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Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday is Black

Photo; www.huffingtonpost.com
I wouldn't be lying if I said I don't know WHAT the hell is up with the holiday season these days. Chalk it up to a sheltered upbringing in rural Vermont, or to a very real "evolution" into the current...well, whatever passes for holiday spirit these days, but I just don't get it. Furthermore, I refuse to participate. My poor daughter, as a retail employee, isn't quite so lucky. Fortunately she is blessed with a much more sanguine temperament than I possess. If I'm being perfectly honest, while optimism comes somewhat naturally to me these day, there is nothing sanguine about me. If things go to hell, I go to hell. Working on it, but it's a work in progress. Throw me into a grabby, greedy and loud situation and you will get a straight-up, full-on melt down from hell. And why would anybody want to be part of that?  Is saving a few bucks really worth all that?

When I was little I will admit that I was really into getting my Christmas presents. I'm not going to pretend that it was all about altruism and the birth of our Lord and Savior for me (Catholic). HOWEVER, that spirit that my family so lovingly passed on to us was certainly what made the holiday magical for me. I know all about the logistics re: the timing of Jesus' birth not being in December, no snow falling in Bethlehem, etc. but it didn't ruin it for me. It was still a day we set aside to acknowledge something special and we felt that presence throughout the holiday season. It was about home and family; a fun and raucous good time. And yes, I was gifted with many toy horses and a few dinosaurs, and it made me a very happy little girl.

I know it's never going to be the same. Too much pain and loss has occurred, and the old saying "You can never go home again." certainly applies to me. But it doesn't mean I can't retain some of that spirit and magic within myself. For me, that means not allowing the more materialistic parts of the holiday to sully the good. I don't mind at all that folks start celebrating right after thanksgiving (especially this year with the first day of Hanukkah coinciding with it...cool!). I'll admit that I kinda dig the whole season, and I'm a sucker for all those colored lights and cheer. Bring it on! But the stores opening on Thanksgiving and black Friday starting at midnight really gets my skivvies in a bunch.

Oh well, there's nothing to be done about it. we all celebrate in our own way I suppose. Which brings me to another point: What is the deal with all the intolerance? Why do we have to be all offended by the different ways people do things? Seriously? I've said this before and I'll say it again: Let's adopt an all-inclusive policy instead of trying to eliminate EVERYTHING. MERRY CHRISTMAS. Yeah, that's right. I F'ing said it. And you know what? HAPPY HANUKKAH. Yup, there you go. And HAPPY KWANZA. I'm on a roll here, and I have yet to explode! HAPPY SOLSTICE. And for my atheist friends, well, YOU HAVE A NICE HOLIDAY. See how that's done? There's never any harm in inclusiveness, in wishing good things for other people. It takes nothing whatsoever away from your own personal experience unless you are an intolerant pri**.

Look at what happened to the South Park Holiday Play:

 There you go. Is that really what you want?

Please enjoy the season. Take your time, be kind to folks (especially poor, stressed retail employees!), and try to remember what the season means for you. Till next time!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The REAL Zombie Apocalypse

The calm before the storm...
I spend a lot of time people-watching. I don't mean in a creepy, voyeuristic sort of way, but just observy.  I am my daughter's ride to and from work so I spend an inordinate amount of time just sitting in my car and waiting. I pass the time by listening to the radio and watching folks to-ing and fro-ing about their lives. This time of year, I am struck by the large number of people who accessorize their cute, woolen hats and puffy coats with incredibly sour faces. I get it, I really do. The frost sets into my bones right about this time of year and doesn't fully thaw until sometime around mid-May or so despite my best efforts to keep warm. I've lived in Vermont my whole life (except for three years I spent in Maine) so you'd think I'd be acclimated by now. Oh, I suppose I am. But 'acclimated' and 'happily adapted' are two very different vibes. Mostly, I suck it up and deal, just like the folks I watch on an almost daily basis.

