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Okay, here’s the deal… this front page is my regular, ongoing, run-of-the-mill “whatever’s on my mind today” blog. The page “Invasive Species” is a murder mystery work in progress that I’m posting for anyone who is interested in following along, as it unfolds. If you like it, subscribe to the blog and you’ll get a notification when new pages are posted. And as always – I love comments! Enjoy…
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I was twenty-two and absolutely crazy about him and those big puppy dog brown eyes. We made it through a few crazily romantic months … At work I wrote him notes about “winter, spring, summer or fall” and he wrote me love letters on musical staff paper in his barely legible musician’s scrawl. Every night, after each set, we would just gaze into each other’s eyes or I would listen to his dreams and plans, in an attempt at being the salve he continually craved. He didn’t care for “unpleasantness” so we never discussed problems or things that weren’t working for me. It began to feel a little stale but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
One evening he brought a woman to our table to introduce me to her. He referred to her as his new friend.
I smiled, acted happy to meet her and like nothing in the world was wrong. Inside I was confused, broken-hearted, but tried to keep the feeling of betrayal at bay.
One sleepless nights a few days later, this song came on the radio around 2AM. Somehow it eased its way into my conscious mind and I got it. I was done.
Yesterday, thirty-seven years and a bajillion lifetimes and people later, I was getting my back iced at my physical therapist’s office and the song flashed into my mind, the chorus playing in a continual loop.
The eyes are now blue but once again, I got it.
And, reluctantly, I am done.
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It’s been over fifty years, but I’ll never forget the trepidation I felt the first time I saw him. The one lesson that had been drilled into my brain was to never talk to strangers or to ever accept gifts from them. I had spent my entire four years of life with only members of my rather large extended family and this guy was most DEFINITELY a stranger. Not only that, but he was also in disguise. The beard was shiny white – like my dolls’ hair, NOT like any real beard I’d ever seen. I remember his eyes – peering at me over glasses that were more like little windows than the kind in my grandmother’s eyeglasses, which made everything look bigger. No, this man was obviously pretending to be somebody he wasn’t.
The worst part was – my own father wanted me to sit on this dude’s lap! Dad said that if I sat on his lap like the other kids were doing, this man would give me a toy. ”Daddy, how could you?” I thought, and began to cry. Right there in the middle of The Hub, Steubenville, Ohio’s flagship department store. What sick grown up game was this?
Luckily, my mom intervened. “Stop it! She doesn’t have to go and I’m glad she doesn’t want to.” I was folded into the layers of my mom’s winter coat and held, while my dad was dispatched to “get the damn toy.” He got it, I took it, left with my parents and was happy to get away from the guy in the weird red suit who was obviously pretending to be someone that – I knew at age four – didn’t really exist.
Fast forward a few years to sitting around my parents’ kitchen table with a variety of aunts and uncles telling tales, when I learn about my mom’s first encounter with the idea of Santa Clause:
My grandparents, who immigrated from Serbia (Yugoslavia), were Eastern Orthodox. This religion, similar to Byzantine Catholic, followed the Gregorian, rather than the modern Julian calendar and celebrated their holidays on a different time scale. So Christmas was celebrated on January 7th, rather than December 25. America was very different from where they came from, so catching up with the culture was always kind of hit or miss.
When my mom was in first grade, she returned to school after the Christmas break, only to be regaled with stories of all the cool presents Santa brought to her classmates. “What did Santa bring you, Annie,” she was asked.
“Santa? I don’t know who that is.”
“You mean Santa didn’t bring you anything?”
“No, I guess not.”
“Oh, then that means you must be bad! Santa brings presents to good boys and girls but not to bad ones!”
Mom remembers going home in tears about this, until her older brother and sister helped her sort out the whole Santa thing.
Mom also said that although she remained neutral on the topic, my dad, aunts and uncles tried to convince me of his existence. But she said I never bought it. This is not to say I didn’t have an active imagination; I most certainly did. I had imaginary friends, created extravaganzas, and even put on Alakazam magic shows for younger cousins. Just could never wrap around the Santa concept. She said as early as age three, my reaction to Santa stories was, “Oh, that’s just dumb!”
