Friday, December 24, 2010

Let's Meme Again, Like We Did Last Summer

1. When do you usually know it's the holidays?

As soon as Thanksgiving rolls around and we have to figure out what we're going to do for the Miller Family Christmas party gift exchange.

2. What do you want for Christmas this year?

I want this bankruptcy stuff to finish up so I can relax. Also...Rock Band.
3. Do you go all out with decorations?

Nope. I have two boxes of decorations and the tree. I have this fear that the decorations will multiply and spiral out of control. Then I will have no choice but to leave them up all year around.

4. What are you doing Christmas Eve?

Watching Fred Claus, getting together with the Cap'n and Spooky, going to church for a Christmas pagent, having Chinese buffet and then to my parents so that they can give the girls their gifts.

5. What are you doing Christmas Day?

Opening the presents Santa brought and staying in our PJ's all day long. There will be no meals, only grazing.

6. It's Christmas time. What are you reading?

I'm finishing up An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison. It's a very compelling memoir of her experience as a psychologist suffering with bipolar disorder.

7. Favorite movie to watch during the holidays?

I can't find my copy of it but, I love to watch Love Actually while wrapping presents.

8. Favorite Christmas song?

This one (and don't give me any crap about it):

9. Favorite holiday drink?


10. How is your Christmas shopping going?

I'm done...I hope.

11. If you could spend Christmas Day anywhere else, where would you spend it?

I'd like to take my kids back in time to 1995 and spend time with Doc's parents, who we lost well before the girls could know them.

12. Any holiday traditions?

Our traditions have been a bit rocked since our matriarch passed this year. So we're hoping to start some new ones. Like a white elephant gift exchange and a Christmas poker tournament.

13. Favorite thing about the holidays?

Sitting around the Christmas tree with family. Also, bursting out into spontaneous caroling. My Work Wendy and I were singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" in the work kitchen while filling the dishwasher when Jeanne joined in with the alto part. We sounded awesome!

Thanks for the tag Dr. Monkey!

I tag the following folks:

Cap'n Ergo Jinglebollocks
Skyler's Dad
Some Guy

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Uncle Ralph Chimes In: Merry Christmas, Goddammit!

As you know, I'm an old softie. I appreciate the little things in life and for me, Christmas is all about the little things. It's all about babies and children and cookies. It's about saying please and thank you and Merry Christmas. It's about cherishing.

So let's stop for a second and think: How can we cherish? You probably don't know the answer for this, do you. Do you even know what "cherish" means, Johnny? It means to hold someone dear and to keep them fondly in your mind. It means take your eyes off your goddamned phone when I'm talking to you. It means look around and behold.

We're not all a bunch of slicked down avatars wandering around a virtual world to serve your adventure. We are not stage dressing for your biopic. We are people with minds and hearts. We are all cut from the same cloth, regardless of our age, our color or whether or not we can stand to listen to Nickelplay or Coldback. We are all part of the human family. And for God's sake, we have to look out for each other. Because if we don't, the government will. I've lived long enough to promise you this: They'll fuck it up and you can take that to the Federal Reserve, sport.

You may think I'm a mean old coot and you'd be right. I don't suffer asshats. That is because I cherish. I am here to be a voice for life and courtesy. And I am cranky because you never listen. So do me a favor, chief. Stop virtually caring. Don't send me e-cards for my birthday. Don't invite me to be your "friend." I am already that.

So, sit down with me. Listen to my stories because I've lived a lot and learned the hard way. I can help you skip some major pitfalls. And, in return, I'll listen to you, if you could find it in your heart to stop ending your sentences with "yo." And you can remind me what it's like to be a kid. Because pretty soon, I won't be around anymore. And pretty soon, neither will you be. So why don't we call a truce and make this bus ride a bit less miserable.

Come on. I'll buy you a cookie.

Monday, December 06, 2010

What A Relief!

I was very pleased to hear that Tijuana was starting to gear up their tourism industry since there are "Far fewer beheadings and public shoot-outs" these days.

I mean, I guess a few beheadings and shoot-outs can add a little spice to a Mexican vacation. But you don't want too many.

Monday, November 22, 2010

That's a Tune of a Different Color

I'll need to wear my boots to get through the molassis my Mom had delivered. She said it was good for the lawn. I have my doubts.

But we rarely argue except when we do. And then look out!

But I hear what you're saying and if I understand your point of view you are saying this thing, but I don't agree with it. I'm just blowing hot air by parroting you and saying I understand so I don't sound like such an asshole when I present my idea as the better one. It's not that I don't disagree with you.

So, with that in mind, I'm going to get a rake and a raft so that I can find the hose and get rid of all this sticky shit. You can sit there on your papasan chair and complain about stomach cramps all day long, if that's what you plan to do with your life. I can't be bothered by your gaseous anomolies. If a body can't be driven to take a tums every now in then, there's nothing I can do about it.

So cherrio and all that rot. I'm off to save the world.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Lone School Marm Speaks

A continuation of The Lone School Marm submitted for Icaras' Flight To Perfection

Of all nights that I had to trespass into the world of darkness it was this night. I had grown up in this frontier where the law was iffy at best. But Pa raised me to know right from wrong and we’d been able to hold our own against the various bands of criminals that passed through, sometimes enforcing the law ourselves.

But it had never been this serious, this personal. I returned to the school house to free my hostage students. I had the government money I had worked so hard to obtain and I was about to hand it over to a bunch of thugs to free them. I was prepared for a fight. I was prepared to kill. I was ready to die to save my kids, if I had to. I had also hedged my bets by asking Doc Shaw to form a posse to hang back in the woods to capture Dirty Dan and his gang of idiots as they made their escape. We had to protect the kids, especially the Hailey girls. Dirty Dan was very clear about his perverted plans for them.

When I opened the door to the school house, I was overwhelmed by the carnage I saw. Most of the children were left for dead and there was no sign of the Dirty Boys gang or the Hailey twins. I dropped the satchel and my gun and screamed for Doc Shaw. When I saw him and the rest of the posse tear out of the woods, I turned and ran into the school house to see if anyone was still alive.

Part of the posse went in pursuit of Dirty Dan and the Hailey Twins while the rest of us worked for hours tending the wounds of the injured and preparing the bodies for burial. The Preacher was among the posse, thank God, and was able to comfort the mothers who came for their children. It was well past suppertime by the time we had buried the dead and made sure the wounded got home.

I stood in the twilight and listened to the stillness. It was strange to stand in the empty school yard in this weird light. I felt tired, bereft, yet powerful. I knew that what had happened here made this school ground sacred and holy, the blood of children having been spilled here. I felt the cries of my students; the survivors and the perished propel me to act.

But, Doc’s parting words hung in my ears.

“Now, Suzanna,” he fathered, “Don’t you go gettin’ any crazy ideas about revenge. Your Pa didn’t raise you that way and we need you here.”

I remember nodding at him and seeing relief and a flash of skepticism cross his gray brows. I meant to follow his advice. I really did.

But once I was alone in between night and day, I knew what I had to do. It was written in blood on my apron, on my heart. I would find them with their guard down and kill them one by one. With the matter settled once and for all, I picked up my bag of cash, turned on my heel and headed home to prepare for war.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why I'm Uniquely Suited To A "Bipolar Marriage"

I am beginning to learn what Doc and I are facing. And it's been revealed a little bit at a time, lest it totally overwhelm us. Either that or we can only see a little bit at a time because it is HUGE.


My earliest thoughts were rueful but truthful: God only gives us what we can handle. And I was like, "Gee, thanks, God!" And sent Him out the door with a here's Your hat, what's Your hurry."

I'm still not ready to invite Him over for Thanksgiving or anything. But there have been several moments where I'm getting VERY CLEAR messages from the universe from a diverse group of sources, like:

  • Samantha the Witch and My Therapist: the former knowing nothing about me and the latter knowing a great deal about me, who have both said: You've got to stop carrying the world around on your shoulders/You're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders
  • Pandora: It seems I'm hearing the right music at the right time, including the video above, which caused me a bit of a breakthrough this morning
I'm also taking this time as Doc recovers and we move to a new house to re-evaluate myself and who I think I am. I've realized that over the years, I've let go of things I thought were essential to who I was...the very top item on this list is music and being a musician. I can recall recently walking up the stairs of the new house and saying to myself, "I am a musician," and how wonderful and right that felt to say. I plan on doing more of this...figuring out who I am, what I value and sticking to it. This will be a source of strength.

