Saturday, April 30, 2011

Free Write (how else should I begin?)

The following was written and posted originally on May 4, 2008 on an older blog of mine dedicated strictly to writing fiction. A first time endeavor for me, and this was the first post. I am slowly going to bring each of the posts from that blog here to share. This was also my first time ever trying to free-write. 

He stood on the grass in the middle of the park watching the activities of the day unfold before him. It was a typical spring afternoon. The sun was high in the air, the flowers were all in bloom, and the park was coming back to life after a long, cold and dank winter. Multiple families had come to walk around the park, play in the playground and walk their dogs. The birds were all aflutter, flying this way and that - grabbing twigs from one tree, dead leaves from another and diving down to the grasses where they would bite up a nice, slimy worm for the family back at the nest. He watched it all and didn't miss a beat.

Everyone was on the move, full of life, energy and springtime spirit. Everyone, that is, except the robin. He just stood there, in the middle of the park staring. He looked a bit strange, considering all of the hustle and bustle about him, but he knew his job - he is and always will be the Sentry of Springtime (SoS). 

The robin's markings were clear - the auburn breast, yellow beak and white-rimmed eyes on an otherwise black head were all the signs of an SoS. He was a chosen one, selected by the great Creator, to look after the arrival of what is considered to be the most important time of year. This may sound ridiculous, but Spring, as most people know it, could not exist without the legion of the SoS.

The legion of SoS began at the beginning of time. Some "great" books would have you believe that life began with light, but the truth is light could not even come into being if there was no one there to see it, so, in fact, in the beginning there was the legion. A select group of creatures were created to act as watchers, or, as they later became known, Sentries. Many different species were there that day, but there was no mistake which of the group did the best the job - the robin. When the robin was the first to spy the initial flickers of light and the slight nuances of all that it touched, he was chosen along with all of his descendants, out of all the creatures present, to continue his calling for generations upon generations. The robin would be called upon year after year to watch over the first light of every Spring, to bear witness to the beginning of new life and to ensure the successful start to every Spring so that life as all living beings know it could continue and flourish. It was an honorable post, no robin has ever turned his back on the mission and no other creature has ever challenged the position.

That is, none ever challenged the position until today...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Someone Stole My F-ing Car

Here I am locked in this office
chained to these keys
staring into a screen swearing it is my fucking window to the world...

But I know someone else is driving my car,
out on the open road
with windows down, music blaring and winds blazing through his hairs.

What the hell happened?
That's my car. That's supposed to be me.
Running from the fury and enjoying the freedom of the outside.

This is abuse of the worst kind - it is self-mutilating.
I handed over the keys, I said, "Drive for me, please."
And, at the time, I meant it. At the time, I needed it.
But honestly I let this shit go on too long.

I want to fucking DRIVE.

Now we've had a fight and HE gets to flee?!
Oh NO... that is simply UNacceptable.

Stuck here with my limited vision,
my god-damned limited health
and with it I can't even express fury the way I used to.

Justice is lost...

I am limited even in my humanity.

Is there anything else that can be taken?

The tears flow hot and heavy.
I lost this battle, but it's not with him.
Now I know it was never with him.
I still hurt over my body's betrayal to this soul....

So much more to heal,
still battling with the fact that, "I can't drive,"
Go on... say it again, the dogs aren't listening,
"I CAN'T drive."

You know why, too, of course.
" isn't safe..."
But, Nicole, that doesn't mean you can't LIVE.

Now remember why you love him,
remember what the hell HE'S been through.
He's just about the last person on the planet you should be fighting with.
Let him drive,
he'll be home soon
and he'll be bringing back your car.

This post was written for the Red Riding Hood Prompt. This week's assignment was:
This week, we want fightin' words.

Write a piece about a fight. What happened? Why? Who "won"? What were the repercussions? 
I actually had half of this written raw, in the middle of a fight (as you can probably tell) with no intention to post it, but when I saw this prompt I thought it must be kismet.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Where Do I Get My Degree in Blogging?

