January 2011


I feel guilty when I don’t participate in charity publications. The first book put out at My Writers Circle was published a couple years ago soon after I joined. There had been several threads with short stories or flash fiction written by members. We were playing around with a mythical place we called The Station.

Writing for fun? Writing for a purpose?

The Station is a place where fictional characters go to relax when their Bosses, aka authors, aren’t using them. We played around with the concept and had several stories ready to go before someone got the bright idea we could publish them. Proceeds went to charity.

Mark and I somehow got roped into preparing the stuff from the threads into something ready to publish. We were the editors. We didn’t do much editing, really. We corrected spelling mistakes and made sure the punctuation was correct. Still, it was an arduous task and took up lots of time.

I was unemployed at the time and thought it was fun because I was working with and around writers and I would see a dozen of my shorts in the book. So I didn’t mind the time involved. I wasn’t really doing anything else.

Next I was asked to contribute to a book that would be put out later that year for Christmas. We had a different charity to send proceeds to. I was once again roped into editing but this time I was working with Mairi. Still a lot of work. I wrote one story for the anthology. I worked longer on editing other people’s stories than I worked on mine.

I guess this is the place to mention I am a story teller. When I write a story, I tell it. This is bad. Writers aren’t supposed to tell a story. They are supposed to show a story. I’m not supposed to say someone cried. That is telling. I’m supposed to show someone sniffling while wiping away the tears so you can figure out they are crying.

This irritates me no end when I’m reading a story. I can see in my own mind what crying is all in one word. Sniffling seems to me as much telling as the word crying but for some reason this wordiness is supposed to draw me into the tale. Since I hate to read stuff written like that, I don’t write like that. It is wrong. So my story written because I was begged to submit a story got some “feedback” about my telling instead of showing.

The next book put out was for a cancer benefit. My friend, someone I had known as a co-writer for Really Good Quotes and the person who sent me over to MWC died quickly after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. MWC solicited stories and published a book with proceeds benefitting cancer research at a hospital close to where our friend lived. I just donated money to the place. I didn’t participate and I felt badly about it, but my type of writing isn’t “correct.”

Then there was another Christmas anthology and lately they have decided to put together a book to benefit the people devastated by the flooding in Australia. MWC is a worldwide forum and many of our members are from the Land of Oz.

I have not contributed anything since the first Christmas anthology. I always feel a bit Scrooge-ish when I don’t participate. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I can’t write without telling. I tell stories. I usually tell my history stories and that works well. I’m not supposed to show World War I or the first time this or that happened. I’m reporting on something from the past. I tell about it.

There has also been at least one poetry anthology produced, but no one bothers me for a poem. That’s not what I do. And I don’t have even a twinge of guilt about it. (I have won a poetry contest at MWC and I even won a short story contest once. And Mark was nice enough to include a poem I wrote in answer to a poem he had written over on his website. But all my poetry is unpolished and non-layered and not really up to standards.)

I don’t mean to sound all Bah! Humbug about it. I feel guilty. I also feel like anything I submit may be included as a mercy type thing or be asked for rewrites of something I didn’t particularly want to do in the first place.

I’m glad my fellow writers are willing to do all this work. The people writing the stories really don’t do much in the great scheme of things. The person, usually Mairi, who puts it all together has a much more time consuming job. I am grateful for all her work. I’m also glad I had the good sense to take myself out of the editing process after the second go around.

No one is pressuring me for stories, but I still feel guilty about not writing them.

 

For over 1,400 days I wore the same outfit. It was a charming outfit, to be sure. It was a red, black, and gray pleated skirt with a gray vest trimmed in the same plaid. There was a delightful emblem proclaiming “SJS” on the left upper portion of the vest. It was worn with a white Peter Pan collar shirt and on that collar was a cutsie-pie clip-on bow tie made of the same plaid.

After getting out of grade school, high school was a welcome relief. I had choices of what to wear. I remember Mom setting up my clothing budget for my freshman year of no more uniform. I could have so much money. I could get more clothes if I sewed my own and Mom was willing to teach me how.

