Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Ordinarily on this day, I would post something profoundly patriotic, an acknowledgment of those who have sacrificed so that I can sit on my duff and blog without fear.

And I would like to post such a thing, especially as the adverts for Memorial Day Sales flood my inbox with deals I can't afford to pass up, and I really can't afford to buy to begin with.

Any drop of blood sacrificed for our sins should be counted and revered. And those gone are not lost from us forever if we honor them and keep them close to our hearts.

This Memorial Day is overshadowed by a tragedy that borders on the peculiar. A man spurned rampaged against those he felt responsible for his loneliness. And the public appears now obsessed with a handful of individuals Tweeting misogynistic dribble in support of this man they feel kinship with at the hashtag YesAllWomen.

The tragedy is three-fold. A broken man. The deaths of the innocent. The martyrdom of one who cannot possibly deserve it by those who should know better.

At first I was loathe to comment, for this sort of circus leaves me uneasy. Participating in blame games at the expense of those burdened with loss and despair is counter-grain to the core of my beliefs. People need their space to grieve and heal and they shouldn't have to see their grief used to fuel any agenda. It's sick and immoral. 

Still, here I am, on this of all days, and I feel compelled to call Humans out on their bullshit..

See, Humans, if nothing else, are predictable in their anti-social behaviors. Individuals said some pretty vile things in the public arena because they're seeking attention. By discussing it, even to point out how viciously flawed their outlook is, we are unintentionally lending them a credible platform for their justification and fueling their frenzy. Negative attention is still attention..

At the heart of this, a deeply troubled man felt justified in taking lives, and while we don't have to condone any aspect of what he did, we can at least agree that his very nature is pitiable, regardless of his motivation. Mental illness takes on many, many forms and any small event can trigger an episode that impacts on a epic scale.

Unresolved frustration leads to anger. 
Unresolved anger will twist broken souls until there is nothing decent left. 

Victims of his violence are to be mourned and given respect, and their families should be afforded what sympathy and support we can provide. Witnesses too, for shock and stress can haunt those ill-equipped to deal with horrors beyond their control or comprehension. Each one of them could have easily been one of us, our siblings or parents, our children or loved ones. 

In short Humans, the lesson we need to learn isn't the lesson anyone else seems to be discussing. We can't move forward as a species until we learn to love each other more, comfort those who despair, heal those who are wounded, and protect those who cannot fend for themselves. And stand our ground against those that insist on perpetuating unconscionable evil. 

Take this time to reflect on the souls we miss. 
Take care of their legacy. 
We are the only ones left who can.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Come the Storm (WoE week 21)

Write at the Merge challenge this week is themed with Abandonment.

First the quote:

"Go off to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path." Ralph Waldo Emerson

and now the photo:

photo by Liam Andrew Cura courtesy Unsplash

Now, this scene is going to be weird. I wrote a short scene some time ago for a WoE prompt (week 20 of 2013) starring new characters: Sofie and Tiko. That scene to me felt like something post-apocalyptic but I didn't give it much thought until this prompt. I promise you, there is a ton of backstory for this scene, but it won't fit in 500 words. Well, to be honest, I'm a tad over that because I didn't want to chop anything out.

If I haven't completely befuddled you yet, read on. But. Since I've only written about Sofie and Tiko once before, and since it doesn't explain anything, I'll give you the Cliff Notes version.

Sofie and Tiko are on their way to Amarillo. (previous installment) Sofie's father, at some point in the past, released something horrible into the world and he died. (not included in previous installment)

I offer the following in response: Come the Storm

Turbulent clouds choked the sickly-green sky. Sofie shivered despite the heat, remembering how the sirens echoed through her hometown under such a canopy. The hairs on her arms and neck stretched in the charged air acknowledging the power in the brewing storm. She stepped up the pace in her hunt for shelter, moving through the derelict businesses of Downtown McCormick.

Each building was branded with the FEMA search and rescue code, though the orange paint was starting to fade after…had it really been fifteen years? Sofie paused to read the symbols on a condominium complex: 13/5/76, TX, 25 DOA, NE. Every possible entrance, windows included, was boarded up.

