The Furnace is On!

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Meet Claudio, my Fiat. Tolja it was cute! Fun to drive, too.

Defcon one, people, the furnace is on. I repeat: THE FURNACE IS ON! Apparently it’s October or some such nonsense. I wasn’t ready for that. I never am. Sure, it means I get to wear my winter clothes (have about 2 weeks’ worth, if I layer – I need to go shopping), and be all bundled up under multiple blankets, but I still prefer spring and summer over fall and winter. For one thing, my joints hurt less in the spring and summer.

There are, of course, some differences. I’ll be starting a job that I think I’ll like, for the first time in I don’t even know how long. For the first time in 8 Octobers,* I have a car that does not have a leaky roof, OR duct tape holding it together.

The accident that caved in my driver’s side door was in November 2007, just after Thanksgiving, two months after I’d been laid off. I was visiting my aunt in Tulsa, planning to head back to Colorado Springs the next day. That got delayed while I tried to figure out how I was going to make a 700-mile trip without a driver’s side mirror. You don’t realize how much you use something until you can’t.

Reliable as it was, it was getting to the point where I had to do something. At the least, it needed a tune up; the engine was starting to run a little rough. The trim on the driver’s side was long gone – the accident ripped it off and created a gaping hole in the door. In order to be street-legal, I had to patch that up, cover the exposed sharp metal, because this isn’t Mad Max time just yet. So, when I got home, I taped up the side, covering the metal and the hole. It lasted a few months before I had to change it. A little longer at first because I had a carport, then when I had to park it outside, it deteriorated a little more quickly, but not much. It didn’t even last two weeks when I got back to Ohio. Fortunately I still had a pretty-good sized roll; I was able to replace it as needed.

It also needed a new top; the one on it had been there since it was new in 1999. Convertible tops may last longer than they used to, but they weren’t meant to last 17 years (the top itself was dated March 1998). There weren’t any holes in the top itself, but the back window, which was plastic, had some cracks, and after one particularly cold winter and unintentionally vigorous scraping, the ancient, brittle plastic crumbled and left a gaping hole in the rear window. I used packing tape for that for a couple months, because regular clear duct tape was only translucent, not transparent, then I heard about Gorilla tape’s clear stuff. I didn’t have to change that once. The accident caused slight frame damage, so the driver’s side door always leaked in the rain. I added duct tape to the door seal to close that up a bit. It helped. Oh, and the side windows didn’t fit properly anymore. Had to tape those to reduce the wind noise and resistance. And the sunroof frame itself was falling apart. The two hinges that attached it to the car had disintegrated, leaving the back of the sunroof unfettered by chains, or in this case, screws. Taped that.

Tell ya what, I am more than ready to swear allegiance to Gorilla tape. It survived a particularly nasty winter intact. I didn’t have to change it once.

Friday before last, I was reaching into the trunk of my car – I have a trunk, now! – to get a grocery bag, and pulled something in  my shoulder. No idea what, but it made a noise like I’d never before heard, popping like something was snapping apart. I didn’t give it too much thought that evening, because it was only a little sore, and that shoulder was sprained multiple times for the last 20-odd years, so it’s pretty much always aching.† Saturday morning, though, oh, I felt it. It got bad. I was almost hyperventilating from the pain. I’m stubborn and wasn’t feeling up to going to the doctor (urgent car or ER), in part because they don’t listen and would probably put me on the cardiac ward because sudden shoulder pain is a symptom for women, and give me a saline IV for the kidney function. In large part, if I’m honest.

I took my last Vicodin (from when I got my tooth pulled in 2014) and went back to sleep once it finally kicked in. Thought maybe giving it a rest for a few hours would help. It didn’t. So I managed to get myself to Walgreens. Ever drive a stick with one hand? Nope, me either. By the time I got to Walgreens, I wished could, though. Didn’t want to bother anyone. They have lives, shouldn’t have to interrupt them for me. No one wants that. Desperate, I picked up a bottle of Aleve (which I’m not supposed to have) and Tiger Balm, and headed home. Popped two of those and spent the rest of the evening in bed, watching television, arm in a sling I made, using my tablet because it hurt too much to type. Hell, that hurt too, but not nearly as badly. If it didn’t feel any better Sunday, I was going to have to see a professional; I think I managed to convince myself of that much. Sunday morning was much improved, so long as I didn’t push it. I did sing in church that morning, which was the end of my exertions for the day. Well, not completely, there was the Bengals/Ravens game that afternoon, which was absolutely insane in the 2nd half. Who dey? Not the Ravens, not for a while, now.

Yes, this was a distraction. The Pope came to the US and met with Kim Davis. The Vatican is saying it’s not an endorsement of her position, she’s saying “See? Even the Pope agree with me!” There was yet another shooting, this time targeting Christians, and there is yet another barrage of “we need more guns/guns kill people” posts on my newsfeed. Well, there’s a little difference; the people who often cry “more guns” the loudest are now upset that it’s about the shooting and not about the target. Trump is being his usual classy self, and Ben Carson, a physician, is saying things that would make me want to see a different doctor. Planned Parenthood’s funding is in jeopardy because of an agenda that actually has nothing to do with PP, but is all about appealing to a base that refuses to listen to anyone else. Abortion is legal. PP also provides birth control and education, which have proven far more effective at preventing abortion than has prayer, abstinence and making it illegal.

