Monday

16 April 2018

Sometime in the dark ages of my late teen/young adult life, Camilla Kimball (the wife of the LDS church’s president, Spencer) spoke about what she did with things relating to the gospel that she didn’t understand: she put it all on a shelf.

This was advice handed out over and over in Relief Society meetings and I imagine it was repeated to young men, too. If there’s something about the church you don’t understand, something in the way we do things and the why of it, just stick it up on that mental shelf. You’ll understand it later, if you’re meant to. If not, it’s God’s will.

The thing about putting things on a shelf is that sooner or later, you’ve put so much on it that the inevitable happens. The shelf breaks.

When the metaphorical shelf in your very real brain breaks, significant damage can occur. All the ignored doubts, the uncertainties, the outright WTF moments come crashing down at once. The things on that shelf are fragile as it is; they shatter like glass. It’s not a great way to deal with the very core of your spiritual identity.

I was lucky; my doubts came before anyone had a chance to advise me to construct this internal shelf, so I just chewed on them like tough, fat laden meat until I had to spit it out. My doubts came hard and fast early on; what the hell do you mean, Joseph Smith shoved his face into a hat to translate the golden tablets. What about that seer stone? And holy fark, THAT’s the excuse you’re giving me for why black men hadn’t been admitted to the priesthood until 1978? Because they have “too much to deal with, trying to get the world to see them as equal.”

I wish I was kidding. But that was only one excuse I was given. And given that 12-year-old white boys are anointed in the Aaronic priesthood, that kinda tells you what the church really thought about people of color.

Then came the revelation about the holy underwear and the stories woven around it were so fantastical that if I’d had a shelf, it would have bent.

Yeah, I dunno about now, but back then if you were talking to missionaries and were a potential convert, they didn’t tell you about things like the magic underwear. They probably do now because it’s so widely known, but back then few people outside the church were really aware of the bizarre undies. And they are bizarre.

Still. The bigger picture was what mattered to me, and to me at the time, it was the idea that revelation from God was still a thing. The church was just a conduit.

Then came BYU and the “ugh, you’re a CALIFORNIA Mormon” which left a nasty taste, but hey, bigots are everywhere, right?

But the thing that made my non-existent shelf crack was a Fireside chat we attended in Utah. We were already stepping away from most things church related and really only had our big toes in the water because of school, but for some reason we went to this thing, which is basically a church service where a few selected people get up and talk and try to be inspiring or motivating.

I listened as this young man stood up front, microphone in front of him, as he told us about this wonderful friend. He was a stellar example of faith in action. He volunteered. He served. He was the one you could count on to go help your grandmother with her lawn work without even being asked. He was the one who would show up, roll up his sleeves, and do the hard work, no matter how unpleasant. He was a happy, friendly guy, he’d served his mission, and he was what most men should be.

But…then he “turned gay.” Everything else he was no longer mattered. He was unworthy, and Speaker Boy thought it was a shame to have to turn his back on his friend, but no one should expose themselves to that kind of rank immorality.

I never attended another service after that.

I didn’t care if Joseph Smith conned people and started a religion; most organized religion is a money grab. I did care about how people were treated, and the long line of mistreatment of good people was enough for me to wave and say “‘Bye, Felicia.” Or I would have, if that had been a thing then.

Gay rights weren’t really a thing then; the few gay people I knew really just wanted to stay alive, rights beyond that were a future hope. But I damn well knew that someone doesn’t just “turn” gay and so what if they did? That doesn’t erase all the good they’ve done and will continue to do.

I kept paying attention, even if I had pulled my toe out of the water. Story after story, gay kids shunned by their families. Parents telling their kids they wished they were dead instead of gay. Smirks when some outcast kid DID kill themselves because of the pressure.

And it wasn’t just that. Other friends who left the church because they had doubts, too, were exiled from their families. This church that espoused family above everything but God accepted throwing people away because they didn’t fit the mold.

I could have gone the rest of my life without hearing another thing about the LDS church, but those people are persistent. We’d move, they’d find us. We’d be happily invited to attend a sacrament meeting (the sacrament prepared by worthy little white boys, of course) and welcomed back into the fold. I declined every time, but then came the Visiting Teacher.

Visiting Teachers were (I think, not positive, this has been discontinued) women who once a month visited other women for a short little gospel lesson and a chat. We were living in a ward where, I’d learned, the bishop’s daughter had been arrested for prostitution, the son ran away to avoid a mission, and the wife had an alcohol problem. I wouldn’t care, but…hell, I did.

They had my name, they had my phone number, assigned a visiting teacher to me, and she decided that I was A Project. She called relentlessly. “I need to come see you, it’s important.”

No, it’s not. I have to work.

And really, I had to work. This was at a time I was working at International Fitness Center, bouncing between the nursery and cleaning the locker rooms. I worked six days a week, usually 10 hours a day. I was not giving up the one day off I had to spend doing nothing with family.

After weeks of this woman’s persistence, I folded. I told her I had 45 minutes for lunch, she could meet me at work. The nursery would be empty, we could talk there.

Oh, no. It HAD to be at my home.

That was not happening.

And this is the moment she lit the spark that would eventually turn my I-just-don’t-care about the church into loathing: “You HAVE to see me at your home. I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR SOUL.”

Not even exaggerating.

I told her to never call me again, and if she did I would consider it an assault, and act accordingly. Now, to be honest, I had no idea what I would really do. It’s not like you can call the police and whine that someone woman wants to save your soul and she won’t leave you alone. I imagine there’s a lot of paperwork in that, and we were about to move from the area to a whole other state, so…meh.

I lived in my LDS Church Sucks bubble for a long time, never getting beyond that. They left me alone, so fine. I had no issue with most of the members, just with the details of the religion.

Then came Prodigy Online Services, then access to the Web and IRC, then websites…information bonanza. I’ve been poking around online since the late 80s, starting with a 300 baud dial up modem on Prodigy, creeping along at the speed of snails…and finding things. People sharing stories. People whose shelves didn’t just break, they shattered and the pieces drove right into their hearts.

