spy fiction, mystery fiction, cozy mystery,

Chapter One

cozy mystery, serial mystery fiction, spy novelSeptember 10 – 13, 1982

My name is Lisa Wycherly. I live with my boss. I’m not sleeping with him. He’s got enough girls in and out of his bedroom. He doesn’t need me.

Oh, Lord, that sounds defensive.

It’s just that, thanks to my boss, my life has radically changed, and I still don’t know how to make sense of it all. Things got just plain scary last weekend, not to mention that horrible fight, and I’m still more freaked out because I’m sharing a house with a man. Okay, maybe not that I’m living with a man, but this man, a guy whose values are so totally opposed to my own when it comes to sex and relationships.

Maybe I should just start at the beginning. It started because I was hungry.

Neither of us knew what we were getting into that night. [And let’s be thankful we didn’t – SEH] We were in a bar, the absolute last place you’d find me under normal circumstances. He sat down across from me.

“Ditched your date?” he asked, pleasantly casual.

He was very nice for someone so obviously on the make, and good looking with dark wavy hair, a cleft chin, and very bright blue eyes. He wore a silk shirt with a sweater neatly tossed over his shoulders. Later, I found he was on the small side of average, about three inches taller than me, but just barely.

“Yes,” I replied, as coolly and politely as possible. “And thank you, but I don’t care to be picked up by anyone else.”

He glanced into the restaurant of which the bar was a part.

“Well, I suppose getting grabbed while starting your salad is enough to sour an evening.” He started to get up. “My apologies for presuming, Lisa.”

“Wait.”

He sat. “Yes?”

“How did you know my name?”

“You’re wearing it around your neck.”

My hand flew to the necklace as I let out a sniff.

He gazed at me softly. “Are you in trouble?”

“I’m alright!” I snapped, then blushed. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude.”

“But you are in trouble.”

“It’s nothing life-threatening.”

I felt the tears well up again. And I’d thought I was past crying about it. I blinked them back and looked at the man across from me. There was something about him…

“I’ve been out of work for a year,” I heard myself say. “My unemployment’s run out, and things are getting tight.” I touched my necklace. “This is the only thing I haven’t pawned.”

He nodded. “No money for a taxi, I presume.”

“I’ll be alright. I can call my sister.”

“Who is not currently home, at least I assume that’s who you called earlier.”

“They won’t be home ’til eleven, and they’re in Fullerton.”

“And we are in Hollywood.” He checked his watch. “Which means you’ve got a long wait. Why don’t I buy you dinner and take you home?”

I sighed. It was certainly my night to fend off aspiring Don Juans. Except the current one was anything but sleazy. In fact, he was the first genuine threat to my honor that I’d ever known. Wouldn’t you know, that’s the moment my date decided to show up.

“Wo, there you are, Lisa.” Larry was not wearing a leisure suit, but he might as well have been. “You were taking so long. I thought I’d better make sure you didn’t fall in.”

“I survived the restroom, Larry,” I said.

Even though I wanted to fend off the man across from me, I still felt embarrassed by Larry.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Larry,” said my nameless friend. He got up smoothly and shook Larry’s hand. “Lisa and I go way back. We haven’t seen each other in a while, and I just had to have a chat with her.”

“Well, the waiter brought dinner,” Larry said to me.

“Oh, that’s too bad,” said the nameless one. “Lisa’s coming to dinner with me.” He signaled the maitre d’. “In fact, our table’s ready now.”

“Now, wait a minute!” protested Larry. “Lisa-”

Larry made a grab at me. My benefactor stepped between us and put his arm around Larry’s shoulders. They spoke together quietly for a minute. I couldn’t hear over the music. [I told him blind dates were a drag, and that I’d take you off his hands, and put him onto Sue Wilkins if I remember correctly – SEH]

“Happy hunting,” my friend said, and slapped Larry on the back, then slid around and took my hand. “Come on, Lisa. He won’t hold that table forever.”

I went with him. I don’t know why I did, but I went with him. Larry gaped at me, then at some redhead. I didn’t see what happened next. The maitre d’ seated us in a nice, secluded booth, and my friend slipped him something.

The maitre d’ grinned. “Thank you, sir.”

“You’re welcome.”

I put my face in my hand. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“It’s my pleasure.”

“What about Larry?”