The gulf continues to grow, the sides more and more convinced they are right, and far less likely to listen to the other, and the people in the middle are being pressured to choose. John Boehner is stepping down because he can no longer be a part of this. I wouldn’t be surprised if in arch-conservative circles he’s now being painted as a liberal traitor. It’s all become rather either/or out there, and I’m tired. So tired. Liberals OR conservatives aren’t tearing this country apart; it’s liberals AND conservatives, both the people who make the decisions and those who keep voting to put them there. I’m about at the point of apathy myself, somewhere I don’t want to be. This is why I don’t spend much time on Facebook anymore, and why I haven’t written many posts all summer. I just can’t.

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*Eight Octobers made me smile. You know what October means, right? Where the name comes from? Used to be the eighth month of the year, before the Caesers (Julius and Augustus, specifically) went all Narcissus and had to have their own months.

†Yay, genetics and poorly made and poorly fitted bras!

Needful

The last few weeks have been eventful. The news has become increasingly difficult watch, as has my Facebook newsfeed. The divisions seem to be growing wider, egged on by those who wish to divide, who want to see a populace that can’t get together long enough to see what is really affecting them. The right wants to defund Planned Parenthood, ignoring the fact that there are thousands of women for whom that is their primary source of healthcare, focusing only on one part of what they do and citing a made-up video, even though that has since been proven false.

The candidates for the presidency are already campaigning, more than a year before the election, and the GOP forerunner is a man who can’t be bought or reasoned with. Trump has no issue with the fringe element that supports him, comfortable with their paranoid beliefs about the current administration. They don’t cite policies, only thrown bigoted rhetoric. Most recently,  there was the GOP debate, with ten candidates. I didn’t watch, I was angry and frustrated enough. I did see the soundbites the next morning. One has the candidate Carly Fiorini discussing the Planned Parenthood video treating it as fact, full of righteous ire.

Later, at a town hall meeting, Trump was fielding questions from the “oppressed few” who’ve most benefited from the status quo – that group of people who’ve always been able to live their lives without fear of reprisal for being the wrong color, the wrong religion, even the wrong gender – including one from a man who still believes the president is an African-born Muslim socialist bent on world domination. His belief was rock solid, and Donald Trump, who continued to live the Birther life long after others had given up, didn’t bother to correct him. He remains unrepentant.

How long the GOP will let this continue, I don’t know, but they are catering to the fringe, the group they think they have control of, those whose every decision is based on fear. That’s why Trump is leading in the polls, because he’s saying what they believe. There is no black supremacy movement hidden in the president’s agenda, no funding of Muslim terrorist groups who want to kill citizens in their homes and take away their guns, there is certainly no effort to disenfranchise the majority, who think they’re the minority. Irrational and unfounded, these beliefs are dangerous in many ways. Not just the obvious excuse to commit violence against groups they find objectionable, but the more subtle encouragement of those who are looking for someone to blame for the way their lives are going, the bringing forth the inherent racism in our society and making it acceptable to persecute. These are the people who a couple generations ago would have – and still do, in some cases – supported segregation. Their fear, the ones who can’t cite policy, who are only focused on the lies that were perpetrated eight years ago, is based on the fact the man in the White House is stepping out of line, that he shouldn’t be in that office, not because he’s incompetent, but because he’s not white. It’s more obvious with some than with others.

Again, for those who can cite actual facts, this isn’t necessarily true. It’s also not solely the province of the Right, although they’re far more vocal about it.

There is no war on Christianity. Kim Davis was not jailed for her religion, she was jailed for not obeying the law.

There does appear to be a war on Muslims, however, since an awful lot of those people are convinced the Muslim faith is about blood and violence and genocide, and use any excuse to punish someone who is Muslim.

There’s not going to be any government involvement with who churches will and will not allow to marry. There wasn’t for Loving v. Virginia, and there won’t be now.

There is no war on the police. There is a fight to make changes in the policies, so the good cops – who I continue believe are in the majority – can be in charge, instead of the ones who encourage a mindset that hasn’t really changed in 50 years. Where whistleblowers can come forth instead of keeping their silence in fear.

Focusing on abortion leaves so many things untouched, ignored by the public, policies that impact them are decided out of the public eye because they’re so focused on something that has nothing to do with the running of the country, and everything to do with keeping women in their place.

The war we need to fight is the war on bigotry, on exclusion, on marginalization. This is not an effort to reduce what others have, but to open the door for others to achieve the same things. Just because people look different from you, believe differently, behave differently, that does NOT give you the right to treat them differently.

These are all fear-based beliefs, predicated on the mindset that individuals who are not like them represent an entire group. Media shows the most terrible, most eye-catching news in order to get ratings. They embellished the truth, skew it to fit their viewers’ own prejudices, acknowledged or not, even just make things up. Protected by the First Amendment, they are under no obligation to tell just the facts. There was a bill that required that, which I’ve mentioned before, but it was repealed, and efforts continue to make sure such a bill can never be passed again. How can you trust media in a country where they can lie if they want to?

What there should be, what is making these stories so important, is a war on bigotry, exclusion, on marginalization. It’s a losing battle, as long as people are distracted by insignificant causes and encouraged to discriminate.

I’ve had some really positive things in my life recently. I’m starting a new job in my company, one far better suited to my personality than what I’m doing now, with the support of my manager, something I never really had before, I’ve replaced my car after fourteen-and-a-half years – used Fiat convertible, totes adorbs – I remain fairly stable health-wise, so once I figure out how I’m paying for it, I can go to Italy with my choir next summer. Pre-transplant, this is probably my last chance to leave the continent. Stable, yes, but declining. Slowly, very slowly, but declining just the same. I don’t dwell on that. No point, really, as it likely won’t have much other impact on my life for a very long time. Not as it is now. I’ll be looking for a new place to live before too much longer.

