Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Things #3

Another post about random things that make my days good things to be in. I'm looking forward to having so many of these posts I lose track of the installment numbers.

1. Hats.

United States Public Domain.

I could totally rock this look. Perhaps not as well as Garbo, but I could rock it. I would have loved living in these times, just for the hats.

2. The Tominator.

A few weeks ago I said to him, "You know, I believe I could commit cold-blooded murder and you would be steadfastly convinced I had a damned good reason." His reply: "Yep." There are no words for that kind of unconditional love and backing. And, he thinks I look amazing in hats.

3. Grinching.

I bitch about various aspects of the holiday season, including the commercialism ("Christmas, it seems, doesn't come from a store"), the supposed "War on Christmas" (honestly...why can't everybody just let everybody celebrate how and what they want to?), and holiday homesickness, but it's all good. I spent an hour listening to The Lost Christmas Eve by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and wrapping presents and enjoying my pretty little improv tree. and everything was all better. Christmas is Christmas no matter where you are and what you have, as long as you keep your heart open.

4. Rhinos.

Many years ago, someone gave me a stuffed rhino as a gag gift, the story behind which is salacious and not suitable for sharing as it could be used against me. Someone else gave me another, and then I got another, and then people began thinking I collected rhinos, so that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It felt more like rhinos were collecting me. This is how totem animals announce themselves, and Rhino has much to teach me. At last count, I have over 125 rhinos, from stuffed to carved to ceramic to key rings to Hot Wheels rhinos to wind-up toys name it. I have not purchased a single one of them; they were all gifts. They're all my favorite but this is one of my favorite favorites, a Christmas gift past from one of the best bosses in the world.

5. Maps.

Maybe I should have been a cartographer. I can entertain myself for hours with a road atlas, a globe, or just a street map of a strange city. I roll the names of cities and avenues off my tongue. I daydream about getting there and being there. Maps are groovy.

Used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

East Side Story

The Tominator and Dream Girl and I crossed Lake Washington to Bellevue to catch the Snowflake Lane celebration. I've heard people say it's the best in the country, and I can see why.

The streets and the performers are dressed to the nines. Happy holiday music plays and live toy soldiers keep the beat.

The Wintergarden has a huge, breathtaking tree.

At 7 p.m., more soldiers block the street off to make way for the Jingle Belles dancers. It's infectious; the crowd is dancing and laughing while snowflakes glow and the snow machine fills the air. One of the things we learned is to get there early so you can get a good spot; otherwise it's as futile as watching a parade when you're short. Sorry; no pictures of the dancers.

We also learned that eating is a good thing to do early. When we were there, the wait was two hours at each of the restaurants we checked. You won't go hungry, though; there are street vendors and walking a few blocks we found Subway, pizza and noodle places, a Thai restaurant.

The show is free, and so is parking in three different garages just for the occasion. Dress warmly. Baby, it's cold outside. Afterward we warmed up with peppermint coffee and hot chocolate and freshly baked pie.

Happy Holidays!

Photo credit:
The Tominator, Dream Girl and I are my pics.
All others appear courtesy of Kathleen Leavitt Cragun, used under Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like style.

Westlake Square
Since Thanksgiving I've enjoyed watching lights and decorations go up around the city. Since things have calmed down after finals week I've wanted to write a holiday post. I sat down with the intention of writing a happy Christmas post but honestly - I'm having a hard time doing it. I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but I don't want to force feelings I don't have, either.

Things were supposed to be a lot different after moving to Seattle. I expected the first year to be a little rough and unsettled. I expected that the first year celebrating the holidays away from home would be strange. I was right on both counts, but I'd also expected that by this time, our second Christmas in the Pacific Northwest, I'd be settled into my new job, making good money, debts paid off. I'd expected we would have moved up from a small apartment into another house, with room to spread out, and would have been able to return to Nevada to get the rest of our belongings out of storage. I'd expected that the Tominator would be feeling great, that we'd have established some new holiday traditions for ourselves, that Dream Girl would have found her niche.

Sparkly morning sidewalk.
The first year was not just rough; it was hell. The job I moved up here to take was nothing short of horror and my life has swerved into a direction I'd never seen coming. I'm still in a small apartment. Most of our possessions are still stored in Nevada, including all of the Christmas things I've amassed over the years - the tree ornaments with accompanying memories, the special advent calendar, the handmade stockings. We have not, in fact, been able to spend Christmas Eve in a cabin on Mt. Rainier, warming up with hot cocoa after a rousing snowball fight. I haven't seen my mom and sibs in almost two years and it's been almost a year since I've hugged Monster. I never knew how awful homesickness can be. Girl Scout camp did not prepare me for this.

It is so easy, right now, to miss my old life. My House, with all of My Stuff. The smell of my sister's house when we arrived to exchange gifts and eat the best dinner ever - and the holiday rolls! Hugs from Mom, that aren't like any other hugs in the world. My brother, my nieces, Ordinarily Megan, all the rest. Monster laughing at me getting tipsy on Christmas wine. The dusting of snow on the ground, maybe. If it felt like it. The party at my last job there, with people I'd come to think of as family.

But there's always a flipside. Don't forget the flipside. How many times have I loved the B side? How cool is Janus?

We have had to downsize our giving drastically, limiting gifts to one apiece from each of us to the others. It takes a lot more thought and effort and a lot less money that way, and the gifts are actually better. We make a trip downtown to do our minimal shopping together, enjoying the lights and the scrumptious store window displays, stopping for a hot drink and a sweet treat. I think this year we may check out Snowflake Lane in Bellevue, with its ice skaters and live toy soldiers. Even if the Tominator does win the sweepstakes, I don't think we'll ever get back on the silly spending merry-go-round.

Dream Girl is indeed finding a niche. She loves her school, she has made some good friends, connected with a local live theater, and been trained as a barista. I am given to understand that being trained as a barista in Seattle is like graduating from the Ivy League of coffee schools. My little bundle of eccentricity is flourishing.

The Great Recession pushed me into something I've been wanting to do for decades - earn my college degree. Seattle's schools are stellar. I am learning fascinating things (even, Statistics), and I'd forgotten how much I love the academic atmosphere. I will be sitting pretty for a rewarding new career when I'm done.

