Letting Go

I believe in ghosts.

Let’s just get that out of the way before I go any further with the story I want to tell today.

I don’t necessarily believe in all kinds of ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night, but I’ve seen and heard too many things that just can’t be explained for me to be a total skeptic. As good ol’ Billy Shakespeare said, “There are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

And with that out of the way, let’s move on with the story.

When The Big Guy and I bought our big old house in the country, we joked about it being haunted, but there was never any reason to treat that as anything more than a joke for about the first four years. Then, something changed. We’d see the curtain flicker in the kids’ bedroom when we pulled up in the driveway, but the house was empty. We’d catch a glimpse of movement in an empty room, as though someone had just moved through it. Lights and appliances would suddenly turn themselves on with no explanation.

Nothing major. Just a few weird moments that gave us all the heebie-jeebies.

One night, I woke up from a strange dream and looked up to see her standing over my husband’s side of the bed. She was young and blonde, with big blue eyes, and she was just so sad. Waves of sadness rolled from her across our bed and hit me so hard that I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t really afraid yet because I was still half-asleep, but the enormous weight of her deep and lingering sadness felt like it was crushing me. I couldn’t move or call out to my husband.

Then she looked over at me and smiled, and just like that she was gone. I could move — and you’d better believe I moved. Hauled ass out of the bed, down the hall to check on the kids, and back into the bedroom to wake up The Big Guy to see if he had noticed anything.

Of course, he hadn’t.

I dismissed the whole thing as a dream. A realistic and terrifying dream, but a dream nonetheless. Until it happened again.  And again. Over the course of the next few years, I saw her a total of seven times, always so sad at first and then smiling at me from the other side of the bed.

I started asking around town about the people who had lived in our house before us. As it turned out, there was indeed a young woman matching our ghost’s description who had spent a great deal of time there with her uncle. It sounded like she had a good childhood, but her adult life had been pretty rocky.

I’m going to call her Alice here, and I’ll skip a lot of the details that don’t really matter. It’s enough to say that she struggled as a mom and died much too young about four years after we bought the house from her uncle.

When I found a picture of Alice in an old yearbook at the library, I immediately knew that she was our ghost. And looking back, I realized that every one of her appearances in our house coincided with times that were difficult for the kids or me. I saw her shortly after both of my miscarriages; she showed up when my son had a bad case of Strep or when my daughter struggled with a bully at school.

I never actually saw Alice again after I identified her, but her presence lingered in the house. The TV would turn on in the middle of the night, and we’d come downstairs to find all of the lights on. A radio would suddenly blare out a favorite ’80’s song when no one was around to touch the dial. And always, there was that flash of movement, that presence glimpsed out of the corner of the eye.

Little things. Always when the kids or I were struggling with something. It was like she was watching over us.

She became really active after my car accident. Each night, The Big Guy would turn off the TV and the lights, help me up on my walker, and begin guiding me to the bedroom. About half-way there, the TV would come back on and the lights would start flashing, and I’d have to reassure her. “Alice, it’s okay,” I’d say. “I’m all right. I’m just going to bed.”

And she’d stop.

Years later, after my husband and I split, she made it clear that she didn’t approve. The Big Guy would wake up every so often to the sound of the TV blaring and kitchen cabinet doors banging, and nothing he said would calm her down. Every few months, he’d call me up and ask me to drop by to talk to “my friend” as he referred to her.

“Alice, honey,” I’d say, “Everybody’s okay. The kids are doing well, and I’m good. Could you please leave him alone?” And he’d be all right for the next few months.

It’s been a lot of years now since the first time I saw Alice. Our oldest kids are grown and away at college, and the youngest splits his time between his father’s house and mine. And Alice has become just something my ex has to deal with at his house, like a leaking faucet or a loose floorboard.

And then things changed again.

At the hotel where I work, a familiar-looking woman checked in late last night. She seemed stressed and a bit frazzled and overwhelmed. “I’m in town for my youngest niece’s graduation,” she explained. “It’s just really hard for me because her mom– my sister– died a long time ago. I miss her so much.”

