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A Kindness, From Hawaii

Yesterday, I was in the middle of the usual pre-holiday madness, when a customer said something I hadn’t heard before. This is always refreshing, as I’ve been hearing the same comments daily for over twenty years. I won’t list all the usual culprits, but damn I wish I had a ten spot for every time I heard “Is this the calm before the storm?” and “You’re just waiting for me aren’t you?” My favorite before a holiday is “Are you open tomorrow?” Hahahahaha. We are always open people.

Customers are generally nice at holidays and feel for us. The lucky ones who have the day off are horrified that we poor souls have to work. “But it’s time and a half, right?” Yes, for this holiday it is. Still…we are here and you are on the other side of the counter gearing up for a celebration. Not that I care much for this particular holiday. It’s too noisy and creates too much trash and air pollution and I’m not exactly patriotic. (I won’t go into all the reasons why.)

Anyway, back to the customer who was different. It was busy of course, and close to my break time, and I guess it showed. I wasn’t grumpy, just looking worn out, and on automatic pilot, when a woman says, out of the blue, “If we were in Hawaii I’d buy you a drink.”

This perked me up and we briefly discussed cocktails and sandy beaches, wishing we were somewhere else. It was enough to lift me out of my ‘just get through the day mentality’ and I was thankful. But she went a step further. When, a few minutes later, our Starbucks barista informed that someone bought me a drink, I was smiling for real. (Not the phony professional smile.) On my break, I received a passion tea lemonade with a palm tree drawn on the cup, from Hawaii.

This made my day. My whole work week actually. So for those of you who have to work today (I will be there too.) I wish I could buy you all a fruity cocktail—preferably with alcohol in it.

Happy Fourth Everyone—yes, even those of you who get the day off.

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What this Mother Does Not Want For Mother’s Day


I was looking through the newspaper (Yes, we get an actual newspaper on Sunday mornings. So nineties, I know) and came across a cosmetics ad, the kind they always put out this time of year. It was filled with the stuff all mothers want. Like perfume.

There were quite a few to choose from. Not only did each perfume have an actual name, it came with a helpful description. Essence of joy, for example. For a mere $54 dollars the important woman or women, in your life can experience the actual essence of joy. If your mother or wife is more the Hollywood type, might I suggest, Glamorous and Sexy. For the woman who wants to be enthralled, there is, of course, Enthralling. My personal favorite is Fresh and Carefree. It’s for the woman who wants to smell like… a feminine hygiene product? Is there any better way to tell Mom that you love her?

If perfume isn’t your mom’s thing, there’s always makeup. Like lip polish, which may or may not be the same as lipstick. This particular one is called, Buxom. Buxom is not a word I’d associate with lips, but what do I know of such things? Nothing. Obviously. I don’t even understand why a waterproof mascara would be named Too Faced. It brings to mind images of that character in Batman, you know, the guy whose face is grotesquely scarred on one side? Wouldn’t it be a more appropriate name for foundation? A really good foundation…

The advertising copy for this product is even more confusing. The claim is that Too Faced mascara is better than sex. Mascara. The goop you put on your eyelashes to make them look longer. Better than sex. Does the tube it comes in vibrate? Or does it come with a magic wand? Or am I so out of touch that I’m missing the true message? Could it be, that all a woman needs to achieve satisfaction is the right brand of cosmetic? How empowering!

As great as all that sounds, I’d be happy with a visit or a phone call for Mother’s Day. Though a box of good quality chocolate would be nice too. One can never go wrong with chocolate…

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Published Short Story

My short story, What the Neighbor Heard is now published on Lit-up, a publication on Medium (A cool site for reading articles, opinion pieces and short fiction). I’m going to publish the story here as well, but if you’d like to read it on Medium and give it a few claps, that would be awesome!

Happy May!

View story at Medium.com

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Saving the World, One Flush at a Time

The View from my favorite Outhouse:

It takes 1.6 Gallons of water to flush the average toilet. (Older toilets require 4-7 gallons a flush.) Ninety-five percent of all household water goes directly down the drain. That’s a lot of wasted water. With several major cities around the world in danger of going dry in the near future, shouldn’t we all be concerned?

