“Good” Stories

So, I, like most of the world, have been watching the conflict in Ukraine from afar.  This stuff always gets me emotional, so I had to find a coping mechanism right quick so as to get through each day’s news cycle.  I decided to try to find the good stories.  No, “good” isn’t the word…positive?  “Heroic,” perhaps?  Just a story each day out of the Ukraine that doesn’t make you want to throw up.  Something that makes you want to cheer instead.  So far, I have actually found something each day. 

For instance, there was the old lady giving sunflower seeds to Russian soldiers in the hopes that flowers would grow on their graves.  There was the 25-year-old woman who when asked what she would do once she escaped the bomb shelter she was in, replied she was going home to make Molotov cocktails.  There’s the association of Ukrainian librarians, who cancelled their annual conference so as to vanquish their enemies.  But let’s talk about the one that kicked off my hunt for a different kind of news story, and my favorite so far: the Snake Island Border Patrol.

So, this Russian warship rolls up to Snake Island, a truly tiny island in the northern Black Sea, kind of situated between Ukraine and Crimea. The only people on the island are the border patrol…it’s their turf.  So Russian warship tells them to surrender their weapons, or else they will bomb them.  And what did the Snake Island Border Patrol do?  Literally told them to go f*** themselves.

Now, it was immediately assumed that those patrolmen were blown to smithereens, and the President of Ukraine even spoke out calling their deaths heroic.  But then…then!!!  Today I go do a little research for this blog and find THIS ARTICLE!

They’re alive!  I mean, they’re captured…but they’re alive!  And they fought until they ran out of ammunition!  So today’s “good” story is a continuation of my first “good” story.  (I really can’t describe how delighted I am to have discovered this news today.)

Anyway, I hope that the war news isn’t getting you down too much.  We can’t let it, because let’s be honest…we aren’t living it.  We don’t get to be scared and worried…that’s for the people actually in crisis.  We need to be mad about the injustice.  We need to be supportive to the Ukrainian community.  We need to summon the power of a Snake Island Border Patrolman, and rise up and tell Russia to go f*** itself.

Happy Thursday.

This is from before they discovered they were alive.

Flowers as Omens

This morning I was reminded of a post from a couple years back about my stepdaughter E. To say that she, or any of the kiddos, are the same people as they were when I wrote that, would be a lie.  They have changed in ways great and small, but I remain proud of them, and I continue to love them and who they are becoming.

Anyway, E spent the night, a very welcome visit that warmed my heart, which hearkened me back to my previous post about my little sunflower.  In that post, I mention sunflowers as an omen in my life, and they never were more than in the summer of 2016.

I didn’t intend to have sunflowers in my wedding bouquet, you see.  I didn’t intend for that to be the boutonnières. Yet, when we met with the florist and I looked through his ideas, these flowers stood out to me.  He gushed over them for a September wedding, so I went with it.  Afterall, they were one of my favorite flowers, they would look lovely in my color palette, and they made me think of Mark: we grew some together a few years prior, one that managed to grow even taller than him.

Then, we had a car accident, a T-bone with the kiddos which shook me something fierce.  No one was hurt, thank God, except Cathy, my minivan.  This car accident was on Memorial Day.  By my birthday, June 13th, we were homeless, as we had been kicked out of our apartment.  (If I knew then what I know now, this never would have happened and I would have had a lovely little lawsuit.  But I digress…) We moved our stuff to storage and put ourselves up in a crappy motel.  This is exactly 3 months before our wedding, and I have just started having gastroparesis flareups, and they’re talking layoffs at Mark’s work, so life is just FANTASTIC.

But then…

Then I get the cash back from the totaled car and it’s enough to get something a little better.  I go to a lot in Niagara Falls to check out a minivan they have, and hanging from the rearview mirror is a leather bracelet with a sunflower charm on it.  I look at it and think “cute.”  I buy the van, and that lovely lady Natasha rode with me really well, for a while.  I drove her into the motel parking lot after trolling around in the side-smashed van and felt very pleased and proud.  Then, I started looking for apartments.

