Thanks for the memories

Today’s been a difficult day.

I’ve had no energy and stayed in my jammies until 2:30 when I dragged myself off the couch so I could walk Emma and get some sun. Despite the sunshine and blue sky, I felt weepy as we walked, and kept tearing up. And then it hit me: January 23rd…Scott’s birthday. My childhood friend should be making a wish on his candles and eating cake, except that he died almost exactly twenty-five years ago.

Oddly enough, figuring out why I was feeling so down improved my mood. (Well, that plus the sunshine and exercise.) Because then I started remembering. Odd conversations about olive loaf and Salsa Rio Doritos; Scott’s old blue Pinto; the St. Patrick’s Day we spent together; his English class demonstration in which he taught us how to keep score in bowling, but became confused and had to step back from the board to figure out exactly out where the score had gone wrong; the Sears catalog poses he’d do for me whenever I asked; singing Victor Banana songs together; laughing until we cried. Laughing some more.

Here’s the photo I keep on my desk:

Scott’s smiling.
And now I am, too.

Happy birthday, friend.

Honoring Michelle

Today Zippy and I went to Berry Patch Farms in Brighton, Colorado.

Michelle’s mother and sisters arranged to have a bench and stone placed there in her memory, seeing as it was one of Michelle’s favorite places to visit with her young daughter.

 

At the top of the stone is a quote from Michelle: “Now this is what a strawberry should taste like.”

Note: the rooster windchime on the tree was there before Michelle’s bench. Can you say SERENDIPITY?

On their frequent visits to the farm with the old red barn, Michelle and her daughter would watch the chickens and roosters.

They’d pick berries together and take home bouquets of cut flowers.

Today, Michelle’s mother, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, and friends gathered in her memory. For the past two weeks or so, the weather has been uncharacteristically cold and rainy, but today the sun was shining in a blue, blue sky. The morning was lovely, and I suspect Michelle pulled some strings to make it so.

It was bittersweet being at the farm without Michelle, but here I am warming her cheery red bench along with three of the Writing Roosters, the critique group she lobbied to include me in its membership. Michelle’s generosity lives on.

Jenn Bertman, Tracy Abell, Jen Simms, Laura Perdew (Vanessa Appleby & Claudia Mills were unable to attend)

Get your ball out of the gutter

This week’s date night was Zippy’s choice. He chose bowling.

Here he is tonight, displaying his inscribed “Willie” ball.  Our friend Willie gave it to Zippy years ago after left-handed Zippy told Willie he really liked bowling with the right-handed ball.

We bowled two games and they were both pretty bad. On the up side, we got a few strikes. On the down side, we threw gutter balls. Oh, and there were also ugly rental shoes.

All in all, it was a pretty good date.

Walking toward clarity

It’s been a murky day filled with emotions, confusion, and an overall sense of TIRED. But I finally succumbed to cute Emma the Dog’s wriggling reminder that it was time for our daily walk, and went out to do just that.

Movement plus a smiling, happy dog by my side brought clarity to the day.

I’m feeling so much better. Today, Dog is most definitely this woman’s best friend.

Strike one, strike two…

Emma and I just took a walk to deliver some stuff to one of Wildebeest’s friends. (Friend is driving south to see Wildebeest tomorrow, and so can deliver the $5 North Face backpack I scored for him at a garage sale yesterday.)

Because I hadn’t yet walked Emma today, I figured it was a great way to accomplish two tasks at once. I also thought she’d appreciate walking through some different neighborhoods where she could smell new odors.

I guess she liked it well enough. For a while, anyway.

This is the second time Emma’s gone on a sit-down strike.  She had plenty of water and a rest at the friend’s house, so I don’t feel too bad for her. Especially since just minutes after this picture was taken, she went nuts at a dog behind a fence.

 

Koi: further proof that orange can be beautiful**

Writer-friend Sarah and I went to the Botanic Gardens on Sunday. She has a membership plus a special key fob that allowed us in the side gate to the gardens. We walked and talked through the gardens, pausing on the little deck to gaze at the colorful koi. Bonus: the dark one in the lower left of the photo has delightful whiskers, and I highly recommend clicking on the photo to enlarge.

We didn’t feed them (nor have I witnessed anyone feeding them during any of my visits), but that didn’t stop the koi from gathering below the deck and puckering their lips in anticipation.

