LJI: feckless

Do not give the Magpie a marshmallow.

If you give the Magpie a marshmallow, it will ask for a graham cracker to help unstick its beak.

If you give the Magpie a graham cracker, it will want you to build a campfire so it can make s’mores.

If you build the Magpie a camp fire, it will want to stay up all night eating s’mores and telling stories.

If you tell stories with the Magpie, it will ignore everyone else at the fire and chatter endlessly about the world that was, the halcyon days, the time of the first golden light.

If the Magpie starts talking about the world that was, the halcyon days, the time of the first golden light simply listen.  The Magpie will describe how colors were brighter when they were new, how a lake tried to steal itself out of the sky coloring their tail feathers forever, and how the mountains stretched high wanting to stroke their white downy belly. The Magpie will brag about the times it bested bigger animals than itself, pulling the Eagle’s tail or even…

The Magpie will roar with laughter as it tells of shadowing Coyote through the woods as he hunted a rabbit.  Coyote pounced and wounded the rabbit even unto death, but the rabbit used the last of its strength to run.  The Magpie dribbled berry juice along a separate path so the Coyote would track no animal at all, and the Magpie could perch on the corpse of the uncaught rabbit and feast.

If the Magpie is strutting around as though it had only just stolen the Coyote’s meal, it will decide to perform even greater feats.  The Magpie will puff itself up until it is bigger than the trees and declare that it is going to steal the moon out of the sky to use as a bauble in its nest.

If the Magpie who is bigger than the Buffalo flies to the moon, it will fly for a very long time, but the moon will never draw any closer.  The Magpie will fly through a day and into the next night and still not arrive at the moon.  The Magpie will turn around and fly back to the remnants of your camp fire.

If the Magpie returns from trying to catch the moon; it will be tired and sad.

If the tired and sad Magpie asks for a snack, all you have left to offer are graham crackers.

If you give the Magpie a graham cracker, it will listlessly peck at the food and complain that it is too dry and boring and what it needs is a softer, sweeter food; perhaps a marshmallow.

Do not give the Magpie a marshmallow.

***It's week 7 of LJ Idol, read everyone else's feckless entries at the link.  Special thanks to my eight year old niece Rose who unknowingly helped me brainstorm this piece.***

LJI: everything looks like a nail

“Hello Boss.”
“Hey Tucker.  You ready for the last show?”
“It’s a good thing there’s only one more.  Do you have any duct tape in your kit?”
“Is backstage out of tape?”
“Yeah, I thought props had a spare roll and they thought I had a spare which is why we didn’t raise a flag for more before this.”
I dug through the stage management road box and pulled out a half roll of duct tape. “This is what I’ve got, you’re welcome to it.  Please return it to me after the show, production always make me jump through extra hoops to get a new roll.”
“If there’s any left, of course I will.”
“That rough, huh?”
“It’s just a lot of things that need a little love.”
“Do you think we can hold it together for one more go around?”
“With this?” Tucker held up the roll of tape. “We can do anything with this.”
He grinned and left the control booth; I kept going through my pre-show checklist and took a few deep breaths.  The final show of a production typically runs hot with all the extra emotion in the building, I was going slowly to make sure in all the bittersweet excitement that nothing fell through the cracks.
After the show, I was tidying my space in the booth, returning office supplies to their spots in the stage management road box and the monkeys and Kermit to their places in my own travel box.  Every stage manager has a few talismans that come to every show, no one who works in theater escapes all superstition.
Tucker knocked on the glass front of the booth, which I slid open.  He handed me back the duct tape, less than half remaining on the roll I gave him only a few hours before.
“Is everyone okay back there?”
“Did it all look alright from the front?”
“Fine as far as I could tell, but this” indicating the nearly empty roll of tape “indicates some good times backstage.”
“I grabbed tape from you to re-tape the cable run backstage left, it was coming up and was a trip hazard.”
“Right, good catch.”
“You had given a note that the panels of the moon backdrop weren’t square anymore, so we taped the join to prevent light leak, and had to re-tape the grip on the push stick for the table. Props took the tape for a while; they taped up a scabbard and the parasols are held together by nothing but tape and hot glue at this point.”
The paper parasols were beautiful, and not built for weeks of dancing.  I was astonished we hadn’t lost one.
“Even costumes got in on the act.”
“Wait, what?”
“Derek lost a button..”
“Right and they doubled the tape over and stuck the placket together.”
“And the seam started coming out of Ev’s skirt so they taped it up too.”
I laughed.  “If the audience only knew how much of this show was held together by tape.”
Tucker grinned.  “It’s the magic of theater.  Come on – you remember…
If you can’t fix it, duct it.”
He paused, and I joined in to finish the backstage rhyme.
“If you can’t duct it, fuck it.”

