Thursday, December 29, 2016

100 Words

Drabble:  A drabble is a short work of fiction of around one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space.
A few months ago I stumbled onto a drabble writing group online.  Before finding the group I had no idea what a drabble was.  Each week the moderator posts a new prompt.  The prompts could be a song title, a single word, or even a picture.  Then you use that prompt as a jumping off point to write a story in 100 words or less. 

I'm not much of a writer and I have never had ambitions to become one.  Somehow the idea of the drabble wormed its way into my head and now I look forward to the new writing prompts each week.  It is a small creative challenge that gives me a chance to practice writing just for the sake of it.  There is no competition, no awards, nothing important at stake.  Just the chance to flex your mental muscles.  The pressure is off because you're not trying to write the next great American novel or an amazing screenplay or something that will shake humanity to its core.  You're just writing small vignettes to convey some small meaning.  There is something wonderfully freeing about the restriction of only 100 words.

I've submitted several drabbles to the group.  There are several more that I haven't posted.  Some because they felt too personal to share, others because they felt half baked or needed more work.  Here's a few drabbles I've written in the last few months.
There are thousands of platitudes about forgiveness.  In the years following the event she heard them all.  Everyone meant well, but clichés couldn't erase pain.  There’s no drive thru  window where she could order a hot cup of peace, and drive away satisfied.  In the end she decided forgiveness was building a cairn.  Its purpose is to mark progress on your path.  On good days you add a pebble as you pass.  On bad days you kick it to pieces and start over, stone upon fallen stone.  One day she started a new path and left the pain behind, forgotten.
The prompt for this one was "Dialogue only" .  That was a lot more difficult than I anticipated.  But I think this one turned out ok.
“Scott? Where did you go just now?”

“Huh? I’m right here.”
“Your body’s here but you were looking through me, I knew you weren’t listening.”
“Oh, um, I’m really sorry…”
“No, don’t apologize, I’m not mad, just curious where your mind was. Some place warmer than here I hope. Sorry, lame joke. I was just nervous babbling, I do that on first dates. Sorry, I’m not very good at this.”
“Don’t you start apologizing or we’ll start a vicious cycle. I really didn’t mean to get distracted. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
“And go where?”
“Some place warmer.”
The prompt for this one was "Present".  I love words.  Especially words that have so many diverse meanings.
She fumbled about for her ringing cell in the dark. Muddled, only half awake, she didn’t check the caller ID.
His voice brought her fully awake like an electric shock. She cursed herself for not screening the call.
“What do you want?”
“I miss you, I want to come back.”
“It’s been over for 4 years, the answer is still no. I’m sorry, goodbye.”
Years of bad marriage once again settled on her chest like a weight. The radio alarm suddenly crooned a Lumineers song “…the only gifts from my lord were birth and a divorce…”. She sighed.
I think this is my favorite so far.  It feels like there could be so much more, but I'm also happy with it as it is.  I'll admit that the inspiration was only partially the prompt "Elysian" but more the poem "By Morning" by May Swenson.  She's my hometown literary hero.

"Mid-Winter Sleep"
She stirred, unsure why she had awakened. Slipping on her robe she looked over her shoulder at her slumbering husband. It hadn’t been him that disturbed her sleep. She frowned at the dark circles under his eyes, grateful and regretful that he had to work so much.
She padded to the window, air from heating vents billowed curtains. Looking out between the dancing fabric she saw the city had been turned into glistening canyons and mountains of white. “A snow day at last” she whispered to him as she slipped into bed, kissed his forehead, sighed, and fell back asleep.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Be Smart

You know I rarely mention politics here.  Today, after several ridiculous exchanges with a very poorly informed person, I feel like I need to publicly share my thoughts on the subject of the current rumors about WW3 and our political process.  Because of our great country and it's constitution I am free to speak my mind.  You, of course, are equally free to read it, or not read it.  It's up to you.

