August 27, 2011

The Birth of Ephemily

So there I was, sitting in a scalding hot bubble bath, reading Jim Butcher's Ghost Story and simultaneously thinking about shoes.  (I multitask for a living, for me this sort of thing is normal.)  It occurred to me that I've come a long way from the unhappily married tomboy with no discernible gender and an "I give up" haircut from a few years ago.  That thought was what led me down the path to Ephemily's origins. 

The year was 2009, and a great convergence was upon me.  At the tail end of an emotionless marriage, trying to figure out a way to afford a divorce (debt consolidation plan or bankruptcy?  Turns out, the chapter 13 would have actually been the better option.  Live an learn, right?)  My ex, his girlfriend and I were all sharing the same roof, and I was finally starting to live for myself for the first time in, oh, ever.  (My opinion about marriage, and relationships in general is that it's more about Us than Me.  Thing is, that only works if both parties play out of the same rulebook.)

July 1, 2011

The Short, Happy Life of Charlie the Dog

Sam and his nearest and dearest were enjoying a balmy Saturday night in the yard, lighting fireworks, enjoying time together as the sun's last rays slipped away.  Charlie, I can only imagine, was full of boundless energy, smiling, and running his people ragged with that puppy spirit that made him such a treasure to begin with.  This 1 year old puppy was a rescue dog, adopted from the humane society and given a loving new home.  I imagine he had a yard to play in, squirrels to chase, a rope to play tug of war with, and a warm soft bed to sleep in at night.  It wouldn't surprise me to learn that Charlie snuck food from the table, and when caught, used those huge puppy dog eyes to avoid a scolding.  (Those same eyes would work on me.)  On cold evenings, I can imagine him curling up on his person's feet, providing warmth and company.  I bet any windows facing the front door are covered with nose prints, and his talent was in getting someone to pay attention to him, especially when they're feeling down.  Charlie was full of vim and vigor, bursting at the seams and in a hurry to live his life.

I knew Charlie in life for about 3 seconds.  In that time, and the gut-wrenching hour afterwards, I came to learn how special he was.  My evening had been previously spent sharing dinner with one of my closest confidants at a local pizza place.  We'd spent about an hour or so talking Big Ideas, laughing at absurd things, and generally enjoying each others company.  We were headed home on a major street in town.  It's two lanes each way, and I was all the way to the right.  My friend and I were talking, the music was on low, and the windows were down so we could enjoy the night.

Twilight had set in, and it was somewhere between 9:30 and 9:45 PM when Charlie, in all his enthusiasm, darted out from the neighborhood  into traffic.  Like a greyhound after a mechanical rabbit, he was a streak in the shadows.  I didn't see him till he was in front of my right headlight.  Before my friend could finish exclaiming "Look out!" I had jammed my feet on the brake and clutch.  I wasn't able to avoid Charlie, and his body collided with my hood and grill.  I was able to stop quickly though, only pushing him about 9 inches across the pavement.  However, because my car is so small (It's a MINI Cooper) and low to the ground, I wasn't able to clear him, and I'm afraid the undercarriage may have further injured him.  I will never know if the initial impact, or my trying to get the car off of his body was what caused his death.  For his sake, I hope it was the first strike.  In my dreams, I tell myself that it was fast.  Nobody deserves the pain of a lingering death. 

Not knowing what the damage was, I pulled my car off the road and into the closest parking lot.  I didn't know if I'd get it started again when it came time, and I didn't want to tie up a major street.  After getting out and inspecting the front end for damage (there was what seemed to be very little, and at the time, assumed it to be drivable.) I walked back down the block to the scene of the accident. 

By this time, people had gathered around, and who I first assumed to be the owner was standing there, looking mournfully at the body of his pet in the road.  I was shaken, but neither of us were hurt.  The impact wasn't enough to set off the air bags (which is good since I don't much care to look like I went a round with Mike Tyson.  That, and there's no way I could have driven away since when they deploy, it disables the car.) and no other cars were involved.  In terms of people damage, it was minor.  In terms of emotional damage to Charlie's humans, I have no words.

