Memorial Day Memories

Every year my family celebrates Memorial Day with a breakfast cookout in the canyons.  I’m not sure why this year felt different – more special somehow.  Maybe it’s because this year could be my grandfather’s last.  My grandfather, Blaine Hill, is a Marine and served in World War II.  We have had countless Memorial Day moments where he shared stories from his time in the military.  It’s one thing to know what these men do for us, but it’s quite another to hear it first hand.  He told his memoirs to my grandmother who wrote them down for him, and he did an interview on camera with my sister who is an oral historian.

This year seemed to be about something different.  It’s not like any of us planned it beforehand.  My sister said she didn’t think about what she was going to do until yesterday.  I’ll admit that I started thinking of words to write for my grandfather a week ago.  It almost kept me up one night.  As soon as I had the thought, the damn thing started writing itself in my head.  I was NOT about to get my ass out of bed at midnight to jot it down, so I guess I’m lucky I was able to remember it the next morning.

I read the poem to my assembled family this morning.  The last part, I read directly to my grandfather, as it was his hands I was picturing as I wrote it; his stories I tried to picture in my head.

When I was finished, it was my sister’s turn.  Her husband currently serves in the Air National Guard and she speaks every year at our breakfast.  This year, she decided to take things in a different direction.  She asked the active military members and veterans of our family to retire a flag.  I’ve never actually witnessed this particular ceremony before and it was awe-inspiring.  As we all stood with our hands on our hearts, my uncle, another marine veteran, and my brother-in-law unfolded the flag and we all said the Pledge of Allegiance.  When it was over, they folded the flag back up and handed it to my grandfather.  He held the flag and looked as if he didn’t know what to do until my uncle leaned over and told him to place it in the fire.

There are no words to accurately express or describe what happened next.  My grandfather let out a soul-wrenching cry, crushed that flag to his chest, then lifted it to his mouth and kissed it.  He then lovingly placed the flag in the fire.  We all continued to hold our hands to our hearts and watched in silence as my grandfather saluted the flag.  When it was almost completely gone, one of my cousins started singing the Star Spangled Banner.  Everyone joined in and when the song was over, the flag was completely gone.  I don’t believe what happened this morning is something that can be planned in advance and I think the spontaneity and heart-felt actions of those involved made it even more memorable.

I am proud of those who serve and have served and I want to say Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Below is a picture of my grandfather with my brother who shares his name as well as the poem I wrote.  I hope everyone had a fabulous Memorial Day, however you chose to celebrate it.

grandpa

Semper Fi!

Withered hands… clenched
Empty… frozen… alone
Surrounded by training assembled neatly
…Systematic chaos…
Engulfing darkness closing in on…

Red
Darting… bloodshot eyes
Huddled… huddling… breaking… broken
Comrades
Bleeding… bloody…
Seeping around the edges of innocence…
Lost

Faithful…

White
Bare… haggard… sunken
Graying around edges of
Sleepless nights turned ashen
Far away dots… illuminating night
Waving flags… losing… bleary…
Gone

Loyal…

Blue
Marching into the pale…
Morning…
Melancholic bruising… bruised…
Voluminous clouds… crashing into
Energetic sizzling…
Veins

Hoo Rah!

Withered hands… shaking
Warm… safe… more
Surrounded by poignant spaces
…ordered legacy…
Encircling love closing in on…

Vital… stark… stalwart
Pride
Forever

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Destiny

Another Chuck Wendig flash fiction (love this guy!).  This one had to be 100 words or less and it had to make the audience feel something.  I was trying to be whimsical and otherwordly, but I think it ended up as a not-so-deliberate metaphor for something else.  Also, super challenging to stay within 100 words.  But, once again, I am shocked and amazed that I am inspired and able.

Destiny

Lilly looked up, scanning the myriad colors in their delicate arc across the sky until she found it once again.  The golden glow emanated and pulsed, rising up from the distant point where the colors coalesced.  Her destination.