You've heard that blogging has turned out to be an honest-to-goodness career option for some folks. You're now wondering-
  • Can I get a degree in blogging? 
  • Is there a certification process? 
  • Will it be too expensive for me to explore?
The answers: No, no and no.

First Start Blogging 

Let's make something clear: if you are reading this over an Internet connection and you have a keyboard in front of you, you can already be blogging. You start at any free blog hosting site (I use Blogger because I am sort-of Google addicted) and you start writing. The minute you start doing that, believe it or not, you can start calling yourself a blogger.

Recognize When You Need Help - Don't Give Up!

If you have already gotten that far then perhaps you have come to realize that just because you write something, no matter how brilliant it might be, that doesn't mean readers will be reading it. It's not their fault, they probably don't even know that it's there! This is when every blogger starts asking all those big blogging questions:
  • How do I build my audience?
  • How do I engage my readers? 
  • How do I get people to actually follow my blog?
  • How the heck does anyone ever make any money doing this?

This is a time when it seems like maybe you should throw in the towel and start using your time doing something else entirely - my advice? DON"T GIVE UP! While I have yet to rake in the millions, I am happy to say that I have learned the answers to these questions in the last couple of months, with help. Here's a sampling of my little success story so far:
  • I have taken my food blog Searching for Sustenance from less than 50 pageviews in September of 2010 to over 4,000 pageviews in March of 2011. 
  • I have started this blog, Rivera Runs Through It, written guest posts on blogs around the Internet and was invited to be a contributing author to The IH Brain Pain Blogs
  • I have just started to begin to earn very small amounts of money (you never saw anyone get as excited as I did over $2 this past Valentine's Day), but I am now understanding how money can be made here. 
  • ****I am doing all of this while on medical leave*** In other words, I about half as healthy as you are. I know that with just a little more effort - which would equal to that of someone working at this part time, or after work, real money could have been coming in by now.

So here's the real question: Where did I get my help? Simple - from the ProBlogger! Darren Rowse has been my professor in Blogging Basics, Blog Promotion, Building Audiences and even Finding Finances in Blogging. It's better than a degree in blogging because it is an ongoing conversation with a professional as you learn the ropes.

How to Learn About Blogging From THE Pro
  1. Purchase Darren Rowse's eBook 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. This is the single financial investment I have made into my blogging endeavor up until this point and it was well worth the twenty bucks. (It was announced that the price will be increasing to $29.95 on May 10, 2011. That still works out to be less than $1 per lesson and believe me each lesson can be revisited day after day!)
  2. Follow the ProBlogger blog. This is free and extends all that is learned in the eBook.
  3. Follow Darren Rowse on twitter @problogger
  4. Come back and let me know how it is all going! 
Extra-Curricular Activities

While going through the ProBlogger program is not exactly the same as the time spent at university, there are still some extra-curriculars you should not ignore while obtaining your new knowledge:
  • Become a blog reader
  • Join blog communities (I, personally, love Blog Frog)
  • Build your web presence using social media

Come to think of it, this is sounding just like college after all: engage in classroom conversations, join groups like fraternities, sororities, clubs or teams, and, above all - keep your social life bubbling!!

Well, thinking of it that way maybe we DO deserve a degree after all! And, guess what? I just found one on Amazon:
Blogging Blogger Blog Degree: Custom Gag Diploma Doctorate Certificate (Funny Customized Joke Gift - Novelty Item) 

I stand corrected. You CAN get a degree in blogging if you really want one. Just keep in mind, just like any degree, if you want it to really mean something, then you will have to do some work first!

Related Reading from Rivera Runs Through It:  
How Darren Rowse Has Forever Changed My Life in 10 Days

Graduate and diploma image by LuMaxArt and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wash Away My Normal

Water is the building block in our survival, but as I'd seen many times in news footage around the world, it could just as easily unleash its wild force to devastate nations. She's a tricky one, our liquid love, but I've learned one thing in my dealings with her - no matter how she travels your way, whether through a peaceful pass of a glass to quench your thirst or a ferocious flood to level your status quo - it is her journey we are on, not vice versa.

