Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My One Shot Bucket List

Most people don't spend a lot of time thinking about dying, and writing a bucket list has become a socially acceptable way to acknowlede that our time is limited and we need to make it count.  Some make a huge list and others make intricate plans.  There is no right or wrong in making a bucket list. Each one should be as unique as the person writing it.

After a great deal of consideration, I decided to pick just one item from all my wishes.  One thing that I would carefully plan, and turn into the adventure of a lifetime.  I knew immediately it would be traveling to somewhere. But what destination did I need to see to make my life whole?  Considering I've had some pretty spiffy adventures thus far, this would take some thought.  I've spent fifteen years with my husband and we have toured most of the country.  I've logged thousands of miles by train and enjoyed the road less traveled.  As a couple we have our own to-do wish list that is independent of my single bucket list item.  But we are all individuals, and I think everybody should get one freebie that is selfish and all their own.

I tried to think about what was missing from my life, and came up short.  I have great friends.  I love my job.  I'm doing what I want with my life.  What else could a girl want?  Then it all came together in the perfect storm.  The answer to my life's greatest adventure was hidden in... homework.

In the first week of October, I had an assignment in journalism class that was particularly tough.  It was a great piece on Roger Ebert that ran in Esquire on February 16, 2010.  The article was very well written, and a great example of how to work detail into a feature.  But aside from the technical lesson I was taken in by Ebert, a man I had grown up with but didn't know at all.  This great, brilliant mind who just happened to be a popular film critic.  Ebert's quotes and approach to life and death were mind-bending. He spoke of the afterlife almost casually, having already accepted the fact that he would be there soon.

"What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip."
That is exactly how I want to think of my life.  Ebert was an atheist, so we differ in that regard.  However, if I had to sum up the meaning of life, this is the best definition I've ever read.  And it came from someone I had grossly underestimated as the "thumbs up" guy.  Our life is some kind of special chapter in the unfolding of the universe.  Our memories are our reward, even the ones we might not choose to recall.  I want the photo album of my life to be full of greatness.  Not all trips and adventures, but moments of grace, reflection, and plenty of humble reminders that ultimately shaped me.

This confirmed that I wanted to go on a trip, but one that had to be personal, a journey that would suit me and be worthy of the top (and only) slot.  Then another homework assignment gave me the final piece.  My anthropology class had a long-running assignment in which you contributed different videos and articles that were related to the content.  I had just watched The Human Family Tree, an awesome documentary that takes a look into how DNA can tell you not just who your ancestors were, but where they have been at certain times.  Through recorded patterns, scientists can tell how anyone's ancestors originally worked their way from the cradle of civilization to their current location.  I gave the documentary a quick skim to update my notes and share it with the class when a perfect storm of ideas came together.

I love to write.  I love history.  I love culture.  It suddenly became so clear: I should have a DNA analysis performed, and take my bucket list trip to the oldest or most compelling place I find, and write about it.  And depending on what I discover, work in more if I can.  What would be cooler than standing on a piece of land and knowing that thousands of years ago, someone who shared your blood had done the same?  The only thing that could possibly top that is the research that will help me decide the significance of the data and weigh the possible destinations.

It all starts with the first step: the DNA test.  I know has one, but I want to do some checking and see if any are even better at giving me the particular breakdown I seek.  By the end of 2014, I plan to have taken the test (the results may take a while, I have no idea how these things work).  Then I'll share it and start trying to map out the possibilities.

It really is a small world.  I want to go back as far as I can, find the earliest or most unique land of my family's history, and go there.  I want to look around and know that I wasn't here by accident.  I used technology and skill and intelligence to come find my roots.  I want to look at a landmark, and having checked history and climate records, know how it would have looked to someone who shares a direct link with me.  Though they'll never know it, I would like to think my ancestors would find it amazing that I came looking for them, and succeeded.  I also want to write something special, and just for myself.  I don't mind sharing the whole story (note the new Bucket List tag) but this may be the only thing that I am really writing out for the pure and selfish joy of doing what I want.  I'm not trying to sell it, I'm not trying to please an editor.  I want to record my big adventure and do it justice.

So there it is.  My bucket list.  It will be a great journey of discovery and research, one great destination where I get to appreciate what I've studied, and a chance to write something special.  I'm not out for a luxurious and pampered experience. I'm going to apply the things I love most and see where the science takes me.

If you like, you are welcome to come along for the ride.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Q: How Can You Identify An Exception To The Rule?

A: When it's the answer that makes sense.

Brittany Maynard is going to die. Of that, there is no question. Her diagnosis bluntly says she will deteriorate quickly and die a painful death. She has decided to end her life on her terms. Considering what she is facing, there is no other alternative except to suffer. She has planned an event, where she has wrapped up her affairs and said her goodbyes, and she will die with the people she loves most surrounding her.

And while her story is sad, the message she wants to impart is not. Brittany Maynard is showing us how to handle a death sentence with class and strength.

Medical euthanasia is a very personal choice, and is not right for everyone. However, the people who want to pursue the option are screened and must take the action themselves. The medication prescribed is just guaranteed to work without unnecessary suffering. Those who say doctors will begin killing patients are using hyperbole to strike fear where there is no proof. The fact is, the screening process has requirements that make sense and are compassionate.

Suicide is a difficult subject to tackle. It's something we are engineered to call wrong on every occasion, but the truth is that every rule has an exception. I worked in health care, and I have seen many a parent of a friend succumb to cancer or long illness. I have seen people writhe in pain, and felt helpless while the maximum dose of painkillers failed to comfort them. People who are of sound mind deserve the ability to avoid that sentence if they choose.

It's not the choice for everyone, but it's the choice for some. And we need to respect that choice, because nobody should have to suffer that kind of agony so that complete strangers can feel okay about how they died. If someone doesn't want this option, then that is their right. It's only a problem when they try to take that right away from others. The right to deny treatment is a medical principle that is guaranteed for all people. That shouldn't come with a screaming, agonizing price tag.

And while it might sound crass, I still have to say it: if it's not too good for my pet, it's not too good for me. Rest assured, if I found myself in Brittany Maynard's shoes I would be making the exact same decision. I have done this for creatures I loved like children, with all the heartbreak and horror that comes with it. I could do it for myself. I could do it for my husband. By allowing people full ownership of their lives when facing certain and painful death, we make it so their loved ones can participate in saying goodbye without being implicated in a crime. We allow medicine to cease suffering and serve the patient, as it was intended. We respect the ability of adults to choose their path for themselves and honor their religious directives.

So while it feels wrong, sometimes the answer is yes. And Brittany Maynard has spared some of her precious remaining time to help us learn that lesson. I hope her investment is not in vain.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dear Springfield City Council

I was at City Hall on September 8th. What I heard was one side asking for permission (or demanding their "right") to discriminate, and another side asking for reasonable safety and protection from discrimination. Every citizen should be free of discrimination, but vulnerable populations need the assistance of government to ensure their safety. Some tried to say LGBT discrimination didn't exist. Surely none of you could have sat that meeting and believe such discrimination doesn't exist. You stared it in the face for hours.

Adding LGBT citizens to the list of those protected from discrimination doesn't force people to like them, sign off on their existence or allow them to be who they are. They exist already. They are who they are already. They simply depend on you to send the message that they must be given the same respect and consideration that is offered to every other citizen of Springfield. We don't all have to get along on a personal level, but everyone should expect to be treated fairly in matters of government, business and employment. You are using your power to set that minimum standard. I beg you to use your power wisely and in accordance with the Constitution, which protects our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. One side's pursuit of happiness is to work and live in peace, the other side's objective is to protect the right to harm others.

These citizens are vulnerable because they are a minority. However, they pay taxes and deserve the service and representation of their government. They are not criminals, and therefore deserve freedom. They are only a small percentage of the population, yet over half of your speakers recognize their equality. Because we love them. Because I cannot imagine looking into my friend's faces and not saying I fought like hell for them, with everything I could muster. They would do it for me; I have no doubt. See, I'm not even gay. This isn't even my cause. I was just raised to be better than this. And right here in Springfield there are thousands of people like me, who aren't gay but love someone who is. We're watching. We're voting. And writers like me will make sure you are held publicly accountable for whether you decide to protect all your citizens or just the ones you deem worthy.

