19 May, 2019

Party 'Til It Hurts!

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of a cool hang out near the beach, and they were celebrating with free beer from their vendors! We know the musician scheduled for the first slot (1-4) so we went early, in the heat of the day. (Also figured that way they wouldn't run out of beer while we were there.)


When we got there, it turned out their wine vendor had also supplied a case of free wine for their "birthday". Yeeha! It was a drinking day, for sure. 

Sunny and 100°? Pour me another, thank you! 


A glass of wine, a few beers, more wine, more beer and some of the fries Brett had ordered.


The fries were amazing - or maybe I was that hungry. I hadn't eaten much that morning. Oops!

Now, I am not a social person by nature, but I was having fun! We saw several expats we know from the area, and met others who are traveling through. I had an engaging conversation with an Aussie biologist who was sporting multiple Star Wars tattoos.

This was still early afternoon. Party just picking up.
Our friend is on the guitar, wearing the balloon hat..

After a few hours of this (our friend's set had ended and some other musicians were playing, so it was certainly after 4:00) we were ready to leave. I'd been up and down several times, refilling, meeting people, but I guess I'd been sitting for a while by the time we left, because I felt the buzz when I stood up. 

You know how it goes. 
No problem. 

Brett was driving, all I had to do was sit on the back of the motorbike. Sitting was not a problem.

Balance was. 
We had parked across the street in the sand and gravel at the base of a bunch of palm trees. As I lifted one leg to climb on, my inner ear forgot to do its job and I collapsed in a heap on the gravel.

Yeah. 
That's why I'm not social. Bad things happen. I don't party much, but when I do I party 'til it hurts! Hangover, physical injury. Same story, different day.

P.S. Stories like this are why my blog is anonymous and family isn't invited. Years ago, on my first blog, my mom read a story like this and decided she didn't want to know that kind of thing about her daughter. So I now staunchly protect my family from the truth by not sharing it with them.

17 May, 2019

Fiction Friday - The Most Important Meal

Thanks to D.B. McNicol for the image! (blog)

“You’re up!” Bitsie was happy to have her old college roommate visiting, but it had been a surprise to see how lazy Amy had become in the intervening years. It was almost 11:00 a.m. already, and Bitsie had fixed breakfast for the family, done a load of laundry and picked up the playroom. She held off vacuuming while Amy was sleeping. 

The kids were off at a friends’ for the day. They didn’t like “Mommy’s friend”. Bitsie got it. She loved Amy. They had a tight bond that went back decades, but as a guest she was a nightmare. How did they live together for four years? Sleeping in wasn’t a problem, just a symptom of the bigger issue. 

Amy was pouring herself a cup of coffee, yawning and stretching in her shorty-shorts and a strappy camisole top that fluttered when she moved like it was trying to expose her perky breasts to everyone. Another good reason for the boys to be out of the house. At seven and ten, they might see more than Bitsie thought was good for them. 

“What’s for breakfast?” she asked through half-closed eyes barely visible above the mug she held in both hands. 

Ever the gracious hostess, Bitsie smiled and shrugged. “What would you like?” It was nearer lunchtime than breakfast, but she wasn’t going to quibble over terminology. 

Amy slouched against the countertop and angled her head toward the ceiling. “I kinda feel like pancakes today. Is that do-able?” She scrunched up her nose and looked at her ex-roommate as she asked, like she knew it was a big ask. 

“No problem,” Bitsie assured her. When the whole family was eating, she made pancakes from scratch, but this was going to be a quick meal for one, so she pulled the Bisquick out of the pantry and got to work. 

To her credit, Amy asked if she could help. “Plates in that cupboard, silverware, well, you know. Just help yourself to what you need. I ate hours ago with John and the boys.” Bitsie was focused on what she was doing, so didn’t notice Amy rooting around in the fridge and the pantry after handing over a plate and getting silverware. Just as she was lifting the first pancake off the griddle, she heard Amy ask, “Where’s the maple syrup?” 

“Umm…” Bitsie put the pancake on the plate and focused on the second one, nearly done. “I don’t think we have any.” 

“Wait – what?” The concept of no maple syrup seemed to baffle Amy. 

