Saturday, June 07, 2008

Weekend surprises

I did it. I got to the hamfest and did my turn as VE today. The pain was bearable as long as I didn't move too quickly or the wrong way. We had 23 people in the exam session, which is ten fewer than last year, but still a good number. A few didn't pass, including one older woman, about mid 60s, who cried. She couldn't understand how she could ace the exam online and fail it today. We talked and I gave her a local ham's name to help her study for the General exam. I also talked to her a little while and gave her my name and number so she could call if she needed to talk or study. The more we talked the closer we came to an answer for why. She had memorized the answers on the test online and not the information. Okay, that gave me the info I needed. I gave her a website that mixes up the questions and pinpoints problem areas. She'll make it next time; she almost made it this time. And she felt much better when she left.

We don't get a lot of women in the exam sessions, but the number is increasing, and today I got a surprise. One of the people testing was nervous, so nervous her hands were shaking. I told her she'd do fine and she did; she only missed four (you're allowed seven). She got her General license. When I gave her the good news she said, "Blessed Be," and I was stunned for a moment. I always wear my pentacle with the amethyst in the center; I never take it off. The last thing I expected in a ham radio exam session was a fellow pagan. We shook hands and shared greetings and goodbyes and we both made a new acquaintance, a very nice surprise.

Some of the people taking exams I've seen before and we have developed a bantering acquaintance. And there are the VEs I see several times a year who are determined to end the day with the most zingers. They fail miserably. It's not quite like dueling with unarmed men, but it's close, and it's fun. Since I'm the club's VE contact person, and it's even listed on the ARRL web site, I have gotten to know quite a few people. Being the only female on the local VE team makes for interesting dynamics and a lot of teasing, one of my favorite sports. I even got to see an old friend from up at Woodland Park I haven't seen since last year and that was fun. I invited them all to the book signing tomorrow. Some of them will come out of sheer curiosity and the rest will just spread the word. Hams are worse than old women when it comes to gossiping. In fact, Dean, from Woodland Park, told me he heard about the books through some Yahoo group, but I haven't mentioned it on any Yahoo ham group. We narrowed it down to where and it looks like I have a PR person (ham gossip) out there spreading the word about me. Not a big surprise -- gossips, old women sharing gossip over the back fence. Nothing stays secret for long in the ham community.

I came home, had some lunch, watched a couple episodes of X-Files from the sixth season, started another review book and then took a little nap. When I woke up, my shoulder blade popped back into place and the constant nagging pain lessened considerably. Even my neck is less stiff and my hip is less painful. The shoulder blade has popped out before but not in a long time. As long as I stop riding the couch during naps and stick to the bed, it shouldn't be a problem and I won't need to resort to thinking about popping pills or drinking (as one person on my F-list mentioned) Hemlock.

It's fairly cool outside and the sky is my favorite shade of Colorado blue. I missed the farmer's market today because of the hamfest but there's always next week. There's a nice cool breeze making the blinds dance while it brings the sweet scent of honeysuckle inside and all is peaceful and calm on this beautiful and breezy Saturday afternoon. The only thing marring my otherwise idyllic weekend is the imprint of the Funny Times newspaper that has mysteriously tattooed my chaise and the book signing tomorrow. I'm not a big fan of sitting and watching people walk by me while my pen is poised for signing. I am a lot more familiar with reading my writing aloud to no one in particular; it's how I edit. I'll do the laundry tomorrow morning, the whole load, and finish reading a couple of review books and maybe even put in a few hours of typing operative reports, just a typical weekend. There will be dinner with friends and I'm looking forward to that, but otherwise I'm looking forward to enjoying the usual round of the week and this beautiful weather with the lawnmowers buzzing and thrumming and sending waves of fresh grass scent all through the neighborhood. It's my favorite part of summer.

Fire & ice

Afternoon naps are taking a toll on my poor body. I can barely lift my left arm or turn my head to the left. Sleep was elusive last night because of the pain and discomfort and I forgot to get willow bark tea yesterday. I have to get ready to go to Monument for the hamfest and the ham exams this morning and all I can think about is how much I hurt and how much more I want to go back to bed and sleep this thing out of my muscles. It's like one big cramp down the left side of my body, but I can't give up and giving in isn't an option, not this morning. I have so few days like this that it is difficult for me to imagine it happening, but it has. I'm even contemplating stopping at the store and getting some Aleve, just to give you an idea of what it's like right now.