I spoke briefly with the older man who was first on scene.  I apologized to him, saying I was so sorry to have hit his dog.  (I've never hit an animal before.  The bird who kamikase'd into my windshield at 17 doesn't count.)  He told me there was nothing I could have done.  He just bolted from their yard and took off full tilt.  When he heard the thump and the brakes, he knew he'd been hit.  I don't remember when it was that Sam and what I took to be his girlfriend arrived.  I could tell he was devastated.  I wanted to comfort him, tell him that I was so sorry about his dog.  I was afraid I'd be the evil driver who murdered their dog, but did it anyway. 

Sometime in the next hour, I made several calls.  The time is awash in lights, reports, and sadness.  The first was to 911.  They sent a cruiser with two of the area's finest to take a report.  They also sent the Humane Society to collect the remains and discuss the next steps for the owners.  I called my insurance agency to report the loss so I could get the claim started.  My companion inspected the damage to my car to see if I could drive it away.  Perhaps it seems cold, thinking about the authorities, insurance, and how I was going to get home in that moment, but someone had to do it.

While we waited, there were tears, hugs, and apologies.  I hugged Sam and his girlfriend, told them that I was so sorry for their loss.  Mine is only in time and money.  Theirs is in companionship and love.  Mine is nothing in the face of that.  They told me that I shouldn't blame myself, that Charlie was just wild and in the moment, and there was nothing that could have been done differently.  I was not to blame. There was hugging, crying, and the first stages of mourning.  Sam stayed with his dog, hand on his head, grieving the loss of his best 4 legged friend.  My heart broke for him.  That kind of love is rare, and to see it in person in such a time of loss can really be hard to watch.  I may have no maternal instincts, but I wanted to comfort this stranger in front of me anyway I could.

Not knowing that the police would exchange our information for us, I handed the older gentleman one of my calling cards with my contact information on it telling him to please send me his name and contact info because I would like to make a donation in Sam and Charlie's name to the Humane Society.  It might not be much, but I want to do something since, without my being on the road, the night might have ended differently. 

In the end, I don't know what happened to Charlie.  When I left to go look at the car a little more, the animal rescue officers were discussing cremation and had Charlie wrapped in a blanket and moved to the side of the road.  I hope he was afforded a dignified end.

Donovan, my Mellow Yellow MINI Cooper ended up with a dent in the hood, a couple broken pieces to the grill and hood, and a damaged radiator and AC condenser.  Sam's lady friend asked if we were alright to drive, or if we'd like her to give us a ride somewhere.  (I was floored by her generosity.  Say what you want about Omaha, but we have big hearts when you come right down to it.)  I politely declined, thinking it would be fine to get it the mile or two down the road.  I had about 2,000 miles left on the warranty, so I was able to get the car towed to the repair shop from my friend's house.  It was about midnight when the flatbed showed up, and I'm sure the neighbors were curious why their street was full of flashing lights.  But, I got all of my valuables out of the car and bid Donovan goodbye. 

Gary from Markel Collision called me bright and early on Monday.  We discussed what was wrong with the car, and told me that he'd be in touch with a prognosis and an estimate.  Later, when he called back, I was told that it was best that I hadn't driven it farther than the mile or two to get it back to my companion's house since there was damage to the radiator and compressor after all.

I was able to borrow a car for the time he's being worked on, so that's good.  I haven't done more than commute from work to home since I don't want to burn too much gas in the little Honda I've been driving.  I'm thankful to have the wheels.  It's Friday of the following week, and my Donovan is coming home from his little Plastic Surgery adventure good as new.  I missed my little buddy. 

I'm still planning on making a donation to the humane society.  I know this has been tougher for Sam and his family than it has for me.  I would like to at least minimize that if I can.  If you're interested in participating with me, here's the web site.  Even if you don't want to donate in Charlie's or Sam's name, they're a fantastic organization.  All of my pets have been rescue animals (I'm a rescue human after all, it makes sense to support that cause).  They can use any and all help they can get.

