‘Salvaged’ by Madeleine Roux

I’m typing this up on my phone on a plane while a baby the size is for an avocado does flips and bounces on my poor, beat up bladder, so bear with me.

I just finished the second book that features fungus as “the bad guy”, so that seems to be an emerging theme in sci-fi. This fungus is much more exciting, however, as it gradually seizes control of your brain and turns you into a collective, psychic zombie. In space. It turns out about as well as you can imagine, though the story focuses on a small crew who somewhat manages to fight off the voice in their head that turns into their mothers.

While there were some descriptions in this book that I, usually pretty immune to squeamishness, found hard to get through, overall it’s an excellent space who done it horror story. The fascinating part is how hard some fight to stay human, and how easily others give in to groupthink, or being controlled by a fungus.

A good, mildly thought provoking read, but don’t eat with food.

My Voice, Part One

Every attempt I’ve made to maintain steady blogging, especially post college, has slowly petered off and eventually abandoned. Unlike some friends and almost friends that also blog who manage to keep one single blog going, every time I return is more starting over, new name, new fonts, a fresh face that follows the same pattern. I’m not committing to anything this time around (even though I paid for WordPress again), but with everything going on in the world and my personal life I still feel that itch to get my voice down on paper or through the keyboard.

I have noticed that the blogs I enjoy reading the most have a more or less coherent theme, whether it be about books, long form essays, or horses. For myself, there’s two main things I want to write about; I have my own horse now (for the first time!), so there’s a ton to explore and keep track of and learn there. But, back to the whole “state of the world” thing, I want to toss my voice into the void about such fundamental things as the state of our democracy, the world I want my son to grow up and become an adult in, and where my life and choices fit into that larger (and undeniably privileged) framework. Plus random other things like book reviews, fumbling attempts at cooking, navigating home ownership, setting up my rig for horse camping…things I want to share without FB owning and playing corporate games with my stuff. Sounds like two totally separate blogs right?

Being only one busy lady and based on my past attempts, keeping up blogging is an uphill battle between my time, my desires and everyone in my life I jiggle around, so we’ll see how this one goes.

Pretty horse photo cause blogs without photos aren’t as fun usually

To start with the second topic (since I’m travelling for work and stuck in conference rooms 700 miles from my horse), my boss and I grabbed dinner after an 11 hour day for both of us. I support my company’s EHS team, which is heading our response to the corona-virus outbreak (we have customers and therefore employees supporting those customers in Wuhan), so that’s led to long days with no signs of slowing for my team. My boss tossed me into the daily meeting with folks whose titles are no less than two to three levels above mine for, quote, “Being the most reliable and up to date on this stuff.” His confidence helps mine, but man can it get rough!

Decompressing at Claim Jumpers over bourbon and a mock-tail, respectively, we touched on such light, work appropriate topics as our families genetic history, career plans and trajectories, and of course politics…but not about the current impeachment clusterfuck or specific policies.

My high school boyfriend had a karate teacher who was friends with an akido instructor who had a huge influence on how I deconstruct arguments and what points I dig for in such discussions. Even as a teenager I picked up not to go after the fluff of things or get overly sidetracked by tangents, but to dig until the root cause or point was found. Debating with him over email on such topics as religion and politics helped immensely, and I remain grateful for those conversations to this day.

Not to say I didn’t go through the typical teenage and young adult growing periods of false logic, grasping at straws and taking uninformed or ill-informed stands, but we all have to go through that so I try not to beat up myself too much for those much more idealistic days.

Last night with my boss, I wasn’t going after the fluff-my questions (in part informed by this recent series by ‘The New Yorker’), were along the lines of “Can a true, fundamentally fair democracy thrive with a capitalist economy?”, “How do we move on from a two party system?”, “How do we teach our kids to debate and disagree without hating the other person or group?” The point wasn’t to stump each other or argue for one side or the other, but to inch towards that last point; disagreeing without relegating the other side as a bad person.

I’m about to board my flight home (woot!) So more on this vein later!

