My Grandpa’s Relics

Its really early but I’m up and ready to go. John and I decided Thursday would be the best day to go. Before all the grow ups get up. Wednesday night is remembrance night and everyone is dazed the next morning. Early morning the next day is the best chance to not get noticed. Blue pants with the red patches, a long sleeve jumper with the pockets all over and I’m ready to go. I lace my sandals I don’t want to take my boots they may get ruined and I need to save them. It took Dad 6 months of find two boots that were the same size and with holes he could patch. I put my ‘ball cap’ on it has a big B on it. Mom gave it to me she said when she grew up as a kid everyone had a ball cap and they would wear it to baseball games. I can’t imagine what the game is like but mom gets teary every time she tells me about it. It would be nice to go to one of those games.
It’s quiet out and the smog is still heavy with the wind picking up. John is supposed to meet me at the old rubble pile in our quadrant. I hide behind one of big pieces of chipped concrete waiting for him. I adjust my ball cap it’s ripped in several locations but it still fits. ‘Psttt… Pssst.’ The must be John. I peak over the concrete and hes peering out from behind some old tires. John loves to wear old army clothes and he’s wearing a green fatigue ensemble today. The jacket is too big, the pants are roped around his waist so they don’t slide down. And his shoes are 3 sizes too big. He has his wooden walking stick and most importantly his grin from ear to ear. We both walk towards each other and silently nod as we check over our shoulders, to make sure no one is following.
The walk to the site is long but we don’t mind. It’s up the hill outside the quadrant and then up the relics seat. Well that’s what grandpa calls it. As soon as we are safely out of town john starts chatting. ‘You know I almost told Sara to come with us, but I wasn’t sure she would approve. She would definitely keep it a secret.’ I think he really likes Sara so I tease him a ton ‘Sooooo first thing you do this morning is bring up Sara, things must be going well.’ I can tell he’s flustered ‘Bro she’s the one interested the other day she brought me baked goods, said she had extra at home…. Sureeee. The whole world ended and we ration everything but we are making extra food.’
Suddenly we both go quiet, it’s because we can see the top of the hill. I’ve never seen it before and it looks so pretty. There are these trees that look green and so fragile. I’ve only heard stories about them and they never let us visit. I start to run up the hill and John is following me. He’s slow because he has to keep pulling up his oversized fatigues. The trees are so big and I can’t help but touch them. The surface is bumpy and cracked. ‘Steve … Steve… ‘ John is calling over. I’m annoyed that he’s disturbing this moment. I turn around and John is standing with his mouth agape, and I can see why. Past him are these huge red and green metal relics. They are huge as tall as the trees. There is writing all over them, but I can’t understand it.

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I hear you loud and clear

Have you noticed that Google has a new feature to emails ? After you receive an email from someone it gives you options at the bottom. The options include ‘thats awesome’, ‘thanks for sharing’ or ‘thats great thank you.’ How does it give you these options ? It surely must read your email. Well not read that takes time but scan the email for key words. If someone’s is telling you a story they give a generic response. It looks for sad words and offers a sorry perhaps. Well that’s neither there nor here. My beef is with the option itself. Have we become so lazy that we need a one button reply option? Surely if someone is sharing something or telling you something they will expect some type of response beyond a one liner. Maybe were so busy in this day and age we don’t have the time to interact.

I was a business dinner this past weekend and we were discussing how conversations and interactions have become difficult. We were having dinner in the wine cave of this bistro in Memphis. Our hosts were being extra talkative and trying to make us comfortable. My boss from East Boston is seated beside me. The host is talking about how phones are making it more difficult for kids to have face to face conversations. My boss turns to me and quips “Ha, I could talk to a wall.” I grin and respond ‘Yes you can’ She looks confused and then turns to me and says ‘So can you’ She is absolutely right.
Our host meanwhile is asking ‘How do you get kids to interact and communicate.’ I raise my hand to answer ‘You make them travel some where they don’t speak the language!’ Don’t you agree ? If you go to Japan and don’t speak the language you will have to talk to people in sign language and broken english and japanese to find stuff. THEN will probably befriend other tourists who you can understand or are having the same problem. Trust me I speak 4 languages but I still struggle in places and it’s not comfortable, but that’s the point. It’s a struggle at first but rewarding to connect. Some place we don’t speak the language doesn’t just mean the literal language but also environments where you don’t understand their customs, mannerisms etiquette. As an engineer I like to immerse myself in groups in pharmacy or medicine so I can learn to talk to other creatures.
My physics teacher in school used to scold us, he would say ‘Youre listening to speak not to understand.’ I didn’t think much of it during highschool but now I realize it’s true. It’s not all malicious, this behavior that is. A lot of times were waiting to share our experience and don’t listen to what people have to say. But the extra step of really listening, actively listening, comprehending and processing what’s being said is important. It keeps us from misunderstanding each other and helps us really connect. Try this next time you meet someone new. Ask them something about themselves and listen to what they have to say and then ask follow up questions. I promise you won’t regret it.

