13 February, 2020

Not A Real Post

This isn't a real post. It's nothing.

It occurred to me as I poured my second vodka-tonic of the afternoon, that after my last six months - nephew's suicide, sister unexpectedly dropping dead, and... well, that's enough, I think! - I'm entitled to a little self-medication. Bring on the booze!

Aside from that (I wasn't exactly a teetotaler before), I'm emerging from the fog... exactly one month from the day my sister died. Dropped dead. I like that phrase, because it's true. And it conveys the surprise that accompanied her death.

After a month of numb, I feel like rejoining the blogosphere. 
I might revamp my blog though. Give it a focus. 
Personal bull-crap only takes me so far. 

Especially when the grim reaper takes over.
Two days ago, Brett was teaching and sent me a message from his office to check in with his brother. He'd received a message from someone who was an undertaker in the town they grew up in. My heart was in my throat. Dear God, NO! Brett's brother said nothing was up that he knew of, and that that guy who used to be an undertaker, was now a banker. Turns out, he just wanted to ask about the Coronavirus from someone in the region. (We're fine.)

The grim reaper is hovering over my life now, just laughing. 

Seriously though, I've finally reached out to my remaining family members, just checking in. I've decided to start writing letters. Not real letters, because I no longer trust international postal services, but through email. At least to my mom. So I reached out to her.

I reached out to my brother to see how he's doing as the eldest sibling.

I reached out to my living sister, who's not too chatty. I wonder how she's doing, because she's the one who has a son the same age as my nephew who took his own life last fall. Our sister's death weighed on her, as she took on the "big sister" mantle and rushed out to Michigan to help as soon as she heard.

I reached out to my niece, who just lost her mother, and is going bridal shopping this coming weekend. The heart just breaks. (My living sister was already going to help with dress-shopping. She has awesome fashion sense.)

Last week, I actually had quite a healing conversation unexpectedly. Brett and I were out and ran into another friend. I was able to simply talk about what happened and the events of our week in the US, and how it affected me and the others I saw. It was good. I need to write that stuff down.

In fact, I think I'll go find a spot to sit and write about it.
Told you this post was nothing.

26 January, 2020


There was no indication. She seemed fine.

I mean, okay, last month she found out that all the breathing trouble she'd been having wasn't just a form of bronchitis. She had a pulmonary embolism (fancy talk for a blood clot in her lung). 

Drugs - blood thinners, maybe? - took care of it and she was doing fine.

I checked in with her regularly.
Me: How you feeling today?
📞 *talk for about 15 minutes*

~ 2 weeks later
Me: Merry Christmas! How's your lung?
Her: Sleeping well and breathing better.

Somewhere in here, she had a check up with the cardiologist who told her she was fine and he'd see her in six months.
~ 1.5 weeks later
Me: Are you breathing okay?
Her: Absolutely, sleeping normal and not running out of breath with normal activities.

Five days after that last message, my sister, 53 years old, dropped dead of a heart attack.

That's all I got. I'm numb. What can I say?

She is the person I talk to the most from back home. She's the one who keeps tabs on my dad, when my mom insists everyone is "fine". She's the one who works with me to get gifts to people while I live 9,000 miles away.

I don't know what will happen next, when I get a burr up my butt to call her and vent about something, or just to laugh together. I just lost my touch-stone. I'm numb.

This is twice in five months that I've taken a surprise trip to the US for a funeral of a close family member. It's not fun. It's exhausting. I didn't even spend enough time to acclimate to Eastern Time (which means no jetlag on my return to Vietnam, so that was nice). 

We got back home 2 days ago, just before Lunar New Year. A fresh start.
The belief here is that you should get rid of the bad before the new year: clean house, cut hair, reconcile... whatever. Get rid of bad juju and start the new year fresh. 
That's what I'm hoping for. Death is a part of life, but if I can have a year without such close, heart-rending deaths, that would be great.

10 December, 2019

Hello World!

Well hi there, December!

I successfully completed Nanowrimo to the tune of over 65,000 words. My new novel has a middle and three possible endings, but no clearly defined start. So THAT's weird. But, I like it overall.

Regardless, I'm taking a break from writing to focus on getting the rest of life back in order.

