Month: June 2015

And Away We Go?

Lilies, a new love

Lilies, a new love

We all have those little things we do and/or buy to make life more pleasant, reduce the drudgery.  For me it’s my reef tank, and now my terrace container garden.  I’m enjoying watching the flowers and veggies grow, figure out what I’ve done wrong and what I’ll change next time. Do these things work?  It’s the small moments that add up to life.

I always say my tank is my beach house in a glass box.  And it is, sort of.  I can accept it as a replacement for my dream, but those LEDs don’t take the place of feeling the sun on my skin, doing water changes and suctioning cyanobacteria off the sandbed doesn’t replace feeling waves roll over my head.

LPS frag growing nicely

LPS frag growing nicely

Husband and I have been discussing the possibility of taking a vacation this summer.  We shouldn’t.  Financially, it isn’t a smart choice.  But from a psychological standpoint, oh, we all need it.  It’s been seven years since we last took a vacation.  Seven years.

Putting to the side the people and years when there is 0 money, 0 choice; everyone has their threshold.  Some people need to go away twice a year, others every year, every other year, every few years, or never.  When Husband and I got married, we didn’t expect there to ever be such long stretches with no vacation.   I didn’t expect us to go away every year, but maybe every 2 or 3. Fatigue and I have been friends for 13 years, and I’ve never seen him take a vacation, he’s never talked about feeling a need to get away. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t taken a vacation in his adult life. I’d like to be him, but I’m not.  By the fourth year of no real break/change in scenery, I’m feeling it.  Did I mention it’s been seven years?

I feel guilty because we never got the kids back to Disney World in that window of time where Man Child was still young and available enough to come with us, Nerd Child would relax and enjoy it, and Art Child was old enough to remember it.  We thought we’d be able to, but we couldn’t.  Disney is expensive.  Luckily, Husband and I both enjoy beach vacations best of all. Lucky because we enjoy the same relax and do nothing, and if you discount camping (no, just no), it’s the most budget-friendly way to go.

Husband is ready to say yes, let’s go, figure out the dates.  I’m angsting about the money.  Thinking about the small day trips and overnights that must happen this year for Nerd Child to visit colleges.  Time and money.  Thinking about the fact that Nerd Child does not enjoy the beach at all.  It isn’t a fun and relaxing vacation if one of us is miserable.

So I keep going onto the terrace, to find solace in the flowers and tomatoes.  I planted the seeds and bulbs, and they’re growing.

Another couple of nights and I think the moonflowers will begin to open, I can't wait.

Another couple of nights and I think the moonflowers will begin to open, I can’t wait.

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The summer daffodils I planted are even blooming.  We won’t talk about what happened to the zucchini.

The blooms are much smaller than regular daffodils.

The blooms are much smaller than regular daffodils.

I grew peas, successfully.

This morning I learned if you wait too long to pick it, the peas aren't as sweet.

This morning I learned if you wait too long to pick it, the peas lose their sweetness.

I can go on the terrace and smell lilies, come back into the apartment (an apartment we waited a long time for, that’s finally enough space, and cost a small fortune to make livable) and watch the jawfish as he makes funny faces at me from underneath the zoa covered rock.



It should be enough, shouldn’t it?  No medical crisis this year for anyone.  Art Child had pneumonia, but no hospital stay necessary.  I broke my everything, a painful, protracted nuisance but not a crisis. A garden on the terrace, an underwater garden in the tank, the absolute luxuries of a dishwasher and an extra half bathroom.  The oldest successfully graduated from college, the next one looking at colleges, and the youngest about to start high school.  I’m not torturing myself trying to find meaning that isn’t there in rejection letters.

I even canceled plans to attend a large, local reefing convention, because I knew if I went I’d be unable to resist temptation, and buy new frags.  But it isn’t just Husband eyeing the suitcase.

Not All Beach Days are Perfect

But somehow, all perfect days include the beach.  Today was one of those days, and the first officially unofficial beach day of the season for us.  Must be summer! Warning:  photo intensive post ahead.