Early mornings are the most entertaining time. Many people have yet to imbibe their morning caffeine and the combination of lack of coffee AND puffy clothes is pretty amusing. The usual winter shuffle is accentuated significantly when folks are still half asleep. These slow, lurching and only half-aware folks that I see on a regular basis have given rise to a theory: The zombie apocalypse will not be brought about by reanimated corpses, but by bundled-up, pre-coffee Northerners on their way to Starbucks.

Imagine if you will, the frozen North if not a cup of Joe (not even at Starbucks!) were to be found. It would be disastrous, the casualties immense. It would start at local Starbucks locations, but it would spread from there as even the (usually very caffeinated) baristas join in the desperate, lurching mob. The words "coffee", "tea" and "latte" would be grunted repeatedly with ever-decreasing enunciation as the now mindless hoard overtakes the city. Those few who had stockpiled their coffee and were therefore coherent run screaming in confusion as the slow but relentless mob continues on their tenacious course to find the one thing that sustains them...a cup of coffee. I can picture the scene: Glass breaks as Abercrombie and Hollister employees (who subsist almost entirely on Starbucks) break free from their respective pods and join the lurching mob.

Where will it end? It could end several ways I suppose. The best case scenario is that someone, somewhere is able to provide these "zombies" with their much-needed caffeine before too much damage is done. But the most likely conclusion is all manner of mayhem and shenanigans occur causing much damage and destruction, and then everyone falls asleep because they didn't have their coffee.

My daughter really needs her own car.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Power of "Sorry"

Whenever I hear that word in my head, it always sounds like the Canadian pronunciation 'sore-y' :-) I can't help it. I used to like playing the game and have heard it shouted that way over and over again. I only bring it up because it's a word that I've been hearing a lot lately, and I think folks can easily misunderstand the power of this word. It's not a magic elixir, or some kind of tonic that allows a person to miraculously forget all. If accepted though, it IS the beginning of a healing process, and that's a pretty powerful and wonderful thing. Let me tell you a story that helps to illustrate what "sorry" is and isn't capable of:

When I was in high school, a friend of mine NAILED me in the shin with a field hockey stick. I mean, she really clocked me good. She hit me so hard that it damaged the area and left a permanent dent in my shin. She said she was sorry, and of course she really meant it. She had no intention of hurting me and I knew it. I readily accepted her apology, even while I was writhing in pain on the wet grass. Accepting her apology didn't mean she didn't hurt me like crazy. It didn't mean that I wouldn't be scarred for life. I STILL have a dent in my shin. It will always be a part of me now, and I've accepted that and moved on. I don't look back on my friend with anger. I no longer have any emotion whatsoever about that event. It was simply something that occurred that I don't think much about anymore. But that doesn't mean it never happened or that the scar is suddenly gone. it is what it is.

So when I think of the kinds of transgressions that generate an "I'm Sorry", I think of them in a similar light. If I forgive you, you are absolutely forgiven. It doesn't mean I didn't feel the pain and it doesn't mean the scar disappears. It just means that some things are more important and that I've moved on. I don't think you can really expect much more than that from anyone.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday

Photo: www.the-scorpions.com
It's a weird and wacky Wednesday. I woke up early to bring my daughter to work and subsequently opted to mess around on Youtube for a bit until the sun could come up and I could fully engage my sleep-addled brain. I sleep like a stone most nights and last night was no exception. It's the one time of day when my anxiety can't touch me, and I invariably conk out shortly after my head hits the pillow. I feel blessed in this regard, but it means I'm a bit slow to wake up. Lots of coffee and some good music usually does the trick, though.

