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.

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Ghoti◊

We have a white board at work where we put up little quotes or facts; nothing huge, just something that makes people pause. Most often, I use a quote from someone who’s meaningful for that particular day, either because of a birthday or an event. Not always. This past week, for instance, I went with English language pecurliarities. I can’t, unfortunately, remember everything I used – I had my mind on other things, of course – but I do remember a couple.

I started with one that baffled me for the longest time – Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. I spent a good hour – not at work, at home – looking for something that would help make sense of it. I knew what all the individual definitions were, just not quite clear on where or when they were used. I mean, aside from the second Buffalo, New York reference. The capitalization was a dead giveaway. I finally got it, though, after reviewing several sites that purported to translate it for the confused mind.

Buffalo buffalo – animals from Buffalo, New York
buffalo – bully
buffalo – bison* that once roamed this country in the millions, maybe even billions.

Okay, got that. That was the easy part. Putting it together, that was tricky. I understood it with a word replacement sentence I found, using bison instead of buffalo, and continued picking until it clicked. This isn’t that sentence, but one I put together that helped me.

Bison from Buffalo, New York (Buffalo buffalo) that bison from Buffalo, New York (Buffalo buffalo) bully (buffalo) will bully (buffalo) bison from Buffalo, New York (Buffalo buffalo).

Ship shipping ship text
If the ships the shipping ship shipped were also ship-shipping ships, then it would be a ship-shipping ship shipping ship-shipping ships…

It’s a big loop. Yeah, okay, that isn’t a whole lot better. It worked for me, though. Diagramming helped as well. Not my diagram, I haven’t diagrammed a sentence in a very long time; others had it diagrammed, though. I don’t know that I could put a finger on any one thing that helped; a lot of the things I found were things I’d seen before. Maybe this time they just clicked for me.

There are other fun things about English, ways to make ridiculous, but correct, sentences. For instance, the whole “i before e” thing. apparently, there are significantly more words that don’t fit into that rule – even with the long a addition – than words that follow it. I learned the rule from a Peanuts special; I don’t recall ever being told that in school. As I may have mentioned before, any memories of times from before college are full of gigantic gaps, though, so that doesn’t really mean anything. The rule should read (of course I got this from the internet):

I before E except after C, or if running a feisty heist against your weird beige foreign neighbor.

To be fair, there are a couple of words in there that fit with the most commonly remembered exception, neighbor, and beige. The rest, though, I mean really.

What else we got? Quite a lot, actually. For instance, the title of this post. That’s pronounced “fish” by the most ridiculous of English pronunciation rules. GH as in enough, O as in women (pronounced differently than the singular “woman”), and TI as in nation. Alternately, it can be completely silent – GH as in though, O as in people, T in ballet, and I in business. Oh, there’s also GHOUGHPTEIGHTTEAU‡, among other made-up words. Linguistically, neither fits any rules, and would likely be pronounced the way they look. That’s not the point; the point is English is a creole, borrowing words from all sorts of places, or more accurately, as written on a usenet group back in 1990:

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle [sic] their pockets for new vocabulary.”
– James Nicoll

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Ohio river as seen from Eden Park, Cincinnati. May 2015

This all serves as a distraction for me. There have been so many homicides in the past few weeks, it almost seems there’s a new shooting death every day. People are charging the police with keeping order, which is their job. It’s *not* their job to find something else for people to do, any more than it’s a teacher’s job to babysit the students. Remember the saying “it takes a village?” Well that wasn’t just political rhetoric, it DOES take a village. Parents, neighbors, friends, peers, support from the area government, all of these things make a difference in a life. Take away the things that helps a person feel human – quality food, decent shelter, opportunities for entertainment, a sens of ownership – and people will find their own entertainment. Sometimes that means vandalism, sometimes driving through the countryside at ridiculous speeds, sometimes defending a little patch of concrete you call your own.

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◊The plan was to post this on 6/6, while I was away. Apparently, I forgot. On a beach or something.

*Much like the pronghorn antelope† is not a true antelope, the American buffalo is not actually a buffalo, but a bison. Big differences. There’s a lot of that here, area “discovered” by Europeans and things inaccurately named because they reminded the explorers of something else.

†I still remember the first time I saw pronghorn when I was in Colorado. I mean, I knew the song, Home on the Range, but it was a very different thing seeing them a few hundred yards away. There was a time when I didn’t have to go far to see them, early on. The drop in the herd size was significant in the ten years I was there, as Colorado Springs spread into the eastern plains.

‡GH – hiccough, OUGH – dough, PTH – ptarmigan, EIGH – eight, TTE – gazette, EAU – plateau.
Potato.

Rough

It had been almost 20 days since I went out with my camera, for fun or profit.

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Dandelions gone to seed, Alms Park, Cincinnati, May 5, 2015

If it were December, or February, that would make sense; the cold and dark get to me every year. It’s May, though, and there have been a lot of beautiful days in that time. I didn’t even go out with my camera on my birthday, and that day was gorgeous! I was up and dressed; got my license renewed, had breakfast out, stopped in a bookstore, hours yet, before I had to be anywhere, and I came home instead, sitting inside, in front of my computer.

That tells me I’m unhappy.

Not just a little unhappy, either, but shading into depressed. I knew that, if I’m honest, but I haven’t had the energy to deal with it.

Even the weekends weren’t a reprieve. By the time Saturday rolled around, I had just enough energy to get out of bed and make breakfast. I only left the house when I absolutely had to. If my license and tags hadn’t expired last week, and I didn’t have friends who’d invited me to the symphony, I daresay I’d have spent my entire birthday in my house, not talking to anyone. Well, not no one, I’d have answered the phone when people called to wish me a happy birthday.

I’ve had days off here and there, but none of them were vacations; they were all sick days. There was a nasty cold, for instance; it started off like a particularly bad allergy attack, and took out my Easter weekend. Most recently, there was a sharp, sudden back (flank) pain with a slight fever that had me concerned about a possible kidney infection. I felt better by the end of the day, but I was still sore. I do have a real one coming up, a family vacation, and I still have to figure out how I’m getting there. Driving myself seems silly. Not to mention uncomfortable. Besides, I’d want to get my car into the shop to fix whatever makes my car squeal when I turn on the A/C or defroster. Without research, I assume it’s some sort of belt that needs replaced.

Of course, then I have to find someone to take me to work or home from the garage, and back to the garage when my car is ready. We have a concierge service through work that will do things like take your car to the garage, but I wouldn’t make anyone drive my car. No driver’s side mirror, so I’ve had to improvise. It broke off when the F350 hit me and caved in the driver’s-side door back in 2007. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I had to drive that from Tulsa to Colorado Springs. That was a bit nerve-wracking.