It has been suggested - and I agree - that, since it is the holiday season and everyone's schedules are a little screwy, it will be okay if Fiction Friday sits by the wayside. I might do one, but I'm really working more on my health and language study than on writing for now.

[I drank way too much while sitting at home cranking out words, and I walked way too little. Fixing that now.]

I do not have typical holiday constraints that most do in the Western world, because I live in Vietnam. There are decorations available for sale, and businesses that cater to foreigners decorate a little. I hear about the occasional holiday shindig, but I will not participate.

Christmas has always been a very personal holiday for me, apart from going to church, so that will not change. The difference is I have to be deliberate to play Christmas music if I want to. 
We don't decorate.
We may do something with a friend or two. 
Maybe. Who knows. 

Today, the sun is out! It has been cloudy/rainy/windy for weeks, and this brief respite won't last. I shall don my shorts and take a walk into town, basking in the sunshine!

24 November, 2019

Fiction Friday?

Sorry. Nope.

The good news is, I have exceeded the 50,000 word goal prescribed by Nanowrimo.  The other news is that I am, maybe 2/3 of the way through with this tale.

We'll see where it goes, but each day I am writing more and more, and I'm very excited about this one. I'll explain a little bit after the month is past, probably.

Meanwhile, sorry to say no new fiction today.  Carry on!

15 November, 2019

Fiction Friday - Gone

image courtesy of D.B. McNicol

June burst into the house. “Mom?”

“In the kitchen, Honey!” Ruby had intended to get some food going but was just at that moment opening the refrigerator. She saw her deli sandwich from her uneaten lunch sitting there and was stalled. Her brain saw it and stopped. 

The deli sandwich was from a world of doubt. 

It was a Schrödinger’s Cat sandwich. 

At the moment she purchased it, her eldest daughter was missing, but there was no true knowledge about what happened. She was both reassigned, and not. Like Schrödinger’s dead and alive cat. If she hadn’t been reassigned, would it have been better? What then? What was the alternative - missing? Dead? Reassignment, the way the People handled it and May's counselor had explained it, was something between the two. 

Ruby had no real answers, no information about where the reassignment had taken May, so she was essentially missing. They assured her she wasn’t dead… at least not yet. Would anyone call them if she died at her new location? Probably not, because they didn’t acknowledge any true family connection.

“Mom. Mom?” Ruby came to herself, holding the fridge door open and staring at her sandwich. She didn't move. June was standing in the kitchen looking at her with concern on her face. “Are you okay?” Ruby was still paralyzed. June stepped closer. “You’re not.” She peered over her mother’s arm into the fridge, looking for the cause of the shock. Standing so close to her mother and seeing nothing shocking in the fridge, she gently pushed the door closed. “So I guess she’s gone? For good?”

June had never seen her mother this way. It worried her. She put an arm around her and escorted her to the kitchen table, pulling her through some invisible molasses that dragged at Ruby’s feet. Seated at the table, Ruby’s head collapsed onto her arms and she started weeping. Quietly. Like a whisper of sadness had entered her heart. June didn’t know what to do with the tears that were rising in her own eyes. She pulled a chair close to the woman who gave her birth, put an arm tenderly across her shoulders, and allowed tears to spill down her own cheeks. But she permitted no sound out of her mouth. This was not her turn to cry for her sister, yet she couldn’t stop the tears from falling. 

After a few moments of time standing still, June tried again. “Mom?” Her voice barely made a sound, she was so hesitant to interrupt her mother’s mourning.

“Gone,” was all Ruby could manage to say. 

June let another moment slip by while a crease deepened on her brow. “The farm?” For some reason she found herself mirroring her mother’s brevity. Her mother just shook her head, rolling it from side to side over her folded arms. Finally, raising her head as if awakening to a new world, she took June's face in her hands and, with tears streaking her cheeks, said, "You're my only daughter now."
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. Today's Fiction is part of my project for NaNoWriMo. As I write a new novel this month, I may be sharing occasional short scenes that may or may not end up in the finished product.

08 November, 2019

Fiction Friday - Ice Cream

image courtesy of D.B. McNichol

"This ice-cream is terrible!" Devon cried, shoveling another spoonful into his mouth.