Not going to the hamfest is not an option. The VE team is counting on me to be there, as are several of the people testing. I also need to pin down the treasurer and get a check for the printer who hasn't been paid in four months. I keep reminding the treasurer and he says he'll get to it, but so far he hasn't gotten to it, so I need to get the check from him today and take it to the printer on Monday. I'm also supposed to help with admissions until 10 a.m. but I'm thinking about blowing that off just so I can have a couple more hours to stand in a hot shower and get some willow bark tea so it can work its magic on my aching body, but that's not really an option either since I have to deliver the seventy issues of the newsletter to the hamfest so everyone has a chance to pick one up and many of the people get there early and leave just as early. I really don't like having no options.

I haven't taken a sick day from work since I started there over three years ago and when I promise to be somewhere I'm there. Today is a different story. Today, I want to find drugs, muscle relaxers, analgesics and sleeping pills and drift on a drug-induced cloud pain- and worry-free while the knots and tangles in my muscles slowly unwind. It's not going to happen. I'm going to get up, take a shower, get dressed and get on the road to Monument.

I'm going to get up.

I'm going to get up.

I'm going ...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

You can't blame the train

It happened so fast. You didn't see it coming. You missed the warning signs. They were obvious but you relied on trust and love and got burned. It's like that song. If you saw the train coming and you heard the whistle and didn't get off the tracks, you can't blame the train. It's that way in love and in friendship; you have to keep your eye on things and pay attention. It's the old story of whether or not you can trust a cheater not to cheat, and I'm not talking about diets.

If a friend talks about another friend as if they're dirt or lower than maggots in a dung hill, you need to watch your back. If the same friend trashes a friend over and over one week and then the friend is back in their life the next and everything is beer and skittles (lather, rinse, repeat and repeat and repeat), what makes you think they will treat you any better? You're delusional. This is who they are. Pay attention. Someone who has nothing good to say about their friends isn't going to say anything good about you when the time comes -- and the time will come, or rather the train is coming. Get off the tracks.

There's a big difference between someone who gets angry at a friend and says something nasty in the heat of anger but then apologizes to the friend and to you and doesn't do it again and someone who trashes the friend one moment, gets back with them the next, and trashes them again over and over, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. That is a seriously disturbed person and you cannot trust anything they say (unless it's self serving) because the behavior is a deeply ingrained pattern. It's who they are and always will be.

For instance: Someone I once knew had been best friends with another woman since before they went to kindergarten. When I met the woman and became friends with her, she regularly trashed her "best friend in the world" constantly. At first, it was subtle, little complaints about who brought more food to a joint picnic, whose gifts cost more, how much weight she had lost in comparison, niggling things I brushed off. As we got to know each other better, the complaints got bigger and were more frequent until I wondered why they were still best friends. The other person sounded like she was crazy and delusional and evil so when the woman told me she was spending a week's vacation with her best friend I wondered why. "She cornered me and I couldn't say no." Okay, I can see how a nice person would feel obligated to be nice to someone they've known since childhood. I rationalized.

The train was coming down the tracks.

It bothered me that the woman was nice to people's faces but brought out the claws the minute they were gone as she spilled dirty detail after dirty detail of how they had hurt her, lied about her and destroyed her life (even though she continued to live quite well). With one guy, she said he creeped her out but she continued to invite him over for dinner or out for drinks and dancing and went over to his house on occasion when he hosted dinner. The minute he left, she was on the phone telling me how he disgusted her.

The whistle's blowing and I'm still on the tracks.

She didn't have one good thing to say about anyone, so when I met one of her colleagues from work I was ready for the devil incarnate. He was a personable, intelligent man she greeted with squeals of delight and hugs, sitting down next to him and taking his hand. She batted her eyes at him and giggled at his jokes as though she were a school girl in the presence of a matinée movie idol. This could not be the man she claimed was Satan and always on the make. He seemed uncomfortable every time she sidled closer and touched his hand or his shoulder. He smiled, but it was an awkward, uncomfortable smile as he politely disengaged her hands and shifted his chair away. If the evening had been longer, he would have been shifted out the door of the restaurant.

When we left, the claws came out. "Did you see how he pawed me? I wish he wouldn't do that. It makes me uncomfortable. He knows I'm involved with someone else but he won't listen. He doesn't respect me." I suddenly felt like Linda Blair in the Exorcist when her head spun around.

The train was closer. The whistle was blowing. I was still on the tracks.

