Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sweet Relief

November is National Novel Writing Month. Just FYI. This may not directly affect you, but it does now directly affect me as I have decided to turn all my copious writing efforts toward writing a work of fiction. NaNoWriMo occurs every November and many writers participate in it. If you would like to learn more about NaNoWriMo around the world and in your area, you can check in here. It isn't really a change of pace for me--as I write regularly and in volumes already--so much as it is a change of focus.

I haven't written fiction in a while. And I thought this would be fun. So that's why I'm doing this. For fun. For me. So pffft.

I had a problem, though. What to write about? It's quite a conundrum, really. Many of the writers posting in the forums are already developing characters and whatnot and here I am without even so much as a story idea. Well, not true. I have at least seventy of them, but not one that really peaks my interest. Not even so much as a single genre to hang my hat on!

But look no further! Sweet relief! I have decided! But you shall have to wait...for the book, of course. Suffice it to say that it is a science fiction thriller based on what might happen if it were possible to interrupt simple nuclear forces like electron repulsion...with a little bit of the hotly debated cranial nerve zero thrown in. Ooooo-eeeee-aaaa--ooooo. <-- That was the background music. Heavy on the theramin.

You had better keep a theramin handy for the next month.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What I Should Have Said...

There's an elephant in the room. Most of you may not know it, but I know it and that's what matters. It's the elephant that's on my mind. Said elephant also happens to read this blog...sometimes. So it's entirely possible that he might read this. Part of me hopes he does. Part of me knows he won't.

This would be a good time to stop calling him "the elephant"--especially since I never really successfully came up with a name for him in the first place and this isn't a  When La Fae used to ask me about him she would ask, "How is the jazz scene in Houston?" be it...Jazz it is. The name lacks any sort of connotation whatsoever. I like it.

We were dating and now we're not. It happened about that quickly. Not yesterday when he actually told me, but a couple weeks ago when I felt the life fizzle out of his side of things and I heard the vault doors start to clang shut and just knew in the pit of my stomach that I was going to be stuck on the outside of them regardless of anything I said or did. So I waited...and it happened. How am I? Not good. Just not good at all.

And if another person tells me, "I want to tell you something..." again this week, I shall leap from a tall building (figuratively speaking). Perhaps I will merely roll off the bed with a fierce "Plop!" That sentence NEVER ends good. My dad always started the bad sentences out that way. Still does. So does everybody else. So if you dare comment on this, start with "I want to tell you something..." and end it with something nice. Or shut up! And now I'm way off topic...

The day of the breakup was a bit of a blur due to an all-nighter I pulled to study for a lab practical (with way too many dead cats) combined with a 4 a.m. trip to the airport to send Attrition off to D.C. for a job interview. So when Jazz caught me, I had just climbed in bed to reclaim some sleep (it was my third try) and I was caught off guard to say the least and struck almost non-verbal. Needless to say, the third attempt at sleep was also wholly unsuccessful. Instead, I lay there crying and wishing I'd had my wits about me to say the few things I wanted to say. So here are those things:

What we briefly had together was entirely worth it. Not sure it's worth what I'm feeling now, but I think it probably is. I think you probably are. I wish I'd had the time to find out. You are insanely gifted, intelligent, and funny among other things. You have a single-minded committment to pessimism that I actually do find humorous. Not many will. And if you never let anyone inside that vault where you keep your innermost thoughts and your heart...well I fear you may never be truly happy and that would make me sad. I will always be interested to see where you go with what you have and what you can do.

As for me...I just can't get behind "this has nothing to do with you (meaning me)." What do you mean? It was my relationship, too. It has everthing to do with me! "This has nothing to do with you." Feh...I believe that's code for "I just don't want to do this anymore." with a little "And I really don't want to talk about it." Two very legitimate, believable statements. Harsh, but with enough truth to hang on to. They may sound terrible to you, but sometimes (especially if what you say is true and it isn't the girl's problem) it's nice not to leave a girl wondering what the hell she did wrong. Girl minds...what can I say? They all work like this: You deliberately go out of your way to tell them something is not their fault and what do they immediately think? It's their fault. Now you know.