One way to reduce wasted water is to flush less often. Yes, I know, that’s ‘Icky.’ It’s impolite not to flush, and what is more important than being polite? Certainly not preserving the world’s fresh water. A few years ago, while visiting an environmentally conscious organic farm, I heard the phrase, “If it’s yellow let it mellow if it’s brown flush it down.” It’s catchy, don’t you think? And it reduces the ick factor. If it’s yellow, it can’t be too gross right? Yellow, after all, is the color of Smiley faces.

And then, there’s the more extreme solution. The out-house. It’s not for everyone of course. If I dug a hole in my front yard and put up an out-house my HOA would…well, they’d shit their pants I think. (No water wasted there!) The thing is, it’s not so bad, using an outhouse. I used one for three weeks and I didn’t mind it. It was a great way to wake up in the morning. Refreshing even. Seriously. I threw on my coat and boots and stepped outside into the bright sunshine and fresh cold air and suddenly I was wide awake. The trek woke me up even more. I love a walk in the morning. The sound of cows mooing, and geese calling and little birdies chirping were an added bonus. And the dusting of snow on the seat that floated in through the cracks during the night? That’s a quick wake up in itself. Better than coffee.
And after dark? That was fun too. When the moon is bright you don’t even need a flashlight. And it’s a great excuse to look up at the stars. I’d forgotten what it was like to gaze up at the stars, without street lights dulling their brightness.

Lately, I’ve begun to wonder how I ended up in the suburbs, living in a carefully designed neighborhood with a whole lot of pavement and green grass (how much water does it take to keep the grass green all summer? Too much, I’m thinking!) There are four toilets in my townhouse. Four. Two each. I cleaned them all today. And I wondered, how many more hours of my life will I spend cleaning toilets?

Someday, when I retire, I’ll live in the country, growing my own organic vegetables, walking on dirt and dead grass, sleeping under the stars on warm nights, and saving water by using an outhouse.

No Bingo, or shuffle-board for this senior citizen!

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I’m Back


Well, I was right about the boy vibes but wrong about the date. My grandson was born on March 25th, and I did need to take a third week off from work. (Oh, darn.) While waiting, anticipating, and preparing for the birth (how many times can you practice folding cloth diapers?) we planted trees, worked on a privacy fence, built a summer kitchen (semi-covered fire pit) and went on long hikes in the woods. We only got lost once, but hey, it all worked out.
I thought I wanted the baby to hurry up and get here, but the truth is, I will always cherish the memories of the time I spent with my daughter and son-in-law before the birth. (Bonding isn’t just for babies!) I think the three of us made a pretty good team, though I will admit to feeling relieved when the midwife finally got there.
I believe natural childbirth is the best way to go (when it makes sense medically, of course) but there’s nothing easy about it. The end result was, of course, worth every minute. (Yeah, I know, easy for ME to say.)
Our little bundle of bodily functions is strong and healthy as well as adorable. Only in the first days of life are other people fascinated by your every gurgle, grunt, yawn, cry, sneeze, and fart. Seriously, his little farts were so sweet…
I wanted to stay forever, but here I am, back at home being a responsible adult. For now anyway…

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A New Title—No, Not a Book Title

I’m Leaving. On a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again. Not for sure anyway. Probably in two weeks—that’s when the return flight is scheduled. If this baby decides to stay where he/she is for more than two weeks, I might have to extend my vacation time. Sorry in advance, fellow co-workers, for any inconvenience this may cause, but a grandma’s got to do, what a grandma’s got to do. I did give the baby instructions to arrive on March 13th or 14th. We’ll see how well he/she follows directions.
On our last visit, I started getting HE vibes but the baby’s gender matters not at all to this grandma. I’m still getting used to that word. Grandma. My mom is Grandma. My mother-in-law is Grandma. How can I be Grandma? Doesn’t seem possible. We have discussed other possible titles. Grammy? Nana? Granny? Gram? Gran? Mammy. Mammy Tammy. How’s that for a title?
Hm. I don’t know…
I’ll fill you all in soon enough. There’s no Internet on my daughter and soon-to-be son-in-law’s property so it won’t be too soon. There’s no television either. I’m excited about that. I like quiet. It’s a peaceful place, with a great view of the stars at night, and snow-topped mountains, in the daytime. And so quiet. Or at least it will be until this baby starts crying…
I can’t wait.