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Flowers reaching for the sun, Eden Park, Cincinnati, May 24, 2015

Where was I? Oh, right, sad, tired, depressed, affecting whole life, making things harder than they have to be, sapping all my energy and will. Typical for the winter, very atypical after about mid-March, the vernal equinox. Once again, I do have my suspicions for what is fueling this, and I am trying to figure out how to change, but there are entirely too many times when I feel completely alone. No one to really talk to. Not about this. So I continue to go through the motions of life, and try to recognize the bright spots when they come along.

Easier said than done.

Sunday morning, though, I woke up and felt pretty good. The sun had just risen, and I was alert. I left the house a little after 7, camera bag slung over my shoulder, and decided to look for an early morning vista to shoot. I hadn’t felt that drive to take pictures for a very long time. Even three weeks ago, when I last went out, it was forced. Glad I did, of course, but it shouldn’t have started out as a chore. This is what I do to relax, after all, a way for me to shake off the stress of the day. Instead, I drag myself home from work, maybe stop somewhere to get dinner, generally not particularly healthy, or find something at home that I can stick in the oven and remember before it burns, also generally not especially nutritious, stare at the computer, either hanging out on social media or, more commonly, play some solitary game where I don’t have to interact with other human beings, get to bed, and do it all again the next day.

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The Ohio River from the Eden Park Overlook, Cincinnati, May 2015

The “fake it ’til you make it” school of thought is a valid one, truly. You have to be committed to it, though, and have to be able to recognize when it’s time to do something more, when just pretending isn’t cutting it. The last several weeks – months, really – have been a complete blur. I wrote this during the sermon yesterday at church. I was listening, it was about Pentecost and the origins of the church, and it was interesting, but I had to get this out, and since we would be singing once the sermon ended, I needed to do it quickly. Kinda feels like open verse.

Been in a fog, a coma, for several months, now.
Days passing unheeded, unrecognized, slowly, quickly.
Life continues apace while my oblivion persists.
Occasional flickers of life appear –
here, a smile, there, a tear, a touch of joy, mirth, grief and pain,
only to slither away just as the veil begins to lift.
I am not happy right now.
There are many things conspiring to keep me where I lay,
leave me to rot on my own,
life ever so close, and yet, just out of reach.

Bit dark. Dramatic, even. Like I said, verse.

I really did go out with my camera yesterday, though, before church. And it was therapeutic. For a moment, to use my own overblown words, the veil was lifted, and there was peace. Even though the park was trashed – there are grills there, and every weekend, especially when it’s warm, it’s packed – it was peaceful. There was one lone city employee attempting to make a dent in the garbage strewn about the place, poking his pointed stick at things and lifting them to the trash bag in his hands. He must be efficient, though, because that’s the worst I’ve ever seen it look, by a long shot. Usually it looks nice there. The city puts out extra trash cans for people to use, and they still leave garbage all over. Granted, the trash cans are also full, but still. Complete lack of respect.

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The smog dome – significantly less than even ten years ago – makes for some interesting colors. Eden Park, Cincinnati, May 24, 2015

Enough of that rant. Suffice it to say, I need a change, and it needs to be big. I have an idea of what that may be, I just haven’t yet figured out how to make it happen. Well, that’s not completely true, I have laid some groundwork, it just hasn’t paid off yet. I’m back in a holding pattern, with few viable options at hand. The trick is not letting that get to me. Today’s plan – it’s the final day of Taste of Cincinnati. I haven’t been, yet. The family members who would go have already gone, so it’s just me. Not as bad as it sounds, it’s usually just me. I almost prefer it that way.

Nine

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Lazy summer evening in Colorado. Memorial Park, Colorado Springs 2010

Busy, busy, busy! It’s been a busy week. Mostly taken up by work, but it was also a good busy. It was my birthday yesterday, and while I didn’t have something going on every night, I did have things to do. Tuesday it was dinner with the family, Thursday a friend took me out to a restaurant in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Friday was my weekly wine tasting/happy hour, and yesterday, the day itself, was full of exciting things. I started off by renewing my license and car tags. They both expired. Still, I did it nice and early at a location that doesn’t seem to be too ridiculously busy. The person who helped me was working toward becoming the world’s fastest talker, but when she wasn’t being angry at working for the BMV, she was nice enough. There was laughter. Not even mean-spirited.

It did get better than that, I took myself out to breakfast, and then I stopped at a bookstore. I bought some much-needed reading material. Well, maybe “much needed” is a bit strong, since I already had two bags of books that don’t have homes and haven’t been opened, yet. Nah, that’s the right word. I have a few hundred books in my home, not all of them have been unpacked since I moved. I didn’t have the space for them. Then I bought a new shelf and had more space. Still not quite enough, though, I used one of the shelves from a 3-shelf case and moved it to a 5-shelf case. Paperbacks don’t take up as much room as hardcover. I could fit more. Still not enough. I do re-read my books, and I’ve been through I’d say 85% of them at least twice. I do also use the library if it’s a book I’m not sure I’d want. The ones I bought yesterday were either part of a series, or from an author I have a hard time putting down, so that’s how I justify those.

Last night, though, was a beautiful end to my birthday week. Friends from church, in the choir, a couple who keep me in mind for things like this, were going to the final CSO subscription concert, and they had two extra tickets. They invited me and another friend from our choir. The other person plays French Horn, so she’s also a musician. They were playing Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsokov, and the Polovtsian Dances by Borodin. The latter is actually part of an opera, but the music stands well on its own. There was a guest musician due to perform a third piece in the first half, a percussionist, but he had to cancel due to illness. So, we were treated to a late substitution, another Scheherazade by Ravel, with a vocal soloist. It was lovely. Interesting translation in the program. Mostly accurate.*

This same couple brought me along for a tour of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center a few years ago, a time when I didn’t have any extra money to spend. I hadn’t had a job in 4 years at that point, so no, there was no money. It was a church outing, and we had a Jewish scholar – can’t remember if he was a rabbi or just studied – leading us. Our tour picked up a few stragglers, since he had some seriously good information about the scrolls.

Yesterday morning, before heading out to the BMV, I tried to come up with some topic or other to write about. I thought perhaps I’d try something serious. There’s been a lot of discussion about poverty and what appears to be an attack of the poor, at least, from a certain perspective. It made me think.

