2016

galaxy-s5-08-03-16-2532

This is it, guys!  My final post!

Thank goodness!  haha

In recent previous years, I’ve made a list of things I’d accomplished over the year, the number of which would match whatever year it was. This year, though, the general populace seems intent on bringing me down, so I’ve altered the plan a tiny bit.

Oh, I know it’s not intentional, necessarily, but regardless – y’all are ruining my zen thing, man.

So this year, I’ve instead made a list of the 16 best things to happen for me in 2016.  The original list was quite a lot larger, but I’ve managed to whittle it down to the following, in no particular order:

image

  1. Mark Hamill

Luke Skywalker is my earliest and longest-running heroes, from about the age of 5 years, or so.  I mean, it all kicked into high gear when I was about 12, but my love for Luke and Star Wars had already been brewing for several years before that.  So it was a near-lifelong dream come true to finally be able to meet the man who brought the character to life.  I’d rehearsed everything in my head leading up to those few precious moments I’d get to spend interacting with him – and ended up doing none of it when the time came.  But everything that did happen was so much better than I could have hoped, and even the group photo op I had done with my awesome niece and nephews was perfect and priceless.  I wouldn’t change a thing.

20161202_151923

2. Hudson

It’s impossible to explain to another person my absolute love for this polar bear.  When he was a little guy, I found myself getting up in the morning after an injection night (they were terrible – not much could get me out of bed the next day) and trekking out to the zoo just so I could spend some time with him; watching him, and getting to know him.  There’s just something that happens to my heart every time I see him.  When he was moved to Winnipeg, I was devastated, and knew that, even if I ever saw him again, it wouldn’t be the same.  I wouldn’t be able to see him all the time anymore.  Until now.  2016 saw the return of Hudson and his brother Humphrey to the Toronto Zoo, and I have been out there almost every week since their quarantine ended.  I spent some quality time at the window with him one day, and since then, he’s back to greeting me upon arrival, just like he used to!  He’s now the biggest bear I’ve ever seen, but that thing still happens in my heart when I see him.  When we make eye contact, I pretty much explode.  The giant fool is truly my spirit animal, and even though our time together is temporary, I am making the most of it.  No regrets this time.

screenshot_2016-12-05-06-27-57

3. Dark Matter Set Visit

Mind Reels on a spaceship, guys!  Every bit as amazing as you’d think…and more!  Of course, that’s really all I can say right now.  Keep an eye out for the S3 premiere, when we should finally be able to talk about our day on set!

4. Bowling For Kids Sake

An all-star team put together by actor Ennis Esmer challenged fans to help raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters Toronto by donating and/or building teams to compete against one another in the Superhero-themed bowling night event!  Two “civilian” teams took on two all-star teams and basically had such a ridiculously good time that we have been thinking ever since of trying more things like that in the future!  So much fun, and all for a great cause!

5. Good Credit

When I learned that my bankruptcy would be cleared from my record with one of Canada’s two largest credit agencies after just 6 years instead of 7, I went online one day to find out how I was doing.  I’d gotten myself a secured Visa so that I would have SOME credit, instead of no credit, once the 7 years after my discharge had passed.  I got my credit report done, and was surprised and excited to find out that I was already squarely in the GOOD section of the scale!  Before I knew it, I was pre-approved for far more credit than I wanted, so I talked the guy down to a $500 Scotiabank Scene Visa, and have been happily earning more Scene points AND improving my credit rating ever since!  That’s so huge, guys!

6. Hands On Exotics

I had tried to volunteer at the Toronto Wildlife Centre, because I really wanted to feed baby squirrels in the nursery, but the schedule didn’t work out for when I was available, so I went a different direction, and began volunteering at an exotic animal shelter, instead.  I was taking it week to week for a long time, as I wasn’t sure how I’d do over the winter and such.  Plus, it’s a lot of cleaning poo.  Then there was a boatload of upheaval, and I wasn’t sure what was going on or how things would work moving forward.  The past couple of months, things have settled down a bit, and I am doing better with the routine.  I’m getting to know some of the animals, and they are getting to know me, and to be honest, it’s starting to feel a bit like therapy now.  My usual team and I work well together, and we get things done quickly so there’s a bit of extra time at the end to visit with our favourites a little longer (an in the example photo below, with young miss Cricket, the baby kangaroo).  And oh, the stories I can tell!  I’m hoping to continue to make new ones as we move into 2017!

iphone-12-07-16-047

7. Grandma

This is a story I don’t wish to go into, so I’ll just say that I’ve started writing letters to my grandmother.  By hand.  At least once a week, but usually more.  That’s all I have to say about that.

