Thursday, November 10, 2016

I have never been ashamed to be an American. Not ever. Until today.

Isn't it funny how soon people forget?
My house will be bulldozed and my gravestone chipped away and there will be nothing left but dust and I will be forgotten. Will you forget my mom and dad when they are gone? Will you forget my brother, especially since he's already been gone for 10 years already? Pictures on Facebook don't fade I guess. Bu if you can forget a person...

What else will you forget?

Shouting "Never Forget!" "Remember the Lusitania!" The cruise liner full of civilians traveling through the war zone in 1915 were torpedoed by German U-boats and in sunk in less than 20 minutes, taking almost 2,000 souls with her. Ask the person closest to you if they "Remember The Lusitania".

The Great War. With a capital G and W. The war to end all wars for is sheer number of dead (the most of any western war at that time) and terror inflicted. A generation of broken men returned. The war to end all wars. But there would be another. Then another. Then another. Then another.

What about the horrors of children paralyzed for life, 4 years old stuck in an iron lungs for month, years? Grown men taken out by a disease that showed no mercy or discrimination. Until there was a preventative cure. Until there was a miracle sent by God or technology or whomever.  Until you didn't want the cure because you forgot about the leg braces and dead kids. You didn't want the shot to stop it. You didn't want it because you forgot.

What about the hate that grew into a behemoth that nearly devoured all of Europe? A hate that started so small, like a whisper, in beer halls and living rooms, we just want to be better, our leaders can take us there and bring us back to what we once were and sure people thought things and said things that were hate-fill but they didn't mean it really but there was hate, actual hate and with a little care and attention it grew and grew then just wearing the star on your arm and a brick through the window but it's ok we're ok and not everyone thinks that way and then they come for you in the night or your neighbor thank God it's the neighbor and not me and then it's just a ghetto and it's just work camp and we all will work and work and work and work and the smoke rises high into the sky and... Did you forget that too?

How about this one? Bath, Michigan and Andrew Kehoe murdered his wife, set fire to his home, exploded bombs at the nearby school then exploded his dynamite filled car with him inside it.  45 people died, most of them kids under the age of 14. Like the exploded Ryder rental truck 68 years later that killed 168 people, 19 children from the daycare, at the World Trade Center in Oklahoma City. Or this one? I was sitting in English class when 12 miles down the road, two boys had gone into their high school and taken out people, one by one, to make them pay. I crawled out a window and hitched a ride so I wouldn't be stuck in lock down for the rest of the day. you remember those
13 people? Some dick killed 33 people at his school in Virginia.  Do you remember the deadliest mass shooting in US history? Maybe, until the newest, even more deadly mass shooting in US history happened because some asshole had a problem with men who loved other men and killed 49 people to make them pay with his semi-automatic gun. What about a 20 year old boy who killed his mother then went to the local elementary school and started shooting? How soon did you forget dead 6 year olds strewn across a playground like fallen leaves. Kindergarteners now mulch in a garden? How can you forget 20 dead babies on the ground?
How soon they forget men and women jumping from 100 stories up because hey, it's better than burning to death in my office chair... You scream and yell about the terrorist and spout hate about Muslims and refugees but do you remember how you felt that day?

Why cant you remember how we felt that day that horrible thing happen? You remember? That one really horrible thing? That day we were able to all be on the same, giant page. When there was no animosity or greed. No hate, just sadness. We were one. We were going to come together and figure it out, as we held each other in unfathomable grief and make some decisions so we could not let it happen again. But we forgot that we are all the same and we can only talk about different different different and what is best for me, not you or anyone else.

Who cares about your rape? Who cares about your sexual assault? We don't care that these people or those people need our help. They might live here or in another country but we don't give one fuck.  The guy who killed her had already had 3 DUIs but what the fuck ever.  Fuck your sons and daughters; there's a war to fight! And another! And another! Science might have proven a miracle but not for my kid; measles for all! Fuck your dead children of every age and color! Fuck the Muslims and the gays and the blacks and that different person right there because it's about the important people! The Us. The We. They aren't included in The Us. It's just Us.

And now, we are divided. There is no talking about it. You are on one side of this river or the other. Us and our short memories continue to make the SAME GODDAMN MISTAKES.

And if you can forget all of that, what else will you forget?

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Gift

Getting old is a gift.

I have to keep saying that or else I'm an ungrateful dick. I know of a half dozen people who didn't get to see their 25th birthday so why should I get to bitch and moan about getting older? Only if I were a dick.

But just between you and me, my birthday has come and gone and I dislike it more and more every year. My eyes look more tired and more sad, birthday cake tastes less delicious and the aforementioned people fade away a little more. 

I am grateful. The sky is beautiful tonight and this hot chocolate rocks and I didn't have to work today. But my mind goes back to a documentary about WW2.