There are those who like to discount poverty in this country by saying it’s worse in India or Bangladesh or somewhere else considered to be part of the developing world. That’s true. It’s also true that this isn’t a developing country, this one is supposed to be a first-world country. That attitude shows a complete lack of respect for other human beings, telling them it could be worse. Yes, they could be so much poorer economically, spiritually (not speaking religiously), mentally, if they lived in one of those countries. Guess what? This isn’t one of those countries.

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Andre Flanagan near Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine. Stop for a listen and leave some folding money, for he’s earned it. Cincinnati, OH 2014

I could go on about that, about how it’s not just money but environment that makes a difference. When your life is second-hand and almost – almost good clothes, almost decent housing, almost nutritious food, almost good education – there’s more to overcome than just not having money. There’s an attitude to overcome, a behavior. There has to be a willingness to believe there’s a way out, and there has to be a hand somewhere, extended to help. Maybe it’s a tutor who believes, or parents who want more for their children. Maybe it’s a life where you don’t have to worry about your next meal, or where you sleep. Maybe it’s someone who tells you you can’t. Not everyone is motivated by the same thing, not everyone succeeds the same way.

There are those who are convinced this is a Christian nation, that we’re a theocracy. Many of these same people talk about the Constitution like it’s a sacred text written by God. They forget the bit in the First Amendment about the government being prohibited from establishing a state religion.† They also forget Matthew 25:34-40 –

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

There’s a bit about sheep and goats◊ in there too, which provides a great way to shock someone who believes the Bible is the actual word of God, as opposed to an interpretation by man. Especially when you point out defunding programs that aid the poor make them goats and not sheep in this story. In the old testament, there are a number of exhortations for people and the poor as well, some listed here.

Pope Francis summed it up nicely, I think. He was speaking of the economic impact of large families, but it’s applicable in many situations.

“…I can say that the main cause of poverty is an economic system that has removed the person from the centre and replaced him with the god of money; an economic system that excludes and creates the throwaway culture in which we live. …” – Pope Francis

That got a bit rambly. I was watching CBS Sunday Morning while writing. I should know better than that. I leave you with this: Be kind; you don’t know what someone else has been through.

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The calm before the storm. Colorado Springs, Colorado 2010

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*It was in French. I may no longer be able to carry on an intelligible conversation, but I can still piece together meaning. Yay, Latin.

†Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.‡

‡Further elaborated on in a 1947 case that went to the Supreme Court, where a statute about student transportation to schools both public and parochial was under fire:

The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and State.” – Justice Hugo Black, 1947

Justice Clarence Thomas has been working to say otherwise.

◊Not a fan of that particular comparison. Sheep tend to blindly follow; goats have to be led.

The One Who Knocks

No, I’m not a desperate chemistry teacher. I’m talking about opportunity. The opportunity I took advantage of at the end of March may well be bearing fruit. Another opportunity – an opportunity to do something that would make me much happier – is coming. And it scares me silly. I’ve never done something so hard. I know I can, that’s not the concern. It’s just that I’m intentionally challenging myself, and I am a bit afraid of success. What if I succeed accidentally? How will I repeat what I did? I could be discovered as a fraud, barely capable of doing what I said I could do, much less of accomplishing even more? No, success is more frightening than failure. I can fail with aplomb. Failure is my bread and butter. I learn from my failures, as everyone should. I learn what not to do, what I should have done, what I could have done, and where to go for answers.

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Where does it go? Won’t know until you walk it. Alms Park, Cincinnati May 2015

Still, I’m tired of thinking “what if.” Moving to Colorado was a spectacular failure. No, really, it was pretty sweet. It didn’t end the way I would have preferred – a triumphant return with great stories and a wealth of experiences, and enough money to hold my own until I could settle into a job that would make my heart sing, but it was worth it. If I had the chance to do it all again, with the exact same result, I would. There was a lot of growth with that move, and I got to meet people who didn’t automatically ask what school I went to. I got to learn my own limitations, and what I could truly accomplish with the tools at hand. Yes, it was a failure, and yes, it was spectacular.

I daresay that helped me to get where I am now, on the precipice of opportunity and change, anxiously awaiting the result, instead of shying away, cowering in terror. If I don’t take the chance I’ll never know what could have been, and I’ll regret. I’d rather not have regrets; not for something I could have avoided. Reservations, sure, but not regrets.

This one seems to be taking quite a bit longer to write. I’ve distracted myself several times over the past few hours. Perhaps what it really is is thinking about the future – my future – and what it means.* Would it have been nice to experience this twenty years ago? To have an idea of what I really like to do? My life would be completely different if I had.  I’d have experience and maybe able to call my own shots, name my own price. Would my life be better? Ah, now there’s the rub. I don’t know. On paper, it looks like it should be, but I don’t know. Maybe I burn out before I’m 40. Maybe I start to half-ass my job, and maybe I get fired. Maybe I can’t get rehired anywhere. Maybe I’m homeless, because I’m too ashamed to ask my family for help. I don’t know. That’s the biggest reason I try to stay away from “if only.” That way lies madness.

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Memorial compass, with a touch of sun in the west. Alms Park, Cincinnati, May 2015

Much continues to go on in the world. People die, some by their own hand or the hands of others, some from disasters both natural and man-made, and for some, it’s just their time. Recently, I learned of a death that hit a little closer to home. A long time ago, near the end of the last century, I was redefining myself. I didn’t realize this was something that was going to happen every few years or so, but that’s neither here nor there. Two years prior, I’d attended a church event for the first time in several years. The Presbyterian (PCUSA) General Assembly was meeting at Riverfront Coliseum (different name now, but that doesn’t matter; it’s always Riverfront Coliseum to me), and because of the structure of the Presbytery, there were sessions open to all. Pretty democratic, Presbyterians. I sat in a room with thousands of others, all sharing a moment of just being, being a part of something so big. I’d realized I missed that. I wanted it back in my life.

For the next two years, there were some pretty significant changes in my life. In that time, I looked for a new church home. I had to get over my initial terror and discomfort, of course, but I managed. I’d found one that I was comfortable with, but the congregation was small. Someone had mentioned a fairly active church in town, in a very nice neighborhood. I was nervous about going, thinking I’d stick out like a sore thumb. One Sunday, I worked up the nerve to go. Within five minutes, I’d felt I’d found it, my new church home. The congregants were kind and welcoming, interested only in seeing my interest. There was no awkwardness, no discomfort. It fit.

Then the choir sang.

