Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The letter

This week's prompt from the Red Dress Club was intriguing, so I tried my hand at it.

 "You or your character find a forgotten letter or card from someone important in your life--whether good or bad.  What does it say?  How does it affect you or your character?  What is done with it?

"Keep your posts to 600 words and come back and link up on Friday, July 1st!"

Here's the background on this. I took characters from my NaNoWriMo novel, which I am currently revising, and put together a scene. It turns out this scene fits really well into the story, so I am actually adding it.... to the final chapter. So, if you are in my writing group or otherwise don't want the story spoiled, you've been warned. This will spoil several surprises.

     The telling of the tale didn’t take very long. When all was done, the fact remained that Crofter’s Edge was just as bare as when Alyth left.

     “Did you know abut the dragons, Grandmother?” Alyth asked. Her grandmother hadn’t seemed surprised to meet Rillen and Dargon, unlike her grandfather, who was still speechless.

     “I did, but…. I didn’t really believe it. And it didn’t matter anyway. At least, I thought it didn’t,” Grandmother admitted, rising from her chair. She crossed the room, pausing in the doorway to her bedroom. Her gaze rested on Rillen a moment before flickering back to meet Alyth’s eyes. “I have something to show you.”

     Grandmother disappeared into her room. They all waited quietly, the sounds of shuffling and scraping in the next room breaking the silence. Just as Alyth’s curiosity became too much, Grandmother emerged, gingerly holding a folded piece of yellowed paper.

     “Is that…?” Rillen caught her breath, unable to finish her question.

     Grandmother met Rillen’s eyes and nodded as she handed the brittle sheet to Alyth. Alyth hesitated a moment, frowning as tears appeared in Rillen’s eyes. She looked down at the paper in her hands, carefully unfolding it.

     “Its a letter,” she told Dargon and her grandfather. “Written in a very elegant hand,” she added. She read it silently to herself, then cleared her throat to read it aloud.

                “My dearest, beloved Suva,

                “I want you to know first that you and your father are the best things that ever   
                happened to me. You may not believe me, but it is true. I don’t want to leave but I  
                must. There are so many things I need to tell you. I hope you will believe me.

               “I once was a dragon. The wheres and why-fors of how that all changed are too
               complicated to explain. But the fact remains, and so you, too, carry dragon blood in 
               your veins. 

               “The dragon blood is where your special gift comes from. It’s something to be proud 
               of but not everyone will understand. That’s also where you get your glorious red hair.  
               That’s important, because you can identify your dragon kin by their red or black hair.

               “But that’s not the most important thing. What you need to know is why I must 
               leave. You see, dragons live a very long time. You must have noticed that I look 
               much younger than your friends’ mothers.

               “I can’t answer their questions, thus I must leave. That’s what my life has become: 
               always moving on. Except here. I stayed here and fell in love and raised a wonderful 
               daughter. I forgot myself for a time.

               “You need to know and understand this because I don’t want you to hate me. But 
               more importantly you need to know this because I don’t know if you will one day 
               need to leave for the same reason.

               “I never meant for all this to happen, but I wouldn’t trade you for anything.

               “With all my love, your mother,


Alyth wiped her eyes as she finished. She looked up to see Rillen with tears streaming down her cheeks. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

The final straw

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while is probably familiar with our stormy relationship with tv services. We've tried more than once to ditch Comcast and get AT&T's U-verse, to no avail. Yep, we're too far to get a signal because of old lines in our neighborhood. So we've grudgingly stuck with the cable company.

Well, that has finally ended. We're done. I called and canceled service this morning. We ordered DirecTv last night, to be installed tomorrow. Yes, I canceled before the new service is up and running, but we haven't had cable since Tuesday and weren't going to have it back until Monday. At least we're saving a day or two of paying for service we can't use.

So here's the story. The cable suddenly went out Tuesday. I didn't call right away, because sometimes it's just a flaky connection. I wanted Chris to take a look first. He couldn't make it work, so we were pretty sure it was once again a bad box. We've had several before.