I learned to sew.

I had some great outfits. I remember the orange wool vest that was worn over two different straight orange and brown plaid skirts. I had a dusty rose, blue, and cream striped dress and a long vest made entirely of dusty rose. I also had a Kelly green jumper, the only readymade outfit of my freshman year. It was perfect for spirit days.

I have no idea what I was thinking when I chose a career that included a uniform. I do know I had more white clothes than is usually possible. I did not ever wear the same uniform over and over until I got to wear scrubs. After about ten years, I took a job in ICU/CCU and was placed in the enviable position of being able to wear scrubs. This was in a time when all nurses were dressed in white, and so I had a choice of one type of scrubs. On one hospital it was brown, the next was blue.

Then, since I didn’t have enough constraints on my clothing choices, I moved to working OR. At least I didn’t have to buy my own scrubs anymore. However, I got to wear the same thing day after day and it wasn’t even nicely pressed.

When working in surgery, outside germies were anathema to sterility and so I dressed in my regular clothes at home and then changed at the hospital. I always came to work wearing an outfit. Some people were lucky they weren’t still in their jammies, but I always showed up for work matching – usually from my underwear out. I did have to change in the locker room and I had an image to portray.

All this limited clothing stuff is what I use as an excuse for my current state of fashion. I love clothes. I hate (with a passion) wearing the same thing over and over. I do not, under pain of death or at least extreme trauma, ever wear the same thing two days in a row.

Partial view of one of my closets

Most of my issues with my weight were not based simply on health. The issue was my clothes. Since I love clothes I tend to accumulate them. I had clothes from Cincinnati still in my closet – and they fit. Right up until they didn’t fit any more.

I was so disgusted with coordinating an outfit, getting dressed, having it not fit, getting undressed in tears, finding something fat to wear, and going to work that I had to do something drastic. I threw out all my small clothes. I couldn’t keep crying every day before work. I didn’t actually throw them away, I gave them to Goodwill.

I bought some fat clothes – which were a huge size eight. Some may have even been tens. All were mediums instead of my normal small. I was just not going to fit into the old clothes.

That was in July or August. But in August, I started to just be tired of looking dumpy and being the same dimension when seen from the front or the side. I was the same from hip to hip as I was from stomach to butt – or at least it felt that way. So I began to walk. And I walked and walked. It didn’t help me lose weight, but it did make me feel better.

Eventually, I noticed I needed to maybe not eat so much junk. I’m pretty good with meals, it was the constant snacking all night that needed to be toned down. I toned it down. With this calorie cutback along with the walking, I really began to lose weight. Not great bunches of weight, but enough.

All of a sudden, the fat clothes I bought were too big. But I had gotten rid of my not fat clothes and so I had nothing to wear. I am trying to figure out how to get elastic in the waist of the skirts I purchased. I know I could just put in some darts, but then I might lose more weight and have to make bigger darts. So I think I would like elastic.

Once again I was faced with too few choices when getting dressed for work each morning. I had nothing to wear.

On Thursday, I left work at 2.50 and had to be back there for a meeting at 4. I had an hour – not enough time to go home but too much to just sit. So I went to the shopping center right up the road. Ross has cheap clothes. I like cheap. I bought ten dresses and five tops. I now have something to wear again.

Words aren’t just a combination of letters. Words mean something. They mean what we have assigned them to represent. C-H-A-I-R really isn’t a chair. It is simply the word we have ascribed to the thing we use to singly sit on.

Nouns are easy to deal with. They are concrete things. A chair is a known entity. You might picture a dining room chair or an over-stuffed easy chair, but you won’t confuse the word with say – elephant.

Some words are more difficult to work with. They carry a load of emotional coloration. One word that seems to depend on a point of reference is the word “if.”

When coupled with the word “only” it becomes a plaintive cry of things missed. If only this or that had happened. If only I had done something else. We rarely think of these missed opportunities as good fortune. We look at our here and now and wish it was different, better. If only we could change a pivotal moment, this moment would be better.

