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From this spring. An unplanned moment, the ones I love so much. The photos I took Thursday won’t be shared until the couple themselves have seen them.

Once again, life has gotten in the way of intentions. I’ve been tired and sore, worn out from all my goings on, and I’m afraid something had to give. There are things I’ve wanted to do that I just haven’t been able to* – this past Thursday, for instance, I planned to go to my stepmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. I had shot a wedding earlier that day, which was an excellent use of my time, I thought, but by the time it was over, everything hurt, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was even a bit nauseous, making eating something I probably wouldn’t have appreciated, despite the fact that it would have been good. Frustrating, that. It could be the time of the year – I tend to have less energy as the light of the days grows shorter – it could be my regular job, it could be the constantly shifting weather. It could, of course be my own health, a temporary downturn, which is also not unusual. Focus on the “temporary.” Nonetheless, I opted to sleep rather than write last Saturday, and last Sunday, well, I still had no energy. On the up side, I now desperately need to do laundry. Hmm, guess that’s not much of an up side, is it? Well anyway, I know what I’m doing after breakfast today.

On the 20th of this month, I got a call while I was at work, early in my day. My aunt, my father’s oldest sister, had passed. It wasn’t unexpected, she’d been ill, but it was still difficult. I spent the rest of my day in a fog. I really don’t remember much of what I did. I only knew that there was a possibility I would have to take time off for a funeral, and it would be an all-day affair. It was yesterday, the 28th, a day I already had scheduled off. The occasion was both sad and joyous, a celebration of a life well-lived, and a congregation of family members, some of whom I hadn’t seen since I learned to drive. We’re planning to go to the Festival of Lights at the zoo tonight, my first cousin and first cousin once removed and I. She’s my age, the younger one. Actually, she’s older.ˆ My cousin has her camera, so that should be fun. I think you know by now how much I enjoy sharing that experience.

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From my grandmother’s repast in 2013. Sadly, the sharp-dressed man in red, my uncle Lee, is no longer with us.

After hearing about my aunt, my mind went to a dark place. Not a bad one, just dark. I had little energy for the things I wanted to do, including write. I didn’t have the reaction I usually have when I’m ready to write. Normally  when I wake up in the morning, I have a song in my head. A fragment, a hook, a refrain, or even the whole thing, if I’m lucky. On the mornings I plan to write, though, I have words. The ideas flow through like water, a stream of consciousness, and I have to somehow catch it. That didn’t happen last week.

The plan was to riff on a sermon I’d heard the previous week, presented by a guest pastor† at my church. It was about enough; he called the practice “enoughism.” The gist is that we divide what we have, our belongings, our food, our water, our finances, not so that everyone is the same, but so that everyone has at least enough. It’s somewhere between socialism and the free market system, although I’m sure there are plenty who would gladly argue how it truly is one or the other, passionately defending their positions. Passion is great, but it means nothing without valid information, and that is nearly impossible to find if you won’t listen to any opinion but your own.

He talked about justice, about love, and about enough. He explained how, in his mind, justice is love, and love, justice. Now on the surface, that seems a bit harsh. Here’s the thing, though: He differentiated types of justice. The type we’re accustomed to in the US, and in many parts of the world, really, is retributive. The goal is to punish whomever we determine to be in the wrong. It’s of precious little benefit to anyone – the wrongdoer has no other options because he has no other skills once he’s been released, depending on the type of crime, the job market is significantly narrower already, and even among those jobs he could have, many simply will not hire him. That doesn’t give anyone a chance to make good, to change their ways, to become someone better. It happens, sure, but just as with the child who pulls herself from abject poverty to become someone special, it’s rare. So very rare.

Cincinnati Zoo
Sometimes it’s easier to add a different species to “Us” than a different member of our own.

The justice he meant is distributive justice. It’s the type of justice he believes Jesus meant. Not that everyone should have the same, but that they should have enough. Working a full week for 40 hours should give that worker enough to live on, to eat, to have a roof over their heads, to put clothes on their backs, and maybe even have some to put aside for a rainy day. Making sure someone has enough, that is a show of love, of kindness, of humanity. Justice is love, and love, justice.

How I see it takes it a step further. If there is a person who is homeless, who is hungry, who has all but given up, that person needs more than food or shelter or clothing, that person needs to know that she is a person. We are social creatures; this is something that we as human beings should be doing. We take care of those who can’t take care of themselves, lift those of our tribe who have fallen, carry them with us rather than leave them behind. Once they are no longer a part of our tribe, though, they become “Them,” and no longer worthy of our support. Our tribes have grown, not only in size, but number. It’s a large, scary place, this world, and it’s easy to be afraid. Once we allow that to take over, once we permit fear to make our decisions, then we also allow the ostracization of those who we fear are no longer “Us.” The “Them” has increased as our world expands. People in our own country, our own states, our own neighborhoods, don’t have enough, and because they are now “Them,” they likely never will. And that, I think, is a great tragedy.