Knowing her limitations as a turtle didn’t stop the measured inevitability of her quest.  Sometimes she crawled laboriously alone.  Other times a friendly breeze carried her a few paces, leaving her radiantly buoyant and ever closer to the imminent horizon.

She could not have imagined beforehand the limitless wonder she would find when she finally succumbed to her destiny.

It’s Madness I Tell You

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that I have been known to run a few 5Ks.  This is a rather new thing for me – my first 5K was in 2009 (relatively speaking, that isn’t very new, but anything after 2005 feels pretty recent to me).  Before that I was pretty much resigned to the fact that Helen does NOT exercise.  It was earlier in that same year that my sister’s house pretty much became my second home.  I was there ALL the time and I started noticing that she was exercising and running. I don’t remember what prompted her to start, but listening to her talk about it and watching her do it brought on one of those moments of pure envy (we have a long history of competition – sometimes friendly, sometimes not – that started in elementary school and is still alive to some degree today).  I thought, if she can do it, so can I.  She was a huge factor in helping me get started and motivating me to keep at it and I eventually became just as passionate about running as she was.  Well, mostly as passionate…. she has since run a half marathon (go Sis!) that I have zero intention of doing.

For me, running is more than just friendly competition with my sister.  My top three reasons for running are:  1) It’s energizing – after a run there are times when you feel like your brain has been dipped in warm fuzzies and you get tingly all over.  2) Listening to kick-ass music should be reason enough for anyone.  3) The chance to be outdoors. (Adequately describing my disdain for treadmills would take more time than I’m willing to invest right now)

After my first 5K, I was pumped!  Let’s run more.  Let’s do a 10K!  Why not a half marathon?! But as passionate as I was after that first race, none of those things actually happened.  My running has consisted of at least one 5K a year, but that’s about it.  Months will go by without a single run and when I finally decide to do it again, I have to start my training all over. Eventually, the realization came to me that as much as I love running, I need an actual goal – something solid to train for.  Whenever I signed up for a race my running schedule was consistent but as soon as the race was over, so was my running.  If I didn’t have a race planned my training stagnated and eventually stopped.

This year, my determination to run more consistently spurred me to start training in January (running outside in 25 degree weather is ridiculous, by the way) and I was feeling surprisingly good about it; however, about three weeks in, health issues and life happened.  By the end of April I was back to square one, thinking of running… planning on running… but not yet running, when my sister-in-law mentioned something entirely crazy.  What about the Tough Mudder?!  Just take a look at that and see if you don’t run screaming for the hills – unless of course you are one of those super exercise freaks who would have no problem doing something like that in your sleep.  If you are, congratulations and I hate your face!  (See “the hills” because that’s where Helen ran after looking at the site)

Needless to say, my doubt was a heady blanket wrapped around my extreme certainty that this was not going to happen. But, to my surprise and probably hers, my sister-in-law had ninja’d my brain and there was this stupid seed that started to grow.  Maybe it was possible… wouldn’t it be fun… We continued to talk about it and within a few days that pesky seed was a giant growth pushing it’s way through my brain as if I was feeding it daily with water, sunshine and joy.  (Maybe I was.  I wasn’t!  This is crazy to even consider this…)

We started training on Monday – my brother and sister signed up with me for this insanity.  We decided to do the Mudderling Training (found on their website) on the even days and running on the odd days with Sunday as our day off. Exercising six days in a row is daunting but I find myself waking up in the morning excited to go home after work so I can get in my daily dose.  I never thought that would happen to me, but there you have it.  Who knows if it’s something we can keep up; after all, we’re only four days in.  The euphoria will most likely wear thin in the months to come.

