Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Story Of How We Met

I'm going to get very personal with this entry and tell the story of how David (my husband) and I first met.  I realized I never put this down on paper nor in digital format anywhere.  How sad would it be if I died and this wonderful story remained untold?  I've given some of the details to a few close friends and family, but I'm pretty sure not one living soul has heard the full story.  And it's a story worth telling, I assure you.

The first time I met David was when I was working as Marketing and Promotions Coordinator at Northfield Park, a harness racetrack in Ohio.  It was about to become Northfield Park Harness and Microbrewery, and I knew the president and general manager were interviewing for the job of Master Brewer. I also knew that I'd be working closely with whomever they hired, since it was my job to advertise and promote at the racetrack.  I was busy working on my computer when I heard the GM call my name.  I turned around to see Tom (our GM) and Myron (our president) standing with a strange young man just outside my office doorway.

I stepped forward with my hand extended toward the stranger as they introduced him to me as Northfield Park Microbrewery's new Master Brewer.  He smiled, shook my hand and said something.  I really can't remember what, probably "nice to meet you," but my eyes were drawn to two things:  his gentle blue eyes and his mouth, which housed a shining set of silver braces.  We exchanged a few more casual comments, and then he was off on down the hallway with my employers to meet the rest of our crew in the general office.  I watched him leave and then nodded in disbelief as I walked back to my desk.  The guy had a pony tail.  Our leaders at the track were as straight-laced as men can be, so that sort of surprised me.  But then again, what did I know?  Maybe all brewers looked like hippies. I had a lot to learn about brewers and brewing and looked forward to the task of advertising a whole new animal, far from the four-legged kind I was used to.

The next time I saw David was in our weekly advertising meeting.  He was dressed more casually then, and I noticed some unique aspects of his attire.  He was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a pair of Vans, pathetically worn at the toes and an intriguing necklace laced with three Ivory pieces.  The focal piece was roundish and about an inch in diameter.  I couldn't tell what it was but later learned that it was a symbol of Bacchus, God of wine and merry-making.  I didn't know too many men who wore necklaces.

We all sat down at the table to discuss the design of our microbrewery, the beers we'd offer, etc.  David, at first glance, looked like a blonde surfer dude. We learned he was from California originally but had recently left another brewery in Utah.  Only in his early thirties, and he had lived in three different states.  I liked and admired his gypsy spirit.  He was an anomaly.  He had been hired to operate our new brewery, and I knew he had to have talent to do that.  I also knew the crazy high standards of my employers. But David's appearance was throwing me off completely.  I mean, he was a long-haired hippy dude.  I had no doubt about that.  Was he going to live up to their high expectations? Was he going to fit in?

And then he began to speak, discussing his ideas for the brewery, sharing his technical knowledge, as well as his creative genius.  I was floored.  This guy had brains... real brains.  And he had the documents to prove it.  I learned he had studied and graduated from two different colleges in CA, earning two Bachelor degrees and one Master's.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I worked closely with David and learned everything I could about brewing.  We built the brewery and had a successful launch several months later, featuring four main beers, Crimson Colt Ale, Silks Cream Ale, Winners Wheat and 40 to 1 Stout.  Before, during and after the launch, David and I had multiple meetings.  I wanted to ensure the advertising was perfect and needed his input every step of the way.  I enjoyed all my conversations with this guy. He was intelligent, engaging, humble, gentle, but had this great, twisted sense of humor.  When you spent time with him, one-on-one, he was pretty mellow and listened more than spoke, but then he'd reel off this crazy zinger or witty play on words that had me laughing constantly.  And the more we got to know each other, the more he spoke, and he had such great stories to tell.

Very quickly, I was struggling not to like him too much.  We were co-workers after all.  But something about this guy, despite the fact that he was nowhere close to my physical "type," was really attractive, almost magnetic to me.  My mind kept wandering back to him, even when he wasn't around, and it was really irritating to me.

"I have to stop thinking about this guy," I remembered telling my best friend one weekend. "He's a hippy dude.  His shoes have holes in them.  What am I thinking?"

My friend's response was something to the effect of, "If you're having fun, just go with it.  Stop stressing about it."

"He drives a VW van.  It's rusty," I whined.  "He's unkempt, not my type at all."

"But didn't you say he rides a motorcycle, too?  That's hot," she rebutted.

I sighed. She was right.  Motorcycles and guys who rode them were hot.  "And he's funny and kind and so smart... but he's not in your face about it, you know?  He's humble.  Damn.  I really like this guy, Sharon.  I really really like this guy."