** My ongoing project to reclaim the color orange, helping me remember that it can be a thing of beauty and not just a hideous spray tan in the White House.

 

Sunday Confessional: Today I’m wishing I could have a do-over

This afternoon I randomly thought about a man I once knew and then looked him up online. Well, I discovered that he’d died about 18 months ago. He used to be married to a friend of mine, but they divorced. The man had done some stuff that ended up being unforgivable. Zippy and I had spent quite a bit of time with both of them as a couple, and we liked the man. He was smart, funny, and always made us feel welcome when we visited. But after the bad stuff came to light, my loyalty was to my friend. The man reached out once, but I didn’t return the call.

I still believe I was right to stand by my friend, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m now wishing I’d tried to communicate with him at some point. The thing is, my friend and I aren’t really in touch anymore so this news makes it feel as if I’ve lost two friends.

But, as Billy Wilder said, “Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.”

Because he loved these flowers.

 

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Thankful Thursday: The such-a-good-girl edition

Today I’m thankful for my new walking buddy who did such a good job with me just now. No twirling, snarling, lunging or barking in 2.11 miles of neighborhood walking that included four other dogs on leashes.

Yet another out of focus photo of Emma who's always on the move.

Yet another out of focus photo of Emma who’s always on the move.

 

 

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Warm Cookies of the Revolution

This morning I joined my friend, Sarah, at an event put on by Warm Cookies of the Revolution. Warm Cookies bills itself as a Civic Health Club, and while Sarah has participated in numerous events, today was my first.

The topic: The Science of Effective Resistance by Erica Chenoweth

?????????????

This was the opening slide: Presentation prepared for Warm Cookies of the Revolution: The Science of Effective Resistance Erica Chenoweth Ph.D

When Sarah texted me the invite I went to the site to read up on the talk, and saw that it was about nonviolent conflict. My first thought was, “Screw that. We need to be in the streets with torches and pitchforks, and maybe burn a few cars while we’re at it.” (Yes, I am incredibly frustrated with the timid response from the “opposition” party.) But I value Sarah’s judgment and wanted to spend time with her today, so I thanked her for the invitation. And off we went.

Here’s my takeaway: Erica Chenoweth has done the numbers on violent vs nonviolent campaigns of resistance. And guess what? Nonviolent campaigns have a higher success rate. There are a variety of reasons for that but the one that went ping in my head was that acts of violence can (and probably will) turn off active allies and potential allies. Imagine that!

Her research shows that all successful nonviolent campaigns have three things in common:

  • mass participation
  • defections from the ruling regime
  • the use of flexible tactics

Hey, looky there! We’ve got two out of three going on right this very moment!

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Denver represents!

Marched this morning with a couple hundred thousand other people. The day started out cold and overcast (really appreciated the ride downtown on the packed-to-the-gills light rail because all that body heat warmed me up again) before turning sunny and warmer. It was a good morning, and I’m glad my neighbor friend, Kim, invited me to march with her. I brought my camera and captured some of the wit and wisdom of the very large gathering. (Click to enlarge)

carrie-fisher-sent-me    princess-leia    gaslighting

govt-housing

introverts    noriega

mothers-against

feminist-as-fuck

as-fuck

In case you missed it the first time.

Maybe someone can help me out here. My Spanish is rusty and the online translator came back with "They wanted to enter us but they did not know that we were seeds."

“They tried to bury us. They did not know that we were seeds.” (h/t and thanks to Jenn Hubbard for translation)

one-race

 

act-emote

Construction workers above the march.

Construction workers above the march.

children-of-the-witches

And here’s me with my sign:

tracy-in-denver-at-womens-march-1-21-17

Finally, here’s an overhead shot of Civic Center Park in Denver:

DENVER, CO - January 21: Tens of thousands in Civic Center Park for the Women's March on Denver January 21, 2017. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

DENVER, CO – January 21: Tens of thousands in Civic Center Park for the Women’s March on Denver January 21, 2017. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Kim and I left the march before it reached the park so you won’t be able to find us in this crowd. Turning around was a good call, though, because as we “swam” downstream, we got a good look at THE MANY MANY PEOPLE. It was life-affirming to read the signs screaming with anger, hope, and humor.

We’re gonna need all three to make it out alive.