Please don't panic and go about fear-mongering. The 22nd amendment prevents the president from serving more than 2 four year terms. Contrary to what people are saying (i.e. fake news sites, far right wing pundits, and your ignorant neighbor/friend/coworker/family member) there is no law stating that if the president declares war that he gets to/has to stay in office for two more years no matter what.

The only way President Obama could stay in office is if he or congress declares martial law. And he could only maintain that if there was no challenge from the military courts. The chances of that happening are slim to none. In fact in the history of our country national martial law was only declared once by a sitting president and that was during the civil war. Congress has never declared national martial law. 

We have held elections during world and civil wars. The inauguration will go on as usual (unless someone assassinates Trump before then, which given the current state of world politics is a possibility, but an unlikely one).

Oh and for the record, the Russian ambassador was NOT the modern equivalent of the Archduke Ferdinand and it is highly unlikely that his assassination will start WW3. He was a disposable mid-level diplomat assassinated by a young off duty police officer with Syrian sympathies. Russia knows this was not sanctioned by the Turkish government.

So for the love of all that's holy please stop. Just stop. Stop spreading unfounded rumors. Stop spreading fiction dressed up as fact. Please, please, please fact check from a reliable source before spouting off. Trust me on this, your hair stylist, cousin, boss, fedex guy, etc is probably not a constitutional scholar. Get all the facts, not just the sensational and probably made up headlines. Our constitution has been carefully crafted to make it very difficult for our leaders to flaunt the rule of law. Trust in the system, trust in the decency of the people of our country. Educate yourself.  Don't believe me?  Contact your nearest university and ask to be patched through to the Political Science Department.  Thanks.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

European Odyssey - Part 7-ish, A Sheldon Update...of sorts...

I need to post this addendum, of sorts, to the travelogue I just finished posting.  While we were in Europe a couple of our friends who weren't familiar with Sheldon's travels decided they were going to find a Sheldon and send him searching for Amy. 

Every day new photos would appear in our facebook feed.  As you can see in the photos the day after we left on our trip it snowed in Logan, more than a foot of snow in some places, which made us extremely happy with the spring weather we got for most of our trip.  Sheldon visited our friends, local landmarks, and even one of the offices that I work at sometimes.  In hindsight I'm incredibly glad they decided to have him visit my dad's coke collection at his office.  Since dad passed away earlier this year most of the coke collection has been cleared out and given away.

I've decided since the real Sheldon seems to be truly lost, that I should declare him dead and send this new Sheldon 2.0 adventuring in his place, maybe with Amy this time around.  What do you think?

This afternoon, Sheldon looked around and realized that Amy Farrah Fowler was gone from her spot (it's only been six days since she left).  So he headed off the shelf...

...down the chair...

...out the door...

...and into the snow.

He stopped by the gym for some self-reflection, but he couldn't find her there.

He looked for her at their favorite gelato place, but she wasn't there. Meanwhile, he wrung his hands while violating several health codes

Then he repeated the process at the nearby Maverick. No luck.

He took a small detour...

...and waited among the tithing slips...

 ...while M. had a meeting with the bishop, who let her take this picture, but didn't realize he'd be in it.

 He searched for her on the basketball court... the ice rink...

 ...under a pile of snow...

...and in a tiny British "phone box."

Well in his defense we were in London for a couple hours, he wasn't far off.
"Amy Farrah Fowler, are you in this disturbingly dark fish tank?"

I sort of hoped we'd see him jump in with some snorkel gear on.  That particular fishtank really IS disturbingly dark.
"Maybe I'll be able to see you from here."

"Or here."

One of Sheldon's travel companions.
"I'm pretty sure you're not in here." He's beginning to worry.  To be continued...

 Sheldon finds himself searching for AFF among the llamas...

...on the treadmill... pursuit of dinner...

...and near a roaring fire. To no avail.

 Amy Farrah Fowler, Sheldon is waiting to make you a True Aggie!