Soon after that, it was beyond my control.  I, being the romantic, looked for and found all the signs I was looking for.  We had so much in common!  We had both worked at a Renaissance Faire.  We shared a common ancestry from bonny Scotland.  We were both "free-thinkers," rebelling against organized religion.  We both loved to travel, loved animals, loved spicy food.  We both liked kids, but neither one of us wanted to have kids.  For both of us, life was about adventure and laughter and not being afraid to be silly or have fun and it was about continuing to learn and grow as individuals.  We both liked to read.  I read Gregory Maguire and E.L. Doctorow and he read Cycle World and The Science of Brewing and Distilling.  We were meant to be!

Despite all these signs and common interests, David happily enjoyed the moment without any suggestion to go forward, to "take it to the next level."  So I made all the first moves in our relationship, but he promptly agreed to or went along with everything.  I invited him to a New Year's Eve party and then out for a drink and after that, we were inseparable.  We worked together.  We played together.  We were stuck like glue.  And I loved it.  I quickly fell madly in love with him.  And he fell in love with me shortly after.

About a year later, we were eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and he excused himself to go to the men's room.  While he was away from our table, I wrote him a message on a tortilla chip.  In purple ink, I wrote:  "Wanna live together?"

Upon his return, he picked the chip up from his plate and read it.  He was silent for some time.  It seemed like it was a long, long, long time, when in fact, it was likely only a few seconds.  I guess he was digesting the proposal.  David isn't one to respond quickly to anything. He takes his time before speaking.  And then he looked at me very seriously and said something like, "Well, it's something to think about."

I was heartbroken that he didn't immediately jump at the idea or jump up from the table and throw his arms around me, saying yes let's do it!  After crying in the bathroom for a while, I wiped my eyes and returned to the table.  I didn't say much after that, and we left the restaurant.  We sat in the van and talked about it.  He said he wasn't against the idea, but that he just needed time to process it.  I don't remember when we finally decided to do it, but we did, and we've been together ever since.

So not only was I the one to ask him out on a date first, but I suggested we move in together... and I said, "I love you" first.  Every overture was returned in full, and many many years later I suggested we get married... which, as you already know, we did.  I'm a go-getter, what can I say?  And he's very agreeable.  Over the years, I've come to realize just how different we are from each other.  We couldn't be any more different.  Me, the whimsical, high-spirited, fast-moving feeler and David, the laid back, gentle, slow-moving thinker.  But it works.  Somehow it just works.

We've stuck together through thick and thin, rough times and sad times.  Even a challenging and heart-breaking sale of our house and move from Ohio to Wisconsin didn't dismantle us.  And then another transition from a tiny dollhouse in Waukesha to our own cozy home here in the Mukwonago countryside.  We couldn't be happier here.  But really, it doesn't matter where we are, I'm madly in love with my hippy dude and he couldn't be any more my "type."  He's exactly what I needed most and cherish most in this world.  I keep him fired up, and he keeps me grounded.  We complement each other.

As I've always said about "us," after fourteen years together, "We have good glue."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Solitude and Blankets

Solitude.  I learned from an early age how important it is to enjoy one's own company and how essential solitude is to one's sense of well-being.  At one point in my life, it was like chocolate to me.  I thought I could never get enough of it; the taste was so delicious.  And life threw me a curve ball. Well, actually, it was more of a fast ball aiming straight for my head.   I either had to dive out of the way or risk cracking all my face bones and catch it.  I caught it alright, but it changed my life.

I ended up here in Wisconsin, far away from my family and friends and everything familiar.  For a while there, I felt like my very identity was dismantled.  During the vast stretches of time that my husband was away working at his dream job, I was left alone.  Those stretches were frequent at first.  None of the jobs I found here evolved into the beloved graphics career I left in Ohio.  But I loved being by myself so at first it was okay; if I wasn't working, I could easily entertain myself.  There were so many new places to explore.  And even if I sat alone at home, I can spend hours just writing (which turned into a full-time career, as most of you know) or thinking or listening to the birds or music or reading a good book.  But eventually, I began to crave human connections, real face-to-face human connections.  Calls home just weren't cutting it.  I was surprised, because I thought I'd never tire of solitude.  But I did.

When I went out into the world, it struck me like a slap in the face that not one person would recognize me, not one person would wave hello or tap me on the arm at the store and say, "Hi, Carrie.  What's up?"  And if I had the sudden urge to go have some java and gab with a friend at the coffee shop or go see a movie, there was no one to call.  David was usually working, and when he got home, he was tired and not often eager to go anywhere but to bed.