This morning I charged the camera, Husband, Art Child and I threw towels and waters in the car, left our sleeping and completely-uninterested-in-all-things-beachy Nerd Child behind, and got on the highway.

Getting excited as we leave the city.

Getting excited as we leave the city.

Lucky souls sailing down the Hudson River.

Lucky souls sailing down the Hudson River.

Yes, that Asbury Park--and I was Born to Run.

Yes, that Asbury Park–and I was Born to Run.

Pfft, no umbrellas required.

Pfft, no umbrellas required.

Wouldn't be me without some macros thrown in.

Wouldn’t be me without some macros thrown in.

The water is still cold, but I couldn't believe how clear and lovely it was.

The water is still cold, but I couldn’t believe how clear and lovely it was.

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Something about this one, I like it.

Something about this one, I like it.

I hadn’t been to Asbury Park since, well, a long, long time ago.  The beach and water isn’t just cleaner than it used to be, it’s clean.  And beautiful.  One of my beach obsessions involves the critters that live in the sand. Funny how one roach in the hallway will send me on a three-day scrubbing and freak out spree, culminating in 50 Combat traps, but I’m fascinated by the creepy crawlies in and around the ocean.

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We didn’t stay too long.  First day out, why ruin it with sunburn? So we packed up and walked along the boardwalk for a bit.

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Homeward bound.

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Ok, even I’ll admit these grains of sand are getting mighty uncomfortable.

Haters Gonna Hate

So said Nerd Child to me when I was upset a few months back, about a (very minor in the scheme of things) racist comment directed towards him and a friend.  I get his point.  He’s a smart and awe-inspiringly rational person–because of this, he is, I’m sure, better poised to make changes in our world, changes in how people approach the world, than his hotheaded blabberfingers mother.

No question, there is value and wisdom in taking the long view of social ills. As I’ve said before, however, there is also risk.  Risk of denial, risk of distorted views, plain old risk involved in sweeping these ills under the rug in favor of a false “no problem here!” presentation.

I am, of course, talking about the deaths last night of 9 innocent people in Charleston, South Carolina. A shooting that was a hate crime. At a prayer meeting in a church–the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a church with a long, proud history. Proud unless you’re a white supremacist/separatist, in which case you’re likely having very different thoughts than I am right now.  Supposedly, the suspect sat in the prayer meeting for an hour before making the statement that they were “taking over the country and raping our women.”  Because those human beings who opened their prayer meeting to him were a real, direct threat to his date nights and our national security, yes?  <<NO! I shouldn’t have to spell out that the previous sentence is sarcasm, but apparently I do, judging by the things I’ve seen and heard online today.

I don’t know how legitimate the above quote is.  Maybe it’s a misquote, maybe it was spun out of thin air.  But can I believe it’s real?  Yes I can. Because just the other day, Donald Trump announced he’s running for President of the United States.  Trump.  Do I think he has a snowball’s chance? Nope. But. I saw comments referring to him as a good idea because he’s a businessman.  True, he’s a businessman, and I think I read he’s worth something like 4 billion dollars.  He’s also declared bankruptcy four times.  Included in the gems of his announcement speech Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people…”  So…the shooter in South Carolina was singing the same song as Donald Trump? You might be thinking, of course not–Trump was referring to undocumented immigrants, and the shooter was referring to African Americans.  What I hear is:  They. Them.  America is not a business.  If it were, we might recognize our people–all of them–are our assets. In a country where someone like Donald Trump can be taken seriously by anyone as a candidate for President, we’ve got issues, and we need to air out this rug.

So I’m just going to try and clarify a few things here, from my muddled-by-sorrow point of view.  This is OUR problem, America.  OUR shame, not some shadowy boogeyman named, They. Despite what too many want to pretend, it isn’t a relic of the past that’s no longer in use, nor is it a secret.   Not “just” one lone, hateful lunatic, either. If it was, this wouldn’t be a news story we see play out over and over again.