I bumped into her colleague when I was having lunch alone one afternoon. There wasn't another table available and he was waiting in line when he recognized me. I invited him to sit since there were three empty chairs at my table. He sat. We talked. We laughed. He walked me to my car and I drove back to work. I didn't know it but the woman saw us.

That night as we ran lines for a play we were both in, I mentioned I saw her colleague at lunch. She acted surprised. The train was gaining speed and I was looking the other way. I heard the whistle but ignored it. "I thought he was nice, very personable," I said.

"Watch out. He just wants another notch on his bedpost. But you should be safe. He prefers thin women with long, thick blonde hair."

The next thing I heard was that I was having an affair with the colleague and trying to force him to leave his wife of ten years and their 5-year-old twins. I hadn't seen him since we had lunch. I called the woman to see if she knew where the rumor started. I got her voice mail. I emailed. No answer. The engineer was hanging on the whistle as the train thundered closer.

I saw her during the tech rehearsal and asked her during a break if she'd heard anything. "I thought you were different. I didn't think you were a home wrecker." She walked away. The prop master pulled me aside. "I heard what she said. Look no further for the source. She's been telling everyone you went after him and have been seeing him at his cabin upstate on weekends." The train hit.

I blamed the train even though I had plenty of warning to get off the tracks. I just didn't think it would hit me. I was naive and trusting and stupid. I've been hit by that particular train a few times and it took me quite a while to figure out why. It's not the train's fault; it is mine. I ignored the signs. I wasn't paying attention. I thought I was safe, but no one is ever safe when they're standing on the tracks in the path of a speeding train. I'm more careful now. I get off the tracks when I heard the whistle blowing.

When someone trashes their friends, even when the venom is hidden in offhand remarks and so-called jokes, they will have no trouble putting you on the list of people to trash. It's what they do. It's the scorpion and the frog. It's the train blaring its whistle while you're still standing on the tracks. They will turn on you just as surely as they turn on everyone around them. If you don't think so, ignore the whistle and stay on the tracks, carry that scorpion across the river on your back and you will find out. I just hope it isn't fatal.

Someone who has little or nothing good to say about people they supposedly love and care about will have nothing good to say about you either if you get in their way. Count on it. Heed the whistle. Get off the tracks because the results won't be pretty and you might end up on the dung heap with the maggots. You can't blame the train.

That is all. Disperse.

Magic water

The skirmish is over. The trash bin was moved to the alley and is now accessible to both houses and it was moved mere minutes after Ms. Stilettos arrived home yesterday. She got the message and this morning there was no fishwife greeting and no calling card on the porch. Sometimes, it takes only a simple reminder to get back on track.

It took a while to get to sleep last night. I was restless; I always am when the weather is unsettled and holding back something big. The something big happened many miles away, but during the unsettled haze of almost sleep a gentle sound worked its magic and I finally fell into a deep well and into Morpheus's arms. It rained. I knew it was coming; I smelled it on the air and I felt it like a heavy weight pressing down on my sinuses. For some reason, ever since I moved to Colorado my sinuses have been more accurate than Doppler or radar in detecting pressure, high and low, and the coming of rain or bad weather.

I don't consider rain bad weather, it's too exhilarating and exciting for that, but last night's -- and this morning's -- rain wasn't of the thunderstorm variety. It was a soft, gentle outpouring that continues to patter down over the leaves and grass like a sensuous bath beneath a trickling waterfall. The sound is soothing and quiet, a subliminal lullaby.

I had hoped it would rain all day, a steady downpour that would soak into the ground instead of rushing through the rain gutters like a sea of otters racing for the rivers and washes, but the rain continues to pitter here and patter there, off and on, like a child playing with a newly discovered faucet and reveling in the magic, sneaking back every time momma's back is turned to see if the magic still works.

For now, I need to drag myself up, get cleaned up and start work. Two more days in this week left to tote the barge and lift the bale before a busy weekend of ham radio swapfests, licensing exams and a book signing on Sunday fill my weekend. Good thing the washing is caught up and I have something halfway decent to wear.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

New neighbors

There seems to be a small glitch in relations between the new neighbor and me. The terms of our leases state that we share a trash bin. I've enjoyed being able to walk across the lot and put my trash in the bin without ambush but then things became a little odd.

