First Anniversary Without You

Featuredangel of grief statue at Stanford

Today is.. would have been.. our 9th wedding anniversary. That day was a whirlwind! We didn’t spend the night apart like many couples do; we didn’t feel the need to. We forgot to bring our wedding favors — our customized M&M’s. But we distributed them later at a family gathering. Your mom burned her hand on a curling iron. You got so anxious you couldn’t eat. We trekked all over the University of Redlands for pictures. And you in your 5-inch zebra heels. We almost forgot to pay the photographer! I had to borrow a check from your aunt and pay them back later.

Nine years ago, you said ‘I do’ and made me the happiest man in the world. We planned, prepared, and set everything in place as best we could. We celebrated the beginning of a new life, together with our family and friends.

And almost one year ago, minus a week or so, you suddenly and inexplicably left this world. There was no warning, no preparation, no setting, and no goodbye. And we mourned the loss of your life, alone and apart.

i feel so alone without you...

Til death do us part.

When a bride and groom say those words, they don’t actually think that they’ll truly become reality. At least not before they grow old and frail. That’s way far off in the future, not something anybody should worry about anytime soon. Living will? Death folder? Life insurance? PAH! Nonsense. A problem for future selves.

Let alone the emotional, physical, and mental implications. When you do this right, your spouse becomes your WORLD. And don’t get me wrong, you can and should retain some of your independent interests and person-hood; but by and large, you become intertwined together as one new entity, as ‘US’. So then to suddenly lose that half (or at least, large part) of your life, your “new self” that was/is ‘US’, is quite literally devastating. It’s like violently tearing apart a zipper that’s been stuck together for years and years, happily rusted together at nearly every turn — it’s gonna hurt like hell, and you’re gonna lose some pieces.

broken heart with cracks and bandage
Our hearts are strong, but not invincible.

Hold every memory.

We made so many memories in our relatively short time as US. Disneyland, beach days, Halloween parties, Christmas light tours, snow days, County fairs, occasional vacation trips, surprise Valentine scrapbooks, lazy stay-in-bed-all-days, steamy and wonderfully passionate nights… I will never forget any of them. Yet even as I say that, I know some of those memories are fading. Thank god, despite my protests and eye-rolls, you always insisted on taking plenty of pictures. I will always cherish them. And, as you know from my occasional zealous need to organize things, I will probably continue to find some excuse to sort and sift through them every so often.

Those scrapbooks, in particular, will continue to be some of my most beloved possessions. The time and thoughtfulness you dedicated to them was unparalleled. Your creativity was a marvel to me, unmatched in my eyes by anything but your love and devotion. I cannot thank you enough for these treasures, even as I mourn the loss of never seeing any more of them in my future.

I tried to do them justice when I constructed your memorial video and music playlist. I’m sure that I fell far short of potential. Yet who even thinks they’ll ever need to undertake such a task? Surely, again, not until you’re 80. And then it should have been our children’s job. Not mine, nor yours.

a heart in the sand is being washed away by the ocean

Here’s to Us.

As the song goes, from P!nk’s Beautiful Trauma album:

What about us? What about all the times you said you had the answer?
What about us? What about all the broken happy-ever-afters?
What about us? What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust? What about us?

We thought we had the answers. We thought we had our happy-ever-after. We had plans. And indeed, it ended in disaster. You were taken from this world, from us, from your family, from me. And we don’t get to be ‘US’, anymore.

But when we were… Oh, it was beautiful. You gave me purpose, life, beauty, laughter, tears, joy, happiness, heartache, inspiration, passion, ecstasy, agony, purity, drive, desire, wholeness, openness, and most of all, love.

I just want to lay on your chest and listen to your heartbeat.
But I can’t. Not anymore.

The greatest of these is Love.

Today, as I have every year since that first time I saw you in that perfect white dress, with your curled blond hair and your ruby lips and your ocean eyes, I say thank you. For all of it. Everything you did for me, everything you made me, everything you gave me. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Through hard times and happy times. As long as we both shall live lived.

And though you live no longer, in this world, know that you will always live on in my heart. I may or may not find love again; yet even if I do, it will never be the same. You were, are, and always will be, my soulmate. And I will see you again in Paradise.

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OMG PRONOUNS!

This has gotten well and truly ridiculous. I don’t care what side you come down on. It’s absolutely inane, the amount of angst and energy and dogmatism and “hurt feelings” this shit has caused and effected. (Yes, grammar nazis, that is a purposeful rule-bend.)

What am I talking about? Just skim these 4 links:

So for those of you too lazy to read, and/or who don’t understand what this online community IS, I’ll break it down for you.

StackExchange is a vast and popular Q&A site which started back in the 2000’s as a programming-help resource (coined StackOverflow). Think of it like Yahoo Answers or Quora but 100 times better (1000 times better, in relation to Yahoo), because the community actually cares about quality and takes time to curate and research and maintain the wealth of information therein.

One of the biggest and most important parts of this online community is the moderator staff — a group of volunteer users who have risen up in the ranks to have “phenomenal, cosmic powers” to be used for the good of said community. They review questions and answers, they keep other uses behaving nicely, they facilitate the ebb and flow of good quality information and contributions, and they’re generally pretty awesome guys & gals.

Oh noes! I gender-ified them! (Genderized? Engendered?) WHAT EVAR SHALL WE DO!?! Sound the alarms!!

(That’s totally not the right word, but I’m too lazy to look up what it’s supposed to be. And it’s not “gentrified”, that’s completely unrelated.)

So the drama, the uproar, the righteous indignation and press fallout, surrounds one such moderator and her discussions with the actual company staff (the corporation that owns StackExchange, i.e. the website, the software, and now apparently the content), over what was being proposed in a new/revised “Code of Conduct”.

To be clear, “Code of Conduct” is just fancy words for “expected behavior” when you’re using the site / participating in the community. The old-guard believed in the KISS principle, and basically just said “Be nice.” In other words, “don’t be a jerk.” Easy, right? However, as time went on, the size of the community (the # of users and the amount of activity) exploded, and people, being people, weren’t always “nice” to each other.

you don't say?
Shocking!

Now, the mod (short for moderator) in question was a bit concerned with the proposed CoC revision that essentially forces you to acknowledge (ok), respect (fine), and actively affirm (uhh) anybody else’s preferred gender pronoun (wat?). But it’s more nuanced than that. See, this mod, like many of us who call ourselves “writers” (loosely, of course), has developed her habits for coping with this brave-new-world where gender is no longer a binary construct (and I’m not going into that here; that’s a whole other discussion topic, dumpster-fire and flame-bait galore).

Her habits include using collective and neutral pronouns, or even avoiding them altogether with other language mechanisms; and when all else fails, disengage from the conversation with the person(s) who are having issues with it. I, for one, think this is a fantastic philosophy. It allows you to be respectful, civil, and expressive, yet does NOT force you to actively affirm and participate in a mentality or world-view that you don’t agree with. Because look, we can all be civil and respectful of each other, no matter how deeply we disagree on something, as long as you’re not forcing your viewpoint down my throat and I’m not doing the same.

But no. This perfectly reasonable work-around wasn’t good enough for the extreme liberal agenda at StackExchange. You MUST address anybody and everybody with their stated preferred pronouns, full-stop. In fact, remaining neutral, or disengaging, is now deemed hurtful and offensive. WHAT?!? Really? To quote the 2nd resignation post I linked, which I adore simply for his incredibly articulate and well-structured writing style:

The new “tolerance” is tolerant of everything except ideological disagreement. It is forced conformity.

Caleb

So. Stop the presses. Raise the pitchforks. Light the cigars. Grab the popcorn, and watch the flames. Because this is a shit-show. And it’s a sad reflection of our times.

But it’s more than that. There’s a certain elitism there, subtle, but cunning. See, it’s fairly likely that none of you, dear readers, knew about this. StackExchange was a tech-startup. Another silicon valley brainchild. And like many of its ilk, despite attempts to democratize it, the sites themselves are still relatively isolated to folks of a certain demographic — young, tech-savvy, privileged, and financially stable. So despite all of its postured attempts to say “we want to be more inclusive”, it never really succeeded to reach beyond the glass of the tech-elite walled-garden.

i'm sorry i can't hear your, your inferiority is too loud
Borrowed from this guy’s blog

Look at Twitter, for example. The weekly shenanigans of Trump and everything that happens as a result. If your only source of information about Trump was Twitter, there is absolutely no question that you’d want him impeached ASAP. If for no other reason than just being a royal douche. But you know what? Most voting Americans still don’t pay attention to Twitter. They go to work, do their jobs, come home to their families, maybe watch the news, do chores, play with the kids, get them to bed, struggle with bills, and on and on it goes. They don’t give two craps about what the idiots said online this week. As far as they’re concerned, they need more money in their bank accounts, more food on the table, less crushing debt, less smog in their sky, and more time with their kids/spouses/friends.

And that’s the same thing here. The vast majority of regular-Joe hard-working tax-paying folks couldn’t care less about what gender you think you are, much less about how that question is handled in some weird website where people ask and answer questions all day. So to even spend this much time and energy on the subject, to even have such a fallout and such vociferous outcry from all sides of the straw-man… seems downright ludicrous.

Look, I respect the original mod, Monica, for standing by her principles and expressing herself in a definitive, respectful, and humble way. I’m not saying “who cares”. I’m just saying that this is an example of the technical elite enjoying the privilege that they have to openly and freely raise these issues about which they care so deeply, in an environment that is, by comparison to the real world, SUPER soft and squishy and forgiving.

unicorn barfing a rainbow
Blech.

So here’s the point. Next time you get all bent out of shape because someone didn’t respect your fabricated right to self-identify as an androgynous unicorn, take a breath, drink a sip of your pH water, pop a Xanax, and try to put it into perspective. You are privileged. The fact that you can read this proves it. (So am I, by the way.) Channel that energy toward something good, something positive and helpful and humanitarian.

Love & light. ❤

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A Random Assortment of Dreams

Driving. Driving at night. I’m in a crazy souped-up sports car. I literally recognize that I’m in a dream; I even remember that I’m sleeping in a motel (on the way up to visit Oregon, but that’s not part of the in-dream realization!). So I floor the gas and do all kinds of crazy Fast & Furious -esque tricks, even jumping over and through traffic. Nearly flying, I would say. I’m racing against… No one. Myself. Time.

Porsche 919 Hybrid (18), Porsche Team: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb
How cool would that be?

Cut scene.

I’m on a reddish desert landscape near an industrial complex of some sort. I’m talking to myself, in the dream. Acknowledging that it’s a dream. So meta. But the other self is a sort of fictionalized, almost Iron-Man-like figure. As if I’d created a robotic clone of myself. I almost said my own name. But it came out Ned. Or at least, it would have, if it had been audible.

mars outpost concept art
Like on Mars. Basically.

Cut scene.

I’m looking at a mirror. It shows my own face, yet quickly warps and distorts in shape and form. I know this is not real. I tell it to “shut up” and turn around, attempting to shatter the mirror in the process. I break through a glass wall, but find myself stuck in a cluster, or maze, of never-ending mirrors. They keep re-materializing, despite me repeatedly breaking them. Like a carnival-funhouse-turned-horrifying-nightmare.

hall of mirrors maze
Because THAT’S not at all creeptastic.

I soon find myself trapped between mirrors and unable to move, as my malformed reflection continues to warp and grotesque-ify. I never looked into the eyes until the last second. They became pitch dark and deep, like black holes. I struggled to breath and wake myself.

A false-start or two, but I finally awoke, gasped in a chest-full of real air, and took a drink of water. And then I wrote my dream notes. So that you could enjoy this post! ❤

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Disneyland is a Waste of Money

Fight me. Change my mind. Go ahead, make my day.

Listen, I get it. Your kids love all things Disney. And why wouldn’t they? Disney, as a megacorp, owns nearly every facet of modern entertainment that you can think of. All of their favorite kid shows, characters, superheroes, and toys are probably based on some form of Disney-ism.

K. loved going to Disneyland for two things: Halloween time, and Christmas time. Mostly the latter. The electric light parade was the highlight of her trip. In the late 2000’s / early 2010’s, we had our annual passes for a few years. We made good use of them. They were a couple hundred bucks back then. We had monthly payment plans and we had a handicap decal to use for parking.

disneyland haunted holiday mansion
I mean, it IS pretty neat, I’ll give you that.

She always had to have three things, and usually in this order: popcorn, a churro, and dole-whip. Sometimes a popcorn refill. These were unique to Disneyland, at the time. I mean the taste of them, not the food item itself. Lord knows they probably added some secret addictive chemicals that nobody could ever trace or prove.

Fast forward a few years to our last trip. Maybe we were growing out of it. Maybe people were getting less friendly. Maybe it was a warmer than usual day. Maybe the treats didn’t quite taste as breathtakingly delicious as we remembered. Maybe it was a combination of all those things. But as we tried to snag a bench seat for the parade — 3 hours before it starts, mind you — and we were assailed by a cranky middle aged woman who insisted that she’d reserved that bench for herself and her rabble… we just kinda looked at each other and realized: We were done.

And we never went back.

disneyland popcorn
Delicous MSG!

Now let’s look at the facts. I’ll use two resources for this break-down: TripSavvy and Costco. A one-day one-park ticket is over $150. So you say to yourself, okay, that’s not what most people are doing, right? Most people make a 2-day event out of it, at least. Fine. A 2-day park-hopper ticket is $280. Wow, not saving much are we? (Sure, you can navigate promo sales and off-days to save a few bucks, but it’s small-potatoes.)

And let’s not forget, if you don’t live locally (because let’s face it, the locals rarely go here anymore, because they realized long ago how much of a colossal rip-off it is), you’re getting a hotel. Good luck finding anything for less than $150/night close enough to make any sense. Or that doesn’t smell like cheap hookers and cheaper booze.

Oh, children are cheaper you say? Not really. For a kid — over 3, of course, because if you’re taking a baby or toddler to DLand, you’ve got bigger problems and god help you — you save maybe $6-7 on a ticket. Wow, and this is supposed to be a theme park built FOR kids and families. And they’re the ones driving the sales of all those crappy plastic souvenirs, at a 90% margin I might add, because they’re all produced by similarly aged child-slave-labor overseas.

disneyland churro
Authentically hand-rolled by Mexicans dressed uncomfortably in hot stuffy uniforms. Instead of your Mexican neighbors, who are actually really friendly and super cool, and you’d be much happier eating with them than the scum of the earth standing behind you in this line.

So let’s talk food again. If you actually plan on having a meal there, you’re already paying at least 25% above standard dining prices of comparable quality. It’s not as bad as freakin sporting events (I’m looking at you, $15 Bud Light at Dodger Stadium), but it’s not nothin. Oh, what about going outside the park to eat? Yeah no, forget about it. By the time you’ve trudged X miles back to your car, navigated the parking maze, and dealt with the always-crappy OC traffic, you’ve spent at least that much in gas and frustration. No, you’re better off just swallowing the in-park mark-up.

Alright, where does that leave us? Let’s say you’re a family of four, with two kids of appropriate age. 4 2-day hopper tickets puts you at about $1100. Hotel, $200. Food, let’s say about $20 per meal per person.. so about $350. Right, we’re up to $1650 before transportation.

Oh wait, PARKING. Duh. Oh this is rich — yet another thing that’s changed since I’ve been there. You now pay by the hour. (ish. I mean it’s a base-price and it’s limited to $65, so it’s not grotesque, but it’s still pretty horrible. You’re literally paying for the privilege of having your car close enough to the park to not die of heat exhaustion or dehydration — or criminal activity, for that matter — on your way to and from it.) So $65 for 2 days is another $130.

Let’s just round that sucker up to $1800 because we can (incidentals, snacks, whatever). Ah! Lest we forget, those crappy plastic souvenirs! How much do you love your kids? Well if you’re already doing this trip, it’s probably pretty significant. So what’s another $200 in treats and toys? Right?

For years they convinced you that this was THE ONLY PLACE IN THE WORLD you could get this crap. That and Hawaii. NOPE again!

We now have a grand total of about $2000. And that’s not including any travel from your home to the park itself! If you’re already here in SoCal, you probably make that kind of drive on a regular basis, no biggie. If you’re a tourist, flying in from somewhere.. well first off, add another hotel night or two, depending on how exhausted and degenerate you want to appear in front of your fellow passengers.. and then the airfare itself of course. So all told that could put you at $3k or more; if you’re coming in from overseas, $5k easily.

And all this for what. Really, what? What is so goddamn special about this place? You go stand in lines for hours to see people in costumes acting like these cartoon characters from a bygone era, or if you’re lucky, a semi-contemporary hero or heroine of modern lore, just so they can take a picture with your brat and send them on their way. And more lines, more hours, to ride all these beat-up broken-down rides that used to be a marvel of modern engineering.

Sure, yeah they’re building and rebuilding and opening lots of cool new attractions. Fine. They’re still nothing special. Hell, Vegas rebuilds entire casinos more often than Disney revamps a ride or pushes out a novel new attraction.

Look, I realize I’m a 35-year-old man. My opinions about these things have changed. I’m obviously no longer a kid, I no longer have that childlike wonder and fascination and excitement for these stories and characters that once defined my formative years. Not arguing that. I’m saying that your kids, the current generation, would simply be better served by something more tangible, more fascinating, and more goddamn reasonably priced.

Think about it. You’re really going to spend what amounts to most people’s monthly paycheck, on a 2 day amusement park trip? Really?!? I guaran-damn-tee you that your kids won’t appreciate it as much as you want them to. And you’ll be freakin miserable, nearly the entire time. Don’t believe me? Ask someone who’s done it. Ask someone who’s seen the dregs of humanity among those not-quite-shining-streets of colorful caricatures and playful pretend-lands. They’ll tell you the same.

sleeping toddler in a stroller at disneyland
Let’s be honest, we’d all prefer to be this guy, not the struggling parents who are running on 3 hours sleep and 3 too many cups of caffeine just to “get through this day”.

If you value your sanity, and your hard-earned money.. Take it elsewhere. Take it to the Discovery Cube in Santa Ana (or similar science museums that exist in most places), where your kids can actually LEARN stuff. Take it to the local fair, where real local people are trying to earn a little cash by selling unique, handmade jewelry or craft-wares or art. Take it and save it for college or trade-school. Take the kids camping, fishing, hiking, rafting, climbing, horseback riding, dirt-biking (when they’re old enough obviously), etc.

Yeah, all that stuff costs money too. But not nearly as much as Disneycrap. And it’ll make a helluva lot better memories.

Maybe I’m biased. Maybe I’m privileged. I mean, we went to Disneyland when I was kid, probably just once. It was probably pretty expensive, for the time. Could I tell you much about it? Nope. I have exponentially better memories from the many years we spent camping together in the woods and mountains of our great state’s national parks.

in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks
Just Google “John Muir quotes”. ❤

Is that my point? Just get outside more? Kinda. I mean it’s certainly better for you. But no, my point is much more pragmatic than that. Economical, even.

My point is that Disney, with the billions and billions of dollars they make from all of their combined corporate conglomerations of capitalism at its worst–

(and don’t start with me on capitalism; I’m not against it fundamentally, but the abuse of it has led to some pretty epically horrific stuff in our time, but again, NOT in the scope of this post.)

–anyway, with what some people have taken to phrasing as that “they have more money than God” (hyperbole for the sake of emphasis) — Disney could literally afford to cut all those prices that we’ve talked about down by tenfold, and still not lose a cent. (Let’s face it, they could afford to make it all FREE, but that’s asking for a logistical nightmare.) Would such extreme price-cuts pose an organizational problem? Sure; obviously, the cheaper it is, the more people would line up to shove their grubby little minions in the gates. That’s perfectly solvable.

But again, why bother? I mean if people were reasonable, rational, mentally stable, level-headed, common-sensed, logically-minded, practical, pragmatic, responsible, financially intelligent, productive members of society… well good lord, we’d be living in a goddamn paradise wouldn’t we? But also, said people would take one look at the economics of a typical DLand vacation and scoff derisively, chortle and eye-roll to the Nth degree, at the sheer absurdity of it all.

Anyway. That’s all I have to say for now. Apologies this went long-winded. It just makes me angry, sometimes, how much stupidity we put up with in our society. And how much abuse of power, privilege, and money, that we just stand idly by and watch, even approve of and participate in.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Marvel movie to watch.