If it was, the flags wouldn’t be flying at half staff today at the capitol of South Carolina.  Columbia, SC. One of those flags isn’t, by the way.  Which one? The confederate flag, of course. The very fact that there are confederate flags flying openly anywhere in America is the problem. There is no pride in a confederate flag.  That is our shame. Just today, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas is not violating the First Amendment by banning confederate flags on license plates. Why? Because it’s fucking wrong!  It’s racism, it’s vile, if you can’t join the 21st century go ahead and keep it to yourself.  If you want to honor those who died fighting in the Civil War and display the flag they fought for and under, I don’t get it, but go ahead and keep it in a museum with all the other interesting and long outdated relics.  Study it, learn from it, but don’t wave it as a symbol of modern America.

If it wasn’t a problem, there wouldn’t have been any major media outlets jumping to say it wasn’t a racist crime, it was an attack on Christianity.  I’d like to be sarcastic again here, or make a joke about Faux news, or even snicker at the field day the best political comedians will have with this, but I can’t–because there are too many voting citizens who take this lunacy seriously.  So I’ll just make a direct statement.  This wasn’t an attack on Christianity. Or the South, or the freedom to fly the confederate flag.  This was a racist hate crime.

You know what it isn’t? It isn’t a result of not having “God” in schools.  Yes, indeed, I saw that come across my Facebook feed.  I strongly believe in, support, and defend freedom of religion; but I believe in the separation of church and state just as strongly.

It isn’t a result of the pastor not having a gun in the church. I am not and don’t pretend to be an expert on  religion (of any faith),  and I’d be hard pressed to quote directly from the Bible if that quote wasn’t indirect and the subject of an article I was reading in the moment, but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t fall under What-Would-Jesus-Do.

It’s the result of hate.  Hate, fear, a public education system with more holes than the infinite number of test bubbles that face our children each year, an inability to discriminate between hard facts and opinions/editorials/entertainment, and a sadly lacking understanding of what it means to be a member of a greater community. A society.

This was a nauseating, racist hate crime that has left 9 Black Americans dead, while countless more Americans piss on each other across internet boards everywhere as they scramble to skew this to fit their political agendas; as the black community once again mourns unnecessary losses that should be unthinkable.  Unspeakable. Unimaginable.  But we don’t have to imagine it, because these losses, these attacks, are all too real and all too frequent.  That’s why we have to speak about it.

To the families and members of the Emanuel AME Church, I am so very, very sorry for your loss.


We Are Looking For

A clue!

A clue!

Normally, I use this neatogroovycool magnifying glass to examine the minuscule creepy crawlies in the tank.  Today, I’m using it to examine context clues.

I have a Twitter account (@MrsFringe).  I don’t use it much, but I hop on semi-regularly to see what’s trending, and sporadically I’ll spend quite a bit of time for a couple of days having fun with one-liners. Some of those I follow are friends, some are Fringelings, some are people I admire, others are agents/editors who are sharp, or funny, or interesting.  Quite a few publishing professionals will tweet tips–what to do/what not to do, why they’re requesting or rejecting queries, and query trends.

Recently I logged on and happened to catch a tweet at the top of my news feed that’s stayed with me.  While it probably isn’t politic, I’m going to address it.  Since I’m 40,000 years old and not twitter savvy (read: a blabberfingers), I’ll respond here on the blog.  Someone (agent? I think, maybe) tweeted something to the effect of:  Two spaces after a period and I know you’re over 40, don’t do it.


Well I suppose it’s true, those of us who learned to type on typewriters did learn to put two spaces after a period.  If you learned in typing class and/or did a lot of typing for any reason, it’s kind of ingrained–and if you do think about it, one space often looks “wrong” to us ancients.  Despite my advanced age and inherent slowed mental faculties, I actually understand that things change.  The world changes, advances are made, things that were once acceptable are now either extraneous or completely unacceptable.  Language evolves.

A friend of Nerd Child’s is staying with us for a few days.  He hasn’t been here before, and when he first walked in he said, “This apartment is sick.”  Hard to believe, but I didn’t go running for the Lysol, nor did I tell him to get off my lawn.  I thanked him.  Context clues.

I promise you, Fringelings, I am not what anyone would consider a delicate flower.

I checked. Nope, this is not a self portrait, but I may add it to my salad tonight.