There was the kid who had been stuck on his mission in South America; his mother was in a horrific accident and he wasn’t allowed to call home. Oh, they’d been happy enough to tell him she’d had the accident, but he was supposed to suck it up and keep working at bringing those converts in, and if he had to do anything, just pray. She died, and he was not allowed to leave. Why didn’t he just take off? Because the mission president had his passport.

He was nineteen; he didn’t know about American Embassies or just outright demanding it back with the threat that if they didn’t hand it over he’d file a kidnapping report. This was God’s work, and the MP knew about God, so. He stayed. For the remaining 18 months of his mission. By the time he got home, his family had moved through much of their grieving before he even got to start.

Another person… he had a girlfriend, they “sinned,” she got pregnant. He was never given an option in what happened. Neither was she. They wanted to get married; instead they were pressured into handing their kid over to LDS Family services to be raised by a good and faithful and more specifically a WORTHY married couple. They didn’t grasp until it was too late that they had options. They didn’t HAVE to comply. But they’d been raised that church leaders were never wrong because they were appointed by a calling from God, so what other choice was there? God is never wrong, and the church leaders speak for God, so what they wanted was the right thing. Right?

The stories went on and on and on.

Still, in my head it was all just another religion, and those *might* be anomalies.

Then came Proposition 8 in California. They church crossed the line between separation of church and state and actively waged a campaign to affect the outcome of the vote. They spent a metric chit ton of money waging a war against the rights of people who did not belong to their church and had no impact on their church, just to keep them from getting married. They sent letters to members “encouraging” them to vote against the proposition.

Bullshit. They TOLD the members what to vote for.

It’s one thing for a church to take a moral position on any given matter; it’s a whole other thing for them to actively campaign against it in areas that have nothing to do with their religion. You don’t want gay marriage? Don’t get gay married. Go forth in your heterosexual pairing and pop out babies like confetti, whatever floats your boat. You run a church that is against homosexuality, then don’t sanctify those marriages. That is your right.

And honestly…the church’s active interfering in public policy regarding gay marriage only scratched the surface of my now deep loathing of the religion. The fostering of family divide over personal issues only scratched the surface. Overt racism only scratched the surface. Magic underwear only scratched the surface.

You know what happens when the surface of something gets scratched enough? It’s pretty well ruined.

So maybe my shelf was actually a painting. And the paint got so scratched that the picture was gone.

And through the years, through all the little (and in hindsight, big) things that pushed me away, I couldn’t quite articulate the problem when asked why I’d left the church. It was a ton of things that would take far too long to explain and the people who wanted to know didn’t really want the answer. They wanted to be able to tell me I was wrong.

But deep down, yeah, you’d have to hog tie me to get me into a sacrament meeting.

More recently…hey, who’d have thought that a Missionary Training Center President would have what amounts to a sex dungeon in the training center? But it happened in the early 80s, the church was told about it, did nothing, and one of the victims has the asshat on tape admitting it. They’re still doing nothing other than “investigating,” which I assume means they’ll keep browbeating any victims who come forward by blaming them for participating because OF COURSE they had free will and all that, while the perp remains with the church, protected.

What else are they hiding?

Like I said, it’s all just the surface. There’s a hell of a lot more. We could discuss the three levels of heaven and how only the best of the best (and of course, wholly LDS because no one else matters) will reach the highest level. We could talk about the outright freakish temple ceremonies (look online for videos of temple ceremonies made by newnamenoah, have a good laugh) in which people are given a new name—but the wife never gets to learn her husband’s new name but he sure as shit gets to know hers. And hey, let’s talk about the 2nd Anointing, in which certain (read: rich and white) members are GUARANTEED their spot in the highest level of heaven no matter what else they do (the aforementioned MTC Prez…probably has it. As do all the apostles of the church. Which means they can screw the members but still be perfectly worthy of sitting at the celestial dinner table with God and Jesus, drinking the water that Jesus turned to wine, but Oh No! Wine is forbidden because OF COURSE IT IS.)

We could discuss a lot.

But the meat of it…if you really want to know…you can read at CES LETTER. (And fair warning...if you're a True Believing Mormon, you won't be after you read the whole thing. Your shelf will bend in ways you never considered possible.) (Oh, double warning...reading the CES Letter is enough to get your asterisk dragged into counseling with your Bishop or Stake President. They want to start damage control before you have a chance to think about it.) It’s a start. Even it’s not everything.

It really all boils down to one thing: this church is not, in spite of the face it presents to the world, kind.

A great many of its members are. They’ve very kind.

But the church is not, and I am really several kinds of ashamed that I was ever a part of it.

Friday

13 April 2018

Go ahead, mofo, tell me again how I don't work...


If I were J.K Rowling, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, John Green, or even E.L.fricking James, there's not a person out there who would assume that I did not work. The evidence is there, just look to the NYT Bestseller's List, or Forbes list of who drew the highest sales in any given year. THOSE people clearly work.

I'm not sure if it's the paycheck or the currency of one's name that seems to matter here. I'm guessing the latter, since the same people who think a midlist writer doesn't really work would also swear that the kid who asks them if they want fries with their fast food burger does work. Yet, I've heard it before: oh, you work at home? That's nice. You must have a lot of free time.

I got all stabby this morning over a private message suggesting that I fly halfway across the country to attend this thing for a six year old (because help was needed with kid wrangling) and before I could shoot back, "Oh HELL no," the next thing said to me was, "I know you have time since you don't work and all." Also, it's going to be a LOT of fun, because you like kids and this is the only time my kid is going to do something like this.

Yeah, I like kids. You, not so much.

We won't even get into the impropriety of asking a virtual Internet Stranger to come spend an afternoon with kids, the implication being that you're going to spend some time alone with some of them. I don't care how long you've been talking to someone online, you don't know them well enough to expect them to freaking buy a plane ticket, get on the damned plane, and be happy about, apparently, babysitting a bunch of six year old kids who are participating in an event that holy fricking hell, will surely happen every damned year (private school play/talent show/post-show party. I dunno. I stopped paying attention to the details.) It doesn't matter if you love my cat, love my writing, had fun chatting with me: you don't know me. Why the hell would you trust me with your kid?

Yes, what pissed me off was "You don't work."