She handed over her driver’s license and I gasped when I saw her last name. “Was your sister…Alice?” I asked. Ridiculous question; the woman looked almost exactly like our ghost.

She stared at me, nodding slowly.

“My ex-husband and I bought Floyd’s house,” I told her.

“She always loved it there. She adored Uncle Floyd. She was always his favorite,” Alice’s sister told me.

I told her everything then. How Alice watched over my kids and me over the years. How she had seemed to emanate sadness at first, but later became more mischievous and even peaceful in her own way.  I worried that I might offend her, that she might feel that I was disrespecting her sister’s memory, but she squeezed my hand and thanked me for letting her know that Alice had been at peace with a family to watch over.

I cried all the way home from work last night. For Alice, for her children, for her sister. For all of the moments, good and bad, that both Alice and I have been through in a house that no longer belongs to either one of us.

I feel like I’ve lost someone.

Because I don’t think we’ll hear from her any more. I’m going to pay a visit to my ex-husband’s house today, and I plan on telling Alice that I met her sister. I’ll tell her that her kids have all grown up just fine and they’ve finished school. I’ll thank her for watching over my kids and me all these years. And then I’m going to tell her that she was a good mom, and it’s okay to let go now.

Because I understand how hard it is to let go and move on.

Rest in peace, Alice. You deserve it.

 

 

The Letter

I think we’ve all heard that old advice about writing letters that express our deepest feelings, only to dispose of the letters without actually sending them. It’s supposed to be a great way to vent, like the time my friend wrote a three-page missive to her husband about his peculiar habits involving dirty socks.

Now, I adore my friend and her husband, so I’m not going to go into any further details  about what he does in his alone-time with his socks or why it is that they are always dirty. Let’s just say that my friend should have actually disposed of the letter rather than just hiding it, because they were both baffled when he discovered it and read it nearly three years after she penned it.

At any rate, I recently wrote a similar letter after a bad day at work. I really blew off a lot of steam and got rid of some extreme anger as I pounded away at the keys, and I just couldn’t force myself to hit the delete key when I was done.

So, I changed a few detail to…ah… protect the innocent. Yeah, that’s it. I’m protecting an innocent delivery man who really pissed me off.

Or maybe I’m just protecting myself in case any of my supervisors happen to subscribe to my blog.

Either way, here’s the letter I wrote and will never ever send.

Dear ——,

As requested by my employer, I am contacting you in regards to the unfortunate conversation that took place between you and me at my place of employment this past Friday.

I apologize for the harsh words I spoke in reply to your repeated questions regarding our company policies as well as my level of competence. I really should have been more clear in my own repeated description of myself as “low man on the totem pole” and “bottom of the food chain” as I continuously suggested that you slow your tirade long enough for me to contact a supervisor who could have answered your questions before things spiraled out of control.

In my defense, my suggestion that followed was really a recommendation rather than a direct order or a personal request.

On a personal note, yes, I do realize that as a woman I do not possess testicles, and therefore it would not be possible for you to comply with my suggestion that you “suck my balls.” Again, it was really more of a general suggestion than a serious request. Given the rapidly escalating tension of our conversation, I assumed that you would understand that I spoke more from an emotional standpoint than one based on any kind of anatomical accuracy.

Also on a personal note, I would like to clarify that I do not know your mother, and my suggestion of an unnatural physical relationship between the two of you was totally out of line. As per my employer’s request, I would like to offer my most heartfelt apology for my use of the term that implied such a relationship. I am sure your mother is a fine and upstanding woman whose only real mistake was not raising you to be a better human being.

Unfortunately, I no longer fully remember the exact adjectives I used leading up to my use of that particularly offensive choice of compound words. Therefore, I am unable to apologize for each specific one on its own. Suffice it to say that, as a writer, I am in full possession of an extensive vocabulary, and I realize that I may have crossed a line.