And there is the Tominator, my Prince Charming. In the sea-level altitude and mild coastal temperatures, he can move around largely without pain, and he can breathe. Breathing simply cannot be overrated. It's wonderful to see him feeling better than he has in years. His happiness while stringing colored lights around our balcony is infectious.

I can look out my window and see Yule trees, all year round, alive with birds and squirrels. Holiday lights in the Big City are spectacular. I have a fireplace for hanging stockings and enjoying hot cider.

But still.

When I was a little girl we would all gather around the upright grand piano. My mom would play and my dad would sing, and he sounded exactly like Perry Como. This one was his favorite, and mine too:

I'm feeling better now, but I won't stop missing people. Keep the memories coming. With the Solstice comes the return of the Sun and a lightness to carry us out of this winter hibernation.

Merry Yule, Blessed Bodhi Day, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, -- and Happy Newtonmas (or just "enjoy winter!") for the atheists!

Monday, December 1, 2014

A thousand words are worth a picture.

I've been a blogger for a few months now.

I love it.

Of course, I've gotten sidetracked, as usual. I am the Queen of Digression. I've not gotten too far with one of the projects for which I originally started this blog, which was for pieces I did for Open, Sesame, a website and learning program for Goddess and Earth-based spirituality. But I've started on it, and I can't do it all at once, even if I wanted to, which I don't, so it's all good. I've finished The Sun, and Quartz is about ready, so you'll start seeing some things on the Big Rocks (our solar system) and Small Rocks (just rocks) pages pretty soon.

Decades ago when I was a senior in high school, a creative writing teacher gave me an F on a short story because she just didn't like it. I protested to the school counselor, an awesome guy who had always had my rebellious, misfit little back, who got my back again and pleaded my case with the teacher. Just because you don't like the story doesn't mean it's not well-written, he argued. The teacher grudgingly gave me the A the counselor insisted I deserved, probably to shut us both up. I accepted my A and promptly dropped the class, which gave me an extra hour or two every day to smoke dope and sleep and hang out with my equally delinquent boyfriend, so I considered it a good trade. For years after that I entertained fantasies of mailing that teacher an autographed copy of my Pulitzer Prize-winning book, but I didn't write much. I made the mistake of letting one person's opinion matter.

A few years after that a different writing teacher who was a pleasure to learn from told me that if you want to be a writer, just be one. Just write. That's what writers do. Of course being a professional writer is a whole nother story; it's tough to find people who want to give you money for what you write. But if you don't sweat that part, if you want to be a writer, then just be one already. It only took me, oh, 25 years to take that piece of advice. I made the mistake of waiting to be perfect.

I had read interviews with successful authors who laughed about their large collections of rejection notices. I decided that no proper writer didn't have such a collection, and proceeded to start a collection of my own. I also read that many of them drank rather a lot (you're my hero, Papa Hemingway), and accordingly started drinking when I wrote. But wine didn't help* and I let the rejection slips get to me. I made the mistake of believing those rejections meant I wrote badly.

Then one of my husbands (it's not like I collect them, there have only been three, and I can't believe I just said that) read what I had asked him not to, part of a short story collection I was working on. He saw a romantic scene I had written and jumped to the conclusion that I was having an affair. That led to a nuclear fight that very nearly ended the marriage right then. With the exception of academic or technical pieces written for school or work, for the next 25 years I refused to show a word of what I wrote to anyone. I made the mistake of letting myself be stifled.

Time goes by. You learn a thing or two about how life works, and get the first glimmering that you still know nothing. You get more comfortable with yourself, and you stop giving a rat's fanny what other people think, and you realize that, generally speaking, you can do anything you want to if you're willing to just do it. I also learned that can be the hard part.

Now I'm letting myself be imperfect. I don't care about collections, I don't care about F's and I don't care if you like me. I mean, I would like it if you like me, but it's not the end of my world if you don't. I've unstifled myself.

For the first time since I was a teenager, I carry a little notebook around with me again, to keep those sudden flashes from disappearing. If I'm ever hit by a bus, anyone who reads what's scribbled in that notebook will think I escaped from the asylum.

I have discovered that it's fun to write about whatever I want to write about and not about what I think might please other people, or at least not offend. I do want to entertain people, or make them think, but that's not necessary. I might have a regular readership of 10 people, including my mom, and if it never grows, I'm cool with that. The important thing is that I'm writing. And as far as being nice goes, Anne LaMott put it succinctly: "If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better."

I have discovered that making a conscious decision to write about life as I move through it invites me to see the world very differently from what I'm used to. It's fun to rant about the peeves, but I've also been given a great many moments to pause when I see the beauty all around, for which I haven't even found words yet. I suspect there may be no words, at least not that I'm capable of finding. I didn't anticipate that and if that's what writing does, I'm grateful. And while I make no claims to any skill as a photographer, I've discovered it's fun to carry a camera to try to capture both the beauty and ugliness that move me as I go through my day. It's intriguing how often I capture an image that just happens to go with something I'm writing. I love synchronicity.

I also see that I have a stride to hit that I haven't yet. I'm pinballing around from one thing to another, looking for my voice. I've learned that voice is something no writer just has; it must be discovered and developed. I'm glad I've finally started on that.

I entered the text from this blog so far into the generator thingie at Wordle, to see what kind of picture my words make:

I like it. I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves and expands.

Thank you for being with me so far. I hope you'll stay. I also hope you'll let me know what you like on this site, so I can try to produce more of it.

*Except that a glass of Chilean red is helping right now. And I still have my collection of rejection notices to fall back on.

Monday, November 24, 2014

My Deserted Island: Books

And coconuts!
This is also a Lucky Thirteen. I can't be expected to stop at ten books. Nuh-uh.

Dream Girl says I need to worry about survival and getting the hell home. Well, sure, but I need something to do in between fighting off wild boars and building tonight's signal fire. Here's what would just happen to be tucked in my rucksack:

1. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, by Anne Tyler. This isn't the Tyler book that won the Pulitzer, but it's my favorite. Tyler has a gift for nailing those tricky little gotchas that make love so slippery and bittersweet. Her gift for colloquialism makes her characters so real I want to track down their Facebook pages and find out how things worked out after the book ended. This is my go-to comfort book. I've read it so many times I almost have it memorized.

2. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. My version is an omnibus volume that has the trilogy plus a short story about Zaphod. Since it's one volume, it counts as one book. "I never could get the hang of Thursdays." Hilarious, and deeper than it seems at first blush.

3. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins. This is a cult classic and a bit weird in parts, but one of my favorite literary moments ever is the argument between the two psychiatrists, known as the Shootout at the I'm OK, You're OK Corral.

4. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle. This book was my childhood introduction to quantum physics and to magic (which are largely the same thing). I love Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit, and Charles Wallace remains the only literary wunderkind I don't find insufferable.

5. Does a series count as a single book? Because if not, I've exceeded my limit with The Wheel of Time. Robert Jordan's world is intricate and complete and very real. My words cannot do justice to these books, which are a must-read for any fan of fantasy.

6. The Book of Ash, by Mary Gentle. Again, I count these 4 volumes as one, because they do not stand alone. This series has it all: a 15th century female mercenary army commander, the Burgundian empire, modern archaeology, golems, a Visigoth Carthage, quantum mechanics, altering history, a love story. A blend of Jeanne d'Arc and Boadicea, Ash takes names and kicks ass but is still very human in her yearning for love and roots. Ash could be my best friend.

7. The Handmaid's Tale is Margaret Atwood's frightening contribution to the dystopian genre. This take on what an oppressive right-wing regime would do to women is particularly chilling because I can see it actually happening.

8. The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. Not necessarily my favorite poet, because there are too many to choose from, but Gibran fills my need for poetry and spirituality. Beautiful.

9. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. This whopper clocks in at almost 1,000 pages and it never lets up. It remains the best historical, cryptanalytical, technological, mathematical, strategic, nerd-heaven, looking-for-buried-treasure book ever.

10. The Glob, by John O'Reilly and Walt Kelly, creator of the comic strip Pogo. This is a battered old volume my grandmother used to read to me, an entertaining tale of mankind's move from the primordial ooze. I can't speak as to literary or monetary value, but the sentimental value of this book is without measure.

11. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I'm not a big fan of science fiction but I'm a big fan of this book. Its principles are almost druidic.

12. Lord of the Rings. The all-time frontrunner of fantasy fiction. My terrible grades in junior high and high school math are Tolkien's fault, since I spent most of those classes sneak-reading these books, wielding a sword like Eowyn and planning my wedding to Aragorn. (I know that's not how it works out. I don't care.)

13. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. A wonderful rendition of the King Arthur legend, told from the viewpoints of the women: Gwenhwyfar, Igraine, Morgause, the Lady of the Lake, and the infamous Morgaine le Fey. A rich, thick magical read to lose yourself in for days.

What Ajah would you pick?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Space Between

One of the things I love most about my new home is the convergence of the elements: surf either pounding the shore or caressing it, hills arching in to the sky, the sun sparkling on the water, the breeze whispering to the trees and icing my skin. Here on the coast, I am living poised where Air meets Water, where Water meets Earth, where Earth meets Air. The Sun brings its Fire. Open your self and your heart and let Spirit flow in and you've got...a prayer. Magic. A sacred moment. Oneness with the divinity of creation, and the time and space to feel it, to be there in it.

When the Tominator and I planned our wedding, I had only one aspect that was non-negotiable - it had to be exactly at sunset. (Well, we could have chosen sunrise, but our guests would likely have been grouchy or absent.) I wanted to stand with him in that Space Between, feeling the pounding of his heart in my own ribcage, when the Sun ignites the fine line between day and night, and take it forward with us. I wanted us to have the endless choice of all the threads there are, to create the warm, rich tapestry of the life we weave together.

When we stand between any two points, whether real or theoretical, we are in a no-place. When we stand on a riverbank, we are between Earth and Water. When we stand on a cliff or a bridge, we are at the brink of Earth and Sky.

And between each conscious thought, there are infinitesimal moments of non-thought that shower possibility. Our consciousness is in a non-place where every possibility is potential. And until we move out of that Space Between and into the next moment, the next thought, all of those endless possibilities exist like Schrödinger's cat, only a lot more poetically. In the midst of the science of physics there is the magic of mysticism.

It's why I love the solstices and the equinoxes, exactly noon and exactly midnight; These are clear demarcations between the starting up and and the winding down. I love clocks that strike the hour. I know they are arbitrary marks on a made-up dial we invented as a way of fitting our lives to the celestial movements that rule our days and nights, our seasons and years and ages. But we are people, and we have to measure and follow and keep track and plan ahead and synchronize, and it's as good a system as any, and it gives me that many more Spaces Between, so I like it for that reason alone.

The image of The Fool in the Tarot is, to me, an artist's vision of the space between. A vagabond, he is dressed in rags and carries only his stick on  his back. He stands poised to step off the cliff into - what? The Space Between is the vast unknown. It is the leap of faith. He looks like a beggar but to be that rich in trust for the Universe - no, he is wealthy. The Fool lives in the space between.

Several years ago I had an animal totem reading done for me, similar to a tarot reading. The totem in my "above" position, the one that helps me keep my place in the Universe and guards me while I'm sleeping and in the Dreamtime, is Black Panther, who represents the leap of faith. What else is a leap of faith but a Space Between? It is being poised on the very tips of one's toes with only the most tenuous of connections with terra firma, not quite in the air, but no longer on solid ground, on the exquisite precipice of a blind jump that can move in any direction, can land in any place - and then having the faith to do it, knowing that you will land where you are supposed to be.

The Space Between is that instant of absolute nothing that exists between one thought and the next. It is the moment of decision we don't even recognize. A woman in line ahead of  me has just snapped at me for no reason. I want to remember that rather than an insult, she has given me a gift: a Space Between. How will I use it? Will I use it for myself, to make my feelings better and my ego bigger, by snapping back and putting her in her place? (As if I can presume to know where "her place" is.) Or will I stop to consider that maybe she has worked all day with a migraine, maybe she is caring for her cancer-ridden mother, that she might be heartsick over a fight with her teenager? By taking a beat and letting myself use that Space Between for something good, I can choose to make what follows be for the benefit of someone else, compassion for a malady I will never know about, an act of kindness that advances us all even in its incalculable minuteness. Even the most ordinary moments can be gifts to myself. I can choose to act instead of reacting. I can follow a new and scary plan just this once, independent of all the times I've failed. Instead of indulging in the same old controverting, injurious habits or patterns of thinking, I can consciously move forward in a way that feeds my mind, my body, and my spirit with real nourishment instead of self-defeat.