Yesterday morning when I walked over to deposit the trash, I noticed last week's trash bag was lying on the ground and the bins had been moved inside the yard behind the gate. I picked up the bag and dropped it and this week's trash in the bin, locked the gate behind me and walked back home. After I dropped off the rent and called the landlord to let him know I had slipped it through the mail slot (he wasn't there), I asked him if I was mistaken about using the trash bin next door. He said no and that he would have to have a discussion with my neighbor since she likes to control the trash situation. He also said it has been a while since this issue has come up and that he would remind her of the terms of the lease. I was satisfied.

Until this morning.

"You bitch!" rang out in the clear morning air as I typed my morning post, followed by the angry clomping of stilettos across the parking lot and the rustling thump of something dropped on the porch. By the time I got to the door, no one was there or in the parking lot, although I'd heard the receding angry stilettos before I got to the door, and the garbage from last week and this week was sitting on the porch in front of the door. I called the landlord again and explained what happened. He told me he hadn't sent a letter to the neighbor yet nor stopped by to speak with her but that would be taken care of today without delay. I thought about introducing myself to my neighbor by way of a letter but then decided not to do that and allow the landlord to deal with the situation. I got dressed and took the garbage back over and put it in the bin. Then I changed my mind and wrote the following:

Dear neighbor,

I would like to introduce myself and to apologize for not having done so sooner. I am Jackie Cornwell and have rented the cottage across the parking lot. I would also like to apologize for not greeting you this morning when you shouted your morning greeting and left your calling card on my porch, but I was unaware of your attentions or that they were directed at me until later. I have, however, shared your gesture with the landlord, Mark.

Maybe you are unaware of the terms of our leases or have merely forgotten we share a common trash bin. Mark has informed and assured me of this fact. Please let this note serve as a reminder and my thanks for your solicitous attentions. I am certain Mark will add his comments in a more direct and personal manner. So, in hopes of getting on better footing, let me thank you again for your visit and include my wish that we can co-exist with the mutual understanding and awareness of the shared cost of trash removal unless it would be more convenient for the bin to be moved closer to the cottage so you will have a place to deposit the trash.

Now that I have introduced myself, I hope you will find it easier and more efficient to call me Jackie instead of "you bitch".

As always...

That is all. Disperse.

Out of the spotlight

It's cooler this morning, but the birds haven't been affected by the lower temps since they're chattering and calling back and forth from the trees. They were flying and circling, dipping and soaring as I walked to the mailbox in the predawn darkness. It's not the rain I want and that keeps falling all around me, but it's invigorating all the same.

This morning, as I eat strawberries and a bowl of frosted mini wheats, I feel like things are coming into focus. The past couple of months have been challenging, but not anything I couldn't handle. I've learned a lot about handling the unexpected over the past two decades and one thing I've learned is not to jump to conclusions. When things are difficult or just not going the way they were planned, there is always the tendency to look for trouble where there is none, to believe someone is out to hurt or malign you when they have no thought of you or your situation. People are far more similar than we realize. The problem is that when a person is having problems the tendency is to see anything and everything pointing directly at us like an accusing or taunting finger. We couldn't be more wrong. It's just like committing some small indiscretion or even a bigger crime and feeling guilty, certain everyone knows and is accusing us. Nothing could be further from the truth, but at one time or another we all tend to be drama queens hogging the spotlight.

It's at moments like these when the only sounds, sights and smells are those of a cool and beautiful late spring morning with the sun climbing through the trees when it's easy to see how myopic things can get. This is what I want and need, this quiet serenity, this island of peace and privacy, these moments with the taste of fragrant fresh strawberries on my tongue while cool breezes finger the blinds, carrying the sounds of bird song and the scent of dew-laden honeysuckle. Anything is possible right now even though there is a day filled with work and chores and errands to be run ahead of me. Because of these quiet and peaceful moments, nothing else matters; everything will fall into place and get done and the world will spin along and focus on someone else.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Deflating balloons

A friend called on Saturday and said she was furious because someone was talking about her behind her back. She detailed all the things that were said and I started laughing. She got angry with me. "Why are you so upset?" I asked her. "None of it's true. It's so far off the mark the person must be talking about someone else or just blowing smoke."

"You're right." She laughed. "I didn't see it like that. All I saw was someone being nasty and mean."

"If it isn't true, don't sweat it." We both laughed at how ridiculous most of what was said was. "That person should write fantasy. They have a great imagination."

