Saturday, March 24, 2012

The (Many) Things that Divide Us

If you have ever been a substitute teacher, been taught by one, or heard of one,
No Substitute for Murder will have you laughing.

It is time for another guest post from Carolyn J. Rose. She has outdone herself on her latest book, No Substitute for Murder which had me snorting water through my nose at a restaurant when I got to one particular scene where the protagonist is as close to being a fly-on-the-wall as you can get, at her ex-husband's biggest embarrassment. Even covering my mouth with my hands couldn't withhold the guffaws from sneaking through my fingers. Leave a comment to be entered into the drawing to win a copy of this fabulous book.

Without further ado, here is:

The (Many) Things that Divide Us

During the political season—which lately seems to be 24/7 and year-round—the beliefs, opinions, prejudices, and preferences that divide this nation are clear. Often they’re not only clear, they’re magnified or blown out of proportion by one side or the other.

But these “big things” aren’t all that separate us into groups and set our diverse agendas. Every time I check into a hotel, twirl the radio dial to a particular station, drive on the freeway, or select a sandwich spread, I make a choice that defines me or act according to one I made in the past.

Every day, every one of us makes choices that set us apart from others—choices that may be so ingrained and automatic we can’t remember when the opinion was formed or who influenced it or when it turned into a way of life or even—in extreme cases—came to be a symbol of our Constitutional right to certain freedoms.

I can almost hear you asking: “What the heck does she mean by that?”

Well, imagine you’re checking into a hotel and you don’t get a choice between smoking or non-smoking rooms. You could end up with the room you wanted, or you could be forced to breathe third-hand smoke or go outside to light up.

Chances are, you wouldn’t be happy about that. In fact, you might be furious. You might rage against the hotel and “that other group of people.”

Or let’s say you visit your aunt Matilda and she makes you a BLT but, instead of mayonnaise, she uses another spread. If you’re firmly in the mayo-is-best camp, it will be tough to choke down that sandwich.

Now suppose your aunt tells you to stop being so picky because “there’s no difference between mayo and the other stuff.”

Is she serious?

That’s like saying there’s no difference between black and white, summer and winter. Sheesh.

The Great Sandwich Spread Skirmish could turn you against your aunt if she refuses to budge on the issue and admit that there is a difference and you have a right to your preference. The dispute could even escalate, dividing your family and turning you against anyone who doesn’t agree mayonnaise is the right stuff. You might take to picketing stores that carry other spreads and even (gasp!) allow them to mingle with the mayo on the shelves.

From there, it’s a short hop to setting up gated all-mayo communities and working to pass laws to outlaw other spreads. And it’s another short hop to taking aim at other divisive issues:

  • Dark vs. Milk Chocolate
  • Coffee vs. Tea
  • Dogs vs. Cats
  • Classic Rock vs. Rap
  • Cheese Puffs vs. Corn Chips
  • Dieters vs. Those who can eat all they want
  • Neatniks vs. Slobs
  • Procrastinators vs. Get-there-on-timers
  • Speeders vs. Slow-pokes-who-drive-the-limit
  • Shaken vs. Stirred
  • Well-cooked vs. Rare (or even raw)
  • Toilet Seat Up vs. Toilet Seat Down

Fortunately, most of us will never get that worked up. And for many of us, the lines of opinion blur and we slip back and forth across them in the course of our lives. We learn to appreciate things we didn’t like when we were young—types of music, kinds of food, the need to be more organized, the reasoning behind posted speed limits.

But if you’re like me, there are lines you’ll never cross, opinions you’ll never compromise on until and unless you’re forced to. That’s why I’ll make a sandwich my way until I scrape the last smear of mayonnaise from the bottom of the last jar on earth.

What are the division lines in your life? What are you willing to be flexible about and what would you never give an inch on? Leave a comment and get your name in the drawing for a copy of No Substitute for Murder.


Carolyn J. Rose is the author of a number of novels, including recent titles A Place of Forgetting, An Uncertain Refuge, No Substitute for Murder, and Hemlock Lake. She and her husband, Mike Nettleton, penned two cozy mysteries, The Big Grabowski and Sometimes a Great Commotion.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She lives in Vancouver, Washington, and founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers. Her interests are reading, gardening, and not cooking.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Loaded down with garbage

Second Day of Spring

We don't get a lot of snow in Vancouver, Washington, and certainly not in the spring, so what was the deal with four inches of snow in my yard this morning? And I don't like to be the first one to slide down this hill because halfway down it drops off on either side into a creek. Add all the trees bending down in their white splendor, waiting to sink their bare branches into my car's paint, simply adds to the tension of the commute.