Make no mistake. I am not perfect. I fail at this on a daily basis. I would like to do better.

The Space Between is endless potential. From this one tiny tick in the boundless timescape, this imperceptible moment when breath seems to hold forever, we can move in any direction, and set off chain reactions that can have wondrous outcomes. Does it even matter whether or not we know what those turn out to be?

The Space Between is the blank page, waiting for the story to uncurl like damp petals or clumsy new wings. Or, not as poetic but but every bit as lovely - waiting for the me I am to become the me I want to be. 

I am the pen. I am the empty page.

I am the Space Between.

Photo credits, in order of appearance:
Girl Holding the Sunrise, Robert & Mihaela Vicol, public domain 
The Fool, from the Rider-Waite Tarot. Pamela Coleman Smith, a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley for the public domain, and retrieved from Sacred Texts.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lucky 13: Things I Love About Seattle

My move from Nevada to Seattle was only one part of some drastic life changes for me. After the thrill of a new place had worn off, I went through several months of terrible homesickness. Nevada will always be home in my heart, but if you aren't changing, you aren't growing. There are some things about Washington that I love having in my life every day. Here are a few of them, not necessarily in order of preference.

A flock of umbrellas downtown.
1 Rain. It's the one people seem to think of first, so let's get it out of the way. When I was preparing to make my move up here, I was ready to punch the next person who said, "You're moving where? It rains a lot." It actually rains more in St. Louis, Memphis, Houston, Miami, New York City...lots of places. Yes, it rains a lot here, too. But I am not yet tired of dew-clean air and pattering on the leaves and the roof.

2. Pegasus. Not the mythical horse, although he's cool too, but Pegasus Coffee House. It's Seattle's oldest and best, in my opinion, and has stayed local. If you want these organic teas, coffees, and baked goodies, you have to come and get them. It's also a cozy place to camp out and write. I'm writing at Pegasus right now, and rain and wind are murmuring at the window.

Life is good.

3. Pike Place Market. Restaurants, fresh organic produce and flowers, exotic treasures, oddities, street music, coffee, sweet treats, the Gum Wall, statues of pigs, fish tossing! You name it, you can find it here. Except for the ghosts. I haven't found a ghost yet.

With green tea frappaccino from the
original Starbucks, naturally.
Dream Girl loves pigs.

The Mukilteo - Whidbey Island ferry.
4. Whales. I have fallen in love with living so close to the ocean, and it thrilled me the day we saw orcas from the ferry. The Puget Sound/Salish Sea area is home to three pods of approximately 90 killer whales. (Fun fact: orcas are actually the largest members of the dolphin family.)

5. Speaking of ferries -- ferries. They're cool anyway, and with cold water and a breeze, they are the cool place to be on a hot day.

6. Green. I've mentioned that I am a native of sand and dry and brown. Even the lawns stay green year-round here, not to mention evergreens and ivy and moss. I love being surrounded by my favorite color.

7. The Great Wheel. Most places you have to wait for a carnival to come to town. The Ferris wheel here was the largest on the west coast when it opened and it extends out over the water of Elliott Bay, off Pier 57. For honor, I am forced to admit that because of my fear of heights, I enjoy other people enjoying it. I still like it. Some day I'll be the right amount of buzzed to go on it.

8. Liberals. I know, people get really ticked off about politics and I'm not going to go there, other than to say it's a pleasure to belong to the majority for once. If you like diversity and a culture that embraces it, this is the place to be.

9. Dick's. Another Seattle institution, Dick's serves a simple menu of burgers, fries, real ice cream shakes, sodas, and floats. That's it. You can fill up for about four bucks, less than it would cost to cook it, and at a drive-in, not a drive-thru.

View from the reading room,
Seattle Central Library.
10. This wonderful library. Does a library get any better than this? The building is amazing, and so is the e-lending, allowing me to "go to the library" without even getting off the sofa. Bonus.

11. Football. Not the Seahawks -- never! I'm a Forty-Niner Faithful girl. I'm deep in enemy territory up here. It's fun being a subversive. And the quickest way to get a seat on the train all to yourself in Seattle is to wear your San Francisco gear.

12.  Autumn. Not since my childhood have I lived where Autumn brought such beauty with it. It's one thing to enjoy photographs of beautiful seasonal color. It's entirely another to have orange and red and yellow and gold of a thousand different shades, fluttering in the smallest breath of breeze, right in front of you.

13. Sasquatch. There have been more sightings in the Pacific Northwest than anywhere else. I know no one's proved Sasquatch exists. No one has proved it doesn't, either. I hope we never prove it, one way or the other. We stupid humans screw up every natural thing we can. I love the idea of that one wild thing that we just can't seem to get our grubby mitts on.

Rock on, Bigfoot.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Clearly Important Guy and a Brief Foray Into Fair Use

Workday is over. I am headed home for a quiet afternoon and evening, to study and absorb knowledge wonderful knowledge. I snag a good seat on the Metro. I settle in with my book as downtown glides by soundlessly on the other side of the windows.

"...doings discomposed Mr. Bennett exceedingly. In his library he had been always sure of leisure and tranquillity; and though prepared AND OF COURSE IT'S GOT ALL THAT SQUARE FOOTAGE WITH THE BASEMENT THAT WE REMODELED INTO A BILLIARDS ROOM AND STUDIO --"

This is not the ordinary cell phone yapper. This is a cell phone bellower. I sigh and turn back to my book, determined to ignore him.

Where was I? "...and though prepared, as he told Elizabeth, to meet with folly and conceit in every other room of the house, he was used to be free from them there; his civility, therefore, was AND IT'S BEEN ONLY THIS PAST YEAR THAT WE FINISHED GLASSING IN THE CAUSEWAY BETWEEN THE TWO HALVES there, was most prompt in inviting --"

Other people are leaning forward and twisting around to give him pointed looks. It's not just me. This guy is LOUD.

