Saturday, November 11, 2006
My oldest son was born on Veteran's Day 33 years ago today but I don't think of him nearly as much as I think of the men in my life who have been touched by war and death. I wish my son a happy birthday but those men haunt me on Veteran's Day as I remember what it was like growing up with and without them.
I was named for my mother's brother, Jack, who died of leukemia five years before I was born, the year my parents got married. He was a sailor with a wife and two children, none of whom I have met because there was some kind of rift between them and my grandmother. He fought during World War II but it was cancer that took his life five years after he returned home triumphant. Mom took me to decorate his grave ever Memorial Day an Veteran's Day.
My cousin, Lacey Prater, was a fun loving, happy man with haunted eyes and deep twisted scars like ropes around his thumbs. He survived the Bataan Death march. Every time he came to visit he'd tell funny stories and laugh. While everyone else's eyes were filled with tears I looked into his eyes and just for a moment saw dark haunted shadows. One time he caught me looking at him while everyone else was looking away or bustling around fixing dinner and he knew I had seen past the careful mask he wore. I asked him about the scars and what the death march was like and he smiled a smile that never touched the deep shadows in his eyes. A joke died on his lip and tears glistened in his eyes as he shook his head. I knew he couldn't go back there or it would trap him forever. He pulled me onto his lap and kissed my cheek. "I lived," was all he said. His eyes haunt me in the middle of the night when I can't sleep and darkness is shattered by the scream of an owl or the howl of a dog when the night train whistle moans.
My grandfather was too young for World War I and too old for World War II. My father didn't serve in World War II because he was too young but he mustered for Korea twice. He sent lots of pictures of his friends and the places he saw in the aftermath of the war but he doesn't talk about his time at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). He did have an evil looking knife someone nearly stuck into him, but he doesn't talk about that either. I see shadows flitting in his eyes from time to time and I know he saw the relatives of the demons in Lacey Prater's eyes.
It was my boyfriend from high school who gave me a better glimpse of those demons one night when he wasn't high or drunk. It was Christmas and he was on the DMZ. Red and green tracer fire like Satan's idea of Christmas tree lights flew back and forth. Bursts of automatic and machine gun fire ripped through the black void on that frozen winter night when his best friend's head exploded all over him, decorating their entrenchment with glistening red and white shreds wrapping the twisted olive drab metal of his helmet. A hysterical scream of fear and rage played counterpoint to the a devil's hymn of gun fire while the night sky bled red and green tracer fire. The smell of burnt flesh filled the air as his gun glowed red hot in his hands. I wasn't there. I didn't see what happened. I saw his eyes when the haunted shadows nearly overwhelmed him while he screamed his fear and rage unaware of the mug that shattered in his hands or the blood that dripped slowly onto the floor.
My son is 33 years old today and he has never known war. None of my sons have known war, but there have been important men in my life who have seen the demons and lived to tell about them. It is them I remember most of all. It is them I celebrate and honor because they made it possible for me to celebrate the birth of my son.
Thank you all.
Friday, November 10, 2006
There is something wrenching about putting together a submission package for something you have written. Fighting the urge to edit one more time or get one more opinion on your story, you procrastinate and hem-haw around. It isn't the rejection you fear, although that is always waiting in the back of a shadowed corner of your mind next to the unforgiving editor, but success. What if they accept your book or story? What if they publish you? What if it's a success and you are expected to follow that up with more success? What if...? The questions are endless and are guaranteed to keep you from sending it off into the cyber world or putting on the stamps and handing it to the mailman.
It is easy to sit back and write stories and articles and books and keep them in the drawer awaiting one more editing pass, but it's all a matter of what you want to get out of the process. If you want publication you are going to have to grit your teeth and send your work out into the world. If you'd rather stack the pages and disks in a trunk in the attic or a cabinet in a corner and wait for someone to discover you after you're dead, then go for it. Not everyone gets to be Emily Dickinson.
It all comes down to making choices. I just made one. I sent another finished book that I'd like to edit "one more time" out into the ether to a publisher interested in the story. For some reason, for me it is more difficult with full length works I've written than for books I've ghostwritten for someone else, i guess because it's my butt on the line.
Every journey begins with a choice and a step. I took that step tonight. What about you? What choice will you make and when will you ignore the sarcastic, snide voice of your internal editor and take that first step?