Another thing about me: It is impossible for me to hold a grudge or be very mad for very long. I can store up hurts and slights, but eventually, if given opportunity to let them flood out of me onto a caring person's shoulder, I'm over it.

And how do I set the world down and stop dragging it around? I ask for help, that's how. And I've done that. My parents have been great, and I have now asked the kids for help. Recently, we've had trouble with bed time. And I happened upon an article about why it's hard for grade schoolers to settle down for bed. The article suggested coming up with a bedtime contract together with the kids, which we did and they took to like ducks to water. And would you believe it? They love it and want to stick to it religiously! And I told you this story to tell you another...

One of the things in our routine is to spend some time talking about our day. This was suggested in the article because grade schoolers have a lot going on in their days and talking about it could relieve some stress, allowing them to quit worrying and settle down for a good night's sleep. Night #1: Riley finally opened up to me and told me everything that was worrying her. She said she felt so much better afterwards and we didn't get a fight at bed time. Night #2: I asked for their help keeping the house clean. And I felt much better. So two big items (Riley's anxiety and my feeling of overwhelming responsibility) were lightened.

Keeping an open heart and mind (which I have vowed to do and am doing) + Listening to the Universe and letting in the messages through music + a deft ability to build a bridge and get over it = A person who can handle rough patches that crop up suddenly and without reason.

Maybe I'm naive, but if so, that's a good thing. I'd rather not be jaded right now. And my unfailing optimism and our strong family bonds and friendships will pull us through. Not to mention all the hard work that Doc is doing, dispite his grave injury. He's practically single-handedly moved us into the new place.

I don't know if this makes sense...I feel like I'm rambling. But something is brewing in my head and heart and it's a good thing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Phone Is Broke

It may be time to switch providers. I'm currently with AT&'s the most expensive provider out there from what I could tell from the 10 minutes of research I did.

I'll probably go to Revol.

I just thought you ought to know.

They seem to have the coolest new phones with the latest technology, like touch tone dialing. And great weight.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What Do You Mean I Went 2 Days Without Posting?

I simply don't remember not posting to my blog. I'm sure I did it on Friday and now it's Monday. And I challenge you to prove to me the alleged "weekend" was an actual two solid days.

It wasn't.

First of all, I was in motion all weekend. So, it may have looked like two days worth of activity from where you were sitting. But for me, time bended in such a way that my perception of it was that it was not two days, but rather about four hours.

And Since perception is nine tenths of the law, I am of course correct.

The weekend was only four hours, which does not equal a whole day. It's only a sixth of a day. And you got a sixth of a day's worth of posting from me on Facebook, plus some Disco Empire updates and some "Which Harry Potter Character Are You" results from my children.

As far as I'm concerned, I haven't missed any days and am in compliance with NaBloPoMo.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Piano Jams

Last night I started teaching Riley how to play the piano. Let's just say, I got off on totally the wrong foot. I forgot lesson number one for training:

If you're going to teach locksmithing, don't start out by teaching people the history of locks; show 'em how to pick a lock.

I started out trying to show Riley how to read music. And that's about as interesting as the history of locks. Plus, she wasn't getting it. And she's a bright kid. She got instantly frustrated and buried herself in the sofa after about 5 minutes into it.

"I never accomplish anything like this!!!" she wailed.

I realized I had failed. Granted, Riley has a very short stack of patience when it comes to learning something new and often gives up quickly if she's not a natural at it.  But I was very concerned that I was turning her off to making music for life (like I have turned her off to riding bikes forever and ever amen).

"Listen," I reasoned. "This is not about your inability to accomplish something; it's my fault. I should have started with something fun."

Eventually, I struck on a good reason for her to try again and we sat together at the piano. I put the piano primer aside and we played a good round of Chop Sticks. Then, I showed her the song you can play using a fist and the black keys. Then, I played the rhythm for Heart and Soul and I had her improvise a melody.

It was much better. And we even sounded good. I'd change up the tempo or synchopate it and she'd adjust to the mood. We had a blast. And I was able to work in some nuts and bolts: She can identify "C" on the piano and she knows that the musical alphabet goes from a to g and then starts over again.

I think that's a good start. She can be creative and hands on and I'll sneak in some technique as we go along.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pictures My Kids Drew

My kids have been having a good time with Paint lately. Enjoy!

"How Beautiful! How Wonderful!"

I do not get the joke

Ding Dong the witch is--Oh sorry!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Celebrities Who Have Appeared In My Dreams: Genn6

I'm in New York City for work. I'm wandering around in the pre-dawn hours with my co-workers trying to find a prostitute...we needed to ask her some questions. We went into a bar, but it was fairly empty. We stepped outside and I realized I was close to Genn6's apartment. So, I told my co-worker that we should stop by and see if Genn6 wanted to get something to eat with us.

We walked up a couple of floors and entered her apartment. It was three dark gray rooms and the main room had a black futon. My co-workers gathered around and decided to play Sorry! with Doc and Lucy. Genn6 and I agreed to go out and get food to bring back to the apartment. One co-worker was delighted to see the board and that it was the abbreviated version of Sorry!. He said, "There are a ton of different ways to play this game!"

We left them to it and hit the road. When we got to the street, it was gray but starting to lighten up. Then it started to rain. It was glorious and refreshing. We both looked up, raised our hands and started to dance. We eventually sought cover in a store that sold candles. They had a large collection of Beatrix Potter stuff, but none of the candles smelled like anything but candles.

They had a vintage clothing section in the store and Genn6 found a retro teal and gold tweed suit. It had a long jacket and a skirt. The shop ladies kept saying, "It'll never fit you..." But when she tried the jacket on it fit perfectly. The skirt had some problems; someone had tried to turn it into shorts. I thought I could probably fix the skirt for her and recommended that she buy it.

And then I woke up.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Adventure Set List

So here's a list of the good stuff that's coming around the corner for us:

  • November 25th: I'll be hosting Thanksgiving for my side of the family, something I haven't been able to do because my last house did not have a dining room or really enough room to have more than a couple of people over.
  • November 27th: It's off to my sister-in-law's place for Thanksgiving, Part 2
  • December 30th: We're off to Miami by way of Savanna, GA. Once in Miami on the 31st, we'll be waiting for my cousin Wendi and our dear friend Carol to finish their 10,000 plus mile walk around the perimiter of the US.
  • January 1st - 3rd: Disney World!
  • January 5th: Pal around with Dr. Monkey and Sparky in their neck of the woods
  • February 2011: Carol will be staying with us 2-3 days a week so that she can write her book and I can help her. Actually, I'll be helping her and so will Riley. I'll be editing and Riley will be proofing.
  • April: The girls' birthday parties (JoAnn Fabrics party for Riley, Chuck E. Cheese for Lucy...oy).
  • May: My birthday
  • And summer returns...
Not a bad agenda, if I do say so myself. Plus I'll be starting my official mental health regimen tomorrow with good old Dr. P.

We've got a lot of demons to fight off. And I was telling Doc last night, there is so much against us right now and probalby for the duration, so we need to be vigilant and optimistic.

Also, I've learned that that 90% divorce rate applies to those bipolar marriages where no treatment is happening. When treatment is in place, the divorce rate is the same as it for couples who do not have a bi-polar marriage.

So, we've got a 50/50 chance just like you do. I'll take those odds.

Monday, November 08, 2010

My Poem From the Other Day

I'm having a really hard time. It's been very busy at work...busier than I've ever been at work. In fact, I did not have a day off in October. Also: We moved. This leaves me with very little time for reflection or thought. I feel like Scarlett O'Hara in that I find myself saying, "I'll think about that another day." And the "that" in that sentence covers a host of items.

Now that things have slowed down a bit, those big items I've postponed thinking about have swum back up to the surface and want my attention. One of these things manifested itself in the form of the poem I wrote the other day that ended with:

On rainy days, when things get tough
When you forget the milk or
I offend your mother
We'll think of this trip
And recall how beautiful we looked with
Moondust in our hair.