“Find one?” Sofie barely heard Tiko over the wind.

“No,” she shouted back and wiped a tear from her cheek. “Dead-on-arrival. No entry.”


Sofie drew her finger across her throat – her own perverted sign language – and moved on to the next building, and then the next, and the next, trailing orange x-boxes and DOAs in her wake.


She turned. Tiko formed a W with his fingers and tapped his chin before pointing to a crumbling cement structure on his side of the street. Sofie ran best she could through the driving wind, light-headed with joy as she read the symbol for herself: 13/5/76, TX, 0-0, F/W. The Texas Home Guard finally identified an unoccupied building with both food and water.

Sofie giggled. Even if after 15 years, the food and water was gone, it was still a building unscarred by death. It meant shelter for the night and with any luck, a functioning storm-cellar. Tiko helped her navigate through the hole in the chain-link fence and over the rubble of the building’s crumbling exterior. With a little effort, they pried the boards off a window cavity and climbed inside.

Tiko turned his flashlight on. “Office building, maybe? Condemned long before the plague hit, I think.”

Sofie crossed through the amber light and peered through the blackened solar window at the other end of the hall. “There’s a courtyard. And there’s ivy or moss or something climbing up the sides.”

“Woot! Green means water source. Now we can weather the storm.”

They found the lobby. Exposed concrete floors told the story of missing carpet, but Sofie sighed with relief. She preferred cold seeping through her sleeping bag to bugs infesting her slumber. As she unrolled her pack,  Tiko pulled out his salvage bag and began preparations for a salad of dandelions and wild onions, the fruits of their many stops along the abandoned roadway.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done without you, Tiko, honestly.” She averted her gaze from shame. “People try to avoid me, or hurt me, because of what my father did.”

“People are jackasses. You are not your father. You don’t know a virus from a volleyball.” Tiko selected a fungus from their salvage salad and chucked it across the room. “Or a mushroom from a toadstool, apparently.”

“They’ll never forgive him, will they.” The words tasted bitter across her tongue. For all his sins against mankind, Dmitri Kerov was still her father.

“No.” Tiko shook his head. “They never will. But I hope I can. Someday. When I can exchange my anger for peace.”

Some of the WoE crowd mentioned during the assessment that they aren't always sure when it's okay to leave criticism. I'll try to remember to be a better citizen and put a note at the end of my responses to the prompt, but if I don't, comments and constructive critiques are ALWAYS welcome here. Okay? Okay. so, let me have it. Give me what you've got. I can take it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Travel Tuesday: The Vista south of San Onofre

My husband and I recently took a drive along the coast of California to attend an event in Oceanside. We made this drive several times before as a couple, and hundreds of times during our courtship when we lived 109 miles from one another.

Our shadows

This time though, we left earlier than we needed to, armed with our cameras, so that we could take a few minutes to enjoy the vista turn off south of San Onofre, the nuclear power station. We couldn't have asked for better weather and we got some remarkable pics between the two of us.

San Onofre Power Station
Traffic looking southbound from the vista

Not entirely sure what purpose this was for, so I took a picture. I'm goofy like that.
Wildflowers common to California
a surprise in the sun

At some point, a couple of tourists decided to open a bag of potato chips and started feeding the ground squirrels. The creatures surrounded us in tens and twenties and were so stinking cute. My husband and I stayed longer to snap nearly 200 pictures of ground squirrels doing ground squirrel things.

A word to the wise however: no matter how cute critters are, there is a reason wild animals live in the wild. They are not defenseless, nor are they harmless. Ground squirrels may not be carnivorous, but their teeth are strong enough to crack the toughest nuts and can easily break stray fingers. Tiny fingers of children are exceptionally vulnerable to having a bad day. So please, don't feed any wildlife anywhere. There are dangers and diseases waiting in a single bite or a simple scratch, never mind the danger it poses to the animals. So again, word to the wise, don't feed the wildlife. They're fine on their own, trust me.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fading Luxury (WoE week 20)

After a brief hiatus, Write at the Merge is back again and so am I! With 500 or fewer words, we are challenged to create a story or part of a story that explores either or both of the provided topics. First: a quote:

"Are you really sure that a floor cannot also be a ceiling?" M.C. Escher

and then the photo:

photo by Keith Misner courtesy Unsplash

I love wood floors of all varieties. Each plank has a character all its own, perhaps a memory of the tree from which it is hewed. So that's the aspect of the challenge that I've decided to focus on this week.