Bitsie checked the bottom of the second pancake and stacked it on top of the first one. With a sigh, she set the plate on the table where Amy had set down a fork, knife, her coffee mug, and the butter plate. Before pouring more batter onto the empty griddle, she went to the pantry. “Here.” She thrust two jars into Amy’s hands. 

Amy stared at the honey and the corn syrup, not understanding. “Uh…” 

“Sorry,” said Bitsie, pouring out more pancakes. Any uneaten pancakes would be a snack for later, but she had to make them now, while the griddle was hot. “We’re a honey house. I didn’t even think of it.” 

Amy set the jars next to her plate at the table, stuck a fork into the corn syrup, tasted it, and cringed. “U-yuch.” She did the same with the honey. Bitsie saw her double-dip out of the corner of her eye had cursed herself for having failed to give her the honey-dipper. Amy groaned a little. “Unnhh…” the noise sounded like a petulant child. Finally, she buttered the top pancake, and declared, “I guess I’ll just do without.” 

Amy had eaten about half of the top pancake – Bitsie was amused to see that she still ate her pancakes the way she did “back then”: top to bottom – and she rose from her seat. “I think I’ll just head into town for breakfast.” 

Bitsie smiled, lifting silver dollar pancakes into a tupperware container. It was obvious that Amy was heading off to get some pancakes with actual maple syrup. “Enjoy yourself. I have to get some things done here,” she said. She’d appreciate a little solitude while Amy got the food she wanted.

After Amy left, Bitsie added Maple Syrup to the grocery list on her phone. 

It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments. I hope you liked that story, based on the prompt "maple syrup" given during the A to Z Challenge by Anna Tan (of Deeply Shallow) on my "L" post (here). Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below!

If you choose to join in for Fiction Fridays, post a link to your story below in the comments. Next week's prompt is: Tree. If you join me next week, be sure to come back and share a link to your story!

15 May, 2019

Another Anniversary!

It's been a year since we moved from China to Vietnam. A year since we moved from 40°N latitude to 15°N. A year since we left the pollution of Beijing for the fresh ocean breezes of Central Vietnam. That means it's time to renew our visas.

The "Laos Border Run" (Or "Visa Run") is SO common among expats here that it is its own business. "Can't. I'm on a visa run that day" is a viable excuse to get out of a commitment. The most popular visa is good for 90 days only, so some people make this trip A LOT.

Fortunately, we live in the skinny central coastal region of an already pretty skinny country. As the crow flies, we could probably get to Laos in about an hour. 

Unfortunately, as soon as you move inland you hit mountains. So the actual trip goes up the coast to the best pass through the mountains. About five hours to the border. We left Hoi An at 5:00 a.m. on our motorbike, to meet the rest of our crew at a coffee shop in Da Nang by 6:00 a.m. on Saturday. We were early enough for me to get a good, strong, black cup of Vietnamese coffee before heading out at about 6:20. 
 
Sunrise as we ride up the coast to Da Nang.


Now THAT'S a coffee shop.

Some people just hop on a bus to Laos; some might rent a car (oh, to have the big bucks). We were in a 15-passenger van, with one Korean, one Mexican, a Thai restaurateur, a Kiwi, a South African, and a trio of Filipino women. And our Vietnamese visa liaison, who is AH-mazing. 
Driving through the inland mountains...
...where houses are still elevated to keep out wild animals.
 
In line for the Vietnam exit stamp.

I've never seen a stand-alone Duty Free shop. Reasonable prices!

A funny thing happened as we waited between steps. We had to show our faces at the Vietnam exit window, but our liaison then paired our stamped passports with the paperwork and began the entrance to Laos procedure. After a while, she came out of the office with a stack of processed passports and collected most of our group to go begin the process of re-entering Vietnam. She pointed out four of us and said, "Wait here. Don't worry, I'll come back for you," and left with the others. As they left, I looked around. Whose visas were still awaiting processing? The only four white people in our group! HAHAHAHAHA. We had a good laugh about that. 
Walking over the border to repeat the process: Exit Laos, Enter Vietnam.


The cows were barely on the Vietnam side. I bet they graze both countries.

All told, the border process took about an hour, to do all four steps for all 10 of us. Our visa person is the best! Then we ate lunch at the one and only restaurant at the border (talk about your captive audience) and headed back. We were back in Da Nang by 6:00pm. A very productive 12 hours! 


