Things About Being A Cow

The other day, I was driving through the rolling farmland of the Palouse, and happened to spot a lone black cow wandering morosely up a very long, very dusty hill. All of the other cows from the herd were lolling around in the pasture down below, but for some reason this cow was trudging dutifully up a two-track in the dirt, for what seemed like endless miles. I had nothing but sympathy for the cow. Oh honey. It reminded me of me. One more step. Just keep going.

And everything in me wanted to stop the car and wave my arms at her and yell across the barbed wire fence:

"You're ok, Bossy! You don't have to climb that hill! You can stay down below with your friends! It's only a few pounds! You're beautiful just the way you are!"

Because clearly the cow was climbing the hill for exercise, which is the only reason I think that anyone would climb such a long and terrible thing. And then I realized how silly I was for anthropomorphizing the cow, who was probably really headed to a watering trough that was vital to her existence. Why she was doing it alone, who knows, but again, probably for a very sound reason, like maybe she is a diabetic cow and very thirsty all of the time. Or perhaps she forgot to get a drink when all of the cows were up at the top earlier in the day. Either way, if I imagined that the cow had a Vitally Important reason for climbing the hill, it made more sense.

And then I realized that's what I should be doing - something necessary - to get up my big hills. But what could possibly be so vital in my life that it would make climbing a big hill really worth it. I could put water up there, but it would be awfully disappointing to do all of that work for just a little drink of water. Even a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. I mean it's good and all, but not necessary. And if I woke up at 7:00 on a rainy morning and knew that a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup sat at the top of the hill, I would probably opt to stay in bed. Because priorities.

So after racking my brain for awhile, trying to think of ANYTHING that would be super important and worth going all the way up there, and the only thing that came to mind was my phone. WHAT IF I planted my iPhone at the top of the hill, and I couldn't even check my text messages, or Instagram, or anything until I got to the top? I got a little panicky at the thought and then realized that it might actually work. Which made me feel like a very shallow person and also slightly embarrassed.

But if you see an iPhone sitting at the top of the Great Big Hill behind my house, you'll know why. And don't bring it to me, because you're not actually helping. Well you are, but you're rendering aid to the wrong part of me. It's the part that wants to stay in bed forever and doesn't mind being soft around the edges.

Things About The Perfect Girl

Someone recently asked me if I was, in fact, The Perfect Girl. I quickly answered yes, if one is into moody, unpredictable people who drink too much. But if you ask any of the men that I have been with in the past, they would tell you otherwise.

The last year has been a winding trail of Dealing With All The Shit that I have semi-successfully buried for many years deep inside of my soul. I have been rooting out the lies and replacing them with truths, and every day it seems like there is a new one. Sometimes it's easy to get discouraged or bogged down in the endless, hopeless struggle, but sometimes I can look back on the progress I have made and I feel pretty damn good. Ten years ago, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with the string of lies that I have been fed. Ten years ago, I would have done anything to be whatever THEY wanted. But it's not ten years ago, and I don't believe the lies anymore. Not even the ones like these that have been spoken to me by people in my life:

"You're an underachiever. You could be so much more."

Wrong. I am fierce about chasing down what I want. Wrestling it to the ground. I have made concessions, yes. I could make more money, have a stable future, retirement, benefits, blah blah blah... But it's been a conscious trade off for the tangible liberty I have to do what I love and be with my kids and owe no one my soul. I am a mother. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, an EMT, a writer, a hard worker, a partier, a pusher. And every day I go farther.

"You were irresistible when you were thin."

Wrong. I am irresistible now, you are just too shallow and insecure to be happy with anyone. When I lose "the weight", as you call it, as if it were a set of keys to be misplaced, I will be too good for you and your pettiness anyway. And the idea that you have that you got ripped off by having to endure fat Liv - it's garbage. Like you are.

"You're failing as a parent."

