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Subject:It's a boy!
Time:04:42 pm

Doug is just a little heartbroken. He really had his heart set on a daughter. His first response was to say "We'll just have to try again as soon as possible. Get ready for Irish twins."

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Subject:20 Weeks
Time:10:03 pm
Tomorrow I go see my doctor for my 2nd trimester ultrasound. We'll find out if we have a Will or a Kitty. I finally feel pregnant, especially since I feel the baby move about every three days or so. The baby hates dubstep. A friend turned up the music loud and she (?) started "banging" like the grouchy neighbors downstairs.

Doug got me a coffee drink for tomorrow. Caffeine and sugar to make her active so we can get good pictures.

I hate to be THAT woman, but the baby is the only thing new or interesting in my life, since I was laid off from the Nature Center.

Well, I had a kidney stone two weekends ago. That was a while weekend vomiting and in agonizing back pain, worrying about whether the kid was getting enough calories since I wasn't keeping food down. A few hours in the emergency room on Sunday and an emergency trip to the Baby Doctors on Monday to check her out, and I passed the stone Monday morning. And didn't even notice, really. That was anti-climactic. Anyway, I lost four pounds, but she was fine.
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Subject:2013-2014 My Most Life Changing Year
Time:10:48 pm
Current Mood:fullfull
My life is so completely different now, I almost feel like I should start this whole blog over, but I'll always be Rhapsody, I guess. So let me at least start this year over.

On a Monday July 22nd, the day after what would have been my father's 56th birthday, my sister gave birth (after several years of attempts to get pregnant and one miscarriage) to my adorable nephew. She is very distrustful of the technology in general (she doesn't even have a debit card) and the internet in particular, so I'll just call him The Monkey. It's what I call him anyway (family private joke).

That Friday I woke up with some back stiffness and soreness. It lasted most of a week, bad enough so that I couldn't really bend over. Then on my nephew's two week birthday I woke up in intense pain, unable to move. I laid in bed wondering how I would get up to go pee, much less make it to work. Doug (my husband, in case anyone forgot) had to pull me to a sitting position and it was the worst pain I have ever felt.

We went to the urgent care and got some pain pills, but because there had been no accident or trauma, they gave me muscle relaxers and told me to see my family doctor if it didn't go away.

The back pain did go away, in about ten days, just like they said. But by the middle of August I had a new problem, pain shooting down my left leg. Doug and I took a beautiful train ride through the Nantahala Gorge on a Saturday, and I spent the whole trip on the edge of my seat with my leg out, because that was how the pain was the least intense.

I went back to urgent care and told them about the new pain. They told me it was called sciatica, and probably had something to do with that back pain from July. They gave me some Tramadol. It didn't do much. Once I made the mistake of taking 2 (because the label told me I could) and I spent an entire day at work alternating between throwing up and passing out. Not falling asleep, but actually passing out.

For money reasons, it would be January before I could see my family doctor, but February before the call center where Doug and I work could let me off. In the meantime, I was cooking from a rolling chair Doug had moved into the kitchen, and I could only stand or walk for a few minutes at a time. Each time we went shopping, anywhere, I had to find one of the electric carts or wait in the car. The pain only got worse and worse as time went on. On my breaks at work, I would have to choose between getting a snack or using the bathroom because the building was too big to do both, each day I would leave in agony even though I spent the day sitting at a computer.

On days where I worked at the Nature Center, walking around, bending and picking up toys and books, or carrying things up and down stairs were horrible. If there was no one around, once I finished my chores, I would sit in the rocking chair and read all day. In November I was laid off. Mostly due to a new city council trying to lower taxes by cutting programs. I told my boss Jeremy that if it had to happen, this was as good a time as any. The plan was to re-hire me in March, but the money for that never materialized, and in fact more cuts have been made, and previously free services are now... not.

In December, I got sick, and for three days in a row I threw up at work. A friend called our First Responder over (a former nurse,) and she asked if I could be pregnant.

"No, I've been on birth control for nearly 10 years."

"Well, my mom was on the pill when she got pregnant with me."

Oh. Well. Hrm. I spent most of the day texting with my sister getting advice, and she basically re-taught me about fertile days and when the test is most accurate. I expected Doug would be at least a little upset, but surprisingly he, he was ok with it. "If you are, then it's a miracle from God, and it's supposed to happen."

I wasn't. But at the end of December, we decided we would be more than ok with it. After all, I knew that I was having back/leg trouble. I didn't know why or how bad it would become. What if this was permanent? We should probably get on with having kids if we're going to. I might not be able to lift or hold my children in a few years. I went off the birth control.

On February 5, I saw my gynecologist and told him we were planning for kids, and he basically gave me the same talk Anna did, except he stressed adding Folic acid to my diet. I told him I'd missed January, but he said it was normal because of going off the pills. Also, I wasn't regular before going on the pills, I probably wouldn't be regular afterward. On Friday, February 6, I started like I was supposed to, also, I saw my family doctor. He gave me an MRI.

On Monday morning his office called me. They were going to refer me to a surgeon, did I have a preference? I hung up the phone and cried. I'd seen the aftermath of my grandfather's back surgery, and my uncle Ikie's, and knew recovery could be long and hard. After talking with both of them, they still both recommended the same doctor they had though. My uncle even said that other doctors had seen his back and called the job "perfect."

I saw the surgeon that Friday. He tole me I had a herniated disc. Basically, think of your discs as jelly doughnuts between your vertebrae. This one had ruptured, and the pressure had shot jelly all over my sciatic nerve, and that was why I was in pain. He scheduled me for surgery Wednesday, to scrape the jelly out. I left the office with Doug and we were in awe of how quick this was happening. We barely had time to get the paperwork filed with work for our leave (because Doug would have to take care of me for the first week until I could bend and lift again.)