Hey, at least I didn’t pay for it. =P

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Dreamwalker 1

It begins, as most dreams do, in the middle of it. Meaning, you’re not really sure how you got there. It just.. IS.

gothic house interior living room
Looks… cozy?

The place starts to feel familiar as the walls and rooms start to solidify. You’re in a hotel; no, a bed-and-breakfast. A mansion that’s run like a bed-and-breakfast. The feeling of familiarity is fleeting and vague, yet you know it’s there. Like a word on the tip of your tongue that just won’t quite come out. 

You’re a ghost-like presence, a translucent being wandering the vaguely defined rooms and halls. This room has a secret passageway, which leads to… the pool! Oh what a glorious pool, with ornate marble statues and granite trim. Yet it is not for you. No, you slide back through the room and wonder how to keep yourself busy. You read notes in the guestbook, written to the innkeeper, with words of praise or suggestions. None of it is memorable. You find some dishes out of place and bring them to the kitchen to wash. Apparently you can hold objects, despite your less-than-corporeal state of being. 

But perhaps you aren’t so ghostly. You feel that you’re meant to tell somebody something. To pass on a message. Your gut tells you that you will be able to touch and be seen and heard by those you’re meant to see. A voice – is it your own internal monologue, or something else – waxes philosophic: “We are sometimes asked to put into words what no human should have to; and so, in the end, we decide it’s best not to.” Still, you must get a message to someone. 

You begin to talk with a man sitting by the pool – he must be the one you’re meant to speak with! He sees you and hears you. Your touch is cold but your voice is warm. The man is having lunch with his family near the pool. He attempts to introduce you to others, but not all of them can see. Not all are meant to see. One woman does feel your presence and hear your voice, albeit quite softly, if you rest your hand on her shoulder. But you are not here to tell her anything of importance. It was merely nice to be heard by more than one person.

Before you have a chance to convey your message to the first gentleman – nay, before you even understand what said message is supposed to be – you become aware of another dreamwalker. His presence feels unnatural. He resembles Joshua Jackson, the actor, for some strange reason. Your instincts tell you that his name is Danny. 

Suddenly.. “Danny’s bad. Danny’s BAD!” A young boy’s voice cries out. 

man running down a dark alley

Danny’s eyes darken to pure cold black spheres, and he lays chase to the boy. You now feel it is your duty to save the boy from whatever fate this Danny has in store for him. He only has one arm, you realize, in an abrupt and macabre revelation. 

You toss and turn through material and immaterial barriers as you try to catch up. You phase-shift through doors but have trouble keeping pace.

Alas, you awake too soon. You hope and pray that the young boy is safe, and Danny is merely a figment of someone’s imagination.

Please note: I have no qualms with anyone named Danny. Dream-interpreters would likely have you believe that there’s some trauma in my past related to a person with this name, but I can assure you there’s not. It is funny that, in most of my dreams, names are rarely, if ever, a thing that gets remembered. But I don’t usually write down notes immediately after waking up, either — in this case I did, by which I constructed this story. So take it how you will. Even if your name is Danny — I still like you, and I don’t think you’re a child-mutilating psychopath. =P

N.

Positive? Not Really?

FeaturedPhoto by Bekka Mongeau from Pexels

Today we have another wonderful guest-post from Arlene! Make sure to show her some support.

Scrolling through Twitter the other day, I had just responded to the announcement of someone’s positive news (may as well amplify it, correct?) and noticed a new notification. Most of the time, I will stop and read notifications — the habit has saved me from chasing more than a few messages down later. It was Mark Thompson responding to someone who was looking for a positive person on Twitter.

Being my usual self, I listed a group of people that I look up to, and that almost always have something good to say to those they choose to interact with. And thought nothing more about it.

It turns out, I was the one he was suggesting! ME! I’ve never looked at myself in this manner, and it was a shock. I almost responded “Not positive / not sure if this applies to me” with all seriousness.

My brain has been all over the place; job hunting will do that to you. Your emotional state varies depending directly on what other people say about you, because they are in control of your future. Also, I’d been getting ready to speak, recovering from that event, and making plans to do so again when circumstances shifted in the household and made me grumpy. But, I know I will enjoy these activities/engagements once I start them.

Is that it? Is it my awareness that I will enjoy something difficult, once I am going on it? And can and will express this openly, because I know sometimes it encourages people to hear that — after the anticipation of something, and the worry of all of what might happen — once it is time, the nerves vanish, and you (and I) can proceed with confidence.

Or is it a celebration of the accomplishments of those I don’t really know? If you’ve just gotten a new job, made a major life change, or even (and these are most important) figured out how to accomplish a task — these deserve to be shared! And I’m more than willing to do so.

Maybe I live by this Robin Williams quote a bit too much:

Putting a positive spin on things is a skill I’ve had to develop — and I’m glad it makes people feel better.

I heartily agree! Amplify the successes and triumphs of people in your life. Spread positivity and joy, even when you can’t seem to find it yourself. Sometimes that’s the hardest part, but it can also be the most rewarding.

N.

A Glimpse of Happiness

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Sometimes what you really need is to simply be among friends; to talk, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company. For in these small moments — where your troubles and worries and woes fade away, even for the briefest of breaths, the most minuscule of milliseconds — life feels worth living again.

N.

Yes, I just quoted myself. I made it up right here on the spot. You’re welcome. =P

I treat most of my journal as an open-ended letter to my dearly beloved K. I think of it as though I will someday reminisce with her in paradise over all the things that we’ve experienced while apart.

In other news, my new friends and I finally (it’d been months) had another game night! Well, we played Shanghai instead of DnD, but it was really what we all needed; and C. wasn’t finished with the DM setup anyway. The only one who’d played (Shanghai, that is) before was K., but everybody else knew general rummy rules and compared it, much like you did, to Phase 10. I brought Rubio’s fish tacos for everybody, which, since it was a Tuesday, was one helluva deal. Except W. who had to have a veggie burrito because he’s watching his weight and going to wrestler-training. Yeah, don’t ask. (Love ya buddy!) Also the huskies got along as usual, playing and exploring the new house. 

It was a wonderful night. We drank beer and played cards and laughed hysterically at all kinds of nonsense and randomness – from metal band antics to spur-of-the-moment-made-up-songs. It was just as fun as the game-nights we had with cousin J. and her gang, for those few years while she was close by. For the first time in a long time, I felt genuinely happy again.

Am I allowed to?

You’re not with us. You would have brought perfect balance to the group, with your eclectic sense of humor, your way of saying or quoting off-the-wall things, and your proclivity for fumbling words in a way that was utterly and uniquely you. God how I miss that.

I say you would balance the group out perfectly, because: A. is the accountant, math and numbers expert; C. is the creative type, musician and storyteller; K. is the former-bad-girl-turned-super-sweet-pastor’s-wife and infant nurse; W. is the semi-boisterous intellectual and history buff; I of course, the tech geek and peacemaker; and finally, there would be, should be, you: the psychologist and the empath, the one who knows best how our minds work and how our emotions ebb and flow.

The fact that we all had to get up for work the next day didn’t matter, because we realized that this kind of quality time with friends is too valuable and too infrequent to waste. I mean yes, we still dispersed by 11, but that’s not the point! =) . Also, you would have insisted we get a freakin picture, because we don’t have a single solitary one to post anywhere. But you know, sometimes, that’s the way it should be.

And now, of course, I’m alone again. Sitting to write this journal entry and wondering when or what I might have to regale you with next. Are you even listening anymore? I wish I could tell. I wish I could see you, hold you, kiss you, cry to you, wash this all away in torrents of tears and a tidal wave of lost time. Perhaps you would forgive me. Perhaps I would forgive myself. Perhaps I should try.

I love you. I loved you.

hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness -Desmond Tutu
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Movie Monday: Men In Black 4

Sure, it’s called ‘International’, whatever. It’s still the 4th one.

frank the pug from men in black
No dogs were harmed in the making of this review. Except this one. But he did it to himself. He smoked too much, drank too much, stayed out too late, partied too hard.. you know how these Hollywood types are. I can’t be held responsible. No blood on my hands. Still, I’ll miss the little mutt.

Make no mistake, I’m a fan of the series. The original was, like many Will Smith blockbusters of the late 90s, a force to be reckoned with. The elegance was in the simplicity — Smith at his standard boyishly charming cocky rookie game, Jones as the weathered old wise master, taking on a big bad with the unexpected help of an innocent-victim-turned-almost-femme-fatale. Overseen by Rip Torn at his finest. And Vincent D’whateveryoucallit amped up the ick to 11.

Men in Black Mr Jones and Mr Smith
The original. Accept no substitute.

5 years later, we get a surprisingly decent sequel. Nearly a full cadre of the original actors, and some fresh blood like Rosario Dawson added a healthy ‘oomph’ to the second step in the series. Plus it’s always fun to see Puddy do something ridiculous. Now don’t get me wrong, it was far from perfect, but overall there’s more to like than dislike.

men in black 2 agent J and K in mailman uniform
Spoiler-alert: amnesia (duh)

Another decade, another sequel. The third installment was.. passable. Again, lots of positives. Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson; the touching story of how K first discovered J as a child [spoiler alert!]. A bit more negatives, though — the villain, for one thing. I just couldn’t get past his.. everything. I mean, ‘ick’ is one thing; ‘just plain gross for gross’ sake’ is another. But the “I can see all future possibilities at once and it’s made my brain a little frappuccino-y” dude was really cute, and as I said, the timeline intersection subplot was worthwhile. So would I watch it again? For sure. Would I watch it more than a couple times? Ehhh… maybe, but I wouldn’t be ecstatic about it.

men in black 3 young J with dad's pocket watch
Probably the best scene of the whole film.

Now, we come to 2019. First of all, good luck getting ANY of those people to come back for round 4. I mean, at least one of them is dead. RIP, Rip. (And yes, that was literally on Twitter.) Fair enough; I didn’t really expect to see them anyway. No, this is a departure from the trilogy. This is… well, it’s like a remodeled apartment. The same foundations, the same basic framework, but with a lot of upgrades and a fresh coat of shiny new paint.

For starters, our new headliners — Hemsworth and Thompson (Tessa, not Emma; no relation) — are pretty. But the great thing is, she (particularly) doesn’t need to flaunt it. As the thematic undercurrent alludes to, this is no longer a ‘boys club’. This is the “Men and Women in Black”. A bit unfortunately, she still goes a little schoolgirl ga-ga over him — at first. She doesn’t let it stop her from being a badass, so it all evens out. Props.

men in black 3 chris hemsworth tessa thompson
the beautiful people, the beautiful people…

Now, the villains are immensely superior to anything we’ve yet seen, which is both refreshing and expected. On one hand, we know it’s going to take a lot more to stop them from bringing about our doom; but we kinda had to know that going in, otherwise what’s the point of another sequel? The side-story and featured NPC aliens (that’s RPG-talk for “neutral party characters” i.e. ones that aren’t the main bad-guys but aren’t necessarily at the beckon-call of our heroes either), are pretty decent.

Finally, we have this whole ‘internal intrigue’ / ‘mole in our midst’ plot. To me, it almost seemed like they wanted to make H out to be the mole, but then they wanted us to think it was C, then finally ol’ crusty boss-man. Now, this may seem like responsible mystery storytelling, right? And yes, I get it; you DO want the audience misdirected before you get to the big reveal. Obviously. But that traitor-y vibe, for me, lingered a bit too long on H’s character. I’m not sure if that’s the filmmaker’s fault or mine. Regardless, the storyline definitely does its job in taking us on the journey to a happy ending. It just felt a little too forced.

The thing I’m missing, I think, is the heart — that spirit of wonder and mystery that propelled the first film forward in a way that only truly good sci-fi does. This was more flash than function; more spark than fire. BUT! Still enjoyable. Good times.

And damn if that scene where he picks up the hammer ain’t a perfectly executed self-trolling-cameo.. I mean COME ON! You can’t not love it for at least a few seconds.

Spoiler alert: it’s not quite over…

One thumb up. Have fun out there friends! ❤

Disclaimer: None of these images are mine and I never claimed any rights over/about/related to them whatsoever. 😉

Decisions Made

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Today we have another post from A. Show her some love & support. =)

Now look what happens.

I have been out of work for nearly three years, so I need to look at moving. I really don’t want to move too far, so I started shopping around in a nearby large city for positions. There have been a few that have shown interest, but nothing really has come of it.

So, I shall have to move on. But where?

I have a couple of offers of “a couch and a ride” into the nearest city, but that isn’t always the best idea. One, I know, has a lot of issues on their hands, and I’m uncomfortable adding to the burden, even for a short time. Guess I’m a softy.

There are jobs out there, and lots of them. Right now, the fact that I can’t get hired on at a fast-food place that was seriously understaffed has me doubting a bunch if it’s worth the risk. Then again, I’m a bit older than some of the folks there. The more-local place is just out of range of an easy trip for interviews, and that makes it difficult, even with video, to make sure I’m a good fit without some in-person feedback. This is what comes of both companies and candidates not being accurate with their descriptions and abilities.

I have gotten a listing of jobs, both remote/contract, and in the local area. I need to do something with them, other than stare at the link blankly. But there has been so much on my mind that coming up with a focus is near impossible. This is what it’s like — it is nearly a grief moving this far from home; I never have moved outside of the area I grew up in.

And having support for the time I would need to get established, and in a situation not worse than the one I’m in, is a help.

I guess I’m going for it. But still applying for closer positions, just for my mental comfort. And one of those positions is a possibility. So back onto the merry-go-round we go.

Wish me luck! ❤

red and yellow merry-go-round
Apparently these things cost thousands of dollars! Who knew? ;o)
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Under Fire, Once Again

Have I written on this subject yet? I feel like I have, but it may have been via Facebook or something. Apologies in advance for the language. You’re an adult, you can deal with it. =)

So here we are, in the aftermath of yet another series of deadly, tragic, terrorist shootings. Oh, they were white you say? THEY’RE TERRORISTS. Full stop.

There is no excuse, no rationalization, no equivocating. Just like the radical Islamic terrorists that suicide-bomb the gathering places of those they hate, so too did these white racist extremists assault and slaughter those who they hate, just as vehemently and just as irrationally.

Oh, the 2nd Amendment you say? Well guess what, you ignorant asshole. Assault, automatic, and semiautomatic weapons WEREN’T FREAKING INVENTED when they wrote that. So shove it up your NRA-loving ass. To be clear, I fully support your right to own a handgun and a hunting rifle, after passing a thorough background check, psych eval, and safety training. Heck, I want good people to be able to protect themselves. Concealed carry? Sure! If you’ve proven you’re mentally capable and fully invested in the greater good of society, awesome.

But you look me straight in the eye-holes and tell me that we should sell AK-47s and their ilk on the shelves of Walmart in Texas, or at Bass Pro Shops, with a straight face. Go ahead. Be sure to explain why, too; I’d love to hear it.

Oh, the shooters obtained them illegally you say? NOT THE POINT. Not even CLOSE to the point. Obviously, that whole issue is complex, and we’re not going to solve it by arguing about it on the Internet. But you know how else we won’t solve it? You know how else we’ll make literally zero, even negative, progress toward the goal of reducing this kind of violence and carnage? By doing NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. Just as we’ve continued to do for decades. Because our government is too damn lazy, and too damn full of themselves, and too deep in the pockets of super-PAC lobbyists, to be bothered to get off their old fat asses and do something real about it.

Oh, mental illness you say? Nope. Sure, you’ve gotta be pretty fucked up in the head to do this kind of thing. But there are plenty of mental patients who wouldn’t dream of it. No, this kind of behavior comes from one thing and one thing only: HATE. Pure, unadulterated, fear-based media fueled, fiery political and social rhetoric induced, intolerant, ignorant, bigoted, uneducated, unchecked and unbridled hate.

fear is the path to the dark side. fear leads to anger. anger leads to hate. hate leads to suffering.
No comment necessary.

Now I’m not a psychologist. K had that degree. I’m just a tech geek. But even I can understand that this is a complex and multi-faceted problem that requires critical thinking and hard choices. Mental illness, as a societal ill, is certainly a large problem that we need to wrap our heads around. But again, it’s not the point, and it’s not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about reinforced mentalities and behaviors of intolerance, bigotry, and hatred of fellow humans. And I’m too damn tired of this crap being swept under the rug as if it’s “not news” or “not something we can do anything about.”

You know what the families of these victims are really tired of? INACTION. They’re sick to death (literally) of their government representatives’ plain and simple lack of motivation to DO something about this shit. They don’t want your “thoughts and prayers”. They don’t need your tweets and your Facebook sympathies and your hashtags. They need vindication. They need to know that their loved ones’ deaths will not become yet another sad statistic in an ever-growing black stain on the American dream.

But they will. They already are. Do you know how long it takes for us as a society to “move on” from this kind of shocking tragedy? A day or two. Sometimes less. Isn’t that horrifying? We will have already forgotten about it by the time the next viral trend hits our feeds.

UPDATE: it’s already happening. Everybody’s moved on to this ridiculous “30-50 feral hogs” meme. Shameful. Disgustingly shameful.

Society is broken. Morals are broken. Justice is broken. Do we sit idly by and let it disintegrate further? Or do we stand up and cry out, “Enough!” and take action?

Write, call, and email your representatives. Tell them enough is enough. Action is the only acceptable answer.

And may the victims rest in peace. May their families and friends and loved ones find comfort in each other’s arms, and in their faith, of whatever sect or religion or creed they hold, in this time of unconscionable tragedy. And if you do know any of them personally, reach out and offer your love and support, in a concrete, compassionate, caring manner.

compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering -Dalai Lama
Foreign concept to most people, sadly. Especially politicians.
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A Grief Renewed

It’s been far too long since I journaled. Reading or listening to other authors always seems to help, and lately I’ve been absolutely wrapt by The Phoenix Project (listening via Audible, since I’m not a great reader, and nowhere near as prolific a reader as K. was!) If you work in tech, or with/for/adjacent-to I.T. management, you really should check it out.

This is an incomplete segment of journaling, because there are parts that are only for me. But I share what I can, and I hope that it helps in whatever way it might.

N.

Nearly 3 months have passed since I actually sat down to journal anything. I suppose you could count the couple blog posts, including the one about the dream, and another about how shopping for medicine reminded me of you. So much has happened. And yet, as I’ve come to realize, so little actual progress along this woeful and treacherous journey they call grief.

The simpler things. I helped your brother move into their new house. It’s huge, and new; you would love it and probably be jealous. The downside is that it’s in Yucaipa. It’s one of those “up and coming” areas that seems like they’re doing a lot of new development, but it’s still a far cry from metro-suburbia. I also helped C&A move. They’re my new friends from church, who I feel have become fairly close over the past several months. They have a precocious 2 year old daughter who I’m quite sure you’d adore, just as you did all children of those you loved and cared for. While I’m helping him reorganize his garage, I take a few furniture items off his hands for use here. Not sure what I’ll do with them yet, but it’s fun to imagine working with the solid wood end-tables and turning them into something unique.

I make an appointment with a therapist to start formally and officially dealing with my grief. With the loss of you. Your death. I haven’t said that word much, if at all, since it happened. It felt ugly to me. Yet it is, clinically and factually, the truth. Obviously the spiritual side of things is still very real to me, and I do know that in some ways you watch over me, and in other ways you are far beyond, infinitely blissful in the expanse of Heaven and the cosmos. But at the same time, you are very much absent from my physical life and my worldly happenings. Memories and triggers are all that remain, and pictures, and possessions with which we struggle to know what to do.

Feeling motivated, I make a vet appointment for the dogs to get them updated with their shots and to get them licensed, so that they’re “official” and can visit the amazing doggie-water-park I discovered in Murrieta. I can’t believe how close it was to where we used to live! We could have gone there, if we’d known. Riding the wave of productivity, I get some more debt consolidation work done and adjust some payment schedules. Work even feels more rewarding this week. As I’m writing this on Friday evening, I look back and am happy, for once, at what I accomplished.

And yet…

And yet.

There is an elephant in the room. An ugly one, at that. And it must be dealt with.

One bite at a time.

I hope you can forgive me and help me heal. Send me good thoughts and prayers for the therapy sessions, and try to make sure I stay as open as I claim to be. I love you.