Wrong. I have made more mistakes than I care to recount. And one of my kids is barely speaking to me at this moment. But all four of my girls are brilliant and strong and capable and will be forces for the world to reckon with. I will not always be a best buddy to my kids, but I will always be the best thing that I can be for them. And all four of my girls love me. This is a confidence I never expected to feel. I draw strength from their love. That, my friend, is not failure.

"You're selfish and irresponsible."

Wrong. Ok, maybe irresponsible, a little, sometimes, but really, come on. I have been raising girls more or less on my own for over a decade on a shoestring budget. We've never gone hungry or cold or really without much of anything, and we have been blessed beyond measure to do crazy awesome things. I don't have much in my savings, but I can tell a pretty cool story, and so can my kids.

"You're a spoiled brat." 

Wrong. I can throw a mean tantrum, to be sure, but there is no question in my mind that things only go my way with a heck of a lot of persistence, determination and hard work. Yes, I like to have things my way, but I sure don't expect it to be handed to me.

"You destroy relationships."

Wrong. Meet my friends. My family, 89% of whom are speaking to me at any given moment. I am surrounded by people that I am committed to. Not people I agree with at every turn. Not clones of me with identical lives and tastes and experiences. I am rich with relationships that are non-negotiable in my life. That require work and flexibility and patience and tolerance in both directions.

"You're a lazy piece of shit."

Wrong. I am not even gonna dignify that with a reply. And get off my couch.

"You are crazy."

Wrong. Unless you mean crazy like, in a good, spontaneously fun and life-of-the-party way. I do not need lithium. I do not need a psychiatrist. I do not need you in my life telling me that my insanity is the cause of all of your issues.

I mean, when it comes right down to it, I guess I am The Perfect Girl. Not because I am flawless, but because I see my flaws, and everybody else's, as the choppy water that rubs the river rocks into smooth and graceful pieces of art. I have my share of weak areas and blind spots, but I am also hella fun. I like beer and football and trees and guns and wine and couches and sweatpants and long hair. I like food and music and traveling and learning and listening. I like doing, not planning. I like going, not wishing. I like to stay up late and sleep in later. I will never grow up. I like to kiss. I like to hold hands. I like sex. I like dogs. I like pretty much every animal I ever met, except a few humans. I like God - the real one in the rocks and trees and rivers, not the one in the Pink Churches. I like to dance. I like to sing, however badly. I like to make it up as I go, and while sometimes my life gets a little haphazard, it's made me a great problem solver. I am interesting and fun and often silly. What's not perfect about all of that?

There you have it, folks. Pure perfection. 

Things About (Almost) Being a Terrorist

Names have been entirely omitted to protect the guilty

Once upon a time, two sisters went for a little trip on an airplane. It was a short two day trip and so the girls only packed 7 or 8 outfits, and figured it was no big deal. One of the sisters is a self-proclaimed globe trotter and lives in many other delusions, but the other sister, who maybe doesn't fly as often, forgot about some of the rules, and had a big old bottle of lotion in her purse which caused the TSA guys at the airport a lot of stress and turmoil. In the end, after searching through her bags for a Very Long Time, as if they weren't sure that the lotion wasn't the only contraband she had, and as if they weren't sure what to do about the threatening lotion, the TSA guys took the bottle away and the sister was slightly disgruntled.

As the sisters sat at the gate, waiting for the plane to board, the sister who didn't travel as much started digging through her purse looking for something (obviously not lotion). She looked up at the other sister with big eyes.

"I have two box cutters in my purse."

The traveling sister gasped. "How did the TSA guys not find those? Was the lotion so overwhelming that they were paralyzed by it's discovery? More importantly, WHY?"

The other sister said she didn't know, but something about hay bales and cardboard at the County Fair in September.

The traveling sister, being savvy in Pretty Much All The Things, and after contacting a friend in Law Enforcement who knows All The Other Things, told her to go to the bathroom, wipe her fingerprints off of the contraband, and throw them away. Because if the box cutters were taken back to TSA to be turned in, either out of incompetence or embarrassment for incompetence, the TSA guys would surely call a full security airport shut down and the sisters would never be able to get on the plane. And if they were taken on the plane and say, fell out of her purse in the aisle, there was no question that both sisters would be flying leap-tackled by well-meaning citizens and probably killed vigilante style before landing.