The doctor asked again about trauma or accidents, and I couldn't remember anything, not even a stretch that hurt. He said in that case, it was a genetic weakness of the discs. Looking back at the Hale side of the family, it made sense. Everyone has had back surgery, it seems.

The surgery was February 19th. I went in with extreme pain, and woke up in none. None. It was a miracle. I cried on the nurse who was walking me around. "Oh, honey, you're overly emotional, it's a side effect of the anesthesia." But it wasn't. I'm tearing up now because the change was so profound. I was back at work in 2 weeks. A few weeks later, we were visiting our friend in North Carolina again, and even he remarked on it. "Last time I could tell that every step was painful for you, and now you're running and jogging down these aisles."

Anyway, I missed my period the month of March, and didn't think anything of it. I was a little annoyed that I would have to wait another month to calculate my fertile days, but I was pain free! I'm only 32! We had all the time in the world! (Unless I had another faulty disc, which is still possible. Since it's genetic, I was, and am, a ticking time bomb.)

But by the end of March I noticed a few things about myself. Primarily that my boobs really hurt. For like a week. I googled it, and found that it was a sign of pregnancy. Surely not, Doug and I said. Just in case, the morning of April 2nd I took a pregnancy test, and it was positive.

Doug said "It's a good thing we didn't do this yesterday, no one would believe us." (We've been child free for so long, people still asked if it was an April Fool's joke.) We got it confirmed on April 9th. Initially I thought I must have gotten pregnant in March, but the gynecologist said no. My last period was Feb 6, so my ovulation day was... wait for it... February 19th.

The egg was fertilized on or about the time I was getting cut open.

Luckily, there's a month before implantation, so the baby wasn't exposed to all the percocets and muscle relaxers I took in those couple of weeks.

That puts my due date at November 13. Also, I am LITERALLY the only woman I know who decided to have a baby and got pregnant, just like that (as opposed to going "Oops, didn't mean for that to happen"). I felt guilty for a while, especially after watching so many women I know try for months, or even years. We expected it to take months or years. 30 days??? Seriously??? It's a good thing I was so religious about taking those pills!

I don't really look it yet, at only 14 weeks, but I am very pregnant. I had morning sickness for several weeks, pregnancy acne, sore boobs (still!), cravings and food aversions, I nearly throw up every time one of the cats does, and once or twice I've nearly burst into tears for silly reasons. We have an ultrasound on Thursday, and if the baby cooperates, we may be able to find out for sure if it's a girl or a boy. Most of our family has guess girl, except my mom wants another boy. Doug and I already call the baby "she."

We're arguing over the name. I want Lillian Katherine and to call her Lily, Doug was Katherine Lillian and to call her Kitty. He will probably win, honestly. But I'm holding out for a few more months. If it's a boy, he will be William Timothy after both his grandfathers, unless my brother in law decides he isn't ever going to find a woman and have kids and lets us have his name, in which case our son will be William Phillip Yezek V.

And that catches you up to most everything that's going on in my life.
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Subject:Well, I've Been Creating All Over The Place.
Time:08:29 am
Quickly, before I go to my full time job, two BIG things.

My book is up on Amazon: Murder in the Mountains by Emily Monroe. 7 for print and 2 for Kindle. I drive around town Saturday deliviering review copies so that museum gift stores will carry it.

Second, I am having a baby. In November. I was apparently 8 weeks along before I noticed. I will know more after my first ultrasound, and I won't know gender until May.

I am literally so stunned I don't know what to do with myself. This surprised the heck out of us. Doug has turned into a mother hen, regulating my seatbelt wearing, what I eat or drink... It's really sweet, but annoying.

Also, since the Internet and I had our big breakup, I suck at web presence, huh?
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Time:09:17 am
Current Mood:disappointeddisappointed
On Election Day this year, four out of five of our city council members were replaced. They all ran on a lower taxes platform, so in order to lower taxes, they are going to cut the city's budget. Every department got the ax somewhere. For Parks and Rec, this meant laying off all Seasonal Employees and employees with less than 20 hours a week. That meant me.

For my last day I showed up at the Nature Center to a surprise lunch with pizza, and tea, and doughnuts. Normally I'm alone on Sundays, but all of the guys came and for most of my shift we sat around and chatted and it was marvelous.

I will miss going to the Nature Center on Sundays, I will miss the critters. But I can still email Jeremy and Don and Larry and visit when I want. Everyone assures me that as soon as the business picks up in March they will be calling me back. That will be good, and I hope that's correct. But I can't help thinking I don't have that kind of luck.

It came at the best possible time. For the past few months I've been having severe back and leg pain. I was diagnosed with sciatica. Since there was no accident or trauma, I literally just woke up unable to move one morning, the doctor said it's genetic. It's made getting around and doing things somewhat difficult. I cook from an office chair in the kitchen. It takes me days to do one load of dishes because I can't stand at the sink for long periods.

I'm going to take this opportunity with only one job again to resume work on my book. I'm going to publish via Amazon. My preliminary research suggests this is the best route, (especially since the only publisher in this area never responded to me.) I hope to get everything taken care of by March, in case I do get called back to the Nature Center.

Since I will be responsible for my own marketing, I've gotta actually start blogging again, to keep up a web presence. But in the meantime I still have a full time job to go to. It's time to get dressed and leave the house.
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Time:04:22 am
In October of 2011, I was working at the museum. We had been invited to go to Steele Creek for an event they have yearly called Wildlife Weekend. As this park is in Bristol instead of Gray, I immediately volunteered for the duty so that I didn't have to drive 45 minutes to work and back that day, only 15. Also, my grandmother used to take us out to play on the playgrounds when we were young, so I knew the place well, and was apparently the only one at the museum who knew where it was.

I was instructed in the activity they had requested: Fossil Casting. I cleared my afternoon so that Sarah could teach me how to mix up Plaster of Paris and water in correct amounts, how to slowly pour it into the fossil molds, and how to extract the cast without breaking it. It took about 30 minutes to dry in good warm weather.

