#SoCS: To be uncollared

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/09/11/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-12-2020/. This week’s prompt is “collar.” Use it as a verb, a noun, or metaphorically.

One of my first thoughts when seeing this week’s prompt was that a collar is a form of restraint. We put collars on dogs to restrain and control them. Police collar suspects. I suspect my mind went immediately to the idea of restraint, because I’m entering a new chapter of my life, and I want to be less restrained.

I’ve accepted a new position in a new city (Tucson, Arizona), and we’re in the process of selling our house, buying another, packing, and clearing out clutter. Moving to a new place and taking a new job are always opportunities to rethink what you want in life, to design a new life that meets your current needs. That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.

We want our new place to have a separate space for our son, so he can continue transitioning to independent adulthood. I’m planning to—horrors—downsize my gardening so it’ll be easier for me to travel, and I can spend more time writing and relaxing instead of watering and weeding. And we’re going to downsize on the home front—at least a little bit—so we can spend less on a mortgage and more on travel and other experiences. In other words, we want to be less restrained.

I feel like I’ve spent most of my life with various restraints—family obligations, mostly, but also budget, pets, garden, too much stuff… you know, just like everybody else. But as I get older, I want less of that. I want to be untethered—or at least less tethered—so I can do more of what I want to do and less of what I have to do. This old dog wants to loosen her collar a little, maybe trade it for a lighter, less-restraining model. This old dog wants to be free.

#SoCS: The pros and cons of time travel

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/08/14/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-15-2020/. This week’s prompt is “pro/con. Talk about the pros and cons of anything.

Some of you may know that I’m revising my first novel, a time travel romance called Vanishing, Inc. It’s about a young teacher who flees across the country to escape an abusive husband and lands in a tiny mountain town in Arizona. She finds what she thinks is the perfect home, a turn-of-the-last-century stone cottage. It comes with an overly-friendly landlady–and a visitor from another time.

So, since time travel has been on my mind lately, let’s explore its pros and cons:

Time travel: the pros

  • It makes for entertaining reading and story possibilities, especially fish-out-of-water stories. There’s a whole Wikipedia page devoted to time travel in fiction. Maybe one day Vanishing, Inc. will be listed there. Maybe I have delusions of grandeur.
  • It would be fascinating to visit another time and see how people really lived, rather than filtering what we know of the past through modern sensibilities–or the sensibilities and biases of the people who wrote history (and the people whose stories are recorded–hardly a representative sample of everyone).
  • You could undo mistakes and correct for your biggest regrets. I really wish I’d started writing fiction when I was young. I could go back to the mid-80s and fix that. (Which would be great, as long as I resisted the urge to layer my hair again. Ugh.)
  • You could try to change history, though that generally didn’t work out well for the cast of Outlander.
  • You could get rich “inventing” things before the actual inventor was born. This is my husband’s retirement plan.
  • You could hide from your present-day enemies. This is a temptation for Alex Collins, the main character in Vanishing, Inc.
  • Travel is always educational, mostly because it broadens our perspectives. Time travel would amplify that experience. Imagine the different perspective you would have on history, on human nature even, if you could visit the past. Just as travel to other places helps us better understand our own place, travel to other times would help us better understand our own time and how we got to where we are.

Time travel: the cons

  • Let’s start with the biggest con: it hasn’t been invented yet, so we’re all stuck with 2020. Sorry ’bout that. Now where did I leave my mask and hand sanitizer?
  • If we could travel back in time, we humans would find a way to screw up the world even more than we already have.
  • As individuals, we’d find a way to screw up our lives even more than we already have–which would be easy to do if we could change the past. One of the more well-known examples of this idea is the grandfather paradox, in which a hapless time-traveling human creates inconsistencies by, say, killing their own grandfather. I also imagine that if I could travel back in time, I would try to undo something I regretted, not realizing that action had unforeseen consequences, and end up undoing something precious. Like, for example, if I decided to go back and not date my first boyfriend, I wouldn’t have gotten dumped the day before Valentine’s Day in 1986, and I probably wouldn’t have been alone and sad in my hometown on the night after Valentine’s Day when a cute guy I met the previous summer heard I’d gotten dumped and called me and asked me to meet him at Chuck E. Cheese (yes, really) and we’ve been married for almost 29 years. You know, little things like that.
  • No birth control. That’s a deal-breaker right there.
  • No antibiotics. Another deal-breaker. And don’t even get me started on anesthesia. No romantic view of the past can compensate for the lack of modern medicine. That idea plays a part in my novel.
  • Here’s another one that plays a part in my novel: women’s rights, or the lack thereof. I’m not sure I would want to travel back to a time in which I would be property or, at best, a second-class citizen. Same issue for people of color or LGBT folks. The past was no picnic for those who weren’t straight, white males.
  • And finally, it would be incredibly frustrating to know things the people around you did not–and to know you couldn’t tell them without them locking you up in an asylum or burning you at the stake. I have a big mouth. I’d probably get burned at the stake in my first month.