***LJI week three read all the peoples at the link earlier in this sentence.  Both duct and gaffers tape were in high demand backstage on any show, I still keep rolls of each around out of habit."

LJI: Living rent-free in your head

“I’d like a Grande Salted Caramel Mocha with an extra shot of espresso please.”

“That’s so much sugar, Susie, and do you really need all that caffeine?”

The low grade hum at the edge of my hearing told me I’d been connected, but I wasn’t supposed to have any clients today.  I smiled at the man behind the counter as I tapped my card to pay and moved out of the way for the next person to order.

“Susie, he’s cute.  You should start a conversation with him.”

I grimaced a little.  Luckily or not, I recognized that voice.

“Then again you aren’t really dressed to impress.  I see your reflection and don’t know why you think leggings and a sweatshirt are appropriate anywhere but the gym.”

I glanced around and said quietly “Grandma, we can chat in a bit.”

“I’m here, why shouldn’t we talk now?"

I focused on the menu board as the most neutral item in the room.

"Is coffee really so expensive, that’s ridiculous.  How much did you pay for your Coffee-Sugar-thingy?  In my day a cup of coffee was fifty cents.”

My name was called; I took my coffee cup and grabbed a lid on my way out the door.  I made an immediate left and walked quickly to the small park a block away.

“Susie, I need you to answer me.  Is this thing even working?”

I sat on a bench and sighed.  “Grandma, no one but me can hear you.  If I answer you in public everyone will think I’m crazy.”

“Everyone knows about sensitives these days and free-movement clients.  I’m very proud of the work you do.”

“I’m not on duty and I wasn’t expecting to be, so I’m not wearing the vest that tells people I’m linked.  How did you get connected?”

“I told Jerry, our free-movement operator, that you were expecting me and I must have been erased from the schedule somehow.  I brought him some warm peanut butter cookies; it was my kitchen time this morning.  He knows you’re my grand-daughter – I just wanted to drop by.”

I kept looking at the trees, knowing that if I rolled my eyes or shook my head she’d see it with me.  Grandma’s cookies and flattery had done it again.

“Grandma, when people pay for this they don’t want to get coffee.  Mostly I go on hikes, or to museums, or even the opera, no one expects me to have someone in my head doing ordinary things, and I didn’t expect to have someone in my head at all this morning.”

This was a huge breach of security; I was beginning to understand why the company drilled the safeties into us over and over.  And why they didn’t let us take family as clients.

“I thought this would be easier than you coming all the way out here to visit me.”

“I like visiting with you Grandma, and it’s easier to do when we’re two separate people.  The time I spend with clients isn’t about conversation; it’s about taking them into the world to have an experience they otherwise couldn’t.”

“I’m not a client, I’m family.  I don’t have to pay like that country song, you know the one, that one.”

“Yes Grandma.  I love you with all my heart for free, but being in my head is different.  There are rules for a reason.  What if you had popped into my head while I was driving and I crashed?  This could get both Jerry and I into a lot of trouble.”

There was a long pause.

“I’m sorry sweetpea.  I thought it was just a fancy phone call, I didn’t think it through. I’ll have Jerry disconnect us.”

“Thank you.  I’m still coming to see you on Saturday, save a cookie for me.”

The hum went away and I knew I was alone in my head again.  I sipped my coffee and debated how to tell corporate about this.  Putting a client in the head of someone who wasn’t expecting them was dangerous.  I would have to stop working with any clients at Grandma’s nursing home and make sure they scrubbed my neural template from that machine.  Grandma said she understood but I knew she would forget; it wouldn’t be long before she’d be sweet-talking some other operator into trying to put her through.  It would be best if that were impossible.  All of the corporate security in the world couldn’t resist fresh-baked cookies.

***LJI week two.  Read all of the fabulous entries here.  That country song, you know the one, is "Pay No Rent" by the Turnpike Troubadours.***

LJI: resolution

I am tired.

I want to crawl into a corner and let all my responsibilities, to myself and others, fall away, just for a while.  I want someone else to carry – well, everything.  My hands hurt, shouldn’t that mean I can put things down, at least long enough to heal?