You represent Springfield. You can show that this is a city where people can expect to be treated fairly, or you can send the message that only approved citizens receive the full services of their government. Many have tried to muddy this discussion with shades and variables, but for you it is black or white. Yes or no. And you will have to say, with the entire city watching, are you for discrimination or are you against it?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Womanhood In A Nutshell

It's not being dramatic to say American women are in terrible circumstances.  To those who believe differently, before you scoff please read this through.  All in one sitting, read this through and realize that your mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and wives are affected by everything below.  Half the country abides by what is written below.  No woman is safe, and that fundamental understanding is truly what separates us from the boys.  Men don't have to worry about a lot of the things women do, and while that street goes both ways the purpose of this article is to shed a little light on what the women in your life have to think about.  Every single day.

1. One in six will be the victim of sexual assault.  According to RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) 17.7 million women have been the victims of rape.  Do you really think if 17.7 million men were raped, humiliated, scarred and beaten that this would be allowed?  But when it's women, the reactions fall between "well, that's unfortunate" with little emphasis on fixing the problem, to accusations of how the accuser had a hand in their own attack.  Rape doesn't know an age limit or stick to a certain class.  To pretend it's only slutty young girls who don't wear enough clothes implies that mothers, responsible women, good Christian role models don't find themselves being victimized.  It also implies that acting or dressing a certain way incites rape and therefore bears some responsibility in the attack.  That couldn't be farther from the truth. And while we try to spread the message, untold millions of women suffer that fate as the price of our society's ignorance, plain and simple.

But hey, let's say that it did happen to someone you love.  Let's say it does, and they catch the guy, because that's supposed to make everything all better despite the nightmares, and this  happens:
A British man was sentenced to five years in prison for raping an unconscious woman. According to a report from the Hull Daily Mail, it took the jury just over two hours to unanimously conclude that Lee Setford was guilty of raping a woman who was asleep on his couch. But here’s what the judge told him upon sentencing, “I do not regard you as a classic rapist. I do not think you are a general danger to strangers. You are not the type who goes searching for a woman to rape.
In what world is a man found guilty of a violent felony beyond the shadow of a doubt by unanimous vote "not a general danger" to strangers?  Our world.  According to the judge's own words, the woman who was sleeping must have had a role in her attack because this guy was pretty ordinary.  Somehow, he didn't think it was (entirely) the fault of the guy who jumped on her while she was asleep and used her body against her will.  And somehow, not searching for a woman to rape makes him more upstanding than a fellow who just rips the clothes off a woman who is nearby and vulnerable.  There are plenty of cases in the United States of this exact type of thinking in the courts, but I chose a timely example that encompassed so many problems we see again and again.

Because guys... you see these cases and they slide out of your memory.  We don't. And for one in six of us, it's because we know just what that poor woman felt like because we have experienced it for ourselves. I get it, I don't lie awake at night worrying about whatever it is men worry about.  But before you dismiss this as something that doesn't happen, look at the number.  That's more than all the men in the state of Texas, Rhode Island and Georgia combined.  Any other crime that magnitude and frequency would be the shame of law enforcement everywhere, not a topic for debate on whether a low-cut sweater or falling asleep was asking for it.

2. It's a little more serious than "women just can't catch a break."  I grew up in the 1980s, when women were being encouraged to get out in the field and work, partly in response to the Regan-era layoffs and the resulting decay of workplace protections.  Here, in a nutshell, is a woman's career path:

  • If you make it through school, in light of the favoritism shown against women with mentors in the field, you graduate and get to work.  You're new and young and will have to answer questions like "how do you plan to juggle kids and your job" because your future has already been forecast.
  • If you graduate, you are one of many.  The Wall Street Journal reports more women are graduating than men on a consistent basis.  So yay, women are making progress!  Except we're not.  Because despite our success rate in finishing school, our working lives are not in line with our progress on that front.
  • If we have more women graduates who studies show outperform men in school, then why does USA Today report that 16 out of 500 as the most consecutive women to run Fortune 500 companies?  Where are all these bright, hardworking, outperforming and tenacious future leaders getting stuck? VitaminW gives us this this graphic to illustrate why half the graduates only occupy so few of the top jobs in their field.

  • Also, getting paid seventy-seven cents on the dollar may also have something to do with it.  It's hard to find incentive to work harder when your best efforts may only get you to equal ground (and that's a mighty big maybe).  Those who contradict the statistic point out that it is a bit skewed because women dominate fields like receptionist, waitress, and other low-paying jobs (despite our increased graduates with associates degrees and higher).  The seventy seven cents part is correct, the mistake is people say it's for "doing the same work."  It's not.  Because women don't get promoted to those high-ranking jobs, and are kept in supporting but low-paying roles, it's still valid to say that we earn that much less across the board.  Because if we were given equal opportunity and held to the same standards and rewarded by the same standards, that number would be zero.
  • If you land a decent job and are lucky enough to be able to afford to make a living with just one job, you now have to pay 68% more out of pocket for your health care costs.  As Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out, and to the utter shock of the researchers at PolitiFact, that statistic hasn't significantly  changed since 1994.  That's right.  I'm almost forty years old, and every year since I graduated high school, I have had to pay more for basic care and medicines, and told it was only fair because I might become pregnant and tax the system.  My whole life, there's been zero improvement on something necessary to our lives and happiness, and it's not going to change anytime soon.  And now, depending on the whim of others, my rights to healthcare, medicine and perfectly legal procedures can be taken away or restricted. 
  • And even if you do make it, you're one of the four percent and you've beaten a string of odds so long that nobody can really believe it, some asshole like Matt Lauer will ask you how you juggle kids and your job, and send you right back to that first job interview you had when you graduated college.  
Add to that being measured by how doable you are instead of how accomplished you are, getting ahead only for one boss to stall your career because of how he feels about women in the workplace, worrying about getting raped or attacked by a stranger who comes on to you and is turned down.  Entire articles are written about the things women have to do differently at all times or risk being attacked, while men go through few if any of those hoops to protect themselves.  Yet we're told we are treated as equals (we aren't) and that our voices are heard (not even close) and that we are valued members of the workforce (who get paid less and charged more for benefits) and that we're being bitchy or somehow wrong if we speak up.  

Long list, huh?  Now realize that if every single one of those problems were to go away, after fifty years of work and dedication and wholehearted attempts at reform... we would just then be on even footing.  Not ahead, not advantaged... even.

We struggle and live under this every single day, while patronizing jackasses tell us to be grateful we live in such a progressive country.  One that will at least give us food stamps after using us for cheap labor and pawns to score political points.

Don't you want more for the women in your life?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: Microsoft Office 365 From A Writer’s Perspective

I have always prided myself on being a Linux girl. It took me years to get comfortable with it, but I stayed at it. Why? Because I hated Microsoft with a passion. Their exorbitant licensing fees and shady business practices made them nearly predatory in the market, and I still blame them for singlehandedly killing innovation in software for decades. So I worked at learning Linux out of spite, and Ubuntu finally gave me a platform on which I could build my work. Or so I thought.

Going back to school forced me to have Windows compatibility, there was just no other way around it. Many teachers are nearly computer illiterate, which boggles the imagination. They were unable or unwilling to accept PDF files or other generic forms. My employer uses Windows, and Office 2010. While taking the state required Computer Information Systems 101 (degrading though it may be) I was forced to use Office 2010 and of course I still knew my way around from work exposure. But I resented every moment of it.
But here's the deal: OpenOffice gave way to LibreOffice and they aren't the same. The compatibility is technically there, but flawed. You could not guarantee a smooth transition in .doc format between Open/Libre Office and Microsoft Office. My homework was just one example of that. Editors are famous for being dinosaurs and resisting technology. It's 2014 and many still like paper submissions. There is zero wiggle room with email submissions and attachments. An editor is not going to look twice, if the first glance reveals formatting issues they are going to throw your manuscript out and move on to the next one. Your brilliant writing will never get a chance to offset this liability. I have gotten this straight from the mouths of editors, and I believe them. 