I should also probably say I’m sorry for those adjectives that I further used to describe what I assumed must be the actual size of your penis. Having never seen your penis—and having no desire to do so—I can only guess that your obvious dislike of and unpleasant attitude toward women must be due to your having a phenomenally small dick that makes you act like a big one.

Please be assured that you and your tiny dick have my deepest sympathies for your struggles.

In the future, I sincerely hope that your employer makes an effort to assign you to clients whose employees are predominantly male. Under those conditions, your chauvinistic attitude and tendency to describe woman as female members of the canine species might be more acceptable. At the very least, those conditions should help you and your delicate sensitivities avoid being verbally assaulted by women like me with requests that you perform anatomically impossible acts.

In conclusion, I would like to take one final opportunity to express my most heartfelt regrets that the incident in question took place at my place of employment.

Best regards to you, your mother, and your tiny dick.

 

Paperback Writer

I wrote this post almost five years ago, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because of some rather heated discussions taking place in a writing forum. I want to share it again because I am STILL proud to be a Romance writer.

A Goode One

Is it a bad thing to admit that I write romance novels?

I’ve read the classics.  I majored in English and have studied the works of everyone from Aristophanes to Baudelaire to Whitman and Tennyson.  I struggled through Hardy and Lawrence and earned a grudging respect for Hawthorne’s ability to fill multiple pages with one endless sentence that somehow remained grammatically correct (see how I did that?).  I can discuss Twain and Poe the way some people talk about this week’s bargains at Wal-Mart.

But sometimes . . .  I just want to feel good.

Romance novels are all about the guaranteed happy ending.  Real life can be a little short on those. Romance in the real world is less about roses and moonlit escapades, and more about figuring out whose turn it is to pick up the kids after school.  Real life marriages deal with adultery and abuse, debt and…

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Great Water

 

My ancestors came to Michigan as victims of a con artist who sold them “rich Michigan farmland” that turned out to be little more than pine trees and beach sand.  Despite that shaky start, I am proud to be a true Michigander, born and raised in this fabulous place, and I want to share a few lesser-known facts about our state with all of you.

First, the word Michigan means “great water.” That’s sort of a given, considering the fact that we are surrounded by lakes. Every child in this state learns around third grade how to remember the names of all five Great Lakes: HOMES. Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior.  Lake Champlain was a Great Lake for brief time in 1998, but we Michiganders were quick to stifle that. I’m sure Lake Champlain is a great lake, but it’s not a Great Lake. 

I’d also like to point out that Michigan truly is shaped like a mitten. Some folks argue that Wisconsin is the mitten-shaped state, but those folks are just wrong. Plain and simple. Unless your mittened hand has been mangled in a random wood-chipper incident, that is.

Any questions?

Those of us from Michigan never need a map to show anyone what part of the state we live in. We simply hold up a hand and point.

hand

Okay, sure, we’ve got that whole mutant-shark-dolphin thing going on up there in the U.P. but that’s a different subject.

And that brings me to another point. Here in Michigan, we don’t waste our time saying “Upper Peninsula.” We call it the U.P. Actually, those who live up there tend to call it “da U.P.” but I digress. Those hardy souls who live up there are called “Yoopers.” Not to be confused with the game they play called Euchre, which I believe was something our ancestors had to learn as a requirement for statehood.

Because the two parts of our state are joined by the Mackinac Bridge, Yoopers have been known to refer to those of us who live south of the bridge as “Trolls.” You know, as in “living under a bridge.”

By the way, tourists who visit Mackinac Island are known as “Fudgies” because Mackinac Island Fudge is a treat that should never be missed. Ever. Doesn’t matter if you buy it from Ryba’s or Murdick’s; just buy it. Buy a lot of it. And eat it quickly.

It’s that good.

And speaking of all things Mackinac, please don’t ever come to our fine state and pronounce it MackinACK. Oh, heavens no! It is pronounced MackinAW. MackinAW Island, MackinAW Bridge, MackinAW City.

