Life

When I wrote the book, many of the characters were loosely based on people I knew in real life, a million years ago.

The role of Sarah would have been played by my friend Amy.

I need to write the sequel that has been in my head. A sequel not about Emma and Robert, but about Emma and Sarah.

I’ve never been the popular person, I was always the kid picked last for the team in elementary school, (and for good reason! I SUCKED in P.E.!) but I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing female friends over the years. Kim – my best friend in elementary school – the kid who was quietly introverted back in the day, while I was overly talkative to mask the shyness… a cancer survivor who is absolutely amazing… Peggy, also pretty quiet in her way, my best friend in middle and high school, who dressed like a punk but is still one of the kindest people I know…

Amy was my first “boisterous” friend. I met her in my first year of college, but we didn’t start hanging out until our second year. We had Master Theory together, where we learned that some chords were just “marshmallow fluff.” We sang together often – anywhere and everywhere, from summer chorale, to driving around Tallahassee and the surrounding areas with the radio blasting, to karaoke at places like Dudley’s Pub, a hole-in-the-wall establishment on Tennessee Street that had good hot wings and let people under 21 in. (They didn’t sell us booze, but we didn’t try to buy booze, either. We were just there for the karaoke and the people-watching.)

Amy was a complex person. She carried a lot of pain, but laughed at everything in life. She had something of a dysfunctional family, her ex-boyfriend was scammed into Scientology, and she had a lot of physical issues, even then.

She was the sort of friend who would drop everything just to hang out and do nothing on a Friday night, just because. For a time, she filled my world. She also brought another friend into my life, Lee. Lee is the sort of person who is beautiful and bubbly inside and out.

And yes, I am referring to Amy in the past tense.

Earlier this fall, I received the news that she passed away. She’d already suffered from a stroke that left her unable to talk, and then the congestive heart failure.

I wish I had kept up with her better in the years after college. I wish I had kept up better with all of the friends I’ve had the fortune of knowing. I still chat with Kim, Peggy, Lee, and my friends Michelle and Rosie. I still love them.

I’ve been busy with school, with animals, with life. But I keep promising myself that I will write this sequel, that I will immortalize a little piece of Amy. I can’t possibly capture all that she was, I’m certainly not going to get into writing an autobiography or a biography, but if I can catch the essence of the girl who loved turtles, walked around singing Mozart Opera with bastardized lyrics, and smoked because she was on the “slow suicide plan,” the girl who tried to rush fraternities with me because we both had “big brass balls,” the girl with the masses of curly dyed red hair? Then all ten people who read the book will have a chance to know someone wonderful.

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Maybe I should rename my blog “How to fail at Life”?

No, obviously I’m not failing at life if I am still alive, but I’m on a roll here, folks.

I haven’t blogged in quite a while – too busy between working, taking care of the animals that didn’t get eaten by predators, driving back and forth to work, driving kids (ahem, my oldest) places…

Now I am sitting in the Honda Dealership where funny noises overhead sound like something may just fall through the roof and crash on top of my head, but I’m thinking I’ll stay put so I can continue to charge my laptop, which is downloading a 5.8GB program for my OOP2 class and also because hey, if something falls on my head, I or my surviving family members may be set for a while, eh?

I am almost 45 years old. I work full time, I go to school half time, I have a bazillion hobbies I don’t keep up with, I wish I could write more than I do, and in the past week, I have killed not one but TWO cars – a 2015 KIA Soul (I had a little help) and a 2011 Honda Odyssey.

The KIA had 67k miles on it. The Oddyssey has 113,100 or so.

The KIA overheated while Adam was driving it, but I put quite a few of those miles on the car, so I claim my part in killing it. They want to sell us a new engine for about $4500, and somehow they have the mistaken idea that we have good enough credit to finance said engine replacement.

The Odyssey… where to begin. It needs a bunch of stuff, per the diagnostic codes, plus new brakes, plus SOMETHING is wrong with the transmission, but with the kind of mileage and the laundry list of what it needs, I’m better off trading it in. So here I sit, using the free wiFi to download my massive program while I wait to see what is going on.