The competition is just not up to snuff.  Google Docs is free, but has a few glitches. I had devastating data loss on some writing projects, and when I would move a manuscript to Microsoft Office to format it for submission, it was a nightmare. I love Google and still swear by my Chromebook, but Google Docs will leave me with trust issues for a long time. Plus, it also had compatibility issues, and tricks I learned at work did not easily move over to their flavor of Excel. Google Docs is great for throwing open a doc and doing that mental download that all writers know, when it's coming through fast and hot and it's all you can do to type it before you lose it. But once that moment has passed, you are ten times better served by having it in actual Microsoft Word, or you are looking at hours of reformatting and triple checking on top of your regular editing.

Office 365 is a monthly (or yearly if you want the savings) subscription that gives you access to all of the Microsoft products. Word, Excel, Publisher, Power Point, Excel, Access, One Note and Outlook. The whole kit can caboodle for seven dollars per month. I never have to upgrade. I have a terabyte of storage, more than I could fill in a lifetime of writing. I can use the cloud version on any laptop (including the Chromebook) and organize myself in a way that is familiar and compatible with other devices. The cloud version comes with a basic but handy version of Power Point, Word, Excel and Outlook. This is more than sufficient for traveling needs. You can download the full version of Microsoft Office 2013 and use it on multiple machines with your one subscription (instead of having to purchase Office for every machine in the house). That right there undoes a lot of the evil Microsoft has levied on the American people. By forcing a standard and charging individually, they made their products to where regular people couldn't afford to have them all. To buy the CD and license for Office 2013 is currently around $150. Publisher and Access are extras, costing about $120 each. I would have had to pay for this for each machine in my house, a total of four, if I wanted full compatibility. For my measly seven bucks, I get all of them on all of my machines and don't have to worry about storage or compatibility ever again. Deal.

Because the rest of my world is set up on Google, it was a relief to move my writing world into Office on the cloud. Through a single webpage, I could manage my writing (documents), my calendar, email, and even my business tracking through Excel. It is literally logging into your online office where everything is a click away. My personal and professional lives are now comfortably separated and I can click save and email seamlessly. I can make business cards, even format for self-publishing projects, anything I will need for my writing or consulting work is covered. I fought the good fight for over ten years, but I have come full circle. With reasonable prices on this, I am now far more willing to purchase a license for Windows 7 (you will never catch me using the monstrosity that is Windows 8) and I will eventually say goodbye to Linux. We had a good run, but in the end I am a writer and I have to use the tools of my trade. That is going to require Microsoft Office, and now that I have an affordable option I am going to use it.

I will write a follow up at some point, just an update letting writers know how I have fared and if I have come across any significant glitches that may affect others. But for right now, I could not be more impressed and I have written countless blog articles (including this one) that publish with a click, over 40 pages of manuscript and an unbelievable number of projects for homework. I've yet to encounter a single negative, even when working on the "diet" version that is on the cloud.

Microsoft, I refuse to apologize for my previous hatred because you deserved it. However, you have redeemed yourself with this new business model and you have a truly superior product. I will gladly pay seven dollars per month to enjoy the benefits of your impeccable upkeep. Microsoft Word sets the bar for writing software, and One Note lets me organize to my heart's content. I love this so much that I am moving my Operating System back to Windows full-time. My productivity is through the roof, and almost all of it is being able to log in and leave the world behind, and get down to business. I can now run my entire life through a series of apps that I can carry in my purse as well as run on my desktop computer at home. That's all this girl ever wanted.

The Rest Of The Story (Why I Write)

Of course I'm taking all the writing classes I can while obtaining my associate's degree. I have a great time, and I still learn plenty. The insight and feedback from an online course has really let me see how my writing looks through a different person's filters and voices. I've tried to take this feedback and turn it into the best product possible. If people didn't enjoy my writing, then there would be no purpose to my work.

Inevitably, we have to write a cheesy bio (I've used the same one for all classes. I mean, how many ways can you say "crazy cat lady nerd" and be original?). Writing classes also give you a soft assignment, which has been without fail to write an essay explaining why I write. The safe answer is that I write because I like the challenge, I feel I was born to do it, and I have spent nearly 35 years writing so why in the world would I stop now? Those are all true, and all valid answers. But there are some things you can't say in an academic setting, especially before you've had a chance to get a read on the teacher. So I leave some things unsaid. My blog, my rules, I'm going to say those extra things now.

The short answer: I write because I'm wired to do it. The long answer: my brain sees everything as a story, every person as a character, and every photo as capturing history. I'm addicted to the feeling. I couldn't stop, even at the cost of my own life. There is some primal magic about making it real, making people feel and participate in a world of your creation, that is just beyond any high chemicals could manufacture. Under the umbrella of journalism and character study, I've been able to get people to open up to me and share their stories, and tell me the most intimate details of their lives. I understand people in a way that few do, and they trust me with their secrets. There is a rush in being printed, in an editor choosing your work over the competition. I smile for days when an editor says something as simple as "great research" or "well done." Someone who understands my craft has just paid me a compliment, how awesome is that? It's the same way a musician feels when they nail a tough piece of music in front of a fellow musician, or an artist when the sketch comes out just right. There's nothing better. A pound of Columbian cocaine couldn't come close to making me feel the way I do when someone tells me how my writing has entertained or affected them. That's why I write. To not do so would be like dying, and to do it a bad job of it would be so frustrating that dying would start to look like relief.

Having said all of that, I don't do it just for the love. I do it for me. If nobody ever read my things, I would write less (demand is a blessed thing) but I would never stop. I wrote for myself for years, while I created things and then tore them apart because they weren't worthy of the readers out there. That's not to say I've never written crap, every writer does it. It's the same thing as missing a note or drawing an errant line through a sketch. But I did spare most of you the early years, when my characters were sappy and stupid, and knew nothing of life because I knew nothing of life. I didn't ask you to read the stories in which I worked out my personal demons. And for the love of baby Jesus, I never asked you to read my poetry.
Now you know why I write, and know of the terrible things I have spared you. You're welcome.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Project Pink Samurai Put On Hold

I have always enjoyed interviewing people and getting to know strangers. I'm pretty social by nature as long as I have my solitude after work is over. People don't scare me, though anyone who knows me in real life will confirm that I am a crazy person magnet. Whatever, it makes life interesting. However, as the following story shows, sometimes it makes it a bit too interesting.

Last week, I was going for a walk. This is pretty normal for most people, but not for me. I abhor heat, and I'm not a huge fan of the sun. However, I've been sick for a while and I felt the need to get out and work up a sweat. Keep in mind the nature of my illness made breathing very difficult, and while I am mostly over it, my lungs are still only working at partial capacity. Which is a fancy way to say that ten minutes into my walk, I was huffing and puffing and having serious doubts about whether I could continue. But I did, because I have to start with baby steps and get back to some level of physical fitness. With the help of my trusty cell phone pedometer, I had figured out a route that was exactly two miles long. A few sources I read said running or jogging two miles burned the same number of calories, so I worried about distance but not how long it took me to get there. Because I like quirky names, I called my fitness project Project Pink Samurai, because I wanted to be more graceful, light on my feet, and able to look fabulous. And what, I ask you, could look more fabulous than a pink samurai?

I saw a strange looking fellow by some large shade trees. I wasn't worried, he wasn't making an effort to hide. However, I kept a wary eye on him because I've been attacked before when I was young. More than once, actually. As I closed in on him, I slowed down and caught my breath a little, so I wasn't super weak when I caught up to him. I put my cell phone in my pocket, and freed up my hands just in case. And it's a darned good thing I did. There is no point in recalling the encounter here, word for word. The bottom line is, this man approached me, and I was polite but cautious. However, he became belligerent and threatening, and when I wouldn't keep walking (so he could walk behind me) he became even more threatening. Realizing we were approaching the point of no return, I decided to throw a bluff. Honestly, as a pudgy broad who had zero strength left, it was my only gamble. It worked. He took off, and when I pulled my phone out and called my husband, he trotted off quickly (I assume he thought I was calling the police). To prove to myself that I did have control over things, I walked home under my own power, despite my husband's pleas to let him come pick me up. I felt shaky and awful and sick, and I was desperate to feel like I hadn't just been reduced to a puddle of fear. But I had. Don't let my bravado confuse you for even a second. I was terrified.