So this is the end of you in these pages...but you're always welcome to read.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Whole Lot of Walking

It's a slow day around here for some. Not for me, but all the male members of the household are chomping at the bit. There's a burn ban in effect and what the hell else is there to do 'round these parts but burn stuff? All those burrowing hornets have been dug up and gassed. The last stand of trees has been thinned out--don't get me started on how I feel about that--and all that's left is a great pile of debris that is crying out to be burned. It's fairly shrieking! Apparently.

For me, it's yet another weekend full of network maintenance and fixing a laundry list of strange and bizarre computer-related problems that seem to emerge when you leave a bevy of computers alone in the presence of an 84-yr-old geophysicist and a 61-yr-old physicist. Chaos. It's not just a theory anymore.

And these things are just normal, humdrum life. No big deal.

On occasion, for some, life becomes not-so-humdrum. Downright catastrophic and positively tragic. Things happen that you read about in novels or see on television shows...only this time it happens to people you know. You can see them, touch them, hear them, and the effects of these catastrophes are palpable, vivid, and shocking. Stuff the ancient Greeks would look at and be impressed by.

As these human dramas play out, one of two things occur. Option One: The victims take in the pain, suffering, and misery and do nothing with it. Option Two: The victims take in the pain, suffering, and misery. They decide that this is just not something they are OK with and they decide to do something about it.

I like Option Two people!!!

I have mentioned La Fae before, but never gone into her life or goings on. Several years ago, La Fae lost her husband to suicide. It was and still say the very, very least. But now that I know there are people passing out awards for "Indomitable Spirit," well, one certainly should go to her. Hands down.

To tell you the truth, La Fae and I only knew each other around town, in passing, and on Facebook until the day she posted a random note on FB saying she needed someone to attend a funeral with her in Austin. I was free, so I volunteered. Why was she going? I'll tell you...because she wanted to be there for another woman who was surviving the loss of a spouse to suicide. She didn't want to go alone because she needed some support for herself. So we went. It was a most remarkable day. No really, it was! She is one of the most beautiful and resilient women I have ever met and to call her my friend is more than a mere honor. It's a luxury.

In addition to supporting people individually, La Fae also supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, so on November 6th we (yes, I am going too) are going to be walking in the Out Of The Darkness walk at Stude Park in Houston, Texas with the Station 74 Bulldog Walkers. Her husband, Tony, was a Houston Firefighter--hence the Station 74 team name. If you'd like to support us, go here.

Earlier this year, yet another friend who I'll just call J because it takes me such a long time to name everyone, lost her 14-yr-old son to juvenile diabetes. Yeah. His name was Josh. Josh's death actually ended up saving many other people through tissue and organ donation (be an organ donor!!!) and that was only the beginning of the choices J and her husband have made to continue taking what is undoubtedly a tragedy and turning it into something good...and even beautiful. My second award for "Indomitable Spirit" would go to her. Less than a year later, J has already organized a scholarship fund for the local school district and a local walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund.

Josh's walk takes place this coming week on October 27th. I encourage you to check out to find a walk near you. They take place all throughout the year all over the place! Research on juvenile diabetes also benefits other types of diabetes as well. The extent to which this illness affects the general population is huge, so it's a cause that will benefit you or someone you love at some point in your life.

So I'm going to be doing a lot of extra walking...


Thursday, October 21, 2010

I’m Just Broken

And broken things just don’t work right. That's pretty much the only conclusion I can reach.

It’s like getting on a bicycle with a broken chain. You just can’t get anywhere. Only I feel like a bicycle that is apparently in great shape…but still isn’t getting anywhere. Everyone swears it’s a great bike. Awesome brand! Great tires! Sweet paint job! Nice seat! Comfortable ride! What a gorgeous bicycle!

“I’ve never ridden a better bicycle,” they say, “I love this bike!”

But when it’s time for the race, no one wants to ride it. And if anyone does, it never seems to go anywhere. So I take it to the shop and get the opinion of a bicycle repair guru.