The desire for real-time self-expression was extraordinary.  It became stronger and stronger within me until I felt about to burst.  The energy and knowledge and satisfaction one gains from face-to-face social interaction are priceless necessities of life.  It took a few years but eventually I made friends, joined a few social groups and started to feel whole again.  I was like a tree, finally spreading my roots out and twisting them around the roots of other trees, sort of like a handshake.  And it felt good.  After regaining what I had lost, I realized how vital social interaction is to my happiness, to anyone's happiness.  I vowed to never get lost within myself for too long ever again.  I am a human being, not an "island," as someone very wise once said.  And I am social by nature.

Most recently, I was reminded what too much solitude can do to a person.  For four months now, I've struggled with a forced hibernation.  A herniated disc took me away from my beloved writing, as well as my friends and all social gatherings.  Extreme pain and the inability to sit for more than five minutes limited almost everything I could do, including drive.  And solitude is making me crazy!  I feel like a balloon filled with too much helium, straining and eager to burst any second.

I know it's partly my fault.  I disappeared for a while.  I stayed in contact with friends and family by phone and internet, but I could have easily invited someone over for a visit and did not. Why?  I didn't want to bother anyone, depress anyone with my problems, my pain.  And I was embarrassed because the house is messy, mortified that someone might see the cat hair tumbleweeds blowing across the carpet and turn away in disgust.

Solitude is like a warm blanket.  Everybody needs a warm blanket sometimes.  It's cozy and comfortable, but if you sit under a warm blanket indefinitely, you'll suffocate.  You need fresh air too.  And for me, that fresh air is face-to-face contact with people who care about me.

Today, a friend is coming over to visit.  And I am ecstatic!  I love my darling David to pieces, and enjoy his company immensely, but I need to see another face, hug another friend, and talk and talk and talk to someone who hasn't heard all my stories already, to someone who has new stories to tell me.  And then I'll feel truly human again.

Goodbye, solitude.  At least for today, I'm putting away the warm blanket.  It will be there, all folded up and ready for me whenever I need it again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sounds Like I'm Crazy

Awakenings Review's most recent edition is out, and I am honored to be included among so many wonderful writers.  My poem, "Sounds Like I'm Crazy" was accepted by the editors of the Awakenings Review quite some time ago, so I'm very excited to finally have the issue in my hot little hands!  A copy of the poem appears at the end of this blog.  It's far from my best poetry ever, but nevertheless I'm proud of writing it and sharing it with others.

Awakenings Review publishes stories, essays and poetry written by people suffering from mental illness/disorders.  My poem is about my struggle with 4S (Selective Sound Sensitivity Disorder) or more commonly known as Misophonia.  Some think the two are one and the same and others argue that they are slightly different.  

I've recently learned that migraines may also be intimately involved in the disorder, perhaps even the root cause.  All I know for sure is if we don't talk about it, keep it in the dark for fear of repercussions and being negatively stigmatized by the ignorant few who don't understand mental illness, we'll never progress toward a cure or at least some semblance of social acceptance.  If you're interested in gaining some insight from those with mental illness or just an extremely entertaining read, here's a link to their website:

by Carrie Ryman

Rattle.  Crunch.  Squeak.  Click. 
Shout.  Slurp.  Beep.  Tick.
I squeeze my ears tight.
I try to cope.  I am polite.

This horror of sounds that assaults my brain,
that litters my life with torturous pain,
cannot be avoided, cannot be blocked.
The noise haunts my being like toxic shock.

Rattle. Crunch.  Squeak. Click.
Shout.  Slurp.  Beep. Tick.
No one forgives.  No one forgets.
No one restrains.  No one accepts.

Lost in a nightmare of piercing air.
that destroys my peace and strips me bare.
The noise-makers think their wounded pride
is far superior to my panic inside.

Rage.  Cry.  Squeal.  Panic.
Shudder.  Slip.  Beseech.  Manic.
No pills to cure me.  No words to ease.
And worst is my own desire to please.

No control.  No answers.  No way out.
No weapons.  No freedom.  No normal route.

One moment there is tranquility, calm.
And then the onslaught, the nightmarish sounds.
Rattle.  Crunch.  Squeak.  Click. 
Shout.  Slurp.  Beep.  Tick.