This idea of making memories for the purpose of protecting yourself in the future is new to me. I've never been one for the past and I never saw the need for memory. This has changed a bit since Doc and I are trying to adjust to this new thing called bi-polar disorder that has entered our lives. Listen, yo, the statistics are against us. Ninety percent...that's NINE ZERO percent of marriages where one person is diagnosed with bi-polar disorder end in divorce. And that doesn't count the marriages that end when the spouse with bi-polar disorder commits suicide.

Sobering, isn't it? And the stakes are high. Especially when you consider that married people tend to have a lower risk for suicide. When I put two and two together, I get this: People with bi-polar disorder have a better chance of surviving when they are married. And bi-polar marriages have a 10% success rate. So it seems that our work is cut out for us and it is a matter of life or death.

But among those kinds of statistics, I stumbled upon this piece of advice:
Take vacations to help your bipolar marriage survive. One way to help save a bipolar marriage is to take time away from the day to day tasks of everyday life, including the stress of a bipolar marriage. Take trips away together and also mini trips away from each other.

This seems sound and it feels right because it was also an idea that came to me organically when it appeared in that poem. My instincts are: We need to be making some good memories together. We need to be apart to miss each other. So that we're not all, "You don't get me!" and "You never listen!" when things go wrong. We need to put some mutual good will in the bank and maintain our fondness for each other so that we can proceed with a minimum of pain and heartbreak.

I know this isn't a cure-all. But it is one prescription I can get behind. Afterall, we're only here for a short time, why not adventure? And it doesn't have to be as grand as a trip to the moon. But it does need to leave a sparkle behind.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Kids

The girls are loving our new place. They just met some nice kids from the neighborhood today and got to play with them or a couple of hours.

As you know, my kids have their own unique sense of humor. For example, yesterday, they found gummi worms and spent a goodly amount of time ripping them in half, licking the ends and sticking them to their hands and arms. Then they ran up to us and yelled, "OH MY GOD I'VE GOT LEECHES!!!"

I pulled them off and gave them back and my stomach turned as they popped the "leeches" into their mouths.

And for some reason, Lucy has decided to start layering: First a pair of underwear, then some jammie bottoms, then another pair of underwear. It's quite a look. I think she's doing this because her newest pair of fleece pants are a little big for her and the second pair of underware helps to hold them up. She's a belt-and-suspenders type of girl.

Anyway, they are the best and I look forward to their wackiness everyday.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Movin' In

I spent most of today making the new place look like we've always lived here. Plus I cleaned my fingers to the bones. It reminds me of a little poem my Mom used to say when she ironed:

I'm Girty Schmertz
I iron shirts
I iron shirts
'Til my fingers hurts

I'm not sure where she picked that little ditty up, maybe from my Grandma. Today is Grandma's birthday and i thought about her on and off all day. She was a cleaner and she loved to help people clean. I dusted, did the windows, scrubbed the floors and vacuumed. I cleaned the bathroom and got stuff put away. I did leave to go to the store and when I came back in the house, it smelled like Grandma had been here. And she was, kind of.

So, the house looks beautiful and I feel like I don't miss her so much. And now that the Cap'n and Spooky are here, I'm going to have a nice evening of snacks, puzzles and movies. And maybe some Yatzee.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Fly Me To The Moon

This poem is inspired by the song of the same name and by Wallace and Grommit's "A Grand Day Out"

Let us gather our gear and build a rocket
So that we can take a trip
Through the atmosphere
Stratosphere and blogosphere

We'll make sure we bring
Important things
Like our camera and some drinks
Magazines and a deck of cards

You take the wheel and fly
While I backseat drive
And read you the billboards

When that gets old we'll pop in
Audio books like Dune or Huckelberry Finn
At some point, I'll need to use the john and
You'll be annoyed

We'll land and disembark
To a lonely lunar park
Where Moon Men will find us and start a conversation
About the how much they are misunderstood.

Eventually we'll tire of their hospitality
And say our goodbyes after the requisite formalities
On our moonwalk back to the rocket
We'll put our hands in our pockets

We'll look up and our breath will be stolen
By the earth up in heaven
And the stars around us
And the glitter below us
We'll see each other again in a new light
Reflected from the ground
Upside down

Let's go, we'll say
And turn into the windless night
Back to the rocket and home again

On rainy days, when things get tough
When you forget the milk or
I offend your mother
We'll think of this trip
And recall how beautiful we looked with
Moondust in our hair.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Fortune Cookie Fail

So yesterday, I had a fortune cookie with this message: "You will move to a wonderful new home by the end of the year." Which is either really old news at this point or the universe has a strange sense of humor.

As you may or may not know, we hired a lawyer to start the bankruptcy process in August. This was after many angst-ridden discussions between me and Doc and my parents. The clincher was when my Dad said to me: If you want to stay in the house, we'll figure out how to do that. If you don't give a shit about the house, then we'll give it back to the bank and find something else.

It was at that point that I realized, hey...I don't give a shit about this house. It was liberating really. It allowed me to move forward and start to get us out of our financial prison.

What ended up happening is this: My parents wanted to invest in real estate while it's still cheap. We needed a place to rent. So they bought a house not far from ours that we all worked together to fix up and now Doc, the girls, the cat and I rent it and live there. You can see a picture of our fireplace in the banner for this blog. It turned out to be a good deal for all involved.

So we've spent the last couple of months moving and Tuesday, I had to move my desk at work. So you can imagine the chagrin with which I received the above fortune on Wednesday. I hope to God I don't have to move again this year.

I know fortune cookies do not have the insight of, say, a Mama Witch. But still...wouldn't that just be a kick in the teeth if I had to move again in 2010? And that would be the sort of irony and bad luck I've experienced this whole year. So many mistakes, miscommunications, and missteps. I'd just have to sit back and laugh. Then I'd put on my tin foil hat and find a nice warm bridge to live under.

Yeah, that'd teach the universe something.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Remember Screen Beans?

They were really cool, weren't they? Of course, now, if you try to use them in a PowerPoint, you'll be mocked, perhaps openly. I'd prefer to be mocked behind my back, so I don't use them.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Why I Fell In Love With Glee

When I was a kid, I needed music. I wanted to play music. I would listen to certain songs over and over again just to absorb the sounds. When I moved into adolescence, it was more about the lyrics. I defined myself with music, what I played, what I listened to spoke to who I was.

In high school, I was in the jazz band, the concert band, marching band, and small ensembles. Lyrics faded to the back and the vocals represented another instrument. I wasn't so much interested in what people were singing about, but rather the landscapes they painted with sound.

In college, I started out as a music major and quickly learned that I didn't want to study music. There wasn't any joy in the music department. It seemed like all the wacky and fun people I went through band with in high school went somewhere else and I was left with the humorless and the pale oblates that spent all their time alone in practice rooms.

I ended up leaving the music department and joining a much more joyous group of people in the Classical and Medieval Studies program, many of whom were fine musicians in their own right and all of them were ravenous music consumers. I joined the choir to keep involved in music. I did figure out somewhere along the line that I could use my voice to sing. Painful shyness in childhood always prevented me from trying. I grew out of that, though, thanks to the help of alcohol and a need to spread my wings.

Somewhere along the way between college and here, I forgot what music was all about. I've been in choirs here and there. I've done karaoke. I've played Rock Band and Sing Star. But music didn't have the same effect on me and I let it go.

It started to come back to me when American Idol burst onto the scene. I started to remember what it was all about. But then there was Glee. Here was a show that took music I was familiar with and integrated it into the story. And I began to hear the words again, which always escaped me in the past. I would listen to a song and could repeat the melody or even the guitar solo note for note. But ask me what the words are? No dice. Which is ironic since my work is words and I consider myself a writer.

I know how hard you struggle when you write lyrics or poems or even essays. And then to mesh it into music, it's quite an effort. But I couldn't get invested in lyrics at all. But with that first episode of Glee and the first few notes of "Don't Stop Believing," some hard shell cracked around my heart and I got it: The music and the lyrics. And I was moved hard.