I called Wednesday and let them walk me through various steps to confirm that, yep, the box is bad. I know the drill: get a new box. Only problem? The service center in Bloomington is gone. The nearest one is in Columbus. They offered to send a tech to switch out the box, at no cost, with the caveat that if they did find it wasn't the box we might be charged. The time-frame? Thursday between 1 and 5. No problem. I was going to be home all afternoon.

Thursday. No one came. Apparently the tech did call, but I missed answering and there was no message. When I called at 4:50, they told me they had called, but since I didn't answer, they didn't come. Um, aren't those courtesy calls anyway? Why didn't they come knock on the door? Or leave a message? Seriously, even a message that I needed to call and reschedule would have been better. The soonest they could schedule another tech to come out? Monday afternoon.

So what would you do? Would you drive an hour to Columbus, then an hour back, to replace the box? Or wait for the tech to come Monday? Since this wasn't our first experience with poor customer service from Comcast, we chose option 3. We jumped ship and signed up for satellite service. They can install it on Saturday. Considering it was 11 p.m. Thursday when we did this, I think Saturday afternoon is darn reasonable.

Want to know the kicker? When I called Comcast this morning to cancel, they tried to make it all my fault. I didn't answer the phone. Their notes showed there was no way to leave a message. Bullshit. My answering machine works just fine, on the 4th ring. I even got 2 messages on it yesterday. Bye-bye Comcast!

I know this is getting long, but I have a few more things I'd like to mention. First, have you ever noticed that people will recommend their satellite or other alternative service but NO ONE likes their cable company? It seems consumers are realizing this but the cable companies aren't.

Second, related to the first, when I posted to Twitter and Facebook last night asking for recommendations and griping about our experience, I got several interesting comments that I would like to share:

Third, just for those interested, the reason we chose DirecTv is that they have the best 3D programming, which we can't take advantage of yet, but we'll eventually get a 3D tv, what with Chris's avocation being 3D, so we wanted to be prepared.

"Good for you! Eff Comcast and their awful customer service!"
"I just saw you went with DirecTV. I love our Dish Network, although we still need to get them off our ATT bill!"
"we are planning on doing this when we move but we move in 20 days so we are waiting till then.""I'm glad to be done with Comcast altogether. We always had great techs with DirecTv and good customer service."
"Comcast is ridiculous. Isn't it more of a courtesy call to say they're on their way? They should still show... We liked Directv."
"We got fed up w/ comcast & cancelled. We just have Netflix right now & the local HD channels that are free."
"one of the reasons I hated Comcast, at least in this area."
"Thinking about doing the same next week!"

Third, just for those interested, the reason we chose DirecTv is that they have the best 3D programming, which we can't take advantage of yet, but we'll eventually get a 3D tv, what with Chris's avocation being 3D, so we wanted to be prepared. 

Also, if anyone wants to switch to DirecTv, let me know and I can give a referral through their "Refer a Friend" program where both of us would save $10 for 10 months on our bills. (You need to sign up through a special website or phone number and give them our account number to take advantage.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's in a name?

The other day Chris and I were discussing the ramifications of women changing their names when they get married. There can be sexism involved, with the assumption that women should take their husband's name. Do a Google search and you will find lots of articles discussing the topic.

There are more and more women choosing either to hyphenate or to keep their 'maiden' name. There are coupes who both hyphenate. Some create an entirely new last name. And I suppose there are some men who take their wife's last name. Lots of solutions for lots of people.

I can only speak personally, so here's my answer to the question of to change or not to change.

When we got married, I wanted us to share a last name, to create a family unit. Last name may not matter to some, but to me, it was important that we be a unit, especially once we had kids.

Hyphenating didn't appeal to me.

So his, mine or ours? I admit I hadn't thought of 'ours'. And here's some brutal honesty. I wasn't attached to my last name. Really, the only connection I wanted to keep to it was my parents - and they weren't going anywhere. Here's more brutal honesty. It is free and easy for a woman to change her last name when she gets married. And free fit our budget. Is it right that a woman can walk in with a marriage certificate and change her name but a man can't? No. But that's the blunt truth in our society.