A man in his 90's was talking about his ship sinking, about all the young men who drowned inside and those that would die from exposure outside. He spoke about friends who he hadn't seen or talked to in 70 years. Yet, he cried like it was yesterday. 

You never get over it.

It never goes away.

And I will might be lucky enough to be an old woman surrounded by that feeling and the ghosts of 70 years.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Fucking Christmas..."

I never thought those words would so easily come out of me.

But they did. They do.

I don't use the "C" word anymore really. I say, "the holidays" or "Xmas" or something else. Even the word can mean too much.

Like so many people out there, the holidays are really hard. Dickens got it right that there are ghosts everywhere but not necessarily of a life wasted but of those who shadows linger. Presents that will forever be left wrapped under the tree. Meals together with an empty seat at the end of the table. And forever the damned music, in every store and on the radio, when you can hear his voice singing along. The big family gatherings, everyone laughing and smiling but I can't stop staring at the spot on the carpet where he would be sitting. Then they notice me noticing... 

Sometimes, it's nice. Sometimes I will see a tree all decorated and I smile cause he loved this time so much and took such care to make it special. So I'll go and get hot cocoa and walk under the strung up lights. But sometimes it's all too much and I just want to crawl into bed. Some things are helpful and some are hurtful. And sometimes, those that are helpful can still hurt. There is no “good column/bad column” set in stone. These emotions are complicated and forever shifting. This can make the holidays a mine field. For my family, the first five years we just avoided the field completely. We took out ourselves of state or out of county vacations. It was great. I'd still rather do that but you can't always get what you want.

I'll smell burning wood and cider on the air and I still reach for my phone to call him and say, "Remember that place we lived when we were little and how the air smelled and we would make blanket forts and steal snack cakes to "roast" by the fire?" But there's no one to call. No one remembers that smell and those blanket forts and twinkie fires but me. The only other witness to our childhood antics and holiday cheer is far away now and there's just me.

I am finding new ways to celebrate every year. I try to be a bit more festive for the sake of TMS, who loves this time of year. We actually got a tree last year, my first since my brother died 7 years ago. I make cider and wrap presents. He even had a holiday party last year with his friends, which went very well. 

But this doesn't mean I'm "better" or "over" it. It means I had it easy this time. Good days, bad days. And I don't know how things will go this time. I may be unable to do anything. No tree, no decorating, no parties. Jingle bells make me run and hide. The sound of snow makes me cry. Or maybe I'll be ok. I just don't

It's probably selfish. I take alone time more than I probably should. I skip the trip to Aunt Judi's and all the cousins. I go to bed early. I don't watch TV or listen to the radio and avoid those who do. Self preservation. And someone usually gets mad because I'm being a Grinch.

Something that people will never get, holiday season or not: How you grieve is not necessarily how I grieve. There is no limit or timetable for “getting over it” or “moving on”. It’s always fluctuating. One creates a new life out of their experience of loss. So go fuck yourself if you require me to feel a certain way at a certain time, especially around Xmas.

Just don't tell me how to be. Because unless you know, you have no idea.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Thought on Panic

Piercing noise and surrounded on all sides. Tripping over and ducking under. Panic wells up and I race for the door. Tears just on the edge but I breathe through it and find myself again. 

But I’ve been too loud, said too much, embarrassed him no doubt. It seems like whatever I do isn’t enough for the endless checklist and empty pots and pans to rearrange again when I’ve screwed it all up.

Not just tonight or yesterday or before that but I’ve realized always. Miserable but he clings still, I know not why but for the sake of clinging. And from the misery comes so much that I can’t push the air out of me.

So I close up my heart and steel my nerves. Watch my mouth and the volume of my voice. Check the attitude and opinions before taking off. I’ve got nothing to say. I feel nothing. And it’s better that way.

Yet, there is always more that is needed…

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Renting on Vacation

Mike is clueless.

His words, not mine. Mike is getting married then taking his new bride to a country they have never been to and know nothing about.This doesn't make him clueless but he did feel that way.

So he was asking my advice on travel in Europe. How do you get around? How do you find a good hotel? What if we witness a political assassination and we need to be smuggled out of the country in the back of a laundry truck by communists?
"I can see the boarder! Push harder comrade!"
Well I can't say I have all the answers but I can help with some things, especially when it comes to lodging. Renting is really a better option (in my humble opinion) if you're planning on staying in one place for more that 3 days. It allows for more privacy (which the SO and I prefer), we can cook our own meal by utilizing local foods (yay!), and you usually get more bang for your buck. So I wrote him a list of tips that I'm going to share with you!