Now, I want to return to characters I introduced here, although I will need to warn you there is a giant chunk missing from last time we saw them. Patience is still on the path to get her sister back, but this scene comes after her time with the Natives from the last scene. Jeb Grayson is preparing for a showdown against the Lassiers.

If you're new to the story line, and you would like to start at the beginning, follow the Label: Patience.

I offer the following in response: A Fading Luxury

Patience sucked a breath of private pleasure as her feet, unhindered by house-shoes, connected with the wooden floor. She couldn’t remember when last she walked barefoot across planks polished to a shine. Her trials took her all over the wild and uncivilized territories to rescue her sister, and Boston, once a part of her very blood, seemed a distant memory.

A wooden floor, creaking beneath her weight, was pure luxury.  She appreciated it even more than she did her cavalry hosts stationed at Fort Atherton.

A light rap sounded at the door, followed by Jeb’s graveled voice. “Boston, you awake, girl?”

Patience reached for her dressing gown and opened the door just enough to converse through.  “Mr. Grayson, you’re early. I am not yet presentable.”

He averted his eyes and removed the hat she had come to believe was permanently affixed to his head. Jeb appeared nervous, anxious, coaxing concern from the pit of her heart. “Well, there’s no easy way to say this and I’ve never been one to dance about a subject. I came to tell you goodbye.”

His words stung. She tasted bile in her throat and pulled the door inward. “Goodbye? I don’t understand. Where are you going?”

He ran his fingers around the brim of his hat. “Look, I promised to help you git yer sister back, but where we’ve gotta go next…where I gotta go and what I gotta do…a lady like yerself shouldn’t be any part of.”

His tone was so earnest. Panic seized her soul. “Don’t be absurd, Mr. Grayson. I’m coming with you.”

“Now the captain said yer welcome to stay here, or there’s a stage arrivin’ tomorrow that could take you home.”

“No, I can’t go. Not without Charity.”

Her protests ignored, Jeb continued. “Now if I succeed, Miss Charity and I will be back before long.”

If you succeed. If?” Patience flung the door wide on its hinges and gripped her dressing gown tightly about her shoulders. “What do you mean if?”

“Whatjya think I meant?” he barked, fire flashing in his eyes. He took a breath and his tone softened. “Look Boston, I told you a hunnard times the Lassiers ain’t for messin' with. I kick that hornet nest and there’s a very real chance that the devil’ll be there to collect what I owe him.”

“I can help—“

“I don’t doubt that. I’ve seen you shoot. But we’ll be outnumbered thirty to one and there’s no use in gitting us both shot full of holes, or worse.” He finally met her gaze. “They take you, like they took yer sister? No. This is where we part ways. You stay safe, Boston.”

Jeb turned, leaving her alone at the doorway. “How could I ever be safe without you?” Patience whispered as he retreated, his silhouette dark against the rising sun. She held her breath until he cast a long look back from the fort gates. In one fearful beat, her porcelain heart shattered.

Some of the WoE crowd mentioned during the assessment that they aren't always sure when it's okay to leave criticism. I'll try to remember to be a better citizen and put a note at the end of my responses to the prompt, but if I don't, comments and constructive critiques are ALWAYS welcome here. Okay? Okay. so, let me have it. Give me what you've got. I can take it. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Rainy Days & Mondays: Greenhouse Mishap

Agasga gohi-iga.

Cherokee for "It's raining today."

It's also windy, so in the immortal words of Winnie-the Pooh: Happy Winds-day!

For me though, the wind was cruel. Utterly cruel. Before I get to that though, I should explain how I got here. Don't worry, I'm not starting with how my parents met or discussing awkward tales of growing up today.