*Edit.  It is March 13th, 2012.  In an unrelated conversation with my insurance agent, I came to find that the deductible that I paid for the initial repairs was recovered by my insurance company the day prior.  I should see that check in the mail in about 7 days.  The irony here is that as of today, my dog is at the vet with a UTI and I was worried how I was going to pay the bill.  It seems that I will be able to use these funds to care for my own dog.  The universe works in strange and mysterious ways, if you listen.  

May 9, 2011

Character Sheets are the new Rorschatt test.

I'm a big fan of being able to convey a complex concept in a tiny little package.  It's tough, but when done right, boy will it knock your socks off.  I'm always trying to find a way to communicate with people in a way they'll understand. Working at an IT help desk, I get that what I think of as being very simple is exceedingly complex to someone else.  That someone else could be a highly educated lawyer who's had years more schooling than I have.  It's all about what makes sense to a person.

That said, the toughest part of dating/making a new addition to your pool of nearest and dearest is the "getting to know you" stage.  This is where my inner rational and geek pick up their boffer weapons and prepare to let loose the pencils of war.  To set the stage, a dear friend of mine and I have had some long, detailed discussions through email.  Some of which include our favorite tabletop RPGs.  We're both drawn to the World of Darkness series; him to the Tolkienesque world-building mechanics, and me to the character interaction and development.  Being two sides to the same *NTJ coin (He the I and myself the E), it gets a little spooky at times.  But, it's the "being able to quote Silence of the Lambs in any situation" good kind of creepy.

We've both kvetched about how certain aspects of our personalities appear to others and how, in truth, perception isn't the reality.  For example, I bemoaned the fact that I've been called intimidating, aggressive, and scary.  I know I have some personality flaws that lend to that, but in fact, they're in place for just the opposite reason; it's how I disguise weakness.  Thing is, I've spent so long perfecting that facade, I have no idea how to tear it down now that I want to.  Case in point, I don't just gush.  Female ejaculation jokes aside, I don't know how to just give shameless adulation to a person.  My adaptation is to point out silver linings and truths that perhaps a person has lost sight of with sincerity and force.    Have you seen the Blind Side?  It's very much a Leaigh Anne Tuohy "Don't you lie to me now." sort of thing.  It isn't quite the same as genuine praise, but it's the reality of things in the here and now.

Ok, now that the stage has been set dressed, let's continue.  Sometime about two months ago, I ran across a card game called Cards Against Humanity.  After I had nearly peed myself laughing at this game, I had to share.  So, I sent the link to Greyson.  Seeing that it was licensed under creative commons and that we could modify it, we got to thinking about making our own decks.  Card ideas suddenly became all we could talk about.  I have never laughed so hard or spent so much time peeking into the more absurd aspects of life. 

Sometime during this creative outpouring, we'd started taking about gaming again.  I think it was after I'd mentioned that I wanted to change my real name from one of the most common ones given to girls in 1977 to Jezebel.  That got us onto the topic of how the WoD treats those biblical myths, and how maybe Lilith would be a better pick.  So, amid this orgy of D10 and #2 pencil goodness, I get this email with two PDFs attached.  They were vampire, the Masquerade character sheets, drawn up to reflect our real-world personalities.  Brilliant! 

Freud’s version of my ego threw a ticker tape parade down Cerebellum Avenue.  The NT aspects of my personality danced the lambada with my gamer geek.  How better to give someone a simple, one page synopsis of either what you believe yourself to be, or how you perceive someone else.  As any self-aware person knows, how you believe yourself to be, and how you're seen by others can sometimes be VASTLY different.  If I didn't think the reaction to that would be to say "That's nice." and back away slowly, I'd suggest something like that as a fantastic tool to cut through all the BS and really tell a person who you are.  As is, I'm pretty sure you'd be asked if you still lived in your mom's basement.
Ephemily, as identified by Greyson.

Alright, I know you’re curious.  So, without further ado, here’s the sheet created for Ephemily by my nearest and dearest Greyson, in all its shame and glory.