But it was so cute as a baby!! o_@
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Today I Thought of You

Holy good gawd, has it really been 2 weeks? My apologies, dear reader. As the millennials say, “the struggle is real”. Thanks for bearing with me. 😉

N.

Every day I think of you. Today was no different. I was shopping at Target, refilling some of the now empty OTC medicines that we used to go through by the pound — Tylenol, Advil, Benadryl, Zantac, Melatonin, Gas-X. Obviously after October I still had quite a stock-full, but slowly & surely, as I realized that I still need to take care of myself the way you would have wanted me to, I did use them. Aches and pains, upset stomach, insomnia. Most of them help in the way they’re supposed to.

Anyway, this immediately flooded my head with memories. Whether it was with you on one of these hundreds of shopping trips, or bringing them home to you for some much needed relief, or just knowing that you were still looking over my shoulder, gently reminding me that “It’s okay to not be okay.”

I try to stay active, but it’s been hard. The heat wave is killer. Oh we’d be paying heavenly bills right now for A/C, there’s no doubt about that. I’d do it in a heartbeat for you. I’d move the polar ice caps to have you back home with me.

Motivation for work has been a struggle. It’s not that they’re treating me unfair or taking advantage of me, like the old job sometimes did. No, things are great here, still, after over 3 and a half years. Just like you and your mom said they would be. I just can’t seem to find the chutzpa to get up-and-at-it like I used to. Even as recently as a few months ago. Can you help me find it again?

Carry on…
Give me all the strength I need, to carry on.

So let the light guide your way.
Hold every memory as you go.
And every road you take,
Will always lead you home.

It’s been a long day, without you my friend.
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.

Charlie Puth, “See You Again”
its been a long day without you my friend, and i'll tell you all about it when i see you again
❤ always

Privacy: An Abuse of Trust

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Recently, the news has been full of stories showing us that the information we have shared is no longer secure. Everything from user names, to full financial details of purchases, has become open to public scrutiny. We have lost trust in established social platforms, and are asked to confront the idea that, every day, whatever we do, wherever we are, our information, movements, and activities may be available to whomever wished to find them.

There are a few areas where a bit more oversight — in a world where nearly anything can be found — that would serve the citizens of the US better. There are still avenues that, due to regulations, can be used to harass, annoy, and cause future legal problems for those that the original intention was to help.

And I’m not talking the person in your HOA that thinks your grass is the wrong color. Those are an issue, to be sure. Having a regulated set of standards, in a time when it is quite possible that, say, newcomers to an area might lose their jobs (due to a shifting economy), without a way to appeal or range of options to remedy, is a sure way to not only cause resentment, but actually damage a person’s options for the future. I’ve seen some vindictive people that will gossip without foundation just because someone doesn’t ‘fit in’ with what they think the group should be like.

But that is a discussion for another time.

The example I’m thinking of is the reporting of suspected abuse of either children or the elderly. Those that are the subject of these reports, and the consequences of the action — or inaction — have affected multiple generations. Some of the reports have been actual issues, some are out of a sense of vengeance, and a few are based on legal or medical requirements. But all are treated with the same care, and are still dependent on the personal outlook of the investigator, and the ‘accepted’ but unstated standards of care that exist.

The departments receiving said reports, under whatever name, are not transparent in the least, nor do they seem to do verification. I know of a case where there were upwards of 20 reports within 24 hours — all done by three people. This lasted until legal action was proposed, because after multiple months of this, it had become harassment. I know that stopped it for this specific targeted person, but I know for a fact that the calls continued, and then the focus was shifted to another target.

One would think that after having the calls from a specific person — since the name of the reporting party had to be collected for potential future litigation, in this quantity — said agency would flag them as a possible vengeance caller. I know for a fact that that person continues to report to this day; so apparently multiple years of calls from this person is still not enough to set a filter/flag for possible bias. And we wonder why our courts and agencies are overloaded!

you are being watched warning-sign
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Um, no, not if you’re a dick.

The consequences of a proven abuse, even a minor one, are far-reaching. A lot of the complaints could be cured by access to a better job; which would give them the money to avoid working more than one job, and not having the energy to spend on fixing the problems. However, once that report is verified — even for something as minor as “the kids have dirty clothes’ — the parent is thereafter forbidden to work with any children, or elderly, and the parent(s) could be fired from their job instantly. Look at the options left — they are ones that require training, or are minimum wage. Which does not help.

Nor, at least here, can this ever be removed from someone’s record — so it has consequences even decades into the future. Even if the agency is satisfied, there is no provision to remove it, other than a short paragraph that can be added to explain extenuating circumstances. As far as I can tell, this is not provided routinely; it has to be specially requested.

This is not to say all such reports are false — far from it. But the theory that a 10 minute visit is enough to determine “this is safe” or not, on the level of care that is being offered, is a fallacy. In contrast to the above issue, there was one one young person being abused, by multiple people, and none of those sent to verify the situation saw anything wrong — and it was only when the child was old enough to not be of interest (to the abusers) did this cease. The parents have their actions vindicated, the child is damaged, and the future grandchildren, if any, will be not allowed to visit grandparents on that side — with good reason. I have little if any idea of what the parenting style would be for them.

These unspoken expectations are one of the areas that need to be spelled out, and provided, to those who have had reports made against them. For example, here where I live, I know it is ‘expected’ that you attend church regularly. There is no provision for those who work Sundays, or don’t have one of their faith available. Nor is this an ‘official’ requirement of the report-taking agencies. But I have seen that — even if all the things they state they want are done — if you don’t attend church, there is no chance that a (reportedly abused) child will be returned (from state custody), or the focus will be removed from your home, even if/when those reports were completely unfounded and false.

What’s the solution? I don’t have all the answers. But some sort of filter/flagging system on those that file reports needs to be made — especially if it is a person who is constantly doing so. Also, more training, and an awareness that your standards and biases may affect how you see things. Perhaps a note to all who call in that they will be summoned to court to account for their report, or charged with false reporting, might save many person-hours of both the agencies and the court system.

Honestly, the flat-out refusal to reveal who is doing the reporting, after many false reports, strips away one’s trust in both friends and neighbors, as well as the agencies themselves. At which point, they (the purveyors of constant false reports) have won. They can now directly influence how you act, like an invisible hand-of-God, an ever-present threat to your social standing should you fail to live up to their unspoken standards.

Not to mention the possible removal of children, who then find themselves expected to fit into a different family — and may not get to see their own for months — which, again, adds stress to all parties, and decreases the trust and bonds that may have been hard work to establish.

Now, if you see yourself in this story, and think “But I’m trying to help!”, please consider what your reaction would be if, out of the blue, you had someone show up on your doorstep, wanting to look around your house, asking invasive questions — and refusing to explain, other than “someone reported you”, why they are there.

man with clipboard at front door of woman's house
Hi, I’m here because someone reported you.. for BEING AWESOME!
-Said nobody ever. But wouldn’t that be nice?
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Rant: Google Photos

I don’t mean to go on a rant here.. Oh wait, yes I do.

But first, context!

Some of what I’ve been doing for the past several months is taking inventory and selling the somewhat sizable collections of collectible items that K had amassed over the past several years. I call it “spreading her sparkle out into the world.” To be clear, I don’t sell them because I feel the need to, nor because I don’t want things around that are hers / remind me of her. On the contrary, I LOVE being surrounded by her favorite things and the things that brought her joy and happiness. And we, as her family, always keep the treasures that we want the most, the things that speak to our souls and warm our hearts. But in some instances K had indeed went just a tad bit overboard with the collecting. To be sure, she did plan on re-selling most of them eventually, so it’s well within her expectations that I’d be doing the same, as long as I (and we) keep the most meaningful pieces at ‘home’.

Anyway, the point of all that was just to give you the background on why I’m about to moan & groan, whine & complain, and raise my angry fist and pitchfork at Google for their horrendously bad implementation of what should be — and IS, in another (or more unified) tech-ecosystem — a simple workflow (ordered set of related tasks).

The Workflow

Here’s what I want to do.

  1. Take pictures with my iPhone.
  2. Upload/copy them into {cloud account of choice}.
  3. Create a new {cloud account} photo album from my recently uploaded photos.
  4. Share that {cloud} photo album with family/friends/etc.

Sounds stupidly simple, no? WELL! This is a story all about how my life got flip-turned upside-down Google screwed this up, and how Microsoft actually did it much better.

Well OF COURSE you had trouble, you luddite! Everyone knows that you just need to stay within the Apple ecosystem and everything will be happiness sunshine kittens and rainbows!

Sheeple

Yeah.. no. That’s not the point. Apple exposes the same APIs to both of these other vendors, and as limited as they may be, Microsoft still did better in its cross-platform-usability-ness. Plus, this is 2019. No single vendor gets to mandate that tired old ‘walled garden’ approach anymore and hope to survive. So don’t gimme that nonsense.

First, the “good” implementation.

Now, when I go into the iOS Photos app, I can select many photos at once and hit a ‘Share’ button at the bottom-left of the screen. The list of apps to ‘Share’ with, or more accurately through, is dynamic based on how many photos you’ve selected. Microsoft OneDrive’s limit is 30. Wow, that’s cool! Some apps, like Mail and Notes, seem to have no limit (or at least a very high one). Sadly, Google Drive’s limit is 10.

But this is where I’d normally start Task 2. In iOS Photos, select pics, hit ‘Share’, and upload to {cloud service of your choice}. So as I said, with OneDrive, I pick 30 at a time and upload away. Great! And they get there FAST, too.

Now I go open up the OneDrive app. My photos are present, exactly where I put them. At the bottom right of the app, there’s the ‘Photos’ section (tab, screen, whatever you wanna call it). I go there, I select the photos, I hit the three-vertical-dots (‘Options’ is probably what they’d call it) at the top-right, I say “Create Photo Album” and give it a name. BOOM! I hit the Albums button, I select my new album, & I hit the ‘Share’ button (top-right again, just not quite as far to the right as the 3-dots). BAM! I can send it via text message, email, share it to Facebook, whatever. Life is good!

Now the terrible one.

Right, so as I said, the limit on how may pics from iOS Photos can be Shared to Google Drive is 10. Oh and guess what else? Google Photos isn’t even an option here. They literally didn’t integrate it. LAME.

But fine, I can do 10 at a time; I only have about 40 for the current project. So I select, hit Share, hit Google Drive, pick my folder to deposit them in, and go. And… sad trombone. Some of them failed! “Please try again.”

Not trusting that uploading the same pics again won’t result in duplicates, I pull out the trusty laptop, fire up the web browser, and head to Google Drive to check what succeeded and what didn’t. And I re-do just the ones that were missed. And then I wait. Because for whatever unholy reason, Google’s tubes are slower than Microsoft’s; the OneDrive wait was about 2 seconds; the Google wait is about 10, for all of the pics to show up online.

Cool, now for the album. So I have a folder in Drive with all these pics that I want to put into an album, but, uh… where’s the option to do that? Yeah, IT’S NOT THERE. Sad trombone #2. Oh go ahead, you can try to find it yourself. I’ll wait. While you’re there, check out this absolute garbage help-article that includes a pointer to the now-obsolete option that this article tells us is going away.

(Said pointer being, from drive.google.com, go to the gear (upper right), hit Settings, and enable “Create a Google Photos folder”. Don’t do it now; it’s obsolete, like I said!)

Confused yet? Great, we’re on the same page! To the Interwebs for answers! Oh god. OH GOD. They’re even more confused than we are! Somebody call Google. Wait… you can’t. You literally can’t.

Let’s back up and take a deep breath. There’s gotta be a better way, right? So instead, I go now to photos.google.com, hit the ‘hamburger menu’ (top left; yep, gotta love that lack of consistency!), hit Settings (the gear). AHA! There it is, the option to “Sync photos & videos from Google Drive”. Do we have liftoff? Eehh…

Okay yes, the photos are starting to show up at the top of my main screen (photos.google.com) — again, now I’m in laptop-land, not fiddling with the phone at this point. So I select the pics, starting with the little semi-transparent checkbox in the upper left of the first photo — then and ONLY THEN am I allowed to use my Shift key to select many at once. Then I hit the ‘Plus’ button in the upper right and say “Add to Album”. Give it a name, presto.

Ooh, I can actually “Add to new Shared Album” and immediately be prompted for who to share it with… but OH WAIT, this is on the laptop, I can’t send it in a text message. (At least, not without getting the link first and then somehow sending it to my phone, which is another process that’s way more complicated than it should be at this point in our tech revolution, but I digress.)

Let’s check things out from the iPhone again. So I open up the Google Photos app, and… WTF? Why do I see duplicates? Aaaahh.. Some have the ‘crossed-out cloud’ symbol, aka the ‘not in cloud’ or ‘offline’ symbol. Those are the ones on my device (my iPhone) ONLY, whereas the others (with no symbol on them) are in Google Photos cloud already.

Riiiiight.. cuz THAT’S not confusing for someone who wouldn’t know any better. So now if I wanted to create my new album to share, straight from here (the app), I’d have to be very careful about selecting the correct pics — the ones without the ‘offline’ symbol.

Fortunately, I’d already created the album using my web-browser on the laptop, so all I had to do was go to Albums, select it, hit the 3-dots menu in the upper right (horizontal, not vertical like Microsoft.. surprise!), hit Share, and do the usual (text message, email, Facebook, copy link, etc).

Don’t be confused by the list of Contacts that show up here either — those are your Google account contacts, not your phone’s. (Well, at least, not your iPhone’s, aka your iCloud contacts — people with real phone numbers that you can text. Your Google contacts are, most likely, just emails, unless you’re a super-nerd and keep everything in-sync between the two, which is just plain bananas!) (Apologies for the ear-worm.)

Hmm, now wait a minute, I have these photos both in Google Drive and in Google Photos. I’m pretty sure, if I read the help articles right (which is a big ‘IF’ because they’re, again, surprisingly baffling), they ALL (both) count against my storage quota. (Well, if I don’t go off and enable the ‘high quality’ storage option where Google claims to offer free unlimited photo storage if you let their robots compress your pics a little bit.) But anyway, storage. O noes! I better go to delete them from Drive. So I do that, just before half-heartedly checking Google Photos again to make sure they didn’t disappear as a result. Thankfully they did not. Phew.

Wow, is it beer time yet?

Seriously, does it need to be this complicated? Google, you got some smart-ass people working for you. I mean, some of the best and brightest. Can you maybe make some of this experience less terrible? Plz? K thx.

Haters Gonna Hate

Because I couldn’t resist just one more ear-worm. And because someone will inevitably say “Well you know Nate, you could have just done it all with iOS Photos and iCloud Photo Sharing and iCloud Shared Albums” and lah-tee-dah and tea & crumpets and matching space-grey turtlenecks and BLECCHHH. Not the point. Also, wake me up when Apple starts offering more than 5GB of cloud storage for free like EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE ENTIRE FREAKING INDUSTRY.

OK I’m done. Have a pleasant week everyone! ❤

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In Less Than An Hour…

We all have our traditions. If you’re American like me, one of them probably involves doing a barbecue, and seeing some fireworks (or launching some of your own, if they’re legal in your county/city), tomorrow on July 4th. My wife and I usually did that too.

I’d like to share with you another tradition, which I think was a little more unique to us, or to her rather. It was also super adorable and always made me giggle.

Many of you know the 1996 sci-fi classic Independence Day. Will Smith, Bill Pullman (underrated actor, btw), Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid, Judd Hirsch, and that poor actress that nobody remembers. And Data, being charmingly creepy as usual. It’s a wonderful, highly quotable (“Yes yes, yes, without the ‘oops’!”) summer blockbuster alien-flick with just the right amount of cheese.

For reference, this is entirely too much cheese. For anything. Ever.

Our tradition was that we’d watch this movie together, on or around the 4th. She’d actually been doing this before she met me, regaling her family with quoted lines and re-enactments of key moments.

But the best part, the very most endearing, silly, and charming thing she did, was this: She would recite, word-for-word, that ridiculous fervent patriotic hype-up-the-troops speech which the president gives to his combat pilots just before the climactic aerial battle that defines the film’s final act. And of course we’d all applaud her like we were just as amped as those soldiers about to fly to their collective doom. (Spoiler alert!)

I mean, they don’t ALL die, but if you expected more than a few key characters.. and the token rando.. to walk out alive, you obviously don’t know how these scenarios play out. =P

And so, without further ado, I present to you, that speech. Because it’s awesome. And she was awesome for doing it, for making us laugh, and for brining us together with joy and love.

President Whitmore: Good morning.

[PA doesn’t work; it wasn’t on. He turns it on.]

President Whitmore: Good morning.

In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world; And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind.

“Mankind…” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests.

Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist.

And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive!

Today, we celebrate, our Independence Day!

Sometimes, you just wanna blow crap up…

If you’ve never seen the movie, do yourself a favor and watch it (on Hulu!). It’s just good old fashioned 90s sci-fi fun. And it actually holds up pretty well for its age.

Now go have an enjoyable, safe holiday weekend! Or, as Harry Connick Jr’s character would say…

Let’s kick the tires and light the fires, big daddy!

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Movie Monday: The Hustle

Hey kids, it’s that time again!

What time is it?

Time for a movie review! Try to contain your excitement.

the hustle movie poster
Promises, promises…

High Expectations

Both of these actresses are fabulous. I mean, neither one is everybody’s cup o’ tea, but they have terrific screen presence and charisma. Just look at Ocean’s 8 or Pitch Perfect. There’s a lot of potential here, given the vast difference in their appearance and demeanor (as characters, specifically, but also in general). Although, let’s face it, Wilson is very much a character-actor and doesn’t have nearly the range that Hathaway does.

The trailers gave us some really good lines about women being underestimated and using that to their advantage, with some hilarious “Rebel blunders” to guffaw at. And while the premise of the master grifter teaching the amateur the art of the con is not new, it does generally make for compelling cinema, when done right. However, when you take that formula too far off the rails, you can end up in cheese-land.

Sub-par Results

The problem here is that we get too deep too fast.

That’s what SHE said!

Right, anyway. What I mean is, there doesn’t seem to be a truly compelling reason for Jo (Hathaway) to take Penny (Wilson) under her wing. We’re just kind of shoehorned into it, like “Yep, that’s the way it is now, keep that train a’rollin’!”. Similarly, the main motivator (turf war, really?) for their ultimate “gentleman’s wager” really doesn’t seem that crucial to the story. Nor does the target, the silicon valley whiz-kid. Again, taking a page from the Ocean’s trilogy, why not just compete for the sake of competition?

And then there’s the whole she-Gollum shtick, which just didn’t work for me. It’s nothing against the actors or the writing… They’re leaning too far into the whole “Rebel Wilson isn’t really attractive” angle. Right? But I get it, that’s the characterization — Jo is sophisticated high-class elegance and Penny is the opposite. I’m completely on-board with that; I merely wanted to see more variety in the cons, not the same few tropes replayed.

Happy Endings

Spoiler alert! No, just kidding. I won’t actually tell you what happened. I will say that it wasn’t that bad. It was a little unnecessary, a little forced, sure. But overall, fairly satisfactory.

The Verdict

Meh. The ~48% audience-score on Rotten Tomatoes feels about right. It’s not a terrible movie! It’s just not that fantastic either. Worth a theater visit or a $4.99 rental? No, definitely not. Worth a spot on your watch-list when it comes to streaming-ville? Sure.

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Just a Quick Note

Hi all, hope you enjoyed the guest post last week. I just returned from a week’s vacation, so at the moment I have no new posts to push out. I hope to resume my normal schedule by Friday. Twice per week is actually quite a difficult pace to maintain, so I think I’ll drop to just weekly, either Mondays or Fridays depending… (on what, no clue!)

Thanks again for hangin in there with me and for reading. It means a lot. Leave a comment if you have any ideas on what I should write about, or any questions or rants you’d like me to read. Love & light ❤

if my husky doesn't like you, i probably won't either
Someone should buy me this shirt.

Reaching Life Goals – One at a Time

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Recently, I found the list of goals I had made in high school, and despaired at the time. I took a look at some continuing education classes offered, both locally, and nationally. With overlapping requirements, as well as those things I didn’t have to have a degree in (like some of the gardening and basic education areas), I came to the conclusion that I would finish school sometime in my 80’s. And for one that is looking forward to a life full of excitement and learning, that was a bit much. So I tossed the list aside, and started studying only a few of the things there.