Honey, let me 'splain something to you. Books don't write themselves. Companies don't run themselves. Just because I seriously, freakishly enjoy what I do, that doesn't mean it's not work. Just because I am technically self employed, that doesn't mean I don't have deadlines and an editor to answer to. Just because you don't see the effort that goes into this, doesn't mean it hasn't been expended.

I work, in fits and starts, a good 60+ hours a week. Some days are longer than others, because I do take time to go outside and be a semi-normal person on the days the Spouse Thingy is off, and often I'm at Starbucks, which doesn't see like working, but... I work.

Pretty much anyone who works from home is, SURPRISE, working.

It's not just me. I would bet real money that there are a ton of people out there who know someone who works from home, and thinks they spend most of their time goofing off. And there are a ton of people working in their home offices, or at their kitchen tables, on even while sitting on their sofa, who get the same krap I sometimes do.

It's work.

It's fun, but it's still work.


Monday

26 March 2018

This guy.

Oh, man, this guy.

You'd have liked him. Everyone liked him. He was that kind of guy; it didn't matter where you sat politically or personally, where your faith lay or your doubt pricked, you would have liked him because he was That Guy. You didn't have to agree with where he stood. He was the one who didn't talk the talk. He walked the walk.

I'm pretty sure that he would have walked every step of that barefoot and bleeding if it mean giving his shoes to someone in need. And that's as literal as it is metaphorical. To paraphrase a Who thing that will always stick with me: who he was is where he stood, and where he stood was where he would fall.

He didn't just believe. He knew.

Jim Hatch.

Say his name, please.

Today my oldest sister is laying her husband to rest, and that breaks my heart more than the idea that he's gone. And I know that sounds...wrong...but he was a man of faith, deep abiding faith, and that faith--the path that he walked with certainty--leads him into his reward. I believe that. That doesn't mean I'm not upset. I am, but more for the loves he left behind, my sister, their kids, grandkids, the people whose lives he touched every single day.

Jim Hatch was a good man. He was the sort of man that you feel is owed more years on this earth than he got; he got almost 83 years, and yet it still feels too short. It feels short because he wasn't in my sister's life nearly long enough; they were married for over 25 years, but it feels like it should have been more.

Of all the pictures posted online over the last few years, I think this is my favorite of them.

No idea what was going on, but it made me laugh.

It still makes me smile.

And she should have had many, many more years with him. He brought light into her life, became a father to her children, and was just...amazing.

I will truly miss every post he made on Facebook that I didn't agree with; I will ache for those that I did.

Jim Hatch was truly a really great guy.

I will always feel like he didn't get enough time, my sister didn't get enough time, but holy fark am I grateful for the time they did have together.

Whatever your bent--prayers of faith, thoughts, mojo--please offer it up for my sister Mary today. I can't fathom her loss. I can't wrap my head around it. But please, do it for her, in her name and in his name.


Seriously, guys, if anyone is going to hear "Well done" at the Pearly Gates, it's Jim.


Tuesday

13 March 2018

$1205

That's how much y'all donated to St. Baldrick's this year. That's over a thousand bucks that will go to Keaton's Child Cancer Alliance, and will benefit research into childhood cancers.

2018 Before and After
I went to a different venue this year; every other year has been at a mall, this one was at a bar in downtown Sacramento. I liked the vibe better, it seemed like they were having a much better time at the bar...but we didn't stick around. We'd parked in Old Sac, 15 blocks away, and didn't want to have to walk back after dark.

But next year I think we'll plan better and find parking closer to the bar so we can hang afterward, get a drink, and have some fun.

Every year, just before the event, I have that omg what the hell am I doing? feeling, and I kinda don't want to go. But I really want the t-shirt, so... LOL

Every year, during the event, I feel super exposed.

Every year, after the event, I dread the looks I'm going to get. For the next 3 weeks or so, if I don't have a hat on, there will be some staring, and it's a whole different level than the staring that goes on when I dye my hair. With that, I know what people are thinking and it's largely positive. Most people dig it, a few think I'm an idiot. And that's fine.

With this, people aren't sure what the hell is going on. So they look longer than they usually would, and what I see is someone conflicted: is that lady sick or what? Why the hell else would someone her age do that?

Once in a while someone asks, and I tell them about St, Baldrick's, almost always get a Ooh I should do that! and they ask for the website.

If even one of the dozen people who had asked in the last couple of years go on to participate, it's a win.

This is likely to be my only charity even this year when I fundraise. There are a few others I'm interested in, but I'll self-fund those...then if something comes up and I can't go, I won't feel bad.

Well, I will, but only because I miss out on the t-shirt.

$1205, peoples. That's five bucks over my goal. You did this, and I am touched and amazed.

And I can't thank you enough.

Monday

26 February 2018

Last week, I sat back and watched, with a bit of interest, as a bunch of people just lost their chit over the news that George RR Martin has irons in the fire that will likely mean that it'll be even longer before the sixth book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. People have been waiting for The Winds of Winter for a freaking long time and are pretty pissed off that he's diverting his attention to things other than getting that book done.

I saw more than one, "I'm done, I'm never reading his stuff again" comment. I understood the frustration, but honestly, I rolled my eyes a little bit.

I get that people are worried this will be another Robert Jordan situation, with the author dying before finishing the series. Some are worried that he doesn't have the rest of it plotted out, ready for another writer to continue on in the manner than Brandon Sanderson was able to for Jordan (and he probably doesn't, though I have no sure way to know that.)

But. Here's the thing. He doesn't really owe anyone anything. He doesn't owe anyone his time. He doesn't owe anyone an ending.

Would it suck? Certainly. If he never finishes the series, it sucks for the people who have enjoyed it so thoroughly that waiting for the next one feels like waiting for Santa.

He's always taken his time with his books. He's said himself that as far as writing goes, he's less of an architect and more of a gardener--which is likely why so many people love his work. He doesn't construct an elaborate outline, and then plop the words down and force them to fit into that constrained frame; he lets the characters develop, he tends to the words like plants sprouting from balanced, fertilized soil. He takes his time because that's how he works, and no amount of wishing on his readers' part will change that.