So, there was my answer. To me, it wasn't about patriarchy. It was a practical decision based on goals that I had. Chris has always been supportive of that, even insisting that we be introduced with both our first names at our wedding reception because we were both individuals.

So what did you choose and why?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Best poster ever

Yesterday I saw a poster shared on Facebook. The furthest I've been able to track it down is to a post on Asking for Consent is Sexy. It is the best sexual assault prevention poster I have ever seen. (I would love to give appropriate credit, so if anyone knows who created this, let me know.)

I think from the number of people who are responding so positively that others agree with me that it is about time this poster was created.

Every time I have heard about sexual assault prevention tips, it has been about what a woman can do to make herself less of a target and how to fend off an attacker. It's been about making the potential victim feel unsafe and powerless because they are female.

Yes, women aren't the only victims, but they are the majority and the ones who are told that it is their fault if they do get assaulted. They are told that if they dress too sexy, they deserve it. If they drink, they deserve it.

Finally, someone looked at true prevention: stop the perpetrators! If a woman dresses sexily, she doesn't deserve to be assaulted. She isn't "asking for it". Even if she is looking for sex, she's looking for consensual sex, not rape.

There have been several high profile cases recently that have been all about victim blaming and it pisses me off. Here are a bunch of people who seem to be saying that women need to be protected from themselves because they 1) dressed sluttily, 2) were drinking, 3) did something else that made them a willing target. I'm sorry, but in these cases it is the MEN who need to be protected from themselves and their misogynistic, paternalistic selves and their sense of entitlement.

We live in a society that generally objects to certain countries requiring women to cover themselves from head to toe. The rationalization on that, which seems to go beyond religious requirements from my limited understanding, seems to be that men are incapable of controlling themselves if they so much as see the tiniest bit of a woman's skin.

Seriously? If a man can't control himself, it is NOT the woman's fault. So let's stop blaming women. And let's start teaching actual prevention tips like number 10: "Don't assault people."

A woman, or any person, should be able to walk home in the dark, even dressed in what some would consider provocative clothing, and not have to worry. A woman, or any person, should be able to have a drink at a party or a beer in a bar and not have to worry. A woman, or any person, should feel safe in their own home.

This is what I love about this poster; it puts the responsibility for preventing assaults on the people who have the most ability to stop them: the potential perpetrators.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Act 3

It occurred to me that it has been 18 years (yikes!) since I graduated high school and this fall will be 15 years since I graduated college. Back in high school, I had a terrible time imagining myself in the future.

The career fair folks hated me because I just saw a blank slate. I don't know, I guess that's not a bad thing; I've been able to fill in that blank slate as I go. In college, I majored in Environmental Science and really enjoyed my classes. I haven't used my degree since 1998, though. I discovered I didn't like working in a lab when I interned at Argonne National Lab. But that's ok. I learned a lot and microbiology and toxicology classes can come in handy in every day life. 

I'm lucky enough that I've been able to reinvent myself a little along the way. I'm not the same person I was 18 years ago; I don't think most people are. They talk a lot about retirees having a second act. And maybe for earlier generations the post-career career was a second act. But for a lot of us, that'll be the 5th or 9th or 21st act. I'm already on at least my third. And I'm not just talking jobs but finding out who we are.

What have I filled in on that blank slate? Well, I couldn't have imagined my husband - I hadn't met him. And the idea of kids was very vague in high school. I had a college major picked out, but we can see how long that lasted. Would I have pictured myself at a credit union? Nope. Or how about moving to Indiana? Considering I was only familiar with northern Indiana and hadn't seen the hills of Bloomington, I would have laughed.  

Right now I'm in a temporary place: full-time mom. Yes, I know I'll always be mom. But when the kids are in school, they won't need me all the time, which is as it should be. When I'm done with the stay at home mom thing in a couple years, I'm going to go back to school. It's a scary prospect, but that's part of reinventing myself. You see, I have discovered that I like data. And there are degrees out there for people who like to play with data. 

Will there be something else after that? Who knows. I'll never say never. And the advantage of living in a university town is that learning new things is always possible, even encouraged. The next act is always just around the corner waiting to be discovered. 

So what about you? Is your life what you imagined? How is it different or the same?