Most of our lives are as wonderful as they are simply because most “if onlies” don’t happen. If only I had been run over by a bus this morning, I would have trouble typing right now. If only I had lost all my money in the stock market, I would be poorer than a church mouse right now. If only … That isn’t how we usually think of it.

If only usually refers to something missed in the past that would make our lives better for having been missed. If only I had studied instead of going out partying, I would have passed the test. If only I had not been on the cell phone, I wouldn’t have rear ended this car. If only …

There is another way to use the word “if.”

I just finished reading The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley. The subtitle is “Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why.” Obviously not light reading, but fascinating nonetheless.

Ripley interviewed survivors of many different disasters from current times as well as researched disasters from the past. She looked into the reasons why there are far more deaths than one would think should have occurred. What happens to people in disasters and why do some survive while many others perish?

Interesting question and the answer has a lot to do with IF. People survive for a few reasons. They actually do the right thing (instead of the myriad possibilities of wrong things) and they are with enough like-minded people who will encourage the correct behaviors. And then there is luck. Luck plays a role, but it isn’t the major factor.

What happened with most survivors was that they were prepared. They played the IF game long before they needed to think their way out of a disaster. During a crisis, thinking isn’t all it can be. Fear and indecision can impair the brains of even the smartest people. So those with a plan prior to the disaster had a better chance of getting out of the problem situation alive.

It isn’t just enough to think about it. It is necessary to practice to make perfect. When you board a plane, don’t just look for the nearest exit, walk to it and see where it is. When you enter a multi-storied building, walk to the stairs in case you need to get out during a fire. If you experience something prior to the disaster, you might respond better during a disaster. (That’s me paraphrasing, it was never quite put like that in the book.)

During a crisis, the first few minutes are critical. It would be nice if each of us had a personal crisis management person at hand, but we don’t. If you have to wait for fire or police help to arrive, you may have used up all your available time to escape doing nothing but waiting. Have a plan; know your surroundings; breathe deeply and evenly (it calms you down); and get the hell away from the danger at a reasonable pace (but not overly rapid rate – running actually makes you lose time over the long haul).

And if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation, don’t stop to gather up your things. Your things aren’t going to be very useful if you are a corpse. If the house is on fire, you don’t have as much time as you think you might have to get out – so get out. You have insurance, hopefully. If you lose all your pictures, you will have to rely on your memories. If you lose your life, the pictures will still be gone.

If you are on a damaged plane, your carry-on luggage isn’t going to matter if you are trapped in the plane. And if you gather up your luggage, thereby keeping three other people from escaping, you have to live with the knowledge that your two days’ worth of clothes and three ounces of shampoo cost someone their life. Leave it behind, you can get new.

All the things in the book are extremely interesting. Why do we behave the way we do when faced with a crisis? How can we behave better? The basic answer is we can play the IF game. Try it; you might like it.

 

My Kindle was locking up and not working properly. It would freeze and I would have to force restart it, like pulling the plug on a computer and beginning again. These cold reboots are always time consuming. And they are also always irritating.

We want our stuff to work. All our stuff is supposed to work at least for a time. We constantly say to ourselves things aren’t made like they used to be and tolerate shoddy workmanship. I think my mother had the same toaster throughout my entire childhood. I have to buy a new toaster every few years. This is tolerated, but I’m not sure why.

Amazon

My Kindle wasn’t working and I wasn’t tolerating it very well. Last Wednesday was the worst day with the dumb thing. I had to cold boot it three times. Once, all I did was set it down to blow my nose after I sneezed. By the time I picked it back up, it was frozen. I gave up and let it just stay that way.

Thursday morning, I got to work and had nothing waiting for me. I restarted the Kindle  and instead of reading, I called the Kindle help line.

I talked to someone in India. Or else I talked to someone who had moved to the US recently – from India. Makes more sense that I was talking to someone in India. We had a language problem. He needed my e-mail address. The one Amazon uses at least once a day and up to 15 times per week to send me important information about what I could buy if I chose. It is also the one they use to tell me my items have been shipped or to confirm purchases.

