The Solicitor

Physically, he was unassuming. He wore a navy blue suit, with a starched white shirt and a fire-engine red tie. He was short enough that it would be easy to lose sight of him in a crowd. His skin looked like too-often bleached cotton, and his beak-like nose dominated his flat, pasty face. His lips looked like he was perpetually disapproving and his eyes glinted like polished onyx. The sheen on his forehead could just as easily have been from nervous sweat as from whatever pomade he had used to paste his thin, dull hair to his head.

As he shuffled into the room, one got the impression that he had spent many a day with his shoelaces tied together and his hands unable to get loose to untie them. He cleared his throat as he brought a briefcase up to rest on the table in front of him.

“Goodday. My name is Roland Jones and I am a solicitor.”

I had to strain to hear what he said because he spoke as if he had top-secret information and an unsecure room to share it in. He continued after a brief pause.

“I was hired by Brooks LLC to assist in the legal aspects of this transaction. I have been brought up to speed on all the history relating to each individual in this room and barring any last questions … , ” he looked pointedly around the room and continued, “… everyone here is able to sign on the dotted line today.”

There was silence as the room seemed to enter a kind of suspended animation; each of us eyeing the others waiting to see who would ask the one question we were all thinking.

Just as Noland Jones, solicitor, readied himself to speak again, a tentative female voice spoke up from the back of the room, “Where are we?”

How Stereotypes hurt us, from a personal perspective

If you’re like me, in any of the smallest of ways, you’ve chafed at the bit that is stereotypical roles for all your life. I struggled long and hard as a child with statements such as “you should focus on behaving like a lady” and “but you should wear (read:like) pink; pink is for girls” and “frills are just so pretty, I don’t know why you don’t like them – you’re a girl” and “but patent shoes are so formal and show class”.

Embarrassingly, I thought long and hard (obsessively in some instances) about things like why boys stand up to urinate and why girls must sit. I will even admit to experimenting a little with the reversal of that concept. We won’t get into the details… let’s just say the results were hilarious in retrospect, if humiliating at the time. Chalk it up to youthful ignorance of human anatomy. When I learned more about how our bodies are built, I heard the gong go off in my head on the why of that particular fact. Some of our “norms” are as a result of biology – case in point. A ton others, though, are not. Like how long we keep our hair or what colours we wear. Those things are dictated by society, not biology.

Something someone very dear to me said to me recently got me thinking. There are so many ways in which we produce cookie-cutter children and we are not even remotely aware of those ways. Why? Because it is what we were taught growing up (much in the same way I was), and we saw how it went for those who were socialised in ways other than the “norms” of society. Shunned, ridiculed, abused, discarded. Better to be “normal”, isn’t it?

But I have to ask you this: how does that feel, that “normal”? Does it feel comfy to be in your “normal” skin? And just for a second, I want to ask you to set aside that “but I wouldn’t fit in” feeling and really think about how it feels to be “normal”.

And here’s the thing: some of you will tell me it feels perfectly fine. That’s the thing about stereotypes. They actually do fit some people. The hurtful part is when it doesn’t. We can’t all be the same. And we shouldn’t have to be. I am firm advocate for allowing people to grow into the kind of people they want to be instead of the kind of people society says they should be. And the way to do that is to stop insisting that they stick to the “norms” that society dictates. A 3 year old boy can most definitely have long hair and wear pink if he wants to. Objections to either of those are society talking, not biology. We have to remember that.

I applaud the trashing of gender stereotypes because I have never been comfortable with the “typical girl” one at all. And I think it hurt me far more than it needed to be forced into pink frilly dresses and socks with patent leather shoes and bows in my hair. It hurt because I was uncomfortable and we often associate discomfort with other items. For example, church became a consistently bad thing growing up because it was when Mom forced me into pink, frilly dresses and socks with patent leather shoes. That’s harmful – no matter what you think of church and religion. A child’s recollection of church should not be as a result of how he or she was dressed.