I told a coworker about my walking pattern and the way I had learned to protect myself. By choosing an open, flat course I didn't allow anyone the opportunity to sneak up on me. By cleverly pretending to be texting, I had my cell phone's "selfie cam" on and was actually peeking over my shoulder discreetly to make sure I knew who was around me. I do not like to offend people, but neither do I allow anyone to linger behind me. Whether it's a family of four or a lone male, I step aside and allow them to pass. After listening, my thoughtful and sweet coworker said, "Wow, I never thought about what a woman has to go through while walking." I wanted to hug him. If only more people could realize this. So, for your consideration, I offer a few things to think about.
  • Do not be offended if a woman steps aside to let you pass. She's not being rude, she is doing what it takes to feel secure. In all the times this has happened, the decent guys have never said a word, and in fact made a show of staying a safe distance away so I did not feel crowded. It's not personal, don't make it personal. Ladies, don't be afraid to let someone pass. Many attackers will take advantage of a woman's tendency to fear being rude, and will use that to get in as close as possible.
  • When getting into shape, while it may feel good to wear yourself out, keep in mind that also makes you weak in case of attack. If any kind of potentially dangerous situation is ahead, stop for a second. Pretend you're checking your pulse, pretend you are checking your texts, do whatever it takes to have that reserve of energy just in case you need it.
  • Always carry something you can use to defend yourself, no matter how close to home you are. Even if it's just a dinky can of pepper spray, or in my case a plastic device that makes your punches hurt like hell, have something. And if you feel you need to take it out, don't do so with fear. Be angry, and never show fear regardless of how you actually feel. Chances are an attacker will consider moving on to an easier target. I could see my house for the majority of my walk. It wouldn't have done me a damned bit of good if he had decided to attack me.
  • Don't let the attacker move on to an easier target. Call the police and report anything suspicious. By doing so you are helping save the next potential victim who will be coming along. They may not be as prepared as you are.
As for me, I will take advantage of my employer's gym, where I at least know the crazies surrounding me. Stay safe, and I'll see you next time.



Friday, August 15, 2014

The Cussing Talk

I often get messages that discuss my salty language.  Some are aggressive, others are offended, and the rest are just plain curious.  Why do you talk the way you do?  Can't you stop using those words?  Don't you know how people perceive you when you speak like that?  Most of those people get short, perfunctory answers.  However, someone rather close to me decided to say something, and I had to take some time to think of a reply.  It wasn't because I was upset or angry, it was because this person is important enough to me that I believed they deserved not only an answer, but an explanation.  It was time to write one, and why not write one that would be available to anyone who asked?  Instead of writing a monthly Facebook post stating what I think, now I can just send them a link to this post.

So for anyone who questions me hereafter, this is why I use the words I do.

I grew up in a rural town, where the phrase "she wouldn't say shit if she had a mouthful" was a compliment.  Ladies always did this, ladies never did that, blah blah.  I decided at a young age, not this kid.  As an adult, I realized I am a lady, and if I cuss and speak openly, then ladies do in fact cuss and speak openly.  I get to define lady, because I am one.  The day I realized that was one of the most liberating moments of my life.

It took me a lot of years to figure out who I am, to myself and to other people.  To some I'm the worst person to ever exist.  Other people find me delightful, and frankly I agree with those guys.  But for better or worse, I do finally know myself, like myself and understand myself.  I am not going to be shamed or socially coerced into talking a certain way, and I am not going to be forced through pointless social hoops to make someone else feel better about something that never mattered in the first place.  I am who I am, without apologies or remorse.  If my salty language or other personality traits close some doors in life, they will open others.  And those are the doors I was ultimately meant to pass through.  If reader feedback is any indication, I get ten "thank you for saying what you think without filter" emails for each one asking me to tone down my choice of wording.  If there's one thing with which both my critics and champions can agree, it's that I'm honest.  I mean what I say and I say what I mean. Agree or disagree, one never has to wonder if I'm dodging a bullet or taking the easy way out.

In traditional Bonnie phrasing, I only have so many shits to give about things, and I choose to spend them on the ideas that do matter to me and leave the trivial ones to take care of themselves.

Life is a game you only get to play once.  Win or lose, I am going to play by my terms.  I realize my words are a reflection of my personality.  They are intended to be.  Some will understand, some will not.  I can't help that, and I wouldn't if I could. You either get me or you don't.  But I'm not changing anytime soon, so those who find my writing and ideas to be an acquired taste still have plenty of time.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

An Important Talk About Vaccination, Scientific Principles And Mass Hysteria

Science hasn't told us what causes autism.  However, it told us without question that the vaccine myth wasn't real.  Secondary research brought up many questions.  This is peer review at its finest, serving its role in filtering out questionable results.  Other researchers were unable to reproduce his results, because they were not scientifically sound. Because one team published false results, there is a threat out there that we must examine with fresh eyes.  It is better to hold out for the right answer than to accept the wrong one out of fear or impatience.  By working together and circulating peer-reviewed knowledge instead of conspiracy theories that don't hold up to scrutiny, we can play our part in helping.  The scientific community can then battle the disease and stop taking time out to break it down for people who are unable or unwilling to do their own research.  Their job is to save the world, not boil it into a user-friendly diagram for public consumption.  We have an obligation to be savvy enough to interpret their findings and analyze them on our own.  That's why they taught you all that sciencey gobbledygook in school.

The media and people seeking fame have pandered to those who wanted to hear "you were right all along" and "here is secret knowledge that others don't have" because it gives people false empowerment when worried.  It tempts them to take the answer that's in front of them instead of risking it all to get the answer that holds up to testing and review by the world's most brilliant minds.  It is a seductive lie that promises everything and delivers nothing, because until a solution passes the scientific community's standards it cannot be implemented in medicine and used to improve lives.  The anti-vaccine movement  has misled millions.  There's nothing we can do about that except renew efforts to discover truth and facts that move us in the right direction.  Scientifically.  Not through John's Conspiracy Blog or Martha's Underground Information Center.  I've seen those emails.  They make me shudder.

"Science once told us the earth was flat," some people inevitably say as ass-backwards  justification for ignoring science (while telling you about how they are scientifically correct).  Not so.  People once told us the earth was flat because they wouldn't listen to scientific observation.  People once told us that sneezes were demons and that our planet was the center of the universe.  Science told us about why we sneeze, shown us the depth and measurable dimensions of our planet and its relation to the universe, and has explained the rules that govern how planets orbit their stars.  Science triumphs over man's false assumptions because one is law and the other is rumor.  It hurts our pride occasionally, but in the end we come out knowing the truth of how something works, and mankind benefits from that knowledge.  Galileo had an epic neener-neener moment that surely felt great, but don't underestimate the benefit to the generations who were able to take that knowledge and run with it, and not have to recreate the wheel every few decades.  That is the power of science and knowledge.

People test scientific principles in classes and labs every day.  That's how it should be.  That's the point, and when it weeds out a conclusion and the author admits he is a liar, that's a sure sign that we need to continue looking and not be hasty in declaring something as fact. This debacle is a cautionary tale that will haunt science for centuries.

Someday, if we get out of its way and listen to what it is trying to tell us, science will tell us the truth about how we can really lower the risk of autism and better treat the people who suffer from it.  The truth won't do us any good if it's lost in a hysterical babble of urban legends and invalid theories.

To believe an admitted liar over thousands of professionals whose livelihoods depend on their accuracy is insane.  Right now the denial and ignorance of some are hindering the scientific community's ability to confront and eventually diagnose the problem.  It's not like scientists won't continue to explore the possible links between autism and vaccinations, but since there are huge flaws in the theory let's not jump to conclusions and tell people the world is flat, thereby hindering the very people who are working to save us.

With billions of lives at stake, we can't afford to let ego and fear outweigh reasoning and knowledge.  If a person can't understand that the world is at risk from outbreaks and mutations of diseases we once all but eradicated, they are an enemy of the issue.  As we overcrowd and travel we have created the perfect storm for a global infection.  That should keep us awake at night, not fears based on a lie that fell apart upon examination.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Why We Should Care About What Happens To The Homeless When They Die

I posted this to my Facebook in response to a recent story "What Happens To The Homeless When They Die?"  I had several people contact me privately and tell me they too knew what it was like, and ask that I share this as much as possible.  My blog seems like a great place to start.

