Monday, December 30, 2013

Rarer than a Jackelope


Smash, Splatter, Curse



I've been dropping a lot of things lately: glass bottles, full plates of food.  Cutlery.
Smash, splatter, curse.
I've been dropping things off, dropping names, dropping hints. I put drops in my eyes, but they were the wrong kind, the kind with hydrogen peroxide in them. I screamed. The pets scattered in terror.
Usually, when I start dropping things and running into walls, it means I'm a teensy bit stressed.
If only I could drop some good things: pounds, for instance. Baggage. Fears. Certain holiday obligations. I'd like to drop-kick my computer sometimes (No, no, I'm sorry Sweetheart! I would never smash you! I need you! It's just that you have Windows 8).
Sometimes I worry that I've dropped IQ points or my wallet, or dropped the ball, but usually it is just a false alarm. After all, I'm very good at minding the important things. But that sort of concentration is stressful.
And why is dropping things so bad, really? So full of angst?
Maybe it's because of the connotations of destruction, of carelessness.
If we stopped saying "drop" and reframed it as setting down, wouldn't we be doing ourselves a kindness? We could set down a toxic relationship and just…refrain from picking it up again. Set down a job that is killing us.
We could set down burdens and expectations. No guilt involved.
And then, with our hands suddenly free, we could pick up something that makes our hearts sing.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Dream World


What I Dreamt Last Night is a novel that I wrote a few years ago. It's about the dream world of a woman whose boyfriend is too good to be true.

It's available as an ebook through Amazon.com and Smashwords, and on Smashwords it's free (for a short time). Yes, zero dollars! Even if you don't want one, please download it. It will bring me great joy to think that it is being read!

Here's the prologue:

Chelsea dreamt that she was on a swing in her childhood backyard. It was a glorious sun-dappled spring day, crocuses peeking out of the grass. She pumped the swing, long blonde hair flitting in the breeze. Higher and higher she swung, until she launched into outer space. She looped around the sun, sun dress fluttering, hair trailing behind her. One lap, two laps, then dove into the sun’s pure white light.

A figure appeared. A fragile old lady: white hair, skinny legs jutting out of her beige nylon nightie.

The old lady said, "Excuse me, do you have a moment?" and Chelsea dragged her toe through stardust to slow down.

"What are you doing in my dream?"

The old lady flew beside her, arms outstretched, nightie flapping around her calves. "Your dreams are not just for you, Chelsea. They’re for the whole world. There are two ways you can go from here. I know you’ll choose the right path."

"I’m really not interested in your opinion," said Chelsea.

"Don't sass me, young lady. We need to talk. Tomorrow. I’ll be at The Little Cub, waiting for you." The old lady banked a turn and flashed away into the stars.

Chelsea woke to the sound of a snowplow on Hiwan Drive, flipped off the covers, swung her legs over the side of the bed and turned off her alarm before it could start. The deejay would just be bitching about the weather, as though it were unexpected to have snow in March in Colorado. Even in the old days, they had snow in March. She turned on the lamp, tilted up her alarm clock and slid out a scrap of paper, fumbled a pen from her bedside table and scanned the list, grimacing. What had she dreamt last night? All Chelsea could remember was her last dream--the one with the little old lady.


Mildred McNulty entered other dreams that night. She flitted, invisible, through a world of nightmares to throw a life ring to the drowning, a torch to the lost, to soothe the lonely with a touch, to whisper, "fly, fly" in the falling man’s ear.

Laughter echoed in her head. A voice said, "Give it up."

She paused.

Through a haze of smoke, a man in a suit and tie beckoned her with a languid wave. Ah, him. Mildred should have known. Suddenly, her nightie felt inappropriate.

"If you weren’t so pathetic," he said, "you’d be dangerous. What good will it do anyone to think they can fly?"

"And fear is so much more useful?"

"There are rules. People can’t just do anything they please."

"Why not, Thomas? Yes, I know your name."

He smirked.