Do me a favour – please. The next time you think “Oh but that’s not very masculine/feminine” stop for a moment and ask yourself whether whatever it is you are criticising is a biological dictate (like urinating standing up), or societal (long hair and pink for a boy). And if it is societal, acknowledge that the reasons why you want to change them is not because it’s wrong, but because you are concerned about them being shunned, ridiculed, abused, discarded. Then allow them to experiment and choose and hope they realise that society can be unforgiving on their own before it is too late. Perhaps, like me, they’ll realise that to be vastly different is to draw unwanted attention to their lives. Or perhaps they’ll say “to hell with it – I will be who I want to be” and chart the course for new lands.

Remember, some of our most loved heroes and creative geniuses were far from “normal”. Maybe that is what it takes to succeed – the courage (or crazy) to challenge the status quo. Maybe that’s what we need to change the world we live in. Allow those harmful stereotypes to die the miserable, lonely death they deserve.

It’s been a while since we last spoke …

Ok, maybe not quite as long as it has been in the past, but it’s still been a few days. What’s new with me?

Well, for the first time in a year or two, we have a Christmas tree up …

It’s looking a lot like Christmas around here …

Of course, the reasons are far from being particularly Christmas-y. There are no presents underneath it and we aren’t particularly feeling Christmas-y (yet), but I did need it for the backdrop for our first ever family portrait for Christmas cards (which are more of a duty than out of anything other feeling right now). Yes; I am admitting it on my blog. I’m not sending out Christmas cards because I feel the spirit of the holiday season. I am doing it because it’s what is done these days, at this time of year.

For a couple years now, I’ve wanted to add my own creative touch to holiday communiqués. Buying cards, writing a little nonsense on the inside and sending them far and wide is a tradition I grew up with. It shows that you’re thinking of these people at this special time of year. I like the gesture, but I hate the chore of it. I’ve always wanted to *make* my own cards. For birthdays, anniversaries, holidays. And last year, I made myself a promise that this year I would do exactly that. (“Project!” *whoooo*)

I guess the spirit is lacking in me this year … for several reasons. Mostly personal. Still … I am going to “fake it” because at some point I am hoping that I’ll actually feel it. And this is my first attempt at faking it. A christmas tree – all lighted, and pretty, and festive and stuff. The next step is the cards (some of which have already gone out – some of you will be receiving yours WAY early; yaadies may get theirs a little late). A third step is participating in a Jeep Christmas parade this Saturday (maybe I’ll get some pictures – we’ll see if I get a chance to work the camera a bit). One certain step is on December 21st (which is my “Christmas”), I think I’ll flood the house with candles (some of them ones I make for myself hopefully) all day.  Candlemas is supposedly February 2, but for me December 21st is all about coaxing the light back – even more so now that I live in the Northwest U.S. where the daylight lasts less than 12 hours (it’s actually about 8 hours in total; not counting dawn and twilight).

So … it’s early days yet, but here’s hoping all of you have a very happy and safe holiday season – whatever you may be celebrating at this time.

 

The Great Movie Trope adventure

My friend Annetta Ribken kindly (or maybe not so kindly) linked an article from io9.com for me today. I’m not sure whether Netta will remain a friend or not after this because I haven’t been able to leave tvtropes.org since. Thankfully, I managed to avoid clicking the link until I had finished at least one of my “must do” tasks for today (the other sits languishing in my to-do list, awaiting some semblance of self-discipline to show itself).

I had to write about this adventure down tvtropes.org-land because it validates some of the asinine mistakes that I have noticed in several films over the years. When I first clicked through from the io9.com link, I was taken directly to the “Artistic License” page (well, naturally since that is what the io9.com article was making reference to). It’s interesting to note that the first real “fact” that I picked up from this activity was that military uniforms aren’t wrong in films deliberately to escape punitive measures from the authorities. No; military uniforms are wrong in films because the writers or costumers just couldn’t be bothered to get it right (or maybe they truly, honestly, do not know it’s wrong). I know that is an imdb.com link, but to be honest, tvtropes.org only makes a superficial reference to the text in that link.