But worst of all, I wasn't able to drag my garbage can 200 feet through the snow to the end of my driveway. My dad would have done it. Barefoot. Uphill both ways.

I'm a weenie.

And I suspect my neighbors watched the news predicting snow overnight and ran their cans out before they went to bed last night.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another example of "Eavesdroppers never hear good"

It is no secret that writers are encouraged to eavesdrop on stranger's conversations in order to observe and write mannerisms, inflections, tone, and attitude. No, really. But once in a while we overhear things that have nothing to do with research. And sometimes what we hear is about ourselves. And it isn't good.

The other day, as I walked toward the accounting office off the front lobby, four of my co-workers (a tooling manager, an account manager, the document control specialist, and the procedures manager) were having a heated discussion at the front desk. Their backs were to me as I approached, heading past them to the accounting door. Just as I reached out to grasp the handle, I heard the procedure manager's charming voice rise above the others, "All I'm saying is that purchasing shouldn't be on there. Purchasing doesn't know anything."

I screeched to a halt, my open hand inches from the knob, turned my head toward the group, and cleared my throat, preparing to ask for an explanation. Four heads turned to me and jaws dropped. Time hung suspended for at least five seconds, everyone still like a freeze flash mob. Finally, I shook my head, said, "Yeah, I don't want to know," turned the knob and escaped into accounting.

It isn't easy being the only purchasing person in a company.

Later, the procedure manager slunk into the office, giggling, and tried to explain they were talking about the procedure for when it is okay to release a tool to a customer, in which, really, the purchasing department has no involvement. After trying in vain to stifle her chortles, she said she was trying to save me from having to do useless paperwork, and that I should thank her.

She's right. I should.

But it is hard to thank someone for saying the purchasing department (just me) doesn't know anything. I would have been a little bit more inclined to thank her if she had just added "about this particular thing" to the end of her sentence.

Would that have been too much to ask?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Drawing with Phia Video

One of the members of The Dead Bunny Club, my critique group, has an amazing daughter. She is about five years old, and knows how to draw birds. What is more, she knows how to teach you to draw them too. Ginger told me about her daughter's bird drawing video, where she starts with the letter "S." It is so easy, even I can do it.
Ginger's husband, David, is a cartoonist, and she assumed he had taught Sophia how to draw the bird. But he hadn't. Neither had her mother or the neighbor. Ginger has no idea how she learned it, but it is pretty clever and she is an adorable girl. See her video at Jars of Giggles, Ginger's blog: Drawing with Phia

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Adrift in Pirate Waters, Part 2

My Costa cruise isn't for months, yet I'm still planning ahead.

After the Costa Allegra suffered a fire that crippled the ship, shutting down the engines, generators, air-conditioning, and ice machines at the cocktail bar, some passengers waited along the rails to be boarded by pirates. Luckily the pirates do not have CNN, or Huffington Post, and did not get the "A-Ok" to rush to the helpless vessel's location. Instead, a French tuna boat received the SOS alert and clawed its way to the aid of the toilet-less ship. Once there, the fishing trawler tossed a line to the distressed crew, and towed the ship to port.

I don't know about you, but I'd be embarrassed to be hauled into port by a tuna boat. I wouldn't have minded being aboard the tuna boat hauling a cruise ship, however. For one thing, they probably had a functioning head. For another, it is my bet they had hot coffee and cold creamer. Third, it would have been fun to be on deck, chugging into port as the hero, cheered by a thousand passengers and crew.

In deference to the tuna buccaneers, plunging into pirate infested waters to save a drifting ship, I've discussed it with Sandra and we both agree we should add a couple of cans of tuna to our "personal insurance plan" discussed in my last post.

I've also taken the initiative of ordering a myriad of inflatable pillows that will fit into my suitcase. I like a lot of pillows--small, large, thin, fat, firm, soft, long, short--and it is my opinion you can never have too many. Sometimes they fall on the floor, but that just provides a soft landing if one should fall out of bed. As the pillows come in, I'm sewing little pillow cases for them. Now, I could ask Costa Cruises to provide an extra pillow or two, but I'd hesitate asking for seven. That would just be greedy (unless the ship is empty because of cancellations).

Besides, air pillows float.

Just sayin'.