However, I’ve found a reason to start on one of those goals: I need to understand multiple languages. I had German, French, Italian and Spanish listed, because that was what was referenced in a book I was reading.

And yes, at that point, Esperanto would be simple. 🙂

Deciding on this, plus the potential of shifting location to near the Canadian border — and the probability that there would be those around me that spoke French — I started looking around for resources to learn. Having tried both Spanish and German in school, I knew that was no the way for me to learn language.

I found several resources, and a delightful assistant (not specifically in this area — he was trying to get me to express opinions, even if incorrect, so I could be taught) in Roman Podolyan, who was generous enough to share a video that encouraged me to start back on this list. And, I’m slowly applying it to other areas in my life.

There have been many other helps along the way — likely present all along, but since I wasn’t paying attention to them, they slipped by without making an impression. Now that I am looking for them, they are common. And welcomed!

So, I am working on getting at least one of those goals finished — and well before I’m 80! Also, there are many other areas that I have been able to say “Yes, I can do this” with the explosion of internet resources.

What have you always wanted to do, that you now notice that you are doing or working toward?

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Layers, Masks, and Shades

Nope, this isn’t a Photoshop / photo-editing post. Catchy title though, right? No, it’s about what we all do in our online social profiles and presence and content. Including me. Yes, dear reader, even this is but one of many layers; a mask, perhaps at times; a shade of one of many colors that comprise the entirety of this person that is me.

Layers

You all know the quote from the original Shrek. He’s got layers, like an onion. Not like a parfait. Or a cake. An onion. Because he’s smelly and slightly bitter. Turns out, this analogy works quite well for a human, too. I mean sure, some of us are less bitter than others — you’ve got your sweet Vidalia onions too. But the point is that you don’t get to see the inner layers until you’ve peeled away or broken through the other layers.

onions have layers, ogres have layers.
And you can tell your parfait to kiss my big green arse!
(Pretty sure Shrek never said that, but I’d like to think he thought it, at least.)

Trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, cuts us deep, often piercing right through nearly all of those layers at once. Which is why it brings out the worst and the best in people, sometimes even both simultaneously. Yet, as any living organism will do, we try to heal ourselves as rapidly as possible. Often that means masking some of the more ugly scars or unsightly layers with something that’s not quite pure, not quite “genuine grade-A self”. Over time, eventually, hopefully, those impostor layers get replaced by what truly belongs there, within and about us as a person, and we, in colloquial terms, “become whole”.

Of course, the analogy doesn’t hold up completely at that point. When you lose a spouse, a child, or someone who meant the world to you in some similar way, you’re never really “whole” again, because that person had become a part of you. Their layers had intermingled with yours; you had become this sort of freakish hybrid double-onion that doesn’t really exist in nature. (Or maybe it does; I’m not National Geographic.) So it’s not a perfect metaphor, but it’s alright.

Masks

All the world’s indeed a stage
And we are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another’s audience
Outside the gilded cage

Rush, Limelight

We all put on a mask sometimes, intentionally or otherwise. To get us through the day, the week; to hide the fact that we can’t stand one more tantrum or meltdown from a cranky 2 year old; to pretend that we’re “doing fine” when our heart wants to scream out in pain. This is especially true in grief, where the world’s expectation is that you “must live on” and “honor the memory” of your lost loved one.

But what if the mask’s purpose were reversed? What if the mask was a facade of grief, and the face behind it was secretly, surprisingly, despite the odds and expectations, actually thriving? No, surely this does not happen. Does it?

all of wear masks, full quote by Sarah Connor
From the show “The Sarah Connor Chronicles”, according to Reddit.

Shades

As a literary device, a ‘shade’ is often a ghost or spectre. It represents a lost remnant of a person, a soul that has not found rest, or that has been called back from the grave against its will. Apt, I should say, for a griever to consider. We often try to “bring back” our loved one in some form, be it a memorial service, a shrine, a re-living of their favorite activity or adventure. But these are not “the real” him/her, not even close.

Luminous beings are we! Not this.. crude matter.

Yoda, Empire Strikes Back

We are, indeed, an amalgamation of so many colors and hues, of light and dark. You see the bright spots, most often, on social media; the “highlight reel”, the colors that we want others to see the most. Not the darker, more mysterious, less appealing colors of our personal rainbow. Those, we hold close to the vest, only willing to let them show under the utmost trust and confidence.

Occasionally, they slip out, unintentionally. They fly off with a spark and we’re left to contrive some socially acceptable explanation, some attempt to quell the tide of contempt that it brought upon us, as if everyone else has never had those same dark inscrutable colors escape from their own personal paint palette. Oh trust me, they have.

What’s your point?

Touché. I suppose I needed to fill some space, and had thoughts swirling around my head. Nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes and we try to do better. Often we fail. But sometimes — oh rare but glorious sometimes — we succeed. ❤

it's okay to not be okay sometimes
TinyBuddha is kinda neat for this sort of thing. 🙂
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Little Moments

Since I forgot to prepare something for Friday, these are few random tidbits from my grief journal about little things that remind me of her, sometimes catching me off-guard. I hope that you may find some solace in knowing that they happen to every griever, in a million unexpected ways.

N.

I found myself talking back to a movie like we used to do. It was Shooter, with your boyfriend Marky-Mark (Wahlberg). Such a fantastic movie. But as I was talking to it, I caught myself in a moment as if you were with me. Then it faded just as quickly. We won’t ever do that together again.

This sunburn spot below my neck is driving me insane. You would have reminded me to put on sunscreen for the snow. I miss your reminders. I love you.

After they leave, I gather my strength for one last clean sweep of the old apartment. I purge a little more, I stow the rest in the pickup, sweep and sweep, and finally say goodbye. There is no emotion nor attachment left to this place. You are gone from it; you are with me, but above me, like the subtle hint of rainbows spilling across the sky yet touching the ground somewhere undefined. I know that no matter how close I come to the source, I will not find it again.

As I’m sifting through our old gadgets, I reminisce about our early days. There was that infamous call from the peak of Mount Lassen when I went camping the summer of 2008, just after we’d started talking – the “smile ten-miles wide”. I can still recall that first ten-mile-wide smile on your warm inviting face, those deep steel-blue eyes, that sunny blond hair and sun-kissed California skin. Life began that day. And ended the day you passed away. Nothing in this world will ever be as beautiful as you.

rare fire rainbow in cloud formaion
Called a “fire rainbow“, rare and beautiful.
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A Letter to an Absentee Father

Let me be perfectly clear. This is NOT about my own father nor about my immediate family. Anybody who knows me knows that I damn-near idolize my father (most of the time, heh!). This is a collection of observations and thoughts regarding a general problem that I’ve been in close proximity to with some notable frequency and duration.

This shouldn’t be all depressing, though. June is, after all, the month of Father’s Day. So if you’re reading this and you think, “Hmm, I haven’t talked to my Dad in a while. Maybe I should try to talk it out, try to forgive him a little, and see if we can still make things work.” — DO IT. Life’s too short.

Or, if you’re like me and you love your dad, TELL HIM. Tell him why; why you admire him and respect him, why you wanted to be like him when you grew up. He loves to hear that sort of thing; it makes his heart swell with pride and joy.

Love and peace, friends.

N.

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t continue to be the peace-maker, the bridge-repairer, the message-passer. You need to make an effort. A true, unabashed effort. Make it personal. You say you’ve called? Call more. You say you’ve left messages? Leave more. Leave them until their voice-mail is full. And then text. EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. Hell, maybe more. Don’t just say “Hey it’s Dad, call me.” You’re gonna need to apologize. You’re gonna need to grovel, even. You’re not going to like it. It’s going to be hard work, difficult and painful. And I can’t say the words for you. But try starting with something like this.

“I love you, son/daughter. I’m so sorry for everything. I want to try to be a part of your life again. And your kids’ lives — my grandkids. It hurts me to know that they’re growing up without knowing who I am. I know that I messed up. I know that you don’t want to give me another chance. I know that it’s not my right to ask you to. But I’m begging you. Please let me try to repair things. Let us try. Please.”

Do you understand why it’s come to this? Do you really get it? You weren’t there. You ignored them in their times of greatest need, and would not celebrate with them in their achievements. You abandoned your family because you could not work out your relationship with your wife. You refused to believe that she had their best interests at heart, or that you still could try, despite your newfound contempt for their mother. Which, by the way, was largely baseless. Sure, nobody’s perfect, but you made no effort to be the bigger person, to apologize with grace and to carry on with dignity. To remain the best father you could be to your kids, even when you were no longer a husband.

And now you want to make amends. NOW you want to set things right. Most of them have written you off. Most of them call you a lost cause. I’ve seen both sides. I’ve heard your hurt, and I’ve seen their struggles. But I’m not them. I’m merely an outside observer, a desperately-attempting-to-be-neutral party. I’m not the one who needs to hear your side. THEY are. HE is. SHE is.

That’s why this is going to be so difficult. That’s why this is going to be so painful. They’re not going to build you half a bridge as you build yours. You need to build THE ENTIRE THING. The whole bridge, down to the very last stone if you must. Maybe you’ll get lucky. Maybe once they see how far you’re willing to go, how much toil and sweat and tears you’re willing to expend, they’ll be ready to lay down a few bricks too. MAYBE.

But if they don’t? You better keep going. You better not give up. You better wipe that sweat off your crackled brow, dry those tears from your tired eyes, hoist that depressingly heavy hammer, and keep on layin’ that brick. Because if they see you give up now, they truly WILL be done with you. You WILL be that lost cause. And you won’t see those grandkids. And you won’t have anywhere to go, or anyone to come and see you, when you’re old and gray, and needing that little sparkle of joy once in a while just to keep you from collapsing in your retirement-home rocking chair and never getting up again.

And I’m sorry it’s come to this. I really am. I wish that I could help you more. I wish that I could build that bridge for you, even just a little. I wish that I could be that peace-maker, that man who stands in the middle of the great divide and says “Come, let us sit and take fellowship together, and let our past transgressions be forgiven, as difficult as that may be. Let us break bread and drink, and become family once more as we were, while we — while you, specifically — have what little time may yet be given us.”

But I can’t. I’m not. And I won’t. This is on you. As awful and terrifying and cosmic as that may sound. It’s ALL on you.

The choice is yours. Make it right.

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Another Dream

My subconscious must be in denial. I saw you come back to me. As though you had simply gone missing for months, but returned alive and well. I told you of many things that happened while you were away. Including, of all the strangely random things, the results of your .. not colonoscopy, but that similar thing where they make you swallow a camera and then take a bunch of pictures of your digestive tract and stuff. Which you really did have done not that long ago.

We embraced, but it was fleeting. We spoke with words of silence and in quickly forgotten whispers. Then we settled back into some oddly normal routine. You asked me to make you a fruit smoothie. Also with a tiny camera in it. Apparently you weren’t satisfied with the results the first time?

And then, as most dreams do, it got strange..er. We were in bed; a night had passed. I was trying to get up. I did, and you had rolled over into my spot and lay there sleeping so peacefully, comfortably. I stroked your arm and whispered a word of comfort as it looked like you had a bad dream for a second. Scene re-set. I’m trying to get up from the same position again, barely able to move. You’re no longer there. I stumble and turn back to see myself still sleeping on the bed. Not you. No more you.

Scene re-set. I’m stuck in a position but trying to get up again; the dog is next to the bed, but when I finally wrest myself from the pillow and stand, the dog is on the bed too — a replica? Scene re-set. This time I’m truly struggling to get up and awake. One more time. Some kind of strange background noise, almost like elevator music, seems to have been playing on repeat this whole time; I get a flash of an announcer-style voice saying “thank you for trying such-and-such wake-up tunes; this has been a free trial, but if you’d like more, please call and subscribe.” The hell? I literally drag myself out of the bed one last time, barely moving, almost purposefully trying to fall over to cause some kind of jolting motion in hopes that, like Inception, it will trigger a “real” wake-up.

It does. And I’m alone. Well, except for the dog. And she’s not replicating, thank God.

six husky puppies
THEY’RE SOOO FLUFFY I COULD DIIIEE!!
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A Duel of Wit, part 2

Here is the rest of last week’s poem from K. It’s fantastically clever, in my opinion. Moving too. However, I seem to be missing a page. There is mention of three riddles but this only covers the last two. And “the gentleman retorted” to something but we’ll never know exactly what. Still, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Love and light. ❤

N.

And the gentleman retorted “I have come to wage a duel,
To confirm that my intelligence is far above a fool.”

“Now I’m sure I heard you wrongly – thou has voyaged here in vain,
To engage thy wits in combat just to classify your brain?”

“Thou may mock my motivation, but I’m known throughout the land
For the genius that I govern and the quickness I command.

Does thou fancy thee deserving of the challenge I propose?”
“Very well, my bold opponent – I accept it, I suppose.”

“Oh how wonderful!” he rallied through the rapture in his voice,
“Thou has granted me a purpose by the nature of thy choice.”

“I’m contented to oblige you, but I’m sure that you will see,
I am truly not the intellect you hold me here to be…”

“Let us start!”, he said, “But start at what? – You’ve yet to choose a game
That will prove the greater aptitude upon the victor’s name.”

“Very well,” the man responded, “as it follows we shall play:
I will ask of you these riddles to embark us on our way.”

“Please commence with thy enigmas – I will truly try to win.”
“Listen carefully, my rival – let the duel of wit begin.

‘Three informants, clad in black – running forward, never back;
All unknowing where they’re going – simply following the track.

One is thinner than the others, he is young and fast of pace –
Clearly swifter than his brothers in this never-ending race.

Then the runner in the middle, standing tallest of the three,
Is the second of the triplet that we always seem to see.

For the one of most attention is the shortest and the last –
Tells most slowly in the mention of the moments that have passed.

Always going, always there – they, the victims of our stare;
These familiar friends of time and space that keep us in their care.'”

With that rhythmical advancement of the colored man’s design,
He asked of his opponent, “Give your answer or resign!”

“Thou art truly apt and skillful in the puzzles you invent!
But I fancy me familiar with the riddle you present.

Yes, I guess of thee the mystery you read to me in rhyme,
That the answer can and only be the triple hands of Time!”

Now, enraged by his continual decipher of the maze,
Twas forced of him his last of strength to camouflage his rage.

“Does thou think of thee so clever that can scoff at what I ask?!
Well, I challenge thy discernment with this third and final task! –

‘Tis a thing of great importance when its features are not known,
Yet a thing of little interest when the face of it is shown!'”

His breath was short and labored as he spoke the final line,
Then he leaned a little forward and awaited a decline.

But a moment past the brief and blunt recital he had made,
The opponent now responded with a logic he relayed:

“Such a transient accretion to the two achieved before.
Though no lesser of confusion that the prior pair had wore!

The solution, I imagine, is unlike the common lot –
‘Tis a thing of great importance when you know its features not…’

Not an answer of the riddles in the books upon my shelf –
Why the answer to your riddle is a Riddle in itself!”

Bloomed a sudden realization that occurred upon the two:
One aware of his achievement, while the other sank in rue.

The aggressor fell in failure, on the ground upon his knees –
“Dear sir, from whence thy wisdom comes, I’m forced to question, please…”

And the winner, only humbled by the victory achieved,
Looked upon his fallen partner whose disdain had taken leave.

“Through the toils of our endeavors hide the wonders of the land.
These astonishments reveal themselves to those who understand

That the greatest revelations will be shown to an elite:
Those who welcome comprehension and dispose of their conceit.

Walk in modesty of knowledge and the wisdom will appear;
Go ye softly through the clamor and the music you shall hear.”

Movie Review: Hellboy (2019)

Featuredhellboy 2019 panoramic movie poster

It’s been 15 years since the original Guillermo Del Toro adaptation of the comic-book anti-hero Hellboy, a demon-prince-turned-good-guy who fights the forces of darkness for us here on Earth because he was raised to be SUCH A GOOD BOY! by his adopted father. And if that premise sounds cheesy to you, these movies are probably not your cup of tea. However, Del Toro is a master of his craft, and can turn just about anything into a decent movie, if not a visually striking and emotionally compelling film proper.

Have you SEEN Mama, Splice, or Crimson Peak? Go watch them. Srsly. Especially Crimson Peak.

So quite obviously, the remake/reboot/whatever-you-want-to-call-it drew heavy comparison and criticism for not “living up to” or “being as good as” its predecessor. Most remakes do. But this review isn’t about that (mostly). I’m also NOT a comic book reader; thus, I have absolutely no basis to relate either movie to their comic counterparts, nor to judge them based on how closely they resemble them. And frankly I don’t care. A movie is a movie, nothing less, nothing more.

Cool? Great, let’s get down to it.

The Good

There are a lot of things to like here in this 2019 reboot. The actors are charismatic and well-cast, and their chemistry is good. The creature design is stunning and otherworldly, in some ways harkening back to the Fae world of Maleficent, albeit with a much darker evil bent. With an R rating, we get a hefty helping of satisfyingly gory action and blood violence — the giant fights are super crunchy — all set against a thumping soundtrack that reminds us not to take it all too seriously. It is, after all, fantasy.

As most reboots do, it attempts to pay tribute to and acknowledge its origins. We get the infamous “horn-breaker” scene, the flashback to Rasputin’s occult-fueled demon-portal-opening (despite the horrible interjection of a completely unnecessary character; more on that in a minute), and even a direct re-quote with “Hey! I’m on your side!”

Then of course we have the inner turmoil of the Hellboy character himself — If he’s a monster himself, why does he fight monsters; does he really belong in this world? SO EMO. The dialogue and sub-story there is fairly satisfactory, if a little overplayed. I mean, he’s gonna have a tantrum at some point — that’s a given — but did it have to be so angsty? But ultimately he does, as we expect, lean on the teachings of his father and make the right choice.

so emo youtuber
Can you FEEL my feels??

The Bad

Unfortunately, there are plenty of things to dislike, too. Pacing and consistency of ambiance being one (or two?). Half the time I felt like I was watching a blood-pumping action flick, another third of the time felt like a grimdark horror-fantasy, and the other.. whatever fraction is left.. of the time, I wasn’t sure how to feel. It wasn’t necessarily jarring, but it was definitely noticeable. My favorite scene, though, by far, was the very end, where our three protagonists just rampage through a baddie hideout to the tune of Kickstart My Heart.

Secondly. Ugh.. CGI. When will Hollywood re-learn that “less is more”? Have we just lost the magic of practical effects and the kind of backbreaking work that went into VFX masterpieces like Lord of the Rings and The Walking Dead? I guess it’s just cheaper these days to throw everything at the supercomputers. And to be fair, it’s usually just fine. But there IS such a thing as over-use. The Star Wars prequels (1-3) did it, probably even before it was a trope; and here, it’s a bit over-the-top. And the problem, when that happens, is that it takes you out of the fantasy that you’re supposed to be engrossed in and enjoying.

A small nit. Plot-holes don’t generally bother me too much. But the amount of blood sweat & tears that went into finding out this key piece of information — that the Blood Queen would return to the exact same spot in which she was slain, to be reborn, was pretty ludicrous. I mean, was that not obvious to anyone, EVER?

well like duh
Ya think?!?

The Ugly

Speaking of ugly, Baba Yaga? Gawd, I needed to shower after her main scenes. Shudder. If they were going for gross, they really nailed it. Anyway.

I have two major problems with this movie. One of them is likely dismissed as “but they were being faithful to the comics” — again, don’t care, but that’s fine if it helps you. The other is such a teeny part of the movie that it’s not a deal-breaker; I just need to point it out because of how god-awful it was before I took a minute to purge it from my brain so I could enjoy the rest of the show.

Firstly, the likely-dismissed problem. Mixing too many mythologies. Good lord, am I watching a King Arthur retcon, a Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland, if you’re completely unaware) spin-off, or freakin’ Hellboy?!? Pick something and stick with it! The sword in the stone is now a key to the demon apocalypse? Really? And don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the character of Alice, but did we need the explicitly emphasized call-out to the rest of the Carroll-verse? I think I could have lived without it.

Secondly, the teeny part that drove me bonkers for half a minute. In the flashback to Rasputin’s demon-portal-summoning-ritual, the Nazis are ambushed by an Allied hero named “The Lobster”. He’s supposedly this super-elite soldier-hero commando. But… OH. MY. GOD. The cheese on this character.. you could cut it with a damn Pampered Chef knife. “Beware my claws!”?? No. Just no.