It's still difficult for me to hear the words, especially if they are very emotional or manipulative. But if they are on Glee, I get it. It's a gift from the artists on that show. And because they cover songs from many different eras, I am often reintroduced to an old friend of a song that I never knew was so rich and wonderful. I am also open to new songs, their meanings made apparent by the gifted singers on the show.

I get that it's not everyone's cup of tea. But It's the way I take mine. And now you know why.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Quoth the Cap'n

"When a witch offers you advice on Halloween, you probably ought to take it."

So, here we go with NaBloPoMo. I have committed to posting once a day every day for the month of November. And it is fitting that this inaugural blog post is inspired by the Cap'n because he got me started in this blog business in the first place, way back in 2004. I promise to post daily in November and I intend to make it meaningful.

Yesterday was Halloween and it is also known as Samhain (pronounced Saw-win by those in the know). It is a day when the veil between the living and the dead thins and we're supposed to be able to feel the presence of the dearly departed around us better at this time. It was an emotional day for me. I was singing in the choir at church and we were performing All Souls Night by Lorena Mckennitt. It's a really cool song and kind of ambitious for our choir of three. But we were joined by our pianist, a violin player, a flute player and a fourth singer with a very powerful voice.

The service was led by a Wiccan who took us through a focused meditation and also had us share sentimental items that we had that belonged to someone we loved who had passed. As you know, I've lost my Grandma this year and it was quite a painful experience and continues to ache. I tried to be open to contacting her spirit during the meditation, but I couldn't get there. I've done meditation before, but always laying down in the dark by myself, not sitting in a chair in a well-lit room full of people.

I became very emotional when I placed a photo of her and my Grandpa on the altar and tried to share the minimum (who are they and something about them) with the congregation. I got very choked up and I don't think anyone could understand what I said.

But we got to sing at the end and, really, music is my spirituality. When I sing or play music, I feel connected to life, the universe and everything. I opened my hands and closed my eyes and sang my heart out.

After the service, I was standing around with Spooky and the Captain and, I really have no better way to describe her, this old witch named Samantha (I'm not kidding) walked up to us and said, "I have a message for you...and you," pointing to Spooky then me.

"Your mother," she said to Spooky, "loves you and wants you to start taking care of yourself now. Stop worrying so much about others."

"And you," she said to me, "you need to stop being so stubborn. You're always going here and there, working and working. You need to have some fun, lighten up."

"Oh, ok," I said.

"Is your name 'Atlas'?" she asked.

"No," I said.

"Then stop trying to carry the world around on your back."

She then turned to the Cap'n and said, "And your halo's being held up by horns. You're quite the trixster...but not lately. You'd better get out there and start having fun too."

Then she hugged and kissed each of us and left the building. We stood there in wonder for a moment and The Cap'n concluded "When a witch offers you advice on Halloween, you probably ought to take it."

We smiled and then they drifted away into the post-church crowd and the sun began to blaze through the windows. It was a bit magical and I stepped outside to see the old mama witch pull away in her burgundy sedan. I stood there in the glory that is bright sunshine on an autumn morning. Heavy clouds hovered over the horizon. A breeze blew my hair around while the sun warmed my face and neck.

I felt loved and part of a spiritual family that means as much to me as my biological family. It includes my friends, old and new, who sing with me and challenge me to think about things differently. It also includes the memories I have of Grandma Jean, Grandpa, Aunt Gail. And now an old woman who mothered me out of nowhere and blessed me with her insights and kindness.

And when my friends found me out front, I was so glad to see them again. And I thought: Maybe this was what heaven was like.

I hope so.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wheat, Chaff, Circled Wagons

It's been tough around here lately, folks, a hell of a ride. As we make huge transitions, we are learning who our friends are for sure. And it's a painful process, like trying to navigate a field full of rakes. Every now and then, THWACK! And shock, pain, and tears form momentarily. But we pull together and the circle gets smaller. We are tough, my family and friends and we'll make it through, I believe. But we have paid a dear price and have the scars to prove it.

I realize I'm being vague. I'll tell you more later. I'm on my way to Cleveland for a work related romp. I should have time to fill in the blanks.

I look forward to catching up with you. Take care and wish me luck. I'm gonna need all I can get.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Uncle Ralph Chimes In: I Hate Waiting

You know I just won't do it anymore. I've wasted enough of my precious time in line, on hold, and in the waiting room to earn a Ph.D in queuing theory.

So, let's get something straight, Cupcake.I walk into your store and head up to your counter. You start by greeting me with something cheesy and folksy that the airheads in your corporate brainwashing center came up with like, "Hi there, how can I brighten your day?" and I immediately want to punch you in the throat. So already we're starting off on the wrong foot, aren't we, Sunshine? And then your goddamn phone rings and you sparkle off to go answer it.

And this is where the heat in my oven hits broil.

Why is it that someone who gets up, gets showered and shaved, gets dressed, hauls his ass into his car, burns expensive gasoline, orbits the parking lot for 13 of your earth years, finally finds a spot and hikes the 42 miles to your front door get sidelined by some loser in her pj's that picked up a phone and punched a few buttons? How is it that actual people in the flesh are left standing with their orders half out of their mouths while some Housfrau in a hair net asks a bunch of hypotheticals about the philosophical implications of the side orders attached to your Family Meal Troughs?

Well, I won't stand for it, Peanut, and here's what I expect you to do: Get a goddamned answering machine and while I'm here in the flesh, let the callers rot in the digital wasteland of "Hits from the 90's" hold music while you start giving a damn about the real people in the room. Otherwise you'll find yourself out of the people business and into the business of delivering food to agorophobic hoarders who can't even find the energy to pull on a pair of dockers. You will have contributed to the slobifying of America.

So put down that phone and get your priorities straight before I reprioritize your face, Tinkerbell.

Dedicated to Capn Ergo Jingobollocks for his birthday

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

FFF #41: The Good Old Days

He walked in and slid the photograph across my desk.

"Here's your proof, old man," Leon said, rolling a toothpick around in his lips. "Here's the picture I took of him in the act and, as a bonus, just for you...his phone records."

I took a moment to finish signing the letter I was preparing and he slumped into one of the burgundy leather chairs I had in front of my desk for guests. He began to tap his fingers in a cascade of insistent thumps on the arms. I didn't really want to look at the picture and behold the proof it contained. I also didn't care for Leon's casual impatience, so I used my age to stall.

I took great care in replacing the cap on my pen. I made quite a show of patting myself down for my spectacles. Once found, I reached for my handkerchief and worked it over the lenses. My recent bout of bronchitis gave me a wonderfully phlegmmy cough. I had become quite adept at snorting and clearing my throat in the last week, so I added this talent to the show. It was for Leon's benefit, after all. Him coming in here with his proof. His smug, smart-alec aura oppressed me, as did the lingering smell of his breakfast. Let him stew in his own compulsions, let him tap his tattoo and dream of murdering me just to pick up the pace.

To be fair, I did ask him to do this, didn't I? I have a business to run and I needed to know if my nephew really was the leak. For months we'd been scooped by the other paper on critical stories. Leon, my best photographer, has great ambitions but also a nose for scandal. He brought his suspicions to me along with a report of dozens of complaints of nepotism. This was becoming a disaster on so many different levels. I made him get me proof.

I gave my spectacles one final wipe and added one more cough. I put the spectacles on my old face and reached out toward the photo, my hand shaking with its usual palsy. I dragged the photo towards me and picked it up. It contained the imageof my nephew in a booth at the Brown Derby, cozied up to that blasted female who heads up the news desk at The Herald. I could feel the electricity in the room as Leo stopped tapping and straightened in his chair. He was hungry for my outrage.

"I see," I said steadily, frowning a bit. "And what about these phone records?"

"I've gone through them and circled the calls that originated from Stanley's desk and were connected to the news office at The Herald offices," he said jumping up and grabbing the document.

"See? Here...and here," he flipped through the pages.

"You've been very thorough, Leon."

"And here..." he said, his eyes glowing with a new furor.

"Thank you, Leon," I said, pulling the papers from his hands. "I will review this thoroughly."

"Don't you want to call him in now?" Leon pressed.