Too many wanted a credit check.  Too many were too expensive for their locale and space.  Eventually, someone told me of a “for rent” sign they saw, and we called the number.  Mark was working, so I went to look at the apartment myself.  The first thing I noticed was the photo of a sunflower field that was hanging over the sink, 

The landlord and I hit it off, and he also really liked my mom, who tagged along, so we made a deal on the spot.  And when we finally moved in, that photo still sat over the sink, left behind by the previous tenants.  It remains there today.

When we got married, I was surrounded by sunflowers.  They were in the decorations, the bouquets, even on the cake.  I had come to think of them as a good omen, particularly towards mine and Mark’s life together. 

A couple of years ago, we took E to that sunflower field, and I thought of how lucky I was to have my husband and the kiddos and all this love in my life.  I thought of the time I went there with Bernie and Carey…I still think of that day as the true start of me and Careys friendship, when she went from being “Asshat’s girlfriend” to “MY friend.”  My mother buys me things with sunflowers on them, because she knows they bring me good vibes.  And oh, how I wish I had the space to grow some again!

Anyway, I just think that they are a good omen in my life, aside from the fact they bring sunshine with them wherever they go.  I adore driving past a sunflower field.  I love when Mark gets me a bouquet of them.  I can even say I have spent over an hour looking at different varieties on the internet. 

It’s just a good flower, y’know?

As Predicted

So, it happened as predicted, and I was sick during my first week of work and missed Thursday’s class. I was then sick on Saturday.  And Monday.  And here we are on Tuesday, and I am well, but it is a tenuous wellness.  It could be over and done, as is usually the case after a couple of days.  I hope so, at least.

So obviously I haven’t been able to update.  I haven’t been able to do much of anything, really.  I felt total mom-failure yesterday, because K was supposed to come over in the morning.  I had intended to get all shopping and cleaning done and then go pick her up around 11, and we would go spend the nice warm day together.  Alas, no, I was puking in an emesis bag when she texted me at 1030am. She arrived after dinner to a messy house with no food in it, and I felt like a jerk.  She assured me it was no big deal.  Her and Mark took a trip up to 7/11 to get snacks and drinks, and then we watched tv for a while and I went to bed early.

I had plans for today, but the weather ruined them instead of my stomach.  My cousin G is coming over, and I wanted to take the girls to the park or something, but alas it is pouring.  At least they can have each other’s company on this gloomy day.

I must be off now, because I have many things to do in a very short time, and if I rush myself, I get sick.  And we don’t want any of that.  So, happy Tuesday.

A New Endeavor

Today is the first day of my new job.

Now, I haven’t had an actual jobby since 2012, so to say I’m a little nervous is an understatement.  Also, I’m working in a Covid world now, so it is a virtual position.  It’s only part-time, because I truly cannot do more than that for heath reasons, but I am excited to finally do something every day and make a steady paycheck.

Now, of course, I am also terrified my stomach will betray me, as it has in the past.  It’s the reason I lost the job in 2012.  I loved that place, and would have stayed there forever if that were an option, but I was getting sick too much.  I was a teacher assistant at a day care, and a main thing with that is staff ratios.  It’s a big legal thing, so me throwing off the ratio made for issues.  It was a lovely firing, as firings go.  They seemed to genuinely not want to do it, but their hands were tied.

I knew then that I couldn’t work, really.  I would take occasional off the books jobs, but they never worked out for long, either because the kid aged out of care or I got sick.  I recall one nannying position I got that seemed ideal, but day one found me in the ER, so I lost it immediately.  I was terrified I would awake sick today, because of this past experience.  Alas, today I am well and raring to go.  And on the upside, when I do get sick, it is usually around 5am…which gives me plenty of time to heal up before work starts at 3pm. 

I will be working an afterschool care program for 3rd,4th, and 5th graders in the Buffalo school system.  Aside from homework help, I am not sure how much can be accomplished virtually, but my boss and the staff assure me that they have many ideas.  I would like to come up with something myself…I shall have to brainstorm.  The only thing I am really worried about with this job, though, is the math. 