I clicked through a few of the other Artistic License pages just for fun and, among other things, found that the Mormons actually are not happy at all that one of the things they are most known for is polygamy. Which sort of makes good common sense – why would any religious group want to be known by something which is illegal in most (if not all) of the western world. Still, I find it odd that this is what they are known most for; when they first made landfall in Jamaica, there was a rumour going around that the church stipulated that no black people were going to be allowed in heaven and that only 122,000 people had places reserved for them in heaven. There was tons of backlash because it’s kind of silly to bring a denomination to a country where more than half the adherents are likely to be at a distinct disadvantage. Since I grew up with some common sense, I knew that particular rumour had to be skewed and that the truth was likely something entirely different. I mean really … it’s not possible that they would make a mistake like that – right?

But I digress …

One of the more interesting links took me into the Martial Arts page, and eventually on into the Jean Claude Van Damme page where it seems as if most of this heroic stunts are fairly realistic – well, except for that “spinning splits jumpkick”, of course… maybe. Still, it kind of made me giggly to note that his middle name is “Camille”…. ::snicker:: (Which is all sort of relevant since just this last weekend I was introduced to his epic split collaboration with Volvo Trucks #CannotWatchEnough)

Anyway, I started looking for that annoyingly stupid trope of the computer programmer; the one in particular that always gets me to gnash my teeth is Hugh Jackman in Swordfish. I mean, even if you might be inclined to believe being able to hack a high-security, 128-bit encrypted website in 60 seconds under rather questionable circumstances, you couldn’t possibly believe that any programmer with a brain programmes with a stream of “no, no, no, please, yes!” and “oh baby!” and “we are crusin’” and “yeah. ha ha ha ha” … because … no. No one writes code like that. Trust me. Programmers have been known to yell “Whoohoo!” when a particularly stubborn piece of code finally works, but that Hugh Jackman nonsense is all Hollywood, baby, as tvtropes.org says about Stanley Jobson in Swordfish, “Mostly amazing in his first demonstration: he is ordered to hack into the Department of Defense in 60 seconds while at gun point, and receiving oral sex. Amazingly, his typing in between buttons and in between rows means something to the computer he uses.” Yeah … no; not a chance.

There’s a lot of neat stuff to be learned on this site and as I mentioned in my Facebook post, it really can end up being a trip down the Rabbit Hole if you aren’t careful. Even if not, it most certainly is one huge time sink. So … yeah – make sure you’ve got a few hours to spend before you click through these links. I refuse to be responsible for anyone else missing deadlines tonight (or the rest of this week, for that matter).

 

Writing is so hard… isn’t it?

I haven’t been writing. This should not come as news to my regular blog readers since my blog has been dark for a few weeks now; especially after an explosion of posting sometime in August. The reason for this is simple, my drive, my motivation, my creativity has been stifled. I’ve been try to pinpoint the cause of this suffocation, and I don’t know that I’ve been able to determine any one specific cause. It could be one thing, it could be many things. Of one thing I am certain, and that is that without the input of my friends, without seeing my efforts in “print”, I’m doing myself a disservice by keeping it all inside.

So starting today, I am going to attempt something radical. Whoo wee, kids! Hang onto your hats, because this one is completely unorthodox and so out there, it’ll make you want to scream: I’m going to write!

Good or bad, I’m going to write. I pledge to do a short-short every single time I have an idea and share it right here until it gets to be too big to share in a post. Maybe putting it out there, with the possibility of being seen, will help motivate me, drive me. Maybe the act of writing will loosen the noose around the neck of my creativity. Maybe faking it will help me make it. 

I’ve got a story I want to tell, and sitting on my ass feeling sorry for myself is not getting it told. It’s time to get apocalyptic on my closet-writer’s ass.

And with that, I present to you The Cat Speaks. I admit it’s gotten a little more bloated than I had intended it to, but here it is… written and partially edited, for your reading pleasure:

“You’re obsessing again.”

The voice was coming from somewhere in this room. It was eerie yet somehow not as terrifying as I would have thought. I was more interested in finding what it meant by ‘obsessing’ than I was to find out to whom – or what – the voice belonged. It was moot anyway. No matter what I chose to ask or say to this disembodied voice, it was likely to brand me as crazy with the neighbours anyway. I started to envision them peeking at me through their windows and muttering amongst themselves about just how weird and potentially dangerous I was because I was walking around my house, talking to myself.

“There … you’re doing it again,” the voice said, the location of its owner still eluding me.