“That desperate little dork is getting the fate he so richly deserves.”

“What do you mean?”

“The redhead at the end of the bar.”

I peeked around the booth. I couldn’t see the bar.

“She isn’t going to dump him, is she?”

My friend laughed. “Hardly. In the first place, she’s so easy he won’t know what to do with her, and in the second, should he figure it out, she’s into S and M.”

“That’s… Oh no!” I started to get up.

“Let him be.”

“But…”

“The jackass drove you from a salad you desperately wanted, felt you up in a public place, he’s crude and he thinks he’s God’s gift to women.”

“Just because he’s a jerk doesn’t mean he deserves to get hurt.”

He looked at me. “Are you serious?”

“Of course, I’m serious.”

He shook his head. “Well, relax. She won’t hurt him. Unless he asks, and that’s a different matter, isn’t it?”

I slumped back into my seat. “I guess it is. I don’t know. I’d always heard pleasure was the idea.”

“It’s not how I get my kicks, but who are we to judge?”

“True.” My face felt fever hot. “Do you know if he’s left yet?”

“They left just as we were sitting down.”

“Good. I’d better be getting back to the bar.”

“Why? Don’t you want dinner?”

I swallowed. “Yes. But I don’t want to get any deeper in.”

“It’s nothing.” His smile was genuine and warm.

“A maitre d’ at a place like this does not grin at nothing.”

“You’re hungry. I saw you attack that salad with the ferocity of a starving child.”

“How do you know that’s not the way I always eat?” Which, in truth, it is.

“I also saw you slide two dinner rolls into your purse.”

I blushed again. “Alright. I’m hungry. Like I said, things are tight. But I’m not hungry enough to compromise my standards.”

He shrugged. “This is merely a philanthropic gesture.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

“I don’t doubt it. Well, I’ll confess to ulterior motives.”

His manner was relaxed, his grin casual. But his eyes had an intensity that made me catch my breath. I could see he would not trespass without my permission, but he would be happy to convince me to give it.

“Look, it’s not you,” I stammered. “You seem really nice, and I really appreciate your being honest about it, and the way you got rid of Larry, and it’s very sweet of you to offer, but I just don’t believe in sex outside of marriage.”

“Don’t you want dinner?” He seemed genuinely surprised.

“Yes, but… Well, I just can’t. Larry was a blind date, and the friend who set me up knows how I feel, and I told him how I feel, and he ignored it, I guess. Anyway, I don’t have any money, and I can’t give you my body, so…”

“I can accept that.” He looked at me again. He was considering something, unrelated to the messing around, for once. “Can you accept dinner and a ride? I promise I won’t touch you.”

“Sure, if you really want to.” I shrugged and he nodded at the waiter.

“What’s your name?” he asked after I’d ordered.

“Lisa Wycherly. Yours?”

“Sid Hackbirn.”

“Oh. What do you do for a living?”

“As little as possible.”

I grimaced. “Not funny.”

“I suppose not. Apologies. I do some occasional freelance writing and dabble in the stock market. Just enough work to maintain a comfortably high standard of living. And you?”

“Well, I was a teacher.”

“Was, huh? Hmm.” He considered again.

I don’t why, but it made me nervous.  After I’d eaten, he put me in a taxi, gave the driver my address, and I thought that was the last I would ever see of him.

I was wrong. Still, I didn’t regret it when Mr. Hackbirn showed up on my doorstep three days later.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, with the door opened only as far as the chain would let it. I wasn’t particularly surprised that he was there. I’d thought I’d seen heads of dark wavy hair following me in the previous days. I continued to write it off to my imagination, but it did make his appearance less of a shock. Besides, I had other problems just then.

“I’d like to talk to you,” he said.

“Right.”

“I’m serious. I have a business proposition for you, and nothing more.”

“Alright.” I shut the door, removed the chain, and let him in. “The worst you can do is kill me.”

He chuckled. “I like that attitude.”

“The place is a mess,” I said, sighing over the boxes and stuff all around.

“You’re packing.” He shifted the vest of the discreet three-piece suit he was wearing.

“I’m being evicted.” I choked and grabbed for a tissue.

“Going to your sister’s?”

“For a couple days. Then, Neil, he’s my brother-in-law, he’s going to help me move to Tahoe. I’m fleeing to the security of the womb.”

“Not your preferred option.”