Also, the body-count during this little scuffle (same scene) was unsatisfactorily low. Especially at the hands of the legendary evil assassin Karl Kroenen, who, while shown on screen, is not named nor hardly acknowledged; which again, is fine, since it doesn’t fit this narrative, but still! You know, he has blade-arms, wears a menacing black faceless mask, and is really half-machine and runs on some weird combination of pocket-sand and black-magic…

I’m not bitter, I swear!

The Verdict

One thumb up. Despite my criticisms above, it’s still a decent movie — if you go into it without lofty expectations and don’t try to compare it to Del Toro’s work. It’s a fun little supernatural action romp through vaguely familiar territory, mixed with some brand-new characters and blended mythos that feel mostly complete, if a little rushed. Reminds me a bit of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which had the good fortune of NOT trying to “live up to” any precedent or source material.

Plans for a sequel? The ending scene points to “maybe” — they discover an aqua tank with a nameplate that keen viewers will recognize as a reference to Abe Sapien, the half-man-half-fish character from the original film. However, due the abysmal box-office performance, it’s not likely to materialize. And that’s not a bad thing. =)

New vs. old. They each had their merits. And you can definitely see the maturation of costume-makeup.
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A Duel of Wit

I’d like to share another one of K’s works. Sadly, it is also incomplete. As was her life here with us. She and I had so much left to do, to experience together, to share. But these little pieces of her that she left behind for me to find, do, for a brief moment, by a small fraction of measure, help heal my soul. And I hope they do so for yours.

N.

The paths of two equal and opposite men
Had crossed on an evening so fair.
The wind was aloft in her heavenly den, 
And soft was the breath of her hair. 

Each equally clever and gifted in thought,
The men had agreed to a duel – 
A match to determine the answer they sought: 
Which one of the two was the fool? 

A gentleman clad in exacting extremes, 
Consisting of darkness and light: 
A monochromatic portrayal of schemes, 
From black to the starkest of white. 

A colorful figure of yellows and blues, 
With bold interruptions of red: 
Symbolic of all in the spectrum of hues, 
From down on his shoes to his head. 

And so they contended to reap the reward 
Of bearing a title so grand, 
But only the sharpest of wit would accord 
The rank that the both would demand. 

The paths of this equal and opposite pair 
Had crossed on a unit in time. 
And during this moment the couple would share 
A daring discussion of rhyme.

It is here that we see a gap, a break in the verse and the tempo. There must have been a missing page, which I of course regret not being able to find. The poem does continue, albeit with a different meter and rhyming scheme. Thus, I will share that with you next time. Until then, love and light. ❤

battle of wits from princess bride
Inconceivable!
(Sorry my love, I had to.) 😉
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A Letter to My Favorite Band

And now for something completely different.

This is something of a love-letter, to the band that defined my teenage years and still, even into adulthood, continues to be on regular rotation in my playlist. A band that almost none of you have likely heard of, let alone have heard their music. They never received much radio play. Nor did they garner much media attention. Until they reunited and launched a Kickstarter campaign to tour and ultimately self-produce a brand new album, which at the time and in their particular market was nearly unheard-of.

Growing up, my exposure to music was, let’s say, sheltered.  Quite.  My parents pretty much listened to Country and Churchy music with little exception.  You’d think, having grown up in the 60s – 70s, they’d have at least a bit of disco or classic rock in their repertoire, but nope.  Randy Travis, Clint Black, Alan Jackson, Reba McIntire, Shania Twain, etc.  Now, as most children of the 90s did, us kids had a boom box — a combination CD player, tape player, and AM/FM radio.  And what did we do with this?  Mix tapes, obviously!  But it was never much of a “mix”.  I’d try to ask for the “jazziest” songs from the various western albums.  My dad even branched out to Steven Curtis Chapman and some no-name Christian soft-rap-rock-worship hybrid mess.

Then some of the other kids in the youth group introduced us to DC Talk, the Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, Skillet, and other acts of the late 90s contemporary Christian alt-rock spinoff movement.  This was where Switchfoot and P.O.D. got their start, you know; before they sold out to corporate or got caught with their pants around their ankles.  These were okay, but ultimately forgettable, like so many waves on the sand.

My friend Michael, from across the street, had an older brother, Brian.  One day when I was over, waiting for Michael to do something, Brian let me come check out his CD collection and his computer games.  I asked if he had any music recommendations, and he pulled out a few albums by this band I’d obviously never heard of called Five Iron Frenzy.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

I was in eighth grade; appropriate, since the first line of a verse in one of these songs was exactly that.  Brian loaned me their first three CDs.  I knew the parents would approve because they were a Christian band, but I’d never heard of this “ska” genre before.  Five Iron Frenzy’s album art was wonderfully done: deceptively simple hand drawings that held such deeper weight behind them.  I got them home to the boombox, and popped in the first disc.  From the blast of that distorted guitar chord, the blare of those horns, and that absolutely biting sarcasm of the intro track, ‘Old West’, I was hooked.  Between the boombox and a couple disc-mans (disc-men?), those CDs played dozens of times throughout my teens and early 20s.

In sophomore year, their next album came out, and boy was I excited.  All the Hype That Money Can Buy was the first CD I bought with my very own dough, hard-earned at the Burger King down the street.  Being a Colorado based band, they were heavily influenced by the Columbine school shooting, which shined through in the track ‘A New Hope’.  Once, in college, thinking I was being profound, I would sneak into one of those larger lecture halls and write the lyrics to its refrain on the big chalk board for the next attendees to find and ponder.  “Peace floods us, by hope we steer; our dark hearts salvaged, we live without fear.”  That line can still give me goosebumps.  Although, it’s not quite as impactful as the conclusion to The End is Near‘s ‘On Distant Shores’, which cleverly calls back to their second album’s final track, and builds to such breathtaking catharsis that I can still feel the lump in my throat every time I sing along with it. But more on that in a minute.

Later, in 2001 or early 2002, I was lucky enough to attend their concert at the Glass House in Riverside, CA.  I even made an iron-on tee with their name on it to wear to the show.  They were horribly late to start; I think we stood there almost an hour and half past the scheduled time.  But it was worth it.  Super high energy, loud, slightly mosh-y, and all my new favorite songs.  I would later come to realize that they weren’t all that spectacular as a live act — they tended to rush tempo during shows to get more songs out in a limited time, and the quality suffered a bit — but still, that was a memorable evening.

Let me take you on a little journey through the ‘FIF’ (as their fans affectionately abbreviated) albums themselves, in a small tribute to the journey of musical discovery that they sparked for me.

five iron frenzy upbeats and beatdowns album cover
The O.G.

The first album, Upbeats and Beatdowns, seethed with sardonic wit like nothing I’d ever heard before, in tracks such as ‘Old West’ and ‘Beautiful America’.  It juxtaposed nicely with the humble sincerity of ‘Where Zero Meets Fifteen’ and ‘Milestone’.  And heck if I don’t belt out those la-la-la’s from ‘Cool Enough for You’ every single time.  Sure, there were some throwaways, like ‘Combat Chuck’, and they suffered a bit from the lack of lyrical enunciation, like most third wave ska did at some point in their career, but it was pretty solid.

five iron frenzy
This one really sticks out to me.

That first album was good, but the second, Our Newest Album Ever, blew me away.  More cutting sarcasm in ‘Handbook for the Sellout’ and ‘Fist Full of Sand’, more silly antics like ‘Where is Micah?’ and ‘Oh Canada’, and more heartfelt sincerity in ‘Suckerpunch’ and ‘Second Season’.  This is where their own little inside-meme began with ‘Blue Comb 78’.  You could also see a developing theme in ‘Banner Year’, where for the second time in as many albums, they denounced the historically covered-up atrocities committed against Native Americans.  But the crown jewel has to be ‘Every New Day’, the final track, which takes upon itself the pressure of striving to be a good example of God’s love yet trying to just fit in with your peers, and builds it up only to release it again with the realization that it’s perfectly okay to not be perfect.

Most listeners, outside the die-hard fans, could be forgiven for forgetting about Quantity is Job 1.  It wasn’t really an album, technically; it was an ‘EP’, old-timey record-store lingo for ‘Extended Play’, meaning somewhere between an ‘Single’ and an full ‘LP’ album.  It mostly consisted of seven-ish tracks parodying all different musical styles with a ridiculous ‘Whose pants are these?’ mini-song.  The two shining stars here have to be ‘One Girl Army’, a sharp anti-chauvinism tune that gave their lone female member a well-deserved spotlight, and ‘All That is Good’, an encouragement to be more open-minded and think critically in the face of blind dogma.  Also, I used the innocently hopeful theme of ‘Dandelions’ as an inspiration for an English paper.

five iron frenzy all the hype album cover
So much ridiculosity ❤

Now, as I said, when their next album released, my anticipation was high.  When I brought home that maddeningly shrink-wrapped disc and its bright orange themed cover with a funny little picture of a white guy in a fro trying to dunk a basketball, I knew this was going to be good.  But I had no idea what I was in for.  It starts with some truly upbeat positivity in ‘The Greatest Story’ and ‘Solidarity’, and you can sense the Latin influence in some salsa-esque beats as their producer yips and yelps ‘Oi!’, culminating in the decidedly Hispanic-flavored ‘Hurricanes’.  We get some expected silliness, and a bit of hair-metal, in ‘Phantom Mullet’, and a self-deprecating banjo-twanged song about their home state.  Plus a batch of freshly crisp criticism of the church’s bigotry and inbuilt phobias in ‘Fahrenheit’ and ‘Four-Fifty-One’.

It wasn’t until ‘Giants’, the bleak outcry against mega-corporations’ takeover of society, that the subtly subversive hook truly sunk in for good.  I knew that I needed more.  And the title track ‘All The Hype’ surely delivered.  Followed by a seemingly random cover of ‘It’s Not Unusual’, which ends hilariously with Reese saying ‘more reverb!’ as his ears get pummeled by bad guitar outros.  Finally, we have the concluding tracks, ‘A New Hope’ and ‘World Without End’.  There is a palpable pain there from the school shooting that, in manifesting our worst fears, seems to have become an American trend.  Yet, it ultimately gives way to a heartfelt peace and love, expressed as a choral refrain with bells, for a reassuring sense that everything will eventually be alright.

The mature thing to do, I suppose… group portrait.

By this time, the band was maturing, knowing that the ska wave of the 90s was ending, so they made a small shift towards pop-punk (with horns).  If the previous album was a whimsical mish-mash of musical experimentation, this was a truly polished experience with a consistent theme and sound.  Vol. 2: Electric Boogaloo, as the name would suggest, signaled a reinvention, a sequel that would be different enough yet still true to its roots; and unlike the movie, not widely regarded as terrible.  This is the album that embossed their talents well, and established that they were not just some passing fad.  The self-deprecating humor returned in ‘Pre-Ex Girlfriend’ and ‘You Can’t Handle This’, the struggle of attempting to live a Godly life in ‘Spartan’ and ‘Eulogy’, and the inveigh upon immoral practices in the name of religion through ‘Blue Mix’ and ‘The Day We Killed’.  Much like ‘Giants’ in the previous album, ‘Vultures’, another blighting critique of excessive capitalism, tipped my fandom from a ten to an eleven.

Three years went by.  College, other musical discoveries, my palette shifting to classic rock.  Yet their special place in my heart never grew cold.  Unfortunately, through some bad combination of ignorance, busyness with college, and obsession with Warcraft 3, I completely missed the fact that they quit touring in 2003.  They released the double-disc set The End Is Here in 2004, a culmination of their last studio album and their final concert from their hometown of Denver.  I learned about it a few years later from a coworker, and while I was a little heartbroken that they were gone, I was absolutely enamored with the work itself.

Right from the start, the blast of ‘Cannonball’ kicks up your eardrums with aplomb.  ‘New Years Eve’ feels so incredibly true-to-life that I literally thought it was about me.  Of course there’s the usual fun antics with ‘At Least I’m Not Like All Those Other Old Guys’ and ‘Wizard Needs Food Badly’.  The searing criticisms, first of religious dogmatism/legalism with ‘Farewell to Arms’, then of fear-based news media in ‘Anchors Away’, still hit home more than a decade later.  And ‘Something Like Laughter’ serves up another faithful reminder that Feminism is not anti-Christian, and visa-versa.

Finally, we come to ‘On Distant Shores’.  At first, it sounds a little too upbeat to be goodbye.  But as it builds, the permeating theme of divine forgiveness in the face of failure, which ultimately defines much of their catalog, rings truer than ever before.  With such beautiful poetry, the pulsing acknowledgement that what we do with our lives is so often marred with selfish intent and shortcomings, cathartically transforms into that quintessential refrain from ‘Every New Day’, as both the listener and the band itself are invited to rest their weary heads in the solace of God’s infinite love and mercy.  In this understanding that every day we live is another gift — another opportunity to build up our fellow man and woman instead of tear them down, and to be that light, however dim or scratched or scarred, to a world that so desperately needs it.

Beautifully simple

Since then, I will admit that I originally missed out on their Kickstarter-fueled 2013 reunion and album Engine of a Million Plots.  Yet, thanks to that same coworker and fellow fan, I knew of it, and I gave it a solid listen.  So far, ‘Battle Dancing Unicorns with Glitter’ is my favorite song title of recent history, and it’s the one that’s stuck in my head at the moment.  ‘Zen and the Art of Xenophobia’ is perhaps their most biting critique of American cultural pitfalls to date, which feels hauntingly prophetic when you realize that it was written before the Trump White House.  And ‘Into Your Veins’ turns the self-parody up to eleven, as they proclaim to feed your addiction to their very words, knowing full-well that it’s a completely ludicrous notion.

Truly, Five Iron has always been ahead of their time.  And as they go about their mid-lives, hold down actual careers while balancing the occasional weekend concert or two, and reflect back on their glory days, I hope they will remember them as fondly as I do.  Because their music had soul, in a market where, ironically, that was lacking; and silliness, in a market that often took itself way too seriously.  It had an encouraging undercurrent of questioning the status-quo, which, however aged and comfortable we become with our tired traditions, is essential to an active mind and a productive person.  Above all, may they never lose sight of what made them great in the first place: love.  For each other, for God, for the youth, for people in general.  And for the sometimes thankless, seemingly futile task of trying to bring some spark of peace and hope to those around them.  Indeed, ‘It Was Beautiful.’

sunset at beach with palm trees
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Stumbles I’ve Learned From

Today we have another guest post from Arlene! Show her lots of love. =)

I belong to several professional groups just for members with a certain outlook, either contained within a larger group, or a separate one. These allow a bit of social interaction where certain words, terms and expectations are common to the group. I still belong to some wider ones – and sometimes I forget that not everyone knows how software works; other than what they hear on the news or have read about.

In looking over the groups recently, there seems to be an emerging awareness of identity and what we do with it – outside of creating, in some spaces, a personal brand around some aspects of that identity.

One of the people shared a link to Identity Stories, and I thought I might share a couple of my related experiences, in hopes that my awkward blunders would bring awareness to others. Or in some situations, at least a smile of empathy. And I’ve made many blunders over the years – along with a few things I did correctly.

One of the ones I handled badly enough to make me blush years later was at a local shop that I frequented. I had brought someone in there, and saw the new hire, with lovely long hair that I instantly envied (both thicker and longer than mine, which was only mid-back at the time) and made the assumption that this was a female. I admit it was bolstered by the fact that the owner had mentioned that he had received only two applicants, both female. I guess I missed this one – the greeting of “Hello, ma’am – It’s good to have you here!” shocked the young man, and it showed on his face when he turned around.

Recovery was slow – looking back, very much too slow. I spent a good five minutes mentally kicking myself for my presumption. Okay, to anyone else, it looked like I was hiding in a corner – and that would have a ring of truth, too. The truth that I had likely hurt his feelings finally came to the forefront of my mind, and I made my way to the front, trying desperately to rehearse what I could say to apologize. What actually came out was parts of three potential things: “I’m an idiot. I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you can forgive me.” None of which was put together, mentally, so I figured I’d failed.

And looking back, the only thing that would have been better was to have said something – anything – then, rather than wander off with my mouth open like an out-of-water fish.

I’ve done this since. I’m looking at a reflection of vested, hard-hatted, and dressed nearly the same construction workers – and one has a full beard – I still sometimes hold the door for “the gentlemen”, even if one is female. The last one that this happened with giggled at me – I had noticed this wasn’t a gentleman, looked horrified, and blushed. Which helped. I need to watch this: the season where workers are out and mud-covered has started, and I am trying to improve.

The one that still baffles me was a blind person with a cane. We were on a narrow temporary walkway while the sidewalk was being refurbished, and I scrunched up on the railing to avoid the cane. (That thing looked like it would hurt! And I didn’t want them to need to apologize for tapping me with it.) I still haven’t figured out a better response – if you know, teach me!

Located where I am, there are not always a lot of different people, nor languages, nor cultures that are obvious (which saddens me). Unlike some here, that try and force a conformity on everyone they meet, I do make an attempt to listen, and empathize as much as possible with people that are unlike me – which, if you think about it, is everyone. If you hear someone making a statement, presume that they do know what they are talking about – context is everything. And empathize. And don’t try and solve the issue, unless asked; they may trust you to simply listen, and let them work it out in their own mind. And now the hard part: be aware of this for a while – you may see it unspoken in other people.

I guess what I’ve learned over the many years is “Mistakes happen. Own up to them quickly, and try and do better. And don’t kick yourself for mistakes, once you’ve acknowledged them.” This applies to so many areas of life; I still have a hard time with this.

Recognizing differences can be a tough thing. Even something as obvious-to-me as the examples I’ve given here, might get overlooked by another, and be deeply effecting for someone else. This is a good place to apply the golden rule of “treat others as you want to be treated,” and take the time to learn from your stumbles.

Excellent and poignant reminders. Always treat others with respect and dignity, and if you aren’t sure how to handle a situation, or you stumble, don’t be afraid to admit it and ask for help! Love & light.

N.
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To The Mom Who Didn’t Have to Wait

Another piece from K. This is a letter to all her fellow women, but specifically to those who are either ignorant or insensitive to the issue of infertility. It’s often not purposeful, but it still hurts, and this is one voice willing to stand up and make known something that is difficult to talk about and difficult to hear.

N.

I don’t understand what it’s like. I never will. It’s a foreign concept to me. I don’t understand having a conversation with your husband or significant other regarding the timeline of when you want to have kids, and having it actually go according to plan. I once thought that is how my story would be, but nearly 5 years later and I can tell you, it’s not that way for everyone. 

5 years. Can you imagine waiting that long? The truth is, I don’t want you to imagine. It’s painful and it’s hard. I’m writing because I want you to know how many women all over the world would do anything to be in your shoes, including me. Anything? Yes, anything. Spend tens of thousands of dollars. Inject medications in their bodies daily. Fly across country to see a better doctor. It’s not uncommon for their marriage to be on the line because of the turmoil that infertility brings. 

Or maybe they are like me, and are trying to follow God’s direction, to be still and trust Him for a miracle. Yet it’s been almost 60 months and there is still no miracle. Finances, dreams, hopes and desires are surrendered. And after all that? Still waiting. So many women are still waiting. The reality is that 1 in 8 experience infertility. And even after enduring the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental pain, many women still don’t see that positive test; or if they do, they miscarry, which leads to more pain, and more waiting. 

We are heartbroken. We are crushed. Our bodies are tired. Our minds are tired. Tired of it all. 

To have this dream, that you’ve had since childhood, take so long to fulfill, as you wonder if it ever will be, is really very hard. Especially knowing that same dream comes so easy to so many. Add not being able to leave the house without seeing that one thing desired, dreamed of, and hoped for — seemingly everywhere — that is even harder. 

I am writing you to remind you to consider it a gift and a blessing that your story is not like mine. I am writing you to remind you that, even on the hard days, there are millions of women who would trade places with you in a second. I am writing you to remind you to please be thoughtful of your words. And maybe, instead of complaining that it took you 3 months to conceive, consider it a blessing. Or instead of grumbling that you have 3 children of the same gender, consider it a joy. 

Maybe, instead of complaining of how sick/nauseous/big/uncomfortable/miserable you are, think of those women, myself included, who would gladly feel all that and more, if it meant that, at the end of the journey, we could hold our precious child in our arms.  