*I had a side note, but then I got distracted with something else, and I forgot what my tangent was going to be.
Yep, I had to make a footnote for that.

†John Dominic Crossan – soon as he opened his mouth, we knew he wasn’t from around here. His website doesn’t give much, but he does have a few bits and bobs online.

^Six whole months, sure, but that counts!


Looking Ahead

I did nothing yesterday. Not a damn thing. It was nice. Well, I didn’t do anything I was supposed to, anyway. Just exhausted at work. Being beaten up day after day, constantly told how you’re failing, seeing those around you getting the same thing, it takes the fight out of you. No fight, no energy. So then, what am I going to do about it? Am I going to find out my passion and do that for a living? Do what I love? That’s the most ridiculous advice.

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Spring Grove again. Love the light through the ornamental grasses.

There are literally millions of artists and musicians and actors who aren’t doing their passion, because they’ve grown fond of living indoors and eating at least once a week. It’s not just the artistic fields, though, these people are all over the place. They wind up in cube farms and factories, churning out something completely different from what they wanted to be doing, constantly reminded by self-help gurus that they can change their lives forever, just do what they love. Getting to do what you love most and getting paid for it, much less enough to live on, is a dream that so few ever achieve, and telling everyone that they can is a great way to convince people they have failed at life.

A much more effective suggestion is find the passion in your job. What is it about your employment that makes you happy or proud? Is it being the best at what you’re doing? How do you define best? Fastest? Most accurate? A collection of awards on your desk? If you can’t do the job you love, honey, love the job you’re in.* And if you can earn money doing your passion, then do it! I can’t live on it, but I have made a dollar here and there with my camera. Seems to be when I’m most at peace.

There may come a time when you can’t find the motivation for your job, the reason to get up in the morning. That’s when you reassess. Are you just going through a rough time? Can you still find that thing that makes you feel you’ve made a difference in what you do? If not, then what? Is there something you enjoy that you can do for fun, break up the tedium? Or is it time to move on, find something else? That takes some planning, too. Taking a job just to get out of your current one isn’t wise; it just becomes the same situation in a different location. That’s why the planning. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? If you like the industry and just don’t care for your job, then what other opportunities are available to you in that industry? What would it take?

Even that isn’t an option for everyone. There are any number of limiting factors, like your education, your current income, your location, the time you have available, the number of people who depend on you, plans you have for your future, people you need to know but don’t, and things you can’t change like gender, skin color, height, age.

I’m considering going back to school. Again. And I’m afraid. I wasn’t the best student, for a variety of reasons. I never really learned how to study. I didn’t have to until college, and that was an uncomfortable realization. I was already dealing with the culture shock, going into an environment I’d only ever seen on television, being around people whose parents lived where they did to get away from neighborhoods like the one I grew up in, and having the freedom to come and go as I pleased for the first time in my life. Much of that was just giving it time. The studying, though, became an issue. My first-year roommate was shocked when she heard how I was doing. She knew I studied, and quite often knew what I was studying when she came into our room. I yelled at myself in French quite often, apparently, for instance. I did graduate, though, after figuring out what would get me through school. I didn’t go into that job, though, I didn’t become a music teacher.

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Breaking up the text with a photo playing with the sun. This is a great way to damage your camera’s sensors.

A few months after I’d gotten laid off from my last job, when they closed our location, I decided to go back to school, do something that would get me out of an industry that was so unstable, and make me marketable. I went for an MS in Accounting. I didn’t graduate for several reasons, not just the “didn’t want to be an accountant” one. There was money – I tried to find a part-time job, but I couldn’t. I was taking four classes a week, and the full-time jobs I could find were major energy-drainers for me. There was my state of mind – I was heading for a major depressive episode and I didn’t have the tools to avoid it. And there was the fear of future failure. What if I graduated, took that internship, got hired, and found myself working as a tax accountant for a major company? I could make decent money, sure, but would I be able to be happy? Would I be able to move forward, to go the direction I wanted to go? Would I be any good in a real-life situation, or would I be mediocre at best? I didn’t know, so I didn’t try. That fear was also a part of why I didn’t teach.

There are things I want to do in my life, things I want to have. I want the money to have a decent home and a decent car, to have some say in where I live. I want to be able to travel. I want to have energy when I get home from work. I want to wake up most mornings ready to take on the day, instead of dreading it. I want to be challenged, with the right challenges for me, things I love to do that I might not be perfect at, but can learn and grow. I want to get over this ridiculous fear of incompetence.

There’s an informational session next month at my alma mater for their MBA program, and I’ve made my reservation. I guess the question I really need to answer is what have I got to lose?