I fought back the tears. “Well, Mae and Neil don’t have the room. They’ve got five kids. It won’t be so bad. I’ll be working. My dad has a business up there.”

“A resort and a souvenir store, I believe.”

“You’ve been there?” I was a little more surprised at that, but I’d met people who’d been to my parents’ place before.

“Not really. I stay on the Nevada side when I’m there.”

I turned on him. “You’ve been poking into my private affairs!”

“I prefer to call it research.”

“I call it nosy.”

“I reserve the right to gather basic background information on a prospective employee.”

That caught me. “Mr. Hackbirn, are you offering me a job?”

“Yes. I need a personal secretary to take over the mundane trivialities of life.” He smiled. “You impressed me last Friday with your backbone.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You are a person who sticks to her convictions even when there’s strong temptation not to. That’s a very difficult quality to find in people.”

“I don’t type very well.”

His eyebrow lifted. “A master’s degree, and you don’t type?”

“Not very fast. I stayed up late a lot of nights.” I looked him over again. “Just how much do you know about me?”

He shrugged. “Basic facts. Your college background, your year of community college teaching, things like that. You got excellent references from your former employer, by the way.”

“Let’s hear it for budget cuts.” I sighed. “What makes you think I’m going to take a chance working for you?”

“I’m offering an excellent salary and a place to live, neither of which you have at the moment.”

“I do so.”

“Independent of your parents?” He shook his head. “That is what you find most galling about going back there, and don’t think I don’t know it.”

I looked away. “So where is this place to live?”

“My house. I will need you to live in.”

“Sure.” I snorted. “Now, I get it.”

“Miss Wycherly, I assure you, I have no time to waste on virgins with standards. This is a business proposition, nothing more.”

“I still feel like it’s an elaborate plan to seduce me.”

“If you really want to think so.”

He smiled a truly sensual smile. I blushed and swallowed and tried to control the way my heart was racing. He was mulling over the possibilities of bedding me by sundown. He could have done it. But he wouldn’t unless I said yes. And the really strange thing about it was that I knew I could trust him.

I smiled. “Alright, it’s not. Why don’t we talk some terms?”

They were attractive, to say the least, and included my own rooms and guaranteed time off to go to church on Sundays. We dickered for an hour. Finally, I shook his hand.

“I guess I can take my chances with you,” I said, happily.

Mr. Hackbirn sighed. “Miss Wycherly, before we call this final, I’d better tell you. I wanted you in particular because I need someone with guts. I can be a dangerous person to know.”

“Mr. Hackbirn, I’m not a thrill-seeker. But danger beats stifling hands down. Don’t get me wrong. I love my parents, and they wouldn’t hold me back intentionally, and I’ll probably end up running their businesses when they retire, or whatever. But with them… Well, you get the idea.”

He got it. I was the one who didn’t have a clue. I called my sister and told her about the eleventh hour save.

“What are you going to do about your landlord?” Mae asked.

“Well, I’m moving.” I looked over at Mr. Hackbirn. “I found a new place right away.”

“What about first and last months’ rent?”

“Um. My new boss said he’d loan me the money. He’s taking it out of my check.”

Mr. Hackbirn smirked. Maybe he had a right to. All I knew was that I didn’t want Mae talking me out of it. I told her I’d phone her with the address and phone number as soon as I was settled in, and hung up.

“Mae’s a nice person,” I explained awkwardly. “But she gets judgmental sometimes, and you never know when.”

“I see. Well. Why don’t I call the moving company? We’ll get them straightened out, and then you can come over to my place and start today.”

I took a deep breath. “Okay.”

There really wasn’t much left in the apartment except my clothes, my books and other odds and ends. Anything of value I’d pawned or sold, even my trusty old sewing machine. The movers arrived a half hour after Mr. Hackbirn called them. While we waited, I tried to find out about my new employer. He was pleasant but evasive. I didn’t realize it until some days later when it dawned on me he hadn’t answered one question I’d asked him about himself.

His car is a dark slate blue Mercedes Benz 450SL, one of the first ones they ever built. I had expected something a little newer, although not necessarily flashier. One thing that was obvious about Mr. Hackbirn, he had excellent taste.

He also has plenty of money to spend. His house is in Beverly Hills. I was in awe as we rolled up the steep driveway to the gray ranch-style house at the top of an ice plant covered slope. The place had been built in the early sixties and looked like it. There was a Japanese garden in the tiny front yard.