I showed up on the day and was sent to the amphitheater, right beside the lake. As I unloaded bags and boxes of supplies, the "ranger" came up on this strange four wheeled vehicle to meet me. I was the only one who worked at the museum that he'd never met, I didn't know why until much later. Anyway, he asked me if I needed anything.

"Is there a water source nearby?" I asked, hoping he'd point me to a spigot or fountain.

"There's a fifty five acre lake right behind you." he said.

So I spent the morning trying not to fall in as I scooped up the water needed to make casts. Some of the casts had small leaves or stuff in them. Oh well.

Lunch was provided that day at a central location. As I sat down to eat, a guy down at the end of the table struck me as being familiar, so I struck up a conversation with him. "Excuse me, you look really familiar to me. Have we worked together before?"

He looked up, grinned really big, and said "You tell me, Little Monroe!"

It was Terry Napier, the man who'd given me that nickname when I was an Explorer, a junior cop, riding along with my dad. He was now my city's Director of Parks and Rec. We caught up and it was neat. I may have to tell the story sometime of how he went from cop to Parks and Rec because it's inadvertently hilarious.

In February I was laid off from the Gray Fossil Site. On the advice of my friend April, I started looking into work at several different parks nearby, and I had emailed the Nature Center Director at Steele Creek to see if there were any jobs open. Nothing permanent, but there was a summer camp position open. Since I was going to focus on teaching positions, and I qualified for unemployment and the minimum wage thing wasn't an issue, it seemed perfect to do summer camps again, like I had in college.

I went in for the interview, and found out my boss would be the Ranger from the Park, Jeremy. His boss's boss was Terry, my dad's friend. It wasn't much of an interview in the traditional sense of the word, it quickly fell into "Oh, and this one time at camp...." back and forth. Terry wandered in half way through with a wry grin and and a coffee cup and said "Oh, boy. A Monroe. Scraping the bottom of the barrel this time boys!"

I felt so at home.

Next week my dad died. I spent the next month cleaning everything up. I had made an appointment on Thursday to sign paperwork for his insurance policy with the city. That Tuesday I got a call that went like this:

"Are you the Emily Monroe that's coming in on Thursday to sing paperwork for your dad's life insurance?"


"Oh, good! Well, when you're done, step one desk over to my cubicle and sign your paperwork for the Nature Center Assistant position!"

I hung up the phone and laughed.

After things had settled down, I started work at the Nature Center. (Jeremy admitted that they actually delayed me starting, under the circumstances.) Steele Creek Park was, without a doubt, the best thing that happened to me in 2012.

Jeremy's title is Nature Center Director. We found out quickly that we had been at ETSU the same time, with the same teachers, but we couldn't remember if we'd had the exact same classes or not. He has a Master's Degree in Reptile Paleontology, which is why he knew everyone at the Fossil Site; he's the alligator expert.

Don also went to ETSU, a lifetime ago. Don has been a Naturalist so long, working in education and camps for several different agencies. Apparently, when Jeremy was a kid in camp Don was his counselor. Don swears he doesn't remember it though. His degree is somehow about plants, but his hobby is insects. He's the one who's responsible for our insect displays and the fact that we have a black widow in captivity. Ugh.

Larry is a retired mailman! In his retirement he became president of the Bristol Bird Club, and he's also studing moths and butterflys. He's a self taught expert on all that's airborne.

At the Nature Center I learned to feed and care for the critters we keep (mostly reptiles and amphibians; I tried to feed the black widow but she attempted escape and I told Don she was HIS problem now). My biggest challenge was sticking my hand in the cricket tank to get them into the jar so that I can feed them to things. You might recall I have a small cricket phobia. Don thought it was high comedy watching me work at it.

I learned to identify all sorts of birds and trees and flowers. Along with the kids I learned about weather, micro-climates, building fires, how to tell a venomous snake from a non venomous snake (in East Tennessee, it's not the shape of the head, it's the eyes!). I learned how to tell what kind of animal left that poop. I learned to recognize tracks and signs, and I learned about bird calls and animal behavior. I swear I learned more in six weeks than I ever thought I could. I thought I knew my mountain home. I knew it's history, it's geology, it's language and culture, I would've said "Sure, I know some plants and I know we have wildlife." My eyes have been opened to a whole other world filled with Fence Lizards and Five Lined Skinks, Goldenrod Galls, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Spotted Salamanders, 15 different species of turtles... I would never have guessed that there would be coyotes within our city limits. Who knew copperheads were so common? Or that trail side blackberries would taste so good.

I've kept learning. As the summer ended and it became clear I wasn't going to be a teacher again, I stayed on. Eventually the unemployment ran out and I had to get a job or starve, and OfficeMax was hiring. I told Jeremy I would love to stay on, even if it was just one day.

"Well, Don and I usually fight over who gets Sunday off."

So Sunday became my day. And what was supposed to be a temporary distract-myself-and-have fun job became a permanent position. Apparently I was too much of an asset to just let go, the bosses (Mike and Terry) agreed.
I work every Sunday, and a few Saturdays for special things (like Wildlife Weekend). I said once that I'd do it for free and Jeremy joked not to let Mike or Terry hear that!

Doug teases me because I'm there on about half of my days off anyway now, hanging out with my new friends, learning more about the natural world, hiking a little bit. One day I went to take a short walk on the far side of the park I don't get to visit much. We have over 2000 acres and 25 miles of hiking trails. In fact, if you go through my "Hiking" tags, most of them were in this park. But now I am much more observant, now instead of seeing forest, I see tulip poplars and spring beauty's and Christmas ferns. Now I see woodpecker holes and bear tracks.

Wait. Really? I snapped a picture with my phone and drove around the park to see the guys. Jeremy literally shoved a bucket, a tub of plaster of Paris and a spoon in my arms and said "Go make casts! We have eyewitness sightings in that area, but we don't have physical evidence yet! And I KNOW you know how to do this!" So I clocked in and went back out, and made casts of the bear tracks.