But my e-mail address isn’t something like just a word or my name. Even though few people can spell my name, it seems less problematic. They can at least spell Patricia. But the combination of letters isn’t really easy to transmit half way around the globe to someone who has a totally different accent than mine. I had to “a as in apple” all the way through to the dotcom part.

Finally, success! There I was. The nice man in India could see that I had purchased the Amazon Kindle leather cover and there was a “known issue” with the cover causing issues with the Kindle. I asked why they continued to sell the cover if it was knowingly causing issues with the Kindle and he said that while it did happen frequently, it didn’t happen all the time.

Amazon refunded the price of my faulty cover. They also gave me $25 toward the purchase of a new cover for my Kindle. I bought the new cover on Friday. It is a different type. I was happy with the way Amazon treated me after we got past the language barrier.

While I was buying my new Kindle cover, Dick was getting an oil change in the HHR. He likes Jiffy Lube and has used them since we moved down here. He is a faithful oil changer person, getting the cars maintained with nauseating regularity. I am sure it is good for the car. But it is never money that I think of as being “well spent.” It is really no fun to say, “I bought an oil change today.” No one ever asks anything about it. It’s just money that’s gone.

Jiffy Lube

We took the HHR to Hilton Head Island this weekend. The plan was to help Craig and Dayna move some boxes to their new house. The Mazda would have been useless. So we took the HHR, ready to help.

We were supposed to go to Joe’s house first and watch Joe’s kids while Craig and Joe went to Home Depot and picked up the refrigerator Craig and Dayna bought for their new house. As we were pulling off 95 and onto 278, I smelled something burning, but figured it was the car next to us at the light. I hadn’t smelled it before.

At the next light, I still smelled it, which was to my way of thinking, a bad sign. I mentioned it to the driver, but was ignored. By the toll booth, I could smell it even as we slowed down and when Dick opened the window to pay, it was stronger. I asked if he smelled anything and he got a bit huffy. When we stopped at Joe’s it was quite strong and the driver got huffier when I said something again.

However, when he exited the car, it was unmistakable. He checked the engine and notice oil all over the place. He claimed the oil was “leaking like a sieve” but I’ve actually seen that in Arizona and while this was an oil leak, it wasn’t sieve-like – yet. Father and son were pondering what to do. But since I’ve seen the sieve leak on a Sunday away from home, I knew exactly what to do. Go to Wal-Mart.

Dick went to Wal-Mart, they fixed the problem. It was an improperly seated gasket in the oil filter and we were 2.5 quarts low on oil. All was fixed and we made it home.

Dick went to Jiffy Lube yesterday. The guy at the store couldn’t actually help him, but did take a report. He is to wait to hear back from the district manager today. He wants the cost of the Wal-Mart trip covered by Jiffy Lube. He wants his next oil change to be free of charge. He is willing to clean up the car himself.

He wants Jiffy Lube to give him the same treatment Amazon gave me. It is already impossible. I talked to some flunky over in India and got my rebate and gift certificate in less than ten minutes. Jiffy Lube is escalating the issue and taking longer. I hope they come up with the same ending.

 

Why can’t the mainstream Muslim religion control al-Qaeda? I have asked myself this for close to ten years. Today, I would like to also ask, why can’t mainstream Baptists control the Westboro Baptist Church? Westboro is the al-Qaeda of Baptists in particular and Christians in general.

Fred Phelps and his ilk are known as hate mongers. They perpetuate discord and strew evil in their wake. They have perverted the Bible they profess gives them license to behave in such a horrible way.

Phelps is terribly afraid of homosexuals. I’m not quite sure why and it really doesn’t matter. His vitriol is legendary. His “church” spends over $200,000 annually traveling to all 50 states to make sure we all have a chance to see evil in action.

They get most of their money from lawsuits. Irate mourners, bereaved family members, or distraught witnesses will attack the scum as they profane a sacred tradition and then the lawyers step in and sue for damages.

What we need to do is make sure we aren’t blackmailed (again) into giving these incredibly nasty people access to airwaves. We buckled to pressure and to keep them from protesting at the funeral of a nine-year-old child. They were given a chance to be “on the air” instead. I’m sure this will increase to air pollution by an order of magnitude.