*Yeah, I know, but c’mon, it fits. Here’s a Luther Vandross cover of that song. I love me some Luther, but I actually like the CSN version better.†

The Isley Brothers covered this too, and it works.

Eleven Percent

Long week, emotionally and psychologically draining. Spent it just functioning. It happens. That ridiculous Bengals loss didn’t help. That game should have been MUCH closer. It was like the 90s all over again. The time change was nice, and it helped, but I miss it being, oh, a week earlier. That wasn’t usually soon enough either, but it did make a difference. Doesn’t help that I believe we are in the wrong time zone – we should be with Chicago, not New York City. That’s one thing I really liked about Colorado. Not only were there more days of sunlight in general, but it was also at the beginning of the Mountain time zone, with a reasonable daylight span.

Should see me in March…

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Flame of freedom with the Roebling suspension bridge in the background at the NURFC in Cincinnati.

Tuesday was also election day. I voted. I hope you did too. If you didn’t, I hope you had a good reason. Having to work isn’t a good reason – in the US, nearly every state has a requirement that employers are to permit people time to vote. In some, you even get paid for that time. Then of course there’s early voting, which is helpful for those who can’t afford to lose two hours pay, and genuinely can’t get to the polls in that thirteen hour period. Yes, they exist. Buses aren’t the fastest things in the world, you know. If I worked downtown, for instance, and I took the bus, I’d have to prepare at least an hour and a half each way. I’m just about at the end of a route, as far east as you can go and still be in the city limits. There are express buses, of course, and that helps, but only if you are to be at work between 8 and 9. In my case, the nearest bus stop where I can catch an express bus is a mile walk from my house. So that’s 20 minutes right there. Takes just over half an hour, though, so that’s good, I suppose. There’s a special route for where I do work now, except that it’s going the opposite direction. Not as long a walk, and frankly, if I really had to, I could walk to work. Probably should once in a while. Kids walk it every day, after all. IMO, they shouldn’t, it’s not exactly the best place to be a pedestrian, but you do what you gotta do.

That took a third of a paragraph to derail. Not bad.

2nd panel of native Jim Borgman's strip, comparing the East/West divide to the Berlin Wall.  Not that much of a stretch.
Part of  Jim Borgman’s strip comparing the East/West divide to the Berlin Wall.
Not that much of a stretch.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Google celebrates with a doodle showing the day when people from both sides climbed up and saw one another for the first time in almost 30 years. The guards didn’t have any direction; they didn’t know how to react. Some reacted the way they were trained, others just let people go. They had friends and family, too. I was 19 and in college, and had a 13-inch black-and-white television that I rarely watched. My how times have changed. I don’t really remember much, other than hearing the wall had fallen. I did know, though, that this was huge. My life up until that point was constantly under threat by the possibility someone would have a little too much bourbon or vodka and accidentally start WW III. It was so normal, I didn’t really give it much thought. After all, our parents before us had grown up with that, and frankly, the threat was more real then. Cuban Missile Crisis anyone?

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Piece of the Berlin Wall outside of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

Still, I do remember, and I did know what a big deal it was. I wondered if it meant they were finally collapsing, that an ideology that requires guards who will shoot to kill to keep citizens in had hit its tipping point. China has adapted their version of Communism, making it a little more capitalist, but it’s still a bit oppressive. Some of that is cultural; a reverence for authority and ancestors seems to make it easier to control people. I was going to make a comparison to a particular religious movement here in the US, but I don’t want to derail again. When the wall fell, it seemed it was the death knell, the first hint that things weren’t all sunny in the USSR.

Then it got a bit surreal – David Hasselhoff performed on the Wall. He does see it for what it was – an opportunity to be a part of history, and not anything that actually influenced the fall – but it did really mean quite a lot to the Germans. It’s all kinds of Velveeta (extra cheesy), but sometimes the best things are.

Oh, and the eleven percent thing? I’m re-reading my Rachel Morgan series, currently on The Outlaw Demon Wails. Good book. It has vampires and witches and elves and pixies and werewolves, but that’s not the point, really – they’re people who happen to be vampires and witches and elves and pixies and werewolves, and humans. And demons, because you need a protagonist. In this particular book, one of the secondary characters is ill, and the main character is called in for support. He has an 89% chance of dying; he wants Rachel there because she believes in the 11%. Something I try to remember to do, believe in the 11%. What can I say, I default to optimist. Always have. Not delusional, optimistic. Big difference.

I think that’s it for today. Short, I know, but that’s an awful lot to think about. To summarize – should have a good reason why you didn’t vote, the time change was great if late, the Berlin Wall coming down was HUGE, sometimes it’s good to believe in the 11%, and Freddie Mercury* was awesome!


*You didn’t click on that link, did you? Uh huh, I didn’t think so. Try again.