Literal quote online: "I've spent half my life reading these books. I'm tired of waiting."

Well, sorry for you, but he's also spent more than half your life writing them, caring for them, crafting them, and honing the stories which you're so eager to read. Yes, you've grown up, gotten married, had kids, divorced, lived life.

The man is entitled to live his life, too. And part of that life is stepping away from the computer to engage in other things.

He doesn't owe you the time he takes for himself.

It's great when a writer can give the readers exactly what they ask for...and yet, when we do that, we get slammed down for it as well. The Space Between Whens was written mostly because of requests; people wanted a more adult story, and a few outright wanted a little Emperor erotica, though I didn't want to go that far. It worked to take the story in that direction; after the next book, it'll work to take it back in the other direction.

But make no mistake, for every person who enjoyed the Wick After Dark theme, there's someone else who's pissed off by it.

Guess who I hear from?

I can't win. Neither can Martin. Only his not winning is on a much grander scale.

Just be patient. He'll get to it. And if he doesn't, well, then he doesn't. You still read and enjoyed his other books, and not having the next one right now doesn't take anything away from that enjoyment unless you let it.

Yes, the things he's working on are sidebars to the series, and it feels personal. But it's not. It's what can make the difference between finishing the series on an I-had-to-finish note and an I-finished-and-damn-it's-awesome note. Those side projects might be what's keeping that elusive sixth book from becoming a steaming pile of crap; he's diverting his attention and refreshing himself.

Granted, he could be far less off-putting when asked about the book, but when it gets right down to it, he doesn't owe you, me, or anyone else a single thing.

Sunday

25 February 2018

I have a select few people who have volunteered to be my beta readers, people I've trusted with my work for over a decade. I can generally rely on them to be honest in their appraisals, to offer feedback that goes beyond, "Hey, no typos!" or "Sweet font choice, dude."

I've also had a couple of beta readers who were a one and done kind of thing. I appreciated their want of helping me out, but their feedback was either useless--oh, you know what you're doing, this is wonderful, you walk on literary water!--or they overstepped the bounds of what a beta reader should do and tried to rewrite the story.

I've got some good people; they'll read more than one draft, and they tend to read each draft multiple times. They find things I miss, chase down lost story threads, point out incongruities, and let me know where things fall short.

Not everyone is so lucky in the readers they're trusting with their work. I sat on the periphery of a discussion online this week, something that was pretty much a whine-fest about the quality of beta readers, how to get them to do what they're supposed to without hurting their feelings, and really, what should we expect of them?

The main thing is this: if you're a beta reader, tell your writer how their story doesn't work for you. Don't tell them what's wrong and how to fix it.

Just...how it worked or didn't work.  Answer some basic questions, give the writer an idea of how well the story moved along, if there were confusing points, if something was too obvious or not obvious enough.

And do it gently. Because straight up truth, most writers are sensitive. They're already baring their souls, allowing the world to peek inside their head, and when someone takes a jab at that? By the time you get the manuscript, they've hit the point where they hate the book, it's the worst thing ever written in the history of everything, and it's time to chuck the computer off the closest super-tall bridge.*

It's a particularly cruel kind of pain, even when that wasn't the intention (hence, I do not read reviews if I can help it. I sometimes peek at the star rating, but the actual review is better left alone...though I have read a couple of bad reviews that made me laugh because they were so horrific.)

Don't make it personal; be professional, even if it's a friendly kind of exchange.

Now, if you're functioning as editor...totally different ball game. but I would hope that if you're offering editor services, you already know how to handle a writer and won't plunge your pencil of doom into their little writery hearts...not if you want to get paid and rehired later, anyway.

*I am at this point with the latest book. I am 100% sure it's trash. Waiting on beta readers is really kind of grating on my nerves.

Thursday

15 February 2018

In a little under a month, this is happening again:


I haven't had a haircut since November so it might be a little bit longer pre-shave this time, and who knows what color it will actually be. Right now it's pink with purple undertones, and way too much gray poking through.


Gotta admit, I thought it would be longer by now. I had visions of having it down past my ears by March, but I don't think that's going to happen.

Still, the end result is that I'll wind up bald, which I hate, because my face is way to doughy to pull off that look. It'd for a good cause, though, and this year I signed up to do it at a bar. If the result is too horrifying, I'll just drown my sorrows with an unhealthy amount of Fireball.

Right now, I'm sitting at $550 donated, and I set my goal this year as $1200.

It's probably the only charity fundraiser I'll do this year (I did one quietly, for the Donna Foundation raising money for breast cancer research at the Mayo, but I had a few donors lined up and didn't go public with it this time...mostly because it's a virtual event and I have no been impressed with how they're handling it this year, so we'll see if I get the shiny medal when it's over.) I don't have time this year to train for the 3 Day and don't want to spend the travel $$$ for it, so this is it.

My 2018 thing is raising money for St. Baldrick's.

It's for kids' cancer research, y'all.

Awesome charity.

And your donation is tax deductible!

Monday

5 February 2018

All right. You're on Facebook, scrolling through your newsfeed, and you come across the image of this cute but clearly ill little kid, with the caption LIKE IF YOU THINK I'M BEAUTIFUL, SHARE IF YOU'RE PRAYING FOR ME. Or it could be as simple as 1LIKE=1PRAYER.

It might be a photo of Trump, asking you to SHARE IF YOU'RE PROUD OF ME.

It could be a photo of Obama, stating SHARE IF YOU MISS ME.

People...those are total scams. Stop liking those things. Stop sharing them. They're not harmless. They're a product of like-farming and by sharing them and liking them and commenting on them, you're helping someone who lacks scruples or a moral compass make a lot of money.

Those photos of kids holding signs asking for shares to see how far around the world it will get? Bogus.

Here's the thing...those pictures of sick kids asking for prayers and likes and shares are generally stolen from someone else's Facebook page or website. The parents don't know the images are being used until it pops up in their own newsfeed, and by then it's too late for them to do anything. Their child has been used to create a dynamic that is then used to sell something--usually the Facebook page.