How about y’all? Would you travel back in time (or, what the heck, forward in time) if you could? Why/why not? What time would you like to visit?

#SoCS: Clearing the clutter and creating a fresh start

Hellebore from my Portland garden over 10 years ago. Hellebores were the first flowers to bloom each spring, a welcome sign of renewal every rainy January.

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/07/03/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-4-2020/. This week’s prompt is, “toss.” Use it any way you’d like.

I’ve spent a little while noodling on this week’s prompt. Tossing manure in garden beds? Toss-ups? Tossers (a great British insult)? I landed on the idea of tossing things out, on clearing clutter from my life, getting rid of what I don’t value (much) to make room for what I do value. I’ve been doing that literally and figuratively for at least the last year or so.

I’m big on renewal. I had a lit professor back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was an undergrad, who talked about American optimism and how the idea of starting over is ingrained in our culture. That resonated with me then, and it resonates with me now. I’ve always loved the beginning of fall, when the new school year starts, because it feels like a fresh start. I enjoy moving (well, OK, not the actual process of hiring movers and having them steal our DVDs, nor the process of selling our house to some jerk who wants to lowball us and have us do $15,000 worth of repairs). I enjoy the process of starting over in a new place with new people and new possibilities. Having a clean slate forces me to think about what I really want in my life rather than to keep doing the same old stuff.

But I’ve learned that renewal is possible without something as drastic as moving. I can lighten my load, again, literally and figuratively. I can toss out stuff I don’t use anymore to make room for things I will use, or, better, to create space uninhabited by crap. Open space, empty space, is relaxing and peaceful and inspiring. Clutter is exhausting.

I can rethink my commitments and drop a few to make room for my current priorities (like writing). I can drop an old habit that doesn’t serve me well and replace it with one that does. Example: I read a book called The Miracle Morning a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been revamping my morning routine based on its recommendations. I’m actually more excited to get out of bed in the morning now, and I’m getting up earlier, too. Today–a Saturday and a holiday–I rolled out of bed at 5:40, and I started writing this piece at about 6:30. Anyone reading that last sentence who knew me even a year or two ago probably thinks my soul has been snatched by aliens, and I’m now a pod person.

So if you’re feeling like your space or your life is too full or full of the wrong things, you can change that. You can toss out what doesn’t serve you well and either replace it with things that will help you meet your current goals or enjoy the newfound space in your world. Remember:

Today is a new day.

Today is a fresh start.

What would you like to toss out? How would you like to remake your world?

#SoCS: A skeezy wrestler, a skeezy pickup line… and me

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/26/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-27-2020/. This week’s prompt is, “coffee, tea, or me.” Find a flirty phrase of your own or use “coffee, tea, or me” in your post.

I’ve been lucky to not be on the receiving end of too many skeezy pickup lines, but one sticks out in my mind. Back in the early 1990s, my husband and I were living in northern Georgia, where we’d moved for my first job after I graduated from library school. He’d always dreamed of being a professional wrestler (hey, who am I to judge someone else’s dream?), and he found a local wrestling outfit that would train him and give him a shot. And so his wrestling career was born.

An aside: his first character was called the Seattle Storm. He wore a mask and spandex shorts with a storm cloud on the butt. His theme song was, “Smells Like Team Spirit” (we’d moved there from Seattle), and his shtick was to antagonize the local good ol’ boys like the invading Yankee he was. They hated him. It was hilarious.

Later, he became a good guy (a babyface for you wrestling aficionados) called Adrian Champagne, complete with sequins, rainbow feathers, and a mullet worthy of Billy Ray Cyrus (Miley’s dad for you young ‘uns).