At a complete loss for what to do, Sheldon regroups in a familiar place.  Is he feeling human emotions?

He must be getting closer!

Liege waffles at The Waffle Iron, now he was DEFINITELY on the right track.
Maybe if he waits here, she'll find him.


Silly Sheldon, that's not Amy.
Where are you?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

European Odyssey - Part 6: Within A Mile Of Home, or, 24 Hours in Dublin

As you'll notice there aren't many photos from this leg of the trip.  It was cold, I was tired, and I was slightly depressed about my impending return to my daily life back in Utah.  That all sucked the photographic ambition right out of me.

S. and I flew directly from Amsterdam to Dublin and we were greeted at the airport by C., erstwhile sister of J. from the Cork segment of our trip.  She collected us and our baggage and brought us back to her house where we were welcomed by her husband S., her 3 lovely daughters, and her parents E. and P. who I hadn't seen in over 10 years.  As we were catching up on old times the door opens and in walks J.  She, at the urging of her husband, had decided to surprise us by making the drive up from Cork.  She, C., S, and myself bundled ourselves into the car and headed downtown to the Temple Bar area for a lovely dinner in a pub. 

I had to laugh a bit.  The outside wall of the pub boasted traditional Irish music but as soon as we walked in the front door we were confronted by a hen night party shaking their collective booties to Black Eyed Peas "Party Rock Anthem".  It was a Saturday night and those ladies were not messing around, there were there to DANCE!  The bride was in front of me and started dancing at me and all I could do was nod and small and push on.  We threaded our way through the crowd and made our way to the restaurant on the third floor.  My dinner was amazing and I'm kicking myself for not remembering the name of the restaurant.  I had pate to start and braised lamb for my entree.  Everything from the appetizers to the sides were brilliantly done.  Lovely food, fabulous friends, and great conversation, what more could a girl want? 

While we were at dinner C. told the story of trying to track down the reindeer that live in Phoenix park.  I won't tell the whole story here but sufficed to say it was hilarious and ended up with her and her kids running for dear life from some rather unfriendly deer.  I promptly nicknamed them the murder reindeer and insisted that we go in search of them later.

Apparently the trad music was on the second floor, but we passed by it on our way out and headed for a brief (very brief, it was FREEZING!) walking tour of Dublin.

My sole photo from our night on the town.
After nearly losing a member of our party on the Ha' Penny bridge we jumped in the car and headed to Phoenix Park.  If you've never driven around Phoenix Park on a dark winter night with the headlights off looking for murderous reindeer, well you haven't lived and I feel very sorry for you.  Sadly, or maybe joyfully, we did not find the murdery reindeer.  After a futile search we headed back to C.'s house and stayed up talking with her husband and his brother.  The craic was mighty and I can't tell you how much I adore J. and C. and their families.

The next morning J. left us before dawn to meet her husband in Waterford.  After saying goodbye we got got ready for our last day of the trip.

The girls and their friends helped Amy look for Sheldon while we were driving.
C. and her family dropped us off at a bus station on their way to church and we caught the next bus heading to O'Connell street where we caught a "hop on, hop off" double decker tour bus.  It was a great way to catch most of the major sites in the city but the next time I suggest riding on the open top level of a tour bus in early February, you have my permission to slap me.  It was clear and sunny but so bracingly cold that my hands, feet, and face were completely numb within the first 5 minutes of the tour.

After we made the full loop of the tour we disembarked on O'Connell street for a quick lunch of fish and chips.  Amy was depressed at not having found a single clue as to Sheldon's whereabouts that she ate herself into a coma.

After lunch we hopped back on the bus and hopped off again near Trinity College.  I needed to find the sweater shop I wanted to visit so I could replace my old Aran sweater that had been irreversibly shrunk several years before by someone who shall remain nameless.  After the quick shopping trip we hopped in a cab and made our way to the Dublin Airport.
Amy didn't want to get on the plane either.
We had a little time to kill so we did the usual, hit up the touristy gift shop, browse the duty free store, peruse books at the newsstand, charge our devices.  When the time came to board our flight I struggled to find the will to force myself to get on the plane.  I already missed my friends and the beautiful cities we visited and the incredible food we ate.  But board the plane we did. 