“There’s not a damn thing wrong with this bicycle,” he says, “I’d give my eye teeth for a bike like this.”

But he doesn’t.

So there it is. Still parked in the garage where it will no doubt be the day it completely rusts and gets swept away.

Some bicycle.


Accidental Lab Happenings

First of all, let me say that all the lab accidents I've been a...victim?...of have, so far, either been due to malfunctioning equipment or random acts of less-that-knowledgeable students. They do the weirdest stuff!!! Especially if you say, "Don't do THIS." Then THIS is the first thing they want to try.

Ok, so there were a few accidents due to one pack rat professor that took place in the process of rehabilitating a stockroom. I'm not sure where those mishaps fall at all. The entire 50-lb box full of ceramics that just willfully leapt from the top shelf was just waiting to happen since the 50's probably. That it waited for my term of office is significant and bears consideration. Then there was the nitrogen triiodide incident. As with most things, I wasn't entirely sure what he was hoping to accomplish there, but if he'd simply notified me of the contents of that beaker I'd have known to proceed carefully when the excess dried up. The excess that he left in the bottom of the beaker sitting in the sink with all the other beakers. Stuff looks like water when you're making it...but it ain't. We lost a janitor--a good one--over that.

Second of all, I admit that there is a certain quality that I seem to possess. Some people like this quality. Usually anyone who tests anything at all loves this quality because if anything at all is going to go wrong, I'll find it. Either I'll find it, or I'll be there when it happens, or I'm observant enough to see it, or crap just goes wrong in my presence. That latter one is, very often, how it feels. And, fortunately, something akin to the converse of that is also true. If I can get something to work correctly in my presence, then I can get it to do so reproducibly. Nice.

Today, though, it was mostly "crap just goes wrong in my presence." Sometimes crap goes wrong enough that you get a free shower in front of thirty of your peers.

Today's agenda: cat dissection. Let me tell you, dissection is no longer as bad as it used to be. You aren't in immediate contact with pools of formaldehyde. And your liver thanks you. I thought formaldehyde wasn't used at all anymore, but it turns out it is! Specimens are just rinsed in a glycol solution afterward to prevent (haha) the overwhelming odor of formaldehyde from permeating the lab and causing attrition among the ranks. So, it's more like an underwhelming overwhelming odor. And when you cut open your little kitty, after you've hacked through a considerable amount of adipose tissue, etc. there is still a pool of "stuff" to be drained off so that you can look at, in my case, the arteries and veins without going for a swim.

This is the point at which I approached the sink to rinse the gack DOWN the sink so that I could go on. I'll leave a side note here to say that the instructor did not think it necessary to wear a labcoat/apron or safety glasses. I have only one comment on that choice: stupid, stupid, stupid. Being blind, my safety glasses come with me. Yay! Still, when the fitting on the sink nozzle broke off, the spray pushed all that formaldehyde/glycol/adipose/gack stuff back UP the tray and all over my face, neck, and chest and even into my eyes despite the glasses. It was like someone had turned a disposal on in reverse. Yuck. And it started to burn.

And I started to curse.

And I don't honestly remember where Fred the cat went and I don't care.

Needless to say, I got a rather quick and decent eye rinse followed by a brutally cold shower of my upper body. Yes, with my clothes on. Perfect. No one really knows it, but this is why God really invented book stores and collegiate athletic wear. My one critique of the bookstore is that they don't sell bras. That spongy bra padding can soak up a lot of water. So, needless to say, there were two wet, round circles on the front of my brand new t-shirt before I even made it to the parking lot. I felt like I was nursing again. That hasn't happened in...years. Awkward.

And, yes, everyone thought it was very funny.

Except for me.

And really, think about it. In all your history of science classes and labs...exactly how many times have you EVER seen ANYBODY use an eyewash station or safety shower? This is my third time for the shower (and I'm pretty sure the shower wasn't necessary--overzealous lab people--it wasn't like my first two trips involving highly concentrated acids in the hands of students combined with explosions). First for the eyewash station.