I've been there. Someone attacks and the immediate reaction is defense and counter attack. It's a waste of energy and time, especially when the claims are specious. Even if what someone says hits in the general vicinity of the target it's not worth fighting about. It's a lot like someone attacking physically. If someone throws a punch or gets a running head start to tackle you, it's much simpler to side step and pull them on through, adding their weight to their trip. Falling on your face on the cold hard ground isn't much fun and it tends to take the wind out of one's sails, not to mention scraping the hands raw and bloodying the nose or possibly banging some sense into a rock hard skull; striking cement or rocks have a tendency to do that. And it messes up the clothes something awful. Grass and blood stains are nearly impossible to clean.

I'm a pacifist and words are my weapons of choice, although I know how to throw a dagger and wield a sword when the occasion warrants. I'm also a very good shot with rifle and handgun and I hit the center of the target with bow and arrow 99/100 times, but for me those are hobbies and pastimes and not something I do in the usual course of human interaction because someone could get hurt, obviously not me, but someone else. I have yet to meet the person who is worth one second of my life behind bars or even one penny of my hard earned money.

When my friends or family complain about someone at work or around town that irks them or about whom they spend most of the time griping and complaining I always ask the same thing: How does it affect you? If someone is goofing around and not doing their work, it's their problem. If someone is lying and gossiping about you or someone else, maybe they have no life of their own and need to borrow yours to make them feel better. They're small and bitter people not worthy of the time and effort expended by getting angry and upset. Consider the source. If someone goes out of their way to bug you, ignore them; they will go away. Mayflies do eventually die. If someone is always complaining about their work, spouse, health, pain, or whatever and they don't want help, walk away. Fights need a minimum of two people to really work -- shadow boxing does not count.

I recently read something about water off a duck's back and that's what cruelty and gossip and taunts and someone else's garbage needs to be -- like water off a duck's back. Keep your clothes clean by side stepping and ignoring someone else's attempts to draw you into a fight. It's not necessary to have the last word, unless it's goodbye. No one can affect you adversely if you don't let them. So what if they complain about their aches and pains? You don't know whether or not they are in pain and saying they don't know either is presumptuous. Some people need to gripe like the rest of us need air, food and water. They aren't happy unless they're making someone else unhappy or stirring up trouble, so why not let them have the trouble all to themselves? Walk away. It's not always easy to do, but it does get easier with practice and it certainly boosts the immune system, clears out the airways, keeps the eyes moist and the muscles toned when you laugh at them.

As Professor Lupin taught the young witches and wizards of Harry Potter's Defense Against the Dark Arts class, "Riddikulus!"

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday morning gossip

A fresh, warm bagel with salmon cream cheese and sun-warmed strawberries for breakfast started my day. I dawdled over movies and shopping at the farmer's market yesterday so I didn't get everything done I needed to do. I got up with good intentions, started the last loads of laundry, fixed some breakfast, checked email and unloaded the dishwasher. Lots to do. Lots to do.

At the top of my list is finishing a story I need to have done by tomorrow, find an article for the ham club newsletter for the front page, finish the newsletter and email it to the printer, finish two more review books, write the reviews and shoehorn in some operative reports. I think that about clears out my day. At least I have food in the fridge and a treat in the freezer I'm doing my best to leave until the sun burns the clouds to tattered ribbons and sends the dew and puddles steaming into the blue.

I left the windows open all night, all of the windows, and the air is fresh and cool. It must have rained. The birds woke me gossiping just. It sounded like all the birds in the neighborhood got into the debate. The crows joined in with razor-edged caws, taking as always the opposing side while the blue jays squawked with laughter. Cousins can be so cruel. Chickadees added pointed comments and the sparrows giggled from the shadows. It was a free-for-all no one could have slept through, not even Rip Van Winkle.

The dryer clicks and hums. The kitchen faucet drips . . . drips . . . drips. A flock of birds chatter as they roost momentarily in the trees, picking up gossip to pass along their route, asking about the best spots for worms and bugs, and in the distance traffic groans and shudders on the main streets, tires moaning and slashing down the damp, dark pavement while in my mind characters jostle for attention and ideas churn and fingers stumble over the keys, anxious to be turning pages. Everything around me is industry and motion as the last vestiges of Morpheus's influence tug at my eyelids and my body, urging a different position, something more relaxed and peaceful, taking advantage of the cool, moist air, urging me to let everything go and drift on the swells of dreams and tides of sleep. The sun bursts through the heavy lowering clouds for a bright brief moment and then sinks back into the deep softness with a yawn and sleeps.