We all thought it was fitting that it started to rain as we boarded the plane.  We landed in Ireland in the pouring rain, and we took off for home in the pouring rain.
I have never been able to get comfortable on planes or be able to sleep for more than 5 minutes at a time on a flight.  One thing that made the time fly by was the awesome seatback entertainment that Aer Lingus offered.  They offer a ton of Irish movies, art films, and popular Hollywood movies.  I watched 4 feature length films on our flight from Dublin to Boston and it made the time fly by. 

Sunset over the North Atlantic
Sunrise over the sea ice off the coast of Newfoundland.
We arrived in Boston and had a quick plane change and were on our way to JFK where we had a layover.  We arrived just in time to catch the half time show of the Superbowl which was playing on all the TVs in our terminal.  What more American way to welcome us back to the States?  And in the blink of an eye our amazing overseas adventures came to a close.  We were happy to be home and sad to be separated from our dear friends, but all's well that ends well.  I am so grateful for the people the made this trip possible.  Travel tests you.  It helps you push your boundaries.  You meet new people, try new things, and experience things in a way you can't do in the comfort of your own home.  I hope I am lucky enough to continue to travel through out my life, and I hope that everyone reading this gets to experience an adventure of your own.

PS - When I arrived home I started unpacking and I was sorting the laundry on the floor.  When the first shirt hit the ground Molly the Wonder Dog pounced on it, balled it up with her paws and then laid on it, sniffing it and glaring at me.  She has since forgiven me for being away so long.

Friday, November 18, 2016

European Odessy - Part 5: 2 Days in Amsterdam

~DAY 1~

We arrived in Amsterdam by train and immediately found the iAmsterdam office across the street from the train station.  If you've never been to Amsterdam before I strongly suggest getting an iAmsterdam card.  They include free or discounted entry into dozens of Amersterdam attractions, free public transportation on the GVB network, free canal cruise, restaurant discounts, and giveaways.  The cards are sold in blocks of time, 24, 48, 72, or 96 hours, and they come with a map to help you find your way around the city. 

Amy was fascinated with the canals and the houseboats.
After getting our cards we hopped a tram and found our lodgings.  We found a really cool room on  Loved the bedroom which came with 4 single beds, a sectional sofa, flat screen tv, fireplace, and blackout curtains.  Loved the HUGE American size/style kitchen. Loved that our host provided an assortment of breads, spreads, and fresh fruit for breakfast each morning.  Loved how close we were to Vondelpark and the Museum kwartier.  Did NOT love the exceptionally tiny water closet and shower closet.  Did NOT love our host drunkenly singing karaoke until 3am (boy does he love the American hits of the 70s).  And don't get me started on the plate of weird moldy pineapples sitting in the middle of the kitchen table.

The view from our room.
My bed.
We dumped our bags in our room and made a beeline for the museumplein.  We had a few hours left before closing time and decided to do the Van Gogh musem.  This museum is a must, who doesn't love Van Gogh?  Seriously, I don't trust people who don't love Van Gogh.  I loved it enough to leave my camera gear at home so I could simply enjoy it at my own pace with nothing between me and the art.

The orchestra was out of town but Amy did want a selfie in front of the Royal Concertgebouw.
Hanging out at the museumplein.
Selfie at the entrance to the Van Gogh museum.
After we explored all that the Van Gogh museum had to offer and closing time came, we meandered over to Cafe Loetje based on a Yelp! recommendation that S. found.  On our way we pass the American consulate and S. wanted to reenact the "I'm an AMERICAN!" scene from the movie The Saint.