Part of me is waiting for the bad news, most of me is excited. In general, life is on an upswing for me, something I’ve been working toward for some time.

I didn’t want to lose that joy. Winter is coming, and with that comes colder weather and less light, both of which strongly impact my mood. The news is so negative, and social media allowing the divisions to become even wider, I can’t. Not right now.

That’s where I’ve been. Angry, tired, frustrated, even resigned. Someone is going to win, and it will be the side with the most money, like it always is.

Just a Bit Absurd

I’ve mentioned a few times – although I’ve tried not to belabor it – that work has been more than a little stressful and draining. I missed two weeks, I know, and I’m sorry. Two weeks ago, I had worked a lot of hours in a very short time, and I was all but useless Saturday and Sunday. Last week, I was in North Myrtle Beach. I had a post written, and intended to publish it from there, but I forgot. So, I posted it yesterday. This is the post for this weekend.

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The view from the front balcony. All rooms had a beach view. Might not be perfect, but it was a view.

I didn’t have my camera with me all the time, and there were a couple of incidents where I regretted that lack. Who, though, would think of taking the camera with them on the way to the liquor store?

It’s vacation time, and when I’m on vacation, I do enjoy an adult beverage or two. For me, it’s just something to do when I’m having fun. Not necessary, just an option. Without the Friday wine tastings at the grocery store*, it would be months between beverages.

This was a family vacation, so most of my immediate family and associated hangers-on were there. A few couldn’t make it. My younger brother was planning a trip to the liquor store, because it was far cheaper than the bar at the resort (duh), along with his girlfriend and their daughter. My father opted to join as well. It was within walking distance, and it wasn’t ridiculously hot and humid, so a walk sounded just fine. Now, I may or may not have mentioned, but my family is rather large. The immediate family et al came to around 35 people. We had five different suites in three different buildings. Three rooms in my building, on the same floor, one in the building next door, and one in a building across the street. My sister (S2†), her oldest son, his wife and their son, and her other two grandsons were in that one. She had a balcony with an ocean view, and happened to be on it when we crossed the open courtyard between building 2 and building 3. She saw us, we waived; my brother (S6) called her and let her know where we were going, and she decided to join us. Well that’s fine, we can meet her out front.

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View from the other side of the front balcony/walkway.

We get to the elevator in my building and I head up to the room. Since we’re waiting for someone else, I decide to change out of my swimsuit. While I’m gone, the youngest two sisters (S8 & 9) meet up with my father, and decide they’d like to come along as well. They just want to change, first. My father decided to wait for them. Plan to meet out front as before. No problem. Now this is getting to be a large group.

On the street-side of our building, I found my brother, his girlfriend and their daughter – in a stroller – waiting as well; S2 joined us not long after. We were just waiting for my father and the youngest two sisters. While waiting, S2 got a phone call from either S1 or S3; her grandsons were in the lobby of her building, to be picked up. Okay…so now we’re going to have two more children with us.

S2 goes off to pick up her grandsons. We wait. S6 (brother) senses his daughter getting restless, so he goes to walk her around. Now it’s just me and his girlfriend. At this point, I’m thinking this has gotten to be a much bigger event than originally planned. It had gone from just a quick run to the store to a small procession. I mention the absurdity of it all and S5’s GF humors me. She’s finding it a bit absurd herself. Little did I know…

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The beach at dawn, footprints in the wet sand as the tide goes out.

We happen to look toward the garage across the street, and see someone coming. We recognize S2, because we know what she was wearing. Then we notice S3 is leading the pack. Yes, pack. S1 was bringing up the rear, along with her stepdaughter. In between were not just two of S2’s grandsons, but the young (grand?)daughters (I didn’t ask. Meant to, just didn’t) of her current beau, S3’s son and S1’s youngest two, her granddaughter, her stepdaughter, whose name is the same as mine – that doesn’t cause any confusion – and her daughter. They’re coming along; it’s time for them to take a walk anyway. It’s only a few blocks, and they could use the walk to burn off some energy. I start laughing. Procession? This has become a parade! We now have two children in strollers, and 8 more on foot, all under the age of 10 (or maybe 12). Altogether, we end up with 10 adults, 10 children, all heading off to the liquor store. No real incidents with any of them, just a slower pace. When we crossed the street, we briefly ran into two of S1’s older daughters, D1‡ and D3, D1’s fiance and D3’s friend (no other kids her age). For some reason, they didn’t want to join us. Can’t imagine why.

Keeping everything straight? Yeah, me either. Just pretend; that’s what I do.

Our little troop walked through groups of people dining at restaurants along the way. The general reaction was amusement when they realized the size of our little parade. On the way back, we walked down the other side of the street, and through different crowds eating outside. S1’s D3 and friend saw us and joined us again, briefly. She wanted to show us her henna tattoo. It was nice. Got smudged, though. It was a little crowded, you know.