When October Goes

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Arch over a bench in Ault Park
And when October goes
 The snow begins to fly
 Above the smoky roofs
 I watch the planes go by
Johnny Mercer/Barry Manilow

It’s November 1st, and it’s SNOWING! I’m not ready for this. It’s not sticking to the streets, but it is sticking to roofs. My car is spotted with white, now, and I’m not happy about it. It’ll be gone in an hour or two, but that’s beside the point. At least I get my hour back tomorrow. I laid in bed this morning enjoying the whole “being warm” thing, something I didn’t really get Friday morning, and realized that it is November, finally, suddenly. I also tried to figure out what I would write about, trying to avoid the topics everyone will cover – time change and mid-term elections. They’re both important things to me, just not something I want to cover again!

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Spring Grove last Saturday, hanging with the CW teacher I DID like. Pretty cool, huh? The picture is too, I think.

When I was in college, and had time for an elective for me, I took a creative writing class. Last one I’d been in was my 2nd year in high school. I wasn’t a fan of the teacher*, so I dropped it. It wasn’t required, and I didn’t want the stress of being in a class I hated by choice. That would be one of those regrets I carry to this day. Still, I did get two years in high school, so that was good. This one in college I though should be interesting. The professor had been published – which, honestly, doesn’t mean a whole lot, even then – and I loved to write.

Thing is, the only class I could get into, between my schedule and availability, was on Monday nights from 6 to 8:40 or 4 to 6:40 or something ridiculous like that. There were good lessons, I’m sure, but the two that stuck with me is 1) Try not to write what everyone else is writing – we had an assignment to take Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” and using the same cadence, write a poem that was similar. Since we were in college, an awful lot of us wrote about parties. Yep, I did too. The professor wasn’t impressed, and even lectured us briefly on it. The second thing that stuck with me is that I don’t do well in a class that’s more than 2 hours long, even if I enjoy the subject. Too hard to sit still that long, too hard to pay attention, even with a break. When I went back to school in Colorado, working toward an MS in Accounting that I never finished, those classes didn’t seem to be as long. Honestly can’t remember how often they met, if it was once or twice a week. It was the more recent of the two experiences, by almost 20 years, and it didn’t stick with me as well as I might have liked. Kinda sad, that.

Right, so be sure to vote, make sure it’s an informed vote, not one determined by the loudest ad or pundit, and don’t forget to turn your clocks back before you go to bed tonight. Or get up at 2 and do it then, whatever.

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Ault Park this past Wednesday, the 29th

I’m just glad this week is over. I stopped hurting by Tuesday, but I had a few things on my mind, a follow-up appointment for something not related to the PKD, wondering if there was any way I would be able to afford to go to Vienna with my choir, the fact that it was DARK at 8 in the morning, and cold, dealing with the complicated files at work, which tend to take up half my day, realizing I was in desperate need of a shopping trip – I don’t own much in the way of winter clothes – and other fun and exciting things like that.

By the way, the follow-up was fine, nothing to worry about, and no, I don’t think I can afford to go to Vienna with my choir. The trip itself I could probably manage, since it’s paid in chunks; it’s the flight that’s put an end to that dream. Should have known better than to hope for that one. At this point in my life, with my current health – which is stable now, and has been for over a year – this was probably my last chance to go anywhere like that. Well, with a group, anyway. Going by myself doesn’t appeal. I like being able to share the events of the day with someone who was there, who would have some of the same memories. Maybe that’s why I’d never make a good cougar. I’m a sapiosexual being; I gotta be able to connect mentally with someone, intelligently, intellectually. Romantic or platonic, if we can follow one another, and it’s a challenging game, then you’re stuck with me. Much as I hate to admit it, that’s another one† of the reasons my marriage so long ago didn’t last; he didn’t have it in him. He wasn’t stupid by any stretch, just didn’t have the means to challenge me.

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Fall leaves on a pond in Spring Grove

I’ve run into that a few times, actually. I don’t need a man who is more intelligent than I am – I am officially in that 2% genius range – there’s plenty of things I don’t know or understand in the world. Just someone who isn’t threatened by a woman who might be a subject-matter-expert on an area he’s not familiar with, who doesn’t feel the need to prove how much more intelligent he is, who can have a conversation, a discussion, with logical references, who can follow along, who isn’t afraid to ask when he doesn’t understand, and who will answer when I ask because I don’t understand. Sense of humor is extremely important. It helps if it’s similar to mine – appreciating the humor in both The Fifth Element and Airplane, catching oblique references, and not looking at me like I’m nuts when I laugh at something he misses.

I know he exists; he has to. I’ve just stopped really looking.

Oh, right. Welcome to November. It stopped snowing, but it’s still bitterly cold. Vote, turn back your clocks, and turn on the heat for crying out loud! I know some of you haven’t, yet.


*For those who are familiar with where I went to school, it was Mrs. H, not Ms. H, who I had that 2nd year.

†There are several reasons, some better than others. Not his fault.