I'm starting to develop a complex.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Absolutely Unforgettable

I commit unpardonable motherly sins on a daily basis. I refuse to cut crusts off bread. I make Squib wear his Elmo pajamas now that he has learned at school that Elmo is stupid. I admit I'm happy about his enlightenment with regard to Elmo, but when it is late and the Elmo jammies are the only clean ones...practicality wins out. I would apologize in advance for violating the next taboo, but I'm not sorry. I know at least two mommybloggers who are already squirming in their comfy chairs. Sorry, ladies, but I am answering a direct question and that answer deliberately favors one of my children over the other. Eek. Can you believe it? Of course you can, who am I kidding? What a faux pas! How un-politically correct of me! Or is it politically un-correct? Wait, that's incorrect. I don't know. The point is, you should expect nothing less. If I had any sort of readership at all they'd be running in the proverbial streets of the Internet highway screaming for me to be thrown in the bad parent dungeon.

Well, it wouldn't be the first time I've gone there.

And now I've gone and insulted my readership, too. Bless you. All three of seriously, bless ALL of you. I know there are way more than three. And I am grateful.

Back story: Yesterday a friend asked who the most unforgettable person in my life has been. My hero. The person I hold in greatest esteem. A great teacher. A good example. I answered, "Beanstalk." Unequivocally.

Yes. Beanstalk is eight. I have been counting. In his short eight years, Beanstalk has been through hell and back. Born with two extra parts of a chromosome, life didn't come easy to him at all. In fact, he started life off very much unalive. Some aggressive bagging both saved him and gave him a bit of a pneumothorax...which was the least of his worries. I only heard rumor of him for about twenty-four hours or so and the first I ever saw of him was this very wise pair of alien blue eyes peering out of a rather mashed-up head in a photograph that I taped to the wall in front of my bed. Up to that point, all I'd heard was subtle conversations in hallways...posteriorly rotated ears foot that...oxygen...chromosomal testing...and of course the up front talk from Kathy, the best P.A. in the world and the neonatal team trying to keep the little tyke alive.

We all learned a lesson that week we should never have forgotten. Beanstalk is here to stay. He's one tough nut to crack. Keeping him down is next to impossible. So, killing him is even harder than that. Something like only 1 in 140,000 tetrasomy 18p babies survive birth. He's the one. Out of all the odds given for every ailment or congenital defect he's ever faced, he's the one. The one in 235,000...the one in 6,000...the one in 30,000. I'm serious about this. It's him. Every time.

It isn't really the surviving that makes him so special. It's the manner in which he survives. He pursues life with absolute, total, and complete exuberance. Joy. Happiness. Interest. Curiosity. Pleasure. Simplicity. And he's wholesome about it. Earnest. And to be quite frank, the circumstances that turned most of the adults in his life into quivering masses of protoplasm...he...well, he handled them. Yes, he cried when it hurt. He fussed at the physical therapists when they prodded him...but only then. The split second the prodding was over, he was too interested in them as an individual to really let all that crap persist and get in the way. So, he won hearts in record numbers. And people began to gravitate to him.

A Beanstalk fan club developed. My friend Sheryl was the president of said fan club. I would phone in or email in updates and she would email out regular updates on Beanstalk's progress with regard to hospitalizations, therapies, etc. The fan club list was long. Incredibly long. He even had a website. I kid you not. People would just show up at the hospital to hold him and sing to him or rock him and they would start telling him all sorts of things...about their day...their thoughts...all sorts of things. At first, I considered it bizarre that people were treating my son like he was the Pope. Some sort of infantile father confessor. But I swear to you he listened. To. Every. Word. And it was almost as if he knew when they were done and he could give them that all-knowing smile and a snugly sort of hug and everything would be OK. He was mesmerizing that way. Still is. And soon I found myself talking to him the same way. After all, I decided he probably did know about what it was like to have been stuck in that damned hospital for the better part of two years straight. Who better to tell?