8. Reconnecting with old friends

2016 was a good year for me in terms of reaching out and reconnecting with people who used to be in my life with much more regularity.  I started going to some WLU Toronto Alumni events, which – I graduated in 1995, and have been in Toronto since late 1997 – why have I not been going to these?!  So much fun!  Especially with my gal, Izzy, and her guy, Phil (who went to Western – boooo!  haha), and my hope for further reunions with my fellow Laurier alum may actually come to pass!  As well, I got reacquainted in a big way with one of my Rogers boys from back in the day.  We fell into our same old rhythm with each other – and then changed things up a bit, as well.  Right from our first conversation, it was obvious to me how much I’d missed him, though, so now I’m doing my best to make sure he and I don’t drift apart like that again.

As well, I started seeing my therapist on a regular basis again.  We also fell into our same old rhythm, but this time it seems like everything is more heightened.  We are connecting on a much deeper level than ever before, and as difficult as it is, I couldn’t have asked for more.  It’s exactly what I need.

What’s more is that I’ve spent more quality time in 2016 with more recent friends, and made at least one amazing new one, to boot!  Maybe my obsession with stronger connections is starting to pay off.  Also GO HAWKS GO!

iphone-09-27-16-1479

9. CSA’s Red Carpet

The Mind Reels has covered the Canadian Screen Awards (aka The Candys) to some degree each year since they began.  We’ve been extremely fortunate to have been invited to do so, and to have as much access as we’ve been given each year.  This year, however, was our first time on the broadcast gala’s red carpet, chatting with the talent as they arrived for the big night.  We were squished into a spot at the very end, and while many of the big names walked right by after having done their required time with the big media outlets, just as many amazing peeps actually stopped to talk to us – and many of them weren’t people we already knew!  This was our most incredible year at the CSA’s by far, and I am eagerly awaiting the chance to apply for accreditation again for 2017, because it’s quickly become one of my favourite events in the city all year!  Besides, we were told by one wonderful woman that we’re a relief to see at the end of the red carpet – that people feel like they can just relax and enjoy themselves while they’re with us, and that’s got to be one of the biggest, most humbling compliments I think I’ve ever received.  More chances to make that happen, please!

10. Crown

This may seem like a weird thing to include on a Best Of list, but I was finally able to have my first dental crown put in, and I couldn’t be happier.  After a root canal, gum surgery and getting my mold taken just under the lab’s holiday deadline, I am now – for the first time in years – pain free.  Well, as far as my mouth is concerned, at least.  And for me, that’s a huge good thing!

11. Creativity

Figured I’d lump a couple of things into one spot, just to help whittle down my list!  From my Etsy store (where I sold my first felted item), to my meeting with the Toronto Library’s Writer in Residence (who made me excited about my book again), to my first attempt at shooting footage solo throughout my day for the Canada In A Day film that gets broadcast next year.  I was pretty disappointed with how mine turned out, but I still got a few emails saying that some clips may or may not make it into the final film, so I signed all the required releases and sent them off into the ether.  We’ll see what happens, but either way, I learned a lot just in that one day, so with any luck I can carry that forward to bigger and better things soon, too!

galaxy-s5-08-03-16-1899

12. The final 10-15 lbs

The majority of the weight I gained following The Betrayal was lost slowly over the course of the following decade.  I’d resigned myself to just staying at one particular point because I couldn’t seem to get the scale to budge any lower – until late January 2016.  Suddenly, the weight started coming off and the final 10-15 lbs – also the most dramatic pounds – dropped away by the end of March, or so.  Not only am I now back to my pre-gain weight, but so far I’ve kept it that way without too much trouble.  Okay, fine, maybe not the past couple of weeks, but it’s the holidays.  If all goes well after this weekend, things will get back to normal soon.  It’s nice to have a glimpse of my former swagger back, too!