The main sites I use when searching: (make sure you secure "private" or "whole") (limited but still good resource) (limited but usually refundable)

AND/OR (which searches some of these sites at the same time, although they don't catch everything)

A lot of these are overlapping and you will see the same properties over again but if you want to do your due diligence to find the perfect place, you should use more than one. (Usually 2-3)

My Tips:
  • My #1 most important tip (and starting point in any search) - Research the area you want to stay, learn the names of the areas (downtown, olde town,etc) and use maps. Really familiarize yourself with the layout of the city. Do you REALLY want to stay next to The Colosseum? (Tourists can be loud and dirty.) Yes, this apartment is amazing and close to attractions, but did you notice it's in the red light district? (Drunk frat guys getting laid at 3am isn't fun for me personally.) Your townhouse is awesome but if you can't walk home from dinner without stepping on used syringes or crossing a dark railroad yard, maybe it's not worth it. Be aware of noise levels, safety, and things that may/may not be important to you like a beautiful view or closeness to shopping, attractions, etc. 
"Maybe the market district was a mistake..."
  • Use your filters to search more efficiently. Set those price min/max points first thing. If you must have a pool, use that filter. If you want to be near Brandenburg Gate or Graceland proper, use the site's map feature. 
  • Make sure management speaks English or make arrangements to find a way to communicate. (I have used google translate in the past to arrange meet up, get directions to the apartment, etc)
  • Know your budget and stick to it! (You can filter to save time and avoid the dreaded "rental envy".)
  • Check reviews! If the property doesn't have any reviews yet, I am usually a bit wary. I check other sites to see if maybe they have reviews there but if there is nothing, it's something that you will have to use your own judgement. Also be aware there are a lot of people who feel entitled or just like to complain. I can't tell you how many reviews I've read that say "The rooms were so small! The bathrooms were tiny! There's no AC! The nerve!". Yeah. It's Europe. A home built in 1754 isn't going to be massive or have an HVAC system. If you need that stuff, rent the penthouse at the Westin. (or just search those filters)
Not that there's anything wrong with that!
  • Photos are key. If they don't have the forethought to have nice pictures taken, don't even bother. If they can't clean the home or open the curtains to let the light in when they're trying to advertise, they aren't managing the property correctly and they aren't going to be someone you want to work with.  Also, if the photos are of a really poor resolution, this can be a real sign that it's a scam. I've had an apartment advertised that looked great but the resolution was really awful. I inquired to the "owner" and later found out that they had saved large thumbnails taken from a real estate website and put this place up for rent posing as owners of the property. On the other end of the spectrum, really nice, photo-shopped photos (usually of high-end properties) can be suspect too. You can always ask for more/different photos from the owners or check google maps to find the property. (to make sure it actually exists)
  • If prices are too good to be true, they are. It's probably a scam OR they're charging by the person so read that fine print!
$69/night! What a deal!
  • Always call the owner/property manager/etc. I will usually think of a silly question and call them to get it answered. (Do you have a hair dryer in the home? Can you recommend a car rental company in walking distance?) If you get a weird feeling, don't do it. 
  • Always use a credit card. Don't wire money or send a check. If there is any problem, you can get some of your money back. (Airbnb holds the funds in escrow so both sides are protected.) That being said, like many places in Europe and around the world, people don't use credit cards much and prefer cash. Usually half of my interactions with vacation rentals involve paying 50% when we book on my Visa then the other 50% is due at the key hand-off in cash. This is not unusual. 
  • Style is important. At least for me it is. I feel that if someone take pride in styling and furnishing a place, that will show in other areas of the transaction as well. Even a modest home can easily be cared for with simple window treatments and nice linens. It feels more like a proper vacation if you stay someplace that looks beautiful too. 
Both top and bottom apts are in Rome, same price...

It's not like checking into a hotel...
  • If you have a phone while traveling, exchange numbers. Things happen and you can get delayed so having a phone is great. If you won't have a phone, make sure you have exchanged proper email address at the least.
  • Give your host your travel info. If you're flying in, they can check your flight if delayed. If you're driving or taking the train in, give them a time window and try hard to stick to it.
  • When you arrange a time, pick a very specific spot to meet up and get the owner's info and even physical description and tell them yours. Usually I say, "My husband and I will be together; look for the red head in the colorful scarf!"
  • If you're delayed, call, email, carrier pigeon a new time to meet because they will leave the meetup spot and won't come back til they hear from you. (I've run off in search of a wifi cafe to email our host after our plane was delayed and they had left when we didn't show up.) 
  • Check your fine print! Sometimes they charge per person, per day. Sometimes checkout is way early. Sometimes they charge you for using their linens. (Yes, really.) Also small things like if shampoo and soap is provided or if you will need to find a market to purchase those yourself. 
And don't forget to be kind, be respectful and be flexible!