It sounds like I’m crazy, but more is the truth:
Sanity is subjective and possessed
by the chosen few.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

LocoThology is Here!

I am completely jazzed to have received Loconeal Publishing's LocoThology at last.  Why am I so excited about this anthology?  Because I'm in it!  "Dolls Are For Kids" was a blast to write, and I was thrilled when Loconeal told me they were accepting it.  Check it out here; you can buy it on

I promise you it's a worthwhile read.  All the stories in this book are engaging, inventive and lovely from start to finish.  I especially loved the first one, "Hot Encounter," by J.M. Odell, but I won't tell you what it's about because that will ruin the surprise revelation of the plot; don't worry, it comes within the first few pages.

Yes, it's been a rough year in more ways than one (health issues, losing our Dad, etc.).  But life moves along, with its curves and dips and turns, some up, some down... and I must admit as a writer, it's been a wonderful year for me.  My story, "Blue Angels," appeared in The Binnacle, published by University of Maine (, and "Strange Companions at London Zoo" will appear in Big Pulp magazine ( produced by Exter Press next fall or winter 2013.  Yahoozie!  

I've been published in several e-magazines, including Quail Belle this year, too.  They featured "The Bowl" ( a few months ago, and I was almost apoplectic with euphoria!  And yes, fellow writers, you can be apoplectic with emotions other than anger.  I was beyond myself, outside myself, overcome with pride of accomplishment.  When you've written and submitted over fifty stories, received hundreds of rejections, those few acceptance letters are golden treasures of the heart.

I have to keep this short because I am still fighting with this disc and can't sit for long.  I need to find one of those cool laptop pillows so I can type on my lap without straining my neck.  I miss my writing, and unfortunately, extreme pain is not terribly conducive to creativity.  But it's getting better after cortisone shot #2, lots of rest and careful PT.  Fingers crossed, I'll be back to my world of fiction again soon.

Meanwhile, thank you for giving me a place to ink it up a little and keep it short.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Back Pain and Ceiling Tiles

I'm spending a lot more time on my back lately, and this break from life has given me a lot of time to think (in between counting ceiling tiles).  I herniated the disk between  L5 and S1 (lower back) so I didn't have much choice in the matter. I guess fate just thought it was time for me to chill.

I'm no stranger to back pain; I've had several car accidents, which caused a lifetime of chronic upper back and neck pain.  But I am fairly new to lower back pain.  With it, comes a whole different set of limitations, starting with less sitting and more reclining to get the weight off my disk.

When in this lying down, positively prone position -- and it cannot be propped up on pillows, but completely FLAT on the back -- I've tried to read, but a host of problems ensue... My arms get tired from holding a book up above my chest, my concentration is inhibited by sharp muscle spasms or I feel drugged out from pain meds.

Sitting can only happen in short spurts because the pain becomes so intense.  Currently, my time limit for sitting is about 30 minutes.  That has really cut into my writing time, which occurs in my office at my desk.  Since I'm spending most of my time either on the reclining couch or be, that's another limitation.  It's hard to type from a completely horizontal position, and believe me, I've tried.  Basically, sciatic pain means you have to move slowly and not stay in the same position for long.  Even bed gets painful after six hours.

Okay, so I'm reading and writing less and thinking more, which brings me back to my main topic...what am I thinking about?  

Gosh, where do I start?  Clear memories of my mom, some of which I thought were lost forever, came flooding back.  I remembered how much fun we had together.  It didn't matter what we were doing.  Fun was always a part of everything.  At the shopping mall, we'd link arms and skip, uncaring of anything but our own fun.  During a rainstorm, we'd sit inside in the dark.  We'd listen to the rolling thunder and watch the lightning and giggle.  And in between the spasms of light, we'd whisper in mock sinister voices, "Who's afraid of the dark?  Not me!"  We could be driving somewhere or eating dinner in a restaurant or watching a movie, and we'd turn to each other and make crazy faces and laugh.  When I was dressing for a date, it was tradition to perform a runway show for Mom so she could give her input.  She'd hold up numbers to vote on her favorite outfits.  

I've thought about the people I love.  I love my husband and my friends and family and even the majority of strangers I meet.  I love their kindness, their compassion, their laughter, their intensity, the adventures we've had, the trust they've given me, their hugs, their reassuring gestures, their honesty and most importantly, their steadfast friendship.  

