fistI pump my fist in the air a lot these days.

YES! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

NO! No way in hell!

I am not, at least, I was not until recently, a pump-my-fist-in-the-air person. I consider myself a thoughtful, stand back and watch, sort of person. I make a conscience effort not to impose. Oh, sure, I’ve got my opinions and predilections. I’m not so tucked in the background I’d be mistaken for a wall flower. I like to discuss the issues, personal and topical, but I primarily enjoy hearing others out.

Hearing others out is an important characteristic of centrists —the folks who dwell in the middle grey area. People in the middle grey area are not fist pumpers. They are arms-crossed-head-nodders. Chin scratchers. Lean-back-in-your-chair contemplators.  Time was, being a member of the extreme middle meant you were willing to negotiate. Those who understand the true meaning of “the art of the deal,” are masters at negotiation, and understand that the ultimate goal is to find common ground.

But, living in absolutes seems to be the way of things nowadays. It’s one way, or it’s the other. There’s no middle-ground to go to anymore. These days, if you claim to be a moderate, you’re labeled a non-committal wimp.

I miss my life in the middle. Being a fist pumper is weird. I miss having the ease of time to consider things. I miss genuine (however heated) debates. Suppositions. Deliberation. I miss simple conversation. I miss having my opinions challenged (as opposed to being outright threatened).

All that said, I gotta say, I’m really, really, really glad sexual/power-play/hostile workplace misconduct is getting a square sock in the jaw.  My fist is high in the air as the righteous gesture it’s meant to signify. From the abhorrent, everyone-cover-for-me criminal, to the disrespectful boys-will-be-boys dolt and the insecure bully-boss, I’m glad a day of their reckoning has arrived.

Now comes the hard part; the long, drawn out process of redirecting the whole of human history into the new world order. I’m talking about redefining the meaning of power and what it is to be powerful. Power is the ability to bring something to pass for the greater good. Nothing more. Power should no longer be synonymous with gain or gratification at the expense of others. Period.

(I suddenly feel like belting out a verse from Lennon’s “Imagine,” you know, the one that goes, “You can say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us…”)

In the meantime, I support condemnation of each and every charge of rape and harassment (Oh, and to the women who think they have a new weapon? Just try falsely accusing someone. There’s a special hell, right at the front of the line, for you). Teach men and women that abuse of power in any form is not just bad, it has actual dire, life altering consequences. I encourage everyone to lift “Socially Unacceptable” high upon their fist-pumped hands, and to not succumb to efforts to silence complaints with pay-offs or some absurd legal technicality. Lastly, but no where near the least, demand help, real help, for those who cannot control their psychosis.

I may miss my life in the middle, but in this one regard, I am more than happy to express my intolerance and unwillingness to negotiate the terms. Bad is bad. Keep calling it out.



A day in a life

hidey holeThe 16 year-old cat kept me awake all night. In the morning, and running late, I discover the reason why when I plant a bare foot in one of the many spots where the cat was sick.

“Pets get gastrointestinal virus, just like us,” the woman at the vet hospital says. “Or, it may be something else. She is old. We can’t know until you bring her in.”

The vet wants to keep the cat overnight for observation and instructs me to supply the hospital with my pet’s particular food. I call work to say I’ll be late, run home, and get her food. I drop it off at the vet hospital and am surprised to see a friend’s ex, in scrubs. I vaguely remember something about veterinarian school. He was a computer tech when I met him.  It’s been since they split.

“I didn’t know you worked here,” I say, a little too animated.

He looks up my pet’s file on the computer. “Same cat?” I nod. “Damn,” he says. “I remember when you got her.”

He writes his cell phone on a piece of paper. “You have questions, you call me.”

I ask him how life has treated him. He flashes a big smile and whips out his phone to show me pictures of his family. He puts his phone back in his pocket afterward and says, “You know, it’s not that I stopped loving K.”

It’s hard to focus at work. My manager says something about being sorry about my cat. This, from a woman whose husband has pancreatic cancer and is facing only a year of life, maybe two, with chemotherapy. His doctors tell him he is one of the “lucky” ones. I’m mortified and apologize, and thank her for letting me take time off for my sick pet.

It’s a night to go out for dinner. The place is surprisingly empty for a Friday, so, what the hell, I take a booth. But the place fills up in no time.

A couple walks in and scans the place for a good spot. The look of disappointment is clear: The options are sandwiching in between the regular drunks at the bar, or taking the weird little table for two in the back, next to the brightly lit foosball and darts game room.

I wave at them. “I feel guilty taking up a booth. I’ll move. No, seriously, I really don’t mind. I’ll move. Happy to!”

I move to the brightly lit table next to foosball. This disrupts another couple tucked away in the very back booth, obviously hoping they picked the perfect private spot to cuddle and coo. Noticing I have an unobstructed view of their intimacies, the woman gently pushes her date away and moves to the other bench.

Embarrassed, I wonder if I should move to the other chair, so my back is to them, but worry I will make them feel more self-conscious if I do. Instead, I pull my laptop closer and hunch over the monitor in an effort to mask my view of their table.