It works off of Facebook's algorithms. The more an image is shared and liked--and commented on--the more traction FB gives it. It explodes from a few newsfeeds to a dozen, to dozens, to hundreds, then thousands...and the only goal is to build up those likes and shares to an amount that makes the page valuable.

The people who buy those turn Facebook pages into commodities aren't nice people looking for prayer; they're racking up the numbers, in order to sell the page--along with your likes and sharing WHICH INCLUDE YOUR PAGE INFORMATION--to other not-nice people who then turn the page into something else...and what it gets turned into is typically pretty scummy.

You may have shared an image because you truly want something good for whoever or whatever is in the picture, but what you're doing is feeding a scam based machine designed to make money off someone else's misery. Every like, every share, every "amen" typed as a comment is doing exactly the opposite of what you probably intend.

Simply put: you're hurting someone every time you do this.

Consider how you'd feel if it was your kid or grandkid being used like that. Consider especially how it would feel if your kid or grandkid was truly ill, and their image was being used.

Consider the shattering heartbreak of parents who find the images of their dead children being used to farm likes and shares.

And there's another angle...if your Facebook account has been cloned more than once--and I know several people to whom this has happened--chances are it's because you've shared more than one of those images. You've identified yourself as a mark, and if that cloned page is never found and reported, it's then used to replicate more likes and shares of suspect information.

YOUR intentions are good. The results are not. You're being used and manipulated into driving up someone's else's value on Facebook, and they're making money off your actions. They're stealing images and turning them into something they never were, and your basic goodness and/or politics are being used for ill gain.

That cute puppy picture you shared, that said SHARE IF I'M ADORABLE and looked like it came from a page that shares nothing but happy fun things? A couple weeks after you and a million other people shared the picture, it was sold to someone else who turned it into a page where puppies are sold as bait dogs.

(Ok, I made that up as an allegorical example...but that's the reality of what happens. People take something that speaks to other people, and turn it into something horrible.)

And if nothing else gets you to stop sharing those things, maybe this will: you're cluttering your friends' newsfeeds with these. For every political/sick kid/wounded animal/military like-share meme you post, a real status update gets pushed aside. You're missing real things from real people, and causing your friends to miss real things from real people.

Don't be part of the machine that makes that crap popular enough to become a commodity. Be part of the machine that stops it.

Wednesday

24 January 2018

Max does not yet need the steps, but I wanted to get a set and get him used to them before he does. Every now and then he looks at the sofa like, "Eh, maybe," but he always makes the jump...he's 16, there's going to be a day when he can't.

So I ordered one and the Spouse Thingy set it up tonight.

 He wasn't too sure about them. But hey, we're smart people, we can convince him to give them a try.

Just add treats. Right?

No problem.

He'll just go from one step, to the next...

To the next...

And then jump onto the sofa to get the last treat on the top step.

What...you didn't expect me to just walk up those steps, did you?

I swear, he did it on purpose, like he knew we wanted him to walk all the way up. He has cubes around the house to get onto things like the bed and my desk, so I know he's familiar with using other things to get where he wants to go and if he eventually needs this he'll use it.

But still.

Furry little jerk. LOL

Monday

22 January 2018

Last week the Spouse Thingy and I went to Disneyland. It was intended to be a short trip, just a couple days, have a ton of fun and ride as many rides as we could. We flew down Tuesday afternoon, with the idea that I could take that evening to get over the whole OMG I FLEW thing, and we'd go into the park for dinner at most.

And we did that; we wandered in for just a bit, but it was crowded and neither of us like crowds, and I wasn't as over the traveling bit as I should have been, so we left and went for food in Downtown Disney.

Still classy...
I was being intentionally classy, but if you look close...yeah, I'd had enough of the day already.

Wednesday held promise; we got up early and were at CA Adventure for the extra magic hour, during which we hit a couple of rides, the only two on that side I bother with and one he likes (but I did not ride, Guardians of the Galaxy, because of my back) and then we headed for Disneyland.

Let me tell you, the whole Max Pass thing is awesome. It was worth the $10 each and saved us a lot of time, making it possible to get on more rides that we otherwise would have. Normally, we'd brush off a long line with, "Eh, we'll get to it tomorrow," but we had the chance to get on all the ones we wanted, and some more than once.

The plan was to get up early again on Thursday and get to Disneyland for the early magic hour again.

Now, here's the thing. If I'd have paid attention, I might have seen what was happening before it happened. From 7 in the morning until 8 at night, I barely peed. I was drinking, but not enough.

Yet...

If I'd looked at this picture, taken just before dinner Wednesday, I might have noticed that my face was even bigger than it usually is. And if I'd noticed that, I might have taken a look at my legs, which were probably an inch thicker than typical.

The notion that I'd been drinking but not thirsty I might have blown off to my meds working really well. And the creeping fatigue? Well, I hadn't slept much the night before, and we were pretty busy all day, so of course I was tired.

My back hurt. A lot. But I'd been walking all day, so sure it did. I'd been taking Norco to stay on top of it, but there was still that grinding pain that I hoped would eas up after a good night's sleep.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

I got up Thursday and we still planned on getting to the park early, but I was six kinds of tired and just felt like crap. I needed more sleep, so the Spouse Thingy went down to the lobby to read while I tried to sleep more...which isn't easy when housekeeping is in the hall right outside the door, and every room around you is being vacuumed.

I gave up, texted him to come back, and we headed out.

I got as far as the security gate...I couldn't do it. The crash had occurred. Lest it be spectacular, I needed to crawl back in bed.

Two hours later, and some snoozing though not really sleep, we tried again. I made it into the park, where I ate half of a really horrible hot dog, when it was pretty clear: I was done. Done enough that staying another night was not a great idea for me. My back was completely jacked, and my electrolytes were probably skewed as hell--hence the basketball face and general bloating and creeping nausea--so we went back to the hotel and changed our flight from Friday afternoon to Thursday evening.

We got one good day, though. Because of Max Pass, we did everything we really wanted to do. We just didn't do as much of it as we'd have liked. Wednesday was a blast, which made the trip worth it.

But still...this is why I don't like making plans. It's bad enough that I screwed up the Spouse Thingy's vacation, but at least he knows to expect it and understands it. Other people? Not so much, even when they say they will. "But you did X, you should be able to do Y."