Wait. Seriously? This guy must be Very Important indeed if he has a house with a causeway between the two halves of it. I think he must mean a breezeway, but -- no.  He says it again. He said causeway. He talks like he's Thurston Howell the Third. He is wearing a topcoat and a fedora, which is all right, but then I see the leather driving gloves. Dude. It's 65 degrees, not 25. Not 85. You're not cruising along Route 66 in your Alfa Romeo with the mahogany steering wheel and the tail of your aviator scarf snapping rakishly behind you. You're in the northbound commuter lane on I-5 out of Seattle, on the bus with the rest of the peasants.

"...In pompous nothings on his side, and civil assents on that of his AND ALL THE WINDOWS HAVE CORNICHES --"

Dude, you mean cornices. Unless you're pretending to drive a Corniche instead of the Alfa Romeo I arbitrarily assigned you. Or unless your house is on a cliff and has a corniche road along with the causeway, in which case I'm guessing you have some serious foundational problems.

"He was at the same time haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well-bred..."

No. Crap. Lost my place.

"For, though elated by his rank, it did not render him supercilious; on the contrary, he was all attention to AND A BEAUTIFUL VIEW OVER THE WATER everybody. By nature inoffensive, friendly, and obliging, his presentation at AND I KNOW WE WANT TO MOVE FAST BUT I REALLY DO THINK WE'RE IN THE THREE-QUARTER MILLION RANGE --"

I drop my book in annoyance and stare at Clearly Important Guy again. Hard. Right now I want my superpower to be the ability to drill twin holes into the side of his head.


I dig in my bag for my earbuds, resigned to listening to music whether I want to or not, just to drown out this pompous jerk. No earbuds. Dammit, I loaned them to Dream Girl. Try the book again.

"...veneration for her as his patroness, mingling with a very good opinion of himself, of his authority as..".

That's not where I was either.

"...of his authority as a clergyman, and his right as a rector made him AND MARKET CONSIDERATIONS ASIDE I'VE DONE WELL um, made him altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance ALTHOUGH UNFORTUNATELY WE DO HAVE TO PAINT --"

Or there.


No, dude. A house belonging to a Clearly Important person such as yourself, and that has its own causeway, cannot be painted yellow. Yellow is for cheery, comfy, cozy houses. A house belonging to you can only be Glowering Thunderhead Gray or Imperator Brown or Darth Vader Black. You can't even have yellow trim. A few yellow flowers might be okay as long as placement and landscape design are approved by Architectural Digest.


For real? Who says "swimmingly?" Even his haircut is fussy. His e-reader is in one of those fold-up-and-prop-on-an-easel type of display thingies on his lap, because heaven forbid he actually hold his own e-reader like everyone else. Anyone as Clearly Important as he is absolutely would have a house big enough for a causeway to drive his Corniche on.

Digression. You may recognize chopped-up fragments of Pride and Prejudice. The book I was actually trying to read is Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, but I respect artists (and I don't want to get sued) and quoting what I was actually reading would not fall under the Fair Use doctrine. Pride and Prejudice is in the public domain and therefore fair game. Cryptonomicon is a very good book. It's an excellent book when there's no phone yapper messing up the flow.

Since it would also violate copyright to post a picture of the cover of Cryptonomicon, and I like blog posts with pictures, I give you this picture of some Metro buses near downtown, my own work. I mean the picture is my own work, not the buses.

I know. The buses and the weather and the neighborhood are all a bit lackluster, although behind me in the International District there can be found good dim sum. But it's more thematically relevant than a picture of a flower or my dog. I should have taken a picture of Clearly Important Guy. Maybe it would have scared him into thinking he was now being sought by an entire posse on Class N Felony charges.


Oh, okay. I see. You're reinflating your ego after getting your ass kicked in divorce court. She probably got the Corniche too, which explains why you're slumming it on the bus.

Driving gloves. Poser.

I feel my phone vibrate in my bag. Normally I don't answer my phone on the bus, because duh, it's rude, but it's Dream Girl and I have a mission.

"Hi," I say, very loudly. "I really can't talk now because I'm IN PUBLIC" -- pointedly give Clearly Important Guy a meaningful look, which he just as pointedly ignores - "but I do need to remind you to return my earbuds to me, because there's this guy talking REALLY LOUD ON THE PHONE and I can't even stick foreign objects into my own ears to block him out." Clearly Important Guy's shoulder goes up defensively. I can feel the woman next next to me laughing but I don't trust myself to look at her because I will splutter guffaws all over the seat back in front of me and this nonsense has really gone far enough. I should be classier than he is.

Besides, we're at my stop. I get up to deboard and Clearly Important Guy shoots me a dirty look. I mean, if looks could kill. I give him my brightest smile.

And this is why I'm going to hell.

Above: Cell Phone Crashing, Greg Benson/Mediocre Films

Thursday, October 30, 2014

War Paint

"Hello! How are you?"

"Oh, hi! I'm

                    sad tired broken fat a bitch not good enough ugly stupid lost sick
                    desolate lonely scared furious weak hopeless a failure worried
                    wounded broke terrified damaged worthless aching bleeding
                    desperate anxious at rock bottom trapped damned grieving
                    weighing various suicide methods now that you mention it
                    heartbroken incompetent hurt nervous angry confused
                    a complete waste of oxygen


Monday, October 27, 2014

Homeless in Seattle *Updated

“I never use the words humanist or humanitarian, as it seems to me that to be human is to be capable of the most heinous crimes in nature."
     ~Elphaba, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire

Because on one hand, we have this:

And this:

And this (no charge for the advertising, Tom Teifer):

While on the other hand, we have this:

Bryan Harvey/Creative Commons

And this:

And we have this, for Pete's sake:

That is Seattle's Federal Reserve Building, sitting empty.  It has been empty for six seven years and declared surplus by the federal government, which continues to pay the upkeep and maintenance of this wasted space. With almost 90,000 square feet, it could easily house several hundred people. Title V of the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act provides that when there is surplus federal property suitable for use to help the homeless, it must be provided at no charge to agencies who assist the homeless. The Compass Housing Alliance went for it and they had the private funding they needed, but no go. Denied. The building continues to sit empty and useless and soaking up taxpayer money, and will for who knows how long.