Ultimately they didn't turn out too well. The soil wasn't a good matrix, too gravelly, stick-y and leafy. But there I was in the forest, waiting for bear tracks to dry, nervously watching the sun dip behind the mountain, thinking about my fate.

If I hadn't have quit Sprint, I wouldn't have been laid off at Virginia High. I wouldn't have been able to take the job at the museum , where I learned to make casts. And if I never worked there, I would never have met Jeremy and Terry at wild life weekend, and I wouldn't have asked about the job and been hired by the city, and I would never have learned to really SEE the world around me. And even if I had been out in the woods on this particular day, I would've walked right by, and maybe even stepped on and obliterated the bear prints.

"So," my thoughts went, "if I get eaten by a bear tonight, it's going to have been my own damn fault for leaving Sprint."

Anyway, I wasn't able to help with camp this year. Even if Officemax would give me the time off, it's still just a minimum wage job. The new girl is good though. I learned to deal with the crickets, even if I don't exactly enjoy it, but she refuses to hold the education snakes, which I love to do. Between the two of us we make a competent employee!

What made my day though, was to see her job title. I've been the Nature Center Assistant since June of 2012, it's what they've always called the camp helper. But I'm still the Nature Center Assistant. She's the Camp Assistant. That made me incredibly happy.
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Time:10:49 pm
Current Mood:numbnumb
February: I'm laid off from my dream job, for the second time in 12 months.
March: my sister who has been trying for children for four years loses her first pregnancy only four days after it is confirmed.
April: my father dies suddenly of a massive heart attack.
May: I settle my fathers estate by telling everyone to whom he owes money that there is none, because it's true. We use the insurance money to pay for his funeral.
June: I'm not offered any teaching jobs (or any jobs for that matter) that I interview for.
July: my mothers nine year old cat Ezzy passes away from liver tumors.

Someone just shoot me now before this year gets any worse.
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Subject:Lifetime of Service
Time:11:18 pm
Current Mood:sadsad
My dad graduated high school in Pennsylvania. He started a semester of college, but before he could finish, my grandfather retired from the Navy, and the family decided to move home. Having nothing he couldn't live without in Pennsylvania, dad shrugged and moved back to Tennessee with his parents and his brother. They moved in a nice house in a new neighborhood. Six months later, a family moved in across the street, the Hales. My mom's dad met my dad's dad when mom's dad accidentally started a fire in some fallen leaves. The two were fast friends after that.

Dad and Uncle Mark promptly started volunteering at the Life Saving Crew, our home town Ambulance Service. Uncle Mark lost interest after a while, but Dad stuck with it. There was a semi-hilarious news article that my grandmother saved from that time. For whatever reason, there was a half a page of coverage of a car accident. The picture accompanying the article was of my dad and uncle giving CPR (and whatever else they were doing) to one of the victims. The caption called it "The Monroe Act."

(We put that picture up at the funeral. About 75% of the old-timers that mentioned it said something along the lines of "Oh, wow. That guy never had a prayer. How quick did they kill him?" God, how I love Cop/Firefighter humor.)

When I was born, Mom was the bread winner. She had a really nice job doing something I'm not sure I understand to this day. She was a histologist at a lab here in town. I understand she hated it, but it paid well. In the meantime, Dad was working on his EMT certificate, and was Mr. Mom. Each day he'd get me up, feed me, bathe me, play with me, put me down for naps, the whole nine yards. The only thing he couldn't do for me was comb my already copious hair. Each day at mom's lunch hour, we'd drive out to The Lab for mom to comb my hair.

Most importantly, he'd read to me. Back then, he wasn't aware of any studies that said reading out loud to small children (reading anything!) would make them smarter, or learn easier. He was just studying. He was reading me his EMT school books.

When I was starting school, he'd transitioned from Volunteer paramedic into being a full time fire fighter. Mom was staying home with me and Anna. When I was going into 5th grade, dad transitioned into a PTO position. This was a short-lived program that cross-trained Firefighters and Police Officers to do each others jobs. It came with a SIGNIFICANT raise in pay, and incidentally, being a police officer had been what my dad had started to go to school for in PA.

At 27 and 1/2 years, Dad retired. He went back to school and got a nursing degree. He spent the last six or seven years as a nurse in a dermatologists office. He said it was the best job he'd ever had: Nights, weekends, and holidays off. Every one of them.

Tomorrow, my sisters and I will be attending a memorial service at the Crew. They are honoring my father with a posthumous permanent spot, essentially a picture in the conference room. Many of my dad's best and longest friends are already up there. Whatever else his faults, he had a life of service, always trying to make the world a little better.

That's my dad. Saving lives, fighting fires, getting the bad guys off the streets, and finally, checking out that rash. Here. Have some Cortizone.

I miss you dad.
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Time:12:07 am
Dads apartment is now empty, his worldly belongings stashed in my mothers basement for an estate sale toward the end of the month. As we moved it all in, we laughed at the irony, most of this stuff was moved out of that basement during the divorce.

I lost my dad, but gained a good friend in his girlfriend Rebecca. My uncle Mark and I have had more deep conversations than ever in the past. My mom was able to help us with boxes, in the past few months her anger and hurt had receded, and she was getting ready to invite him out to lunch just to try to repair and regain whatever relationship they could have.

It's a process, and I'm taking it day by day.
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Subject:My father.
Time:12:04 am
My father died this morning, a heart attack. My uncle called me at 6:39 with the news.

I'm still reeling, really. I'm the one he nominated to be in charge, years ago, but he didn't leave me much to work with. As far as we know, there is no life insurance policy, but we can bury him with what's left over of his pension. It should be plenty. Honestly, all I want is enough to cremate him in accordance with his wishes, give him a good send off, and maybe have some extra for the road trip we always said we'd take: the three sisters and the urn and the scattering of our father across America.

