Nothing is Permanent

Rodin's Thinker

Nothing stays the same.

Relationships, our bodies, our minds, the world around us, you name it–everything changes.

Everybody knows this, but you know what? Just like every other aspect of our lives, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that life is a steady stream of changes. Sometimes these changes are obvious, but sometimes they creep up on us. You go about your life, doing the normal everyday things, and you get used to the idea that everything will always be the same. You will always be skinny. The corner store will always be there. Your memory will always be perfect. You will always be sad or fat or unhealthy or gorgeous or whatever.

Things seem permanent.

But they’re not.

Some of you are probably wondering where the hell I’ve been on the blog lately. Well, I’m not going to go into it in great detail just yet, but a friend of mine recently betrayed me and MisCon, the science fiction convention that I help run, so I have been otherwise occupied.

This has caused me to do a different sort of reflecting than I usually do (which has been good).

I realized I had always approached him from an arrogant position: I knew I was smarter than him. I wasn’t a loser like him. I was competent and capable, and while I knew he was in many ways a bottom feeder, I never for a moment thought he was embezzling money from us. I made the mistake of casting him in a role then assuming he would always play it. And he did, really–that’s the beauty of his scheming–he used my own assumptions against me.

I didn’t think he was capable of such a crime, and even when faced with evidence of his embezzlement, I hardly believed it. In my arrogance, my inability to really examine the situation, I didn’t bother to step back and really look at what was happening.

Suddenly you can have your life ripped up left and right by someone you trusted. Or by disease. Or age. Or a car wreck. Whatever. Live your life to its fullest and enjoy your time. You don’t have much of it.

Women Are People Too, Aren’t They?

Lincoln Memorial

It continues to shock me that a number of groups in the United States REALLY want to diminish or remove women’s rights.

As a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I spend a fair amount of time creating lying, tricksy bad guys who tell you they want one thing (such as your freedom) while they actively pursue the opposite. They’re masters of propaganda, double-speak, and firing up their followers, building their hatred of the enemy by scaring the shit out of them.

It amazes me that all across the country, in the real world, people have elected (or are about to elect) many of these unscrupulous, double-talking assholes. They preach about protecting your freedom while presenting themselves as glowing examples of morality. They use fear of “the Other” in an effort to galvanize their followers into a conservative, judgmental, self-righteous Army of Christ.

They preach about the Bogey Man (or woman).

The current Bogey Man is a gay socialist “slut” who has abortions every fifteen minutes, hates Jesus, and wants to destroy your

Grandpa Rod Home on Leave in WW2
Is This the Bogey Man? Actually, it’s my grandpa Rod Thorning, WW2 Navy Veteran home on leave from Guadalcanal, but if someone said that jaunty sailor smoking a cigarette was gay and that the guy walking next to him (his younger brother who worked at Boeing for over 50 years) was gay, half the country would want to kill him. My grandpa was totally not gay at all, but I’m just illustrating a point here.

perfect marriage. He desperately wants to subvert your children, your wife, your church, your very way of life. He hates the American Flag and everything America stands for. He hates bald eagles, red, white, and blue, and George Washington. He loves Iran, North Korea, Osama Bin Laden, internet pornography, and President Obama.

In fact, President Obama is the Bogey Man, isn’t he? I mean, he’s a secret Muslim who wasn’t born in the US, after all, right?

But hey, if anyone reading this feels threatened by the Bogey Man, don’t worry–if you elect the right candidate for office, they’ll be your knight in shining armor. They will protect your freedom by legislating the Bogey Man away. They’ll get rid of his gayness and her right to choose what to do with her body, whether it’s abortions, birth control, or choices about how to handle her pregnancy. They will strip employees of all rights and put them back in the hands of employers where they belong, especially if an employer’s religious sensibility is offended. They’ll bring prayer back into public schools. They’ll de-fund Planned Parenthood. They’ll fix the gas prices (sound good to you yet?).

In fact, they’ll tell you there never was a separation between church and state after all and that as an Atheist, I’m just living in the United States because they allow me to (which I’ve been told, believe it or not).