We went in through the bare garage. Inside looked like a model home or something out of a magazine. Mr. Hackbirn, or his decorator, really likes period furnishings. The formal dining room was Eighteenth Century, the rest of the place tended towards Victorian and lots of oak. The library was sheer heaven. Books lined all four walls, and there were two red velvet wing-backed chairs, each with a good reading lamp next to it. There was also an ebony baby grand piano.

“Do you play?” I asked Mr. Hackbirn.

“Sometimes,” he said.

The offices were also oak paneled. I think they must have been one room in the past because to get to Mr. Hackbirn’s, you have to go through mine. My desk was modern, and it had a computer to one side, with two printers next to it. There was also a green leather couch on the opposite wall, sliding glass doors to the front yard on the side, and four oak filing cabinets with five drawers each.

The phone rang. Without hesitation, I went over and picked it up.

“Mr. Hackbirn’s residence, Miss Wycherly speaking,” I told the caller.

“Already?” answered the man on the other end. “Is Sid in?”

“I’ll see. May I tell him who’s calling?”

“Mr. Henry James.”

There was a hold button, and I pressed it. It was a multi-line phone, and it looked like Mr. Hackbirn had three lines hooked up.

“It’s a Mr. Henry James,” I told him.

He sighed in relief. “Miss Wycherly, I appreciate the way you screened that call, but in the future, under no circumstances are you to identify yourself, or this place as my residence.”

“Should I call it your business?”

“Don’t identify it at all. A simple hello will do. I’ll take the call in my office. Why don’t you start getting the files in order, then I’ll show you how to work the computer.”

The file cabinets were empty except for the first one. That was loaded with papers randomly tossed in. Almost all of them were clippings of articles from magazines and newspapers. Mr. Hackbirn was certainly well read, and given the number of different newspapers I found, got around. Traveled a lot, I mean. He gets around a lot the other way, too. But that has nothing to do with the clippings.

After his call, it was lunch time. Mr. Hackbirn introduced me to Conchetta Ramirez, his housekeeper and cook. She doesn’t live in. She works from ten to six, Monday through Friday and that’s it. My rooms were technically hers, or would have been if she lived there. I have a small suite off the breakfast room, with a sitting room, full bath, and bedroom.

Lunch was chicken salad with butter lettuce, whole wheat toast made from homemade bread and a fruit compote. The portions were on the small side, but I was in no position to complain. We ate in the breakfast room, a bright, cheerful space off the kitchen, furnished in white French Provincial. We also ate dinner there at five o’clock, grilled mahi-mahi, salad with vinaigrette, fresh steamed zucchini, brown rice and small portions. Mr. Hackbirn, it seemed, was on a diet.

Not that he said so. Nor did he comment on the fact that I was done eating in a few short minutes. It’s not really obvious because my mother did pound good manners into me, but I tend to wolf my food down.

“You should feel free to watch television in the rumpus room if you like,” said Mr. Hackbirn, trying not to notice how fast my food was disappearing. “Or if you prefer, I can arrange to have a television put in your room.”

“I don’t watch much TV,” I said between bites. “I was wondering about the library, though.”

“Help yourself. To any of the common areas. I’d just as soon consider you a housemate outside of business hours.” He paused. “Although, you might be more comfortable if you make a habit of knocking first before opening any closed doors.”

“Well, of course. I-”  I stopped. “Oh. Yeah, you might be right.”

Mr. Hackbirn chuckled, then looked at me. “One more thing. I would appreciate if you’d not leave the house for a week or two. Just until we’re settled in with the arrangement and all.”

“Oh.” I frowned. “I was going to go shopping on payday. All I have is one suit, and you did say business wear during office hours.”

“That’s right. I did. I think I can arrange that. Why don’t you go Friday afternoon? We can put together a more detailed plan that morning.”

I nodded. It seemed a little weird. So the guy was kind of eccentric. I didn’t have anyplace to go, anyway. I agreed to stick around.

Later that night, I found a Complete Works of Shakespeare in the library and thumbed through just for the heck of it. In the second scene of Julius Caesar, a line jumped out at me. It was Cassius’: “Therefore it is meet that noble minds keep ever with their likes, for who so firm that cannot be seduced?”

