Scarlet Letters

The not-so-private thoughts and rants of Elizabeth Donald, journalist/author and founder of the Literary Underworld.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Day-off Triathlon

Once a month, I get this one day. A weekday when I don't have to work, because I'm working during the weekend. It's a day where I have no work and Boy is at school and I can do whatever I want.

I used to make sure to do something fun on That Day, either going hiking up on the bluffs or to the Botanical Gardens, a massage, photography excursion or retail therapy or just some quality coffeehouse time... something fun, a mental health day.

Yeah. That doesn't happen anymore.

• Awaken to phone call from new client whose stuff I'll be selling online on consignment. This is my latest part-time gig, trying to raise money for Ze Wedding. I've been doing it for charity for quite some time; now I'm also doing it for money. Because if we don't find a way to raise more money soon, we have to postpone our wedding. Do not want.

• Receive email that someone wants to buy our old washer. Immediately assist Jimmy with removal of our back door, so we will be able to remove said washer from the house.

• Mad-dash shower.

• Church. Rehearse Sunday's duet with my fellow EpiscoSister, Diane. This is necessary because I missed rehearsal Thursday (again) due to being scheduled for work. And I'll miss the next two Thursdays as well. I am the Bad Choir Member. *shameface*

• Pop down to the undercroft to measure a coffee table I'm trying to sell for the church. Try not to look at 10,000 (!!!) books lying in wait for next weekend's Mayfest book sale. Booooooks...

• Back up to Henry's office, where he lets me insert a Relay for Life appeal in the parish newsletter even though I missed the deadline (again).

• Dash back to the house, grabbing Chinese on the way. Meet Katie, Queen of Snark, for lunch. Katie takes pictures of my ailing gardenia and ignores my flourishing rosebush, because she's mean.

• Find out Washer Person is not coming until Sunday. Debate what to do about door. Receive bid on old microwave. Check other ads and sales sites. Seriously, a brand-new 1GB RAM stick does not sell??

• Upstairs to the office, ostensibly to work on tomorrow's ethics speech, which needs serious updating thanks to Boston. I will be speaking at the SPJ Regional Conference in St. Louis on the practical applications of journalism ethics, which I've done many times before, and it's really important work that I've been intending to get to all month. But I make the classic error of checking the damn mailbox...

• Man needs doctor's appointment to satisfy life insurance company that he's not about to drop dead. Man has not made appointment. Call for appointment myself. Text Man to inform him. Tap fingers impatiently. Man assents to proving he's not going to die.

• Solicit donor for annual glow-stuff sale supplies for Relay for Life. Consider possible raffle prizes for our on-site raffle. Wish for another month to prepare.

• Attempt to upload documents to Insurance of the Damned to verify (for the fourth freaking time) that the Awesome Stepkids really do get to stay on our policy. Once again the site will not take my documents. End up on long phone call to apologetic agent at Insurance of the Damned, who eventually discovers that their site won't take documents from any browser except Internet Explorer. Which no one uses. Determine that faxing is necessary. Minus: Do not have fax capability, as office phone line does not work.

• Inform Boy of his responsibilities for the evening and remind him that playing ball in the back yard is acceptable; doing so barefoot in pajama pants is not. Does every teenage boy do these things?

• Go to bank; withdraw cash for weekend necessities.

• Go to local copy shop and fax documents to Insurance of the Damned, with receipt and verification sheet to prove that I did it. Again. For the fourth time. Man is still my fiance, we still live together and the Awesome Stepkids are still ours. Place in file in case we end up having to sue these bastards.

• Go to Pottery Hollow and pick up the stuff we painted at the Relay fundraiser last week, along with a check from the shop for the Relay team. Yay, progress! Sort of.

• Go to Walgreens and drop off Boy's prescription refill, which I have to pick up in person at the doctor's office and sign for it, then deliver it in person to the pharmacy and show my driver's license, because they like to make it as difficult as possible to get ADHD meds filled.

• Escape to coffeehouse, where I am supposed to be working on my book, and instead I will be working Boston into the ethics presentation. Procrastinate by writing bitchy blog entry about My Day Off first.

Yeah. April-May is the craziest time of my year, putting the holidays to shame. Everything comes due at once. Scout Court of Honor, SPJ board meeting, Boy's spring orchestra concert, college newspaper board meeting, Mayfest, the burgeoning Relay (gulp not ready) and final team captains' meeting, Boy's eighth-grade celebration (graduation?), a bridal shop visit I will probably postpone, our biannual yard sale, another author speak-n-sign and then we're off into the relative sanity of summer...