Anyway, back to the pickup line theme. Every now and then, they’d have someone from a larger wrestling outfit wrestle there. Naturally they’d promote the event as though Hulk Hogan himself was descending upon Rossville, Georgia, for the evening. And some of the fans would act like the guy was a big star. Well, one night, I stepped outside between matches for some fresh air (summer… Georgia… small, stuffy building filled with screaming wrestling fans…), and the “big star” was out there too. We exchanged hellos, and start a conversation. And that’s when it happened, when I became the target of the worst pickup line I’ve ever heard:

Skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: Are you here with anyone?

Me: Yeah. Adrian Champagne is my husband [side note: that is not a sentence I ever imagined myself uttering]

Skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: If you ever get divorced, call me.

And there it is, folks, the story of the time a professional wrestler hit me with the ickiest pickup line I’ve ever received. “If you ever get divorced, call me.” Still makes my skin twitch.

p.s. to the skeezy wrestler who shall not be named: I’m still not divorced. Get lost.

#SoCS: When the only tool you have is a hammer…

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/12/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-13-2020/. This week’s prompt: nail.

As I read the news and think about the protests going on right now, I’m often reminded of the old saying, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That seems to be one of the fundamental problems with policing in the USA (systemic racism being another, bigger, problem). When use of force is the only tool in your toolbox, when it’s what you’re trained to do, it’s what you do. When you’re trained to fight crime, you see potential criminals. More broadly, you see what you look for. Combine that with systemic racism that causes many people–not just police–to see people of color as potential criminals, and you get an environment in which a white officer can murder a black man slowly in front of an audience. An environment in which scenes of indiscriminate police brutality play out across the country in video after sickening video.

I haven’t posted much, here or on social media, about these issues, because I need to shut up and listen. Many people, especially people of color, have a much deeper understanding of these issues than I do, so I’ll let the previous paragraph stand as my only commentary on the issue, at least for now. Instead, I’d like to encourage all of us to consider how our perspectives are limited. How the particular hammers we carry cause us to see only nails where we should see nuance.

We are humans, and humans are limited. We are shaped, both obviously and subtlely, by our identities, our upbringing, our culture, our religion, and our life experiences. And we are also limited by those things. They condition our views, our perspectives, our reactions. This is normal, but we don’t have to be ruled by, blinded by those limitations. We can read, educate ourselves, and most importantly, listen to those whose identities and culture and experiences are different from ours. Listen to their lived experiences. Learn from them. Approach situations with humility born of our limited perspectives rather than the false certainty born from our personal blinders. Use our new knowledge to develop tools other than hammers and to see more than nails.

#SoCS: chirurgie

This is my first time participating in the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/05/22/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-23-2020. This week’s prompt: base a post on a word beginning with ch.

I contemplated a few ch words: child and chair immediately came to mind. Then, from nowhere came chirurgie, the French word for surgery. Do I speak French? Non. Not a word. Well, except for merde, because I’m full of it, and one ought to be able to describe oneself in at least two languages, am I right?

So why chirurgie, which I cannot spell without looking it up and am copying and pasting each time I use it in this post? Because it reminded me of the summer of 1991. I was home in Vancouver, Washington (not to be confused with the infinitely cooler Vancouver, BC) between years of library school and landed a job at Oregon Health & Science University doing two things: working the reference desk and cataloging books in the history of medicine collection. There were quite a few French books in that collection, many of which included some variation of chirurgie in the title. And for some reason, that word and its variants stuck in my mind, even though to this day I cannot pronounce it (but I can pronounce merde just fine – thanks to the wonderful Outlander audiobooks).

There was something magical about that summer, sitting in the musty History of Medicine Room, smelling decaying leather (and possibly decaying other things – I heard rumors that we had at least one book bound in human skin, though I was never able to verify that fact) and poring over title pages of books at least a century old–like this one:

L0005170 Title page”Traite des operations de chirurgie” Garengeot Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Amputation: 18th Century 18th Century Traite des operations de chirurgie Garengeot, R.J.C. de Published: 1731 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

I remember lots of herbals–herbal medicine was big, especially in the days when medicine didn’t have much else to offer–and cringe-worthy gynecology texts from the 19th century. Let me tell you, people with female organs, if you ever want to feel grateful that you live in *this* time, take a look at a 19th century gynecology textbook. Or, worse, 19th century gynecological instruments. We had some of those too.

And I think I’ll leave this post with that happy thought. I love to reminisce about the past, but I also try to be thankful for the current moment, whatever and wherever it is. Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers, and keep safe.