I have a dream

This woman is so good.

The Hedgeblog

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Last night, I had a dream. A dream so fearful, it took me a while to work out where the hell I was, and calm my racing heart. I had to tear myself out of it. It involved shadowy bad men/aliens right outside my house, flinging men, women and children around mercilessly like little rag dolls. Then a lot of low demonic chanting, and green orbs floating around. In my dream, I ran to lock the front door, but the key mysteriously failed to fit the lock. I tried to wake my family – but they wouldn’t wake up. The last thing I remember was looking out of the window, and seeing a giant black dog standing guard by the Lindenblossom tree. It looked demonic and menacing, and I knew that this was the end of our Freedom.

Yes, I am aware that this was JUST a dream! And I…

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Hey. It’s OK.

It’s OK.

I just wanted to tell you. In case you were spending this evening thinking about all the stuff you need to do and all the stuff you should have done and wondering if you’re doing enough. Maybe you’re thinking about your to-do list or feeling guilty about a card, note or letter you should have sent. Maybe you’re wondering why you haven’t painted the living room yet, even though you’ve had the paint for three years and it would probably only take a couple of days, and you’re thinking about the dish washer that needs unloading and the laundry that needs washing.

It’s OK. Everything’s OK. I’d tell you it’s great, but we’re reasonable people. OK is plenty.

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Well, I’ll be – Liebster Award Nomination(s)

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I am super excited and just blushingly pleased to have been nominated for a Liebster Award by Three! (3)  amazing bloggers:

Liesl Dineen It’s Nothing Really

Angela Zemp Hedgehog times

and Barbara Gabriel Steal Just one Day

So what does that mean? Well clearly, I’m fascinating and everyone hangs on my every word! Hah! It is a nomination given from one fledgling blogger to another. It’s a way to introduce new bloggers to readers and vice-versa. Now I’m supposed to say a bit about myself. Here is a selection of the questions asked me by my nominators. You guys are fun.

A. What was your first thought when you woke up this morning? Seriously? How is it possible it’s only Wednesday? How?

A. Share the weirdest thing about you! No.But I’ll share the weirdest thing I’m willing to have known. I can’t go to sleep without watching Mystery Science Theater 3000. I watched the same episode (actually the movie) every night for 3 years. 

A. Who would you most like to be stuck in a Lift/Elevator with? This is interesting, because I don’t feel at my best trapped anywhere, so it would have to be someone who was either as freaked out as me or someone very soothing. Soothing: Patrick Stewart. 

A. Who is your hero/heroine? It shifts, but right now it’s Doc Hammer, because he’s a brilliant writer, painter and musician. Plus, he kind of doesn’t give a crap what people think of him. 

A. What cheers you up after a bad day? Watching my kiddo do this dance he does. It’s pretty elaborate and adorable, and he does it just because it makes me laugh. Also, eating cake in my pj’s.  

L. Come on, which one item would you really take with you to that deserted island? A Swiss Army E-reader with unlimited power supply. It dices, it slices, it stores thousands of books. When can I go? 

L. What is it you want most from life? To not feel like I’ve wasted it. 

L. Where will I find you at the party? I will have called with car trouble or a sick kid (I am an unscrupulous introvert) and be at home with a glass of wine and a good book. Ahhh. (This is the same answer to the question about whether or not I would accept a trip to Mars) 

L. Pick your super power and explain. When I want to be a vigilante, it is the ability to burn people with my eyes. The rest of the time, teleportation. 

L Tell us about your favorite happy song – link it up! I Still Believe, Frank Turner. These lyrics must be shouted: “I still believe in the neeeeed for guitars and drums and desperate poetry!!” *Muah* Frank. 

B. Do you prefer international travel or to explore closer to home? Why? I like all kinds of travel, and would love it more if I could teleport. I’m currently obsessed with going to Ireland, but I’d like to make a stop over to Switzerland and have a coffee with a hedgehog I know there.  

B. What’s your go-to comfort food? Pizza.  Angela, it would be topped with… I became a vegetarian three years ago and I have yet to find a satisfactory substitute for pepperoni.