Nothing but a dull pebble

It’s cold these days and it’s windy. I guess it’s fine if it’s cold but the wind is the worst. Whenever it’s really cold we spend our days huddled together to keep warm. I hate it when we huddle together, I like warmth but some of our guys are weird. Every time the Chief calls for a cold huddle Jasper comes running over to huddle beside me. He knows that Johnny and I are serious, I guess he must really like me. Sometimes Bob joins him and he smells. I dunno if he doesn’t swim or what but it smells like he’s been on land for an eternity.

This morning all the guys went diving for fish. In our penguin community we take turns catching lunch. So Johnny is away catching some silver fish to eat. I want to go talk to Sandy but she’s been annoying lately. All she wants to talk about is her stupid pebble, it’s not even that big. Ever since Steve gave her that rocks she’s been a different person. I guess she’s right to be happy. It’s a big deal in penguin culture this pebble giving. It means that the guy promises he’s choosen one peguin that will be with him until they both die. Honestly I’m just jealous that Johnny hasn’t given me a pebble. I hope he does ! Maybe he’s thinking of someone else. I can see Sandy from here touching the pebble with her flippers and then her feet. I’ve even seen her sit on it like it’s an egg or a baby!
Instead I go to the ice cliff and wait for Johnny and the guys to come back. I can see them jumping out of the water onto the ice, they are all giddy and happy. Looks like all the guys are running around and messing with Johnny. I wonder what he did today, hes always trying to do something out there. Swim up close to a dolphin or a whale or shake flippers with a two legged land being on their big wooden floaters. Sometimes its the fish he goes for, I prefer to eat fish but not ones that are my size. They are coming up the ramp and I am sure we will know soon what’s up.
The guys seem crazy today, more than usually. They are almost at the top, I should probably walk over to meet them. The rest of the girls have also heard the flapping and noise and they are walking over as well. We are all intrigued by what is happening. I can see John clearly now. He has always looked very sharp after a day out diving. His black and white marks are sharp, brightly contrasting against each other. Around his neck there is a small black mark shaped like two pebbles adjoined. The guys are all jumping around him, wait it looks like he has something in his beak. A fish? No, why would he do that I just ate a few hours ago. Wait, could it really be? Johnny is right there in front of me, he lowers his beak and reveals a small dull pebble. He leaves it right in front of me and looks up at me. I love it! Its the prettiest and biggest pebble I have ever seen. Sandy calls over to me with her flappers flapping “Welcome to the club, you’re now engaged!”

(This lovely collaboration was made possible with illustrations by the talented Leila Charafeddine. For more of her work check her out on Instagram and Tumblr @leilach2491 https://leilach2491.tumblr.com/)

My name is Amelie

(Illustrations provided by handletteredbylama for more of her work check her Instagram account @handletteredbylama
My name is Amelie, I am originally from England but I was raised in Germany. I still look very British. People mistake me for french because of my name and because of the way I look. I would be what you call a petite lady, I have short black hair and my favorite outfit is a short red dress with a short skirt.
I enjoy long trips along windy roads in between the mountains and the trees. I can’t keep the company of many people but that is fine by me. My family is still back in Germany but the extended family is spread out around the world. People tease me for my accent, I call it a boot and others call it a trunk, here in american they call it the hood but back home its called the bonnet.
My home in the US is Texas, I have been as far out west as San Antonio and Austin, I have actually spend countless weekends in Austin. Houston is my home but I have been as far east as New Orleans Louisiana. In the morning I listen to Audio book or to country music CDs, sometimes the radio.
Recently I just moved to Boston, Massachusetts, I am very excited to explore all these new places, people here are more my size which makes me happy but the roads are horrible and super bumpy. I am excited to get new sneakers I hear you need some bigger kicks for the snow.
My name is Amelie and I am a 2012 Mini Cooper, have 3 doors and an automatic transmition.
– Remember today is national name your car day, so if your car doesn’t have a name make sure to give him or here one.