(Just an aside here: What is wrong with people who pronounce our neighboring state as IlliNOIZE OR IlliNOICE? It’s IlliNOY, people. Hearing it pronounced that way grates on my nerves as much as hearing people saying they get books at the liBERRY.)

Another thing you should know before visiting our fine state is that we treat almost every minor illness with copious amounts of Vernor’s Ginger Ale.  Upset tummy? Vernor’s will fix it. Fever? Vernor’s will make it go away. Bad day at work? Vernor’s with a shot of whiskey will give you a whole new perspective. For a serious attitude adjustment, one can always try a delightful Vernor’s concoction known as a Naughty Gnome, but I wouldn’t recommend drinking more than one of these unless you are a 300-lb fullback with the constitution of a freight train.

We don’t drink soda here in Michigan. It’s called pop. And we often buy it at a “party store,” which is basically what everyone else in the world refers to as a “convenience store.”

When we drive, we have to learn to avoid deer, potholes, and the dreaded Michigan Left. Nearly everyone I know has managed to hit at least one deer in their lifetime. And the potholes are often the size of a small Volkswagon. There’s a pothole on my street right now that’s bigger than the kitchen in my apartment. As far as the Michigan Left is concerned, well, it’s sort of a convoluted go-straight-then-left-to-go-right kind of thing that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

And now that some genius city planners have tried to add those ridiculous roundabout things in the middle of roads for no apparent reason, I’m scared to death that I’m going to segue from a Michigan Left into a roundabout and end up spending eternity on some endless Moebius Strip circling the same series of potholes for all time.

That’s a big part of why I don’t drive much any more.

Michiganders also like to add a random “s” to end of words, making them possessive when it makes no sense to do so. Out of state visitors shop at Meijer and Kroger, but we go to Meijer’s and Kroger’s.

Most of all, we talk fast. Really fast. We like to cram as many words as we can into as few syllables as possible. In high school debate class, I once gave a twelve-minute speech in three minutes and twenty-two seconds. No one even blinked.

Probably because they didn’t have time.

We’re pretty tough here in Michigan. We have to be. We’ve got mosquitoes and deer flies and these horrible little biting things that no one has ever really seen. Hence their name: Noseeums. Original settlers in the area even had to worry about Malaria. We have bats and snakes and all sorts of slimy, nasty things to worry about. It’s not unusual to see a five foot long blue racer, and unfortunately even less unusual to see me wet myself when one slithers across my foot.

In this part of the state, we’ve got storms that gather strength as they roar across Lake Michigan. In the winter, they can dump snow on us by the foot, and in the summer, the thunderstorms can be pretty impressive. I grew up with a “tornado bag” packed and ready to grab on my way to the basement, just in case.

When I was married and lived in a house with a Michigan half-cellar, I refused to go into the basement when the tornado sirens went off. Those places are half-cellar, half-evil, and 100% horrific. I told my ex-husband and children that I’d rather go up with the house and hang out with Dorothy and Toto than go down there.

To give you an idea of just how powerful a Michigan storm can get, let me tell you about my niece, who lived in Seoul, South Korea, for three years. One morning, she woke up to discover that a storm had knocked out the power. She battled the raging wind and rain to get to work, only to find her stunned co-workers gaping at her in astonishment. “We can’t believe you made it to work in a typhoon!” they said.

“That was nothing,” my niece told them. “I grew up with Michigan thunderstorms.”

So if I haven’t scared you away, and if you’re feeling adventurous, please come visit my lovely state sometime. We’ve got Hell and Paradise, Iron Mountain and Motown, water as far as the eye can see. If you can’t find something to like in Michigan, it can only be because you’re not looking hard enough.

 

 

 

Like a Phoenix

Time to get serious for a minute.

Self-publishing has sort of a bad reputation. It’s often seen as “vanity publishing,” and there is sometimes an assumption that our books aren’t good enough for traditional publication. We spend an awful lot of time trying to prove that we are “real authors” despite the route we’ve chosen to take to publication.