Yeah, no. I can't count on it.

Yes, I did most of the 3 Day. I also did it on Norco and alcohol, something I don't recommend and won't do again. And if I'd crashed like this then, I would have stopped. We had a hotel room room and not a tent in camp for a reason.

It took until today for me to feel reasonably normal. I'm still tired as hell, but that might be because some furry thing decided he loved me at 1 am, and then at 6:30 it was time to start reminding me that breakfast was in half an hour.

In any case, the cats were happy we came home early (after an appropriate amount of shunning, which ended at 4 am Friday.)

The Spouse Thingy still has a couple of days off, so we might go do something, depending on the weather. We keep talking about a long bike ride, so of course it's been raining. I'd like to go wander around San Francisco, which means it'll be cold and windy. But we need to do something, just so I don't feel like I wasted his time off.

Next time...fly down early in the morning, do only one day, fly home that night, and crash in my own bed.

Sounds like a plan.

1 January 2018



Friday

29 December 2017

A few hours ago, I'd thought I hadn't started 2017 with any specific mileage goals, but I just went back and looked, and I did. This time last year I wanted to hit 1300 miles, because I'd done 1205 in 2017, and why not? There were the obvious things in the back of my head--be ready for the 3 Day, not gain 100 pounds--but I'd kind of forgotten that I actually set a goal of specific miles.

About 3 weeks ago, I looked at my Yes.fit account, and realized was I so freaking close to hitting 1500 miles. I was around 45 short, with the holidays looming and not much time to get those miles in. I hadn't known that I wanted to hit it until I saw that, and then I really wanted it.

So, on our anniversary, we walked around downtown Sacramento. We walked around the outlet malls. We didn't WALK but we walked, and today I just squeaked over the 1500 mile mark.

So, there we go. Accomplishment of a goal I didn't realize I had. I didn't do a lot of what I said I wanted--we didn't go to Disneyland, I didn't hit the gym twice a week, and we only got to SF once--but I ticked a few things off that list.

The Wick books I wanted to write got written and published; I'd wanted to write two, did three...which also explains not getting to the other things. And we'll get to Disneyland in January for a short visit.*

Much of our lives were centered around work and training for the 3 Day; I really wanted to get those stories out of my head, and I really wanted to not get sick on a 3 Day, and finish the walk.

So there's that; I got those things done, alone with some extra miles.

The downside, something I've been chewing on for a while...that was probably my last 3 Day, at least as a walker. I registered for next year, but the truth is that I'm not sure my body can take it again. This year was tough and took some time to recover from--hell, I'm still recovering. My back still hurts and my left knee aches most of the time...we laughed a lot about the volume of Fireball consumed along the way in San Diego, but the truth is that it wasn't as much as it seemed, and I probably couldn't have gone as far each day without either it or without the Norco I took along. I got through it with free shots of booze, followed by Norco, and soothed with the hotel hot tub at night.

My brain is telling me that if someone requires opioids to get through something, and barring that, booze, then maybe it's time to take a step back. I partook of the Fireball because it was fun and it was funny, but somewhere along the way it occurred to me that it was taking the edge off the pain in my back and knees; when the buzz from that wore off, I used the Norco.

In the grand scheme of things, I didn't drink a lot, nor did I overdo it with the Norco, but that I needed it to finish each day tells me that even with training, my body just doesn't want to cooperate.

So...for 2018 I want to top 1500 miles, but it's not all going to be on foot. The goal will be 2000, half of that on foot, half on the bike.

Pretty sure I can do that. The bike is a lot friendlier on my back, and hopefully it won't do anything more to my knees.

*I feel like a broken record and I also feel crappy about it, but..there are 16 of you in the area and only 2 days, and, well, you remember from other years...I am really, truly sorry. I know it seems super bitchy and selfish, but I have to be bitchy and selfish when it comes to stuff like this, because the odds are that the same things that are ending the 3 Day for me are gonna rear their ugly heads there, and 1) I don't want anyone else to have to see and deal with it, and 2) I don't want to have to cancel on anyone while at freaking Disney. It's not personal, it truly is not.

Thursday

21 December 2017

He's not happy.

A while back--I think 2 or 3 years ago--he spun his collar around so often that it rubbed the fur off in a neat circle around his neck. We took it off to let the fur grow back...which freaking took forever. There's still a bare spot or two.

He's strictly an inside kitty, and has always had a big enough fear of the outdoors that we weren't especially worried about him being without identification. When presented with an open door, he'd look and then turn around and walk away, because outside is big and noisy, and inside is not.

But he's getting old, and a bit forgetful. And one of the things he seems to have forgotten is that outside is Bad. Now when presented with an open door, he sits there and sniffs, and has a look of "That seems interesting" and he doesn't turn away.

We've always been careful, whether it was Max or Buddah at the door. Buddah has kept his collar, with the tag that has his name and address and phone, because who knows what he'll do.

But today Max sat at the back door a bit longer than I was comfortable with, and all the What Ifs ran through my mind.

I put the collar on him.

He didn't fight it; I showed it to him and let him sniff it, hoping he'd remember the smell of it and have the thought that it was not a horrible thing, and he let me put it on. But he was not happy when he realized what I'd done. And for the next ten minutes he followed me around, reminding me that he was the good kitty, and he didn't need one. And I'm pretty sure he called me a bitch.

Now, we went out for steak on Monday night--early Christmas with the Boy and his Much Better Half--and he's had steak treats every day since then. But tonight fresh steak was grilled, and I promised him he would get a big portion, because he really was being a good sport about it.

He sat on the floor between us during dinner (no, we do not give them food from our plates unless no one else is looking) and as soon as we were done, I shredded 1/4 of my steak, and gave him most of it. It was perfect bite sized and still warm, his favorite way to have steak.

I think he's mostly forgiven me. Mostly. I'm pretty sure that later on he'll sit in front of me and remind me there's still some steak in the fridge, and if I don't jump up, he'll hike his back leg and scratch at his neck.

And dammit, that will work.