We crossed the street and crossed again, passing a little amusement area, with rides and an arcade. The rides weren’t open yet, but we paused to see how much it would be, since it was in walking distance, and would give the kids something fun to do. It was suddenly rather quiet, and we began looking around, realizing for the first time that my brother, his GF and their daughter, along with all of the walking children, had wandered off. We knew they wouldn’t come to any harm with him, but we were kinda wanting to know where they were. As we passed the arcade, we see is GF poke her head around and wave us on. He’d taken them to the arcade and given them all tokens; they were playing Skeeball when we found them. That was the point when I regretted not having my camera with me.

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Shortly after sunrise. I watched the sun creep up over the buildings. Got a nice series of shots, too.

We stayed a little longer. One of my other siblings got the kids started on a claw machine. The oldest one was rather adept, so she played it for them. There were rubber balls in the machine, and it wouldn’t do but that every kid had one. As I understand it, they went back a couple days later.

Finally, each kid not in a stroller played Skeeball at least once, and each kid, even the ones in the strollers, had a new ball to play with. At last our parade was ready to move on. We marched back, having to rescue a few balls in the process, with one child-induced casualty (she chewed the ball and made a hole – it deflated), and one ball that made it across the street. I got that one. The cars on the road were nice enough to stop for me while I went after it. No one ran into the street, although a few were horsecollared to keep them from doing it. Grab what you can.

That was…an experience.

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*I go for the company; the wine is incidental. Well, the first time it was for the wine. Oh, and the food. The woman who runs the tasting I attend is also a chef, and she tries out recipes to match the wines.

†S2 = sibling 2. I’ve found a numbering system to be more useful. I can number by sisters and brothers, or just number the total. I’m sibling 4 regardless how it’s counted.

‡D1 – descendant 1, her oldest. She has five of them. Four of them came on the trip, three are under 18.

I Ate’nt Dead

Not easy to learn, the Haydn, but so worth it.
Not easy to learn, the Haydn, but so worth it.

Last weekend was busy. My choir had our Lenten concert on Sunday afternoon, a church service that morning, and a dress rehearsal on Saturday. After a long week at work, and a rough moment or two recognizing the 10th anniversary of my mother’s passing, I didn’t have energy for much else. Throw in the time change, the loss of an hour, and it was all I could do to function. It went well, I think, our performance. The audience leapt to their feet at the end, different from the usual reaction of the few who stand up for every performance, and everyone else eventually rising. The soloists were, of course, spectacular, as was the orchestra. The audience was a bit sparse, but I think part of that might have been the time change, part the weather. It was lovely outside, sunny and warm; I didn’t put on my jacket when I left, and I drove with the top down, of course. It was probably not above 50 degrees (10 C), and a little breezy, but that’s what heaters are for.

I have a few things rolling around in my head right now; I’m afraid a decent segue is out of the question today. Shall we press on?

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Near the end of the daylight at Ault Park, March 11, 2015

Meteorological spring has sprung, as of March 1st. It rained. Well, it’s spring; I’m definitely not complaining. This past Wednesday, I left work after a particularly stressful day and grabbed my camera. It was nearing sunset, and I wanted to get something showing that spring was on its way. I considered areas where there might be new life springing forth. There’s a shrub or tree outside the door at work that’s been pushing forward new branches for a few weeks now. There’s even a leaf on one of them. But it’s dark, and it’s limited, and I wanted something more. I thought of going to one of my favorite spots – reminding myself that there are SEVERAL places just on this side of town I could explore – but I saw the sun sinking and made a last-minute decision. I headed to another of my favorite spots, Ault Park. It was close. I spent a good two hours there, I think, just shooting, decompressing, working on becoming whole once more. I played with the light, which is what you do with a camera, and I think I came up with some interesting things. That wasn’t the point, though; I was relaxed, as though I’d just had a steamy hot bath and massage. The winter had been long, cold, unpleasant, and near the end, full of snow. I’d gone out for fun once in November, once in January, and once in February. That’s all. It’s not enough. I’d planned to go out today, see what I could get of the Ohio river above flood stage, but I got caught up in other things instead. It’ll flood again, that’s what it does. Hopefully not that badly; it seems the vast majority affected this time are the ones usually affected, which still sucks, but it’s not that odd. It’s not 1937, after all. Or even 1997.

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Pavilion pillar at Ault Park

I have notes about what I wanted to cover – zero-tolerance policies, the impending season, fatigue, and late bloomers (more in-depth than above). As I said, much rolling around in my head. And yet…

I was stalling. Terry Pratchett passed away this past† Thursday. Completely unmentioned in the US media, all over British media and my Facebook newsfeed. Yeah, my friends have excellent taste. See, I knew, as did most fans, that Sir Terry was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, and that it was just a matter of time. Still, it was no less shocking when he did pass. I discovered him in 1997, I think, when, after years of reading Piers Anthony’s Xanth books, I was ready for something else. I’d heard of him, of course, just hadn’t gotten around to reading anything. I didn’t pick up the very first book, it wasn’t available. Instead, I picked up the first book I could find, which I think was Lords and Ladies*, featuring witches and wizards and elves and rude earthworks. And I read. Before I even finished reading it, I bought all the books I could find, and afford. Some months I could only get two, thanks to bills and low pay. There were gaps that took years to fill. I think I literally squealed when I saw the first three books for sale, and at a special price of $3.99. The new publisher was looking to get people interested again, and probably figured out the lack of early books was hampering them just a bit. Discworld doesn’t necessarily have to be read in order, but it can help with some of the stories. I’ve had to replace two of them so far, because I’ve read them so often. I usually start the series once a year. I haunt bookstores looking for a paperback° that I haven’t gotten yet, and snatch it up on the spot. They’re not that easy to come by, you know.