This article upset me because it reminds me how fast we forget those left behind.  We have homeless people in every city of modest size.  People judge them, spit on them, beat them, rob them, or never see them at all.  The fact that people don't know what happens to the homeless when they die shows how removed we are from their circumstances.

Without further ado, here is my Facebook post.  To read the original article that set me off, you can find it here.

When I was 18, I lived in my car for a good while because I had nowhere to go. It was cold and it was awful. Nights last forever when you aren't warm enough, and days are endless when your belly is empty. This experience forever changed my view of the world and the people in it. It's also why I take this story and others like it so seriously. Compared to some, I was still living a life of luxury because I had a car for shelter. But oh, what I would have given for some warm, dry socks.

I am sad beyond words that these people are being thrown away simply because they have nothing. Literally, without any caring or consideration, they are bagged up and disposed of with the same measures used for roadkill. Tell me this is a nation founded on Christian principles, and I'll tell you that you're full of shit. Otherwise, we wouldn't have megachurches with shopping mall lobbies and top notch recording equipment while people freeze to death or suffer from chronic malnutrition.

But the homeless were discarded long before they died. And that's the real problem, isn't it?

We see the homeless as they are right now, dirty, desperate, bitter or lost. We do them the injustice of not knowing or forgetting that they are spelling bee champions, math whizzes, artists, dancers, friends, musicians. They could be mentally ill, they may have suffered a tragedy, they might just not know how to function in this world or some (like I was at the time) could be one break away from making it. They may have kids, they most certainly had parents. Someone might be praying for them right now, hoping that the world is being kind to them. Their relatives may never know that their loved one was found, scraped up, cremated, dumped, perhaps logged into a registry IF anyone ever knew their name. Or they find out that's exactly what happened, and are left to mourn in a field without markers.

So yeah, let's do something about that. Support a shelter, just remind yourselves that there but for the grace of God go we all, give however you see fit or are able. But do something, goddammit. There's a million ways to make a difference in a person's world, and only a few of them require money. A cup of coffee, an understanding ear, or just not being condescending to the less fortunate is a great place to start.

I know what it's like to have life hit you so hard you can't get up right away. I also know the power of a single act of kindness, especially when it comes at just the right moment. I have witnessed how much a good deed is amplified when done in the spirit of goodness. I have spent years hoping that if I ever get a chance, I can be that person for someone else. Twenty years ago, I was one good deed and a stroke of luck from disappearing off the face of the world forever. May I never be too proud or too spoiled to forget what that was like.

So, my beloved friends and readers: if you ever wondered why I delight in showering my friends and family with food just because I can, why I cringe when the wrong person touches me, why I fear being stranded in the cold more than just about anything, why I worry about the animals in the winter, or why I hoard socks like the world is going to run out of them... well, now you know.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Bittersweet Kitty Story

This was a hard week at our house.  We knew our Diego was getting older, but nothing can prepare you for the moment of loss.  Our hearts broke, and Boo and Jean also grieved for their buddy.  People were so kind in the aftermath it made me cry all over again.  I cannot tell you how many messages and stories I got through my site and Facebook.  My coworkers had a card signed with wonderful things the very next day.  I was overcome with hugs and surprise candy and just people being awesome.  Yes, my heart broke.  But I wouldn't trade our fifteen years with him for anything, not even to avoid that much pain.

RIP Diego, aka Fatbot, Mr. Fancypants and Baby D

A few days after we lost Diego, Boo Boo Louise had to go in to be spayed.  Through an incredible long chain of coincidences, everything went down just right in a perfect storm of karma.  While picking up our Boo, Bart saw two kittens in a small box up front.  They were brother and sister, and are absolutely identical to Cartman and Katy, the ones we lost in 2012 that we miss so much.  The boy is a ginger tabby, and the girl is a tortoiseshell.  Her face is rounder than Katy's, but the markings are so similar it stopped him in his tracks.  He went out to the car and made me come in.  I saw them and asked him if we could have them and he said yes. Right on the spot.  And just like that, we took them.  The vet's office gave them both half-price care for life because we adopted them (and maybe just a little to get the crying crazy cat lady out of their lobby).  

On the car ride home, they were terrified.  We let them out into the den and they immediately began to play.  It's been so long since we had kittens that weren't wild, we forgot just how much fun it can be.  They romped and fell and shook their fat little kitten butts, and we spent all weekend just loving them.  We both cried a few tears, especially when the boy picked up the ball just like Cartman did, and the little girl flopped down on Bart's cheek and snuggled in for sleep.  The resemblance is just uncanny.

Folks, meet Gilligan Cartman Tindle and Lucille Katherine Tindle.  For maximum cuteness, here they are snuggled on Bart's chest for a big nap, with little Gilligan hugging his sister.  They are inseparable, and so full of love.  

Gilligan is a boy in every regard, he runs so fast it is difficult to get a picture of him sitting still.  But if you look closely, in this picture you can see Lucy's handlebar mustache and "frowny eyebrows" that are completely untouched in this photo.

Once I noticed those and Bart got a good look, we can't not see them.  She looks like a ticked off villain at all times.  Heart melted.

So that's our bittersweet kitty story.  We're still sad and mourning, but we could not have passed on this in a million years.  Too many things went right that day for us to say no, and now we have young babies who will be with us for many years to come.

You can bet more pictures are coming soon, but for now I wanted to tell everyone our great news, so we can celebrate the good that came out of the sad.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Denver: Part I

This is the first installment of many in which I will share pictures and stories of our vacation.  We're talking eleven days, 1,200 pictures and over 3,500 miles.  If you had to wait until I got it all written up and edited in one piece, you would be waiting for a very long time.

Denver: Part I

For the first time since our honeymoon, we took a trip.  It was the right time for many reasons. My husband just graduated with his culinary degree (wooooo Bart!).  His career will likely cause us to uproot and move at some point, so this was also an exploratory expedition.  Our mission was to figure out what we liked and didn't like, and why we felt that way so we could talk about where to focus his search.  When he does find a job, it will likely be a while before he gets vacation time we can use to just get away and we had worked really hard the past few years.  So in this perfect storm at the end of a maddening semester, we got the hell out of Dodge.  Ferdinand, our giant sock monkey, accompanied us on the tour. Say hello to Ferdinand!

A musician friend actually liked the phrase Denver by Midnight and riffed an impromptu song.  Taking that theme, we left Springfield at noon and headed to Denver, with that song on the first road trip CD.  We did not make it by midnight (but the song was still terrific).  We made it to Aurora at 2 a.m. and as not-glorious as it sounds, we were totally happy.  The first twelve hour drive wasn't bad.  Our signal was lousy, and we had a lot of talking and catching up to do.  His final weeks of school were hellish, and I was struggling to finish chemistry and write a final term paper that was crazy complicated.  We had missed each other a lot, and it was a great way to transition from  home to a vacation frame of mind.

We rolled into Denver as the sun rose, and had time to kill.  We ate at Pete's Kitchen, and the food was so good it was not to be believed.  I had the short stack and Bart had the omelette.  The food was awesome, the service was great and the place was very casual.  Our bill wasn't quite fifteen dollars, and we were stuffed until afternoon.  The crowd was mostly locals, and gave me my first look at the people of Denver.  I was impressed by the diversity and general cheerfulness.  There were a lot of characters and different types, but they were all friendly and seemed to get along pretty well.  Pictures of Drew Berrymore, Tim Tebow, Merle Haggard and a few other celebrities were all that let you know this wasn't a standard diner.  After breakfast, Bart looked up a friend of his, and I went to the Molly Brown House Museum in downtown Denver while they caught up.