 

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Thankful Thursday: The I-finally-freakin’-did-it edition

If you happen upon this, writer-friend Linda Salzman, you might be happy to know that yesterday I finally, finally wrote the final scenes of the YA I’ve been wrestling with since the beginning of time. Are they perfectly written scenes? Hells no. Are they fleshed-out scenes? Absolutely not. Are they even close to being what they’d need to be in a final draft? HAHAHAHAHA.

In which Linda is the pug offering encouragement to the tortoise-slow Tracy.

In which Linda is the pug offering encouragement (“Do it!”) to the tortoise-slow Tracy.

The scenes I wrote yesterday are, at this point, a collection of placeholder words. A roadmap for the next draft (should I ever have the inclination to wade into the manuscript that right now feels like a horrible, torturous place to spend time). I learned about the value of using placeholder words from writer-friend Laurie Schneider, and I must say it’s one of the most liberating tools in my writing kit. The pressure is off when I’m creating placeholder words; all that’s required of me is to literally hold the place in the manuscript with clues for my authorial intent. The details come later.

So after writing those scenes, I printed out a hard copy and wrote out a few notes for myself before packing everything away in an accordion file. At the soonest, I’ll read that manuscript again in a month. But I have a feeling it’ll take longer than that for me to muster enthusiasm. After finishing, I’d gone back to read the opening chapter, thinking it would fire me up by reminding me the rest of the book is stronger than the ending. *insert hysterical laughter* Turns out, I’d arrived at the THIS BOOK SUCKS MORE THAN A HOOVER stage, and it’s gonna take some time for those feelings to fade.

The good news? I’m already reacquainting myself with another project. This one has huge potential and fills me with excitement. So take that, nasty voice! (Also, I was very grateful for the distraction of this “new” project when I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about Debbie Reynolds dying the day after losing her beloved daughter.)

There are sad and horrible things happening all over the planet, but I’m grateful for the fictional worlds I create in my mind. Sometimes the pretend is the only thing keeping me from being crushed by the real.

 

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The best and most beautiful things

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.
~  Helen Keller

As per my last late-night post, yesterday we were evacuated due to a fire in the open space near our home. We hadn’t experienced that before. The only other time there was a big fire, we were out of town. (Our former neighbors took it upon themselves to come in the house to collect a crate full of framed wedding and family photos. They also put a sprinkler on top of our shake-shingle roof. Good neighbors.)

So last night as we watched the fire out our windows, we had to start thinking about what we should take in case of evacuation. Zippy and I believed it would be easy to grab the basics (the animals and the same framed photos plus passports, social security cards, etc and a few clothes) and get out. But by the time we received the automated call telling us to get out, we’d amassed more than that.

I gained some insights into my personal world view.

  • Jog bras (Bra shopping is a horrible experience, and I’d be damned if I have to go through that again)
  • An entire box of project notebooks and journals, including those containing quotes from young Wildebeest and Zebu plus one from my three weeks spent with Marilynne Robinson at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop
  • Every single photo album
  • Binder filled with negatives
  • Gratitude journal (that I’ve been actively resenting and willfully neglecting for the past couple months)
  • New container of raw cashews
  • New bottles of nutritional supplements
  • New bottle of tequila
  • Huge suitcase of family-of-origin photos recently brought back from Mom in Florida
  • Laptop, current fiction project notebook, current nonfiction project notebook
  • Camera and lenses
  • Binoculars, bird books, birding notebook woefully out of date re sightings
  • Medical records for Zippy, Wildebeest, Zebu, and myself

That list makes it seem as if I brought every single thing I owned. Not true. All sorts of stuff was left behind. Objects that caught my eye as I passed through rooms, shuttling stuff to the cars.

jesus-lizard

  • My brother’s gorgeous painting of a Jesus lizard walking on water.
  • The denim jacket that first belonged to Zippy’s sheep rancher grandfather and was passed down to Zippy’s father (Stu) and now Zippy.
  • Stu’s hat that became mine after he died last February because I’m the only one in the family with a head small enough to fit.
  • The metal rooster that sits on top of our piano in honor of friend Michelle Begley who died in January 2015, and which also serves as mascot for the monthly Writing Roosters critique group gatherings.
  • Books, many of them signed by the authors.
  • The ceramic penguin doing a power salute (and showing off underarm hair) made for me by Wildebeest in high school.
  • Zebu’s sticker-bedecked water bottle that’s been at his place at the dining room table since he left for Sweden in August.
  • The poseable Batman featured in many blog posts over the years.
  • An enormous plastic bin filled with photos that have been put in chronological order, but have not yet made it into albums.