B. Give us a link to the best or the favorite of your own posts. What made you write that one?

I think it would be this Removing All Doubt. It’s about why I started writing fiction. I wrote the post out of irritation and indignation, but it ended up being something more. 

B. What word do you dislike? Divulge. It sounds like gagging. 

B. What interesting thing will you choose to do this week? I’m thinking of becoming an expert in something, but I don’t know what yet. 

Now for my nominees:

Suzanne M. Brazil

Shandy: Project Shandy

Wendy Metcalf: Fem SF Author

Roz Dekett; Roz Dekett

Midge Gordon: Bohemian Rhapsody

Lawyer With Attitude

Alysinion The Economical Vegan

Barbara Doran-Rogal Serendipity Do It

Marie Duess

Please check them out! Such a diverse group of brilliant people!

To them, I ask the following:

1. What is your happy place (either in your mind or in real life)?

2. How prepared are you for unexpected guests to your home?

3. What do you do when you are afraid to become unafraid?

4. What is the one thing that, when it happens, you will consider yourself successful?

5. What song do you HAVE to sing along to, no matter who may be watching. Link it up!

6, Would you rather make someone laugh or make someone cry? (With your writing, obviously. I’m not suggesting you go kick someone in the shins.)

7. If someone was to visit your city, what should they go see to really get a feel for it?

8. What do you love to write about?

9. Do you have any rituals? Explain.

10. Name 3 elements to your perfect day.

11. Link to your favorite blog post. What moved you to write it.

What doesn’t kill us…

Almost kills us.

Tonight, like most nights, I’m tired. But I realized that instead of a forty-hour-work-week-little-kid-errands-to-run-messy-house tired, it’s more of an holy-crap-my-soul-aches tired. They say Eskimos have 50 words for snow (mini research, is that true? Yes there are 53 distinct Inuit words meaning snow according to this article, phew ), I think I should have 50 words for tired.

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Let me describe achy-soul tired: It’s when everything I do is tinged slightly with sadness. It’s being sure I’m going to screw up my kid or get fired from my job or alienate my friends. I’m not sure what sets it off. Today, it might have been a little bit of conflict, a lot of worry about family and storms, some overwhelm from my current projects, and realizing tomorrow’s an early morning and only Wednesday.

The result of achy-soul tired is…not so bad. It’s human and feels human. It feels raw and sensitive and leaves me off kilter. Today it made me nostalgic (weeping, sobbing nostalgic) for the toddler I had just last year, while being completely  enamored with the boy I have now. Thanks for that confusing case of feels.

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It made me hug my husband longer before I grocery shopped, and run back before I left for one last kiss on my kiddo’s chubby cheek because the last thing I did was yell at him, and what if…

My first instinct is to try to numb achey-soul tired or just sleep through it, but I didn’t tonight, and I’m glad. I think sometimes I just have to feel a little shitty to realize that feeling shitty isn’t going to kill me.

If this is you tonight, lean into it, and maybe you’ll be surprised how strong you are. I’m not trying to push my achy-soul tired treatments on you, though. I think there are many alternate antidotes for it — bubble baths, cuddles, Mystery Science Theater 3000, rocking in the dark sobbing, and so on.

Also, here are five things that make me smile-cry and that are sure to help achy-soul tired. I hope you enjoy them.

1) Jim Henson with Kermit, by James Hance. Don’t know James Hance? Know him and love him! His very existence cures an achy soul.

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2) Mrs. Flexer retired after 41 years of teaching.

Current and WAY former students surprised her at her retirement party.

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3) Shirley and Jenny: Two Elephants Reunited after More Than 20 Years

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4) Father and Son Recreate a Picture at their Home … that last one though. Damn.

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5) Strangers Sharing A Moment of Warmth

(this one was shared with me by my best friend John, whose treasured existence in my life makes me smile-cry with gratitude all the time.)

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Removing All Doubt

A few weeks ago, I took part in a rousing e-discussion about independent publishing. In case you are considering joining in one of these, be advised, they are all “rousing.”*

*rousing = violent, bloody.