Meanwhile, we still have this:

Read the poster in that window and tell me -- I couldn't have got a better shot if I'd asked that man to throw his sleeping bag down in that spot. I didn't ask him. He was sleeping there when I walked by.

Incidentally, I went no more than 20 minutes out of way to take my photographs. On foot.

I realize that banks do not exist for the purpose of providing housing to homeless people. But it can also be argued that banks do exist on the shoulders of the American people, especially in light of astronomical bailouts, and thus have a moral responsibility to give something back to the American people. This is especially true when bank-owned properties end up being bulldozed because the banks can't do anything else with them. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying the issue, but when this country has $5 million to spend on its senators' hair, well then, I really don't see why it has to be that hard. I've recently seen a statistic that says there are enough empty foreclosure houses in this country to give six to every homeless person. What is wrong with us?

I've been told that "most of" these people are unsheltered because they won't comply with shelters' policies on drug and alcohol use. Some, sure, I buy that. Addiction is a bitch and I can believe some would rather be high than warm, at least some of the time. But not all of them, and not all the time. I've heard the other arguments too. "They wouldn't be homeless if they'd just get off their asses." "Nobody's homeless against their will." "They're just not trying." Blah blah blah. Can it. There's a saying that most of us are one paycheck away from being unable to pay the monthly cost of a roof over the head, and I've been close enough to have no problem believing that's true. I don't want to hear what you would like to think they think. Go talk to a homeless person. The ones I've talked to are nice people who don't ask for much, really. Listen to what they say they think.

How do any of us believe people want their children to live like this? Yes, there are children living in this camp. Or there were, before the authorities ran them out, to set up their tents somewhere else, where they will also be run off, to move elsewhere, to be run off again, and so on, until they set up camp right back here again.  Instead of moving people in circles, literally in circles, why don't we solve the problem?

Seattle's 2014 2015 One Night Count, in which volunteers tally how many people are sleeping outside or in their cars, in the frozen depths of January, was 3,123 a record 3,772.  180 of those were children. I'll update the number of children as soon as I get it, but if there were 180 last year, it's a sure bet there are a lot this year. As Real Change newspaper pointed out, that number is probably low, since a lot of homeless people are successful at hiding. What kind of society are we, one of the richest and most "advanced" in the world, when a privileged few have more money than they could ever realistically spend, ever ever, but we let our own go cold and wet and sick and hungry?

We can turn our backs and say it's their problem, their own damned fault, they're capable of taking care of themselves and if they're not, they should be. Or we can do the kind thing, the humane thing, and take care of our own.

When is it ever a mistake to err on the side of compassion?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Let me eat cake. Please.

I knew of a man who, in the course of a couple of years, quit smoking, quit drinking, and lost almost 200 pounds. I would have thought the smoking or drinking were the hardest but that's not what he said. He said the weight loss was the hardest, because you don't need cigs or booze to live. You do have to eat.

I have been living this for the last year. Living it, and fighting it.

I do all right watching what I eat, most days, but all it takes is for something negative to happen, and what life doesn't have negative things in it? I have an argument with Dream Girl. Money gets tight. I miss Monster. I'm homesick. I'm stressing a midterm. I head straight for the coffee house and my favorite chai, because I deserve a treat. That's not terrible by itself, because we all deserve treats and deprivation is the quickest road to overindulgence I know of, but I can't pass up the cinnamon roll because dammit, today positively sucked and I really deserve a treat.  My days are crazy: I am a full-time student with a part-time job, gone from the house up to 16 hours on some days, eating on the fly. Yes, I can prepare my own stuff to take with me but I don't have a way to refrigerate and I have to get up at 5 a.m. as it is. I can't remember the last time I ate a fast-food junkburger so I get lots of points for that. Still, I'm not helping myself when I'm eating stuff prepared by gods know who, with gods know what in it.

I do exercise, walking a mile and a half on my way to work every day. I walk on the weekends, or do yoga. It's not even a chore. I've never been a fan of exercise for its own sake, but I do feel better when I get out there and move. It helps the arthritis too. I find it incredibly ironic that when I consistently exercise more than I ever have in my life (not counting my stick-limbed childhood), I also weigh more than I ever have.

Because despite my best efforts, my scale and I are playing on a teeter-totter. Up 5 pounds, down 5 pounds, up, down, up, down, ad nauseum. Those same 5 pounds have become the bane of my existence. Other people's pounds hound me too. Everywhere I go, the first, and sometimes only, thing I notice about people is their weight. They stop being people and become figure types, estimated weights and BMI's. I see a whip-thin woman and spitefully conclude she starves herself and that being in bed with her must be like sleeping with a bag of rakes. A foodie posts about their latest kitchen delight and all I feel is envy. I see an obese person and superimpose my own face on top of theirs. I look at even healthful* food and think no, I can't eat that. It has calories in it.

I keep thinking that if I could manage to lose ten pounds, my attitude might change. A taste of success might help. And then one day I stopped and listened to what was rattling through my brain as I was trying to figure out what to have for lunch, and those thoughts together with everything I already wrote here gelled, and I realized:

Food had become the enemy.

This is not a good place to be, obviously. With all my other issues (and I've got 'em), nobody needs me throwing an eating disorder onto the pile. I am still proud of myself for not turning back to cigarettes, but at this point I've merely traded one abuse for another. I learned that by tracking, which is very useful. I tracked for a few weeks a while back, writing down everything I ate and how I was feeling when I ate it. I often ended up not eating because I realized I wasn't actually hungry -- I was angry or sad or scared. Sometimes I skipped a treat because I just didn't want to have to write it down. Accountability rocks, but it only works as long as you agree to hold yourself accountable. You can only eat so much spinach and quinoa before you revolt. I coped with tracking by not tracking anymore.

There's all sorts of things I can try. I've seen the diets. Atkins. Vegetarian. Pescatarian. Gluten-free. Paleo. Any of those might work, or none of them. There is one big thing I've learned. Processed junk (read: pretty much anything prepared) is loaded with preservatives and other crap. This we knew, and it's bad enough by itself, the guck that goes into our bodies, but now let's toss in the fact that these delightful eats have been pretty much proven to be addictive. You eat some, you want more. Kinda like cigarettes. It blows me away to learn that the food industry is engineering their products in pretty much the same way Big Tobacco does.