Mildred McNulty said, "You think the rules will protect us from pain, but nothing can do that." She twisted awkwardly to look up into his eye. "You’re just afraid. You’re afraid to live, young man."

"Leave Chelsea alone or you’ll regret it," he said.

"Typical Mare talk," she said.

"I mean it."

Mildred McNulty jerked awake, then fell back against her pillows. Exhausted. How could she resist the nightmares, the darkness closing in? How could she save them, bogged down by fear? How could she throw off their chains, teach them to love, to hope, to fly? And how could she do it in the time she had left?

She was fading. Everything about her was less than it used to be: she was bent, shrunken, weak as a baby bird. Even her voice quavered. One day, she would cease to be. But until then, she would fight them, fight for what might be, even if she was the last one who believed it was possible.


All of the rest of them dreamt, too:

Jennie Randolph dreamt of Aaron Pederson. She dreamt he asked her to the prom, which was just stupid, because Jennie wasn’t the prom type, and neither was Aaron Pederson. That was what she liked about him. Anyway, in the dream, it was nice. She also dreamt about her half-brother Lawrence Stewart, who was a Little Shit. But that wasn’t a happy dream. That was more like reality. She opened her eyes and saw that another day had begun, mumbled "fuck me", and heaved herself out of bed.

Greg Lindstrom dreamt of his wife. Dreamt over and over of the night she’d gotten dream sickness. Dreamt of all the horrors that trapped her in the dream world, unable to wake. He couldn't save her. He was always too slow, too late, too dumb. He tripped, the car wouldn’t start, he couldn’t get the words out.

"Daddy."

When Greg opened his eyes, Jamie’s face was an inch from his. His breath smelled of milk.

"Are we gonna see Mom today?"

Greg’s throat closed up. He lifted his arms from the blanket and wrapped the little boy in a hug.


Ted dreamt of Chelsea.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Holiday Joy Experiment



I was trying to think of ways to spread peace and joy during the holidays, because it is SO not the most wonderful time of the year. I thought of giving gift cards to homeless people, but that doesn't really get to the heart of the problem. People are depressed. They're overwhelmed and anxious and lonely and freezing their butts off. And they are assaulted by piped-in Christmas music everywhere. A ten-dollar Target gift card isn't going to fix that. People need to remember that they are okay, they are loved, and that things will get better.

So I started writing down thoughts that are helpful to me. Half an hour later, I had 150 of them (and realized I've been reading too many self-help books). I put the sayings onto 300 cards, and then I thought, what the hell am I doing?

I'll be lynched, I thought. I'll be arrested for suspicious cheerfulness or creepy niceness.

People will take offense. They'll say: "You can't make me love myself, you asshole!" and "Get away from me, you New Age freak!" Perhaps, I thought, a mob will chase me out of town. It could be dangerous, but I was prepared to take the risk to do good.

The reality was surprisingly...calm.

At the tire shop, the cafe and the Laundromat, I was able to unload about forty uplifting thoughts. "Would you like a happy thought?" I'd say, and flourish a fan of colored cards. A few people politely declined. Everybody else was delighted.
There are still 260 cards to go. But I should be able to hand them all out by Christmas.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ancient Football


Three thousand years ago, Mesoamericans built their lives around football just as Americans do to this day.

Now, the old game was a little different. For one thing, it's likely that the losing captain got his head lopped off. This was to appease the gods, so maybe it was worth it.

But the similarities are more startling than the differences. Players adopted animal imagery to make them feel more fearsome, and armored up with chest protectors, hip, knee and thigh pads, helmets and jockstraps. The game was highly ceremonial, and played in large stadiums at the center of town, often by professional athletes. There were ongoing rivalries between towns. The fans gathered and rooted for their teams and gambled (and sometimes lost their shirts). There was a halftime show with music.

Players were often gravely injured. Most likely that held the same fascination it does today. We might think we're more advanced than ancient peoples, but in some respects, the more things change, the more they stay the same.