As I sit here psyching myself up for another day of work and looking at the calendar I realize tomorrow is my oldest son's birthday. He will be 33 tomorrow. His birthday is the easiest to remember because he was born on Veteran's Day. Then it hits me: Veteran's Day. That's a holiday. The company I work for pays for this holiday but it's not until tomorrow. Time for Google. The federal government observes today as the holiday which means the post office is closed and all federal bureaucratic wheels stop grinding (although they're slow at the best of times when no holidays are involved). Could it be? Is it possible I have the day off? I fired off an email to the office manager just as I realized if this is a holiday she won't respond. What do I do? If I work and it's a holiday I will get paid the usual holiday rate and add quite a few more pages to the total making this a good day, not to mention that I won't have to fight for work since everyone else will be taking the time off. Or do I stay in bed cuddled up with my laptop (preferably with the heater on or clothes) and write more on my NaNoWriMo novel. Then the responsible me starts nagging me.
What about the dishes in the sink (all five of them) and the laundry that needs to be done (point taken)? What about finishing up a couple more review books and posting the reviews? What about the piece you have to write for the breast cancer anthology (for pay)? What about a walk in the park and running errands? What about...??
Shut up already! Jeez. You'd think I had an unlimited amount of time today. It's just a day, a day without work where I get paid for not having to sit and look out the window at mountains, a day where I can go to the mountains with a sketch pad and some pencils, a snack and some water and just breathe. A day when I can write to my heart's content (and the characters' needs) without having to worry about the time I'm taking from work. This is a free day and I'm going to take it.
Okay, it's decided. I'm going to turn on the heater, put on a sweater and climb back into bed with a bowl of hot oatmeal and frozen mango and write. Y'all come back now, ya hear?
That is all. Disperse.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
The past week has been a blur of activity and more than just the view outside my window keeps changing.
I went to Woodland Park on Saturday for VE exams. We had eight candidates and seven of them passed, one with nearly perfect scores on all four tests. He took the last test because he was there and missed on 3 out of 50. Not bad for not having studied. He lives near me, too, just down the road from here and we talked about getting together again soon. We also talked about antennas and radios and such and all kinds of things, but mostly over coffee (hot chocolate for me) at Java the Hut across from the library where we host the exams. Wes forgot to sign the sign-in sheet although he never forgets to comb that thinning alfalfa patch on his head. He could wear a hat like Dean does so no one knows he's bald(-ing) but he'd rather keep coming the fronds in hopes more of them will grow back instead of end up in his comb. It's funny watching him sometimes.
The rest of the week after the weekend was nothing but work, work and more work but I did manage to sneak in a couple hours of free time to watch Heroes and catch up with the first season, Dexter of course, and the very Nathan Fillion-licious Lost from last night this afternoon after I came back from an impromptu lunch. There's a little Mexican restaurant, El Rodeo, just down the way from Mountain Mama's where Abigail used to work that I've wanted to try ever since it opened last summer. Today I gave in and decided to eat before I shopped for my groceries (always a good idea) and was the only patron in the restaurant, which was just fine with me.
Jorge is from Venezuela originally and has been here in Colorado for five years, by way of Houston and Florida. His ex-wife (he's single) holds dual citizenship (Venezuela and America) and met Jorge in Venezuela but talked him into moving north to Houston. Things didn't work out for them but there's always hope for other single females in need of brushing up their Spanish. We talked a lot while I was there and got to know each other a little, but Jorge doesn't work there all the time. He works at a Mexican restaurant in Woodland Park and invited me to have dinner with him there next weekend and every weekend I'm up there for VE sessions.
One thing I've found is when you wish upon a full moon in November (any month will do) it starts raining men. Make sure it isn't a full sun just coming out from the clouds; only a full moon will do.
That is all. Disperse.
Ever since Darwin wrote his Origin of the Species on Nov. 24, 1859 he has provided people with the fuel to jump start their brains and should probably be called the Father of Science Fiction. His writing was not based on science fiction but on his voyage in 1856 on the HMS Beagle and sparked by Gregor Mendel's work with pea plants. Mendel was a little known Central European monk who experimented with what farmers and herdsman have always known about breeding and cross breeding.
Out of this quest for knowledge begun by Descartes who believed that nothing in nature could not be recreated by Man comes the science fiction watched and read everywhere these days. The roots of the Human Genome Project are deep in this fertile soil which gives fruit to speculation about the evolutionary track Mankind will take. Enter the X-Men and Mutant X and now Heroes.