Two weeks ago I fell.  I was running and my right toe caught on an uneven piece of sidewalk.  I fell headlong and hard.  (This has happened before; twice I’ve broken bones this way.)  As I rolled myself over and into a seated position I examined the damage – my left knee was scraped and bleeding, my chin felt the same though I couldn’t see it, and both hands hurt.  When I pulled off my gloves the bruising had already begun across my knuckles, my right hand worse than my left.  I felt like an idiot for falling, grown women are supposed to be able to stay on their feet.  I was scared I was broken again.  Two women out for a Sunday morning walk who saw my fall stopped and asked if I was okay, was I close to home.  I reassured them I was fine and got back up, testing my knee with weight, flexing my hands through all of the exercises I know from previous physical therapy.  They smiled at me, said the scrape on my chin wasn’t too bad and they were glad I was okay.  They continued their walk going the opposite direction, and I continued my run.

I didn’t think anything was broken – the pain is sharper and the bruises more purple more quickly in my experience.  I was supposed to run twelve miles, I fell just before completing three.  I ran ten, a small concession to the fact that my chin was dripping blood mixed with sweat onto my shirt and my knee had started to ache with every stride.

I could have stopped.  I could have turned and walked home, or found someone on the busy trail with a phone and called my husband to come and get me.  I considered it briefly.  But that’s not who I am.  I keep going; I remain resolute and steadfast; I hold things together no matter how hard they’re trying to fly apart.  I’m not entirely stupid; I went to urgent care for x-rays after I got home and cleaned up to be certain I hadn’t broken any bones.  I worked the next day – with the swelling in my right hand slowing my typing, but I worked.  I went for my next run on Tuesday.

This need to put on a brave face and continue is a part of me.  Even now, when the swelling is mostly gone but there’s still sharp pain in my right hand with some motions, I’m simply doing things with my left.  I’m worried that breaking isn’t the only thing that could have gone wrong, and I plan to call my doctor.  But I still can’t put things down.  I don’t know how to learn to be okay with the idea that things take longer, or that I can ask people to help.  That the world won’t end if I stop for a few days to heal, not just my hands, but my heart.  Somehow, despite being old enough to recognize the patterns I find myself back in this same groove of having to do to have value.  I wonder where it came from.  I wonder how I can make it go away.

I am so tired.

***LJI season 11 has begun!  Read everyone else's take on resolution here.***

where did October come from?

- My car hit 190,000 miles recently.  I was driving in town and got to watch all of those cylinders turn over, it was neat.  Of course, the battery died later that same week.  It was an easy fix but a sign that my 20 year old car may not have too much time left.  I'm hoping for one more winter, though there are a few maintenance things to do before the weather turns.

- Speaking of that Fall arrived here with a bang.  I'm not used to the high temperature dropping 20-30 degrees in a day.  Sunday it was 72, yesterday the high was 49 and we had frost overnight.  I'm thrilled for cooler weather but am used to a middle step, not going from t-shirts to turtlenecks in a day.

- I finally found a dentist here, went in for a check-up and cleaning and they found one cavity.  Now I've had only one cavity in my whole life before this, the bummer is it was the same cavity.  Apparently the dentist years ago didn't drill all of it out (I remember him saying it was so shallow they didn't even numb me up) and when my new dentist removed the old filling it was obivously bad - it looked dark brown.  So it has been re-drilled and re-filled.  I haven't decided, does this count as a second cavity or not?

-I've decided to read "IT" as part of the group reading in pathos_horror.  I am generally a scaredy-cat and have mostly avoided the horror genre in all things, though that's been slowly changing in the last few years.  "IT" was everywhere when I was in HS, and good friends told me I would have nightmares so I steered clear.  But I've always been curious, and figure reading it with other folks will help.  I read the first chapter this morning, and feel like that part of the story I've already heard endlessly just through pop culture osmosis.  So we'll see how this goes.

- Work continues to be - strange.  I've taught most of the parts of my old job to their new owners, and while I still twitch because they're not doing it like I would, it's getting done.  I've started learning the billing, though that is slow going because our systems are very bespoke, and there's a lot of information to learn.  So I oddly feel anxious both about what I'm not doing anymore and what I'm about to be doing. Right now on a day to day basis occasionally I have nothing to do, my old tasks are gone and new ones haven't filled in yet.  It's all weirdly stressful.  I have been/will be travelling one week a month for work from Aug-Dec which is kind of fun but also upsets all of my routines and is its own version of exhausting.  We'll see how all of this goes, I find myself chasing the back of the internet when there are productive long-term things I could be doing out of, I don't know, fear?  I'm doing well with the new stuff I've been given but I'm still not engaging all the way and I'm not quite certain why that is.

- I am running consistently again after tweaking something in my hip this summer - getting ready for a fall half-marathon.  I've also been working with a trainer once a week on strength and that has been fascinating, to figure out where my weaknesses are and work against them. 

another eclipse story

We went camping in western Wyoming Friday - Monday, near Pinedale.  J had booked a site in January that was just south of the totality line - none of the area campgrounds in the totality had reservable sites.

