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

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Importance of Finding The Truth

This is a letter to the editor, published in the Springfield News-Leader on January 22, 2014.  I was pleased to get feedback from a professor from St. Louis, and my first hate mail of 2014.  It makes a girl feel special.

There is an extreme word limit on the letters, so I had to keep it to the point.  Because the archives don't keep them forever, here is the content in its entirety:

We are swamped in misinformation.
From well-meaning, but incorrect, Facebook posts to outright media lies, we cannot trust the information we see. It’s more important than ever to seek the truth and educate ourselves about what sources we can trust.
It is pure vanity to put our beliefs ahead of the facts before us. I know some honest people who would never lie in “real life” share things online that are faked. They fail a simple Google or Snopes.com check.
When confronted, most people shrug and say it’s “close enough to the truth.” No. It’s close enough to what they want to be true. And that’s where the ego comes in.
The Internet is a great resource. So are libraries, common sense and a desire to do a little thinking before shouting, and some research before misleading.
Once upon a time, the media had to print verified facts or face consequences. Those times are past and we are responsible for double checking our information before spreading it.
That requires stepping outside of ourselves and accepting it when the facts don’t add up the way we like.
It happens. Dust off that ego and try to find where the mistake was, to avoid making it again.
The truth is out there, and it really isn’t that hard to find.

Friday, January 3, 2014

In Which Bon Ponders The Need For Adventure

I used to have adventures.  Now I have great stories and fond memories, but my everyday life is routine and... normal.  What the hell happened?  In the last few years, I have totally changed gears.

I'm approaching forty.  It's natural that the pace of my life has adapted from my twenties, but when I say I have had adventures I mean they go all the way back to early childhood.  I have been stuck in a cave, I have been stranded in the woods in a heavy snowfall, I've met people and have seen things that I will never acknowledge again out loud.  I've been slugged by strangers, I attract crazy people.  I rode a mule with a shotgun across my lap and bathed in the lake.  I declined a job opportunity with the CIA.  I saw a man get stabbed in a phone booth when I was little.  I used to take road trips with no destination in mind, meet strangers and ask them to tell me their story if they pleased (and a lot of them did). I danced with my future husband at Shelvin Rock under the brightest moon I have ever seen.  I've been so poor that I didn't have enough change for a Taco Bell burrito.  I've experienced the complete graciousness of strangers and the cruelty of people who knew me best.  A stranger kissed me for luck in a Las Vegas elevator, and I took a nap with a wild cat.  Of all of my many adventures with Bart, Bigfoot hunting in the mountains for a week is my very favorite to date.  I knew I had the man of my life when the angry men with machine guns came out of nowhere in Mexico, and he calmly moved between me and them.  I'm not even kidding on that last one, they weren't interested in us but any time there is live ammo on the scene it is freaking intense.

But now my adventures are different.  I'm going to college now, when most of my friends got it out of the way years ago.  I've been in fights that didn't make my heart beat like when I took my algebra final.  I have met some of the most amazing people in the last few years, and for the most part my world is full of joy an giggles. My adventures have turned into goals and objectives.  There's not necessarily anything wrong with that, either.  I'm kind of excited to see what it's like to temper adventure with wisdom.  Having said that, I think it's time to get out there a little and do something different.  I'm not changing my trajectory, but I need to have some variety or I'll start to get restless.

There's a cave I've been meaning to check out, but the only thing that is holding me back is my pinkie toe.  Oh no, wait, it's that I'm freaking terrified of caves after being stuck in one for hours.  I went into them years later, but nobody else knew I was fighting panic attacks.  Or maybe they did, when I started telling them they were sucking up all the AIR and why couldn't they let me have some of the goddamned AIR.  So there's that.  I'm going to start with bigger roomier caves and work my way down to narrower fits, because the one I have to go through is low and unpleasant.