If I’d heard them first, I probably would have ignored anything that seemed negative, at least for a while. I have been in a choir off and on for probably 25 of the last 35 years. I wasn’t while I was in Colorado, although in my last months, I did audition for one. My audition wasn’t great, but they did something they usually don’t – asked me to try again at the next audition in January.  By the time January had rolled around, I knew I would have to leave, so I didn’t, but, like going to the General Assembly, I understood that I was missing a piece of me. Hearing this choir was the final decider. This is where I would stay.

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The Ohio River peeks through the greenery, highlighted by the sun. Alms Park, Cincinnati, May 2015

The following January, I managed to make myself go to the first rehearsal of the new year. I was terrified. Here were all these people who knew each other, had known each other for upwards of 30 or even 40 years, and this director who, though not particularly tall, is very imposing. That was one of the best decisions of my life.

There’s a point, I promise.

After some event or other, we had a choir party. There were beverages of an adult nature. I’d brought a bottle of White Zinfandel. I wasn’t much into wine, and hadn’t really tried any. One of the choir members, Tom Mooney, objected. He lectured me, in the nicest way possible†, on the flaws of my wine choice, and directed me to other options. His sharp wit and kindness endeared him to me almost immediately. I looked forward to seeing him every week, and was happy to call him friend. His advice was always sound – and not always about wine – and his charm infallible. When I left for Colorado in 2001, I knew he would be one I would definitely miss.

I was gone for 10 years. In my head, of course, nothing had changed here, but time doesn’t work that way. Quite a bit had changed. For one thing, everyone was older. Minds weren’t as sharp, hands less steady. Changes in the way the services were handled affected everything. Overall for the better,  but the traditional service saw fewer of the younger members. People who were in the choir when I’d left were no longer singing. Including Tom. He’d been fading recently, was in hospice care last week, and Thursday, he was gone.

If I could stomach it, I’d have gladly raised a toast of White Zin in his honor. Except that thanks to Tom, that stuff tastes like Kool-Aid to me, entirely too sweet. So, at Friday’s tasting, I toasted him with a fruity, floral white blend.

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*Hi, how’s it goin’? No reason, I’d just noticed there weren’t any footnotes yet. Felt weird.

†Make no mistake, though, it was a lecture.

Number 112

It’s May. Finally, suddenly, it’s May. I realized this past Thursday or so that for the last several weeks, I’d been spending my time in a fog, and I haven’t figured out quite why. I have a guess or two, but I don’t like either one, since I can’t do much about them. I’ve been slowly cutting things in my personal life, things to do that are either ill-timed for me, or just too draining, so that perhaps I can be less exhausted, and have more energy to do things like go out with my camera. Yesterday, for instance, would have been a perfect day to do just that. I didn’t. I’d thought about going around and shooting the route for the Flying Pig, which just started maybe 10 minutes ago (50 minutes? I can’t remember what time it started). If I can get it together in time, I may do that this morning, since the route lies on my way to church. And if I wanted to go to my grocery store, I couldn’t. Not the way I’d normally go, anyway, since a fair chunk of the route is also in the race. As is one of my alternate routes. Actually, the other one I’d go to, which is only slightly farther, is also blocked off. I suppose there are some benefits to living on the west side.*

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Magnolias in the rain from April. Ault Park, Cincinnati

Apparently a couple of big things happened yesterday while I was avoiding the world.† There was a fight last night between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Apparently, Mayweather won, and pay-per-view went out.

Oh, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a new daughter. Won’t lie, kinda excited about that. I was hoping for a girl. Thank goodness for the generation before, with Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson. Brought up the TV readiness of the royal family. Okay, that wasn’t nice. The Queen was an attractive young woman, one, and two, that’s not what’s important. The Queen is also a very strong woman, and has a great deal of love for the people she rules. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not paying attention. Anyway, her middle name is to be Diana if I’ve heard correctly. I don’t care so much about the name, just so long as part of it *is* Diana.

At least, that’s what I heard on the news just now. I should know better than that – it’s far less distracting for me to listen to music than watch news, and I’ve decided I do want to get some shots of the race before church. It’ll be too late after. I’ll charge up my battery to make sure I don’t miss anything. Nah, I didn’t use my flash last weekend, should be fine, right? Sure.

Friday was a celebration day at work, a play on the name of my employer. It’s an annual thing that usually means a day of not getting much done at all. You work while you can, but there are limits. After all, there was cornhole‡ to be played. Lost. By a lot. Oh, and Pictionary, which we almost won. Good that we didn’t, since my partner wouldn’t have been able to continue anyway. I had things to do, too. That one was a bit closer. I was almost relaxed yesterday. Didn’t know what to do with myself. I have a theory about my high level of fatigue on Saturdays – spent the rest of the week so tense, when I don’t have anything causing tension, I’m lost and don’t know what to do with myself. My body is confused, if you will, so accustomed to the pressure, that when it’s missing, there’s exhaustion. I know it’s not my health – recently had my quarterly checkup, and it’s all pretty much the same as it was three months ago. It’s been so stable that we’re going to every four months instead of every three. Hopefully it stays that way through all of next year, or at least through next June. Choir’s going to Florence, Italy, and I’d like to be there. Have to start saving now, of course.

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View of the Ohio from Eden in the rain last weekend. Eden Park, Cincinnati

Well. I did wash my dishes, and I wrangled the air conditioner into the window yesterday, which is a bit of an ordeal. I even managed to do it without hurting myself, which I always think is a good thing. The long and the short of that is I’d like to have energy on Saturdays to do things I want to do, not just things I have to do. I have to be careful, though, not to isolate myself. Entirely too easy to do, and not helpful. I am still a little sad that I missed yesterday. It looked like it was gorgeous, and we’re in the time of year where those are going to get fewer and farther between. This week will be 80 and above, and I don’t know if you’re aware, but we have a little humidity here in our Ohio River Valley (and Great Miami, and Little Miami, and Mill Creek, and Duck Creek – it’s a bit damp), and it can get unpleasant. I’ve been in Florida in the summer without AC, and I wasn’t impressed.

Now I need to get ready to leave. I have to make breakfast – the places where I’d normally stop if I were in a rush are also along the Flying Pig route. Mile 22 has been marked out in honor of Lauren Hill, fittingly enough. She might have been from Indiana, but it’s still part of the Tri-State, and she’s still ours. I know the story went national, but no way it was anywhere as important as it was here. It still surprises me when I see something so local go national. Devon Still and his little girl, Leah, were a local story that went national as well. The Republic of Cincinnati is a big bigger than I realize, sometimes.