But see, he didn’t just write about Discworld; that was only his most famous stuff. I also read Good Omens, which is about the Apocalypse. Well, the attempted Apocalypse, anyway. If you’re easily offended, move on; if not, though, if you like a good bit of (religious) satire, I highly recommend it. As with his other stories, it is at once funny, touching, and deep. It makes me think, still, as many times as I’ve read it. A master of the written word, and I do not say that lightly, everything he wrote makes me think, even as it makes me laugh, or cry.¤

So once again, my world is saddened by yet another light snuffed.
Terry Pratchett - TheAustralian Ripples Quote

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†For the grammatically challenged, I will point out that there are indeed words that sound similar but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Passed and past are no more the same word than they’re, their, or there are.
Okay, I feel better now.

*It might have been Masquerade, too. It was nearly 20 years ago, give me a break!

°Here’s the thing – the first books I bought were all paperbacks, and there was no chance whatsoever of getting them in hardcover. I can’t very well have part of a series in paperback and part in hardcover, now can I? Unless it’s a book signing; then I have two copies, a signed hardcover, and a reading paperback. Which reminds me, I still have two Hollows books to get.

¤Collections of quotes, from his book, and his own mouth.
The Telegraph – 50 Best Quotes
Buzzfeed from 2013 – 26 Quotes
BBC America – 30 Quotes

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.

Spring Grove with Hennigan_0058a
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.

Defiantly

Grammar YroueGrammer spelling syntax word choice, these for things can mean the difference between sounding foolish, and getting your point across, it’s important, irregardless of weather your writing to a friend or a president of a company. I’m sure you seen the various punctuation memes like “The Panda eats shoots and leaves” or “I like cooking my family and pets”, or the memes explaining the difference between your and you’re or there, their, and they’re. Some believe it’s the advent of texting or social media that have made grammer worse, sense thats when people really started noticing. Personally, I think wether we started texting regularly or just continued posting online, it would of come to light. It’s a skill our society has been loosing for some time now. There were more then a few interoffice memo’s from people who should have known better, that made my skin crawl, cents long before the internet was a common thing, before even MySpace or Friendster*. There are learning disabilities, of course, and opportunities not provided, but for the overwhelming majority, an understanding of how to use basic grammar is definately something within there capabilities. There is, of course, a difference between abusing the language because you could care less, and abusing it for affect, and typos, well, those happen. I’ve had no choice but to occasionally rant on my social media page. Okay, I have, but in the interest of my own sanity, I went with the rant. I think my friend’s would rather I rant on my page then rampage in the streets. Probably be better for my job prospects, to.‡

I’m not perfect by any means – I’ve had my share of syntax, grammar, and spelling errors, but I do believe it is necessary to have a basic understanding of language. There are probably tons of errors in this post (maybe even ones I missed). It’s not just a matter of how well you present yourself to your friends. Choosing the correct word or using the correct grammar DOES change the meaning of a sentence. Look, you don’t have to know how to spell obsequious (unless you’re a toady in training, of course), or the proper use of a semicolon over a comma, but knowing when to use a period or nothing, when to say loose and when to say lose, or the difference between then and than, well, that’s a matter of someone else being able to understand you.

Last week, I came across a school board’s website where there was a particularly common error, confusing affect and effect. As luck would have it, I had business with the superintendent. I let her know; the page was fixed in a matter of hours. Would I have done that with any page? No, I wouldn’t. This, however, was a school district’s page; it kinda mattered.

In other news, there were stories out of the NFL. There’s the Ray Rice story, about a suspension and eventual banning that happened not because there was a change of heart, but because there was a leaked video (cynical much?), and then there’s Devon Still, who had been cut from the only team he’d every played for, the Cincinnati Bengals, because he wasn’t playing up to snuff.

Except he wasn’t.

See, he had been distracted. His little girl has been dealing with cancer. I think that would distract any parent. So what happened? The Bengals kept him on the practice squad so he wouldn’t lose his insurance. A huge pay cut, but insurance. They began selling his jersey, which, if purchased from the pro shop, will benefit the Cincinnati Children’s and pediatric cancer research. Sales have been brisk. Even Sean Payton, head coach of the New Orleans Saints, bought a couple. Well, 100, anyway. Who Dat!

Oh, and Devon was added to the 53-man roster; bit of a better tax bracket with that one.

I ordered mine on Tuesday. Who Dey!

Who Dey!

_________________________

*Once a social media site, now a gaming site

Grammar, spelling, syntax, word choice, these four things can mean the difference between sounding foolish, and getting your point across. It’s important, regardless† of whether you’re writing to a friend or a president of a company. I’m sure you’ve seen the various punctuation memes like “The Panda eats shoots and leaves” or “I like cooking my family and pets”, or the memes explaining the difference between your and you’re or there, their, and they’re. Some believe it’s the advent of texting or social media that have made grammar worse, since that’s when people really started noticing. Personally, I think whether we started texting regularly or just continued posting online, it would have come to light. It’s a skill our society has been losing for some time now. There were more than a few interoffice memo’s, from people who should have known better,§ that made my skin crawl, since long before the internet was a common thing, before even MySpace or Friendster*. There are learning disabilities, of course, and opportunities not provided, but for the overwhelming majority, an understanding of how to use basic grammar is definitely something within their capabilities. There is, of course, a difference between abusing the language because you couldn’t care less, and abusing it for effect, and typos, well, those happen. I’ve had no choice but to occasionally rant on my social media page. Okay, I have, but in the interest of my own sanity, I went with the rant. I think my friends would rather I rant on my page than rampage in the streets. Probably be better for my job prospects, too.‡

†That one’s a hanging offense

§Alternately: There were more than a few interoffice memos from people who should have known better that made my skin crawl.