I'm also going back to the Heavener Runestone.  No amount of research can replace the experience of being there, and I plan to use the visit for both a fiction piece and a non-fiction article.  I need to map the area, get some photos of the setup, the rune's setting in the cliff face, and do some local interviews about the history of the area.  The non-fiction piece is a bit dry, I'm not going to lie.  But the fiction idea I have is a real humdinger, more about that coming soon.  Anyway, in 2014 I'm going to try my best to have at least one day to roam the area, and one to talk to people.  School won't allow a lot of wiggle room there, so I'm planning while I write this post.

That's a start.  This all really just dawned on me yesterday at work, so it's all coming together.  For extra awesomeness, whenever I go I'll try to get it out on Facebook so I can meet some folks I wouldn't normally get to see. I'm not wringing my hands and cackling yet, but I definitely feel a wicked giggle coming on.  I need adventure, and by God I will have it.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Resolutions Report and 2014 Plans

Before I list out my new resolutions, I should probably give a report on how 2013 went.  The truth is, pretty darned good.

1. Do one major good deed per month. - Done

2. Once per week, do something small to make someone have a better day. - Done

3. Lose 25 pounds. - Done

4. Finish Finding Jessie rough draft. - Not Done

5. Get an A in a college course. - Done

6. Improve my professional performance to meet specific goals. - Done on all four counts.

7. Reach out to one person each month on Facebook, letting them know what an impact they have had on my life and how much I appreciate what they did. - Done

8. Exercise regularly and improve muscle tone. - Not Done

Well, now.  That wasn't too awful.  I managed to kick the good deed quotas easily and am really proud of the A in Political Science.  I had to put Finding Jessie on hold because school came up and took way more time than I expected.  I had to prioritize, and writing was put on the back burner while I got a grip on my nemesis, algebra.  I'm not letting myself off the hook for my failures but I'll take pride in what I managed to accomplish while seriously overwhelmed.

This year I am focusing more on school and writing, and letting myself take a light year on the resolutions.  I'm going to pick a few that are specific and fit in with the work I'll be doing, so I can still improve myself without having to reinvent the wheel or change directions from what I am working on.  Wish me luck, and expect the occasional update on my progress.

2014 Resolutions

1. Once per month, do a good deed for friend or stranger.  Doesn't have to be life altering but must do considerable good for the person.  Deed is to be done anonymously at least nine of twelve times.

2.  Get published once per month in the Springfield News-Leader op/ed section.

3.  Twice monthly, publish a political article for one of my regulars (Zandar VTS, ABLC or TWiB).

4.  Get one piece of fiction published through a brand new publisher.

5.  Lose 20 pounds.

6.  Professional goal set but cannot be listed here because of job privacy and a little thing called common sense.  However, on the honor system I will monitor and report my progress on this resolution.

That's it for this year.  Between working full-time, going to school and writing, I think it's reasonable to take it easy once and get ahead.

If there is one overall theme to what I want to do this year, it's to make memories and learn as much as I can.  In school, at work, in life.  I hope all of you have a wonderful 2014, and if you make resolutions that you make your goals.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome to The Bon Project!

I have made quite a home for myself on Facebook, and for those who want more timely information I still recommend friending / following me there.  However, not everyone is on Facebook, and some people just want to follow my writing and the broad strokes of what is going on in my world.

If you are one of those people, The Bon Project is for you.

This is my condensed blog, where every time something is published or I do something awesome, it will be noted here.  This includes my music, interests and research.  I have a website but the reality is that without push notification it's a beast to keep up with what is going on.  I would rather publish here and link to my site when the material is too big or needs to be archived.  It's also where I will write my personal thoughts and ideas, things that aren't of interest to the general world, but the people who know me.

I have a previous blog, Bits O Bon, which will be permanently retired.  It was the first blog I ever started, and it had no purpose except to give me a place to vent.  I hated to close it down, but 2014 will be a  year of many fresh starts.  It seemed a good time to make some changes.

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you subscribe and enjoy what you read.  Though this will still be something of a catachall, it should eliminate some noise for people who either don't want to deal with Facebook or find the daily status updates a little TMI for their taste.

Until next time,