My lesson came quietly on a Tuesday morning in March 2010. We heard and saw nothing until a single splash. We both stood.

"Something fell."

"No, I heard water."

We discovered we were both right. There was brown water past the first step of our basement and a bag of laundry had fallen into it, but there was so much more down there than laundry. It was a finished basement with a living room, a bathroom, an office and the laundry room with a pantry and a workbench.

As a child, the basement was the realm of my brother and I. The office was a playroom with a floor to ceiling bookcase. In the living room we'd watch cartoons and Star Wars over and over again. We'd play hide-and-go-seek, build enormous forts, play video and board games and hang out with friends.  Besides our backyard and the outdoors, it probably holds most of my childhood memories.

Here it was in all of its disgrace.

I had to look at it. I had to know what was going on. Where did this water come from? How were we going to get it out? But through it all one question kept penetrating my brain:
How did I let it get this way?

Because without all the sewage and water causing things like The Monster At The End of This Book, to float by me I was faced with one harsh reality - this basement was a mess long before the flood. 

In fact, truth be told, I was a mess.

Besides storage bins my husband moved in with and had yet to deal with, the basement was largely filled with my memories. Memories I was hanging on to with a clasp of desperation that no longer held sentimentality or love; only fear. Fear of complete and utter loss of all that I ever loved. This house and all it contained was the last place that evidence our family of four ever existed.

During the cleanup I was on a turbulent ride down memory lane, filled with happiness, nostalgia and loss. I had no idea how to face everything, or what to do with it. Then, without warning, I found two  bins of baseball cards that my father and I had collected together. That was our thing.

I stared into one bin. How could I let this happen?  I remember collecting all of these... and yet, I haven't looked at them for years.

More water came - salty, cleansing tears - I realized that's what I had always been missing. Seeing and holding the cards didn't make the memories any more real than they already were.

Memories and relationships are forever - things hold no domain over them.

There was so much water that week - rain, flood, tears - but it was all cleansing. It was a painful, brutal and merciless cleanup (my wedding dress was destroyed), but, without question, I needed it. The year that passed since has been one of change, renewal and upheaval. Learning to let go of my past in order to embrace my present was exactly the lesson I needed.

This post was written for a RemembeRED Prompt.
This week we want you to recall something in your life that seemed terrible at the time, but looking back, brought you something wonderful.

A positive from a negative experience.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Book Club for Giants

This is not my husband.
My husband is a comic book guy. Wednesdays are important here - that's the day new comic books come out for those who are not in this literary loop.

As part of his fan-dom, my husband has joined a Graphic Novel Club in our fabulous local comic book store, Comic Book Jones. It has been great. He has been finding out about new books he wouldn't have picked up himself, and then he gets to chat with some like-minded souls about them once a month.

Last month, he told me, "You're not going to believe this, but the next book the group is reading is I Kill Giants!" I was overjoyed! This was my book. I had been championing it in this house all year! I bought it for my husband six months earlier with strict instructions: "You MUST read this." With the club's selection, I knew he finally would!

As the date crept closer, my husband said that I should join him at the next meeting since I had such a great appreciation for the book. I decided that would be right up my alley (I love book clubs!). Then some exciting news broke:

The author, Joe Kelly, would be coming to the meeting! 

That was pretty awesome. I met him back in October at NY ComicCon right after I first read I Kill Giants. I had already told him how grateful I was for his book, how wonderful it was and I had already asked him how he knew about all that he wrote, but my husband was not with me and Joe Kelly is a super cool guy!

The day finally arrived this past Sunday and it was awesome. First of all, Comic Book Jones is simply the coolest comic book store EVER, so it is always fun to just be there. Then the book club is pretty sweet as well. Joe Kelly was a little late, so I got the best of both worlds - regular book club chat with fellow readers about an amazing book and then a fantastic and surprising Q & A session with our special guests.