See, I’m terrible at math.  I probably have a sixth-grade level.  And on top of that, they changed the math.  I don’t know how to do what these kids today are doing!  I’m going to have to go to YouTube University again.

Overall, I am excited to rejoin the workforce, though I do feel that I have a bit of catching up to do.  I mean, the last time I worked we had time sheets or cards.  Now, we have Paylocity.  Used to be you had to go to the place to see the kids.  Now, I don’t have to leave my office.  It’s a weird, weird world I’m in right now.

Anyhoo…wish me luck!  And as always, happy Monday. 

Banned.

Let’s talk about banned books: STOP banning books.  Talk over.

No really, knock it off.  Stop dumbing down society.  Stop screaming about “cancel culture” except for when it suits you.  Read a damn book, so you can learn about something other than yourself.

Sorry…I’m a little heated.  Maybe it’s because my teacher let me check Mein Kampf out of the library when I was 13.  If you don’t want to click the link, I will summarize.  Just know that this wasn’t pleasure reading, it was for a term paper I wrote on Hitler, whom I chose out of spite because my teacher said I couldn’t do Anne Frank, and to find someone else from the Holocaust to focus on.  So, I went straight to the source of the whole thing, and read his stupid book one weekend in 8th grade.  The point of this story is that I read Mein Kampf and grew up to see nationalists as absolute flaming garbage humans, so maybe it’s not the actual content that’s the problem.

Another banned book that made an impact on me was Annie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden, who was writing queer characters long before it was cool.  I just realized I don’t own a copy, though I must’ve checked it out of the library a dozen times.  It’s about two teenage girls in NYC who fall in love, in a time when that is verboten…so really it could be anytime and anywhere.  Now, I’m not a lesbian, but I loved this story because it made me understand lesbians.  See, I understood gay men because my dad had two gay male friends, but I didn’t have any girl-on-girl exposure until I read that book.  A few years later, my aunt came out, and I thought of Ms. Garden’s tome and smiled, because I was okay with it.  Other people in my family weren’t right away, but I was, because of my books.

Should I have been reading Stephen King when I was 10?  Probably not.  But I did anyway, and I expanded my vocabulary by leaps and bounds.  I developed my writing style off of his more than any other author I have read.  His works were deeply formative to me, and if I had been restricted from reading them, I don’t think I would have some of the ability that I have now.

My father never restricted my reading, telling me that if I could read the words. I could read the book.  So, I read the books…as many as I could get my hands on, until my eyeballs gave out a little and made it a difficult task. 

So, they are banning Maus, apparently, which I have not read but seems I would really enjoy.  And they claim it’s not for Holocaust content, but rather nudity.  Nude…mice.  Because, you know, mouse fashion is a really important aspect of our reality.

It’s an excuse.  It’s always an excuse…I mean look at all the horror and gore and sex and nudity and witchcraft and violence in the Bible,..but ain’t nobody banning that. 

If they are banning books, they are doing it because they want to censor the reader, not the book.  They are trying to steal knowledge from you.  Don’t let them; fight back and read, read, read.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say on that, aside from the fact that I really hope to someday be on this here list.

Happy Thursday.  Read a book.

Too Cold

Good god, it is cold.  I mean, I live in Buffalo, so I am adept at navigating the winter months, but perhaps as I get older, I get colder.  I look at M, who came home from school yesterday in 18-degree weather wearing only a sweatshirt.  “Aren’t you freezing?!” I yell.  He shrugs.  “It’s a little chilly.”  Understatement!

And the snow.  Every morning, more snow to brush off the car.  Not a lot the last few days, but enough to make me groan when I open the front door and step onto the porch.  And have they plowed?  No, they have not.  My street hasn’t seen a plow except one time after the snowstorm a week or so ago.  Still, it snows, layering the streets.

Then my office, which is an icebox right now.  It is situated by the front porch which is lovely in summer and terrible in winter.  I might as well be outside.  The vent at my feet brings no relief.  My hoodie and blanket and coffee do not do enough.  Were my office not in here, I would shut this room off all winter.  Alas, here I sit, with frozen fingers.