I checked. Nope, this is not a self portrait, but I may add it to my salad tonight.

I also understand publishing professionals are inundated with queries, and there are many reasons to reject manuscripts.  What I don’t understand is why someone would think it’s ok, on a public venue like Twitter, to make this type of blanket, ageist statement.  True, I (and others like me) should probably try to break this wasteful habit of two spaces after each period.  All that white space left to rot by the end of a manuscript, shameful.  Also true, there are practicalities and logistics, reasons someone might not want to take on a debut author who’s 90 years old.  You wouldn’t have to dig too deep through my archives to find I’m quite open about not loving some of the facets of aging–oh, those saggy bits!  But these are query letters for manuscripts, not applications for centerfold models.

I had dinner with my journalist friend the other night.  She is (gasp) older than I am.  Not only still writing, but people still pay to read what she has to say, because she’s good at what she does.  If I checked the list of current best selling novelists, I’m certain a significant percentage would include authors over forty.  If I checked tweets of those I follow on Twitter, I’m certain all would include tweets (from men and women) about being feminists, supporting feminism.  You cannot separate feminism from ageism.  I’d like to see that placard carried at a women’s rights march, “Equal Pay for the Perky Now!”  It doesn’t bother me to be told to break an outdated habit, but the implication that my words hold no value because I’m a woman of a certain age?  That bothers the hell out of me.

I think I’ve posted this video before, but you can just go ahead and blame senility for the repeat.  Or, yanno, trust I felt it was appropriate for this piece.

*And yes, I made sure to add two spaces after each period for this post, ’cause that’s how I roll.

Can’t Always Be Pancakes

Kale smoothie. Don't knock it 'til you try it.

Kale smoothie. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.

Seriously, it’s delicious.  I doubt it makes up for the mac-n-cheese with jalapeños and broccoli I had while out with Fatigue last night, but maybe it balances the beer.

I was awake ridiculously early today, spent an hour and a half on the terrace watching the clouds before starting yoga.  I kept thinking I should grab the camera, but I didn’t.  Sorrynotsorry.  Sometimes it’s good to not think about framing a shot, or cursing myself for being too slow getting that perfect wisp in focus. Enjoy the moment and all that jazz.

While I was having my breakfast, I looked over at my poor tank.

I love indulging my inner nature gal.  In a controlled environment, of course. Sadly, I’m not always good at controlling it all.  Ok, not all sad.  It’s interesting to see what happens, even when it’s things you don’t want to happen.

A recent mystery disaster wiped out all my SPS corals, and has left me a growing patch of cyanobacteria.

Cyano, or red slime

Cyano, aka red slime

A real nuisance, but it happens.  Time for a couple of extra water changes, and to change out the ferric oxide in the back chambers of the tank.  I’m not sure where these high phosphates are coming from this time, but they’re there.

At the same time, I was able to catch this moment.

Pair of skunk cleaner shrimp enjoying their breakfast.

Pair of skunk cleaner shrimp enjoying their breakfast. I couldn’t quite tell, but I think escargot was on the menu for them.

Back on the terrace, I checked on the progress of my little container garden.  A definite zucchini is growing!

I know, I know, those little bug things. :(

I know, I know, those little bug things. 😦

I first saw those little black dots (now recognizable as bugs) on my lily plants a few weeks ago. I immediately purchased a ridiculously expensive fertility spray that was labeled as an organic fungicide/insecticide. Needless to say, they’ve now spread to most of the plants/containers and are having the time of their fruitfully multiplying lives.  Who knew my terrace was the aphid (or whatever they are) version of a cheap Vegas buffet?

But look what else is growing,

Tom Hanks may have made fire, but I've got tomatoes!

Tom Hanks may have made fire, but I’ve got tomatoes!

And peas, real fresh, soon to be delicious, peas.

Yes, please.

Yes, please.

All in all, I’m calling it a good morning.


Exhaustion: It’s What’s for Dinner. and Celebration!

On the road, parenting style.

On the road, parenting style.