I would say my luck is horrible, but I need to quit saying that. What I am going to say instead is that in 2011, when my ex and I bought the Odyssey, I knew I wanted out of the marriage. I was trying to push for a car rather than a minivan, because I wanted the better gas mileage and smaller payments of something like a Toyota Camry rather than a Honda Odyssey. I was talked into the minivan. So today, there is the very real possibility that I may be driving away in the mid-sized sedan I wanted six and a half years ago, rather than the minivan I was pressured into. With gas prices going up again, the reduction in gas spendings may offset whatever car payments I will have to make.

It’s just a machine, just a tool, but “Homer” served us well for six years. Even after the deer incident of 2015.

I’m trying to stay positive.

Shh… You’re in the Library!

My oldest son and I carpool back and forth to Gainesville for work and school. This has been the case since we moved out to the middle of nowhere and started our own personal Easter farm, filled with chicks and ducks and bunnies. It’s a long drive, and I’ve put way too many miles on the cars.

One problem with carpooling is that our schedules have not always been the same. For a while, the van was making the fifty mile trip seven days a week, because I was working Saturday through Wednesday but Matt still had to go to school on Thursdays and Fridays. Sometimes we took more than one car when our times were vastly different, but typically one of us would be stuck waiting for the other to finish with work, or school, or activities.

The carpooling is almost at an end. Matthew will be attending University of Florida and living on campus in the dorms, so I will strictly be driving to and from work, and not having many days of being in Gainesville for over twelve hour stretches.

The past few weeks, however, I’ve had to wait after work for hours at a time as Matt completes AP exams, English projects, concert rehearsals and lessons leading up to his last recital. I typically head to the library on campus. Today, we’re both waiting until it is time for him to go to the choral concert (the orchestra is playing… we get to repeat this some time next week for the actual orchestra rehearsal) and perform. So we headed to a branch of the Alachua County Public Library.

Now, Santa Fe College’s library has an actual Starbuck’s inside. So of course, there is a bit of extra traffic, people drinking beverages in designated areas… But one thing has struck me about both libraries – the amount of loud talking and background noise that have become commonplace. Sure, this library where I sit typing at the moment does have a “Quiet Reading Room,” which I am not inside, as I don’t want to annoy anyone with the click of my typing. But the people who work the desk are all talking in normal to loud voices. What ever happened to that quiet sanctity of the Library? When did it become an accepted practice to go ahead and bring screaming toddlers in and let them run around other than in the designated kid’s section?

I’m not complaining… exactly. It’s more that I want to point out that the world has changed in yet another way from the times when I was a kid. Then again, we all went outside to run rampant around the neighborhood with little to no adult supervision, and we could do so without our parents being arrested for child neglect.

The world has changed in so many ways.

Not Amused…

Adam and I have both avoided sharing anything about this on social media since the events of July 13, 2013 occurred, but given what happened this week, we’ve decided to break the silence and share.

In May of 2013, He and I each bought a fun pass to Busch Gardens (Tampa, Florida), as my ex had purchased passes for each of the kids. We went two or three times without any major incident.

Back information: Adam had some injuries. He had a bad disc in his neck, j no neuropathy in his left arm and hand, an injury in his right foot, and an old soccer injury in his left knee. At the time, he also had a handicap parking permit that he has not renewed, though he really DOES need it.w

When I first met him that year, while he had his limits, he was able to get around, and could even very occasionally run in short bursts (like to catch my dog when she got loose…) But on July 13, his knee was acting up, so when we went to Busch Gardens to celebrate my oldest child’s fourteenth birthday, he rented a wheelchair for the second or third time. The form he signed had promises on it that Busch Gardens would do all within their power to assist him during his stay in the park.

We had no problems until we rode the Congo River Rapids ride. It was Adam’s favorite ride prior to that visit, and one he had ridden before without issue.

We took the wheelchair entrance to the ride. We boarded, as did some people who seemed to be from a Scandinavian country who did not speak English, and two little kids who appeared to be under the age of five who were NOT accompanied by their parents. I don’t recall this part, but a flag was placed on the raft before we left the station. While that flag could have been for Adam, it could also have been for the kids. But Busch Gardens thinks this is important information, so I am including it in this account.

I remember thinking that if the boat flipped, I would probably feel compelled to rescue the kids who were riding without their parents, as I knew my kids could swim, but was not sure of them. I felt anxious about them riding unaccompanied.