My subscription to the Sci Fi Channel's newsletter made me curious about the new show, Heroes, and after a brief struggle of several weeks I gave in and downloaded all seven episodes. Now they haunt my dreams. The show is interesting and gives reality to what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created in 1963 with the X-Men, a comic I avidly devoured in my formative years. Not to take anything away from the movie versions of the X-Men, but Heroes is the embodiment of those ideas and people without the strong, gentle guiding hand of Professor Charles Xavier. However, once again life hangs in the balance as these models of natural selection and genetic mutation figure out what is happening to them and why and what they must do with their powers. The show's narrator says that change is violent and there is certainly violence in what is happening to these ordinary people who are beginning to understand just how extraordinary they really are as they head towards a cataclysmic clash with destiny.
What I want to know is whether or not Mendel and Darwin should be compensated for their work? The heirs of the protohuman who discovered how to make fire certainly didn't get his share of the residuals.
That is all. Disperse.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
12,545 / 50,000
I received a petition from a friend I have known for many decades. It was about illegal aliens being given the right to file for social security benefits, contrasting a little old widow who buys day old bread and generic brands and shops at Goodwill and the Salvation Army or dollar and discount stores while some "possibly illegal alien" buys names brands and shops at well known stores like Macy's, J. C. Penney's, etc. There was a lot of hand wringing and heart string tugging along with a bit of hate mongering in the short paragraph before the list of names on the petition. Someone needs to inject a bit of truth into the situation.
First of all, the widow doesn't have to by generic or day old bread; she can buy name brands and fresh baked bread but she chooses to use her money that way. It's her choice, just as it's anyone else's choice to buy whatever and shop wherever they want using their funds their way. There are just as many frugal illegal aliens as there are frugal American citizens, and there are quite a few spendthrift American citizens and illegal aliens. That's the way people are and it's nobody's business but theirs.
Secondly, despite what the petition and many people say, illegal aliens have been contributing to social security and federal, state and local taxes right along with everyone else, unless they're being paid under the table, which is less often the case than you might think. Many of them are using stolen or fake social security numbers but they are paying, either into the original owner's social security account or into a general fund that has been growing for decades and sitting there because it is not attached to anyone's verifiable social security account. The government has always had the tools to find illegal aliens but these people are a tax paying, vital part of our national economy. Social security recipients have been living off their contributions to the general social security fund all this time, including the poor widow who buys generic brands and day old bread. The people who work and pay into social security, even illegal aliens, pay for the social security benefits that are being used right now. And social security often gives these illegal aliens a brand new social security card of their own so their money can go into the general fund. The government has known all along where these illegal aliens are and how to get in touch with them but they have done nothing about it. Social security collects and disburses the money and they don't get involved in INS or other governmental policies. It's not their job to round up illegal aliens and no one has asked them to provide their records to help other agencies; that is the way government agencies work--or don't.
So, when you get one of these petitions and think about signing it think about what's really behind all this. Illegal aliens have been getting welfare benefits for decades and risk their lives to have their children across the border in our country because they know they will get paid and that money is more than they will probably ever earn in their own countries. America has been financing the poor and indigent illegal aliens for a long time. In turn, illegal aliens finance Americans with their hard work and their government taxed earnings. It's time to take a good hard look at the truth and decide what to do about it. Signing a petition without all the facts is like going blind-folded into the voting booth and pressing the first lever or button that comes to hand.
That is all. Disperse.
Monday, November 06, 2006
11,139 / 50,000
I got some sleep last night after I went to bed with Dexter. His wry sense of humor kept me chuckling until the end and it was nice to see another nemesis bite the dust. Who knew serial killers could be funny and insightful?
In reading Dexter (and watching the show) I am learning a lot about addiction. In some ways, Dexter's need to kill and dismember the criminals the police cannot catch, try and sentence is as much an addiction as alcohol, drugs, sex or even love. He controls the urge much better than most people, or at least I thought so at first. There are some addicts who control themselves so carefully they never touch an addictive substance.
The Addiction Connection
Because I'm interested in addictions I decided to check old Google and find out what he had to say on the subject and I chose Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) for my search parameters because I know more about them. When I managed a psychology clinic back in Ohio a big part of our clientèle were ACOA so I had a working knowledge base that fit into not having a lot of time since I need to start work here shortly.