13. Melissa O’Neil on stage

The weird thing about this is that I watched Mel on Canadian Idol back in the day, and may have had a little crush on her even back then.  Seeing her in Dark Matter has been an absolute joy, and getting to chat with her via The Mind Reels was a bit of a dream come true, as well.  The fact that I get to know her a little in real life is just…above and beyond.  So you’d THINK I would have taken the opportunity to see her perform on stage – to sing live – at any given point before now!  However, better late than never.  And so completely worth it that she gets her own spot on my personal Best Of list for the year.  Also, the wee crush lives.

galaxy-s5-08-03-16-2555

14. Ole Timey Radio Plays

These are pretty much the best thing ever!  For Mind Reels, Tim and I started bringing in random handfuls of actor friends and reading old radio play scripts from the 30’s and 40’s!  So much ridiculous and hilarious fun – to the point where we all but stopped doing regular interviews, even!  Don’t worry, though, I intend to get interviews going again, AND radio plays, AND maybe a few other ideas I have all put into play in the new year.  those radio plays, though.  We knew they’d be fun, but everyone continues to go above and beyond, every time, and that I am always in need of facial traction due to the amount of hard laughter each time is indication of exactly how special these things have become.  I can’t get enough!

inked

15.  Kate Tattoo

I’d seen an ad on Facebook for a new local tattoo parlour with a deal for small black and white tattoos available for $50 for a limited time.  A friend suggested we get one for “our girls”, meaning our doppelganger cats, both of whom have passed on and who are deeply missed.  I thought that was a great idea, and then, thanks to my very best friend in life, the whole experience ended up being more than I could have hoped for!  I love, love, love my homage to wee Kate the Kitten, and am naturally itching to get more ink done as soon as I have some kind of extra cash again!

16.  Lil Bub

Last but certainly not least, 2016 was the year I finally met Lil Bub in person.  I barely managed to hold back the tears, but I got to pet her wee head and we took terrible selfies on my phone and I love her so much I have a need to see her again someday!  What a remarkable little beast she is, that Lillian Bubbles.  She has no idea how much, really, which just makes her even more incredible.  I’m so grateful I got to spend those few wonderful moments in her presence!

galaxy-s5-08-03-16-1813

So there you have it!  My best moments of 2016!  Honourable mention goes to the ongoing shininess of my Firefly LootCrate subscription.  And the daily joy of living with my three wonderful cats – and this guy:

galaxy-s5-08-03-16-2517

I’m not going to say I’ll never post here again, but it definitely won’t be as often.  I’m sure I’ll get the urge to write once in awhile, though.  It’s who I am.

To that end, I am starting a new blog project, which I hope will work better for me moving forward.  It’s called My WildLife Awakened, and you’ll be able to follow along with it here.

I’ve been thinking, and will leave you with this one tidbit – almost advice-ish, really, though I hope I can take it, myself, as well.

As we cross into 2017, there may or may not be much to look forward to, so I’m going to try instead to make great memories to look back on this time next year.

Let’s see what happens!

Oh – and happy new year!

galaxy-s5-08-03-16-2375

No Words

I don’t really know what to say today, guys.

I think I had a vague plan earlier, but I can’t remember what it was, if anything.

It’s possible I pushed myself too hard yesterday, and so was dizzy and exhausted last night and today, which is making it more difficult for me to process the world and such right now.

Losing Ron Glass earlier this week was a blow, but I also relate to death differently than I used to, after Alysia died. Well…it started after Kate the kitten died, but definitely after Alysia. I feel it differently now.

And now, after already struggling to come to grips with the loss of Ron, someone I love has lost someone she loves even more – someone much closer to her and who she is – and I don’t know how to help her breathe through it. The first was difficult enough, but to lose this next one so soon after…I don’t know. I don’t know what to say or how to shoulder some of the pain, or how to help her to shoulder it herself.

I’ve been feeling helpless a lot lately, in trying to figure out how to help myself. This is helpless in a different way, in that I’m trying to figure out how to help someone else.

Both suck.

On another note, my creative partner let me know that he’s trying to set something up for us, which is great. He mentioned that he suggested a date that happens to already have off from work, which is great – for him. Ridiculous. Sometimes I just have to shake my head and dial down the rage.

So much to talk about, but not here.

I need to get to the Dodger soon, among other things.