Well, me, for one. Then I thought back to that morning and that really hot little smile of Mr. Hackbirn’s. Alright. Maybe it was possible. But I wouldn’t go down without a fight. And what the heck was I doing there in the first place?

spy fiction, mystery fiction, cozy mystery,

That Old Cloak and Dagger Routine – Prologue

I’m trying something new on the blog today – a fiction serial. That Old Cloak and Dagger Routine was a novel I wrote in the early 1980s. I’ve kept it in its original time period. It’s not your usual spy novel, but I hope you enjoy it.

Prologue

spy novel, spy fiction, mystery fiction, cozy mystery‘Twas Glasnost what done us in. That and a CIA mucky-muck with a chip on his shoulder. All those years of guarding our secret, and now we’re on overt status. Quickline has folded, a victim of the thawing cold war.

At least my journals can see the light of day. I started them shortly after I was first adopted by Quickline. It was a dangerous and perhaps even stupid thing to do. But my life had suddenly and profoundly changed. I needed some way to make sense of it, to understand it and the person I was becoming. The things I was doing were so unlike the person I’d always thought I was and the values I’d spent so much time working out. As it turned out, my values weren’t challenged. Just me.

Anyway, all the names have been changed, and some of the places. Secrecy remains a habit with us. Still, as I look over the pile of tattered notebooks and binders stuffed with pages scrawled over with cipher, I’m glad I wrote it all down. [Dear Lisa, so am I – SEH]

Wooly Got Adopted!

Pet rescue, basset hounds as pets, dog rescue, dog adoptionJust wanted to post a quick update from my post a couple months ago, in which I shared how my husband and I were fostering a basset hound named Wooly Boy for Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California.

Were fostering. The good news is Wooly got adopted over the weekend. It was not easy letting our boy-o go. I felt like a nervous mommy, sending her precious little one to day-care for the first time. I didn’t get to meet Wooly’s new parents, but I did talk to his new mom and bent her ear, rattling off all of Wooly’s little quirks and how to handle them.

There will be another foster hound in this space. But we’re going to give it another couple weeks, first.

The Training Walk: Back in the Groove

Boy, what a difference not being in pain makes! All that lovely physical therapy has finally paid off. Last Friday, I did six miles and was tired, but not hurting by the end. In fact, I was fine. I even did a little bit more walking after lunch to get to the library.

Who knew? I’m excited, refreshed and ready to walk again.

Now to get the foster dog with the program. Wooly Boy is a bit more energetic than our forever dog Clyde, so he’s getting extra walks to calm him down and keep him behaving. Next week is an easy week (I do three weeks increasing mileage, then an easy week), so Wooly will be coming out for the two and a half miler on Tuesday and maybe even the four and a half miler on Friday. Assuming I don’t have a meeting to get to that day. Mwah-hah-hah-hah!

Next up – finding a dictation program for Android that will let me dictate novels while I walk.

The Training Walk: Back in Action

Training WalkIt was during the second week of my training. I caught one nasty cold. In the post for that week, I lamented how it seems as though as soon as I start some sort of exercise program, the first thing I do is get sick. Or injured.

Well, early last December, it was the injury and it was a nasty one. Sciatic pain. Massively nasty, incredibly painful. Couldn’t freaking move for love nor money. I’ve been doing weekly visits to the physical therapist ever since. And with the start of the year, had to start all over on my walking plan. Damn.

But I’m doing a lot better. I’ve got a couple more weeks to go before I’m back to where I was when the injury happened. And I’m back to writing about my experiences. The good news is, the set back was simply that – a set back. It didn’t kill my training program. I’m still walking – which is terrific. Learning how to walk differently than I was, which probably is what thrashed my back, so that’s a bit intense.

Alas, it’s not that interesting right now. Did see a pretty tree during one of my walks earlier this month. More importantly, I thought to take a picture of it.

 

Back on Track: The Training Walk

Last week was good. If the idea is consistency, the I sort of made it. I worked Election Day, last Tuesday, so didn’t do a formal work out, but if you count all the extra steps, I got in a few miles. On the other hand, it’s not nearly as far to the library as I thought it was, so my long walk fell short. But I made my weekly mileage goal. Just bumped up again this week, too.