Right now, the only downside is my sleeping pattern.  My nights have gone from “yay sleep” to “sleep, where the hell are you” in just four short days.  I’m not getting enough, and even when I go to bed early intending to get a full eight hours, I’m waking up five or six times during the night and having a hard time going back to sleep.  Maybe my body is adjusting, or it’s overworked or something, but I’m exhausted, both from the physical demands of the exercise schedule and not sleeping enough.  Last night was probably the worst.  But somewhere in the dark depths of sleeplessness and the wee hours of morning, I decided that being upset about lack of sleep was useless.   Anger at sleeplessness makes for even less sleep. This eye opener didn’t lead to peaceful sleeping the rest of the night, but perhaps it will make the next few days more bearable.  (Crossing fingers that sleep will bless me with its presence over the weekend)

The Tough Mudder is ambitious, to say the least, but I am more excited than I have a right be.  Whether or not I can actually finish it is not even in my realm of thinking right now. Today, it’s all about consistency, following our training plan and supporting each other (love my team!) and maybe (oh please, oh please, oh please) a night where I sleep without waking up over and over again.

The Mentalist Rant

If you watch the Mentalist and you haven’t watched last nights episode, I pretty much give it all away.

…but it’s not like it wasn’t blatantly obvious what was going to happen….

…still, it is only fair for me to warn you…

 

…Last warning… spoilers ahead!…

 

For those of you who don’t give a rats behind about the Mentalist, I apologize in advance.  This rant has been clogging up my brain since I finished watching the show last night and I just can’t seem to let it go, so why not a blog post!

I first started watching the Mentalist with my boyfriend over a year ago.  It was one of his favorite shows and even though I started watching it in the middle of season five, it drew me in.  I caught up on all the past episodes through TNT reruns and Netflix DVD, thank you technology!  For me, it was the worst possible way to watch a TV show.  I am OCD even in my TV watching and normally watch shows in order from the beginning.  That didn’t happen with this, but I eventually caught up and was able to piece the story together.

The quick snippet from IMDb about The Mentalist if you have never watched it or heard of it: A famous “psychic” outs himself as a fake and starts working as a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation so he can find “Red John,” the madman who killed his wife and daughter.

There were many things to love about the show, such as:

  • Patrick Jane, the “psychic”, isn’t really a psychic.  He just reads people really well and has some quirky ways in which he ends up getting people to confess or basically turn themselves in by setting well-orchestrated traps.
  • Each episode is almost completely self-contained.  There is a murder at the beginning and by the end, it is usually solved. The “Red John” plot only surfaced in a few episodes throughout the seasons and it kept you hooked but didn’t beat you over the head with cliffhangers and each episode bleeding into the next.
  • Patrick Jane and Teresa Lisbon, the Senior Agent of the CBI, had a working relationship that didn’t turn into a romance, which is completely weird for me because I love a good romance.  I found myself looking for it when I first started watching the show but realized later that I actually appreciated that it wasn’t there.  It was refreshing.

Overall, it was campy and clever and didn’t take itself too seriously.

Fast forward to season six.

I was worried when I found out the show was going to continue even after they concluded the Red John story.  I wasn’t sure what they could do, but after five seasons, I agreed that it was time.  The one thing I wish they hadn’t done was dissolve the CBI.  I think having a fictional organization in California only added to its campiness and when you take that away and have the FBI instead, it makes some of the things Jane does not as believable in the strange way that his actions were believable with the CBI.  I started putting his actions in an FBI context.  Would the FBI really let that happen?

Once Jane and Lisbon became a part of the FBI, the romantic arc started and it felt so forced to me.  I kept watching, thinking they weren’t going to go there, but suddenly we have Lisbon and Jane exchanging longing glances and crap that had been mostly absent throughout past seasons.  There were hints of it before, but it was easily explained as a respectful, working partnership between colleagues, and in my mind, that was better.  Why does there have to be a romance?

The writers also decided to add tension with a relationship between Lisbon and Pike, another FBI agent who isn’t on their team.  Their relationship felt so disingenuous, almost like Lisbon didn’t even believe it herself.  And maybe it was.  Maybe she only entered into the relationship to make Jane jealous, but that doesn’t fit Lisbon’s character.  Throughout the seasons, Lisbon was calculating and thought about the consequences of her choices before making them.  She towed the line and kept Jane in check.  Yes, she gave him reign to do some crazy shit, but she was almost always the voice of reason.