Cost

I saw a thing in an advice column yesterday. Well, I saw the title of the letter, rather than the letter itself. There’s only so much I can read over other people’s shoulders, after all. Anyway, it said something like, “What do I say when people ask how much my engagement ring cost?”

And I was, like, “Is that a thing?! Asking people how much their engagement ring cost?”

Like how does that conversation even go?

OMG congratuLAtions!!! Such a beautiful ring? How much did s/he spend on it?! I think mine was around blah-be-dee-bloo, if I recall!”

Is it customary to supply a gift receipt for the ring when you propose? Only not even a gift receipt, but one with the price on it so that the object of your forever love knows exactly how much you love her, right down to the penny? Isn’t such a ring supposed to be considered a gift anymore? I never would have thought to ask someone how much their ring cost, let alone assume they would even know. I had no idea that was a thing.

Maybe I should start asking, if it’s rude not to. Like – how much did yours cost? I don’t have any so I can’t compare. Well…there was one…but I’m pretty sure he stole it, so…let’s call that “on sale”.

As for how to answer it, I’m assuming straight up honesty isn’t as fun as guessing games. Like, estimate how much the ring the person asking you is wearing cost, and then go higher with your response, so you and your fiance/e look like better people or more in love or whatever.

People are weird.  Life is a gift – can I get a receipt with that?

I think I’ve gotten so used to holding back that now I am not sure I’ll be able to open up when I’m supposed to again. I might have to re-learn how to do it, so I don’t waste my money and my therapist’s time too much. It’s actually become habitual now, just keeping things to myself. I’m constantly re-writing my public image, so to speak, carefully choosing what to reveal and how much or little of it I can get away with. I don’t even really put much thought into it anymore. I’ve caught myself actually sifting through thoughts to consider saying if there is a lull in conversation and I can’t just listen and respond. But that technique won’t fly in therapy, so I have to figure out how to break myself of the habit – preferably before I go in – so that I can get the most out of the session. I think that’ll actually make it easier to sift through whatever’s left, once the overwhelming stuff has been released and isn’t building up inside me anymore.

It occurred to me this morning that you can’t lose or miss what you never had, yet it can still hurt, and often quite a lot. You can lie awake at night wondering why it hurts at all, let alone so much. And why it feels so sad to not have had something to lose; why you can mourn something that never was.

I think it’s because what was actually lost was far more important, yet also far more elusive. It’s the realization that it was never there to begin with – that it wasn’t real – that does it, you see.

That realization is the death of the one thing which was there before, and has now been lost.

It’s the loss of plans and dreams and maybes and of having something extra to look forward to each day and even though there’s still plenty of all of that, part of it is gone and that’s the part you now grieve.

It’s the loss of hope.

Myriad on my Mind

Well, the whole not being able to sleep much thing is getting pretty old. Will try again tonight to see if I can do any better.

Con Crud hasn’t fully set in, but it’s not any better yet, either. On the fence, I guess. Fencing Crud.

Squirrel saga is still ongoing, but in part because I haven’t heard any news yet this morning. Hopefully no news is good news – or at least not bad news – but we’ll see.

So much drama and stress and sadness, man. I can’t even tell anymore how much of it is directly mine to carry, and regardless, there’s so much I can’t talk about, anyway.  My heart and mind are tired. 

I got a lot done yesterday, at least. Saw a periodontics (is that the word?) dentist guy for a consultation, and have mostly decided to go ahead with the procedure he’s suggested, but I really need to make sure it’s covered by my work benefits first. It’s going to be dicey, anyway, because I have to pay the whole thing upfront and get reimbursed later, and since it’ll cost more than, say, my rent, I need to time it just right so that I can get reimbursed in time to pay said rent. Maybe even eat in the meantime.

At least the animals are mostly stocked food-wise for a bit.

Managed to change my address with the Ministry of Health, so I expect to be receiving threatening letters any time now about switching to a photo health card from my sweet old red and white one. I’m proud to still have it, but last time I went for blood tests, there was apparently a note warning me to contact the Ministry and update my current address…which I then forgot to do until yesterday. So that’s good, I guess. I have to get more blood tests done on Saturday, so at least I can tell them that the process has begun.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of what was probably my girl’s biggest loss to date, and I have no idea how to, like, acknowledge that for her, or with her, or anything. Not being in the same country doesn’t really help with that, either, of course. But I’m not sure how much of a comfort I would be, anyway. I guess some journeys have to be taken separately and/or on our own. I do hope, though, that she has a similar experience to mine, in that the first year is the hardest, and once you get through all of the firsts, a greater sense of your new normal can be found. It doesn’t suck any less, but I found that, for me, the dread became less. The fear of facing each unavoidable first gave way to a kind of grim acceptance of all the remaining anniversaries to come, and the knowledge that I will get through those, too, whether I like it or not.