This is Halloween…


Welp, it’s November people, and that means NaNoWriMo is upon us. If you think I don’t blog much normally, November can be…empty. But it’s a good place to ‘report’ on my goals (my blog! me!) so here goes, as I sit on a really squeeky morning train: 

  • Only ran once last week out of the three I was aiming for, trudging around the little dirt track at Kade’s school while he found every puddle he can. Right now I’m at a slightly hard fought 16 minute mile. Ha!
  • My novel for the month is a slightly different version of what I’ve been working on, about ex-military vets and their lives and animals and relationships, despite not being ex-military myself I want to train dogs someday so it’s a good chance to do some deep research into the topic and stretch out of my mommy-work-mommy zone.

  • New job is still going awesome, in the thick of billing and reporting and being part of the ‘Party Planning Committee.’ Also the boss gave me permission to work from home when Kade has a day off, so whew! Since he has 8 days off in November….
  • Halloween was epic! Kade got to trick or treat twice, once with his cousins while Tom and I drove home and once with us just around our awesome neighborhood. Kid’s loaded with candy so now I get to play candy monster and dole it out in no rational or consistant fashion. Life lessons kid.
  • Tom’s home for good for awhile, so I’ve forgotten how to cook again but I don’t sleep alone so that evens out pretty well.
  • Happy writing all!

Pens at the ready!

Last week I took a small but noticeable leap outside my comfort zone & submitted a piece from last years NaNoWriMo to the writing group I’m a part of, People’s Ink, for critique. It went both better & a million times better than I could have hoped! I managed to not freak out at all about it, partly due to the fact that I feel this story & piece of writing is my best chance at *gulp* actually finishing something novel like. Also, now in my current description of myself, I can call myself a novel writer; unpublished certainly, but not a day goes by I haven’t touched this project, at least for the last month or so. That’s pretty good progress for me, & shows more dedication than I was expecting of myself. 

I received several very good bits of constructive critique, as well as more than faint praise & interest in several different ideas/themes I’ve been musing over for this project. One of my favorite thoughts from another member was my command of the language, meaning I can string a few words together in a way that pulled her into the story-just enough to show the bits that were rough, or that I hadn’t chosen a direction or plot point yet. 

I have a lot of work to do, but the group’s recommendation of a story board is what I’m going to be working on for a week or so, & really nail down the who, what, & Big Idea before I really write any more scenes. 

The biggest thing that helped me was just talking about it with other like minds. The kid listens when I read aloud & loves it, & he’s a good cheerleader, & so in the boyfriend, but both in slightly puzzled ways, like they don’t quite understand the woman’s driving need to punch a keyboard & mutter to herself. So now I’m revved up, with a bunch of new or solidified ideas, & itchy fingers!

  
Such is how Kade feels about Legos…and Mom feels about writing! 

Flash Fiction Challenge

I’ve been trying some basic but fun creative writing techniques, here is an example below, a flash fiction challenge from a blog I follow. Enjoy!
From the Terrible Minds Blog.