But I’m not going to bore you with yet another dull comparison of all the pros and cons of self-publishing as compared to traditional publishing. It is what it is.

I want to talk about the Indie community. The circle of independent, self-published authors who are, for the most part, some of the most incredible and supportive people I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. Oh, sure, there are more than a few loopy-loos and whackadoodles out there, but they are hugely outnumbered by the Good Guys.

One of those Good Guys is Mark Dawson. He’s a fabulous writer and a terrific role model who offers training, workshops and support to help his fellow indie authors learn to navigate the confusing world of publishing and marketing.

As if that weren’t enough, I recently learned that Mark has taken his kindness to the next level. I’m going to quote him here from his post on KBoards: 

 

“Emma Johns is the wife of my son’s godfather and has been battling with breast cancer for five years. In the middle of her grueling treatment she found out that she was pregnant (the chemotherapy was supposed to make her infertile but, to her surprise, it didn’t).

And then, in December, she gave birth to her own little miracle: baby Phoenix.

(You really couldn’t make that up. It’s the nearest thing to a miracle I think I’ve ever seen).

Emma’s condition is worsening but there is some hope: a trial immunotherapy drug called Pembrolizumab has shown amazing results for women with incurable triple negative breast cancer (like her). But, due to her pregnancy, Emma missed out on being eligible for the only trial available for this drug. Her best option now is to pay for it privately for the eye-watering sum of 40,000 pounds.

I’ve written a short story in my John Milton and Beatrix Rose universe – called PHOENIX – and I will be giving all of the proceeds to her and her family.

The book is available for preorder right now at $2.99. Every sale makes a difference.”

 

This one hits home, folks. My mom died of breast cancer on Mother’s Day 1987. It’s been thirty years next week. Breast cancer is a real bastard who has taken too many mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives.

I don’t know Emma Johns or baby Phoenix. I’ve never met Mark Dawson face-to-face. But Phoenix shouldn’t have to grow up without his mommy, so I’ve already bought my copy of this book. I am reaching out to all of you who follow my blog, and I’m asking you to spend a measly $2.99 to help out; I’m asking you to share this post and get the word out there.

To pre-order your copy of Phoenix by Mark Dawson, follow this link to his Amazon page.

Thank you for helping out.

 

Trying Something New

Those of you  who have been following my blog for a while are probably aware of the struggle I have had with insecurity when it comes to showing pictures of myself. I am overweight and over fifty and would never have won a beauty contest even on my best days. And when you add in the fact that I am not even the slightest bit photogenic, I’m one of those people who would be a lot more comfortable using a picture of my cat as a profile picture.

It was a huge step for me to post my first selfie here a few years ago. And other than one slightly batty piece of fruitcake with over-the-top negative reaction, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Since then, I’ve gotten more comfortable about sharing pictures of myself. I still think my smile makes me look like a serial killer in pictures, but I guess I can learn to live with that. I can color the gray hairs and layer on the makeup to hid the wrinkles, but I have yet to discover a filter that shaves off eighty pounds or gives me better cleavage.

I am, however, working on what I call the Popeye chapter of my life. It’s the chapter where I look at myself, shrug, and say “I  yam what I yam.”

Of course, the thought of yams makes me hungry for sweet potato fries, which tempts me to make a run to Red’s Drive-in in Paw Paw for a double olive burger to go with the fries. And suddenly I am reminded of just why I have to worry about the extra eighty pounds (not to mention acne at the ripe old age of fifty-one).

It’s life, guys. It is what it is. Like my mom used to say, there are better ways to go through life than to be dragged, kicking and screaming.

At any rate, I am slowly working up the nerve to do a video blog post someday. Eventually. Maybe to celebrate my 55th birthday. My older children both shook their heads and said, “no, Mother,” when I suggested it, but I rarely listen to their suggestions.