The interesting thing is that while it’s taking longer to get tired while I’m walking (a good sign, I hope), I’m a lot more tired by the end of the day. Yesterday, I did a 2-mile walk and could barely keep my eyes open by 6 p.m. This is not a good thing when I’m counting on my late nights to get in my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) writing done. Feh.

Thinking time is really great, too. It’s certainly helping my novel, since I now have time to think about scenes and plot points while I’m walking. I hope that part continues as I get in the longer walk days.

 

The Training Walk: Getting Past the Sickness

Well, the good news is that I’m feeling better. I took it easy this past week, but I’m already starting to walk a little bit more. And I was a little surprised that it even the longer walk I took on Friday wasn’t as hard as it would have been if I’d been starting over.

Up this week, longer daily walks and I’m finally adding some mileage for my long and longer walks. I hope.

But that’s about it.

 

The Training Walk: First Hurdle

I’d been so good! Overshot my target mileage last week, was on track to do it again this week. Then Tuesday night, the cough started. I still did my walk Wednesday morning. Thursday was way harder. I had some extended errands to run, put in a four-mile (non-consecutive) work out and racked up over 17,000 steps on my pedometer, but it wasn’t easy. I was coughing a lot and hard, but not quite feeling crappy.

That happened on Friday. I barely put in a half mile workout-wise, did errands minimizing the walking and still racked up almost 7400 steps. Saturday, the best I could do was walk from the car to the Urgent Care clinic. Yep. It’s a cold, triggered by my allergies. Got the heavy-duty drugs, but am .2 miles shy of my goal of 9 miles for the week. Nor do I know how this is going to impact my mileage for this coming week. Plus, I have two very driving intense errands to run on Monday, which may possibly also happen on Tuesday. I am worried.

See, the thing is, I come up with these great plans to exercise more, then inevitably something happens. I get a foot injury. I get sick. The weather gets unbearably hot or rainy. I skip days to rest or wait out the weather, then a week goes by and two weeks and I’m back not doing what I want to be doing. I don’t want to do that this time. But I am legitimately sick and I don’t want to stay sick, and doing too much will not help me get well.

My current plan, as drawn up by my coach and friend Sharon McNary (@ironcharo), is to increase my mileage every week by 10 percent, then take an easy week, then three weeks of increases, then an easy week. We’ve got a couple easy weeks ahead to account for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I’ve been dared to walk the Rose Parade, which is going to be really interesting, since presumably I will be attending Sharon’s party the night before – and it’s a really good party.

The mileage is divided up with one really long walk (about 40 percent of the weekly goal), one rather long walk (25 percent of the weekly goal) and the rest divided up for the other four days and one day off.

I’m torn between just taking an easy week and starting up with the three increasing and one easy after that. Or just shooting for my admittedly rather modest goal of 10 miles for the week, with one-mile walks on the four short days, 2 miles on the rather long day and four miles on the really long day. Just how to spread it out is the question, since I need a short day between longer walks. And I need to get well. Oy.

I can’t let this stupid cold hold me back. Well, I’ll figure it out. Sigh.

The Training Walk: Beginning

There is no Sewing Report this month because I haven’t had any time to sew. Well, there was that one project, but it mostly proved that I still need lots of practice at re-sizing patterns. Feh. And since next month is November, I will be giving over my Tuesday blog posts to The Dark Side of the Fridge, where I will do a month-long tutorial on how to plan and cook Thanksgiving Dinner.

I’m also starting a new section of the blog (as you can see above) called The Training Walk. This is because I am embarking on yet another new project and as my coach suggested, it might be a good idea to journal/blog my experiences. I’m not quite ready to reveal just yet why I’m doing all this training and blogging and what not. One reason is obvious – if I don’t meet my goal it will be pretty embarrassing, and truth be told, that has only been an incentive to give up sooner rather than later. Secondly, I just read somewhere that people who tell everyone what their big plans are seldom follow through. Apparently, telling everyone what you’re going to do is psychologically close enough to actually doing it.

What I will say is that I have a very specific goal in mind and for it to happen, I have to start training now. Well, I started last week. My key goal is consistency – which has never been numbered among my virtues. I have to say, though, having such a visible goal, namely something I’ve been wanting to do since I was in my 20s, is really helping me get off my backside. I think the other thing that’s helping is that we are starting really slowly. So slowly, in fact, that I blew past my mileage goal, if I count all the extra steps I took cleaning the garage and getting to the doctor’s office and running around the L.A. As Subject Archives Bazaar last Saturday. It was an unusually active week for me and if you only count my actual workouts, I only went over my goal by just under a mile.