So, forgive me for today’s short post, because I am cold.  May you have a day full of dry boots and fuzzy blankets and hot beverages.  That’s what I’m aiming for.

Soup and Sandwich

I’m a day behind schedule in everything this week, because of the endoscopy I had on Tuesday.  So here is Thursday’s blog, on Friday.

Yesterday I had lunch at my mom’s house, and she made egg salad sandwiches.  I contributed a can of minestrone soup to the equation, and truly all that was missing was a glass of chocolate milk.  Why?  Because that is the lunch of my childhood.

When I was small, we lived with my grandmother, Lois.  She took care of me during the day while my parents worked, and often we would take an outing.  Lois didn’t drive, so we would take the Metro bus to the nearest little plaza, the only one in the neighborhood.  There, we found three businesses: Super Duper, McCrory’s, and Your Host.

First, we would go to McCrory’s, which I can only describe as a sort of tiny Target.  The selling point for me was the pet shop it contained, with the talking bird that Kevin and I had befriended.  We would look at the fish and the hamsters, and then Gran would drag me over to the kid clothes and pick me out an itchy sweater or something.  We would walk over to Super Duper, the local grocery store, and she would buy milk or bread or whatever was needed, and always made sure that I got a slice of bologna from the deli counter.  I remember two distinct things about this market, the first being the long poles attached to the shopping carts that had wheels that ran along the celling and occasionally made sparks.  Also, this is where she bought me Honey Joe.

After the grocery store it was off to lunch at Your Host.  It was a little diner that had tiny jukeboxes on the table, and for a dime I could play Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” for her.  We would order egg salad and minestrone and the best chocolate milk in the world, and we would listen to our tunes and enjoy our food before calling for a taxi home.  The cab would come and take us back to the house, where we would unload our goodies and settle in for an afternoon nap.

When I eat that meal, I vividly remember these mornings with my grandma, who left us when I was still quite young.  Mom and I don’t listen to Sinatra while we eat, but I like to think that she is there with us in that moment, enjoying a luncheon with her daughter and granddaughter.  I like to think that people who have passed stay with us in a way, and the feeling I get from egg salad and minestrone soup just strengthens that belief.

That’s all for today, just a little memory.  I have a project or two that needs working on, so I must bid adieu.  Enjoy your weekend!

Circle of Friends

How do you make a friend?

It is a topic I have discussed previously as Sahar and I once spent an afternoon trying to figure out how to make friends as adults, which didn’t work out awesome.  Mostly it was just a bunch of dead ends.  I recalled to her my friend Carey, who is probably my only real friend I have made and kept as a fully functioning adult.  We met one evening in the spring of 2015, I believe.  She was the girlfriend of a guy Mark knew, and we went over and had a few drinks at their house and hung out.  She seemed nice, but we were just associates at the time.  It wasn’t until the following summer when we went to a sunflower field that I realized we were “actual” friends, and we’ve only been growing closer since.

Mark and I were just talking about this, about how friendships start some time after meeting.  I stumbled upon a meme on Facebook that asked folks to comment on when we met-it was a reminder of how long I have known my people.  If you go solely by the comments, you would think I made friends through family, theater, and high school the most, and I suppose this is true.

First, there’s family.  My aunt Mel commented that she didn’t quite remember meeting me, though I recall the day perfectly.  She was my uncle’s new girlfriend and she had on Winnie the Pooh overalls that I coveted.  She commented that our friendship grew over time, and this is true of me and many of my aunts.  They used to be these people I thought of as “adults,” but now I think of them as peers even if they are a generation or two ahead of me.  Friendship has blossomed as I have aged, just as it has with my own mother.  Ten years ago, the relationship I had with my mother was very rocky, but now I go to her house each morning for coffee, because since I have moved out, a friendship aspect has been added.