I hope it’s similar for her journey through grief, too.

I renewed my zoo membership for another year. I think this is the earliest I’ve ever done it – more than a month early. Now I just have to remember to pick up my new card when I go there next – hopefully on Saturday. It’s supposed to rain, but I kind of don’t care. I plan to be shooting for Canada In A Day, and what better way to show off one of the things I love about a day in my life than to spend at least part of it immersed in one of my favourite places?

Of course, my weekend is already filled with things that need to be done, so there won’t be any rest, and if I am still fighting this cold, I may yet lose the battle as a result. If all of my money for the next year or so is going to dental bills, though, I intend to make the most of the days in between!

On Dreams And Adapting

I had a dream about one of my exes last night.

Well, not exactly about her, but all the ridiculous drama – particularly near the end – featured quite heavily throughout. It’s likely my own fault for watching Bachelor in Paradise, but still. It’s had an odd effect on my waking life mindset today.

I’m angry.

Not raging mad, or anything, just a kind of over the bullshit feeling. It feels rather empowering.

Of course, I’m also exhausted, so that is likely feeding my grumpy ill-temper, as well, but whatever. I’ll focus on the empowering part!

It’s weird to stand outside of someone else’s relationship – romantic or even just friend-wise – and see a glaring imbalance within it. Weirder still is standing inside of your own relationship and seeing it – yet accepting it, anyway. Even helping to perpetuate it. Such an odd sensation to kind of hate it, and kind of hate yourself for standing for it, yet still kind of assuming that maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. Maybe just for you, maybe just for this relationship, but still accepting it nonetheless. The logic side of you is disgusted with the whole thing. The emotional side of you is more conflicted and unsure how to proceed, so you just kind of sit there inside of it and wait for something or someone to tip the scales in a different direction. Sometimes you even think it’ll be you who tips them – just maybe not quite yet.

The ex in my dream was a compulsive liar, I think would be the term, in real life. I knew this very early on, and I adapted to basically take everything she said with a grain of salt. I think I spoke to this before, in that not believing her became a habit which was then transferred into my next relationship, until I realized what I was doing and willed myself to cut it out and treat that new relationship as the wholly different entity that it was. I still catch myself being quietly sceptical of those around me sometimes, though. I’m not sure if it can all be traced back to that relationship, or if I just have trouble trusting people in general. Same result, either way, though.

Anyway, the lies weren’t necessarily huge, and weren’t usually hurtful towards others. I figured it was kind of a defence mechanism to keep people from getting too close to the real person inside; that it likely stemmed from some deep inner self-hatred, the source of which I was never privy. It was always clear, however, that it had nothing to do with me personally. It was just a part of who she was, and I decided I couldn’t pick and choose which parts of a person I would love, so I chose to essentially ignore some of those parts, instead.

I do that will all living beings, really. No one is perfect, so I chose which parts I like and ignore the rest, if the parts I like outnumber and outweigh the parts I don’t, I mean. Like, I don’t love that Flynn poos on the mat more often than she poos in the litter box, but I love Flynn for much more than where she poos, so I adapt and tolerate and go on loving her fluffy self. I chose to deal with the things I don’t like because there are so many more that I do.

Same with the lying ex. I didn’t realize at the time how far-reaching some of the effects of those choices I made then would be, but still – I didn’t make them blind. I knew pretty much exactly what I was doing. I remember deciding to just adapt and go with it. I remember making excuses for that decision. I remember not being surprised when it all came back to bite me, but still being incredibly hurt by it. Not that I thought it wouldn’t, or that I was special, or that I could change her with my love. Nothing like that. I think it was more just choosing to adapt to it – to change myself a little bit instead.