We began a tradition years ago, of trying at least one beer from every country we travel to. I was thrilled to see "BeerLao" in the refrigerator at the border restaurant. Only the South African had a beer at lunch with us. It wasn't bad. Similar to any other run-of-the-mill beer from any other country. (Those are 500ml cans.) 

This visa process is not cheap. Making an international move on our own, with no sponsorship of an employer who would handle that kind of thing or allow for it in the salary, doing it all independently, means that all of this falls to us. We are paving our own way, and it is a grand adventure. We often talk about the low cost of living here, but it comes at a price. We love it, we wouldn't change it, but it's a different world.

09 May, 2019

In Memoriam #FictionFriday

For this week's Fiction Friday tale, I deviated from the list of prompts I have leftover from AtoZ. Yesterday I learned that an old friend had died 19 months ago. We'd been out of touch, but I had sent a message a year ago, never knowing he was already dead. This story is my memorial to him. 

“I can’t believe he’s gone.” I was standing in a very formal, stuffy room in the funeral home, looking around at a bunch of strangers. I hadn’t seen Marcus in about three years, so his death was surreal to me. Aubrey was the first person here that I recognized, and we drew together like magnets. 

“No, I know. He’s so young. Just 43.” We were both within a few years of that. 

“Really smacks you in the face, huh?” 

A man with slicked-back hair who was standing nearby heard my comment and turned. “It really does. So, how did you know Marcus?” I guessed they had worked together. 

“Theatre.” Aubrey and I said in unison. We had both been in plays with Marcus. I first saw him when he and I were in two different plays at the same theatre. He was rehearsing on one stage, and I caught part of his “Hamlet” as I passed through to the green room to prepare for Forum. He was really good. I’d stopped to watch him rehearse for as long as I dared. Super-talented. Thinking of the loss of his talent made me sad. 

“Ah, theatre. I hear that a lot about him,” said Slick-hair guy. “I saw him on stage once or twice. Guess I missed a big part of his life by not knowing more about that.” 

Another woman stepped over. She looked like I should know her. “He was a lot more than just theatre, though.” She shook the guy’s hand. “Good to see you Tom.” They hugged briefly as I tried to place her face. I gave up.

“Hi, you look really familiar to me…” I offered her my hand. 

“Danielle. Yeah, we met once, at one of his –"

“Oscar parties!” I suddenly placed her. Danielle and Marcus had dated for at least two years while I knew him. They seemed the perfect couple. I’d always wondered what happened that broke them up, but it wasn’t the place to ask. 

“Oh, man, Marcus’ Oscar parties. Those were the best,” Aubrey was grinning. 

I thought a moment, then realized, “I don’t think I’ve been to any other kind of party at his place.” 

Danielle smiled weakly. His death must have hit her hard. “Well, Oscar night was his favorite. He did it to the Nines.” 

Smiling, Tom asked, “How do you do that? What was the party like?” Everyone tried to answer first. For a moment we had a pretty animated conversation, for a funeral. 

“Themed foods – one dish for each ‘Best Picture’ nominee.” 

“He always had a costume contest – based on characters from movies of that year.” 

“Everyone got a printed ballot to fill out. I think there were prizes for most correct guesses.” 

“He loved prizes.” 

“Prizes for everyone!” We all fell silent and looked over at the coffin. No more prizes for Marcus. 

There was a detail nagging my brain for some reason. “Didn’t he always wear a tux for his Oscar party? I haven’t been to the last few.” 

“He did.” Danielle paused. “I’m really glad they’re burying him in his tux. It’s how he would want to be remembered.” 

“You know,” Aubrey looked around at the quiet room, muted voices, muted flowers, muted tears. “We should throw an ‘Oscar party’ for Marcus’ life. This –“ She waved her hand around. “This isn’t him.” 

“Good idea, but when? I’m in town for the day, and head home in the morning.” 

“Tonight then.” 

Tom was curious. “How would it be an ‘Oscar party’?” 

Danielle got into the game. She was smart, and I could see her mind working it out. “He was about movies and live theatre. We could easily do foods related to that –"

“Popcorn, soda –" 

“Wine and cocktails say ‘live theatre’. Oh! And pastries!” I could stop by my favorite bakery. 