I'm angry. I'm angry that I have to go through and decide what happens to his shit. I have to find homes for his cats, discard his trash, clean up his messes, decipher his finances, and clean out his apartment. I'm hoping he managed to pay for May, otherwise I have ten days to do all of it.

I'm not angry because I'm doing it alone, far from it. My sisters, my mom, uncle, husband, grandparents are all helping. I'm angry that I have to do it at all. Goddammit, he was only 54. You don't die at 54, you die at 70 or 80. But, it wasn't his fault and he didn't choose this.

Caitlyn was the closest to him in the recent years, and she's taken it the hardest. On the other hand, I'm only fine as long as I'm moving. Hence the LJ post when I would rather be asleep. But I'm afraid I'm going to have to wear myself out first. Anna is trying to keep thinking of him playing with his granddaughter. In her mind, now they have each other.

My grandmother may never be the same again. She's so frail anyway. She just kept asking "why?" over and over again. She told my mother "A parent should never have to bury their child," and Anna wailed and flew into her arms, the first real bonding moment Anna had ever had with our grandmother.

Mom and Uncle Mark had a moment today, too. Uncle Mark hugged her and said "I understand." Because Aunt Belinda died after the divorce, it didn't mean he loved her any less, or that the pain wasn't as bad.

I should be asleep. But going still means I have to face it. I know I have to face it eventually, but I don't want to right now. I'm not sure why. I know it's permanent. I know I'll never have my father back. But is it too much to ask that I can find a way to forget for long enough to get some rest?

My dad taught me how to shoot, he taught me to love history, he taught me to think for myself, and to think defensively. Most of the time he was more of a fun big brother than a dad, but that's just because that's who he was. He wasn't really the family man type. He's always been an old solider.

The Facebook comments were heartbreaking. Nurses, cops, friends of the family all chiming in on her FB page before we even knew they knew. Word gets around fast, especially since there was an EMT on the ambulance who knew who dad was, and immediately sent word around the police and fire stations.

This funeral is going to be huge. Oddly, part of me is excited about it, excited about seeing old friends again. Part of me wants to be anywhere but there.

I want to do nothing at all tomorrow and put off the paperwork and death certificates and house cleaning for a day, but even if I were to do so, I'd drive myself crazy sitting at home and bawling all day. I want to get it over with and try to move on, so that my life isn't about my dad's death anymore.

God I miss him.
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Time:04:05 pm
Current Mood:boredbored
I live.

Although just barely.

So, I've gotten laid off again, twice in a year. And job searches are depressing. I do qualify for unemployment, but I've not even been unemployed for a week and I'm going stir crazy. I've been working on my book hard and heavy, but gosh, I'm bored and lonely.

In the meantime, my sister is pregnant. My whole family is completely ecstatic, and my cousins are already fighting over who gets to baby sit. My grandparents are so happy they could burst, and I've not heard my dad this happy since, well, ever. Considering the doctors told her she would never conceive, it's not hard to see why everyone is so thrilled.

I am happy for her, but it's hard for me to be as happy as everyone else. At least this time it didn't gobsmack me like my cousin and his wife.

I know I've not really been here, and mostly it's been that I've just not had the inclination to write anymore. I remember when LJ fulfilled my daily quota of socialization, but I realize so many of my friends have moved on by now. Even if you haven't, what's more to say tomorrow or the next? Anna's still pregnant. I'm still unemployed. I'm still sitting at home with the cats thoroughly sick of video games, movies, and WOW.

I've thought about the whole "Urban foraging" thing just as a hobby, but it seems to be a euphemism for dumpster diving, so not fun. I could go back to scrap booking, but I would have to take more pictures. And anyway, Doug took the fun out of it when he got me the computer software that did anything I wanted it to do. There was no more creativity to be had, apparently.

I've tried to read, but the walls just seem to be closing in.

I'm so screwed. It's only Wednesday. I've been out of work for FOUR FRELLING DAYS.

Still not quite bored enough to mop my floor or vacuum clean, though.
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Time:07:41 pm
My husband managed to find the most awesomest Christmas gift this year. A cameo/part in the webcomic Something Positive. If you read it, you will probably recognize me. My first comic is up today.

It's like Randy has actually met me, and it's hilarious.
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Subject:Ruth is my grandmother.
Time:09:11 am
When the Lester and Lillian Mabe moved away from Saltville to Buchannan County, they found a small one room cabin at a remote place called Young’s Branch, after the creek nearby. Lester found work in the mines, on the night shift. Walking to school became an adventure, starting out before dawn with Garnet, the oldest child, carrying a flashlight, and the kids walking in single file. The straightest path meant crossing the creek five times before hitting the first road, and then another half mile to the bus stop.

In 1943, Vaydon, the second child and oldest daughter, was in 6th grade. At school, she started aching, and complained about a sore throat. When it was time to walk home, she could only go slowly, stopping at intervals to rest. Lester and Lillian had never been very sick before, and were sure it was just a cold and their daughter would get better.

She only got worse. She lost weight, unable to keep food down. She was bedridden for several months before they admitted it was beyond their ability to make it better. Somehow, they had to get her to a hospital, but the nearest one was almost twenty miles away in Grundy, and the family didn’t have an automobile.

Winter soon solved the problem when Young’s Branch froze solid. That Saturday night, Lillian loaded up her rocking chair with every spare quilt, and Lester and Garnet carefully lifted her into the cozy pile, and wrapped her up. The two of them carried her out to the creek. Lester’s miner’s headlamp lit the way as he and Garnet used the rockers as runners, and slid the rocking chair down the frozen creek. Where the creek met the road, a well-to-do neighbor, Mr. Childress, was waiting with his car, ready to drive her to the doctor. The third child, Ruth, was left in charge of her younger siblings as her parents and brother slid Vaydon away.