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I’m sharing Kirsten Lamb’s Awesome Poem today, in Honor of Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!

Ah Valentine’s Day. I figure we’ve had enough seriousness, so today we’ll have some light fun, sponsored by my flu med hallucinations (the purple hippos dared me). 608 more words

via Twas the Night Before Valentine’s… — Kristen Lamb

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New Netflix addict discovers Orange is the New Black

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I had one of those vivid, way too real dreams last night. I was in Fred Meyer, where I very rarely shop, and I put a tube of toothpaste in my back pocket, intending to buy it, but Jim and the kids were already outside, waiting for me, as we were on our way to a softball game. In my haste, I forgot about the toothpaste and walked out the door.

There was a security guard standing in the entryway, watching. He took me by the arm and led me back inside. I calmly explained that I was having a spacy moment and forgot it was in my pocket. Haha. Sorry about that. He wasn’t buying it.

I was taken to a small room and told to sit down at a table while he filled out the paperwork. I wanted to call Jim and explain where I was, but I couldn’t find my phone. Or my purse. He had to be looking for me. We were going to miss the game. Or else, he’d go without me, while I was being carted off to prison.

I woke up before I had put on the orange jumpsuit. It was kind of disappointing actually. I wanted to meet the crew of Orange is the new Black. We finished Season One last night and I was looking up the actresses to see what they are like in real life.

This, from someone who never turns the TV on when she’s home by herself. I blame Netflix for slowing down progress on my series. On the other hand, the way these shows are written does give me good ideas for my own work.

Yeah, I know, rationalizing is a sign of addiction…

 

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The Baddest, Most Evil Antagonist I Could Conjure from my Overactive Imagination

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Have you ever wondered what eggs taste like with ground ginger sprinkled on top? No? Me neither. Unfortunately, I found out when I mistook the ground ginger for ground garlic. In my defense, they are, almost, the same color. And I hadn’t had my coffee yet. Garlic, in case you didn’t know, is good on eggs. Ginger, not so much.

Today is to be my first full writing day of the year. My plan to get up early, get focused, and be more productive is off to a slow start. I woke up at nine am. A reminder that if I don’t set an alarm, the early thing won’t happen. After the egg fiasco, I read the Oregonian. Starting the day with news is never a good idea. Reality tends to put a distressing spin on the day.  The irony of being depressed by the real world, while writing about a man who is plotting to murder half his family, is not lost on me. (He’s the bad guy so he has to be, well, BAD.)

So, I thought it would be fun to share the first scene with my antagonist (Evil bad guy.) And ask what you all think. I’d also like to propose that we west coasters adopt the phrase you’all, because it’s useful, and sounds cool. I’m not sure how to spell it though.

Chapter One of Convincing Accidents

The flip-phone no longer functioned, but it still flipped. The boy flipped it open and closed, Open and closed. Hour after hour. The clicking sound was enough to drive a sane person to madness—and Stuart Harden considered himself to be about as sane as it gets.

The boy’s constant keening was even worse than the clicking. He was agitated. Of course, he was. Strange place, too many people around. He shouldn’t here.

It was Stuart’s wife’s idea to spend the weekend in Seattle. They’d visited her grandparents at the assisted living facility the day before, and now they were at Ballard Locks, doing the tourist thing, but no one was listening to the tour guide talk about migrating fish and their mating habits—not even Raquel. She was too busy yapping.

Stuart found the sound of his wife’s voice almost as grating as their son’s keening. Everywhere they went, Raquel found a new best friend. This time it was a mother with too many children. There were five of them, the youngest balanced on her hip, gnawing on a cheese stick. The oldest, a young teenage girl, wore tight white shorts and kept peeking over her shoulder at Stuart’s older son, who was pretending to look at his phone while staring intently at the girl’s cute little butt. He had to give Jesse credit for trying to be discreet, even if he was failing at it. At least one of his sons was normal.