Oh yes, that's right, I typed GUESTS, as in plural. There were three and they were all AMAZING!! We had Joe Kelly, the author of the book, his daughter Claire, who was the inspiration for the protagonist in the book and JM Ken Niimura, the artist!!! Incredible Surprises (Ken does not even live in the US!)!!
JM Ken Niimura talking with a fellow book club attendee.

Joe Kelly and his daughter, Claire
For you Fellow I Kill Giants  fans out there, here is some cool "behind the book" stuff that I learned from our time with the team:
  • Joe had written the script for the book and held onto it for years. He actually had thoughts of it being a movie before being a comic book. He also said that the movie idea was still floating, but he won't ever let anyone "mess" with this particular story (I think he saw the panic in my eyes!).
  • Joe and Ken met in a comic book convention in Europe where they were placed at signing tables next to each other. It was because of that placement that Joe saw Ken's art and proposed his book to him.
  • Claire had no idea she was the inspiration for Barbara Thorson until years after the book was published.
  • The creation of the book was a labor of love on both writer and artist's part. They both took their time with it and are grateful to have worked with Image on this product. (We all agreed that the passion was evident throughout the book.)
  • Ken designed everything in the book from the panel layouts to the paper choice and covers of all of the issues. 
  • Joe was fascinated by Ken's technique. At one point midway through the process he excitedly asked Ken to see a page of I Kill Giants - it was then that Ken showed him that he does not work that way. Every single panel had its own full-page sketch. It was only later that each image would be uploaded and re-sized to fit into the design.
...there's more. Of course we talked about the story - what inspired it, why certain choices were made, what we thought of certain parts and what the original intent was - but I can't write about all of that stuff without ruining the story for you! Instead here are a couple more pictures from the day:

Blurry Ken (not my greatest photography!)

Joe signs my husband's book.

My super-cool signed book, now complete with a sketch of Barbara by Ken.
To understand my passion for this book, my need to meet Joe Kelly at New York Comic Con to tell him, and to see why the Comic Book  Jones book club agreed this is the best book they have read to date then there is only one thing you can do: GO READ I KILL GIANTS! If you need more convincing, here is my review of the book.

Have you read I Kill Giants?
Have you ever had the opportunity to meet the author of one of your favorite books? How was it? What did you say?

Monday, April 11, 2011

I KIll Giants

I have long wanted to write a post about I Kill Giants, but I wanted to give it time to process, I wanted to re-read it and I wanted to re-ignite the passion I had for the book the moment I finished reading it this past October. That all happened this weekend (Here's why!).

I Kill Giants

I Kill Giants Complete Set 1-7 (Image)A fifth grade girl named Barbara Thorson declares that she single-handedly takes on giants with such fortitude and fury that she seems other-worldly, at times.  Her passion for facing these atrocities puts her outside the accepted norm in her "real life" making her a victim of bullies, Principal's office visits and the school psychologist. Throughout the seven chapter read we know one thing for sure: Barbara isn't like everyone else in her world. What we can't seem to figure out is why.

The marriage of Joe Kelly's writing and JM Ken Niimura's artwork takes us on a ride of imagination and self-exploration like few books do. We experience fantasy, elementary school (rich with bullying and the beauty of friendship) and examine real fear and inner strength.  

If you have yet to read this graphic novel, then the time is now. In fact, if you have not yet read any graphic novels and are not sure why anyone would want to do so, then I implore you - this book is the one you should pick up. This is not just one of my favorite comic books of all time, it is hands down one of my favorite BOOKS of all time. Read it, share it, then read it again. You'll thank me.

To Buy
  • As a paperback collected edition (trade paperback) ***THE COVER IMAGE SHOWN ON AMAZON IS INCORRECT! The paperback edition of the collection has the cover I started this post with!
  • As a hardcover collected edition (the TITAN edition)

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Permission to Say "No"

    Driving home I simply couldn't believe how sunny it was. It must have been an amazing day to be outside to enjoy the end of the Spring. It was June 1998. I had graduated college only a couple of weeks before and started working as a substitute teacher.