"Then stop eating it," Jane said, without looking up from her book. This was Devon to a T. Complain, but do nothing about whatever he complained about.

"I mean," he licked at the spoon. "It doesn't even taste like strawberries!" He poked around in the bowl, seeking evidence of fruit. "Nothing. Not a berry, not a chunk of a berry, not a seed." He lifted another spoonful to his mouth. "Terrible."

"So stop eating it."

"I already paid for it."

"Mmm." She turned the next page, ignoring his temper tantrum. She might as well be dating a four-year-old.

"Well, what do you call it?" He challenged her.

Her eyes rose over the cover of her novel. "Hm? What, self-immolation?"



"When you don't get what you asked for?"

She half-closed her book, wondering where this was going. "I don't know. Dissatisfaction?" She smiled. "I'm pretty sure the Rolling Stones wrote about it."

"Ha-ha, no. There's a word." He paused. "What was that thing you said?" He was eating the ice-cream again.

"Devon, I get that you don't like the thing that was served to you. Send it back, or stop complaining. To keep eating something you don't like is only punishing yourself."

He wagged his face in hers, sarcastically, "I guess if I'm paying for it I can eat it."

Jane rolled her eyes and picked back up her book. "You could also send it back and ask for something else."

Devon scoffed. "And have someone spit in it. Right. You're so naive."

The book snapped shut. "I'm done. Devon, you do this All. The Time. I can't handle your whining for another second, and now you try to insult me? I'm out." She rose, collecting her jacket and purse from the back of her chair. "Don't call me."

"Wait, what?" Devon's voice was pleading. How could he not understand?

"You heard me. We're through." And with that, Jane left the cafe, her cup of tea still steaming on the table.

Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. Today's prompt was "Ice Cream" left by Liz A. of "Laws of Gravity" on last week's post (here).

01 November, 2019

Fiction Friday - Changing the Routine

image courtesy of D.B. McNicol

June tried not to keep a strict routine while she was on the road. Everything back home had been on a schedule, and Don, one of the Resistance members she had met with, told her that needed to change. 

Before she’d left home, her parents encouraged her to vary things she could. She still had to be certain places at certain times, and since her bus driver recognized her by name, it would be weird if she varied that schedule. But in between school and visiting Gina - the trips the bus driver knew - she changed things as much as she could. Study group met at a neighbor’s house, but after study group, she took a walk. A circuitous route home, different every time. 

She changed her bedtime and wake up time. She did her homework in the middle of the night, or at 3am when she woke up. She started trying to follow the moon as much as possible. It gave her a feeling of routine, even though daily she was wildly out of routine. The new moon was the hardest part because you can't see a new moon, but her moon clock kept her straight.  It turned out to be good practice for being on the road. 

Now she was in Colorado, and she was very glad she had started at home. No one knew her here; no one knew what was normal for her. She could meet up with her contact at strange times. She made a friend at the corner store, but always went there at a different time of the day or night, just so it wasn’t an “everyday” thing. June knew she wouldn’t be here long – just long enough. 

At moon-rise she ate what she called her breakfast. That could be any time of the day or night. She always had a yogurt drink for protein, and some kind of fruit or vegetable – cooked or raw – whatever was available where she was. Also a mug of hot coffee. Or tea. Someone had suggested she get used to tea as a substitute, another variable. So now, if moon-rise happened in the morning hours, she’d drink coffee. If in the afternoon, tea. One more way to give irregularity a semblance of regularity. 

On each major stage of the moon – full, new, and quarter – she would move. Whether that meant changing city, changing lodging, or if she was staying in the same house, she’d try to change to a different room or bed. Gotta keep changing, be unpredictable. The best would be to just “go missing” if she could manage it. How would she manage it? 

June borrowed whatever she could, and tried not to look the same two days in a row. Of course, facial recognition cameras would not be fooled, but at least if her makeup was different, and her hair either messy or neat, or wearing someone else’s coat one day, then the same shadow or shape wasn’t seen passing through the woods or town. 
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo, so I'm being lazy and sharing a short scene that may or may not end up in my November Novel.