Vaydon would stay in Grundy hospital for over three months. She was diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever, and each day she was given a shot. To her dying day she would remember exactly how many shots she’d received, but Ruth only remembered that it was over 100. The family believed that her life had been saved by this miracle of medicine, a new drug called penicillin. Eventually, she was able to return home.

She had fallen behind in school, and so for the rest of their lives she and Ruth would be in the same grade. She had to re-learn how to walk, and was exempted from all but the lightest indoor chore load. Eventually she would make a full recovery, though for years her parents feared a relapse, or permanent damage to her heart.

In high school, she joined the basketball team. Ruth threatened to tell her parents, but Vaydon said that as long as she was alive, she might as well do the things she wanted, or she might as well have died. That ended the argument even with Lester and Lillian, and Vaydon became the highest jumper on the team.
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Time:12:22 pm
It's hard to believe that my Evie turned ten years old in April. She's still such a sweet, loving cat. She's an old lady now, and it shows. She moves so slowly, especially down stairs. Some days it looks like she's so very stiff. She doesn't play as much as she used to.

Recently, she's been having some issues with the litter box, and has been instead using a specific spot in the kitchen floor. So I took her to the doctor.

He said her hips were in really, really bad shape. She probably was in too much pain to climb into the box. So I have to get a shallower box for her. Also, if she was downstairs, it might have hurt too much to climb upstairs to get there.

He gave me some pain meds for her, and I gave her the first one yesterday.

It was like I had my old Evie back. She wandered around the house for the first time in ages. She went upstairs for the express purpose of using the box, and then came back down instead of going to sleep.

She had been jumping up on the bed and letting lose a little "MEEP." I hadn't even noticed, but she stopped that last night. I bet it was a meep of pain, and now she's feeling better she's not making any noise. My poor Evie. I'm so sorry I didn't get you to the doctor sooner.

I dread the next few years. Beauty was only sixteen when he died. He stopped being as active about this same time. Will Evie make it much longer than he did?
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Subject:DNA from Neanderthals
Time:09:23 am

The downside of sex with NeanderthalsSome modern humans carry immune genes that originated in Neanderthals and a related species. But these genes may have come at a price

Interbreeding with Neanderthals and Denisovans may have brought short-term health benefits but long-term problems. One question seemed to hang in the air more than any other when scientists first turned the powerful techniques of modern genetics on the fragile and damaged remains of ancient humans: did we or didn't we? Have sex with them, that is.

The answer came after years of painstaking work, when material extracted from the leg of a Neanderthal and the fingerbone of a Denisovan, an apparent sister species, yielded readable DNA. It turned out that most of us have some of their genes. The Neanderthals contributed up to 4% of modern Eurasian genomes, while the Denisovans contributed roughly 4-6% of modern Melanesian genomes. That doesn't happen by holding hands.

And so the scene was set. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, early humans in Africa split into several groups, among them Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and their apparent sister species, the Denisovans. The Neanderthals headed for West Asia and Europe, the Denisovans to East Asia. Our ancestors left Africa much later, and arrived in Eurasia where the others had set up home. Cue amorous encounters, and surely a fair amount of less than amorous contact.

But the question of whether our ancestors mated with these other human-like groups was always just the starting point for a line of inquiry. With interbreeding now well-established the intriguing question is, what came of it? How did our ancestors' antics shape the people we are today?

A glimpse of the legacy of those ancient encounters is revealed in a study reported today in the US journal, Science. An international team of scientists, led by Stanford University, scoured the Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes for gene variants that are central to the immune system. These genes belong to a group known as the HLA class I genes, which govern the body's ability to recognise and destroy dangerous pathogens.

By comparing the HLA genes of modern human populations with those from Denisovans and Neanderthals, the scientists identified a handful that could be traced back to ancient sexual encounters between the groups. One variant, known as HLA-B*73, likely arose in modern humans after cross-breeding with Denisovans. The variant is most common in West Asian populations, the region where the mating probably happened.

The Neanderthals contributed a string of HLA gene variants, or alleles, to the modern Eurasian population's gene pool, the study found.

There was good reason for Neanderthal and Denisovan immune system genes to have spread through the populations of modern humans who encountered them. Both Neanderthals and Denisovans had established themselves long before modern humans arrived. Their immune systems had adapted to the threats of the local environment. When those genes crossed into modern humans, they conveyed an advantage. Natural selection took care of the rest.

But the scientists think there was a downside. Inheriting Denisovan or Neanderthal immunity genes will have helped modern humans to fight the diseases of the day, but beyond the age of reproductive maturity they might have a more harmful effect, turning our immune systems on ourselves.

Paul Norman, a co-author on the paper, put it like this: "There's enormous genetic variation in people's immune systems and that can control how different people fight different diseases. This could go some way to explaining why some people are better at fighting some infections than others, but we think it also goes some way to explaining why some people are susceptible to autoimmune diseases."

Autoimmune diseases are conditions that arise when the immune system turns its firepower on the body, usually when it mistakenly identifies the body's tissues as foreign, and so potentially dangerous.

"The vast majority of autoimmune diseases have been shown by genome-wide association studies to be associated with particular HLA alleles and we find a couple of those in Denisovans," Norman added. "So it looks to me like modern humans have acquired these alleles, but we weren't kind of prepared for them, we hadn't grown up with them, and in some circumstances, they can start to attack us as well as the viruses and other pathogens."

The group is now investigating a gene variant called HLA-B51, which came from cross-breeding with Neanderthals and has already been linked to Behcet's disease, a rare and chronic inflammatory condition.

How else might immune genes inherited from Neanderthals and Denisovans affect the health of modern humans? The question is intriguing and will differ from population to population. Here, at least, is a worthy successor to the question of "did we or didn't we?"
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Time:10:36 pm
My first earthquake! What fun! I was at work, and on the phone with this lady, but when the room started shaking I looked over at my friend quizzically. She frowned confusedly, and pointed to a coworker pushing a cart through the room. I shook my head and mouthed the word "earthquake.". And just like that it was over. One of my other coworkers ran downstairs to announce that it really really was an earthquake.

