Friday, May 22, 2015

My Big Red Monster

My Big Red Monster
by Lois June Wickstrom

A big strong red monster lives under my bed.
My brother doesn’t believe me.

My brother says, “There are no monsters! Tell it to come out! I dare you!”

One evening, when my brother isn’t looking, I lean over the edge of my bed and I say, “Red Monster! What do you want?”

The monster comes out and glares at me with eyes like burning cinders.  He grabs my bed covers, so I can’t hide. Then he growls, “ I’m your monster. You have to give me jobs to keep me busy, or I’ll eat you.”

I have to think of something fast, so I say, “Clean my room!”

The monster looks around. He looks at me.  Then, in a whir, my room is neat and clean.

Again, the monster stares hungrily at me.  “Give me a job! Or be my night-time snack!”

That gives me an idea – I lead my monster to the kitchen and say, “Wash all the dishes and put them away.”

In a whir, the dishes are sparkling on their shelves. All in their proper places.
The monster’s red eyes glow fiercely at me, again.  “Give me a job! Or I’ll wolf you down!”

I get another idea.  “Wash my dog and dry him all fluffy.”

Another whir, and my dog is frisking around the livingroom, smelling sweet.

My monster stares down at me again.   “Give me a job! Or...”

“I want you to leave me alone.”

“I’m your monster. You have to tell me what to do.”

“Quit bothering me.”

“I’m your monster. Give me a job.”  Saliva drips from his lips.

I say, “Get back under my bed.”

“There’s no job for me down there. You’re not scared of me any more.”

My brother yells through my door, “Who are you talking to? The monster under your bed?”

I yell back, “There’s no monster under my bed.”

“Of course not,” he says.  “There are no monsters.”

 “Go hide under my brother’s bed,” I tell my monster.

And he does.

Friday, May 8, 2015


Why doesn’t my family believe in nepotism?

I wish they did.  I feel like many doors are closed to me because of their belief system.

I totally get why Satan in the Bible stories was mad at God.  Satan had been a good and faithful servant and a friend to God for aeons.  Then along came Jesus and – who gets to inherit the kingdom? The newcomer – the kid.  God of the Bible believes in nepotism.

So, maybe nepotism means that qualified people might get passed over.  It also means that people who matter in your life get a chance.

When I was in high school, other students parents got them summer jobs at the places where they worked.  My father said he didn’t believe in nepotism and he refused to help me.  He even hinted that he thought I wasn’t worthy of a paycheck.  So, I mowed lawns for nearly nothing while my classmates were paid more than minimum wage, and had interesting jobs in air conditioned buildings.

Many of my neighbors got their jobs because of family connections.

I have a niece who is a literary agent. I write stories that sometimes find publishers.  My niece says her boss won’t let her be an agent for friends or family.  I asked her to just read some of my short picture book texts, and give me feedback.  She doesn’t have time.

I fix family members’ computers for free. I take care of them when they are ill. But this isn’t the nepotism they don’t believe in.  It’s only their time and their effort that counts as nepotism.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What Use are Dead Ancestors?

My younger daughter signed our family up with an online genealogy site.

A few days ago I received a message that there had been updates in our family.
I clicked the link.

My father’s name is now misspelled.
My father’s mother’s name is now misspelled.
My father’s current wife is listed as a relative of my mother.
My brother, sister and I are now listed as children of one of my father’s other wives – not our mother.
And my father’s current wife is listed as dead.

I spent the time correcting these errors. 

Then I thought – why do I care? If the only way this site will know anything about my family is if we tell them, then they’re not doing anything we can’t do without them.  They’re not accessing the Mormon database of ancestors that goes back centuries.

My father’s brother researched a family tree for my father’s family in honor of my father’s father’s 50th wedding anniversary.  The entries go back to the time when people only had first names, and has the story of how his family got their last name.

There are a few details, such as careers that some of my ancestors followed. But mainly they are just names without stories.

The online genealogy site is less detailed than the paternal family tree. And since they have mistakes in the living members files, I see no reason to care about the older ones.  Actually, I’d only care if there were stories – the whole fun of having family is the soap opera.