It’s been about an hour; the runners – at least, the ones who intend to win – should be near here soon. I need to go meet them. And find an alternate route to church. And a place to park. That’s in the middle of the route, too. Yay, detours. Maybe next week, I’ll have some photos to share. I still have to eat, though, and bathe, all the things that make it easier to be around me. Plus, we’re going to be crammed in the loft today with some instrumentalists. Doing a Bach piece that will keep us there through the entire service, and it’s going to be warm.

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*The East Side/West Side thing isn’t anywhere near as big a deal as it was up through a fair chunk of my life, but it still comes up. and yes, I also still get lost once I’m west of Vine street. Some East Side mental block, because it’s not that difficult. Except Delhi. Delhi is insane.

†Not quite fair, I was also doing things in the house that needed to be done.

The American Cornhole Association is based just to the east of here, in a suburb of the city. I don’t remember ever seeing this much when I was a kid, and certainly not called cornhole, but apparently it snuck up somewhere while I was in Colorado. Now it’s EVERYWHERE!

Lessons Learned

I wrote a post last night, after I got home. It had about 1,000 words, and covered a wide range of topics in easy-to-swallow chunks. And it was about as coherent as a tired toddler. Yet another reminder why it’s best for me to write in the morning, when the day has not yet begun, than in the evening, when my mind is rehashing the entire day. Even if it means I post Sunday instead of Saturday. All the frustrations and successes jumbled together in an amoebic mass, writing and slithering like a snake ball, waiting to be unraveled by sleep,* it’s difficult to make any sense of them when I intend to, much less when I allow my fingers to just ramble along. Stream-of-consciousness writing, that is, and it’s how I find out what, exactly, I really want to write. Maybe a little backward, but I do start off with a topic in mind. It also makes it tricky to title the posts.

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This Canada Goose doesn’t mind the rain. Eden Park, Cincinnati

So anyway, lesson learned, grateful I didn’t post it, because wow, it’s just not good.

I did have an idea for a topic yesterday, and it was pretty good. I daresay it would have gone viral. Fine, probably not, but I can pretend it would have. I didn’t write it down, though, and I should have. I lose ideas so quickly, sometimes. Perhaps that’s to do with the way my brain works, and is why I learned years ago that if I don’t write it down, it didn’t happen. Still, there’s a grammar rant in there, and a damp afternoon, and the importance of one famous person’s journey over a major disaster.

Saturday morning – Friday night here – there was a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal, about 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu. So far, the death toll is estimated to be close to 2,000. In trying to figure out what date to put, I pulled up a world clock, and got lost in that for a bit. It’s still Saturday in Hawaii,‡ and almost tomorrow on Kiribati, which shows just how arbitrary the time zones really are, since they’re in about the same place in the Pacific. It’s peak climbing season for Everest, and earthquakes can cause avalanches, as this one did. It’ll probably get more coverage than it otherwise might, because a Google executive died in that avalanche. It’s horribly tragic, both because of the loss of life, and because it takes a connection like that before it becomes news. There’s a reason for that, of course. It’s difficult to wrap our minds around something so big. It’s easier if a single face, one recognizable or relatable to the audience, is involved. Individuals from Katrina, the Sumatran tsunami, Japan’s earthquake and Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, they make it more real than just seeing groups of people struggling to survive, dying by the score, losing their livelihood and families in one major disaster.

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An overcast sky seems to make everything greener. Eden Park, Cincinnati

If I’ve calculated the time correctly, it happened during the broadcast of an interview on ABC – Diane Sawyer was interviewing Bruce Jenner† about his gender reassignment surgery. If it had happened in Oregon, the interview would have been interrupted. As it was, unless you were online, you heard nothing. Not if you were watching the interview, anyway. At least, I don’t remember anything. That could just as easily mean I was looking away when there was a crawl across the bottom of the screen, or in the kitchen or bathroom when they mentioned it briefly just before or after a commercial break. It was a good interview, important to watch. At one point, it was mentioned that the hope was maybe it would save a life, and I don’t think that’s too much of a stretch. A person who doesn’t want to understand will not listen, and probably wasn’t even watching in the first place. A person who does, though, someone with a family member or friend going through this, may be able to help that person feel not so alone. Maybe it helped a confused and scared teen decide to talk to someone instead of ending it. Maybe it helped a person decide to stand up against his friends and prevent a beating or murder of a trans person. Without actually speaking to someone, there’s no way to really know.

Again, though, this is an individual, putting a face and a name to something that has been more in the news lately, turning it from “them” to a person, a human being. Is it less important than news about the earthquake and aftershocks in Nepal? Honestly, I don’t know. Personally, I think both are important.◊ Both involve human lives and the loss of them. Saying one is more important than another, that the lives in Nepal that were lost, the people that were left severely injured and homeless, are more important than a teen who has been left homeless by a family that disowned him or her, a person who is attacked because of who they are, even killed, it’s a losing game. Both deserve coverage. Because it’s closer to home, Bruce Jenner received more than the quake in Nepal. It’s why I’m not particularly interested in reading the New York Times or Washington Post. I don’t live there, I rarely have a frame of reference for anything that happens. Is there news of importance to me? Sure. Is it fair? No, of course it isn’t. People are suffering every day, dying every day, from preventable or treatable illnesses, starvation, unsanitary conditions, storms, quakes, volcanoes, floods, or exposure, and it would be very easy to find all of that online somewhere. There’s a limit to how much a person can handle, how much we can process, and how much we can understand before it all becomes noise.

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Capable of begging, anyway. Coral World, St. Thomas, USVI

On a lighter note – a friend shared a video yesterday, of a man with a pet Komodo Dragon. It was weird, and that thing was huge. It was sitting on his lap, probably keeping warm. Still, we know even reptiles are capable of affection, or at least learning how to live with humans. The video itself was fine; I made the mistake of reading the comments on the source page. One person, anxious to show how knowledgeable he (she? I can’t remember) is, talked about the ‘Komodo Dragon,’ and ‘monitor lizard,’ and mentioned ‘Australia’ and ‘Indonesia.’ Once more, people, QUOTES ARE NOT FOR EMPHASIS!!! That’s almost up there with “irregardless,” which is a self-contradictory “word” and should be forever scratched from the mouths of all people. Yes, I fully intended those quotes, and the connotation therein.

In summary – deadly earthquake in Nepal, famous person going public with gender reassignment because the media won’t leave him alone so he’d rather get his own story out before it’s perverted, no writing on a Saturday evening because it’s often incoherent, and abusing quotation marks – single or double – is punishable by death. It’s not? How about using “irregardless” in cold blood? No? Man, that sucks!