"Why would I do that?"

"It's obvious he's the one leaking our leads!" Leon nearly whined.

"Leon, my good man, I appreciate all the hard work you've done to implicate my nephew in wrong-doing, but this has all the earmarks of a true witch hunt orchestrated by yourself perhaps with the help of some of your cronies."


"I'm not going to call him in here so that you may satisfy your thirst for 'justice.' I must give this evidence proper consideration and hear Stanley's side of the story. We must keep open minds about this, Leon. You of all people should know this. You with your sympathies for the downtrodden...where are those sympathies now, hmm?"

"But...he...look at that picture again...can't you see?"

"I see very well. But I also know about due process. And I'm not about to rush to conclusions, especially when the evidence blends business, pleasure, and family."

"But sir, we must be quick about this! We can't afford to lose another story!"

"But we also cannot afford to rush personnel issues, your union saw to that. I remember back in the day when I could fire anyone anytime I wanted...I also didn't have to pay for such things as health care and vacation days and such. Ah, a golden age for the rich...then again, what days aren't a golden age for the rich, eh Leon?"

"Hmph," Leon snorted. He began to pace.

I was taunting him now and it really wasn't fair. He was a good photographer and reliable, mostly. But I cannot stand it when someone tries to push me into something. I had actually asked for Stanley's resignation this morning. He was embezzling money out of the petty cash account, treating it like his personal piggy bank. Indiscretion was one thing, stealing my money was quite another. And theft was something I could act swiftly on within my corporate restraints.

I looked at Leon and studied him for a moment. He was pacing in the light shining though my large window. A vein in his temple throbbed as he worked his toothpick back and forth over his bottom lip. He shrugged his shoulders and pulled on his lapels, straightening his jacket.

"Listen, Leon," I reasoned, "All will be handled in its own time. We can't rush these things. You understand, don't you?"

"I do understand, sir," he said as he stopped pacing; he seemed to have decided on something.

"What now, Leon?" I asked.

"I quit," he said, looking at me with righteous anger.

"Fine," I replied. "You will do me the courtesy of offering a two-week notice...without which you will get no reference from me. See Sarah on the way out so that you can complete all the appropriate exiting paperwork."

I returned to my signing duties as he stood in front of me. I could feel a his shock, disappointment, and anti-climax as he exhaled. I hated to lose a good photographer, but good photographers were a dime a dozen; he could easily be replaced. Besides, his union, leftist ways only caused trouble with my staff and gave me heartburn. So I let him dig his own grave. His only move was to leave and so he did.

It was almost as good as firing someone used to be.

Sumbitted for FFF#41

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

FFF #40 - Summer Lullaby

I heard footsteps on the wet sidewalk
And the sound of keys,
My piano, out of tune.

My heart sang the blues in the moonlight
And my dog
Ordered another round.

Our reverie on summer's passing
Bent our souls leeward
As we listened to the last storm

News of hurricanes blow through our sunburns and
We sandbag ourselves
Against the chill we can't feel yet

The thunder rumbles our bones
And is a harbinger
Of closing up, in

As we weep at the beginning
Of the end of warmth
The earth pulls us closer,
One last embrace before
Our bedtime of winter

Submitted for Friday Flash Fiction

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

FFF #39: The Lone School Marm

She knew time was running out, fast, but opening that door was Pandora's Box all over again. Susanna checked that her six-shooter was loaded and that her knife was firmly in its sheath. The knife was a gift from her Pa on her 13th birthday and she'd worn it on her left ankle ever since. She had Doc Shaw's satchel stuffed with the paper money and coins. Everything was ready but her nerve.

The last time she opened the door to the school house, she had found three members of the Dirty Boys gang holding her students at gun point, one of whom was lying on the floor, bleeding from the ear and whimpering. Stunned, she watched the men turn and train their guns on her when they heard the door shut. They smirked and licked their weathered lips as they took in the site of the local school marm. She nearly laughed at the sight of their wolfishness, some mania gripping her.

But before the laugh could find its way out of her gut, the children began to call out to her and scream, hoping she'd lead them out of this like it were another one of her lessons. They began to run towards her and the Dirty Boys started shooting. Eli Johnson, her cousin and prized pupil when down when a bullet landed in his spine. Desks splintered in reaction to the barrage of lead flying around the room and her world dissolved into screams, tears and utter devastation.

She felt herself slipping into panic, not knowing where to turn first. Her heart started to break as she remembered what her Pa told her. He'd said, "Susanna, you're as stubborn as my mule and smarter than my whip. Ain't nothin' anyone can throw atcha you cain't handle. People are gonna sense that about you and they're gonna look to you for help. You got the grit, girl. Just feel the fear and saddle up anyhow."

She let her fear wash over her and mix in with love of this school house and her own stubbornness. Her innards began to boil with anger and she knew then that she had to take control. She had found her voice and shouted her standard line to the children when she was ready to start her lessons and they were rowdy and preoccupied: "Looky here, lads and lassies!"

They all stopped running and screaming and turned their wide wild eyes at her. The shots stopped, the bandits having been school children once, too. She took a moment to look at each one of the children that could see. She tried to convey a calmness and love to them with her eyes. She then turned her anger to each of the three gangsters in turn, memorizing two of their faces, the third one obscured by the wide brim of his black hat.

"What is the meaning of this?" she demanded, bringing out the tone she used on bullies in her classroom. "Why have you turned our school house into a battle field?"

The Dirty Boys had recovered their swagger and began to move towards her.

"Well, ma'am," the dirtiest and biggest one said, "We're here to take our cut."

"Yeah, our cut!!" the littlest one sniggered as he pulled out a bowie knife slowly from the sheath on his belt.

"What do you mean, 'your cut,'" Susanna demanded, putting her hands on her hips.

"Well, we heard tell that the gov'ment gave you some money...a lot of money to add on to this school and buy books and such. And since you're only allowed to use this school house by the good graces of Dirty Dan, we thought you'd like to return the favor and give us half."

"Half!" the littlest one laughed and hooted.

"So, why don't you hand it over and we'll let you get on with your history lessons and what not," the biggest and dirtiest one said.

"Well, I don't keep it here, you imbecile!" she retorted. "It's at the bank. Why don't you take your guns and your knives and go over there and try to help yourselves."

"Well," the third one said tipping up his hat, "We thought you might do that for us, save us the trouble of a bank robbery."

The children gasped, recognizing the face of Dirty Dan himself.

"Besides," Dan said, "I'm looking for a new current one is getting pretty long in the tooth."

"If you think I'm going to marry you, you've got another thing coming, mister!" Susanna declared, feeling the fear trickle between her shoulder blades.

"You? No, you're older than my last wife," he smiled. "Plus, I can tell you'd be trouble....while one of these fine young ladies might just suit me fine." His eyes moved toward the Hailey twins, hungry and clouded over with lust. They were 13 and beautiful with a sweetness of summer lemonade.

Susanna blanched. The twins looked at her in terror.

"Now why don't you get yourself over to the bank and get my cut while me and the boys decide which one of these bookends would look best on my trophy shelf."

"Don't you touch a hair on their heads!" Susanna screamed.

Dirty Dan looked at her, lust turning to ice. "You go to the bank, get your money and come back here by high noon or we'll just start taking our turns at the buffet...Elroy over there likes boys, so no one will be left out."

"Then we'll kill 'em all!" screeched Elroy.

"Now git!" Dirty Dan demanded. "And don't bring no law with you neither or we'll just set this place on fire, lock the doors and run. Pull yourself together and get that money!"

Susanna had turned on her heals and ran down the long country road. Her skirts flew and her mind raced. By the time she reached the edge of town, she flopped under a tree, her lungs rended. As she caught her breath a plan had formed. She went to Doc Shaw's office and told him quickly what had happened. She left him to gather the posse, then raced to the bank to withdrawl half her funds from the school account. The bank manager raised his eyebrow at her but knew her well enough not to question her when her tightly wound hair uncoiled around her face.

And now here she was at the door armed with money, a gun, a knife and her grit. She knew what she was facing this time. She'd never killed a man before, but she had helped Pa slaughter pigs and shoot lame horses. And what were these men, but animals, vicious and lousy with hunger? With the six shooter tucked in the bustle of her dress, the knife at her heel, a satchel of money at her side and her fear vibrating through her bones, she opened the door.