Danielle thought of all the things we had listed earlier. “Costumes?” She looked around at us. I grimaced. 

“It’s an idea, but I mean, I know I wouldn’t be able to pull anything together from what I brought along for overnight.” 

Tom snapped his fingers. “Instead of actual costumes, I’ve got a ton of masks from an office Mardi Gras party. We could use those. To make it about Marcus, maybe we could all wear a nametag that says what our costume would be if we were some aspect of his life. Like one of you guys could be a play or some stage thing, I might say I’m his laptop, from work. Like that.” 

We all nodded at this compromise, as the party took shape. 

Marcus was laid to rest in St. Peter’s Cemetery that afternoon. 

That night we poured one out on his behalf at an Oscar-style party he would have enjoyed. Word spread fast and his spirit was surrounded by old and new friends from work and the theatre. 

Today is #FictionFriday at Doesn't Speak Klingon. Every Friday I will post a new story. You are invited to join me! I still have some un-used prompts given during the AtoZ Challenge, which I will offer here in case you choose to join in. If you choose to, for next week, I offer the prompt "Maple Syrup". Please come back next Friday and share a link to your story in the comments here. (Even if you don't use the prompt.) 

If you don't want to try writing flash fiction, I still welcome prompts in the comments!

04 May, 2019

Happy Anniversary!

What is WRONG with me? I can't stop blogging!

This is a very important anniversary for Doesn't Speak Klingon, so I feel it's important to commemorate the day here.

Five years ago today, I married Brett of the Transformed Non-Conformist, and our entire relationship began through our blogs. (Making it a DSK event.) The "official" line is that our entire relationship began through HIS blog, since I am an anonymous blogger and my irl friends and family aren't supposed to know about this site.

SIDEBAR: Yes, I am a Star Wars fan. Yes, we were married on Star Wars Day (May the Fourth...) but honestly it was a coincidence.

I started outlining the history of us in the tab^^ "The Saga of..." but I desperately need to update it. (Since no one who was part of our early blogging existence is around anymore, you might really enjoy a visit to that tab.)

Five years married, met seven years ago, and we first found each other in the blogosphere some 6-7 months before that. What a ride.

Credit where credit is due, I found his blog by clicking through a comment he left at The Bloggess. You know her, right? Yeah. Don't discount the value of the comment section. A lot of our initial flirtation happened in the comment section of blogs we both followed. It was fun. It was light-hearted. He lived a thousand miles away so it was harmless! 
HAHahahahaha. God has a grand sense of humor.

We would never have met organically.

If we had ever lived in the same town (county, region) we would never have naturally crossed paths.
Our tastes are as different as night and day.
Our upbringings put us in WILDLY disparate social circles. 

But we have each been adopted into the other's life easily. People know when it's real. His dad shocked both Brett and his brother by greeting me with a hug on our first meeting. My mother allows Brett to do things at the dinner table that NO ONE else can do! ("Only when Uncle Brett is here..."

As Brett has said, I am the peanut butter to his mouse pad, and he's the hour hand to my work boots. We couldn't be a better fit.

He's sick today, so we're not doing anything. Well, I am. I'm running to the pharmacy and the market and forcing him to take drugs and eat appropriate stuff, but he's mostly just in agony. Which hurts me. The Me of 10 years ago would never have believed this.

We met late in life (38 and 39), married late in life, but it feels like the adventure is still getting started. After we were married and started going to the same doctor, we found out each other's medical issues. (LOL) We joke that we met just in time to fall apart together. 

But man, this falling apart together is fun. I think we're doing it right. 
Enjoy the life you have. 

Have you ever been surprised by someone doing something "out of character" or at least "non-stereotypical"? He surprises me every day. (Well okay, after 7 years, maybe every week.)

PLEASE, don't shut anyone out because they don't seem enough like you, or like "your type". You may be missing out on the best part of humanity.

03 May, 2019

Fiction Friday - Justine, II

Welcome to the Inaugural FICTION FRIDAY!