I'm fairly certain this tomfoolery landed us on some sort of watch list.
Photo by S.
Amy finally found a street that had more cars than bicycles, she'd been looking for a while.
All of the food on trip was superb but Cafe Loetje was easily one of the most relaxed and delicious meals we had.  Some Americans like to complain about European service, but I love the laid back atmosphere and the fact that you don't have a waiter stopping by your table every 5 minutes trying to hustle you out the door.  We sat in a sort of glassed in biergarten area and the ambience was lovely, but the food...oh the food!

These baked goat cheese things with the sweet pickled onions, I don't know what they are called but I dream about them.
S. enjoying her Moroccan spiced steak.
Schnitzel done right.  Amy of course continued her frites binge.
By this point in the trip we had lost all notion of what day of the week it was.  Our daily worries from back home had disappeared and we just immersed ourselves in our surroundings.  Stress?  What stress?  We were in a beautiful big city that had a wonderful small town feel, replete with world class museums and superlative restaurants.  Strolling back to our room we passed by an ice rink and paused to watch the skaters.

Now there's a job I'd like to try, just for a day.
We put the "DAMN DANIEL!" in Amsterdam.

~DAY 2~

After some quality sleeping in we headed out and back to the museumplein.  On our way we noticed this art space.  Amy felt a strong kinship to the artist of the advertised exhibition and was sad that we had missed it.

We spent most of the morning meandering the galleries of the Rijksmuseum.  This is a mecca for aesthetes from all over the world.  I haven't been to this museum since before it was closed for renovations and so much had changed, but the art and artifacts were just as engaging as ever.

So many people were making a beeline for the Dutch Masters, and rightly so, but I took my time and slipped in and out of the quieter areas.  The rococo hall was basically deserted and I think the Beuning room is my new favorite spot in Amsterdam, it was so peaceful.

I was bracing myself to brave the madhouse in the Gallery of Honour.  You can't go to the Rijksmuseum and not pay your respects to The Night Watch.  But mostly I was drawn to Vermeer's ladies, The Milkmaid is one of my favorite Dutch pieces, a copy hangs in my kitchen above my stove.

Dutch school children learning about Rembrandt

My feelings about Vermeer's works are very similar to my feelings about Van Gogh, if you don't love his work we don't understand each other on a fundamental level and I simply don't trust you.

After wading through the crowds I sought out the room with the Rembrandt sketches and then headed to the library...where I wanted to pitch a tent and never leave.  Sadly, security frowns on that sort of behavior and I would like to be allowed back sometime.

Finally hunger for sustenance won out over hunger for art history and we tracked down a cozy little Vietnamese restaurant in De Pijp called Pho 91.  But not before browsing our way through the street market.

Amy was sad to say goodbye.

Stupidly good wings.
Looking at this depresses me because Logan has no good pho, and this was REALLY good pho.

 Full, content, and happy we allowed ourselves to be a little lazy and we kicked back on a canal cruise.

After our cruise we enjoyed a leisurely walk back to our room where we took a quick nap to fortify ourselves for a concert later that night.

It's the little things you miss when you ride instead of walk.
Urban camouflage.

After our old lady nap we got ready and caught the train out to the Ziggo Dome to catch the last show of Imagine Dragons' Smoke & Mirrors world tour.

~ DAY 2.5~

After another lazy start we bid our host adieu and winded our way to Dam square.  We perused the attractions, the street performers, and stores in the area.  I had to stop in at the Royal Delft store and pick up a tile for my kitchen.  We enjoyed a sinfully good late breakfast at Pancakes Amsterdam and then said our goodbyes to this amazing city and hopped a flight to Dublin.

Amy searched another Nerd-topia but still no signs of Sheldon.
Quality time ogling pastries.
So many replicas of the Queen of Colors.

We had some time to kill so I hit the express spa in the airport and since we were the only customers they let us hang out in the massage chairs for as long as we wanted.

Only one more stopover to go!