There was something running about online a few weeks ago, about "stop glorifying busy." It posited that people take on too much because it's "cool" to be crazy-busy. I don't know about that. I kind of miss being able to go for a hike because I didn't have anything else to do that day. And yes, I'd like to jettison some of my activities instead of taking on more. I'd certainly like to cut back on the work part too, since adding all my part-time gigs to the Daye Jobbe pretty much makes 2.5 full-time jobs, but there's this whole "rent" thing, plus the wedding.

But it's also pretty damn selfish to say no because well, I just need my manicure time. I pick what I do, and duck when I can because it's not fair to a group to say, "Sure, I can do it!" and not be able to follow through. Sure, I'd love to jettison a few things... but I also want them to keep happening. And you can't say, "This is a really good thing and it should happen!" if you're not willing to pick up the slack and help. The Relay team will bust through $20,000 this year for the American Cancer Society. I like to think that's making a real difference. The SPJ scholarship will help some future journalist go to college.

And a whole lot of other stuff is simply part of being a parent, which is an ever-increasing cycle of BUSY that yes, drives you insane, but also lets your kid have the wonderful, exciting experiences and explorations that make up his memories. You can't always be the parent who does the drop-n-dash; sometimes you gotta hand out the cookies, too.

I'll say this: once Boy graduates from high school, I think about half my Busy is going to vanish. And I might get a day off again. In the meantime, I've got this speech...

Monday, April 22, 2013

I am angry.

I am the Relay for Life team captain for St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, and I do this because each and every one of us has known someone with cancer. Some of our team members have even fought the battle themselves. When you sit down and think about it, is there anyone who DOESN'T know a cancer survivor, or has lost someone to this disease?

I watch as this disease carries off brilliant artists, actors, musicians and writers without pause. I see grieving families and I know that none of it has to happen. When my team began walking, one of us was a cancer survivor. Eight years later nearly half of us are survivors. What does that tell us about the pervasiveness of this disease?

Some time ago, I lost a dear friend after ten years of battle against the cancer that invaded her, and she was my age. She deserved more life than she got. It isn't right, or fair. I miss her, and I wish she had more time with us.

Cancer is universal. It knows no boundaries. It respects no race, creed, religion or background. Disease has no preference. But it CAN be beaten.

Please consider making a donation to me, or even joining my team. If you can't help out, please spread the word; every little bit helps. You are helping deliver the hope that future generations will not have to endure cancer threatening the lives of their friends and family. You have the power to fight back. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

For the love of Edward R. Murrow...

...I beg you all to stop it.

• The Sandy Hook principal's photo is not being re-used in Boston. She really died at Sandy Hook and you're looking at photo manipulation.

• The young man bent over the woman's body in Boston was not mourning his dead fiancee. They were strangers and he was comforting the victim.

• There was no little girl running in honor of Sandy Hook killed in the blast; the Boston Marathon does not allow children to run.

• Race organizers are not donating money for retweets; that was some cretin's idea of a prank.

• The Facebook page in memory of the bombing was not created in advance of the blasts.

• The so-called "fake" victim who lost his legs in Afghanistan is not the same person as the man seen wheeled to an ambulance with severe leg trauma. They are two different men, and both have lost their legs, and neither of them is "fake."

• They didn't shut down the cell network; there is no cell "kill switch." Systems were, instead, overwhelmed by massive numbers of people calling.

• The TV show Family Guy did not eerily predict the bombing; that clip has been doctored because some asshole thought it was funny.

• The Saudi national injured in the blast had no connection to it except being one of its victims. He is a scholarship student here on a legitimate visa, described as a "quiet geek" who was hospitalized while police grilled his friends and searched his apartment. His only crime, it turns out, is having a Middle Eastern name.

• There is no "photo of the suspect!" that has been confirmed by anyone in authority. That picture of the man in the turban kneeling in a park has nothing to do with anything. Nor does the picture of the man on the roof or the guy in the red ski mask. Some of those photos are coincidental and others are from entirely different events.

• Yes, letters tainted with ricin were sent to President Obama and, weirdly, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. They appear to be postmarked Memphis and there may have been other letters found as well. There is NO evidence that they are connected to Boston, and no evidence that they aren't, either. It could also be a false positive; that happens about once a year.

• As of the moment of this writing, no one is in custody. Hopefully that will change soon.