You may or may not know about my "dinosaur" status, but many of you know that I love me some 80s "hair bands". Yup, I'm a former leather-clad groupie from way back, half-deaf from standing too close to too many speakers, and a permanently-creaky neck from too much head-banging. My big hair was DA BOMB :-) One of my favorite bands in general was/is the Scorpions. Say what you will about these guys, but they 'do' good music. One of my all-time favorite songs is "Wind of Change". I love it for many reasons, not the least of which is the memories it brings back to me. Those I won't share, but I WILL share the song with you guys via my mad new video-embedding skills. Happy Humpday!!!!!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Money Thing

Photo: www.wall-street.com
I've always had a strange relationship with money. Not only have I long felt like I was courting a lover who really didn't have much interest in being with me, but I felt on some level that money might be an EVIL lover. I didn't care, but I felt guilty for wanting it, anyway. After years of this awkward dance, I've realized that money wasn't really a thing with a life or an intention of its own, but instead a means to an end. It is only as good or evil as its holder, and only as illusive as we think it might be. Yeah, okay. Still working on that last part.

I have seen money used as both a carrot AND a stick. I have seen it used to artificially propel people into positions of power they didn't deserve. I have seen people use it to control others, to amass great quantities of 'stuff', to create a competitive advantage over those who had less. I have seen it withheld as a punishment, and have seen the acquisition of it prioritized over people and the living of life. It's no shocker at all that I see the evil side of money, and no surprise that I have had such mixed feelings about it for so much of my life. None of the usual reasons for acquiring money held much appeal for me, so I didn't really see the point of trying to amass wealth.

Years ago I had friends who tried to hook me into a multi-tiered marketing 'thing' that they were Very Excited about. They were pretty vague about the details for awhile, but ultimately told me the name of the company (I won't say who, but it rhymes with Bamway) when they realized I wouldn't listen to anything they had to say until they did. They asked me if I had time after work to go for a ride with them one day, and I reluctantly agreed to go despite the fact that they refused to tell me what it was about (these were friends, remember). After a couple of exhausting (and utterly confusing) hours of going to car dealerships, high-end clothing stores, furniture outlets and the like, they informed me I had been on a "dream quest", and that if I joined their company I could have all the beautiful things I just saw. All I had to do is pay some amount of money, use some products (sorry, this part was all vague) get friends to join and then PROFIT, and OMG, how exciting was that?! I never laughed so hard in my life. I said "Are you kidding me? WHO'S dream? I don't give a flying F*** about any of that crap! Have we MET?" followed by "Can I PLEASE go home now?" Seriously, anyone who knows me on even the most basic level HAS to know that anything that involves needing some type of disposable income AND the ability to sell stuff on the phone or in person (no online back then) was never, ever going to happen. And the way they came at me couldn't have been more wrong! They were trying to appeal to a sense of greed that I didn't have. If they had taken me to a warmblood horse farm, they may have gotten further, but probably not much :-) All that stuff remind me of South Park's "Underpants gnomes profit plan":


Either they were continuing to be intentionally vague, I was exceptionally obtuse or they didn't really know how it worked, either. In any case, I was not then and am not now interested in earning my money in a way that depends on what somebody else earns. It just feels icky to me.

Having said that, I have grown to see the very happy and uplifting side of money. I have come to understand that money can mean many genuinely good things. It can change and improve peoples lives, it can help the Earth become a healthier place, it can provide stability, help a family member or friend in a time of need and it can help someone go from a complete nobody to the person who eventually cures cancer. Money can be a blessed and beautiful thing, and it feels like it should be shared. I think its only ugly and evil when its hoarded and guarded over by the hunched gargoyle of greed and self-importance. Inviting resources into your life doesn't have to mean inviting the gargoyle. The two things are entirely separate events! What an astounding and liberating discovery that is! And lets be clear here, it was my own potential gargoyle that I feared. I have friends with lots of money who aren't the least bit greedy so I know it's possible.

But knowing and feeling aren't always the same thing. Now, I can keep some room available on my dance card for money, and not feel anything but good about it :-)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Facetubeinstatwit#$%-what?!