On Friday morning, Husband, Art Child, and I got in the car to head north for Man Child’s college graduation.  College! Graduated!  I did it!!!  Err, I mean, Man Child did it. And in all seriousness, he did it well.  Congratulations to you!  Naturally, life being what it is here on the Fringe, Nerd Child and all his stuff needed to be picked up from his school on the same day, a mere three and a half hours from where Man Child was graduating.

So we drove.

I've always had a thing for log houses. Wonder how one will look on the beach in HI. ;)

I’ve always had a thing for log houses. Wonder how one will look on the beach in HI. 😉

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You have reached your (first) destination!

You have reached your (first) destination!

Lovely petunias in flower boxes outside our motel room–a mere one state away from where the college actually is.  Apparently the good mommies book their rooms six-nine months in advance, the fringe mamas end up 35 minutes away, across state lines, and pay a completely unreasonable amount of money for one of the most questionable motel rooms I’ve ever stayed in.  Not to fear, we shooed the five bees we found in the room back outside to the flowers, and established that one of the five lamps in the room was indeed working. Then Husband got back on the road to pick up Nerd Child while Art Child and I rested (or in my case, waited for the painkillers to kick in so I could straighten up),  got ready for the evening’s festivities, and sent panicked texts to Man Child regarding who would pick us up to take us to the school. His college puts on a lovely graduation, splitting it into two days so you’re never sitting for an unreasonable amount of time.

Man Child and Miss Music picked us up, I admired his new blazer, he admired my new (to him) cane, and we arrived in time for the dinner and speeches.

Thank you weather gods, for not being too hot or rainy.

Thank you weather gods, for not being too hot or rainy.

IMG_4181This is a small, arts focused but not arts exclusive liberal arts college.  I met several of Man Child’s friends–so full of talent, energy, and optimism.  Dancers, artists, biochemists, one I’m certain has a great future ahead of her in comedy writing, another who’s written a Japanese opera. Together this means I saw some fabulous fashion, spectacular hair colors, had plenty of vegetarian options to choose from, and *drumroll* Gloria Steinem was the featured guest speaker. Can a 40,000 year old woman squeal and fangirl? Yes, yes she can.

First the speaker from the senior class gave her speech. Clever, well timed, full of hope and witty comments about attending a not-quite traditional school that prizes individualism. This young woman is a writer, graduating from a school that has more than a few successful and prize winning writers among its alums. During her time at the school, in addition to her coursework she finished a novel and interned at a literary agency.

This is about when I started becoming very interested in the structure of the tent.  So much harder for the glassy eyes and sniffling nose to become full-on sobs when trying to determine how the cloth is joined to the poles.



Then Ms. Steinem spoke.  I’ll be honest, she could have stood and read her grocery list and I’d have applauded and proclaimed her brilliance. C’mon, Gloria Steinem, forty feet in front of me! But she didn’t read her grocery list, and her speech was wonderful, inspiring to the young people (men and women) sitting and listening. I was thrilled to listen, but I’ll be honest again. I didn’t feel inspired. I felt smaller, further on the fringe, more frayed and broken. Plain old old. After telling everyone I hoped to meet her, when the speeches ended I walked away from the line formed immediately by those who wanted a chance to meet and take a photo with her.

After a few minutes of fresh air, Man Child encouraged me to go back and get on line. I realized there were just as many moms waiting as graduates, so I summoned my old mosh pit moves and got on line. We joked and waited, and then I was face to face with this woman who represents so much. Not only what she did do, but what she continues to do. I said hello and told her how pleased I was to meet her, and mentioned that I had told a mutual friend how much I was looking forward to this opportunity. She politely asked who the friend was and how I know her. And that’s where I metaphorically found myself on my face. Not my friend’s name, of course. But she’s someone I met through dog walking. I walked her dogs for years, she herself is a known, successful, talented journalist and feminist, and we have become friends.   Standing there, though, surrounded by all that youth and hope and talent; with this successful, brave, powerful woman in front of me, the only image in my mind was dog shit in the rain–and rejection letters oddly addressed, “Dear Fraudulent Feminist,”  I mumbled something about dog walking and fringiness, grimaced for the photo and slunk off.