    When I pulled up to my house I saw my mother. She was in her denim shorts, a tank top, flip flops and, of course, she had a bandanna tied around her hair.  She was watering the grass, the bushes, the flowers and trees. This was a sure sign that I had missed one great, sun-filled day.

    My mom saw me, "Hi Honey," she was so happy and shiny, I imagined she must have been gardening in the backyard all day, "how was it?" All smiles.

    "Well," I smiled back, "today I will say I got paid for that."

     "Oh! You got a check already?"

    That would have been nice. "No Mom, today is the first day I wouldn't have done this for free. Today is the first day it was a job. It was so sad and horrible. I know I am not supposed to, but if that school calls again, I think I am going to say no." I sat down on the front steps. I was exhausted by the mere thought of my day.

    "Were the kids that bad?" Mom put the hose down in the grass and came over to me.

    "It wasn't the kids. The kids were... Oh God, I didn't like that school." I had somehow made it through the day without allowing myself to feel this, "OK, here it is. I had Special Education classes all day. The kids and I got along and we got work done, but they were numb and I couldn't blame them - by the end of the day I was too. Mom, they had all the Special Ed classes in the basement. I had no idea the sun was even out until the day ended. How could they do that to those kids?"

    I think I would have cried if my emotions weren't stunted from my day in the dungeons. There is a special kind of joy that comes from sunlight, from seeing the outside world. I could not conceive of the fact that I was deprived of it for one full school day. However, in the end, I still had my escape. These children, who, for one reason or another, had already been deemed as having difficulty with school, learning, or development were going back the next day and had been there all year.

    "They had no windows?" my mother loved the sun and being outdoors no matter what the weather. (She once had me go sell school candy during a hurricane when the eye of the storm passed over. She said people would be desperate for something sweet, and it would be like an "adventure." She was right, on both counts.)

    "They had one stupid small window like we do in our basement, but I think something was covering it, because it did not look sunny at all."

    "And what school was this again?"

    "No, Ma. I need to find a job at one of these schools in September." I could tell her wheels were spinning. She was planning  a letter writing campaign, a furious phone call, or, perhaps, some visit to the next PTA meeting from a "concerned citizen."

    "I guess you're right..." I could see a little fire go out in her eyes, "but you will not go back there! You say no the next time they call and do not give them your resume."

    I had the folder in my hand, "I didn't. I couldn't."

    "That's my girl," her fire reignited this time with pride, "they just lost their chance at best math teacher on Staten Island! Now go get changed, dinner will be in about a half hour."

    I did exactly that. I grabbed some shorts, a t-shirt and, shoeless, I walked around the freshly watered grass. I was filled with glee, my mom had agreed with me: I would say, "No."

    This post was written for a RemembeRED Prompt. This week's prompt is the photo of the hose in the grass. Here are the instructions:
    In 700 or fewer words, show us where your memory takes you.

    Remember that this image is merely inspiration. Your piece needn't have a hose in your piece, but we need to easily see how you were inspired by it.

    My Lucky Black Widow Spider

    Packed and ready to go!
    Last night, after settling on the fact that I was going to have to take a bus, ferry and train with a black widow spider to bring her to an Animal Rescue place in Brooklyn that would be willing to take her if I brought her, I received a trip-saving facebook message.

    One of my coworkers, Kelly (from the world of the science department, of course), informed me that she may be able to help! She had a friend who worked in the Staten Island Children's Museum and they had a "spider guy" who might be interested in my find. We wouldn't know until this morning, but that was OK, because the rescue place didn't open until 11 am anyway!

    When I got the call this morning, it was awesome. This guy Frank was interested and he would come to me! I gave him a call right away, gave him my address and went to get the two jars. The new, second jar contained the "babies" we tried to capture yesterday evening. We only got about five of them, but they definitely were not calm like Portia was. I did not like them.