Molly Brown was famous for being on board the Titanic when it sank.  She was already famous among  those in her circle for being "new money" and outspoken and liberal at a time when women were not allowed the luxury of being either.  The tour of her house was amazing.  Our guide took her time and explained the details of every room, and we got to see how it looked when Margaret (she was not known as Molly until after her death) had it photographed professionally for a high society magazine.  Brown traveled extensively, and was fluent in Russian and several languages, and made a point to visit Egypt at a time when it was incredibly dangerous for any woman to be abroad.  Brown was rich enough to make a desirable hostage, and outspoken enough to anger an anti-feminist society, but nothing stopped her from doing what she wanted, not even pesky criminals.  She brought back several artifacts from Egypt, some of which were on display.  If you ever get to Denver, I cannot recommend this tour enough.  I adored her before I went, but I came away with a greater understanding of how she lived, and how very brave and unique she was. She was a brilliant humanitarian with a strong heart and clear vision, and she wasn't afraid to tell anyone to go to hell or how to get there.

I think the thing that best summarizes Brown and Victorian culture came exactly halfway through the tour.  While going through her sitting room, we were informed that the next room was the most unusual in the house.  The formal room was meant to showcase the family, to flaunt their wealth and show their status.  Brown intentionally thumbed her nose and made it a library, showing her value on education and intelligence instead of material wealth and social hoops.  And what a stunning library it was!  She had classical literature (she apparently liked Greek and Roman mythology) and encyclopedias, maps and history and a surprising number of cookbooks and books on living.  In both the library and formal sitting room there was a piano, the sitting room piano had a large nude statue on it during her entertaining years, which was seriously taboo for the repressed Victorian culture.  She had more education than most women and she had educated herself throughout her years, but she would not be broken or forced to be a traditional lady at the cost of her wit and love for life.  This said so much of her character, and helped me feel what was important to her.  I got to browse her books (many are still originally from her collection) and decided right then that she hit a major criteria for a story I'm writing.  So Molly Brown will take her place alongside Hypatia and other famous women in history in the Daylight Man, and I can't think of a better candidate.  It all ties back to her library, and something I noticed while I stood there.  I like to think she would be honored to have captured my imagination, and proud of how I'll portray her.

Downtown Denver is gorgeous.  There are a lot of cultural differences that define it, and I liked them all.  We primarily stayed around Capitol Hill and the Five Points district, that is where our hotel and friends were located.  The streets were immaculate, and the businesses were just opening for the day.  People were kind and there was a definite small town feeling, despite the huge skyline that was right there.

We also got to see some old friends, and in my case I got to meet some new ones.  The amazing Jarrin and Ruth were welcome sights.  I had not met Ruth until this trip, but Bart swore we had a lot in common.  He had no idea.  She and I bonded immediately, and are both animal lovers and have a lot of the same outlooks on topics.  Her boyfriend Favio was a really nice fellow too, and they showed us all kinds of neat places in town.  We shopped at Capitol Hill Books, and I bought a book by a local author.  I also chatted with an employee, and right there in the store I opened my phone and used Google Docs to write a few lines of My Sister Alice in the store.  Now two of my favorite projects have ties to Denver.

Below is my friend Jarrin with Ferdinand.  I tell you, that sock monkey got around.  Jarrin met us for dinner at Casa Bonita, which is an experience you must have, even as I caution you that the food is canned, the service is lousy and the atmosphere is rushed and hokey.  Still, it must be done and we did it with style.  I worked with Jarrin years ago, and it must not have been too bad since we still keep in touch.  Later, when I told him I felt we had to come back, he was the first person to really get it because he had done the exact same thing already.

The people of Denver were amazing, but I'm not going to lie... the food won us over.  We ate at City Grille, and Bart had the best hamburger of his life.  For a million reasons which will surely be coming in his food review, he swore it was the best hamburger ever.  I ate my first vegan meal at City O' City, and it wasn't bad (I had the spaghetti and not-meatballs, and I recommend that and a  home brewed root beer).  The best food by far was Voodoo Donuts, where we were lucky enough to stumble in early Saturday and had many chances to wander back before leaving. Voodoo is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  And thank God they are, because there was always a line.  They have a great atmosphere, and the donut they designed looks like a voodoo doll.  Mama glares at you from a velvet painting on the wall and makes you stand up straight.  There are several donut choices, but the maple and bacon is divine, and the peach fritter with cream cheese frosting got Bart all the way through Utah.  They have several cereal-dipped, flavored and designed donuts and compared to Springfield's own Hurts Donut I will give Voodoo the award every time, for flavor and value.  They were made on the spot and pink boxes were flying out the door as fast as they could ring 'em up and move 'em out.  When we got ready to leave town, Ferdinand held the box all the way to Las Vegas.

That's the end of the first installment.  There are more stories to tell, but you'll have to wait a few more days while I edit photos.  When all is said and done, there will be albums posted at for you as well.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Birthday Reflections

Every year, I write a blog post looking at the past year, taking measure, and setting goals for the year ahead.  This year is no different, except that I have nothing but good news to report for a change.  I'm thirty-eight today.  That's amazing to me.  I can't believe I have lived this long, and for those who know the stupid stuff I've seen and done I bet you're just as surprised.  But I'm here.  And I'm ever so grateful.

As I get older, I am more comfortable with myself.  I still try to identify my flaws and resolve them.  I'm still trying to figure out what the right thing is, and I don't always know what to do next.  But I love my husband, I finally have a job where I am happy on all levels, and my writing has really started to move.  My enemies are few and my problems even more scarce.  For the most part, I live a charmed and satisfying life, and except for winning the lottery I can't think of what I might wish for.

It's been a year of change.  I cut ties with some influences that may have had a great impact on my writing career, but were ultimately not in alignment with my own principles.  I have mostly given up political writing and am working on fiction.  It seems like a long time since anything has come out, but that is because it takes a lot to get the ball rolling with fiction writing.  I have started school and am loving it even while I cuss at homework and cry over math problems.  All of these changes are good, but navigating them has been challenging at times.

I think the single greatest thing of this year has been an overall coming together of past, present and future.  I have finally been able to let go of some people and things that don't belong in my world any longer.  My past is finally fading.  My present is wonderful.  My job and friends and school life makes for a busy time, but I am happy and I feel the love.  After cutting out the toxic friendships of my twenties, I have found healthy relationships that actually make life nice.  It's terrific.  My future is a little slow to piece together, but growing into a beautiful picture.   Bart is about to graduate with his degree in culinary arts, and I am finally grasping the realization that I will someday work in journalism or media.  It's crazy, but we are on the brink of a whole new life, and we have laid the foundation carefully.  I'm very hopeful.

Thank you all for sticking around, and I hope the next year brings us all blessings and growth.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Sister Alice

It's been hard to transition to writing fiction.  Sort of like when a person who used to be in good shape takes a long break and then suddenly gets the itch to run a few miles.  I can do it, but it hurts that muscle like hell sometimes.  Working constantly and embracing the pain is the only way to get past either one, and I'm finally starting to get conditioned to the cycle of pondering, stewing and actually writing.

The one that has come to center stage for now is my first collaboration project.  I wrote with others on Dead Shuffle, but we each had our own story lines and styles.  In this case, I was able to hear someone's idea and (I hope) execute a thoughtful story that is great on all levels.  It will be a novella and if it does well it will be a series.  I would love to have it on Amazon by the time we take our vacation (more about that later) but it's far more likely I will finish it on that trip while we drive for 5-8 hours a day.  Hey, as long as it gets finished, I'll be happy.

Besides collaborating with someone, this has been a first in many ways.  I'm really learning a lot about the editing and publishing process, and I have made some great connections that will let a lot of people have a hand in the finished product.  From a special request in the artwork to hidden mentions in the story, I have taken a lot of things and thrown them into the pot.  It's also a crazy story, my first departure from "plausible if not provable" fiction in over a decade.  This is fantasy, and I haven't touched that since Shadow Men.  I've had to break out of my comfort zone, because it gets scary to me when you leave the facts behind.  But it's also been great.  My characters are growing quickly and sometimes the magic really is there, if only for a moment.

I'm hooked and having a ball.  Expect updates here, and of course on my author page on Facebook.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Shift In Direction

Life is about change.  There were times I wanted to write different things, and I have enjoyed writing several different lengths in a variety of genres.   I have spent the majority of my effort in writing nonfiction in general, and it has been delightful.  I have learned discipline, gained valuable experience formatting and thinking about both the moment and the big picture when it came to picking and choosing stories.  I was blessed to write for delightful editors who whipped me into shape and then gave me full access and creative freedom.  I hit some heights and did many things that made me proud.  I love all of the work I did, and the people I met while doing so.