I didn’t see her character change so much throughout the show that she would enter into a relationship with a guy, agree to move to another state with him, agree to marry him (granted she only did this because she was pissed at Jane, but it should still have consequences), only to change her mind just because Jane admits he loves her.  This, after manipulating and lying to her over and over and over!  In the current season, he disappeared to Mexico for two years and she didn’t hear from him until she was dragged into his FBI mess. He didn’t even ask her if she wanted a job in the FBI, he just got her the job and basically made her uproot her life to join his.  I don’t see how or why she would choose him over Pike – except that the writers (and maybe some viewers?) wanted a romance, and damn it, we’re going to get one whether it makes sense or not!

There were a great many things that were off about last nights episode, but the one that really bothered me was the scene in the hotel with the dresses.  As stated above, Lisbon is in a relationship with Pike, serious enough that she has agreed to move to another state with him.  She goes to Miami with Jane to crack a case and they end up at a fancy hotel.  His excuse is that the FBI is paying for it but he is in manipulation mode.  When she gets to her room, there are three dresses laid out for her, courtesy of Jane.  She doesn’t get angry or insulted or anything a woman in a committed relationship would actually do.  She calls Jane and thanks him and then dresses up for him for dinner.  Ummmm, what about your boyfriend?  I felt it was so out of character for Lisbon and everything I have seen of her to this point.  I honestly didn’t think she was one to swoon over a man buying her a dress.   Yes, she was questioning her relationship with Pike and we could see that her and Jane had feelings they weren’t talking about, but the Lisbon I have known for the past five and a half seasons wouldn’t react that way.  And the whole one line at the end to conclude this rather forced relationship with Pike?  “He’ll understand.”  Seriously?

Maybe this story line is what the viewers were asking for and I am all alone on an island of “I hate where the Mentalist is going”, but I really don’t think it makes the show better for Jane and Lisbon to be in a relationship.  In fact, I think it takes away some of what made it unique to begin with.  I think the writers should have left well enough alone and walked away from the show with the end of Red John.  I think the only place it can go from here is, well, not somewhere I am excited about watching.  I might watch next season, because apparently there is going to be another one?  But then again, I might not.

The Pineapple Peddler

This is the first Flash Fiction Challenge that I am actually going to participate in, instead of just lurking and reading and being generally amazed at the awesome stories everyone posts. The challenge this week was to pick a photo from 50 pretty strange ones no one will ever use and write 1,000 words of flash fiction.  You can look it up on Chuck’s site if you are so inclined.  I was inspired by #26 – G’d up pineapple businessman. It’s a little over 1,000 words.

The Pineapple Peddler

Driving to work in his black Mercedes, listening to Zig Zigler’s voice coming through the stereo, Brian felt pumped. He was driving the car and he was dressed to kill, even if he was a little on the heavy side. That didn’t matter. He was number one and he was going to show them that he still had it!

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn to do it well.”

He wasn’t sure what to think of Zig sometimes. He didn’t have time to do anything poorly. He needed to get some numbers on the board, and fast. Every time someone rang the bell at work announcing a sale, he was both excited and dejected at the same time. Excited because the possibilities were endless. Dejected because he hadn’t put up a sale in weeks and his expenses couldn’t take many more two hundred dollar paychecks. He was getting desperate.

When he had opened his eyes that morning, he decided to shake off the cobwebs of self-doubt and shady nightmares that had been haunting him. Today was the day and he had purposefully dressed for success. He remembered hearing somewhere that purple was the color of royalty and nobility, which to him meant power! He had to dig in his closet, but he had found his “power” clothes – silk purple pin-striped button up, silk black slacks and lavender tie.

He imagined success and power were oozing from his pores, and energy was pumping through his blood. Nothing beats a Monster first thing in the morning. He pulled into the parking lot at work and listened to Zig complete his sentence before turning off the car. He banged his fist on the steering wheel a few times before opening up the door. He took a deep breath of fresh air as he got out and slammed the door shut. It was good to be alive! With that in mind, he walked purposefully inside.