When the waitress stops by, I ask for my bill. She tells me the couple for whom I gave up my booth paid my tab. When I leave, I stop to thank them, but they’ve already left.

I walk into my home. The strangeness of my cat not there to greet me (in her usual cranky, prissy, feed-me-now, annoying mood) makes me choke up. She’s just a pet, not my flesh and blood, but damn. It’s weird, her not being here.


This week’s Online Writer’s Guild prompts are: Diamonds on my windshield; Try this; I think I have one right here

My cat is an old lady, so when she starts complaining, I pay attention. Sometimes she’s just an old lady bitching about being old, but other times she’s in actual distress, so I need to quickly attend to her needs or end up with a mess on the carpet. This morning, at 4:22, she was in actual distress. I’ve been awake since.

Early Sunday mornings are wonderful. No one is up getting ready for work. My building is quiet and still, and I make every effort to return the favor. Old, wooden framed buildings have old, worn out wooden floor joints that squeak, loudly, when trod upon. So, with a cup of coffee, laptop, book and cat now returned to a calm state, I curl up on my couch. Puttering around can wait until I hear my neighbors are up.

The rain is coming down in sheets, blowing hard against the windows. Ambient street and building lights reflect off the raindrops, making the windows look as if they are encrusted with diamonds. I turn on the space heater and winter’s familiar sound of buzzing coils compliments the whoosh of the wind and rain outside. Regardless the heater, I drape a blanket over my legs. As the sky lightens, I see the rain is actually a snow mix. Winter came early this year.

My mind’s a blank this morning. I churn the prompts over in my head, hoping the mastication of my brain cells will render a narrative I can run with. No luck. Still blank. I try again. Still nothing. Maybe if I dig out one of my old posts—I saved them all onto hard disk—and rework one for old time’s sake. There’s so many to choose from.

Nah. I think I’ll just pour another cup of coffee, read and watch the snow swirl and fall.


OWLG #19: Dirty Little Conspiracy

I’m now on the flip-side of a conference I manage. For the two weeks before, I tune everything out. My focus is on nothing but the conference. It’s not until it is behind me that I get back to my regular routine of listening to NPR while driving to and from work, and watching TV news magazines while I do chores.

Nothing in the news seems much different than two weeks before: Trump is still at odds with someone, or possibly this time, everyone. Mother Nature is still on a rampage, this time in Northern California. They still aren’t sure of the Vegas assassin’s murderous motives. And the local report is still rife with stories of police misconduct, Amazon’s search for HQ2, Seahawks football, infrastructure cost overruns, homelessness and the upcoming mayoral election.

The story that caught my attention is Harvey Weinstein’s great fall. In a time when sexual abuse and harassment are no longer “boys will be boys” dirty little secrets, why did people actually cover up for him? Is it too simple to blame the money? Reputation? What were those orchestrating the cover-up telling people who suspected Weinstein? That the women who came forward misunderstood the reason Weinstein excused himself during a meeting to undress and then ask for a massage? Gee, sorry for the inconvenience, but here’s some cash in exchange for your silence. I mean, talk about your conspiracies.

I’m not a victim of abuse or harassment, but I have been…how shall I put it…aggressively pursued, and not in a flattering way. First time by a stranger and second time by an ex. Both times I was afraid. So, I don’t have sympathy for the man. I don’t understand what compels such frightening behavior in a human being. Nevertheless, I hope the recovery program he ran off to Europe to undergo has greatly evolved from the arcane practices of “curing” one of sexual obsession, like electro-shock therapy and chemical castration (though, I’m sure, victims of assault and abuse would say, “I can only hope that is his fate”).

Lastly, if Weinstein is truly sick as the media declares, where is the humanity in those who covered for him all these years? Those that took the buy-offs; that were more concerned for their career? I know—sadly, too well—addiction is a complicated matter. But, enablers must acknowledge they are culpable in the damage brought about by addiction. Ultimately, they don’t save anything, or anyone, including themselves, from ruin. They only manage to put off the inevitable, and, in doing so, litter the landscape with more casualties.

The prompts are: Dirty little secrets; the cure is worse; nothing they tell you is real.

OLWG #10: “C” is for Cancel…

…as in, “Cancel that Cancer. All Clear.”

good news

TNKerr, the author of AOOGA-The Unofficial Online Writer’s Guild, as well as his own blog site, announced he received the good news that the year of treatment, positive thinking, listening to what his doctors, nurses, therapists, wife, children, friends and family told him to do, along with all the rest that goes into “battling cancer,” worked. He is fully on the mend.

Many of us are enduring cancer, either as a patient, or as someone providing additional care and moral support for another undergoing treatment. So, the news that someone made it through is uplifting.

The time was the prognosis was almost certainly fatal. As a child, I remember the overwhelming feeling of shock and sadness when we learned that a member of the family or someone we knew had been diagnosed. These days, the initial shock and sadness remains, but it’s followed by what would have previously thought unbelievable: A sense of hope, that, however awful, however trying the months ahead will prove to be, full recovery might just be possible.

