Saturday, June 03, 2006

Just another manic Saturday

I know the line is supposed to say Monday but it's Saturday.

I get a little manic just before I leave for any length of time. Color me manic. And it has been a manic week.

A friend, Dean Haskins KAƘPII (otherwise known affectionately as cow pie), fell and hit his face and head when his ladder collapsed. He's still in ICU with a basilar skull fracture, cracked ribs, possible blown ear drum, and broken nose -- to name a few injuries. So far things look good and we're all hoping for a full recovery. Dean is one of the VEs I share duties with up in Woodland Park every other month and one of the sweetest and knowledgeable hams I know.

My vacation partners are having their own run of bumps in the road with changed plans, a car dead on the side of the road and the usual pre-vacation jitters. This trip will be good for both of them as they need to get out of Dodge (or Independence).

In addition to all my pre-vacation chores, barges and bales, I just remembered I'm supposed to have lunch with my two favorite pagans this afternoon at Poor Richard's and I haven't even begun to make a dint in my chores. After many nights of long naps in lieu of sleep, I slept long and undisturbed until 4:44 AM, answered nature's call and promptly went back to bed until a little after 8 AM. I've been clearing out email and catching up on essential news since then. Since I haven't been very posty this week due to end of pay crunch time and a lot of wasted time looking for sufficient work to fill out my quota (and not getting nearly enough) I decided to take the time to write this morning. And, yes, I am procrastinating just a little. You would, too, if you saw the overflowing basket of clothes to be washed, trash to be carted out to the alley and kitchen to be cleaned, and I haven't even had my morning soy protein powder and fruit drink breakfast yet. I also have a list to make and books to cull and pack because I'm going to spend a good part of my vacation reading and writing, but I'm also giving away a big chunk of books I've read and reviewed. I will also take a few books I need to read and review. What most people don't understand is that I'm definitely looking forward to all the reading and writing and reviewing. That is a true vacation for me and something I sorely miss since I went back to work on a regular job and don't have nearly as many hours to relax with a book.

My friends and I are going to take a little trip up to my old stomping grounds and I'll show them where I once lived and maybe drop in on a few of my friends at the library and the Winter Park Market. We might even be able to cadge a free fruit smoothie or bowl of vegetarian soup while we're there. I'm also going to try out the wireless feature on my new laptop while we're cruising around Grand County.

In the meantime I'll leave you with this image.

The other morning while I was sitting at my desk as the sun was blushing on the horizon, movement on the street below me caught my eye. I didn't have my contact in but I was fairly certain of what I saw. Still, not wishing to be too gullible or trust too much to sleep hazed eyes, I waited and the lithe form trotted past again. Red fur coat, long brush of a tail and a delicately pointed snout lifted to the wind, the fox trotted up and down the street, hopped up the curb and slipped quickly along the fence line across the street. Nothing else move in the street and the squirrels playing tag and wrestling on the sidewalk scattered to the safety of the trees while the fox was in sight. The sun topped the horizon in a bloody show of late spring strength and the neighbors' lights winked on here and there. The fox stopped at the corner and lifted his nose to the wind, wary and ready to run t ground. With the humans stirring, their dogs would not be far behind, and moments later the first bark sounded in the clear chill air. Without hesitation, the fox leaped into the street and headed west racing the sun and the clock and was soon lost to sight.

I live in the city in a quiet neighborhood and still close enough to the wild rocks and pine forests that deer and skunks and raccoons and foxes flit in and out of sight like wraiths in the morning mists and before the rest of the world is awake. The animals inhabit the shadows after sunset when the noise of children playing and music and the scent of BBQ wafting on the breeze are merely echoes on the rising breeze. Humans have pushed the wild things farther and farther from their hunting grounds but they return when all is quiet to exercise new hunting skills and teach their young how to survive in the urban wilderness, adapting to a new way of life in order to survive.

The fox reminded me of last year when one day the trees outside my sunroom windows were full of blue jays and the next day black with raucous crows. He also reminded me of the coyotes whose eyes burned like hellish fires when my headlight caught a pair of them crossing the road in front of me late one night. These wild things exist out of sight most of the time, seldom more than a flitting shadow in the corner of your eye, but they are never far from me as I haunt the times between darkness and dawn in the cool crisp breeze blowing through my windows and I am thankful once again to be living here in the land of my dreams.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Yes, I can

Seven years ago I packed my car, loaded my computer into the trunk and hit the road. I suddenly realized that with the job I had I didn't need to stay in one place as long as I could hook up to a phone line and I didn't have to wait until some day when I was retired to travel. I had a similar realization yesterday.

I was watching Bride & Prejudice again last night and wishing I could see the Golden Temple in Amritsar. I wanted to go to Goa and shop in the bazaars, pick out a flower necklace and breathe in the scent of spices and a different life. The music, the dancing, the color, another world, all of it whirling around in my mind while I reminded myself that I couldn't afford such a trip.

I am doing what I've told so many other people they shouldn't do -- put my life on hold for some day. No more.