Since I was focusing on addicts who control their addictions, like Dexter, I sifted through the characteristics to come up with what such a person would be like. Like Dexter, they would be ultra responsible, almost rigidly so. They take themselves seriously, sometimes too seriously. Dexter covers his seriousness with amiable, even joking behavior, but he misses the point of other people's jokes. He is also extremely intelligent and a good liar. He would have to be to cover the fact that he is a murderer, a Robin Hood of the knife, dismembering evil doers and saving his neighborhood from yet another murderer. Dexter is a murderer with ethics in place of a conscience. Dexter is extremely loyal, but only to Harry, his father, and Debs, his sister. They are his family and Harry gave Dexter a code to live by and the tools to keep himself free from police scrutiny and Dexter works for the Miami police department, so Harry's code keep him safe when his Dark Passenger would rather he were more impulsive. Murdering and cutting up his victims is pleasurable for Dexter but he is careful to keep his pleasure within strict boundaries, Harry's boundaries. Dexter tends to be more flexible than many addicts who deny themselves the pleasure they crave and in that regard he is a more complex and interesting addict.
There are other addicts who have never touched an addictive substance and deny themselves even love and happiness due to a nearly oppressive sense of responsibility. These are the caretakers--in ACOA terms--and are usually the eldest child in an alcoholic or dysfunctional family. My landlady calls them "dry drunks". I think I finally understand what she means.
I thought she referred to a recovering alcoholic but she meant someone who is so invested in not becoming an addict or drunk like his/her parents that he exerts rigid control over every aspect of his life. S/he may have never touched a drop of alcohol, taken recreational drugs or even allowed them anything that feels too good because s/he might like it too much. These people often marry or become involved with alcoholics or addicts or even a workaholic or shopaholic, gravitating toward people who are emotionally unavailable. They are overly concerned about the needs of others to the point they neglect their own want, needs and desires in order to avoid feeling too good. They choose to remain in dysfunctional relationships because it demands little of them emotionally and because of their overweening sense of responsibility they refuse to give up rescuing the situation no matter what happens to them.
If these people stand up for themselves they feel exposed and guilty because they have been selfish and thought of themselves first when their duty is to fulfill everyone else's needs but their own. They may channel their own desires into projects and hobbies or even work in order to fill their time and keep out of the way or to be as unobtrusive as possible. Relationships with inanimate hobbies and objects they can handle and they crave an outlet for their frustrations, something they can control, somewhere they can feel productive.
These people don't like talking about their feelings because it's too much like admitting there is something wrong or something they cannot handle. Being less than perfect in everything they do is not an option. They enjoy the challenge and mental exercise, which is a stimulation they need, but more than that they need an area of their lives they can control. Because they fear abandonment above all else they will hang onto a bad or dysfunctional relationship to avoid the fear and the pain and they don't like confrontation at all.
One aspect I find particularly fascinating is that these people will avoid anything that makes them feel good, even love. If they have not mistaken pity and the need to rescue someone as love and they find a love that gives them the sense of sharing and being on equal terms, even understood, they will avoid it like the plague because those feelings are taboo. If they like the way they feel too much they cannot go back to their dysfunctional relationships and play their part, be responsible, stay disconnected, shut down and depressed. Momentary pleasures they can handle in small doses but real deep down soul pleasure that makes them feel alive and connected is to be avoided at all costs or portioned out the way food was given to the children in the orphanage where Oliver Twist lived and they dare not ask for more. What would they do if they got it?
This is just one group of characteristics of addicts. There are so many more but these are the ones most like Dexter who has caught my fancy so completely. The show is definitely taking a different turn than the books so far, and I wonder if Dexter's nemeses will end up the same way. I won't give away the ending of the books but I suggest giving Dexter a shot. If you don't have Showtime you can download the first six episodes of Dexter and watch them on your computer as long as you install a P2P program like Shareaza, which is free. I load the programs I want to watch and let them run all night so I can watch them any time I want. Since my TV is in the shop right now I downloaded Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and Torchwood and watched them on my laptop.
Those are my current addictions, along with writing, which I will be able to do later today. My TV addictions are limited by programming schedules and my writing is limited by time between bouts of working for a living and writing paying articles and stories, but most of the time I feel like Dexter when the Dark Passenger wakes from his blood sated sleep as the moons waxes full and hangs low and golden in the sky waiting for the next chance to write something--anything.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I hesitated working on the new novel today but I couldn't resist forever. I needed to get back up on that horse after the horrendous weekend reading that awful book. The book didn't get any better and I was almost afraid to write anything of my own because I might have picked up some awful metaphor virus. I couldn't resist for long and I knew I had to get back to it, so I did. Three thousand words later I'm nearly done with chapter five. That's the kind of fifth I could get to like. At this rate I might finished the book before the end of the month and start on another one.