Then there’s the theater people.  I can’t begin to tell you how many folks I have met through theater, the pinnacle of which is Sahar.  Were it not for a show, I would not have met my soul sister, let alone all the other massively talented and creative people I have admired.  Though there was no gap between me and Sahar- we met, and we were friends, and that was it.  So, let’s use Tom as an example:  I met Tom because I was stage managing a show once and when we got to the performance space we realized it was simply too big for one stage manager, and so my friend Victoria brought in Tom.  At first, I was a little salty because he was somewhat new on the scene and I was concerned he would steal my stage manager thunder, but in the end, he was incredibly helpful to me.  Then I caught him smoking a cigarette, and joyous relief flooded over my nicotine-addled brain: someone to chat with during breaks.  Well, those cig breaks turned into many 2am AIM convos, dozens of drunken nights at random houses, and someone that even though I don’t see him anymore, I still consider him a good friend. 

And then, Sacred Heart.  Chelsea is an excellent example here.  We met one afternoon during spring break when we were in 8th grade through a mutual friend, Sabine.  She got us together to meet because she knew we were going to the same high school.  I knew two girls I was going with already, but it didn’t make me feel any braver.  Then on the first day, Chelsea came up to me in the hallway and I thought “oh thank god! A friend!”  We sat together at lunch, and that was beginning of a lifetime of friendship.

Speaking of a lifetime of friendship…Kevin.  His mother, Sharon, commented that she met me about a week after I was born, which is accurate, and also means Kev was in tow.  Kev replied, too, in his usual humor: “That time we both were just lying there laughing totally pissing and shitting ourselves because we were both infants,” which of course made me guffaw.  I can’t tell you when my friendship with Kevin started, because it has always been there.  That’s how I feel about a lot of my friends.

I’ve picked up a lot of folks along the way and I am grateful for it.  I wonder how many more people I will smash into and end up entwining my life with.  You never know who you will meet tomorrow…could be your best friend. 

Total Shutdown

Today is Wednesday.  No, no, don’t check your calendar.  You’re on Thursday, I’m on Wednesday, because I am trying to stay a little ahead in some areas, in case of catastrophe.  My stomach has been…disagreeable.  I went to the gastroenterologist and our new theory is that the whole shebang is broken, not just the stomach.  Nothing is working right, from the esophagus to the intestine.  My digestive system’s check engine light has been on for a while, but recently, it began blinking, and now here we are with an endoscopy on Tuesday and a bunch of new medicines at the pharmacy. 

We shall wait.  We shall see.  In the meantime, we shall eat applesauce and dream of cheeseburgers. 

And, try to focus on something else.  Like work. 

So far today I have updated my Patreon and assembled my spring submissions and now I’m here, and hopefully if I don’t run out of steam, I will go crack open the WIP and work on making that “Netflix money.”  It’s not coming as smoothly as it was, but I think a lot of that has to do with two things.  One, I like a good deadline.  NaNo really pushes me in that department, and I deliver.  Second, I need recovery time after such a sprint.

But now I’m recovered and ready to get back at it, but I’m stalled, and I think that might be because I am so close to being finished.  I’m writing the last third of the book now, and I’m halfway though that.  It’s time to say goodbye, including to a few characters that aren’t going to make it to the end scene.  This is some heavy stuff for a writer, you see.  We both love and loathe killing off our characters, and it is a traumatic experience all around.

And then, the final scene, or the epilogue…haven’t decided which I’m going with…and two little words: the end.  And then, it’s over.

The fifteen years that it took me to put this from spark to paper, will be over.  Then what?

EDITING.

The most garbage part of the job, the part for which I wish I was wealthy enough to hire someone.  I love editing poetry and short pieces, but a whole novel?!  I do not know where to start.  Look at my novella, still sitting unedited three years after completion.  There’s a reason for that, and it’s not procrastination.  It just straight up SUCKS to edit a large work.  (In my opinion, at least.)

So, that’s really all I have for right now: a broken digestive system and a WIP to struggle.  I am hopeful that things improve on both fronts, as I am pretty sick of being pretty sick, and I also want these words out of my fingertips and into my computer. 

I don’t think I’m out of steam yet.  Let me go open her up.  See what happens. 

Happy Wednesday.  Err…Thursday.

The Planning Process

I took a little New Year break, in case you didn’t notice.  Not the fun, Christmas-vacation sort, but rather the “is this Covid or the flu?” kind of a break.  (Think it was the flu.  Still waiting on test result.)  But I’m back, and I want to talk to you about….going away.

