THE JOB THAT RUINED ME FOR WORK

I had been looking for a job that would let me flex my hours so Garry and I could spend time together. It was difficult. He worked terribly long hours, gone before the sun came up and not home until it was dark again. Ironic. Most people think reporters work “a few minutes a day” because that’s all they see on the news. Not true.

To get those few minutes of finished news on the air, they drag themselves through every kind of weather — blizzards, hurricanes, bitter cold, unbearable heat — and endless traffic, from one end of the state to another. They are often on the scene of the worst imaginable horrors before the first responders arrive.

And they have to look good while doing it. Without a break for lunch or even a bathroom. Someone once commented it’s like being in the army, just without the uniform.

His days off were Wednesday and Thursday. That meant we had barely a few minutes after work to meet and greet each other. Everything else waited until vacation. By which time Garry was exhausted and needed two weeks of sleep to recuperate so he could go back to work again.

The good part of his job? He loved it. I think everyone in the news business is an adrenaline junkie. The thrill of getting the scoop, tracking down the story, coming up with a different angle on something every other station is also doing and sometimes, finding new information to crack open a case. Garry loved his work. He didn’t love every single moment of it, but he loved most of it, loved knowing he could make a difference, shine a light into a dark corner and fix something that had been broken.

When I married him, I married his work. No whining about him missing all the family events, never being around to help with the housework or the shopping. I knew from the get-go I’d be keeping his dinner warm for whenever he got home. That was the deal we made. We didn’t spell it out, but we both understood. We were social equals, but his job came first. Period. End of story.

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One day, I got a call. They were looking for a technical writer to put together documents for their various computer programs. Aimed at users, this was entry-level stuff. For me, used to working on really complex software, it was a piece of cake — with icing.

I went to the interview. Bad part? It was a part-time job, paying (25 years ago money was worth more) a retainer. I would be paid for 20 hours a week at $25 an hour, less than my usual rate. But it was a retainer and all you freelancers out there know that there’s nothing better than a retainer. I might work all 20 hours, or no hours, depending on what was going on. I would not be required to go into the office. At all. Ever. I would work from home or wherever I and my computer might be, including the back porch of the house on the Vineyard.

It was half the money I’d been earning, but I could take free-lance gigs to make up the gap.

I took the job. This was a job from Heaven. When I accepted it, I figured I’d be working most of the 20 hours. It turned out … there wasn’t any work. Or almost none. Weeks and months went by. I would call to find out if maybe they’d forgotten me and didn’t they want me to do something? No, everything is fine, they said. No problem. We’ll call you. Once in long while, they did call and for a few days, I worked. It was almost a relief. Even though it was writing I could do in my sleep.

For a couple of years, I got a steady paycheck for which I did essentially nothing. I did a bit of free-lance stuff here and there and was obliged to bring a laptop with me when I went on vacation, just in case. It was the dream job: getting paid and not having to work for it.

One day, I picked up the Boston Globe and discovered the division for which I worked was being disbanded. Apparently someone noticed that no one in the department actually worked. So I called my boss, Anita.

“Anita,” I said. “I was reading the Globe this morning. Does this mean I have to look for a new job?”

“Yes,” she sighed. “We all do. But you’ve got three or four months, so you should be fine.”

I couldn’t believe it. They were taking away the best job in the world. I was going to have to go to work, show up at an office. Stay there all day. What a horrible thought!

I went job hunting and found what would turn out to the best real job I ever had. The best colleagues and absolutely the greatest boss. But it was work. I had to think (a lot), learn (like getting a masters in advanced object linking in a couple of weeks), synthesize, design documents, write them. Back to meeting deadlines. My 2-year paid vacation had not eliminated my skills. I was as good as ever. But.

Never again would I feel comfortable in a 9 to 5 job although I worked them for twenty more years. I got terribly restless. Just having to be in one place for all those hours made me itchy. I got my work done and done well, but I was spoiled. No regular job felt right.

I was ruined for the real world.

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: FLORAL LAYERS

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Flowers. In a garden on Main Street. The middle of town towards the end of July. Bright yellow and the village forms the background layer behind the lilies.

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Usually, I shoot flowers, intentionally dropping the background into bokeh. Or just shoot tight enough to make everything other than the flowers disappear. This time, I wanted the context, the layering.

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EVIL DREAMS

There is a herd of elephants in my living room. Sometimes there are so many elephants lolling about that there is hardly enough room for me to settle down, have a cup of tea and watch the Red Sox on a warm summer evening.

They are the elephants of my childhood. Snidely grinning elephants. Scary elephants. One pachyderm carries a belt. I know he’s going to beat me. Others smile sweetly. I don’t to trust those smiles. These are not real. The smiles are camouflage to hide an evil so deep it makes my blood turn watery.

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For most of my life I had a recurring nightmare. I would be sitting in the middle of some particularly bucolic setting, a field, meadow or alongside babbling brook. The day would be perfect. Blue sky, puffy clouds and sunshine. I was happy. Content to sit and watch the birds, bunnies or butterflies. In the midst of this bucolic setting, the cute little creatures would transform into flying or crawling little monsters that would swarm over me. I’d wake up screaming, drenched in sweat.

The monsters were never the same twice. Sometimes they looked like spiders or snakes; other times, they resembled nothing in the real world. Perhaps they could have emerged from the primordial ooze or a sleazy horror movie.