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*I won’t say “good night’s sleep,” since that is apparently as elusive as Bigfoot right now.

†Using the name and pronoun he asked to be used for the interview.

‡At the time I wrote that sentence, anyway. Now it’s Sunday in Hawaii and Monday on Kiribati

◊Checking my Twitter feed (I listen to music while writing; it’s easier), I saw that a local man was in that earthquake. I’m sure there’ll be an interview. Oh wait, there already was one with his mother. Again, putting a face on a tragedy makes it more real.

Kings and Things

This week, I used a lot of spoons*. Not wasted, just a lot of them. There continues to be stress at work, but I’m trying to change that. No, there were other things. Sunday afternoon, I went to see an updated Cosi Fan Tutti at CCM, set in the middle of the 20th century, sung in the original Italian, updated translation displayed above the stage. They quoted Beatles songs and used slang from the 60s and 70s. It was pretty cool. I especially adored Despina. Sure, I knew her, but that’s beside the point – she was still good.

The Lion King, presumably official.
The Lion King, presumably official.

Tuesday evening was the big show. The Broadway touring company performing The Lion King. I thought it was phenomenal. Apparently, how well they did depends on the night you were there. A friend of mine went the next night and thought it was a bit flat. I had a seat on the floor, on the aisle. I had the money, and an available discount from my ArtsWave membership, so I got my orchestra seat. I prefer to sit on the aisle because I want at least one guaranteed armrest, and room to look around the person in front of me. I’d forgotten that some parts of the performance go through the audience, including the initial procession. The show does follow the movie fairly closely. It begins with a call for the subjects to see the dedication of the new prince, Simba. The callers sing out to get everyone’s attention, and they come from everywhere in the Pridelands to see. In this case, they come from the lobby up the aisles. There were giraffes and zebras, gazelles, an elephant, and on my side, a rhino. I haven’t begun to figure out how to describe that moment, when you see a puppet, a costume, and a person (or four in the case of the large elephant) walking down the aisle. Your rational mind knows it’s not real. It’s not even designed to look real, but to be a representation. It feels real, though. The woman playing Rafiki was brilliant and hilarious, Scar was an ass – perfectly so – and Mufasa was majestic. The wildebeest stampede was unnerving; the way they staged it, the wildebeest kept getting closer and closer. Again, not realistic, obviously tricks of the trade, and yet realistic. They made every effort to make the show resemble the movie, to the point where the characters were expected to sound like their movie counterparts. Jeremy Irons’ oily, sardonic speech patterns with Scar were echoed beautifully, I thought, and the audience recognized that. He got as much of an ovation as Mufasa and Simba(s) at the end. Reminded me of a couple guys I dated or wanted to. There’s a reason I’m single…†

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Random daffodil because I couldn’t think of where else to put it so it made sense. Hope to get out today.

A friend of mine works the show, so I got a backstage tour, too. Another friend of mine happened to be there that night, which I didn’t know until I texted the first friend to set up a meeting. We all know each other. Same high school. Getting to see the costumes up close was fantastic. Standing on the empty stage was difficult. I know it’s hard for me to watch choral performances unless I’m involved; whenever I see them, I want to be singing, not just listening. Much as I enjoy seeing a good performance, I’d rather be in it. Well, I used to do theater, too. Stage makeup does have a distinct aroma, with a hint of motor oil. For me, it’s also as calming as sniffing a can of Play-doh.‡ I’ve missed it, quite a bit. There are a lot of community theater groups around here. Somehow, this little provincial town grew a fairly decent artistic community. Haven’t figured that out, yet, but there is a ridiculous amount of talent around here. If I didn’t have my choir, I’d consider it. Consider, probably not do. I lose too much energy at work, and I need to have enough to clean up around here so it’s at least livable if not spotless. My choir takes energy, but it’s only a 2x a week commitment on average, with summers off. It helps a lot, so it’s worth the energy.

Anyway, good show, bittersweet backstage tour.

Wednesday and Thursday, I had meetings that could help change my future, both with people in a department I’d like to be. I like my employer, I just don’t care for my job. I’d rather stay with the same company if I could, but I need a change. I have to change.

Perfect illustration.
Perfect illustration.

There’s not much else, really. Fabulous show, meetings for progress, choir rehearsal…oh, and a new trailer for a little fantasy, beginning on a desert planet with space debris. I might have watched it a few times since Thursday evening. Just a few, barely into the double-digits.I remember my concern and consternation when I first heard Disney had the rights. Are they going to Disney-fy it, or are they going to stay true to the admittedly simplistic formula? As long as it works, right? I’ve still got a bad feeling about this◊, but I’ve learned that no matter how jaded, how disappointed with life, the Star Wars fandom are really optimists. Think about it – The Phantom Menace was only okay, and Attack of the Clones caused me traumatic amnesia. Revenge of the Sith was the best of the three, and it had its own issues (pretty quick transition from whiny kid to evil killer, for instance), and yet we are still excited – cautiously optimistic, really – about a new movie. We write our numbers on a white board at work, so that we can make others on our team feel inadequate and hopeless. I may have turned one of my zeros into a Death Star…

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*Helpful little metaphor. It’s not my everyday life, but it does help explain why some days, when I’ve done nothing, I will continue to do nothing. I’m exhausted!

†As I’ve noted, if he’s kind to children and animals, respectful of human life, compassionate, employed, and able to care for himself, I’m apparently not interested. Psychopath? Ooh, baby!

‡Stress-reduction technique. Scent is a powerful tool in memory and relaxation. At my last job, someone observed that when she sniffed Play-doh, she felt herself relax and think a bit more clearly. I tried it too; it works. It’s tied to memories of innocence and peace and fun. A number of us had small cans of it at our desks so we’d have it available when things got really rough.

◊I couldn’t help myself. Someone did note on another video, however, that they didn’t use it quite right in the prequels. In the original trilogy, it was when things were going as they were supposed to, but something still felt off; in the prequels, it was when they were very obviously in trouble. Yay, obsessive fandom!

Undefeated

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Easter 2014

I’ve experienced a tremendous amount of stress lately, and it’s taken its toll. There are some spring colds making the rounds, one a bit nasty, and of course I caught it. I spent last weekend – Easter weekend – at home. Felt fine as long as I didn’t do anything stupid like, oh, get up and walk to the kitchen, the bathroom, the front door. I wasn’t feeling up to doing much at all that whole time. From Friday evening to Tuesday morning, my world was my house. Spent the rest of the week catching up from one day off. I missed the Easter egg hunt at my father’s house, with all the kids searching, the grass unmown to make it more challenging. We have three new walkers this year, and one who’s close to it. I didn’t get to see any of them. It took me a few hours to finally acknowledge that I didn’t feel well enough to make the half-hour drive to his house, much less spend a long day out and about. Didn’t sing at church Easter morning, either. It was those two things that convinced me maybe I needed to take a day off from work. Missing two things that I love? I wasn’t feeling well at all. As it turned out, I probably should have taken Tuesday as well. I didn’t feel myself until yesterday afternoon.