If I did listen to my daughter’s suggestions, I probably wouldn’t have worn the lavender t-shirt with the silver butterfly on the boobs that makes it look like I’m wearing a bustier. Pictures of me in that shirt should be in the back pages of Glamour magazine with a black bar across my eyes and a caption that says “Fashion DON’T.”

But I’m going to take a leap and put myself out there in a video this coming weekend. Sort of. I have decided to do a Facebook Live Q&A on Sunday, April 30, at 1 p.m. EST to help celebrate the release of my newest book. I don’t know if it will do anything for sales and I strongly doubt I’ll get enough viewers to even mildly dent the internet, but I think it will be fun.

I’ve got lots of coffee on hand for before, and lots of wine for after. If it doesn’t go well, I may hit some of the wine during.

I even did a little test run with Facebook Live last weekend to see how it works. For the record, I was wearing the lavender butterfly/bustier shirt that day, which is how I figured out how awful it is.  Check it out here.

So please stop by this coming Sunday and ask any questions you might have about my books or my blog, or even about those fabulous double olive burgers and sweet potato fries at Red’s Drive-In. Anyone who comments will be entered into a random drawing to win a free digital copy of Victoria’s Promise.

Click on the link below for more information. I hope to see you then!

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Facebook Live Q&A with A.J. Goode, April 30 2017 at 1:00 p.m. EST

Victoria’s Promise Pre-Order

I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Victoria’s Promise is now available. The bad news is that it’s only available for pre-order at this time.

I really wanted to have the book ready to go by the end of March, but I don’t want to cheat anyone by pushing it out before it’s completely ready.  I learned that I had made a slight mistake about some of the history mentioned in my book, and I just wanted a couple of extra weeks to clean it up before I release it on April 30.

As a way of apologizing for keeping you all waiting, I’ve listed it at .99 cents during the pre-order and will keep it at that price for a limited time before bumping it up to its regular price of $2.99.

Thank you all for your patience. I’m doing everything in my power to make sure this book is worth the wait!

victoria

Weekend Coffee Share: God?

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If we were having coffee this morning, I’d tell you that it’s been an ugly week here. On the positive side, I managed to pass my apartment inspection; on the negative side, I’ve been sort of stewing about something.

Grab yourself a fresh, hot cup, because we’re going to talk about God today and it may take a while.

About a year ago, I was approached by someone who was a friend a long, long time ago. Confronted, really. She said she sampled one of my books and was sad to see that God is not in my work. She wanted to know why I have turned away from my faith. I blogged about it at the time, and I felt pretty good about my response to her. I thought I did a good job of explaining that I haven’t turned away at all.

I spoke with her again this week. Again, she expressed sympathy for what she sees as my straying and turning away from God. She condemned me in the kindest, most condescending way possible, letting me know that she’ll pray for me to find my way back. She mourned my lost faith and told me how sad she is that I’ve become callous, that I’ve hardened my heart.

I’m not going to lie; that hurts. I feel judged.

I am a Christian. I do my best to be a good one, but I am human and therefore I am flawed. The fact that I see faith as a private and personal matter doesn’t make me any less of a Christian than those who are more vocal about it. I may not be able to quote random Bible passages at will or show up at every Sunday service like my friend, but that doesn’t mean I’m going straight to Hell.

Folks, Christianity is NOT a competition sport.

You see, God IS in my work, because He is the One who gave me this gift of storytelling. He is the One who changed my life and gave me this opportunity. I thank Him every time I pour a little bit of my heart and soul into a story.

God is in my work because God is in ME.

He is the One who gives me courage and strength on the bad days. I have leaned on Him through pain, through heartache, through everything. And you know what? He’s always there for me. He’s never shamed me for not living up to His standards. He loves me, no matter what, and He forgives me when I screw up.

My books aren’t Christian fiction, even though I like to think that my sweet historical romances are somewhat inspirational. People in my contemporary romances have sex before they are married and they swear once in a while. Some of the stuff I say in my humor collections can get pretty raunchy at times.

I’ll be the first to tell you that not everything I write is appropriate for every audience.

