Thursday, May 25, 2017

WARNING: CAT MAY BEHAVE...LIKE A CAT



I spent the last two days in training about product liability.


In it's most fundamental, pure conception, product liability is meant to ensure that people who make things make them:


1) as safe as possible


2) consistently in that safe way, and


3) warn a user of any dangers that exist even when said product is as safe as can be.


It sounds deceptively simple. I was sitting there listening to detailed outlines as to product exposures common to specific industries and court cases where dumbassery (pardon my French!) was not only excused, but rewarded,
and got to thinking: what if we had to do this with everything? Like weather, or basic bodily functions (teeheehee), or....pets.


And this is what happened.



So, yeah, it may be hard to hold Mama cats liable for their "products." Not only is English not their native language, but also, the just don't give a damn. At all. In lieu of an opposable thumb, they've figured out how to flip us off with their eyes. And if you think you're going to get a dime out of a cat, just try collecting your own hairbands that they've stolen and then hidden in some pocket of the universe that doesn't exist in the normal space-time continuum.


But beyond that, after trying unsuccessfully for
two Halloweens in a row to get Jellybean to wear his adorbs little fireman costume, and Nilly her
precious lion mane, I don't think there's a breakable's-chance-on-an-elevated-surface that the warning labels are going to last the lifetime of the product.



 I have no concrete solutions to either the challenges of cat liability, or the challenges of product liability. But I propose that we make May 25 National


Manufacturer's Day. Hug someone who makes something!


And maybe get them a cat.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Remember that one time?

My grandpa was a boy during the great depression, and for a spell after his dad walked out on a wife and three boys, they lived under a pecan tree.

"Just try it," she said. Oh why the hell not? His legs had just
started to tremble when she went slack, having passed out
from the blood rushing to her head. Just then the boat hit a
wavelet, and she tipped, landing heavily on the industrial
carpet and dragging him with her.
In my mind it was almost Swiss Family Robinson.  A temperate day in Oklahoma (again, this is in my mind, so those exist)  and three rowdy boys coming up with clever schemes to get to the pecans while their mother, wearing a faded apron, does the wash in a metal tub.

The reality would've been extreme heat, or ice storms, depending on the season, no bathroom or shower to clean up in, and a persistent fear of where the next meal is coming from. Because when you can't afford a roof, food isn't guaranteed.

I'd like to think grandpa might not have realized some of that at the time, since his mama probably tried to shield him from it. But poverty is hard to ignore when you're living it.

She pressed into him, grinding sand further into places
it was never meant to go. But he didn't notice. He was too
distracted by the boys splashing nearby, and their
 snickered comments about "boobies." 
Now, somehow, his mama got back on her feet, remarried, and built a life in Arkansas with her family that included the boys hunting rabbits for dinner sometimes, and an outhouse that got super fancy when my grandpa came home from college and installed an electric light. (Them college kids and their highfalutin' ways!)  So not quite a rags to riches story, more like a rags to frayed-hems-and-worn-elbows.

I wish I could have met her.

I spent the last year addicted to historical romances.  They've got the best gowns.  But when the heroine swishes into the packed ballroom wearing shimmering silk and a culturally improbably independence, and the titled hero spots her from across the room and slides between couples, unable to resist seeing up close the way candle-light gleams off her hair and those bewitching eyes, a  small voice in the back of my brain says, "yes, but they both smell like BO, as does the rest of the packed party, and she's probably pitting out in her silks. Of course with the limited light sources, maybe that's not obvious. And I love me some strong heroines, but sass probably didn't go over quite that well with men who were raised to literally believe God made them better than everyone who wasn't aristocracy, and most of the people who were."

Their lips met first, then their teeth. They both giggled a
bit awkwardly, but in for a penny...He slid his arms around her
pulling her close.  As her fingers drifted through his soft curls,
she whispered, "Is that a tick?"
It's not just historical, they just make an easy example. Heroes and heroines of every genre are tall and graceful and quippy, and have indefinable scents that are just them. I can't say I've walked up to someone on first meeting and smelled their person in any positive way. I love me some cologne, shampoo, and being female, Axe turns me to jello (yeah, thanks to sarcasm I wouldn't have done well in historical eras.) But I honestly can't say I've ever been drawn to person-scent. Granted, my nose works at about 80% of normal, so maybe I'm just missing out.

As a romance writer, I'm not opposed to idealizing things in story. I don't want to think about Scarlet O'Hara's BO, or Jamie Fraser's morning breath. The good guys always get the bad guys, and the last word.  I don't want my own stories, set in the South, to include the tang of bug spray and the way mosquitoes hover just beyond its reach looking for that one little inch of skin you missed.  Nobody gets dandruff or snotty colds. Because the point of most stories is to escape those things, and indulge in a dreamy adventure.

The problem is when the idealizing doesn't stop at novels and enters my real life because its a setup for recurring disappointment.  If I pull out the Hallmark channel moments of Christmases past, and wrap them in golden cellophane, then every Christmas after is not quite as good, and I can't figure out why. Because if I've forgotten the things that didn't go splendidly, I can't make changes to address them.  Same goes with birthdays, and chocolate cake.  I spend my time trying to make the people and places around me be what I manufactured in my head, and then when a pecan tree isn't a tree house, life feels overwhelming, unfair, and disastrous.  Why can't I get it right?

Love could be tough,when you belonged to a cult
that didn't believe in standing less than two feet apart.
And it was even tougher when, after you finally figured out
how to kiss without breaking the rules, you didn't
notice the Civic barreling towards you through the snow,
it's headlights capturing your first and last moment of
romance sans PTSD.
I don't mean I want to dwell on what didn't go the way I wish it had in the past. I just mean when I'm tempted to pick and choose pieces to save, I need to stop, unwrap the memory, and let it be real. Christmas morning was still filled with laughter and a conga line through the kitchen. The cake was still delicious. Three boys probably did come up with harebrained schemes to get at the pecans.

But those moments were beautiful pieces of a whole experience.  The tiffs or boredom that slivered the laughter happened too. And if I can figure out why, next time I can make plans or changes--or even just bring my expectations back down to earth--so the holiday is more enjoyable. And while that cake was lust-inducing, this piece is delicious too. (And it's here, which makes it instantly wonderful.) And though great-grandma couldn't have changed her pecan tree story on her own, the reality of it makes me see how strong she was and how diverse grandpa's life has been.

Aw, and this is the real thing right here. True love.
(And I'm going to assume the soldier is super hot.)
I guess what I'm realizing is this. There's fantastical beauty in the stories we read and tell. Characters struggle, but they always overcome, and there's almost never a less than stellar kiss.  I love this. I don't want to change it or belittle it.  And the best stories are when you embrace all of this with the hero, and come away having reflected in a way you will carry with you.  But there's also beauty in the reality of life. In the imperfect, whole truth of the past. And when it comes to actually living, the whole is much more powerful.