Shortly after we rounded the first bend, the water jets were turned off. We later discovered this was because someone in a boat ahead of us had jumped off and swam for shore, climbing out and running off before they could catch him. Our boat slowly cruised the remainder of the ride, taking about twenty to thirty minutes. It was not fun.

When we finally reached the end of the river ride, the conveyor belt was already filled with boats. We were dragged by hook to the end of a metal pier. Adam kept saying he didn’t feel safe getting off there, that he hoped they didn’t expect him to get off there and climb the metal stairs. I assured him that it was unlikely  – they knew he had gotten on in a wheelchair – they shouldn’t make him climb a narrow set of stairs. I was thinking more about the stairs at that point. What actually happened took me by surprise.

I also remember feeling just a little queasy by then, and tired of being on the raft.

The foreigners disembarked. Someone came and assisted the little kids off as well. My three kids exited without incident. It was only Adam and I left on the boat. He was in front of me, and I was on the boat and saw what happened.

They had tied the round boat to the pier with a single rope. When Adam went to step off, the boat listed away from the dock. He lost his balance with the movement of the boat and landed hard on his right side. He lay there, looking like a dead fish.

I remember them giving my daughter a hard time about bringing Adam his cane. I remember it took some time for him to get up. The employees did ask if he wanted to see someone. He was in shock, embarrassed, and said he just wanted to get out of there. He slowly made his way up the stairs and back into the wheelchair, said he wanted to get out of there and smoke a cigarette to calm down. He was still in shock.

By the time we reached the smoking area (a few hundred feet from the ride, behind a gift shop) his right leg had started to swell. I went into the gift store and asked for someone to come help him at that point.

Adam insisted I take the two older kids to ride a roller coaster. I shouldn’t have, but did. William didn’t want to go on the ride – he stayed with Adam.

When I came back, they had bandaged his ankle, but Adam said some young guy from risk management had refused his request to send him to the hospital. According to Adam, the “kid” had said that nobody saw it, nothing had happened, and that if we had our own insurance, Adam could go on his own dime. I took Adam back to the front of the ride and got the name (Susie) of one of the attendants who witnessed the accident.

Adam tried to call risk management (they had given him a card) as we slowly made our way out of the park. We did let the kids go on one more ride, as Adam was trying to make the call, hoping to hear from someone, trying to decide whether to go to the ER for the increasing pain. He was not insured at that time.

We drove back to Gainesville before Adam went to the ER. They did some X-rays, found that he had not broken any bones in his leg, but had some soft tissue damage.

It was a week before he returned, still in pain, having difficulty urinating, unable to stand for any length of time, with pain in his back as well. When he went that following week for the pain, he was admitted to Shands. They initially admitted him because his heart rate and blood pressure were elevated, but they also performed tests and discovered that he had a slipped disc in his back, and he was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia.

Busch Gardens would not return any phone calls, so Adam contacted an attorney and filed suit.

In addition to the pain, he suffered ongoing psychological issues, but because he was impoverished, he was charged little for them.

Over the course of the last three and a half years, we have all gone to depositions that were repeatedly called off and rescheduled at the last minute, causing me to waste time off from my job. The court ordered mediation that was supposed to occur last December was called off at the last minute (all on their end.) This dragged on for almost four years.

The mediation was rescheduled for Monday the 24th. We had some transportation issues making it to Tampa, and by the time I was able to get Adam there, it was the very end.

Busch Gardens offered $5,000. Because he “missed” the mediation, we are responsible for the full costs for the mediator, our attorney, their travel, everything. They further stated that if he did NOT accept their $5,000 settlement (before costs), they would counter sue (for filing a frivolous suit?) and take us to court for all of their costs.

Nobody asked if Adam had ongoing medical costs, and we made the mistake of not offering that information because we weren’t asked, but he does.

Florida DOES limit damages.

But his actual damages are greater than $5,000, and he will be suffering from this accident for the rest of his life. His hernia was one of the factors that prevented him from being able to assist his mother, who died unexpectedly when Adam couldn’t make the drive out to her house in December 2015 because he was having trouble getting out of bed and moving around.

Why am I sharing all of this? Because we do not believe Busch Gardens acted in good faith in any of this. Because we do not appreciate the fact that they are using bullying tactics to attempt to force a settlement. Because none of this is just or right. They claim that the red flag they put on the boat meant they did all they could to keep him safe. Excuse me – was it a magic flag? Because nobody offered to take us up the ramp to where the boat was secure. Nobody offered to help him off the boat. Nobody would even bring him his cane, and they fought my daughter when she did.