I knew that as a mom, it would be asked of me someday, and dreaded the moment more than “Where do babies come from?” For years I thought about how I’d handle it.
Then when he was about six, my son asked:
”Mom, is there really a Santa Clause?”
So I began:
”Well, I can’t really say for sure. Everyone has to figure that out for themselves, and –“
There was way more of my often rehearsed speech to say, like talking about the spirit of Santa, the meaning of giving, etc. but he had cut me off midway through my second sentence.
“Okay, then I think I’ll believe in it for another year and then see where it goes from there. Does that sound okay?”
“Sounds just right.”
“Cool.” And he was off to play with his friends, the last word ever about the jolly man in the red suit.
We did the Christmas thing every year – trees, music, presents, lights, the whole thing and it was fun. When he’d read the “from Santa” gift tag – even at a young age – he’d just look at me with that “yeah, right” expression. I’d just smile and he’d roll his eyes.
This whole tangent was triggered by a short conversation I had with him, now twenty and on his own, the other day:
“How as your Thanksgiving?”
“Good. And yours?”
“Good. (pause) Mom, about Christmas coming up … you know I don’t really care about the holiday thing that much, right?
”Oh, I’m so sorry, Son. I think that’s my fault, cause I’m kinda ambivalent about it myself.”
“No, you don’t get what I mean. I mean, thank you for not pushing it on me, especially now. I really appreciate that.”
“Oh. Okay. You’re welcome? I guess?”
He laughed, patted me on the back and went back to his house.
So there you have it. Three generations of “American Christmas” skeptics. Nature? Or Nurture? Hard to say…
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So this evening I attended a College and Career Fair held at a local K-8 school, which extended invitations to the high schools and other groups in our community. There were a number of folks representing various aspects of UH Maui College, but the uniformed career reps (firemen, policemen, chefs) were the hit of the night. Some things never change. Too bad there were no professional ballerinas or princesses. But I digress…
We UHMC people who represented a broad aspect of the college (as opposed to nursing, culinary and dental assisting) were
banished, oops, I mean assigned to a break out room that a few of the parents accidentally wandered in to now and then.
Suffice to say: It was a slow evening.
Nevertheless, we did have some interest, mostly from parents who were thinking about a return to college for themselves. I mean, really, we don’t run across a lot of ten year olds who are looking forward to a degree in liberal arts. So I had time to think about the whole thing.
Do you ever watch yourself from the outside and see something unexpected? Well, out of boredom I did that and realized:
I have a strategic “soft sell” sales technique designed to hook people in without overtly appearing to do so. Further more – I’m really good at it.
Strange realization, for sure.
So I began to think about this further and remembered – I’ve always been a good sales person.
And since I am not in sales, that felt weird. What is the implication? Does it mean I’m manipulative? Well … (truth be told) I kinda am. Man, that’s an odd thing to admit about oneself. Makes me wonder whether I have a flaw that should be corrected or a skill that should be better utilized. I don’t know. What do you think?
And while we’re at it … do you have any traits that can be either positive or negative, depending on the situation? Just thought I’d ask…
I close the cover of Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, which had me entranced for an entire week and I think:
“Now what do I do with the rest of my life?”
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. But seriously – isn’t that the effect of a good book? By the first chapter, doesn’t it somehow nudge its way into the number one priority in your life? Please tell me other people experience this.
A really great, engrossing novel is worse than being newly in love. I go through the motions of my day – through the tasks of a job I love, interact with friends who I truly enjoy, all the while waiting for the moment I can get back to The Story. Because that’s the key, right? A great STORY. Or is the the characters? In this case, I absolutely know Alma. I mean, I know her.
The Signature of All Things has me particularly baffled in this regard-
There is nothing about this book that should interest me. Why in the world would I want to read about a nineteeth century botanist? I care about neither. There’s little dialog; all narrative. But damn… She had me from the first chapter.