Photo: www.theguardian.com
I don't usually feel old or outdated. My daughter would happily tell you I'm like a dinosaur, but from a personal perspective I don't feel much different than I did when I was twenty. With one exception: All the tech-stuff baffles me.

Let's be clear here; I am a reasonably intelligent person who is capable of learning new skills and integrating them into my life. The fact that I have this blog that I almost know how to use correctly AND I'm accessing it through a computer I sort of can make work is proof of that. But it isn't easy for me, or comfortable. And now I'm really trying to utilize social media to promote my book, and it's creating quite a stir within my psyche. I feel like I'm trying to learn a new language, and in a way that's almost exactly what I'm doing. Historically, my language-learning hasn't gone so well. I used to know a fair bit of French (of the Canadian variety. I grew up on the border.) but forgot most of what I knew just by moving a couple of hours south and never hearing/using it. I tried to learn Russian for a minute, but couldn't retain any type of motivation so I put it aside and didn't go back to it. Not the most excellent track record. But this "new language" is about marketing and survival in a technological world. It's a language that the kids innately know, and when new things crop up they assimilate them at an astounding rate. I may not feel like a dinosaur, but I suppose in some ways that I am.

To be fair, I grew up in a very different environment. I was born in 1969, I was a child in the 70's, a teenager in the 80's. I also grew up in a small town in rural Vermont, so however behind the times were, my part of the world was even more so. I remember being really stoked because we had a color TV with three channels. I remember how awesome it was to have our own, private phone line (vs a party line). I remember telephones with dials, the long, twisted cord that held the receiver to the body of the phone (which was screwed into the wall.) and fighting over it because there was only one in the house. There was no such thing as an answering machine. People were home to answer or they weren't. There was no call waiting, just a busy signal. I remember in the 80's when VCR's first came out. The idea of being able to watch a movie in your own home was mindblowing. You could rent a VCR with your evening movies. They were really expensive so very few households had their own. There was also something called "Beta" that was like a smaller VCR tape, but they didn't last long. I remember playing "Pong" and "Pac-man" on my uber-modern Atari video game. The first portable phones were enormous car-phones that only the very important and the very wealthy had. They were sort of a status symbol, and I only ever saw them on TV. They were big, blocky things with antennas. When I was older and took my first computer course, the discs were actually floppy and what we were learning was MS DOS. I'm telling you, the world was an entirely different place.

It was sort of a trade off I suppose. I miss people actually looking into each others faces when they talk. Now, everybody always walks with their heads down because they are looking at their phones. Manners and people-skills have completely disappeared. THAT feels like a real loss. Nobody really connects anymore, but I've kind of gone off on a tangent I hadn't intended to go on.

Connecting in today's world means being proficient with all the social-media options available. And it's not enough to be proficient with just one. You have to be able to navigate most of them, AND make them talk to each other to reach the maximum number of people. YEAH for how small the world has become as a result of all the new ways there are to connect, but woe to those of us who struggle with the logistics! I think I sort of did it though. I figured out how to post this blog on Twitter and have it automatically post on my fan page on Facebook. I like the fan page idea, because it gives me a place for my shameless self-promotion without bombarding my friends who may not give a rat's furry behind about my book. Cool Beans :-) But I realize that the small bit that I've managed is just that; the tip of the iceberg. There is much left for me to tackle, and I feel like a tyrannosaur trying to do it with my ineffective, tiny arms.

 Don't worry about me though. I'll figure it out :-)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Focus

Photo: diabetes.niddk.nih.gov
You may have noticed that I changed up the blog a bit. No worries, I'm not going rogue and getting all serious. I've decided though, that I should probably focus on making the lighter side more consistently lighter. I may have mentioned that I'm doing this thing around creating a public persona (which, unfortunately, is likely to be much like my private persona, but RIGHT OUT THERE). That's all well and good, but I'm realizing that I can't suddenly pretend I'm all businessy and pulled together. For one thing, I could never pull off such a monumental fallacy, for another, I suspect I would seriously strain something if I tried.