And I love so much more... my darling kitties.  I wonder what I would do without them in my life.  They make me smile and sigh and laugh and vibrate with love.  And oh -- the soul-warming sunshine, the delicate color or bold flash of flowers, soothing rain, a cool blue snowfall, beautiful wild birds who flutter down to transform a moment from bad to good, just when I need it most, mysterious, gorgeous  howling wolves with their golden eyes that take in every detail, and my tranquil or uplifting or thrilling or poetic music that makes my mind dance even when body cannot.

And I've thought about what I don't love.  I've thought about people or behaviors of people I don't like, usually the ones who have chips on their shoulders or something to prove.  They're the ones who want to change every aspect of you at any given moment.  When you're down, they say, "Cheer up!"  When you're excited, they urge you to, "Calm down!" or "Relax!"  When you're angry, they say, "Let it go!  Forget about it!" When you're moving quickly, they say, "Slow down!"  I really can't stand it when people order me to be something or feel something different than I am.  It's very judgmental and critical to say things like that.   

I don't like people who are negative, and it's why I try to surround myself with only positive people.  If I end up crying or getting angry around someone every time we're together, there's something wrong.  I don't like people who are mean-spirited, especially those who pass it off under the guise of a joke.  At least be honest if you're going to be insulting.  I don't like people who hurt other people, but I especially have a hard time with people who hurt animals, trophy-hunters, abusers, neglecters.  Most animals cannot fend for themselves, so not only do I think they are mean, but "coward" is added to my assessment of them.

As I think of what I don't like about people, it occurred to me, even when I meet people like this, I have something to learn from them.  That lesson is:  Remember how I never want to be myself.  Remember how hurtful it is, remember so I can be different.

My mind has flit back and forth from topic to topic, like a honeybee to a field of flowers.  Vicadin helps.  It's amazing how a little uninterrupted free time and strong prescription dugs can get the mind reeling into different territory.  I've invented at least a dozen contraptions, globe-trotted, mind-skipped and time-travelled.  I have jumped into the brains of everyone in my family, seeing things from their perspective, noticed things I never saw before.  During all this mindful reclining, I've wished that everyone in the world could have this same time, however, without the accompanying pain.  Feeling pain tremors from your hip to toe or slices of pain down the back and into both thighs kind of puts a damper on things, so I wouldn't really wish this on anyone.  

And of course, with all this uninterrupted time on my hands, a million short story ideas have passed through my braincells.  I scribble down the ones I can for when I can write again.  For the moment I need to limit myself to a few journal entries or a quick blog.  Cranking out a short story is detrimental to my health.  I made the mistake of writing a 500 word story earlier this week, and I couldn't pull myself away from it once I immersed myself.  Sitting at my computer for four hours straight set my healing time back three full days.  I know that's my own fault; I admit it.  Writing is an addictive activity.   

I know my back will heal eventually, and I will get back to what I love to do -- write!  For now, I'm storing up ideas, trying to relax and heal and focus on that.  

Okay, speaking of that.  My muscles and nerves are screaming louder by the minute, so time to take a break.  

Bye for now!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Altering the Path of the Dying Book

Since books have always been a passion of mine, I'd like to share some of my thoughts on a matter of real concern.  Real books face extinction in a society which is overly concerned with beauty and convenience and speed.  These are three alluring traits.  Most books, especially, old books are not beautiful, not in the way most people perceive beauty and art; they are functional.  Books are not easy.  You have to physically move the pages with your fingers.  Oh, so much effort.  And books are not fast; like anything physical, you have to go somewhere to buy them or borrow them. That takes a little time.

Some artists are taking old books, most of which they find at garage sales, flea markets and old second hand bookstores, and transforming them into works of art.  Sounds harmless, right?  Even honorable? 

Artists call this hobby “altered books.” Wikipedia defines an altered book as “a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into a different form, altering its appearance and/or meaning.”  How far an artist alters is up to him or her. 

A common routine is as follows: 

The artist turns to the first page of the book and, essentially, whites it out.  Of course a bottle of office whiteout would take forever, unless it’s a very tiny book.  So artists use a large bottle of “gesso,” which is a thick, opaque paint.  Gesso is more routinely used to refinish a previously painted canvas.   But in this case, the pages of the book are considered the “canvas.”  Most artists use white or black gesso, but other colors are also used. 

Once all trace of the writer’s words have disappeared and the gesso has dried, the artist will paint or draw on the page.  Pages of the book may also be burned, cut, folded or torn completely out for the purpose of thinning to add embellishments such as buttons, beads, coins, feathers, ribbons, etc.  Often, the cover of the book is also remodeled. 