(This was written on Oct 2nd, which is actually National Name your car day)

Ctrl + Alt + Del

It’s 7:15 and I’m running late for work. I grab my messager bag out of the car and rush through the double doors, the cold AC air pushing the muggy humid air off my skin. I scramble into our make shift office, grab my laptop and toss the bag onto the ground. With 50 seconds my computer is up and running. Its a rush to get the training agendas typed up before the 8:00 trainings with the owner.

I used be a very slow typer but work has shaped me into a master typist. I pull up the word processor and start my work. D… A…. TE: 2017-4-10 ENTER.

It’s a slow morning today we are barely getting up when all of a sudden our room shakes and the fan comes on. This is a pre-alarm that our day has started. We really never know what each day will be like it could be non stop rushing between the pulleys getting the blocks to move or we can go long stretches with no action.

I jump out of my bunk and put on my gloves as I anticipate the start of the day. Dave is our boss he calls out all the orders from his tower. We really don’t need orders our job is simple. Once the user, thats what we call the human that hits the buttons. Yes so once the robot hits a block we have to rush to our pulley stations and pull the block foundation all the way down so that his letters are sent a long the electric wires.

We work in teams of 4 and each team can do one letter block. We are a total six teams. The light comes on and that’s the start of our day and Dave calls out : “alrighty gents well start off with control+alt+delete… Team 1 to control, team 6 to alt and team 3 to delete. ” We see the blocks drop and we all start to pull the blocks down. Next we scramble to the different letters as Dave keeps us in tow. “6 to letter M… 3 to letter O… 1 to letter E.” I am on team 1 so I rush to the corner of letter E and I start to pull down on the ropes to the pulley

. Slowly the block foundation drops and drops until it finally clicks. Then we all release the ropes and run to our next letter.

Brad is from Kenya

Have you ever been inside a submarine? It is not a fun place at all. It gets really stuffy in here and if you are claustrophobic like me it can feel very small. I enjoy being outdoors and basking in the sun, but I guess we all have day jobs. Not only is the inside of the submarine rigorous and dangerous work, it is boring. We are not allowed to talk or make any noise whatsoever. If you think about it, we are in a tin can below water with tons of ships on the surface looking for us. Any sign, or even better, sound of us and they will drop depth charges to blow us to smithereens.

(Illustrations provided by @leilach2491)

I am crouched in my corner and my neck is getting stiff as I try to adjust it every once in a while. We are all wearing our combat outfits which are our beige pants and blazers. Everyone has their rank clearly displaced on their jacket with stars and medals for tours they have completed and other sorts of recognition. The lights are dimmed as we are slowly ascending to the surface. This will sound like a joke, but today we are looking for pirates. Not the ones with peg legs and eye patches but the real, dangerous ones that raid ships on the open sea and steal stuff, maybe even your stuff, you know, the things you ordered on Amazon from China.

(Illustrations provided by @leilach2491)

Soon it will be my turn to take the lead. Right now navigation is making sure we are headed in the right direction. The captain is directing the sailors to get us to ascend smoothly while monitoring the sonar, this is to make sure no one is catching on to our signal. I grab my goggles and head towards the center of the submarine. Above me, there is a small hole at the top of the ship that has two double doors. As soon as we are at the correct depth I will put my head through the first double door as it seals around my neck. Then the second double door opens up to the big blue ocean above. I snap my goggles on as the captain calls me over “Alright Brad, you’re up.” I squeeze my head through the first door and I can feel it close, nice and snug around my neck. The second door opens, my head is underwater and I can see fish swim around me. I then put my long giraffe neck to good use and raise it further up until I can see above the water level.

(Illustrations provided by @leilach2491)

I pivot my head left, then turn right scanning the horizon for the sign of any ships. It’s sunny outside and it takes a moment for my eyes to adjust. Aha! I see something, it’s a small tugboat with a half-dozen pirates. I kick my right hoof in the direction of the boat and start to lower my head back underwater. This is the only way I can communicate the location of the ships, you know with my head in the water and body inside the submarine. My job is done as the captain now knows which way to charge ahead.

(This lovely collaboration was made possible with illustrations by the talented Leila Charafeddine. For more of her work check her out on Instagram and Tumblr @leilach2491 https://leilach2491.tumblr.com/)