So I wonder if the best diet of all might be simply to eat real food, the kind our mothers used to fix. It had real ingredients and a recipe, not Envelope 1 and Packet 2 and directions. I'm thinking chocolate cake may not be so bad if it's real chocolate cake, made with baking cocoa and flour and sugar. How much more pleasurable would that be, when you have to take the time to measure and mix and fold and blend and create? That would be a cake I'd love to look at as much as I'd love to eat it. Baking a cake like that would be making art.

I'm not kidding myself. I've mentioned that I have a hectic schedule. I also live in an apartment. I'm not about to morph into Suzy Homemaker, baking bread from scratch and raising free range chickens and making all my own jams from fruit I grew myself. I've never been a foodie and I've never been into cooking much either. With the exception of a few favorite dishes, I cook mainly so things will taste better and not kill anybody.

But I beat Big Tobacco, and I'm determined to beat Big Food, too.

As I zoink around like a pinball, reading about everything from juicing to food additives to living vegan to carb addiction, the thing I keep coming back to is the way I look at food. I spent most of my life indifferent to it. Of late, I hate it. The time has come to develop an amicable relationship with it. That's the only way I know of to transform an enemy into a friend.

So. I will be observing the enemy. Back to tracking. I figure it'll be good for at least one more blog post.

And if I'm to properly and scientifically observe cake, I have to eat it.

* The correct word is healthful, not healthy, which everyone should know since I published this post.

Photos in order of appearance:
No food! uberculture, used under Creative Commons license
Cake: EvinDC via Creative Commons.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

You with the Sharpie, rock on.

I started out happy yesterday morning. I like all the rain up here in the Pacific Northwest, and I particularly like the secret world of walking in the rain under my own umbrella. It's like being in my own protective bubble where I'm untouchable. I think that's pretty widely acknowledged as part of the romance of rain and umbrellas, but it is also a fact that an instrument with sharp points around the edge really does keep people at a genuine physical distance. This is particularly comforting if you are an introvert with agoraphobic tendencies.

I also like autumn leaves, and I like puddles, mostly because puddles are hard to come by where I spent most of my life in the Nevada desert and if you do come by one, it's probably considered a lake and has a name. I liked this leaf. I liked the way the raindrops looked rippling out all over this puddle around this leaf. The whole thing made me absurdly happy, which is why I stopped to take a picture of it.

And it's called...ta-daaah...Autumn! I know it's not high art. It's a crappy little hundred-dollar digital camera.

And now it's making me sad. Yesterday was the first day that it felt noticeably cold outside when I left work in the afternoon, and with the magical rain stopped it was just dreary and windy and yuck. Pretty autumn days are crisp and the colors are stunning and I love apple cider and then there's Halloween and Smarties. Smarties! I love it and at the same time I get melancholy, knowing it doesn't last for long and then here comes winter, which I do not like. Not a winter person at all. I accept cold weather grudgingly for Christmas' sake but when that's over, I want Spring and I want it now. I would probably do fine in Florida even though I hear they grow spiders the size of small dogs there. There's always a tradeoff.

And because there's always a tradeoff, so it is that there's always something to make you smile, too. There's a woman in an ad posted in various Metro buses who looks vaguely, a little bit, if you cock your head and squint your eyes just right,* like the horrible woman I worked for in my epic tale of the Job From Hell. I don't hate her, because my parents taught me that hating is wrong and futile and I know it's bad karma and I've got enough trouble with the karma I already have, thank you, but whenever I see this ad I feel creeped out, like I escaped and finally started breathing and living my life again only to see that she's stalking me. Even though I know she wouldn't be caught dead on the bus because public transportation is for peasants, I feel disquieted and edgy the entire trip whenever I see this particular ad.

Yesterday afternoon I boarded, shook off the cold wind and got settled in my seat and pulled out my book and looked up and saw the ad and laughed out loud. I would never have thought to commit this defacement myself, because my parents also taught me that vandalism is bad, but I'd like to hug whoever did do it:

It's like Monster Spray! The bad lady is gone now. The magical power of the graffiti artist is revealed.

This gives you some insight into both my sense of civic responsibility and my spiteful immaturity. These are things you may want to know about me if we're going to be friends.

*The difference is not that drastic. I just said that because I don't want her to sue me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Follow me!

Sorry. It's not a conga line or a super week-long Bahamas cruise for me and 2500 of my closest friends. I wish it was. But it's almost that good.

What is is, is, I figured out the wadgets or gidgets or whatever they are for my blog site, down at the bottom of this page, so you have two ways to join up and follow my blog. If you're interested. Which you are, because you love me.

You can subscribe to my posts by email, and you can join me on Google+. I'm just getting started over there and still figuring it out. I may see about Tumblr and Twitter but don't hold your breath. I'm not sure I see myself getting that  technologically inclined and I already spend far too much time in the cybersphere as opposed to, say, knitting, or keeping my closet cleaned out.

I like blog posts that have pictures, so here's a picture of me and the Tominator (the Tominator is the one who looks like a guy who might be named Tom). You can see how dashing he is and you can tell that I have weird toes. You can also see surf and rocks in the vicinity of Fort Bragg. There's no other point to this picture. It's entirely gratuitous, by whichever definition of gratuitous you prefer.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bullshit, Kim.

I publish a post about what a waste of news space you are, and now you're everywhere even worse than you were. An app for your stupid Hollywood game is banner-style down the side of my Facebook page. An ad for your gacky perfume, and I hate perfume anyway as I made clear in this post, is now big and fat in the middle of my news feed.

OK, I get it. You're rich. You're insidious. You're crafty. You will make me pay for mocking you.

That's okay. Please note that I use apostrophes correctly. I am the apostrophe champion. I don't know for certain that you misuse apostrophes, but I'm guessing. I know it's pathetic, but it's all I have.

I'm not even really that irritated. It's just that I have a head cold and I don't want to do my statistics homework and tomorrow's Monday. If you weren't everywhere I go you wouldn't be such a handy scapegoat.