There was a mandatory sales meeting each day before they hit the phones, and he took a place up front in the conference room. He didn’t really notice that no one sat by him. It didn’t matter. He was better than any of these guys.

The sales meetings were always the same. Motivation (or what they considered motivational) and accolades. It was always the same guys at the top of the board.  “Give it up for Jim. He put up a $23,000 sale late last night.” Everyone clapped and the daily meeting dragged. Same old scenario day after day. He needed to get on the phone right now before he lost his edge.

Ten minutes later, he was making his way out of the conference room to his desk, excited to finally jump on the phone and make some dials.

“Dude, you have a funeral today or something?” He looked up and saw Jim and Andy standing by his cubicle.

“Nah, man.” Okay, so not everyone thought he was dressed for success. But he didn’t let that get to him. He continued to his desk, thinking they were going to walk away, but he was wrong.

“So, I noticed you’re blanking this week, and I thought I might be able to help. Do you have a few minutes? I have some tips for you that really helped me when I was first starting out and having a hard time.”

Andy sniggered. For as long as anyone could remember, Jim had been the top guy. Number one in sales month after month, year after year. Just like Brian, Andy probably couldn’t imagine Jim not being at the top of his game.

Brian was excited. He didn’t get to hang around with the top guys much and he really wanted some feedback. “Sure, man. Thanks!”

“I think it’s best if we go somewhere quiet. No interruptions, yah know? There’s an empty office down the hall.”

Jim and Andy led the way. As much as he wanted to get on the phone and start dialing, Brian was just as sure that talking to Jim and Andy could get him one step closer to a sale. And boy did he need it. He was only a few steps behind them as they walked through the office door, but as he passed through the doorway, two things happened at once. Someone grabbed his arms and pulled them behind his back and the door was slammed shut.

“What the hell, guys?” Just as the words came out of his mouth, something was shoved over his head. It was wet, gross and smelled like pineapple.

“We’ve decided that you are going to be the office mascot.” Laughter followed. He felt someone put something in his front pocket and whoever had his hands behind his back let go of one to shove something in it.

“We’re going to call you the Pineapple Peddler.” More laughter.

“Quick, where’s your phone? We have to get a picture!” He thought that was Jim.

He heard some clicks from the camera phone before he had much of a chance to register what was happening. He couldn’t speak with the damn thing over his head, in fact, he could barely breath. Finally, he got pissed. He threw whatever was in his hand at what he hoped was someone’s head and yanked his other arm away from mystery man behind him. He reached up to pull the pineapple off his head. It slurped and sucked and juices ran down his silk shirt. It finally released with a pop.

“You guys are assholes.” Blinking and wiping the juice and pineapple guts out of his eyes, he glared at his assailants. He could see now that Bob was in on it too. They were all laughing so hard he thought Bob just might fall down. Jim was the first to notice that he wasn’t laughing with them.

Reigning in his laughter, Jim walked up to him and clapped him on the back. “Lighten up, dude! The boss asked us to come up with a mascot for our office and we decided you would be perfect. Just go with it! You look awesome in this pic. You’re gonna be a hit, number one for sure!”

The Why and Some Goals

It’s funny to me how I have thought about writing for years.  I’ve had moments where I thought I had it and many more moments where I thought I would never be good enough and why even bother.  I have had a support system of loved ones who, whenever they read something I had written, raved about it and told me I should go for it!  I have also had other people in my life say other things… But none of those voices have been as strong as the one in my head saying “I’m not good enough”.  I don’t think I have magically silenced that voice in my head… in fact, it took well over a year for me to actually put up a post on a blog site I created over two years ago; a year of lurking on blogs and over a month from the time I finally decided I could perhaps, maybe do this thing.   The one thing I have learned from reading and following blogs this past year is that I am not really different from all the other writers out there, even the ones who are published.  We all have that voice.  The only difference is, they did it anyway.