    When the guy came he was impressed that we captured them and took a look at Portia. He said, "Wow... yeah, that's a northern black widow. No... wait," as he turned the jar at another angle, so he could see her even better, "that's a sourthern black widow." I am not a fan of my ability to surprise experts (I was getting flashbacks to my IIH diagnosis!).

    I asked him what the difference was. He said that these black widows would typically start in Georgia and go down to Florida, not work their way up to New York. He said the difference was that southern black widows had a complete red hourglass on their abdomen while a northern black widow had two red triangles that didn't meet. And the final confirmation was the red markings where she spun her silk from. She was definitely a southern black widow spider and she had absolutely NO BUSINESS being in MY backyard in Staten Island, New York!

    Frank then took a look at the "babies." He said they were not widows at all  as he took the lid off the jar. I nearly leaped to Polaris. He laughed, of course. He explained that they were normal house spiders. I explained that those guys love me.

    After a cursory look around the exterior of the house and a look at the infamous red pot that black widow was found in, it was decided that she probably came from the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge that I live down the block from. I was pretty surprised by this, but Frank said that this was only the third black widow spider that he has been called in on in 30 years. He said that people often call saying they have a black widow, but when he gets there, they were wrong.

    My husband has been completely freaked out by this and thinks we should play the lotto. I told Frank this. He said, "With odds like this, maybe you should!" So I am sure, at some point tonight, we will be going to buy some lotto tickets.

    From my perspective, though, I think I've already been pretty lucky with my black widow spider find. Here's why:
    • I don't ever have to worry about the impending doom of the day when I will finally be face-to-face, by myself with a black widow spider. I don't have to wonder how I will react, how it will react, whether or not I will survive, whether or not I will be able to warn others. I did it. It is over.
    • I honestly don't feel as terrified of black widow spiders. Frank explained that they don't "go after" humans. You either have to get pretty physical with one (practically squeezing it), or end up hitting her web to get bit. The web situation is scarier, since that can happen accidentally, but otherwise I almost asked him to open the jar so I could hold Portia. (He said he had a couple at home and handled them all of the time.)
    • No one got bit. None of the dogs (my two, or my cousin's two), or, more importantly, my cousin's one year old!
    • I didn't kill Portia. I found a good home for her, with other black widows where she can build webs and go meet children at museums and in classrooms. That feels the best of all. She was so respectful of me and my life, why shouldn't I do the same for her?
    I hope Portia has as much fun being a teacher as I did. I think she'll be really good at it. I know she taught me a lot in the three days I knew her.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Black Widow UPDATE

    I have a new pet. Her name is Portia. She is a black widow spider. She lives in a jar in my shed. (Here's how I got her.)

    It seems no one else wants to meet her, see her or deal with her.

    After instructing me to keep her alive and not disturb the scene of where I found her, it seems the NYC Department of Health and Environmental Services doesn't know what to do with her. There will be no investigation. All calls today ended with pretty much the same response, "We don't deal with spiders."

    One investigator sent me the following e-mail with the following information:
    Here are some links with additional information about black widow spiders:
                This link is for the American Museum of Natural History, where you can send a picture of the spider, for possible identification

    I decided to contact the Museum of Natural History in hopes that I will find a happy home for Portia. Here is the e-mail I sent earlier this morning:

    Yesterday, while cleaning my backyard, I found a black widow spider in my backyard here in Staten Island. It is black, shiny and has a red hourglass on its abdomen. I have been in contact with NYC Department of Health and Environmental Investigations. They informed me that they do not deal with these spiders, but said that you may be able able to confirm the identification at the Museum of Natural History (my FAVORITE museum in ALL of the universe!!).

    I have the spider in a jar in my shed, however, I am concerned that there are more because there are multiple small spiders (babies?) in the same large pot I found the original spider in. Does this seem feasible? We have two dogs that hang out in the backyard all of the time and my tenant (also my cousin) has a one year old child living upstairs! Needless to say, an exterminator is coming tonight.

    I was wondering, would you like our spider? Since we were asked to keep her alive by the DOH, my husband and I became slightly attached and have named her Portia :) She is really quite beautiful even if I am terrified of her.