The result can be an artistic masterpiece.  One need only stroll down the aisle of an art fair or visit a few artist/crafter websites and blogs to see the beautiful artwork people create using this medium.

So is it harmless to take a book and, gut it, erasing its very life essence, in order to create art?  I don’t know.  I guess it depends on whom you talk to… an artist or a writer.  They will give you very different answers.  It’s like a war between the north and the south.  No one will ever agree on the virtue or justification for creating altered books.

I know that everyone has a different value system, which motivates them to do what they do.  For some people, art sits at the top of their value system or close to it.  For me, writing sits at the top.

Some of my closest friends and family dabble with this artistic medium, and though I can’t stomach it myself, I try not to judge them.  I love them and respect them and know that we view the world with two different sets of eyes, which makes us walk in different directions.  Our differences is what makes the world such an interesting place.  In fact, it is the differences whirling around me, which make fabulous fodder for my next story! 

Artists who make altered books say they like it even more because it "breathes new life into an old book" that perhaps nobody will ever read again.  That is absolutely true.  An altered book artist creates a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of art out of an old, worn out book (one of many copies).  These artists are both honoring their love of art and their love of books in one fell swoop.  Many of the artists who alter books are also book lovers.  I do wish I could focus on that aspect of it and enjoy the hobby.  I love to doodle and draw when I’m not writing. 

To shed further good light upon the act of creating altered books, one need only imagine all the books that have been destroyed because no one wants them any more.  It makes me sick to think of it.  

I am a writer.  And therefore, for me, there is a deeply embedded, emotional aspect that will always be attached to books.  Real, live, books that breathe.  In all honestly, books are where I breathe.  All my life I've wanted to publish a book; I could never block out the pages of someone else's work for any reason.  

For me, in order to “breathe new life into the book,” I would first have to "suck the old life out of it" by blanking out the pages.  And when I raised my brush, loaded with white gesso, I’m certain I would feel the cold breath of the writer slithering across my shoulders.  I’m sure I would feel his enraged presence bearing down on me.  Any writer would be wholly offended to think that anyone, for any reason, would willfully paint over what took months and maybe years of their blood, sweat and tears to create.

In my mind, real books are already in enough trouble.  Altering books is only a side effect of the insidious disease that’s been eating at the very core of the real book industry:  Electronic books and e-readers.  The electronic publishing industry is squelching the life out of real books.  The attraction of immediacy, of instant gratification, as well as affordability, is alluring to readers.

It’s so important for those of us who still cherish the aesthetically pleasing feel of a real, bound book in our hands, who still stare in awe at all that goes into the process of creating a real book, the research, writing, editing, marketing, publishing and physically printing those words on paper, who love the smell and the history and the charm of a real book… to shout out our love of this dwindling medium. 

I pray I never live to see the day that the printing presses stop forever.  That will be one of the saddest days of my life.   And I also pray that I can overcome the craving to buy an e-reader, should it ever itch my belly.  A Tale of Two Cities in two minutes?  USA Today right now?  It’s enticing to any avid reader.  Don’t misread what I’m saying.  I’m not opposed to new technology, but I do recognize the danger of some precedents, and I don’t want to sacrifice one for the other.  Can the e-reader and traditional book industry co-exist?  Only time will tell.

Altering books may further devalue real books and weakens society’s perception of them.  Real books need all the advocates and good advertising they can get.  Altering them, even ones perceived as archaic or obsolete, only adds fuel to the raging fire of the e-book industry. 

I could never practice the art form of altered books, and I observe the right of others to partake in it if they choose. 

But I wonder… Every time someone chooses to download an e-book versus buy the real thing or gessos over the pages of a book, and people applaud and say it’s a beautiful thing, are we that much closer to snuffing out the light of real books forever?  As much as I love my friends and family, including those who use e-readers and those who make altered books, this question is disturbing.

Ahh, the real book.   Long may it live.

To anyone who disagrees with anything I’ve said here, feel free to post a rebuttal or correction under this blog entry.  I promise not to delete any comments, as long as they are not malicious or pornographic in nature.  It’s an interesting conversation that is taking place more and more. 

My sister has some very interesting comments on this topic if you'd care to read her blog entry here:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing and Other Shit

It was bound to happen.  I'm writing about nothing.  Nothing at all.  Honestly.  I have no topic.  I have nothing of interest to say.  But I have been staring at a blank page all day, and I've decided that vomiting up a whole lot of nothing onto the page is far better than blank space.  Blank space can be haunting to a writer.  It's a clear indication of failure.  So here goes...