By God, they’ll make this a Christian country Jesus would be proud of after all. Now, I don’t mean to attack the common Republican. I really don’t, even if you agree with taking rights away from women and gay people. I just want you to take a good hard look at this crazy movement and make sure you agree with it. If you do, why? What are your reasons? Are you afraid the Bogey Man will subvert your children? Your wife?

What Would Jesus Do?

Seriously. What would he do? Would he persecute people? Would he hate? Would he try to lovingly change them? To bring them to God? As an atheist I surely don’t know, but it seems like he would be more forgiving . . .

I know that with abortion, some of you believe you’re truly “fighting the good fight” and protecting unborn future humans. You believe the rights of the fetus trump the rights of the mother. I can see how you’d believe that. I may disagree with you, but I can understand it. We will never agree on abortion, and that’s that. But contraception? The birth control pill? That has nothing to do with morality at all.

There is a huge, subversive Christian Extremist political movement in this country. It’s my enemy. Not Christians, not Republicans, not political parties, but specific subversive elements who want to give America a make-over and turn it into a theocracy. They usually quote the founding fathers and talk about the Constitution and feel like they are the sole inheritors of American freedom, justice, patriotism, all those buzzwords that belong to every citizen of this country.

I despise that, and I REALLY despise the way they operate.

Even though the founding fathers wouldn’t give women the right to vote, they have it. Women are people. They deserve the right to control their own pregnancies, regardless of some odd religious belief you may have. If a health plan covers an old guy’s Viagra, it should also cover the birth control pill.

Sorya Chemaly says it far better than I could in this excellent post: Legislators: Women Are Not Cows and Pigs.

End of story.

Be Silly!

Goofball!

Silliness is probably a good quality to have.

If you embrace the silly, you’re taking a step toward not caring what other people think.

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In general, I’m not a very silly person (except for when my brother and I are working–we’re both pretty silly with each other). As you can see, I’m dressing Gianna up to be a goofball a la Punky Brewster circa 1985. I think her hair lends itself to goofiness, though, so maybe that’s where it started.

I dressed her in these outfits:

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I particularly love what ended up being a wrestler sort of outfit:

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I took this last shot this morning while I went outside to see what the dogs and Gianna would do. As expected, they lined up to see what I was doing outside. Clyde had been sleeping, and since he always gnaws holes his blankets, he created a nice outfit for himself. We didn’t put it over his head–he did it himself!

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He is a true clown.

So today, try to be silly at least once. Of course choose an appropriate time for it. Being silly to your boss might not be the best idea. When you’re doing this silly thing, remember that it doesn’t matter what other people think of you.

Just be happy.

Follow Your Passion

Spanish Door Knocker

Today on “CBS This Morning,” they did a segment on a veterinarian in Texas who makes world class goat cheese.

They showed how she spends all day working with her goats, tending them from dawn till dusk, whispering sweet nothings into their ears–you get it. She LOVES these goats and loves making cheese from them.

It’s her life.

After the segment, Charlie Rose made the comment that the lady was lucky to have found the secret of life–she’s pursuing something she’s passionate about. She’s made it part of her daily life, and while she works hard, she loves every minute of it.

I’d say that’s probably the secret to happiness.

Follow your passion. Pursue it. Make it part of your life.

 

Sometimes You Just Need to Be Upside Down

Gianna Crawling down the stairs

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Gianna does this all the time. She loves being upside down, whether I’m holding her up in the air or she’s doing it herself. I love when she bends over like this and watches us through her legs.

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I love how little kids don’t consider what other people think before they do silly stuff. They’re free to do whatever they want until they start learning to be afraid of what other people think. They learn to fear criticism and to worry about how other people see them.

They become adults.

It’s worth trying to remember that it really doesn’t matter if other people think you’re silly, goofy, or funny. In fact, if they do think that about you, you’ve probably won.

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The End of an Era: Reflecting on Life, Death, and Creating Things

Gianna in her Pants Hat

The only real benefit of losing someone you love (our Minitaure Pinscher Sally just died) is that it forces you to reflect on your own life.

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Sally was the last of our first generation of pets: Dulce the Chihuahua, Sally the Miniature Pinscher, Ivan the super Doberman, King the Akita/German Shepherd, PJ the Poodle, and Monster, Chewie, and Jihad the cats are all dead now. It seems like it’s the end of an era in our lives, I guess, now that they’re all dead and gone.

