Eight Years Ago

November 4, 2016

Eight years ago today Barack Obama became the first African American president in our nation’s history. I think about that a lot, and I wonder if the Obama’s celebrate this date. I wonder if they even remember what the date was, as at that point a presidential campaign is so insane they may only know what day it is because it’s election day so it must be Tuesday.

I remember this day eight years ago so very clearly because it was my mom’s 60th birthday. The last healthy one she had. I remember I gave her 60 beautiful roses and had Indian food delivered. She didn’t want to go out because she knew history was being made no matter which way it went, so we ate in front of the tv and watched the election results. After growing up in the 50s and living through the 60s, she was amazed. She voted for him, of course. But she honestly never thought she’d see the day where we had a black president. She was so proud of how far our nation had come that we would elect him.

Four years later she had been gone only three months, and I spent Election Day working my first election and once again hoping for an Obama presidency. I was nervous and scared about working the election, but it was an amazing experience. I was so grateful it was after her birthday that year, because I was a basket case for all of October. Things were Really Not Good for me then, and I basically cried when I breathed for weeks leading up to her birthday.

This year for her birthday I’m going out with a friend to see a fun movie. I can think of Mom’s birthday now without wanting to sob uncontrollably, but it took a few years. It’s still the hardest day of the year for me. I remember the date she was diagnosed with cancer. I remember the date she decided to start hospice care. I remember the date she died. I remember all the amazing Christmas Eves we had together, and all of my birthdays, but her birthday has always ALWAYS been, for me, the hardest day of the year to get through.

I’ll be working the election again, as I have every one since 2012. It’s still an amazing and humbling thing to do. I’ll be honest and tell you I’m more than a little worried about something happening at the polls, but I also know Mom’s watching. And pretty pissed off she wasn’t able to vote for Hillary. She would have been ALL OVER voting for her. And if she was retired by now, I’m sure she would have volunteered for the campaign.

But I know when I cast my vote, she’ll be in the booth with me. She’s the one who taught me how to vote when I was little and we walked to my parents’ polling place. My parents and I are of a similar mind politically, and as the only Democrats in a family of Republicans, it sometimes gets a little dicey. But she’s the one who taught me to think for myself. To look up the issues. To not just be a voter, but be an INFORMED voter. If I had questions, she’d answer them. If I wanted to know how she was going to vote, she’d tell me, but always with the caveat that I should make up my own mind, and not just vote the way she and my dad did.

All during this campaign I’ve ached to talk to her, and I know she would have had a LOT to say about the shenanigans. Most of it would have been colorful. Who do you think taught me how to swear?

So today, on her birthday, I miss her so much. And on Tuesday when I vote, I’ll miss her even more. But I think she’d be proud of what I’m doing and how I’m going on without her. At least I hope so.

Happy birthday, Mom. I wish you were here.

A picture of me on the left with my mom on the right. All you see are our heads and shoulders. I have my arm around my mom and we're in matching blue windbreakers. Taken in 1984.

And don’t haunt me because I posted this picture.

Lynda the Guppy
aka The Bear’s Daughter

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I have thoughts

November 16, 2015

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a  single candle,
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared.

One day in 2007 my mom called me at my office and told me she had to attend a meeting in Paris. She had decided to take a few extra days and play tourist. Did I want to go? Oh, and we would leave in two weeks.

Good thing my passport was up to date.

Here’s the thing. Paris was one of those places I thought I might get to eventually, but if I didn’t, that was okay, too. No real desire to go. And the French, especially Parisians, are always said to be rude and snooty and obnoxious.

I was in Paris about 2 hours before I loved it. It took only a glance at the Eiffel Tower for me to completely lose my heart to her, and the Parisians couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful to strangers. It was a total impulse trip, and an expensive one, but one I will never regret. It was one of the best five days of my life, and I’m so glad I got to experience it with my mom.

I could tell you about how beautiful I think the Eiffel Tower is…

The Eiffel Tower on a sunny day in Paris looking from the ground up to the top.

I could tell you about how happy my mom was to finally be able to go inside Notre Dame, and how I took the only picture of herself she ever LOVED…

My mom standing in front of one of the carved doors at Notre Dame. She's got a huge grin on her face.

I could mention the cows I found while I was lost trying to get back to the hotel…

Two life-sized cow statues facing each other. One has traditional cow markings but in silver with black spots. The one on the right is gold with white wings painted on its body and a huge white flower painted on its back hip. Both cows have red tails and hooves as well as red masks over their eyes.

…Or the strolling accordion player who started playing on cue when I said I was wearing “The Magic Scarf”…

Man holding an accordion and a pink scarf I knitted which was dubbed The Magic Scarf. He looks very confused.