Friday we tested our first plan for getting into the totality path, driving to the upper Fremont Lake campground (our site was in the lower campground about 6 miles south).  The drive was beautiful, though the road wasn't in great repair.  When we got to the upper entrance there was a greeter next to a sign that read "Campgrounds full".  I told her we had a campsite and had driven up to see what there was to see.  Her reply, "A lot of cars."  The place was packed, not only was that camp area full, but it's the staging area for a hike-in campground that was also full, and a lot of folks who were back country hiking/camping also were using it as a launching location.  Cars were parked on the sides of every roadway in the immediate area.  We drove back down realizing how popular and crowded that area was going to be on Monday and thought about other plans.

Saturday we tested our next plan - J's inflatible two seat kayak.  We rowed out onto the lake trying to find some kind of rhythm.  J has sailboat and river rafting experience, I tend towards sea sickness and try to avoid being on the water.  Plus it's a kayak designed for rivers where the current is helping you go the way you want, in the lake it steered like a lame cow.  But it would keep us outdoors and not stuck in a car in traffic, so Sunday we went back out to keep learning about the kayak and each other. (who's steering?  it's best when only one person at a time does it.)

Monday we packed up camp, went to the day use area (saving ourselves a half mile of paddling from the much busier boat dock, we did learn some things Sunday) and put in.  We rowed across the lake to the western shore to a jutting point we could see from the maps was inside the totality boundary.  Kayak beached, we were able to climb up and around the small bluff at the shore.  A lot of boats heading for the northern shore went by.

We watched the eclipse, just the two of us, in a clear Wyoming sky.  Observations -

- The sun is bright.  Even mostly covered it wasn't as dark as i thought it would be.  Though the quaility of the light was fascinating, it has a very different color tone than a sunrise or set.
- The first thing I noticed wihtout eclipse glasses was it getting colder.  The temperature difference was noticable, and I was glad I threw a fleece in the dry bag.  It was downright cold at the totality.
- Totality where we were at the very southern edge lasted about 30 seconds.  It never went full dark, more like very late dusk with pink all around the edges of the horizon.  We saw a few planets out but no stars.
-The thing that made me emotional was the end of the totality, when the sun started coming back.  I teared up then, it felt like a benediction.

We stayed on our bluff and ate lunch and watched the sun come back, and watched a lot of boats go past to the southern boat landings..  Then we climbed down and rowed back across the lake to our vehicle, packed up the kayak, changed into dry clothes, and started home.

It was a fabulous trip, entirely worth the driving and occasional traffic.  It was nice just to get out camping which we haven't done much this summer so I'm glad we had the excuse.

stuff and nonsense

- We saw Green Day in concert last night.  They were amazing: the show was high-energy, the bits they did (like pulling an eleven year old out of the audience to play guitar on one of their songs) were the right mix of sweet and crazy, and they're one of those bands where I forget exactly how deep their catalog is until I realize how many of the songs I could sing along with.  It was an outdoor venue and it rained for about fifteen minutes just after they began, but the wind came up and the rain started so perfectly in time with them taking the stage and their first number that it could have been cued.

- Work is going to be crazy for the next few months. For a variety of reasons the accounting department is about to play musical chairs with responsibiities and I'm the primary focus.  I'm going to learn a new function (accounts receivable) that is a full time job on its own, so everything I do now I need to teach to one of two people: accounts payable to the current PGH receptionist who is stepping up to take this on, and all of my various other responisbilities to the other accountant in the department.  What I do now is a bit of a hodge podge, and I've spent the last year since Steve left getting it sorted and organized.  Most of my responisbilities run smoothly now with few surprises.  That does mean it's a good time to move on to something else, but I can already tell it's going to be a little hard to let go of things to folks who may not be quite as careful (anal, that's what I mean) about keeping track of everything.  There are also a few of my responsibilities dividing between the two ladies, at least in the short term, that will mean they have to talk to each other a lot to keep them straight.

As a remote employee I don't talk much, now that I'm teaching people I have scheduled meetings nearly every day and am on the phone a lot.  It's one extreme to another and I find myself getting peopled out by the end of most days.  Last week I was in Pittsburgh so we could start the processes in person, which was smart.  But that trip was more than the usual exhausting, because teaching is a whole different way of thinking about tasks you ordinarily just do, and people.  It doesn't help that my manager believes in a very hands off, sink or swim version of management, so I'm left figuring out what I need to teach who and when on my own with very little oversight.

- I wrote a draft for the last Idol prompt to home game with, but with work I never had a chance to go back and put the revision time in, which it needed.  This week i had an idea, but I never got words down at all.  It looks like I got voted out of Idol at the right time.