One of the things I realized is that travel to anywhere in the world is within my grasp. It won't be cheap and it won't be easy but it is possible. All I need do is throw out the cannot from my vocabulary. I can do this.

And not only India but Alaska, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Paris, the world is all within my grasp. All I have to do is reach out and take it.

Just as I realized I wasted too many hours each week watching television that I could use for writing, yesterday I realized I waste a lot of money, funds that could go for travel. It's a matter of exchanging one choice for another. Instead of buying lots of books or other things I don't really need, I could save the money for travel. A little planning, a little sacrifice and I could see the world -- and get paid for it, too, writing about where I've been, what I see, what I've learned and a million other things. That way the cost of the trip is a write-off and I get some of the money back to use for other trips. In the meantime, I will live, LIVE, LIVE. In the words of Mame Dennis, "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."

I am not starving but I've been on the wrong diet.

So many people tell me they want to write and don't have the time. I ask them if they watch television at night (they invariably say they do). Then I tell them the secret: Give up 30 minutes of television every night and 60 minutes on Saturday and Sunday and you will have enough time to write. We often don't realize how much time we waste on mindless activities or, in my case, how much money I waste on a monthly basis. Add up the time: 14,070 hours that could be used for writing in a year's time. That's enough to write War & Peace.

I spend about $200-$250 each and every month that I could use for something more exciting and useful, and something worthwhile -- like travel. In a year's time that adds up to $3000, which is more than enough for a round trip ticket to India in business class or even first class. I'm sure if I work at it I can even scrape a few more dollars together by working over time and cutting back on expenses in other ways.

Of course discipline is an issue but no pain, no gain, and the pay off is an even more interesting life.

Maybe it's the laptop. Maybe it's the excitement of music and color and movies. Or maybe I just got wise to myself. It's time to take cannot out of my vocabulary and replace it with I know I can. I got out of the rut in Columbus and hit the road seven years ago, a trip that brought me to the end of a rainbow. But there are lots of rainbows out there and next year my trusty laptop and I will be in either Alaska or India or maybe even Thailand or Greece or Egypt or a trek through Europe beginning in Rome and ending in Paris or Brussels or Vienna. The world is definitely my oyster and this is one poor sucker who's decided to step up to the banquet.

I just hope Beanie has a really big appetite. She's going to need it.

Monday, May 29, 2006

I shouldn't, but I do

It has been two years since I severed ties with The Rose & Thorn but it cropped up again yesterday, as it does from time to time. One of the editors, no longer on staff, emailed me wanting to know how I was and where I was now and I was redoing my writing resume for an online submission and needed links to some of my work, links that included work I did over the near decade I worked on R&T. Curiosity is in my nature. It's part of who I am and has goaded me into many different arenas, including spontaneous travel. Curiosity is what gives me an edge when I'm interviewing someone or compiling data or doing research. Curiosity is the umbrella under which the eternal questions wait: who, what, where, when and why. Why is a big one for me and is the first word I ever spoke after being thrust from the warm liquid dark into the harsh cold glare. Why is on my mind and on my lips again.

Why, despite the beautiful changes in graphics and fonts, has no one bothered to look beyond the table of contents and keep the rest of the site updated? Nothing has been done with 80% of the pages as if no awards have been won since I left and no one has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize from R&T very talented cadre of poets and writers. Why has the rest of R&T died and why did no one notice?

I probably shouldn't care. After all, I'm no longer part of the staff. Why do I care?

Why do I care? That's a question I ask myself all the time when I look back at people and places behind me and wonder what they are doing or how they have changed. From time to time I think of my ex-husband with whom I spent seven years of my life and share three sons. I haven't seen him in more than twenty years but I still wonder how he is doing, especially when I hear he has had "another" heart attack and I realize he is getting older. He is the same age as his father when his health declined and he was faced with multiple surgeries. I don't hate my ex-husband. I don't have any feelings about him, good or bad, but I wonder how he is. He is a part of my life and my past and another human being. Why do I care?

Is it all wrapped up in general curiosity or is there something else at work here?

I received another article from Mike Levine in Israel. Mike is a retired journalist from New York and a long time friend. There are some areas where we don't agree but Mike provides me with an inside view of Israel and the conflict in the Middle East, a view I cannot get from the newspapers or news on the Internet. I have read about the dissent and inner workings of Gaza and the resettlement of Palestinians in Israel. I am personally connected to people who have been within meters of suicide bombings and have known a suicide bomber or two. I have read both sides of the story, of Palestinians who have watched Israeli soldiers urinate on their vegetable gardens from atop the walls that ring their settlements to people I know caught in the blast from a suicide bomber who was barely past his teen years. I see hate and anger from both sides and wonder where I would choose to sit were both sides in a room together. I see the good and the bad but they are thousands of miles away. Why do I care?

The Nazis are gone and Hitler is dead. The Jews have their own country now. There are no more pogroms and no one is building another camp with ovens big enough to hold and cremate the millions of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and dissidents gassed in the showers. The holocaust will not happen again. It cannot happen again. So, why do I care?