…Or the strangers on a train who got off the train with us, and made sure we made it to the right train, before taking a later train themselves to wherever they were going that Sunday afternoon…

All those things went through my mind Friday night while watching the awful news out of Paris. All that carnage. All that bloodshed. It was awful and heartbreaking. I have a friend who is near enough to Paris for me to be worried. Thankfully, she’s safe. I’m not sure about her friends.

I wonder what happened to those strangers who helped us find the train to Versailles? The guard at the Louvre who was so friendly? The street artist from in front of the Musee d’Orsay who drew the sketch I have hanging in my office?

The news was coming fast, but confused. First it was gunshots at a cafe. Then two restaurants. Then two explosions. No, only one. Maybe three. A hostage situation. No, a massacre. Suicide bombers? Nothing was clear, other than horrible people were out to kill as many people as they could. I couldn’t believe it.

Except…I could. Atrocities like these happen near daily in some parts of the world, but it’s become so commonplace there that we no longer notice. The talking heads last night mentioned how horrible it would be if we lived in a world where we needed to be scanned for weapons before entering a restaurant.

There are places in the world where they do just that. Places where they fear every day for their lives, for their children’s lives. People talk about how scary it is for American schoolchildren to have school shooting drills? What about the kids in the Middle East who have bombing drills. Not because it MIGHT happen to them, but that it HAS happened to them, and they need to be as prepared as possible for next time.

I don’t know what the answers are. France is declaring its own war on terror? Okay. Great. Look at where the US is after declaring the same 14 years ago. Terrorism still exists. People are still being killed. Except now we have a generation of wounded soldiers, military cemeteries who can’t keep up with the bodies, and we can’t go through TSA without putting lip gloss in a plastic bag.

Where there is love, there is life.
~Mahatma Gandhi

I know I’m scared. I’m more scared now than I was in 2001. Smarter people than me are trying to figure out answers. I don’t know that it will happen in my lifetime, but I think that’s okay. When I was growing up portions of Europe were literally walled off from the rest of the world. Nuclear war was a legitimate threat. With the push of a button the entire world could have been obliterated. But it’s better now. As awful as these terrorist attacks are, as ALL terrorist attacks are, I believe it IS a better world.

The world is a smaller place. I regularly talk to friends via social media who live in Australia, Ireland, Canada, Spain, all corners of the US, and lots of other parts of the world. People are using social media for change for the better. People are trying to make themselves better. Heck, I have my current career because of Twitter.

Yes, there seems like there’s a lot of hatred in the world today. On both a small scale and a global one. But I’ve seen people teach others about ethnic diversity and why it’s important, about how to better understand disabilities and the issues people living with them have. I’ve seen friends announce some troublesome news and be absolutely SWAMPED with love and support. I’ve seen friends and strangers alike say they’re struggling with emotional issues and people they don’t even know give out their phone numbers or offer to meet them somewhere to talk. To help.

And I’ve just watched Parisians open their doors in the night for terrified strangers who were frantic to get off the streets and away from more gunfire and explosions.

There are awful, horrible things going on the world right now, but I choose to focus on the love and strength I know we all have within us. I know it’s there because times like this, when scary things happen, and we are shaken to our core by violence, that’s when it happens. When those of us watching let all that love and strength shine out of us like beacons so those who are trapped in the darkness can find their way out.

Find their way home.

I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lynda the Guppy
aka The Fish With Sticks

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The Challenge Report

April 25, 2015

Dewey's 24-hour Readathon logo

Here’s where I’ll be posting the challenges I’ll be participating in during the Readathon. In fact, let’s get started right now!

Hour 0 Challenge: What the Readathon Means to ME

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I’m in Los Angeles, California, so we have a start at the ungodly hour of 5:00 a.m. Ugh. Good thing I haven’t gone to bed yet. LOL. Soon, though.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Probably the Cherise Sinclair book. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time, and it’ll be good to get back to this series. It’s been a while.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

At the moment I want the biggest, orangest bag of Doritos that ever Doritoed. Unfortunately for me, I have none in the house and have no intention of LEAVING the house, so I’m kinda screwed there.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I love to read romance in a bunch of different genres. I knit a lot and take too many pictures of my cat. Lucky for you I don’t always share them online.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I’d sleep more, but that’s only because last time I was in the midst of a 2-month bout of Insomnia so it had literally been months since I slept more than 2-3 hours at a time. It was great for my Readathon reading last time! But I was ready to start playing in traffic.