However, having said that, I believe it's time for me to primarily go back to fiction writing.  Some editing and writing opportunities have come up, and they are all in fiction.  This is my first love, making things out of nothing.  Meeting characters in my head and getting to know them.  Figuring out why they're talking and what they are really saying.  I enjoy the hell out of political commentary but my roots are here.  It's what it is all about.  And it's time to go big or go home.  I can't split my energies between so many different things, and with a full-time job, school, the resulting homework, following politics, researching history, working on The Daylight Man, writing short stories and doing that little thing I call "sleeping" I find myself a little swamped.

This doesn't mean I will stop writing for Zandar Versus The Stupid.  I've written for him for years and I really enjoy his company and his audience.  A lot of my followers that I have gotten to know over the years hang out there, and I've met a lot of great people through comments that led to online friendships.  That is my nonfiction home and I want to give Zandar my best while we start to gear up for 2016.  There's a lot of work ahead and I want to do my part.  I may occasionally send a piece to a different source, but that's where the vast bulk of my commentary belongs.

The dawning realization of the need for a change in direction came right before something else captured my fancy.  A very talented person had an idea they wanted to share, and it has sparked something amazing.  In a few days of chatting, a firm story has formed and it's currently underway.  It will be out as soon as possible.  I would love for it to be on Amazon by the end of summer, but it's too soon to see just how big this one is going to go.  In the meantime, that is where the bulk of my creative writing is going.  Hang it all, I am in love with these characters and this will be a great transition project.  I'm getting back into that creative place, and it is nice.  I forgot how much fun a little magic could be, and the burden of plausibility has been lightened in this universe.  Anything is possible, and that has been just what I needed to get back in touch with my fiction self.  Thank goodness this person was able to share their ideas effectively, and help me when I was a bit rusty.  Reading is fun, but my God writing is better.  Collaborating has been both fun and challenging, and adds a whole new level of difficulty to the mix.

It's a big deal for me to put the brakes on the nonfiction for a while, but this really does suit me better.  I am no journalist, I am a storyteller.  Or at least, I like to think so.  When I think about my long-term writing career, I envision myself writing novels and making people believe in the people and places that bloom in my head.  I guess I'm just surprised the change in direction crept up on me, because I didn't realize I was there until I had been there a while.  I'm at the final push to making my dream come true.  I've spent five years building a diverse and specific list of accomplishments.  Now it's time to do a few short jumps back into fiction and push for the book.  I'm there.  I'm freaking there.  I'm terrified.  I'm freaking terrified.

The good news is, instead of waiting two years for a book, I'll have something out soon and a book coming out in two years.  This won't slow me down.  It's the door opening, taking me back to that place in my head where anything can happen.  I've missed that place, and I don't know that I can ever make myself leave again.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Looking Back (A Time Capsule Conversation)

This is the last story I'm bringing over from my first blog, Bits-O-Bon.  If you know my husband, you'll know why this is so darned funny.


I have no idea why I recorded this.  No idea at all.  But it was hilarious to stumble across this recorded conversation in which my husband drives me crazy.  So, I present a time capsule from February 22, 2009:

Bart: Have you seen the movie about the surfing penguin?
Me: Nope.
Bart: It's a Disney movie.
Me: I know what you're talking about. I haven't seen it.
Bart: The one with the guy from Transformers doing a voice?
Me: Shia LeBeouf, babe. I haven't seen it.
Bart: I think it's called Surf's Up.
Me: It is. I haven't seen it.
(one minute passes)
Bart: It has the surfing penguins. Are you sure?
Bart: ...
Bart: Well you don't have to be so cranky about it.

That conversation could have taken place yesterday.  Some things change, and some things don't. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ode To A Potato Chip (Throwback Thursday)

I am closing down my old blog, and am backing up a few favorites. This one was well loved, and kept coming back to haunt me (in hilarious and awesome ways). I don't plan to have many of these, but this is one of few posts that had to survive the move to The Bon Project.

Lays had tried a handful of potato chip flavors and let people vote for the winner. Below is a copy of the letter I sent them after my experience with their Chicken and Waffles flavor.

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to tell you about my experience with your new Chicken and Waffle flavored potato chips. Recently, my husband and I bought a bag in excited anticipation, having been through the South many times and enjoying fried chicken and waffles at establishments from Roscoe’s House to a dive in Baton Rouge where I danced the chicken dance while the room clapped... but I digress.

Allow me to begin by expressing my suspicion that you have any idea what chicken and waffles should taste like. To set the record straight, I will describe the two kinds you will encounter: the first, a large waffle with a chicken thigh or breast on top, breaded and covered with a cream maple gravy that is not too sweet and not too salty, thus marrying the flavors in a bridge of delight. Or, my personal favorite, a waffle made with fluffy batter, fried chicken with a great salty but otherwise unseasoned batter, likely fried by a grandmother in a dirty kitchen and brought to you on a plate with spots on it, and tons of maple syrup. I mean, lots of syrup. Get jiggy with the butter too, because you’re in the South and I bet you at least familiar with Paula Deen, the Velveeta Queen. If you feel spunky, throw some powdered sugar on there because there is simply no such thing as too much goodness on a waffle. I’m a fat girl from Missouri and my husband is attending culinary school. If I know anything, I know fried, sweet and food so good it will send you screaming home to Jesus with a smile on your face.

I refresh your memory because the chip I put in my mouth tasted similar to burnt hair with delicate notes of horse piss and vinegar. My jaw locked in agony while my tongue nearly beat a hole in my head trying to get away from that awful taste. The smell got trapped in my sinuses, and it took approximately 42 ounces of soda, a sandwich, two cookies and a sucker to overcome the taste that haunted my mouth. And this, dear sir or madam, was before I had the dubious pleasure of burping that chip until my evening meal put some much needed distance between us. I would dare pray it was finally over, and my stomach would percolate and my hell was fresh yet again. I will not tell you the depths to which I sank, but I can tell you I was perfectly willing to lick a cat’s ass so that my breath would improve. Though my coworkers are surely too mannerly to express their disdain, rest assured they hate you too.

It is most unfortunate that this “food” should taste like a gym sock left to fester in a moldy corner. My husband, who has trained himself to eat and break down the tastes of food he does not particularly enjoy, had something akin to a seizure when his taste buds processed your potato chip. That little vein on his forehead, the one I’ve only seen when I backed into a mailbox right after he told me to be careful, it came out and was visible for a full ten minutes. In fifteen years of marriage, I have never come close to this accomplishment. While clinically curious to see if he was indeed suffering from a stroke, I was also curiously appreciative of what it took to make him turn that shade of plum and wish to give credit where it is due. Bravo.

So, apart from that one grudging bit of praise, I will leave off with saying I believe this was an utter failure and will probably never eat one of your products again because you have given me trust issues. I would rather lick the toilet seat of a Greyhound bus station than give you jokers a single penny of my money. You may have surmised that I am also long-winded (I assume your powers of observation are stronger than your sense of taste) so don’t be surprised that this will be posted on my blog.

May your shame follow you for eternity.

Bon “The Geek” Tindle

Saturday, February 15, 2014

ICYMI: Love And Marriage

Published by Zandar Versus The Stupid, ran on February 14th, 2014.  I wrote a response to Jay Nixon's statement that Missouri voters should revisit the language that defines marriage.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

February 11th

For me, February 11th is not a good day. But that’s going to change.

Today is unimpressive by most standards. Roosevelt signed the Yalta Agreement, and Nelson Mandela was released on this date in different years. If anything, it’s remarkable in its lack of bragging rights. With 364 other choices in a year, it is still greatly overlooked by big events. However, it is an important day for me. My mother was born on February 11, 1938. In case you are doing shocked math in your head, she had me when she was thirty-eight (the product of her second marriage). This year she will have been gone for fifteen years, but that’s a deceptive number. Really, she was gone long before that and it’s because of this that I had such a hard time figuring out what to do with her birthday. It’s not like I’m never not going to think about her, so what is the best way to mark the occasion? That question has plagued me for almost thirty years.