The stress level is taking its toll in other ways, too. Right now, I am in an amazing amount of pain. The arthritis in my lower back is flaring up, the back of my skull has been killing me, to the point where I’m having a hard time concentrating this morning, and a headache I used to get fairly regularly has made an appearance.◊ It varied in intensity. Sometimes it was just annoying, other times, outright crippling. The only thing I could really do for it was take two aspirin, two ibuprofen, and two naproxen. Because of the PKD, I’m not supposed to be taking any of those, so I don’t have any in the house. So, my head hurts in two places, severely, my back is making it difficult to stand or sit for long periods of time, and I’m expecting my jaw to snap at any moment, I’ve been clenching it so hard. I know where the greatest source of my stress is coming from, and I’m trying to do something about it before it kills me. Funny how that doesn’t really feel like hyperbole right now.

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Damp path by the magnolias, Ault Park this past Tuesday.

Still, we go on.

It’s been a difficult time for local heroes here. I’ve already mentioned FAO Daryl Gordon, who lost his life working to save others’. His memorial procession was televised. Firefighters from Columbus came down to staff the Cincinnati firehouses, so that they could honor their lost brother, and the city remained safe. Not long after that, George Brooks, a retired police lieutenant who was working a funeral procession, was killed by a motorist who didn’t want to wait. There are laws for funeral processions. Learn them.

Finally, yesterday morning we had news that shook this town, even while it wasn’t really unexpected. Lauren Hill*, Indiana native, Mt. St Joseph student, basketball player, and advocate and voice for pediatric cancer research, passed away. I was getting ready for work, finishing up breakfast or something, when I saw the tail end of a crawl mentioning her. I didn’t see the beginning, but I was afraid of what it said. I was late to work yesterday, because I had to know. I won’t say she lost her fight, because she didn’t. Maybe it didn’t end the way we’d have liked, but she won. She made a difference, and she will be remembered for it. Her courage and kindness will live on. She could have sat back and relaxed, and no one but the most calloused would blame her. She was tired, she was in pain, but she had a mission. Devon Still, NFL football player who gained fame because of the actions of the Bengals’ front office, who kept him on the payroll so he would have insurance for his daughter, Leah, befriended Lauren. She knew Leah too, of course. Devon Still was anxious about having that conversation with his daughter, how she would handle it, how he would handle it. Leah knows Lauren is among the angels now. She’s a strong little girl herself.

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Storming this past Tuesday, didn’t keep me from going out.

Just a few days before, ABC News posted a story on her. Referencing an interview she had with our local ABC affiliate, asking how she’d like people to remember her, she said “She was a hero and she showed cancer who’s boss.” No, she didn’t lose that battle; she fired some powerful shots in that war.

I generally don’t like putting people up on pedestals as heroes, posing heroically on a marble plinth. If so-and-so can do it with all those issues, so can you? That’s not fair. Everyone’s journey is different; comparing one to another is a good way to foster resentment. Still, the stories deserve to be shared. Not so much to make us feel badly about not doing more, but to remind us that we can do more than we think. I’ll never run a marathon – not that that was a goal, but I would like to do a 5K again – because that would make me sick. Haven’t quite figured out why; my best guess is the walking shakes the kidneys up quite a bit. They are kinda large, after all. No more roller coasters for me, and I’ll probably never get to skydive†. I’m not helpless, though, and it’s not hopeless. An attitude shift can do wonders.‡ There will be bad days, and far as I’m concerned, a little complaining and self-pity is probably good for us. Can’t live there, though.

So I hurt, I’m extremely stressed, and it is literally making me sick. I’m still breathing, still walking, still moving forward. It’s a beautiful spring day, the magnolias are blooming, and I have a camera. I’ll need to eat first, but then, off I go. Next week, I have meetings with a couple of people who might be able to help with removing the greatest stressor in my life. Hint: It’s not my health.

Thank you, Lauren, for all you did. Never give up.

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◊In case you’re curious, the pain starts at the base of my skull on the right side, travels around my head, just above my ear, my temple, the right side of my forehead, the center, the left side, and finally ends up at the base of my skull on the left side. When it’s not bad, I can ignore it. Not this time.

*Lauren Hill became a very vocal advocate for The Cure Starts Now Foundation, raising over a million dollars in an incredibly short amount of time. She’s gone, but the cause remains.

†Yes, this is something I’ve actually wanted to do. I gave up on solo skydiving years ago; now I don’t think I could even do tandem. Not because of the stress on the joints, but the rigging on the kidneys. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make the cysts burst.

‡There’s a difference between delusion and optimism. Saying happy things and ignoring the unpleasant ones is delusion. Recognizing that sometimes life really sucks, and going on anyway, not dwelling on it (not ignoring it, just not wallowing), and reminding yourself of what you still can do, that’s optimism. In my opinion, anyway.

Spwinter*

The first week of spring has come and gone. As have the last days of winter. I think. We hit 70 early on; it snowed Friday night. I was driving in it. Nothing major here, not like my friends out east, who’ve had more than enough of snow, just flurries. I was driving an unfamiliar car, though. My Friday evening wine tasting got a bit more interesting than it usually does. One of the regulars had a friend, who she sees only occasionally, pop in. We enjoyed the rest of the evening at the wine tasting – there was an amazing roasted cauliflower dish the chef had made; I have the recipe† – then while our mutual friend finished her shopping and went home, we went out to dinner. She was already a bit unsteady. How, I don’t know, unless she slammed four glasses when I wasn’t looking. Maybe she came in that way. The restaurant was just across the parking lot; Flipdaddy’s, which has burgers and craft beer. That made me a little sad since I don’t drink beer anymore. Something about the aftertaste. There was a lovely Sam Adams cream stout I tried a couple weeks ago, though. We had a Sam Adams‡ rep at our wine tasting, in observance of that great Irish holiday, St. Patrick’s Day◊. Our stand was poorly attended that week and the next, which I guessed might have to do with spring break, but the regulars still showed up. I’d like to say I’m the Norm of the group, but I’m not; I’m probably more like Cliff Claven, but less annoying. And more often correct.