Just like I will never understand what it’s like to get pregnant when I want, much less “on accident”, you will never understand what it’s like to wait, painfully and longingly. Our stories are very different, and I find peace in that. But whatever stage of motherhood you are in, please remember the ones who are waiting — the moms in-the-making. 

There are women are all over the world who, month after month, even year after year, are told “not yet”. And just like every month before, we have to pick up the pieces, and hope that next month will be different. Hope against hope, for a month that will end with joy, instead of heartache. A month that will end with celebration, instead of tears. A month that will end with a positive pregnancy test, instead of another period. 

Finally, please remember, this is not directed ‘at‘ anybody, so don’t take it that way. This subject is supremely hard to talk about. It’s not that I want to talk about it; it’s a very private matter, for the most part. I don’t ask for your sympathy or condolences or anything like that. I merely ask that you take a moment, before you post yet again, to consider those women, like me, who silently hurt, as they read and hear the constant pregnancy/baby-centric buzz around them, from their friends and loved ones. And who cry out against the unyielding night, “Why, God? Why not me?”

infertility awareness stock photo
Frustration often leads to depression and resentment.

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Help! Outlook Keeps Asking for Password!

Yes, my friends, occasionally the world of tech will spill into this blog as well. But this is not related to my career at all; this is something I experienced while helping out a family member. And I thought I would share the frustration — and the solution.

The Problem

He has a Microsoft account, based on a Hotmail address. There are 3 devices: his phone, an old laptop running Office 2013, and a new laptop running Office 365. He has some work email accounts, which all remained working fine, plus the personal email — that being the Hotmail account in question.

One day, he does.. something. Let’s say he forgot the password, or perhaps typed it incorrectly too many times. This leads to a slight spiral of confusing actions, involving a password reset and a recovery code, which he faithfully, per instruction, prints on a physical piece of paper (not that we ever needed it). However, something is still amiss.

downward spiral staircase
down, down, down we go!

Outlook 2013 is now continually prompting him for his password, for the Hotmail account. Strangely, also, this old machine still lets him log on to Windows with the old password, even though it’s running Windows 10 under the MS account (not a local user account).

His phone still receives and sends emails just fine — he didn’t even have to re-enter the password there, as far as I know. Also strange. Or perhaps he did re-enter it at some point shortly after he re-set it, but forgot to mention it. Who knows. The point is, he can’t get his personal emails in Outlook anymore, on the old laptop.

Nor the new one, as it turns out. He just hadn’t tried it until I got there. So during my troubleshooting efforts, we turned on the Surface and discovered it, too, in Outlook 365, continually begged for his password, which we of course entered correctly, to no avail.

I tried a lot of troubleshooting, including repairing the account in Outlook’s account properties, removing it and re-registering it, and even removing it from Windows entirely, followed by setting it up again. None of that worked of course.

The Solution

The actual solution is rather boring, as it turns out. It just took us forever to arrive at it, because MS in no way made it at all obvious, nor provided any direction toward it, until I actually asked for help with Outlook’s support-chat snap-in. The agent replied next-day, which meant I had to tell my uncle to literally let his Surface sit out, open, on, logged-in, all night. Thank God for TeamViewer, is all I can say.

What we found out, thanks to the agent, is that he (the user, not the agent) had somehow enabled Two-Step Verification. This was NOT OBVIOUS anywhere. What it means, apparently, is that after you enter your password, you’ll need a security code that either gets texted to you or uses the MS Authenticator apon your smartphone. This is very similar to Two-Factor Auth, but not exactly the same.

red apple and green apple
Apple-to-apple…ish

So where do you go to check on this? Again, not obvious. Go to your MS account page in a browser — https://account.microsoft.com/. Then click on ‘Security’, of course. Then.. uhh.. wait, there are only 3 big buttons here. “Change password”, “Update your security Info”, and “Review recent activity”. Well those don’t sound like what I want. Maybe the 2nd one, kinda? Nope.

Read the fine-print. I mean it’s not “fine print” like super-dinky legal jargon, but small enough compared to those big 3 buttons that most people would overlook it. Right underneath it says this:

Done with the basics? Explore more security options to help keep your account secure.

MS Clippy

Yep, there you go. Once you click that link, ‘Two-step verification’ is the 2nd option on the list. So, once we disabled that, he was back in business — his current (recently changed) password was now the only thing needed to configure/re-connect all Outlook apps to his Hotmail account.

But Why?

More specifically, why is this a thing? Well, 2-factor authentication is actually a very good practice, security-wise. For example, when you log in to your bank’s website from a computer that you don’t normally use to do so, they generally want to text/call/email you with a “security code” to make sure it’s really you. Awesome! That means if someone guessed your password, they still couldn’t get in, because if you got that text/call/email while you yourself weren’t logging in to do some banking, you’d say “Not today, Satan!” and deny that sucker.

Now, let’s take the Microsoft account. Sure, it probably has some pretty important stuff — billing info, for one thing, if you’ve ever bought anything from them, like Office 365, or a game on the Xbox. But even if not, there’s still a lot of your personal info there. Plus, your email itself can be used for nefarious purposes, such as.. oh right, that banking example! If you hadn’t set up your phone as a “2-factor auth” contact-point, they might be using your email to send you those security-codes. And if you’re no longer the only pair of eyeballs on your inbox.. Ruh-roh.

scooby-doo ruh-roh
Jinkies!

So is this “Two-step verification” thing with your MS account all bad? No, of course not. Like anything, consider it holistically with the rest of your online presence and identity management. If you’re particularly worried about hackers, and you understand the trade-offs, go ahead and use it. If you’re fairly confident in your password strength, and you don’t have a ton of ‘risky’ information/connections involved in the account, maybe it’s overkill.

I personally use the MS Authenticator app, because I work in IT and it’s something I’m accustomed to. I have a lot of devices, and I know that the risk of me losing one is higher than most. But this family member’s situation is much more limited and much simpler. Therefore, we decided, he can live just fine without it; all he needs to remember is his password.

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A Prologue to Faeries

This is something that K began to write after she had started discovering her inner talents and her spiritual connections. Sadly, it remains incomplete — a prologue to a story that will never exist, at least not in this world. Perhaps some day when I see her again, I will be able to sit beside her feet, and listen to the wondrous story that her beautiful mind had only just begun dreaming up, before she was abruptly taken from us. I know that she has long since finished this tale, and looks forward to telling it in full, to those who have ears willing to truly listen.

N.

“Once upon a time”, they say… As if there was only that one time.  As if it has long passed into the fields of long-ago.  But what if that Once Upon a Time is now, eternal; and what if your time to be in that Faerytale place has returned… because in that once-upon-a-time world, that place of enchantment, you and I could move between the worlds with ease and trust.  And when we grow tired and older, and we are heavy of heart, we would take ourselves to a tree and lie down upon our mother the earth. 

All trees are sacred, but this one was older and wiser than even the oaks.  A sacred thorn tree under whose branches we would go to sleep, and dream of bright realms.  A place where faeries dwelled, and healed, and charmed us back to health and wholeness; where the heavy weights that were bound about our hearts were unlocked, one by one, with faery keys.  And how we laughed and feasted, and loved, while in this realm. 

And when we were whole, and wild, and healed again, we awoke under that same tree, and knew that we were returned from a realm where time has a different meaning.  Where life has enchantment.  Where flowers speak and animals teach, and where our faery kin had rewoven the energies of the world into shining, beautiful shapes. 

For the truth is that our faery kin have, for aeons, cleansed and brightened the skies, have whispered “grow” to the crops that feed us, and shielded the old forests from the gaze of those who would hunt them for their wood.  And when we had been given the key to the faery realm, we too were strong in body, mind and soul, and we danced under the moonlight and were bathed in the bliss of life.  We weaved the energy between the stones; we knew how to shape time. 

We allowed ourselves to go into the faery realm to be reborn, made whole and clean again.  For there we could rest, and be revived again to our whole self.  And when we were strong in our relationship with our faery-kin, oh how we shone!  For we were bright, and we glowed with our connection to the source of all goodness and light. 

And then, well… and then.  It is time.  It is that Once Upon a Time again.  Time to return to our relationship with the wild places, the bright ones, the faeries, and our wildish scenes.  For as we do, miracles of healing will occur.  Just as faeries cleanse and purify the water, the air, the earth, the fire, and the spirit, when we reweave our sacred alliance with the faery realms, we too begin to heal.  From our sadness, our loneliness.  From our hearts that cry out for the poetry that is the soul of the world.

If you yearn to shine once again, if you wish to reclaim the heart of you, who knows how to be well, to be happy, to be whole… If you wish to clear illness, guilt, and untruths from your life, and truly, deeply heal and transform, then this story is your set of keys to that faery realm.  And there you will be reborn. 

This story is the key to those wildish places where not only can you be restored, but you will find sacred union, connection, true health and wholeness.  Be blessed, enter this enchanted place and be prepared for your heart to fill, your souls to sing, and your body to fill with the energy of the wild green world.  Take the key, and keep it safe.  And know that you are welcome to return to these realms, and come home to us again, beloved, as often and as long as your spirit desires.

forest fairy in white, sleeping

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A Grief Observed, part 7

This will likely be the final ‘official’ entry from my grief journal. The number seven has some special significance, so it seems a good place to put the final post. I will of course continue to journal privately, and to work on other forms of writing, such as stories and anecdotes. For those of you who have read this far, thank you. I hope that it has helped you in some small way. Love and light to you.

The Wake

Family gathers at B’s house afterwards. I eat something, a relatively bland sandwich. I wish someone would have brilliantly thought to bring in La Costa, but I supposed that could be expensive. Still, it would have been nice to have some of their chips and salsa at least. Oh well. Someone from my mom’s side of the family snuck in Fireball whiskey. Yeesh.

The flowers are still so pretty; we all brought them over from the funeral. Your mom is going to make some kind of smaller arrangements and things with them, perhaps even something involving dried petals, so I overheard.

My side of the family decides to head out to a local bar, and makes sure that I know they want me to come along. So I stay with yours for a while at B’s, then head over to State Bar in Redlands. It proves a bit difficult to find, mostly due to the parking situation and the fact that today is Thursday, Farmer’s Market day, which I totally forgot. But I find them anyway with K’s help. They shove food and some alcohol at me when I get there. Which is probably a good thing, considering how little I’ve eaten recently. Although I do get pretty bloated later.

I drive myself & Z home. K decides we need more alcohol. So we run to the store to pick up that plus a few snacky things. Then we play Shanghai. I may have won. Time is so strange now. It seems like it should be hours later than it is, but the days get lost or skipped in my brain.

The remembrance cards are so pretty. I love that your mom did those all herself. With D’s help maybe? You were such a graphic designer, I’m sure you could put ours to shame. I know that you’d be highly disappointed with my slideshows just for the lack of collages and variety (and general picture quality, perhaps). What could we do? You were taken away from us without warning.

a million words would not bring you back

 

 

The Days After the Memorial

Now the days get worse. I ache, I feel unrested. Parents try to make a nice breakfast but I can’t eat too much. Still, I try. 

Sleeping, actually doing better now. The dogs still wake us all up at 6 or 7, but at least I can go back to sleep without a second pill. The house gets warmer than I’d like but I still have to have your Unicorn blanket on me. 

Saturday morning I decide to join the parents in their ritual of Starbucks and Great Harvest, with their dogs. We don’t take Keira because of how nervous and stressed she’s been. She stays at the house and just pines for me while I’m away, apparently. It’s okay, she’ll get used to things. The sandwiches are really good. You probably would have liked them. And this odd thing I tried from Starbucks, an “almond protein infused cold brew”. Which is actually blended like a frapp, just without whipped cream and stuff.

Then I head up to Corona after stopping by on the cats. Your dad seems to be hanging in there. We do have to talk about the whole living and moving situation sometime soon. He starts but he knows I have to get going.

My stomach is horribly bloated today, it seems. I just feel icky. Before I left the parents, I took Keira on a little jog through the maintenance road behind the houses. I think she did okay, but I was terribly out of shape. My lungs were the problem, I think, which is what K said; not my legs or feet. Even though I did just wear those Vans, since I don’t have actual exercise shoes. Do you think I should start exercising more? I guess so. You wanted to, a long time ago, before you just kept getting sicker and more hurt.

I’m so sorry my baby. I wish I could have helped you more.

Corona is all happy to see us. Keira does great today, even better than before, and everybody is pretty chill. I think running her beforehand helped. 

Today is almost over. I still don’t feel good. My stomach is still knotty. Your mom gave me ranitidine and some other tummy pill. Hopefully it helps. But then I got so hungry again before bed that I had to have of their homemade coleslaw and pasta salad. And a tiny sliver of cheesecake. I probably shouldn’t have done the cheesecake. We both had this problem sometimes, didn’t we? Our eyes bigger than our stomachs. In your case almost literally.

I love you my angel. I know you don’t sleep anymore, that you don’t dream because Heaven is beyond even our best and most wonderful dreams. But please help us rest tonight and please help my tummy feel better.

no tomorrows (poem)
There are no tomorrows.

 

The Week After the Service

Trying to spend more time with family. We play lots of cards. J&M come over one more time on Sunday and we play a large game of Spicy Farkle. It’s a bit of a loud dice game but it can be kinda entertaining. Keira is still doing well and I take her for a jog again, with K, and we both have trouble making our lungs work the last leg.

Dad helps arrange some trucks and help for “storage emptying day”, which is Monday. B comes with his truck and his fake leg, which he is more than happy to tell not one but three stories about taking it off and waving it at people for one reason or another. You would have loved that. We empty the storage unit in one trip and head back to the condo to stack it all in the living room. It’s a bit overwhelming but I’ll work on it slowly. 

Finally, tonight, your dad comes over for dinner. I’m proud of him. Dad grills some really delicious ribeye steaks. I make Mom make the powdered instant potatoes the way you did for that extra fluffiness. Of course your dad talks about old times and the usual, but it’s good for him. I drive him home and then come back to hang out with the siblings for the last time, with another game of, obviously, Shanghai. Then I actually drive home for good, to try to sleep..

My first night back in our bed.

It’s difficult, to say the least.

Keira is obviously missing you too; she sleeps on your side of the bed all night. I wake up at least 3 times. But we get through it. Then your mom actually arrives early Tuesday morning to start cleaning the room and taking clothes home. We have a calm morning organizing things, and then I head out to meet Z for lunch before he goes home. I wanted to stay longer but Mom says she is feeling more connected with you by doing this stuff all day, so I leave her to it.

I was going to come back before dinner but the parents already have it planned, so I check with her before staying, and she’s happy. We play some Starcraft before dinner. Then we have one last card game. I drive home again to get an early bedtime, since I am going into work tomorrow.

The past few days, there’s been an almost overwhelming sense of moving on. Not that I ever will, but it feels that there’s this pressure. Not from people, specifically, but just the universe I guess. It’s hard to explain. I am starting to feel less discomfort and pain, and more of a willingness to get back to work and try to get back into some normal routines.

For the second day in a row, your mom’s cleanup work at home is absolutely stunning. Clothes are almost all gone; bedroom, bathroom, kitchen are all organized; even the dining table is clear! It’s so amazing of her to do this all. I don’t know how she’s doing it, honestly, but it’s either helping her cope or it’s pure adrenaline fumes.

Bed time again. I get Keira up on the bed with me, which I want to keep doing. She was finally able to eat something after I mixed in some beef broth and canned food with her kibble. Hopefully she can continue to get better. She misses you so much. I miss you.

I need you here with me. I keep watching our honeymoon videos on repeat. I need you with me on my upcoming road trip for the tech conference. I need you with me as I fall asleep, as I wake up and get ready for work. But mostly I need your laugh, your smile, your kiss, your embrace. I love you. I loved you.

as long as i breathe you'll be remembered

Always and forever.

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A Grief Observed, part 6

Apologies for the lack of posting last week. Busy schedule. Appropriately, this entry in the journal also comes after a longer pause than usual. It’s about the memorial service. Of all the posts so far, this was the most difficult to re-read and edit.

Week of the Memorial

I have not journaled since last Sunday. We have all tried to keep ourselves super busy, especially me. Mom and I looked at tons of pictures and she helped me pick out her favorites. I had the apparently good idea to share everything with Google Drive. Which meant she needed to log in to her account, but she got it.

Monday I spent with your family again. We finalized some plans after meeting with the funeral director. His name is Bob; he’s very nice. He explains the whole process. I treat it very business-like for some reason. I guess I still don’t believe you’re gone. There’s a lot of moving parts to this thing. Not too many to handle, but enough. Why do I have to do all of this? You are my helper, my person to makes sure I don’t say too much or too little. Fortunately your mom takes on that role for now.

We are happy that she thought of this idea to go to Redlands. Your main home was here. You were always excited to come back here for Cuca’s or Baker’s or La Costa. Or ‘ghetto pizza’, which we pass several times as we navigate to and from the mortuary. “Mortuary” is a strange word right now. I never say the word “funeral” either, during this time. It’s not that I don’t know or understand, I just subconsciously can’t get past the word.

But we are trying to make you proud. The flower shop remembers you and mom and everybody from Soroptimists. They’re very sweet, and D makes sure they have zebra ribbon for your arrangements. Mom sheds some more tears. I know you want us to be okay but we can’t yet. It’s too soon.

I try spending the night in Corona with Keira. She does pretty well at night now, sleeping by me the whole time. I still need a fan on me to sleep. This time I open the window too, which helps make it cooler. It’s still hard without you. I can’t reach over and snuggle you.

Now it’s time to head home to actually start working on your memorial music and slides and things. For realsies. Mom and D are making the cards fully custom, and going to Costco to get a large portrait of you printed. It’s the same picture that I’ve had on my phone background ever since that night. I still can’t say it. You’re coming back. No, you’re in a better place. But I can’t say the D-word.

Keira is happy to be back at the parent’s. She still doesn’t eat; she didn’t eat at all in Corona. But at least here she knows where to bathroom and doesn’t get stressed. I’m still going to take her back up to Corona too. She needs to get used to them.

I stay up way too late. Aunt H and the two Texas girls are out for you, so we have dinner and cards. B&L bring over this super delicious Hawaiian food. I think you would have liked it; it was flavorful but not at all spicy. But the reason I stay up so late is to work on your video. Mom and I painstakingly picked out these songs and pictures. We want to honor you in the best way possible. I’ve been fighting with the technology aspect for too long. You would have told me to stick with one thing and make it work, rather than trying to bounce around between systems. You were always making sure to help me even when I didn’t admit that I needed it.

I drive up to Redlands with K and we listen to music and talk. Some about you, also about me and how we’re handling things. It’s been difficult to open up to some people depending on the subject. She loved you so much, and you know how her attitude has always been. It’s refreshing. Then we get to the mortuary to pay and test the audio and video stuff. It seems to work well. I want your pictures to show on the screens, and your music to play, while people are arriving. Even while we’re seeing you for the last time.

That part is upsetting. We knew that they would prepare your body and make you look nice with the clothes that Mom & D picked out. They did. But you’re so cold. So stiff and cold. I know you’re not here, but I have to say goodbye still. And how much I loved you. I still love you. I will always love you.

After coming back home, I finish making DVD and CD copies. Then I promise everybody I will get some sleep. I try. It’s a little easier tonight, after being done with tech-y things. But still not solid. Keira is sleeping very well though. You would be proud of here, being able to adjust so well here. I worry about here being in her crate all day for the service itself.

Thursday morning, I get up a little early. It feels ephemeral, as if I’m about to go somewhere and do something that can’t possibly be real. But it is very real. I actually need to finish writing my own memorial speech. I guess that’s not the right word. None of this is right. But I use a real pen and your real notebook. I know you were telling me to do it this way, not by typing into the computer and printing something. You knew it would help solidify the words and the fact that you’re gone.

I have to meet in Corona first to change. They say I look nice, and I remember how to tie my tie. I don’t know if you wanted me to wear one but I felt that I wanted to. I decide to drive myself to Redlands, to listen to your music again and prepare myself. I may get there before them, but I sit in the car and gather things up before going in. It looks like Mom & D arrived before me, or at least before I go in. They warn me that you’re there. No, that your body is there, at the front, in the casket. The chapel is lovely, the flowers are so beautiful. You would have loved them. Roses and lilies with zebra ribbon. A few are not coordinated because some family didn’t know of the florist or weren’t told in time.

