be heard.  As I grew older I figured out that isn't the case and it's best to keep quiet about hearing voices.  Apparently there are members of society who feel those of us who hear voices should be medicated into semi-consciousness. 

Bring on the padded room!  To quote ZZ Top,  "send a straight jacket, something in a shade of grey."

I collect people.  I absorb their personality traits, body language, speech patterns and odd quarks.  One person in your world equals 3, 4, or 17 in mine.  I'll try to explain.  People are multi-faceted.  I have "blanks" living in my head; think artist's blank canvas.  Each filled blank represents particular facet of someones personality.  Maybe it's how someone reacted in a situation, or expression of change brought on by maturing.  Allow me to point out often my voices (filled blanks) are non-gender specific.  You've been saved in my head as a story out of context, yet a story all the same that needs to be told.

Every so often a group of these filled blanks gets together and sets up a ruckus.  The only way to quiet them down is to write their story.  Because they represent real people during the writing process they are real.  Picture if you will, the luxury of having people you care about, living or deceased, together with you for eight weeks or so. 

The hardest part about writing is the period at the end of the last sentence of the final chapter.  Their story is now told.  They recede into the background and I'm left with an eerie, unsettling quietness.  I miss them.  I'm at a loss as to what to do now that they've gone.  It's during this let-down period that I probably should be medicated.  Those of you who don't hear voices - how do you cope?  If the only voice in my head was mine, Holly would move to a different zip code.  I tend to get really grouchy during the let-down phase.  This is not a good time to be pushing my buttons or there will be more blogs like the last two. 

Yes my Twin, I will start writing again soon.  The earth will go back to orbiting the sun and there will be balance in the universe for a few months. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

where's my iPad?

Earlier today I was standing in my bedroom, slightly bent at the waist, hopping from foot to foot because I really had to go pee but was determined to locate a web site password first.  Logic finally took over and said "Hey, take your password book with you and go pee or be prepared to shampoo the carpet."  Picture slap to the head and relief of getting to the toilet in time.   Once seated I continued flipping thru pages in the book looking for the password.  My great-nephew's cat wandered into the bathroom, I looked up and our eyes met.

What do our animals think of our bathroom habits?  How many of us have a full reading library next to the toilet?  Do you use your laptop or iPad while on the throne?  When you're trying to make high score or to the next level on a handheld gaming device, do you just walk on into the bathroom and drop trousers?  Funny how most of us won't talk to someone on the phone while going pee but we will text.

At any given time, while I'm trying to use the toilet my dog, my neice's pup and g-nephew's cat will be jostling for position and demanding attention.  The bathroom is nice sized but believe, it's not big enough for all four of us.  The cat will try to get on my lap.  Not to be outdone the pup will do his best to knock the cat off and take his spot.  In the meantime my dog is head-butting me and complaining.  Finally my dog will chase the pup and cat from the bathroom; the cat usually doubles back. 

This morning as the cat and I stared at each other I got a flash of what he was thinking. "Where the heck is my iPad?"  He has a nice covered for privacy litterbox that's big enough to accommodate an iPad fastened to an inside wall.  He's a cat of the electronic age, much more interested in computers than books or magazines.  Nearly everyday he tries to help me answer email or do research.  I know he's a big fan of Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook.  If he had an iPad in his litterbox we might not see the cat for hours.

If my dog learned how to use the toilet her reading materieal of choice would be the Driver's Manual.  From there she'd move to law books seeking a loophole that would pave the way for her to get a driver's license.  State Farm said they'd insure her - if she had a license.  Her next endevour would be to get a Social Security number, mainly because I won't let her use my debit card and neither Wells Fargo nor Evergreen will issue her a debit / credit card without a SS#.  

I think the pup would watch movies, maybe TVland too.  The latter because I'm not sure if he's discovered Animal Planet yet.  He'd appreciate an iPad loaded with games like Pong.  He's young, he's a terrier; he's got the whole prey-drive thing going.  Now if he were to team up with my dog they'd own their own PetCo franchise. 

For those of you who have pets and a television in your bathroom - stop right now.  The next time you're cheering for your team or engrossed in CSI while seated on the throne, ask yourself "What is my dog / cat think?"  Are they jealous?  Do they use my bathroom when I'm not home?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tell me a lie

Back in the mid 90s I worked with this gal who fascinated the heck out of me for the lies she told.  For the sake of the blog let's call her Ann.  Personally I think I could use her real name and give her address too because she won't recognize this as about her.  So here's the scene: a specialty electronics assembly company in Beaverton Oregon; swing shift, small crew numbering around twenty.