Of course, I also knew what most did not know. He's extremely intelligent and perceptive. Now, he doesn't--or didn't--speak a word. Not a lick. One day, though, we were spinning through the TV channels down at TCH and a Victor Borge special came on PBS. Victor Borge is FUNNY. What I didn't know, though, was that Beanstalk thought he was funny, too. So...we're watching...and the funny stuff happens...and this kid starts guffawing from between the bars of the metal crib like he's going to bust a gut. Quick, that one. He never missed a beat.

His appreciation for music is also rather refined. Sometimes, it can be too refined for my tastes as it always persists toward the classical and operatic...but amazing in it's technicality and maturity. He doesn't merely sit back and listen to it, either. He directs it. Yes. With entrance ques and the whole bit.

I'm not arguing that he's inhuman or perfect because he's not. Having broken more bones than the average human has ever even witnessed being broken in the sum total of their lives, he greets that sort of misfortune with great frustration and a certain degree of anger. But here is what he doesn't do...he doesn't lash out. He isn't bitter. The anger doesn't consume him. It doesn't tie him down or hang there in his mind like a fog. He doesn't whine. It's simple. He falls. He breaks a bone. He gets pissed. They set the bone. He stumps off in whatever general direction he sees fit and carries on with life in the same blissful humor he was in to begin with. No "oh my gosh my broken femur!" No, "can you believe this is the fifth time I've broken this radius?"

Really, his attitude is more one of "OK! Here I have this brand new empty day! Let's fill it up with all this cool stuff!" And then he does exactly that pushing, shoving, or dragging whatever part of him is casted at the moment along with him. And drat on you if you stand in the way of clapping to the music or chiming in on the "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!" parts during Andre Rieu's Strauss program. What could possibly be better than directing Firebird? Or belting out Ave Maria? Really??!? OK, yes, we should make room for Where the Wild Things Are--at least five times--because that is quintessential childrens' literature right there. And any time the five little monkeys do anything you should read about that, too. And don't forget Madeline and her appendix. Important. And the day is never complete unless you have dragged a tree branch around somewhere, rolled in a pile of leaves, eaten dirt, chased your little brother (who asked for it...literally), and ridden around on everyone's shoulders screaming "Yay! Yay! Yay!" And, if he's really in the mood, you'll get a chorus of America the Beautiful as a treat because the boy is, to top it off, a flag-waving patriot. Who knew?

If I had half his positive energy, his ability to get up every time I was knocked down, his inability to complain, his unshakable joy, and his kind of whole-hearted love for real life and everyone in it, I would be unstoppable. Who doesn't need a hero like that?


Monday, October 11, 2010

The Eternal Afterthought

I'm discovering several chronic problems in life. Ok, in my life...and am not entirely sure what to do about them. I believe they all stem from one, ok two fatal flaws. Those fatal flaws being: "I believe you" and it's close cousin, "I trust you." Yes, I realize I am a bit of an idealist/altruist. And, no, I'm not trusting just every Tom, Dick, and Harry that walks up to me on the street. But family, friends, and a few co-workers are, I think, reasonable. Or were, I thought, reasonable. I'm starting to lean toward adopting a very X-filian philosophy: "Trust No One." I am stuck consistently in the following situaitons:

1. "I'll bring that thing to you that I borrowed from so-and-so on thus-and-such a day." Never happens.

2. "Sure, I'd be glad to help. I'll take a look at that and get right back to you." Again no joy.

3. "We should..." followed closely by "You should..." Frankly, I'm weary of any sentences starting out this way 'cause maybe we should or maybe I should, but does anyone but me actually want to? Very hard to say 'cause mostly nothing ever comes out of it unless I kick the topic over like an anthill. And if the sentence really begins with "You should..." well, that automatically means I should do it because no one else wants to. Something wrong there.

And my personal favorite...

4. "I'm sorry wah wah wah wah (insert the teacher's voice from Peanut's here) but...." Yeah. The most overused phrase in the English language is "I'm sorry." People are rarely sorry. That's just the truth. They do what they do for selfish reasons and they'd darn well do it again. Pure and simple. They are not sorry. The phrase should be saved for people who are actually sorry about something. NOT JUST FEELING GUILTY and needing someone to soothe their ego.