The non-savvy sister trusted the traveling one and so she went to the bathroom and huddled in the corner near a sink, suspiciously washing the knives and wiping them until an innocent bystander happened in, at which the girl panicked and threw the boxcutters into the trash.

Moments later the sisters were on the plane, waiting for the inevitable moment that the airport janitor found the incriminating evidence in the trash and launched a full security airport shut down. While they waited, they texted most of their friends and family to tell them goodbye, in case they went straight to prison without a chance to call people.

Just then, the captain of the plane announced that the flight would be delayed because someone's oxygen mask had deployed spontaneously and had to be contained, and then documented. The sisters just knew it was a ruse, allowing the TSA time to contact the National Security Administration SWAT teams and raid the plane. They held their breath for the entire oxygen-mask-containment time, which was a very long time, as maintenance men who looked rather well-muscled and heavily armed came and went from the cabin of the plane.

Luckily one of the sisters had to share half of her entire seat on the plane with a Very Large Man who was selling some sort of Adult Stem Cells that would cure anything. Not only did he occupy half of the seat which was not his, he was a leaner, so that was a useful distraction from the girls' impending doom.

At long last the flight left, but the sisters knew that it was only because the SWAT team would be meeting the plane at the destination airport, which was larger and had more armed responders nearby.

The worst part was that the flight didn't even have free beer and wine, like some flights do - at least the ones on the small rattly planes that make you need beer and wine. And the girls could have used some beer and wine. Even if it was only 9:50 in the morning.

When the girls landed they had to wait on the tarmac for a Very Long Time. Presumably for the SWAT team. They never showed up though, so the girls went along with their short trip feeling watched the entire time.

Never know WHO you're flying with...

Things About #$#%#$# Exercise

I am committed, you guys. Like, I am totally doing it.

I am not sure what I am doing, but I am doing it for sure.

After a jaunt through hell with my brand new PLYO DVD yesterday, I woke up to what could be termed paralysis this morning.

Did you know that there is not a single movement of the human body that doesn't involve the muscles on the backs of your thighs? I didn't. Found that out today. I also decided that the small hill I jogged yesterday was actually a mountain in disguise.

But SOMEHOW I got out of bed. And SOMEHOW I put my shoes on and SOMEHOW I went for a "run", which we all know is code for a walk that involves a lot of panting, hopping in place, and good intention. I did almost two and a half miles, which is far, when you can't move. I went up the imposter mountain again, and came down in front of the school for the last quarter mile, where I tried really hard to jog and look cool and motivational for the kids. I think I heard some giggles and I realized I wasn't actually moving forward so I just gave up and walked home. By the time I reached my porch I knew I was in trouble. There are steps. Two of them. I got one leg up on the first step but that was all she wrote. I think I had to turn around and back up them on my bum, but I was in so much pain I don't really remember.

There is no position right now that doesn't make those muscles behind my legs scream bloody murder at me. I thought a hot bath might help, but once I had soaked for awhile I realized I had failed to consider the hurdle of getting out of the tub.

Putting pants on just isn't happening today. I apologize in advance, postmaster.

Working out to the point of uselessness every day has one definite perk: I am forced to lay on the couch and watch Netflix for most of the afternoon. If I could find a way to get paid for that I would be golden. I have a volleyball game to go watch tonight and the bleachers are already giving me panic attacks.

I am doing this 30 day challenge thingy that says I have to eat a small portion every three hours. I never. I binge eat every 8. It's just how I roll. It should be interesting. Not that I am against eating, ever. It's just all the remembering that I am really bad at.

Tomorrow we are supposed to tackle the REAL PiYo, so brace yourselves. Assuming I can get out of the bathtub by then....

Things About Getting In Shape

After a little research, I decided to order a PiYo DVD so I could start getting serious about working out. You know, really committing myself. And PiYo seemed like a reasonable answer to a self-proclaimed hedonist who wants to exercise as long as it's not Too Hard. 