Okay, maybe I'll write about something.  It will be meaningless to most who read it, but it will be something.  There.  I'm heading in the right direction.  At least I have a direction.

What is a Permalink?  And is it similar to Permafrost?  Are they both found in the north pole?  Or only in geographical locations which have internet service?  And how do they relate to the extinction of the polar bear?  These are the questions that spiral out of control in my brain.  Sad, but true.  The frequency of nonsense which riddles my brain is directly proportional to the level of my desire to procrastinate doing anything worthwhile.

I like internet terminology, but social networking terms are even more amusing.  I have to like it because there is no option for "unlike," at least not yet.  I wonder what percentage of horse racing handicappers are now using Facebook to let each other know their preferences in specific races?  Instead of asking, "Who do you like in the seventh?" do they just post a photo and wait for a response, such as:  "Ernie Exacta, Gladys Goodluck and 3 others like this."  It makes me wonder.  What are the odds of that happening?

My week has been a series of mishaps, much of it involving shit or holy shit.  Yes, upon review, I'd say there has definitely been a theme to my week, a theme of fecal matter.

On Tuesday, I went to the Wisconsin State Fair with the sole intention of holding a baby pig.  It's been on my bucket list for a long time, ever since reading the heart-wrenching yet strangely uplifting Charlotte's Web.  But there were no baby pigs to hold.  I could ooh and ahh over one litter through glass.  They were cute.  But no touching and no holding.  So near and yet so far.  Disappointed, I headed toward the exit of the Swine Barn.  Hogs to the left.  Hogs to the right.  It smelled to high heaven (Why do they say that?  Does heaven really smell that bad?) so at that point I was moving pretty quickly down the aisle.  A farmer and his herd of huge hogs darted out in front of me.  Okay, maybe they didn't dart.  Maybe it was more of an amble, but they appeared out of nowhere.  I acted fast and managed to side-step the whole ensemble.  But then I felt a smooshy feeling under my left tennis shoe.  I had stepped smack dab in the center of one heaping, steaming pile of hog SHIT.

I grumbled and kept moving and wiped it off on the grass outside the barn.  Posted on the barn door was a sign that read, "Please wash hands after leaving Swine Barn."  Well, there was a line of about fifteen people waiting for one little sink outside.  Since the barn door was wide open, the vile stench of swine was heavy in the air.  I plugged my nose, looked at the line, and thought it over.  It occurred to me,  hey, I never touched a pig or a pig pen or anything in that barn, so I'm good to go.  Don't have to wait in the hot sun.  So I walked around a bit more, listened to some music, but just wasn't into the whole fair thing and was still bummed out about not holding a single damn baby pig.

Trying to lighten my mood, I hopped on one ride that jerked my head back and forth and wasn't really much fun anyway. I used to love fair rides.  SHIT, I'm old.  I had to admit it.  There I was at the fair and I wasn't having a bit of fun.  Anyway, by this time it was getting crowded so I decided to get my traditional cream puff and go.  I bought a cream puff, ate it, did the whole lick-your-fingers thing and headed home.

After I got home, I washed my shoes outside with 409 disinfectant and left out in the sun to dry, then went inside to read my emails from earlier that day.  My friend had replied to my email about going to the fair and holding a baby pig.  She said, "You might want to check before you go.  A lot of fairs are dealing with Swine Flu outbreaks and won't let pigs in."  Swine Flu.  Hmmm.... I thought.  Maybe that's why the sign said wash your hands.  Even if I didn't touch anything in there, maybe those flu bugaroos can hop from pig to person, fly right through the air... Well, the next thing I did was what stupid people do after they've done something stupid, I searched the internet.  For me, it always yields the motherlode of wisdom, some of it actually true.  I searched the web for symptoms of Swine Flu.  Nausea, headache, stiff neck...

Holy shit.  Okay, so I didn't get a wink of sleep that night because I was lying awake worrying that my nausea wasn't actually from washing down a cream puff with a glass of Leinenkugel's, and my headache and stiff neck wasn't from riding a amusement park ride, but actually early signs of Swine Flu.  The next day, I realized I didn't actually have Swine Flu, but before I enter another swine barn, I'll 1) don a pair of those plastic shoe covers (they hand them out at walk-through art exhibits; why not swine barns?) and 2) I'll wash my hands.  Hell, I'll power wash my hands.  Actually, unless someone can promise me 100% that I'm going to be holding a baby pig, I'm not stepping foot in another swine barn.  So there.