I think a lot of people do that – maybe everyone, maybe more often women – but a lot of people, regardless. I can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve seen one person – often a guy – talk down at someone else – often a woman – and watched the woman just take it. As though maybe a part of her believes whatever he’s saying to be actual truth. And maybe it is, but it’s his truth, and she takes it on as her truth, as well. Maybe some part of me believed I deserved to be lied to by my partner; perhaps as penance for not trusting anyone to begin with (damn you, X-Files!), or perhaps just because that’s what I get when I don’t open myself up to anyone else, either. Maybe I felt I was strong enough to take it on when few others could, which in turn made me feel kind of special. Like an emotional superhero, loving those who feel they are unlovable.

Whatever the reason, it wasn’t the first time I allowed an imbalance to permeate a relationship/friendship, and it wasn’t the last. It’s interesting that watching a cheesy “reality” show could dredge up some of those old emotions to the point where they had to show up all throughout a dream that otherwise had nothing to do with them. Now it’s all swirling around in my mind again, even though I haven’t seen that person in almost 13 years now, I’d say. I guess it’s not really the specific person, anyway, so much as the feelings that evolved throughout our relationship and then escalated during our ridiculously dramatic relationship.

Like, people are mean – to each other, to other living things. Giving someone the power to hurt you is hard, especially once other hurt-y people have paved the way for them in the past. I think the kind of cool thing for me today, though, is that I’m more angry than hurt, and that’s a newer stage for me. I mean, I went through them all back in the day, too, don’t get me wrong. I was hella mad, I was vengeful, I was afraid and I was devastated. I was all over the place, dealing with that sense of loss. Even to the point of not really considering it a loss sometimes.

I remember, like, a day or two after i moved out, I went back to get the last of my things while she was at work. With her permission – she knew I was going in and that I’d leave my key once I’d retrieved the rest of my stuff, most of which she had thankfully packed for me so it’d be a quick trip. I knew she’d screw me over on a lot of it, too, because she didn’t really care if I ever got everything that was mine back, but still. It was mostly just stuff, with no real value to anyone but me, anyway. The first thing I noticed when I got in the door was that every photograph of me or us or anything to do with us had been removed from their frames and replaced with entirely different pictures. She’d essentially erased my existence from her life, pretty much overnight. That realization ruined me to the point where I stuffed as many of my remaining belongings into as I could into a garbage bag and booted it out of there, never to return.

Well, and I left my key. I’m not the asshole she expected me to be, after all.

I also accidentally left behind a few items that were personally very important to me, and never saw them again, either, which sucks. That hurts more now than the picture thing, actually. One hurt was in the moment, and the other – which was a direct result of the first – has had long-lasting emotional repercussions.

I feel like there’s a lesson in that…

Anyway. I’m grumpy today, and feeling less like putting up with other people’s crap than usual, which is probably a good thing.

I will, however, still put up with Flynn’s crap, because the things to love about her will always outweigh the…crap.

Writing Prompts – Day 3 of 12

Day 3:  Mystery Cookie

One Day you come into work and find a cookie mysteriously placed on your desk. Grateful

to whoever left this anonymous cookie, you eat it. The next morning you come in and find

another cookie. This continues for months until one Day a different object is left—and this

time there’s a note.

 

Whenever I actually find something left for me on my desk at work – especially if it’s food of any kind – I assume it’s from Generous George, and accept it with gratitude, always thanking him when I see him. For the purposes of this, I’ll assume it was George, but then come to find that it was, in fact, not. Maybe he denies it, and maybe I don’t believe him at first, but eventually come to the supposition that perhaps the cookies are not coming from Georgie at all. I mean, it goes on for months – that’s a lot of false denial on both our parts.

I wonder why “Day” is capitalized in the prompt write-up?

Anyway, one day I come in and, instead of a cookie, I find a small feather. It looks like it’s from a pigeon. And not so much a note – but a map.

(Note: Just got some rather sad news so keeping this short, because I’m no longer very focused on writing at the moment)

So a map. From what I can tell, it’s for an area of my workplace, but one I haven’t been to in years. Not the way it was, anyway. Renovations several years ago rearranged things, so now there is an alarmed security door between where I am now and the stairwell I used to use several times a day. No one really uses that area any more, as this side of the door is just storage space, and all of the offices that used to be on this level have been moved to a different building all together. Other than the washrooms, there’s no need for anyone to come down to the stairwell on the other side of the door anymore. We used to use it as our main entrance and exit back in the day, however, so it doesn’t take long before I recognize what I am looking at.