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I was devastated when Ivan died 4 years ago (read what I had to say back then in my post, My Ivan is Dead and Gone if you really want to see me feeling terrible. I still can’t read it without crying). But after he died, we still had Dulce and Sally and life carried on. Later that year, we picked up that biggest of doofuses, Clyde. Then Dulce and Jihad died and we found Gretel of the Crazy Hair.

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Even though Clyde is already 3 and a half, he’s still an idiot freshman in my mind, and Gretel is like a 6th grader. There isn’t any Sally left to stumble up and snarl them into submission. They’re the old guard now. They’re moving on. They’re not dwelling on the past or old friends. They just are.

Now that Sally, bravest of my beasts, that tiny courageous hero, gobbler of all food, lover of the good life, is dead, I’m moving on too. I have to.

Death is like a slap in the face that reminds you nothing stays the same forever. We’re all getting older all the time, obviously, but it’s easy to lose sight of that on a daily basis and just run on cruise control.

We’re all born, live our lives, then we die. It’s going to end some day, so you damn well better get out there and do meaningful things. Make the world a better place. Create something. Improve other people’s lives.

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I need to get back into the swing of writing my own stuff. I have been spending a huge amount of time on MisCon lately, especially the last few weeks. I’m trying to get George R. R. Martin’s airline tickets lined up, which is proving to be troublesome, and I’m trying to get the schedule out of the way. It’s all a pretty big undertaking, and it takes time.

One of the reasons I spend so damn much time working on MisCon is that it’s a way for me to do something nice for other people. I like helping make the convention as good as it can be, and I enjoy making people happy. It’s also a creative outlet (not that I need any more of those, but still).

All the work I put into MisCon is worth it to me, but I wish I could get down how to have it affect my fiction writing less than it does. I need to get better with my time these days, I guess. Part of my deal is that I’ve been staying home with Gianna this winter, and I’ve been trying to maximize my time with her. It’s sort of tough to figure out how to manage time with a little kid running around.

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Today, in the spirit of this post, Gianna and I played outside for a few minutes in the wintry sunshine. She was very excited to get outside on her own 2 feet, and it worked well until she insisted on  heading into the snow everywhere she could. She can’t make it over much snow, so she kept falling down and getting cold hands.

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So try to remind yourself that life isn’t forever. To make a difference in the world, you need to work at it. So get out there and do something creative, positive, generous, whatever. Make somebody happy.

And give your pets, parents, kids, grandparents a special love for me. We won’t be around forever and you’ll sure as hell wish you had more time. I know I do.

On Life and Death

Sally in the Playroom

Today I set the appointment to have Sally, our Miniature Pinscher, “put to sleep” at noon tomorrow.

I hate the phrase “put to sleep,” but it seems sort of harsh to say “kill.” I guess if I said that, it would seem like I was trying to shock people. I don’t mince words–in my world, people don’t “pass away.” They die.

I don’t like sugar-coating things.

Tomorrow we are going to kill Sally. We are. But it does soften things for most people to say that we’re going to “put her to sleep.”

I’m going to hold Sally tomorrow while the vet injects her with that lethal pink stuff. I am going to force myself to watch the life leave her body. I know how it works–I’ve had to do this twice before, with Ivan and Dulce, and just like those times, I’ll be right there with her. I’m not very enthused at the idea, but it’s my duty, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This morning as I watched Sally stumble across the living room floor, my thoughts turned to death, growing old, getting sick, losing your body and your mind.

I was writing about death, about Sally, when I heard Gianna squealing in her bedroom. She had finally awakened from a nap and was just sitting in her crib playing.

Here I was pondering death and getting old, when just hearing her brought me back into balance. I had been slipping into morbidity, into feeling sorry for Sally (and myself), into losing sight of the way of the universe: things are born and things die.

I need to be sad at losing Sally, but death is normal. It’s what happens.

Kids are the very embodiment of life. They’re vibrant, curious, excited, silly, and full of energy. As we get older, things definitely deteriorate.

Tomorrow, I’ll explore life and death in further detail.

What Are You Afraid Of?

Rodin's Thinker

What are you afraid of?

Are you scared to speak up? Are you afraid of failure? Afraid of attention? Are you scared of dogs? Of hurting other people?