So this morning, on the First Full Day I have been home in almost a month, I decided to whip that baby out and give her a whirl. First I went for a jog, which felt something like giving birth, since in the last 27 days I have taken no more than 18 steps on any given day. I started out running down the street with plans of conquering my three mile, up-a-giant-hill route, but at about .27 miles began to rationalize that if I really wanted to do my PiYo I should not be too aggressive on my run, so I turned around at .73 miles and after doing the up-a-small-hill route, and jogged back home. To be fair, it was my second fastest time doing a run under two miles (1.32 total), but my first fastest doesn't really count since I accidentally switched Runkeeper on when I drove over to the Middlesworth's last time. I will be hard pressed to beat that half mile in 2.01 minutes. 

Anyway after my run, and beginning to seriously second guess whether anything was really worth this much suffering, I popped in the DVD, unfurled my yoga mat and grabbed my water. I thought it was a little odd that the people on the video didn't have yoga mats. And they were all wearing shoes, which seemed rather un-yogaish, but not being super familiar with the Pilates side of things I figured I would just go with it. 

The DVD started off with some jumping jacks and running in place and some other spastic things that I am sure that I nailed. I was feeling pretty confident that I could keep up, but then I noticed the little banner at the bottom of the screen said we were in the middle of the three minute warm up. That was disappointing, to say the least. 

When the trainer started into the actual rounds of real moves, they were all these leaping squat things, and lunging-jump-twist contortions that weren't much like any pilates I have seen, but I was still up for being a good sport and kept trouncing along, sort of like an elephant on a broken trampoline. About halfway into the stupid thing I was still waiting for the yoga moves to kick in, and during one of the rest breaks I picked up the DVD case to see if these people even knew what PiYo was supposed to be. 

Turns out, in a fit of dyslexia, or maybe an Amazon ordering binge complemented by a bottle of merlot, I had ordered a DVD of a PLYO workout, not a PiYo routine, and my friends, let me tell you, the two are very different. In fact, as one google-question-answerer put it, they are completely opposite. Plyometrics operate on the principles of muscle confusion and aggressive bursts of high impact movement, whereas PiYo is intended as a graceful flowing low impact routine for core strengthening and flexibility. 

Not to be put to shame by my own silliness, I finished the DVD (except for the rounds that were all shoulder moves) and now I am pretty sure I will never walk again. But I am still interested in trying PiYo. Maybe I can borrow it from my BFF to avoid future ordering mishaps. 

Things That I Read IV

If you follow my posts about books, this would be the third installment in the annual series. For reference you can check out Things That I Read III and Things That I Read I  since I have such witty and interesting things to say about books.  There is no Things I read II because apparently I am terrible at counting.

This has been a good summer for reading. Like, really good. I have read a lot of books drawing from the farthest reaches of the spectrum of books. I'll tell you about the ones I can remember, in order of most recent to oldest, since I will be busy trying to remember the older ones as I go (this is not an exhaustive list, by the way, some slipped by...) (also, the first two book I list are the ones I would recommend for EVERYONE to read.)

Get it on Amazon

On Writing - Stephen King

If not number one, it's at least second place for books that made a Lasting and Useful Impression upon me this summer. King's rambling and somewhat discombobulated take on how to write was simultaneously an elightenment and a relief for me. After reading Lamott's Bird by Bird (see below) I was left with some good perspective, but less drive to write than before I read it. Not so with On Writing. King makes the process, even of rejection, seem like an exciting and necessary step toward arrival as an author. Truth be told, this is the first Stephen King book I have ever read, and I am ordering a bunch more. I like his voice. He is honest and relatable. He dispells long held myths that are the hallmark of writing, such as "write what you know", redefining the knowledge of the author to include imagination. King acknowleges the struggle while embracing it, and even with massive success is able to voice the same insecurities that the essay writer in the 8th grade feels.