Yes, he should have insisted on medical care before he left that ramp. But he was in shock. And this should not have happened.

Yes, he had a bad knee before the incident. His OTHER knee. And Busch Gardens knew he had a handicap before they made him get off an unsecured boat at a location where passengers are not typically asked to disembark.

I watched #Blackfish AFTER the accident, or I probably would never have gone to Busch Gardens that day, as they are owned and operated by Sea World. Sea World has a history of blatant disregard for its employees and guests.

Why am I writing this? Because I want people to know. I want them to share this. I want Sea World and Busch Gardens to stop getting away with this sort of behavior. I don’t want what happened to Adam to happen to someone else. We thought the law suit would help. Now we realize, it won’t. Maybe, just maybe, my words will. It’s all I have.

Fiction Friday – Lost and Found Part 16

 

 

I’ve abandoned Rob, Janeen, Jake, Susie and Hector far too long. Time to return to their long lost story…

The story begins HERE and you can find links to each part HERE.

We now return to the story you’ve long since stopped caring about, if you ever cared in the first place.

Warning: Not suitable for kids.


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It was all going according to plan. Rob was growing obsessed with Susie, Janeen was aware of the situation and had started plotting, but couldn’t seem to focus on a strategy. She hadn’t expected Susie to be the less emotional part of the equation. Jake had chosen well.

Women like Janeen thought they knew everything. They thought they understood human nature. And they thought they walked on water. Even now, Janeen believed she could snap her fingers and have Rob chasing her tail again. She had always over estimated her abilities in bed.

And Rob? Rob was just weak. He had always been weak. He hadn’t deserved Becky. But Becky had been the sort of girl who loved too deeply and gave too much. Nurturing, like Susie, but without the emotional filter Susie had.

Becky had been vulnerable after the loss of their parents. She had trusted the wrong people, too.

Jake’s sister and his best friend had gotten together when his sister turned nineteen and went off to college for the first time. Jake should have seen it coming, should have noticed the way Becky followed them around over the years. He had assumed it was just a little sister thing, or something she would grow out of. But then she had grown into a beautiful young woman, and Rob had noticed.

Their mother had started growing ill, and Rob was there, the shoulder for Becky to cry on, as well as Jake’s long time friend. Jake was too caught up in his own world to see, right up until Rob proposed. Their mother had been thrilled, focusing on wedding planning even as she was growing weaker and dying.

Then Becky brought Janeen home one weekend on a visit from college.

Jake had been taken in at first. That blue-black hair. Her porcelain skin. That snarky, sometimes cruel sense of humor that struck a chord with him… And that ambition. There had been something more there, a steel core under what appeared to be vulnerability. It was enchanting.

Jake couldn’t pinpoint when Rob had started falling for Janeen. He had seemed just as attentive to Becky as ever, right up to the day that he walked out on her. And Janeen? She had never said anything. Sure, she might have found more excuses to stop putting out, but she had never cut him off completely. She seemed to be dropping hints about wanting him to propose. Apparently being engaged to Becky didn’t stop Rob from beating Jake to the punch.

The Latest and Greatest

I am sitting on my bed, where a spotted Mini Rex bunny has decided to hop up and join me. We’re not sure if Spotty/Rex/[Insert whatever we’ve decided to call it] is a buck or a doe, though we’ve had the rabbit for several weeks now. The confusion is due to the fact that he/she has exhibited behaviors that could indicate male and female, and rabbits aren’t exactly easy to sex.

spotty

Life has been a series of discoveries and losses over the past year or so. We’ve acquired rabbits through a few purchases, a few trades, a gift or two, and bunnies being bunnies, some of them were pregnant when we acquired them, and others have become pregnant since. We’re planning on selling some French Angora bunnies in a few more weeks.

familyAngoras

french_angora

We’ve lost some rabbits. Our best survival rate was six out of seven – the French Angora litter. We also had a litter of eight English Angoras (some of them were mixed with Flemish giant. Oops.) of which four survived.