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I’m not going to rehash it. I’ve seen enough of these that I find them boring now. A lot of people say “drek.” A lot of people say “archaic.” If you are interested in where I stand, it’s with the pragmatic and brilliant Chuck Wendig. There is no debate.

But one of the points made that day by someone on the pro-trad-publishing side rankled me. It rankles me still, all these weeks later, because it touched a nerve. It was posed to indie-authors (taking this step without the approval and say-so of the fatherly publishing world). It was: Aren’t you afraid of looking like a fool?

I mean, well, yes. Yes. My whole life, yes. A resounding Yes.

My whole life, I’ve held my tongue, kept my thoughts to myself, made my laugh quiet and my voice small. I’ve done all that so I wouldn’t look like a fool.

Now I’m edging toward my forty-second birthday, and I think of all the experiences I didn’t have, the love I didn’t confess, the adventures I didn’t take, the life I didn’t live because I was afraid of looking like a fool. You know what my reward was? I feel like a goddamned fool. What a waste of time.

Last year, I started writing in earnest, after dreaming of it for years. Aside from having a family, nothing I have ever done has felt so incredible. When the writing is good, it feels like being high and being in love. If feels zingy and buzzy and breathless. It feels like I’m making up for a lot of missed opportunities. When the writing is bad? Same thing.

Knowing I could publish it myself gave me that. I didn’t want to pour 100,000 words of my soul into something that was going to sit in a drawer until I died. I figured I could write it, and see if people liked it. I’d show it to or sell it to people I like, whose opinions I respect. If they liked it, I would be thrilled. If not, at least I’d know. But knowing I didn’t have to navigate an incomprehensible quagmire of publishing industry gate-keeping gave me the courage to finally use my voice.

Maybe it sucks. Maybe people will laugh at it. Who cares. I’d rather look like a fool than be silenced.

Now, go buy my book: Penguin Spies in Space: A Love Story

Steve and Stella share one last embrace, before they being their mission. IN SPACE

Steve and Stella share one last embrace, before they begin their mission. IN SPACE

(J/K My first book: Bright Aster will be published next month on Amazon. Some people I love and respect have read it and loved it. Hearing that was totally worth the risk.)

As a Mom…

“Oh, really?  My little guy never fusses at mealtime. Have you tried feeding him on a white couch?”

“Oh, really? My little guy never fusses at mealtime. Have you tried feeding him on a white couch?”

Motherhood is super trendy right now. Baby-bumps are fashionable, as are the actual infants, slung across people’s fronts (or backs or sides – how versatile) in vivid print carriers, with their accompanying Prada diaper bags.

On TV, solemn-eyed mother-actresses with self-satisfied smirks are proclaiming the need to purchase various goods and services for the safety or educational prowess of their imaginary children. The commercials usually start with her staring directly into my soul and saying, “As a mom, I want the best for my children…” followed by the earnest entreaty to buy their new whole grain, antibacterial, organic, ultra absorbent, digital whatever, now with aloe.

I have a couple of problems with this. First of all, if she’s about to talk about “her children,” she doesn’t really have to say she’s a mom. Sure, there’s a possibility someone will think she’s a teacher without that precursor, but most of us are going to get that she is meant to represent a mother. We know she’s not a real mom, because she’s impeccably groomed, her house is spotless, her floors are covered in flawless white carpeting and she is clearly wearing a bra, even though she’s at home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The “as a mom” is meant to build a fake connection with real moms, who have actual houses that may or may not contain furniture with dried macaroni stuck to it. We’re supposed to look at her, and think, “oh, she’s just like me!” Or worse, “oh, she’s a better mom than me.”  Tell me more, super-mom!

Secondly, wanting “the best for my children” is not a ground breaking concept. Biologically speaking, we are driven to provide the best we possibly can for our children. What she’s saying, is: “You probably didn’t realize it, but you are currently providing less-than-the-best for your children, and many of you are providing the worst for your children.”