Submitted for Friday Flash Fiction

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shouting From the Mountain Top: Halleluia! We've Gone Bankrupt!

So, we've been struggling to keep our heads above water for about 7 years now. I've tried to be good and do the right thing with my money. What I never realized was that our unsecured debt was never going to go away with the amount of money we made. We could only ever pay the miniumums and that will never be enough to make any progress.

I also fell for the bait that home ownership was the American Dream. I kept going down that path and sinking deeper and deeper. Looking back, I don't know why any bank in their right mind would have leant us the money to buy a house. Of course, we all know now that they weren't in their right minds.

But now, we're free. We get a second chance to do things right. It's like, when you're in your 20's, there's no tomorrow. We spent money we didn't have on luxuries because it was fun. Then we had to spend money we didn't have on necessities because all our money was going to the creditors. It was a snowball ride to ruin. But now, we can be forgiven and we have the opportunity to be smart, grown-up and mature about money.

I'm very sorry that I screwed things up so badly. But I'm super-grateful that there's a way to reboot.

Monday, August 16, 2010

PSA: Italics - Use Them Right

Italics are not to be used for any old thing. They are not like cologne that you can splash all over yourself. You don't want to overuse them and take away what little power they have. They are for emphasis or book titles, right? Maybe foreign phrases...maybe the words of Christ.

Please don't use them as the standard font formatting on documents or emails. Unless you are Jesus. Also, if you use italics for everything, you aren't allowed to use the abbreviation IMHO (Jesus...please feel free to do whatever you like).

Thanks for understanding

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

FFF #38 Good Morning, Mr. Jenkins

Submitted for Friday Flash Fiction#38 where we are to use the words Bubble, Toil, Rubble, Coil in a story.

"Bubble, can you come here please?" Mr. Jenkins called from his executive squawk-box.

She sighed and turned from her typewriter to press the button on her end and say, "Yes, sir."

She'd been trying to finish typing this proposal all morning. She looked balefully at her typewriter, reluctant to leave it now that it was working. All morning, the "g" key kept sticking and then her ribbon dried out. She had to wait for Larry from maintainance to come up and fix the keyboard and bring her a new ribbon.

Ah, Larry, she mused. He's so good with his hands. And cute too. Her mind drifted back and she fell into the dreamy memory. He was sitting at her desk, examining the old ribbon. She stood watching him speak quietly about its properties, coiling it back up. The content of his speech was lost on her as she became hypnotized by the lilt in his gentle voice and methodical movements of his agile fingers.

"BUBBLE!" the box barked. "When I said 'come here,' I meant NOW!"

She jumped up and grabbed her steno pad and pencil. As she skittered up the three stairs to his office, she smoothed her red, pencil skirt and then ran her fingers through her blond hair to perk it up and reshape the coils of curls so they bounced in that way that Mr. Jenkins liked. She reached the door and looked down to make sure enough buttons were undone on her breezy chiffon top to tantalize but not so many that she looked easy. Satisfied, she opened the one of the double doors and stepped in.

"Good morning, Mr. Jenkins. I'm so sorry for the delay," she said but didn't explain herself. She had learned that he really didn't care for excuses and frankly, she didn't like giving them. In that way, they were a good match.

He had rules about how a person...a girl was to behave in his presence. She was never permitted to shut the office door unless he asked her to. She had to wait to be invited to sit down. And all ideas were his ideas and all communications had to come frm him. Even when she had to make requests for help with typing from the girls in the secretarial pool. Bubble understood she was his tool and he used her 120 words-per-minute fingers to break through enough of the red tape and bureaucratic rubble to become the top man at this firm.

He looked at her over his half-moon spectacles from behind his vast oak desk. She felt his eyes scan her. She put one hand on her hip, impatient for her invitation to sit. He grinned and slowly moved his eyes up to look into her eyes.

"You know I don't like waiting, Bubble," he said. "I didn't toil my way from the mailroom all the way to full partner waiting on cute little blonds to decide they were ready to work."

"I am sorry, sir," she said, dropping her arms to her sides. "What can I help you with?"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Notes from the Couch

I'm on the poofy couch listening to Doc and Lucy play Lego Indiana Jones and Riley reading tongue twisters. The yard has been tended to, but the flower beds are asking "What about us?" And I'm telling them to relax because they now qualify as Jungle Chic.

Here's a summary of my vacation:

  • I love my job, but I think the stress of it all was getting to me. These five days were needed for me to recharge my brain and soul a bit.

  • Buster Keaton's
    Buster Keaton Face
    I've laughed and I've cried...I don't like to cry. I usually can't stop if I start. Doc complains about my "Buster Keaton" face, but sometimes, it's either that or Niagra Falls.
  • Things are tough vis a vis ye olde bank account right now. Doc and I are trying to figure out what to do next. We are definately at a crossroads, which people keep pointing out to us. I'm trying very hard to listen well to advice I'm getting from trusted sources. But any move right now is a risky one.
  • I'm going back and forth wondering if there really is a God or if this is all just some grand accident of chemistry.
  • Riley and I had a disagreement where we both dug in our heels and got mad at each other. But it was nothing a little homemade pizza offering couldn't cure.
  • Mostly, even though things are tough, we are all finding ways to laugh a little, sing some, and hug it out.

So, I get back on the merry-go-round tomorrow. I hope when the alarm clock goes off, I'll find that spring in my step again that was missing last week. I know it's just needed oiling.

Oh, and Riley just said, "By the way, Mom, don't come into my room..." I'm off to investigate.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FFF #37 - Clown College Commencement Address

As with juggling, the key to life is to keep the procession moving steady and don't look down. There are days when you're not going to feel like putting that makeup on or pulling on your giant pants. But these are the things you are called to do. You've spent four years here in this safe place, testing your abilities and studying the masters. Now is the time for you to gather your glee and set forth into our sad world to spread joy.

And don't be mistaken; people are going to laugh at you. And not just because you're a clown. They're going to say, "Why be a clown? Why not do something more productive, more practical." Artists everywhere have had to face this question. And you must dig deep into your souls and sort through your own internal prop trunk to find this answer.

But we the faculty at Cleveland Clown College won't send you off without a bit of advice on this matter. We have been here for you these past four years and we can give you some pearls of wisdom that you can carry around under your rainbow wig to rely on when you're feeling like your seltzer bottle has lost its fizz.

In these dark days of bubbles bursting, oil spilling, and war, the world needs a pie in the face. And it needs to be delivered by someone who takes clowning very seriously. We need to be the ones to demonstrate the ridiculous so that people can stop being so serious about everything and see the situation as it is. Once we have a laugh together, we can shrug off the sadness, pick up our rubber shovels and get to work making the world a better place.

We need to bring smiles to faces lest the oppressive weight of it all crush the spirits of our collective souls. It is our duty to make farts visible with powder and to apply our acrobatic prowess to pratfalls to lighten up this universe. For if we do not do these things, the doomsayers win and we are left with a world where flowers don't squirt and handshakes are de-electrified and sadness reigns. These bits of whimsy brighten the world a little bit at a time. And if we continue to brighten the world together, the dark forces lose their grip and we can all shake our heads to clear them and face our problems with spirit and aplomb.

Tell those people who shake their heads at you and mock your life's calling that they can go ahead and scoff. They'll be tied to a desk, while you get to see the world, either in small scale at backyard birthday parties or in the Big Tent. You'll rub elbows with acrobats and lion tamers and ride elephants and unicycles to work while they carpool with grumps and drudge away in a cubicle. And you are charged with producing laughter in the hearts of children of all ages.

But the best part about it is to bring hope and happiness in such an intimate and face-to-face way. And hope and happiness are our beacon that will light the way to a better world. You have been prepared by the best and you are ready to pick up this standard and carry it forth. We the faculty wish you all the best and will be here for you as you face the challenges of clowning.

Thank you, Cleveland Clown College Class of 2010. You have strengthened our numbers and enriched our hearts so that we may all face the darkness with our balls in the air.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mirth Finding

So, God bless Some Guy, right? I mean, his exhaustive list of blurbs about the people on his blogroll was really wonderful. It brought back memories of a golden age, when blogging was new and exciting.