    Thank you so much.

    All the best,

    Nicole Rivera :)

    I am still awaiting a response, but in the meantime my exterminator will be here at 6pm tonight. I am wondering if I should call the Staten Island Zoo in the meantime...

    For some truly backwards reason I would now be really sad if Portia died as a result of all of this.

    See How It All Ends:  My Lucky Black Widow Spider 

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Black Widow

    I have two irrational fears
    1. Aliens stemming from the time my parents took me to see E.T. in the movie theater, and
    2. Spiders stemming from God knows where.
    While there is an entire post that can be written about me and my relationship with aliens, alien movies and how my friends and family have tortured me over the years, the events of today insist that I write about spiders.

    My house has always been a magnet for tons of spider activity. In particular, the bedroom that I grew up in seemed particularly popular. Although he deems my fear irrational, my brother can at least attest to these two facts. I have never imagined it. I have, however, imagined quite a few outrageous scenarios involving spiders and their obsession with me.


    I suppose it is best to begin with SpAN, more widely known as "Spiders Against Nicole." This has been a growing group of spiders thoroughly amused with my reaction toward them. They hold regular meetings and have their recruitment office in my basement (which is why there are always so many spiders in the basement). They work out who is going to sneak up on me, when they are going to do so and what kind of trick are they going to pull when I finally see them. Some popular moves that, I believe, have been planned in advanced over spider-committee include:
    • the Mission Impossible/SWAT team drop
    • the raising of one leg in my general direction
    • the stand completely still so she thinks you are not alive until she gets really close
    • the jump
    • the run across the windshield while she's driving
    On occasion, I do believe that SpAN has invited humans into their web of trickery. My mother and boyfriend (now husband) once spent about a month placing a super-scary looking spider cut out from a magazine all over the house, in my lunch bag and anywhere else I might find it and scream. This, undeniably, was an action that was instigated by SpAN!

    The Greatest Fear of All

    The one constant in all of my spider fears has singularly fell with the impending doom of my someday encounter with a Black Widow. I learned about how frightening a bite from one of these venomous girls can be and I was terrified. I feared that every spider I found was a baby black widow. After having their fun with me, friends and family would assure me that I need not worry as long as I stayed in New York - black widows live in South Western United States, they love the heat. I tried to take this to heart.

    Then someone told me the IKEA story. In short, a couple bought a plant from IKEA and brought a black widow home with them. For YEARS I did not walk through the plant section of IKEA - I REFUSED. I would run through their shortcut lanes and say a little prayer when I got to the other side. I did not want a black widow on me!

    I was ridiculous. I continue to be. Two days ago I was out weeding in my backyard when a wolf spider jumped out of the weeds I pulled. I jumped a mile high and started throwing the weeds around. I told the spider to, "Go live somewhere else! I am trying to get some work done!" I must have looked insane to my neighbors.

    I keep trying to be strong, but it doesn't always work. Fear is a funny thing.


    Fear or no fears, the sun came out again today, so I set out to finish what I started in the backyard. My backyard is a huge mess, so there is a lot to do. I won't bore you with all the details, but at around 2pm, I came upon an overturned red pot that I was not sure if I should keep or not. I decided to turn it over to see what condition it was in. Here's what I found:
    Do you see that large black spider?
    Perhaps you need a closer view...
    Do you see how shiny it is?!?!
    I had a very strong feeling I knew exactly what kind of spider that was sitting right in front of me here in New York City... My husband came home and decided to take a closer look
    It wasn't as sunny anymore. I was trying to get the abdomen in this picture.
    What is not visible in this picture is the very fancy red hourglass on this lady's abdomen. Guess what that means?
    We captured her.
    The New York City Department of Health advised that I keep her alive until the Environmental Investigation unit can come by to check her out and do an investigation of the area she was found. She is pissed off, in her jar in my shed outside. All I know is that I am not going to be the one that opens that jar!

    Anyway, I always knew this day would come.

    I think Sp.A.N. really outdid themselves this time...