You still look so beautiful. But you’re cold. And a little waxy. It’s so strange. I’ve never done this before. Even with grandparents, I may have stepped up and seen them but I don’t remember touching them. I kiss your head and hold your hand for a while. We’re all so upset and distraught. I think it did help to see that you were clearly gone. Can I say it yet? I can’t.

I have to keep busy now. Setting up your penguin light-ups and your coloring page [[She colored a beautiful fairy portrait]]. And we try to get the chapel’s sound system to play the music CD I made for you. Music was such a huge part of your life and personality. I feel that you speak to me through it sometimes. I hope you do. The CD player doesn’t seem to be working right; it just keeps repeating the same track. I try to help them fix it, then wonder if some cousin would be available to work it manually. That would suck. Thankfully, I hear they fix it a few minutes later.

Your dad is extremely upset, as is your brother. They know that you’re gone and that there’s nothing left to do, but they loved you so much. We all did. More family starts arriving and we try to hold onto each other to make sure we can pull through. People laugh and cry at our pictures. Especially J, when you’re with S [[her daughter, our niece]], which is often. There are some silly ones too, but thank God nobody found your infamous clown outfit one from Halloween.

The actual service is nice. I feel like we prepared for it, but that we did so in your honor. I don’t want people to acknowledge my work, I want them to see your beautiful face and know how happy you were. You still are. I know you’re up there and so much happier, filled with joy and light and love. But we’re stuck down here, and it’s not fair. Is that selfish? We need your sparkle back in our lives. Nobody in this room will ever forget you, you know that. You touched so many people for the better.

Most of all, me. If not for you, I would never have started writing, nor been blessed with an amazing career move, nor have known your wonderful family, nor developed any sense of fashion or pop culture or pragmatism or generosity. You brought so much positive things to my life, even if you didn’t remember it all. You were never a burden. You were always my person, my heart, my soulmate, my love. I don’t understand why you’re gone.

People tell me I spoke well and I “did great”. Whatever that means. I didn’t start sobbing during my memorial reading, I guess, is what they’re talking about. I did that before. When I was writing to you. You know that, you saw. I just wanted them to see how wonderful you were, how touching your life was, and how sad we all are that it was cut short. Truly before your time. It does not make sense.

We do get one last goodbye with you, just me and your mom. She gently reclaims that cute little gold wine bottle necklace. It’s now a family heirloom. Perhaps it may even have a little bit of you inside it, if it’s an actual container. If not, well, Mom or Barb will always wear it to think of you. But it’s even more apparent that you’re not here. You’ve told us to go on, to be with family, to remember you and to ease our hurt together, to try shedding less tears. Yet each day we are without you, a little piece of us dies again.

you will plan the funeral while in a haze
Fairly accurate. “Happy” is not a word that belongs here, but we do feel that we honored her.

 

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Where Does Our Love Now Go?

Today’s post, since I have no guests this week and I’m off-kilter due to being in Portland much longer than anticipated, is again on the topic of the loss of a loved one. However, I hope that this will be uplifting and positive in a way, a sort of homage to the sparkle of life that K always brought to those around her.

This is inspired by a Facebook post in one of the grief groups I joined. I’ve noticed that, like the person posting, I too have adopted a more humble, generous, kind, patient attitude toward many things, especially other people, particularly friends and family. But also life in general. “Life is too short”, I will find myself saying. To not love fiercely, to not experience wonder, to not bring joy to those you care for.

How can I do this with such a broken heart? K was my everything. The very purpose of my being who I am. Who I was. I am now someone else. But I am still me. What has changed? Well obviously. I mean, what has changed within me that could make me this way? I have a theory.

My heart still loves, still outpours daily with compassion and longing and the desire to bring her happiness. But she is not here to receive it. She knows and watches, from above, of course. And she surely receives a small measure of that love from her place in Heaven. Yet I am an earthly being; thus, my feelings, and by consequence the object of said feelings, are earth-bound. I am also a spiritual being; thus, as I said, some part of that energy does make its way into that realm. But I think not the majority.

Instead, I find myself trying to give outwardly toward others. To be kind to a stranger. To be patient and encouraging with a service worker when they’re having a horrible day. To be less hurried in traffic, and drive at a more leisurely pace. To make sure our families are well taken-care-of, when I have the means to do so. And I feel that this honors K’s memory and spirit. More than that, though, I feel it helps my heart to heal.

K’s imagination was truly boundless, as embodied by her consistently vivid and wild dreams. She was such a self-critic, she had trouble putting things into words. But I know her spirit had just barely begun to venture out beyond the man-made walls and trappings of this mortal comfort-zone. She wanted so badly to be a force of light and joy, and an embodiment of love, for her family and friends. Many times her body and pain held her back. Yet in certain small ways she has been able to be so. In her nieces, the little girls she could not have herself while on this earth, yet who continue to amaze us and warm our hearts every day.

And, I would like to think, in me. By allowing me to become more humble, kind, generous, patient, and loving, towards others. Because the focus point of all of that effort, from me, is now at peace, and soaring through the stars, beyond our wildest imagination, beyond even the inkling of what our most wondrous dreams can touch. Thus, I am allowed to NOT focus on just one point, one person, but on many.

Does this betray or dishonor my love, my beautiful angel, my soulmate, my everything? Hardly. I still grieve for her every day. And she tells me, “I hear you. I love you too. I want you to be happy again. I want you to be the sparkle in their lives now that I cannot be. I will always be with you. I will see you again; but until I do, you must live. For I did die, but you did not. Your time is not yet come, and you have much to do.”

Being a widow/widower is gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, soul-crushing, and inconsolable. However, our loved ones do not want us to dwell in those states of mind and of being. They want to see us become an EVEN BETTER version of ourselves than the amazing version that THEY helped MAKE us! I’ve said it, and it’s been echoed by our loved ones — K made me into the man that I am. And I am truly forever grateful for that. I was blessed to have her for 10 years. It was not nearly enough.

Even now, she wants me to try and be better. I will fail at times; I will stumble and fall. That’s what being human means. But I will try. And she will see, and she will clap, laugh, dance, cry, and sing, from her wondrous place among God’s glorious hosts. And when my time comes, she will be waiting to welcome me with open arms, to say, “I saw you try. And you have honored me.”

the journey does not end here

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A Grief Observed, part 5

I didn’t have a post for last Friday, since I was prepping for a trip out of state to visit family. So today’s post will simply be another grief journal entry, as it would have been on Friday. Hopefully we’ll have another guest-post coming soon too. Thank you for reading as always. Love & light ❤

PS: I want to share another blog with you that really resonates with me; I hope you enjoy it too, especially if you are a widow/widower like us. http://widowofwonder.blogspot.com/

Fourth Night

Then we get back to the house and sis-in-law trims the hair by my ears and neckline before I head home. I don’t run into much traffic and I get home to have some good dinner with the parents, which someone from our old church made and brought over. I write more of this journal. I look at pictures and pick out songs for hours, making sure I have enough to get started and to make it just right for you.

The slide-show and tribute arrangement. You always told me how funny I was about getting projects like this, how detail-oriented I would get. I know you loved how geeky I was, even though you laughed at me. I miss your laugh. Why can’t you laugh for me again? I know you’re laughing and singing in Heaven. I know. It doesn’t always help us down here. But I will try to remember.

Earlier on the drive I called or messaged your four closest friends. I’m happy that D and C can make it, being so local. B will try, but she’s not sure. They are all devastated to hear the news. I have a hard time saying it out loud, but it’s also helpful to cope. And it’s nice to hear their voices and their fondness and memories of you. Even if you did not talk as much a you may have wanted to, they understood, and they loved you. We all loved you. We still do.

Sleep is difficult again. I do use the meds, but it has to be in two shifts again. Keira is doing much better though, happily sleeping on the cool floor beside me. I wake up and eat an ice cream bar before going back to bed. I stare at your picture again. I try talking to you. It’s hard, but I hope you hear me. I love you.

Fourth Day

I go to church with the parents in the morning, after getting up early with Dad and the dogs. They’re doing well today. I have breakfast early, the oatmeal from home; it’s something that feels routine. But I get nauseous again, so I take another nausea pill. I’m glad that you made me take them when necessary, even though it makes me sad that they’re yours. You won’t be able to get them anymore. I guess I will still be able to refill them for a while.

Mom and I go thru Starbucks and then have to drop something off at S’s house. She comes out to give me hugs for you. I drink my Salted Caramel Mocha Frapp, double blended of course. You made fun of me for swirling in the whipped-cream as soon as I could. I loved how I would always get your leftover drinks. I will miss that. My mom has the refillable Starbucks gift card from us that you customized and wrote on for her. She will cherish it even more now. We miss you.

Church is helpful for me. We hadn’t been there in a long time, but everybody loved you still, and misses you. C lost her husband at around our age, so she is a really understanding soul and will be a good support. Many people express their sympathy. And J&M of course, are without words. The junior pastor is actually an old friend of ours from childhood. He prays with me afterward and makes sure I know that he’s always available, as is the grief counseling group that they hold on Thursdays. I might do that. You would have liked his impromptu pre-sermon prayer this morning. There were a lot of people and families dealing with loss, with illness and death, and he felt the need to make sure those bad spirits and negative energies were chased away by love and support and grace.

Your dad wanted to come over for lunch, picking up El Pollo Loco. But he is sick and had to throw up and stuff. I think he’s really not doing well. Even though you weren’t that close, you were his little girl too. So we have J&M over instead, which is nice to see them. We play cribbage and I win. M helps me with some info and tips about dealing with arrangement-related things. She loved you. They all did.

Then I have to go back to the house and our room to pick up a few things, including your laptop and some blankets for your family. It’s difficult, but I don’t stop this time. I do still keep expecting you to come back to the bed. My mom keeps K company and makes sure he’s doing okay. We bring back the spare car for our visiting relatives to have a spare care just in case while they’re here. So many of them are coming on such short notice. It’s a wonderful showing of love and support. You know that you were family to them, to all of them, and they loved you.

I finally talk to cousin J. She’s been having a hard time too, especially since they just moved away. She can’t make it for the service but she’ll try to come down for the weekend to be with us. Her babies are just too much to make last-minute arrangements for. She’s happy to be living in their own place now, after only having to spend a week in the very crowded house of her friend. She loved playing cards with us before they left, and we all laughed so hysterically at your ridiculous penis drawings on the score pad. You won’t play shanghai [rummy] with us again. Why can’t you play cards with us anymore?

the empty chair (poem)

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A Dream Of You

Last night I dreamt you had come back to me. It was as though the last several months were just a ruse, a strange fiction whose purpose and origin were like gossamer on the wind.

You were sitting in bed with me by your side. We talked about your medications as you put them into your organizers. You spilled some on the blanket and I helped you pick them up. We argued briefly about one of them. Why is that the main thing I remember from this dream? That’s not nice.

Couldn’t I have just seen your face, your beautiful smile and loving eyes? Could we not have simply held each other again, your head upon my chest and our hands interlocked? This is how I need to remember you, in my arms, your golden hair caressing my cheek and neck, your soft lips against mine, your warm loving arms wrapped around me as mine around you. To say “I love you” again, not to the air or the portraits or the keyboard and screen, but to YOU, the real you, the you that is my heart, my soul, my mate. What I wouldn’t give for this.

The dream ends and the reality of another day must be faced. Alone, yet unalone. Sometimes it’s much easier to say that than to feel it. Please remember to remind me when you are near. I love you. I loved you.

two lovers embrace in a stormy yet calm sleeping position
To have and to hold…

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A Grief Observed, part 4

Third Night

I give your mom the leopard blanket, and she wraps it around her immediately. It smells like our room. D gets some of your smell & love from it too before bed. I take out the laptop to find some pictures. I sit by Mom’s bed and show her. Some of my own, but we try to look at yours mostly because of how you loved to touch them up and make them pretty.

You never needed anything extra to look beautiful, but you always knew how to shine.

We look at memories of Christmas, Vegas, Wicked, the fair, our families and our nieces and nephews being born. And you were always so happy, even though we couldn’t have our own. Hadn’t. We didn’t know.. But you knew. Somehow. You had faith that we would find a way. It wouldn’t be easy. Your pictures are all I have right now. Thank you for taking so many, for always insisting that we have them even when I didn’t feel like it.  Thank you for making sure that I backed them up when you changed phones and laptops. We have so many pictures of so many good memories together. Mom and I will never forget how many sweet scrapbook-like projects you made for us, for Valentine’s or Mother’s days. You always found the best pictures of everybody, and added your quotes and designs. We won’t get any more though. It’s not fair. Why can’t you come back and make more?

I try to sleep. This time I have your unicorn blanket and your bathrobe. As well as your pillow from before. I need a fan on me in the warm house. The air mattress is pretty okay. Most of us get up at one time or another in the wee hours, snacking on a cheesecake or something from the dinner package. I use your sleeping meds this time because I know it helps. You always made sure I was taken care of, even though it was my job to take care of you more. I love you. I loved you.

Third Day

Today is hard, but it helps to be with your family. Our family. I have some leftovers for breakfast and C makes coffee. I still don’t feel right. D says I probably don’t know what to do with myself because I’m used to busying-about for you. That’s somewhat true. But mostly I just need you here.

I start this journal today. I sit in your favorite recliner chair with the laptop and just write. I am still tired. We need to start looking at mortuaries but I can’t get myself up and dressed until it’s almost noon. We try one place but they closed. We try another but we don’t like it. Finally your mom just has a wonderful lightbulb moment. We should do it in Redlands. That’s your first home, and where your friend from high school was buried. We all immediately like the idea. Well, as much as you can in this situation.

Brother & his fam came over again. S has oodles of straws and other random bundles of things, we don’t even know what she does with them. You loved her so much. And she loved you. We won’t know how to tell her when she’s old enough. We won’t even know when she’s old enough. Also your aunt B came and brought some more food. She offers to open her home for the family and friends after the service, since we’ve decided on Redlands. That helps ease D’s mind a bit.

Mom, D and I drive over to Redlands to get to the chosen chapel before they close. We definitely like it much better than the other places. We sign the release form for them to get you from the county. We would have wanted it to happen sooner but they can’t do anything on Sundays. We make plans to come back Monday afternoon to finalize all the arrangements.

It is nice to ride in the car with them, we can all reminisce about you. It’s amazing how much effort from your family went into making sure we met for our first date, from your aunts convincing you to take the date in the first place, to your mom making sure you waited for me after I was running so horribly late. I am so lucky, so blessed that they did. That was the beginning of the best, most wonderful ten years of my life.

grief-quote-hardest-let-go-angels-carry

LlamaLimo Log: Ever have a Bad Day?

Featuredwoman driving for uber

For a driver, most days aren’t bad — you get the person in that car, and they do their own thing. A few try and talk your ear off, or sit silent, staring out the window. Those type average out. But then you get those that are Having A Bad Day. That phrase will soon make you want to hide — ask any driver. The horrid part is, it may not be anything that actually happens to them; they could get a text or call and it would start. You learn to keep a close eye out for the signs.

Since Alice moved out, much to the relief of our night drivers — the parties going on after she was sound asleep not only made you wonder exactly how hard she slept, but also made walking outside an adventure, not to mention trying to squeeze the car into or out of the driveway — these situations seemed to have slowed. No more Josh “walking his dog” and then coming to chat; the drama of young people and their relationships had moved to another area. And Bob, coming over to pee on tires just as you were ready to back up, was starting to become a distant memory. I should have guessed it was too good to last.

One of the longer-term residents of the neighborhood, Adam, had his ups and downs recently. We were aware of it, as he was of the temperament to either be sullen and walk off his thoughts, or to create ideas and things, and to experiment with solutions to issues that were tough to solve, even for experts. With him in the area, there was never a lack of conversation on widely divergent topics to listen in on, when he and his friends got together — those varied depending on how welcoming he was, and frankly, how dangerous the experiments were.

After a bout with his now-ex girlfriend, Adam had gone into a cycle of Bad Days, and then found something to reignite his passion. He now would wave, and the group of people around got smaller, which normally was a good sign that he was working on something that wouldn’t burn, let off weird noises, or need to be transported someplace “to test it out”. The music they played usually suited our tastes, and even the winter season didn’t seem to slow things much.

However, something happened, and Adam Had A Bad Day. The music stopped, the people vanished, and the hours-long walks after dark started. There were no requests for rides, or only for short ones — a mile or so and back to pick up cheese-flavored puffed corn (his snack of choice). The silence bothered me, but not enough to really be too worried about it. The rides Adam asked for were quick enough that even A Bad Day shouldn’t affect me much.

The weather has been cyclic — snow, then cold, then nearly spring temperatures, and repeat. We actually had snow on the ground for a few days (and the local police force frantic with accidents, caused by those who forget that even if snow looks pretty, it isn’t nice to drive through once it melts and refreezes). We were being cautious, and telling folks that the ride would likely take twice as long as usual.

Adam called, and seemed up and cheerful — and wanted more than puffed corn. I personally was thankful for this; it was my turn to grab lunch for the office, and I wanted a particular sandwich that was a bit out of the way. So when Adam called, and wanted a ride to that same place — well, life just works sometimes, doesn’t it? I sent the order in from the business fax (yes, I know, but that’s how they wanted it done!) and gathered the keys, my jacket, and left out the door, with anticipation of a fresh, hot sandwich and my favorite fizzy drink in my future.

Little did I know that seemingly everyone in the world had decided that today was the day to go out. Traffic, normally even on a warm summer day, would have been half of what it was now — add in the ice-covered roadways, and you had to plan for potential disaster. One look at the higher-traffic roads, and I decided to take an alternate route. Which wasn’t a good idea — apparently I drove by something or someone that was not good for Adam.

I hear Adam shift, and look in the mirror just in time to see the hood of the hoodie go over his head. This is not good; it’s time to worry when the hood is tugged down. A telltale sign with Adam is that the more you can see of his head, the better things are going. Even when it feels below zero outside. So, hoping that this is only a brief mood, we keep going. And, it looks like I made the correct choice — there was nearly an accident outside the restaurant with someone trying to turn in, and the car didn’t want to stop even to cross traffic. At least I’m going the correct direction just to turn in!

Yes, you guessed correctly – there is a line for the drive-up window. Thankfully not long enough that there’s a danger of getting the car hit, but enough to be a wait. And Adam’s hood is still down. This means that he is now Having A Bad Day. And I’m the only one that is close enough to listen if he wants to talk.

There are days that I physically check from the back seats to make sure there isn’t a bar-tending license, or even psychology degree, visible from there. Some folks just want to talk things out, and that’s fine with me — I can listen and drive in circles for them. But some expect me to have opinions at best, and answers that will work for them in any situation. I once made the mistake of making a comment that solved one person’s problems — soon I had all of their friends in the car for literally weeks, wanting answers. Now I know why gurus choose the top of the mountain. Some of them actually got angry with me that I didn’t have a ready solution to their problem!

And the hood just got tugged down again, thankfully after he passed me his written order, and the money to pay for it. He’s still silent, so the radio plays quietly in the car, competing with the rap from the car in front of us, the new country from a parked car nearby, and something else that was making the entire car vibrate directly across from us in line. I guess I should have be thankful they had the windows up.

Thankfully, they turned off the music before rolling down the window to order. I looked to make a comment to Adam, and the words stopped — the hood was down below the mustache, and tears were flowing. As if sensing my gaze, he turned violently away from the building, and a slight sob escaped.

After several rounds of mental cursing, I decide, since the Bad Day is obviously getting worse without me doing anything, I’d wait until I was spoken to, or one of the other signs that the Bad Day was spreading. I went back to listening to music, and watching the cars go sideways down the road I was facing.

Oh come on! Whoever you are in the blue car — make up your mind before you get to the speaker! You’ve been in line for over three minutes now, and the menu is the same as it’s been for the last six months. You should at least know what you want, and even if they reordered the menu, you should be able to find it in less than the two full minutes you’ve been sitting there staring at the sign. Well, at least the line at the pay window is gone — but I bet I’ll be done with my order (I’m two cars back) before that person gets done paying.