“What? What am I doing again?” To hell with the neighbours, I needed to confront this enigma.

“Obsessing…. you’re really going to make me repeat myself, aren’t you?”

“Who the hell are you, anyway?” Finally, a sensible response to this odd turn of events in my otherwise normal day.

“Who the hell am I? You’re the one who talks to me everyday … several times a day, in fact. Why are you surprised I finally decided to respond?”

And with that I knew exactly who the voice belonged to. I uttered a curse as I searched for the latest hidey-hole my cat had found to wedge herself into.

“Hmm… took you a whole 2 minutes to figure that out. Bravo!”

The cynicism was almost palpable. Had I thought about it, I would have realised that the voice certainly matched Demeter’s facial expressions that I had been enduring for years, so why not? If my cat, Demeter could talk – did talk – she would sound exactly like this.

“Exactly. You humans are stupid.”

“Reading my mind now, are you?” I asked, as I paced the room, scouring the bookcase, furniture, and shadowed corners of the living room.

“I’ve always been able to read your mind, dearie. The only thing new under the sun, is that I have now deigned to talk to you.”

I could almost hear her eyes rolling and it gave my search a renewed intensity.

“Oh for Bast’s sake … I’m lying on top of the cat tree in the corner of the room.”

‘Aha!’ I thought to myself.

“Oh please – it would have taken you another hour or two to find me; I was just helping you along so we can get this conversation over with, leaving me free to go back to sleep.”

I strode over to the cat tree and confronted Demeter, but what came out was the last thing on my mind to ask: “How have you never spoken to me before?”

“That’s really the first thing you want to ask me? Really?”

I crossed my arms and said, “Honestly? I’m still trying to figure out whether I’ve lost my mind or whether I’m really standing here talking to my pet cat!”

If I didn’t know any better, I would have sworn that Demeter chuckled at my mini tantrum. Her lips didn’t move, but her voice came unmistakably from her direction, “You’ve not lost your mind, but you really ought not to be yelling at me like that. People passing on the street might see and brand you ‘crazy cat lady'”.

That was my initial thought when she first spoke. Now that I had had a chance to confront her, I pondered the wisdom in the assumption that my neighbours hadn’t yet labelled me as crazy. Considering the wind chimes encircling the house, along with the sun dial in the front yard and the rather elaborate outdoor Pagan altar in the back yard, it was unlikely they hadn’t already come to some conclusions about my sanity.

Demeter smirked, “Indeed.” Assuming a cat can smirk, that is.

“Look – we can debate and discuss my heretofore undiscovered abilities forever, but I’d really like to get back to my dozing so let’s get this over with. As I was saying, you’re obsessing again. We both know where that’s going to get you, so can you please put a halt on that right quick?”

Curiosity took over from indignation and I asked, “What do you mean obsessing?”

“This is the 10th continuous day that you have spent that much mental energy thinking about Jonathan. Maybe you should just go ahead and talk to him already.”

“Oh.”

I turned around, plucked a strand of hair off my skirt, and walked away.

“You can walk as far away from me as you want, but you’ll still hear my voice. I have pretty good projection.”

Feline superiority is usually referred to in a joking manner, but Demeter was proving to be every bit as supercilious as was expressed in every single bad joke about cats and their attitudes.

“Yep; that I am. Back to Jonathan. How about you stop thinking and start doing?”

I balked considering some of the thoughts I’d had about Jonathan in the last few days.

“Yes, yes. I know. Imagine how uncomfortable *I* feel – I can read your mind,” Demeter’s voice followed me into the kitchen as if it were disembodied and walking.

“Awkward…” I muttered, my voice quivering. My thoughts hadn’t been particularly pure.

“Indeed.”

I recovered my composure, grasped at my indignation, and sputtered, “Well, I can’t just damn well walk up to the man and say ‘Hi; come have dinner with me?’ now can I?”

“And why not?”

I started to respond, but Demeter’s voice cut me off mid-thought: “Don’t you dare give me that ‘You’re a cat, you can’t possibly understand!’ crap. I’m a cat, not an idiot. I know all about your stupid social norms. Just ask the man if he’d like to have a cup of coffee with you. There’s no harm in that.”