Get it on Amazon

Deep Survival - Lawrence Gonzales

This book is RAD. I picked it up free somewhere, because there it was, free, and who knows when you need a book to read. It was low on my priority list since I had no idea what it was about, other than surviving, which always seems a little inconvenient and uncomfortable - not something I was much interested in making a hobby of. But this book seriously shifted several paradigms for me, confirmed several suspicions and was just a damn good book. So good, in fact, that I ordered a couple copies for people for Christmas. Mine is all marked up, but you can borrow it if you want. Gonzales weaves the story of his father, a WWII bomber pilot who is shot down over France and taken prisoner, throughout other tales of survival against extreme odds. He chronicles mountaineering accidents, river rafting tragedies, plane crashes, and the voyages of sailors lost at sea. He examines the mindset and actions of the people who survived and the ones who didn't. In the end, his well documented research points to the underlying quality of personal responsibility and protection of others (selflessness) as the compelling theme for survival. Everyone should read this book, the ones who have survived, the ones who are surviving, and the ones who will have to survive in every pathway of life. The stories ring true for abuse survivors, for chronic pain survivors, for survivors of small children and single motherhood, for survivors of divorce, for cancer survivors... Read this book. (but basically if you are in my family, don't buy it because I probably got it for you for Christmas.)

Inca Gold - Clive Cussler

Oh Clive... All of the good times that I have had with Dirk Pitt and his bevy of over-described antagonists, protagonists and supporting cast. Cussler is my junk food reading. It's always a fun time, although this go around I got kind of annoyed with Cussler's too-many details and lost interest toward the end. Unless one is a diving geek (Nokeses) or a car geek or a food geek, these books just have too many specifics. Cussler's description of Huevos Rancheros not once but TWICE, in the story, had me plotting unauthorized trips to town for some takeout. I had to keep envisioning Dirk as Matthew McConaughey in Sahara to finish the book, but it was, as always, an interesting story line and very true to Cussler form.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey

Not sure how this one escaped me all of these years, but I came across a copy (I think, again, it was free) and figured it was overdue. Inside the paperback was a hotel towel claim form from somewhere in Mexico, circa 1987. I only wish I was the lucky bastard reading this book poolside in Puerta Vallarta. I loved this book. I loved the storyteller's perspective of the world as a giant agricultural combine and all of the wires and plugs that control us all, and how his haze was gradually lifted when Randall McMurty entered the institution. It was a short read that leaves one considering who, in this world, the crazy people actually are, and my money is on Nurse Ratched all the way.

A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson

One of the other medics on a fire recommended this one and so I downloaded it to my iPad. It was a good read - two middle aged dudes who decide to hit the Appalachian Trail with basically no experience, and the physical, emotional and psychological pitfalls that befall them. It's a funny book - lots of interesting environmental information and just enough redemption to make you want to lace up your boots and hit the trail. Bryson makes hiking - even long distances - seem almost appealing and doable in spite of the struggle. So who wants to tackle the PCT with me?

Rule of Thoughts - James Dashner

Ugh. Ok, here's the deal with JD. I like his stories, a lot. But I hate his writing style. I can't say that it's BAD writing, although I am very suspicious it is, and I am positive that Stephen King would agree. But much like Clive Cussler, Dashner over-describes almost everything, leaving nothing to the imagination of the reader. And his dialogues are awkward vehicles for delivering backstory in super unnatural conversations. Because none of us run around reminding each other of what happened in the last chapter in gory detail and for no reason. His characters say too many unnecesary things. They overplay their hand. Almost as if they don't trust the reader to keep up, which, I suppose if his target audience is 14 year old boys, makes sense. But the story of Michael and his friends trying to save the real world from a salient digital presence is pretty good. If you can slog through the awful dialogue or you are a 14 year old boy.

Eye of Minds - James Dashner

This is the first in Dashner's series that isn't the Maze Runner. Maze Runner was much better, even though, once again, I didn't love his writing style. But the MR series was a page turner that made the style bearable. This one... well let's just say I started it six months ago and lost interest... so... (sorry about the library fees, Aiden). I finally finished it and moved on to the next, with no better outcome. The third in this series is due out this fall, and really, I can totally wait for it.