Lots Going On

I have a lot of things running through my mind, doing horrible things to my belly and head, ruining my sleep and concentration, which in turn just makes everything worse. Yay. So, not gonna focus on that. Does nothing but make me more stressed and nervous and frustrated.

I had a plan I was working on, trying to get back into the swing of things. I was going to talk about such exciting things like how the hole where my tooth used to be is healing (it’s a little surreal), or how I had to replace two tires today, and wound up replacing two that really needed to be replaced, and having a third repaired. Maybe even dig a little into the stress thing, although not too deeply. Some of that stuff is none of your business, after all. When I got home, after 7:30, and I sat down at my computer, logging on to Facebook after paying a bill that was due today, I saw a trending article – Dr Maya Angelou was gone.

There will be a lot of articles and posts about this today, but that’s because it really is news. A voice for the voiceless, for freedom, for equality, for common sense, a voice of strength, of kindness, of grace, has been forever silenced. Dr. Maya Angelou, US Poet Laureate, first since Robert Frost for John F Kennedy, first black woman, Phenomenal Woman indeed, has left this world. Her strength, her intelligence, her grace, her courage, her words, these things will live on.

When I was a student in college, we had a number of speakers on campus, people that made a difference in our world, not just theirs – Angela Davis, Elie Wiesel, Maya Angelou. There were more, of course, but these are the ones that really stuck with me. Through horror, they gained strength. Dr. Angelou had a cold when she was there; she didn’t feel that well. Someone left early, so she ended early herself. That student who had to leave was horrified to think she was ending the show on her account. Well, who wouldn’t? She did actually have somewhere else to be, couldn’t really stay for the whole thing, but we ended early. I think a half hour. It was harsh. Still, ignoring that part, it was an incredible evening.

Her final tweet:

Take a moment, spend some time with her. You won’t regret it.

Look Around

My mouth hurts. Had a tooth pulled. I couldn’t afford a root canal any time soon, even with insurance, and I was running out of tooth to crown, so the alternative was having it pulled. Back in 2007, a few months before I was laid off, I went to a dentist in Colorado who must have been fresh out of  dental school. He filled one tooth so badly, the bite didn’t settle for more than two months. It wasn’t my first filling, so I knew even after a week that something was wrong. I went back to get it fixed – got the same dentist, didn’t make anything better. In fact, not long after that was the first time that tooth chipped. Just a small fragment, but enough to leave a sharp edge. I could feel the crack in my tooth before the first noticeable chip.

Warm May Day_0234a
Here, something pretty to look at.

It kept chipping here and there for years. May 2011, two months after I got back, 15 months before I’d have insurance, 27 months before I’d be able to use it for a root canal, a big piece broke off. It held steady for a while, but by the end of last year, it was disintegrating at an alarming rate. At my semi-annual checkup, the dentist noted that I’d need to get the root canal and crown soon, or there wouldn’t be anything to fix.

A little sad the tooth was in such bad shape – they gave me a little chest to put it in, so I could leave it under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy. Unfortunately, it came out in pieces, so there wasn’t anything to put in it. Triste.

Wasn’t that exciting? No? Well, you weren’t there with a dentist and dental assistant playing tug-o-war with my head. So there. Still, it could have been so much worse. At least I like my dentist, and usually feel very comfortable there. Almost as comfortable as with my first dentist, who always had a story to share. Had even more when I had gotten accepted to his college alma mater, almost exactly 30 years later. One of his stories included the fact that while he was allowed to take classes, he had to live off-campus; black students weren’t allowed to live on-campus at the time.

But I digress…*

I missed Wednesday. I even had a topic – I was going to write about all the wonders in the world around us. The little things like how a little disk of plastic or hydrophilic gel means I don’t have to wear glasses, or how an invention first seen on Star Trek gives me access to the internet from McDonald’s. Then I realized I would have a hard time stretching that beyond 100 words. So, now what?

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day here in the US. Churches will be filled as if it were Christmas or Easter, restaurants will have special brunches, flowers will be as expensive as they are just before Valentine’s Day. News stories will constantly revolve around mothers, and the sacrifices they’ve made, or maybe some of the less-good things they’ve done. My Facebook feed will be full of pictures and comments about how wonderful someone’s mother is, how much she meant to them, and wishes for her to be happy in heaven.

I’m glad my church choir isn’t singing tomorrow. Mothers’ Day is for the children’s choir. You know how the songs go – you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Well, that’s true; except what I found I had was a less-than ideal relationship with my mother. There were good times and bad, and times I didn’t realize were bad until I got away from them. There was only discouragement for the things I loved, and encouragement for the things I did not. My voice was criticized, my writing derided, my thought to move to New York after high school was poo-poo’d, and I was told I wasn’t good enough to be a photographer.  Instead, the focus was on my academics, on the strengths in the classroom. I graduated with a very high C/low B average.

College was the same. My ACT and SAT scores were respectable, but the classwork caused me problem. My roommate was baffled at my grades – she saw me study. She even knew what subject I was studying. She heard my rants in French (I’ve lost most of it, now), saw me try to understand what the professor was looking for in Human Geography, heard me analyze a poem for English, and she didn’t understand why I wasn’t at least a B student. I didn’t, either.