But my characters always find love. There is always a commitment that comes with the sex. I try to write them as basically good people who grow and become better people by the end of the book. It is my goal to inject at least a little bit of hope into everything I write.

A little bit of love.

A little bit of joy.

That’s my version of Happily Ever After, in romance novels and in real life.

If my friend insists that God is not in stories about hope, love, and joy, then one of us doesn’t understand Him at all.

Inspect THIS

I am not a good housekeeper. I’m not proud of that fact, but I’ll own it.

I’d like to be like my sisters. They both have homes that are perfect. Perfectly decorated, perfectly organized, perfectly clean and maintained. At any given moment, I could drop in for a surprise visit at either home and I wouldn’t find so much as a dirty dish in the sink.

We grew up in the same house, so I don’t get it. Mom’s idea of cleaning was to basically hide any mess during the week and then power-clean all day Saturday to catch up. She just wasn’t good at it. I swear I was in my thirties before I knew that people are actually supposed to dust the top of doors and picture frames. And the whole matter of cleaning baseboards was a revelation of epic proportions for me just a few years ago.

Still, it’s not that bad in my home. Messy, yes. Dirty, no. There’s a difference. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

No one’s ever died from the mess in my home. If they have, I’ve never found a body. Then again, I haven’t made it all the way to the bottom of the laundry pile or dirty dishes in a long time, so perhaps I should be concerned.

Come to think of it, I haven’t seen my cat in a while.

I live in a government-subsidized apartment building, which means my apartment has to be inspected once each year. That’s all well and good, but somewhere along the line I managed to get on the wrong side of someone (hard to believe, I know, what with my exemplary levels of self-control and ability to keep my mouth shut) and now I seem to be in line for an inspection about every 6-8 weeks. And unfortunately, I failed the last one.

Now, just to put this into perspective, let me tell you a little bit about my neighbors. One fellow brings a charcoal grill into his living room so he can enjoy a nice grilled burger even in the dead of winter. Some folks resort to using an indoor grill that’s actually made for such circumstances, but this hardy fellow sees no need to resort to anything so silly.

Another neighbor has nine cats. Nine. Count ’em. In a two-bedroom apartment. In a pet-free building.

Another person has a dog that no one has actually seen. We hear him barking and whimpering when she goes to work or away for the weekend. Either he goes outside to do his business in the middle of the night or she’s trained him to use a litter box like a cat. Or maybe he’s some obscure breed of dog that’s specially bred to go its entire life without pooping.

The mind reels at that possibility, doesn’t it?

At least five of the tenants at my end of the building are marijuana users. Which, even with a medical marijuana card, is not allowed in a government-subsidized building. Not judging. Just observing. And trying not to inhale.

You know, I suddenly understand why I keep waking up at four in the morning with the munchies. Too bad I also wake up too paranoid to snack.

The point I am trying to make here is that it boggles my mind to realize that I alone managed to fail an inspection when surrounded by all of this. I swear, some people are so picky about the silliest things. Just because some leftovers in my fridge have recently become self-aware, there’s no reason to get nasty and say that my refrigerator presents a “health hazard.”

I’ve named the leftovers George and Gracie and I hope they’ll be very happy together. Now I’m just hoping they don’t reproduce.

Or revolt.

Maybe George and Gracie are holding my cat hostage in there. That would explain a lot.

I guess my standards are too low when it comes to keeping my home neat. If I can find a place to sit, I’m good. If there are clean dishes to eat out of, I’m happy. Even if that means eating soup with a fork out of sippy cup.

I keep waiting for the cleaning fairy, but I think she showed up once and fainted in sheer terror, after which George and Gracie probably absorbed her and made her part of their community.

So here I am on a nice, sunny Sunday afternoon, waiting for the inspectors to show up. The dishes are washed and put away, the laundry is folded and tucked into dresser drawers, and the floor has been vacuumed. I even mopped the kitchen floor.

I didn’t even realize I owned a mop. It was quite a shock to find it at the bottom of the laundry pile.