I work in a building full of geologists and paleontologists. We were all smiling and giddy all day.
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Subject:Writer's Block: Happily ever after…
Time:03:05 pm
What's Harry going to do now that the series is over?

Your mother.
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Time:10:19 pm
Current Mood:crazycrazy
Talking on face time with my husband's friend in North Carolina, we're discussing a friend who's heading down the path to cheating on his wife, and Doug and the friend we're conversing with can't seem to turn him aside.

I said "I've been told almost all my life by my mom that men just can't keep it in their pants. What's up with you guys, how did you two stay good?"

There was a beat, as they didn't know how to answer that. Doug's friend then said "I jerk off a lot."

I facepalmed and said "TMI! I didn't need to know that."

Doug said with a complete straight face. "I help."
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Subject:Post Transformers 3 Snark
Time:11:53 pm
Warning: Spoilers ahead. The Autobots win.

These are in no particular order, by and large they're the things we whispered to each other in the theater.


"Here comes Optimus to save the day, as long as the Decepticons don't throw string at him again!"

"Good thing Megatron has resume download on his mega weapon."

"Wow. If Megatron had waited thirty seconds, he would've won the war."

"You know what would help you keep a low profile? NOT BEING A FUCKING BLUE AND PURPLE TRUCK."

"And here we are in Chernobyl. Never mind that radiation, we'll be fine."

"Because this whole plot couldn't have been completed on the moon. Where they were already. And where there are no meddling kids or Navy Seals."

"And the world ends with a DERP."


"What's up with the chains on Megatron's chest? Are they for his snow tires?"

"Yay! We're going to climb this building to the forty fifth floor. And then we're going to parachute to the street! For no reason!"

"God, all this is is capture the flag gone wrong."

"Nice how no one was cut by all that falling glass."

"We stopped the Decepticons! And we only killed fifty people that time! We're doing much better."


"Don't move. Decepticons can't see you unless you move."

"We need to scatter our weapon of mass destruction all over the earth, so we're going to cluster them at these recognizable places."

"Just because your character is voiced by Leonard Nimoy does not give you the right to use two separate Star Trek quotes."

"And through it all she keeps perfect hair."

"And in other news, Decepticons have replaced heart disease as the number one cause of death in America."

"Why did they have to use humans? Didn't they invent the Terminators last movie?"

"Wait, they might be able to work in one more brand name....."
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Time:09:45 pm
Just came back from this amazing place. It's hard to describe, but it's beautiful. Big. And beautiful. Pics weren't allowed inside, but just imagine the most expensive, lovely, turn of the century place you can, and then tell yourself that the whole house and grounds are currently worth nearly three million dollars. We're talking some serious French Chateau here, in North Carolina, with a winery and a working farm, and extensivegardens.

I'm exhausted, but I can cross it off my bucket list. Caitlyn invited me to go with her boyfriend since he could get tickets half off, and my mom told her I'd wanted to go. We had an awesome time.
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Time:10:23 pm
I am still around. Still volunteering at the museum, still reading and writing. I'm taking a course this summer to renew my teaching license, and I'm still looking for a job. I've been playing Lego Harry Potter with Doug, and I've discovered Regretsy, and that combined with Cake Wrecks, and Lovely Listing helps me to avoid housework. Gosh, those sites are a little girly. I have to keep up my tomboy cred, I've also been playing Diablo II.
I think I must be getting girly in my old age, I took time out last week to coo over my cousins baby. Other than that, nothing much has changed.
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Subject:Make It Stop
Time:08:03 pm
Current Mood:frustratedfrustrated and angry
I loved Clan of the Cave Bear, Valley of Horses, Mammoth Hunters, Plains of Passage, and Shelters of Stone. The plots got a little winding, but there was always a point. Either we were learning something about Ice Age Europe, or we were learning about a medicinal use for a plant. Maybe we were learning about an important archeological site.

I was thrilled when I saw that The Land of Painted Caves was out. I put it off until summer so that I could concentrate on it, because I knew that I wouldn't want to put it down.

Oh, wow. Was I wrong.

This whole book seems like she just wanted the new sales. I'm at the 300th page, and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED.

Oh, look. Ayla and her mate are going hunting. Ayla's feeding the baby. Now they're riding the horses, and now they're playing with the Wolf. The neighbor boy is hunting now. Look how much he's grown. Ayla's training to be a spiritual leader, so she has to take a tour of all the painted caves in France.

Every. Damn. Cave. We have to see it all. I can only read so many descriptions of "Ayla looked up, and saw two bison. To her left were exquisitely drawn mammoths. On the ceiling, was a horse." Even worse, Auel doesn't even explain how they got there. Ayla's friends know exactly as much about the caves as I do. COME ON! You're a novelist. Invent something! Anything! At this point space aliens would be preferable.

I guessed that there would be recaps of things that one knows. Shelters of Stone actually had close to 100 pages of Ayla telling her life story to her husbands family, mostly to remind the readers. It has been over a decade since the first book, after all. But within this book, we have to be reminded that Ayla is an orphan, Jondalar invented the atlatl, Ayla trained the horses and the wolf since babies, Ayla is a healer and knows plants, Ayla was raised by Neanderthals, and about half a dozen other things that have already been touched on. Sometimes, we get reminders within two or three pages of the last one. Everyone Ayla gets introduced to hears her titles (That I can probably list by heart: Married to Jondalar, Master Flint Knapper of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, brother of the leader of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandoni, formerly a daughter of the Mammoth Hearth of the Lion Camp of the Mamutoi, Chosen by the Cave Lion, Protected by the Cave Bear, and Friend to the Horses Whinny, Racer, Gray, and to Wolf. It makes about as much sense as to the people she's telling it to, trust me.) and is surprised by her odd accent. IF I HAVE TO READ ABOUT HER ODD ACCENT ONE MORE TIME I'M GOING TO DRIVE TO JEAN AUEL'S HOUSE AND BLUDGEON HER WITH HER OWN RETARDED 800 PAGE OF TL;DR BOOK.