Examine yourself. Think about your fears. How does fear specifically affect your life?

Fear holds us all back, but we are given the opportunity to face our fears pretty much every day. It’s so much easier to do the safe thing (and live in fear, let your fear beat you, keep you from being happy, from building confidence), but you know what? Every time I face my fears, I feel better about myself. It builds my confidence and make me more likely to do scary stuff.

So what am I afraid of? I guess I’m afraid of looking stupid. I don’t like silence very much (that’s one reason I talk so much)–I’m not sure whether or not I’m afraid of silence, but I definitely feel compelled to fill it. I’m afraid of not being successful–ah fear of failure. That’s it, for sure. It’s probably a big one for me, although I never really consciously think about it. I just do things and keep going. But I’d guess that a good part of my motivation comes from the desire to be successful.

I used to be afraid of speaking in front of people, or of giving my opinions on some things (being as I’m one of the most outspoken, opinionated people around, well, I guess things change, don’t they?). I never wanted to speak up in class. I didn’t want to get shot down, was afraid of having everyone’s attention on me. I had an 8th grade teacher who forced me to talk louder in class (he did so by calling me out in front of everyone, making fun of me for speaking so softly, and pushed me to speak up). I think that was when I realized that I was afraid to speak up, so I started doing it more, just to challenge myself.

In writing this post, I realized that I need to examine my fear in more detail and really think about how it affects my life.

What about you? Do you need to build up your confidence? Are you afraid of what other people will think of you? Assert yourself.

Do something that scares you today.

They Grow Up Too Fast! Part 2

Gianna Crawling Toward Gretel

So yesterday I was taking about how kids grow up too fast (They Grow Up Too Fast!). Not long after I posted that, Gianna started saying Mama and Dada on command. For months, she has been able to say Mama and Dada, but rarely would she actually say them (and almost never when we’d ask her to).

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This morning she keeps doing it on command. And she managed to flip her bedroom light switch up and down a bunch of times. She couldn’t do that yesterday either.

It happens way too fast.

So what do I take away from this? Get to it. Live your life. Do what you can while you can. Tell your people that you love them. Make the world a better place. Write that story, paint that picture, do something you loveGianna in the Backyard.

They Grow Up Too Fast!

Gianna in the Sunroom

It may surprise you, but I’m too damn sentimental.

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Gianna and Clyde looking into the sunroom before she could get in there on her own.

I am. I may not tell everyone about it all the time, or show it, but I choke up way too often for my liking. All sort of things make me do it, but one of them is seeing Gianna reach milestones.

She’s growing up way too fast.

I took this shot a weeks ago when Gianna first figured out how to climb down the couple steps into the sunroom. She has been going up and down carpeted steps for months, but up until the moment I took this picture, she hadn’t tried to go down these ones. It was always a safe haven for the dogs and their loot.

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Her first time climbing down the steps took about 30 seconds–and once she got down there, she was so damn happy that I had to laugh out loud with her. The second time took about 20 seconds (which occurred immediately after she explored the entire room as if she had never seen it before).

By the end of the day, she could climb down the steps in about 1.5 seconds.

Now her new pastime is recapturing her socks and wash rags (which Gretel has been stealing for months and taking in there to lick and bite).

Of course now Gianna is in the sunroom all the time, looking out the windows, licking the glass, harassing Clyde (apparently it’s a very fun room to spend time in). This morning I caught her pulling handfuls of dirt from a planter and feeding it to Gretel. At least she didn’t eat any.

I took this picture through Clyde’s legs (he walked into my shot).

Gianna in the Sunroom

It’s fun to see her reaching milestones right before my eyes. I never thought I’d be doing this or that it would be so much fun. She is certainly growing up too fast. I can see how people feel bittersweet about their kids growing up.

Time freaking flies! I have to say that nothing has ever really brought it home to me every day so much as watching Gianna grow, especially this winter. I have been home a lot since Christmas, so we’ve been spending the days together. I think that has really accelerated  how much I notice her changing. With spring coming, that will change. We’ll get back to work outside every day, and she will go back to my mom’s all the time. I’m curious whether I’ll notice the changes more or less.

We’ll see, I guess.

Check out my follow-up post here: They Grow Up Too Fast! Part 2