My mother was a huge influence on the person I am today. That can be said of just about any mother, but in my case her influence was more cautionary tale than inspiration. So little was known about depression and mental illness in the 1980s that we grossly mistreated people who just needed help. While I am not qualified to diagnose my mother, I am uniquely qualified to understand how she was. My mother suffered from mental illness and grew up terrified of being judged and hated for it. Mainly because that’s exactly what happened, though the people in her world simply wouldn’t have known how to support or help her even if they had wanted to. When I was eight, she disappeared for almost five years without a single word. When she returned, she was an entirely different person. Then she moved away, and yet again turned into a third woman who was nothing like the first two.

She always had a great love for life, a spark that I admired. When in the right mood, she could make anything fun. She took belly dancing lessons in her forties and threw a hip. She once (inexplicably) took to wearing a jewel on her forehead for weeks, and just for kicks drove five hours to be in the same building as Elizabeth Taylor. She loved mobsters. She busted her ass on the Bolivar town square trying to demonstrate how to walk in heels. She wanted to be famous but feared crowds. She laughed hard, and she had crazy whims of inspiration that my husband would recognize all too well. She painted, sang beautifully and finally found her true creative outlet as a writer. I got my love of writing while sitting beside her, listening to her talk out plots and comparing it to writing techniques. I can still spot a ten-point Pica font from a mile away, and to this day I maintain that the Oxford comma is an abomination.

But it wasn’t always fun. Over the years, her problems grew worse and nobody knew how to help her. She wouldn’t accept that she needed help, and I learned how to recognize the panicky fury of deep denial from talks when we would ask her to please, please see someone just for a checkup. Over the years, her spark faded and she became bitter and angry, lost in a deep depression where nobody could reach, not even the children that she never stopped loving. She killed herself in 1999, after a long year of escalating problems. All these years later, what has left me sad is the realization that I ultimately never knew my mother and I never will. And every year, there’s this day I can’t not associate with her and yet have no clue how to spend honorably. Every woman is afraid to grow up to be just like her mother. Most find comfort later in knowing they don’t, yet carry some traits that bind them. I am no different in that regard, but I still sometimes flinch when I look in the mirror and I see her face. Or when I’m nervous and I flutter my hands just like she used to, or when I catch myself standing just like she did when she was angry. I look just like she does in my earliest memories because I am only a couple of years younger than she was in my earliest memories. Our resemblance isn’t just remarkable, it’s downright uncanny. I usually say I don’t mind it, that I just hate it when it sneaks up on me. For the record, that’s bullshit. It bothers me big time and I have never gotten used to it. I never will.

We are told to honor our parents. That’s hard to do when you scarcely knew them. But I can do something; it just took me a while to figure it out. I can stop mourning for her and celebrate her. I can give her the good place she has earned as one of the voices I try to hear when I think about women who never stood a chance, as one of the faces I think of when I reach into my past. I will honor her by being true to myself, a luxury she was never allowed but would want for my sister and me. I won’t let someone tell me how a lady should be; I’m a lady and I’ll be how I please. I will love fiercely and let my heart break without letting it break me. I will wring every moment out of life, laugh hard and I will say fuck a lot and refuse to apologize. I will be honest about my worries and fears and shortcomings and nobody will make me ashamed, and no small town gossips will run me through their hoops. I will write and work for suicide prevention causes and be an advocate for mental illness awareness and all the issues that come with it. I will be compassionate to people because you never know who needs kindness the most. And most important of all, when I get the urge to stick a jewel on my forehead or dance wildly, I’m going to do it. Every time.

But today, on her birthday, I will celebrate her by nourishing my soul. I’ll never know her better, but by loving my life and myself I am doing all I can for what I have left of her. I am entering the prime of my life, the result of a journey that made me tough and smart and brave, and as I become the person I was meant to be I will thank her for her role in it. When I miss her, I will dab my eyes and go do something that reaffirms my love for the world around me. So tonight, in honor of my mother, I am going to my favorite coffee house with a good book, one to read just for the fun of reading it, and eat something delightful. I’m going to sit in the anonymous buzz of a public lounge (which I find hugely comforting and is social by my normal standards), and think about the people I love. I have to think that if she wanted anything for me, it would be that I enjoy my world and be mindful of my path. So that’s what I’ll do.

And I’m still too young for belly dancing lessons, so we have that to await with sweet anticipation.

Until next time,


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On Growing Up In A Small Town

This is the first of a few series of essays I plan to write.  First, we must establish context.  For the events I will later describe to make sense, you must have a sense of the stage on which it played.  Only my classmates will likely recognize this, because there came a time when I flushed my past.  Completely and thoroughly, and not just once.  After fifteen years, my husband knows more than anyone about my life between eight and twenty-two, and he would be hard pressed to fill a page.  If I go into detail it’s because people who know me now must surely have difficulty imagining me running around outdoors barefoot, riding horses and feeding zebras and sometimes going days at a time without seeing or speaking to another person.  As far as I know, only a handful of pictures have survived, but the good news is I was hella-cute.

Me, being cute.

I grew up in a small town in rural Missouri.  Today, after a relative growth boom, their 2010 census shows a population of scarcely 300.  In some ways, it was ideal for a quiet child (I was really, really quiet once!) and I was sheltered from a lot of the rage and danger of the mid-80s.  For those of you who remember, there was a lot of rage and danger to be had.  My graduating class was fewer than thirty, and most of them are like extended family to this day.  We don’t see each other often; when we get together it’s pure magic.  There is nothing quite as frightening and rewarding as sitting in a roomful of people who knew you when you were young.  

But it’s not all like a scene from Mayberry.  Just like books and movies enjoy pointing out, a lot goes on behind the scenes of a small town. Husbands and wives enjoyed plenty of afternoon delight, just not always with their own spouse. Occasionally, a misdemeanor would shake things up for a while.  Gossip constantly buzzed through the phone lines, and about every five years a major scandal would break and give the busybodies fuel to get them through the dry spells when everyone behaved themselves.  The worst things I have ever heard uttered about a person were said in a country church after services.  Wrapped in empty phrases such as “bless her heart” and “I’ll pray for him” were words that could (and would, as you’ll soon see) destroy lives.  To this day, I fear nothing like I fear a scary old church biddy.  You know the one.  Built like a tank, with the disposition of a viper and an ever-present King James Bible.  Believe you me, there is none of that watered-down “friendly English version” shit for the old school soul warriors.  You say your thous and begats and are damned grateful for the opportunity, can I get an amen?

Everything I needed to know about small town life was revealed at the advanced age of eight.  I recall being asked to step into the hall in third grade.  There was no meeting room in those days, you stepped out into the hallway and your classmates speculated wildly about what was being said just a few feet away.  God bless the child who had the fortune of making a trip to the restroom at such times, and having a legitimate excuse to overhear a keyword or crucial facial expression that revealed what was happening.  Anyway, scalded with shame, I learned that I wasn’t in trouble but my reading habits were a concern.  We were tasked with writing a short story about a kitchen.  The boys turned in stories of sandwiches because they had no idea what goes on in a kitchen.  Girls turned in stories of baking cookies, watching mother season her pot roast or dreaming about her future husband.  I wrote about a haunted can opener that killed everyone that tried to open the last can of soup in the house.  This alarmed my teacher, and my eight-year-old self tried to explain.  It wasn’t that I was crazy, I said with a big crazy smile, it was that I read this awesome book and wanted to try out something like it.  It was Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.  I enjoyed creating something that could never be real, but make you feel something exciting, but I didn’t have the words yet to make my point.  

“Okay,” said the principal, a kind man who had a relatively cheerful approach to a thankless job.  “We were worried because…”  Then the room got quiet and heavy, the way rooms do right before shit hits the fan.  

“Because what?” I asked, not sure what he meant.  Even at eight, I was not stupid;  I knew something was coming.  He knew something I didn’t.  And that, dear friends, is my earliest lesson in small town life.  The first time I remember looking outside of what I knew and viewing my hometown as a social construct, I learned a painful and shocking lesson: often, not only do they know your business as well as you do, but they can know it better.

But that’s yet another story.  I’ll tell it soon.

Sneak Peek for next time:

Family History: Just The Fun Stuff