But I keep reading. Why? Well, I'm not sure. There's some foreshadowing in the other books that seems to imply that Ayla will die in a cave in, so I guess I'm waiting for that. I have about 400 more pages to go though. I've skipped whole pages because I knew it was just a description of the plants Ayla was picking for dinner. Can we not just list them at the beginning of a paragraph and move on? They will be eaten soon, they don't need three paragraphs of her picking them.

I am so frustrated it is beyond words. I feel like throwing this thing across the room. I just wish something would HAPPEN. We have, like, THREE possible antagonists: Jondalar's EX, her cousin who is acting like Ayla's Stalker, and one of the other spiritual leaders who just plain doesn't like Ayla. And yet, they don't DO anything other than sneer. There is a cast of nearly one hundred people in this tribe, and NO ONE IS AT ALL INTERESTING.

There was an earthquake. That was interesting for three pages. But it went No. Where. There is absolutely NOTHING that has happened that has any long term consequences. NONE. I have a non-fiction set aside about Ice Age Europe, I might as well be finish that. It's actually got people DOING things.
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Time:07:44 pm
La Tribu de Dana

From what I can gather, this is the story of a warrior of the Tribe of Dana who says goodbye to his wife, son, and fields and goes to fight a war. He comes home as the king of his tribe.

The chorus is translated as "In the valley, (Dana, la la la) I hear the echoes. In the valley, (Dana, la, la, la) the chants of war are beside the tombs."

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Time:06:56 pm
Current Mood:confusedconfused
Manau - French Celtic Rap music.

I wish I was joking. Oddly, it's not too incredibly awful. In fact, I'm actually getting a kick out of this one:

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Subject:Native Woman Kidnapped by Vikings
Time:03:42 pm

First American in Europe 'was native woman kidnapped by Vikings and hauled back to Iceland 1,000 years ago'

By Niall Firth

A native woman kidnapped by the Vikings may have been the first American to arrive in Europe around 1,000 years ago, according to a startling new study.

The discovery of a gene found in just 80 Icelanders links them with early Americans who may have been brought back to Iceland by Viking raiders.

The discovery means that the female slave was in Europe five centuries before Christopher Columbus first paraded American Indians through the streets in Spain after his epic voyage of discovery in 1492.

The genes that the woman left behind have now been discovered in the DNA of just our distinct family lines. Replicas of Viking sod houses at L'Anse Aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland

Replicas of Viking sod houses at L'Anse Aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland. The area holds the earliest evidence of Viking raiders arriving in the Americas.

Any early suggestion that the genes were from Asia were ruled out after it was worked out that they had been present in Iceland since at least the 18th century – long before Asian genes appeared in Icelanders.

The team found that the genes they studied can be traced to common ancestors in the south of Iceland, near the Vatnajˆkull glacier, in around 1710.

It has long been thought that Viking raiders arrived in the Americas centuries before Columbus ever arrived in the Caribbean.

Norse epic sagas such as ‘Erik the Red’, talk of early Scandavian settlers discovering lush new lands, with a temperate climate and abundant crops – now believed to be parts of northern Canada.

A Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, in the eastern Canadian region of Newfoundland, is thought to date to the 11th century. Other such settlements are found in Greenland, which Viking navigators reached from Iceland.

Because Iceland was isolated from the rest of the world from the 11th century onwards scientists speculate that the woman must have been taken from the Viking raiders will kidnapped local women on their plundering trips to Europe and the Americas

Viking raiders kidnapped local women on their plundering trips to Europe and the Americas.

The DNA lineage, named C1e, is mitochondrial – which means that the genes were introduced by a woman.

The unknown American woman was probably abducted from the Americas and then brought to Iceland after surviving the sea voyage back. She then bore children in her new home but nothing was ever written of her existence or fate.

The study will be published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Iceland is a renowned centre for gene research and the new study was led by DeCode Genetics - a world-leading genome research lab on the island which has DNA records of almost everyone living on the island.

Carles Lalueza-Fox, who co-authored the paper, told MailOnline: ‘In my view, the most plausible hypothesis is that these four Icelandic families derived from an Amerindian woman brought there at pre-Columbian times.

‘There are alternatives to this that we cannot totally reject. To have a definite proof, we should found a pre-Columbian Icelandic remain that could be genetically analysed and show the same Amerindian lineage.’

One of the alternatives is that a post 1400s American female, like Pocohontas, the character that inspired the Disney film, found her way from mainland Europe to Iceland. But scientists believe this to be unlikely because of how isolated Iceland was at the time.

Since the woman’s arrival a millennium ago, 40 generations of her descendants have lived in Iceland. In each generation, there was at least one girl child.

She also had daughters and the female lineage has not been interrupted yet as the mitochondrial gene has been passed through the generations.

The research team do not believe the lineage passed to the European mainland

The Vikings were fearsome warriors and highly skilled navigators. Viking raiders in Britain took not just gold and other precious good but also slaves that they could sell elsewhere around the world.

For example, while the original male inhabitants of Iceland were mostly of Viking origin, the majority of original female inhabitants came from the coasts of Scotland and Ireland.

Historical evidence suggests that people in Scandinavia and the British Isles arrived in Iceland around the year 870. The analysis of the Y sex chromosome, which passes from father to son, shows that 80% of Icelandic lineages comes from Scandinavia, compared to 20% in Scotland and Ireland.

Mitochondrial DNA, inherited through the maternal line, shows a 37 per cent from Scandinavia and 63% of the British Isles.

‘This difference has only one explanation: that the Vikings were in the habit of plundering the women of the British Isles. It is logical that they would do the same in America,’ said Lalueza-Fox.
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