My Randomized Title: Seven Days of Warning

I was born on the first day of warning.
This should have been an omen, a clear sign to my parents, but they were always too involved with each other to remember me, or really the rest of the world. Other parents would have noticed how quiet I was that first week, how I didn’t make a peep, never fussed or bawled or even whimpered.
To this day, I’m still unsure how I survived the first week. I can tell myself all the stories I like, of mysterious ghosts, angels, fairy godmothers, stories of helpers from all the regions of the world who might look out for a helpless newborn, but the truth is undoubtedly far more basic. My parents remembered to care for me just enough, to wonder at this new life that, had they been different people, would have changed their lives forever, just enough for me to survive.
It’s hard sometimes to wish I hadn’t, to wonder if they hadn’t fed me just enough, or changed me often enough, or put me down one more time during those seven days, if I wouldn’t be stuck now. On the seventh day of the seventh month, at the top of the seventh hour, the seven days of warning begin. And as I had the whim to be born at that exact time, 14 years ago, every year the town’s attention is riveted on me for a week.
It’s bad enough I’m stuck in this tiny, crippled body. For the majority of the year, I’m mostly left to my own devices, and those devices are tenuous enough. I don’t believe anyone could dread the beginning of the warnings as much as I, for I’m expected to bring the signs, to show some portent, some idea of what the next year will hold. How am I, a crippled nameless orphan, supposed to have any clue?
But each year comes, & the mayor orders me cleaned up, dressed up & put on the pedestal in the town square, promptly in time for that fateful clock tick. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, it’s the only time of year I eat well, am fully warm & clean. But to be stared at for a solid week, like an animal in the those faraway zoos I read about, well, you fill in the blanks, if you aren’t too busy worrying about those damned seven days.
I supposed the main question to answer is, have I ever been helpful? For 14 years that week has come, the town stares for the requisite seven days, & then everything returns to normal. Normal for everyone else, at least. Well, things were especially exciting my seventh year, after all, all those stupid sevens. I don’t know which is worse-the buildup to my seventh year, or this year. Possibly this year; I was still a bit too young to really know why last time.
But last year, someone finally broke the rules and told me. It wasn’t who I was expecting to go off the rails, either! If anyone was going to disobey the mayor besides me, everyone thought it would have been my aunt, my mother’s sister, which is why she’s kept well away from me. Which should be hard to do in a town of 500 people, tucked as we are high in this tiny mountain valley, but as walking is not high on my list of things I do well, it’s proven surprisingly easy.
No, the person who told me what the seven days of warning are was the mayor himself. I suppose it’s easy to break your own rules if no one’s going to call you on it. After all, who would believe me if I told? I’m still not sure why he did tell me. Maybe 13 years in ignorance is long enough, & he’s banking it won’t change anything.
Still just over a week to go until the first day, and all I have to do is sit and worry and peel potatoes. Or so the mayor and everyone else thinks, anyway. Just because a girl can’t walk, doesn’t mean she can’t think. I’ve had 13 years to plot and plan and dream, after all, pretty much uninterrupted except for those seven days each year. Other people might be terrified of my plan, after all, no one has left the village in my memory, just the tinkerers and traders coming through each year. But they’ve let just enough information slip for me to guess that life isn’t like this in the lowlands, being ignored and ignorant, then put on show for those seven days. I’m banking that my threat to leave, & the plan to back it up, will be enough, just enough, to get some change in my life.
I could put my plan into action today, or really any time. Maybe the mayor knows my plan after all, and his rule breaking was a way to keep me here just long enough. Well, point to the mayor then, because I’m holding my tongue another two weeks.
Maybe it will work this year. Maybe all the sevens will finally line up, and the seven days of warning will bring no bad news upon our heads, no more disruptions to the village, maybe the monster of fear will fully slumber this time. After all these years, there’s that one reason everyone still hopes, still takes perfect care of me for one week straight.

Everyone really thought it would happen my seventh year, but it didn’t. Little things still came those seven days, enough to count, but nobody died. It was enough for the mayor to order a completely new reading of the prophesies, starting from scratch. Such is why the new number became 14, and the signs of everyone holding their breath, holding their worry and loved ones close by have already begun. Because if it’s not this year…and so the thought hangs. Why keep me around any more, if there’s more this year, or worse, a death during those seven days?
But there’s still hope, so the priests say. Which is why the mayor told me I’m treated the way I am, why there’s so much fear and hope and desperation flying around those seven days of warning. Before I was born, during the warning days, near chaos would reign, and someone would die…and then life, minus one, would return to normal. There was no stopping it, no changing it, no saving that life fated to die, or even to tell who or when. There was only the certainty of fear, worse than the howl of a winter blizzard. People are expected to die during a blizzard, if one is stupid or slow or clumsy. The seven days came from nowhere, and there’s no preparing for them or fighting them, until yours truly slipped quietly into the world.
It wasn’t my parents who figured out when I was born, or what I might be capable of, despite all appearances. It wasn’t even the priests, whose job it is to try to know things. There’s a reason the mayor has been the mayor for 15 years now, and it’s me. He knew, though he won’t tell how, of why I should be saved from certain death at the hands of my uncaring parents. Of all the things in all the world, I made the seven days of warning less chaotic, and no one has died during those seven days since I was born.
I suppose, if you’re reading this, you wonder why I’m not the town darling, pampered and loved in every way, secured and cared for. Well you, dear reader, must live in a more rational part of the world. No one wanted to break whatever magic and protection I brought with me by changing my circumstances any, beyond what is needed to keep me alive, at least the first seven years. Every scrap of comfort and knowledge I’ve had to fight for myself until I was seven, when people loosened up a little, except for those seven days. It’s not that it’s an active thing; no one kicks me as I go by. But no one reaches out to pat my hair either. Everything people in the village do in regards to me is to stave off the death during those seven days.
Can you really fault them for it? No one has died during those stupid seven days in 13 years. If the baker had slipped me a fresh loaf, the tanner a new apron, the smith given me a warm place to sleep, might that have changed someone’s fate? I will say it’s been easier since I turned seven. A half burnt loaf placed so I could reach it, a few extra sausages hidden, a ratty old blanket left hanging on the line. Two years ago, when I turned 12, became a woman & still no one died, well the best thing of all happened. I woke up on the eighth day, not in my normal hidey hole, but in a tiny, freshly built cottage, complete with tiny everything-stove, bed, chair, wood pile, & trunk with my few little treasures neatly laid on top.