Of late, I've been neglecting my social obligations - for which I apologize wholeheartedly - mostly because my family and I are in the midst of our annual Spring Rite. We are tearing apart our backyard and creating a Victory Garden of epic proportions. Okay, maybe not so epic in the scheme of things, but pretty epic to me. I'm not even doing most of the heavy lifting and still, every day I go to bed early, exhausted, with every muscle flagging. My parents have been wonderfully obliging and are allowing me to experiment with different plants and layouts this year. I'm trying my hand with companion planting and trellising plants that wouldn't normally trellis, and so far - and this is HUGE - I haven't killed anything yet, at least anything that came already sprouted.

But, I am concerned that seeds will not grow for me.

The first batch of seeds, I had a bit of a labeling mixup. That is to say, the ink washed away when I watered. That's not a big deal, I thought, I'll just figure them out when they sprout right? Well, then the seed-pots did a face plant off of a table when I wasn't looking. Who knew seedlings liked gymnastics? Marigolds really like gymnastics, because they disappeared right after the mishap. I have a suspicion that I'll see my marigolds on the parallel bars at the next Olympics, playing for the Canadians.

No worries though, right? I mean Canada's a pretty cool place and populated with super friendly people. And Marigold dated Dudley Do-Right. No wait, she dated Tom Slick...but I digress.

I made an attempt to salvage the rest of the seedlings, but the usually predictable Southern California weather refused to cooperate and made things colder than normal. I however, learn from my mishaps and mush forth, undeterred. I did a bit more research and went back to the drawing board. My husband didn't even laugh at me.

Next, I purchased a little 4-shelf greenhouse because it was on sale at Harbor Freight. It's not the best design necessarily, but it's functional and with a few extra zipties to provide some stability, it's become the closest measure of perfect I can afford. Oh and the plants I bought from Home Depot LOVE it. I wasn't going through nearly as much water to keep everybody happy. And inside the plastic, it was a balmy heat. The plants could sit in their happy little sauna and wait patiently for transplant time.

And as it occurred to me, the greenhouse was perfect for seeds. (Don't laugh, I'm new to greenhouse gardening) I started a new set of seed pots, excited that this time, with the greenhouse providing the best environment, that the seeds would sprout right up in no time at all. What could possibly go wrong?

Well...I mentioned the wind today didn't I, how cruel it was to me? One enormous gust toppled my little greenhouse right over on it's nose, snapping a green pepper I had in half. But that wasn't the only damage I suffered.

Every seed-pot, every hope for a brand-new, started-from-seed plant, dumped right out onto the concrete in a confused mass of compost.

Some of those seeds had roots starting when this event happened. I know because they were now exposed in the compost mess. I am trying to salvage what I can, but as the labels upturned as well, I have no idea - again - which plants I'm actually attempting to rescue.

And to make matters worse, I just realized I didn't get pictures of ANY of this. Not one. So I can't even show you the progression of my life over the last few weeks.

So much for missed opportunities. I'm a rotten blogger. Bad Shelton, no biscuit.

I do, however, have a few pictures I took this afternoon, between rain drops and chasing the neighbor's third-generation feral cats out of the newly turned dirt. (Honestly people, if you live in a housing track, please be responsible pet owners and keep your cats indoors. I guarantee your outdoor cats are SHITTING in your neighbor's backyards)

At any rate, this is what I've been up to:

A Blue Lake varietal Bush Bean on the far left, an eggplant and four pepper plants to the center and right, and a view of Squash  in the background and the Tomatoes along the white wall in the very back. The redish stuff is mulch we picked out to form little walkways to make it easy to reach everything. I'm all about making things easier. I'm lazy like that. 

The Green Bell Pepper that snapped in half when the wind knocked over the greenhouse. 

Great snap of the deep root waterer (green and plastic, designed for a liter water bottle to screw into) to a Crookneck Squash. It's not very pretty nor particularly interesting I guess. I wasn't paying attention to what I was taking pictures of here...

A Cherokee Purple, an Heirloom variety


Red Onions...or wait, those could still be weeds...

There you have it folks. Shelton Keys Dunning, amateur gardener, attempting self-sufficiency in Suburbia. If my city would let me keep chickens, I totally would...