This is designed to manipulate real moms into believing whatever we are doing “as a mom” is not going to be as good as what she is doing, and we’d better step up our game or end up with toddlers who can’t even read French yet, for heaven’s sake.

I don’t think I’d mind these tactics as much if they were actually selling something helpful:

As a mom, I want to know what my kid is screaming about all the time…

As a mom, I want to sleep…

As a mom, I want to know how not to throw up when I smell my kid’s throw-up…

But instead of solving problems, these commercials usually suggest new problems we haven’t yet figured out we need to feel freaked out or insecure about. As a mom, I want to protect my child from carrot poisoning… I want to keep my toddler from feeling insecure about her fashion sense… I want my to teach my baby to read in-utero.

As a mom, I’m tired of this crap.

Humans of Walmart

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It was late, and I had found someone to stay home so I could sneak away for an hour. I was on a mission, and the only place to accomplish it was Walmart. Options were limited in my small New Hampshire city.

I remember feeling two things that night: 1) Exhaustion so utter and complete that I was shivering and sweating at the same time and so deep that my muscles screamed when I commanded them to move my bones. 2) Excitement about my mission.

I couldn’t tell you what I was wearing. I couldn’t even guarantee I was wearing pants. I remember a jacket. I don’t remember having bare feet. I couldn’t tell you the last time I brushed my hair or even washed it.

My mission: Cloth diapers. I know, it’s not exciting or Earth shattering, but I had the idea that they could help us, and anything at all that could help was welcome. Cloth diapers would be absorbent and could be layered. My hope was that they would keep us from having to change the sheets as often. Nothing we did day to day hurt my husband as much as changing the sheets, but cancer was breaking down his skin. When skin breaks down, it leaks. When it leaks, sheets need to be changed.

I pray most people don’t know first hand that cancer has an odor. It smells of rotting broccoli. (I apologize for being graphic.) My quests in caring for Jim in his last stage of cancer were to keep him comfortable and to keep the smell of cancer away. The odor threatened me. It threatened all my efforts to deny what was happening. If I was going to face the next minute, I needed that denial more than I needed breath, because of how much I loved him and how much he was my hero and how wrong, wrong, wrong it all was.

I didn’t find what I wanted that night, and I went home defeated. When I didn’t find what I wanted, I’ll bet I made some terrible faces. I might have looked like a bitch to someone. I don’t know. You know what else? I might have looked hilarious.

As far as I know, I was the only person in Walmart that night. I didn’t see anyone else in my exhaustion and frustration. It was before everyone had cameras on their cell phones anyway, so probably nobody snapped a picture of me in my craziness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy and compassion this year. It seems to be a tougher year than most for it. If current events are any indication, it is sorely lacking these days. I think compassion doesn’t just disappear all at once, but it is chipped away little by little.

It may start with something as simple as a candid picture of a person looking crazy while they are at Walmart. Someone takes it. Someone shares it. Everyone laughs. The subject of the pic becomes a joke, instead of a human. I have clicked and laughed before, more than once. I wish I hadn’t. I won’t again. It’s a tiny chip, but an important one. It is step one, possibly followed by calling a kid a thug, a protester a looter, or a vigil a riot. Removing the human context, the pain, the anger, the fear, the loss, removes the empathy and allows prejudices to blossom.

There is a great TED talk about voting with your clicks. The more people click on dehumanizing pictures and videos, the more likely it is that someone will view a person acting strangely as an opportunity for a viral video instead of a reason for concern, or just a bad moment in someone’s day. They are going to whip out a cell phone and start recording instead of helping, instead of trying to be understanding, or just instead of respecting someone’s privacy and minding their own damn business.

Instead of click-voting to take away someone’s humanity, now I try to find proof of goodness and compassion, and click-vote for that. It makes me feel better. If you’d like to do the same, I highly recommend starting with Humans of New York. Brandon Stanton is the living salve for all the dehumanizing click-bait out there. He’s younger than me, but I want to be him when I grow up. He traveled the world in August/September. He and his subjects make me smile-cry all the time.