I had to admit that the cat had a point. Hell, what was the worse that could happen?

“The worst? He could tell you to go jump in a lake.”

“Gee, thanks! You’re such a bundle of encouragement.”

“That’s not my job, lady. Now quit the belly-achin’ – I’m missing out on some quality sleep time here.”

I didn’t have to be in the same room with her to know that she’d tucked her nose under her left paw and started to close her eyes again, effectively ending the conversation.

The conversation! It had taken me less than an hour to accept that my cat could and did speak when she wanted to. And was calling it a conversation. There was no longer anything normal about this day. The whole notion of a ‘witch’s familiar’ had just taken on a whole new meaning for me.

A little excitement at the annual McChord Field Air Show

This weekend, my parents arrived for a 2 week visit. They landed at 10pm Pacific time on Saturday night. They were a little jet lagged, but happy to see me. Despite that, despite getting to sleep some 2 hours or more later, they insisted on accompanying hubby and I to the annual air show at McChord Field on Sunday.

I have always loved me some jet engines. I have been known to get out of my bed early morning on a weekend and drive to the Palisadoes strip, outside the lighthouse, to watch the planes land over the road onto the runway at Norman Manley International.

I get a hell of a thrill just feeling the power in those jet engines as they powered up for a landing or a take-off. An almost embarrassingly orgasmic kind of thrill. So this air show was the thrill of a lifetime for me.

We saw so much, I can’t write about it all. The one big moment was when the B-1B bomber broke the sound barrier and I caught it on film.

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Hubby tapped me on the shoulder just after I got that shot and asked me, “Did you hear it?”

I asked, “Hear what?”

“He broke the sound barrier.”

“Damn. I didn’t hear anything.”

“You might have seen it too – like a puff of smoke.”

So we rapidly paged a shot or two back and saw that I had actually caught the moment in a perfectly framed image.

I rock!

Happy 4th!

It took me almost 4 years to be able to say that – Happy 4th – without feeling like a complete sellout.

But this year, hubby drove me into Lacey especially to take in the fireworks show and get some images. And I’ll be completely honest with you, it was more the prospect of photographing my first fireworks show that I was excited about than anything else.

I’ve seen fireworks shows before in Jamaica. The US ambassador would shoot some off on the 4th from his embassy on the hill in St. Andrew and on at least one occasion the Jamaican government fired some off from a barge in the harbour for the Jamaican independence celebrations. But you haven’t really done fireworks until you’ve done them 4th of July style in the US.

Lacey did it with style this year. According to hubby, it wasn’t quite as elaborate as he has seen in times past, but for a newb like me, it seemed elaborate enough for me.

And to top it off, it seems as if my photos did pretty well. I shot them in RAW (as well as JPEG) and they came out remarkably well. I learned a few lessons from the outing. Like, I need to position myself with most of the distracting objects behind me in stead of in front, but having an object for the lens to focus on makes a shit load of good too; all in all even with the light posts and the people in my images, they looked pretty darn good. Also, I could have been closer to the display than this … that would have gotten them higher in my frames instead of near the bottom with all that blank sky in the top of the shot.

No matter … so long as we aren’t in one of the wildfire states next year (and presuming hubby is with me again) I’ll do better.

And oh yea – I must say the weather has held up really well for this holiday. The sky was clear as a bell last night and today is bright and cheery. Pretty damned odd for the PNW this time of year, but I am grateful for that.

I’m that much less afraid of the dark now

Thanks to a dear friend and an impromptu Twitter DM conversation, I discovered that depression is something a lot of writers struggle with and that there is research that shows that there is direct correlation between depression and the problem-solving process.

 “If depression lives in the same place as creative thought, when you block out one, you’re going to interfere with the other.”

I think this just might be the first step I needed to find my way to understanding this process better now.

Maybe those Angel re-runs screened solely for my personal viewing pleasure was not the best idea I’ve ever had in dealing with my latest bout with despondency. The television is my medication and I think I’ve over-medicated enough.

One of things that used to give me great relief was a written journal. Maybe that’s what I need to do again – write the shit out of my head so it can stop stinking the air up there. Chances are seeing it on paper, in my own handwriting will help the process too. Who knows? It’s a start.