The truth is, I'm kind of a train wreck, and furthermore, I'm kind of okay with it. I may fantasize about being as creative and pulled together as Martha Stuart, as brilliant as Stephen King with all the innate kindness and ability with animals of St. Francis of Assisi, but...not so much. The cucumbers in my garden grew in corkscrew shapes to squeeze between the weeds, I can't grow a pea to save my life, my greatest culinary accomplishments usually involve following directions on a box and remembering to remove plastic wrap from things BEFORE they go in the oven. Stephen King I am not, and my patience and tolerance is...variable. The closest I come to sainthood DOES involve animals, but as accomplished as I am in that regard, I have still been dragged down an icy sidewalk on my belly by an enthusiastic Doberman, and I have started a ride on a horse only to end it in a pucker brush. My favorite clothes are my pajamas and my most beat up T-shirts. My favorite music is 80's hair bands. I read EVERYTHING from "Gray's Anatomy" (yes, it's a book) to "The Dirtiest Toilet Humor Book Ever". I love watching nature documentaries and sometimes I cry when animals get eaten. Nobody's perfect. But fortunately, you don't have to be perfect to be your own kind of awesome, and that's sort of what I'm counting on. Really, really counting on.

So, will there still be rants about irresponsible dog owners? Posts about dogs and horses? The occasional, long-winded, meandering and pensive brain-dump? Um, probably, yeah. But I do promise to work very hard at keeping my content more light-hearted while remaining honest.

Thank you, and stay tuned!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Paradox

Photo: en.wikipedia.org
The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense. -Tom Clancy

What Mr. Clancy said is great thing to keep in mind, especially when you're writing fiction. But human beings really seem to be the most comfortable when their reality makes sense too.

Sometimes I drive myself crazy trying to solve puzzles that apparently have no solution. I don't mean the physical kind like the little wooden balls and cubes that come apart or the Rubik's cube (which also comes apart with a little determination;-). I had a handle on those a long time ago. And really, if you solve them or don't, what difference does it ultimately make? The puzzles that intrigue me the most are the ones I can't seem to sort out no matter how hard I try.

One of those apparently unsolvable puzzles is the basic premise of the things I write about: The paranormal. As I'm beginning to do the research for my next book, it's easy to understand where legends begin and how they persist. There is really no mystery there. What I DO find mildly baffling though, is the consistency of information from widespread and seemingly unrelated sources. I might even be able to explain that much without straining myself; stories pass from one generation to the next, but people don't stay on one place. That's the simple answer, and most likely the right one. But the stories are just so darned consistent.

Let's make something clear; I don't believe in the paranormal because I want to. I have a very uneasy relationship with the paranormal world. I was just an average, relatively normal person, minding my own business and living my life the best I knew how when this happened. It's easy to read books like mine, to hear stories and to dismiss them outright as total BS. I know because I've done it. I've nodded politely, made the right noises (something along the lines of "Oh, how interesting...") but secretly thought to myself that it was a monumental crock of sh**. But I wrote this book, I was there and I know it's not a crock.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. said "One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."  

Okay, that's all well and good, but what do you do if your mind is blown? What if you have seen with your own eyes, things you can't possibly explain? And things that have never been adequately explained by anyone? Well, I know what I'm doing: I'm throwing myself into it in the hopes of finding some answers while carving out what I hope is an entertaining niche for others. It's fun, and let's face it; it helps me to embrace the illusion that I have some kind of hold on this stuff and therefore some manner of control over it. Now that is a crock. But it helps me to sleep at night.

But here's a hell of a question to throw out there: HOW can this stuff be explained? Oh, I've seen all the 'investigative' shows and heard about all the spiritual aspects, but what is the real, tangible explanation? Is it possible, given all we know about the world in general, to find real answers? As much fun as it is to tell stories and speculate, and as much as I hope my scary book is a success, my sleep would be much improved if I knew that real answers were on the horizon.