Always there were many monsters attacking simultaneously. Escape was impossible and in any case, I was paralyzed with terror unable to run, barely able to scream. Only waking ended the attack. But not the fear. The fear stuck around.

The dream sometimes went away for a few months, but inevitably returned. And so it continued for more than forty years. Finally — a lifetime later — all the little monsters came together and formed a face. My father.

My eyes snapped open. I was fully awake and understood.

I never had the dream again.

THE RETURN BY MELISSA DOUTHIT – PART 3 OF THE RAIE’CHAELIA TRILOGY

96-THE RETURN MELISSA DOUTHITTAfter a fall  from the Maaldan cliff (for anyone else, it would have been fatal), Chalice rejoins her friends. The time has come to finish what they began. Chalice is coming into her full power, her potential is being realized. The degree of power she is able to summon is awe-inspiring. Terrifying not only to her enemies, but to herself and her friends.

She is young and angry, has little experience of life. Not enough to guide the decisions she needs to make — on which the fate of the world depends. Her powers exceed her control. Her temper is hot, abrupt. She makes mistakes, finds it hard to stick to plans. Or think clearly if her emotions are involved. Worse, she cannot (literally) tell Jeremiah — or anyone — the whole truth. Jeremiah has his own secrets. Many secrets, many people.

Now that she reunited with her friends on a journey that takes them to the coastline of Ielieria. Led by Chalice, who has gained knowledge from her father by traveling into a strange dream world, they sail the seas. There will be war. They need to prepare.

And then, there’s her father. What will happen when she returns him to the throne? What he learns some of the things she has done, by mistake and on purpose?

Meanwhile, Lucca hates Chalice with his entire being. His obsession to find and destroy her is his one vulnerability. As he searches the kingdom for Chalice,  she must lure him out, ultimately let him find her. It’s a potentially lethal game of cat and mouse. The prize? Everyone’s freedom and the future of the realm … not to mention life and death for the rebels and their sympathizers.

This is a fun book and a good read. Lots of action — magic, young love, battles and war — and one amazing horse. Don’t underestimate the horse; she’s a major character. If you love horses (I do), it’s a great addition. There’s a lot to like, memorable and sympathetic heroes and heroines. Plus some very sinister bad guys.

This is a young book, aimed at a youthful audience though suitable for adults too. Chalice and all her compatriots are kids and act like it, so you can’t blame them for doing stuff kids do. If you think it’s unrealistic, it’s not. Throughout history, the very young have led armies. Princes in their teens, generals barely ready to shave. Only in recent centuries as life expectancy increased has leadership transferred to older generations.

I read the entire trilogy from the first through this, the third and final book, without a break. For all practical purposes, it’s one book broken into three parts … like Lord of the Rings. I don’t suggest reading this as a stand-alone. If you haven’t read the first two books, read them before you read this.

Prequels

The Journey Begins: A novella prequel. Chalice’ story before the first book begins.
The Vanishing: A novella prequel. Jeremiah’s story before the first book begins.

The Trilogy

The Raie’Chaelia: Book One.
The Firelight of Maalda: Book Two.
The Return: Book Three.

Available from Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

AN ILLUSION OF TIME

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At the beginning of  November, Daylight Savings Time ended and we had to turn the clocks back. Everything has a clock in it these days. The computers adjust themselves, as do the cable boxes. All the other clocks have to be changed. Everything went well until Garry tried to re-hang the clock in his bathroom. Oops. It was just a cheap plastic clock and I don’t even remember when we got it. Maybe 12 years ago? 13? So it didn’t owe us anything.

Garry missed his clock. He’s no longer on a tight schedule and he doesn’t really need a wall clock in the bathroom any more. But he found each time he was in the bathroom, he would look at the wall and there was no clock. He admitted it was stupid, but … he wanted a clock. Because there’s supposed to be a clock there.

Meanwhile, the clock in the kitchen hadn’t told time in more than a year. Time for a replacement. I told Garry not to worry, I’d get a couple of inexpensive wall clocks on Amazon. Which I did. Two days later, our two new all-plastic analog clocks arrived. The 8-1/2 inch model for the bathroom was exactly the right size. Readable without my glasses (this is important). The 14 inch model for the kitchen? Even better.

I put batteries in them and my tall son hung them. When you’re tall, so many things are easy.

The one in the kitchen is nice. Keeps time. You’d think that’s important for a clock, wouldn’t you?

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The one for Garry’s bathroom started ticking the moment the battery was inserted. It fits that spot over the door where nothing else fits and Garry felt much better. When he looked at the wall, there was a clock. Harmony and balance was restored.

Until the following morning when the clock in the bathroom stopped. It didn’t slow down. Just stopped. Every now and then, it starts running again. Then stops, so the time on it isn’t the same always, but it’s never correct either. I could have returned it but given how cheap it was, it hardly seemed worth the effort. I suggested to Garry that it is telling time, just not for this dimension. Maybe for a parallel reality?

“Don’t worry,” I told Garry. “Next time we’re out and about, we’ll pop over to Walmart and get you a clock.”

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That was a couple of days ago. Tonight Garry realized he doesn’t need a new clock. It doesn’t matter whether the clock tells time. It fills the space. When he looks at the wall, there’s a clock where a clock belongs. If he actually wants to know what time it is, he can look at his watch.

Sometimes it really is the thought that counts.

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