Eden Bloom_0351a
Spring 2014; hopefully these’ll be available in the next week or so.

Less than 200 words to derail! I’m a little impressed.

We went across the parking lot to Flipdaddy’s and had some food. I had a lovely burger with fried onion straws and boursin cheese, and she had a salad with ranch, which she shared with the bar. Not the people, the physical bar. Most of it got into her mouth, though. We also had some traditional hot wings. They were hot, but tolerable. I doubt I could eat more than three without something in between, but they actually had flavor, not just heat. It was nice. There was a man next to her who kept hitting on her, and she kept pestering him to buy us a drink. I had my Long Island and I was content. I’d be drinking water the rest of the night. I’d asked the bartender, and she’d said they were good. I took a chance and ordered. Well-mixed drink. Those are very easy to screw up. I’m not sure what she ordered, a beer I think. we’d reached critical mass – she was done for the evening. She did at least finish off with water, and didn’t order another drink. Not that the bartender would have served her. We had occasion to chat. Anyway, she was also aware enough to realize she was going to need help getting home. Apparently, she was a bit of a regular, and had someone who usually took her home. He wasn’t available, had to close, so we were looking at calling her a cab. Because of where she lives, that wasn’t really feasible. So, the bartender who made that fabulous Long Island volunteered to take her home, and I drove her Jeep. That was entertaining. The first thing I had to do was figure out how to get the clutch off the floor. Fortunately, one of the other bartenders used to have one and knew what to do. The headlights were on high-beam, and I couldn’t figure out how to turn them back to regular. Whatever, we were moving.

It’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve owned an automatic transmission, thankfully, so I was able to adjust pretty quickly to driving this thing, but I was also grateful that the Kings Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership was so obnoxiously rude and disrespectful to me when I was last car shopping. I was ignored for a good ten minutes while the salesmen stood clustered near the dealership, then they sent me some kid who’d been working there for maybe a couple days. I was more than a little irate. If they had treated me better, though, I’d likely have bought a Wrangler, and while I’d have been very familiar with the workings of said vehicle, I’d probably have regretted that purchase in a matter of a couple years. Of course, being in Colorado, it would have been pretty easy to sell and replace, but I’ve no idea what would have happened if I’d done that just before I got laid off. I still have the car I bought at a dealership that no longer exists, and that saddens me. They had a reputation for respect. I didn’t get that slimy used-car-salesman vibe there. Pity.

Frosty Day 048a
Rime frost, Colorado. This was gone by noon. It knew when it wasn’t wanted…

It sort of felt like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, although I did have a little more control. I was driving, so I should hope so. It had been snowing on and off all day, or at least since the middle of the day. Again, just flurries, and a bit of accumulation on my own car when I got back to it, but snow just the same. The bartender drove me back to the restaurant so I could drive myself home. I woke up Saturday morning extremely sore through the shoulders, to the point where the pain made me hyperventilate if I laid down a particular way. I have a fairly high tolerance for pain, so it was pretty severe. I still haven’t figured out what happened, other than another long, stressful week finally coming to an end. I tend to carry my stress in my shoulders, as many people do.

It wasn’t all bad, last week. Thursday morning I had a (verbal) communication seminar I attended. I thought it would be useful, so, even though it’s hard to find an hour to do something I want to do (Toastmasters), I signed up. It turned out to be a great idea. I hope, anyway. Aside from the class itself, which I thought was helpful, I had the director of one of the departments I’ve been trying to get into at my table. She’s out of the office next week, but we’re having lunch the week of the 13th. I’m both nervous and excited. Thursday ended on a high note. For me, anyway.

Literally; my choir rehearsal is on Thursdays, and I’m a soprano♥.

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Early spring blooms, surviving a late frost in April 2013

These major weather shifts bring something to mind. Now, lots of people like to say that if you don’t like the weather here, wait a few minutes and it’ll change. As it happens, one group did some research about that. It turns out that as cities in general go, the Midwest♠ has the most unpredictable weather, particularly,  unsurprisingly, the Great Plains. It’s not a matter of who has the most violent weather, or the fiercest snowstorms or hottest summers, either. Phoenix has hot summers, but they’re consistently hot. Buffalo has heavy snow, but it’s consistently heavy. I would mention consistent tornadoes, but those are capricious; they can be a bit unpredictable. Fits well within the rankings.

The long and the short of it is among the 50 most-populated metro areas in the US, Cincinnati ranks 4th for unpredictability. Higher than Denver, which didn’t even crack the top 10. Overall, it’s also higher than Colorado Springs, so there. As I’ve mentioned, I lived both places; as weird as the weather in CS can get, it is worse here. Sure, not by much, but that’s beside the point. Spring is here, the weather is volatile, there’s more sun and more warmth, the plants in the soil are waking up, and so am I. It’s been a long week; I went dark for a while, there, at least a week without Facebook or Twitter. I just didn’t want anything to do with it. I suppose that could’ve been obvious in the last few posts I’ve made.

Still, it’s spring. Time to wake up, time to start over.

There was someone for whom Thursday didn’t end well at all. Fire Apparatus Operator Daryl Gordon died in the line of duty on Thursday, saving lives. He fell down an elevator shaft and didn’t recover. The fire was in an apartment building a couple miles from here. By 5:45, when I was up, I heard the sirens. I’m two blocks from my neighborhood firestation, and I daresay theirs were the sirens that woke me. The wind was blowing from the wrong direction, so I didn’t smell anything. Four-alarm fire in the end. And one firefighter fallen. I have friends who are first-responders, whose lives are on the line every time they go to work. Whenever something like this happens, I can’t help but think of them, and hope and pray they get to retire.

CFD Daryl Gordon lineofduty attr

_________________________

*Not to be confused with S’winter. Or wummer, if you’d prefer.

†When I say “recipe,” I mean an ingredient list and temperature to put the oven. She asked if I wanted measurements, but I said no. She agreed – recipes are only guidelines. Except when yeast is involved, then you really have to pay attention.

‡Sam Adams beer might have been born in Boston, but one of the founders was born in Cincinnati. He’s opened a brewery or two here, and bought Hudepohl back in ’97; probably helped save it. His father had apprenticed for them. It’s Cincinnati-owned again.

◊What we celebrate here in the US is about as Irish as something that’s really not at all Irish and a bit offensive. Drink up!

♥Like I could have passed that one up!

♠The broadest possible definition of Midwest, encompassing the area between Pennsylvania and Utah, Oklahoma and Canada. It overs three timezones. Probably needs a better designation.