The woman’s other three kids were running about, unsupervised, bumping into people. No concept of boundaries. The one who looked about five, held a cheese stick in one hand and a toy airplane in the other, making engine noises as he weaved in and out of the crowd in a pattern, once nearly knocking Stu’s coffee out of his hand, and getting far too close to the edge of the platform. There was only a single bar, waist height to an adult, to prevent a child from falling into the water. Straight down, no embankment, nothing to grab onto. Stuart imagined the boy falling; the panic that would ensue, the ignorant mother’s screams. Rescue would be a challenge. He could do it. He’d jumped from higher places for the fun of it. For a moment, he imagined saving the stupid woman’s kid, how thankful she’d be. He doubted she’d learn anything from it. Her kids would still be running loose, causing mayhem.

When the little boy came around again, Stuart moved backward so that he was between the boy and the edge, preventing him from getting too close, falling. The little boy came to a stop. He stared, but not at Stuart. He stood there, staring at the freak, watching him flip the phone.

“What’s wrong with him?”

Stuart knelt down to the little boy’s level. “He ate too many cheese sticks and it turned him crazy.”

The little boy stared at the cheese stick clutched in his fist, eyes widening. In his hurry to get away he bumped into the older boy’s knees. Stuart’s younger son hated being touched. Agitated, he backed up, but there was nowhere to go. He sat down on the ledge, holding the phone to his ear, using both hands to flip it open and closed, oblivious to the danger right behind him. Raquel was equally oblivious, still talking to the other woman— in a loud whisper as if that made it any less rude. As usual, she’d left it to him, to watch the boy. She had no idea how easily her precious freak could fall into the water. A little bump was all it would take. It would serve her right.

Stuart’s phone vibrated with an incoming text. He took it out of his pants pocket, read the message. A convincing accident, maybe?

He smiled. It was from his girlfriend, intended as a joke. Their elaborate fantasy about running away together had morphed into a plot to do away with anyone who stood between them.

His wife let out one of her loud, honking, head-turning laughs. God, how he hated that sound. It embarrassed him every time. If he never heard it again, he’d be happy.

A convincing accident.

Out of context, it didn’t read like a joke. Innocent people didn’t kid around about killing their families. Of course, neither of them were truly innocent. He was fairly certain that only one of them was joking.

He put the phone in his pants pocket. Everything of importance, contacts and such, were backed up to his I-pad. The phone wouldn’t be a big loss. He’d been looking for an excuse to upgrade anyway. If his newly formed plan should fail, he didn’t want Raquel finding their text messages. It would look bad.

The little boy was back to weaving around the adults, following the same pattern each time. Stuart positioned himself in front of his younger son, right in the little boy’s path, and held his coffee cup at waist level, waiting, already imagining the outcome.

It would be a valiant rescue attempt. He’d come out of it looking like a hero, despite his failure. The freak would die. Overcome with grief, Raquel would kill herself. An overdose would be easy enough to fake. This way, there would be no messy, expensive, divorce to worry about—no giving Raquel half of everything. She didn’t deserve a share in their recent windfall; didn’t even know about it yet. Stuart would use some of the money for Jesse’s college—the boy had earned it—and use the rest to buy a bigger house, one with enough room for Corinne’s kids, and a barn for her horse. It would be added incentive to convince her to leave her husband.

The poor bastard had no idea what was coming his way. It would be such sweet revenge.

 

 

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Horoscopes: Do you read them?

Horoscope— a prediction of future events based on your date of birth, positions of the stars yada, yada, yada. I’m a Pisces, so I’m going to share today’s horoscope, for all you other Pisces out there. (Why yes, I did read it in the newspaper today. Don’t ask me why.) I/we should make sure that all of our activities today are rated PG. (I know, fuck that!) And maintain a wholesome, family -oriented, atmosphere around our work and our home. Got it? No swearing, no R rated movies, no sex, (Sorry Honey!) and whatever you do, don’t sexually harass anyone at work today! You might be able to get away with it tomorrow, just not today, because of the way those darned stars are aligned. (Disclaimer: this is a joke, please don’t harass anyone. I don’t want to read about you in the paper.)

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What gets me, is that someone is actually paid to write horoscopes. Not much I’m sure, but still, they are in the newspaper. This makes them legit, right? Of course, someone gets paid to write tabloid articles too. Maybe I’m writing the wrong kind of fiction…

Have a wholesome day fellow Pisces! The rest of you can have fun!

Feel free to share my posts. Sharing is good—I learned that in kindergarten. (Actually, that’s a lie. I skipped kindergarten and went right to first grade. It cost $ to go to kindergarten way back then.)