Between work, two hours + a day of driving, caring for the animals, and the one class I’ve been taking, I have not been keeping up with blogging. I have, however, started the sequel to Dreams and Hypotheticals, and I am beginning to catch that need to write I have been lacking for a while.

The Object Oriented Programming class has also been going very well. I am on track to make another A, with the one remaining project becoming an extra credit assignment, plus the lowest grade being dropped. This time around, it hasn’t felt as stressful. I’m not sure if that is because C# is easier, because I am not having the same issues with my computer and Microsoft Visual that I had in previous semesters, or if the concepts that seem to repeat with each class are finally beginning to sink in.

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, to quote Paul McCartney. Life does go on.

Critique me!

Okay, I’ve started the sequel for the umpteenth time. I’m going to post the first couple of pages here, just to see what folks think.

Some challenges to writing a “sequel”: You have to remind those who read the first book and explain to any potential new readers what is going on without boring those who read the first book, all while capturing enough interest to compel further reading. ACK! It’s hard. Which is why I’ve had many false starts and abandoned beginnings.

Hell, who am I kidding? I’m the queen of abandoned writings. LOL.

Without further ado, the first page or two of the still unnamed sequel to Dreams and Hypotheticals.


Emma looked around the cinder block bedroom of her top story apartment. It wasn’t a great place to live, but it would have to do. It was certainly close to campus. Closer than Cash Hall, the dorm her mother had called the “Ted Bundy Suite” when she and Celia had gone to summer music camp back in their high school days. Hopefully, there would be less roommate drama than she had experienced in the sublease she rented over the summer. So far, the worst thing about Nellie was her collection of stuffed cats. Some of them weren’t bad, but the ones in floral dresses with sunbonnets triggered bad memories of childhood trips to Hee Haw Village.

Emma thought back to moving day just the year before. How different, and yet the same it all seemed. The Tallahassee heat and humidity were unchanging. The sense of new adventures to come was still there, though perhaps not as intense in her sophomore year.

There were still so many questions in the air.

When she entered her freshman year at Florida State University, there was that impending sense that the precognitive dreams she had been having were leading up to something. But when the dreams were realized, life had become no less cryptic. Why even have precognitive dreams about someone if your brain doesn’t allow you to make the connection between dream person and real life person until you are in over your head? When she met Robert, she had known there was something about him that put her on edge.

It still seemed so odd that the dream in question happened the night she met Owen, when she was attending summer music camp, back in her high school days. The threads were too tangled to make sense.

Over the past summer, she had had too much time on her hands. Time to write pages of a book she wasn’t sure she would ever finish, time to realize that she was uncertain of her major in music, time to listen to Rachmaninoff and Brahms and pretend she was trying to forget Robert.

Somehow, she couldn’t. It didn’t help that Owen would talk about Robert every time they met. And the odd, trance-like behavior had continued over the summer. It had started in the spring – Owen would go silent, then he would start talking in a voice that was just different. All of that could be written off as Owen being Owen – he was always an odd one. Except that when it had started last spring, he had somehow known things he

Was it just coincidence? Owen touching her in the exact same spot Robert had, with just the same amount of pressure… Owen talking about police lights the night that Robert was in Atlanta almost getting arrested… Weird things that she could and would have written off, had the entire affair with Robert not been so bizarre to begin with.

They met in Robert’s dorm room, the fall of their freshman year. James had goaded Emma into asking Robert her “hypothetical question.”

“This is a hypothetical question, not an offer, would you sleep with me?”

“It would depend on how many beers I had.”

It was not the worst answer she had ever received. Emma had been asking the question for over a year before that night, and had never felt the inexplicable reaction she felt to Robert’s response.

She tried to write him off that night, only to keep running into him in the coming weeks, and, despite any intentions she had to the contrary, feeling somehow drawn to him.

It had ended in the spring, and in such a way that Emma should have moved on by now.

Except for Owen and his prodding. Owen, and the fact that she still somehow struggled to let go.

I’m thinking in circles. I need to figure out, once and for all, if it was real or some product of my over active imagination.

She had a plan. She just needed a few days worth of classes to arm herself with the necessary information to perform the test.

Unpacking a few personal items, Emma placed a stuffed animal of her own next to the cat Nellie called “Road Kill.” Nutsy, a stuffed vulture from Disney’s Robin Hood, gazed at the squashed looking animal. Much better, she thought.