For all of you complaining and screaming about what a terrible job the press is doing - and trust me, I've had plenty of reason to yell at CNN this week - you're doing an even worse job double-checking before you repost something. Not so easy on the fact-checking? At least you've at least got Snopes et al working for you, pointing out the rampant piles of bullshit floating around this week.

For the newsfolks, here's a hint: If your broadcast consists entirely of reporters interviewing each other, you're just screwing around because you don't have anything real to report. If your "big scoop" consists of an unnamed source "close to the investigation," you don't have anything real to report. Now would be a good time to stick to a policy of "no unidentified sources." I know, it's like candy to you, but there's a reason we don't fucking use them: if they won't put their name on the line, you can't be sure they know dick-all about the subject. Be right. Then be first. It's really not that hard; many of us have been practicing this policy for a long damn time and it seems to be working out pretty well.

But I'm not letting the rest of you off the hook, people. If it sounds too crazy to be true, it probably is. If it requires believing in a vast unnameable conspiracy involving thousands of law enforcement personnel lying their asses off more than hunting for the bomber(s), it's probably bullshit. In fact, let's all adopt that policy, shall we? For now, whatever it is, it's probably bullshit. And yes, it does hurt when you repost it on your page or retweet it with "isn't this crazy?"

So, for the sake of all that is holy and decent in this great land of ours, for the time being... CAN IT. Stow the finger-pointing and smartass memes and brilliant conjecture and wild-ass conspiracy theories; there will be plenty of time for us all to be assholes to each other later. For now, let law enforcement do their damn jobs, let the press do theirs (stern looks), choose your sources wisely and stop re-posting crap without checking it first.

And that goes for you too, CNN.

Friday, April 12, 2013

In which the author has the mentality of a twelve-year-old

SCENE: Eville Writers write-in. Jimmy is, as usual, struggling with Microsoft Word.

JIMMY: *frowns at laptop*
ME: What's wrong?
JIMMY: Can you help me get my thing back up?
ME: ...
ME: *snorfle*
OTHER WRITERS: *knowing glances*
ME: *cover mouth with hands*
JIMMY: *looks at me* Oh.... hush. You know what I mean.
ME: Rarely. *smirk*
JIMMY: The... thing. With the fonts.
ME: The formatting palette. Look under "View."
JIMMY: Thank you. *taptaptap*
ME: *smirk*
JIMMY: (under his breath) Devil woman.

What I should have said: "Honey, I can help you, but we want to be allowed back here someday..."

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

In order to understand this, you should know that our kitchen has a portable dishwasher that has a short. If you hook it up, it will shock you. We do not use it, though it makes for nice countertop space until we can afford a new cabinet.

You should also know that we have a great division of labor in the house. I cook the food. Man washes the dishes. Boy dries and puts them away. Rinse, repeat.

ME: Okay, time for dishes!
BOY: *deepsigh*
ME: Oh please.
BOY: We should use the dishwasher.
ME: No way. It'll kill you dead.
BOY: It'd be worth it!
ME: What, to die?
BOY: Yes!
ME: *eyeroll*
MAN: It doesn't work anyway. I tried.
ME: Are you kidding?
MAN: When we first moved in!
ME: Thank God. Because the electrician was so horrified by that thing he wanted to get rid of it just so we wouldn't sue him if we used it and we died.
BOY: I hate the dishes.
ME: Besides, we have a dishwasher. And he's cute. *wolf whistle*
MAN: *eyeroll*
BOY: Let's get a new one. How much do they cost?
ME: $500.
BOY: Raise it!
ME: You raise it! I'm still working on your summer school!
BOY: But... but...
ME: You forget, Spawn, that I washed the dishes for your entire life before you reached your present height. All those years, doing the dishes by myself. You owe me big time.
BOY: We had a dishwasher then!
ME: *momrant* Oh no, boychild. We did not have a dishwasher when you were a toddler and took a bowl of Spaghetti-O's and dumped them on your head like a hat! We did not have a dishwasher when you had your first birthday and your first cupcake and you mashed it into your face like the Alien facehugger!
BOY: *giggles*
ME: We did not have a dishwasher when I was cleaning your baby bottles and had to use this little tiny brush to clean the milk out of the bottle nipples!
MAN: I remember those things.
ME: We did not have a dishwasher when I was boiling them on the stove to disinfect them! We did not have a dishwasher for any of those things, so bite me!
BOY: *giggling madly* You're a parent, so you should be able to -
ME: Run, now, before you finish that sentence.
BOY: *scrams into kitchen*