In fact, it was in that very stairwell – mere months before I moved away for a short time – that a pendant so precious to me I wore it every day, broke suddenly, and a piece of it was lost. It had been a gift, created by hand, and given to me to mark a special day. I valued it almost as much as I valued the one who gave it to me, and even though I changed the cord it hung from a couple of times to keep it strong, the beads and other items which hung from it remained ever the same.

Until that day.

Out of nowhere, the cord suddenly snapped and everything scattered to the tiled floor as I was starting to climb the stairs. I was a tad confused as to how it had broken, as to my knowledge the cord I was using was still in good shape, but the pendant had broken before, and I’d always retrieved all of the pieces, and placed them back in their proper order on a new cord.

This time, I gathered everything up once again, and double-checked to make sure I had it all. I did not. There was a single bead missing. This would not be a huge deal, except that the beads were all in pairs on the pendant, and not having one meant that the balance was all thrown off. What’s more is that a piece of the whole was missing, and that just didn’t sit right with me. Inside, I started to become a little frantic, and then a lot frantic, as the more I searched – even including the help of a friend – the more obvious it became that the bead was gone.

Despite the fact that there was nowhere for it to go. There were no cracks in the tile, no gaps between the floor and the wall which wasn’t sealed. We widened our search to ridiculous proportions, but eventually I had to concede defeat. A bead from my precious pendant was gone, and it felt like a piece of me was missing.

It felt like something important had left me, like the One Ring when it chooses to abandon Gollum in the caverns.

That feeling returns with the memories of that day as I follow the map which had been left on my desk with the wee feather. I actually forgot for a moment that the door is alarmed now and I can’t go through it without setting it off, so I turn sheepishly to go upstairs and outside to come in the other entrance. There is a tiny ‘x’ near a corner of the map, and while it’s close to the door, it does appear to be on the other side from where I now work.

I begin to feel even more silly as I descend the stairs, yet memories of that one day increase the closer I get to where it happened. Now that I am here, I take a moment to re-orient myself with the map (I’m basically lost once I get inside most of the time – my sense of direction is crap), and look around the area of the ‘x’ for anything which appears to be out of place. I can’t notice anything overt – definitely no more cookies or even feathers – and the floors are actually quite smooth and clean, since they are so rarely used these days.

I’m feeling pretty ridiculous and am about to head back to work when something catches my eye. It’s in a corner, hard to see, but the pattern of the tile appears to be skewed ever so slightly. Upon closer inspection, I realize that it’s not skewed so much as chipped off. A piece of the tile has cracked at some point, and while the broken part has long since been swept away, it left behind a small gap between the tile and the wall it connects to.

What the hell, right?

I get down on my hands and knees, listening for any sign of another person approaching, and pull out my phone to flip on the flashlight app. Shining it into the dark corner, my heart seems to skip a beat.

The light flickers off of something shiny in that tiny gap.

Feeling ever more insane and yet driven at the same time, I tug my key ring from my jeans pocket, select the one which appears to be the best fit, and wiggle it into the narrow, jagged fracture. I scrape the key toward me a few times, then feel something give under the metal. One more pull in my direction frees it completely, and a small object rolls into the beam of light still emanating from my phone.

Naturally, it’s the missing bead from my pendant. All these years later, it’s decided to return to me.

I mean, what would have been the point of telling that whole story if it had been anything else, right?

Don’t Read This One

Seriously, I’m just ranting – you don’t need to read this one.  I feel like I say too much, but not nearly enough, and am just trying to get out of my head for a moment.

It’s okay to give this one a pass.

I’ll write something else later.

Either way, here goes nothing…

To say I am frustrated and disappointed with the Fire Marshal would be an understatement. There really are no words, yet at the same time, there will never be enough words. I can’t wrap my head around what appears to be a flippant dismissal of the loss of life, and responsibility, and justice…and while none of that can bring back those kids, I feel like a half-assed investigation only adds insult to injury. I mean, isn’t the main function of a Fire Marshal investigation to determine the cause of a fire? Not just call it inconclusive, sit on it for over two years and then say, “Oh, I don’t know, it was probably caused by (this first guess). Case closed.”