I have a roast with potatoes and carrots in the slow cooker, and the kitchen table has been cleared and set for supper, which will probably confuse the heck out of my son. Picture frames have been dusted and windows have been washed. The top of the stove is nice and shiny. I’m pretty sure I’ll pass today’s inspection.

I just hope George and Gracie behave.

 

Enough

I don’t like Donald Trump.

I don’t like Hillary Clinton, either.

This election was the worst. I know we say that after every election, amid jokes about having to choose the lesser of two evils, but this one went to an extreme that I hope to never see again in my lifetime. I vowed not to discuss politics on social media or here on my blog, and I’ve done my best to uphold that vow.

So this isn’t about politics.

It’s about something I saw on Facebook early this morning, posted by a man I have always respected. Until now.

Let me just go back for a minute and say that I think it is ridiculous to end friendships over differing political beliefs. So what if you liked Bernie or you voted for Trump or you thought Hillary was your personal savior? Big deal. I don’t care. Different strokes for different folks and all that stuff. I may think you’re an idiot from time to time, but you’ll probably think the same of me once in a while too. Good friendships can weather the occasional bouts of idiocy.

But today, I ended a friendship over something indirectly political, and I want to explain my reasoning.

This man posted a long diatribe on Facebook about the Obamas leaving the White House, and most of his vitriol was aimed at Michelle Obama. He called her a “he/she” and a “shemale” while comparing her to an ape. He said the only way she and Barack should have been allowed in the White House at all was through the servants’ entrance as slaves back in the “good old days” before the Civil War.

This is an educated man. He used impeccable grammar and punctuation as he went on to talk about getting some class and dignity in the White House. He spoke of his hopes that the new administration will punish “faggots” and deport “terrorists” and “camel-jockeys.”

No.

I didn’t know what to say.

I don’t want to believe that people like this actually exist. I can’t even begin to comprehend that I counted this man as my friend.

Looking back over our friendship, I can remember now that he has made similar comments that I took to be jokes. Bad jokes, inappropriate and unfunny, but I excused them because I didn’t want to believe that anyone really thought those things. Felt that way.

And you know what? That makes me part of the problem.

I despise those sensitive snowflakes who take offense at every little thing and actively look for reasons to get their feelings hurt. But damn it, sometimes we have to take offense. Not because of political affiliation or because we want to be some kind of Social Justice Warriors, but because we are human beings.

I should have told my friend that his jokes were offensive and unfunny. I shouldn’t have excused him. At the very least, I should have re-evaluated our friendship. As a parent, I’ve often told my kids that “right or wrong, you are judged by the people you surround yourself with.” But I feel sick now when I realize just exactly what I have chosen to surround myself with. My silence implied approval, whether I intended it to or not.

This election has changed me. It doesn’t matter how you voted or what you believe in politically. I don’t care if you voted for Trump or Clinton because, let’s be honest, neither one was a great choice.

But if you spew hatred, you will no longer be a part of my life. Even if that hatred is part of a joke, followed by your suggestion that people need to lighten up.

Go ahead and tell me that you think about religion or sexual orientation. Talk to me about politics. Sing your praises of whichever political party you think is going to save our world. I welcome intelligent, opinionated discussion whether I agree with you or not.

But I do not welcome hate.

I don’t use the word “hate” lightly. I think it has lost its power in recent years. People whine about “haters” and make jokes about “hater-ade” and basically toss the word around until it means little more than “dislike.” But Webster’s defines it as:

intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury

Think about that. Intense hostility . . . deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.

I’m done excusing people like my former friend who is so full of hate for anyone who isn’t white, Christian, and conservative. I’m done looking the other way and staying silent when I hear unfunny jokes that try to mask hatred behind a so-called sense of humor.

Folks, this is the world we live in. Black, white. Gay, straight. Christian, Muslim.

Human.

Deal with it.

C’mon, enough is enough. It has to be.

Love wins, love always wins.– Mitch Albom

 

lovewins