It was the first time I was thankful that no one was near to pay attention to me, as I lost count of how much I cried that day. It wasn’t that the village hated me, or feared me; they feared the unpredictable death more than they loved me, but this tiny, well built cottage proved something, & it took me a long time to figure out what.

People are human, they like things orderly, predictable, normal, routine. But the seven days of warning had thrown that to the dogs, for a generation before I was ever born. I suppose this explains my parents. Why would they bother to care for an unformed newborn, when the love of their life was right there, right now, & could die at any moment in the next week, or next year? Even after it became apparent no one was dying after I was born, & the mayor announced this, my parents remained completely wrapped up in each other. I suppose that’s why they didn’t notice the first spark from the dirty, clogged up chimney. Would I have noticed? I would have tried to save them, if anyone could, they were my parents. But that choice, as were so many others, were never in my hands.

But to stay, & continue to be mostly ignored for a year & put on show for those seven days, or to leave & see if anything, if everything could be different anywhere that’s not here-or at least threaten it-that’s a choice that’s still up to me, now that I’ve figured out how to move around. It wouldn’t have been possible without my little cottage. After all, how else could I hide a dog, & what I was teaching him to do?

But this year, my 14th year, I find myself more on edge than usual, caught up in the fever of the village. There’s nothing we can do to stop it, save whatever magic is somehow attached to me, and wait.
My birthday is coming.

Get it out there

  
The world is bursting into crazy spring, cherry blossoms, tulips, rainbows as far as the eye can see. The south wind is blowing hard & of course I’m full tilt crazy. Each spring comes, & that exuberant south wind fairly shouts at me to set loose, make a change, hit the road. This year is no different; I’ve got a long road trip ahead this weekend, the plans & gear & to do list painstakingly obsessed over, the closets are looking a bit bare, & the patient boyfriend has persuaded me not to tear the apartment apart in my quest to make it different.

  
At the same time I’m a little more settled than usual, my job proceeding apace, Kade’s still in preschool though kindergarten looms at the end of the summer, I’m able to work with horses each week & soon, so soon I hope to add riding every week to the list. Included in all this is the writing group I’ve been able to wiggle my way into, & I love every moment of it.

  
The south wind pushed me to do something crazy last week-volunteer a sample of my last NaNo novel I’ve been working on for public consumption & critique. Gulp. Thanks buddy! So now I have to choose what is hopefully a somewhat coherent, sorta polished 10,000 word section of the story I’ve been penning since November…which no one else has read. Well, I’ve read aloud some of it to the five year old, but he thinks everything I do is awesome (unless it involves some form of the word “No.” Then he’s not so keen on it!)

  
Part of me is quietly freaking out over someone reading my writing-well, at least something I’ve put more effort into than, say, my woeful fourth attempt at blogging. The larger part is happily ticking away, mulling over which section to present & what kinds of critique to ask for. 

Between sharing my work, the world’s best (and most patient) boyfriend, my cutest blondie, a short work week and camping in the Horse Haven hills to look forward to, it’s a good time to turn 27 🙂