If I had money, I would pack a bag and take off right now, to God knows where, perhaps even against the CDC’s recommendation.  Carnival Cruise line sent me a fabulous offer just two days before the news told me to stay off the cruise ships.  Not that I would be going anyways, because money.  I am a very thrifty traveler, because I do it very rarely.  All the major trips I’ve ever really been on have been with an organization or other folks that planned everything and let me tag along. 

Now, I am going to Salem in the fall with some friends, and I realized right away that I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, so I looked around for tips on travel planning and found: travel planners.  The “travel agent” of old still exists, it’s just morphed a bit for the future.  I chatted to one for a second and then mid-conversation, I realized I was a blood traitor, politely ended the text chain, and immediately messaged my cousin, Sarah Hamar.

A little about Sarah.  She is not only a travel planner, but a mom, wife, and athlete.  She used to work at a bank, but recently left that job to pursue travel planning fulltime with Marvelous Mouse Travels.  Now, the reason I didn’t think of her at first was because I associate Marvelous Mouse with Disney, and I am not a Disney girl.  Sarah most definitely is, so it’s the perfect job for her.  She’s been going to Disney every year since she was born, and as a kid I envied her trips, more for the sunshine than the Mouse.  Alas, my little self thought of her family as world travelers, especially when she started killing it in hockey and joined road teams.  However, it wasn’t until she found herself in Scotland one day, taking a college course, that Sarah herself realized how much she loved travelling.  She told me it was the best experience of her life, and ever since she has made travel important to her, venturing all around the US and even working in Disney for a time.  Oban, Scotland, specifically, has been her favorite destination so far.  (I had to look up photos…they’re in the slideshow at the bottom.)    

Anyway, eventually Sarah got a husband and a couple of kids and a day job at the bank, which was fine, but didn’t scratch the adventure itch.  So, she got involved with Marvelous Mouse, and spent about 8 months working 10-hour days just so she could quit that day job and do travel planning full time.  Now, she does what she loves and has extra time with her family, and yeah, I’m super proud of her.  I’m biased.  She’s my cousin, after all.

Anyway, I was also super curious, because she’s an independent contractor, and that’s the dream as far as I’m concerned.  I was surprised by how similar her schedule is to mine, though we are in such different fields, but I suppose all freelance work has its similarities.  We both do our email and our social media, then work on our projects.  Sure, mine is a book or a blog and hers is this awesome-sounding Halloween Disney Cruise that even my non-Disney self would attend.  I also asked what motivated her, and she said success, so that must run in the family because I am fueled by book sales, Patreon subscriptions, and general compliments.  If she’s not booking travel, she’s not making money.  I feel that.  If I’m not writing something down, then there’s no potential money down the line. 

So, anyway, my broke-self was worried I couldn’t afford her services, and then I come to find out…it’s FREE, guys.  Resorts pay her.  Cruise lines pay her.  You don’t pay her, so of course, my thrifty inner traveler screamed “Sign me up!”

But I don’t want to go to Disney. 

Casually, I ask if she does other destinations and she tells me yes, sure, wherever, and inner traveler rejoices again.  See, in 2005, when booking your own hotels online was first a thing, I made some reservations for a hotel in New York for a night because I had an audition in the morning.  It was more stressful to book and plan that small trip than it was to actually audition at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  Now, I haven’t booked my own travel since, and I’m sure technology has made it worse somehow, so I am soothed by the presence of Sarah and others like her who can figure it out for me. 

I really enjoyed learning about her experience, and as I approach 1k words here I realize I’ve just been selling you my cousin this whole time.  Which is kind of the point, see.

I love my cousin, so I think you should love my cousin, obviously.  But that aside, she has a talent that I do not possess, and I feel that should be applauded.  I mean, my very favorite compliment is “I wish I could write like you.”  Girl, I wish I could plan like you!

I am very much looking forward to my upcoming trip, which I am sure I will write more about as it approaches, so here is another character in the story for you.  Sarah Hamer, the travel planning princess.