SIDE NOTE: In Dashner's series as well as several other action/adventure/fantasy books I have read this year, I find myself getting really tired of the hero/heroine ALWAYS being beat up and exhausted. I am all for action, but how many times in one chapter can the poor bastards be barely able to hold their head up, or feeling like dead weight, with all of the life sapped out of them. I miss the resilient heroes of old who could take a licking and keep on ticking... again, some of this comes down to hyper-describing every scene... just saying...

Bird By Bird - Anne Lamott

This is another book on writing. Lamott's perspective is more melancholy than King's, which left me feeling kind of like killing myself would be more productive than writing. But in all seriousness, she had some great points, some laugh-out-loud spots woven throughout and it was a good read. Like most writing books/classes/workshops, Lamott lays out the rules: sit down. write. just do it. They're good rules, and valid, but I like the way that King throws them down, because he sees it as a passion - something that we GET to do, not as a compulsive thing that we HAVE to do as writers. There is a tone of gratitude in King's writing that was lacking in Bird By Bird - instead Lamott voices a "why me" sort of perspective as a writer. Certainly she captures the overwhelming sense of hopelessness and struggle that is writing, but other than a little sarcasm, I feel like she forgot to mention the reward (not financial, lest anyone other than Stephen King be confused).

A Few Jumper Stories - Rod Dow

OK, so Rod Dow is not a writer. He's a smokejumper. An old one at that. But he is full of stories, and some of them are even good. The best part about this weird little collection of campfire (or forest fire?) tales is that I had heard over half of them from the man himself when I worked with him a few seasons ago. Granted, the stories have evolved somewhat since then, but they were still entertaining. And if I ever get a book written that's available on Amazon, I sure hope my fire buddies all buy it.

A Picture Of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde

Here's another classic that I had never read. And another trip into the psychology of the human fixation with youth and beauty. Dorian Gray in effect trades his soul to retain his youth, and follows a path of despair that makes you really appreciate your wrinkles and gray hair. It's a thought provoking story, a quick and easy read that gives you a new perspective on life, and however short it is, that it is often just long enough.

The Time Machine - H.G. Wells

Wells was clearly sending a warning to his audience about the social trends of the time, the class seperation and the drive for comfort and convenience at every expense. His trip far into the future paints a bleak outlook for humanity, masquerading in a blurry utopian farce above the bowels of ugly reality. Similar to Dorian Gray, this story speaks to the human struggle for success and what that really looks like.

Voyager - Diana Gabaldon

Good Lord. Do I even need to comment on the Outlander series? I read the first one over the winter, and foraging my way though each 700+ page epoc is alternately exhausting and, er, stimulating. Clearly Gabaldon has a firm grasp on Every Woman's Fantasy, which is, in a name, Jamie Fraser. The story winds on and on and on across centuries and sagas, while really all I am looking for are the steamy love scenes. But she's a great writer, and they are great stories, and I have plenty of time for all of the pages.*

Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon

*see above

Wildfire - Mary Pauline Lowry

This wasn't a terrible book. It was the story of a girl on a hotshot crew. And it goes pretty much how you would expect, unless you don't know what to expect, and then it might be kind of interesting. I thought when I ordered it that it was a memoir of the author, who was a girl on a hotshot crew, but after getting through two different burnover situations I realized that it was a very much fictionalized version of a memoir. I have no idea if any of it rings true to her experience...  but it's a good story and she's got a good voice as a writer. It's a borrower, not a buyer, I'd say.

Falls Like Lightning - Shawn Grady

This WAS a terrible book. And not just because it was a "faith based" romance and I am terribly jaded, but because it was just a terrible book. The story was silly, about a smokejumper pilot and her smokejumper sometime-boyfriend, her sick little girl and all of them praying while they are flying airplanes to various places where there are smokejumpers murdering each other for a big gold mine and blah blah blah... It was written by a firefighter (I assume structural) and paramedic in Colorado, so I wanted to like it, but I just couldn't. I forced myself to finish it even though I was blushing visibly as I read, and giggling quite a bit at the total ridiculousness of it. Especially when they were asking the Lord to help them get away from the murderers. I mean Jesus Saves, but this got a little silly. I'd loan it to you but I would be too embarrassed to admit that I still have a copy. It will probably be triple wrapped when I take it to Goodwill. Or I might give it to an unsuspecting Christian friend for Christmas. Actually that's a great idea.