Finally I get to the speaker, and tell them there will be two tickets on this order. Thankfully, the voice on the speaker is familiar, so it isn’t going to be an issue. I mention the business name, and make sure the order is rang up correctly. I start on Adam’s order, and get as far as the drink before that blue car pulls up to the pickup window. I was almost correct; another two seconds, and I’m pulling forward. Adam is still inside his hoodie, and facing away from the building — did he fall asleep? And since silence seems to be a good thing, I’m darned if I’m going to disturb him to hand him food and drink — so while keeping an eye on the line, I pull out a drink holder for the company, and one for his food and drink. With that settled, I pull up to pay.

There is a comment from the cashier that the fried items are about a minute from done, so I nod and finish paperwork for this half of the ride, while waiting my turn to pick up food. This also allows me to clear things out, and make sure that my logs don’t have drink spilled on them. I’m bad about this — I know I should do it, but some days you get rushed, and then never take the time to put things back. Plus, what better to do while waiting for…

FOOD!

I apologize for that, but this place gives the food as fresh as possible, and make sure it’s correct before handing it out. The drinks for the office came in a carrier, with Adam’s handed out separately. And then, hot, wonderful meals — all in their own bags, and labeled with names for my order. With only moments to get everything arranged, I set things onto the seat, and in the carriers, and got out of the way of the next person. A shift forward a few feet so as to let the next car access the window, and then some moving things around to make sure nothing slides onto the floor if I were to try and stop in a hurry.

Adam is now seriously Having A Bad Day — even the scent of food isn’t enough to bring him out. But things aren’t getting worse, so silence isn’t a bad thing, especially with the roads as they are. Sliding into a pole because you take your attention off the road isn’t an image I want presented of the company. Carefully moving forward, and watching for other drivers, we turn onto the main road; back toward Adam’s house, in lieu of any other communication.

A block later, and the flood of words starts. Adam is still turtled in his hoodie, but that doesn’t seem to stop him. I think this is what must have been disturbing him — the words cover everything from jeans that didn’t fit that morning, to his issues at work, and “finding another job” problems. It’s good that he doesn’t seem to expect a response, because I’d have issues getting a word in! The narrative is broken by sobs, and a request to go home promptly. At a red light, I hand back his large drink, and hear the straw suck air before we’ve gone two blocks.

The hood is up a bit, and the silence doesn’t feel as strained as the ride completes. I sit here, hoping that the telephone doesn’t ring and send him one direction or another. He mentions that a particular friend is coming to visit later, and I sigh silently in relief — that one is a good listener, and may be able to bring him back to normal.

The bill Adam hands me is enough to cover the fare, and he walks off while I’m getting change. Throwing the car in park, I grab his food (which he forgot), along with the change from both the meal and the fare, and catch up to him. He takes the food, and looks at the money, then walks in the house. Okay — even when Having A Bad Day, he still in generous with the tip. I stuff the money from the food bill into his mail box (it’s an old-style through-the-door one) and head back to provide lunch for the crew.

Then discover, while getting out of the car, that I had given my sandwich — the one I’d been dreaming about for days — to Adam!

Shrugging my shoulders, I resign myself to enjoying my drink and his lunch. And it isn’t so Bad after all.

driver only carries five dollars change and random other junk
Are you MacGyver??!?

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A Grief Observed, part 3

Second Day

The parents’ dogs wake everybody up at 5am. They must be really restless. My dad gets up for work again. I have some oatmeal to try to feel routine. And some of your poppy seed muffin. It’s all dry to my mouth. I can’t make it the same as I would at home. Our home. You always made our home feel warm and cozy. The dogs finally settle down and I curl up in my spot on the recliner again, this time with your pillow and the blanket that you gave my mom.

I doze. I dream bits and pieces of you. I think I hear your whistle, as you would do when I was working and you needed something. Why didn’t I check on you earlier? I just thought you were asleep. You needed rest, your body was in pain. But I should have felt something was wrong. Why didn’t I know something was wrong? Could I have done something? I don’t understand. Everybody tells me it’s not my fault. Is it my fault? Please tell me. Please forgive me. I was supposed to take care of you.

Is it still morning? Why is time going so slow? But is that what I wanted? It doesn’t make any sense. You should be here. I should be there. Why are we not together. Mom wants us to go to brunch. We decide on Penfolds. You loved that place, with Kristen when she came down to visit. We always had so much leftovers. You know I loved leftovers. We always shared everything. I can’t eat much today, but I try.

We’re heading up to your family’s house. I have to pick up a few more things from our room. I take a few clean blankets, the unicorns and a leopard. And your bathrobe. I kneel down by the bed again. I had to use the bathroom. Your things are all still there, waiting for you to come back. I don’t know what to do with myself for a few minutes. I want you to come in the door and tell me it’s all okay. Where have you gone?

The house is busy. They just had new carpet put in, and repainted stuff. The old couch and loveseat are up for sale. New dressers are here, other things will come later. I arrive just when Mom and D get back from something. Your brother too. We hug. You loved his daughter like your own. We have a moment. But he knows you want us to be okay. We have to try for you. It’s hard.

We get busy moving furniture around. It’s good to keep our hands busy. C is working the hardest, but I can tell he’s over-extended. He takes breaks at least. L arrives to help too. Brother is being the electrician and entertainment tech. Mom’s dresser is way too tall to put her big TV on. They’ll have to figure something else out. S is doing well in her speech therapy class, naming shapes and things. J arrives with her a bit later. S is being “flirty” with me again. You always said that too. [S is our niece, about 3 years old at this point.]

Some of my family arranged a meal delivery. It was sweet of them to do. Dahlia’s Italian. It’s very good. Way more food than we can handle, but we all enjoy some. You would have liked the garlic bread the most. I liked the lasagna. Mon and D got pizza from the place one time. I have a beer. It doesn’t taste like anything, but it helps a little.

I talk with M outside for a little while. She’s been so helpful for your mom. Even though she’s not a very verbal person right now. I know she’s hurting so much for you. And your dad too. He took it the worst that night. But we all have to cope in our ways. It’s still not fair. Why can’t you come back to us? I wish that the doctors had done more. Could they have? Could I? What was it, what happened? We won’t know for weeks. The coroner said it could take even a month or more. I guess they want to be sure. It’s just not fair. I want an answer. But I don’t know if it will help. Would they tell me a time? I didn’t ask yet.

angelic statue mourning over graveyard

Dreams – The Portal

Featuredswirling portal of red and blue

They came through the portal; that’s what we called it. Someone did something they shouldn’t have. The portal came into being during a science experiment; it was a hole into who knows where. They were short, squat and wore some sort of suit; they couldn’t breath in our atmosphere.

There was a war at first. We didn’t win. There were few of us remaining, wandering through demolished cities, scrounging to survive and hiding. They were hunting us. Nowadays they didn’t kill us outright. In fact, we didn’t really know what they did with those they captured — no one ever came back. All we know is they had a weapon that rendered the target docile, even happy to be captured.

I had a companion. Until now we had successfully avoided being discovered. But right now they are tracking me. We had separated to draw them in two directions, hopefully losing them. My friend got caught; once zapped, he gave in. Right now I’m hiding in the rubble of an apartment building, huddled behind a wall. One of them is on my trail and closing; slowly, but deliberately, blocking off any escape route, like a game of chess. I am trapped. Looking around for anything I could use as a weapon, I see a table knife in the dirt. I pick it up, and as it comes through the door, I swing the knife across the tubes running into the face plate…

Thank you to Mr. D4v3 for the guest-post! Very entertaining. Hope you readers enjoy it. ❤

-N.

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A Grief Observed, part 2

To maintain its “raw-ness”, I will try to refrain from making any alterations to the original writing. The only exceptions being names (except the dog, you all know her already), and if I feel something is absolutely critical for clarity/continuity. In the latter case, you’ll see [italics in square-brackets]. I will occasionally add other styling for emphasis or readability.

The Day After

My mom makes me some eggs. I did okay, but I have some nausea. You always had nausea.. I’m glad you don’t anymore. But in a way I feel like it’s a part of you that’s now with me. That sounds so strange. You always told me to take something, your own medicine that you shared with anybody who ever needed some.

I play your favorite songs on YouTube. But also songs that help me deal. You always made me love more music than I would have thought possible. And you made sure I shared it with you. These are songs about loss. But also songs about life and love. You loved so much, so passionately. Anybody who took the time to know you knew that. And anybody who did not, did not understand what they missed.

You were too good for this world. But I needed you. I still need you. I love you. I loved you.

I can’t stop crying. All you wanted, all we wanted, was to have a baby and a family. We can’t do that now. It’s not fair. You would have been the best mommy in the world. You have so much love to give. I am so lucky to have had you. But it’s not fair that you’re gone. I need your love, your laugh, your touch. You made me whole. I can’t understand. Why are you gone?

I call L and break down. He gets on the road right away to come from Vegas. Dad goes to work for a little while. I’m sure it’s hard to work right now, but things don’t stop. Why can’t the world stop? I just need it stop. But time does slow down. I stare at the clock. I sit in the recliner couch near the best air vent in the house. We always kept our place cold for you. Now I can’t stand even being mildly warm. I tried to have a fan on last night but it wasn’t enough.

I go back to our house to get some more things. I need your pillow. I need one of your blankets. But I can’t bear to use the one I found you in. I make the bed for you as if you’re coming back. I even rinse out your cool drink cups. Why can’t you come back and use them again? I kneel by the bed with my head where you were. Are you still there? No.. It smells like you. But it also smells like something else. I can’t say it right now.

Second Night

L arrives. They pick up some Rubio’s for dinner. I’m not sure how I can eat. But I have some chips and beans, and finally a fish taco. Still nauseous. We just talk about memories. I watch Supernatural on Netflix. I try to explain it to them but you know my favorite episodes are terrible examples of the show because of how abnormal they are. You loved to laugh at that.

I take a benadryl and try to sleep. I put on Jurassic Park [one of her all-time favorite movies] in the background. Kiera is now sleeping in her crate just in front of me. She had escaped out the front door earlier. I don’t understand why. But she was looking for you. She wandered down the street. I couldn’t get her to come to me. I cried because I did not want to lose her. She was your baby, our baby. She loved you so much. I know she knows something is wrong. Please try to tell her it’s okay, that her mama loves her from Heaven.

angel with broken wings cries

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Today You Would Be 34

Today is short, sad, and stubborn. Yet agonizingly long. Today is K’s 34th birthday. Was. Would have been? I don’t know. It’s still a significant day in our lives. It will be for a long time.

But you don’t age anymore. You’re brilliantly sparkling in a paradise of boundless wonder and joy. Or is it a black morass of void and crushing silence? No, I refuse to believe that. It is an endless beach of purple sunsets and golden sunrises, glittering green glass seas with snow white crests, singing songbirds and gleefully galloping horses and huskies.

Today is about family, lasting memories and your impact on our lives. You are never forgotten, never reduced, never minimized. Always fondly, always missed, always adored.

Your nieces are the picture of beauty and happiness. We never had children ourselves, regretfully. Yet your spirit lives on through them and through your brother, sister-in-law, mother, aunt, and grandma, who are the most wonderful parents, grandmother (“grabba”), great-aunt, and great-grandma (“gi-gi”) in the world.

How do we go on without you? Your life was not supposed to end so soon. You were supposed to have so many more birthdays, anniversaries, holidays. Movies, concerts, meals, get-togethers, car-rides, conversations. Sleepless nights, painful days, disappointing doctor appointments, difficult obstacles, debt collector letters. Triumphant texts, daring dreams, miraculous recoveries, supportive friends. Loving embraces, longing voice mails, sweet nothings, sexy nighttimes, cozy comforts, and stalwart standing-by. Through thick and thin, for better or worse.

Til death do us part.

And it did. God help us it did.

We will never be the same. Our lives are changed for good.

I will never be the same. I’m everything I am, because you loved me.

And because I lost you.

I loved you.

I love you.

Always.

fairy on beach with moonscape

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You Don’t Look Sick…

These are some phrases we would commonly hear from doctors, friends, even family, who did not or could not fully understand what K was going through.

You don’t look sick..

You’re too young to have these kinds of problems.

Oh you’ve [gained/lost] weight!

Really, they have no idea what’s wrong? That’s so strange.

Well, we didn’t know how you’d be feeling, so we just weren’t sure if we should invite you.

It’s not hot in here, you’re crazy!

Why do you need the A/C on when it’s 65 degrees out?

Are you really sure you could handle a new baby all by yourself?

Oh just get some rest and try to feel better, you’ll be fine.

Why didn’t you just get some sleep?

If she had the words to explain how maddening it can be to hear those phrases/questions over and over again, she would have shouted them from the rooftop. Or at least put them to pen and paper. But perhaps I can be her proxy in this.

By the way, there are several other writers who are much more articulate than I, and are first-hand sufferers, rather than second-hand; so PLEASE, go read their stories too.

the chronic pain cycle
I could not have drawn it any better. This was exactly K’s struggle.

There are several kinds of chronic, debilitating, yet non-outwardly-obvious conditions and ailments that patients like K deal with. Just this week, in fact, I learned about a friend of mine whose wife is in similar circumstances. Certainly there was at least one other woman who K connected with over their shared illnesses as well.

One of them is fibromyalgia. I won’t pretend to understand it fully myself, but I’ve observed its effects and its sometimes flagrant misinterpretation by those who are fortunate enough NOT to deal with it. When combined with other forms of chronic pain — in her case, spinal disc disintegration pain — it can be nearly paralyzing. (Actual paralysis could of course be an unfortunate outcome of a botched surgical attempt to fix said problem, as ironic as that may be.) The problem here is that fibro (for short) rarely manifests with any outwardly obvious signs. To the world, K often looked fairly “normal” (for her, anyway; we’ll get into that later). It also comes in waves. Some weeks, or days, will be much worse. Sometimes, the lucky ones will have a day or two where it’s not as bad, where they can actually get up, put on a happy face, go out into the world and do something social. And then, often, they need another few weeks or months just to recover.

Anxiety is another one. People who don’t understand anxiety first-hand seem to think of it as merely something to be whisked-away by meditation or similar “mind-over-matter” hand-wavy remedies. (Again, NOT a medical expert, and not a patient of this myself.) The actual fact is that K, and others, have tried all such suggestions and remedies, to no avail. They WISH it was that easy. You have no idea how many times anxiety sufferers have lain awake at night, silently screaming at their own brains to “SHUT the hell OFF!”. They cannot control it. And you, as a support person, need to realize that. It’s not your job to repeat tired unhelpful platitudes. No, you must simply be present, reassuring, sympathetic, and supportive. For example, sometimes in K’s case, I would literally give her a bear-hug and squeeze her tight to help calm the nerves. There’s probably a medical term for this — I know I saw it in Grey’s Anatomy.

You may have noticed the quotes about temperature, at the beginning. This is probably a much rarer facet of the medical mystery than most people deal with, but it’s very real. Whatever was causing K’s nervous system to over-react and over-register pain signals, seemed to also cause a profound heat and sunlight sensitivity. We’d been to the beach in our 20’s, but not for the past several years. When she did get out and about on a sunny day, her face and chest became bright-red, appearing almost as an instant-sunburn. But it wasn’t a burn. It was redness from within, from the sub-surface layers of skin and blood and nerves. She had to sit in the car with the cold A/C blasting her face, just to feel normal again. And at home, we had to run the central A/C far below 70 to make her remotely comfortable. Often with the airflow pointed straight at her face and body. I even bought a special wall-register (vent) that could be more easily adjusted than most, so that when she was sitting in bed it could hit her squarely.

Again, to someone who does not understand or has never felt these effects, this would seem ridiculous. Surely, you’re just being a spoiled person, wanting such cold air all the time? And occasionally I felt that way too, as I was begging the electric company to give us a break on our payment arrangements, or filling out a renewal form for the medical discount. Yet I can assure you, it was a very real, tangible effect. The few times when the A/C broke down, she literally became sick without it, as the temperature rose into the 80s.

But back to pain, and the more common facets of whatever this unholy conglomerate of diseases and disorders may have been. Those without chronic pain cannot understand, and are quick to dismiss or to gloss over the struggles that people like K face. It becomes easy to overlook them in your social plans, because you know that, 9 times out of 10, they will probably decline. It becomes a bad habit to offer platitudes or cliches, because you feel there’s nothing else you can do, or because you think that the “standard” solutions and treatments “should have worked”, or that “they’re just stubborn and won’t try them.” When in fact, they have tried; they have NOT worked; and they are TIRED of trying and trying again just to appease the next person who thinks they’ve got it all figured out.

Those who do not live the pain, also find it easy to assume and pass judgement. When she couldn’t eat anything but buttered toast for nearly 2 weeks straight, due to constant nausea; “Did you lose weight?” Or when she drank more than a couple cans of soda per day because it was the only substance that actually tasted like anything; “Oh that’s not good for you, maybe that’s part of your problem.” When she couldn’t get out of bed for several weeks and developed a sore that I had to dress, lance, and dress again, until it faded away; “Why didn’t you just go to the doctor?”

With a chronic pain patient, especially with these other complicating conditions, doctors are no longer your friends. They’re like little espionage agents, working for a government that doesn’t want your citizenship, secretly sharing information on you when it pleases their whims, so that you never know when you might suddenly be cornered in a back-alley and interrogated about your medication regimen. Or, even worse, told that you have to throw it all out and start from scratch because one agent doesn’t trust the other’s case-history. When in reality, the scans and the intelligence all shows the same thing: It’s complicated, messy, difficult, and probably beyond any single person’s expertise. But do spies ever play well with other spies? Not if movies have taught us anything.

No, the best K could do was to find, thank God, one solitary compassionate soul at a local pain clinic who at least cared enough to LISTEN, to be understanding, to make medication changes slowly and gradually, to fight for her case when others would dismiss it, and to always strive to put her comfort and sanity first, even above “standard medical procedure”. Such a luxury was never afforded her at the urgent-cares, ERs, and hospitals.

But I’m already nearing 1300 words, so I’m going to save those hot-buttons for another time and post. And migraines.. somebody remind me to add a blurb about migraines next time. ❤

A Grief Observed, part 1

Featuredcs-lewis-grief-like-fear-quote

Preface

This is by no means an attempt to steal the thunder of C.S. Lewis’s work of the same title, which I have read and digested. He is an intellectually dense writer, yet in this particular work, as you would expect, a very raw humanness comes out. He still waxes philosophical, and theological, to be sure. But especially in the early stages, I found it very identifiable. Which is why I’d like to quote the first few lines, before proceeding.

No one every told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says.

-C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Part of this blog is going to focus on some excerpts from my own “grief journal”, as it were. Obviously, much of said journal is very private and only for me. Yet, my hope is that it may help someone else out there who may be suffering in their own grief and having trouble finding empathy.

Make no mistake, empathy is distinct here from sympathy. And a griever needs both. We need not only that comforting collective support system from our friends and family and loved ones; we also need that very specific, very isolated, and very unlikely person (or people) who has (have) experienced the same or similar trauma/loss. It’s perhaps most difficult, at the outset, to find and reach out to these people who can best empathize, because we feel that it’s “too soon” or “too raw” still. That even being in their presence or hearing them recount that loss will drive us to inconsolable sobs of sorrow and despair. And that may very well be, and that’s a perfectly valid excuse to avoid those people for a time. But we DO need them in our lives, at some point.

This is my attempt to be one of those people to you, if, god forbid, you have lost a spouse or partner. Know that you are not alone. There is hope. There are groups, there are people, and there are days when none of it will matter; but there are more days when it WILL matter. And on those days I hope you reach out, whether it’s to me or someone else in this immense yet small world. You will find your empathy person. Don’t give up.

~

First Night

I don’t sleep. I wonder where you are, when you will come back to me. Why this happened. It can’t be real. It’s a mistake. A bad dream. No. I toss and turn. The silence deafens. Kiera senses my restlessness. I cannot hold you. I stare at your picture, touching it softly. Why? You were just fine. We cuddled last night. I got up for work and kissed you and got you your drinks. I had some breakfast and started to work. You were having a hard pain day. You wanted to sleep til the afternoon. It was a normal day.

I need you. Your touch, your smell, your voice, your laugh. Why can’t I have you back? It’s not fair. I know you don’t feel any pain anymore. I know you don’t want me to either. But I do. I don’t know how to go on. What happens now? Where do I go? Can I sleep in our bed again? Can I even sleep at all?

I tried to eat something. Hot chocolate before bed was our tradition.. Not that you had it much but you always made sure I did, in our cold and cozy room. The food doesn’t taste like anything. It probably won’t stay down anyway. What would be the point?