I don’t think a Coroner would just wave his or her hand and say, “I don’t know…the person probably died because of (this first guess). Case closed.”

Or maybe they would. I don’t know if anyone is doing their freaking job anymore. I have lost confidence in the people who hold such positions to carry their share of the responsibility in determining what happened, and how similar tragedies can be prevented in the future.

They didn’t even interview the lone survivor about that night, let alone any of the people who were at the apartment so often it was like a second home to them. Yet apparently felt it was fine to ask me questions through a friend. For the most part, though, they just made an assumption and called it a day. An assumption that was quite likely incorrect. Didn’t even look into anything else; any other possible cause.

One smoke detector had no battery, the other was probably not working – they’re not sure. Just that everyone reported that no smoke detectors were going off when the fire was discovered. One was located above the stove in the kitchen, and one outside the boys’ bedrooms at the front. So…I guess the one in the kitchen also served as the regulated-by-law smoke detector that is supposed to be outside of the girls’ sleeping areas, as well? A little double duty from over the stove in the kitchen?

That both exits were on the same side of the building doesn’t seem to have raised any concerns about the apartment being up to code, nor the fact that walls were added to turn the space into a 4-bedroom instead of two. I have a screen shot of the rental ad – well, a rental ad for that apartment. Not necessarily the one the kids answered when they found the place. But basically the same. It wasn’t turned into a makeshift 4-bedroom for them specifically. It was advertised as such. Are two smoke detectors really enough for a 4-bedroom when one of them is in the kitchen area? Above the stove, for Pete’s sake?

That the landlord is not legally responsible for maintaining the smoke detectors is frustrating. Apparently we as a society feel it is up to a group of kids in their early 20’s to dutifully check to ensure everything is in proper working order when they move in, rather than the owner dude renting the space to them in the first place. I didn’t check mine until this all happened, because I know that the landlord checks them regularly, but when I found that things like this can not only happen, but also be my fault, I became a little more paranoid than I was before (and I was already really paranoid). I am not in my early 20’s, though. Not on my own for the first time. I was 41 when I started testing my smoke detectors more often than the landlord was doing it.

The kids’ landlord didn’t do it at all. Not in the time that they lived there, at least.

And apparently the Fire Marshal doesn’t deem that an important factor, either. Doesn’t think any of it is, really. So what if three kids and a little kitten lost their lives? No one need speak for them. No one need determine the reason how any of it happened. I used to believe people in those positions would fight to do their jobs to the very best of their abilities. That not knowing wasn’t a suitable answer. That guessing was never the way.

Which means I watch too much TV. Turns out to real people, it’s just a day job, and then they go home, without giving another thought to those who will never get to go home again.

I get that everyone’s just doing the minimum required. I get that nothing can change what happened, no matter how much investigation is done. I understand (almost) all of it on a reasonable level, but that doesn’t change my frustration and sadness and disappointment and anger and hurt and…just…overall upset-ness. The minimum effort raises more questions than it answers, and those kids deserve more. The families deserve more. Ethan deserves more. He at least deserves the chance to fill in some of the blanks for those investigating what happened. He was there, after all, and he’s the one who has to live with those memories for the rest of his life. At least ask his side of it, if it’s your job to determine what happened. To me, that actually falls under the bare minimum, but then again, I’m not the Fire Marshal. Just someone who, on some level, will never really understand any of it at all.

I go over that night in my head constantly, you know. Constantly. I wasn’t there. I’d never been inside the apartment until after everything had been taken out. I didn’t even know any of them but Alysia. But I picture it over and over; my mind is full of unanswered questions about how everything happened, trying to fill in the many, many blanks. I feel like if any one thing had gone differently that night, they would all still be alive.

If even just one smoke detector had gone off, for example.

I had a dream last night that I was choosing between…like, it had something to do with Spanish, even though I don’t speak it. But essentially, I had to choose whether I would learn to help Spanish-speaking people in a legal forum, or a musical one. I know. But hey, music speaks, too. I had the impression that either I would be working for people’s rights – the rights of those who could not communicate effectively due to the language barrier – or if I would help in a more spiritual/emotional way through the implementation of music and dance programs.

I chose law, and even in the dream I couldn’t believe I was picking the more difficult road.

I just felt it would be the one where I could be most effective and make the most difference.

I chose to speak for those who could not speak for themselves.