Sunday

10 December 2017

I mocked a friend who bought 250 bitcoins early on, when they were $100 each. I am no longer mocking; they hit $19K last week, and he managed to sell at $16K. I am marginally irritated because I dismissed his "why the hell not, it can't hurt" attitude then, because he makes investments like this all the freaking time and comes out on top.

The waking hours of the 3 Day seemed to have done a bit of a reset on my brain. Having to get up at 3:30-4:30 every day and falling asleep by 9 every night has carried over a bit. I'm asleep by 10:30, 11 at he latest, and have been waking up at 7-7:30. Normal people hours. I'm awake the same number of hours as before (on good days) but I seem to be getting more done. Go figure.

I hope I didn't just jinx myself.

♦ Max and I are 143,000 words deep into the next Wick After Dark book, but in reading through it, I'm 95% sure we need to break it up and then cut a bunch of stuff. Otherwise people will read it and wonder WTF happened to that one story thread, and WhyTF did the biggest one take 200 pages to really get rolling?

♦ Still, I'm having fun with it. I really dig drunk Aubrey. There, you have something to look forward to.

♦ There will be another Wick Chronicles book, for those who don't like the more adult After Dark stories. Once I get this one sorted out, I have a WC short planned, and there will be a summary of the AD books online, I think.

♦ Why are so many people at Starbucks on a Sunday morning? Cripes.

♦ UCD is nearby and finals are approaching. I know why it's busy, but I'm still gonna whine about it.

♦ Holy fark, chai tea is good. Why did it take me so long to try it?

♦ Yeah, back to work...

And a random picture of Max snuggling, just because...

Saturday

2 December 2017

Because I'm avoiding both housework and tackling nearly 400 pages of notes for the next Wick After Dark Book, let's see how many people I can piss off. And I'm gonna be all over the place with this, since I'm writing without self-censoring.

Thinking Out Loud.

A bit over thirty years ago, I worked in a gym; this was when the tide was turning and they were no longer places for steroid-munching meatheads to sling weights around while grunting loudly, and aerobics were The Thing. Women were not only welcome, but marketed toward and sought out as members, and there was available drop-in child care to make it easier.

There was still a section of the gym for the guys who were only there to push their muscles to develop muscles of their own, a free weight room that was cordoned off but not walled off, and the aerobics floor and resistance machines were in full view of the guys who headed straight for the free weights and wouldn't dare consider taking a cardio-drive class.

My job was basically that of a low-paid intern. I worked in the child care center most of the time, but I was also a janitor, tinkerer, and when no one else was available, I escorted prospective members around and showed them all the amenities. Toward the end of my employment there, I had been trained to train new members on the resistance equipment.

Because I was all over that gym, working six days a week, I was exposed to a hell of a lot of people. There were the jerks (one manager who called me "Thunder Thighs" because it was apparently hysterical) and the clueless (another employee who seriously was not All There and liked to hug. A Lot.) and the talk was often crude. Granted, never Trump Crude--his version of locker room talk would not have flown there--but still 12-year-old-boy crude.

I had my ass slapped while being told I'd done a good job, I witnessed one male employee grab his crotch while mocking another female, I was called "sweetheart," "Babe," and God knows what else. It was suggested more than once that I could use a good fucking, and Not All There Guy once draped his hand over my shoulder, his fingers deliberately brushing my chest.

Not once did I think I had been abused or attacked. It was just the way things were. I learned to dish it right back out, and Not All There Guy got an elbow to his ribs. I didn't report it. He learned the hard way.

If any of those things happened today, any single one of them would be reason to complain--and I would. It was poor behavior then, no doubt, but it was also accepted behavior. Anyone running to HR because the trainer called them a name, or made a comment about their figure or looks, or even touched them inappropriately would have been laughed out of the office.

These were guys who had been raised to think it was okay. If we'd spoken up then, they probably would have at least considered the way they were treating the women around them at work, but we didn't, so neither did they.

It really didn't seem worth getting upset over. Not then.

If I were the same kid in the same gym today? Not All There Guy would have backed up with broken fingers. Thunder Thighs manager would have had a complaint lodged against him, for no reason other than to leave a paper trail. The names would be met with resistance and a warning--I'm not your sweetheart, I'm not your babe, and you couldn't fuck your way out of an orgy with someone else's dick.

It's not nostalgic to say that times were different then--they were. And with all the accusations against public figures being made now, calling them out for things they did years ago, I keep thinking that we need to take a collective breath and remember that we truly are looking into the past through lenses created to look to the future.

Our standards are vastly different now. They're significantly better; I think most of us coming into adulthood 40 years ago made an effort to raise our children with equality in mind. Those kids are in turn raising theirs to be more open and accepting of others and how they feel, and how their own actions can impact someone. Not just in the moment, but forever.

Yes...every single person being called out needs to take a damned hard look at why they're being accused. And every single person who has not been accused needs to stop and consider if their past actions fall into the realm of behavior that was once acceptable but not is not, and then cut that crap out.

Yes, the women coming forward should be believed. Believing when they say they were harassed, molested, or emotionally scarred is not the same thing as believing the men they're naming are guilty. It's believing that they FEEL harassed and molested. There needs to be accountability, legal or otherwise.

And those who are crying rape? Yeah, they have nothing to gain and a lot to lose by coming forward. Believe them.

But why did they wait so long? It's simple: they had no power. They would have been speaking out against men who held a tremendous amount of power, and even if believed, their claims would have been dismissed because power + money = you lose the game. They're coming out in droves now because there's safety in numbers, and people are finally listening.

When Bill Cosby was accused, people turned a blind eye to it. So many women came forward, but were waved off; surely they were riding on coat tails, just trying to get something from him. It was Bill-fucking-Cosby, straight up all around Nice Guy, right? He would NEVER. Whatever you're thinking, just NEVER.

Yeah, but he did. And he's getting away with it, because those womens' voices were shouted down.

And stop for a moment and consider the landslide that is still gaining momentum: it began when a man stepped forward and said that another had molested him. If Anthony Rapp had not outed Kevin Spacey, the names would not be exploding around us like popcorn kernels.

Women have been complaining for years, and it took a man speaking out for them to be taken seriously.

So yes, believe them.