Treasure Hunt MiniChallenge

The quest was to find three book covers. One with a tree, one with snow, and one with a weapon. Since I love Christmas novellas and romantic suspense, this should be easy. LOL

Okay, so first up is Jill Shalvis’ Merry Christmas, Baby. This is a 2-for-1 as it has both trees AND snow! I loved this little holiday novella, btw. My review for it is HERE.

Book Cover: Merry Christmas, Baby by Jill Shalvis

Next up is HelenKay Dimon’s Playing Dirty. I love this cover. And this book. This series, really. Romances featuring kick-ass women and men who like to go around and blow stuff up. What’s not to love?

Book Cover: Playing Dirty, HelenKay Dimon

Picture It Challenge

The challenge was to find a picture that represents something within the book I’m currently reading. Since I’m still on Cherise Sinclair’s Master of Freedom and it’s set near Yosemite, this was a no brainer. I LOVE Yosemite. I’ve been there many, many times. In the book Virginia (“Gin”) has a picture of a climber on El Capitan up on her office wall. Here’s my version which I took on my last trip there with my mom in 2009.

(For this I’ll upload the pic here later. In the meantime, TO THE INSTAGRAM!)

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Dewey Redux

April 24, 2015

Logo for Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon

Here we go again! I’m participating in the Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-A-Thon. You can check out my participation last year HERE.

Just like last time, I’ll be updating this post throughout the 24 hours. I’ll have a separate post up for any mini-challenges I’ve completed.

Want to compare what’s on my TBR list with what I’m actually reading? I have a Goodreads shelf just for this Readathon. I have 24 books listed ON MY SHELF, and no, that wasn’t deliberate. There are some novellas on there, and some shorter category books I’ve been meaning to get to, along with at least one advance copy of a book. Maybe more.

So wish me luck! The Readathon will begin at 5 a.m. my time (Los Angeles), and if you want to cheer me and all the others on, you can find us on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #Readathon.

Lynda the Guppy
aka The Reading Machine

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Santa, dear, I’m in a hurry

December 8, 2014

Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now

I think this year We Need a Little Christmas is going to be my holiday fight song. I’m looking forward to Christmas this year, especially getting to spend it with a dear friend, but it’s still a little hard for me. It also doesn’t help that Thanksgiving day it was 90 degrees. So I’m feeling at turns really excited and…really…meh. It would be easier if I could pick an emotion and stick with it.

For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet

Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry

I have fantastic friends who bring all sorts of happiness and laughter and support into my life. My dad and I are making more of an effort to see each other face to face instead of texting all the time (Yes, Dad texts. I know, right?!). My mom’s best friends from college have all adopted me into their group (I’m Nancy 2.0)  and are wonderful amazing women who have known me literally my entire life and love me anyway.

So climb down the chimney
Put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen
Slice up the fruitcake
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough

I still miss mom every day, and I can’t really see that changing any time soon, but that’s okay. This past year I’ve started dealing with my feelings towards some family drama that has gone on since she died. And I’ll be honest. It hurts. A LOT, but I’ve made a few decisions about what I need to do and how I need to deal with it, and while I’m sad, I feel…lighter…after making those decisions.

For I’ve grown a little leaner, grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder, grown a little older
And I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder
I need a little Christmas now

I don’t say any of this for sympathy. I’m not looking for any nor do I want it, but I have no decorations up for Christmas for reasons, (I’ll fill you all in on why later). It doesn’t feel like Christmas here at Chez Guppy. And while I certainly haven’t grown any leaner, I’m pretty sure colder, sadder, and older are definitely checked off on my list this year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. To do what I needed to do for my own peace of mind and happiness I HAVE had to be a bit cold. So I think I need a little Christmas. Damn it.

Haul out the holly
Well, once I taught you all to live each living day
Fill up the stocking
But Auntie Mame, it’s one week past Thanksgiving Day now

I’m honestly in a good place overall. I’m starting to do some proofreading work and will hopefully eventually get into copy editing and proofreading full time. Honestly, work should not be this much fun. It’s stressful, because I want to do a good job, and meet the deadlines, not to mention I worry I miss stuff, but seriously? I LOVE it, and I think I’m good at it. I hope I’m good at it. 

So climb down the chimney
It’s been a long time since I felt good, neighborly
Slice up the fruitcake
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that mayberry bough

Everything’s pretty much great, but I have moments of sadness, too, and am not QUITE getting into the spirit of Christmas yet. So I’m gonna do what everyone does. Fake it till I make it. In the meantime….

We need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet

And we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
We need a little Christmas now

We need a little Christmas now
We need a little Christmas now

Lynda the Guppy
aka Grinchy Guppy
aka The Fish With Sticks

We Need A Little Christmas, Mame soundtrack
Book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edward Lee
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman

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