When I started blogging, it was scary. I had a really tough job where outrageous things would happen to me but if I talked about it to anyone in a format that could be traced back to me, I'd be toast. But I needed to write and I wanted it public. So, I started this blog and called it "Prone to Whimsy" so that I would remember that this is a place for the fun, silly, random stuff that crosses my mind and capture the small moments in my life that reverberated meaning. Things that floated into my day, dipped down and rested in my hands, then floated away again.

But something happened...maybe Facebook, which is so much more instantly gratifying. It allowed me to flit in and out without leaving much substance behind. I still feel kind of cheap when I reduce one of the meaningful moments in my life to a status update.

But back to this blog. I've always wanted my writing to be personal here. I wanted you to know me. I wanted to share the little things in my life, the marvelously mundane. The tag I use to categorize that kind of thing is "A Day in the Life of Flannery" and the last time I used it was in January. So, that's what, over seven months, right? Seeing Chris' post about me and my blog and reading the comments brought all that back home to me. In particular, my throat caught at this one:

"Flannery is one of those rare bloggers who, after you've read her, you'd run up and hug her on first meet because you just *know* her." - Beth

I was presented with proof that I've done what I set out to do. At least one of the people who reads my blog feels like she knows me. But anyone who has started reading this since Janurary probably wouldn't have the same reaction.

Fortunately, I've had Flash Fiction Friday to keep this blog from going completely defunct. But that's my fiction, not my facts. And while it's become very important to me, I feel a kind of loss for the other stuff.

Frankly, I've been resistant to sharing too much here. As you may know, my husband is going through a rough patch. Well, we both are. And I've circled the wagons, closed ranks. I've had to. What do I share here? How do I sort out my own head? How do I find the whimsy again amidst all this strife and angst. It's easier to just let it sit while I play Bubble Pop Party Island and shut out the world.

Well, I'm back, baby. I'm raising the windows and getting a little air in here. I'm shaking off the dust cloths and refilling the larders.

In short, I'm bringing whimsy back.

So thank you, Some Guy and Beth, for turning on the lights.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FFF #36 The Visit

"In the distance I saw all kinds of birds circling over something, but I couldn't tell what from where I was."

"Yes," he murmurred, "Go on..."

"I started walking towards the birds...and then I couldn't see them because I was walking into the sun, but I could still hear them. Eventually the sun sank beneath the horizon and I could make out the shape of a ramshackle house."

"I see," he paused, "Did you enter the building?"

"Yes, I did." I replied.

"What did you see?"

"The house was made of pine boards and roadside signs. It was low to the ground and there was tumble weed. It looked very dark in side. In my dream I knew it was my house. I walked in and found the place overrun with drugged out partiers. There was food everywhere and trash. Some of the walls stripped down to the studs and the toilet was overflowing."

"Go on..."

"When I went into the main room, people were passed out and strewn on old nappy couches. I was very angry and I could fee the bile rising to the top of my throat. I turned toward the fireplace..."

"Yes..." he said, leaning forward, more than mildly interested now.

"Well, a fire started and smoke swirled up and then the brick began to melt away and I could see the sun for a moment."

"And then what?" he breathed.

"The most incredibly large owl swooped in, spread her wings and hovered over the fire. And she was briliantly colored, like a mandala of reds, blues and yellows."

"That's it!" he cried.

"That's what?" I asked, startled by his fervor.

"You have been visited."


"I thought that was the case when you came in're aura, it's different."

"My aura?" I asked, blinking at him. My therapist never vered from your standard Jungian stuff; I'd never believed he'd even heard the word aura before. Now he's reading mine?

"Yes," he said, standing up and tilting his head as he looked at me intently.

I fidgeted a bit, uncomfortable under his direct gaze. I don't think we'd ever formally made eye contact before.

"Yes," he repeated, "It is golden..."

"So?" I asked and blushed.

"So, Marina," he said, "A visit from the Mandala Owl...this means that your awareness has expanded and you're psychic powers can be tapped. That she visited you when you were in a state of righteous anger means that you are called."


"Yes, and your golden aura seals it. You psychic vision is clear and you can see for miles. You are integrated...mind, body and spirit and you are ready."

"Ready for what?" I asked, standing, arms akimbo. I was starting to think that Dr. Falk might want to take my place on the comfy couch.

"Marina, Golden Marina," he said, looking at me with a tilted head and a glimmer of unshed tears under each eye.

I blinked.

"Don't you see? Don't you see what a combination like that means? Psychic powers, spiritual protection, righteous anger?"

"I don't see," I replied.

"Ah, yes, but you do see," he said with the smugness of a Zen master. "Close your eyes and let your arms hang loose. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and just breath."

I obeyed. It was dark and I could smell a combination of dust and peppermint. The same smell I'd inhaled every Thursday afternoon for the past three years. My eyes remained closed, but the room lightened. I felt immense pride and hope as I began to see the room, see myself standing with my eyes closed, my arms hanging at my sides and my feet firmly planted on the floor.

Startled, my eyes flew open and I took in Dr. Falk. He was crying in earnest now. He strode towards me and grabbed both my hands.

"Marina," he said, "Thank you...I haven't known the Mandala Owl's presence since your grandmother walked on to the spirit world. I was hoping that you'd have the gift too."


"In time, you'll understand your gift. I promise. But for now, we must start your training. I also need to let the elders know of your return.

"I thought I just had some clinical depression issues you were going to help me with." I said as I slumped back down on the couch.

"Those are side effects of your empathic nature," he said as he began throwing items from his desk into a satchel, "They must be treated before awareness can occur. I had to be sure that was the case and it wasn't just textbook twenty-first century angst."

He stopped searching and zipped up the bag. "Come, Marina, we must go."

"Where?" I asked.

"To meet your destiny."

Thank you to Wellesfan for such a compelling starter sentence!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

FFF#35 -The Inside Job

"I don't disagree with you, but you have to admit, this puts me in a delicate position," Father Willem replied.

Of course it does, you beast, I thought but didn't say. I shrugged and let him waffle there with between the safe limb he created for himself and the tempting fruit I dangled before him. If I knew anything at all about Father Willem, it was that he would always go for fruit he shouldn't take, especially if he believed he could count on plausible deniability.

"It really is rather clever of you, John," he said, turning his chair toward the stained glass depiction of the nativity and steepling his fingers under his chin, contemplating. "We could put cameras in all of the rooms in the school, including the dormitories...sure, it would infringe on 'privacy rights' but those are very much undefined in the charter, whereas it clearly states 'We shall err on the side of safety, always...'" He stood up.

"Just the presence of cameras alone should deter any student-teacher extracurriculuar contacts and that should satisfy the board that we are taking a tough stance on this issue. Besides, we don't want a full clerical inquiry. Of course the Vatican aren't letting the secular law enforcers anywhere near us, for now. But we can't afford to let a tinge of unseemlinees darken our purity. We don't want to encur the attentions of the Bishop; the red tape alone involved with one whispered accusation could set us back years. We have important work, here, John, to educate the Catholic youth and grow the priesthood. Otherwise, what shall become of us and our important role of religious leadership and moral fortitude? Who shall lead the sheep through the valley? Certainly not the Baptists..."

I could tell he was going to go for it now; he never speechified on a topic that he wasn't going to deliver on. Finally, after thirty years, I will have the upper hand over a man who has dominated my life since childhood.

"Very well, Father," I said. "I'll proceed with the requisition then, shall I?"

"Yes, yes..." he said, distracted as he sat back down and turned towards his computer. "Make it happen as you always do."

I stood up and made my way to the large oak door of his office. This office, once a hell for me was now starting to feel more like a hall of justice. I can remember counting the books in here and recategorizing them in my head while he abused me. For a long time, the scent of office supplies would make me vomit. I had to spend my first turn as an assistant pastor in a church so poor, office supplies were the last thing anyone thought about.