When we got back to the motel, Nerd Child and Husband had arrived, and were already 2/3 asleep. I pretended for a few minutes that I’m a reasonably mature and graceful woman before Man Child and Miss Music headed back to school and I collapsed into the sleep of self-pity.

It rained all night, and was still quite cool and gray in the morning. Somehow, New England manages to be bright and beautiful even under cloud cover.

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The commencement ceremony itself was beautiful, and aptly positioned (for us) right outside the financial aid office.

Afterwards, of course, were more photos, and a celebratory lunch. Once again the deadbeat mom, it hadn’t occurred to me that in a small town, reservations would be needed way in advance when an entire senior class was there with their families, all going out to eat. We ended up back across the state border, in a restaurant not far from the motel we had stayed the night before.  While having lunch, Man Child brought it up.  Yeah, we know each other well enough that he knew all the speeches and creative youth would hit that melancholy nerve in my heart.  You can’t stay mired in self pity on such a beautiful occasion, and when you have an adult child who knows you well enough, and cares enough to acknowledge mom as a person. Said our goodbyes, then headed to yet another state to drop off Nerd Child at a friend’s–because they were going back to their school the following morning to cheer on senior friends for graduation (not theirs, thankfully, that’s next year).  With any luck the contents of his dorm room will find their way out of the car and into his bedroom before the end of the week.

We couldn’t be more proud of Man Child.  It isn’t easy to be a kiddo raised on the fringe.  For whatever opportunities he’s had, help and sacrifices offered and acknowledged, it sucked to be the one listening to classmates talk about fabulous vacations, watch others go off on school year abroad while he plowed through. He’s worked hard, not just in the classrooms but outside; connecting with others, joined the greater community and created opportunities for himself.  I’m hoping he enjoys this summer in New England, continuing to work in the restaurant he’s worked in for the past three years, now as a new graduate. He’s heading to Italy in the fall, so exciting!  Bottom line, he’s doing what I wish for all three of my children; not living by “I will,” all too quickly followed by “I would’ve/should’ve,” but living by “I am.”  May your future blogs never include the tag “downward mobility,” in any language. All the best and all my heart, Man Child, not just on ceremonial days, but every day.


“You Ain’t No Nice Guy”

W 4th Street Courts, aka "The Cage" Tiny, but one of the toughest, most competitive courts in the city.

W 4th Street Courts, aka “The Cage.” Tiny, but one of the most competitive courts in the city with some of the greatest streetball players.  Unusual because it has nets!

The post title above is one of those quotes that tattooed itself on my brain as soon as I read it–many, many years ago.  It’s from The Stand, by Stephen King, earlier on in the book, before Captain Trips has completely taken over, said to the character Larry Underwood.  Simple, clean, all-encompassing, and it stayed in the character’s head the way it’s stayed in mine. I love those types of characters; not nice but interesting.  I will always vote for interesting, and I think that quote shaped the characters I create as much as anything else I’ve read and learned.

Last year, someone mentioned to me that “satire” is currently the kiss of death in a query. Naturally, I immediately started thinking, “what a great idea, I’d love to try satire!”  Thoughts of not nice guys married the idea of satire, they honeymooned in the too-many maudlin days of nostalgic thinking I had while recuperating from my fractures, and Jack was born, he’s the protagonist in the short I’m posting today.  (I think I posted back in the early days of Mrs Fringe about growing up in Brooklyn and falling asleep to the sounds of dribbling basketballs and hard popping handballs in the park across the street.)

I don’t know how other writers do it, but this is me. Bits and pieces of brain mishmash that probably don’t belong together, but in my peculiar mind they do. In some ways this is a continuation of my last post, about it being ok to reach and try new things, even suck.  While part of me mourns for my quickly fading dreams of publication, another part of me sees this as an opportunity (excuse?) to stretch and try all the out of the box ideas that I’ve got without worrying whether or not it’s publishable. Marketable.

If you haven’t noticed from my other stories, I like things that are just a little raw, with jagged bits that stay with me.  With any luck, two of my readers/followers do, too. Please click here for “Blacktop.”