Since they are disruptive, perhaps each and every state can initiate a plan to make it possible to pay for the protection of the bereaved. If they wish to protest at a funeral, there can be state fees to purchase the required permission as well as local fees to pay for increased police protection. I’m thinking a standard “funeral protest” fee at about $25,000 for the state level (to pay for any state police who may be needed) and whatever other fees local communities may wish to institute to cover their increased costs for police protection as well. And think BIG here.

It seems to me that every single Christian church in the local community should then gather their good people who believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. From what I remember from the Bible, Jesus protected the weak and disaffected. He kept the angry mob from stoning an adulteress by a asking the one without sin to cast the first stone.

Jesus also taught his followers to love one another as He loved all. He helped the Samaritan, for God’s sake (as it were) and they were lower than gays today.

Matthew 7:1 tells us, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” The punishments you pass out in your limited vision will be returned to you in the full light of  Judgment Day.

Every Christian should be appalled by Westboro Baptist “Church” and should take the stand of their leader, Jesus Christ. Each and every Christian should shield the bereaved from these hate mongers. Each church in local communities should send out the true faithful to stand between the evil of Phelps and his followers and the already horrid day for the grieving.

So my solution to the problem is two-fold. Institute “Funeral Protest” fees for each state as well as any local communities who would also like to increase their coffers. Make this too expensive for these nitwits to show up.

Then let’s get some real Christians out there protecting the innocent from the cruelty and evil that is this “church.”

And if you don’t, stop asking why Muslims can’t control al-Qaeda.

About a month or so ago, Facebook offered members a new profile. This was supposed to be a wonderful way to … I have no idea what it is supposed to achieve. I didn’t like it and I didn’t update. Earlier this week, Facebook warned us it was going to make it easier for us by simply upgrading all users to the new profile even though we obviously didn’t want it. Mark knew better; we would assimilate.

Yes

Today, my new profile appeared. I had already deleted most of the extraneous information that would be splattered across the top of my page. I don’t really care to advertise that I’m pretty stupid and don’t have a college degree. I probably shouldn’t have said that here, either, but very few people read this. I’m probably safe.

I also don’t want people to know exactly how underemployed I am. While I’m not terribly embarrassed by my job, it isn’t what I’m actually qualified for. I could have a far more prestigious job if I were not quite so lazy. I’m also unsure if FINRA laws or company policy even allow me to say where I’m employed. It’s much easier to simply ignore that.

Putting your city of birth, especially if you have also included the year you were born, helps the bad guys tremendously. With both pieces of information, it is possible for thieves to figure out your Social Security Number and gain access to your stuff – in other words Identity Theft.

But what irritated me the most was the stream of pictures across the top of the page. I didn’t want them there. Any picture I have been tagged it was pulled into the stream. It looked like the newest ones were first and the more I deleted, the older the tagged photos were. I finally got rid of them all.

I mentioned on Facebook how I shun cameras and don’t like my pictures as I don’t like the way I look. I never have. Well, since I noticed how I looked, anyway.

I’ve depended on my body to keep people from looking at my face. I believe that is why I was so upset with a weight gain that was not all that much weight. I know women who say, “My eyes are up here” when someone is staring at their boobs, but quite frankly, I’m better off if you are staring at my boobs. In fact, my eyes are probably my best facial feature, but you are better off looking below the neck.

My face has never been symmetrical. The right and left sides do not move the same way. I know I was a forceps delivery and I’m guessing I suffered some facial nerve damage. When I smile, it is always lopsided. Now that I’m old, and after decades of smiling lopsidedly, my wrinkles aren’t even. So even in repose, a way I used to be able to hold my face and at least appear symmetrical, doesn’t work. I have deeper wrinkles on one side of my face. Great.

I have always preferred pictures of me in profile. My favorite wedding picture is a profile picture with soft lighting and me “examining” my veil, held in my hands. My face isn’t lopsided in profile.