But also admit that not every woman coming forward will be honest. People lie for attention, even when there's nothing to be gained. Just look at what happened to Emmet Till all those years ago, when Carol Bryant lied about what he had said, and then done, to her. He was a kid with a stutter who sometimes whistled to calm himself in order to get the words out, and died because his only real crime was being black in 1950's Mississippi.

At some point, someone will cry rape and will be lying about it (and this is where I wish I could find the screen cap I recently saw on Reddit; it was from a woman's IG account, saying that she always asked guys to go rough the first time they had sex, so that if she regretted it later, she could claim rape. Seriously, there are people like this out there.) There are some truly selfish, horrible people out there, who wouldn't care about what their claims did to someone else.

Believe, but allow yourself some healthy skepticism when the dominoes don't all line up right. Listen carefully. #MeToo was more than a hashtag (and I admit, I initially thought it was stupid); it's millions of women crying out because until now, they had no voice.

Yes, we're looking back with a critical eye honed to today's standards. No, I wouldn't try to hold former co-workers to today's standards. BUT...yes, I hope they understand that they way they behaved really was immature and hindsight makes them look like tiny little pricks.

There's only one person I would ever hold to serious accountability for what was done to me in the past, but the son of a bitch is dead, so at least I have that.

So yeah, #MeToo, but life goes on, and I'm winning.

Tuesday

21 November 2017

We survived.

Over the three days of the 3 Day, the Spouse Thingy and I walked 54 of 60 miles. We found it necessary to cut a couple of miles off each day--we hopped on a shuttle or sweep van--just to assure that we'd be able to either walk the next day, or finish on the third. I think the Spouse Thingy has a new appreciation for what it takes to do these walks, and an understanding now of why people do more than one.

He learned that it's not just hard: it's really hard. He learned he could not only do it, but in the end, it meant a lot and being able to finish feels so freaking good. Also...there's a ton of fun to be had in the agony of all those miles.

Fireball Ski Shot. No, I was not passing that up.
Now, this is posted on the route.

They do not want walkers to drink while participating in the event. And we all get it, we all understand why, but, hey...pain relief, you know.

There is a tremendous amount of community support during the San Diego 3 Day--more than I've ever seen before--and a lot of it involves alcohol. It would be rude to pass it up.

Ok, fine, I'll take the excuse. I did partake once or twice or five times.

A day.

There may be a few pictures of me slugging back 3 or 4 of the multiple-times-per-day offering of Jello shots.

And adult gummy bears.

And pink lemonade vodka.

And holy hell, all the Fireball along the way.

Have I ever mentioned that I freaking love Fireball?

I do.

I was not alone.

There was a lot of beer offered along the way, too, and I took the tiny little cups, but I did not drink any of them.

I gave them the to Spouse Thingy, who enjoys beer.

I won't lie: I got a decent buzz at least once a day. Also: I kinda needed it because I was seriously hurting at a few points, and it was medicinal.

One tiny bit of the support...and all those tents had libations
Shuddup.

It was, too.

No, for real: I enter every walk knowing I'll be starting with the kind of pain most people have at the end of day one. FMS, Myofascial Pain Syndrome, spinal arthritis, as well as hip and knee arthritis. Not to mention what the pituitary tumor did to how my body processes water and the havoc it plays in keeping my electrolytes in check. I have some genuine issues.

Not mentioning that for sympathy, just a reminder that I take this sucker seriously, the walk is that important, and your donations get my asterisk out there in spite of all that.

The fact that it can also be fun is just a bonus.

And this one was amazingly fun. The community support was All That, and doing it with the Spouse Thingy made it that much better.

The icing on the cake? This team:


I've told you before, I love these ladies (two are missing; one showed up after this was taken. FOR SHAME, JENNA! ;) and DKM was nursing a bad knee at the time.) I didn't walk with them so much as I did behind them because they are freakishly fast and I am not, but we caught up at pit stops and lunch, and I got a lot of reminders why these people are among my favorites. They are welcoming and friendly, and make me laugh. A lot.

DKM = My Enabler
Right at the time I needed it the most--seriously--DKM met us at a pit stop with cold Diet Pepsis.

Mock my addiction if you want, but holy hell, after all the water and Gatorade we were drinking, that Pepsi damn near sang to me.

I wasn't even buzzed yet.

But lest you think this was a three day bender, that the 2200 walkers were just going from drink to drink to drink ( we weren't) there was a steep reminder of the seriousness of what we were doing.


There were firefighters in full gear, walking each and every mile. Those miles included some hills that made people cry, two hills that I did not have the nerve to attempt (even though I went there determined to male Torrey Pines my bitch), and one downhill (I did that one) that will result in the loss of my right big toenail. These men and women marched in boots and uniforms, weighed down by tanks and heavy jackets, and they freaking smiled while doing it.

There were 2200 walkers in the San Diego 3 Day this year, raising a total of $6.5 million. 75-85% of that will go toward research, the rest to running the walk.

While we were walking, the news filtered through that Avon is suspending their 39 mile breast cancer walk. That's the loss of a lot of millions every year in the fight to find a cure. Komen walkers mourn that loss as much as Avon walkers do, because the fight is the same. The goal is the same.

We want women and men to stop dying, and we want a world where our kids grow up seeing pink as a pretty color, and nothing more.

This walk was hard, no doubt about it. The Spouse Thingy and I are still sore, still walking funny, and wondering when we'll feel like normal again. It was harder than he imagined and as tough as I remembered. And it was worth every step.

San Diego is an amazingly beautiful place, and I seriously want to go back and take in all the sights at a more leisurely pace one day. It made me wish I would remember to buy a freaking lottery ticket, because if I win big, I'm buying a house on the beach there, and inviting my 3 Day family to use my potty along the way (hey, a real toilet is a big freaking deal when you've been using port-a-potties.)

And seriously, peoples, thank you. We would not have been at the walk without your support and donations.

It was amazing.

Damn, we look so serious...

I have never taken a mile 59 picture before...this one means the world to me



The 2017 Pink Slips...the most amazing people you could hope to know
My most treasured teammate...he made the miles a hell of a lot easier and all of it way more fun.