And, for the record, as of 5:01 pm, I am officially NOT ok with it despite what might come out of my politely-trained mouth. Things like respect and consideration used to exist and they existed for a reason. I am one of those reasons. Somewhere in my addled brain, I think I deserve those two things. Respect, consideration, and even more than that on occasion--like nice treatment. Perhaps not being the official afterthought. I give those things to other people. It isn't so hard to return.

Or maybe it is.

Safe Harbors

Everybody needs a safe harbor, an essential stronghold in which they are safe from the onslaught of the enemy. I'm not sure how others live their lives or exactly what their struggles are like, but when I need my safe harbor...THE safe harbor...I'm almost always running full out. Every muscle in my body is working in concert to propel me forward. I never slow down. I never look back. My bare feet meet the cool earth like they have a thousand times before leaving my small, hard footprints in my wake and a fine layer of dust over my feet and under my nails as I wind my way through the back alleys of the city toward the gate. My calves are smudged and the hardened rippling ridges of muscle carry smears of mud and scratches where I've ripped through the underbrush while tearing through the forest on my way here. My thin skirt is torn up the edge of my thigh but it makes no difference for it has made it easier to lengthen my stride as I finally break free of the city walls. This city where I have found no refuge. I'm in the open now. Vulnerable in this green pasture where animals graze idly by, ignorant of what comes their way. I bolt through the middle of the herd without slowing. Goats. My captors spill from the archways and gates on foot and on horseback, but I have a head start. And I know where I'm going. I recognize the terrain. I run even harder now. My lungs are tearing at my throat and my eyes water, but I must keep going. Arrows fall all around me--some glance off my skin drawing blood. I cry out, "Help me!" but the answer, it is not apparent. I see the river and make for it's banks, running through the water like a nymph.  Clambering up the far, steep bank, I gain some ground and continue to run soaked and dripping wet, muddy rivulets of water coursing down my face. I see the cliff not ten yards away and increase my pace still more. A docile mass of sheep reclines in the lush grasses. Some sleep. Others eat. They pay no attention to me as I run to the edge of the cliff and without hesitation--I leap!! And land in the strong arms of the Protector who has been waiting for me on the ledge below. And that is how it has always been. I have always had a safe harbor...but it took some getting to. It wasn't without fighting a battle or two or taking a beating that I reached that stronghold. Nevertheless, the stronghold was always there and I've carried the hope of it with me in my heart wherever I go.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Got Monkey Butt?

I have no idea what it is, either, but I was perusing the aisles of Sam's today looking for saline nasal mist when I came across this:

No, I'm not joking. This is an actual product, not a photo edit. To see it for yourself, head over to your neighborhood Sam's Discount Club and look in the health and beauty section. Apparently, Anti-Monkey Butt also comes in Lady and Baby, so you're in luck no matter your age or gender.

And if you REALLY want to bust a gut, go to their website:

I couldn't make this up if I tried.


Sunday, October 3, 2010


This is a little something inspired by the prompt from Sunday Scribblings. It's my first contribution there...and wee tad dark. But all me just the same! Inspired, as usual, by my life.

It's the same.
Exactly, precisely, eerily the same.
It slid right on.
Over all my barriers.
My carefully prepared defenses.
My safeties.
My strongholds.
Like a glove.
Still warm from previous wear.
Just my size.
In fact, made just for me.
How did I miss it?
The granted I was taken for.
The advantage I was taken of.
A carefully woven cacoon of aspersions from which no butterfly can ever emerge.
I held its weight in my hand like a familiar thing.
Rolled it over my palm.
Tossed it through my fingers.
Played with it.
Welcomed it.
Fascinating in its superficial beauty.
Possesing qualities my altruism must have given it.
For when the dull, wet, hot impact landed home,
I felt again what I thought I'd left behind.
That warm, metallic taste of a dying world.
Dead and gone running down the back of my throat.