I have noticed that the words are flowing easily and I'm not fighting the story or the characters. That hasn't happened in a long time. What really amazes me is that it's all happening so effortlessly. I say that now but when I have to put it down for a week or two and come back to it I'm certain I'll find more flaws than I can stomach wading through. That is then and this is now.
In a way, keeping this blog and just writing without worrying about style has helped so much, that and the awful novel. After slogging through a book so heavily larded and riddled with horrid metaphors that make little sense where the writer sacrificed a story (I'm still sure there is one in there somewhere) for style and over the top descriptions and adjectives, I think I'm cured. I remember what Twain said about the word "very". Put "damn" in place of "very" and a self respecting and conscientious editor will strike it as an obscenity. Considering what obscenities flow onto the page and into the air waves every minute of every day, his advice is a little behind the times, but the sentiment is still true. I wonder if there is such a thing as trans-metaphor lard free? Okay, I just made that up but you get the idea. Adjectives have their place, as do adverbs, but a story moves better with verbs and active sentences and you don't have to think as hard.
That is all. Disperse.
...is like a mental hors d'oeuvre.
I was doing a little reading this morning and came across this:
Basic Card Symbols
An angel or cupid, a man and a woman, two trees (in Waite, it is Adam & Eve with one tree having a serpent and apples) - in some decks one tree is flowering, but the other has fruit. Also in some decks there is a man standing between two women.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool comes to a cross-roads, filled with energy, confidence and purpose, knowing exactly where he wants to go and what he wants to do. And comes to a dead stop. A flowering tree marks the path he wants to take, the one he's been planning on taking. But standing before a fruit tree marking the other path is a woman. He's met and had relationships with women before, some far more beautiful and alluring. But she is different. Seeing her, he feels as though he's just been shot in the heart with cupid's arrow, so shocking, so painful is his "recognition" of her. As he speaks with her, the feeling intensifies; like finding a missing part of himself, a part he's been searching for his life long. It is clear that she feels the same about him. They finish each others sentences, think the same thoughts. It is as if an Angel above had introduced their souls to each other. Though it was his plan to follow the path of the flowering tree, and though it will cause some trouble for him to bring this woman with him, to go somewhere else entirely, the Fool knows he dare not leave her behind. Like the fruit tree, she will fulfill him. No matter how divergent from his original intent, she is his future. He chooses her, and together they head down a whole new road.
Basic Tarot Meaning
Originally, this card was called just LOVE. And that's actually more apt than "Lovers." Love follows in this sequence of growth and maturity. And, coming after the Emperor, who is about control, it is a radical change in perspective. LOVE is a force that makes you choose and decide for reasons you often can't understand; it makes you surrender control to a higher power. And that is what this card is all about. Finding something or someone who is so much a part of yourself, so perfectly attuned to you and you to them, that you cannot, dare not resist. In interpretation, the card indicates that the querent has come across, or will come across a person, career, challenge or thing that they will fall in love with. They will know instinctively that they must have this, even if it means diverging from their chosen path. No matter the difficulties, without it they will never be complete.
The Lovers is a confusing card as it is ruled not by an emotional water sign but by airy Gemini. The original trump featured a man and a woman with a cupid above them about to shoot his dart. Later this became three figures, the interpretation being a man choosing between two women, or a man meeting his true love with the help of a matchmaker. Still later, with Waite, we have an Angel above Adam and Eve. The Angel stands for Raphael, who is emblematic of Mercury and Air, planet and element of Gemini. Gemini is the communications sign. It's all about messages and making contact; also, as it is the twins, about finding your other self. In this regard, you can see that the Lovers begins to make sense. Especially if you change it back to "LOVE." Here is a card about perfect communication, about finding something your soul requires. In this regard, its most common interpretation about being "A Choice" makes sense. When this card appears, you are being told to trust your instincts, to choose this career, challenge, person or thing you're so strongly drawn to, no matter how scary, how difficult, irrational or troublesome. Because without it, you will never be wholly you. It's sudden and unexpected, and it means a compete change in plans; but this is LOVE. True love. Go for it!
That is all. Disperse.