    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Because I Want To Go Outside

    Live in my fucking shoes.
    I dare you.
    For one day, one hour, one minute...
    Just be me and know what it is
    know what I carry.

    I am timid where I once roared
    I fear each day, each step, each rising.
    What will it be today?
    Will it be pain?
    Will it be unsteady?
    Will it be unforgiving?

    Or will today be a good day...
    How long will it last?
    Should I trust it?
    Can I be left alone?
    Should I be left alone?

     Who am I?

    I once walked this earth free
    of dependency - confidently as one.
    I needed no others, but I loved them for company.
    Now, unfaithful to my own confidence,
    I need them all and want for none.
    No one should see me this way.

    But that's the problem, isn't it?
    No one sees.
    No one knows.
    No one walks in these fucking shoes.

    I beg you - take a step.

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    One Lucky Turtle

    This post was written for the Red Riding Hood Prompt. This week's assignment was as follows:
    This week we want to challenge you to try something new.

    Is there someone who drives you crazy?

    Someone who really gets under your skin.

    It doesn't have to be someone you know (although it certainly can be). It could be someone famous. Or even a character in a book.
    I had no idea where to begin with this until I read this horrific article from TreeHugger yesterday which actually made me cry. I decided to take the clueless route (forever on a quest for the good in people) rather than demonize this guy, but there is definitely another, sicker tale that could spring from this article...

    "No!" his fist came down on the table,"You never understood this. You are too old for this teaching! Listen carefully to me: There is no luck, there is only life," he leaned in, speaking in low, harsh tones, "Life flows like a river. Can a river be controlled? No, not totally, and not ever by 'luck'. You must position yourself in your river so that you control what you can and be ever-aware of its changing directions. Be present in life, don't be lucky."

    He grabbed my hand and looked into my eyes, "NO LUCK! If you wait for luck, you will get washed away! That, my son, is what you have been missing." When my hand dropped to the table, I knew the conversation was over.

    That was last night. I know my old man thinks he knows what he is talking about, but all I ever hear anyone talking about is luck. It's sad that he doesn't even realize how lucky he is! He found my mom, got married and had a kid all by the time he was 31 years old. By that time he was already in a management position in the Geely office (they make cars). I, on the other hand, am 33 years old, sitting on this damn subway after another non-management shift at Jiangdu Dajiang Chemical, which works on... well, it is nothing like cars. And, oh yeah, I'm still single.

    I look around at all these people on the train with me and they look satisfied. Here's a group of kids with a camera having a blast - I remember those days - I can't believe I'm going to be the miserable guy in the background of all of their video. How the hell did it come to all of this?

    Something's gotta give. My luck's got to change...

    Here's my stop. Sihui - almost home.

    Wait a second. What's that? There's a vendor by the entrance, she looks pretty popular, I wonder what she has, she's new.

    THIS. IS. IT.

    She's selling key rings to bring luck! I must have one. I give her my money and she asks, "Which one?"

    That's easy, "The turtle."

    What an unbelievable find! A turtle good luck charm. I am on my way, climbing out into the sun of the last day of my luckless life when I am stopped by a reporter, "Hello, may I ask you about your purchase. I am from The Global Times."

     Whoa. If that isn't an instant shift in luck, I don't know what is - The GLOBAL Times?! I tried to compose myself, "Sure."

    "OK, great then," pulling out a phone to record our conversation. "Sihui station C entrance. Tuesday afternoon. Man in 30s purchases the Brazil turtle keyring," then looking at me says, "Sorry about that...  Can you please tell me why you just bought that keyring and what you plan to do with it?"

    "I'll hang it in my office, it looks nice and brings good luck."

    I don't know if I imagined it, but I think the reporter looked at me for a beat too long. I wonder if he is like my father and doesn't believe in luck. He stopped recording and took a picture of my new purchase. I was overwhelmed - now a photo, too? I asked if he could send it to me on my phone. Here it is:
    A turtle keyring. photo by Li Bo
    That's one lucky turtle.