April 26, 2011

Who Is This Ephemily Character Anyway?

Ephemily is a construct, a release valve, an alter ego.  She lives in her pants, doesn't know the meaning of restraint (unless they're leather), and has let her id completely off its leash.  She exists in that moment before common sense grabs your tongue out of your head and says, "You might want to think about the consequences of saying that Hoss".  Ephemily is a curvaceous woman in body and a player in mind.  She wears her reality distortion field like a superhero cape.  Her superpower is that she feels no pain, and gave shame up for Lent in 1963, despite not having been born till 1977. 

January 4, 2011

Infidelity Blues or, What I Learned From Cheating On My Car.

Donovan and I have been together for about 2 years now.  He’s young, spry, responds well to my touch, and even likes it rough.  His cheery exterior belies the heart of a lion.  His diminutive size is perhaps his greatest asset.   He is, by almost every measure, the perfect car. However, ours is not a perfect relationship.  And we recently parted company for a few days.  This is a summary of the events that followed.

January 3, 2011

Let apologies collect interest, they're worth more

Gentlemen, let me first state that I love you.  I do.  Now, before any suggestions for group hugs (or worse) get thrown around, let me clarify.  I love men, the smell of their cologne, the timbre of their voices, and those little noises of contentment they make as they're on the horizon of sleep.  I want to aggressively tango with the strong ones and dress the psychic wounds of the weak ones.  Men just DO it for me.

And because I care, I wanted to tell you about a disturbing trend I've been noticing.  You all apologize far too much.  I know!  That goes against the grain of every comedian to grasp a mic in their sweaty hands on amateur night.  But, I've never been one to shy away from the truth, and am not afraid to talk about the 800 lb gorilla in the room.  (By the way, I hope you weren't too attached to the bananas in the bowl of wax fruit.  They got partially eaten and thrown through the front window.  Oops?)  So, I'm going to give it to you straight.  Stop that.  Right now.

Now, before every girlfriend, wife, or hairy-pitted feminist jumps on me and rides me like a $2 whore, let me define what I mean here.  I'm not saying to never apologize.  I'm saying that you should scale it back to only include things that are A) in your control, and B) you truly feel apologetic about.  Words have power.  The more they're bandied about, the less they mean.

Let me give you two examples:

Scenario A: A man and a woman are having a disagreement about what movie to see.  She wants ChickFlickA, he wanted TestosteroneFestB.  He says some things about how he doesn't care for her choice in movies in the heat of the moment and she takes offense to it.  Leaving out how they handle that part of the argument, let's assume later he goes to her and tell her that he's sorry that his remarks hurt her and that he will work to try and better consider the words that leave his mouth in the future.

Scenario B: A man and a woman who met online just recently are chatting.  The hour is getting late and he has to be away from the computer in the immediate future, whether it's to go to work, go to sleep, or fulfill some other social obligation.  In his goodbye, he tells her he's sorry that he has to go.

Scenario A is a sincere apology. It's meaningful, respectful, and powerful.  Scenario B is not.  It is no more effective than saying you're sorry for being blond.  There is nothing that can be changed in Scenario B.  Those are the facts of the situation, it's time to go, regardless of what you'd like to have happen.  Yes, it's polite to let the person know that you don't want to wrap things up, but there are other ways to do this.  "I hate to cut this short because I've enjoyed this, but I really need to go." for example.  If it's a truthful departure (it is, isn't it?  *eyebrow raise*) even throw in something like "will you be around later, say after XX:XX?"  See?  Same result, more empowerment.

Words are finite.  Well, I should say it's more the trust in them.  I'm all about admitting your mistakes, coming clean about your feelings, and striving to grow as a person.  What I'm not all about is seeing other people knuckled under by convention. This is most certainly one I'd like to shine a very bright light on and shoo back under the rug from whence it was summoned.

TLDR, tell a girl you're sorry when your heart hurts a little, not because your mouth formed the words.  It will mean more.