The Nothing - Kerry Schafer

Kerry is a local author (from Colville) who has several of the same friends I do, and I found out about her books through a kickstarter campaign to get this book, The Nothing, published. The publisher of the first two books in the series wasn't happy with sales and dropped it before the third came out, so Schafer boldly pressed on and self-published the last book, with a little help from her friends. Schafer creates an interesting storyline with likeable characters and a lot of twists and turns in and out of dreamworld as the heroine struggles to save reality from the closing darkness of sleep. Plotwise there were some interesting similarities to Dashner's Eye of Minds stories, although Schafer is a much better writer and the bad guys are dream characters instead of cyber characters. If fantasies involving dragons and penguins and giants tromping in and out of one's dreams aren't really your style, you might not like these books, but if you've got an active imagination and some extra time, they're worth the read. **

Wakeworld - Kerry Schafer

**see above

Between - Kerry Schafer

**see above above

Bust it Like a Mule - Caleb Mannan

The first book I read this fire season, and one of my favorites, Bust It Like a Mule was written by an old childhood friend that pretty much cornered the market on storytelling when we were growing up. His first (self) published novel does not disappoint, telling the tale of one Cotton Kingfisher who conquers his own demons as he takes on a small town in Montanta and some raging wildfires. Mannan's writing style is unique in it's complete absence of commas, but the steady stream of verbal traffic conveys the feeling of an unbroken spellbinding cast by a gravelly voice to a mesmerized listener.

Get it on Amazon

Things About The Big Picture

Have you ever looked across the mountains when you're high above them in a plane, and wished with all of your might that you could see time lapse footage of the billions of years of geological drama at play as they formed? To witness the continents smashing together like global bumper cars, shoving the fenders of worlds up into massive wrinkles of stone and dirt? 

Have you ever looked down on a sea of clouds, like a endless billowing comforter, and wondered how it would look to see each molecule work through the decision influenced by temperatures and winds and waves, sun and moon, to become drops of rain or dissipate into the atmosphere... 

Have you seen the landscape dotted by the squares and circles and rows and roads that men have made in the quest for purpose and success and meaning? Have you seen the miles and miles and miles of trees taller than 3 men as they file solemnly, silently across the continent below you, chuckling serenely in the face of conqueror man who has yet to tame all of their wilds? 

Have you seen the lights in trails and columns and chaos as you drift over a city? A man made starscape that lends shadow to a million wrongs, a million rights, love and hate, romance and intrigue. Tragedy and ecstasy..

Have you seen the massive chimney of smokey tearing it's way through the atmosphere on it's way to heaven to proclaim the power of destruction that has only winter to face as a foe? The glowing shades of orange and red and coral and yellow, chewing a path through the timber into oblivion, the giant monster a tiny offensive front underneath your wings? 

It makes me know, with no uncertainty, that we are only one of the many players, small and insignificant, on the face of this magnificent piece of art called earth. 

We are here for such a short time, and even our greatest impacts are the mark of an ant on the scale of a millennia. And yet our every action conveys such meaning, such worth in the rippling waves of humanity. 

Another 2 million years and we will be like so many other species. A flitting memory: mankind. But with such a destiny in our own hearts and minds. 

We cannot alter the stars in their courses or the waves in their tides any more than we can harness love in it's passion or war in it's horror. We cannot stop the uprise of mountains or the downfall of sea floors. 

We are merely along for a beautiful ride on this roller coaster planet, with the global warming highs and the ice age lows. We are masters only in our minds of this majesty called earth. 

There is nothing new under the sun, but there is so much beauty. So much to be enjoyed in our short time here. We are small, but we are blessed. 