The few pictures of me I can actually like are taken without highlighting my asymmetry. Nothing taken for any official reason (unless I ever make it to the police profile books where I will actually like the one picture) are profile. They like to get my full lopsided face. And they want me to smile my “charming” lopsided smile.

I have very few pictures of me out there because I don’t like them. I probably should have had more pictures taken when I was younger because at least back then, I wasn’t old and wrinkled. I had real color hair instead of this not quite any real color it is now. And in repose, there weren’t deeper wrinkles on one side of my face, at least non-smiling pictures didn’t look as bad.

It is perhaps a problem of being the middle sister between two beautiful blonds. Pam’s eyes are startlingly ice blue and Cheri’s are green. My eyes change colors depending on what I’m wearing. Pam and Cheri both have real cheekbones and small straight noses, although Cheri finds fault with her nose (she has told us). And then they are both blond, something “good” in the US. They look like a Roberts while I look like a Francis. I’m Irish to their German.

It really doesn’t matter why I don’t like my pictures. I should get to be the person who chooses what pictures will be posted on the Internet.

 

Weather is destructive. There are all manner of storms gathering, waiting to wreak havoc on the world at large. There are other physical phenomenon such as volcanoes and earthquakes as well.

Weather symbols

The hemispheres are on different seasons. So while the US is seeing unprecedented snowfall and blizzards, Australia is trying to merge with the ocean. The devastating flooding going on in the Land Down Under is incredible.

Since I belong to a couple different worldwide enterprises, specifically MWC and Facebook, I have friends in Oz. None are close to the flooding but all Australians are concerned about the horrible events in Queensland.  My friend in New South Wales is a firefighter and went last year to help with the devastating wild fires. This year, all roads from New South Wales to Queensland are now impassable and she is unable to help the victims of the weather.

I have friends in other parts of the US, amazingly enough. I have friends in all four corners of the country, it seems. I have friends in the Pacific Northwest and in “beautiful downtown Connecticut” as well as family from east to west and north to south.

There is bad weather just about everywhere except Arizona and Florida (at least for my family members). Arizona is currently having its own problems and really doesn’t need more interference from bad weather. Florida is so notorious for loony news, it has its own tag on Fark.

Since the dawn of time, we have tried to get a handle on the weather. After a raging storm, some person decided whomever it was that controlled the Universe must be appeased and perhaps the bad weather would cease. There are myriad pagan gods dedicated to weather phenomenon. They were routinely prayed to and sacrifices made to them, in the hopes of fewer storms. Probably didn’t work any better then than it does now.

Today, we have televangelists preaching their god’s displeasure with some group or portion of society and thereby bringing weather destruction. So I guess before we make fun of ancient Greeks or Norsemen, we might want to see how “educated” we are in our own society.

Weather patterns are a bit more predictable today because we have been gathering so much information about them. We know that if this, this, and that happens – then some particular weather manifests at least a portion of the time. Meteorologists watch fronts or air systems as they spin around the globe and predict with ever greater accuracy (and still missing the mark with regularity) what weather is likely to follow. It does often make us better prepared.

This is especially true of large storm patterns. Hurricanes and cyclones are now easy to follow. We have satellites and reconnaissance planes able to gather data. A century ago, this was not even a dream. These storms hit without warning and ravaged coastal areas with what must have seems demented malice.

We aren’t yet able to predict earthquakes or volcanoes. We are in the same boat as our ancestors on this one. Just as they had no idea when or where a hurricane would hit, we have no idea which fault line is under too much pressure, where the earth will quake or a volcano will erupt. We also have no way to know in advance how severe any of these events will be.

Tornadoes are still not as easily predicted, but they are much better followed or tracked. We can give advance warning when these storm cells form and we have the technology to disseminate the information quickly. This was not always the case and while tornadoes can still be fatal, they are far less deadly than in times gone by.

Since we can’t control the weather and since it still mystifies us with the ever changing patterns, we always have a great conversational opening gambit.

“How’s the weather where you are?” or maybe “Hot enough (cold enough) for ya?”

Yes, we can always talk about this still mystical event. The ever unpredictable weather.

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