I came across Chuck Wendig’s site a few months ago.  He has some great writing advice and posts a flash fiction challenge every week that I plan on doing here.  The most helpful thing I got from him was that writers write.  I know, that sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but sometimes it takes a certain voice (style if you prefer)  to actually penetrate the mind-numbing negativity of self doubt.  His style spoke to me and pushed me out of lurking and into actually doing.  I think the other thing I learned is that it isn’t about having a book published.  That goal is far too big and if I know myself, which I’m pretty sure I do, I become paralyzed when a goal is too big.

A few years ago I decided to run a 5K with my sister.  I had no idea what a 5K even was, so I looked it up and almost fainted.  3 MILES!?!  Who does that?  I don’t remember if it was my sister or some other phantom of unknown origins who told me to just do what you can and eventually, you will be able to run 3 miles.  I finally decided to just start already. (That was another few months of torturous thoughts and self-doubt)  I ran for as long as I could that first time and made it almost a mile, which surprised and excited me.  I could do this!  The next time, I don’t think I made it as far because I was sore and it hurt!  Side note: It can be just as hard, maybe even harder, to stop that voice when running because it is pretty loud not just when you start your run or on days you don’t really want to run, but every step you take feels like a battle.  It hurts!  I need to stop!  I can’t breathe! On and On and On!!  But there is the other voice too saying just one more step!  Just make it to the next street and you can stop!  I like that voice better.

The point is, I kept doing it.  I kept running as consistently as I could and lo and behold, I actually did it.  I ran 3 miles and loved every minute of it!  I was able to do a 5K with my sister that year and even beat her time!  It helps me to think of writing like I am training to run a 5K.  I am not going to write The Book today or tomorrow or next week.  Not even!  But I can write 350 words a day.  I can do a little bit each day and before I know it, I might actually have a first draft of this book that has been haunting me for years!  I have finally decided to get out of my own way and take the steps necessary to do it.

In the process, maybe I can also get out all the random madness that lurks in my head, which is why I have decided to post on the blog.  I read another blog recently, thanks to Chuck’s site and all the writery types who comment and post.  Pav (if I can call him that without him reaching through the screen to punch me in the face… In my own defense, it is how he refers to himself on his blog); Pav uses his blog to get out all the unnecessary stuff  in his head so he has more clarity for his current project.  I really liked that idea and plan on adopting it shamelessly!

To recap the goals in case you got lost along the way:  Write 350 words (or more) each day on the current project and Post at least once a week on the blog.

I’m excited to start what I consider to be a journey.  Many changes are happening in my life right now.  I can either step aboard the change train or I can sit safely on the platform and end up kicking myself in a few years for the what-ifs.

Thank you for reading.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have so far!

 

 

My Mama’s Birthday Poem

As this is my first post, I thought I would go with something simple.  Mother’s Day was on Sunday and I found myself thinking of Moms (duh!) and poetry.  Since today is my Mother’s birthday (she turned 73!), I decided to write a poem for her using some of my own experiences as a mother of three beautiful children.

I would describe my mother as Graceful and Loving and I typed up what I hope is something that can speak to Motherhood and specifically to my Mom and how much I love and adore her.

Without further shaking and stalling and coming up with all sorts of reasons why I can’t and shouldn’t do this, below is my Mama’s Birthday Poem titled simply:

Mama

Small being erupts into loving arms
Wailing
Cold, harsh place
Comforted in soft warmth
Arms surrounding… safe…

Mama… Magical

Wet kisses, plump hands, soft eyes
Breathless
Masterful moments
Atop building blocks… stories… toys
Needs… needing and needful

Mama… Joyful

Enveloped in laughter… words among equals
Overwhelming
Immense bodies rushing into
Surrounding arms… respectful spaces
Joyful inevitability

Mama… Loving

Soon, fulfilled emptiness… echoes of laughter
Tiny to enormous
Wonder in motion
Gracefully delighted
Stages…
Chapters…
Of Mother