Every Friday I will post a new story. During AtoZ, these were each stand alone stories so you didn't need to return repeatedly to follow a plot. I intend to continue in that, but today I wanted to follow-up on a story I wrote during AtoZ. If you read my "Justine" post (from the "sealed envelope" prompt) then you know the first part. If you did not read it, check it out - here - and then read this second part.

There was much speculation at the end as to what happened next. Allow me to put the speculation to rest.

Justine, Part II

Jennifer gorged her brain on the letter in her hands. It filled two type-written pages. As the first wave of tears subsided, she took a sip of the tea sitting at her elbow and continued through the entire tragic tale. Her heart broke for her parents, for what they had been through, for their loss. Then, as an after effect, it broke for herself, for having no one to share the burden of this knowledge, and for what she both gained and lost in this one letter. She cried some more. 

When done reading, she placed the letter on the table beside her tea-cup and looked into the envelope, removing the rest of the documents and photos. The top photo showed a lovely family – her mom and dad, and a young girl. The envelope was full of baby pictures, birthday pictures, family vacations, all up to the child’s fifth birthday. One picture was labeled on the back “First day of first grade.” Then no more pictures. 

Newspaper articles had been clipped and stuck into the envelope. They told of a child abducted while walking home from school, a frantic police search ending inconclusively, and a year later, the body of a child found buried beneath a shed in someone’s backyard in Ohio. In the town her parents had apparently lived in. 

They had never spoken of their first child. They had never spoken of a life in Ohio. They had had no contact with anyone from those days. After Justine’s body had been found, they struggled to get their bearings on life, according to the letter. The loss took a heavy toll on both of her parents. When Cathy became pregnant again, they moved. To eastern Pennsylvania. To a new start. To try to create a better, safer, life for the new child. 

In the letter, her father wrote of Cathy’s long psychological struggle. After Jennifer’s birth, the postpartum depression was an ordeal for the whole family. How could she find joy in a new baby when she had failed her first child as a mother? 

Jennifer was a year old, the letter said, when her parents closed the book on Justine. They collected all the photos, all the news articles that had tortured them, placed them in an envelope, and hid them in a box in their closet. It was the only thing her father could think to do, to remove the daily reminder of their haunted past. Cathy returned to the envelope at times - on Justine’s birthday, or when Jennifer hit milestones as she grew up. 

They loved Jennifer with all their hearts, not as a replacement for Justine, but as their own child. Even so, it wasn’t until after Jennifer’s mother died that her dad sealed up the envelope for good.

Jennifer had had a sister. 

She sifted through the pictures again, seeing the joy in her sister’s young face, noticing the resemblance to her own face. Selecting a picture of her parents with Justine in a park, Jennifer rose, and crossed to her fireplace. The picture of her parents that sat on the mantel was the same size. She opened the back of the frame and put this picture of her family in its place. Justine would not be forgotten.

02 May, 2019

Back to Life, Back to Reality!

Whew! We made it! I successfully completed the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and you, if you chose to, participated and helped me write a new story every day by suggesting a word or a theme or a place.

I had so much fun, I'm initiating Fiction Fridays here at Doesn't Speak Klingon. A new story every week, starting with some of the prompts I was given during AtoZ but didn't use. I hope you'll all enjoy it as a break from the humdrum of my world.

Meanwhile, it's back to the grind.
The grind of writing. When April started, I was in the throes of a re-write of my Work In Progress. I have completed that re-write, printed it out, and finally the other day I sat down to read it with my colored pens in hand to make notes.

It's terrible. 

I remember when I sat down with a manuscript of the first draft, I realized how much my writing had improved since writing that draft! So I set about to improve it.

It's still awful. 
I bored myself within the first three pages. 
WHAT THE HELL, ME?

Sorry, this is generally a curse-free blog, but seriously. I deserve a good tongue-lashing.

I know, I know. Growing pains and blah blah blah. 
I know I can write, and I do think I have an interesting story here. 

I've read tons about typical pitfalls that new authors land in, and I have avoided most of the glaring ones. Grammatically, I am REALLY skilled. I mean, that was my job before. That's my degree. I just need to give the book a boost.

Maybe I need to do the "Cut the first scene - Cut the last scene" and see if it reads better. What do you think? If I was bored in the first three pages...

If you are writing, or teach writing, or involved with the writing universe, I welcome any and all suggestions!