Get out and taste it. 

Things About Madness

Enough of this.

Enough of college campuses being razed with gunfire and the future of our Nation being cut off at the knees, paralyzed by fear, paralyzed by laws and the reliance on an ineffective government, ineffective political parties, ineffective human beings.

9 people are dead today. Many more are injured. And the outcry on social media is "GUN LAWS! If we had more laws these people would not be dead!!!" The inaction of our government is nothing more than a magnification of the inaction of our people. We are, as one person said "a nation of laws, not a nation of men." Where are the men?

When a massive conservative campaign sent seismic waves into the foundations of Planned Parenthood, the social media outcry was a clash of "stop funding the slaughter of the babies!" and "keep your laws off my body!" Once again, demonstrating the reliance on a political monolith that is a hologram at best.

Inaction is not a solution, any more than shaking one's fist from the rooftops shouting the shortcomings of political parties and lawmakers and governments is. We are so busy as a nation being offended by every single thing that we are DOING nothing.

Personal responsibility is the only pathway out of this mess. Making laws about guns will not take them out of the hands of the truly desperate any more than defunding Planned Parenthood will make abortions stop.  Killing police officers will not end centuries of a racially defined culture any more than violent rioting will enhance the culture of your own city.

America, we are doing it wrong.

Do not look to the legislators mired in superflous spellbinding on TV, to the courts and judges, to the lobbyists running frantic circles under the watchful eye of megacorporations with much Bigger Interests than the saving of a human life.

Look to yourself, America. Look to your own children. Look to the ones next door. Parent the parentless. Listen to our kids. Hear them. Listen to your neighbors. Give them understanding. Give them time, energy. Give them as much devotion as you do to watching The Voice, for God's sake. Stand in the classroom of your own son or daughter, and see the unloved ones. Volunteer your resources, your vision, your passion, your love. Let them be heard. Help the students sitting next to you in class know that you SEE them. You HEAR them. That life is beautiful, life is precious.

See the broken heart and the devastated soul in the back of the room. The one who knows only life as loss and ruin. Reach out to them to the length and breadth of you, and when you have reached your end, then find the resources beyond you to help them.

We are all so consumed with our own petty worlds.

"Take away the guns so they can't shoot us!"

"Take away abortion so they can't offend us!"

"Take away the power of Law Enforcement so they can't abuse it!"

We can't see the dead eyes of the shooter behind the gun. We can't see the heart of the would-be mother behind the abortion. We can't see the life saving officer behind the uniform that our own lack of self government has caused us to fear.

We will not answer, in the end, for either our lack or our prolifery of gun laws, abortion laws, or government mandated social programs. We will, in the end, answer for the time and the heart that we invested into the people that surround us. We will answer for the ones who had guns either legally or illegally acquired that we didn't hear. That we didn't see. The would-be mothers with stories that we didn't take the time to listen to. The good cops that we didn't value as our last line of defense from the Chaos. We will answer for the children that we didn't educate - not in algebra and grammar, but in humanity and personal responsibility.

An abortion doesn't happen because Planned Parenthood allows it, it happens for a myriad of reasons that all go back to the heart behind the womb in question. A mass murder doesn't happen because the gun willed it, it happens because a soul was unheard, unseen, was allowed to slip through the cracks of family and community. Cracks which are ever widening in our self-absorbed, self-protecting, self-interested culture.

Don't scream from the rooftop and shake your fist at the capitol. Don't expect the lawmakers to save any babies. Teach your children to love one another. Teach your neighbors compassion. Teach your students empathy and the Fine Art of Listening. Start your own social movement in your living room and let it radiate out to the loveless, the parentless, the heartless. Find the resources that are out there, churches of every imaginable bent, organizations of every imaginable mission, people of every imaginable experience. Get off your high horse and get the hell involved.

We can't prevent every tragedy. If we could we would be more divine than human. But we can, as individuals, become involved in the lives immediately around us, and to some small measure, begin to stem the tide of this madness.

Search This Blog