I have to hold to this hope because so many in my life are, or have received cancer treatment. The most recent is my manager’s husband. His condition is such that she must take family leave. There are three other cancer diagnosis scenarios at my workplace in the past two years. A few years ago one of my sisters underwent a long 18-month ordeal with throat cancer. One of my brothers-in-law has undergone treatment for four separate diagnoses over the past decade, and currently is undergoing what can only be described as treatment for a cancer so aggressive, he must be routinely scanned and treated throughout each year of his life. He says all he can do is live life one treatment at a time. An old acquaintance has survived two bouts of leukemia and feels much the same way: Live life one day at a time/one treatment at a time and always hope for the best.

Of course, there are the losses, which is why we feel such dread when we learn of a diagnosis. A grandmother and an uncle were the ones to introduce me to the terrifying world of cancer, followed just a few years later by a brother. Cancer was thought of as something that happened to older people and chain smokers, not young men in their prime. Since my childhood, I can count on both hands the family, friends and others with whom my life has crossed paths who have succumbed to cancer.

I always dream of a time when disease of any sort can be, at best, eradicated, or at least, managed. I mean, who doesn’t dream of that outcome? Who doesn’t aspire to live life as best we can with a simple chronic condition, rather than a painful and debilitating disease, and with the hope that, when the time comes, we pass quickly and quietly in our sleep? Or die laughing, as my other grandmother did (Truly. While playing Pinochle with friends. Someone told a joke that really hit her funny bone. She let out a huge laugh and collapsed face down on the table of a massive stroke. Never knew what hit her).

Now, if you’ve read through the post to the end, you may wonder why I bolded a couple of words. The highlighted words are this week’s OLWG writing prompts: Unbelievable; Well, my wife told me…; I’ve dreamt that before.

Three cheers for my blogging buddy, tnkerr! I expect your celebrations involve something to do with NM, hockey, disc golf, drawing, family, friends, and, of course, writing!

OK redhead
(Looks nothin’ like me, btw…)

OLWG #4: Dig Down Deep? Maybe Not.

I’m taking the essay approach to the Online Writer’s Guild prompt today. The prompts are: 

  1. Time to excavate our relationship
  2. A twenty dollar shine on ten dollar boots
  3. It’s a handicapped spot

Ah, the dreaded, “we have to talk.” We’ve all been there. But it shouldn’t be dismissed as a twenty-dollar shine on a pair of ten-dollar boots. The time comes when all relationships need excavating in order to get reacquainted with what forged and molded them in the first place.

Couples expect, at some point, they will have to open up and reveal themselves in order to determine either how to carry on, or if it is time to come apart. It’s the unspoken understanding when we enter into a romantic relationship. But, other relationships undergo a similar journey of discovery, or at least, ought to.

Professional relationships, advisedly, don’t wander into the touchy-feely, emotional-needs-being-met realm of human interaction, but they need examining nonetheless. You can have a department full of smart, experienced, talented, hardworking souls, but if they are not getting along, their potential won’t be realized. We all can attest to the ultimately destructive power of a snarky, gossipy workplace.

Now, friendships…Well, that’s tricky. Unlike romantic or working relationships, drilling down into what makes a friendship tick is not required. You hit it off with another and the two of you get along. It’s as simple as that. Contrary to other relationships, it’s unnecessary to explain the reason why a friendship works. And, when it doesn’t work anymore, that’s that. You part company.

Depending on the emotional depth of a friendship, unearthing what lies at the heart of a platonic bond can be misconstrued as a rude intrusion of privacy. There is a point at which that level of exploration feels pushy. I suppose it’s why we differentiate one type of friendship from another. Someone is just an acquaintance, for example. A friend of a friend. Other friends are considered akin to a sibling or close relative, signifying an emotional union. These friendships may be able to tolerate, “we have to talk,” moments, but, in my experience, only to a certain extent.

What’s fascinating about true friendships is their endurance and a high level of tolerance. We give our true friends leeway; a get-out-of-jail-free card we don’t typically hand out to our lovers and co-workers. Our true friends can commit some pretty egregious errors, even betray us, before we decide to sever our ties to them. It’s like being unconcerned if an able-bodied person parks in a handicap spot. It’s wrong, but, hey, whatever. And, our true friends can go for weeks, months, even years, without contact, but once reconnected, it can feel as though no time has passed. No one ever seems to resent the lack of communication. Try that with your sweetheart and you’ll definitely be greeted with, “we have to talk.” Probably over packed boxes and a returned set of house keys. The workplace certainly has a “zero tolerance” for lack of communication. It’s usually cited as the primary cause of workplace dysfunction, or why errors were made.

This isn’t to say friendships don’t take work. They do. Friends have to navigate hurt feelings, misunderstandings and negotiate neglect, by simple virtue of the fact that all relationships need care and feeding. Friendships may have it a easier than others, but all relationships take work. It is the price we pay for being a sentient creature.

I blatantly ignored the clock this time. Sorry! I need to go back to writing these during lunch hour.