Your making me nauseous. Updated.

I don't know what it is of yours that makes me inspire barf in other people, but there it is.

I'm about to land on your terrible grammar. Snark warning.

1.  Free kitten's. A free kitten is what? A free kitten is happier? Feistier? Better than an expensive kitten? Or are we talking about something belonging to the kitten that I'm getting for free? A free kitten's tail? Free kitten's fur? Gross.

Apostrophes are just not that hard. An apostrophe (1) takes the place of a missing letter or (2) shows ownership. The kitten's cute. The kitten's fur is soft. Kitten's=kitten is. Kitten's also=belonging to the kitten.

If you want to make it plural, just add the s (or es). No apostrophe. Free kittens. That's it.

Except for it's. There is no plural of itIt's is the contraction for it is. Possession for it has no apostrophe. The kitten is eating its food because it's hungry.

It's not the quantum consciousness hypothesis or Fermat's Last Theorem. You can learn something that takes less than six inches of type space to explain.

2.  They're and its companions their and there are not that hard either. Really.

The apostrophe in they're indicates a missing letter: they're=they are.

There. Think "here," location, and at add the "t" to make its partner, "there." (Same with adding a "w" to make "where," again referring to location.)

 That leaves one: Their=belonging to them.

They're enjoying their party over there.

3.  Partner to the they're/their/there mishmash is you're/your. Again, not that hard. "You're" is missing the "a" from "you are." Your=of or belonging to you. Simple. You're displaying your ignorance.

4.  Shoulda, woulda, coulda. "You should of whatever blah blah..." Gaaaahhh!  This one makes me gnash my teeth. It's should have, people. You don't say, "I of shopped at that store before." You say, "I have shopped at that store before." Same thing. You have done it, you should have done it. I see writers arguing that common use makes it correct by adaptation. I disagree. Common use doesn't change the fact that it's wrong. That's like changing what time the workday starts to accommodate people who can't be bothered to get their lazy butts in on time.

5.  Begging the question. Hint: It has nothing to do with asking a question.

"Begging the question" comes from the Latin petitio principii, "assuming the initial point." It is a circular form of reasoning wherein one of the arguments is used as the conclusion and "the question" is the entire issue being debated. Examples include "Abortion is wrong because it is murder" or "Abortion should be legal because it isn't murder." Both of those are using a debate point as the conclusion of an argument about the question of abortion. To beg the question is to commit a logical fallacy by assuming something that can't be assumed.

What you probably mean to say is, "This leads to the question..." or "This raises the question..." When in doubt follow the KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

6.  Quit making me nauseous. Nauseous is not how you feel. Nauseous is the quality of inducing nausea. The classroom where I learned that had nauseous green walls.  If you are nauseous, you make other people want to hurl.

Again, I am aware that some dictionaries have given in to the "popular usage" theory, wherein consistent incorrect usage morphs the wrong into right. See #4. It's like saying it's OK for a guy to beat his wife the 18th time because he's done it 17 times before and other people do it too.

Ain't is a colloquialism, not a word. The dictionary has colloquialisms in it too.
We don't even really need nauseous. The bases are nicely covered by nauseating and nauseated. The nauseating misuse of words has left me nauseated. Therefore, I propose that you have to have a license to say nauseous. Two strikes. Licensed users who misuse it will lose their licenses. Non-licensed users will be executed at dawn.

7. Healthy. Eat healthy food. Of course I want to eat healthy food. I don't want to eat diseased food, do I? Healthy means in a state of good health. Healthful means contributing to or promoting a state of good health. We should eat healthful food so we will be healthy.

I'm afraid this bad language usage is far too ingrained, even among people with doctorate degrees, to ever be corrected, but it's going to continue to piss me off, and I'm going to continue to put my two pennies in whenever I hear it.

8. I could care less. Aaarrrgghh! Wrong, wrong, wrong. When you say you could care less, you are somewhere above 0 on the caring scale, which means you do care, at least a little bit.  You mean to say you don't care at all, right? If you don't care at all then on the caring scale you're at a 0. There is nothing less than 0, so you can't go less. I couldn't care less.

9. Speaking of less raises the question of less and fewer. (See what I did there? Clever, right?)Less is for something that can't be easily numerated or measured, like air or caring. Fewer is for something you can realistically count. Sarah has fewer kittens than Joan, but she couldn't care less.

10. Aweeeeeeeee or loveeeeeeeeeeeee. I'm not sure why this irritates the crap out of me, but it does. Sound it out. Do you really mean to say "awe-wheeeeeeee, isn't that cute" or "I love-eeeeeeeeee" you"? No. You probably mean to say, "Aaaaawwwww, that's cute," or "I loooooooooove you." I write for fun and I'm all about making up words and monkeying with them to emphasize my point, but make it so it has sense to it.

11. Expresso. There is no "x" in this word. It's espresso. Only Dire Straits can get away with this mistake, with the bitchin' song "Expresso Love," and that's been done now. If you're Mark Knopfler, please leave a comment. I guarantee I will think it's cool.

12. Irregardless. This isn't even a word. Regardless is the opposite of regard. Irregardless is the opposite of...irregard?

13.  Text language. This is more of a laziness gripe than a grammar gripe. Text and chat abbreviations do not belong in other writings. My acceptance of "how r u" in a text message has become more grudging with the advent of qwerty and swype keyboards, which greatly negate the convenience of such shortcuts. Abbreviations like that are inappropriate for emails, social media comments and posts, letters and the like, period. It makes you look lazy. It's difficult to read and I don't bother.

I will, however, give you half - HALF - of a cleverness point if you're using "ur" to disguise the fact that you don't know the difference between you're and your.

This will do for today. I like to spread my bitching out, like jam on toast.



Oh my God, I forgot "supposably!" Selective amnesia, maybe? "Supposably" was part of the grounds for one of my divorces. The correct word is supposedly.

This grammar gaffe has altered my neural pathways and created a hardwired response in my brain so that it now compels me to take half the furniture and file for a restraining order. If you say "supposably," we can't be friends.


Photo credit in order of appearance:
Apostrophe Abuse: Martha Soukup via Flickr Creative Commons
Dictionary: Flickr: alexbrn/Creative Commons