Warm May Day_0159a
If I listened to her still, I wouldn’t have taken this.

I have a better sense of why, now, and not all of it was because I was doing something I didn’t want to do. That didn’t help, but that wasn’t the only culprit by far. Mom was no help there; she has her own problems with school and schoolwork. She failed out of college, despite her intelligence. She had to study for the first time in her life, and she didn’t know how. Neither did I; I lost my scholarship almost immediately. I had difficulty knowing what was important in a textbook and what wasn’t. And there was no one I could ask. Pretty close to the same reasons I left the school I attended in 7th and 8th grade, that last bit. My academic performance dramatically improved when I switched to the arts alternative school (at the time, the academic performance was comparable to the college prep school – still ranked in the top 100 in the nation – I transferred from); I was doing something I loved. It was much easier to take care of the academics when I wasn’t so miserable.

I didn’t have anyone believing in me, and that was enough to make me not believe in myself. That’s the foundation I was given, and once I recognized it, the foundation I’ve been working to overcome. That lack of support alone is certainly not the reason my life took some of the turns it made – I have free will, I made decisions that didn’t always work out. My self-esteem had been sufficiently destroyed, though, that it colored the choices I made.

Now, in spite of my mother’s words, in spite of the stress and misery she helped foster, I have taken the reins in my life. Not without help, but that was a decision I had to make; a decision I thought I needed to make, just so it was worth getting out of bed. It’s too late for a few things, now, but not too late for others. I can mourn the losses, or recognize the gains, the opportunities, and the chances I can take. I can focus on the things she said and did, I can mourn the childhood I didn’t have, or I can remember one very important thing –

She did actually love us.

Warm May Day Stitch a
Oddly enough, my mother is the one who taught me the most about the mechanics of photography.

_________________________

*I should just call my blog that.

More Fun with HSP

Pirate's Cove Sand
The sand. The sand was nice, too. I liked that.

Last Saturday, I spent the morning doing something, I’ve no idea what, and that evening at a marina with my toes in the sand, as I’d mentioned, celebrating a friend’s birthday. The food was fried in oil that tasted like it’s seen a few things, and my Long Island was from a mix, but the band was good, as was the company; definitely makes up for it. Oh, and now I can say I’ve been there. Livin’ the dream.

Wednesday was a bit intense; I couldn’t let that one pass. It took a while to write; I wanted to make sure I made my point, rather than diluting it.  On the off chance that it wound up in the greater internet, I decided to disable comments; I don’t have the time or energy to monitor them, and I wasn’t really looking forward to any of the particularly nasty comments such subjects seem to encourage. I had a bit about Cliven Bundy that I wanted to add, but his situation is a little different than the other two; his is about stealing from the Federal government for the last twenty years, and how he’s a hero for some people who only like him because they are blinded by their hate for the current administration. His remarks are irrelevant to that situation.

So, that said, back to the HSP stuff.

This is hardly definitive, conclusive, or professionally binding, it’s just something I have decided to look into. It’s what I do, investigating things to see how they work. In this case, it’s people, and in order to understand how this works, I need to see how it relates to me. I think most people are like that, really; things only make sense if we can find some way to apply them to our own lives. I delve into personality tests and the myriad diagnoses of various brain chemistry and personality issues that come up. Mostly, I’m trying to figure out what’s just me, and what I should probably see someone about. I don’t see anything pathological here, just personality.

Once more, a comparison between being a highly-sensitive person, and being high-functioning autistic, or a person with Asperger’s. Here’s a list from Autismspeaks.org* showing what the symptoms of Asperger’s appear to be. All symptoms are not expected to be found in one person.

  • limited or inappropriate social interactions
  • “robotic” or repetitive speech
  • challenges with nonverbal communication (gestures, facial expression, etc.) coupled with average to above average verbal skills
  • tendency to discuss self rather than others
  • inability to understand social/emotional issues or nonliteral phrases
  • lack of eye contact or reciprocal conversation
  • obsession with specific, often unusual, topics
  • one-sided conversations
  • awkward movements and/or mannerisms

I’ve always been socially awkward, I know that. I know sometimes it’s made things difficult for me. I don’t think it falls into a disorder level awkwardness. The speech thing goes without saying…sorry, couldn’t help myself. I may inadvertently speak over the heads of my audience, or worse, say something that makes perfect sense to me because I had time to make an association that my listeners/readers have not, but I don’t think any of it is robotic or repetitive. Definitely not monotone.

2014 04 05_Eden Bloom_0383b text
I can’t recommend this book enough. Get it from the library, buy it, borrow it, but read it.

Non-verbal communications, I do tend to understand if I’m looking for them. Quite often, and quite easily, really. I don’t always respond to it the way the person wants, but I recognize it. Not a problem there. Tendency to discuss self rather than others, well, that one’s going to be difficult to prove here, but I really don’t talk about myself much. I’ve noted more than once that I’m amazed anyone is interested in anything I say, much less anything about me. I don’t always ask how someone is doing when I see them, but when I do, I usually want to know. I do gather facts like a magpie gathers shiny stuff, and if prompted, I’ll share, but I can tell when my audience is zoning out. For this, if I start boring myself, I will tend to stop or re-write a section, assuming anyone reading is probably finding it tedious, too. You should see some of the stuff I’ve deleted. Then again, maybe not. I can get a little unnecessarily verbose.