But my decisions are a moot point. The fire was extinguished and we’re back in our house with all our stuff. Or, as George Carlin would say, all our shit.

 

 

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A little bit of blue

Last night I found out I wasn’t selected as a Pitch Wars mentee and I admit to feeling down. I went to bed thinking I was a loserhead. Then I woke up this morning and reread feedback I’d received from one mentoring team last night, and the wheels began turning. When another mentor sent feedback, one of her comments dovetailing nicely with a bit from the earlier critique, the wheels in my head started cranking in earnest.

Did I agree with everything written? Nope.
Did I have AHA moments as I read their comments? Yep.
Can I quit this manuscript when it’s within my power to strengthen it? Nope.
So does this mean I’m embarking on yet another round of revisions? Yep.

The season's last clematis bloom.

The season’s last clematis bloom.

I exchanged emails with a writer friend about all this and he was a bit horrified that I’m revisiting this manuscript for the umpteenth time. His exact words: I think you’re the type of person who puts a band-aid on just to rip it off!

But that’s the writing life: patches of blue poking through the clouds, an occasional burst of sunshine, and a steady stream of self-inflicted pain.

So it goes.

 

 

 

 

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It was 24 years ago today

Zippy and I got married on Hatcher Pass in Alaska on August 15, 1992. My childhood friend, my best friend, Scott, served as our marriage commissioner and performed our ceremony.

Anne, whom we’d we met in a black and white photography class at UAA, was our close friend who acted as the hardworking wedding photographer. Bob and Liz were adventurous friends Zippy called a week in advance to ask to be our witnesses.

Scott, Tracy, Zippy, Bob, and Liz. If you look closely in the background, you will also see tourists watching the ceremony.

Scott, Tracy, Zippy, Bob, and Liz. If you look closely in the background, you will also see tourists watching the ceremony.

It was a bit chilly up there on the pass, but the day’s emotions kept me warm. Here we are with Scott and Anne when she got a brief respite from photography duties.

Scott, Anne, Tracy, and Zippy.

Scott, Anne, Tracy, and Zippy.

And here we are with Scott who’d traveled from Colorado to Alaska to officiate at our wedding despite serious health issues. He died in late December of that year.

All smiles.

All smiles.

I miss him so. But twenty-four years ago today, he helped bring a whole lotta love and laughter. All our friends made it a truly wonderful day.

Happy Anniversary, Zippy.
I love you.
*smooch*

 

 

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Hooping friend

I’m not 100% positive, but am pretty sure this bunny
enjoys hooping and/or funky hooping music.
This guy/gal sat outside my picture window this morning,
watching and listening as I hoop-danced to
Aretha’s “Respect”
Aretha’s “Rock Steady”
Stevie’s “Higher Ground”
and more.

Bunny enlarged

Know what this means?

I’ve got a new hooping buddy who happens to be a bunny
which makes him/her my hooping bunny buddy.

Try saying that three times real fast.

Hooping bunny buddy
Hooping bunny buddy
Hooping bunny buddy

 

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An introvert walks into a party…

For much of my life I believed I was an extrovert because I enjoy meeting people and having conversations, making people laugh. But I can only do that for so long before I feel drained of energy. I learned that I need alone time to recharge my batteries (which is what defines an introvert), whereas extroverts recharge their batteries by being around other people.

The past several days were filled with socializing. Zippy and I had family and friends in town, which meant lots and lots of talking and laughing and laughing and talking. By the time we got home yesterday evening, I was wiped out. The strange thing was, I didn’t realize how far gone I was until I was in my jammies and on the couch ready to watch some Netflix. It was too much being in the same room with Zippy and I needed to be completely alone. So I closed myself off in our room.

from The Quiet Revolution (quietrev.com)

from The Quiet Revolution (www.quietrev.com)

Today was spent refilling my well.
Lots of quiet time.
A couple naps.
And it wasn’t until this evening that I had the energy
for a little yoga and some hoop dancing.

I finally feel like me again.