I do walk an awful lot already since my husband and I don’t own a car (we rent when we need one). I asked my coach if she thought I should count some of the walking I do to get around in with my mileages. She thought that would make more sense – and I did that on Saturday. But I’m thinking I’ll do a little of both. I do need to do several sustained walks, as opposed to walk a little ways here, sit down, then walk there, sit down, like I would getting on a bus or the train. But given my schedule, it would probably help to integrate my workouts with getting from point A to point B at times. I’ve discovered I’m more likely to work out when I can integrate it in with whatever I’m doing on a given day.

There is no doubt, however, that I overdid it last week. Call it two days of cleaning the garage, and I probably could have started counting my workout a lot sooner in my running around on Friday. Still, I was up and walking this morning and I walked every day except Sunday last week. We’ll see what happens.

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts – When It Feels Like the Trolls Are Winning

St.ThereseQuoteThis morning I woke up in a foul mood. Now, this may have something to do with some minor hormonal mess-up that we believe I’m dealing with (as in we don’t even know if that’s the problem). In any case, I spent a good chunk of my morning raging internally at a former partner of mine who done me wrong then tried to blame it on me because she couldn’t get a hold of me.

Let’s not get into the fact that a) she did get a hold of me twice, and b) I am not at all hard to find. The bottom line is that the situation has been dealt with. I came out ahead. I do know better than to let these sorts of things take up real estate in my brain. And, finally, silly me, I keep aspiring to a vocation of love. I may not be able to do much, if anything, to change our world, but I can be as loving and kind as possible.

Except that what I wanted to do was scream at this freaking idiot about what a freaking idiot she is and maybe slap her around a little. Not very loving. I get that. May I point out that this loving thing is mostly aspiration, not actuality yet?

So I’m talking to my girlfriend, who has a real-life troll persecuting her, and we both agreed it’s frustrating as hell. The ding-a-ling in this case is also going around pretending to be a pillar of the community and supporting business even as she’s doing everything she can to malign my friend and her business.

The author of a blog I like to read came out with her latest – and largely legitimate – rant about the generally hell-bound state of the world. Now, it may be my historical bent, but I am of the opinion we’ve been pretty much hell-bound since we crawled out of the soup. But let’s take it as a given that things are looking particularly hell-bound of late.

In all of these three situations, decent people are feeling downright ornery for very good reason, and there isn’t a heck of a lot we can do about it except be the bigger person. Even if I wasn’t trying to be more loving, calling my former partner a freaking idiot isn’t going to change a damn thing. My friend’s troll has been called out as a hypocrite and it went right past her. The blog author conceded that screaming at the idiots of the world doesn’t do anything.

And it’s not surprising, really. If someone calls me a freaking idiot, you can bet my response is not going to be “Oh, you’re right. I will reform my life now.” Nor does calling these idiots out as idiots feel anywhere near as good as you’d think it would. Okay, the well-aimed and witty riposte to someone’s stupidity can be fun. But raging at someone, even when I’m right? Nah. That pretty much sucks.

But I have to admit that being the bigger person, that’s not very satisfying either some days. There may be part of me that is worried that I am going to have to call the lawyer on my former partner at some point, something I don’t want to do, let alone that she might prevail (not likely given that she couldn’t even find some current paperwork). My friend is definitely worried about her business, which faces enough challenges as it is. And the rest of us worry about what might happen if the idiots get elected.

But maybe it’s not about being satisfied. That’s what I like about that quote from St. Theresa of Lisieux above. Here was a woman who was obviously very keyed into God and frequently didn’t feel the love and the kindness and compassion. But she chose to sing as if she did, not to fake it, but to connect herself to the person she wanted to be.

So maybe it’s about going beyond what we wish we felt and keeping up the struggle to reframe our thinking in ways that address the idiocy, but with love and kindness. Maybe my job is to look past my former partner’s stupidity and see the panicked, hurt woman that she is and find some compassion for her. And I probably won’t succeed all the time. But it’s better than giving the troll more brain real estate than she deserves. And ultimately, it’s not about being the bigger person, it’s about becoming a better person.