Driven by righteous anger, I graduated a the top of my class in seminary and had many offers to join the most influential churches in the country. My choice of such a poverty-stricken parrish surprised my friends and worried my mentors. But I had visited that poor place in the ghetto and I was moved by its sadness that seemed to mirror my own. I also believed that spending time in the trenches like that would bring me a unique credibilty since I was one of the few that had chosen to walk the walk of poverty and help the poorest among us. That way, fat priests whose indulgences made them walk a fine canonical line would find me a good proxy. They could hire me away so that I could bring my humilty and they could somehow co-opt it for their own glory.

This seemed like a fast track to the top. I had learned what the poortest among us needed and I could work the white-guilt of the richer perishes to create conduits of money and resources and point them to my ghetto of God's forgotten children. I knew this would set me up as an important figure, one who would be a jewel in the crown of any parrish. Having been a victim of Father Willem, I took it upon myself to meet him on his own turf as a peer and take him down for good in such a way that it will look like his fall from grace happened due to anything other than child molestation. Then, I'll have access to his network of other like-minded men without alerting them and foment their clerical demise one by one. I had long given up on the idea that the law, sacred or secular, would have the balls to solve this problem between priests and boys. It has to be an inside job.

Little did Father Willem know that I had been spending most of the term with my students talking about the constitutionality of privacy. We had worked over many Supreme Court cases on the subject. I had also spent the first part of every day with them on the Heroes of Civil Disobedience: Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, Rosa Parks. They are primed for a revolution. Father Willem will not see it coming as he never counted the students as anything other than his sheep for the taking. And I will walk away from here vindicated and ready to take out the next one.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Words That Make You Sound Drunk

My co-worker Wendy and I keep a running list. I thought I'd share it with you and see if you had any further suggestions:
  • Fiduciary
  • Judicial
  • Similarly
  • Articulate
  • Reciprocity
  • Instantiation
  • Pedestrian
  • Substantial
  • Perambulate
  • Periodicity

Doc chimes in...

  • He had had a cold in the past.
  • penial implant
  • douche
  • travesty
  • wimple
Barbara's had a few...
  • perpendicular
  • cauterize
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • ... most disease names, really...
Gennifer6 threw one up...
  • facetious
Beckeye stumbled over a few...
  • Juxtaposition
  • Chartreuse
  • Mischievous
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Goldschlager (and you usually get drunk if you're asking for it) 
Skyler's Dad tied a few on...

  • Thudpucker
  • Lookie here
  • and of course 'Hold my beer and watch this'!

David Barber slurred...Phesant plucker and the Cap'n refused to let us have antepenultimate.

Other co-workers staggered through and coughed up:
  • Criticism
  • Phlebotomy 
  • Ancillary

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Ice Cream Stand - FFF#34

An effort for Friday Flash Fiction #34 where we are to use these words in the story: Sculpture, Culture, Cult, and Cohesive


"Here he comes, Lyla!" Wendy whispered as she brushed by on her way to the custard machine.

Lyla looked out the louvered windows to see his black BMW turn into the Kustard Korner parking lot. Her heart raced. She took a deep breath and side-stepped over to the small sink in the back of the ice cream stand. She washed her hands and straightened her bangs with wet fingers. She tugged on her apron so that the top portion pulled down a little bit and you could read "The Cult," which was splashed across the front of her t-shirt in white letters. She had cropped the sleeves and cut a v-neck into the shirt to better display her tan and her dainty cleavage. She bought this shirt on impulse. He had mentioned the band the last time he came to the custard stand and she hoped that wearing it and punking it out would get his attention.

When Lyla turned around to head back to the corner, she could see that a line had begun grown at the two sliding screen windows. As she stepped up to begin taking orders, the end of the line seemed to stretch out and redouble itself before her eyes. She felt like pouting and stomping her foot at the unfairness of it all. It will take forever to get through all these people and he might get in the wrong line!

"Can I help you?" she asked a mother who stood impatiently at the window, her two daughters telling her what they wanted at the same time. Lyla waited while they sorted out their order and stole a glance out of the corner of her eye. She could just see his car from where she stood and was delighted to watch the door open and one tanned leg land on the asphalt.

"We'll take two small vanilla cones...can you put faces and sprinkles on them?" the woman asked.

"Sure," she said tugging her eyes back to the woman. "Three dollars please."

The woman paid with a five and Lyla gave her the change. She hustled over to the custard machine to began filling the small cones with a tower of vanilla. She hit the lever and watched as the cold, creaminess slowly moved forth from the machine. She made small practiced circles to sculpture the coils one on top of the other and finished off with a flick to get a precious curly-q on top. She started the second one and flushed as she remembered the last time he was here. She couldn't stop watching him; the way he licked his cone was criminally sexy. She snapped her attention back to the machine to finish the second cone and headed over to the sprinkle station.

"Did you see him?" she asked Wendy.

"Not yet..." she said craning her neck towards the parking lot.

"Stop!" Lyla hissed. "We don't want to look like a couple of nerds! Be cool."

"Ok, ok," Wendy replied. "Sheesh, this used to be fun and I don't remember you ever worrying about being cool before."

Lyla gave her a look that would melt fudge. Wendy shrugged as Lyla finished making the faces on the cones and spun on her toe and headed back to the window.

"Two small face cones!" she shouted out and looked around as the mother made her way back to the windows. She couldn't see him yet. She handed the lady her cones and some napkins and began to chip away at the rest of the line. It was an endless list of custards, shakes, hot dogs, sloppy joes, and sodas. She and Wendy zipped around within the small confines of the ice cream stand. When it got busy like this, Wendy and Lyla always found a groove. This was their second summer at the Kustard Korner and they were veterans and moved like a unit. Their actions were cohesive and they had some kind of psychic link when it came to ice cream.

Wendy and Lyla high-fived each other when the last big order was finished. Lyla had forgotten about him in the fever of her work. They both turned back and started to head to their respective windows.

"Hey," he said.

Lyla looked up suddenly, her eyes bugged slightly as her heart fell on the floor. There he was before her, rugged and unshaven. His melon Izod pulled tight across his broad shoulders and his white bermudas wrapped his lower half like a present.

"Hey," she exhaled back. "What can I get you?"

"I'd like a medium twist and a face cone for Madison." he tilted his head toward his eight-year-old daughter standing next to him like a fine, cultured rose.

"Sure thing," she said. Wendy sensed the electricity and sent her last customer off. She hurried over to help Lyla.

"Well?!?" she demanded, "What did he say?!?"

"Just 'Hey.'"

"Just 'Hey'?"

"Yeah, and his order."

"Well, here," Wendy said as she took the small cone. "You give him the twist and I'll fix the face cone."

They worked quickly and Wendy handed her the small cone. Lyla took them to the window and didn't have to shout. He was watching her the whole time. She shivered and then leaned through the window to hand the girl her cone. Then she gave him his twist.

"Thanks," he said and smiled. His eyes dropped down to take a sneak a peak. "Hey!" he said, pointing, "The Cult! I saw them when I was in high school!"

"Yeah?" she said.

"Yeah," he replied, "I think I've got one of their CD'S in my car."

"Cool!" she said.

"Funny, I haven't thought about them in years and recently, they keep coming up. How do you know about them? I thought kids these days only cared about Lady Gaga."

"I've never heard of them before. I just liked this shirt." she said, trying to be casual. But she couldn't take her eyes away from his mouth as began to lick his twist. He started on the sides and worked his way around. Then he went in from the top and pressed his mouth into the curly-q, crushing it. She almost fainted right there on the spot.

"That's a shame. They're a really good band, especially when you're a teenager and full of angst."

Lyla giggled, then blushed. She had no idea what angst was, but it sounded dirty.

"Do you babysit?" he asked.

"Um, yeah," she stammered, thrown by his quick change of subject.

"My wife and I are going out tomorrow night and we need someone to hang out with Madison here," he turned toward his daughter and smiled. "I know it's short notice, but, if you're available..."

"Sure!" she said. "I'm here 'til six tomorrow."

"Ok," he said. "I'll pick you up then. We'll listen to the Cult on the way back to my house..." He paused and looked down at her nametag, then smiled, "...Lyla. I'm Jack, by the way."

"Nice to meet you," she said automatically and smiled.

"See you tomorow," he said.

"Bye..." she waved.