Over the past few months I’ve spent a lot of time reading “bargain basement fiction” – eBooks that cost less than a couple dollars. It’s true that I’ve found a few gems there. But mostly? It’s been okay stories with amateurish writing skills.
How wonderful it feels to read something from an author who can actually WRITE. If Eat, Pray, Love is all you know about Elizabeth Gilbert, please check out her other work. I had no idea….
Young friend: “That guy’s weird, I don’t like him.”
Me: “Oh, he’s okay – he just has his little quirks.”
(uncontrollable laughter) “Oh, Aunty – what’s a little quirk? Ha ha ha. And have you ever seen it?”
Me: “A quirk is a – well – a thing. Like a little eccentricity. A kinda different way of – uh – you know … just a quirk”
Me: “We all have them”
I’ve been thinking about this all day and I don’t have anything interesting to add to this subject. Yet here I am. Unfortunately, having nothing to say doesn’t stop me from talking. Or writing, apparently. Anyway, I got home and looked it up.
Google says – quirk: a peculiar behavioral habit
At the time I tried to identify my “‘quirks” to help her understand but quickly realized that either
A) our quirks are most easily seen from the outside looking in - or-
B) I couldn’t see them because my entire personality is built on them.
Hoping for the answer to be A, I invite those who know me to weigh in. What are my quirks?
And just in case B is closer to the truth, what are your quirks?
As soon as I post this, I’m going to pick up my Nook and continue reading Tab Hunter’s autobiography, which I am immensely enjoying. Come to think of it, this may be a clue.
You know the kind – four folding wooden tables that have their own carrier – available at Costco type places? These:
Well, I’ve been cruising around Pinterest and various blogs, trying to find fun things to do with them. I found many really great looking rehabbed TV trays (like these or these or even these), so I had to give it a try. For my first one, I started with the little table that my wireless printer lives on in my bedroom. Since only I (well, mostly only I) see it, I figured I could practice and it would be okay if it turned out rather amateurish. So I did.
I took this guy…
…and spray painted him white.
Then I remembered Teressa’s suggestion about stenciling, and thought, YES, I wanna try that! My problem was – I decided on the stenciling Sunday afternoon in Lahaina, so unless I wanted Ace Hardware’s gigantic mailbox-style letters and numbers stenciled on it, I’d have to wait until the next time I hit Ben Franklin. But then I thought, make your own stencils, Mart.
So I grabbed a one-hole paper punch (that turned out to be a little flower shape, which I didn’t realize at the time) and made a little stencil border.
Now remember … I was just playing around, so I didn’t take the time to do it really “right.” Nevertheless, I kinda like it. The overspray on the side was a mistake, but I like the effect. And once I put the printer on it, the goofs in the middle won’t show. Okay, so that’s my project for the week. :-D
One of my favorite parts of a painting project is how much I like the resultant trash. I keep threatening to frame this stuff someday.
So there I was, driving to work this morning, trying to decide whether to hit Barnes & Noble or Starbucks for my morning caffeine when Donna Summer’s She Works Hard for Her Money came on the radio.
As I was singing along (badly) with Donna, I noticed a guy schlepping a trashbag full of empty soda cans along the highway by The Cannery Mall. Now a sack of empty aluminum cans isn’t very heavy so in a split second, my thoughts went:
I wonder why he’s struggling with something that’s so light
Maybe he’s just been walking for a long time
Ha! It fits the song well
(noticing his appearance)
He must be homeless or something
And then I was gone.
I’m not sure what my point is except it might be this: In that instant my perspective changed and the dilemma of B&N vs. Starbucks became quite insignificant. This happened over six hours ago and lasted for just a few seconds but I tell ya … I can’t get him out of my mind. It wasn’t how he looked as much as the aura of exertion, of great effort that it seemed to take – just to get that sack of cans to the redemption center. And the redemption value is probably about four bucks, if he’s lucky. It struck me as a sort of allegory for the guy’s life in general.
It appears that the plight of those on the bottom rung of our economic ladder is the thing that could keep me up at nights – not because I don’t seem to be doing much about it, but instead – because I have no idea WHAT I/we can do.
So I changed the station and went to work.