Okay, that was just the beginning.  On Wednesday, I went to a garage sale to find a cheap plastic container to collect cat SHIT in and I injured myself.  I'm not kidding about the cat shit or the injury.  I needed a container into which I could shovel soiled litter and crap (literally) from our three litter boxes at home and carry it all to the covered pail outside.  Since I'm now "freelance writing," which means not bringing in a red cent, we are on a tight budget so the whole process of litter excavation has changed at our house.  Let me elaborate:

I switched from "World's Best" brand cat litter, which is the gold standard of cat litter, to "Cheap-Ass" brand litter -- which is nasty as hell, has zero deodorizing capability, cannot be simply shoveled into the toilet and flushed away to a place that is far, far away from here and sticks to everything including the cats' butts, the shovel and the bottoms of the litter boxes -- and that means frequent excavation to prevent revolting conditions.  With any job, it requires the right tools.  So continuing with my story, I went to the garage sale to buy a plastic container.  Caught up now?  Okay, so I walked up the driveway at the garage sale, (rummage sale for the Wisconsinites out there), perused their shelves, found nothing I could use and headed back down the driveway.  This took all of twenty seconds.

As I was nearing my car, I spotted an older woman (and when I say older, I mean older than me, but not as old as Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies) who was trying to get up out of a very low-seated chair that was on sale.  Without a moment's hesitation, since she was on my way back to my car anyway, I offered my arm to help her up.  She, also without a moment's hesitation, since her derrière was stuck in the chair, took my arm.  But then she shocked me by not helping in the slightest.  I mean, she put ALL of her weight on me, all 200-plus pounds of her, which went into my arm at an angle, and down into my lower back and hip.  Ouch.  Basically, she made me her human hoist.

The second shocking thing is, the woman never said thank you, just mumbled something about her "therapy." Well, I need therapy after hoisting her up.  So what did I say as I tried to get out of my car, upon arriving home?  You guessed it, "Holy shit.  My back hurts like hell."   I've been resting it, icing it, downing double doses of Naproxen for two straight days and eyeing my precious bottle of Flexeril, which has three tablets left and is rationed because it's expensive.  But things are changing.  For all my special self-care, the pain is actually getting worse by the hour.

Holy shit.  So much for being a good samaritan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cowbird Killing

I am livid and in tears.  I just read my Wisconsin Society of Ornithology newsletter and learned, in a short paragraph that appears toward the end, that WSO condones the trapping and killing Cowbirds.  Seriously?  KILLING birds?  I was shocked and horrified and sent them the following letter... I doubt it will change their policy or that of anyone who is doing this.  But if my words shed a tiny ray of light on this heinous practice and how wrong it is, it was worth my time...

Dear WSO Officers:

I just discovered that the WSO condones Cowbird trapping and KILLING.  I just found a reference to it in the most recent newsletter and am completely mortified, disgusted and in tears.  I just paid for a membership this year, and after hearing this, I will NOT be renewing my membership nor supporting your organization in any way.  

I have very strong feelings regarding the killing of any animal.  What makes mankind think he can control nature or decide one animal should die because it's not as "pretty" as another one?  I'm well aware of the massive fatalities of the songbird population due to Cowbird parasitization.  However, it is NOT up to us to control it.  Only God and nature has that right.  I truly believe that if we left nature alone, and that includes no more banding and other invasive control/observation procedures, it would figure itself out.  Maybe we would lose some songbirds.  Maybe we'd even lose entire species.  But so be it.  I'd be sad, but at least I'd have a clear conscience and know that the will of nature was the reason.  

But then again, maybe songbirds would figure it out.  It's amazing how, if left to its own devices, whole species adapt and survive (ie. look at the yellow warbler which ignores the parasitized nest and builds over it).  I believe that nature is chaotic and also systematic.  But in the end, it will work itself out, without our constant supervision and control.

It really fries me when I learn that an organization that says it is devoted to the preservation of wild birds condones and even celebrates KILLING them.  To be more exact, those who kill Cowbirds are practicing "selective preservation," and/or playing God.  And though it might be referred to as "euthanizing," the meaning of the word is to painlessly kill something which suffers from an incurable and/or painful disease.  Since the cowbirds being killed are not suffering, it is simply KILLING.


Soon-to-be-ex-WSO member

Carrie Ryman

To my blog readers:  I love birds. All birds.  And I love animals.  All animals.  It is wrong to kill.  Period.