Lack of eye contact, yes, I do have that problem, it makes me very uncomfortable at times, and I tend to take things literally more often than not, usually because my mind has gone off somewhere else. I do get fascinated and obsessed about some things (how many posts regarding personality have I written?), but there’s so much more in the world to see and do and discover. And one-sided conversations only happen if I’m deliberately trying to keep the other person from speaking, when I have something I need them to hear. Again, nothing unusual about that. No, I’m quite sure I don’t fit on the autism spectrum.

From hsperson.com:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?

It depends. As I mentioned in my last post, I do get rattled when the heat is on. I’ve seen a lot of people get that way, so I don’t thing that really says what it means clearly enough.

  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?

2013-04-06 Ault Saturday 014a text Not quite sure what is meant by a rich and complex inner life. Part of that is my personality; I don’t see much black or white, my world is shades of gray. What that means is nearly every answer, every question, every truth, every lie, fits on a spectrum. “What time is it” has more than one answer. I have to analyze context to determine what answer is desired. Fortunately, I can do that quite quickly. Perhaps that is what was meant.

As for the sensitive or shy thing, I honestly don’t know. I know how I felt, how I feel, but I don’t know how I was perceived. If I answered this for myself, from my own point of view, I would have to say yes, I was sensitive and shy. The quiet one in the corner, invisible unless I wanted to be seen, or was sought out by someone else. I don’t know about my immediate family, but I do know my extended family thought of me as shy. Large and gregarious, family events can be exhausting. Always worth the energy as far as I’m concerned, but exhausting.

I could further elaborate on any one of those points, but I won’t. I think the last two have been, and will continue to be, demonstrated throughout my blog posts.

_________________________

*Other sources regarding Asperger’s and autism:
NIH – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Wikipedia – Shush, it can be useful when used with other sources.
Mayo Clinic – page with the symptoms

Part One – HSP
Part Two
 – HSP and Stuff
Part Three – HSP Once More
Part Four – More Fun with HSP

If you’re curious whether you should speak to someone about this, there are online tests that can start a conversation for you. They are not diagnostic tools, and they shouldn’t be used that way.
Personality traits can skew the results:
Asperger’s Test Site
Asperger’s Quiz
Aspie-Quiz – this one’s long, but interesting. The graph at the end doesn’t tell you a whole lot, though.

Last Day

These things are all over the place. More on the east side than the west.
These things are all over the place, making their way west slowly but surely.

This winter has been miserable. I think most of the continental US would agree, it’s been a bit of a nightmare. I’ve been fighting various illnesses since December, like many others at work and on my Facebook page. I’ve gotten very comfortable driving in hilly ice, though, so there’s that. Who needs 4-wheel drive? Well, if I were a skier and still in Colorado, I would, but I’m not, so I don’t. Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year, the first (astronomical) day of spring! Songbirds start migrating back this way, singing at 5:30 in the morning just outside my window, Canada geese congregate on the field by my workplace, honking away, the little Lazarus lizards that some kid brought back from Italy because they were cute come out from their little hiding places to sun themselves. I didn’t see a whole lot of them last summer, but in 2011 and 2012, every time I walked up my front steps, on a sunny day, there was at least one scurrying away. Kinda missed seeing them, if I’m honest. I was a little concerned that maybe the feral cats around here found them a tasty treat. Sure, that’s probably the case for some, but I hope not all. They eat a lot of bugs, after all.

Somewhere, a tree has the beginnings of new spring leaves. Somewhere, a daffodil is working its way through the soil. Somewhere, light green shoots are pushing their way up past the dead, dry grass that should have been cut in October. Never managed to get schedules together, and I don’t have my own mower. Way too complicated to get it in and out of my garage even if I did. So, I have to find someone to mow it periodically. Today when I left work, it was raining. By the time I got to my car, it had stopped, and the sun was shining. Very spring-like weather, I thought. Of course, the other spring-like weather includes sirens and hanging out in the basement or bathroom until whatever it is has passed, hoping the batteries in your radio and your flashlight hold out. I’m in the city, in the city limits, so I don’t generally have to deal with that all too often, thankfully. My friends in some of the suburbs, though, aren’t always so lucky.

Bradford Pear
Spring blossoms from last year

Spring. Tomorrow. The weather is even going to cooperate a little. Tonight’s low will be close to freezing, which sounds horrible but, when compared to highs of 19 just a couple weeks ago, is not so bad. Saturday, I’ll do laundry. Okay, I’ll probably actually do it Sunday, and spend Saturday talking myself into leaving the house with my camera. Not sure how far I’ll go or for how long, ‘cuz the whole walking thing is a bit more challenging than it ought to be, but a good stretch will help. Maybe a wander along the river? A bit short on greenery, but it is a nice walk. Plus, I can give the whistle grove at the National Steamboat monument another try.

Tomorrow, though, the first day of spring, I will go to work, I will come home, I will look around my nearly-empty freezer and try to figure out what’s for dinner, and I will go to my choir rehearsal. It’ll be a nice day, I’ve decided. Things have straightened out a bit at work, so that’s not as stressful as it has been. And it is warming up. And, this nasty cold seems to be going away bit by bit. Once the weather gets a little more consistent, maybe I’ll have more than a week where I feel well. It could happen.

Keeping it short again. I had other plans this evening that didn’t pan out, so I actually hadn’t planned on a post at all.

Afternoon Out 160a1
Okay, one more from a previous spring.