Because I am a part of it all even from here.

I cannot turn my back on the world even though there are times when the world is my tiny corner with my unfinished decorating and the laundry piled in the African carry basket. I cannot insulate myself or be blind to what is happening simply because it isn't happening right outside my door. Germans today hate the Jews as much as they always have but they keep it quiet because it's bad for business and they don't have the military might to back it up. The 9/11 bombers lived and organized in Germany and one of the best selling books in the Middle East in Arab countries is Mein Kampf. Sweden has welcomed Hamas leader Salah Muhammad al-Bardawil into the country and granted him a visa. Salah Muhammad al-Bardawil is he leader of an internationally known terrorist group, someone the U.S. and NATO and the United Nations have looked for since 9/11. He should have been arrested. Sweden, ever on the side of who they believe will eventually win any conflict, has allied with 400,000 Muslims because they want their votes on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, forgetting that it was high grade Swedish ore that drove the Nazi war machine.

In a time when an atrocity like the Holocaust is questioned as myth and Anti-Semitism continues rampant, I cannot turn my back or believe that ignorance is bliss, especially with the lesson of Hitler's bloodless coup and near annexation of most of Europe still fresh in my mind. No one believed Hitler would catapult the world into such a devastating war or eradicate millions of people because it didn't make sense. England and America stood by and allowed Hitler to gain a foothold and it cost millions of lives to put the genie back into the bottle.

Think it can't happen again?

Take another look outside your window.

It is happening and on a scale and scope unbelievably more devastating than it was more than sixty years ago.

We are faced with an insidious enemy who has focused the world's attention on a small country in the Middle East born from the ashes of the last world war. Hitler's legacy endures and it has spread to the volatile Middle East where brother has battled brother for millennia because one was chosen and the other was not. It is no longer about weapons of mass destruction or oil or freedom but very simply about the continuation of the human race. If we turn our backs on Israel and the Jews again there will be no freedom and no one to care or remember that it couldn't happen again. Hitler's spirit lives on in Hamas and Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia and Palestine and every American and Jew hating Muslim heart, including Germany and Sweden and France.

Why do I care?

Because I don't want to see all the hard work undone or left to languish unchecked and unchanged because no one has the time to stop and focus on something other than their own concerns. I care because, while I do not live in the Middle East or Israel or Germany or Sweden, while I am no longer on staff and no longer married, what happens out there beyond my windows and the horizon I can see will affect me and the rest of the world if we fail to look back and remember and take a look beyond the front page and the table of contents.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Googling again

The fastest way for me to remember links to my work online is to Google myself. It's fast, efficient and oh, so surprising.

For nearly three years I have been a reviewer for Author Link. They send me books that I read and review, and then they pay me. The byline is mine but the work belongs to Author Link, which is why I didn't know that the publisher of one book I reviewed placed a blurb of my review and my byline on the back cover. The author is Australian and writes paranormal/mystery/adventure/romance and she is good. I gave her 9/10. I seldom give 10s, not even to authors like Arthur Miller. I like to leave a little room because nothing is perfect. One of my quirks.

While I was listing URLs and listing some of my credits I also noticed that an old friend from Ohio is still present of the OBFAA (Ohio Burglar and Fire Alarm Association). Darrel is a sweetheart and he, his wife and his brother Tom (retired neurosurgeon/plastic surgeon) used to have a lot of fun together. Jane was a pagan, Darrel and Tom Episcopalians and then there was me. Other people came and went in the group but the four of us were very close. I also worked with Darrel since I did PR and writing for the OBFAA.

As Darrel and I talked, I realized that he was the perfect person to streamline one of my writing projects -- a syndicated consumer column on security. Darrel has been in the business more than 30 years and is always up-to-date on the latest technology. He can provide the experience and expertise, especially with his finger on the security pulse, and I'll write the columns. We split the proceeds and I give him a byline credit since he is the expert witness, so to speak. He wanted to think about it and I gave him two weeks. He'll say yes. Darrel has never said no to me, although I said no to him a lot. That's a whole other story.

I also realized how much I miss Darrel and some of my other friends in Ohio. Darrel also gave me a tip on another of our friends who asked about a web site. Darrel isn't happy with the guy doing his web site and says it is way out of date. I may pick up Darrel's website and the other friend's as well. Darrel also told me about needing to change the music and voice menu on his phone systems. Looks like I'll be recording a CD for his phone system and I'll also be the voice of Summit Diversified Systems in the field -- at least the demo version. I'll finally get to make a record -- sort of. I just won't be singing.

In my travels I have left many friends behind me, some to whom I still talk. I do miss some of them and wish they lived closer, but that's not always possible. I often cross bridges but I seldom burn them behind me, which is probably why I would find it difficult becoming someone else. I like my history and the road I've traveled to become who I am. Good, bad or indifferent, the road has always been interesting and a real adventure.

I have lived in interesting times. I still do.