My older daughter is interested in a different website – one that studies the genetics of families – what diseases they have, how many neanderthal genes they carry. I can see a use for this – it might be nice to know what diseases to be on the lookout for. But my family doesn’t have hereditary early onset cancer or other diseases that can be treated by modern medicine. So, I’m not excited about this service, either.

I think the current soap operas and diseases present plenty of problems, and that these history services don’t help solve them.

Friday, April 10, 2015

No Vacant Lots for Us

My husband, the alien, and I have been trying to buy vacant lots that belong to the city of Philadelphia. We want to build a one-story home because my husband is having trouble climbing stairs. Philly is a city of row houses and over 40,000 vacant lots.  The city has created a map of these lots with “for sale” signs on a good fraction of them. We only want to build one home. We have been requesting to purchase lots that have “for sale” signs.  Every time we request one, we are told that “the council president has other plans for that lot.” . 

After sending about 30 such requests, we received this note from the council president’s person in charge of real estate:

“I wanted to let you know that I have been receiving your requests.  The lots in the neighborhoods you are considering (such as Brewerytown, Francisville, West Poplar, Ludlow, North Central) are on “hold” pending or have been identified as part of other larger community development plans and/or the Council President’s affordable/workforce housing initiative.  Until these initiatives/plans are finalized, I am afraid I won’t be able to move forward on any of these requests.”

One of the lots we requested and were denied has now been removed from the map of city owned vacant lots.  To me, this indicates that this lot was sold to someone else and is now somebody’s private property.  I conclude that there are rules for who can buy city owned vacant lots. But I have no access to these rules.

There is also a map of privately owned vacant lots. I used Google Earth to look at some of these lots.  About half of them have buildings in progress. This morning, I biked out to look at one that appeared empty on Google Earth, and the owner is in the process of building.  This map is out-of-date.

A friend suggested I find an abandoned dilapidated warehouse, buy that, destroy it, and then build.  That probably costs a lot more than buying a vacant lot.  Meanwhile, I can keep looking at the privately owned vacant lots, find one that is really vacant, find the owner, and offer to buy it. This is not going to be simple.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Blemished Wishes

On the way back from the restroom at a local business, I noticed a new sign: Best Wishes

This sign never makes sense to me.  Nobody ever offers mediocre wishes, or damaged wishes. I wouldn’t know where to look for used wishes or remaindered wishes, or seconds. 

I expect any business I patronize to want the best for me, if for no other reason than their desire that I come back and buy more stuff from them.

On the other hand I sometimes have bossy wishes or greedy wishes when I think about companies I patronize.

Last weekend I took the Greyhound bus to New York City to see a play.  I had planned to make a day of it.  I booked what I thought was an express bus for 9:15 in the morning. The play didn’t start until 2 PM.  It’s usually a 2 hour bus ride, so that would give me plenty of time for people watching and eating lunch at a restaurant. 

My husband and I arrived half an hour early to make sure we could get seats next to each other. Upon arrival, we learned that our tickets were not for the express bus, but rather for the stop-and-go bus that takes 25 minutes longer.  

When the 9 AM express bus arrived at the station, they let 4 people who had arrived before us board because there were empty seats.

No bus came at 9:15.  

When the 9:30 express bus arrived, they decided that none of us could have the empty seats because we had the wrong kind of tickets.

When the 10 AM stop-and-go bus arrived, they decided that none of us waiting for the 9:15 bus could ride it because there were people who had tickets for the 10 AM bus.

Finally at 10:45 our bus arrived.  It had stopped and picked up passengers earlier and it did not have enough seats for all of us.  Since my husband and I were now at the front of the line, we did get to ride on it.  It actually took 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to NYC.  So, our 2 hour ride took over 4 hours to get us to NYC, and I have no idea when or if the passengers left behind arrived.  Perhaps they were allowed on the 11 AM bus, if it had empty seats.

When an airline messes up like this they apologize. They buy seats from passengers on oversold flights.  They give everyone free miles on their account.  At no time did Greyhound apologize.  They acted like we passengers were being unreasonable to want to go to our ticket destinations.  I sent them an email explaining that I wish they’d improve.  They didn’t bother to respond.

I have blemished wishes for them.  I know that’s not going to accomplish anything.  But then best wishes don’t accomplish anything either.