Ann sat directly infront of me with my friend Rose to her left.  Ann was absolutely beautiful, tall and lean and graceful.  She was in her late twenties and though single she divided her time between living with her dad and her boyfriend.  Did I mention she was beautiful?  Ann had legs up to there and hair down to meet them.  Near as I could tell she was well educated.  Maybe she didn't finish college but she'd had at least a few years.

My favorite memory is of the day Ann used a traffic accident as reason for being late to work.  Arriving over an hour late she crept onto the floor stealthly dodging her supervisor.  Once in her seat Ann quickly laid out her station to appear as if she'd been there for some time.  She gulped down part of her Coke to lend further credence to the time factor.  Then, assured she'd not been spotted by her boss she swung her chair around and related witnessing a traffic accident that snarled a major intersection thus making her late.

Points: she witnessed it; the accident took place past the intersection; Ann was already running late.

After telling the story to me, Ann turned to Rose and told her a slightly altered version basically making the accident more than a mere fender bender.  Rose responded with the appropriate oh's and ah's prompting Ann to emblish a bit further.  I had to bite my lip to keep from grinning. 

Points: the accident location stayed the same but now also included the driveway into a business; there are more cars involved and victims are more seriously injured.

In typical Ann fashion she took the tale from work station to work station modifying it for her audience.  I got Rose's attention and suggested she eavesdrop.  This was going to get good.  There were seventeen people at work that day counting Ann but not counting her supervisor (who was hiding out in reception eating ice cream while doing word puzzles).  By the time the story made it around the assembly floor it somewhat resembled the original tale.  Rehearsal over Ann came back to her seat and waited for her supervisor to make rounds.

I wish I'd had a video camera to record the tale told to her boss.  Ann said she left home on time and took Barber Blvd because traffic update on radio said 217 was clogged due to construction.  Traffic on Barber was moving at a good clip when suddenly out of nowhere an idiot ran a red light.  It was a major intersection; cars were slidding and banging.  Ann stood on the brakes but the guy behind her reacted too slow.  His car hit hers and pushed her into the car in front.  Her forehead struck the steering wheel.  She's feeling whoosy if she moves quick or when she stands up.  Paramedics checked her at the scene.  The police questioned her.  She had to have her car towed.  She borrowed her brother's car to get to work.  But Ann made it to work.  Granted, a few minutes late but she made it - and see, she's been working.  Oh yeah, she forgot to clock in probably due to hitting her head.  Would the boss mind signing her time card?

Come on applaud.  It took nearly twenty minutes to tell the boss the story and another twenty to recap parts of it.  Let's do the math: an hour to rehearse the story and forty minutes to gain the boss' sympathy.  But it's not over yet for Ann still has to go back to all sixteen coworkers and bring them up to speed on the story told to the boss.  Add another two hours. 

Come on applaud.  Ann's been at work four hours and no one but me has bothered glancing out to the parking lot.  Yep, her car was parked in a side row instead of it's normal up-front-near-the-door slot.  By the way, neither her father nor her boyfriend's houses are anywhere near Barber Blvd. 

Friday, July 22, 2011


My nephew in-law claims my side of the family has violent tendencies.  I ask "have you ever seen me do or say anything remotely construed as violent?"  He just smiles and asks "how many people died in the opening chapter of Desert?"  Ok, good point; the answer is two dozen.  So basically, what he's saying is there are people still breathing today because I write instead of following thru on the urge to snuff out those stuck on redundant why questions.

Oh you know the people I'm talking about - and if you're not one, then you hate them too.  These are the people who persist in asking "why did he do that" or "why did he say that" in the monotone chant of kids in the backseat asking "are we there yet". 

I used to have a sign posted on my office door, WHY in bold black letters with a red circle around it and red diagonal thru it.  I had to take it down.  Everytime a certain friend dropped in, (at least once a day), she asked "why do you have a no-why allowed sign?"  If we were out together she'd asked people if they knew why I had the sign posted.  I took it down the day she asked "why can't I understand why you have a no-why allowed sign?"  Picture me beating my head on the keyboard saying a silent prayed of thanks for her not contributing to the gene pool.  I'm not being mean.  She's a darling person.  I've only killed her off in one book, so far.